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Scripto | Transcribe Page
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.
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PROCEEDINGS OF THE
which you have conferred upon me, and, being unexpected, you will not require of me any extended remarks with regard to the course that is, contemplated being pursued by this Conference. I will not attempt to map out the course that you should pursue or to recommend what, in my judgment, you should do, but still I will take the liberty of making a suggestion or two: first, in regard to the aims, objects and purposes that the originators of this movement have in view, and to express the hope that your deliberations may be so characterized and conducted as to reflect credit upon the race with which we are identified, as well as upon the country of which we form a part.
Now, my friends, a number of gentlemen, whom you all will agree with me, having the interest of the colored people especially at heart, came to the conclusion several months ago that it would be advisable to have some leading colored men of the country assemble somewhere, not in the interest of any particular party , especially not as Republicans, not as Democrats, but as free, independent American citizens, for the purpose of presenting to the country the grievances of the colored people. There were some differences of opinion as to how best this could be done. Some thought if we would meet in a convention as political conventions are usually called together, we would get together an organization of gentlemen who would best represent the feelings of the colored people, but, having considered the matter very maturely, carefully and considerately, we came to the unanimous conclusion that we would, in all probability, get a larger, better and possibly a more influential organization of the country, and have ex ended invitations to gentlemen of the country for the purpose of conferring together on the solution, not to speak authoritatively except as our standing in the community will authorize and justify us in doing, but that we would meet and present to the country some of the reasons that agitated the public mind in regard to the colored people, and Nashville was selected as the place and the 6th day of May as the time to have this general assembly. We are here in pursuance of that invitation. I am here to meet you and to express the hope that all who feel an interest will calmly, deliberately and dispassionately consider the questions for which we have been convened, and express the further hope that our action will be such as to reflect credit upon us.
Some things have occurred which did not present themselves to our attention. When this movement was inaugurated the present migration of colored people from the Southern States had not at that time begun, and it was not seriously apprehended that anything of the kind would be done, certainly not apprehended it would be done to the extent we find it has assumed. This, therefore, was not one of the chief objects for which we were convened or requested to convene, for that question did not present itself, but has since assumed important proportions. Now it is to be hoped we will calmly deliberate on that question. It is a question that demands our attention, attracts the attention of the country.
I will take the opportunity to make this suggestion, that in considering this matter you should bear in mind the fact that the South being the home of the coIored people, they being adapted to its climate, its soil—having been born and raised there—we should not advise them to leave there unless they have very good reason to do so. On the other hand, we should not advise them to remain where they are not well treated. [Applause.] But we should endeavor to indicate in their minds a sufficient amount of independence to say to the country and to the people with whom they are surrounded, that "if our labor is valuable, then it should command respect." [Applause.] That if we receive this respect, if our rights and privileges are accorded to us here, doing all we can to improve our condition, to that question I feel that we should live together. Further than that, at least, we should not go. If the colored man can
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