Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900

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

sented, to wit, whether, the government having transgressed Constitutional and natural limits, you will bravely resist its aggressions, and tell its soulless agents that no slaveholder shall make your city and county a hunting field for slaves.

Whatever may be your decision, my ground is taken. I have declared it everywhere. It is known over the state and out of the state--over the line in the North, and over the line in the South. I don't respect this law--I don't fear it--I won't obey it! It outlaws me, and I outlaw it, and the men who attempt to enforce it on me. I place the governmental officials on the ground that they place me. I will not live a slave, and if force is employed to reenslave me, I shall make preparations to meet the crisis as becomes a man. If you will stand by me--and I believe you will do it, for your freedom and honor are involved as well as mine--it requires no microscope to see that--I say if you will stand with us in resistance to this measure, you will be the saviors of your country. Your decision to-night in favor of resistance will give vent to the spirit of liberty, and it will break the bands of party, and shout for joy all over the North. Your example only is needed to be the type of popular action in Auburn, and Rochester, and Utica, and Buffalo, and all the West, and eventually in the Atlantic cities. Heaven knows that this act of noble daring will break out somewhere--and may God grant that Syracuse be the honored spot, whence it shall send an earthquake voice through the land!■


44 AR'N'T I A WOMAN?

Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth (c. 1797-1883), one of the most celebrated orators of the nineteenth century, was born in slavery in New York and freed in 1827 with the state's emancipation. She did domestic work and after a period of religious revivalism became an active abolitionist, exchanging her name Isabella for the name Sojourner Truth. Although she remained illiterate all her life, she was a brilliant and eloquent advocate for the antislavery and women's rights causes.

The speech reproduced here was delivered at the Woman's Rights convention in Akron, Ohio, on May 29, 1851. Some of the delegates to the convention urged that she not be allowed to speak, fearing that the abolitionists would harm their cause. But Frances Dana Gage, who was presiding, invited her to address the convention. Sojourner Truth directed her re-

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