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  • In early 1828, Sojourner Truth approached the Grand Jury of Kingston, New York.

  • She had no experience with the legal system,

  • no money, and no power in the eyes of the court.

  • Ignoring the jury's scorn,

  • Truth said she was there to fight for custody of her five-year-old son Peter,

  • who'd been illegally sold to an enslaver in Alabama.

  • As the trial played out over the next several months,

  • Truth raised funds, strategized with lawyers,

  • and held her faith.

  • Finally in the spring of 1828, Peter was returned to her care

  • but Truth's work was far from over.

  • She would dedicate the rest of her life to pursuing justice

  • and spiritual understanding.

  • Truth was born into slavery as Isabella Baumfree

  • in the late 18th century in Ulster County, New York.

  • Although New York state had announced the abolition of slavery in 1799,

  • the emancipation act was gradual.

  • Those who were currently enslaved

  • were forced to serve a period of indentured servitude until their mid-20s.

  • Throughout this period, enslavers repeatedly sold Baumfree,

  • tearing her from her loved ones.

  • Often, she was explicitly prevented from pursuing new relationships.

  • Eventually, she married an enslaved man named Thomas,

  • with whom she had three children.

  • She was desperate to keep her new family together

  • but the slow progress of abolition threatened this hope.

  • Baumfree's enslaver, John Dumont, had promised to free her by 1826.

  • When he failed to keep his word, Baumfree fled for her safety.

  • During the escape, she was only able to rescue her youngest daughter Sophia,

  • while her other children remained in bondage.

  • It would be two years before she regained custody of Peter.

  • After that, she would wait another two years

  • before she saw any of her other children.

  • During this time, Baumfree found solace in her faith

  • and became increasingly dedicated to religious reflection.

  • After settling in Kingston, New York,

  • she joined a Methodist community that shared her political views.

  • She continued her practice of speaking aloud to God in private,

  • and one night, her evening prayers took on even more sacred significance.

  • Baumfree claimed to hear the voice of God, telling her to leave Kingston,

  • and share her holy message with others.

  • Though she never learned to read or write,

  • Baumfree became known as an electrifying orator,

  • whose speeches drew on Biblical references,

  • spiritual ideals, and her experience of slavery.

  • Her sermons denounced the oppression of African Americans and women in general,

  • and became prominent in campaigns for both abolition and women's rights.

  • In 1843, she renamed herself Sojourner Truth

  • and embarked on a legendary speaking tour.

  • Truth saw her journey as a mission from God.

  • Her faith often led her to the nation's most hostile regions,

  • where she spoke to bigoted audiences as the only Black woman in the crowd.

  • Truth was confident God would protect her,

  • but some crowds responded to her bravery with violence.

  • During one of her sermons,

  • a mob of white mean threatened to set fire to the tent where she was speaking.

  • In her memoir, Truth recalled steeling herself to confront them:

  • Have I not faith enough to go out and quell that mob

  • I felt as if I had three hearts!

  • And that they were so large, my body could hardly hold them!”

  • She placated the men with song and prayer, until they had no desire to harm her.

  • Truth's speeches impacted thousands of people in communities across the nation,

  • but her activism went far beyond public speaking.

  • During the Civil War, she became involved with the Union Army,

  • recruiting soldiers and organizing supplies for Black troops.

  • Her work was so well regarded that she was invited to meet President Lincoln.

  • She took the occasion to argue that all formerly enslaved people

  • should be granted land by the government.

  • Truth continued to travel and speak well into her 80s.

  • Until her death in 1883, she remained an outspoken critic

  • who fought for her right to be heard in a hostile world.

  • As Truth once said, “I feel safe even in the midst of my enemies;

  • for the truth is powerful and will prevail."

In early 1828, Sojourner Truth approached the Grand Jury of Kingston, New York.

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B2 US TED-Ed truth abolition kingston enslaved slavery

The electrifying speeches of Sojourner Truth - Daina Ramey Berry

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    ally.chang posted on 2020/04/29
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