The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 1995, Memorial Issue.

Part 1 out of 8

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 1995, Memorial Issue.

Table of Contents

Sojourner Truth, the Libyan Sibyl.............Harriet Beecher Stowe
Reconstruction................................Frederick Douglass
An Appeal to Congress for Impartial Suffrage..Frederick Douglas
The Negro Exodus..............................James B. Runnion
My Escape from Slavery........................Frederick Douglass
The Goophered Grapevine.......................Charles W. Chesnutt
Po' Sandy.....................................Charles W. Chesnutt
Dave's Neckliss...............................Charles W. Chesnutt
The Awakening of the Negro....................Booker T. Washington
The Story of Uncle Tom's Cabin................Charles Dudley Warner
Strivings of the Negro People.................W. E. Burghardt Du Bois
The Wife of his Youth.........................Charles W. Chesnutt
The Bouquet...................................Charles W. Chesnutt
The Case of the Negro.........................Booker T. Washington
Hot-Foot Hannibal.............................Charles W. Chesnutt
A Negro Schoolmaster in the New South.........W. E. Burghardt Du Bois
The Capture of a Slaver.......................J. Taylor Wood
Mr. Charles W. Chesnutt's Stories.............W. D. Howells
Paths of Hope for the Negro
Practical Suggestions of a Southerner.........Jerome Dowd
Signs of Progress Among the Negroes...........Booker T. Washington
The March of Progress.........................Charles W. Chesnutt
The Freedmen's Bureau.........................W. E. Burghardt Du Bois
Of the Training of Black Men..................W. E. Burghardt Du Bois
The Fruits of Industrial Training.............Booker T. Washington
The Negro in the Regular Army.................Oswald Garrison Villard
Baxter's Procrustes...........................Charles W. Chesnutt
The Heart of the Race Problem.................Quincy Ewing
Negro Suffrage in a Democracy.................Ray Stannard Baker

Bibliography of Sources

by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Many years ago, the few readers of radical Abolitionist papers
must often have seen the singular name of Sojourner Truth,
announced as a frequent speaker at Anti-Slavery meetings, and as
travelling on a sort of self-appointed agency through the country.
I had myself often remarked the name, but never met the
individual. On one occasion, when our house was filled with
company, several eminent clergymen being our guests, notice was
brought up to me that Sojourner Truth was below, and requested an
interview. Knowing nothing of her but her singular name, I went
down, prepared to make the interview short, as the pressure of
many other engagements demanded.

When I went into the room, a tall, spare form arose to meet me.
She was evidently a full-blooded African, and though now aged and
worn with many hardships, still gave the impression of a physical
development which in early youth must have been as fine a specimen
of the torrid zone as Cumberworth's celebrated statuette of the
Negro Woman at the Fountain. Indeed, she so strongly reminded me
of that figure, that, when I recall the events of her life, as she
narrated them to me, I imagine her as a living, breathing
impersonation of that work of art.

I do not recollect ever to have been conversant with any one who
had more of that silent and subtle power which we call personal
presence than this woman. In the modern Spiritualistic
phraseology, she would be described as having a strong sphere.
Her tall form, as she rose up before me, is still vivid to my
mind. She was dressed in some stout, grayish stuff, neat and
clean, though dusty from travel. On her head, she wore a bright
Madras handkerchief, arranged as a turban, after the manner of her
race. She seemed perfectly self-possessed and at her ease,--in
fact, there was almost an unconscious superiority, not unmixed
with a solemn twinkle of humor, in the odd, composed manner in
which she looked down on me. Her whole air had at times a gloomy
sort of drollery which impressed one strangely.

"So this is YOU," she said.

"Yes," I answered.

"Well, honey, de Lord bless ye! I jes' thought I'd like to come
an' have a look at ye. You's heerd o' me, I reckon?" she added.

"Yes, I think I have. You go about lecturing, do you not?"

"Yes, honey, that's what I do. The Lord has made me a sign unto
this nation, an' I go round a'testifyin', an' showin' on 'em their
sins agin my people."

So saying, she took a seat, and, stooping over and crossing her
arms on her knees, she looked down on the floor, and appeared to
fall into a sort of reverie. Her great gloomy eyes and her dark
face seemed to work with some undercurrent of feeling; she sighed
deeply, and occasionally broke out,--

"O Lord! O Lord! Oh, the tears, an' the groans, an' the moans!
O Lord!"

I should have said that she was accompanied by a little grandson
of ten years,--the fattest, jolliest woolly-headed little specimen
of Africa that one can imagine. He was grinning and showing his
glistening white teeth in a state of perpetual merriment, and at
this moment broke out into an audible giggle, which disturbed the
reverie into which his relative was falling.

She looked at him with an indulgent sadness, and then at me.

"Laws, Ma'am, HE don't know nothin' about it--HE don't. Why, I've
seen them poor critters, beat an' 'bused an' hunted, brought in
all torn,--ears hangin' all in rags, where the dogs been a'bitin'
of 'em!"

This set off our little African Puck into another giggle, in which
he seemed perfectly convulsed.

She surveyed him soberly, without the slightest irritation.

"Well, you may bless the Lord you CAN laugh; but I tell you, 't
wa'n't no laughin' matter."

By this time I thought her manner so original that it might be
worth while to call down my friends; and she seemed perfectly well
pleased with the idea. An audience was what she wanted,--it
mattered not whether high or low, learned or ignorant. She had
things to say, and was ready to say them at all times, and to any

I called down Dr. Beecher, Professor Allen, and two or three other
clergymen, who, together with my husband and family, made a
roomful. No princess could have received a drawing-room with more
composed dignity than Sojourner her audience. She stood among
them, calm and erect, as one of her own native palm-trees waving
alone in the desert. I presented one after another to her, and at
last said,--

"Sojourner, this is Dr. Beecher. He is a very celebrated

"IS he?" she said, offering her hand in a condescending manner,
and looking down on his white head. "Ye dear lamb, I'm glad to
see ye! De Lord bless ye! I loves preachers. I'm a kind o'
preacher myself."

"You are?" said Dr. Beecher. "Do you preach from the Bible?"

"No, honey, can't preach from de Bible,--can't read a letter."

"Why, Sojourner, what do you preach from, then?"

Her answer was given with a solemn power of voice, peculiar to
herself, that hushed every one in the room.

"When I preaches, I has jest one text to preach from, an' I always
preaches from this one. MY text is, 'WHEN I FOUND JESUS.'"

"Well, you couldn't have a better one," said one of the ministers.

She paid no attention to him, but stood and seemed swelling with
her own thoughts, and then began this narration:--

"Well, now, I'll jest have to go back, an' tell ye all about it.
Ye see, we was all brought over from Africa, father an' mother an'
I, an' a lot more of us; an' we was sold up an' down, an' hither
an' yon; an' I can 'member, when I was a little thing, not bigger
than this 'ere," pointing to her grandson, "how my ole mammy would
sit out o' doors in the evenin', an' look up at the stars an'
groan. She'd groan an' groan, an' says I to her,--

"'Mammy, what makes you groan so?'

"an' she'd say,--

"'Matter enough, chile! I'm groanin' to think o' my poor
children: they don't know where I be, an' I don't know where they
be; they looks up at the stars, an' I looks up at the stars, but I
can't tell where they be.

"'Now,' she said, 'chile, when you're grown up, you may be sold
away from your mother an' all your ole friends, an' have great
troubles come on ye; an' when you has these troubles come on ye,
ye jes' go to God, an' He'll help ye.'

"An' says I to her,--

"'Who is God, anyhow, mammy?'

"An' says she,--

"'Why, chile, you jes' look up DAR! It's Him that made all DEM!"

"Well, I didn't mind much 'bout God in them days. I grew up
pretty lively an' strong, an' could row a boat, or ride a horse,
or work round, an' do 'most anything.

"At last I got sold away to a real hard massa an' missis. Oh, I
tell you, they WAS hard! 'Peared like I couldn't please 'em,
nohow. An' then I thought o' what my old mammy told me about God;
an' I thought I'd got into trouble, sure enough, an' I wanted to
find God, an' I heerd some one tell a story about a man that met
God on a threshin'-floor, an' I thought, 'Well an' good, I'll have
a threshin'-floor, too.' So I went down in the lot, an' I
threshed down a place real hard, an' I used to go down there every
day, an' pray an' cry with all my might, a-prayin' to the Lord to
make my massa an' missis better, but it didn't seem to do no good;
an' so says I, one day,--

"'O God, I been a-askin' ye, an' askin' ye, an' askin' ye, for all
this long time, to make my massa an' missis better, an' you don't
do it, an' what CAN be the reason? Why, maybe you CAN'T. Well, I
shouldn't wonder ef you couldn't. Well, now, I tell you, I'll
make a bargain with you. Ef you'll help me to git away from my
massa an' missis, I'll agree to be good; but ef you don't help me,
I really don't think I can be. Now,' says I, 'I want to git away;
but the trouble's jest here: ef I try to git away in the night, I
can't see; an' ef I try to git away in the daytime, they'll see
me, an' be after me.'

"Then the Lord said to me, 'Git up two or three hours afore
daylight, an' start off.'

"An' says I, 'Thank 'ee, Lord! that's a good thought.'

"So up I got, about three o'clock in the mornin', an' I started
an' travelled pretty fast, till, when the sun rose, I was clear
away from our place an' our folks, an' out o' sight. An' then I
begun to think I didn't know nothin' where to go. So I kneeled
down, and says I,--

"'Well, Lord, you've started me out, an' now please to show me
where to go.'

"Then the Lord made a house appear to me, an' He said to me that I
was to walk on till I saw that house, an' then go in an' ask the
people to take me. An' I travelled all day, an' didn't come to
the house till late at night; but when I saw it, sure enough, I
went in, an' I told the folks that the Lord sent me; an' they was
Quakers, an' real kind they was to me. They jes' took me in, an'
did for me as kind as ef I'd been one of 'em; an' after they'd giv
me supper, they took me into a room where there was a great, tall,
white bed; an' they told me to sleep there. Well, honey, I was
kind o' skeered when they left me alone with that great white bed;
'cause I never had been in a bed in my life. It never came into
my mind they could mean me to sleep in it. An' so I jes' camped
down under it, on the floor, an' then I slep' pretty well. In the
mornin', when they came in, they asked me ef I hadn't been asleep;
an' I said, 'Yes, I never slep' better.' An' they said, 'Why, you
haven't been in the bed!' An' says I, 'Laws, you didn't think o'
such a thing as my sleepin' in dat 'ar' BED, did you? I never
heerd o' such a thing in my life.'

