Roots Covenant Church is a church that celebrates the vision of the Kingdom of God John saw in Revelation 7, of every tribe, every tongue, all peoples worshiping Jesus the Lamb together. To commemorate Black History Month this year, each week of February we are setting aside a portion of our gathering to reflect on how members of the African diaspora have impacted Christ’s church and the world.
This week, we’re celebrating the life of Isabella Baumfree, or as you might know her: Sojourner Truth. Sojourner Truth was first called Isabella Baumfree when she was born into slavery in 1797 in upstate New York, not the South.She was separated from her family, sold, and bought by slave-owners three times by 1810.
Even though all slaves born before 1799 in New York were being legally emancipated by 1827, John Dumont, who was the most recent slave-owner to have purchased Baumfree refused to grant her and her daughter, Sofia, their freedom. So Isabella and Sofia escaped with the help of Quaker abolitionists in 1826, who paid Dumont for her freedom.
Then Baumfree learned that Dumont had illegally sold her son Peter to a slave-owner in Alabama, where slavery was not expected to be abolished any time soon. With the help of that Quaker family, Isabella Baumfree took Dumont to court, won her case against him, and got her son Peter back. Baumfree is the first black woman in America to successfully sue a white man and win her case.
In 1843, Isabelle Baumfree had a profound experience of conversion and became a committed disciple of Jesus Christ through the Methodist tradition. She renamed herself Sojourner Truth in response to a profound sense of calling from God to “testify to the hope that was in her.” Soon after she met other famous abolitionists like Fredrick Douglas and William Lloyd Garrison, who privately published her memoir, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave.
In 1851, Truth joined George Thompson, an abolitionist and speaker, on a lecture tour through central and western New York State. In May, she attended the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, where she delivered her famous extemporaneous speech on women’s rights, later known as “Ain’t I a Woman.” Her speech demanded equal human rights for all women as well as for all blacks.
Truth met with President Abraham Lincoln and was active in Ulysses S. Grant’s re-election campaign in 1872. Sojourner Truth’s faith in God gave her revolutionary courage and boldness to denounce the evils of slavery and the denial of equal rights to all women. Truth’s message was one of liberation and hope. Her life continues to stand as an example of Christian faith that seeks justice for all people.
This is a dramatic reenactment of Sojourner Truth’s famous “Ain’t I a Woman” performed by Kerry Washington.
God of justice and peace,
We thank you for those saints who have gone before us like Sojourner Truth, who inspire us and encourage us to put our faith into action.
May we be a church that continues in the legacy of Truth, by testifying to the hope we have, and by advocating for those in society who are marginalized and oppressed.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit