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Sojourner Truth delivered her famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech on May 29, 1851, at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention, highlighting the marginalization of African American women in the women’s rights movement. Born into slavery in 1797 as Isabella Baumfree, Truth became one of the most powerful advocates for human rights in the 19th century. She experienced mistreatment and ultimately fled from her master in 1827. Changing her name to Sojourner Truth in 1843 after converting her religion, she immersed herself in the anti-slavery and women’s rights movements by the 1850s.

Truth’s impactful speech challenged societal norms regarding the treatment of women and highlighted the discrimination faced by African American women. Although there are conflicting versions of the speech, it remains a powerful call for equality and justice. Despite discrepancies regarding the transcription of the speech, the overarching message of Truth’s words continues to resonate with audiences today. Settling in Battle Creek, Michigan in the 1850s, she continued to advocate for the rights of African Americans and women throughout her life.

During the Civil War, Truth dedicated herself to recruiting soldiers for the Union Army, despite being a pacifist. She believed the war was a necessary punishment for the crime of slavery and saw the importance of fighting for the Union. After the war, she lobbied the U.S. government to grant land to newly freed Black individuals, understanding the significance of economic prosperity for true freedom. Truth also fought for various causes such as women’s rights, prison reform, and desegregation, continuing her advocacy work across the United States.

In a notable moment, Truth became the first African American woman to win a lawsuit in the United States, fighting for her son’s freedom after he was illegally sold. She passed away in Michigan at the age of 84, leaving behind a legacy of activism and advocacy. The bronze bust of Sojourner Truth unveiled in the U.S. Capitol’s Emancipation Hall in 2009 was the first sculpture honoring an African American woman in the Capitol. The bust was donated by the National Congress of Black Women and symbolizes Truth’s confidence and determination in her pursuit of justice and equality.

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