6. Alyce Blue: Sojourner-Truth Historic Art

Is Alyce Blue the first American artist to be commissioned to paint a portrait of Sojourner Truth?

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The Alyce Blue SOJOURNER TRUTH portrait and its place in American recorded history.  Alyce Blue is the established artist who has endeavored to follow her sincere desires to express her love of life through the eyes of portraits in pencil and paintings. Over the years Alyce has shared her talents with many different clients, establishing herself as a local artist who is accepted, respected, and loved within the local communities of Grand Forks, North Dakota.

The love of family, the arts, and life has empowered Alyce with the desire to stand up for freedom of speech, liberty, and justice. In time Alyce developed a sincere appreciation, acceptance, and respect for her heroine Sojourner-Truth.

In February of 1983, Alyce Blue presented her portrait of Sojourner-Truth to the University of North Dakota. The occasion was marked and remembered by the faculty staff, under the direction of President Tom Clifford, via a celebratory dinner to honor Sojourner-Truth, and to commemorate the U.N.D Centennial and Black History Month.

Rob 38President Thomas J. Clifford. University of North Dakota:  President from 1971 – 1992

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Original photo February 1983. The original photo was out of focus and damaged. Restoration work in 2015.

Alyce recalling this occasion said as far as she is aware: ‘The University of North Dakota in Grand Forks is the first university in the US to honor Sojourner Truth with a painting or statue.’ The inspiration behind the portrait as recounted by Alyce was: ‘a vision/dream, in 1982, after her mother Cathy passed away.’

Alyce recalls: ‘The portrait was presented at the centennial dinner that also celebrated black history month. President Tom Clifford was there, and in fact helped to arrange the dinner and presentation, along with the black student union. At the dinner, I told the story of my vision and Sojourner Truth’s amazing life. Back then few people even knew who she was unless they had studied black history in depth.’

Mike Wilkins has said: ‘the portrait is in many ways a representation of both the physical and spiritual strengths of Sojourner-Truth: it’s set on a blue canvas background with a glowing aura depicting the Christian spirituality and strength of Sojourner-Truth.’

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Is this is the FIRST commissioned painting of SOJOURNER-TRUTH in the U.S.A?

The portrait painting of Sojourner-Truth is currently located in the Badlands Room of the Memorial Student Union hall at North Dakota University. This work of historical art is presently receiving additional attention as it may be the first Sojourner-Truth artistic memorabilia to be commissioned and presented to any university or institution within America. In compliance with a desire to establish its genuine place in modern American history, investigations are currently ongoing. Alice Blue, the university, and Mike Wilkins are attempting to develop all the facts. Once studies are finalized the truth regarding this portrait will be established. Any information regarding portraits of Sojourner-Truth being honored and remembered in any Universities or Colleges within the U.S.A. can be forwarded to all interested parties via the use of the internal e-mailing system inserted below this text.

1862: The statue named the Libyan Sibyl by William Story, inspired by Sojourner-Truth, won an award at the London World Exhibition.

1892: Frank Courter commissioned a painting to commemorate her meeting with President Lincoln at the White House in October of 1864.

1969: A left-wing organization, that named itself The Sojourner-Truth Organization was begun and folded in 1985.

1971: Sojourner-Truth Library at New Paltz State University of New York was named in her honor. 

1976: Interstate 194 was named for her in Michigan.

1979: The artwork The Dinner Party features a place setting for Sojourner-Truth.

1981: Sojourner-Truth was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York.      

1981: Feminist author Bell Hooks titles her first major work after Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman” speech.   

1983: Sojourner-Truth is in the first group of women inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in Lansing Michigan.

1983: In February of 1983, a portrait of Sojourner Truth painted by artist Alyce Blue was presented to U.N.D. to honor Sojourner Truth. The portrait helped commemorate the U.N.D Centennial and Black History Month.

From 1983 there have been many honors, portraits and statues commissions, presented and displayed in honor and recognition of Sojourner-Truth.

1986: The US Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp honoring Sojourner Truth.

1987: Sojourner-Truth was commemorated in a monument of “Michigan Legal Milestones” erected by the State Bar of Michigan.

