THE “ALABAMA LETTERS” TO THE EDITORS71 OF THE NATIONAL LABOR TRIBUNE
Jefferson Mines, June 25, 1878.
Allow us a small space in your paper to give account of the meeting here by the members of our National Greenback–Labor club. The white people of this place have solicited the colored men to join their clubs here, which we have done largely. The officers of this club are: George McDonald, President; James Moran, Secretary. The club meets on Thursday evening. At our last meeting James Dye gave a most delightful lecture on the questions uppermost among the people. He was loudly applauded. W. J. Thomas, a new colored member, was then called on for a few remarks, but he was rather diffident about coming forward and it is but just to say he made a most brilliant effort. He warmed up the crowd in a most lively manner, and gave both of the old parties “what Paddy gave the drum.” His speech brought eight new colored recruits forward, who joined the club. All classes of people who heard Mr. Thomas accord him the highest need of praise for his masterly effort. He is an up–and–down Greenback–Labor man, and the colored people hereabouts have settled upon him for a leader in the coming campaign, and he is not afraid to speak what he thinks.
Our club is growing rapidly here. We have chosen Messrs. McDonald and Moran delegates to the County Convention. We hope to have W. J. Thomas as a delegate to the next convention. Messrs. Moran and Thomas report prospects good for a club among the farmers east of Jefferson. They are working for it too. We believe these two men were sent here for a special purpose, and that purpose to be to show the working people the legitimate way out of their slavery to the money power.
Faithfully for humanity,
National Labor Tribune, June 29, 1878.
W. J. Thomas, the colored Alabama orator, is doing noble service for the National Greenback–Labor party in that state. He is forming clubs rapidly, and both the white and colored men join the clubs with avidity. Push on the good work; strengthen and hold up his hands, men of Alabama, and you will be rewarded in the end by this, the party of humanity.
National Labor Tribune, August 3, 1878.
Our regular Jefferson Mines, Alabama, correspondent, Warren Kelley, writes:
“Our meeting held here Monday night, July 22, was a good one. We elected W. J. Thomas to organize clubs through this country. After he had been out sixteen days, we concluded to call him in to see how he had improved, and to find how many clubs he organized, and how many members in each club. There was one member from every club ordered to meet with us to bear witness to Mr. Thomas’ testimonials. Four clubs sent their secretaries, and six others a report, stating that they had been organized, and the names of their officers and the members all corresponded with Mr. Thomas’ statement exactly. Mr. James Martin was called upon to address the council in regard to Mr. Thomas’ improvement, and he gave a most eloquent lecture. He said to the council that so far as he was concerned he was perfectly satisfied with what W. J. Thomas had done, and that he did not believe any other man in the State of Alabama could do as well among the colored voters of Jefferson county as Thomas had. He has done extremely well, and we should keep him at this business. He is doing more for the cause than any other man in the State of Alabama, and with but little assistance—about $4. Mr. Martin encouraged the council all he could to assist Mr. Thomas and keep him stumping this county. He stated that all that W. J. Thomas asks for is the money to send to the editor of the NATIONAL LABOR TRIBUNE at Pittsburgh, Pa. to pay for papers he had got, and to get 100 copies more to hand around as he traveled. Mr. Kelley was appointed to receive and answer all correspondence. He was also directed to furnish the NATIONAL LABOR TRIBUNE with official notices of our doings in Alabama. The notices will all be read by W. H. Galloway or M. Johnson to the club before being published.
National Labor Tribune, August 3, 1878.
Jefferson Mines, July 29, 1878.
After the speech of Mr. Thomas, the leading member of the white club, Mr. Walker, addressed the council, saying to the Warrior club that they would have to spur and lay whip to the horse, or Jefferson would soon ride out of sight. He also stated that Jefferson club had the best order and held the most regular meetings of any club in this State, white or black. He never thought such work would ever be carried on by colored people. Mr. Thomas is the leading spirit of the Jefferson club, and the Jefferson men here said that if he were to leave their club would soon go to pieces. Mr. Thomas is the right man for the business, because he speaks what he thinks in any crowd.
The council then adjourned, having an understanding that the regular meeting time for Warrior club should be on Wednesday night of every week, and the regular meetings of Jefferson will be held on Friday night of every week, and we will visit each other every meeting time. Meetings held at any other time shall be for special business.
On the 4th of July W. J. Thomas bid the boys good–bye for a few days, and on Saturday, July 12, he returned, and instructed the Secretaries to call a meeting the same night. Mr. Thomas brought in his reports, with good witness to prove everything to be true. All the reports from the different clubs that he had organized were read by the secretaries. The crowd was overwhelmed with joy when they found that Mr. Thomas had organized seven clubs, making twelve in this county. Mr. Thomas was attacked by the Democrats, who tried to keep him from putting up notices for public speaking, or making any speeches in favor of the Greenback party. They told him that he was heaping up war upon himself and millions of others, and threatened to take him down. But Mr. Thomas slipped his hand in his vest pocket and brought out his authority, asking them to read for themselves. They soon handed the paper back. They said to a white man the next day, who was a Greenbacker, “Our country has gone to the dogs.” “Why?” said the Greenbacker. “Because I saw a negro nailing up a sign on the Eureka Co. storehouse door. It was to notify all colored voters or whites that there would be public speaking at Oxmore on the 10th of July; that W. J. Thomas would address the people in regard to the National Greenback–Labor Party. The notice stated that the platform would be read by him.” “What platform?” said the Greenbacker. “Why, the platform of that infernal Greenback party,” says the Democrat. “Now, to think that a negro has that much authority in a good Democratic State, is enough to make a white man commit suicide. John, you know three years ago if a negro dared to say anything about politics, or public speaking, or sitting on a jury, or sticking up a notice, he would be driven out of the country, or shot, or hung in the woods. He was not allowed even a trial. Now white people are backing them in doing such things. I am told by responsible white men that this fellow Thomas has a carpet–bag full of newspapers that are printed in New York, Terre Haute, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Toledo. I suppose, from what I can learn from some sensible negroes, who don’t pay any attention to the negro Moses, but have been to his speaking once or twice, that W. J. Thomas has advised all the colored people to subscribe for these papers, and not pay any attention to the papers that are printed here in the South. He says the papers here are printed by our masters, and they keep all the good news away from us, and give us their old papers to read, and keep us fooled all the time. The nigger advises them to let these papers alone and take these good ones. He has got some with him to show what good papers they are. Now, he has one among them that he calls Labor Nashel Cribbune. This paper is wrote in Pittsburd, Pinsalvany, so the niggers tell us. I don’t know how true it is, but Ned will tell a white man anything he knows. Ned says he will get holt on one of them next time he goes to nigger meeting, and give it to his master, Jim. If he does, I will get it and see what it is. The nigger tells them in his speaking to subscribe for this Cribbune; he says it is the best paper in the bunch. But I tell you, John, if we let this nigger alone he will ruin our whole State. It is a dam shame. They tell me he has organized four or five clubs in Jones Valley, and more coming. Some white men that heard nigger Thomas say he is the best speaker in Jefferson county, white or black. He is too saucy; he don’t care what he says to white nor black in his speeches. John Smith says that he heard the niggers in Jones Valley the other night crying out, ‘Three cheers for W. J. Thomas!’ So this is what is doing with our party. Greenback clubs organized by niggers! In two years our editors will have to go to the plow–handle, and these Pittsburgh, New York, Chicago and Terre Haute editors will have all of the negro subscribers and half of our white subscribers. Well, good–bye, John; I will let you know when Ned gets that paper and let you see it. We can scare the niggers in Jones Valley, and run the carpet–baggers and elect Billy Walker. Come over, John.”
