Sojourner Truth: Contribution to American Literature

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      Born a slave in New York, Sojourner Truth (1797-1983), grew up speaking Dutch. She escaped from slavery in 1827, settling with a son and daughter in the supportive Dutch-American Van Wagener family, for whom she worked as a servant. They helped her win a legal battle for her son’s freedom from slavery and she took their name for their help. Striking out on her own, she worked with a preacher to convert prostitutes to Christianity and lived in a progressive communal home. She was christened “Sojourner Truth” for the mystical voices and visions she began to experience. To spread sojourned alone, lecturing, singing gospel songs, and preaching abolitionism through many states over three decades. Encouraged by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she advocated women’s suffrage.

      Her struggle of life is appealingly told in The narrative of Sojourner Truth (1850), autobiographical accented English. Sojourner Truth is said to have bared her breast at a Women’s rights convention when she was accused of really being a man. Her answer to a man who said that women were the weaker sex, becomes legendary: “I have plowed planted, and gathered into bars, and no man could head me! And ain’t a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man when in could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain’t a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen them most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s griefs none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t a woman?” This humorous and irreverent orator has been Compared to the great blues singers. Harriet Beecher Stowe and many others found wit and wisdom in this visionary black woman who could declare, “Lord, Lord, I can love even de white folk!” Sojourner Truth epitomized the endurance and charisma of his extraordinary group of women.

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