Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Sojourner Truth—I Sell The Shadow To Support The Substance

I saw this picture of Sojourner Truth a few days ago with the caption below, and I knew I had to have it in the blog.

“I sell the shadow to support the substance.”

Sometimes hard facts are best and are what you need.

But so often, when you are trying to convince someone of something, or trying to understand something yourself, it is the essence of the facts, or the essence of the larger point, that you are looking for.

I’ve found that people easily able to grasp the essence of the matter at hand, or the “shadow” as Sojourner Truth says here, are often the more flexible and humane people I meet.

Rigidity and needing every fact can be toxic to understanding the world around you and getting along with others.

Being open and flexible and grasping the issue at hand from the facts that are available is a gift.

Here is information about Sojourner Truth

April 6, 2008 - Posted by | History | , ,


  1. Its true that you could say corporate laws need to be changed, but if you are talking to a blue collar republican who delivers your dairy to your restaurant you have to say gas prices would be cheaper if there was better regulation on what is being charged to the consumer. you could say porn is bad, but you could better say it to someone as what if times were tough and this was your mother or sister or daughter doing this with their life… the hard facts are not personally connected in most cases so you must bring the point to a personal level for most to think about a issue or consider living a different way.

    Comment by bill brady | April 6, 2008

  2. Good points, and I would add that often if you’re looking for the hard facts, you’re going to be disappointed because you’ll find a lot of disagreement even on the hard facts.

    I recommend Emily Dickinson’s “Tell all the Truth, but Tell it Slant”:

    Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—
    Success in Circuit lies
    Too bright for our infirm Delight
    The Truth’s superb surprise

    As Lightning to the Children eased
    With explanation kind
    The Truth must dazzle gradually
    Or every man be blind—

    Comment by Whosplayin | April 6, 2008

  3. Bill—People often do need things explained to them in ways they can relate to. This is often at a distance from what some might see as the most relevant facts for a gievn topic.

    Whosplayin–Nothing I can add to that. Thank you very much.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | April 7, 2008

  4. I still don’t get it. There are stupid people, like me, who need the truth behind what you are trying to say, put into simple terms. For example: I was told “Capre Diem!” I have no clue what that means. So i was told it meant to sieze the day….So what your telling me is to grab on to today and never let it go? What about tomorrow? When it gets here I’m now stuck in the past! And how can you possibly grab on to a day and trap something that isn’t a material object? Finally, someone smart enough to explain things to those as dumb as me; told me that it pretty much just meant to enjoy life today. Not to be afraid to take chances. This life is but a short one, so I should try my best to enjoy it. Today.

    I’m being serious too. I don’t get it. If it was a white person that said that back then I would have thought they were saying they sell slaves to keep the farms working so that everyone has food! I wish I could find the meaning of this in idiotic terms so I can understand it.

    Isabelle VanWagener was a tremendous blessing to this human race. Sojourner Truth was a very fitting name for her.

    Comment by Mark A | October 11, 2008

  5. Ok I got it. “I sell the shadow” the photograph. “To support the substance” herself.

    I can now finish my paper and get some sleep before going to class.

    Comment by Mark A | October 11, 2008

  6. I’d say it means that misconceptions, lack of facts, cause the shadows. If we continue to search for the truth, then the shadows disappear and the substance is left for us to support. Or in truth there is no darkness and the shadows of misconception disappear. So by searching for truth, we reach the supporting substance. Much like good and evil, or if we live in sin we live in darkness, but if we live in the light, or Christ, we live in truth. My thoughts as a Lutheran.

    Comment by John Covington | January 25, 2013

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