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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Address of Hon. Fred. Douglass, delivered before the National Convention of Colored Men, at Louisville, Ky., September 24, 1883
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the presence of colored persons in hotels and rail cars is only offensive when they are there as guests and passengers. As servants they are welcome, but as equal citizens they are not. It is also seen in the further fact that nowhere else on the globe, except in the United States, are colored people subject to insult and outrage on account of color. The colored traveler in Europe does not meet it, and we denounce it here as a disgrace to American civilization and American religion and as a violation of the spirit and letter of the Constitution of the United States. From those courts which have solemnly sworn to support the Constitution and that yet treat this provision of it with contempt we appeal to the people, and call upon our friends to remember our civil rights at the ballot-box. On the point of the two equalities we are determined to be understood.
We leave social equality where it should be left, with each individual man and woman. No law can regulate or control it. It is a matter with which Governments have nothing whatever to do. Each may choose his own friends and associates without interference or dictation of any.
Flagrant as have been the outrages committed upon colored citizens in respect to their civil rights, more flagrant, shocking and scandalous still have been the outrages committed upon our political rights, by means of bull-dozing and Kukluxing, Mississippi plans, frauduelnt counts, tissue ballots and the like devices. Three States in which the colored people outnumber the white population are without colored representation and their political voice suppressed. The colored citizens in those States are virtually disfranchised, the Constitution held in utter contempt and its provisions nullified. This has been done in the face of the Republican party and successive Republican Administrations.
It was once said by the great O'Connell that the history of Ireland might be traced like a wounded man through a crowd by the blood, and the same may be truly said of the history of the colored voters of the South.
They have marched to the ballot-box in face of gleaming weapons, wounds and death. They have been abandoned by the Government and left to the laws of nature. So far as they are concerned, there is no Government or Constitution of the United States.
They are under control of a foul, haggard and damning conspiracy against reason, law and constitution. How you can be indifferent, how any leading colored men can allow themselves to be silent in presence of this state of things, we can not see.
"Should tongues be mute while deeds are wrought which well might shame extremest hell?" And yet they are mute, and condemn our assembling here to speak out in manly tones against the continuance of this infernal reign of terror.
This is no question of party. It is a question of law and government. It is a question whether men shall be protected by law or be left to the mercy of cyclones of anarchy and bloodshed. It is whether the Government or the mob shall rule this land; whether the promises solemnly made to us in the Constitution be manfully kept or meanly and flagrantly broken. Upon this vital point we ask the whole people of the United
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