The Black Abolitionist Papers - Vol. 1

By C. Peter Ripley | Go to book overview

36.
Speech by John Brown Delivered at the Guildhall, Plymouth, England 9 April 1851

John Brown typified the large number of fugitive slaves who fled to Britain for sanctuary during the early 1850s and were drawn into an active role in the antislavery movement. Brown arrived in Liverpool on 10 August 1850 and proceeded to Redruth in Cornwall, where he hoped to locate Joseph Teague, leader of a party of Cornish miners for whom he had worked in upper Michigan. Brown found that Teague had died but obtained work and testimonials from Teague's relatives and acquaintances there. After working for several months in Redruth and Bristol, Brown began lecturing, telling his slave story at Cornwall, St. Austell, Bodmin, and Liskeard, before proceeding eastward to Plymouth. On 9 April 1851, Brown spoke to a crowded meeting in Plymouth's Guildhall. The meeting was chaired by Thomas Luscombe, who read a number of testimonials to Brown's character. At the end of Brown's address, Luscombe informed the gathering that Brown was willing to entertain questions, but none were asked. A collection was taken up for Brown before the meeting adjourned. John Brown, Slave Life in Georgia: A Narrative of the Life, Suffering, and Escape of John Brown, Fugitive Slave, ed. F. N. Boney ( Savannah, Ga., 1972), 141-42, 196-97; PDWJ, 17 April 1851.

JOHN BROWN, 1 the black man, on standing forward was greeted with an encouraging cheer from the well packed audience. In language of the rudest but most impressive character, and with a manner that betokened the utmost earnestness and sincerity, he gave a full account of the most prominent among the sufferings and cruelties he had endured at the hand of his white relations in the new world. He was born in the state of "Virginny," and, until he had reached the age of ten years, was reared for market. The name of his old "missus" was Ann Hall, 2 and by her he was willed to James Davis, 3 who put him to work, by the side of his mother and three more of the children, who were willed together with him. His employment with James Davis was to grub up bushes in the day time, and to burn them in the night, while his mother was made to spin cotton during the day, and, for the other portion of the four and twenty hours, partially to assist her son in his labours, and then to follow up her own previous employment. One night, said the poor fellow, his mother sat before a fire, spinning, with a small child in her arms. Overcome with fatigue and misery she fell off into a doze, the infant rolled from her lap into the grate and was severely burnt. Although in a state where they

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