A 1900 speech by Abraham Lincoln DeMond in Montgomery, Alabama. Digitized by the Antislavery Literature Project.
The Negro Element in American Life.
REV. A.L. DeMond,
Dexter Avenue Baptist Church,
Jan. 1, 1900.
Alabama Printing Company,
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At the close of the address the following resolution, offered by Mr. Wm. Watkins, was adopted by the Emancipation Proclamation Association:
Resolved, That the oration, "The Negro Element in American Life," delivered on this occasion by Rev. A. L. DeMond, be published in pamphlet form.
C. O. Harris, President,
E. M. Dale, Secretary.
January 1, 1900.
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Mr. President, Fellow Citizens, Ladies and Gentlemen:
This nation has given to the world two great patriotic, wise and humane state papers-the Declaration of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation. Both were born in days of doubt and darkness. Both were the outcome of injustice overleaping the bounds of right and reason. The one was essential to the fulfilling of the other. Without the Declaration of Independence the nation could not have been born; without the Emancipation Proclamation it could not have lived. Grand as was the Declaration of Independence, lofty as were its sentiments and sweeping as were its statements, it was unsatisfactory, its very wording a battle ground of controversy, until the Emancipation Proclamation put the Temple of Freedom on the foundation that the fathers had laid. They had declared that all men were created free and equal. But it took eighty-seven years for this nation to learn the great truth that all men are not white men, and that the mantle of American manhood must be broad enough to cover all who stand beneath the stars and stripes. When this lesson had been learned the nation was ready for the Emancipation Proclamation; ready for a new freedom, peace and prosperity' such as it had never known before.
Who can express the joy which this proclamation brought to the individuals to whom freedom came as a second birth? Yet it meant to the nation than to any individual. Who can enumerate the boundless and numberless blessings that is showered upon a race long held in bondage? Yet it meant more to the whole country than to any one race. In celebrating this event, which shall ever remain great in the annuals of our race and great in the history of this nation, and greater still as a landmark along the pathway of human life and thought and action by which man shall reach his highest development and the eternal principles of justice, freedom and liberty shall be, in fact, and not in fancy, the common heritage of all; we are not narrow, selfish or clannish, but demonstrating our patriotic, loyal American spirit, that acknowledges and honors every noble act and exalted ideal of the nation. We are pre-eminently Americans in all that we do today.
We honor the flag. Standing beneath its folds we declare our loyalty to be as deep as its azure blue, and our devotion as true as its stars of white. It stands for that independence for which our forefathers fought at Bunker Hill, Concord Bridge and Lexington. That is the starry emblem of a nation's hope, beneath which brave black men mingled their precious life blood with the waters of Lake Erie and Lake Champlain, in defence of American seamen and American honor. That is the flag for which our fathers and brothers fought and died; those are the stars and stripes which they followed to freedom and to glory and for which they laid upon the altar of this nation the sacred sacrifice of life. That is the flag that Negroes carried up San Juan Hill and which they now unfurl with victory in the Philippines.
To-day, we recall the deeds and words of statesmen, heroes, orators and legislators, and remember that we are just heirs of the best that this this nation has ever won by valor on the battle field, achieved in legislative halls or proclaimed from the public platform.
We honor our heroes, both living and dead. Douglass, the peerless prince of the platform. Langston, the silver tongued orator; Bruce, the renowned statesman; Williams, the historian; Garnett, Crummel and Payne, eloquent champions of righteousness and the rights of their race, have, with a multitude of others, passed over to the silent majority. They sleep in graves over which the shining marble may well tell of their valor, their virtues and their victories.
