Ain’t I A Woman, Still?
February 17, 2016
By: Rachel Gibson, Technology Safety Specialist at NNEDV
In 2015, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) re-imagined and re-launched our online store. We worked as a team to develop product ideas that channel the core of the work that we do. We decided unanimously to honor pioneering women that have made an impact on our lives through one such product. One woman who continued to float to the top of this list was Sojourner Truth.
Sojourner Truth is a great icon for both the abolition of slavery and women’s rights. Truth first began her fight when she was able to secure the release of her son, who had been illegally sold to Alabama. The famous speech, “Ain’t I a Woman,” which has guided the narrative and compelled many women of color to work tirelessly for their rights, is also attributed to Truth.
This speech led Truth to begin speaking on the national circuit. She was considered a radical for advocating for the inclusion of women’s voices in conversations about civil rights. Truth was a proponent of women’s rights and she fought to allow former slaves the right to secure grants from the federal government to own land. As a result, African Americans were given the ability to be self-sufficient and not be indebted to wealthy landowners.
Sojourner Truth started a revolution for the rights of women of color, and she serves as a pioneering example who continues to catalyze change and inspire scores of advocates and activists to this day. It is in part because of her legacy that we now recognize when the justice system has done a disservice to the people they are obligated to protect. Her work has rallied activists to seek equal treatment for women and people of color when in police custody, demand a change from the slow actions of the legal system, and seek a fair and balanced approach to services. We see the need to continue Truth’s fight, when we see women like Marissa Alexander – who was also a victim of domestic violence – jailed for defending themselves, when predators prey on women of color because they think the system will ignore their plight, when we see women like Sandra Bland mysteriously dying in police custody, and when women’s voices and experiences are erased from the national conversation. Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman” resonates now even more.
At NNEDV, we continue to honor Truth’s legacy through our work to address and end violence against women. We continuously lift up the stories of survivors of domestic violence, regardless of their race or ethnicity, to ensure that they are heard at the national level. Through our Economic Justice program, we work to ensure that survivors of domestic violence can work toward long-term security, including self-sufficiency goals like property ownership. Most importantly, we work to tear down the barriers erected by centuries of patriarchy and structural racism.
This February, during Black History Month, I am proud to have Sojourner Truth featured prominently on NNEDV’s “Feminists” shirt. Her zeal for abolishing slavery and securing the rights of all women compels me to take up her quest and continue the good work she initiated more than 160 years ago. Her words are the blueprint that teach and require us to continuously ask “Ain’t I a Woman?” She makes me proud to be a Black American woman working to end violence against women, and helping to dismantle patriarchy and oppression, one shirt at a time.