Biography of an American Bondman
"Where'er a human voice is heard
In witness for the true and right,
Where'er a human heart is stirred
To mingle in Faith's glorious flight,
That voice revere, that heart sustain,
It shall not be to thee in vain!"
some three months leisure time during the winter, Mr. Brown began, in the
autumn of 1843, to speak on the subject of American Slavery. Not satisfied with merely gaining
his own freedom, he felt it to be his duty to work for others; and, in the language of the poet, he
would ask himself--
"Is true freedom but to break
Fetters for our own dear sake,
And, with leather hearts, forget,
That we own mankind a debt?
No! true freedom is to share
All the chains our brothers wear,
And with heart and hand to be
Earnest to make others free."
With this feeling, he went forth to battle against slavery at the South, and its offspring,
prejudice against colored people, at the North. Buffalo and its vicinity was at that time one of the
worst places in the State, with the exception of New York city, for colored persons. Hatred to the
blacks had closed all the schools
55against colored children, and the negro-pew was the only place in the church where as the
despised race were permitted to have a seats. Mr. Brown not only combated this unnatural
prejudice in Buffalo, but also in the surrounding towns. On one occasion, he visited the town of
Africa, to gives a lecture on slavery, and so great was the hatred to the negro, that after the
meeting was over, he looked in vain for a place to lodge for the night. After visiting every tavern
in the village, he returned to the vestry of the church, and, entering it, remained until morning.
The night was a bitter cold one, and Mr. Brown walked the aisle from eleven at night till six the
next morning. One year after, he lectured in the same place, and the little seed left there, twelve
months before, had taken root, and Mr. Brown found more than one person willing to take him
If there is one thing at the North which seems more cruel and hateful than another, connected
with Americans slavery, it is the way in which colored persons are treated by the whites. The
withering influence which this hatred exerts against the elevation of the free colored people, can
scarcely be imagined. Wherever the black man makes his appearance in the United States, he
meets this hatred. In some sections of the country it is worse than in others. As you advance
nearer to the slave, States, you feel this prejudice the more. Twenty years ago, if colored persons
travelled by steamboat, they were put on the deck; if by coach, on the outside; if by railway, in
Jim Crow car
. Even the respectable eating saloons have been closed
56against colored persons. In New York and Philadelphia, the despised race are still excluded from
most places of refreshment. To the everlasting shame of the Church, she still holds on to this
unchristian practice of separating persons on account of their complexion. In the refund city of
Boston, there was a church, as late as 1847, deeded its pews upon condition that no colored
person should ever be permitted to enter them! Most of these churches have a place set off in the
gallery, where the negro may go if he pleases. A New York D.D., while on a visit to England,
some years since, was charged by a London divine with putting his colored members in the
furthest part of the gallery. The American clergyman, with a long face and upturned eyes,
exclaimed, "Ah! my dear brother, I think more of my colored members than I do of the whites,
and therefore I place them in the top of the house, so as to get them nearer to
Charles Lenox Remond,
during the many years that he has labored in the
Anti-Slavery cause, has, in all probability, experienced greater insults and more hardships than
any other persons of color. To hear him relate what he has undergone, while travelling to and
from the places of his meetings, makes one's blood chill.
This pretended fastidiousness on the part of the whites has produced some of the most
William Wells Brown,
while travelling through Ohio in 1844, went
from Sandusky to Republic, on the Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad. On arriving at Sandusky,
he learned that colored people were not allowed to take seats in the cars with whites, and that,
57as there was no
Jim Crow car
on that road, blacks were generally made to ride in the
baggage-car. Mr. Brown, however, went into one of the best passenger cars, seated himself,
crossed his legs, and looked as unconcerned as if the car had been made for his sole use. At
length, one of the railway officials entered the car, and asked him what he was doing there. "I am
going to Republic," said Mr. Brown. "You can't ride here," said the conductor. "Yes I can,"
returned the colored man. "No you can't," rejoined the railway man. "Why? inquired Mr. Brown.
"Because we don't allow
to ride with white people,"replied the conductor. "Well,
I shall remain here," said Mr. Brown. "You will see, pretty soon, whether you will or not,"
retorted the railway man, as he turned to leave the car. By this time, the passengers were filling
up the seats, and everything being made ready to start. After an absence of a few minutes, the
conductor again entered the car, accompanied by two stout men, and took Mr. Brown by the
collar and pulled him out. Pressing business demanded that Mr. Brown should go, and by that
train; he therefore got into the freight car, just as the train was moving off. Seating himself on a
flour barrel, he took from his pocket the last number of the
and began reading
it. On went the train, making its usual stops, until within four or five miles of Republic, when the
conductor, (who, by-the-by, was the same man who had moved Mr. Brown from the passenger
car) demanded his ticket. "I have no ticket," returned he. "Then I will take your fare," said the
58conductor. "How much is it?" inquired Mr. Brown. "One dollar and a quarter," was the answer.
"How much do you charge those who ride in the passenger cars?" inquired the colored man. "The
same," said the conductor. "Do you suppose that I will pay the same price for riding up here in
the freight car, that those do who are in the passenger car?" asked Mr. Brown. "Certainly,"
replied the conductor. "Well, you are very much mistaken, if you think any such thing," said the
passenger. "Come, black man, out with your money, and none of your nonsense with me,"said
the conductor. "I won't pay you the price you demand, and that's the end of it," said Mr. Brown.
"Don't you intend paying your fare?" inquired the conductor. "Yes," replied the colored man; "but
I won't pay you a dollar and a quarter." "What do you intend to pay, then?" demanded the official.
"I will pay what's right, but I don't intend to give you all that sum." "Well then," said the
conductor, "as you have had to ride in the freight car, give me one dollar and you may go." "I
won't do any such thing," returned Mr. Brown. "Why won't you?" inquired the railway man. "If I
had come in the passenger car, I would have paid as much as others do; but I won't ride up here
on a flour barrel, and pay you a dollar." "You think yourself as good as white people, I suppose?"
said the conductor; and his eyes flashed as if he meant what he said. "Well, being you seem to
feel so bad because you had to ride in the freight car, give me seventy-five cents, and I'll say no
more about it," continued he. "No, I won't. If I
59had been permitted to pride with the other passengers, I would pay what you first demanded; but
I won't pay seventy-five cents for riding up here, as stride a flour barrel, in the hot sun." "Don't
you intend paying anything at all?" asked the conductor. "Yes, I will pay what is right." "Give me
half a dollar, and I will say no more about it." "No, I won't," returned the other; "I shall not pay
fifty cents for riding in a freight car." "What will you pay, then?" demanded the conductor. "What
do you charge per hundred on this road?" asked Mr. Brown. "Twenty-five cents," answered the to
conductor. "Then I will pay you thirty-seven and a half cents," said the passenger, "for I weight
just one hundred and fifty pounds." "Do you expect to get off by paying that trifling sum?" "I
have come as freight, and I will pay for freight, and nothing more," said Mr.Brown The
conductor took the thirty-seven and a half cents, declaring as he left the car, that that was the
most impudent negro that ever travelled on that road.