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Ain't a Woman? I

Ain't I A Woman?

Sojourner Truth, 1851

Sojourner Truth was a nineteenth-century African American evangelist who embraced abolitionism and women's rights. A charismatic speaker, she became one of the best-known abolitionists of her day. Born a slave and given the name Isabella Baumfree, she was freed in 1828 when a New York law abolished slavery within the state.

In 1843 she had a religious experience and came to believe that God had commanded her to travel beyond New York to spread the Christian gospel. She took the name Sojourner Truth and traveled throughout the eastern states as an evangelist. Truth soon became acquainted with the abolitionist movement and its leaders. She adopted their message, speaking out against slavery. Her speaking tours expanded as abolitionists realized her effectiveness as a lecturer. Though illiterate, she dictated her life story, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, and sold the book at her lectures as a means of supporting herself.

In the early 1850s, she met leaders of the emerging women's rights movement, most notably Lucretia Mott. Truth recognized the connection between the inferior legal status of African Americans and women in general. Her most famous speech, "Ain't I a Woman?" first given in 1851, challenged cultural beliefs, including the natural inferiority of women, and biblical justifications for the second-class status of women.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationHistorical Legal Documents and Landmark Speeches