1997: N.A.S.A. Mars Pathfinder missions robotic rover was named Sojourner in honor of Sojourner-Truth 

1998: Sojourner-Truth Writes Home appears on the web, offering “Letters to Mom from Sojourner Truth”  (aka Mars pathfinder rover)

1999: The Broadway musical The Civil War includes in part Sojourner-Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman” speech that Maya Angelou performed in 1999.

2002: Scholor Molefi Kete Asante included Sojourner Truth on a list of 100 greatest African Americans.

2004: The King’s College located in the Empire State Building in New York City named one of their houses “The House of Sojourner Truth”.

2014: Asteroid Truth (249521) is named in her honor.

2015: a statue of Sojourner Truth is unveiled at the University of California, San Diego.The statue resides at Marshall College.

2015: As of 2015, K-12 schools in several states are named after her: California, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Oregon; also included is Sojourner-Douglas College in Baltimore.

Mike Wilkins has said in writing: Alyce Blue has a ‘very powerful story to share, one which many followers and lovers of Sojourner-Truth would be most interested in reading.’ This is the story behind the historical art work as written and presented by the artist Alyce Blue.

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Alyce Blue. Columbia mall in Grand Forks North Dakota. Alyce Blue is also on FACEBOOK: 

The Sojourner Truth portrait by Alyce Blue.

I am a native North Dakotan from the Grand Forks area and a visual artist who works in charcoal, pencil, pastel, oils, and acrylics. I have specialized in multicultural art since the early 1970’s and my work has been greatly enriched by my association with many world religions, by my experiences living with cultures of Asia and the American Deep South, and by raising children of mixed heritage (Euro and Native American). My years of public sketching at malls, fairs, and courts of Minnesota (where I’ve lived in Saint Paul since 1990) has honed and developed my skills at creating life like portraits in many mediums.

I am dedicated to making a positive difference in society by portraying all cultures in the light of unity. My art is published widely in multicultural books, prints, and note cards, and my original portraits are held in private and public collections, including several at the University of North Dakota.

My most memorable painting is the one of Sojourner Truth that I painted in 1982-1983 that hangs in the Memorial Student Union at U.N.D. The painting was inspired by a vision I had after my mother Cathy passed away in June of 1982 after a series of strokes. My mother had a deep faith that our spirits live on after we pass on to the next world, and I believed it too. In August I was working late one night at the Grand Forks Country Club where I worked part time as a caterer. I was preparing food for a big party the next day, and stopped my work briefly to sit down and take a break. As I sat there I began to doze a little. Suddenly I began to see something in front of me. I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming, or seeing a vision, but I saw my mom appear with a tall black woman whom my mother addressed as “Bell” or “Belle”.  Mom was telling “Belle” and me that I was going to do a portrait of her for U.N.D (the University of North Dakota). I was a little startled and confused but I told Mom I would do it. I knew this woman I was to paint was Sojourner Truth. As their images were fading, they were both smiling at me, happy with my answer.

The next day I called a Bill White, a friend of mine who was a member of the Black Student Union at U.N.D and told him about my experience. He was a person of deep faith, and without hesitation he said we should set up a meeting with U.N.D President Thomas Clifford.  Tom Clifford was a guy who was someone that most of the students felt was their friend. He was available to any student who needed something. Bill called President Clifford and set up a meeting with him for a few days later.  At the meeting with Tom and Bill, I told the story about my vision. I explained that the woman who appeared with my mom was Sojourner Truth and Mom asked me to do a portrait of her for U.N.D. Tom didn’t even hesitate. He said, Alyce, do you think you could get the painting done by February? If you could we could present the painting for the U.N.D Centennial and Black History Month. I had forgotten completely about the U.N.D Centennial, but I immediately told Tom, “I’ll get it done!”