May that day never dawn when the American Negro shall have become so devoid of race pride, so ignorant of the history of his people, so lost to the bonds of blood that bind men together, that he shall cease to pay tribute to the men of his own race who laid their gifts upon the altar of sacrifice for the saving of their people. We should but illy observe an occasion like this did we fail to give honor to all that have helped to bring about the blessings that we now enjoy. All honor to our noble dead, whether exalted or humble, whether they died praying for freedom, or amid the effulgence of its glorious light. We thank God for living leaders--men that have struggled up from the depth--men that in the face of prejudice have won for themselves a place--men that amid darkness have held aloft a light. Lyons in the political arena, Washington as an educator, Arnett in the ecclesiastical robes of the church, Scarborough in scholarship, Tanner in art, Dunbar in literature, Major Young in the army, Straker in law and Williams in medicine, are the representatives of the many lines
along which we have living leaders, of whom we should feel proud. Let us not fail to honor the men and women of the race who are living for the race, and by their lives ennobling its name, keeping its honor unsullied and increasing its power and progress.
Let us consider the Negro element in American life. The world may well ask what the Negro has to say of himself and for himself after two well ask what the Negro has to say of himself and for himself after two hundred and eighty years residence on American soil. And the Negro, standing on the threshold of the 20th Century, owes it to himself to say a word as to the part he has played in American history.
There has never been a time since this nation was founded, so terrible in its oppression, so awful in its conditions, so cruel in its prejudices, but that Negro manhood, genius or bravery has been able to assert itself, It may have been Crispus Attucks with a praiseworthy spirit of patriotism that made him the leader of the little band that defied the armed forces of Great Britain. It may have been Phillis Wheatly of New England, or George Horton of North Carolina, putting into rhythmic lines the sweet songs and poetic conceptions that thrilled their own souls and charmed others. It may have been Benjamin Bannaker of Maryland, a mathematical genius, studying the heavens and publishing the first almanac in America. It may have been Sergeant Carney, amid shot and shell, carrying the banner of the free up to the bloody parapet of Fort Wagner, and with the crimson current streaming from his gaping wounds, saying "I did but do my duty, boys, and the dear old flag never once touched the ground." Or the 9th Cavalry climbing the bullet showered hills of Cuba and planting the stars and stripes where they had never floated before. In every hour of test the Negro
has exhibited those qualities which the world needs and must recognize. The past history of the Negro in this country has shown that he possessed elements of strength and power which, regardless of all that might be brought to bear against him, cannot be crushed, killed or conquered. And if our presence in this country up to the present time has done nothing more than to demonstrate that the race has will power, genius, talent and industry, we should be thankful and our friends may well rejoice with us.
The Negro has both directly and indirectly been an influential element in American life. He has been the object of love and hatred. For him laws have been enacted and repealed. Over his status in the body politic the most noted debates and controversies have been waged and political parties have been organized. Their position on the Negro question was sought to be made the pass word of states into the Union. The sentiment for or against slavery divided this country into two sections, the one hostile to the other, each contending for the mastery. The Negro became the political platform upon which aspiring statesmen stood or fell. Congress has spent months with the problem; legislatures have devoted their time to it; constitutional conventions have found it the most weighty question for their consideration; the churches have all had it, and the Negro has split the Presbyterian church and divided and sub-divided the Methodist church. There is not a denomination in the United States that has not been affected by the presence of this element. No other theme has been so productive of discussion on the lecture platform, through the press, on the rostrum and in the pulpit. During the heyday of the New England Lyceum no subject was more popular than that of the Negro.
It developed the greatest orators that America has ever known. Here it was that Garrison, Phillips, Beecher, Lincoln, Douglass and Sumner shone as stars whose glory cannot grow dim. Authorship took up the Negro and the beloved name of Harriet Beecher Stowe finds undying fame as it is linked with a plea for his freedom. The scientists got after the Negro, and Phrenology, Ethnology and Psychology tried his case. The doctors of divinity sat in judgment over him seeking to determine whether he had a soul or not. The poets of America were not unmindful of his presence, and Longfellow, Whittier, Holmes and Lowell plead for him in happy measures. It was Longfellow who said:
"There is a poor blind Samson in this land,
Shorn of his strength and bound in bonds of steel,
Who may in some grim revel raise his hand and
Shake the pillars of this commonweal,
Till the vast temple of our liberties
A shapeless mass of wreck and rubbish lies."
