The Journal of Negro History, Vol. I. Jan. 1916
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VOL. I., No. 1 JANUARY, 1916



CARTER G. WOODSON: The Negroes of Cincinnati Prior to the Civil War

W. B. HARTGROVE: The Story of Maria Louise Moore and Fannie M. Richards

MONROE N. WORK: The Passing Tradition and the African Civilization

A. O. STAFFORD: The Mind of the African Negro as reflected in his Proverbs

DOCUMENTS: What the Negro was thinking during the Eighteenth Century. Letters showing the Rise and Progress of the early Negro Churches of Georgia and The West Indies.

REVIEWS OF BOOKS: STEWARD'S Haitian Revolution; CROMWELL'S The Negro in American History; ELLIS'S Negro Culture in West Africa; and WOODSON'S The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861.



41 North Queen Street, Lancaster, PA. 2223 Twelfth Street, Washington, D.C.

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Copyright, 1916

Application made for entry as second class mail matter at the Postoffice at Lancaster, Pa.


The study of the history of the Negroes of Cincinnati is unusually important for the reason that from no other annals do we get such striking evidence that the colored people generally thrive when encouraged by their white neighbors. This story is otherwise significant when we consider the fact that about a fourth of the persons of color settling in the State of Ohio during the first half of the last century made their homes in this city. Situated on a north bend of the Ohio where commerce breaks bulk, Cincinnati rapidly developed, attracting both foreigners and Americans, among whom were not a few Negroes. Exactly how many persons of color were in this city during the first decade of the nineteenth century is not yet known. It has been said that there were no Negroes in Hamilton County in 1800.[1] It is evident, too, that the real exodus of free Negroes and fugitives from the South to the Northwest Territory did not begin prior to 1815, although their attention had been earlier directed to this section as a more desirable place for colonization than the shores of Africa.[2] As the reaction following the era of good feeling toward the Negroes during the revolutionary period had not reached its climax free persons of color had been content to remain in the South.[3] The unexpected immigration of these Negroes into this section and the last bold effort made to drive them out marked epochs in their history in this city. The history of these people prior to the Civil War, therefore, falls into three periods, one of toleration from 1800 to 1826, one of persecution from 1826 to 1841, and one of amelioration from 1841 to 1861.

In the beginning the Negroes were not a live issue in Cincinnati. The question of their settlement in that community was debated but resulted in great diversity of opinion rather than a fixedness of judgment among the citizens. The question came up in the Constitutional Convention of 1802 and provoked some discussion, but reaching no decision, the convention simply left the Negroes out of the pale of the newly organized body politic, discriminating against them together with Indians and foreigners, by incorporating the word white into the fundamental law.[4] The legislature to which the disposition of this question was left, however, took it up in 1804 to calm the fears of those who had more seriously considered the so-called menace of Negro immigration. This body enacted a law, providing that no Negro or mulatto should be allowed to remain permanently in that State, unless he could furnish a certificate of freedom issued by some court in the United States. Negroes then living there had to be registered before the following June, giving the names of their children. No man could employ a Negro who could not show such a certificate. Hiring a delinquent black or harboring or hindering the capture of a runaway was punishable by a fine of $50 and the owner of a fugitive thus illegally employed could recover fifty cents a day for the services of his slave.[5]

As the fear of Negro immigration increased the law of 1804 was found to be inadequate. In 1807, therefore, the legislature enacted another measure providing that no Negro should be permitted to settle in Ohio unless he could within twenty days give a bond to the amount of $500, guaranteeing his good behavior and support. The fine for concealing a fugitive was raised from $50 to $100, one half of which should go to the informer. Negro evidence against the white man was prohibited.[6] This law together with that of 1830 making the Negro ineligible for service in the State militia, that of 1831 depriving persons of color of the privilege of serving upon juries, and that of 1838 prohibiting the education of colored children at the expense of the State, constituted what were known as the "Black Laws."[7]

Up to 1826, however, the Negroes of Cincinnati had not become a cause of much trouble. Very little mention of them is made in the records of this period. They were not wanted in this city but were tolerated as a negligible factor. D. B. Warden, a traveler through the West in 1819, observed that the blacks of Cincinnati were "good-humoured, garrulous, and profligate, generally disinclined to laborious occupations, and prone to the performance of light and menial drudgery." Here the traveler was taking effect for cause. "Some few," said he, "exercise the humbler trades, and some appear to have formed a correct conception of the objects and value of property, and are both industrious and economical. A large proportion of them are reputed, and perhaps correctly, to be habituated to petit larceny." But this had not become a grave offence, for he said that not more than one individual had been corporally punished by the courts since the settlement of the town.[8]

When, however, the South reached the conclusion that free Negroes were an evil, and Quakers and philanthropists began to direct these unfortunates to the Northwest Territory for colonization, a great commotion arose in Southern Ohio and especially in Cincinnati.[9] How rapid this movement was, may be best observed by noticing the statistics of this period. There were 337 Negroes in Ohio in 1800; 1,890 in 1810; 4,723 in 1820; 9,586 in 1830; 17,342 in 1840; and 25,279 in 1850.[10] Now Cincinnati had 410 Negroes in 1819;[11] 690 in 1826;[12] 2,255 in 1840;[13] and 3,237 in 1850.[14]

It was during the period between 1826 and 1840 that Cincinnati had to grapple with the problem of the immigrating Negroes and the poor whites from the uplands of Virginia and Kentucky. With some ill-informed persons the question was whether that section should be settled by white men or Negroes. The situation became more alarming when the Southern philanthropic minority sometimes afforded a man like a master of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, who settled 70 freedmen in Lawrence County, Ohio, in one day.[15] It became unusually acute in Cincinnati because of the close social and commercial relations between that city and the slave States. Early in the nineteenth century Cincinnati became a manufacturing center to which the South learned to look for supplies of machinery, implements, furniture, and food.[16] The business men prospering thereby were not advocates of slavery but rather than lose trade by acquiring the reputation of harboring fugitive slaves or frightening away whites by encouraging the immigration of Negroes, they began to assume the attitude of driving the latter from those parts.

From this time until the forties the Negroes were a real issue in Cincinnati. During the late twenties they not only had to suffer from the legal disabilities provided in the "Black Laws," but had to withstand the humiliation of a rigid social ostracism.[17] They were regarded as intruders and denounced as an idle, profligate and criminal class with whom a self-respecting white man could not afford to associate. Their children were not permitted to attend the public schools and few persons braved the inconveniences of living under the stigma of teaching a "nigger school." Negroes were not welcome in the white churches and when they secured admission thereto they had to go to the "black pew." Colored ministers were treated with very little consideration by the white clergy as they feared that they might lose caste and be compelled to give up their churches. The colored people made little or no effort to go to white theaters or hotels and did not attempt to ride in public conveyances on equal footing with members of the other race. Not even white and colored children dared to play together to the extent that such was permitted in the South.[18]

This situation became more serious when it extended to pursuits of labor. White laborers there, as in other Northern cities during this period, easily reached the position of thinking that it was a disgrace to work with Negroes. This prejudice was so much more inconvenient to the Negroes of Cincinnati than elsewhere because of the fact that most of the menial labor in that city was done by Germans and Irishmen. Now, since the Negroes could not follow ordinary menial occupations there was nothing left them but the lowest form of "drudgery," for which employers often preferred colored women. It was, therefore, necessary in some cases for the mother to earn the living for the family because the father could get nothing to do. A colored man could not serve as an ordinary drayman or porter without subjecting his employer to a heavy penalty.[19]

The trades unions were then proscribing the employment of colored mechanics. Many who had worked at skilled labor were by this prejudice forced to do drudgery or find employment in other cities. The president of a "mechanical association" was publicly tried in 1830 by that organization for the crime of assisting a colored youth to learn a trade.[20] A young man of high character, who had at the cabinet-making trade in Kentucky saved enough to purchase his freedom, came to Cincinnati about this time, seeking employment. He finally found a position in a shop conducted by an Englishman. On entering the establishment, however, the workmen threw down their tools, declaring that the Negro had to leave or that they would. The unfortunate "intruder" was accordingly dismissed. He then entered the employ of a slaveholder, who at the close of the Negro's two years of service at common labor discovered that the black was a mechanic. The employer then procured work for him as a rough carpenter. By dint of perseverance and industry this Negro within a few years became a master workman, employing at times six or eight men, but he never received a single job of work from a native-born citizen from a free State.[21]

