Sojourner Truth

Are you familiar with Sojourner Truth’s speech, “Ain’t I a Woman?”

Enjoy it here, and treat yourself to an excellent video performance of the speech by the actress Alfre Woodard:

Alfre Woodard reads “Ain’t I a Woman?”, a speech delivered by abolitionist Sojourner Truth at the Women’s Convention in 1851. Part of a reading from Voices of a People’s History of the United States,Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove

February 1, 2007 at All Saints Church in Pasadena, CA.

“Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that between the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

That man over there say that women needs to be helped into carriages, lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed, and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man-when I could get it-and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me. And ain’t I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [‘Intellect’ someone whispers near.] That’s right, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or nigger’s rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half-measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, because Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Men had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now that they are asking to do it, the men better let them! Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner has got nothing more to say.”

A painting of Truth with President Abraham Lincoln

A painting of Truth with President Abraham Lincoln by Franklin C. Courter, made circa 1893.

Sojourner Truth, born Isabella (“Bell”) Baumfree; c. 1797 – November 26, 1883, was an African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, Ulster County, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to court to recover her son, in 1828 she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man.
She gave herself the name Sojourner Truth in 1843. Her best-known speech was delivered extemporaneously, in 1851, at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. The speech became widely known during the Civil War by the title “Ain’t I a Woman?,” a variation of the original speech re-written by someone else using a stereotypical Southern dialect; although Sojourner Truth was from New York and grew up speaking Dutch as her first language. During the Civil War, Truth helped recruit black troops for the Union Army; after the war, she tried unsuccessfully to secure land grants from the federal government for former slaves.
In 2014, Truth was included in Smithsonian magazine’s list of the “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time”.

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