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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Proceedings of the State Convention of the colored citizens of Tennessee, held in Nashville, Feb. 22d, 23d, 24th & 25th, 1871.
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The public sentiment, as it is expressed by legislation, is averse to the instruction, of colored citizens. The school system inaugurated under the Republican Legislature, although defective in not giving schools on the broad basis of equality yet stood for schools to the white people, and in some instances established some. No sooner had the rebel element gained power than they repealed the act, and swept every vestige of a law that looked to the education of the colored children, and every right which maintained the civil right of the colored citizen. Although the first oath which they took upon entering office was that they would pass no law impairing the rights or privileges of any citizen. And to-day, over ninety per cent, of the colored children of the State are growing up to the responsibilities of manhood and citizenship, without any public, established system of instruction, and are forced, from the destitute and wronged condition of their parents, to grow up in a servility and ignorance second only to slavery. We trust, as an act of patriotism, that you will give us a national system of schools; of instruction without any invidious restriction to us on account of our color; and that you will regulate the instruction of Agricultural College, founded in this State by donations of United States lands, so that we can have, in proportion to our population, equal terms with others who attend that school.
As the colored citizens in Middle and West Tennessee, are largely the majority of every other class, of laborers more especially in agriculture without some means to secure to them their earnings, a sadder state of affairs awaits us. With but few exceptions this class of laborers are decoyed to do faithful labor in the rural districts, some on the promise of a share of the crop and some for wages, but so soon as the crop is made the employer frames some excuse and falls out with the laborer and he is forced to leave his crop, and abandon his wages, by the terror of Kuklux, who in all cases, sympathies with the white employers. The courts of justice yield no redress in the State, The rebel press are constantly misrepresenting the facts, and that we are cheated. While we thus have no protection, we will warn all imigrants, German, Irish and Chinese, that we are unjustly delt by and tell them promptly of our treatment and if they come and voluntarily sink down deeper in oppression, so move it be. But we will gladly hail all voluntary free labor to elevate the laborer, whether from Europe, Asia, Africa or the West Indies, and extend a brother hand secure him in his liberty the right to his toil and to uphold this government upon equality. In the Capitol of our State the Penitentiary convicts are used by the managers of that Institution to break up the common labor of the coal mines in this State, and the stevedores of Nashville. They are used in loading and unloading boats; in the public works around the State building and if not corrected by legislation, we shall soon see therm hired out to private service by the year as servants and sold on the auction block as slaves for the balance of their time.
SLAVERY IN FORCE
It is in fact another condition of slavery. The whites have agreed to send as many blacks as possible to the Penitentiary,and for misdemeanors for which white men are discharged. We ask to be allowed to sit on juries, and that, in [ne] case of a felony or misdemeanor; should there be a trial of one of our race, unless-one third or half of the jury be colored. This will stop their wholesale imprisonment, as it is now done simply to gratify the rage' of those who hate us because we are colored and Republicans in principle. And to relieve our colored citizens from paying the poll tax in voting for United States officers.
In Tennessee a poll tax is demanded from every voter; unless that measure in repealed or made a nullity, in the case of voting for officers for the general government, it will throw off thousands of voters for the general government, for that measure has given already a pretext for additional robbery. In the adjoining counties, men's teams, wagons and furniture which are exempted from execution by State laws, are tried and sold for poll tax. The Constitution of this State at present in force in violation of the Civil Rights Bill, and the amended Constitution of the United States, and it is a barrier to our true development and manhood. We ask Legislation that will neutralize their effects, so we will feel as men when we stand up for the government, and not be handed over to the enemies of the government, hands and feet bound.
We ask of you recognition by the appointment of colored men, to positions of trust and profit in the government, in its departments, in proportion to their support of its principles, as an act of justice to our race in this conflict. The enemies of
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