Sojourner Truth Original Documents at the Ulster County Courthouse

Date(s) - Wed, Jun 15, 2022
12:00 pm

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Ulster County Courthouse


Decades before she took her fabled name, famed abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth was born into slavery here in Ulster County under the name Isabella.  It was as Isabella that the young Truth took action to secure the return of her 5-year son, Peter, who had been illegally sold to in plantation in Alabama.  With the help of local attorneys, Isabella filed a Habeas Corpus Petition in the Ulster County Courthouse in March of 1828.  And it was this Isabella that prevailed on that Petition for her son’s freedom, marking the first time in American history that a Black woman sued a white man – and won.

For decades, local historians believed that no documents from this historic case had survived, other than the Recognizance Bond issued by the Ulster County Court held in the Archives of the Ulster County Clerk.  Or so we thought.

Earlier this year, the original Petition and supporting documents from Sojourner Truth’s groundbreaking lawsuit – including her own Affidavit – were discovered in the New York State Archives in Albany.  As our community celebrates Juneteenth, these documents as well the Recognizance Bond will be on display in the Ulster County Courthouse for the first time since 1828, when they set into motion this pivotal moment in our nation’s history.

Come join us on June 15th at Noon in the Ulster County Courthouse on 285 Wall Street in Kingston – the very site of Sojourner Truth’s momentous triumph– and see the actual documents that began this remarkable woman’s life-long fight for truth and freedom.   Among those to share the day will be Sojourner Truth’s 6th great-granddaughter, Barbara Allen and Professor Nell Irvin Painter, author of the seminal biography of Sojourner Truth, “Sojourner Truth: A Life, a Symbol.”

The event is open to the public, though please note that Covid Restrictions and Protocols will be in effect.

For questions, please call the Ulster County Surrogates Court at (845) 481-9343, the Ulster County Clerk’s Office at (845) 340-3040 or the Commissioner of Juror’s Office at (845) 481-9384.