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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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32 PROCEEDINGS OF THE
South will make another Egypt of these bright and sunny valley, then must the oppressed go forth into the promised land of liberty, into the Western States and Territories, where the people are at peace and the soil is free, and where every man can secure a home for himself and family with none to molest him or make him afraid.
Already many have seen the beacon light of hope and are making their way toward it, and if the oppression is continued more and more will burst their chains and take the road to liberty.
There are some signs of objection to this on the part of the land-owners. They want the colored man to stay and till the soil. Very well; then let them treat him justly and fairly and protect him from criminal lawlessness. If they cannot or will not do this, they have no more right to ask him to stay, as they have no legal right to forbid him to go, and any attempt to restrain this movement will be vain and futile.
It is not a flight of fugitive slaves, but a voluntary movement of freemen, seeking liberty and security. It is the exercise of the right of any American to better his condition by going from one part of the country to another, just as interest or fancy may lead him. If we cannot do this, we are not free, no more than are the serfs of Russia, who, until lately, were a part of the estate and sold as such, but, if we are to be re-enslaved we may as well die on the road to liberty as at the feet of tyrants. We may as well expire contending for liberty, aye, and far better, than in base submission to degrading slavery.
At present there seems to be no alternative.
The reaction has robbed Southern Republicans, both white and colored, of their votes and of their voices, and this has thrown the nation into the hands of our opponents, who are determined to strip us of the last measure of protection.
Our political rights in these States are wholly suspended or abrogated. We have nothing but the mockery of legal proceedings, and Attorney General Devens, the constitutional adviser of the President, informs us that there is no prospect of justice from Southern tribunals for the colored man. Possibly he did not intend to convey that impression, but if not, what does he mean? You may study his long and carefully prepared paragraphs without coming to any other conclusion than this, that at present there is no hope for justice to the colored man from Southern courts.
If, then, all stay, all must submit. If some go they will be free, and possibly, by their going, they will awake the ruling minds of the South to a sense of the necessity of what is right.
For these reasons, therefore, I am an advocate for migration as the only present practicable remedy for our wrongs, and I am for the exercise of that remedy in a large measure and at all hazards.
H. V. Robinson of Arkansas, said he came here from the convention at Vicksburg. What they did at Vicksburg would have a tranquilizing influence. But what good have you done here today? While you may have done some good, you have done a great deal of harm. One says that the colored people are self-supporting, and can go when and where they please. Another says, they are able to take care of and protect themselves. The next thing is a resolution asking Congress to donate $500,000 for the purpose of sending people to Kansas from this country. When the time comes that we cannot live in this country I am as much in favor of going to Kansas as anybody else. But let us be men ; let us be like white men and see the impossibility of taking 4,000,000
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