Reminiscences of Sojourner Truth Speaking (2023)

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(Video) The electrifying speeches of Sojourner Truth - Daina Ramey Berry

by Sojourner Truth

Isabelle Van Wagenen was born enslaved in New York State and became a well-known abolitionist speaker under the name Sojouner Truth after gaining her freedom in 1827. She moved to New York City where she engaged in evangelical and other reform activities; at various points she also lived in several utopian communities. Truth supported herself by travelling and speaking on abolitionist and women’s rights subjects, taking the name Sojurner Truth in 1843. She often faced opposition at her speaking engagements. Truth made this extemporaneous speech in Akron Ohio in 1851 at a women’s rights meeting. No direct record of the speech exists, but Frances Gage, a white activist and author who was presiding over the meeting, recalled it over a decade later. While some historians have questioned Gage’s accuracy in reconstructing the syntax and even the exact language of Truth’s oration, the power and charismatic force of her argument about the equality of women remains evident.

The leaders of the movement trembled on seeing a tall, gaunt black woman in a gray dress and white turban, surmounted with an uncouth sun-bonnet, march deliberately into the church, walk with the air of a queen up the aisle, and take her seat upon the pulpit steps. A buzz of disapprobation was heard all over the house, and there fell on the listening ear, “An abolition affair!” "Woman’s rights and niggers!“ "I told you so!” "Go it, darkey!“ I chanced on that occasion to wear my first laurels in public life as president of the meeting. At my request order was restored, and the business of the Convention went on. Morning, afternoon, and evening exercises came and went. Through all these sessions old Sojourner, quiet and reticent as the ”Lybian Statue,“ sat crouched against the wall on the corner of the pulpit stairs, her sun-bonnet shading her eyes, her elbows on her knees, her chin resting upon her broad, hard palms. At intermission she was busy selling the ”Life of Sojourner Truth,“ a narrative of her own strange and adventurous life. Again and again, timorous and trembling ones came to me and said, with earnestness, ”Don’t let her speak, Mrs. Gage, it will ruin us. Every newspaper in the land will have our cause mixed up with abolition and niggers, and we shall be utterly denounced.“My only answer was, ”We shall see when the time comes."

(Video) Sojourner Truth Speech of 1851, "Ain't I a Woman"

The second day the work waxed warm. Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Universalist ministers came in to hear and discuss the resolutions presented. One claimed superior rights and privileges for man, on the ground of “superior intellect”; another, because of the “manhood of Christ; if God had desired the equality of woman, He would have given some token of His will through the birth, life, and death of the Saviour.” Another gave us a theological view of the “sin of our first mother.”

There were very few women in those days who dared to “speak in meeting”; and the august teachers of the people were seemingly getting the better of us, while the boys in the galleries, and the sneerers among the pews, were hugely enjoying the discomfiture, as they supposed, of the “strong-minded.” Some of the tender-skinned friends were on the point of losing dignity, and the atmosphere betokened a storm. When, slowly from her seat in the corner rose Sojourner Truth, who, till now, had scarcely lifted her head. “Don’t let her speak!”gasped half a dozen in my ear. She moved slowly and solemnly to the front, laid her old bonnet at her feet, and turned her great speaking eyes to me. There was a hissing sound of disapprobation above and below. I rose and announced“Sojourner Truth,” and begged the audience to keep silence for a few moments.

The tumult subsided at once, and every eye was fixed on this almost Amazon form, which stood nearly six feet high, head erect, and eyes piercing the upper air like one in a dream. At her first word there was a profound hush. She spoke in deep tones, which, though not loud, reached every ear in the house, and away through the throng at the doors and windows.

(Video) Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman” Performed by Kerry Washington

"Wall, chilern, whar dar is so much racket dar must be somethin‘ out o’ kilter. I tink dat ‘twixt de niggers of de Souf and de womin at de Norf, all talkin’ 'bout rights, de white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all dis here talkin‘ ’bout?

“Dat man ober dar say dat womin needs to be helped into carriages, and lifted ober ditches, and to hab de best place everywhar. Nobody eber helps me into carriages, or ober mud-puddles, or gibs me any best place!” And raising herself to her full height, and her voice to a pitch like rolling thunder, she asked. "And a’n‘t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! (and she bared her right arm to the shoulder, showing her tremendous muscular power). I have ploughed, and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And a’n’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man—when I could get it—and bear de lash as well! And a’n‘t I a woman? I have borne thirteen chilern, and seen ’em mos‘ all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And a’n’t I a woman?

