While I acknowledge that I
am a traitor, I also pronounce
myself a patriot.
It is true that I have betrayed
the immediate plans of the
race to which I belong; but I have done this in the interest
of the whole human family—of which my race is but a part.
My race may, for the time
being, shower curses upon me; but
eventually all races, including my own, shall call me blessed.
The earth, in anger, may belch
forth my putrid flesh with
volcanic fury, but the out-stretched arms of God will receive
my spirit as a token of approval of what I have done.
With my soul feasting on this
happy thought, I send this
revelation to mankind and yield my body to the executioner to
be shot until I am dead.
Though death stands just before
me, holding before my eyes my
intended shroud woven of the cloth of infamy itself, I shrink
Yours, doomed to die,
A small beginning.
“Cum er long hunny an’ let yer mammy fix yer ’spectabul, so yer ken go to skule. Yer mammy is ’tarmined ter gib yer all de book larning dar is ter be had eben ef she has ter lib on bred an’ herrin’s, an’ die en de a’ms house.”
These words came from the lips of a poor, ignorant negro woman, and yet the determined course of action which they reveal vitally affected the destiny of a nation and saved the sun of the Nineteenth Century, proud and glorious, from passing through, near its setting, the blackest and thickest and ugliest clouds of all its journey; saved it from ending the most brilliant of brilliant careers by setting, with a shudder of horror, in a sea of human blood.
Those who doubt that such power could emanate from such weakness; or, to change the figure, that such a tiny star could have dimensions greater than those of earth, may have every vestige of doubt removed by a perusal of this simple narrative.
Let us now acquaint ourselves with the circumstances under which the opening words of our story were spoken. To do this, we must need lead our readers into humble and commonplace surroundings, a fact that will not come in the nature of a surprise to those who have traced the proud, rushing, swelling river to the mountain whence it comes trickling forth, meekly and humbly enough.
The place was Winchester, an antiquated town, located near the northwestern corner of the State of Virginia.
In October of the year 1867, the year in which our story begins, a white man by the name of Tiberius Gracchus Leonard had arrived in Winchester, and was employed as teacher of the school for colored children.