Abu-Jamal's Radio Broadcasts
of Our Mother's
5.36 MBs, 6:42
In a land and
in an age in which the "bootylicious" is glorified, I
am often amazed at what is ignored, forgotten, and unknown. As I
write this, a student of history, I often surprise myself with my
ignorance, as in what I don't know about something that should be
How many of
us have heard the names Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, and
mixed them up in the mixer of the mind? Often, one has to concentrate
deeply, and plunge into the thickets of memory to access certain
facts that distinguish one from the other.
What a gross
disservice to both utterly remarkable women, who, in any other culture,
in any truly humanistic age, would be remembered with the clarity
of crystal, and honored in every hearth and home for their sterling
courage, integrity, and sheer wills to be free.
It is necessary
to repeat the obvious truth that these were two very different women,
who other than their race, and social status, bore perhaps very
little similarity. That is not true.
Both were women
of remarkable physical and mental strength.
One was short,
stocky, and born in the slave system of the South. The other was
tall (at least six feet) and wiry, born into slavery in the rural,
New York state North.
But both had
to flee from their captors for their freedom.
Tubman) was born into a traditional African-American family of the
time. The other (Sojourner Truth) was born into a family owned by
New York Dutch, and Dutch was her first language, which accented
her speech for the rest of her life.
Let us try to
concentrate on the latter here. Born Isabella Baumfree, around 1797,
at the tender age of 9 years she was sold from her birth family
for $100, to a Mr. John Nealy of Ulster County, New York. In her
classic recounting of that time in the "Narrative of Sojourner
Truth" (originally published in 1850), she recalls the time
of her sale and bondage to the Nealys sharply, saying, "Now
the war begun". As she spoke only Dutch, and they spoke only
English, they could barely understand each other. They responded
to the resultant confusion with naked cruelty, beating the child
so severely with cords that the scars remained all of her life.
Thus was she introduced to slavery.
as an adult, she would fight back when her son was sold South, in
violation of state law. Incredibly, she would recover him, after
he had been badly beaten and exploited by the man he was sold to.
She herself was exploited, and after a promise to free her went
unfulfilled by her captor, she freed herself.
A deeply religious
woman, she felt an inner, spiritual urging to leave her former life,
and to embark upon a new one. The "Narrative" relates:
what preparations for leaving she deemed necessary which
was, to put up a few articles of clothing in a pillow case, all
else being deemed an unnecessary encumbrance about an hour
before she left, she informed Mrs. Whiting, the woman of the house
where she was stopping that her name was no longer Isabella, but
SOJOURNER; and that she was going east. And to her inquiry, 'What
are you going east for?' her answer was, 'The Spirit calls me there,
and I must go.' [p. 58]
She moved from
place to place, preaching and occasionally working, in an age now
called a Great Awakening, when religious and social groups were
plentiful in the nation.
She went to
Brooklyn, and into New York City, but she didn't care for the hustle
and bustle, and money-frenzy of the town, which she later called
the "second Sodom."
She is perhaps
best known for her speech before a nervous Womens Convention,
when she quieted hecklers with her stirring "Aint I a
Woman?" address, which has been reprinted and recounted countless
But the writer
would like to briefly recount a lesser known occurrence, at a religious
camp-meeting in Northampton, New York, when a group of rowdy young
men began to cause a disturbance by "Hooting and yelling",
and threatening to burn the place down (this was a tent meeting).
Sojourner was terrified, and shrank into the shadows, thinking,
"I am the only colored person here, and on me, probably, their
wicked mischief will fall first, and perhaps fatally." And
then, another thought struck her:
I run away and hide from the Devil? Me, a servant of the living
God? Have I not faith enough to go out and quell that mob, when
I know it is written 'One shall chase a thousand, and two
put ten thousand to flight'? I know there are not a thousand here;
but I know that I am a servant of the living God. I'll go to the
rescue, and the Lord shall go with and protect me."
gave her so much strength that she said she felt like she had three
her body, so strong and so large "my body could hardly hold
She asked several
of the others if they would join her in bringing order to the chaos
around her, but all declined. So she walked alone, some distance,
to a small rise on the ground, and sang "with all the strength
of her most powerful voice" a spiritual hymn.
As she began
to sing, a throng of young men rushed at her, but before they could
reach her, another group of men rushed to the scene, forming a circle
around her, armed with sticks and clubs. She asked, "Why do
you come about me with clubs and sticks? I am not doing harm to
any one". Many voices responded, "We arent a going
to hurt you, old woman; we came to hear you sing!" Others assured
her that they were there to protect her, and they would "knock
down" anyone who dared to offer her the "least indignity."
and she sang, and her voice, and her reason, were like oil upon
rolling waters, as they left that camp in peace.
every schoolchild in America know, not just her name, but her story?
her glorious image shining from church window panes across the width
and breadth of Black America?
Why are we still
so confused about who she was, and get her so mangled with the memory
of Harriet Tubman?
Why have we
forgotten the glories of one of our mothers, who, in her life and
her example, gave birth to a passionate freedom?
Check out Mumia's
"Faith of Our Fathers: An Examination of the Spiritual Life
of African and African-American People" at www.africanworld.com
The Power of Truth
is Final -- Free Mumia!
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© copyright 2003 by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of the author.