There’s power in names. The freedom to choose and have your very own name is something we all take for granted, but there’s something extremely empowering about this act. In a lot of instances, it can even be radical and revolutionary.
Sojourner truth was the chosen moniker of Isabella Baumfree, well known for being an abolitionist and women’s rights activist. She was born a slave in New York, but through an immense fortitude, managed to escape to freedom. She then spent the rest of her life crusading In favour of the abolition of slavery. Her famous speech ‘Ain’t I a woman?’ was a tour de force. I’ve excerpted a small piece of it, and I encourage you to read the whole thing along with any of her others. They’re quite illuminating.
“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! 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?”
The rest can be seen here: Ain't I a Woman?
She famously won a case against one of the slaveholders who sold her son illegally, making her one of the few Blacks to win a legal victory during the slavery era. She suffered countless indignities during her time as a slave, but she always retained her calm, dignified grace.
She was deeply religious and this informed her views greatly, and after changing her name to Sojourner Truth, she joined the abolitionist and became a speaker for the cause, traveling across the US. She also was instrumental in recruiting former slaves to fight for the Union in the American Civil War and among her supporters and friends included luminaries such as Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln and William Lloyd Garrision. She died a free woman, at a ripe old age and has received countless accolades and honors since then.
“Truth is powerful and it prevails.”