Historians disagree on exactly what Sojourner Truth actually said that day in 1851. The first transcript of the speech was published one month after it was delivered, and in that version, the words “Ain’t I a Woman?” appear nowhere, although the phrase “I am for women’s rights” does come up twice. Twelve years later, a second version came out. That version is similar in content, but the syntax is noticeably changed to appear more colloquial, and the phrase “Ain’t I a Woman?” was scattered liberally throughout the text. Despite the probability that it is in fact this second version of the speech that is more butchered than the first transcription, this is the version that is widely regarded as “the original” and is quoted in history books.
When the Civil War began, Truth threw her energy into soliciting food and clothing for the volunteer regiments of black Union soldiers . Then the plight of freed slaves caught her attention, many of whom were living in refugee camps in the nation’s capital . She championed the idea of a colony for freed slaves in the American West where they would have a chance to become self-supporting and self-reliant. She garnered numerous signatures for her petition urging the Federal government to provide land for this endeavor. Although she presented the petition to President Ulysses S. Grant, her dream never materialized. Nevertheless, when a large migration of freed southern slaves made their way west in the fall of 1879, despite her advanced age, Truth traveled to Kansas to help them get settled. Sojourner Truth died in Battle Creek, Michigan on November 26, 1883. She was 92.