Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900

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

ritory; let us build stronger the tyrant system of slavery in the great American Republic. Remember, too, that your very presence among the troops of the North would inspire your oppressed brethren of the South with zeal for the overthrow of the tyrant system, and confidence in the armies of the living God--the God of truth, justice and equality to all men.■


63
WHAT IF THE SLAVES ARE EMANCIPATED?

John S. Rock

When the Civil War began, in April 1861, the sole Northern aim was restoration of the Union. But as the war continued, it became increasingly clear that to adhere to this position was to guarantee victory for the Confederacy. Thousands of slaves were doing the physical labor of the Confederate army--permitting the soldiers to conserve their strength for fighting, while millions of slaves were producing the sinews of war. Hence, black and white abolitionists argued soon after the outbreak of the war that the struggle could not be won nor could the Union be restored without the abolition of slavery. Repeatedly, however, they were forced to answer the question, What should we do with the slaves when they are emancipated? In a speech delivered on January 23, 1862, before the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, John S. Rock, a prominent Boston dentist, attorney, and orator, came to grips with this question. Rock not only dealt with the emancipation of the slaves as a military necessity to guarantee a Union victory over the Confederacy, but also discussed the future of the free black in a white society. Before his predominantly white audience, Rock explored the roots and myths of race prejudice.

Rock's speech is presented here as published in the Liberator, February 4, 1862.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN : I am here not so much to make a speech as to add a little more color to this occasion. (Laughter) I do not know that it is right that I should speak, at this time, for it is said that we have talked too much already; and it is being continually thundered in our ears that the time for speech-making has ended, and the time

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