The Afro-American's Contribution to Columbian Literature
THE REASON WHY
The Colored American is not
The Afro-American's Contribution to Columbian Literature
Copies sent to any address on receipt of three cents for postage. Address MISS IDA B. WELLS, 128 S. Clark Street, Chicago, Ill., U.S.A.
Ida B. Wells
Ida B. Wells
Ida B. Wells
Ida B. Wells
I. Garland Penn
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A TOUT CHERCHEUR DE VERITÉ:
L'Amérique a convié le monde civilisé à se joindre à elle pour célébrer le quatre-centième anniversaire de la découverte de l'Amérique, et son invitation a été acceptée.
Certes, le parc Jackson fait largement connaitre ses ressources naturelles et ses progrès dans les arts et dans les sciences; mais on a oublié justement ce qui devait donner le plus d'éclat à son élévation morale.
En mettant en effet sous les yeux les progrès qu'a faits en 25 ans de liberté une race sortant d'un esclavage de 250 ans, on eût rendu à la grandeur et au développement des institutions américaines le tribut le plus beau que pourrait voir le monde. Les gens de couleur de cette grande République sont au nombre de huit millions, plus du dix-septième de la population totale des Etats-Unis. Ils ont été parmi les plus anciens colons de ce continent, arrivant à Jamestown, Virginie, en 1619 dans un canot d'esclave avant les Puritans qui débarquèrent à Plymouth en 1620. Ils ont contribué dans une large mesure à la prospérité et à la civilisation de l'Amérique. Ce sont eux qui ont accompli et accomplissent encore la moitié du travail de ce pays; c'est le produit, le résultat de leur travail qui a été la base du premier crédit que son commerce a obtenu de l'étranger. Si la race blanche a pu prendre son temps pour les grands progrès auxquels elle est parvenue dans l'éducation, dans les sciences, dans les arts, dans l'industrie et dans les inventions, c'est aux ressources créées par leur labeur qu'elle le doit.
Les visiteurs de l'Exposition universelle colombienne qui sont au courant de ces faits, les étrangers surtout, vont naturellement demander: Pourquoi donc la classe de couleur, qui constitue un élément si considérable de la population américaine, et qui a si largement contribué à la grandeur de L'Amérique n'est-elle pas mieux répresentée et ne paraît-elle pas plus visiblement dans cette Exposition? Pourquoi ces hommes ne prennent-ils point part à cette glorieuse célébration du quatre-centième anniversaire de la Découverte de leur pays? Sont ils donc d'une incapacité et d'une stupidité telles qu'ils ne sentent aucun intérêt pour eux dans ce grand évènement? C'est pour répondre à ces questions et suppléer autant que possible à notre oubli de représentation à l'Exposition que la race noire d'Amérique a publié ce livre.
An Alle, die Wahrheit suchen:
Columbus hat die civilisirte Welt eingeladen, sich an der vierhundertjährigen Feier der Entdeckung Amerika's zu betheiligen; diese Einladung ist angenommen worden. Im Jackson-Park befinden sich Ausstellungsgegenstände, die von seinem Naturreichthum zeugen, von dem Fortschritte in Kunst und Wissenschaft, während indessen Eines, das seine moralische Größe am besten bezeugen würde, vollständig außer Acht gelassen worden ist.
Die Darstellung des Fortschrittes gemacht von einer Rasse während fünfundzwanzigjähriger Freiheit, gegenüber dem einer zweihundertundfünfzigjährigen Sklaverei, würde den besten Beweis für die Große, und den Fortschritt Amerika's geliefert haben. Die farbige Bevölkerung dieser großen Republik beläuft sich auf acht Millionen – mehr als ein Zehntel der Gesammtbevölkerung der Vereinigten Staaten. Die Farbigen waren unter den frühesten Ansiedlern dieses Continents, da sie bereits im Jahre 1619 in Jamestown, Virginien landeten und zwar als Sklaven, noch ehe die Puritaner ihr Erscheinen machten, die in 1620 landeten. Sie haben einen beträchtlichen Theil für das allgemeine Wohl und Civilisation beigetragen; die Hälfte der Arbeit des ganzen Landes wurde und wird jetzt noch von ihnen verrichtet. Das Produkt, durch welches Amerika im Verkehr mit den übrigen Nationen zuerst Bedeutung gewonnen, war erzeugt durch ihre Arbeit. Der durch ihren Fleiß erzeugte Reichthum hat der weißen Bevölkerung die Muße gegeben, die zu einem Fortschritte auf den Gebieten der Bildung, Kunst und Wissenschaft, Industrie und Erfindung nöthig ist.
Jene Besucher der Weltausstellung, welchen diese Thatsachen bekannt sind und vorzüglich Fremde werden natürlich fragen: Warum sind die Farbigen, die einen so bedeutenden Theil der amerikanischen Bevölkerung ausmachen und so viel zur Große Amerika's beigetragen häben, nicht besser auf der Ausstellung vertreten? Warum betheiligen sie sich nicht an der vierhundertjährigen Feier der Entdeckung ihres Landes? Sind sie so beschränkt und unwissend, daß sie kein Interesse an diesem wichtigen Ereigniß nehmen? Es ist mit Hinsicht auf die Antwort zu diesen Fragen und auf eine bessere Vertretung auf der Ausstellung, daß der Afrikanisch-Amerikaner den vorliegenden Band veröffentlicht.
TO THE SEEKER AFTER TRUTH:
Columbia has bidden the civilized world to join with her in celebrating the four-hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America, and the invitation has been accepted. At Jackson Park are displayed exhibits of her natural resources, and her progress in the arts and sciences, but that which would best illustrate her moral grandeur has been ignored.
The exhibit of the progress made by a race in 25 years of freedom as against 250 years of slavery, would have been the greatest tribute to the greatness and progressiveness of American institutions which could have been shown the world. The colored people of this great Republic number eight millions – more than one-tenth the whole population of the United States. They were among the earliest settlers of this continent, landing at Jamestown, Virginia in 1619 in a slave ship, before the Puritans, who landed at Plymouth in 1620. They have contributed a large share to American prosperity and civilization. The labor of one-half of this country has always been, and is still being done by them. The first crédit this country had in its commerce with foreign nations was created by productions resulting from their labor. The wealth created by their industry has afforded to the white people of this country the leisure essential to their great progress in education, art, science, industry and invention.
Those visitors to the World's Columbian Exposition who know these facts, especially foreigners will naturally ask: Why are not the colored people, who constitute so large an element of the American population, and who have contributed so large a share to American greatness, more visibly present and better represented in this World's Exposition? Why are they not taking part in this glorious celebration of the four-hundredth anniversary of the discovery of their country? Are they so dull and stupid as to feel no interest in this great event? It is to answer these questions and supply as far as possible our lack of representation at the Exposition that the Afro-American has published this volume.
The colored people of America are not indifferent to the good opinion of the world, and we have made every effort to improve our first years of freedom and citizenship. We earnestly desired to show some results of our first thirty years of acknowledged manhood and womanhood. Wherein we have failed, it has been not our fault but our misfortune, and it is sincerely hoped that this brief story, not only of our successes, but of trials and failures, our hopes and disappointments will relieve us of the charge of indifference and indolence. We have deemed it only a duty to ourselves, to make plain what might otherwise be misunderstood and misconstrued concerning us. To do this we must begin with slavery. The duty undertaken is far from a welcome one.
It involves the necessity of plain speaking of wrongs and outrages endured, and of rights withheld, and withheld in flagrant contradiction to boasted American Republican liberty and civilization. It is always more agreeable to speak well of one's country and its institutions than to speak otherwise; to tell of their good qualities rather than of their evil ones.
There are many good things concerning our country and countrymen of which we would be glad to tell in this pamphlet, if we could do so, and at the same time tell the truth. We would like for instance to tell our visitors that the moral progress of the American people has kept even pace with their enterprise and their material civilization; that practice by the ruling class has gone on hand in hand with American professions; that two hundred and sixty years of progress and enlightenment have banished barbarism and race hate from the United States; that the old things of slavery have entirely passed away, and that all things pertaining to the colored people have become new; that American liberty is now the undisputed possession of all the American people: that American law is now the shield alike of black and white; that the spirit of slavery and class domination has no longer any lurking place in any part of this country; that the statement of human rights contained in its glorious Declaration of Independence, including the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is not an empty boast nor a mere rhetorical flourish, but a soberly and honestly accepted truth, to be carried out in good faith; that the American Church and clergy, as a whole, stand for the sentiment of universal human brotherhood and that its Christianity is without partiality and without hypocrisy; that the souls of Negroes are held to be as precious in the sight of God, as are the souls of white men: that duty to the heathen at home is as fully recognized and as sacredly discharged as is the duty to the heathen abroad; that no man on account of his color, race or condition, is deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law; that mobs are not allowed to supercede courts of law or usurp the place of government; that here Negroes are not tortured, shot, hanged or burned to death, merely on suspicion of crime and without ever seeing a judge, a jury or advocate; that the American Government is in reality a Government of the people, by the people and for the people, and for all the people; that the National Government is not a rope of sand, but has both the power and the disposition to protect the lives and liberties of American citizens of whatever color, at home, not less than abroad; that it will send its men-of-war to chastise the murder of its citizens in New Orleans or in any other part of the south, as readily as for the same purpose it will send them to Chili, Hayti or San Domingo; that our national sovereignty, in its rights to protect the lives of our American citizens is ample and superior to any right or power possessed by the individual states; that the people of the United States are a nation in fact as well as in name; that in time of peace as in time of war, allegiance to the nation is held to be superior to any fancied allegiance to individual states; that allegiance and protection are here held to be reciprocal; that there is on the statute books of the nation no law for the protection of personal or political rights, which the nation may not or can not enforce, with or without the consent of individual states; that this World's Columbian Exposition, with its splendid display of wealth and power, its triumphs of art and its multitudinous architectural and other attractions, is a fair indication of the elevated and liberal sentiment of the American people, and that to the colored people of America, morally speaking, the World's Fair now in progress, is not a whited sepulcher.
All this, and more, we would gladly say of American laws, manners, customs and Christianity. But unhappily, nothing of all this can be said, without qualification and without flagrant disregard of the truth. The explanation is this: We have long had in this country, a system of iniquity which possessed the power of blinding the moral perception, stifling the voice of conscience, blunting all human sensibilities and perverting the plainest teaching of the religion we have here professed, a system which John Wesley truly characterized as the sum of all villanies, and one in view of which Thomas Jefferson, himself a slaveholder, said he "trembled for his country" when he reflected "that God is just and that His justice cannot sleep forever." That system was American slavery. Though it is now gone, its asserted spirit remains.
The writer of the initial chapter of this pamphlet, having himself been a slave, knows the slave system both on the inside and outside. Having studied its effects not only upon the slave and upon the master, but also upon the people and institutions by which it has been surrounded, he may therefore, without presumption, assume to bear witness to its baneful influence upon all concerned, and especially to its malign agency in explaining the present condition of the colored people of the United States, who were its victims; and to the sentiment held toward them both by the people who held them in slavery, and the people of the country who tolerated and permitted their enslavement, and the bearing it has upon the relation which we the colored people sustain to the World's Fair. What the legal and actual condition of the colored people was previous to emancipation is easily told.
It should be remembered by all who would entertain just views and arrive at a fair estimate of our character, our attainments and our worth in the scale of civilization, that prior to the slave-holder's rebellion thirty years ago, our legal condition was simply that of dumb brutes. We were classed as goods and chattels, and numbered on our master's ledgers with horses, sheep and swine. We were subject to barter and sale, and could be bequeathed and inherited by will, like real estate or any other property. In the language of the law: A slave was one in the power of his master to whom he belonged. He could acquire nothing, have nothing, own nothing that did not belong to his master. His time and talents, his mind and muscle, his body and soul, were the property of the master. He, with all that could be predicated of him as a human being, was simply the property of his master. He was a marketable commodity. His money value was regulated like any other article; it was increased or diminished according to his perfections or imperfections as a beast of burden.
Chief Justice Taney truly described the condition of our people when he said in the infamous Dred Scott decision that they were supposed to have no rights which white men were bound to respect. White men could shoot, hang, burn, whip and starve them to death with impunity. They were made to feel themselves as outside the pale of all civil and political institutions. The master's power over them was complete and absolute. They could decide no question of pursuit or condition for themselves. Their children had no parents, their mothers had no husbands and there was no marriage in a legal sense.
But I need not elaborate the legal and practical definition of slavery. What I have aimed to do, has not only been to show the moral depths, darkness and destitution from which we are still emerging, but to explain the grounds of the prejudice, hate and contempt in which we are still held by the people, who for more than two hundred years doomed us to this cruel and degrading condition. So when it is asked why we are excluded from the World's Columbian Exposition, the answer is Slavery.
Outrages upon the Negro in this country will be narrated in these pages. They will seem too shocking for belief. This doubt is creditable to human nature, and yet in view of the education and training of those who inflict the wrongs complained of, and the past condition of those upon whom they were inflicted as already described, such outrages are not only credible but entirely consistent and logical. Why should not these outrages be inflicted?
The life of a Negro slave was never held sacred in the estimation of the people of that section of the country in the time of slavery, and the abolition of slavery against the will of the enslavers did not render a slave's life more sacred. Such a one could be branded with hot irons, loaded with chains, and whipped to death with impunity when a slave. It only needed be said that he or she was impudent or insolent to a white man, to excuse or justify the killing of him of her. The people of the south are with few exceptions but slightly improved in their sentiments towards those they once held as slaves. The mass of them are the same to-day that they were in the time of slavery, except perhaps that now they think they can murder with a decided advantage in point of economy. In the time of slavery if a Negro was killed, the owner sustained a loss of property. Now he is not restrained by any fear of such loss.
The crime of insolence for which the Negro was formerly killed and for which his killing was justified, is as easily pleaded in excuse now, as it was in the old time and what is worse, it is sufficient to make the charge of insolence to provoke the knife or bullet. This done, it is only necessary to say in the newspapers, that this dead Negro was impudent and about to raise an insurrection and kill all the white people, or that a white woman was insulted by a Negro, to lull the conscience of the north into indifference and reconcile its people to such murder. No proof of guilt is required. It is enough to accuse, to condemn and punish the accused with death. When he is dead and silent, and the murderer is alive and at large, he has it all his own way. He can tell any story he may please and will be believed. The popular ear is open to him, and his justification is sure. At the bar of public opinion in this country all presumptions are against the Negro accused of crime.
