I'll preface this by saying I'm still relatively new to Michigan so everything is brand new information to me. Maybe you knew that this notorious women's rights activist lived her last days and is currently buried in Battle Creek, but I didn't until today!

Sojourner Truth is a name I am familiar with. But, as I'm discovering lately, my education on all things history was sorely lacking as I was growing up. I knew Truth was an activist for women. I, however, did not know the full extent of her story.

Portrait of Sojourner Truth
Getty Images

According to History.com, Sojourner Truth was born to enslaved parents in 1797 and was given the name Isabella Baumfree. She was sold for the first time at the age of 9 to a man named John Neely who showed nothing but cruelty and violence to the young girl. She was sold twice more before the age of 13.

Her life leading up to her eventual escape from slavery did not get easier. From being forced to marry a fellow enslaved man she did not love to having to leave behind children in her escape because they still "belonged" to their owner...most of us cannot even fathom what she went through by the time she turned 25. You can read more here.

Truth was also the first Black woman to successfully sue a White man. John Dumont, her former owner, attempted to illegally sell her 5-year-old son after the 1827 New York Anti-Slavery Law was passed. With some help Truth not only sued Dumont but regained full custody.

Her life as an activist didn't gain momentum until 1844 when she joined Northampton Association of Education and Industry, an abolitionist organization.

There's a rich history of incredible things this woman did for not only Black people in America but for women too. Some of those achievements include:

  • Publicly spoke at conventions to advocate for equal rights for Black women
  • While working for the National Freedman’s Relief Association, she collected food, clothing and other needs for Black refugees
  • Defied racism by riding on "whites only" public transportation
  • After the Civil War, she worked to find jobs for the now freed Black Americans

Towards the end of her life she found herself in Battle Creek Michigan in the year 1867 where she continued to advocate against discrimination and for equal rights for women. She died in her home in 1883 and is buried in Battle Creek. In fact, you can stop by and visit if you're in the area. She's buried at Oak Hill Cemetery.

Chelsea Rose
Via Google Maps

A memorial also stands in her honor at Monument Park in Battle Creek. It's large enough to be seen from the road:

Chelsea Rose
Via Google Maps


What an incredible legacy left by, clearly, an incredible woman. I'll be adding this to the long list of "things I didn't know until I moved to Michigan". I can't wait to see what I learn next!

LOOK: 50 essential civil rights speeches

Many of the speakers had a lifetime commitment to human rights, but one tried to silence an activist lobbying for voting rights, before later signing off on major civil rights legislation. Several fought for freedom for more than one oppressed group.

Keep reading to discover 50 essential civil rights speeches.

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