SOJOURNER TRUTH

SOJOURNER TRUTH

1797-1883

Bom in Hurley, New York, as Isabella Baumfree, Sojourner Truth was sold four times before she ran away permanently in 1826. Always passionate, Isabella went to New York City, where she worked and fol¬ lowed her strong religious impulses into various groups and cults, including one publicly disgraced for its questionable moral practices.

But in 1843, Isabella Baumfree went through a transition that left her forever the committed advocate of justice for all men and women. A voice from God told her, in her own words, “to travel up and down the land showing the people their sins and being a sign unto them.” God told her to take the name Sojourner, and when she asked for a second name, she was told to take Tmth, for she would be bringing the tmth about slavery, religion, and women’s suffrage to the American public for the rest of her life.

A gutsy, bold and dynamic speaker, Tmth traveled throughout the country, gain¬ ing the attention of some of the brightest minds dedicated to the abolition of slavery. Though illiterate, Tmth had a fanaticism and a presence that was unshakable.

She was bold enough to chastise Frederick Douglass (see no. 14), inspire awe in Har¬ riet Beecher Stowe, and shame slaveowners who tried to oppose her. She had “power and a quick, incisive mind that reduced things to their essentials,” as Lerone Ben¬ nett said and, as Stowe said, “an unconscious superiority.”

Though her focus was always on teach¬ ing the tmth, her courage led her to action as well,j The money she made by lecturing and singing went to African-American sol¬ diers at the beginning of the Civil War, and when newly freed slaves suffered through the transition, she went to Arlington, Vir- s ginia to help them move easily into their own lives.^

She was also the original freedom rider/ In 1865, when Congress voted to end segrega¬ tion, Truth was the first to force the subject with horse car drivers/When they refused to stop for her, she went into the middle of the street, waving her arms and demanding “I want to ride! I want to ride!” When a crowd gathered to support her, the next car was forced to stop./Tmth climbed aboard and sat like stone, refusing to budge when the con¬ ductor tried to throw her off/ Failing to remove her, he gave in, but Truth made sure he was later arrested and fired from his job.

Once again, she had forced the point of desegregation into the lives of Americans/ She continued roaming and teaching until the end of her life/ At that time, she was still trying to purchase enough land in the new western territories to support freed slaves ready to build new lives..