Sojourner (Baumfree) Truth
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Isabella (Baumfree) Truth (abt. 1797 - 1883)

Isabella (Sojourner) Truth formerly Baumfree aka Bomefree, Vanwaggener
Born about in Ulster County, New York, United Statesmap
[sibling(s) unknown]
[spouse(s) unknown]
[children unknown]
Died in Battle Creek, Calhoun, Michigan, United Statesmap
Profile last modified | Created 27 Oct 2009 | Last significant change: 30 Sep 2021
05:14: Christy Melick edited the Biography for Isabella (Baumfree) Truth (abt.1797-1883). (USBH project categorization) [Thank Christy for this]
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Sojourner Truth was a former slave who became prominent as an abolitionist and women’s rights activist. The story of her early life is known from The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, a book originally published in 1850 from an oral account that Sojourner Truth gave to fellow abolitionist Olive Gilbert.[1]

Sojourner Truth was born into slavery c.1797 on the Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh Estate in Ulster County, New York, with the name Isabella Baumfree. Her parents were James and Betsey "Bett" Baumfree.[2][3] Her parents had a total of about ten or twelve children, most of whom were sold away before Isabella was old enough to remember, leaving only Isabella and a younger brother living with their parents.[4] Her birthplace has been identified as Hurley (the town where the 1790 U.S. Census recorded Johannis Hardenbergh), but more specifically it was Swartekill, the site of the Hardenbergh estate, now in the town of Esopus.[5]

Her first owner, Johannes Hardenbergh (name rendered Ardinburgh in The Narrative of Sojourner Truth), died in 1799 when Isabella was about 2 years old, and she, her parents, and "ten or twelve other fellow human chattels" became the legal property of his son, Charles Hardenbergh. Charles Hardenbergh died in 1808.[3] The inventory of his estate lists "Izabella, a Negro Wench," among his property. She and her younger brother, who was listed as "Negro Boy Peet," were each valued at $100.[6] Bett was freed to care for her husband, who was old and infirm[2][3] and was not listed in the estate inventory, presumably because he was no longer able to work. They were allowed to continue living in the damp cellar of the Hardenbergh house. Isabella and her brother Peet were, however, sold at auction to different owners in 1806.[7] She would be sold twice more by the age of 13, in 1808 and 1810.[8]

She did not know how to read or write English; her first language, until about age 9, was Dutch. As a slave Isabella worked at spinning wool, helping to keep house and helping in a tavern.[8]

Marriage and Children

The minor child Isabelle Baumfree had two children, the second fathered by her last owner and rapist, John Dumont:[8]

  1. James (c.1814, died in childhood)
  2. Diana (1815)

She married an enslaved older man named Thomas, surname unknown, c.1820. They had three children:[8]

  1. Peter (1821)
  2. Elizabeth Banks (1825)
  3. Sophia (1826)

In 1799 the State of New York began the process of abolishing slavery; it would be eight years before completion, on July 4, 1827. John Dumont had promised her freedom in 1826. When he reneged on his promise Isabella spun him a final hundred pounds of wool, and walked to freedom, taking only her infant, Sophia. She found refuge with Isaac and Maria Van Wagenen, who would help her go to court when she learned that John Dumont had illegally sold her five year old son, Peter. She became one of the first black women to go to court against a white man and win the case.[8]

The experience was transformative; after escaping to freedom and successfully using the legal system to recover her son, Isabella became a devout Christian in 1829.

The year 1843 was a turning point for Baumfree. She became a Methodist, and on June 1, Pentecost Sunday, she changed her name to Sojourner Truth. She chose the name because she heard the Spirit of God calling on her to preach the truth. She told her friends: "The Spirit calls me, and I must go," and left to make her way traveling and preaching about the abolition of slavery.[8]

From that time she used her powerful and resonant voice and study of scripture to sing and preach at first a spiritual message and later abolition and women's rights, drawing crowds sometimes described as mobs, which she fearlessly calmed and even scolded when necessary.

