A colony of some 400 negroes, in Maury County, Tenn., has been forming an organization to emigrate. The similar movement set on foot at Macon, Ga., would indicate that the subject of emigration from their old homes in the South is growing popular with the negroes, who are growing weary of the interminable agitation of their rights in the South. A large number of them apprehend that they will be disfranchised in a short time, and their fears are increased by the tone of several of the Memphis papers and some of the country press. If the exodus once gains headway no human persuasion can stop it. The last negro will leave the South. Whether Tennessee can afford to lose the bone and muscle of nearly 300,000 laborers, is a very serious question.—Nashville Press.
National Anti–Slavery Standard, September 11, 1869.
1. He will be required to be ready for work by sunrise in mornings, then repair to same and render good and faithful service until noon, when he will be allowed for dinner one hour, during winter and spring and one hour and a half during the summer months. Then to perform faithful labor until sundown. Then feed stock or perform any other necessary duty demanded of him by his employer or agent.
2. All time lost to be deducted from the wages of the laborer, to be assessed by his employer.
3. Bad or unfaithful labor, careless breakage or loss of tools, willful destruction of property or abuse of stock will be charged for, and deducted out of the wages of the laborer.
4. The laborer binds himself to be obedient to his employer or agent. To obey all orders willingly and cheerfully of either employer or agent, and to render good and faithful service at all times.
5. It shall be the duty of the laborer to attend faithfully to the stock of his employer on the Sabbath.
6. The employer binds himself to furnish three pounds and a half of sound Bacon and twelve pounds of good meal per week, and quarters free of rent.
7. It is understood that the laborer is to receive one half of his wages per month, at the expiration of each month, and the remainder at the expiration of the contract in case he shall leave before expiration of his term of service without consent of his employer, he thereby forfeits all claim upon the employer for the unpaid part of his wages. It is, however, understood that the employer has the right to discharge the laborer at any time by a liquidation of all dues.
Henry E. Cobb, “The Negro as a Free Laborer in Alabama, 1865–1875,” Midwest Journal, 6 (Fall 1954):43–4.
An experience of nine years convinces us that it is to the interest of our people . . . to leave this state for some other state or territory more favorable to their material, social and intellectual advancement.
We have labored faithfully since our emancipation for the landed class of Alabama, without receiving adequate compensation, or without the possibility of ever receiving any reasonable remuneration. . . . And consequently, instead of advancing our material interests . . . our condition is becoming worse . . . and many of our people are on the verge of starvation. And inasmuch as there is no prospect of our opportunities being any better . . . we recommend the formation of an association to be called the “Emigration Association of Alabama.”
Henry E. Cobb, “The Negro as a Free Laborer in Alabama, 1865–1875,” Midwest Journal, 6 (Fall 1954):48.
THEIR EXPECTATION OF FREE TRANSPORTATION TO KANSAS, AND FORTY ACRES AND HALF A YEAR’S RATIONS WHEN THERE
Rev. Edwin Horn, formerly Pastor of a colored church in Edgehold, but now of Giles County, was in the city yesterday. He said he had been criticized by some five hundred colored people in Giles County to investigate whether the idea entertained that free transportation was given between Nashville and cities in Kansas and Missouri was a reality. They had gotten to believe that free transportation was furnished and there is no getting it out of their heads. It almost amounted to a superstitious belief, so much had the story been told, and there was no controverting it, and especially by those who had no written documents upon which to base an argument against it. It was a singular fact that the idea was traceable to no particular person. No single person appeared to advocate such emigration as was proposed by the blacks in Giles and Maury Counties, Tenn. and Limestone County, Ala. No one had any knowledge as to the route they would take for the West, or even the amount of money required to be expended on the way. They hardly knew where they were going, nor when they would stop. They were led on by the one vague idea of receiving forty acres of land and six months rations at the end of some insubstantial rainbow.
Many had stopped their plows in the field, packed up their little all, buried it under the hammer, and sold it at whatever it would bring—a beggary sum. Many led on by these illusions, broke their contracts, sold their cabins and wandered out with all the rest of the flock who had the Western fever. They were spending what little they possessed, and many would soon reach a point near unto starvation. Mr. Horn confessed having said to many of them to have it they thought they would later advance their fortunes, and many had confessed the opinion that the greater the number when it departed for another country, the greater the opportunity afforded for those remaining to better their fortunes, because of a more active demand for their labor. The best of labor was leaving the country, as only those who had, by their industry, accumulated at least a small amount of money, could think of removing to so distant a country as Kansas.
He intended going back to Giles with a view to discouraging the emigration, as it could result in no good to the emigrant who was far better off at home than he would be among strangers.
Desiring to have some positive evidence of the [illegible] of the free transportation, forty acre illusion, he had applied to Mr. J. N. Brooks transportation agent, for information upon the subject and he asked him to write a letter which he might read to his people. The letter mentioned this:
“There is no free transportation from Nashville to the West. The only free transportation given or that is offered is by the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, of St. Louis, Kansas City and Northern from St. Louis and that is to the effect that they promote to sell certain lands adjoining their line of railroad in seven years’ time, with the understanding that one-tenth of the purchase money is paid down to the real estate agents in St. Louis, and when this is done they will give the purchaser free transportation to the lands. This is the only kind of free transportation known by me. If there is a large number of persons that wish to go, the railroad company will make a reduction from regular rates, and give them the lowest possible rate from any point on the line of the Decatur division to St. Louis or Kansas City.”
Twenty-five deluded blacks came here yesterday, with the intention of going to Kansas. Out of the number only ten were enabled to pass on their way, nearly all of their limited means being required to pay their passage to St. Louis. The remaining fifteen, like others who have come to Nashville in the past few days, were out of money, with no place to lay their heads, and dependent entirely upon the charity of the cold world for subsistence. These indigent would-be emigrants spend their last dollar to reach Nashville and reaching Nashville are forced to remain, wishing they had never left home.
Nashville (Tennessee) Banner, March 5, 1875.
The time is rapidly approaching when the Southern people must give special attention to the immigration and labor question. That the colored labor of these States is declining, both in numbers and in quality, no intelligent Southern man can deny. That 700,000 square miles, or seven-eighths of Southern territory, lies idle and uncultivated is certain. That the raw materials of wealth exist in these States in sufficient quantities to enrich the nation, is equally clear.
The planters are divided on the labor question; some of the most successful favoring white labor on the share system, while others prefer the colored man, though the negro has obstinately voted to destroy the State and the planter ever since he became a voter; and the white laborer has faithfully voted to save the State.
The question is settled that white men can cultivate land, and work in the open air, and have good health, in all parts of Louisiana and all along the Gulf coast. White laborers are as healthy and as long lived as colored laborers throughout this coast country.
Why do planters approach white labor with such caution and even timidity? Why try experiments with the worst specimens of white laborers, and then condemn all field hands who do not wear a black skin? There are numerous instances of the complete success of white labor on sugar plantations in every sugar parish in this State. We can find hundreds of instances where the white share hand has made money on sugar plantations, and the planter has made money, and both parties were satisfied. A good working farmer can hardly ever fail to make money out of these lands. Many white share hands on sugar plantations have made money enough in a few years to buy farms, and have nice homes of their own.
There are thousands of poor men now working poor lands in Alabama and Georgia who would be glad to work these plantations. But they know nothing about them. Why does not the sugar planter send for these white men as he has been sending for colored men in the last twelve years? Thousands have gone to Texas from those States since the war with just money enough to carry them there, and not a dollar to start with in their new homes. The sugar planter could give such immigrants houses to live in, and a chance to make money the first year. The advantages which the planter can offer to the poor immigrant are better than can be offered anywhere else. And as fast as these new laborers make money enough to purchase farms and leave, plenty of others, ambitious to do the same thing, would be found to take their places.
Now is the time to commence considering and discussing this subject. A strong movement should be made in this direction next fall and winter. The first immigrants from these States could be secured in season to help make up the sugar crop. Let the sugar plantations be the gates through which immigrants pass into Southern Louisiana to possess and work small farms of their own. Then, as the negro passes away, his place will be promptly supplied by a more skillful and ambitious labor. The planters will then become the promoters of white immigration and the friends of the small farmer, instead of importers of colored voters to sink the State, and the planter, and all other classes and callings.
New Orleans Daily Picayune, April 5, 1877.
Rooms of The Liberia
Joint Stock Steamship Company
November 6th, 1877
To the President of the Republic of Liberia: Dear Sir,—This will inform you that the colored people of America and especially of the Southern States desire to return to their fatherland.
We wish to come bringing our wives and little ones with what wealth and education, arts, and refinement we have been able to acquire in the land of our exile and in the house of bondage. We come pleading in the name of our common Father that our beloved brethren and sisters of the Republic which you have the high and distinguished honor of presiding over, will grant unto us a home with you and yours in the land of our Fathers. We would have addressed you before on this subject, but we have waited to see what would come of the sudden up-heaval of this movement. We are now in position to say, if you will grant us a home in your Republic where we can live and aid in building up a nationality of Africans, we will come, and in coming we will be prepared to take care of ourselves and not be burdensome to the Government. By our present plan of operations, we will be able to furnish food, medicine and clothing to last us for from six months to a year.
We desire to ask you the question, can we come? Will you be able to furnish us with a receptacle, where we could spend the first few weeks of our arrival, or will it be necessary for us to build our own? Would it be convenient for us to settle on the St. Paul’s river? We hope to hear your decision at your earliest convenience.
Yours, for and in behalf of 150,000 exiles enrolled for Liberia.
Benj. F. Porter
Pres. Liberia J.S.S.S. Co.
African Repository 53 (1977):75.
January 25, 1877
Dear Sir, The deep and growing interest taken by the Colored people, in the south in the subject of Emigration, prompts me to write you, requesting information as to whether the society will send a vessel this spring to Liberia, and if so about what month, and what are the arrangements for the passage. There are thousands who are willing and ready to leave, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and, North Carolina, but are not able to pay their way; Many are willing to do so. Will you be kind enough to send me any information on the subject. What vessel the society has now employed? Could not some shipowner be induced to put a couple of vessels on a line regularly from this country to Africa? Putting the passage at a low rate; if so there are fifty thousand people who would lease and pay their own passage and a brisk trade, could be established between the two countries. And would pay the owner well. The Colored people of the south, are tired of the constant struggle for life and Liberty with such results as the ‘Missippi Plan’ [sic] and prefer going where no such obstacles are in their way of enjoying their Liberty.
An early reply will greatly oblige yours Respectfully,
Richard H. Cain.
American Colonization Society Records, Container 227, Series I, Library of Congress.
The recent discussion regarding the relative prosperity of cotton factories North and South have developed the fact that during the twelve years since the war, under a system of free labor, there were produced in this country 2,772,371 bales of cotton more than during the twelve years before the war under the old system of slave labor. The planters are more independent than they ever were then, their crops are seldom mortgaged as they were formerly, and instead of being dependent upon the farmers of the West for their supplies, they grow a great part of their corn and bacon at home. That the emancipation of the slaves has been the first great cause of this result there can be no doubt. The free colored man, having more self-respect, a greater feeling of responsibility, more knowledge, and from the necessities of the case being more industrious and faithful, is much more valuable as a laborer than was the negro slave. Unfortunately, there is a very large class of persons in the South who are not willing to acknowledge these facts, or who are so blinded by prejudice that they cannot regard them as do practical business men in other parts of the country. There are, indeed, in several of the cotton States, notably in South Carolina, Alabama, and Louisiana, a number of so-called leaders who freely express the belief that the negro, to be made useful must be kept in a state little better than bondage, in short, as nearly in a condition of slavery as is possible under the law.
To bring about this result, the Rifle Clubs of South Carolina and a number of the most prominent Democrats in Alabama and Louisiana are engaged in a determined effort to reorganize the old Labor League, and secure such legislative enactments as will place the unfortunate black laborer absolutely under their control. The demands made by the promoters of the movement are not exactly calculated to find favor in the eyes of the men who call themselves citizens of a free country. They ask, in the first place, that agricultural labor of all kinds shall be performed under contracts to be drawn by individual employers, or drawn by them and approved by the Labor Leagues. The share system, by which the negro receives bacon meal and implements, and in return gives the white landowner one-half or two-thirds of the entire crop raised by himself and family, is to be continued, but under the laws which it is hoped may be passed every violation by a colored man of such a contract would be considered a misdemeanor, to be punished by imprisonment, forfeiture of crops, or, as is proposed in Edgefield and other White League strongholds, by the lash. Further than this, it is proposed that all colored men found out of employment or trespassing upon the lands of the whites shall be regarded as vagrants, and punished accordingly. Should such laws go into effect, and their advocacy by the powerful Labor Leagues of South Carolina and the secret organization known as the State Grange of Louisiana leaves no doubt that there is grave danger of this being the case, the Southern black men would be almost as completely at the mercy of their white masters as they were twenty years ago. Even under Republican Governments, where the State, county, and Judicial officers were all pledged to do full justice to every class of citizens, the negro laborers who worked on the share system with the landowners were frequently defrauded out of all their earnings. The white men were quickwitted and greedy of gain; the negroes ignorant and easily satisfied; and so at the end of the season, when the crops were harvested and the accounts made up, they were only too often obliged to repeat that verse familiar to all the laborers of the Black Belt:
“Nought’s a nought, figure’s a figure
All for de white man—
None for de nigger.”
Still the negroes did not complain; their wants were easily supplied, and if they had enough to eat and a cabin to shelter them, they went on with their work without a murmur. That they should rest quietly under such laws as those proposed, however, is not to be expected. Indeed, we have no doubt that in this new movement of the Labor Leagues is to be found the secret spring which impels so many of the freedmen to listen to the glowing and, as the result has proved, the delusive, promises of the Liberian emigration swindlers. They certainly have every reason to be alarmed at the prospect before them, for even should the law-makers, who are being appealed to, have the good sense to refuse the demands of the land-owners, the Labor Leagues threaten, as a last resort, to openly take the law into their own hands, as they have already substantially done in secret, and agree among themselves not to rent land or give work to any laborer without the consent of his former master, or to buy corn, cotton, or produce of any kind from any employee without the consent of the proprietor of the land upon which it has been raised. In the same way, that is by an agreement among themselves, it will be a very easy matter for the Labor Leagues to determine what rates of wages they will pay their laborers. It will thus be said that under the new reconciliation plan, which has so effectually broken down the color line, the outlook for the black man is not exactly the rosy one that gentlemen of the Stanley Matthews school of politics would have the country believe.
New York Times, January 14, 1878.
Words By Mrs. Hester Hickman.
Arranged By A. D. DeFrantz
Nashville, Tennessee, 1877.
1. We have held a meeting to ourselves, to see if we can’t Plan some way to live. (Repeat).
Chorus:—Marching along, yes we are marching along, To Kansas City we are bound. (Repeat).
2. We have Mr. Singleton for our President, he will go on before us, and lead us through. (Repeat)
3. Surely this must be the Lord that has gone before him, and opened the way. (Repeat)
4. For Tennessee is a hard slavery State, and we find no Friends in this country. (Repeat)
6. We want peaceful homes and quiet firesides; no one to Disturb us or turn us out. (Repeat)
10. W.P.B. PINCHBACK DESCRIBES THE EXODUS83
Ex-Gov. Pinchback, writing from Delta, Madison Parish, La. on March 11, thus describes the exodus: “Before leaving New Orleans I heard of the Kansas fever among the colored people of this section, but did not attach much importance to it. I was, therefore, surprised on nearing the Delta ferry-landing, to find the banks of the river covered with colored people and their little stores of worldly goods. The crowd awaiting transportation at this point was estimated at 300, but I learn it was swollen to 500 yesterday, when the people took their departure on the St. Louis packet Grand Tower for Kansas. A noticeable feature about their departure was the fact that not one of that vast number was permitted to board the steamer until fare was paid to St. Louis. This fact explodes the erroneous idea that these people are having their expenses paid by some outside agency, and that the movement is not a spontaneous one on their part. Numerous reasons are alleged for this remarkable exodus, but so far as I have been able to learn, the real cause is an apprehension of undefined danger in the near future. They religiously believe that the Constitutional Convention bodes them no good; that it has been called for the express purpose of abridging their rights and liberties, and they are fleeing from the wrath to come. They are absolutely panic stricken. Every road leading to the river is filled with wagons loaded with plunder, and families who seem to think anywhere is better than here. On my way yesterday to Milliken’s Bend, I saw a large crowd camped on the landing at Duckport. A still larger crowd awaited transportation at Milliken’s Bend. There is no doubt in my mind that this movement has assumed formidable shape, and, unless some means are devised to arrest it, this portion of the State will soon be entirely depopulated of its laboring classes.
“The entire congregations of two of the leading Baptist churches of this parish have already gone, and the estimate of the number that has left since the movement began is placed by the white planters as high as 1,500. While I deeply deplore the condition of things up here, I am not certain but what it will be productive of more good than harm in the end, in that it has taught the white people of Louisiana that there is a point beyond which even negro endurance cannot last.”
Gov. Pinchback says meetings have been held in Madison Parish at which Gen. Morey, William Murray, himself and others have attended and addressed the blacks, and he expressed the belief that their efforts will lead to a mutual understanding between the planters and the laborers.
