Truth, Sojourner (c. 1797–1883)

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Truth, Sojourner (c. 1797–1883)

Former slave from New York who gained her freedom in 1827 and subsequently became a renowned religious reformer, public speaker, and activist on behalf of abolition and women's rights. Name variations: Isabella Bomefree or Isabella Baumfree; Isabella Van Wagener or Isabella Van Wagenen. Pronunciation: SO-jurn-er. Born Isabella Bomefree about 1797 in Ulster County, New York; died on November 26, 1883, at her home in Battle Creek, Michigan; daughter of Elizabeth and James Bomefree (both slaves of Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh); married Robert, a slave owned by a man named Catlin, sometime between 1810 and 1817 (relationship terminated by Catlin soon thereafter); married another fellow slave named Thomas about 1817; children: (first marriage) Diana (b. 1815); (second marriage) Peter, James, Elizabeth, and Sophia.

Upon the death of her second master, Charles Hardenbergh (1808), was sold away from her parents to a new owner, John Neely, also of Ulster County, New York; a few months later, was purchased by Martin Schryver, a local tavern-keeper; was sold again (1810), to John J. Dumont of New Paltz, New York; ran away from Dumont's plantation with her infant child (1826) and sought asylum with Maria and Isaac Van Wagener, who purchased her freedom from Dumont; went to court to reclaim her son Peter, who had been illegally sold to a Southern plantation (1828); joined a utopian religious commune called the Kingdom, led by self-styled prophet Robert Matthias (1832); after the Kingdom disintegrated, moved to New York City where she worked to support herself and her son; changed her name to Sojourner Truth and left New York City to become a traveling preacher (1843); in the winter of that year, entered a Massachusetts utopian community called the Northampton Association for Education and Industry, where she was introduced to the principles of feminism and abolitionism; gave her first speech on abolition (1844); spoke to the American Anti-Slavery Society in New York City (1845); dictated her life story to fellow Association member Olive Gilbert (1846) and had it printed by William Lloyd Garrison (1850); commenced formal association with the growing circuit of antislavery agitators in the Northeast and Midwest (1851); gave a speech on female equality at the Akron meeting of the Ohio Women's Rights Convention (May 1851); moved to Harmonia, a Progressive Friends (spiritualist) settlement near Battle Creek, Michigan (1857); upon the outbreak of the Civil War, made numerous speeches in support of the Union cause (1861); met Abraham Lincoln (1864); engaged in refugee relief work at the many camps established by the National Freedmen's Relief Association and the Freedmen's Bureau (1864–68); attended and spoke at the Equal Rights Association meeting in New York City (1867); undertook a petition campaign agitating for the federal government to provide western land grants to emancipated slaves (beginning 1868); suffered from several bouts of debilitating illness (early 1870s); had sufficiently recovered to embark on another lecture tour (1878); in the last years of her life, was cared for by her daughters Diana and Elizabeth in Battle Creek, where she died of a long illness at age 86.

During her lifetime, Sojourner Truth went from being a slave to a well-recognized speaker for the early women's rights and abolitionist movements. Nearly six feet tall, with a deep voice and dramatic persona, she convincingly presented her opinions about religion, slavery, and equality to captivated audiences throughout the North during the height of the anti-slavery movement of the 1850s.

Sojourner Truth was born a slave about 1797 near Rosendale, Ulster County, New York, on the farm of Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh. Her parents, James and Elizabeth "Mau Mau Bett" Bomefree (also spelled Baumfree), named her Isabella, by which name she went until she renamed herself at age 46. Because New York had originally been a colony of the Netherlands, many of the early settlers of the area were of Dutch descent, including Sojourner's owner. She, like the entire Hardenbergh family and all their slaves, spoke only Dutch.

Slavery in New York differed from that practiced on the plantations of Virginia or South Carolina. Although the state had the largest number of enslaved people in the North (early Dutch settlers had actively encouraged the importation of slaves), people of African descent still made up only 15% of the total population. Farmers and townspeople employed their slaves in a variety of tasks, including housework, field labor, and artisanal crafts like blacksmithing. Colonel Hardenbergh was a rather large slaveholder when viewed in this context; in 1790, he owned seven slaves, extensive farmland along the Wallkill River, and a grist mill. Sojourner's family lived as cottagers on Hardenbergh's land, which meant that they occupied a house unto themselves and, when not working at his behest, farmed a small plot of land for their own use. While their situation offered them a level of autonomy beyond that normally experienced by Southern slaves, bondage remained a painful and grueling existence for the Bomefrees. Sojourner's father had been married twice before, but both of his wives had been sold away from him. Moreover, although her mother had given birth to at least ten children before her, by the time Sojourner was born, Hardenbergh had sold all but one of her siblings, her brother Peter.

Sojourner's earliest memory was the end of her family's cottager life. When she was still quite small (about two years old), Colonel Hardenbergh died, leaving his slaves to his son, Charles. Shortly thereafter, Charles built a new house, which was to serve as a hotel, and moved his slaves out of their rural home into the basement of the establishment. As she recorded in the narrative of her life, Sojourner remembered the family's situation as "dismal," with all crowded together into the dank cellar, "its only lights consisting of a few panes of glass … and the space between the loose boards of the floor, and the uneven earth below … often filled with mud and water, the uncomfortable splashings of which were as annoying as its noxious vapors must have been chilling and fatal to health." Sojourner lived under these circumstances for the next seven years, until Charles Hardenbergh died and his heirs sold her to John Neely, along with a lot of sheep, for $100. When she later remembered this momentous event, Truth remarked with feeling, "Now the war begun." John Neely spoke no Dutch, but apparently understood it; his wife and family, however, were utterly unable to communicate with Sojourner, who neither spoke nor comprehended English, which provoked innumerable conflicts and great confusion for her. "If they sent me for a frying-pan, not knowing what they mean, perhaps I carried them the pot-hooks and trammels. Then, oh! how angry mistress would be with me!" Fierce beatings accompanied the anger of her owners, and one episode in particular scarred her for life. As she told the story later, her master once whipped her with "a bundle of rods, prepared in the embers, and bound together with cords." Neely's treatment awakened a renewed religious faith in Sojourner, and it became her habit to pray aloud whenever she was afraid or hurt. As a friend noted, "She had no idea God had any knowledge of her thoughts, save what she told him; or heard her prayers, unless they were spoken audibly." From this time forward, Truth found refuge in religion, frequently praying and speaking to God about her troubles and concerns.

When Sojourner had only been with the Neelys for a few months, her father visited, and while he was there, she begged him to help her get away. James Bomefree seems to have been able to intercede on her behalf, for soon thereafter a man named Martinus Schryver arrived at Neely's and paid him $105 for the girl, only later revealing to Sojourner that James Bomefree had suggested that he buy her. The Schryvers ran a tavern and a fishing business on their largely uncultivated farm. Truth remembered them as a rough crowd who spoke crudely and taught her to curse. While there, she "was expected to carry fish, to hoe corn, to bring roots and herbs from the wood for beers, to go to the Strand for a gallon of molasses or liquor, and 'browse around.'" She had a considerable amount of autonomy, and the life, although she later came to view it as morally backward, represented a safe haven from the brutality she had suffered with the Neelys.

Within a year and a half, however, Sojourner was again sold to a new master, John J. Dumont of New Paltz, New York. Dumont's farm was situated near the Hudson River, and on it he worked about four slaves and employed at least two white servants. Like her earlier owners, the Dumonts spoke only English; by this time, Sojourner had begun to learn the language but still struggled to communicate. She worked hard, both in the fields and the house, and seemed to gain a measure of respect from her master. However, she had an extremely difficult relationship with her mistress, who had not grown up in a slaveholding household and seemed, to Sojourner, to be unfamiliar with and resentful of slaves. Although Truth's memoirs describe Mrs. Dumont as unusually cruel and hateful, all except the most basic reasons for these troubles remain unexplained, "some from motives of delicacy, and others, because the relation of them might inflict undeserved pain of some now living," she wrote, "whom [I] remembers only with esteem and love."

Historians have contended that the unspeakable things to which the narrative refers included everything from sexual abuse, either by John Dumont or by Mrs. Dumont, to the daily humiliations of slavery. The fact remains that Sojourner offered little explanation for her choice to exclude certain aspects of her enslavement from her narrative. Moreover, Truth's description of her early adulthood as a slave differs significantly from the unmitigated opposition to slavery that characterized the abolition campaigns of former slaves Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. For instance, it is clear from her narrative that Sojourner had warm feelings for her master John Dumont, despite the fact that he beat her. As she later recalled, at the time she was Dumont's slave, she "firmly believed that slavery was right and honorable." Her memoirs do not offer an easy or uncomplicated reason for Sojourner's viewpoint at the time, except to demonstrate that as she matured, her feelings about slavery and her situation shifted markedly, to the point that she viewed her early feelings about Dumont "with utter astonishment."

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud puddles, or gives me any best place, and ain't I a woman? … I have borne five children and seen most all sold off into slavery and when I cried out with a mother's grief, none but Jesus heard—and ain't I a woman?

—Sojourner Truth

One of the most important events in the evolution of her feelings about slavery occurred some years after she arrived at the Dumonts', when she fell in love with a slave named Robert, who lived on a neighboring farm. Robert's owner, Charles Catton, forbade them to continue in their relationship because he did not want Robert to have children with slaves Catton himself did not own. Despite this prohibition, Robert continued to visit Sojourner, which provoked Catton and his son to follow Robert to the Dumont farm and then beat him savagely "with the heavy ends of their canes," writes Truth, "bruising and mangling his head and face in the most awful manner, and causing the blood, which streamed from his wounds, to cover him like a slaughtered beast." She watched in horror from her window as her lover was abused, bound, and led away. Robert never again visited Sojourner, but historians have suggested that her first child, Diana (born 1815), was in fact Robert's daughter and that Sojourner's pregnancy (not just the prospect of it) had inspired Catton to such violence.

Within a few years, Sojourner was married to another slave, Thomas, who lived on Dumont's farm. Throughout the United States, slave marriage, unlike civil marriage, was not an institution recognized either by law or by the church. Most slaves married one another either in ceremonies provided by their masters, or "after the slave fashion," in a ceremony officiated by the slaves themselves. It was in the latter manner that Sojourner and Thomas were united. By 1817, the state of New York enacted a law providing that slave marriage be recognized as legal, but only if the marriages were officially contracted. Such contracts were rarely employed, however, and Sojourner and Thomas did not have the benefit of an official marriage certificate. Between 1820 and 1826, Sojourner had four children: Peter, Elizabeth, Sophia , and James. James did not live to adulthood.

In 1799, New York State had made provisions for the gradual abolition of slavery, which was scheduled to occur on July 4, 1827. At some point during Sojourner's tenure with Dumont, he had promised to free her a full year before the state did, "if she would do well and be faithful." When July 1826 arrived, however, Dumont refused to fulfill his promise to her because he claimed that an injury to Sojourner's hand had made her less productive during the previous year and thus still liable for lost labor. Dumont's betrayal infuriated Sojourner, for her sense of fair play and duty had been a hallmark of her understanding of the master-slave relationship. "The slaveholders are TERRIBLE for promising to give you this or that, or such and such a privilege, if you will do thus and so; and when the time of fulfillment comes, and one claims the promise, they, forsooth, recollect nothing of the kind; and you are, like as not, taunted with being a LIAR; or at best, the slave is accused of not having performed his part or condition of the contract." Despite her great disappointment, Truth did not abandon her master without first making sure she had done enough labor to satisfy at least her sense of obligation to him. She determined

to spin 100 pounds of wool before she left, and after that, escaped before dawn one morning in 1826 with her infant daughter Sophia in her arms. "I did not run off, for I thought that wicked, but I walked off, believing that to be all right."

