BECK index

Black Americans & Abolitionists 1845-65

by Sanderson Beck

Black Progress in the North 1845-53
Black Progress in the North 1853-60
Blacks During Slavery in the South 1845-60
Harriet Tubman and Solomon Northup
Sojourner Truth and Harriet Jacobs
Frederick Douglass 1845-55
Frederick Douglass 1856-65

Black Progress in the North 1845-53

Slavery and Abolitionists 1817-44

      In 1845 African Americans were usually called Negroes or blacks. In New England they formed the Freedom Association to help fugitives attempting to escape from slavery in the South. In Massachusetts blacks could go to school with whites in Salem, New Bedford, Nantucket, Worcester, and Lowell. When the Lyceum in New Bedford only allowed blacks to sit in the gallery and excluded them from membership, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Sumner, Theodore Parker, and other abolitionists boycotted the Lyceum. Later abolitionists formed their own Lyceum.
      In 1846 Pennsylvania’s Representative David Wilmot proposed banning slavery in territory that might be acquired in the Mexican War, but the Wilmot Proviso was defeated in the United States Senate. New Jersey abolished slavery except that visitors could travel with the “usual number” of household slaves. On August 12 the minister Moses Dickson, who worked for the “underground railroad” to help fleeing slaves in Cincinnati, and eleven other blacks met in St. Louis, Missouri and formed the Knights of Liberty to plan the overthrow of slavery by organizing secret societies for emancipation. By 1856 there would be 47,240 Knights of Liberty.
      In 1847 abolitionists met with blacks in Troy, New York and urged them to apply to white colleges. In 1848 the Citizens Union of Pennsylvania formed to promote equal citizenship for blacks. A convention in Columbus, Ohio in 1850 agreed to oppose oppression, promote education for all, and to encourage blacks to pursue professions, agriculture, and mechanical arts.
      In 1847 the Quaker Levi Coffin moved to Cincinnati, and in the next ten years he helped hundreds of runaway slaves find freedom along the underground railroad in Ohio and Indiana. He and Salmon Chase, who was a Liberty Party leader in Ohio, helped found an orphanage in Cincinnati for black children.
      In 1848 at a convention in Buffalo, New York black leaders organized the Free Soil Party. They nominated the former US President Martin Van Buren of New York for President with Charles Francis Adams of Massachusetts for Vice President, and their platform was for banning slavery in recently acquired Mexican territory. In September a colored convention in Cleveland, Ohio supported their campaign, and in the election they got about 10% of the votes. Many thousands of blacks lived in Philadelphia, and they owned $531,809 in real estate. They formed the Citizen’s Union of Pennsylvania to work for equal citizenship. Rhode Island passed a law against enforcing the Federal Fugitive Slave Law of 1793. Ohio’s Whig Governor William Bebb refused to extradite to Kentucky 15 people who had helped escaping slaves. Harvard President Edward Everett announced that he would accept any qualified Negro as a student even if all the whites withdrew.
      The black abolitionist, Henry Highland Garnet (1815-82) escaped with his family from slavery in Maryland in 1824, and he attended the African Free School in New York City for seven years and graduated from the Oneida Institute in 1839. In 1848 he published The Past and Present Condition and the Destiny of the Colored Race in Troy, New York, and he co-founded the African Civilization Society in 1849 to establish a colony in West Africa. He encouraged blacks to pursue education and prophesied the blending of the “races.”
      In 1849 Citizens of Color met in New Haven to challenge their disenfranchisement by a Connecticut law. The Ohio legislature repealed some black laws that had limited the rights of Negroes, and they approved public schools for Negro children. Philadelphia already had 1,300 black pupils in schools. Rev. Charles Avery donated $300,000 to found the Avery College for Negroes in Allegheny, Pennsylvania.
      Black Benjamin Roberts sued Boston for not letting his daughter Sarah attend a public school. The black lawyer Robert Morris and Senator Charles Sumner defended his case. Sumner in his speech before the Massachusetts Supreme Court on December 4 affirmed the concept of “equality before the law.” He asked if any discrimination based on race or color could be used against children since the Massachusetts constitution protects “equality before the law” in the common schools which by a law of 1647 were founded so that all children could learn to read and write. Sumner argued that separate schools are not equivalent, making black and white schools unequal before the law. He explained the situation this way:

Prejudice is the child of ignorance.
It is sure to prevail where people do not know each other.
Society and intercourse are means
established by Providence for human improvement.
They remove antipathies,
promote mutual adaptation and conciliation,
and establish relations of reciprocal regard.
Whoso sets up barriers to these,
thwarts the ways of Providence,
crosses the tendencies of human nature,
and directly interferes with the laws of God…..
The vaunted superiority of the white race
imposes corresponding duties.
The faculties with which they are endowed,
and the advantages they possess,
must be exercised for the good of all.
If the colored people are ignorant, degraded, and unhappy,
then should they be especial objects of your care.1

The court rejected their appeal, setting the precedent that schools could be “separate and equal.”
      On the election night of 9 October 1849 the “Killers” gang from the volunteer Moymensing Hose Company attacked an interracial gathering in Philadelphia, and the militia was summoned; three whites and one black were killed, and 25 were taken to a hospital.
      Black Martin R. Delaney became a student at the Harvard Medical School while two other blacks studied medicine at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.
      John Quincy Adams had done much to repeal the “gag rule” which blocked the US Congress from receiving petitions related to slavery, and after his death Horace Mann was elected to his seat in the House. On 15 February 1850 he spoke on slavery in the territories and predicted that the conflict could bring about a terrible civil war. As a “Free Soiler” he pledged his commitment to securing freedom in the territories and defended abolitionists, saying,

If we are abolitionists,
then, we are abolitionists of human bondage;
while those who oppose us
are abolitionists of human liberty.
We would prevent the extension
of one of the greatest wrongs
that man ever suffered upon earth;
they would carry bodily chains and mental chains—
chains in a literal and chains in a figurative sense—
into realms where even the half-civilized descendants
of the Spaniard and the Indian have silenced their clanking.2

Mann warned,

If the two sections of this country ever marshal themselves
against each other, and their squadrons rush to the conflict,
it will be a war carried on by such powers of intellect,
animated by such vehemence of passion,
and sustained by such an abundance of resources,
as the world has never before known.
“Ten foreign wars,” it has been well said,
“are a luxury compared with one civil war.”3

      In the Great Compromise of 1850 California was admitted to the Union as a free state, and the slave trade was abolished in Washington DC; but a stricter fugitive slave law was enacted. Other land taken from Mexico was undetermined in regard to slavery.
      In 1850 the Ohio Colored Convention formed the Colored American League to aid escaped slaves. Blacks in New York City organized the American League of Colored Laborers to promote skilled work and encourage education.
      On 15 February 1851 US Marshals arrested the runaway slave Shadrach Minkins in a coffee house and took him to a federal courthouse in Boston where about 50 blacks and abolitionists rescued him and helped him escape to Canada. President Fillmore ordered the liberators prosecuted, but the eight who were tried were acquitted by the jury.
      In 1851 the Indiana Constitution prohibited the admission of Negroes into the state, though few violators were prosecuted. Negroes and mulattoes also could not vote or be in the militia. The Colored Man’s Journal began publishing in New York, and the Liberty Party Paper merged with the North Star run by Frederick Douglass.
      On October 1 the US Marshal Henry Allen arrested the fugitive slave Jerry Henry in Syracuse during the state convention of the Liberty Party, and hundreds of abolitionists rescued Jerry who was taken to Canada. In June 1852 abolitionists indicted Marshal Allen for kidnapping, and he was acquitted. In that trial Gerrit Smith argued that the Fugitive Slave Law was unconstitutional for 14 reasons including these:

1) It withholds trial by jury.
2) The Commissioner is not authorized to do what the law requires.
3) It offers a bribe.
4) It allows common law suits to be decided solely on affidavits.
5) It provides for disposing of cases by ex parte testimony on the plaintiff’s side only.
7) It interferes with judicial legislation of the government.
12) It recognizes that slavery in the Territories is constitutional.
14) It suspends the writ of habeas corpus.

