When I was in 4th grade, I read a biography and did a report about Sojourner Truth. The book was published by Scholastic in 1994 and authored by Patricia C. McKissack and Fredrick McKissack. Reading that book and writing that report had a profound impact on me. I still have the handwritten original in my saved memories from my childhood. I remember being completely shocked and mortified that slavery was such a part of the American history.
|my original report|
In honor of Black History Month, I thought I would re-type it out here on the blog.
(Ain't I A Woman?)
Isabella Van Wagner was born sometime in 1797 to a slave family. Her parents James and Betsy called her Belle. Belle's father James was called Baumfree and Belle's mother Betsy was called Mau Mau Bett. Baumfree and Mau Mau Bett had other children but they were sold away. They were worried Belle was going to be sold away too. The best they could do was to teach Belle to cope with her life as it was.
When Belle was three, her master dies and his son Charles took over the plantation. Charles had no place for the slaves so they lived in the cellar of the mansion. Shortly after they moved to the cellar, Peter, Belle's baby brother was born.
In 1808 Charles became ill and died. At that time Belle was eleven. Then Baumfree and Mau Mau Bett were set free because they were too old and weak to work. Peter was sold first. Then Belle was sold to John Neely. Belle had a new master.
The Neely's were English immigrants so Belle's language infuriated Mrs. Neely. Belle tried to learn English but Mrs. Neely was impatient. Mrs. Neely slapped Belle for not understanding her. One Sunday, Belle was sent to the barn where Mr. Neely ripped her shirt off, tied rods after being heated over a fire and beat her till she fainted. Lying in the straw, soaking in her blood, Belle wept bitterly. She'd never been beaten before and didn't want it to happen again.
Baumfree visited Belle at the Neely's. He saw her scars and wanted to help her. So Baumfree convinced a new master to buy her. She learned English quickly there because no one was screaming at her. Belle stayed there for a year and a half. Soon Belle found out Mau Mau Bett had died. Belle prayed for Baumfree. He needed help because of the death of Mau Mau Bett. Also she prayed that the abolishonists, the people who wanted to abolish slavery, were successful.
Soon Baumfree became ill and dies. Belle was now 13 and her new master was Dumont. After a few years Dumont forced Belle to marry Tom. A year later Diana was born. In the next ten years, four more children were born.
In 1817 a law was freeing some slaves. In ten years Belle was going to be free!
One day Dumont approached Belle with a proposition. He complimented Belle on all the hard work she had given him in the past fifteen years. There were two years left before he had to free her. "I will let you go a year earlier than the law. You and your family can live in a cabin down the road."
At the end of 1826 Belle waited for Dumont to free her but he didn't say a word. He couldn't free her because of financial ruin. Belle decided to run away. So Belle let Tom watch the older children but she took Sophia and she didn't look back. When she took a break she prayed softly for guidance. And a memory flickered in her mind. Long ago a stranger stopped her on a road and said God doesn't want slavery.
Belle became a great speaker against slavery. She became an advocate for women's rights. She wanted equality for all.
Belle changed her name to Sojourner Truth because she went around spreading the truth.
Many people helped her or knew her such as, Richard Allen, Susan B. Anthony, John Brown, Frederick Douglas, William Llow Garrison, John Jay, Lucretia Mott, Wendell Phillips, David Ruggles, Dred Scott, Elizabeth Stanton, Lucy Stone, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Harriet Tubman. She had other people sign her Book of Life, such as Abraham Lincoln.
I enjoyed this because it was spiritual and it was all true.
She knew many people and helped many people.
|The biography was 192 pages. I was quiet in school and reserved. I remember listening to the other classmates reading their reports and feeling nervous about reading mine. My report was longer than other kids but I think it was due. I'm proud of my 9 year old self. I think I did list a lot of facts but I am noticing where I underlined important facts. The spiritual impact was true for me then too. |
Today I can scroll through Instagram and I am aware of so many mama bears out there with their beautiful babies. It hurts my heart to think of the way a mother's life was so different being enslaved. Even thinking of Sojourner and how having children was more because of the slave master wanting to own her future child. I can't even imagine. Awful. Its so much more than that. Its beyond words.
In 2021 there is still slavery in existence. I remember when I first heard of human trafficking over 10 years ago, it shook me. It hurt my soul because I didn't realize how much more slavery was beyond the small awareness of it I had. All slavery is scary and sad to me. People should not be sold.
I've grown up with a privilege that I have not been really affected by prejudice or anything close to slavery. But I do want to shine a light on the fact that it still exists and I'm against it.
Get educated, start small, pray, ask questions, and ask God to show you what you might be able to do about making change. Racism and slavery are real. Privilege is real. And I'm not an expert on anything.
Dear God, thank you for Your Word. Thank you for the ability to reflect on the past and learn. The history of mankind reveals our bent towards sin and our flawed nature. Yet You love us ALL. Help us to spread love and awareness that can lead to real impact and changed lives. Enable those with the ability to do abundantly more to do so. Give us the ability to open our minds and let our hearts be shifted towards understanding and compassion for each other. In Jesus name, amen.