Home of the Blacks
Washington Post: February 2, 1895
Editor Post: In your issue of January 17, I find under the head of “Senator Morgan’s Liberian Scheme of Colonization,” some references to myself, which I think need correction. I do not object to being a target, because of my oft-expressed opinions, but I prefer not to be placed in a false light, and then criticized for the same. It is well known to the nation that I see no manhood future in this country for my race. I mean unconditional, unrestricted manhood, civil, political, social and every privilege, immunity and opportunity to achieve distinction and honor, without which no people or race can progress and develop the mighty powers, that lie dormant within them. And because I cherish such convictions I favor a portion of the American negro moving somewhere and founding a civilized government and working out their own destiny, without being fettered and trammeled, as we are in this country, and as we unquestionably will be for generations to come. As I interpret the sentiment of the country, there is a social chasm between white and black, and it is widening and deepening. Many years ago, I said in my speeches and articles for public press, that as soon as the negro acquired education and wealth, we would be brought in touch with each other, but I have lived to see the day, when the negro graduated from the first colleges of the land, abound upon the right and the left, and thousands can count their wealth by hundreds of thousands of dollars, and instead of being looked upon and appreciated by the dominant race of the land, as more entitled to a favorable consideration, they are regarded in most instances as more pestiferous and dangerous, and are the victims of more ridicule and contempt. Therefore, the theory in a phantom and every man with common sense fully realizes it. But without elaborating, I see no future for the honor, dignity, and manhood success of the negro, but through a nation of his own, where he can utilize all of the appliances of civilization in sufficient numbers to command the respect of the civilized world.
I am satisfied we will never reach the place of social recognition as menials and scullions and everything involving unconditional manhood hinges upon social recognition; otherwise one must be at the bottom and the victim of every form of contumely, and the other must be at the top, adulated, lionized and the recipient of everything that will enhance superiority and breed contempt for the prostrate wretches who are eking out a miserable existence. Bravery, self-reliance, conscious endeavor, and success despite opposition are the virtues that command respect and not a don’t-care, do-nothing, servile submission. Degradation begets degradation, while respect and honor beget respect and honor. For not more than one man out of every hundred thousand rises above his environments, and our degradation in breeding contempt for each other every hour of the day; and it has gone on to such an extent that nearly every colored person who can is trying to pass for white and another portion is buying this deadly hair-straightening drug and are trying to pass for Indians. Cubans, Mexicans, and anything rather than negro. I have had applications from churches as a bishop praying that I would not send them a black pastor. A third of our race today had rather be monstrosities than black gentlemen, yet according to the calculation of the French savants, there are as many blacks as there are whites.
Bars to Social Recognition
Now if black is such a taint, such a ban to our elevation, until a desire for respect and recognition has to force us to abnormalize ourselves, and makes us the subject of every species of proscription and the prey of class legislation and the bloody-handed lynch of the land, I believe the self-reliant negro should seek a country of his own, where he can respect and inspire himself to noble deeds; and as Africa, indeed, Liberia is the only foot of ground left upon the face of the globe for the American negro to nationalize himself he had better embrace the opportunity before it disappears. Yet I have never asked a man to go to Africa, nor have I ever sent anyone there, except as missionaries, and then it was done at their own request. I have convictions, and I utter them when disposed of, but I am no emigrational agent, and the article in your paper misrepresents me when it so states. President Chessman, of Liberia, never solicited me to send 300 American families to Liberia, nor am I an active member of the American Colonization Society. True, I was elected a vice president of the society in 1876, but have never met it since or before. I grant I am financially interested in a steamship project to ply between the United States and Africa for commercial, emigrational, and any other purpose that will connect the two continents by rapid transportation. And if I had a million of dollars I would invest it in that enterprise. If Europe can keep 171 steamships hugging the shores of Africa, it is a shame that we cannot keep one. If the United States Congress were composed of men of sound judgment they would appropriate a few millions of dollars to establish such a line of steamers and throw billions of wealth into this nation and make it possible for the manly and self-reliant negro to reach the land of his ancestors at a reasonable price. And if that is what Senator Morgan is driving at, he is the greatest statesman, political philosopher, and philanthropist upon the American continent and deserves the gratitude of every colored man in who has brain enough to take in the situation.
Rev. Dr. Washington's Position
I have defined my position as condensed as I could without writing a lengthy article. There are some other inconsequential points I might touch upon, but they are not of sufficient importance. But I am surprised at some remarks purporting to emanate from the pious and learned Rev. Alexander Crummell, D.D., whose eloquent, logical, scholarly, and magnetizing speech delivered May 6, 1862, in Israel Church, Washington D. C., made me a convert to African emigration from that time to the present, and confirmed the same in another speech in Bethel Church, Baltimore, Md., a few weeks afterward. For Dr. Crummell presented arguments at that time in favor of African emigration that he could no more refute, after the lapse of thirty-three years, than he could fly. I have quoted from him thousands of times, and shall still do so. Without itemizing, however, several trivial and vapid remarks attributed to him, I will notice only a few. He says “Too civilized Africa, the negroes who go there should be inspired by race love and a love of native Africa. I concur with the doctor in that sentence. Any other class would be a curse.
