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(1797 – 1883) was an American abolitionist
and women's rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, New
York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to
court to recover her son in 1828, she became the first black woman to win such
a case against a white man.
She gave herself the name Sojourner Truth in 1843 after she
became convinced that God had called her to leave the city and go into the
countryside "testifying the hope that was in her".[ Her
best-known speech was delivered extemporaneously, in 1851, at the Ohio Women's
Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. The speech became widely known during the Civil
War by the title "Ain't I a Woman?", a variation of the original
speech re-written by someone else using a stereotypical Southern dialect,
whereas Sojourner Truth was from New York and grew up speaking Dutch as her
first language. During the Civil War, Truth helped recruit black troops for the
Union Army; after the war, she tried unsuccessfully to secure land grants from
the federal government for formerly enslaved people (summarized as the promise
of "forty acres and a mule"). She continued to fight on behalf of
women and African Americans until her death. As her biographer Nell Irvin
Painter wrote, "At a time when most Americans thought of slaves as male
and women as white, Truth embodied a fact that still bears repeating: Among the
blacks are women; among the women, there are blacks."
A memorial bust of Truth was unveiled in 2009 in
Emancipation Hall in the U.S. Capitol Visitor's Center. She is the first
African American woman to have a statue in the Capitol building. In 2014, Truth was included in Smithsonian
magazine's list of the "100 Most Significant Americans of All Time"