'Then I Will Speak Upon the Ashes' | Sojourners

'Then I Will Speak Upon the Ashes'

When Sojourner Truth was informed that Indiana rebel sympathizers threatened to burn down the hall in which she was scheduled to hold a rally, she said, "Then I will speak upon the ashes."

It is in this tenacious manner that she confronted the difficult and often cruel realities of her life. She learned both from the verbal and the non-verbal messages of her mother that one must not be defeated by the injustice, cruelty, and evil of the world. Her mother, Mau MauBett, taught her to pray, to be tough-headed and tough-hearted.

These lessons stood the 9-year-old Isabella in good stead when she was sold away from her parents. The rumors told about her sale claim that her marketability resulted from the fact that she came with a flock of sheep. Regardless of the truth of this story, the fact is that she was bought for $100 by a storekeeper named John Nealy.

Because she spoke only the Low Dutch of her former master, she suffered in the English-speaking Nealy household from not being understood and from not understanding her work instructions. After two years of praying for a better place to live, she was bought for $105, and finally in 1810 she was bought for $300 by John J. Dumont. She was 13 years old. She lived with the Dumonts until gaining her freedom.

Because Sojourner Truth was born black and female, the culture in which she was forced to live intended for her to stand always in the ashes or not to stand at all. But her strength of character and heart set her about the task of transforming that prescription by defying its power to control her and to determine the path that her life could follow.

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