In January 1853 Gerrit Smith and 12 others were prosecuted for obstructing justice, but only one man was convicted.
      After being serialized in 1851-52 on 20 March 1852 Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe was published and sold more than 300,000 copies in its first year.
      The black abolitionist William Still had begun working for the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery in 1850, and in 1852 he was made chairman of the Acting Vigilance Committee of Philadelphia. He would help about 800 runaway slaves find freedom by working with the Underground Railroad network. Sojourner Truth at the Second National Women’s Suffrage Convention in Akron, Ohio made her famous “Ain’t I a woman?” speech. Martin R. Delaney (1812-85) published at Philadelphia The Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the U.S., Politically Considered. Concerned that blacks had a bleak future in the US, he suggested forming a new nation in the West Indies or South America.
      The Free Soil Party nominated the abolitionist Senator John P. Hale of New Hampshire for President with George Julian of Indiana for Vice President, but they got only about 5% of the votes in the 1852 election.

Black Progress in the North 1853-60

      On 24 May 1853 the escaped slave Anthony Burns was arrested in Boston. Two days later abolitionists led by Thomas Wentworth Higginson stormed the courthouse to free him, and Deputy US Marshal James Batchelder was stabbed to death. The crowd increased, and federal troops were sent at a cost of $40,000 to the US Government. The author Richard Henry Dana and the black Robert Morris defended Burns, but on June 2 he was put on a ship and taken back to slavery in Virginia. Protests increased, and citizens formed the Anti-Man-Hunting League. The Boston Vigilance Committee appealed to the state government. Higginson believed that the fugitive slave law had turned honest Americans into “conscientious law-breakers,” and an attempt to try him and a few other attackers failed. Abolitionists raised money and eventually were able to buy freedom for Burns who with money from his biography attended Oberlin College. He became a Baptist minister in Canada about 1860.
      In 1853 there were 783 blacks who emigrated to Liberia. Illinois blocked blacks from entering the state. Quakers who opposed slavery more actively formed the Society of Progressive Friends in Pennsylvania. Robert Purvis in Philadelphia refused to pay the school tax because his children could not attend a public school.
      On July 6-8 delegates from several states met at Rochester, New York and founded the National Council of Colored People to work for equal rights and to encourage mechanical training.
      Margaret Crittenden Douglass, who was white, was arrested on May 9 for teaching free black children to read and write in Norfolk, Virginia. She was tried and convicted on November 11, and the jury fined her only $1; but Judge Richard Baker sent her to prison for one month.
      The historian Richard Hildreth published Theory of Politics which criticized American democracy for both slavery and the excessive accumulation of wealth.
      On 12 February 1854 Transcendentalist Theodore Parker preached at the Music Hall in Boston on the proposed Kansas-Nebraska bill, and he concluded,

In one day the North could annihilate all the Slavery
which depends on the Federal Government—
abolish it on the Federal soil,
the Capital, and the Territories;
abolish the American Slave Trade,
declare it piracy, or other felony.
That would be common legislation.
The next day we could abolish it in the Slave States.
That would be Revolution.4

On March 4 Ralph Waldo Emerson opposed the slave system and the Fugitive Slave Law in his address at New York City, and he criticized Senator Daniel Webster for having been “the life and soul of it.” Although he was disheartened by slavery, he believed that Nature could rid itself of this wrong. He predicted that because of the Nebraska Bill the Anti-Slavery Society would grow.
      The fugitive slave Joshua Glover had been arrested in Racine, Wisconsin, and on March 18 a large crowd led by Sherman Booth rescued him and took him to a boat going to Canada. Later Wisconsin would declare the US Fugitive Slave Act unconstitutional. Many lawsuits led to appeals, and in 1859 the Taney US Supreme Court in US v. Booth unanimously overturned the Wisconsin decision and upheld the federal law.
      In April those opposed to slavery formed the New England Emigration Aid Society to help free-soilers settle in Kansas. On 30 May 1854 the Kansas-Nebraska Act repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and opened up the Kansas and Nebraska Territories to “squatter and popular sovereignty” on whether to allow slavery there or not. On October 16 Abraham Lincoln spoke on the Kansas-Nebraska Act at Peoria, Illinois and said,

Slavery is founded in the selfishness of man’s nature—opposition to it, is his love of justice.
These principles are an eternal antagonism;
and when brought into collision so fiercely,
as slavery extension brings them, shocks, and throes,
and convulsions must ceaselessly follow….
Each party WITHIN, having numerous
and determined backers WITHOUT, is it not probable that
the contest will come to blows, and bloodshed?
Could there be a more apt invention to bring about
collision and violence, on the slavery question,
than this Nebraska project is?5

Connecticut passed a law to punish those who try to make a free person a slave, and Vermont approved penalties for abducting a free person to take him or her from the state as a slave. In August delegates from eleven states in Cleveland at the National Emigration Convention of the Colored People planned to create a Negro colony. The first school for black children in California was started at the Cyprian AME Church in San Francisco.
      In 1855 blacks in New York began a Legal Rights Association and hired Chester A. Arthur to defend them on charges that they violated segregation on public transportation. That year they won the civil suits of Elizabeth Jennings who was thrown off a railroad car and of Rev. James Pennington who was removed from a horsecar. In New York City 913 black children attended public schools; 125 studied in private schools, and 240 were in a Negro orphan school. The New York Liberty Party nominated Frederick Douglass for New York Secretary of State.
      On April 28 Massachusetts abolished segregation, and the public schools were integrated in September. Maine, Massachusetts, and Michigan approved personal liberty laws to stop state officials from enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law.
      Also in 1855 Frederick Douglass published My Bondage and Freedom, and two black publications began—the Herald of Freedom in Ohio and the Mirror of the Times in San Francisco. The black Presbyterian minister Elymas Rogers wrote the satirical poem, The Repeal of the Missouri Compromise Considered. Methodists supported the founding of Wilberforce University for blacks in Ohio. Berea College began in Kentucky and was racially integrated until 1907.
      In 1857 New Hampshire passed a law that skin color did not disqualify citizens and authorizing the imprisonment of any master who brought a slave to their state. Vermont passed a similar law the next year.
      In 1858 John Brown led a group that rescued eleven slaves from Missouri and took them to Kansas and then to Canada. Wisconsin and Kansas passed personal liberty laws.
      The abolitionist Dr. John S. Rock (1825-66) was the first American Negro to earn a medical degree and to argue as a lawyer before the US Supreme Court. In March 1858 he gave a speech at Faneuil Hall in Boston commending the beauty of black people. Black Catholics in Washington DC formed the St. Vincent de Paul Society and opened a free school for Negroes.
      On September 13 a US Marshal arrested in Oberlin, Ohio the slave John Price, who had run away from Maysville, Kentucky. They took him to Wellington, but a group of abolitionists went there and rescued Price from a hotel attic and took him back to Oberlin. In December a grand jury indicted 37 of the abolitionists including Oberlin College professor Henry E. Peck and Charles Henry Langston, who had a black mother and made sure that Price escaped to Canada. They dropped the charges against 35, and in April 1859 Simeon Bushnell got 60 days in jail and Langston 20 days. Langston told the court that he took on the “responsibility of self-protection” even though he risked a penalty of up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine lest he be made a slave by a “perjured wretch.”
      On 16 October 1859 John Brown led a raid on the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia that failed to arouse a slave revolt.
      Jermain Loguen had escaped from slavery in Tennessee in 1834, and he went to Syracuse, New York where he worked for the Underground Railroad and became a minister and later a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. In 1859 Loguen published the narrative of his life. His former owner, Sarah Logue, wrote him a letter in February 1860 asking him to pay her $1,000, and his defiant response was published in The Liberator on March 28.
      Philadelphia had 1,031 blacks in public schools and 331 in private schools. The Ohio Chief Justice upheld segregated schools for Negroes who were at least three-eighths African. New magazines included the literary Afro-American Magazine and the weekly Anglo-African in New York.
      In 1860 the US Census counted 4,441,830 Negroes who were 14% of the US population including 488,070 free Negroes. About 500 blacks traveled from Canada to the South to rescue slaves. Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island granted equal voting rights to blacks in 1860. The Republican Party platform opposed the extension of slavery into the territories. Many thousands of people had escaped from slavery with the aid of the Underground Railroad network, and an estimated 30,000 may have reached Canada between 1840 and 1860.
      Abolitionists also boycotted products of slavery, particularly cotton, following the example of the British who ended slavery in the West Indies after boycotting sugar. Lucretia Mott carried her own free-labor sugar to sweeten her tea, and many wore linen clothing. Abolitionists promoted the planting of sugar beets. Stephen S. Foster and Parker Pillsbury gained attention by attending churches and speaking out against slavery. Ministers were encouraged to get everyone in their denomination to renounce slave-holding. Quakers and the peace churches (United Brethren, Mennonites, River Brethren, and Shakers) accomplished this, and by 1864 Wesleyan Methodists, German Methodists, African Methodist Episcopal, United Presbyterians, and Reformed Presbyterians had joined them in excluding slaveholders from membership. Courageous missionaries sponsored by the American Missionary Association took the abolitionist message into the southern states. Not cooperating with the government's laws that promoted slavery meant helping fugitive slaves escape through the Underground Railroad. Evidence indicates that violence or weapons were rarely used in these escapes.
      In the 1850s William Lloyd Garrison opposed the compromises made to protect slavery, but he never condoned the use of violence in the anti-slavery cause. He pressured President Lincoln to emancipate the slaves. After all the slaves in the United States had been freed in 1865, he resigned and retired.
      In 1860 Lydia Maria Child published The Right Way the Safe Way, Proved by Emancipation in the British West Indies, and Elsewhere and then another book discussing the evils of slavery, The Patriarchal Institution, as Described by Members of Its Own Family. That summer she contributed the tract “The Duty of Disobedience to the Fugitive Slave Act: An Appeal to the Legislators of Massachusetts,” to persuade them to pass the State Personal Liberty Law. She also edited Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs. During the Civil War her husband David Lee Child, a lawyer, published Rights and Duties of the United States Relative to Slavery under the Laws of War. No military power to return any slave. "Contraband of war" inapplicable between the United States and their insurgent enemies to show how slavery could be abolished using the war power.

