Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900

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

60
I DO NOT BELIEVE IN THAT ANTISLAVERY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN

H. Ford Douglas

Although few American could vote in the presidential campaign of 1860, all were confronted with the question of whom to support. There were four candidates for the presidential office, and many African Americans preferred Abraham Lincoln, the Republican nominee, though few were enthusiastic about him. Some, however, regarded Lincoln as no better than the other candidates, an advocate of white supremacy and an opponent of equality for blacks. The most outspoken black critic of Lincoln was H. Ford Douglas, of Illinois.

A fugitive slave from Virginia, Douglas ( 1831- 1865) established himself as an orator at midwestern black state conventions of the early 1850s. An ardent emigrationist, Douglas debated John Mercer Langston on the subject before the 1854 National Emigration Convention. In 1856, he became part owner of the Provincial Freeman and supported emigration efforts in Canada West and Central America.

Sponsored by abolitionist Parker Pillsbury and the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, Douglas came east during the 1860 campaign and delivered a series of speeches attacking the Republican candidate. On July 4, he spoke at Framingham, Massachusetts, at a mass meeting sponsored by the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, held, in the words of the call, "to consider the solemn and pregnant issues of the hour--how best to preserve the principles of the Revolution and carry them forward to a speedy and enduring triumph." Before a crowd of more than two thousand, Douglas not only catalogued the reasons why no friend of the slave could support Lincoln but also challenged the advocates of racial inferiority, among whom he listed the Republican presidential candidate. Douglas's speech outraged some in the audience, including U.S. senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts, who rose after Douglas to defend his party, its nominee, and himself. Douglas's speech is especially interesting in view of the continuing controversy over the man long hailed as the "Great Emancipator." It also contains a forceful denunciation of the speaking occasion, July 4, which Douglas "Would rather curse than bless."

For further information on Douglas, see Robert L. Harris Jr., "H. Ford Douglas: Afro-American Antislavery Emigrationist," Journal of Negro History 62( July 1917), 217-34; and Orville A. Hitchcock and Ota. T. Reynolds , "Ford Douglas' Fourth of July Oration, 1860," in J. Jeffrey Auer, ed., Antislavery and Disunion, 1858-1863( Gloucester, Mass.: Peter

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