The statue, by artist Manuelita Brown, was a gift to Bassett from her kids and husband.

By Angela Bassett, as told to Jennifer Ferrise
Dec 17, 2020 @ 9:00 am
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Angela Bassett
| Credit: Stephane Cardinale/Corbis via Getty Images

Sojourner Truth has always been my role model. When I first learned about her story growing up, I was so touched by the incredible sacrifices she had made and how strong she was in spite of the many obstacles she had faced as a Black woman who just wanted to live a life of dignity. As a former slave, she was an outspoken advocate for the abolitionist movement. And who could forget her famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech? I’ve been asked to recite it twice, once in concert with [opera singer] Kathleen Battle and another time on Broadway at an event for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016. To be able to bring Truth’s poignant, dynamic words to life was just so meaningful to me.

My family knows how much I admire her, so when my 60th birthday came up in 2018, my husband [actor Courtney B. Vance] and my kids [Bronwyn and Slater] surprised me with this beautiful 6-foot-tall bronze sculpture of Truth in our backyard under the stars. The other surprise was that the wonderful artist who made the sculpture, Manuelita Brown, was also there to celebrate with my friends and family. She captured the integrity and the resilience of Truth so gloriously with this piece.

I love that she’s carrying her carpetbag and her Bible and walking with her bonnet on as if she’s on her journey. It’s very soulful. And it’s so lifelike that for about six months, I was a little startled when I’d walk past my window because I thought someone was actually out there in the yard. The sculpture is displayed in a beautiful spot in my garden, near flowers and olive trees and a little seating area where I like to have a glass of wine and just relax. There’s also a plaque nearby that displays one of Truth’s famous quotes. It says, “I feel safe in the midst of my enemies, for the truth is powerful and will prevail.” It gives me great hope when I see it, and Lord knows, we could all use that in these times.

Angela Bassett
Credit: Lexus Gallegos

As told to Jennifer Ferrise.

Bassett will lend her voice to the Pixar film Soul, out December 25 on Disney+.

For more stories like this, pick up the January 2021 issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download Dec 18th.