by Andre E. Johnson
Director: The Henry McNeal Turner Project

I discovered Henry McNeal Turner by accident. While starting a seminar class in rhetorical criticism and trying to hone in on a dissertation topic, I ran across a speech delivered by Turner. He delivered the speech on the floor of the Georgia House of Representatives as the House debated whether African Americans could hold office in the state of Georgia. I remember reading the speech and wondering if anyone had studied Turner’s rhetoric.

However, there was a problem. Since Turner lived during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was my belief that texts to study Turner would be difficult to find. Turner, like many of his contemporaries during this time, spoke extemporaneously—not from notes or prepared texts. Moreover, unlike many other speakers during this time, Turner did not travel with a stenographer—or someone who could have written what Turner said for later publication. Going into my project, I only hoped there were enough texts to do a solid dissertation.

Imagine my surprise though when I found that Turner was one of the most prolific writers and speakers during his time and that much of his writings were not lost to history. Turner published copious amounts of material for the newspapers, magazines, and journals of his day. Turner lectured throughout the country and wrote extensively on his travels to Africa. In short, many would consider Turner a public intellectual in today’s definition of the term.

Sadly, many today have not heard of Turner. Indeed, it is as if Turner has been lost to history. I found myself always explaining to people who Turner was and why I thought, at least, he was so important. This is why this site exists. It is our intent to recover a lost voice within American and African American history. Henry McNeal Turner deserves recognition and it is our fervent hope that this site begins to serve that purpose.

Army Correspondence: May 27, 1865

Army Correspondence

Goldsboro, N.C.

May 15, 1865

Christian Recorder: May 27, 1865

MR. EDITOR: - Having seen that your columns were gorged with correspondence, I have become somewhat delinquent in what I hitherto regarded as a duty, obligatory under the most pressing circumstances, which was to keep up a weekly communication with the Recorder. Ever since you raised the Recorder from its sepulchral confinement, I have endeavored to support you and your measures for its perpetuation to the best of my ability. And now, as the paper has become indispensable to the public, and is daily growing in its wide-spreading interests, thus bringing to its aid the patronage of the best minds, both as subscribers and literary contributors, I feel that the time has nearly, if not entirely arrived, when acuter minds and abler pens can be substituted for mine.

I have been often told, under the subterfuge of a dry joke, that my letters to the Recorder, for the last five years, were written in view of personal aggrandisement. But, unfortunately for them, these parties were generally composed of that fastidiously squeamish class of persons, who have neither the ability nor the moral courage to encounter public criticism, and for whom I care no more than I do for the cackle of a hen, or the brain of a mule. I have to pull straws to the side which I hate the most, the devil, or those self-conceited timber heads. One is the base of hell, the other is the plague of the earth, and you might as well try to get honey out of a horseshoe, or music out of an elephant, as to try to get any good out of either. I make these remarks, regardless whether there are any preachers guilty of the act or not. But it is a lamentable fact, that in the very crisis that demands all the energies, gifts, attainments, natural or acquired, and every other qualification tending to give fitness and suitability, in shaping public sentiment, developing the capacities of the contrabands, moralizing our soldiers, whose unbridled lives, for the past four years, have almost buried them headlong into the vortex of irrevocable profanity, vulgarity, and impoliteness, that men, who would disdain to be called foolish, will idle away their abilities, straining at gnats and swallowing camels. But for fear I may be somewhat flaw-eyed too, and disposed to hatch mole hills into mountains, let us turn to another subject.

About the 29th ultimo, our division left Raleigh, NC, and took up our march for Goldsboro. Passing leisurely through the country, we had a pleasant time observing things under their natural exhibitions, than when we were proceeding towards Raleigh; for on our march there, it was next to impossible to see a male rebel, as they were mostly concealed in the woods. But on our return to Goldsboro, the men had come out of their private retreats, and could be seen standing in their yards, and sitting in their piazzas.

Arriving at Smithfield, we found the bridge burned, and Sherman’s pontoons all removed; thus subjecting us to the very disagreeable necessity of wading the river, which in some places was chin deep, but as this had become a familiar job, those who had no horses, went in clothed or nude, just as they chose to take it. I was much amused to see the secesh women watching with the utmost intensity, thousands of our soldiers, in a state of nudity. I suppose they desired to see whether these audacious Yankees were really men, made like other men, or if they were a set of varmints. So they thronged the windows, porticos and yards, in the finest attire imaginable. Our brave boys would disrobe themselves, hang their garments upon their bayonets and through the water they would come, walk up the street, and seem to say to the feminine gazers, “Yes, though naked, we are your masters.”

Shortly after our arrival in Smithfield, one of our sergeants called my attention to a colored lady, whose child a rebel women had hid. I immediately started for her sacred premises, and having entered her piazza, in company with the sergeant, colored woman, and a few others, the following conversation ensued: “Have you got this woman’s child?” “No! Her master carried it off.” “Where is her master, as you call him?” “He is gone to the country.” “What did he carry the child away for?” “Because he wanted to.” “Did he not know the child belonged to this woman?” “Yes! But if it is her child, it is his negro. You Yankees have a heap of impudence. What are you meddling with our negroes for? You may think the south is conquered, but she has surrendered to superior numbers. But, sir, you are sadly mistaken.” “Stop, stop!” I replied, “I don’t want anymore of your rebel parlance. You are not too good to be hung, and you had better dry up, or you might get a rope around your neck in short order.”

At this stage of our dialogue, one of the General’s Staff rode up, and she began to tell him a long story about me, weaving in a lie here, and a lie there. But he soon silenced her, by saying: “Oh, well! He has a right to say what he thinks proper! Madame, I want to know why this child is not given up!”

So she proceeded to chit chat the subject with him, and having heard as much as my stomach could digest at once, said I to the officer, “It is reported that the child is hid in town, but she says her husband has taken it into the country. I now propose, as he has five children standing here, that we take one, to be held as a hostage, until the colored child is returned to its mother.” The words had barely left my mouth, before such a running, crying, and squealing took place among the children, that my indignation melted down into laughter. The very utterance of these words frightened the children nearly to death, and made the mother tremble. At this juncture, learning that the General had taken the matter in hand, I left. But look at the inconsistency, they could not feel the colored woman’s grief, yet when the same pill was offered to them, they were frightened into fits. To have taken one of their children, would have been pronounced, by the slave oligarchs, an act of fiendish cruelty, but for them to perpetrate the same crime on a poor colored woman, was only an inconsiderable circumstance. If a few of our Northern slave advocates had the tables thus turned upon them, it would materially change the tone of some of their brutal sophistry, as well as morally improve that remonstrating gibberish, too often used to stay the designs of an administration, whose ultimate purpose seems to be the upbuilding of an depressed people.

Having, however, arrived at Goldsboro, the second brigade (General Duncan’s) was assigned to duty in that city, while the others were placed in such positions as the state of things required. My regiment went into camp on the suburbs of the town, where they still remain.

Goldsboro is said to contain about 1,200 inhabitants, two-thirds of whom are colored. There are several fine buildings in the place, encircled by spacious yards, shade trees, flower gardens, and etc. The houses built especially for the colored population, stand far back in the rear, which makes the principle approach to them through massa’s front gate, enabling him in other days, to sit back in his big arm chair, and propound all the interrogations which might suit his fancy before letting you pass. But thank God, those days are now numbered among passed events. When these colored dignitaries, known as United States soldiers, step by in Uncle Sam’s paraphernalia, the only sentence that greets their ears is an invitation to take a seat.

This being a city from which numerous railroads branch out, it has become the rendezvous of returning rebel soldiers. The cars, for the past few weeks, have been thronged with them, from the armies of Johnson and Lee, presenting in their appearance, every imaginable aspect, from ragamuffins to ten-toed dandies. Some strut around town, assuming as much air as an old turkey gobbler with a dozen gills. Down street a party will start, who are once officers, wearing, as a waning memorial, the dying vestige of a played out confederacy, in the shape of an ideal uniform. But they proceed only a short distance before they meet another party of gentlemen, whose black faces seem to glisten in the rays of the sun, their caps whirled over on one side of their heads burning the rebels own narcotic, under the appellation of segars, and puffing in dense fumigations, with heads thrown back, and eyes elevated so high, that they seemed to say, I wouldn’t look down if I were wading through greenbacks. The rebel party steps to one side, and onward goes the negro van, looking neither to the right nor left. But the rebel party stops and looks back at these magic lords, swaggering on in their exultance conquest, and seems to be musing as to whether they are actually in another world, or whether this one is turned wrong side out, until they finally resume their equilibrium.

I am happy to inform you that Chaplain Hunter has begun, and is carrying on, a great work in this city. His regiment having been assigned to do provost duty, and having his quarters in the Courthouse, he is in a favorable position to use his gifts and graces among our people. He has, therefore, taken possession of the Methodist church, formally used by the white congregation, except the gallery, which was appropriated to the colored, and in it has commenced a school, which numbers nearly four hundred. It is entirely taught by the chaplain and several young men on his regiment. And, although it has only been in existence for two weeks, it is better conducted than many I have seen in two years. There are few men who take more pride in training children than Chaplain Hunter: besides, his extensive experience peculiarity fits him for this work.

There’s also a glorious revival of religion going on in the same church, which is also under the auspices of the Chaplain. I have given him all the assistance I could under the circumstances, but shall lay claim to no part of his glorious reward, when God pays off his laborers in the coin of eternal life. The altar is nightly thronged with penitent souls, seeking the pearl of great price.

Rev. Dr. Deems of the M.E. Church South, called upon the Chaplain yesterday, to ascertain the relation of this church to its former conference, and to see if the Chaplain intended to hold on to it. I did not hear the conversation entirely, but heard enough to satisfy myself of the fact, that the Chaplain, in the most humorous manner, and with that significant air of dignity which is so peculiar to him, looked the late exponent of Southern rights in the face, and in the mildest language possible, wrote out his epitaphical dirge, and sung the funeral ditty quite chagrinly, to the once pompous, but now blighted chop-fallen of fancied imagination. If I were Dr. Deems, I would inform Jefferson Davis about hunters conduct, and have my revenge, if I had to climb a greasy pole or swallow a bologna sausage.

Large crowds of soldiers are leaving daily on furloughs, but it is unpleasant for many to be compelled to go without money. My regiment has received no pay for ten months. I cannot help but find some fault with the government about this. If our soldiers were paid regularly, they would not grieve so often about their wives remarrying, and claiming an excuse that they were compelled by actual necessity. While I do not regard it as any apology at all, but, if anything, an aggravation of their disgraceful treachery, for which no soldier should receive an apology, nor pardon the wretches, if they were to shed enough bloody tears to wash Mt. Vesuvius from its burning crater to its cindered base, yet these long intervals between pay days, subjects our gallant heroes and their families to a thousand inconveniences. But I do not think the chief authorities are at fault in the matter. I believe it is the oversight of paymasters.


Reminiscences of the Proclamation of Emancipation

From: AME Review. Volume 29, Number 3, January 1913

WE ARE now upon the verge of the fiftieth anniversary, since the Immortal Abraham Lincoln, then President of the United States, by the grace of God hurled against the institution of American slavery the thunderbolt which had been smelted in the furnace of fair play, justice and eternal equity. Well do I remember the circumstances and incidents connected with my surroundings and experience on that occasion. I had, but a few years before the great Civil War began, left South Carolina, the state of my nativity, with a young and beautiful wife, and had gone to Baltimore to enter the Itinerant Ministry of the A. M. E. Church, which Church I knew nothing about till by chance I visited New Orleans in the fall of 1857, and was told of its existence by that great man, Rev. Dr. Willis R. Revels, the then pastor of the St. James A. M. E. Church, which providentially, had found its way into that city. He was not through explaining the condition, prospects, and the intention of this ecclesiastical body, that I had never heard of before, till I arose from my seat and offered him my hand and said, "I wish to join your Church." As he extended his right hand I said, "This is only the commencement, and you can put me through whatever crucible your church law demands, as I was free born, and think I can stand the test." I drew from my pocket my license as a Local Preacher in the M. E. Church South, which he carefully read and said, "I will receive you again before my whole congregation Sunday, day after tomorrow, which he did in due form. The St. James Quarterly Conference recom- mended me to the next session of the Annual Conference, which was to meet in St. Louis, Mo., in August, 1858.

When Conference met in St. Louis I was present, and was admitted on probation after standing what I regarded a rigid examination, and trying to preach a trial sermon, which the Annual Conference severely criticized for three hours the next day. I thought I would fail to be admitted till finally Bishop Payne arose and said, "Now, brethren, you know that this young man, Bro. Turner, preached a more able sermon than one-half of you can deliver, for he did not know what was going to be his text till I gave it to him as he was entering the pulpit. Yet I regard his effort highly com- mendable." These words or remarks of Bishop Payne turned the tide, and I was unanimously admitted on probation into the traveling work. Then Bishop Paul Quinn, who was occupying a seat in the Conference, rose from beside Bishop Payne and came to where I was sitting and said, "My young brother, you need not be discouraged, because these older men went for you as they did, everybody who is admitted into the Conference has experienced the same thing, and a number of applicants have gone out of the door and have never been seen since. They treat everybody that way, some for fun and others to give you a taste of the Itinerant life, before you enter upon it." Bishop Payne transferred me to the Baltimore Conference, and assigned me to the Tissue St. Mission, where I received from ten to twenty-five cents a week for support. I frequently had to give my wife ten cents to go to market. She would buy one cent of this, two cents of that, and three cents of something else, but she would purchase enough in one way and another to provide a respect- able meal. Thus we had to exist on that amount, and what the people would voluntarily donate, till I was sent to another mission, which generally allowed me fifty cents a week. Somehow we man- aged to live with an occasional lecture from myself on the subject of Physiology, until Bishop Payne chanced to pass by our residence one day and came in and inspected my library and was dumfounded at our books and the various subjects which they treated. The Annual Conference was only a few weeks off, and he appointed us to Israel Church, which had several hundred members, in Washing- ton, D. C. We had a fine congregation and every seat filled, and Israel Church was the center of attraction. Rev. A. M. Green, D. D., now of the Louisiana Conference, reported my sermons and gave me a notoriety and a popularity every Monday, which increased the size of my congregation till hundreds had to stand out doors and listen as best they could to the words which came out through the windows. I am under a debt of gratitude to Dr. Green from that day to this.

The Civil War between the states was then in full blast, and the seeming odds were at that time in favor of the Confederate forces, or to use a familiar term, "the rebel army." The agitation of enlisting colored soldiers was engaging public attention. Israel Church was only a couple of hundred yards from the United States Capitol, where mighty speeches were being made in the United States Congress in favor of enlisting colored men in the Union
army. On several occasions I could be found in the galleries of the United States House of Representatives, listening attentively to such great men as Lovejoy, Henry Winter Davis, of Maryland; Kelley, of Philadelphia, and in the gallery of the Senate of the United States, while such men as Charles Sumner, of Boston; Wade, of Ohio; Wilson, of Massachusetts; Bishop Simpson, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and others of great distinction and eloquence, either spoke or preached to the vast throng of listeners.

