Best Known For
Sojourner Truth is best known for her extemporaneous speech on racial inequalities, "Ain't I a Woman?", delivered at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention in 1851.
Sojourner Truth not only was an advocate for the rights of African Americans, but she also stood up for woman's equality.
Sojourner Truth was born into slavery and escaped to freedom. Her prominence quickly rose when she advocated for the abolition of slavery and women's rights. She is best known for her speech "Ain't I a Woman?"
After testifying firsthand to the brutality of slavery at an American Anti-Slavery Society meeting in Nantucket, Frederick Douglass became an overnight success in the Abolitionist arena of public speaking.
A short biography of Frederick Douglass who escaped from slavery to become the leading voice in the Abolitionist Movement and other social reforms involving inequality.
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Having converted to Christianity, Truth she moved with her son Peter to New York City in 1829, where she worked as a housekeeper for Christian evangelist Elijah Pierson. She then moved on to the home of Robert Matthews, also known as Matthias Kingdom or Prophet Matthias, for whom she also worked as a domestic. Matthews had a growing reputation as a con man and a cult leader. Shortly after Truth changed households,
Elijah Pierson died. Robert Matthews and Truth were immediately accused of poisoning Pierson in order to benefit from his personal fortune. Both were acquitted, and Robert Matthews, who had become a favorite subject of the penny press, moved west.
After her successful rescue of her son, Peter, from slavery in Alabama, the boy stayed with his mother until 1839. At that time, Peter took a job on a whaling ship called the Zone of Nantucket. Truth received three letters from her son between 1840 and 1841. When the ship returned to port in 1842, however, Peter was not on board. Truth never heard from him again.
On June 1, 1843, Isabella Baumfree changed her name to Sojourner Truth, devoting her life to Methodism and the abolition of slavery. In 1844, she joined the Northampton Association of Education and Industry in Northampton, Massachusetts. Founded by abolitionists, the organization supported a broad reform agenda including women's rights and pacifism. Members lived together on 500 acres as a self-sufficient community. Truth met a number of leading abolitionists at Northampton, including William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass and David Ruggles.
Although the Northampton community disbanded in 1846, Sojourner Truth's career as an activist and reformer was just beginning. William Lloyd Garrison published her memoirs in 1850 under the title The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave. Truth dictated her recollections to a friend, since she could not read or write. That same year, Truth spoke at the first National Women's Rights Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts. She soon began touring regularly with abolitionist George Thompson, speaking to large crowds on the subjects of slavery and human rights. She was one of several escaped slaves, along with Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, to rise to prominence as an abolitionist leader and a testament to the humanity of enslaved people.
In May of 1851, Truth delivered a speech at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention in Akron. The extemporaneous speech, recorded by several observers, would come to be known as "Ain't I a Woman?" The first version of the speech, published a month later by Ohio Anti-Slavery Bugle editor Marius Robinson, did not include the question "Ain't I a woman?" even once. Robinson had attended the convention and recorded Truth's words himself. The famous phrase would appear in print 12 years later, as the refrain of a Southern-tinged version of the speech. It is unlikely that Sojourner Truth, a native of New York whose first language was Dutch, would have spoken in this Southern idiom.
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