Sojourner Truth vs. Absalom Jones

The Elate Eight continues today as Sojourner Truth takes on Absalom Jones. Unfair? Of course! It's Lent Madness after all.

To make it to this point, Sojourner sojourned her way past Soren Kierkegaard and Frances Joseph-Gaudet while Absalom sailed past Matthias before sneaking by Joseph.

Yesterday, Constance became the first Lent Madness 2016 participant to reach the Faithful Four, defeating Vida Dutton Scudder 61% to 39%. It's safe to say that, in Constance, we truly do have a Cinderella of this year's bracket! She'll face the winner of Albert Schweitzer and Julian of Norwich in the Faithful Four.

And speaking of brackets and Cinderellas, don't miss our saintly analysis of the NCAA college basketball tournament in Lent Madness meets March Madness. The march to the Faithful Four continues!

Sojourner Truth

ST4Sojourner Truth is so awesome that her kitsch itself is precedent-setting. For example, Sojourner is the first Black American woman to have a bust in the US Capitol, which is pretty neat. (Despite the fact it took until 2006 to get this done. I’m going to ignore the fact you were really late to the party, US Capitol folks, and just celebrate you decided to show up at all.)

During her lifetime, Sojourner made her own kitsch. That’s right--that’s how awesome she was. In the late 1800s, it was customary for photographers to retain the rights to the photos they made. However, Sojourner had none of this. Like an early media maven, she demanded the rights to her own name and image, and sold photo cards of herself at all her speaking appearances, as an extra way to make money. For a former slave, this was an incredible way to assert autonomy over herself, and set a powerful precedent about her right to be reckoned with on her own terms. These photo cards are available on eBay, and the quote she includes on them “I sell the shadow in order to support the substance” is dead-on. The lady did not mess around.  ST8

Of course, after her death, lots of other people messed around all over the place. Hence, the rise of some really curious memorabilia. Sojourner dictated her own autobiography (entitled The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, naturally) and her life was really sad and violent, but this did not stop a surprising number of children’s biographies about her from hitting the streets. Including this one with a truly frightening cover.

ST6In keeping with the “teach the children” theme, there is also a finger puppet, for the non-literate set. (Head is normal size.)

And if you prefer to educate people indirectly, there are Sojourner Truth ST2cufflinksST9 and a Sojourner Truth pocket mirror. (Because nothing screams “Prophet of God’s Radical Love!” like cufflinks.)



But maybe music is what you prefer? Lots of musical artists have found Sojourner’s life inspiring, including (not making this up) The Deedle Deedle Dees, who have a song about her on their album, which also features such feel-good dittys as “Phineas Gage Has Something To Tell These People” (yup) and the classic “Mayor LaGuardia’s Stomach” (of course.)

Less upsettingly, there is also Langston Hughes (yes! that Langston Hughes!) who has a recording in which he recounts events in Black history, including Sojourner’s life. His stories are interspersed with freedom songs and chants, by people like Leadbelly and others.

But I have saved the most spectacular for last. I ask you to cast your mind back, back to a ST7simpler time in the late 1990s, and the first time we sent a robot to Mars. That’s right! Sojourner Truth has a space robot named after her!!!!

The Sojourner JPL Rover, as named by a 12-year old girl in an essay contest, landed on Mars, and then was promptly never heard from again. (Whoops). But, this did not prevent its extensive merchandising, including HotWheels!

ST3And, in the movie The Martian, when Matt Damon needs some high-tech rescuing; when he is stranded alone, afraid, and in need of a friendly voice, who saves the day?


Even in the imaginary world of near-future science fiction, Sojourner Truth manages to bring hope and love to the furthest reaches of the human experience.


-- Megan Castellan

Absalom Jones

UBEMD-2015-MEMORIAL-JONES-0839On January 1, 1808, the Rev. Absalom Jones stood on the lectern of Philadelphia’s African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas (then located at the corner of Fifth and Adelphi streets) and gave a rousing sermon. He wasn’t there to talk about slavery and bondage. He was there to speak about deliverance!

