Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900

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

citizens, is reasonable and dictated alike by justice, humanity and religion, you will not reject, I trust, the prayer of your petitioners.

Before sitting down, I owe it to myself to remark, that I was not appraised of the wish of my friends to appear here until passing through Boston, a day or two since; and having been occupied with other matters, I have had no opportunity for preparation on this occasion. I feel much obliged to the Committee for their kind, patient, and attentive hearing.■


35 WE MUST ASSERT OUR RIGHTFUL CLAIMS AND PLEAD OUR OWN CAUSE

Samuel H. Davis

The National Convention of Colored Citizens met in Buffalo, New York, August 15 to 19, 1843. Although the highlight of the convention was Henry Highland Garnet's militant appeal to the slaves, the opening address of Samuel H. Davis of Buffalo, the chairman, was also noteworthy.

Davis sets the keynote for the convention by raising fundamental questions about the rhetorical strategies of those who have assembled. The goal of black abolitionists, Davis insists, must be to "make known our wrongs to the world and to our oppressors," primarily by demonstrating to these "slaves of slavery" that slavery is against their self-interest. The more difficult questions raised by Davis are: to whom should these appeals be directed, and what form should they take? Davis rejects most of the standard outlets--petitions to legislatures, appeals to the church, alliance with political parties, but insists that whatever rhetorical action is taken, African Americans should "lead our own cause." After Davis's keynote, the convention voted to urge the abandonment of any church-- white or black--that practiced racial discrimination or refused to assist the antislavery cause.

Below are excerpts from that address, reprinted from Minutes of the National Convention of Colored Citizens held at Buffalo on the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th of August, 1843 ( Albany, N.Y.), 4-7.

GENTLEMEN: I consider this a most happy period in our history, when we as a people are in some degree awake to a sense of our condition

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