Today, we are reading the story from the Edcon Reading Comprehension Workbook, "The Law is For Everybody". It is a story about a freed slave, living in New York, whose son is stolen and sold into slavery in the South. It is the story of Sojourner Truth.
Bell needs a friendly, sympathetic lawyer.
Slavery was not confined to the southern United States; many slaves lived without freedom in the North as well. Among them was a woman named Isabelle, born into slavery in New York around 1795. Isabelle stood six feet tall, and she declared that she "could work as much as a man, and eat as much as a man, when I could get it."
On July 4, 1827, Isabelle was sweeping the kitchen of her latest and most kindly owners, the Van Wageners, when Mrs. Van Wagener appeared at the door.
"Isn't it a beautiful day, Belle!" she exclaimed.
"Going to be terribly hot," Belle answered.
"Belle, don't you realize today is Freedom Day?" questioned Mrs. Van Wagener. "By New York state law, you're officially a free woman!"
"Mr. Gedney sold Peter to Mr. Fowler," the woman informed Belle, "and Mr. Fowler took him to Alabama months ago."
"They couldn't sell Peter out of the state!" exclaimed Belle. "The law would forbid it. Down South, he'll stay a slave forever!"
"Why chatter about the law?" wondered the old woman. "The law is for white folks. Don't you know that?"
"The law is for everybody," insisted Belle, and out of her grief for her son grew her determination to prove it. "I will have my child again!" she cried, and then began to pray:
Belle then visited a family that had often been kind to her. They urged her to notify a lawyer, named Mr. Chip, about Peter's sale.
"Well, what do you want?" asked Lawyer Chip when Belle arrived in his office.
"I want my son," Belle explained, pouring out the story of Peter's sale to Mr. Fowler.
"Are you saying your boy has been sold out of this state?" questioned the lawyer. Angrily, he gathered together some official documents. "I'll notify Gedney that Peter must be brought back," he told Belle.
But travel between New York and Alabama took months in those days, and Mr. Gedney was furious about making the trip. Belle's anxiety grew with each passing day as she waited nearly a year for Gedney and Peter to return - and then Gedney refused to let her see her son!
She hurried back to Lawyer Chip, but he was not sympathetic about her anxiety and grief. "Court is closed until next season," he said. "You will have to wait several months."
"But Mr. Gedney is madder than a hornet," cried Belle, "and he'll take it out on my boy."
"There is nothing I can do," Lawyer Chip insisted. "Now be off, woman, because I have more important concerns."
Belle left Lawyer Chip's office and turned again to her one sure ally, God.
As if in answer to Belle's prayers, a sympathetic stranger approached her and suggested she visit yet another lawyer, Mr. Romeyne. "I think he will help you," the stranger said.
Belle thanked him tearfully and sped to Mr. Romeyne's house. Sure enough, he was also sympathetic to her cause and arranged a special meeting of the court. Mr. Gedney was ordered to bring Peter to that meeting.
The morning of the special meeting, Belle rushed joyfully into the courtroom, feeling, she said later, "as ifthe power of a nation was within me." The moment she saw Peter she cried out his name and started toward him. But he fell to the floor, clutching Mr. Gedney's leg and screaming, "That's not my mother! My mother doesn't look like that!"
Belle turned to Lawyer Romeyne in confusion. Then all eyes were on the judge as he spoke to the trembling child.
"What are those scars on your forehead and cheek, Peter?" the judge asked.
"That's where Master Fowler's horses kicked me, sir," the boy sobbed.
Peter screamed in terror. Gedney left the courtroom in rage, and Belle slowly approached her son.
"When will I be taken South again?" the frightened boy questioned anxiously.
"Master Gedney warned me to remain with him, or Master Fowler would make me return to Alabama. Master Fowler mistreated me all the time; 11 horses never kicked me Look!" and Peter lifted his shirt to show other markings from other whippings.
Michelle Obama and Sojourner statue
"Nobody is going to take you away ever again," she comforted him. "The law forbid it. It's the law that returned you to me and the law will continue to protect you. It's more powerful than Mr. Gedney and Mr. Fowler - and the law is for everybody."
Years later, Belle became traveling preacher. She gained fame as she spoke out against slavery, for God, and for women's rights. She replaced her slave name with one that represented her new career and her great faith in God. The name she chose is respected and honored to this day: Sojourner Truth.
This story is an article from a series of Reading Comprehension Workbooks by Edcon Publishing Group. It is under Copyright, and included here with permission from the company. Edcon has all the rights to the audio files of their articles and stories. Edcon Publishing has a very large selection of different types of readings and other materials for learning. I highly recommend this company. - The Teacher
Here is a biography of Sojourner Truth:
Sojourner Truth's Biography
Read Sojourner's famous speech, "Ain"t I a Woman?"
Here is a video from You Tube of actress Kerry Washington reading Sojourner Truth's speech, "Ain't I a Woman?"
1. On July 4, 1827, Isabelle ___________ .
2. Next, Belle decided to _____________ .
3. Belle learned that Peter _________ .
4. The old woman at the Gedney farm thought that _______ .
5. Belle knew _____ .
6. Mr. Chip notified Mr. Gedney that ___________ .
7. Belle was afraid that Peter would _______ .
8. Belle chose the name_______ .
9. Another name for this story could be ___________ .
10. This story is mainly about __________ .
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Feel Free! ... John Robinson, The Teacher
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