SHEro Series: Sojourner Truth
Sojourner Truth (1797–1883) was a women's rights activist and abolitionist who had escaped slavery with her daughter. Two years after her escape, she learned her son had been sold by her prior captor, so she took her son's slaver to court and won freedom for and custody of her son - the first such case to be won. While she is best known for her timeless speech at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention in 1851 - Aint I A Woman? - she was also instrumental in the development and popularization of an early attempt at racial justice reparations, known now as the "forty acres and a mule" doctrine.
Sojourner Truth traveled all over the United States preaching abolition of slavery. She was so well-spoken that she was accused of being a man - a bias reflective of the sexism rampant at the time. Truth developed a direct relationship with President Grant, attempting to convince him of the importance of racial reparations. She campaigned throughout her home state of New York on his behalf and, in a move considered radical even by White feminists of the time, attempted to vote herself in the 1872 election.
Among other well-deserved plaques and monuments, Sojourner Truth is the first African American woman to be honored with a statue in the Capitol building. In 2014, she was recognized by Smithsonian magazine as one of the "100 Most Significant Americans of All Time". We wholeheartedly agree.
Truth is one of our #SHEroes because she was eminently aware of her intelligence, skill, and agency, in a time when Black women were repressed and silenced even more than they are today, and even by the feminist movement itself. Truth spoke up for Black women in spaces where their humanity was regularly denied or diminished - including in abolitionist circles dominated by Black men, and in feminist and suffragist communities dominated by White women. We believe she exemplifies the strength and perseverance Black women have been forced to practice for far too long, and we look forward to a day when her ideas for America and Black women truly come to fruition.