A Radical Appeal to the Negroes
May 21, 1867
Under the law, it is guaranteed now that black and white men will be equals.However, this does not mean that white men and black men belong together in society.By no means will everyone now be welcome everywhere.If the black men have any self-respect they will realize this.
A Radical Appeal to the Negroes. The "Colored Pennsylvania State Equal Rights League" (what a name) has Issued a grandiloquent appeal to the negroes of the South to vote against "rebels," "traitors." " Copperheads," and " Democrats." The Leaguers seem to be as badly off at home as their colored brethren are here. They make the following declaration: "We are the victims of a prejudice whose envenomed fangs are fastened upon us all wherever we lift our unoffending heads." So they are, doubtless. White men everywhere regard negroes as inferior to themselves, and the negroes confess the truth of the assumption -- not indeed in words, but by deeds; for instead of falling back upon their native worth or self-respect, they foolishly attempt to thrust themselves into the company of those who spurn them. A white man differs from a negro in this particular just as clearly as in any other. The former takes as much pains to keep out of the company of men who do not wish to associate with him as the latter takes to force himself into association with those who despise him. Now, neither the Equal Rights Leaguers in Pennsylvania, nor their colored brethren in the South, will ever be generally respected by the whites until they learn to respect themselves. If they wish to prove that they are as good as white people -- have the same impulses, feelings, purposes, and motives -- they must act as white people would act under like circumstances. The Loyal Leaguers say that the southern slaves were "liberated by their own right arms"; which will doubtless be news to the most of them. The Leaguers also try to convince their southern brethren that the Radical party has declared that the negroes "and their sons" "shall fill any position for which their capacity may fit them." We should like to see such a plank in the Radical platform. Its presence there would be the sure precursor of the downfall of that pestilent party. But there is no such article in the Republican creed. They are afraid to avow any such purpose. They know too well that the voters of the North are at least as strongly opposed to elevating negroes to office as are the people of the South. These Loyal Leaguers give another proof in their address that they differ widely from white men. They speak of "glorious old Ben. Butler." The whites of every civilized country in the world regard Butler as being anything but "glorious." It is next to impossible that any but a crazy partisan should look upon such a man with any favor. We are ready to concede to the blacks equal rights before the law; but we are not going to associate with them unless we choose to do so. We do not intend to allow them to make up company for us. We are not going to sit with them in a railroad car, nor in any other place, merely because the seat is in a public house or carriage. The negroes ought to have more respect for themselves than to attempt to thrust themselves into company where they are not wanted. They are not imitating white people when they do so. Such conduct in a white man is counted ill-mannered by white men; and if the negroes desire to show that they are as good as white men, let them act in regard to all these matters just as white men would act under similar circumstances.
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“A Radical Appeal to the Negroes,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed May 24, 2022, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/606.