WASHINGTON (AP) _ Sojourner Truth, a formerly enslaved African who met U.S. Civil War President Abraham Lincoln and was an early crusader for an end to slavery and the right of women to vote, on Tuesday became the first black woman to be honored with a bust at the U.S. Capitol.
First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took part Tuesday in unveiling the abolitionist's statue at the Capitol Visitor Center.
The sculpture will remain on permanent display in the underground center's main space, called Emancipation Hall, in part because slaves helped build the Capitol.
Truth met Lincoln in 1864 and Ulysses S. Grant in 1870, and delivered a speech that made her famous in the United States, which became known as the “Ain't I a Woman?'' speech at a women's rights convention in Akron, Ohio, in 1851. That was 10 years before the start of the Civil War, which eventually freed the slaves, and 69 years before American women were given the vote in 1920. Truth tried to vote on two occasions, but was turned away both times. She died in November 1883 at her home in Battle Creek, Michigan.
Few minority women are enshrined in the Capitol. Several statues depict American Indian women, but there are no Asian or Hispanic women, according Donald Ritchie, a Senate historian.
Many of the statues in the Capitol's collection were given by the states in the 19th century, Ritchie said. Most of the collection's diversity has come in the last several decades.
The National Congress of Black Women, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the development of black women and their families, has pushed for Truth to be memorialized in the Capitol for almost 10 years.
In 2006, President George W. Bush signed into law a requirement that a bust of Truth be placed in a “suitable, permanent location in the Capitol.'' Clinton co-sponsored the measure when she served in the Senate.
Artist Artis Lane created the bronze bust of Truth, which was paid for with private money.
Pictured above is Sojourner Truth.