Society has had to consider the Negro and set the metes and bounds over which he should not pass. Every labor organization, from the Scavenger's Club to the American Railway Union, has given him attention. The stage has had the Negro by presence and proxy for "lo these many years," from Ira Aldridge and Black Patti down to the latest popular artists and song writers, like Davis, whose songs are sung from ocean to ocean. The sporting world has developed Negroes whose names are Universally familiar. The Masonic, Odd Fellow, Pythian and other fraternities have admitted the brother in black. The Negro has through these years had all kinds of treatment from all kinds of men in all parts of the country, and yet the Sphinx of Egypt looking with steadfast gaze out across the sands of the desert is not more emblematic of patience than that forbearance with
which the American Negro has bided his time.
The world has never seen a more eloquently pathetic picture than that of the Northern soldier confiding the safety and security of his life to the guidance of the black man, and at the same time the Southern soldier depending on him for the protection of his loved ones at home. The Negro seemed to be the bone of contention and the bond of union. He who had arrayed the one against the other had also won the confidence of both. And to-day when men of the North would crown with honor the brow of the Negro for his devotion to the Union, the South will just as gladly crown him with laurels of gratitude for his loyalty to their loved ones in their dark hours of danger.
The early history of this nation found three distinct elements entering into its life. These were the Cavalier, the Puritan and the Negro. Each of these was characterized by qualities peculiarly its own. Each had an identity which it has preserved through all the changing scenes of American history. They have met and mingled together, labored together, prayed to the same God, spoken the same language, followed the same flag, and in death have not been divided; yet through all have continued to be three distinct elements in the nation. All the history of this Republic centers about these three characters. Each has made its own characteristic contribution. Each has had its influence in moulding and shaping public opinion and sentiment.
The Puritan's story does not need to be told. He has told it himself. In poetry and prose, in music and song and art he has enshrined the memorial of his brilliant deeds.
The Cavalier's record does not need to be reviewed. He has kept it with wonderful accuracy. With eloquence
and oratory, in books that he has written and monuments that he has erected the Cavalier has told his story with force fullness.
The Negro's story must also be told, for the history of the nation will not be complete without it. Humble as may have been his offering at times, and, though given in tears and blood, it has entered into the structure of this fair Republic of the Western World.
"The coral insect but an atom gave
To help uprear the pile he he'er could see;
But now it towers above the topmost wave,
He has a part in mansions yet to be."
The Negro has a part in the history of this country of which he need not be ashamed. Let it be told for his own vindication. Let it be told as an answer to those who would slander the race. Let it be told for the encouragement of the rising generation. Let it be told for the sake of truth and eternal justice.
The Negro element in American life made its first appearance at Jamestown in the year 1619. The colony of Virginia, in its early days, was composed of gentlemen adventurers. They were unused to labor, and would rather starve than stain their hands with honest toil. The feeble colony vaccillated between life and death, knowing neither permanence nor prosperity until the arrival of the Negro. His strong iron arm of labor gave to that colony what at that time it most needed. Julian Hawthorne, in writing of the condition of the colony of Virginia previous to the coming of the Negro, says: "Jamestown but narrowly escaped extinction. The colonists relapsed into idleness and improvidence. They ate up all the food that had been laid up for them. Squads of hungry men began to wander about the country. Everything that could be used as
food was eaten; at length cannibalism was begun; the starved corpses of the settlers were devoured; others seized a vessel and became pirates. Out of five hundred persons only sixth survived. How then is the early prosperity of Virginia to be explained. It was due to the presence of the Negro as a laborer.
Many a Southern statesman looks back to the days of his infancy and helplessness and remembers how, in the strong arms of a black woman, he was carried and cared for; so, Virginia, first of all States among her Southern sisters, bearing on her bosom the first permanent English settlement in America, Virginia, the Old Dominion and the mother of Presidents, looks back through the years to the time of her infancy and weakness, to find them made strong by the patient plodding toil of the Negro.
