Major facts about Sojourner Truth
Sojourner Truth was a former African-American slave who fought very hard, along with many renowned 19th-century anti-slavery and women’s rights activists, to tear down the institution of slavery and women oppression in America. She is most famous for fleeing her abusive slave master and then going on to help countless enslaved African Americans make their way to freedom using the Underground Railroad System.
World History Edu explores all the major facts about Sojourner Truth.
- She spent the first nine years of her life on an estate at Swartekill, Esopus, New York.
- Sojourner Truth grew up speaking Dutch as her first language. She would later learn to speak English fluently.
- After the death of her first master, Charles Hardenbergh, in 1806, she was sold to John Neely. Truth was abused by Neely on several occasions, receiving beatings on a daily basis. Neely later sold her for $105 to Martinus Schryver in Port Ewen, New York. 18 months later, she was again sold to John Dumont of West Park, New York. Aside from being raped by Dumont, Dumont’s wife was cruel to Sojourner Truth.
- In 1815, Sojourner Truth started seeing Robert, a slave owned by a landscape painter called Charles Catton, Jr. Because Charles would not be entitled to the children of Truth, he disapproved of Robert and Truth seeing each other. In one instance, the Charles family beat Robert to pulp for sneaking out to see Sojourner. Robert would die a few years later.
- While working at the Freedman’s Hospital in Washington D.C., she boarded the streetcars to show her rejection of segregation laws in the country.
- Inspired by some the works done by Ulysses S. Grant, Sojourner Truth lent her support to President Grant’s presidential campaign. She even tried to vote on Election Day; however, she was quickly evicted from the place. Women by then did not have the right to vote. Regardless, it was a firm statement that Sojourner made – she was not the kind to back down on the struggle for equality in the United States.
- Over the course of her life, she worked and collaborated with some really amazing human rights activists, including Wendell Philips, Susan B. Anthony, William Lloyd Garrison, Lucretia Mott, Ellen G. White, Parker Pillsbury, and Frances Gage.
- In 1851, Sojourner Truth went on a lecture tour throughout central and western New York State. She was in the company of renowned abolitionists, including George Thompson.
- In the course of her life she gave several hundreds of speeches, inspiring future generations of women’s rights activists.
- Sojourner Truth had a knack for remaining very composed when giving speeches on human rights for women and blacks. She was hardly fazed by the audiences – some of which were very hostile towards her.
- She was able to defuse an intense situation, where a group of rowdy young men threatened to set ablaze the camp she was in. Even though she was the only black woman, she did not flinch. She climbed to a small hill top and started singing [the song “It was Early in the Morning”]. Her song was able to calm the nerves of the men, who later left the camp without harming anyone.
- Being a devout Christian, it was not uncommon for her to make religious references in her speeches. One of her favorite Bible reference was the story of Esther. She has quoted the text “honor thy father and thy mother” to support her argument as to why women needed the same rights as men. For example, she eloquently used Bible stories at the American Equal Rights Association in May, 1867, to advocate rights for black men and black women.
- When she was a slave, Sojourner Truth endured some of the most terrible of things that could be meted out to a human being. She was often times beaten by her master for not understanding English. Once she took to preaching and activism, she is believed to have let go of all the hatred she had for those that abused her.
- For close to a decade, she devoted her time to petitioning the federal government to granting lands in the west for African Americans. She believed that those lands would allow the blacks to make something of themselves. In spite of her efforts, those land grants never came to fruition.
- At the Second Annual Convention of the American Woman Suffrage Association in Boston in 1871, Sojourner Truth stated that it is in the interest of the whole nation that women be empowered and be not denied their rights, especially voting rights and reproductive health rights.
- Even though she was an illiterate, she was one of the most eloquent orators of her time. In 1850, she dictated her experiences, both during and after slavery, to Olive Gilbert. Her story was later published under the title The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: a Northern Slave.
- In 2009, a bust of Sojourner Truth was unveiled at the Emancipation Hall in the U.S. Capitol Visitor’s Center. This made her the first African American woman to have a statue in the Capitol building. The sculpture was made by Artis Lane.
- In 2014, Smithsonian magazine included her in their list of 100 Most Significant Americans of All Time.
- She is believed to have had 10-12 siblings. Her parents were James Baumfree and Elizabeth Baumfree. Her parents were purchased by Colonel Hardenbergh.
- In 1981, Sojourner Truth was posthumously inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York.
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