I too am afraid and have had some sleepless nights. I’m in constant prayer for my Muslim friends and co-workers. It’s like we are in a Horror movie Twilight Zone.
As Garry was switching channels, he paused briefly on the news. “Senators protested the president’s …” and then he clicked on through. No need to listen. Something awful was going on, but these days, something awful is always going on. It is less than two weeks since Number 45 took office. Doesn’t it feel like so much longer than that? It is hard to imagine what we will be experiencing three hundred days from now.
I am not sure we will still have a country, or if the world will exist. We are living not merely in interesting times. We are living an absurd, surrealistic nightmare from which we cannot awaken.
I have been having nightmares. Not the wake up screaming kind, but the anxious kind where I’m looking for something, but cannot find it. I forget the details of the dreams after I’ve up, but I remember the…
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Gives New Meaning to the Old TV Commercial Jingle, “Things Go Better with Coke!!”
Feb 3, 2017
This can be an overwhelming yet fun and enjoyable selection of Coca-Cola sodas. Gives new meaning to the old TV commercial jingle, “Things Go Better with Coke!”
Code Pink!! Join for Justice for All Americans no matter what religion or race!!
Fugitive Slave Act1850
The Fugitive Slave Act was part of the group of laws referred to as the “Compromise of 1850.” In this compromise, the antislavery advocates gained the admission of California as a free state, and the prohibition of slave-trading in the District of Columbia. The slavery party received concessions with regard to slaveholding in Texas and the passage of this law. Passage of this law was so hated by abolitionists, however, that its existence played a role in the end of slavery a little more than a dozen years later. This law also spurred the continued operation of the fabled Undergound Railroad, a network of over 3,000 homes and other “stations” that helped escaping slaves travel from the southern slave-holding states to the northern states and Canada.
BE IT enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the persons who have been, or may hereafter be, appointed commissioners, in virtue of any act of Congress, by the Circuit Courts of the United States, and Who, in consequence of such appointment, are authorized to exercise the powers that any justice of the peace, or other magistrate of any of the United States, may exercise in respect to offenders for any crime or offense against the United States, by arresting, imprisoning, or bailing the same under and by the virtue of the thirty-third section of the act of the twenty-fourth of September seventeen hundred and eighty-nine, entitled “An Act to establish the judicial courts of the United States” shall be, and are hereby, authorized and required to exercise and discharge all the powers and duties conferred by this act.
SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That the Superior Court of each organized Territory of the United States shall have the same power to appoint commissioners to take acknowledgments of bail and affidavits, and to take depositions of witnesses in civil causes, which is now possessed by the Circuit Court of the United States; and all commissioners who shall hereafter be appointed for such purposes by the Superior Court of any organized Territory of the United States, shall possess all the powers, and exercise all the duties, conferred by law upon the commissioners appointed by the Circuit Courts of the United States for similar purposes, and shall moreover exercise and discharge all the powers and duties conferred by this act.
SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, That the Circuit Courts of the United States shall from time to time enlarge the number of the commissioners, with a view to afford reasonable facilities to reclaim fugitives from labor, and to the prompt discharge of the duties imposed by this act.
SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That the commissioners above named shall have concurrent jurisdiction with the judges of the Circuit and District Courts of the United States, in their respective circuits and districts within the several States, and the judges of the Superior Courts of the Territories, severally and collectively, in term-time and vacation; shall grant certificates to such claimants, upon satisfactory proof being made, with authority to ake and remove such fugitives from service or labor, under the restrictions herein contained, to the State or Territory from which such persons may have escaped or fled.
