Sojourner Truth Historic Home Site Discovered on DENSO Property

Sojourner Truth Historic Site Discovered on DENSO Property

Historian finds that Truth, a 19th century abolitionist and activist, once lived on land now within DENSO property.

DENSO last week honored 19th century abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth after learning she lived on land that is now within the property of its thermal manufacturing facility in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Local Historian and President of the Michigan Underwater Preserves Council Kevin Ailes made the discovery, finding that Truth purchased the land in 1857 in what was then the small village of Harmonia, a Quaker community. Unfortunately, an 1862 tornado devastated much of the village, setting it into decline. Truth lived there until 1867, when she moved to College Street in Battle Creek. In 1917, the land became part of Fort Custer and later the Fort Custer Industrial Park. DENSO began operations on the property in 1984.

“The discovery was not something that I was initially looking for, but when I saw the name of Sojourner Truth on the plat maps, clearly there was a bigger story here than the lost town of Harmonia,” said Ailes. “This discovery encouraged me to learn more about Sojourner Truth and what she accomplished to achieve freedom for others. I hope it will be encourage more people to learn about her as well.”

Ailes, along with Sojourner Truth Historian and Reenactor Donna Rickman, DENSO employees and members of DENSO’s Black Resource Network gathered to share in the significance of the finding and discuss Truth’s contributions to human rights. The commemoration reflects DENSO’s commitment to Battle Creek and to helping employees deepen their relationship with the community.

“Many locally know of Truth’s importance, but it’s really special to learn she spent some of her life in a place where we have the opportunity to work and come together so frequently,” said Brenda Dredge, director of HVAC Engineering and executive advisor to the DENSO Black Resource Network in Battle Creek. “With DENSO being in Battle Creek for nearly 40 years, we’re always trying to engage with and support our community. Celebrating Truth helps us continue that.”

During the event, Ailes presented historical documents about the property and Truth, and DENSO showcased educational placards honoring her impact on American history. The Truth home site discovery event wraps up DENSO’s Black History Month celebration across sites in the United States. In Battle Creek, the employee resource group hosted a heart health event, showcased notable Black Americans, published a list of Black-owned community businesses and hosted a membership drive.

“The discovery of Sojourner Truth’s home site and our event today is such an inspiration,” said Genetasia Tatum, a senior HR business partner at DENSO in Battle Creek. “I’m also proud of my teammates in the DENSO Black Resource Network for helping organize it. This is why we do our work – to support one another, educate and build community.”

Established in 1984 with manufacturing operations beginning in 1986, DENSO’s thermal manufacturing facility in Battle Creek is the company’s first production site in the U.S. The location produces thermal automotive technology that helps vehicles operate more efficiently, go farther and provide greater comfort to passengers. Its campus includes more than 1,380,000 square feet of manufacturing, warehouse and administrative floor space in 6 buildings on over 100 acres of land. The location is the largest employer in Battle Creek, with more than 2,200 employees. 

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