The Abolitionists: Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth

(1797 – 1883)

Sojourner Truth was born into slavery in New York, as Isabella “Belle” Baumfree. At the age of nine she was sold away from her parents for the sum of $100. She was sold several more times and when after her last master withdrew a promise to free her, she was infuriated.

She escaped with her infant daughter in 1826. She later went to court to recover her son. She became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man. In 1843, she changed her name to Sojourner Truth and headed west.

Wherever she went, Sojourner Truth spoke against slavery and in favor of women’s rights. During the Civil War she helped recruit black troops, including her own grandson, for the Union army. She believed that it was important for blacks themselves to fight in a war that was being fought to ensure their freedom.

One day a listener asked her if she thought all her talk about slavery did any good. He said, “Why, I don’t care for your talk anymore than I do for the bite of a flea.” Undaunted, Sojourner replied, “The good Lord willing, I’ll keep you scratching.”

In her autobiography The Narrative of Sojourner Truth : A Northern Slave, she wrote: “Americans!, We hear your boasts of liberty. Your assertions that all men are created equal…hypocrites! Liars!...dooming a sixth of your immense population to beastly servitude!”

Sojourner Truth eventually bought a house and settled in Massachusetts, later moving to Michigan where she resided for the rest of her life. In 1864 she met President Lincoln who told her he had heard of her, “…years and years before I even thought of being president.” Sojourner Truth had made her mark on people all across America.