Henry Highland Garnett, Minister of Liberia   Leave a comment

Henry Highland Garnett, Minister of Liberia

Henry Highland Garnet (December 23, 1815 – February 13, 1882) was an African American abolitionist and orator. An advocate of militant abolitionism, Garnet was a prominent member of the abolition movement that led against moral suasion toward more political action. Renowned for his skills as a public speaker, he urged blacks to take action and claim their own destinies. When Garnet was ten years old, the family reunited and moved to New York City, where from 1826 through 1833, Garnet attended the African Free School, and the Phoenix High School for Colored Youth. While in school, Garnet began his career in abolitionism. With fellow schoolmates, he established the Garrison Literary and Benevolent Association. It garnered mass support among whites, but the club ultimately had to move due to racist feelings. Two years later, in 1835, he started to attend the Noyes Academy in Canaan, New Hampshire, where he met his wife, Julia Williams. Together, they had three children, only one of whom survived to adulthood. Due to his abolitionist activities, Henry Garnet was ultimately driven away from the Noyes Academy by an angry segregationist mob. He went on to further his education at the Oneida Theological Institute in Whitesboro, which had newly opened its doors to all races. Here, he was acclaimed for his wit, brilliance, and rhetorical skills. After graduation in 1839, the following year, he injured his knee playing sports. It never recovered, and his leg was amputated.

Garnet served as pastor of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC, from 1864-1866. The church is shown here as it was in about 1899.
The Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church today.In 1839, Garnet moved to Troy, New York where he taught school and studied theology. In 1842, Garnet became pastor of the Liberty Street Presbyterian church, a position he would hold for six years. During this time, he published papers that combined both religious and abolitionist themes. Closely identifying himself with the church, Garnet supported the temperance movement and became a strong advocate of political antislavery. He later joined the American Anti-Slavery Society and frequently spoke at abolitionist conferences. One of his most famous speeches, “Call to Rebellion,” was delivered August 1843 to the National Negro Convention in Buffalo, New York. The speech echoed his views that slaves should act for themselves to achieve total emancipation. Garnet promoted active rebellion, arguing that armed unrest would be the most effective way to end slavery. Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison, along with many other abolitionists, thought Garnet’s ideas were too radical. He supported the Liberty Party, a party of reform that was eventually absorbed into the Republican Party, whose views Garnet disagreed with.

 Anti-slavery roleBy 1849 Garnet began to support emigration of blacks to Mexico, Liberia, or the West Indies, where they would have more opportunities. In support of this, he founded the African Civilization Society. Mirroring the British African Aid society, it sought to establish a West African colony in Yoruba. He also advocated establishing separate sections of the United States as black colonies. In 1850, he went to Great Britain on request of the Free Labor Movement, an organization that opposed the use of products produced by slave labor. He was popular, and spent two and a half years lecturing. In 1852 Garnet was sent to Kingston, Jamaica, as a missionary. He spent three years there, until his health forced him back to the United States.

When the American Civil War erupted, his hopes for emigration dissolved. Instead, he turned his attention to the founding of black army units. In the New York draft riots of 1863, mobs were targeting blacks and black-owned buildings. Garnet was saved from death when his daughter quickly chopped their nameplate off their door before the mobs found them. When the authorization for black units came, Garnet helped with recruiting United States Colored Troops and then supported the black soldiers, preaching to many of them. Garnet served as the pastor of the Liberty (Fifteenth) Street Presbyterian Church from 1864 until 1866, and during this time he became the first black minister to preach to the House of Representatives, on 12 February 1865. He spoke about the end of slavery.

  Later life, death, and legacyAfter the war, Garnet was appointed president of Avery College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1868. Later he returned to New York City as a pastor at the Shiloh Presbyterian Church. In 1879, Garnet married Sarah Smith Tompkins, who was a New York teacher and school principal, suffragist, and community organizer. [1] Garnet’s last wish was to go to Liberia, live even just for a few weeks, and die there. His wish was granted and he became U.S. Minister to Liberia in late 1881, but died two months later. Garnet was given a state funeral by the Liberian government and was buried at Palm Grove Cemetery in Monrovia.[2] Frederick Douglass, who had not been on speaking terms with Garnet for many years, still mourned Garnet’s passing. In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Henry Highland Garnet on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.[3] Garnet also has a public elementary school named after him in Harlem, known as P.S. 175 or the Henry Highland Garnet School for Success, as well as the HHG Elementary School in Chestertown, MD. His painting can be found in the painting ‘Civil Rights Bill Passes, 1866’ – a mural in the Hall of Capitols, the Cox Corridors of the Capitol building in Washington DC. It was painted by Allyn Cox in 1952


Posted February 15, 2012 by pennylibertygbow in Civil Rights, Religious

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