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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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Weeklies, for the weekly literary paper that regularly visits your home and is handled by your children, will leave its mark for good or evil which will last through life. Of these two sorts we may well paraphrase a saying and say, like paper like people. The most elegant and polished of our periodicals are the magazines. With their varied store of information, of thought, of opinion and sentiment, they are welcomed in all walks of life by the old and young; and to the praise of American magazines be it said that a remarkable current of morality and Christianity pervades them, while those pernicious principles of socialism, agrarianism and infidelity are treated with an almost puritanical rigor. In moulding public opinion, however, magazines are about the least powerful of all our periodicals. The elegance of their make-up seems to destine them more for luxury than for utility in this direction. Even the pictorial or illustrated weekly seems to exert a greater influence in forming public opinion than do our magazines.
For great learning, deep research, and the most powerful thought, it seems to me that our reviews have a place specially allotted to them. In them we look for the ripeness of judgment, the most mature thought, and the most candid opinion. It seems to me that they represent the highest plane of civilization, or the highest intellectuality of it. Thrown aside by the popular reader as uninviting, it has the greater weight of influence among the truly learned and among those who, as editors of the public press, form and educate the opinions of the populace. The review is the fountain head of periodical and journalistic learning. Would you purify the waters of a stream, begin at the fountain head ; would you leaven a measure of meal, make light your leaven. Will you correct public opinion? it is public opinion which is so hard upon us. Of himself a person may not abhor us because we are black. Individually we may not be repugnant to the sense of a man or woman on account of our color. Where the, public eye is not upon them they may feel no disgust from associating with us. In the solitude of a far western plain the association of a black and a white man may be as cordial as that of two brothers. In the privacy of their own homes, where the clear eye and keen scent of public opinion cannot penetrate, the association may be still more cordial—nay, has been, as too many the children of white fathers and colored mothers and black fathers and white mothers could testify; but, for "opinion's sake," they prefer all such association to be strictly private and confidential.
Will you correct public opinion, and will you begin to do so by appealing, single-handed and alone, to each man of the public as you meet him? Or will you strive to do so with your own little monthly, weekly or daily paper? Vain tasks, either of them, you will say. Public opinion is held by the millions; it is moulded, formed and fostered by the thousands of the daily and weekly publications of the country. These in turn receive their inspirations from the learned and wise—the very solons of our civilization. Each interest finds there its own exponent. It is this source, this fountain, that we must reach. It is there our interests must be represented. Among the cultured and the great our infiuence must be felt. For this the necessity is that we enter the brotherhood of reviews, that our most learned minds may express their deepest thoughts, their most candid opinions, and their soundest judgments, with the certainty of having a respectable audience, and with the reasonable hope that some may be inspired by our interests, and that seed-germs may spring forth than shall, through the myriad publications of the press, permeate every current and rill of public opinion to its correction. There is another phase to this proposition, and a line of argument of a more common character, but it may appear more like an Illustration of what and how to do than an argument of a necessity for doing.
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