Negro Emigration to Africa
From The Independent Vol. LI, January-December 1899, pgs.2430-2432
To the Editor of the Independent:
In your editorial mention of the propositions of Bishop Turner and Bishop L.H. Holsey, D. D., I am represented as favoring the deportation of the American negroes to Africa. If you mean by deportation the compulsive exodus of my race to Africa en masse, I most respectfully beg to plead “not guilty.” I would be a fit subject for the insane asylum if my mind was so far out of equipoise. But that I am as an African emigrationist is lamentably true. I say lamentably, because nothing confronts the negro race in this country but emigration or extermination. The African race in this country can no more hope to stand up under the present pressure than a man could hope to shoulder and walk off with the Rocky Mountains. And any white man who thinks so has only to blacken his face and travel a few days through the country, and he will be surprised that any negro or African, who has good common sense, and is not a scullion by birth or environments during his childhood and youth, should ever dream of making himself and his posterity contented under the decisions of the United States Supreme Court, and a thousand subordinate judges and the endless quantity of legislative enactments and state constitutional amendments that have been passed to degrade and tie him and his posterity to the wheel that rolls in degradation. And lest you should be ignorant of some of these decisions and enactments, I forward you a few decreed by the United States Supreme Court, the most barbarous and inhuman that have emanated from any court of the last resort since man came into being. I have been reading history for forty-eight years, and I challenge any man living to produce the like in the chronicles of the world. You say the scheme is futile. I realize its futility without national help, which God will surely demand as its hand sooner or later. The negro has been too faithful to this country, its integrity, unity, perpetuity and its every interest, to be kicked aside without some remuneration. History records our fidelity to the white race in colonial times, during the Revolutionary War and in every struggle for existence from its birth to the present. And if it cannot accord us manhood existence. Like the Egyptians of old, it must lend us of its precious jewels to enable the better element of the race to go to themselves. I do not mean for all to go. All of the children of Israel did not go out of Egypt; according to the best authorities, possibly half of them remained and were lost, wither by extermination or were swallowed up in the waters of mankind. So it will be with the colored people of this country; all will never leave; but millions will, and millions are ready now if they had the facility. I know the sentiment of the colored people on the subject of emigration as no other man upon the American continent. I have barrels and barrels of letters upon that subject, while I have destroyed stacks and barrels of others that I had no convenient place to keep. If this country had ships plying between here and Africa, as England, France and Germany have, and we could go as cheaply, thousands would be leaving yearly.
During the last thirty years six millions of immigrants have come to this country and but few have paid over fifteen dollars each. The general price including children would average twelve dollars each. If we had such conveniences between here and Africa the emigration would be immense; not only from the South, but from the Northern and Western States. I know whereof I speak. Much absurdity has been attributed to the one hundred millions of dollars that we proposed to ask Congress for, to enable the better element of the colored race to leave the country. I see no reason for making it the subject of so much ridicule and laughter. According to one of your own New York papers, nine hundred millions of dollars have already been spent in bothering with Spain and her possessions; and billions will yet be spent before the question is settled. Had Congress appropriated on hundred and five millions of colored people money, seven millions of colored people could return to Africa at an average of fifteen dollars each; and soon hundreds of ships would be trading with the United States, and in two generations the hundred and five millions would be returned to the national treasury with a reasonable interest besides. I verily believe that a hundred millions of dollars invested in helping the better element of the negro race to establish a nation would be more profitable to this country than a billion spent on Spanish islands. It is only two hundred and fifty miles further from Savannah, Ga., or Charleston, S. C., to Liberia, Africa, than from New York to Liverpool, the way the ships run; and I believe when a direct line shall have been determined upon by the navigators, the distance will be almost equal. And if millions of immigrants can come from the Old World at an average of twelve dollars each, fifteen dollars should be amply sufficient to convey emigrants to Africa. And I believe at least a million are ready to pay that price now, if the ships were provided, either by Government aid or commercial intercourse. Much has been said and published about the negro not desiring to return to Africa, but let those who entertain such views start a line of steamers and offer emigrant rates to those who desire to return and they will see that every ship is crowded. Europe has over five hundred steamships plying between the United States and Europe, daily, the year round, and not one between the United States and Africa; so that all who desire to emigrate there have to go by Liverpool or Southampton, England, and pay passenger rates, which will cost one individual as much as it should cost the members of a large family. I have also read a number of scurrilous criticisms by the public press upon African emigration, because some of the colored people who have gone there in the past have returned and berated the country and magnified its fevers and other fatal diseases; but no one will attach any importance to such misrepresentations who has read the history of the early settlements of this country, Australia and South American States. But I conclude by saying: African emigration is the only remedy for disturbed condition of things in this country.