“If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down, these women together ought to be able to turn it right again.” Sojourner Truth is remembered as perhaps the most influential figure in the abolition and women’s rights movements. She spoke to many infuriated crowds. But, this is what she was very passionate about, so she did it anyway. Her legacy of feminism and racial equality still resonates to this day. Did you know that Sojourner Truth isn’t Truth’s real name? Her name is actually Isabella Baumfree. Isabella was born in Ulster County, New York, in 1797. She was the daughter of two slaves, James and Elizabeth Baumfree.
She, her siblings, and her parents were owned by Col. Johannes Hardenbergh. They worked there, under the ownership of him, taking care of his land and operating his grist mills.
Isabella would not stay with her parents much longer. Isabella was only nine when she was taken away from her parents. Imagine how scary that would be. Her previous owner, Col.
Johannes Hardenbergh, had recently died. So, she was bought by John Neely. She was bought for $100 dollars.
Some people on the plantation spoke English when some spoke Dutch. When an English-speaking Neely tried giving commands to a Dutch-speaking Isabella, she didn’t understand him. In return of that, Isabella got beat by him. He got very upset with her often for not being able to follow his instructions.
Finally, Neely sold gave up and sold her. Isabella was sold again, but to a man named Martinus Schryver. She was sold for $105 dollars this time.
She worked very hard for him. So, it was a shock when she was sold about a year and a half later. Schryver sold Isabella to Thomas Dumont. Thomas, also commonly known as John, was by far one of Isabella’s nicer owners. He treated her better than most slave owners would ever treat their slaves. But, he was still her owner and put her to work.
Dumont was fond of her hard work and kept her on his plantation for many, many years. His plantation, or farm, was on the banks of the Hudson River, which is now West Park. Sometimes, slaves from other nearby farms would meet. Isabella met a man she instantly fell in love with. His name was Robert. But, she wouldn’t be allowed to marry him because he was from a nearby farm. But, they asked anyways.
Robert’s owner denied it because Isabella’s children wouldn’t be the owner’s new slaves. Dumont eventually forced her to marry one of his own slaves. She was miserable. After Isabella had married this slave, she had five children. She loved all of her children very dearly. Isabella hated to see them in slavery and wanted to do something about it. When she was birthing her fifth child, the baby died.
It was a miracle that Isabella didn’t die too. In 1825, Dumont promised to free Isabella because she was such a good worker. She was unbelievably happy. She worked for him one more year and was then ready to leave. But, last minute, Dumont changed his mind.
She would have to continue to work for him. Isabella was enraged. Isabella didn’t want to stay and work for Dumont. She wanted her freedom like he promised. So, she decided to do something about it. After work that day, she just walked off the farm. She took her daughter Sofia with too.
Dumont wasn’t around and the rest of the slaves were too scared to try and stop her. Dumont had neighbors, the VanWageners, not too far away from his farm. This couple, Isaac and Maria, hated slavery.
They thought it was evil. So, Isabella and her daughter stayed with them, hiding from Dumont. But, eventually, Dumont found out and wanted the VanWageners to pay for her. So, they bought her for $20 dollars and set her free. Isabella was now a free woman! She was free, but all of her children were not. She didn’t know how she could do anything about it.
But, she found out that Peter, her son, was sold illegally sold to a slave owner in Alabama. Now, she would do something about it. She found out that it was illegal to sell slaves across state lines. Isabella couldn’t bare to see her son in the middle of this mess. So, she decided to take the issue to court. She won, but this was unusual.
Everyone started looking up at Isabella for her great courage. It was very rare for a slave, much a woman, to take a man, a white man, to court. Isabella was a beacon of hope and triumph for many.
Isabella and her now free son Peter moved to New York. She decided then that she needed to get a job so she could take care of her son. So, she decided to take up a job as a maid for a family named the Grears.
They treated her with much kindness. She, known as a very hard worker, stayed with the Grears for eight years. They let her go in 1843. After working for the Grears, she decided that she thought her mission in this world was to preach the word of God to others. So, she did. She changed her name from Isabella Baumfree to Sojourner Truth.
