A Soul on Fire | Sojourners

A Soul on Fire

In 1851, ex-slave Sojourner Truth addressed a convention of white suffragettes and white ministers debating which issue was more important, abolition or women's suffrage. In the midst of the squabbling, Sojourner Truth asked a simple question: "Arn't I a Woman?" That question, though 150 years old, turned my world upside down. The passage of time has not eroded the relevance and power of her question. Her voice still rings-breaking down walls, changing worlds.

Sojourner's life and witness flows through time as a stream of consciousness. It connects with our own stories. She still speaks for those who have known the double oppression of race and gender. She has been my spirit guide for as long as my story and my center flowed into her existence. She went before me to carve the path that I now walk. Her voice beats within my heart. Her unwavering commitment to freedom has enabled me to move beyond boundaries that would limit who I am. She has shaped my identity and plowed my standing ground.

In 1843, Sojourner decided to abandon her slave name of Isabella Baumfree for her God-given name of Sojourner Truth. There is an African proverb that says, "It's not what they call you that really matters, it is what you answer to." Sojourner was clear that she needed a name that she could answer to. She had to leave behind all the vestiges of bondage. Therefore, when she left her Egypt of slavery, she asked God to give her a new name. Her name expressed her new mission-that of traveling up and down the land telling the truth.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 2001
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