A Lesson from William Lloyd Garrison

“No longer as a slave”

Philemon 1:16



I started reading a new book the other day, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass




It’s possible I read it a couple decades ago, but my son read it last year for his American Lit class, and it made me want to read it (again).  And now that summer’s here, it’s time.


So far I’ve only gotten as far as the Introduction and the Preface, but already I’m intrigued.    The preface was written by William Lloyd Garrison, an important figure in his own right in the abolitionist movement of the mid-1800s.  He is most well known for having published the newspaper “The Liberator” from 1831 until the abolition of slavery after the Civil War.




I was reminded of the eloquence of writers in the mid-1800s.  Things like: “I will be as harsh as truth, and uncompromising as justice… I am in earnest, I will not equivocate, I will not excuse, I will not retreat a single inch, and I will be heard.”  And: “With reasonable men, I will reason; with humane men I will plead; but to tyrants I will give no quarter, nor waste arguments where they will certainly be lost.”


Neither of those came from this preface; they’re just good examples of how he spoke.


But what I admired even more, as a Christian, was how effortlessly he worked Scripture into his conversation.  He said of Douglass (upon hearing him speak at an anti-slavery convention), “There stood one, in physical proportion and stature commanding and exact – in intellect richly endowed – in natural eloquence a prodigy – in soul manifest ‘created but a little lower than the angels’ – yet a slave.”  The emphasis is mine; that’s from Psalm 8:5.


And then there was this: “May his strength continue to be equal to his day! May he continue to grow in grace and in the knowledge of God, that he may be increasingly serviceable in the cause of bleeding humanity…”  Emphasis mine; from 2 Peter 3:18.


Clearly, Scripture was a part of Garrison’s vocabulary.  He had hidden God’s word in his heart, and it was making its way out in his speech.  Unknowingly?  Maybe, maybe not.  Not that it mattered.  But it makes me want to try so hard to cram His Word into me, that it can’t help but leak out. 


~ “Let your speech always be with grace,

seasoned with salt,

that you may know

how you ought to answer each one.” ~

Colossians 4:6


2 responses to “A Lesson from William Lloyd Garrison

  1. Good post. Garrison was a great writer, I like the quotes you gave. You also make a really good point about how he incorporated scripture into his language. I think this is partly what people just used to do, though maybe more so him. What a different time, and seems like we can learn from people back in the day like Garrison, as you say. You make some good points, thanks for the post!


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