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So Just Who Was Sojourner Truth
by Thea Rozetta Lapham

 

Sojourner Truth was a slave, social reformer, abolitionist, evangelist, counselor, suffragist and lecturer. And, like many of her contemporaries, she spent the majority of her public speaking years in churches, halls and podiums thoughout the nation: relying on the kindness of friends to provide room, board and the basic necessities of life.

According to Margaret Washington, associate professor of history at Cornell University and editor of the 1993 edition of the Narrative of Sojourner Truth, Vintage Books, New York, Truth was among the most quoted activists of her time: a time which included the likes of Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, and countless other orators.

"Her penetrating one-line comments captured the heart of moral, social, political and religious issues," wrote Washington in her introduction to Truth's Narrative.

Washington said Truth inserted parables from everyday life into her speeches, sermons, and lectures to explain important political and social issues.

"Her words were peppered with biblical metaphors, symbols, and quotations," she wrote. "In the extemporaneous, spontaneous 'stump' speaker tradition popular to antebellum America, few could match Sojourner Truth: Whether trying to persuade farmers in western states on antislavery, communing with her eastern abolitionist friends, detailing her own bondage experience with other blacks, or addressing her favorite audience....the children, who often flocked around her."

Sojourner Truth was a woman who firmly believed the scriptural promise, "With God, all things are possible." She asked "why" when others would have kept silent. She challenged the court system in Kingston, New York, and won ‚ in an era when woman were barred from defending themselves.

Throughout a lifetime of challenges, Sojourner Truth refused to "keep her place," be intimidated or ignored. She was a force to be reckoned with, a force with an invisible and mighty right arm to aid her in her campaign against inequality.

Sojourner Truth knew her fight was not hers alone. It was her faith in God that sustained Sojourner Truth through her endless series of trials and tribulations. Her prayer life consisted of beseeching, badgering, and belaboring God to deliver her from the evils of this world. She never doubted her heavenly father would indeed answer if she prayed long enough, hard enough. She expected His answers as one would expect morning to follow night.

"And this perfect trust," wrote Washington, "based on the rock of Deity, was a soul-protecting fortress, which, raising her above the battlements of fear, and shielding her from the machinations of the enemy, impelled her onward in her struggle, till the foe was vanquished, and the victory gained."

 

 

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