Warning: this source uses outdated language to describe African Americans. This address is from the minutes of the second Freedmen’s Convention held in Raleigh in October 1866 where a group of majority African American men met to discuss their political future in North Carolina.
“Address of the Freedmen’s Convention to the White and Colored citizens of North Carolina”
FELLOW-CITIZENS: We, the colored People of North-Carolina, in Convention assembled at Raleigh, on the 2nd, 3d, 4th and 5th days of Oct. 1866, viewing the complex condition of affairs and of public sentiment in our State, deem it our duty to present to you our grievances, our sufferings and the outrages heaped upon us, because of our helpless and disqualified position for self-defense, resulting, as we think we can prove, from no greater cause than our long and unjust political disfranchisement.
We ask you, in the spirit of meekness, is taxation without representation just? History and conscience answer no!
We do not come to you in a spirit of reproach or denunciation, neither do we feel in pleading for equal rights without regard to complexional differences, that we are in the least degree selfish. Nor do we in any respect seek to lower the standard of refinement, intelligence or honor among the great and loyal people of the commonwealth of North-Carolina, by urging these questions upon your consideration at this time. We would view if possible the brightest side of the picture, which we have to present, and give to our beloved State all the honor and credit deserved for the rapid strides which this great Nation has been taking in the direction of universal emancipation and equality before the law.
You will acquiesce when we say that we can boast a little of our loyalty to the general government, in the bloody struggle through which we have just passed. Our fathers fought shoulder to shoulder with the white man in the Revolutionary war, and in the war of 1812. They did their duty and did it well. In the one just ended, our fathers, brothers and sons bared their breasts to the fiery storm to save the Union.
FELLOW-CITIZENS: You have taught us one good thing, which we cannot forget. It is this: “That all men are born free and equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” &c.
FELLOW-CITIZENS:— Can we look to you for protection or not, to shield us from the murderous hand? Oh, humanity, where is thy blush? Our defenceless wives and children, fathers, sons and brothers are beaten with clubs, robbed, shot and killed, in various localities, and the authorities regard it not. We beg you as white men in authority to shield our defenceless heads, and guard our little homes. We appeal to your religion and humanity. We claim by merit the right of suffrage, and ask it at your hands. We believe the day has come, when black men have rights which white men are bound to respect. We intend to live and die on the soil which gave us birth. Oh, North-Carolina, the land of our birth, with all thy faults we love thee still. Will you, oh! will you treat us as human beings, with all our rights? It is all we ask.
Your humble servants, in behalf of the State’s Equal Rights League,
GEO. A. RUE, Chairman.
J. T. SCHENCK, H. LOCKET, J. A. SYKES.
Citation: “Minutes of the Freedmen’s Convention, Held in the City of Raleigh, on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th of October, 1866.” DocSouth. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. https://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/freedmen/freedmen.html. Accessed 5 September 2023.
- What does this source tell you about political freedoms for African Americans during Reconstruction?
- How do the authors use emotion to appeal to fellow citizens about African American political rights?
- Find an example of the authors mentioning pre-Civil War events or documents and explain why you think they chose that example to support their arguments.
Sentiment: attitude or feeling toward something
Deem: to have as an opinion
Grievances: complaints against unfair or unjust acts
Disfranchisement: voting and/or political power being taken away from a person or group
Meekness: being quiet or submissive
Reproach or denunciation: blame or condemnation
Complexional: skin color
Emancipation: freedom from enslavement
Acquiesce: agree or consent
Inalienable: cannot be taken away
Instituted: established or organized
Suffrage: right to vote