SEC. 5. And be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of all marshals and deputy marshals to obey and execute all warrants and precepts issued under the provisions of this act, when to them directed; and should any marshal or deputy marshal refuse to receive such warrant, or other process, when tendered, or to use all proper means diligently to execute the same, he shall, on conviction thereof, be fined in the sum of one thousand dollars, to the use of such claimant, on the motion of such claimant, by the Circuit or District Court for the district of such marshal; and after arrest of such fugitive, by such marshal or his deputy, or whilst at any time in his custody under the provisions of this act, should such fugitive escape, whether with or without the assent of such marshal or his deputy, such marshal shall be liable, on his official bond, to be prosecuted for the benefit of such claimant, for the full value of the service or labor of said fugitive in the State, Territory, or District whence he escaped: and the better to enable the said commissioners, when thus appointed, to execute their duties faithfully and efficiently, in conformity with the requirements of the Constitution of the United States and of this act, they are hereby authorized and empowered, within their counties respectively, to appoint, in writing under their hands, any one or more suitable persons, from time to time, to execute all such warrants and other process as may be issued by them in the lawful performance of their respective duties; with authority to such commissioners, or the persons to be appointed by them, to execute process as aforesaid, to summon and call to their aid the bystanders, or posse comitatus of the proper county, when necessary to ensure a faithful observance of the clause of the Constitution referred to, in conformity with the provisions of this act; and all good citizens are hereby commanded to aid and assist in the prompt and efficient execution of this law, whenever their services may be required, as aforesaid, for that purpose; and said warrants shall run, and be executed by said officers, any where in the State within which they are issued.
SEC. 6. And be it further enacted, That when a person held to service or labor in any State or Territory of the United States, ha: heretofore or shall hereafter escape into another State or Territory of the United States, the person or persons to whom such service 01 labor may be due, or his, her, or their agent or attorney, duly authorized, by power of attorney, in writing, acknowledged and certified under the seal of some legal officer or court of the State or Territory in which the same may be executed, may pursue and reclaim such fugitive person, either by procuring a warrant from some one of the courts, judges, or commissioners aforesaid, of the proper circuit, district, or county, for the apprehension of such fugitive from service or labor, or by seizing and arresting such fugitive, where the same can be done without process, and by taking, or causing such person to be taken, forthwith before such court, judge, or commissioner, whose duty it shall be to hear and determine the case of such claimant in a summary manner; and upon satisfactory proof being made, by deposition or affidavit, in writing, to be taken and certified by such court, judge, or commissioner, or by other satisfactory testimony, duly taken and certified by some court, magistrate, justice of the peace, or other legal officer authorized to administer an oath and take depositions under the laws of the State or Territory from which such person owing service or labor may have escaped, with a certificate of such magistracy or other authority, as aforesaid, with the seal of the proper court or officer thereto attached, which seal shall be sufficient to establish the competency of the proof, and with proof, also by affidavit, of the identity of the person whose service or labor is claimed to be due as aforesaid, that the person so arrested does in fact owe service or labor to the person or persons claiming him or her, in the State or Territory from which such fugitive may have escaped as aforesaid, and that said person escaped, to make out and deliver to such claimant, his or her agent or attorney, a certificate setting forth the substantial facts as to the service or labor due from such fugitive to the claimant, and of his or her escape from the State or Territory in which he or she was arrested, with authority to such claimant, or his or her agent or attorney, to use such reasonable force and restraint as may be necessary, under the circumstances of the case, to take and remove such fugitive person back to the State or Territory whence he or she may have escaped as aforesaid. In no trial or hearing under this act shall the testimony of such alleged fugitive be admitted in evidence; and the certificates in this and the first [fourth] section mentioned, shall be conclusive of the right of the person or persons in whose favor granted, to remove such fugitive to the State or Territory from which he escaped, and shall prevent all molestation of such person or persons by any process issued by any court, judge, magistrate, or other person whomsoever.
