Who Was Sojourner Truth? Google Doodle Celebrates Abolitionist to Start Black History Month

National African American History Month in February is dedicated to honoring the contributions African American people have made to American society and to kick off the month, Google put the spotlight on Sojourner Truth.

Born in 1797 to slave parents, Truth was originally named Isabella Bomfree, according to the National Women's History Museum. She was born in Ulster County, New York, but was bought and sold multiple times during the course of her life. The first time she was sold, she was about nine years old, according to History.com, and was purchased along with a flock of sheep by John Neely in exchange for $100.

By age 13, she was sold two more times, with her final destination being the home of John and Elizabeth Dumont in West Park, New York. Truth was united with another slave and had five children, the first being born in 1815. Dumont promised to free Truth on July 4, 1826, but History.com reported the date came and passed and she was still enslaved.

In 1828, a New York law freeing slaves was scheduled to go into effect, but Truth ran away with her infant, Sophia, in 1827. When Dumont came looking for her, Isaac and Maria Van Wagenen, who lived nearby and were abolitionists, purchased Truth's freedom for 20 dollars. Later, they helped her file a lawsuit for the return of her son, Peter, aged five, who was sold into slavery in Alabama, illegally. Her successful lawsuit made her the first black woman in the United States to sue a white man and win.

"I did not run off, for I thought that wicked, but I walked off, believing that to be all right," Truth later said of her escape, according to History.com.

google doodle sojourner truth
Portrait of American abolitionist and feminist Sojourner Truth (1797 - 1883), a former slave who advocated emancipation, c. 1880. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

After being impacted by the Van Wagenens' Christian faith, Truth moved to New York City in 1828 and worked for a local minister. In 1843, she renamed herself Sojourner Truth after the Spirit called on her to preach the truth, as reported by the National Women's History Museum.

While working on her autobiography, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, which was published in 1850, Truth gave speeches about slavery and worked with abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass. She joined the Northampton Association of Education and Industry, an abolitionist organization in Massachusetts, and in 1851, at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention, she delivered her most famous speech.

In her speech, titled, "Ain't I a Woman?" the National Women's History Museum reported she used her own stature and female status to challenge notions of racial and gender inferiority and inequality.

She also helped recruit black soldiers for the Civil War and collected food, clothes and other supplies for black refugees. In 1864, she was invited to the White House and then-President Abraham Lincoln showed her a Bible he was given, according to History.com. While in Washington, D.C., she fought discrimination by riding in a whites-only street car.

google doodle sojourner truth
Google kicked off Black History Month with a doodle of Sojourner Truth, an abolitionist and civil rights activist. Google

Truth ultimately settled in Battle Creek, Michigan, where some of her daughters lived, but she continued to speak out in favor of woman's suffrage. She passed away on November 26, 1883, according to History.com.

"Is God Dead?" History.com reported her tombstone said, which was a question she asked Douglass in an effort to encourage him to have faith.

The Google Doodle, which showed Truth following white doves as she led a group of women, was designed by Philadelphia-based guest artist Loveis Wise. In 2020, Truth will join other American women in replacing former President Andrew Jackson on the $10 bill.