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Tennessee State Convention
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Tennessee State Convention
The Colored Men Still Clamoring for Equality.
Brownlow Denounced and Repudiated for His Treachery.
What was Said and Done in the Convention Yesterday.
The Colored State Convention met yesterday at noon, and was called to order by Simeon R. Walker, Chairman of the Executive Committee.
Abraham Smith was appointed chairman pro tem., and Prince A. Stewart, secretary. In taking the chair, the former thanked the Convention for the honor conferred. He said they knew their freedom was a delusion and mockery. It took over two centuries to convince their enemies that human slavery was wrong, and a curse to both the slave and the slave-holder. No government could prosper that withheld equal rights from a portion of its citizens for no other reason than that their skins were black. In all things they would have to watch their leaders. It would never do for colored men to rally around any set of men, simply because they called themselves Republicans, and while much might be due to race, more was due to humanity. They should never sacrifice the interest of a party. While the Republican party had a claim upon the colored man's gratitude, the claims of gratitude should not outweigh and overbalance the claims of honesty and moral elevation. He trusted that their deliberations would be characterized by wisdom, prudence and patriotism, and that their actions would aid and promote liberty, progress and prosperity in Tennessee.
John Baugh, of Gibson, C.J. Thompson, of Bedford, and W. B. Scott, Sr., of Blount were appointed a Committee on Credentials.
While the committee were out preparing their report, the Convention was addressed by W. F. Yardly of Knox. He said that the Convention had assembled for the purpose of asking Congress and the lawmakers of the State such laws as would give the colored people the same rights that were accorded to other citizens. There were laws in the State that detracted from the rights of citizenship on account of color, while the great fundamental law of the land recognized each and every man as equal before the law. The people of the State, in their Convention and Legislatures, had passed laws that took from the colored people the rights that properly belonged to them by the laws of God and should belong to them by the laws of man. The act passed for the enforcement of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the United States Constitution had been disregarded. The civil rights bill passed by Congress guaranteed to them and all citizens the right to do what they pleased, so long as they did not infringe upon the rights of their neighbors. The 14th amendment to the Constitution recognized all persons born in the United States as citizens thereof. The civil rights bill guaranteed to them the right to make and enforce contracts, and that no State law should take from them that right on account of color, race or previous condition. Notwithstanding all this, the citizens the citizens of the State of Tennessee, in convention assembled, in February, 1870, passed a law that was in direct conflict with the letter and spirit of the fundamental law of the Government. It excluded their children from the public schools on account of their color and made it a penalty for one to marry another who happened to be a different color. They could go even among the heathens, and fail to find such abominable laws as were found in the statute books of America. Colored men had been sent to the penitentiary for marrying white woman. He was not there to advocate the comeingling of the races, but when such laws were passed by
fail to find such abomniable laws as were found in the statute books of America. Colored men had been sent to the penitentiary for marrying white woman. He was not there to advocate the comeingling of the races; but when such laws were passed by the State and enforced by its officers, it was utterly contrary to all laws of humanity and detracted from them their rights as citizens. There was a bill pending in Congress giving to them all the rights of American citizens. They were called on to express their opinion as to whether or not they desired those rights. It had been asserted by gentlemen in authority that the colored men in Tennessee did not want them; but he would say that they did want all the rights that all other citizens in Tennessee had enjoyed. It had been said that if the negroes were granted these rights they would attempt to march into the parlors of the white people. The same subterfuge was used against the colored people when they were about to be freed. The penitentiary was almost filled with their people on account of the inviduous distinctions made in the selection of juries. When the Civil Rights Bill should pass, things would change wonderfully. When one of them wished to travel on the cars and desired to take along one of the female members of his family, he would not be