New York Times, March 24, 1879.
ST. LOUIS, MO., April 2. A number of prominent colored gentlemen who have been most active in relieving while here and assisting to their destination colored emigrants from the South, issued this afternoon the following appeal for aid:
To all Generous and Charitable People Throughout the Country:
For three weeks there have been almost daily landed at our wharf scores, sometimes hundreds, of colored refugees from the South, fleeing from a second slavery. Their accounts of oppression and inhuman treatment by White Leaguers and planters are terrible. Their struggle to make their way to the free West should receive the attention of liberty-loving men and women everywhere. And we appeal to all such for means to assist them in finding new homes. The colored people of this city have not encouraged them to come; the transportation companies have offered them no inducements to emigrate; but, according to their own testimony, they have started for Kansas because they heard they would be free there, and because it was impossible for them to live longer at their old homes. These refugees at the best have but slender means. A large proportion of them are destitute when they reach here, having spent all their money for their passage to this point, and are thus dependent upon others for means to reach their destination. The colored people of this city are doing all in their power to help them. So far, they have fed and sheltered them while here and have forwarded several hundred to Kansas, but still they come, and we are now compelled to appeal to generous and benevolent persons everywhere to aid us in our work. We need both money and clothing. In the name of God and humanity we ask aid for the refugees. Any contributions sent to the following named persons will be most thankfully received and acknowledged: Rev. Moses Dickson, No. 1,211 Morgan street; Rev. John Turner, No. 1,512 Morgan street, Rev. S. P. Anderson, Eighth Street Baptist Church; Rev. William R. Lawton, No. 1,015 Christie avenue; J. Milton Turner, ex-United States Minister to Liberia, No. 2,513 North Tenth street.
New York Times, April 3, 1879.
THE BLACK HEGIRA FROM THE SOUTH
NEARLY THREE THOUSAND NEGROES ALREADY SENT FROM ST. LOUIS TO KANSAS—THE DESTITUTE CARED FOR BY COLORED CHURCHES—A POSITIVE REFUSAL TO RETURN BECAUSE OF POLITICAL OPPRESSION.
ST. LOUIS, April 4.—The sensation of the day in this part of the country is the exodus of blacks from the South. The Southern colored people are making for the river, and nothing but the most determined efforts of the persons interested in staying their flights from intimidation will prevent the depopulation of large sections in Mississippi and Louisiana. The tide of emigration is toward Kansas. Altogether, 2,760 emigrants have passed through this city on the way to the Mecca of their dreams, and 250 others are now here, unable to obtain transportation. The notable departures from this city to Kansas have been those of the steamers Joe Kinney on March 22, and E. H. Durfoe on March 30, each with 300 persons on board. The fare from Vicksburg and other Southern points to St. Louis is $4 by steam-boat, and $7 by rail; luggage on the former at 25 cents per hundred pounds, and on the latter at double the price. The charge from here to Wyandotte, Kan., is $2.50 by river, baggage free, and to Kansas City by rail is $2.50; baggage at the regular rate.
The hegira was begun at Vicksburg on the 6th of March, when 280 refugees boarded the steamer Belle of Memphis, bound for St. Louis. Their expectations were the same as those of their followers. They believed Kansas to be a land of “milk and honey,” where they could rise to affluence in a very short time. They were confident they would be furnished with free transportation from here to Kansas, and on their arrival there be given 20 acres of land, a team of mules and farm-wagon, household goods, and a large quantity of food by the Government. All of these things were to be paid for, they thought, at such times as they had money to spare. They knew nothing whatever of the nature of Kansas or its people. Of the 2,760 emigrants who have gone to Kansas, not more than 400 paid their own way. The other 2,360 were helped along by colored citizens of St. Louis. Three African congregations have given most of the assistance. When the first boat-load arrived, the doors of these churches were thrown open to shelter the indigent refugees, and never since have they been closed when there was an emigrant at the thresh-hold. The members of these churches are not in very good circumstances, but they have cheerfully given their labor and their earnings to their unfortunate brethren. A committee of 25 prominent colored men has charge of the emigrants, who are lodged and fed and clothed. This committee has expended about $2,000, and has collected by subscription $1,683, with which it has paid for the passage of helpless refugees to Kansas.
REFUSING AID TO THE EMIGRANTS
So far, the white people here have shown no sympathy for the emigrants, and have offered little assistance. The Mullanphy Emigrant Relief Fund Association has given $150, and that is about all the assistance the colored people have received from the whites. Other contributions of worthless articles of clothing have been handed to the committee, but their value is so trivial that it is useless to speak of them. There is a significance in this—the city is thoroughly Democratic, and its citizens have the old Bourbon instincts. In regard to this the TIMES correspondent has had an interview with the Rev. John Turner, a colored minister, whose first exclamation was: “Shame! Shame! I say, on the inhabitants of St. Louis, that they should thus allow suffering to continue in their very midst. So far, the whites have shown no inclination to help us through; they have been reminded of the urgent necessity for action time and again. If they don’t do something soon for the refugees, they will have cause for regret; for unless these immigrants are shipped off they will become a heavy burden to the city and remain so for a long time. And while they are waiting for boats they must not starve. Each minute spent impassively witnesses the growing heaviness of the burden. Every boat that arrives brings more emigrants, and meanwhile they have to be fed and clothed and sheltered by poor colored people; I say poor, and knowingly, for of the 40,000 colored citizens of St. Louis there are not 40 who can be considered well-to-do. We have received no encouragement in our charitable and humane work from white ministers; they have evinced no desire to help us, though they should, if they are Christians, forget their prejudices to our race, and bind closer the tie that exists between all Christians, whether white or black. Verily, I believe there is a strong color line in this city.”
Mayor Overstolz, on being asked whether he had assisted emigrants to Kansas, replied: “No, I see by a dispatch that the citizens of Topeka entertain the opinion that the St. Louis municipal authorities have provided free transportation, for the purpose of ridding the city of the burden which was sure to ensue if they remained here. There has been nothing in the action of the authorities here to justify such a conclusion. The city has not paid a dollar for transporting the negroes.”
“Have the authorities done anything for the prevention of the exodus?”
“Yes, when it became apparent that the exodus threatened us, I informed the authorities of cities along the river below that the emigrants were deluded; that they were being misled, and that it was not to their interest to come North unless they were provided with means. We considered the advisability of stopping them at quarantine and taking some action to induce them to return South, the Anchor Steam-boat Line having offered to take them back gratis.”
“Is the offer of the line still open for acceptance?”
“Most certainly. We concluded that if we provided for them at quarantine there would be no inducement for them to move, and we would have to care for them all Summer, an expense which the city could not afford.”
“Then the city is doing nothing for the refugees?”
“Nothing except watching over their health. Most of them have been examined to see whether they did not have yellow fever, and have been vaccinated. As those in the city are now quartered, their presence is dangerous, and if disease should break out among them it would work sad havoc. A few days ago it was reported that 21 of these unfortunates were crowded into a squalid, ill-ventilated, and small room in one of our down-town alleys. I think the Ingalls bill to encourage emigration to Kansas is in a large measure answerable for the exodus.”
“Yes; Kansas City has taken vigorous stops to prevent an influx of refugees. She has informed us that she would not permit any transportation company to land any large number of emigrants within her limits unless they were provided with means to meet their wants. St. Louis could take no such action as that, nor is it desired.”
“Have you warned the negroes that St. Louis is not able to support them?”
“Yes; I have sent copies of this to Southern towns.” The Mayor here handed me a placard, on which was printed:
TO COLORED PEOPLE COMING NORTH!
A WARNING FROM THE MAYOR OF ST. LOUIS.
The following notice has been issued from the Mayor’s office of the City of St. Louis:
MAYOR’S OFFICE, ST. LOUIS, March 15, 1879. To Whom it may Concern:
A large number of colored people having recently arrived in this city from different points in the South on their way West, and entirely destitute of means to make the journey, and as I am informed that many more may be soon expected, it is my duty to warn the colored people against coming to this city without money to support themselves and to pay their fare West. The City of St. Louis is wholly unable to support them, or to furnish them means of reaching their destination. There are no opportunities of obtaining employment here at present; much suffering and death . . . must certainly be endured by colored people coming to this city without money or friends. As I see and understand this fact, and have no power or means to prevent its consequences, I urgently warn all colored people against coming North under such circumstances. Do not leave your homes on false premises. Do not start on the long journey westward unless you have money enough to pay your way.
Mayor of St. Louis.
CAUSES OF THE EXODUS
The exodus itself is a terrible condemnation of the bull-dozing policy now pursued by the white people of Mississippi and Louisiana. According to the refugees, who have made affidavits to the facts, they are robbed of their political rights; they are not permitted to hold political meetings of any kind, and their lives are in danger if they attempt to vote the Republican ticket—all this in the two bulwark States of the Democracy. A well–organized system of terrorism prevails there. The whites cannot and will not tolerate a smart negro; they look upon one as a fire-brand, who is a constant menace to Democratic supremacy. There is no doubt that the Southern whites are determined to keep the colored people in a condition of poverty and ignorance quite as degrading as slavery was. They are aware of the fact that the crops on which the South is dependent can be raised only by negro labor, and they dread lest those colored men whose minds are cultivated should unlink their chains of tyranny and demand for their race a just return for their labor. Ever since the war closed and the agricultural interests of the cotton States began to resume their former importance, the negroes have done the work, while the whites drank whisky, gambled and improved their skill as marksmen by shooting, off-hand, at a servant who did not please them. The laborers have served their old masters faithfully under this system for 14 years, and now they find themselves no better off than when they began, and what is worse, they see no hope, under the present mode of government, for the future. White men from the North have tried to introduce improved methods of agriculture, but they have been invariably driven back. “Pinching poverty is a great educator,” and some of its lessons have been learned by the colored people, amid desolation, scenes of sorrow, of rapine, and of murder. They have concluded that so long as the reign of the bulldozers continues in the South they cannot hope for any amelioration of their condition in the future.
What then shall they do? When a man is convinced of the uselessness of attempting to improve his condition at home he usually thinks of changing his abode. So with the negroes. In the hour of their adversity they cast their eyes toward the West, and lo! among them suddenly appeared agitators, who told fairy stories of the wealth in Kansas that awaited their coming. The first blacks to think of emigrating lived near Vicksburg, Miss. They sent six men to Kansas as did the Israelites to the promised land. These six men returned with plethoric pockets, and an opinion of Kansas that had its foundation on the greenbacks which had been kindly presented to them. Under the inspiration of rose-colored accounts of the blessings offered by Kansas the exodus began.
One familiar with the bad treatment accorded to the negroes in Louisiana and Mississippi, and unfamiliar with the reasons for that treatment, would naturally suppose that Southern planters would be glad to get rid of them. Such is not the case. Violent opposition was made to their departure at many places, and in some cases the whites went so far as to seize upon their portable property to prevent their leaving. In a few instances, however, the whites assisted them to go, but those who assisted were what they termed “agitators”—in other words, sensible men, more enlightened and with a better idea of justice than their neighbors. One of these was the Hon. Curtis Pollard, who was State Senator from the upper district of Louisiana during reconstruction. He hauled some goods to the boat one day for a neighbor, and had no intention of leaving his home in Delta. When the approaching departure of the boat was announced by the ringing of her bell, a stern voice behind him cried, “Curtis Pollard, you—, if you come off that boat we’ll plug you,” and Curtis Pollard, glancing up, saw the barrels of 40 or more guns glistening in the sun, and concluded to stay where he was. So he left his home without a dollar in his pocket, left his wife and children, his horses and mules and land, and came North to starve—for that is what he did for several days. He was rescued from death by the Rev. John Turner and others of the Relief Committee, and is now in Kansas.
What the negroes were charged for the necessaries of life in the South can be seen from the following items, taken from a bill rendered by a storekeeper to Louis Woods, a colored emigrant: One bushel of corn-meal, $2—wholesale price in St. Louis markets $2.10 per barrel; four pounds bacon sides, $1—wholesale price in St. Louis 5 cents per pound; one plug of tobacco 50 cents; one gallon molasses $1.50—St. Louis price 30 cents per gallon; one bushel corn $1.50—worth here about 35 cents; one steel plow $12; one pint whisky 75 cents. The total bill from March 1 to Nov. 28 footed up $137. 64, and when three bales of cotton had been sold, and the proceeds turned over to the storekeeper, the darkey was still $4.62 in debt.
A LOUISIANA LEASE
The following is a literal copy of a plantation lease, the lessee being Louis Woods, of whom the items of the bill given above were procured:
This agreement, made and entered into this 31st day of January, 1877, between D. O’Brien, party of the first part, and Louis Woods, party of the second part, witnesseth: That the said party of the first part, for and in consideration of $100, to be paid to the said D. O’Brien, as hereinafter expressed, hereby leases to said Louis Woods, for the year 1877, a certain tract of land, the boundaries of which are well understood by the parties hereto, and the area of which the said parties hereby agree to be 10 acres, being a portion of the O’Brien plantation, in Madison Parish, La.
The said Louis Woods is to cultivate said land in a proper manner, under the general superintendence of the said D. O’Brien, or his agent or manager, and is to surrender to said lessor peaceable possession of said leased premises at the expiration of this lease, without notice to quit. All ditches, turn-rows, bridges, fences, &c., on said land shall be kept in proper condition by said Louis Woods, or at his expense. All cotton-seed on said land shall be held for the exclusive use of said plantation, and no goods of any kind shall be kept for sale on said land, unless by consent of said lessor.
If said lessor shall furnish to said lessee money or necessary supplies, or stock or material, or either or all of them during this lease, to enable him to make a crop, the amount of said advances not to exceed $75, the said lessee agrees, to pay for the supplies and advances so furnished out of the first cotton picked and saved on said land from the crop of any year, and to deliver said cotton of the first picking to said lessor, where he may designate, to be by him brought or shipped at his option, the proceeds to be applied to payment of said supply bill, which is to be fully paid on or before the 1st day of October, 1877.
After payment of said supply bill, the said lessee is to pay to said lessor, where he may designate, the rent cotton hereinafter stipulated, said rent to be fully paid on or before the 1st day of October, 1877. All cotton raised on said land is to be ginned where he may designate,—dollars per bale for ginning same. To secure payment of said rent and supply bill, the said lessee grants unto said lessor a special privilege and right of pledge on all of the products raised on said land, and on all his stock, farming implements, and personal property, and hereby waives in favor of said lessor the benefit of any and all homestead laws and exemption laws now in force or which may be in force in Louisiana, and agrees that all his property shall be seized and sold, to pay land rent and supply bill in default of payment thereof as herein agreed.
Any violation of this contract shall render the lease void.
Witnesses: S. KAHN, JOHN WALKER
THE SUFFERINGS OF THE BLACKS—A PROTEST
What the refugees have suffered can be imagined when the following, which is the text of a memorial now being extensively circulated for signatures, is read:
The undersigned, your memorialists, respectfully represent that, within the last two weeks, there have come by steam-boat up the Mississippi River, from chiefly the States of Louisiana and Mississippi, and landed at St. Louis, Mo., a great number of colored citizens of the United States—not less than 2,000—and composed of men and women, old and young, and with them their children. This multitude is eager to proceed to Kansas, and, without exception, so far as we have learned, refuse all overtures or inducements to return South, even if the passage back is paid for them. The condition of the great majority is absolute poverty; they are clothed in thin and ragged garments for the most part, and while here have been supported to some extent by public, but mostly by private charity. The older ones are the former slaves of the South; all now entitled to life and liberty. The weather, from the first advent of these people in this Northern city, has been unusually cold, attended with ice and snow, so that their sufferings have been greatly increased, and if in their hearts there was a single kind remembrance of their sunny Southern homes, they would naturally give it expression now. We have taken occasion to examine into the causes they themselves assign for their extraordinary and unexpected transit, and beg leave to submit herewith the written statements of a number of individuals of the refugees, which were taken without any effort to have one thing said more than another, and to express the sense of the witness in his own language as nearly as possible.”
Then follow the stories of suffering and terror. The story is about the same in each instance—great privation and want from excessive rent extracted for land, connected with the murder of colored neighbors, and threats of personal violence to themselves. Election days and Christmas, according to this concurrent testimony, seem to have been appropriated for the sole purpose of killing “peart niggers,” while robbery and personal violence in one form or another appear to have been going on every day in the year. In the small number of affidavits taken a large number of murders are mentioned, caused by the Republicans proclivities of the victims.