"Well, ye see, honey, I stayed an' lived with 'em. An' now jes'
look here: instead o' keepin' my promise an' bein' good, as I told
the Lord I would, jest as soon as everything got a'goin' easy, I

"Pretty well don't need no help; an' I gin up prayin.' I lived
there two or three years, an' then the slaves in New York were all
set free, an' ole massa came to our home to make a visit, an' he
asked me ef I didn't want to go back an' see the folks on the ole
place. An' I told him I did. So he said, ef I'd jes' git into
the wagon with him, he'd carry me over. Well, jest as I was goin'
out to git into the wagon, I MET GOD! an' says I, 'O God, I didn't
know as you was so great!' An' I turned right round an' come into
the house, an' set down in my room; for 't was God all around me.
I could feel it burnin', burnin', burnin' all around me, an' goin'
through me; an' I saw I was so wicked, it seemed as ef it would
burn me up. An' I said, 'O somebody, somebody, stand between God
an' me! for it burns me!' Then, honey, when I said so, I felt as
it were somethin' like an amberill [umbrella] that came between me
an' the light, an' I felt it was SOMEBODY,--somebody that stood
between me an' God; an' it felt cool, like a shade; an' says I,
'Who's this that stands between me an' God? Is it old Cato?' He
was a pious old preacher; but then I seemed to see Cato in the
light, an' he was all polluted an' vile, like me; an' I said, 'Is
it old Sally?' an' then I saw her, an' she seemed jes' so. An'
then says I, 'WHO is this?' An' then, honey, for a while it was
like the sun shinin' in a pail o' water, when it moves up an'
down; for I begun to feel 't was somebody that loved me; an' I
tried to know him. An' I said, 'I know you! I know you! I know
you!'--an' then I said, 'I don't know you! I don't know you! I
don't know you!' An' when I said, 'I know you, I know you,' the
light came; an' when I said, 'I don't know you, I don't know you,'
it went, jes' like the sun in a pail o' water. An' finally
somethin' spoke out in me an' said, 'THIS IS JESUS!' An' I spoke
out with all my might, an' says I, 'THIS IS JESUS! Glory be to
God!' An' then the whole world grew bright, an' the trees they
waved an' waved in glory, an' every little bit o' stone on the
ground shone like glass; an' I shouted an' said, 'Praise, praise,
praise to the Lord!' An' I begun to feel such a love in my soul
as I never felt before,--love to all creatures. An' then, all of
a sudden, it stopped, an' I said, 'Dar's de white folks, that have
abused you an' beat you an' abused your people,--think o' them!'
But then there came another rush of love through my soul, an' I
cried out loud,--'Lord, Lord, I can love EVEN DE WHITE FOLKS!'

"Honey, I jes' walked round an' round in a dream. Jesus loved me!
I knowed it,--I felt it. Jesus was my Jesus. Jesus would love me
always. I didn't dare tell nobody; 't was a great secret.
Everything had been got away from me that I ever had; an' I
thought that ef I let white folks know about this, maybe they'd
get HIM away,--so I said, 'I'll keep this close. I won't let any
one know.'"

"But, Sojourner, had you never been told about Jesus Christ?"

"No, honey. I hadn't heerd no preachin',--been to no meetin'.
Nobody hadn't told me. I'd kind o' heerd of Jesus, but thought he
was like Gineral Lafayette, or some o' them. But one night there
was a Methodist meetin' somewhere in our parts, an' I went; an'
they got up an' begun for to tell der 'speriences; an' de fust one
begun to speak. I started, 'cause he told about Jesus. 'Why,'
says I to myself, 'dat man's found him, too!' An' another got up
an' spoke, an I said, 'He's found him, too!' An' finally I said,
'Why, they all know him!' I was so happy! An' then they sung
this hymn": (Here Sojourner sang, in a strange, cracked voice, but
evidently with all her soul and might, mispronouncing the English,
but seeming to derive as much elevation and comfort from bad
English as from good):--

'There is a holy city,
A world of light above,
Above the stairs and regions,*
Built by the God of Love.

"An Everlasting temple,
And saints arrayed in white
There serve their great Redeemer
And dwell with him in light.

"The meanest child of glory
Outshines the radiant sun;
But who can speak the splendor
Of Jesus on his throne?

"Is this the man of sorrows
Who stood at Pilate's bar,
Condemned by haughty Herod
And by his men of war?

"He seems a mighty conqueror,
Who spoiled the powers below,
And ransomed many captives
From everlasting woe.

"The hosts of saints around him
Proclaim his work of grace,
The patriarchs and prophets,
And all the godly race,

"Who speak of fiery trials
And tortures on their way;
They came from tribulation
To everlasting day.

"And what shall be my journey,
How long I'll stay below,
Or what shall be my trials,
Are not for me to know.

"In every day of trouble
I'll raise my thoughts on high,
I'll think of that bright temple
And crowns above the sky."

* Starry regions.

I put in this whole hymn, because Sojourner, carried away with her
own feeling, sang it from beginning to end with a triumphant
energy that held the whole circle around her intently listening.
She sang with the strong barbaric accent of the native African,
and with those indescribable upward turns and those deep gutturals
which give such a wild, peculiar power to the negro singing,--but
above all, with such an overwhelming energy of personal
appropriation that the hymn seemed to be fused in the furnace of
her feelings and come out recrystallized as a production of her

It is said that Rachel was wont to chant the "Marseillaise" in a
manner that made her seem, for the time, the very spirit and
impersonation of the gaunt, wild, hungry, avenging mob which rose
against aristocratic oppression; and in like manner, Sojourner,
singing this hymn, seemed to impersonate the fervor of Ethiopia,
wild, savage, hunted of all nations, but burning after God in her
tropic heart, and stretching her scarred hands towards the glory
to be revealed.

"Well, den ye see, after a while, I thought I'd go back an' see de
folks on de ole place. Well, you know, de law had passed dat de
culled folks was all free; an' my old missis, she had a daughter
married about dis time who went to live in Alabama,--an' what did
she do but give her my son, a boy about de age of dis yer, for her
to take down to Alabama? When I got back to de ole place, they
told me about it, an' I went right up to see ole missis, an' says

"'Missis, have you been an' sent my son away down to Alabama?'

"'Yes, I have,' says she; 'he's gone to live with your young

"'Oh, Missis,' says I, 'how could you do it?'

"'Poh!' says she, 'what a fuss you make about a little nigger!
Got more of 'em now than you know what to do with.'

"I tell you, I stretched up. I felt as tall as the world!

"'Missis,' says I, 'I'LL HAVE MY SON BACK AGIN!'

"She laughed.

"'YOU will, you nigger? How you goin' to do it? You ha'n't got
no money."

"'No, Missis,--but GOD has,--an' you'll see He'll help me!'--an' I
turned round an' went out.

"Oh, but I WAS angry to have her speak to me so haughty an' so
scornful, as ef my chile wasn't worth anything. I said to God, 'O
Lord, render unto her double!' It was a dreadful prayer, an' I
didn't know how true it would come.

"Well, I didn't rightly know which way to turn; but I went to the
Lord, an' I said to Him, 'O Lord, ef I was as rich as you be, an'
you was as poor as I be, I'd help you,--you KNOW I would; and, oh,
do help me!' An' I felt sure then that He would.

"Well, I talked with people, an' they said I must git the case
before a grand jury. So I went into the town when they was
holdin' a court, to see ef I could find any grand jury. An' I
stood round the court-house, an' when they was a-comin' out, I
walked right up to the grandest-lookin' one I could see, an' says
I to him,--

"'Sir, be you a grand jury?'

"An' then he wanted to know why I asked, an' I told him all about
it; an' he asked me all sorts of questions, an' finally he says to

"'I think, ef you pay me ten dollars, that I'd agree to git your
son for you.' An' says he, pointin' to a house over the way, 'You
go 'long an' tell your story to the folks in that house, an' I
guess they'll give you the money.'

"Well, I went, an' I told them, an' they gave me twenty dollars;
an' then I thought to myself, 'Ef ten dollars will git him, twenty
dollars will git him SARTIN.' So I carried it to the man all out,
an' said,--

"'Take it all,--only be sure an' git him.'

"Well, finally they got the boy brought back; an' then they tried
to frighten him, an' to make him say that I wasn't his mammy, an'
that he didn't know me; but they couldn't make it out. They gave
him to me, an' I took him an' carried him home; an' when I came to
take off his clothes, there was his poor little back all covered
with scars an' hard lumps, where they'd flogged him.

"Well, you see, honey, I told you how I prayed the Lord to render
unto her double. Well, it came true; for I was up at ole missis'
house not long after, an' I heerd 'em readin' a letter to her how
her daughter's husband had murdered her,--how he'd thrown her down
an' stamped the life out of her, when he was in liquor; an' my ole
missis, she giv a screech, an' fell flat on the floor. Then says
I, 'O Lord, I didn't mean all that! You took me up too quick.'

"Well, I went in an' tended that poor critter all night. She was
out of her mind,--a-cryin', an' callin' for her daughter; an' I
held her poor ole head on my arm, an' watched for her as ef she'd
been my babby. An' I watched by her, an' took care on her all
through her sickness after that, an' she died in my arms, poor

"Well, Sojourner, did you always go by this name?"

"No, 'deed! My name was Isabella; but when I left the house of
bondage, I left everything behind. I wa'n't goin' to keep nothin'
of Egypt on me, an' so I went to the Lord an' asked Him to give me
a new name. And the Lord gave me Sojourner, because I was to
travel up an' down the land, showin' the people their sins, an'
bein' a sign unto them. Afterwards I told the Lord I wanted
another name, 'cause everybody else had two names; and the Lord
gave me Truth, because I was to declare the truth to the people.

"Ye see some ladies have given me a white satin banner," she said,
pulling out of her pocket and unfolding a white banner, printed
with many texts, such as, "Proclaim liberty throughout all the
land unto all the inhabitants thereof," and others of like nature.
"Well," she said, "I journeys round to camp-meetins, an' wherever
folks is, an' I sets up my banner, an' then I sings, an' then
folks always comes up round me, an' then I preaches to 'em. I
tells 'em about Jesus, an' I tells 'em about the sins of this
people. A great many always comes to hear me; an' they're right
good to me, too, an' say they want to hear me agin."

We all thought it likely; and as the company left her, they shook
hands with her, and thanked her for her very original sermon; and
one of the ministers was overheard to say to another, "There's
more of the gospel in that story than in most sermons."

Sojourner stayed several days with us, a welcome guest. Her
conversation was so strong, simple, shrewd, and with such a droll
flavoring of humor, that the Professor was wont to say of an
evening, "Come, I am dull, can't you get Sojourner up here to talk
a little?" She would come up into the parlor, and sit among
pictures and ornaments, in her simple stuff gown, with her heavy
travelling-shoes, the central object of attention both to parents
and children, always ready to talk or to sing, and putting into
the common flow of conversation the keen edge of some shrewd

"Sojourner, what do you think of Women's Rights?"

