"They are not human..."-anonymous slave owner
Nat Turner was an African-American slave who led a two-day rebellion of slaves and free blacks in Southampton County, Virginia on August 21, 1831. The rebellion caused the death of approximately sixty white men, women and children. Whites organized militias and called out regular troops to suppress the uprising. In addition, white militias and mobs attacked blacks in the area, killing an estimated 120, many of whom were not involved in the revolt. Nobody was arrested, tried or executed for these crimes against black men, women and children.
"I had a vision - and I saw white spirits and black spirits engaged in battle, and the sun was darkened - the thunder rolled in the Heavens, and blood flowed in streams - and I heard a voice saying, 'Such is your luck, such are you called to see, and let it come rough or smooth, you must surely bear it."
"After having supplied myself with provisions from Mr. Travis's, I scratched a hole under a pile of fence rails in a field, where I concealed myself for six weeks, never leaving my hiding place but for a few minutes in the dead of night to get water, which was very near."
"When I got large enough to go to work, while employed I was reflecting on many things that would present themselves to my imagination; and whenever an opportunity occurred of looking at a book, when the school-children were getting their lessons, I would find many things that the fertility of my own imagination had depicted to me before."
Ellen Craft was a slave from Macon, Georgia who escaped to the North in 1848. Craft, the light-skinned daughter of a mulatto slave and her white master, disguised herself as a white male planter. Her husband William Craft accompanied her, posing as her personal servant. She traveled openly by train and steamboat, arriving in Philadelphia on Christmas Day 1848. Her daring escape was widely publicized, and she became one of the most famous fugitive slaves.
"It is true, our condition as slaves was not by any means the worst; but the thought that we could not call the bones and sinews that God gave our own, and the fact that another man had the power to tear from our cradle the new-born babe and sell it like a brute, then scourge us if we dared to lift a finger to save it from such a fate; haunted us for years."
"I had much rather starve in England, a free woman, than be a slave for the best man that ever breathed upon the American continent."
Harriet Tubman was an American abolitionist and political activist. Born into slavery, Tubman escaped and subsequently made some thirteen missions to rescue approximately seventy enslaved people, family and friends, using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. She later helped abolitionist John Brown recruit men for his raid on Harpers Ferry. During the American Civil War, she served as an armed scout and spy for the United States Army. In her later years, Tubman was an activist in the struggle for women's suffrage.
"I had reasoned this out in my mind, there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other."
"I would fight for my liberty so long as my strength lasted, and if the time came for me to go, the Lord would let them take me."
Sojourner Truth was an African-American abolitionist and women's rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, Ulster County, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to court to recover her son in 1828, she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man.
"We do as much, we eat as much, we want as much."
"Those are the same stars, and that is the same moon, that look down upon your brothers and sisters, and which they see as they look up to them, though they are ever so far away from us, and each other."
David Walker was an African-American abolitionist, writer, and anti-slavery activist. Though his father was a slave, his mother was free so therefore he was free. In 1829, while living in Boston, Massachusetts, with the assistance of the African Grand Lodge, he published An Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World, a call for black unity and self-help in the fight against the oppressive and unjust slavery.
"Treat us like men, and there is no danger but we will all live in peace and happiness together. For we are not like you, hard hearted, unmerciful, and unforgiving. What a happy country this will be, if the whites will listen."
"The Americans say that we are ungrateful-but I ask them for heaven's sake, what should we be grateful to them for-for murdering our fathers and mothers?-Or do they wish us to return thanks to them for chaining and handcuffing us, branding us, cramming fire down our throats, or for keeping us in slavery, and beating us nearly or quite to death to make us work in ignorance and miseries, to support them and their families. They certainly think we are a gang of fools."
Journalist Martin Robison Delany was an African-American abolitionist, journalist, physician, soldier and writer, and arguably the first proponent of black nationalism. Delany is also credited with the Pan-African slogan "Africa for Africans." He was the author of : The Origins of Race and Color.
