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"I Think of the Great Things of God, Not the Little Things"

[[image - black and white photograph of Sojourner Truth]]

[[caption]] Sojourner Truth was not only an abolitionist but an ardent speaker for temperance, prison reform, better conditions for working people and woman's suffrage. [[/caption]]

Two women who had been born slaves devoted all their energies to freeing others. Both were deeply religious. One, Sojourner Truth, was termed a mystic. The other, Harriet Tubman, was a woman of action, but in times of stress her favorite prayer was, "Lord, you have been with me through six troubles. Be with me in the seventh." Both women were so famous while they lived that books were written about them although neither could read or write. Both women had been married, but most of their lives each walked alone, and each covered wide areas in her travels. Each faced danger and possible death, one at mob-threatened meetings where abolitionists were stoned and the other at state boundary lines dividing freedom and slavery.

Sojourner Truth was born Isabella Baumfree about 1797, the property of a Dutch master in New York, and she spoke English with a Dutch accent all her life. Her childhood home was a hotel cellar where her parents and a number of other slaves were quartered. While still a child, Isabella's parents died, and she was sold and resold, finally becoming the property of one John Dumont in whose service she remained until New York State freed all its slaves in 1827. But Isabella's master did not want to let her go, so she ran away, leaving her children behind. When her five-year-old son Peter was sold to an Alabama owner Isabella went to court and succeeded in getting Peter back. Another time, accused of the murder of an employer by a white man who had no proof, Isabella again went to court, sued for libel and won a judgement of $125, an unusual vindication for a Negro then.

One day in 1843 Isabella decided to leave her job as a domestic servant to travel. "The Spirit calls me," she said, "I must go." With only a few coins in her purse, Isabella departed, feeling the call, although free herself, to preach and teach against slavery, under a symbolic new name. She declared, "The Lord gave me Sojourner because I was to travel up and down the land showin' the people their sins and bein' a sign unto them. Afterwards I told the Lord I wanted another name, cause everybody else had two names; and the Lord gave me Truth, because I was to declare truth unto people."

Sojourner Truth became a famous figure at antislavery meetings. Once she said about her work, "I think of the great things of God, not the little things." A very tall, very dark woman, with a deep voice like a man's, she electrified many audiences and irritated those who did not agree with her. When a man told her that he cared no more about her speeches than he would about a fleabite, "Maybe not," Sojourner replied, "but the Lord willing, I'll keep you scratchin'."

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