Educated for Freedom: The Incredible Story of Two Fugitive Schoolboys Who Grew Up to Change a Nation, by Anna Mae Duane
Anna Mae Duane, the author of Educated for Freedom, is Associate Professor of English and director of the American Studies Program at the University of Connecticut. According to the book blurb, “In the 1820s, few Americans could imagine a viable future for black children. Even abolitionists saw just two options for African American youth: permanent subjection or exile. Educated for Freedom tells the story of James McCune Smith and Henry Highland Garnet, two black children who came of age and into freedom as their country struggled to grow from a slave nation into a free country. Smith and Garnet met as schoolboys at the Mulberry Street New York African Free School, an educational experiment created by founding fathers who believed in freedom’s power to transform the country. Smith and Garnet’s achievements were near-miraculous in a nation that refused to acknowledge black talent or potential. The sons of enslaved mothers, these schoolboy friends would go on to travel the world, meet Revolutionary War heroes, publish in medical journals, address Congress, and speak before cheering crowds of thousands. The lessons they took from their days at the New York African Free School #2 shed light on how antebellum Americans viewed black children as symbols of America’s possible future. The story of their lives, their work, and their friendship testifies to the imagination and activism of the free black community that shaped the national journey toward freedom.”
Duane argues, “The questions that plagued Smith and Garnet remain relevant today. The notion that somehow Black bodies are doomed – stuck on a historical wheel that keeps returning them to the same place – has powerful resonance in the twenty-first century, as the country continues to reenact bitter divisions over the role of race in remembering our history and imagining our future” (10).
According to Karen Ordahl Kupperman, Professor Emerita, New York University, “Duane unravels the story of two boys enrolled in New York’s African Free School” who “as accomplished adults . . . confronted the reality that America offered African Americans.” Derrick Spires believes the book “will become indispensible for those invested in deep and complex understandings of black life and letter in the long nineteenth century.” James Brewer Stewart, founder of Historians Against Slavery, calls the book a “methodological tour de force.”
The Kidnapping Club: Wall Street, Slavery, and Resistance on the Eve of the Civil War by Jonathan Daniel Wells
In The Kidnapping Club, Jonathan Daniel Wells, a social, cultural, and intellectual historian and a Professor of History in the Departments of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan, tells the story of the powerful network of judges, lawyers, and police officers who circumvented anti-slavery laws by sanctioning the kidnapping of free and fugitive African Americans. Nicknamed “The New York Kidnapping Club,” the group had the tacit support of institutions from Wall Street to Tammany Hall whose wealth depended on the Southern slave and cotton trade. But a small cohort of abolitionists, including Black journalist David Ruggles, organized tirelessly for the rights of Black New Yorkers, often risking their lives in the process. Taking readers into the bustling streets and ports of America’s great Northern metropolis, The Kidnapping Club is a dramatic account of the ties between slavery and capitalism, the deeply corrupt roots of policing, and the strength of Black activism.
“With New York City as its backdrop, The Kidnapping Club offers an important and compelling narrative that explores the long struggle for Black freedom and equality. Jonathan Daniel Wells offers a rich and timely account that uncovers a history of racial violence and terror in nineteenth-century Gotham. To no surprise, law enforcement, politicians, and bankers thwarted Black freedom time and time again. But the power and fortitude of Black New Yorkers pressed white citizens to remember and uphold the ideals of a new nation. The Kidnapping Club is a must read for those who want to understand current debates about the intersection of Black lives and structural oppression.”― Erica Armstrong Dunbar, author of Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge
“Jonathan Daniel Wells’ The Kidnapping Club is a necessary story of black agency and resistance. Bringing to life the competing strains of humanism and oppression that echo our present-day struggles, Wells paints a portrait of New York that reveals the best of American principles in the bodies of black resistors while showing us the economic complexity and complicity of America’s greatest city. It is a brilliant history perfectly suited for our times.”― Michael Eric Dyson, author of Tears We Cannot Stop and What Truth Sounds Like
“The Kidnapping Club maps and specifies both the top-side financial connections between the capitalists of the North and the slavers of the South and the underbelly of police corruption, violence, and kidnapping that knit together. And it manages to combine acute historical analysis with literary drama and a persistent, gentle humanity. You should read it.”― Walter Johnson, author of The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States
“Nineteenth-century New York City was a battleground for African Americans, who most whites assumed to be undeserving of freedom. Jonathan Wells’ The Kidnapping Club brings to life the struggles in the courts and on the streets between those who sought to send blacks to slavery in the south; those who benefited from southern slavery; and the small group of interracial activists who fought against slavery and would eventually prevail in claiming freedom for all regardless of race. From politicians and jurists to newspaper owners, and from bankers to ministers to common laborers, everyone had a stake in the central question of the moment: the legality and morality of slavery and the status of people of African descent in the nation. Wells’ gripping narrative brings to life the real-life impact of these questions on every New Yorker, and how the struggle over racial equality affected every sector of life in antebellum New York City.” ― Leslie M. Harris, author of In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863.
Stephen and Harriet Myers Residence, Albany: This is an award-winning Greek Revival building built in 1847. Underground Railroad site. It celebrates the anti-slavery activism of Stephen and Harriet Myers and their colleagues, the meetings of the Vigilance Committee, and the Freedom Seekers who stopped here to request assistance. The Residence has seven rooms on three stories with a full basement that housed the kitchen and dining area. It was the home of Stephen and Harriet Myers and their four children in the mid-1850s, when it was also the office and meeting place of the local Vigilance Committee. Over 50 Freedom Seekers were directed there for assistance. Stephen Myers was born enslaved in New York State. He and Harriet were the central figures in Northeastern New York’s Underground Railroad movement (https://undergroundrailroadhistory.org/residence/)
North Star Underground Railroad Museum, Ausable Chasm: The museum shares stories of the Champlain line of the Underground Railroad, which includes the Upper Hudson River, Champlain Canal and Lake Champlain in the Northern section of the Adirondacks. Freedom seekers traveling north navigated these waterways into Canada, making Lake Champlain a gateway to freedom. Exhibits include stories of enslaved individuals and families who traveled through the Champlain Valley to Canada or settled in the area, local safe houses, as well as accounts of the debates over slavery and the divisions it caused. https://northcountryundergroundrailroad.com/museum.php
Harriet Tubman National Historical Site, Auburn: This 26-acre estate in upstate New York includes the former home of Harriet Tubman, a two-story brick home provided by William Seward, the U.S. senator from New York, a welcome center and the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged. She helped hundreds of enslaved people and families to freedom on her Underground Railroad over a period of 12 years. In 1857 she moved to Auburn and continued her work as the conductor of the Underground Railroad. https://www.nps.gov/hart/index.htm
Plymouth Church, Brooklyn: Under the cover of night freedom-seekers would come and others would leave the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn. The basement of the church was a hiding place. The church started in 1847 and was led by anti-slavery advocate and senior minister Henry Ward Beecher. From its beginnings, the church served as a vital philosophical and geographical link in the Underground Railroad. Famous visitors include President Abraham Lincoln and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The National Register of Historic Places designated the church a National Historic Landmark in 1961. https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/underground/ny6.htm
Gerrit Smith Estate National Park, Petersboro: Gerrit Smith was one of the most powerful abolitionists in the United States, using his wealth to assist formerly enslaved people reach freedom, arranging safe passage to Canada, helping families establish their lives locally, gifting land and providing educational opportunities. Among the properties’ treasure are the five original horse stalls that were used in the Underground Railroad. “The Gerrit Smith Estate is a National Historic Landmark. https://www.gerritsmith.org/
Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center, Niagara Falls: Showcases the stories of Underground Railroad freedom seekers and abolitionists in Niagara Falls. Located inside the former 1863 U.S. Custom House attached to the Niagara Falls Amtrak Station, the One More River to Cross permanent exhibition spotlights the crucial role Niagara Falls played by its location and geography, and the actions of its residents and particularly its African American residents. https://www.niagarafallsundergroundrailroad.org/
Editor’s Note:This is the third day of a multi-day lesson in a three-lesson sequence designed for fourth grade on slavery and New York developed by April Francis for the Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES Integrated Social Studies/ELA Curriculum.
Aim: How did New Yorkers challenge slavery? NYS Social Studies Framework: 4.5a: There were slaves in New York State. People worked to fight against slavery and for change; Students will investigate people who took action to abolish slavery, including Samuel Cornish, Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and Harriet Tubman.
Social Studies Practices: Gathering, Interpreting, and Using Evidence; Comparison and Contextualization; Geographic Reasoning; Economics and Economic Systems; Civic Participation
Next Gen. ELA Standards: o 4R6: In informational texts, compare and contrast a primary and secondary source on the same event or topic. (RI); o 4R8: Explain how claims in a text are supported by relevant reasons and evidence. (RI&RL) o 4W5: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to respond and support analysis, reflection, and research by applying grade 4 reading standards. o 4SL4: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace and volume appropriate for audience.
Learning Objectives: Identify Harriet Tubman, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, The Jerry Rescue, African Free School, and the AntiSlavery Society. Define resist and resistance.
Analyze the Underground Railroad system. Decipher and understand various primary and secondary sources. Develop individual and group presentation skills. Evaluate which form of resistance was most successful in ending slavery in NYS.
Materials: Video: Harriet Tubman (4:48 minutes) https://www.youtube.com/watchv=Dv7YhVKFqbQ&feature=youtu.be o Source 1. Harriet Tubman biography o Source 2. NYS Map of the Underground Railroad o Source 3a & 3b. African Free School o Source 4. Frederick Douglass & The North Star o Source 5. Anti-Slavery Society o Source 6. The “Jerry Rescue” Syracuse, NY
Formative Task: Students will serve experts on one form of resistance used against slavery and present it as a group to the whole class.
