Sojourner Truth is thought to be one of the great activists, speakers, and thinkers in US history.
She was born in New York state in 1797, to African slaves, and was given the name Isabella Baumfree. She was sold into slavery at the age of 10 and had a very difficult childhood.
She married and later escaped to freedom with her infant daughter. Her other daughter and son stayed behind. Shortly after her escape, she learned that her son Peter, then 5 years old, had been illegally sold to a man in Alabama. She took the issue to court and eventually Peter was returned. The case was one of the first in which a black woman successfully challenged a white man in court.
Sojourner lived much of her life in Battle Creek, Michigan, but she traveled often around the nation delivering her message. She was at the White House two times and met both President Lincoln and President Grant.
She changed her name to Sojourner Truth in 1843, became a Methodist, and dedicated her life to preaching about the abolition of slavery and the need for women’s rights.
After the Civil War, Sojourner Truth helped former slaves ease into a life of freedom. Sojourner Truth continued to fight for the rights of African-Americans and women until the day she died in 1883 at the age of 86.
In April of 2009, Sojourner Truth became the first black woman to be honored with a statue in the US Capitol. First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at the ceremony.
“I hope that Sojourner Truth would be proud to see me, a descendant of slaves, serving as the First Lady of the United States of America.”