Photo credits: The U.S. National Archives
She came into the world on November 18, 1797, according to BlackFacts.com. Her birth name was Isabella Baumfree. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, New York. She escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to court to recover her son in 1828, she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man.
She gave herself the name Sojourner Truth in 1843. The civil rights pioneer became convinced that God had called her to leave the city and go into the countryside “testifying the hope that was in her.” Truth’s best-known speech was delivered extemporaneously, in 1851, at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio.
The speech became widely known during the Civil War by the title “Ain’t I a Woman?“, a variation of the original speech re-written by someone else using a stereotypical Southern dialect, whereas Sojourner Truth was from New York and grew up speaking Dutch as her first language.
During the Civil War, Truth helped recruit black troops for the Union Army, After the war, she tried unsuccessfully to secure land grants from the federal government for formerly enslaved people (summarized as the promise of “forty acres and a mule“).
A memorial bust of Truth was unveiled in 2009 in Emancipation Hall in the U.S. Capitol Visitor’s Center. She is the first African American woman to have a statue in the Capitol building. In 2014, Truth was included in Smithsonian magazine’s list of the “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time.”
She died at 86 years of age on November 26, 1883 in Battle Creek, Michigan.
*BlackThen.com writer and historian Victor Trammell edited and contributed to this report.