Blacks During Slavery in the South 1845-60

      In 1845 the state of Georgia passed a law prohibiting contracts with black mechanics. In 1846 Virginia had about 47,000 free Negroes; but in 1848 they made it a capital crime to conspire with a rebelling slave, and postmasters were required to identify insurrectionary books so that they could be burned. In 1847 Missouri prohibited teaching blacks or mulattoes from reading or writing. Pearl Captain Drayton and another officer rescued 75 fugitive slaves who escaped from Washington, and they were sentenced to 20 years in prison; but President Fillmore pardoned them in 1852. In 1848 Florida enacted a law to establish common schools, but only white students could attend.
      In 1849 the United States Secretary of State John M. Clayton announced that passports would not be issued to Negroes unless they were serving US diplomats. Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery in Maryland and went to Philadelphia.
      According to the United States census of 1850 the US had 23,191,876 people including 3,204,313 slaves with this many in the following states: Virginia 472,528, South Carolina 384,984, Georgia 381,682, Alabama 342,844, Mississippi 309,878, North Carolina 288,548, Tennessee 239,459, Kentucky 210,981, Maryland 90,368, Missouri 87,422, Texas, 58,161, Arkansas 47,100, Washington DC 3,687, Delaware, 2,290, and New Jersey 236. There were 434,495 free Negroes with more than half in the slave states. The white population of the South was 6,184,477 including 347,525 slaveholders with about 8,000 owning 50 or more. A prime field slave was worth about $1,600. Slave labor produced $98,603,720 from cotton, $13,982,686 in tobacco, $12,378,850 in cane sugar, $12,378,850 in hemp, $5,000,000 in rice, and $2,540,179 in molasses making a total of $136,505,435. The cities with the most free Negroes were Baltimore 25,442, New York 13,815, Philadelphia 10,736, New Orleans, 9,905, and Washington 8,158.
      In 1852 Kentucky excluded Negro immigration.
      In 1853 Virginia professor Thomas R. Dew, South Carolina Supreme Court Chancellor Harper, Senator Hammond, and Gilmore Simms published the book Pro-Slavery Argument. Hammond argued that white factory workers in the North were worse off than the slaves in the South.
      Virginia imposed a poll tax on free Negro men between the ages of 21 and 55 to pay for shipping free Negroes to Africa. The white Margaret Crittendon Douglass was imprisoned at Norfolk, Virginia for teaching Negroes.
      In 1855 those favoring slavery tried to stop free-soilers from settling in the Kansas Territory. On 21 May 1856 they sacked the town of Lawrence, and three days later in revenge John Brown led a murderous assault at Pottawatomie Creek that killed five people.
      On May 22 US Rep. Preston Brooks of South Carolina severely beat Senator Charles Sumner in the Senate Chamber. US Attorney General Caleb Cushing decided that Negroes could not get benefits from the Land Pre-Emption Act of 1841.
      On 6 March 1857 in the Dred Scott v. Sanford case US Supreme Court Chief Justice Taney wrote that Negroes are not citizens and that the US Congress could not ban slavery in US territories. Then the US General Land Office Commissioner decided that Negroes could not get public land grants in the West. Tennessee approved a law that allowed re-enslaving free Negroes. Texas would pass a similar law the next year, and Louisiana would do so in 1859.
      Hinton Helper of North Carolina published The Impending Crisis of the South and How to Meet It in New York arguing that slavery impoverishes white people in the South. Northern abolitionists liked his ideas, and 68 Republican Congressmen raised money to distribute 100,000 copies of a 200-page pamphlet version for 16 cents each. Helper aimed to emancipate all slaves and send them back to Africa. His 11-point program would exclude slaveholders from public offices, boycott slave-owning merchants, and tax slaveholders $60 for each slave. He concluded the chapter “Slavery and the Deficiency of Commerce in the South” with this appeal:

Nonslaveholders of the South!
Recollect that slavery is the only impediment
to your progress and prosperity,
that it stands diametrically opposed to all needful reforms,
that it seeks to sacrifice you entirely
for the benefit of others,
and that it is the one great and only cause
of dishonor to your country.
Will you not abolish it?
May Heaven help you to do your duty!6

In Cannibals All! Or, Slaves Without Masters another Virginian, George Fitzhugh, contended that white workers in the North were worse off than the black slaves in the South. Samuel M. Wolfe and Gilbert J. Beebe also wrote books criticizing Helper’s book arguing that poor whites in the South were better off than those in the North and that Negro slaves were happier and more useful.
      In 1858 the legislatures in six southern states defeated resolutions to open the slave trade. US Attorney General Jeremiah Black ruled that a slave could not get a patent nor make a contract with the government because slaves are not citizens.
      In 1859 the Southern Commercial Convention at Vicksburg voted to demand the revival of the slave trade, and the African Supply Association was organized to do that. The Clothilde ship unloaded slaves at Mobile, Alabama. North Carolina prohibited selling alcohol to free Negroes. Arkansas required free Negroes to leave the state by the end of the year or choose a slave-master.
      According to the 1860 Census the United States had 31,443,321 people including 3,953,762 slaves. The states with the highest percentage of blacks were South Carolina, 59%, Mississippi 55%, Louisiana 50%, Alabama 45.4%, Florida 44.6%, Georgia 44.1%, North Carolina 36%, Virginia 34%, Texas 30%, Maryland 25%, Delaware 19%, and Missouri 10%. Washington DC had 19%. The states with the most free Negroes were Maryland 83,942, Virginia 58,042, Pennsylvania 56,949, New York 49,005, Ohio, 36,673, North Carolina 30,463, New Jersey 25,318, Delaware 19,829, Louisiana 18,647, Indiana 11,428, and Kentucky 10,684. Washington DC had 11,131. In the South 37% of the people were black. Prime field slaves were selling for $1,000 in Virginia and $1,500 in New Orleans. In 1860 the US produced 5 million bales of cotton up from 3 million in 1852. The 1860 Census also reported that the Sumter District of South Carolina had 6,857 whites, 16,682 slaves, and 320 free Negroes.
      In 1860 the Democratic Party platform accepted the Dred Scott decision and the Fugitive Slave Law, and they opposed personal liberty laws aimed at subverting that law.