Now John was a full–blooded Greenbacker, and let the cat out of the wallet. He came to our meeting last night and told us the whole secret, and advised us to have Thomas on the line. He asked us to have these facts published, so that Greenback men would be on the watch. There should be money made up for Mr. Thomas and keep him on the road. He will have to watch his own color, for the other party will hire them to betray him.
If W. J. Thomas is let alone he will turn the State of Alabama upside down in the course of twelve months. The Greenback men will win if he keeps on. Mr. John Brown rode forty–two miles to meet us and tell us how to manage it. He is a stranger to Thomas and says from what he can learn Mr. Thomas is doing all he can for the National party, mostly at his own expense.
W. K. [Warren Kelley]
National Labor Tribune, August 10, 1878.
Jefferson Mines, July 29, 1878.
Please permit a small space in your paper to state the condition of the National party among the colored people in this county. As I stated before, W. J. Thomas is considered the leader of the Nationals in Alabama among the colored people, having his headquarters at Jefferson Mines. We elected him chairman of the committee, giving him authority to organize clubs over this county. Several white men met with us and advised us to organize in haste. It was moved and seconded that the Warrior and Jefferson clubs should unite and make a collection in order to get money to support one man while travelling through the country to organize. So we named W. J. Thomas as a delegate to meet the Warrior club at their regular meeting, on Wednesday, July 13, 1878. After the house was called to order the Warrior club proceeded to business.
It was moved and carried that they should hear the report of the Jefferson club. W. J. Thomas had caused the Jefferson club to hold meetings three nights in succession, and had everything posted up to a gnat’s heel. Mr. Thomas requested that the minutes of the Jefferson club be read before any further proceedings be had. This was done by the secretary of the Warrior club, which were approved. This gave satisfaction, and a collection was made by the Warrior club to help support the organizer. They were very poor, but showed a willing mind and assisted all they could. A motion was made to select from Warrior white club some good man to run against Mr. Thomas, but they refused. They said that they all knew Thomas, and they would rather have him than any man in Jefferson county. The Warrior club then turned all the money over to the Jefferson treasurer. The Warrior men robbed their own treasury to help Mr. Thomas, and said that they were willing to help in this cause at any time. Then the power was given W. J. to organize and rule over all the colored clubs in Jefferson county.
W. J. Thomas was then called to address the council. This he did, and it was asserted by all who heard him, that such good words had never been heard from the lips of a poor coal miner before.
W. K. [Warren Kelley],
National Labor Tribune, August 17, 1878.
Jefferson Mines, July 30, 1878.
We had a central committee meeting to hear the report of our general organizer, W. J. Thomas, who was present, and reported that he had organized four new clubs. A collection was raised in our central club for him, which resulted in placing him once more upon the road. He has done wonders in this section of the State. The people clamor for meetings. One was held here, and Mr. Thomas made a stirring appeal and address to the assembled people. The ladies turned out in force and gave countenance to our young orator. One of the friends suggested that the young ladies “go behind the door” until he got started, but they wouldn’t do it, and sat still. Mr. Thomas came forward, and after a few preliminary remarks, said: “Where there is little known there is little required.” He took the Bible and made some quotations. He spoke of Moses, of Joseph and others. He spoke of Christ, and his love for the people, and indeed the meeting looked, for the moment, more like a missionary meeting than a political one. He made a remarkable speech, surprising even those who had heard him before. He read the Toledo platform all through. He also read articles from the LABOR TRIBUNE, which were received with unmistakable evidences of approbation. He also read from “Pomeroy’s Catechism” with great effect. After taking extracts from other documents, he called upon any one who had aught against the documents read to them to come forward and defend his position. No one appearing, he advised them all to come and join in the good work. “Called for mourners,” the boys said. This meeting added ten names to the roll of the Irondale club, thirteen to the Newton club, and eighteen to the Jonesboro club—a pretty good night’s work. The other speakers were called upon, but said there was no room left for them to say anything as Mr. Thomas had fully covered the ground. Thomas then asked pardon for his having kept the audience waiting so long, but they shouted “Go on! go on! We’ll stay here a week longer to hear you talk the greenback gospel.” Deacon Hockens, of the Baptist church, sang a hymn, and Parson Jones called on them to pray, which he led, after which they were dismissed.
Persons who were present at this meeting tell me that it was more like a camp–meeting than a political gathering. W. J. Thomas will be long remembered here for his effective work, and all accord the young man great praise for his speech and gentlemanly demeanor toward the people. This was the master meeting of the Greenback–Labor Party in this county. Mr. Thomas is going to work in a few days, but we will raise another collection, and send him on the road again soon. The clubs in this State should all contribute toward his support, and to keep him going, for he is competent to show the people the true way to prosperity and happiness. . . .
W. K. [Warren Kelley]
National Labor Tribune, August 17, 1878.
The following letter was received from Colored Club No. 3, . . . Haygoods Cross Roads, Ala., July 9, 1878:
WARREN KELLEY—Dear Sir: I learn from Mr. C. C. Anderson that you are in correspondence with the editors of the LABOR TRIBUNE. If so, I wish you would manage to subscribe for a copy for me. I can read a little, but don’t understand how to subscribe for papers. I have not got the money, but as you have to pay five cents a pound for flour, I will let you have the same quality of flour at two and a half cents, to get that paper for six months. A colored man from your place brought some here and handed them around, and told us to subscribe for them. He seemed to be in a hurry. He made a speech here, and it beat anything we ever heard. He organized a Greenback club here, but the most of our boys were afraid to join it. Some say the Democrats have hired him to do this; others say it is to get up war; so that he had better make his tracks scarce here, as the white folks will upset him in a minute. If you know anything about him, let us know. He seems to be a good friend to colored and poor people. He is a small, spare made black man, and signed his name Willis Johnson Thomas. I hope he is the right kind of a man, but we have been fooled so much, that we can’t trust him yet. But I like this paper called the TRIBUNE. Please answer soon, and oblige yours respectfully,
Another letter dated Oxmoor, Ala., July 10, says:
MR. WONE COOLEY—Sir: Do you know W. J. Thomas, a colored man? Our neighbors were roused up here last night by a carpet–bagger, who had about a hundred newspapers, handing them around, and storming and crying out something about greenbacks, public lands, banks, bonds, convicts, Chinese and poverty and starvation. He got eight or ten to join him, but I had no use for his Democratic foolery. He said he came from Jefferson Mines, and showed that he had authority to organize clubs of gold or greenback or silver bank bonds, or something. He said if we did not believe him to write and ask you. He left this morning before breakfast. Do you know anything about him, or not? He said his name was W. J. Thomas. These white folks say they will Thomas him if he comes here any more.
W. K. [Warren Kelley]
National Labor Tribune, August 17, 1878.
Helena, December 28, 1878.
