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(1843) Samuel H. Davis, “We Must Assert Our Rightful Claims and Plead Our Own Cause”

The National Convention of Colored Citizens which met in Buffalo, New York from August 15 to 19, 1843 is best remembered as the venue for the speech by Rev. Henry Highland Garnet calling on the slaves to “throw off their chains.” However the chair of the convention, Samuel H. Davis of Buffalo, also gave an important oration calling on African Americans, particularly those who had been enslaved, to make known our wrongs to the world and to our oppressors. That speech appears below.

GENTLEMEN: I consider this a most happy period in our history, when we as a people are in some degree awake to a sense of our condition and are determined no longer to submit tamely and silently to wear the galling yoke of oppression, under which we have so long suffered—oppression riveted upon us, as well by an unholy and cruel prejudice, as by unjust and unequal legislation. More particularly do I consider it ominous of good, when I see here collected, so much of wisdom and talent, from different parts of this great nation, collected here to deliberate upon the wisest and best methods by which we may seek a redress of those grievances which most sorely oppress us as a people.

Gentlemen, in behalf of my fellow citizens of Buffalo, I bid you welcome, from the East and West, the North and South, to our city. Among you are the men who are lately from that part of our country where they see our brethren bound and manacled, suffering and bleeding, under the hand of the tyrant, who holds in one hand the Constitution of the United States, which guarantees freedom and equal rights to every citizen, and in the other the scourge dripping with gore, drawn from the veins of his fellow man. Here also are those who live in my native New England, among the descendants of the pilgrims, whose laws are more in accordance with the principles of freedom and equal rights, so that but few laws are found recorded on their statute books of which we need complain. But though their laws are not marked with such palpable and flagrant injustice toward the

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