A few years ago a monument was erected in Virginia in memory of ex-slaves; and, indeed, to whom could that commonwealth more fittingly give honor than to those so closely linked with her material progress. Not long since a black man stood up in the halls of Congress as the representative of the State of Virginia; yet who could more appropriately stand for her than a member of that race that has been identified with all the prosperity that she has ever had. What was true of Virginia was, to a greater or less extent, true of all the other Southern States. Not only was the labor of this element needed, but it was found to be exceedingly valuable. It soon became the laboring class. It found its way into all the States. Slavery became an institution. The fact was soon demonstrated that the slave class could produce enough by their labor to support themselves and the master class and leave a large margin of profit over. They supported a class of men who, having
time to give to politics and public matters, soon gained prominence in the nation. Cotton became king, on a throne sustained by black men. Slave labor enabled the white people of the South to educate their youth abroad or maintain private schools at home. Wealth was piled up as the result of the labor of the Negro race. The race became a source of revenue and all the States profited by it. The forests were cleared away, cities were built, and beautiful homes were reared where before had been wilderness. Men left the narrow strip of land bordering on the Atlantic and formed new States and plowed new lands. Yet in it all the Negro had a part for his work's sake. Though he was a silent factor, he was a factor still, that can not be eliminated from the history of that time. He does the race an injustice who fails to recognize what it has contributed in toil for the upbuilding of this nation. The Negro's labor has been a mine of wealth to this country. Millions of dollars worth of productive force slumber in his brawny arms. He treads the furrowed field. He tends the cotton till it blossoms into whiteness and the corn till it yields its golden fruit. His strong arms and willing hands wrest from the fastnesses of the mountains their hoarded treasures. His toil and his labor made possible the wealth which has built the cities, and school houses which today dot the hillsides and adorn the valleys of the South. It is the proud boast of the American people that they honor labor; that the toil scarred hands and weather stained garments of the workman are worthy a tribute of homage. Who in all these years has labored more faithfully than the Negro? Who has worked longer hours? Who has endured so well the malaria lurking rice swamp and fierce rays of a Southern sun. Whose labor has contributed so little
to his own selfish interests and so largely to the general welfare? Who has done so much to make others rich while he remained poor; to make others happy while he continued miserable? Labor has made this country what it is. Labor has laid its lines of shining steel. Labor has tunnelled its mountains, bridged its rivers, beautified its waste places, and if today we can say in the language of our own Negro poet, Dunbar:
"The deer haunts that with game were crowded then,
To-day are tilled and cultivated lands;
The school house towers where Buin had his den,
And where the wigwam stood the chapel stands;
The place that nurtured men of savage mien
Now teems with men of nature's noblest types;
Where moved the forest foliage banner green
Now flutters in the breeze the stars and stripes."
It is because America owes a debt to Negro labor.
Years ago, says the N.Y. Tribune, when the bronze castings for the for the statue of liberty on the Capitol at Washington were being completed at the foundry of Mr. Mills, near Bladensburg, his foreman, who was receiving eight dollars per day, struck and demanded ten, assuring Mr. Mills that the advance must be granted him as nobody in America, except himself, could complete the work. Mr. Mills felt that the demand was exorbitant, and appealed in his dilemma to the slaves who were assisting in the moulding. "I can do that well," said one of them, an intelligent and ingenius servant who had been intimately engaged in the various processes. The striker was dismissed, the Negro took his place, and the work went on. The black master builder lifted the ponderous, uncouth masses and bolted them together, joint by joint, piece by piece, till they blended into the majestic "Freedom," which to-day lifts her head in the blue clouds above Washington invoking a benediction upon the Republic. Was there a prophecy
in that moment when the slave became the artist and with rare poetic genius reconstructed the beautiful symbol of freedom for America? Did it mean nothing that again in the hour of need the black hand was stretched forth to help?
