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Truth, Sojourner

Born: 1797 AD
Died: 1883 AD
Nationality: American
Categories: Abolitionist, Activists

1797 – Sojourner Truth, was the self-given name, from 1843, of Isabella Baumfree, an American abolitionist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, New York. Sojourner Truth was a nineteenth-century African American evangelist who embraced abolitionism and women’s rights. A charismatic speaker, she became one of the best-known abolitionists of her day.

1828 – She was freed when a New York law abolished slavery within the state, and with the help of Quaker friends, she recovered a young son who had been illegally sold into slavery in the South.

1829 – Moved to New York City and worked as a domestic servant. Since childhood she had experienced visions and heard voices, which she attributed to God. Her mystic bent led her to become associated with Elijah Person, a New York religious missionary.

1843 – Worked and preached with Person in the streets of the city, and she had a religious experience in which she believed that God commanded her to travel beyond New York to spread the Christian gospel. She took the name Sojourner Truth and traveled throughout the eastern states as an evangelist.

1850 – Toured the Midwest and drew large, enthusiastic crowds. Because she was illiterate, she dictated her life story, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, and sold the book at her lectures as a means of supporting herself. Truth soon became acquainted with the abolitionist movement and its leaders. She adopted their message, speaking out against slavery. Her speaking tours expanded as abolitionists realized her effectiveness as a lecturer.

         – Met leaders of the emerging women’s rights movement, most notably Lucretia Mott. Truth recognized the connection between the inferior legal status of African Americans and women in general. Soon she was speaking before women’s rights groups, advocating the right to vote. Her most famous speech was entitled Ain’t I a Woman?

1864 – Settled in Battle Creek, Michigan, but went to Washington, D.C., to meet with President Abraham Lincoln. She remained in Washington to help the war effort, collecting supplies for black volunteer regiments serving in the Union army and helping escaped slaves find jobs and homes.

1870 – Joined the National Freedmen’s Relief Association, working with former slaves to prepare them for a different type of life. Truth believed that former slaves should be given free land in the West, but her "Negro State" proposal failed to interest Congress and she encouraged African Americans to resettle in Kansas and Missouri.

1875 – Remained on the public speaking circuit until 1875, when she retired to Battle Creek.

1883 – Died on the 26th of November at her home in Battle Creek, Michigan. Her remains were buried at there at Oak Hill Cemetery beside other family members. Her last words were "be a follower of the Lord Jesus."