Lesson Narrative & Procedure: In this lesson, students will be introduced to the term “resistance” and analyze various methods New Yorkers used to fight against the system of slavery. Students will be introduced to famous abolitionists such as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and William Lloyd Garrison. Through video analysis, students will understand how the secret Underground Railroad system was used to help enslaved people escape to freedom. To synthesize their learning, students will be asked to summarize the methods some New Yorkers used to resist the slave system.
Preparation for Day 1: Make copies of “Source 1: Harriet Tubman biography” and the “Circle Map” worksheet. Queue video: Harriet Tubman (4:48 minutes)
Day 1 Engage (10 minutes): The teacher should introduce the supporting question “How did some New Yorkers resist the slavery system?” by having a student read it aloud to the class. The teacher should ask students if they know what the term “resist” means. After students respond, the teacher should give an example of “resisting” and then share a definition of the term. Once students have a foundation of the term “resist” the teacher should ask students, “Based on what we have learned, why do you think some New Yorkers would want to resist the slave system?” Students should respond with examples from the previous lessons.
Explore (20 minutes): The teacher should distribute Source 1: Harriet Tubman Biography. Ask students what they know about Harriet Tubman. Students will share various answers. After students respond, the teacher can share they will participate in the read aloud. During the read aloud, students can annotate the reading. Additionally, the teacher can choose to play the animated video Harriet Tubman as a support to the reading (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWVr57o_ElU ).
Once students have finished the reading (and/or video), students share main ideas on their circle map, that answer the questions: a. How did Harriet Tubman resist the slave system? b. How did she help others? Ask, “What can this biography inform us about Harriet Tubman’s character? Do you know of anyone today that would be similar to Harriet Tubman in character?
Explain (10 minutes): After discussing Harriet Tubman, the teacher can ask students, “Based on your own knowledge and our reading today, what do you know about the Underground Railroad?” Students can share various answers. The teacher can then state, “New York State played a vital role in the Underground Railroad. Let’s investigate how the Underground Railroad worked in helping people resist the slave system.”
Elaborate (15 minutes): The teacher will have students work in pairs on the “Underground Railroad” packet. The student worksheet is located on the last page of the packet. Once students have completed the packet, the teacher can participate in a whole class review. The teacher should ensure to ask follow-up or clarifying questions when needed based on student responses.
Evaluate (10 minutes)
After review, the teacher should distribute the Exit Ticket- Day 1 to each student, asking them to respond to the question prompt: Do you think you would have been able to escape using the Underground Railroad? Explain. a. An alternative activity to the “exit ticket” is creating a Padlet board online for student responses.
Day 2 Preparation: Print Sources 2-6 and create “Stations” for student groups. Make copies of the “Resisting Slavery” Graphic Organizer Chart.
Engage (15 minutes): The teacher should reintroduce the supporting question “How did some New Yorkers resist the slavery system?” and have students complete a brainstorm of their understanding of yesterday’s lesson using the “3-2-1” method: a) 3 things they learned from yesterday’s lesson. b) 2 things they found interesting. c) 1 question they still have? After reviewing using the 3-2-1 method, the teacher can have students analyze Sources 2-6, in a group format.
The teacher can state: a. “Today we are going to analyze other ways people in New York resisted the slave system in the 1800s. We will be working in cooperative teams, using your “Resistance of Slavery in New York” chart to record your findings. Each team will be assigned one document to analyze, and then they will report on this document to the class.
i. Station 1. Source 2. NYS Map of UGRR (printed in color or viewed on a smartboard)
ii. Station 2. Source 3a & 3b. African Free School
iii. Station 3. Source 4. Frederick Douglass & The North Star
iv. Station 4. Source 5a & 5b. Anti-Slavery Society
v. Station 5. Source 6. The “Jerry Rescue” Syracuse, NY
Note: Teachers should use their knowledge of their students and assign the documents based on student levels. Documents can also be modified to meet specific needs of individual classrooms.
Explore & Explain (15 minutes). Students should analyze the document they were assigned for their group. As a group, they should fill out their portion of the Graphic Organizer – Resisting Slavery and then decide how they will present this information to the rest of the class.
Elaborate (15 minutes). After student analysis, each team should share their “expert” knowledge of the source they were assigned in a presentation format. Students can use the Source Analysis Guide-Historical Thinking Chart adapted from the Stanford Historical Education Group (SHEG) to help develop their presentation. For each group presentation, the teacher should project the source onto the Smartboard so it is visible for all students. While one group is sharing, all members should be recording key points onto their individual “Resisting Slavery” graphic organizers.
Evaluate (10 minutes). After group presentations, the teacher can distribute the Exit Ticket- Day 2 and state, “Slavery was finally banned in New York State in 1827, ‘Which method of resistance do you think was most successful in ending slavery in New York State? Why?’”
Background: (A) Harriet Tubman was born a slave. Her parents named her Araminta “Minty” Ross. She changed her name in 1849 when she escaped. She adopted the name Harriet after her mother and the last name Tubman after her husband. Tubman suffered a head injury as a teenager which gave her…sleeping spells. She was deeply religious and according to her it was her religious beliefs that gave her courage rescue friends and family over and over again. She remained illiterate [unable to read or write] for her entire life.
(B) Harriet Tubman was the most famous conductor of the Underground Railroad. In a decade she guided over 300 slaves to freedom; abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison thought she deserved the nickname “Moses”. She worked hard to save money to return and save more slaves. In time she built a reputation and many Underground Railroad supporters provided her with funds and shelter to support her trips.
(C) During the Civil War, Tubman served as a nurse, cook, laundress, spy and scout. After the Emancipation Proclamation she returned to Auburn where she lived the rest of her life. She opened her doors to those in need. With donations and the money from her vegetable garden she was able to support herself and those she helped. She raised money to open schools for African Americans and gave speeches on Women’s rights. Her dream was to build a home for the elderly and in 1908 the Harriet Tubman Home for the Elderly was created.
Source 2. Underground Railroad Routes in New York State The Underground Railroad was a connection of people helping enslaved people escape from slavery in the early and mid19th century. It included free blacks, whites, church people, and abolitionists. Enslaved Africans traveled to freedom by any means available, using homes as stops, songs, and secret codes. This map shows escape routes used by runaways when traveling through New York State.
Source 3a. New York African Free School Right after the American Revolution, the New York Manumission Society was created. It worked to end the slave trade around the world and to achieve the abolition of slavery in the new county. It established the African Free School in New York City, the first education organization for Black Americans in North America. It served both free blacks and the children of enslaved people.
Source 3b.African Free School Student Award for Edward T. Haines Source: https://www.nyhistory.org/web/africanfreeschool Edward T. Haines proudly displays his handwriting skill and his title as assistant monitor general, a position that carried significant responsibilities. The 1820 U.S. census lists an African American ‘Hains’ family with a boy Edward’s age living in New York City’s Fifth Ward, a west-side neighborhood south of Canal Street that was the home of many free people of color in New York City.
Source 5a – Anti-Slavery Society William Lloyd Garrison was born December 10, 1805 in Newburyport, Massachusetts. In 1830 he started an abolitionist paper, The Liberator. In 1832 he helped form the New England Anti-Slavery Society When the Civil War broke out, he continued to speak against the Constitution as a pro-slavery document. When the civil war ended, he at last saw the abolition of slavery. He died May 24, 1879 in New York City. Source: www.biography.com
Source 5b – Anti-Slavery Society Gerrit Smith founded the New York State Anti-slavery Society in Peterboro, New York in 1835.
This monument, added to Clinton Square, Syracuse, NY in 2001, celebrates the October 1, 1851, rescue of William “Jerry” Henry, an escaped slave from Missouri. Henry had been arrested in Syracuse and since he was an escaped slave; law officers were eager to follow the Fugitive Slave Act and wanted to return him to Missouri. The Fugitive Slave Act was a United States law that said runaways, even in free states, had to be returned to their masters. Henry was arrested the same day an abolitionist meeting was taking place in the city. A large group of fifty-two men stormed a police station, pounded on down its doors, and rescued “Jerry” Henry. Within a few days, “Jerry” escaped to freedom in Kingston, Ontario. The “Jerry Rescue” itself was organized by area abolitionist leaders.
How did some New Yorkers resist the slave system? Directions: Use this chart to organize your information for each document.
The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses established in the United States during the early to mid-19th century and used by African American enslaved people to escape into free states, Canada and Nova Scotia with the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause. It is believed that around 100,000 runaways between 1810 and 1860 escaped using the network. The majority of the runaways came from the upper south states that bordered free states such as Kentucky, Virginia, and Maryland.
The Underground Railroad was not located underground, and it was not a railroad. It was symbolically underground as the network’s activities were secret and illegal, so they had to remain “underground” to help fugitive slaves stay out of sight. The term “railroad” was used because the railroad was a system of transportation and its supporters used railroad code to communicate in secret language. Runaways used songs called spirituals to communicate with each other. Homes where fugitives (runaways) would stay and eat were called “stations” or “depots” the owner of the house was the “station master” and the “conductor” was the person responsible to move slaves from station to station. Those financing the Underground Railroad by donating money, food, and clothing were called “stockholders”.
Codes and Songs of the Underground Railroad Supporters of the Underground Railroad used words railroad conductors employed every day to create their own code as secret language in order to help slaves escape. Below are a sample of some of the words used:
Songs were used in everyday life by enslaved African Americans. Singing was a tradition brought from Africa by the first enslaved people; sometimes their songs are called spirituals. Singing served many purposes such as providing a rhythm for manual work, inspiration and motivation. Singing was also used to express their values and solidarity with each other and during celebrations. Songs were used as tools to remember and communicate since the majority of enslaved African Americans could not read. Harriet Tubman and others used songs as a strategy to communicate their struggle for freedom. Coded songs contained words giving directions on how to escape also known as signal songs or where to meet known as map songs.
