Saturday, February 1, 2020

Day One of Black History Month: How Much Do You Know About Sojourner Truth?

“I am not going to die; I'm going home like a shooting star.” —Sojourner Truth

Today is the kickoff for Black History Month and I thought it appropriate to share a bit about Sojourner Truth, one of the earlier stories from our nation's history. In 1797, when she was born in New York (no precise date has actually been recorded) both her parents had been born in Africa (father in Ghana, mother Guinea) so that she was a first generation African American.

The family who owned her parents lived about 95 miles North of New York City, which really isn't that far from Woodstock.

When she was nine, Sojourner Truth was sold at an auction, along with a flock of sheep, for $100.

New York had passed a Gradual Emancipation Act that would have permitted her to gain her freedom in 1827 at age 30. She learned, however, that her owners were not going to let her go free, so she ran away with her infant daughter. Tragically she had to leave her five-year-old son behind. The slave owner in turn sold the boy to a plantation in Alabama, a thousand miles away. (Do you think he was being vindictive?)

When her freedom was declared official, she brought a lawsuit against this former owner for selling her son illegally, one of the first lawsuits in our history by a black woman against a white man. Amazingly, she won her case in court and got her son back. Oh happy day!

In 1843 she changed her name to Sojourner Truth and began traveling around the country speaking out against slavery and for women's rights.

Over the years I'd been familiar with her in name only and upon becoming acquainted with her story found her achievements quite astonishing, not only because of where her story began and all she'd been through, but because she was later so influential. This was a woman who never learned how to read and write, but her public speaking rattled the walls and challenged people's attitudes.

Sojourner Truth died in 1883 and was buried
in Battle Creek, Michigan.
Her most famous speech was titled, "Ain't I a Woman?"  This was ten years before the Civil War, nearly 170 years ago. How many of us who write today will be remembered in 170 years? 

I'm most impressed by her courage. (Impressed is an understatement.) Against seemingly impossible odds she fought for what what was right, speaking out against injustice.

Here are some quotes from this mighty woman. Her slant on some familiar Scriptures is amusing and pointed.

“Truth is powerful, and it prevails.” —Sojourner Truth

“If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!” —Sojourner Truth

“I have borne 13 children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me!” —Sojourner Truth

“How came Jesus into the world? Through God who created him and woman who bore him. Man, where is your part?” —Sojourner Truth

“It is hard for the old slaveholding spirit to die, but die it must.” —Sojourner Truth

“I went to the Lord and asked Him to give me a new name. And the Lord gave me Sojourner, because I was to travel up and down the land, showing the people their sins, and being a sign unto them.”
—Sojourner Truth

You can learn more about her story here:

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