Her most famous speech, later called the "Ain't I A Woman" speech, made in 1851 at a Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, extemporaneously argued for a place in the women's movement for women of color.

"Black women, of course, were virtually invisible within the protracted campaign for woman suffrage", wrote Angela Davis, supporting Truth's argument that nobody gives her "any best place"; and not just her, but black women in general.[9]

She helped recruit soldiers for the Union Army; her grandson enlisted. She worked for the National Freedman's Relief Association in Washington, D.C. to improve conditions for African-Americans. She rode in the streetcars to help force their desegregation. She was a tireless advocate for fulfillment of the promise of "40 acres and a mule," land grants from the federal government to the formerly enslaved, a project she pursued for seven years without success.[8]

She died at her home on November 26, 1883 (aged 86) in Battle Creek, Michigan.[8]


  1. Sojourner Truth, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, dictated to and edited by Olive Gilbert, first published in 1850. Available online at these free sources:, Pennsylvania State University (complete electronic text of 1950 edition)
    University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (complete electronic text of 1950 edition)
    Monroe County Library System, Rochester, New York. (Digital images of 1875 edition, in PDF format). A new edition was published in 1875 that added accounts of her life up to that date. An 1884 edition of the Narrative reprinted the contents of the 1875 edition, with a final chapter about her death.
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Narrative of Sojourner Truth
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Helene van Rossum, "How Rutgers University is connected to Sojourner Truth: The Hardenbergh family in Ulster County, NY". Published on June 16, 2017 in What Exit?, a blog of Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries, New Brunswick, New Jersey.
  4. Carleton Mabee and Susan Mabee Newhouse, [ Sojourner Truth: Slave, Prophet, Legend] ("Mabee") (New York: New York University Press, 1993) pp. 3, 247.
  5. Mabee, p. 247.
  6. Inventory of the Charles Hardenbergh Estate, from On the Trail of Sojourner Truth in Upstate New York (web exhibit), compiled by Corinne Nyquist, Librarian, Sojourner Truth Library, State University of New York at New Paltz. Accessed 23 August 2020.
  7. Mabee, p. 3.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 Wikipedia contributors, "Sojourner Truth," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed January 14, 2021); citing sources.
  9. Angela Davis, Women, Race and Class, (New York: Vintage Books Division of Random House, 1981) p. 140.
  • 1850 census in Northampton, Hampshire, Massachusetts, as Isabella Vanwaggener, age 60, with Diana and Sophia
  • 1860 US federal census in Bedford, MI. S Truth, age 70, with daughter Elizabeth Banks, grandson Sam Banks, and grandson James Colvin [sic, Caldwell]
  • MI deaths disputed age at death: 108, death date discrepancy: 25 Nov

Free (for now?) article reference to (cannot find) 19 Oct 1894 edition of National Baptist World, The State Journal, Savannah Echo, Twin City American

  • Find a Grave, memorial page for Sojourner Truth (1797–26 Nov 1883), Find A Grave: Memorial #1044, citing Oak Hill Cemetery, Battle Creek, Calhoun County, Michigan, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .

NY library digitized primary sources

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Memories: 3
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A defining moment in Sojourner's life was when she left her husband with her youngest child and worked for the family of Isaac Van Wagenen. While working with that family her youngest child was sold to a slave owner in Alabama. There was one problem, her son was emancipated under New York Law and Sojourner sued in court and actually won the case. Since this occurred this caused Sojourner to become an activist and abolitionist.

Later on in Sojourner's life she attended a Methodist perfectionist commune and became a religious prophet. Shortly after the commune fell apart. After experiencing this part of her life she became a traveling preacher. She started to speak about woman suffrage and was a very popular speaker. In 1851 she held her most famous speech, Ain't I a Woman?, in a women's rights convention in Ohio.

