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Proceedings of the First State Convention of the Colored Citizens of the State of California. Held at Sacramento Nov. 20th 21st, and 22d, in the Colored Methodist Chuch [sic].

1855CA.20.pdf

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Most of us were born upon your soil; reared up under the influence of your institutions; become familiar with your manners and customs; acquired most of your habits, and adopted your policies. We yield allegiance to no other country save this. With all her faults we love her still.

Our forefathers were among the first who took up arms and fought side by side with yours; poured out their blood freely in the struggle for American independence. They fought, as they had every reason to suppose, the good fight of liberty, until it finally triumphed.

In the war of 1812, in which you achieved independence and glory upon the seas, the colored men, were also among the foremost to engage in the conflict, rendering efficient service in behalf of their common country. Through a long series of years have we been always ready to lay down our lives for the common weal, in defense of the national honor. On the other hand, instead of treating us as good and loyal citizens, you have treated us as aliens; sought to degrade us in all the walks of life; proscribed us in Church and State as an ignorant and debased class, unworthy the sympathy and regard of men; without examining into our true character, you have allowed yourselves to become bitterly prejudiced against us. When we have spoken of the wrongs inflicted upon us, you have turned a deaf ear to our representations and entreaties, or spurned us from you.

We again call upon you to regard our condition in the State of California. We point with pride to the general character we maintain in your midst, for integrity, industry, and thrift. You have been wont to multiply our vices, and never to see our virtues. You call upon us to pay enormous taxes to support Government, at the same time you deny us the protection you extend to others; the security for life and property. You require us to be good citizens, while seeking to degrade us. You ask why we are not more intelligent? You receive our money to educate your children, and then refuse to admit our children into the common schools. You have enacted a law, excluding our testimony in the Courts of justice of this State, in cases of proceedings wherein white persons are parties; thus openly encouraging and countenancing the vicious and dishonest to take advantage of us; a law, which, while it does not advantage you, is a great wrong to us. At the same time, you freely admit the evidence of men in your midst, who are ignorant of the first principles of your Government--who know not the alphabet. Many colored men, who have been educated in your first colleges, are not allowed to testify! and wherefore? our Divine Father has created us with a darker complexion.

People of California! we entreat you to repeal that unjust law. We ask it in the name of humanity, in the enlightened age in which we live, because of the odium it reflects upon you as a free and powerful people; we ask you to remove it from your civil code; we ask it, that our homes and firesides may be protected; we ask it, that our just earnings as laborers may be secured to us, and none offered impunity, in withholding from us our just hire; that justice may be meted out to all, without respect to complexion; the guilty punished; the innocent protected; the shield of wise, and wholesome and equal laws, extended over all in your great State; upon her mountains, in her valleys and deep ravines; by her winding streams; may your State be a model, even to the elder sister States, in respect of your just laws; may your growth, prosperity and happiness, be bounded only by time and immortality.

Copy in the California Historical Society.

REFERENCE NOTES

1. J. Holland Townsend played an important role in the Negro State Convention movement in California. He also waged a vigorous campaign to achieve equal educational opportunities for black children, writing an article on the subject which appeared in the New York Anglo-African Magazine in March 1859.

2. The reference is to Philip II (382-336 B.C.), king of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, and conqueror of Greece.

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