The crime to which the Negro is now said to be so generally and specially addicted, is one of which he has been heretofore, seldom accused or supposed to be guilty. The importance of this fact cannot be over estimated. He was formerly accused of petty thefts, called a chicken thief and the like, but seldom or never was he accused of the atrocious crime of feloniously assaulting white women. If we may believe his accusers this is a new development. In slaveholding times no one heard of any such crime by a Negro. During all the war, when there was the fullest and safest opportunity for such assaults, nobody ever heard of such being made by him. Thousands of white women were left for years in charge of Negroes, while their fathers, brothers and husbands were absent fighting the battles of the rebellion; yet there was no assault upon such women by Negroes, and no accusation of such assault. It is only since the Negro has become a citizen and a voter that this charge has been made. It has come along with the pretended and baseless fear of Negro supremacy. It is an effort to divest the Negro of his friends by giving him a revolting and hateful reputation. Those who do this would make the world believe that freedom has changed the whole character of the Negro, and made of him a moral monster.
This is a conclusion revolting alike to common sense and common experience. Besides there is good reason to suspect a political motive for the charge. A motive other than the one they would have the world believe. It comes in close connection with the effort now being made to disfranchise the colored man. It comes from men who regard it innocent to lie, and who are unworthy of belief where the Negro is concerned. It comes from men who count it no crime to falsify the returns of the ballot box and cheat the Negro of his lawful vote. It comes from those who would smooth the way for the Negro's disfranchisement in clear defiance of the constitution they have sworn to support – men who are perjured before God and man.
We do not deny that there are bad Negroes in this country capable of committing this, or any other crime that other men can or do commit. There are bad black men as there are bad white men, south, north and everywhere else, but when such criminals, or alleged criminals are found, we demand that their guilt shall be established by due course of law. When this will be done, the voice of the colored people everywhere will then be "Let no guilty man escape." The man in the South who says he is for Lynch Law because he honestly believes that the courts of that section are likely to be too merciful to the Negro charged with this crime, either does not know the South, or is fit for prison or an insane asylum.
Not less absurd is the pretense of these law breakers that the resort to Lynch Law is made because they do not wish the shocking details of the crime made known. Instead of a jury of twelve men to decently try the case, they assemble a mob of five hundred men and boys and circulate the story of the alleged outrage with all its concomitant, disgusting detail. If they desire to give such crimes the widest publicity they could adopt no course better calculated to secure that end than by a resort to lynch law. But this pretended delicacy is manifestly all a sham, and the members of the blood-thirsty mob bent upon murder know it to be such. It may deceive people outside of the sunny south, but not those who know as we do the bold and open defiance of every sentiment of modesty and chastity practiced for centuries on the slave plantations by this same old master class.
We know we shall be censured for the publication of this volume. The time for its publication will be thought to be ill chosen. America is just now, as never before, posing before the world as a highly liberal and civilized nation, and in many respects she has a right to this reputation. She has brought to her shores and given welcome to a greater variety of mankind than were ever assembled in one place since the day of Penticost. Japanese, Javanese, Soudanese, Chinese, Cingalese, Syrians, Persians, Tunisians, Algerians, Egyptians, East Indians, Laplanders, Esquimoux, and as if to shame the Negro, the Dahomians are also here to exhibit the Negro as a repulsive savage.
It must be admitted that, to outward seeming, the colored people of the United States have lost ground and have met with increased and galling resistance since the war of the rebellion. It is well to understand this phase of the situation. Considering the important services rendered by them in suppressing the late rebellion and the saving of the Union, they were for a time generally regarded with a sentiment of gratitude by their loyal white fellow citizens. This sentiment however, very naturally became weaker as, in the course of events, those services were retired from view and the memory of them became dimmed by time and also by the restoration of friendship between the north and the south. Thus, what the colored people gained by the war they have partly lost by peace.
Military necessity had much to do with requiring their services during the war, and their ready and favorable response to that requirement was so simple, generous and patriotic, that the loyal states readily adopted important amendments to the constitution in their favor. They accorded them freedom and endowed them with citizenship and the right to vote and the right to be voted for. These rights are now a part of the organic law of the land, and as such, stand to-day on the national statute book. But the spirit and purpose of these have been in a measure defeated by state legislation and by judicial decisions. It has nevertheless been found impossible to defeat them entirely and to relegate colored citizens to their former condition. They are still free.
The ground held by them to-day is vastly in advance of that they occupied before the war, and it may be safely predicted that they will not only hold this ground, but that they will regain in the end much of that which they seem to have lost in the reaction. As to the increased resistance met with by them of late, let us use a little philosophy. It is easy to account in a hopeful way for this reaction and even to regard it as a favorable symptom. It is a proof that the Negro is not standing still. He is not dead, but alive and active. He is not drifting with the current, but manfully resisting it and fighting his way to better conditions than those of the past, and better than those which popular opinion prescribes for him. He is not contented with his surroundings, but nobly dares to break away from them and hew out a way of safety and happiness for himself in defiance of all opposing forces.
A ship rotting at anchor meets with no resistance, but when she sets sail on the sea, she has to buffet opposing billows. The enemies of the Negro see that he is making progress and they naturally wish to stop him and keep him in just what they consider his proper place.
They have said to him "you are a poor Negro, be poor still," and "you are an ignorant Negro, be ignorant still and we will not antagonize you or hurt you." But the Negro has said a decided no to all this, and is now by industry, economy and education wisely raising himself to conditions of civilization and comparative well being beyond anything formerly thought possible for him. Hence, a new determination is born to keep him down. There is nothing strange or alarming about this. Such aspirations as his when cherished by the lowly are always resented by those who have already reached the top. They who aspire to higher grades than those fixed for them by society are scouted and scorned as upstarts for their presumptions.
In their passage from an humble to a higher position, the white man in some measure, goes through the same ordeal. This is in accordance with the nature of things. It is simply an incident of a transitional condition. It is not the fault of the Negro, but the weakness, we might say the depravity, of human nature. Society resents the pretensions of those it considers upstarts. The new comers always have to go through this sort of resistance. The old and established are ever adverse to the new and aspiring. But the upstarts of to-day are the elite of to-morrow. There is no stopping any people from earnestly endeavoring to rise. Resistance ceases when the prosperity of the rising class becomes pronounced and permanent.
The Negro is just now under the operation of this law of society. If he were white as the driven snow, and had been enslaved as we had been, he would have to submit to this same law in his progress upward. What the Negro has to do then, is to cultivate a courageous and cheerful spirit, use philosophy and exercise patience. He must embrace every avenue open to him for the acquisition of wealth. He must educate his children and build up a character for industry, economy, intelligence and virtue. Next to victory is the glory and happiness of manfully contending for it. Therefore, contend! contend!
That we should have to contend and strive for what is freely conceded to other citizens without effort or demand may indeed be a hardship, but there is compensation here as elsewhere. Contest is itself ennobling. A life devoid of purpose and earnest effort, is a worthless life. Conflict is better than stagnation. It is bad to be a slave, but worse to be a willing and contented slave. We are men and our aim is perfect manhood, to be men among men. Our situation demands faith in ourselves, faith in the power of truth, faith in work and faith in the influence of manly character. Let the truth be told, let the light be turned on ignorance and prejudice, let lawless violence and murder be exposed.
The Americans are a great and magnanimous people and this great exposition adds greatly to their honor and renown, but in the pride of their success they have cause for repentance as well as complaisance, and for shame as well as for glory, and hence we send forth this volume to be read of all men.
The Civil War of 1861-5 ended slavery. It left us free, but it also left us homeless, penniless, ignorant, nameless and friendless. Life is derived from the earth, and the American Government is thought to be more humane than the Russian. Russia's liberated serf was given three acres of land and agricultural implements with which to begin his career of liberty and independence. But to us no foot of land nor implement was given. We were turned loose to starvation, destitution and death. So desperate was our condition that some of our statesmen declared it useless to try to save us by legislation as we were doomed to extinction.
The original fourteen slaves which the Dutch ship landed at Jamestown, Virginia in 1619, had increased to four million by 1865, and were mostly in the southern states. We were liberated not only empty-handed but left in the power of a people who resented our emancipation as an act of unjust punishment to them. They were therefore armed with a motive for doing everything in their power to render our freedom a curse rather than a blessing. In the halls of National legislation the Negro was made a free man and citizen. The southern states, which had seceded from the Union before the war, regained their autonomy by accepting these amendments and promising to support the constitution. Since "reconstruction" these amendments have been largely nullified in the south, and the Negro vote reduced from a majority to a cipher. This has been accomplished by political massacres, by midnight outrages of Ku Klux Klans, and by state legislative enactment. That the legislation of the white south is hostile to the interests of our race is shown by the existence in most of the southern states of the convict lease system, the chain-gang, vagrant laws, election frauds, keeping back laborers' wages, paying for work in worthless script instead of lawful money, refusing to sell land to Negroes and the many political massacres where hundreds of black men were murdered for the crime (?) of casting the ballot. These were some of the means resorted to during our first years of liberty to defeat the little beneficence comprehended in the act of our emancipation.
The South is enjoying to-day the results of this course pursued for the first fifteen years of our freedom. The Solid South means that the South is a unit for white supremacy, and that the Negro is practically disfranchised through intimidation. The large Negro population of that section gives the South thirty-nine more votes in the National Electoral College which elects the President of the United States, than she would otherwise have. These votes are cast by white men who represent the Democratic Party, while the Negro vote has heretofore represented the entire Republican Party of the South. Every National Congress has thirty-nine more white members from the South in the House of Representatives than there would be, were it not for the existence of her voiceless and unrepresented Negro vote and population. One Representative is allowed to every 150,000 persons. What other States have usurped, Mississippi made in 1892, a part of her organic law.
The net result of the registration under the educational and poll tax provision of the new Mississippi Constitution is as follows.
Over 21 years.
In 1880 there were 130,278 colored voters, a colored majority of 22,024. Every county in Mississippi now has a white majority. Thirty-three counties have less than 100 Negro votes.
Yazoo county, with 6,000 Negroes of voting age, has only nine registered votes, or one to each 666. Noxubee has four colored voters or one to each 150 colored men. In Lowndes there is one colored voter to each 310 men. In the southern tier counties on the Gulf about one Negro man in eight or ten is registered, which is the best average.
Depriving the Negro of his vote leaves the entire political, legislative, executive and judicial machinery of the country in the hands of the white people. The religious, moral and financial forces of the country are also theirs. This power has been used to pass laws forbidding intermarriage between the races, thus fostering immorality. The union, which the law forbids, goes on without its sanction in dishonorable alliances.
Sec. 3291 M. & V. Code Tennessee, provides that: The intermarriage of white persons with Negroes, Mulattoes or persons of mixed blood descended from a Negro to the third generation inclusive, or their living together as man and wife in this State, is hereby forbidden.
Sec. 3292, M. & V. Code, Tenn., provides that: The persons knowingly violating the provisions in above Section shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and upon conviction thereof shall undergo imprisonment in the penitentiary not less than one nor more than five years; and the court may, in the event of conviction, on the recommendation of the jury, substitute in lieu of punishment in the penitentiary, fine and imprisonment in the county jail.
NOTES: – It need not charge the act to have been done knowingly. Such persons may be indicted for living together as man and wife, though married in another state where such marriages are lawful. 7 Bok. 9. This law is constitutional. 3 Hill's 287.
Out of 44 states only twenty-three states and territories allow whites and Negroes to marry if they see fit to contract such alliances, viz: Louisiana, Illinois, Kansas, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. All of these are northern states and territories except one – Louisiana.
The others, especially Virginia, Maryland, W. Virginia, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Indiana, Tennessee, and Texas, have laws similar to the Tennessee Statute. Under these laws men and women are prosecuted and punished in the courts of these states for inter-marrying, but not for unholy alliances.
"The Thirteenth amendment to the Constitution making the race citizens, was virtually made null and void by the legislatures of the reconstructed states. So it became necessary to pass the Civil Rights Bill giving colored people the right to enter public places and ride on first-class railroad cars." – Johnson's History of the Negro race in America. This Bill passed Congress in 1875. For nearly ten years it was the Negro's only protection in the south. In 1884 the United States Supreme Court declared the Civil Rights Bill unconstitutional. With "state's rights", doctrine once more supreme and this last barrier removed, the southern states are enacting separate car laws. Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky have each passed a law making it punishable by fine and imprisonment for colored persons to ride in the same railway carriage with white persons unless as servants to white passengers. These laws have all been passed within the past 6 years. Kentucky passed this law last year (1892). The legislatures of Missouri, West Virginia and North Carolina had such bills under consideration at the sessions this year, but they were defeated.
Aside from the inconsistency of class legislation in this country, the cars for colored persons are rarely equal in point of accommodation. Usually one-half the smoking car is reserved for the "colored car." Many times only a cloth curtain or partition run half way up, divides this "colored car" from the smoke, obscene language and foul air of the smokers' end of the coach. Into this "separate but equal(?)" half-carriage are crowded all classes and conditions of Negro humanity, without regard to sex, standing, good breeding, or ability to pay for better accommodation. White men pass through these "colored cars" and ride in them whenever they feel inclined to do so, but no colored woman however refined, well educated or well dressed may ride in the ladies, or first-class coach, in any of these states unless she is a nurse-maid traveling with a white child. The railroad fare is exactly the same in all cases however. There is no redress at the hands of the law. The men who execute the law share the same prejudices as those who made these laws, and the courts rule in favor of the law. A colored young school teacher was dragged out of the only ladies coach on the train in Tennessee by the conductor and two trainmen. She entered suit in the state courts as directed by the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of the State of Tennessee, although the lower courts had awarded damages to the plaintiff, reversed the decision of those courts and ruled that the smoking car into which the railway employees tried to force the plaintiff was a first-class car, equal in every respect to the one in which she was seated, and as she was violating the law, she was not entitled to damages.
The Tennessee law is as follows,
— Chapter 52 — Page 135 — An Act to promote the comfort of passengers on railroad trains by regulating separate accommodations for the white and colored races.
SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee – That all railroads carrying passengers in the State (other than street railroads) shall provide equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races, by providing two or more passenger cars for each passenger train, or by dividing the passenger cars by a partition so as to secure separate accommodations; PROVIDED, that any person may be permitted to take a nurse in the car or compartment set aside for such persons; PROVIDED, that this Act shall not apply to mixed and freight trains which only carry one passenger or combination passenger and baggage; PROVIDED, always that in such cases the one passenger car so carried shall be partitioned into apartments, one apartment for the whites and one for the colored.
