Daniel Walker Howe on the hero and the slave:
In 1815, Isabella, a slave girl of about seventeen living in Ulster County, New York married Thomas, an older man who belonged, as she did, to the Dumont family. Over the next eleven years Isabella bore Thomas five children, in between stints of strenuous labor in the fields. New York had recognized the legality of marriages between slaves in 1809, meaning that now the couple and their children could not be sold apart from each other. Isabella herself had been sold away from her own parents at the age of nine for a hundred dollars, when their master died and his estate went up for auction. Isabella's first owner had been a Dutch American, and the child's first language was Dutch. Her next owner, an English-speaker beat her for not comprehending his commands his commands; her back bore the scars for the rest of her life. By 1810, she had been sold twice more (each owner realizing a profit on the transaction), ending up with the Dumonts
he state of New York had adopted a program of gradual emancipation decreeing that slaves born born after the Fourth of July 1799 should become free at age twenty-eight (for males) or twenty-five (for females). This is would allow the owner who bore the cost of rearing the children reimbursement with several of their prime working years. Isabella, having been born before the cutoff date, would remain in slavery for the rest of her life. But in 1817, the New York legislature sped up the emancipation process and decreed that on July 4, 1827, all remaining slaves, whenever born, should become free. Masters would receive no financial compensation from the state but did have one more decade to exploit their chattels unpaid labor. Shortly before the final emancipation took effect, Isabella's five-year old son was sold away from her, south to Alabama. This constituted a violation of New York law; the newly free Isabella took the remarkable step of suing for and obtaining the boys return, an act that set a pattern for her lifetime of resolute opposition to injustice.Having developed an active prayer life in childhood under the guidance of her mother, Isabella grew into a fervent "Holiness" Methodist. Once free, she left her husband (who may have been chosen for her by her owner) and became an itinerant preacher. She warned of the Second Coming of Christ and demanded the abolitionist of slavery throughout the nation. In 1843, she adopted the name Sojourner Truth, appropriate for a traveling herald of the Divine Word. Although illiterate, she spoke powerfully and dictated a financially successful autobiography. Five feet eleven inches, with dark skin and a muscular frame, Sojourner Truth commanded attention from an audience. Her resonant voice had a New York working-class accent that never lost traces of the Dutch.