Cover to Cover…‘Sojourner Truth’

When it comes to arguing, nobody’s better than you.

You argue about bedtime, mealtime, and bathtime. You argue with your brother or sister. Some people might call you sassy. Others might say you’re dissing them.

But at school, they call it “debate,” and that’s where you learned that respectful arguing is as old as America. It’s also your best chance to change what’s wrong.


But would you give over your entire life for the sake of making change? In the new audiobook “Sojourner Truth: From Slave to Activist for Freedom” by Mary G. Butler, performed by Allyson Johnson, you’ll read about someone who did.

Somewhere around the year 1797, a young girl named Isabella was born into slavery near New York City. Because Isabella’s owner, Colonel Hardenburgh, spoke Dutch, that was the language Isabella grew up speaking.

When she was about 9 years old, Isabella’s owner died and she was sold, along with a flock of sheep, for $100. Her new owner was a cruel man but there was nothing Isabella could do because she was a slave and slaves had no rights. She was sold again, and yet again.

In 1826, because of a broken promise and forthcoming New York law, Isabella walked away from her final owner, with her baby daughter, and was taken in by a family who helped her gain her freedom. She later sued her former owner on behalf of a son who was sold illegally and, in doing so, she became the first Black woman to successfully sue a White man.

In 1827, Isabella had a religious vision and converted to Christianity. After living with an Evangelistic group for a time, she left, changed her name to Sojourner Truth, and became an itinerant preacher.

For most of the rest of her life, Truth toured the young United States and lectured on freedom, women’s rights, and slavery. She recruited soldiers for the Union during the Civil War, wrote several books, utilized the courts to stand up for herself, forced desegregation, and bought property, all of which was rare for women —especially Black women —at that time in history.

In November, 1883, Sojourner Truth died at her home near Battle Creek, Mich.

While it might seem, just reading this review, that what you’ll find in “Sojourner Truth: From Slave to Activist for Freedom” is dry, it’s not entirely so.

Butler includes plenty of extraneous information and Johnson adds in a bit of voicework for drama, but there’s a hidden surprise on this audiobook that’s not mentioned anywhere.

Every now and then, the story stops for a “note” that explains different facets of Sojourner Truth’s life and the times in which she lived. These little asides are nice to hear, and make for a more meaningful story.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given its thoroughness, “Sojourner Truth: From Slave to Activist for Freedom” is good for anyone ages nine to adult. If you want to know more about this remarkable woman, this audiobook is arguably one of the better sources.

(“Sojourner Truth: From Slave to Activist for Freedom” by Mary G. Butler, performed by Allyson Johnson, c.2010, Brilliance Audio, $24.99/$30.99 Canada, 2 CDs/1 hour, 40 minutes.)

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