“Those are the same stars, and that is the same Moon, that look down upon your brothers and sisters, and which they see as they look up to them, though they are ever so far away from us, and each other.”
– Sojourner Truth
Sojourner Truth: For years, I have seen this famous Ulster County native’s name on historic signs and plaques dotting the landscape in Ulster County. I have spent countless hours in the library named for her at SUNY-New Paltz. But it was the Sojourner Truth Freedom Trail that drew me in and made her feel real to me. This 11-mile network of local roads is considered to be the route of Truth’s walk from slavery to freedom. These roads on which my family and I drive all the time suddenly feel like a time-traveling web of history.
The Sojourner Truth Freedom Trail begins in West Park, at the corner of Floyd Ackert Road and Route 9W. As I drove down Floyd Ackert, I was struck by how Truth began her journey on her own terms. When her master Dumont broke his promise to grant her freedom a year before state law required it, that was it. She completed what she felt was a fair amount of work, tucked her infant under her arm and walked away: “I did not run off, for I thought that wicked; but I walked off, believing that to be all right.”
As I turned onto Poppletown Road, I felt the connection. This partially paved road is surrounded by trees, and I wondered if the foot trail could have looked like this back in 1826. Surely some of these oaks bore witness to Truth’s walk to freedom. I passed some older homes and farms, and appreciated their stonework’s link to this other era.
The final road in the Freedom Trail network is Van Wagner Road, named for the Van Wagenen family. They took Truth in as a free person, after paying an angry Dumont $25 for Truth and her baby.
I completed the journey by turning left onto Route 213 and stopping at the Sojourner Truth historical marker on the right side of the road by the water. To me, it feels like a sign of Sweet Freedom!
For a map of the Sojourner Truth Freedom Trail, visit www.esopus.com/brochures/sojourner_trail.pdf. For a fascinating book about Sojourner Truth, I recommend Sojourner Truth: Slave, Prophet, Legend by Carleton Mabee with Susan Mabee Newhouse.
For more Hudson Valley history, head over to Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site this weekend. Join the 280th Washington Birthday Celebration and give your kids a chance to experience some living history. Visitors of all ages are invited to participate in a variety of activities, including eating birthday cake at the start of each day; meeting General Washington, portrayed by John Koopman; enjoying musical entertainment; and learning about 18th-century military life.
Festivities take place from 12 noon to 4:30 p.m. this Saturday, Sunday and Monday, February 18, 19 and 20. Admission to all events is by donation. Washington’s Headquarters is located at 84 Liberty Street in Newburgh. Please call (845) 562-1195 for more information.