SOJOURNER TRUTH was born a slave in New York in 1797, she spoke only Dutch until sold around the age of 9, together with a flock of sheep, for $100.
Suffering hardships, her third master made her marry an older slave with whom she had five children.
In 1827, Sojourner Truth escaped to Canada.
After New York abolished slavery, she returned as a domestic servant and helped with Elijah Pierson's street-corner preaching.
In 1843, Sojourner Truth heard "a voice from Heaven" and began spreading "God's truth and plan for salvation."
In Massachusetts, Sojourner worked with abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass, and his wife, ANNA MURRY-DOUGLASS.
In 1838, Anna Murray-Douglass had helped Frederick escape slavery by providing sailors clothing and identification papers.
Anna used their home in Rochester, New York, as a stop for the Underground Railroad, giving food, clean clothes, and a safe place to stay for fugitive slaves headed to Canada.
After the Emancipation Proclamation, Sojourner Truth moved to Washington, D.C., met Lincoln and helped former slaves.
She dictated her biography, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave (1850), stating:
"When I left the house of bondage I left everything behind. I wanted to keep nothing of Egypt on me, and so I went to the Lord and asked him to give me a new name."
Sojourner Truth continued:
"I set up my banner, and then I sing, and then folks always comes up 'round me, and then...I tells them about Jesus."
Her last full day on earth was NOVEMBER 25, 1883. Sojourner Truth would begin her messages:
"Children, I talk to God and God talks to me."
Sojourner Truth is the first African American woman to have her statue in the U.S. Capitol, located in the Visitor Center's Emancipation Hall.
BETSEY STOCKTON was born into slavery around 1798.
Her owner, Ashbel Green, was president of Princeton. He freed her in 1817, and she became a member of the First Presbyterian Church.
While she continued to work for the Green family as a paid domestic help, they taught her to read.
Betsey enthusiastically read through Dr. Green's library, and attended classes at Princeton Theological Seminary.
She began to feel a call to become a missionary.
When Betsey Stockton heard that some Princeton students planned to go as missionaries to Hawaii, she asked to go along.
Dr. Green and her Sunday school teacher wrote recommendation letters to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, which commissioned her as America's first single woman missionary sent overseas.
On November 22, 1822, she set sail with the second missionary team from New Haven, Connecticut, to Hawaii.
It was a five-month voyage.
Settling in Lāhainā on Maui, she helped start the first mission school and served as the teacher.
Betsey taught islanders English, Latin, history and algebra.
In two years, over 8,000 students attended 200 schools.
An edition of Betsey Stockton’s Hawaiian diary was published in the Christian Advocate, 1824 and 1825, by Dr. Reverend Dr. Ashbel Green, President of Princeton University.
Betsey wrote of an island church service:
"The 29th was the Sabbath. I went in the morning with the family to worship: the scene that presented itself was one that would have done an American’s heart good to have witnessed.
Our place of worship was nothing but an open place on the beach, with a large tree to shelter us: on the ground a large mat was laid, on which the chief persons sat.
To the right there was a sofa, and a number of chairs; on these the missionaries, the king, and principal persons sat.
The kanakas, or lower class of people, sat on the ground in rows; leaving a passage open to the sea, from which the breeze was blowing ..."
"Mr. R. addressed them from these words, “It is appointed unto all men once to die, and after death the judgment.” Honoru acted as interpreter: the audience all appeared very solemn.
After service the favorite queen called me, and requested that I should take a seat with her on the sofa, which I did, although I could say but few words which she could understand.
Soon after, bidding them aloha, I returned with the family."
Betsey wrote of being the first teacher of Hawaii’s first mission school:
"In the afternoon we had an English sermon at our house: about fifty were present, and behaved well.
In the morning one of the king’s boys came to the house, desiring to be instructed in English.
Mr. S. thought it would be well for me to engage in the work at once. Accordingly, I collected a proper number and commenced. I had four English, and six Hawaiian scholars."
In 1823, Queen Ka’ahumanu and six high chiefs requested to be baptized as Christians.
She then banned prostitution and drunkenness, resulting in sailors resenting the missionaries’ influence.
Queen Ka’ahumanu helped spread the Gospel in the islands, beginning a “Great Awakening.” She was presented with the newly completed version of the New Testament in the Hawaiian language just prior to her death.
Betsey Stockton sailed back to New England where she helped found Princeton's First Presbyterian Church of Color in 1835.
There, she organized and taught a Sabbath School.
The church memorialized her with a stained-glass window.
She also was a principal and taught at a school in Philadelphia. She established a school for Indians at Grape Island, Canada, and taught students of color at Princeton.
HARRIET TUBMAN (c.1820-March 10, 1913) was a former slave who repeatedly risked her life to free over 300 slaves from Southern Democrat slave plantations.
The trails she took became known as the Underground Railroad.
After the Civil War, she helped set up schools for freed slaves.