Even as she left, Truth had no clear idea of her destination. After wandering for much of the morning, praying constantly for direction, she arrived at the home of Isaac and Maria Van Wagenen , who happily gave her shelter and work. Within a few days, however, Dumont found her and insisted that she come back with him, which she refused to do. When he threatened to take her baby, Isaac Van Wagenen stepped in and offered to buy Sojourner's service for the remainder of the year, simply to keep her from returning to slavery. Agreeing, Dumont charged $20 and left Sojourner to her new owners, who refused to be called "master" and "mistress," but insisted instead that she call them by their given names. Although Harriet Beecher Stowe later referred to the Van Wagenens as Quakers, there is no evidence that they were members of that faith, but simply that they "did not believe in slavery."

The next year of Sojourner's life was fraught with challenges, the first of which was her campaign to retrieve her young son, Peter. Shortly before she escaped, Dumont had leased the five-year-old to another slaveholder who had then illegally sent him out of New York to Alabama. Once free, Sojourner began a desperate attempt to get him back, appealing first to the Dumonts and then to the slaveholder's family, all to no avail. Finally, a friend put her in contact with a group of activist Quakers who directed her to the courthouse, where she could make an official complaint. After months of legal proceedings, her son was returned to her, covered with scars and full of stories about the abuse he received at the hand of his master.

During the time she was living with the Van Wagenens, Sojourner also had a life-changing religious experience, in which she became "overwhelmed with the greatness of the Divine presence" and was inspired to devote herself to preaching. Before this time, Sojourner's mother had been her sole source of religious instruction, her masters having never encouraged her to read or hear the Bible. She did not set foot into a church until she was nearly 30 years of age, but once involved, she attended the local Methodist church with devotion. Through her contact with local religious groups, Sojourner felt as though she had finally "found some work to do to benefit somebody," and in 1829 undertook her first foray into the world of religious reform, leaving Ulster County for New York City with a white evangelical teacher named Miss Gear . While in the city, she was introduced to numerous evangelicals and other activists, from whom she strove to learn as much about Christianity as she could. She quickly became known as a remarkable preacher whose "speaking was miraculous" in its influence on others.

It was at this time that she became acquainted with a man named Elijah Pierson, who, like other religious reformers of the early 1830s, advocated a strict adherence to Old Testament laws as the means to salvation. In his house, sometimes called the "Kingdom," he led a small circle of family members and fellow believers in an idiosyncratic search for religious truth. Sojourner began working as a housekeeper for Pierson, who invited her to become part of the group, treated her as a spiritual equal and encouraged her to preach to the other members. Shortly after she joined the Kingdom, a man named Robert Matthias arrived at the Pierson home, bringing with him stories of revelation and prophecy. As Sojourner's narrative notes, Matthias viewed himself as "God upon earth, because the spirit of God dwelt in him; while Pierson then understood that his mission was like that of John the Baptist." Eventually, Matthias gathered Pierson and the other followers together at the home of a wealthy New York merchant named Benjamin Folger, located near the town of Sing Sing. In all there were about 20 members, including Truth, who still worked as the group's housekeeper.

The affairs of the Kingdom appeared increasingly strange to the people outside of it. Matthias eschewed traditional marriage and mandated ritualized group cleansings, for which all the members were totally nude. He also claimed that only he could perform true marriages, through which he united "match spirits," or those people whom he determined, through divine revelation, were destined for one another. When legally married people began swapping spouses, scandalous rumors about the Kingdom spread like wildfire through the surrounding communities. In the midst of this excitement, Sojourner's first employer, Pierson, became seriously ill, but Matthias and Pierson refused to call a doctor. According to the doctrine of the Kingdom, all disease resulted from demonic possession, which only Matthias could remedy. When Pierson died in 1834, attended only by members of the Kingdom, his suspicious family and the neighboring community insisted that the coroner be allowed to examine the body. In the meantime, the group suffered serious financial difficulties, Matthias decided to relocate to the West, and his following began to unravel. Sojourner, however, remained stolidly loyal to Matthias and was the only member who decided to follow him on his journey.

