Sojourner Truth was
born in 1797 in Ulster County, a Dutch settlement in
upstate New York. Her given name was Isabella Baumfree.
She was one of 13 children born to slave parents. She
spoke only Dutch until she was sold from her family around
the age of eleven. Because of the cruel treatment she
suffered at the hands of her new master she learned to
speak English quickly, but would continue to speak with a
Dutch accent for the rest of her life.
She was sold several
times and suffered many hardships under slavery, but
her mother endowed her with a deep, unwavering Christian
faith that carried her through these trials for her entire
Forced to submit to the
will of her third master, John Dumont, Isabella
married an older slave named Thomas. Thomas and Isabella
had five children. She stayed on the Dumont farm until a
few months before the state of New York ended slavery in
1828. Dumont had promised Isabella freedom a year before
the state emancipation. When Dumont reneged on his
promise, Isabella ran away with her infant son.
Isabella eventually settled
in New York City, working as a domestic for several
religious communes. One, known as the "Kingdom of
Matthias", became involved in a scandal of adultery
and murder. In 1843, Isabella was inspired by a spiritual
revelation that would forever change her life. Isabella
Baumfree changed her name to Sojourner Truth and walked
through Long Island and Connecticut, preaching "God's
truth and plan for salvation." After months of travel, she
arrived in Northampton, MA, and joined the utopian
community "The Northampton Association for Education
and Industry, "where she met and worked with
abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison,
Frederick Douglass and Olive Gilbert. Her
dictated memoirs were published in 1850 as The
Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave.
She eventually added
abolitionism and women's suffrage to her oratory,
often giving personal testimony about her experiences as a
slave. In 1851, she spoke at a women's convention in
Akron, Ohio. The legendary phrase, "Ain't I a Woman?"
was associated with Truth after this speech.
After the Civil War
ended, she worked tirelessly to aid the newly-freed
southern slaves. She even attempted to petition Congress
to give the ex-slaves land in the "new West." Truth
continued preaching and lecturing until ill health forced
her to retire. She died November, 1883 in Battle Creek,