August 2006


Dear Colleague:


The Emancipation of the Mind lesson plan is based on the Understanding by Design (UBD) model, created by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe (2005).  According to UBD, designing curriculum starts by first considering what students will understand at the close of the lesson.  The essential question and guiding questions are key components of a UBD lesson plan.


Emancipation of the Mind focuses on the quest for education, literacy, learning, and self-improvement among formerly enslaved African Americans before the Civil War, using Henry Bibb as a case study.  Carter G. Woodson was one the first historians to interpret the historical experience of African Americans in education.  The content for this lesson plan comes from several print and online resources, including Woodson’s Journal of Negro History.


In this lesson you will find:

(1) two fifty (50) minute lessons (p. 2-3);

(2) an identification of Michigan Benchmarks and Standards (p. 4);

(3) assignment guidelines (p. 5);

(4) a recommended reading list (p. 6);

(5) an assessment rubric (p. 7);

(6) history-based articles (p. 8-14);

(7) history-based speeches (p. 15-25); and

(8) a meaningless letter to be used in the anticipatory set (p. 25).


A PowerPoint presentation has been created to accompany this lesson.  Articles found on JSTOR are also attached.  It is highly encouraged that you read the graphic and moving account recorded in Henry Bibb’s autobiography (  It is also desirous that you read the sources from the reading list. 


I hope you will find this unit relevant and applicable to your classroom instruction. 















Course: U.S. History

Unit: Slavery and Emancipation

Lesson Title: Emancipation of the Mind

Objective: Students will gain a greater understanding of the efforts at education, learning, literacy, and self-improvement among black Americans who escaped slavery in the antebellum era.

Time Frame: 50 minutes

Materials: Russian letter, Bibb PowerPoint, Assignment Guidelines

Essential Question: Did the Underground Railroad provide the means and resources to obtain literacy and education for black Americans who escaped slavery?

Guiding Questions:

v  What role did the desire for self-improvement play in the quest for education and literacy?

v  By what means did Black Americans obtain education after escaping slavery?

v  What role did free blacks and/or black institutions (churches, literary societies, mutual aid societies, anti-slavery societies, fraternal organizations) play in the education of freedom-seekers?


Anticipatory Set

(3 minutes)

Give students a sealed envelope.  Explain that the students cannot open the envelope until you give instructions.  Ask students, once they open the envelope, to read the short article in it.  Explain to students that the article contains important directions about how to find a hidden five hundred dollar bill that is stashed somewhere in the school building.  Assure the students that this is no joke, there really is a five hundred dollar bill hidden somewhere in the school building.  Direct the students to open the envelope and read the article.  The article is written in ancient Cyrillic, therefore the students will not understand a single word of it.  Introduce the idea of illiteracy among black Americans in antebellum America (and pull out a fake $500 from your pocket).

Guided Instruction

(17 minutes)

Using the PowerPoint, tell the story of Henry Bibb from slide one.  Discuss the questions on slide two.


Explain the limited educational opportunities for black Americans in the era; also share the limited educational opportunities for most Americans in antebellum America (women, lower class whites, immigrants, etc).   


Discuss the network of individuals who assisted the enslaved on their journey to freedom (Underground Railroad).  Finish telling students Henry Bibb’s eventual escape, his time in Detroit learning how to read and write, and his service as a journalist and abolitionist.  Read excerpts from his autobiography from slides three through six.

Independent Practice (24 minutes)

Present the “Anti-Slavery Speech” assignment to students.  Allow students to read over the guidelines individually.  Then, read over the sheet with students.  Be sure to clarify terms such as “antislavery”, “abolitionist”, “Vigilant Committee”, and “contemporary”.  After all questions have been addressed, allow students to use the remainder of the class period to begin reviewing some of the primary documents.  



On-going Assessment

Allow students to continue independent research for two to four weeks.  Occasionally use a few minutes of class time for students to discuss the progress of their research projects. 





DAY TWO (two to four weeks later)

Course: U.S. History

Unit: Slavery and Emancipation

Lesson Title: Emancipation of the Mind

Objective: Students will gain a greater understanding of the efforts at education, learning, literacy, and self-improvement among black Americans who escaped slavery in the antebellum era.

Time Frame: 50 minutes

Materials: Tent, chairs, banner, microphone, speakers,

Essential Question: Did the Underground Railroad provide the means and resources to obtain literacy and education for black Americans who escaped slavery?

Guiding Questions:

v  What role did the desire for self-improvement play in the quest for education and literacy?

v  By what means did Black Americans obtain education after escaping slavery?

v  What role did free blacks and/or black institutions (churches, literary societies, mutual aid societies, anti-slavery societies, fraternal organizations) play in the education of freedom-seekers?



Anticipatory Set

(2 minutes)

This is the day of the speeches; create the feel of an antislavery convention.  Rent a tent with chairs, a podium, and banners to be placed either in your field outside or in your gymnasium.  Allow a musically inclined student to sing a Negro spiritual, or play a CD of a antebellum spiritual.

Guided Instruction

(2 minutes)

Set the context by reminding students of the status of the majority of African Americans in America at the time—enslaved and unable to access education. 

Independent Practice

(30 minutes-one day)

Give each student three to four minutes to present their speech.


(10 minutes)

After all speeches have been given, debrief with students.  Discuss the course that the education of black Americans took after the civil war (establishment of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), formation of public school systems, lock-down of blacks who attended Northern PWC in the North, etc) and the role that segregation played in the limitations of black Americans quest for education.  Conclude by discussing the importance of education, especially a college education, in today’s society.  Perhaps you can compare the role and value of a college education in the antebellum period to today.

On-going Assessment (6 minutes)

Students will write a brief reflection on 1) the big ideas they learned by listening to others’ speeches and 2) the big ideas they learned through their own research and presentation.
















Standard 5:           All students will read and analyze a wide variety of classical and contemporary literature and other text to seek information, ideas, enjoyment, and understanding of their individuality, our common heritage, and common humanity, and the rich diversity in our society.


