Biography of Sojourner Truth


1797  --  Isabella Baumfree (Sojourner Truth) was born in a Dutch community in Ulster County, New York to slave parents who had in all thirteen children. 

1806  -- Isabella was sold to a Mr. Neeley for $100 dollars. Isabella, who spoke only Dutch, was sold to another owner.  She was treated brutally and had to learn English quickly in order to survive. (But she always spoke English with a Dutch accent.)

1808  -- she was sold a Mr. Shriver for $105 dollars.

1810  --  she was sold to her third master, John Dumont, who forced Isabella to marry an older slave named Thomas. She had five children with Thomas. 

1815  -- her daughter Diane was born.

1822 -- her son Peter was born.

?  --  her daughter Hannah was born.

1825  -- her daughter Elizabeth was born.

1826  -- her daughter Sophia was born. 

1828  --   When Dumont reneged on his promise to free her, she ran away with her infant son. She and her daughter Sophia were purchased by Van Wagener to give them their freedom.

1828 (July 4) --  slavery was abolished in New York State, so Isabella became legally free.  She subsequently conducted a court action for the return of her youngest son Peter, who had been illegally sold to a slave owner in Alabama. 

Isabella moved to New York City where she worked as a housekeeper. She worked for several religious communes.

1841  --  the utopian Northampton Association in Northampton, Massachusetts was founded as a cooperative community dedicated to abolitionism, pacifism, equality and the betterment of human life.

1843  --  Isabella underwent a spiritual revelation that transformed her life. She changed her name to Sojourner Truth.  As this newly inspired person she walked from community to community through Long Island and Connecticut preaching her religious message.

Truth was encouraged by friends to go to the Northampton Association and so she traveled to Northampton where she joined a utopian commune. Here she met and came to work with abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and David Ruggles, and local abolitionists such as Samuel Hill, George Benson and Olive Gilbert.

1846  --  the Northampton Association disbanded.  With a loan from fellow abolitionist Samuel Hill, Truth was able to establish herself in her own home (this one on Park Street in Florence).  She became a sought-after figure on the anti-slavery-womanís rights lecture circuit.

1850  --  Truth had never learned to read or write, but she dictated her memoirs to Oliver Gilbert and these were published as The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave.

1851  --  she spoke at a women's rights convention in Akron, Ohio where she used the phrase that became famous, "Ain't I a Woman?"  This phrase was associated with her for the rest of her life.

1856  --  Quaker Henry Willis brought Truth to Battle Creek, Michigan to speak.

1857  --  Truth moved to Battle Creek and continued her activism.

1863  --  after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, Truth moved to Washington, D.C. She worked with former slaves in the newly created Freedmanís Village. She met with President Lincoln in the White House.

1865  --  after the Civil War, she crusaded for legislation for a land distribution program for former slaves.  Congress refused to support the idea.. Discouraged, she finally returned to her home in Battle Creek.

1872  --  it was noted in a Battle Creek newspaper that Truth had tried to cast her vote in a local election.

1883  --  surrounded by family and friends, she died in Battle Creek.