Sojourner Truth's America

Sojourner Truth's America

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This fascinating biography tells the story of nineteenth-century America through the life of one of its most charismatic and influential characters: Sojourner Truth. In an in-depth account of this amazing activist, Margaret Washington unravels Sojourner Truth's world within the broader panorama of African American slavery and the nation's most significant reform era. Born into bondage among the Hudson Valley Dutch in Ulster County, New York, Isabella was sold several times, married, and bore five children before fleeing in 1826 with her infant daughter one year before New York slavery was abolished. In 1829, she moved to New York City, where she worked as a domestic, preached, joined a religious commune, and then in 1843 had an epiphany. Changing her name to Sojourner Truth, she began traveling the country as a champion of the downtrodden and a spokeswoman for equality by promoting Christianity, abolitionism, and women's rights. Gifted in verbal eloquence, wit, and biblical knowledge, Sojourner Truth possessed an earthy, imaginative, homespun personality that won her many friends and admirers and made her one of the most popular and quoted reformers of her times. Washington's biography of this remarkable figure considers many facets of Sojourner Truth's life to explain how she became one of the greatest activists in American history, including her African and Dutch religious heritage; her experiences of slavery within contexts of labor, domesticity, and patriarchy; and her profoundly personal sense of justice and intuitive integrity. Organized chronologically into three distinct eras of Truth's life, Sojourner Truth's America examines the complex dynamics of her times, beginning with the transnational contours of her spirituality and early life as Isabella and her embroilments in legal controversy. Truth's awakening during nineteenth-century America's progressive surge then propelled her ascendancy as a rousing preacher and political orator despite her inability to read and write. Throughout the book, Washington explores Truth's passionate commitment to family and community, including her vision for a beloved community that extended beyond race, gender, and socioeconomic condition and embraced a common humanity. For Sojourner Truth, the significant model for such communalism was a primitive, prophetic Christianity. Illustrated with dozens of images of Truth and her contemporaries, Sojourner Truth's America draws a delicate and compelling balance between Sojourner Truth's personal motivations and the influences of her historical context. Washington provides important insights into the turbulent cultural and political climate of the age while also separating the many myths from the facts concerning this legendary American figure.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 520 pages
  • 152.4 x 233.68 x 33.02mm | 884.5g
  • University of Illinois Press
  • Baltimore, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 38 black and white photographs
  • 0252078012
  • 9780252078019

Review quote

"An interesting and persuasive reading. By forcing us to give up a sanitized, desexualized picture of Truth ... Washington does us a great service--one of many performed by this exciting and comprehensive book."--Women's Review of Books"[A] wonderfully detailed and insightful account of Sojourner Truth's life."--The Journal of American History "This scholarly biography, meticulously researched ... is destined to be the definitive study for a generation. Highly recommended."-- Choice "This biography is admirable in its thoroughness and in Washington's commitment to her subject and is well worth consulting."--Publishers Weeklyshow more

About Margaret Washington

Margaret Washington is a professor of history at Cornell University. She is the author of the award-winning book "A Peculiar People": Slave Religion and Community-culture among the Gullahs and the editor of The Narrative of Sojourner Truth.show more

Table of contents

a word on language ix acknowledgments xi abbreviations xix introduction: the three lives of sojourner truth part I bell hardenbergh and slavery times in the hudson river valley 1. African and Dutch Religious Heritage 9 2. "Home Is Like a Grave" 18 Domesticity, Spirituality, and Patriarchy 3. "Better to Me Than a Man" 32 Female Life, Labor, and Slavery in Rural New York part II isabella van wagenen: a preaching woman 4. Like Hagar and Her Children 51 Long Walks to Freedom 5. "A Rushing Mighty Wind" 69 Isabella's Baptism of the Spirit 6. Sanctification and Perfection 81 Becoming a Religious Radical 7. "I Will Crush Them with the Truth" 98 The Commune of Matthias part III sojourner truth and the antislavery apostles 8. The Antislavery Vanguard, 1833-1843 129 9. "The Spirit Calls Me There" 141 A Sojourner Is Chosen 10. A Holy City 156 Sojourner Truth and the Northampton Community 11. The Cold Water Army, Olive Gilbert, and Sojourner's Narrative 175 12. The Bloodhound Bill and Intensified Activism 191 13. The New York Campaign 206 14. "God, You Drive" 221 The Sojourner in Ohio 15. "I Go in for Agitatin'" 248 16. Truth Is Powerful 272 17. Proclaim Liberty throughout the Land 298 18. "Was Woman True?" 334 Sojourner, Suffrage, and Civil Rights 19. "I Am on My Way to Kansas" 355 epilogue: well done, good and faithful servant 377 notes 381 index 455 Illustrations follow pages 8, 50, 128.show more

Rating details

11 ratings
3.9 out of 5 stars
5 27% (3)
4 45% (5)
3 18% (2)
2 9% (1)
1 0% (0)
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