A short fictional story written a whiles back, presuming what could have occurred to change a young Sojourner Truth.
The Night That Changed Sojourner Truth
I winced in pain but remained quiet. Isabella was kicking in her sleep again. Then, I felt it again, this time a little bit harder right in my shin. “Stop it Isa.” I whispered. She didn’t respond and the kicks didn’t stop. I gently nudged her, but got no response.
“She getting you too?” Mark whispered from the other side of Isabella.
“Yeah! I can’t sleep!” I quietly whined back.
“Allyuh better hush up before Mama and Pa hear yuh. You know its even worser yet if Master wakes.” Whispered our oldest sister who was sleeping perpendicular to us on the floor. She tapped both of us on our heads as she warned us, and Mark nudged her back while whispering, “Damnit Jayanne, that’s really not helping any.” Almost immediately after, Isabella kicked me real hard this time, I couldn’t even hold it in.
“Ugh! Mercy Isa!” I yelled. Then it began. Masters annoying dog, Marlie, started barking. Mama and Pa woke up and we all listened silently and still as we heard the dreaded sound of Masters slippers hitting the floor with each hardened step he took. It was as if I could follow the sound of him heading towards us, from his bedroom, and each powerful step he took down the stairs. Finally Isabella woke up. “Oh gosh, he coming? What did who do and why?” Jayanne, Mark and I glared at Isa, she had no clue what she had started. We all avoided even looking at our parents. I could hear Mama already sniffling and I dreading the fear in Pa’s eyes. Master’s slippers finally hit our floor. We all knew what was to come next. Pa stood up, looked at all of us, shook his head and walked out of our sleeping area, hands outstretched. There was silence.
“Hey boy, I was having one of the best sleeps in a damn long time. What in God’s earth are y’all doing in there to have Marlie barking like that?” We could hear Master yell to our Pa.
“I’m sorry Master. One of the girls must have been having a nightmare.” Pa tried to explain.
“What the hell is this about?” Isabella perked up and asked. “Are we going to just sit here and hear Pa get whipped yet again for nothing? This makes no sense. Why can’t we do something?” Isabella tried to stand up, but was pushed down almost immediately by Mama and Jayanne. I stayed quiet and watched on.
“Isabella Baumfree, you have a seat young lady and know your role.” Mama whispered firmly. “You need to stop trying to play superhero and just let what’s gonna be, be! You standing up to Colonel Hardenbergh ain’t helping nobody. That’s just gon make things even worse for us here folk.” Mama explained sternly, with tears in her eyes.
“Mama, but this makes no sense!” As Isabella blurted that out we could hear the first whip Master Hardenbergh gave Pa.
“Does that hurt, boy? How does that feel?” We could hear Master proclaim, with almost what felt like joy in his voice.
“Mama please!” Isabella yelled out. “This is not right! We have to do something!”
“There is nothing to do, Isa. We can do nothing.” Mama said, wincing with every lash we could hear Master give Pa. Isa shook her head, wiped a tear and darted as fast as she could up and out of our corners. We could hear her confronting Master.
“Stop it! Stop it! It’s just not fair! It don’t make any sense! It’s Marlie, it’s his barking that woke you! Leave my Pa! Leave my family! Please just stop it!” Between those cries of Isabella, and her screams as Master now turned the whipping onto both her and Pa, all I could hear was Mama’s crying, Jayanne’s crying, my own crying and even Mark’s crying. The ordeal was done about 2 minutes later. Pa and Isabella walked back into our corners. Pa walked stiff and was very silent. Isabella had tears streaming down her face and welts from the whipping already apparent on her arms.
“This just ain’t right.” She repeated continuously. I will never forget that night. My little sister, Miss. Isabella Baumfree, looked at each one of us dead in the eye and said, “my family, this good for nothing man has us slave for him day in, day out. He gives us his left over scraps to eat, he has us sleeping on the floor of his home, he offers an animal who licks his own ass, better treatment than we could ever receive, he beats us, he rapes us, he steals from us our dignity, our freedom, our rights as human beings, he robs us of opportunity. I know what I deserve, and it’s better than this. Ain’t I a woman?”
Sojourner Truth (1797–November 26, 1883) was the self-given name, from 1843, of Isabella Baumfree, an American slave, abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, New York. Her best-known speech, “Ain’t I a Woman?”, was delivered in 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio.