Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by natalee. natalee Wonders, “Who is Sojourner Truth” Thanks for WONDERing with us, natalee!

Many of our Wonder Friends know what a pilgrim is. Maybe you’ve also heard the words “nomad” and “traveler.” But do you know what it means to be a sojourner?

A sojourner is a person who only stays in one place for a short time. They move around, sometimes traveling around a region and other times throughout the world. When you hear the word “sojourner,” you may also think of a well-spoken advocate for racial and gender equality. Her name was Sojourner Truth.

Sojourner Truth was born into slavery in 1797. At birth, her given name was Isabella. Many people today think of slavery as a southern practice. However, Truth lived in the state of New York.

The end of slavery in New York came slowly. In 1799, the state passed a law freeing children born after July 4 of that year. In 1817, a new law stated that all other enslaved people would be freed in 1827. 

The man who held Sojourner Truth in slavery promised to free her a year early, in 1826. After he broke his promise, Truth left. She later shared that, instead of escaping in the dark of night, she “walked away by daylight.” 

A nearby Quaker family helped Truth win her freedom. They also helped her go to court to rescue her son from slavery. He had been illegally sold to a slaveholder in Alabama. With her two youngest children, Truth moved to New York City.

In New York City, Truth became a domestic worker and a preacher. She was deeply religious, and in 1843 reported that “the Spirit called on her to preach the truth.” That’s when she gave herself the name Sojourner Truth. She also left New York that year. She would then travel throughout the United States, speaking for abolition and women’s rights.

Truth’s best-known speech is one called “Ain’t I a Woman?” In it, she argued against the idea that women were weaker than and inferior to men. As evidence, she pointed to her own experience toiling away on farms. She noted, “I could work as much and eat as much as a man... And ain’t I a woman?”

Truth often worked closely with other activists of the day, including Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott. She also worked with Frederick Douglass and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Truth was a supporter of suffrage movements for the rest of her life.

Despite never learning to read and write, Truth produced an autobiography. It is titled The Narrative of Sojourner Truth. She dictated the book to her friend, Olive Gilbert, who wrote it down. Eventually, Truth settled in Michigan, where she died on November 26, 1883.

Standards: C3.D2.His.2, C3.D2.Civ.12, C3.D2.Civ.13, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.7, CCRA.W.8, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2

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