Sojourner Truth (birth name: Isabella "Bell" Baumfree) was an African American woman, who was born a slavve, but went on to have an important role in the abolition of slavery and the promotion of equal rights and racial harmony in the United States. An ardent supporter of the Union during the American Civil War, she worked to recruit Black soldiers to to fight in the Federal Army, and as a result of her activism, met President Abraham Lincoln on one occasion in 1864. After the war, she continued to champion the rights of women and of former slaves.
Sojourner Truth (probably born 1797 - died November 26, 1883) was the assumed name of Isabella Baumfree, also known as Isabella Van Wagener. She was born a slave in the State of New York, in an area inhabited predominantly by people of Dutch descent and so her first language was Dutch, although she later learned to speak English.
Sojourner, then known as Isabella aor more often "Bell" was, due to the social and legal norms of the time, considered property and legally little different than a head of cattle. She was repeatedly sold and passed from one owber to the next, some of whom were exceptionally cruel. Her life was very difficult and filled with hardship, including the burden of knowing that the man she loved, a slave on a neighboring farn, had been beaten to death because her owner did not approve of the relationship since any children they had would not belong to him.
In the early 1800s, New York State began the process of abolishing slavery and set up a framework for freeing existing slaves through a gradual process. Her owner promised to free her if she worked hard for him for a period of time, but when a hand injury reduced her ability to work, her owner refsed and so she walked away to freedom. Unfortunately she was forced to leave her youngest son behind and later discovered that her owner had sold her son out of state, to an Alabama, slave owner n violation of the law. Sojourner, still then known as Isabella, succesffully sued for the return of her son, and became one of the first African American women to win a court case against a white slavve owner.
After escaping slavery, Sojourner was taken in by a family of evangelical Christians who bought out the remaining term of her slavery (up to the date of abolition). As a result of their influence, Sojourner became a devout Christian and eventually changed her name to Sojourner Truth in testimony of being called by the Holy Spirit to walk the path of truth and to speak out against slavery and in favor of human rights.
Although she could not read or write (since slaves were forbidden to learn), Sojourner Truth became a noed speaker, giving impassioned speeches against slavery and in favor of women's rights. She was also an early campaigner against segregation and road the street cars of Washington, D.C. in an effort to end the practice of excluding African Americans.
During the American civil war, she campaigned to recruit African Americans to fight for the Union and also may have written a marching song for one of the African American regiments in the Union Army. Because of her propaganda and morale value, Sojourner was granted a metting with President Lincoln On October 29, 1864.
Sjourner reportedly admitted to Lincoln that she had never heard of him before he was elected, to which the President replied that on the other hand he had heard of her work long before their meeting. Lincoln also showed Sjourner a copy of a Bible which had been given to him as a gift by African Americans in the city of Baltimore.
It is believed that Sojourner also had subsequent meetings with Lincoln at the White House, although she was turned away at least once, in 1865, perhaps in error. Lincoln is said to have expressed regret over this incident.