albumen silver print
4 x 2 1/2 in. (10.16 x 6.35 cm)
Museum Purchase, James Phinney Baxter Fund, 2018.36. Artwork in the public domain.
As a Black woman, Sojourner Truth was expected to wait for freedom to come to her – but that was never her style. She refused erasure and fought tirelessly for the rights of Black people and women as she traveled the country as an orator, advocating for both abolition and women’s rights. This carte de visite of Sojourner Truth exemplifies self-representation and agency, a feat that few African Americans achieved during the antebellum period. In this portrait by an unidentified photographer, she addresses the viewer with a steady gaze and confident posture while she knits, an activity associated with genteel society. The photograph makes it clear that Sojourner Truth’s likeness belongs to her alone: each card bears the quote, “I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance.” By copyrighting and selling this image, a symbolic representation of her personhood, she supported her abolitionist and suffragist efforts that deeply impacted her lived experience.