(CNN) -- After a nearly decade-long effort, the National Congress of Black Women on Tuesday honored Sojourner Truth by making her the first African-American woman to have a memorial bust in the U.S. Capitol.
Truth, whose given name was Isabella Baumfree, was a slave who became one of the most respected abolitionists and women's rights activists.
"One could only imagine what Sojourner Truth, an outspoken, tell-it-like-it-is kind of woman ... what she would have to say about this incredible gathering," first lady Michelle Obama said at the Celebration of Truth ceremony. "We are all here because, as my husband says time and time again, we stand on the shoulders of giants like Sojourner Truth."
"And as just Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and 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," she said.
Dignitaries and congressional leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, House Republican Leader John Boehner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, attended the ceremony marking the unveiling of the statue.
Along with musical performances, actress Cicely Tyson recited "Ain't I A Woman," Truth's famous 1851 speech to a women's rights convention.
Clinton and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who worked together to draft legislation to commission the bust, were among speakers who paid tribute to the late C. Delores Tucker, former chairwoman of the NCBW, who spearheaded the effort for the Truth memorial.
"What a wonderful day it is to be here in Emancipation Hall for this great occasion when Sojourner Truth takes her rightful place alongside the heroes who have helped to shape our nation's history," Clinton said.
"Today, she takes her place in this Capitol, and we are the better for it," Clinton said. "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.' "
The bronze statue, which was crafted by Los Angeles, California, sculptor Artis Lane, will stand in Emancipation Hall at the Capitol Visitor Center.
"All the visitors in the U.S. Capitol will hear the story of brave women who endured the greatest of humanity's indignities. They'll hear the story of Sojourner Truth, who didn't allow those indignities to destroy her spirit, who fought for her own freedom and then used her powers ... to help others," Michelle Obama said.
"The power of this bust will not just be in the metal that delineates Sojourner Truth's face; it will also be in the message that defines her legacy. Forevermore, in the halls of one of our country's greatest monuments of liberty and equality, justice and freedom, Sojourner Truth's story will be told again and again and again and again."
Sojourner Truth (The Second Advent Doctrines)Sojourner Truth (Isabella Van Wagener), the famous abolitionist, was believed to be a Seventh-dayAdventist - through the efforts of Uriah Smith.
Though her baptism by Smith is questioned by some historians, it is generally accepted that Sojourner Truth was acquainted with Advent teachings and accepted the Sabbath. She knew Ellen White, John Byington, Dr. J. H. Kellogg, and other prominent church leaders. She spoke at the Battle Creek Sanitarium and several other church gatherings. Her grave is in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Battle Creek, near the White family burial place.
In October of 1856, Sojourner Truth went to Michigan to address the Friends of Human Progress Association. It was there that she spoke about the injustice of slavery and its impact on families. She told the audience about her five children that she loved but lost to slavery. However, Truth believed in God and also believed that all the rights and love that were taken away from slaves in this life would be returned to them in heaven.
On June 12, 1863, the newspaper ran a version of one of Truth's speeches from a meeting at the State Sabbath Convention in Battle Creek, Michigan. Here Truth spoke to the people about race relations and how God made everyone who they are, so it was not fair to degrade others based on their race because it was God who had made them that way. "Does not God love colored children as well as white children? And did not the same Saviour die to save the one as well as the other? If so, white children must know that if they go to Heaven, they must go there without their prejudice against color, for in Heaven black and white are one in the love of Jesus."
In an October 29, 1864 letter dictated by Sojourner Truth to a friend, Rowland Johnson, Truth speaks of her meeting with President Abraham Lincon. Truth told God that she believed Lincoln was a good man, and if he were spared and not "thrown into the lion's den and the lions did not tear him up," then she would know that God had saved him for her to meet. Therefore, in his four years, she at some point had to meet him. They spoke about the end of slavery and how grateful she was to him for signing the treaty. In her letter, Truth said, "I must say, I am proud to say, that I never was treated by anyone with more kindness and cordiality than were shown to me by that great and good man, Abraham Lincoln, by the grace of God, president of the United States for four years more."
Written by Olive Gilbert, based on information provided by Sojourner Truth. 1850
(Excerpt of Narrative)
THE SECOND ADVENT DOCTRINES.
