Sepia portrait of an african american woman holding a bag with a sash, with the caption "I sell the shadow to support the substance, Soujourner Truth".
'I Sell the shadow to support the substance, sojourner Truth,' 1864.

Explore Freedom Founders

The Fourth of July inspires both celebration and reflection. Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence proclaimed “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as inalienable rights—yet, this founding father’s claim that “all men are created equal” fell woefully short for those African Americans in bondage and those who were marginally free. Their battles for freedom required sustained, and often costly, efforts. For many of their descendants, this righteous struggle remains a self-evident truth.

The abolitionists and activists featured in this online exhibition fought diligently to ensure that the new nation’s proclamations of freedom would not exclude Black people. Their essays, speeches, political organizing, fugitive flights, and rebellions in the face of what Frederick Douglass labeled “the gross injustice and cruelty” of enslavement secure their place as founding fathers and mothers of freedom. Drawing on the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture’s vast holdings, we honor their bold strategies to secure Black liberation and true equality for all on this Independence Day with dedicated online experience.

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