Sojourner Truth (1797 - 1883)

A photo of Sojourner Truth
Sojourner Truth
1797 - 1883
Ulster County, New York United States
November 26, 1883
Battle Creek, Calhoun County, Michigan United States
Other Names
Isabella Bomfree, Isabella Baumfree
Sojourner Truth was born in 1797 in New York United States. She died on November 26, 1883 in Battle Creek, Michigan United States at 86 years of age.
Updated: March 12, 2021
Born Isabella Bomfree in New York to James Baumfree and Elizabeth Baumfree, Sojourner was bought and sold 4 times. In 1815, she united with an enslaved man, Thomas, and they had 5 children. Eleven years later towards the end of 1826, after enduring a lot of abuse in her relationship, she ran away with her infant daughter to an abolitionist family - the Van Wageners. Approximately one year later New York freed enslaved people and the Van Wageners bought her freedom for $20. At that time, $20 was the equivalent of about $550.70 today. Sojourner then successfully sued for the return of her son Peter who was 5 years old at the time and had been illegally sold into Alabama. Soon after she moved to New York City in 1828 and began working for a minister. Becoming a part of religious revivals, "Isabella Baumfree" renamed herself "Sojourner Truth" around 1843. As an itinerant preacher, Sojourner met prominent abolitionists and they encouraged her to speak about her experiences as an enslaved person and the evils of slavery. Although she couldn't read or write, she did dictate her autobiography (The Narrative of Sojourner Truth). The autobiography made her famous, gave her an income, and she began to meet women's rights and temperance advocates. She quickly embraced these movements and began working to promote them. At nearly 6 feet tall, Sojourner was an imposing speaker and in high demand. While continuing to speak throughout the Country, she settled in Battle Creek, Michigan in the 1850s to live close to three of her daughters who lived in the area. During the Civil War, she organized supplies for Black troops and urged men to join the Union Army. After the War, she worked to help freed slaves find jobs. Her reputation grew and she became so well known that she was invited to the White House. A powerful and hardworking woman, Sojourner spoke about civil rights - abolition, women's rights, and prison reform, as well as against capital punishment - throughout her life. Nearly blind and deaf towards the end of her life, she was cared for by 2 of her daughters. According to a reporter from the Grand Rapids Eagle who interviewed her several days before she died, "Her face was drawn and emaciated and she was apparently suffering great pain. Her eyes were very bright and mind alert although it was difficult for her to talk." Nearly 1000 people attended her funeral in Battle Creek and Frederick Douglass offered a eulogy for her in Washington, D.C.: "Venerable for age, distinguished for insight into human nature, remarkable for independence and courageous self-assertion, devoted to the welfare of her race, she has been for the last forty years an object of respect and admiration to social reformers everywhere." The original November 27th 1883 obituary in the New York Times for Sojourner is included below. Note: It seems that the obituary is littered with less than accurate information, including her age at death, when slavery was abolished in NY state, & etc.
Show & Tell Her Story
Share your memories, stories, and photos so that Sojourner is always remembered.
Update biography
What's this?

This collaborative biography is for you to show & tell Sojourner's life so that she is always remembered.

Sojourner Truth
Most commonly known as
Sojourner Truth
Full name
Isabella Bomfree, Isabella Baumfree
Other names or aliases
Unknown. Did Sojourner move a lot? Where was her last known location?
Last known residence
Sojourner Truth was born in in Ulster County, New York United States
Sojourner Truth died on in Battle Creek, Calhoun County, Michigan United States
natural causes
Cause of death
November 28, 1883
Oak Hill Cemetery Crematory 255 South Ave, in Battle Creek, Calhoun County, Michigan United States 49014
Burial / Funeral

Ethnicity & Lineage


Nationality & Locations

New York and Michigan; US citizen


Sojourner could neither read or write




Was Sojourner baptized?


Share what Sojourner did for a living or if she had a career or profession.

Personal Life

Share highlights of Sojourner's life. Experiences, organizations, & how she spent her time.

Military Service

Did Sojourner serve in the military or did a war or conflict interfere with her life?