Dave Marshall states that when they went to the polls to vote they were made to go away by white men who said they would shoot if the negroes put a ballot in the box. Clarence Wren says; “If we voted the Republican ticket, the Democrats would get up in a mob and kill us off; at the last Presidential election, after the voting was done at Ravia, doors were broken open and ballots taken, and the colored men in charge driven off.” James Brown states: “The agent of the place I rented said: ‘Jim, we are going to carry this thing our own way; you—niggers have had things your own way long enough, and we white folks are going to have it our own way or kill all you————Republican niggers.’” These are only a few of the outrages sworn to by the refugees. The memorial continues:
“We submit that the great migration from the South is in itself a fact that overbears all contradiction and proves conclusively that causes must exist at the South to account for it. Here they are, in multitudes: not men alone, but women and children, old, middle-aged, and young, with common consent leaving their old homes in a natural climate and facing storms and the unknown dangers in Northern Kansas. Why? Among them all there is little said of hope in the future. It is all fear in the past. They are not drawn by the attractions of Kansas, they are driven by the terrors of Mississippi and Louisiana. Whatever becomes of them, they are unanimous in their unalterable determination not to return. There are others coming. Those who have come and gone to Kansas must suffer, even unto death we fear—at all events, more than any body of people entitled to liberty and law, the possession of property, the right to vote, and the pursuit of happiness, should be compelled to suffer under a free Government—from terror inspired by robbery, threats, assaults, and murders. The occasion is we think, a fit one for us to protest against a state of affairs thus exhibited in those parts of the Union from which these negroes come, which is not only most barbarous toward the negro, but is destructive to the constitutional rights of all citizens of our common country.
“It is intolerable to believe that with the increased representation of the Southern States in Congress, those shall not be allowed freely to cast their ballots upon whose right to vote that representation has been enlarged. We believe no Government can prosper that will allow such a state of injustice to the body of its people to exist, any more than society can endure were robbery and murder to go unchallenged. We protest against the direful necessities impelling this exodus, and against the violation of common right natural and constitutional, proved of most frequent occurrence in the places named and we ask such action in behalf of our representatives and our Government as shall investigate the full extent of the causes leading to this unnatural state of affairs and protect the people from its continuance—not only protect liberty and life, but enforce law and order.
The memorial has received the signatures of nearly every resident Republican, and of many Democrats.
AN APPEAL FOR AID
The following appeal to the white ministers of this city is the latest action on the part of the colored Relief and Finance Committee.
St. Louis, April 4, 1879.
To the Pastors of all Christian Churches, Catholic and Protestant, of St. Louis:
An emergency compels our Committee on Finance to instruct me to address you, and ask the aid of all Christian people whose teachers you are. You are well advised through the press of this city that there are hundreds of colored refugees from the South in this city, on their way to a distant home, where they hope to enjoy for themselves that freedom which is the inalienable right of men and God-given. The great Apostle to the Gentiles, whose teaching you profess to follow, declared that God created all nations of one blood, and that greater than faith or hope is charity. These people are of our race and look to us to make an appeal to you in their behalf. I ask you, therefore, in the name of our common fatherhood and Christianity, to request your congregations on Sunday next to contribute of their means to the relief and aid of these poor sufferers, and our prayers shall follow you all your lives long.
J. MILTON TURNER
Secretary Financial Committee.
The above will be published in the daily newspapers to-morrow, and will probably cause some action by the churches.
New York Times, April 7, 1879.
INTEREST IN THE MOVEMENT IN NORTH CAROLINA—THE WELFARE OF COMING GENERATIONS THE RULING MOTIVE—POLITICAL ASPECT OF THE HEGIRA
NEWBERN, N.C., April 3.
The interest in the exodus of colored people from the South is very greatly increased to one who has been familiar with the status of affairs here from actual observation during the past few years, by the fact that it is only one of the many indications that the universal feeling of the colored race is one of unrest and insecurity. That this movement is either local or sporadic is simply absurd. The feeling is as deep and universal as the sentiment which led Israel to flee from Egypt, and of much the same character. It is the result of a profound conviction, which has been growing in the minds of the most thoughtful, thrifty, and capable of the race, that they can never achieve a fair position, command respect, or secure their rights in a land where they have been bondmen. It is a feeling which is fast becoming, if it has not already assumed the proportions of a race movement. The Liberian movement was its first exponent, and very few, even of those who had the opportunity, appreciated the significance of that movement. The Southern white man is inconvertibly fixed in the belief that the negro is incapable of any such thing as an independent, self-assertive movement of any kind or in any matters. He looks upon every migrative or aspiring tendency as the result of some outside, and, usually, some malignant influence. They thought, almost without exception, that the Liberian movement was a sharp or rather unscrupluous “Yankee trick” to filch money from the gullible negro, and regarded the wide-spread enthusiasm in its favor as more manufactured excitement. In truth, it was considered with the utmost seriousness by the very best of the race as offering a possible outlet for the deep-seated feeling of unrest which pervades their people. It was a consequence and not a cause. Hundreds of those who have acquired a modest competence are so fully convinced of the imperative necessity of such a movement that they regret their investment in land. Many more, who have been saving for the purpose of securing homesteads, have, during the past two years, refused to buy, under the conviction that they will see an opportunity to take part in a general exodus to some region where their children will reap the benefits of freedom without suffering from the drawbacks of previous bondage. The writer brought from the Centennial one of the volumes issued by the State of Kansas, in regard to its opportunities and advantages. His servant, an intelligent colored man, examined it with great care, asked many questions, and finally borrowed it. Since that time, he tells me, several copies have been procured by colored men of his acquaintance, and it is beyond question that this detailed statement of Kansas free homes, which was scattered broadcast through the country, had much to do with directing attention toward that State. It was not the cause, however, but only an opportunity for the development of the feeling which has been growing for years.
The causes are, perhaps, as intangible as those of any other great race movement in history. It partakes not a little of that blind, uneasy restlessness which has so often impelled half-barbarous peoples to face every conceivable hardship and danger for an indefinite some thing which they hoped to acquire by migration. In this instance it is greatly to the credit of the people that the good they desire and expect to attain is, in almost every instance, the freedom, advancement, and ultimate elevation and happiness of their children. To every inquiry, made by one whom they feel that they can trust, the response is: “I do not want my children to grow up here to lead the life which is before me.” Mere personal fear has little, if anything, to do with the movement. The conviction that the law does not protect them, and cannot protect them under the social organism which at present surrounds them, either in their rights of person or of property, while considered a grievous burden, seems yet to impress them as ominous of a future of hopeless woe for their descendants. This is, in my opinion, the great impelling cause of the present exodus. That it will become all but universal is a fact which must be apparent to any one who has studied their characteristics. By very many the fact that the yellow fever last Summer, for the first time, gathered its victims “without regard to race, color, or previous condition,” is regarded as a signal manifestation of Divine displeasure, of a like character with the plagues which troubled Israel and led to the flight toward a promised land more remote and inaccessible than any point upon the continent could now be considered. This action upon the fervid religious natures of these people, has been a powerful means of convincing them of the necessity of such a course. Should that scourge resume its ravages this Summer, no power could prevent a universal hegira.
It is useless to discuss its effects, or to talk of climatic fitness. The masters in the old days used this argument to deter the runaway. That very fact now tends to discredit the wisdom of the savants, with those whom it is desirable to affect. Besides that it has already been exploded by the robust health of the thousands of colored people in the North, and has been put to rest in the tomb of departed scientific truths along with the profound crudity, “Cotton is King.” Politically, it may bring a retribution so sudden and overwhelming that the arrogance of the dominant party may well stand appalled before it. A tithe of the suppressed Republican majority of South Carolina would make Indiana anything but doubtful. The idea that Kansas is regarded as a peculiar sort of promised land is true only of a few. The land of promise which they seek is one where their children may have the protection of the law, the advantages of free schools, and a fair chance for the future.
New York Times, April 7, 1879.
THE WORK DONE BY A BOSTON EMIGRATION ASSOCIATION IN THE SOUTH—A SCHEME FOR GIVING THE BLACKS HOMES IN NORTHERN TEXAS
BOSTON, April 6.—The Advertiser will publish to-morrow some information regarding the work of Northern associations in the South among the negroes to induce them to emigrate from the South to the freer and more promising Western States and Territories, the result of which is, to some extent, seen in the present exodus. This movement, it is said, began soon after the Presidential struggle. The popularity of the Liberian movement among the South Carolina blacks led the “exodus magnates” to open correspondence with Western land and railway agencies, and just as they were about ready to talk up the advantages of the chosen Western paradise, the railway land negotiators themselves rushed in their glowing prospectuses and precipitated a stampede. The long oppressed and dissatisfied colored people, rushing into the current, landed at St. Louis, the official rendevous; took breath and began to realize their improvident haste; but, having started, pushed on, trusting that the haven of political freedom, social rights, and security in real estate acquisitions would be found. Letters have been received in Boston, within a week, from leading Southern colored men, stating that the tide will swell until there will be a sufficient decrease in the population in the Southern States, to reduce the representation in Congress, in the next apportionment, by at least 15.
The locality in which these new settlers were to have been collected was Texas, in that unoccupied northerly part lying between New Mexico and the Indian Territory. Here, starting with about 200,000 men, one-third of them with families, it was anticipated that in time the Territory might be set off by itself as a State, to be called Lincoln. In the furtherance of this scheme there was formed, some months ago, in this city, the National Farmer’s Association. This association engaged from the Dallas and Wichita Railroad, a Texas corporation, 65 alternate sections of land, which was to be paid for at the rate of $1.50 an acre. The association issued lots of 200 shares of stock, each share at $100. These are sold to the colored people, and are accepted by the railroad corporation as cash in their purchase lands. When each lot of stock is issued $19,000 is paid to the railroad, the $1,000 retained (200 shares at $100 making $20,000) being used in the work of canvassing among the negroes, and of removing them. This land comes to the railway company as a subsidy from the State of Texas. The sections between the railway lands belong to the State, and these are to be pre-empted at $1.50 an acre, the State being paid in tenths, yearly, and without interest. It is understood that there are now about 2,800 families ready to start, who have stood out against the tempting offers of competing Western agents. It is supposed that these people will start about April 19—Emancipation Day. The association, however, does not dictate to the colored men their choice of section, but recommends Texas, arguing that the soil produces what they best know how to cultivate, and the climate is better adapted to their needs.
It is understood that the association has issued and sold stock covering 20 sections in Texas, in all 12,800 acres. More than four times as much State land will be pre-empted under the same patronage. This organization has been in existence about five months, and is one of several in the North, their formation being preceded by the circulation of political documents among the negroes during the past two years. Probably the most influential of these documents have emanated from Boston. The Boston tracts were four by six inch 25-page pamphlets, printed in good, clear type, and very handy to carry about in a blouse pocket. These were known as the first principle, or “Principia Club papers,” and the latest, No. 9, issued in August last, is entitled “A Plan to Transfer the Freedmen of the South to the Government Lands of the West.” This details the plan for the formation of the National Farmers’ Association, and presents reports of abuses of negroes in the south occurring since the issue of No. 8 in the previous Spring.
New York Times, April 7, 1879.
MASS-MEETING OF COLORED CITIZENS
THE GREAT EXODUS TO KANSAS—WHY THE NEGROES LEAVE THE SOUTH—AID TO BE GIVEN TO THE REFUGEES.
A mass-meeting of colored citizens was held last night at Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, Bleecker street, to consider the question of the present great exodus of the emancipated slave population from the Southern States to Kansas and other Western States or Territories, and to devise means for affording temporary assistance to this great mass of poverty and terro-stricken fugitives until they can begin to provide for themselves. About a dozen colored men occupied seats on the platform, among them being the Rev. H. M. Wilson, George T. Downing, W. A. Dixon, the Rev. Mr. Spellman, William C. H. Curtiss, the Rev. W. H. Dickinson, and the Rev. W. A. Hodges. The meeting was opened with prayer by the Rev. H. M. Wilson, and the Secretary announced the circumstances under which the call had been issued. The Rev. Abraham Anderson was chosen Chairman, and a list of Vice-Chairman and Secretaries was read. The Chairman said the objects of this gathering invited and merited the most serious attention of those assembled. The Secretary next read a letter from the Rev. Henry Highland Garnett who is on a lecturing tour. He regretted his inability to be present, but urged that the object of the meeting be ardently pressed. He would aid it in every way in his power—with his voice, his influence, and his money. He would dig, sift, grovel, carry a hod, if necessary, to aid in this work of building up homes for his poor black refugee brethren in Kansas. [Applause.] The Secretary also read from a newspaper a graphic account of the freedmen’s hegira, in order to explain more clearly to the audience its origin, scope, and progress.
George T. Downing was then introduced, and in the course of an earnest speech said: “When the President’s Southern policy was announced, we realized that we were offered up; we had no alternative but to submit. We knew that it had to take its course. The preverseness of the South had well-nigh worn out the North. The resolute South, having failed in a contest at arms, adopted the policy to badger the North, which, being tired and anxious for peace and prosperity, exhibited a disposition to yield. From the first, we are fully persuaded that the President’s policy would not elicit the response which its general yielding to the South, its appeal to its honor, should have called for. We were confident that the President’s yielding to the South would not be accepted in good faith; that the yielding and submission on the part of those in the North who hoped by so doing to win reconciliation and peace would eventually mortify those who yielded. No. The South is not ready to accept as a principle and rule of action equality before the law for all men. It cherishes the education, the ends, the peculiar civilization, with intensified hate that has moved it in seeking dominion in the land. The amount of evidence already before the country proving the existence of wide spread outrage, intimidation, and brutal murder, to the end of subjugating the black vote of the South and of controlling it to further the ends of that section, is sufficient for all who are willing to accept reasonable evidence. The south has a deliberate purpose. It designs to increase and strengthen the power, and to dominate in the land. To that end it will stop at nothing. Outrage and murder will be common, agencies in intimidating those in her midst who favor equality before the law of all men. The present exodus of the robbed and outraged colored people of the South who are fleeing West in the hope of being freed from persecution, who look for protection and an existence in that far-off part with hope to profit there by labor—is not only an important event but it is most touching. It, and the heroic movement a short time ago on the part of a large number of colored men in the South to go forth and brave the dangers of the broad and, to them, unknown Atlantic, and land on the pestilential shore of heathen benighted Africa, even daring there to fight grim death’s embrace, should appeal to the better nature of any human being possessed of sympathies keener than those belonging to brutes. The scenes now witnessed in Louisiana, in Mississippi, at St. Louis, and enroute to Kansas, along with the general suffering condition of our people in the South, have especially moved us to this expression. We are poor, we have but scanty means, but we will give therefrom, and we appeal to the rich, to those who are able to assist our native brethren struggling to be free. Fear of personal harm, a failure to realize from labor, faithlessness as to contract, the desire to educate their children and to “be somebody,” induce these poor people to endure all the hardships of a trip to Kansas. The name of John Brown, who was willing to lay down his life for their freedom, is associated in their minds with freedom-loving Kansas, and to Kansas they are marching on. They are fleeing precipitately, because of an awful fear that has seized upon them. They are made to feel an increasing insecurity as to their lives and little possessions in the South. They observe that they work from year to year to produce that of which they are robbed. They feel that the Federal arm, on which they have relied for protection, is withheld; that they cannot rest in the South under its broad aegis, though the Constitution designs to protect them. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to them in the South is a mockery. They have fears as to 1880. They are considering the possibility of being found in the South with the Presidential chair, once filled by Lincoln and Grant, their protectors, occupied by a party who fought the constitutional amendments which secured their freedom, affirmed their citizenship, and gave them the ballot. It is not necessary that there should be a resort to force in defense of the principles of the Government lately formulated into law. But it should be understood that there is a law, that the South, like all other sections, are subjects of the same, and that the North will be a unit in defending it. Let the South at once understand that a public sentiment to this effect exists in the North, and that it is not to be trifled with; then, and only then, will the South begin to realize its situation and think of adopting the Declaration of Independence and the declaratory amendments to the Constitution that are in conformity therewith as laws for its guidance. We would remark as to State rights and to those who would make so much ado in regard to them, that they remember the axiom that “those who seek justice must themselves act justly.” Let the North, from any fancied pecuniary interest or from indifference as to outrages perpetrated upon their fellows, permit the South to obtain control of the Government, and it will rue the day. For not only will their principles be outraged, but also their pockets.
The Rev. Mr. Dickerson, in an address full of pathetic eloquence, urged the adoption of Mr. Downing’s address, and hoped that from that night there might be no sleeping, no slumbering, until all over this broad land right shall have triumphed over might.
The address was then adopted.
Mr. Downing offered the following resolutions as embodying the sense of the meeting:
Resolved, That it is most evident that the dominant element of the South is opposed to a fundamental principle of the Government, namely, equality before the law for all men and that that element will oppose with murder and outrage this doctrine of the Government and the people.
Resolved, That all concessions to this subversive policy do not only tend to the offering up of the colored people, but to a violation of the spirit and letter of the Government and will, instead of producing conciliation and peace, result in continued agitation throughout the land.
Resolved, That owing to the existence in the South of the old slave-holding sentiment, and, of fostered prejudices, because of the innumerable advantages that have been taken by employers in making and carrying out contracts for labor; because of violations of agreements, because the possession of lands and to become educated have been discouraged; because of systematic plans to intimidate and create a feeling of insecurity; because of brutal outrage, even unto death, has been a policy; because the ballot could not be fully used, the colored man’s condition in the South has become desperate and hopeless, involving fears of a still more frightful future.
Resolved, That we urgently press upon the oppressed, our brethren now seeking new homes in the West, not to remain in cities and towns, but to settle permanently on lands which they must make every sacrifice to possess; to till the same, educate their children, be most frugal, and thus improve their material condition and develop that higher manhood that we know them to possess.
Resolved, That while the fleeing in great numbers of the colored people of the South may have been started without the consideration more experienced persons may have given the subject, nevertheless, we see in it a hopeful side; it will open the eyes of the colored people to the fact that there are other parts of their country than those in which they are oppressed; it will teach their oppressors a lesson, make them realize their dependence, and perhaps induce them to become wise.
Resolved, That we ask the people of the States and Territories to which our persecuted brethren are fleeing to consider the cause of their flight, and for them to consider it is a laboring class that is coming within their borders, and that it may be utilized in benefitting their States and Territories.
Resolved, That no one can fail to see that these wanderers from their homes to distant parts, persons who have been fleeced and outraged, need not only sympathize in the form of dollars, and that it is a case in which the generous, those loving liberty and their fellow-men, are called upon to aid and that therefore we do call upon all such to contribute as liberally as their means admit.
Resolved, That the Rev. William F. Dickerson, James W. Mars, Lewis Williams, the Rev. H. H. Garnett, John M. Thomas, J. Tullie, and George T. Downing, to be Corresponding Secretary, be an advisory committee to act in all cases as they may deem advisable in furthering the interests of those fleeing from the South and seeking homes in the West; that they receive, disburse, and account through the press for such moneys and other donations may be given to aid these wanderers seeking a new home.
Resolved, That the press be respectfully requested to receive donations in aid of this movement.
Resolved, That one of the most striking instances of brutal outrages at our very doors was the outraging of the Rev. Willis A. Hodges, in Virginia, within a few hours ride of Washington, by destroying his property, by imperiling his life by imprisonment, and finally banishing him judicially from the State, because he told his people to stand for their rights.
Messrs. Downing, Hodges, Sewell, and Thomas, the latter gentlemen being a delegate for the colored people of Flushing, also addressed the meeting. Mr. Hodges described some of the wrongs he had witnessed or been subjected to in Virginia, and exhibited a circular written and published by him in 1877, and circulated among the colored people, urging them to leave the State as soon as possible, and go to the Western Territories and settle there. . . .
New York Times, April 11, 1879.
It is right. Let it go on till the miserable bulldozers of the South shall learn to appreciate their absolute helplessness without the brawn of the Negro. This is the exodus we endorse, if exodus there must be; and it is impossible to read the Tribune accounts elsewhere given, and not conclude that some such thing is a real necessity. The exodus of our Charleston folks had Africa for its objective point. The Windom exodus had one spot somewhere in the great West where the whole colored class would eventually be brought to settle for its objective point. To both these we were set in our opposition as we would be set in opposition to seeing the poor and inexperienced of any class huddled together. The present exodus, however, unlike the two mentioned above, has every point of the great North and West as its objective points, scattering the hundreds and thousands, and we trust even millions all through these enlightened and on the whole Christian sections of our country. We say again, it is right. Let it go on. Great suffering will doubtless ensue. But it is the kind of suffering that is sustained with the prospect of future good. The region from which they come is warm, that to which they go is cold. This feature alone will increase the suffering of the change. But, there is naught to do but grit the teeth and push ahead. A cheerful fact is, there are already thousands of our people scattered in all these regions. In the larger cities of Northern Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska we have large and flourishing congregations well attended and ably ministered. These can and will bestir themselves for these fleeing exiles.
People’s Advocate (Washington, D.C.), April 19, 1879.84
AN APPEAL FOR AID BY THE NEW YORK COMMITTEE
The committee of colored citizens having in charge the movement for aiding the colored emigrants to Kansas make the following appeal to the public:
The startling migratory movement now in progress among the colored laborers and people of the Southern States, creates a demand upon the humane impulses of all thoughtful and kindly disposed persons, regardless of sect, race, color, nationality, or party. We put aside, in the face of the great needs that the movement creates, all personal questions of cause, motive, and policy. Benevolence belongs to no party, and charity is not limited by “color, race or previous conditions which, to them at least, seem degrading. There must be much, wheresoever the fault lies, in surrounding circumstances that can induce a home-loving people to abandon everything, and seek new connections and new homes for themselves—and, above all, for their children—in surroundings where the environment will, in their opinion, tend to elevation and not degradation. The motive is one honorable to our people, and must appeal to the considerate in all classes. The Southern colored emigrant is willing and able to work. He needs aid in this new effort. Give him such assistance as will tend to make him self-supporting. The whole land will ultimately be enriched by a movement which seeks to make a free yeomanry out of a class of dependent wage-laborers. Give him books, farming utensils, seed, clothing, and such other aid as will be needful for him to have in starting life anew. Anyone who shall send their address to the Young Men’s Union Christian Association, No. 122 West Twenty-sixth street, will be waited on to secure whatever may be given. Be careful not to give to unauthorized parties. The New York Herald, Times, Tribune, Evening Post and Mail will receive subscriptions.
G. T. Downing, the Rev. H. H. Garnett, J. W. Mars, the Rev. W. F. Dickerson, P. T. Downing, the Rev. A. Anderson, J. E. Crosby, S. W. Smith, the Rev. W. T. Dixon, Louis Williams, the Rev. J. J. Zuille, the Rev. Henry Wilson, John M. Thomas, S. W. Clay, the Rev. A. C. Garrison, John Lucas, Charles Thomas, E. V. C. Eatt, William H. Freeman, G. M. Rice, W. M. Stewart, David Bush, P. M. Gallezo, N. B. Ashley.
GEORGE W. MYERS, Chairman
CHARLES H. MINNIE, Secretary.
New York Times, April, 21, 1879.
WELCOME EXTENDED TO THE FLEEING NEGROES—THE NEED OF OUTSIDE AID.
It is quite evident that the time has come when more efficient measures will be necessary to meet the exodus of colored refugees to this State. How large the movement will become no one can tell. It has already burdened the Wyandotte people beyond all their ability to successfully cope with it. These people congregate at Wyandotte because that is the first place where they strike the State of Kansas. It is not just or proper that Wyandotte should be left to cope alone with this burden. Indeed, she cannot do it. The thing has come upon us all so suddenly that we are taken by surprise. But there are some things that the impulse of the moment is sufficient to properly decide.
These people are refugees fleeing from what had become to them an intolerable condition of affairs. Talk with them, and in their simple, homely way they all tell one and the same story. They were oppressed. Many of them were in fear of their lives. They had heard of Kansas as the home of liberty. They have a pretty correct notion of the Homestead laws. They want to get on to Government land. They have no definite idea of how they are to get there or how they are to sustain themselves after they get there; but they have fled from evils that were sufficient to make them sacrifice everything to get away and to brave everything to get here.
Under these circumstances there is but one thing for the people of Kansas to do. These people must be received and kindly cared for. Unpleasant as the responsibility may be, it is upon us, and must be met in the same spirit that has always animated our people with reference to the great questions of freedom. There is something infinitely honorable to the State of Kansas that its name has become the synonym of freedom all over this land, so that the oppressed turn their eyes toward us as they used to toward the north star. We have a great State of almost a million of people. We need labor to develop all of our industries, and by wise measures we can find homes for these refugees, and in a short time they will add largely to the production of the State. Nor will we have to bear the burden of their settlement alone. The great, rich, free-handed North has only to know the facts and the necessities of the case to respond as she has done in every hour of past distress. The same spirit which sustained the Sanitary Commission during the war, and which sent millions of dollars South last Summer to relieve the wants of the sick and dying from yellow fever, will meet this emergency as well. But what is needed now is a State organization that can speak with authority; that will command confidence at home and abroad, and that will devise means for meeting the emergency. Topeka is the proper place, and a convention should at once be called. The Government of the State is the proper man to issue such a call. We hope he will move in the matter at once.
New York Times, April 29, 1879.
The prevalent idea is that the group of questions connected with the Colored Exodus is found in full force only in the Southwest, and particularly in those of the Southwestern States which have acquired an odious distinction by their treatment of the colored vote. In Louisiana and Mississippi the desire to escape from the harsh administration of unjust laws, and the yet harsher conduct of lawless whites has seemed to be natural, perhaps inevitable. The Liberian movement in South Carolina has been similarly regarded as the result of a condition of things not likely to exist save where cruel oppression has manifested itself as a means of producing certain political results. States not made infamous by partisan methods have been supposed to be exempt from the operation of causes which, if not confined within narrow limits or checked by the early efforts of remedial agencies, obviously tend to disorganize staple industries of the South, and to increase the bitterness felt at the North with regard to the general course of Southern affairs.
We now print a statement that imparts another aspect to the subject. The facts recited on apparently trustworthy authority from North Carolina raise the presumption that, apart from familiar political considerations, the treatment of the freedmen by Democratic authorities, and by planters, farmers, and other employers of labor, is neither just nor humane. Certainly the condition of the small colored farmers, and of the colored laborers, as described by intelligent representatives of the race, differs from the old bondage in little beyond the name. The aim of the makers and administrators of law, and of the great body of white land-owners, appears to be to reconcile the nearest possible approach to slavery with the nominal continuance of freedom. It must be confessed that the North Carolinians are very near the consummation of this purpose. Two of the laws referred to in the statement exemplify a certain class of the hardships that are complained of. One is known as the “Common Road law,” and is so ingeniously contrived that the white Supervisors of a county may fasten upon black citizens the bulk of the labor on its roads. The other, “the Landlord and Tenant act,” is several degrees more iniquitous than laws of a kindred character which in other days attracted attention to the crimes of English rule in Ireland. Under the first of these acts the industrious black men who have tried to acquire farms, or who have rented farms which require all the time and labor they can command, are at the mercy of Democratic officers. Under the second act, the tenants are exposed to the worst phases of Old World landlordism: they may toil, but they have no assurance of reward; they may starve, but the landlord will have all; eviction may follow robbery, and they have no redress. Add to these evils the abuses of the credit system, and the absolute power of the creditor-trader over the farmer who needs current supplies, and it is not difficult to understand the loss of heart and hope which impels a deserving class of a grade above the laborer to plan removal to localities where these situations of discouragement do not exist.
Such being the position in North Carolina of the colored owners and tenants of small farms, the state of the farm laborers may be imagined. The object of the white farmers seems to have been to discover the point at which the laborer may be kept face to face with starvation, with a constant reminder of the fate that awaits him if he tries to better his position. They have succeeded. The food allowances are wretched, and the miserable pittance paid in the form of wages is still further cut down by a system which robs the laborer of nearly half of the sum he nominally receives. The farmer grinds and cheats him, and in both operations is helped by the neighboring storekeeper. The negro is helpless as against the employer and the trader. If he complains he is turned adrift, and as the employers make common cause he cannot obtain other work. Then the terrors of a vagrancy act come into play. Under its provisions a negro out of work may be arrested and consigned to the “the vagrant gang.” Even his poor semblance of freedom is thus lost, it may be indefinitely. The prospect of this treatment keeps laborers who have families in abject subjection to their masters. “The oldest negro in North Carolina,” we are told, “fails to remember a time when the slavery was more complete or the hardships greater.”
All this, it will be seen, is wholly irrespective of politics. That the negroes are to a large extent practically disfranchised, we may infer from the general condition of poverty and helplessness to which they have been reduced. Men who are kept all the time at starvation point, and who dare not murmur or move lest they be thrust into the vagrant gang, may be controlled, politically, without the intervention of the Mississippi plan. If they vote, their ballots are not counted. And to this assured ascendency of the Democratic Party the possibility of treatment so cruel and unjust may be traced. But for Democratic laws, administered by Democrats, the outrages described would be impossible. From this point of view, the North Carolina case is political. The immediate occasion of the desire to migrate is however, mainly industrial. The great body of the negroes, whether working land as nominally its owners, or working on land as the laborers of the old slave owing class, have abundant reasons for the discontent that prevailed among them. They would be fit only for bondage if they could submit contentedly to the hopeless wretchedness which is now their portion. The misfortune is, that they are unable to move. Such poverty as they endure precludes migration. A fortunate few may escape; the many must remain to suffer.
In other Southern States the natural forces at work to continue the Exodus are identical in their general nature with those reported from North Carolina. Enough has appeared in the more independent of the New Orleans journals to prove the presence in Louisiana of solid causes of discontent; and the unfulfilled promises of the Vicksburg convention are negative testimony to the strength and reasonableness of the feeling that pervades the colored farm laborers and tenants of Arkansas and Mississippi. We have uniformly deprecated attempts to use the Exodus for partisan effect, and we have doubted the wisdom and humanity of encouraging indiscriminate migration to parts of the West where the market for hired labor is necessarily limited. Evidently, however, the condition of colored labor at the South gives rise to problems that will not always remain unsolved. The South cannot with impunity rob and oppress the race on whose toil it is dependent for prosperity.
New York Times, September 23, 1879.
Fifteen years have elapsed since our emancipation, and though we have made material advancement as citizens, yet we are forced to admit that obstacles have been constantly thrown in our way to obstruct and retard our progress. Our toil is still unrequited, hardly less under freedom than slavery, whereby we are sadly oppressed by poverty and ignorance, and consequently prevented from enjoying the blessings of liberty, while we are left to the shame and contempt of all mankind. This unfortunate state of affairs is because of the intolerant spirit exhibited on the part of the men who control the State governments of the South today. Free speech in many localities is not tolerated. The lawful exercise of the rights of citizenship is denied when majorities must be overcome. Proscription meets us on every hand; in the school-room, in the church that sings praises to that God who made of one blood all the nations of the earth; in places of public amusement, in the jury-box and in the local affairs of government we are practically denied the rights and privileges of freemen.
We cannot expect to rise to the dignity of true manhood under the system of labor and pay as practically carried out in some portions of the South to-day. Wages are low at best, but when paid in scrip having no purchasing power beyond the prescribed limits of the land owner, it must appear obviously plain that our condition must ever remain the same; but with a fair adjustment between capital and labor, we, as a race, by our own industry, would soon be placed beyond want, and in a self-sustaining condition.
Our people in the North, while free from many outrages practiced on our brethren in the South, are not wholly exempt from unjust discriminations. Caste prejudices have sufficient sway to exclude them from the workshop, trades, and other avenues of remunerative business and advancement.
We realize that education is the potent lever by which we are to be elevated to the plane of useful citizenship. We have the disposition and natural ability to acquire and utilize knowledge when equal facilities are accorded, but we are denied the necessary advantages, owing to the defective common-school system and non-enforcement of laws in most of the Southern States. We therefore favor and recommend a national educational system embracing advantages for all, the same to be sustained by the proceeds derived from the sale of public lands.
Wholly unbiased by party considerations, we contemplate the lamentable political condition of our people, especially in the South, with grave and serious apprehensions for the future. Having been given the ballot for the protection of our rights, we find, through systematic intimidation, outrage, violence and murder, our votes have been suppressed, and the power thus given us has been made a weapon against us.
The migration of the colored people now going on from several of the Southern States, has assumed such proportions as to demand the calm and deliberate consideration of every thoughtful citizen of the country. It is the result of no idle curiosity, or disposition to evade labor. It proceeds upon the assumption that there is a combination of well-planned and systematic purposes to still further abridge their rights and privileges, and reduce them to a state of actual serfdom. It is declared in Holy Writ “that the ox that treadeth out the corn shall not be muzzled.”
If their labor is valuable, it should be respected. If it is demonstrated that it cannot command respect in the South there is but one alternative, and that is to emigrate. But as the South possesses many advantages for them, they would prefer to remain there if they could peaceably enjoy the rights and privileges to which they are legally entitled and receive fair and equitable remuneration for their labor. The disposition to leave the communities in which they feel insecure, is an evidence of a healthy growth in manly independence, and should receive the commendation and support of all philanthropists. We, therefore, heartily indorse the National Emigration Aid Society recently organized at Washington, D.C., and bespeak for it a successful issue in its laudable undertaking.
We view with gratification the recent efforts of the planters of Mississippi and Louisiana, at the Vicksburg Convention, to effect an adjustment of the labor troubles existing in that section of the country. Believing that through such movements it is possible to establish friendly relations, adjust all differences between the races, and secure a final and satisfactory settlement of the grave causes underlying the unsettled and inharmonious condition of affairs now obtaining among them at the South, we would respectfully recommend to both classes the adoption of similar action in the future for the settlement of all disturbing public questions which may arise between them.
Having said so much with regard to the disabilities under which we labor on account of influences over which we have no control, we are not unmindful of the all-important fact that we are to a great extent the architects of our own fortunes, and must rely mainly on our own exertions for success. We therefore, recommend to the youth of our race the observance of strict morality, temperate habits and the practice of economy, the acquisition of land, the acquiring of an agricultural education, of advancing to mercantile positions and forcing their way into the various productive channels of literature, art, science and mechanism. The sooner a knowledge of our ability to achieve success in these directions is acquired, the sooner we will overcome the apparently insurmountable obstacles to our elevation.
