19th Century: 1861
African American Literature 1619-1926
Alexander Crummell (1819-1898)
The Relations and Duties of Free Colored Men in America to Africa
... For near three centuries the negro race in exile and servitude has been groveling in lowly places, in deep degradation. Circumstance and position alike have divorced us from the pursuit which give nobleness and grandeur to life. In our time of trial we have shown, it is true, a matdhless patience, and a quendhless hope; the one prophetic of victory, and the other the germ of a high Christian character, now developing.These better qualities, however, have been disproportioned, and the life of the race in general has been alien from ennobling and aspiring effort.
But the days of passivity should now come to an end. The active, creative, and saving powers of the race should begin to show themselves. The power of the negro, if he has such power, to tell upon human interest, and to help shape human destinies, should at an early day make full demonstration of itself. We owe it to ourselves, to our race, and to our generous defenders and benefactors, both in Europe and America, to show that we are capable "of receiving the seed of present history into a kindly yet a vigorous soil, and reproduce it, the same, and yet new, for a future period" in all the homes of this traduced, yet vital and progressive race.
...But the enlightened sons of Africa in distant lands are called to a far higher work than even this; a work which as much transcends mere civilization as the abiding interests of eternity outvie the transient concerns of time. To wrest a continent from ruin; to bless and animate millions of torpid and benighted souls; to destroy the power of the devil in his strongholds, and to usher therein light, knowledge, blessedness, inspiring hope, holy faith, and abiding glory, is, without doubt, a work which not only commands the power of the noblest men, but is worthy the presence and zeal of angels. It is just this work which now claims and calls for the interest and the activity of the sons of Africa. Its plainest statement and its simplest aspect, are sufficient, it seems to me, to move these men in every quarter of the world to profound sensibility, to deep resolve, to burning ardor. Such a grand and awful necessity, covering a vast continent, touching the best hopes, and the endless destiny of millions of men, ought, I think, to stir the souls of many a self-sacrificing spirit, and quicken him to lofty purposes and noble deeds. And when one considers that never before in human history has such a grand and noble work been laid out in the Divine Providence, before the negro race, and that it rises up before them in its full magnitude now, at the very time when they are best fitted for its needs and requirements, it seems difficult to doubt that many a generous and godly soul will hasten to find his proper place in this great work of God and man, whether it be by the personal and painful endeavors of a laborer in the field of duty, or by the generous benefactions and the cheering incitements which serve to sustain and stimulate distant and tried workers in their toils and trials. A benefaction of this kind seems to enlarge the very being of a man, extending it to distant places and to future times, inasmuch as unseen countries and after ages may feel the effects of his bounty, while he himself reaps the reward in the blessed society of all those who "having turned many to righteousness, shine as the stars forever and ever."