Again he says, “The colonization of Africa by the negro is absurd,” but in the next breath he says, “An African civilization society should be organized by the colored people of the country.” What do we want with an African civilization society in this country if it is absurd to colonize or send that civilization to Africa in sufficient numbers to present it to the Africans by precept and example? The doctor says, “The lynching of the negroes in the south occurs because they, as a class, are degraded.
That is a fearful charge to the present to the civilized world against us here in the South. Surely the reporter misquoted him, provided that the doctor meant self-degradation. But if he means the degradation that has been imposed by the decision of the United States Supreme Court, which every Southern negro hates as he does the arch-fiend of perdition, because of the legislation, which has followed that barbarous decision, we have nothing to say. The doctor says that African emigration would be a wanton sacrifice of life. We grant that many might die, but the doctor, who is an omnivorous reader, has surely not forgotten how the early settlers died at Annapolis, Md., Roanoke, N. C., Charleston, S. C., and other places, that have never been equaled in Africa, if the printed statistics are true. Moreover, the negro had just as well die in Africa in considerable numbers until industrial civilization is established, in trying to do something for their posterity, as to die here for nothing whenever a mob desires to have a little pastime. He says the climate of America is as much against the negro as it is against the white man. That may be true. We hope it is. It is another declaration from nature itself, that a negro is a man, and as thousands and tens of thousands of whites are pouring into Africa and claiming territory for their posterity, the civilized negro should do the same. And get a little foothold for his posterity, otherwise, our children and children’s children will loathe our memory when it will be too late for them to get any territory at all.
Don’t Want to Be “Let Alone”
Rev. J. T. Jenifer, D. D., another divine of great learning and accomplishments, calls African emigration a wildcat scheme and says the negro must remain here. He also says he does not want social equality; all he asks is to be let alone. Fine logic, for one posing to be a race counselor. The negro who does not want social equality anywhere and under any circumstances must necessarily want degradation. For when he is out of social touch he is out of civil touch, political touch, judicial touch, financial touch, business touch, religious touch, literary touch, and every other touch that involves manhood and respectability. For social touch is the pivoted point of every form of respectability. All the doctor asks, he says, is to be let alone, yet remain here—an absolute impossibility. He had as well asked the sun not to shine. Stay together and each let the other alone when mutual contact is indispensable to existence? Dr. Jenifer must have been reported incorrectly. I want every kind of equality for the negro, but I know we are not going to get it; hence I favor African emigration. Then we can fix our own social standing. Talk about being out of social touch in the same country and under the same institutions, and pledged to the support of the same flag, is simply idle talk, and the colored man who has no desire for it is intellectually or logically out of joint. The doctor further says with the birth of 500 negro babies daily it would be pretty hard to get rid of the negro in this country. I should pity our race if four times 500 babies were not born a day. If we have fallen down to 500 babies a day, then I instead of being a partial African emigrationist, am a wholesale African emigrationist from this time forward.
Rev. Francis J. Grimke, D. D., another learned and polished divine, talks equally at random and attempts to illustrate the possibility of the Southern negro by Hon. Frederick Douglass, and says: “It is the duty of the South to do the right thing by the negro, and he will give strong exemplifications of his manhood.” But suppose the South, North, East, and West do not their duty? What then? Without commenting further upon the remarks of Dr. Grimke, for it all amounts to about the same, may I ask what are these three great statesmen doing or saying to relieve the aggregate negro for the condition which makes him hunger and thirst for manhood opportunities and to throw off the fetters which is a menace to us? What do they do? What do they say? Where do they go? What plan have they presented to our race? What policy or scheme have they suggested? But we do not care to press them further, for we are good friends. But Senator Morgan is on the right line and has the endorsement of God, and his policy will ultimately triumph. He understands the sentiment and prejudices of his race by virtue of being a part and parcel of them, and he knows that it is not their purpose to accord the negro equal rights and immunities. And being a gentleman, statesman, and a philanthropist, as I know him personally to be, and in deep sympathy with the negro, because he believes that he is the creature of Province, and knowing that there is no hope for ten million of us to battle with seventy million of them and that the two races together are just near enough in touch to be a menace to each other, prompts him to take the position he does. And God helps him to practicalize it is my sincere prayer.
H. M. Turner
Atlanta, Ga., Jan. 25, 1895