Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900

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

into his own. Mr. Martin, in conclusion, forcibly urged the necessity of aid being given immediately. The South is exhausted, and will take time to recover, and the pressure of winter is coming on, so that if we are to discuss general questions affecting the negro in place of supplying his want of food and clothing, in face of the severe weather, this discussion will have to go on over his starved corpse.■


80 DELIVER US FROM SUCH A MOSES

Lewis Hayden

On October 24, 1864, Andrew Johnson, addressing the black population of Nashville, denounced slavery and the "damnable aristocracy" that had profited from human bondage, and expressed the belief that only local men, white and black, should have a voice in the reconstruction of the seceded states. He ventured the hope that, "as in the days of old," a Moses might arise "to lead them safely to their Promised Land of freedom and happiness." The audience thereupon cried, "You are our Moses!" Johnson responded: "Humble and unworthy as I am, if no better shall be found, I will indeed be your Moses, and lead you through the Red Sea of war and bondage to a fairer future of liberty and peace." But when Lewis Hayden visited the South to encourage freedmen to join the Masonic Order, he found the man who had promised to become a new "Moses" was instrumental in assisting the former slaveholders to return the freedpersons to a status resembling slavery. In a bitter attack on President Johnson before the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in Boston, of which he was Grand Master, on December 27, 1865, Hayden called for deliverance of his people from the policies of Andrew Johnson.

Born in slavery, Lewis Hayden watched as the members of his family were separated and sold and his mother driven to madness. Sold twice at auction himself, Hayden was thirty-three years old and married by the time he managed to escape from slavery. He had taught himself to read by painfully struggling through discarded newspapers and the Bible. In a dramatic flight in a hack with his wife and son, he fled from Kentucky to Canada; later he moved to Detroit, where he built a church and school. Finally he moved to Boston, where he became a leading figure in the black community and established a clothing store. When he died, he left an estate of five thousand dollars, which went to establish a scholar-

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