compelled to take her where she would hear nothing but obscene and vulgar language and be smoked to death in the smoking car. And when they desired to eat a meal they would not be compelled to go into the kitchen and eat off the block where the steak was beat. And when they wanted to go to a place of amusement they could sit anywhere in the building, and not be propped up where nothing but the word "nigger" could be heard. He would never vote for any man who had voted against a measure giving him the enjoyment of rights that other citizens had, simply because it pleased the Divine Creator to make his hair a little shorter and his skin blacker than his, be he a Republican of the deepest dye, or be he a Democrat who believed in the simplest form of democracy. It was only in America, "the land of the free and the home of the brave," where the negro was ostracised simply on account of his color. But what they wanted now was to be good law-abiding citizens and make themselves worth $2,000 to their Government, when they were worth only $1,000 to their former owners. By a proper inculcation of manhood, and by conducting themselves properly, they would soon see that natural antipathy, as the social scientists termed it, gradually pass pass away. There had been something said in his section of the State about this convention having been called for the purpose of trying to alienate the colored vote from the Republican party. He repeated the sentiments of nine-tenths the colored men of East Tennessee when he said that they did not want to do any such a thing. They did not want to leave the party for what a few individuals had done. If such was the desire of the colored people, he would advise them to look well where they were going. Could they consistently go with the Democratic party? (Cries of "no!" "no.") Then could they establish a black man's party? (More negative ejaculations). Then they must remain with that party that had done something for them, and, by being honest and upright citizens, they could force them to do still more.
Calls were made for Samuel Lowery, of Davidson. He commenced by saying that it had been stated that it was the intention of the colored men to leave the Republican party, He insisted that such was not the intention of the colored people. They comprised the great mass of the Republican party in Tennessee, and as they would determine the Republican party would abide by that determination. But unless the Republican party of Tennessee adopted the civil rights measure, the colored people could not go hand in hand with them any longer. The Republicans of Tennessee had already had a false alarm given them by Brownlow in a speech that would have given great credit to a Democrat. If the policy of Brownlow was adopted their children would be deprived of the privileges of the public schools. It would be argued that, if the civil rights measure was taken as a principle of the Republican party, they would be beaten by the Democracy of Tennessee. If the Republicans ignored their rights they would be beaten and ought to be beaten.
The speaker was here interrupted by the entrance of the Committee on Credentials who, through their chairman, reported that there were delegates present from the counties of Davidson, Rutherford, Gibson, Fayette, Williamson, Maury, Wilson, Marshall, Knox, Blount, London, Jefferson, Bradley, Hamilton. Tipton, Robertson, Giles, Haywood, Bedford and Shelby.
Samuel Lowery continued his speech at some length. He said that Brownlow was
the last man that should have insulted the colored people in the manner he had. During the time he was Governor of Tennessee, thousands of colored people were driven from their homes because they sustained and supported him in his administration, and, notwithstanding all this, he had made a stab in their backs more fatal than ever came from the Democracy.
The following delegates were appointed a committee on permanent organization: H. M. Rankin, of Shelby; George Wassum, of Bradley; Allen Garner, Jr., of Blount; S. R. Walker, of Davidson; Amos Rivers, of Fayette; H. H. Thompson, of Giles, and G. S. Currin, of Williamson. During the absence of this committee the Convention was addressed by Edward Shaw, of Shelby, in a few sensible and pointed remarks.
The Chairman of the Committee on Permanent Organization reported the following names:—
President—Edward Shaw, of Shelby.
Vice Presidents—W. F. Yardley, of Knox, Wm. Sumner, of Davidson, and J. N. Moon, of Shelby.
Secretary—Samuel Lowery, of Davidson.
Assistant Secretary—H. W. Longfellow.
The Chairman was escorted to his proper place by a committee appointed for that purpose, and returned his thanks for the honor.
Prayer was then offered by Rev. B. Frierson, of Maury.
On motion of Abe Smith, the following Committee on Resolutions was appointed:
A. Smith, S. H. Thompson, W. F. Yardley, W. H. Franklin, and H. N. Rankin.
The Convention then took a recess until 3:30 o'clock.
Two Sergeants-at-arms, were appointed to assign delegates to their proper positions upon the floor.
