This Day in Black History: May 29, 1851

Abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth delivered her “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech in Akron, Ohio.

Posted: 05/29/2014 12:00 AM EDT

On May 29, 1851, abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth addressed the Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio with her “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech. Truth, who escaped from slavery in 1826, went on to be acclaimed for her oratories about racial equality.

In her “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech, Truth spoke extemporaneously on the rights of African-Americans and women during and after the Civil War, proclaiming, in part: “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? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?” The speech is regarded as one of the most important in women’s rights history.

Before delivering the iconic words, Truth published the Narrative of Sojourner Truth about her life and viewpoints. Truth had never learned to read or white but was able to publish the book with the help of a friend.

Following the speech, Truth continued to work to help Blacks escape from freedom and encouraged Black men to fight in the Union army. After the Civil War ended, she helped Blacks adjust to life after slavery. She also lobbied in Washington, D.C. against the segregation laws. In 1866, she lobbied for former slaves to recieve free land, but Congress never took action on her efforts. 


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