[Home] [Book] [Expand] [Collapse] [Help]

Clear Search Expand Search

    COPYRIGHT   Table of Contents     NARRATIVE
  --  OF

Truth, Sojourner
Narrative of Sojourner Truth



Sojourner Truth once remarked, in reply to an allusion to the late Horace Greeley, "You call him a self-made man; well, I am a self-made woman." The world is ever ready to sound the praises of the so-called self-made men; i. e ., those men who in the full possession of freedom, lacking nothing but wealth, achieve distinction and success.

It is now asked to accord a modicum of honor to a woman who labored forty long and weary years a slave; to whom the paths of literature and science were forever closed; one who bore the double burdens of poverty and the ban of caste, yet who, despite all these disabilities, has acquired fame, and gained hosts of friends among the noblest and best of the dominant race. The reasons for presenting the history of this remarkable woman to the public are twofold.

First, that the world, and more especially the young, may be benefited by the wisdom of one who escaped unscathed from the consuming fires of slavery, as did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the flames of the fiery furnace.


In the autumn of 1876, a report of her decease was widely circulated. How this occurred we know not. Possibly, because her twin sister, the Century, had just expired. No prayers addressed, or oblations poured out to the gods, could induce them to grant it an extra hour. But Sojourner grandly outrode the storm which wrecked the Century. Her mind is as clear and vigorous as in middle age. Her finely molded form is yet unbent, and its grand height and graceful, wavy movements remind the observer of her lofty cousins, the Palms, which keep guard over the sacred streams where her forefathers idled away their childhood days.

Doubtless, her blood is fed by those tropical fires which had slumberingly crept through many generations, but now awaken in her veins; akin to those rivers which mysteriously disappear in the bosom of the desert, and unexpectedly burst forth in springs of pure and living water. This heritage, and the law of the survival of the fittest, may explain the secret of her longevity.

The first 128 pages of this book are reprinted from stereotype plates made in 1850. Since then, momentous changes have taken place. Slavery has been swallowed up in a Red Sea of blood, and the slave has emerged from the conflict of races transformed from a chattel to a man. Holding the ballot, the black man enters the halls of legislation, and his rights are recognized

there. "God was not dead," and in looking back to the Egypt of their captivity, Sojourner sees that her people have been guided through the dark wilderness of oppression by the "pillar of cloud and of fire."

Her race now stands on the Pisgah of freedom, looking into the promised land, where the culture which has so long been denied them can, by their own efforts, be obtained. "The Lord executeth right-eousness and judgment for all that are oppressed." "O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good; for his mercy endureth forever." "Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously." "Who is like un to thee, O Lord? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?"

Sojourner has stood before this nation many years, advocating the cause of human rights, and yet she presses on, feeling that her century of toil does not exonerate her from the service of her Divine Master, while his "Come labor in my vineyard," is responded to by so few.

Her sun of life is about to dip below the horizon; but flashes of wit and wisdom still emanate from her soul, like the rays of the natural sun as it bursts forth from a somber cloud, baptizing earth and sky with the radiance of its expiring glory.

Bishop Haven says, "There is no more deserving lady in the land than Sojourner Truth. As one of

the famous women of these famous times, covering in her won experience the emancipation era, from the declaration of New York in 1817, to Abraham Lincoln's proclamation, she deserves especial honor. The nation could rightfully grant her a pension for her services in the war, no less than for her labors since the war, for the amelioration of those yet half enslaved."

The second and most important reason for offering this book to the public is, that by its sale she may be kept from want in these her last days. Should it prove a success, the desired end will be accomplished.

The following letter appeared in the Anti Slavery Standard after the first issue of the "Narrative and Book of Life" of Sojourner Truth. Wishing to give it to the public, we insert it in the preface:--

" Battle Creek, Mich., Apr . 14, 1863. " Oliver Johnson :--
" Dear Friend --

Permit me, through the columns of The Standard , in behalf of Sojourner Truth, whom your readers so well remember, to acknowledge the receipt of the several donations from her many generous friends, all of which have been gratefully received by her. Printed words can never convey such deep and heartfelt gratitude as she feels. The donors needed but to have seen the expression of her dark, care-worn face and heard her words of genuine

thankfulness, to have realized that indeed it is 'more blessed to give than to receive.'

