Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth was a women’s right activist and a slavery abolitionist. Sojourner was born a slave and therefore unschooled yet she became an impressive speaker and preacher. No amount of education gives you the first hand knowledge of being a slave. These voices of history gives us our sense of injustice that Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass amongst many others had to endure.

Sojourner Truth was born Isabella Baumfree in 1797 on the estate of Colonel Johannesburg Hardenbergh estate in Swartekill, Ulster County, a Dutch settlement in upstate New york. Sojourner was one of thirteen children. Her parents were James and Elizabeth Baumfree who were slaves of Colonel Hardenbergh.

When Sojourner eleven years old she was sold to plantation owner John Kelly we must remember slaves were treated as cattle branded with their masters name and sold regardless of family. Sojourner life on the plantation was harsh she was subjected to beatings with iron rods and sexual abuse. Sojourner  found refuge in religion and began the habit of praying aloud when scared or hurt.

Truth was sold from master to master however her third master  John Dumont was a slight improvement. She was forced to marry another slave Thomas. Sojourner had five children Thomas, Peter, James, Elizabeth and Sophia. As Sojourner was sold some of her children had the same fate. As soon as she got a chance Sojourner ran away with her daughter Sophia. She found a home with a Quaker family Isaac and Maria Van Wagenen. Sojourner lived there until she obtained her freedom under the New York emancipation act.

Whilst Sojourner was living with the Van Wagenens she dicovered that a member of the Dumont family had sold one of her children into slavery in Alabama. Since this son had been emancipated under New York Law, she sued in court and won his return.

In 1843 she changed her name from Isabella to Sojourner Truth she became a methodist and left to travel preaching about abolition and women’s rights. In 1844 she joined Northampton Association of Education and industry in Massachusetts. This group of 210 members lived on 500 acres of farmland, raising Livestock , running grist and saw mills, and operating a silk factory. They were strongly anti-slavery, religiously tolerant, womens rights supporters, and pacifist. While there, she met and worked with abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and David Ruggles. Unfortunately, the community’service silk making was not profitable enough and it disbanded in 1846 with debt.

Sojourner  gave speeches on women’s rights and giving personal testimony on her slave experiences. Sojourner was 6ft tall and had a deep voice on one occasion she was accused of being a man Sojourner opened her blouse and revealed her breasts. She delivered her famous speech Ain’t I a woman.

Sojourner during the American civil war of 1861-1865 helped to recruit black men to help the war effort fighting for the unions and raised food and clothing contributions for black regiments. In 1864 she moved to Washington where she organised a campaign against a policy for not allowing black people to sit on white trains. As a result Sojourner was received at the White House by President Abraham Lincoln who told her he was familiar with her speeches.

Sojourner died on 26th November 1883 at her home in Battle Creek,  Michigan. She was buried at Oak Hill cemetery beside other family members.

source Nzinga Cotton, New Nation

Sojourner is an inspiration for black history month,through her hardships of being a slave, and the horrendous treatment that she endured. She fought hard for the injustices of black people, and she will not be forgotten. As it took this kind of courage for Sojourner to be remembered. And for us to keep fighting the injustices that we still enjure in 2016.




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