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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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turned toward us and in a measure, whether we understand it or not, we are held responsible to demonstrate by unmistakable signals that we are advancing morally, mentally, and financially.
Now, it will not do for us to cry, there is a lion in the way all the time, but we must move the lions out of the way ourselves occasionally.
Many of the hardships which daily besets us on every hand would soon vanish under intelligent business enterprises and energy.
In the days of slavery, when many believed and advocated the doctrine that the Negro had no brains or mental capacity for business, oratory, or science, our good old abolition friends wanted no better combatants torefute this fallacy than the fugitive slave, matchless orator, and able editor, Frederick Douglass, now the honored marshal of Washington. The giant intellect and powerful eloquence of Rev. Samuel R. Ward proved effective on one occasion in uelling a New York mob (black as night he was) when the police force seemed utterly powerless with that mob. It seemed almost providential to have suchmen as Henry Bibb, William Wells Brown, J. W. Loguen, and many others (who had all worn the yoke, and had only released themselves by escaping on the underground railroad) demonstrate by their rapidly-acquired intelligence and education that it took but a very few years for a fugitive to render himself capable of writing an interesting narrative, or filling an editorial chair, or of instructing and entertaining large audiences either in America or on the other side of the ocean.
The freedmen have only to seek to emulate the example of these men in order to make their mark in business, letters, art, or any of the advanced callings among educated men. Indeed, only as desert can be proved by the acquisition of knowledge and the exhibition of high moral character in examples of economy and a disposition to encourage industrial enterprises, conducted by men of our own ranks, will it be possible to make political progress in the face of the present public sentiment.
Being far behind in the race,our people must not deem it too great a requirement to be obliged to put forth double exertions to catch up. If they undertake farming, they must try not only tohave their lands well cultivated, but they must have their houses, barns, fences, stock, &c., all up to the times. Again, if we turn our attention to mechanism, we must have our eyes single to one paramount aim, namely: to let our work prove that there is no color line in mechanism or art. If we should choose to fill a sphere of a professional character, as physician or attorney, we must not imagine that our patients or clients are ignorant, and will be satisfied with mere pretension or ordinary attainment; and, if we fail of success, that we can be execused simplyby pleading prejudice. If we venture to open a shop or store, let us not forget that we mustnot only sell as cheap as anybody else, but we must sell equally as good goods, and at the same time be a little more accommodating to every body, without regard to race,coloror politics. If we would avail ourselves of credit, we must learn to practice by the rule—our word is our bond. By such a single eye to success, however unfair or over-exacting such demands might seem in the eyes of some, our advancement would be steady and sure, and the results in every way sufficiently gratifying to make up for whatever self denial and extra pains or labor required.
One fact all must agree upon, namely: Our condition is very lowly, and in many respects sad. And there are no signs discernible to my mind that we are likely to have our status improved very soon, either through politics or the liberal bestowal of land, money or the preferments of any positions by the Government. Hence, we have nowhere else to look but to self-reliance and to God.
4. True, we are not friendless. We are not without wise and faithful counselors and instructors. We are not without sympathizers who
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