Learn more about African American Women and the Nineteenth Amendment in this article on the National Parks Service website.
I have plowed and planted and gathered into barns, and no man could head me…and aren’t I a woman?”
Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) was born Isabella Bomfree, a slave, who was bought and sold four times before running away in 1827. In 1828, she moved to New York City and worked for a local minister. Although she remained illiterate until her death, she was a charismatic speaker who, in 1843, declared that the Spirit called on her to preach the truth and renamed herself Sojourner Truth. She joined the abolitionists, who supported a broad reform agenda and set on her career as activist and reformer.
Encouraged by Lucretia Mott, Truth became involved in the women’s rights movements and spoke to large crowds at suffrage meetings the rest of her life. Sojourner Truth spoke on slavery and human rights (including women’s rights) at the First National Women’s Rights Convention in 1850, in Worcester, Massachusetts. One year later, she delivered an improvised speech at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention that came to be known as “Ain’t (or Aren’t) I a Woman?”
She worked closely with Frederick Douglass, but, like many other feminists, split from him when he put suffrage for formerly enslaved men before women’s suffrage; she thought both should occur simultaneously. 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.