Sojourner Truth and the Unfinished Fight for Equality
This month marks the hundredth anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, the addition to the Constitution that grants American women the right to vote. After decades of activism and civil disobedience, including marches on Washington, D.C., and hunger strikes in prison, suffragists upended the nation’s electoral process with this crowning legal victory. But the step toward equality was partial: though the amendment’s text affirmed that the right to vote would not be “denied or abridged by the United States or by a state on account of sex,” it did not include protections for nonwhite women, who continued to face legal disenfranchisement until the passage of the Voting Rights Act, in 1965.
So, when the New Jersey-based artist Grace Lynne Haynes set out to commemorate the centennial on a recent cover of The New Yorker, she chose to represent this discriminatory history with a portrait of Sojourner Truth, a Black woman who worked alongside white suffragettes to advocate for the rights of all women.
In her vivid rendering of Truth—composed with a mix of paint and collage—Haynes was determined to capture Truth’s femininity and force. “I wanted to show that, yes, this is a strong woman,” she says. “She’s been through hell and back, but she also has a humanness to her and a soft side to her that deserves to be protected and recognized.”