Harriet Tubman and Solomon Northup

      When Harriet Tubman was a slave, her name was Araminta Ross. As a child she was once whipped five times before breakfast. At the age of 7 she tried to run away. After doing domestic labor, at the age of 12 she was sent out to work in the fields. She was probably about 19 when she married the free black John Tubman in 1844. As she was a slave, he lived with her in Maryland. Fearing she was going to be sold South, in September 1849 she ran away with her husband’s brothers. The two Tubmans forced her to go back with them, but she soon escaped by herself to Philadelphia and changed her name to Harriet. She was assisted by the Pennsylvania Society for the Promotion of the Abolition of Slavery, which had been founded by Benjamin Franklin and was led by Robert Purvis from 1845 to 1850.
      Harriet Tubman began helping slaves escape to Pennsylvania on the Underground Railroad and worked with Thomas Garrett and used his station many times. Garret claimed that from 1836 to the Civil War he aided 2,700 runaways. On her first rescue she hid a family in Baltimore until she found a way to take them to freedom. She went back to Maryland in the spring of 1851 to guide another group. In the fall she learned that her husband had taken another wife, and he still refused to leave. Harriet crossed into Canada for the first time in December, and she found a home in St. Catherines, Ontario. She used the code name Moses. She made at least one trip a year and usually guided about ten or more people. In the winter of 1853-54 she made at least five trips, transporting about thirty. She would sing gospel music and spirituals to signal fugitives. On one night they had to hide in a swamp for many hours. One man wanted to go back even though he had promised not to. She pointed a revolver at him and persuaded him to go on to Canada where he became free. In 1854 she helped three of her brothers escape.
      Senator William Seward had a home in Auburn, New York, which was a depot, and he found a house there for Harriet. She had dreams and visions of John Brown before she met him in April 1858 in Canada. He paid her $25 in gold to help him find recruits. During the spring and summer of 1859 she lectured in New England and raised money for his cause. Brown called her “General Tubman.” On 26 August 1859 Harriet Tubman was quoted in The Liberator as saying,

The white people had got the Negroes here
to do their drudgery, and now they were trying
to root them out and ship them to Africa, but they can’t do it.

Various rewards up to $12,000 were offered for Harriet Tubman’s head.
      After the Civil War started in April 1861, Harriet returned to the United States. She followed General Butler’s troops from Massachusetts to Fort Monroe, Virginia where many escaped slaves found refuge. Butler called them contrabands and put them to work, and within four months there were more than a thousand. Like most of the women, Harriet worked on domestic tasks such as cooking and washing laundry. She joined volunteers who were sent to Port Royal, South Carolina and the Sea Islands. She agreed with the abolitionist General David Hunter who refused to return slaves to their owners and on 9 May 1862 declared slaves free in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida; but President Lincoln that emancipation ten days later. She worked as a nurse for ten months in the hospital at Port Royal and used local plants to heal wounds and many diseases. In the evenings she made pies and root beer to sell so that she could collect provisions without alienating refugee slaves. She supervised the laundry building and trained black women to be laundresses. She was grateful in the summer when General Rufus Saxton arrived and stopped soldiers from abusing the black women.
      Tubman knew Col. Thomas Wentworth Higginson and would work with him and Col. James Montgomery who also commanded a black regiment. She already had established secret networks in the upper South for the Underground Railroad. Now she organized spies and scouts for the Union Army. On 2 June 1863 they carried out a successful raid at Combalee River. She was able to get information from slaves who wanted to be free. Although she could not write, she had an excellent memory. She guided boats so that they could pick up fugitive slaves on the shore. With 150 black soldiers they were able to rescue 756 slaves in one night without losing a single life. They showed how capable blacks could be. She also guided black women and children to the Port Royal headquarters. The Commonwealth in Boston reported their successful venture on July 10.
      On the 18th she served breakfast to Col. Robert Gould Shaw before the bloody assault on Fort Wagner in which he lost his life. That summer she would nurse the wounded and many others suffering from diseases. Her own health declined in the fall, and in May 1864 she obtained leave and went home to see her parents in Auburn. She became friends with the abolitionists Sarah Hopkins Bradford and Sojourner Truth. In March 1865 she returned to serve in Virginia hospital wards. After the war ended in April, she took a train to Auburn and was thrown into the baggage car because the conductor could not believe that a black woman could have a soldier’s pass. She worked for the suffrage movement and for civil rights and donated to the AME Church in Auburn and other causes so much that she lived in poverty until her death in 1913.

      Solomon Northup was born in New York a free man as both his black parents were free. His mother was a quadroon (three-quarters European), and his father Mintus Northup was a land-owning farmer who educated his two sons. Solomon married Anne, a colored woman of mixed race, and they had three children and owned a farm in Hebron. He played the fiddle and worked as a cook and a carpenter.
      When he was 32, Merrill Brown and Abram Hamilton offered Solomon a job with their circus as a fiddler. They persuaded him to go with them in 1841 to Washington DC, but he was given a drugged drink and was chained. He was sold to James H. Birch for $650. When Solomon tried to explain that he was free, Birch beat him. He was put on a ship where he got smallpox on the way to New Orleans. He wrote a letter to the lawyer Henry B. Northup, and an English sailor mailed it for him.
      Solomon was sold to the Baptist preacher William Ford who was kind to his slaves. Solomon used his skill to make rafts to transport logs from the timber farm. In the winter of 1842 Ford sold Solomon to the carpenter Tibaut who was a cruel master and beat him and came close to hanging him after Solomon fought back while being whipped. Tibaut hired out Solomon to the plantation of Eldret who soon sold him to the cruel Edwin Epps. For nearly ten years Solomon was forced to pick cotton, and those not reaching their daily quotas were whipped.
       In 1852 Solomon told his story to the Canadian carpenter Samuel Bass who, risking punishment by the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, wrote letters to Solomon’s friends. Word reached his wife Anne, and she contacted the lawyer Henry B. Northup who got help from New York Governor Washington Hunt. He had the Attorney General make H. B. Northup his agent, and he found documents on Solomon and his location. With the assistance of Louisiana’s US Senator Soulé and local authorities Epps was forced to release Solomon on 4 January 1853. They stopped in Washington and had Birch arrested for enslaving him. Salmon Chase prosecuted him; but Solomon was not allowed to testify, and Birch was acquitted for lack of evidence. The journalist David Wilson helped Solomon write his autobiographical 12 Years a Slave, and it was published in 1853 and sold 30,000 copies in three years. The 2013 movie 12 Years a Slave won the Best Picture Oscar.

