We are excited to join Kidlit Frenzy’s Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge this year. Our book selections would be interwoven with our current reading theme: Rainbow Colors of Diversity – Voices of the Silenced where we highlight multicultural titles.
I did not know about Sojourner Truth until I read this gorgeously-illustrated and beautifully-written picturebook biography by the Pinkneys. The first page of the book opens with a vivid description of this formidable woman.
She was big. She was black. She was so beautiful.
Her name was Sojourner.
Truth be told, she was meant for great things. Meant for speaking. Meant for preaching. Meant fo teaching the truth about freedom.
Big. Black. Beautiful. True. That was Sojourner.
Sojourner belongs to a family of slaves, was born in 1797, and was sold as early as when she was nine years old. Belle, as she was called by her parents had a strong build, huge hands, and was extremely tall (she was six feet tall while still a child) – attributes that were deemed valuable by a lot of plantation owners. Her master, John Dumont, gave her his word that if she worked extra hard, she would be given her freedom – a promise that was not honored after years of toil and hardship. Finally realizing that her master’s word was not to be trusted, Sojourner ran away and found hope with a Quaker couple who turned out to be abolitionists. She eventually gained her freedom and found her way to New York City, where she decided to change her name to Sojourner Truth – to signify her new life and her intention to travel wherever her feet took her to speak her truth.
Sojourner turned out to be such a powerful speaker whose words are able to move an entire crowd of people. While she is unable to read, she memorized the entire Bible and would allow her words to fly free as she preached from the pulpits, notwithstanding other people’s notions that women should not have that kind of privilege. She was a human rights activist who allowed the collective voices of silenced women to be heard through her booming voice.
I particularly loved the scene where Sojourner “step-stomped” her way in to a women’s rights convention in a church in Ohio. The ministers quoted from the bible about the inherent sinfulness of women (citing the proverbial story of Eve and the serpent and the forbidden fruit), and claimed that women were weak creatures who needed the strengh and wisdom of men.
Sojourner’s towering presence and huge strides put an end to that meeting’s palpable ignorance – her voice a raging storm that drowned out the pitiful whining of the ministers; their little minds shriveled to a pulp as Sojourner spoke out her truth point by blazing point. How I would have loved to witness this episode in history.
The detailed Author’s note found at the back of the book include a few pertinent highlights from her lifestory. She eventually became a very popular lecturer in many states by the early 1850s, and even met President Abraham Lincoln. For teachers who wish to make use of this book in the classroom, here is a downloadable discussion guide created by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, a reading specialist and children’s author. The guide includes possible discussion questions that may be used in class, reading and writing projects, and an interview with Andrea and Brian Pinkney.
Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp-Stride by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney. Published by Jump at the Sun Books, 2009. Book borrowed from the NIE library. Book photos taken by me.
Reading Challenge Update: 74 (25)