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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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Here, too, are other notable cases, both male and female, who have, achieved wonders, considering their opportunities, which right be named, but I cannot take the time now to particularize them. However, it is with especial satisfaction that we can point so definitely to a family who have accomplished so much in so short a period of time. Indeed this is precisely the kind of power we want to see growing among us. True, it makes but little noise, but it is very potent in dealing deadly blows against prejudice and in favor of our common manhood.
I apprehend but few comparatively realize how greatly our cause would be strengthened by even a very moderate number of substantial business men in the various branches of productive industry—conducting farms, stores, trades, and engaged in literary pursuits that require brains. These matters should deeply concern us, especially those of us who are educating our sons and daughters. Only as we are showing signs of improvement and determination in these respects shall we be able to retain the sympathy and co-operation of our old friends and enlist the interest and agency of new ones. So long, or wherever we are not found advancing under freedom, and with the opportunity of education, we shall do little toward breaking down the color line or toward conquering the prejudices which now proscribe our sons and daughters,who are fitted by education and character to fill stations in life other than menial ones.
I am aware than I am now treading on tender ground, and would gain forego doing so if I could be just to my subject and my unfortunate race by shunning this unsavery truth, upon which I think we need have our minds stirred about as much as any other that I know of—of temporal nature at least; for I feel quite convinced when looking at the attitude of our people, and the work before them, that there is but one way out of the old ruts into the liberty and prosperity that we feel naturally and legally entitled to, namely, simply "redeeming the time," by intense earnestness, by rigid economy, by encouraging one another in every honorable and commendable undertaking, by acquainting ourselves with the lives and labors of good men and women who have labored successfully to bring about great reforms ; and have had overwhelming difficulties to overcome . Also by studying the lives of individuals who have had great poverty to begin with and no friends to aid them ; but with undaunted courage, perseverance, and a firm faith, have removed the mountain, and established themselves among the foremost men of their day.
Our country is full of characters of this description, both of native and foreign birth, and, I am glad to say, some among our people not excepted.
Knowledge is power," is one of the books we ought to study well, after acquainting ourselves with the Book of Proverbs. Also, we should not forget to make ourselves familiar with another work of great value, namely, a volume called " Pursuit of knowledge under difficulties."
The lives of self-made men are readily obtainable for a mere trifle, and contain generally very profitable and instructive reading, when well-selected. By reading such instructive works, and by ignoring all light and trashy literature of a yellow-cover grade, we could summon to our aid the well-digested thoughts of men of character and great success, which would doubtless inspire us greatly in struggling through our difficulties.
The truth is, good books of all kinds are so cheap and so common, on every vital subject, that no man who can read is excusable if he is not well-informed generally. Indeed, we must make hay while the sun shines.
For it must be admitted that the public attention is in a peculiar sense
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