Before Sojourner and Matthias left, however, the Folgers, whose home had been the center of the Kingdom, brought charges against both of them, accusing Matthias not only of stealing their money, but also of conspiring with Sojourner to poison Pierson. A witness at the time interpreted the Folgers' actions as an attempt to deflect their own public humiliation during the scandal onto the least socially important members of the group. The court exhumed Pierson's body and commenced a full-fledged investigation into Truth's role in his death. Despite the scrutiny she was under, she stood firm, asking for and receiving the public endorsement of her character from former employers. The charges against her never reached a courtroom, but Matthias was charged with Pierson's murder. Although Sojourner spoke on his behalf to the lawyers in the case, her testimony was never required at the trial. Upon being acquitted, Matthias left for the West, but Sojourner chose not to go with him as she had earlier planned.

Nearly all of Sojourner's life savings and material possessions had been squandered in the financial failures of the Kingdom, and after the affair came to a close, she not only felt betrayed, but was also very poor. Again living in New York City, she struggled to make ends meet but found that "for all her unwearied labors, she had nothing to show." As the city increasingly came to represent failure and demoralization in her mind, she resolved to leave it and make her way as a traveling preacher. On June 1, 1843 (the holy day of Pentecost), she took the name Sojourner Truth and informed her friends: "The Spirit calls me [East], and I must go." Although this marked the beginning of Truth's career as a public figure, she at first wandered in relative obscurity, depending on the kindness of fellow Christians for her food and shelter. As her narrative related, she meandered from religious meeting to religious meeting, "testifying of the hope that was in her"—exhorting the people to "embrace Jesus, and refrain from sin."

During her travels, Truth learned about the numerous "intentional communities" that reform-minded evangelicals had established around New England and the mid-Atlantic region during the 1830s and 1840s. Despite having been burned by the Matthias fiasco, she still found the principles and lifestyle of communitarian settlements attractive. Early in 1844, she visited the Northampton Association of Education and Industry in Massachusetts, which had been recommended to her as a moderate cooperative community. The Association was situated on 500 acres of farmland, where the members kept livestock, ran grist and saw mills, and operated a silk factory. Differing from most of the utopian efforts at the time, the Northampton group based their search for a simpler, more godly life in industrial pursuits, not farming.

Unlike Matthias' Kingdom, the Northampton Association had not been founded by a religious fanatic claiming to be God on earth. Instead, Samuel L. Hill and George Benson, both devoted abolitionists, established the Association in 1842 in order to provide a place where devoted individuals could retreat from the "frivolous occupations" and "vicious enjoyments" which characterized the lives of many, and turn instead to cooperative and productive labor. The community was strongly anti-slavery, religiously tolerant, pro-women's equality, and pacifist in its principles. When Truth arrived, she found about 210 members laboring together to support the community, for which they were paid a small wage. While there, she was introduced to the leaders of the anti-slavery movement at that time, including Frederick Douglass, David Ruggles, and William Lloyd Garrison. Through fellow members and illustrious visitors to the community, Truth was made aware of the great struggle against slavery and took it up as her own. Much later in life, she remembered the intellectually stimulating, reform-minded community with great fondness and respect. "I was with them heart and soul for anything concerning human right, and my belief is in me yet and can't get out."

