The Liberty Street Church
The Liberty Street Presbyterian Church formed as a black church at the corner of Liberty and Franklin streets in Troy, New York in 1840. Prior, congregants had worshipped in the meeting house of the white First Presbyterian Church of Troy. The people who formed the church, desiring self-organization and self-elevation, asked Henry Highland Garnet to be their pastor. He preached there until 1848. The church at this site burned down in 1941, at which time the congregation moved to the State Street Methodist Church (itself demolished in 1963 for urban renewal). The congregation then merged with the Oakwood Presbyterian Church which remains active today at the corner of Hoosick and 10th Streets. During the time that the church was on Liberty Street, it was an active node in the struggle to end institutionalized slavery in the United States, hosting Underground Railroad committees and conventions for people of color.
Reverend Henry Highland Garnet
Reverend Garnet moved to Troy in 1839 and began preaching at the newly formed Liberty Street Presbyterian Church in 1840. While in Troy, he also edited the weekly newspaper, The Clarion. In 1843 he became world famous for his speech entitled "An Address to the Slaves of the United States" which he delivered at the Colored People's Convention in Buffalo, New York. He was part of a generation of abolitionists who shifted the movement away from moral persuasion toward direct political action. His writing, publishing and orations placed him as an important protagonist in the history of abolition and Black nationalism.
The History of the Address
In 1840 at The Albany Convention of Colored Citizens, it was resolved that a committee of three be appointed to draw up a human rights address aimed at Southern slaves. The chosen committee included Charles B. Ray, Theodore S. Wright, and Henry Highland Garnet. Garnet wrote and delivered the controversial speech at the National Negro Convention in Buffalo, New York in 1843. The speech encouraged slaves to turn against their masters. The speech was rejected by the Buffalo assembly for being too militant and advocating for a slave uprising as a solution to end slavery. In 1848 Garnet published An Address to the Slaves of the United States along with the militant text "David Walker's Appeal" from 1829. It is believed that the publication was at least partially funded by John Brown. By this time, the idea of direct action was becoming more acceptable as a strategy to end slavery. The Address marked a shift in the abolitionist movement from attempting to appeal to slave masters morality to speaking to the slaves and urging them to take direct action to end their own enslavement. The speech, in its entirety is reprinted here. We find his words quite relevant and applicable in today's world.