We are all bound up together” — Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
In 1866, African American lecturer, writer, and abolitionist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper took the floor at the 11th National Woman’s Rights Convention at the Church of the Puritans in New York City. In attendance were men and women, black and white, abolitionists, and women’s rights activists. The newly enacted 13th Amendment had abolished slavery but left the questions of citizenship and voting rights unanswered and on their minds. Speakers included such noted suffragists as Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who opened the convention noting Reconstruction’s opportunity to “base our government on the broad principle of equal rights for all.”
Harper, a skilled orator, challenged listeners to see that working collectively to pursue expanded rights for all Americans would strengthen the nation, but also required acknowledging existing inequality. Inspired by the momentous speech and the day’s proceedings, Susan B. Anthony sponsored a resolution that the assembled group focus their attention on attaining universal suffrage for both black men and for women. The convention quickly voted to form a new organization, the American Equal Rights Association.
This is a filmed reenactment starring Ariana DeBose as Frances Harper, 2019. New-York Historical Society; Special thanks to the CUNY School of Professional Studies