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(1920) Archibald Grimke, “The Shame of America, or the Negro’s Case Against the Republic”

Archibald Grimke was born enslaved in Charleston, South Carolina in 1849.  After the Civil War, Archibald and his younger brother Francis, enrolled at Lincoln University.  Archibald graduated in 1872 and then entered Harvard Law School.  After graduation he practiced in Boston.  By the 1880s Grimke became involved in a number of issues such as temperance and women’s rights and developed a reputation as a public speaker.  By 1898 he became a member of the American Negro Academy, an organization of black intellectuals, and served as its president from 1903 to 1919.  Grimke was also a founding member of both the Niagara Movement and the NAACP.  In a speech given at various locations in 1920, seventy-one year-old Archibald Grimke eloquently expounds on the long history of American racism.  

The author of the Declaration of Independence said once that he trembled for his country when he remembered that God was just.      And he did well to do so. But while he was about it he might have quaked a little for himself. For he was certainly guilty of the same crime against humanity, which had aroused in his philo¬sophic and patriotic mind such lively sensations of anxiety and alarm in respect to the Nation. Said Jefferson on paper: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal;     that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable    rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happi¬ness," while on his plantation he was holding some men as slaves, and continued to hold them as such for fifty years thereafter, and died at the end of a long and brilliant life, a Virginia slaveholder.  And yet Thomas Jefferson was sincere, or fancied that he was, when he uttered those sublime sentiments about the rights of man, and when he declared that he trembled for his country when he remembered that God was just. This inconsistency between the man"s magnificence in profession and his smallness in practice, between the grandeur of what he promised and the meanness of what he

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