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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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Washington, D. C., May 5, 1879.

To the President and Members of the National Conference of Colored Men, assembled at Nashville, Tennessee:

GENTLEMEN: Having been associated with our fellow citizens who united in the call for this Conference, and having been selected by the Executive Committee to introduce discussion here upon the subject of migration, and finding it impossible, on account of the pressing duties of my position at this time, to attend the Conference, I take the liberty of addressing you this note. Happily for me, and perhaps for us all, thousands on thousands of our brethren lately resident in the lower States of the Mississippi Valley have introduced the discussion before us, and that, too, in the most effective manner, challenging the attention of the whole country by their spontaneous and sublime uprising.

Migration from the South to the West is no longer a theory to be discussed in reference to practicability and the wisdom of such action, but it is a fixed fact. Thousands have gone; other thousands will follow. The migration of the colored people from the South is but a repetition of the old, old story in human history. It is the last recourse of a rising, free and manly people to escape from evils which they cannot otherwise successfully resist. Believing, as I have for years, that this means is the best available to us of solving at least in part our difficulties in the South, I have earnestly advocated the measure everywhere.

For many years to come it will be impossible for colored men to enjoy in the South the liberty and justice ordained by the Constitution of our country. The long habit of lordly authority on the one hand, and subjection of the masses on the other, cannot easily be put away. It is impossible with the white people of the South at this day to regard the Negro as a man entitled to equal citizenship and consideration. They cannot think of him except as a servant, subject to orders, and whose first duty is to obey. Hence their difficulty when they would influence his conduct in attempting to do so by use of those means by which one free man should try to control another, by setting before him the motives of honor, prosperity, and reward. In their views of colored inferiority and rightful subordination they are perfectly honest and sincere. But we should show them that we are equally honest and sincere in our objection to such consideration and the treatment that naturally follows, and we should be as positive and emphatic as a thunder-drum in affirming the determination to submit to oppression no longer. Finally, as a Western man, familiar with its condition and wants, I affirm that there is room there for a full round million of this people. Only let them be distributed. We should avoid huddling together in any one State or community. Let them spread abroad in all the great States and Territories of the great and growing West, and thus secure for themselves and their children the blessing of freedom, education, and justice.

With heartfelt greeting, and the wish that you may have a harmonious and profitable session, believe me, yours, for the welfare of our race and the glory of our country, J. C. Embry.

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