“We are willing to let the dead past bury its dead; but we ask you now for our RIGHTS…”

Henry MacNeal Turner was a former slave who escaped from a Southern plantation as a young adult, teaching himself to read and write. In 1868, Turner spoke with the Georgia House of Representatives.

“The great question, sir is this: Am I a man? If I am such, I claim the rights of a man…Why, sir though we are not white, we have accomplished much.  We have pioneered civilization here; we have built up your country; … And what do we ask of you in return? Do we ask you for compensation for the sweat our fathers bore for you- for the tears you have caused, and the hearts you have broken, and the lives you have curtailed, and the blood you have spilled? Do we ask retaliation? We ask it not. We are willing to let the dead past bury its dead; but we ask you now for our RIGHTS…” pg 201

Merely two years after the legislation of the 13th Amendment, Turner is trying to advocate for social, political, and economic passive rebellion through the unity of the newly freed slaves.  He is demanding for the rights that the blacks have been promised.  He is willing to leave the cruel actions of the “Anglo-Saxon race” in the past, certainly not willing to forget them, rather move on into a more productive world for the black race.  Turner, as a former slave, is not submitting into the actions of the government, he is fighting for the civil rights that were promised to the newly emancipated slaves.   Rebuttal toward the Emancipation was viewed in two separate ways.  Black activist Booker T. Washington believed that the blacks should not agitate for social change, they should allow education to guide them toward more trade related jobs and equality will soon ensue after.  Whereas W.E.B. Du Bois believed that pushing for equality and civil rights of blacks will be more successful.  Turner’s main point is to show that without the blacks America would not be same, therefore they should receive the same liberties as a white man. Although most slaves tried not to succumb to slavery, when they were granted equality, freedom did not exist.