"As we opened the letters, one by one, and read the words of sweet remembrance and kindness, she was quite overcome with joy, and more than once gave utterance to her feelings through her tears; praising the Lord who had so soon answered her prayer, which was, in language from the depths of her soul, as she sat weary and alone in her quiet little home: 'Lord, I'm too old to work--I'm too sick to hold meetings and speak to de people, and sell my books; Lord, you sent de ravens to feed 'Lijah in de wilderness; now send de good angels to feed me while I live on dy footstool.'

"No sooner had the appeal gone forth, than the answers came from the East and West, accompanied with material aid to supply her physical needs. Then again she exclaimed in words of deepest gratitude: 'Lord, I knew dy laws was sure, but I did n't t'ink dey would work so quick.' The words of friendship and sympathy that filled every letter were a source of great joy and consolation to her, and when the comforting message from Gerrit Smith came, saying, 'Sojourner, the God whom you so faithfully serve will abundantly bless you, he will suffer you to lack nothing either in body or soul,' she threw up her hands, and, in her deep-toned voice, said, 'De Lord bless de man! heart is as big as de nation, and if he

had n't sent a penny, his words would feed my soul, and dat is what we all want.' Then she mentioned Samuel Hill, of Northampton, Mass., where she lived fifteen years, saying that his noble, generous heart had done a great deal for her. Ofttimes the ecstasy of her soul would gush forth in all its original vigor and freshness at the thought of her many friends and their quick responses. She once said to me, 'I tell you, chile, de Lord manages everything; you see when you wrote dat letter, you did n't think you was doing much, but I tell you, dear lamb, dat when a thing is done in de right spirit, God takes it up and spreads it all over de country.'

"She wishes the friends to know that the 'little curly-headed, jolly grandson,' whom Mrs. Stowe so graphically describes, is now grown to a tall, able-bodied lad, and has just enlisted in the 54th Massachusetts Regiment ; gone forth with her prayers and blessings, she says, 'to redeem de white people from de curse dat God has sent upon them.' The glorious news of old Massachusetts leading in the van for the right of the colored man to fight, has just reached here, and she seems at times to be filled with all the fire and enthusiasm of her former years. She says if she were only ten years younger, she would be 'on hand as the Joan of Arc to lead de army of de Lord; for now is de day and now de hour for de colored man to save dis nation; for dere sin have been so great dat

dey do n't know God, nor God do n't know dem.' I never heard her speak with greater force and power than she did the other day when some friends called to see her. She says this is all the way she has now to preach. She often speaks of T.W. Higginson and Frances D. Gage--thinks 'dey are appointed of God to fill de position dey have taken.' As I closed the interview, Sojourner called down many blessings on all who have helped her to live and 'do good in de world.'

"I will give the names of the donors, so far as I know them, and if any have sent whose names do not appear, perhaps they will write, or they will yet come to hand."Yours truly, " Phebe H.M. Stickney ."

At the time the foregoing letter was received, in 1863, Sojourner thought herself too old and infirm to either labor or lecture. But as the war of the Rebellion, which was then stirring the pulses of the nation so deeply, progressed, she experienced a new baptism, so to speak, of physical and mental vigor, which enabled her to take an active part in many of its stirring scenes. She received her commission from Abraham Lincoln, and labored in the hospitals and among the freedmen four years.

Since the war, her life has been one of activity.

Now, in 1878, she oversees her own household matters, and often gives three public lectures in a week. Within the past year, she has held meetings in thirty-six towns in Michigan. Her health is good; her eyesight, for many years defective, has returned. Her gray locks are being succeeded by a luxuriant growth of black hair, without the use of any other renovator than that which kind Nature furnishes. She hopes that natural teeth will supersede the necessity of using false ones. May her ardent wish be realized! He! l capacities are becoming intensified. A Chicago lady wrote to her, asking for a thought to inspire and cheer her on her life journey. Sojourner responded as follows:--

"God is from everlasting to everlasting." "There was no beginning till sin came." "All that had a beginning will have an end." "Truth burns up error." "God is the great house that will hold all his children." "We dwell in him as the fishes in the sea." Of the fashionable so-called. religious world she says, "It is empty as the barren fig-tree, possessing nothing but leaves."

This is Sojourner Truth at a century old.

Would you like to meet her?


    COPYRIGHT   Table of Contents     NARRATIVE
  --  OF