Sojourner Truth Meets Abraham Lincoln—On Equal Ground

Before Sojourner Truth died 130 years ago on November 26, 1883, she had a personal encounter with President Lincoln at the White House that brought the two major freedom fighters together.

Exactly 130 years ago today, a great advocate for human equality in the United States died of old age. This courageous woman, Sojourner Truth, went beyond the quiet uprisings and discreet rebellions orchestrated by fellow abolitionists at the time. She boldly made her views and voice known by all, even President Abraham Lincoln. On October 29, 1864, Truth went to visit Lincoln in the White House, pictured above. Unable to read or write, Truth’s friend Lucy Colman transcribed her experience with Honest Abe and depicted their meeting as two freedom fighters showing mutual respect and admiration, surpassing social class and gender lines.

After praising Lincoln as the best man to take the Oval Office, Truth admitted to him that before his rise to power, she had never heard of him. With a smile on his face, Lincoln responded he had known of her work well before they met. He moved the famed abolitionist when he showed her the Bible that had been given to him by people of color in Baltimore, a true sign of the progress that was being made in the nation. (Literacy had previously been prohibited to people of color.) Although Truth was illiterate, the significance of this leap towards equality was universally understood.