The Colored Man’s Hope
New York Times: May 5, 1884

In an interview with a reporter of the Baltimore American, Bishop Turner, of Atlanta, who is now attending the General Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in this city, said today: “In some parts of the South the colored people are treated very fairly. In Arkansas, a colored man is treated as well as a white man, while in other States we are taught to recognize our color as soon as our feet touch the soil. But withal our condition is better than it was 10 years ago.”
Are you treated the same in your section since the Civil Rights bill was declared unconstitutional?

“There is no material difference in our treatment, except on the railroads and steam-boats. I believe in some places colored men are being dropped from the jury lists, but of this, I cannot speak authoritatively. Nothing has hurt us so much since the day we were emancipated from the action of the Supreme Court. Since that cruel decision, I have heard nearly every colored man I met while traveling abusing the Supreme Court Judges. I have never heard so many damns hurled at one set of men in my life, nor have I ever heard so many prayers offered to Heaven against anybody of men. The railroad companies compel us to buy first class tickets and then oblige us to ride in smoking cars. It matters not how well dressed we are or how intelligent and refined. I know colored ladies who have been treated in the cruelest manner by brakemen for refusing to ride in smoking cars, while white female passengers, who in some instances are not all they might be, are treated as queens. I will go further and say that in instances pistols have been drawn on colored passengers to force them to submit to such degradation and that the railroad officials excuse themselves by saying they are only protecting their interests. Such is the order of things in the South, and it is all due to Justice Bradley, who kept Tilden out of the Presidency after he was legally elected.”

Will you name one of the roads that ill-treat their colored passengers?”

“A few weeks ago I met my wife, at Cleveland, Tenn., who was returning from Washington to my home in Atlanta, Ga. She had ridden in a first-class car to that city, where she had to change. I conducted her into a first class coach, where the only other passengers were two white men. Very soon a brakeman rushed in and said to us: ‘Here, you folks will have to go into the front car.’ I asked him if he meant the smoking car, and he said he did not care what kind of car it was, I would have to ride in it. I told him my wife had the heart disease and it would be dangerous for her to inhale tobacco smoke. He interrupted me by saying, ‘Don’t stop to argue with me; get out or I will put you both out,’ and he moved toward my wife. I intercepted him and said: ‘Please let me say a word to you kindly. I want no trouble, and I pray God you will save me from any, but if you touch my wife there will be a funeral to-morrow in either your family or my own.’ He gave me a terrible look and then passed on. My wife remained in the car, and I went into the smoking car in order not to give too much offense.”

“Another case occurred on the Louisville and Nashville Railroad on the 3rd of the month. Mrs. Sarah Lewis boarded the train to Clarksville, Tenn. As she was refused admission into any of the first-class cars, she remained on the platform. While the train was in motion, because the conductor could not pull her into the smoking car, he struck her in the face. She has entered suit against the company. There are several ministers from the South, now attending the General Conference in Philadelphia, who is inveigled into buying first-class tickets upon the promise of the agents of the Southern roads that they would be permitted to occupy first-class cars, but upon leaving New Orleans, they were obliged to go into the smoking cars. When they objected, the officials told them they would either have to go into the smoking car or to ----. I could give names and dates of several other indignities upon our people if necessary, but what I have told you will serve to enlighten the public.”

Do you think the condition of affairs will alienate the affections of your race in the South from this country?”

“No, because we have great hope that Congress will enact another bill for our protection. We also expect that a plank will be put in the Republican platform in June next that will bring the matter squarely before the people.”

What do you think will be the future of your race?”

“We are not dying out as predicted. The Negro is the junior race of the world, with the possible exception of the Australian. We have a great and grand future. Our race will be waxing for centuries after the white race will have commenced waning. The Negro is a boy; the white is a man. When the man shall have reached old age and the same kind of dotage that characterizes the American Indian, the Negro will be in his prime and glory and rule the world. I think in a few years the better class of colored men of this country will go to Africa and build up a mighty nation, while the riff-raffs of our race will remain here. The advantages of migrating to Africa are many. Recently vast discoveries of untold wealth have been made in nearly every part of that continent. God has put His hand upon our race and will give us means and marvelous agencies. It may be that the Supreme Court decision was designed by Providence to arouse the negro to a sense of his responsibility.”

Has your race not sufficient advantages in this country?”

“No, for no people can advance who are treated as we are. In some places in America black is supposed to symbolize the devil and white to represent God. But this is partially wrong for the devil is white, and never was black. There are as many blacks as whites in the universe. There are black worlds, and I believe millions of black angels in Heaven—in fact, there are angels of all colors there. I know I do not represent my race in taking the position I do, as a great mass of them are anti-Africans in the emigrational sense, but it is only a question of time when they will awake from their slumber and see all things in a different light.”

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