Born into slavery, Harriet “Ross” Tubman freed herself and then put her life in jeopardy to do the same for countless other enslaved humans. She did so by making perilous trips, in the dead of night, through hostile lands. Her courage and bravery bested the cowardice and rage of the people who hunted her like an animal. She also served as a nurse during the civil war and led black and white troops on raids against confederate soldiers. Never afraid of a fight, Ms. Tubman also took on the issue of women’s rights. She still inspires me.
Sojourner “Isabella Baumfree” Truth fought for the rights of women before she was ever acknowledged as a woman, in her own right. She was the first African-American woman to successfully sue a white male – a man who illegally enslaved her child. Sold into slavery as a child, her mother’s heart gave her the courage to fight to free her son. She also helped her daughter escape slavery. Her courage is undeniable. I proudly claim the gift her legacy leaves behind.
In the late 1800s, Ida B. Wells fought to stop the lynching of black bodies. She held no reasonable expectation of police or federal protection. There were no social media platforms to rally supporters to her side. She wrote the Red Record to highlight the horrors taking place in the daily lives of supposedly “free men” who were routinely hanged at the whim of men who could no longer legally own them. Instead, those men took deadly possession of “free” bodies and altered the futures of their victim’s children and families. I hold dear the courage that sustained Ms. Wells.
Feel free to add from the millions more stories of women who are strong, vibrant, brilliant, kind, but most importantly, FEARLESS. Remember their names as you learn their stories. I ask you to do so for the following reason; if you think that closing 7 of 9 Randolph County polling places will stop African-Americans from showing up at the ballot box to help Stacey Abrams earn her place in Georgia history, you are not paying close enough attention!
…That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them…
Excerpted from Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman” speech