“Den dey talks 'bout dis ting in de head; what dis dey call it?”("Intellect,“ whispered some one near.) ”Dat’s it, honey. What’s dat got to do wid womin’s rights or nigger’s rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yourn holds a quart, wouldn’t ye be mean not to let me have my little half-measure full?" And she pointed her significant finger, and sent a keen glance at the minister who had made the argument. The cheering was long and loud.

(Video) A Must See Sojourner Truth for Kids Biography! (Black History Cartoon)

“Den dat little man in black dar, he say women can’t have as much rights as men, ‘cause Christ wan’t a woman! Whar did your Christ come from?” Rolling thunder couldn’t have stilled that crowd, as did those deep, wonderful tones, as she stood there with outstretched arms and eyes of fire. Raising her voice still louder, she repeated, “Whar did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothin’ to do wid Him.” Oh, what a rebuke that was to that little man.

Turning again to another objector, she took up the defense of Mother Eve. I can not follow her through it all. It was pointed, and witty, and solemn; eliciting at almost every sentence deafening applause; and she ended by asserting: “If de fust woman God ever made was strong enough to turn de world upside down all alone, dese women togedder (and she glanced her eye over the platform) ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now dey is asking to do it, de men better let ‘em.” Long-continued cheering greeted this. “’Bleeged to ye for hearin‘ on me, and now ole Sojourner han’t got nothin’ more to say.”

Amid roars of applause, she returned to her corner, leaving more than one of us with streaming eyes, and hearts beating with gratitude. She had taken us up in her strong arms and carried us safely over the slough of difficulty turning the whole tide in our favor. I have never in my life seen anything like the magical influence that subdued the mobbish spirit of the day, and turned the sneers and jeers of an excited crowd into notes of respect and admiration. Hundreds rushed up to shake hands with her, and congratulate the glorious old mother, and bid her God-speed on her mission of "testifyin‘ agin concerning the wickedness of this ’ere people."

(Video) The Former Slave Who Inspired a Nation | Sojourner Truth

Source: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda J. Gage, eds., History of Woman Suffrage, vol. I (Rochester, N. Y: Susan B. Anthony, Charles Mann, 1881), 114–17.

Narrative of Sojourner Truth


What was Sojourner Truth's famous speech? ›

At the 1851 Women's Rights Convention held in Akron, Ohio, Sojourner Truth delivered what is now recognized as one of the most famous abolitionist and women's rights speeches in American history, “Ain't I a Woman?” She continued to speak out for the rights of African Americans and women during and after the Civil War.

What is the central idea of Truth's speech? ›

What was the purpose of this speech? Truth was trying to persuade people that women, black or white, should be treated as equal to men. They should have rights just like men.

What was the purpose of the Ain't IA Woman speech? ›

“Ain't I A Woman?” is the text of a speech she delivered in 1851 at the Women's Convention in Akron, Ohio. The women in attendance were being challenged to call for the right to vote. The purpose of the speech is to persuade the audience that giving women the right to vote is common sense.

Why did Frances Gage change Sojourner Truth's speech? ›

Frances Gage admitted that her amended version had “given but a faint sketch” of Sojourner's original speech but she felt justified and believed her version stronger and more palatable to the American public then Sojourner's original version.

What effect did Truth speech have on the audience? ›

What effect did Truth's speech have on the audience? The entire crowd was wildly enthused by what she said. How do the two versions of Truth's speech differ? The second version is longer and is rendered in dialect.

What impact did Sojourner Truth have? ›

Sojourner Truth fought to end slavery, and was also an ardent supporter of women's rights. In what ways did suffragists, such as Susan B.

What did Sojourner Truth teach us? ›

Sojourner Truth was an African American evangelist, abolitionist, women's rights activist and author who was born into slavery before escaping to freedom in 1826. After gaining her freedom, Truth preached about abolitionism and equal rights for all.

What were Sojourner Truth's last words? ›

Truth died on November 26, 1883. In her old age, she had let go of Pentecostal judgement and embraced spiritualism. Her last words were "be a follower of the Lord Jesus."

What was Sojourner Truth's view on slavery? ›

She was the most powerful African American woman to consistently and publicly link the oppression of slavery with the subjection of women. She spoke at the first national women's rights convention in 1850, and in 1851, at age 54, delivered a famed speech at the Akron women's rights convention.

What is the conclusion of the Ain't IA Woman speech? ›

The power evident in such gatherings calls to mind the concluding words of Truth's speech: “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!

What was the tone of Ain't IA Woman speech? ›

Conversational, Personal, Impassioned. No double-talk or hidden meanings here: "Ain't I a Woman?" was a simple speech from a woman who didn't mince words. Truth stood up, said her piece, and sat back down. This is not to say she wasn't feeling it.

