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Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth (c. 1797 – November 26, 1883) was an African-American abolitionist and women's rights activist. She gave herself the name Sojourner Truth in 1843 after she became convinced that God had called her to leave the city and go into the countryside "testifying the hope that was in her".

Sojourner Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, Ulster County, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to court to recover her son, in 1828 she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man.

The state of New York began, in 1799, to legislate the abolition of slavery, although the process of emancipating those people enslaved in New York was not complete until July 4, 1827. Sojourner Truth's slave master promised to grant Truth her freedom a year before the state emancipation, however, he changed his mind, claiming a hand injury had made her less productive. She was infuriated but continued working.

Late in 1826, Truth escaped to freedom with her infant daughter. She had to leave her other children behind because they were not legally freed in the emancipation order until they had served as bound servants into their twenties. Truth learned that her son Peter, then five years old, had been sold illegally to an owner in Alabama. She took the issue to court and in 1828, after months of legal proceedings, she got back her son, who had been abused by those who were enslaving him.

In 1843 started traveling and preaching about the abolition of slavery. During the Civil War, Sojourner Truth helped recruit black troops for the Union Army; after the war, she tried unsuccessfully to secure land grants from the federal government for former slaves.

In 2014, Sojourner Truth was included in Smithsonian magazine's list of the "100 Most Significant Americans of All Time".

Sojourner Truth died at her home in Battle Creek, Michigan, on November 26, 1883.

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Printed: August 24, 2017, 10:28 am
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