Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900

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

101 HOW LONG? HOW LONG, O HEAVEN?

Reverend Henry McNeal Turner

The wave of brutal assaults on African Americans in the South by the Ku Klux Klan and other extralegal organizations reached its climax on July 9, 1876, in Hamburg, South Carolina. The black militia members of the city were attacked by three hundred armed whites and ordered to give up their arms. When they refused, the whites opened fire on the building in which the militia were assembled. A piece of artillery was used to attack the building, and after twenty-five of the black militia were captured, five were marked out, one by one, and shot to death in the presence of a large body of their captors. The white mob then attacked and looted the homes and shops of the black community. Governor D. H. Chamberlain of South Carolina wrote that the Hamburg massacre "presents a darker picture of human cruelty than the slaughter of Custer and his soldiers, for they were shot in open battle. The victims at Hamburg were murdered in cold blood after they had surrendered and were utterly defenseless." Seven men were tried for the murders; all were acquitted.

Bitterly denouncing the merciless attacks upon African Americans in the South, Henry McNeal Turner ( 1834-1915) delivered a stinging sermon at Union Church in Philadelphia on August 5, 1876. It is interesting that Turner's suggestion that black Americans appeal to European nations for assistance in their struggle for survival anticipated such appeals to the Paris Peace Conference at Versailles and to the United Nations.

The following excerpts of Turner's remarks appeared in the Christian Recorder, August 10, 1876.

In 1833 the authorities of South Carolina hanged twenty-eight colored men because they were suspicioned of conspiring to assert and take their freedom--six at one time, twenty-two at another--and yet the blood of a mouse was not shed, throughout the whole so-called conspiracy. Nevertheless, upon this trumped-up charge, they hanged several colored men, who, for Christian integrity and loyalty to law and order, were as far ahead of the

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In Charleston, South Carolina, in 1822, a huge slave plot was uncovered. Its leader was Denmark Vesey, a free black carpenter who had bought his own liberty when he won a fifteen-hundred-dollar raffle. The conspiracy had been planned for four years, and the slaves involved had hidden away weapons and ammunition. The authorities, alerted by two house slaves, arrested 131 suspects. Federal troops stood by to protect the city as the twenty-eight blacks found guilty and sentenced to death were led to the gallows.

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