On behalf of the Afro-American members of the Order in Chicago, we appeal to the General Assembly to speak out in thundering tones against the discriminations against our race throughout this country, against Jim Crow45 cars, race prejudice from every section and source, also Judge Lynch; and we further request the General Assembly to appoint or elect as a member of the General Executive Board an Afro-American as a lecturer throughout the United States, so as to educate the race in the advantages of our noble Order, there being no color line in the Order, and our watch word being “an injury to one is the concern of all.” We send happy greetings and the Seventeenth session will be productive of such good in the cause of the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.
J. B. Bubbins, Master Workman
J. W. Coble, Recording Secretary
Proceedings, General Assembly, Knights of Labor, 1893, p. 34.
16. A BLACK WORKER TO GRAND MASTER WORKMAN, JAMES R. SOVEREIGN46
I take exception to your proposition to deport the Negro back to Africa (as being the best way to solve the Negro question) as being contrary to all international law. There was a day when you preached the universal brotherhood of man. . . . Now, I will suggest an easy solution to the whole trouble, that is, for Mr. Sovereign to accept Negroes into the order in the South. . . . but in case you attempt to force the Negro from the country to make it easy for the K. of L. to continue the inculcation of prejudice and inhumanity, you may run against a greater force than the one you bring to bear upon the Negro.
Chicago Inter-Ocean, March 12, 1894.
Negroes have been residents of this country for two hundred and fifty years and are as much American citizens as anybody. If this country is too small for the Knights of Labor and the Negro, then let the Knights leave.
Chicago Inter-Ocean, March 13, 1894.
The propriety of its claim to the title of “City of Brotherly Love” was most creditably exemplified by the city council of Philadelphia last week. A resolution limiting contracts for and engagements in the public works of the city to none but American citizens was promptly voted down. Hereafter, as formerly, public work and contracts may be secured without regard to race or nationality. Of course, a different verdict would not have materially affected Afro-Americans, as they have never been discriminated against in the public work of the city.
In connection with the action of the City Fathers of Philadelphia, there are two reflections as important to members of the colored population in other places, as to those in this great city of progress and fraternity.
Everywhere the Negro is identified as a laborer and everywhere he depreciates his power and prerogatives as such. Especially is this shortcoming true of him here in the North and East. He is a recognized laborer universally, but one apparently satisfied to operate in common ruts and along the lower planes. He appears plentifully enough as a common workman, but seldom as a boss or contractor in any department of the enterprises of the leading and more liberal cities of the country. Like Italians, Irishmen and other nationalities, when he begins to organize, control, and apply his kind to the best advantage, he will cut a much greater figure than that which outlines his shape at present.
Because he will eventually make his labor thus tell in more directions than one, is a probable reason why an opposition should be started against him in certain industrial high circles in this country. Because he may speedily open his eyes and elbow some less energetic competitor out of his way may account for the desire on the part of the Knights of Labor to have him out of the country. If so, it were to be hoped that their most painful fears may be realized.
Let the Negro remain in the kitchen, carry the hod or stay in the field, and he will meet no resistance. Let him but attempt to surpass himself in these respects, and so-called Knights of Labor with drawn swords in bumptious, quixotic, windy valorousness, would challenge his movements. But as the Negro himself has established his claim as the only true Knight of Labor in the past, he will not so easily give way to the false claims of others to such, now or hereafter. He will remain here, attend to his business and invite others to do the same.
The Christian Recorder, March 15, 1894.
The Knights of Labor propose to “deport the negro to central Africa” probably to relieve labor competition. That plan comes within one of deportation of the knights by the negro. Why not deport the American capitalist? Importation of laborers under contract is illegal, because it practically imports foreign labor prices. Wholesale deportation of nearly eight millions of colored people would affect the labor market considerably. The knights hope to induce the government to pay for the deportation. That is a thrifty consideration, even if it is not knightly Americanism. Who came to this country first, the negro or the knight?
The Cristian Recorder, March 15, 1894.
As between the black and white races, there is no community of interest in labor organization. For a short time some Negro laborers were connected with the Knights of Labor.
Virginia Bureau of Labor, Annual Report (Richmond, 1899), Vol. I, 366.