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Proceedings of the Convention of the Equal Rights and Educational Association of Georgia : assembled at Macon, October 29th, 1866 : containing the annual address of the president, Captain J.E. Bryant

1866 Macon GA State Convention.14.pdf

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11

who had for four year, plotted the destruction of the National Government. But the Republican members of Congress did, after months of discussion, agree upon a plan of reconstruction; and as they have the controlling power in Congress, their policy became the Congressional policy. An amendment to the Constitution of the United States was submitted to the States for their consideration, with the understanding that the non-reconstructed States. which adopt this amendment, will be recognized by Congress. This plan of reconstruction does not satisfy many, perhaps a majority of the Republican party, nevertheless it is the policy of the party, and those Southern States which adopt the amendment, will, without doubt, be recognized by Congress, although every colored man in America protested. But, if these States do not adopt the amendment before the Fortieth Congress assembles, I have reason to believe that their present governments will be "wiped out", and new ones established, enfranchising all loyal men, "white and colored, and disfranchising a certain specified class of men who have been disloyal, although no colored man should request it. I therefore conclude that political discussion on the part of colored citizens can do no good at this time. Whether it has or has not done good in the past, it matters not. They have done their duty to themselves and their race by entering upon this discussion.

I have received information from nearly every part of the State that white men prevent if possible, the organization of Subordinate Associations. Several influential colored men have been driven from their homes because they assisted in the organization of these Associations, and the lives of others have been threatened. I am convinced that the opposition would not be as great if political question were not discussed at the meetings of the Associations. If the political discussions can do no good and may do harm, they had better be postponed for the present.

The strongest argument, and I might almost say the only argument, that your enemies adduce in favor of withholding from you the right of suffrage, is the ignorance of your people. It would be folly to deny that most of colored people in the Southern States are ignorant. Indeed they have been systematically kept in ignorance. It was no fault of theirs that they were not educated. They were prevented by cruel laws from learning to read even. True, some few were able to steal a little knowledge, but these usually lived in the cities or large towns.

You were kept in ignorance that you might the more easily be kept in slavery, and, if you ever expect to secure justice and equal rights, your people must be educated. I would therefore advise that our Association, for the coming year, labor to arouse the colored people to the importance of gaining an education, and that we establish as many schools in the State as possible.

I am informed that the Northern Associations that have sent teachers South to instruct your children, will be able to establish but

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