In 1862, on the 22d day of September, Mr. Lincoln issued a proclamation that in a hundred days, unless the rebel army disbanded, and the several Southern states resumed their relation to the general government, he would declare the slaves in all the states free with a few local exceptions. The newspapers of the country were prolific and unsparing in their laudations of Mr. Lincoln. Every orator after reviewing in their richest eloquence, concluded their speeches and orations by saying, "God save Abraham Lincoln," or "God bless our President." Mass-meetings were held in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Cincinnati, Cleveland, St. Louis, San Francisco and hundreds of minor towns, and such a time I never expect to witness on earth in the future. I may witness such a time again in heaven, but not in the flesh.

In the great Union Cooper Hall in New York City, a colored man leaped and jumped with so much agility when the proclamation was read that he drew the attention of every man and woman, till Mr. Lincoln's proclamation was scarcely listened to. New songs were sung and new poems were composed, and the people shouted to such an extent that horses became frightened, and many ran away and smashed carriages into kindling wood. Whites and blacks realized no racial discriminations. On the first day of January, 1863, odd and unique conditions attended every mass-meeting, and the papers of the following day were not able to give them in anything like detail. Long before sunset Israel Church and its yard were crowded with people. The writer was vociferously cheered in every direction he went because in a sermon I tried to deliver I had said that Richmond, the headquarters of the Southern Confederacy, would never fall till black men led the army against this great slave-mart, nor did it fall and succumb to the general government till black men went in first. This was only a popular prediction, and delivered under a general excitement, but strange to say, it was fully realized. 

Seeing such a multitude of people in and around my church, I hurriedly went up to the office of the first paper in which the proclamation of freedom could be printed, known as the "Evening Star," and squeezed myself through the dense crowd that was waiting for the paper. The first sheet run off with the proclamation in it was grabbed for by three of us, but some active young man got posses-sion of it and fled. The next sheet was grabbed for by several, and was torn into tatters. The third sheet from the press was grabbed for by several, but I succeeded in procuring so much of it as contained the proclamation, and off I went for life and death. Down Pennsylvania Ave. I ran as for my life, and when the people saw me coming with the paper in my hand they raised a shouting cheer that was almost deafening. As many as could get around me lifted me to a great platform, and I started to read the proclamation. I had run the best end of a mile, I was out of breath, and could not read. Mr. Hinton, to whom I handed the paper, read it with great force and clearness. While he was reading every kind of demonstration and gesticulation was going on. Men squealed, women fainted, dogs barked, white and colored people shook hands, songs were sung, and by this time cannons began to fire at the navy-yard, and follow in the wake of the roar that had for some time been going on behind the White House. Every face had a smile, and even the dumb animals seemed to realize that some extraordinary event had taken place. Great processions of colored and white men marched to and fro and passed in front of the White House and congratulated President Lincoln on his proclamation. The President came to the window and made responsive bows, and thousands told him, if he would come out of that palace, they would hug him to death. Mr. Lincoln, how- ever, kept at a safe distance from the multitude, who were frenzied to distraction over his proclamation.

I do not know the extent that the excitement in Russia led to, when the humane Emperor proclaimed the freedom of twenty-two million serfs, I think in 1862, but the jubilation that attended the proclamation of freedom by His Excellency Abraham Lincoln, I am sure has never been surpassed, if it has ever been equaled. Nor do I believe it will ever be duplicated again. Rumor said that in several instances the very thought of being set at liberty and having no more auction blocks, no more Negro-traders, no more forced parting of man and wife, no more separation of parents and children, no more horrors of slavery, was so elative and heart gladdening that scores of colored people literally fell dead with joy. It was indeed a time of times, and a half time, nothing like it will ever be seen again in this life. Our entrance into Heaven itself will only form a counterpart. January 1st, 1913, will be fifty years since Mr. Lincoln's proclamation stirred the world and avalanched America with joy, and the first day of next January, 1913, our race should fill every Church, every hall, and every preacher regardless of denomination should deliver a speech on the results of the proclamation.

Bishop Turner Defends His Position: April 22, 1901

Bishop Turner Defends His Position As to Negro Criminals

Boston Evening Transcript: April 22, 1901

To the Editor of the Transcript:

I notice in your issue of April 10 that you very respectfully differ with me in regard to sending what you are pleased to call criminals to Africa, stating that the proposition does not strike you as either wise or attractive, from whichever end considered. You say further, that criminals of any race or color make poor colonists, and very unsatisfactory pioneers, that they do not take kindly to State building, etc.

If I were disposed to argue with you I think I could point out your mistake. I think I could show you where convicts or supposed criminals laid the foundation of what resulted in the Roman Empire, that penal convicts who were shipped to Australia and dumped off as brutes had built up a civilization that the world respects today. I think I could show you that supposed criminals had paved the way for the commerce and civilization of South America, and to be short, out of the millions of immigrants that come to this country annually, that thousands are turned out of prison in Europe with the understanding they will leave the continent and come to America. I have been all over Europe and am familiar with affairs, as they relate to people who come to this country. In some instances their way is paid by the Government to get rid of them, and yet as soon as they arrive, at one bound they mount infinitely higher than what the black man is, simply because they are white, though they may be as ignorant as monkeys and as immoral as corruption itself. I did say in my Macon address, from abridgement of which, telegraphed through the country, you have taken your exception, that it would be infinitely better if the States would banish their colored convicts of Africa than to keep thousands in prison, almost half of whom I believe were innocent of any crime. For I never will have much faith in the guilt of a man who is tried and convicted by men who think themselves distinct and superior to the men they are sitting in judgment upon. If black men were allowed to determine the guilt or innocence of black defendants, I would see the thing quite differently. But when they are not allowed to sit on the jury, to be judges or officers of the court in any respect, I am slow to admit their guilt, especially when I know that hundreds have been declared guilty of crimes that they never heard of. Yes, send them to Africa or anywhere else under heaven, where they can breathe free air and bask in the sunshine the few days that are allotted to us mortals.

You say, “the criminals would readily adopt the savagery which they would find there, and make it yet more terrible than it was before.” I beg to say that the wheels of civilization never roll backward. I know that much has been said and written in regard to a certain grade of Negroes returning to barbarism and savagery, but I have been from one end of the continent or Africa to the other, and have stopped at different ports from Morocco to Cape Town, and have been interiorward for twelve hundred miles; and I have been to Africa as many times as I have fingers upon my hand; and I have yet to see or hear of any class of colored people who were once civilized returning to barbarism. I know in a few instances in tropical Africa some have gone in a state of nudity or almost nude, but it was only a reach the people that went in that condition by assuming to be one of that number. But remember that many of these convicts that I referred to are not only innocent of the crimes that were manufactured against them, but are gentlemen of the highest type, many of whom have been educated and are consistent members of the Christian Church.

Yes, I am an African colonizationist. I see no future here for the black man. The Supreme Court of the United States has declared we have no civil rights, and it virtually carries with it our political rights. And more laws have been enacted by the different Legislatures, city and town municipalities, railroad and other corporations, and more judicial decisions have been rendered from the Supreme Court down through all grades of courts, against the Negro race, than has been made against any race of people since the world began. I believe that I can show more laws and court decisions to degrade what is commonly called the Negro race than have been made against all the races by all the nations of the earth. I know the persecutions the Jews and other peoples have been the victims of; but there are more laws and decisions against the Negro than all of them put together, and the fact that degradation has no end and hell has no bottom makes the prospect of the Negro in this country very gloomy and to me hopeless. The brightest star that could rise in the black man’s firmament would be for a line of steamers to be placed on the ocean to ply between the United States and Africa. Such a line of steamers would solve the Negro problem, for millions would leave the country and pay as much for transportation as the paupers of Europe pay to come to this country. A line of steamers from here to Africa is what at least between three and four millions of colored people are longing for. And we believe that God will send them soon.


