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Five Quotes From Sojourner Truth’s Speeches

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Five Quotes From Sojourner Truth’s Speeches

Bust of Sojourner Truth

Nancy Pelosi/Flickr.com

Born circa 1797 in New York, abolitionist Sojourner Truth lived to be an octogenarian. She described her life as unique because she’d lived about the first 40 years of it in slavery and the second 40 years advocating for women's rights, racial equality and human rights generally. The speeches Truth gave throughout her long life reveal her beliefs on women’s suffrage, gender equality, slavery, race relations and more. While Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech is her most well known, she also shared a number of other insights in talks she gave. Collectively, her speeches reveal a great deal about the sources of Truth’s activism.

“Ain’t I a Woman?”

Sojourner Truth delivered her famous “Ain’t I A Woman?” speech at the 1851 Women's Rights Convention, Akron, Ohio. In the speech, Truth discussed how society slighted her because she was a woman of color. She also advocated for women's rights overall. “That man over there say that women needs to be helped into carriages, lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere,” Truth remarked. “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?”

On Women’s Rights

Truth addressed the resistance the women’s rights movement faced in U.S. society at the Fourth National Women’s Rights Convention in New York City in 1853. “Now, women do not ask half a kingdom, but their rights, and they don’t get ‘em,” Truth pointed out. “When she comes to demand ‘em, don’t you hear how sons hiss their mothers like snakes, because they ask for their rights; and can they ask for anything less? …We’ll have our rights; see if we don’t; and you can’t stop us from them; see if you can. You may hiss as mush as you like, but it is comin’. Women don’t get half as much rights as they ought to; we want more , and we will have it.”

On Motherhood

Sojourner Truth gave a speech at the Friends of Human Progress Association meeting in 1856. In it she discussed the tragic relationship that slave mothers had with their children. “I have had children and yet never owned one…and of such there’s millions—who goes to teach them?” she asked. “You have teachers for your children but who will teach the poor slave children? I want to know what has become of the love I ought to have for my children? I did have love for them, but what has become of it? I cannot tell you. I have had two husbands but I never possessed one of my own. I have had five children and never could take one of them up and say, ‘My child’ or ‘My children,’ unless it was when no one could see me.”

We’re All God’s Children

In 1863 Truth spoke during a meeting at the State Sabbath School Convention in Battle Creek, Mich. She emphasized during the speech that God does not distinguish between the races. “Does not God love colored children as well as white children?” she asked. “And did not the same savior die to save the one as well as the other? If so, white children must know that if they go to heaven, they must go there without their prejudice against color, for in heaven black and white are one in the love of Jesus. Now children, remember what Sojourner Truth has told you, and thus get rid of your prejudice, and learn to love colored children that you may be all the children of your Father who is in heaven.”

Gender Equality

Sojourner Truth addressed the first meeting of the American Equal Rights Association in New York City in 1867. Truth discussed why gender equality was important. “I feel that if I have to answer for the deeds done in my body just as much as a man, I have a right to have just as much as a man,” she said. “There is a great stir about colored men getting their rights, but not a word about the colored women; and if colored men get their rights, and not colored women theirs, you see the colored men will be masters over the women, and it will be just as bad as it was before. …I want women to have their rights. In the courts women have no right, no voice; nobody speaks for them. I wish woman to have her voice there among the pettifoggers. If it is not a fit place for women, it is unfit for men to be there.”

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