Sojourner Truth Criticism - Essay

James A. Dugdale (essay date 1863)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Sojourner Truth: 1863,” in National Anti-Slavery Standard, July 4, 1863, p. 3. Reprinted in Sojourner Truth as Orator: Wit, Story, and Song, by Suzanne Pullon Fitch and Roseann M. Mandziuk, Greenwood Press, 1997, 238 p.

[In the following essay originally published in 1863, Dugdale describes his experience with Truth, who stayed with him as a guest, and asks readers to lend her their support.]

To the Editor of the National Anti-Slavery Standard.

This extraordinary woman still lives. When the letter of Phebe M. Stickney came to us at our home on the prairies in Iowa, suggesting pecuniary comfort for the blessed old saint in the...

(The entire section is 2083 words.)

Lillie B. Chace Wyman (essay date 1901)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Sojourner Truth: Ashtabula County, Ohio, 1855,” in New England Magazine, March, 1901, p. 63. Reprinted in Sojourner Truth as Orator: Wit, Story, and Song, by Suzanne Pullon Fitch and Roseann M. Mandziuk, Greenwood Press, 1997, 238 p.

[In the following essay originally published in 1901, Wyman discusses a letter describing a public appearance by Truth.]

The veteran Abolitionist, Parker Pillsbury, in a letter to the writer, describes a scene in an antislavery convention held about the year 1855, in Ashtabula County, Ohio. The audience was mostly in sympathy with the Abolitionists, Joshua R. Giddings and his family being present at the meetings. On...

(The entire section is 635 words.)

Nell Irvin Painter (essay date 1994)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Difference, Slavery, and Memory: Sojourner Truth in Feminist Abolitionism,” in The Abolitionist Sisterhood: Women's Political Culture in Antebellum America, edited by Jean Fagan Yellin and John C. Van Horne, Cornell University Press, 1994, pp. 139-58.

[In the following essay, Painter presents a brief history of Sojourner Truth's life and also examines her place in cultural history.]

The issue of race is always present in American culture, especially in large areas such as women's rights. Understandably, Americans often try to avoid the issue, for race can still sabotage analysis of terms as essential as the nineteenth-century formulation of woman....

(The entire section is 8526 words.)

Erlene Stetson and Linda David (essay date 1994)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Speaking of Shadows,” in Glorying in Tribulation: The Lifework of Sojourner Truth, Michigan State University Press, 1994, pp. 1-27.

[In the following excerpt, Stetson and David examine the power of Truth's oratory, claiming that although much scholarship has focused on her illiteracy, it was in fact irrelevant to Truth's lived experience and political thought.]

I sell the shadow to support the substance.

Sojourner Truth1

On the first day of October 1865 Sojourner Truth dictated a letter from Washington, D.C. to her friend Amy Post in Rochester, New York:


(The entire section is 11450 words.)

Drema R. Lipscomb (essay date 1995)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Sojourner Truth: A Practical Public Discourse,” in Reclaiming Rhetorica: Women in the Rhetorical Tradition, edited by Andrea A. Lunsford, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995, pp. 227-45.

[In the following essay, Lipscomb contends that Truth's speeches and oratory were part of a practical public discourse tradition that sought to inspire action on issues important to the speaker.]

At a time when it was uncommon for women—and in particular black women—to speak publicly, Sojourner Truth was a major force in speaking on pressing matters of public policy. Much has been written about her as an abolitionist and as a champion of women's rights in the...

(The entire section is 7539 words.)

Jean M. Humez (essay date 1996)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Reading The Narrative of Sojourner Truth as a Collaborative Text,” in Frontiers: A Journal of Women's Studies, Vol. 16, No. 1, 1996, pp. 29-52.

[In the following essay, Humez examines the interaction between Sojourner Truth and Olive Gilbert, characterizing their relationship and the resulting work as a highly collaborative one.]

Important and complex issues of unequal power over representation of women's experience arise in studying and teaching those nineteenth-century African American women's life-history texts that were produced in collaboration with white political allies. Even Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of A Slave Girl...

(The entire section is 11023 words.)

Suzanne Pullon Fitch and Roseann M. Mandziuk (essay date 1997)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Storyteller and Songstress,” in Sojourner Truth as Orator: Wit, Story, and Song, Greenwood Press, 1997, pp. 51-87.

[In the following excerpt, Fitch and Mandziuk examine Truth's narrative discourses in the context of major rhetorical concepts.]

Any understanding of the rhetorical power of Sojourner Truth must begin with an appreciation of her tremendous appeal and the hold that she commanded over audiences. For example, the report in the National Anti-Slavery Standard of her 1863 speech to the State Sabbath School Convention in Battle Creek, Michigan, provided an impressive indication of her power and popularity:


(The entire section is 20514 words.)