One of the most powerful rallying cries of black-women’s liberation was four words, repeated four times in a single speech.

It shows the power of simplicity and repetition.

Not many remember the rest of the speech, but most remember those four words.

It was a meeting on black equality and women’s equality, in 1851.

The crowd was sympathetic to black male equality, but it became clear that the women the speakers were referring to were northern white women, not black southern women.

The men who were leading the meeting spoke about equality for delicate ladies who needed to be kept on a pedestal.

Then a minister objected because, although equality for men was all very well, Christ was not a woman, so women were never meant to be equal.

Also women did not have the same intellect as men and, in any case, Eve was the one who tempted Adam to sin in the first place.

None of the women present knew how to counter those arguments.

Certainly the black women dared not even speak up against a learned minister.

Eventually an elderly black lady stood up and walked to the platform.

Her name was Sojourner Truth, and she was an ex-slave.

Her speech was recorded, in her Southern slave accent, by the conference organiser, Frances Gage:

“Dat man ober dar say dat womin needs to be helped into carriages, and lifted ober ditches, and to hab de best place everywhar.

Nobody eber helps me into carriages, or ober mud-puddles, or gibs me any best place!


Look at me! Look at my arms! I have ploughed, and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me!


I could work as much and eat as much as any man, when I could get it, and bear de lash as well!


I have born children, and seen mos’ all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me!


Den dey talks ‘bout de ting in de head: intellect is what dey call it.

What’s dat got to do wid womin’s rights or nigger’s rights?

If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yourn hold a quart, wouldn’t ye be mean not to let me have my little half-measure full?

Den dat minister in black dar, he say women can’t have as much rights as men, ‘cause Christ wan’t a woman!

But whar did your Christ come from?

Whar did your Christ come from?

From God and a woman!  Man had nothing to do with it!

If de fust woman God ever made was strong enough to turn de world upside down all alone, dese women togedder ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!

And now dey is asking to do it, de men better let ‘em.”

Then she sat down and the applause was thunderous, from all the women present.

Because those four words said it all: AIN’T I A WOMAN?

They became a famous rallying cry for black women’s equality.

Proving everything we need to learn about a great line.

It needs to be: simple, powerful, memorable, and capable of repetition.

And it certainly doesn’t need to be grammatically correct.