Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?”

Artis Lane, 2009 Bronze Bust. On view at Emancipation Hall, Capitol Visitor Center

In honor of Women’s History Month, I had planned to feature Kerry Washington’s dramatic reading of  Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” Like a lot of folk, I grew up hearing the speech recited, usually during Black History Month.  In all the years I’ve heard the speech, I don’t recall ever questioning its veracity–though, it’s probably fair to say, I just never thought about whether it was accurate or not.  However, while  recently reading up on the speech, I discovered there have been questions about its accuracy.

On May 29, 1851, Truth delivered a speech at the Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio.  Less than a month later, a speech attributed to her, appeared in the newspaper, Anti-Slavery Bugle.  Twelve years later, what we have come to know as “Ain’t I a Woman?” was published by activist, Frances Dana Barker Gage. and Wikipedia cite the differences in the two versions and discuss the debate in greater detail.  Some scholars lean toward the lesser known, first published version of the speech.  But, in truth, (and as noted by historian Nell Irvin Painter, in the piece), we’ll likely never know the exact words uttered by Sojourner.  Dear reader, what do you think?  If you care to offer an opinion, please leave a comment.

So as to not disappoint you, do take a moment to watch Kerry Washington read what may or may not be the speech Sojourner Truth delivered in 1851.

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One Response to Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?”

  1. Kristan says:

    Both versions are powerful and inspirational. I am so glad they have been passed along through the centuries. To me it does not matter which version is truly Truth’s. It matters that women from 1851 said this, shared this, and lived this.

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