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American Writers: a journey through history is a permanent archive for educators, researchers and every one interested in the writers featured in the  C‑SPAN series.


Born: ca. 1797?, Ulster County, NY
Died: November 26, 1883, Battle Creek, MI

Born into slavery, she was freed after passage of New York's Emancipation Act of 1827 and moved to New York City, where she worked as a domestic, taking the surname Van Wagener from the owners who freed her. She became active as an evangelist, initially as a follower of the zealot Elijah Pierson, and in 1843 left New York to travel and preach,
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Sojourner Truth, Narrative of Sojourner Truth
C-SPAN's Video Library: Sojourner Truth
adopting the name Sojourner Truth at the command of the disembodied voices she had long heard. She soon added abolitionism and women's suffrage to her religious messages, and she became widely known as an advocate of both causes in her adopted state of Massachusetts. In 1850 set out on a lecture tour of the Midwest, where her magnetic speaking style—which, despite her illiteracy, evoked comparisons with her frequent speaking partner Frederick Douglass—drew large crowds. She supported herself by selling copies of her autobiography, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, written with Olive Gilbert.

Works by Sojourner Truth
Narrative of Sojourner Truth: a northern slave, emancipated from bodily servitude by the state of New York, in 1828, as written by Olive Gilbert (1850)

In the 1850s she settled in Battle Creek, Michigan. During the Civil War she gathered supplies for black volunteer regiments. In 1864 she was received at the White House by Abraham Lincoln, who appointed her to the National Freedmen's Relief Association, and she counseled former slaves, particularly in matters of resettlement, and encouraged the migration of freedmen to Kansas and Missouri. She continued to appear before suffrage gatherings the rest of her life.

Web sites about Sojourner Truth
Women in History: Sojourner Truth (Isabella Baumfree)
National Freedman's Relief Association
Great American Women: Sojourner Truth

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