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Sojourner Truth

A historic struggle for equality honored in Battle Creek, Michigan

By Maeve Hammond | null null , null

Maeve Hammond at Sojourner Truth memorial
Kid Reporter Maeve Hammond at the Sojourner Truth memorial in Battle Creek, Michigan. (Photo: Courtesy Maeve Hammond)
In observance of Black History Month this February, elementary students at Wattles Park Elementary in Battle Creek, Michigan, participated in a survey about the significance of learning black history. They were asked to name an African-American leader who made a difference in their community. Most chose Sojourner Truth, who is buried in Battle Creek.

“Truth helped a lot of people, and was also a very good person,” said Tyler S. in his survey. “She was a great black leader.”

A Journey for Equality

Sojourner Truth was born into slavery sometime around 1797. She lived in New York State and was sold and bought many times, moving throughout the state. Her life was not her own. She was not allowed to marry the man she loved—she was forced to marry someone else.

Although New York state legislation in 1799 promised freedom to slaves, Truth did not gain her freedom until 1827. She changed her name from Isabella to “Sojourner Truth,” as she believed she was meant to let people know the truth about the state of civil rights in America.

In 1857, when she was about 60 years old, Truth bought a home in the Battle Creek area. A year earlier she had been invited to Battle Creek as a guest speaker, and said she felt at home in the community.

She didn’t spend much time in her Battle Creek home, however. Sojourner Truth campaigned around the United States for equality and even met with President Abraham Lincoln in 1864.

Although she was granted the honor to meet with the President, she wasn’t allowed to cast a vote in the presidential election: not because she was African-American, but because she was a woman.

“If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!” she said about women’s right to vote. “And now they [are] asking to do it, the men better let them.”

Remembering Truth

Students at Wattles Park Elementary learn about Truth and her accomplishments.

“She really put all of her time into helping others, especially slaves,” said. Jacob C. “When I think about her and all she did for people in Battle Creek, and the U.S., it makes me feel good!”

On a memorial in Battle Creek there is a quote about why she chose her name: “Lord, I have done my duty and I have told the truth and kept nothing back.”

To learn more about the life of Sojourner Truth, visit this Web site.


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Black History Month

Celebrate Black History Month with Scholastic News Online! Learn more about African-American leaders and their contributions.


About the Author

Maeve Hammond is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

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