Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900

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

Let us all unite and with one accord declare that we will not leave our own country to emigrate to Liberia, or else, to be civilized or Christianized. Let us make it known to America that we are not barbarians; that we are not inhuman beings; that this is our native country; that our forefathers have planted trees in America for us, and we intend to stay and eat the fruit. Our forefathers fought, bled and died to achieve the independence of the United States. Why should we forbear contending for the prize? It becomes every colored citizen in the United States to step forward boldly and gallantly defend his rights. What has been done within a few years, since the union of the colored people? Are not the times more favorable to us now, than they were ten years ago? Are we not gaining ground? Yes--and had we begun this work forty years ago, I do not hesitate to say that there would not have been, at this day, a slave in the United States. Take, courage, then, ye Afric-Americans! Don't give up the conflict, for the glorious prize can be won.■


20 WHY SIT YE HERE AND DIE?

Maria W. Stewart

Maria W. Stewart was among the first native-born American women to leave extant copies of their public speeches. Speaking in public was widely regarded as unwomanly in the nineteenth century, and women's political opinions were both devalued and proscribed by law and social practice. Stewart resisted these pressures, asking, "What if I am a woman?" in her Boston farewell address of 1833. A person of deep religious conviction, she believed that the injustices to which she responded would have led even St. Paul to relent in his proscription of women's speech. If he knew "of our wrongs and deprivations, " she argued, "he would make no objection to our pleading in public for our rights."

Maria Miller was born in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1803. Orphaned at the age of five, she was "bound out in a clergyman's family" as a servant until the age of fifteen. In 1826, she married James W. Stewart, a shipping agent, in Boston, a center for black political activity. The Massachusetts General Colored Association, dedicated to agitation on both lo-

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In 1821, the American Colonization Society purchased land in Africa for the establishment of a colony that was named Liberia from the Latin word liber, meaning "free." Monrovia, its capital, was named in honor of President James Monroe ( 1758-1831), a member of the society.

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