What Is Sojourner Truth's Poem "Ain't I a Woman" About?

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In 1851, at the second Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, Sojourner Truth gave her "Ain't I a Woman" speech, connecting women's rights to the abolitionist movement. As an escaped-slave-turned-preacher, Truth's powerful examples and fiery delivery created an extraordinarily memorable oration.

Sojourner Truth's convention sermon connected the women's rights and abolitionist movements in a way that the audience had not yet heard. In her speech, she detailed the instances of brutality and injustice she'd endured as a slave, calling out after each, "Ain't I a woman?" and reminding the audience of both her individual humanity and her status as a free black woman. Her address also spotlighted the hypocrisy of the clergy who argued that, "Women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman!"

In her conclusion, she reminded the audience of Eve's strength "to turn the world upside down" and charged them with turning it right-side up again. Frances Gage, the meeting president, wrote that as Truth rose to address the convention, audience members hissed, "Don't let her speak!" However, by the time she'd finished, they were unable to contain their thunderous applause. Sojourner Truth continued preaching about the injustices of slavery and segregation until her retirement in 1875.