M.4.                        Investigate and demonstrate understanding of the cultural and historical context of the themes, issues, and our common heritage as depicted in literature and other texts.




Strand 2:               Comprehending the Past

All students will understand narratives about major eras of American and world history by identifying the people involved, describing the setting, and sequencing the events.


M.2                         Identify and explain how individuals in history demonstrated good character and personal virtue.


M.4                         Use historical biographies to explain how events from the past affected the lives of individuals and how some individuals influenced the course of history. 


H.2                         Identify and explain how individuals in history demonstrated good character and personal virtue.


Strand 3:               Analyzing and interpreting the Past

All students will reconstruct the past by comparing interpretations written by others from a variety of perspectives and creating narratives from evidence.


M.4                         Compose narratives of events from the history of Michigan and the United States prior to the era of Reconstruction.


Strand 4:               Judging Decisions from the Past

All students will evaluate key decisions made at critical turning points in history by assessing their implications and long-term consequences.


M.4                         Select historic decisions and evaluate them in light of core democratic values and resulting costs and benefits as viewed from a variety of perspectives.
















Detroit[1] Anti-Slavery Movement Speech



It is December 2, 1853.  Detroiters are actively involved in the anti-slavery and abolition movement.  As a member of the Detroit Vigilant Committee, you have been invited to give a speech at the annual convention about the importance of the education of the Negro.  This convention is bound to be one of the biggest and most important ones.  In a unique move, both men and women have been invited to speak, of course on separate sides of the room at the Masonic Hall.


You have been asked to be well-versed on the ideology of your contemporaries, therefore, you must become familiar with their speeches and writings.  Your contemporaries  include black American abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass, Henry Bibb, Rev. Henry Highland Garnett, Sojourner Truth, George DeBaptiste, William Lambert, Maria Stewart, William Wells Brown, Robert Purvis, and others.


There are many speakers on the roster who will speak on various topics, so you have only been given three to four minutes to make your speech.  Your speech should, in some way, mention the resources and activities of the Underground Railroad.  



Use the attached reading list to conduct research using primary documents.  You must read one document from EACH of the following categories:

v  An article from an abolitionist newspaper

v  A speech from a black American contemporary

v  A slave narrative from a black American contemporary



v  Your speech should be three to four minutes

v  Provide information about the importance of the education of black Americans from the perspective of an abolitionist in 1853

v  Your speech should be well-organized and have a convincing introduction, body, and conclusion



You will be assessed on:

v  Quality of ideas

Speech shows original and creative thinking


v  Depth of information

Speech shows a depth of knowledge from bibliography resources


v  Fulfills lesson objectives

Speech convincingly answers the essential question and addresses at least one the guiding questions

emancipation of the mind Reading List


Abolitionist Newspapers Articles (attached)


“Teaching the Negroes to Read.”  Frederick Douglass’ Paper, December 23, 1853 (Rochester,

New York).

“On the Condition of the Free People of Color.”  The Colored American, March 14, 1840

(New York, New York).


“Something New Under the Sun.”  Frederick Douglass’ Paper, August 11, 1854, (Rochester, New York).


Unnamed Article.  Provincial Freeman, December 23, 1854, (Toronto, Canada West).


“Education in Kentucky.”  The North Star, May 4, 1849, (Rochester, New York).


Abolitionists’ Speeches (attached)

"The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro" by Frederick Douglass, 1852


"Call to Rebellion" by Henry Highland Garnett


Untitled Speech by Sojourner Truth, 1843


Slave Narratives (

Harriet Jacobs

Frederick Douglass

Booker T. Washington

Henry Bibb


Articles (Attached)


Birnie, C.W.  Education of the Negro in Charleston, South Carolina, Prior to the Civil WarThe Journal of Negro History, Vol. 12, No. 1, (Jan., 1927) pp. 13-21.


Comminey, Shawn.  The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts and Black

Education in South Carolina, 1702-1764The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 84, No. 4 (Autumn 1999) 360-369.


Landon, Fred.  Henry Bibb, A ColonizerThe Journal of Negro History, Vol. 5, No. 4,

(Oct., 1920) p. 437-447


Martin, Tony.  The Banneker Literary Institute of Philadelphia: African American Intellectual

Activism before the War of the Slaveholder’s RebellionThe Journal of African American History.  Vol. 87 (Summer 2002) 302-322.


Williams, Heather Andrea.  Self-Taught: African American Education in Slavery and Freedom. 

Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.


Woodson, C.G.  Early Negro History in West VirginiaThe Journal of Negro Education.  Vol. 7.

No. 1 (Jan 1922) 23-63.




6 Points

The speech is exceptionally clear and focused.  Ideas and content are thoroughly developed with relevant details and examples where appropriate.  The speaker’s control over organization and the connections between ideas moves the audience smoothly and naturally through the speech.  The speaker shows a mature command of language including precise word choice that results in a compelling speech. 


5 Points

The speech is clear and focused.  Ideas and content are well developed with relevant details and examples where appropriate.  The speaker’s control over organization and the connections between ideas effectively moves the audience through the speech.  The speaker shows a mature command of language including precise word choice that results in a compelling speech. 


4 Points

The speech is generally clear and focused.  Ideas and content are developed with relevant details and examples where appropriate, although there may be some unevenness.  The speech is generally coherent, and its organization is functional.  The speaker’s command of language, including word choice, supports meaning. 


3 Points

The speech is somewhat clear and focused.  Ideas and content are developed with limited or partially successful use of examples and details.  There may be evidence of an organizational structure, but it may be artificial or ineffective. 


2 Points

The speech is only occasionally clear and focused.  Ideas and content are underdeveloped.  There may be little evidence of organizational structure.  Vocabulary may be limited. 


1 Point

The speech is generally unclear and unfocused.  Ideas and content are not developed or connected.  There may be no noticeable organizational structure. 


