February 12

This Day in History

General Interest

Feb 12, 1865:

Garnet preaches to House on slavery and Civil War

The Rev. Dr. Henry Highland Garnet, the first African American to address the U.S. House of Representatives, delivers a sermon to a crowded House chamber. His sermon commemorated the victories of the Union army and the deliverance of the country from slavery.

Garnet, a former slave himself, was a pastor of the 15th Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. President Abraham Lincoln, with the unanimous consent of his Cabinet and the two congressional chaplains, had arranged for the special Sunday service to be held on February 12, the president's 56th birthday.

Garnet escaped to the North in 1824, where he became a prominent abolitionist, famous for his radical appeal to slaves to rise up against their masters. In 1881, he was appointed U.S. minister to Liberia but died only two months after his arrival in the African nation.

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