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.)
  • "The Sojourner Truth Project" shows a comparison between two versions of the famous speech -

All history is recorded from a perspective. How can we be sure today to pass on the most accurate accounts? Why is it best (for the common good) to advocate for a cause from carefully researched facts rather than passing on (even the best intentioned) opinions? 

  • The Narrative of Sojourner Truth (1850) dictated by Sojourner Truth (ca.1797-1883), edited by Olive Gilbert -
  • The Sojourner Truth Prohject -


  1. Anticipatory Set: When the students are seated, read the first paragraph of the speech, "Ain't I A Woman?" (Attachment One). Show a YouTube version of someone reading this or have students read the rest of the speech in turns. 

  2. Draw a circle on the board and label it "Sojourner Truth." Draw four lines out from the circle. Based on the reading, ask the learners to supply descriptive words to write around the circle. They may start to fill in categories of what they know and want to know in the graphic organizer.

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

  4. Explain that Sojourner Truth's contributions are a form of philanthropy (providing time, talent, and/or treasures for the common good). Ask students to identify in what ways Sojourner Truth's work was giving for the common good.

  5. The women's movement worked in collaboration with the antislavery movement in this country. Ask students to think about this and write some ideas about why they think the two movements worked hand in hand. What would be the benefits and challenges? 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.