Bishop Turner: April 2, 1892

Bishop Turner

Indianapolis Freeman: April 2, 1892

In your issue of March 12th, you published a series of misrepresentations relative to my African position, and addressed me with an open letter and wound up, by throwing the columns of your paper open to me to reply through. I sent you a partial reply last week and notified you that I would have more to say. Not that I object to the newspaper notoriety I have received at the hands of your journal, for I have received so many compliments through the papers and by letters and telegrams, that I would be an idiot not to expect some counter attacks.


I see I am associated in your paper with Dr. Edward W. Blyden. Much obliged. For he has more learning and common sense than all of his calumniators put together. If their brains were compressed into one head, it would not be equal to the head of Dr. Blyden. He could teach the whole crowd for the next forty years, and to associate me with him is to confer an honor I had never anticipated.

I am also charged as being the paid agent of the American Colonization society. That is news to me. I have been talking about Africa and expressing my belief in the ultimate return of the American Negro to that giant Continent for thirty-three years, and up to the present I have never received one solitary cent. I would be more than pleased if some of my contemnors would induce them to pay me. I will pay the man for his services who will get the Colonization society to settle up with me for thirty-three years of service. The party or parties who make declaration that I have ever received a cent from the Colonization society, or even met the society, or any committee of the secretary, will receive $500 the day he, she or they, establish the same; or they must stand convicted as being liars, knaves, and scoundrels.

I am also called a cur in your paper, and requested to stick my tail between my legs because a set of uncharitable and narrow-hearted men, too narrow to help their running brethren who are trying to escape further persecution, saw fit in their senseless babble to denounce me and the Colonization society. What does their denunciation amount to more than the bray of an ass? I am willing for such a herd to denounce me the remainder of their earthly existence, unless I do something worse than talk and write about Africa. Why did they not denounce me when I was traveling, speaking, and raising ten thousand soldiers in the late war, to go and fight to release them from the slave pen? And when I was wading through thirteen bloody battles with my regiment, with balls flying around me as thick as hail? No; but I was a mighty man then. No man, living or dead, can say that ever I advised them to go to Africa; but if I were to do it, I have done enough for my race to entitle me the honor of giving a little advice. I have said and I say yet that we will never be anything in this country but scullions and lick-spittles. The man must be very blind who cannot see that the chasm between white and black is widening and deepening, and that there is not more future for the Negro in this country beyond a contemptible menial, than there is for the lost in the realms of perdition.

The mass meeting, which you refer to as having been held in New York, made an appeal to the public, if you report their proceeding correctly, to contribute money to return the flying fugitives from carnage and death, back to the South again. It is a wonder that God did not strike the whole of them dead the moment they made the proposition. Such language is worse than blasphemy-pretending to express sympathy in one breath and in the next telling them to go back where you came from and let them lynch you, shoot you and murder you at the will and pleasure of any infernal mob that chooses to take your life. If they love those deluded members of our race so well, why did they not try to raise a fund to sustain them until they could find employment for them? New York City, according to its own daily papers, expends $10,000,000 per year for charitable purposes. Why did not some of these anti-African philanthropists get some of that $10,000,000 for the brethren they love so well?

Grant that these persons who went to New York were influenced by me to go to Africa, which everybody knows to be false; for I never corresponded with one since I had an existence what would have been the extent of my action? Echo answers what. I would have simply been advising them to leave the meanest country this side of hades, and go to a country where the very instincts of the soil, much less the people, would recognize and respect their manhood, and where white men and ladies are going by hundreds and thousands, and are enjoying health, in many instances, superior to what they enjoy in Europe and America; otherwise they tell an untruth upon themselves. But I have advised no one to go to Africa yet; but I have contended for a line of steamers between here and Africa, so that we can go and come at pleasure; and let those go who desire, and let that class who are not afraid to live South and mingle with the people, share their destiny, and enjoy an occasional lynching, stay where they are. For one, I am tired of these would-be great leaders and friends of the South remaining out of harm’s way and giving so much free advice. If some of our great heroes and leaders North of Mason and Dixon’s line, would urge their people to build a few hospitals, charity homes, and manifest some philanthropic interest in the people right under their nose, I would have more respect for their advice when they send it down among us here in the South.

I see no necessity for continuing this subject further. Before concluding it, however, I wish to say that I have paid but little attention to the Colonization society as an institution, until within the past few weeks, since my name has been so liberally associated with it. While I was elected one of its vice-presidents in 1876, I have given but little thought to it, and indeed cared but little about it, as I knew it was not doing very much at most. To tell the whole truth, I did not like some phases of its administration, but misrepresentations have driven me to an analysis of its merits and demerits. I am now prepared to say, however, that its merits exceed its demerits as much as the light of the sun exceeds the light of the moon. The Colonization society was born of necessity. It is a creature of Providence. It has enabled the American Negro in founding a nation, through upon the Continent of Africa, to do the only thing that renowns and stands out in bold relief to his credit. But for the Colonization society, the American Negro could not point to a solitary thing that would merit a moment’s thought. I have never said it before, but I say it now. Thank God for the Colonization society! But for it, the American Negro, in point of self-government and the ability to manage a country, would be absolutely blank. And the men who organized it will stand out before posterity as the grandest philanthropists the world has ever seen. For such moral heroes, I can look heaven-ward and exclaim: Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semter, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen. Every race under heaven is trying to have a nation at its back, and advance its people and their interest, except the American Negro. He alone seems to be willing to remain a scullion and a dog.

H. M. TURNER.