Black History: Special Delivery!!


Sojourner Truth (circa 1870)


Many are familiar with the activism of Sojourner Truth as an abolitionist and suffragist.  Here a few facts you may not know about Sojourner Truth:

She was born into slavery in approximately 1797 in New York. Her birth name was Isabella Baumfree. She was later sold at the age of 9 along with a flock of sheep for $100.

She escaped slavery in 1826 with her daughter who was an infant after her owner reneged on a promise to free her daughter. Sojourner Truth spoke Dutch. She was born in an area of New York which was settled by the Dutch. It was not until she was around 11 years old that she would begin speaking English.

After her escape, she learned that her son Peter had been sold illegally to a man in Alabama. Truth sued for her son’s return in court and won! She was one of the first black women to challenge a white person in a U.S. Court.  A devout Christian, she changed her name in 1843 to Sojourner Truth and became involved in the abolitionist and suffrage movements. She worked as a domestic for several prominent religious leaders. When one of the leaders was poisoned and died, a married couple implicated Truth as being partially responsible. She sued the couple for slander in 1835 and won. When women’s suffragist Harriot Stant Blatch asked her if she could read, Truth answered: “Oh no, honey, I can’t read little things like letters. I read BIG things like men!”

1851 was the year when Truth gave her famous, “Aint I A Woman”. The title, “Aint I A Woman?” was not recorded as being mentioned as part of the original speech. This title did not surface until 12 years later. The fact that she gave the speech it’s not in question. However, it is unlikely that Truth, not being from the south, and not even speaking English until she was 11 years old would use this type of southern vernacular. It may be, that the speech content was changed over the years.

Later in life, Truth focused her efforts on securing land grants from the federal government for former slaves. Truth felt strongly that land ownership would help African American attain economic self sufficiency. She was unable to persuade Congress to adopt her ideas in this area.

A powerful orator, here are some quotes from Sojourner Truth: “Truth is powerful and it prevails” and, I’m not going to die. I’m going home like a shooting star.” What a powerful life and legacy that is still speaking today!

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