Call Detail
Recognizing 19th Century African & Indigenous American Abolitionists, Entrepreneurs and Family
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Entry Deadline: 10/17/22
Application Closed

Entry Fee (Entry Fee ): $25.00
Work Sample Requirements
Images | Minimum:Min. 10, Maximum:Max. 20
Total Samples | Minimum:Min. 10, Maximum:Max. 20
Call Type: Unspecified
Eligibility: International
State: Massachusetts

Taking Steps:Recognizing 19th Century African & Indigenous American Abolitionists, Entrepreneurs and Family                      Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to honor William Brown and Martha Ann Tulip Lewis (Brown), Sojourner Truth, and Frederick Douglass. The approximate size of the framed portraits being commissioned is 5’W x 7’H for Truth and Douglass and 7’6'’W x 10’6” H for the Browns. The portraits will become a part of the Worcester County Mechanics Association permanent collection and installed in Mechanics Hall’s "acoustically perfect" grand auditorium located in Worcester, MA. The three portraits will hang prominently alongside Abraham Lincoln, William Lloyd Garrison, Abby Kelley Foster, Lucy Stone, and others of their contemporaries. 

This RFQ is the first stage to select three artists to individually create a portrait of one of the honorees. Ten finalists will receive $1,000.00 and be asked to present a sketch of their proposed image.  Direct all enquiries related to this RFQ to Gloria D. Hall via email  

The artist commission fee is $40,000.00 for Frederick Douglass, $40,000.00 Sojourner Truth and $50,000.00 for William and Martha Ann Tulip Lewis (Brown). The Worcester County Mechanics Association will provide conservation sensitive materials (canvass and stretcher bars) to the artists to create a portrait of their subject. The stretched and completed portrait will be shipped to the framer. The framing and installation will be completed by professionals with experience in museum quality conservation, restoration, and installation. The costs of shipping to the framers and site, framing, and installation will be borne by the project organizer’s Worcester County Mechanics Association.  

The selection panel is composed of the following persons:

Dr. Kelli Morgan, Professor of the Practice and the inaugural Director of Curatorial Studies at Tufts University. Medford, Massachusetts

Dorothy Moss, Curator of painting and sculpture at the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.

Toby Sisson, Associate Professor and Program Director of Studio Art at Clark University, Worcester, MA and artist. Providence, Rhode Island

James Welu. Former Chief Curator and for twenty-five years Executive Director of the Worcester Art Museum. Worcester, MA. He  continues to lecture at the Worcester Art Museum, the College of the Holy Cross, Clark University, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Project Summary:

Gloria D. Hall, Preservationist & Public Art Call Administrator for “Taking Steps: Recognizing 19th Century African & Indigenous American Abolitionists, Entrepreneurs and Family” invites experienced portrait artists to submit qualifications to paint large-scale portraits of William Brown and Martha Ann Tulip Lewis (Brown), Sojourner Truth, and Frederick Douglass. These free and formerly enslaved individuals actively worked in the US to abolish slavery and for the betterment of freed slaves and their community during a perilous time in American history – mid-19th century - when Blacks, free or enslaved were least legislatively protected. The Fugitive Slave Act and Dred Scott Decision of the 1850’s declared any person of African descent could be captured, declared a fugitive, and returned to slavery and was ineligible for citizenship. 

William Brown and Martha Ann Tulip Lewis (Brown)

William and Martha were born free in Massachusetts, he in1824 in Boston and she in 1818 in Harvard. After their marriage in 1850 Martha was actively involved with planning many social events for the black and white community and with the Ladies Benevolent Society of their Unitarian Universalist Church. Brown owned a successful upholstery business and real estate in Worcester and Washington, DC. Their modest home was the center of life for the community, offering access to Martha’s extensive book collection, temporary space to runaway slaves, and the family’s hearth. Their friendship circle included Frederick Douglass (see letter from Douglass to William Brown on the death of Martha).   William and Martha donated funds and time to support fugitive slaves, soldiers fighting in the Civil War and, through the Freedmen Relief Society, newly freed slaves.  He was an inventor and would become the first Black to become a mechanic – i.e. member of the Worcester County Mechanics Association.

 Additional information on William Brown and Martha Ann Tulip Lewis (Brown):

The American Antiquarian Society holds the family’s manuscripts and miscellaneous photographs.  Search William Brown @ www.americanantiquariansociety.org and

“Black Middle Class Family in Worcester in the Nineteenth Century” an unpublished paper from February, 1993 by Rosemarie Dinant, a Clark University student. September 5, 2022, the paper will be available at It is a great resource for information and to understand the Browns’ life in Worcester, MA. 

Sojourner Truth

“The spirit calls me and I must go.” In the midst of the gender and racial cacophony of her time Sojourner Truth stood tall to proclaim the humanity of the enslaved and the hypocrisy of so-called Christians actively involved in the institution of slavery as well as those supportive of the peculiar institution. On the heels of the successful publication of her narrative by William Lloyd Garrison in 1850, Truth and Douglass spoke at the first National Women’s Convention in Worcester, MA. She would deliver her famous speech on Black women and gender equality at the Women Rights Convention in 1851. Although widely known as “Ain’t I A Woman” the actual speech and accompanying text is best titled “I Am A Woman’s Right”. (See below)

For additional information on Sojourner Truth:

“Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol” Nell Irvin Painter the consummate biography with photographs of Truth.

“Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave” Dictated by Sojourner Truth is a great source for Truth’s “I Am A Woman’s Right”, her famous 1851 speech at the Women Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. All should be read and listen to it. 

 Frederick Douglass

“The silver trump of freedom had roused my soul to eternal wakefulness.  It now appeared, to disappear no more forever. It was heard in every sound, and seen in everything. It was ever present to torment me with a sense of my wretched condition. I saw nothing without seeing it, I heard nothing without hearing it, and felt nothing without feeling it. It looked from every star, it smiled in every calm, breathed in every wind, and moved in every storm.”

Within his soul, at this pivotal moment in his youth, Frederick Douglass knew freedom belonged to him. This knowing enabled him to make the most of his intellectual, personal, and ancestral resources to walk tall and stand up to the inhumanity of slavery. Years later, he would become a great thinker, courageous speaker, and a crusader to abolish slavery and to advocate for knowledge and women's rights. He argued that Black men should fight in the Civil War and he worked toward the betterment of the lives of those formerly enslaved. He authored his three-part autobiography, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave”, “My Bondage and My Freedom” and “The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass”; created and published, “The North Star” newspaper; traveled and spoke internationally; engaged with presidents; and served as Ambassador to Haiti. Frederick Douglass spoke to the Worcester County Mechanics Association many times and was among the first to speak on the stage of the Association's Mechanic's Mechanic Hall (1857).  Beneath the veil of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that ruled persons of African descent in America were not citizens, Frederick Douglass delivers in 1852 his famous, "What, to the Slave, is the Fourth of July”. Among many others in the audience was then President Millard Fillmore, signer of the law.  As he spoke and lived one could not tell that Douglass’ body wore the physical scars of beatings and attacks from his early life as a slave.  

Additional information on Frederick Douglass:

“Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave”. Written by Himself, Frederick Douglass.

“My Bondage and My Freedom” Frederick Douglass 1845.

“Frederick Douglass, Prophet of Freedom” David W. Blight. A Pulitzer Price winning biography with many photographs. 

Artists are encouraged to visit Mechanics Hall online at, to spend time with the photographs of the three subjects, and where possible FOCUS on 1840 - 1870 photographs, and to familiarize yourself with the subjects.   


Submission deadline: Monday, October 17, 2022: 11:59MST

Artist Notification:  Friday November 4, 2022: 11:59 EST

Finalist Submit Sketch for Final Selection: December 9, 2022: 11:59 EST

Artist Notification of Selection: January 6. 2023

Portraits Complete: October 31, 2023 

Selection process

Step One: RFQ – Submit by October 17, 2022, 11:59 PM Central Standard Time online through café’ at the following link:

 Acceptance of Responses: The RFQ is not a binding agreement to purchase services.

Step Two:  Review and Selection

The selection of ten finalists will be based on the following criteria:

1.    Quality of letter of interest

2.    Quality and relevance of work samples

3.    Commission experience

All applicants will receive notification of decisions on or by November 4, 2022

Step Three: Ten finalists submit sketch proposals.

Step Four: Review to include reference checks and possible presentations

Step Five: Selection of three artists.

All finalists will receive notification of decisions on or by January 6, 2023.


Selected artists will be required to maintain liability insurance during the creation and transport of the finished work. The Artist shall be responsible for maintaining a valid certificate of insurance throughout the term of the production contract and provide the organizers with a copy. 

Application Requirements

Application Due Date:  Applications are to be submitted by October 17, 2022 with a nonrefundable registration fee of $25.00. Payment will be accepted by credit or debit card through CAFÉ.org.

♦  Artist statement of up to five hundred words.

♦ One-page letter describing interest in the project, approach to design and research.

♦ One-page bio and no more than two-page resume with current contact information.

♦ Contact information for three references from gallerist(s), organization(s), and/or individual(s) that have exhibited your work or commissioned a portrait. Preference for references relative to commissioned work. Only finalists' references will be contacted.

♦ Work Samples: Artists must submit at least 5 and no more than 7 examples of their portraiture work completed in the past fifteen years. A minimum of 10 and no more 20 clearly labeled digital images in JPEG format (2 - 3 images per piece) of original work. Follow CaFE image requirements: JPEG format only, 1200 pixels on the longest side, less than 5 MB in size. Visit the CaFE Help Page for more information on image requirements or for help resizing images. (images can include details) 

♦JPEGS image identification on each: lastnamefirstnameimagenumber.jpeg

Ownership:  All work examples submitted must have been created and is the property of the artist.  

Rank your portrait creation preference, William Brown and Martha Ann Tulip Lewis (Brown), Sojourner Truth, or Frederick Douglass, with 1 being first choice, 2 being second choice, 3 being your third choice, and 4 being no preference.  While the selection panelists and organizers cannot guarantee the first choice, consideration will be given. 


♦ Submitted applications will serve as an agreement to the conditions herein stated for participation in “Taking Steps: Recognizing 19th Century African American Abolitionists, Entrepreneurs and Family”.

 ♦ Artists are encouraged to visit Mechanics Hall online at; to spend time with photographs of the three subjects online and in various publications; and where possible FOCUS on 1840 - 1870 photographs, and to familiarize yourself with the subjects.   


Eligibility Criteria

This Request for Qualifications (RFQ) is open to experienced painters in the US and Canada who have completed at least three commissioned and other large-scale paintings in the past fifteen years. Finalists must be available via Zoom or in-person to potentially meet with panelists to present their design. All applications will be considered. Women and artists of color are encouraged to apply.