On Feb. 12, we will celebrate February 12, 1865, when the crowded public galleries of the United States House of Representatives were there to hear Presbyterian Rev. Henry Highland Garnet (Dec. 23, 1815 – Feb. 13, 1882), an ex-slave, preach in the chambers of the House of Representatives. It was the first public speech by an African-American at the Capitol. Invited by President Lincoln to make the Sunday worship address, Rev. Garnet was pastor of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. Here is an excerpt.
For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.—Matthew 23:4.
Could we array in one line, representative of all the families of men, beginning with those lowest in the scale of being, and should we put to them the question, Is it right and desirable that you should be reduced to the condition of slaves, to be registered with chattels, to have your persons and your lives and the products of your labor subjected to the will and the interests of others? Is it right and just that the persons of your wives and children should be at the disposal of others and be yielded to them for the purpose of pampering their lusts and greed of gain? Is it right to lay heavy burdens on other men’s shoulders which you would not remove with one of your fingers? From the rude savage and barbarian the negative response would come, increasing in power and significance as it rolled up the line. And when those should reply, whose minds and hearts are illuminated with the highest civilization and with the spirit of Christianity, the answer deep-toned and prolonged would thunder forth, no, no!
With all the moral attributes of God on our side, cheered as we are by the voices of universal human nature–in view of the best interests of the present and future generations–animated with the noble desire to furnish the nations of the earth with a worthy example, let the verdict of death which has been brought in against slavery by the Thirty-eighth Congress be affirmed and executed by the people. Let the gigantic monster perish. Yes, perish now and perish forever!
One of our partners, John Templeton, will be in period dress and read a portion of the sermon. We will celebrate this and other prophetic Presbyterian voices, reflect upon how we need to continually slay the spirit of this monster and consider how we all may continue a prophetic legacy for the next generation.