Atlanta, Ga. April 17.

Only for the Bishop's Eyes: July 25, 1907

Only For the Bishops’ Eye
Rt. Rev. Brethren: -

I was dumbfounded and avalanched with surprise when we were in Council at Wilberforce University, in June, and Bishop Gaines arose and commenced a tirade against Miss Laura P. Lemon and myself getting married and she a divorced woman. And stated that he was informed by unquestionable authority that I had given her a ring of engagement, on which the following letters had been engraved: “H. M. T. to L. P. L”; when, in fact, I had never presented Miss Lemon with a ring in my life; had never thought about it, and he called upon the House of Bishops to prevent any such contemplated marriage to a divorced woman. After he concluded, I sprang to my feet in consternation, and said it was a lie, an repeated the same three or four times, for I thought it outrageous for two bishops to be living in the same city, and, as I thought, just as friendly as two brother, and he had never hinted anything of the kind to me except on one occasion when leaving his house, he casually remarked: “If you ever should marry again I hope you will not marry a divorced woman.” I replied, “No, I will not do that.” And I never thought of the remark again.

Miss Lemon is such a high-toned Christian lady, and has done so much for my family, and she replies to at least eighty out of every hundred letters that come into my house, that I regarded the misrepresentation on myself, and the attack upon that innocent of a bishop. But when I said, “It is a lie,” not saying that Bishop Gaines told a lie, he rose up and made toward me, as I thought, to strike me down, and knowing my arm had been recently fractured, I stepped back and lifted a chair above my head in self-defense, and but for the fact that some of you bishops caught the chair and ran between Bishop Gaines and myself, I would have used it had he struck me. Nor do I believe he would have made at me as he did, had my arm not been fractured, for I did not call him a liar, but I said it was a lie.

Miss Lemon has been my assistant secretary and secretary-in chief near eight years, lacking only a couple of months, and she is in charge of my house, and has been for some years, and she has trained my granddaughters from little girls to womanhood, and has married one off, and the other is engaged, and will likely soon be at the head of her own house. And everything moved on smoothly till Mrs. Turner died, and ever since a howl has been kept up about Miss Lemon and myself getting married, and neither one of us thought about it until we began to talk about the constant babble, and I confess, I came to the conclusion I did not care if she would consent to marry me, and we finally concluded that when my granddaughter got married and left the house that if neither had any objections we might marry, so she could run the place with authority, as every particle of kin would be gone. And somebody must provide meals and take care of the place for visitors and myself. But this last spring we solemnly agreed that if a marriage did take place it should be when every relative had left the place. But as so much excitement has been created, we have determined to have the matter over at an earlier date.

Something over ten years ago a rumor was put out that Miss Lemon was married to a man by Rev. Thos. Jefferson, and there was a legal adjustment of the matter, as Miss Lemon emphatically denied
it. And Rev. Jefferson visited my house on some question then pending, and at the close of the conversation, I said to Brother Jefferson: “Here, now, tell me the truth and the whole truth; there is some talk afloat about you marrying some young lady by the name of Miss Lemon to a gentleman, and she says it is a misrepresentation. Did you marry them or not?” And he said to me, in person, “No, I did no such thing; it is false, it is false!”

I replied by saying, “I am glad you have told me the truth; I have never seen the young lady, but if you married them you owe it to your honor to tell the truth.’” And, again, he replied: “I never did it.” And from that time to the present I dismissed any thought of the question. I afterward made the acquaintance of Miss Lemon, and on the solicitation of my second wife I employed her as an assistant secretary, but later on she became secretary-in-chief, and her learning and great intellectual powers have made her indispensable to my office.

Miss Lemon is not so anxious to get married, for she has refused several good men to my knowledge, feeling that she could better serve the church in her present position, for she, like my mother, is a great church-worker, as is manifested by the unanimous election to the Presidency of the W. H. and F. M. Society by the Atlanta Annual Conference for five consecutive years, generally on motion of President J. S. Flipper, and also Principal of the Missionary Department of Morris Brown College by Trustees of the same.

But we must not be too elaborate, as she needs no encomiums from me. Her spotless life, scholarship and great intellectuality speaks for her. But so far as her being a divorced woman, or having ever been married, will be settled when you read the following letters, and what the judge of the Court of Ordinary has decided in her case. It may be that Bishop Gaines thought he was right in what he said. Possibly he did not know the circumstances and condition of existing affairs. But when he told you bishops that I had failed to pay my grocery bills, and my creditors has been to him about it, as every one of you heard, I am compelled to doubt his veracity, unless he brings the men to my face.

Strange that I should be in such bad repute about paying my debts when every bank is ready to loan me money, and every store is ready to credit me in Atlanta. My reputation for payment of debts is noted as first-class, on the financial books, which are published monthly in Atlanta.

However, I did not intend to write a review of the circumstances leading up to what might ultimately culminate in a marriage. Suffice it to say, that, notwithstanding my two sons, Dr. John P. Turner and David M. Turner, have commended it, and some ministers have suggested the same. We had agreed, as I have already said, this last spring that there should be no marriage while I had a relative under my roof. While stopping at the residence of Bishop Grant last January, to allow the doctors to work on my arm, he causally said to me that he had been informed that Miss Lemon had been married. On my return home I told her that exhibited more than ordinary concern at the false information Bishop Grant had received, as she was a great admirer of the bishop and chafed somewhat under the idea that he might have cherished the wrong conclusion. So when I got ready to leave for Wilberforce to meet the House of Bishops, she handed me a large envelope and begged me to read its contents to Bishop Grant, or to have him read it, and to show it to no one else. But she wanted Bishop Grant to understand the facts. And when I looked at the contents of the envelope I discovered she had secured a few affidavits of a recent date, the contents of which had been given over ten years ago, before the court, but had not been put in the form of an affidavit to be read.

These affidavits and other papers were placed in my hands, and I solemnly promised that no eye should see them but Bishop Grant’s, as she entertained a very exalted opinion of him, and as he was the only bishop who had spoken to me about the matter, as I told her. She simply desired to be set straight in his mind.

But making what might be a long story short, I borrowed from her the official verdict of the court, the oath of Rev. Thos. Jefferson, who was said to have performed the marriage, the affidavit of the mother of Miss Lemon, Elder Render and the recent communication of Rev. Jefferson, and I print the same, word for word, that the bishops may see that she was never married, and is as free from being divorced as an unborn child. I will not print the clinching letter which Judge Hulsey has given, as I regard it unnecessary, as the judge has officially set forth, as you will see that she never was married and is not divorced. Nor is there any record of it, in the office of the ordinary of Fulton county, which the law would require of all legal marriages. Any man can get a divorce in Georgia from any woman living or dead, if he hires a lawyer, and nobody appears to contradict or forbid as in the case of Miss Lemon. But there can be no divorce in fact, where no marriage has taken place and a blind man can see that Miss Lemon has never been married, and, therefore, the so-called divorce does not amount to a farce, as the letter of Mr. Rountree, one of the ablest lawyers of Georgia will show. And the paid for publications in one of two papers, under the head of “NOTICE,” was downright slander and persecution. All because Miss Lemon has learning and brain and has bounded into popularity by using them to promote the cause of Christianity and to honor her sex; for she can draw as many, or more, to hear her lectures than any one in Georgia.