Sojourner Truth and Harriet Jacobs

      The person who later called herself Sojourner Truth was born as the slave Isabella in Ulster County, New York about 1797. Her parents and about ten older brothers and sisters were also black slaves owned by a family that spoke only Low Dutch. They all lived in one room on loose boards over the earth. Her father was tall, and Isabella would grow to be nearly six feet. When she was about nine years old, she alone was sold for $100 to owners who spoke only English. She was often whipped when she was not able to understand their orders. They had a farm they did not work, and she was given tasks outside. John Dumont purchased her in 1810, and she would work for the Dumonts until 1826. Dumont promised to free her on July 4, one year before the state of New York was to free all the slaves; but he reneged, and she worked for him until she left in the fall. Isabella had married the slave Thomas, whose two wives had been sold, and they had five children. Their son Peter was sold twice and ended up in Alabama which was a violation of New York law. When she became free, Quaker abolitionists helped her go to court and recover Peter. The two moved to New York City in 1828, and until 1832 they lived with the Latourette family who were Dutch Reformed.
      Although she did not read or write, Isabella was very religious and prayed frequently. Someone told her that Jesus is God, and she became even more eager to pray. In the city she left a Methodist Church to join a Zion African Church which she also abandoned to become a messenger of God. During the Second Great Awakening in 1832 she met Elijah Pierson and became his housekeeper. Through him she met Robert Matthews who called himself “Matthias the Prophet;” but many of her friends considered the Kingdom of Matthias delusional, and it lasted only three years. Matthias said that he was a Jew and that every Jew has a guardian angel. He taught that all women were to be obedient. He believed that the spirit of the devil was in the world and that the only heaven is on earth. He was imprisoned for accepting money fraudulently. She began fasting three days a week. In 1833 she joined the Matthias Kingdom commune at Zion Hill, and she got a job doing washing for Matthias. Pierson suffered seizures and died in August 1834. Isabella worked for Benjamin and Ann Folger. When they accused her of poisoning them, she sued them to protect her reputation and was awarded $125 for damages. Mathias was tried for poisoning Pierson in Westchester County in 1835 and was acquitted. He went west and would not let Isabella go with him. She struggled to survive during the economic downturn that began in 1837. Her son Peter shipped out on a whaling ship in 1839, and she became an itinerant preacher.
      On Pentecost Sunday (June 1) 1843 Isabella took the name “Sojourner Truth.” She went to New Haven and Hartford where she learned about the Millerite doctrines. At this time William Miller was preaching that the second advent of Jesus Christ would occur in 1843, and he claimed that he distributed a million or more tracts. Like many Christians in the North, she was drawn into this prophecy which led to disappointment by 1845.
      In 1844 Sojourner Truth joined abolitionists in the Northampton Association of Education and Industry in Massachusetts, a community of about a hundred people on 470 acres. She sang Christian hymns. In 1845 she began living in the home of George Benson, brother-in-law of William Lloyd Garrison, but the group fell apart in 1846. That year she began dictating her autobiography to Olive Gilbert, and Garrison published the Narrative of Sojourner Truth at Boston in May 1850 and later that year in New York. She sold her 128-page book for 25 cents, and it was reprinted with an endorsement by Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1853 in New York and 1855 in Boston. Sojourner was influenced by the spiritual philosophy of Swedenborg and had attended with Amy Post her first séance at Rochester in 1851.
      That year Sojourner went on a lecture tour in western New York with the English abolitionist George Thompson. Some meetings were disturbed by proslavery advocates, but her dignified manner usually restored order. On 8 May 1851 she spoke to the Woman’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, and Frances Dana Gage published a report of this in the New York Independent of 23 April 1863 describing how Sojourner Truth had answered the objections by men that they take care of women who are not ready or capable of more rights. Sojourner noted that men did not help her the way they help white women, and she reminded them that Mary gave birth to Jesus and that Eve turned the world upside down. Sojourner traveled in Ohio for two years attending meetings.
      In 1857 she joined the Harmonia community and bought a home in Battle Creek, Michigan, but she continued to travel and speak. Garrison was informed in October 1858 that she was holding anti-slavery meetings in Indiana.
      In 1863 President Lincoln gave Sojourner Truth a commission, and she worked in a hospital and with freedmen for four years. Also in 1863 she spoke to a religious meeting, and the editor of the National Anti-Slavery Standard in Iowa reported that she said, “Children, I talks to God and God talks to me. I goes out and talks to God in de fields and de woods.”7
      Mrs. H. B. Stowe wrote “Sojourner Truth, the Libyan Sibyl,” and it was published in the Atlantic Monthly in April. Sojourner said,

The Lord has made me a sign unto this nation,
an’ I go round a testifyin,’
an’ showin’ on em’ their sins agin my people….
An’ finally somethin’ spoke out in me an’ said, ‘This is Jesus!’
An’ I spoke out with all my might,
an’ says I, ‘This is Jesus!’
Glory be to God!’
An’ then the whole world grew bright,
an’ the trees they waved an’ waved in glory,
an’ every little bit o’ stone on the ground shone like glass;
and I shouted and said, ‘Praise, praise, praise to the Lord!’
An’ I begun to feel sech a love in my soul
as I never felt before—love to all creatures.
An’ then, all of a sudden, it stopped,
an’ I said, ‘Dar ‘s de white folks that have abused you,
an’ beat you, an’ abused your people—think o’ them!’
But then there came another rush of love through my soul,
an’ I cried out loud—
‘Lord, Lord, I can love even de white folks! 8

Harriet Beecher Stowe also related that at a large public meeting in Faneuil Hall when Frederick Douglass was speaking about the wrongs perpetrated against the blacks, he said that

They had no hope of justice from the whites,
no possible hope except in their own right arms.
It must come to blood;
they must fight for themselves and redeem themselves,
or it would never be done.
   Sojourner was sitting, tall and dark,
on the very front seat, facing the platform;
and in the hush of deep feeling, after Douglass sat down,
she spoke out in her deep, peculiar voice,
heard all over the house,
   “Frederick, is God dead?
   The effect was perfectly electrical,
and thrilled through the whole house,
changing as by a flash the whole feeling of the audience.
Not another word she said or needed to say;
it was enough.9

      On 29 October 1864 Sojourner Truth talked with President Lincoln in the White House, and he signed her little book and invited her to call on him again. On December 1 she received a commission from the National Freedman’s Relief Association appointing her as “a counselor to the freed people at Arlington Heights, Va.” to relieve the condition of the freedmen and to promote “intellectual, moral, and religious instruction.” She worked there for more than a year, and in one of her sermons she said, “Be clean! For cleanliness is godliness.”10

      Harriet Jacobs was born a slave in Edenton, North Carolina about 1813, and both her parents were slaves. Her brother John was born two years later and became her best friend. Their father Elijah Jacobs was a skilled carpenter who hired himself out, and their mother died in 1819. For the next six years Harriet lived in the home of her owner Margaret Horniblow who taught her how to read and sew. Margaret’s death in 1825 put Harriet under Margaret’s brother-in-law James Norcom, and Elijah died in 1826. In 1828 Norcom sold 50-year-old Molly Horniblow, the best chef in Edenton, and he bought Harriet’s brother John. Harriet wanted to marry a free carpenter in 1829; but Norcom forbade that because he wanted her as his concubine. Her brother John doctored slaves, and a medical student wanted to buy him; but his owner, Samuel Tredwell Sawyer, refused to sell him. Harriet to avoid Norcom became pregnant by Sawyer which caused Norcom’s wife to throw her out of the house. Norcom punished Harriet by sending her to one of his plantations. Concerned that he was going to send her children to the plantation, in June 1835 Harriet ran away. For the next seven years she lived in a narrow attic in her grandmother’s house. Sawyer was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1837, and he took his slave John Jacobs to Washington, Chicago, Canada, and New York where John escaped and went to New Bedford, Massachusetts.
      In 1842 Harried escaped from Edenton to Philadelphia and then to New York City. In 1843 she moved on to Boston, and she went back there again after another stay in New York city in 1844. Harriet worked for the poet Nathaniel Parker Willis and his wife who died in 1845. Willis took Harriet to England with him to care for his baby. Her brother John became the corresponding secretary for the New England Freedom Association in Boston, and in 1848 the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society hired him as a lecturer. In 1849 he started the Rochester Anti-Slavery Reading Room to sell books in the building where Frederick Douglass published the North Star.
      For 9 months Harriet lived with Amy and Isaac Post in Rochester. Harriet was secretly writing her autobiography from 1853 to 1858. Inspired by John Brown’s raid in 1859, she wrote an account of that effort. A Boston publishing company insisted that Harriet let Lydia Maria Child edit her book and write a preface, and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl was published in January 1861 using the pseudonym “Linda Brent.” The next month the London magazine Leisure Hour published as a serial “A True Tale of Slavery” by her brother John S. Jacobs. In 1862 Harriet Jacobs volunteered to work for the freedmen’s relief movement that was started by Quakers from Philadelphia and New York, and her 30-year old daughter Louisa joined her in doing that in 1863. Harriet’s autobiography was also published in England in September 1862.
      Harriet Jacobs, having learned how to read and write, could write her own book that was completed before Lydia Maria Child did some editing. Harriet described how she as a woman suffered even more from slavery than black men did. She wrote,

