From Slave Block...to Public Platform
(excerpts from Signal Press pamphlet written by Susan Shaffer Dilbelka over 100 years ago)
During the years between 1843 and 1883, a colored woman who had taken the name Sojourner Truth was a well-known figure in the America scene. Although unable to read or write, she had a powerful and persuasive personality and spoke with great eloquent and wit. Before the war between the stats she was a frequent speaker at anti-slavery meetings and was considered the peer of Frederick Douglass in this field. During these years women were struggling for the right to vote, and Sojourner Truth was a welcome guest on the platform at the meetings and conventions of those who were seeking to advance the cause of women suffrage.
Born of slaves parents in Ulster County, New York, in the latter part of the eighteenth century, and christened Isabella, the child who was later to adopt the name Sojourner Truth knew the typical hardships of her race in that unfortunate period of American history. As a slave she was sold and resold, finally coming to the home of one John Dumont in New York State, where she stayed for thirty years. During this period, she married Thomas and bore him at least five children. In 1827, she was legally free when New York State adopted its Emancipation Act freeing all slaves within the state.
Always deeply religious, Isabella soon thereafter went to New York City. "The spirit calls me and I must go," she told her employers. She announced that her name was no longer Isabella, but "Sojourner;" that the Lord had given her this name because she was to travel up and down the land showing the people their sins and being a sign unto them. She took the name of Truth for her surname feeling also that this name was given her by her Heavenly Father because she was to "declare truth to the people."
One of the most important contributions Sojourner Truth made to the development of her country was her championship of the cause of woman suffrage. Invariably she attended the conventions and meetings of the groups who were seeking to obtain for women the full rights of citizenship.
The Shootin' Star
Eventually came the time when Sojourner Truth no longer could continue her work on behalf of mankind, when her great and generous spirit had to give up its sojourning. Friends had given her a little house in Battle Creek, Michigan, and there she rounded out her days. In the Battle Creek Sanitarium, hung a picture of Sojourner Truth with Abraham Lincoln. One who knew her there speaks of her deep interest in the temperance issues that came up in Battle Creek. Her passing, in November 1883, at the age of 108, was mourned by thousands. Her last words, spoken to a friend..."I isn't goin' to die, honey. I'm goin' home like a shooting star."
New Name for Some WCTU's
In the days when the dignity of woman as a controlling force in world affairs was challenged Sojourner Truth by her compelling and calm presence, as well as by her philosophy, did much to open the way and overcome prejudice. May the members of her race nobly carry forward today the torch which she so gloriously lighted.
To accede to a request and because the outstanding leadership of this great Negro woman has challenged both races, the name of a Negro state WCTU may be Sojourner Truth Woman's Christian Temperance Union, this title to prefixed by the name of the state organization. Local unions are free to adopt the name if desired.