Abolitionist Movement

HIST147 Historical Documents – Abolitionist Movement (5 points)

Due April 28 by 11:59pm (post response to Canvas)

Instructions

This assignment assumes you have read Chapter 13 of the online textbook. The two documents for this assignment are from two of the original members of the abolitionist movement, William Lloyd Garrison (a white activist) and David Walker (a free African American). Students should read both documents and write a response to the assignment question (found at after the documents).

The response for the question should be at least 150 words. Students are welcome to go over the minimum word count requirement. If you include the question in your response, it does not count toward the word count requirement. The response should be written in complete sentences. The response should be written in your own words. DO NOT use quotes from the historical documents.

These responses will be evaluated on how well the responses reflect the information presented in the historical documents.

Students should submit their responses as ONE Word doc or PDF file to Canvas.

The documents start on the next page.

The Liberator, Inaugural Editorial by William Lloyd Garrison (1 January 1831)

TO THE PUBLIC

In the month of August, I issued proposals for publishing “The Liberator” in Washington City; but the enterprise, though hailed in different sections of the country, was palsied by public indifference. Since that time, the removal of the Genius of Universal Emancipation to the Seat of Government has rendered less imperious the establishment of a similar periodical in that quarter.

During my recent tour for the purpose of exciting the minds of the people by a series of discourses on the subject of slavery, every place that I visited gave fresh evidence of the fact, that a greater revolution in public sentiment was to be effected in the free States — and particularly in New-England  — than at the South. I found contempt more bitter, opposition more active, detraction more relentless, prejudice more stubborn, and apathy more frozen, than among slave-owners themselves.  Of course, there were individual exceptions to the contrary. This state of things afflicted, but did not dishearten me. I determined, at every hazard, to lift up the standard of emancipation in the eyes of the nation, within sight of Bunker Hill and in the birthplace of liberty. That standard is now unfurled; and long may it float, unhurt by the spoliations of time or the missiles of a desperate foe — yea, till every chain be broken, and every bondman set free! Let Southern oppressors tremble — let their secret abettors tremble — let their Northern apologists tremble — let all the enemies of the persecuted blacks tremble.

I deem the publication of my original Prospectus unnecessary, as it has obtained a wide circulation. The principles therein inculcated will be steadily pursued in this paper, excepting that I shall not array myself as the political partisan of any man.  In defending the great cause of human rights, I wish to derive the assistance of all religions and of all parties.

Assenting to the “self-evident truth” maintained in the American Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights — among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” I shall strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement of our slave population. In Park-Street Church, on the Fourth of July, 1829, I unreflectingly assented to the popular but pernicious doctrine of gradual abolition. I seize this moment to make a full and unequivocal recantation, and thus publicly to ask pardon of my God, of my country, and of my brethren the poor slaves, for having uttered a sentiment so full of timidity, injustice, and absurdity. A similar recantation, from my pen, was published in the Genius of Universal Emancipation at Baltimore, in September, 1829. My conscience is now satisfied.

I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be  as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice.  On this subject, I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. No!  no!  Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; — but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present.  I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.

It is pretended, that I am retarding the cause of emancipation by the coarseness of my invective and the precipitancy of my measures. The charge is not true. On this question of my influence, — humble as it is,– is felt at this moment to a considerable extent, and shall be felt in coming years — not perniciously, but beneficially — not as a curse, but as a blessing; and posterity will bear testimony that I was right. I desire to thank God, that he enables me to disregard “the fear of man which bringeth a snare,” and to speak his truth in its simplicity and power. And here I close with this fresh dedication:

“Oppression!  I have seen thee, face to face,

And met thy cruel eye and cloudy brow,

But thy soul-withering glance I fear not now —

For dread to prouder feelings doth give place

Of deep abhorrence!  Scorning the disgrace

Of slavish knees that at thy footstool bow,

I also kneel — but with far other vow

Do hail thee and thy herd of hirelings base: —

I swear, while life-blood warms my throbbing veins,

Still to oppose and thwart, with heart and hand,

Thy brutalising sway — till Afric’s chains

Are burst, and Freedom rules the rescued land, —

Trampling Oppression and his iron rod:

Such is the vow I take — SO HELP ME GOD!”

[by the Scottish poet Thomas Pringle]

Excerpts from David Walker’s An Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World

Having travelled over a considerable portion of these United States, and having, in the course of my travels, taken the most accurate observations of things as they exist — the result of my observations has warranted the full and unshaken conviction, that we, (coloured people of these United States,) are the most degraded, wretched, and abject set of beings that ever lived since the world began; and I pray God that none like us ever may live again until time shall be no more. ….

… I therefore ask the whole American people, had I not rather die, or be put to death, than to be a slave to any tyrant, who takes not only my own, but my wife and children’s lives by the inches? Yea, would I meet death with avidity far! far!! in preference to such servile submission to the murderous hands of tyrants. … Oh! my coloured brethren, all over the world, when shall we arise from this death-like apathy?–And be men!!

… It is just the way with black men – eight white men can frighten fifty of them; whereas, if you can only get courage into the blacks, I do declare it, that one good black man can put to death six white men; and I give it as a fact, let twelve black men get well armed for battle, and they will kill and put to flight fifty whites. — The reason is, the blacks, once you get them started, they glory in death.

… to my no ordinary astonishment, [a] Reverend gentleman got up and told us (coloured people) that slaves must be obedient to their masters … Here I pause for a moment, to give the world time to consider what was my surprise, to hear such preaching from a minister of my Master, whose very gospel is that of peace and not of blood and whips, as this pretended preacher tried to make us believe.

… America is more our country, than it is the whites-we have enriched it with our blood and tears. The greatest riches in all America have arisen from our blood and tears: — and will they drive us from our property and homes, which we have earned with our blood? They must look sharp or this very thing will bring swift destruction upon them. The Americans have got so fat on our blood and groans, that they have almost forgotten the God of armies.

… But Americans. I declare to you, while you keep us and our children in bondage, and treat us like brutes, to make us support you and your families, we cannot be your friends. You do not look for it do you? Treat us then like men, and we will be your friends. And there is not a doubt in my mind, but that the whole of the past will be sunk into oblivion, and we yet, under God, will become a united and happy people. The whites may say it is impossible, but remember that nothing is impossible with God.

… See your Declaration Americans! ! ! Do you understand your won language? Hear your languages, proclaimed to the world, July 4th, 1776 — “We hold these truths to be self evident — that ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL! ! that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness! !” Compare your own language above, extracted from your Declaration of Independence, with your cruelties and murders inflicted by your cruel and unmerciful fathers and yourselves on our fathers and on us — men who have never given your fathers or you the least provocation! ! ! ! ! !

Assignment Question

1. Based on Garrison’s editorial and the excerpt from Walker, how would you describe the new Abolitionist Movement? How is it different from older, more traditional anti-slavery movements?