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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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Another question of the utmost importance for the attention of such an association is that of the great number of still births among the colored people, of which they furnish fully three-fourths of the whole number. Now, I have no doubt that some of them are produced by criminal practices, but a large majority of them are produced by accident, from the debilitated condition of many of the mothers, who are compelled very often to perform severe labor, such as washing , ironing and .scrubbing during pregnancy and near their confinement, as well as to inhabit the miserable shanties they live in. Therefore, let us do all we can to prevent this fearful cause of mortality, for there is no natural reasons why the colored people should be thus afflicted more than the white. The causes are, to a great extent, preventable by strict sanitary measures, which are within our reach. Let us endeavor to spread among them the following rules : Keep the body clean, and use every effort to get pure water, air and food. And let us see to it that our children are taught the laws of health. In fact every school, and especially every colored school, should be furnished with a competent instructor in physiology and the laws of health; and, indeed, let our educators themselves be taught these very laws, and then they will not over-crowd the school buildings, or the feeble young with perplexing and long hours of study. For, no doubt, many a child has his or her intellect dwarfed by being crammed with too much study, as well as brought to a premature grave.
Another remedy that belongs more especially to the parents and the clergy, is the inculcation of early marriages. For it has been proven that the married life is more conducive to longevity than the single; and, to be more explicit on that point, I will quote directly from the report of the Health Officer of this District for 1878 : " The average age of the married, as compared with the single, shows a decided advantage in favor of the married. In the white race the married male exceeds the unmarried over l4 years, the advantage in favor of the white female being less than one year. Among the colored we find the life of the married male exceeds that of the unmarried by over 171/2, and the life of the married female that of the unmarried by 12 years." But you will say to me your remedies and plans are too gigantic and impracticable. I do not believe it. The colored people build fine churches and maintain them, and why should they not build such institutions as I have suggested? Besides this, we are here over five million of people just emancipated and struggling for an existence in a country whose resources are boundless, and we must meet these difficulties, and face them and grapple with them. True it is that we have many kind friends among our white brethren, and they have and will help us; but we cannot and must not depend upon their assistance alone, and every man among us capable must use his best endeavors to instill right principles in the young, and give encouragement to the old. The sufferings of our people in the South are and have been such that it is absolutely necessary for them to seek a home in some other portion of our country, in which, it seems, they have taken the initiatory steps. Now, in their new homes they will require all the sanitary rules and information in our power to impart to them, to enable them to stem the tide of difficulties they will meet with in their struggles to create new homes for themselves, their families, and generations yet unborn. Now, notwithstanding that there has been such a large mortality among the colored people in the large cities, still that has not been the rule in the rural districts and small towns, and therefore let us urge upon the colored people to leave the cities and go into healthy localities where they can improve their sanitary as well as their financial condition. For to live in the large cities in such numbers breeds poverty, indolence and vice, and all the consequences attendant upon them, prominent among which are sickness and death.
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