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Historical Document
Garnet's "Call to Rebellion"

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In August of 1843 in Buffalo, New York, Henry Highland Garnet gave an inspirational speech that shocked the delegates of the National Negro Convention. In came to be known as the "Call to Rebellion" speech, Garnet encouraged slaves to turn against their masters. "Neither god, nor angels, or just men, command you to suffer for a single moment. Therefore it is your solemn and imperative duty to use every means, both moral, intellectual, and physical that promises success."

To Garnet, white slaveholders were at a disadvantage. They relied heavily on the toil of their slaves. And the number of slaves was formidable. Garnet reminded them of this fact in this passage:

"Brethren, arise, arise! Strike for your lives and liberties. Now is the day and the hour. Let every slave throughout the land do this, and the days of slavery are numbered. You cannot be more oppressed than you have been -- you cannot suffer greater cruelties than you have already. Rather die freemen than live to be slaves. Remember that you are FOUR MILLIONS!"

In response, Frederick Douglass spoke out against the speech to the convention. Garnet, in turn, responded to Douglass, speaking for an hour and a half. His appeal would not sway the delegates, however. The convention did not sanction Garnet's approach to abolition.

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Henry Highland Garnet

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