SOJOURNER TRUTH Biography - Activists, Revolutionaries and other freedom fighters


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Sojourner Truth (c.1792-1883) - was the adopted name of a woman born in New York       
who escaped from slavery shortly before mandatory emancipation became law in the       
state in 1828. Truth was nearly six feet tall and physically powerful from her         
years of hard labor. She gave this speech - which made her famous at the time it       
in Akron, Ohio, at a women 's rights meeting in May, 1851. This version includes       
an introduction a setting of the scene.                                                 
Sojourner Truth, Mrs. Stowe's "Lybian Sibyl," was present at this Convention.           
Some of our younger readers may not know that Sojoumer Truth was once a slave in       
the State of New York, and carries to­day as many marks of the diabolism of             
slavery, as ever scarred the back of a victim in Mississippi. Though she can           
neither read nor write, she is a woman of rare intelligence and common­sense on         
all subjects. She is still living, at Battle Creek, Michigan, though now 110           
years old. [note: In fact at time of publication she was c. 84 years old]               
Although the exalted character and personal appearance of this noble woman have         
been often portrayed, and her brave deeds and words many times rehearsed, yet we       
give the following graphic picture of Sojourner's appearance in one of the most         
stormy sessions of the Convention, from:                                               
Reminiscences by Frances D. Gage: Sojoumer Truth.                                       
The leaders of the movement trembled on seeing a tall, gaunt black woman in a           
gray dress and white turban, surmounted with an uncouth sun­bonnet, march               
deliberately into the church, walk with the air of a queen up the aisle, and           
take her seat upon the pulpit steps. A buzz of disapprobation was heard all over       
the house, and there fell on the listening ear, "An abolition affair!" "Woman's         
rights and niggers!" "I told you so!" "Go it, darkey!"                                 
I chanced on that occasion to wear my first laurels in public life as president         
of the meeting. At my request order was restored, and the business of the               
Convention went on. Morning, afternoon, and evening exercises came and                 
went. Through all these sessions old Sojoumer, quiet and reticent as the "Lybian       
Statue," sat crouched against the wall on the comer of the pulpit stairs, her           
sunbonnet shading her eyes, her elbows on her knees, her chin resting upon her         
broad, hard palms. At intermission she was busy selling the "Life of Sojourner         
Truth," a narrative of her own strange and adventurous life. Again and again,           
timorous and trembling ones came to me and said, with earnestness, "Don't let           
her speak, Mrs. Gage, it will ruin us. Every newspaper in the land will have our       
cause mixed up with abolition and niggers, and we shall be utterly denounced."         
My only answer was, "We shall see when the time comes."                                 
The second day the work waxed warm. Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal, Presbyterian,       
and Universalist ministers came in to hear and discuss the resolutions                 
presented. One claimed superior rights and privileges for man, on the ground of         
"superior intellect"; another, because of the "manhood of Christ; if God had           
desired the equality of woman, He would have given some token of His will               
through the birth, life, and death of the Saviour." Another gave us a                   
theological view of the "sin of our first mother."                                     
There were very few women in those days who dared to "speak in meeting"; and the       
august teachers of the people were seemingly getting the better of us, while the       
boys in the galleries, and the sneerers among the pews, were hugely enjoying the       
discomfiture, as they supposed, of the "strong­minded." Some of the                     
tender­skinned friends were on the point of losing dignity, and the atmosphere         
betokened a storm. When, slowly from her seat in the corner rose Sojourner             
Truth, who, till now, had scarcely lifted her head. "Don't let her speak!"             
gasped half a dozen in my ear. She moved slowly and solemnly to the front, laid         
her old bonnet at her feet, and turned her great speaking eyes to me. There was         
a hissing sound of disapprobation above and below. I rose and announced                 
"Sojourner Truth," and begged the audience to keep silence for a few moments.           
The tumult subsided at once, and every eye was fixed on this almost Amazon form,       
which stood nearly six feet high, head erect, and eyes piercing the upper air           
like one in a dream. At her first word there was a profound hush. She spoke in         
deep tones, which, though not loud, reached every ear in the house, and away           
through the throng at the doors and windows.