Truth once declared, at the Women’s Rights Convention in 1851, “If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these together ought to be able to turn it back and get it right side up again” (“Sojourner Truth” Encyclopedia).
This statement brought a wave of protest from the men in the crowd and left most women with renewed hope for receiving equal rights. Sojourner Truth was a woman’s rights activist and African American abolitionist, on top of being a freed slave.
Sojourner Truth had the “worst of both worlds” being that she was African American, and also a woman. She spoke at a countless amount of conventions, largely inspired by Lucrietta Mott. Rather than using weapons, Truth would use her incredible talent of speech to get her points across. Truth was an extremely opinionated woman who would not give up on an issue until she thought the result was satisfactory. Without Sojourner Truth’s hard work and dedication to the issues that she cared about, America would not be shaped today how it is (“Sojourner Truth” Encyclopedia). . Her Early Life Sojourner Truth, with a birth name of Isabella Baumfree, was born on an unknown date of 1787 in Swartekill, New York. Born into slavery to James and Elizabeth Baumfree, the family of at least fifteen was owned by the Hardenbergh in Esopus, New York. Sojourner Truth was sold for the first time at age nine to a violent man, getting separated from the rest of her family. In 1815, Sojourner Truth fell in love with a slave on a neighboring farm and had a child, but their love was forbidden and the two never saw each other again.
Truth was then forced to marry another slave and they had three children together (“Sojourner Truth” 2013). Sojourner Truth faced many hardships at such a young age that contributed to her lifelong stance against slavery. 2. Her Road to Fame In 1799, New York successfully negotiated the abolition of slaves. Sojourner Truth’s master went back on his word and kept Truth and her children as slaves until she escaped with her youngest daughter in 1826. Truth constantly prayed to God to let her children, if they were to be sold, to remain in nearby plantations.
Her prayers didn’t omit, for her son was illegally sold to a slave owner in Alabama. Outraged, Truth had external help from New York Quakers to take the issue to court. Though she was at an utter disadvantage because of her race and gender, Sojourner Truth walked out of the United States courthouse with her son safely returned. Truth was one of the first African Americans to go to court against a white man and leave with success (Mentzer). Sojourner Truth was extremely devoted to her Methodist religion and would do anything to preach God’s word.
Often, she would stand on the streets of New York with her children to sing and praise their Lord in the hopes of converting someone. After her son had departed for a job at sea, Truth became an active member of the Northampton Association of Education and Industry located in Northampton, Massachusetts. The main goal of the group was to work on a wide-range of issues that were important to the members. Truth’s main focus was women’s rights and the abolition of slavery throughout all of America. Members were all extremely close-knit and lived together on 500 acres of land.
Here she met William Lloyd Garrison, whom would later publish her now-famous memoirs named “The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave. ” The group of people separated in 1846, but the community gave Sojourner Truth enough confidence to begin speeches on her own (“Sojourner Truth” 2013). 3. Her Work Sojourner Truth gave such powerful, eloquent speeches and was so opinionated that citizens around her actually questioned whether or not she was a woman. One of Truth’s earliest works was her book of memoirs published by Garrison that shared, and often exaggerated, Sojourner Truth herself.
The memoir brought a steady income for Truth, allowing her to buy a home for herself in Northampton. Sojourner Truth was in high demand to speak at different conventions, her first being at the National Women’s Rights Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts. Truth was one of the few freed slaves that made their living as abolitionists, along with William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and David Ruggles (Clift). On June 12, 1863 Sojourner Truth spoke at a Sabbath School in Michigan.
The entire audience gave Truth their entire attention, despite the fact that she was once a slave who was thought of as barely a human. “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? If so, white children must know that if they go to Heaven, they must go there without their prejudice against color, for in Heaven black and white are one in the love of Jesus” (Butler). This speech was easily one of Sojourner Truth’s most famous concerning the topic of the abolition of slavery.
Every member of the crowd was truly touched, and had a hard time not wanting to help with the cause. Also concerning the injustice of slavery, Sojourner Truth delivered a heart-wrenching speech on how much being a slave can alter a person and their viewpoints on life. On October 4, 1856, Truth spoke one of her final speeches before her death in Michigan. “I want to know what has become of the love I ought to have for my children? I did have love for them, but what has become of it? I cannot tell you. I have had two husbands but I never possessed one of my own.
I have had five children and never could take one of them up and say, ‘My child’ or ‘My children,’ unless it was when no one could see me” (Butler). In this speech, Truth acknowledges the fact that she was blind to the evil surrounding her when she was a slave. Her ignorance may have been for the best though, a gift from God even, so she couldn’t comprehend the horrors of separating families, sexual abuse, and emotional manipulation until she was free. Even with all of the crimes committed against Sojourner Truth at such a young age, she remained exceptionally religious and trusted her God to help her persevere.
Sojourner Truth’s most famous and celebrated speech was delivered on May 1851 at the Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. Known as “Ain’t I A Woman”, many newspapers and articles featured the powerful speech and helped emphasize Sojourner Truth’s image as an ex-slave. While walking up to the stage, the rich men in the crowd were on their seats, ready to attack and contradict Truth on anything that didn’t add up. Baring her strong, muscular arms, Sojourner began by questioning the treatment of women. Truth made it extremely clear that she, standing six feet tall, could do anything that a man could.