This place is on the North and South Alabama Railroad. The principal works in this vicinity and along this road, is the Central steel works, located at Helena, and operated by Cobb & Fell. The mill has stopped for the winter, throwing 75 men out of employment. Now comes the Eureka coal and iron company, which employs about 82 freedmen at mining and coke making. There are about 95 convicts in mining who are shipped here from the State Penitentiary. You seem to be something to be an American citizen after all. If you don’t like convict labor or farming you can go to the State warden of the prison and put on a suit of striped clothes and be appointed a coal miner, provided the judge and grand jury are favorable. Next comes the Cahaba mines, which have been idle for twelve months. Then comes the North Cahaba mines, owned by Davis & Carr, who employ about ten men. Next we have the Oxmoor furnace, located at Oxmoor, and operated by the Eureka company, which employs about two hundred men. At Birmingham, at the junction of the North and South Alabama and Chattanooga railroads, are located the new mines of Debort, Laboring, Sloss, Aldridge & Co. This is a new mine, and is calculated for the manufacturing of coke. The ovens are already in course of erection. The number of ovens will be about ninety. The Coalburg mine, two miles north of New Castle, owned by Sharp, who employs about 35 men, comes next. Then we have the New Castle mine, owned by John T. Milner. This is another model of our free institutions, as the mining is done by convicts. This fellow told the few freemen who worked for him that if he found out that any of his men voted the Greenback–Labor ticket they could find work some place else. But the men, I am proud to announce, stood manfully to our cause, Milner is a Republican bulldozer. Then comes the Jefferson mines, owned by Aldridge & Morris, who employ about 65 men. There is a strong element of Greenbackers here. I paid this place a visit last summer, and found some good workers here, among them Mike and Jim Moran and Tom Murray from Dunbar, Pa. They are working like beavers for the cause of humanity and freedom. . . .
National Labor Tribune, January 4, 1879.
Jefferson Mines, January 20, 1879.
I would ask space in your columns to state the condition of things here. The Greenbackers are still betting on a majority in 1880. They seem to be increasing very much south of Jefferson. They elected a Greenback man in the city of Birmingham a few weeks ago, and it stings the old parties like yellow jackets in a bushy head. Work here has been tolerabie [sic] scarce for two months on account of the pump being out of order. They got it in order again about December 20th. The prospects now look bright for steady work all winter.
George W. Griffin, a mule driver, was on the downward cage, at noon of December 23rd, 1878, when it stuck. By his moving about on the cage it started, and fell a distance of nearly 40 feet. His cries attracted the attention of one of the miners, who lifted him out of further danger. He was laid up some time, but is now at work. The men quit work until the cage was made safe, but after being idle awhile, again went in. Three days after this accident a man named Posey had his foot crushed by a fall of coal.
One Monday morning about nine o’clock a cry was raised in the mines for a strike. “What is the matter now?” said some. “We are cheated in our weight,” was the answer. The men who first struck did not wait to have any understanding before going to the top, and before all had been notified the ones who went up were coming back. Nearly all of the men, both white and colored, were opposed to the strike. Several men went up and examined the scales, when the pit boss gave an order that all who were not in that evening to square up and bring out their tools. Some eight or ten quit, and the rest went back to work. It is said by some of the men that the miners who first got up the strike were in debt to the company, and wanted to leave. We don’t know how true it is, but we know that the thing was brought up foolishly, and the men working now have been here a long time, the largest portion of them at least, and have been well treated by the superintendent and company, and would not like to go into a strike unless they were satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that there was something wrong about the weight. As once members of the Miners’ National Association we say: First, do all in your power to keep down a stike; then, if that won’t do, strike with an understanding and a resolution. The thing broke up in a row. The clerk struck one of the miners, and the superintendent and clerk then went to his house to take some blankets for debt, and was [sic] bluffed out by the miner drawing a pistol. We don’t know how the thing exactly stands. I will just state however, the next morning the miner and the clerk were shooting at one another, and the last we saw of it was the miner running and the clerk following, shooting at him with a pistol. The superintendent followed with a shot gun, but no one was shot. The man with the shot gun tumbled and fell before shooting, and it is said that this saved the life of the miner. We learned further that the end of it would be a big law suit.
National Labor Tribune, February 8, 1879.
Jefferson Mines, N.N., N.D.
Things are going on very smoothly here. Work is regular, and prospects seem very bright for the future. The shooting scrape between the superintendent, operators and Little George, the miner, is in the courts. They have had one trial of the cause [sic], but it has not been decided yet. We heard that Little George was in jail before the trial, but we have not learned whether he was released or not. The Warrior mines are going on very well at present. We received some extra copies of the TRIBUNE, and have handed them around. We have several promises of clubs, but money is so scarce outside of the mines that we can’t rely on any promises unless we see the cash, and feel it, too.
National Labor Tribune, March 1, 1879.
Warrior, March 28, 1879.
On the first of March J. T. Pierce reduced the price of mining coal from $1 per ton to 75 cents, which we, his miners, refuse to submit to. We are offered 75 cents for mining a ton of 2240 pounds of coal, which Pierce sells in [the] market for 2000 pounds to a ton, not saying anything about the irregularity of the overweight. The following is an exact account of J. T. Pierce’s store prices compared with the stores in the town of Warrior, distance from Pierce’s mines about one and one–half miles; but the miners are not allowed to deal in Warrior unless after night, when they will not be seen carrying contraband goods to their homes. A more damnable system of tyranny as practiced by this firm I have never seen, and I doubt whether there is a cursed pluck–me in the United States that can compare with the aforesaid Pierce. These are his figures:
. . . Here is a sample of Mr. Pierce’s Christian charity toward his fellow man: There is a man here by the name of G. B. Elliott, who sent to New York and had a lot of tea shipped here to sell as cheap as he could to his fellow miners, and he commenced to sell tea at 65 cents per pound. It got to Mr. Pierce’s ear, and he at once sent his partner to Mr. Elliott’s house to ascertain if the report was true, when Mrs. Elliott informed him that such was the case. At the same time Pierce was selling tea in the pluck–me store (I mean the robber’s den) for one dollar and fifty cents. He immediately ordered Mr. Elliott to emigrate from his mines, or to put it a little plainer, to take out his tools, which I believe was perfect right, for a man that would undertake to sell a miner anything lower than a pluck–me store belonging to a coal operator ought not to be allowed to run at large, because he is calculated to ruin the public reputation of the noble pluck–men system.
National Labor Tribune, April 5, 1879.
Jefferson Mines, March 28, 1879.
Perhaps your many readers are somewhat surprised at not hearing anything from this place for so long a time. As matters are stirred up so here I am much surprised myself. . . .
First, the Warrior mines went on strike, as Pierce, the Alabama Co. and their neighbors all reduced wages from $1 to 75<a> per tone for digging coal. Two weeks later the superintendent called the miners together, in order to reduce the price of digging at Jefferson mines from $1 to 87–1/2<a> per ton. After about a month’s work at the old price, the miners proposed a strike after working out the old price notice. Men have flocked in here from every direction, not knowing the condition of things until they got here. They overcrowded the mines, and the company stocked coal. The conclusion was then reached, what good would a strike do against a large pile of lump coal in the summer season when work is dull? This is all on account of men not being notified as to how things were here.
“A Close Looker”
National Labor Tribune, April 5, 1879.
Helena, April 16, 1879.
