A Moment Across History

“I sell the shadow to support the substance.” — Sojourner Truth. Carte de Visite, circa 1864, in the collections of the Library of Congress


Students will explore and answer the following questions:

  • What can we learn about an historical time period and female artists’ contributions to art, by looking at their photographs?
  • How did the 19th century female photographers demonstrate the photographers’ power to connect to all people?
  • How can we use photographs to compare women across time?


Mickalene Thomas, American, born 1971 Ain’t I a Woman (Sandra), 2009 Rhinestones, acrylic, and enamel on panel; DVD and framed monitor Crocker Art Museum, gift of Emily Leff and James Davis III, 2020.68.2


  1. Project or display the two images. Discuss with the students what they see, think, and wonder about.
  2. Provide some information about Sojourner Truth and Sandra Bush, and the artist Mickaline Thomas.


Early Elementary:
Help the students sort the cards, taping them near the artworks they describe. Compare and contrast the artworks during the sorting process, helping them distinguish between the past and the present.2. Provide some information about Sojourner Truth and Sandra Bush, and the artist Mickaline Thomas.


Assign some students the Sojourner Truth image and some the Sandra Bush image. Ask them to consider and then write a response to one or more of these prompts as though they were the woman in their assigned image:

  • When I look at the other woman, I notice…
  • When I look at the other woman, I wonder…
  • When I look at the other woman, I think…
  • Invite students to share their responses. Consider making a classroom

display: Students could cut out their responses in speech bubble shapes
to attach around printed images of the artworks.

Middle and High School:
Looking at each image, have students complete the following prompts, as if each woman is looking at the other:
I am….
When I look at the other woman
I notice…..
I wonder….
I think….
I am….


History/Social Science
Learning and Working Now and Long Ago (grade K)
K.4 Students compare and contrast the locations of people, places, and environments
A Child’s Place in Time and Space (grade 1)
1.2 Students compare and contrast the absolute and relative locations of places and people and describe the physical and/or human characteristics of places.
1.4 Students compare and contrast everyday life in different times and places around the world and recognize that some aspects of people, places, and things change over time while others stay the same.
1.5 Students describe the human characteristics of familiar places and the varied backgrounds of American citizens and residents in those places.
People Who Make a Difference (grade 2)
2.1 Students differentiate between things that happened long ago and things that happened yesterday.

Individual aesthetic and empathetic awareness developed through engagement with art can lead to understanding and appreciation of self, others, the natural world, and constructed environments.
Visual imagery influences understanding of and responses to the world
Through artmaking, people make meaning by investigating and developing awareness of perceptions, knowledge, and experiences.
People develop ideas and understandings of society, culture, and history through their interactions with and analysis of art.

English Language Arts
Key Ideas and Details, Craft and Structure, Integration of Knowledge and Ideas, Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity
Speaking and Listening
Comprehension and Collaboration, Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas
Conventions of Standard English, Vocabulary Acquisition and Use


  • Projectable images of the artworks
  • Cards with the following words or phrases: lived in 1871, photograph, worked to end slavery, Sojourner Truth, lived in 1974, painting, was a model, Sandra Bush
  • Tape
  • Blank paper for extension activity


45-60 minutes

Grade Level



  • History/Social Studies
  • Visual Art


  • Black Artists
  • Female Artist


  • Photography


Lisa Greene and Jeff Pollard

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