US antislavery and women's-suffrage campaigner. A former slave, she ran away and became involved with religious groups. As a religious mystic, she travelled throughout New England and the Midwest on speaking tours and was one of the first African-American women to speak publicly for the abolitionist movement. She published an autobiography, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, in 1850.
Truth was born a slave in Ulster County, New York. She worked on family farms and was known for her height and strength, but she was, nevertheless, abused by her masters, and escaped from her owner in 1827, just before the state of New York abolished slavery. She found refuge with Isaac Van Wagener, who freed her. In 1829 she moved to New York City with her youngest two children, and supported herself through domestic work. In 1843 she was commanded in a vision to adopt the name Sojourner Truth, and set out to preach about the brotherhood of man and the sin of slavery.
In the early 1850s Truth became involved in the women's rights movement and began speaking at suffrage meetings. In 1864 she travelled to Washington, DC, where she counselled, taught, and found jobs for free black women during the US Civil War, and met president Abraham Lincoln at the White House. During the 1870s she campaigned the federal government (unsuccessfully) to create settlements for African Americans on undeveloped land in Kansas and Missouri. She retired to Battle Creek, Michigan, near her daughters and their families, in 1875.
Truth, Sojourner: Ain't I a Woman?
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