. . . The Montgomery workingmen have a full ticket in the field for the coming city election, and there is nothing under heaven to hinder them from succeeding if they but stand firm in the faith. The people of Alabama are tired of ring rule. The Democratic papers call the workingmen the riff–raff and fag ends of society. Workingmen, how does this go down? So long as we remain in the traces we are the brawn and sinew of the land; that’s when the oily, office–seeking politican comes around to take a view, so to speak, of his cattle that do the voting. Here is a sample of Democratic legislation in Alabama: there was a ventilation bill presented the House of Representatives for protection of the miners of Alabama, and one of the men elected to the Legislature recommended the appointment of one of the penitentiary inspectors for mining inspector, a man that never was inside of a coal mine unless when he came there to see how the convicts were treated. I have heard that one of the bosses of the Eureka Co., at Helena, asked another one what was the meaning of two outlets, and the other fellow said it was a way for the men to come out of the mines in case of danger, or to keep from getting in the way of the cars. The other said the next thing the miners would want would be a law to have a barroom in the mines.
The farmers here are very eager to organize for their better protection. There will be a move made in a few days to organize them into a combination for mutual protection. They are willing to wipe out convict labor by legislation. Workingmen of Alabama, rally your forces! Now is the time for action! In peace prepare for war. The writer is at your service day or night, without fear or compensation. . . . Miners, ironworkers, farmers, and every son of toil, must come to a general understanding. We are falling one by one, and amalgamation is the only thing that will bring us out of our present state of servitude to tyranny. Now is the time to use calm judgment. The colored man of the South can be no longer made use of by the political henchmen of Republicans or Democrats, but we who are compelled to work side by side with him must drop our prejudice and bigotry. This is the lever that’s keeping labor in bondage to capital. . . .
National Labor Tribune, April 26, 1879.
Warrior Station, May 13, 1879.
I write to let you and the boys along the line know that we of the Pierce & Haney coal mines are still allowed the privilege of breathing, and as yet have not been called upon by the operator to get an order for the same, but how long we will be permitted to enjoy this privilege is more than I can tell, as measures used by the taskmasters, let them be ever so bad, to crush our manhood, have become so severe and occur so often that it seems as though we will become hardened, and ere long lose the respect our wives have or once had for us. Some of my brother workmen will say, Why don’t you better your condition and stand firm like men for that which rightly belongs to you? My answer must be that we have been most shamelessly betrayed by men whom we placed trust in. On the first of April last the operators dropped the price of digging 25 cents on the ton, and the men all came out from both mines in one solid body. Little did I think that we would be blacklegged; but such was the case, for inside of three weeks sixteen blacklegs showed their colors. I ask my brother workmen what we are going to do with those worthless things who call themselves men? My advice to those who stood firm during the strike was and is to give them all the rope they want and they will soon hang themselves. Perhaps the solid men who read your paper would not believe that we have a man among us who did accept a suit of clothes (and a very superior suit by the way) to act the rascal, and did use his influence in getting the men to accept from the operator overtures which he knew at the time would prove injurious to himself, his fellow workmen, and finally bring his family to want. I am glad to say that this place of operation will not last much longer, from the fact that coal cannot be dug here as cheap as other places on this road, therefore those blacklegs will be brought to a speedy account when they want to shift their base of operation. This is the only way to treat those who prove false to the trust that others repose in them—herald their names to places where they wish to go. I will here conclude by saying that we have men here who will uphold the cause of labor.
National Labor Tribune, May 24, 1879.
Jefferson Mines, May 24, 1879.
I drop you a few lines to let the many readers of the TRIBUNE (the most valuable labor paper in the Union . . .) know that we have not forgotten them yet. Neither are we dead, d—k nor d—d. You all may know that we have not had much work here since the last of March. We had 16 or 17 idle days in April. The boys called it “a squeeze.” They all got through it but three of lads, who were denied at the store, and they “hit the railroad a week” at 80 cents a day. The other boys made sport of them at first, but before the work started old Pete knocked some of their stomachs about considerably, but they got through, and went to work a day now and then. I suppose work is as good here as anywhere down here, at this season. Warrior is working about the same, or a little better. It might be well to state that we tried the neighborhood to get up three clubs of subscribers to the TRIBUNE during the “squeeze,” and the only objection the farmers had to the paper was, as they said, “We can never see anything in it for labor except for miners, mill workers and puddlers. If those fellows would tell us all about corn, cotton, wheat potatoes, rice, eggs and so on, we would take it in a minute.” So I will start it for them. The fruit was all cut and dried by Mr. Jack Frost the nights of the 3d, 4th, and 6th of April. Wheat is very promising on Turkey Creek, five miles east of Jefferson. The gardens are young, but look flourishing. Cotton and corn looks well. Hail and rain fell here on the 14th and 15th, accompanied with much wind. . . .
The Jonesboro Greenback club is the boss of the county. Irondale is next, and they held regular meetings every week. They are both composed of colored men.
Our brother Greenbacker, Michael Moran, at Helena, Alabama, is still fighting for the cause.
Warren Kelley, one of our best men, is out on a piece of land, two miles from the mines. He bought a sore–footed mule from Mr. Pierce, of Warrior, for $15, on credit, and the boys though they had the laugh on hom, but the mule shed his hoofs, and is sound and well, and the boys now “laugh on the other side of their mouths,” says Peter Walker.
Kelley carried a girl 7–1/2 miles last Sunday. She is a farmer’s daughter, and went to the milliner shop this morning with a lot of fine goods. Her mother is gathering up flour and saving eggs, and her sister is scouring up the rooms. Kelley is loading two cars more every day. Is this a good sign?
W. J. Thomas
National Labor Tribune, May 31, 1879.
Jefferson Mines, May 24 .
Work continues dull in this section of the country. We get about three days in the week. The farms and gardens are looking fine. The young corn and cotton look nice and green. Turkey Creek wheat is looking bully. Eggs and butter are cheap.
“I am a Greenbacker,” says Ad. Jackson, “But how is this thing fixed? I hear that six men are going to run for President, Brick Pomeroy, Peter Cooper, Gen. Butler, Gen. Grant, Tilden and Hayes, and the white Greenbackers here want Tilden elected. If so, I’s not Greenback mor nothin’ else.” And Kelley said in reply, “Take the LABOR TRIBUNE and ask the editor or some of its readers, through the TRIBUNE, and you will get full satisfaction about who is on our side between now and next November one year. We, as laboring men and workers in the cause, should not be so quick to give over because we hear others say they want so and so. It is their business to want and our business to keep them out of their want. If I can see straight this is what is the matter now: When money was plenty and wages good, some big monopoly with tender hands and stud–horse clothes and Boston shoes on said, I want less money in circulation, wages reduced, more cotton and less corn, big public works and pluck–me stores, more convict labor and less wages for free labor. Then we would say, ‘I am a Republican, or I am a Democrat; but if this be true I ain’t nuthin’.”
I would say to you and all others of the same mind, if you are a Green–backer stand firm; be a man all over; have a strong constitution and a good resolution. . . . Because hypocrite Greenbacker says, I want Tilden elected, don’t give up and say ‘I ain’t nuthin’. If we do we will soon be nothing, and what we once were—rich man’s slave. . . .
Corn is worth 60 cents in cash—90 on time and a mortgage. In Birmingham the other day a man said to a merchant, “What is your corn worth?” “Ninety cents,” he answered. “But for cash, I mean.” “Got some to sell for cash,” he answered. He wanted a mortgage.
