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Conference for the Colored People of Texas

1879 TX State Convention in Houston 3.pdf

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Address to the Colored People of Texas.

The following is the text in full of the address adopted by the colored conference at Houston, Wednesday, and ordered published in the NEWS:


We, the undersigned delegates and representatives of the colored people of the state of Texas, in convention assembled, respectfully submit for the impartial consideration of all friends of liberty and justice the following facts, in regard to the many grievances and general condition of our race throughout the south, to-wit:

We declare that our people entertain no ill-will, animosities or unkind feelings towards the white people of the south, on account of our past condition of servitude, and in proof of this declaration we submit the following facts, viz:

1. That our labor as slaves made the south on of the wealthiest agricultural countries of the world, and although our former masters reaped the fruits of our labor for many generations, yet, after our emancipation we never sought by any method to compel them to give us any portion of their property so acquired by our past labor.

2. That numbers of us were subjected to inhumane treatment during our slavery yet, during the late civil war, many opportunities in which we could wreak vengeance and fearful retribution, we remained faithful to our masters.

3. That since our emancipation we have usually cast our suffrages for native white republicans, who were often ex-slave owners and ex-confederates, instead of supporting northern republicans, and often we have aided in electing southern white men to office who did not even claim to be republicans, because we trusted they would make just officials, and that it would convince our former masters that we sought no political advantages over them.

4. That in states, districts and counties where we had large majorities over all of the whites combined we have usually elected white men to nine-tenths of all of the most important and lucrative offices.

5. That since our emancipation there has been many murders and massacres of our people by the whites, and though the great majority of the men perpetrating these bloody outrages have never been indicted or punished in any manner by the judiciary of the south, yet we have never attempted to take the laws into our own hands in order to vindicate or right our wrongs.

6. That by ingenuous legislation we have been deprived of some of our most important civil rights, yet we have never sought to regain them by insurrection and revolution.

7. That now, as in the past, we have not, nor do we, desire social laws, whereby either the white people or ourselves can unbidden force social intercourse upon each other. We further declare that we are compelled to believe that our former masters do entertain ill-will and prejudices towards our people which neither time nor any sacrifice made upon our part can or will ever remove so long as we remain among them; in proof of this deplorable fact we submit


First—That in 1866 directly after our emancipation our former masters refused to make provisions for our race to become an intelligent and prosperous people, and that they enacted laws which virtually denied to us many of the rights of freemen and their enforcement would have reduced our people to a new system of servitude.

Second—That many hundreds of our people have been murdered in cold blood by white men, and that our former masters have never made any effort to prevent these high crimes against civilization and good government, nor have they caused or brought about the indictments or legal and just punishment of these perpetrating such bloody crimes.

Third—That the absolute control of all branches of the several state governments of the south has passed into the hands of the old master-class, who have abolished former state republican constitutions under which laws can be enacted to oppress our people and deprive them of their civil rights.

Fourth—That in Texas laws have been enacted whereby all men who can not read may be disqualified as jurors; such laws were not in force prior to our emancipation, wherefore we infer that it was enacted to disqualify our people from jury service, but as we are not responsible for our ignorance of an education, such laws are unjust. It is said that this law applies as well to white men who can not read, but that class of men has had opportunities for education for many generations, which our race has never had. Again, it is an established fact that our people as jurors, believing in the rigid enforcement of the law, have generally returned such just verdicts that colored criminals preferred white jurors.

Fifth—That the requirements of an exhibit of exorbitant poll-tax receipts as a requisite for franchise in the state of Georgia has virtually disfranchised many thousands of colored voters in that state, and that, from the tone of the democratic press and other indications, Texas will, with other southern states, soon follow the example of Georgia. We would not object to the enactment of laws requiring the payment of moderate poll taxes; but when we consider that such laws are enacted for the purpose of disfranchising colored men, and that they will not be enforced against white men who fail to pay such taxes, we justly denounce these laws as unjust and oppressive.

Sixth—That without general education our people can never become a prosperous and progressive people; but since the downfall of all of the republican state governments of the south, all efficient systems of free schools whereby our children might acquire an ordinary English education has practically been abolished. Within a few of the cities and towns of the south schools have been maintained for colored children, but in the rural districts, where the great masses of our people follow agriculture, there has been no opportunities for general education. We therefore justly infer, from the universal opposition of our former masters to the general education of our race, that they desire to perpetuate our ignorance and poverty in order to control our labor and retain our people in a state of vassalage and dependency. As an excuse for opposition to free schools, it is said that it is unfair to white southern people to be taxed for the purposed of educating negroes, and while such declarations by leading white politicians are well calculated to arouse and secure the general opposition of the white people to free school systems, respectfully submit in answer to such arguments the following facts, viz:


First—That by the fruits of our labor the great majority of the finest educated white gentlemen of the past and present generations of the south mainly owe their education and prosperity.

Second—That not only in the past, but at the present time, the white people of the south control our labor, and that it would be but a small return to aid our people to education their children.

Third—That the ignorance and abject poverty of large numbers of citizens has, and will ever prove detrimental to the best interests of all classes of citizens and good government.

Seventh—By the enactment of laws that change offenses formerly termed misdemeanor to felonies and by the rigid enforcement of such laws against colored men by the southern judiciary numbers of our people, who, owing to their past condition of slavery, hardly knowing right from wrong, are condemned to long terms of imprisonment at hard labor in southern penitentiaries by the directors of these state prisons, colored convicts are hired out to large white planters and upon large plantations surrounded by bloodhounds and armed guards. If the accounts given by discharged guards and ex-convicts are to be credited they are often subjected to barbarities disgraceful to civilization and humanity. On the other hand, large numbers of white men guilty of like and even higher crimes have escaped punishment while colored men seldom escape the severest penalties of the law for the commission of any crime. If the laws were faithfully enforced against all classes of offenders we would not complain, because we would then enjoy the protection of law and good government, which we so sorely need.

Eighth—By the enactment of so-called miscegenation laws white men who seduce and lead astray ignorant colored women can not be compelled by law to marry their degraded victims, we hold that if such laws are to be enforced other laws should be enacted imposing severe penalties upon persons of both races who in any manner hold adulterous intercourse with each other.

Ninth—By the discrimination by railroad companies against colored people we are compelled to pay the same rates required of white people, and our wives and daughters are forced into smoking cars, where they are subjected to insults and other indignities. If decent cars were furnished our women, where they would be protected as white women are from such indignities, we would not complain, and it is a matter of indifference to us, if such accommodations were furnished, whether our wives and daughters were permitted to ride n the same cars with white women. The injustice of this discrimination if further seen in the fact that known white prostitutes are permitted by railroad companies to enjoy the comforts of first-class car, in which respectable white ladies travel.

Tenth—That the high rents generally ex

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