Condition codes for unratable speeches (zeroes):

A         Off topic

B         Spoken in a language other than English or illegible

C         Refused to respond









Taken from:


ITEM #47600
December 23, 1853
Rochester, New York


The Norfolk News, reports a trial before the Circuit Court of Virginia, Judge Baker presiding, in which the state prosecuted a Mrs. Margaret Douglas on a charge of teaching Negro children to read and write, “contrary to the statute in such cases made and provided, and against the peace and dignity of the commonwealth.” By the testimony of the witnesses called for the prosecution, said the News, it appeared that some months ago information reached the Mayor, Simon S. Stubbs, Esq., of a school for the education of blacks, being in successful operation in the city of Norfolk, under the superintendence f Mrs. Douglas. A warrant was immediately issued, with directions to bring all parties concerned before him, in order that the matter might be investigated. Upon repairing to the residence of Mrs. Douglas, the officers found some eighteen or twenty youthful descendants of Ham engaged in literary pursuits, all of whom, with their teachers, Mrs. Douglas and her daughter, were taken into custody and carried to the Mayor's office.

After a full investigation of the matter, the Mayor decided to discuss the complaint, in order that a Grand Jury a true bill was found against Mrs. Douglas and her daughter, but the latter having previously gone to New York, process could not be served upon her. On the part of the defense, the lady examined several prominent and respectable gentlemen, members of the Church for the purpose of showing that the practice of teaching blacks had been sanctified by the customs of the members of the different churches in the city, in having Sunday schools exclusively for that purpose. It did not appear from the evidence of any of the gentlemen called upon by Mrs. Douglas, that they had actually seen Negroes taught from books in any of the Sunday schools of the city, but the fact, as stated by them, that nearly all Negroes attending Sunday schools could read, gave rise to a violent suspicion that many of the ladies and gentlemen of the city, moving in the higher circles of society, had been guilty of as flagrant a violation of the laws as could be imputed to Mrs. Douglas and her daughter.

The testimony having concluded, Mrs. Douglas, who appeared in person, rose, and without denying the charge preferred against her, proceeded to justify it. She disdained to deny the charge preferred against her, or to shrink the responsibility on any way whatever, but gloried in the philanthropic duties of which she had been engaged. She denied, however, any knowledge of the existing laws upon the subject and confidently expected that the jury would, not pronounce her guilty for having committed no other offense than that of being betrayed into error, of such it was, by what she deemed distinguished precedents. Having concluded her address, she retired from the court, and the case was briefly concluded by the attorney for the commonwealth.

The jury at first could not agree, and it went over until the following morning, when they brought in a verdict of “guilty of teaching Negroes how to read and write,” and fined her one dollar. The News adds:
“The Judge, in passing sentence according to the statute will condemn her to imprisonment for not less than six months.”

If the blacks are so incapable of improvement as the friends of slavery pretend, it is not a little strange that the white should enact and enforce such unnatural laws against instructing them. If they are susceptible of improvement, the law which consigns Mrs. Douglas to a prison is unworthy of Algiers of the Barbary pirates. While the courts of Virginia are enforcing such legislative penalties against the benevolent impulses of philanthropic women, it is of little use to make platforms at Baltimore against the agitation of slavery. - Evening Post.




Taken from:


ITEM #5577
March 14, 1840
New York, New York


From the Anti-Slavery Examiner.



(Continued from our last.)



We explicitly disclaim all intention to imply that the several disabilities and cruelties we are specifying are of universal application...




The Federal Government is probably the only one in the world that forbids a portion of its subjects to participate in the national defense…




No colored man can be a judge, juror, or constable…




No people have ever professed so deep a conviction of the importance of popular education as ourselves, and no people have ever resorted to such cruel expedients to perpetuate abject ignorance. More than one-third of the whole population of the slave States are prohibited from learning even to read, and in some of them free men, if with dark complexions, are subject to stripes for teaching their own children. If we turn to the free States, we find that in all of them, without exception, the prejudices and customs of society oppose almost insuperable obstacles to the acquisition of a liberal education by colored youth. Our academies and colleges are barred against them. We know there are instances of young men with dark skins, having been received, under peculiar circumstances, into northern colleges; but we neither know nor believe that there have been a dozen such instances within the last thirty years.


Colored children are very generally excluded from our common schools, in consequence of the prejudices of teachers and parents. In some of our cities there are schools exclusively for their use, but in the country the colored population is usually too sparse to justify such schools; and white and black children are rarely seen studying under the same roof, although such cases do sometimes occur, and then they are confined to elementary schools. Some colored young men, who could bear the expense, have obtained in European seminaries the education denied them in their native land.

It may not be useless to cite an instance of the malignity with which the education of the blacks is opposed. The efforts made in Connecticut to prevent the establishment of schools of a higher order than usual, for colored pupils, are too well known to need a recital here; and her BLACK ACT, prohibiting the instruction of colored children from other States, although now expunged from her statute book through the influence of abolitionists, will long be remembered to the opprobrium of her citizens. We ask attention to the following illustration of public opinion in another New England State.


In 1834 an academy was built by subscription in CANAAN, New Hampshire, and a charter granted by the legislature; and at a meeting of the proprietors it was determined to receive all applicants having "suitable moral and intellectual recommendations, without other distinctions;" in other words, without reference to complexion. - When this determination was made known, a TOWN MEETING was forthwith convened, and the following resolutions adopted, viz:


"RESOLVED, That we view with abhorrence the attempt of the abolitionists to establish in this town a school for the instruction of the sable sons and daughters of Africa, in common with our sons and daughters.

"RESOLVED, That we will not associate with nor in any way countenance, any man or woman who shall hereafter persist in attempting to establish a school in this town for the exclusive education of blacks, or for their education in conjunction with the whites."

The frankness of this last resolve is commendable. The inhabitants of Canaan, assembled in legal town meeting, determined, it seems, that the blacks among them should in future have no education whatever - they should not be instructed in company with the whites, neither should they have schools exclusively for themselves.


