July 23, 1865: Martin Robinson Delany addresses the free blacks of St. Helena Island, South Carolina

People say that you are too lazy to work, that you have no intelligence to get on for yourselves, without being guided and driven to the work by overseers. I say it is a lie, and a blasphemous lie, and I will prove it to be so.Delany

I am going to tell you now, what you are worth. As you know Christopher Columbus landed here in 1492. They came here only for the purpose to dig gold, gather precious pearls, diamonds and all sorts of jewels, only for the “proud Aristocracy of White Spaniards” and Portuguese, to adorn their persons, to have brooches for their breasts, earrings for their ears, Bracelets for their ankles and rings for their limbs and fingers. They found here… Indians whom they obliged to dig and work and slave for them—but they found out that they died away too fast and cannot stand the work. In course of time they had taken some blacks… along with them and put them to work— they could not stand it—and yet the Whites say they are superior to our race, though they could not stand it….

The work was so profitable which those poor blacks did, that in the year 1502 Charles the V gave permission to import into America yearly 4,000 blacks. The profit of these sales was so immense, that afterwards even the Virgin Queen of England and James the II took part in the Slave trade and were accumulating great wealth for the Treasury of the Government. And so you always have been the means of riches. …

So you ought further to know, that all the spices, cotton, rice, and coffee has only been brought over by you, from the land of our brethren.

Your masters who lived in opulence, kept you to hard work by some contemptible being called overseer—who chastised and beat you whenever he pleased—while your master lived in some Northern town or in Europe to squander away the wealth only you acquired for him. He never earned a single Dollar in his life. You men and women, every one of you around me, made thousands and thousands of dollars for your master. Only you were the means for your masters to lead the ideal and inglorious life, and to give his children the education, which he denied to you, for fear you may awake to conscience. …

So I will come to the main purpose for which I have come to see you. As before the whole South depended upon you, now the whole country will depend upon you. I give you an advice how to get along. Get up a community and get all the lands you can—if you cannot get any singly.

Grow as much vegetables, etc., as you want for your families; on the other part of the land you cultivate Rice and Cotton. Now for instance one acre will grow a crop of Cotton of $90—now a land with ten acres will bring $900 every year: if you cannot get the land all yourself,—the community can, and so you can divide the profit. There is Tobacco for instance (Virginia is the great place for Tobacco). There are whole squares at Dublin and Liverpool named after some place of Tobacco notoriety, so you see of what enormous value your labor was to the benefits of your masters. Now you understand that I want you to be the producers of this country. It is the wish of the Government for you to be so. We will send friends to you, who will further instruct you how to come to the end of our wishes. You see that by so adhering to our views, you will become a wealthy and powerful population. …

I tell you slavery is over, and shall never return again. We have now 200,000 of our men well drilled in arms and used to Warfare, and I tell you … that slavery shall not come back again, if you are determined it will not return again.

Now go to work, and in a short time I will see you again, and other friends will come to show you how to begin.

Have your fields in good order and well tilled and planted, and when I pass the fields and see a land well planted and well cared for, then I may be sure from the look of it, that it belongs to a free Negro, and when I see a field thinly-planted and little cared for, then I may think it belongs to some man who works it with slaves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Proudly powered by WordPress
Theme: Esquire by Matthew Buchanan.