‘Black American Freedom Fighters’
Gregory V. Boulware
Thomas L. Jennings was the first Afro-American protest marcher on record.
He was born as a freeman in N.Y. State in 1791. Jennings paraded through the streets of N.Y. with a banner showing a Black slave and saying “Am I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER?”
Slavery was abolished in New York State in 1827.
David Walker was a Black militant who wrote the famous pamphlet “Walker’s Appeal” in 1829.
In 1830 the Georgia legislature passed a bill making it a capital offense to circulate literature inciting slaves to revolt. In 1830, the state of Georgia offered $10,000 for the capture of Walker. The appeal said:
“And wo, wo, will be to you if we have to obtain our freedom by fighting… 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.
Reverend Henry H. Garnet escaped from slavery when he was eleven years old. In 1843 his CALL TO SLAVES TO REVOLT made at the Negro convention in N.Y. lost by one vote.
…go to your lordly enslavers and tell them that they have no more right to oppress you than you have to enslave them…
“STRIKE FOR YOUR LIVES AND LIBERTIES…Let every slave throughout the land do this, and the days of slavery are numbered… Rather die freemen than live to be slaves”
Because white shipyard workmen would not allow him to work alongside them, the man who defeated Garnet’s ‘Call To Revolt’ by a resolution calling for “Moral Suasion” was an escaped slave who taught himself to read and write. He went to work for the Anti-Slavery Society and became a famous speaker and writer. Though he opposed ‘The Call To Revolt’ in 1843. By 1849 he was writing: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. …this struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical’ but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will.”
Over one hundred years ago, Dr. John S. Rock, a distinguished Boston physician, the first Black attorney admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court, made a speech which might have been called Black Is Beautiful; said in 1858, ‘if any man does not fancy my color, that is his business, and I shall not meddle with it. I shall give myself no trouble because he lacks good taste… when I contrast the fine tough muscular system, the beautiful, rich color, the full broad features, and the gracefully frizzled hair of the Negro, with the delicate physical organization, wan color, sharp features and lank hair of the caucasion, I am inclined to believe that when the white man was created, nature was pretty well exhausted – but determined to keep up appearances, she pinched up his features, and did the best she could under the circumstances.
Henry M. Turner, a Black legislator, was denied his seat upon election.
He made a six hour speech and said: “Whose Legislature is this? …thy question my right to a seat in this body, to represent the people whose legal votes elected me. .. This objection, sir, is an unheard of monopoly of power…the great question, sir, is this: Am I a man? If I am such, I claim the rights of man…!”
After massive protests in Washington D.C., he, and 26 other Black representatives and Senators were finally seated. However, democratic representation in the South, was only to last a few short years.
“WE BELIEVE THIS COUNTRY, SO POWERFUL ABROAD, IS UNABLE TO PROTECT ITS CITIZENS AT HOME!”
In 1898 Ida B. Wells led a delegation of women and Congressmen to President McKinley to protest the lynching of a Black Postmaster. Miss Wells was one of the founders of the NAACP. At 14 she raised four younger sisters and brothers. She put herself through college and led a campaign against lynching which resulted in mob attacks on her and her printing press. Miss Wells was forced to carry two pistols for self protection.
Dr. William E. B. DuBois, who wrote “Mr. Washington represents in Negro thought the old attitudes of adjustment and submission; and Mr. Washington’s program practically accepts the alleged inferiority of the Negro race… On the contrary, Negroes must resist continually…that voting is necessary to modern mankind, that color discrimination is barbarism, and that Black Boys need education as well as white boys!
Mr. Washington’s doctrine has tended to make the whites, north and south, shift the burden of the Negro problem to the Negroe’s shoulders…when in fact the burden belongs to the nation, and the hands of none of us are clean if we bend not our energies to righting these great wrongs.”
Many young Americans of all colors consider Malcolm X (El Haag Malik El Shabazz) a symbol of uncompromising resistance to oppression. Before his assassination, he modified his philosophy about hating all white men and came to believe that African Americans should take part in a world-wide struggle for human rights. He said: “Brothers and Sisters always remember… if it doesn’t take senators and congressmen and presidential proclamations or a Supreme Court decisions to give freedom to the Black Man. You let that white man know, if this is a country of freedom, let it be a country of freedom; and if it’s not a country of freedom, change it!
