Sojourner Truth

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#1
Born Isabella Baumfree, Sojourner Truth was one of the earliest and most passionate of female abolitionists-for she herself had once been a slave.

In the 1820s, when still quite a young woman, she escaped from her New York owner after being brutally treated and sold away from her family. By the 1840s, Truth had become a powerful speaker against slavery, often moving her audiences to tears and exclamations of horror with her firsthand accounts of what many of her black brethren and sisters were enduring at the hands of cruel masters. She would tell listeners of how some slaves were kept cowed and afraid to act by beatings, sometimes with spiked sticks and chains; she herself, as a teenager, had been taken into the barn by her master one afternoon for absolutely no reason and tied up by the wrists. Then he tore the shirt from her back and whipped her with a bundle of sticks until her back bled. In a voice contemporaries described as rich and deep, she described how she refused to give him the satisfaction of screaming, by clenching her fists so hard her fingernails drew blood from her palms.
She also spoke of the living conditions many slaves were forced to endure, crowded together into cabins with no privacy, overworked, fed scraps in many cases, and clothed in threadbare hand-me-downs. Her audiences must have felt the shame as Truth recalled the auction block, upon which men and women alike were frequently forced to strip and stand before potential buyers, who would search their bodies for marks of the whip or of wrist or leg irons, the presence of which would indicate the slave had been frequently punished. The slaves would be forced to endure impersonal and degrading inspections of their teeth, muscles, and other body parts, depending on what the buyer was looking for in the purchase.

Truth was self-educated, and much of her speaking bore the stamp of a deep love of and acquaintance with Scripture. When explaining to Harriet Beecher Stowe how she came to change her name, Truth said she felt God had called her "to travel up and down the land, showing the people their sins and being a sign unto them." She also possessed a quick wit, coupled with an ability to think fast and turn the unkind words of others against them. Facing a heckler once who told her he did not care for her anti-slavery talk anymore than he would for the bite of a flea, Truth retorted, "Perhaps not, but Lord willing I'll keep you scratching."

She was very involved in political causes, and strongly supported suffrage. During the Civil War, she gathered supplies for black volunteer regiments, and, in tribute to her efforts, was received at the White House by President Lincoln in 1864. Truth was appointed to the National Freedman's Relief Association in 1864, where she worked diligently to better conditions for African-Americans.

She lived long enough to see her people brought to freedom, but never stopped in her efforts to win more equality for them. Right up until her death, in Battle Creek, Michigan, she continued to speak out for her race; when she died in 1883, she went to her grave a much lamented and beloved figure in abolitionist lore.
Source: The Civil War Society's "Encyclopedia of the Civil War." Principal Writer and Researcher Suzanne LeVert.
 

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JPK Huson 1863

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I love Sojourner Truth- what a superb name to have chosen for herself, can you imagine? This is a wonderful article, thank you! ' People you would have liked to have met '. She would have intimidated the stuffing out of me but I'd still have tiptoed up to see if perhaps she'd consider shaking hands, please ma'am.

Doesn't she look as if there's a massive amount of dignity behind her repose? Gosh, the events those eyes witnessed. Can't imagine but you could get lost in history just trying.

Sojourner Truth.jpg
Sojourner Truth 2.jpg
 

Yulie

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#6
There's a lot of myths about Sojourner Truth that have been around since the 1870s. The Sojourner Truth Institute has attempted to preserve factual history and tries to dissolve the myths. See http://www.sojournertruth.org/Default.htm The site includes transcripts of Sojourner Truth speeches, including her original "Ain't I A Woman" speech given in May 1851 and published in June 1851 in the Anti Slavery Bugle. Unfortunately, what has infamously passed down is the verion created in 1863 by Frances Dana Gage which has the line about bearing thirteen children. It just goes to show that some times fiction is handed down as fact and it takes generations to sort the mess out.

Mother Truth's Civil War connection is that she was a recruiter for the 1st Michigan Colored Infantry Regiment (102nd USCI). She was beating the recruitment drum in southern Michigan, its border states and Ontario. A song is attributed to her which honors these soldiers. It is very similar to the "Song of the 1st Arkansas." Truth's "Valiant Soldier" song was written in late 1863 and presented to the 1st Michigan at Detroit Barracks in Detroit, Michigan. Here are the words, song to the tune of "John Brown's Body."

We are the valiant soldiers who've 'listed for the war;
We are fighting for the Union, we are fighting for the law;
We can shoot a rebel farther than a white man ever saw,
As we go marching on.

Chorus.--
Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah, as we go marching on.

Look there above the center, where the flag is waving bright;
We are going out of slavery, we are bound for freedom's light;
We mean to show Jeff Davis how the Africans can fight,
As we go marching on.--Chorus.

We are done with hoeing cotton, we are done with hoeing corn;
We are colored Yankee soldiers as sure as you are born.
When massa hears us shouting, he will think 'tis Gabriel's horn,
As we go marching on.--Chorus.

They will have to pay us wages, the wages of their sin;
They will have to bow their foreheads to their colored kith and kin;
They will have to give us house-room, or the roof will tumble in,
As we go marching on.--Chorus.

We hear the proclamation, massa, hush it as you will;
The birds will sing it to us, hopping on the cotton hill;
The possum up the gum tree couldn't keep it still,
As he went climbing on.--Chorus.

Father Abraham has spoken, and the message has been sent;
The prison doors have opened, and out the prisoners went
To join the sable army of African descent,
As we go marching on.--Chorus.

