Dear Friends, Since February is listed as a month that we can all use to remember incredible African American figures in our history – this month I want to life up Sojourner Truth, a strong proponent for equal rights for both African Americans and women. Born into slavery in New York, her given name was Isabella Baumfree, and she spoke only Dutch, as did her master, until 10 years of age. She was sold several times before her marriage to Thomas, who was also a slave. Five of her 13 children survived, one of whom was lost into slavery at the age of five. She became free in 1827 and sued for the freedom of that son, won the case, and was reunited with him. For many years, she worked as a domestic in New York City which was where she also renamed herself. Her renaming was the consequence of two visions from God who provided Sojourner with her first and last names. Sojourner was to remind her of her following of Him and Truth, to remind her of what she must speak along the way. From her home in Northampton, MA, Sojouner began in 1843 to associate with folks like Frederick Douglass and Oliver Gilbert, both of whom added to her perspectives on equality. During the Civil War she tended soldiers and later, in 1864, she helped integrate the street cars in D.C.
In her travels she visited 21 states and D.C. over 35 years. She was the only black woman at the first National Women’s Rights Convention and was a guest speaker at the second. She never learned to read or write, so her speeches were written down and saved by other women who were in the audience. They wrote down her words with conviction even as the jeers and hises filled the air around them. Sojourner died in Michigan in 1883, but not before she took on some critics with lessons from the “good book” and a good dose of humor. Might we praise both gifts – scripture and humor as we remembr Sojourner and wonder what we each are doing with our “one, wild and precious life.”
Akron, Ohio, 1851: Then that little man back there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where? He came from God and a woman! Man had nothin’ to do with Him.”
New York Women’s Convention – 1867 “I am above eighty years old, it is about time for me to be going. I have been 40 years a slave and 40 years free, and would be here forty years more to have equal rights for all.”
Blessings and love, Rev. Deb