Here are seven Caribbean and American women who were abolitionists, revolutionaries and activists. These women fought to free their people from the chains of slavery, discrimination and the lasting effects of slavery. Some took up arms, some used strategy and some used the pen.
The women discussed in this video are:
Sojourner Truth was born Isabella Bomfree, in Ulster County, New York in 1797. SA a slave she was bought and sold four times, and subjected to harsh physical labour and violent punishments.
Truth escaped at the age of 29 with her infant daughter. After the New York Anti-Slavery Law was passed a year later, Truth’s former master illegally sold her 5-year-old son. She took him to court and became the first African-American woman to sue a white man and win.
Truth moved to New York City in 1828, where she worked for a local minister. By the early 1830s, she participated in the religious revivals that were sweeping the state and became a charismatic speaker. In 1843, she declared that the Spirit called on her to preach the truth, renaming herself Sojourner Truth.
In 1850, Truth spoke at the first National Women’s Rights Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts. She soon began touring regularly with abolitionist George Thompson, speaking to large crowds on the subjects of slavery and human rights.
In May 1851, at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Truth gave her most famous speech in which she shared the unique discrimination she faced as a Black woman and asked the rhetorical question “Ain’t I a Woman?”
Sojourner Truth devoted her life to the abolitionist cause and helped to recruit Black troops for the Union Army. Although Truth began her career as an abolitionist, the reform causes she sponsored were broad and varied, including prison reform, property rights and universal suffrage.
Mary Prince was born in 1788, to an enslaved family in Bermuda. She was sold to a number of brutal owners and suffered terrible treatment. In 1815 Mary was sold to the Wood family in Antigua. There she joined the Moravian Church where she attended classes and learned to read.
In December 1826, she secretly married Daniel James, a former slave who had bought his freedom and worked as a carpenter. Mary was punished by her master for marrying a free black man. Two years later she was separated from her husband after her master took her to live in England. She eventually ran away and found freedom, but only in England.
The UK had abolished slavery on home soil after the passage of the Slave Trade Act in 1808 but had allowed the cruel practice to continue in the Caribbean islands. She could not return to her husband as she risked being sold back into slavery.
Instead, Mary spent her time campaigning against slavery, working alongside the Anti-Slavery Society and taking employment with Thomas Pringle, an abolitionist writer and Secretary to the Anti-Slavery Society.
She became the first woman to present an anti-slavery petition to Parliament and the first black woman to write and publish an autobiography in England, ‘The History of Mary Prince: A West Indian Slave’. The book was a key part of the anti-slavery campaign. It made people in Britain aware that, although the Slave Trade had been made illegal, the horrors of life on the plantations continued for so many people.
In 2012, Bermuda named Mary Prince a National Hero.
5 more abolitionists
Marie Sainte Dédée Bazile
Dédée Bazile joined the Haitian resistance where she met Jean-Jacques Dessalines and other slavery abolitionists. She made her living providing food and supplies to the soldiers in Dessalines camp.
Harriet Tubman escaped slavery and freed many slaves through her underground railroad. She was a freedom fighter and played an active role in the women’s suffrage movement
Ida B Wells
Some eighty years before Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, 22-year-old Wells refused to move out of the train seat that she had paid for.