SEC. 2. Be it further enacted: That the conductors of such passenger trains shall have power and are hereby required to assign to the car or compartments of the car (when it is divided by a partition) used for the race to which such passengers belong, and should any passenger refuse to occupy the car to which he or she is assigned by such conductor, said conductor shall have power to refuse to carry such passenger on his train, and for such neither he nor the railroad company shall be liable for any damages in any court in this State.
SEC. 3. Be it further enacted: That all railroad companies that shall fail, refuse or neglect to comply with the requirements of section I, of this Act shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction in a court of competent jurisdiction, be fined not less than one hundred, nor more than four hundred dollars, and any conductor that shall fail, neglect or refuse to carry out the provisions of this Act shall, upon conviction, be fined not less than twenty-five, nor more than fifty dollars for each offense.
SEC. 4. Be it further enacted: That this Act take effect ninety days from and after its passage, the public welfare requiring it.
Passed March 11, 1891.
THOMAS R. MYERS.
Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Approved March 27, 1891.
W. C. DISMUKES,
Speaker of Senate.
JOHN P. BUCHANAN,
The Convict Lease System and Lynch Law are twin infamies which flourish hand in hand in many of the United States. They are the two great outgrowths and results of the class legislation under which our people suffer to-day. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington claim to be too poor to maintain state convicts within prison walls. Hence the convicts are leased out to work for railway contractors, mining companies and those who farm large plantations. These companies assume charge of the convicts, work them as cheap labor and pay the states a handsome revenue for their labor. Nine-tenths of these convicts are Negroes. There are two reasons for this.
(1) The religious, moral and philanthropic forces of the country – all the agencies which tend to uplift and reclaim the degraded and ignorant, are in the hands of the Anglo-Saxon. Not only has very little effort been made by these forces to reclaim the Negro from the ignorance, immorality and shiftlessness with which he is charged, but he has always been and is now rigidly excluded from the enjoyment of those elevating influences toward which he felt voluntarily drawn. In communities where Negro population is largest and these counteracting influences most needed, the doors of churches, schools, concert halls, lecture rooms, Young men's Christian Associations, and Women's Christian Temperance Unions, have always been and are now closed to the Negro who enters on his own responsibility. Only as a servant or inferior being placed in one corner is he admitted. The white Christian and moral influences have not only done little to prevent the Negro becoming a criminal, but they have deliberately shut him out of everything which tends to make for good citizenship.
To have Negro blood in the veins makes one unworthy of consideration, a social outcast, a leper, even in the church. Two Negro Baptist Ministers, Rev. John Frank, the pastor of the largest colored church in Louisville, Ky., and Rev. C. H. Parish, President of Extein Northern University at Cane Spring, Ky., were in the city of Nashville, Tennessee, in May when the Southern Baptist Convention was in session. They visited the meeting and took seats in the body of the church. At the request of the Association, a policeman was called and escorted these men out because they would not take the seats set apart for colored persons in the back part of the Tabernacle. Both these men are scholarly, of good moral character, and members of the Baptist denomination. But they were Negroes, and that eclipsed everything else. This spirit is even more rampant in the more remote, densely populated plantation districts. The Negro is shut out and ignored, left to grow up in ignorance and vice. Only in the gambling dens and saloons does he meet any sort of welcome. What wonder that he falls into crime?
(2) The second reason our race furnishes so large a share of the convicts is that the judges, juries and other officials of the courts are white men who share these prejudices. They also make the laws. It is wholly in their power to extend clemency to white criminals and mete severe punishment to black criminals for the same or lesser crimes. The Negro criminals are mostly ignorant, poor and friendless. Possessing neither money to employ lawyers nor influential friends, they are sentenced in large numbers to long terms of imprisonment for petty crimes. The People's Advocate, a Negro journal, of Atlanta, Georgia, has the following observation on the prison showing of that state for 1892. "It is an astounding fact that 90 per cent. of the state's convicts are colored; 194 white males and 2 white females; 1,710 colored males and 44 colored females. Is it possible that Georgia is so color prejudiced that she won't convict her white law-breakers. Yes, it is just so, but we hope for a better day."
George W. Cable, author of The Grandissimes, Dr. Sevier, etc., in a paper on "The Convict Lease System," read before a Prison Congress in Kentucky says: "In the Georgia penitentiary in 1880, in a total of nearly 1200 convicts, only 22 prisoners were serving as low a term as one year, only 52 others as low as two years, only 76 others as low a term as three years; while those who were under sentences of ten years and over numbered 538, although ten years, as the rolls show, is the utmost length of time that a convict can be expected to remain alive in a Georgia penetentiary. Six men were under sentence for simple assault and battery – mere fisticuffing – one of two years, two of five years, one of six years, one of seven and one of eight. For larceny, three men were serving under sentence of twenty years, five were sentenced each for fifteen years; one for fourteen years, six for twelve years; thirty-five for ten years, and 172 from one year up to nine years. In other words, a large majority of these 1200 convicts had for simple stealing, without breaking in or violence, been virtually condemned to be worked and misused to death. One man was under a twenty years' sentence for hog-stealing. Twelve men were sentenced to the South Carolina penetentiary on no other finding but a misdemeanor commonly atoned for by a fine of a few dollars, and which thousands of the state's inhabitants (white) are constantly committing with impunity – the carrying of concealed weapons. Fifteen others were sentenced for mere assault and battery. In Louisiana a man was sentenced to the penetentiary for 12 months for stealing five dollars worth of gunnysacks! Out of 2378 convicts in the Texas prison in 1882, only two were under sentence of less than two years length, and 509 of these were under twenty years of age. Mississippi's penetentiary roll for the same year showed 70 convicts between the ages of 12 and 18 years of age serving long terms. Tennessee showed 12 boys under 18 years of age, under sentences of more than a year; and the North Carolina penetentiary had 234 convicts under 20 years of age serving long terms."
Mr. Cable goes on to say in another part of his admirable paper: "In the Georgia convict force only 15 were whites among 215 who were under sentences of more than ten years." What is true of Georgia is true of the convict lease system everywhere. The details of vice, cruelty and death thus fostered by the states whose treasuries are enriched thereby, equals anything from Siberia. Men, women and children are herded together like cattle in the filthiest quarters and chained together while at work. The Chicago Inter-Ocean recently printed an interview with a young colored woman who was sentenced six months to the convict farm in Mississippi for fighting. The costs etc., lengthened the time to 18 months. During her imprisonment she gave birth to two children, but lost the first one from premature confinement, caused by being tied up by the thumbs and punished for failure to do a full day's work. She and other women testified that they were forced to criminal intimacy with the guards and cook to get food to eat.
Correspondence to the Washington D.C. Evening Star dated Sept. 27, 1892, on this same subject has the following:
The fact that the system puts a large number of criminals afloat in the community from the numerous escapes is not its worst feature. The same report shows that the mortality is fearful in the camps. In one camp it is stated that the mortality is 10 per cent per month, and in another even more than that. In these camps men and women are found chained together, and from twenty to twenty-five children have been born in captivity in the convicts' camps.
Some further facts are cited with reference to the system in use in Tennessee. The testimony of a guard at the Coal Creek prison in Tennessee shows that prisoners, black and dirty from their work in the mines, were put into their rooms in the stockades without an opportunity to change their clothing or sufficient opportunity for cleanliness. Convicts were whipped, a man standing at the head and another at the feet, while a third applied the lash with both hands. Men who failed to perform their task of mining from two to four tons of coal per day were fastened to planks by the feet, then bent over a barrel and fastened by the hands on the other side, stripped and beaten with a strap. Out of the fifty convicts worked in the mines from one to eight were whipped per day in this manner. There was scarcely a day, according to the testimony of the witness, James Frazier, in which one or more were not flogged in this manner for failure to perform their day's task. The work in the mines was difficult and the air sometimes so bad that the men fell insensible and had to be hauled out. Their beds he describes as "dirty, black and nasty looking." One of the convicts, testifying as to the kind of food given them, said that the pea soup was made from peas containing weevils and added: "I have got a spoonful of weevils off a cup of soup." In many cases convicts were forced to work in water six inches deep for weeks at a time getting out coal with one-fourth of the air necessary for a healthy man to live in, forced to drink water from stagnant pools when mountain springs were just outside of the stockades, and the reports of the prison officials showing large numbers killed in attempting to escape.
The defense of this prison is based wholly upon its economy to the state. It is argued that it would cost large sums of money to build penitentiaries in which to confine and work the prisoners as is done in the Northern States, while the lease system brings the state a revenue and relieves it of the cost of building and maintaining prisons. The fact that the convicts labor is in this way brought into direct competition with free labor does not seem to be taken into account. The contractors, who get these laborers for 30 or 40 cents per day, can drive out of the market the man who employs free labor at $1 a day.
This condition of affairs briefly alluded to in detail in Tennessee and Georgia exists in other Southern States. In North Carolina the same system exists, except that only able-bodied convicts are farmed out. The death rates among the convicts is reported as greater than the death rate of New Orleans in the greatest yellow fever epidemic ever known. In Alabama a new warden with his natural instincts unblunted by familiarity with the situation wrote of it: "The system is a better training school for criminals than any of the dens of iniquity in our large cities. The system is a disgrace to the state and the reproach of the civilization and Christian sentiment of the age."
Every Negro so sentenced not only means able-bodied men to swell the state's number of slaves, but every Negro so convicted is thereby disfranchised.
It has been shown that numbers of Negro youths are sentenced to these penetentiaries every year and there mingle with the hardened criminals of all ages and both sexes. The execution of law does not cease with the incarceration of those of tender years for petty crimes. In the state of South Carolina last year Mildred Brown, a little thirteen year old colored girl was found guilty of murder in the first degree on the charge of poisoning a little white infant that she nursed. She was sentenced to be hanged. The Governor refused to commute her sentence, and on October 7th, 1892, at Columbia, South Carolina, she was hanged on the gallows. This made the second colored female hanged in that state within one month. Although tried, and in rare cases convicted for murder and other crimes, no white girl in this country ever met the same fate. The state of Alabama in the same year hanged a ten year old Negro boy. He was charged with the murder of a peddler.
"Lynch Law," says the Virginia Lancet, "as known by that appellation, had its origin in 1780 in a combination of citizens of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, entered into for the purpose of suppressing a trained band of horsethieves and counterfeiters whose well concocted schemes had bidden defiance to the ordinary laws of the land, and whose success encouraged and emboldened them in their outrages upon the community. Col. Wm. Lynch drafted the constitution for this combination of citizens, and hence 'Lynch Law' has ever since been the name given to the summary infliction of punishment by private and unauthorized citizens."
This law continues in force to-day in some of the oldest states of the Union, where courts of justice have long been established, whose laws are executed by white Americans. It flourishes most largely in the states which foster the convict lease system, and is brought to bear mainly, against the Negro. The first fifteen years of his freedom he was murdered by masked mobs for trying to vote. Public opinion having made lynching for that cause unpopular, a new reason is given to justify the murders of the past 15 years. The Negro was first charged with attempting to rule white people, and hundreds were murdered on that pretended supposition. He is now charged with assaulting or attempting to assault white women. This charge, as false as it is foul, robs us of the sympathy of the world and is blasting the race's good name.
The men who make these charges encourage or lead the mobs which do the lynching. They belong to the race which holds Negro life cheap, which owns the telegraph wires, newspapers, and all other communication with the outside world. They write the reports which justify lynching by painting the Negro as black as possible, and those reports are accepted by the press associations and the world without question or investigation. The mob spirit had increased with alarming frequency and violence. Over a thousand black men, women and children have been thus sacrificed the past ten years. Masks have long since been thrown aside and the lynchings of the present day take place in broad daylight. The sheriffs, police, and state officials stand by and see the work done well. The coroner's jury is often formed among those who took part in the lynching and a verdict, "Death at the hands of parties unknown to the jury" is rendered. As the number of lynchings have increased, so has the cruelty and barbarism of the lynchers. Three human beings were burned alive in civilized America during the first six months of this year (1893). Over one hundred have been lynched in this half year. They were hanged, then cut, shot and burned.
The following table published by the Chicago Tribune January, 1892, is submitted for thoughtful consideration.
Of this number
quarreling with white men.
no reason given
This table shows (1) that only one-third of nearly a thousand murdered black persons have been even charged with the crime of outrage. This crime is only so punished when white women accuse black men, which accusation is never proven. The same crime committed by Negroes against Negroes, or by white men against black women is ignored even in the law courts.
(2) That nearly as many were lynched for murder as for the above crime, which the world believes is the cause of all the lynchings. The world affects to believe that white womanhood and childhood, surrounded by their lawful protectors, are not safe in the neighborhood of the black man, who protected and cared for them during the four years of civil war. The husbands, fathers and brothers of those white women were away for four years, fighting to keep the Negro in slavery, yet not one case of assault has ever been reported!
(3) That "robbery, incendiarism, race prejudice, quarreling with white men, making threats, rioting, miscegenation (marrying a white person), and burglary," are capital offences punishable by death when committed by a black against a white person. Nearly as many blacks were lynched for these charges (and unproven) as for the crime of rape.
(4) That for nearly fifty of these lynchings no reason is given. There is no demand for reasons, or need of concealment for what no one is held responsible. The simple word of any white person against a Negro is sufficient to get a crowd of white men to lynch a Negro. Investigation as to the guilt or innocence of the accused is never made. Under these conditions, white men have only to blacken their faces, commit crimes against the peace of the community, accuse some Negro, or rest till he is killed by a mob. Will Lewis, an 18 year old Negro youth was lynched at Tullahoma, Tennessee, August, 1891, for being "drunk and saucy to white folks."
The women of the race have not escaped the fury of the mob. In Jackson, Tennessee, in the summer of 1886, a white woman died of poisoning. Her black cook was suspected, and as a box of rat poison was found in her room, she was hurried away to jail. When the mob had worked itself to the lynching pitch, she was dragged out of jail, every stitch of clothing torn from her body, and she was hung in the public court-house square in sight of everybody. Jackson is one of the oldest towns in the State, and the State Supreme Court holds its sittings there; but no one was arrested for the deed – not even a protest was uttered. The husband of the poisoned woman has since died a raving maniac, and his ravings showed that he, and not the poor black cook, was the poisoner of his wife. A fifteen year old Negro girl was hanged in Rayville, Louisiana, in the spring of 1892, on the same charge of poisoning white persons. There was no more proof or investigation of this case than the one in Jackson. A Negro woman, Lou Stevens, was hanged from a railway bridge in Hollendale, Mississippi, in 1892. She was charged with being accessory to the murder of her white paramour, who had shamefully abused her.