The reason Mother Brown’s funeral was postponed from the first Sunday in April to the second Sunday in July was because Rev. J.J.S. Hall was conducted to jail for kissing a colored woman with a rock. A witness against him went and found the rock at 10 o’clock in the night without a light, and brought it before the justice of the peace next morning. Two weeks later the same witness carried the rock to the Circuit Court and it was decided on court that no man could throw the rock. Now how did the witness feel? His name is Willis Harris. The kissing of the woman cost the parson $5, but it was a small rock, and she had just called him a bad name.
W. J. K. [Kelley]
National Labor Tribune, June 7, 1879.
Warrior, June 30 .
A short time ago I arrived in this little mining town, located 137 miles south of Montgomery, on the South and North Alabama railroad, and am sorry to have to say that work here, in the way of mining coal, is not brisk. The men do not get more than half time, but seem to be able to support their families even on this. The miners have experienced poverty to such a degree, and for such a length of time, that they and their families do not shudder at it, but look it squarely in the face, like little men. I have ofttimes thought how proud the operators must feel to know they have employees who possess the nerve to serve them regardless of the comforts of their families or the education of their children. Nothing I admire in men more than a steady nerve, but I must admit that this pleases me a little too well. When I speak about the education of children, it causes me to dwell on the ignorance of the mining population of this town. Some of the men argue with me that it takes thirty hundred weight to one ton of coal, and tell me they are satisfied to give this, for if they do not the operator will come out behind the return at the end of the month! Some of the men have figured to show me that they are correct about this 3000 business. Ignorance seems to have as great a hold on the toiling masses here as elsewhere. Some of the miners contend that a scale drawing five tons can be fingered with by putting a block of wood or gum underneath: that a car of coal that should weigh 1700 will not draw much more than 1200. I contend that such cannot be done. Do you suppose that the standard scales of our country (Fairbank’s) can be made to tell lies? Never! The men here are too superstitious, and if they are not careful they will all have to be supported by the country, as they are so extravagant, and cannot maintain their families at the rate they are now going. . . .
National Labor Tribune, July 5, 1879.
Jefferson Mines, July 6 .
Work continues dull here, but we are promised better work for the future. Some men get about all they want to do, as they have what we call a snatch game—grab all the empty cars from the side track at noon and at night. If there is work to-day and none to-morrow, these chaps will go in to-night and load the empty cars left from to-day, and make a day, and rest with the other men on the idle day. This is not taken off of them the next day. They work—these greedy grabbers—nearly double as much as the other men, as their booms show at the end of the month. A few of the men met to pass resolutions against such acts, and decided among themselves that they would stop it shortly. In two days after one of the leading men against the act was seen going up the entry pushing an empty car at the rate of ten miles an hour. About an hour later, two loaded cars were found standing in his room! He will so stop his part of it, as at that rate overwork is liable to make him stop a hole in a “wooden overcoat.” Now, as the leading man against the act is guilty of such tricks as these, there should be some plan devised to end it. . . .
Again I will say if any of your readers come this way looking for work, you had better bring an extra piece of pie or bread and butter along with you for the trainers and drivers. Good grub will send out more coal for you in a day than two picks and a helper. Don’t fail to bring it if you come. If you have any to spare, you might bring me some, and I will stay outside and eat it, and not give it to the 5 drivers.
George W. Griffin, our worst rumseller, is gone. He stabbed Sidney Rogers, leaving three or four bad cuts in his left side, and two on his arm. Sidney Rogers is a colored man, and staunch Greenbacker, and one we all love, and the rumseller had better not show himself here any more.
“A Close Looker”
National Labor Tribune, July 12, 1879.
Helena, July 25 .
As it has been some time since you had any news from this place, I will endeavor to jot down a few lines to give the friends of our manly paper an understanding of the condition of our people in this section of the sunny south (not the solid south by a long way, for we are pulling off the mask of the political hulks, and by eighteen hundred and eighty they will find us tramping on their corns with a vengeance.)
Labor in the mines is very dull at present, except for convicts, and they get all they can do, and about as much as two common men can do. Well, this is a Democratic State, and [the] Democracy is the champion of labor, and so is the devil. I see a plank in the Pennsylvania platform of the late Democratic convention (I believe it is the eighth) which says in so many words that Democracy is the friend of labor. Said plank is a flaming lie, and the actions of the Democratic party throughout the land proves it to be so. Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Ohio, New York and New Jersey are all governed by Democratic governors, and said States have the infernal audacity to bring their convict labor in competition with free labor. Ask the miners of Ohio what Democracy has done for them, and their answer will be: “Well, a Democratic governor gave us a Chinese lantern for a mine inspector.” Ask the cigar maker of West Virginia what the Democratic governor and House of Representatives has done for them, and their answer will be: “It has deprived us of the honest means of a decent support for our families by sending thieves and felons of the State’s prison to work in competition at twenty-five cents per day.” Alabama has about 300 convicts working in the coal mines who are used far worse than mules or oxen. Tennessee has about 600 working in and about the mines. Georgia has several hundred, and the Democratic politicians have begun to shoot and kill each other in order to get the spoils of their thieving legislation. The notorious robbers belonging to that party first enact a law to degrade free labor and deprive it of work, and the next step is to pass what is called the tramp law. By this law they grab up some good Democratic workingman whose father has been a Democrat all his life time, and if the devil should take him he is going to stick to the old party, so he wakes up some fine morning with a shackle on his leg, to find out that a Democratic governor has sold him to a coal mine robber for the enormous sum of $6 per month—the money, of course, to go into the state treasury. . . .
The mines here have changed hands from Eureka Company to the Pratt Coal Company. No. 1 mines are working steady, with 70 convicts. The coal is used for coking purposes. The company are sinking two new slopes. The Williams mines will be worked by 240 convicts, and the Conglomerate by what is called free labor. L. W. Johns has been made general superintendent of the Pratt Company, and Peter Thomas mine boss. Davis & Carr’s mines are working steadily, employing about six men. Coketon mine, five miles from Birmingham, employs 50 miners. It is a new mine, and George McDonald is mine boss. New Castle mines are working with 106 convicts and about 25 free men; the principal part of the work done there is iron ore mining. The Jefferson mines are working with a full force. . . .
National Labor Tribune, August 2, 1879.
Helena, August 5 .
It seems to me that the miners along the line of the North and South Alabama railroad are the most cowardly set of men it has been our lot to witness in this free land of ours. We have been making some powerful efforts to organize the laboring class of people in this State for some time back, and among the various branches of trades. We find the miners are the worst, notwithstanding the various schemes and devices practiced by their employers to deprive them of their just rights. Some time ago we were invited to the town of Warrior, and on arriving there we were convinced that the men had a good share of manhood in their breasts, but their actions since our visit among them proves to the contrary. If those men knew what sacrifices we made in order to bring them among our grand whole temple of man’s industrial rights they would not treat us as if we were some mongrel hyena. The men along this road will have to shoulder a little more manhood if they intend to ever raise their children up to the standard of a Christian race of people. There are some as good men at Warrior as walks the land to-day, but the men at the helm will have to show a little more determination to be men, or else we will all sink together. Now is the critical time to stand. . . .
