The Black Abolitionist Papers - Vol. 1

By C. Peter Ripley | Go to book overview

79.
Speech by William Craft Delivered at Spafields Chapel, London, England 14 October 1859

Black abolitionists were essential to the success of British Garrisonianism. Black efforts in London helped found, sustain, and encourage Garrisonian societies, particularly the London Emancipation Committee. The committee was formed in 1859 to serve London Garrisonians and to encourage local antislavery activity by bringing together notable American abolitionists and potential British converts. To that end, the committee sponsored a meeting in Spafields Chapel on the evening of 14 October 1859, attended by several prominent black abolitionists and Rev. Samuel J. May of the American Anti-Slavery Society. The meeting was chaired by Rev. T. E. Thoresby and attended by Garrisonians Frederick W. Chesson, George Thompson, and black abolitionist Sarah P. Remond, whose recent exchange over slavery with the actress Lola Montez had received considerable attention. May delivered an address on America's "crowning sin," accepted a resolution of thanks from the assemblage, and then introduced black abolitionists Ellen Craft and her firstborn son, Charles Estlin Phillips Craft. In so doing, May noted that this boy would fetch $200 in the United States." William Craft later addressed the meeting. Proceedings of an Anti-Slavery Meeting Held at Spafields Chapel, Friday Evening, 14 October 1859 [ London, 1859], 1-19; Temperley, British Antislavery, 253-54; Rice, Scots Abolitionists, 162, 167-69.

Mr. CRAFT (whose appearance upon the platform was hailed with loud applause) expressed his extreme obligation to the Meeting for the very warm reception they had given his wife, child, 1 and himself. The Chairman had expressed a hope that he would give some account of the manner of their escape; but to give anything like an account of the matter would take an hour and a half. He hoped at some future opportunity to be enabled to do so, but at that late hour of the night he would not attempt it. He would simply state that they were both slaves in the State of Georgia for upwards of twenty-one years. It was true that their condition in that capacity was by no means of the worst, but still it was bondage after all; and the thought that they had no legal rights; that they could not call the flesh and blood which God had given them their own; and, above all, the fact that at any time their owner, as he was called, had power to plunder their cradle, tear from it their infant, and sell it in the shambles like a brute; that that child, if not sold, could thereafter be cruelly scourged, and that its parents would not dare to lift a finger to

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