Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900

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

running for slavery, and I for liberty. I think I have beat him out of sight. Thanks be to God that I am elected to Canada, and if I don't live but one night, I am determined to die on free soil. Let my days be few or many, let me die sooner or later, my grave shall be made in free soil.■


39
UNDER THE STARS AND STRIPES

William Wells Brown

William Wells Brown ( 1815-1884) was born in slavery in Kentucky. He escaped to the North and became an effective antislavery speaker, a novelist (author of Clotel; or, The President's Daughter, among the first novels published by African Americans), a playwright, and a historian. In 1854, years after he had escaped from slavery, his English friends, worried for his safety under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, purchased Brown's freedom for three hundred dollars. Besides being one of the most active abolitionist lecturers, Brown was deeply involved in the temperance, woman suffrage, prison reform, and peace movements.

On November 4, 1847, Brown delivered a lecture on slavery and its influence upon the morals and character of the American people before the Female Anti-Slavery Society of Salem, Massachusetts. The lecture was later published in pamphlet form by the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society.

Brown discusses the effect of slavery on America's standing in the world and employs the opinions of other nations as a mirror through which to examine American affairs. He strikingly transforms the American flag from an emblem of liberty into a symbol of cruel slavery, which wherever unfurled means the end of liberty to those of African descent.

Parts of this lecture are presented here; they were taken from William Wells Brown, A Lecture Delivered before the Female Anti- Slavery Society of Salem, at Lyceum Hall, Nov. 4, 1847, by William W. Brown , a Fugitive Slave, Reported by Henry M. Parkhurst ( Boston, 1847).

IT IS DEPLORABLE to look at the character of the American people, the character that has been given to them by the institution of slavery. The profession of the American people is far above the profession of the people of any other country. Here the people profess to carry out the princi-

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