BY SOJOURNER TRUTH
Sojourner Truth was a 19thcentury women’s rights activist and abolitionist. Born into slavery, she became the first woman to emerge as an abolitionist speaker. She also followed her calling as a preacher and helped out troops and other people affected by the aftermath of the Civil War.
This is my vocal journal, as I’ve never learned to read or write. Some believe knowing how to do so will drown out the voice of God in my spirit. I am speaking to you all because I am curious to see what I have to say! I have long wanted to share the journey of my life. Here are my most distinctive recollections.
I was born enslaved with the name Isabella around 1797 in Dutch, New York to my mother Elizabeth, “Mau Mau,” and my father James, “Baumfree.” I had many siblings, never got to know most of them because they were sold when I was very young. I grew up under slaveowners who spoke Dutch, so that was the only language I knew for a very long time. Sometimes I was sold to English-speaking slaveowners who would physically punish me for speaking only Dutch and not being able to speak English. After I told my father what happened, he sought out kind Dutch families who would treat me well.
My mother, Mau Mau, told me everything I needed to know about God and prayer. She told me to have a direct relationship with him every day, which became a defining trait of my religion. I tried to allow God to lead every decision I ever made. I would always listen out for His voice. He gave me peace, wisdom, and direction.
When my first slaveowner, Charles, died, my family was broken up and sold. I was only 9 years old. My father was getting real old, so my Mau Mau was freed to care for him until I was sold to another family.
John Dumont was a slaveowner who thought highly of me. I lived under him until a New York law in 1817 would claim my freedom after a 10-year period. I had about 6 children during this time. I grew up believing slavery was the natural order of life. But working for Dumont for long, strenuous years pushed me to make my big escape.
One night, I asked God how He wanted me to escape from slaveholders. How did He want me to claim my freedom? He gently told me to leave this Dumont house before dawn. Dawn gave me just enough light to see before me. So when the time came, I snatched up my youngest daughter, Sophia, and followed where my spirit led me. It led me to an old, dying friend of mine, named Levi Rowe. He told me to go to a Quaker home occupied by Isaac and Maria Van Wagenen. They lovingly took me in. John Dumont ended up finding me sooner than I expected and wanted to take me back, but I refused! Thankfully, Isaac Van Wagenen offered to buy freedom for me and my Sophia.
Meanwhile, my son, Peter, was sold out of state. Against the law! I took the case to court and ended up being the first black woman to win a lawsuit in the U.S.
With my newly established life, somehow my daily conversations with God became less of a focus…and I wondered why?
“VISIONS FROM GOD”
In 1827, I had a vivid premonition that John Dumont was going to find me and my Sophia and take us back. I am not one who moves backward, but always forward. How will I resist Dumont should he find us? At one moment, God gave me a flash of insight straight from Heaven that, “There was no place where God was not.” I realized that God would be with me no matter where I went, so there was no need for worryin’ or fussin.’
I trusted God to give me more visions and He did just that. The Holy Spirit led me to New York where I joined a Methodist church and an African church.
Next month: The second half of my diary, I speak about my preachin,’ my name change, my lectures, and my abolitionist moves.