The proprietors of the academy supposing, in the simplicity of their hearts, that in a free country they might use their property in any manner not forbidden by law, proceeded to open their school, and in the ensuing spring had twenty-eight white, and fourteen colored scholars. The crisis had now arrived when the cause of prejudice demanded the sacrifice of constitutional liberty and of private property. Another town meeting was convoked, at which, without a shadow of authority, and in utter contempt of law and decency, it was ordered that the academy should be forcibly removed, and a committee was appointed to execute the abominable mandate. Due preparations were made for the occasion, and on the 10th of August, three hundred men, with about 200 oxen, assembled at the place, and taking the edifice from off its foundation, dragged it to a distance, and left it a ruin. No one of the actors in this high-handed outrage was ever brought before a court of justice to answer for this criminal and riotous destruction of the property of others.


The transaction we have narrated, expresses in emphatic terms the deep and settled hostility felt in the free States to the education of the blacks. - The prejudices of the community render that hostility generally effective, without the aid of legal enactments. Indeed, some remaining regard to decency and the opinion of the world has restrained the legislatures of the free States, with one exception, from consigning these unhappy people to ignorance by "decreeing unrighteous decrees," and "framing mischief by a law." Our readers, no doubt, feel that the exception must of course, be OHIO.


We have seen with what deference Ohio legislators profess to regard their constitutional obligations; and we are now to contemplate another instance of their shameless violation of them. The Constitution, which these men have sworn to obey, declares, "NO LAWS SHALL BE PASSED to prevent the poor of the several townships and counties in this State from an equal participation in the schools, academies, colleges, and universities in this State, which are endowed in whole, or in part, from the revenue arising from donations made by the United States, for the support of colleges and schools; and the door of said schools, academies and universities shall be open for the reception of scholars, students and teachers of every grade, without ANY DISTINCTION OR PREFERENCE WHATSOEVER."


Can language be more explicit or unequivocal? But have any donations been made by the United States for the support of colleges and schools in Ohio? Yes - by an act of Congress, the sixteenth section of land in each originally surveyed township in the State, was set apart as a donation for the express purpose of endowing and supporting common schools. And now, how have the scrupulous legislators of Ohio, who refuse to acknowledge any other than constitutional obligations to give ear to the cry of distress - how have they obeyed this injunction of the Constitution respecting the freedom of their schools? They enacted a law in 1831, declaring that "when any appropriation shall be made by the directors of any school district, from the treasury thereof, for the payment of a teacher, the school in such district shall be open" - to whom? To "scholars, students and teachers of every grade, without distinction or preference whatever," as commanded by the Constitution? Oh, no! - "shall be open to all the WHITE children residing therein!" - Such is the impotency of written constitutions where a sense of moral obligation is wanting to enforce them.


We have not taken to review of the Ohio laws against free people of color. Some of them are of old, and others of recent date. The opinion entertained of all these laws, new and old, by the present legislators of Ohio, may be learned by a resolution adopted in January last, (1839) by both houses of the Legislature. "RESOLVED, That in the opinion of this general assembly, it is unwise, impolitic, and inexpedient to repeal any law now in force imposing disabilities upon black or mulatto persons, thus placing them upon an equality with the whites, so far as this Legislature can do, and indirectly inviting the black population of other States to emigrate to this, to the manifest injury of the public interest." The best comment on the spirit, which dictated this resolve, is an enactment by the same Legislature, abrogating the supreme law which requires us to "Do unto others as we would they should do unto us," and prohibiting every citizen of Ohio from harboring or concealing a fugitive slave, under the penalty of fine or imprisonment. General obedience to this vile statute is alone wanting to fill to the brim the cup of Ohio's iniquity and degradation. She hath done what she could to oppress and crush the free negroes within her borders. She is now seeking to rechain the slave who has escaped from his fetters.  (To be continued.)




























Taken from:


ITEM #62677
August 11, 1854
Rochester, New York



SOMETHING NEW UNDER THE SUN. We have before us an “Address delivered by FREDERICK DOUGLASS, before the literacy societies of Western Reserve College, at Commencement, July 12th, 1854.” This is perhaps the first occasion in this country that a man of color has been called upon to lecture before a Literary Institution. The subject selected for the entertainment of the audience was the “Claims of the Negro;” and we have been most agreeably surprised, on a careful perusal of the address, to observe the candor, learning, and discrimination, with which the author has discussed it. Those who are seeking for information upon the origin of the races, and kindred topics, should on no account omit a careful perusal of this eloquent vindication of the negro race, and of the Scriptural account of the creation of man. Mr. Douglass has condensed into a small compass a great amount of learning upon the interesting theme; and although his comments and reflections are made in a spirit of calm philosophy, there are occasional flashes of true eloquence.


It is one of the marvels of the age, that a fugitive from Slavery, reared to manhood under all the weight of its depressing influences, should be the author of this able and learned Address. This fact alone is the best refutation of the atheistical fanatics, who would exclude the negro from the pale of manhood. National Era.




























Taken from:


ITEM #27824
December 23, 1854
Toronto, Canada West



Zion's Herald thus characterizes the conduct of the chivalrous Southerners in and around New Orleans:

"FRIGHTENED. - The people of New Orleans have been considerably alarmed of late. They have seen - what? A ghost? The ravages of the yellow fever? Nay; worse than all this - they have found out that the African Methodist Episcopal Church, an organization composed entirely of colored people, has two or three societies in New Orleans, and is about to establish another in Mobile! What is still more appalling, they have discovered that Bishop Quinn, a colored man, has dared (!) to visit New Orleans for the purpose of ordaining some colored preachers! These facts have stirred up the Quattlebums of the Crescent City, and like a lot of old grannies, listening to some tale of horror, they are turning up their eyes and spreading out their hands in terrified wonder. The press has taken up the subject. The organ of the M.E. Church, South, in that city, has solemnly disclaimed all connection with it. Something has got to be done, for the wiseacres there, find in these facts signs of an Atlantic rolling in upon the peculiar institutions, and they are about to mop out the unwelcome waves after the example of that renowned lady Mrs. Parkington. Poor, conscience-stricken cowards! How self-degraded they must feel, if they reflect upon the occasion of their alarm. And what a rotten institution slavery must be, if its friends tremble thus at the sight of a poor African bishop, and two or three religious societies of colored people. Would that the sturdy spirit of the old Scotch Covenanters would enter into those New Orleans colored Christians and prompt them to claim their undoubted right to worship God as they think best; aye, and to maintain the claim to, even unto martyrdom. They would not suffer in vain. They might be sacrificed, a noble holocaust, at the shrine of slavery, but their spirit would quicken their race to efforts for self-improvement, which would help out redemption.
























Taken from:


ITEM #14559
May 4, 1849
Rochester, New York


Education in Kentucky.

In his message to the Legislature of this Commonwealth in 1837, Governor Clark declared that one-third of the adult population of the State were unable to write their names. An examination of marriage certificates signed since that period does not disprove what Gov. Clark declared. For the last ten years, our wisest and best men have been trying to introduce a system of common schools in our Commonwealth, with what success the recent report of the Rev. Dr. Breckenridge shows. Every Kentuckian must admit that a very large portion of our fellow-citizens are unable to write their names or read their Bibles, and there is not the slightest expectation that a better condition of things is likely to exist so long as that foe to education, slavery, is permitted to remain in the State. Notwithstanding the many efforts that the friends of education in the various slave States have made to get common schools well established, there is not a slave State in the Union in which there is any such school system in operation! It is not because citizens of slave States do not make proper efforts, but it is owing to the fact, that where slavery is tolerated, the population will be too parse for common schools.

The advocates of slavery hate statistics, and they do not hate them without a cause. Statistics prove that the slave States are in a deplorable condition of ignorance. The rich and those who are well to do in the world are educated, but the masses of the people are unprovided with educational facilities, and, despite what the Journal calls our "common school system, the stump and newspaper" they grow up utterly ignorant of the use of the pen and the type. In 1840, in the fifteen slave States and Territories, there were 202,085 scholars in the primary schools, while in the same class of schools in the free States 1,626,028, or more then eight times as many. The scholars in the single State of Ohio outnumbered the scholars in all the slave States! In the slave States one in every ten of the white population are unable to read or write, while in the free States one in every ten of the white population are unable to read or write, while in the free States the proportion is one to very hundred and fifty. There is scarcely a child born of American parents in the free States that is permitted to grow up without some schooling, while in the slave States the population is almost exclusively native in its origin, and the ignorance is of domestic origin too. All the penitentiaries in the country show that the class which can neither read or write furnish a very large proportion of their criminals. - Louisville Journal.



















Taken from: Africans in America,


On July 5, 1852, Douglass gave a speech at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, held at Rochester's Corinthian Hall.


"The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro"


Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men, too ‹ great enough to give frame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory....

...Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold, that a nation's sympathy could not warm him? Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish, that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation's jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the "lame man leap as an hart."

But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common.‹The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!

"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth."

Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, "may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!" To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave's point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery ‹ the great sin and shame of America! "I will not equivocate; I will not excuse"; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.

But I fancy I hear some one of my audience say, "It is just in this circumstance that you and your brother abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, an denounce less; would you persuade more, and rebuke less; your cause would be much more likely to succeed." But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti-slavery creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it. The slaveholders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government. They acknowledge it when they punish disobedience on the part of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia which, if committed by a black man (no matter how ignorant he be), subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of the same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment. What is this but the acknowledgment that the slave is a moral, intellectual, and responsible being? The manhood of the slave is conceded. It is admitted in the fact that Southern statute books are covered with enactments forbidding, under severe fines and penalties, the teaching of the slave to read or to write. When you can point to any such laws in reference to the beasts of the field, then I may consent to argue the manhood of the slave. When the dogs in your streets, when the fowls of the air, when the cattle on your hills, when the fish of the sea, and the reptiles that crawl, shall be unable to distinguish the slave from a brute, then will I argue with you that the slave is a man!

For the present, it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the Negro race. Is it not astonishing that, while we are ploughing, planting, and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver and gold; that, while we are reading, writing and ciphering, acting as clerks, merchants and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators and teachers; that, while we are engaged in all manner of enterprises common to other men, digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding sheep and cattle on the hill-side, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives and children, and, above all, confessing and worshipping the Christian's God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave, we are called upon to prove that we are men!

Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? that he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? Is that a question for Republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with great difficulty, involving a doubtful application of the principle of justice, hard to be understood? How should I look to-day, in the presence of Americans, dividing, and subdividing a discourse, to show that men have a natural right to freedom? speaking of it relatively and positively, negatively and affirmatively. To do so, would be to make myself ridiculous, and to offer an insult to your understanding. There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.

What, am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their masters? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? No! I will not. I have better employment for my time and strength than such arguments would imply.

What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that slavery is not divine; that God did not establish it; that our doctors of divinity are mistaken? There is blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman, cannot be divine! Who can reason on such a proposition? They that can, may; I cannot. The time for such argument is passed.

At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could reach the nation's ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival....

...Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. "The arm of the Lord is not shortened," and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from "the Declaration of Independence," the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference. The time was when such could be done. Long established customs of hurtful character could formerly fence themselves in, and do their evil work with social impunity. Knowledge was then confined and enjoyed by the privileged few, and the multitude walked on in mental darkness. But a change has now come over the affairs of mankind. Walled cities and empires have become unfashionable. The arm of commerce has borne away the gates of the strong city. Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe. It makes its pathway over and under the sea, as well as on the earth. Wind, steam, and lightning are its chartered agents. Oceans no longer divide, but link nations together. From Boston to London is now a holiday excursion. Space is comparatively annihilated. -- Thoughts expressed on one side of the Atlantic are distinctly heard on the other.

The far off and almost fabulous Pacific rolls in grandeur at our feet. The Celestial Empire, the mystery of ages, is being solved. The fiat of the Almighty, "Let there be Light," has not yet spent its force. No abuse, no outrage whether in taste, sport or avarice, can now hide itself from the all-pervading light. The iron shoe, and crippled foot of China must be seen in contrast with nature. Africa must rise and put on her yet unwoven garment. 'Ethiopia, shall, stretch. out her hand unto God." In the fervent aspirations of William Lloyd Garrison, I say, and let every heart join in saying it:

God speed the year of jubilee
The wide world o'er!
When from their galling chains set free,
Th' oppress'd shall vilely bend the knee,
And wear the yoke of tyranny
Like brutes no more.
That year will come, and freedom's reign,
To man his plundered rights again

God speed the day when human blood
Shall cease to flow!
In every clime be understood,
The claims of human brotherhood,
And each return for evil, good,
Not blow for blow;
That day will come all feuds to end,
And change into a faithful friend
Each foe.