In 1892 there were 241 persons lynched. The entire number is divided among the following states.
Of this number 160 were of Negro descent. Four of them were lynched in New York, Ohio and Kansas; the remainder were murdered in the south. Five of this number were females. The charges for which they were lynched cover a wide range. They are as follows:
No cause given
Assault and Battery
No offense stated, boy and girl
In the case of the boy and girl above referred to, their father, named Hastings, was accused of the murder of a white man; his fourteen year old daughter and sixteen year old son were hanged and their bodies filled with bullets. Then the father was also lynched. This was in November, 1892, at Jonesville, Louisiana.
A lynching equally as cold-blooded took place in Memphis, Tennessee, March, 1892. Three young colored men in an altercation at their place of business, fired on white men in self-defense. They were imprisoned for three days, then taken out by the mob and horribly shot to death. Thomas Moss, Will Stewart and Calvin McDowell, were energetic business men who had built up a flourishing grocery business. Their business had prospered and that of a rival white grocer named Barrett had declined. Barrett led the attack on their grocery which resulted in the wounding of three white men. For this cause were three innocent men barbarously lynched, and their families left without protectors. Memphis is one of the leading cities of Tennessee, a town of seventy-five thousand inhabitants! No effort whatever was made to punish the murderers of these three men. It counted for nothing that the victims of this outrage were three of the best known young men of a population of thirty thousand colored people of Memphis. They were the officers of the company which conducted the grocery. Moss being the President, Stewart the Secretary of the Company and McDowell the Manager. Moss was in the Civil Service of the United States as letter carrier, and all three were men of splendid reputation for honesty, integrity and sobriety. But their murderers, though well known, have never been indicted, were not even troubled with a preliminary examination.
With law held in such contempt, it is not a matter of surprise that the same city – one of the so-called queen cities of the South – should again give itself over to a display of almost indescribable barbarism. This time the mob made no attempt to conceal its identity, but reveled in the contemplation of its feast of crime. Lee Walker, a colored man was the victim. Two white women complained that while driving to town, a colored man jumped from a place of concealment and dragged one of the two women from the wagon, but their screams frightened him away. Alarm was given that a Negro had made an attempted assault upon the women and bands of men set out to run him down. They shot a colored man who refused to stop when called. It was fully ten days before Walker was caught. He admitted that he did attack the women, but that he made no attempt to assault them; that he offered them no indecency whatever, of which as a matter of fact, they never accused him. He said he was hungry and he was determined to have something to eat, but after throwing one of the women out of the wagon, became frightened and ran away. He was duly arrested and taken to the Memphis jail. The fact that he was in prison and could be promptly tried and punished did not prevent the good citizens of Memphis from taking the law in their own hands, and Walker was lynched.
The Memphis Commercial of Sunday, July 23, contains a full account of the tragedy from which the following extracts are made.
At 12 o'clock last night, Lee Walker, who attempted to outrage Miss Mollie McCadden, last Tuesday morning, was taken from the county jail and hanged to a telegraph pole just north out of the prison. All day rumors were afloat that with nightfall an attack would be made upon the jail, and as everyone anticipated that a vigorous resistance would be made, a conflict between the mob ad the authorities was feared.
At 10 o'clock Capt. O'Haver, Sergt. Horan and several patrol men were on hand, but they could do nothing with the crowd. An attack by the mob was made on the door in the south wall and it yielded. Sheriff McLendon and several of his men threw themselves into the breach, but two or three of the storming shoved by. They were seized by the police but were not subdued, the officers refraining from using their clubs. The entire mob might at first have been dispersed by ten policemen who would use their clubs, but the sheriff insisted that no violence be done.
The mob got an iron rail and used it as a battering ram against the lobby doors. Sheriff McLendon tried to stop them, and some one of the mob knocked him down with a chair. Still he counseled moderation and would not order his deputies and the police to disperse the crowd by force. The pacific policy of the sheriff impressed the mob with the idea that the officers were afraid, or at least would do them no harm, and they redoubled their efforts, urged on by a big switchman. At 12 o'clock the door of the prison was broken in with a rail.
As soon as the rapist was brought out of the door, calls were heard for a rope; then some one shouted "Burn him!" But there was no time to make a fire. When Walker got into the lobby a dozen of the men began beaten and stabbing him. He was half dragged, half carried to the corner of Front street and the alley between Sycamore and Mill, and hung to a telephone pole.
Walker made a desperate resistance. Two men entered his cell first and ordered him to come forth. He refused and they failing to drag him out, others entered. He scratched and bit his assailants, wounding several of them severely with his teeth. The mob retaliated by striking and cutting him with fists and knives. When he reached the steps leading down to the door he made another stand and was stabbed again and again. By the time he reached the lobby his power to resist was gone, and he was shoved along through the mob of yelling, cursing men and boys, who beat, spat upon and slashed the wretch-like demon. One of the leaders of the mob fell, and the crowd walked ruthlessly over him. He was badly hurt – a jawbone fractured and internal injuries inflicted. After the lynching friends took charge of him.
The mob proceeded north on Front street with the victim, stopping at Sycamore street to get a rope from a grocery. "Take him to the iron bridge on Main street," yelled several men. The men who had hold of the Negro were in a hurry to finish the job, however, and when they reached the telephone pole at the corner of Front street and the first alley north of Sycamore they stopped. A hastily improvised noose was slipped over the Negro's head and several young men mounted a pile of lumber near the pole and threw the rope over one of the iron stepping pins. The Negro was lifted up until his feet were three feet above the ground, the rope was made taut, and a corpse dangled in midair. A big fellow who helped lead the mob pulled the Negro's legs until his neck cracked. The wretch's clothes had been torn off and, as he swung, the man who pulled his legs mutilated the corpse.
One or two knife cuts, more or less, made little difference in the appearance of the dead rapist, however, for before the rope was around his neck his skin was cut almost to ribbons. One pistol shot was fired while the corpse was hanging. A dozen voices protested against the use of firearms, and there was no more shooting. The body was permitted to hang for half an hour, then it was cut down and the rope divided among those who lingered around the scene of the tragedy. Then it was suggested that the corpse be burned, and it was done. The entire performance, from the assault on the jail to the burning of the dead Negro was witnessed by a score or so of policemen and as many deputy sheriffs, but not a hand was lifted to stop the proceedings after the jail door yielded.
As the body hung to the telephone pole, blood streaming down from the knife wounds in his neck, his hips and lower part of his legs also slashed with knives, the crowd hurled expletives at him, swung the body so that it was dashed against the pole, and, so far from the ghastly sight proving trying to the nerves, the crowd looked on with complaisance, if not with real pleasure. The Negro died hard. The neck was not broken, as the body was drawn up without being given a fall, and death came by strangulation. For fully ten minutes after he was strung up the chest heaved occasionally and there were convulsive movements of the limbs. Finally he was pronounced dead, and a few minutes later Detective Richardson climbed on a pile of staves and cut the rope. The body fell in a ghastly heap, and the crowd laughed at the sound and crowded around the prostrate body, a few kicking the inanimate carcass.
Detective Richardson, who is also a deputy coroner, then proceeded to impanel the following jury of inquest: J. S. Moody, A. C. Waldran, B. J. Childs, J. N. House, Nelson Bills, T. L. Smith, and A. Newhouse. After viewing the body the inquest was adjourned without any testimony being taken until 9 o'clock this morning. The jury will meet at the coroner's house, 51 Beale street, upstairs, and decide on a verdict. If no witnesses are forthcoming, the jury will be able to arrive at a verdict just the same, as all members of it saw the lynching. Then some one raised the cry of, "Burn him!" It was quickly taken up and soon resounded from a hundred throats. Detective Richardson for a long time, single handed, stood the crowd off. He talked and begged the men not to bring disgrace on the city by burning the body, arguing that all the vengeance possible had been wrought.
While this was going on a small crowd was busy starting a fire in middle of the street. The material was handy. Some bundles of staves were taken from the adjoining lumber yard for kindling. Heavier wood was obtained from the same source, and coal oil from a neighboring grocery. Then the cries of "Burn him! Burn him!" were redoubled.
Half a dozen men seized the naked body. The crowd cheered. They marched to the fire, and giving the body a swing, it was landed in the middle of the fire. There was a cry for more wood, as the fire had begun to die owing to the long delay. Willing hands procured the wood, and it was piled up on the Negro, almost, for a time, obscuring him from view. The head was in plain view, as also were the limbs, and one arm which stood out high above the body, the elbow crooked, held in that position by a stick of wood. In a few moments the hands began to swell, then came great blisters over all the exposed parts of the body; then in places the flesh was burned away and the bones began to show through. It was a horrible sight, one which perhaps none there had ever witnessed before. It proved too much for a large part of the crowd and the majority of the mob left very shortly after the burning began.
But a large number stayed, and were not a bit set back by the sight of a human body being burned to ashes. Two or three white women, accompanied by their escorts, pushed to the front to obtain an unobstructed view, and looked on with astonishing coolness and nonchalance. One man and woman brought a little girl, not over 12 years old, apparently their daughter, to view a scene which was calculated to drive sleep from the child's eyes for many nights, if not to produce a permanent injury to her nervous system. The comments of the crowd were varied. Some remarked on the efficacy of this style of cure for rapists, others rejoiced that men's wives and daughters were now safe from this wretch. Some laughed as the flesh cracked and blistered, and while a large number pronounced the burning of a dead body as an useless episode, not in all that throng was a word of sympathy heard for the wretch himself.
The rope that was used to hang the Negro, and also that which was used to lead him from the jail, were eagerly sought by relic hunters. They almost fought for a chance to cut off a piece of rope, and in an incredibly short time both ropes had disappeared and were scattered in the pockets of the crowd in sections of an inch to six inches long. Others of the relic hunters remained until the ashes cooled to obtain such ghastly relics as the teeth, nails and bits of charred skin of the immolated victim of his own lust. After burning the body the mob tied a rope around the charred trunk and dragged it down Main street to the court house, where it was hanged to a center pole. The rope broke and the corpse dropped with a thud, but it was again hoisted, the charred legs barely touching the ground. The teeth were knocked out and the finger nails cut off as souvenirs. The crowd made so much noise that the police interfered. Undertaker Walsh was telephoned for, who took charge of the body and carried it to his establishment, where it will be prepared for burial in the potter's field today.
A prelude to this exhibition of 19th century barbarism was the following telegram received by the Chicago Inter-Ocean, at 2 o'clock, Saturday afternoon – ten hours before the lynching:
"Memphis, Tenn, July 22, To Inter-Ocean, Chicago. Lee Walker, colored man, accused of raping white women, in jail here, will be taken out and burned by whites to-night. Can you send Miss Ida Wells to write it up? Answer. R.M. Martin, with Public Ledger."
The Public Ledger is one of the oldest evening daily papers in Memphis, and this telegram shows that the intentions of the mob were well known long before they were executed. The personnel of the mob is given by the Memphis Appeal-Avalanche. It says, "At first it seemed as if a crowd of roughs were the principals, but as it increased in size, men in all walks of life figured as leaders, although the majority were young men."
This was the punishment meted out to a Negro, charged, not with rape, but attempted assault, and without any proof as to his guilt, for the women were not given a chance to identify him. It was only a little less horrible than the burning alive of Henry Smith, at Paris, Texas, February 1st, 1893, or that of Edward Coy, in Texarkana, Texas, February 20, 1892. Both were charged with assault on white women, and both were tied to the stake and burned while yet alive, in the presence of ten thousand persons. In the case of Coy, the white woman in the case, applied the match, even while the victim protested his innocence.
The cut which is here given is the exact reproduction of the photograph taken at the scene of the lynching at Clanton, Alabama, August, 1891. The cause for which the man was hanged is given in the words of the mob which were written of the back of the photograph, and they are also given. This photograph was sent to Judge A. W. Tourgée, of Mayville, N. Y.
Scene of Lynching at Clanton, Alabama, Aug. 1891
Fac-simile of Back of Photograph
In some of these cases the mob affects to believe in the Negro's guilt. The world is told that the white woman in the case identifies him, or the prisoner "confesses." But in the lynching which took place in Barnwell County, South Carolina, April 24, 1893, the mob's victim, John Peterson escaped and placed himself under Governor Tillman's protection; not only did he declare his innocence, but offered to prove an alibi, by white witnesses. Before his witnesses could be brought, the mob arrived at the Governor's mansion and demanded the prisoner. He was given up, and although the white woman in the case said he was not the man, he was hanged 24 hours after, and over a thousand bullets fired into his body, on the declaration that a "crime had been committed and some one had to hang for it."
The lynching of C. J. Miller, at Bardwell, Kentucky, July 7, 1893, was on the same principle. Two white girls were found murdered near their home on the morning of July 5th: their bodies were horribly mutilated. Although their father had been instrumental in the prosecution and conviction of one of his white neighbors for murder, that was not considered as a motive. A hue and cry was raised that some Negro had committed rape and murder and a search was immediately begun for a Negro. A bloodhound was put on the trail which he followed to the river and into the boat of a fisherman named Gordon. This fisherman said he had rowed a white man, or a very fair mulatto across the river at six o'clock the evening before. The bloodhound was carried across the river, took up the trail on the Missouri side, and ran about two hundred yards to the cottage of a white farmer, and there lay down refusing to go further.
Meanwhile a strange Negro had been arrested in Sikestown, Missouri, and the authorities telegraphed that fact to Bardwell, Kentucky. The sheriff, without requisition, escorted the prisoner to the Kentucky side and turned him over to the authorities who accompanied the mob. The prisoner was a man with dark brown skin; he said his name was Miller and that he had never been in Kentucky. The fisherman who had said the man he rowed over was white, when told by the sheriff that he would be held responsible as knowing the guilty man, if he failed to identify the prisoner, said Miller was the man. The mob wished to burn him then, about ten o'clock in the morning, but Mr. Ray, the father of the girls, with great difficulty urged them to wait till three o'clock that afternoon. Confident of his innocence, Miller remained cool, while hundreds of drunken, heavily armed men raged about him. He said: "My name is C. J. Miller, I am from Springfield, Ill., my wife lives at 716 North Second Street. I am here among you to-day looked upon as one of the most brutal men before the people. I stand here surrounded by men who are excited; men who are not willing to let the law take its course, and as far as the law is concerned, I have committed no crime, and certainly no crime gross enough to deprive me of my life or liberty to walk upon the green earth. I had some rings which I bought in Bismarck of a Jew peddler. I paid him $4.50 for them. I left Springfield on the first day of July and came to Alton. From Alton I went to East St. Louis, from there to Jefferson Barracks, thence to Poplar Bluff, thence to Hoxie, to Jonesboro, and then on a local freight to Malden, from there to Sikeston. On the 5th day of July, the day I was supposed to have committed the offense, I was at Bismarck."