"I always told God: I'm gwine to hole stiddy on to you, and you got to see me trou ... Jes so long as He wants to use me, He'll tak ker of me, and when He don't want me any longer, I'm ready to go."
To her biographer, Sarah H. Bradford, Harriet Tubman related in 1868:
"'Twant me, 'twas the Lord. I always told him, "I trust to you. I don't know where to go or what to do, but I expect you to lead me," and he always did."
MARY ELLEN PLEASANT (1814–1904) was born a slave but worked out her bondage.
She was joined with white abolitionists in Massachusetts to help slaves get to freedom through the Underground Railroad.
In 1852, Mary arrived in San Francisco where she founded exclusive men’s eating establishments. Paying attention to business tips, she invested and eventually amassed millions of dollars.
Mary Ellen Pleasant’s work with the Underground Railroad continued, resulting in her being considered the “Harriett Tubman of California.”
She was a significant supporter of abolitionist John Brown, and became a notable civil rights leader in California.
CLARA BROWN (1800–1885) was an ex-slave who moved to Colorado in the late 1850s during the Gold Rush.
She is considered Colorado’s first black settler, living in the mining town of Central City.
There, she established a successful laundry business, in addition to serving as a mid-wife, cook, and nurse maid.
Clara Brown was a founding member of a Sunday school, and let her home be used for prayer services. She hosted the first Methodist church services at her house.
Affectionately called “Aunt Clara,” her home was, “a hospital, a home, a general refuge for those who were sick or in poverty.”
She was quoted as saying, “I always go where Jesus calls me.”
A Catholic Church and the first Protestant church in the Rocky Mountains were both built in part through Clara Brown’s donations.
She invested in real estate and eventually owned seven houses in Central City, sixteen lots in Denver, along with interests in other properties and mines.
Clara Brown was voted into the Society of Colorado Pioneers in 1885, for her role in Colorado’s early history.
BRIDGET "BIDDY" MASON (1818–1901) was a slave who had three daughters by her slave master Robert Smith.
Smith converted to Mormonism and moved to Utah, forcing Bridget to follow the wagon on foot.
In 1851, Smith moved again, this time to California. Though it was a free state, Smith refused to abide by the laws and he kept Biddy a slave.
When Smith decided to move to Texas, a slave state, a white man, Charles Owens, helped bring legal action to gain Biddy’s freedom.
After a fierce court battle, Biddy Mason won in 1856. Charles Owens soon married Biddy’s daughter Ellen.
Biddy worked as a mid-wife, delivering hundreds of babies. When a smallpox epidemic hit, she risked her life to care for multitudes who were infected.
Saving her money, she purchased two estates, making her one of the first black women to own property in Los Angeles.
She bought more properties and leased them out commercially. As the city grew, her properties appreciated in value, resulting in her amassing a relatively large fortune of $300,000.
In 1872, along with her son-in-law Charles Owens, she organized the city’s first black church, the First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles, which met in her home on Spring Street.
Being the wealthiest black woman in the city, Biddy Mason donated the land and helped finance the building of the church.
She also established the first elementary school for black children in Los Angeles.
MAGGIE LENA WALKER (1864–1934) was the first black woman in the United States to charter a bank.
By pooling her community’s money, she formed the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, of which she served as the first president.
Later, when the bank merged with two other Richmond, Virginia, banks to form The Consolidated Bank and Trust Company, she served as the chairman of its board of directors.
Maggie Lena Walker, who was baptized and a longtime member at Richmond’s First African Baptist Church, stated:
"If you can read and write, you can do anything and go anywhere. You can ride the wind."
"Friends and good manners will take you where money won’t go."
ANNIE MALONE (1877–1957) was one of America’s first and most prominent African-American businesswomen.
She founded and developed Poro College, a commercial and educational business focused on cosmetics for black women.
Born to former slaves, Malone developed a chemical that could straighten hair without causing damage to the hair or scalp.
Through Poro College, Annie Malone created jobs for 75,000 women around the world.
She is recorded as the first black female millionaire in the United States, with a reported $14 million in assets in 1920.
MADAM C.J. WALKER (1867–1919), whose birth name was Sarah Breedlove, attended Annie Malone’s Poro College to learn cosmetology.
She developed a line of beauty and hair products and is considered one of the first female self-made millionaires in America.
Madam C.J. Walker stated:
"I had to make my own living and my own opportunity ... Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. You have to get up and make them.
"If I have accomplished anything in this life it is because I was willing to work hard."
"I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. From there I was promoted to the washtub. From there I was promoted to the cook kitchen. And from there I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations ... I have built my own factory on my own ground."
"I am not merely satisfied in making money for myself, for I am endeavoring to provide employment for hundreds of women of my race."
"I want you to understand your first duty is to humanity. I want others to look at us and see that we care not just about ourselves but about others."
"Its pretty hard for the Lord to guide you if you haven’t made up your mind which way to go."