When the Sun comes back And the first quail calls Follow the Drinking Gourd. For the old man is a-waiting for to carry you to freedom if you follow the Drinking Gourd. The riverbank makes a very good road. The dead trees will show you the way. Left foot, peg foot, traveling on, Follow the Drinking Gourd. The river ends between two hills Follow the Drinking Gourd. For the old man is a-waiting for to carry you to freedom if you follow the Drinking Gourd.
This song suggests escaping in the spring as the days get longer. The drinking gourd is a water dipper which is a code name for the constellation Big Dipper which points to the Pole Star towards the north. Moss grows on the north side of dead trees, so if the Big Dipper is not visible, dead trees will guide them north.
Why do you think it was known as the Underground Railroad??
Why do you think runaways were called fugitives?
What role did songs play in the Underground Railroad?
What are some of the symbols in the song and what do they refer to?
This dramatization designed for classrooms explores the lives and words of freedom-seekers from New York and the South and Black abolitionist who fought to end slavery in the United States. Each speaker is a real historic figure and addresses the audience in his or her own words.
Background: The Dutch West India Company (WIC) founded New Amsterdam on the southern tip of Manhattan Island in 1624. The name was changed to New York in honor of the Duke of York after Great Britain took control over the small settlement in 1664. The Duke of York was the younger brother of the King of England and a future king himself. He was also the head of the Royal African Company, which was engaged in the transAtlantic slave trade. Many enslaved Africans were branded with the letters RAC, the company’s initials, or DY, which stood for Duke of York.
The first eleven enslaved Africans were brought to New Amsterdam in 1626 to work for the WIC. The first slave auction in what would become New York City was probably held in 1655. The city Common Council established the Wall Street slave market in 1711. The last enslaved Africans in New York were freed on July 4, 1827, which meant slavery existed in New Amsterdam/New York for over 200 years, which is longer than there has been freedom in the city.
This play introduces African Americans, some born enslaved and some born free, who helped transform New York City and state into a center of resistance to slavery. It also tells about the ugly truth of slavery in New Amsterdam and New York. Each of the speakers in this play is a real historical figure and the words that they utter are from their speeches and writing or from contemporary newspaper accounts.
The play opens with a petition from Emanuel and Reytory Pieterson. They were free Blacks in colonial New Amsterdam. In 1661, they petitioned the Dutch government to recognize that their adopted son, eighteen-year old Anthony van Angola, was a free man because his parents were free when he was born and he was raised by free people.
Venture Smith was born in Africa, kidnapped, sold into slavery, and transported, first to Barbados, and then Fisher’s Island off the east coast of Long Island. In a memoir, published in 1796, Smith described brutal treatment while enslaved. Jupiter Hammon was the first Black poet published in the United States. Austin Steward was brought as a slave from Virginia to upstate New York where he secured his freedom and established himself as a merchant. Peter Williams, Jr. was an Episcopal priest who organized the St. Philip’s African Church in New York City. Thomas James was born a slave in Canajoharie, New York and later became an important figure in the AME church. John B. Russwurm published the first African American newspaper in the United States. William Hamilton was co-founder of the New York African Society for Mutual Relief. James McCune Smith was the first African American to obtain a medical degree. David Ruggles was a founder and secretary of the New York Committee of Vigilance.
Samuel Ringgold Ward’s family escaped enslavement in Maryland when he was a child. He became an abolitionist, newspaper editor, and Congregationalist minister. Henry Highland Garnet also escaped to the freedom with his family when he was a child and he became one of the most radical Black abolitionists. Solomon Northup was a free Black man in upstate New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana. After twelve years of enslavement he was able to contact his family and secured his freedom. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, Frederick Douglass became a leading abolitionist orator and newspaper editor. Jermain Loguen was an abolitionist, teacher, minister and Underground Railroad “station master” in Syracuse.
After gaining her freedom when New York State abolished slavery, Isabella Bomfree became Sojourner Truth, an itinerant minister and abolitionist and feminist speaker. Harriet Jacobs wrote about her life enslaved in North Carolina and the discrimination suffered by free Blacks in the North. James Pennington opposed segregation in New York and championed education for African American children. Elizabeth Jennings was a free woman of color who challenged segregation on New York City street cars. William Wells Brown, a former freedom-seeker, worked as a steamboatman on Lake Erie helping other freedom-seekers escape to Canada. Harriet Tubman was the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad. Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was a writer and an activist for African Americans and woman.
New York’s African Americans Demand Freedom
1. Reytory Pieterson: Reytory and Emanuel Pieterson were free Blacks in colonial New Amsterdam. In 1661 they petitioned the Dutch government to recognize that eighteen-year old Anthony van Angola, who they raised after the death of his parents, was born free and should legally be recognized as a free man.
Reytory, in the year 1643, on the third of August, stood as godparent or witness at the Christian baptism of a little son of one Anthony van Angola, begotten with his own wife named Louise, the which aforementioned Anthony and Louise were both free Negroes; and about four weeks thereafter the aforementioned Louise came to depart this world, leaving behind the aforementioned little son named Anthony, the which child your petitioner out of Christian affection took to herself, and with the fruits of her hands’ bitter toil she reared him as her own child, and up to the present supported him, taking all motherly solicitude and care for him . . .Your petitioners….very respectfully address themselves to you, noble and right honorable lords, humbly begging that your noble honors consent to grant a stamp in this margin of this document . . . declaring] that he himself, being of free parents, reared and brought up without burden or expense of the West Indian Company . . . may be declared by your noble honors to be a free person.
2. Venture Smith: Venture Smith was born in Africa, kidnapped, sold into slavery, and transported, first to Barbados and then Fisher’s Island off the east coast of Long Island. When he was twenty-two years old, Smith married and attempted to escape from bondage. He eventually surrendered to his master, but was permitted to earn money to purchase his freedom and the freedom of his family. He published his memoirs in 1796.
My master having set me off my business to perform that day and then left me to perform it, his son came up to me in the course of the day, big with authority, and commanded me very arrogantly to quit my present business and go directly about what he should order me. I replied to him that my master had given me so much to perform that day, and that I must faithfully complete it in that time. He then broke out into a great rage, snatched a pitchfork and went to lay me over the head therewith, but I as soon got another and defended myself with it, or otherwise he might have murdered me in his outrage. He immediately called some people who were within hearing at work for him, and ordered them to take his hair rope and come and bind me with it. They all tried to bind me, but in vain, though there were three assistants in number. I recovered my temper, voluntarily caused myself to be bound by the same men who tried in vain before, and carried before my young master, that he might do what he pleased with me. He took me to a gallows made for the purpose of hanging cattle on, and suspended me on it. I was released and went to work after hanging on the gallows about an hour.
3. Jupiter Hammon:Jupiter Hammon, who was enslaved on Long Island, was the first Black poet published in the United States. He addressed this statement to the African population of New York in 1786, soon after national independence.
Liberty is a great thing, and worth seeking for, if we can get it honestly, and by our good conduct, prevail on our masters to set us free. That liberty is a great thing we may know from our own feelings, and we may likewise judge so from the conduct of the white people, in the late war. How much money has been spent, and how many lives have been lost, to defend their liberty. I must say that I have hoped that God would open their eyes, when they were so much engaged for liberty, to think of the state of the poor blacks, and to pity us.
4. Austin Steward: Austin Steward was born in 1793 in Prince William County, Virginia. As a youth, he was brought to upstate New York where he eventually secured his freedom and established himself as a merchant in Rochester.
We traveled northward, through Maryland, Pennsylvania, and a portion of New York, to Sodus Bay, where we halted for some time. We made about twenty miles per day, camping out every night, and reached that place after a march of twenty days. Every morning the overseer called the roll, when every slave must answer to his or her name, felling to the ground with his cowhide, any delinquent who failed to speak out in quick time.
After the roll had been called, and our scanty breakfast eaten, we marched on again, our company presenting the appearance of some numerous caravan crossing the desert of Sahara. When we pitched our tents for the night, the slaves must immediately set about cooking not their supper only, but their breakfast, so as to be ready to start early the next morning, when the tents were struck; and we proceeded on our journey in this way to the end . . . My master . . . hired me out to a man by the name of Joseph Robinson . . . He was . . .tyrannical and cruel to those in his employ; and having hired me as a “slave boy,” he appeared to feel at full liberty to wreak his brutal passion on me at any time, whether I deserved rebuke or not; . . . he would frequently draw from the cart-tongue a heavy iron pin, and beat me over the head with it, so unmercifully that he frequently sent the blood flowing over my scanty apparel, and from that to the ground, before he could feel satisfied.
5. Peter Williams, Jr.: Reverend Peter Williams, Jr. was an Episcopal priest who organized the St. Philip’s African Church in New York City. In 1808, Williams delivered this prayer commemorating the outlawing of the trans-Atlantic slave trade by the United States.
Oh, God! we thank thee, that thou didst condescend to listen to the cries of Africa’s wretched sons; and that thou didst interfere in their behalf. At thy call humanity sprang forth, and espoused the cause of the oppressed; one hand she employed in drawing from their vitals the deadly arrows of injustice; and the other in holding a shield, to defend them from fresh assaults; and at that illustrious moment, when the sons of 76 pronounced these United States free and independent; when the spirit of patriotism, erected a temple sacred to liberty; when the inspired voice of Americans first uttered those noble sentiments, “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”; and when the bleeding African, lifting his fetters, exclaimed, “am I not a man and a brother”; then with redoubled efforts, the angel of humanity strove to restore to the African race, the inherent rights of man. . . . May the time speedily commence, when Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands; when the sun of liberty shall beam resplendent on the whole African race; and its genial influences, promote the luxuriant growth of knowledge and virtue.