In the struggle for independence our blood mingled with that of the white man in defense of a common cause. When our flag was insulted on the high seas and naturalized citizens outraged, we sprang promptly to our country’s call in the war which followed. We did not stop to consider the fact that, although Americans, we were not citizens; that, although soldiers we were not freemen. In the war of the rebellion, after emancipation, we responded by thousands in the country’s defense; and on the high seas, in tented camp and rifle parapets, the prejudice of race and caste were forgotten in the heat of conflict, and the cause of secession disappeared beneath the bodies of white and black alike. In the light of these facts we demand, in the name of the citizenship conferred by the organic law of the land, in the name of humanity and Christian brotherhood, the same treatment accorded the other nationalities of our common country—nothing more, nothing less. If the government has the right to make us citizens, surely it has the power to enforce the laws made for our protection. We have reached a crisis in the history of the race. With us it is a question of citizenship upheld by the moral sentiment of the country and protected by its physical power, or of citizenship in name invaded, outraged and winked at whenever party necessities and exigencies require the stifling of the will of a majority in the interest of party ascendency—more than that, it is a question of life and existence itself. We have submitted patiently to the wrongs and injustice which have been heaped upon us, trusting that in the fullness of time a generous and humane public sentiment would bring to our relief the enforcement of all laws passed for our protection. If the nation desires to maintain the proud position it has attained, it must say and prove to the world that every man in our midst is free and equal, and that the same means will be used to protect its colored citizens in the right of citizenship as have been used to avenge the insults and outrages against the country’s flag; and for the accomplishment of these ends, we invoke the prayers and sympathies of all liberty-loving citizens.
Proceedings of the National Conference of Colored Men of the United States. Held in the State Capitol at Nashville, Tennessee, May 6, 7, 8, and 9, 1879. (Washington, D.C., 1879), pp. 94–98.
The following paragraph is an extract from a private letter written by a gentleman who served in the Union army during the War, and who afterwards settled in the South, where he now lives and where he held a prominent office under the last Administration. The writer is a Republican in politics, a man of good judgment, and long enough a resident of the South to be entitled to respect for any opinion he may express upon the race conflict going on in several States. With special reference to the emigration of the blacks, he says:
“The ‘exodus’ is the only solution of the Southern question. The persons who once owned the negro as a slave will never live in peace with him as a political equal. The Anglo-Saxon will never submit to be governed by any so-called inferior race; hence the irrepressible conflict will go on in the South till the exodus removes at least a part of the negro race, which is weakest mentally though strongest in number in some of the States. But I don’t like the idea of an exodus to the North. That will only be changing the location of the race conflict. Gen. Grant’s idea was the true one, and ought to have been carried out. Annex San Domingo, a territory capable of supporting ten millions of people in comparative luxury, and give it to the negro. Let national vessels ply between the principal Southern ports and that island, giving free transportation to the emigrant, and you will see an ‘exodus’ worthy of the name. In that event the South would fill up with a labor like that in the North, which would not submit tamely either to the lash of the bulldozer nor to the deprivation of its political rights.”
It is a notable fact that many of the Northern men who have lived in the Cotton States since the War, and who have no sympathy whatever with the material discrimination and political oppression practiced upon the blacks, are still of the opinion that it will not be possible to harmonize the relations between the two races. If this judgment be correct, then it is true that an “exodus” is “the only solution of the Southern question,” The same view of the situation has been taken by many Northern men of ability not residing in the South, and it has been the inciting cause of various projects for emigration and colonization of the blacks, among which may be enumerated the following: A scheme to agree upon some one or two negro States, with encouragement for the settlement of the blacks and the removal of the whites; the purchase of San Domingo, which was urged by Gen. Grant largely upon the ground that the new island in our possession would furnish a congenial home for the oppressed blacks of the South; Senator Windom’s scheme for black emigration to Dakota, Montana, and other lands open for settlement in the Territories of the cold Northwest, and especially along the line of the Northern Pacific Railroad. The recent flight of black laborers from Louisiana and Mississippi was not the result of any organized effort, but a spontaneous movement among themselves to escape oppression and injustice, stimulated, of course, by the usual promises held out by railroad circulars; and hence it attests the eagerness of the negroes, as a class, to quit a section of the country where they have labored for fourteen years without improving their condition. The palpable manifestation of this disposition on their part, which the Southern whites cannot reasonably ignore, may be the turning point in the conflict of races in the South. It may warn the land-owners of the South that they cannot longer maintain this conflict without incurring the risk of losing the labor which supports them, and the apprehension of such loss may teach the Southern “Anglo-Saxon” that he can better afford to give the negro his position and social rights and a fair share of his earnings than to lose black labor altogether. If this warning be heeded, and the white population of the South adapt itself to the situation, then the prediction that the two races cannot live together in peace will prove to be wrong; otherwise, there is little doubt that more comprehensive schemes will be organized to release the blacks from their quasi condition of bondage at the South, and furnish them with homes where material prosperity and political equality will depend upon their own industry, frugality, and ambition of purpose. In the latter event, the revival of Gen. Grant’s San Domingo project will probably be received with more popular favor than was accorded it when it was first proposed. It would seem now that Gen. Grant was gifted with more prescience than his opponents, and it is safe to say that, if the Republican party had the same political control now that it enjoyed at the time when Grant was urging the purchase of San Domingo, renewed negotiations would result in the acquisition of that island with special reference to the colonization of the blacks. It may be that recent Democratic blunders may restore to the Republicans in Congress in sympathy with Northern civilization and political methods, and in that case the anxiety of the blacks to escape from the hardships of their present existence may find a response and practical aid in the Americanizing of San Domingo for their benefit. Even if the ex-Confederation shall prevail in the Administration of the next four years, strict honesty would require that they should further some such project for the colonization of the negroes, for most of them pretend that their country would be better off without the blacks. Renewed emigration from the Cotton States in the winter and spring, after the gathering of the present crop, may be confidently expected. That will serve to convince the Southern whites that the movement is not transient and unimportant, but actually threatens a loss of the black labor. It will then be for the “running class” to determine whether they desire to keep the blacks, or to let them go their way. If the former, then they must treat the negro as an equal before the law, and, if the latter, they should further any proper scheme for facilitating black emigration and for colonizing the negroes in such a way as to provide a final settlement of the race problem.
Chicago Tribune, July 3, 1879.
CRUEL LAWS OF THE DEMOCRATIC SOUTH
NORTH CAROLINA COLORED PEOPLE ANXIOUS TO GO WEST—THEIR PRESENT CONDITION WORSE THAN SLAVERY—HOW THE WHITES SWINDLE AND OPPRESS THEM—A PETITION FOR AID.
WASHINGTON, Sept. 22.—Two very intelligent-looking colored men have recently arrived here from North Carolina. They come as agents of a very extensive society of colored people in the Second Congressional District of that State, and bring with them a petition which is signed by 163 respectable colored people, well known in the community in which they live, 150 of whom are heads of families, each averaging from five to ten in number. The petition is addressed to the National Emigration Aid Society, and reads as follows:
“We, the undersigned colored people of the Second Congressional District of North Carolina, having labored hard for several years under disadvantages over which we had no control, to elevate ourselves to a higher plane of Christian civilization; and whereas, our progress has been so retarded as to nearly nullify all our efforts, after dispassionate and calm consideration, our deliberate conviction is that emigration is the only way in which we can elevate ourselves to a higher plane of true citizenship. As our means are insufficient to emigrate without the aid of friends, we therefore petition your honorable body, through our worthy agents, Samuel L. Perry and Peter C. Williams, for aid to emigrate to some of the Western States or Territories. And we furthermore agree to be bound by any contract which they may enter into in their efforts to secure aid for our transportation and settlement.”
The two agents referred to are both young men—neither of them over 30 years of age—and were selected, no doubt, on account of their intelligence and conservative manner of speech. Neither of them has ever held any political office of any kind, one being a school-teacher and the other a Methodist Minister. They are fully empowered to make any arrangements on behalf of those they represent, and they hope for success, and will probably succeed, from the fact that they expect to prove the justness of their people’s purpose to emigrate, not so much by tales of a bloody-shirt character as by a calm and business-like narration of the conditions under which the colored people in North Carolina are compelled to work and exist. They both called the offices of THE TIMES in this city a day or two ago and made a very clear and intelligent statement of the circumstances which are now impelling the exodus movement. The source of all their troubles is the State laws adopted by Democratic Legislatures. These laws virtually make the negro as much of a slave now as he was before the war; and as the negro seldom, if ever, gets his voice counted, though he may be allowed to put it into the ballot-box, there is no hope of ever changing their present condition. With them all hope has fled, and even the most prosperous of them despair of better times. According to the statements of the two agents, their greatest hardships are in consequence of the two laws known as the “Common Road law” and The Landlord and Tenant act. The former requires every man in the counties, between the ages of 18 and 45, to work on the road not less than 10 days each year, and as many more days as the County Supervisors may require. There are few exemptions to this law, and as the colored people are usually the ones called upon to perform this road labor without compensation, it frequently works great hardship to families that exist only by the labor of day to day. The Landlord and Tenant act requires that farm rent shall be paid before any part of the crops are sold or consumed. In other words, the colored man who rents a small farm is not permitted to gather any part of his crop, either for sale or for home consumption, until he has gathered and delivered one-third of it to his landlord. It therefore sometimes happens that the colored farmer’s family want even the common necessaries of life while he is gathering the one-third of his crop for the landlord, and he must gather it himself, alone, as he is not permitted to sell any part of it to procure money to hire help. Another great hardship of the colored farmers is the result of the mortgage system. A man is forced to get advances, sometimes of money, but generally of bacon, flour, meal, and other produce, and gives mortgages on his crops. The prices charged for the produce advanced, are invariably high, while the prices afterward allowed for the crops are correspondingly low. The consequence is that the mortgages take nearly the whole crop, and the remainder goes for rent. It sometimes happens, however, that after the mortgage is satisfied, there is nothing left to pay the rent with, and the inexorable landlord seldom shows mercy, but drives the poor family from the farm.
The hardships of the colored farm laborers employed by white farmers are no less rigorous. Farm laborers are paid $6 a month and “found”, which means that they are given shelter and just enough to eat to keep them from starving. The average food allowance for each laborer per week is four pounds of pork or bacon and one peck of corn-meal. They can cook these two articles as they please, but they never get a varied bill of fare. A laborer who has a family is allowed to keep them on the farm, but unless they do work they are not fed by the “boss.” Indeed, the general rule is that laborers must feed their own families and they have only $6 a month to do it with. Out of this amount must also come the money paid for clothes and a little tobacco. The laborers on public works of the State were formerly allowed $18 a month. That amount was reduced, however, to $12, and it is now proposed to give them only $8 a month. The colored people judge from this that the wages of farm laborers will also be reduced next year, as laborers on public works always get about double that paid to farm lands.
Even this small sum of $6 a month, however, is not paid in cash. The white “boss” almost invariably pays his hands in scrip, and the country merchants or cross-road shop-keepers take this scrip in payment for goods at a discount of about 25 per cent. The “boss” subsequently redeems the scrip at a reduction of about 10 per cent, on its face value, so that both “boss” and merchant profit by the business. The cheated negroes have no option in these transactions, and even if they had the cash to buy with, they would be compelled to pay at least 25 per cent more for the necessaries of life than Northern laborers pay in Northern communities.
Under these circumstances, the negroes are utterly helpless. If any one of them murmurs or complains, or is suspected in any way of being disposed to create dissatisfaction among his co-laborers, he is at once discharged. In this way the negroes are cowed. The “boss” is always on the watch, and his constant threats to discharge somebody keeps the negroes under the most perfect discipline. The fear of discharge alone, however, is not the secret of the meek submission of the negroes. The white legislators have, by a complex system of Democratic legislation, succeeded in successfully co-operating with the tyrannical “bosses.” Under what is known as the Vagrancy act, any person without occupation may be arrested and put to work in the vagrant gang of laborers. A negro who is discharged by one “boss” seldom gets hired by another, and he is doomed to the vagrant gang, for he cannot obtain employment, however willing he might be to work.
All these things keep the negroes in abject servility to their old masters. Indeed, the two agents above referred to declare positively that the oldest negro in North Carolina fails to remember a time when their slavery was more complete or their hardships greater. They say that very few, if in fact any, of the negroes own farms. Some of them, a few years ago, purchased small tracts of land on time and paid for them in monthly installments. Of late, however, the installment plan has proved a farce. One man, after paying up $5,000 on his farm, was unable to pay the last installment, and his land was sold and he got nothing. It was bid in for the amount of the last installment due.
In reference to public schools, the colored people have nothing to boast of. No new schools of any size have been built since the Republicans had control of the State Government, and as it is now the public schools for the colored children are only kept open three or four months in the year. Colored school-teachers formerly received $60 a month, but now they get only $10 and $15. Everything possible is done to discourage and limit education, and the colored people understand this fact only too well. The two agents said these things were not all, but that they could talk for hours, telling of their disadvantages in the South. Their people expected to suffer for a while in the West, or at whatever point they should move to, but there they could hope for better times. As it is, they suffer in the South, and have no hope of a change. On the contrary, things grow worse each year, and there is not a hamlet or a farm-house of colored people in the South in which dissatisfaction, not to say despair, does not reign at all seasons of the year. The 163 signers of the petition referred to above are not destitute. They have farm implements, &c., and they are anxious to go to any eligible place. They hope for a little aid expecting transportation, but will emigrate, they say, if they have to journey on foot.
NASHVILLE, Tenn., Sept. 22.—Cheap excursion rates having been extended to St. Louis, Kansas City, and Topeka, Kan., 100 colored people left here to-night for Kansas, and more will follow to-morrow.
New York Times, September 23, 1879.
It seems to be considered in some parts of the South that the departure of many colored laborers has been facilitated by the means of a conspiracy. A Georgia paper for example, commenting on the efforts of a well-known colored man to help those who were bound to Kansas, says that the colored people of the region are “as invincible to the arguments of the accomplices of the base Radical section, whose aim it is to use them in filling their own coffers with the proceeds of their labor, as the earth upon which they stand.” It is taken for granted that the negroes would not think of going to Kansas or elsewhere unless some base person—an accomplice in a conspiracy—were at hand to make the wicked suggestion that they might be better off somewhere in the North. In North Carolina, as we have lately seen, a more vigorous remedy than mere argument is applied to prevent the so-called exodus. The negroes who have been sent out to prepare the way before the intending emigrants are notified from home that it would be unsafe for them to return, so violent are the threats made against them by their former masters and present employers. By an ingenious system of financial contracts, supplemented by State laws designed for the strengthening of the bonds of the colored race, it is possible for the employers to so impoverish and hamper the blacks that it seems as if they may as well give up all hope of escaping from the house of bondage.
It does not appear to have occurred to any of the astute political managers of the South that there is too much protesting that the negroes do not desire to go away, and would not go if it were not for the “arguments of the accomplices of the base Radical section,” which is supposed to desire the unpaid labor of these people. The elaborate preparations made to obtain the colored people are inconsistent with the theory that nothing but a conspiracy will be effectual in alluring them away from their comfortable and happy homes in the South. They are to be cajoled by the base accomplices who seek to entrap them into Northern fields of labor, and they are to be kept at home in the South by all sorts of legal and illegal contrivances. The negro is happy in the South, but he is open to the arguments of the base accomplices, whoever they may be. In passing, it should be noticed that the term “Radical” is used in the South to express the bitterest feeling of hatred and contempt. To say of the part of the United States to which some of the colored people have gone that it is a “base Radical section” is to confer upon it the most scathing of epithets. But if the condition of the negro in the South is so blessed and serene as has been described, why are the arguments of Northern emissaries so potent that it is necessary to use force and legal entanglements to detain him? In most free countries laborers change their place of abode, passing from State to State, without hindrance, whenever it suits their whim or convenience, and without exciting remark.
The uneasiness, to use a mild term of the colored people of the South is only one of many indications of the fatuous policy which has been attempted by the Southern leaders ever since they have resumed political power. This policy is an attempt to keep the reins of government in the hands of a few. Before the war the South was governed by an oligarchy, and this seems to be the natural tendency of things in that section of the country to this day. Southern newspapers are filled with complaints of hard times and depressed business; and yet, the chief occupation of the people is politics. As in the old times, the leading white men of each section do nothing but grumble and curse the hard fate which keeps them poor, their poverty being, somehow, due to the Government, or to the neglect of some financial power dwelling in another section of the country. If the white people of the South were not so intent on political control, they would be in a far happier condition and frame of mind. The persistent effort to maintain an artificial state of society, in which one class shall constitute a servile substratum, monopolizes all the energies of the Southern people. It is a conspicuous fact that the negroes do prefer not to leave their homes in the South. It is notorious that nothing but adversity or oppression would drive them forth. One would suppose that the policy of the white men of the South would have been to secure the confidence and affection of their late slaves when freedom became a fixed fact, and thus to forestall all attempts to alienate them. If the freedmen had been assisted, in good faith, to make for themselves comfortable homes among the people who had been once their owners, or had even been left to their own devices, does anybody suppose that they would now be looking eagerly to emigration as a way of escape from something dreaded? It is asserted, and with some show of reason, that the negro votes as he is told. If this is true, and nobody knows it better than the Southern man, why have no steps been taken to allure the colored people into the Democratic fold? If the negro is so simple and ignorant that the base emissaries of the Kansas farmers have some success in their seductive plans, how does it happen that nobody in the South has ever tried kindness and fair treatment as a means of detaining these confiding people? It would really seem as if the allurements of fair wages and good homes on the one side were only met with threats of forcible detention on the other. These flies are to be tempted with vinegar.
