Who was she?
Born Isabella Baumfree, Sojourner Truth was an abolitionist and women’s rights activist. She was born a slave but escaped in 1826 with her infant daughter.
What did she do?
When she found out that her five-year-old son had been sold illegally by her former master, Truth went to court and became the first Black woman to legally challenge a White man and win. In 1843, she changed her name to Sojourner Truth and began traveling around the country to speak out against slavery. She secretly published a memoir, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave, and spoke at the first National Women’s Rights Convention. In her speech, which later became known as “Ain’t I A Woman,” she demanded equal rights for all Black people and all women. She helped recruit Black troops for the Union Army and tried to secure land grants for former slaves after the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed. Although the land grants did not come through, Truth’s contributions were an incredibly powerful part of the successful abolition of slavery.
Why does she matter?
Sojourner Truth spent her life fighting for freedom and equal rights for both women and Black people. She experienced great hardship — both as a woman and as an African American — and stood up to fight those injustices not only for herself but for the larger community. She put her body and her voice on the line to spread the message of abolition and gender equality. Her efforts to change hearts and minds, in addition to the help of those who shared her mission, were able to effect serious change.