by John Nordell
Walk in the footsteps of the remarkable Sojourner Truth, the acclaimed ex-slave orator, abolitionist and champion of women's rights. Many believe that the present is built on the past. However, it is often the victors of battles or minority ruling elites that write history. Let's examine the life of Sojourner Truth through her speeches and images in a quest to determine historical truths. Find your truth in the process.
"If we marvel, then, at the power of will and vision that allowed postslavery freedom fighters like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and Malcom X to defy the oppressive burden of history, to stand erect and inspire thousands of followers to do likewise, we can barely imagine the herculean force of character summoned by slaves such as Nat Turner, Frederick Douglas, Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth in throwing off the crushing weight of outright bondage."
Excerpted from the introduction to the 1997 publication of Sojourner Truth's autobiography, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, originally published in 1850.
Along with notable figures like Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, thousands of determined slaves risked their lives to escape to freedom. Underground Railroad "conductor" Tubman used coded songs to secretly convey information. The spiritual Wade in the Water suggested traveling in water to avoid leaving a scent for pursuing dogs to follow.
The documentary film Soundtrack for a Revolution chronicles the similarly pivotal role music played during the civil rights movement. Listen to a contemporary version of Wade in the Water sung by Angie Stone.
Imagine that you are runaway slave being chased through the woods by dogs, looking for a stream.