6. Thomas James: Reverend Thomas James was born enslaved in Canajoharie, New York. When he was eight years-old, James was separated from his mother, brother and sister when they were sold away to another owner. He escaped from slavery when he was seventeen. He later became an important figure in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
While I was still in the seventeenth year of my age, Master Kimball was killed in a runaway accident; and at the administrator’s sale I was sold with the rest of the property . . .My new master had owned me but a few months when he sold me, or rather traded me, . . . in exchange for a yoke of steers, a colt and some additional property. I remained with Master Hess from March until June of the same year, when I ran away. My master had worked me hard, and at last undertook to whip me. This led me to seek escape from slavery. I arose in the night, and taking the newly staked line of the Erie canal for my route, traveled along it westward until, about a week later, I reached the village of Lockport. No one had stopped me in my flight. Men were at work digging the new canal at many points, but they never troubled themselves even to question me. I slept in barns at night and begged food at farmers’ houses along my route. At Lockport a colored man showed me the way to the Canadian border. I crossed the Niagara at Youngstown on the ferry-boat, and was free!
7. John B. Russwurm: Freedom’s Journal was the first African American newspaper published in the United States. It was founded and edited by Samuel Cornish and John B. Russwurm in New York City in 1827. Its editorials stressed the fight against slavery and racial discrimination.
We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us. Too long has the public been deceived by misrepresentations, in things which concern us dearly, though in the estimation of some mere trifles; for though there are many in society who exercise towards us benevolent feelings; still (with sorrow we confess it) there are others who make it their business to enlarge upon the least trifle, which tends to the discredit of any person of color; and pronounce anathemas and denounce our whole body for the misconduct of this guilty one . . . Education being an object of the highest importance to the welfare of society, we shall endeavor to present just and adequate views of it, and to urge upon our brethren the necessity and expediency of training their children, while young, to habits of industry, and thus forming them for becoming useful members of society . . . The civil rights of a people being of the greatest value, it shall ever be our duty to vindicate our brethren, when oppressed; and to lay the case before the public. We shall also urge upon our brethren, (who are qualified by the laws of the different states) the expediency of using their elective franchise.
8. William Hamilton: William Hamilton was a carpenter and co-founder of the New York African Society for Mutual Relief. On July 4, 1827 he delivered an Emancipation Day Address celebrating the end of slavery in New York State.
“LIBERTY! kind goddess! brightest of the heavenly deities that guide the affairs or men. Oh Liberty! where thou art resisted and irritated, thou art terrible as the raging sea and dreadful as a tornado. But where thou art listened to and obeyed, thou art gentle as the purling stream that meanders through the mead; as soft and as cheerful as the zephyrs that dance upon the summers breeze, and as bounteous as autumn’s harvest. To thee, the sons of Africa, in this once dark, gloomy, hopeless, but now fairest, brightest, and most cheerful of thy domain, do owe a double obligation of gratitude. Thou hast entwined and bound fast the cruel hands of oppression – thou hast by the powerful charm of reason deprived the monster of his strength – he dies, he sinks to rise no more. Thou hast loosened the hard bound fetters by which we were held. And by a voice sweet as the music of heaven, yet strong and powerful, reaching to the extreme boundaries of the state of New-York, hath declared that we the people of color, the sons of Africa, are free.”
9. James McCune Smith: Dr. James McCune Smith was an African American physician who studied medicine in Glasgow, Scotland. Here he describes a manumission day parade in New York that he attended as a youth.
A splendid looking black man, mounted on a milk-white steed, then his aids on horseback, dashing up and down the line; then the orator of the day, also mounted, with a handsome scroll, appearing like a baton in his right hand, then in due order, splendidly dressed in scarfs of silk with gold-edgings, and with colored bands of music and their banners appropriately lettered and painted, followed, the New York African Society for Mutual Relief, the Wilberforce Benevolent Society, and the Clarkson Benevolent Society; then the people five or six abreast from grown men to small boys. The sidewalks were crowded with wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers of the celebrants, representing every state in the Union, and not a few with gay bandanna handkerchiefs, betraying their West Indian birth. Nor was Africa underrepresented. Hundreds who survived the middle passage and a youth in slavery joined in the joyful procession.
10. David Ruggles: David Ruggles was born free in Norwich, Connecticut in 1810. He moved to New York City in 1827 where he was a founder and secretary of the New York Committee of Vigilance which aided hundreds of fugitive slaves. He also founded the city’s first Black bookstore, was a noted abolitionist lecturer, published a newspaper, and ran a boarding house that was a stop on the Underground Railroad. In 1838, he provided safe-haven in his home for a freedom-seeker named Frederick Bailey who later changed his name to Frederick Douglass.
The whites have robbed us for centuries – they made Africa bleed rivers of blood! – they have torn husbands from their wives – wives from their husbands – parents from their children – children from their parents – brothers from their sisters – sisters from their brothers, and bound them in chains – forced them into holds of vessels – subjected them to the most unmerciful tortures: starved and murdered, and doomed them to endure the horrors of slavery. . . . But why is it that it seems to you so “repugnant” to marry your sons and daughters to colored persons? Simply because public opinion is against it. Nature teaches no such “repugnance,” but experience has taught me that education only does. Do children feel and exercise that prejudice towards colored persons? Do not colored and white children play together promiscuously until the white is taught to despise the colored?
11. Samuel Ringgold Ward: Samuel Ringgold Ward’s family escaped enslavement in Maryland when he was a child. He became an abolitionist, newspaper editor, and Congregationalist minister. He was forced to flee the United States in 1851 because of his involvement in anti-slavery activity in Syracuse.
I was born on the 17th October, 1817, in that part of the State of Maryland, commonly called the Eastern Shore. My parents were slaves. I was born a slave. They escaped, and took their then only child with them . . . I grew up, in the State of New Jersey, where my parents lived till I was nine years old, and in the State of New York, where we lived for many years. My parents were always in danger of being arrested and re-enslaved. To avoid this, among their measures of caution, was the keeping of their children quite ignorant of their birthplace, and of their condition, whether free or slave, when born.
12. Solomon Northup: Solomon Northup was a free Black man in upstate New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana. After twelve years of enslavement he was able to contact his family and secured his freedom. His memoir remains a powerful indictment of the slave system.
My ancestors on the paternal side were slaves in Rhode Island. They belonged to a family by the name of Northup, one of whom, removing to the State of New York, settled at Hoosic, in Rensselaer county. He brought with him Mintus Northup, my father. On the death of this gentleman, which must have occurred some fifty years ago, my father became free, having been emancipated by a direction in his will.. . . Though born a slave, and laboring under the disadvantages to which my unfortunate race is subjected, my father was a man respected for his industry and integrity, as many now living, who well remember him, are ready to testify. His whole life was passed in the peaceful pursuits of agriculture, never seeking employment in those more menial positions, which seem to be especially allotted to the children of Africa. Besides giving us an education surpassing that ordinarily bestowed upon children in our condition, he acquired, by his diligence and economy, a sufficient property qualification to entitle him to the right of suffrage . . . Up to this period I had been principally engaged with my father in the labors of the farm. The leisure hours allowed me were generally either employed over my books, or playing on the violin – an amusement which was the ruling passion of my youth.
13. Henry Highland Garnet: Henry Highland Garnet escaped to freedom with his family when he was a child and became a Presbyterian minister in Troy and New York City. At the 1843 National Negro Convention in Buffalo, New York, Garnet called on enslaved Africans to revolt against their masters.
Let your motto be resistance! It is in your power so to torment the God-cursed slave-holders, 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, 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. Trust in the living God. Labor for the peace of the human race, and remember that you are four millions.
14. Frederick Douglass: Frederick Washington Bailey was born in Maryland in 1817. He was the son of a White man and an enslaved African woman so he was legally a slave. As a boy he was taught to read in violation of state law. In 1838, he escaped to New York City where he married and changed his name to Frederick Douglass. In 1847, Frederick Douglass started an anti-slavery newspaper in Rochester, New York.
“We solemnly dedicate the ‘North Star’ to the cause of our long oppressed and plundered fellow countrymen. May God bless the undertaking to your good. It shall fearlessly assert your rights, faithfully proclaim your wrongs, and earnestly demand for you instant and even-handed justice. Giving no quarter to slavery at the South, it will hold no truce with oppressors at the North. While it shall boldly advocate emancipation for our enslaved brethren, it will omit no opportunity to gain for the nominally free complete enfranchisement. Every effort to injure or degrade you or your cause . . . shall find in it a constant, unswerving and inflexible foe . . .”
15. Frederick Douglass: In 1852 Frederick Douglass delivered a Fourth of July speech in Rochester where he demanded to know, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”
“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? . . . 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 given by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn . . . What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of 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 . . . There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.”
16. Frederick Douglass: In a January 1864 speech at Cooper Union in New York City, Frederick Douglass laid out his vision for the future of the country.
What we now want is a country—a free country—a country not saddened by the footprints of a single slave—and nowhere cursed by the presence of a slaveholder. We want a country which shall not brand the Declaration of Independence as a lie. We want a country whose fundamental institutions we can proudly defend before the highest intelligence and civilization of the age . . . We now want a country in which the obligations of patriotism shall not conflict with fidelity to justice and liberty . . . WE want a country . . . where no man may be imprisoned or flogged or sold for learning to read, or teaching a fellow mortal how to read . . . Liberty for all, chains for none; the black man a soldier in war, a laborer in peace; a voter at the South as well as at the North; America his permanent home, and all Americans his fellow countrymen. Such, fellow citizens, is my idea of the mission of the war. If accomplished, our glory as a nation will be complete, our peace will flow like a river, and our foundation will be the everlasting rocks.
