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Essay: Sojourner Truth’s speech

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  • Subject area(s): History essays
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  • Published: 15 November 2019*
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  • Words: 1,315 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 6 (approx)

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In Akron, Ohio, in 1851, Sojourner Truth gave a speech that ignited her audience in a way that was both liberating and thought-provoking. In this speech, Truth scrutinizes the treatment of African Americans and women, using herself as the main example. Truth’s powerful delivery and personal experience allow her to connect with those who listen; even those who read her argument for equality. Unlocking a sense of empowerment, Truth repeats the rhetorical question, ‘and ain’t I a woman’ (628)? Sojourner Truth deserves equality, as everyone should too. Using pathos and ethos as an appeal along with striking language, Truth delivers a powerful message on gender discrimination.

Truth’s experiences in the text appeal to the emotions of women, specifically mothers. Truth states she has ‘borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery’ and when she ‘cried out with [her] mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard [her]’ (628). Her statement is raw yet filled with strength of feeling. With this story, the effect slavery has on her is explicit. This image forces her audience to connect to her suffering on a level that is deeper than most; essentially one another mother could relate. Showing her humility by exposing her own unfortunate experiences reveals her maturity and compels the respect of those who are listening. She says men believe ‘women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere’ (628) yet nobody ever treats her this way. Truth allows the audience to realize the injustices in which they also suffer. The inequality between race and gender is made more evident which triggers the emotion, particularly indignation from the audience. Truth uses this emotion to get their attention and make them feel as if they are entitled to the freedom they deserve. She is just as strong as any man as she has ‘ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns’ (628). Just like a man, she can work as much, eat as much, and she can even ‘bear the lash as well’ (628). If she can illustrate her equality to a man, why are they not equal under the law? The unique aspects of a woman that differ from a male should be liberated in society, not denounced. She has proven that women can use their strength to demolish the overt power of man, so they should live up to their potential.

Other than Truth’s appeal to emotion, she uses faith and reason to further engage the audience. In her case for equal rights, Truth proposes, ‘If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full’ (628). In other words, if the white man is capable of having much more than she, it is ridiculous to deny her just this one possession, equality. Now creating a logical argument for women, Truth then inquires, ‘Where did your Christ come from’ (628)? Your Christ came from ‘God and a woman’ (628). For those who were religious in any nature, Truth made it completely illogical to involve themselves with sexual discrimination. Truth relays to them that the God they worship and respect came from a woman, to whom they have no respect. On a biblical level, men and women are considered equal. Truth ends her speech by referencing Eve, ‘the first woman God ever made’ (628). By making this connection, the audience is drawn in by the popular Christian individual who happens to be a woman. Eve was ‘strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again’ (628)! If these women join forces and stand up to their oppressors, they have the ability to achieve equality. Truth wants others to know that women are strong and they are capable of standing their ground. At this point in time, ‘they is asking to do it, the men better let them’ (628). After presenting her point through ethics and religion, Truth bargains for the power to make change and asks for an army of women to stand by her.

Not only is the message of this work important, but the way in which it is presented further conveys the purpose. Truth’s diction allows her to connect to her audience without changing her identity through speech. Her words are natural and unprocessed which creates a tone in which the other women can associate with. Truth begins by referring to the audience as ‘children,’ implying a sense of sentiment, showing they are all equal to her and in the eyes of God. Most importantly, the way Truth asks, ‘and ain’t I a woman’ (628) provokes an excitable response in which anyone can feel the sincerity behind her words. Her use of slang and informal vocabulary allowed Truth to link with her audience, creating a bond that would not exist otherwise.

Truth challenges the concept of womanhood in her speech. The way in which she develops her argument appeals to all people with heart and logic. All women deserve respect and Truth’s hardships prove this indefinitely. Any argument against equality is refuted by her immediate connection to her listeners along with her strong religious references. By using her own experiences, the emotional connection is made to persuade and empower so that challenges women face can be overcome. Not only is a woman seen as inferior to a man, but the black woman is utterly undervalued in society. Although this is true, Truth gives very specific reasoning as to why this argument is invalid. The common notion of how a woman should be treated in society is just a misconception; the way in which Truth is treated is quite contradictory. There is absolutely no reason a woman should be denied any right that a man has. Truth chooses to speak up about the injustices she faces along with many other women across the country in order to summon revision of the unsuitable societal norms.

Women in America have fought and continue to fight for equality each and every day. Over the years, women have made substantial progress toward equal rights though the idea of complete equality seems to be unreachable. Once black women became involved in the movement, Sojourner Truth, a former slave gave her speech, ‘Ain’t I a Woman’ and quickly gained popularity as an abolitionist and woman’s suffrage advocate. Truth’s efforts made a difference at the time, though discrimination continued, positive change of attitude was a major stride for women. Truth is a perfect example of a female American figure who did not stand down to the oppression her society presented her with. Born into slavery and subjected to a life of suffering, Truth had the courage to change her path and pave the way for women to follow. Now, by law, women and men regardless of gender or race are equal. Looking back as to how this was achieved, powerful women with the incentive for change sacrificed themselves for the greater good. These liberties are often taken for granted as the value of women’s rights activists are lost within the history of freedom. Sojourner Truth’s battles are still relevant today when the narrative of equality was written though the pages have yet to be filled.

Sojourner Truth’s concise speech passionately reprimands the whole of the antifeminist ideals. Women are in fact not weak in nature, they are not intellectually inferior to men, and Jesus Christ himself came from a woman. Using rhetorical devices to capture the attention of her audience, Truth relays the ethical error in all discrimination. Truth’s speech continues to serve as a classic declaration of women’s rights. Just as time goes on, the history of the Women’s Right’s Movement will continue to grow and progress for the better.

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