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Sojourner Truth

CHRONICLE: c. 1797 – November 26, 1883

Sojourner Truth was an African American evangelist, abolitionist, women’s rights activist, author and former slave. Sojourner Truth was born Isabella Baumfree in 1797, a slave who lived a miserable life, serving several masters throughout New York before escaping to freedom in 1826. Sojourner would go on to live a life of legacy, faith and courage, fighting for equality in the US. Sojourner Truth retired in 1875 to her home in Battle Creek, Michigan, where she remained until her death in November 1883.

IRIE presents some fascinating Facts an ‘Tings about Sojourner Truth.

  • On June 1, 1843, at the age of 52, Isabella adopted her new name, Sojourner Truth. “Sojourner because I was to travel up and down the land showing people their sins and being a sign to them, and Truth because I was to declare the truth unto the people.”
  • In 1850, Sojourner Truth dictated her memoirs to her friend Olive Gilbert. The autobiography entitled ‘The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: a Northern Slave’, was privately published by William Lloyd Garrison.
  • Sojourner Truth’s speech, ‘Ain’t I a Woman’, was delivered at the Women’s Convention held at the Old Stone Church in Akron, Ohio, on May 29, 1851, and did not originally have a title. The speech was briefly reported in two contemporary newspapers, and a transcript of the speech was published in the Anti-Slavery Bugle on June 21, 1851.
  • During the Civil War, Sojourner Truth recruited black soldiers to fight for the Union.
  • Sojourner is the first black woman to sue a white man in a United States court and
    prevail. After the New York Anti-Slavery Law was passed, her five-year-old son Peter was illegally sold by her former owner, John Dumont. With the help of the Van Wagenens, she filed a lawsuit to get her son back and won her case.
  • stone is engraved with the words, ‘Is God Dead?’, a question she once asked a despondent Frederick Douglass to remind him to have faith.

Did You Know…

The first Mars Pathfinder robotic rover built by NASA was named ‘Sojourner’ after her. The
Sojourner landed on Mars on July 4, 1997 in an area called Ares Vallis. Her mission: to explore the surface of Mars for 3 months, analyzing the Martian atmosphere, geology, climate, and the composition of its rocks and soil. The Sojourner rover is the first rover to operate outside the Earth–Moon system.

Ain’t I A Woman

“Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ‘cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.”

– Sojourner Truth (1851)