Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail
Site of the Temple
(now The Music Hall) Chestnut Street
Black abolitionists were the driving force through 90 years that culminated in the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution in 1865. Several spoke at a 1,000-seat public lecture hall called the Temple, which opened in 1844 at the corner of Chestnut and Porter Streets.
William Wells Brown escaped from enslavement in Kentucky and lived in Buffalo, then Boston. He was in the first wave of abolitionists to define slavery as a sin that endangered the nation. He was an accomplished author and international orator. Brown spoke here on Sunday, October 12, 1862, just when Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Brown spoke on "the effects of emancipation on the blacks of the South and the white laborers of the North." In subsequent letters to the editor, Portsmouth racists bristle at the prospect of equal status for black Americans.
Charles Lenox Remond, born free in Salem, Massachusetts, promoted a practical approach to bettering the condition of black Americans. He encouraged white abolitionists to employ black people in non-menial jobs and he urged his state legislature to integrate public transport. He encouraged free states to enact black voting right and he promoted racially integrated abolition societies. He chastised black businessmen whose fear of alienating customers kept them from publicly advocating abolition. He urged black youths to join the movement. In February 1854 Remond spoke at the Temple. Newspapers reported that he exposed the "undeniable features of an odious system...upheld by prejudice and fashion, cowardice and avarice. His lecture was favorably received and frequently applauded."
Frederick Douglass escaped in 1838 from enslavement in Maryland, and settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He began public speaking in 1841. He emphasized that so long as slavery existed in America, he was not a fugitive from slavery, but still a fugitive slave. He demanded the abolition or slavery in Washington, DC, criticized the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, scorned the admission of Texas as a slave state, and condemned the extension of slavery into the western territories. Douglass addressed the Portsmouth Female Anti-Slavery Society in December 1844, and returned as a famous orator in March 15, 1862. His topic was "The Black Man's Future in the Southern States." The Civil War was in progress, most white Northerners had joined the abolitionist cause, and emancipation seemed imminent.
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