Runaway slave Sojourner Truth gained fame in the nineteenth century as an abolitionist, feminist, and orator and earned a living partly by selling photographic...

Runaway slave Sojourner Truth gained fame in the nineteenth century as an abolitionist, feminist, and orator and earned a living partly by selling photographic carte de visite portraits of herself at lectures and by mail. Cartes de visite, similar in format to calling cards, were relatively inexpensive collectibles that quickly became a new mode of mass communication. Despite being illiterate, Truth copyrighted her photographs in her name and added the caption “I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance. Sojourner Truth.”

Featuring the largest collection of Truth’s photographs ever published, Enduring Truths: Sojourners Shadows and Substance (University of Chicago Press, 2015) is the first book to explore how she used her image, the press, the postal service, and copyright laws to support her activism and herself.

A Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Arts and Humanities at the University of California at Berkeley, the book’s author, Dr. Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby, specializes in 18th- through early 20th-century French and American art, visual and material culture, particularly in relation to the politics of race and colonialism. Dr. Grigsby writes on painting, sculpture, photography and engineering as well as the relationships among reproductive media and new technologies from the 18th to the early 20th centuries. Dr. Grigsby is also the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including two Andrew W. Mellon New Directions Fellowships, a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, a History of Art Undergraduate Association Award for Outstanding Contribution to Art Historical Education, and The Distinguished Teaching Award at the University of California at Berkeley. Some of Dr. Grigsby’s previous works include Extremities: Painting Empire in Post-Revolutionary France and Colossal: Engineering the Suez Canal, Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower and Panama Canal. In addition to her teaching, Dr. Grigsby is currently conducting research for a book project tentatively titled Creole Looking: Portraying France’s Foreign Relations in the Nineteenth Century, which will examine France’s relationship to the Caribbean and Americas.


James Stancil is an independent scholar, freelance journalist, and the President and CEO of Intellect U Well, Inc. a Houston-area non-profit dedicated to increasing the joy of reading and media literacy in young people.

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