17. Jermain Loguen: Jermain Loguen escaped from slavery in Tennessee when he was 21. Once free, Loguen became an abolitionist, teacher and minister. In 1841, he moved to Syracuse, where as the “station master” of the local underground railroad “depot,” he helped over one thousand “fugitives” escape to Canada. In 1850, Reverend Loguen denounced the Fugitive Slave Law.
I was a slave; I knew the dangers I was exposed to. I had made up my mind as to the course I was to take. On that score I needed no counsel, nor did the colored citizens generally. They had taken their stand-they would not be taken back to slavery. If to shoot down their assailants should forfeit their lives, such result was the least of the evil. They will have their liberties or die in their defense. I don’t respect this law – I don’t fear it – I won’t obey it! It outlaws me, and I outlaw it, and the men who attempt to enforce it on me. I place the governmental officials on the ground that they place me. I will not live a slave, and if force is employed to re-enslave me, I shall make preparations to meet the crisis as becomes a man. If you will stand by me and I believe you will do it, for your freedom and honor are involved as well as mine, . . . you will be the saviors of your country. Your decision tonight in favor of resistance will give vent to the spirit of liberty, and will break the bands of party, and shout for joy all over the North. Your example only is needed to be the type of public action in Auburn, and Rochester, and Utica, and Buffalo, and all the West, and eventually in the Atlantic cities. Heaven knows that this act of noble daring will break out somewhere – and may God grant that Syracuse be the honored spot, whence it shall send an earthquake voice through the land!
18. Sojourner Truth: Sojourner Truth, whose original name was Isabella Bomfree, was born and enslaved near Kingston, New York. After gaining her freedom she became an itinerant preacher who campaigned for abolition and woman’s rights. During the Civil War, Truth urged young men to enlist and organized supplies for black troops. After the war, she worked with the Freedmen’s Bureau, helping people find jobs and build new lives. Her most famous speech was delivered in 1851 at a women’s rights convention in Ohio.
Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about? That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over 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? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman? . . . That little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him. If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
19. Harriet Jacobs: Harriet Jacobs was born enslaved in North Carolina in 1813. After hiding in an attic for seven years, she escaped to the north in
She published her memoir in 1861 using the pseudonym Linda Brent. In 1853, Jacobs wrote a Letter from a Fugitive Slave that was published in the New York Daily Tribune.
I was born a slave, reared in the Southern hot-bed until I was the mother of two children, sold at the early age of two and four years old. I have been hunted through all of the Northern States . . . My mother was dragged to jail, there remained twenty-five days, with Negro traders to come in as they liked to examine her, as she was offered for sale. My sister was told that she must yield, or never expect to see her mother again . . . That child gave herself up to her master’s bidding, to save one that was dearer to her than life itself . . . At fifteen, my sister held to her bosom an innocent offspring of her guilt and misery. In this way she dragged a miserable existence of two years, between the fires of her mistress’s jealousy and her master’s brutal passion. At seventeen, she gave birth to another helpless infant, heir to all the evils of slavery. Thus life and its sufferings was meted out to her until her twenty-first year. Sorrow and suffering has made its ravages upon her – she was less the object to be desired by the fiend who had crushed her to the earth; and as her children grew, they bore too strong a resemblance to him who desired to give them no other inheritance save Chains and Handcuffs . . . those two helpless children were the sons of one of your sainted Members in Congress; that agonized mother, his victim and slave.
20. James Pennington: James Pennington was born into slavery on the coast of Maryland and escaped in 1828. He challenged segregation and championed education for African Americans. He authored the first account of African Americans used in schools, A Text Book of the Origin and History of Colored People.
There is one sin that slavery committed against me, which I never can forgive. It robbed me of my education; the injury is irreparable; I feel the embarrassment more seriously now than I ever did before. It cost me two years’ hard labour, after I fled, to unshackle my mind; it was three years before I had purged my language of slavery’s idioms; it was four years before I had thrown off the crouching aspect of slavery; and now the evil that besets me is a great lack of that general information, the foundation of which is most effectually laid in that part of life which I served as a slave. When I consider how much now, more than ever, depends upon sound and thorough education among coloured men, I am grievously overwhelmed with a sense of my deficiency, and more especially as I can never hope now to make it up.
21. Elizabeth Jennings: In 1854, Elizabeth Jennings, a free woman of color, was thrown off a street car in New York City. The New York Tribune printed “Outrage Upon Colored Persons” where she told her story.
I held up my hand to the driver and he stopped the cars. We got on the platform, when the conductor told us to wait for the next car. I told him I could not wait, as I was in a hurry to go to church. He then told me that the other car had my people in it, that it was appropriated for that purpose . . . He insisted upon my getting off the car, but I did not get off . . . I told him not to lay his hands on me. I took hold of the window sash and held on. He pulled me until he broke my grasp and I took hold of his coat and held onto that. He ordered the driver to fasten his horses, which he did, and come and help him put me out of the car. They then both seized hold of me by the arms and pulled and dragged me flat down on the bottom of the platform, so that my feet hung one way and my head the other, nearly on the ground. I screamed murder with all my voice, and my companion screamed out “you’ll kill her. Don’t kill her.” . . . They got an officer on the corner of Walker and Bowery, whom the conductor told that his orders from the agent were to admit colored persons if the passengers did not object, but if they did, not to let them ride . . . Then the officer, without listening to anything I had to say, thrust me out, and then pushed me, and tauntingly told me to get redress [damages] if I could.
22. William Wells Brown: William Wells Brown was born on a plantation near Lexington, Kentucky in 1814 and escaped to Ohio in 1834. He moved to New York State in the 1840, and he began lecturing for the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society and worked as a steam boatman, which enabled him to assist freedom-seekers on the Underground Railroad. During the Civil War he demanded that Blacks be allowed to serve in the Union Army.
Mr. President, I think that the present contest has shown clearly that the fidelity of the black people of this country to the cause of freedom is enough to put to shame every white man in the land who would think of driving us out of the country, provided freedom shall be proclaimed. I remember well, when Mr. Lincoln’s proclamation went forth, calling for the first 75,000 men, that among the first to respond to that call were the colored men . . . Although the colored men in many of the free States were disfranchised, abused, taxed without representation, their children turned out of the schools, nevertheless, they, went on, determined to try to discharge their duty to the country, and to save it from the tyrannical power of the slaveholders of the South . . . The black man welcomes your armies and your fleets, takes care of your sick, is ready to do anything, from cooking up to shouldering a musket; and yet these would-be patriots and professed lovers of the land talk about driving the Negro out!
23. Harriet Tubman: Harriet Tubman, who escaped from slavery in Maryland as a young woman, was the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad. She served in the Civil War as a scout, nurse, and guerilla fighter. On October 22, 1865, Harriet Tubman spoke before a massive audience at the Bridge Street AME Church in Brooklyn.
Last evening an immense congregation, fully half consisting of whites, was presented at the African M.E. Church in Bridge street, to listen to the story of the experiences of Mrs. Harriet Tubman, known as the South Carolina Scout and nurse, as related by herself . . . Mrs. Tubman is a colored lady, of 35 or 40 years of age; she appeared before those present with a wounded hand in a bandage, which would she stated was caused by maltreatment received at the hands of a conductor on the Camden and Amboy railroad, on her trip from Philadelphia to New York, a few days since. Her words were in the peculiar plantation dialect and at times were not intelligible to the white portion of her audience . . . She was born, she said, in the eastern portion of the State of Maryland, and wanted it to be distinctly understood that she was not educated, nor did she receive any “broughten up”. . . She knew that God had directed her to perform other works in this world, and so she escaped from bondage. This was nearly 14 years ago, since then she has assisted hundreds to do the same.
24. Frances Ellen Watkins Harper: In May 1866, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, a leading African American poet, lecturer and civil right activist, addressed the Eleventh National Women’s Rights Convention in New York.
Born of a race whose inheritance has been outrage and wrong, most of my life had been spent in battling against those wrongs . . . We are all bound up together in one great bundle of humanity, and society cannot trample on the weakest and feeblest of its members without receiving the curse in its own soul. You tried that in the case of the Negro. You pressed him down for two centuries; and in so doing you crippled the moral strength and paralyzed the spiritual energies of the white men of the country. When the hands of the black were fettered, white men were deprived of the liberty of speech and the freedom of the press. Society cannot afford to neglect the enlightenment of any class of its members . . . This grand and glorious revolution which has commenced, will fail to reach its climax of success, until throughout the length and breadth of the American Republic, the nation shall be so color-blind, as to know no man by the color of his skin or the curl of his hair. It will then have no privileged class, trampling upon outraging the unprivileged classes, but will be then one great privileged nation, whose privilege will be to produce the loftiest manhood and womanhood that humanity can attain.
United States history is usually taught in fifth grade. One of the more difficult topics to teach with sensitivity and critically is about the enslavement of African Americans in British North America and the United States. Elementary school teachers that I work with often have only a superficial knowledge of history at best, particularly topics like slavery, which means that if they decide to teach about it they are drawn to packaged lessons. Many are afraid to even touch the topic because of news stories about teachers challenged by parents and administrators, and even removed, because of inappropriate lessons.
In response, I developed a series of full class and group
based lessons. While I think it is important to help students understand the
horror and injustice of enslavement, they also need to learn how people, both
Black and white, risked their lives in the struggle to end it. A focus on
abolitionists also addresses other key social studies goals including
understanding what it means to be an active citizen in a democratic society and
writing more women into the history curriculum.