Born a slave, Absalom worked during the night for many years in order to buy his wife’s freedom, andAJ2 later his own. He was industrious. With his master’s permission, he went to school to learn how to read and write. Perhaps this is why you can now see his wax likeness at the Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore. The statue's unveiling took place at a meeting of the Union of Black Episcopalians at the Diocese of Maryland's Cathedral of the Incarnation

Absalom Jones loved the church. He became a lay minister at the interracial congregation of St. George's Methodist Church. He was one of the first African Americans licensed to preach in a Methodist church. Perhaps this is why William Faulkner wrote a book titled Absalom, Absalom!

AJ3Absalom Jones knew that being a Christian entails having a higher standard! When he and other African-Americans were asked to move to the balcony of the church, he and all the others decided to walk out—an action that resulted in the formation of the Free African Society and the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas. Perhaps this is why he apparently loved football.

Absalom Jones was charitable. When Philadelphia was struck with yellow fever ("Absalom Would Go?"), Absalom Absalom_Jones_Photo_1_webJones assisted Dr. Benjamin Rush in helping people afflicted by the plague. Jones' corps of black Philadelphians helped nurse the sick, as well as bury the dead. Jones sometimes worked through the night taking care of the sick. During those days, almost twenty times more black people helped the plague-struck than did whites. Perhaps this is why he was once portrayed in a "Testimony Dance Drama" at a church in North Carolina.

aecst_cremainsAlthough Absalom Jones died in 1818, the issue of his time, slavery, points directly toward our day. How much would he have enjoyed seeing the Thirteen Amendment being ratified, hearing Martin Luther King speak at the Lincoln Memorial, watching Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration! Perhaps this is why his ashes are are kept on display in a bronze, Bible-shaped box in a chapel dedicated to him at the church he founded in Philadelphia.

Jones finished his 1808 sermon with this heartfelt prayer: “Give peace in our day, we beseech thee, O thou God of peace! And grant, that this highly favored country may continue to afford a safe and peaceful retreat from the calamities of war and slavery, for ages yet to come.”

-- Hugo Olaiz

Sojourner Truth vs. Absalom Jones

  • Sojourner Truth (63%, 3,729 Votes)
  • Absalom Jones (37%, 2,152 Votes)

Total Voters: 5,881

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158 comments on “Sojourner Truth vs. Absalom Jones”

      1. Amen! And again I say amen! But, sadly, the rules do not permit it. So, unless we want our vote invalidated, we must choose.

    1. Oh my, I'm with you. Two human beings of such great substance and passion. In the end I voted for Sojourner Truth because she had to deal with the double whammy of being both a slave and a woman.

    2. I agree! We want BOTH. So I split the baby in half.

      I voted for Truth❤️

      And I pray with Absalom-
      “Give peace in our day, we beseech thee, O thou God of peace! And grant, that this highly favored country may continue to afford a safe and peaceful retreat from the calamities of war and slavery, for ages yet to come.”

    1. I know--right, Oliver?! Hilarious! I say Sojourner for the Golden Halo. And, by the way, fabulous job of kitsch kommentary, dear bloggers!

      1. I agree with SusanLee. Great writing! I love the round of kitsch. It was Truth for me today.

    2. Oliver, the word sojourner to me means "journey." The Sojourner that landed on Mars took a journey and I really admire Sojourner Truth for the journey she took 🙂

      1. Are you kidding? Maybe Megan wanted Sojourner to lose? What about all the real substantial things she actually did? A sojourn is a journey so it was really not named after her. I voted for her for all the things she did.

        1. The rover is indeed named after her:
          NASA wanted to name the rover after "a heroine", and invited children and teens to submit essays suggesting a name. Sojourner really was a great choice on more than one level.

          But as for all the real, substantial things Sojourner Truth did, they were covered in the previous rounds. I voted for her as well.

    3. Oliver,
      Sojourner may not have actually landed on Mars, but her truth of equality and freedom certainly reached to the stars. Good choice, Oliver.

  1. Truth!! By the way- The Deedle Deedle Dees are fantastic. Great music for kids that adults will also like. Their music teaches anout American History.

