Until I was tasked with producing prayers for November 26th I had never heard of Sojourner Truth. (c. 1797 – 26th November 1883). Yet, she is listed in the top 100 most influential Americans of all time.
I realise that this list in reality applies to the most influential members of the USA and not all America but, even so, my ignorance is a sad reflection of my own backstory and conditioning as a white British male.
Sojourner was the first Black Woman to win a court battle against a White man. She was born into slavery from which she escaped. For forty years she spoke out against the evil of slavery, she campaigned for social justice and is inspirational to everyone who seeks to reform unjust structures in church and society.
She was a traveling preacher, an advocate of woman’s rights, and an abolitionist. She was a leading suffrage speaker, and her brief classic speech, “Ain’t I a Woman,” criticizes men and white women for neglect of the plight of African American women. She was also known as “Miriam of the Last Exodus.”
Which leads me to ask why we don’t know more about her. I know about other white influential Americans on the nineteenth century. The answer is – I fear – quite simply a matter of racism.
Sojourner spoke and acted out for good of all – and she was a black woman. It’s a hard pill for me to swallow but I am a product of a system which by its nature was precisely what Sojourner challenged.
This year, because of the death of George Floyd, has seen a realisation and acknowledgement of inequality and injustice which Racism, and the other “isms”, which persist in our Society.
We, at St Chrysostom’s, pride ourselves in being inclusive…and had it not been for the intention of our Church Calendar to be more inclusive this remarkable woman would have not been noticed by me – that is a sad indictment.
The evils that Sojourner challenged in her day persist two centuries later, and that is not progress. Nor is it fair! Nor is it Christ like!