NEW Poster It’s not hoarding if it’s vinyl

4 min readMar 5, 2021

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The book sold relatively well and the income from the book helped to support her travels and speaking commitments. She also sold small cards entitled “I sell the shadow to support the substance.” The proceeds from her book and cards helped her to pay for the mortgage on a house in the village of Florence, Northampton. She began to give more high profile speeches — often at women’s rights conferences. In May 1851, she attended the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention where she gave a famous extemporaneous speech — later named “Ain’t I a Woman”. Poster It’s not hoarding if it’s vinyl. The speech demanded equal rights for black people and women. It was recorded by different members in the audience. When it was later published, it is likely her original words were embellished with southern phrases, which Truth wouldn’t have used — including the rhetorical question “Ain’t I a Woman” Nevertheless, the speech seemed to have created a strong impression on the audience and they were moved by her personal firsthand accounts of slavery.

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Truth was also a good singer and sometimes sang to audiences. At an abolitionist conference in 1840 in Boston, the great orator Wendell Phillips was marked down to speak after her. Worried she was not good enough to speak before him, she sang “I am Pleading for my people” to the tune of Auld Lang Syne. Throughout the 1850s and 60s, she gave many speeches throughout the state — this was a time when public speaking was in high demand; in the absence of any radio or modern media, public speaking was a major source of information. The speaking circuit was mostly dominated by white men, so the presence of this imposing 6′ black woman was quite striking; her powerful words carried authenticity because she spoke from direct experience of slavery. She was also blessed with a powerful, low, resonant voice. She often travelled with her grandson, Sammy Banks who could read and write — this was a great help to the illiterate Sojourner.

Still, it was a challenging role — fighting the double prejudice of the age — against both women and those of African-American roots. Like other female speakers such as Harriet Tubman, sometimes people were even sceptical that they weren’t really men. One apocryphal story relates that in 1858, someone interrupted a speech Truth was giving claiming she was a man. Truth responded by revealing her breasts. Often audiences were quite hostile, with hissing and booing, even before she started. Poster It’s not hoarding if it’s vinyl. But Truth was able to adapt her speeches to the context of the time and was adept at dealing with hostile audiences. As her reputation grew, her reception became more favourable. She was popular with like-minded abolitionists, though her insistence on the equality of women was radical even for some progressives. She also had a strong sense of humour and was willing to tease those who tended to a more self-righteous activism or were concerned with frivolous posturing.

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During the civil war, she helped to recruit black troops and supplies for the Union army. She also sought to try and improve the condition of freed slaves in Washington D.C. Whilst in Washington, she won her third court case — a personal injury case after a streetcar incident. After the civil war, she sought to encourage Congress to grant lands to freed slaves in the West. She argued that only when freed slaves had their own land, would they have the ability to support themselves and gain a real sense of dignity. Her efforts never persuaded Congress to take action. In 1864, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation saw a major landmark in civil rights; it was one of the few solid political achievements Truth saw realised in her lifetime. It was not until 37 years after her death, a constitutional Amendment barred voting discrimination on the grounds of sex. It was the 1960s before voting rights for African-Americans were enshrined in law.

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