n 1843, sixteen years after gaining her freedom, Isabella Baumfree changed her name to Sojourner Truth and emerged as one of the nation’s foremost abolitionists. Speaking throughout the country, she supported her antislavery campaign through sales of her book, the Narrative of Sojourner Truth (1850), and by selling copies of her photograph, which carried the caption, “I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance.”

Truth continued to call for slavery’s abolition during the Civil War and rejoiced when Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation (1863). Eager to assist the many refugees from enslavement who were flocking to Washington, D.C., she traveled there in 1864. Appointed by the National Freedmen’s Relief Association to serve as “counselor to the freed people” at Freedmen’s Village—the camp established by the federal government at Arlington Heights, Virginia—Truth earned praise for her “great service rendered to the Freedmen and their families.”


  • Title: Sojourner Truth
  • Creator: Unidentified Artist
  • Date Created: 1864
  • Physical Dimensions: w5.7 x h8.1 cm (Image)
  • Type: Albumen silver print
  • Rights: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
  • External Link: https://npg.si.edu/object/npg_NPG.78.207
  • Classification: Photograph

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