God speed the hour, the glorious hour,
When none on earth
Shall exercise a lordly power,
Nor in a tyrant's presence cower;
But to all manhood's stature tower,
By equal birth!
That hour will come, to each, to all,
And from his Prison-house, to thrall
Go forth.

Until that year, day, hour, arrive,
With head, and heart, and hand I'll strive,
To break the rod, and rend the gyve,
The spoiler of his prey deprive --
So witness Heaven!
And never from my chosen post,
Whate'er the peril or the cost,
Be driven.

Taken from: Africans in America,


Garnet's "Call to Rebellion"


An Address to the Slaves of the United States of America

". . . rather die freemen, than live to be slaves."

BRETHREN AND FELLOW CITIZENS:-- YOUR BRETHREN OF THE North, East, and West have been accustomed to meet together in National Conventions, to sympathize with each Other, and to weep over your unhappy condition. In these meetings we have addressed all classes of the free, but we have never until this time, sent a word of consolation and advice to you. We have been contented in sitting still and mourning over your sorrows, earnestly hoping that before this day your sacred liberty would have been restored. But, we have hoped in vain. Years have rolled on, and tens of thousands have been borne on streams of blood and tears, to the shores of eternity. While you have been oppressed, we have also been partakers with you; nor can we be free while you are enslaved. We, therefore, write to you as being bound with you.

Many of you are bound to us, not only by the ties of a common humanity, but we are connected by the more tender relations of parents, wives, husbands, children, brothers, and sisters, and friends. As such we most affectionately address you.

Slavery has fixed a deep gulf between you and us, and while it shuts out from you the relief and consolation which your friends would willingly render, it affects and persecutes you with a fierceness which we might not expect to see in the fiends of hell. But still the Almighty Father of mercies has left to us a glimmering ray of hope, which shines out like a lone star in a cloudy sky. Mankind are becoming wiser, and better -- the oppressor's power is fading, and you, every day, are becoming better informed, and more numerous. Your grievances, brethren, are many. We shall not attempt, in this short address, to present to the world all the dark catalogue of this nation's sins, which have been committed upon an innocent people. Nor is it indeed necessary, for you feel them from day to day, and all the civilized world look upon them with amazement.

Two hundred and twenty-seven years ago, the first of our injured race were brought to the shores of America. They came not with glad spirits to select their homes in the New World. They came not with their own consent, to find an unmolested enjoyment of the blessings of this fruitful soil. The first dealings they had with men calling themselves Christians, exhibited to them the worst features of corrupt and sordid hearts; and convinced them that no cruelty is too great, no villainy and no robbery too abhorrent for even enlightened men to perform, when influenced by avarice and lust.

Neither did they come flying upon the wings of Liberty, to a land of freedom. But they came with broken hearts, from their beloved native land, and were doomed to unrequited toil and deep degradation. Nor did the evil of their bondage end at their emancipation by death. Succeeding generations inherited their chains, and millions have come from eternity into time, and have returned again to the world of spirits, cursed and ruined by American slavery.

The propagators of the system, or their immediate ancestors, very soon discovered its growing evil, and its tremendous wickedness, and secret promises were made to destroy it. The gross inconsistency of a people holding slaves, who had themselves "ferried o'er the wave" for freedom's sake, was too apparent to be entirely overlooked. The voice of Freedom cried, "Emancipate your slaves." Humanity supplicated with tears for the deliverance of the children of Africa. Wisdom urged her solemn plea. The bleeding captive plead his innocence, and pointed to Christianity who stood weeping at the cross. Jehovah frowned upon the nefarious institution, and thunderbolts, red with vengeance, struggled to leap forth to blast the guilty wretches who maintained it. But all was in vain. Slavery had stretched its dark wings of death over the land, the Church stood silently by -- the priests prophesied falsely, and the people loved to have it so. Its throne is established, and now it reigns triumphant.

Nearly three millions of your fellow-citizens are prohibited by law and public opinion, (which in this country is stronger than law,) from reading the Book of Life. Your intellect has been destroyed as much as possible, and every ray of light they have attempted to shut out from your minds. The oppressors themselves have become involved in the ruin. They have become weak, sensual, and rapacious-they have cursed you-they have cursed themselves-they have cursed the earth which they have trod.

The colonists threw the blame upon England. They said that the mother country entailed the evil upon them, and that they would rid themselves of it if they could. The world thought they were sincere, and the philanthropic pitied them. But time soon tested their sincerity.

In a few years the colonists grew strong, and severed themselves from the British Government. Their independence was declared, and they took their station among the sovereign powers of the earth. The declaration was a glorious document. Sages admired it, and the patriotic of every nation reverenced the God-like sentiments which it contained. When the power of Government returned to their hands, did they emancipate the slaves? No; they rather added new links to our chains. Were they ignorant of the principles of Liberty? Certainly they were not. The sentiments of their revolutionary orators fell in burning eloquence upon their hearts, and with one voice they cried, LIBERTY OR DEATH. Oh what a sentence was that! It ran from soul to soul like electric fire, and nerved the arm of thousands to fight in the holy cause of Freedom. Among the diversity of opinions that are entertained in regard to physical resistance, there are but a few found to gainsay that stern declaration. We are among those who do not.

SLAVERY! How much misery is comprehended in that single word? What mind is there that does not shrink from its direful effects? Unless the image of God be obliterated from the soul, all men cherish the love of Liberty. The nice discerning political economist does not regard the sacred right more than the untutored African who roams in the wilds of Congo. Nor has the one more right to the full enjoyment of his freedom than the other. In every man's mind the good seeds of liberty are planted, and he who brings his fellow down so low, as to make him contented with a condition of slavery, commits the highest crime against God and man. Brethren, your oppressors aim to do this. They endeavor to make you as much like brutes as possible. When they have blinded the eyes of your mind-when they have embittered the sweet waters of life-then, and not till then, has American slavery done its perfect work.