We will work with anybody, anywhere, at any time, who is genuinely interested in tackling the problem head-on, non-violently as long as the enemy is non-violent; but violent when the enemy gets violent with us!”
“Black Power” was an expression coined by Brother Stokely Carmicheal. He said: “Integration…speaks to the problem of Blackness in a despicable way…in order to have a decent house or education, Blacks must move into a white neighborhood or send their children to a white school. This reinforces, among both Black and White, the idea that ‘white’ is automatically better and ‘Black’ is by definition inferior…
Such situations will not change until Black people have power… Then Negroes become equal in a way that means something, and integration ceases to be a one-way street!”
Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King, often a victim of white violence, believed that it was right to disobey some laws. Writing from the Birmingham
Alabama jail cell: “One may ask, how can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others? …I, advocate obeying just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.
…I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice, and that when they fail to do this they become dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.”
William Still (October 7, 1821 – July 14, 1902) was an African-American abolitionist, conductor on the Underground Railroad, writer, historian and civil rights activist.
The date of William Still’s birth is given as October 7, 1821, by most sources, but he gave the date of November 1819 in the 1900 Census. He was born in Burlington County, New Jersey, to Charity and Levin Still. His parents had come to New Jersey from the Eastern Shore of Maryland as ex-slaves. He was the youngest of eighteen siblings, who included James Still, known as “the Doctor of the Pines,” Peter Still, Mary Still, and Kitturah Still, who moved to Philadelphia.
William’s father was the first of the family to move to New Jersey. A free man, he had been manumitted in 1798 in Caroline County, Maryland. Levin eventually settled in Evesham near Medford and later Charity joined the family with their four children, when she escaped. Charity was recaptured and returned to slavery, but she escaped a second time and, with her two daughters, found her way to Burlington County, to join her husband. The two sons she left behind, Levin and Peter were sold to slave-owners in Lexington, Kentucky, and then later, sent to Alabama in the Deep South.
Abolitionist In 1844, William Still moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he began working as a clerk for the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society. When Philadelphia abolitionists organized a committee to aid runaway slaves reaching Philadelphia, Still became its chairman. By the 1850s, Still was a leader of Philadelphia’s African-American community. In 1859 he attempted to desegregate the city’s public transit system. He opened a stove store during the American Civil War, and later started a coal delivery business.
In 1847 he married Letitia George and had four children who survived infancy. Their oldest was Caroline Matilda Still (1848–1919), a pioneer female medical doctor. Caroline attended Oberlin College and the Women’s Medical College of Philadelphia (much later the Medical College of Pennsylvania); she was married, first to Edward J. Wyley, and after his death, to the Reverend Matthew Anderson, longtime pastor of the Berean Presbyterian Church in North Philadelphia. She had an extensive private medical practice in Philadelphia and was also a community activist, teacher and leader. William Wilberforce Still (1864–1914) graduated from Lincoln University and subsequently practiced law in Philadelphia; Robert George Still (1861–1896), was a journalist who owned a print shop on Pine at 11th Street in central Philadelphia and Frances Ellen Still (1875–1930) became a kindergarten teacher (she was named after poet Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, who lived with the Stills before her marriage). On the 1900 U.S. Census William Still said he had two children, William W and Ellen, still living in his household, as well as a daughter-in-law.
Underground Railroad Often called “The Father of the Underground Railroad,” Still helped as many as 800 slaves escape to freedom, interviewing each person and keeping careful records, including a brief biography and the destination of each person, along with any alias that they adopted, though he kept his records carefully hidden. Still worked with other Underground Railroad agents operating in the south and in many counties in southern Pennsylvania. His network to freedom also included agents in New Jersey, New York, New England and Canada. Harriet Tubman traveled through his office with fellow passengers on several occasions during the 1850s. After the Civil War, Still published the secret notes he’d kept in diaries during those years, and his book is a source of many historical details of the workings of the Underground Railroad. He is one of the many who helped slaves escape from the United States. The three prominent Still brothers—William, James, and Peter—settled in Lawnside, New Jersey. To this day, their descendants have an annual family reunion every August. Notable members of the Still family include the composer William Grant Still, professional basketball player Valerie Still and professional NFL defensive end Art Still.
~Foundation For Change, 1619 Broadway, New York, New York~
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