Several persons were suggested as honorary members of the convention, but the motion to admit them was voted down.
The following Committee on Finance was appointed, whose duty it will be to assess each delegate with a certain amount to defray the expenses of the Convention: H, N. Rankin, W. F. Yardley, A. Smith, W. Sumner and H. Harding.
Abe Smith moved that all resolutions offered be referred to the Committee on Resolutions without debate. Carried.
Nelson Walker, Squire Butler and Prince Ewing, were appointed a committee to make arrangements with the different Railroads for half rates, delegates returning home.
By request, Henderson Young, of Tipton, addressed the Convention. The main part of his speech was an appeal to the young colored men to go to the "backwoods counties, and instruct the people there, instead of lying around the cities with high notions and thoughts of large salaries. Teachers were greatly needed in those far off counties, and few had any idea as to the ignorance that existed there. He thought that committees should be appointed for all of the large cities in the State, to correspond with persons in the various counties in regard to the employment of teachers. In regard to the question of civil rights, the colored people in his county wanted all the rights that other citizens enjoyed.
H. N. Rankin, of Shelby, was next called upon and responded briefly. He said the colored people had advanced considerably during the last eight years. All the rights and privileges that they had acquired were acquired through blows?, energy and determination. A large portion of the colored people in this country needed concentration. They should con-
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centrate their minds and energies, and their cause being a just one, it would certainly triumph. They would have to be governed by the intelligent portion of their race. Every man could not be a leader. One thing the colored people lacked was confidence in each other, and as long as they failed to place confidence in each other, and as long as they failed to place confidence in themselves they would never be elevated to higher positions. A man was a man in proportion to the dignity and manhood he possessed. They could not be the equal of every man. Their equality was attained by their labor, sacrifice and devotion. Their freedom had been accomplished outside of Tennessee, in the name of the nation, and they were now assembled to ask that nation to confer upon them all their civil rights. He wanted the right to marry whom he pleased. The laws should know no man by his color. He advocated the equality of men only so far as their rights were concerned.
An invitation to attend the Colored Industrial Fair, now being held at Liberty-hall, was accepted.
James Thompson, of Shelby, delivered a short address bearing upon public school privileges.
Samuel Lowery offered the following:
Whereas, It has been asserted without authority and unwarrantedly, that the colored citizens of Tennessee, and the South, do not want civil rights, with impartial school privileges to all the colored children of the South in the public schools, and all the other privileges demanded and allowed in civil laws, this convention of colored citizens repel indignantly and with contempt, the misanthrope who would seek to fasten and fetter with predudice our children and posterity; and we earnestly invoke the National Congress to pass the Civil Rights bill, giving to our children impartial school privileges in every public school, State and National, throughout the United States, and deny any the privilege of invidious? distinctions against our race in any of the institutions of the country.
Resolved, that we present our thanks to Gen. Benj. F. Butler, of Massachusetts, for his management of the bill in the House of Representatives of the United States, so ably indicated by the lamented? Charles Sumner.
Samuel Lowery offered a resolution providing for the appointment of a committee to take into consideration the erection of a monument in this State to the late Hon. Charles Sumner.
All of the resolutions were referred to the Committee on Resolutions.
The convention then adjourned until this morning at 9 o'clock.
THURSDAY, APRIL 30, 1874.
THE NEGRO ULTIMATUM
No Compromise Short of Complete Equality with the Whites.
Peremptory Dictation to Congress and the Law-makers of Tennessee by the Colored Convention.
Brownlow Branded with the Mark of Judas.
High-Toned Notions About Marrying White Women.
Adjournment, without any Practical Benefit whatever to the Race.
The State Colored Convention reassembled yesterday morning at 9 o'clock. Edward Shaw, of Shelby, the Chairman, said that he hoped the committees that had been appointed would attend to their duties as to complete the business of the Convention by 3 o'clock.
