The African Question Again: June 21, 1883

The African Question Again

Christian Recorder: June 21, 1883

Rev. G.W. Ottley, I have just read your letter in The Christian Recorder of the 10th inst., endorsing my position upon the question of union between the A.M.E. and A.M.E.Z. Churches, and thank you for your complimentary references to myself, &e. But there are a few sentences in the letter I beg to notice a little, a thing, however, I seldom do, be they compliments or criticisms, especially when they are so devoid of reason and even thought as several I have read of late. But to the point; you say, “Bishop Turner says and does many good things and I for one do not feel like casting stones at him, because the majority of our thinkers disagree with him on the African Question.” Thank you, sir; I shall ever be grateful. Again you say, “It (the union) is a much more important subject than that of emigrating enmasse to Africa, for we are not going to do that,” &e. Thank you again. I am glad to know it; for if all the riffraff white-men worshipers, aimless, objectless, selfish, little souled and would be white negroes of this country were to go to Africa, I fear it would take a chiliad of years to get them to understand that a black man or woman could be somebody without the dictation of a white man. For the truth is, two-thirds of our race have no faith in themselves, and because they have none in themselves individually, they do not have any in each other. To them the white man is all and in all, therefore, it is useless to attempt to be any body, especially where the white man does not hold sway; and where he does sway the scepter of power, he uses it to the degradation and dehumanization of the black race. The whole tendency of our ignoble status in this country is to develop in the negro mean, sordid, selfish, treacherous, deceitful and crank sided characteristics. There is not much real manhood in the negro in this country to-day. There is far more learning and general intelligence, I grant, but far less race patriotism, and wherever race patriotism does not exist among people treachery in its worst form does. The American negro does not possess half the respect for himself to-day he did fifteen years ago and it only requires a little sober sense to see it.

You virtually say to the people “Come, let us hear what Bishop Turner has to say about the union. Do not shut your ears and refuse to hear him because he is an African emigrationist. He does say some good things at times if he is an African monomaniac.” Oh, how good you are; I can never forget your kindness. But possibly you do not know that I have been talking and writing in this same strain for twenty-three years. Ever since I preached upon “The Redemption of Africa and the Means to be Employed,” before the Philadelphia Conference in Bethel Church in the spring of 1860, and received the congratulations of Elders J.P. Campbell, Wm. Moore, Richard Roberson, and a host of other good and great men, too, who were proud of their race and not ashamed of their color or ancestry; men whose religion was broad and Christ-like enough to comprehend humanity if a portion of it is black.

You further say, “I for one do not feel like casting stones at him because the majority of our thinkers disagree with him on the African question.” Thinkers, thinkers; did you say thinkers? Possibly you meant non-thinkers. You remind me of some other correspondents whose letters I read a few weeks since in the CHRISTIAN RECORDER with a list of great names burdened with an array of titles that might have frightened a Bacon, had some of the parties referred to not been distinguished for never giving their race an original idea in their lives. And, what was more ludicrous, Dr. Garnet who prayed for God to spare his life to reach Africa and die, and Rev. T. McCants Stewart, now on his way to Africa, were referred to as opponents of my position. Thinkers! Thinkers!! Thinkers!!!

I am inexpressibly pleased to have the endorsement of your able pen on the union question, but when you assume that my African sentiments in the least detracts from my standing in the A.M.E. Church, you are only a little mistaken. I have been ordained deacon, elder, Bishop and D.D.d, all by the A.M. E. Church since my opinions and sentiments have been made public, as well as elected General Manager of our Publication Department. Had there been a disposition to cast stones at me on that scale, it would have been done years ago, by men, too, who were able to do it, and at a time and under circumstances that would have hurt. The truth is, they see that something will have to be done that a revolution is inevitable; that our present status, much less our condition is intolerable; that it never has been endured in peace by any people time began; that all the hush-and-be-quiet advocates offer no remedy for existing evils; that there must be an outlet, a theatre of manhood and activity established somewhere for our young men and women; that we cannot school and graduate our children eternally to be waiters, sleeping-car porters, nurses of white children, chambermaids, room sweepers and for such like positions as will ruin our daughters and degrade our sons; that as long as we fill such a station of degradation there will never be accorded us any recognition by the very class that we seek the recognition of; that people will not invite their cooks, nurses, chambermaids, carriage drivers and porters into their parlors to associate with their guests. All this, and much more, a large portion of our people see. I travel this country and talk with thousands and know whereof I speak. I have seen men sit down and cry because they were compelled to hire their daughters out as nurses and chambermaids, after spending all they had to give them an education. I have seen beautiful angelic young graduates thus hired return home after a few months of such service-well. I will not say, but you can think. The thinkers can think any way.