Failing in any way to connect Miller with the crime, the mob decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and hang, instead of burn him, as was first intended. At 3 o'clock, the hour set for the execution, the mob rushed into the jail, tore off Miller's clothing and tied his shirt around his loins. Some one said the rope was "a white man's death," and a log-chain nearly a hundred feet in length, weighing nearly a hundred pounds was placed about his neck. He was led through the street in that condition and hanged to a telegraph pole. After a photograph of him was taken as he hung, his fingers and toes cut off, and his body otherwise horribly mutilated, it was burned to ashes. This was done within twelve hours after Miller was taken prisoner. Since his death, his assertions regarding his movements have been proven true. But the mob refused the necessary time for investigation.
Hanging of C. J. Miller, at Bardwell, Kentucky, July 7, 1893
No more appropriate close for this chapter can be given than an editorial quotation from that most consistent and outspoken journal the Inter-Ocean. Commenting on the many barbarous lynchings of these two months (June and July) in its issue of August 5th, 1893, it says:
"So long as it is known that there is one charge against a man which calls for no investigation before taking his life there will be mean men seeking revenge ready to make that charge. Such a condition would soon destroy all law. It would not be tolerated for a day by white men. But the Negroes have been so patient under all their trials that men who no longer feel that they can safely shot a Negro for attempting to exercise his right as a citizen at the polls are ready to trump up any other charge that will give them the excuse for their crime. It is a singular coincidence that as public sentiment has been hurled against political murders there has been a corresponding increase in lynchings on the charge of attacking white women. The lynchings are conducted in much the same way that they were by the Ku Klux Klans when Negroes were mobbed for attempting to vote. The one great difference is in the cause which the mob assigns for its action.
The real need is for a public sentiment in favor of enforcing the law and giving every man, white and black, a fair hearing before the lawful tribunals. If the plan suggested by the Charleston News and Courier will do this let it be done at once. No one wants to shield a fiend guilty of these brutal attacks upon unprotected women. But the Negro has as good a right to a fair trial as the white man, and the South will not be free from these horrible crimes of mob law so long as the better classes of citizens try to find excuse for recognizing Judge Lynch."
That the Afro-American has made some progress in education, in the professions, in the accumulation of wealth and literature, and how much, this chapter will show. To determine the progress of the race in education it is necessary to know the relative progress in the increase of population since Emancipation, the number who could read and write, and the number who were in school. According to the census report there were in this country in
The census of 1860 shows an increase of 703,022 in ten years, that of 1870 shows an increase of 438,179 in ten years, that of 1880 shows an increase of 1,700,784 in ten years; that of 1890 shows an increase of 889,247 in ten years. From 1850 to 1890 the race increased 3,831,232 persons.
It was hardly considered probable that any considerable number of the freedmen would at once seize the opportunity for immediate education as they did when the first ray of hope and light beamed upon them from the philanthropic north. Yet the Afro-American, as upon a moment's thought availed himself of the opportunities which were offered under the Freedmens' Bureau, the first organized effort to educate the freemen. With this effort came in close succession efforts of the church and those of a general character, so that we now have the following schools for the training of Afro-American youth: The American Baptist Home Mission Society; the American Missionary Association; the Presbyterian Board of Missions for Freedmen; the Freedmen's Aid and Southern Educational Society; the Colored Evangelistic Fund (Southern Presbyterian Church); Negro Education and Evangelization Society (Christian Church); the Educational Society in the United Presbyterian Church; the Protestant Episcopal Commission; the African Methodist Episcopal Church; the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church; the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in America; the Colored Baptist Church. In the non-denominational schools of the United States the number of schools for the Higher, Secondary Normal, Graded and Common Schools' training is 379. Number of teachers 1,775, of which 646 are Afro-Americans. Number of students in 1892, 52,443.
The number of teachers in the Public School system of the United States reported by the United States Census in 1890 were 23,866, and the number of pupils seeking education under the free school system were 1,460,447. These figures reported in 1890 can safely be relied upon as an approximation for 1892, since year by year the Afro-American is becoming more awakened to a sense of duty in respect to the training of his offspring. Taking the census figures for '90 as a basis for '92, and adding the 646 Afro-American teachers in denominational and non-denominational schools, we have a sum total approximation of 24,510 Afro-American teachers in the United States with 1,512,890 pupils. The showing as to teachers is a bright ray of hope for the Afro-American's future when the fact is considered in all of its bearings that these 24,510, or in round numbers 25,000 (if the reader will allow 490 teachers graduated and obtaining employment during '90 and '92), have been prepared and put into the field during a quarter of a century, very little more than the school life allotted an individual.
As to pupils the showing is more remarkable. Five years after the surrender, in 1870, only a tenth of the Afro-American children eligible to school opportunities were actually reported therein. In 1890 we find that within a fraction, ONE-HALF of the eligibles are reported in school. Figures can be given to authenticate this statement upon application, as they are only omitted for sake of space which is precious.
In 1870 there were according to census figures 2,789,679 persons of color above the age of ten years who could not read nor write. If we should make an approximation of a million for persons of color under ten years (which we think every fair minded reader will accept as just) we should have 3,789,679 who could not read or write twenty years ago. With a population of 4,880,009 we should have one and a tenth million of people of African descent who could read and write in '70. It is unfair to say that the increase from '70 to '93 should be less than four times that of '70 under great and constantly increasing educational facilities in all the departments of state and church education.
If the reader accepts the statement that the great educational endeavors of twenty years in all departments and all lines, justify an increase four times as large as that of '70 we shall have four and four-tenth millions of Afro-Americans who can now read and write. The writer maintains that of this balance of illiteracy, a majority are ex-slaves; elderly persons who may not read the letter but who are yet intelligent by contact and association. At least two hundred thousand boys and girls of the race to-day are private students. In a certain city there are ten private night schools in which an aggregate of 300 boys are training in the light of knowledge and education by night, wealth and habits of industry by day.
Bishop Atticus G. Haygood says, "The most unique and altogether wonderful chapter in the history of education is that which tells the story of the education of the Negroes of the south since 1865."
Rev. C. C. Smith, D. D., Cor. Secretary of the "Negro Education and Evangelization Society" of the Christian Church, carefully studies the problem and awakes to find himself making this admission that "The Negroes desire for education considering his past environment is 'The Eighth Wonder.'"
The black man's desire for professional training has been a subject for adverse criticism. It has been alleged that he is acquiring too much professional training for the support which conditions among the race offer him. The professions in which he is most largely represented, are the ministry and teaching. These claim our largest numbers for many reasons, prominent among them is the patent fact that a people who would rise must have religious and secular training. An admission that these professions for the first few years after the Civil War were besieged because of the ease by which employment could be obtained in them is perhaps just, but for the past ten years these charges are met with the declarations of Conferences, Conventions, Associations, Presbyteries, Synods, Superintendents School Boards, etc., that none need apply except the well equipped. Of the 23,866 common school teachers in the Union, two-thirds are Normal and High School Graduates. The Theological institutions have graduated over 500 preachers and five times as many left school in their second and third years, who are now in the ministry doing yeoman service.
These professions have been again most largely followed for the reason that the facilities were greater, help larger and such training more easily obtained. Since and prior to the organization of schools for training of Afro-American physicians 417 graduates in the practice of Medicine have come forth occupying to-day honorable station in the medical jurisprudence of our common country. There are not twenty-five Afro-American physicians who are failures either as to their knowledge of medicine or financial condition. Their practice takes the wide range of from $1,000 to $5,000 per annum. Their residences are generally the finest and most representative in the towns in which they are located, and they rapidly accumulate wealth because they are skillful and successful in their profession. The Medical Afro-Americans are yearly organizing state associations and bringing their interests closer together. A graduate of Meharry Medical School, now practicing physician at Jackson, Tennessee, publishes a Medical Magazine, known as the Medical and Surgical Observer. While a staff of colored physicians and trained nurses manages one of the best hospitals in Chicago – The Provident Hospital. In dentistry there are 33 practicing physicians in the south, and nearly the same number in the north. In Pharmacy over 75 have been graduated. The profession in which Afro-Americans have met the sharpest opposition and the strongest competition has been the law. There have been graduated from the Law Schools together with those who have taken private courses, about 300, among whom we find men of eminent legal ability, one a Circuit Court Commissioner, several Judges, numbers of Clerks of Courts, several District Commonwealth and City Attorneys. They are also Deans and Professors of Law in their legal schools, the students of which have not been turned down by any Court or Board in examination. Greater credit, perhaps, is due these advocates for a successful stand maintained, than is due those of any other profession. Besides sharp competition with white lawyers, open and free before a white jury in a land pregnant with prejudice, the Afro-American lawyer has had also to contend with his black fellow citizens whose lack of confidence in the black lawyer is evident for the reason that prejudice, fear and oppression have been elements sufficient in themselves to arouse and determine a pre-judgment.
An eminent newspaper of the south makes the statement that 250 black lawyers in the Union have practice ranging from $1,000 to $20,000 per annum. The writer knows a black lawyer in his own city who handles $150,000 annually. As in medicine so in law. State Bar Associations are being formed in almost every state of the south for legal advice, union and strength.
Our history shows that prior to 1861, there had been thirty-five works of Afro-American authorship published and sold. In the earlier days of 1792, America's first poet was Phillis Wheatley, a little black girl, who was brought to this country in a slave ship. After careful education by her white friends, she published a book of poems. The purity of style, simplicity of expression, and refinement of feeling shown in these poems, caused many to doubt their authorship. This doubt was set at rest by her master John Wheatley of Boston, and the leading ministers of the city. They wrote a letter in which they declared Phillis to be the author of the poems published by her. Near the same time Benjamin Banneker, a Negro of Virginia, made his own measurements and calculations, and published an almanac. Since 1865 over 100 books have been published by Afro-American writers. They have been mainly histories of the race, autobiographies, poems, and works on science, fiction, religion and general literature. A Greek Grammar for beginners, by W. S. Scarborough, of Wilberforce Ohio, is in use in the schools of Ohio.
The first journal published in race interest was Freedom's Journal, issued in 1827, in New York City. At the present time there are 206 journals and four magazines published by the colored people of the country. At a recent meeting of the State Press Association of Virginia, the statement was made that the Afro-American newspapers of that state owned property amounting to $25,000. At least two-thirds of these publications are made in their own offices and on their own presses. Several of our journalists hold responsible positions on the leading dailies as editors of departments and reporters. Essays, short stories and poems by race writers have appeared in the North American Review, Arena, Harper's Forum, Atlantic Monthly, Frank Leslie, Our Day, The Independent, The Sunday School Journal of the Methodist Church, and other magazines of the country
Bishop Haygood, of M. E. Church South, very truthfully writes in one of his books that all of the Negro's interest, particularly his social life, centers in his church. The denominations in which the Afro-American is most largely found are: Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion, Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in America, the Methodist Protestant, the African Union Methodist Protestant, the Union American Methodist Episcopal Church, the Zion Union Apostolic Church, the Evangelist Missionary Church in America, Congregational Methodist Church, Christian Church, Protestant Episcopal, Cumberland Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church in America, Presbyterian Church in the United States, United Presbyterian Church, Lutherans, Congregationalist and Regular Baptist Churches.
The numbers in these denominations are some very large and some small. The division and separation, particularly in the Methodist Churches, are upon very slight and inconsequential grounds. Of these denominations there are about 21,801 organizations, 22,153 church edifices with a seating capacity of perhaps 6 millions, (since an estimate cannot be made in some cases on account of the absence of separate statistics on this last item.) The African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Epsicopal Zion, the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in America, the African Union Methodist Protestant Church, the Union American Methodist Episcopal Church, The Zion Union Apostolic, the Evangelist Missionary Church in America, the Congregational Methodist Church, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and regular Colored Baptist Church, own 920 halls with a seating capacity of 78,289. The value of the Afro-Americans' church property may be approximated at $22,570,882; the number of church members, 2,613,154. This estimate exceeds that of Dr. H. K. Carroll, Special Agent for the U.S. Census Bureau on Churches, in the Sept. Forum by over two thousand members, for the reason that special care was taken in the separation of Afro-American membership from those of the whites, where no separate returns are given in the U. S. Census bulletins. The churches built by Afro-Americans are very fine. The Afro-American who makes five dollars per week, usually contributes a fifth of that to his church.
Phelps' Hall – Used as a Bible Training Department
There are 26 bishops in the distinctively Afro-American Methodist bodies. The general officers are men of ability. Their colleges, normal schools and academies are manned by Afro-American presidents, principals, professors and instructors. Their members contributed for eight years ending in 1892, over $600,000 for the cause of education, in churches where the Anglo-Saxon and Afro-American are still blending their interests. Four Afro-Americans are at the head of four of the Methodist Episcopal schools, Professors hold responsible chairs, and writers are being recognized in the literary channels of the church. In the Presbyterian church a similar condition prevails. At the General Assembly, which met during April in Washington, an Afro-American President, Dr. D. J. Saunders, was heard in behalf of his school and its endowment, etc. He was there and then pledged $400,000 for the benefit of Biddle University, Charlotte, N. C. There are 57 Afro-American Presidents of Afro-American colleges, denominational and otherwise. For the scholastic year, 1891-2, of the $834,646.41 contributed or expended in Afro-American education by various societies, denominations, etc., $316,446.92 was contributed by the Afro-American himself, being nearly one-half of the entire expenditure. Many of the largest edifices and finest church buildings are those owned by Afro-American congregations. "In three large cities of the South (said a Southern man in the writer's presence) the finest churches are 'Nigger' churches," One of the seven finest Sunday schools in the 27,493 of the great Methodist Episcopal Church is an Afro-American School, the plan of which has been adopted by several leading Anglo-Saxon Sunday Schools.
HIS WEALTH AND BUSINESS INTERESTS.
The wealth of the Afro-American has been fixed by statisticians at the following figures:
The total amount of property owned by the race is $263,000,000.
