Wisdom of America's Slaves

“Were I about to tell you the evils of Slavery … I should wish to take you, one at a time, and whisper it to you. Slavery has never been represented; Slavery never can be represented.”

William Wells Brown, quoted in A. Delbanco, The War Before the War—Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America’s Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War at xviii (Penguin Books, 2019)

“Only by experience can any one realize how deep, and dark, and foul is that pit of abominations.”

Harriett Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl at 6 (1861), available from the Library of Congress at www.hathitrust.org/digital_library

“Don’t let them tell you nothing about slavery … You don’t know nothing about being a slave until you been one.”

Former Texas Slave quoted in R. Campbell, An Empire for Slavery—The Peculiar Institution in Texas, 1821-1865 at 261 (Louisiana State University Press, 1989)

“Slavery … is the next thing to hell.”

Harriet Tubman quoted in K. Larson, Bound for the Promised Land—Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero at 54 (Ballantine Books, 2003). Footnote omitted.

“[C]rimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

“Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay out your facts by the side of every-day practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.”

Douglass, “What to the Slave ls the Fourth of July?” (July 5, 1852), reprinted in part in F. Douglass, MY BONDAGE AND MY FREEDOM at 446-47 (1855), available from the Library of Congress at
www.hathitrust.org/digital_library; Douglass, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth ofJuly?” (July 5, 1852) at “Text of Douglass’s Speech” at www.owleyes.org/text/what-to-the-slave-is-the-fourth-of-july/read/text-of-douglasss-speech#root-162