"Well, honey, I's ben to der meetins, an' harked a good deal. Dey
wanted me for to speak. So I got up. Says I,--'Sisters, I a'n't
clear what you'd be after. Ef women want any rights more 'n dey's
got, why don't dey jes' TAKE 'EM, an' not be talkin' about it?'
Some on 'em came round me, an' asked why I didn't wear Bloomers.
An' I told 'em I had Bloomers enough when I was in bondage. You
see," she said, "dey used to weave what dey called nigger-cloth,
an' each one of us got jes' sech a strip, an' had to wear it
width-wise. Them that was short got along pretty well, but as for
me"--She gave an indescribably droll glance at her long limbs
and then at us, and added,--"Tell YOU, I had enough of Bloomers in
them days."

Sojourner then proceeded to give her views of the relative
capacity of the sexes, in her own way.

"S'pose a man's mind holds a quart, an' a woman's don't hold but a
pint; ef her pint is FULL, it's as good as his quart."

Sojourner was fond of singing an extraordinary lyric, commencing,--

"I'm on my way to Canada,
That cold, but happy land;
The dire effects of Slavery
I can no longer stand.
O righteous Father,
Do look down on me,
And help me on to Canada,
Where colored folks are free!"

The lyric ran on to state, that, when the fugitive crosses the
Canada line,

"The Queen comes down unto the shore,
With arms extended wide,
To welcome the poor fugitive
Safe onto Freedom's side."

In the truth thus set forth she seemed to have the most simple

But her chief delight was to talk of "glory," and to sing hymns
whose burden was,--

"O glory, glory, glory,
Won't you come along with me?"

and when left to herself, she would often hum these with great
delight, nodding her head.

On one occasion, I remember her sitting at a window singing and
fervently keeping time with her head, the little black Puck of a
grandson meanwhile amusing himself with ornamenting her red-and-
yellow turban with green dandelion-curls, which shook and trembled
with her emotions, causing him perfect convulsions of delight.

"Sojourner," said the Professor to her, one day, when he heard her
singing, "you seem to be very sure about heaven."

"Well, I be," she answered, triumphantly.

"What makes you so sure there is any heaven?"

"Well, 'cause I got such a hankerin' arter it in here," she said,--
giving a thump on her breast with her usual energy.

There was at the time an invalid in the house, and Sojourner, on
learning it, felt a mission to go and comfort her. It was curious
to see the tall, gaunt, dusky figure stalk up to the bed with such
an air of conscious authority, and take on herself the office of
consoler with such a mixture of authority and tenderness. She
talked as from above,--and at the same time, if a pillow needed
changing or any office to be rendered, she did it with a strength
and handiness that inspired trust. One felt as if the dark,
strange woman were quite able to take up the invalid in her bosom,
and bear her as a lamb, both physically and spiritually. There
was both power and sweetness in that great warm soul and that
vigorous frame.

At length, Sojourner, true to her name, departed. She had her
mission elsewhere. Where now she is I know not; but she left deep
memories behind her.

To these recollections of my own I will add one more anecdote,
related by Wendell Phillips.

Speaking of the power of Rachel to move and bear down a whole
audience by a few simple words, he said he never knew but one
other human being that had that power, and that other was
Sojourner Truth. He related a scene of which he was witness. It
was at a crowded public meeting in Faneuil Hall, where Frederick
Douglas was one of the chief speakers. Douglas had been
describing the wrongs of the black race, and as he proceeded, he
grew more and more excited, and finally ended by saying that they
had no hope of justice from the whites, no possible hope except in
their own right arms. It must come to blood; they must fight for
themselves, and redeem themselves, or it would never be done.

Sojourner was sitting, tall and dark, on the very front seat,
facing the platform; and in the hush of deep feeling, after
Douglas sat down, she spoke out in her deep, peculiar voice, heard
all over the house,--

"Frederick, IS GOD DEAD?"

The effect was perfectly electrical, and thrilled through the
whole house, changing as by a flash the whole feeling of the
audience. Not another word she said or needed to say; it was

It is with a sad feeling that one contemplates noble minds and
bodies, nobly and grandly formed human beings, that have come to
us cramped, scarred, maimed, out of the prison-house of bondage.
One longs to know what such beings might have become, if suffered
to unfold and expand under the kindly developing influences of

It is the theory of some writers, that to the African is reserved,
in the later and palmier days of the earth, the full and
harmonious development of the religious element in man. The
African seems to seize on the tropical fervor and luxuriance of
Scripture imagery as something native; he appears to feel himself
to be of the same blood with those old burning, simple souls, the
patriarchs, prophets, and seers, whose impassioned words seem only
grafted as foreign plants on the cooler stock of the Occidental

I cannot but think that Sojourner with the same culture might have
spoken words as eloquent and undying as those of the African Saint
Augustine or Tertullian. How grand and queenly a woman she might
have been, with her wonderful physical vigor, her great heaving
sea of emotion, her power of spiritual conception, her quick
penetration, and her boundless energy! We might conceive an
African type of woman so largely made and moulded, so much fuller
in all the elements of life, physical and spiritual, that the dark
hue of the skin should seem only to add an appropriate charm,--as
Milton says of his Penseroso, whom he imagines

"Black, but such as in esteem
Prince Memnon's sister might beseem,
Or that starred Ethiop queen that strove
To set her beauty's praise above
The sea-nymph's."

But though Sojourner Truth has passed away from among us as a wave
of the sea, her memory still lives in one of the loftiest and most
original works of modern art, the Libyan Sibyl, by Mr. Story,
which attracted so much attention in the late World's Exhibition.
Some years ago, when visiting Rome, I related Sojourner's history
to Mr. Story at a breakfast at his house. Already had his mind
begun to turn to Egypt in search of a type of art which should
represent a larger and more vigorous development of nature than
the cold elegance of Greek lines. His glorious Cleopatra was then
in process of evolution, and his mind was working out the problem
of her broadly developed nature, of all that slumbering weight and
fulness of passion with which this statue seems charged, as a
heavy thunder-cloud is charged with electricity.

The history of Sojourner Truth worked in his mind and led him into
the deeper recesses of the African nature,--those unexplored
depths of being and feeling, mighty and dark as the gigantic
depths of tropical forests, mysterious as the hidden rivers and
mines of that burning continent whose life-history is yet to be.
A few days after, he told me that he had conceived the idea of a
statue which he should call the Libyan Sibyl. Two years
subsequently, I revisited Rome, and found the gorgeous Cleopatra
finished, a thing to marvel at, as the creation of a new style of
beauty, a new manner of art. Mr. Story requested me to come and
repeat to him the history of Sojourner Truth, saying that the
conception had never left him. I did so; and a day or two after,
he showed me the clay model of the Libyan Sibyl. I have never
seen the marble statue; but am told by those who have, that it was
by far the most impressive work of art at the Exhibition.

A notice of the two statues from the London "Athenaeum" must
supply a description which I cannot give.

"The Cleopatra and the Sibyl are seated, partly draped, with the
characteristic Egyptian gown, that gathers about the torso and
falls freely around the limbs; the first is covered to the bosom,
the second bare to the hips. Queenly Cleopatra rests back against
her chair in meditative ease, leaning her cheek against one hand,
whose elbow the rail of the seat sustains; the other is
outstretched upon her knee, nipping its forefinger upon the thumb
thoughtfully, as though some firm, wilful purpose filled her
brain, as it seems to set those luxurious features to a smile as
if the whole woman 'would.' Upon her head is the coif, bearing in
front the mystic uraeus, or twining basilisk of sovereignty, while
from its sides depend the wide Egyptian lappels, or wings, that
fall upon her shoulders. The Sibilla Libica has crossed her
knees,--an action universally held amongst the ancients as
indicative of reticence or secrecy, and of power to bind. A
secret-keeping looking dame she is, in the full-bloom proportions
of ripe womanhood, wherein choosing to place his figure the
sculptor has deftly gone between the disputed point whether these
women were blooming and wise in youth, or deeply furrowed with age
and burdened with the knowledge of centuries, as Virgil, Livy, and
Gellius say. Good artistic example might be quoted on both sides.
Her forward elbow is propped upon one knee; and to keep her
secrets close, for this Libyan woman is the closest of all the
Sibyls, she rests her shut mouth upon one closed palm, as if
holding the African mystery deep in the brooding brain that looks
out through mournful, warning eyes, seen under the wide shade of
the strange horned (ammonite) crest, that bears the mystery of the
Tetragrammaton upon its upturned front. Over her full bosom,
mother of myriads as she was, hangs the same symbol. Her face has
a Nubian cast, her hair wavy and plaited, as is meet."

We hope to see the day when copies both of the Cleopatra and the
Libyan Sibyl shall adorn the Capitol at Washington.

by Frederick Douglass

The assembling of the Second Session of the Thirty-ninth Congress
may very properly be made the occasion of a few earnest words on
the already much-worn topic of reconstruction.

Seldom has any legislative body been the subject of a solicitude
more intense, or of aspirations more sincere and ardent. There
are the best of reasons for this profound interest. Questions of
vast moment, left undecided by the last session of Congress, must
be manfully grappled with by this. No political skirmishing will
avail. The occasion demands statesmanship.

Whether the tremendous war so heroically fought and so
victoriously ended shall pass into history a miserable failure,
barren of permanent results,--a scandalous and shocking waste of
blood and treasure,--a strife for empire, as Earl Russell
characterized it, of no value to liberty or civilization,--an
attempt to re-establish a Union by force, which must be the merest
mockery of a Union,--an effort to bring under Federal authority
States into which no loyal man from the North may safely enter,
and to bring men into the national councils who deliberate with
daggers and vote with revolvers, and who do not even conceal their
deadly hate of the country that conquered them; or whether, on the
other hand, we shall, as the rightful reward of victory over
treason, have a solid nation, entirely delivered from all
contradictions and social antagonisms, based upon loyalty,
liberty, and equality, must be determined one way or the other by
the present session of Congress. The last session really did
nothing which can be considered final as to these questions. The
Civil Rights Bill and the Freedmen's Bureau Bill and the proposed
constitutional amendments, with the amendment already adopted and
recognized as the law of the land, do not reach the difficulty,
and cannot, unless the whole structure of the government is
changed from a government by States to something like a despotic
central government, with power to control even the municipal
regulations of States, and to make them conform to its own
despotic will. While there remains such an idea as the right of
each State to control its own local affairs,--an idea, by the way,
more deeply rooted in the minds of men of all sections of the
country than perhaps any one other political idea,--no general
assertion of human rights can be of any practical value. To
change the character of the government at this point is neither
possible nor desirable. All that is necessary to be done is to
make the government consistent with itself, and render the rights
of the States compatible with the sacred rights of human nature.

The arm of the Federal government is long, but it is far too short
to protect the rights of individuals in the interior of distant
States. They must have the power to protect themselves, or they
will go unprotected, spite of all the laws the Federal government
can put upon the national statute-book.

