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*Sue Sojourner was born on this date in 1941. she is a white Jewish-American author, activist, and historian.
Born Susan Hasalo in Chicago, Ill. Her mother, Bess, Father, Bernard, sister Muriel, and brother Bud moved around, but Sue always looked back fondly on her high school days in Marblehead, Massachusetts, Class of 1959. Sojourner’s college years began at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, then Stanford, and ended at UC Berkeley with a bachelor’s in journalism.
In California, she worked as a computer and met a young nuclear physicist, Henry Lorenzi of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Henry and Sue married in 1964 before heading to Holmes County, Mississippi, where they spent the next five years working with local Blacks in their struggle against voter suppression and for equality. The local people of Holmes County's movement built one of the strongest chapters of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), elected Robert G. Clark, Jr. as the first Black Mississippi state legislator since Reconstruction, and started one of the nation’s first Head Start programs. Sue acted as a witness and ally, intentionally documented meetings, photographed local activists, and recorded dozens of hours of reel-to-reel tape of meetings and interviews, saving everything she could.
After moving to D.C., Sue turned her energies toward the women’s liberation movement and helped create resources for feminist readers and writers. She and her husband lived in a commune in the Eastern Market neighborhood. She started the First Things First female order book company in 1971. A local gift and crafts store, Lammas, owned by her friend, Mary Farmer, started selling her stock and evolved into D.C.’s leading feminist bookstore. The couple decided to fight the patriarchy by taking a new last name, Sojourner, inspired by abolitionist and feminist Sojourner Truth; later, Henry and Sue welcomed their son, Aaron, and raised him in D.C.
She came out and became active in D.C.’s lesbian community, volunteering at off our backs and celebrating High Holy Days at Bet Mispachah. After Henry’s passing, she raised Aaron as a single mom with lots of support from friends and family. During these years, Sue worked as a temp, copy editor, and associate editor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Washington Quarterly. She commuted by bike to work, played women’s softball and soccer, and coached Aaron’s Soccer at the Hill Red Barons. She was a loving, fun, and energetic mother and friend to many. She lived with bipolar disorder.
In the mid-1990s, Sue moved to Duluth to be near her sister, Muriel Abram, and dig into her archives to write a book about the Holmes County movement. She took half a year off and moved to Chicago to help care for her new granddaughter. In 2013, She and Cheryl Reitan wrote Thunder of Freedom, and she was active in many Duluth community activities and institutions, including the Washington Studios Artists Co-op and Temple Israel, which had provided material support to the Holmes County movement decades before. In 2013, the Mississippi Legislature honored Sue and Henry for their years working with “black Holmes County Mississippians to build a viable, powerful, and effective political and social movement.” The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson includes many of her photos of the leaders and community members active in Holmes County’s civil rights organizing.
In 2014, Sue was honored for her contributions to civil rights by Duluth’s Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. She was profiled by the Veterans of the American Civil Rights Movement and interviewed by the African American Registry, which also captured her discussing the Jewish identity that led her to identify with the need for liberation. The raw materials documenting Holmes County’s freedom fight fill over 100 boxes and are preserved in a University of Southern Mississippi special collections archive. In 2015, Sojourner moved to Minneapolis to spend more time with Aaron, a labor economist at the University of Minnesota, her daughter-in-law Kathy Cassidy, and her grandchildren, Nora and Naomi.
Before the pandemic, the grandkids passed many lovely afternoons eating sweets and playing cards with Sue and Kathy’s mom, Susan Cassidy. On December 4, 2020, COVID killed Sue Sojourner. She is also survived by her loving sister, Muriel Abram, currently living in New York, and many nieces, nephews, cousins, and extended family.
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