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Truth, Sojourner; and Stowe, Harriet Beecher.

Narrative of Sojourner Truth.; and "Sojourner Truth, The Libyan Soul."


"Ain't I A Woman?"
A Handsome Copy Of Truth's
Classic Anti-Slavery Narrative,
Together With A Scarce Magazine Profile By Stowe
Truth, Sojourner. Narrative of Sojourner Truth, A Northern Slave, Emancipated From Bodily Servitude By The State of New York, in 1828. With a Portrait. New York: Published for the Author, 1853.
8vo.; portrait frontispiece of Truth; printed buff wrappers, sewn; front wrapper lightly, evenly, used, some chipping to edges and spine, small (1/2" diameter) darkened spot towards bottom edge; rear wrapper lacking; internally fine, pages crisp and bright.
Together with:
(Truth, Sojourner). Stowe, Harriet Beecher. "Sojourner Truth, the Libyan Sibyl." In The Atlantic Monthly. A Magazine of Literature, Art, and Politics. Volume XI, No. LXVI. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, April 1863.
8vo.; printed buff wrappers, stitched; front cover stained and partially detached. Both items housed together in a specially made cloth folding box.
Second edition of one of the most enduring anti-slavery works ever written by a woman, together with the first appearance of Harriet Beecher Stowe's influential biographical portrait of Truth. Truth's autobiographical account of her captivity, resistance, and eventual freedom was astoundingly popular in its time; today, it remains a canonical text, serving as required reading for schoolchildren, students of U.S. history, and scholars of women's and Afro-American studies alike. This edition of Truth's heroic literal and spiritual journey followed the rare first edition by three years (1850); it includes an unsigned preface by William Lloyd Garrison and a lengthy appendix by William Weld; the rear wrapper prints testimonials from numerous politicians and other public figures, attesting to Truth's strong moral character.
Harriet Beecher Stowe's well-intentioned but patronizing article about Truth-which, to Truth's horror, rendered her quotations in a quasi-incoherent dialectic gibberish-was directed squarely at the Atlantic Monthly's white and affluent readership. Still, the article introduced Truth to a larger audience and survives as a memorable, if imperfect, instance of early feminist biographical tribute. For the Narrative: Blockson, #29, 101 Influential Books (citing the first edition, but illustrated with a photo of the second); Work, 476 (who proclaims it "an extraordinary contribution to anti-slavery literature"); for Stowe's article: Hildreth, p. 128; Carleton Mabee, (Sojourner Truth, New York: New York University Press, 1993, pp. 68-69, 112, 114, 261).
Sojourner Truth-abolitionist, author, lecturer, and women's rights activist-was born in Ulster County, New York in 1797. Born into a family of slaves, Truth, née Isabella, lived with her mother Elizabeth and brothers and sisters in the crowded slave-quarters of the damp cellar beneath her owner's upstate New York house until she was nine, at which time she was sold for $100 to a storekeeper who maltreated her. In 1810 she was sold to a wealthy landowner named John J. Dumont. Truth lived with Dumont at his New Paltz, New York estate for the next decade and was the mother of several of his children.
In July 1817 Truth's legal status changed radically, at least on paper, with the New York State adoption of a provision emancipating all slaves over forty and guaranteeing the rest their freedom by 1828. Although Dumont promised to abide by the law and free Truth accordingly, he reneged on his pledge. In 1827, infuriated, Truth fled from captivity, and was taken in by a sympathetic white couple, Isaac and Maria Van Wagener. The Van Wageners purchased Truth for $20, and in return Truth agreed to work as their live-in servant and to adopt their surname. (It wasn't until 1843, in response to a "born-again" religious experience, that she adopted Sojourner Truth.)
Truth first gained local notoriety in 1828, when (with the assistance of abolitionist Quakers) she sued for the freedom of her son Peter, who had been sold into bondage in violation of New York State law. Truth's victory made her one of the first black women in U.S. history to successfully bring suit against a white defendant. Shortly after this incident she underwent the religious awakening which would influence so much of her later evolution. She moved with her youngest children to Manhattan where she worked as a servant and helped to establish the Zion African Church. At the suggestion of her employer, Truth became part of a missionary group aiming to convert prostitutes (she would later denounce her anti-vice missionary work as anti-black, anti-poor, and anti-feminist; see the Narrative, pp. 86-87). In the early 1830s Truth attained a household position with Sarah and Elijah Pearson, a wealthy religious couple who introduced her into the cult of Robert Matthews; Matthews-known as Matthias-claimed to be an incarnation of God Himself; in 1834 he died under mysterious circumstances, and a fellow cult member implicated Truth in the alleged murder. The subsequent libel suit netted Truth $125 in damages and another place in the history books as the first black plaintiff in the U.S. to win a slander suit against a white defendant.
In the winter of 1843 Truth met William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass, through whom she became involved in the organized anti-slavery movement. Soon after she embarked on a lecture tour throughout the New England abolitionist circuit. Truth's dramatic speeches, in which she vividly recalled the horrors of slavery, were well attended and swayed many previously neutral listeners.
Truth's involvement in the suffrage movement came as a natural outgrowth of her abolitionist work. In 1850-probably at the behest of Lucy Stone, Lydia Maria Child, and other feminist abolitionists-she participated in a women's rights convention in Worcester, Massachusetts. The following year at the 1851 National Woman's Suffrage Convention in Akron, Ohio, Truth delivered the oft-quoted speech in which she brilliantly fused anti-racist and anti-sexist concerns as essentially inseparable:
. . . That man over there says that women need to be helped with carriages and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere....Look at me!...I have plowed, and planted, and gathered into barns...and ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man (when I could get it) and bear the lash as well-and ain't I a woman? I have borne five children and seen most of them all sold into slavery, and when I cried out with a mother's grief, none but Jesus heard-and ain't I a woman? (Mabee, op. cit.)
Truth, as she was illiterate, dictated her autobiography to Olive Gilbert, a white feminist friend, and it was first published in 1850 and immediately became an invaluable propaganda tool for the abolitionist movement. The first edition sold out rapidly, as did the second, which appeared in 1853. Truth continued her anti-slavery and pro-feminist work well into her twilight years: she volunteered for the Union Army; toured the U.S. speaking for various human rights causes; and was till her last days an advocate for the American Equal Rights Association, which aimed to win suffrage for blacks and women simultaneously. In 1975 Truth died in Battle Creek, Michigan at her family home at the age of 86.

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