10 Speeches by Black Women That Everyone Needs to Read

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Sojourner Truth’s ‘Ain’t I a Woman?’

Truth’s speech from 1851 is quoted frequently and gives a bold message about equality for all women during a time when racism ravaged America. During the speech, Truth repeatedly asks the question, “And ain’t I a woman?” after recalling the different treatment she received as a woman compared to her white female counterparts.

“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages and 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,” Truth says in the speech. “Look at me! Look at my arm! I could have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman?”

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Josephine Baker at the March on Washington

Many people knew Baker as nothing more than a showgirl, but when she came to the U.S. from France to attend the March on Washington, her remarks in 1963 reminded the nation that she was also a lifelong activist. She recalled her experiences with racism and backlash for her controversial skin-bearing ensembles and how the fear it struck in her caused her to run away to France. She then compared the U.S. to her time in France and said it was like a “fairyland place.” What really drove the speech home, however, was when she explained the juxtaposition between being allowed to perform for and meet royalty but in America she was still not allowed to “get a cup of coffee.”

“You know, friends, that I do not lie to you when I tell you I have walked into the palaces of kings and queens and into the houses of presidents. And much more. But I could not walk into a hotel in America and get a cup of coffee, and that made me mad. And when I get mad, you know that I open my big mouth. And then look out, ‘cause when Josephine opens her mouth, they hear it all over the world.”

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