For many years there was but little thought given to the increasing numbers of the Negro element. Slavery had not prospered in the Northern States, and hence the majority of colored people were found in the South. But there was steady growth until there were not only hundreds but thousands and millions. Cosmopolitan as is the make up of this nation perhaps no other element has become so widely distributed. The Negro has gone everywhere. On the bleak hillsides of New England, through the middle states, in far away Texas, on the Pacific slope and by the Rocky mountains--there is not a state or territory without its Negro population. Even on the Youkon, in Alaska, the Negro has been found hunting gold in the Klondike, and amid the ice and snow of arctic seas he has been seen in search of the North Pole. The year 1800 found the United States with a Negro population of 1,000,000, a little less than the present total population of the state of Alabama. In 1830 it had increased to 2,300,000, equal to the present total population of the state of Massachusetts. In 1850 it had grown to 3,600,000, equal to the present population of the city of greater New York. By 1860 the Negro population had reached 4,400,000, equal to the population of the state of Pennsylvania in 1880. In the year 1880 it was 6,000,000, equal to the total population of the state of New York. In 1890 it was 7,000,000, a number greater than the total population of any one state in the Union. Present estimates give the number of the race at 10,000,000, or
one-seventh of the entire population of the country. The number of Negroes in the United States to-day is as great as the whole population less than three-quarters of a century ago. The colored population of Montgomery is three times as great as that of the entire city of Chicago in 1840. Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina contain more Negroes than Caucasians. These ten millions mean 1,426,204 men of military age that the government may call into service in time of war. It means a voting population of 1,740,455 men. It means 2,000,000 children of school age. It means that there is not another nation of the size or importance of this in which Negroes constitute so large a part of the population. It means that in this great, powerful and wealthy nation the Negro forms a numerical element that cannot be ignored.
Ten millions to weave their destiny into the warp and woof of the 20th century. Ten millions to help make this Republic the ideal of nations. Ten millions to plead for justice from their fellowmen and at the bar of Almighty God. Ten millions to demand that crime and immorality and outrage and mob murder and lynch law shall be banished from the land. Ten millions to win for their race a larger place in the consideration of mankind. Ten millions to grasp and use all the inventions that genius has given to the world. Ten millions to keep step with the onward march of civilization. O, thou, ten millions, God has not linked thy life with that of this nation for naught. He has not led thee to the threshold of a new century, millions strong, to blindly grope about its walls; but that you may quit you like men.
Be noble, and the nobleness that lies in other men, Sleeping but never dead,
Shall rise to meet thine own.
And thou, America, deal justly with these ten millions, for there is a judgment day for nations as well as for individuals.
"The mill of the gods grinds slowly,
But it grinds exceedingly small.
It grinds with wondrous patience,
But at last it grindeth all."
If America shall ever lose her proud place among the nations of the earth, if the wail of despair shall ever rise above the ruin of her desolation, it will be because she has failed to be just. Right and not might give permanence to institutions and nations.
The patriotism of the Negro element in American life has won the admiration of the world. Never has the nation been in peril but that a black hand has been reached forth to save it. Israel Titus and Samuel Jenkins represented the Negro race fighting under Braddock and Washington in the French and Indian war. The Revolutionary war opened with a Negro the first to shed his blood in defense of American liberty and independence. In a letter that Crispus Attacks wrote to Thomas Hutchinson, the Troy Governor of Massachusetts, he closed by saying: "You will hear from us hereafter." And though the brave and loyal heart of Attacks soon ceased to beat, Negro patriots and heroes were heard from during all those years of bloody war. Peter Salem became the hero of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Henry Wilson says: "Some of the most heroic deeds of the war of Independence were performed by black men." A colored regiment saved the day at the battle of Rhode Island. Says the historian: "Three times in succession they were attacked with most desperate valor and fury by well disciplined and veteran troops, and three times did they successfully repel the
assault, thus saving the army from capture." If the colored soldiers had given way or been unfaithful all would have been lost. In that critical hour of trust and trial the Negro was found faithful and true. In the war of 1812 Negroes did valiant service for this country, Gen. Andrew Jackson issued a proclamation to the free colored inhabitants of Louisiana in which he said: "Sons of freedom you are now called upon to defend our most inestimable blessings. History records how grandly they responded. It was in a naval battle of this war that a brave black hero falling fatally wounded cried out to his shipmates, "Fire away boys but never haul the colors down."
