The Black Abolitionist Papers - Vol. 1

By C. Peter Ripley | Go to book overview

84.
Speech by Theodore Gross Delivered at the Large Room Wesleyan Centenary Hall, London, England 28 September 1860

The concept of a British antislavery lecture tour was well defined by 1860, but successfully setting it in motion frequently required luck, timing, persistence, and proper connections. Former slaves Tabb Gross and Lewis Smith arrived in England during July 1860 to raise funds to purchase Smith's four oldest children out of slavery in Kentucky. Both men brought excellent references and modest experience on the American antislavery lecture circuit, but their independent status frustrated their early efforts to establish a fruitful fund-raising campaign. They had been in England two months when they participated in a meeting crucial to their success. The gathering was held on the evening of 28 September 1860 at the Large Room, Wesleyan Centenary Hall, Bishopsgate. It was sponsored by Rev. William B. Boyce, who opened the proceedings by singing a popular hymn; Rev. Benjamin Field offered a prayer. After Gross and Smith addressed the assembly, Rev. William Arthur rose and urged those in attendance to solicit contributions for the fugitives. He was followed to the rostrum by Rev. Elijah Hoole, who volunteered to act as treasurer for the fund, publicly certifying the integrity of the fund-raising campaign. Blassingame, Slave Testimony, 346-53; WWA, 3 October 1860.

The Rev. Mr. GROSS, 1 of the African Episcopalian Church in Cincinnati, 2 (who on rising was cordially welcomed by the meeting.) Before proceeding to the case of his Brother Smith, 3 he asked permission to make a few remarks personal to himself. There was a considerable difference between his present position--standing upon that platform--and that which he formerly occupied on the plantation of his old master. His feelings, on looking around, almost overpowered him. Though accustomed to preaching, it was to men who had been in his own condition. Born a slave, and not possessing the advantages of early or considerable education, he could scarcely hope to interest an audience like the present, but if they would allow him he would address them in the same plain manner in which he was accustomed to speak at home. The first that he knew of his own history was that he found himself upon a slave island, or plantation, in one of the Eastern states of America. How he came there, or why, he knew not, but he was under the care of his parents, and particularly of his mother. As soon as he became fit for service, he was claimed by his master, and from the first day that he was

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