Will Aid the Colored Race
Christian Recorder: April 17, 1890
From the time Senator Butler of South Carolina introduced in the Senate of The United States a Bill asking Congress to appropriate 5,000,000 to aid colored people who desired to leave the South and take up their residence in some other part of the country, there has been much discussion among citizens of the colored race as to the justice of the bill. Many denounced it, and said that Senator Butler was a Negro hater, and wanted to get them out of the country. All the colored leaders were bitter against the scheme and those who favored it. In the height of the debate there appeared one distinguished black man, who boldly said that Senator Butler’s met his hearty approval, and gave it his unqualified endorsement. That leader is H.M. Turner of The African Methodist Episcopal Church, the strongest religious body amongst the colored race on this continent. The bishop is now in Boston, and spoke in the Charles Street A.M.E church last evening on the subject. As there were certain points connected with the subject which could not be brought out conveniently without a personal interview, a Herald representative visited the prelate yesterday morning and elicited the following information:
“Is it fact bishop “ queried the reporter “that you are in favor of the Butler Bill?”
“Yes I am; not because of the $5,000,000 which it appropriates would amount to anything in such an enterprise, but because it proposes to do something for our relief when no one else proposes to do anything. Had the bill proposed to appropriate $5,000,000,000 it would have been an object of consideration, for the nation owes the Negro $40,000,000,000 for the service he has rendered it in 200 years.”
“Do you believe that Senator Butler in introducing such a measure had any regard for, or interest for the Negro?”
“No, I cannot say that he had. Senator Butler is an ex-slave holder, and belongs to the party whose history has been in opposition to every interest of the Negro, and in all probability, the bill he offered was intended to be more buncombe than reality, as he evidently knew that $5,000,000 would not amount to anything in a scheme so extensive. But what I like about the bill is that it proposes something, and certainly something must be done to relieve the condition of the Negro in this country. Prejudice against him is on the increase North and South. In the South he is the victim of lynch law, and in the North he is relegated to the sphere of the scullion. In many sections north, they will not sell him a tract of land nor rent him a house in a decent street. The Supreme Court of the United States has declared that he has no civil rights; that he must pay as much as anyone else for a railroad ticket and be forced to ride wherever the employees of the road choose to assign him.
True, in the North we are rarely subjected to the inconvenience with which we often meet in the South, simply because the Negro is so small, numerically, that he is not worth bothering with. It is true that there are many men in the North who protest against this condition of things, and there are likewise a great many men in the South who are hoping for the day when the condition of things referred will be improved. Besides it was a decision from a Northern Supreme Court, which turned loose the dogs of war upon us. The only man on the bench who protested against it was a southern man, Justice Harlan, of Kentucky.
“How do you arrive at the conclusion that this nation owes the Negro $40,000,000,000?”
Well, the Negro was here as a slave for 296 years, and when President Lincoln issued his emancipation proclamation there were not less than 4,700,000 colored people in the country. Before the war we usually were hired out for $100 per year – I mean that was the average price. Now, say we were in slavery two hundred years and average our number at 2,000,000 and you will see that will foot up $40,000,000,000. I contend that if this country does not intend to incorporate the Negro as part and parcel of its civil and political citizens, it will have to disgorge that $40,000,000,000 and let us go and build up a nation of our own. We cannot remain here as an alien race and let the whites be at peace; we will always be a thorn in the nation’s side. In short, what is called the Negro problem will not die down until racial unity or racial separation takes place.
“How far do you think the $5,000,000 contemplated by the Butler Bill would go in consummating the separation?”
“It would go far enough to establish in line of streamers between here and Africa. There is nothing so much desired by hundreds of thousands in my section of the country as such a line. If some of our millionaires would establish a steamship line between here and there, and bring a portion of her vast wealth to this country and make the southern Negro their agents in Africa they could be millionaires in a few years, and at the same time make a number of colored men millionaires. Europe keeps 210 ships hugging the shores of Africa every day in the year, and they have white men and Native Americans only to operate through, whereas this country could furnish the civilized and enlightened black man to represent them. Thousands of our men would be glad to go there and collect the infinite wealth of that country and ship it to the U.S. and thus enrich themselves and the children who invested their money and at the same time they would form a nucleus of Christian settlements in Africa that would commence the enlightenment of millions upon that continent.”
“Then you do not look with any hope for a future for your race in this country?
“I have no faith in our permanent future here, for the reason that, while the Negro shed the first blood for American Independence and also freely spilled it in every war since for the maintenance of her institutions, yet he is looked upon as an alien race.
I believe the solution of the Negro problem is in his having a flag of his own and a nation with civil and Christian institutions to which he can point with pride. I very much doubt whether the world will ever respect him until such a realization shall take place.”
"Do you think that all the colored people would do well to leave this country?”
“No, no. Millions of us are not fit to go anywhere else. I am talking about the advanced Negro, the Negro who believes that he can do something and is willing to try and do something for himself. That portion of us who merely want to live- who are not concerned about anything only their own stomachs, backs, and pockets are not fit to leave this country.”
“How are colored people getting along in the South?”
“Well, some are succeeding and some doing poorly. I feel to be as free walking the streets of Atlanta, GA, my home as I do in Boston. If you are regarded as a gentleman you can get every favor shown you personably you may desire.”
“What employment do colored men generally engage in in the South?”
“They are farmers, carpenters, blacksmiths, tailors, bricklayers, watchmakers, local engineers, baggage masters, brakemen, painters, well diggers, firemen on railroads, furniture makers, and about anything anyone else is engaged in.”
“Do the white people refuse to work with colored men in the mechanical trades?”
“Yes, there is some of that thing brewing of late years, but no person ever thought of it in the South until workmen from the North came there and began to proscribe the black man. I fear that it is only a question of time when that mechanical ostracism will spread all over the South. Yet it never can prevail to the extent it does in the North, for the reason that the black men themselves have so many houses to build and other work to do.”
“What is your general opinion of your race in this country?”
“I think the Indian represents the past tense, the white race the present tense and the Negro the future tense. The Negro is the boy race of the land is not of the world, and is destined to play a part of the future that will astonish mankind. When he shall reach racial maturity, he will be among the mightiest men Lord ever made.”