I have written this short introductory to the papers submitted because of the unpleasant episode which took place in our Council, and could say five times as much, but as I wish to be the gentleman and a Christian (which I know I am), I deem it in keeping with the Episcopal Fraternity to say no more. All you will need to do is to read her papers, an you will see the folly of charging her with being divorced. Fraternally

H. M. Turner

Atlanta, Ga., July 25th 1907.

P. S.—Since reaching home and writing the above, several of my ministers have approached me excitedly and informed me of remarks by Bishop Gaines and what he said had occurred in the Bishops' Council, and that he had been appointed to investigate things. I have been very, very private, but it appears that the Bishop has been very glib. He must be demented enough to regard himself the sole custodian of the A. M. E. Church. I was taking in members and building up the Church before he knew the Church

existed, and have done as much for it as it would take him a hundred years to do. But as he has used his tongue so freely as to make it appear that I am under him, I will put an end to the matter in short, and next time you see me I will be a married man. I love peace, harmony and unity. Indeed, I love to love, but if our Church has to be wrecked by an Episcopal war, about absolutely nothing, which he is trying to inaugurate, I will be found in the saddle.


Atlanta, Ga., July 29th, 1907.

Turner Scores His Critics: September 11, 1897

Turner Scores His Critics

Atlanta Constitution: September 11, 1897; pg. 4

“Editor Constitution – I find in your issue of August 9th my position on African emigration is severely, yet, by some, very respectfully assailed by a cluster of lights whom you are pleased to entitle ‘leading and representative negroes.’ Some of these shimmering fulgurations, at least, I am sure were more than delighted with the information for they had certainty never heard of their own exaltedness before.

“Leadership among the colored people has greatly waned. If all the persons whose names appear in the issue mentioned have attained to that position. I have been living in Georgia and visiting Georgia for more than forty years and I had not even known of the existence of some of them until I saw their names in The Constitution. If billingsgate spouters, and aspersive mudslingers who can do or say nothing more than ‘I object’ have bound at once into leadership and if the colored people are going to recognize them as such, then our doom as a race is fixed. I have always understood leadership to consist of men or women taking some logical position and standing by and contending for it by the presentation of such arguments as would convince intelligent thinkers and command a respectable following.

“Some weeks ago I snatched a little time from my pressing and ever increasing engagements and duties (with about a thousand unanswered communications lying upon my office table) and wrote what was possibly a somewhat disconnected reply to a number of calumnious criticisms and invectives which had been made upon me by The Boston Globe. These criticisms and invectives had done me great injustice, to say the least, and downright violence to the International Migration Society, located at Birmingham, Ala. The Globe had at the same time opened its columns to the ignorant mouthings and garrulity of a few returned emigrants from Liberia, who, judging from the…..misrepresentation of facts, were totally destitute of honor and intelligence.

“But the editorial staff of that famous and widely circulated journal were by a cluster of colored divines and politicians of Atlanta adjudged to be unequal to the task intellectually of taking care of themselves, and moved by sympathy for the mental and literary imbecility of the said editorial staff and pitying their discomfited plight, this galaxy of learned, able and distinguished, colored dignitaries had to rush to the defense and rescue the vanquished staff of the great Boston Globe. ‘How art the mighty fallen!’ Shades of Horace Greeley, James Gordon Bennett and Henry W. Grady defend us. But let us not be alarmed, the proud profession so neatly maintained and illustriously advanced by these great men still survives, for has not Atlanta marshaled four invulnerable Achilles to the defense, while even renowned old Greece could not muster one? The sun do move.’

Aroused from Their Lethargy

How lamentable that this coterie of distinguished and representative negroes have (with one exception, Dr. Carter) never been heard from in connection with their race before. But I judge that nothing of sufficient magnitude or merit has arisen to claim their exalted attentions. Race proscriptions, class legislations, judicial discriminations, from the supreme court of the United States down, practical disfranchisement, brutally outraging females, lynchings for any accusation (even for the allegation of stealing a Bible), liquor brothels at every corner, Sabbath desecrations, strikes on account of color, the shooting down of Christian gentlemen in the church of God with the jailing of ministers of the gospel as accomplices, Jim-crow cars where our wives and daughters must be smoked to death, enforced by the legislative enactments of some of the states, and the high crimes and misdemeanors too numerous to mention; yet nothing has occurred of sufficient importance to arouse those gentlemen from the quietude or slumbers. But when African emigration is touched upon they spring up and sing out their objections in hollow, empty and toad-croaked chorus. Especially when the possibility of the black man’s having a country of his own is touched; where he can enjoy all the rights and immunities of the governing classes in this country, and have legislatures and courts and armies and navies and presidents or kings and generals and ships and commerce and banks and trade and wealth and power, and demonstrate to the world his fitness and ability to be a man among men and play his part in the great drama of civilization and maintain the immortalizing distinction of national autonomy, unity and independence. When the possibility of these great facts concerning the black man are pointed out, why it is then that consternation sizes upon the distinguished and representative negroes of Atlanta, and they must rush into print and declare that the negroes of the Untied States are incompetent and unable to perform any such noble task and are unwilling to undertake it. And to clinch his argument, one of the party (Rev. B. T. Harvey) proclaims to the world that ‘the colored people in the United States are not as yet civilized,’ which is misrepresentation, a charge, a slander, a falsehood, I have known no white man, even to make against the negro race, whatever may be his color prejudices, in the last twenty years. Rev. Harvey, may be a sort of harmless nilly-wily Christian gentleman and the fact that he tells the world that the negroes of the United States are not civilized may be due to his ignorance, but at all events, if he is the pastor of a congregation I would advise his members to procure a lunatic from the insane asylum in his stead and spare their children the affliction at hearing the babble of an idiot. He even turn upon his confraternity in the battle and calls Rev. Proctor, Alexander, Carter and Captain Easley heathen savages, for if they are not civilized they can be nothing else. A ‘leading representative negro,’ forsooth. His vaporings are the veritable twaddle of that sad condition of a dwarfed mind which gruesomely shows how far degraded and presents a double argument in favor of African emigrating. The fact that such instances of obtuse shallowness can at all be found in this ‘land of the free and home of the brave,’ as he would sing it, is the strongest proof possible in favor of organized and instantaneous emigration.

Don’t Favor Wholesale Emigration

We have never favored or advocated the wholesale emigration of our race in Africa. We only wanted two or three million to go, but if we are still heathen savages, as Rev. Harvey represents, the sooner we move somewhere and procure civilization the better for us. The white people have has us under training for virtually 300 years, and as they have failed to civilize us we had better seek other quarters. I have been in the habit of congratulating myself upon not getting mad. I frequently preach against Christians flying into mad fits and condemn it as sinful and even wicked. But when I read in The Constitution where Rev. Harvey declared me uncivilized and practically proclaimed me a heathen savage, in common with the rest of my race. I was fired with indignation. It is the most fearful insult offered the negro in the aggregate by any man, white or black, in this country in a generation of years, and I pity his associates in the symposium, as the all agree. Consonsus tauit legem. I have always maintained that if the negro could not force his way into respectable recognition in this country, he should go where he could. This is just what all other races which have proven themselves … to survive have done when pushed to the wall, or when strong enough have risen in revolt and overthrown the powers that degraded them, but when not strong enough to do this they have followed the natural law of self-preservation and emigrated. And right here we discover a great fact in ethnological research, to wit: Whenever a people have had the spirit to emigrate from overshadowing influence, they have always possessed the courage and endurance necessary to overcome all the hardships encountered in reducing a country from a state of nature to the requirements of civilization and this is just what I have contended that the negro should do. The white race has done so and the negro must do so, too, or be a byword for all time to come. The negro must demonstrate his fitness by his means to survive, amid the clashing elements of racial force, by going somewhere for himself and taking hold of the natural obstructions in the way of an enlightened civilization and hurl them aside. For until the negro goes somewhere and exterminates the wild beasts levels the forests, bridges the streams, plants the fields, erects houses, builds railroads and telegraph lines, founds his schools and colleges, enacts his laws, maintains government and challenges the respect of mankind he will never command the respect of the world. And all the schoolbook scholars, who think they know so much while the bulk of them practically know nothing, will never succeed in giving our race prestige, nor otherwise. For if the negro cannot do this, he need never hope to enjoy the blessings of race manhood, for he is a failure, and if he can but will not, he does not deserve to enjoy them.

