Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Forgotten Men" of Black History 4: Jermain Wesley Loguen

Today's Forgotten Man, Jermain Wesley Loguen was born in slavery in Davidson County, Tennessee, in 1813, the son of a white man and a black slave mother.

At the age of 21 he took his master's horse and made tracks north, eventually ending up in Canada. After working a series of jobs in Canada and the US, he eventually settled in Syracuse NY, which was a major stop on the Underground Railroad.

He became a popular abolitionist and was well known. He wrote an autobiography, The Rev. J. W. Loguen, as a Slave and as a Freeman, a Narrative of Real Life.

When the book was published and word of his fame reached his former masters, the wife actually sent him a letter demanding his return or the payment of $1000.

Loguen's scathing reply, in the form of an open letter published in the anti-slavery newspaper The Liberator, is a classic:

Mrs. Sarah Logue. .. . You say you have offers to buy me, and that you shall sell me if I do not send you $1000, and in the same breath and almost in the same sentence, you say, "You know we raised you as we did our own children." Woman, did you raise your own children for the market? Did you raise them for the whipping post? Did you raise them to be driven off, bound to a coffle in chains? . .. Shame on you!
But you say I am a thief, because I took the old mare along with me. Have you got to learn that I had a better right to the old mare, as you call her, than Manasseth Logue had to me? Is it a greater sin for me to steal his horse, than it was for him to rob my mother's cradle, and steal me? . .. Have you got to learn that human rights are mutual and reciprocal, and if you take my liberty and life, you forfeit your own liberty and life? Before God and high heaven, is there a law for one man which is not a law for every other man?
If you or any other speculator on my body and rights, wish to know how I regard my rights, they need but come here, and lay their hands on me to enslave me.. . .
Yours, etc. J. W. Loguen
(As quoted in Howard K. Zinn's A People's History of the United States)

1 Comment:

Melissa said...

Thanks for the post. I may hate my state's current political alignment, but as a Kansan I can be proud of my state's radical abolitionist history.