William Lloyd Garrison is undoubtedly a Newburyport native that has had an outsized national impact.
Very few current Newburyporters know the details about Lloyd Garrison, or the effect he had on national events. The fact that Lincoln invited him to the White House. Or that he, and Frederick Douglass, were the most widely known abolitionists of their time. Or that he felt the U.S. Constitution was so flawed, and so corrupted by slave owners, that we had to start all over with a new constitution. Newburyporters hardly know about his involvement in women’s rights after the civil war.
Lloyd Garrison’s boyhood home in Newburyport was recently threatened with redevelopment; it has since been developed into two condos as a tasteful reproduction of the home as it looked in Garrison’s time as a youth in Newburyport.
The question on many people’s mind may be “why listen to, or even celebrate, another 19th century middle class white male – especially on the topic of racism and slavery?”
My answer is that to defeat racism, and raise our country above the 200 years of social strife that we continue to live today, requires a broad coalition of citizens. The struggle needs allies – regardless of skin color, gender identity, culture, class. Especially in a city that is predominantly white middle/upper class.
Those of us that may have grown up in a privileged white society need to be constantly reminded, and encouraged to stand with, reach out to, and work next to those that haven’t come from the same background. Only then will we truly achieve our country’s noble ideals. Like Lloyd Garrison encouraged everyone to do in the 1800s. Like he did (as we learned in last year’s lecture through his family’s relationship with Harriet Tubman’s family).
The themes he touched upon still resonate and are issues that we grapple with current day. Social justice, race, gender equity, diversity, inclusiveness are all topics that Garrison addressed, and continue to be important to our society today.
His message, and voice, still resonates. We need to hear it, and act on it – just as Lloyd Garrison asked us to.