The caused her to become the face of

The year 1851 was a difficult for time for African Americans as well as women. It was a time of prevalent slavery, discrimination, and a severe lack of basic rights for some. Sojourner Truth was one of the first African American women to come in the public’s eye. Her speech at the Nation Women’s Convention in the year previously mentioned, Ain’t I a Woman?, caused her to become the face of women’s suffrage and a symbol of emancipation. She successfully and efficiently uses rhetorical devices to deliver a speech that resonates with not only the crowd present at the National Women’s Convention but men and women everywhere. Here I will be identifying and explaining the rhetorical devices used in Sojourner’s speech. Repetition is a used frequently in this speech. The title itself is used in juxtaposition with her personal experiences for the main argument. By doing this Truth is able to shed light on her own background, which shows that she is an expert and reliable source on the topic she is presenting. Her first argument she says “That man over there says women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere,” which Truth then turns around and immediately dismisses that statement and says she has never had a man offer to do anything of that nature for her. The next two arguments she compares her abilities to that of a man, telling the crowd of the work she has had to do as a slave –  while being malnourished and threats of physical abuse – inducing empathy in the listeners, yet also reinstating her credibility.  Probably her most effective argument is when she directly address the hardships of being a mother – seeing all thirteen of her children being taken and sold into slavery. Her so-called “rally cry” is placed directly after each argument: “and ain’t I a woman?” The repetition used successfully magnifies the main idea of each point presented, and symbolically  causes us to ask ourselves how this treatment is acceptable, but this instant appeal to pathos does not cause us to pity Sojourner because she has showed us ethos, in that she is a capable, strong willed woman.The second section of Sojourner’s speech targets and rebutts commonplaces. She mainly argues with the idea that knowledge and intellect should be a factor on deciding who is respected, and the idea how religion is believed to (in certain interpretations) present women as lesser beings and some would say evil. She fights these belief methodically, first presenting the commonplace, then proving it to be wildly incorrect. She points out the lack of education that is given to women which is given to men by saying “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?” Her focus transfers from the women of the crowd to the possible men in the crowd, by saying that it is a paradox to call women mentally impotent while simultaneously denying them education. She then moves to the common beliefs of the Christian men at the time. She calls out clergy by saying “that little man in black there,” and stripping him of any respect that he had from the community surrounding him and violently tears apart the argument that the clergy was using against women by stating ” (The clergy) says that 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?” This causes the crowd to really think about what she is saying and what they have believed in the past. By taking the commonplace and presenting its own fact, then taking those facts and using them again the commonplaces, Truth becomes and creates a backing for her logic.Even though the Emancipation Proclamation won’t come into full effect officially until 1863, and the 19th Amendment wouldn’t be ratified until nearly 70 years after this speech was given, the speech Sojourner Truth delivered at the National Women’s Convention was a catalyst for women’s suffrage and African American Rights. This speech is highly influential and still discussed to this day. Using simple rhetorical tactics – repetition and rebuttal – Sojourner was able to prove herself as a reliable source. Truth overcomes social boundaries and uses it to create a better places for not only herself but other African Americans and women.


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