Sojourner Truth was an African-American evangelist, abolitionist, women’s rights activist, and author who was born into slavery before escaping to freedom in 1826. After gaining her freedom, Truth preached about abolitionism and equal rights for all. . She became known for a speech with the famous refrain, “Ain’t I a woman?which he is said to have delivered at a women’s convention in Ohio in 1851, though accounts of that speech (and whether Truth ever used that refrain) have since been questioned by historians. Truth continued his crusade throughout his adult life, gaining an audience with president abraham lincoln and become one of the best-known human rights defenders in the world.
Who was Sojourner Truth?
Sojourner Truth was born Isabella Baumfree in 1797 to enslaved parents James and Elizabeth Baumfree, in Ulster County, New York. At around the age of nine, she was sold at auction to John Neely for $100, along with a flock of sheep.
Neely was a cruel and violent teacher who regularly beat the girl. She was sold two more times at age 13, eventually ending up in West Park, New York, the home of John Dumont and his second wife, Elizabeth.
Around the age of 18, Isabella fell in love with a slave named Robert from a nearby farm. But the couple was not allowed to marry as they had separate owners. Instead, Isabella was forced to marry another enslaved man owned by Dumont named Thomas. She eventually had five children: James, Diana, Peter, Elizabeth, and Sophia.
Walking from slavery to freedom
In the early 19th century, New York began to legislate emancipation, but it would take more than two decades for the release of all enslaved people in the state to come.
Meanwhile, Dumont promised Isabella that he would grant her her freedom on July 4, 1826, “if it went well and she was faithful to him.” However, when the date came, he changed his mind and refused to let her go.
Enraged, Isabella completed what she felt was her obligation to Dumont and then escaped his clutches, her infant daughter in tow. She later said, “I didn’t run away, because I thought that was bad, but I left, thinking it was okay.”
In what must have been a heartbreaking choice, she left her other children behind because they were still legally tied to Dumont.
Isabella made her way to New Paltz, New York, where she and her daughter were taken in as free people by Isaac and Maria Van Wagenen. When Dumont came to claim “ownership” of her, the Van Wagenens offered to buy Isabella’s services for $20 until New York’s Anti-Slavery Law emancipating all enslaved people went into effect in 1827; Dumont agreed.
Sojourner Truth, the first black woman to sue a white man and win
After New York’s Anti-Slavery Law was passed, Dumont illegally sold Isabella’s five-year-old son Peter. With the help of the Van Wagenens, he sued to get it back.
Months later, Isabella won her case and regained custody of her son. She was the first black woman to sue a white man in a United States court and prevail.
Sojourner Truth’s Spiritual Call
The Van Wagenens had a profound impact on Isabella’s spirituality and she became a fervent Christian. In 1829, she moved to New York City with Peter to work as a housekeeper for evangelical preacher Elijah Pierson.
He left Pierson three years later to work for another preacher, Robert Matthews. When Elijah Pierson died, Isabella and Matthews were charged with poisoning him and with robbery, but were ultimately acquitted.
Living among people of faith only emboldened Isabella’s devotion to Christendom and his desire to preach and win followers. In 1843, with what she believed to be her religious obligation to come out and tell the truth, she changed her name to Sojourner Truth and embarked on a journey to preach the gospel and speak out against slavery and slavery. oppression.
‘Isn’t AI Woman?’ discourse and controversy
In 1844, Truth joined a Massachusetts abolitionist organization called the Northampton Association of Education and Industry, where he met leading abolitionists such as frederick douglas and effectively launched her career as an equal rights activist.
Among Truth’s contributions to the abolitionist movement was the speech he gave at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in 1851, where she spoke powerfully about equal rights for black women. Twelve years later, Frances Gage, a white abolitionist and president of the Convention, published an account of Truth’s words in the National Standard against Slavery. In his account, Gage wrote that Truth used the rhetorical question, “Aren’t you I a woman? to point out the discrimination Truth experienced as a black woman.
However, various details in Gage’s account, including that Truth said he had 13 children (he had five) and that he spoke in dialect, have cast doubt on its accuracy. Contemporary reports of Truth’s speech did not include this motto and quoted Truth in standard English. In later years, this catchphrase was further distorted to “Ain’t I a woman?”, reflecting the false belief that as a formerly enslaved woman, Truth would have had a southern accent. Truth was, in fact, a proud New Yorker.
Yet there is little doubt that Truth’s speech, and many others he delivered throughout his adult life, moved audiences. Other bill Truth’s 1851 speech, published in a newspaper about a month later, reported her as saying, “I have plowed and reaped and husked and cut and reaped, and can any man do more than that?”
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Sojourner Truth during the Civil War
Like another famous runaway slave, Harriet Tubman, Truth helped recruit black soldiers during the Civil War. she worked in Washington D.C.for the National Freedman’s Relief Association and rallied people to donate food, clothing, and other supplies to black refugees.
His activism for abolitionist movement She caught the eye of President Abraham Lincoln, who invited her to the White House in October 1864 and showed her a Bible given to him by African-Americans in Baltimore.
While Truth was in Washington, she displayed her courage and disdain for segregation by riding whites-only streetcars. When the Civil War ended, he tried exhaustively to find work for poverty-stricken freed black Americans.
Later, he unsuccessfully petitioned the government to resettle formerly enslaved people on government land in the west.
Sojourner Truth Quotes
“If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down on her own, these women together should be able to turn it around and turn it upside down again. And now they are asking to do it, it is better that the men let them.
“So that little man in black over there says that women can’t have as many rights as men, because Christ was not a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did Christ come from? Of God and a woman! The man had nothing to do with Him.”
And what is that religion that sanctions, even with its silence, everything that is embraced in the ‘Peculiar Institution’? If there can be anything more diametrically opposed to the religion of Jesus than the workings of this soul-killing system, which is as truly sanctioned by the religion of America as are its ministers and churches, we wish to be shown where it can be found. “
“Now, if you want me out of the world, you better get women to vote soon. I’m not going until I can do that.
The last years of Sojourner Truth
In 1867, Truth moved to Battle Creek, Michigan, where some of her daughters lived. He continued to speak out against discrimination and in favor of women’s suffrage. He was particularly concerned that some civil rights leaders, such as Frederick Douglass, felt that the equal rights of black men took precedence over those of black women.
Truth died at his home on November 26, 1883. Records show that he was 86, but his memorial stone says he was 105. Engraved on his headstone are the words “Is God Dead?” a question he once asked a despondent Frederick Douglass to remind him to have faith.
Truth left a legacy of courage, faith, and fighting for what is right and honorable, but she also left a legacy of words and song, including her autobiography, The Sojourner Truth Narrativewhich he dictated in 1850 to Olive Gilbert since she never learned to read or write.
Perhaps Truth’s Christian life and her fight for equality are best summed up in her own words in 1863: “Children, who made your skin white? Wasn’t it God? Who made mine black? Wasn’t it the same God? Is it my fault, then, that my skin is black? …. Doesn’t God love colored children as much as white children? And did not the same Savior die to save both the one and the other?
Sojourner Truth: Not IA Woman? National Park Service.
Sojourner Truth: A Life of Legacy and Faith. Sojourner Truth Institute.
Sojourner Truth meets Abraham Lincoln: all things being equal. Biography.
Traveler truth. National Park Service.
Traveler truth. WHMN: National Museum of Women’s History.
Words and music of the traveler. Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee.
True, traveler. American National Biography.