So how does a child born Isabella Baumfree grow up to become Sojourner Truth?
Truth was born an enslaved person in the state of New York in about 1797. Until she was nine years old, the only language she spoke was Dutch. After surviving many hardships, she walked to freedom in 1826. Shortly after she freed herself, she had a religious conversion and became a Christian. She also found out that her son had been illegally sold as an enslaved person in Alabama and she sued the owner and won – the first time in US history that a Black woman successfully sued a white man.
In 1843, she changed her name to Sojourner, which means traveler or wanderer. She felt that God’s Spirit was leading her to go East and to preach. She believed that people needed to hear the truth. She became an activist working to abolish slavery and promote women’s rights.
In 1850, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth was published after Truth dictated her life story to her friend Olive Gilbert. She had to dictate her story, because despite all the amazing things she did, she never learned to read.
In the last decades of her life, Truth made her home in Battle Creek, Michigan. The Kimball House Museum in Battle Creek contains the Sojourner Truth Exhibit Room which has many items relating to Truth and the only known copy of her signature. Also in Battle Creek, there is a monument to Truth.
The Kimball House Museum is the second stop on our Michigan Author Adventures Trail.
Rebecca Blake Beech