There’s hope: Henry Highland Garnet

A man who struggled for human rights, Mr Garnet was an activist responsible for encouraging slaves to rise up against their masters.

Last week you read about Corrie ten Boom, the woman who risked her own life by helping nearly 800 other lives to be saved.

This week, PMP brings you Henry Highland Garnet, an African American former slave, activist and abolitionist. Mr Garnet was in fact responsible for encouraging slaves to rebel against their own masters.

Henry Highland Garnet

“Let your motto be resistance! Resistance! Resistance!” (Henry H. Garnet, 1843)

There's hope.jpg

James U. Stead – National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution (Public Domain)

Born in 1815 in Kent County, MA, Garnet and his family escaped their owner in 1824 to New York City, when he was only 9 years old. There, he studied Science and English at the African Free School, then in the 30’s he continued his education at the Oneida Institute in Whitesboro, New York, and then in in the Noyes Academy in Canaan, New Hampshire. From the 40’s onwards, he took the road to spiritualism in 1842 as a pastor.

With his incredible skills as an orator, Garnet called up on the “Call for Rebellion Movement”, which has famously been referred to as such ever since at the National Negro Convention. In his famous speech, it is evident that he asks the people themselves to take up the situation in their own hands and rise up against their owners, effectively ending their own slavery. Despite the fact that his sister was abducted by a slave hunter in 1829, he decided to give up on vengeance and got further motivated to bring an end to slavery, as his cause was reinforced.

Garnet is historically a very important figure, as his work has inspired millions and his accomplishments still continue to inspire individuals, especially those within the abolitionist movement such as John Brown, who led the attack on the arsenal in Harpers Ferry in 1859. In 1865 in Washington, President Abraham Lincoln invited him to give a sermon to the US House of Representatives, making him the very first African American to ever make a presentation in the Capitol Building.

Moreover, in 1881 he travelled to Liberia, in the African continent, to fulfil his potent dream of serving in a governmental post. He was appointed as an ambassador to Liberia by President James A. Garfield in December. Unfortunately, Garnet did not live long enough while on his post, as he died the following February in Liberia.

Even though Henry H. Garnet lived in the 19th century, his legacy continues today, with his work being studied by people within different fields in academia. For example, Dr Molefi Kete Asante, an African American professor at Temple University who has published over 70 books, has included Henry Highland Garnet in his “100 Greatest African Americans” in 2002.

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