On behalf of the GSWNY Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee, to celebrate Black History Month, each week we’re highlighting a groundbreaking Black woman for her accomplishments related to the four pillars of Girl Scouts. This week, we’re featuring Sojourner Truth for Life Skills.
Sojourner Truth: 1797-1883
We selected Sojourner Truth for Life Skills because she exemplified civic engagement, public speaking, writing and communication, and numerous other skills. She was an advocate for abolition, temperance, civil rights, and women’s rights. While we offer a glimpse of Truth here in this brief bio, we encourage everyone to research more about her life and work. Her monumental impact on the world is difficult to capture in a few words.
Truth was born 1797 as Isabella Bomfree (sometimes spelled Baumfree), a slave in Dutch-speaking Ulster County, NY. As a slave, she was bought and sold four times, surviving harsh physical labor and violence. Beginning in her teens, she had five children. In 1827, she fled with her infant daughter, Sophia, to a nearby abolitionist family, the Van Wageners, who purchased her freedom for $20 and assisted her in suing for the return of her five-year-old-son Peter, who was illegally sold into slavery in Alabama.
In 1828, Bomfree moved to New York City and worked for a minister. During her religious work, she felt called on to preach truth and renamed herself Sojourner Truth. She met Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison, and with encouragement from Garrison’s anti-slavery organization, she gave speeches on the evils of slavery.
In 1850, she dictated her autobiography to Olive Gilbert, having never learned to read or write. Book sales were so successful she was able to sustain herself and received national recognition. This led her to meeting women’s rights activists and temperance advocates Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. A year later, she began a lecture tour for women’s rights and delivered her famous “Ain’t I A Woman?” speech championing racial and gender equality.
She continued to speak nationally and help slaves escape to freedom. At the start of the Civil War, she urged men to join the Union and organized supplies for Black troops. After the war, she continued her anti-slavery and equality work through organizations like the Freedmen’s Bureau.
All of the above was adapted from her biography on the National Women’s History Museum Website (https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/sojourner-truth).
The following resources expand on Sojourner Truth’s life and work. (Please note some resources may describe or allude to the horrors of slavery and acts of violence and discrimination. We recommend pre-screening resources if you have concerns about appropriateness for your family.)
- The ‘Ain’t I A Woman?’ Speech: https://thehermitage.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Sojourner-Truth_Aint-I-a-Woman_1851.pdf
- National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum biography: https://www.nationalabolitionhalloffameandmuseum.org/sojourner-truth.html
- The Sojourner Truth Project – readings of ‘Ain’t I A Woman?’ by afro Dutch women: https://www.thesojournertruthproject.com/the-readings
- Biography.com – How Early Photographs Reveal the Indomitable Spirit of Abolitionist Sojourner Truth: https://www.biography.com/news/sojourner-truth-black-history
- Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture: https://nmaahc.si.edu/ – Their collection contains images of Sojourner and their search page provides additional links and resources.
- Stuff You Missed in History Class Podcast: (Part 1) https://www.iheart.com/podcast/stuff-you-missed-in-history-cl-21124503/episode/sojourner-truth-pt-1-30414194/ and (Part 2) https://www.iheart.com/podcast/stuff-you-missed-in-history-cl-21124503/episode/sojourner-truth-pt-2-30425067/
- The Liturgists Podcast: Black History is American History: https://theliturgists.com/black-history-is-american-history/sojourner-truth
- Ted-Ed: The electrifying speeches of Sojourner Truth – Daina Ramey Berry (video): https://youtu.be/0sn8CUyvG2k
Black History Month Facts & Information
Black History Month (or African American History Month) was first celebrated in 1926 as Negro History Week, created by Harvard-educated historian Carter G. Woodson. The second week in February was chosen for the celebration to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12) and Frederick Douglass (Feb. 14). The purpose of Negro History Week was to highlight the often-overlooked achievements of African Americans and their contributions to American history and culture. In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month as a national observance. Today, Black History Month continues to promote the study of Black history and celebration of African American accomplishments not just in February, but also throughout the year.
Activities for All Ages
For Daisies & Brownies
- Sojourner Truth Coloring Sheets Page 1 | Page 2
- Josephine Baker Paper Doll
- Civil Rights Activity Book
For Juniors & Cadettes
For Seniors, Ambassadors, & Adults
Girl Scout Values: Anti-Racism Patch
The Girl Scouts Anti-Racism Patch is a reflection that we are committed to our Girl Scout values that foster a community of justice, fairness, and inclusion. This Black History Month, consider using the list of ideas and resources provided to earn the patch with your girl or troop and when you are ready, sign our Girl Scouts Stands Against Racism Pledge.