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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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behold him begin to mock him, saying, this man began to build and was not able to finish."
How applicable this lesson is to every--day life, and if heeded how often men would be prevented from butting their heads against a stone. With the "army of ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand," the "sitting down and counting the cost" might be of the greatest consequence.
A hint to the wise is sufficient.
3. Equality in business. This is a question that should interest every intelligent colored man.
More or less from a boy I have studied this question, and since emancipation I have weighed the situation of our people, uneducated and almost universally filling the ordinary lower callings as laborers, with intense interest. Scarcely have I ever met with an intelligent colored man from the South but that I am sure to ply him with a number of questions after this order: "How are the freedmen getting on? Are they getting education and into more comfortable houses? Are some getting into business; if so, what? Is the marriage relation being more firmly cemented?" Generally the answers have indicated much improvement, in some instances very marked, notwithstanding the outrages in some neighborhoods. In order that I may the more forcibly bring out the idea that I wish to convey, I will here quote an extract from an old letter written by the poetess and lecturer, Mrs. Harper, directly from the old mansion of the late ex-President of the Confederacy, which reads thus :
"My Dear Friend: It is said that truth is stranger than fiction; and if ten years since some one had said that in less than ten years you will be in the lecture field; you will be a welcome guest under the roof of the President of the Confederacy, though not by special invitation from him; that you will see his brother's former slave a man of business and influence; that hundreds of colored men will congregate on the old baronial possessions: that a school will spring up there like a well in the desert dust; that this former slave will be a magistrate upon that plantation; that labor will be organized upon a new basis; and that under the sole auspices of the moulding hands of this man and his sons will be developed a business whose transactions will be numbered in hundreds of thousands of dollars, would you not have smiled incredulously? And I have lived to see the day when the plantation has passed into new hands, and these hands once wore the fetters of slavery. Mr. Montgomery, the present proprietor by contract of between five and six thousand acres of land, has one of the most interesting families that I have ever seen in the South. They are building up a future which, if exceptional now, I hope will become more general hereafter. Every hand of his family is adding its quota to the success of this experiment of a colored man both trading and farming on an extensive scale. Last year his wife took on her hands about 130 acres of land, and with her force she raised about 107 bales of cotton. One daughter, an intelligent young lady is postmistress, and I believe assistant book-keeper. One son attends to the planting interest, and another daughter attends to one of the stores. The business of this firm of Montgomery & Sons has amounted, I understand, to between three and four hundred thousand dollars a year."
This was very refreshing news to me when it was first received ; so much so that I put it into the hands of Col. J . W. Forney, and he published it in the press with a fitting editorial. One more incident worthy of note, namely: for several seasons. I have been informed, this enterprising firm has competed with the leading cotton-planters of the South, has at the annual fairs held at St. Louis, and two seasons at least has carried off the premiums.
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