Henderson Young, of Tipton county, wanted the question discussed, whether it would be practicable for the colored farmers to unite with the Order known as the Grangers upon the same basis as they are conducted by the white people; or, if this was not the best plan, would it not be advisable to form a Union Labor Association for the benefit of the colored farmers.
On motion of Nelson Walker, speakers were limited to ten minutes. He also moved that all persons visiting the Convention from different counties be admitted to seats as honorary members. Carried.
A large number of resolutions were offered and referred to the Committee on Resolutions without debate.
The Finance Committee submitted a report assessing each member 25 cents to defray the expenses of the Convention and requesting all the Republican papers in the State to publish the proceedings of the Convention. Some objection was raised to the latter part of the report. Edward Shaw said in this connection that it ought to be the wish of the colored people to cultivate the friendship of all the people in the State, and when they ignored the press throughout the State, because they happened to differ with them in politics, and not ask them to publish the proceeding of the Convention, they declared they did not want their friendship. The condition of the colored people of Tennessee was not exactly an independent one, but he was ready to declare to any class of men that the colored citizens of Tennessee and of the United States would soon be free. (Prolonged applause.)
Abe Smith, Chairman of the Committee on Resolutions, submitted the following report:
Whereas, the Congress of the United States, by public authority, has made large donations and endowments to many educational institutions for the citizens of the several States of the Union; and,
Whereas, Tennessee has received the fund allowed and provided by this supreme authority of our country, and the colored citizens form a large part of the population of the State, and have received none of the benefits of this liberal provision for public improvement and education; and,
Whereas, there is now a bill before the Congress of the United States conferring on the colored citizens civil rights, and as it is our duty as men to arrange for the perfect development of posterity, means of instruction, we call the attention of the Congress of the United States to the fact that the public institutions of Tennessee are defective in point of principle and practice, are anti-republican and proscriptive, and that their tendency is to breed discord between citizens and the spirit of caste and hate; therefore,
Resolved, that we most respectfully ask the passage of the civil rights bill as introduced by the Hon. Charles Sumner, of Massachusetts, was reported by the Judiciary Committee containing the provisions of an impartial education afforded to us by the public schools of the country, and to our children, as the most potent power to develop true Republicanism and love of country, good feeling and personal regard mutually.
Resolved, that the institutions endowed by the general government be so regulated that the colored citizens shall be admitted to them impartially in proportion to their population, and that provision shall be made to carry out the apportionment of this class of citizens; and,
Whereas, the common or public schools of the country are the medium through which education will reach the masses of the citizens, we, as American citizens, demand that we shall enjoy them impartially, that we may encourage patriotism in a republic where all are equal before the law, promote a high and useful career for the young upon the enduring basis of a true and consistent republic, which generously showers its blessings upon all alike, regardless of external circumstances or condition.
Resolved, That we will consider the omission of the Republican party to enact this measure a base surrender of the rights of humanity to an insidious foe, that has contested every right we enjoy, as they did every right of freedom on the field of battle; and we will use our utmost to stamp upon any demagogue who seeks to betray the privileges of our children to their full enjoyment of impartial and equal privileges with public schools, the brand of the traitor Judas as deserving politically a traitor's doom, whom we will never, never join hands with nor support, but will regard as our public and political enemy, more terrible to meet than a savage beast, more injurious than any catastrophe that could befall us or any calamity that could be devised by any wicked unseen power; but equal and impartial rights will secure to posterity their just and true relation, order will come from chaos, love will spring up where spite and hate exist, Ethiopia will in this fair country stretch forth her hand to God, peace will prevail, God will bless us and we will walk hand in hand to a blissful immortality, in the full triumphs of a peaceful civilization and in the highest development of human life and government; and
Whereas, American prejudice, by the spirit of caste and an unchristian pride of race and life, has over-ridden the spirit of the golden rule, laid down by the Divine law, and has so deformed society that we are deprived of the civil rights due to all persons; and
Whereas, we are citizens of a Republic that has guaranteed equality before the law to all its citizens by a proper amendment to the National Constitution known as the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments; and
Whereas, these amendments have failed to carry out that equality before the law, which should be the pride of every citizen, and has failed to do justice to us; and
Whereas, we are deprived of the enjoyment of accommodation allowed by common carriers to white citizens, and are refused first-class accommodations by rail-roads and steamboats, although we pay first-class fare, and we are forced into smoking cars with our females and families amid the obscene and ludicrous associates of those who disrespect our feelings and race; and,
Whereas, when traveling, we are denied the accommodation of taverns, hotels and inns, and suffer not only inconvenience, but actual injury; and,
Whereas, we are treated by proprietors of places of public amusement with the same invidious proscription, by not allowing us the same facilities for admission as are made for whites on the same terms; and,
Whereas, cemeteries, said to be governed by Christian principles, in the hands of men, are denying us the right of Christian burial in mother earth; therefore,
Resolved, that we respectfully ask the law-making power, the Congress of the United States, to pass the civil rights bill and forever settle the rights to which we are entitled in the land of our birth and the Government of our choice and sustenance.