The hardships of the Negroes of this city, however, had just begun. The growth of a prejudiced public opinion led not only to legal proscription and social ostracism but also to open persecution. With the cries of the Southerners for the return of fugitives and the request of white immigrants for the exclusion of Negroes from that section, came the demand to solve the problem by enforcing the "Black Laws." Among certain indulgent officials these enactments had been allowed to fall into desuetude. These very demands, however, brought forward friends as well as enemies of the colored people. Their first clash was testing the constitutionality of the law of 1807. When the question came up before the Supreme Court, this measure was upheld.[22] Encouraged by such support, the foes of the Negroes forced an execution of the law. The courts at first hesitated but finally took the position that the will of the people should be obeyed. The Negroes asked for ninety days to comply with the law and were given sixty. When the allotted time had expired, however, many of them had not given bonds as required. The only thing to do then was to force them to leave the city. The officials again hesitated but a mob quickly formed to relieve them of the work. This was the riot of 1829. Bands of ruffians held sway in the city for three days, as the police were unable or unwilling to restore order. Negroes were insulted on the streets, attacked in their homes, and even killed. About a thousand or twelve hundred of them found it advisable to leave for Canada West where they established the settlement known as Wilberforce.[23]

This upheaval, though unusually alarming, was not altogether a bad omen. It was due not only to the demands which the South was making upon the North and the fear of the loss of Southern trade, but also to the rise of the Abolition Societies, the growth of which such a riotous condition as this had materially fostered. In a word, it was the sequel of the struggle between the proslavery and the anti-slavery elements of the city. This was the time when the friends of the Negroes were doing most for them. Instead of frightening them away a group of respectable white men in that community were beginning to think that they should be trained to live there as useful citizens. Several schools and churches for them were established. The Negroes themselves provided for their own first school about 1820; but one Mr. Wing had sufficient courage to admit persons of color to his evening classes after their first efforts had failed. By 1834 many of the colored people were receiving systematic instruction.[24] To some enemies of these dependents it seemed that the tide was about to turn in favor of the despised cause. Negroes began to raise sums adequate to their elementary education and the students of Lane Seminary supplemented these efforts by establishing a colored mission school which offered more advanced courses and lectures on scientific subjects twice a week. These students, however, soon found themselves far in advance of public opinion.[25] They were censured by the faculty and to find a more congenial center for their operations they had to go to Oberlin in the Western Reserve where a larger number of persons had become interested in the cause of the despised and rejected of men.

During the years from 1833 to 1836 the situation in Cincinnati grew worse because of the still larger influx of Negroes driven from the South by intolerable conditions incident to the reaction against the race. To solve this problem various schemes were brought forth. Augustus Wattles tells us that he appeared in Cincinnati about this time and induced numbers of the Negroes to go to Mercer County, Ohio, where they took up 30,000 acres of land.[26] Others went to Indiana and purchased large tracts on the public domain.[27] Such a method, however, seemed rather slow to the militant proslavery leaders who had learned not only to treat the Negroes as an evil but to denounce in the same manner the increasing number of abolitionists by whom it was said the Negroes were encouraged to immigrate into the State.

The spirit of the proslavery sympathizers was well exhibited in the upheaval which soon followed. This was the riot of July 30, 1836. It was an effort to destroy the abolition organ, The Philanthropist, edited by James G. Birney, a Southerner who had brought his slaves from Huntsville, Alabama, to Kentucky and freed them. The mob formed in the morning, went to the office of The Philanthropist, destroyed what printed matter they could find, threw the type into the street, and broke up the press. They then proceeded to the home of the printer, Mr. Pugh, but finding no questionable matter there, they left it undisturbed. The homes of James G. Birney, Mr. Donaldson and Dr. Colby were also threatened. The next homes to be attacked were those of Church Alley, the Negro quarter, but when two guns were fired upon the assailants they withdrew. It was reported that one man was shot but this has never been proved. The mob hesitated some time before attacking these houses again, several of the rioters declaring that they did not care to endanger their lives. A second onset was made, but it was discovered that the Negroes had deserted the quarter. On finding the houses empty the assailants destroyed their contents.[28]

Yet undaunted by this persistent opposition the Negroes of Cincinnati achieved so much during the years between 1835 and 1840 that they deserved to be ranked among the most progressive people of the world.[29] Their friends endeavored to enable them through schools, churches and industries to embrace every opportunity to rise. These 2,255 Negroes accumulated, largely during this period, $209,000 worth of property, exclusive of personal effects and three churches valued at $19,000. Some of this wealth consisted of land purchased in Ohio and Indiana. Furthermore, in 1839 certain colored men of the city organized "The Iron Chest Company," a real estate firm, which built three brick buildings and rented them to white men. One man, who a few years prior to 1840 had thought it useless to accumulate wealth from which he might be driven away, had changed his mind and purchased $6,000 worth of real estate. Another Negro, who had paid $5,000 for himself and family, had bought a home worth $800 or $1,000. A freedman, who was a slave until he was twenty-four years old, then had two lots worth $10,000, paid a tax of $40 and had 320 acres of land in Mercer County. Another, who was worth only $3,000 in 1836, had seven houses in Cincinnati, 400 acres of land in Indiana, and another tract in the same county. He was worth $12,000 or $15,000. A woman who was a slave until she was thirty was then worth $2,000. She had also come into potential possession of two houses on which a white lawyer had given her a mortgage to secure the payment of $2,000 borrowed from this thrifty woman. Another Negro, who was on the auction block in 1832, had spent $2,600 purchasing himself and family and had bought two brick houses worth $6,000 and 560 acres of land in Mercer County, said to be worth $2,500.[30]

This unusual progress had been promoted by two forces, the development of the steamboat as a factor in transportation and the rise of the Negro mechanic. Negroes employed on vessels as servants to the travelling public amassed large sums received in the form of "tips." Furthermore, the fortunate few, constituting the stewards of these vessels, could by placing contracts for supplies and using business methods realize handsome incomes. Many Negroes thus enriched purchased real estate and went into business in Cincinnati.[31] The other force, the rise of the Negro mechanic, was made possible by overcoming much of the prejudice which had at first been encountered. A great change in this respect had taken place in Cincinnati by 1840. Many who had been forced to work as menial laborers then had the opportunity to show their usefulness to their families and to the community. Colored mechanics were then getting as much skilled labor as they could do. It was not uncommon for white artisans to solicit employment of colored men because they had the reputation of being better paymasters than master workmen of the more favored race.[32] White mechanics not only worked with colored men but often associated with them, patronized the same barber shop, and went to the same places of amusement.[33]

In this prosperous condition the Negroes could help themselves. Prior to this period they had been unable to make any sacrifices for charity and education. Only $150 of the $1,000 raised for Negro education in 1835 was contributed by persons of color. In 1839, however, the colored people raised $889.30 for this purpose, and thanks to their economic progress, this task was not so difficult as that of raising the $150 in 1835. They were then spending considerable amounts for evening and writing schools, attended by seventy-five persons, chiefly adults. In 1840 Reverend Mr. Denham and Mr. Goodwin had in their schools sixty-five pupils each paying $3 per quarter, and Miss Merrill a school of forty-seven pupils paying the same tuition. In all, the colored people were paying these teachers about $1,300 a year. The only help the Negroes were then receiving was that from the Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society, which employed one Miss Seymour at a salary of $300 a year to instruct fifty-four pupils. Moreover, the colored people were giving liberally to objects of charity. Some Negroes burned out in 1839 were promptly relieved by members of their own race. A white family in distress was befriended by a colored woman. The Negroes contributed also to the support of missionaries in Jamaica and during the years from 1836 to 1840 assisted twenty-five emancipated slaves on their way from Cincinnati to Mercer County, Ohio.[34]

