From “Who was Sojourner Truth?” at noho.com:
Sojourner Truth came to Northampton in 1843 to live at the Northampton Association of Education and Industry, a utopian community in Florence. Born a slave in upstate New York in approximately 1797, she labored for a succession of five masters until the Fourth of July, 1827, when slavery was finally abolished in New York State. Then Isabella–as she had been named at birth–became legally free.
After prevailing in a courageous court action demanding the return of her youngest son Peter, who had been illegally sold away from her to a slave owner in Alabama, Isabella moved to New York City. There she worked as a housekeeper and became deeply involved in religion. Isabella had always been very spiritual, and soon after being emancipated, had a vision which affected her profoundly, leading her–as she later described it–to develop a “perfect trust in God and prayer.”
After fifteen years in New York, Isabella felt a call to become a travelling preacher. She took her new name–Sojourner Truth–and with little more than the clothes on her back, began walking through Long Island and Connecticut, speaking to people in the countryside about her life and her relationship with God. She was a powerful speaker and singer. When she rose to speak, wrote one observer, her commanding figure and dignified manner hushed every trifler to silence. Audiences were melted into tears by her touching stories.
After several months of traveling, Truth was encouraged by friends to go to the Northampton Association, which had been founded in 1841 as a cooperative community dedicated to abolitionism, pacifism, equality and the betterment of human life. There, she met progressive thinkers like William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass and David Ruggles, and the local abolitionists Samuel Hill, George Benson and Olive Gilbert. Douglass described her at the time as “a strange compound of wit and wisdom, of wild enthusiasm and flintlike common sense.”
When the association disbanded in 1846, Truth remained in Northampton, moving for the first time into her own home, on Park Street in Florence, with a loan from Samuel Hill. Although Truth never learned to read or write, she dictated her memoirs to Olive Gilbert and they were published in 1850 as The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave. This book, and her presence as a speaker, made her a sought-after figure on the anti-slavery woman’s rights lecture circuit.
Over the next decade she travelled and spoke widely. She is particularly remembered for the famous “Ain’t I A Woman?” speech she gave at the woman’s rights convention in Akron, Ohio in 1851….