April 3rd, 2009
”Those are the same stars, and that is the same moon, that look down upon your brothers and sisters, and which they see as they look up to them, though they are ever so far away from us, and each other.“ ~Sojourner Truth
Isabella Baumfree was born a slave circa 1797 in New York. She had several owners. When she was owned by the Dumont family, she married Thomas who was also a slave. They had five children. After being freed under New York law, one of Isabella’s sons was sold as a slave in Alabama. Isabella fought for his freedom and won.
She had a religious conversion and became a traveling speaker and preacher. Isabella changed her name to Sojourner Truth in 1843, as she believed the Holy Spirit instructed her to do so. In spite of being unable to read or write, Sojourner Truth captured audiences. She was a fiery evangelist and advocated for women’s rights and anti-slavery. Sojourner Truth is recognized for her memoir The Narrative of Sojourner Truth. She also gave a spirited speech that challenged the superiority of men to women, entitled “Ain’t I a Woman.” Sojourner Truth was active during the Civil War, supporting black Union soldiers. After the war, she traveled and preached on spiritual matters and advocated for equality for blacks and women.
The photograph of Sojourner Truth was taken circa 1864. The photograph notes the name Brady in the lower left hand corner, the signature for Mathew Brady Studios. In the lower right hand corner is the location of where the picture was taken – New York. The photograph was taken inside. Sojourner Truth is wearing a scarf on her head and layered in clothing, consisting of a blouse, vest, jacket, and skirt. The jacket has bold stripes on the sleeves. Sojourner Truth is wearing eye glasses and appears to be holding a speech. The photograph is an albumen silver print, used until the 1890s as the best way to capture an image. This method of photography consisted of the combination of egg whites and silver nitrate. The photograph is now housed in the National Portrait Gallery.