During this period they had made progress in other than material things. Their improvement in religion and morals was remarkable. They then had four flourishing Sabbath Schools with 310 regular attendants, one Baptist and two Methodist churches with a membership of 800, a "Total Abstinence Temperance Society" for adults numbering 450, and a "Sabbath School or Youth's Society" of 180 members. A few of these violated their pledges, but when we consider the fact that one fourth of the entire colored population belonged to temperance organizations while less than one tenth of the whites were thus connected, we must admit that this was no mean achievement. Among the Negroes public sentiment was then such that no colored man could openly sell intoxicating drinks. This growing temperance was exhibited, too, in the decreasing fondness for dress and finery. There was less tendency to strive merely to get a fine suit of clothes and exhibit one's self on the streets. Places of vice were not so much frequented and barber shops which on Sundays formerly became a rendezvous for the idle and the garrulous were with few exceptions closed by 1840. This influence of the religious organizations reached also beyond the limits of Cincinnati. A theological student from the State of New York said after spending some time in New Orleans, that the influence of the elevation of the colored people of Cincinnati was felt all the way down the river. Travelers often spoke of the difference in the appearance of barbers and waiters on the boats.[35]

It was in fact a brighter day for the colored people. In 1840 an observer said that they had improved faster than any other people in the city. The Cincinnati Gazette after characterizing certain Negroes as being imprudent and vicious, said of others: "Many of these are peaceable and industrious, raising respectable families and acquiring property."[36] Mr. James H. Perkins, a respectable citizen of the city, asserted that the day school which the colored children attended had shown by examination that it was as good as any other in the city. He said further: "There is no question, I presume, that the colored population of Cincinnati, oppressed as it has been by our state laws as well as by prejudice, has risen more rapidly than almost any other people in any part of the world."[37] Within three or four years their property had more than doubled; their schools had become firmly established, and their churches and Sunday Schools had grown as rapidly as any other religious institutions in the city. Trusting to good conduct and character, they had risen to a prosperous position in the eyes of those whose prejudices would "allow them to look through the skin to the soul."[38]

The colored people had had too many enemies in Cincinnati, however, to expect that they had overcome all opposition. The prejudice of certain labor groups against the Negroes increased in proportion to the prosperity of the latter. That they had been able to do as well as they had was due to the lack of strength on the part of the labor organizations then forming to counteract the sentiment of fair play for the Negroes. Their labor competed directly with that of the whites and began again to excite "jealousy and heart burning."[39] The Germans, who were generally toiling up from poverty, seemed to exhibit less prejudice; but the unfortunate Irish bore it grievously that even a few Negroes should outstrip some of their race in the economic struggle.

In 1841 there followed several clashes which aggravated the situation. In the month of June one Burnett referred to as "a mischievous and swaggering Englishman running a cake shop," had harbored a runaway slave. When a man named McCalla, his reputed master, came with an officer to reclaim the fugitive, Burnett and his family resisted them. The Burnetts were committed to answer for this infraction of the law and finally were adequately punished. The proslavery mob which had gathered undertook to destroy their home but the officials prevented them. Besides, early in August according to a report, a German citizen defending his blackberry patch near the city was attacked by two Negroes and stabbed so severely that he died. Then about three weeks thereafter, according to another rumor, a very respectable lady was insultingly accosted by two colored men, and when she began to flee two others rudely thrust themselves before her on the sidewalk. But in this case, as in most others growing out of rumors, no one could ever say who the lady or her so-called assailants were. At the same time, too, the situation was further aggravated by an almost sudden influx of irresponsible Negroes from various parts, increasing the number of those engaged in noisy frolics which had become a nuisance to certain white neighbors.[40]

Accordingly, on Tuesday, the twenty-ninth of August, there broke out on the corner of Sixth and Broadway a quarrel in which two or three persons were wounded. On the following night the fracas was renewed. A group of ruffians attacked the Dumas Hotel, a colored establishment, on McCallister Street, demanding the surrender of a Negro, who, they believed, was concealed there. As the Negroes of the neighborhood came to the assistance of their friends in the hotel the mob had to withdraw. On Thursday night there took place another clash between a group of young men and boys and a few Negroes who seriously wounded one or two of the former. On Friday evening the mob incited to riotous acts by an influx of white ruffians, seemingly from the steamboats and the Kentucky side of the river, openly assembled in Fifth Street Market without being molested by the police, armed themselves and marched to Broadway and Sixth Street, shouting and swearing. They attacked a colored confectionery store near by, demolishing its doors and windows. James W. Piatt, an influential citizen, and the mayor then addressed the disorderly persons, vainly exhorting them to peace and obedience to the law. Moved by passionate entreaties to execute their poorly prepared plan, the assailants advanced and attacked the Negroes with stones. The blacks, however, had not been idle. They had secured sufficient guns and ammunition to fire into the mob such a volley that it had to fall back. The aggressors rallied again, however, only to be in like manner repulsed. Men were wounded on both sides and carried off and reported dead. The Negroes advanced courageously, and according to a reporter, fired down the street into the mass of ruffians, causing a hasty retreat. This melee continued until about one o'clock when a part of the mob secured an iron six pounder, hauled it to the place of combat against the exhortations of the powerless mayor, and fired on the Negroes. With this unusual advantage the blacks were forced to retreat, many of them going to the hills. About two o'clock the mayor of the city brought out a portion of the "military" which succeeded in holding the mob at bay.[41]

On the next day the colored people in the district under fire were surrounded by sentinels and put under martial law. Indignation meetings of law-abiding citizens were held on Saturday to pass resolutions, denouncing abolitionists and mobs and making an appeal to the people and the civil authorities to uphold the law. The Negroes also held a meeting and respectfully assured the mayor and citizens that they would use every effort to conduct themselves orderly and expressed their readiness to give bond according to the law of 1807 or leave the city quietly within a specified time. But these steps availed little when the police winked at this violence. The rioters boldly occupied the streets without arrest and continued their work until Sunday. The mayor, sheriff and marshal went to the battle ground about three o'clock but the mob still had control. The officers could not even remove those Negroes who complied with the law of leaving. The authorities finally hit upon the scheme of decreasing the excitement by inducing about 300 colored men to go to jail for security after they had been assured that their wives and children would be protected. The Negroes consented and were accordingly committed, but the cowardly element again attacked these helpless dependents like savages. At the same time other rioters stormed the office of The Philanthropist and broke up the press. The mob continued its work until it dispersed from mere exhaustion. The Governor finally came to the city and issued a proclamation setting forth the gravity of the situation. The citizens and civil authorities rallied to his support and strong patrols prevented further disorder.[42]

It is impossible to say exactly how many were killed and wounded on either side. It is probable that several were killed and twenty or thirty variously wounded, though but few dangerously. Forty of the mob were arrested and imprisoned. Exactly what was done with all of them is not yet known. It seems that few, if any of them, however, were severely punished. The Negroes who had been committed for safe keeping were thereafter disposed of in various ways. Some were discharged on certificates of nativity, others gave bond for their support and good behavior, a few were dismissed as non-residents, a number of them were discharged by a justice of the Court of Common Pleas, and the rest were held indefinitely.[43]

This upheaval had two important results. The enemies of the Negroes were convinced that there were sufficient law-abiding citizens to secure to the refugees protection from mob violence; and because of these riots their sympathizers became more attached to the objects of their philanthropy. Abolitionists, Free Soilers and Whigs fearlessly attacked the laws which kept the Negroes under legal and economic disabilities. Petitions praying that these measures be repealed were sent to the legislature. The proslavery element of the State, however, was equally militant. The legislators, therefore, had to consider such questions as extradition and immigration, State aid and colonization, the employment of colored men in the militia service, the extension of the elective franchise, and the admission of colored children to the public schools.[44] Most of these "Black Laws" remained until after the war, but in 1848 they were so modified as to give the Negroes legal standing in courts and to provide for their children such education as a school tax on the property of colored persons would allow[45] and further changed in 1849[46] so as to make the provision for education more effective.

