Sojourner Truth Memorial: American and Western MA History
Sojourner Truth Memorial Statue Committee Offers Educational & Cultural Events to Support History Curriculum
As an area rich with history, it is no surprise that the Pioneer Valley has deep connections to the movement that eventually lead to the ending of slavery in the United States. Sojourner Truth, an African-American woman famous for her anti-slavery and women’s rights activism, lived in Florence for nearly fifteen years during the mid-19th century. Born a slave and freed after more than 25 years of labor, Truth used her experiences as an enslaved woman to fuel her passion for speaking out for human rights.
Families can learn about Sojourner Truth’s important role in American history (as well as local history) and the details of her life in Florence by utilizing the many resources offered by the Sojourner Truth Memorial Statue Committee. Of these resources, the most easily accessible of them is a walking tour, which families with kids of all ages can take with the help of a downloadable map. Outlined on the committee’s website, the self-guided tour begins at the Sojourner Truth Memorial Statue, located at the corner of Pine and Park Streets, and follows the African-American Heritage Trail on an educational journey through town.
In addition to the self-guided walking tour, the Sojourner Truth Memorial also offers resources for teaching students about Sojourner Truth’s work and her important role in history. The organization offers curriculum designed for 3rd and 4th grade students, centered around the book Only Passing Through by Anne Rockwell. Activities included in the curriculum could be adapted to fit the needs of students in older grades, and some could easily be used at home as family learning projects. A second curriculum developed specifically for high school students is available as well, and was developed with help from the Deerfield Teacher’s Center. Each curriculum uses place-based elements and combines local and national history to teach students about the abolitionist movement.
Studying Sojourner Truth’s life in Florence can provide an entry point for studies of the Underground Railroad and the history of slavery in the United States. In addition to being Truth’s home for many years, Florence was also a stop on the Underground Railroad, and numerous African-Americans stopped in the town while escaping to freedom. Enhance your family’s (or your class’) studies of the topic by adding historical fiction to your reading list. Some useful titles include:
- Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine
- Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson
- The Last Safe House: A Story of the Underground Railroad by Barbara Greenwood
- Escape by Night: A Civil War Adventure by Laurie Myers (chapter book)
- Freedom Stone by Jeffrey Kluger (chapter book)
In addition to the importance of learning about abolitionists and the Underground Railroad, learning about Sojourner Truth’s role in local history can help students to think about human rights throughout history, and can help them to put more recent events (such as the Civil Rights movement) into a broader historical context.