  2. This is a difficult choice - I love Sojourner because she lived in Dutchess County very near where I was born but I voted for Absalom because he bought his wife's freedom first and helped Benjamin Rush during a fever epidemic.

    1. Great reasons for voting for Absalom Jones, but there are great reasons, in addition to her being a native daughter of Duchess County, to support Sojourner Truth as well.

      This was the hardest one for me yet! I actually flipped a coin.

  3. It is getting more difficult each day to vote. This year's writers,
    perhaps the same as last year I don't know, are making this so
    interesting. Thanks

  4. No way to "choose" between the the two...
    So I had to go with the Sojourner Mars Rover~ Hah!

    Good find, Megan C.!

  5. If we measure two awesome people by the amount of kitsch they generate, gotta go for Sojourner.

  6. Absalom's prayer is a timely one for me today. But I voted for Sojourner because I have the Hot Wheels Sojourner Mars Rover. Since I own that piece of today's Saintly kitsch, how could I not vote for that saint? 🙂

  7. I appreciate that Lent Madness is primarily humorous, and not meant to be taken seriously. Still, I would like the commentary on the candidates to have more substance and less trivia. To me, it's a little disrespectful to have these great people reduced to toys and trading cards.

    1. I think it is all in the interests of generating curiosity to learn about the saints and to have fun while we're doing it. In the first round we get a full biography and more serious information, you can always look back to that.

    2. Pleas go back and read the first two rounds.
      And then watch the Monday madness video about kitsch kranks.
      I think it is amazing to see what people have inspired over the years...

    3. I think both Sojourner & Absalom would get a kick out of Kitsch. Including the Sojourner robot for Mars was a great find!!!

    4. Beachcomber, the serious stuff was provided in the first round. You can go back and re-read it if you need to. I did for several of the earlier candidates in this round. Anyway, it is fun to read about the Sojourner Mars robot. The fact that Sojourner managed to maintain the rights to her own image while she was alive says a great deal about the force of her character, as well as her business savvy.

    5. I look at kitsch as part of the spectrum of devotional items. Dashboard Jesus is kitsch, but how is it really that different from a statue of Jesus in a sanctuary?

  8. Most difficult choice yet; I want to vote enthusiastically for both. Flipped the coin and it came out for Absalom. However, I will hope and vote for Sojourner for the halo.

  9. I agree with Monica. I want to vote for both. This is getting increasingly harder. Absalom warms my heart because of many things but especially because he chose to buy his wife's freedom first. True love if I ever saw it. Sojourner was such a smart and innovative woman at a time when it truly was not expected of women. I am truly torn. Will have to contemplate today's decision a bit longer.

  10. This was so difficult. I ended up with Sojourner because she was a knitter like myself. I will be happy regardless of who wins!

  11. Sojourner Truth House is a ministry for homeless and at-risk women and their children located in Gary IN. I have a brochure, which has a copy of her picture. My first piece of Saintly Kitsch.

  12. I'm for Sojourner and was so happy to discover through her fine blogger that Sojourner did not give the speech "Ain't I a Woman" so long attributed to her.

  13. Because the SEC seems to revel in the unfair, I'm hoping for a Constance v. Sojourner match for the Golden Halo. I'm pretty sure the whole Lent Madness website would blow up.

  14. Love this one. So hard to choose. i love the Picture of the Bishops together, especially since our Retired bishop Arthur is in it beside Presiding Bishop Michael. guess I will vote of Jones.

  15. Who wouldn't vote for a Saint with a galactic impact? Sojourner, absolutely, Absalom. Sorry, dude - it's March Madness.

  16. Absalom is the underdog right now, so I voted for him just to keep the pot stirred. Agree with all those who wish they could vote for both - great kitsch today!

  17. Was this set up to remind us that Lent is about suffering? Agonizing choice--wish it was an "and" rather than an "or". I closed my eyes and went with Absalom as I continue to be moved by him buying his wife's freedom first so that his children would be born free. But the Mars connection to Sojourner made it very, very tough.