TO SUCH DEGRADATION IT IS SINFUL IN THE EXTREME FOR YOU TO MAKE VOLUNTARY SUBMISSION. The divine commandments you are in duty bound to reverence and obey. If you do not obey them, you will surely meet with the displeasure of the Almighty. He requires you to love him supremely, and your neighbor as yourself -- to keep the Sabbath day holy -- to search the Scriptures -- and bring up your children with respect for his laws, and to worship no other God but him. But slavery sets all these at nought, and hurls defiance in the face of Jehovah. The forlorn condition in which you are placed, does not destroy your moral obligation to God. You'are not certain of heaven, because you suffer yourselves to remain in a state of slavery, where you cannot obey the commandments of the Sovereign of the universe. If the ignorance of slavery is a passport to heaven, then it is a blessing, and no curse, and you should rather desire its perpetuity than its abolition. God will not receive slavery, nor ignorance, nor any other state of mind, for love and obedience to him. Your condition does not absolve you from your moral obligation. The diabolical injustice by which your liberties are cloven down, NEITHER GOD, NOR ANGELS, OR JUST MEN, COMMAND YOU TO SUFFER FOR A SINGLE MOMENT. THEREFORE IT IS YOUR SOLEMN AND IMPERATIVE DUTY TO USE EVERY MEANS, BOTH MORAL, INTELLECTUAL, AND PHYSICAL THAT PROMISES SUCCESS. If a band of heathen men should attempt to enslave a race of Christians, and to place their children under the influence of some false religion, surely Heaven would frown upon the men who would not resist such aggression, even to death. If, on the other hand, a band of Christians should attempt to enslave a race of heathen men, and to entail slavery upon them, and to keep them in heathenism in the midst of Christianity, the God of heaven would smile upon every effort which the injured might make to disenthrall [sic] themselves.

Brethren, it is as wrong for your lordly oppressors to keep you in slavery as it was for the man thief to steal our ancestors from the coast of Africa. You should therefore now use the same manner of resistance, as would have been just in our ancestors when the bloody foot-prints of the first remorseless soul-thief was placed upon the shores of our fatherland. The humblest peasant is as free in the sight of God as the proudest monarch that ever swayed a scepter [sic]. Liberty is a spirit sent out from God, and like its great Author, is no respecter of persons.

Brethren, the time has come when you must act for yourselves. It is an old and true saying that, "if hereditary bondmen would be free, they must themselves strike the blow." You can plead your own cause, and do the work of emancipation better than any others. The nations of the world are moving in the great cause of universal freedom, and some of them at least will, ere long, do you justice. The combined powers of Europe have placed their broad seal of disapprobation upon the African slave-trade. But in the slaveholding parts of the United States, the trade is as brisk as ever. They buy and sell you as though you were brute beasts. The North has done much -- her opinion of slavery in the abstract is known. But in regard to the South, we adopt the opinion of the New York Evangelist -- We have advanced so far, that the cause apparently waits for a more effectual door to be thrown open than has been yet. We are about to point out that more effectual door. Look around you, and behold the bosoms of your loving wives heaving with untold agonies! Hear the cries of your poor children! Remember the stripes your fathers bore. Think of the torture and disgrace of your noble mothers. Think of your wretched sisters, loving virtue and purity, as they are driven into concubinage [sic] and are exposed to the unbridled lusts of incarnate devils. Think of the undying glory that hangs around the ancient name of Africa-and forget not that you are native born American citizens, and as such, you are justly entitled to all the rights that are granted to the freest. Think how many tears you have poured out upon the soil which you have cultivated with unrequited toil and enriched with your blood; and then go to your lordly enslavers and tell them plainly, that you are determined to be free. Appeal to their sense of justice, and tell them that they have no more right to oppress you, than you have to enslave them. Entreat them to remove the grievous burdens which they have imposed upon you, and to remunerate you for your labor. Promise them renewed diligence in the cultivation of the soil, if they will render to you an equivalent for your services. Point them to the increase of happiness and prosperity in the British West Indies since the Act of Emancipation. Tell them in language which they cannot misunderstand, of the exceeding sinfulness of slavery, and of a future judgment, and of the righteous retributions of an indignant God. Inform them that all you desire is FREEDOM, and that nothing else will suffice. Do this, and for ever after cease to toil for the heartless tyrants, who give you no other reward but stripes and abuse. If they then commence the work of death, they, and not you, will be responsible for the consequences. You had better all die -- die immediately, than live slaves and entail your wretchedness upon your posterity. If you would be free in this generation, here is your only hope. However much you and all of us may desire it, there is not much hope of redemption without the shedding of blood. If you must bleed, let it all come at once rather die freemen, than live to be slaves. It is impossible like the children of Israel, to make a grand exodus from the land of bondage. The Pharaohs are on both sides of the blood-red waters! You cannot move en masse, to the dominions of the British Queen-nor can you pass through Florida and overrun Texas, and at last find peace in Mexico. The propagators of American slavery are spending their blood and treasure, that they may plant the black flag in the heart of Mexico and riot in the halls of the Montezumas [sic]. In the language of the Rev. Robert Hall, when addressing the volunteers of Bristol, who were rushing forth to repel the invasion of Napoleon, who threatened to lay waste the fair homes of England, "Religion is too much interested in your behalf, not to shed over you her most gracious influences."

You will not be compelled to spend much time in order to become inured to hardships. From the first moment that you breathed the air of heaven, you have been accustomed to nothing else but hardships. The heroes of the American Revolution were never put upon harder fare than a peck of corn and a few herrings per week. You have not become enervated by the luxuries of life. Your sternest energies have been beaten out upon the anvil of severe trial. Slavery has done this, to make you subservient, to its own purposes; but it has done more than this, it has prepared you for any emergency. If you receive good treatment, it is what you could hardly expect; if you meet with pain, sorrow, and even death, these are the common lot of slaves.