SEC. 7. And be it further enacted, That any person who shall knowingly and willingly obstruct, hinder, or prevent such claimant, his agent or attorney, or any person or persons lawfully assisting him, her, or them, from arresting such a fugitive from service or labor, either with or without process as aforesaid, or shall rescue, or attempt to rescue, such fugitive from service or labor, from the custody of such claimant, his or her agent or attorney, or other person or persons lawfully assisting as aforesaid, when so arrested, pursuant to the authority herein given and declared; or shall aid, abet, or assist such person so owing service or labor as aforesaid, directly or indirectly, to escape from such claimant, his agent or attorney, or other person or persons legally authorized as aforesaid; or shall harbor or conceal such fugitive, so as to prevent the discovery and arrest of such person, after notice or knowledge of the fact that such person was a fugitive from service or labor as aforesaid, shall, for either of said offences, be subject to a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars, and imprisonment not exceeding six months, by indictment and conviction before the District Court of the United States for the district in which such offence may have been committed, or before the proper court of criminal jurisdiction, if committed within any one of the organized Territories of the United States; and shall moreover forfeit and pay, by way of civil damages to the party injured by such illegal conduct, the sum of one thousand dollars for each fugitive so lost as aforesaid, to be recovered by action of debt, in any of the District or Territorial Courts aforesaid, within whose jurisdiction the said offence may have been committed.
Sec. 8. And be it further enacted, That the marshals, their deputies, and the clerks of the said District and Territorial Courts, shall be paid, for their services, the like fees as may be allowed for similar services in other cases; and where such services are rendered exclusively in the arrest, custody, and delivery of the fugitive to the claimant, his or her agent or attorney, or where such supposed fugitive may be discharged out of custody for the want of sufficient proof as aforesaid, then such fees are to be paid in whole by such claimant, his or her agent or attorney; and in all cases where the proceedings are before a commissioner, he shall be entitled to a fee of ten dollars in full for his services in each case, upon the delivery of the said certificate to the claimant, his agent or attorney; or a fee of five dollars in cases where the proof shall not, in the opinion of such commissioner, warrant such certificate and delivery, inclusive of all services incident to such arrest and examination, to be paid, in either case, by the claimant, his or her agent or attorney. The person or persons authorized to execute the process to be issued by such commissioner for the arrest and detention of fugitives from service or labor as aforesaid, shall also be entitled to a fee of five dollars each for each person he or they may arrest, and take before any commissioner as aforesaid, at the instance and request of such claimant, with such other fees as may be deemed reasonable by such commissioner for such other additional services as may be necessarily performed by him or them; such as attending at the examination, keeping the fugitive in custody, and providing him with food and lodging during his detention, and until the final determination of such commissioners; and, in general, for performing such other duties as may be required by such claimant, his or her attorney or agent, or commissioner in the premises, such fees to be made up in conformity with the fees usually charged by the officers of the courts of justice within the proper district or county, as near as may be practicable, and paid by such claimants, their agents or attorneys, whether such supposed fugitives from service or labor be ordered to be delivered to such claimant by the final determination of such commissioner or not.
SEC. 9. And be it further enacted, That, upon affidavit made by the claimant of such fugitive, his agent or attorney, after such certificate has been issued, that he has reason to apprehend that such fugitive will be rescued by force from his or their possession before he can be taken beyond the limits of the State in which the arrest is made, it shall be the duty of the officer making the arrest to retain such fugitive in his custody, and to remove him to the State whence he fled, and there to deliver him to said claimant, his agent, or attorney. And to this end, the officer aforesaid is hereby authorized and required to employ so many persons as he may deem necessary to overcome such force, and to retain them in his service so long as circumstances may require. The said officer and his assistants, while so employed, to receive the same compensation, and to be allowed the same expenses, as are now allowed by law for transportation of criminals, to be certified by the judge of the district within which the arrest is made, and paid out of the treasury of the United States.
