Sojourner Truth and Her Contemporary Media: Reports of Truth’s Identity, Intelligence, and Eloquence
Late nineteenth-century news reporters struggled with depictions of Sojourner Truth. There was tension between her obvious influence and dominant ideologies at the time, but the acknowledgments of her power, regardless of how mediated, were enough to solidify her place in American history. People were incredibly fascinated by her, even if they were not quite ready to accept her message. While they were sure to mention her race, gender, and lack of formal education in derogatory ways, the fact that the media reported on her so heavily reveals the novelty status of Truth, and the platform that this gave her in a time when people like her were not readily listened to. Their interest in her might have more to do with the sensationalized aspects of her identity (her status as a former slave, an uneducated black woman, her presumed old age), but that interest made sure her reputation as an effective advocate of abolition and women’s rights lived on long after she did. This says a lot about how people of marginalized identities find a platform from which to speak and are remembered for their insistence on such a platform, despite attempts to mediate their influence. This article examines historical newspapers for how mediated these reports were and explores the impact that mediation may have had on Truth’s reputation in her own time.