Sojourner Truth (Isabella Baumfree)
Sojourner Truth was born Isabella Baumfree in Ulster County, New York in 1797. She was born to slave parents and had twelve other siblings. Isabella was an abolitionist who fought for African American rights and women’s suffrage, and also a traveling preacher. She was a popular speaker before, during and after the Civil War.
Because Ulster County was a Dutch settlement, Isabella only spoke Dutch. When she was first sold from her family at about age eleven, she quickly learned how to speak English. Isabella never learned to read or write though. She had a tough life and was sold as a slave many times, but because her mother made her a strong believer in Christian faith, she was able to get through all of the hardships slavery caused. She was sold to John J. Dumont, her third master, as a teenager. John Dumont made her marry another slave named Thomas. They had five children together. In 1828, the state of New York abolished slavery, but Isabella had already run away from Dumont with her youngest son. She found work with the family of Isaac Van Wagenen.
Isabella eventually moved to New York City where she went to a Methodist religious commune named “Kingdom of Matthias.” The commune fell apart after adultery and murder allegations. During this time she worked as a servant.
In 1843, Isabella believed that God told her to change her name to Sojourner Truth. She traveled through Long Island and Connecticut as a traveling preacher. She trekked for months before she finally stopped in Northampton, Massachusetts. There she joined a utopian society named “The Northampton Association for Education and Industry.” During her stay there she met famous abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and Olive Gilbert. In the 1840’s, she decided to become an abolitionist. Starting in 1850, she fought for women’s suffrage. She was a very popular speaker at that time. People...