Excerpt from a lecture delivered by Maria Stewart at the Franklin Hall, Boston, September 21, 1832.
Why sit ye here and die? If we say we will go to a foreign land, the famine and the pestilence are there, and there we shall die. If we sit here, we shall die. Come let us plead our cause before the whites: if they save us alive, we shall live-and if they kill us, we shall but die.
Methinks I heard a spiritual interrogation -- 'Who shall go forward, and take off the reproach that is cast upon the people of color? Shall it be a woman?' And my heart made this reply -- 'If it is thy will, be it even so, Lord Jesus!'
Few white persons of either sex, who are calculated for anything else, are willing to spend their lives and bury their talents in performing mean, servile labor. And such is the horrible idea that I entertain respecting a life of servitude, that had I conceived of there being no possibility of my rising above the condition of servant, I would gladly hail death as a welcome messenger. O, horrible idea, indeed! to possess noble souls aspiring after high and honorable acquirements, yet confirmed by the chains of ignorance and poverty to lives of continual drudgery and toil. Neither do I know of any who have enriched themselves by spending their lives as house-domestics, washing windows, shaking carpets, brushing boots, or tending upon gentlemen's tables. I can but die by the sword as the pestilence; for I am a true born American; your blood flows in my veins, and your spirit fires my breast.
Stewart, Maria W. Productions of Mrs. Maria W. Stewart presented to the First Africa Baptist Church & Society, of the City of Boston. Boston: Friends of Freedom and Virtue, 1835. Available on the website of the New York Public Library
My American Experience
Of America's first 25 presidents, who is your favorite? From George Washington to William McKinley, which of the new country's leaders most helped shape America in its first century of existence?