Sojourner Truth was an antislavery and women’s rights activist, famous for her Ain’t I A Woman? speech given in 1851. Although, she didn’t actually include the line Ain’t I A Woman? and her original speech is fairly different from the one published by Frances Gage and most well-known today.
You can read both versions of the speech on The Sojourner Truth Project website, and compare Truth’s original speech with the version edited and published by Gage 12 years later.
Sojourner Truth used her experience as a black woman slave to point out the nonsensical thinking that led men to treat women as inferior and less capable than men, in need of help and protection. She points out that ‘I have as much muscle as any man, and can do as much work as any man.’
Truth uses the horrific treatment of slaves by white men and her experiences of slavery to demonstrate her strength as a woman and to point out the ridiculousness of the idea that women, or rather white women, are incapable.
The speech is brilliant because Truth simultaneously speaks out against slavery, advocates for women’s rights, and the inclusion of black women in the movement.
Sojourner Truth knew all about intersectionality from her lived experience, speaking 100 years before the term was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989.
Truth skilfully uses slavery to demonstrate the hypocrisy and logical inconsistency of inequality between women and men. She implores the listener to ask themselves how it is that women can be inferior or incapable of certain tasks when in fact, black women slaves are doing these tasks every day. Truth uses her intersectional experience to powerfully point out this logical fallacy.
All at the same time, Truth points out the fact that she is a woman and should not be ignored or miscounted as such, by either the white women of the women’s rights movement or the white men holding onto power.
Truth spoke out in support of the rights of Black Americans and women during and after the civil war and until she died in 1883.
The Narrative of Sojourner Truth
The Narrative of Sojourner Truth is a collection of Truth’s dictations to Olive Gilbert, telling the story of her life as a slave in the American North, her hardships and struggles as well as her incredible work as a social reformer and counsellor to fellow former slaves. This book offers a remarkable insight into the life and work of one of the most influential Americans in history.
Sojourner Truth as Orator: Wit, Story, and Song – Great American Orators
Sojourner Truth as Orator: Wit, Story, and Song – Great American Orators is a book by Suzanne Pullon Fitch and Roseann M. Mandziuk, detailing the oratory skills and styles that made Sojourner Truth so powerful and effective in her activism. The book includes a wealth of Truth’s speeches, songs and public letters making it a captivating exploration of Truth’s work.
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