Sojourner Truth is a significant person in U.S. history because she actually made a difference in this world. She took all the bad events in her life and turned them into the positive by being an abolitionist and by being helping other people.

Quote: “If women want any rights more than they's got, why don't they just take them, and not be talking about it.” -Sojourner Truth

posted 30 Oct 2009 by Xander Schauffele Schauffele
Born in 1797, Sojourner Truth whos birth name was Isabella Baumfree was the daughter of Elizabeth and James Baumfree with 12 other brothers and sisters. She was born into slavery on the Hardenbergh plantation. She spoke in Dutch most her life until she was sold from her family around the age of nine. After being sold to her second master, Charles Hardenbergh she quickly learned to speak English, but had a Dutch accent for the rest of her life. After Truth's second master died she was sold multiple times until she got stuck with one, John Dumont. In 1815 she fell in love with a man named, Robert, who was owned by another man. Their love was forbidden by both masters for the children would not be their 'property'. Her first love died after being brutally beaten by his master’s son, shortly after she gave birth to his daughter, Diana. Two years later Truth got married to an older slave, Thomas who she had four more children with. Late in 1826, Truth escaped to freedom with her youngest daughter, Sophia. Truth experienced a religious change and moved to New York City and to a Methodist perfectionist commune, and there came under the influence of a religious prophet named Mathias. In 1843, she changed her name to Sojourner Truth. In the late 1840s she connected with the abolitionist movement, becoming a popular speaker. In 1850, she also began speaking on woman suffrage. Her most famous speech, Ain't I a Woman?, was given in 1851 at a women's rights convention in Ohio. Truth traveled all around the Mid West and East preaching for human rights. She was powerful figure in national social movements. Though Sojourner Truth was not an active participant in the Underground Railroad, she did assist many blacks who had previously traveled this route to freedom by helping them find new homes. Sojourner Truth returned to Michigan where her health deteriorated and she died in 1883 in a Battle Creek sanitorium of infected ulcers on her legs.
posted 30 Oct 2009 by Taylor Pederson
“I am not going to die, I'm going home like a shooting star.”

“[That little man in black says] woman can't have as much rights as man because Christ wasn't a woman. Where did your Christ come from? . . . From God and a woman. Man has nothing to do with him.”

"Ain't I A Woman" speech

posted 18 Oct 2009 by ashley diaz
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She is being honored today on the google main page.
posted by Karen Neuvirth
Much has been written about the life of Sojournertruth. In recent years she has been honoured and remembered. While in New York City Isabella (Sojournertruth) walked through the refiners fire as her understanding of Christian Faith was tested time and time again as she attempted to walk in the long shadow of the one and only Prophet Matthias! Sojournertruth introduced Prophet Matthias into the Christian fellowship of Mr Elijah Pierson. After years of hardship and suffering Sojournertruth was the last person to walk away from Prophet Matthias and the New Jerusalem or Zion which he was attempting to establish. The dramatic years which Sojournertruth spent with Prophet Matthias undoubtedly influenced her life. Prophet Matthias called himself THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH when ISABELIA left Prophet Matthias she called herself SOJOURNERTRUTH. There is much to be learnt from the time which Sojournertruth worked, lived, and endured life in and around New York. Within the new book entitled Clash of the Prophets the full story of Sojournertruth and her New York years are presented.

If you have any interest in knowing more about Sojournertruth then you are very welcome to visit my web site at: This is a true story full of melodrama, and Christian delusion as the battle between the forces of good and evil present themselves fighting for the minds, bodies, and spirits of all involved within the Zion of Prophet Matthias! Students who are preparing to write end of term essays on Sojournertruth and her New York years may find this FREE eight page informed choices guide of some help and interest. Just click on this link.

Best Regards Mike Wilkins Clash Of The Prophets.

posted by Mike Wilkins
Thank you for all of your hard work in creating this page.

Peace, Shira