The reader probably knows that no promise or writing
given to a slave is legally binding;
for, according to Southern laws,
a slave, being property, can hold no property.
When my grandmother lent her hard earnings
to her mistress, she trusted solely to her honor.
The honor of a slaveholder to a slave!11

She appreciated what her father taught her, but the slaveholders did not agree. She wrote,

Moreover, they thought he had spoiled his children,
by teaching them to feel that they were human beings.
This was blasphemous doctrine for a slave to teach,
presumptuous in him, and dangerous to the masters.12

She described how many women in the South had to tolerate the sexual promiscuity of their husbands.

Southern women often marry a man knowing that
he is the father of many little slaves.
They do not trouble themselves about it.
They regard such children as property,
as marketable as the pigs on the plantation;
and it is seldom that they do not make them aware of this
by passing them into the slave-trader’s hands
as soon as possible, and thus getting them out of their sight.
I am glad to say there are some honorable exceptions.13

Thus enslaved women often had their children sold away at a young age. When she fell in love with a man, she realized that she was not free to marry the one she chose.

But when I reflected that I was a slave,
and that the laws gave no sanction to the marriage of such,
my heart sank within me.14

She explained why it was so difficult for her to have moral relationships.

But, O, ye happy women,
whose purity has been sheltered from childhood,
who have been free to choose the objects of your affection,
whose homes are protected by law,
do not judge the poor desolate slave too severely!
If slavery had been abolished,
I, also, could have married the man of my choice;
I could have had a home shielded by the laws;
and I should have been spared the painful task
of confessing what I am now about to relate;
but all my prospects had been blighted by slavery.
I want to keep myself pure;
and, under the most adverse circumstances,
I tried hard to preserve my self-respect;
but I was struggling alone
in the powerful grasp of the demon Slavery;
and the monster proved to be too strong for me.
I felt as if I was forsaken by God and man;
as if all my efforts must be frustrated;
and I became reckless in my despair….
The mother of slaves is very watchful.
She knows there is no security for her children.
After they have entered their teens
she lives in daily expectation of trouble….
Slavery is terrible for men;
but it is far more terrible for women.
Superadded to the burden common to all,
they have wrongs, and sufferings,
and mortifications peculiarly their own.15

Frederick Douglass 1845-55

      In June 1845 the Anti-Slavery Office in Boston published the Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass, the first of his three autobiographies which were the only books he wrote. By the fall it had sold 4,500 copies in the United States, and it soon had three European editions and sold 30,000 within five years. The book was supported and introduced with an introduction by William Lloyd Garrison and a letter by Wendell Phillips.
      Douglass sailed to England in August and traveled in Ireland during the beginning of the potato famine. His first lecture in Cork was a warning against the dangers of drinking alcohol. At the Wesleyan Chapel on October 17 the outspoken Douglass criticized the Methodists for backsliding from their previous condemnation of slavery. Then he listed the denominations that were condoning slavery. He described vivid cases of how slaves have been mistreated. He went to Belfast in December and delivered a series of seven lectures. He said,

The slave-holder is not only a thiever of men,
but he is a murderer; not a murderer of the body,
but, what is infinitely worse, a murderer of the soul—
as far as a man can murder the soul of his fellow creature,
for he shuts out the light of salvation from his spirit.16

      Douglass went to Scotland in January 1846, but he had difficulty persuading Presbyterians to denounce their brothers who owned slaves in the American South. He criticized the US war against Mexico because he suspected that slaveowners were trying to extend slavery there. He wrote to Garrison about the extreme poverty he saw in Ireland. On May 29 at Glasgow, Scotland he urged the Free Church to refuse money from American slaveholders.
      Douglass went to England to speak to the London Peace Society, the Complete Suffrage Association, the National Temperance Society, and the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. That summer Garrison came to England, and the two abolitionists traveled together. On August 17 they talked with the radical Chartists William Lovett and Henry Vincent, leader of the London Working Men’s Association. The next day he wrote a letter to his friends in Lynn, Massachusetts expressing his opposition to the Mexican War. Ellen Richardson raised £50 from John Bright so that Douglass could purchase his freedom from the slaveowner Thomas Auld. The abolitionist Ellis Gray Loring arranged for lawyers to conduct the transaction so that Douglass could not be enslaved again. After his friends raised $700, he received the bill of sale that purchased his freedom. He made a long farewell speech to the British people at London Tavern on 30 March 1847.
      Douglass returned to Boston with £500 ($4,000) raised so that he could publish a newspaper. The New England Anti-Slavery Society elected him their president in 1847. He was cheered by a large crowd at the American Anti-Slavery Society meeting in New York City on May 11, and that summer he and Garrison toured Pennsylvania and Ohio. They made new friends, but rocks were thrown at them in Harrisburg.
      Douglass purchased a fine printing press and started The North Star in Rochester, New York with Martin Delaney as his partner even though he stayed in Pittsburgh. William C. Nell had written for The Liberator for 15 years and became the publisher of The North Star in the basement of the AME Zion Church in Rochester. The first issue appeared on December 3 with this on the masthead: “Right is of no Sex—Truth is of no Color—God is the Father of us all, and we are all Brethren.” This newspaper would be

freely opened to the candid and decorous discussion of all
measures and topics of a moral and humane character,
which may enlighten, improve and elevate mankind.

They opposed the American Colonization Society’s plan to send blacks back to Africa.
      On 17 March 1848 as the Mexican War was ending, an editorial by Douglass called “PEACE! PEACE! PEACE!” exposed the American hypocrisy. He opposed taking territory from Mexico and wrote,

In our judgment, those who have all along been loudly
in favor of a vigorous prosecution of the war,
and heralding its bloody triumphs with apparent rapture,
and glorifying the atrocious deeds of barbarous heroism
on the part of wicked men engaged in it,
have no sincere love of peace,
and are not now rejoicing over peace but plunder.
They have succeeded in robbing Mexico of her territory,
and are rejoicing over their success
under the hypocritical pretense of a regard for peace.17

      Douglass attended the first women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls on 14 July 1848. He was the only man who supported the Declaration of Sentiments, and he helped the resolution pass. In his article on July 28 in The North Star about the convention he wrote,

We are free to say that in respect to political rights,
we hold woman to be justly entitled to all we claim for man.
We go farther, and express our conviction that
all political rights which it is expedient for man to exercise,
it is equally so for woman.
All that distinguishes man
as an intelligent and accountable being,
is equally true of woman,
and if that government only is just
which governs by the free consent of the governed,
there can be no reason in the world for denying to woman
the exercise of the elective franchise,
or a hand in making and administering
the laws of the land.18

      Douglass in September wrote an open letter to his old slave-master Thomas Auld which exaggerated his bad treatment.
      Douglass was one of the black Americans who had attended the Free Soil Party convention in June 1848 that nominated ex-President Martin Van Buren for US President; but The North Star did not endorse his candidacy until the Liberty Party nominee John P. Hale withdrew from the race in September. Unfortunately in the November election the New Yorker Van Buren got 120,497 votes in that state which were enough to prevent the Democrats’ candidate Lewis Cass of Michigan from winning New York’s 36 electoral votes, and that enabled the war hero Whig Zachary Taylor of Louisiana to win the election. Nonetheless in The North Star on 28 March 1849 Douglass argued that the Free Soil Party was making important progress on the slavery issue. He wrote,