Of course, the obvious answer to this inquiry is that the men who are in a position to conciliate and quiet the disturbed negroes are afraid of the ruling public sentiment. It is not the custom in the South to concede that the negro has any political rights. If he has these, the sceptre must depart from the hands of the old oligarchy. To treat the ex-slaves as intelligent human beings, endowed with reasoning faculties and entitled to absolute freedom of action within the law, would be a subversion of all notions of social and political order. To preserve the normal balance of things, it is necessary that the negro should “be kept in his own place,” and where that place is, the experience of the many unfortunate martyrs to a thirst for knowledge and an awakened ambition has testified. It has been necessary to keep the negro in his place by forcible means. Is it any wonder, then, that he seeks another and a better country? Thus the folly of the men who desire to maintain a false and artificial state of society reacts upon themselves. No matter how far successful they may be now in detaining the uneasy colored people, no matter how the men who fret at this feeble exodus try to check it, there will be migration from the South just so long as the laborer, white or black, is oppressed. While labor is considered servile, and the condition of the laborer made irksome, there will be discontent and flight. More than this, there can be no white migration Southward so long as the land is filled with violence and tyranny, however disguised these may be. Until the Southern people learn that the laborer is free to go and come as he pleases, seeking his own happiness and comfort in his own lawful way, there can be no substantial prosperity among them.
New York Times, October 6, 1879.
In Kansas City . . . the negroes are more numerous than I have yet seen. On the Kansas side they form quite a large proportion of the population. They are certainly subject to no indignity or ill-usage. They ride quite freely in the trains and railways alongside of the whites, as I myself experienced, and there seems to be no prejudice whatever against personal contact with them. I did not hear them at all abused or slanged. Coming along in the train-car a cart was found standing on the line, and detained us some time. When the owner at last appeared, he was a black man. A white waggoner in London would certainly have been most unmercifully slanged by a bus driver, and would have deserved it, but our driver said nothing that I could hear. He may have moved his lips or said something low, but it was the negro I heard defiantly call out “What do you say?” . . . The blacks are civil and attentive as waiters in the hotel and railway cars, but sometimes ill-mannered. . . .
Here the negroes seem to have quite taken to work at trades; I saw them doing building work, both alone and assisting white men and also painting and other tradesman’s work. On the Kansas side I found a negro blacksmith, with an establishment of his own; he was an old man, and very “negro,” and I could extract a very little from him. He grumbled just like a white man—he made a living; did pretty well; “But things are dear. But there you are expected to work cheaper.” He came from Tennessee, after emancipation; had not been back there, and did not want to go. Most of the schools here are separate and not mixed. “Perhaps that suits best. Some black boys go, and some don’t.”
Sir George Campbell, White and Black—The Outcome of a Visit to the United States (New York, 1879), pp. 225-26.
PRESENT CONDITION OF THE REFUGEES FROM THE SOUTH
TOPEKA, Kans., Dec. 31. A staff correspondent of the Chicago Inter-Ocean, who has been making an investigation of the exodus in Kansas during four weeks’ travel through the State, writes a letter from here, giving his conclusions. He estimates the number of refugees in the State at 15,000. Of these, he thinks that probably one-fifth were able to buy a little land and are making a good progress in farming. Most of the remainder have found, through the Freedman’s Relief Association, places as laborers, and are giving good satisfaction. In no county did he find them burdens upon corporated charities; but the demand for these laborers has been stretched to its fullest capacity, as the accumulation of refugees at the barracks now nearly 700—for whom no places can be found, clearly indicates. Judging from what he has learned from refugees themselves, and from the increasing number—now from 25 to 50 arriving every day, he predicts that the movement to Kansas will soon assume such proportions again as to astonish the country, and unless the tide can be turned, or the charity of the North more readily bestowed, that suffering which the Relief Committee, although laboring faithfully with the means at their command, has not been entirely able to relieve during the recent cold weather will soon be turned to general destitution and great suffering among the pauper refugees.
New York Times, January 1, 1880.
Cincinnati, January 2.
The charge that Hoosier emissaries are laboring in North Carolina to induce the blacks to go to Indiana is denied by the people who have arrived. The Rev. Mr. Williams answers the question why they came to Indiana without hesitation or reserve. “After laboring and economizing for 14 years, he says, “my people find themselves as poor, and ignorant, and despised as they were at the close of the war—a condition differing from absolute slavery only in this, that they are now at liberty to emigrate without being hunted down by bloodhounds.” The policy of emigrating, therefore, has long been the principal topic of discussion at the fireside, in the prayer-meeting, and at public gatherings. As a result of it, small emigration societies have been organized in many of the counties, collections taken, and plans matured, that at the proper time an exodus might begin. During the past Summer, aroused by the Mississippi emigration, these arrangements were vigorously pushed, and by September enough money had been collected by the Lagrange Society to defray the expenses of a single delegate, who should go as far west as Indiana or Illinois to find suitable places to locate, until such times as they might be able to go upon Government lands. Mr. Williams was chosen such representative, and being a minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, he stopped at points having similar churches, to whose Pastors he confided his mission. From these he took letters of introduction to others further on, and in this way reached Indianapolis. There he found a large colored population, who entered readily into the plans of their Southern brethren. They organized local relief committees, turned colored churches into hotels, and canvassed the city for means to feed and help all who should come. Thus Indianapolis became a sort of centre where all might congregate and thence be distributed wherever laborers were needed. Capt. Langsdale, editor of the Greencastle Banner, volunteered to aid in finding homes for all who should come. But beyond receiving and answering letters, Mr. Langsdale finds that his services are not needed. The Rev. John H. Clay, Pastor of the colored church, has stood at the wheel and guided the affair. Colored people take entire control of the matter. The assistance of white men beyond giving money to feed the immigrants on their arrival, has neither been sought nor needed, and to charge the movement upon Republicans is quite as absurd as to argue that Democratic opposition to their coming is keeping them away.
That there is a demand for the labor of these people is made evident by the number of applications that come from all parts of Indiana, and from the adjoining States of Ohio and Illinois. Mr. Langsdale receives a handful of these letters every day. The Rev. Messrs. Clay, and Williams, at Greencastle, have their pockets full. Mr. Trevan, of Indianapolis, is equally burdened with applications, as is every one else whose name is mentioned in connection with the movement. Farmers want them. The plan of having two or three hired men, with their families, settling on a farm, in little homes of their own, is a new one in Indiana. In Winter or Summer their labor can be depended upon. If sickness enters the farmer’s home, colored nurses are at hand. The women, too, can milk and wash and make gardens, if necessary, they can go into the field or take care of the stock. Their children can run errands and do the lighter work. Thus a farmer becomes independent of all outsiders. Said one farmer the other day, “I would take them even if ordinary farm laborers were plenty, which they are not . . . The coming of these colored families, therefore, is a necessity, and is solving the labor question for the rural districts.”
New York Times, January 3, 1880.
To the Editor of the New York Times:
In your issue of Friday last, Jan. 30, you state on the authority of Gov. St. John, of Topeka, Kans., that 16,000 colored refugees have located in that State since last April. In view of that fact, it seems to me that we old Abolitionists ought to feel that our work is not yet finished; we have for years been endeavoring to teach colored men that their true position is that of free American citizens; we have fought and paid dearly to prove the sincerity of our efforts in their behalf, and now, when the fruits of these lessons begin to crop out, when our scholars begin to realize the truth of our teachings, and attempt to exercise the rights we have conferred upon them, their former masters, true to the instincts generated by the accursed institution of slavery, opposed their exercise of practical liberty, by instituting a system of kukluxing, bulldozing, and tissue ballot swindling. The effect of this systematic opposition has been to convince our colored brethren of the Southern States that their position to-day is no better than that of the Israelites under Egyptian bondage, and, like their prototypes of old, they have determined to emigrate. We are, more than others, responsible for this state of things; we taught them freedom, and urged them to exercise their rights as freemen; they have taken our counsel and made the attempt. What then, is our duty in the matter? Shall we fold our arms and say, “We have opened the way to you, now work out your own salvation? I say no. The spirit that prompted a man to be an Abolitionist 30 years ago will prompt him now to make still another effort to finish so noble a work. These poor people appeal to us to aid them until they can raise their first crop. Gov. St. John seconds their appeal and offers to become your almoner. Let me urge my friends to accept this services in that capacity, and do as I do. Enclose a dollar bill every month to his address.
GEORGE S. McWATTERS.
New York, Friday, Feb. 6, 1880.
New York Times, February 7, 1880.
A MOVEMENT AMONG NEW YORKERS TO AID THEM IN THEIR EFFORTS TO SETTLE IN KANSAS
New York, Feb. 13, 1880.
Touched by the account of the sufferings of the colored refugees in Kansas, the undersigned appeal for help for them. There are already 15,000 to 20,000 of them in the State. They continue to come day by day, arriving ragged and bare-foot and without money. Many are sick from exposure to the severe climate, and a number have been frozen to death. They are willing to work, but at this season of the year unable to get employment, as most of them are only accustomed to labor on a farm. A considerable part of those who came in the Summer have contrived to pick up a living, and now offer to help those who have followed in their distress. Gov. St. John says he “has seen no tramps among them.”
We are gathering up money and supplies for the Irish, which is right. Ought we not to remember our starving fellow-citizens in our own country?
The Freedman’s Relief Association of Topeka, Kan., with which Gov. St. John is connected, calls urgently for aid, especially for money to buy fuel and food, and to pay railroad fares, as the association forwards the refugees as fast as possible to all places where the people are willing to care for them till Spring comes, when they can set them at work. Contributions should be sent promptly to
|Benjamin B. Sherman, President Mechanics’ Bank.|
|Jackson S. Schultz,||Thomas C. Acton,|
|Sinclair Tousey,||J. M. Requa,|
|Charles Watrous,||J. Bishop Putnam,|
|F. D. Tappen,||Isaac Sherman,|
|L.C.B. Cannon,||E. D. Morgan,|
|George Bliss,||William E. Dodge,|
New York Times, February 17, 1880.
WASHINGTON, Feb. 26. There arrived at Washington to-day 150 colored emigrants from North Carolina. They came from Warren and Lenoir Counties, and are destined for Indianapolis. They proceeded on their journey to-night by the way of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. About two-thirds of the party are women and children. They report that others will follow them as soon as they can command the means necessary to pay for transportation, and that the negroes will leave North Carolina in large numbers in the Spring months.
New York Times, February 27, 1880.
DRIVEN FROM ARKANSAS BY WHITE PERSECUTION
ONE HUNDRED MEN, WOMEN, AND CHILDREN WHO WOULD RATHER STARVE IN AFRICA THAN LIVE SOUTH—THE STORY OF THEIR SUFFERINGS—ANOTHER PARTY ON THE WAY.
One hundred colored men, women, and children, dusty, travel-worn and scantily-clad, dismounted from the 10:28 train at the Pennsylvania depot, in Jersey City, yesterday morning, on their way to Liberia. The party, who are all from Phillips County, Ark., started from Helena just a week ago, and have spent the interim on the crowded decks of Mississippi and Ohio River steamboats and in the dingy and closely-packed emigrant cars of the “Pan Handle” Route. The journey from Philadelphia was made in two emigrant cabooses, with an extra freight car for their luggage. The party is under the guidance of Richard Newton, an intelligent, hardworking black man, who, despairing of decent treatment for himself and his brethren at the hands of the ex-rebel whites of Arkansas, has determined to seek a new home for them in Liberia. The present party are but the avant couriers of a colonization army, said to number 10,000 in the State of Arkansas alone, who are organized into companies of 100 each, with the object of emigrating to the North or to Liberia—anywhere, in fact, to get out of the clutches of their unreconstructed taskmasters. The stories that these unfortunate people tell of the cheating, swindling, and grinding oppression to which they have been subjected for years past, are most pitiable. That their statements are true is abundantly proved by the concurrent testimoney of both blacks and whites, as well as by the frequent though reluctant, admissions of Southern newspapers.
In crossing the Desbrosses Street Ferry, the party were objects of mingled curiosity and pity to all who saw them. Huddled together like in a corner of the men’s cabin, they said little, and seemed desirous of avoiding observation as much as possible. There were old black men, with snowy wool, roughened cheeks, and hard, cracked hands, little molasses-colored pickaninnies with frightened faces, clutching hold of their mothers’ skirt, good-looking young mulatto and quadroon girls, old women with sunken cheeks and bowed heads, anxious fathers toil-worn and husky-voiced, clad in rough homespun and keeping an anxious look-out for their charges. They numbered 24 men, 33 women, and 43 children, all told. Half a dozen battered packing-cases and a score of dry-goods boxes contained all their worldly goods—bedding, furniture, and provisions. Every man who had owned a mule or a plow or anything salable had disposed of it, generally at a hard bargain, to get the wherewithal to come North. Many of the women and children had not a change of clothing. On landing, Newton formed his ragged regiment into something like military order, and marched them up Sixth avenue to Thirty-third street. Here they were quartered for a short time in the house No. 130, on the north side of the street, but as the proprietor asked a larger price for his lodgings than they could afford to pay, they were taken to the rooms of the Young Men’s Colored Christian Association, No. 124 West Twenty-sixth street. During the evening John J. Freeman, editor of the colored paper, the Progressive American, T. T. B. Reed, J. W. E. Grey, and other well-known colored people, called at the house and offered their services to Newton in providing employment for his people until the sailing of a ship for Liberia, which will not occur for fully six weeks. Some of the emigrants have sums of money, $50 and $100 apiece, in gold and silver, but the majority of them are said to be destitute. They ate a frugal supper last night on a table of boards spread in the centre of the room, and then lay down to sleep on the floor. The room, which is only 30 feet long by 13 wide, was crowded almost to suffocation with men, women, and children, and the ceaseless crying of half a dozen babies added to the discomfort. When their destitute condition became known, one or two small tradesmen of the neighborhood sent in donations of provisions and groceries, and a baker at the corner of Seventh avenue and Thirty-third street contributed two barrels of bread. The great fear of the negroes is that they will not have money enough to pay the passage to Liberia. Newton says that after the white bull-dozers at Helena had exhausted every other means of keeping them there they sent the Sheriff down to the landing and forced them to pay from $2.50 to $8 apiece for taxes. Many of them had already paid these taxes before, and had receipts showing that they had done so, but the Sheriff was inexorable, and said they must pay or stay. Newton consulted Republican and Democratic lawyers, who told him that the exaction was a monstrous one, and was clearly illegal, but advised them to pay if they could possibly raise the money, as a lawsuit would only make their plight worse. They clubbed together and satisfied the Sheriff’s demands, those who had money paying for those who had not. Women were taxed $2 and $2.50 a head, and every person having a piece of baggage with his or name on it had to pay something to the Democratic Sheriff, “Bart” Turner, before he was allowed to go. In some cases the original poll-tax of $1.50 a head—which had already been paid—was raised to $2.50.
Richard Newton, Rufus Patton, Ephraim Holmes, and other heads of families described the suffering and swindling which they have endured at the hands of ex-rebel land-owners and storekeepers as being worse than any possible amount of suffering they could undergo at the North or in Liberia. Their crops were always mortgaged beforehand to the storekeepers, and, struggle as they would, they could not get out of debt. Some of the landlords made them give up one-half the cotton they raised for rent; others took one bale out of three. Out of the two-thirds that were left they had to pay the cost of planting, harvesting, and the storekeeper’s bills, which were always swollen in proportion to their crop. No matter how hard they worked, or how big the crop, the storekeeper’s bill for advances of provisions and clothing swamped it. Bills were “raised” from $150 to $200 and $250 at a stroke of the pen, and if the unfortunate negro protested he was terrified into paying by threats and abuse. Ephraim Holmes said he had seen a colored man knocked down and beaten in Dr. Jack’s store, in Helena, because he refused to take $2 worth of purchases and $1.50 in change for a ten-dollar bill. Others were raided by night-riders, and had their barns burned and their crops destroyed out of pure deviltry. One old woman had her hay-rick fired and her house burned over her head because she sheltered some “Radical niggers” about election time. Girls and married women were violated by drunken white ruffians and if their husbands or fathers sought redress they were “raided” by the “night–riders.” Women who defended themselves against attempts at violation, were first outraged and then nailed by their ears to trees. The local authorities, who were all Democrats and ex-rebels, were not only powerless to prevent this state of things, but often winked at it. None of papers dared to take up the black man’s case, and in the greater number of instances the outrages were either hushed up or palliated by lying stories set afloat. At election time in 1878 the country was overrun with armed military companies and night-riders; and the negroes were told to vote the Democratic ticket under threats of continued outrage if they did otherwise.
At Cincinnati, Richard Newton left with the Recorder of the city a blurred and misspelled document, which, divested of its inaccuracies, is as follows:
“We were to start from Helena on the 17th of March, but by the help of the Lord we got away on the 18th of March. We say that God was with us, for the people at Helena did all they could to induce us to remain. We were citizens of Phillips County, Ark., and we had paid our taxes, but when they saw we were determined on leaving they attached all we had on the wharf-boat for taxes. We, being brothers, went to the Court-house and paid what was demanded; but we do say that many of us paid them twice. We furthermore say that we have been treated like dogs. I would not treat a dog as colored men are treated in Arkansas. We humbly beg the people at large to help us out of the South. I believe God will reward you if you do so. I cannot tell all of the sufferings of the colored people of the South. But pray to God to help us to get out of the South.”
