Sojourner Truth (Circa~1797 - November 26, 1883) former slave, abolitionist, preacher and advocate of women's rights who was the first black woman to win a case against a white man.
Born Isabella Baumfree, self-named Sojourner Truth escaped from slavery in the 1820s. She was the first black woman to win a case against a white man to get back her son. This abolitionist was
"I did not run off, for I thought that wicked, but I walked off, believing that to be all right."
"That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud puddles, or gives me any best place, and ain't I a woman? ... I have plowed, and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me -- and ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man (when I could get it), and bear the lash as well -- and ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children and seen most all sold off to slavery and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me -- and ain't I woman?"
- a memorial stone in the Stone History Tower in Monument Park, downtown Battle Creek (1935);
- a new grave marker, by the Sojourner Truth Memorial Association (1946);
- a historical marker commemorating members of her family buried with her in the cemetery (1961);
- a portion of Michigan state highway M-66 designated the Sojourner Truth Memorial Highway (1976);
- induction into the national Woman's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York (1981);
- induction into the Michigan Woman's Hall of Fame in Lansing (1983);
- a commemorative postage stamp (1986);
- a Michigan Milestone Marker by the State Bar of Michigan for her contribution (three lawsuits she won) to the legal system (1987);
- a marker erected by the Battle Creek Club of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Clubs (also 1987);
- a Mars probe named for her (1997);
- a community-wide, year-long celebration of the 200th anniversary of her birth in Battle Creek in 1997, plus a larger-than-life statue of her by artist Tina Allen; and
- the First Black Woman Honored with a Bust in the U.S. Capitol (October, 2008)
"Ain't I a Woman?", December 1851
Women's Convention, Akron, Ohio
1863 version by Gage
- 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!" . . 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 minister 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 "strong-minded." Some of the tender-skinned 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.
- History of Woman Suffrage, 2nd ed. Vol.1. Rochester, NY: Charles Mann, 1889., edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage.
- UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1986: stamp printed by United States of
- America, shows Sojourner Truth, abolitionist, circa 1986
The speech as recalled by Gage
"Was any person ever better named? Think about it. She is a sojourner of truth, by truth, and for truth. And her words, her example, and her legacy will never perish from this earth, so long as men and women stand up and say loudly and clearly: We hear you echoing down through the years of history, we believe that your journey is not yet over, and we will make the rest of that journey with you."
For Secretary Clinton’s full remarks, click here: http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2009a/04/122342.htm
Sojourner Truth Institute
Sojourner Truth - Stamp on Black History profile
Sojourner Truth - Memorial Statue Project in Florence, Massachusetts
Sojourner Truth - Battle Creek Historical Society
"Ain't I a Woman?" Speech - Fordham University
"Ain't I a Woman?" - speech and history of, on About.com
"Keeping the Thing Going While Things are Stirring" - speech delivered at the American Equal Rights Association in 1867
The Narrative of Sojourner Truth - online text of her autobiography, at A Celebration of Women Writers
Sojourner Truth, the Libyan Sibyl - Article by Harriet Beecher Stowe, appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in April 1863
Women and Families in Slavery - links to essays and first-hand accounts and letters about the lives of female slaves