The past and the present condition, and the destiny of the colored race

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Garnet, Henry Highland “The past and the present condition, and the destiny of the colored race”, RelRace, item créé par Baptiste Bonnefoy, dernier accès le 24 June 2024.
Contributeur Baptiste Bonnefoy
Sujet Le rôle des femmes noires dans la Bible
Description Discours adressé à la société de bienfaisance féminine de Troy, dans l'État de New York, par le pasteur Henry Highland Garnet. Il met en avant le rôle des femmes noires dans la Bible, ainsi que la malédiction infligé à Miriam pour son préjugé de couleur envers la femme éthiopienne de son frère Moïse.
Auteur Garnet, Henry Highland
Date 1848
Éditeur Troy, NY, Steam press of J. C. Kneeland and Co
Langue en



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My theme is the Past and the Present condition, and the Destiny of the Colored race. The path of thought which you are invited to travel, has not as I am aware, been pursued heretofore to any considerable extent. The Present, is the midway between the Past and the Future. Let us ascend that sublime eminence, that we may view the vast empire of ruin that is scarcely discernable through the mists of former ages; and if, while we are dwelling upon the desolations that meet our eyes, we shall mourn over them, I entreat you to look upward and behold the bright, scenery of the future. There we have a clear sky, and from thence are refreshing breezes. The airy plains are radiant with prophetic brightness, and truth, love, and liberty are descending the heavens, bearing the charter of man’s destiny to a waiting world.

All the various forms of truth that are presented to the minds of men, are in perfect harmony with the government of God. Many things that appear to be discordant are not really so; for when they are understood, and the mind becomes illuminated and informed, the imagined deformities disappear as spectres depart from the vision of one who had been a maniac, when his reason returns. “God is the rock, his work is perfect--a God of truth, and without iniquity. Justice and judgment are the habitations of his throne, and mercy and truth go before his face. His righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and his law is the truth.”

The truth will profit us nothing if we suffer it not to clothe us in our right minds--it returns without accomplishing its high mission to us, if we refuse to let her lead us to the delectable mountain, from whence we can behold the pure stream of the law of Jehovah, flowing from his throne, hailed by angel voices and the music of the spheres.

In order to pursue my subject I must, for the sake of distinction, use some of the improper terms of our times. I shall, therefore, speak of races, when in fact there is but one race, as there was but one Adam.

By an almost common consent, the modern world seems determined to pilfer Africa of her glory. It were not enough that her children have been scattered over the globe, clothed in the garments of shame – humiliated and oppressed – but her merciless foes weary themselves in plundering the tombs of our renowned sires, and in obliterating their worthy deeds, which were inscribed by fame upon the pages of ancient history.

The three grand divisions of the earth that were known to the ancients, were colonized by the three sons of Noah. Shem was the father of the Asiatics – the Africans descended from Ham, and Japheth was the progenitor of the Europeans. These men being the children of one father, they were originally of the same complexion – for we cannot through the medium of any law of nature or reason, come to the conclusion, that one was black, another was copper-colored, and the other was white. Adam was a red man, and by what law of nature his descendants became dissimilar to him, is a problem which is yet to be clearly solved. The fact that the universal Father has varied the complexions of his children, does not detract from his mercy, or give us reason to question his wisdom.

Moses is the patriarch of sacred history. The same eminent station is occupied by Herodotus in profane history. To the chronicles of these two great men we are indebted for all the information we have in relation to the early condition of man. If they are incorrect, to what higher authority shall we appeal--and if they are true, then we may acquaint ourselves with the history of our race from that period,

“When yonder spheres sublime,
Peal’d their first notes to sound the march of time.”

Ham was the first African. Egypt was settled by an immediate descendant of Ham, who, in sacred history, is called Mesraim, and in uninspired history he is known by the name of Menes. Yet in the face of this historical evidence, there are those who affirm that the ancient Egyptians were not of the pure African stock. The gigantic stature of the Phynx has the peculiar features of the children of Ham – one of the most celebrated queens of Egypt was Nitocris, an Ethiopian woman; yet these intellectual resurrectionists dig through a mountain of such evidence, and declare that these people were not negroes.