Another party of 300 are expected here by Tuesday.
New York Times, March 27, 1880.
ONE OF THE ARKANSAS REFUGEES TELLS OF THE PERSECUTION OF HIS PEOPLE IN THE SOUTH.
The Rev. Simon Davis, minister, and one of the Arkansas colored refugees, occupied last evening the pulpit of the Rev. Dr. H. H. Garnet, at the Shiloh Presbyterian Church, and spoke about the persecution to which his race has been subjected in the South for some years past. The colored people, he said, were so oppressed in the South that sometimes they almost doubted whether they were human beings. They had tried every means in their power to earn an honest living and to lead a religious life, but at every step they were met with opposition and outrage. If a colored man purchased and cultivated a farm he would be called upon by a white man who demanded rent. If the owner claimed that it was his property, the white man would then bring a lawsuit, and by some legal means prove ownership and make the real owner a tenant. If a negro settled on Government land it was taken away as soon as he had improved it. Those who worked for white proprietors were hardly paid one-half of wages at which they had been engaged, and many were not paid anything at all, and were deeply in debt. Hundreds were thus brought to the verge of starvation, and if to preserve life they confiscated food they were sent to the Penitentiary. At election time bands of masked white men rode about the country at night and broke into the houses of the colored men who they thought were opposed to them. For a trifling political offense the colored political offender was flogged; if the whites had a special spite against a colored person they took him out and killed him. The speaker was told by several Southerners, on several occasions, that the blacks were their property, and that the whites were going to live off them so long as they staid there; that they had been preparing for this state of affairs for several years, and had the State in just such a condition as they wanted, and if the blacks were not satisfied they could leave, and their places would be filled with another class. The blacks were charged with having helped the North to crush the South; “and now,” some whites said, “your Northern friends have gone and left you in our hands, and we are going to do just what suits us, and stuff ballot-boxes as we please.” What the Southern colored people want, continued the preacher, so to gain an honest living by hard work, and to live in peace with all. When the Liberian question was first agitated in his district, Mr. Davis strongly opposed it, but he has since become convinced that God was in favor of this movement, and, referring to the text read in the lesson, “Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God,” he declared that God’s had was directing this movement to Liberia to carry out His own wonderful plan.
New York Times, April 5, 1880.
The General Relief Committee for the Arkansas refugees met in the rooms of the Young Men’s Union Christian Association yesterday afternoon, Vice-President Philip A. Walton in the chair. The committee appointed at a previous meeting to investigate and report on the condition of the refugees presented a long report, through its Chairman, T. T. B. Reed. The report said the refugees were very independent and refused to go to work by the month, although employment on farms had been offered to some of them. A few of them have money and are able to take care of themselves, and the committee found that, while appealing for aid, the refugees had turned over to the Liberian Colonization Society $78 in money. In view of these facts, the report recommended that the General Committee solicit no further aid from the public in money, food, or clothing; that it “refuse, deny and prohibit” to the moneyed element of the refugees board, lodging, or clothing; that the Superintendent be ordered to turn over to the refugees all the provisions now in his care, cooked and uncooked, and that the refugees be instructed to do their own cooking and care for themselves hereafter, being allowed the use of their present quarters in West Thirty-seventh street only until May 1. The reading of the report caused a long discussion, much of which was wholly irrelevant. The Rev. W. F. Dickerson and the Rev. J. S. Atwell opposed its adoption, and the former said that if the committee abandoned the refugees, there were other black men in New York who would stand by their brothers. After three hours of angry debate, Mr. Atwell offered a resolution referring the report back to the committee “for such modifications as will present a more business like aspect on the part of the General Committee, and less reflections on the unfortunate refugees,” and this was finally adopted.
New York Times, April 20, 1880.
To the Editor of the New York Times:
The report of T. T. B. Reed to the General Relief Committee for the Arkansas Refugees, noticed in your issue of Tuesday morning, an entirely erroneous impression regarding these people. The committee was organized that they might not be obliged to use the small pittance which has been gathered by years of hard work and self-denial. The people from Arkansas have stated frankly from the first that they had such money. This all who have witnessed the honest, straightforward bearing of the men feel they deserve to keep and that it a duty to provide for them so long as they are (unavoidably) detained here.
Being turned out of their homes in Arkansas, when the purpose of leaving was known, they reached here some weeks before time for sailing. Notwithstanding that a persistent effort has been made since their coming to intimidate them, and shake their resolution to go to Africa, they cannot be moved, and for this are reported “very independent.” As it is hoped that money for the passage to Africa can be raised by the 1st of May, they, of course, “refuse to go to work by the month,” feeling that it would be dishonest to enter upon any engagement which it will be out of their power to keep. The few who had money paid to the Treasurer of the American Colonization Society $478 toward passage; (this, if equally divided, would give the party scarcely $8 apiece.) The Treasurer was so impressed with the sincerity of the men, and the evident desire to help themselves, that he only accepted this money lest a sufficient sum might not be raised, and, therefore, unasked, gave to them a written pledge that, if possible, the money should be returned. The report of T. T. B. Reed does not in any sense express the views of the colored men of New York, and it is their purpose to aid these people so long as they may be compelled to wait here. While I believe that our land has ample space for all its citizens, yet, at the same time, if any choose to seek homes in other countries, they have a perfect right to go where they will.
HENRY HIGHLAND GARNET.
Shiloh Presbyterian Church, West Twenty-sixth street.
New York Times, April 22, 1880.
To the Editor of the New York Times:
A report having gone forth to the world through the medium of the Press that the Arkansas refugees were rich and were dishonest, we, the undersigned, were appointed as a special committee from the General Committee having them in charge to disabuse the public minds concerning them. We would say that they are among the most unfortunate of all persons who have ever come in our midst. They are poor and the majority of them have no means of subsistence. They are not lazy; they are willing to work, and many of them are at work daily. The General Committee have unanimously voted to continue their benefactions as long as the necessity for the same exists. We submit that the published statements concerning their internal affairs were most unfortunate, and quite at variance with the truth in the case. We are directed to state that the “refugees” are still in need, and the charitable public is very earnestly requested to continue its donations as long as the sufferers are in our midst and are in an unavoidable condition of need. We have not abandoned our brethren and do not propose so to do. Money, food, and clothing are still needed. Donations may still be sent to the Rev. H. H. Garnet, No. 165 West Twenty-sixth street; the Rev. J. H. Cook, No. 1460 Second avenue; Mr. Peter S. Porter, No. 252 West Twenty-sixth street; the Rev. W. F. Dickerson, No. 218 Sullivan street. Respectfully submitted,
WILLIAM F. DICKERSON,
T. T. B. REED,
J. W. STEVENS.
New York Times, April 26, 1880.
Mr. Editor:—I see that the Committee on Exodus reported that the cause in North Carolina was Northern politicians and negro leaders in their employ, &c. We do not tolerate any such deceitful report. The cause of our people leaving this part of the State was, first, for a living. The average wages in North Carolina for men is from eight to ten dollars per month, and they have to take half of that up in trade. The man will tell you that he has no money and will give you an order to some white man’s store, and in three hours after you leave he comes along and pays for what you purchase. He has his family to take care of and educate his children off this eight or ten dollars, and is compelled to take half of it in trade. And you need not leave one man and go to another, for it is understood from the oceans to the mountains this is done to keep us from ever being able to buy lands, and thus they hope to be able to keep us on theirs to work for them and their children, and should you ever become able to make them an offer they will charge you from $10 to $12 per acre for land that would not produce five bushels of corn to the acre. The women get from three to four, five and six dollars per month and find their own rooms. Should they accidentally break an old plate while in their service, they charge them from 50 to 75 cents for it. This they take out of her four or five dollars.
As for colored juries, there is not one in Orange county, nor never has been; but ah! there is no use in trying to write—it would take an angel’s pen to do it.
I had a minister’s certificate given to me by the Superintendent of the Railroad. When I go to buy a ticket he marks on that ticket second-class—as much as to say all negroes are second-class. A white minister purchased one at the same time and they marked it first-class; and if I go into the first-class car they make me pay extra. This was done last week. But half can’t be told.
The Christian Recorder, July 8, 1880.
36. TESTIMONY OF HENRY ADAMS BEFORE THE SELECT COMMITTEE OF THE UNITED85 STATES SENATE TO INVESTIGATE THE CAUSES OF THE REMOVAL OF THE NEGROES FROM THE SOUTHERN STATES TO THE NORTHERN STATES:
Q. What is your business, Mr. Adams?
A. I am a laborer. I was raised on a farm and have been at hard work all my life.
Q. Now tell us, Mr. Adams, what, if anything you know about the exodus of the colored people from the Southern to the Northern and Western States; and be good enough to tell us in the first place what you know about the organization of any committee or society among the colored people themselves for the purpose of bettering their condition, and why it was organized. Just give us a history of that as you understand it.
A. Well, 1870, I believe it was, or about that year, after I had left the Army—I went into the Army in 1866 and came out the last of 1869—and went right back home again where I went from, Shreveport; I enlisted there, and went back there. I enlisted in the Regular Army, and then I went back after I came out of the Army. After we had come out a parcel of we men that was in the Army and other men thought that the way our people had been treated during the time we was in service—we heard so much talk of how they had been treated and opposed so much and there was no help for it—that caused me to go into the Army at first, the way our people was opposed. There was so much going on that I went off and left it; when I came back it was still going on, part of it, not quite so bad as at first. So a parcel of us got together and said that we would organize ourselves into a committee and look into affairs and see the true condition of our race, to see whether it was possible we could stay under a people who had held us under bondage or not. Then we did so and organized a committee.
Q. What did you call your committee?
A. We just called it a committee, that is all we called it, and it remained so; it increased to a large extent, and remained so. Some of the members of the committee was ordered by the committee to go into every State in the South where we had been slaves there, and post one another from time to time about the true condition of our race, and nothing but the truth.
Q. You mean some members of your committee?
A. That committee; yes, sir.
Q. They traveled over the other States?
A. Yes, sir; and we worked some of us, worked our way from place to place and went from State to State and worked—some of them did—amongst our people in the fields, everywhere, to see what sort of living our people lived; whether we could remain in the South amongst the people who had held us as slaves or not. We continued that on till 1874. . . .
Q. Was the object of that committee at that time to remove your people from the South, or what was it?
A. O, no, sir; not then; we just wanted to see whether there was any State in the South where we could get a living and enjoy our rights.
Q. The object, then, was to find out the best places in the South where you could live?
A. Yes, sir; where we could live and get along well there and to investigate our affairs—not to go nowhere till we saw whether we could stand it.
Q. How were the expenses of these men paid?
A. Every one paid his own expenses, except the one we sent to Louisiana and Mississippi. We took money out of our pockets and sent him, and said to him you must now go to work. You can’t find out anything till you get amongst them. You can talk as much as you please, but you have got to go right into the field and work with them and sleep with them to know all about them.
Q. Have you any idea how many of your people went out in that way?
A. At one time there was five hundred of us.
Q. Do you mean five hundred belonging to your committee?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. I want to know how many traveled in that way to get at the condition of your people in the Southern States?
A. I think about one hundred or one hundred and fifty went from one place or another.
Q. And they went from one place to another, working their way and paying their expenses and reporting to the common center at Shreveport, do you mean?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. What was the character of the information that they gave you?
A. Well, the character of the information they brought to us was very bad, sir.
Q. In what respect?
A. They said that in other parts of the country where they traveled through, and what they saw they were comparing with what we saw and what we had seen in the part where we lived; we knowed what that was; and they cited several things that they saw in their travels; it was very bad.
Q. Do you remember any of these reports that you got from members of your committee?
A. Yes, sir; they said in several parts where they was that the land rent was still higher there in that part of the country than it was where we first organized it, and the people was still being whipped, some of them, by the old owners, the men that had owned them as slaves, and some of them was being cheated out of their crops just the same as they was there.
Q. Was anything said about their personal and political rights in these reports, as to how they were treated about these?
A. Yes; some of them stated that in some parts of the country where they voted they would be shot. Some of them stated that if they voted the Democratic ticket they would not be injured. . . .
Q. State what was the general character of these reports?
A. Some of the places, of course, were a little better than others. Some men that owned some of the plantations would treat the people pretty well in some parts. We found that they would try to pay what they had promised from time to time; some they didn’t pay near what they had promised; and in some places the families—some families—would make from five to a hundred bales of cotton to the family; then at the end of the year they would pay the owner of the land out of that amount at the end of the year, maybe one hundred dollars. Cotton was selling then at twenty-five cents a pound, and at the end of the year when they came to settle up with the owner of the land, they would not get a dollar sometimes, and sometimes they would get thirty dollars, and sometimes a hundred dollars out of a hundred bales of cotton.
Q. What were the best localities that you heard from, if you remember, where they were treated the best?
A. In Virginia was what they stated was the State that treated them the best in the South; Virginia and Missouri and Kentucky, and Tennessee.
Q. There the treatment was better was it?
A. Yes, sir; it was better there.
Q. Had you any reports from North Carolina? Some few from North Carolina.
Q. Do you remember anything about them; or is your knowledge of that State only general?
A. Well, they reported that some parts of North Carolina was very bad and other parts was very good. . . .
Q. I am speaking now of the period from 1870 to 1874, and you have given us the general character of the reports that you got from the South; what did you do in 1874?
A. Well, along in August sometime in 1874, after the white league spring up, they organized and said this is a white man’s government and the colored men should not hold any offices; they were no good but to work in the fields and take what they would give them and vote the Democratic ticket. That’s what they would make public speeches and say to go and we would hear them. We then organized an organization called the colonization council.
Q. The result of this investigation during these four years by your committee was the organization of this colonization council. Is that the way you wish me to understand it?
A. It caused it to be organized.
Q. It caused it to be organized. Now, what was the purpose of this colonization council?
A. Well, it was to better our condition.
Q. In what way did you propose to do it?
A. We first organized and adopted a plan to appeal to the President of the United States and to Congress to help us out of our distress, or protect us in our rights and privileges.
Q. Your council appealed first to the President and to Congress for protection and relief from this distressed condition in which you found yourselves, and to protect you in the enjoyment of your rights and privileges?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Well, what other plan had you?
A. And if that failed our idea was then to ask them to set apart a territory in the United States for us, somewhere where we could go and live with our families.
A. You preferred to go off somewhere by yourselves?
Q. Well, what then?
A. If that failed, our other object was to ask for an appropriation of money to ship us all to liberia, in Africa; somewhere where we could live in peace and quiet.
Q. Well, and what after that?
A. When that failed then our idea was to appeal to other governments outside of the United States to help us to get away from the United States and go there and live under their flag.
A. That is just what we was organized for, to better our condition one way or another. . . .
Q. Now, let us understand more distinctly, before we go any further, the kind of people who composed that association. The committee, as I understand you, was composed entirely of laboring people?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Did it include any politicians of either color, white or black?
A. No politicianers didn’t belong to it, because we didn’t allow them to know nothing about it, because we was afraid that if we allowed the colored politicianer to belong to it he would tell it to the Republican politicianers, and from that the men that was doing this to us would get hold of it, too, and then get after us.
Q. So you did not trust any politicians, white or black?
A. No; we didn’t trust any of them.
Q. That was the condition of things during the time the committee were at work in 1870 to 1874?
A. Yes, that was the condition.
Q. Now, when you organized the council what kind of people were taken into it?
A. Nobody but laboring men. . . .
Q. At the time you were doing that, was there anything political in your organization?
A. Nothing in the world.
Q. You were simply looking out for a better place in which you could get work and enjoy your freedom?
A. Yes, sir; that was all.
Q. When did the idea first enter your council to emigrate to the northern and northwestern States; if you remember, what were the first movements in that direction?
A. Well, in that petition we appealed there, if nothing could be done to stop the turmoil and strife and give us our rights in the South, we appealed then, at that time, for a territory to be set apart for us to which we could go and take our families and live in peace and quiet.
Q. The design of your organization, then, as you understood it, was not so much to go north to live among the white people in the Northern and Western States as it was to have a territory somewhere that you could occupy in peace and quiet for yourselves?
A. That is what we wanted, provided we could not get our rights in the South, where we was. We had much rather staid there if we could have had our rights.
Q. You would have preferred to remain in the South?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And your organization was not in favor of your moving, providing you could get your rights and be protected in the enjoyment of them as any other men?
A. No, sir; we had rather staid there than go anywhere, else, though the organization was very careful about that, and we said so from the first; and then, if that could not be done under any circumstances, then we wanted to go to a territory by ourselves.
Q. Well, about what time did this idea of a territory first occur to you; did it occur at all during the organization of your committee, or after the council was organized?