Although its members had worked hard, the Association's silk-manufacturing business was simply not profitable enough to sustain the community, and in 1846, it disintegrated under a burden of debt. Sojourner took up lodging with the family of one of the founders, George Benson, who had since established a cotton mill. Within a few months, Truth began dictating her life story to a fellow Association member, Olive Gilbert , a white woman who shared some of Truth's evangelical experiences and beliefs. One of the more unusual facets of the narrative is that it ended with Truth proclaiming forgiveness of her old slave master, John Dumont. The occasion of the rapprochement was Truth's visit to see her ailing daughter, Diana, who had never left Dumont's household. Much to Truth's surprise, Dumont informed her that he had changed his views on slavery, saying that "it was the wickedest thing in the world, the greatest curse the earth had ever felt—that it was then very clear to his mind that it was so, though, while he was a slaveholder himself, he did not see it so, and thought it was as right as holding any other property."

Truth felt immense satisfaction at Dumont's change of heart: "Oh! how sweet to my mind was this confession! And what a confession for a master to make to a slave! A slaveholding master turned to a brother! Poor old man, may the Lord bless him, and all slaveholders partake of his spirit!" Truth's capacity for forgiveness makes her narrative somewhat unusual, for most slave autobiographies were composed as weapons against slavery and did not emphasize the humanity of the slaveholder. Truth's relationship with Dumont, like most in her life, had never been typical, however.

The Narrative of Sojourner Truth was privately printed by William Lloyd Garrison in 1850, when Sojourner was 57. The book opened up new avenues for Truth, providing her with the means to support herself while speaking on the anti-slavery lecture circuit, where she sold copies of the narrative to her eager audiences. In fact, her public career began in earnest only after the narrative was published, when she appeared before a large women's rights meeting in Worcester, Massachusetts, in October 1850. She was warmly received by the listeners, to whom she spoke for only a few minutes. As the New York Herald recorded it, "She said Woman set the world wrong by eating the forbidden fruit, and now she was going to set it right. She said Goodness never had any beginning; it was from everlasting, and could never die. But Evil had a beginning, and must have an end. She expressed great reverence for God, and faith that he will bring about his own purposes and plans."

Her next major public appearance occurred one month later at a meeting of the Rhode Island Anti-Slavery Society, which had been specially convened by Frederick Douglass and others to protest the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act. While most of the speakers spoke vehemently and passionately against the act, Truth seemed to have little to say on the subject. The New York-based Anti-Slavery Standard recorded her comments in this way: "She had been a slave, and was not now entirely free. She did not know anything about politics—could not read the newspapers—but thanked God that the law was made—that the worst had come to worst; but the best must come to best."

Despite her initial insecurity about speaking about politics, Truth continued to appear at the most important anti-slavery meetings of the day. In 1851, at William Lloyd Garrison's request, she joined the official antislavery feminist speaking circuit. While on the tour, she spoke to abolitionist audiences in Massachusetts, New York, and Ohio. In 1854, at the Ohio Woman's Rights Convention in Akron, led by feminist writer and activist Frances D. Gage , Truth gave one of her most famous speeches. After listening to several clerics of various persuasions who declared that women were inferior to men and that God had not meant for women to have rights, Sojourner spoke directly to the men:

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud puddles, or gives me any best place, and ain't I a woman? … I have plowed, and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me—and ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man (when I could get it), and bear the lash as well—and ain't I a woman? I have borne five children and seen most all sold off into slavery and when I cried out with a mother's grief, none but Jesus heard—and ain't I a woman?

Truth's speech was praised at the time for its straightforward, powerful language and the hints of humor within it. Throughout her lifetime, newspaper reporters and other observers consistently emphasized that Sojourner's combination of wit and honesty powerfully affected her audience, and often won support for her cause.

Throughout the 1850s, Truth continued to speak on behalf of women's rights and abolition. During the same period, she became involved in another popular religious movement, spiritualism, through a group known as Progressive Friends, an offshoot of the Quakers. The Progressive Friends believed in abolition, women's equality, and non-violence; they also espoused the practice of communicating with spirits. In 1857, Sojourner moved to Harmonia, Michigan, to be part of a Progressive Friends community. By 1860, however, she had left Harmonia for a new home in Battle Creek, for reasons that remain unclear.

