Sojourner Truth was born a slave in New York State around 1797. In 1827, she ran away from her master and took refuge with a New York abolitionist family named Van Wagener. She took their family name and supported herself by working as a domestic. In 1843, after claiming to have heard divine voices, she renamed herself Sojourner Truth and began lecturing on the cause of abolitionism. An illiterate, she dictated her life story to writer Olive Gilbert, and her book, Narrative of Sojourner Truth, became a best-seller in the years before the Civil War. The money she earned from her lectures and book sales helped support the work of the Underground Railroad. In the years following the war, Sojourner took up the cause of women's rights and continued her speaking career well into old age.
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