Sojourner Truth (1797-1883)

Sojourner Truth Born Isabella Baumfree, Sojourner Truth became the first black woman orator to lecture against slavery. When asked how she received her name, she replied, “I asked the Lord to give me a new name and He gave me Sojourner because I was to travel up and down the land showing the people’s sins and being a sign unto them. Afterwards, I told the Lord I wanted another name cause everybody had two names; and He gave me Truth because I was to declare the truth unto the people.”

In 1827, she escaped from her master who heartlessly sold all five of her children. She lived with a Quaker family who helped her win a lawsuit to get one son returned to her. Standing over 6 feet tall, as a speaker, Sojourner commanded respect from her audience. She could neither read nor write but she became a legendary prophetess, orator and preacher during her time.

Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad was a method that helped slaves escape from the South to the North during the mid-1800’s. The passengers did not travel on a REAL train nor did they go underground.  The slaves traveled by whatever means they could, moving during the nighttime and hiding during the daytime. Many railroad terms were used as code words. For example, hiding places were called stations, and people who helped the runaways were known as conductors. The most famous black leader of the Underground Railroad was Harriet Tubman, a runaway slave herself.

Harriet Tubman (1820-1913)

harriet-tubman Harriet Tubman was one of the greatest Underground Railroad conductors. She is also known as the “Moses of Her People.” In 1844, when her master died, there was talk of slaves being sold out of state. Harriet decided to escape. Two of her brothers traveled with her, but they turned back out of fear, so she traveled alone.

When she became an Underground Railroad conductor, she refused to let anyone turn back. She carried a rifle that she would not hesitate to point and quietly command the slave to decide to be free or die. She is noted for saying, “I never ran my train off track and I never lost a passenger.” There was a $40,000 reward for her capture. Harriet became good at disguises and symbolic messages. She was able to help most of her family escape, especially her aging parents.