Sojourner Truth

Truth was both an abolitionist and women’s rights activist in her time. Truth was born Isabella Baumfree, and was a slave in 1797 in Ulster County, New York—she grew up directly experiencing the horrors of the American slave trade. The promise of freedom, taken away by her last master led Truth to escaped in 1826 to New Paltz, New York leaving her children. The following year, 1827, the New York Anti-Slavery Law emancipated all slaves – leading Truth to become the first black woman to sue a white man due to her former master’s illegal sale of her five-year-old son Peter. Winning her case, she regained custody of her child. Truth was also a devout Christian, finding work as a housekeeper for evangelist Preacher Elija Pierson then Robert Mathews, she grew strong in her faith and 1843 changed her named to Sojourner Truth. She vowed to travel and preach about her faith and against the horrors of slavery. Along with her dedication to her faith, Truth was an equal rights activist advocating for both the rights of blacks and women. In 1844 she joined the Northhampton Association of Education Industry, an abolitionist organization that launched her efforts in the anti-slavery movement. She also gave speeches about the experience of slavery and, in 1850 she dictated her autobiography to Olive Gilbert, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth. While on a lecture tour in 1851 – Truth launched herself into the efforts of the suffragist movement giving her famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention. Her speech advocated for equal rights for black women, highlighting the discrimination she had experienced. While she was friends with prominent suffragists such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton—while a lifelong supporter of women’s rights she inevitably distanced herself from the movement due to the racist sentiment of women’s groups.

Additional Sources:

Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee Short Biography: https://sojournertruthmemorial.org/sojourner-truth/her-history/

Library of Congress Short Biography: https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/odyssey/educate/truth.html

PBS Short Biography: https://www.pbs.org/thisfarbyfaith/people/sojourner_truth.html

History Channel Short Biography: https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/sojourner-truth

National Women’s History Museum: https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/sojourner-truth

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