Utah Lesson Plans
Social Studies
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Upper Elementary, Middle School, High School
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    Sojourner Truth

    Sojourner Truth


    This resource is a Social Studies student activity that utilizes Utah's Online Library resources - specifically, Gale's Kids InfoBits Grades K-6, Gale's Research in Context Grades 6-8, and Gale's Reference Collection Grades 9-12 -  to help students learn about Sojourner Truth. 

    About Utah’s Online Library

    Utah's Online Library provides Utah educators and students free access to high-quality reference collections.

    This activity was designed to help educators utilize this amazing resource in their classrooms.

    Note: Utah educators and students visiting Utah's Online Library from a school computer should be automatically authenticated. When at home, students must use the home access login that their teacher or school media specialist can provide. Utah educators can use either their my.uen login or the home access login.


    Essential Question: How did Sojourner Truth contribute to the abolitionist movement? How was she part of the suffragette movement? How does her name reflect her life?

    Sojourner Truth was born as Isabella Bomefree in New York in about 1797. She and her family were slaves owned by the Hardenbergh family. The Hardenberghs were Dutch, and Isabella and her parents spoke Dutch. Their master gave them the last name Bomefree, which is a Dutch word that means "tree" because Isabella's father was such a tall man. How were the Bomefree's lives different from slaves living in the South? How were their lives the same? Have students create a Venn diagram comparing slaves in the North and South. Isabella's parents had 10-12 children. All of the children except for Isabella and her brother, Peter, were sold to other owners.

    When Isabella was about 11 years old, she was sold to the Neely family. This family spoke English, and Isabella only spoke Dutch. Her life was difficult with this family, and she was often beaten. Isabella was eventually purchased by Mr. Schryvers who was a fisherman, and she was able to learn English while working for him. She was then sold to the Dumont family, and she was owned by them for many years. She married a slave also owned by the Dumonts, and they had several children.

    New York state passed a law in 1824 that said that all slaves born before 1799 would have their freedom on July 4, 1827. The freedom process did not go smoothly for Isabella. Have students research the difficult and complicated circumstances of Isabella gaining her freedom from the Dumont family. Why did she change her name to Isabella Van Wagener? Her children were not born before 1799; how did they gain their freedom? What were the particular circumstances of Isabella's son, Peter (named after her brother), gaining his freedom?

    In 1843, Isabella changed her name to Sojourner Truth. Why? What was her life like after 1843? Describe Soujourner's efforts in working with suffragists.

    In 1851 or 1852, Sojourner Truth gave a famous speech entitled "Ain't I a Woman?" In what context was this speech given? How is it reflective of the time period? You can find the full text of this speech in Utah's Online School Library through Gale's Reference Collection Grades 9-12 has many articles and essays about this speech. The speech is written through people's recollections and notes. Sojourner Truth never had the opportunity to learn to read or write.

    How was Sojourner active in the abolitionist movement? What did she do during the Civil War? Describe her visit to the White House to visit with President Lincoln. Describe her work after the Civil War with the Federal Freedman's Bureau. In 1850, how did the book The Narrative of Sojourner Truth come to be written?

    For elementary students, Gale's Kids InfoBits Grades K-6 has biographical information about Sojourner Truth at appropriate reading levels. Gale's Research in Context Grades 6-8 has magazine articles, biographic information, book chapters, and primary sources. Gale's Reference Collection Grades 9-12 has hundreds of in-depth resources for secondary students to learn about Sojourner Truth, the Civil War, and many topics concerning women's rights.


    Curriculum Connections:

    Social Studies - 5th Grade
    Social Studies - 8th Grade
    Secondary - Social Studies - United States History I