The Free lance. (State College, Pa.) 1887-1904, November 01, 1890, Image 10

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    mental development requisite for an American
citizen ? Let us see. A quarter of a century
ago of all civilized people, he was necessarily th
most ignorant example of which one can con
ceive. Not one negro in a thousand knew the
letters of the alphabet. To-day twenty-five per
cent, of them can read and write. In the
states in which they equal the whites in pop
ulation, they furnish but one third of the pau
pers. They have a larger proportion of people
than the whites, who are actually enrolled as
members of Christian churches; and these
churches are self supporting. Three men of color
hold the honorable position of U. S. Represen
tative. There are fifty thousand still living, who
wore the blue and fought for the freedom of their
race. Are not these significant facts? Do they
show, in this people, a lack of enterprise ? Re
member that this government when it freed the
slave, made no provision for his education, but
left it in the hands of the very men to whom he
had been in bondage: men, who had previously
punished him whenever he atttempted to obtain
knowledge; and that his only opportunities have
been largely through institutions of charity. Do
we not see even in his impeded progress, glowing
prophecies which foretell his usefulness as a citi
zen of the Republic ?
As a result of our social and political educa
tion, the color caste is regarded by us as inherent
and natural in .the human mind. Socially, the
life of the colored man is passed in an atmos
phere of aggravating insults. In railway cars,
steamboats, hotels and theatres, he is treated
as though he were a vile creature tainted with
leprosy; even the filthiest and most ignorant
aliens are looked upon by us with more consid
eration than are the cleanest and most respecta
ble negroes. Industrially, he is restricted to the
least profitable and most menial occupations ;
the doors of our workshops are closed to him;
and saddest of all, is the social attitude toward
him of that institution which is the ideal home of
human equality, the Christian Church.
The letter of our constitution has .been respect
ed, but its spirit in his case, sadly perverted. Let
me state it to you in the language of one who is
universally lamented as a typical man of the
“New South The late Henry W. Grady:
“Ignorance, he says, may struggle up to enlight
enment; out of corruption may come the incor
ruptible; but the supremacy of the white race in
the South must be maintained forever, simply be
cause it is the white race and the superior race.”
I ask in the name of humanity, in the face of our
constitution, what could be more exasperating
or blood stirring to a true American citizen, than
these words so adverse to the spirit of our insti
Bills have been introduced into state legisla
tures whose purport has been to lower his social
standing, and attempts have been made to have
Congress appropriate money to carry the race to
Africa. Can we hope for the security of our in •
stitutions, or for any guarantee of domestic peace,
so long as the question of oppressing an unfortu
nate people is coolly discussed as a living issue
in the great councils of our nation ?
I might speak of wrongs done him which are
purely political; but. are these not enough ?
Can we not realize the true character of th;
problem ? Is it not largely a question of senti
ment, and a question of right? Yes, it is a
problem of breaking down this race prejudice
which has smouldered for centuries to the dis
grace of Christianity. It is of all the problems
of civilization the simplest, and yet the most dif
ficult, because its only remedy is justice.
The attitude of the negro himself toward this
question has hitherto been one of silence, but we
cannot long regard him a silent factor. In the
past we could say “What shall we do with the
negro,” but henceforward we must say, “What
shall we do for the negro.” The memorial sent
to congress by the recent colored convention at
Chicago, shows with what little concern they re
garded the Morgan Bill. Dust may fly, but the
earth will stand ; they will not emigrate.