Average Age

Life Expectancy

The obituary, published on Nov. 27, 1883, described Truth as a famous lecturer on “temperance, politics, and the woman’s rights question.” Sojourner Truth, the well-known colored lecturer, died at Battle Creek, Mich., yesterday, aged 103 years. For almost three-quarters of a century she delivered lectures from the East to the West upon temperance, politics, and the woman’s rights question. She was born a slave, in the state of New York, and spent the early part of her life — until 1817, when slavery was abolished in this state — in hard work in the fields of her many masters. Her parents were brought from the coast of Guinea, and sold as slaves on arriving in the United States. Her real name — or that which had been given to her by her first master — was Isabella Hardenburg, but, becoming dissatisfied with it, it is said that she went out into a wilderness and prayed to the Lord to give her an appropriate name. After praying for some time she heard, she said, the name “ Sojourner” whispered to her, as she was to travel “up and down,” and afterward “Truth” was added to it to signify that she should preach nothing but truth to all men. Sojourner had a tall, masculine-looking figure — she was almost 6 feet high — and talked in a deep, guttural, powerful voice that made many people who heard her think that she was a man, and was imposing upon them by masquerading as a woman. Upon one occasion, while she was preaching to an audience, doubts as to her sex were freely expressed, and be satisfied them that she was a woman. She could neither read nor write, but on her lecturing tours took with her grandson, who attended to her business affairs Sojourner knew many prominent men — her favorite statesman being Abraham Lincoln — and her narratives and descriptions of those whom she had known showed that she had judged their characters exceedingly well. During her later life, or for the past 10 years, her avowed object in traveling around was to obtain names to a petition which she intended presenting to the government, asking that a portion of the public lands in the West be set apart for the establishment of a negro colony, where she proposed that the negro youth should be educated. Sojourner undoubtedly did a great deal of good work during her lifetime, for she was instrumental in reclaiming hundreds of men and women from a bad life, and by her own set a splendid example to the colored population.
Kathy Pinna
Kathy Pinna shared
on Mar 02, 2021 2:53 PM
Sojourner's immediate relatives including parents, siblings, partnerships and children in the Truth family tree.

Sojourner's Family Tree

Sojourner Truth Sojourner Truth


Friends can be as close as family. Add Sojourner's family friends, and her friends from childhood through adulthood.

Add bio

Photos and snapshots taken of Sojourner Truth, her Truth family, and locations and places or events from her life.


Leave a comment to ask questions, share information, or simply to show that you care about Sojourner.


Share Sojourner's obituary or write your own to preserve her legacy.

Sojourner Truth died on November 26, 1883 in Battle Creek, Michigan United States at 86 years of age. She was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery Crematory, Battle Creek, Michigan United States. She was born in 1797 in New York United States. There is no information about Sojourner's family or relationships.

Refresh this page to see various historical events that occurred during Sojourner's lifetime.

In 1816, when she was 19 years old, in Philadelphia, the African Methodist Episcopal Church - the oldest independent Protestant denomination in the world founded by black people - was established by Richard Allen and other African-American Methodists. It is often called the AME church today.

In 1851, at the age of 54 years old, Sojourner was alive when on March 27th, the first recorded visit of white men to Yosemite Valley occurred. The Mariposa Battalion, chasing Native Americans, went into the valley. One man, Dr. Lafayette Bunnell, wrote "the grandeur of the scene was but softened by the haze that hung over the valley -- light as gossamer -- and by the clouds which partially dimmed the higher cliffs and mountains. This obscurity of vision but increased the awe with which I beheld it, and as I looked, a peculiar exalted sensation seemed to fill my whole being, and I found my eyes in tears with emotion."

In 1864, by the time she was 67 years old, on April 22nd, the Coinage Act of 1864 was passed by Congress. It mandated that "In God We Trust" was to be placed on all United States coins and created a 2 cent coin. Later - in 1956 - "In God We Trust" replaced "E Pluribus Unum" - which means out of many, one - as the national motto.

In 1873, when she was 76 years old, on March 4th, Ulysses S. Grant was inaugurated for a second time as President of the United States. Grant ran against Horace Greeley - "go West, young man" - and won 55.6% of the popular vote versus Greeley's 43.8%.

In 1883, in the year of Sojourner Truth's passing, on February 28th, in Boston MA, the first vaudeville theater was opened by Benjamin Franklin Keith.

Back to Top