Sojourner Truth’s (pictured) extraordinary journey from slave to abolitionist and women’s right activist was captured most pointedly during a speech she delivered at the Ohio Women’s Right Convention on May 29, 1851, cementing her status as a notable anti-slavery speaker in the annals of history.
Her speech did not have a title originally, but because of the popularity of the words spoken and the repeated question therein, it became known as the “Ain’t I A Woman” speech.
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The speech was delivered in a laid-back fashion as Sojourner Truth spoke plainly to the struggles women faced in an oppressive patriarchal society that saw the female gender as weak and inferior. Truth’s speech, while impromptu, was an honest directive that focused a glaring lens on the gender inequality of the times.
Sojourner Truth was a dynamic woman filled with an unyielding thirst for freedom and equality for slaves and women alike. Truth’s fight for human rights and against the staggering specter of injustice was made even more remarkable considering she could neither read nor write.
Yet, Sojourner Truth was able to achieve resonance among many simply by determination alone and amassed several connections during her lecturing years, particularly among those in the abolitionism movement such as Amy Post and Susan B. Anthony. From her birthplace in New York to her final resting place in Battle Creek, Mich., Sojourner Truth blazed an undeniable trail.
No one could argue with Truth’s story of triumph, tragedy, and her tenacity to free her people, even when she continually faced odds that would break most men.
From a rendered version of the speech:
Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt 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 says that women need to be helped in to carriages, and 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? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?
Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man 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 they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
Ms. Sojourner was one tough woman! She, indeed, is one of America’s greatest Americans!
WATCH actor Cicely Tyson Recite “Ain’t I A Woman?” here: