Sojourner Truth


Sojourner Truth Famous memorial

Original Name Isabella Baumfree
Rifton, Ulster County, New York, USA
Death 26 Nov 1883 (aged 85–86)
Battle Creek, Calhoun County, Michigan, USA
Burial Battle Creek, Calhoun County, Michigan, USA
Plot Lot 634, Rt. 9
Memorial ID 1044 View Source

Social Reformer. In 1828, she successfully fought a legal battle to regain custody of her son, becoming the first black woman to win a lawsuit against a white man. Born Isabella Baumfree into slavery in Swartekill, New York on the Hardenbergh estate, she was one of 13 children to James and Elizabeth Baumfree, slaves of Colonel Hardenbergh. In those days, children of slaves were born into slavery, and were considered property of the owner of the slave mother. After the Colonel's death in 1806, ownership of the slaves passed to his son, Charles Hardenbergh, and she was sold to John Neely of Kingston, NY. Neely would beat her and treat her cruelly, and sold her two years later to Martinus Schryver of Kingston, NY, a tavern keeper for $105. In 1810, Schryver sold her for $175 to John Dumont of New Paltz, NY. Although Dumont was kind to her, his wife harassed her and made her life miserable. In 1815, Isabella fell in love with a slave named Robert from a neighboring farm. When the two were found to be lovers, Robert was sold and she never saw him again. Shortly afterwards, she gave birth to a daughter, whom she named Diana. Two years later, she was forced to marry an older slave named Thomas, and they would have four more children: Peter (born 1822), James (born 1823), Elizabeth (born 1825) and Sophia (born 1826). In 1799, the state of New York had passed legislation to emancipate all slaves in the state on July 4, 1827; during this period NY slaves could not be sold out of the state (to avoid the coming emancipation). Dumont had promised to free Isabella a year early if she would work well and faithful for him, but at the last minute, Dumont changed his mind. In late 1826, Isabella walked away from Dumont's farm with her youngest child, Sophia, leaving the other children because she could not take care of them. She found her way to the home of Isaac and Maria Van Wagenen, a Quaker couple who took her in, and Isaac paid $20 to Dumont for her until the emancipation took place eight months later. When Isabella learned that Dumont had sold her son Peter to an owner in Alabama, she took the issue to court, and after several months of legal efforts, she won the case and her son was returned. During her stay with the Van Wagenen's, Isabella became a devout Christian. In 1845, she moved with her son Peter to New York City, where she worked as a housekeeper for Elijah Pierson. In 1839, Peter left her to take a job on a whaling ship, and in June 1843, she renamed herself "Sojourner Truth," telling her friends that she must go and preach about abolition. While living with the Northampton Association of Education and Industry, an abolitionist group in Massachusetts, she met fellow abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglas, and David Ruggles. In 1850, Garrison published her autobiography, "The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave," and from the proceeds bought herself a house in Northampton, Mass. In 1851, she began touring the northern states, speaking at Abolitionist meetings at a time when women were not supposed to speak in public. In Akron, Ohio, she delivered her most remembered speech, "Ain't I a Woman," adopted from the abolitionist image of a kneeling female slave that asks "Am I Not a Woman and a Sister?" Over the remaining years before the Civil War, Truth would speak hundreds of times at Abolitionist meetings. Moving to Harmonia, Michigan, she worked during the Civil War to help recruit black soldiers for the Union Army, and in 1864, worked at the Freedman's Relief Association in Washington DC, helping to provide aid to freed slaves. In 1865, she began riding the Washington DC streetcars, to help force their desegregation. Following the Civil War, Truth continued to speak around the country, on issues such as aid to former slaves, women's rights (including voting), prison reform, and against capital punishment. She died at her home in Battle Creek, Michigan, and was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery along side her other family members.

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson


In Memoriam
Born A Slave In
Ulster Co. N.Y.
In The 18th Century
Died In Battle Creek
Aged About 105 Years
"Is God Dead" S.T.

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 1044
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Sojourner Truth (1797–26 Nov 1883), Find a Grave Memorial ID 1044, citing Oak Hill Cemetery, Battle Creek, Calhoun County, Michigan, USA ; Maintained by Find a Grave .