Now what is my position? Simply to found and establish a country or a government somewhere upon the continent of Africa, as I see no other place in the world to do it, where our young men and ladies can find a theatre of activity and usefulness, and commence a career of posterity, at the same time build up a centre of Christian civilization that will help to redeem the land of our ancestry. All this jargon about “Bishop Turner trying to get all us colored people out of the United States” is not only nonsense, but absolutely false. But it seems that some people cannot understand how some of us can go, without all going. The same parity of reasoning would imply, because some of us have been hung, all of us go to the jail, penitentiary or hades, all must go. Such persons must think the Negro race is a dock or herd of sheep; because one jumps off the London Bridge, all must jump and get drowned. No wonder Bishop Campbell says clannishness is the curse of the race. Every solitary writer who has been trying to excoriate me for my African sentiments, have done so under the huddle idea, “He wants us all to go to Africa.” The idea of building up a government of a half million civilized Christian people upon the continent of Africa, where we can have our own high officials, dignitaries, artisans, mechanics, corporations, railroads, telegraphs, commerce, colleges, churches, &e., &e., has never entered the brain if these maligners and misrepresenters, nor have they ever thought of the glory that would accrue to the whole race from such a seat of power and influence. Yet, they are great thinkers, thinkers. Strange that a dozen Minerva’s do not leap from the brain of each one. O, for some Parnassus peak where our sage thinkers could sit in peace and think forever.

Before I close the letter, allow me to revert to a paragraph of one of our thinkers’ utterances which I read a few days ago. Shades of death, degradation, scandal, infancy and all that is vile and mean listen. Hear it, Erebus, son of Chaos and Darkness, for such stuff only suits thy domain.

“No. We are not going to leave this country, nor are we going to retain our present proscribed position in society. Those who suppose, however, that the remedy for our ills is to be found in national legislation or Supreme Court decisions, are greatly mistaken. There is a higher and more natural remedy than these. The true and only remedy is to bleach out; to be more specific, we are to lose the caste and features of the African by the absorption of the Caucasian races.”

Gracious! What a solution of the negro problem. Where did the man come from? Can he be a natural man? Let us see, however, how it will stand the test of analysis. Now, to be still more specific, our present proscribed position in society is disagreeable and repugnant, and there will be no ease or comfort while we retain it, and legislation and supreme court decisions cannot give the remedy, for the reason that the negro is black, and black will override all the legislation and judicial decisions of the country forever, and to have our ills remedied, and third peace, happiness and security in this country, as we are not going to leave, we must all turn white, bleach out by having the white race to absorb us. Now, if this is not a logical analysis of the position assumed above, I will confess my ignorance and will never say anything of the kind again.

Well, come now and let us start to bleaching. A million of white wives are necessary to commence with. But let the negro start to get them, and he will want to go to Africa or somewhere else before the sun goes down, for such shooting, hanging, lynching, burning and flow of blood has not seen since the world began, and such a fuss and bustle as would arise from colored women has never been predicted. The white wives are therefore things of impossibility. I mean in such numbers as would serve the purpose of our thinkers. As it does not supply our young men with white wives, suppose we get a million young Caucasians buckaroos? To marry our daughters, sisters, cousins, nieces, &e.; but without drawing a ridiculous picture, I will just say if anything, this is a more difficult feat to accomplish than the other. We are therefore left to follow the process that went on in slave times, and the man that advocates it ought to be hung. Now you had just as well open your eyes at once to this abominable doctrine as to wait longer. Every man who advocates the bleaching out of the negro race, is an absolute fool, or he is a monster in human flesh. 

Yet I know of men who incline to these absurd opinions, that I believe to be good men at heart, but they are so dwarfed in intellect, so twisted in the idea that white is God, they have thought so narrowly, read so little philosophy, so destitute of a knowledge of the scientific operations of nature, have studied so little about the fitness of things in the economy of race relations, and man’s complex unity, that they have no proper conception of the infernalness of their hateful theories. They do not seem to realize themselves as advocators of the meanest form of lasciviousness, and that they are infusing in our young the basest sentiments that were ever distilled in the devil’s laboratory. They are worse than cannibals, more to be dreaded than wild tigers; their tongues are a thousand fold more poisonous than the fangs of a rattlesnake. Compared with the theory of the bleachers, emigration to Africa, to the Saharan desert, to the North Pole, to the middle of the sea, is as honey compared to gall for sweetness. They are pirates upon the high seas of life, moral robbers of household happiness, leaders to darkness and quicksand. They would thwart the purpose of God by the foulest treachery to all that makes life worth having; they oppose to strip your vessel of its rudder and compass in the midst of a fearful storm, and turn you loose in the whirlpool of lecherous white men.

The above, though horrid in the extreme, is the mildest form in which I can present the teachings of that class of public vipers. Should any one take offence they are welcome to keep it for all I care. I am as much offended at them as they can possibly be at me. You, Rev. sir, will not regard these remarks as applying to you in any respect, for I do not class you as a bleacher, but I do hate the doctrine, and am forced to bitterness whenever I broach it.