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Sojourner Truth was born Isabella Baumfree (1797–1883 )

1797

Isabella Baumfree is born into slavery to parents Elizabeth and James Baumfree in Ulster County, New York, one of 13 children. She is sold several times before the age of nine.

1815

Isabella falls in love with another slave named Robert from a neighboring farm, but is forbidden from marrying him by the slave’s owner. After the couple welcomes a daughter, Isabella is forced to marry an older slave belonging to Dumont. Isabella bears four more children.

1826

Less than a year before New York abolishes slavery, Isabella and her infant daughter, Sophia, escape the Dumont farm and flee to a nearby family. The family later sets her free, and employs her as a house servant.

1828

Discovering that her son, Peter, is illegally sold into slavery, Isabella sues in court for his release. With the help of Quaker friends and a lawyer, she becomes the first black woman to successfully sue a white man in court.

1832

Having turned to Christianity a few years earlier, Isabella leaves Ulster County and meets Elijah Pierson, a religious reformer steeped in Old Testament teachings. She becomes his housekeeper, but Pierson treats her as an equal and encourages her to preach. Soon after, Robert Matthias–a mystic who professes to be the Messiah–arrives and takes over the organization. After Pierson dies, Isabella and Matthias are accused of his murder. They are acquitted in court.

1844

Truth joins a utopian cooperative called the Northampton Association of Education and Industry, where she learns about the abolitionist movement and becomes friends with William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass.

1864

Truth becomes employed by the National Freedman’s Relief Association, where she works to improve conditions for African-Americans.

In October, she visits President Abraham Lincoln at the White House.

1872

Continuing her rigorous speaking engagements, Truth travels throughout the Midwest. She attempts to vote for Ulysses S. Grant at the polling location in Battle Creek, but is turned away.

1880

Due to declining health, Truth limits her speaking engagements to the Michigan area.

1883

The ulcers return to Truth’s legs, and she is treated by local physician, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg.

In November, Sojourner Truth dies at her College Street home in Battle Creek, Michigan. She is buried in Oak Creek Cemetery, next to her grandson.