Individuals lead different lives and are remembered for what they were able to accomplish during their lifetime. Sojourner Truth is a well renowned individual who is remembered up to date for her contribution towards people’s lives. This paper gives a critical look at the life and contributions associated with Sojourner Truth, the black abolitionist.
Sojourner Truth was a remarkable woman. She was born a slave in New York in the year 1797 by the name Isabella Baumfree. She died in 1883 at the age of 86. She was daughter to Elizabeth and James Baumfree. At an age of nine, she was sold and started suffering in the hands of the family that bought her.
It was after she was freed from slavery that she changed her name from Isabella Baumfree to Sojourner Truth (a travelling preacher) and decided to be a woman of action. She started travelling far and wide preaching and speaking out for human rights especially in the American Midwest and East.
She joined the abolitionist movement in the late 1840s, which enabled her to become a popular speaker. In the 1850s, Sojourner Truth was in a position to speak on women suffrage. She got associated with various development related groups, for instance, religious movements in an effort to perpetrate her work of fighting for the rights and equality among human kind. This was done with an aim of reducing suffering that people went through, more especially the women (Horn 54).
Sojourner Truth is remembered for the things she was able to accomplish during her life time. The hard life she encountered as a slave contributed greatly to her work as she did not want people, especially women, to continue suffering as she did. Sojourner Truth got married to a slave but due to the harsh conditions she experienced, she escaped along with her infant daughter in the year 1826.
After settling in the new place, Sojourner Truth filed a case in court in an effort to get back her son and startlingly, she won the case. This was not a normal thing for a woman, a black one, and thus Sojourner Truth became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man. One notable contribution was through her eminent impassioned speech entitled ‘Ain’t I a Woman’ at an Ohio women’s rights convention in the year 1851.
The speech was aimed at fighting for the rights of women and she convinced the audience that women deserved equal rights to those of men. Being a woman, she was able to put out the sufferings that women went through during that time and combined with the power of personal testimony. Sojourner Truth was able to make pivotal contributions towards the fight for racial and gender equality.
She was also involved in other speeches all aimed at fighting for the rights of women and other less fortunate people in the community. Some of them include the Mob Convention presented on 7th September, 1853, the American Equal Rights Association presented on 9th and 10th May, 1867, and the Eighth Anniversary of Negro Freedom on the New Year’s Day in 1871.
All these speeches were significant and tried to put sense among the people, especially those in power, on the importance of treating all mankind appropriately for the sake of having a better world where everyone is entitled to human rights and thus happiness. Her strong foundation on religion played a crucial role in strengthening her and making her speeches believable among mankind.
The fact that Sojourner Truth also talked from experience, in regard to how she suffered as a slave even for minor issues such as failing to communicate in English, also helped greatly in making people understand her cry and thus take necessary actions aimed at facilitating equality and justice for all (Wooden 112).
Sojourner Truth got involved with various religious groups that she considered relevant in fighting for justice and fairness. One of the groups is the famous Spiritualism religious movement of the time which Sojourner Truth associated with through a group by the name Progressive Friends. This group was incredibly helpful and worked under principles that fought for justice and equality among mankind for instance non-violence, and women’s rights and equality among others.
Another critical accomplishment that Sojourner Truth was able to make was seen during the Civil war. Here, Sojourner Truth engaged in various activities in an attempt to raise food and clothing contributions for the black people. As an African American, Sojourner Truth was in a good position to understand the sufferings that the blacks went through under the effects of racism.
It was in 1864 that Sojourner Truth met Abraham Lincoln at the White House to bring out her views about what she observed around her. She was able to challenge the discrimination practices that were perpetrated in the name of racism. In addition, Sojourner Truth assisted in recruiting black troops for the Union Army to ensure that the blacks did not suffer much in the hands of the whites.
This shows her fight against racism, an aspect that she considered to be an obstacle to not only human happiness but also development. Though unsuccessful, Sojourner Truth tried to secure land from the federal government to help resettle the slaves after the Civil war. This shows the love she had for mankind especially those who were discriminated against.
Sojourner Truth is credited for various reforms that she advocated and pushed for while she was still active and in various positions she was able to secure in the course of her life. Among the things she focused on was speaking about abolition, women rights and equality, reforms in the prison where she advocated for proper handling of the inmates as well as preaching against capital punishment. These aspects have helped greatly in improving people’s lives through enhancing justice and human rights.
Sojourner Truth remained to be an active woman, helping people of different caliber through the power of voice and making things done by those in power until in 1875 when her grandson, with whom she was very close, fell ill and died. Sojourner Truth was forced to go back to Michigan where she got ill and died in 1883. During her time, Sojourner Truth had numerous friends and supporters and she also gained favor from influential individuals, for instance, Wendell Phillips and Laura Smith Havilland.
However, not everyone appreciated her and her work and therefore she suffered some rejections, though minimal. For instance, she underwent some intimidation where she was accused to be a man at a meeting in Silver Lake, Indiana, based on the fact that she was extremely tall. To prove the accuser wrong, Sojourner Truth went an extra mile and opened her blouse in an effort to reveal her breast (Mabee and Newhouse 22).
All in all, it’s clear that Sojourner Truth lived a good life trying to help people in all ways that she could despite not being in a good position to do so. For this reason, many people have lived to admire and cherish her lifestyle. She has therefore been honored in many ways over the years since her accomplishments cannot go unmentioned.
For instance, a memorial stone was laid in the Stone History Tower Monument park in 1937, a historical marker was made (1961) to commemorate members of her family who were buried with her in the cemetery and a commemorative postage stamp made in 1986. There was also a community-wide celebration of the 200th anniversary of her birth in1997 among other celebrations. These are just but a few (Women in History par 16).
From the above discussion; it is evident that Sojourner Truth played great role in her lifetime. For this reason, she is remembered up to date for her accomplishments and the changes she was able to make among people. The fact that she was a woman has contributed to her fame greatly since most men of her time were not in a position to effect changes that Sojourner Truth was able to accomplish.
Being an African American woman abolitionist and supporter of the women’s right movement played a great role in contributing to Sojourner Truth’s successes and achievements. This is because she understood what the blacks went through in the hands of the whites and was therefore in a good position to fight for their rights, out of experience.
Horn, Geoffrey. Sojourner Truth: Speaking Up for Freedom. New York: Crabtree Publishing Company, 2009.
Mabee Carleton and Newhouse Mabee Susan. Sojourner Truth: Slave, Prophet, Legend. New York: NYU Press, 1995.
Wooden, Lenny. Sojourner Truth. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003.
Women in History. “Sojourner Truth biography.” Lakewood Public Library, 2011. 15th September 2011