At the age of 19, scared and illiterate, James Pennington, escaped from slavery in 1827 and soon became one of the leading voices against slavery prior to the Civil War. Just 10 years after his escape, Pennington was ordained as a priest after studying at Yale and was soon traveling all over the world as an anti-slavery advocate. He was so well respected by European audiences that the University of Heidelberg awarded him an honorary doctorate, making him the first person of African descent to receive such a degree.
"Give me liberty," demanded Patrick Henry, "or give me death!" Henry's words continue to echo in American history, and that quote, and the speech it comes from, remains one of the two or three known to almost every American. The other speeches that have become part of our American collective consciousness all have one theme in common: liberty.