Blogs > Gil Troy > The Frederick Douglass Rival Who Shocked With His Call to ‘Resist’

Apr 5, 2018

The Frederick Douglass Rival Who Shocked With His Call to ‘Resist’

tags: slavery,abolitionism,emancipation,Henry Highland Garnet

Should an African-American preacher’s cry in 1843 to his enslaved brothers and sisters “Resist, resist, RESIST! …. Use all means” even “If you must bleed” – be remembered today as brave and prescient or forgotten as marginal and radical; too Malcolm X, not Martin Luther King enough?

So far, the popular verdict is clear. Fifty years after Martin Luther King’s death, his phrases are already immortal.  Yet 175 years after his stirring speech—and a lifetime of courageous, eloquent, advocacy--the Reverend Henry Highland Garnet is forgotten. Reinforcing the judgment is the ongoing reverence for Garnet’s moderate rival, Frederick Douglass.

Although forged in revolution, Americans like their revolutionaries with powdered wigs and frocked coats, with top hats and “malice toward none,” with suit jackets and dreams we all “have.” It’s actually America’s strength. Slavery’s foul legacy is burdensome enough. We’re proud we had no Robespierrean guillotines or Stalinesque purges. But clearly, America’s Revolution of landowners and slaveowners fell short.  In his “Address to the Slaves of the United States,” stirring seventy delegates at “The National Negro Convention of 1843” in Buffalo New York, Garnet called the Declaration of Independence “a glorious document. Sages admired it, and the patriotic of every nation reverenced the God-like sentiments which it contained.” Yet once in power, Garnet growled, the revolutionaries “added new links to our chains"...

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