Her name was Isabella Baumfree, born in New York in 1797. She had been a slave ever since childhood and was sold to another slave owner when she was nine years old. The buyer was John Neely, who paid $100 for Isabella and a flock of sheep.

Two years later, in 1806, she was sold to a saloon keeper. In 1810, Isabella was sold again; this time to John Dumont. During her time there, Isabella was raped by Dumont and bore a daughter. He promised to set her free in 1826 but broke his word; nevertheless, she built up the courage and escaped to freedom with one of her children in 1826.

Another two years later, she made history by being the first black woman to sue a white man and win. She went to court in an attempt to get her son Peter away from a slave owner. Isabella presented an extremely convincing and heartfelt case – and the judge eventually ruled in her favor with the statement “the boy (should) be delivered into the hands of his mother— having no other master, no other controller, no other conductor, but his mother.”

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In 1843, Isabella believed she was called by God to “testify the hope that was in her” to all who would listen; she gave herself the alias “Sojourner Truth” and began criss-crossing throughout the country, trying to convince America that slavery should be abolished.

Sojourner toured the country for fourteen years until she decided to move to Michigan in 1857: Harmonia, a town now nonexistent except for its cemetery near Battle Creek. She later moved to Battle Creek, and when the Civil War broke out, she assisted in getting African-American men to enlist in the army.

After the war ended, she worked for the National Freedmen’s Relief Association in Washington, D.C. until 1872, when she went back to Battle Creek to help Ulysses S. Grant get re-elected president. When it came time to vote, she went down to the polls and was told to go away and was not allowed to vote.

Sojourner lived another eleven years and passed away in Battle Creek in 1883 at 86 years old.

She is buried in Battle Creek’s Oak Hill Cemetery.
You can read more in-depth info on this remarkable woman HERE.

Sojourner Truth; Buried in Battle Creek

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The 1st Woman Elected to the Michigan House of Representatives

The Notorious Conwoman of Menominee

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