This report, which is an underestimate, has been going the rounds and accepted as a most remarkable showing. It is an underestimate by at least ten millions. For instance in the state of Virginia, according to the report of the Auditor of Public Accounts, the Afro-American property in the state was valued at $9,425,578. This is over four million and a half more than the above table. In Texas the property interests of the Afro-American are estimated at twenty millions, two millions more than the above table gives. The Comptroller of South Carolina informs the writer that the figures above given for South Carolina are very much below the real estimate. With these corrections and one or two exceptions, the figures are in the main correct. With these corrections, we should have an estimated wealth of not less than $275,000,000 for the Afro-American population of the United States. This added to Church property would give $300,000,000.
Until the recent failure of the Penny Savings Bank of Chattanooga, due to money loaned and inability to make collections, the Afro-American had five banking institutions. The remaining four are doing a splendid business There are not less than thirty-five Building, Loan and Cooperative Associations on a firm footing and doing legitimate business subject to the regular state and municipal investigation. Lack of space prevents the details of the operations, assets and liabilities of each of these efforts.
This has been accumulated in spite of the failure of the Freeman's Savings Bank. This bank was established under the National Government in 1866, with branch offices in the different states. In this bank the colored people deposited in the five years succeeding the war, nearly fifty-seven million dollars. As the result of bad management it failed in 1871, and the savings from the Negro's scanty wages were thus largely swept away. The confidence thus shaken in the outset has never been entirely restored.
AS TRADESMEN AND GENERAL LABORERS.
Until recent years the Afro-American has had a monopoly of the general and trade labor of the south. In recent times skilled labor has been the demand, and in many instances he has been driven out of the field, but in every southern city there are Afro-Americans who can do the best work in all trades. The writer knows of an instance not two weeks from date of this writing. A very large church is being remodeled and a handsome pressed brick front is a part of the improvement. There could not be found in a city of 22,000 inhabitants masons who could lay these brick satisfactorily. In response to a telegram four Afro-Americans were secured, and at this writing, August 2nd, 1893, the front is nearing completion. A more beautiful piece of work of its kind has not been done in the city. One of these men is a graduate of one of our best industrial schools.
The dearth in recent years of our mechanics is due to age, infirmities and death of those who were taught the trades in slavery; but the large and intelligent class of mechanics, who are being sent out from our mechanical schools, men whose head, heart and hands are trained, is remedying the deficiency. Nearly 6,000 of our young people were enrolled in the Industrial departments of Afro-American schools last year, and it is a fortunate thing that nearly all of the large schools of the south now have their industrial departments.
Rev. J. C. Hartzell, D. D., Secretary of the Freedman's Aid and Southern Education Society was heard once to say "A man said to me 'I will tell you one thing you cannot make a mechanic out of a Negro.' I took a wheel out of my pocket and showed it to him. I said 'there came into our shop at Central Tennessee College a black young man with no white blood in his veins, who had never seen such a machine before as that required to make this wheel. The manager had a lot of these wheels to make. This wheel must be made very exact; there must not be the least variation in any of its parts. The manager asked the young man if he could make wheels, and he said he would try; he did try and cut twenty-six hundred of these cogs before he made a variation.' I wonder if there is any other wheel of the kind ever made by a Negro. We are proud, first, that we have such places, and second, because such places are filled up with black boys." This was done in the school of Mechanic Arts, at Central Tennessee College, Nashville, Tennessee. From the same school the writer saw a ten inch telescope exhibited at the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal church at Omaha, Neb., May, 1892. This telescope is now in the observatory at Laurence University, Appleton, Wisconsin, having been built for that purpose. Three of the Professors' homes at Clark University, Atlanta, Ga., were built by the industrial students.
The largest agricultural and industrial features are connected with the following schools: Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, Bishop College, Central Tennessee, Claflin University, Clark University, Shaw University, Spellman Female Institute, Straight University, Talladega College, Tougaloo University, State Normal and Industrial School (Alabama) and others. These with others are yearly sending forth skilled labor which demands a consideration and can easily compete in all lines of industry, where prejudice does not debar them. Tuskegee Institute, situated in the heart of the "black belt" in Alabama was founded by Booker T. Washington, an Afro-American. From a small one-room beginning twelve years ago, he has a school property there of 21 buildings and 1,400 acres of land, and this property is valued at $180,000.
Of this school, Mrs. A. J. Cooper, in "A Voice from the South," the ablest book yet written by a Negro, on the Negro, says: "In the heart of what is known as the 'Black Belt,' of Alabama and within easy reach of the great cotton plantations of Georgia, Mississippi and Florida, a devoted young colored man ten years ago started a school with about thirty Negro children assembled in a comical looking shanty at Tuskegee. His devotion was contagious and his work grew; an abandoned farm of 100 acres was secured and that gradually grew to 640 acres, largely woodland, on which a busy and prosperous school is located; and besides, a supply farm was added, of heavy rich land, 800 acres, from which grain and sugar cane are the main products. Since 1881 2,947 students have been taught here, of whom 102 have graduated, while 200 more have received training to fit them to do good work as teachers, intelligent farmers and mechanics. The latest enrollment shows girls 247; boys, 264. Of the 102 graduates, 70 per cent are teachers, ministers and farmers. They usually combine teaching and farming. Three are printers (learned the trades at school), one is a tinner, one a blacksmith, one a wheelwright, three are merchants, three are carpenters, others are in the professions or filling miscellaneous positions."
Porter Hall – One of the main Buildings containing Office and Recitation Rooms, of Tuskegee Institute
Another institution founded by the race, is the Provdent Hospital of Chicago. Prejudice because of color has denied our doctors opportunity for practical surgical work, and refused our young women who wish to become trained nurses, admittance to the hospital training schools of the country. Out of this necessity grew the Provident Hospital, which is owned and managed by colored men. It has been in operation a little over two years; patients of every color and all creeds are treated by Afro-American nurses and physicians, and the cures there effected have attracted more than local attention in the medical world. One of the most recent cases was by a knife wound in the pericardium which was sewed up after the removal of a section of the ribs. The patient has since recovered. The training school has graduated four nurses, and has many more applicants for training than can be accommodated.
Provident Hospital and Training School
As a general laborer, the Negro needs no introduction. He has built the railroads of the South, watered and nutured its fields, reclaimed its swamps, beautified its cities, and caused the waste places to blossom as a rose. Besides general laborers and skilled artizans, the race has made some record in inventions. The following list is taken from the columns of The Colored American, July 8th, 1893, of Washington, D.C.
A partial list of patents granted by the United States for inventions by colored persons.
West Windsor, N. J.,
March 26, 1845.
Feb. 12, 1867.
W. A. Dietz,
Albany, N. Y.,
April 30, 1867.
Feb. 1, 1870.
Shield for Infantry and Artillerymen
Snow Hill, N. C.,
Dec. 27, 1870.
Washington, D. C.,
May 23, 1871.
T. J. Martin,
March 26, 1872.
Washington, D. C.,
Dec. 10, 1872.
E. H. Sutton,
Edenton, N. C.,
April 7, 1874.
David A. Fisher, Jr.,
April 20, 1875.
Process for Preparing Cocoanut for Domestic Use
Alex. P. Ashbourne,
June 1, 1875.
Henry H. Nash,
Oct. 5, 1875.
Alex. P. Ashbourne,
Nov. 30, 1875.
David A. Fisher, Jr.,
Washington, D. C.,
March 14, 1876.
T. A. Carrington,
July 25, 1876.
Alex. P. Ashbourne,
Aug. 21, 1877.
B. H. Taylor,
April 23, 1878.
Fire Escape Ladder
J. R. Winters,
May 7, 1878.
W. A. Lavelette,
Washington, D. C.,
Sept. 17, 1878.
W. R. Davis, Jr.,
New York City,
Sept. 24, 1873.
Fire Escape Ladder
Jos. R. Winters,
April 8, 1879.
Ladder Scaffold Support
Princeton, N. J.,
Aug. 5, 1879.
Refining Cocoanut Oil
A. P. Ashbourne,
July 17, 1880.
Traverse B. Pinn,
Aug. 17, 1880.
Nov. 2, 1880.
Life Saving Apparatus
Washington, D. C.,
May 24, 1881.
Corn Planter Check Row
R. W. Alexander,
April 18, 1882.
Lasting Machine for Shoes
J. E. Matzeliger,
Lynn, Mass., (Cuban),
March 20, 1883.
Ventilator for Railroad Cars
H. H. Reynolds,
April 3, 1883.
Shutter and Fastening therefor
Washington, D. C.,
May 1, 1883.
Combined Truss and Bandage
Leonard D. Bailey,
Washington, D. C.,
Sept. 25, 1883.
Hand Corn-Shelling Device
Washington, D. C.,
May 20, 1884.
Steam Boiler Furnace
Granville T. Woods,
June 3, 1884.
Granville T. Woods,
Dec. 2, 1884.
Apparatus for Transmission of Messages by Electricity
Granville T. Woods,
April 7, 1885;
Washington, D. C.,
March 30, 1886.
Receptacle for Storing and Preserving Papers
Washington, D. C.,
Nov. 2, 1886.
New Rochelle, N. Y.
Feb. 15, 1887.
Bogensville, S. C.,
April 26, 1887.
Wm. R. Davis,
New York City, N. Y.,
May 10, 1887.
Gong and Signal Chairs for Hotels
Miss Mariam E. Benjamin,
Washington, D. C.,
July 17, 1888.
Spring Horse Shoe
Dec. 11, 1888.
Instantaneous Detachment for Harnesses
J. S. Coolidge,
Washington, D. C.,
Nov. 13, 1888.
Sadgwar & Purdy,
Washington, D. C.,
June 11, 1889.
Device for Preventing Flow of Water in Cellars
Hugh M. Browne,
Washington, D. C.,
April 29, 1890.
Electric Switch for Railroads
Philip B. Downing,
July 17, 1890.
Jamestown, R. I.,
July 29, 1890.
Jamestown, R. I.,
Aug. 5, 1890.
Water Evaporators for Hot Air Registers
Andrew F. Hilyer,
Washington, D. C.,
Aug. 26, 1890.
Safety Gate for Bridges
H. H. Reynolds,
Oct. 7, 1890.
Drill for Boring and Reaming
J. R. Watts,
May 5, 1891.
Jean Earnest Matzeliger (dec'd),
Lynn, Mass., (Cuban).
Sept. 22, 1891
March 29, 1892.
Bracket for Miners' Lamps
J. R. Watts,
March 7, 1893.
A. B. Blackburn,
Dec. 23, 1884.
A. B. Blackburn,
Jan. 10, 1888.
Spring Seat for Chairs
A. B. Blackburn,
April 3, 1888.
A. B. Blackburn,
Oct. 23, 1888.
Also fifteen (15) patents as follows
of Detroit, Mich.,
for his inventions
Propeller for Vessels
April 28, 1891.
L. W. Benjamin,
IN THE REALM OF ART.
With most meager incentive, our race has many amateur artists who possess great native talent, and several who have won recognition for their ability as professionals. E. N. Bannister, of Providence, Rhode Island, had a picture in the Centennial Exposition of Philadelphia, in 1876, which was awarded one of the medals of the first class. This picture "Under the Oaks" was purchased for fifteen hundred dollars by a wealthy Boston gentleman. C. E. Porter of Hartford, Connecticut exhibits in the National Academy of Design of New York, in which city he has a studio. H. O. Tanner of Philadelphia, studied in his native city at the Academy of Fine Arts and has exhibited in the art galleries of New York, Chicago, Louisville, Cincinnati, Washington and Paris. He has spent the past two years abroad prosecuting his studies under Benjamin Constant and Jean Paul Laurens, in the Institute of France. On his return to this country they gave him a letter of recommendation. He belongs to the American Art Association in Paris and won the prize for a sketch of "The Deluge," from the Julian School of Art in 1892, and another for a sketch of "Peasant Life in Brittany." Mr. Tanner thinks the picturesque in our own race life can be best be interpreted by one of ourselves and will exhibit this winter a picture representing one phase of Negro life. He has called it "The First Lesson." As a study it is regarded by art critics as the best thing he has done. Mr. Tanner is not yet thirty-five years of age.
We have a number of excellent crayon portrait painters who have made little effort to acquaint the world with their gifts. We also have a representative in
THE ART OF SCULPTURE.
Miss Edmonia Lewis, a young, ignorant girl, saw the statue of Benjamin Franklin on a first visit to Boston and exclaimed, "I can make a stone man!" Wm. Lloyd Garrison introduced her to a leading Boston sculptor, who gave her some clay and the model of a human foot, which she copied. From this beginning, Miss Lewis has now a studio of her own in Rome. Here she has executed work which has brought her the patronage of noted men and women. Her best works are busts of Charles Sumner, and Abraham Lincoln, "Hiawatha's Wooing," "Forever Free," "Hagar in the Wilderness" and the "Madonna."
"Blind Tom" our musical prodigy imitates on the piano all sounds, and plays the most difficult classical music after hearing it once rendered. He has composed the "Battle of Manasses," in which the firing of cannon, marching of troops and playing of the bands are perfectly reproduced. Madame Selika, "The Black Patti," (Madame Jones) and Mrs. Nellie Brown Mitchell are the best of numbers of splendid vocalists who are training every year in the art the race loves best. Gussie L. Davis is one of the most popular song writers of the day. The Fisk Jubilee Singers have made the music of the American Negro known throughout the world. So eminent an authority as Dr. Antonin Dvorak, the great Bohemian composer, voluntarily says: "I am now satisfied that the future music of this country must be founded upon what are called the Negro melodies. This must be the real foundation of any serious and original school of composers to be developed in the United States. When I first came here last year I was impressed with this idea and it has developed into a settled conviction. These beautiful and varied themes are the product of the soil. They are American. I would like to trace out the individual authorship of the Negro melodies, for it would throw a great deal of light upon the question I am deeply interested in at present.
"These are the folk songs of America and your composers must turn to them. All of the great musicians have borrowed from the songs of the common people. Beethoven's most charming scherzo is based upon what might now be considered a skillfully handled Negro melody. I have myself gone to the simple, half forgotten tunes of the Bohemian peasants for hints in my most serious work. Only in this way can a musician express the true sentiment of his people. He gets into touch with the common humanity of his country.
"In the Negro melodies of America I discover all that is needed for a great and noble school of music. They are pathetic, tender, passionate, melancholy, solemn, religious, bold, merry, gay or what you will. It is music that sets itself to any mood or any purpose. There is nothing in the whole range of composition that cannot be supplied with themes from this source. The American musician understands these tunes, and they move sentiment in him. They appeal to his imagination because of their associations.
