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State Convention of the Colored People of North Carolina, Raleigh, September 29, 1865

1865NC.2.pdf

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180

STATE CONVENTIONS, 1865

Cawthorn; for Treasurer, J. R. Caswell; for Chaplain, Rev. Alex. Bass, of Raleigh. The Vice-Presidents were increased to seven, and a committee of two was appointed to conduct the President to the chair.

Speech of the President

Upon taking the chair, the President, J. W. Hood, said he scarcely knew what language to employ to express to the Convention his sense of the honor they had conferred upon him by selecting him to preside over their deliberations. There had never been before and there would probably never be again so Important an assemblage of the colored people of North Carolina as the present in its influence upon the destinies of the people for all time to come. They had assembled from the hill-side, the mountains, and the valleys, to consult together upon the best interests of the colored people, and their watch-words, "Equal Rights before the Law." They should act respectfully toward all men, the rowdy as well as the gentleman, in and out of doors. He hoped all rash or hard or personal epithets would be avoided. He was an adopted citizen, had sojourned only two years in the State, but if not a citizen of North Carolina he did not know where he could claim it. They must live here with the white people; all talk of exportation, expatriation, colonization and the like was simple nonsense. We have, he said, lived here over 150 years, and must continue to do so. We must harmonize our feelings. Respectful conduct begat respect. The major part of the people, both white and black, were gentlemen and ladies. If we respected ourselves we would be respected. Though we may not gain all at once, we have waited, long enough to do so. Some even thought slavery was not yet abolished. The sooner they give the people their rights, the sooner, he believed, they would know how to exercise them. Three of four things were wanted. First, the right to testify in courts of justice. Second, to be received into the jury box. The Constitution of the United States, and of the several States, guaranteed to all persons accused of crime, the right of trial before a jury of his peers. The colored man was his peer, and he claim that he should be permitted to sit on a jury where a colored man was to be tried. Third, the right of colored men to act as counsel in the courts for the black man. Fourth, to carry the ballot. These are the rights we will contend for, these the rights we will have, God being our helper (applause).

The Business Committee made a report, the substance of which may be summed up as follows: ,

Congratulations of one another, and the friends of equal rights throughout the State upon the assembling of so large a number of delegates from all parts of the State.

Declaring unworthy of confidence or respect any colored man or woman who would not do for a colored person what they would for a white person under the same circumstances.

Advising against the crowding into the towns and cities and declaring the first wants of the colored people to be employment at fair wages, in various branches of industry. To secure lands and to cultivate them, and lay up their earnings against a rainy day. Advising the colored people to educate themselves and their children, not alone in book learning but in a high moral energy, self-respect, and in a virtuous, Christian, and dignified life.

A resolution to appoint a committee of three to wait on the Constitutional Convention to present an address, and labor to secure favorable legislation, was laid on the table.

Several brief and sensible speeches were made, which exhibited an intelligent appreciation of affairs, and an excellent tact in debate.

Afternoon Session.

The Business Committee made a final report as follows: First, an excellent letter from the Hon. William H. Coleman, of Concord, Cabarras co., was read, in which he took strong ground in favor of the full franchisement of the freed people on grounds of right and national and State expediency and justice. Mr. Coleman was a member of the State Legislature in 1854, and was then known as a most enlightened and liberal gentleman, and a friend of the

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