The cause of labor is advancing in our State. The colored race can be no more hitched up to the infernal car of Juggernaut. The colored men of Alabama have one of the truest men in the labor movement amongst them—W. J. Thomas; he is a miner at Jefferson Mines; his heart is in the right place. Would to God every miner in the State had the same courage that he embraces in his manly bosom. I hope to see the men there prepare to put Mr. Thomas in the field in 1880. This will be a year when bigots and fanatics will have to fall to the rear and let men of brave hearts come to the front. It will be a question of whether we will be ruled by a plutocracy or aristocracy of money-bags who care not for the industrial power so long as their rapacious maw is satisfied. Then, fellow workmen, let me, in the name of a just and merciful God, beg of you to cast aside your religious and national prejudices; let labor have no religion or nationality. Remember God made all of us, and will require a strict account of each of us at the last day.
National Labor Tribune, August 16, 1879.
Jefferson Mines, August .
It seems as though Mr. Dawson, at Helena, has lost confidence in the miners along this line of road, or at least he calls the most of them “cowards” There is a volume in that word! In the first place, he means the miners no harm, but their good. He has labored long and faithfully, and it is no wonder the man is disheartened. But he should consider, as the good old man did when he was called on to lead in prayer. He began in this way: “O Lord! O Lord, ah! we are in a might bad fix, ah; and we all have fell in the ditch together, ah.” And so it is with the people in this part of the country. In the first place, the colored people are all slaves, and the white laboring men are all in bondage. The man that has a moral influence is so blinded with prejudice that he leads his hundreds to the ditch, and all fall in. Sure enough this is the aim and object of the few that aspire to rule, and have all this country under their control. Had it not been for the great and noble principles slowly unfolding to our minds, we, no doubt, to-day would have been so engulfed that we would never have dared to make the start. I hope to see the day when it unfolds itself as a canopy which will shade the trees of liberty, when all sons of toil may be clothed with its principles, and come out from under the yoke of bondage.
The people in this part of the country are very superstitious. The most of them believe that there is a secret organization pointing directly or indirectly to their persons and property. This is not so. If they will only take the TRIBUNE, and read it, and study its principles, they will find out their mistake. If I am not deceived, it is for the protection of all honest industry. But it is pointed directly and indirectly against all extortioners, thieves and swindlers in our government. It will take time and patience, in this part of the country. The people see that the Greenback-Labor party is the party to hold to, and I hope that by 1880 we can say, as Kanawha country, West Virginia, has said, “Get thee hence, Satan.” In conclusion, I will say, take the advice of your friend Dawson, and say, “we will stand shoulder to shoulder.”
National Labor Tribune, August 30, 1879.
Jefferson Mines, August 27 .
. . . Work is plentiful in the mines, as the men have all they can do, and the prospects look bright for the future. Some of the Greenbackers hereabout still stand for the right, and some of the “Democratic Greenbackers,” who voted what we call a mixed ticket last August, still urge the colored people to stand to the Greenback ticket, while they themselves are astraddle of the fence, and deeply in love with the Democratic party. I will say one thing plainly, the colored people in this county, one with another, have been bull–dozed and fooled as long as they intend to be. We organized into the Greenback party last year, and intend to stand as long as there is a paper printed in that name. We mean business, and nothing more, but there is a “fly in the mug” somewhere, and when it comes out we will see it. Now, if the white men here and elsewhere want us to stand by them in the way of standing up for wages, and voting the Greenback ticket, and on many other things that they ask us to join them in, they must come out on the square, and stand up like men, and do more themselves, as well as tell us and do nothing themselves. There are some good, sound Greenbackers here among the whites, but they are not so plentiful as strangers might think. . . . There is no use in advertising a great mess [sic] in favor of men being Greenbackers, and they dead out the other way. Now if the men will come out solid on the platform, and let us hear from them often, and not raise a dust about election times, and then lie down and sleep until the time comes again, there will be better hopes kindled. . . .
Mr. M. Moran is a solid Greenbacker and a gentleman, and treats every poor man alike when he can, but know there are some men in society that cannot bear good treatment. They want colored men to come in on the edges until it comes to tax-paying and voting for their party, then the Negro is called “colored gents,” and must come into their party, and feast off the best. Mr. Moran is a good hearted, manly gentleman, and should be in the field in 1880. Greenbackers that will not follow him are no friends to labor, and ought to be slaves, as there is no chance for anything else the way men are doing. May God bless this man and make Helena bloom.
“A Close Looker”
National Labor Tribune, September 13, 1879.
Birmingham, September 15 .
As the miners all over the country are doing something to advance and protect their interests, I think it is short time that we, the miners of Alabama, should endeavor to do something towards getting at a little more uniform system of mining. In looking for work at mining, in that section of [the] country I find that miners are divided to a considerable extent among themselves. For instance, the miners at Pierce’s mines are mining at 75 cents per ton and the Alabama mine the same price. The vein is a 3 foot vein of coal, and at Neighbor & Worthington’s the miners are working a 2 to 2-1/2 ft vein for the same price. Then there is the Jefferson shaft miners working at 87-1/2 cents per ton, in from 20 inches to a 2 foot vein. But here comes the softest snap of all, the New Castle men mining coal at about 35 cents a car. Then comes the Pratt mines, at Coketon, where there are from 3 to 4 feet of coal mined for 40 cents per ton. But here are the grandest set of tools in the whole region; the Helena miners are working at from 35 to 25 cents per ton in a 3-1/2 foot vein, and pay $3.50 per keg for powder. This coal was formerly paid for at 40 cents per ton, but some of the men down there refuse to move in regard to the question of a just price for coal mining. The fact of the matter is, we have here a class of men who would consider themselves union men of the first water if they were in the northern or western coal fields.
The miners in Alabama have no organization to protect their interests or advocate their cause, and they are in a different position from any mining locality in the United States, viz: All capitalists employing labor in this part of the country have two sorts of labor, and some of them three sorts of labor. First, the poor white man, who is dependent on capital for his daily bread; second, the colored man, who is in the same fix; and third, the convict, who has no alternative but to go where his taskmasters choose to lead him in chains. . . . Can any man that casts an eye around him help seeing at a glance that capital has no religion or nationality in its ranks? You never find these causes at work among any other class except it be the poor, unfortunate laborer who keeps the thousands of idle paupers and swindlers rolling in luxury by their stubbornness in not protecting or advancing their own interests. In bringing this matter before the laboring men of this place, I hope I have not hurt the feelings of any man who earns his living according to just methods.
National Labor Tribune, September 27, 1879.
Helena, October 4, 1879.
. . . In the TRIBUNE of September 27th I showed how divided the miners on the North and South railroad of Alabama are as regards a uniform price for mining coal. One would suppose that all emigrated from China or some other heathen country, to see the way they conduct themselves. There is no system whatever among the miners of this region, and I would suggest that a general convention to be called for November 1st, 1879, to come to some conclusion as regards a system to work by, the same as other trades have all over the country, and not be, as we are at present, blacksheeping each other out of work.
