A Call to Action

A Call to Action

Christian Recorder: October 4, 1862 

Turner writes in response of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation

Keywords: Abraham Lincoln, Emancipation Proclamation, Essay

Mr. Editor:--The time has arrived in the history of the American African, when grave and solemn responsibilities stare him in the face. The proclamation of President Lincoln, promising in the short space of a hundred days, to liberate thousands, and hundreds of thousands of human beings, born under, and held in subjection to the most cruel vassalage that ever stained a nation’s garment, has opened up a new series of obligations, consequences, and results, never known to our honored sires, nor actually met with through the long chain of a glorious ancestry. We live in one of the most eventful periods of the world’s revolution—a period virtually speaking, that “kings and prophets waited for, but never saw.”

A generation has passed from among the living since men upon this continent first dared to speak in defense of human rights. But generations have passed since the God of heaven was first besieged by billions of entreaties, dispatched from the earnest hearts of millions of tortured souls, from every vale, hill and dale, where defrauded humanity felt the grind of oppression’s wheel. And amid all the din and dash of legislative and congressional enactments, determined upon the consummate extension of its transitive duration, a circle of darkness shrouded the scheme, and hurled the traffic to the ground, amid a dense rolling fog of dismal confusion, for which a parallel is not to be found.

But now, while many of those warm-hearted philanthropists, prompted by considerations purely divine, are lying in their graves, and while thousands of thousands of prayer-offering saints, whose supplications were heard in the skies as a mixture of anxiety, torture, want and grief, have passed from the troublesome scenes of earth to the land of immortal birth, their labors, toils, and efforts combined, have, by gradual incursions upon the powers of injustice, through the instrumentality of their continuous and circumfluent lash, pushed on despite the oppositions, the dawn of freedom and the morn of liberty.

And now, we are verging upon a time very unlike the previous days of our American existence. The great quantity of contrabands, (so called,) who have fled from the oppressor’s rod, and are now thronging Old Point Comfort, Hilton Head, Washington City, and many other places, and the unnumbered host who shall soon be freed by the President’s proclamation, are to materially change their political and social condition. The time for boasting of ancestral genius, and prowling through the dusty pages of ancient history to find a specimen of negro intellectuality is over. Such useless noise should now be lulled, while we turn our attention to an engagement with those means which must, and alone can, mould out and develop those religious, literary, and pecuniary resources, adapted to the grave expediency now about to be encountered.

Thousands of contrabands, now at the places above designated, are in a condition of the extremest suffering. We see them in droves every day perambulating the streets of Washington, homeless, shoeless, dressless, and moneyless. And when we think of the cold freezing days of a coming winter, at which time the surface of the earth not unfrequently will be concreted into a solid mass of congelation, our sensibilities of humanity sink under the dreadful apprehensions consequent upon such direful privations.

Every man of us now, who has a speck of grace or bit of sympathy, for the race that we are inseparably identified with, is called upon by force of surrounding circumstances, to extend a hand of mercy to bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. And no one can now screen himself behind the nice matured scrupulosities which have in so many instances redounded to a plausible excuse, to the ever garrulous but never performers, in that, after giving assistance to the contrabands, they would again be returned back to slavery, and thus we would be found as having lavished our charitable expenditures upon a human chattel, destined to a state of perpetual vassalage; the morality of that thing, however, has not only been questionable but grievously condemnable.

But the proclamation of President Lincoln has banished the fog, and silenced the doubt. All can now see that the stern intention of the Presidential policy is, to wage the war in favor of freedom, till the last groan of the anguished heart slave shall be hushed in the ears of nature’s God. This definition of the policy bids us rise, and for ourselves think, act, and do. We have stood still and seen the salvation of God, while we besought him with teary eyes and bleeding hearts; but the stand still day bid us adieu Sept. 22, 1862. A new era, a new dispensation of things, is now upon us, to action, to action, is the cry. We must now begin to think, to plan, and to legislate for ourselves.

Washington, Sept. 26th, 1862

*(To Be Continued)

*Though Turner meant this article to be continued, there is no evidence that he in fact continued this article.