Sojourner Truth History
From Slave to Civil Rights Activist
Sojourner Truth Speech
Delivered at the First Annual
Meeting of the American Equal Rights Association
New York City,
May 9, 1867
My friends, I am rejoiced
that you are glad, but I don't know how you will feel when I get through. I come from another field - the country of the slave.
They have got their liberty - so much good luck to have slavery partly destroyed; not entirely. I want it root and branch
destroyed. Then we will all be free indeed. 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. 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. So I am for keeping the thing going while things
are stirring; because if we wait till it is still, it will take a great while to get it going again. White women are a great
deal smarter, and know more than colored women, while colored women do not know scarcely anything. They go out washing, which
is about as high as a colored woman gets, and their men go about idle, strutting up and down; and take it all, and then scold
because there is no food. I want you consider on that, chil'n. I call you chil'n; you are somebody's chil'n, and I am old
enough to be mother of all that is here. 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.
I am above eighty years old; it
is about time for me to be going. I have been forty years a slave and forty years free and would be here forty years more
to have equal rights for all. I suppose I am kept here because something remains for me to do; I suppose I am yet to help
to break the chain. I have done a great deal of work; as much as a man, but did not get so much pay. I used to work in the
field and bind grain, keeping up with the cradler; but men doing no more, got twice as much pay; so with the German women.
They work in the field and do as much work, but do not get the pay. We do as much, we eat as much, we want as much. I suppose
I am about the only colored woman that goes about to speak for the rights of colored women. I want to keep the thing stirring,
now that the ice is cracked. What we want is a little money. You men know that you get as much again as women when you write,
or for what you do. When we get our rights we shall not have to come to you for money, for then we shall have money enough
in our own pockets; and may be you will ask us for money. But help us now until we get it. It is a good consolation to know
that when we have got this battle once fought we shall not be coming to you any more. You have been having our rights so long,
that you think, like a slave-holder, that you own us. I know that is hard for one who has held the reins for so long to give
up; it cuts like a knife. It will feel all the better when it closes up again. I have been in Washington
about three years, seeing about these colored people. Now colored men have the right to vote. There ought to be equal rights
now more than ever, since colored people have got their freedom. I am going to talk several times while I am here; so now
I will do a little singing. I have not heard any singing since I came here.
Recommended Reading: Sojourner
Truth: A Life, a Symbol. Description: Though she was born into slavery and subjected to physical and
sexual abuse by her owners, Sojourner Truth, who eventually fled the South for the promise of the North, came to represent
the power of individual strength and perseverance. She championed the disadvantaged--black in the South, women in the North--yet
spent much of her free life with middle-class whites, who supported her, yet never failed to remind her that she was a second
class citizen. Slowly, but surely, Sojourner climbed from beneath the weight of slavery, secured respect for herself, and
utilized the distinction of her race to become not only a symbol for black women, but for the feminist movement as a whole.
Recommended Reading: When
I Was a Slave: Memoirs from the Slave Narrative Collection (Dover Thrift Editions). Description: More
than 2,000 interviews with former slaves, who, in blunt, simple language, provide often-startling first-person accounts of
their lives in bondage. Includes some of the most detailed, compelling, and engrossing life histories in the Slave Narrative
Collection, a project funded by the U.S. Government. An illuminating source of information.
Recommended Reading: American Slavery, American Freedom. Description: "If it is possible to understand the American paradox, the marriage of slavery and freedom, Virginia is surely the place to begin," writes Edmund S. Morgan in American Slavery, American Freedom,
a study of the tragic contradiction at the core of America.
Morgan finds the key to this central paradox in the people and politics of the state that was both the birthplace of the revolution
and the largest slaveholding state in the country. With a new introduction. Winner of the Francis Parkman Prize and the Albert
J. Beveridge Award. Continued below...
About the Author:
Edmund S. Morgan is Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University
and the author of Benjamin Franklin. Morgan was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2000.
Uncle Tom's Cabin (Wordsworth Classics),
by Harriet Beecher Stowe (Author). Description: Edited and with an Introduction and Notes by Dr Keith Carabine, University of Kent at Canterbury.
Uncle Tom's Cabin is the most popular, influential and controversial book written by an American. Stowe's rich, panoramic
novel passionately dramatizes why the whole of America
is implicated in and responsible for the sin of slavery, and resoundingly concludes that only 'repentance, justice and mercy'
will prevent the onset of 'the wrath of Almighty God!'.
Recommended Viewing: Slavery and the Making of America (240 minutes),
Starring: Morgan Freeman; Director: William R. Grant. Description: Acclaimed actor Morgan Freeman narrates this compelling documentary, which features a score by Michael Whalen.
Underscoring how slavery impacted the growth of this country's Southern and Northern states; the series examines issues still
relevant today. The variety of cultures from which the slaves originated provided the budding states with a multitude of skills
that had a dramatic effect on the diverse communities. From joining the British in the Revolutionary War, to fleeing to Canada, to joining rebel communities in the U.S.
the slaves sought freedom in many ways, ultimately having a far-reaching effect on the new hemisphere they were forced to
inhabit. AWARDED 5 STARS by americancivilwarhistory.org