The Rhetoric of Henry Highland Garnet in His “Address to the Slaves of the United States”

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Millie Martin
15 February 2013

The Rhetoric of Henry Highland Garnet in his “Address to the Slaves of the United States” Henry Highland Garnet exerted powerful rhetorical strategies to the abolition and Civil Rights Movements during the nineteenth century. His spiritual and loyal appeals complimented rigorous and sometimes conflicting principles as seen in his “An Address to the Slaves of the United States of America.” The captivating rhetoric of Garnet and his ability to form new alternatives and redefine elements of contention signifies the rhetoric of strife, promoting African American loyalty and emphasizing the courage of African American males. Garnet was a dynamic elocutionist, enabling him to emotionally appeal to his audience and contribute to crucial historical and political concepts. One can also appreciate how rhetoric can affect the antiquity of beliefs and encourage social and political change with Garnet’s argumentative techniques as an example. Garnet believed abolitionists should partake in any activity possible if it enhanced the potentiality to free enslaved blacks. Abolition was a righteous exigent which is reflected throughout the speech. The aggressive style in Garnet’s address is what historically signifies his speech. It was not until 1843 that Garnet’s rhetoric evidently advocated enraged opposition to slavery. He begins by giving his recount on the current state of slavery “Slavery has fixed a deep gulf between you and us, and while it shuts out from you the relief and consolation which your friends would willingly render, it afflicts and persecutes you (…)” (Garnet 347). Garnet begins his speech by personifying slavery and clearly placing slavery as the enemy. In doing so, Garnet captured the entirety of what slavery encompassed: violence, heartbreak and the deprivation of liberties and loved ones. Thus, he arouses the abolitionists and enslaved peoples he was targeting by clearly painting an evil that must be defeated....
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