Sojourner Truth, a Women's Rights Activist

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Sojourner Truth was born in 1797 on the Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh estate in Swartekill, in Ulster County, a Dutch settlement in upstate New York. Her given name was Isabella Baumfree, also spelled Bomefree. She was one of 13 children born to Elizabeth and James Baumfree, also slaves on the Hardenbergh plantation. She spoke only Dutch until she was sold from her family around the age of nine.

Isabella suffered very cruel treatment once her first master died and she was sold to her next master, John Neely. Neely’s wife and family only spoke English and beat Isabella fiercely for the frequent miscommunications. She learned to speak English quickly, but she still had her Dutch accent. She later spoke up and said that Neely once whipped her with “a bundle of rods, prepared in the embers, and bound together with cords.” During this time that she began praying aloud when she became scared or hurt.

In 1815, she fell in love with a slave named Robert. Robert's owner forbade the relationship because he did not want his slave having children with a slave he did not own. One night Robert visited Isabella, but was followed by his owner and son, who beat him savagely, bruising and mangling his head and face, and dragged him away. She never got to see him again. Isabella had a daughter shortly thereafter, named Diana. In 1817, she was forced to marry an older slave named Thomas. They had four children: Peter, James, who died young, Elizabeth, and Sophia.

In 1799, the state of New York began to legislate the gradual abolition of slaves, which was supposed to happen July 4, 1827. Dumont had promised Isabella freedom a year before the state emancipation if she would do well and be faithful. However, he reneged on his promise. She continued working until she felt she had done enough to satisfy her sense of obligation to him. She then escaped with her infant daughter, Sophia. Isabella went the home of Isaac and Maria Van Wagenen. Dumont found her and demanded her to go...
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