Empowered by her religious faith, the former slave worked tirelessly for many years to transform national attitudes and institutions. According to Nell Painter, Princeton professor and Truth biographer, “No other woman who had gone through the ordeal of slavery managed to survive with sufficient strength, poise and self-confidence to become a public presence over the long term.”
(Painter, Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol, page 4)
In celebration of Black History Month, Notes to Women salutes Sojourner Truth, a devout Christian, abolitionist and Women’s Rights activist. She was reputed to be the most famous African American woman in America in the 19th century.
For over forty years she traveled around the country, passionately and forcefully speaking for the abolition of slavery, women’s rights and suffrage, the rights of freedmen, temperance, prison reform and the termination of capital punishment. She changed her name from Isabella to Sojourner Truth, a seeker after truth, becoming a traveling itinerant preacher so that she could tell the truth and crusade against injustice. She was not intimidated by convention or authority. She was known for her sense of humour which she used to squash self-righteousness. She once derided some of the women social activists who wore frivolous clothing, saying to them, “What kind of reformers be you, with goose-wings on your heads, as if you were going to fly, and dressed in such ridiculous fashion, talking about reform and women’s rights?” (Narrative, Book of Life, p.243).
She made her most famous address, Ain’t I a Woman at a Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio where she asserted that women deserved equal rights with men because they were as equally as capable as men. She testified, “I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and moved, and can any man do more than that?” She concluded her speech saying, “And how came Jesus into the world? Through God who created Him and the woman who bore Him. Man, where was your part?” (Anti-Slavery Bugle, June, 1851).
Watch this video of this remarkable woman.
We celebrate the “world’s oldest lecturer” who, as a woman of faith could not keep silent when those created in God’s image were denied their human rights and equality. Her memory lives on in the many local memorials and tributes established in her honor in Battle Creek. In 1997, a year long celebration marked the 200th anniversary of Sojourner’s birth. One day was not enough to celebrate this special lady. She has left behind a legacy survival, strength, courage and the passion to transform attitudes and and institutions. She inspires us to speak out against injustice, inequality and oppression and to stand up for truth and to act instead of talk.
If women want any rights more than they’s got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.
Truth is powerful and it prevails.
Religion without humanity is very poor human stuff.
“Does not God love colored children as well as white children? And did not the same Savior die to save the one as well as the other?” (Sabbath School Convention, Battle Creek, June 1863)