Sojourner Truth was born a slave named Isabella Baumfree sometime in 1797 in Ulster county, New York. The exact date of her birth is to this day unknown, but it is believed to have been sometime during the fall. She developed her characteristics of courage and dependability from her mother, Mau Mau Bett, at an early age. Isabella was first owned by a Dutch named Charles, who was happened to be a decent slave owner. At his death, she was separated from her mother and auctioned to another set of plantation owners, the Neelys. Isabella was highly mistreated here as they took their dislike of the Dutch community out on Isabella, who spoke hardly a word of English. She was bought and sold three times within the next twenty-four months, the final purchaser being a man named John Dumont for the incredibly low bargaining price of three hundred dollars. .
Dumont needed more slaves for his New York plantation. He always bragged that Isabella was the hardest working slave on the plantation. Seeing this, he forced her to marry a fellow slave known as Tom. Isabella gave birth to five children within the next five years. Two years before the emancipation act of 1828, in which all slaves within New York were freed, Dumont promised Isabella that if she were to work extra hard the next year, he would set her free a year early. She did just that; she was the even harder working already hardest working slave on the plantation. .
In her speeches, she spoke of the living conditions many slaves were forced to endure, crowded together into cabins with no privacy, overworked, fed scraps in many cases, and clothed raggedy scraps. Her audiences must have felt the shame as Truth recalled the auction block, upon which men and women alike were frequently forced to strip and stand before potential buyers, who would search their bodies for marks of the whip or of wrist or leg irons, the presence of which would indicate the slave had been frequently punished.