“Americans Who Tell the Truth” Portraits to Come to York Public Library November 2 – Presented by York Diversity Forum

Oct 18, 2023 | News

Beginning November 2 through December 22, 2023, York Public Library will display 12 portraits from the Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) collection in a collaboration with the York Diversity Forum.

Brooksville-based painter Robert Shetterly began the project more than 20 years ago with a goal of completing 50 portraits of noted activists in US history. There are now 265 portraits total, and the number is growing.

What began in 2002 as artist Robert Shetterly’s personal portrait project has become a broad-based, not-for-profit arts and education organization, the mission of which is to foster and inspire “a profound sense of citizenship” by exposing students and community members to portraits, quotes, biographies, and related resources built around these “Models of Courageous Citizenship.”

Shetterly portraits

November 1 through December 22, York Public library will display 12 portraits by artist Robert Shetterly in an exhibit titled “Americans Who Tell the Truth.” The exhibit is a collaboration between the Library and York Diversity Forum. An opening reception will take place with the artist on Thursday, November 2 at 5 PM in the Library’s Upper Level.  Portraits, clockwise from top left: Sojourner Truth, Abolitionist; Rachel Talbot Ross, Civil rights Advocate and Maine legislator; Tarana Burke, founder of the “Me Too” Movement; Denise Altavater, co-founder of the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission; Deqa Dhalac, First African-American and first Muslim to be elected to the South Portland City Council; John Lewis, Civil Rights Activist and Congressman 

In addition to encouraging community institutions to host the portraits, which have visited 35 states to date, AWTT offers workshops, speaking engagements, and lesson plans around environmental justice, civil rights, the media, indigenous issues, women’s rights, and more.

York Public Library (YPL) and the York Diversity Forum (YDF) have secured twelve portraits for this exhibit which reflect the themes of civil rights and racial justice. Portraits on display are:

  • Denise Altavater, co-founder of the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • Tarana Burke, founder of the “Me Too” Movement
  • Cesar Estrada Chavez, Farm Workers’ Union Founder
  • Deqa Dhalac, First African-American and first Muslim to be elected to the South Portland City Council
  • Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, food and Health, Education and Environmental Justice Doctor
  • Amara Ifeji, environmental and racial justice activist
  • John Lewis, Civil Rights Activist and Congressman
  • Leah Penniman, Food justice activist
  • Rachel Talbot Ross, Civil rights Advocate and Maine legislator.
  • Sojouner Truth, Abolitionist
  • Alice Walker, Poet and social justice activist
  • Elizabeth Mumbet Freeman, slave abolitionist, freewoman; and Dolores Volk, custodian

An opening reception and presentation by artist Robert Shetterly is scheduled for November 2 from 5-7 PM in the Library’s Upper Level. The event is part of a series of programs presented by the York Diversity Forum this fall, “The 1619 Project: Reflections on our Imperfect History.”  Refreshments will be provided at the reception. Other upcoming events in YDF’s series are listed on the library’s website, including a December 7th showing of the documentary film “Truth Tellers” which chronicles Shetterly’s journey in creating the AWTT collection.



Robert Shetterly was born in 1946 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He graduated in 1969 from Harvard College with a degree in English Literature. At Harvard he took some courses in drawing which changed the direction of his creative life — from the written word to the image. Also, during this time, he was active in Civil Rights and in the Anti-Vietnam War movement.

For more than 20 years Robert Shetterly has been painting the series of portraits Americans Who Tell the Truth. His portraits have been traveling around the country since 2003.

The portraits have given Shetterly an opportunity to speak about the necessity of dissent in a democracy, the obligations of citizenship, sustainability, US history, and how democracy cannot function if politicians don’t tell the truth, if the media don’t report it, and if the people don’t demand it.

Robert Shetterly lives with his partner Gail Page, a painter and children’s book writer and illustrator, in Brooksville, Maine



York Diversity Forum was founded in 2003 by members of the York Community who were concerned about local issues of discrimination and prejudice. We seek to promote awareness, understanding, and acceptance of diversity through education and advocacy. We envision a community that is open and integrated–where all people and ideas are welcome. We encourage members to respect one another’s ideas and opinions. We are open to points of view that may differ from our own.