In Hartford and vicinity, she met with several persons who believed in the 'Second Advent' doctrines; or, the immediate personal appearance of Jesus Christ. At first she thought she had never heard of 'Second Advent.' But when it was explained to her, she recollected having once attended Mr. Miller's meeting in New York, where she saw a great many enigmatical pictures hanging on the wall, which she could not understand, and which, being out of the reach of her understanding, failed to interest her. In this section of country, she attended two camp-meetings of the believers in these doctrines-the 'second advent' excitement being then at its greatest height. The last meeting was at Windsor Lock. The people, as a matter of course, eagerly inquired of her concerning her belief, as it regarded their most important tenet. She told them it had not been revealed to her; perhaps, if she could read, she might see it differently. Sometimes, to their eager inquiry, 'Oh, don't you believe the Lord is coming?' she answered, 'I believe the Lord is as near as he can be, and not be it.' With these evasive and non-exciting answers, she kept their minds calm as it respected her unbelief, till she could have an opportunity to hear their views fairly stated, in order to judge more understandingly of this matter, and see if, in her estimation, there was any good ground for expecting an event which was, in the minds of so many, as it were, shaking the very foundations of the universe. She was invited to join them in their religious exercises, and accepted the invitation-praying, and talking in her own peculiar style, and attracting many about her by her singing.
When she had convinced the people that she was a lover of God and his cause, and had gained a good standing with them, so that she could get a hearing among them, she had become quite sure in her own mind that they were laboring under a delusion, and she commenced to use her influence to calm the fears of the people, and pour oil upon the troubled waters. In one part of the grounds, she found a knot of people greatly excited: she mounted a stump and called out, 'Hear! hear!' When the people had gathered around her, as they were in a state to listen to any thing new, she addressed them as 'children,' and asked them why they made such a 'To-do;-are you not commanded to "watch and pray?" You are neither watching nor praying.' And she bade them, with the tones of a kind mother, retire to their tents, and there watch and pray, without noise or tumult, for the Lord would not come to such a scene of confusion; 'the Lord came still and quiet.' She assured them, 'the Lord might come, move all through the camp, and go away again, and they never know it,' in the state they then were.
They seemed glad to seize upon any reason for being less agitated and distressed, and many of them suppressed their noisy terror, and retired to their tents to 'watch and pray;' begging others to do the same, and listen to the advice of the good sister. She felt she had done some good, and then went to listen further to the preachers. They appeared to her to be doing their utmost to agitate and excite the people, who were already too much excited; and when she had listened till her feelings would let her listen silently no longer, she arose and addressed the preachers. The following are specimens of her speech:-
'Here you are talking about being "changed in the twinkling of an eye." If the Lord should come, he'd change you to nothing! for there is nothing to you.
'You seem to be expecting to go to some parlor away up somewhere, and when the wicked have been burnt, you are coming back to walk in triumph over their ashes-this is to be your New Jerusalem!! Now, I can't see any thing so very nice in that, coming back to such a muss as that will be, a world covered with the ashes of the wicked! Besides, if the Lord comes and burns-as you say he will-I am not going away; I am going to stay here and stand the fire, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! And Jesus will walk with me through the fire, and keep me from harm. Nothing belonging to God can burn, any more than God himself; such shall have no need to go away to escape the fire! No, I shall remain. Do you tell me that God's children can't stand fire?' And her manner and tone spoke louder than words, saying, 'It is absurd to think so!'
The ministers were taken quite aback at so unexpected an opposer, and one of them, in the kindest possible manner, commenced a discussion with her, by asking her questions, and quoting scripture to her; concluding, finally, that although she had learned nothing of the great doctrine which was so exclusively occupying their minds at the time, she had learned much that man had never taught her.
At this meeting, she received the address of different persons, residing in various places, with an invitation to visit them. She promised to go soon to Cabotville, and started, shaping her course for that place. She arrived at Springfield one evening at six o'clock, and immediately began to search for a lodging for the night. She walked from six till past nine, and was then on the road from Springfield to Cabotville, before she found any one sufficiently hospitable to give her a night's shelter under their roof. Then a man gave her twenty-five cents, and bade her go to a tavern and stay all night. She did so, returning in the morning to thank him, assuring him she had put his money to its legitimate use. She found a number of the friends she had seen at Windsor when she reached the manufacturing town of Cabotville, (which has lately taken the name of Chicopee,) and with them she spent a pleasant week or more; after which, she left them to visit the Shaker village in Enfield. She now began to think of finding a resting place, at least, for a season; for she had performed quite a long journey, considering she had walked most of the way; and she had a mind to look in upon the Shakers, and see how things were there, and whether there was any opening there for her. But on her way back to Springfield, she called at a house and asked for a piece of bread; her request was granted, and she was kindly invited to tarry all night, as it was getting late, and she would not be able to stay at every house in that vicinity, which invitation she cheerfully accepted. When the man of the house came in, he recollected having seen her at the camp-meeting, and repeated some conversations, by which she recognized him again. He soon proposed having a meeting that evening, went out and notified his friends and neighbors, who came together, and she once more held forth to them in her peculiar style. Through the agency of this meeting, she became acquainted with several people residing in Springfield, to whose houses she was cordially invited, and with whom she spent some pleasant time.
