Sojourner Truth

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“Ain’t I a Woman?” is a short but influential speech given by ex-slave Sojourner Truth at a Woman’s Convention in Akron, Ohio in 1851. During her speech, Truth challenges the traditional male perspective about women’s roles while also challenging activists working within the women’s rights movement to be more inclusive of African American women. Echoing the speech’s title, Truth repeatedly asks, “ain’t I a woman?” when discussing the general treatment of (white) women in the mid-nineteenth century, exposing the inherent hypocrisy in the treatment of white versus black women in antebellum America. In order to make her point that black or white, a woman is a woman, Truth draws her own experiences of womanhood into the speech, remarking that she…show more content…
Prior to the fight for voting rights that came to dominate the nineteenth century women’s movement, both male and female activists began a campaign for women to have equal opportunities of varying proportions, as outlined in the 1848 “Declaration of Sentiments” (InfoPlease). As this declaration reveals, 19th century women suffered many injustices and inequalities; especially African American women, who were still battling prejudice and abuse from others in spite of their newfound freedom. African American women, many of whom endured unchecked sexual exploitation and abuse at the hands of their male owners several years prior, had the most to gain, but also stood the furthest away from equal rights as they were marginalized on two counts: that of their femaleness and that of their blackness. Challenges for black women in this era were not limited to the prejudice and discrimination that met them even after they achieved freedom from slavery. In the mid-nineteenth century, prior to the Women’s movement, women could not vote, and they did not have the same opportunities for education or employment as men, to name a few inequalities. These are but a few examples of the “long train of abuses” (“Declaration of Sentiments”) that women and African American women in particular refused to endure by the mid 1800s. These are the social and cultural contexts in which Sojourner Truth’s powerful “Ain’t I a Woman” speech was born. Truth was not speaking as the commonplace intellectualist guest lecturer at a women’s college, she was an illiterate ex-slave rallying for a cause, questioning the logic of men, making demands of the male audience and even cleverly arguing that if anything, men are actually less deserving and important than women

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