Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900

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

they stood there, one of their number rose up, and pointing his fingers to the American flag, said:

United States, your banner wears
Two emblems,--one of fame;
Alas, the other that it bears,
Reminds us of your shame.
The white man's liberty entyped,
Stands blazoned by your stars
;

But what's the meaning of your stripes?
They mean your Negro scars
.*

What put that in the mouth of that individual? It was the system of American slavery; it was the action of the American people; the inconsistency of the American people; their profession of liberty, and their practice in opposition to their profession.■


40 I HAVE NO CONSTITUTION, AND NO COUNTRY

William Wells Brown

Brown was one of twenty American delegates to attend the Paris Peace Congress in August 1849, where he encouraged the assembly to denounce slavery as a form of violence against blacks. After the Congress, he embarked upon an antislavery lecture tour in Britain and, on September 27, spoke to a meeting held at the Concert Rooms on Store Street in London. The meeting had been interrupted by a confrontation between abolitionist George Thompson, who was introducing Brown, and a member of the audience who disputed Thompson's claim that prejudice against African Americans in the northern United States was "quite as galling" as slavery in the South.

Brown's response on behalf of Thompson's claim spoke to his own experience as a person without a country, a fugitive from his native nation, not simply one region. "Slavery," he reminded his audience, "is a na-

____________________
Thomas Campbell, "To the United States of North America," in W. Alfred Hill, ed., The Poetical Works of Thomas Campbell ( London: George Bell and Sons, 1891), 261.

-213-

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