Abolitionist Feminism Then and Now #1: Sojourner Truth

9 November 2020

Aija Oksman, University of Edinburgh

Sojourner Truth (ca.1797-1883) was a foremother of abolitionist feminism. She was born and enslaved in New York state, and grew up speaking Dutch as her first language. These were vital parts of her identity but they were also the aspects that became most exploited;  she was often misrepresented as a Southern slang drawling enslaved woman in the contemporary reports of her performances. White mainstream feminism made several efforts to repurpose Truth, and in this piece I will introduce, as an example of such repurposing, Truth’s most famous speech ‘Ain’t I a Woman’ and look at how Truth reclaimed her agency through imagery. It is the first of a three-part series for the Modernist Review that looks at abolition feminism – then and now.

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