Documenting the American South Logo
Collections >> North American Slave Narratives >> Document Menu >> Summary

John B. Meachum, b. 1789
An Address to All the Colored Citizens of the United States
Philadelphia: Printed for the Author, by King and Baird, 1846.


John B. Meachum (1789-1854) was born in Virginia and lived there as a slave until early adulthood. At that time he was able to purchase his freedom and, shortly thereafter, his father's as well. Meachum's preface provides a summary of his life, primarily the events after he became free. It includes his conversion to Christianity, his reunion with his family, and his success in purchasing freedom for his wife, children, and about twenty other slaves. In 1825, Meachum was ordained as a minister, and from that time to the writing of An Address to All the Colored Citizens in 1846, he was the pastor of the African Baptist Church in St. Louis, Missouri.

After briefly summarizing the origins of the American slave trade, Meachum states that Africans came to America already entrenched in sins resulting from years of warfare. He exhorts his readers to turn to God's teachings and laws, flee from sin, and unite together in love. Meachum tells his audience that "UNION should be our constant watchword--it should be the standard to which all of us should rally;" he calls for a convention of upstanding free men and ministers to come together in promotion of unity. He sees lack of education as one reason why his people have yet to unite, and he urges African Americans to educate children to be industrious and moral, qualities that he believes will result in a "great cultivation" of a hard-working, righteous, united nation. After encouraging members of his race to pursue farming as another way to success, Meachum highlights the message of the gospel of Christ and its importance to all people. Last, his address emphasizes the distinction between industry and idleness and concludes with a plea for "colored people" everywhere to send a representative to The National Convention of the Colored Citizens of America held in September 1847.

Work Consulted: Garraty, John A., and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Monique Prince

Document menu