Sojourner Truth

by Nancy Nickerson

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back and get it right-side up again. And now that they are asking to do it, the men better let them.

Isabella Van Wagener was born into slavery in Hurley, New York in 1797. She was one of 13 children but she never got to know her brothers and sisters because they were quickly sold as slaves.

Her master, Mr. Dumont, arranged for her to marry a slave named Thomas. She had 5 children with him, but her master sold some of them.

She was released following the New York Anti-Slavery Law of 1827; however, slavery was not abolished nationwide for 35 years. She lived for a time with a Quaker family who gave her the only education she ever received. They also helped her get back one of her children.

She became an outspoken advocate for women's rights as well as blacks' rights. In 1843, she changed her name to Sojourner Truth. Everywhere she spoke, she made a lasting impression. She was physically strong and over six feet tall, and she had a powerful, booming voice.

She became famous in 1851 for her speech at the Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, during which she exhorted the audience to consider the rights of black women, asking, "Ain't I a woman?"

Harriet Beecher Stowe, a noted author and abolitionist, wrote about her. Truth actively supported the black troops during the Civil War and helped get the government to give land to those soldiers. She continued to travel and preach throughout the Northeast and Midwest from her home in Battle Creek, Michigan, where she died at the age of 84.

In 1995, as a fitting tribute to her historical significance, NASA named the Mars Pathfinder rover the "Sojourner" in honor of Sojourner Truth. The naming was the result of a year-long competition in which students from all over the world suggested names. Twelve-year-old Valerie Ambroise from Connecticut submitted the winning essay in which she talked about Sojourner Truth, who made it her mission to "travel up and down the land" advocating for civil rights. The Mars Pathfinder touched down on July 4th, 1997, on the 200-year anniversary of Sojourner Truth's birth.

Page created on 1/10/2015 12:32:05 PM

Last edited 1/3/2019 11:06:46 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

FREEDOM BOUND THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD IN LYCOMING COUNTY, PA. - Lynn Estomin and a team of students created this wonderful interactive flash piece on the underground railroad.
Sojourner Truth - PBS: This far by faith
Sojourner Truth: A Life and Legacy of Faith

Extra Info

Visit The Sojourn Project. As Martin Luther King, III says:

"Few projects have captured my attention like the ‘Sojourn To The Past’ Civil Rights Tour, the exceptional ‘living history’ lesson which has been put together by Mr. Jeff Steinberg, a devoted high school teacher... My hope is that this will quickly expand into a national program."

Developed by educator Jeff Steinberg, The Sojourn Project is a "living history" curriculum containing books, documentaries, audio recordings, and an on-site experience concerning the Civil Rights Movement, its veterans, lessons of tolerance, nonviolence, and personal courage.

Marian Wright Edelman, the founder and chairperson of the Children's Defense Fund, is a hero. She's a tireless advocate for children's education, health, and safety. Mrs. Edelman can often be found on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate lobbying for proposals to improve the dismal lot of America's most vulnerable citizens. Submitted by Karen Seno .

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Author Info

My hero is Sojourner Truth. I love her with all my heart because of what she has done for me.