One of these friends, writing of her arrival there, speaks as follows. After saying that she and her people belonged to that class of persons who believed in the second advent doctrines; and that this class, believing also in freedom of speech and action, often found at their meetings many singular people, who did not agree with them in their principal doctrine; and that, being thus prepared to hear new and strange things, 'They listened eagerly to Sojourner, and drank in all she said;'-and also, that she 'soon became a favorite among them; that when she arose to speak in their assemblies, her commanding figure and dignified manner hushed every trifler into silence, and her singular and sometimes uncouth modes of expression never provoked a laugh, but often were the whole audience melted into tears by her touching stories.' She also adds, 'Many were the lessons of wisdom and faith I have delighted to learn from her.' . . . . 'She continued a great favorite in our meetings, both on account of her remarkable gift in prayer, and still more remarkable talent for singing, . . . and the aptness and point of her remarks, frequently illustrated by figures the most original and expressive.
'As we were walking the other day, she said she had often thought what a beautiful world this would be, when we should see every thing right side up. Now, we see every thing topsy-turvy, and all is confusion.' For a person who knows nothing of this fact in the science of optics, this seemed quite a remarkable idea.
'We also loved her for her sincere and ardent piety, her unwavering faith in God, and her contempt of what the world calls fashion, and what we call folly. 'She was in search of a quiet place, where a way-worn traveller might rest. She had heard of Fruitlands, and was inclined to go there; but the friends she found here thought it best for her to visit Northampton. She passed her time, while with us, working wherever her work was needed, and talking where work was not needed. 'She would not receive money for her work, saying she worked for the Lord; and if her wants were supplied, she received it as from the Lord. 'She remained with us till far into winter, when we introduced her at the Northampton Association.' . . . . 'She wrote to me from thence, that she had found the quiet resting place she had so long desired. And she has remained there ever since.'
THE BIRTH OF SOJOURNER TRUTH
While living in New York, Isabella attended the many camp meetings held around the city, and she quickly established herself as a powerful speaker, capable of converting many. In 1843, she was "called in spirit" on the day of Pentecost. The spirit instructed her to leave New York, a "second Sodom," and travel east to lecture under the name Sojourner Truth. This new name signified her role as an itinerant preacher, her preoccupation with truth and justice, and her mission to teach people "to embrace Jesus, and refrain from sin." Sojourner Truth set off on her journey during a period of millennial fervor, with many poised to hear her call to Jesus before the Day of Judgement.
IS GOD GONE?
Sojourner Truth first met the abolitionist Frederick Douglass while she was living at the Northampton Association. Although he admired her speaking ability, Douglass was patronizing of Truth, whom he saw as "uncultured." Years later, however, Truth would use her plain talk to challenge Douglass. At an 1852 meeting in Ohio, Douglass spoke of the need for blacks to seize freedom by force. As he sat down, Truth asked "Is God gone?" Although much exaggerated by Harriet Beecher Stowe and other writers, this exchange made Truth a symbol for faith in nonviolence and God's power to right the wrongs of slavery.
- Sojourner Truth, along with several members of her family, are buried in Oak ... Town," the more than 2,000 local church members observed the Sabbath on Saturday.
Sojourner Truth, nationally known as a charismaticspeaker for abolition and women's rights, visited Battle Creek in 1856. She was impressed with the people she met and moved here a year later. For the next 27 years, the illiterate ex-slave made Battle Creek her home, as she continued to travel the country, agitating for human rights for black and white alike.
For the first ten years she lived in the area, Truth had a home in the village of Harmonia, a community of Quakers and Spiritualists a few miles west of Battle Creek (now the location of Fort Custer Industrial Park). In 1867 she and her family moved into town, where she lived until her death in 1883. Sojourner Truth, along with several members of her family, are buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, on the east side of the city.
