His wiki entry.
Former, read escaped, slave. Abolitionist. Magnificent orator. Vice presidential candidate. ...all together an amazing man.
Yet somehow, or other, he's forgotten, or nearly so. Even by those who should know better.
A tireless worker for equal rights for all people. He once famously, or maybe not so famously, said, "I would unite with anybody to do right and
with nobody to do wrong." I can think of some folks who could use a reminder of this simple philosophy.
Born in February of 1818 into slavery, in Talbot County, Maryland.
He was mostly self educated. As you might well imagine, an educated slave is a slave that is going to be unhappy, or more
unhappy with his lot
On a number of occasions he was "hired out", and after being "hired out" to William Freeland he attempted escape for the first time. Later, after
have been "hired out" to one Edward Covey, in 1836 he tried and failed again... In 1837, he met a freewoman named Anna Murray, she by his own
accounts renewed his hopes of eventual freedom.
Sept. 3, 1838, he jumped onto a train heading north, and arrived upon free soil, later writing:
I have often been asked, how I felt when first I found myself on free soil. And my readers may share the same curiosity. There is scarcely anything in
my experience about which I could not give a more satisfactory answer. A new world had opened upon me. If life is more than breath, and the 'quick
round of blood,' I lived more in one day than in a year of my slave life. It was a time of joyous excitement which words can but tamely describe. In
a letter written to a friend soon after reaching New York, I said: 'I felt as one might feel upon escape from a den of hungry lions.' Anguish and
grief, like darkness and rain, may be depicted; but gladness and joy, like the rainbow, defy the skill of pen or pencil.
Few, if any of us, can possibly imagine what that must feel like...
Though his freedom came with conditions.
Later that month, he married Anna Murray.
Much of his life is recorded elsewhere, and should be required reading.
He was not only a tireless advocate of abolishing slavery, but also of universal suffrage.
In 1845, he traveled abroad to Ireland and England. He was,, justifiably, amazed at the differences between England, and America...
A letter to William Lloyd Garrison
Eleven days and a half gone and I have crossed three thousand miles of the perilous deep. Instead of a democratic government, I am under a monarchical
government. Instead of the bright, blue sky of America, I am covered with the soft, grey fog of the Emerald Isle [Ireland]. I breathe, and lo! the
chattel [slave] becomes a man. I gaze around in vain for one who will question my equal humanity, claim me as his slave, or offer me an insult. I
employ a cab—I am seated beside white people—I reach the hotel—I enter the same door—I am shown into the same parlour—I dine at the same
table—and no one is offended... I find myself regarded and treated at every turn with the kindness and deference paid to white people. When I go to
church, I am met by no upturned nose and scornful lip to tell me, 'We don't allow 'n-word's in here!'
He was very popular in England, his speeches drawing huge crowds to the various venues.
"Right is of no Sex – Truth is of no Color – God is the Father of us all, and we are all brethren."
In 1847, he returned to the United States, and started an abolitionist newspaper called the Northern Star whose motto is above.
In his early days, he had considered the Constitution to be pro-slavery, due to the apportionment provisions/compromises enacted in it. Later, he
came to hold the view that the Constitution was actually anti-slavery.
In 1848, he attended the Seneca Falls Convention,
where he was
the only African-american to attend, and one of only 40 men. This was a seminal moment in the suffrage movement in the United States.
Altogether? What an amazing man. This is only a small part of his life and the times he affected.
He lived to see drastic changes in American society with the passage of the 13th amendment (outlawing slavery), 14th amendment (equal protection under
the law), and the 15th amendment (prohibition of denying voting rights). All due, in no small part, to his efforts, and efforts by those inspired by
The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.
Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized
conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.
To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.
This man has long been a hero of mine. Thanks mainly to my 4th grade teacher who was a real fan-girl. She gave me a book about him, which I read
Along with Harriet Tubman, for some odd reason, this man is largely neglected when remembering giants in the cause of freedom, not just for blacks,
but for all of us. Though I suspect that Dr. King may have been more than slightly familiar with his works...
So, I would ask that at some point this month, take a moment to remember this largely forgotten giant of American history. He deserves nothing less.