Sojourner Truth, Another Spiritual Hero and Activist

We have been meditating on courageous spiritual-political activists including Sister Dorothy Stang, Alexei Navalny and Frederick Douglass.  

Mini-bio of African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth. Lesson by Daina Ramey Berry, directed by WOW-HOW Studio. TED-Ed

We cannot talk about great black leaders of Spirit in the 19th century without also talking about Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, both of whom knew and interacted with Frederick Douglass.

Indeed, Douglass gave a eulogy for Sojourner Truth in Washington, DC, in which he called her: Venerable for age, distinguished for insight into human nature, remarkable for independence and courageous self-assertion, devoted to the welfare of her race, she has been for the last forty years an object of respect and admiration to social reformers everywhere.

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) began her life as a slave and became a leader in the abolitionist movement and the women’s movement.  She said, “I don’t read such small stuff as letters, I read men and nations.”  

Alayna Vernon recites “Ain’t I A Woman?” by Sojourner Truth, delivered 1851 at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio. Marco Learning

She was illiterate, though she did dictate her autobiography, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, which appeared in 1850 and was only the second book by a woman ex-slave.

Speaking of women’s right to vote, she comments that the ballot box is a beautiful glass bowl, so you can see all the votes as they go in.  Now the first time I vote I’ll see if the woman’s vote looks any different from the rest—if it makes any stir or commotion.  If it don’t inside, it need not outside.

She talks of having performed immense physical labor in her day.  

Sojourner Truth postcard which was sold to finance her travels. Wikimedia Commons.

I have done a great deal of work as much as man, but did not get so much pay.  I used to work in the field and bind grain kept up with the cradler; but men doing no more, got twice as much pay….We do as much, we eat as much, we want as much. 

On a Pentecost Sunday she became a Christian–“The Spirit calls me, and I must go.”  She asked God for a new name and changed her name to “Truth,” for “truth burns up error.”  

And since her life would be filled with traveling widely to preach the truth of equality and justice for women and men alike, she added the name “Sojourner.” 

She lived and lectured all over the Midwest (especially Michigan) and the Northeast, “speaking for the rights of colored women” as she put it.  She is buried in Battle Creek, Michigan where she lived her last years.

To be continued.

See Matthew Fox, Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth.

And Fox, Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality.

And Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice.

Banner Image: “Women’s Rights Pioneers: Sojourner Truth, Susan B Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton” Statue, Central Park Mall. Photo by Brecht Bug on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

What inspires you from Truth’s words and story that gives you courage to live and to resist like Sojourner Truth?

Recommended Reading

Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth

Fox’s spirituality weds the healing and liberation found in North American Creation Spirituality and in South American Liberation Theology. Creation Spirituality challenges readers of every religious and political persuasion to unite in a new vision through which we learn to honor the earth and the people who inhabit it as the gift of a good and just Creator.
“A watershed theological work that offers a common ground for religious seekers and activists of all stripes.” — Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox lays out a whole new direction for Christianity—a direction that is in fact very ancient and very grounded in Jewish thinking (the fact that Jesus was a Jew is often neglected by Christian theology): the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality, the Vias Positiva, Negativa, Creativa and Transformativa in an extended and deeply developed way.
Original Blessing makes available to the Christian world and to the human community a radical cure for all dark and derogatory views of the natural world wherever these may have originated.” –Thomas Berry, author, The Dream of the Earth; The Great Work; co-author, The Universe Story

A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice

In A Spirituality Named Compassion, Matthew Fox delivers a profound exploration of the meaning and practice of compassion. Establishing a spirituality for the future that promises personal, social, and global healing, Fox marries mysticism with social justice, leading the way toward a gentler and more ecological spirituality and an acceptance of our interdependence which is the substratum of all compassionate activity.
“Well worth our deepest consideration…Puts compassion into its proper focus after centuries of neglect.” –The Catholic Register

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5 thoughts on “Sojourner Truth, Another Spiritual Hero and Activist”

  1. Avatar

    What a spiritual warrior for Truth & Justice! Her life, words, and compassionate & courageous actions were truly inspired by the Living Spirit of LOVE~LIGHT~LIFE within her! On her conversion to Christianity she was deservedly inspired to be named Sojourner Truth. Thank you Matthew and DM team for reminding us of another spiritual warrior in the history and spiritual realms of the Past~Present~Future of humanity’s ongoing evolution and transformation towards Beautiful, Peaceful, and Joyful LOVING DIVERSE ONENESS PRESENCE on Earth as it IS in HEAVEN ….

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