February is Black History Month—a good time to remember the heroic efforts of Sojourner Truth, a one-time slave who moved to Michigan and tirelessly crusaded for a freer and more just country for all Americans.

Sojourner Truth was born a slave in New York, where she was known as Isabella by a succession of masters, one of whom beat her so severely she was scarred for life. In 1826 she ran away to a friendly white family, who purchased her freedom from her master.

The family’s kindness to Isabella showed her that both black and white Americans could work together to end the evils of slavery. She soon began to travel the country under the name of Sojourner Truth, delivering her message of liberty and justice to crowds everywhere.

In 1857 Sojourner settled in Battle Creek where she personally helped many other slaves escape to freedom on the Underground Railroad. When the Civil War ended—and slavery along with it—she stressed self-reliance, not government handouts, as the way for blacks to adjust to their new lives as free American citizens.

Sojourner Truth died in 1883, but her legacy of freedom with responsibility for all Americans lives on today in a country that abounds with opportunities for everyone, both black and white.

For the Mackinac Center, this is Catherine Martin.