Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900

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

100 THE SIOUX'S REVENGE

B. T Tanner

On June 25, 1876, Colonel George A. Custer and his army were annihilated in the Battle of Little Big Horn. Custer's "last stand" against Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull made him a hero to most white Americans, but most black Americans did not mourn his death. At the Sabbath service at Bethel Church in Philadelphia, July 13, 1876, two African American speakers discussed the fatal outcome of Custer's war against the Lakota Indians in Dakota, invading lands that had been ceded to the Lakota by treaty in 1868. One was Dr. Henry McNeal Turner, who, in the course of his remarks about the retributive justice of God, said: "I am sorry for the General, as I would be for any other man, but I could not forget that the General has been an apologist, and a defender of those who have been murdering Republicans in the South, and that hundreds of black men greater than General Custer ever was are sleeping in bloody graves, with the sanction and approval of this same picayune General. . . . Thousands of our race have been murdered for nothing except to gratify the ungodly spleen of such men as Custer, and no tears were shed for them." Dr. Turner's speech was followed by the Reverend B. T Tanner's remarks, the text of which also appeared in the Christian Recorder, July 20, 1876.

Benjamin Tucker Tanner was born of free parents in Pittsburgh in 1835. He worked his way through Pennsylvania's Avery College as a barber, then attended Western Theological Seminary. During and after the Civil War, Tanner organized schools and Sabbath schools for freed people, while establishing a national reputation as an orator and author of works including Apology for African Methodismand The Negro, African and American. In 1868, he was appointed editor of the Christian Recorder, the influential newspaper of the A.M.E. Church.

I CAN ALMOST SEE the grim visage of the terrible Sioux light up with joy at the idea of having at last got revenge of the "long-haired chief"; almost hear the unearthly laughter, if a Sioux ever laughs, as around his campfire he tells of the slaughter of the fatal June twenty-fifth. Say what you will, the Sioux has a human soul within him--a soul that is conscious of wrongs perpetrated upon his tribe, until it has become as an outcast in its own land. And, taught by a Christian government that the proper thing to do in the case of wrongs perpetrated is to seek revenge, he has acted upon

____________________
Custer had been a major general during the Civil War, but he had lost his title when the volunteer army was disbanded following Appomattox.

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