Isabella “Bell” Baumfree, later known as Sojourner Truth, was born into slavery around 1797 in Swartekill, New York. Her memoirs, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, describe her challenges during enslavement to five masters in succession before she escaped to freedom in 1826, carrying her infant daughter Sophia.
Following a revelation in 1843 in which she heard God calling her to go into the countryside “testifying the hope that was in her,” Sojourner Truth wrote and spoke out fearlessly on behalf of civil and human rights. She offered practical, untiring help to freed slaves following the Civil War and became a trailblazer in the abolitionist and suffragist movements.
An eloquent preacher, she credited her Christian faith for her courage and her refusal to despair. After hearing her speak in 1881, Frances Gage remarked, “I have never in my life seen anything like the magical influence that subdued the mobbish spirit of the day, and turned the sneers and jeers of an excited crowd into notes of respect and admiration.”
Sojourner Truth died at her Battle Creek, Michigan home on November 26, 1883. She is quoted as saying, “I am not going to die. I am going home like a shooting star.”
“And how came Jesus into the world? Through God who created him and the woman who bore him. Man, where was your part? But the women are coming up blessed be God and a few of the men are coming up with them. But man is in a tight place, the poor slave is on him, woman is coming on him, he is surely between a hawk and a buzzard.”
— Sojourner Truth in her “Ain’t I a Woman” speech, delivered at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio on May 29, 1851
“If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together [glancing her eye over the speech platform] ought to be able to turn it back and get it right side up again! And now that they are asking to do it; the men better let them.”
— Sojourner Truth in “Ain’t I a Woman” speech
“Religion without humanity is very poor human stuff.”
— Sojourner Truth
Sojourner Truth took her two greatest challenges — being enslaved and oppression as a woman — and turned them into a fearless opportunity to speak up on behalf of millions of people’s rights. Consider your own life and any ways in which you hav e felt you were hurt or held back. What is one thing you can do today that gives a lift to others facing similar problems?