Isabella Bomefree was born enslaved in Ulster County among Dutch people. As Sojourner Truth she became one of the nation's leading voices for abolition and universal suffrage in the nineteenth century. She "walked away by day-light," freeing herself from slavery one year before legal enslavement ended in New York. Following her deeply held religious views she traveled as an itinerant preacher, speaking 'truth' to the harsh inequities people of color and women suffered while calling for systemic change. Naming herself Sojourner Truth, she became known for her strong mind and remarkable gift of language which she used tirelessly for human rights.
Throughout her life Sojourner Truth fought for justice for all under the law. Her legacy includes some of the first successfully tried court cases around the rights of Black women, including one to regain her son Peter, who had been illegally sold and defended against slander. Her imposing stature, remarkable oratory skills and melodic voice, propelled Truth to the forefront in the national debates on abolition, suffrage, and the plight of those formerly enslaved.
When the Civil War began, she rallied men to fight for the Union cause, then during the war worked as a nurse. At its end she worked with the Freedman's Bureau with the newly freed, helping them to adjust to their circumstances. Truth battled against segregation and urged Congress to supply land for those who were liberated from slavery, so they could improve themselves and become full citizens. Following the war, she returned to the suffrage platform, speaking first for universal suffrage, then specifically for women's suffrage. Sojourner Truth died at the age of 86 at her home in Battle Creek, Michigan.
To honor Truth's legacy, the New York State Women's Suffrage Commission, engaged sculptor Vinnie Bagwell to create a bronze statue of her. On August 26, 2020, it was unveiled on the western shore of the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, in Ulster County, the area of her birth. This remarkable piece of public art speaks to not only the life and legacy of Sojourner Truth but encourages us all to consider how we can support justice in our world. Press Release: Governor Cuomo Announces Unveiling of Sojourner Truth Statue
Experience the story of the dynamic abolitionist, suffragist, and human rights advocate Sojourner Truth. Her accomplishments and vital contributions to American history have been recognized with the installation of a bronze statue created by the sculptor Vinnie Bagwell, at Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park.
New York State Parks Blog - Sojourner Truth
Learn more about this native New Yorker from the Hudson Valley who became one of the leading voices for human rights and universal suffrage in the 19th century.
The Sojourner Truth Project
Offers critical analysis of Truth's famous Ain't I a Woman speech, dispelling the inaccurate use of southern dialect in the later transcription and focusing on the earlier transcription of the speech which was more true to her northern Afro-Dutch roots.
Sojourner Truth - Identifying Her Family and Owners
Information about Sojourner Truth's family and the slave holders associated with them from the New York Slavery Records Index.
This Far by Faith - Sojourner Truth
This PBS series highlights the spiritual lives of historic figures and provides details about Sojourner Truth's religious beliefs, spiritual life and ministry.
Narrative of Sojourner Truth
Sojourner Truth's narrative and Book of Life. This work includes several important texts about Sojourner Truth's life, including a dictated autobiography and some correspondence.
The bronze statue of Sojourner Truth is more than just a representation of the person. Artist, Vinnie Bagwell used the skirt of her gown as a canvas for bringing additional images relevant to Truth's life and work to the public's attention.
Frederick Douglass: A self-emancipated freeman from Maryland, Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, changed his last name to Douglass to escape being recaptured. He became a national leader in the abolitionist and universal suffrage movements. Considered a great orator, writer, social reformer, and statesman he wrote several autobiographies describing his life from enslavement through the Civil War which are still in print.
Harriet Tubman: : Know by her Underground Railroad conductor name, Moses, Tubman was an escaped slaved from Maryland. With a price on her head she made some 13 missions to free other enslaved leading many into Canada. During the Civil War she worked as a cook and spy. Following the War, she aided many freedmen, ultimately opening a home for the aged and infirmed among them near her home in Auburn, New York.
William Lloyd Garrison: Journalist, abolitionist, suffragist, editor, Garrison published the Liberator, a periodical funded mostly by Blacks that lead the way to the first interracial antislavery organization, The New England Anti-Slavery Society (NEASS). His strong pro-black views calls for the immediate end of slavery, and push for full equality within the abolitionist movement in the U.S. and England, lead to a split in the movement and a progressive abolitionist ideology that ultimately bore his name, Garrisonian.
Abraham Lincoln: Statesman and lawyer, Lincoln served as the 16th President of the United States. Known for his leadership during the Civil War, his many accomplishments include the Emancipation Proclamation which abolished legal slavery in the United States.
Resources: Women's Suffrage and the 100th Anniversary of the Ratification of the 19th Amendment
Learn more about the Suffrage movement, the notable women who fought for this right and the organizations dedicated to preserving the history and continuing advancement of women's equality.