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(1830) Rev. Peter Williams, Jr. “This is Our Country”

Fourteen years after its founding the American Colonization Society remained controversial among African Americans.  By 1830 many of them opposed it and more generally the idea of forced or voluntary repatriation of blacks to Africa.   One of these opponents, Rev. Peter Williams, Jr., the minister at the largest predominately black Episcopal Church in New York City, gave an impassioned speech on July 4, 1830, calling for African American allegiance to the U.S. but also demanding that the nation treat its black citizens as the full equal of others.

ON THIS DAY the fathers of this nation declared, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

These truly noble sentiments have secured to their author a deathless fame. The sages and patriots of the Revolution subscribed them with enthusiasm and pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honour in their support. The result has been the freedom and happiness of millions, by whom the annual returns of this day are celebrated with the loudest and most lively expressions of joy.

But although this anniversary affords occasion of rejoicing to the mass of the people of the United States, there is a class, a numerous class, consisting of nearly three millions, who participate but little in its joys, and are deprived of their unalienable rights by the very men who so loudly rejoice in the declaration that all men are born free and equal.

The festivities of this day serve but to impress upon the minds of reflecting men of colour a deeper sense of the cruelty, the injustice, and oppression, of which they have been the victims. While others rejoice in their deliverance from a foreign yoke, they mourn that a yoke a thousandfold more grievous is fastened upon them. Alas, they are slaves in the midst of freedom; they are slaves to those who boast that freedom is the unalienable right of all; and the

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