I use a close reading and textual analysis of three songs
from slavery days, “All the Pretty Little Horses,” “Go Down Moses,” and “Follow
the Drinking Gourd”, to introduce three major themes. “All the Pretty Little
Horses”is the story of a mother
separated from her child and is about the sorry and injustice of being
enslaved. “Go Down Moses” is a religious allegory, nominally about the
enslavement of Israelites in Egypt, but really about the desire of enslaved
Africans for freedom. “Follow the Drinking Gourd” tells the story of the
Underground Railroad as a pathway to freedom. Versions of the songs are
available on Youtube. I recommend Odetta singing “All the Pretty Little Horses,”
Paul Robeson singing “Go Down Moses,” and Richie Havens’ version of “Follow the
Virginia Hamilton’s story “The People Could Fly” lends itself
to reenactment as a play. It introduces slavery as an oppressive work system,
explores the horrors of enslavement, and shows the resistance to bondage. Based
on a traditional folktale, it ends with enslaved Africans on a cotton
plantation in the South rediscovering the magic of flight to escape enslavement
and return to Africa. I have performed this play successfully with students in
grades 5 to 8. Some classes have opened and closed with performances of African
The package “Abolitionists who
fought to end slavery” opens with a full class lesson on abolitionists. It
includes an early photograph that records
an anti-slavery meeting in August 1850 in Cazenovia, New York. The meeting was
called to protest against a proposed new federal Fugitive Slave law.
Participants in the meeting included Frederick Douglass.The lesson
includes a map of Underground Railroad routes through the New Jersey and New
York. It concludes with instructions for the “Abolitionist
Project.” Each team studies about one of ten leading abolitionists who fought
against slavery. They produce a PowerPoint with between five and ten slides
about their abolitionist’s life and achievements; create a tee-shirt, poster,
or three-dimensional display featuring the life of their abolitionist; and
write a poem, letter, skit, rap, or song about their abolitionist. The team’s
PowerPoint and creative activities are presented to the class.
Traditional African American Songs
from the Era of Slavery
A) All the Pretty Little Horses – The key to understanding this lullaby
is that there are two babies.
Hush-a-bye, don’t you cry, go to
sleep my little baby,
When you wake, you shall have, all
the pretty little horses,
Blacks and bays, dapples and grays,
all the pretty little horses.
Way down yonder, in the meadow, lies
my poor little lambie,
With bees and butterflies peckin’ out
The poor little things crying Mammy.
are the two babies in this lullaby? Which baby is the woman singing to?
do you think the woman was assigned to care for this baby?
does this song tell us about the experience of enslaved Africans?
B) Go Down, Moses – This song is an African American
version of Exodus from the Old Testament.
When Israel was in Egypt land, Let my
Oppressed so hard they could not
stand, Let my people go.
Chorus- Go down, Moses, Way down in
Egypt land. Tell old Pharaoh to let my people go.
“Thus spoke the Lord,” bold Moses
said, Let my people go.
“If not, I’ll smite your first-born
dead.” Let my people go.
Chorus- Go down, Moses, Way down in
Egypt land. Tell old Pharaoh to let my people go.
Old Pharaoh said he’d go across, Let
my people go.
But Pharaoh and his host were lost,
Let my people go.
Chorus- Go down, Moses, Way down in
Egypt land. Tell old Pharaoh to let my people go.
No more shall they in bondage toil,
Let my people go.
They shall go forth with Egypt’s
spoil, Let my people go.
Chorus- Go down, Moses, Way down in
Egypt land. Tell old Pharaoh to let my people go.
does Moses say to Pharaoh?
do you think enslaved African Americans sang a song about ancient Israelites?
does this song tell us about the experience of enslaved Africans?
C) Follow the Drinking Gourd– This song is supposed to contain an
oral map of the Underground Railroad. The “drinking gourd” is the star
constellation known as the Big Dipper.
When the sun comes up and the first
quail calls, follow the drinking gourd,
For the old man is awaiting for to
carry you to freedom, if you follow the drinking gourd.
Chorus- Follow the drinking gourd,
follow the drinking gourd,
For the old man is
awaiting for to carry you to freedom, if you follow the drinking gourd.
The river bank will make a mighty
good road, the dead trees will show you the way,
Left foot, peg foot, travelin’ on,
follow the drinking gourd.
Chorus- Follow the drinking gourd,
follow the drinking gourd,
For the old man is
awaiting for to carry you to freedom, if you follow the drinking gourd.
The river ends between two hills,
follow the drinking gourd,
There’s another river on the other
side, follow the drinking gourd.
Chorus- Follow the drinking gourd,
follow the drinking gourd,
For the old man is
awaiting for to carry you to freedom, if you follow the drinking gourd.
does the song tell passengers on the Underground Railroad to follow the
would runaway slaves prefer an oral map to a written map?
does this song tell us about the experience of enslaved Africans?
The People Could Fly
– A Play
on a story from the book, The People
Could Fly, American Black Folktales byVirginia Hamilton (New York: Random House, 1993)
Background: Toby and Sarah stand in the middle
bending over to pick cotton. The overseer and master loom in the background,
either as giant puppets or as large images on a screen (scanned from the book).
A leather belt imitates the sound of a whip. The play illustrates the
oppression of slavery and the desire of enslaved Africans for freedom. The play
follows the original story very closely.
Cast: 12 Narrators, Sarah, Toby,
Materials: Belt for cracking like a whip, baby
doll for Sarah, two giant puppets (water jugs attached to a broom stick, tape
on a wire hanger and provide a long sleeve shirt)
Narrator 1: They say the people could fly. Say
that along ago in Africa, some of the people knew magic. And they would walk up
on the air like climbing up on a gate. And they flew like blackbirds over the
fields. Black, shiny wings flapping against the blue up there. Then, many of
the people were captured for Slavery. The ones that could fly shed their wings.
They couldn’t take their wings across the water on the slave ships. Too
crowded, don’t you know. The folks were full of misery, then. Got sick with the
up and down of the sea. So they forgot about flying when they could no longer
breathe the sweet scent of Africa.
Narrator 2: Say the people who could fly kept
their power, although they shed their wings. They kept their secret magic in
the land of slavery. They looked the same as the other people from Africa who
had been coming over, who had dark skin. Say you couldn’t tell anymore one who
could fly from one who couldn’t. One such who could was an old man, call him
Toby. And standing tall, yet afraid, was a young woman who once had wings. Call
her Sarah. Now Sarah carried a babe tied to her back. She trembled to be so
hard worked and scorned. The slaves labored in the fields from sunup to
sundown. The owner of the slaves calling himself their Master. Say he was a
hard lump of clay. A hard, glinty coal. A hard rock pile, wouldn’t be moved.
Narrator 3: His Overseer on horseback pointed
out the slaves who were slowing down. So the one called Driver cracked his whip
over the slow ones to make them move faster. That whip was a slice-open cut of
pain. So they did move faster. Had to. Sarah hoed and chopped the row as the
babe on her back slept. Say the child grew hungry. That babe started up bawling
too loud. Sarah couldn’t stop to feed it. Couldn’t stop to soothe and quiet it
down. She let it cry. She didn’t want to. She had no heart to croon to it.
“Keep that thing quiet.”
Narrator 4: The Overseer, he pointed his
finger at the babe. The woman scrunched low. The Driver cracked his whip across
the babe anyhow. The babe hollered like any hurt child, and the woman feel to
the earth. The old man that was there, Toby, came and helped her to her feet.
Sarah: “I must go soon.”
Sarah couldn’t stand up straight any longer. She was too weak. The sun
burned her face. The babe cried and cried.
Sarah: “Pity me, oh, pity me.” say it
sounded like. Sarah was so sad and starving, she sat down in the row.
Overseer: “Get up, you black cow.” ”
Narrator 5: The Overseer pointed his hand, and
the Driver’s whip snarled around Sarah’s legs. Her sack dress tore into rags.
Her legs bled onto the earth. She couldn’t get up. Toby was there where there
was no one to help her and the babe.
“Now, before it’s too late. Now, Father!”
Toby: “Yes, Daughter, the time is come.
Go, as you know how to go!” (He raised his arms, holding them out to her. ) “Kum … yali, kum buba tambe. Kum
… yali, kum buba tambe.”
Narrator 6: The young woman lifted one foot on
the air. Then the other. She flew clumsily at first, with the child now held
tightly in her arms. Then she felt the magic, the African mystery. Say she rose
just as free as a bird. As light as a feather. The Overseer rode after her,
hollering. Sarah flew over the fences. She flew over the woods. Tall trees
could not snag her. Nor could the Overseer. She flew like an eagle now, until
she was gone from sight. No one dared speak about it. Couldn’t believe it. But
it was, because they that was there saw that it was.
Narrator 7: Say the next day was dead hot in
the fields. A young man slave fell from the heat. The Driver come and whipped
him. Toby come over and spoke words to the fallen one. The words of ancient
Africa once heard are never remembered completely. The young man forgot them as
soon as he heard them. They went way inside him. He got up and rolled over on
the air. He rode it awhile. And he flew away. Another and another fell from the
heat. Toby was there. He cried out to the fallen and reached his arms out to
Toby: “Kum kunka yali, kum … tambe!”
Narrator 8: And they too rose on the air. They
rode the hot breezes. The ones flying were black and shining sticks, wheeling
above the head of the Overseer. They crossed the rows, the fields, the fences,
the streams, and were away.
Overseer: “Seize the old man! I heard him
say the magic words. Seize him!”
Narrator 9: The one calling himself Master
come running. The Driver got his whip ready to curl around old Toby and tie him
up. The slaveowner took his hip gun from its place. He meant to kill old, black
Toby. But Toby just laughed. Say he threw back his head.