The question of repealing the other oppressive laws came up in the Convention of 1850. It seemed that the cause of the Negroes had made much progress in that a larger number had begun to speak for them. But practically all of the members of the convention who stood for the Negroes were from the Western Reserve. After much heated discussion the colored people were by a large majority of votes still left under the disabilities of being disqualified to sit on juries, unable to obtain a legal residence so as to enter a charitable institution supported by the State, and denied admission to public schools established for white children.[47]

The greatest problem of the Negroes, however, was one of education. There were more persons interested in furnishing them facilities of education than in repealing the prohibitive measures, feeling that the other matters would adjust themselves after giving them adequate training. But it required some time and effort yet before much could be effected in Cincinnati because of the sympathizers with the South. The mere passing of the law of 1849 did not prove to be altogether a victory. Complying with the provisions of this act the Negroes elected trustees, organized a system, and employed teachers, relying on the money allotted them by the law on the basis of a per capita division of the school fund received by the board of education. So great was the prejudice of people of the city that the school officials refused to turn over the required funds on the grounds that the colored trustees were not electors and, therefore, could not be office-holders, qualified to receive and disburse funds. Under the leadership of John I. Gaines, therefore, the trustees called an indignation meeting and raised sufficient money to employ Flamen Ball, an attorney, to secure a writ of mandamus. The case was contested by the city officials, even in the Supreme Court, which decided against the officious whites.[48]

This decision did not solve the whole problem in Cincinnati. The amount raised was small and even had it been adequate to employ teachers, they were handicapped by another decision that no portion of it could be used for building schoolhouses. After a short period of accomplishing practically nothing the law was amended in 1853[49] so as to transfer the control of such schools to the managers of the white system. This was taken as a reflection on the blacks of the city and tended to make them refuse to cooperate with the white board. On account of the failure of this body to act effectively prior to 1856, the people of color were again given power to elect their own trustees.[50]

During this contest certain Negroes of Cincinnati were endeavoring to make good their claim to equal rights in the public schools. Acting upon this contention a colored man sent his son to a public school which, on account of his presence, became a center of unusual excitement. Isabella Newhall, the teacher, to whom he went, immediately complained to the board of education, requesting that he be expelled because of his color. After "due deliberation" the board of education decided by a vote of 15 to 10 that the colored pupil would have to withdraw. Thereupon two members of that body, residing in the district of the timorous teacher, resigned.[51]

Many Negroes belonging to the mulatto class, however, were more successful in getting into the white schools. In 1849 certain parents complained that children of color were being admitted to the public schools, and in fact there were in one of them two daughters of a white father and a mulatto mother. On complaining about this to the principal of the school in question, the indignant patrons were asked to point out the undesirable pupils. "They could not; for," says Sir Charles Lyell, "the two girls were not only among the best pupils, but better looking and less dark than many of the other pupils."[52]

Thereafter, however, much progress in the education of the colored people among themselves was noted. By 1844 they had six schools of their own and before the war two well-supported public schools.[53] Among their teachers were such useful persons as Mrs. M. J. Corbin, Miss Lucy Blackburn, Miss Anne Ryall, Miss Virginia C. Tilley, Miss Martha E. Anderson, William H. Parham, William R. Casey, John G. Mitchell and Peter H. Clark.[54] The pupils were showing their appreciation by regular attendance, excellent deportment, and progress in the acquisition of knowledge. Speaking of these Negroes in 1855, John P. Foote said that they shared with the white citizens that respect for education and the diffusion of knowledge, which has been one of their "characteristics," and that they had, therefore, been more generally intelligent than free persons of color not only in other parts of this country but in all other parts of the world.[55] It was in appreciation of the worth of this class to the community that in 1844[56] Nicholas Longworth helped them to establish an orphan asylum and in 1858 built for them a comfortable school building, leasing it with a privilege of purchasing it within four years.[57] They met these requirements within the stipulated time and in 1859 secured through other agencies the construction of another building in the western portion of the city.

The most successful of these schools, however, was the Gilmore High School, a private institution founded by an English clergyman. This institution offered instruction in the fundamentals and in some vocational studies. It was supported liberally by the benevolent element of the white people and patronized and appreciated by the Negroes as the first and only institution offering them the opportunity for thorough training. It became popular throughout the country, attracting Negroes from as far South as New Orleans[58] Rich Southern planters found it convenient to have their mulatto children educated in this high school.[59]

The work of these schools was substantially supplemented by that of the colored churches. They directed their attention not only to moral and religious welfare of the colored people but also to their mental development. Through their well-attended Sunday-schools these institutions furnished many Negroes of all classes the facilities of elementary education. Such opportunities were offered at the Baker Street Baptist Church, the Third Street Baptist Church, the Colored Christian Church, the New Street Methodist Church, and the African Methodist Church. Among the preachers then promoting this cause were John Warren, Rufus Conrad, Henry Simpson, and Wallace Shelton. Many of the old citizens of Cincinnati often refer with pride to the valuable services rendered by these leaders.

In things economic the Negroes were exceptionally prosperous after the forties. Cincinnati had then become a noted pork-packing and manufacturing center. The increasing canal and river traffic and finally the rise of the railroad system tended to make it thrive more than ever. Many colored men grew up with the city. A Negro had in the East End on Calvert Street a large cooperage establishment which made barrels for the packers. Knight and Bell were successful contractors noted for their skill and integrity and employed by the best white people of the city. Robert Harlan made considerable money buying and selling race horses. Thompson Cooley had a successful pickling establishment. On Broadway A. V. Thompson, a colored tailor, conducted a thriving business. J. Pressley and Thomas Ball were the well-known photographers of the city, established in a handsomely furnished modern gallery which was patronized by some of the wealthiest people. Samuel T. Wilcox, who owed his success to his position as a steward on an Ohio River line, thereafter went into the grocery business and built up such a large trade among the aristocratic families that he accumulated $59,000 worth of property by 1859.[60]

A more useful Negro had for years been toiling upward in this city. This man was Henry Boyd, a Kentucky freedman, who had helped to overcome the prejudice against colored mechanics in that city by exhibiting the highest efficiency. He patented a corded bed which became very popular, especially in the Southwest. With this article he built up a creditable manufacturing business, employing from 18 to 25 white and colored men.[61] He was, therefore, known as one of the desirable men of the city. Two things, however, seemingly interfered with his business. In the first place, certain white men, who became jealous of his success, burned him out and the insurance companies refused to carry him any longer. Moreover, having to do chiefly with white men he was charged by his people with favoring the miscegenation of races. Whether or not this was well founded is not yet known, but his children and grandchildren did marry whites and were lost in the so-called superior race.

A much more interesting Negro appeared in Cincinnati, however, in 1847. This was Robert Gordon, formerly the slave of a rich yachtsman of Richmond, Virginia. His master turned over to him a coal yard which he handled so faithfully that his owner gave him all of the slack resulting from the handling of the coal. This he sold to the local manufacturers and blacksmiths of the city, accumulating thereby in the course of time thousands of dollars. He purchased himself in 1846 and set out for free soil. He went first to Philadelphia and then to Newburyport, but finding that these places did not suit him, he proceeded to Cincinnati. He arrived there with $15,000, some of which he immediately invested in the coal business in which he had already achieved marked success. He employed bookkeepers, had his own wagons, built his own docks on the river, and bought coal by barges.[62]

Unwilling to see this Negro do so well, the white coal dealers endeavored to force him out of the business by lowering the price to the extent that he could not afford to sell. They did not know of his acumen and the large amount of capital at his disposal. He sent to the coal yards of his competitors mulattoes who could pass for white, using them to fill his current orders from his foes' supplies that he might save his own coal for the convenient day. In the course of a few months the river and all the canals by which coal was brought to Cincinnati froze up and remained so until spring. Gordon was then able to dispose of his coal at a higher price than it had ever been sold in that city. This so increased his wealth and added to his reputation that no one thereafter thought of opposing him.

Gordon continued in the coal business until 1865 when he retired. During the Civil War he invested his money in United States bonds. When these bonds were called in, he invested in real estate on Walnut Hills, which he held until his death in 1884. This estate descended to his daughter Virginia Ann Gordon who married George H. Jackson, a descendant of slaves in the Custis family of Arlington, Virginia. Mr. Jackson is now a resident of Chicago and is managing this estate.[63] Having lived through the antebellum and subsequent periods, Mr. Jackson has been made to wonder whether the Negroes of Cincinnati are doing as well to-day as Gordon and his colaborers were. This question requires some attention, but an inquiry as to exactly what forces have operated to impede the progress of a work so auspiciously begun would lead us beyond the limits set for this dissertation.



[1] Quillin, "The Color Line in Ohio," 18.

[2] "Tyrannical Libertymen," 10-11; Locke, "Antislavery," 31-32; Branagan, "Serious Remonstrance," 18.

[3] Woodson, "The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861," 230-231.

[4] Constitution, Article I, Sections 2, 6.

[5] Laws of Ohio, II, 63.

[6] Laws of Ohio, V, 53.

[7] Hickok, "The Negro in Ohio," 41, 42.

[8] Warden, "Statistical, Political and Historical Account of the United States of North America," 264.

[9] Quillin, "The Color Line in Ohio," 32.

[10] The Census of the United States, from 1800 to 1850.

[11] Flint's Letters in Thwaite's "Early Western Travels," IX, 239.

[12] Cist, "Cincinnati in 1841," 37; Cincinnati Daily Gazette, Sept. 14, 1841.

[13] Ibid.

[14] United States Census, 1850.

[15] Ohio State Journal, May 3, 1827; African Repository, III, 254.

[16] Abdy, "Journal of a Tour in the United States," III, 62.

[17] Jay, "Miscellaneous Writings on Slavery," 27, 373, 385, 387; Minutes of the Convention of the Colored People of Ohio, 1849.

[18] Barber, "A Report on the Condition of the Colored People of Ohio," 1840.

[19] Proceedings of the Ohio Antislavery Convention, 1835, 19.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Proceedings of the Ohio Antislavery Convention, 1835, 19.

[22] African Repository, V, 185.

[23] African Repository, V, 185.

[24] For a lengthy account of these efforts see Woodson's "The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861," 245, 328, 329; and Hickok, "The Negro in Ohio," 83, 88.

[25] Fairchild, "Oberlin: Its Origin, Progress and Results."

[26] Howe, "Historical Collections of Ohio," 356.

[27] The Southern Workman, XXXVII, 169.

[28] For a full account see Howe, "Historical Collections of Ohio," 225-226.

[29] Barber, "Report on the Condition of the Colored People in Ohio," 1840, and The Philanthropist, July 14 and 21, 1840.

[30] These facts are taken from A. D. Barber's "Report on the Condition of the Colored People in Ohio" and from other articles contributed to The Philanthropist in July, 1840.

[31] In this case I have taken the statements of Negroes who were employed in this capacity.

[32] The Philanthropist, July 14 and 24, 1840; and May 26, 1841.

[33] Hickok, "The Negro in Ohio," 89.

[34] The Philanthropist, July 14 and 21, 1840.

[35] The Philanthropist, July 21, 1840.

[36] The Cincinnati Daily Gazette, September 14, 1841.

[37] The Philanthropist, July 21, 1840.

[38] Ibid.

[39] The Cincinnati Daily Gazette, September 14, 1841.

[40] A detailed account of these clashes is given in The Cincinnati Daily Gazette, September 14, 1841.

[41] The Cincinnati Daily Gazette, September, 1841.

[42] A very interesting account of this riot is given in Howe's "Historical Collections of Ohio," pages 226-228.

[43] It was discovered that not a few of the mob came from Kentucky. About eleven o'clock on Saturday night a bonfire was lighted on that side of the river and loud shouts were sent up as if triumph had been achieved. "In some cases." says a reporter, "the directors were boys who suggested the point of attack, put the vote, declared the result and led the way."—Cin. Daily Gaz., Sept. 14, 1841.

[44] Hickok, "The Negro in Ohio," 90 et seq.

[45] Laws of Ohio, XL, 81.

[46] Ibid., LIII, 118.

[47] The Convention Debates.

[48] Special Report of the United States Commissioner of Education, 1871, page 372.

[49] Laws of Ohio.

[50] Ibid., LIII, 118.

[51] The New York Tribune, February 19, 1855.

[52] Lyell, "A Second Visit to the United States of North America," II, 295, 296.

[53] The Weekly Herald and Philanthropist, June 26, 1844, August 6, 1844, and January 1, 1845.

[54] The Cincinnati Directory of 1860.

[55] Foote, "The Schools of Cincinnati," 92.

[56] The Weekly Herald and Philanthropist, August 23, 1844.

[57] Special Report of the United States Commissioner of Education, 372.

[58] Simmons, "Men of Mark," 490.

[59] A white slaveholder, a graduate of Amherst, taught in this school. See Weekly Herald and Philanthropist, June 26, 1844.

[60] These facts were obtained from oral statements of Negroes who were living in Cincinnati at this time; from M. R. Delany's "The Condition of the Colored People in the United States"; from A. D. Barber's "Report on the Condition of the Colored People in Ohio," 1840; and from various Cincinnati Directories.

[61] Delany, "The Condition of the Colored People in the United States," 92.

[62] The Cincinnati Directory for 1860.

[63] For the leading facts concerning the life of Robert Gordon I have depended on the statements of his children and acquaintances and on the various directories and documents giving evidence concerning the business men of Cincinnati.


The State of Virginia has been the home of distinguished persons of both sexes of the white and colored races. A dissertation on the noted colored women of Virginia would find a small circle of readers but would, nevertheless, contain interesting accounts of some of the most important achievements of the people of that State. The story of Maria Louise Moore-Richards would be a large chapter of such a narrative. She was born of white and Negro parentage in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in 1800. Her father was Edwin Moore, a Scotchman of Edinburgh. Her mother was a free woman of color, born in Toronto when it was called York. Exactly how they came to Fredericksburg is not known. It seems, however, that they had been well established in that city when Maria Louise Moore was born.

This woman was fortunate in coming into the world at that time. So general had been the efforts for the elevation of the colored people that free Negroes had many of the privileges later given only to white people. Virginia then and for a long time thereafter ranked among the commonwealths most liberal toward the Negro. The dissemination of information among them was not then restricted, private teaching of slaves was common, and progressive communities maintained colored schools.[1a] In Fredericksburg such opportunities were not rare. The parents of Maria Louise Moore fortunately associated with the free Negroes who constituted an industrial class with adequate means to provide for the thorough training of their children. Miss Moore, therefore, easily acquired the rudiments of education and attained some distinction as a student of history.

In 1820 Miss Moore was married to Adolphe Richards, a native of the Island of Guadaloupe. He was a Latin of some Negro blood, had noble ancestry, and had led an honorable career. Educated in London and resident in Guadaloupe, he spoke both English and French fluently. Because of poor health in later years he was directed by his friends to the salubrious climate of Virginia. He settled at Fredericksburg, where he soon became captivated by the charms of the talented Maria Louise Moore. On learning of his marriage, his people and friends marveled that a man of his standing had married a colored woman or a Southern woman at all.

Adjusting himself to this new environment, Mr. Richards opened a shop for wood-turning, painting and glazing. It is highly probable that he learned these trades in the West Indies, but having adequate means to maintain himself, he had not depended on his mechanical skill. In Fredericksburg he had the respect and support of the best white people, passing as one of such well-to-do free Negroes as the Lees, the Cooks, the De Baptistes, who were contractors, and the Williamses, who were contractors and brickmakers. His success was in a large measure due to the good standing of the family of Mrs. Richards and to the wisdom with which she directed this West Indian in his new environment.

They had in all fourteen children, the training of whom was largely the work of the mother. All of them were well grounded in the rudiments of education and given a taste for higher things. In the course of time when the family grew larger the task of educating them grew more arduous. Some of them probably attended the school conducted by a Scotch-Irishman in the home of Richard De Baptiste. When the reaction against the teaching of Negroes effected the closing of the colored schools in Virginia, this one continued clandestinely for many years. Determined to have her children better educated, Mrs. Richards sent one of her sons to a school conducted by Mrs. Beecham, a remarkable English woman, assisted by her daughter. These women were bent on doing what they could to evade the law interpreted as prohibiting any one from either sitting or standing to teach a black to read. They, therefore, gathered the colored children around them while they lay prostrate on the couch to teach them. For further evasion they kept on hand splinters of wood which they had the children dip into a match preparation and use with a flint for ignition to make it appear that they were showing them how to make matches. When this scheme seemed impracticable, one of the boys was sent to Washington in the District of Columbia to attend the school maintained by John F. Cook, a successful educator and founder of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church. This young man was then running the risk of expatriation, for Virginia had in 1838 passed a law, prohibiting the return to that State of those Negroes, who after the prohibition of their education had begun to attend schools in other parts.[2]

It was because of these conditions that in 1851 when her husband died Mrs. Richards sold out her property and set out to find a better home in Detroit, Michigan. Some of the best white people of Fredericksburg commended her for this step, saying that she was too respectable a woman to suffer such humiliation as the reaction had entailed upon persons of her race.[3] She was followed by practically all of the best free Negroes of Fredericksburg. Among these were the Lees, the Cooks, the Williamses and the De Baptistes. A few years later this group attracted the Pelham family from Petersburg. They too had tired of seeing their rights gradually taken away and, therefore, transplanted themselves to Detroit.

The attitude of the people of Detroit toward immigrating Negroes had been reflected by the position the people of that section had taken from the time of the earliest settlements. Slavery was prohibited by the Ordinance of 1787. In 1807 there arose a case in which a woman was required to answer for the possession of two slaves. Her contention was that they were slaves on British territory at the time of the surrender of the post in 1796 and that Jay's Treaty assured them to her. Her contention was sustained.[4] A few days later a resident of Canada attempted under this ruling to secure the arrest and return of some mulatto and Indian slaves who had escaped from Canada. The court held that slavery did not exist in Michigan except in the case of slaves in the possession of the British settlers within the Northwest Territory July 11, 1796, and that there was no obligation to give up fugitives from a foreign jurisdiction. An effort was made to take the slaves by force but the agent of the owner was tarred and feathered.[4]

Generally speaking, Detroit adhered to this position.[4a] In 1827 there was passed an act providing for the registry of the names of all colored persons, requiring the possession of a certificate showing that they were free and a bond in the sum of $500 for their good behavior.[5] This law was obnoxious to the growing sentiment of freedom in Detroit and was not enforced until the Riot of 1833. This uprising was an attack on the Negroes because a courageous group of them had effected the rescue and escape of one Thornton Blackburn and his wife, who had been arrested by the sheriff as alleged fugitives from Kentucky.[6] The anti-slavery feeling considerably increased thereafter. The Detroit Anti-Slavery Society was formed in 1837, other societies to secure the relief and escape of slaves quickly followed and still another was organized to find employment and purchase homes for refugees.[7] This change of sentiment is further evidenced by the fact that in 1850 it was necessary to call out the three companies of volunteers to quell an incipient riot occasioned by the arrest and attempt to return a runaway slave in accordance with the Fugitive Slave Law. Save the general troubles incident to the draft riots of the Northern cities of 1863,[8] Detroit maintained this benevolent attitude toward Negroes seeking refuge.

In this favorable community the Richards colony easily prospered. The Lees well established themselves in their Northern homes and soon won the respect of the community. Most of the members of the Williams family confined themselves to their trade of bricklaying and amassed considerable wealth. One of Mr. Williams's daughters married a well-to-do Waring living then at Wauseon, Ohio; another became the wife of one Chappee, who is now a stenographer in Detroit; and the third united in matrimony with James H. Cole, who became the head of a well-to-do family of Detroit. Then there were the Cooks descending from Lomax B. Cook, a broker of no little business ability. Will Marion Cook, the musician, belongs to this family. The De Baptistes, too, were among the first to get a foothold in this new environment and prospered materially from their experience and knowledge acquired in Fredericksburg as contractors.[8a] From this group came Richard De Baptiste, who in his day was the most noted colored Baptist preacher in the Northwest. The Pelhams were no less successful in establishing themselves in the economic world. They enjoyed a high reputation in the community and had the sympathy and cooperation of the influential white people in the city. Out of this family came Robert A. Pelham, for years editor of a weekly in Detroit, and from 1901 to the present time an employee of the Federal Government in Washington.[9]

The children of Mrs. Richards were in no sense inferior to the descendants of the other families. She lived to see her work bear fruit in the distinguished services they rendered and the desirable connections which they made after the Civil War. Her daughter Julia married Thomas F. Carey who, after conducting a business for some years in New York, moved to Toronto, where he died. From this union came the wife of D. Augustus Straker. Her daughter Evalina married Dr. Joseph Ferguson who, prior to 1861, lived in Richmond, Virginia, uniting the three occupations of leecher, cupper and barber. This led to his coming to Detroit to study medicine. He was graduated there and practiced for many years in that city. Before the Civil War her son John D. Richards was sent to Richmond to learn a trade. There he met and became the lifelong friend of Judge George L. Ruffin, who was then living in that city.[10]

The most prominent and the most useful person to emerge from this group of pioneering Negroes was her daughter Fannie M. Richards. She was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, October 1, 1841. As her people left that State when she was quite young she did not see so much of the intolerable conditions as did the older members of the family. Miss Richards was successful in getting an early start in education. Desiring to have better training than what was then given to persons of color in Detroit, she went to Toronto. There she studied English, history, drawing and needlework. In later years she attended the Teachers Training School in Detroit. Her first thought was to take up teaching that she might do something to elevate her people. She, therefore, opened a private school in 1863, doing a higher grade of work than that then undertaken in the public schools. About 1862, however, a colored public school had been opened by a white man named Whitbeck. Miss Richards began to think that she should have such a school herself.

Her story as to how she realized her ambition is very interesting. Going to her private school one morning, she saw a carpenter repairing a building. Upon inquiry she learned that it was to be opened as Colored School Number 2. She went immediately to William D. Wilkins, a member of the board of education, who, impressed with the personality of the young woman, escorted her to the office of superintendent of schools, Duane Dotty. After some discussion of the matter Miss Richards filed an application, assured that she would be notified to take the next examination. At the appointed time she presented herself along with several other applicants who hoped to obtain the position. Miss Richards ranked highest and was notified to report for duty the following September. Early one morning she proceeded to her private school in time to inform her forty pupils of the desirable change and conducted them in a body to their new home.

Miss Richards taught in this building until 1871, when by a liberal interpretation of the courts, the schools were mixed by ignoring race distinction wherever it occurred in the school laws of Michigan. She was then transferred to the Everett School where she remained until last June when she was retired on a pension after having served that system half a century. Although she taught very few colored children she said to a reporter several years ago:

"I have never been made to feel in any way that my race has been a handicap to me. Neither my pupils nor the teachers have ever shown prejudice; I do not doubt that it exists; I shall be in Heaven long before it has all disappeared, but I say it is with a colored teacher as it is with a white one. Her work is the only thing that counts. I have never been called before the board for a reprimand in all my years of teaching. The methods have changed a good deal since the time that I started in and it would be easy to lag behind, but I try not to. It means continual reading and study to keep up with the modern way of doing things, but I manage to do it, and when the time comes that I cannot do my work in a satisfactory manner I want the Board of Education to discharge me and get some one else."

In testimony to these facts one of the daily papers of Detroit wrote her up in 1910, saying that she had kept her interest in modern pedagogic methods, maintained a high standard of scholarship in her school, and retained her sympathy with little children, who had rewarded her devotion to her work with their appreciation and love. To show how well she is loved by her pupils the writer was careful to state that these children as a gay group often surrounded her on her way to school, clinging to her hands, crowding about her as best they may, all chattering and pouring out accounts of their little doings. "Frequently," says this writer, "she is stopped on the street by grown men and women who long ago were her pupils and who have remembered her, though with the passing of the years, and the new classes of little ones who come to her every term, she has forgotten them."[11] Many have been accustomed to bring their children to the Everett School and speak of how glad they will be when these little ones will be under the care of their parents' former teacher.

Miss Richards estimates that in the years of school work, she has had in her room an average of fifty pupils a term, although sometimes the attendance overflowed to a much greater number. With eighty-eight terms of teaching to her credit, the number of pupils who owe part of their education to "this gentle and cultured woman" amounts well up into the tens of thousands, enough to populate a fair-sized city.

We can not close this article with a better testimonial than the following letter from one of her former pupils, the Honorable Charles T. Wilkins, a lawyer and an influential white citizen, who addressed her on the occasion of her retirement last June.

"My dear Miss Richards: The friendship of so long standing between your family and mine, and the high esteem in which, as an educator, a woman, and a Christian, you were always held by my father the late Colonel William D. Wilkins, lead me to take the liberty of writing to congratulate you upon the well-earned retirement from active work, which I have just learned from the press that you contemplate after so many years well spent in faithful service to our community. As a citizen and one who has always been most interested in the education of our youth, I wish to add my thanks to those which are felt, if not expressed by the many who know of your devotion to and success in leading the young in the way in which they should go.

"Though your active participation in this work is about to cease, may you long be spared as an example to those who follow you is the earnest hope of

"Yours very sincerely and respectfully,

(Signed) "Charles T. Wilkins"



[1] For many of the facts set forth in this article the writer is indebted to Miss Fannie M. Richards, Robert A. Pelham, and C. G. Woodson.

[1a] Woodson, The Ed. of the Negro Prior to 1861, pp. 92, 217, 218.

[2] The law was as follows: Be it enacted by the General Assembly that if any free person of color, whether infant or adult, shall go or be sent or carried beyond the limits of this Commonwealth for the purpose of being educated, he or she shall be deemed to have emigrated from the State and it shall not be lawful for him or her to return to the same; and if any such person shall return within the limits of the State contrary to the provisions of this act, he or she being an infant shall be bound out as an apprentice until the age of 21 years, by the overseers of the poor of the county or corporation where he or she may be, and at the expiration of that period, shall be sent out of the State agreeably to the provisions of the laws now in force, or which may hereafter be enacted to prohibit the migration of free persons of color to this State; and if such person be an adult, he or she shall be sent in like manner out of the Commonwealth; and if any persons having been so sent off, shall hereafter return within the State, he or she so offending shall be dealt with and punished in the same manner as is or may be prescribed by law in relating to other persons of color returning to the State after having been sent therefrome. Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1838, p. 76.

[3] The following enactments of the Virginia General Assembly will give a better idea of the extent of this humiliation:

4. Be it further enacted that all meetings of free Negroes or mulattoes at any school house, church, meeting-house or other place for teaching them reading or writing, either in the day or night, under whatsoever pretext, shall be deemed and considered as an unlawful assembly; and any justice of the county or corporation, wherein such assemblage shall be, either from his own knowledge, or on the information of others, of such unlawful assemblage or meeting, shall issue his warrant directed to any sworn officer or officers, authorizing him or them to enter the house or houses where such unlawful assemblage or meeting may be, for the purpose of apprehending or dispersing such free Negroes or mulattoes and to inflict corporal punishment on the offender or offenders at the discretion of any justice of the peace, not exceeding 20 lashes.

5. Be it further enacted that if any white person or persons assemble with free Negroes or mulattoes, at any school house, church, meeting-house, or other place for the purpose of instructing such free Negroes or mulattoes to read or write, such person or persons shall, on conviction thereof, be fined in a sum not exceeding fifty dollars, and moreover may be imprisoned at the discretion not exceeding two months.

6. Be it further enacted that if any white persons for pay or compensation, shall assemble with any slaves for the purpose of teaching and shall teach any slave to read or write, such persons or any white person or persons contracting with such teacher so to act, who shall offend as aforesaid, shall for each offence, be fined at the discretion of a jury in a sum not less than ten nor exceeding one hundred dollars, to be recovered on an information or indictment. Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1831, p. 107.

I. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia that no slave, free Negro or mulatto, whether he shall have been ordained or licensed or otherwise, shall hereafter undertake to preach, exhort or conduct or hold any assembly or meeting, for religious or other purposes, either in the day time or at night; and any slave, free Negro or mulatto so offending shall for every such offence be punished with stripes at the discretion of any justice of the peace, not exceeding 39 lashes; and any person desiring so to do, shall have authority without any previous written precept or otherwise, to apprehend any such offender and carry him before such justice.

II. Any slave, free Negro or mulatto who shall hereafter attend any preaching, meeting or other assembly, held or pretended to be held for religious purposes, or other instruction, conducted by any slave, free Negro or mulatto preacher, ordained or otherwise; any slave who shall hereafter attend any preaching in the night time although conducted by a white minister, without a written permission from his or her owner, overseer or master or agent of either of them, shall be punished by stripes at the discretion of any justice of the peace, not exceeding 39 lashes, and may for that purpose be apprehended by any person, without any written or other precept:

Provided, That nothing herein contained shall be so construed as to prevent the master or owner of slaves or any white person to whom any free Negro or mulatto is bound, or in whose employment, or on whose plantation or lot such free Negro or mulatto lives, from carrying or permitting any such slave, free Negro or mulatto, to go with him, her or them, or with any part of his, her, or their white family to any place of worship, conducted by a white minister in the night time: And provided also, That nothing in this or any former law, shall be construed as to prevent any ordained or licensed white minister of the gospel, or any layman licensed for that purpose by the denomination to which he may belong, from preaching or giving religious instruction to slaves, free Negroes and mulattoes in the day time; nor to deprive any masters or owners of slaves of the right to engage, or employ any free white person whom they think proper to give religious instruction to their slaves; nor to prevent the assembling of slaves of any one owner or master together at any time for religious devotion. Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1831-1832, pp. 20-21.

[4] Campbell, Political History of Michigan, 246.

[4a] Slavery did not immediately cease, however. The number of slaves in the vicinity of Detroit in 1773 were ninety-six; 127 in 1778; and 175 in 1783. Detroit had a colored population of 15 in 1805 and two years later a number had sufficiently increased for Governor Hull to organize a company of militia among them. The increase had been due to the coming of refugees from Canada. The Census of 1810 showed 17 slaves in Detroit; that of 1830 shows 32 in Michigan and an enumeration subsequent to 1836 shows that all were dead or manumitted. See Census of the United States.

[5] Laws of Michigan, 1827.

[6] This riot occurred on June 14, 1833. Thornton Blackburn and his wife, the alleged runaways from Kentucky, were lodged in jail pending the departure of a boat. A crowd of colored men and women, armed with clubs, stones and pistols, gathered in the vicinity of the jail. Upon the pretext of visiting Blackburn's wife a colored woman was admitted to the jail and by an exchange of clothing effected the escape of the prisoner who immediately crossed into Canada. Some time thereafter the sheriff attempted to take his other prisoner to the boat, but was knocked down and badly beaten. During the encounter the sheriff fired into the mob, but Blackburn was rescued and carried to Canada. This caused a great disturbance among the white people. They armed themselves and attacked the blacks wherever they could be found. The city council convened and undertook to dispose of the trouble by enforcing the law of 1827 requiring that colored people should stay off the streets at night. Utley, Byron and McCutcheon, "Michigan as a Province and State," II, 347.

[7] Five years after the organization of the Detroit Anti-Slavery Society Henry Bibb, an ex-slave, came to the city and lectured for two years under the auspices of the Liberty Association, which was promoting the election of anti-slavery candidates. Public sentiment against slavery was becoming such that the Legislature of Michigan passed a law prohibiting the use of jails to detain fugitives. Frederick Douglass and John Brown found many friends of their cause in Detroit. Of the many organized efforts made to circumvent the law and assist fugitives one society purchased land and established homes for as many as 50 families between 1850 and 1872. Farmer, "History of Detroit and Michigan," I, Chapter XLVIII.

[8] The immediate cause of the riot in Detroit was the arrest, conviction, and imprisonment of a colored man called William Faulkner charged with committing an assault on a little girl. Feeling that the prisoner was guilty, bands of ruffians swept through the streets and mercilessly beat colored people. Seven years later it was discovered that Faulkner was innocent and to reimburse him for his losses and humiliation the same ruffians raised a handsome sum to set him up in business. See Farmer's History of Detroit and Michigan, Chapter XLVIII.

[8a] A study of the directories of Detroit shows that a considerable number of Negroes had entered the higher pursuits of labor. See especially the Detroit Directory for 1865.

[9] Simmons, "Men of Mark," 356.

[10] In 1853 Judge Ruffin moved with his parents from Richmond to Boston, where he became judge of the Charleston District. Simmons, "Men of Mark," 469.

[11] This information was obtained from newspaper clippings in the possession of Miss Fannie M. Richards.


A close examination shows that what we know about the Negro both of the present and the past vitally affects our opinions concerning him. Men's beliefs concerning things are to a large extent determined by where they live and what has been handed down to them. We believe in a hell of roaring flames where in the fiercest of heat the souls of the wicked are subject to eternal burnings. This idea of hell was evolved in the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula where heat is one of the greatest forces of nature with which man has to contend. Among the native tribes of Northern Siberia dwelling in the regions of perpetual ice and snow, hell is a place filled with great chunks of ice upon which the souls of the wicked are placed and there subjected to eternal freezings. This idea of hell was evolved in the regions where man is in a continual battle with the cold.

The beliefs of Negroes concerning themselves have to a large extent been made for them. The reader no doubt will be interested to know that the prevailing notions concerning the inferiority of the Negro grew up to a large extent as the concomitant to Negro slavery in this country. The bringing of the first Negroes from Africa as slaves was justified on the grounds that they were heathen. It was not right, it was argued, for Christians to enslave Christians, but they could enslave heathen, who as a result would have an opportunity to become Christians. These Negro slaves did actually become Christians and as a result the colonists were forced to find other grounds to justify their continuation of the system. The next argument was that they were different from white people. Here we have a large part of the beginnings of the doctrine of the inferiority of the Negro.

When, about 1830, anti-slavery agitation arose in this country, a new set of arguments were brought forward to justify slavery. First in importance were those taken from the Bible. Science also was called upon and brought forward a large number of facts to demonstrate that by nature the Negro was especially fitted to be a slave. It happened that about this time anthropology was being developed. Racial differences were some of the things which especially interested scientists in this field. The races were defined according to certain physical characteristics. These, it was asserted, determined the superiority or inferiority of races. The true Negro race, said the early anthropologists, had characteristics which especially indicated its inferiority. Through our geographies, histories and encyclopedias we have become familiar with representations of this so-called true Negro, whose chief characteristics were a black skin, woolly hair, protuberant lips and a receding forehead. Caricaturists seized upon these characteristics and popularized them in cartoons, in songs and in other ways. Thus it happened that the Negro, through the descriptions that he got of himself, has come largely to believe in his inherent inferiority and that to attain superiority he must become like the white man in color, in achievements and, in fact, along all lines.

In recent years it has been asked, "Why cannot the Negro attain superiority along lines of his own," that is, instead of simply patterning after what the white man has done, why cannot the Negro through music, art, history, and science, make his own special contributions to the progress of the world? This question has arisen because in the fields of science and history there have been brought forward a number of facts which prove this possibility. First of all, the leading scientists in the field of anthropology are telling us that while there are differences of races, there are no characteristics which per se indicate that one race is inferior or superior to another. The existing differences are differences in kind not in value. On the other hand, whatever superiority one race has attained over another has been largely due to environment.

A German writer in a discussion of the origin of African civilizations said some time ago "What bold investigators, great pioneers, still find to tell us in civilizations nearer home, proves more and more clearly that we are ignorant of hoary Africa. Somewhat of its present, perhaps, we know, but of its past little. Open an illustrated geography and compare the 'Type of the African Negro,' the bluish-black fellow of the protuberant lips, the flattened nose, the stupid expression and the short curly hair, with the tall bronze figures from Dark Africa with which we have of late become familiar, their almost fine-cut features, slightly arched nose, long hair, etc., and you have an example of the problems pressing for solution. In other respects, too, the genuine African of the interior bears no resemblance to the accepted Negro type as it figures on drug and cigar store signs, wearing a shabby stovepipe hat, plaid trousers, and a vari-colored coat. A stroll through the corridors of the Berlin Museum of Ethnology teaches that the real African need by no means resort to the rags and tatters of bygone European splendor. He has precious ornaments of his own, of ivory and plumes, fine plaited willow ware, weapons of superior workmanship. Justly can it be demanded 'What sort of civilization is this? Whence does it come?'"

It is also pointed out that one of the most important contributions to the civilization of mankind was very probably made by the Negro race. This was the invention of the smelting of iron. The facts brought forward to support this view are: that no iron was smelted in Europe before 900 B.C.; that about 3000 B.C., there began to appear on the Egyptian monuments pictures of Africans bringing iron from the South to Egypt; that at a time considerably later than this iron implements began to appear in Asia; that there is no iron ore in Egypt; and that in Negro Africa iron ore is abundant. In many places it is found on top of the ground and in some parts it can be melted by simply placing a piece of ore in the fire very much as you would a potato to be roasted.

Studies in the fields of ancient and medieval history are also showing that in the past there were in Negro Africa civilizations of probable indigenous origin which attained importance enough to be mentioned in the writings of the historians and poets of those periods. The seat of one of the highest of these civilizations was Ethiopia. Here the Negro nation attained the greatest fame. As early as 2,500 years before the birth of Christ the Ethiopians appeared to have had a considerable civilization. It was well known to the writers of the Bible and is referred to therein some forty-nine times. In Genesis we read of Cush, the eldest son of Ham. Cush is the Hebrew word for black and means the same as Ethiopia. One of the most famous sons of Cush was Nimrod, whom the Bible mentions as being "a mighty hunter before the Lord; whereof it is said, like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord." The Bible refers to Ethiopia as being far distant from Palestine. In the book of Isaiah we read "the land of the rustling of wings which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia that sendeth ambassadors by the sea." The rivers of Ethiopia mentioned in Isaiah are the upper tributaries of the Nile, the Atbara, the Blue Nile and the Sobat.

The later capital of Ethiopia was Meroe. Recent excavations have shown Meroe to have been a city larger than Memphis. The Temple of Ammon, where kings were crowned, was one of the largest in the valley of the Nile. The great walls of cut stones were 15 feet thick and 30 feet high. Heaps of iron-slag and furnaces for smelting iron were discovered, and there were magnificent quays and landing places on the river side, for the export of iron. Excavations have also shown that for 150 years Egypt was a dependency of Ethiopia. The kings of the twenty-third and twenty-fourth Egyptian dynasties were really governors appointed by Ethiopian overlords, while the twenty-fifth dynasty was founded by the Ethiopian king, Sabako, in order to check Assyrian aggression. Palestine was enabled to hold out against Assyria by Ethiopian help. Sennacherib's attempt to capture Jerusalem and carry the Jews into captivity, was frustrated by the army of the Ethiopian king, Taharka. The nation and religion of Judah were thus preserved from being absorbed in heathen lands like the lost Ten Tribes. The Negro soldiers of the Sudan saved the Jewish religion.

The old Greek writers were well acquainted with Ethiopia. According to them in the most ancient times there existed to the South of Egypt a nation and a land designated as Ethiopia. This was the land where the people with the sunburnt faces dwelt. The Greek poet, Homer, mentions the Ethiopians as dwelling at the uttermost limits of the earth, where they enjoyed personal intercourse with the gods. In one place Homer said that Neptune, the god of the sea, "had gone to feast with the Ethiopians who dwell afar off, the Ethiopians who are divided into two parts, the most distant of men, some at the setting of the sun, others at the rising." Herodotus, the Greek historian, described the Ethiopians as long lived and their country as extending to the Southern Sea.

The great fame of the Ethiopians is thus sketched by the eminent historian, Heeren, who in his historical researches says: "In the earliest traditions of nearly all the more civilized nations of antiquity, the name of this distant people is found. The annals of the Egyptian priests were full of them; the nations of inner Asia, on the Euphrates and Tigris, have interwoven the fictions of the Ethiopians with their own traditions of the conquests and wars of their heroes; and, at a period equally remote, they glimmer in Greek mythology. When the Greeks scarcely knew Italy and Sicily by name, the Ethiopians were celebrated in the verses of their poets; they spoke of them as the 'remotest nation,' the 'most just of men,' the 'favorites of the gods,' The lofty inhabitants of Olympus journey to them and take part in their feasts; their sacrifices are the most agreeable of all that mortals can offer them. And when the faint gleam of tradition and fable gives way to the clear light of history, the luster of the Ethiopians is not diminished. They still continue the object of curiosity and admiration; and the pens of cautious, clear-sighted historians often place them in the highest rank of knowledge and civilization."

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