The Two Sojourners
Mars mission launches opportunity to discover Sojourner Truth
Who in late-19th-century America could have imagined that, a mere 10
decades or so later, a machine called a micro-rover would soon be landing
on Mars to scout the planet? And--now here's a stretch--that such a machine
would be named in honor of someone from their own century? And perhaps most
unimaginable of all, that this futuristic machine would be named not for
a scientist, nor a wealthy patron, nor any man among them--but in honor
of a woman, a black woman, a freed slave named Sojourner Truth.
The micro-rover named Sojourner--a 25-pound, six-wheeled robotic explorer,
the first ever on Mars--will roam across an ancient Martian flood plain
after the Pathfinder lands on the Red Planet on July 4. The machine will
"travel up and down the land" as Sojourner Truth did--only her
quest was not to collect scientific data, but to fight for the rights of
all people to be free and for women to participate fully in society.
As data from the rover is relayed to earth and makes headlines in the
months ahead, ask your students: What, besides their names, do the two Sojourners
have in common? What could possibly link these two pioneers--well, there's
one point--across more than a hundred years and millions of miles? It's
an opportune time to introduce students to Sojourner Truth, her amazing
life, and her thought-provoking, inspiring speech, "Ain't I A Woman?"
Unintimidated by boos and hisses, Sojourner Truth stood before a white
audience at an 1851 conference on women's rights and, in her powerful way,
brought to their attention that the rights of black women were being ignored:
". . . That man over there says that women need to be
helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place
everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or
gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm!
I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could
head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a
man--when I could get it--and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman?
I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery,
and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And
ain't I a woman? . . ."
Invite students to examine the odds Sojourner Truth had to overcome in
her life. What odds do NASA scientists face in their quest to explore Mars?
Born into slavery in the late 1790s, Sojourner Truth eventually spoke
before Congress and two presidents during her long and productive life.
She was appointed to the National Freedmen's Relief Association to help
council ex-slaves, and she worked to help desegregate streetcars in the
District of Columbia. She died in 1883.
In 1986, Sojourner Truth was honored on a U.S. commemorative postage
stamp. Now she again has been honored by having the Mars Pathfinder micro-rover
named for her. The Sojourner micro-rover will "travel up and down"
on the Red Planet during the approximate bicentennial year of her birth.
Today we count Sojourner Truth among the heroes of the 1800s. One hundred
years from now, who will be honored as making a difference in the 20th century?
Read all about her!
Books about Sojourner Truth:
Article by Colleen Newquist
Copyright © 1997 Education World