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Sojourner Truth (c. 1797 – November 26, 1883), originally named Isabella Bomefree, then Baumfree, was a black woman who was born into slavery, and later became a prominent author, and social activist.
- "Honey, I jes' walked round an' round in a dream. Jesus loved me! I knowed it - I fel it. Jesus was my Jesus. Jesus would love me always. I did n't dare tell nobody; it was a great secret. Everything had been got away from me that I ever had; an' I thought that ef I let white folks know about this, maybe they'd get him away - so I said, 'I'll keep this close. I wont let any one know.'"
- Olive Gilbert & Sojourner Truth (1878), Narrative of Sojourner Truth, a Bondswoman of Olden Time, page 159. (text at sojournertruth.org)
- "But then there came another rush of love through my soul, an' I cried out loud,- 'Lord, Lord, I can love even de white folks!'"
- Olive Gilbert & Sojourner Truth (1878), Narrative of Sojourner Truth, a Bondswoman of Olden Time, page 159.
- "I am pleading for my people, a poor downtrodden race
Who dwell in freedom's boasted land with no abiding place
I am pleading that my people may have their rights restored,
For they have long been toiling, and yet had no reward
They are forced the crops to culture, but not for them they yield,
Although both late and early, they labor in the field.
While I bear upon my body, the scores of many a gash,
I'm pleading for my people who groan beneath the lash.
I'm pleading for the mothers who gaze in wild despair
Upon the hated auction block, and see their children there.
I feel for those in bondage—well may I feel for them.
I know how fiendish hearts can be that sell their fellow men.
Yet those oppressors steeped in guilt—I still would have them live;
For I have learned of Jesus, to suffer and forgive!
I want no carnal weapons, no machinery of death.
For I love to not hear the sound of war's tempestuous breath.
I do not ask you to engage in death and bloody strife.
I do not dare insult my God by asking for their life.
But while your kindest sympathies to foreign lands do roam,
I ask you to remember your own oppressed at home.
I plead with you to sympathize with signs and groans and scars,
And note how base the tyranny beneath the stripes and stars.
- Olive Gilbert & Sojourner Truth (1878), Narrative of Sojourner Truth, a Bondswoman of Olden Time, page 303.
- Sisters, I ain't clear what you be after. If women want any rights more than they's got, why don't they just take them, and not be talking about it?
- As quoted in Sojourner Truth : A Self-made Woman (1974) by Victoria Ortiz
- Well, children, when there is so much racket there be must something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the Negroes of the South and the women of the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?
Ain't I a Woman? Speech (1851)
- delivered 1851, at the Women's Convention, Akron, Ohio.
- 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? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed 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 a woman?
- That little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Jesus Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
- If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, the women together ought to be able to turn back and get it right side up again! and now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
About Sojourner Truth
- Sojourner combined in herself the two most hated elements of humanity. She was black and she was a woman, and all the insults that could be cast upon color and sex were together hurled at her.
- Failure Is Impossible: Susan B. Anthony in Her Own Words edited by Lynn Sherr (1995)
- Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Nation, and Sojourner Truth were not evolutionaries, they were revolutionaries, just as many of the young women in today’s society and more and more women must join their rank.
- At Battle Creek, between a housing project dedication at which I spoke and a meeting with local Democratic officials, we made time to visit the grave of another black woman, not a little one but a giant physically as well as spiritually. I put a wreath on her grave and read the sign there: "Sojourner Truth, a renowned lecturer and reformer who championed anti-slavery, rights of women and the freedmen, rests here."
- Shirley Chisholm The Good Fight (1973)
- Aymar Jean Christian of Northwestern University historically contextualizes and updates the notion of intersectional storytelling in his recent book Race and Media: Critical Approaches. “Most creators are ‘intersectional,’ meaning they identify with multiple communities marginalized by their race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, disability, or citizenship status,” he writes. He argues that the framework of intersectionality was developed throughout the 20th century by women writers of color like Sojourner Truth, Audre Lorde, and Kimberlé Crenshaw. Those early intersectional writers sought to describe “the interlocking nature of oppression and the specificity of being both Black and woman (and often queer).”
- On another occasion, I returned to Boston, where Cell 16 had fulfilled one of my dreams by organizing a forum in historic Fannueil Hall in old Boston. In that hall, Lucy Stone, the Grimké sisters, Sojourner Truth, William Lloyd Garrison, John Brown, and Frederick Douglass had held antislavery and profeminist meetings during the decades before the Civil War. Their legacy had motivated me to move to Boston to launch female liberation.
- Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War Years 1960-1975 (2002)
- Most will remember Ms. Truth’s oration for its vivid descriptions regarding physical labor; Black women were forced to plough, plant, herd, and build — just as men. Yet far too little attention centers on her condemnation of that system, which made sexual chattel of Black women, and then cruelly sold off Black children. This was human trafficking in the American form, and it lasted for centuries.
- Michele Goodwin, “The Racist History of Abortion and Midwifery Bans”, ACLU, (July 1, 2020)
- Who is a revolutionary woman? A revolutionary woman wants change, not mere cosmetic change but change to the status quo, and she is willing to sacrifice to make this happen. We have some extraordinary examples: Sojourner Truth, Las Adelitas, Frida Kahlo, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Dorothy Day, Malala Yousafzai, Coretta Scott King, and others.
- Dolores Huerta "Reflections on Revolutionary Women" in Revolutionary Women of Texas and Mexico by Kathy Sosa (2020)
- First a name, just a person's name, you've heard it before. Sojourner Truth. That name is a language in itself. But Sojourner Truth spoke the unlearned language; about a hundred years ago, talking it in a public place, she said, "I have been forty years a slave and forty years free and would be here forty years more to have equal rights for all." Along at the end of her talk she said, "I wanted to tell you a mite about Woman's Rights, and so I came out and said so. I am sittin' among you to watch; and every one and awhile I will come out and tell you what time of night it is." She said, "Now I will do a little singing. I have not heard any singing since I came here."
- It was only after the development of the Negro women's club movement that feminist consciousness first appeared among black women, and here, too, it is an exceptional attitude rather than a pervasive one. One must note here the single exception, the strong feminism of Sojourner Truth, who was distinctly a forerunner and whose ideas were not shared by black women of her day.
- Gerda Lerner, The Majority Finds Its Past: Placing Women in History’’ (1979)
- In the person of Sojourner Truth, the fusion of the abolition and woman's rights movements seemed personified.
- Gerda Lerner, The Majority Finds Its Past: Placing Women in History’’ (1979)
- Sojourner Truth said it very well. You know, after the Civil War in the large women's meeting in 1898 which took place with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and all the rest, the woman's rights, feminists' rights meeting at which Sojourner Truth spoke. She said that they say that women need to be helped, that they cannot drive horses, they cannot work, they cannot walk, but I have walked so many miles; I have worked as a blacksmith; I have drawn carriages, never mind driven them, and am I not a woman? right? So, the economic basis of the kinds of prejudices and stereotypes of racism, of sexism, are very obvious. When we need strong, pioneer women to cut down forests, to work beside "their men" that's fine. But on the other hand, when that need passes, we tie them into girdles, if they're white. We set them in a drawing room, and we say they have vapors.
- 1975 interview in Conversations with Audre Lorde (2004)
- Black women have been doing this for centuries, not only in Africa but certainly in the United States of America, whether it was picking cotton with the children bound on our backs, whether it is heading for freedom with the underground railroad, with the Sojourner Truths. This is part of our history: we know we can bear arms and children. This is one of the functions of myth: To underline the fact that even in our dreams and our visions we are not alone. And to have them be black women, because I am tired of seeing only white Christs and white Virgins and white goddesses-all the time I was growing up. I raised a girl child, and I know I wanted to have black images, I wanted to have black queens I could tell her about in her bedtime stories. I wanted to have these images. That is important because that is how we raise children.
- 1987 interview in Conversations with Audre Lorde (2004)
- Works by Sojourner Truth at Project Gutenberg
- Sojourner Truth: Online Resources, from the Library of Congress
- On the trail of Sojourner Truth, Sojourner Truth Library
- Sojourner Truth Institute
- Poem form of Ain't I a Woman?
- Profile at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Learning to Give site
- Narrative of Sojourner Truth, a Northern Slave, Emancipated from Bodily Servitude by the State of New York, in 1828 (1850)
- Narrative of Sojourner Truth; a Bondswoman of Olden Time, Emancipated by the New York Legislature in the Early Part of the Present Century; with a History of Her Labors and Correspondence, Drawn from Her "Book of Life" (1875).
- Narrative of Sojourner Truth; a Bondswoman of Olden Time, Emancipated by the New York Legislature in the Early Part of the Present Century; with a History of Her Labors and Correspondence Drawn from Her "Book of Life;" Also, a Memorial Chapter, Giving the Particulars of Her Last Sickness and Death (1884)
- The Narrative of Sojurner Truth from American Studies at the University of Virginia