As to Race Recognition

“The Anglo-Saxon races have done this with eminent and signal illustrations of the varied resources of their manhood, and they will now very naturally and very justly refuse the negro his high fraternity and respect until he has done the same. I have urged, and still urge, two or three million of my race to do this, and let the dependent, scullionized, riff-raff, ragtag and bobtail negro remain here till he disappears by extermination, as he certainly will do. “One of the distinguished four appears to be very anxious to know why I do not go to Africa and remain there. The reason is because more brain would have done with me than the negro race was able to spare, if he is a representative specimen of the race; but the moment I can get fifty or a hundred thousand to accompany me, he may rest assured I am gone. I am not afraid of Africa. From actual observation taken on the spot, I hold the unchallenged position that Africa proffers the greatest possibilities on earth for the negro to emigrates to, if he ever expects to be anything this side of the judgment. Africa offers the least obstacles to settlement of any land under the sun, and this is notably different from the conquest of the white man in this country. Nothing has occurred in the settlement of Liberia that even approximates the hardships, sufferings, starvation and deaths that attended the whites in the early settlement of this country.

These blab mouthed whiners, whoever and anon are trying to berate and run down the little republic of Liberia because many of the emigrants pass through a little acclimating fever and some die, are simply advertising their ignorance: they are telling the world that they are no scholars beyond schoolboy training and they know nothing of the history of nations and peoples. I would be ashamed to let the enlightened and thoughtful world know how little I knew about matters and things if I were expending so must loquacity.

Some Information for Them

“For the information of this distinguished quartet of African emigration sponsors, most of whom are my personal friends, let me give them a little history, which my be of some service to them and their confer…. And they would do well to read a little more history anyway.

“In speaking of the early settlement of Plymouth, Mass., Palfrey in the ‘History of New England,’ says: “The labor of preparing habitations had scarcely begun when sickness set in; within four months it carried off nearly half of the company. Of the 102 who had arrived six died in December, eight in January, seventeen in February and Thirteen in March. At one time there were only six or seven who had strength enough left to nurse the dying and bury the dead. The sick lay crowded in unwholesome, half-built cabins heaped around with snowdrifts. The dead were interred in a bluff by the waterside, the marks of burial being carefully effaced lest the natives (Indians) should discover how safe would be an attack. But through all this sorrow the lesson rehearsed at Leyden was not forgotten, that all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties and must be enterprised and overcome with unanswerable courage.’

“Has the distinguished gentlemen heard of any such calamity in connection with the Liberian emigrants? Again Palfrey says: “The Mayflower returned to England sailing April 1 1621. About that time Carver, one of the colonials who had been chosen governor, died and was greatly lamented. His wife followed him in a few weeks. Bradford was put in Carver’s place. Isaac Allerton was chosen to be his assistant. Forty-six of the Mayflower passengers were now dead, including twenty-eight of the forty-eight adult men. Before the next arrival of emigrants in autumn fifty-one, just half of the first emigrants, were dead.’

“Well may the white man exult in the glories of his nation and call it the ‘home of the brave.’

“In 1630 a number of vessels arrived, bringing 1,000 passengers. But says Mr. Palfrey: “The reception of the newcomers was discouraging. More than a quarter part of their predecessors at Salem had died during the previous winter and many of the survivors were ill or feeble. The faithful Higginson was wasting with a hectic fever which soon proved fatal. There was a scarcity of all sorts of provisions and not corn enough for a fortnight’s supply after the arrival of the fleet. The remainder of 180 servants, who in the tow preceding years had been conveyed over at a heavy cost, were discharged from their indentures to escape the expense of their maintenance, Sickness soon began to spread and before the close of autumn had carried off 200 of that year’s emigration." Distinguished bloods and dignitaries, have you ever heard of any such appalling instances in connection with the emigrants to Liberia? No, no, you have heard of nothing that indexed it.

Draws a Comparison

“Now let us come further south and see what the forefathers of the southern white people did. In ad address delivered in 1834, touching this subject, Hon. Theodore Frelinghuysen said: ‘As one illustration I have collected the prominent incidents connected with the colony planted at Jamestown, Va., in May 1607. It then consisted of 100 persons, which number before September of that year was reduced to fifty and soon after thirty-eight, when a re-enforcement of 130 arrived. In 1609 a further addition of 150 persons was made, and the colony then amounted to 500 souls, but they were reduced in six months to sixty persons. In 1611 the colony had increased to 200. In 1622 it had become still more populous, when it was attacked by the Indians and 347 men, women and children were destroyed and the colony taken into the hands of the king and enjoyed the care and protection of the crown.’

“Will the four distinguished gentlemen name an instance when the southern white people have called their ancestors fools for coming to this country and enduring these hardships to make a virtual paradise for their children and children’s children? As I have heard colored men and women call those who went to Liberia.

“But again, the venerable Chief Justice Marshall gives the conclusion of the matter as it stood in 1624 and says more than 9,000 persons had been sent from Europe to people Jamestown and yet, at the end of seventeen years, the population was reduced to 1,800 persons.’

“Do the four gentlemen desire any more history in connection with the early settlement of this country? If they do I am prepared to furnish it. But possibly I had better allow them time to digest this first.

“Drs. Alexander and Carter who reference upon the ground that I wanted the educated negro alone to emigrate to Africa. Many thanks, but I beg their pardon. I want some educated men and women as a natural consequence, but history shows no instance where the educated masses have ever pioneered the civilization of any country. I want the common people, the industrious, the rustic, the hardworking and as many illiterates as wish to go. Did educated men pave the way for the development and civilization of South America?

“Was not Australia developed and civilized by penal colonies? By convicts, cut throats, murderers and scoundrels of every kind, which ‘under the law’ should have been put to death or imprisoned for life. Have not thousands and thousands of their children and grandchildren changed their names to get rid of the disgraceful taint of their fathers and mothers? And yet Australia has not only given the world doctors, lawyers, statesmen, divines, bishops, lords and dignitaries, but a few years ago when her banks suspended she shook the financial world. And if this country will turn over to me the penitentiary convicts and a million or two dollars to transport them to Africa I will do the same.

As To Healthfulness

“Much is said about the little sickness and few deaths which have visited the emigrants in Liberia. Many of the colored people of this country have put on a face as long as a horse and mourned dolorously over a few deaths of which they have heard, yet two years ago 1,000 white men entered the Klondike region and all have died except 200 and not a sigh has been heard from no white man or woman upon earth for the 800 men who sacrificed their lives in trying to do something for themselves, their families and their race. But had they been black men there would have been a wail and a howl throughout the country and Klondike would have been denounced as the hell of hells. But thank God I am prepared to say that negroes are not alike: at least 2,000,000 are ready to leave the very moment a line of steamers are placed between the United States and Africa. Rev. Harvey has labored hard in his invectives to prove that I am financially connected with the International Migration Society, and the only reply I have to make is that the only reason I am not is because I am too poor. If I had $6,000,000 I would invest every cent in emigrational ships to Africa and thank God for the opportunity.

