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Sojourner Truth

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I knew Sojourner Truth more than forty years ago in New England. She was then 70 years oíd, but seemed hardly beyond tbe prime and glory of hor vvomanhood. In those days Harriet Beecher Stowe described her as "thé Lybian Sibyl," gifted with propbetic insiglit and tall and erect íike a strong and graoeful Af rican palm tree. She would do more housework of the heaviest kind than two ordinary vvomen, and yet be one of the best watchei-s by a sickbed at night. A sick man she lifted to the best place on his bed as easily and tenderly as a mother would lift her baby, and the touch of her hand srnoothing tbe pillow and stroking the fevered brow was health and quiet, while her wail, "Tbere, honey, you's easier novv," had a strange power to give ease and calm. Untrained in grammar or rhetoric, never able to read or write, tbere was a quaint disregard for set rule of speeeh in her public and private discourse, but no fine rhetorician could make his meaning plainer and few could equal her in 'power of expression or eiuberance of imagery. A few years after the close of the civil war X went with her to the senate reception room in the Capítol at Washington. She stood beneath tbe center of its arcbed ceiling and the deep look of her wonderful eyes seemed to take in tbe beauty of pictured forms and glowing colors on its walls, as she said: "Dis is like the picture chambers of de New Jerusalem dat dey read about in de Book." Then she looked out of the window and saw the poor buts of the freed people not far away, and said in tender tones: "But they don't have dem overthere." A great gospel of divinity and of tender humanity seemed spoken in two brief sentences. Great souls can move other souls. "AS THE SPIRIT TOLD HER." In the winter of 1871-72 I spent some time in Washington, and about midwinterlearned that Sojouiner Truth was in the city. Had I not known her ways this wonld have been a surprise, for the long winter's journey from her home at Battle C'eek, in tbe center of Michigan, was a serious undertaking I for a woman near her lOÜth birtbday. But I knew that she always went "as the good spirit tolil her," and that some strong feeling of duty to be done led her to the capital city. Her way opened, not long after, for some good service among the freedmen at the hospitals. I soon went to see her and sbe said, with great earnestness: "I believe de good Lord sent you, for you are de very one I wanted to see." Asking wbat was specially wanted, she said: "I want to see President Grant, and you can get me tbere." I told her that was easier said than done, but I would try, and tbe next day wrote a note to him, saying she wished to see him at some fit time, took it to the White House, snt it in to the business offlee, and a verbal message soon came back to me in the naiting room that any morning would suit. In a few days Sojoumer, with two ladies, a venerable friend of Quaker birtb and myself, went to meet tbe appointment nnd I sent in a card, "Sojourner Truth and friends," which brought back in a half hour a messenger to escort us to President Grant's ofBce. He sat at tbe end of a long table in the center of the room, with documents piled before him, and just closing au interview with other persons. I stepped forward to introduce the party and to bring Sojourner beside tbe table. She had met President Lincoln, and be, a bom Kentuckian, could cali her "Aunty" in the oíd familiar way, vvhile Grant, tbough kindly, w,as reticent, and all was not quite easy at fii'st. But a happy thought came to her. Not long before the president had signed some bill of uew guarantees of justice to the colored people. Sbe spoke of tbis with gratitude; tbe tbin ice broke and words came freely from both, for Grant was an easy and flueut talker, but had tbe wisdom of silence until tbe fit time came to sp?ak. Standing there, tall and erect while stirred in soul by tbe occasion, her wonderful eyes glowed as sbe thanked him for his good deeds and gave wise counsel in her own clear and quaint way. FIXE AND SIMPLK DIGNITY. Her words came in tones full of deep power and tenderness, and he listened with great interest and respect, and told her that he "hoped always to be just to all aud especially to see that the poor and defenseless were fairly treated." His voice and nianner told how his heart was touched, and his softened tones showed how "the bravest are the tenderest." Sbe told him how his tasks and trials were appreciated and how much faith was placed in his upright doing of duty to the oppressed, and be quietly, yet with much feeling, expressed the hope that he might ever be wisc and firin and never forget the inalienable rigbts of all. Only great souls can comprehend truo greatness, and these two understood each other. Notbing in the illustrious career of Gen. Grant gave me a fuller sense of bis largeness of heart and mind than his unpretendins simplicityand appreciative respect in this interview, while the fine and simple dignity of Sojouiner Truth also gave me a fuller sense of her larce womanhood. She said to him: "I have a little book here that I cali my book of life. A good many ñames are in it, and I have kept a place on the same pago with Lincoln's for you to write your name." Heieplied: "lam glad to put it there," and wrote his autograph in her little book. She then said: "It will do me good for you to have my photograph," and with evident pleasuie bo thanked her and selected one from several laid on the table. The conversation had lasted beyond the usual time, others stood by, waiting tbeir turn, yet listening with great interest, and the fit time came to leave. The president rose from bis chair and gave Sojourner his band witb a parting word of good will. Tbis mutual respect and appreciative sympatby between tbe president of a great republic and a woman born a slave and representiug an oppre'aed people was admirable and inspiring.- G. B. Stebbins.


Old News
Ann Arbor Register