Geneva church to host reexamination of anti-slavery Fourth of July speech from 1839

  • Augustus Conant, shown with his wife, Betsey, circa 1850, was the first minister in Geneva and helped organize the First Christian Society of Geneva.

    Augustus Conant, shown with his wife, Betsey, circa 1850, was the first minister in Geneva and helped organize the First Christian Society of Geneva. Courtesy of Des Plaines History Center

 
Submitted by Unitarian Universalist Society of Geneva
Posted7/1/2020 1:33 PM

On Sunday, July 5, Rev. Augustus Conant's anti-slavery Fourth of July speech will be reimagined through the historical knowledge of Kevin O'Neill, author of a screenplay about Conant's Civil War military service and life.

The virtual service will be hosted by the Unitarian Universalist Society of Geneva, the church that Conant built and led during the pre-Civil War era.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A long-term member of UUSG, O'Neill plans to draw attention to the continued relevance of Conant's 181-year-old words as the world examines systemic racism and oppression.

All are welcomed to join via Zoom.

Conant's Fourth of July speech, given in 1839, argued that America had not lived up to its promise of liberty and justice for all. Robert Collyer, Conant's biographer, described the speech: "This lean man of twenty-seven chose to suggest that it was time for the liberty bell to ring for those brothers called slaves. He got a hard grip on slavery, held it up in the flaming face of the July sun, and denounced it in all its infamy."

"Unfortunately, Conant's audience did not respond well," O'Neill said. "They demanded he eat his words and ran him out of town. Conant later wrote, 'This is America, yet, it isn't.'"

O'Neill hopes to offer a glimpse into one local abolitionist's story. He recognizes that there are more stories to be told and discussions to be had surrounding racism, especially in light of the Black Lives Matter movement.

For details on how to join the service, please visit www.uusg.org and click "Upcoming Services" under the "Worship" menu. Other inclusive educational, children's, community and small group programming can be found by exploring the UUSG website.

The Unitarian Universalist Society of Geneva provides members, friends and newcomers a welcoming, supportive and nonjudgmental place to explore diverse religious and spiritual concepts, advance social justice causes and share the gift of fellowship with one another. Founded in 1842, it is the oldest church in Geneva, part of a centuries-old liberal religious tradition that values reason and free thought over dogma and creed.

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