Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900

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

sessing such a motley of inconsistencies to attempt to pay tribute to his memory. But his fame is fixed, the influence of his extensions is felt, and the news that a great and good man is fallen has been uttered in such pathetic strains that babes have caught the sound, and are beginning to lisp forth his name, which must be transmitted to posterity enrobed in the mantle of Christian virtue that nothing can tarnish but our degeneracy. If we should fail to render ourselves worthy of so powerful an advocate, we shall retard the influence of those virtues. If we shall fail to walk in those paths of elevation, marked out for us by the laws of our country and the achievements of philanthropy, we shall not only destroy the prospects of those who come after us, but will weaken the cause of those who come forward for our support. Let that not be our course. Let us march forward with a firm, unvarying step, not only occupying every inch of ground acquired by those philanthropists who are laboring in our behalf, but let the strength of our characters, by the influence of their examples, acquire for us new territory, and the name of William Wilberforce will not only burnish into brighter fame, but will serve as a lamp, the light of whose blaze will grow broader and higher, until it shall have not only warmed the most remote regions, by "encircling the globe we inhabit," but, by its revolutionary power, we, in our ascent upward, shall be lost in the regions of the skies.■


24 THE SLAVERY OF INTEMPERANCE

William Whipper

African Americans played significant roles in most of the major reform movements that swept the United States in the 1830s and particularly in the temperance movement. Resolutions against the intemperate consumption of alcohol (and sometimes in support of total abstinence) were issued at all national black conventions beginning in 1830. At the second national convention, the members authorized the formation of the Coloured American Conventional Temperance Society. By 1840, most black communities had some form of temperance society and many had temperance boardinghouses, stores, restaurants, and newspapers. Black community leaders in the temperance movement argued that the use of alcohol, while understandable as an act of despair over thwarted aspirations and limited opportunities, was a destructive force akin to slavery. They also urged temperance in the hope that self- improvement and moral uplift would lessen racial prejudice.

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