Sojourner Truth - Advocate for Abolitionism and Women's Rights
A Wider Community Advocates
In this image a large group of African American men, women, and children sit in front of a wooden structure.
Black Americans fought continually for their rights. They resisted enslavement, advocated for abolition, and fought in the Civil War. Not all of their individual stories are known, however their experiences are remembered.
Using the tools available to them, Black people and communities in the North and South fought against slavery. Some individuals took their own freedom and shared their experiences under slavery to increase support for the abolition movement, as Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass did. During the Civil War, others sought freedom and safety with the Union Army, like the group pictured above. Known as “contraband,” these people provided vital support in Union army camps. Others were born free and spent their lives working to ensure that all Black people in the United States could also live in freedom.
After securing emancipation, African Americans continued to advocate for their rights.
Supporting Women's Rights
Watch this video of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper delivering her speech to the National Woman’s Rights Convention and then respond to the questions below.
- How did Frances Ellen Watkins Harper tie the causes of women’s rights and Black rights together in her speech?
- In what ways does her speech overlap with Sojourner Truth’s words?
- Why is it important that both of these women advocated for both their rights as African Americans and their rights as women at the same time?
Many of the men and women who fought for abolition before the Civil War also supported women’s rights. They eagerly advocated for legislation to protect the formerly enslaved and to advance the rights of all Americans. However, not all white women supported giving the vote to Black men, and not all abolitionist men supported women’s suffrage.
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper advocated for both. When she delivered the speech in the video below in 1866, the U.S. government was debating whether to grant full citizenship to the millions of Black people freed by the 13th Amendment. At the same time, white women suffragists were leading a campaign to get women the right to vote. Frances told the mostly white audience that everybody would benefit if Black and white activists worked together. She also implored white activists to recognize the extreme inequalities faced by African Americans. The audience was inspired by her words and voted to form the American Equal Rights Association (AERA), an organization that sought equality for all American citizens and especially focused on the rights of Black people and women. The AERA disbanded in 1869.
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