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Sojourer Truth [c1797-1883]

N.B.: This is one of more than 60 web pages presenting -- in chronological order -- physical monuments & selected events related to one or more famous peacemakers. For others in the series, see names in red on web page for Famous Peacemakers.

Sojourner Truth [c1797-1883] "was the self-given name, from 1843 onward, of Isabella Baumfree, an African-American abolitionist & women's rights activist. She was born into slavery in Swartekill (near Kingston), Ulster County, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to court to recover her son, she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man. Her best-known extemporaneous speech on racial inequalities, "Ain't I a Woman?," was delivered in 1851 at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. During the Civil War, Truth helped recruit black troops for the Union Army; after the war, Truth tried unsuccessfully to secure land grants from the federal government for former slaves."

Right click image to enlarge.
c1797 - Birth of Isabella Baumfree [c1797-1893], Hardenburg farm, Swartekill hamlet, Rifton, Ulster County, New York (USA). Image is house of Col. Johannes Hardenburg.

1826 - Isabella Baumfree escapes to freedom with her infant daughter. After going to court to recover her son, she becomes the first black woman to win such a case against a white man.

1843 - Isabella Baumfree adopts the name of Sojourner Truth.

1851 - Sojouner Truth's best-known extemporaneous speech on racial inequalities, "Ain't I a Woman?," is delivered at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio.

1861-1865 - Civil War.


1862 - "The Libyan Sibyl," Metropolitan Museums of Art, New York City, New York (USA). William Wetmore Story's statue won an award at the London World Exhibition in 1862. /// "In 1853, Sojourner Truth visited writer & abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe [1811-1896] in her home at Andover, Massachusetts. Stowe's anti-slavery novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin" had been published in 1852 & became a best-seller. Stowe apparently saw Truth as a primitive original, fitting the ex-slave into her romanticized view of blacks in general. She described Sojourner to sculptor William Wetmore Story [1819-1895], who used this idealized portrait as the basis of a statue, which he called "The Libyan Sibyl." This statue was exhibited at the 1862 World Exposition in London & was widely admired. The public soon became aware that the image was loosely based upon Sojourner Truth, which increased her notoriety." Click here for Stowe's account as published in the Atlantic Monthly.

November 26, 1883 - Death of Sojourer Truth, at home, Battle Creek, Michigan (USA). Age 86. Buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Battle Creek, beside family members.

1884 - Frances Titus [1816-1894] publishes the final edition of the Narrative, including the "Memorial Chapter, giving the particulars of her last sickness & death."

1890 - Frances Titus collects $44 [sic] from Truth's friends around the country, along with funds from Battle Creek community leaders, & uses the money to erect a monument on Truth's gravesite. The inscription reads, "Born a slave in Ulster Co., New York in the 18th century, died in Battle Creek, Mich., Nov. 26, 1883, aged about 105 years. -- 'Is God Dead' --" The incorrect age cited on the tombstone has been the source of confusion over the years.


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1892 - Frances Titus [1816-1894] commissions Albion (Michigan) artist Frank Courter to paint the October 1864 meeting between Truth & president Lincoln.

1894 - Death of Truth's traveling companion & biographer, Frances Titus [1816-1894].

1935 - Memorial stone to Sojourner Truth is placed in the Stone History Tower in Monument Park, downtown Battle Creek, Michigan.

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1946 - New grave marker, Oak Hill Cemetery, Battle Creek, Michigan (USA). Erectred by the Sojourner Truth Memorial Association. The original inscription is copied onto the new monument.


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1961 - Historical marker, Oak Hill Cemetery, Battle Creek, Michigan (USA). Commemorates the members of Truth's family who are buried with her in the Oak Hill cemetery plot. Erected by the Sojourner Truth Memorial Association at the urging of local historian Berenice Lowe.


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1970 - Sojourner Truth Library (STL), State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz, New Paltz, New York (USA). Named in honor of Sojourner Truth [c1797-1883], African-American abolitionist & women's rights activist, who was born into slavery in Swartekill (near Kingston), Ulster County, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826.

1976 - Monument for Sojourner Truth, Stockade Historic District, Kingston, Ulster County, New York (USA). "A marker honoring the life of Sojourner Truth [c1797-1883] stands on the front lawn of the Ulster County Courthouse." Sojourner Truth [c1797-1883] was an African-American abolitionist & women's rights activist who was born into slavery in Swartekill (near Kingston), Ulster County, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826.

1976 - As part of the nation's bicentennial celebration, the Calhoun County portion of state highway M-66 is designated as the "Sojourner Truth Memorial Highway."


1981 - Sojourner Truth is inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame, Helen Mosher Barben Building, 76 Fall Street, Seneca Falls, New York (USA). "The nationís oldest membership organization recognizing the achievements of great American women. Inductees are selected every two years based on their lasting contributions to society through the arts, athletics, business, education, government, humanities, philanthropy & science." The Hall of Fame was created in 1969 & moved from Eisenhower College to an historic bank building in 1979.

Date? - Sojourner Truth Statue, Visitor Center, Women's Rights National Historic Park, 136 Fall Street, Seneca Falls, New York (USA). Life-size terracotta. The Historic Park was created in 1980.

1981 - Feminist theorist & author Bell Hooks titles her first major work after Truth's "Ain't I a Woman?" speech.

1983 - Truth is in the first group of women inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in Lansing.

February 1986 - A commemorative postage stamp is issued. Actress & Truth re-enactor Alice McGill was chosen to represent Truth on the stamp.