And, whereas, our fellow citizen, David Galloway, of the State of Tennessee, and a citizen of the United States of America, is now condemned to a felon's life through the barbarous decisions of the unjust code and constitution of the State of Tennessee, for having in civil life married, by the laws of Tennesseee the wife of his choice, a white woman, a woman of mature age and every way competent to contract with whomsoever she pleased; and
Whereas, his marriage was in conformity with his privilege as an American citizen in the land of his birth, with his heart
loyal to the flag of his country—an ex-Federal soldier who fought to sustain during the war the Union and Government of the United States, but who, since he returned to civil life, has been outraged by the judicial farce of a trial in two courts of Tennessee and deprived of his liberty and divested of his manhood and of the enjoyment of his personal rights; therefore
Resolved, that we, his fellow citizens, feel bound with him in the outrages he has received, and do pledge our efforts to raise sufficient means to employ counsel to bring his case before the Supreme Court of the United States, and vindicate the rights of the colored citizens of Tennessee to the civil rights of marriage with whomsoever they may contract and choose, and strip him of the outrage and odium placed on him and us by the unjust and barbarous constitution and laws of Tennessee.
Resolved, that competent lawyers, one from each division of the State, be employed to bring his case before the Supreme Court of the United States, forthwith, and that this convention recommend the citizens to raise the means to pay their fees, and that they employ such assistance as they may need in the case.
And whereas, Hon. W. G. Brownlow, United States Senator from this State, has declared himself opposed to the civil rights bill, or that portion of it that gives the colored children the right to be educated in schools with the white; therefore,
Resolved, that we deprecate the departure from the principles of humanity and justice of one in whom we have so often reposed so much confidence as a true friend of the colored race.
The resolutions, offered by Samuel Lowery on Tuesday, also submitted by the committee as a part of their report, and the following were also adopted:
Resolved, that we recommend to our colored friends throughout the State not to vote for any person for office whose duty it will be to select, designate or appoint jurors, either in civil or criminal cases, without first obtaining the pledge of such person not to discriminate on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Resolved, that we, the colored citizens of Tennessee, will ever commemorate the name of Charles Sumner and recognize him as one of the noblest, purest and best sons to whom Massachusetts has given birth.
Resolved, that we recommend the colored people throughout this State to educate and fully prepare our females for the labor of teaching, as they constitute an indispensable auxillary to our civil rights.
Resolved, that the Hon. Horace Maynard, Representative from the State at large, be furnished with a copy of the resolutions passed by the Convention, and that he be requested to call together the Tennessee delegation in Congress and urge their co-operation in the passage of the supplementary civil rights bill.
