AKRON, Ohio – Yesterday, local leaders gathered at the downtown Akron offices of United Way of Summit & Medina to break ground on the forthcoming Sojourner Truth Memorial Plaza. The plaza, which will be located adjacent to United Way’s offices at 37 North High Street, honors the legacy of the American orator, abolitionist and women’s rights activist. The site will also be the first historic site in the state of Ohio that recognizes the contributions of a Black woman in American history.
Truth gave her iconic speech, now known as “Ain’t I a Woman?”, in 1851 at the Women’s Convention in Akron’s Old Stone Church. Soon to be located at the site of Truth’s speech, the plaza is designed by Dion Harris, landscape designer for Summit Metro Parks, and will feature a floral motif inspired by Truth’s family roots in Ghana. At the center will stand a life-size bronze sculpture of Sojourner Truth by nationally renowned Akron artist Woodrow Nash. Additional architectural work has been provided by GPD Group and construction will be done by the Ruhlin Company. The plaza is targeted to be completed in the spring of 2023.
“The Summit Suffrage Centennial committee has volunteered over the last four years to move history forward by honoring the past, while shaping the future,” said Towanda Mullins, chair of the Sojourner Truth Statue Project. “It’s an honor to be aligned with community leaders, donors, crucial partnerships, while connecting with our future leaders, the youth. The creative expression of the Truth Plaza is to honor her determination as a suffragist and to reshape Akron’s cultural heritage for generations to come.
The groundbreaking featured remarks by Brent Leggs, executive director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund and senior vice president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, who was in town to be the featured speaker at United Way of Summit & Medina’s Knight Breakfast Thursday morning. Key stakeholders involved in the project, including United Way president and CEO Jim Mullen, Towanda Mullins of the Sojourner Truth Statue Fund, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan, County Executive Eileen Shapiro, Knight Foundation Akron program director Kyle Kutuchief and others also gave remarks.
“Breaking ground on the Sojourner Truth Memorial is a powerful step forward in demonstrating how placemaking can preserve the legacy and contributions of African Americans throughout history,” said Brent Leggs, executive director, African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund and senior vice president, National Trust for Historic Preservation. “The Akron community’s work to establish this public park will serve as an example for communities across the country who are seeking alternative ways to preserve cultural legacies when the physical structures no longer exist.”
United Way will open part of its offices adjoining the plaza as a community space for educational programming and public gatherings.
“171 years ago, Sojourner Truth spoke out on behalf of those whose voices were ignored or silenced,” said Jim Mullen, president and CEO of United Way of Summit & Medina. “Today, our country still struggles to heed her message. We must listen to those whose lived experiences shine a light on injustice and inequality. And then, together, we must work to correct them. That is what we are working toward at United Way of Summit & Medina, and it is why we are proud to do our part to ensure Sojourner Truth’s name and legacy live on.”
About United Way of Summit & Medina
United Way of Summit & Medina takes on the issues that matter most to children and families. We pursue Bold Goals through forward-thinking strategies, innovative programs and hands-on work in our community. We team up with private and public leaders, local businesses and thousands of volunteers from across our community to create change that matters. Learn more at uwsummitmedina.org.
About the Sojourner Truth Statue Project
The Sojourner Truth Project – Akron is working to raise funds for a Truth Plaza that will host the statue of Sojourner Truth at the United Way of Summit & Medina Counties’ Sojourner Truth Building. The Statue is being designed by Akron-native, internationally known artist, Woodrow Nash. Individual citizens, non-profits, local government offices, and private businesses have all come together to achieve this goal.
About African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund
The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund is a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in partnership with the Ford Foundation, The JPB Foundation, the Mellon Foundation and other partners, working to make an important and lasting contribution to our cultural landscape by elevating the stories and places of African American resilience, activism, and achievement. Visit savingplaces.org/actionfund.
Contact: Andrew Leask
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Marketing & Brand Management
United Way of Summit & Medina