Sojourner Truth

Abolitionist (1797-1883)
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Sojourner Truth was born into slavery in Hurley, New York. Her parents named her Isabella, a name she abandoned at forty-six when she took up her calling as a prophet and preacher. In her youth she was bought and sold many times. Throughout these years she carried on a conversation with God, who assured her she would be free. 

As a young woman she had been given in marriage to an older slave, with whom she bore five children. But early one morning in 1826, she walked away from her master’s farm, taking with her only her infant daughter. For some years she worked as a servant in New York City. But by 1843 she became convinced that God was calling her to a greater mission. Taking the name Sojourner Truth, she commenced an itinerant ministry of the word, preaching from the Scriptures and delivering God’s judgment against the evils of slavery. In time she joined this theme with commitment to women’s rights. 

At times she faced violent mobs. Yet she never doubted that the end of slavery would come. In fact, she was present in the capital in 1865 when Congress ratified the constitutional amendment abolishing slavery. She continued to struggle for freedom and equality until the day she died on November 26, 1883, at the age of eighty-six. A few days before, she told a friend, “I’m not going to die, honey. I’m going home like a shining star.” 

“I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? . . . I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?” —Sojourner Truth 

© Liturgical Press.

Robert Ellsberg

Robert Ellsberg is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Orbis Books and the author of several award-winning books, including All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time; Blessed Among All Women; and The Saints' Guide to Happiness.

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