The claim of Sojourner Truth’s 1851 speech was that all women deserved rights, including African American women. Truth refers to the claims of the opposing side, arguing that African women, unlike white women, not only were not treated in a gentle way, “being helped into carriages”. Truth states that she has not had the benefit of that sort of treatment, and in fact “could work as much and eat as much as a man”. She then asked “Ain’t I a woman?”
Truth presents her case with Ethos, or credibility regarding the ethics of her message and the character of the speaker. Truth had become a travelling preacher and activist after being freed by the antislavery laws, and became well respected for her passionate speeches against discrimination (Brezina, 6).
Truth presents her case with Pathos or emotional persuasion. She describes how she gave birth to thirteen children, but they were taken from her and sold into slavery, denying her the right to be their mother. This stirs emotion in the audience.
Truth used Logos, or reasoning and meaning to support her emotional pleas: she includes reasons with roots in Christianity, such as the fact that the first woman was capable of “turning the world upside down” on her own as strength, and refers to the birth of Jesus as between God and a woman; she includes logical reasons, refuting the idea that women did not deserve rights as they did not have the same level of intellect by pointing out that if that even were that true, why deny their rights that could be exercised with the intellect they did have?
Sojourner’s Truth’s argument was a Rogerian argument, as it was not leading to an empirical conclusion based on evidence, but rather used rhetorical means to debate interpretation of the argument of the opposition.
- Brezina, Corona. Sojourner Truth’s” Ain’t I a Woman?” Speech: A Primary Source Investigation. The Rosen Publishing Group, 2005.
- Truth, Sojourner. “Ain’t I a Woman?” Fordham University. Aug. 1997. Web. 11 May 2012.