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The Truth About Tubman and Truth
by Thea Rozetta Lapham

 

hist-H_Tubman.jpg (7229 bytes)Sojourner Truth (1797 - 1883) and Harriet Tubman (shown at right) (1820 - 1913) were born in the United States: Truth in Ulster County, New York, and Tubman in Bucktown, Maryland.

Born into slavery, neither could read or write. And yet both managed to turn this nation upside down with their individual stories of trial and triumph.

The similarities between the two women create a unique bond of sisterhood between two of history's most dynamic African-American women. Both:

  • Rose from the shadows of slavery to prominent roles of leadership

  • Had deep and abiding faiths in a higher power to guide and protect them

  • Recognized the power of music as a means of communication

  • Believed in, and acted on, their premonitions

  • Have been written about extensively, memorialized through statuary and various art forms, and honored by the United States Postal Service with individual commemorative stamps.

Although the similarities between Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman are numerous, one major difference is their areas of expertise.

Sojourner Truth worked to abolish slavery, promote equal rights for women, and eradicate the use of alcohol among men and women. Although she was sympathetic and supportive of the Underground Railroad, she was not an active participant.

Harriet Tubman, often referred to as the "Black Moses" of the Underground Railroad, dedicated her life to creating safe passages for slaves to escape to freedom.

Tubman is celebrated throughout history as one of the most successful "conductors" on the Underground Railroad. It is her likeness not Sojourner Truth's, cast beside the figure of Underground Railroad conductor Erastus Hussey at the helm of the bronze sculpture located behind the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Battle Creek, MI.

Highlighting the differences between Truth and Tubman in her book, Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol, author Nell Painter, writes, "Truth was solidly built and nearly six feet tall &endash; reporters called her gaunt, but not slender.

"Tubman was short, around five feet, and light. Although Truth could play the naif on the lecture platform, she was also known for her self-confidence as a public speaker and the dignity of her dress and demeanor. Tubman, whose upper front teeth were missing, was usually dressed in neat but coarse, Quaker-style clothing."

In addition to differences in outer appearances and their roles related to the freeing of slaves, there were philosophical differences between the two women.

In August of 1864, Truth and Tubman met in Boston. In his book Sojourner Truth: Slave, Prophet, Legend, author Carlton Mabee writes, "Truth tried to persuade Tubman that (Abraham) Lincoln was a real friend to blacks, but Tubman insisted he was not because he allowed black soldiers to be paid less than white soldiers."

For more information on the differences and similarities between Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, visit your school library.

 

 

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