Harriet Jacobs

First Church in Cambridge Hosts Unveiling of Harriet Jacobs AWTT Portrait

The First Church in Cambridge has planned a series of events around an exhibit of eleven Americans Who Tell the Truth portraits, including the unveiling of a new portrait: Harriet Jacobs. The exhibit will open on February 26, 2023 and run through June 30, 2023.

Exhibit opening and portrait unveiling

Sunday, February 26 at 12:30 p.m., Margaret Jewett Hall

Artist Robert Shetterly will introduce the exhibit and unveil his latest work, a portrait of the writer and abolitionist Harriet Jacobs. We will also hear remarks from Harvard Divinity School Dean of Diversity Inclusion and Belonging Rev. Dr. Mellisa Bartholomew, who teaches a course on Harriet Jacobs. AWTT portrait subjects Betty Burkes and Charlie Clements will attend the unveiling. Burkes’ portrait is one of eleven that are included in the ongoing exhibit, through June 30.

Pre-opening event: Screening of Truth Tellers documentary

Sunday, February 19 at 12:30 p.m., Margaret Jewett Hall and via Zoom

First Church will offer a hybrid screening of the hour-long 2021 documentary film: “Truth Tellers: Robert Shetterly’s journey to paint portraits of activists fighting for justice.”  The film “chronicles the lives of courageous Americans fighting for racial equity, climate justice and indigenous rights through the eyes of Robert Shetterly, a long time activist and artist. The film explores the intersection of these issues stressing the urgency of coming together to confront them and galvanizing our resolve to uphold our country’s founding ideals.” All are welcome!

Related events

Beginning February 12 and for a series of Sundays, Ministerial Interns Carla Arevalo Carbajal and Ahmaad Edmund will offer a series about the life of Harriet A. Jacobs, an African American woman enslaved in the U.S. who harnessed her spiritual power to navigate her way to freedom. The series aims to provide participants with a closer connection to the divine power found in unlikely circumstances.

Each Sunday during Lent after church, members will gather around one or two of the Truth Telling portraits for a brief ritual. We will take a moment to ground ourselves, then have someone share a short description of the truth-tellers’ life and work. … You will also be invited to stay after in casual conversation amongst your friends and to engage each other in response to some ‘truth-telling prompts’  that will be available on tables in Margaret Jewett and the Hastings Common.

Check the First Church calendar for more details

More about the Exhibit

First Church in Cambridge hosts “eleven of Robert Shetterly’s remarkable works depicting courageous truth-tellers, both historic and contemporary. Some were chosen for their local connections to our city and region. Others have directly inspired our congregation’s antiracist journey and wider social justice work. … The 11 portraits chosen for First Church’s AWTT exhibit include: Ida B. Wells, Bob Moses, Denise Altvater, Maulian Dana, Betty Burkes, Bryan Stevenson, Frederick Douglas, Gladys Vega, Bill McKibben, Amara Ifeji, and Harriet Jacobs.  The portrait of the writer and abolitionist Harriet Jacobs is Robert’s latest work;  we are thrilled that it will be unveiled here on February 26, given recent local interest in preserving Jacobs’ legacy, which includes her ownership of a boarding house at 17 Story Street in Cambridge.”


Feb 26 2023 - Jun 19 2023


9:00 am - 5:00 pm


First Church in Cambridge
11 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
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