How much progress have we made in modern society?
In order to study this question further, I like to research the views of famous activists, philosophers and dignitaries from history and imagine if these icons lived in modern times.
For this installment of my Interviews with Dead People series, I chose Sojourner Truth, enshrined in the National Women's Hall of Fame, not only because of her powerful message, but also because I admire her middle age reinvention into a social rights activist.
Her words and actions are definitely worth revisiting, and they inspired me greatly.
The iconic activist Sojourner Truth was born a slave named Isabella in upstate New York in the late 1700s. After finally being emancipated as a slave in 1826 and then becoming an evangelist, Isabella became Sojourner Truth in 1843, and in the later part of her life, she made it her mission to advocate for the abolition of slavery and for women’s rights.
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, by the mid-1800s she was a well-known antislavery feminist with her own self-published book, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth. She hobnobbed with other pre-eminent historical figures like President Abraham Lincoln and Susan B. Anthony (both of whom I have interviewed before in my Interviews with Dead People collection).
My favorite story about Ms. Truth is from a speech she gave at a contentious meeting in Indiana in 1858. Male hecklers in the audience charged that Ms. Truth was actually a man, which would have repudiated her poignant views as a female, former slave. Rather than back down, she bared her naked breasts to the entire audience as she gave a tongue-lashing to her detractors asking if they too, “wished to suck.”
WOW, what a BOSS.
I feel a sense of kindred spirit with Ms. Truth, as she spent the second half of her life advocating for non-violent positive change in society.
I wonder what Sojourner Truth would think of our modern society.
Similar to my interviews with other deceased dignitaries, (see the Interviews with Dead People collection on the Social Musings by Austin website here), I am using Ms. Truth’s actual words in quotations, taken from her famous speech at the 1851 Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio and from the book “Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol” by Nell Irvin Painter.
AustinfromAustin: Dear Ms. Truth, thank you so much for being with me on the Social Musings by Austin podcast today. I wanted to first get your take on the state of the country in 2022.
Sojourner Truth: “Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter.”
AustinfromAustin: Would you care to expand on this for me please?
Sojourner Truth: We are dealing with many issues that are “so unaccountable, so unreasonable, and what is usually called so unnatural.”
AustinfromAustin: Women’s rights are obviously an important topic that is front and center right now. You are known for being a famous activist. What thoughts do you have on this debate?
Sojourner Truth: “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.” "I feel that if I have to answer for the deeds done in my body just as much as a man, I have a right to just as much as a man."
AustinfromAustin: Hear hear.
Sojourner Truth: “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! [As she flexes her biceps muscles] 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?”
AustinfromAustin: These are incredibly powerful words that will take some time to digest. I am so glad you are sharing them. Every day I see protest marches and work by other current activists. You gained notoriety with your fervent speeches and songs. What can you tell other activists who might get frustrated now and again that their messages are not being taken seriously?
Sojourner Truth: I have always stood for intellectual, non-violent sharing of ideas - "my friends advised me to take up a sword or pistol, I replied 'I carry no weapon; the Lord will preserve me without weapons.'" Despite getting frustrated at times, “I am not going away; I am going to stay here and stand the fire...I shall remain.” I only wish “to throw in my little mite, to keep the scales a-movin’.”
AustinfromAustin: What would be a goal of yours if you lived in today’s times?
Sojourner Truth: “Make the people hear me - don’t let them turn me off without hearing and helping me.”
AustinfromAustin: Any further thoughts to add for our audience, Ms. Truth?
Sojourner Truth: "If woman wants rights, let her take 'em."“Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.”
Note to readers: I strongly believe that words from the past still have a bearing on our modern world, which is why I created the Interviews with Dead People series on the Social Musings by Austin website. If you are interested in reading my past interviews from deceased dignitaries such as Jackie Robinson, Susan B. Anthony and Sigmund Freud, you can find them here.
In case you missed it, it was a big month last month on the Social Musings by Austin web properties.
I dropped two big articles, one on 3 Texas Hill Country Getaways, which was picked up by Google and featured in their Discover section, and an exclusive excerpt from my book about high school in Dallas in the 90s.
Have a great month ahead and stay tuned for some big news coming your way soon.