She could eat as much as a man, work twice as hard, and was stronger than the average man any day. Who was to say that women were vulnerable and weak without the help of a man? As Truth was walking back to her seat, all the men who were making rude comments previous to the speech applauded her with a standing ovation. The women were all crying, because someone had finally spoken up for an issue that was truly important for the well-being of America (Clift). Sojourner Truth was presented with the incredible experience of meeting President Lincoln on October 29, 1864. Truth sought the vote for black women. Her fame is attested by her meeting with President Lincoln and her bestseller, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth” (Sanders). Throughout the letter written to her aunt recounting the experience, Truth constantly wrote about how genuinely kind all of the staff and Mr. Lincoln himself were to both the black and white race. President Lincoln bowed as Sojourner Truth entered the room, a sign of complete respect. This meeting held between the two historical figures reinforced Truth’s reasons to be fighting against slavery and for her rights (Butler). . Her Inspiration From the very beginning, Sojourner Truth had a strong base supported by her religion. Her mother taught her to pray whenever an auction was near that she wouldn’t be sold to an evil man. Though the praying never actually worked in that sense, Truth would cry out to God when blood was spilling from her back while getting whipped because of her illiteracy in English. When her son was sold illegally to Alabama, Sojourner Truth relied heavily on her God to help them persevere and get justice in court.
God answered her prayers and when her son was returned to her; and Truth realized that while still at the slave owners’, she became “’overwhelmed with the greatness of the Divine presence’ and inspired to preach” (Women In History). Sojourner Truth was devoted to going to church, and decided to bring that to her other passion of the abolition of slavery. Combining the two, Truth became a traveling teacher which she explained as The Spirit calling her East. After joining the Northampton Association of Education and Industry, Sojourner Truth met even more influential people that would become strong colleagues later in the future.
For example, Lucrieta Mott, who was an abolitionist, women’s rights activist, and also a religious reformer, strongly encouraged and pushed Truth into putting her thoughts into words as to help the issues in question. Being with a Quaker community for a long period of time also had a strong influence on Truth – focus on peace not war, equality for all, communicating with spirits, etc. Sojourner Truth had an extreme religious influence that led to her meeting other people who would influence her even more into changing history (Women In History). 5. Her Influence
Sojourner Truth’s influence of history was, and still is to this day, absolutely phenomenal. She was a major abolitionist, and without people who stood up for what they believed in, American would most likely still have slaves; there would be no rights for women. To men, Truth seemed like a rebellious woman, who was unappreciative towards the work men do for women. After Sojourner Truth became better known, however, men actually gave her their respect. Never before in history would a wealthy, slave supported man have given the time of day to listen to an African American woman, who used to be a slave, argue about her opinions.
To women, Sojourner Truth’s influence was even more phenomenal. Her speeches would give women chills and make them cry because of the intensity of the subject. The fact that one woman was so willing to stand up for a whole population of people that were too scared to object to a white man’s will, gave women hope for a promising future. After all, if the treatment of women and slaves was never brought forward by a strong-willed individual, such problems would be around for decades more (Women In History). 6. Her Later Years
Up until her death on November 26, 1883, in Battle Creek, Michigan, Sojourner Truth was persistent in her passionate speeches. Truth has no known cause of death other than old age. Adding to the list of things Truth would have liked to change was capital punishment of people, even if they committed a crime. She testified against legislature in this act, with no luck while still living. Truth was still living to see the abolition of slavery, but not to see women equality. Truth was loved by many people and abolitionists together, including William Lloyd Garrison, Susan B.
Anthony, and Lucrieta Mott. Many monuments are dedicated to Sojourner Truth today to remember all the great things she has done for the people of America (“Sojourner Truth” 2013). Sojourner Truth had a rough life early on, but prospered through it to become one of the greatest historical American figures today. Truth had all the qualities of a great abolitionist – fierce, experienced, caring, and a fabulous speaker. Using her faith and knowledge of the issues at hand, Truth could truly connect with the audience to make her messages get perceived in the best way possible.
Without the support of friends, however, she may have not been as successful due to the fact she has never had anyone else care about her before – other than the people who were paying for her work. Without Sojourner Truth’s hard work and dedication to the issues that she cared about, America would not be shaped today how it is. Works Cited CLIFT, ELEANOR. “‘And Ain’t I A Woman?. ” Newsweek 142. 18 (2003): 58. Academic Search Premier. Web. 15 Feb. 2013. Butler, Mary. “The Words of Truth. ” SojournerTruth. Sojourner Truth, 1997. Web. 15 February 2013. Mentzer, Brooke. Sojourner Truth. ” Writing 26. 6 (2004): 24-25. Academic Search Premier. Web. 12 Feb. 2013. “Sojourner Truth”. Encyclop? dia Britannica. Encyclop? dia Britannica Online. Encyclop? dia Britannica Inc. , 2013. Web. 13 Feb. 2013 Sanders, Viv. “African American Women And The Struggle For Racial Equality. ” History Review 58 (2007): 22-27. Academic Search Premier. Web. 13 Feb. 2013. “Sojourner Truth. ” 2013. The Biography Channel website. Feb 13 2013, 12:49 Women in History. Sojourner Truth biography. Last Updated: 2/13/2013. Lakewood Public Library. Date accessed 2/13/2013 .
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