Remembering Sojourner Truth This Women’s History Month
During Women’s History Month, possibly one of the most impactful women in history, Sojourner Truth is honored and recognized for her significant achievements we see the effect of today.
Truth, most known for her work in the nineteenth century as an outspoken civil and women’s rights activist as well as an advocate of abolition and temperance, was born in Ulster County, New York in 1797. Born enslaved, she had twelve sisters and brothers, and her parents came from Ghana and Guinea. Around 1810, Truth learned to speak English on the property of John Dumont after being sold three times prior. She ended up falling in love with an enslaved person on a neighboring farm named Robert and had one child with him before Dumont forbid Robert and Sojourner from seeing each other. Truth would go on to have two more kids after marrying an older enslaved person, Thomas, on the council of Dumont.
Truth worked to get her and her infant daughter (the youngest of the three) off of Dumont’s property just before New York emancipated all enslaved people on July 4, 1927. Sojourner Truth is credited with being the first black woman to challenge a white man in court when she fought to get her five-year-old son Peter back after being illegally sold. She successfully had her son returned to her shortly after her escape.
She cites her great accomplishments as a calling from God, saying it was He who made it her purpose in life to fight for what is right. Truth was dedicated to exposing the horrifically dehumanizing nature of slavery and toured with fellow abolitionist George Thompson, speaking to crowds about slavery and human rights. Truth was also famously involved in the Underground Railroad after moving to Battle Creek, Michigan in 1857. However, she was not limited to just these causes. A fighter for universal suffrage and prison reform, her agenda consisted greatly of educating the masses.
Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman” speech, delivered at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention, was improvised but would soon become synonymous with the Women’s and Civil Rights movements. Marius Robinson published it in The Anti-Slavery Bugle a month after it was delivered and it spread rapidly after that. The speech itself never included its title; Robinson directly called at the content of the speech, targeting specifically the plea of anyone from any race to be treated as men.
Sojourner Truth sadly passed away November 26, 1883, forty years before the nineteenth amendment was passed, in Battle Creek, Michigan. During this Women’s History Month, it’s important to remember activists like Sojourner Truth as we live our lives reaping the benefits of her sow.