Garnet’s Memorial Discourse

Publication Year: 1865

Garnet, Henry Highland. A Memorial Discourse, Delivered in the Hall of the House of  Representatives, Washington City, D.C. on Sabbath, February 12, 1865. With an  Introduction, by James McCune Smith, M.D. Philadelphia: Joseph M. Wilson, 1865. 
PHS does not hold a copy of this speech. It can be found online at the Internet Archive.  

Reading suggestions

See especially pages 69-91.

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Source note

Henry Highland Garnet (1815-1882) escaped from slavery in 1824 and  became a Presbyterian minister and leading abolitionist. As a young man, Garnet was  active in the American Anti-Slavery Society and vigorously opposed colonization. Later  in life, Garnet came to think that emigration to Africa would address many of the  problems facing African Americans after emancipation. Garnet himself moved to Liberia  in 1881 to serve as a minister, but died soon after arriving. At the time Garnet delivered  this discourse, General Sherman’s union army had captured Savannah and had just left  for the Carolinas, having completed their “March to the Sea.” Garnet was invited to  preach this sermon before the House of Representatives to celebrate the passage of the  Thirteenth Amendment on January 31st, 1865.

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Reading questions

1.    Who is the author of this source? When was it written, and what was the  historical context?

2.    Garnet opens his discourse with a description of the “Scribes and Pharisees” of  the New Testament who “hated and wronged a portion of their fellow-men” (page  70). Who are the contemporary Scribes and Pharisees, according to Garnet  (pages 71, 72)?

3.    Why does Garnet point out that the slave traders were not Muslims or Hindus,  but Christians (page 75)? How does this evidence add to his argument about  American slavery?

4.    Garnet employs the words of leaders, poets, philosophers, and other notable  historical figures to condemn the practice of slavery (pages 80-83). What does  this accomplish in his sermon? What are some of the most impactful statements  against slavery on these pages?

5.    Garnet said, “it is often asked when and where will the demands of the reformers  of this and coming ages end” (page 85). What is his answer to this question  (pages 85-87)?

6.    What is the tone of Garnet’s sermon? What was Garnet’s purpose in writing and  delivering it? 

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Source type
History Topics
Abolition and Anti-slavery
African American History
American Religious History
Presbyterian History
Time Period
Civil War and Reconstruction (1861-1877)