In the civil war he downed the union blue and marching beneath the flag of freedom, rallied two hundred thousand strong. Vicksburg, Petersburg, Miliken's Bend and the blood stained heights of Fort Wagner where the famous 54th of Massachusetts won immortal glory, speak eloquent words for the Negro as a brave, undaunted, courageous man, and a patriotic element in the nation. When some one censured President Grant for appointing colored men to positions of great trust and responsibility saying "They have never been tried, he answered: "Sir, I tried them under the guns at Petersburg." Only a few months ago a foreign foe was at our door, threatening the peace, and assailing the honor of this nation. In that hour, who sprang more eagerly to the rescue, fought more bravely or died more willingly than men of our race. When Spain's army had been defeated, her navy sunk and she was forced to bid farewell to possessions in the western world the Negro had played his part and played it well.
The negro has formed a religious element in American
life that has not been without its weight and influence. During the civil war a slave was heard to say to his master: "Master de Yankee's going to catch it today." The master asked his reason and he replied "Cause Tom prayed four times last night." Through all the years the negro has stood for a faith in God that never faltered. Even in the cruel days of slavery our fathers and mothers took hold of the word of God. It taught them how to live and how to die. It taught them that old time religion that is good enough for me. It put hope in their hearts and they used to sing: "You can hinder me here, but you cannot there, way in the kingdom.
God sits in Heaven and he answers prayer, way in the kingdom. They prayed in those dark days-prayed for light an liberty. And I believe that freedom when it came though it was after long years of waiting, though it came amid the roar of battle and the clash of arms, when as was said: "Every drop of blood drawn with the lash should be paid by another drawn by the sword," was an answer to the fervent, pious, prayers of our forefathers as from log cabin, cane brake, cotton patch and rice swamps they sent petitions up to the throne of grace and the ear of God, for the freedom we enjoy to-day. We should thank those dear old toil worn whip scarred saints long since gathered home to glory.
The time will come when the historian looking for a bright example of unfaltering faith, looking for a people that amid suffering, sorrow, persecution, poverty and oppression have still kept the treasure of their trust in God will point to the Negro of America. When the government has failed to protect him, when the
church itself has been poisoned with the spirit of caste, when murder reigned and riot ruled he has still trusted in the God of Heaven. This their faith has made the Negroes of this country a mighty host to whom despair is an unknown word. The escape of this country from servile insurrection in the days of slavery, from bloody race conflicts in these later years, from the wild ungovernable spirit of revenge which injustice engenders, has been due largely to the christian spirit of our people that confides in an over ruling Providence. It is worth something for a nation to have such a religious element. They constitute a body of people helping to make this a christian nation,--helping to make true the motto on every silver dollar, "In God we Trust." Over 3,000,000 members of the race belong to christian churches. Of this number 1,600,000 belong to the Baptist denomination with a church property valued at $10,000,000, and 32 religious periodicals. Over 1,000,000 Negroes are members of the different Methodist denominations with school and church property valued at $15,000,000. Negroes are to be found following every faith in this country except the Mormon. In the Presbyterian, Congregational, Episcopalian, Lutheran and Catholic churches, The Negro has already made his numbers known and his importance felt. We have built our churches from Boston to San Francisco; from Chicago to New Orleans, from the swamps of Georgia to the mountains of Marine, from the valley of the Mississippi to the plains of Texas, until the church property of our race to-day is valued at $37,000,000. Let no man despise a race that comes from the washtub and cotton patch, the kitchen and the corn field, to build houses of worship until from every point of the
compass in a great land like ours, their towers point toward Heaven and inspire faith. If there ever was a people that followed to the letter the words "Seek first the Kingdom of heaven and its righteousness" it is the Negro race. There are three things that above all other the Negro has worked and prayed and hoped for, his church, his school and his home. For these the race has toiled and made sacrifice. There is hope for a race that builds with sacred faith around the church, the school and the home. There is hope for a race that clings to the dear old Bible--a race that prays.