Slavery, like all other great systems of wrong, founded in the
depths of human selfishness, and existing for ages, has not
neglected its own conservation. It has steadily exerted an
influence upon all around it favorable to its own continuance.
And to-day it is so strong that it could exist, not only without
law, but even against law. Custom, manners, morals, religion, are
all on its side everywhere in the South; and when you add the
ignorance and servility of the ex-slave to the intelligence and
accustomed authority of the master, you have the conditions, not
out of which slavery will again grow, but under which it is
impossible for the Federal government to wholly destroy it, unless
the Federal government be armed with despotic power, to blot out
State authority, and to station a Federal officer at every cross-
road. This, of course, cannot be done, and ought not even if it
could. The true way and the easiest way is to make our government
entirely consistent with itself, and give to every loyal citizen
the elective franchise,--a right and power which will be ever
present, and will form a wall of fire for his protection.

One of the invaluable compensations of the late Rebellion is the
highly instructive disclosure it made of the true source of danger
to republican government. Whatever may be tolerated in
monarchical and despotic governments, no republic is safe that
tolerates a privileged class, or denies to any of its citizens
equal rights and equal means to maintain them. What was theory
before the war has been made fact by the war.

There is cause to be thankful even for rebellion. It is an
impressive teacher, though a stern and terrible one. In both
characters it has come to us, and it was perhaps needed in both.
It is an instructor never a day before its time, for it comes only
when all other means of progress and enlightenment have failed.
Whether the oppressed and despairing bondman, no longer able to
repress his deep yearnings for manhood, or the tyrant, in his
pride and impatience, takes the initiative, and strikes the blow
for a firmer hold and a longer lease of oppression, the result is
the same,--society is instructed, or may be.

Such are the limitations of the common mind, and so thoroughly
engrossing are the cares of common life, that only the few among
men can discern through the glitter and dazzle of present
prosperity the dark outlines of approaching disasters, even though
they may have come up to our very gates, and are already within
striking distance. The yawning seam and corroded bolt conceal
their defects from the mariner until the storm calls all hands to
the pumps. Prophets, indeed, were abundant before the war; but
who cares for prophets while their predictions remain unfulfilled,
and the calamities of which they tell are masked behind a blinding
blaze of national prosperity?

It is asked, said Henry Clay, on a memorable occasion, Will
slavery never come to an end? That question, said he, was asked
fifty years ago, and it has been answered by fifty years of
unprecedented prosperity. Spite of the eloquence of the earnest
Abolitionists,--poured out against slavery during thirty years,--
even they must confess, that, in all the probabilities of the
case, that system of barbarism would have continued its horrors
far beyond the limits of the nineteenth century but for the
Rebellion, and perhaps only have disappeared at last in a fiery
conflict, even more fierce and bloody than that which has now been

It is no disparagement to truth, that it can only prevail where
reason prevails. War begins where reason ends. The thing worse
than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion. What that
thing is, we have been taught to our cost. It remains now to be
seen whether we have the needed courage to have that cause
entirely removed from the Republic. At any rate, to this grand
work of national regeneration and entire purification Congress
must now address Itself, with full purpose that the work shall
this time be thoroughly done. The deadly upas, root and branch,
leaf and fibre, body and sap, must be utterly destroyed. The
country is evidently not in a condition to listen patiently to
pleas for postponement, however plausible, nor will it permit the
responsibility to be shifted to other shoulders. Authority and
power are here commensurate with the duty imposed. There are no
cloud-flung shadows to obscure the way. Truth shines with
brighter light and intenser heat at every moment, and a country
torn and rent and bleeding implores relief from its distress and

If time was at first needed, Congress has now had time. All the
requisite materials from which to form an intelligent judgment are
now before it. Whether its members look at the origin, the
progress, the termination of the war, or at the mockery of a peace
now existing, they will find only one unbroken chain of argument
in favor of a radical policy of reconstruction. For the omissions
of the last session, some excuses may be allowed. A treacherous
President stood in the way; and it can be easily seen how
reluctant good men might be to admit an apostasy which involved so
much of baseness and ingratitude. It was natural that they should
seek to save him by bending to him even when he leaned to the side
of error. But all is changed now. Congress knows now that it
must go on without his aid, and even against his machinations.
The advantage of the present session over the last is immense.
Where that investigated, this has the facts. Where that walked by
faith, this may walk by sight. Where that halted, this must go
forward, and where that failed, this must succeed, giving the
country whole measures where that gave us half-measures, merely as
a means of saving the elections in a few doubtful districts. That
Congress saw what was right, but distrusted the enlightenment of
the loyal masses; but what was forborne in distrust of the people
must now be done with a full knowledge that the people expect and
require it. The members go to Washington fresh from the inspiring
presence of the people. In every considerable public meeting, and
in almost every conceivable way, whether at court-house, school-
house, or cross-roads, in doors and out, the subject has been
discussed, and the people have emphatically pronounced in favor of
a radical policy. Listening to the doctrines of expediency and
compromise with pity, impatience, and disgust, they have
everywhere broken into demonstrations of the wildest enthusiasm
when a brave word has been spoken in favor of equal rights and
impartial suffrage. Radicalism, so far from being odious, is not
the popular passport to power. The men most bitterly charged with
it go to Congress with the largest majorities, while the timid and
doubtful are sent by lean majorities, or else left at home. The
strange controversy between the President and the Congress, at one
time so threatening, is disposed of by the people. The high
reconstructive powers which he so confidently, ostentatiously, and
haughtily claimed, have been disallowed, denounced, and utterly
repudiated; while those claimed by Congress have been confirmed.

Of the spirit and magnitude of the canvass nothing need be said.
The appeal was to the people, and the verdict was worthy of the
tribunal. Upon an occasion of his own selection, with the advice
and approval of his astute Secretary, soon after the members of
the Congress had returned to their constituents, the President
quitted the executive mansion, sandwiched himself between two
recognized heroes,--men whom the whole country delighted to
honor,--and, with all the advantage which such company could give
him, stumped the country from the Atlantic to the Mississippi,
advocating everywhere his policy as against that of Congress. It
was a strange sight, and perhaps the most disgraceful exhibition
ever made by any President; but, as no evil is entirely unmixed,
good has come of this, as from many others. Ambitious,
unscrupulous, energetic, indefatigable, voluble, and plausible,--a
political gladiator, ready for a "set-to" in any crowd,--he is
beaten in his own chosen field, and stands to-day before the
country as a convicted usurper, a political criminal, guilty of a
bold and persistent attempt to possess himself of the legislative
powers solemnly secured to Congress by the Constitution. No
vindication could be more complete, no condemnation could be more
absolute and humiliating. Unless reopened by the sword, as
recklessly threatened in some circles, this question is now closed
for all time.

Without attempting to settle here the metaphysical and somewhat
theological question (about which so much has already been said
and written), whether once in the Union means always in the
Union,--agreeably to the formula, Once in grace always in grace,--
it is obvious to common sense that the rebellious States stand to-
day, in point of law, precisely where they stood when, exhausted,
beaten, conquered, they fell powerless at the feet of Federal
authority. Their State governments were overthrown, and the lives
and property of the leaders of the Rebellion were forfeited. In
reconstructing the institutions of these shattered and overthrown
States, Congress should begin with a clean slate, and make clean
work of it. Let there be no hesitation. It would be a cowardly
deference to a defeated and treacherous President, if any account
were made of the illegitimate, one-sided, sham governments hurried
into existence for a malign purpose in the absence of Congress.
These pretended governments, which were never submitted to the
people, and from participation in which four millions of the loyal
people were excluded by Presidential order, should now be treated
according to their true character, as shams and impositions, and
supplanted by true and legitimate governments, in the formation of
which loyal men, black and white, shall participate.

It is not, however, within the scope of this paper to point out
the precise steps to be taken, and the means to be employed. The
people are less concerned about these than the grand end to be
attained. They demand such a reconstruction as shall put an end
to the present anarchical state of things in the late rebellious
States,--where frightful murders and wholesale massacres are
perpetrated in the very presence of Federal soldiers. This
horrible business they require shall cease. They want a
reconstruction such as will protect loyal men, black and white, in
their persons and property; such a one as will cause Northern
industry, Northern capital, and Northern civilization to flow into
the South, and make a man from New England as much at home in
Carolina as elsewhere in the Republic. No Chinese wall can now be
tolerated. The South must be opened to the light of law and
liberty, and this session of Congress is relied upon to accomplish
this important work.

The plain, common-sense way of doing this work, as intimated at
the beginning, is simply to establish in the South one law, one
government, one administration of justice, one condition to the
exercise of the elective franchise, for men of all races and
colors alike. This great measure is sought as earnestly by loyal
white men as by loyal blacks, and is needed alike by both. Let
sound political prescience but take the place of an unreasoning
prejudice, and this will be done.

Men denounce the negro for his prominence in this discussion; but
it is no fault of his that in peace as in war, that in conquering
Rebel armies as in reconstructing the rebellious States, the right
of the negro is the true solution of our national troubles. The
stern logic of events, which goes directly to the point,
disdaining all concern for the color or features of men, has
determined the interests of the country as identical with and
inseparable from those of the negro.

The policy that emancipated and armed the negro--now seen to have
been wise and proper by the dullest--was not certainly more
sternly demanded than is now the policy of enfranchisement. If
with the negro was success in war, and without him failure, so in
peace it will be found that the nation must fall or flourish with
the negro.

Fortunately, the Constitution of the United States knows no
distinction between citizens on account of color. Neither does it
know any difference between a citizen of a State and a citizen of
the United States. Citizenship evidently includes all the rights
of citizens, whether State or national. If the Constitution knows
none, it is clearly no part of the duty of a Republican Congress
now to institute one. The mistake of the last session was the
attempt to do this very thing, by a renunciation of its power to
secure political rights to any class of citizens, with the obvious
purpose to allow the rebellious States to disfranchise, if they
should see fit, their colored citizens. This unfortunate blunder
must now be retrieved, and the emasculated citizenship given to
the negro supplanted by that contemplated in the Constitution of
the United States, which declares that the citizens of each State
shall enjoy all the rights and immunities of citizens of the
several States,--so that a legal voter in any State shall be a
legal voter in all the States.

by Frederick Douglas

A very limited statement of the argument for impartial suffrage,
and for including the negro in the body politic, would require
more space than can be reasonably asked here. It is supported by
reasons as broad as the nature of man, and as numerous as the
wants of society. Man is the only government-making animal in the
world. His right to a participation in the production and
operation of government is an inference from his nature, as direct
and self-evident as is his right to acquire property or education.
It is no less a crime against the manhood of a man, to declare
that he shall not share in the making and directing of the
government under which he lives, than to say that he shall not
acquire property and education. The fundamental and unanswerable
argument in favor of the enfranchisement of the negro is found in
the undisputed fact of his manhood. He is a man, and by every
fact and argument by which any man can sustain his right to vote,
the negro can sustain his right equally. It is plain that, if the
right belongs to any, it belongs to all. The doctrine that some
men have no rights that others are bound to respect, is a doctrine
which we must banish as we have banished slavery, from which it
emanated. If black men have no rights in the eyes of white men,
of course the whites can have none in the eyes of the blacks. The
result is a war of races, and the annihilation of all proper human

But suffrage for the negro, while easily sustained upon abstract
principles, demands consideration upon what are recognized as the
urgent necessities of the case. It is a measure of relief,--a
shield to break the force of a blow already descending with
violence, and render it harmless. The work of destruction has
already been set in motion all over the South. Peace to the
country has literally meant war to the loyal men of the South,
white and black; and negro suffrage is the measure to arrest and
put an end to that dreadful strife.

