I want to share with you the story of a woman who - despite her past as a slave and society trying to quieten her voice - wasn't afraid to speak up. Her story is one of resilience and perseverance, and demonstrates how powerful using your voice can be...
The preacher and human rights crusader born into slavery
You may not be familiar with Sojourner Truth’s story but her passionate words have earned her a place in the history books as one of the most powerful American human rights advocates of the 19th Century. Sojourner was an African American evangelist, abolitionist, women’s rights activist and author who was born into slavery as Isabella Baumfree in 1797. After escaping to freedom with her baby daughter in 1826, she preached about abolitionism and equal rights for all and became known for a speech with the famous phrase, “Ain't I a Woman?”, that she delivered at a women's rights convention in Ohio in 1851. Read her speech here. Sojourner continued to speak out for the rights of African Americans and women during and after the civil war. Her activism even earned her an audience with President Abraham Lincoln. What a woman!
Challenging the system
Sojourner’s experiences as a slave led her to become one of the world’s best-known human rights crusaders. She was sold multiple times, beaten, mistreated and forced to marry another slave with whom she had five children. Learn more about her story here. In 1826, when her master failed to grant her the freedom he’d promised, she left with her infant daughter Sophia - but without her other children who were still legally bound to slave owner John Dumont. After the New York Anti-Slavery Law was passed in the following year, Dumont illegally sold her five-year-old son Peter but she filed a lawsuit to get him back. Months later she won her case and regained custody of her son. She was the first black woman to successfully sue a white man in a US court. Speaking up for her beliefs After becoming a committed Christian, she changed her name to Sojourner Truth and started to preach the gospel and speak out against slavery and oppression as part of the anti-slavery and women’s rights movements. At the 1851 convention in Ohio, Sojourner delivered one of the most famous abolitionist and women’s rights speeches in American history. Discover the power of her words here. At least once during her Indiana tour in 1861, she was arrested for public speaking. This was a risk she took every single time she stepped up onto a podium. And yet she still did it. Because she knew in her bones it was the right thing to do. She went on to recruit black soldiers during the civil war and rallied people to donate food, clothes and supplies to black refugees which led to her invitation to the White House in 1864. While in Washington, she rode on whites-only streetcars to show her contempt for segregation. In 1867, Sojourner moved to Battle Creek, Michigan, where she continued to speak out against discrimination and in favour of women’s suffrage. She died at home in 1883, leaving an enduring legacy of courage, faith and fighting for what’s right.
Tell your story to make a difference
Women’s stories have so often been erased from history that it’s time for us all to tell ours. Like Sojourner, we have to stand up and tell them or they won’t get told at all. So, what’s your story and how can you share it to make a difference, for yourself and other women? Tell me in the comments below!
PHOTOGRAPH OF SOJOURNER TRUTH STATUE - BY ALYSSA KEOWN
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