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Sojourner Truth (1797 - 1883)

A photo of Sojourner Truth
Sojourner Truth
1797 - 1883
Born
1797
Ulster County, New York United States
Death
November 26, 1883
Battle Creek, Calhoun County, Michigan United States
Other Names
Isabella Bomfree, Isabella Baumfree
Summary
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.
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Updated: March 12, 2021
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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.
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Biography
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
Female
Gender
Sojourner Truth was born in in Ulster County, New York United States
Birth
Sojourner Truth died on in Battle Creek, Calhoun County, Michigan United States
Death
Birth
Death
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
Heritage

Ethnicity & Lineage

African-American

Nationality & Locations

New York and Michigan; US citizen
Childhood

Education

Sojourner could neither read or write

Religion

Methodist

Baptism

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Adulthood

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Personal Life

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Obituary

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

In 1820, she was 23 years old when on February 23rd, a plot to murder the Cabinet of the United Kingdom - called the Cato Street Conspiracy - was discovered in England. Thirteen people were arrested of which five were hanged and decapitated (some people paid for a good view of the hanging, attendance was so large). These were the last beheadings in Great Britain.

In 1833, Sojourner was 36 years old when on August 12th, Chicago was incorporated as a town at the estuary of the Chicago River by 350 settlers. Chicago’s first permanent resident was a trader named Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, a free black man -perhaps from Haiti - who went there in the late 1770s. At first, it was simply a trading post but it grew quickly, going from trading post to town to city in 1837.

In 1848, by the time she was 51 years old, on January 24th, James Marshall discovered gold at Sutter's Mill in California. On August 19th, the New York Herald published news of the Gold Rush in California - alerting the east coast. The Gold Rush brought over 300,000 people to northern California from the rest of the US and overseas.

In 1851, Sojourner was 54 years old when on April 28th, Santa Clara College - now Santa Clara University - was chartered. A private Jesuit college, it has remained in the same location for over 165 years. Originally all students were men but women were admitted in 1961.

In 1883, in the year of Sojourner Truth's passing, on June 16th, children at a children's variety show in Victoria Hall began rushing the stage area and lobby for promised prizes. In the stampede, 183 children of the 1100 present - most of them 3 to 4 years old - were crushed and asphyxiated.

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