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Henry Highland Garnet was an African-American best known as an abolitionist whose “Call to Rebellion” speech encouraged slaves to rebel against their owners.
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Henry Highland Garnet was an African-American abolitionist born circa December 23, 1815 in Kent County, Maryland. Born as a slave, he and his family escaped to New York when he was about nine years old. In the 1840s and decades afterward he became an abolitionist. His “Call to Rebellion” speech encouraged slaves to free themselves by rising up against owners. Seen as a radical, he became a controversial figure within the abolitionist movement. In 1881 he worked in a government post in Liberia,
and a few months later died in February 13, 1882.
Abolitionist, activist and minister Henry Highland Garnet was born in 1815 in Kent County, Maryland. Born a slave, Henry Highland Garnet became a leading and sometimes controversial figure in the abolitionist movement of the 1800s. He was about 9 years old when he and his family escaped from their owner in 1824. They had permission to attend a funeral in another part of Maryland, but they eventually made their way to New York City instead.
In New York City, Garnet attended the African Free School. There he studied science and English, among other subjects. Garnet also learned about navigation, and later spent some time working aboard ships. Returning after a voyage in 1829, he discovered that his family had been pursued by slave hunters. His parents got away, but his sister was captured. Angered by this attack on his family, Garnet is said to have bought a knife and walked the city streets looking for a confrontation with a slave hunter. His friends convinced him to stop seeking vengeance and to hide out on Long Island.
In the 1830s, Garnet continued his education at several institutions. He eventually ended up at the Oneida Institute in Whitesboro, New York. Finishing his studies in 1840, Garnet pursued a spiritual path. He became a Presbyterian minister and served as the first pastor of the Liberty Street Negro Presbyterian Church in Troy, New York, beginning in 1842.
A tireless activist in the fight to end slavery, Garnet worked with the likes of William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass. He became well-known for his skills as an orator. In 1843, Garnet gave one of his most famous speeches, usually referred to as the "Call to Rebellion," at the National Negro Convention. Rather than try to sway whites to end slavery, he encouraged the slaves to obtain their freedom themselves by rising up against their owners. This was a radical idea at the time, and both Douglass and Garrison opposed it. The convention refused to endorse Garnet's speech after taking a vote on the matter.
In 1850, Garnet traveled to England and Scotland where he spoke widely against the practice of slavery. He also supported allowing blacks to emigrate to other lands, such as Liberia in Africa, a country made up mostly of freed slaves. In 1852, Garnet traveled to Jamaica to serve as a missionary.
After returning to the United States, Garnet became a pastor at the Shiloh Church in New York City. He continued to work to end slavery, but his influence within the abolitionist movement had been somewhat diminished because his more radical views.
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