Kelly's Korner: The Truth about Truth - The Lookout - LCC's Independent Student Newspaper Since 1959
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Kelly's Korner: The Truth about Truth

Juanita Kelly-Hill

Juanita Kelly-Hill

By Juanita Kelly-Hill
Staff Writer

Sojourner Truth was an African-American abolitionist, women’s rights activist and author who was born into slavery, but was able to escape to freedom in 1826. 

Born in 1797 to enslaved parents in a small town in New York as Isabella Baumfree, she was separated from her parents by the age of 9 during an auction, and sold twice more by the time she was 13 years old.

During the 19th century when emancipation began, her “owner” promised he would “set her free” on July 4, 1824. But when the time had come he would not honor the promise. Though, that did not stop Truth from walking, as she said, her way to freedom with her infant child in tote.

Unfortunately, she had to leave behind her three other children who were still legally bound to the “owner.” 

She would later go on to sue the same man who denied her freedom for illegally selling off her 5-year-old son, Peter, thus making her the first Black woman to sue a white man in the U.S. court and win. 

Sojourner Truth spent her next years being a devoted Christian, preaching the gospel and speaking out against slavery and oppression. 

In 1844 she then went off to join the Massachusetts abolitionist organization, Northampton Association of Education and Industry, where she met Frederick Douglass and officially became an equal rights activist. 

Delivering the famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech at the Women’s Right Convention in 1851, it became a highlight for equal rights for Black women. On the contrary, the famous speech that we have all read was a misinterpreted and inaccurate version written by a white abolitionist by the name of Frances Dana Gage that published it 12 years later.

It is to note that Truth was a Dutch-speaking New Yorker, but when reading Gage’s version of the speech she gave her a slave southern dialect while also changing around her words including that she had 13 children (she only had five)

Truth never said “Ain’t I a Woman?” according to the accurate version transcribed and published by her good friend, Marius Robinson.

Truth's activism even gained the attention of President Abraham Lincoln, who invited her to the White House.

Truth moved to Battle Creek, Mich., where she continued her work on fighting for equality before she passed on Nov. 26, 1883 leaving behind five children and grandchildren. Today, Truth’s great-grandchildren are still alive and residing in Michigan.

When you think about it, was it really that long ago?



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