Construction has begun on the Sojourner Truth Memorial Plaza, to be located at the Downtown Akron offices of United Way of Summit & Medina. The plaza will honor abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth, who gave her iconic speech – now known as “Ain’t I a Woman?” – in Akron in 1851. Construction is being done by the Ruhlin Company and is expected to be completed in spring of 2023.
The plaza, which was designed by landscape designer Dion Harris of Summit Metro Parks, will feature a life-sized statue of Truth by renowned Akron artist Woodrow Nash. Local firm GPD Group provided additional architectural work.
During construction, the plaza will be fenced off and closed to the public. The Sojourner Truth Building at 37 N High St. will remain open to visitors of United Way of Summit & Medina and the other organizations located there. Visitors are encouraged to park in the building’s main lot and use the entrance on 70 N Broadway St. Free accessible parking for people with disabilities and an ADA-compliant entrance will be available on High St. Metered parking also remains available on High St.
The creation of the Sojourner Truth Memorial Plaza was initiated and driven by Sojourner Truth Committee. “Sojourner Truth is one of the most revered abolitionists and suffragists,” said Towanda Mullins, chair of the Sojourner Truth Committee. “She was an orator whose legacy of resiliency, along with her famous speech spoken here in Akron, will promote unity and a more equitable and just society for generations to come. Tourists and residents will be inspired by Truth’s life work. She is an American hero, who had us in mind along her courageous journey. We should commend the efforts of the Sojourner Truth Committee’s members (past and present), crucial project partners, generous donors and our community at large. The future is thanking all of you.”
Other organizations involved in the funding or creation of the plaza include United Way of Summit & Medina, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, County Executive Ilene Shapiro and the County of Summit, the City of Akron and Akron Community Foundation.
“Sojourner Truth came to Akron and left her mark on history,” said Jim Mullen, president and CEO of United Way of Summit & Medina. “Soon, the very place where she gave her historic speech will become a monument to her message. Her words, offered on behalf of the oppressed and the forgotten, remain relevant today, and United Way is proud to help preserve her legacy.”