Storyteller Laura Packer addresses the legacy of Sojourner Truth during a March 16 event at Niagara University that was held in conjunction with Women's History Month.

Faculty and students at Niagara University were in for a treat Wednesday night at the Castellani Art Museum as Laura Packer told the story of abolitionist and suffragist Sojourner Truth.

The event was sponsored by the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, the Castellani Art Museum and Niagara University’s historycommunication studies, and liberal arts departments.

The audience was in awe as Packer described Truth’s life and legacy. Born Isabella Baumfree, Truth was born a slave about 95 miles north of New York City. Inspired by the events that shaped her life, Truth began to fight for her freedom – and won. Since she was illiterate, Truth communicated with people through her amazing storytelling and impressive vocal skills.

During her presentation, Packer explained the importance of Women’s History Month.

“Women’s History Month is a reminder that we have come so far yet we have so far to go,” Packer said. “It’s just like black history or any type of history; it’s human history.”

Many students at Niagara University voiced how they were impressed by Truth’s story and felt that it was important for everyone to learn about iconic women.

Student Joelle Marino explained why she thought Women’s History Month was needed.

“We should celebrate women’s history because women have had an influence that is sometimes overlooked in mainstream modern history classes,” Marino said.  “I think she [Truth] was ambitious.”

Dr. Shannon Risk, associate history professor at Niagara University, thought Packer’s performance was outstanding, and was amazed by Truth’s powerful story. Dr. Risk is one of the many individuals responsible for planning Women’s History Month events on Niagara University’s campus.

“It’s so inspirational to hear about this woman who was born into slavery and suffered abuses that I hope none of us have to suffer,” Dr. Risk said.  “And [she] went on to be this incredible inspiration to others.”

A theme throughout Truth’s life was strength and determination.

Several audience members commented on Truth’s importance in history. In addition to being an extraordinary abolitionist, she was one of the first black women to successfully sue a slave owner.

After Packer’s performance, students and faculty were able to ask questions and learn more about the art of storytelling.

Article by junior communication studies major Maegan Jones. Photos by Andrew Emmons, a Niagara University sophomore studying communications, and criminology and criminal justice.

Your Thoughts