Alfre Woodard channels Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I a woman?”

March 9, 2012

We should be grateful for Sojourner Truth, we should be grateful for the women’s suffrage movement, we should be grateful for Howard Zinn‘s preservation and telling of history, and we can be grateful for inspired readings of original works by great performers like Alfre Woodard.

Alfre Woodard reads “Ain’t I a Woman?“, a speech delivered by abolitionist Sojourner Truth at the Women’s Convention in 1851. Part of a reading from Voices of A People’s History of the United States (Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove,)February 1, 2007 at All Saints Church in Pasadena, CA.

In my year at the University of Arizona I had the joy of working with David Williams’ speech department students in readers theatre.  We had a couple of performers whose readings of Sojourner Truth stirred audiences greatly (Martha Isom, where are you?).  This is a piece one does best to absorb from oral performance.  It is a piece that one should hear repeatedly, to understand.

Woodard nails this one well, I think.

Ms. Truth’s speech needs careful reflection.  She was not just speaking for women’s rights, but was lecturing the suffragists as well on their having overlooked the plight of women of color and working women, and women in poverty.  She’s talking to you, and to me, and asking us to confront our stereotypes of what women are and what women do, to recognize that women are humans, deserving of full respect for that reason alone.

Tip of the old scrub brush to the folks at MoveOn.org.

More, resources:


Prohibition — in 6 hours, by Ken Burns

October 2, 2011

Starts tonight on KERA, our local PBS affiliate.  A key part of history, especially for the political winds of 2011.

Should I require classes to watch it?

Part 1 runs tonight at 7:00 p.m. and the repeats at about 8:30 p.m. (if I’m reading this schedule correctly, and KERA has done this before with programs they expect to be very popular).

Part 2 is scheduled for Monday at 7:00, and Part 3 for Tuesday at 7:00 — with repeats to follow both nights.


Ladies’ choice: Happy birthday, women’s suffrage!

August 18, 2008

Ouch! Almost missed it: Today is the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, on August 18, 1920. Tennessee was the 36th state to ratify, pushing the total to three-fourths of the 48 states.  (12 more states ratified later, including North Carolina in 1971, and Mississippi in 1984.)

The Amendment reads:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

One of the better moves our nation ever made, in my opinion. Abigail Adams was right; John should have listened to her.

Abigail Adams who urged the vote for women in 1776, by Benjamin Blythe, 1766 (Wikimedia and Millsaps College)

Abigail Adams who urged the vote for women in the late 18th century; portrait by Benjamin Blythe, 1766 (Wikimedia and Millsaps College)

And “Vox Day” and Ann Coulter are both idiots.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Reed Cartwright at De Rerum Natura.


Vox Day, the goad goes on forever*

November 5, 2007

You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried. The Right Wing is working hard to make sure that every parody of them comes true. Vox Day said this today, in a comment about serial plagiarizer and general garden-party skunk Ann Coulter:

What Ann understands and so many nominal conservatives do not is that women’s suffrage is completely incompatible with human liberty or a republic as described in the U.S. Constitution. The two cannot co-exist. One cannot defend freedom on the basis of emotion, as fear always runs to promises of security, however nebulous.

It’s interesting to note that since women received the right to vote, no bald politician has been elected in either the United States or the UK with the exception of Eisenhower and Churchill. (Atlee was bald too, but he was running against Churchill so there was no hair option in 1945.) And being bona fide war heroes, both Churchill and Eisenhower represented security even more than the archtypical tall politician with executive hair; neither one of them were capable of winning in less extraordinary times.

So, Vox thinks we should take the vote away from women to elect bald men again? That will make one heck of a campaign button, and I can’t wait to see how it’s phrased in the Texas Republican Party platform.

Isn’t that roughly the same sort of thinking that got us into Iraq — same quality of reasoning, same clear connections, and of course, same sorts of historical error in blind ignorance of the facts and amazingly tin ear on what people think.

Is Vox balding that much? He’s that sensitive about it?

Historical error? Well, yeah — who among the presidents prior to Eisenhower was bald? (You can check pictures of the presidents here.) John Quincy Adams certainly had a lot of shiny pate visible. Martin Van Buren was bald, if we don’t count the copious hair he had around his receding hairline. But if we count receding hairline as bald, then we’d have to count Coolidge, Hoover, Truman and Nixon (whose bald spot was rarely photographed).  The bald and balding presidents:  John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren (with qualifications), Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford.

In fact, if we just look at the follicularly challenged, and not wholly bald, we find that the men with the least hair were all elected AFTER women’s suffrage. Vox Day rarely lets fact or reason get in the way of his thinking. Only Quincy Adams and Van Buren before women’s suffrage, and six baldies starting with Coolidge after.

But the question is, who is focusing on baldness here? Vox Day makes an implicit assumption that women do. It’s a wholly unevidenced, and in the light of history that shows the contrary, unreasonable assumption. He’s making hysterical error, with all the irony that drags along with it.

That anyone would argue for depriving women of the vote, hanging it on such flimsy evidence and bizarre reasoning, shows why women are justified in voting for Democrats. No one in the Democratic party is advancing arguments against women’s suffrage, on any basis.

You know what else? The mainstream media will “hide” Vox’s bizarre comments, not covering them at all, thereby protecting him and Republicans from the howls of justifiable outrage. Why do the media always protect conservatives who have taken leave of their senses?

* Apologies are probably due to Robert Earl Keen, composer of “The Road Goes On Forever.

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