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Sojourner Truth

Updated: Feb 1, 2021

On May 29, 1851, Sojourner Truth, an abolitionist, and formerly enslaved black woman, addressed a Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio.

•‬The state of Ohio was amid drafting a new constitution and they organized this convention to urge lawmakers to ensure that the new document expands the legal rights of women.

•‬The convention was also one of several annual events held in the years following the 1848 voting rights convention organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others in Seneca Falls, New York.

•‬The women’s rights movement of the 19th century was largely led by white women and shaped around their experiences. Some white women’s rights activists were also active abolitionists who believed in common womanhood across racial lines. But others had no interest in advocating for the rights of non-white women.

•‬Even some white activists sympathetic to the needs of black women advised against interracial coalitions, fearing that the movement for [white] women’s voting rights and legal equality would only attract fiercer opposition if it attempted to also promote racial equality and denounce slavery.

•‬The women's movement adopted a segregated approach. The 1851 Ohio Women’s Rights Convention, however, did not and included among the event's speakers a black woman named Sojourner Truth.

•‬Born into slavery in New York in 1797, her birth name was Isabella Baumfree but she adopted the name Sojourner Truth after escaping enslavement as an adult.

•‬As a speaker, preacher, and leader, Truth traveled and worked tirelessly to denounce slavery and defend the rights of black people and women. In her speech, she asserted her belief in women's equality and urged men to not fear giving women their rights.

•‬"You need not be afraid to give us our rights for fear we will take too much," she said to the crowd, addressing the Ohio legislature and men nationwide, "for we can't take more than our pint’ll hold. The poor men seem to be all in confusion and don't know what to do. Why children, if you have a woman’s rights, give it to her and you will feel better. You will have your own rights, and they won't be so much trouble."