“There is a certain class of negroes in this country who think it pleases the white people to hoot down and jeer at every proposition made concerning African emigration. Poor, deluded, nondescript, they do not stem to know that they thereby render themselves intolerably disgusting in the sight of the very class around whose slop troughs they exploit their groveling and shameless degradation. They cannot get it into their little pates that the great and noble among the Anglo-Saxon and other races are ever attracted to the weak and unfortunate, especially when they see exhibited among them the splendid elements of character which signalize the noble and the brave. This is the basic—the fundamental truth which underlies the ethics of heroism and sustains the ennobling qualities of human life.

“But the Atlanta quartet, with the mouthy Rev. Harvey in the lead, could never dream of this. They go bounding about with nimble suppliant dexterity eager to attract the approving smiles of a few white men, north and south, who despise the negro on general principles. At the first sound of the conflict brought on by the great Boston Globe they rush into print, emptying their little slings at me and African emigration.

“Well, gentlemen, I was not bothering you. You shot at me first and you must allow me to return the fire.

“Rev. Harvey in an apparent effort to out-do himself and overtopple all others in a crowning slander of his race, says; ‘This country was colonized by the best people of the old world. They brought civilized life with them, led by the chivalrous cavaliers and indomitable Puritans. We cannot now send such colonies to Liberia, for the reason that our race in the United States is not yet civilized.’ Hear it, ye teachers, principals, deans and presidents of institutions, colleges and universities. Hear it, ye lawyers and doctors and artisans and painters and poets and preachers and mechanics and farmers and dressmakers and typewriters and stenographers and telegraphers and musicians and photographers and authors and postmasters and revenue collectors and government clerks and foreign diplomats and merchants and bankers and printers and colored men, worth three, four and five hundred thousand dollars and thousands upon tens of thousands of intelligent and loving wives and mothers of this maligned race.

“But, let us look at these chivalrous cavaliers and indomitable Puritans,’ represented as the best people of the old world and brought ‘civilized life’ with them. Brave and courageous and indomitable I grant. But who were the cavaliers? Were they the freebooters who robbed, pillaged and put to death by all the horrors of perdition innocent and unsuspecting aborigines who came to them like angels of mercy and succored them from the pitiless rigor and blast of New England winter? And who were these civilized Puritans? Were they the fanatic who burned their old mothers and aunts and sisters for witches in Salem? Were they the men who put children to death for disobedience to parents? Did they fine and flog children for walking on the grass by the roadside on Sunday? Were these the men “who tried a chicken rooster by a jury for crowing on the Sabbath and convicted and put him to death as an emissary of the devil? Were these the best people of the old world? And shall we admit and proclaim to the world that these witch burners at Salem were superior in civilization and intelligence to the best and most enlightened negroes in this country? Has any of the emigrants who ever went to Liberia perpetrated such appealing acts? Could any one believe that a colony composed of such people was superior to such an honest and intelligent yeomanry body as could be miscellaneously collected from the colored people in any part of the United States even on the rice plantations of South Carolina and Georgia? Does any one believe that such would be the result if such men as William Still, B. F. Lee, Robert Purvis, W. H. Connell, Booker T. Washington, W. B. Derrick, B. W. Arnett, C.L. Bradwell, J.B. Flipper, H. A. Rucker, William Flagg, Alexander Hamilton, R. R. Wright and even Carter Alexander and Proctor themselves were governors, presidents or kings and thousands of others who might be named?

“All of the arguments I have heard against African emigration are about alike. They simply sneer at and belittle the negro by contrasting him with the giant white race and seek to discourage the measure by comparing the naked and barren conditions of the African (which will only last for a short time_, with the ‘glorious and great blessings of Christian civilization in this country.’ And the motive underlying all of these arguments may always be found either in the stupid fawning and sycophancy of a class of imbecile negroes or in the alert and far-reaching designs of a class of white people, most generally in both. But in closing this communication which I have had to write in haste, as I have just reached home, and have a vast mail before me, I beg to say that the thoughtful, scholarly, statemanic and higher type of the whites indorse my African emigration policy as well as countless numbers of sober, thoughtful black people. Not more than one-third of the children of Israel came out of Egypt; the others were exterminated or swallowed up in the waters of mankind, and such will be the case with the American negro. A third or a fourth will leave sooner or later and the remainder will stay here and be exterminated. Or, like the Israelites of old, be re-enslaved. At all events, the negro is an outside factor and will never be given social recognition, and as Senator Morgan, of Alabama, says, “He had better be a slave than a free man without social recognition if he intends to remain here,’ and that he will never receive social recognition. And Hon. John Temple Graves, orator, scholar, philosopher and statesman, says that ‘We know that the negro will never be allowed to control in this country, even where he has a majority; that the price of his peace is his subordination that his vote is no longer suppressed, simply because it is no longer dangerous; that never, never in a thousand years will he be recognized as a social or political equal, and that under the ban of social and political – inferiority he can never, never in this country attain to the full stature of a citizen or a man.’

“Again he says the prejudices of the white people are eternal and indestructible.

“Now, I ask what negro that treads the American soil would call in question or tell Mr. Graves that he does not voice the sentiment of the whites?

“It is useless to say that’s Mr. Graves is speaking through his personal prejudices, for he has plead the cause of the back man as no other white man in the south with whom public remarks I am familiar.

Nature’s Invitation

“Nature itself is invoking the American negro to return home as well as every postulate of reason or verdict of philosophy. The trade winds which formerly blew from three to four hundred miles out at sea, from the west coast of Africa, have mysteriously changed their course and are now fanning the shores, moderating the equatorial climate, diminishing the heat and humidity, driving away the fevers and fatal malaria. While the astronomers, mathematicians and scientists of the world stand dumb before this freak of nature, for none can account for it or advance a decent theory. But I believe I can account for it. It is nothing more nor less than God preparing Africa, for the reception of her long absent children.

“If these gentlemen would call a meeting and have a series of resolutions adopted thanking our generous governor and The Daily Constitution for services rendered in behalf of the convicts of the state, they would be better employed in berating Liberia and Africa.

‘I reluctantly conclude by saying to my race, two conditions confront extermination or emigration.

H.M. Turner

Introduction From: African and African Methodism: March 20, 1896

From: African and African Methodism, by Alfred Lee Ridgel
Franklin Printing and Publishing Co.. 1896
March 20, 1896

The present age is not famous for deeds of dare and adventure; cheap notoriety, evanescent popularity and temporary honors appear to satisfy the ambition of the present generation. Inordinate selfishness has such a grasp upon the men of to-day, that one is rarely found who is willing to sacrifice his own ease and comfort for the good of others or for a name that will go down to coming ages. Merit, pure and simple, holds a secondary place in these times of scheme and artifice. If we look among statesmen, we find United States senators who have succeeded in getting rich through the issue of bonds upon imaginary stock and futures--actually buying up legislatures for a seat in that grave and venerable assembly, when they know they will not be able to make a speech upon any important question until they have hired some professional speech-writer to manufacture one for them and type-print it, so they can read it as any newspaper article.

Among the members of the lower house of Congress a dozen men, out of three hundred or more, make all of the speeches that have the tinge of statesmanship. The remainder are mere political harangues, made up of wit, humor and sarcasm. The judiciary of the country in the main are composed of failures in the legal profession, for the few able jurists are in such great demand that they are often able to make more out of a single case before the bar than the pay of the judge will amount to in a year, and sometimes in two years. A like imbecility and intellectual and literary impotency run through every grade of juridical and statesmanic scale till we reach the ordinary justice of the peace.