It has for once rallied a large number of the people
of the North in apparent hostility
to the whole system of American slavery;
it has subjected this vile abomination
to a wide-spread exposure;
it has rebuked and humbled quite a number
of corrupt and cringing politicians,
by driving them to change their positions on this subject,
and driven them from office.
It has awakened the whole south to a sense of danger,
and perhaps has checked the proud
and arrogant pretensions of the slaveholder
with respect to the extension of slavery.19

      On May 5 a mob attacked Douglass as he walked down Broadway with two white women in New York City. His lecture on June 8 at Faneuil Hall in Boston criticized the American Colonization Society. For many years Douglass followed Garrison's views on nonresistance, while riding on railroads, for example. However, resistance to the fugitive slave law and later battles in Kansas caused many to begin to fight back against violent proslavery forces. Douglass began advocating force to protect fugitives.
      On 21 August 1850, four weeks before the Fugitive Slave bill became law, Douglass presided at the Fugitive Slave Convention at Cazenovia, New York that was attended by more than 2,000 people including 30 fugitives. Douglass assisted three fugitives in a fight against slave-catchers in which the primary “patroller” Edward Gorsuch was killed on 11 September 1851 at Christiana, Pennsylvania. A Philadelphia grand jury indicted 41 people mostly in absentia on November 14, and all but five were black. The leading free black William Parker took refuge at the Douglass home in Rochester, and escaping slaves and other blacks made it to Canada. Douglass often shared his speaking fees with escaping slaves as he aided hundreds with the Underground Railroad; but details are rare because of the secrecy involved.
      In June 1851 The North Star merged with the financially distressed Liberty Party Paper that had been published in Syracuse, and the name was changed to the Frederick Douglass’ Paper. Their motto was “All Rights For All.”
      At the annual meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society in May 1852 Douglass opposed the Garrisonians who advocated, “No Union with slaveholders.” Douglass interpreted the US Constitution as a pro-freedom document and did not want to dissolve the Union.
      After Americans celebrated the Fourth of July in 1852, Douglass explained why he could not do that in his “Fifth of July Speech” at Corinthian Hall in Rochester. He condemned the internal slave trade that was so lucrative then. He criticized the Fugitive Slave Law, noting that it makes mercy a crime and that a colored person has less rights than a jackass which cannot be stolen without a trial by a jury. The judge gets $10 for every victim he consigns to slavery but only $5 when he denies the claim. The testimony of two villains is adequate. On August 11 he spoke to about 2,000 people at the Free Democratic Party’s convention in Pittsburgh on the theme “Let All Soil Be Free Soil.” He said,

Numbers should not be looked to so much as right.
The man who is right is a majority.
He who has God and conscience on his side,
has a majority against the universe.
Though he does not represent the present state,
he represents the future state.
If he does not represent what we are,
he represents what we ought to be.20

      He was pleased when his friend and supporter Gerrit Smith was elected to the US Congress in 1852. Douglass urged him to speak out against slavery, and after Pierce’s annual message in December he refuted the President’s proslavery policies. Harriet Beecher Stowe invited Douglass to visit her in February 1853 at Andover, Massachusetts. He did so and suggested that an industrial college could be opened for free people of color so that they could learn mechanical arts. She asked him to write a letter with his views on slavery so that she could share it with those she would meet in her upcoming trip to England. He sent her a lengthy letter that he wrote on March 8 observing that “poverty, ignorance, and degradation” were the social diseases that free colored people were suffering in the United States. He hoped that they could reach “Ministers, Lawyers, Doctors, Editors, Merchants &c.”
      On 11 May 1853 Douglass spoke in New York City at the annual meeting of seven religious, philanthropic, and abolition societies. He reported on the estimates made by the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society one year earlier of the number of Negroes in North and South America which found that there was a total of 12,370,000 with 4,050,000 in Brazil, 3,650,000 in the United States, 1,470,000 in Spanish Colonies, 1,130,000 in South American republics, 850,000 in Haiti, 750,000 in British colonies, 270,000 in French colonies, 70,000 in Mexico, 50,000 in Dutch colonies, 45,000 in Danish colonies, and 35,000 in Canada. With the exception of the US and Brazil, most of these Africans and descendants of Africans were not slaves.
      Douglass worked with Dr. James McCune Smith and James W. C. Pennington on the struggle to get an industrial college, and at a meeting on July 6-8 the Colored national convention at Rochester organized a National Council of the Colored People with two members from each of ten northern states. After that they planned another convention in Cleveland to discuss the emigration issue on August 24.
      Douglass wrote to William Seward that one day he hoped to see the New York Senator “at the head of a great party of freedom.” The Frederick Douglass’ Paper business manager Julia Griffiths put together the Autographs of Freedom that was intended as a gift book to raise money. Douglass contributed his novella, The Heroic Slave, a heartwarming Narrative of the Adventures of Madison Washington, in Pursuit of Liberty that he had published in 1852. The hero is named Madison Washington after the leader of the mutiny on the Creole slave ship. His friend Martin Delany published in 1859 his novel Blake about another black revolt.
      In January 1854 Douglass thanked Gerrit Smith for his opposition to Senator Stephen Douglas’s Nebraska bill to open territories to slavery which led to conflict especially in Kansas. Frederick Douglass in October spoke against the Kansas-Nebraska Act to 1,500 people at Chicago’s Metropolitan Hall.
      In August 1855 Douglass published his second autobiography My Bondage and Freedom in Auburn and New York City; it was introduced by his black editor, Dr. James McCune Smith and was dedicated to Gerrit Smith. His friend Ottila Assing translated it into German for publication at Hamburg in 1860.

Frederick Douglass 1856-65

      On 11 May 1857 Douglass in response to the Dred Scott decision made a long speech to the American Anti-Slavery Society in New York in which he said,

Such a decision cannot stand.
God will be true though every man be a liar.
We can appeal from this
hell-black judgment of the Supreme Court,
to the court of common sense and common humanity.
We can appeal from man to God.
If there is no justice on earth,
there is yet justice in heaven.21

      The fierce abolitionist John Brown, while he was raising money for the war in Kansas, visited Douglass in Rochester in December 1856. Douglass had first become acquainted with Brown in 1847 at a private interview in Springfield, Massachusetts. Brown on 1 February 1858 returned to the home of Douglass for several weeks and wrote his constitution for a revolutionary government without slavery. On May 8 Brown presented his constitution to abolitionists gathered at Chatham, Ontario, and he proclaimed a provisional government with himself as commander-in-chief. In 1859 Douglass was disappointed when Brown shifted his strategy from forming communities of fugitive slaves in the mountains to help them move from Virginia to Canada to an attack on the US arsenal at Harper’s Ferry. Douglass did not believe his plan to take civilian hostages would work.
      After Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry failed on October 17, the New York Herald carried the headline “Gerrit Smith, Joshua Giddings, Fred Douglass and Other Abolitionists and Republicans Implicated.” In Richmond about a hundred Southerners offered rewards for the heads of the “traitors.” On October 25 the Rochester Union and Advertiser reported that federal officers came the previous day to arrest Douglass who was on his way to Canada. He had cancelled his lecture scheduled for October 31 in Concord, Massachusetts, and he recommended that Henry David Thoreau replace him. Thoreau gave his most famous speech, “A Plea for John Brown.” Douglass wrote an editorial for the Douglass’ Monthly in November, saying,

Slavery is a system of brute force.
It shields itself behind might, rather than right.
It must be met with its own weapons.
Capt. Brown has initiated a new mode
of carrying on the crusade of freedom,
and his blow has sent dread and terror
throughout the entire ranks of the piratical army of slavery.
His daring deeds may cost him his life,
but priceless as is the value of that life,
the blow he has struck, will, in the end,
prove to be worth its mighty cost.22

