chapter  4
8 Pages

Sojourner in Court

In this section from the Narrative , Sojourner tells the story of how her slave master attempted to evade New York’s gradual emancipation laws by selling her young son, Peter, back into slavery in the South. In 1826, Isabella walked away from her enslavement. She believed that she had made an agreement for an early release with her master, John Dumont. Her children, however, remained indentured to the Dumonts. The Dumonts did not hesitate to evade the law in order to preserve the value of their human assets, and, as we will see, felt no guilt about their treatment of Sojourner, their long time slave. When Sojourner confronted the two white women, they did not even acknowledge that Isabella’s maternal sentiments in any way resembled their own, or that Peter’ s fate was in any sense, a tragedy and a crime. Isabella boldly pursued her claim for justice by fi ling a criminal complaint with the local Grand Jury. She found lawyers to assist her, and ultimately prevailed when the judge ordered the boy returned to her. Peter, by then a severely abused six-year-old did not even recognize his mother upon his return.