National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
In 1843 ex-slave Isabella Van Wagener obeyed God's personal command to her, changed her name to Sojourner Truth, and became an itinerant preacher. Quickly becoming a major attraction on the revival circuit for the power and ingenuity of her prophetic speeches, she was drawn into abolitionism and entranced antislavery audiences with her personal testimony. Like Frederick Douglass, Truth was a charismatic figure because she was not a victim but a leader. She was also a powerful example of African American womanhood. As she concluded in a compelling oration on women's rights, "I could work as much . . . and bear the lash as well [as a man]-and aren't I a woman?"