Exhibit Explores Photography of Sojourner Truth
The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) is Sojourner Truth, Photography, and the Fight Against Slavery, an exhibition that features photographic carte de visite portraits of Truth that she sold to help make a living.
From an article by KQED:
“While only privileged white Americans could afford to commission painted oil portraits, photographic portraits were easy to produce and inexpensive to purchase. Truth marshaled her prescient understanding of this emerging communication and political tool to support abolitionist and feminist efforts, and to claim herself as more than a product of abject circumstances.
“Displayed in groupings of three or four objects, the current BAMPFA exhibition comes courtesy of a gift from Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby, a UC Berkeley professor. The exhibition, and Grigsby’s companion publication Enduring Truths: Sojourner’s Shadow and Substance, situate Truth’s portraits and their sale within a fresh critical context that includes Civil War-era legal tender, other photographic portraiture and, tellingly, composite cartes de visite featuring disgraced Confederate president Jefferson Davis dressed as a woman and Abraham Lincoln in blackface.”
The exhibition brochure provides details about each of the items on display in the exhibit, including a seated portrait of Truth with her knitting in her lap, an object carefully chosen to represent Truth’s belief in industry and education as tools for advancement.
Among many other items, exhibit also displays Sojourner Truth’s autograph album:
“Despite her illiteracy, despite her lack of a signature of her own, Truth was an avid collector of autographs. Truth collected the autographs of the many important activists, politicians, and thinkers with whom she was acquainted, asking them to write their names in her scrapbooks; sometimes they added a phrase or two. Her impulse to collect signatures was shared by many of her contemporaries.”
Sojourner Truth, Photography, and the Fight Against Slavery is on view at BAMPFA through October 23.