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Akron civic leaders break ground on memorial plaza to honor Sojourner Truth

The public space will be built on site of Truth's 1851 "Ain't I a Woman?" speech. The plaza is slated to be completed in the spring of 2023.

AKRON, Ohio — "I know she's just as much their grandmother and their ancestor as she is mine."

That grandmother Cory McKliechey speaks of? Sojourner Truth. Dignitaries gathered Wednesday outside the aptly named Sojourner Truth Building in Akron for a very special groundbreaking.

The area next to the offices of United Way of Summit & Medina will soon be transformed into a memorial plaza, honoring Truth. Her "Ain't I a Woman" speech echoed from this spot in 1851. 

The Sojourner Truth Memorial Plaza will be the first historic site in the state of Ohio that recognizes the contributions of a Black woman in American history. 

"My direct inspiration was her life," explains landscape architect Dion Harris. "There's so much history with that and so much to make us proud."

The plaza has been a long time coming. Collaboration and hard work have finally made this concept a reality.

"I never imagined I would deliver remarks literally using Sojourner Truth's words to open those remarks in the same location she delivered her speech in 1851," says Brett Leggs, vice president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "It is a high honor for me in my professional life, but also deeply personal."

Sojourner Truth's fifth great-grandson Cory is beaming with pride

"I feel like a superhero man because her blood running through me," Cory says. "I can't explain it but I'm very fortunate and blessed to say that's my grandmother."

“171 years ago, Sojourner Truth spoke out on behalf of those whose voices were ignored or silenced,” said Jim Mullen, president and CEO of United Way of Summit & Medina. “Today, our country still struggles to heed her message. We must listen to those whose lived experiences shine a light on injustice and inequality. And then, together, we must work to correct them. That is what we are working toward at United Way of Summit & Medina, and it is why we are proud to do our part to ensure Sojourner Truth’s name and legacy live on.”

The plaza is targeted for completion in the spring of 2023.

You can see renderings of the Sojourner Truth Memorial Plaza below:

Credit: Provided by United Way of Summit & Medina
Credit: Provided by United Way of Summit & Medina

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