Alfre Woodard channels Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I a woman?”

March 9, 2012

We should be grateful for Sojourner Truth, we should be grateful for the women’s suffrage movement, we should be grateful for Howard Zinn‘s preservation and telling of history, and we can be grateful for inspired readings of original works by great performers like Alfre Woodard.

Alfre Woodard reads “Ain’t I a Woman?“, a speech delivered by abolitionist Sojourner Truth at the Women’s Convention in 1851. Part of a reading from Voices of A People’s History of the United States (Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove,)February 1, 2007 at All Saints Church in Pasadena, CA.

In my year at the University of Arizona I had the joy of working with David Williams’ speech department students in readers theatre.  We had a couple of performers whose readings of Sojourner Truth stirred audiences greatly (Martha Isom, where are you?).  This is a piece one does best to absorb from oral performance.  It is a piece that one should hear repeatedly, to understand.

Woodard nails this one well, I think.

Ms. Truth’s speech needs careful reflection.  She was not just speaking for women’s rights, but was lecturing the suffragists as well on their having overlooked the plight of women of color and working women, and women in poverty.  She’s talking to you, and to me, and asking us to confront our stereotypes of what women are and what women do, to recognize that women are humans, deserving of full respect for that reason alone.

Tip of the old scrub brush to the folks at

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