“Here’s to Sojourner Truth, who devoted her life to the cause of speaking truth to power,” Google said in a statement.
Truth, born Isabella Baumfree, was born into slavery around 1797 on the New York state estate of Johannes Hardenbergh. She was sold for the first time in 1805 at the age of 9 to John Neely, and two years later to her final slave owner John Dumont. After enduring years of physical and sexual abuse, Truth gained her freedom in 1826 and traveled around the country as a preacher, author, speaker and suffragist. She worked with other activist icons, including abolitionist Frederick Douglass and journalist William Lloyd Garrison before publishing an autobiography in 1850 titled The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave.
In her memoir, she recounts escaping slavery with her infant daughter, and how she had to leave her four other children behind. She later sued her former slave owner for the freedom of her 5-year-old son and won. The lawsuit made her the first black woman to successfully sue a white man in the U.S.
The Google Doodle, created by artist Loveis Wise, references the courthouse where Truth won her son’s freedom.
Wise, a Philadelphia-based artist, told Google she was “insanely excited and humbled” to create the Google Doodle for the first day of Black History Month.
“As a Black woman, illustrating Sojourner Truth was especially personal and meaningful to me,” Wise told Google. “Her journey and persistence inspired major change in both rights for enslaved African-Americans and women. Her history is deeply rooted to my ancestors and others around the world.”
Wise added that she hopes that through the Doodle people will remember and honor Truth’s important legacy. “Without her work and the awareness Sojourner spread, the US would not be what it currently is today!” Wise said.
Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced in 2016 that the new $10 bill will feature Truth alongside other historic women’s suffrage leaders, such as Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Alice Paul and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The new bill is set to go into circulation in 2020, as will the new $20 bill featuring abolitionist Harriet Tubman.