Something then, not by way of argument, (for that has been done by
Charles Sumner, Thaddeus Stevens, Wendell Phillips, Gerrit Smith,
and other able men,) but rather of statement and appeal.

For better or for worse, (as in some of the old marriage
ceremonies,) the negroes are evidently a permanent part of the
American population. They are too numerous and useful to be
colonized, and too enduring and self-perpetuating to disappear by
natural causes. Here they are, four millions of them, and, for
weal or for woe, here they must remain. Their history is parallel
to that of the country; but while the history of the latter has
been cheerful and bright with blessings, theirs has been heavy and
dark with agonies and curses. What O'Connell said of the history
of Ireland may with greater truth be said of the negro's. It may
be "traced like a wounded man through a crowd, by the blood." Yet
the negroes have marvellously survived all the exterminating
forces of slavery, and have emerged at the end of two hundred and
fifty years of bondage, not morose, misanthropic, and revengeful,
but cheerful, hopeful, and forgiving. They now stand before
Congress and the country, not complaining of the past, but simply
asking for a better future. The spectacle of these dusky millions
thus imploring, not demanding, is touching; and if American
statesmen could be moved by a simple appeal to the nobler elements
of human nature, if they had not fallen, seemingly, into the
incurable habit of weighing and measuring every proposition of
reform by some standard of profit and loss, doing wrong from
choice, and right only from necessity or some urgent demand of
human selfishness, it would be enough to plead for the negroes on
the score of past services and sufferings. But no such appeal
shall be relied on here. Hardships, services, sufferings, and
sacrifices are all waived. It is true that they came to the
relief of the country at the hour of its extremest need. It is
true that, in many of the rebellious States, they were almost the
only reliable friends the nation had throughout the whole
tremendous war. It is true that, notwithstanding their alleged
ignorance, they were wiser than their masters, and knew enough to
be loyal, while those masters only knew enough to be rebels and
traitors. It is true that they fought side by side in the loyal
cause with our gallant and patriotic white soldiers, and that, but
for their help,--divided as the loyal States were,--the Rebels
might have succeeded in breaking up the Union, thereby entailing
border wars and troubles of unknown duration and incalculable
calamity. All this and more is true of these loyal negroes. Many
daring exploits will be told to their credit. Impartial history
will paint them as men who deserved well of their country. It
will tell how they forded and swam rivers, with what consummate
address they evaded the sharp-eyed Rebel pickets, how they toiled
in the darkness of night through the tangled marshes of briers and
thorns, barefooted and weary, running the risk of losing their
lives, to warn our generals of Rebel schemes to surprise and
destroy our loyal army. It will tell how these poor people, whose
rights we still despised, behaved to our wounded soldiers, when
found cold, hungry, and bleeding on the deserted battle-field; how
they assisted our escaping prisoners from Andersonville, Belle
Isle, Castle Thunder, and elsewhere, sharing with them their
wretched crusts, and otherwise affording them aid and comfort; how
they promptly responded to the trumpet call for their services,
fighting against a foe that denied them the rights of civilized
warfare, and for a government which was without the courage to
assert those rights and avenge their violation in their behalf;
with what gallantry they flung themselves upon Rebel
fortifications, meeting death as fearlessly as any other troops in
the service. But upon none of these things is reliance placed.
These facts speak to the better dispositions of the human heart;
but they seem of little weight with the opponents of impartial

It is true that a strong plea for equal suffrage might be
addressed to the national sense of honor. Something, too, might
be said of national gratitude. A nation might well hesitate
before the temptation to betray its allies. There is something
immeasurably mean, to say nothing of the cruelty, in placing the
loyal negroes of the South under the political power of their
Rebel masters. To make peace with our enemies is all well enough;
but to prefer our enemies and sacrifice our friends,--to exalt our
enemies and cast down our friends,--to clothe our enemies, who
sought the destruction of the government, with all political
power, and leave our friends powerless in their hands,--is an act
which need not be characterized here. We asked the negroes to
espouse our cause, to be our friends, to fight for us, and against
their masters; and now, after they have done all that we asked
them to do,--helped us to conquer their masters, and thereby
directed toward themselves the furious hate of the vanquished,--it
is proposed in some quarters to turn them over to the political
control of the common enemy of the government and of the negro.
But of this let nothing be said in this place. Waiving humanity,
national honor, the claims of gratitude, the precious satisfaction
arising from deeds of charity and justice to the weak and
defenceless,--the appeal for impartial suffrage addresses itself
with great pertinency to the darkest, coldest, and flintiest side
of the human heart, and would wring righteousness from the
unfeeling calculations of human selfishness.

For in respect to this grand measure it is the good fortune of the
negro that enlightened selfishness, not less than justice, fights
on his side. National interest and national duty, if elsewhere
separated, are firmly united here. The American people can,
perhaps, afford to brave the censure of surrounding nations for
the manifest injustice and meanness of excluding its faithful
black soldiers from the ballot-box, but it cannot afford to allow
the moral and mental energies of rapidly increasing millions to be
consigned to hopeless degradation.

Strong as we are, we need the energy that slumbers in the black
man's arm to make us stronger. We want no longer any heavy-
footed, melancholy service from the negro. We want the cheerful
activity of the quickened manhood of these sable millions. Nor
can we afford to endure the moral blight which the existence of a
degraded and hated class must necessarily inflict upon any people
among whom such a class may exist. Exclude the negroes as a class
from political rights,--teach them that the high and manly
privilege of suffrage is to be enjoyed by white citizens only,--
that they may bear the burdens of the state, but that they are to
have no part in its direction or its honors,--and you at once
deprive them of one of the main incentives to manly character and
patriotic devotion to the interests of the government; in a word,
you stamp them as a degraded caste,--you teach them to despise
themselves, and all others to despise them. Men are so
constituted that they largely derive their ideas of their
abilities and their possibilities from the settled judgments of
their fellow-men, and especially from such as they read in the
institutions under which they live. If these bless them, they are
blest indeed; but if these blast them, they are blasted indeed.
Give the negro the elective franchise, and you give him at once a
powerful motive for all noble exertion, and make him a man among
men. A character is demanded of him, and here as elsewhere demand
favors supply. It is nothing against this reasoning that all men
who vote are not good men or good citizens. It is enough that the
possession and exercise of the elective franchise is in itself an
appeal to the nobler elements of manhood, and imposes education as
essential to the safety of society.

To appreciate the full force of this argument, it must be
observed, that disfranchisement in a republican government based
upon the idea of human equality and universal suffrage, is a very
different thing from disfranchisement in governments based upon
the idea of the divine right of kings, or the entire subjugation
of the masses. Masses of men can take care of themselves.
Besides, the disabilities imposed upon all are necessarily without
that bitter and stinging element of invidiousness which attaches
to disfranchisement in a republic. What is common to all works no
special sense of degradation to any. But in a country like ours,
where men of all nations, kindred, and tongues are freely
enfranchised, and allowed to vote, to say to the negro, You shall
not vote, is to deal his manhood a staggering blow, and to burn
into his soul a bitter and goading sense of wrong, or else work in
him a stupid indifference to all the elements of a manly
character. As a nation, we cannot afford to have amongst us
either this indifference and stupidity, or that burning sense of
wrong. These sable millions are too powerful to be allowed to
remain either indifferent or discontented. Enfranchise them, and
they become self-respecting and country-loving citizens.
Disfranchise them, and the mark of Cain is set upon them less
mercifully than upon the first murderer, for no man was to hurt
him. But this mark of inferiority--all the more palpable because
of a difference of color--not only dooms the negro to be a
vagabond, but makes him the prey of insult and outrage everywhere.
While nothing may be urged here as to the past services of the
negro, it is quite within the line of this appeal to remind the
nation of the possibility that a time may come when the services
of the negro may be a second time required. History is said to
repeat itself, and, if so, having wanted the negro once, we may
want him again. Can that statesmanship be wise which would leave
the negro good ground to hesitate, when the exigencies of the
country required his prompt assistance? Can that be sound
statesmanship which leaves millions of men in gloomy discontent,
and possibly in a state of alienation in the day of national
trouble? Was not the nation stronger when two hundred thousand
sable soldiers were hurled against the Rebel fortifications, than
it would have been without them? Arming the negro was an urgent
military necessity three years ago,--are we sure that another
quite as pressing may not await us? Casting aside all thought of
justice and magnanimity, is it wise to impose upon the negro all
the burdens involved in sustaining government against foes within
and foes without, to make him equal sharer in all sacrifices for
the public good, to tax him in peace and conscript him in war, and
then coldly exclude him from the ballot-box?

Look across the sea. Is Ireland, in her present condition,
fretful, discontented, compelled to support an establishment in
which she does not believe, and which the vast majority of her
people abhor, a source of power or of weakness to Great Britain?
Is not Austria wise in removing all ground of complaint against
her on the part of Hungary? And does not the Emperor of Russia
act wisely, as well as generously, when he not only breaks up the
bondage of the serf, but extends him all the advantages of Russian
citizenship? Is the present movement in England in favor of
manhood suffrage--for the purpose of bringing four millions of
British subjects into full sympathy and co-operation with the
British government--a wise and humane movement, or otherwise? Is
the existence of a rebellious element in our borders--which New
Orleans, Memphis, and Texas show to be only disarmed, but at heart
as malignant as ever, only waiting for an opportunity to reassert
itself with fire and sword--a reason for leaving four millions of
the nation's truest friends with just cause of complaint against
the Federal government? If the doctrine that taxation should go
hand in hand with representation can be appealed to in behalf of
recent traitors and rebels, may it not properly be asserted in
behalf of a people who have ever been loyal and faithful to the
government? The answers to these questions are too obvious to
require statement. Disguise it as we may, we are still a divided
nation. The Rebel States have still an anti-national policy.
Massachusetts and South Carolina may draw tears from the eyes of
our tender-hearted President by walking arm in arm into his
Philadelphia Convention, but a citizen of Massachusetts is still
an alien in the Palmetto State. There is that, all over the
South, which frightens Yankee industry, capital, and skill from
its borders. We have crushed the Rebellion, but not its hopes or
its malign purposes. The South fought for perfect and permanent
control over the Southern laborer. It was a war of the rich
against the poor. They who waged it had no objection to the
government, while they could use it as a means of confirming their
power over the laborer. They fought the government, not because
they hated the government as such, but because they found it, as
they thought, in the way between them and their one grand purpose
of rendering permanent and indestructible their authority and
power over the Southern laborer. Though the battle is for the
present lost, the hope of gaining this object still exists, and
pervades the whole South with a feverish excitement. We have thus
far only gained a Union without unity, marriage without love,
victory without peace. The hope of gaining by politics what they
lost by the sword, is the secret of all this Southern unrest; and
that hope must be extinguished before national ideas and objects
can take full possession of the Southern mind. There is but one
safe and constitutional way to banish that mischievous hope from
the South, and that is by lifting the laborer beyond the
unfriendly political designs of his former master. Give the negro
the elective franchise, and you at once destroy the purely
sectional policy, and wheel the Southern States into line with
national interests and national objects. The last and shrewdest
turn of Southern politics is a recognition of the necessity of
getting into Congress immediately, and at any price. The South
will comply with any conditions but suffrage for the negro. It
will swallow all the unconstitutional test oaths, repeal all the
ordinances of Secession, repudiate the Rebel debt, promise to pay
the debt incurred in conquering its people, pass all the
constitutional amendments, if only it can have the negro left
under its political control. The proposition is as modest as that
made on the mountain: "All these things will I give unto thee if
thou wilt fall down and worship me."

