Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900

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

ished my father may cherish me; and when I die, that the same dust may cover me that covered the ashes of my father.■


33 LET US DO JUSTICE TO AN UNFORTUNATE PEOPLE

Thomas Paul

The following speech by Thomas Paul, who was described as "a Colored Student of Dartmouth College," was delivered before the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society on January 27, 1841. Paul was the son of the pastor of the African Baptist Church in Boston, and when Garrison first published the Liberator, young Paul assisted him as an apprentice. He had been a student at the antislavery academy at Canaan, New Hampshire, until its building had been dragged away by farmers protesting its interracial character. Later, he became the first African American graduate of Dartmouth College. In 1849, Paul was appointed as the first African American headmaster of the Smith School in Boston, following protests about the racist behavior of the school's all-white staff toward black pupils. Paul and the Smith school became focal points for the Massachusetts struggle over segregated education. Black boycotts of the school continued after Paul's appointment and it closed after the state passed an integrated education law in 1855.

Paul begins this speech with a reflexive analysis of the rhetorical situations facing himself and other abolitionist speakers--the burdens of proving the self-evident, of undermining the prejudices that obscure sound judgment, and of revealing horrors denied or obscured by others. Directed to fellow antislavery activists, Paul's address is a good example of the intraorganizational appeals necessary to sustain a social or political movement.

The speech is reprinted from the National Anti-Slavery Standardof April 1, 1841. For more information on Paul and the battle over school segregation in Boston, see James O. Horton and Lois E. Horton, Black Bostonians: Family Life and Community Struggle in the Antebellum North ( New York: Holmes and Meier, 1979), 70-75.

MR. PRESIDENT: I have often asked myself, what posterity would think of the strange contest in which the abolitionists are engaged.

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