In honor of …. Sojourner Truth

By Lindsey Hayakawa

Feb. 3, 2021

In honor of Black History Month, Sojourner House will highlight inspirational female roles from black history, each week in February.  Deservedly, Sojourner Truth is the first woman to be highlighted. Sojourner House stands on her shoulders, by caring and showing compassion to the people we serve.  Sojourner Truth’s story and accomplishments inspire us to fight for freedom from the slavery of addiction.

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) was an American abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, NY, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to court to recover her son in 1828, she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man.

She gave herself the name Sojourner Truth in 1843 after she became convinced that God had called her to leave the city and go into the countryside “testifying the hope that was in her”. Her best-known speech was delivered extemporaneously, in 1851, at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. The speech became widely known during the Civil War by the title “Ain’t I a Woman?“, a variation of the original speech re-written by someone else using a stereotypical Southern dialect, whereas Sojourner Truth was from New York and grew up speaking Dutch as her first language.

 That man over there say
 a woman needs to be helped into carriages
 and lifted over ditches
 and to have the best place everywhere.
 Nobody ever helped me into carriages
 or over mud puddles
 or gives me a best place...  
And ain't I a woman?
 Look at me
 Look at my arm!
 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 to it —
 and bear the lash as well
 and ain't I a woman?
 I have born 13 children
 and seen most all sold into slavery
 and when I cried out a mother's grief
 none but Jesus heard me...
 And ain't I a woman?
 that little man in black there say
 a woman can't have as much rights as a man
 cause Christ wasn't a woman
 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
 together women ought to be able to turn it
 rightside up again.

During the Civil War, Truth helped recruit black troops for the Union Army; after the war, she tried unsuccessfully to secure land grants from the federal government for formerly enslaved people (summarized as the promise of “forty acres and a mule“).

A memorial bust of Truth was unveiled in 2009 in Emancipation Hall in the U.S. Capitol Visitor’s Center. She is the first African American woman to have a statue in the Capitol building. In 2014, Truth was included in Smithsonian magazine’s list of the “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time.”

Sources: Wikipedia