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Living History Visit with Sojourner Truth
Sunday, May 21, 2023 at 2:00 pm
Born Isabella Baumfree, Sojourner Truth was enslaved for nearly the first decade of her life by the Hardenbergh family of New York, relatives of Rev. Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh of New Jersey’s Old Dutch Parsonage.
The slave from a small town north of New York City changed hands several times, sold by one brutal owner to another just as harsh. Her life included repeated beatings, rapes and a forced marriage. In 1826, having been promised freedom, but then cruelly denied emancipation, she left her current owners and found her way to the Van Wageners’ home. There she had an epiphany, became a devout Christian, and renamed herself Sojourner Truth, after which she began her travels as a preacher. In 1850, Sojourner began speaking on women’s suffrage, believing the causes of abolition and women’s rights to be intertwined and equally important. Ms. Truth’s most quoted speech, “Ain’t I a Woman?” was delivered at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. Although there has been much dispute about the words she spoke and the rhythm of her speech, there is no debate about the power and integrity of the speaker or about the impact of the speech and the speaker’s life. Truth also helped recruit black troops during the Civil War for the Union Army, and she worked as a Union nurse.
Dr. Daisy Century and Ms. Sojourner Truth are both powerful singers and very intelligent women, whether self-taught or academically trained. Almost as impressively tall as the woman she portrays, Dr. Century gives a commanding performance of Ms. Truth, bringing to life a woman undeterred by incredible obstacles, a woman who mixed with the leading figures of her day, including Susan B. Anthony, Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant. Audience members are urged to consider the twin goals of racial and gender parity of equal importance. We are inspired by Ms. Truth’s fiery wit, as exemplified by her rejoinder to a comment that since she smoked a pipe (at one time), her conduct did not reflect cleanliness being next to godliness. Said Sojourner, “When I die, I expect to leave my breath behind.” The audience has the opportunity to sign Sojourner Truth’s Book of Life, signifying their connection to Ms. Truth’s legacy.
This program is sponsored by the Wallace House and Old Dutch Parsonage Association as part of a series “Early Black American Women in Words” observing the 250th anniversary in 2023 of Black American poet Phillis Wheatley’s journey to London in the summer of 1773 and publication of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. This series is supported by the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.