Sojourner Truth is an American legend. She began life as a slave and ended her life as an outgoing speaker and free woman. Sojourner led a very disadvantage life but was able to rise above her hardships. Truth was a motivational speaker even though she was not able to read or write. Sojourner Truth continues to impact lives today through her works.
Isabella Baumfree was born in 1797 in Ulster County, New York (Women in History). Isabella became widely known as Sojourner Truth. Sojourner’s parents, Elizabeth and James Baumfree were slaves. Her childhood was spent under the watchful eyes of abusive masters. Her primary language during her childhood was Dutch. At age nine, Sojourner was sold to John Neely. It was in this abusive situation that she turned to religion. Religion was her “refuge”. Sojourner Truth had at least five children between 1815 and 1827. Truth was sold several times and was finally purchased by Isaac and Maria Van Wagenen in New York State. The Van Wagenen’s gave Sojourner her freedom in 1827. It was during this time that Truth felt the call to preach (Women in History). In approximately 1829, she moved to New York City with her youngest two children (“Sojourner Truth” Encyclopedia Britannica). The rest of her children had been sold as slaves (Women in History). Sojourner Truth’s legal name at this time was Isabella Van Wagener (“Sojourner Truth” Encyclopedia Britannica).
Sojourner Truth spent the next several years traveling and preaching (Butler, Mary G.). During her travels, she met several important reformers and abolitionist of that time such as William Lloyd Garrison, Susan B. Anthony, and Harriet Beecher Stowe (Butler, Mary G.). While traveling, she lived and worked with many different groups and associations (Women in History). She met and worked with Olive Gilbert at an association created by abolitionists. This association encouraged “cooperative and productive labor.” Olive Gilbert wrote The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave in 1850 with Truth dictating. C-Span American Writers article, “Sojourner Truth”, describes this book as a fractional biography of Sojourner’s life. It details the experiences she had as a slave and her spiritual change which led her to become a great speaker. It was the first book to depict the life of a female slave. The proceeds from selling this book helped Truth support herself while travelling and speaking (“Sojourner Truth” C-Span American Writers).
Sojourner Truth’s speeches had a religious context, were anti-slavery, and encouraged woman’s rights (Women in History). Even though she was illiterate, Truth drew large crowds to her speaking engagements (“Sojourner Truth” C-Span American Writers). Sojourner Truth had a striking presence (Butler, Mary G.). Truth was nearly six feet tall and her voice could settle a loud audience (Butler, Mary G.). She delivered her famous “Ain’t I a Woman” speech at...