Boston September 22, 1890: A Forgotten Address

The history of communities, especially the daily occurrences,  are not part of the regulated history curriculum in secondary and post-secondary institutions, both public and especially private.  Regurgitation of names, dates, events, facts and places seem to be the normal in order to master this cud of history.

If one wants to explore a community and its life force, then the daily and weekly newspapers tell the stories of birth, life and death.  For in this neglected archive of life, one can find a living history of people and the events which shaped their communities.

In 2021 newspapers, actual print editions, are becoming a rarity.  Who wants to take the time to examine the various news items on each page when the digital news media is just a few finger strokes away on our dependent electronic devices?

This is not to imply digital media is useless.  It serves its purpose, but if one wants to truly understand, then one must search beyond the digital horizon.

Newspapers, especially old ones, have an abundance of information which span local, country and global events and people.  This is how people learned about the world—by reading the newsprint of their day before the age of the nanosecond filled with flotsam.

Consuming a daily dosage of this digital debitage robs the reader of the foundational exploration which comes from examining the community in which they reside.  In many ways the community of life is a vista of expanding growth and wonder.

Recently, I was examining some very old newspapers online (digital archives have their place when the actual newspaper may be forgotten in the streams of time).  The following is a speech given by Frederick Douglass during the  SECOND REUNION OF ABOLITIONISTS on SEPTEMBER 22, 1890 at the Tremont Temple in BOSTON as reported in the newspaper of the day:

No man can tell the truth. Not even two men of the same complexion, sometimes can tell it. It requires a white man and a black man—as black as he can be—to “tole” the whole truth to you.

 I tried this morning to show to you how the people are being humbugged. How the South has tried to create the impression that some profound impression, that some profound problem is to be solved in connection to the colored race, that something in their color, their character, makes its extremely difficult to reconcile the difference between the two races.

I, on the other hand, utterly deny that there is any problem before the American people. The only question of moment which ought now to engage their attention is whether this nation will keep its pledge, will carry out its principles fought in the late war and execute the constitution it has sworn to support.  There is no Negro problem, no Catholic, no Presbyterian, no Methodist problem to be solved by the government of the United States. Its business is to treat everybody with even and exact justice.

Let me tell you a secret. You would never have heard a word about this “problem” if only the Negroes of the South had voted the Democratic Ticket. It isn’t a race problem.  It is a problem between the Republican and Democratic parties.

It comes from the denial of Southern whites that a Negro may be a Republican, or that a Republican may exist south of the Mason Dixon’s line. The race question was hitched on to inflame your prejudices.

But don’t let me disturb the sweet harmony of this meeting.  We are told we should forget the past.  Our friends think it is wrong to stir up the memories consequent upon the great agitation we are here to commemorate. But I don’t feel that way.

There are certain differences which must be settled according to the principles of right, and these we may discuss with calmness in Boston and come to a correct conclusion in regard to them.

I have discovered how prejudices against the Negro may be removed very easily.  It is only necessary for you and me to do something to improve the morals, the character, the education of  our people in order to do away with these prejudices.

Once I went to Pittsfield, N.H., to speak against slavery. I applied for lodging at the house of a man who took the LIBERATOR. He was willing that slaves should be liberated, if only he would stay where he belong.

His wife, however, admitted me.  At supper, the good man was absent.  He had lost his appetite. I felt pretty badly myself.

Afterwards, at the town hall, I spoke to 15 persons, but nobody invited me home to dinner with him. At the hotel they said: “We don’t allow n___ in here.

In the afternoon and evening I delivered two more speeches.  Being tired and hungry, I felt lonely, and was attracted to the graveyard nearby.

When contemplating the vanity of human pride and ambition, I met a gentleman, who said to me:

Mr. Douglas, I’m not an Abolitionist. I’m a Democrat, but I’m a man, and if you’ll come to my house, you shall be made at home while you stay in this town.”

I followed him to his door, filled with gratitude and emotion, and just as I got inside, a little girl ran to her mother, crying:

Mama, Mama, there’s a n____ in the house!”

The good man smoothed over this awkward incident as well as possible, and in a few moments the good wife, having given me food and drink, had parted with her prejudices.  This was Mrs. Moses Norris, wife of the then Senator from New Hampshire. This was a revolution in that man and woman when they began to do something for me.

And so with you, my friends.

I am going to pitch into Dr. Woodworth.  He said the Republican Party, the abolitionists, Mr. Lincoln, didn’t abolish slavery but the good Lord did it.

Now, the good Lord had chance to abolish slavery a long time ago.  While I believe there are eternal forces ever in motion, carrying on the course of truth and justice in this world still, when I am looking around to give thanks, I recognize a twofold duty, to express gratitude to God and to good men who are in the flesh.  Of these men preeminent in the connection with this cause was William Lloyd Garrison and scarcely less eminent than he, was Wendell Phillips.

How well I knew Mr. Garrison! How much I loved him! It was a great revelation to me to meet the abolitionists of the Garrison school. I came here 52 years ago in search of freedom, thinking that white people were banded together by virtue of their white skins to destroy my race.

But, when I heard Mr. Garrison for the first time uttering the thoughts which had struggled to find expression from my own heart.  I saw the deadened hope of my race resurrected and ascended.  And I was right.

But I hadn’t heard of these 3000 New England ministers.

