Sojourner Truth

From Ohio History Central
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Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth was born in 1797, in a Dutch community in the State of New York. She was born a slave. Her original name was Isabella Baumfree. In 1808, Truth was sold away from her parents. She eventually became the property of John Dumont. While Dumont's slave she married a man named Thomas and gave birth to five children. Dumont promised Truth that she would have her freedom in 1827, but he failed to fulfill his pledge. Truth ran away, taking only her infant son on her flight to freedom.

Truth first went to New York City, where she worked as a domestic servant for several different religious groups. In 1843, Truth believed that she had received a revelation from God. It was at this point that she changed her name from Baumfree to Truth. She made a lecture tour across New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts to educate others about what she believed to be God's plan for salvation. In her sermons, she condemned slavery and encouraged people to grant women of all races the same rights as men.

Truth eventually arrived at Northampton, Massachusetts, where she joined a religious commune known as the Northampton Association for Education and Industry. Her involvement in abolitionism grew, as she became close friends of Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison. She continued to give lectures about her experiences as a slave woman, and in 1850, she published an account of her life, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave.

Truth is perhaps most famous for a speech she gave at a women's rights convention in Akron, Ohio, in 1851. Members of the community shouted down other speakers at the meeting. Truth rose from her seat and silenced the hecklers with a speech titled, "Ain't I a Woman." The point of this speech was to show that fighting for equal rights for women with men was not enough. Other women, including African Americans, faced additional obstacles. Truth wanted the participants to not only dedicate their lives to ending sexism but also to assist all people to achieve equality.

During the American Civil War, Truth helped gather supplies for African-American military units. In 1864, she became a member of the National Freedman's Relief Association, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of African Americans. Following the war, Truth continued to lobby the federal government to improve the rights of African Americans. One of her more controversial proposals involved giving now free African Americans land in the West. She died in 1883, in Battle Creek, Michigan.

See Also


  1. Booth, Stephane Elise. Buckeye Women: The History of Ohio's Daughters. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2001.
  2. Johnson, Paul E. The Kingdom of Matthias. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1994.  
  3. McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1988.  
  4. Roseboom, Eugene H. The Civil War Era: 1850-1873. Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1944.  
  5. Stetson, Erlene, and Linda David. Glorying in Tribulation: The Lifework of Sojourner Truth. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1994.  
  6. Washington, Margaret. The Narrative of Sojourner Truth. New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1993.  
  7. Painter, Nell Irvin. Sojourner Truth: A Life, a Symbol. N.p.: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997.