"When I was in England one of the ablest musical critics in London complained to me that there was no distinctively English school of music, nothing that appealed particularly to the British mind and heart. I replied to him that the composers of England had turned their backs upon the fine melodies of Ireland and Scotland instead of making them the essence of an English school. It is a great pity that English musicians have not profited out of this rich store. Somehow, the old Irish and Scotch ballads have not seized upon or appealed to them. I hope it will not be so in this country, and I intend to do all in my power to call attention to these treasures of melody which you have.
"Among my pupils in the National Conservatory of Music I have discovered strong talents. There is one young man upon whom I am building strong expectations. His compositions are based upon Negro melodies, and I have encouraged him in this direction. The other members in the composition class seem to think that it is not in good taste to get ideas from the old plantation songs, but they are wrong, and I have tried to impress upon their minds the fact that the greatest composers have not considered it beneath their dignity to go to the humble folk songs for motifs.
"I did not come to America to interpret Beethoven or Wagner for the public. That is not my work and I would not waste any time on it. I came to discover what young Americans had in them and help them to express it. When the Negro minstrels are here again I intend to take my young composers with me and have them comment on the melodies."
The celebration of the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America is acknowledged to be our greatest National enterprise of the century. From the inception of the plan down to the magnificent demonstration of the opening day, every feature has had for its ultimate attainment the highest possible degree of success. The best minds were called upon to plan a work which should not only exceed all others in the magnitude of its scope, but which should at the same time surpass all former efforts in the excellence and completion of every detail.
No such enthusiasm ever inspired the American people to any work. From the humblest citizen to the Chief Magistrate of the Nation, the one all absorbing question seemed to be, "How shall America best present its greatness to the civilized world?" Selfishness abated its conflicting interests, rivalry merged itself into emulation and envy lost its tongue. An "era of good feeling" again dawned upon the land and with "Malice towards none and charity to all" the Nation moved to the work of preparing for the greatest Exposition the world has ever known.
The enthusiasm for the work which permeated every phase of our National life, especially inspired the colored people who saw in this great event their first opportunity to show what freedom and citizenship can do for a slave. Less than thirty years have elapsed since "Grim visaged war smoothed its wrinkled front," and left as a heritage of its short but eventful existence four millions of freedmen, now the Nation's wards. In its accounting to the world, none felt more keenly than the colored man, that America could not omit from the record the status of the former slave. He hoped that the American people with their never failing protestation of justice and fair play, would gladly respond to this call, and side by side with the magnificence of its industry, intelligence and wealth give evidence of its broad charity and splendid humane impulses. He recognized that during the twenty-five years past the United States in the field of politics and economics has had a work peculiar to itself. He knew that achievements of his country would interest the world, since no event of the century occurred in the life of any nation, of greater importance than the freedom and enfranchisement of the American slaves. He was anxious to respond to this interest by showing to the world, not only what America has done for the Negro, but what the Negro has done for himself.
It had been asserted that slavery was a divine institution, that the Negro, in the economy of nature, was predestinated to be a slave, and that he was so indolent and ignorant that his highest good could be attained only under the influence of a white master. The Negro wanted to show by his years of freedom, that his industry did not need the incentive of a master's whip, and that his intelligence was capable of successful self direction. It had been said that he was improvident and devoid of ambition, and that he would gradually lapse into barbarism. He wanted to show that in a quarter of a century, he had accumulated property to the value of two hundred million dollars, that his ambition had led him into every field of industry, and that capable men of his race had served his Nation well in the legislatures of a dozen states in both Houses of the Nation's Congress and as National Representatives abroad.
It had been said that the Negro was fit only for a "hewer of wood and a drawer of water" and that he could not be educated. In answer to this, the Negro wanted to show, that in a quarter of a century after emancipation, nearly one half of the race had learned to read and that in schools of higher education colored scholars had repeatedly won highest honors in contest with scholars of the dominant race. In a word, the Negro wanted to avail himself of the opportunity to prove to his friends that their years of unselfish work for him, as a slave, had been appreciated by him in his freedom, and that he was making every possible effort to gratify the sanguine expectations of his friends and incidentally to confound the wisdom of those who justified his oppression on the ground that God cursed Ham.
But herein he was doomed to be disappointed. In the very first steps of the Exposition work, the colored people were given to understand that they were persona non grata, so far as any participation in the directive energy of the Exposition was concerned. In order to Nationalize the Exposition the United States Congress by legislation in its behalf, provided for the appointment of a National Board of Commissioners, which Board should be constituted by the appointment of two Commissioners from each state, one from each territory and ten Commissioners at large. It was further provided that one alternate should be named for every commissioner. These appointments were made by the President of the United States (Benjamin Harrison) who thus had the appointment of a Board of National Commissioners numbering two hundred and eight members to represent the sixty millions of our population.
The colored people of our country number over seven and one half millions. In two of the states of the south the colored population exceeds the white population, and so far as the productive energy of the southern states is concerned, almost the entire output of agricultural products is the work of Negro labor. The colored people therefore thought that their numbers, more than one eighth of the entire population of the country, would entitle them to one Commissioner at Large, and that their importance as a labor factor in the South would secure for them fair representation among the Commissioners appointed from the states. But it was not so. President Harrison appointed his entire list of Commissioners, and their alternates, and refused to name one colored man. The President willfully ignored the millions of colored people in the country and thus established a precedent which remained inviolate through the entire term of Exposition work.
Finding themselves with no representation on the National Board, a number of applications were made to the direct management of the Exposition through the Director General, Hon. George R. Davis, for the appointment of some capable colored person, in some representative capacity to the end that the intelligent and enthusiastic co-operation of the colored people might be secured. The Director General declined to make any such appointment. Prominent colored men suggested the establishment of a Department of Colored Exhibits in the Exposition. It was urged by them that nothing would so well evidence the progress of the colored people as an exhibit made entirely of the products of skill and industry of the race since emancipation. This suggestion was considered by the National Directors and it was decided that no separate exhibit for the colored people be permitted.
Recognizing that there was not much hope for successful work under authority of the Board of Directors, there was still a hope that in the work undertaken by the women there would be sympathy and a helpful influence for colored women. Unprecedented importance had been given to woman's work by the Congress of the United States, which in its World's Fair legislation provided for a Board of Lady Managers and set aside for their exclusive use sufficient money to make a most creditable exhibit of women's work. It was hoped that this Board would take especial interest in helping all aspiring womankind to show their best possible evidence of thrift and intelligent labor. It was therefore decided by colored women in various parts of the country to secure, if possible, means for making an exhibit that would partly compensate for the failure made in the attempt with the National Board of Directors. An idea of the plan of work suggested by these colored organizations can be had from one petition, addressed to the Lady Managers, from Chicago. It is as follows:
To the Board of Lady Managers,
World's Columbian Exposition,
The Women's Columbian Auxiliary Association desires to bring its work properly before your honorable body, with a few suggestions which we hope may be of assistance in promoting the cause of woman's work among our colored citizens.
The above organization is working under a charter granted by the State of Illinois, and has perfected plans upon which it is working with the most gratifying success. Our membership in Chicago numbers nearly one hundred active, earnest workers, who have at heart the success of the women's department, and a creditable display of the skill and energy of the colored people.
Besides our city organization, the work has had the endorsement of two National Orders of a benevolent nature, and its work is being especially urged in that direction.
Much more will be done when we find that our plan of work meets the approval and has the endorsement of the Board of Lady Managers. To that end we desire to be accorded an audience with this body, or some representative of this body, who will give our work the consideration we believe it merits.
In the prosecution of our work, we have consulted some of the best minds of our race. We do not in any way suggest a separate department in the coming exposition, for colored people, but we do believe there is a field of labor among the colored people, in which members of the race can serve with special effectiveness and success.
Our ideas and plans in this connection are carefully outlined in a published prospectus for use of societies cooperating with us. We enclose a copy for your consideration.
Hoping to render you a service, in which we will gladly engage, We remain, respectfully,
Women's Columbian Auxiliary Association,
Mrs. R. D. Boone, Pres.
Prior to this movement, another society, by name the Woman's Columbian Association had filed a similar petition, through Mrs. Lettie Trent, its president. The two associations suggested work on nearly the same general plan, and contemplated work through various channels, such as secret societies, private schools and church organizations, which particularly reach the colored people. Naturally the two organizations had different leaders whom they endorsed and supported for the work, with more or less earnestness, fidelity and sometimes acerbity of temper, each of course, desiring its plans to succeed through the success of its representative. But both failed as the Board of Lady Managers eagerly availed itself of the opportunity to say that the colored people were divided into factions and it would be impolite to recognize either faction.
The promptness which marked their assumption of this position, is fairly indicative of the hypocrisy and duplicity which the colored people met in every effort made. In refusing to give the colored people any representation whatever, upon the ground that they were not united, the Board made an excuse which was wholly unworthy of itself. The failure of the few colored people of Chicago to agree, could not by any kind of logic, justify the Board in ignoring the seven and one half millions outside the city. A number of colored women in other sections of the country were highly endorsed and commended to the Board as capable, earnest and efficient representatives of the race. Because the few people here in Chicago did not agree upon the same person for their support the Board of Lady Managers ignored the plea of the entire race.
If in a reflective mood, the Lady Managers had read the minutes of their own organization, punctured as they are with points of order, cries of "shame," "shame," enlivened frequently with hysterics and bathed at times in tears, their sisterly love and sweetness of temper, marking a rose wreathed way through the law courts into Congress itself, possibly they would have been better able to realize that all people are liable to differ, and that colored people are not alone in their failure to agree upon the same person, to do a designated work.
But they never thought of such a possibility at that time. They dismissed the entire matter by referring the petitions of the colored people to the various State Boards.
With but a single exception the State Boards refused to take any action calculated to enlist the interest of the colored people. The State of New York, the exception referred to, appointed a capable and worthy colored woman, Miss Imogene Howard, as a member of the Board of Lady Managers. In the short period of her service she worked earnestly in behalf of her race, but met only with indifferent success.
The relegation of the interests of the colored people to the State Boards plainly proved that the Board of Lady Managers did not desire to have anything to do with the colored people. Still something was needed to be done and thousands of capable and conscientious colored men and women were waiting patiently for some suggestion of the work they might attempt to do. No suggestions came, however, and renewed efforts were exerted.
Miss Hallie Q. Brown, a teacher of Wilberforce College, Ohio, concluded to secure, if possible, from the several Lady Managers an expression of their views upon the subject of enlisting the interest and co-operation of the colored people in the formative work of the Fair. In pursuance of her plans, Miss Brown sent a letter of inquiry to each member of the Board of Lady Managers asking the personal consideration of her plan of appointing some colored person who would make this work a special care. The letter of Miss Brown reads as follows:
Chicago, Illinois, April 8, 1892.
Lady Manager of the Columbian Exposition for ____
It seems to be a settled conviction among the colored people, that no adequate opportunity is to be offered them for proper representation in the World's Fair. A circular recently issued and widely distributed makes that charge direct. That there is an element of truth in it seems apparent, since neither recognition has been granted, nor opportunity offered.
And further it is shown that the intercourse between the two races, particularly in the southern states, is so limited that the interchange of ideas is hardly seriously considered. If, therefore, the object of the Woman's Department of the Columbian Exposition is to present to the world the industrial and educational progress of the breadwinners – the wage women – how immeasurably incomplete will that work be without the exhibit of the thousands of the colored women of this country.
The question naturally arises, who is awakening an interest among our colored women, especially in the South where the masses are, and how many auxiliaries have been formed through which they may be advised of the movement that is intended to be so comprehensive and all inclusive? Considering the peculiar relation that the Negro sustains in this country, is it less than fair to request for him a special representation?
Presuming that such action would be had, several colored men and women, including the writer, have endorsements of unquestionable strength from all classes of American citizens. These endorsements are on file in the President's office of the Woman's Commission in this city. It is urged at headquarters that the Lady Managers would seriously object to the appointment of a special representative to canvass the various states. Permit me to emphasize the fact, that this matter is in earnest discussion, among the representatives of eight millions of the population of the United States.
I address this circular to you, kindly requesting your opinion upon the suggestions made herein, and solicit a reply at your earliest convenience.
4440 Langley Ave.,
(Miss) Hallie Q. Brown.
The inquiry of Miss Brown received answers from less than one-half of the Lady Managers and in not more than three cases was any endorsement given to her suggestion to appoint some colored person to give especial attention to the work of securing exhibits from the colored people. In most of the answers received, the writers said that the appointment of a colored person could not be made without interfering with the work already assigned to the respective states. Several members excused the action of the Exposition Managers in refusing representation to the colored people among the promoters of the Exposition, by stating that the colored people themselves were divided upon the character of the exhibit which should be made; some declaring in favor of a separate colored exhibit, and others opposing it. Great emphasis was placed upon this statement and the further specious argument that colored people are citizens, and that it was against the policy of the Exposition to draw any distinction between different classes of American citizens. These arguments upon the first thought appear reasonable, but a slight consideration shows that they were made only as a subterfuge to compass the discrimination already planned.
The majority of the Lady Managers ignored the letters of inquiry entirely, while some were frank enough to speak their pronounced opposition to any plan which would bring them in contact with a colored representative and to emphasize the opportunity by a declaration that they would resign in cases such an appointment was made.
So far as the character of the exhibit was concerned there was an honest difference of opinion among both white and colored people, as to the manner of making the exhibit, some declaring in favor of a separate exhibit to be composed exclusively of products of the skill, ingenuity and industry of the colored people, others quite as earnestly opposed to any color line exhibit and insisted upon placing exhibits furnished by colored people in the classes to which they respectively belonged.
In support of the plan for the separate exhibit it was urged:
First: That the exhibits by the colored people would be so few in number, that when enstalled in their places as classified they would be almost unnoticed and as there would be no way of ascertaining that they were products of our skill and industry, the race would lose the credit of their production.
Second: That while the exhibits made by colored people would not compare favorably with the general exhibit of the white people, still in number, variety and excellence they would give most gratifying evidence of the capacity, industry and ambition of the race, showing what it had accomplished in the first third of a century of freedom.
The opponents to the separate exhibit, both colored and white, based their opposition upon the broad principle that merit knows no color line, and that colored people should be willing to be measured by the same rule which was applied to other people. The colored people asked that no special grade of merit be established for them; but held that the race was willing to accept whatever place was accorded it by virtue of the measure of merit shown. They asked that colored persons specially interested in the cause be appointed to promote the work among colored people, but that the exhibits when received, should be impartially judged and assigned to their places as classified.
