(You may hiss as much as you please, but women will get their rights anyway.- Sojourner Truth)
Sojourner Truth was born Isabella Baumfree and a slave around the year 1797. Belle, as she was then called, and her family worked for a Dutch military family until the property was posthumously sold in 1806. At nine years old, only speaking Dutch, Sojourner was sold with a flock of sheep for $100 to John Neely. Neely was a wicked man and Sojourner later reported that he beat and raped her daily. Neely sold her to a tavern keeper who owned her for 18 months and then sold her to John Dumont in 1810. Dumont forced her to marry an older slave, Thomas, and had four children with him (she also had a daughter, Diana, with a slave from a neighboring farm who she was then forbidden from seeing).
With New York finally planning to abolish slavery in 1827, Dumont promised Sojourner her freedom a year earlier than that provided she kept up with her work, but in true Wealthy Privileged White Male* fashion, he went back on his word and claimed that a hand injury decreased her productivity. Then Sojourner did what I find to be the most empowering thing I’ve ever read, spun one hundred pounds of wool and, feeling she had now completed her duty to Dumont, took her infant daughter Sophia and just walked Dumont’s property.
A year later, Sojourner was, offically, a free woman. She became a Methodist and changed her name to Sojourner Truth. She felt it was her duty to speak out for change and she began giving speeches against slavery, women’s inequality, and capital punishment. She spoke at the first National Women’s Rights Convention and was often give top billing across the country.
In 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention, Sojourner Truth gave what was to be as her best known speech “Ain’t I a Woman?” Which I am going to let speak for it’s self in a recreated video here. It’s pretty kick ass and it makes me cry.
Sojourner Truth lived up to her name; she sought out the truth about freedom, equality, and justice and used her gifts to share the truth with us. Her words humble me and I strive to attempt to follow her example of finding truth and educating others with it.
Which is why I am attending SlutWalk on October 1, 2011.
(commemorating the Sojourner Truth bust in Washington D.C.)