The Greenback-Labor men of Alabama are at work already preparing for that conflict in 1880, viz., the overthrow of the money power. In the northern part of the State, Hon. W. M. Lowe, member of Congress, is speaking day and night; another man is also busily engaged, Paul Jones. They are making the valleys ring with the shouts of the honest farmers rallying to the Greenback standard. In Jefferson County we are confident of sweeping the rotten dynasty of Bourbonism out of existence. The Bourbons have threatened the shot-gun argument up in North Alabama. That shows how they are the people’s party. Their hardware, bond-mongering press yell that the Greenback party is made up of Republicans! Where are all the Democrats that left the rotten old hulk in Maine in ’66? The Greenback–Labor men of Mississippi are swarming like bees in a hive. Bourbonism threatens a shot-gun diet there. The other day the Greenback–Labor men were going to hold a convention, but the Spartan band were not made up of rum-shop material and they marched to the hall three hundred strong, and nominated their officers, and dispersed like men who know what freedom means. I tell you the animal is very near dead down South. Will the working classes of the North, West and East see to it that they cast their ballots for home and liberty in 1880, and not for the money-grabbing machine that is run for the benefit of the sharks of wall street?
Jefferson county, Alabama, has sixteen Greenback–Labor clubs, and several more have in view an organization during the coming fall. Well, we are all right down here. There are men here who go to work at two and three o’clock in the morning, and then after spending fifteen or sixteen hours in their cakes, come out and swear by their maker that they are the best miners on the works—just and honest men! Pass those animals by with contempt and scorn. Shun them as you would a viper.
National Labor Tribune, October 18, 1879.
Montgomery, October 20 .
. . . Birmingham, Ala., is the center of the iron and coal region, and is the livest [sic] town I have seen in the South. There are three foundries, three machine shops, and the S. and N.A.R.R. shops are located there, and a large iron furnace is building. If the place is not killed by rings and monopolies, it will make a good town. Politically, Alabama is in a bad fix. All things are run by Bourbons, and they are in all the rings. There is no organization amongst labor, no Brotherhood of Engineers, no union of the miners.
I am told that the charter of the S. & N.A.R.R. requires that the President of the company shall reside in the State of Alabama. Col. Stass draws a salary of the aforesaid office, and it said he is a very nice man. and gives liberally to the churches. He is also a fine politician and runs the Oxmoor furnaces. The Governor of the State is interested in the coal mines, and in the labor of the penitentiary convicts. He would make an excellent charter member for a new Standard Oil Co. He has a ‘grab all,’ or a train with groceries and merchandise running over his division of the road to sell to employees only, many of whom get only 80 cents per day. The railroad is generally two and a half month’s behind, and when the pay car arrives there is not much money to pay. This bonanza is said to be worth a cool $40,000 per year. I am told that the “grab” will not offer to sell here, as they are afraid they will have to pay license. If I was a merchant on that road I would examine and see if there was no law to make them pay license. On the Memphis and Charleston and the S. & N.A.R.R. many Negro firemen and brakemen are employed. Many engineers and conductors prefer Negroes as they can make them wait on them, black their shoes, etc., and I have heard it intimated that some Negroes give as much as $15 per month to them to retain their jobs.
National Labor Tribune, November 8, 1879.
Helena, November 17 .
Fellow miners and workingmen, the time has come for us to act together. Our fellow toilers are moving in one grand mass all over this noble land of ours, (it ought to be ours, only for our cowardice). Therefore, I ask you, men of Alabama, to be up and doing your duty. The time is coming when labor will assert its rights all over the land, and I hope all over the earth, for “earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,” but it seems our paternal government don’t think so, as they have given a very large slice of to the mine and railroad robbers. Well, there are two ways to rectify wrongs in this country, and if we fail in the legitimate way, we will have the best side of the question in the second way, as muscle will be the ruling factor when the day comes. Therefore, let all who love liberty and justice band together in one noble industrial army. Self–preservation is the first law of nature, and eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. While the sluggard of labor slept the national bankers and the railroad kings were in the halls of legislation riveting the chains of slavery on the toiling masses. They can send their agents with a few silver or gold dollars over from London, and buy more legislation in one hour in Congress, than the forty-eight millions of so-called freemen can in ten years.
Messrs. Editors, you never hear those fellows fighting about their “nationality” or their “religion” when they meet. No! they have no nationality or religion. The click of the dollar is the only God Shylock kneels to adore. It is left to the ever-worked half-starved, under-paid serf of American freedom to drink rotgut whisky and squabble about such matters, and the more he uses of the tangle-foot the easier he is to manage! It only takes one short day or night for him to invest his little capital, and then there is no need of a clerk or agent to take care of his book account. He returns to his den the next Monday morning to serve his master for a small pittance, and when earned he even begrudges it to his wife and children! . . . We prefer to leave our few dollars at the bar-room, and when meeting night comes around our seat in the lodge is vacant. John Tippler has no time to attend to the labor question. When one o’clock in the morning comes, he must be getting ready to go into the mine, or shop, or factory, or on the railroad. He gets up out of his bed at 12 or 2 o’clock at night, and leaves the land of dreams and goes forth to spend 15 or 16 hours in a coal mine, and he comes perhaps at eight or nine o’clock at night. What does he resemble? Well, there he is, look at him yourself; I won’t tire you, as it costs nothing to see him after he is out of the works, but you will not dare to go down in the mine to see him for fear you might tell him some dangerous idea about how mankind in. general ought to live—not as they are at the present trying to rob and swindle each other, however. Let us have a little light on the question of organization. . . . Let all the miners in the United States band together under the standard ****, and all the organizations we want is there.
Michael F. Moran
National Labor Tribune, November 22, 1879.
Jefferson Mines, December 9 .
. . . We are still working at 87-1/2 cents for 2240 pounds, and it is a drag sure enough. We all want the other 12-1/2 cents to make it $1., though none of us come out plainly and ask for it, though we still live in hope that the company will comply with the request that we made on the 1st of November, and which I saw stated in the TRIBUNE of November 22d. Since then several of the men have left here and got work at other places, and seem well pleased with the change, though the most of us still here have families, and don’t want any strike. We are willing to uphold free capital as long as possible, but I think the time has come that something must be done, or we will be living as Henry Ward Beecher says we should live, though I don’t think that there will be much love left with our wives, if we bring them and the little ones to bread and water. I think that times will take a change in this part of the country soon, for we are moving slowly but steadily in the right direction. The Greenback element, which the aristocracy thought to be dead, our good old farming citizens have been watching. They have been weighing the principles of the party until they are satisfied they are sound, and if they only knew the principles of the organization, there would be a brotherhood in this country strong enough to carry the day at any and every election in spite of the influence of aristocrats, supplemented by the codfish aristocracy of the country.
A letter was recently sent by the miners of Pierce’s mines to the men working in the other pits, and signed “So called Blacklegs,” in which they proposed that a meeting be held and the question affecting them be discussed. The Jefferson shaft miners declined to meet them as a body, but [said] that if they desired they could meet their accusers face to face. We also offered to discuss the future of labor in this district with them, which they also declined. I am in favor, if they can prove themselves clear of the charges against them, to lift the ban from them and make them free men once more. They certainly can prove themselves clear of the charges made against them if untrue, and owe it to themselves to do so. The columns of the NATIONAL LABOR TRIBUNE will certainly be open to them to do so, if they will do it. Will they do it?
National Labor Tribune, December 20, 1879.
