Sojourner Truth, born Isabella Baumfree, was an African American activist for women's rights, abolitionist and an evangelist. She lived from 1797 to 1883, and during her lifetime, she raised her voice on many important social topics concerning race and gender.
Sojourner Truth Was Born A Slave
Sojourner was born into a slave family, and the very exact birthdate is unknown, as it was the case with many slave newborns at the time. When she was around nine years old, Truth was sold to her slavemaster, John Neely. The cost? $100 and a couple of sheep. Unfortunately, John Neely was a very violent person who physically abused Sojourner for all the time she spent as his slave. By the time Sojourner was 13 years old, she was sold to two other slave owners, finally coming to the estate of John Dumont, located in Ulster County, New York.
When Sojourner Truth was 18 years, she met another slave that worked on a farm close to her. However, she did not have permission to marry the slave called Robert because they were not owned by the same slave master. Dumont forced her to marry another slave from his farm, Thomas. With Thomas, Sojourner Truth gave birth to five children: Diana, Elizabeth, Sophia, Peter, and James.
Escape From The Dumont Farm
In the state of New York, the talks of the abolition of slavery started in 1799, but this did not come until July 4, 1827. Sojourner could not wait that long, and she escaped Dumont's farm in 1826, taking only her newborn daughter Sophia with her. Shortly after that, she found that her 5-year-old son, Peter, was sold illegally to a slave owner in Alabama. Sojourner decided to take the whole case on the court, where she managed to win. Eventually, her son returned from Alabama. This was one of the first cases where a black woman, an ex-slave, won the trial against a white man slave owner.
Learning how to speak English when she was on the Dumont farm, helped Sojourner to move to New York City in 1829, along with her son keeper. During that period, she converted to Christianity. She worked for Elijah Pierson (a Christian evangelist) and Robert Matthews (a self-proclaimed prophet and a cult leader). Elijah Pierson died soon after, and some of the cult members tried to pin it on Sojourner. Again, Sojourner decided to take things to court, where she won and was found innocent.
The Activist That Never Stopped Fighting
For the rest of her life, Sojourner Truth (who changed her name from Isabella Baumfree in 1843) devoted all her time and energy to the abolition of slavery. She became a member of the abolitionist organization in Northampton, Massachusetts, called the Northampton Association of Education and Industry (NAEI). As a member of NAEI, Sojourner Truth was known for her efforts in raising the questions of women's rights.
Her activist activities did not stop there. She held one of the most famous speeches in the 1851 Ohio Women's Rights Convention that later got the title "Ain't I a Woman?" In 1864, she even met with President Abraham Lincoln, when she was called to attend the meeting of National Freedman's Relief Association.
For all her life, Sojourner Truth continued to fight for the rights of former slaves. One of the most important topics for her was the fact that African Americans need to be allowed to have their own land and properties. This was a key to further emancipation for Truth.