What is the metaphor in Aint IA Woman? ›

Unlike “The Girl who Loved the Sky”, the poem “ Ain't I a Woman” only uses one figure of speech and that is a metaphor. She uses it to describe the power of women,“If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside-down, all alone” (Sojourner 29-35).

Why does Truth address her audience as children? ›

She addresses her audience as children to suggest that she has wisdom and knowledge to impart based on her life experience.

Why did Sojourner Truth repeat Aint IA woman? ›

(Truth 132) Sojourner uses repetition to show her perspective on equality. In this quote the author keeps repeating “Ain't I a woman?” to show that she wanted to be treated equal as a man. These are some of the strategies that Sojourner Truth used to show that women are equal as a man.

What is the purpose of Truth's repetition? ›

Explanation: In order to achieve her purpose Sojourner Truth uses the repitition of the phrase "And ain't I a woman" in order to achieve her purpose of making the audience think about the social frames of mind about women, African American women in particular.

How is Sojourner Truth's speech persuasive? ›

Persuasive Technique

Because Sojourner Truth thought that everyone should be treated equally and that everyone was the same and that women can do anything men can do.

How did Sojourner Truth help the abolitionist movement? ›

Sojourner Truth is well known for giving speeches about slavery and rights. Her most famous speech is “Ain't I A Woman?” in 1851, she toured Ohio until 1853. She spoke about the abolitionist movement and women's right, as well as, challenging abolitionist for not speaking out for equality of black men and women.

Which persuasive technique does Truth use in her speech? ›

Throughout her speech Sojourner Truth uses biblical references to appeal to her Christian audience on a more personal level so that they will empathize with her and see her as a fellow Christian therefore appealing more to her call for gender equality.

What are three important events of Sojourner Truth? ›

  • 1808 - Sold for $105 by Martinus Schryver of Kingston, NY, staying there about 18 months.
  • 1810 - Sold for $175 by John Dumont, New Paltz, NY,
  • July 4, 1827 - New York state emancipates slaves born after 1799.
  • 1827-28 - Successfully sues a white man for illegally selling her son Peter out of state.

How did Sojourner Truth fight for human rights? ›

She met and spoke to President Lincoln about her experiences and beliefs. Even after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, Truth continued to demand change. She rode in white-designated streetcars in Washington to force desegregation; she even fought for the federal government to grant land to former slaves.

What does Sojourner Truth symbolize? ›

Sojourner Truth: ex-slave and fiery abolitionist, figure of imposing physique, riveting preacher and spellbinding singer who dazzled listeners with her wit and originality. Straight-talking and unsentimental, Truth became a national symbol for strong black women—indeed, for all strong women.

Why was Sojourner Truth a hero? ›

Sojourner Truth helped blacks escape to freedom on the Underground Railroad after moving to Battle Creek in 1857. February is Black History Month—an occasion to single out and honor black citizens who have made lasting and positive contributions to American society.

Did Sojourner Truth marry anyone? ›

Truth eventually married an older enslaved man named Thomas. She bore five children: James, her firstborn, who died in childhood, Diana (1815), the result of a rape by John Dumont, and Peter (1821), Elizabeth (1825), and Sophia (ca.

Did Sojourner Truth have 13 children? ›

Sojourner Truth was born into slavery under the name Isabell Hardenburgh and had many owners as she was growing up. She was forced to marry another slave named Thomas and had 13 children, most of which were sold away from her. At the age of 30 she gained her freedom.

How did Sojourner Truth change the world? ›

A former slave, Sojourner Truth became an outspoken advocate for abolition, temperance, and civil and women's rights in the nineteenth century. Her Civil War work earned her an invitation to meet President Abraham Lincoln in 1864.

What did Abraham Lincoln say to Sojourner Truth? ›

As she was leaving, Lincoln rose and took her hand and said, “I would be pleased to have you call again.” Truth thanked him again for his advocacy of the abolition of slavery, tucked her autography book under her arm and left the presence of the gentleman who had treated her “with the utmost kindness and cordiality.”

Who did Sojourner Truth inspire? ›

Truth put her growing reputation as an abolitionist to work during the Civil War, helping to recruit Black troops for the Union Army. She encouraged her grandson, James Caldwell, to enlist in the 54th Massachusetts Regiment.

Who changed Sojourner Truth's speech? ›

The most common yet inaccurate rendering of Truth's speech—the one that introduced the famous phrase "Ar'n't I a woman?"—was constructed by Frances Dana Gage, nearly twelve years after the speech was given by Sojourner at the Akron conference. Gage's version first appeared in the New York Independent on April 23, 1863.

