Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I A Woman?”

1281 words - 5 pages

On May 29, 1851, Sojourner Truth gave her most famous speech at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio. Truth, being born a slave and escaping to her freedom, was both a women’s rights activist and abolitionist. In a male-dominated society, Truth wanted to gain awareness for the inequalities of women and African Americans during the time period. She makes several claims how African Americans and women are not inferior to the white male population. By targeting those males, Truth portrays them as antagonists and thus gives the women and the African Americans something to focus their struggles on. Sojourner Truth attempts to persuade her audience to support the women’s rights movement and on subtler terms, to support the need for African American rights, through her authoritative and hortatory tone combined with the use of anaphora, juxtaposition, indisputable facts and informal and emotionally appealing diction.
Utilizing biblical references, personal experiences, and empowering words, Truth establishes an authoritative and strongly encouraging tone. In paragraph four and five, she alludes to the Bible and connects with the religious with the religious members of the audience. She explains how Christ came from a woman (the Virgin Mary) and did not need a man’s help to conceive him. This demonstrates Truth’s claim about how women were worthy of the respect and deserve to have the same rights as men. This shows that Truth is knowledgeable and understands what she preaches. Being a former slave, she understands and has experienced the hardship that comes with being a slave. She mentions these hardships in the second paragraph of her speech, saying she has “ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns… and [beared] the lash as well.” She subtly adds this part about slavery to also persuade the audience that slavery should be abolished for its harsh conditions. With this personal experience, her audience is able to determine that she is a reliable source and speaker and that her claims are something to be considered. In order to establish a motivating tone, Truth uses words that are empowering, such as “women.” By using this word, she created the image of a strong-willed female. Other words like “girl” and “lady” have the connotation of being a young female, which would not support her argument as strongly. With only these methods, Sojourner Truth has already established a very encouraging and authoritative tone.
The addition of anaphora and juxtaposition further helps Truth establish her tone. The repetition of the anaphora, “Ain’t I a woman?” is consistent throughout the speech. Slowly but surely, the repetition ingrains the idea into the audience’s mind and is the most memorable part of the speech. It excites the audience and convinces them to believe in her claim that women and African Americans deserve equal rights as white males. The question itself is supposed to be answered in agreement. Personally, it is easier to tell someone, “yes” than...

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