Sojourner Truth,—The Libyan Sibyl:—It is not known when this remarkable woman was born, as it was not customary to keep a record of such trivial events as the birth of a slave-child. This much is known, she was manumitted by an act of the legislature of New York in I811, by which all slaves forty years of age were liberated at once, the others in 1828, and the children on reaching their majority.
Her former name was Isabella, that of her parents, James and Betsey, slaves of Colonel Ardinburgh.who belonged to that class called Low Dutch; he lived in Hurley, Ulster County,New York.
She remembered that her parents, Bomefree and Mau-mau-Bett, after having all their children, whom God had intended as the prop and stay of their declining years,sold away from them, were emancipated when they became old and well nigh helpless. But this was little more than liberty to starve or perish from cold,for they were given to understand that they could expect no help from the very people who had been enriched by thier unpaid toil for more than half a century.
At nine years of age, Isabella was sold for one hundred dollars to one John Nealy of Ulster County, New York. She thinks her sale was connected in some way with a flock of sheep. The trials of her life dated from this period, or as she expressed it, "Now the war begun." She knew nothing of the English language, while the Nealys could not talk Dutch. Mr. Nealy, however, could understand that language, but neither mistress nor maid could understand the language of the other.
|The white side of a black subject: enlarged and brought down to date. : a vindication of the Afro-American race : from the landing of slaves at St. Augustine, Author Norman B. Wood. Publisher: American Publishing House, 1897.|
Original from: the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Digitized: Jun 19, 2009. Length: 408 pages. Subjects: African Americans. Slavery, Social Science / Ethnic Studies / African American Studies, Social Science / Slavery
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This naturally led to frequent misunderstanding, and punishment for poor Isabella. She was often slapped over for bringing the wrong article to her mistress. She suffered terribly from cold, her feet becoming badly frozen. And while they gave her plenty to eat, they also gave her plenty of whippings; often for no other reason than her inability to understand what she was told to do.
One Sunday morning she was sent to the barn. where she found her master waiting for her with a bundle of rods in his hand Stripping her to the waist, and tying her hands before her,he gave her the most cruel flogging she ever received. Her flesh was deeply lacerated, the blood streaming to the barn floor, the scars remaining to her dying day. And she never knew why she was so cruelly whipped.
Often afterwards she stated,"When I hear'em tell of whippin' women on the bare flesh, k makes my flesh crawl, an' my very hair rise on my head! Oh my God, what a way is this of treatin' human bein's!" She now remembered her mother's instruction to pray to God in time of trouble, and at once obeyed, begging God to send her father, who was still living, and through him to provide a kinder master.
This prayer (and indeed all her prayers) was promptly answered. In a short time her poor old father came to see her. When he started away she followed him to the gate, and unburdened her heart.
He promised to do what he could and in a short time sent a rough but kind-hearted man, by the name of Schriver, who purchased Isabella of her master for one hundred and five dollars. Schriver lived about six miles distant, and owned a large farm, but left it unimproved, while he engaged in fishing, and keeping a hotel. He and his family were coarse, ignorant, and profane, but honest, kind-hearted people. Here Isabella was kindly treated, but learned from their example to swear like a trooper. Her work consisted of carrying fish, hoeing corn, bringing roots and herbs from the woods for beers, and going on errands to the Strand for a jug of molasses or liquor.
Naturally instead of improving in morals she retrograded, during the year and a half she spent there.
Her next master was John j. Dumont, to whom she was sold for seventy pounds in the year 1810. He also lived in Ulster County, near the town of New Paltz. She remained with him until the fall of 1827. Mr. Dumont was a kind-hearted man, but his wife was not accustomed to Negroes and disliked Isabella from the first.