Sojourner Truth, African-American Woman of the 19th Century

6, 7, 8

This lesson is designed to provide the students with information about Sojourner Truth's contributions to abolitionism and women's suffrage. She worked tirelessly to aid the freed men after the Civil War and brought about increased recognition of their plight. Students will discuss the right of all voices to be heard in a democracy and determine how Sojourner Truth's work on behalf of various causes was philanthropic.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Forty-Five Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • recognize Sojourner Truth as a philanthropist and evaluate her contribution to various causes in nineteenth century America.
  • defend the right of all Americans to be heard by their government.
  • describe how the women's movement and anti-slavery movement were similar.
  • "Ain't I A Woman?" (Attachment One), a copy for each student
  • Sojourner Truth (Attachment Two)
  • Reference materials pertaining to Sojourner Truth (This material can be found in student texts and on the Internet.)


  1. Anticipatory Set: When the students are seated start reading the speech, "Ain't I A Woman?" (Attachment One). Practice so that it can be done in dialect and read loudly. Read only the first paragraph. (If possible ask a tall black woman with a strong voice to read the speech either to the class or in a tape recording).

  2. Draw a circle on the board and label it "Sojourner Truth." Based on only the one paragraph read to the students, ask the learners to supply descriptive words that would apply to Sojourner Truth. Ask them to predict what they might later learn about her life and work.

  3. Ask the students what they noticed about the speech. One of the answers should be "the dialect." Working in groups of two, have students finish reading the speech. They are to underline any words they cannot understand. Take time to discuss the confusing words in a large group and discuss why her speech was different. Ask students what right Sojourner Truth had to be heard since she was a former slave, with no education, who could barely speak the language correctly.

  4. Using Sojourner Truth (Attachment Two) as a teacher reference, introduce Sojourner Truth, her life, and the causes she supported. Ask students to speculate why she gave her support to more than one cause. How effective was she and other women in getting what they wanted? Emphasize her work on behalf of freed slaves and the women's movement.

  5. Explain that Sojourner Truth's contributions can be considered a form of philanthropy (individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures for the common good). Ask students to identify how Sojourner Truth could be considered a philanthropist.

  6. The women's movement sprang out of the antislavery movement in this country. Ask students to think about this and write why they think this might have happened. Have students share their responses.


Students should have contributed orally to the discussion of the speech as well as her contributions. They should have written their ideas on why the antislavery and women's movements were so closely related.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define philanthropy as individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world. Give examples.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Describe the importance of hearing all voices in a community and respecting their right to be heard.
      2. Benchmark MS.5 Discuss examples of groups denied their rights in history.
      3. Benchmark MS.7 Identify women and minorities who are or have been leaders in the civil society sector.
    2. Standard PCS 06. Philanthropy in History
      1. Benchmark MS.5 Identify positive philanthropic historic acts or events that helped build the community, state, and nation.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.