The Historical Society of Kent County launched their “Inside the Bordley” lecture series last Friday with a talk by Professor Van E. Gosse who discussed Henry Highland Garnet in light of his new book The First Reconstruction: Black Politics in America from the Revolution to the Civil War
Barbara Jorgenson conducted the interview on behalf of Washington College’s Adam Goodheart who was unable to attend.
With a focus on black electoral politics before the Civil War, and the free black men—many of them escaped slaves—who influenced politics, Prof. Gosse highlighted Chestertown’s Rev. Henry Highland Garnet and the activism that led him to be a powerful leader in the black political movement of the 1840s and 50s and the first black man ever to speak in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Garnet, born into slavery near Chestertown, escaped with his family of 11 to Wilmington where they were helped by the Underground Railroad. Eventually, he would move to New York City and begin studies that would lead to his life-long mission of demanding racial equity for citizenship.
A gifted orator and firebrand activist, Garnet worked with William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglas but lost their support when he advocated for slaves to rebel against the owners.
Gosse, a Professor of History at Franklin & Marshall College, talked about Garnet’s introduction to the radical elements of the abolitionist movement and the founding the radical anti-slavery Liberty Party “one of the most effective third-parties in American history.”
“No compromise,” Gosse said. “Not just immediate emancipation: full citizenship. ‘Black people are American just like anybody else’ and this is the claim that Garnet in particular made very strongly.”
This featured talk was sponsored by the Sandy and Stephen Frohock History Series. The complete lecture will be available via a link on the HSKC Facebook page as well as announcements of future lectures and events.
The Historical Society’s Bordley History Center, 301 High Street will be open Thursdays and Fridays, 11 am to 2 pm, and Saturdays, 10 am to 1 pm.
This video is approximately seven minutes in length. For more information about the Kent County Historical Society please go here.
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