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  --  BOOK OF LIFE.   Table of Contents     SOJOURNER TRUTH.

Truth, Sojourner
Narrative of Sojourner Truth



" Silver Lake , Kosciusko Co., Ind.,

"October 1, 1858. " Friend W. L. Garrison :--

Sojourner Truth, an elderly colored woman, well known throughout the Eastern States, is now holding a series of anti-slavery meetings in Northern Indiana. Sojourner comes well recommended by H.B. Stowe, yourself, and others, and was gladly received and welcomed by the friends of the slave in this locality. Her progress in knowledge, truth, and righteousness is very remarkable, especially when we consider her former low estate as a slave. The border-ruffian Democracy of Indiana, however, appear to be jealous and suspicious of every

anti-slavery movement. A rumor was immediately circulated that Sojourner was an impostor; that she was, indeed, a man disguised in women's clothing. It appears, too, from what has since transpired, that they suspected her to be a mercenary hireling of the Republican party.

"At her third appointed meeting in this vicinity, which was held in the meeting-house of the United Brethren, a large number of democrats and other pro-slavery persons were present. At the close of the meeting, Dr. T.W. Strain, the mouthpiece of the slave Democracy, requested the large congregation to 'hold on,' and stated that a doubt existed in the minds of many persons present respecting the sex of the speaker, and that it was his impression that a majority of them believed the speaker to be a man. The doctor also affirmed (which was not believed by the friends of the slave) that it was for the speaker's special benefit that he now demanded that Sojourner submit her breast to the inspection of some of the ladies present, that the doubt might be removed by their testimony. There were a large number of ladies present, who appeared to be ashamed and indignant at such a proposition. Sojourner's friends, some of whom had not heard the rumor, were surprised and indignant at such ruffianly surmises and treatment.

"Confusion and uproar ensued, which was soon suppressed by Sojourner, who, immediately rising, asked them why they suspected her to be a man. The Democracy answered, 'Your voice is not the voice of a woman, it is the voice of a man, and we believe you are a man.' Dr. Strain called for a vote, and a boisterous

'Aye,' was the result. A negative vote was not called for. Sojourner told them that her breasts had suckled many a white babe, to the exclusion of her own offspring; that some of those white babies had grown to man's estate; that, although they had sucked her colored breasts, they were, in her estimation, far more manly than they (her persecutors) appeared to be; and she quietly asked them, as she disrobed her bosom, if they, too, wished to suck! In vindication of her truthfulness, she told them that she would show her breast to the whole congregation; that it was not to her shame that she uncovered her breast before them, but to their shame. Two young men (A. Badgely and J. Horner) stepped forward while Sojourner exposed her naked breast to the audience. I heard a democrat say, as we were returning home from meeting, that Dr. Strain had, previous to the examination, offered to bet forty dollars that Sojourner was a man! So much for the physiological acumen of a western physician.

"As 'agitation of thought is the beginning of wisdom,' we hope that Indiana will yet be redeemed."Yours, truly, for the slave, " William Hayward ."

The late lamented Josephine Griffing, whose loyal services in support of the Union, and untiring labors for the colored race, entitles her to a monument at the nation's cost, was often associated with Sojourner in anti-slavery times, and was invited to hold meetings with her in Angola and vicinity in the autumn of 1862. The slave-holding spirit was now fully

aroused in Indiana, and very bitter toward the negro. A law had recently been passed forbidding their entering the State or remaining in it. This law was unconstitutional, nevertheless the democrats had enforced it and endeavored to enforce it in Sojourner's case. A warrant was made out and she was arrested for both offenses. Mrs. Griffing undertook her defense alone, outwitted and beat the enemy. Sojourner, nothing daunted, determined to remain and carry out the programme. For a time her meetings were much disturbed. When she arose to speak, the democrats would cry, "Down with you! We think the niggers have done enough! We will not hear you speak! Stop your mouth! &c., &c." She told them that the Union people would soon make them stop their mouths. The Union home guard took her into custody to protect her from being thrown into jail by the rebels.

A meeting was appointed at the town-house in Angola, but the democrats threatened to burn the building if she attempted to speak in it. To this she made answer, "Then I will speak upon the ashes." Describing this meeting, she says:--

"The ladies thought I should be dressed in uniform as well as the captain of the home guard, whose prisoner I was and who was to go with me to the meeting. So they put upon me a red, white, and blue shawl, a sash and apron to match, a cap on my head with a star in front, and a star on each shoulder. When I was dressed I looked in the glass and was fairly frightened." Said I, "It seems I am going to battle." My friends advised me to take a sword or pistol. I replied, "I carry no weapon; the Lord will

reserve [preserve] me without weapons. I feel safe even in the midst of my enemies; for the truth is powerful and will prevail."