SEC. 10. And be it further enacted, That when any person held to service or labor in any State or Territory, or in the District of Columbia, shall escape therefrom, the party to whom such service or labor shall be due, his, her, or their agent or attorney, may apply to any court of record therein, or judge thereof in vacation, and make satisfactory proof to such court, or judge in vacation, of the escape aforesaid, and that the person escaping owed service or labor to such party. Whereupon the court shall cause a record to be made of the matters so proved, and also a general description of the person so escaping, with such convenient certainty as may be; and a transcript of such record, authenticated by the attestation of the clerk and of the seal of the said court, being produced in any other State, Territory, or district in which the person so escaping may be found, and being exhibited to any judge, commissioner, or other officer authorized by the law of the United States to cause persons escaping from service or labor to be delivered up, shall be held and taken to be full and conclusive evidence of the fact of escape, and that the service or labor of the person escaping is due to the party in such record mentioned. And upon the production by the said party of other and further evidence if necessary, either oral or by affidavit, in addition to what is contained in the said record of the identity of the person escaping, he or she shall be delivered up to the claimant. And the said court, commissioner, judge, or other person authorized by this act to grant certificates to claimants or fugitives, shall, upon the production of the record and other evidences aforesaid, grant to such claimant a certificate of his right to take any such person identified and proved to be owing service or labor as aforesaid, which certificate shall authorize such claimant to seize or arrest and transport such person to the State or Territory from which he escaped: Provided, That nothing herein contained shall be construed as requiring the production of a transcript of such record as evidence as aforesaid. But in its absence the claim shall be heard and determined upon other satisfactory proofs, competent in law.
Approved, September 18, 1850
Nullifying the Fugitive Slave Act
Before the Civil War, northern states defied the federal government by refusing to enforce one of the most repugnant laws ever enacted in U.S. history.
Although the concepts of states’ rights and nullification are historically associated with the South, they were employed by northern states to resist the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Under this law, stringent measures were imposed to catch runaway slaves. These included:
- Penalizing federal officials that did not enforce the law
- Rewarding federal officials that did enforce law
- Requiring free citizens to help capture runaway slaves
- Fining or imprisoning citizens helping runaways to escape
- Prohibiting runaways from testifying on their own behalf in court
- Denying jury trials to runaways
Special federal commissions, not courts, worked with U.S. marshals to handle runaway cases. Commissioners and marshals who failed to hold captured runaways could be sued, thus compelling them to enforce the law. They received $10 for every runaway delivered to a claimant, but only $5 for cases in which the runaway was freed. This provided a financial incentive to send even free black men and women into slavery.
The law not only jeopardized the liberty of every black citizen, but it also infringed on the freedom of white citizens by forcing them to hunt for runaways against their will.
J.W. Loguen, a runaway slave who became a college-educated minister, denounced the Fugitive Slave Act: “The time has come to change the tones of submission into tones of defiance… I don’t respect this law—I don’t fear it—I won’t obey it! It outlaws me, and I outlaw it… I will not live a slave, and if force is employed to re-enslave me, I shall make preparations to meet the crisis as becomes a man…”
Northerners who had previously been ambiguous about slavery were now compelled to witness the institution firsthand. Consequently, former moderates quickly became enraged by the “Man-Stealing Law” and refused to send their fellow men and women into servitude. Resistance to the law was so strong that slaveholders coming north to find runaways were sometimes mobbed or jailed for attempted kidnapping.
Abolitionists used this new resistance by encouraging more slaves to escape via the Underground Railroad, reasoning that if enough slaves escaped to the North, and if enough northerners refused to help catch them, then slavery would eventually die. Thus, the liberties of runaways were protected by abolitionists and noncompliant northerners who were defending their own freedom against an overreaching government.
Defiance and Nullification
In the spirit of southern statesmen such as Thomas Jefferson and John C. Calhoun, northerners worked to prevent the Fugitive Slave Act from being enforced in their states. This “nullification” of federal law was first introduced by the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, in which Jefferson and James Madison declared that states had the right to nullify federal laws they deemed unconstitutional.
State and local governments openly defied the law:
- The legislatures of Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Michigan, and Wisconsin passed “personal liberty laws” making it nearly impossible to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act in those states.
- The Wisconsin Supreme Court declared that the Tenth Amendment protected states from repugnant federal laws like the Fugitive Slave Act, specifically citing the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 as the basis for its opinion.
- The Chicago City Council called northern congressmen who supported the act “traitors” like “Benedict Arnold and Judas Iscariot.”
- When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could not free federal prisoners convicted of helping runaways, the Wisconsin legislature called “this assumption of jurisdiction by the federal judiciary… an act of undelegated power, void, and of no force…”
In addition to local governments, the people themselves took matters into their own hands:
- In Syracuse, New York, a jury effectively nullified the law by acquitting all but one of 26 people who had been arrested for freeing William “Jerry” Henry; he ultimately escaped to Canada.
