Henry Garnet, abolitionist with heart

Henry Garnet
Sat, 1815-12-23

On this date in 1815, Henry H. Garnet was born. He was a Black theologian and abolitionist.

Born in Kent County, MD, he was the son of William Spenser. Together with his parents, he escaped slavery in 1824. Moving to New Hope, PA, Garnet eventually graduated from Oneida Institute (an abolitionist school near Utica, New York), in 1840. His education in theology led to his work at churches in New York City and Washington D.C. He later served as president of Avery College in Allegheny, PA. In 1843, while attending the National Convention of Colored Citizens in Buffalo, NY, Garnet issued his celebrated “Address to the Slaves of the United States.”

This speech galvanized a whole nation of Negroes. With the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, he and other emigrationists began to consider Africa, Haiti, South America, and Central America as possible countries for Black expatriation. Garnet’s calling slavery the “highest crime against God and man” and his pronouncement of the “moral obligation” of Blacks to destroy slavery, underscored the role of religion--Christian or non-Christian--in the “freedom striving tradition” of the Black church in America.

Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., later embraced these views. Henry H. Garnet was named minister to Liberia in June 1881; he died in Monrovia on February 13, 1882.

An Encyclopedia of African American Christian Heritage
by Marvin Andrew McMickle
Judson Press, Copyright 2002
ISBN 0-817014-02-0

The Anti-Slavery Society

Person / name: 

Garnet, Henry