Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900

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

has she yet to learn that the time to assert a right is the time when the right itself is called in question, and that the men of all others to assert it are the men to whom the right has been denied?

It would be no indication of the right of speech to prove that certain gentlemen of great distinction, eminent for their learning and ability, are allowed to freely express their opinions on all subjects, including the subject of slavery. Such a vindication would need, itself, to be vindicated. It would add insult to injury. Not even an old-fashioned Abolition meeting could vindicate that right in Boston just now. There can be no right of speech where any man, however lifted up, or however humble, however young, or however old, is overawed by force and compelled to suppress their honest sentiments.

Equally clear is the right to hear. To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the right of the hearer as well as those of the speaker. It is just as criminal to rob a man of his right to speak and hear as it would be to rob him of his money. I have no doubt that Boston will vindicate this right. But in order to do so, there must be no concessions to the enemy. When a man is allowed to speak because he is rich and powerful, it aggravates the crime of denying the right to the poor and humble.

The principle must rest upon its own proper basis. And until the right is accorded to the humblest as freely as to the most exalted citizen, the government of Boston is but an empty name and its freedom a mockery. A man's right to speak does not depend upon where he was born or upon his color. The simple quality of manhood is the solid basis of the right--and there let it rest forever.■


62
LET US TAKE UP THE SWORD

Alfred M. Green

As the Civil War erupted, many of those who had most strongly denounced the government and urged emigration (including Ford Douglas and Martin Delaney) worked most diligently to promote black enlistment in the Union army and to transform the mission of the war to abolition.

Although black soldiers had fought in the American Revolution and in the War of 1812, a federal law barred them from serving in state militias, and there were no African Americans in the regular United States Army. Despite this, in the first weeks after the outbreak of the Civil War, Northern blacks offered their services to the government to help suppress

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