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Brooklyn courts go back in time for tea with Sojourner Truth

February 11, 2016 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Kings County Courts Black History Month Committee (BHMC) had tea with abolitionist and women's rights activist Sojourner Truth (center, played by Shirley Paul Esq.) for its latest Black History Month event. Also pictured are BHMC Co-Chairs Leah Richardson (left) and Justice Deborah Dowling. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese

For its latest Black History Month event, the Kings County Supreme Court traveled back in time to have tea with abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth in a discussion called “Ain’t I a Woman?” in Downtown Brooklyn on Wednesday.

Truth, who was born in 1797 and died in 1883, was expertly played by attorney Shirley Paul. Truth is best known for being the first black woman to win the freedom of her son, a slave, in a lawsuit.

“She was Fab-u-lous,” Justice Robin K. Sheares said of Paul’s performance. “Her mannerisms, the pauses, everything was excellent and the costume itself was on point. They even gave her little twists of grey hair. It was perfect.”

Truth, as played by Paul, sat down with June Farrow to discuss Truth’s life, her role in the abolitionist movement before the Civil War and her work for women’s rights. The two discussed her meetings with U.S. Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln, as well has her various lawsuits.

“I can’t read, but I can still sue,” Truth said during the interview.

The Black History Month Committee had a similar sit-down with Harriet Tubman last year and wanted to shed light on a lesser known, but also very important, historical black figure this time around.

“We had Harriet Tubman last year so we wanted to change it up,” Sheares said. “Everyone knows about Harriet Tubman, everyone knows about Martin Luther King and Frederick Douglas, but very few people know who Sojourner Truth is.”

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Perhaps nobody learned as much about Sojourner Truth as Paul did. She didn’t miss a beat while discussing the life of Truth with Farrow and she wasn’t stumped once when she took questions from the audience during a Q&A session.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” Paul admitted. “I was so nervous. I didn’t want to mess anything up so I have been studying since Saturday. It was an honor to play her and I’m glad that people were impressed.”

 

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