While many whites believed that John Brown was a madman, African Americans recognized the slave system as madness and celebrated Brown’s willingness to die for the anti-slavery cause. Brown was rare among white abolitionists in his insistence on full equality between blacks and whites; throughout his adult life he interacted socially with African Americans on an egalitarian basis to a degree unprecedented in antebellum America. On December 2, 1859, the day of Brown’s execution, African Americans and abolitionists observed a "Day of Mourning" to honor his martyrdom. Gathering in churches and meeting halls that night, they used speeches, proclamations, and songs to both commemorate Brown and call for further action to advance the abolitionist cause. This report, published in an African-American newspaper, describes one such gathering.
On Friday evening, December 2nd, 1859 pursuant to previous notice, a densely crowded meeting of colored citizens convened at the Second Baptist Church, Croghan Street.
The meeting was called to order by Wm. Lambert, who briefly referred to the solemn event of the day as the cause of the meeting.
He then introduced the evening's exercises, according to the following programme:
Prayer, by Rev. Wm. Webb.
Reading of the 9th Psalm, by Rev. A. P. Green.
Music--Ode to Old Capt. John Brown's by Profs. Martin and Brown's Liberty Songsters.
Religions and Anti-Slavery Character of Brown, by Revs. Messrs. Anderson and Green.
Music--Daughters of Zion, by Liberty Songsters.
Brown's Christian Fortitude, by Rev. Wm. Webb.
Music--Might Speed the Right, by Liberty Songsters.
The religious exercises being over, Mr. George Hannibal Parker, President of the Old Capt. John Brown Liberty League ascended the platform and took the chair. The meeting then assumed a more deliberative and revolutionary character, whereupon Wm. Lambert presented and read the following declaration of sentiment and resolves, which were enthusiastically received.
Whereas, We, the oppressed portion of this community, many of whom have worn the galling chains and felt the smarting lash of slavery, and know by sad experience its brutalizing effects upon both the body and the mind, and its damaging influence upon the soul of its victim, and
Whereas, We, by the help of Almighty God and the secret abolition movements that are now beginning to develop themselves in the southern part of this country, have been enabled to escape from the prison-home of slavery, and partially to obtain our liberty; and having become personally acquainted with the life and character of our much beloved and highly esteemed friend, Old Capt. John Brown, and his band of valiant men, who, at Harper's Ferry, on the 16th day of October, 1859, demonstrated to the world this sympathy and fidelity to the cause of the suffering slaves of this country, by bearding the hydra headed monster, Tyranny, in his den, and by his bold, effective, timely blow is now causing the South to tremble with a moral earthquake as he totally and freely delivered up his life to lay as a ransom for our enslaved race and thereby, "solitary and alone," he has put a liberty ball in motion which shall continue to roll and gather strength until the last vestige of human slavery within this nation shall have been crushed beneath the ponderous weight, Therefore,
Resolved, That we hold the name of Old Capt. John Brown in the most sacred remembrance, now the first disinterested martyr for our liberty, whereupon the true Christian principle of his Divine Lord and Master, has freely delivered up his life for the liberty of our race in this country. Therefore will we ever vindicate his character through all coming time, as our temporal redeemer whose name shall never die,
Resolved, That, as the long lost rights and liberties of an oppressed people are only gained in proportion as they act in their own cause, therefore are we now loudly called upon to arouse to our own interest, and to concentrate our efforts in keeping the Old Brown liberty-ball in motion and thereby continue to kindle the fires of liberty upon the altar of every determined heart among men and continue to fan the same until the proper time, when a revolutionary blast from liberty's trump shall summon them simultaneously to unite for victorious and triumphant battle.
Resolved, That we tender our deepest and heart felt sympathy to the family of Capt. John Brown in their sad bereavement and pledge to them that they shall ever be held by us as our special friends, in whose welfare we hope ever to manifest a special interest.
After the reading of this declaration, the "Marsellaise Hymn" with the able and eloquent speeches of the Revs. Messrs. Anderson, Green, Webb, and Mr. John D. Richards, who responded so ably and eloquently to the declaration that the fire of liberty was kindled in the hearts of the whole assembly, in whose remembrance the name of Old John Brown will never die.
After a general expression upon the declaration, it was resolved that the several colored churches be dressed in mourning for thirty days, and that an appointment be made for the preaching of the funeral sermon of our much beloved friend within that period.
Rev. Mr. Webb, from the Finance Committee, reported that the "League" had twenty-five dollars in hand, ready to send to Mrs. Brown, which would be forwarded to her as soon as her mind becomes a little composed from the effects of her sad bereavement.
On motion, it was resolved that the proceedings of this meeting be presented to the city papers for publication, and that copies be sent to the several anti-slavery papers throughout the country, requesting them to publish the same.
On motion, the meeting then adjourned, to meet again on Friday evening the 16th inst., and the assemblage arose under the soul-stirring strains of the patriotic song, "On on to battle -- we fear no foe."
Source: Weekly Anglo-African, December 17 1859.