Sojourner Truth
charcoal on paper
14" x 11"

United States

Born into slavery in 1797, Sojourner Truth (born Isabella Van Wagenen) became a unique and powerful voice for the rights of women and blacks in the post-abolition United States.

Freed by the 1827 eradication of slavery in New York, she fought a court battle to regain custody of her youngest son Peter, who had illegally been sold into slavery in Alabama. Victorious, they moved to New York City, where the development of her spirituality eventually led her to seek higher pursuits.

In 1842, Truth became a traveling preacher, speaking not only of her relationship with God, but of her experiences as a woman and ex-slave. Her straight talk and remarkable presence made her a renowned speaker on the lecture circuit, particularly known for her 1851 speech “Ain’t I A Woman?” delivered at the woman’s rights convention in Akron, Ohio.

Though illiterate, Truth dictated her memoirs and published them in 1850 as The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave. Following the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, Truth moved to Washington, D.C., where she met with President Lincoln, and focused her enormous talents on the National Freedmen’s Relief Association, the Federal Freedman’s Bureau and the American Woman Suffrage Association. Her final campaign involved the development of a land distribution program for former slaves, which she was unable to pass through Congress before her death in 1883.

For her ability to rise above the societal norm imposed upon women and blacks in the 1800's, Truth serves as a national symbol for all those working to establish equality and justice.

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