But why are the Southerners so willing to make these sacrifices?
The answer plainly is, they see in this policy the only hope of
saving something of their old sectional peculiarities and power.
Once firmly seated in Congress, their alliance with Northern
Democrats re-established, their States restored to their former
position inside the Union, they can easily find means of keeping
the Federal government entirely too busy with other important
matters to pay much attention to the local affairs of the Southern
States. Under the potent shield of State Rights, the game would
be in their own hands. Does any sane man doubt for a moment that
the men who followed Jefferson Davis through the late terrible
Rebellion, often marching barefooted and hungry, naked and
penniless, and who now only profess an enforced loyalty, would
plunge this country into a foreign war to-day, if they could
thereby gain their coveted independence, and their still more
coveted mastery over the negroes? Plainly enough, the peace not
less than the prosperity of this country is involved in the great
measure of impartial suffrage. King Cotton is deposed, but only
deposed, and is ready to-day to reassert all his ancient
pretensions upon the first favorable opportunity. Foreign
countries abound with his agents. They are able, vigilant,
devoted. The young men of the South burn with the desire to
regain what they call the lost cause; the women are noisily
malignant towards the Federal government. In fact, all the
elements of treason and rebellion are there under the thinnest
disguise which necessity can impose.

What, then, is the work before Congress? It is to save the people
of the South from themselves, and the nation from detriment on
their account. Congress must supplant the evident sectional
tendencies of the South by national dispositions and tendencies.
It must cause national ideas and objects to take the lead and
control the politics of those States. It must cease to recognize
the old slave-masters as the only competent persons to rule the
South. In a word, it must enfranchise the negro, and by means of
the loyal negroes and the loyal white men of the South build up a
national party there, and in time bridge the chasm between North
and South, so that our country may have a common liberty and a
common civilization. The new wine must be put into new bottles.
The lamb may not be trusted with the wolf. Loyalty is hardly safe
with traitors.

Statesmen of America! beware what you do. The ploughshare of
rebellion has gone through the land beam-deep. The soil is in
readiness, and the seed-time has come. Nations, not less than
individuals, reap as they sow. The dreadful calamities of the
past few years came not by accident, nor unbidden, from the
ground. You shudder to-day at the harvest of blood sown in the
spring-time of the Republic by your patriot fathers. The
principle of slavery, which they tolerated under the erroneous
impression that it would soon die out, became at last the dominant
principle and power at the South. It early mastered the
Constitution, became superior to the Union, and enthroned itself
above the law.

Freedom of speech and of the press it slowly but successfully
banished from the South, dictated its own code of honor and
manners to the nation, brandished the bludgeon and the bowie-knife
over Congressional debate, sapped the foundations of loyalty,
dried up the springs of patriotism, blotted out the testimonies of
the fathers against oppression, padlocked the pulpit, expelled
liberty from its literature, invented nonsensical theories about
master-races and slave-races of men, and in due season produced a
Rebellion fierce, foul, and bloody.

This evil principle again seeks admission into our body politic.
It comes now in shape of a denial of political rights to four
million loyal colored people. The South does not now ask for
slavery. It only asks for a large degraded caste, which shall
have no political rights. This ends the case. Statesmen, beware
what you do. The destiny of unborn and unnumbered generations is
in your hands. Will you repeat the mistake of your fathers, who
sinned ignorantly? or will you profit by the blood-bought wisdom
all round you, and forever expel every vestige of the old
abomination from our national borders? As you members of the
Thirty-ninth Congress decide, will the country be peaceful,
united, and happy, or troubled, divided, and miserable.

by James B. Runnion

A recent sojourn in the South for a few weeks, chiefly in
Louisiana and Mississippi, gave the writer an opportunity to
inquire into what has been so aptly called "the negro exodus."
The emigration of blacks to Kansas began early in the spring of
this year. For a time there was a stampede from two or three of
the river parishes in Louisiana and as many counties opposite in
Mississippi. Several thousand negroes (certainly not fewer than
five thousand, and variously estimated as high as ten thousand)
had left their cabins before the rush could be stayed or the
excitement lulled. Early in May most of the negroes who had quit
work for the purpose of emigrating, but had not succeeded in
getting off, were persuaded to return to the plantations, and from
that time on there have been only straggling families and groups
that have watched for and seized the first opportunity for
transportation to the North. There is no doubt, however, that
there is still a consuming desire among the negroes of the cotton
districts in these two States to seek new homes, and there are the
best reasons for believing that the exodus will take a new start
next spring, after the gathering and conversion of the growing
crop. Hundreds of negroes who returned from the river-banks for
lack of transportation, and thousands of others infected with the
ruling discontent, are working harder in the fields this summer,
and practicing more economy and self-denial than ever before, in
order to have the means next winter and spring to pay their way to
the "promised land."

"We've been working for fourteen long years," said an intelligent
negro, in reply to a question as to the cause of the prevailing
discontent, "and we ain't no better off than we was when we
commenced." This is the negro version of the trouble, which is
elaborated on occasion into a harrowing story of oppression and

"I tell you it's all owing to the radical politicians at the
North," explained a representative of the type known as the
Bourbons; "they've had their emissaries down here, and deluded the
'niggers' into a very fever of emigration, with the purpose of
reducing our basis of representation in Congress and increasing
that of the Northern States."

These are the two extremes of opinion at the South. The first is
certainly the more reasonable and truthful, though it implies that
all the blame rests upon the whites, which is not the case; the
second, preposterous as it will appear to Northern readers, is
religiously believed by large numbers of the "unreconciled."
Between these two extremes there is an infinite variety of
theories, all more or less governed by the political faction to
which the various theorizers belong; there are at least a dozen of
these factions, such as the Bourbons, the conservatives, the
native white republicans, the carpet-bag republicans, the negro
republicans, etc. There is a political tinge in almost everything
in the extreme Southern States. The fact seems to be that the
emigration movement among the blacks was spontaneous to the extent
that they were ready and anxious to go. The immediate notion of
going may have been inculcated by such circulars, issued by
railroads and land companies, as are common enough at emigrant
centres in the North and West, and the exaggeration characteristic
of such literature may have stimulated the imagination of the
negroes far beyond anything they are likely to realize in their
new homes. Kansas was naturally the favorite goal of the negro
emigre, for it was associated in his mind with the names of Jim
Lane and John Brown, which are hallowed to him. The timid learned
that they could escape what they have come to regard as a second
bondage, and they flocked together to gain the moral support which
comes from numbers.

Diligent inquiry among representative men, of all classes and from
all parts of Louisiana, who were in attendance at the
constitutional convention in New Orleans, and careful observation
along the river among the land owners and field hands in both
Louisiana and Mississippi, left a vivid impression of some
material and political conditions which fully account for the
negro exodus. I have dropped the social conditions out of the
consideration, because I became convinced that the race troubles
at the South can be solved to the satisfaction of both whites and
blacks without cultivating any closer social relations than those
which now prevail. The material conditions which I have in mind
are less familiar than the political conditions; they are mainly
the land-tenure and credit systems, and mere modifications
(scarcely for the better) of the peculiar plantation system of
slavery days.

The cotton lands at the South are owned now, as they were before
the war, in large tracts. The land was about all that most of the
Southern whites had left to them after the war, and they kept it
when they could, at the first, in the hope that it would yield
them a living through the labor of the blacks; of late years they
have not been able to sell their plantations at any fair price, if
they desired to do so. The white men with capital who went to the
South from the North after the war seemed to acquire the true
Southern ambition to be large land owners and planters; and when
the ante-bellum owners lost their plantations the land usually
went in bulk to the city factors who had made them advances from
year to year, and had taken mortgages on their crops and broad
acres. As a consequence, the land has never been distributed
among the people who inhabit and cultivate it, and agricultural
labor in the Southern States approaches the condition of the
factory labor in England and the Eastern States more nearly than
it does the farm labor of the North and West. Nearly every
agricultural laborer north of Mason and Dixon's line, if not the
actual possessor of the land he plows, looks forward to owning a
farm some time; at the South such an ambition is rare, and small
ownership still more an exception. The practice of paying day
wages was first tried after the war; this practice is still in
vogue in the sugar and rice districts, where laborers are paid
from fifty to seventy cents per day, with quarters furnished and
living guaranteed them at nine or ten cents a day. In sections
where the wages system prevails, and where there have been no
political disturbances, the negroes seem to be perfectly
contented; at all events, the emigration fever has not spread
among them. But it was found impracticable to maintain the wage
system in the cotton districts. The negroes themselves fought
against it, because it reminded them too much of the slave-gang,
driven out at daybreak and home at sundown. In many cases the
planters were forced to abandon it, because they had not the means
to carry on such huge farming, and they could not secure the same
liberal advances from capitalists as when they were able to
mortgage a growing "crop of niggers." Then the system of working
on shares was tried. This was reasonably fair, and the negro
laborers were satisfied as long as it lasted. The owners of the
land, under this system, would furnish the indispensable mule and
the farming implements, and take one half the product. The
planters themselves relinquished this system. Some of them
contend that the laziness and indifference of the negro made the
partnership undesirable; many others admit that they were not able
to advance the negro tenant his supplies pending the growth of the
year's crop, as it was necessary they should do under the sharing
system. Now the renting system is almost universal. It yields
the land owner a certainty, endangered only by the death,
sickness, or desertion of the negro tenant; but it throws the
latter upon his own responsibility, and frequently makes him the
victim of his own ignorance and the rapacity of the white man.
The rent of land, on a money basis, varies from six to ten dollars
an acre per year, while the same land can be bought in large
quantities all the way from fifteen to thirty dollars per acre,
according to location, clearing, improvement, richness, etc. When
paid in product, the rent varies from eighty to one hundred pounds
of lint cotton per acre for land that produces from two hundred to
four hundred pounds of cotton per acre; the tenant undertakes to
pay from one quarter to one half--perhaps an average of one third--
of his crop for the use of the land, without stock, tools, or
assistance of any kind. The land owners usually claim that they
make no money even at these exorbitant figures. If they do not,
it is because only a portion of their vast possessions is under
cultivation, because they do no work themselves, and in some cases
because the negroes do not cultivate and gather as large a crop as
they could and ought to harvest. It is very certain that the
negro tenants, as a class, make no money; if they are out of debt
at the end of a season, they have reason to rejoice.