Another non-conformist was attracted by the tolerance and openness of the Battle Creek community in this period. In 1855, a small group of Seventh-day Adventists invited visionary Ellen White, and her husband, Elder James White , to settle here and make the village the headquarters for their new denomination. In the next fifty years, the small band of believers grew to over 200,000 members world-wide. The SDA church initiated an extensive missionary and health education evangelical ministry, established one of the largest printing and publishing houses in the United States , sponsored colleges and medical training institutions and founded a health care facility which became "the largest institution of its kind in the world."
Until the early years of the twentieth century when it decentralized, the SDA church was a major influence in Battle Creek. Centered in the west end of town, known as "Advent Town," the more than 2,000 local church members observed the Sabbath on Saturday. From the 1860s they adhered to revolutionary dietary and health principles, based on the teachings of Ellen White.
These principles were put into practice by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the director of the world-renowned Battle Creek Sanitarium. The "San," as it was known locally, was famous around the world for its water and fresh air treatments, exercise regimens and diet reform. The San doctors were universally recognized for their diagnostic, surgical and medical expertise. In its 65 years of operation under Dr. Kellogg's leadership, the San served thousands of patients, including presidents, kings, movie stars, educators and industrial giants, as well as impoverished charity patients.
Sojourner Truth ( 1797-1883) Footnotes
"Hoping to visit Lincoln, Sojourner, when she was about sixty-seven years old, made a long, round-about journey from Battle Creek, Michigan, which was then her home, to Washington, D.C. After she arrived, she found to her surprise that she was unable on her own to secure an appointment to visit Lincoln. Sojourner then asked Lucy Colman—a white, Massachusetts-born schoolteacher who had become an anti-slavery lecturer—to arrange it for her. After some weeks, Mrs. Colman, using Mrs. Lincoln's black dressmaker as a go-between, succeeded in arranging an appointment. When Mrs. Colman finally took Sojourner to the White House on 29 October,  the two women had to wait several hours until it was their turn to see the busy president. Having every expectation of being welcomed, they were not 'sitting-in' in protest," wrote historian Carleton Mabee.1
Sojourner Truth herself said: "Upon entering his reception room we found about a dozen persons in waiting, among them two coloured women. I had quite a pleasant time waiting until he was disengaged, and enjoyed his conversation with others; he showed as much kindness and consideration to the colored persons as to the white. One case was that of a colored woman who was sick and likely to be turned out of her house on account of her inability to pay her rent. The president listened to her with much attention, and spoke to her with kindness and tenderness."2
British journalist Fred Tomkins said that on February 25, 1865 Sojourner Truth was denied admission to the White House and that when he mentioned it to Mr. Lincoln, he "expressed his sorrow, and said that he had often seen her, (and] that it should not occur again." Historian Mabee maintains that "available evidence indicates that although Sojourner was not welcomed at Lincoln's White House as quickly as she would have liked, nor always welcomed, nor clearly welcomed with 'reverence,' at least she was welcomed once, and probably more often." 3
Sojourner Truth ( 1797-1883)Christened Isabella Baumfree, Sojourner Truth was a Black abolitionist, who developed attitudes more favorable towards President Lincoln than some of her colleagues.
Sojourner Truth Monument Unveiled
(Follow this link to read about the history of the project.)
|BATTLE CREEK, Mich. --Almost 3,000 people cheered as Dr. Velma Laws-Clay, chair of the Sojourner Truth Dedication Committee declared, "the moment has arrived" during the dedication ceremonies for the Sojourner Truth Monument at the Kellogg Arena on September 25 .|
The Sojourner Truth Institute of Battle Creek and the committee have worked with the National Association of Negro and Black Professional Women (NANBPW) and other supporters since 1997 to develop the monument. The project was originally suggested by the NANBPW in 1993.
Battle Creek Mayor Ted Dearing officially welcomed Sojourner back to Battle Creek. "She will serve as a constant reminder of her messages of dignity, respect and freedom for all, messages that are just as relevant today as they were 100 years ago," Dearing said. "Let her serve as a reminder that though we have come far as a city we can do better, and let us not rest until all have freedom and equality." More than 12 musical and artistic groups participated in the dedication, including the Hope College Gospel Choir, the Battle Creek Boy Choir, the Battle Creek Girls Chorus, and the Kellogg Community College Eclectic Chorale among others. The dedication festivities also featured the artistic work of thousands of Calhoun County students through the Arts Focus on Truth program coordinated through the United Arts Council of Calhoun County. The Kellogg Arena activities were followed by a March for Truth from the arena to Battle Creek’s Monument Park led by the University of Michigan Marching Band.
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