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Held in Bondage

1832 – Mental Feast Monthly, Philadelphia PA



How important is the occasion for which we have assembled ourselves together this evening, to hold a feast, to feed our never-dying minds, to excite each other to deeds of mercy, words of peace; to stir up in the bosom of each, gratitude [to] God for his increasing goodness, and feeling of deep sympathy for our brethren and sisters, who are in this land of christian light and liberty held in bondage, the most cruel degrading – to make their cause our own!

An English writer has said, “We must feel deeply before we can act rightly; from that absorbing, heart-rending compassion for ourselves springs a deeper sympathy for others, and from a sense of our weakness, and our own upbraiding arises a disposition to be indulgent, to forbear, to forgive.” This is my experience. One short year ago, how different were my feelings on the subject of slavery!  It is true, the wail of the captive sometimes came to my ear in the midst of my happiness, and caused my heart to bleed for his wrongs; but, alas! the impression was as evanescent as the early cloud and morning dew. I had formed a little world of my own, and cared not to move beyond its precincts. But how was the scene changed when I beheld the oppressor lurking on the border of my own peaceful home! I saw his iron hand stretched forth to seize me as his prey, and the cause of the slave became my own. I started up, and with one nightly effort threw from me the lethargy which had covered me as a mantle for years; and determined, by the help of the Almighty, to use every exertion in my power to elevate the character of my wronged and neglected race. One year ago, I detested the slave-holder; now I can pity and pray for him. Hath not this been your experience, my sisters? Have you not felt as I have felt upon this thrilling subject? My heart assures me some of you have.


Source: The Liberator 21 July 1832


Also published in: “We Must Be Up and Doing”: A Reader in Early African American Feminisms, ed. Teresa C. Zackodnik (Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press), pp. 44-45.