Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sojourner Truth Statue Placed In Capitol Visitors Center

She lived for nearly 90 years. She never stopped fighting to extend the rights and protections of our democracy. She preached against capital punishment and advocated for prison reform. She recruited African American troops for the Union Army. She helped to desegregate the streetcars that ran through Washington, and she worked diligently to improve living conditions for freed men and women.
She did not know how to read or write. Her life was from the most humble and improbable circumstances. But she ended up counting President Lincoln and President Grant among her acquaintances. She never, never, despite what she went through, stopped believing in the promise of liberty. She lived long enough to see the end of slavery, but not the establishment of voting rights for women. The 19th Amendment would not be passed until 37 years after her death. But today, she takes her place in this Capitol, and we are the better for it.
Was any person ever better named? Think about it. She is a sojourner of truth, by truth, and for truth. And her words, her example, and her legacy will never perish from this earth, so long as men and women stand up and say loudly and clearly: We hear you echoing down through the years of history, we believe that your journey is not yet over, and we will make the rest of that journey with you. God bless the memory of Sojourner Truth."
This from the
US State Department website.

First Lady Michelle Obama joined House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other lawmakers and dignitaries on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to unveil a bust of Sojourner Truth, the 19th-century slave turned abolitionist who was also a fiery advocate for women’s rights.
Mrs. Obama praised Ms. Truth as a woman who didn’t allow “indignities to destroy her spirit,’’ who fought for her own freedom, the freedom of others and for women’s right to vote. She said the bust, which will appear in Emancipation Hall in the Capitol Visitors Center, would inspire many young African Americans who visit the Capitol.
“And just as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott would be pleased to know that we have a woman serving as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, I hope that Sojourner Truth would be proud to see me, a descendant of slaves, serving as the First Lady of the United States of America,’’ Mrs. Obama said. “We are all here because, as my husband says time and time again, we stand on the shoulders of giants like Sojourner Truth.”
From the
New York Times

A speech delivered 1851 Women's Convention in Akron, Ohio :

Ain't I a Woman?
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? 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?
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.
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.
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.

- Sojourner Truth (1797-1883)

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