Sojourner Truth, 1870
Sojourner Truth (c. 1797 – November 26, 1883) was an American activist for abolitionism, women’s rights, universal suffrage, and other causes.
Sojourner Truth was born Isabella Baumfree (or Bomefree) around 1797 in Dutch-speaking New York to enslaved parents. Sold away from her family in childhood, Isabella was owned by several abusive enslavers. In early adulthood, she was married to an enslaved man named Thomas and was mother to 5 children.
In 1826, Isabella escaped to seek freedom with her infant daughter and was finally freed from slavery in 1827 under New York’s emancipation laws. In 1828, she successfully fought in court for custody of her young son, who had been illegally sold to an enslaver in Alabama.
Isabella became a devout Christian and in 1843 changed her name to Sojourner Truth. A highly religious woman, she became a traveling preacher, speaking at camp meetings.
Sojourner Truth was a charismatic and powerful speaker, championing causes such as the abolition of slavery and equal rights. She traveled the lecture circuit with other abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass.
In 1850, she published her autobiography, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, which she dictated to a friend since she could neither read nor write. In May 1851, at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention, Sojourner Truth gave her most famous speech, which has since become known as “Ain’t I a Woman?”
Later Life & Death
In the late 1850s, she moved to Michigan, which would serve as her homebase for the remainder of her life. During the Civil War, Sojourner Truth helped recruit Black soldiers for the Union army and worked with the National Freedman’s Relief Association. After the war, she advocated for federal land grants in the West for freedpeople.
Sojourner Truth died on November 26, 1883, in Battle Creek, Michigan, at around age 86. Due to uncertainty about her true age, her tombstone says she was 105 years old.
Learn more about Sojourner Truth through historical newspapers from our archives. Explore newspaper articles, headlines, images, and other primary sources below.
Articles and Clippings about Sojourner Truth
Sojourner Truth ("Isabella H. Van Waggenan") wins slander lawsuit in 1835 and is awarded damages Thu, Oct 8, 1835 – Page 3 · The Long-Island Star (Brooklyn, New York) · Newspapers.com1850 newspaper ad for autobiography "Narrative of Sojourner Truth" Fri, Apr 26, 1850 – Page 3 · The Liberator (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.comSojourner Truth speaks at 1850 New England Anti-Slavery Convention Sat, Jun 15, 1850 – Page 2 · Anti-Slavery Bugle (Lisbon, Ohio) · Newspapers.comAccount of Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman" speech at 1851 Ohio Women's Rights Convention Sat, Jun 21, 1851 – Page 4 · Anti-Slavery Bugle (Lisbon, Ohio) · Newspapers.comSojourner Truth responds to insults and rumors during an 1858 speech in Indiana Fri, Oct 15, 1858 – Page 1 · The Liberator (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.comExcerpt from 1862 account of famous Sojourner Truth quote to Frederick Douglass "Is God dead?" Fri, May 16, 1862 – Page 2 · The Liberator (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.comHarriet Beecher Stowe writes piece for Atlantic Monthly titled "Sojourner Truth, the Lybian Sibyl" Sat, Mar 28, 1863 – 2 · North Star (Danville, Vermont) · Newspapers.com1864 newspaper mention of Sojourner Truth's work with Black soldiers during the Civil War Fri, Jan 22, 1864 – 1 · Vermont Watchman and State Journal (Montpelier, Vermont) · Newspapers.comExcerpt from letter describing Sojourner Truth's work during the Civil War and meeting with Lincoln Fri, Dec 23, 1864 – Page 2 · The Liberator (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.comSojourner Truth is commissioned by the National Freedman's Relief Association as a counselor Thu, Feb 16, 1865 – Page 1 · Cleveland Daily Leader (Cleveland, Ohio) · Newspapers.comStreet car conductor in Washington DC attempts to force Sojourner Truth from her seat in 1865 Thu, Dec 14, 1865 – Page 2 · West Eau Claire Argus (West Eau Claire, Wisconsin) · Newspapers.comSojourner Truth speaks on Black women's rights at 1867 New York Equal Rights Association meeting Fri, May 10, 1867 – 4 · The Brooklyn Union (Brooklyn, New York) · Newspapers.comSojourner Truth advocates for U.S. Congress to provide land grants to formerly enslaved individuals Tue, Feb 28, 1871 – Page 1 · The Indianapolis News (Indianapolis, Indiana) · Newspapers.comSojourner Truth speaks on a variety of topics to a Black audience in Kansas in 1872 Thu, Jan 4, 1872 – Page 3 · Wyandotte Gazette (Kansas City, Kansas) · Newspapers.comInterview with Sojourner Truth, including her work to obtain land for Black settlement in Kansas Thu, Sep 18, 1879 – Page 4 · The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Illinois) · Newspapers.comArticle reports Sojourner Truth grew up speaking Dutch and does not speak in a Southern dialect Thu, Sep 18, 1879 – Page 4 · The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Illinois) · Newspapers.comPartial description from 1880 of Sojourner Truth's life while enslaved Sun, Dec 5, 1880 – 18 · Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) · Newspapers.comNew York Times obituary for Sojourner Truth following her death in November 1883 Tue, Nov 27, 1883 – Page 2 · The New York Times (New York, New York) · Newspapers.com1883 obituary for Sojourner Truth, including a picture of her Thu, Dec 13, 1883 – 1 · Birmingham Iron Age (Birmingham, Alabama) · Newspapers.comNewspaper account of why Sojourner Truth changed her name from Isabella Mon, Dec 3, 1883 – Page 1 · The Indianapolis News (Indianapolis, Indiana) · Newspapers.comNewspaper prints portrait of Sojourner Truth and Abraham Lincoln Sun, Oct 4, 1931 – Page 25 · Battle Creek Enquirer (Battle Creek, Michigan) · Newspapers.comBlack women in Battle Creek, Michigan, attempt to raise money for Sojourner Truth monument in 1939 Sat, Aug 19, 1939 – 5 · The Detroit Tribune (Detroit, Michigan) · Newspapers.comBust of Sojourner Truth is placed in Emancipation Hall of U.S. Capitol in 2009 Wed, Apr 29, 2009 – Page 1 · Battle Creek Enquirer (Battle Creek, Michigan) · Newspapers.com