Toby: “Hee, hee! Don’t you know who I
am? Don’t you know some of us in this field? We are ones who fly!”
Narrator 10: And he sighed the ancient words
that were a dark promise. He said them all around to the others in the field
under the whip, “… buba yali … buba
tambe …” There was a great outcrying. The bent backs straightened up. Old
and young who were called slaves and could fly joined hands. Say like they
would ring-sing. But they didn’t shuffle in a circle. They didn’t sing. They
rose on the air. They flew in a flock that was black against the heavenly blue.
Black crows or black shadows. It didn’t matter, they went so high. Way above
the plantation, way over the slavery land. Say they flew away to Free-dom.
Narrator 11:And the old man,
old Toby, flew behind them, taking care of them. He wasn’t crying. He wasn’t
laughing. He was the seer. His gaze fell on the plantation where the slaves who
could not fly waited.
“Take us with you! Take us with you!”
Narrator 11:Their looks spoke
it but they were afraid to shout it. Toby couldn’t take them with him. Hadn’t
the time to teach them to fly. They must wait for a chance to run.
Narrator 12:The old man called
Toby spoke to them, poor souls! And he was flying gone. So they say. The
Overseer told it. The one called Master said it was a lie, a trick of the
light. The Driver kept his mouth shut. The enslaved Africans who could not fly
told about the people who could fly to their children. When they were free.
When they sat close before the fire in the free land, they told it. They did so
love firelight and Free-dom, and
telling. They say that the children of the ones who could not fly told their
children. And now, me, I have told it to you.
fought to end slavery in the United States. Some were Black and some were
white. Many were religious. Some were former slaves who had escaped from
bondage. Some believed the country could change peaceably. Some believed it
would not change without bloodshed. Some believed abolitionists should obey the
law. Some believed abolitionists should break the law. Some wanted slavery to
end at once. Some thought it could end over time. They all believed slavery in
the United States was wrong and must end.
This early photograph records an anti-slavery meeting in August 1850 in
Cazenovia, New York. Abolitionists gathered to protest against a proposed new
federal Fugitive Slave Act. The act would
permit federal marshals to arrest and return to slavery freedom seekers who had
escaped to the North. It would also punish anyone accused to helping a fugitive
by providing them with food, a place to stay, or a job.
Cazenovia was a small town in upstate New York near Auburn, Syracuse, and Utica
and just south of the Erie Canal. Participants in the convention included
Frederick Douglass, Gerrit Smith, about 50 fugitive slaves, and more than 2,000
In the photograph, Frederick Douglass is the African American man seated by the
table. Behind him with his arm raised is Gerrit
Smith, a leading white abolitionist. On either side of Smith are Mary and Emily
Edmonson. They escaped from slavery in 1848 but were recaptured and sent to New
Orleans to be sold. The girls’ free-born father raised money to buy their
freedom. The Edmonson’s attended college in the North and became active
Douglass, who was a former fugitive slave, presided over the convention. The
convention closed with a “Letter
to the American Slaves” that offered advice and help to slaves planning to
rebel in the South and freedom-seekers who escaped to the North. In the letter
“While such would dissuade [convince] you from all violence toward the
slaveholder, let it not be supposed that they regard it as guiltier than those
strifes [fights] which even good men are wont to justify. If the American
revolutionists had excuse for shedding but one drop of blood, then have the
American slaves excuse for making blood to flow.”
“The Liberty Party, the Vigilance Committee of New York, individuals, and
companies [groups] of individuals in various parts of the country, are doing
all they can, and it is much, to afford you a safe and a cheap passage from
slavery to liberty.
Brethren [brothers], our last word to you is to bid you be of good cheer and
not to despair of your deliverance. Do not abandon yourselves, as have many
thousands of American slaves, to the crime of suicide. Live! Live to escape
from slavery! Live to serve God! Live till He shall Himself call you into
eternity! Be prayerful — be brave — be hopeful. “Lift up your heads, for your
redemption draweth nigh.” [will be soon]
The Abolitionist Project
Instructions: Each team will study
one of the leading abolitionists who fought against slavery. Start with the
biography sheet for your abolitionist and conduct additional research online.
For your final project each team
PowerPoint with between five and ten
slides about your abolitionist’s life and achievements. Your team will present
this in class.
A tee-shirt, poster, or
three-dimensional display featuring the life of your abolitionist.
A poem, letter, skit, rap, or song
about your abolitionist.
Frederick Douglass: An Abolitionist
Who Helped End Slavery in the United States
1818 – Born enslaved in
1838 – Escaped from
1841 – Met William
Lloyd Garrison and became an active abolitionist
1845 – Published first
edition of biography 1845 – Traveled to Europe to avoid re-enslavement
1847 – Returned to the
United States and began publication of the abolitionist North Star in
1848 – Attended the
Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY
1859 – Met with John
Brown to plan slave rebellion. Fled to Europe to escape prosecution after
1863 – Convinced
Lincoln to enlist Black troops in the Union Army
1872 – First African American nominated for
Vice President of the United States
1889 – Appointed U.S. representative
1895 – Died in Washington DC
Famous Speech: “What to the Slave is the
Fourth of July?”
Douglass was asked to address the citizens of Rochester at their Fourth of July
celebration in 1852. This excerpt from his speech shows his great power as an
orator and the strength of his opposition to slavery.
What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer,
a day that reveals to him more than all other days of 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 of the
earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these
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 every-day practices of this nation, and you will
say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America
reigns without a rival.
Henry Highland Garnet: An
Abolitionist Who Helped End Slavery in the United States
1815 – Born enslaved in
1824 – Escaped with his
family to New Jersey
1825 – Family settled
in New York where he attended the African Free School
1828 (?) –
Slavecatchers force his family to flee Brooklyn. Garnet harbored in Smithtown,
1830 – Suffered serious
leg injury (later amputated)
1834 – Helped found an
1835 – Attended
interracial Noyes Academy in Connecticut that was burned down by rioters
1839 – Graduated from
Oneida Theological Institute and became a Presbyterian minister in Troy, NY
1843 – Called for slave
rebellion in speech at the National Negro Convention
1849 – Called free
Blacks to emigrate out of the U.S.
1852 – Moved to Jamaica
as a Christian Missionary
1863 – Enlisted Blacks
in the Union Army. Escaped from Draft Riots.
1865 – 1st African
American to preach in Capital building
1882 – Died Monrovia, Liberia
Famous Speech: “An Address to the Slaves of the
August 21-24, 1843, a National Negro Convention was held in Buffalo, New York.
Delegates included Frederick Douglass. Henry Highland Garnet delivered a very
militant speech calling on enslaved Africans to revolt.
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.
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.
Gerrit Smith: An Abolitionist Who
Helped End Slavery in the United States
1797 – Born in Utica,
1818 – Graduated from
1819 – Managed family
land-holdings in upstate NY
1828 – Became active in
1835 – Became active as
1840 – Helped found
anti-slavery Liberty Party
1846 – Gave land in the
Adirondacks to free Blacks as homesteads
1848- His home became
1848 – Liberty Party
Candidate for President
1850s – Financially
supported Frederick Douglass’ newspapers
1852 – Elected to
1859 – Funded John
Brown raid on Harpers Ferry
1865 – Advocated for mild
treatment of the South after the Civil War
1874 – Died in New York City
Famous Speech: Statement on Slavery
in Congress, April 6, 1854
the baldest and biggest lie on earth. In reducing man to chattel, it denies,
that God is God – for, in His image, made He man – the black man and the red
man, as well as the white man. Distorted as our minds by prejudice, and
shrivelled as are our souls by the spirit of caste, this essential equality of
the varieties of the human family may not be apparent to us all.
Constitution, the only law of the territories, is not in favor of slavery, and
that slavery cannot be set up under it . . . I deny that there can be
Constitutional slavery in any of the States of the American Union – future
States, or present States – new or old. I hold, that the Constitution, not only
authorizes no slavery, but permits no slavery; not only creates no slavery in
any part of the land, but abolishes slavery in every part o the land. In other
words, I hold, that there is no law for American slavery.
John Brown: An
Abolitionist Who Helped End Slavery in the United States
1800 – Born in
1837 – Brown commits
his life to fighting to end slavery.
1849 – John Brown and
his family moved to the Black community of North Elba in the Adirondack region
of New York.
1855 – Brown and five
of his sons organize a band of anti-slavery guerilla fighters in the Kansas
1859 – John Brown and
21 other men attacked the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Brown was wounded,
captured and convicted of treason. He was hanged on December 2, 1859.
Brown is one of the most controversial [debated] figures in United States
history. He was a conductor on the Underground Railroad and an anti-slavery
guerilla fighter in Kansas. In 1859, Brown led an armed attack on a federal
armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. His goal was to start a slave rebellion in
the United States. Brown and his followers were defeated, tried and executed.
While the rebellion failed, it led to the Civil War and the end of slavery in
the United States.
Famous Speech: John Brown to the Virginia Court on November
the first place, I deny everything but what I have all along admitted, — the
design on my part to free slaves . . . Had I so interfered in behalf of the
rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the so-called great, or in behalf of any
of their friends — either father, mother, sister, wife, or children, or any of
that class — and suffered and sacrificed what I have in this interference, it
would have been all right; and every man in this court would have deemed it an
act worthy of reward rather than punishment.
court acknowledges, as I suppose, the validity of the law of God . . . I believe
that to have interfered as I have done — as I have always freely admitted I
have done — in behalf of His despised poor, was not wrong, but right. Now if
it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance
of the ends of justice, and mingle [mix] my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments. — I submit; so let it be done!
