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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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pelled to be at school by a certain hour, and if they should get there before that time they are not allowed to go into the building until the hour has arrived, which in extreme cold weather is very severe upon the constitutions of young children, and especially if they have been ill already. Another is that the children are kept standing in line from five to ten minutes after recess, when they have been racing and become heated, where they often get chilled through while waiting to get in the building. And in the case of very young children it can readily be seen what effects it might have upon them. Then, again, after they get inside they are subject to cold draughts from the windows, which are opened by the teachers to ventilate the room, from the fact that the ventilation in other respects is defective. Of course the ventilation is absolutely necessary. and in fact very salutary to the teacher, who sits enthroned in the back part, and those who are seated near the center of the room, but those near the window suffer very severely after the exercise had during the recess. And, as I mentioned above, some of them may have just returned to school from an attack of measles, pneumonia, scarlet fever, diphtheria, and such like. The health officer of the District, in his last annual report, speaks especially of the bad ventilation of some of the school houses for colored children. I quote from page 19, in which he says:
"The building on Third street, between New York avenue and L street, is unfit for human habitation. Here we found 140 children packed into two rooms, each 14 feet long, 22 feet wide, and 11 feet high. Of course the air, to one coming from the outside, was stifling. An attempt had been made to ventilate by cutting holes through the thin boards of the structure, but it availed little, cold air being taken in, but the impurities not being carried out. It will be seen that there are but eighty-five and a fraction cubic feet of air allowed each pupil here, while the minimum quantity sanctioned by authorities is 200 cubic feet for each person, and this where provision is made for a constant supply of fresh air."
And thus he speaks of a number of them. Now, coupled with all this, is the severe discipline of the schools which bear heavily upon children that are placed under the most favorable auspices and conditions of health and other respects; and can it be wondered at that when they have been born and raised under such unsanitary conditions, and then packed away in such charnel-houses for six hours each school day in the year, and that many of these pupils are under the age of eight years, can it be wondered at, I say, that the colored people die in large numbers? Then, again, there are the absolute privations of the necessaries of life, such as food, clothing and fuel, from sheer poverty, caused partly by an over crowded city and partly by bad management. Another great necessity that they are often deprived of is proper medical attendance, and the want of which is the cause of a great amount of suffering and mortality there. During the time the city was under a municipal and territorial government, appropriations were made regularly to supply the poor with proper medical attendance, but since those governments have been abolished, and the District put under commissioners, very little has been done, from the. fact that Congress has failed to make the necessary appropriations. Consequently quite a large number of colored people have died from the want of these great necessities. The food they are often compelled to subsist upon tells very severely upon their health. It is often adulterated with all sorts of things. There are venders of sausages and other kinds of meats that are stale, who are unscrupulous enough to sell them for any price to get their money back, and the necessities of these poor people compel them often to buy the cheapest articles. And many times I have seen the children of poor colored people picking up in the market places Condemned vegetable and fruits, and many cases of sickness and death
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