The credit system, which is as universal as the renting system, is
even more illogical and oppressive. The utter viciousness of both
systems in their mutual dependence is sufficiently illustrated by
the single fact that, after fourteen years of freedom and labor on
their own account, the great mass of the negroes depend for their
living on an advance of supplies (as they need food, clothing, or
tools during the year) upon the pledge of their growing crop.
This is a generic imitation of the white man's improvidence during
the slavery times; then the planters mortgaged their crops and
negroes, and where one used the advances to extend his plantation,
ten squandered the money. The negro's necessities have developed
an offensive race, called merchants by courtesy, who keep supply
stores at the cross-roads and steamboat landings, and live upon
extortion. These people would be called sharks, harpies, and
vampires in any Northwestern agricultural community, and they
would not survive more than one season. The country merchant
advances the negro tenant such supplies as the negro wants up to a
certain amount, previously fixed by contract, and charges the
negro at least double the value of every article sold to him.
There is no concealment about the extortion; every store-keeper
has his cash price and his credit price, and in nearly all cases
the latter is one hundred per cent. higher than the former. The
extortion is justified by those who practice it on the ground that
their losses by bad debts, though their advances are always
secured by mortgage on the growing crop, overbalance the profits;
this assertion is scarcely borne out by the comparative opulence
of the "merchant" and the pitiful poverty of the laborer. Some of
the largest and wealthiest planters have sought to protect their
tenants from the merciless clutches of the contrary merchant, who
is more frequently than not an Israelite, by advancing supplies of
necessary articles at reasonable prices. But the necessities of
the planter, if not his greed, often betray him into plundering
the negro. The planter himself is generally a victim to usury.
He still draws on the city factor to the extent of ten dollars a
bale upon his estimated crop. He pays this factor two and one
half per cent. commission for the advance, eight per cent.
interest for the money, two and one half per cent. more for
disposing of the crop when consigned to him, and sometimes still
another commission for the purchase of the supplies. The planter
who furnishes his tenants with supplies on credit is usually
paying an interest of fifteen to eighteen per cent. himself, and
necessarily takes some risk in advancing upon an uncertain crop
and to a laborer whom he believes to be neither scrupulous nor
industrious; these conditions necessitate more than the ordinary
profit, and in many cases suggest exorbitant and unreasonable
charges. But whether the negro deals with the merchant or the
land owner, his extravagance almost invariably exhausts his
credit, even if it be large. The negro is a sensuous creature,
and luxurious in his way. The male is an enormous consumer of
tobacco and whisky; the female has an inordinate love for
flummery; both are fond of sardines, potted meats, and canned
goods generally, and they indulge themselves without any other
restraint than the refusal of their merchant to sell to them. The
man who advances supplies watches his negro customers constantly;
if they are working well and their crop promises to be large, he
will permit and even encourage them to draw upon him liberally; it
is only a partial failure of the crop, or some intimation of the
negro's intention to shirk his obligations, that induces his
country factor to preach the virtue of self-restraint, or moralize
upon the advantages of economy.

The land owner's rent and the merchant's advances are both secured
by a chattel mortgage on the tenant's personal property, and by a
pledge of the growing crop. The hired laborer (for it is common
for negroes to work for wages for other negroes who rent lands)
has also a lien upon the growing crops second only to the land
owner's; but as the law requires that the liens shall be recorded,
which the ignorant laborer usually neglects and the shrewd
merchant never fails to do, the former is generally cheated of his
security. Among those who usually work for hire are the women,
who are expert cotton pickers, and the loss of wages which so many
of them have suffered by reason of the prior lien gained by
landlord and merchant has helped to make them earnest and
effective advocates of emigration. The Western farmer considers
it hard enough to struggle under one mortgage at a reasonable
interest; the negro tenant begins his season with three mortgages,
covering all he owns, his labor for the coming year, and all he
expects to acquire during that period. He pays one third his
product for the use of the land; he pays double the value of all
he consumes; he pays an exorbitant fee for recording the contract
by which he pledges his pound of flesh; he is charged two or three
times as much as he ought to pay for ginning his cotton; and,
finally, he turns over his crop to be eaten up in commissions, if
anything still be left to him. It is easy to understand why the
negro rarely gets ahead in the world. This mortgaging of future
services, which is practically what a pledge of the growing crop
amounts to, is in the nature of bondage. It has a tendency to
make the negro extravagant, reckless, and unscrupulous; he has
become convinced from previous experience that nothing will be
coming to him on the day of settlement, and he is frequently
actuated by the purpose of getting as much as possible and working
as little as possible. Cases are numerous in which the negro
abandons his own crop at picking time, because he knows that he
has already eaten up its full value; and so he goes to picking for
wages on some other plantation. In other cases, where negroes
have acquired mules and farming implements upon which a merchant
has secured a mortgage in the manner described, they are
practically bound to that merchant from year to year, in order to
retain their property; if he removes from one section to another,
they must follow him, and rent and cultivate lands in his
neighborhood. It is only the ignorance, the improvidence, and the
happy disposition of the negro, under the influence of the lazy,
drowsy climate, to which he is so well adapted physically, that
have enabled him to endure these hardships so long. And, though
the negro is the loser, the white man is not often the gainer,
from this false plantation and mercantile system. The incidental
risk may not be so large as the planter and merchant pretend, but
the condition of the people is an evidence that the extortion they
practice yields no better profit in the long run than would be
gained by competition in fair prices on a cash system; and in
leading up to a general emigration of the laboring population the
abuses described will eventually ruin and impoverish those who
have heretofore been the only beneficiaries thereof. The decay of
improvements inevitable under annual rentings, the lack of
sufficient labor to cultivate all the good land, and the universal
idleness of the rural whites have kept the land owners
comparatively poor; the partial failure of crops and the
unscrupulousness of the negro debtor, engendered by the infamous
exactions of his creditor, have prevented the merchants, as a
class, from prospering as much as might be supposed; and, finally,
the uniform injustice to the laborers induces them to fly to ills
they know not of, rather than bear those they have. It is a
blessing to the negro that the laws do not yet provide for a
detention of the person in the case of debt, or escape would be
shut off entirely; as it is, various influences and circumstances
appertaining to the system in vogue have been used to prevent the
easy flight of those who desire to go, and have detained thousands
of blacks for a time who are fretting to quit the country.

Political oppression has contributed largely to the discontent
which is the prime cause of the exodus. "Bulldozing" is the term
by which all forms of this oppression are known. The native
whites are generally indisposed to confess that the negroes are
quitting the country on account of political injustice and
persecution; even those who freely admit and fitly characterize
the abuses already described seek to deny, or at least belittle,
the political abuses. The fact that a large number of negroes
have emigrated from Madison Parish, Louisiana, where there has
never been any bulldozing, and where the negroes are in full and
undisputed political control, is cited as proof that political
disturbances cut no figure in the case. But the town of Delta, in
Madison Parish, is at once on the river and the terminus of a
railroad that runs back through the interior of the State; thus
Madison Parish would furnish the natural exit for the fugitives
from the adjoining counties, where there have been political
disturbances. It would be just as reasonable to contend that the
plundering of the negroes has had no influence in driving them
away, since many of those who have emigrated were among the most
prosperous of the blacks, as to deny the agency of political
persecution. Families that had been able to accumulate a certain
amount of personal property, in spite of the extortionate
practices, sold their mules, their implements, their cows, their
pigs, their sheep, and their household goods for anything they
would bring,--frequently as low as one sixth of their value,--in
order that they might improve an immediate opportunity to go away;
it is evident that there must have been some cause outside of
extortion in their case. There are candid native whites who do
not deny, but justify, the violent methods which have been
employed to disfranchise the negroes, or compel them to vote under
white dictation, in many parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, on
the ground that the men who pay the taxes should vote them and
control the disbursement of the public moneys. The gentlemen who
advance this argument seem to ignore the fact that the very
Northerner whom they are seeking to convert to "the Mississippi
plan" may himself be a taxpayer in some Northern city, where
public affairs are controlled by a class of voters in every way as
ignorant and irresponsible as the blacks, but where bulldozing has
never yet been suggested as a remedy. For the rest, the evidences
of political oppression are abundant and convincing. The
bulldozers as a class are more impecunious and irresponsible than
the negroes, and, unlike the negroes, they will not work. There
has been more of the "night-riding," the whippings, the mysterious
disappearances, the hangings, and the terrorism comprehended in
the term bulldozing than has been reported by those "abstracts and
brief chronicles of the time," the Southern newspapers, which are
now all of one party, and defer to the ruling sentiment among the
whites. The exodus has wrung from two or three of the more candid
and independent journals, however, a virtual confession of the
fiendish practices of bulldozing in their insistance that these
practices must be abandoned. The non-resident land owners and the
resident planters, the city factors and the country merchants of
means and respectability, have taken no personal part in the
terrorizing of the negro, but they have tolerated it, and
sometimes encouraged it, in order to gratify their preference for
"white government." The negroes have suffered the more because
they have not resisted and defended themselves; now they have
begun to convince those who have persecuted them that, if they
will not strike back, they can and will run away. No one who is
at all familiar with the freedman can doubt that the abridgment of
his political rights has been one of the main causes of the
exodus. Voting is widely regarded at the North as a disagreeable
duty, but the negro looks upon it as the highest privilege in
life; to be frightened out of the exercise of this privilege, or
compelled to exercise it in conflict with his convictions and
preferences, is to suffer from a cruel injustice, which the negro
will now try to escape, since he has learned that escape is
possible. The women, though free from personal assaults, suffer
from the terrorism that prevails in certain districts as much as
the men. "We might as well starve or freeze to death in Kansas,"
they say, "as to be shot-gunned here." If they talk to you in
confidence, they declare that the ruling purpose is to escape from
the "slaughter-pens" of the South. Political persecution, and
not the extortion they suffer, is the refrain of all the speakers
at negro meetings that are held in encouragement and aid of the
emigration. It is idle to deny that the varied injustice which
the negroes have suffered as voters is accountable for a large
part of their universal yearning for new homes, and it will be
folly for the responsible classes at the South to ignore this

