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Issues in social welfare policy paper- sojourner truth

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Issues in social welfare policy paper- sojourner truth

  1. 1. Rebecca Rothstein Prof. Levin Issues in Social Welfare Policy Paper 1 10/9/04 Sojourner Truth: An abolitionist, feminist, and a woman of great strength
  2. 2. “Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman?” –Sojourner Truth Sojourner Truth, born Isabel Baumfree, was an ex-slave and a well known abolitionist. Those who are familiar with her work would agree she embodies the definition of a hero. The textbook used for this class, doesn’t even mention the heroicism of this woman whose dedication to the cause of freedom and women’s rights was inspirational. Truth endured many hardships as a slave, including rape and assault, yet her faith never wavered. Her strong religious convictions carried her through the tough times she faced and gave her strength to pursue the causes she fought for. Sojourner Truth is an example for both female and male activists looking for a role model and an example of leadership, strength, and courage. Truth was born in Ulster County, NY in 1789 and died in Michigan in 1883. Sojourner was one of thirteen children and was born to slave parents. She was sold into slavery and separated from her parents at the age of eleven. At this point, she only spoke Dutch and learned English so that she could defend herself from the cruelties of her masters. Truth met her husband Thomas on the farm of John Dumont, her third master. She had five children with Thomas and eagerly awaited the emancipation promised by Dumont. After Dumont went back on his promise to her, Truth ran away with her son and left her husband and four daughters. 2
  3. 3. Two years after Sojourner left the Dumont farm, her son Peter was sold illegally to a man who lived in Alabama. In 1835, Truth fought for her son’s freedom and, with the help of a lawyer, became the first black woman to take a white man to court and win. Many discouraged Isabella from taking action, because they believed it was a lost cause. Truth, however, was not only a staunch advocator for freed slaves, women, and people of color, but she also advocated for herself. Isabella went on to live in New York City and work for various religious communities. After leaving one of the communes because of its involvement in criminal activities, Isabella had a revelation. The divine inspiration she felt led her to change her name from Isabella Baumfree to Sojourner Truth. Sojourner, which means “to dwell temporarily,” was connected to her feelings about people’s status in life. Her last name, Truth, referred to her mission to spread truth. Sojourner traveled for months relaying her message, which she believed came directly from G-d. While spreading the word of G-d, she aided newly freed slaves and those escaping from persecution. She also spoke at many antislavery lectures and, in addition, met with Union troops. During the Civil War, she counseled the black troops and gave them encouragement. Truth also worked with other noted abolitionists, she met in Northampton, MA, from William Lloyd Garrison to Frederick Douglas. They worked tirelessly to find jobs for newly freed slaves and did whatever they could to help address their needs. She went to Washington D.C. and met with Abraham Lincoln to discuss emancipation issues. 3
  4. 4. According to the website, “From 1864-1868, Truth worked tirelessly with the private National Freedmen’s Relief Association and the federal Freedmen’s Bureau, assisting freed slaves.” Truth was clearly a remarkable woman whose commitment to social justice and reform was something to be admired. In the 1870s, Truth became active in the American Woman Suffrage Association. She felt that abolition of slavery and women’s issues went hand and hand. In a website called the glass ceiling biographies, (, it expresses Truth’s dissatisfaction with the fact that women could be leaders in the abolitionist movement yet they couldn’t vote or hold any kind of public office. The article on the website states “Realizing she was discriminated against on two fronts” and that propelled her activism in the Women’s Rights movement. She lectured about these issues as well as salvation in Washington D.C., Massachusetts, and other areas of the United States. She believed that this was G-d’s will for her and she never let up until her health forced her to settle down. Sojourner is most famous for her speech “Ain’t I a Woman?” given in 1851 which was recorded by Marius Robinson. The famous speech was given at a woman’s rights convention in Akron, Ohio. She was angered that the women that were being spoken of were white women. The minister at the convention had just spoken about how women needed to have “the best place everywhere” and yet Truth exclaimed “Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?” When Truth spoke, it was based on her past experience as a slave and her hard fought emancipation. She brought those experiences of discrimination and torture as both a slave and a woman. She talked about how she had been enslaved and what it meant to be a mother who had to watch her children being sold to white masters. 4
  5. 5. Her emphasis was that she was woman who had to endure the same hardships as the other women plus she had to deal with being a black woman. Truth wanted a voice and felt that if there was any place that she deserved to be heard it was at a women’s suffrage meeting. According to some, Truth’s contributions of her day were only parallel those of Harriet Beecher Stowe. Her efforts on behalf of women as well as people of color were acts of courage considering the times she lived in. Though she was hissed at and insulted by men and others who were against the things she stood for, she never desisted. Truth was a woman who defied the odds of her time and went on to be a powerful voice for marginalized groups. She was a social reformer and her faith in G-d made her the woman that she was. Her speeches are inspiring and her activism is an example of the proactive approach that should be taken by social workers and other professional reformers. 5
  6. 6. Bibliography 1. Sauer, Geoffrey. Ain’t I a Woman? 8 Oct. 2004 woman.html. 2. Sauer, Geoffrey. Sojourner Truth (Isabella Baumfree). 8 Oct. 2004 3. Lewis, Judi. Sojourner Truth. 8 Oct. 2004 4. Sellman, James Clyde. Encarta Africana. Sojourner Truth. 9 Oct. 2004 6
  7. 7. Bibliography 1. Sauer, Geoffrey. Ain’t I a Woman? 8 Oct. 2004 woman.html. 2. Sauer, Geoffrey. Sojourner Truth (Isabella Baumfree). 8 Oct. 2004 3. Lewis, Judi. Sojourner Truth. 8 Oct. 2004 4. Sellman, James Clyde. Encarta Africana. Sojourner Truth. 9 Oct. 2004 6