During the Civil War, Truth agitated on behalf of the Union, enlistment of black troops in the army, and emancipation of Southern slaves. In 1864, she traveled to Virginia to work among the freed slaves who had arrived at a government refugee camp on Mason's Island. She described her feelings about her new work in a dictated letter to her friend Amy Post . "I do not know but what I shall stay here on the island all winter and go around among the freedmen's camps. They are all delighted to hear me talk. I think I am doing good." In November of that year, she met Abraham Lincoln in Washington, D.C. As she described it in a letter to a friend, "I must say, and I am proud to say, that I never was treated by any one with more kindness and cordiality than were shown to me by that great and good man." The president spoke with her about the war and emancipation, showed her a Bible given him by African-Americans from Baltimore, and signed a copy of her narrative. She said that upon leaving him, "I felt that I was in the presence of a friend, and I now thank God from the bottom of my heart that I always have advocated his cause, and have done it openly and boldly. I shall feel still more in duty bound to do so in time to come."

Truth's work after the war confirms her commitment to the cause of freedpeople. She continued her association with freedmen's relief agencies, and in 1867 began agitating for a plan she had devised to get the federal government to provide land grants in the West for newly freed slaves. For at least seven years, she campaigned on behalf of her idea but with little success. In 1879, much to her delight, Southern blacks began a westward and northward migration of their own accord. The Exodusters, as the emigrants were called, made Kansas their most popular destination. As Truth told reporters at the time, she had long prayed "that my people would go," because she believed African-Americans could "never be much in the South. They cannot get up. As long as the whites have the reins in their hands, how can the colored people get up there?" With great excitement, she traveled to Kansas to assist the refugees as they arrived, and spent a year speaking in white and black churches throughout the state in support of the Exodusters' efforts to build new lives for themselves.

The Kansas mission was to be the last campaign of Truth's life. She returned from it greatly debilitated and never truly recovered her health after that. She spent the final years of her life in Battle Creek, attended by her daughters Diana and Elizabeth. She died at home on November 26, 1883.


Mabee, Carleton. Sojourner Truth: Slave, Prophet, Legend. NY: New York University Press, 1993.

Painter, Nell Irvin. Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol. NY: W.W. Norton, 1996.

Stetson, Erlene, and Linda David. Glorying in Tribulation: The Lifework of Sojourner Truth. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 1994.

Truth, Sojourner. Narrative of Sojourner Truth; a Bondswoman of Olden Time, Emancipated by the New York Legislature in the Early Part of the Present Century with a History of her Labors and Correspondence, Drawn from Her Book of Life. Battle Creek, MI: Published for the Author, 1878.

suggested reading:

Braude, Ann. Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Women's Rights in Nineteenth-Century America. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1989.

Hooks, Bell. Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism. Boston, MA: South End, 1981.

Johnston, Paul E., and Sean Wilentz. The Kingdom of Matthias. NY: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Stewart, James Brewer. Holy Warriors: The Abolitionists and American Slavery. NY: Hill and Wang, 1976.


Adler, David A. A Picture Book of Sojourner Truth. Illus. by Gershom Griffith. NY: Holiday House, 1994.

Macht, Norman L. Sojourner Truth: Crusader for Civil Rights. Junior World Biographies. NY: Chelsea House, 1992.

McKissack, Patricia C., and Frederick McKissack. Sojourner Truth: Ain't I a Woman? (young adult). NY: Scholastic, 1992.

——. Sojourner Truth: A Voice for Freedom. Illus. by Michael Bryant. Hillside, NJ: Enslow, 1992.

Shumate, Jane. Sojourner Truth and the Voice of Freedom. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press, 1991.


Sojourner Truth Papers located at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Margaret M. Storey , Assistant Professor of History, DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois