Booker T. Washington.

The rights and duties of the Negro : an address delivered by Booker T. Washington, of Tuskegee, Alabama, before the National Afro-American Council in McCauley's Theater, Louisville, Ky., Thursday evening July 2nd, 1903 online

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Online LibraryBooker T. WashingtonThe rights and duties of the Negro : an address delivered by Booker T. Washington, of Tuskegee, Alabama, before the National Afro-American Council in McCauley's Theater, Louisville, Ky., Thursday evening July 2nd, 1903 → online text (page 1 of 1)
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An ADDRESS delivered by Booker T,
"Washington, of Tuskegee, Alabama, be-
fore the National Afro- American Coancil
in McCattley's Theater, Loaisville, Ky.,

Thursday Evening July 2nd, J 903 J- J-



In the midst of the present deep interest ^rowin^ out
of matters connected with our race, it can be stated that
recent events, as rej^rettable as they are, have tended to
simphfy the problem in one direction, at least. The events
to which I refer show that the questions pertaining to our
race are each day more and more becoming national ones,
rather than local and sectional ones. When we can carry the
question up into the atmosphere where men of all races,
North and South, will discuss it with calmness, with ab-
sence of passion and sectional feelings, I believe we shall
have made a distinct advance.

While m}- remarks tonight will relate to the race in its na-
tional aspect, I speak also as one who was born in the South,
who loves it, and expects to abide there permanently.
I am glad that this great meeting is held south of Mason's and
Dixon's line. It is in the South that the great masses of our
people dwell, and wall abide in the future as now. It is fit-
ting that this body should have its hearing, and perform its
work, in the section of our country where the Negro race
lives; it is equally important that this organization speak
its words, and perfect its plans in the midst of the white
people who are most directly concerned about the future of
the race.

Whatever progress is made in the years that are to come,
will result largely from'open, frank discussion, and a sym-
pathetic co-operation between the highest types of whites,
and the same class of blacks. One thing of which I feel
absolutely sure, is that without mutual confidence and co-
operation, there is little hope for the progress which we all
desire. In the present season of anxiety, and almost of
despair, which possesses an element of the race, there are
two things which I wish to say as strongly as I may.


First, let no man of the race become discouraged or hope-
less. Though their voices may not be often or loudly
lifted, there are in this country, North and South, men who
mean to help see that Justice is meted out to the race in all
the avenues of life. Such a man is Judge Thomas G. Jones,
of Alabama, to whom more credit should be given for blot-
ting out the infamous system of peonage than to any
other. Judge Jones represents the very highest type of
Southern manhood, and there are hosts of others like him.
There is a class of brave, earnest men at the South, as
well as at the North, who are more determined than ever
before to see that the race is given opportunity to elevate
itself; and we owe it to these friends, as well as to ourselves,
to see that no act of ours causes them embarassment.

Second, let us keep before us the fact that, almost with-
out exception, every race or nation that has ever got upon its
feet, has done so through struggle, and trial, and persecu-
tion; and that out of this very resistance to wrong, out of
the struggle against odds, they have gained strength, self-
confidence, and experience, which they could not have
gained in any other way.

And not the least of the blessings of such struggle, is that
it keeps one humble, and nearer to the heart of the Giver of
all gifts. Show me an individual who is permitted to go
through life without anxious thought, without ever having
experienced a sense of poverty and wrong, want and strug-
gle, and I will show you a man who is likely to fail in life.
"Whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth."

No one should seek to close his eyes to the truth, that
the race is passing through a very serious and trying period
of its development; a period that calls for the use of our
ripest thought, our most sober judgment, and frequent ap-
peals to Him who has promised strength to the weak.

During the season through which we are now passing,. I
wish to ask with all the emphasis I am able to com-
mand, that each individual of the race keep a calm mind.


and exercise the greatest decree of self-control; and that
we all keep a brave heart. Let nothing lead us into ex-
tremes of utterance, or action. ]j_\' tliis method of procedure,
we shall be able to justfy the faith of our friends, and con-
found our enemies. In the affairs of a race, as with great
business enterprises, it is the individual of few words and
conservative action, who commands respect and confidence.
Vastly more courage is often shown in one's ability tosufier
in silence, or to keep the body under when sorely tempted,
than in acting through the medium of a mob. In the long
run it is the race or individual that exercises the most
patience, forbearance, and self-control in the midst of try-
ing conditions, that wins its course, and the respect of the
world. Such a course will, in the end, draw to our side all
men, North and South, whose good-will and support are
worth having. Let nothing induce us to descend to the
level of the mob, but rather direct our course in a dignified

In advocating this policy, I am not asking that the
Negro act the coward: we are not cowards. The part
which we have played in defending the flag of our country,
in every war in which we have been engaged, is sufficient
evidence of our courage, when the proper time comes to
manifest it.

The recent outbreaks of government by the mob em-
phasize two lessons, one for our race, and one for the other
citizens of our country. South and North; for it is to be noted,
I repeat, that the work of the lyncher is not confined to
one section of the country.

The lesson for us is, that we should see to it that so
far as the influence of parent, of school, of pulpit, and of
the press, is concerned, no effort be spared to impres.supon
our own people, especially the youth, that idleness and
crime should cease, and that no excuse be given the world to
label any large proportion of the race as idlers and crimi-
nals; and that we show ourselves as anxious to bring to


punishment, as an>- other class of citizens, those who com-
mit crime, when proper legal procedure is sure. We should
let the world know on all proper occasions that we consider
no legal punishment too severe for the v^retch of any race
who attempts to outrage a v\ o:i an.

The lesson for the other i<ort;on of tlie nation to learn
i^, that both in the making aiui in tiie execution, the same
laws siiould be made to apply to the Negro as to the white
man. There should be nieted out equal justice to the
black man ard tiiC white uian wheiher it relates to citzen-
ship, the protection of property, the right to labor, or the
protection of human life. Whenever the nation forgets, or
is tempted to forget, this basic principle, the whole fabric
of government, for both the white and the black man, is
weakened, and threatened with destruction. This is true,
whether it relates to conditions in Texas, Indiana, or Dela-

To show how far we have already been led astray, by
those who disregard the majtsty of the law, and would in-
sult governors and judges; b}- those who would uphold the
law in one case, and trample it underfoot in another, we have
but to call attention to the lamentable fact that the most
careful and s\stematic investigation into the subject of
lynching that has ever been made in this country shows that
only thirty-five per cent, of those lynched have ever been
charged with violence to women. To attempt to say that
all these thirty-five per cent, were guilty, would be to ar-
gue that the judgment of the ni.ob is more unerring than
that of the court. We cannot, and should not, escape the
punishment for our sins of commission, or of omission.

It is with a nation as with an individual: whatsoever
we sow that shall we also reaix If we sow crime, we shall
reap lawlessness. If we break the law where a helpless
Negro is concerned, it will not be very long before the
same law is disregarded when a white man is concerned.
Out of the present conditions, there is one sign more en-


couraging than all others; and that is that in the South as
well as in the North, the voice of the press is speaking out
as never before in favor of upholding the majesty of the

The Negro in this country constitutes the most com-
pact, reliable, and peaceful element of labor; one which is
almost the sole dependence for production in certain direc-
tions; and I believe that, if for no higher reason than the
economic one, the people will see that it is worth while to
keep so large an element of labor happy, contented, and
prosperous, by surrounding and guarding it with every pro-
tection and encouragement of the laws. In the long run,
nothing is more costly and unsatisfactory than discontented,
unhappy, and restless labor. Few people are wise enough
to learn the economic value of justice!

In our efforts to go forward, we should keep in mind
the difference between the problem presented previous to
the civil war, and that now confronting us. Before our
freedom, a giant tree was growing in the garden, which all
considered injurious to the progress of the whole nation.
The work to be done was direct and simple. Destroy the
hurtful tree. The work before us now is not the destruc-
tion of a tree, but the growing of one. Slavery presented a
problem of destruction: Freedom presents one of construc-
tion. This requires time, patience, preparation of the
soil, watering, pruning, and the most careful nursing.

In this connection, we should bear in mind that.our
ability and our progress will be measured largely by evi-
dences of tangible, visible growth. We have a right in a
conservative and sensible manner to enter our complaints,
but we shall make a fatal error if we yield to the tempta-
tion of believing that mere opposition to our wrongs, and
the simple utterance of complaint, will take the place of
progressive, constructive action, which must constitute the
bed-rock of all true civilization. The weakest race or indi-
vidual can condemn a policy: it is the work of a statesman


to construct one. A race is not measured by its ability to
condemn, but to create. Let us hold up our heads, and
with firm and steady tread, go manfully forward. No one
likes to feel that he is continually following a funeral pro-

Let us not neglect to lay the greatest stress upon the
opportunities open to us, especially here in the South, for
constructive growth in labor, business and education. Back
of all complaint, all denunciation, must be evidences of sol-
id, indisputable accomplishment in the way of high moral
character and economic foundation. An inch of progress
is worth more than a yard of complaint.

The whites and the blacks are to reside together in this
country permanently, and we should lose no opportunity to
cultivate in every straightforward, manly way, the great-
est harmony between the races. Whoever, North or South,
black or white, by word or deed, needlessly stirs up strife,
is an enemy to both races, and to his country. While
making our appeals for help and sympathy, we should not
forget that in the last analysis, the most effective appeal
will consist in laying our case before the community and
state in which we reside; nor that usefulness in our own
homes will constitute our most lasting and most potent

I appreciate from the bottom of my heart the tremen-
dous and trying strain that is now upon us, and how diffi-
cult it is for us to make progress under such circumstances;
but I believe the momentous period through which we are
now passing, will draw to our assistance in larger numbers,
the good will, the sympathy, and helpful co-operation of
white men in the South, as well as in the North, if we only
exercise due patience, self-control, and courage.



Inquiries are so often made as to Mr. Washington's
position on the subject of Suffrage that the following is in-
serted as containing the views which he has repeatedly ut-
tered both at the South and at the North and through the
press and from the public platform: —

"I do not believe that any State should make a law that
permits an ignorant and poverty-stricken white man to
vote and prevents a black m:in in the same condition from

"Such a law is not only unjust, but it will react, as all
unjust laws do, in time; for the effect of such a law is to
encourage the Negro to secure education and property, and
at the same time it encourages the white man to remain in
ignorance and poverty. I believe that in time, through the
operation of intelligence and friendly race relations, all
cheating at the ballot-box will cease.

"It will become apparent that the white m?n who be-
gins by cheating a Negro out of his ballot soon learns to
cheat a white man out of his, and that man who does this
■ ends his career of dishonesty by the theft of property or by
some equally serious crime.

"In my opinion the time will come when the South will
encourage all of its citizens to vote. It will see that it p ys
better, from every standpoint, to have healthy, vigorous
life than to have that political stagnation which always re-
sults when one-half of the population has no share and no
interest in the government.

"As a rule, I believein universal, free suffrage, but I be-
lieve that in the South we are confronted with peculiar con-
ditions that justify the protection of the ballot in many of
the States, for a while, at least, either by an educational
test, property test, or by both combimnl; but whatever
tests are required they should be made to apply with equal
^nd exact justice to both races,"




Online LibraryBooker T. WashingtonThe rights and duties of the Negro : an address delivered by Booker T. Washington, of Tuskegee, Alabama, before the National Afro-American Council in McCauley's Theater, Louisville, Ky., Thursday evening July 2nd, 1903 → online text (page 1 of 1)