I’m finally writing the second chapter on my trip to Detroit and Battle Creek. In addition to my amazing visit to the Sojourner Truth archive in Battle Creek, I also saw two sculptures that were an important part of the history.
After we left the archive we were taken to see a stunning 12 foot high sculpture of Truth in the central downtown park square in Battle Creek. Created by sculptor Tina Allen, it’s the center piece of the amphitheater-like park. It was a community project began by the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women, and funded by community out-reach, including, of course, the Archive. It was completed in 1999. The community parade that marked the dedication of the statue was led by the University marching band.
Sculptures like this are usually created with a sense of reverence that idealizes the actual person. The statue of Sojourner Truth has a powerful energy that feels like the real woman. She towers above you but you can walk up to her and touch her, see her gnarled hands and powerful expression. There is an intimate quality to the work that is reflected in the fact that children are comfortable with it.
Then we went to the Kellogg estate (yes, the home of the cereal king) where there is an impressive sculpture (one of a series of works by Ed Dwight) on the Underground Railroad. Battle Creek was an important stop for escaped slaves on their way to Canada. The escapees are shown heading in to hiding places.
I was fortunate to find the next sculpture in the Underground Railroad series on the river park near where I was staying in Detroit. It faces Canada and freedom, and the escapees are hopeful.
This is the statue on the Canadian side, celebrating the arrival to safety, that I hope to see someday.
Going out to dinner one night I saw a bookshop across the street from the Greek restaurant we were heading for, and of course I went in. It turned out to be the book store of the Second Baptist Church, another stop (the last) on the Underground Railroad. It specializes in books on the subject. Escaped slaves were able to rest in secrecy at the Second Baptist Church before crossing the Detroit River on their final step to freedom in Canada on a boat owned by a church member.
I got to talk to Bobbie Fowlkes Davis, director of their tours of the Underground Railroad sites in Detroit. I bought my copy of Sojourner Truth’s narrative from them.
Altogether a trip that will always stand out in my memories.