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Justice cannot sleep forever” [1]: History and the Interminable Grandeur of Freedom-Seeking People

(c) copyright 2013

(c) copyright 2013

Long before New Hampshire became a state and ratified the U.S. Constitution in 1788, people of African descent who were enslaved in the Granite State petitioned for their freedom.  On November 12, 1779 20 Portsmouth New Hampshire Africans submitted a petition to the General Court calling for an end to slavery.  The current governor of New Hampshire, Maggie Hassan recently signed a bill (SB 187 “AN ACT posthumously emancipating enslaved Africans in New Hampshire“) that effectively freed 14 enslaved Africans who endorsed this petition (6 gained their freedom through other means). Like many blacks they fought in the Revolutionary War and expected that the cause of liberty would be extended to them. In this case, it was not. 234 years later the symbolic act of freeing 14 African people is captured in an article by Holly Ramer of the Associated Press and reprinted widely. The various articles on the subject emphasize the two centuries that have lapsed before the petition for freedom was addressed; that the Africans received the declaration of emancipation posthumously; and that this event also coincides with the latest focus on a sacred African burial ground in Portsmouth New Hampshire. One of the messages that is lost here is the discussion about the self-determination, will, and courage of the Africans. They asserted their humanity and condemned the system of slavery. These 20 men bravely demanded freedom for themselves and all their kindred in bondage.—Dr. Katherine Bankole-Medina


“14 Revolutionary War slaves finally get their freedom”: http://news.msn.com/us/14-revolutionary-war-slaves-finally-get-their-freedom

“New Hampshire slaves plea finally answered — 234 years later”: http://www.gadailynews.com/news/national/160397-new-hampshire-slaves-plea-finally-answered-234-years-later.html

[1] Quoted from Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII, “God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that His justice cannot sleep forever.”