The Prophetess Sojourner Truth Discusses the Two Different Versions of Her Most Well-Known Speech, One Nearly Unknown and One Very Beloved Yet Mostly Untrue
I believe that white lady meant well, but she took liberties with my story. There was a pint, and I am a woman, but I never did bear thirteen young. There was an audience, and I did stand. At first, hesitant, but then, speaking God’s clear consonants in a voice that all might hear, not with apostrophes feeding on the ends of my words. And I am six feet tall, and some might say, broader than any man. And I was a slave. And my child was taken from me, though I fought to get him back. And I did work hard. And I did suffer long. And I did find the Lord and He did keep me in His bony-chested embrace. And if I showed you my hands, instead of hiding them in my sleeves or in a ball of yarn, you could see my scars, the surgery of bondage. And I have traveled to and fro to speak my Gospel-talk— surely, I’ve got the ear of Jesus. But I forgive that lying woman, because craving is a natural sin. She needed somebody like me to speak for her, and behave the way she imagined I did, so she could imagine herself as a northern mistress. And there I was, dark and old, soon to fold my life into Death’s greedy hand. And in this land, and in this time, somebody who could never shout her down.
Copyright © 2018 by Honorée Fannone Jeffers. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 25, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.