Sojourner Truth is born Isabella Baumfree, one of as many as 12 children of James and Elizabeth Baumfree in the town of Swartekill, Ulster County, New York. Her father is a slave captured in modern-day Ghana; her mother is the daughter of slaves from Guinea. The Baumfree family is owned by Colonel Hardenbergh and lives at the colonel’s estate in Esopus, NY, 95 miles north of New York City.
I was given the name Isabella, and was called ‘Bell.’ My mother was named Elizabeth, and called Betsy and my father was named James…In my father’s youth he was very tall and straight. For that reason he was called “Bomefree,” which was Dutch for tree. We called my mother “Mau-mau” Bett. Mau-mau was Dutch for Mama. My parents were loyal, faithful, hard working and gave Colonel Ardinburgh no trouble. He rewarded their fidelity by allotting them a small plot of land by the mountainside. On it they could crops on weekends and evenings that they could barter on the extra food and clothing for their kids.