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Sojourner Truth
Date: American, 1797-1883
Biography: FAMILY BACKGROUND: 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. DESCRIPTION OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 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 life. 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 covention 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.