T. N. Rankin discussed at length the imprisonment of Galloway in the penitentiary. In the course of his remarks he said that if Thomas Jefferson would rise from his grave at Montecello and find such Democracy as now existed in the country, he would enter a suit against the party for slander. Prejudice in the United States never had been but a species of insanity. One of the Democratic Vice-Presidents of the United States had a negro woman for a companion, and his daughters were raised up under her supervision. If Moses was in Nashville in the present new and enlightened age, these excellent judges would have been imprisoned in the penitentiary, for he married an Ethiopian woman, as would be ascertained by reading the 10th chapter of Numbers. He then read portions of the State Constitution and limited States Constitution as bearing on his views concerning the intermarriage of white and colored people.
The resolutions proposed by the committee were adopted.
W. F. Yardley offered a resolution requesting Horace Maynard to call the Tennessee Congressional delegation together, with the view of urging the passage of the supplemental civil rights bill. Adopted.
L. W. Lavici of East Tennessee, was invited to address the Convention. He spoke at some length upon the objects of the Convention and the wishes of those whom the delegates represented. They wanted their rights first and their politics afterwards. They had been too long made the hewers of wood and the drawers of water. He was a Republican, and would remain such as long as the principles of that party continued republican; but as soon as his rights and privileges were debarred, and he could not get them from the Republicans, he would seek them elsewhere. If he was a white man and had a daughter who was inclined to marry a colored man he would take it as a neglect on his part to impart to her the right kind of training and influence. The daughters of his race were not eager and willing to pick up any white man that came along and enter into marriage with him. If there was any law needed in the State, it was a law to protect the virtue of their daughters. Black men dared not insult a white woman; if they did a mob would be raised and the colored man would be taken to the first tree and raised up by the neck. They did not want the white men's daughters unless they were ladies and qualified and competent to be the wives of colored men.
The Convention here took a recess until 2 o'clock.
Abe Smith, Chairman of the Committee on Resolutions, submitted a resolution recommending the appointment of a committee to raise funds to conduct the case of David Galloway in the United States Supreme Court, also a resolution recommending the appointment of an executive committee, consisting of three members from each division of the State, to prepare an address setting forth the grievances and wants of the colored people.
The resolutions were adopted and the following were appointed as the Executive Committee:
S. Lowery, Abram Smith, and H. H. Thompson, of Middle Tennessee; W. F. Yardley, George W. Wassom, and ____ Gwinn, of East Tennessee; H. N. Rankin, Ed Shaw, and J. B. Baugh, of West Tennessee.
Nelson Walker was called upon for a speech. He said that if their appeals would strike the ears of their white fellow-citizens it would do more good than all the laws that could be passed. Let public sentiment and moral influence frown down upon the discriminations unjustly made upon them on account of their color. So long as he lived he would never give his vote to any man, Republican, Democrat, or what not, if he was not willing to accord him equal justice. It had been intimated that he was to be the leader of a black man's party. Such a thought had never entered his mind. It would be a mockery for 55,000 citizens to array themselves against 210,000. He had said, and would say now, to those who would come to him asking his vote: "Gentleman, are you willing, when we have given you our votes, to accord to us, in proportion to our population, an equal share of rights and justice." He would like to see men in the next Legislature of every hue and thought. It had been said that the two races could not live together. He would deny that fact. They had lived together, were raised up with each other, dined with each other, and had been associates of each other nearly all of their lives. The Constitution of Tennessee was the rottenest thing ever framed or promulgated by any set of men.
H. N. Rankin, W. F. Yardley and Samuel Lowery, were appointed to conduct the case of Daniel Galloway. The erection of a monument to the memory of Charles Sumner was left with the Executive Committee.
W. F. Yardley and Edward Shaw delivered addresses embracing points that had been brought before the Convention.
A resolution was adopted returning thanks to the officers of the Convention for the manner in which they discharged their duties, and to the reporters of the press for their accurate reports.
Prayer was offered by James Thomas, of Shelby, after which the Convention adjourned sine die.
Convention Minutes Item Type Metadata
1874 Nashville, TN State Convention
“Tennessee State Convention,” ColoredConventions.org, accessed October 23, 2019, http://coloredconventions.org/items/show/549.