The Negro has been a progressive element in American life. Our forefathers did not come to this country with flying banners. They did not come as adventurers. They did not come as conquerors. They were thrown upon the shores of the new world as the hopeless, helpless victims of force and injustice. Harder than the rocks of New England to the feet of the Puritan was the path that the Negro must tread from slavery to citizenship, from poverty to power, from ignorance to knowledge. Under more unfavorable circumstances, with more enemies and fewer friends, with less to give him hope, and more to discourage him than any other race on the continent, the Negro has steadily been making progress.
The race now pays taxes on $600,000,000 worth of property, owns 130,000 farms, 150,000 homes and has raised $10,0000,000 for its own education. Two Negroes have been U.S. Senators and two have written their names upon the currency of the nation. A Negro has been governor of one of the states of this Union, and twenty have been members of Congress. The
legislatures of all the Southern States have had Negro members, and also the Northern States of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. Albany, N. Y., Charlestown, Mass., and Detroit, Mich., have had Negro judges. The legislature of California has had a Negro Chaplain, the District of Columbia a Negro United States Marshall, the legislature of North Carolina has adjourned in respect to the memory of a Negro and placed the flag of the capitol at half mast. Negroes have been or are now collectors at the ports of Willington, N. C., Bedford, S. C., Savannah, Ga., Jacksonville, Fla., and Galveston, Tex. A colored man has presided over the deliberations of the U. S. Senate performing the duties of Vice President of the United States. Our young men have graduated with honor from Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Amherst, Brown, Oberlin, West Point and many other famous institutions of learning in this country. We have 30,000 school teachers, 500 physicians, 250 lawyers, 3 banks, 300 authors, 400 editors and so many preachers that no one has tried to count them. The foes of a republic are its non-progressive elements. Those that make no progress and desire to make none are the dangerous classes, but the Negro cannot be numbered with them. Every page of his history is stamped with progress. His enemies seem uneasy lest he shall make too much progress. We constitute a progressive element in the life of this nation.
What better qualification could the nation make for its citizenship than that it should be industrious, great in numbers, patriotic in spirit, religious and progressive, all of which the Negro has demonstrated. He is an American not by the mere accident of birth but
by measuring up to the requirements of American citizenship and becoming a element of the national life glorious in war and great in peace. The hope for our race in this country lies in our being the best men and the best Americans possible. And as one has truly said: "Remember that that the man who acts best his part, who loves his friends the best, who is willing to help others, truest to his obligations, who has the best heart, the most feeling, the deepest sympathies, and who freely gives to others the rights that he claims for himself is the best man."
I am not unmindful of the fact that it has become popular in these days to talk of going to Africa, to claim for the Negro only a lowly position, and hence only industrial education, and that the Negro should eliminate himself from political life. But those who claim these things forget that the Negro is an American, and not an African; forget that the Negro is progressive and does not confine himself to any one sphere of life, and hence needs all the education that may be necessary for him to reach different spheres of life, and fill them when reached; they forget community, his State or his nation is unbecoming an American citizen.
When other men shall have proved false to the faith of the fathers, when others have forgotten public good for private purse, when others have forsaken the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity, and let the old flag trail in the dust, may the Negro still be found true to all that is noblest and best in American life. Identified with all the interests of the nation, weaving our destiny with hers, rising as she rises or falling as
she falls, let us go forward to meet the future with a brave heart. The men who rise are the men who cannot be kept down. The men who win victories, those who cannot be defeated. The men who succeed are the men determined not to fail.
As the old ship of State sails out into the ocean of the 20th century, the Negro is on board, and he can say:
"Sail on, O ship of State,
Sail on, O Union, strong and great;
Humanity, with all its fears,
With all the hope of future years
Is hanging breathless on thy fate.
We know what master laid thy keel,
What workman wrought thy ribs of steel;
Who made each mast, and sail and rope;
What anvils rang, what hammers beat;
In what a forge and what a heat
Were shaped the anchors of thy hope.
Fear not each sudden sound and shock,
'tis of the wave, and not the rock;
'tis but the flapping of a sail,
And not a rent made by the gale.
In spite of rock and tempests roar,
In spite of false lights on the shore,
Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea,
Our hearts, our hopes are all with thee;
Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears,
Our faith triumphant o'er our fears
Are all with thee, are all with thee."