...I am ... one of the wretched and miserable daughters of the descendants of fallen Africa. Do you ask, why are you wretched and miserable? I reply, look at many of the most worthy and interesting of us doomed to spen our lives in gentlemen's kitchens. Look at our young men, smark, active and energetic, with souls filled with ambitious fire; if they can look forward, alas! what are their prospects? they can be nothing but the humblest laborers, on account of their dark complexions; hence many of them lose their ambition, and become worthless. Look at our middle-aged men, clad in their rusty plaids and coats; in winter, every cent they earn goes to buy their wood and pay their rents; their poor wives also toil beyond their strength, to help support their families. Look at our aged sires, whose heads are whitened with the frosts of seventy winters, with their old wood-saws on their backs. Alas, what keeps us so? Prejudice, ignorance, and poverty.
Maria Stewart (1803–1879), African American abolitionist and schoolteacher. As quoted in Black Women in Nineteenth-Century American Life, part 3, by Bert James Loewenberg and Ruth Bogin (1976).
Stewart, a free black, said this in a September 21, 1832 speech delivered at Franklin Hall in Boston. She was speaking of the miserable, albeit "free," condition of Northern blacks.