Best Known For
Sojourner Truth is best known for her extemporaneous speech on racial inequalities, "Ain't I a Woman?", delivered at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention in 1851.
Sojourner Truth not only was an advocate for the rights of African Americans, but she also stood up for woman's equality.
Sojourner Truth was born into slavery and escaped to freedom. Her prominence quickly rose when she advocated for the abolition of slavery and women's rights. She is best known for her speech "Ain't I a Woman?"
After testifying firsthand to the brutality of slavery at an American Anti-Slavery Society meeting in Nantucket, Frederick Douglass became an overnight success in the Abolitionist arena of public speaking.
A short biography of Frederick Douglass who escaped from slavery to become the leading voice in the Abolitionist Movement and other social reforms involving inequality.
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Truth continued to tour Ohio from 1851 to 1853, working closely with Marius Robinson to publicize the antislavery movement in the state. As Truth's reputation grew and the abolition movement gained momentum, she drew increasingly larger and more hospitable audiences. Even in abolitionist circles, some of Truth's opinions were considered radical. She sought political equality for all women,
and chastised the abolitionist community for failing to seek civil rights for black women as well as men. She openly expressed concern that the movement would fizzle after achieving victories for black men, leaving both white and black women without suffrage and other key political rights.
Sojourner Truth put her reputation to work during the Civil War, helping to recruit black troops for the Union Army. She encouraged her grandson, James Caldwell, to enlist in the 54th Massachusetts Regiment. In 1864, Truth was called to Washington, D.C., to contribute to the National Freedman's Relief Association. On at least one occasion, Truth met and spoke with President Abraham Lincoln about her beliefs and her experience.
True to her broad reform ideals, Truth continued to agitate for change even after Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. In 1865, Truth attempted to force the desegregation of streetcars in Washington by riding in cars designated for whites. A major project of her later life was the movement to secure land grants from the federal government for former slaves. She argued that ownership of private property, and particularly land, would give African Americans self-sufficiency and free them from a kind of indentured servitude to wealthy landowners. Although Truth pursued this goal forcefully for many years, she was unable to sway Congress.
Sojourner Truth died at her home in Battle Creek, Michigan, on November 26, 1883. She is buried alongside her family at Battle Creek's Oak Hill Cemetery. Until old age intervened, Truth continued to speak passionately on the subjects of women's rights, universal suffrage and prison reform. She was also an outspoken opponent of capital punishment, testifying before the Michigan state legislature against the practice. She also championed prison reform in Michigan and across the country. While always controversial, Truth was embraced by a community of reformers including Amy Post, Wendell Phillips, William Lloyd Garrison, Lucretia Mott and Susan B. Anthony—friends with whom she collaborated until the end of her life.
Truth is remembered as one of the foremost leaders of the abolition movement and an early advocate of women's rights. Although she began her career as an abolitionist, the reform causes she sponsored were broad and varied, including prison reform, property rights and universal suffrage. Abolition was one of the few causes that Truth was able to see realized in her lifetime. Her fear that abolitionism would falter before achieving equality for women proved prophetic.
The Constitutional Amendment barring suffrage discrimination based on sex was not ratified until 1920, nearly four decades after Sojourner Truth's death.
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