Our authors are more numerous than in any period since time began, but the trashy literature imposed upon the public shows to a demonstration that nine-tenths of them would be better employed reading books than in writing them. Great scholarship, deep reading, profound thought, synthetical and analytical power and systematization is too largely an adjunct of the past, for the reason that social intercourse with the giddy and the gay and the toddy-glass must be denied, and protracted application, as well as burning the midnight oil, is an essential prerequisite to literary excellence and distinction.

The same condition of things aptly applies to the ecclesiastical sphere. Ministers of the gospel in the main no longer hunger and thirst for a profound knowledge of the Bible and a thorough familiarity with theological lore. The chief aim is to squeeze by the committees on examination and get to be deacons and elders, regardless of the necessary qualifications to meet the requirements therewith connected. And if they can flaunt a diploma from some third-class institution of learning, they feign to be insulted if a committee should subject them to a reasonable examination; and when once admitted into the ministry, study and protracted meditation cease to be a virtue. A large majority appear to be ignorant of the fact, that true education requires a lifetime of hard study, and that wit, anecdotes, florid sentences and a few rhetorical embellishments are no test of profundity, either in a literary or an intellectual aspect. Thousands of gospel ministers seem to think they can trick and cunning their way to the hearts of the people, or to their attention at least, and finally to a seat in heaven, without half of the proficiency required of a blacksmith, or a carpenter, or in any other mechanical profession, because it involves talk, forgetful that when talk is defective, or trivial and light, that the people will fully realize it and grade their intelligence and ability accordingly. I know of ministers carrying the title of D.D. who will go to bed at the earliest opportunity and lie there till ten and eleven o'clock next day and complain about not having time to read. Such moral sluggards God never intended to be the directors of His people. Ministerial fitness and fidelity call for industry, patience, endurance, invincibility and consecrated devotion, as well as the sacrifice of self, in all the phases that involve the individual himself, or his family and domestic relations. And in as much as his calling is infinitely more lofty than the statesman, the jurist, the warrior, the explorer, the inventor, the discoverer, or any other pursuit or profession of a secular nature, so his sacrifices heroism, adventures and risks should be infinitely more stupendous and mighty, especially so as Christ Jesus our Lord has promised to be with him till the world shall end.

Among the ministry of African descent in the United States, where they are found in the largest numbers outside of Africa proper, profundity, thoroughness, self-abnegation and the spirit of sacrifice, are at a discount that is alarming, especially in the light of divine revelation. Few of the American Africans, or negroes, if you prefer the term, are willing to make any sacrifice in a physical or secular manner for the amelioration of our condition. No one appears to be willing to sacrifice life, money, or even risk any bodily comforts for the betterment of the masses. No self-protecting organizations exist, no secret pass-words, or forms of expression have been agreed upon as a call to rally to each other's defense when the bloody lynchers are doing their work of death and destruction among our people. And even when one would dare to enter a protest against existing evils, they will fly to the North and play the scullion through the day and write a tissue of abuses at night which is of no practical benefit. It is useless, however, to draw a picture of existing things in a material and moral point of view. The American black man is without a single hero. Indeed, the bulk of them have no proper conception of the meaning of the term.

Churchiologically, the same condition of things exists. The only aspiration for fame, honor and immortality that exists to an insignificant exception is at the expense of others. Many of the pastors will build large churches on credit and have their names engraved on the corner-stone, and hasten away for another minister and the congregation to pay the debt. Those who aspire to distinction in the ranks of the ministry, do so almost invariably through the votes of others, seeking to be elected to the Bishopric, or to some general office, instead of aspiring to distinction by writing hymns or learned works on Theology, Astronomy, Geology, Geography, Chemistry, Intellectual and Moral Philosophy, or delivering a series of lectures on Ancient History, or delving into the labyrinths of Archaeology and establishing the claims of nature to the primitive color of man, and showing through it that all men started black and remained so till God said, "Let there be white," just as He said "Let there be light."

No honors conferred can equal those that come through merit, but meritorious honor and distinction are at a low ebb among negro ecclesiastics, because it involves, as we have said before, an amount of labor, patience, self-abnegation and sacrifice, which is foreign to the age, and especially to the American black man.

Rev. A. L. Ridgel, A.B., Presiding Elder of the Liberia Annual Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, however, is one of the amazing few who has had the courage and the dauntless invincibility to break through the lethargic environments and proclaim himself a hero, not by words, but by works and noble deeds. Nearly four years ago, single and alone, amid discouragements and the condemnation and jeers of his brethren, he surrendered his pulpit at Newport, Arkansas, and turned over a splendid congregation into the hands of his presiding elder for him or the Bishop to fill, and began to travel and collect money and means to enable him to go as a missionary to Africa. I need not describe what he had to contend with, for the book you will read, after glancing at this introduction, will describe it too well for our credit and the honor of our common Christianity. Elder Ridgel stands without a peer among the young men, not only in the A. M. E. Church, but of any church manipulated and managed by members of our race. Since he has been in Africa he has had to battle with poverty, look starvation in the face, fight with maladies indigenous to a strange country, contend with a tropical fever, and bear the abuse, misrepresentation and vilification by those behind from whom he expected sympathy, prayers, support and words of comfort and cheer. But, like a man of valor and a hero as he is, he bore it all and stood like an impregnable wall, preached the gospel with a power and eloquence that has enabled him to take hundreds into the church and enlarge the boundaries of the connection, and at the same time write scores of letters for the press of the country describing the resources of Africa and the possibility of our church; also preparing booklets for publication, editing a paper with an extensive circulation, which is read upon three continents, and now he gives the world a decent volume, which for size, diction, rhetoric, thought, logic, philosophy and learning will be read and admired by tens of thousands. There are chapters in this volume, the subjects of which are treated with an ability that would not reflect upon Lord Macaulay himself. This production alone will immortalize the name of Elder Ridgel, should he never write another. Not only for its chaste diction, terse and pointed sentences, wide reading and commendable learning, but the question will rise in the future, how he could command himself, utilize the severe ordeal through which he has passed and concentrate his intellectual powers to discuss such grave questions as he has raised and treated with such consummate ability. The reader will find a vein of philosophy in his treatment of the dissimilarity between the African autochthons and the African Americanized, which, we venture to say, has never been brought out by any of the writers of the present generation. He shows beyond question that none of the proletaneous divisions of the Africans can equal in manhood instincts those upon their native soil, for the reason, as we have said a thousand times, their environments tend to dwarf them and in every instance they will be successful. Subjugation begets degradation, and degradation begets treachery and racial infidelity, as is verified in the treachery of the Irish and Polanders, which abound with traitors toward each other, and will as long as they are the victims of subjugation by other nationalities.

We are glad that Dr. J. M. Conner was kind enough to furnish a sketch of Brother Ridgel's life, for if he is true to himself in the future, as he has been in the past, the world will need this information when he shall have paid the debt of nature; for the history of Sierra Leone and of Liberia with their religious achievements can never be written up without incorporating the name and labors of Rev. A. L. Ridgel. And yet his career has virtually just commenced; where it will end can only be determined by that God who can read the future. Trusting that this book will be an inspiration to the men of the present day and millions who are sleeping in the womb of the future, and that its contents may evolve great and mighty men and women from the descendants of Africa, we ask upon this effort the blessings of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.



Atlanta, Ga., U. S. A., March 20, 1896.