Harriet Tubman: An
Abolitionist Who Helped End Slavery in the United States
1822 – Born enslaved in
Maryland. Birth name Araminta “Minty” Ross
1834 (?) – Suffered
severe head injury when she helped another slave who was being beaten
1849 – Escaped
1850s – Conductor on
1858 – Helped John
Brown plot Harpers Ferry
1859 – Establishes farm
1861 – Served as a cook
and nurse for Union Army
1863 – Became spy for
the Union Army
1868 – Secured Civil
1896 – Established an
old age home
1913 – Died in Auburn, NY
Excerpt from her
Biography by Sarah Bradford
Lincoln, he’s a great man, and I am a poor negro [African American]; but the
negro can tell master Lincoln how to save the money and the young men. He can
do it by setting the negro free. Suppose that was an awful big snake down
there, on the floor. He bite you. Folks all scared, because you die. You send
for a doctor to cut the bite; but the snake, he rolled up there, and while the
doctor doing it, he bite you again. The doctor dug out that bite; but while the
doctor doing it, the snake, he spring up and bite you again; so he keep doing
it, till you kill him. That’s what master Lincoln ought to know.
Praises Harriet Tubman
difference between us is very marked. Most that I have done and suffered in the
service of our cause has been in public, and I have received much encouragement
at every step of the way. You, on the other hand, have labored in a private
way. I have wrought in the day—you in the night. … The midnight sky and the
silent stars have been the witnesses of your devotion to freedom and of your
heroism. Excepting John Brown—of sacred memory—I know of no one who has
willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people
than you have.
Sojourner Truth: An
Abolitionist Who Helped End Slavery in the United States
1797 – Born enslaved in
Ulster County, NY. Her birth name was Isabella (Belle) Baumfree. She spoke Dutch before she spoke English.
– Isabella was sold for the first time at age 9.
– She escaped from slavery with her infant daughter.
– Legally freed by New York Emancipation Act.
– Sued in court to free her son who had be sold illegally to an owner in
– Isabella converted to Methodism, changed her name to Sojourner Truth, and
became a travelling preacher and abolitionist.
– William Lloyd Garrison published her memoir.
– Sojourner Truth delivered her “Ain’t I a Woman” speech at an Ohio Women’s
– Spoke at many anti-slavery and women’s rights meetings
1860s – Recruited Black
soldiers for the Union Army.
1870s – Campaigned for
equal rights for former slaves.
1883 – Died in Battle Creek,
Famous Speech: “Ain’t
I a Woman” (edited)
In May 1851, Sojourner Truth
attended the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. She delivered a
speech where she demanded full and equal human rights for women and enslaved
Africans. The text of the speech was written down and later published by
Frances Gage, who organized the convention. In the published version of the
speech Sojourner Truth referred to herself using a word that is not acceptable
to use. This is an edited version of the speech.
children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of
kilter. I think that between the Negroes
[Blacks] of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the
white men will be in a fix pretty soon.
But what’s all this here talking about?
they talk about this thing in the head; what do they call it? [Intellect,
someone whispers.] That’s it, honey.
What’s that got to do with women’s rights or Negro’s rights? If my cup won’t
hold but a pint and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me
have my little half-measure full?
that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men,
because Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did
your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down
all alone, these women together . . . ought to be able to turn it back, and get
it right side up again! And now they is
asking to do it, the men better let them.
David Ruggles: An Abolitionist Who
Helped End Slavery in the United States
– Born in Lyme, Connecticut to free black parents
– Attended Sabbath School for poor children in Norwich, Connecticut.
– Moved to New York City and operated a grocery store.
1830 – Opened the first African-American bookstore.
– Organized the New York Vigilance
– A white anti-abolitionist mob assaulted Ruggles and burned his bookstore.
Frederick Douglass during his escape from slavery.
– Became very ill and almost completely blind
– Died in Northampton, Massachusetts
A Letter from David
David Ruggles wrote this
letter to the editor of a New York newspaper, Zion’s Watchman, It was reprinted
in The Liberator by William Lloyd Garrison in October 1837. The New York Vigilance Committee helped enslaved Africans to escape and free
Blacks arrested and accused of being runaway slaves.
suppose, not one in a thousand of your readers can be aware of the extent to
which slavery prevails even in the so-called free state of New York. Within the
last four weeks, I have seen not less than eleven different persons who have
recently been brought from the south, and who are now held as slaves by their
masters in this state; as you know the laws of this state allow any slaveholder
to do this, nine months at a time; so that when the slave has been here nine
months, the master has only to take him out of the state, and then return with
him immediately, and have him registered again, and so he may hold on to the
slave as long as he lives. Some of the slaves whom I have recently seen are
employed by their masters, some are loaned, and others hired out; and each of
the holders of these slaves whom I have seen are professors of religion!!
Jermain Loguen: An
Abolitionist Who Helped End Slavery in the United States
1814 – Born enslaved in
Tennessee. His biological father owned Jermain and his mother.
1834 – Escaped to
Canada on the UGRR
1837 – Studied at the
1840s – An AME Zion
minister, he established schools for Black children in Syracuse and Utica. His
home in Syracuse was UGRR station.
1850 – Speech denounced
Fugitive Slave Law
1851 – Breaks the
Fugitive Slave Law helping a freedom seeker escape from prison to Canada
1859 – Published his
1868 – Appointed Bishop
in the AME Zion Church
1872 – Died in Syracuse, NY
Famous Speech: Reverend
Jermain Loguen Denounces the Fugitive Slave Law (1850)
was a slave; I knew the dangers I was exposed to. I had made up my mind as to
the course I was to take. On that score I needed no counsel, nor did the
colored citizens generally. They had taken their stand – they would not be
taken back to slavery. If to shoot down their assailants should forfeit their
lives, such result was the least of the evil. They will have their liberties or
die in their defense.
don’t respect this law – I don’t fear it – I won’t obey it! It outlaws me, and
I outlaw it, and the men who attempt to enforce it on me. I place the
governmental officials on the ground that they place me. I will not live a
slave, and if force is employed to re-enslave me, I shall make preparations to
meet the crisis as becomes a man. If you will stand by me- and believe you will
do it, for your freedom and honor are involved as well as mine- it requires no
microscope to see that- I say if you will stand with us in resistance to this
measure, you will be the saviours (sic)
of your country. Your decision tonight in favor of resistance will give vent to
the spirit of liberty, and will break the bands of party, and shout for joy all
over the North. Your example only is needed to be the type of public action in
Auburn, and Rochester, and Utica, and Buffalo, and all the West, and eventually
in the Atlantic cities. Heaven knows that this act of noble daring will break
out somewhere- and may God grant that Syracuse be the honored spot, whence it
shall send an earthquake voice through the land!
Garrison: An Abolitionist Who Helped End Slavery in the United States
1805 – Born in
1828 – Active in
1831 – Started
publication of the anti-slavery newspaper The
1832- Organized the New
England Anti-Slavery Society
1835 – Nearly lynched
after speaking at an anti-slavery rally in Boston.
1840 – Demanded that
women be allowed to participate in all abolitionist activities.
1841 – Starts working
with Frederick Douglass after meeting at an anti-slavery rally.
1850 – Garrison and
Douglass disagree whether slavery could be defeated through electoral means.
1854 – Garrison burned
a copy of the Constitution calling it a pro-slavery document.
1870s – Garrison
campaigns for full and equal rights for Blacks and women.
1879 – Died in New York City
Famous Essay: 1st Editorial
in The Liberator
Garrison was a radical abolitionist who demanded an immediate end to slavery.
This excerpt is from the initial editorial in The Liberator. It was published
January 1, 1831.
determined, at every hazard, to lift up the standard of emancipation in the
eyes of the nation . . . That standard is now unfurled; and long may it float .
. . till every chain be broken, and every bondman set free! Let southern
oppressors tremble . . . let all the enemies of the persecuted blacks
Assenting to the “self-evident truth” maintained in the American Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights — among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” I shall strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement of our slave population.
aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause
for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On
this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No!
No! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to
moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to
gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; — but urge
me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will
not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — and
I will be heard.
Grimké Weld: An Abolitionist Who Helped End
Slavery in the United States
1805 – Born in
Charleston, South Carolina. Her parents were major slaveholders.
1826 – Became a Sunday
school teacher in the Presbyterian church..
1829 – Spoke against
slavery at a church service and she was expelled from membership..
1835 – Joined the
Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society.
1836 – A letter
published in The Liberator made her a
1837 – Helped organize
the Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women.
1838 – In Boston, she
became the 1st woman in the United States to speak before a state legislature.
Threatened by a mob when she spoke at a Philadelphia anti-slavery rally.
1838 – Married
abolitionist Theodore Weld and together they operated schools in New Jersey
1879 – Died at Hyde Park, Massachusetts
“Appeal to the Christian Women of the South”
Grimké was a religious
Christian. Her religious beliefs convinced her to become an abolitionist. In
her 1836 letter published in The Liberator, she wrote that abolition was a
“cause worth dying for.” In her writing and speeches she appealed to other
Christians to join the anti-slavery campaign. In 1837, she published a pamphlet
that urged Southern white women, in the name of their Christian beliefs, to
help end slavery.
appeal to you, my friends, as mothers; Are you willing to enslave your children?
You start back with horror and indignation at such a question. But why, if
slavery is no wrong to those upon whom it is imposed? Why, if as has often been
said, slaves are happier than their masters, free from the cares and
perplexities of providing for themselves and their families? Why not place your
children in the way of being supported without your having the trouble to
provide for them, or they for themselves? Do you not perceive that as soon as
this golden rule of action is applied to yourselves that you involuntarily
shrink from the test; as soon as your actions are weighed in this balance of
the sanctuary that you are found wanting? Try yourselves by another of the
Divine precepts, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Can we
love a man as we love ourselves if we do, and continue to do unto him, what we
would not wish any one to do to us?