Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883)

Sojourner Truth portrait, circa 1870, from the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

She was born into slavery as Isabella Bomefree in rural New York. Her first language was Dutch. By the time she was 9, she had been sold away from her parents. By the time she escaped bondage in 1827 (a year before New York emancipated the state’s slaves), she had endured five owners, several beatings and separation from her children.

As a free woman, she successfully sued for the return of her son who had been sold illegally across state lines. She also joined the Methodist Church.

When she became an itinerant Methodist preacher, she took the name Sojourner Truth. She preached for Jesus and the disempowered — advocating freedom for the slave, fairness for the poor and the franchise for women. She also helped persuade abolitionist Frederick Douglass against violent revolt to free slaves, urging him instead to place his faith in God.

“Frederick,” she reportedly said, “is God dead?”

Truth was “a woman with a powerful passion for equality,” said Rev. Alfred T. Day III, the top executive of the United Methodist Commission on Archives and History. “She was part of the conscience of the Second Great Awakening in the 19th century in that Methodist spirit and paradigm inexorably linking evangelical piety and social holiness.”

March is Women’s History Month. Activists today may be inspired to hear the stories of six historic figures who advocated for women’s voting rights as part of their Christian calling.   Sojourner Truth was a Wesleyan women who helped form a more perfect union even as she was going on to Christian perfection.


This article was written by Heather Hahn and published by the United Methodist News Service on Nov. 3, 2016.

Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or




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