Henry Highland Garnet: “An Address to the Slaves of the United States of America”

(1843)

Explanation and Analysis of the Document

In “An Address to the Slaves of the United States of America,” Henry Highland Garnet presents his audience with a series of carefully connected themes, woven together in forceful images and powerful language. He begins with a direct appeal to those in bondage to recognize their close ties to those who are free, their common memory of past and present injustices, and their mutual connection to past generations of slaves. He points to heroic rebels as examples of what the slaves themselves must do to secure their freedom, and he urges them to see the strengths that lie in their numbers and their shared consciousness of their condition. He highlights their masters’ dependency on slavery and the slave owners’ deep-seated fear of a slave insurrection. He tells them in ringing terms that violence is their only recourse if they wish to be free.

Paragraphs 1–6

The opening three paragraphs set the tone for the rest of the speech. Garnet uses the...

Image for: Henry Highland Garnet: “An Address to the Slaves of the United States of America”

Woodcut image of a supplicant male slave in chains (Library of Congress)

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