As it is the negroes who are fleeing from the South, it is natural
to look among the dominant class for the injustice which is
driving them away; but it would be unfair to conclude that the
blame rests entirely upon the whites, and still more so to leave
the impression that there is no extenuation for the mistakes and
abuses for which the whites are responsible. Much of the
intimidation of the blacks has been tolerated, if not suggested,
by a fear of negro uprisings. The apprehension is a legacy from
the days of slavery, and is more unreasonable now than it was
then; but still it exists. This is not an excuse, but an
explanation. The Pharaohs of the time of Moses were in constant
dread lest the Hebrews under their rule should go over to their
enemies, and their dread doubtless increased the cruelty of the
Egyptians; but, while this dread was an extenuation in the eyes of
the persecutors, it did not prevent the Hebrews from fleeing the
persecution. So the blacks are going without regard to the
justification which the whites may set up for their treatment; the
only difference between the old and new exodus is that, as the
writer heard one negro speaker express it, "every black man is his
own Moses in this exodus." The negro may be lazy; it seems
impossible to be otherwise in the Southern climate. He may not be
willing to work on Saturdays, no matter how urgent the necessity;
the indulgence in holidays is said to be one of the chief
drawbacks to the advancement of the emancipated serfs of Russia.
The blacks are certainly extravagant in their way, though the word
seems to be almost misused in connection with a race who live
largely on pork and molasses, and rarely wear more than half a
dollar's worth of clothes at one time. They have not the instinct
of home as it prevails among the whites, but incline to a crude
and unsystematic communism; the negro quarters of the old
plantations are all huddled together in the centre, and, except
where the land owners have interfered to encourage a different
life, there is still too much promiscuousness in the relation of
the sexes. The negro, as a rule, has no ambition to become a land
owner; he prefers to invest his surplus money, when he has any, in
personal and movable property. In most cases where the blacks
have been given the opportunity of buying land on long time, and
paying yearly installments out of the proceeds of their annual
crops, they have tired of the bargain after a year or two, and
abandoned the contract. The negro politicians and preachers are
not all that reformers and moralists would have them; the
imitative faculty of the African has betrayed the black politician
into many of the vicious ways of the white politician, and the
colored preacher is frequently not above "the pomps and vanity of
this wicked world." All this is the more unfortunate, as the
blacks have a child-like confidence in their chosen leaders,
founded partly on their primitive character, and partly on their
distrust of the native whites. Both their politicians and their
preachers have given abundant evidence of their insincerity during
the excitement of emigration by blowing hot and blowing cold; by
talking to the negroes one way, and to the whites another; and
even to the extent, in some instances, of taking money to use
their influence for discouraging and impeding emigration. These
are some of the faults and misfortunes on the part of the blacks
which enter into the race troubles. The chief blame which
attaches to the whites is the failure to make a persistent effort,
by education and kind treatment, to overcome the distrust and cure
the faults of the negroes. The whites control, because they
constitute the "property and intelligence" of the South, to use
the words of a democratic statesman; this power should have been
used to gain the confidence of the blacks. Had such a course been
taken, there would not have been the fear of reenslavement, which
actually prevails to a considerable extent among the negroes. So
long as a portion of the whites entertain the conviction that the
war of the sections will be renewed within a few years, as is the
case, the negroes will suspect and dread the class who would treat
them as enemies in case the war should come, and will seek to
escape to a section of the country where they would not be so
treated. Perhaps, too, there would have been a voluntary
political division among the black voters, had the whites used
more pacific means to bring it about, and had they themselves set
the example. And last, but not least, in making up the sum of
blame that the whites must bear, is their own unwillingness to
labor, which gives the rural population too much time for mischief
and too little sympathy with the working classes.

As we have traced the causes that have led to the exodus, and
described the conditions which warrant the belief that there will
be a renewal of the emigration on a more extended scale next
spring, and endeavored to distribute the responsibility for the
troubles equitably among whites and blacks, remedies have
naturally suggested themselves to the reader; in fact, they are
more easily to be thought out than accomplished. A few general
reflections may be added, however, in order to indicate the
probable solution of the race troubles that have brought about the
exodus, if, indeed, the whites and blacks of the South are ever
going to live together in peace.

(1.) It is certain that negro labor is the best the South can
have, and equally certain that the climate and natural conditions
of the South are better suited to the negro than any others on
this continent. The alluvial lands, which many persons believe
the negroes alone can cultivate, on account of climatic
conditions, are so rich that it might literally be said it is only
necessary to tickle them with a hoe to make them laugh back a
harvest. The common prosperity of the country--the agricultural
interests of the South and the commercial interests of the North--
will be best served, therefore, by the continued residence and
labor of the blacks in the cotton States.

(2.) The fact stated in the foregoing paragraph is so well
understood at the North that the Southern people should dismiss
the idea that there is any scheming among the Northern people,
political or otherwise, to draw the black labor away from its
natural home. The same fact should also influence the people at
the North not to be misled by any professional philanthropists who
may have some self-interest in soliciting aid to facilitate negro
emigration from the South. The duty of the North in this matter
is simply to extend protection and assure safe-conduct to the
negroes, if the Southern whites attempt to impede voluntary
emigration by either law or violence. Any other course might be
cruel to the negro in encouraging him to enter on a new life in a
strange climate, as well as an injustice to the white land owners
of the South.

(3.) There is danger that the Southern whites will, as a rule,
misinterpret the meaning of the exodus. Many are inclined to
underrate its importance, and those who appreciate its
significance are apt to look for temporary and superficial
remedies. The vague promises made at the Vicksburg convention,
which was controlled by the whites, and called to consider the
emigration movement, have had no influence with the negroes,
because they have heard such promises before. Had the convention
adopted some definite plan of action, such as ex-Governor Foote,
of Mississippi, submitted, its session might not have been in
vain. This plan was to establish a committee in every county,
composed of men who have the confidence of both whites and blacks,
that should be auxiliary to the public authorities, listen to
complaints, and arbitrate, advise, conciliate, or prosecute, as
each case should demand. It is short-sighted for the Southern
people to make mere temporary concessions, such as have been made
in some cases this year, for that course would establish an annual
strike. It is folly for them to suppose they can stem the tide of
emigration by influencing the regular lines of steamboats not to
carry the refugees, for the people of the North will see that the
blacks shall not be detained in the South against their will. It
is unwise for them to devise schemes for importing Chinese, or
encouraging the immigration of white labor as a substitute for
negro labor, when they may much better bestir themselves to make
the present effective labor content.

(4.) Education will be the most useful agent to employ in the
permanent harmonizing of the two races, and the redemption of both
from the faults and follies which constitute their troubles. It
is not the education of the negro alone, whose ambition for
learning is increasing notably with every new generation, but the
education of the mass of the young whites, that is needed to
inculcate more tolerance of color and opinion, to give them an
aspiration beyond that of riding a horse and hanging a "nigger,"
and to enable them to set a better example to the imitative blacks
in the way of work and frugality. The blacks need the education
to protect them from designing white men; the whites need it to
teach them that their own interests will be best served by
abandoning bulldozing of all kinds.

(5.) Reform in the land tenure, by converting the plantation
monopolies into small holdings; abolition of the credit system, by
abandoning the laws which sustain it; a diversification of crops;
and attention to new manufacturing, maritime, and commercial
enterprises,--these are the material changes that are most needed.
They can be secured only through the active and earnest efforts of
the whites. The blacks will be found responsive.

(6.) The hope of the negro exodus at its present stage, or even
if it shall continue another season, is that the actual loss of
the valuable labor that has gone, and the prospective loss of more
labor that is anxious to go, will induce the intelligent and
responsible classes at the South to overcome their own prejudices,
and to compel the extremists, irreconcilables, and politicians
generally, of all parties, to abandon agitation, and give the
South equal peace and equal chance for black and white.

by Frederick Douglass

In the first narrative of my experience in slavery, written nearly
forty years ago, and in various writings since, I have given the
public what I considered very good reasons for withholding the
manner of my escape. In substance these reasons were, first, that
such publication at any time during the existence of slavery might
be used by the master against the slave, and prevent the future
escape of any who might adopt the same means that I did. The
second reason was, if possible, still more binding to silence: the
publication of details would certainly have put in peril the
persons and property of those who assisted. Murder itself was not
more sternly and certainly punished in the State of Maryland than
that of aiding and abetting the escape of a slave. Many colored
men, for no other crime than that of giving aid to a fugitive
slave, have, like Charles T. Torrey, perished in prison. The
abolition of slavery in my native State and throughout the
country, and the lapse of time, render the caution hitherto
observed no longer necessary. But even since the abolition of
slavery, I have sometimes thought it well enough to baffle
curiosity by saying that while slavery existed there were good
reasons for not telling the manner of my escape, and since slavery
had ceased to exist, there was no reason for telling it. I shall
now, however, cease to avail myself of this formula, and, as far
as I can, endeavor to satisfy this very natural curiosity. I
should, perhaps, have yielded to that feeling sooner, had there
been anything very heroic or thrilling in the incidents connected
with my escape, for I am sorry to say I have nothing of that sort
to tell; and yet the courage that could risk betrayal and the
bravery which was ready to encounter death, if need be, in pursuit
of freedom, were essential features in the undertaking. My
success was due to address rather than courage, to good luck
rather than bravery. My means of escape were provided for me by
the very men who were making laws to hold and bind me more
securely in slavery.

It was the custom in the State of Maryland to require the free
colored people to have what were called free papers. These
instruments they were required to renew very often, and by
charging a fee for this writing, considerable sums from time to
time were collected by the State. In these papers the name, age,
color, height, and form of the freeman were described, together
with any scars or other marks upon his person which could assist
in his identification. This device in some measure defeated
itself--since more than one man could be found to answer the same
general description. Hence many slaves could escape by
personating the owner of one set of papers; and this was often
done as follows: A slave, nearly or sufficiently answering the
description set forth in the papers, would borrow or hire them
till by means of them he could escape to a free State, and then,
by mail or otherwise, would return them to the owner. The
operation was a hazardous one for the lender as well as for the
borrower. A failure on the part of the fugitive to send back the
papers would imperil his benefactor, and the discovery of the
papers in possession of the wrong man would imperil both the
fugitive and his friend. It was, therefore, an act of supreme
trust on the part of a freeman of color thus to put in jeopardy
his own liberty that another might be free. It was, however, not
unfrequently bravely done, and was seldom discovered. I was not
so fortunate as to resemble any of my free acquaintances
sufficiently to answer the description of their papers. But I had
a friend--a sailor--who owned a sailor's protection, which
answered somewhat the purpose of free papers--describing his
person, and certifying to the fact that he was a free American
sailor. The instrument had at its head the American eagle, which
gave it the appearance at once of an authorized document. This
protection, when in my hands, did not describe its bearer very


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