"When we were ready to go, they put me into a large, beautiful carriage with the captain and other gentlemen, all of whom were armed. The soldiers walked by our side and a long procession followed. As we neared the court-house, looking out of the window, I saw that the building was surrounded by a great crowd. I felt as I was going against the Philistines and I prayed the Lord to reliver [deliver] me out of their hands. But when the rebels saw such a mighty army coming, they fled, and by the time we arrived they were scattered over the fields, looking like a flock of frightened crows, and not one was left but a small boy, who sat upon the fence, crying, 'Nigger, nigger!'

"We now marched into the court-house, escorted by double files of soldiers with presented arms. The band struck up the 'Star Spangled Banner,' in which I joined and sang with all my might, while amid flashing bayonets and waving banners our party made its way to the platform upon which I went and advocated free speech with more zeal than ever before, and without interruption. At the close of the meeting, I was conducted to the house of the esquire for safety, as my friends feared the mob might return and make us trouble; but the day passed without farther annoyance.

"I spent some of the time at Pleasant Lake with Mr. Roby's family; but Mr. Roby was arrested for entertaining me, tried and acquitted. Another friend,

Mr. Fox, was taken up for encouraging me to remain in the State and summoned to appear at the district court, but was found 'not guilty.'

"One day whilst I was at Mr. Roby's, two ladies drove up in haste and earnestly desired me to leave, saying the rebels were near by--coming to take me--whereupon I went home with them. But they, becoming more alarmed, advised me to seek safety in some woods not far away, by offering to go with me. This I positively refused to do, and told them I would sooner go to jail. I stood my ground and the rebel constable came with a warrant to take me; but a Union officer, following closely behind him, stepped up and read some papers showing that I was his prisoner. At this turn of affairs the rebel officer looked very much disgusted, and turning to go, said, 'I ain't going to bother my head with niggers , I'll resign my office first.' Then the home guard marched up to our house, playing upon the fife and drum, and gave loud cheers for Sojourner, Free Speech, and the Union.

"The last time I was arrested, the constable asked if I would appear at court, or if he should take me along with him. My friends assured him that they would be responsible for my appearance. When the day for my trial came, a great many went with me, some of the best families in the county, among whom were Dr. Gale, Dr. Moss and family, Thomas Moss and family, Mr. Roby, Mrs. Griffing, and many other noble people whose names I cannot now recall, but the memory of whose friendship will be cherished whilst memory remains.

"My enemies, thinking I would probably run

away, had made no preparation for the trial; but when they saw us come, hunted around and procured a shabby room into which I went with a few friends and waited for some one to appear against me. After a while, two half-drunken lawyers, who looked like the scrapings of the Democratic party, made their appearance, eyed us for a few moments, then left. Presently we saw them enter a tavern across the way, and this ended the trial.

"We now went to the house of a friend and had a grand picnic. I returned home after a month of hard labor in Indiana, which I believe did much for the cause of human freedom."

Mrs. Griffing, writing to the Anti-Slavery Standard , says, "Our meetings are largely attended by persons from every part of the county; especially by the most noble-hearted women, whose presence has produced a marked impression and has done more toward establishing a free government than would the killing of a hundred of Ellsworth's Zouaves. The lines are now being drawn as they never were by political maneuver, and as they cannot be by the cold steel alone, because it is a blow at slavery. 'Cannon balls may aid the truth, but thought's a weapon stronger.'

"Slavery has made a conquest in this county by the suppression of free speech, and freedom must make her conquest by the steadfast support of free speech. There was not manhood enough in the county last fall to protect an anti-slavery meeting at the county-scat; now there are a hundred men who would spill their blood sooner than surrender the right of even Sojourner. At all of our meetings we have been

told that armed men were in our midst and had declared they would blow out our brains."

In the winter and spring of 1863, Sojourner was ill for many weeks and her finances becoming exhausted, she prayed the Lord to send an angel to relieve her wants. Soon after, a friend called bringing all needful supplies, to whom she said, "I just asked the Lord to send one of his chosen angels to me," and smiling added, "I knew he would think of you first."

Her case was made known to the public through the columns of the Anti-Slavery Standard and generous donations were forwarded to her. The following articles were published at the time:--

  --  BOOK OF LIFE.   Table of Contents     SOJOURNER TRUTH.