On November 12 Douglass sailed from Quebec for the British Isles where his Douglass’ Monthly without advertisements was circulated from 1858 to 1863. He later learned that the Virginia governor had sent several marshals to his home in Rochester to arrest him for murder, robbery, and inciting servile insurrection.
      Douglass believed that the US Constitution could be interpreted as a freedom document, and he worked to prevent the dissolution of the Union so that slavery could be abolished constitutionally. At Edinburgh at the end of January 1860 he gave the lecture “John Brown and the Slaveholders’ Insurrection.”
      His daughter Annie was ill and died on March 13 in Rochester. Douglass went home by way of Portland, Maine to Montreal and across Lake Ontario. He published the Douglass’ Monthly in April but waited several months before speaking again. In June he helped ten fugitive slaves escape to Canada. He was concerned that Gerrit Smith running for President with little chance would take votes away from the anti-slavery Republican Party. Douglass campaigned for the repeal of a New York state law that required black men to have $250 in property in order to vote. That effort failed, but New York did vote for Abraham Lincoln. On that election day on November 6 Douglass spent the entire day at the polls in Rochester to make sure that no fraudulent ballots were cast.
      On 3 December 1860 in the Tremont Temple of Boston supporters of the Constitutional Union Party objected to the outnumbered abolitionists speaking, and they started a brawl while Douglass was trying to speak and eventually left the hall. The police arrived and ejected black men, and Unionists regained control of the meeting. Five black men were seriously injured. One week later Douglass spoke at the Music Hall in Boston, and what he said was reported in The Liberator, December 14, 1860.

There can be no right of speech where any man,
however lifted up, or however old is overawed by force
and compelled to suppress his honest sentiments….
When a man is allowed to speak
because he is rich and powerful, it aggravates the crime
of denying the right of the poor and humble….
A man’s right to speak does not depend upon
where he is born or upon his color.23

      After the Civil War began at Fort Sumter, Douglass on 22 April 1861 called for the enlistment of Negro troops, and in May he published his editorial “How to End the War” in the Douglass Monthly, saying,

Let the slaves and free colored people be called into service,
and formed into a liberating army,
to march into the South
and raise the banner of Emancipation among the slaves.24

      In a speech on 16 June 1861 Douglass criticized those who were silent on the slavery issue in order to keep the North united. He traveled to Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, and Illinois on a speaking tour urging the nation to abolish slavery. At Syracuse in November placards were placed next to handbills on the lecture urging “Freemen” to “drive him from the city;” but Mayor Andrews had 50 policemen and a military company protect the lecture, and no opponents appeared. On September 5 William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, George S. Boutwell, and Samuel Gridley Howe organized the Emancipation League in Boston, and they asked Douglass to give the fourth lecture in the series on 12 February 1862. Six days later he gave his Emancipation Speech again at Cooper Union in New York. He noted how colored people were good enough to fight under George Washington and Andrew Jackson, but now they were being rejected. He suggested that this was the best time to abolish slavery because it was the cause of the disunion and the war. He said,

Every day bears witness that
Slavery is not only the cause of the rebellion,
but that it is and has been from the beginning,
the only real obstacle to crushing out the rebellion;
and that all efforts to save the country are utterly vain,
unless guided by the principles
which the Abolitionists know best how to teach.25

      In January 1862 he had opposed Lincoln’s policies that returned escaping slaves to their masters and his rescinding Frémont’s emancipation of slaves in Missouri. He objected to General Butler calling slaves who escaped to Union lines “contraband” who could be put to work as if they were “things.” On March 25 Douglass hailed Union military victories, and he called for “the unrestricted and complete Emancipation of every slave in the United States whether claimed by loyal or disloyal masters.” On April 8 Douglass wrote a letter to Senator Sumner thanking him for his leadership and speech on the bill outlawing slavery in the District of Columbia, and eight days later President Lincoln signed the bill.
      In New York with his July 4 speech Douglass again criticized Lincoln for not making emancipation the aim of the war. After the President changed his policy, Douglass and abolitionists celebrated the Emancipation Proclamation on 1 January 1863, and he spoke in New York at Cooper Union on February 6 about that transformation. On the 24th Douglass became an agent for the US Government to recruit Negro soldiers into the Union Army. On March 21 he issued a broadside, “MEN OF COLOR, TO ARMS!” Then he went on a tour recruiting black soldiers to convert the war for the Union into a war for Emancipation.
      Douglass visited Washington in August, and Kansas Senator Samuel Pomeroy introduced him to War Secretary Stanton to whom he complained that black soldiers were receiving less pay than whites. Pomeroy had supported a bill for equal pay, but it had failed in the Senate. Next Douglass went to the White House, and President Lincoln persuaded him that he favored the black cause.
      In 13 January 1864 Douglass spoke to the Women’s Loyal League at Cooper Union on “The Mission of the War.” He concluded,

I end where I began, no war but an Abolition war;
no peace but an Abolition peace;
liberty for all, chains for none;
the black man a soldier in war; a laborer in peace;
a voter at the South as well as at the North;
America his permanent home,
and all Americans his fellow-countrymen.
Such fellow-citizens, is my idea for the mission of this war.
If accomplished, our glory as a nation will be complete,
our peace will flow like a river,
and our foundations will be the everlasting rocks.26

Douglass visited Lincoln again on August 19 and found him planning a slave rebellion in the South to help his re-election. In a letter to Lincoln on August 29 he wrote,

That every slave who Escapes from the Rebel States
is a loss to the Rebellion and a gain to the Loyal Cause,
I need not stop here
to argue the proposition is self evident.27

Then he suggested tactics led by a general agent to achieve that objective. Douglass supported Lincoln’s re-election campaign; but he was not given a visible role because Republican committees did not want to be charged with being the “N——r” party.
      In April 1865 Douglass spoke to the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society on “What the Black Man Wants.” He asked,

Shall we at this moment justify
the deprivation of the Negro of the right to vote,
because some one else is deprived of that privilege?
I hold that women, as well as men, have the right to vote,
and my heart and my voice go with the movement
to extend suffrage to woman….
What I ask for the Negro is not benevolence,
not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice.28

Notes

1. The Negro in American History, Vol. 3: Slaves and Masters 1567-1854 ed. Charles Van Doren, p. 116-117.
2. Ibid., p. 66-67.
3. Ibid., p. 78.
4. Slavery Attacked: The Abolitionist Crusade ed. John L. Thomas, p. 152.
5. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume II, p. 271-272.
6. Quoted in The Emergence of Lincoln, Volume I, p. 144.
7. Quoted in Narrative of Sojourner Truth, p. 100.
8. Ibid., p. 104, 107-108.
9. Ibid., p. 114.
10. Ibid., p. 123.
11. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs, p. 8.
12. Ibid., p. 12.
13. Ibid., p. 39-40.
14. Ibid., p. 41.
15. Ibid., p. 60, 63, 86.
16. “Baptists, Congregationalists, the Free Church, and Slavery” by Frederick Douglass Dec. 23, 1845 quoted in Frederick Douglass by William S. McFeely, p. 128.
17. The Negro in American History, Vol. 3: Slaves and Masters 1567-1854, p. 120.
18. The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass by Philip S. Foner, Volume 1, p. 321.
19. Ibid., p. 368.
20. The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass by Philip S. Foner, Volume 2, p. 209.
21. Ibid., p. 411-412.
22. Ibid., p. 93.
23. Ibid., p. 100.
24. The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass by Philip S. Foner, Volume 3, p. 94.
25. Ibid., p. 216.
26. Ibid., p. 403.
27. Ibid., p. 405.
28. The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass by Philip S. Foner, Volume 4, p. 159, 164.

Copyright © 2020 by Sanderson Beck

 

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Bibliography

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