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"Men of Color, To Arms!"

In this 1863 editorial, Frederick Douglass calls all able-bodied African Americans to take up arms in defense of the Union. He encourages them to travel to Boston in order to join one of the first regiments of black soldiers forming there.

A war undertaken and brazenly carried on for the perpetual enslavement of colored men, calls logically and loudly for colored men to help suppress it. ...There is no time to delay… Liberty won by white men would lose half its luster. "Who would be free themselves must strike the blow." "Better even die free, than to live slaves." This is the sentiment of every brave colored man amongst us.

There are weak and cowardly men in all nations. We have them amongst us. They tell you this is the 'white man's war'; that you 'will be no better off after than before the war'; that the getting of you into the army is to 'sacrifice you on the first opportunity.' Believe them not; cowards themselves, they do not wish to have their cowardice shamed by your brave example.

…by all the ties of blood and identity which make us one with the brave black men now fighting our battles in Louisiana and in South Carolina, I urge you to fly to arms, and smite with death the power that would bury the Government and your liberty in the same hopeless grave.

… I wish I could tell you that the State of New York calls you to this high honor. For the moment her constituted authorities are silent on the subject. They will speak by and by, and doubtless on the right side; but we are not compelled to wait for her.

…This is our golden opportunity. Let us accept it, and forever wipe out the dark reproaches unsparingly hurled against us by our enemies. Let us win for ourselves the gratitude of our country, and the best blessings of our posterity through all time.

Source | Frederick Douglass, "Men of Color, to Arms!," The North Star, 2 March 1863; fromThe African American Experience: the History of Black Americans from 1619 to 1890,
Creator | Frederick Douglass
Item Type | Newspaper/Magazine
Cite This document | Frederick Douglass, “"Men of Color, To Arms!",” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed October 1, 2023,

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