I expect to live long enough to hear of speeches being delivered all over this Northern country, declaring that slavery was abolished by the church of God.

Two hundred years ago the problem was:

Is it right to baptize the Negro?  It was a difficult question.

It was said that the subject of baptism should be a free moral agent, and the Negro wasn’t a free moral agent. About the only thing he could ask for was the baptism of his master. This should be enough for him. It was urged that while the master had a right to the Negros’s body, the Lord had the right to his soul.

This left the black man pretty destitute.  When he looked for his body, his master had it.

When he looked for his soul the Lord had it.  And there he was.

Thus this movement had a religious beginning. I don’t think, however, that the ministers had a great deal to do with the abolition of slavery.

A long time ago I said some terrible things against the Union, but, like my ministerial brethren, I got light as I went along. I learned that the Negro race, bleeding as it was, was safer in the Union than out of it. At length I stood with William Lloyd Garrison, rejoicing in the salvation of the Union and the abolition of slavery.

The freedom of the Negro was brought about by means. We would never have heard of Abraham Lincoln but for the men whom I have mentioned and others like them.

It was they who made Abraham Lincoln, Charles Sumner, William H. Seward possible—who made the Republican Party possible. All honor to those men, fired not by the pulpit but by the Garrisonian platform.

I have no doubt Abraham Lincoln abhorred slavery, but he was fettered by interpretations of the constitution, and was always aching to get hold of the monster and strangle it. As fast as Garrison and Phillips and orators like them created a moral sentiment of Mr. Lincoln, just so fast he went.

At the South just now they are afraid, they say, of black supremacy. Isn’t that absurd! They are throwing a red herring at you, giving you a false alarm. Who’s afraid?

I’m not and I’m as white as I am black—(pointing to his white head). I’m not afraid of the Negro ever getting the upper hand in me.

But they talk of the ignorance of the Negro. Did you ever hear the Democratic Party complain of the ignorance of the Irish vote?

Not from the ignorance of the Negro, but from his intelligence is there danger. He knows your Mr. Hoar from your Mr. Butler.

For whom are protection at the ballot box and equal education asked? For those I tell you, who protected the women and children of the South during the War, for those who tilled your soil with their hoary hands, for those who watered the land with their tears, who shed their blood for you.

All we ask, all we beg, is to be protected as well as those who fought, not with you, but against you.

THE AFRO-AMERICAN SENTINEL Saturday, October 11, 1890 published in Jackson, Tennessee.

Born into slavery in 1818, Frederick Douglas became a national advocate for his people and a dreamer of what this country could become if united in common purpose and brotherhood.  He left these earthly scenes on February 20, 1895, but his words live on to remind us  that history, true history, is found in the daily struggles for existence and that ideals of truth and justice can be achieved by due diligence.

In 2021 how many men and women engaged in a noble cause for humanity are lonely, hungry and tired from their labors? Before you leave these earthly scenes, what part will you play in supporting those brave souls who labor for the ideals of Frederick Douglass and the many others who seek a better life for all?

G. D. Williams ©2021

POST 881

Poster for Second Abolitionist Reunion at Tremont Temple in Boston, September 22nd 1890. As you may remember from my account of my day in Boston visiting Douglass sites, he spoke here often, and as you can see from the poster, he shared the stage with John Hutchinson and his daughter Viola, who donated the scrapbook to the Lynn Historical Society (see cover photo above). They close the meeting with Howe’s ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’

Frederick Douglass Lynn Sites, Part 2: Historical Society & Hutchinson Scrapbook | Ordinary Philosophy

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About The Afro-American sentinel. (Jackson, Tenn.) 1890-189? « Chronicling America « Library of Congress (loc.gov)

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The Tremont Temple (bostonlitdistrict.org)

Tremont Temple Baptist Church

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Emancipation: A Boston Celebration – Boston African American National Historic Site (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)

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Indianapolis Journal 23 September 1890 — Hoosier State Chronicles: Indiana’s Digital Historic Newspaper Program

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Frederick Douglass ╽Escaping Slavery – A Story Of Risk, Freedom & Triumph | THE CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

Douglass’s Escape from Slavery (americaslibrary.gov)

Frederick Douglass – Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)

Why Frederick Douglass Matters – HISTORY

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Beside the Old Meeting House, near the cemetery, is a sign noting the famous encounter in 1842 between Frederick Douglass and U. S. Senator Moses Norris, Jr. Douglass, the famous escaped slave working for abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, came here to explain the horrors of slavery. Norris was widely known for his anti-slavery sentiments including having the Reverend George Storrs illegally arrested in Pittsfield for making an anti-slavery speech in the Pittsfield Baptist Church. When Norris discovered that Douglass had been left out in the rain after his noon address, the Senator took the abolitionist to his home and offered food and shelter. Douglass was so impressed that he wrote at length about the event in his autobiography .

Pittsfield-Historical-Trail.pdf (pittsfieldhistory.com)

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“Expulsion of Negroes and Abolitionists from Tremont Temple, Boston, Massachusetts, on December 3, 1860.” – Visual Culture of the American Civil War (cuny.edu)

One thought on “Boston September 22, 1890: A Forgotten Address

  1. Gary, this was awesome. Thank you. Would you approve my sharing it with my family and friends?

    Like

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