September 26, 1999
Dear Mr. Jefferson:
Throughout much of my life I was a slave to the white man. I was, however, luckier than most. I was able to become a freeman, and have since dedicated my life to the abolition of slavery and oppression in this country. This oppression lives on because of the hypocritical nature in which this country’s founding fathers, including you, outlined their independence. Many times throughout your most patriotic document, The Declaration of Independence, you contradict yourself and the ideas that are presented. It appears that the ideals you present are only for those with a white skin such as yours. All other people, for example the American Negro, are not even considered people in your white wigged world. We are only property to be bought and sold accordingly, with no regard for our families, friends, or personal beliefs. These are aspects of life that you and I both fought for, but are reserved only for you.
To begin with, in your Declaration of Independence you state,
“…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Although this statement is bold and gives many of your people a sense of patriotism, I see no patriotism in it. Where is my life and liberty and how do you expect me to pursue happiness when I am treated with the same respect that you give your cattle? Additionally, if the government receives its power from the people why am I not heard? The Negroes are the most governed people in this nation, yet they have no say in how they are governed. This seems to contradict the entire basis of your great democratic system.
I must assume then that we are not considered to be men in your eyes. I find this hard to believe as well. If you do not consider us to be men then why does your government count us as three-fifths of a person for their census figures? Even more importantly, if we are not men, how can you have a child with one us? You did in fact have an illegitimate child with one of your slaves, didn’t you? Are we only men when it is convenient for you? This appears to be the case. If you would open your mind a little you would see that Negroes can become much more. Look at what some of your freed slaves have become. They are, as I stated in a recent speech, “…merchants and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators, and teachers.” As can be seen, we have the mental capability to become anything that your people have become. We are, however, so oppressed that it is difficult for us to show this intelligence, because we are given no means to become educated.
In your Declaration of Independence, closely following the rights that you consider to be unalienable you state, “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.” This statement gave me cause to close a recent speech by saying, “…for the love of God, tear away, and fling from you the hideous monster, and let the weight of twenty million crush and destroy it forever.” Through this statement and the rest of speech I was illustrating that the government you created is strong in many respects, but needs to be restructured to include Negroes as people not the property you see them as. We need not abolish our current government; we must only alter it, as you state the people must do if the government does not honor the God given rights of a people.
In order for this Union to be the nation you and I envision it to be, we cannot oppress those that can be of great aid to our nation. We must reevaluate our political system and fix those hypocrisies that exist within it. Only then will this nation be able to rightfully say that, “All men are created equal.”