Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol

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W. W. Norton & Company, Oct 17, 1997 - Biography & Autobiography - 384 pages

A monumental biography of one of the most important black women of the nineteenth century.

Sojourner Truth first gained prominence at an 1851 Akron, Ohio, women's rights conference, saying, "Dat man over dar say dat woman needs to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches. . . . Nobody eber helps me into carriages, or ober mud-puddles . . . and ar'n't I a woman?"

Sojourner Truth: ex-slave and fiery abolitionist, figure of imposing physique, riveting preacher and spellbinding singer who dazzled listeners with her wit and originality. Straight-talking and unsentimental, Truth became a national symbol for strong black women--indeed, for all strong women. Like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, she is regarded as a radical of immense and enduring influence; yet, unlike them, what is remembered of her consists more of myth than of personality.

Now, in a masterful blend of scholarship and sympathetic understanding, eminent black historian Nell Irvin Painter goes beyond the myths, words, and photographs to uncover the life of a complex woman who was born into slavery and died a legend. Inspired by religion, Truth transformed herself from a domestic servant named Isabella into an itinerant pentecostal preacher; her words of empowerment have inspired black women and poor people the world over to this day. As an abolitionist and a feminist, Truth defied the notion that slaves were male and women were white, expounding a fact that still bears repeating: among blacks there are women; among women, there are blacks.

No one who heard her speak ever forgot Sojourner Truth, the power and pathos of her voice, and the intelligence of her message. No one who reads Painter's groundbreaking biography will forget this landmark figure and the story of her courageous life.

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User Review  - Kirkus

A successful effort to separate a human being from the familiar "Strong Black Woman'' symbol she has become. A powerful speaker who moved audiences to laughter even as she delivered harsh truths about ... Read full review

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User Review  - zoranaercegovac - LibraryThing

Nell Irvin Painter's work provides two messages: a readable biography and an analysis of how "symbols" function within a culture. Either message is worth the read. Nell is successful at both messages ... Read full review


List of Illustrations Part I Isabella 1 Isabella Sojourner Truth and American Slavery
Isabella A Slave
Journey Toward Freedom
Plaintiff and Witch
New York Perfectionism
In the Kingdom of Matthias
Some images in this ebook are not displayed owing to permissions issues
Cartedevisite of Harriet Beecher Stowe and her brother following page 151
Arnt I a Woman?
Partisan and Aristocrat
Truth in Photographs
Washingtons Freedpeople
Freedpeoples shanties Washington DC page 214
Woman Suffrage

Isabellas New York City
Sojourner Truth A Life
Among the Millerites
Mill building of the Northampton Association Florence Massachusetts page 90
Douglass Ruggles and Family
The Narrative of Sojourner Truth
Networks of Antislavery Feminism
Akron 1851
Benson family house Florence Massachusetts page 104
Vengeance and Womanhood
The Libyan Sibyl
Frances Titus page 243
The End of a Life
Opening page of the Book of Life page 244
Sojourner Truths only known signature page 251
The Life of a Symbol
Diana Corbin cabinet card page 253
The Triumph of a Symbol
A Note on the Sources

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About the author (1997)

Nell Irvin Painter is the award-winning author of many books, including Sojourner Truth, Southern History Across the Color Line, Creating Black Americans, The History of White People, and Standing at Armageddon. She is currently the Edwards Professor of American History, Emerita, at Princeton University and lives in Newark, New Jersey, and the Adirondacks.

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