Life of George Henry
Experience of Slavery
Together with a Brief History of the Colored People in America
A Narrative on Slavery
True Stories of Slavery in the United States
My next voyage was to the Navy Yard at Washington, with timber and wood. Upon arriving there more strange scenes presented themselves, and I began to find out more and more of the world. After being unloaded, the tide made against us, and being in a strange place, the Captain told us boys that we might go up to see the Capitol, the centre of this so called free country. I had heard of it before, and my eyes longed to see it. On our journey, under the hill of the building, we heard such screaming and crying, we could'nt tell what it meant, so we kept on till we met about two hundred men and women chained together, two and two, and there was some as pretty women and as fair as the sun ever shone upon, also the men. I, being a greenhorn, asked what does that mean? They told me they were being taken down to Alexandria to one of Armfield's vessels, he had a regular line and slave pen, for New Orleans, to be sold into slavery, and sir, the scene was enough to bring tears into any man's eyes if he had a heart. When I saw that virtue was to be sacrificed to the highest bidder I said then "Away with your pretended free America, it is all a sham in my eye." It was then and there I took an oath against slavery, and that I would never go to Washington, unless I went with an army to take her or burn her down.
I can just remember, one summer, way down in my neighborhood in a meadow, there was an Englishman teaching four boys the alphabet, and the slaveholders came on top of the hill and discovered him, took their guns, crept down upon him and shot him dead. The authorities applauded them for so doing, said they did right.
Now, readers, you must excuse me for not giving day and dates, for you see I had no opportunity doing so, and can only give you history from memory.
I remember, when a boy, a man by the name of George Thompson, of my own name, provided that at his death mother and her family were to be free, but another man named Camm Griffith, being educated and skilled, still held her in bondage. But I caught the sound of freedom and was determined not to be fettered by any man. He tried his best to make me a dining room servant and wait on table, but having a dislike for that profession he did not succeed. I always had a mind above anything like that. So I studied how to get out of it. When one day he had a table full of company, I blew my nose in an offensive way, and something sticking to the plate that I handed to a guest, he became exasperated, and he highly delighted me by ordering me out; so he had no further use for me in that dining room.