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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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To see ourselves as others see us, may not always be agreeable, and, according to the Scottish bard, the task is not easy of accomplishment; but still more difficult is the task of making people see us as we desire to appear to them.
The American people delight to see the Negro in a humorous garb, or they are wont to see him in a ludicrous attitude. Americans are of a species of low, vulgar wit, which seeks vent and enjoyment iu the Brother Jonathan, or the Artemus Ward style ; they delight to drink in their philosophy after Josh Billings and their political ethics after the order of Petroleum V. Nasby. And this is the better side of American nature. But the supremest delight to which this American wit aspires is in contemplating and describing what they call the " Negro character." From the burnt cork negro minstrels to a choice poem, in their most elegant magazines, of "How Simmons took keah o' de baby," they will gulp down whole gustos of delight at the "Negro character." Our ignorance, our poverty, our education, our thrift, our uncouthness, our good address, our vices, our virtues, our families, our homes, our great men, our small men, and even the holy shrine of our religion are all ruthlessly dragged over to find food—grubs upon which to fatten this nauseating American vulgarism. And nothing is more disgustingly ludicrous than white people's efforts to thus portray the Negro character. Their periodicals, their literary papers, their religious papers, their magazines and their reviews teem with these distorted illustrations of the "Negro character; " and take to your home-circles, your fireside, the choicest of their magazines or reviews, and 'ere long your eye is offended and your family angered by disgusting caricatures or paraphrases upon, perhaps, your very kith and kin. To see ourselves always mirrored in this light does not serve to imbue us with the highest notions of our race, nor inspire us with very ennobling emotions towards the " Negro character; " and the very feelings which drive us from the minstrel shows, drive from our fire-sides the best of American literature, and its place is filled with the village political newspaper. There is a tremendous(in place of a better word) necessity for a powerful National Review which shall be backed with sufficient capital, and edited with sufficient power as will make it rank with the best and ablest reviews of the country—at least in comparison of constituencies and with its excoriating lash, correct this vulgar taste at its fountain head—the publishers of American literature.
Our opinions are worth something. Surely the opinions, the thoughts, the judgments of five million people are of some moment, but where can we find a mouthpiece? Where tongue and utterance? The press is supplied with the opinions, thoughts and judgments of men which it scatters in words of love or hate, of caution or chiding, of scorn or sarcasm, of entreaty or command, and men read them and ponder thereon and act as they are moved. But through what channel can the whites of this country ascertain what are the opinions, the thoughts, the judgments of the Negro-American? I grant you there are a dozen a score of tiny sheets fluttering in the breezes, and each little kiteling is battling away manfully and with all its little might for our people. They each and every one deserve more credit and greater support than they receive. I would there were dozens more of them, for many streams make a river. I say I grant you that there are a score or more of worthy little colored journals existing, but from their surroundings and the paucity of their supporters, the influence they exert either in the ethics of ourselves or the country is very small. We have not a periodical in the land of sufficient caliber to compel a quotation by the leading papers of the country.
If quotations are made from the Christian Recorder. The National Baptist, The Louisianian, The Watchman. or any other colored periodical by any white publication, it is on account of some purpose of its own
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