On Saturday, I attended the Harlem Book Fair.
I’m a doer. I enjoy spending an afternoon listening to speakers who approach issues on which I focus, including voting rights, civil rights, black culture and community engagement, from the perspective of a scholar. Sometimes scholars drop some unexpected truth.
I can’t count the number of times I have invoked Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech before the 1851 Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio.
There’s just one problem: Sojourner Truth never uttered those words. Nell I. Painter, author of Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol, was one of the panelists on “Fashioning the Self: The Image in Black” (Painter is on the far left).
According to Painter, Sojourner Truth never said, “Ain’t I a woman.” She “said things that meant that,” but not those exact words. As for the Southern dialect, more fiction. Sojourner Truth was not a Southerner. She never traveled farther south than Washington, DC.
Sojourner Truth was born and raised in upstate New York. She grew up speaking Dutch as her first language. Truth be told, Sojourner likely spoke with a Dutch accent.
Painter said that Sojourner Truth showed herself as a well-dressed, mannered matron, not as an angry black woman who flashed her breasts at a convention.
The panel discussion is available on C-SPAN2 Book TV.