Dr. David Walls, Ph.D. has studied the issue of the "Valiant Soldier" and the "Song of the 1st Arkansas" with a caution that further research is needed to determine the authorship of the song or whom borrowed from whom. See: http://www.sonoma.edu/users/w/wallsd/smm-marching-song.shtml and http://www.sonoma.edu/users/w/wallsd/pdf/Marching-Song-Paper.pdf. Dr. Walls interviewed Sojourner Truth's biographer, Dr. Nell Painter, who stated, "Who knows which way the borrowing actually went—Sojourner Truth was a very smart woman, and I can believe she made up the song, then borrowed by others without attribution to an older black woman. But I can also imagine other routes of travel." (See Wells paper). Overall, Dr. Wells presents an strong introspective regarding the songs.

Also, another aspect of Sojourner Truth is that she successfully won a lawsuit in Washington City which overturned the prohibition of African American's using public transportation. Truth had been forcibly ejected a streetcar in 1864 on her way to the freedmans camps.

Mother Truth is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Battle Creek, Michigan. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=1044
 
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Yulie

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This is the edition I recommend as it includes notes by Dr. Nell Irwin Painter. A compliment to the autobiography is the biography by Dr. Painter, Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol also published by Penguin.

The original 1850 narrative was republished with revisions and fictional additions seven times. One edition includes an introduction that claimed that Mother Truth was dead when, in fact, she was still upright and living in Battle Creek, Michigan. Mother Truth was a radical abolitionist therefore the Battle Creek setting made a perfect home for her.
 
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Freddy

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This is the 1851 version of her famous speech.

"Marius Robinson, who attended the convention and worked with Truth, recorded his version of the speech in the June 21, 1851, issue of the Anti-Slavery Bugle."

"I want to say a few words about this matter. I am a woman's rights. I have as much muscle as any man, and can do as much work as any man. I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed, and can any man do more than that? I have heard much about the sexes being equal. I can carry as much as any man, and can eat as much too, if I can get it. I am as strong as any man that is now. As for intellect, all I can say is, if a woman have a pint, and a man a quart – why can't she have her little pint full? You need not be afraid to give us our rights for fear we will take too much, – for we can't take more than our pint'll hold. The poor men seems to be all in confusion, and don't know what to do. Why children, if you have woman's rights, give it to her and you will feel better. You will have your own rights, and they won't be so much trouble. I can't read, but I can hear. I have heard the bible and have learned that Eve caused man to sin. Well, if woman upset the world, do give her a chance to set it right side up again. The Lady has spoken about Jesus, how he never spurned woman from him, and she was right. When Lazarus died, Mary and Martha came to him with faith and love and besought him to raise their brother. And Jesus wept and Lazarus came forth. And how came Jesus into the world? Through God who created him and the woman who bore him. Man, where was your part? But the women are coming up blessed be God and a few of the men are coming up with them. But man is in a tight place, the poor slave is on him, woman is coming on him, he is surely between a hawk and a buzzard"
 

JPK Huson 1863

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OHHH my goodness, talk about something to put you in a good mood for the day! Thanks very much for bumping the thread, Barrydog!

You read about her, can't quite believe she had such original thought for the era- then have to understand this must have developed as part of where she came from, and probably not at all singular. Her tendency to take the perspective as far as she did was- talk about dangerous- but nobody can tell me that perfectly normal human beings did not think deeply and resentfully about being held captive in the midst of wealth and privilege. No, blacks were not brain-washed- they had to cover every, single vestige of emotion, not to mention anger or annoyance, or face being beaten- or worse, killed. Happy slaves did not exist- slaves who felt they had a better chance of staying alive, playing the game? Maybe.

Sojourner Truth spoke for all of them- even those who could not admit it, no doubt denied it sometimes. So would I, I think, if it came to feeling I had to stay alive ' or else '.

Hee- I don't know how to move a thread, Donna- thought that was something only the mods had the ability to do?
 

luinrina

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Great threat about Sojourner Truth. I found out about her when Google posted a Doodle about her on February 1. Had to find a video about her famous "Ain't I a Woman?" Thankfully, youtube provides. It's a wonderful speech. I can imagine that she pulled others along with her words.

in tribute to her efforts, was received at the White House by President Lincoln in 1864.
Lincoln and Sojourner Truth.jpg

“Lincoln Showing Sojourner Truth the Bible Presented Him by the Colored People of Baltimore.”
a painting by Franklin C. Courter (1854-1947), made circa 1893

Account about the painting from the Sojourner Truth Institute of Battle Creek, Michigan :

Frances Titus, wife of prosperous Quaker miller Richard Titus, was Truth’s friend, traveling companion, sponsor and lecture manager. … Titus collected donations and erected a marker on Sojourner’s grave three years after her death. In 1892 she commissioned Franklin C. Courter, an art professor at nearby Albion College, to portray the meeting between Truth and President Abraham Lincoln at the White House on Oct. 29, 1864. The painting depicted the president showing Truth the “Lincoln Bible,” which had been presented to him by the black people of Baltimore, Md.​
When it was completed, the painting was displayed at the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition. Later it hung in the lobby of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, where it was destroyed in the sanitarium fire in 1902. However, the image had been preserved by Frank Perry, a local photographer.​

For more on the painting: https://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/29/abraham-lincoln-and-sojourner-truth/
 



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