Fellow men! Patient sufferers! behold your dearest rights crushed to the earth! See your sons murdered, and your wives, mothers and sisters doomed to prostitution. In the name of the merciful God, and by all that life is worth, let it no longer be a debatable question whether it is better to choose Liberty or death..

In 1822, Denmark Veazie [sic], of South Carolina, formed a plan for the liberation of his fellow men. In the whole history of human efforts to overthrow slavery, a more complicated and tremendous plan was never formed. He was betrayed by the treachery of his own people, and died a martyr to freedom. Many a brave hero fell, but history, faithful to her high trust, will transcribe his name on the same monument with Moses, Hampden, Tell, Bruce and Wallace, Toussaint L'Ouverture, Lafayette and Washington. That tremendous movement shook the whole empire of slavery. The guilty soulthieves [sic] were overwhelmed with fear. It is a matter of fact, that at that time, and in consequence of the threatened revolution, the slave States talked strongly of emancipation. But they blew but one blast of the trumpet of freedom and then laid it aside. As these men became quiet, the slaveholders ceased to talk about emancipation; and now behold your condition today! Angels sigh over it, and humanity has long since exhausted her tears in weeping on your account!

The patriotic Nathaniel Turner followed Denmark Veazie [sic]. He was goaded to desperation by wrong and injustice. By despotism, his name has been recorded on the list of infamy, and future generations will remember him among the noble and brave.

Next arose the immortal Joseph Cinque, the hero of the Amistad. He was a native African, and by the help of God he emancipated a whole shipload of his fellow men on the high seas. And he now sings of liberty on the sunny hills of Africa and beneath his native palm-trees, where he hears the lion roar and feels himself as free as that king of the forest.

Next arose Madison Washington that bright star of freedom, and took his station in the constellation of true heroism. He was a slave on board the brig Creole, of Richmond, bound to New Orleans, that great slave mart, with a hundred and four others. Nineteen struck for liberty or death. But one life was taken, and the whole were emancipated, and the vessel was carried into Nassau, New Providence.

Noble men! Those who have fallen in freedom's conflict, their memories will be cherished by the true-hearted and the God-fearing in all future generations; those who are living, their names are surrounded by a halo of glory.

Brethren, arise, arise! Strike for your lives and liberties. Now is the day and the hour. Let every slave throughout the land do this and the days of slavery are numbered. You cannot be more oppressed than you have been -- you cannot suffer greater cruelties than you have already. Rather die freemen than live to be slaves. Remember that you are FOUR MILLIONS!

It is in your power so to torment the God-cursed slaveholders that they will be glad to let you go free. If the scale was turned, and black men were the masters and white men the slaves, every destructive agent and element would be employed to lay the oppressor low. Danger and death would hang over their heads day and night. Yes, the tyrants would meet with plagues more terrible than those of Pharaoh. But you are a patient people. You act as though, you were made for the special use of these devils. You act as though your daughters were born to pamper the lusts of your masters and overseers. And worse than all, you tamely submit while your lords tear your wives from your embraces and defile them before your eyes. In the name of God, we ask you, are you men? Where is the blood of your fathers? Has it all run out of your veins? Awake, awake; millions of voices are calling you! Your dead fathers speak to you from their graves. Heaven, as with a voice of thunder, calls on you to arise from the dust.

Let your motto be resistance! resistance! RESISTANCE! No oppressed people have ever secured their liberty without resistance. What kind of resistance you had better make, you must decide by the circumstances that surround you, and according to the suggestion of expediency. Brethren, adieu! Trust in the living God. Labor for the peace of the human race, and remember that you are FOUR MILLIONS.





































Taken from: Sojourner Truth Speeches and Commentary


August 21, 1843


Sojourner Truth first came to Michigan to address the Friends of Human Progress Association meeting on October 4-5, 1856. It was soon after this visit to Battle Creek that she returned to southwest Michigan to live until her death in 1883. This text of her address was recorded by the acting secretary of the Association, Thomas Chandler, and published in the Anti-Slavery Bugle (October 1856).


As you were speaking this morning of little children, I was looking around and thinking it was most beautiful. But I have had children and yet never owned one, no one ever owned one; and of such there's millions -- who goes to teach them? You have teachers for your children but who will teach the poor slave children?


I want to know what has become of the love I ought to have for my children? I did have love for them, but what has become of it? I cannot tell you. I have had two husbands but I never possessed one of my own. I have had five children and never could take one of them up and say, 'My child' or 'My children,' unless it was when no one could see me.


I believe in Jesus, and I was forty years a slave but I did not know how dear to me was my posterity. I was so beclouded and crushed. But how good and wise is God, for if the slaves knowed what their true condition was, it would be more than the mind could bear. While the race is sold of all their rights -- what is there on God's footstool to bring them up? Has not God given to all his creatures the same rights? How could I travel and live and speak? When I had not got something to bear me up, when I've been robbed of all my affections for husband and children.

Some years ago there appeared to me a form (here the speaker gave a very graphic description of the vision she had). Then I learned that I was a human being. We had been taught that we was a species of monkey, baboon or 'rang-o-tang, and we believed it -- we'd never seen any of these animals. But I believe in the next world. When we gets up yonder, we shall have all of them rights 'stored to us again -- all that love what I've lost -- all going to be 'stored to me again. Oh! How good God is.


My mother said when we were sold, we must ask God to make our masters good, and I asked who He was. She told me, He sit up in the sky. When I was sold, I had a severe, hard master, and I was tied up in the barn and whipped. Oh! Till the blood run down the floor and I asked God, why don't you come and relieve me -- if I was you and you'se tied up so, I'd do it for you.

(The speaker continued her remarks for some time in a very simple and unsophisticated style, and at the close, by the suggestion of Henry Willis, a collections was taken up for her benefit, which resulted in a liberal contribution and was very gratefully received by her.)









[1] Detroit is used here as an example.  Replace “Detroit” and “Michigan” with the city and state in which the lesson is taught.