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100 Years Ago

Black History
Civil War
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Sojourner Truth

Isabella Baumfree was born to slaves, James and Elizabeth, in Hurley, New York, circa 1797. As a child, she was sold and resold. During her marriage to Thomas, forced upon her by her owner, she bore 5 of her 13 children. This same owner also took and sold some of her children as slaves. In 1826, (some sources say 1827) she escaped from bondage, to New York State where, with passage of the New York State Anti-Slavery Act in 1828, she was freelectureannoumementforsojournertruth.gif (12810 bytes)freed (some sources indicate she also paid $25 for her freedom).  In a lawsuit, she was victorious in winning the return of one ofher slave children, a son named Peter. It was his later death that caused her to take the name, Sojourner Truth, to signify her role as a traveling preacher and lecturer on the ‘truth’ about slavery.

Standing six feet tall, she was a commanding person with unique oratorical skills, even though she could not read or write. Her speaking skills were such that she often brought many in her audiences to tears. Although the truth about slavery was her passion, she was also a powerful advocate for women’s rights. During the Civil War she preached and sang to raise funds for black soldiers in the Union Army. In 1864, she had a personal meeting with President Abraham Lincoln in the White House. After the war, with the abolition of slavery, she lobbied Congress on the issue of women’s rights, and attempted to gain Congressional support for a plan that would give former slaves free land in the West. She died on November 26, 1883, in Battle Creek, Michigan.


'Black History' segment written in June, 1998 by David Lodge


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