Charles White had long established himself as an admirer of Sojourner Truth, and in recognition of her singular contributions to American history and African American history he had, in 1954, drawn General Moses and Sojourner Truth, charcoal on paper, 21 by 36 inches. The drawing resonated with biblical associations, meaning that, within African American culture of the mid 20th century, there could be no higher accolade accorded to these two towering women of the 19th century. (Tubman, regularly referred to as a 'Moses' of her people, on account of her dedication to delivering so many of them out of slavery, died in 1913). Truth, who appeared on the right part of the drawing, had her eyes cast heavenward, thereby being reinscribed with the spirituality with which she is routinely associated. Tubman, to the left of the drawing holds what we might well take to be a staff, a long stick used as a support when walking or climbing or as a weapon. This final association is particularly important, as it resinscribed the legendary recollection of Tubman as a freedom fighter who was never without a firearm, as she went about her work on the underground railroad, and her work as a spy for the Union army during the civil war.
General Moses and Sojourner Truth was used on the envelope of a very attractive and useful set of four booklets published in 1964, The Life of Sojourner Truth (1797 - 1883), being a distillation of her celebrated autobiographical work, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, which was written by Olive Gilbert (1801 - 1884) and Frances W. Titus (1816 - 1894). This abridged version, in four parts, was published by John Henry and Mary Louisa Dunn Bryant Foundation, Los Angeles (1964).
The Narrative of Sojourner Truth is the engaging autobiographical account of Sojourner Truth's life as a slave in pre-Civil War New York State, and her eventual escape to freedom. Since Sojourner Truth was unable to read or write, she dictated her story to Olive Gilbert, the pair having first met at a rally for Women’s Rights. The Narrative of Sojourner Truth was first published in 1850, and was widely distributed by the Abolitionist Movement and was said to be (along with Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin) among the catalysts for the rise of anti-slavery public opinion in the years leading up to the Civil War. The Narrative of Sojourner Truth remained, even well over a century after its publication, a gripping and graphic account, with an enduring relevance; hence its appearance in this novel form of a set of pamphlets. Frances Titus was an American abolitionist and suffragist who is best known for being the confidante, secretary, tour director, financial manager, and editor of Sojourner Truth's biography, Narrative of Sojourner Truth, which was republished in 1875.
These narrow booklets were 8.5 x 3.5 inches and each featured on its cover a reproduction of a work by White. (Part I featured the drawing General Moses and Sojourner Truth that had been used on the envelope in which the four booklets were originally held). The booklets each had consecutive numbering, 1 - 32, 33 - 64, 65 - 96, and finally, 97 - 128.
From the first page of the first booklet: "Cover drawing by Charles White. Used by permission of the artist."General Moses and Sojourner." (Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth.)
The John Henry and Mary Louisa Dunn Bryant Foundation, Los Angeles 29, California
Printed in the United States of America
This four-part study text of the Life of Sojourner Truth, of which this is Part One, has been printed for the California State Association of Colored Women's Clubs, Inc., by the Bryant Foundation.
Additional copies, at twenty-five cents per pamphlet, or one dollar for the four parts, may be obtained at the Aquarian Spiritual Center Bookshop, 1302 West Santa Barbara Ave., Los Angeles 37, California.
Versions of the above text appeared at the front of the other three pamphlets. The White illustrations used on the other covers were uncredited, though the drawing on Part III was Guardian, Charcoal, 1954, Private Collection. (This was the work used on the cover of Andrea Barnwell's 2002 monograph on Charles White, published by Pomegranate, San Francisco.
(This particular envelope was well worn, and very much showing its age).