A. After the committee had made their investigations.
Q. Well, what did you do after that?
A. We organized the council after that.
Q. About what time did you lose all hope and confidence that your condition could be tolerated in the Southern States?
A. Well, we never lost all hopes in the world till 1877.
Q. Not until 1877?
A. No, sir. In 1877 we lost all hopes.
Q. Why did you lose all hope in that year?
A. Well, we found ourselves in such condition that we looked around and we seed that there was no way on earth, it seemed, that we could better our condition there, and we discussed that thoroughly in our organization along in May. We said that the whole South—every State in the South—had got into the hands of the very men that held us slaves—from one thing to another—and we thought that the men that held us slaves was holding the reins of government over our heads in every respect almost, even the constable up to the governor. We felt we had almost as well be slaves under these men. In regard to the whole matter that was discussed, it came up in every council. Then we said there was no hope for us and we had better go.
Q. You say, then, that in 1877 you lost all hope of being able to remain in the South, and you began to think of moving somewhere else?
A. Yes, we said we was going if we had to run away and go into the woods.
Q. Well, what was the complaint after you failed to get the territory?
A. Then, in 1877 we appealed to President Hayes and to Congress, to both Houses. I am certain we sent papers there; if they didn’t get them that is not our fault; we sent them.
Q. What did that petition ask for?
A. We asked for protection, to have our rights guaranteed to us, and at least if that could not be done, we asked that money should be provided to send us to Liberia.
Q. That was 1877, was it?
A. Yes, sir; that was in 1877.
Q. Still, up to that time you did not think at all of going into the Northern States; at least you had taken no steps toward going into those States, had you?
A. No, sir.
Q. When did that idea first occur to your people?
A. In 1877, too, we declared that if we could not get a territory we would go anywhere on God’s earth, we didn’t care where.
Q. Even to the Northern States?
A. Yes, anywhere to leave them Southern States. We declared that in our council in 1877. We said we would go anywhere to get away.
Q. Well, when did the exodus to the Northern States from your locality, or from your country you are acquainted with best, begin?
A. Well, it didn’t begin to any extent until just about a year ago.
Q. It didn’t begin to any extent until 1879, you mean?
A. No, sir; not till the spring of 1879.
Q. But you had prior to that time been organized and ready to go somewhere, as I understand you?
A. Yes, sir; we had several organizations. There were many organizations; I can’t tell you how many immigration associations, and so forth, all springing out of our colonization council. We had a large meeting, some five thousand people present, and made public speeches in 1877 on immigration.
Q. What was the character of those speeches as to what you intended to do?
A. We intended to go away, to leave the South, if Congress would not give us any relief; we were going away, for we knowed we could not get our rights.
Q. Where were these meetings held?
A. Some were held at Shreveport, in Caddo Parish, some were held in Madison, and some were held in Bossier Parish.
Q. Was there any opposition to these meetings in which you talked about going away?
A. No, sir. There didn’t nobody say anything to us against our having our meetings, but I will tell you we had a terrible struggle with our own selves, our own people there; these ministers of these churches would not allow us to have meeting of that kind, no way.
Q. They didn’t want you to go?
A. No; they didn’t want us to go.
A. They wanted us to stay there to support them; I don’t know what else. Mighty few ministers would allow us to have their churches; some few would in some of the parishes. There was one church, Zion, in Shreveport, that allowed us to talk there.
Q. Were the ministers opposed to it?
A. Yes, sir; they was opposed to it. . . .
A. Yes, and of the laboring class.
Q. Others didn’t participate with you?
A. No, sir.
Q. Why didn’t the politicians want you to go?
A. They were against it from the beginning.
A. They thought if we went somewhere else they would not get our votes. That is what we thought.
Q. Why were the ministers opposed to it?
A. Well, because they would not get our support; that is what we thought of them.
Q. They thought it might break up their churches?
A. Yes; that is what they thought; at least we supposed the ministers thought that.
Q. About how many did this committee consist of before you organized your council? Give us the number as near as you can tell.
A. As many as five hundred in all.
Q. The committee, do you mean.
A. Yes; the committee has been that large.
Q. What was the largest number reached by your colonization council, in your best judgment?
A. Well, it is not exactly five hundred men belonging to the council, that we have in our council, but they all agreed to go with and enroll their names with us from time to time, so that they have now got at this time 98,000 names enrolled.
Q. Women and men?
A. Yes, sir; women and men, and none under twelve years old. . . .
Q. How many of your people have gone from that part of the country to the North, if you know?
A. I don’t know exactly how many have gone.
Q. Of course you cannot tell us exactly, but as near as you know; give some idea of the number, if you can.
A. My reports from several members of the committee, in parts I have not been in and seen for myself—I take their words and put their words down as mine, because they are not allowed to lie on the subject. And so from what I have learned from them from time to time I think it is about five thousand and something.
Q. Do you mean from that section of country down there?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. From Louisiana?
A. Yes, sir. . . .
Q. Now, Mr. Adams, you know, probably, more about the causes of the exodus from that country than any other man, from your connection with it; tell us in a few words what you believe to be the causes of these people going away.
A. Well, the cause is, in my judgment, and from what information I have received, and what I have seen with my own eyes—it is because the largest majority of the people, of the white people, that held us as slaves treats our people so bad in many respects that it is impossible for them to standit. Now, in a great many parts of that country there our people most as well be slaves as to be free; because in the first place, I will state this: that in some times, in times of politics, if they have any idea that the Republicans will carry a parish or ward, or something of that kind, why, they would do anything on God’s earth. There ain’t nothing too mean for them to do to prevent it; nothing I can make mention of is too mean for them to do. If I am working on his place, and he has been laughing and talking with me, and I do everything he tells me to, yet in times of election he will crush me down, and even kill me, or do anything to me to carry his point. If he can’t carry his point without killing me, he will kill me; but if he can carry his point without killing me, he will do that. . . .
Senate Report No. 693, Part 2, 46th Cong., 2nd Session, 1880, pp. 101–05, 108–11.
Nicodemus was a slave of African birth,
And was bought for a bag of gold.
He was reckoned a part of the salt of the earth,
But he died years ago, very old.
Good times coming, good times coming,
Long, long time on the way;
Run and tell Elijah to hurry up Pomp
To meet us under the cottonwood tree,
In the Great Solomon Valley,
At the first break of day.
Walter L. Fleming, “Pap Singleton, the Moses of the Exodus,” American Journal of Sociology, pp. 67–69.
One morning in April, 1879, a Missouri steamboat arrived at Wyandotte, Kansas, and discharged a load of colored men, women and children, with divers barrels, boxes, and buddies of household effects. It was a novel, picturesque pathetic sight. They were of all ages and sizes. . . . their garments were incredibly patched and tattered, stretched, and uncertain; . . . and there was not probably a dollar in money in the pockets of the entire party. The wind was eager, and they stood upon the wharf shivering. . . . They looked like persons coming out of a dream. And, indeed, such they were . . . for this was the advance guard of the Exodus.
Soon other and similar parties came by the same route, and still others, until, within a fortnight, a thousand or more of them were gathered there at the gateway of Kansas—all poor, some sick, and none with a plan of future action. . . .
The closing autumn found at least 15,000 of these colored immigrants in Kansas. Such of them as had arrived early in the spring had been enabled to do something toward getting a start, and the thriftier and more capable ones had made homestead-entries and contrived, with timely aid, to build cabins; in some cases, small crops of corn and garden vegetables were raised. . . . . . . Numerous cabins of stone and sod were constructed while the cold season lasted; . . . in many cases, the women went to the towns and took in washing, or worked as house-servants . . . while the men were doing the building. Those who could find employment on the farms about their “claims,” worked willingly and for small wages, and in this way supported their families, and procured now and then a calf, a pig, or a little poultry; other obtained places on the railroads, in the coal-mines, and on the public works at Topeka. Such as got work at any price, did not ask assistance; those who were compelled to apply for aid did it slowly, as a rule, and rarely came a second time. Not a single colored tramp was seen in Kansas all winter; and only one colored person was convicted of any crime. . . .
Scribners’ Monthly 8 (June, 1880): 211–15.
HOW COLORED WORKMEN ARE DEFRAUDED
It has from time to time been fully proved in these columns that the colored men of the South were not regarded as equals before the law; that they were not permitted freely to exercise the rights of suffrage conferred upon them by the national Constitution, and that the Democratic State and local Governments gave them next to no opportunity of educating their children. But these are not the only wrongs of which the freedmen have to complain. From a number of facts which I obtained during a recent visit to the Gulf States—facts which will not be successfully disputed—it is evident that in every material relation the negroes are cheated and taken advantage of by the whites. From year’s end to year’s end they have been made to work for the profit of the land-owners, and each year they have found themselves growing poorer and poorer. Of course, there are isolated exceptions to this general rule. Here and there may be found a black man who, by dint of hard work and close economy, coupled with circumstances of a peculiarly fortuitious character, has gathered together enough money to buy a small farm, and who has a few thousand dollars in good securities. But such cases are very rare, so rare, in fact, that when one of them is discovered the Southern newspapers have much more to say about it than they would about half a dozen murders. In the great majority of cases the negroes are living actually from hand to mouth. They and their families are kept alive very much as they were in the days of slavery. That they are in any of their material relations more independent than they were during those days there is very little evidence. Since the results of the war made them free all sorts of means have been resorted to by the whites, who had and have all the money, to keep them from bettering their financial condition, and thereby placing themselves in a position to make more favorable terms with their former owners. One of the earliest of these devices was known as “the share system.” Under its provisions the white capitalists supplied the land, provisions, seeds, and implements, the negroes, with their wives and children, gave their labor, and it was understood that at the end of the year the profits of the crops which were obtained should be divided between all those engaged in raising them. When the time for a division came, however, it was almost invariably found that all the money which had been made was by one means or another placed in the pockets of the land-owners, while the black laborers were declared to be in debt for extra supplies, to provide for which they were coolly required to give a lien on the share of the next year’s crop which was supposed to be theirs. For a time this pretty little scheme worked admirably and to the very great advantage of the capitalists. But by degrees the negroes began to see that they were being systematically cheated out of their hard earnings, that, indeed, for all practical purposes, they might just as well be slaves as freemen. Knowing this, they ceased to take any interest in their work under “the share system” which never brought any “share” to them. They neglected the fields, and after a time convinced the land-owners that, some new and less transparent means of defrauding them would have to be devised. To a very great extent the latter have succeeded.
In the far South, but particularly in Mississippi, the “share system” has now given place to what is known as the “lease system” and the “hire system.” Under both of them the whites continue to get very much the best of the bargains which are made with the colored men. For instance, under the so-called hire plan the land-owner usually contracts to pay an able-bodied and experienced farm-hand, who is aided by a wife and perhaps by children, $16 a month, or a total of $192 a year. It is also understood that the negro is to be supplied with a “furnish,” which consists of certain stipulated quantities of meal, pork, sugar and coffee, and which is to be given at certain stated periods in the year. This “furnish” costs the capitalist $85. One mule and the farming implements necessary for the use of the negro, the ownership of which rests with the land proprietor, costs him about $200. The wear and tear of mule and implements, at a very liberal estimate, is $50 a year. These are the usual expenses which have to be borne by the land-owner under the “hire plan.” It will be seen that they foot up a total of $327 a year; but, to be on the safe side, and to include a liberal sum on account of interest on the capital invested by the owner, let be assumed that the total expense to him is $400 a year. On the other hand, what are his profits from the negro, the mule, the implements, and the land upon which he is supposed to expend this sum? It is always expected that the negro and mule will cultivate during the year 12 acres of ground. It is usual in Mississippi to plant nine acres of this in cotton and three in corn. In a reasonably good year nine acres of the rich bottom lands of the Mississippi, to which the figures given are applied, yield 12 bales weighing 500 pounds each. At 10 cents a pound, the total derived from the sale of this product would be $600. From the corn land 60 bushels are usually expected from the acre. From three acres the yield at this rate would, of course, be 180 bushels, which, if sold at the average price of 70 cents a bushel, would bring $126. From these figures it will readily be seen that the total yield in money from the 12 acres would be $726. If the $400 which was allowed for expenses be deducted from this sum, it will be found that the land-owner has realized from his 12 acres the handsome profit of $326. And the majority of them are not content with these returns. By every conceivable trick, by extortionate charges for extra provisions which they may or may not have supplied to the negroes, they continue to evade payment of a large portion of the wages which it was agreed should be given to the laborer and the blacks in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred at the end of the year find themselves precisely where they commenced—that is to say, penniless and entirely dependent upon the white land-owner for the food which keeps them from starvation and the miserable cabin which gives them but scant protection from the elements.
Still bad as it is, many of the negroes with whom I talked on the subject said that they preferred the hire to the lease system. On the surface there is no good reason why this should be so. The inquiring stranger is always told that the negroes can lease land at $8 an acre, or $96 a year, for 12 acres, which in many cases is true. It is also stated to those who make such inquiry that a negro can feed and clothe himself for $100 a year, get a mule for $110, farming tools for $50, a wagon for $75, and that all other expenses for himself and a small family could be covered for $100, or a total of $536 a year. On this basis his crop should yield him $190 clear profit the first year, and subsequently, when he need make no expenditures for mule or implements, such profit should be largely increased. But, unfortunately for the negro, the figures given are only superficial ones. Close inquiry reveals the fact that there is one set of prices for a black man in the far South and another set for the whites. It being always assumed that the negro buys on credit, he is obliged on an average to pay $160 for the mule which costs the white man $110, $110 for the wagon, $75 for the farming implements, and for meal, bacon, sugar, coffee, calico, and everything else in the same proportion. The plantation storekeepers who charge him these prices are, in nearly every instance, in partnership with the land-owners, and divide with them the profits. In addition to everything else, the negro debtor is charged by these all-powerful oppressors interest on all his purchases at the average rate of 18 per cent. To secure payment of their advances made on these outrageous terms the storekeepers in every case exact from the negroes a deed in trust on the mule and all implements furnished, and also on all growing crops which may be raised by their use. So, at the end of the year the unfortunate Mississippi “freedman” who has been bold enough to venture upon farming under the lease system is lucky if he escapes from his creditors with the clothes on his back. And for these wrongs there is next to no redress before the Democratic courts. In the great majority of the counties in Mississippi it is impossible to find record of a case in which a negro has successfully sued a white man. Their only escape from oppression seems to be in leaving their old homes and emigrating to other States. This, they have already done to a greater extent than is generally supposed. In all parts of Louisiana and Mississippi there is a growing complaint of a scarcity of labor. To such an extent is this true that the planters in the Teche country have been making earnest effort to get Chinese from Cuba to move their sugar crops, and at this moment the steamboat men at New Orleans, Vicksburg, and Memphis are not able to get men sufficient to handle their cargoes, and this is the case despite the fact that they are offering prices to this class of laborers which three years ago would have been looked upon as little short of fabulous. The land-owners and capitalists of the South should be warned in time. When it is too late they may be only too forcibly reminded of the fact that they killed the goose which for generations has laid their golden eggs. H. c.
New York Times, November 26, 1880.
40. INTERVIEW WITH SOJOURNER TRUTH86
“You are now on your way to Kansas?”
“Yes, I am going out there to see the colored people; but I must stop and hold meetings to pay my way from Battle Creek and back again. I have prayed so long that my people would go to Kansas, and that God would make straight the way before them. Yes, indeed! I think it is a good move for them. I believe as much in that move as I do in the moving of the children of Egypt going out to Canaan, just as much. It will also be a benefit to the South, to the ungodly people there. The blacks can never be much in the South. They cannot get up. As long as the whites have the reins in their hands, how can the colored people get up there? I tell you they can’t do it, for there is nothing to let them up. But if they come here to the North, and get the Northern spirit in them, they will prosper, and returning down there, some of them will teach these poor whites. They will go down there, and these colored people will bring them out of Egyptian darkness into marvelous light. The white people cannot do it, but these will; before forty years, they will teach the slave holders the truth that they never had and never knew of. God works in a mysterious way. In Battle Creek a tramp came along, and looking upon him, a colored man recognized his old master, and gave him assistance to help him on; gave him his breakfast and supper. I tried my best, right after the war, to have colored people go to Kansas and settle on homes. I traveled there myself for this purpose, hoping to get the government to give a home to those colored people who were in Washington, living there at government expense, paying people great sums to feed them, when the money might carry them out to Kansas lands and fix it so they could support themselves. I was there in Arlington after the war, and for three years I hoped to get the people away. General Howard and General Butler approved of my general recommendation, and I see that my going to Kansas, though for the time being a failure, has been approved by the Lord, who is finally taking my people there in such numbers. The movement means the regeneration, temporally and spiritually, of the American colored race, and I always knew the-Lord would find some way. I said his holy purpose must be fulfilled, and now he has put into their hearts to go out there, and not to stay South and be abused and heathenized any longer. There will be, chile, a great glory come out of that. I don’t expect I will live to see it; but before this generation has passed away, there will be a grand change. This colored people is going to be a people. Do you think God has had them robbed and scourged all the days of their life for nothing?”
The old lady’s voice had risen to a still higher note, and the closing sentences were pronounced with solemn gestures, including a slight swaying to and fro of the body and shaking of the head.
Interview in Chicago Inter-Ocean, taken from Narrative of Sojourner Truth (Battle Creek, Michigan, 1884), pp. 18–20.