“We have all been thrown down so low that nobody thought we'd ever get up again; but we have been long enough trodden now; we will come up again.”
Today’s Doodle by Philadelphia-based guest artist Loveis Wise kicks off Black History Month by celebrating Sojourner Truth, a powerful advocate for justice and equality in the United States of America during the 19th century who paved the way for future generations.
Born an enslaved person in Ulster County, New York around 1797, Isabella Baumfree endured the horrors of the American slave trade—as well as seeing her children sold into servitude. Despite the hardships she faced, she went on to win her freedom, changing her name to Sojourner Truth, and starting a new life as a traveling and prominent preacher, abolitionist, and suffragist.
During her advocacy journeys throughout the country, Truth met activists William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass, who encouraged her to speak out against the evils of slavery. She published a memoir in 1850, which earned her widespread acclaim as an author and speaker. She was even invited to meet with Abraham Lincoln in the White House. In her autobiography, Sojourner Truth recounted the day she escaped with her infant daughter, forced to leave her other children behind. With her daughter, she was taken in by Isaac and Maria Van Wagenen, who helped Sojourner Truth sue for the freedom of her five-year-old son Peter, who had been sold illegally by her former slavemaster. This historic lawsuit made her one of the first black women to successfully sue a white man in the U.S. The courthouse where the case was heard is referenced in today’s Doodle.
After her book’s publication, Truth began a lecture tour that included a women’s rights conference in Akron, Ohio, where she delivered the famous “Ain’t I Woman” speech. Although the exact wording of the speech is still debated, her message came through loud and clear: women of any race, color, or creed are as strong and capable as any man.
Truth’s memory and legacy continues to this day. Most recently, the US Treasury announced that she will be featured on the nation’s ten dollar bill along with other suffragists. The design for the new bill will be unveiled in 2020 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote.
Here’s to Sojourner Truth, who devoted her life to the cause of speaking truth to power.
For a closer look at Sojourner Truth’s life and legacy, visit Google Arts & Culture.
Today's Doodle was created by Philadelphia-based guest artist Loveis Wise. Below, she shares her thoughts on today’s Doodle:
Q: Why was this topic meaningful to you personally?
A: As a Black woman, illustrating Sojourner Truth was especially personal and meaningful to me. Her journey and persistence inspired major change in both rights for enslaved African-Americans and women. Her history is deeply rooted to my ancestors and others around the world.
Q: What were your first thoughts when you were approached about the project?
A: I was instantly excited and humbled because I would be able to illustrate a figure that I'd always been inspired by. It encouraged me to learn more about her history and other great Black women doing activist work during that period.
Q: Did you draw inspiration from anything in particular for this Doodle?
A: Yes! Creating this Doodle came with a ton of research and I was inspired by the few photographs taken of her which displayed her strong and beautiful stature. I was also inspired by her journey to share knowledge about the horrors of slavery after being the first African-American to win a court case when she fought for her child's freedom who was sold illegally.
Q: What message do you hope people take away from your Doodle?
A: Without her work and the awareness Sojourner spread, the US would not be what it currently is today! It's important to lift up her legacy and reflect on that.