- When Joshua Glover was captured by U.S. marshals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the sheriff supported local opinion by freeing Glover and jailing the marshals; Glover also escaped to Canada.
- In Pennsylvania, a mob of free blacks killed a slaveholder attempting to capture a runaway.
- Military force was needed to disperse a mass meeting after a black man was apprehended in Detroit.
- Throughout Ohio, town meetings branded any northern official who helped enforce the law “an enemy of the human race.”
Other cities and states refused to help enforce the law simply because it was too expensive. Returning one runaway to the South cost the city of Boston $5,000. Boston officials never enforced the law again. All of these acts of defiance and nullification were ironically adopted from principles first introduced and later invoked by southerners.
The Law’s Legacy
The unintended consequences of legislation has rarely been greater than with the Fugitive Slave Act. The law enabled northerners to defy federal authority on moral grounds, and people who broke the law by refusing to help catch runaways were hailed as heroes. Thus, this law actually increased the number of abolitionists and further divided North and South.
The law also enabled the federal government to save slavery from extinction when the institution was dying throughout the rest of the world. Had the law not been passed, more slaves would have escaped to freedom via the Underground Railroad, it would have been too expensive to capture runaways, and the economic realities would have eventually destroyed slavery.
Moreover, northerners’ use of defiance and nullification helped embolden the South to secede from the Union a decade later. Americans recognized that they were the ultimate defenders of their own liberty, and as such many believed that the next logical step after defiance and nullification was secession. The Fugitive Slave Act hastened that secession and helped bring on the most terrible war in American history.
Modern History Sourcebook:
“Ain’t I a Woman?”, December 1851
Sojourner Truth (1797-1883): Ain’t I A Woman?
Women’s Convention, Akron, Ohio
Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? 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? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
Then that little man in black 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 did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.
Sojourner Truth Biography
Born in upstate New York circa 1797, Sojourner Truth was the self-given name, from 1843 onward, of Isabella Baumfree, an African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Truth was born into slavery, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. She devoted her life to the abolitionist cause and helped recruiting black troops for the Union Army. Her best-known speech on racial inequalities, “Ain’t I a Woman?” was delivered extemporaneously in 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention.
Born Into Slavery
Born Isabella Baumfree circa 1797, Sojourner Truth was one of as many as 12 children born to James and Elizabeth Baumfree in the town of Swartekill, in Ulster County, New York. Truth’s date of birth was not recorded, as was typical of children born into slavery, but historians estimate that she was likely born around 1797. Her father, James Baumfree, was a slave captured in modern-day Ghana; Elizabeth Baumfree, also known as Mau-Mau Bet, was the daughter of slaves from Guinea. The Baumfree family was owned by Colonel Hardenbergh, and lived at the colonel’s estate in Esopus, New York, 95 miles north of New York City. The area had once been under Dutch control, and both the Baumfrees and the Hardenbaughs spoke Dutch in their daily lives.
After the colonel’s death, ownership of the Baumfrees passed to his son, Charles. The Baumfrees were separated after the death of Charles Hardenbergh in 1806. The 9-year-old Truth, known as “Belle” at the time, was sold at an auction with a flock of sheep for $100. Her new owner was a man named John Neely, whom Truth remembered as harsh and violent. She would be sold twice more over the following two years, finally coming to reside on the property of John Dumont at West Park, New York. It was during these years that Truth learned to speak English for the first time.
Sojourner Truth was perhaps the most famous African-American woman in 19th century America. For over forty years she traveled the country as a forceful and passionate advocate for the dispossessed, using her quick wit and fearless tongue to fight for human rights.
(Link to a four part annotated biography)
Sojourner Truth was born into slavery about 1797 in Ulster County, New York. Known as Isabella, her parents were James and Betsey, the property of Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh. As a child she spoke only low Dutch and, like most slaves, never learned to read or write.
About 1815 Isabella married Thomas, a fellow slave, and bore five children — Diana (b. 1815), Peter (b. 1821), Elizabeth (b.1825), Sophia (b. 1826) and a fifth child who may have died in infancy.
Isabella was sold to four more owners, until she finally walked to freedom in 1826, carrying her infant daughter, Sophia.
She settled in New York City until 1843, when she changed her name to Sojourner Truth, announcing she would travel the land as an itinerant preacher, telling the truth and working against injustice.
During the next several years, Truth lived in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she purchased a home, and in Ohio. She traveled around the east and midwest preaching for human rights. This illiterate ex-slave was a powerful figure in several national social movements, speaking forcefully for the abolition of slavery, women’s rights and suffrage, the rights of freedmen, temperance, prison reform and the termination of capital punishment.
In the course of her travels, she befriended many of the leading reformers and abolitionists of the day, including Amy Post, Parker Pillsbury, Frances Dana Gage, Wendell Phillips, William Lloyd Garrison, Laura Haviland, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, and Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Truth supported herself by selling portraits, captioned “I sell the Shadow to support the Substance.” She also received income from the sale of her biography, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, A Northern Slave, written in 1850 by her friend, Olive Gilbert.
Her grandson, Sammy Banks, accompanied Sojourner on many of her lecture tours. He could read and write for her and was an invaluable companion until he died in 1875, at the age of twenty-four.
Sojourner first came to Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1856 when she was invited to address the radical Quaker group, the Friends of Human Progress. The next year she moved to Michigan, buying a home in the nearby settlement of Harmonia.
Ten years later, Sojourner moved into Battle Creek, converting a small barn on College Street into her home. She lived there with her daughters, Diana and Elizabeth, until her death.
While she lived in Michigan, Truth continued her national human rights crusade. In the 1860s thousands of freedmen and former slaves fled to Washington, D.C., seeking safety and jobs. However, the federal government was totally unprepared for this influx. There was no place for the ex-slaves to live, very little food and no employment. Sojourner worked at Freedman’s Village and for the Freedman’s Bureau trying to improve their living conditions.
Maryland residents frequently came into Freedman’s Village to steal children. If the parents complained, they were put into the guardhouse. Truth learned of these kidnappings and she encouraged the parents to protest. When the camp commanders threatened to imprison her also, Sojourner replied that, if they tried, she would “make this nation rock like a cradle.”
She was very active in relocating the former slaves to western states like Kansas. Sojourner lobbied the government to give them free land and to pay their transportation costs to their new homes. She carried petitions with her, urging people to sign them, asking, “Why don’t some of you stir ’em [the government] up as though an old body like myself could do all the stirring.”
Sojourner Truth died at her home on College Street on November 26, 1883. Her funeral service, reportedly attended by 1,000 people, was held at the Congregational-Presbyterian Church. She is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Battle Creek.
The words inscribed on her tombstone, “Is God Dead?” came from an 1852 encounter between Truth and another noted ex-slave abolitionist, Frederick Douglass. They were both attending a meeting in Salem, Ohio, and Douglass had been speaking very despondently. A hush came over the audience as Sojourner rose and admonished Douglass, asking, “Frederick, is God gone?”
Her tombstone gives her age as 105. Truth herself encouraged speculation about her age, enjoying the added notoriety it gave her to be called the “world’s oldest lecturer.” According to the few available records, she was 86 when she died.
Her message (also read “Words of Truth” on our speeches menu)
Almost six feet tall, Truth was a striking woman with a charismatic presence. When she addressed an audience, her low resonant voice, especially when raised in song, could still the most hostile crowd.
Sojourner Truth often testified to the demeaning nature of slavery and the redeeming power of faith. She declared that her soul was “beclouded and crushed” while in slavery. “But how good and wise is God, for if slaves knowed what their true condition was, it would be more than the mind could bear. While the race is sold of all their rights — what is there on God’s footstool to bring them up?”
“But I believe in the next world. When we get up yonder, we shall have all them rights ‘stored to us again.” (Anti-Slavery Bugle, Oct. 1856)
But Truth was unwilling to wait to get to Heaven to have her rights — or those of any persecuted person — restored.
Preaching for racial equality, she asked, “Does not God love colored children as well as white children? And did not the same Savior die to save the one as well as the other?” (Sabbath School Convention, Battle Creek, June 1863)
Truth was not intimidated by convention or authority. She learned to manipulate establishment institutions to effect reforms. During her lifetime she brought, and won, three lawsuits. This was very unusual for a woman, especially for an illiterate ex-slave. She retrieved her son, Peter, who had been sold illegally from New York State into slavery in Alabama. She also won a slander suit in New York City and a personal injury case after she was injured in a street car incident in Washington. D.C.
Sojourner was legendary for her sense of humor, which she frequently used to deflate self-righteousness. She ridiculed the contrast between the earnest message of some of the women social activists and the frivolous clothing they wore. “What kind of reformers be you, with goose-wings on your heads, as if you were going to fly, and dressed in such ridiculous fashion, talking about reform and women’s rights?” (Narrative,Book of Life, p.243)
Probably her most famous address, known as “Ain’t I A Woman,” was made at a Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, on May 28, 1851. Sojourner asserted that women deserved equal rights with men because they were equal in capability to men. “I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed, and can any man do more than that?” She concluded her argument, saying “And how came Jesus into the world? Through God who created him and the woman who bore him. Man, where was your part?”(Anti-Slavery Bugle, June, 1851)
Although Sojourner Truth was not an active participant in the Underground Railroad, she did assist many blacks who had previously traveled this route to freedom by helping them find new homes.
Keeping her memory alive (read”a Suitable Memorial” )
Frances Titus, wife of prosperous Quaker miller Richard Titus, was Truth’s friend, traveling companion, sponsor and lecture manager. She also revised Gilbert’s Narrative and added a Book of Life section. After Sojourner died, Titus published a final edition of the Narrative which included memorial tributes.
Titus collected donations and erected a marker on Sojourner’s grave three years after her death.
In 1892 she commissioned Franklin C. Courter, an art professor at nearby Albion College, to portray the meeting between Truth and President Abraham Lincoln at the White House on October 29, 1864. The painting depicted the President showing Truth the “Lincoln Bible,” which had been presented to him by the black people of Baltimore, Maryland.
When it was completed, the painting was displayed at the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition. Later it hung in the lobby of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, where it was destroyed in the Sanitarium fire in 1902. However, the image had been preserved by Frank Perry, a local photographer, who took a picture of the painting before the disasterous fire.
Battle Creek is proud of Truth’s life and legacy and there are many local memorials and tributes to this remarkable woman. Beginning in 1897, a succession of clubs, societies and memorial associations were established in her honor. In 1935 a stone in the history tower in Monument Park was dedicated to Truth.
In recent years a marker was placed on her gravesite, memorializing her family members buried there (1961), May 18 was proclaimed Sojourner Truth Day (1968), the Calhoun County portion of M66 was designated Sojourner Truth Memorial Highway (1976) and a Michigan Women’s Studies Marker was erected downtown (1987, later moved to Kimball House Museum).
In 1987 the state and Calhoun County Bar Associations installed a plaque in the former Hall of Justice. The local club of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs holds an annual Sojourner Truth luncheon recognizing dedicated students and civic leaders. Afterwards, they gather at Truth’s grave for a memorial service.
A United States postage stamp was issued in her honor at the Sojourner Truth Library in New Paltz, New York, on February 5, 1986. Sojourner has also been installed in both the Michigan (1983) and National Women’s Hall of Fame at Seneca Falls, New York (1981).
In 1997 Battle Creek marked the 200th anniversary of Truth’s birth with a year-long celebration. The events culminated with a national Woman’s Conference, focusing on past and present issues in Truth’s tradition, and the publication of a special edition of Heritage Battle Creek magazine.
The continuing symbolic importance of Sojourner as a seeker after truth was recently recognized on an inter-planetary level when the Mars Pathfinder Microver was named in her honor.