"I sell the shadow to support the substance": Sojourner Truth


whitman is often invoked when describing the historical roots of DIY. but why not also invoke sojourner truth? here’s a short paragraph from an essay by Nell Irvin Painter titled “Representing Truth: Sojourner Truth’s Knowing and Becoming Known” (1994):

“Because Truth paid for the printing [of her Narrative], Yerrington cannot be called the publisher of her book, though he later sold her the stereotyped plates. That Truth published herself was not unusual at the time, for the line between publisher and printer was only becoming established in the 1850s, and the functions of printing, distributing, and selling books were not always distinct. Sojourner Truth, acting as her own distributor and bookseller, was well within the bounds of ordinary practice. What was unusual was the book’s price, kept low, perhaps, to facilitate purchase. At twenty-five cents per copy, her 128-page, 7 & 3/4 by 5 inch, soft-covered Narrative represented a bargain.”


and speaking of author photos, Truth also sold her daguerretype portrait when she did readings/speeches/public appearances.

can you imagine poets doing that nowadays?!

some of her portraits included the phrase: “I sell the shadow to support the substance”.



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