Sojourner Truth means “traveler”, which is what she would be. Then, she left the city to start her mission. She would travel through New England holding prayer sessions everywhere she went. She had peace knowing that what she was doing was what God wanted of her.
Truth felt that she needed to be more though. Frederick Douglass introduced her to a community that he thought she would fit in well with. So, she finally decided to joined the Northampton Association. This association was a Massachusetts community founded on the ideas of freedom and equality. At these meetings, she would meet with other social reformers and abolitionists; including Frederick Douglass. “Children, who made your skin white? Was it not god? Who made mine black? Was it not the same God? Am I to blame, therefore, because my skin is black?” (Spinale, Laura) The Court was passing laws that the Northampton Association wasn’t too fond of.
They fought against it. Sojourner Truth’s name was spreading fast. Some people were fans of her, some not. Olive Gilbert, an author, wrote a book about her in 1850. It was called “Narrative of Sojourner Truth”. Truth felt honored to have a book to have a book written just about her.
She continued to travel west. She would stop and talk about her life as a slave to hostile crowds. But, there was a charm to Sojourner. She often soothed the crowds with her speeches. They seemed to hit everyone pretty hard after she was finished. “While on her travels, Truth noted that while women could be leaders in the abolitionist movement, they could neither vote no hold public office.
Realizing she was discriminating against on two fronts, Truth became an outspoken supporter of women’s rights.” (Encyclopedia of World Biography)Truth decided to start getting active in the women’s rights movement. So, she attended the first ever women’s rights convention in Akron, Ohio. At the convention, she was invited to speak. She gave the now very popular “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech. “Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? member of the audience whispers, “intellect” That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?” (Halsall, Paul) “Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.” (Halsall, Paul)After spending much time on this journey of speeches and prayer, she decided to settle down.
She had previously gotten enough money from an autobiography. She bought a barn and some land in Battle Creek, Michigan. She turned the barn into a house. Even though she stayed in just Battle Creek, she decided to still continue to give speeches. Civil War eventually started in 1861. Truth went around to the black troops, speaking to them, giving them hope, and encouragement. She felt at home in Battle Creek because there were, in fact, many abolitionists that lived there.
It took awhile, but finally Civil War ended. So, the Freedom-Bureau was made. The Freedom-Bureau is an association to help ex-slaves create new, better lives. They were now free men and women and some didn’t know how to function with non-slaves. Truth traveled up to Washington D.C. to help with the Freedom-Bureau and met Abraham Lincoln.
She found out that he was a big fan of her. She was so honored. Sojourner loved this association to help these people. Truth was led by the idea of the Freedom-Bureau to start her own program.
So, she did. She saw so many ex-slaves in poverty and it just pained her. She wanted to do something about it. Truth was always a woman who carried out what she would say. She most certainly did in many, many situations.
Soon after, she went to Congress asking them for land. She wanted to see these people living on their own land and farming it. But, Congress rejected that idea. She wouldn’t let that stop her though. She still made the program which was very successful. Truth had lived a plentiful life by the time she was old and sickly.
She developed an infection on her leg from all of the sores she got from years and years of working. She went and tried to get them treated at the Battle Creek Sanitarium. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg did everything he could. But, he couldn’t completely treat them.
It was unsuccessful. So, Sojourner went back home until she passed away on November 26, 1883. She lived a life that was meaningful to so many people in so many ways. Sojourner Truth has an influence on many lives still to this day. She was a woman known for fighting. Fighting for what you believe in. Fighting for what is right. No matter what people may think of you, if you strongly believe in yourself and your stance, you can believe that you are doing the right thing.
Never give up without a fight. God had a purpose for her pain, a reason for her struggle, and in the end, a gift for her faithfulness. Many people to this day still honor Sojourner Truth’s name. Now, she is considered as one of the most important black women in the nineteenth century.
Even after the Civil War, the path to freedom would not come easily or quickly for black men, women, and children. She knew that anything like this, a social reform, took much time and lots of commitment. She had such a strong faith that helped her endure the hard times and praise God for the good ones. Her faith also inspired her to continue to speak about equality throughout her whole life, no matter where she was in it. Whenever people speak out against injustice and scorn oppression, they keep Sojourner’s ideals of justice and freedom alive.