Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900

By Philip S. Foner; Robert James Branham | Go to book overview

(Placed by divine providence amid circumstances more favorable than were their ancestors, the Haitians can more easily than they, make rapid strides in the career of civilization--they can demonstrate that although the God of nature may have given them a darker complexion, still they are men alike sensible to all the miseries of slavery and to all the blessings of freedom.)

May we not indulge in the pleasing hope, that the independence of Haiti has laid the foundation of an empire that will take rank with the nations of the earth--that a country, the local situation of which is favorable to trade and commercial enterprise, possessing a free and well-regulated government, which encourages the useful and liberal arts, a country containing an enterprising and growing population which is determined to live free or die gloriously will advance rapidly in all the arts of civilization.

We look forward with peculiar satisfaction to the period when, like Tyre of old, her vessels shall extend the fame of her riches and glory, to the remotest borders of the globe--to the time when Haiti treading in the footsteps of her sister republics, shall, like them, exhibit a picture of rapid and unprecedented advance in population, wealth and intelligence.■


15
TERMINATION OF SLAVERY

Austin Steward

The Fourth of July, Howard Martin has written, was "the most important national ceremonial during the last century." Community ceremonies across the nation were marked by orations that characteristically looked back to the American Revolution as having achieved those principles of liberty and equality set forth in the Declaration of Independence. In slave-holding Charleston, South Carolina, five years before Denmark Vesey's revolt, John J. Mauger's oration on July 4, 1817, noted (without conscious irony) the assembly of "millions of freemen" to celebrate the "Birth Day of American Freedom."

With three million Americans in chains, such pronouncements struck many as the height of hypocrisy. "What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?" Frederick Douglass would ask his predominantly white audience of July 5, 1852: "A day that reveals to him, more than all the other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim." (His speech is included elsewhere in this volume.) Many African Americans observed the occasion as a time of protest.

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