Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900

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

than to serve, is by his vocation forging fetters for the slave, and is "to all intents and purposes" a curse to his race. It is true, considering the circumstances under which we have been placed by our white neighbors, we have a right to ask them not only to cease to oppress us, but to give us that encouragement which our talents and industry may merit. When this is done, they will see our minds expand, and our pockets filled with rocks. How very few colored men are encouraged in their trades or business! Our young men see this, and become disheartened. In this country, where money is the great sympathetic nerve which ramifies society, and has a ganglia in every man's pocket, a man is respected in proportion to his success in business. When the avenues to wealth are opened to us, we will then become educated and wealthy, and then the roughest looking colored man that you ever saw, or ever will see, will be pleasanter than the harmonies of Orpheus, and black will be a very pretty color. It will make our jargon, wit--our words, oracles; flattery will then take the place of slander, and you will find no prejudice in the Yankee whatever. We do not expect to occupy a much better position than we now do, until we shall have our educated and wealthy men, who can wield a power that cannot be misunderstood. Then, and not till then, will the tongue of slander be silenced, and the lip of prejudice sealed. Then, and not till then, will we be able to enjoy true equality, which can exist only among peers.

[A hymn entitled "Freedom's Battle," written for the occasion by Miss Frances E. Watkins, was then sung by a company of colored vocalists, Miss Adelaide V. Putnam presiding at the piano.]■


56 BREAK EVERY YOKE AND LET THE OPPRESSED GO FREE

Mary Ann Shadd

Mary Ann Shadd ( 1823-1893) was born into an affluent free black family in Wilmington, Delaware. She founded and taught in several schools for black children, always emphasizing what biographer Jason Silverman has identified as "her perennial themes: black independence and self-respect" ( "Mary Ann Shadd,"88).

After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, Shadd joined thousands of other African Americans in emigrating to Canada. Unlike

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