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Sojourner Truth

(1797 – November 26, 1883)

One of thirteen children of James and Elizabeth Baumfree, Isabella Baumfree was born a slave to Colonel Hardenbergh in Esopus, New York. At the age of 9, she was traded in the slave trade and separated from her family. Slaves in New York were emancipated on July 4, 1827. Isabella however, escaped in 1826, and was taken in by a family until emancipation was passed a year later. After emancipation, Sojourner sued to get back her son, who had previously been sold in the slave trade. She became the first black woman to win a case against a black man. Isabella Baumfree changed her name to Sojourner Truth on June 1, 1843. She became an abolitionist and an advocate of women’s rights and religious tolerance. Sojourner began giving an account of her memoirs to a friend, and her book, “The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave” was published in 1850.

She delivered a speech at the first National Women’s Rights Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts later that year. Truth gave a number of other speeches over the years. Her most famous speech, “Ain’t I A Woman?” was delivered in May 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. For the next decade of her life, Sojourner Truth travelled and delivered a number of speeches. At one convention, in the middle of a speech, Truth was accused of being a man. In response, she opened her blouse to reveal otherwise. During the Civil War, she worked to recruit African American soldiers for the Union Army. She continued throughout her lifetime to fight for improvements in the treatment of African Americans and women. In 1872, she even attempted to vote in the Presidential election. She, of course, was laughed at and turned away.

Copyright 2009