Daily Reading for December 17 • William Lloyd Garrison, 1879, and Maria Stewart, 1879, Prophetic Witness
I am of a strong opinion that the day on which we unite heart and soul, and turn our attention to knowledge and improvement, that day the hissing and reproach among the nations of the earth against us will cease. And even those who now point at us with the finger of scorn, will aid and befriend us. It is of no use for us to sit with our hands folded, hanging our heads like bulrushes, lamenting our wretched condition; but let us make a mighty effort, and arise, and if no one will promote and respect us, let us promote and respect ourselves. . . .
How long shall the fair daughters of Africa be compelled to bury their minds and talents beneath a load of iron pots and kettles? Until union, knowledge, and love begin to flow among us. How long shall a mean set of men flatter us us with their smiles, and enrich themselves with our hard earnings, their wives’ fingers sparkling with rings, and they themselves laughing at our folly? Until we begin to promote and patronize each other. Shall we be a by-word among the nations any longer? Shall they laugh us to scorn forever? Do you ask, what can we do? Unite and build a store of your own, if you cannot procure a license. . . . Possess the spirit of independence. The Americans do, and why should not you? Possess the spirit of men, bold and enterprising, fearless and undaunted. Sue for your rights and privileges. Know the reason that you cannot attain them. Weary them with your importunities. You can but die if you make the attempt, and we shall certainly die if you do not. . . .
That day we, as a people, hearken unto the voice of the Lord, our God, and walk in his ways and ordinances, and become distinguished for our ease, elegance, and grace, combined with other virtues, that day the Lord will raise us up, and enough to aid and befriend us, and we shall begin to flourish.
From “Religion and the Pure Principles of Morality, The Sure Foundation on Which We Must Build” by Maria Stewart, quoted in Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought by Beverly Guy Sheftall (New York: W. W. Norton, 1995).