Which statement describes the main argument of Truth's speech Aint IA woman? ›

Which statement describes the main argument of Truth's speech? Women would be able to accomplish more than men, if given the proper rights.

What rhetorical strategies are in Ain't IA woman? ›

Truth used many rhetorical strategies in her speech but pathos, logos, ethos, allusion, juxtaposition, and pinpointing really made her argument valid and strong.

How does Sojourner Truth use ethos in her speech? ›

Effect: This part of Sojourner Truth's speech references ethos because she is using her own personal experience as a comparison to how different (unequal) women of color are treated versus the privileges of white women.

Which sentence from Ain't IA woman is repeated throughout the speech? ›

The phrase "ain't I a woman" is repeated several times in paragraph two of her speech.

What figurative language is used in the lady or the tiger? ›

Oxymorons, with their combination of opposing words, are very appropriate for expressing the king's qualities of brutality and civility. At the end of the fourth paragraph of “The Lady, or the Tiger?” the oxymoron “barbaric idealism” describes the king's system of justice.

Is she swims like a fish a metaphor? ›

(simile) To be a very strong swimmer.

What does the metaphor life for me Ain't been no crystal stair? ›

In this case, it is an extended metaphor that compares the mother's life to a staircase. Each step symbolizes a part of her life that she had to endure. This metaphor is used throughout the poem to show the meaning of the poem.

How does Sojourner Truth connect with her audience? ›

While Truth didn't directly invite audience participation, she welcomed it and took it in stride. The words “That's it, honey” created an instant connection with her audience. She made it clear that she wasn't just talking for herself. She spoke on behalf of all of the women in the audience that day.

When did Sojourner Truth give her speech? ›

On May 29, 1851 at the Woman's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, abolitionist and women's rights activist Sojourner Truth delivered what would become her most famous speech. But what did she say? Over the years, attempts to answer that question have focused on two very different newspaper accounts.

What is the primary source of the Ain't IA Woman speech? ›

One of the most famous transcriptions of this speech was published in an 1851 edition of the Anti-Slavery Bugle by Reverend Marius Robinson, an Ohio abolitionist who had worked with Truth.

What are two hardships that Sojourner Truth says she has suffered? ›

3. Identify two hardships that Sojourner Truth says she has suffered. Truth plowed and worked the farm and received "the lash," and she bore "thirteen children... and seen them sold into slavery..."

What is the biblical allusion in Ain't IA woman? ›

Truth uses a Biblical allusion when she says “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?” in order to appeal to ethos by appealing to all Christians in the audience which at this time was most likely the majority.

What is a famous Sojourner Truth quote? ›

It will feel all the better when it closes up again.” “If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down, these women together ought to be able to turn it right again.” “It is the mind that makes the body.” “If it is not a fit place for women, it is unfit for men to be there.”

What effect does repetition have on a speech? ›

Repetition is a favored tool among orators because it can help to emphasize a point and make a speech easier to follow. It also adds to the powers of persuasion—studies show that repetition of a phrase can convince people of its truth. Writers and speakers also use repetition to give words rhythm.

How does repetition effect the audience? ›

Repetition is an important literary device because it allows a writer or speaker to place emphasis on things they choose as significant. It tells the reader or audience that the words being used are central enough to be repeated, and lets them know when to pay special attention to the language.

What is the effect of the repetition of we? ›

The repetition of the word "We" is originally planted at the start of both the title and the first line. This repetition is intensified by the memorable enjambment in lines 1-7, with "We" causing a breathy kind of suspense at each line break. Thus we have the fulfillment of expectation, right?

How does this quotation support the central idea of this speech? ›

How does this quotation support the central idea of the speech? It reinforces the idea that Truth's personal experiences have greatly influenced her ideas. It reminds the audience that Truth has strong spiritual and political ideals.

What is the point of Sojourner repeating the same question over and over again? ›

What is the point of Sojourner repeating the same question over and over again? Repeating the question, "Ain't I a Woman?" adds emphasis and feeling to the meaning of the speech.

What is the main purpose of the quotation marks in the poem? ›

QUOTATIONS MARKS ( “ ” ) - the quotation mark is used to separate the part of a verse that is directly spoken by a persona in the poem or quote attributed to another source and presented word for word.

What is the message of quotation? ›

Quotations are used for a variety of reasons: to illuminate the meaning or to support the arguments of the work in which it is being quoted, to provide direct information about the work being quoted (whether in order to discuss it, positively or negatively), to pay homage to the original work or author, to make the ...

What is the central idea or message which the story revolves in? ›

Theme is the main or central idea in a literary work. It is the unifying element of a story. A theme is not a summary of characters or events. Rather, it is the controlling idea or central insight of the story.


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