"Every people should be originators of their own destiny."
"I am not in favor of caste, nor separation of the brotherhood of mankind, and would as willingly live among white men as Black, if I had equal possession and enjoyment of privileges, but I shall never be reconciled living among them subservient to their will."
Maria W. Stewart was an American domestic servant who became a teacher, journalist, lecturer, abolitionist, and women's rights activist. The first known American woman to speak to a mixed audience of men and women, whites and black, she was also the first African-American woman to make public lectures, as well as to lecture about women's rights and make a public anti-slavery speech.
"..It is not the color of the skin that makes the man or the woman, but the principle formed in the soul. Brilliant wit will shine, come from whence it will; and genius and talent will not hide the brightness of its lustre."
"Look at many of the most worthy and interesting of us doomed to spend our lives in gentlemen's kitchens. Look at our young men, smart, active and energetic, with souls filled with ambitious fire; if they look forward, alas! what are their prospects? They can be nothing but the humblest laborers, on account of their dark complexions."
"Most of our color have been taught to stand in fear of the white man from their earliest infancy, to work as soon as they could walk, and to call "master" before they scarce could lisp the name of mother. Continual fear and laborious servitude have in some degree lessened in us that natural force and energy which belong to man; or else, in defiance of opposition, our men, before this, would have nobly and boldly contended for their rights ... give the man of color an equal opportunity with the white from the cradle to manhood, and from manhood to the grave, and you would discover the dignified statesman, the man of science, and the philosopher. But there is no such opportunity for the sons of Africa ... I fear that our powerful ones are fully determined that there never shall be ... O ye sons of Africa, when will your voices be heard in our legislative halls, in defiance of your enemies, contending for equal rights and liberty? ... Is it possible, I exclaim, that for the want of knowledge we have labored for hundreds of years to support others, and been content to receive what they chose to give us in return? Cast your eyes about, look as far as you can see; all, all is owned by the lordly white, except here and there a lowly dwelling which the man of color, midst deprivations, fraud, and opposition has been scarce able to procure. Like King Solomon, who put neither nail nor hammer to the temple, yet received the praise; so also have the white Americans gained themselves a name, like the names of the great men that are in the earth, while in reality we have been their principal foundation and support. We have pursued the shadow, they have obtained the substance; we have performed the labor, they have received the profits; we have planted the vines, they have eaten the fruits of them. "
Poet Phillis Wheatley was the first published African-American female poet. Born in West Africa, she was sold into slavery at the age of seven or eight and transported to North America. She was purchased by the Wheatley family of Boston, who taught her to read and write and encouraged her poetry when they saw her talent.
"Aurora hail, and all the thousand dies,
Which deck thy progress through the vaulted skies:
The morn awakes, and wide extends her rays,
On ev'ry leaf the gentle zephyr plays;
Harmonious lays the feather'd race resume,
Dart the bright eye, and shake the painted plume."
Olaudah Equiano, known in his lifetime as Gustavus Vassa, was a writer and abolitionist from the Igbo region of what is today southeastern Nigeria according to his memoir, or from South Carolina according to other sources. Enslaved as a child, he was taken to the Caribbean and sold as a slave to a captain in the Royal Navy, and later to a Quaker trader. Eventually, he earned his own freedom in 1766 by intelligent trading and careful savings.
"Is it not enough that we are torn from our country and friends, to toil for your luxury and lust of gain? Must every tender feeling be likewise sacrificed to your avarice?"
"The first object which saluted my eyes when I arrived on the coast was the sea, and a slave ship, which was then riding at anchor, and waiting for its cargo. These filled me with astonishment, which was soon connected with terror, when I was carried on board. I was immediately handled, and tossed up to see if I were sound, by some of the crew; and I was now persuaded that I had gotten into a world of bad spirits, and that they were going to kill me."
Copyright © Jim Fry 2018