I immediately began planning the painting while reading as much as I could find on Sojourner Truth. I probably knew more about her than most people at that time because there was a library at the Era Bell Thompson Center that contained books about outstanding Black Americans, and I found a book about her there. Even though she was born a slave (as Isabelle Baumfree), I found I could relate to her in so many ways. Her courage and ability to stand up to a society hostile to both women and blacks amazed and thrilled me. She became my role model and heroine and still is. I learned to use my talents and skills as an artist, as Sojourner did using her skills as an orator to work for justice and freedom for all people. Sojourner Truth had a difficult but amazing life, and died in 1883 in Battle Creek, Michigan, coincidentally the same year that the University of North Dakota was founded.

When I discovered modern day slavery in my own state of Minnesota, in Saint Paul where I live, I began writing letters to government leaders and officials, telling them that girls as young as 12 were being kidnapped and sold for sex right in Saint Paul, MN. At first I was ignored and told I was being “paranoid”. But eventually I found Civil Society, an organization that had been working for justice for modern day slaves of all ages and backgrounds since the 90’s. Linda Miller, founder and director of Civil Society, invited me to display my art at the State Capitol in spring of 2011. My art and the art of others brought attention to modern day slavery, especially minor sex trafficking. In 2012 I wrote an email to Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, in which I discussed the many ways that young girls were exploited and sold sexually in our county and state, and ways we could make changes that could combat the traffickers that were doing this. Choi immediately sent me back an email telling me my email was an “event!” Soon after that, Choi declared war on traffickers, saying “our women and children are not for sale!” He was involved in helping to organize police, legislatures, politicians, and churches all over MN to combat trafficking and change laws, so that victims of trafficking were no longer considered criminals, but victims.  Choi was also able to bring to trial a family of traffickers, and two brothers from that family were sentenced decades for their crimes, one for over 30 years, and the other over 40 years, making MN history.

I continue to use my art to encourage and reward organizations that work with victims of human trafficking. My art hangs in the offices of Civil Society, and Saint Mary’s of the Lake, a Christian (Catholic) church that has formed a group that for years now has created care packages for victims of human trafficking and their families. In addition I attend groups involved in combating trafficking by education (especially using the arts) or working with victims.

The faculty and staff of North Dakota University are looking forward in celebrating black history month in February 2016. A cordial invitation is extended to any and all interested persons who wish to celebrate the planned activities within the universities curriculum. The Sojourner-Truth portrait is on public display within the universityWebsite: link: http://und.edu/provost/diversity/calendars/calendar-all.cfm  &  http://und.edu/discover/

Alyce Blue.

Sandra L. Mitchell, the associate vice president for diversity and inclusion at the University of North Dakota, has said: ‘I believe it is important to the current staff, students, and faculty to know the significance of this artwork and the U.N.D. place in history.’

Alyce Blue (Artist) has said: ‘Recently I have done some research, and I’ve discovered that even though Sojourner Truth has been honored many times at other institutions since the U.N.D. portrait was dedicated, the U.N.D. was the first university in the U.S.A. to honor her with a painting or statue.’

Alyce Blue is on Facebook: You are invited and welcome. Click on the Sojourner Truth portrait, and you will arrive on the Alyce Blue Facebook page.

Mike Wilkins has said; ‘It has been my privilege working with Alyce Blue and the U.N.D. Together we believe in the importance of presenting this historical information as the portrait stands alone in American history. There can only be one first of anything!’

In closing may we present Ms. Alyce Blue with her portraits of Sojourner Truth and Jack Mayfield (Grand Forks, U.N.D historical figure.)

Mike Wilkins has said; ‘It has been my privilege working with Alyce Blue and the U.N.D. Together we believe in the importance of presenting this historical information as the portrait stands alone in American history. There can only be one first of anything!’

In closing may we present Ms. Alyce Blue with her portraits of Sojourner Truth and Jack Mayfield (Grand Forks, U.N.D historical figure.) 

Please remember that every part of this story has a direct line of contact to a real person who lived, then recorded their experiences. Every quote has a reference number which can if so desired, be independently investigated and confirmed. After a decade of research and writing, we have comprehensively correlated the facts. If you are interested, you as the reader will be equipped and therefore empowered to reach your conclusions!

Welcome to the book: Matthias & Smith Clash of the Prophets.

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