Parcell: First in a series of stories on influential African-Americans

Jordan Parcell

I, among other students, have noticed a lack in teaching of African-American history, unless we’re talking about slavery or the civil rights movement, in which case it’s impossible not to talk about African-American history. In response to this lack of information, I have taken it upon myself to write a series of articles about influential African-American individuals and their effect on the course of history in our country.

For the sake of starting at the beginning, or somewhere near the beginning, our first influential African-American individual will be Sojourner Truth. 

Truth was born into slavery near Kingston, New York, in approximately 1797. Her given name was Isabella Baumfree. She worked for her owners until 1826, when she escaped, running away to a nearby abolitionist family who bought her freedom for $20. She soon moved to New York City, where she lived until 1843 when she moved to Florence, Massachusetts, to become a preacher. It was then that she began going by the name Sojourner Truth. 

When she arrived in Massachusetts, she decided to join a utopian society who had dedicated themselves to achieving justice and equality. It was then that Truth met many important abolitionists, such as Fredrick Douglas and David Ruggles. The group would eventually disband. Even after this, Truth remained in Florence. By 1850, she was touring the country giving eloquent speeches without ever learning to read or write. At this time, she also dictated her autobiography to a man named Oliver Gilbert. Truth was able to survive on the money she got from book sales. 

After doing all this, Truth continued to give speeches in Florence, where she also successfully brought cases to court, participated in sit-ins and marches, and tried to vote in the election of 1872. In 1875, she moved to Harmonia Community, Michigan, and then to Battle Creek, Michigan, where she died in 1883.