We learn from Herodotus, that the ancient Egyptians were black, and had woolly hair. These people astonished the world with their arts and sciences, in which they reveled with unbounded prodigality. They became the masters of the East, and the lords of the Hebrews. […]

Whatever may be the extent of prejudice against color, as it is falsely called, and is so generally practiced in this country, Solomon, the most renowned of kings, possessed none of it. Among the seven hundred wives, and the three hundred concubines, who filled his houses, the most favored queen was a beautiful sable daughter of one of the Pharoahs of Egypt. In order to take her to his bosom, he trampled upon the laws of his nation, and incurred the divine displeasure for a Jew might not espouse any heathen or idolater who was not circumcised in heart. When he had secured her, he bowed his great intellect before her, that he might do her that homage which he paid to no other woman. Solomon was a poet, and pure love awakened the sweetest melody in his soul. To her honor and praise he composed that beautiful poem called the CANTICLES, or SOLOMON’S SONG. For her he wove that gorgeous wreath which is unsurpassed in its kind, and with his own royal hand placed it upon her dark brow. Several persons are represented in the poem, and it is composed of an interesting coloquy. The reader is introduced to “the watchmen that went about the streets,” and to “the daughters of Jerusalem,” and to the bride and the groom, which are the king and the beauteous Egyptian. It is not at all surprising that she who received such distinguished marks of kingly favors, should encounter the jealousy of the daughters of Jerusalem. They saw that Egyptian woman had monopolised the heart of the son of David, and the royal poet represents his queen to say to her fairer but supplanted rivals:

“I am black but comely.
O ye daughters of Jerusalem, As the tents of Kedar,
As the curtains of Solomon
Look not upon me, because I am black, Because the sun had looked upon me.”

Thus she speaks of the superiority which nature had given her over the women of Jerusalem. She was handsome, and like all handsome women, she knew it. […]

The bride again speaks, and says to the bride-groom:

“I have compared thee, O my love,
To a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariot.”

How inappropriate were this allusion if it had been placed in the mouth of any one else but an Egyptian. To give the passage any other interpretation is virtually accusing Solomon of grosser ignorance than my reverence will allow me to attribute to him.

Professor STOWE and President MAHAN, and others, agree in giving the following translation to another verse in the first chapter of the song,

“Ere I was aware
My soul was as the war-chariot
Of my noble people.”

The whole poem, without doubt, is nothing more than a brilliant out-burst of Solomon’s love for his bride.

Homer, the prince of epic poets, speaks of the Ethiopians, and presents them at the feast of the gods. These men of sun-burnt faces, as their name implies, he calls the excellent Ethiopians.

A distinguished scholar, speaking of this passage in the Grecian’s renowned poem, in the presence of an American pedant, the young upstart seriously inquired if the Ethiopians were black? “Most assuredly,” answered the scholar. “Well,” said the young republican, “had I been at that feast, and negroes had been placed at the table, I would have left it.” “Had you been living at that time, returned the other, you would have been saved the trouble of leaving the table, for the gods would not have invited you.”

Such a man in such a banquet would have been as much out of place as an ass would be in a concert of sacred music.

The interior of Ethiopia has not been explored by modern adventurers. The antiquarian has made his way into almost every dominion where relics of former greatness have promised to reward him for his toil. But this country, as though she had concealed some precious treasure, meets the traveller on the outskirts of her dominions, with pestilence and death. Yet, in the Highlands which have been traversed, many unequivocal traces of former civilization have been discovered. Very lately, British enterprize has made some important researches in that region of Country, all of which go to prove that Homer did not misplace his regards for them, when he associated them with the Gods.

The wife of Moses was an Ethiopian woman, and when Miriam, his sister, murmured against her, the Almighty smote Miriam, and she became white. Whether the murmurings arose on account of the complexion of the great Lawgiver’s wife, or from some other cause, I will not attempt to determine. Whatever was the cause, we all see how Jehovah regarded it, how fierce was his indignation, and how terrible his punishment. He came down and stood in a cloudy pillar, and cursed the woman in whose bosom the unholy prejudice was harbored.

Ethiopia is one of the few nations whose destiny is spoken of in prophecy. This is done in language so plain that we are not driven to dubious inferences.

It is said that “Princes shall come out of Egypt, and Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.” It is thought by some that this divine declaration was fulfilled when Philip baptised the converted eunuch of the household of Candes, the Queen of the Ethiopians. In this transaction, a part of the prophecy may have been fulfilled, and only a part.

A vision seen by another prophet has become a matter of history. Hosea, foresaw that God would call his son out of Egypt, and when the infant Redeemer could find no shelter in the land of the Hebrews, he found an asylum in Egypt, where he remained until Herod was dead. He then returned to his native country, and in that event he fulfilled the declaration of the holy seer.