The Pen of Justice: William Apess and his Eulogy on King Philip

The Puritans saw their settlement as a divinely blessed endeavor, sanctioned by higher powers. In this light, people who lived in the “new” land had to accommodate the newcomers and, in the popular imagination in the following centuries, to take their place in history. For William Apess, member of the Pequot tribe and Methodist minister in the early 19th century, such a version of history was both incorrect and unjust. Click here for a 90-minute Book Club presentation on Apess by Drew Lopenzina on June 26, 2022.

Sarah Stewart, Vice-President of the Partnership of Historic Bostons Board, introduces scholar Drew Lopenzina, professor of early American and Native American literature at Old Dominion University and author of multiple books, chapters and articles on Native writers and writings.

Lopenzina describes how William Apess took up his pen to fight for justice through reading one of his most hard-hitting publications, his 1836 Eulogy on King Philip. Delivered as an oration in Boston, it is a work which turns upside down a Eurocentric story of early New England history.

The English published books that purported to show all of the Native conversions to Christianity. Unfortunately, there were very few. John Eliot produces the first New Testament in the Algonkian language using Native translators.

(Above, left) The English warred against the Pequots who controlled the wampum trade, killing hundreds of them in the 1637 Pequot War, and turning many tribes against the English. Lopenzina’s discussion goes on to include information from his books, Red Ink: Native Americans Picking Up the Pen in the Colonial Period and Through An Indian’s Looking Glass: A Cultural Biography of William Apess, A Pequot.