But this was a question of method rather than action. The colored people were untiring in their demands for some responsible work, and were perfectly willing to allow the arrangements of details with the exposition management. But they earnestly maintained that whether the colored exhibits be installed in bulk or placed as properly classified, there was no doubt that the existing condition of public sentiment warranted the active assistance of colored representatives in promoting the work among colored people.
The fact patent to all thinking people that, in the first steps of exposition work they had been purposely ignored together with the equally apparent fact that the various State Boards, with one exception, had emphasized this slight by refusing to give any representation whatever to colored people, gave good ground for the belief that colored people were not wanted in any responsible connection with the Exposition work. But the demands for a separate exhibit and for the appointment of colored persons to assist in promoting the work of the exposition were all fruitless. They were met always with the statement that the exposition authorities had considered it best to act entirely without reference to any color line, that all citizens of all classes stood on the same plane, that no distinctions should be drawn between any classes and special work extended to none. This position which has every indication of justice would still be inequitable even if fairly maintained.
It may have been strictly just but it was certainly not equitable to compel the colored people who have been emancipated but thirty years to stand on the same plane with their masters who for two and one half centuries had enslaved them. Had the colored people of America enjoyed equal opportunities with the white people they would have asked in the Exposition no favor of any kind. But when it is remembered that only a few years ago the statutes of many of the states made it a misdemeanor to teach a colored person to read, it must be conceded that in no competition with the white man is it possible for the former slave to stand upon the same plane.
But the position taken was not only inequitable but was a false and shallow pretense. If no distinctions were to be drawn in favor of the colored man, then it was only fair that none should be drawn against him. Yet the whole history of the exposition is a record of discrimination against the colored people. President Harrison began it when with the appointment of more than two hundred and eight national commissioners and their alternates to represent the several states, he refused to appoint a single representative of seven and one half millions of colored people, more than one-eighth of the entire population of the United States.
When it was ascertained that the seals and glaciers of Alaska had been overlooked in the appointment of National Commissioners, it was a comparatively easy task for the President to manipulate matters so that he could give that far away land a representative on the National Board. It was entirely different, however, with the colored people. When the fact was laid before the President that they had been ignored and were entirely unrepresented, he found his hands tied and the best he was ever willing to do thereafter to remedy the matter was to appoint a colored man, Mr. Hale G. Parker, as an alternate commissioner from the State of Missouri.
In the appointments made on the Board of Lady Managers the discrimination was equally apparent, not a single colored woman being named on the Board proper and only one named on the entire list of members of the State Boards of management.
Taking these precedents for aid and comfort, the management of the Exposition found it easy to refuse to employ colored men or women in places of honor or emolument. Hundreds of clerks were necessary to carry on the work of preparation for the Exposition but all applications by colored men or women for clerical positions were politely received and tenderly pigeon-holed. Of the entire clerical force of the Exposition, only one colored man, Mr. J. E. Johnson ever received a clerical appointment. A clerical position was filled for a few months by Mrs. A. M. Curtis and soon after her resignation a similar place was filled by Mrs. Fannie B. Williams who was appointed only two months before the Exposition opened. These three clerical places constitute the best representation accorded the colored people during the entire Exposition period. This, in spite of the fact, that the propriety and justice of their employment was freely recognized and admitted. By vote of the Board of Reference and Control, the Director General was requested to report on the expediency of giving colored people a place in the great work. The minutes of the above Board show, that after a clear and forceful presentation of the claims of the colored people by Mrs. F. B. Williams the following resolution was adopted:
"Resolved: That the Director General be requested to lay before the Local Directory the expediency of having the department of Publicity and Promotion employ a colored man and a colored woman to promote the interests of the World's Columbian Exposition throughout the United States."
Whether the Board really meant anything by the resolution or not it is difficult to say, but certain it is that nothing was done. The expediency of the appointments was not questioned, but claim was made that there was not money to pay for the service. In fact a standing reply to suggestions for the employment of colored persons was the assertion that the Exposition had no fund which it could use for that purpose. It had no funds to meet the expenses contemplated in the suggestion made in the above quoted resolution of the Board of Control, yet it had actually and wantonly wasted nearly ninety thousand dollars in the construction of floats for use on opening day; which floats were discarded before they were finished and never used at all, their entire cost being an absolute and total loss of the entire sum of money used in their construction. The management readily found ninety thousand dollars to waste in this child's play, but could not find a fraction of that sum to meet a demand which was just, urgent and plainly apparent.
A final effort was made to secure the services of a good statistician whose duty it would be to prepare a statistical exhibit of the Negro since emancipation. The work mentioned could be done by colored people and would have contributed helpfully to the effort of proving our ability in all lines of thought and action. The appropriation asked for only two thousand dollars, but the Board refused to allow that sum, and the plan was abandoned.
This unwritten law of discrimination was felt not only in higher places but its effects were seen in the employment of persons for positions of no more importance than the Columbian Guards. These were selected for duty on the Exposition grounds. The Commander, Col. Rice, requested a blank to be used in making applications, the questions asked being as carefully framed as those found upon the application blanks of an insurance company. It was noted that all colored applicants had some defect which disqualified them for service. This was more marked when so many colored persons were rejected who appeared to be eligible from every point of view, and from the further fact that many of the guards who were chosen clearly failed to meet the printed requirements, and a number of them could scarcely speak English. The rumor soon ripened into conviction, and it was generally understood that so far as the Columbian Guards were concerned, "No Negro need apply."
A sample of the treatment accorded colored applicants will serve to show that discrimination was undoubtedly practiced and plainly intentional. The applicant in this case was Wm. J. Crawford of Chicago. He filled out his application blank and was soon ordered for examination. He reported and the examiner deliberately falsified the record and returned his report rejecting the applicant upon the ground that his chest measurement was only thirty-four inches, (the requirement being thirty-six inches) a report which he knew to be false. This action of the medical examiner was so clearly unjust that the applicant concluded to appeal to the Commander for a redress of the wrong. He prepared his appeal of which the following is a copy.
Chicago, Ill., March 5, 1893.
Col. Edward Rice,
Commander Columbian Guards,
World's Columbian Exposition.
I desire to ask your consideration of a matter, which I think, belongs to your department of the World's Fair. On the first day of the present month, I made an application for appointment on the force of guards for the exposition. My application was made on a blank furnished by Capt. Farnham, and I was ordered for examination.
The physician who examined me gave my height five feet eleven and one eighth inches; my weight one hundred and sixty-five and one half pounds, which was declared satisfactory. Upon examination for chest measurement, however, the examiner said that I measured thirty-four inches. He then said that this was too small and that I could not be accepted. He wrote on my application – "Rejected," adding "not on account of color, but because of chest measurement not thirty-six inches."
I knew at the time that his mark was incorrect and as soon as I left the grounds, went to a reputable physician, who gave me a certificate of measurement of thirty-six and one half inches. As I was rejected because the examiner made my measurement thirty-four inches, I respectfully appeal to you for a reversal of that finding and an appointment upon the force of the Columbian Guards.
W. J. Crawford.
This appeal was sent by registered letter to Commander Rice, and was receipted for by G. N. Farnham, his chief assistant. But the Commander gave no reply whatever to the appeal. Still determined to have a hearing, the applicant, after waiting ten days for an answer made an appeal to the President of the Board of Control. This second appeal was as follows:
Chicago, Ill., March 15, 1893.
To the President of the
Board of Control of the
World's Columbian Exposition,
I have the honor to appeal to you for a consideration of my rejected application for a position as one of the Columbian Guards of the World's Columbian Exposition.
I have been a resident of Chicago for seven years and on the first day of March, 1893, I made a formal application and was subjected to the required examination by the medical examiner. At the conclusion of my examination, I was told by the examining surgeon that I had met every requirement and was in every way qualified except in the single point of chest measurement; the rule of the department requires a chest measurement of thirty-six inches, but the said medical examiner stated in his certificate of examination that my chest measurement was less than thirty-five inches, and further marked on said certificate the gratuitous information "not rejected on account of color."
I appeal to your honorable board for a reopening of my application for appointment as a Columbian Guard on the following grounds:
I am satisfied that my application was rejected solely on account of my color. I have been especially convinced that it is a case of mean and unjust discrimination against me, because, after leaving the World's Fair Grounds and the regular medical examiner in the employment of the Columbian Guard authority, I went to no less eminent physician than Dr. S. N. Davis of this city, and requested him to give me a careful and impartial examination as to my chest. I would respectfully refer you to Dr. Davis' certificate attached hereto. It will be seen that the finding of Dr. Davis' examination is in direct contradiction to the alleged measurement of the medical examiner at the World's Fair Grounds.
Although the said medical examiner at the World's Fair grounds laboriously stretched his tape measure and compressed my chest in every possible way, so as to force a short measurement, and in other ways aroused my suspicions as to his willingness to give me a fair examination, I did not feel justified in questioning his findings and appealing to you, until I had obtained an impartial examination from a physician, who could have no interest in me and my plans.
A further reason for this appeal to you is to call your attention to the fact that it is the settled policy on the part of the authorities in charge to make it impossible for any American Negro, however well qualified, to become a member of the force of Columbian Guards. It is a significant fact that every colored applicant, thus far, has been rejected for causes more or less trivial, or, as in my case, false.
I would respectfully state that before submitting this appeal to your Honorable Board, I duly applied to Colonel Rice, Commander in Chief of said Columbian Guards. Attached hereto please find a copy of the letter sent to Colonel Rice, but from which I received no reply. I also appealed to the Council of Administration and Control for a consideration of my claim, but I was refused a hearing.
It is believed by many of our people that this fixed policy of discrimination against us, is without the sanction and knowledge of the Board of Control, and as I have no means of redress from the injustice done me, as above set forth, I have determined to lay the matter before you, hoping that my appeal will be justly considered, and that I will be given a chance to win the position for which I have made due application, if I am qualified therefor.
No. 400 27th street.
W. J. Crawford.
It was merely an indication of the plan and policy of the Exposition Management that no notice whatever was taken of the respectful but, at the same time, convincing appeal made by Mr. Crawford. It had been determined that no colored man should be employed on the force of the Columbian Guards and that determination was not to be varied. The fact that one colored man had succeeded in discovering the contemptible duplicity and falsehood used to compass that purpose, made no difference in the plan, nor affected in any way its promoters. Theoretically open to all Americans, the Exposition practically is, literally and figuratively, a "White City," in the building of which the Colored American was allowed no helping hand, and in its glorious success he has no share.
Recognizing that the spirit and purpose of the local management of the Exposition were inimical to the interests of the colored people, leaders of the race made effective appeals to Congress and asked that the general government reserve out of its appropriation to the Exposition a sum of money to be used in making a Statistical Exhibit which should show the moral, educational and financial growth of the American Negro since his emancipation. The colored people recognized that the discrimination which prevented their active participation in the Exposition work could not be remedied, but they hoped that the Nation would take enough interest in its former slaves to spend a few thousand dollars in making an exhibit which would tell to the world what they as freedmen had done.
But here they were disappointed again. Congress refused to act. One appropriation bill passed the Senate and at another time an appropriation was made by the House of Representatives, but at no time did both bodies agree upon the same measure. The help that was expected from Congress failed and having failed in every other quarter to secure some worthy place in this great National undertaking the Colored American recognized the inevitable and accepted with the best grace possible one of the severest disappointments which has fallen to his lot.
In consideration of the color proof character of the Exposition Management it was the refinement of irony to set aside August 25th to be observed as "Colored People's Day." In this wonderful hive of National industry, representing an outlay of thirty million dollars, and numbering its employes by the thousands, only two colored persons could be found whose occupations were of a higher grade than that of janitor, laborer and porter, and these two only clerkships. Only as a menial is the Colored American to be seen – the Nation's deliberate and cowardly tribute to the Southern demand "to keep the Negro in his place." And yet in spite of this fact, the Colored Americans were expected to observe a designated day as their day – to rejoice and be exceeding glad. A few accepted the invitation, the majority did not. Those who were present, by the faultless character of their service showed the splendid talent which prejudice had led the Exposition to ignore; those who remained away evinced a spirit of manly independence which could but command respect. They saw no reason for rejoicing when they knew that America could find no representative place for a colored man, in all its work, and that it remained for the Republic of Hayti to give the only acceptable representation enjoyed by us in the Fair. That republic chose Frederick Douglass to represent it as Commissioner through which courtesy the Colored American received from a foreign power the place denied to him at home.
That we are not alone in the conviction that our country should have accorded an equal measure of recognition to one of its greatest citizens is evidenced by the following editorial in the Chicago Herald of Sunday, August 27th, 1893: "That a colored man, Douglass, Langston or Bruce, should have been named a National Commissioner, will be admitted by fair-minded Americans of all political parties That President Harrison should have omitted to name one of them is apparently inexplicable. That the race has made extraordinary progress will also be conceded."
The World's Columbian Exposition draws to a close and that which has been done is without remedy. The colored people have no vindictiveness actuating them in this presentation of their side of this question, our only desire being to tell the reason why we have no part nor lot in the Exposition. Our failure to be represented is not of our own working and we can only hope that the spirit of freedom and fair play of which some Americans so loudly boast, will so inspire the Nation that in another great National endeavor the Colored American shall not plead for a place in vain.
TO THE PUBLIC.
This pamphlet is published by contribution from colored people of the United States. The haste necessary for the press, prevents the incorporation of interesting data showing the progress of the colored people in commercial lines.
Besides the cuts of a school and hospital, it was desired to have a cut of the Capital Savings Bank, a flourishing institution conducted by the colored people of Washington, D. C. The cut, however, did not arrive in time for the press.
Twenty thousand copies of THE REASON WHY are now ready for gratuitous distribution. Applications by mail will enclose three cents for postage. All orders addressed to the undersigned will be promptly acknowledged.
IDA B. WELLS,
Formatting and Layout Changes
The table of contents has been added for the convenience of the online reader. This page did not appear in the original edition.
The "partial list of patents granted by the United States for inventions by colored persons" has been formatted as a table, rather than a list of entries, to allow easier comparison across items. In most cases, this involved blocking an entry into columns, the only effective change being the addition of whitespace between parts of the entry. In one or two cases, [cf. 459,899] slight changes were made to the sequencing of information in an entry to better fit the table layout. Where they were available, patent numbers have been linked to the United States Patent and Trademark Office database.
Size and placement of illustrations may vary from the original.
Edited by Mary Mark Ockerbloom