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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sojourner Truth Statue - Northampton, Mass.

Here are some views of the statue of Sojourner Truth in Florence, a neighborhood of Northampton, Massachusetts. She came to live here in 1843. Born a slave in New York, she attained her freedom in 1827 when New York abolished slavery. Her name was Isabella, but she took the name Sojourner Truth when she became a traveling preacher. She was known for a powerful voice, and a powerful message. Most often people recall her “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech delivered in 1851 and just as powerful today.

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?

She preached about her relationship with God, spreading her message through Long Island and Connecticut, walking all the way. She went to Northampton, Mass., was urged to join the Northampton Association, a utopian cooperative community dedicated to the abolition of slavery and pacifism, equality, and the betterment of mankind.

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?

She met William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and David Ruggles, among others here, giants in the abolitionist movement. None was more giant than herself.

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.

A “strange compound of wit and wisdom” Frederick Douglass called her.

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.

This statue created by artist Thomas Jay Warren was installed October 2000, a short distance from the house where Sojourner Truth lived in Northampton, which still stands.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.

For more on Northampton’s Sojourner Truth Memorial and the life of this truth-speaking woman, have a look at this website.


John Hayes said...

Wow-- great post. The statue is quite remarkably expressive, & of course that speech is so moving-- a "strange compound of wit & wisdom" indeed. Thanks.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Thanks, John. I find the statue quite moving. It's located in a small triangle-ish park in a quiet, historic neighborhood, a park bench, a church across the street. It looks like she's going for a walk. You almost feel like talking to her.

Tony said...

Great post Jaqueline.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Thank you, Tony. It's easy when you have a great subject.

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