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Subject: "Sojourner Truth and the cold hand of white oppression" Previous topic | Next topic
shygurl
Member since Oct 08th 2002
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Fri Feb-01-19 10:55 AM

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"Sojourner Truth and the cold hand of white oppression"


  

          

Google has Sojourner Truth as their doodle of the day; a fitting start to black history month and one of my personal heros.

Sojourner is probably most famous for her "Ain't I woman?" speech, a rousing speech where she describes the hardships of being both black AND a woman, and her desire to be awarded the same rights as any man.

Did you know that that speech is a lie? That increasingly research is showing that her original speech was far removed from the common version of the speech oft repeated? That it's more than likely that even the most well known line "Ain't I woman?" wasn't even in the fucking speech?

Sojourner originally gave the speech in 1851, Frances Dana Barker Gage gave her recollections of that speech in 1863, a full 12 years after the original speech had been given. In her retelling, she added a southern slave accent, although Sojourner had been born in New York and exclusively spoke Dutch until she was nearly 10. She also added a whole false section about her kids, stating that she had 13 kids and they were almost all sold in slavery, when she only had 5 and only one was sold into slavery (whom she later won back in court - o she's bad as fuck).

The whole thing is fucked up beyond belief, but what's most telling for me is the lack of care here in 2019 dedicated to righting the wrong. We have, in my mind, an overwhelmingly obvious wrong, and there seems to be little done to emphasis how wrong Frances Dana Barker Gage was and how she very overtly took a black woman's words and twisted and manipulated them to fit her needs, with no thought or care to the author but only to meet Gage's selfish goals. A verbal blackface in my opinion. Seemingly Gage is still a hero, and the resources I've read seem to sweep her theft under the rug, one even going so far as to say Truth would have been happy for her words to have been spread so far by Gage regardless of how far they strayed from her original speech. Compare the two speeches below (Taken from: https://sojournertruthmemorial.org/sojourner-truth/her-words/)

“Women Rights Convention. Sojourner Truth.” Anti-Slavery Bugle, Salem, Ohio, June 21, 1851 – Marcus Robinson

One of the most unique and interesting speeches of the convention was made by Sojourner Truth, an emancipated slave. It is impossible to transfer it to paper, or convey any adequate idea of the effect it produced upon the audience. Those only can appreciate it who saw her powerful form, her whole-souled, earnest gesture, and listened to her strong and truthful tones. She came forward to the platform and addressing the President said with great simplicity: “May I say a few words?” Receiving an affirmative answer, she proceeded:

I want to say a few words about this matter. I am a woman’s rights. I have as much muscle as any man, and can do as much work as any man. I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed, and can any man do more than that? I have heard much about the sexes being equal. I can carry as much as any man, and can eat as much too, if I can get it. I am as strong as any man that is now.

As for intellect, all I can say is, if a woman have a pint, and a man a quart — why can’t she have her little pint full? You need not be afraid to give us our rights for fear we will take too much, — for we can’t take more than our pint’ll hold. The poor men seems to be all in confusion, and don’t know what to do. Why children, if you have 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.

I can’t read, but I can hear. I have heard the bible and have learned that Eve caused man to sin. Well, if woman upset the world, do give her a chance to set it right side up again. The Lady has spoken about Jesus, how he never spurned woman from him, and she was right. When Lazarus died, Mary and Martha came to him with faith and love and besought him to raise their brother. And Jesus wept and Lazarus came forth. And how came Jesus into the world? Through God who created him and the woman who bore him. Man, where was your part? But the women are coming up blessed be God and a few of the men are coming up with them. But man is in a tight place, the poor slave is on him, woman is coming on him, he is surely between a hawk and a buzzard.

National Anti-Slavery Standard, May 2, 1863 – Frances Gage

“Well, chillen, what dar’s so much racket dar must be som’ting out o’kilter. I tink dat ‘twixt de of de South and de women at de Norf, all a-talking ’bout rights, de white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking ’bout? Dat man ober dar say dat woman needs to be helped into carriages, and lifted ober ditches, and to have de best place eberywhar. Nobody eber helps me into carriages, or ober mud-puddles, or gives me any best place,”; and, raising herself to her full height, and her voice to a pitch like rolling thunder, she asked, “And ar’n’t I a woman? Look at me. Look at my arm,” and she bared her right arm to the shoulder, showing its tremendous muscular power. “I have plowed and planted and gathered into barns, and no man could head me–and ar’n’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man (when I could get it) and bear de lash as well–and ar’n’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen ’em mos’ all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with a mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard–and ar’n’t I a woman? Den dey talks ’bout dis ting in de head. What dis dey call it” “Intellect,” whispered some one near. “Dat’s it, honey. What’s dat got to do with woman’s rights or rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yourn holds a quart, wouldn’t ye be mean not to let me have my little half-measure full?” and she pointed her significant finger and sent a keen glance at the minister who had made the argument. The cheering was long and loud. “Den dat little man in black dar, he say woman can’t have as much rights as man, ’cause Christ wa’n’n’t a woman. Whar did your Christ come from??

Rolling thunder could not have stilled that crowd as did those deep, wonderful tones, as she stood there with outstretched arms and eye of fire. Raising her voice still louder, she repeated,–

“Whar did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had not’ing to do with him.” Oh, what a rebuke she gave the little man. Turning again to another objector, she took up the defence of Mother Eve. I cannot follow her through it all. It was pointed and witty and solemn, eliciting at almost every sentence defeaning applause, and she ended by asserting: “that if de fust woman God ever made was strong enough to turn de world upside down all her one lone, all dese togeder,” and she glanced her eye over us, “ought to be able to turn it back, and git it right side up again, and now dey is asking to, de men better let ’em.” (long and continued cheering). “Bleeged to ye for hearin’ on me, and now ole Sojourner ha’n’t got nothing more to say.”

(Also see https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83035487/1851-06-21/ed-1/seq-4/ for a copy of the newspaper clip from 1851)

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I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.

— F. Scott Fitzgerald

  

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