A few days ago, while passing the streets in Terre Haute, I saw a black dog, and a gentleman passing by, snapping his fingers at the dog, said, “That is a little Republican.” (Laughter) His remark was in keeping with the sentiment of the Republican party, that every man whose face is tanned must necessarily vote and affiliate with that party. . . . I am glad I have lived to see the day when we can make our own selection, and when the colored people of the United States are making their own selection. . . . I read in the Book of Truth that God sometimes chooses weaklings to confound the mighty. . . . The laboring men of the country understand their business as well, and I think probably a little better, than our former leaders. . . . While many men have gone south to guide the color there, after the elections our people have been left to the mercy of the south; and I am informed by a gentleman supposed to know, they are willing to come into the National party at any moment, and with the assistance of the laboring masses, the colored men of the north and south will preserve this country as the land of the free and the home of the brave. . . .
Speech of Reverend H. Anderson before Indiana State National Greenback Convention, quoted in the National Labor Tribune, July 6, 1878.
The New Organization of Colored Voters
When the so-called States Equal Rights League was in session in Pittsburgh it will be remembered that a number of delegates of Nationalistic and Democratic proclivities were ejected from the meeting because they declined to indorse a resolution pledging their support to the Republican party. The resolutions emanated from Mackey’s man, W. D. Forten, a colored politician of Philadelphia, whose family is well provided for in the way of official position, and who for that asked the colored men of Western Pennsylvania to support his party. For two days past these ejected delegates have been in session, and here is the result of Friday’s session:
THE SO–CALLED EQUAL RIGHTS’ LEAGUE
In the absence of the Chairman, J. Grandison, R. A. Hall was called to the chair. The minutes of the last meeting were read and adopted. The report of the Committee on Grievances, Messrs. A. Hawkins, P. A. Noler and J. G. Hawkins, was read and adopted, as follows:
Pittsburgh, Aug. 29, 1878.
To the citizens of Allegheny county and State of Pennsylvania: Fellow Citizens, Members and Gentlemen:
We deem it essential that we should bring to your notice the action of the so-called Equal Right’s League that met in Avery Hall, Allegheny City, on the 20th of August, in denouncing all the western delegates, not by the constitution or parliamentary law, but from their malicious tyranny. There was a Committee on Credentials appointed but no Committee on Contesting Delegations. When the Committee on Credentials was announced to make its report, it was as follows:
“Mr. President—These are the names of the men the Board decides shall be the delegates to this convention.”
And, we, your delegates, not hearing our several names called, rose to ascertain the cause. We were told that our credentials were thrown in the scrap and waste basket. We then wanted to know why we got no other redress. The reply was that we were not members until we signed a pledge to support the whole Republican ticket and candidates, which we would not do. We therefore submit this resolution for your considerations:
Resolved, That we organize ourselves into a league, to be known as the People’s League.
The resolution was unanimously adopted.
Mr. Paul J. Carson reported that he had interviewed a large number of the colored citizens of Western Pennsylvania in relation to the unjust action of the State Equal Rights’ League, and learned their sentiments concerning the contemplated organization of the People’s League, many believing that such an enterprise would be a great assistance in advancing the best interests of the colored people in Pennsylvania and their race in general. Mr. Aveler, in a brief address, related the unjust action of the League.
After a consultation, Prof. Wm. Howard Day presented the following platform, which was also unanimously adopted:
Opposed to the later methods and tyrannical action of the Pennsylvania State Equal Rights League, which has, by a few men, been made merely the appendage to the Republican party, and which has demanded a political test which sought to pledge us, willing or unwilling, to the support of the Republican candidates in the campaign of 1878; knowing the pledge to be unconstitutional and impolitic, and believing that the Pennsylvania State Equal Rights League, with its present methods and control, to be barren of usefulness; and also believing that the colored citizens should unite for their own intellectual, industrial, mechanical and social improvement, with permission to hold such political views as they choose, and to vote as they may deem best, we form a new State organization “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” working out our political salvation through existing or new political parties, as may seem wise to each of us.
The chair appointed a committee of three on nominations, Messrs. Aveler, Harkers and Carson, who reported the following, who were unanimously elected as officers of the People’s Equal Rights League:
President—C. M. Brown, Harrisburg.
Vice Presidents—D. B. Bowser, Philadelphia; R. A. Hall, Pittsburgh; J. B. Popel, Harrisburg; P. J. Carson, Pittsburgh; A. Bettencourt, Philadelphia; W. L. Ramsey, Wilkesbarre.
Corresponding Secretaries—R. W. Bell, Pittsburgh; Chas. O’Donnell, Pittsburgh; S. P. Hood, Philadelphia.
Recording Secretaries—John H. Jones, Pittsburgh; S. P. Irvin, Philadelphia; I. C. Harris, Pittsburgh.
Treasurer—Francis A. Hall, Pittsburgh.
Chaplains—Rev. J. P. Hamer, Carlisle; Rev. Jesse Cowles, Pittsburgh; Rev. Geo. M. Bonner, Harrisburg.
COUNCIL OF ADMINISTRATION
Chairman—Wm. Howard Day, Harrisburg; Alfred Hawkins, Pittsburgh; Thos. L. White, Chambersburg; Peter R. Tucker, Philadelphia; Wm. H. Still, Reading; B. F. Towns, Wilkesbarre; J. W. Henry, Franklin; Jos. Lebar, Lancaster; S. T. Linsey, Pittsburgh; D. M. Robinson, Harrisburg, Pedro A. Aveler, East Liberty; James Armstrong, Marietta; Philip Peterson, Allegheny City; C. W. Harley, Harrisburgh; M. Cupit, York; R. Knox, Huntingdon, John L. Griffith, Lewistown; S. J. Jordan, Carlisle; Jno. Turfley, Pittsburgh; Wm. H. Rex, Wilkesbarre; M. S. Pugh, Pittsburgh; Geo. Barnes, Shippensburg; J. C. Brown, Pittsburgh; M. J. Terry, Reading.
The committee further reported that a mass convention of the colored people of Pennsylvania who are opposed to the action of the Pennsylvania State Equal Rights League, and in favor of the formation of a People’s League, be called to assemble in the city of Pittsburgh, on Tuesday morning October 18th, 1878, at 10 o’clock.
The meeting was well attended and very enthusiastic, and after routine business, adjourned to reassemble again on Tuesday, September 10th and to hold a ratification meeting in the evening.
National Labor Tribune, September 7, 1878.
From a private letter to Mr. Isaac Cline, from his brother in Little Rock, Ark., we take the following extract:
Yesterday morning I was ordered to go out of town about one mile to Jacoby’s Grove, and write up a barbecue. I got into a carriage and reached the grove before the speaking began. Now, a Southern barbecue and political meeting differs widely from the same thing anywhere else. I found here one large ox, three sheep and a calf on the spit, all being cooked by colored men, to be served up free of cost to all who wished to eat. As I wandered through the grove I saw dozens and dozens of revolvers hanging in belts on the Southern bloods, all prepared and ready for use. The barbecue was given by the Greenback club, and the candidates on the Democratic ticket were invited to discuss the questions at issue. Quite a number accepted, and twenty-minutes were allowed each speaker, and in all my life I never saw men so badly beaten as the Democrats were. You must understand this county, and in fact the State, has three negroes to one white person, and those negroes to a man are solid Greenbackers, and some few of them are the best speakers I ever listened to in all my life. They carry their lives right in their hands—brave, cool and determined to have all their rights. One to three shooting affairs have occurred every week since I have been in the State.
National Labor Tribune, August 10, 1878.