Strategies of Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and John Brown
Abolitionist Movement was a reform movement during the 18th and 19th centuries. Often called the antislavery movement, it sought to end the enslavement of Africans and people of African descent in Europe, the Americas, and Africa itself. It also aimed to end the Atlantic slave trade carried out in the Atlantic Ocean between Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Many people participated in trying to end slavery. These people became known as the abolitionists. The three well-known abolitionists are Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and John Brown.
Sojourner Truth (1797-1883), born into slavery as Isabella, was an American abolitionist and an advocate of women’s rights. She joined the abolitionist movement and became a travelling preacher. She took her new name-Sojourner Truth-in 1843 and began preaching along the eastern seaboard. Her strategy consisted of walking through Long Island and Connecticut, speaking to people about her life and her relationship with God. She was a powerful speaker and singer. When she rose to speak, wrote one observer, “her commanding figure and dignified manner hushed every trifler to silence.” Audiences were “melted into tears by her touching stories”. She traveled and spoke widely.
Encountering the women’s rights movement in 1850, Truth added its causes to hers. She is particularly remembered for the famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech she gave at the woman’s rights convention in 1851. Although Truth never learned to read or write, she dictated her memoirs to Olive Gilbert and they were published in 1850s as The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave. This book, and her presence as a speaker, made her a sought-after figure on the anti-slavery woman’s rights lecture circuit.
Harriet Tubman was closely associated with Abolitionist John Brown and was well acquainted with other abolitionists, including Frederick Douglas, Jermain Loguen, and Gerrit Smith. After freeing herself from slavery, Tubman worked at various activities to save to finance her activities as a Conductor of the Underground Railroad. She is believed to have conducted approximately 300 persons to freedom in the North. The tales of her exploits reveal her highly spiritual nature, as well as a grim determination to protect her charges and those who aided them. Her strategy was to show confidence to the people she was responsible for. Like Truth, she used words to influence others. She always expressed confidence that God would aid her efforts, and threatened to shoot any of her charges who thought to turn back. For example, Tubman had a very short rule, which implied death to anyone who talked of giving out and going back. She would give all to understand that “times were very critical and therefore no foolishness would be indulged in on the road”. Her subjects were greatly invigorated by Harriet’s blunt and positive manner and threat of extreme measures.
When William Still published The Underground Railroad in 1871, he included a letter from Thomas Garret, the Stationmaster of Wilmington Delaware. In this letter, Garret describes Tubman as “Moses”. “He success was wonderful. Time and time again she made successful visits to Maryland on the Underground Railroad, and would be absent for weeks at a time, running daily risks while making preparations for herself and her passengers. Great fears were entertained for her safety, but she seemed wholly devoid of personal fearshe would not suffer one of her party to whimper once, about giving out and going back, however wearied they might be by the hard travel day and night.”
John Brown was an American abolitionist, born in Connecticut and raised in Ohio. Unlike Truth and Hubman’s peaceful strategies, he felt passionately and violently that he must fight to end slavery. The success of the pro-slavery forces, especially their lack of Lawrence, aroused Brown, and in order to cause a restraining fear he, with four of his sons and two other men, led the murder of five pro-slavery men on the banks of the Pottawatomie River. He stated that he was an instrument in the hand of God. His exploits as a leader of an antislavery bank received wide publicity, especially in abolitionist journals, and as Old Brown of Osawatomie he became nationally known. Brown did not end there. In October 1856, Brown and 21 followers captured the U.S. arsenal Harpers Ferry. Brown planned the takeover as the first step in his liberation of the slaves, but it was taken the next morning by Robert E. Lee.
In my opinion, speaking skills is the most effective strategy one could use. Surely, violence may make others think. However, as a wise man once said, “violence breeds violence”. Therefore, an outcome of violence may not always be a positive one. I think that Truth’s strategy of public speaking can be considered most effective. Powerful speakers, in fact, can greatly influence audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Furthermore, Harriet Tubman also used the power of speech to persuade others to do what she needed them to do. Her subjects listed to what she had to say and were encouraged enough by her words not to give up and to continue their journey to freedom.
As a result of the abolitionist movement, the institution of slavery ceased to exist in Europe and the Americas by 1888, although it was not completely legally abolished in Africa until the first quarter of the 20th century. While the abolitionist movement’s greatest achievement was certainly the liberation of millions of black people from servitude, it also reflected the triumph of modern ideas of freedom and human rights over older social forms based on privileged elites and social stratification.
Baines, Rae. Harriet Tubman-The Road to Freedom. New Jersey: Troll Asssociates,
Bernard, Jacqueline. Journey Toward Freedom-The Story of Sojourner Truth. New
York: Norton Publishers, 1967.
Ripley, Peter C. The Black Abolitionist Papers. Chapel Hill: University of North
Carolina Press, 1985.
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