1987 - Plaque, Battle Creek, Michigan (USA). Truth is the sixth Michigan citizen chosen to honored by the State Bar of Michigan (SBM) with a Michigan Milestone Marker, recognizing her contribution to the legal system. "Her life as a crusader for justice is recalled in the city she called home. Dedicated and placed at the Battle Creek Hall of Justice in 1987. Rededicated inside at the First United Methodist Church in Battle Creek. Placed at the Calhoun County Justice Center in Battle Creek on May 29, 1997."

1987 - A marker is erected by the Battle Creek Club of the National Association of Negro Business & Professional Women's Clubs. This is part of a state-wide theme trail developed by the Michigan Women's Studies Association, honoring 21 women from all around the state for their contributions to society. The Battle Creek Club also sponsors an annual Sojourner Truth luncheon & award program to recognize dedicated students & civic leaders.

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1994 - Underground Railroad Memorial, near W.K. Kellogg Manor House, off of West Van Buren Street, Battle Creek, Michigan (USA). "The nation's largest monument to the Underground Railroad. The 28 foot long & 14 foot high bronze statue was made possible by the generosity of the WK Kellogg Foundation & Glenn A. Cross Estate. The lovely park like setting with flower-lined pathways showcases the beauty of the statue. A information kiosk is on site to provide information. Honors the men & women who operated the Underground Railroad. Foremost figures are Harriet Tubman [1822-1913] & Quaker Erastus Hussey [1800-1889], a local "conductor" of the Underground Railroad. (Sarah Hussey is one of the figures on the side of the memorial.) Harriet Tubman never came to Battle Creek." /// See paper by Anthony Patrick Glesner (1995).

N.B.: Ed Dwight [b.1933] also sculpted the Alex Haley-Kunta Kinte Memorial, City Dock, Annapolis, Maryland, in 1981, "Gateway to Freedom," Hart Plaza, Detroit, Michigan, in 2001, & "Tower of Freedom," 100 Pitt Street East, Windsor, Ontario (Canada) in 2001.


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February 1994 - "Hippocrene Guide to the Underground Railroad" by Charles L. Blockson. "A collection of letters, diaries & narratives of slaves who found freedom, including Henry 'Box' Brown, who nailed himself into a box & had it shipped to Phildelphia; William & Ellen Craft, who posed as master & slave & traveled openly out of the South; & a young woman who escaped with the help of Union soldiers by dressing as one of them. With accompanying historical notes & 16 pages of photographs." /// "Arranged like a travel guide. Provides historic reference to over 200 landmark homes, institutions, buildings & markers relating to the Underground Railroad." /// Charles L. Blockson is founder & curator of the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection of rare texts, slave narratives, art & a host of other artifacts significant in African-American history at Temple University. /// Image on cover is detail of Harriet Tubman [1822-1913] from the Underground Railroad Memorial in Battle Creek, Michigan.

1997 - "200 Years Toward Freedom: The Legacy of Sojourner Truth," Art Center of Battle Creek, Battle Creek, Michigan (USA). Expostion in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Sojourner Truth's birth. "A community-wide, year-long celebration of the 200th anniversary of Sojourner Truth's birth is held in Battle Creek. The observance culminated in the Battle Creek National Woman's Conference held during the Week of Truth, October 12-18. Scholars and leaders on women's issues from around the country led a week-long symposium on Sojourner Truth, her issues & her legacy. In addition, a larger-than-life size monument of Sojourner Truth is commissioned from artist Tina Allen. The statue is scheduled to be dedicated in the fall of 1999."


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July 4, 1997 - Pathfinder Mission to Mars, National Air & Space Adminstration (NASA). The mission's wheeled robotic rover (10.6 kilograms/23 pounds) is named "Sojourner" for Sojourner Truth.

1998 - "S.T. Writes Home" appears on the web offering "Letters to Mom from Sojourner Truth," in which the Mars Pathfinder Rover at times echoes its namesake.


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September 25, 1999 - Sojourner Truth Monument, Battle Creek, Michigan (USA). 12-foot high sculpture. For more information, contact the Sojourner Truth Institute in Battle Creek. /// Info courtesy of Mark Lambert, Cereal City Books, Battle Creek, Michigan, Nov. 23, 2011.

N.B.: Tina Allen [1950-2008] also sculpted A. Philip Randolph (Boston, 1986), George Washington Carver (St. Louis), Martin Luther King Jr. & Charles Drew (Los Angeles, 1998) & Alex Haley (Knoxville, 1998).

1999 - The Broadway musical "The Civil War" includes "Sojourner Truth: Ain't I a Woman." On the 1999 cast recording, it was performed by Maya Angelou.

Date? - The leftist group the Sojourner Truth Organization is named after her.

Date? - The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America commemorates her as a renewer of society on March 10, with Harriet Tubman.

2002 - Scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Sojourner Truth on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.


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2002 - Sojourner Truth Statue, Florence, Massachusetts (USA). "By sculptor, Thomas Jay Warren; given to the City of Northampton, Massachusetts, in 2002."

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2004 - House of Sojourner Truth, The King's College, inside the Empire State Building, New York Citay, New York (USA). "The university has a house system (modeled after Oxford University's), and each house is named after an influential leader. In 2004, they voted to name one of the houses 'The House of Sojourner Truth.'" (Other houses are named for Ronald Reagan, C.S. Lewis, Margaret Thatcher, Susan B. Anthony & Clara Barton.)

Date? - She is also commemorated together with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amelia Bloomer & Harriet Ross Tubman in the calendar of saints of the Episcopal Church on July 20. What year & where?


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2009 - Bust of Sojourner Truth US Capitol, Washington, DC (USA). "The first black woman honored with a bust in the US Capitol. Sculpted by noted artist Artis Lane."

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