Sojourner Truth

(c. 1797–1883)

Sojourner Truth


Sojourner Truth was one of the first blacks to test the streetcar antidiscrimination law in Washington, DC. Having failed to get a trolley to stop for her when she signaled, she shouted at the top of her voice, “I want to ride! I want to ride! I want to ride!” A large crowd gathered and the streetcar was unable to continue on its way. Sojourner Truth jumped aboard and was told by the angry conductor to go forward to where the horses were or he would put her out. Truth sat down quietly and informed the conductor that she was a passenger and would not be bullied: “As a citizen of the Empire State of New York, I know the law as well as you do.” So saying, she rode the car to the end of the line and left it with the words, “Bless God! I have had a ride.”

Biographical Note: 

Sojourner Truth was a U.S. evangelist, abolitionist, feminist, and orator. During the Reconstruction period following the U.S. Civil War she helped in the resettlement of emancipated slaves. Sojourner Truth was born in Hurley, New York. Her parents are unknown. Truth was born a slave and was given the name Isabella Baumfree (other accounts give her name as Isabella Van Wagener). She ran away from slavery before New York passed a state Emancipation Act. Because of the fact that she was a slave, she had a slave name. Thus, she wanted a religious name so she called herself Sojourner Truth, since she believed God had sent her to tell the world the truth about slavery. When she settled in New York she became a powerful speaker for aboltion and women’s rights, even though she could not read or write. She was famous for being one of the first black American woman to speak against slavery.