Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900

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

coming into union with it. If the Union had been formed upon the supposition that the colored man was a man, a man he would have been considered, whether in New Hampshire or Kentucky. But under the Union as it was, and as it is, he is kicked, stoned, insulted, enslaved, and the public sentiment that does it, falls back upon the Constitution for support, and will turn its back upon you, wherever you may be, if you deny that instrument to be obligatory as the paramount law.

I need not say how greatly I am troubled whenever a difference of opinion exists in the minds of those who love the cause of Freedom. I have tried in my own mind to make out a case for those who do not see eye to eye with us in this matter. But the more I have labored at it, the stronger becomes my conviction of duty in calling for a dissolution of the union between Freedom and Slavery. I speak after long thought, free and full discussion, and the clearest view of all the consequences and all the obstacles. I have taken all things into consideration; and in view of each and of all, I say here, as I did in New York, that if I can only sustain the Constitution, by sustaining Slavery, then--"live or die--sink or swim--survive or perish," I give my voice for the dissolution of the Union.■


38
I AM FREE FROM AMERICAN SLAVERY Lewis Richardson

Many fugitive slaves appeared before northern abolitionist society gatherings to tell the stories of their bondage and escape. These firsthand testimonies offered dramatic proof of the terrible conditions of slavery and convincing rebuttal to the claims by some defenders of slavery that slaves were contented and well-treated. As historian John Blassingame has noted, these addresses by "men and women fresh from slavery" drew on black oral traditions, were often "filled with pathos and humor" and "elicited sympathy, tears, and increased interest in abolition."

The speech of Lewis Richardson attracted particular attention because he had escaped from Ashland, the Kentucky plantation of prominent U.S. senator, former U.S. secretary of state, and presidential candidate Henry Clay ( 1777-1852). Richardson spoke to a large interracial audience in Union Chapel, Amherstburgh, Canada West, on the evening of March 13, 1846. The speech text was published in the Signal of Liberty, March 30, 1846, and was reprinted in Slave Testimony, edited by

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