Monday, September 21, 2009

Contributions of Our Early Black Congressmen

Our history is of course tainted by our treatment of our black citizens for many years. But change was in the wind from our earliest days. In fact, the Declaration of Independence was in danger of never being born because of disagreements about slavery and blacks.

Marked changed took place in the mid-1800's. Certainly the Civil War is part of our history classes. But what about the somewhat quieter contributions made by some of our early black representatives in Congress. Consider some of the discussion around the Civil Rights Bill of 1875. From NYU's Law School we can see debate from Representatives Richard H. Cain and Joseph H. Rainey, both black men. In this debate, as in many others of our history, religious words played an important part. Yet, today many of the same words would be banned from school and would likely also be banned from historical monuments.

I have previously listed examples of the words of religious leaders. Now let's see some of the words of Mr. Cain and Mr. Rainey.

" they can arrogate to themselves all rights, all liberty, all law, all government, all progress, all science, all arts, all literature, and deny them to other men formed of God equally as they are formed, clothed with the same humanity; and endowed with the same intellectual powers, but robbed by their connivance of the means of development. I say I am at a loss to understand how they can deny to us these privileges and claim them for themselves."

"Yet because, forsooth, God Almighty made the face of the negro black, these gentlemen would deny him that right though he be a man."

"Before this Congress closes it will pass the civil-rights bill, giving equal rights and protection to all classes throughout the country. Then indeed, thank God, the last vestige of that old barbarism will have disappeared, and peace shall spread her wings over a united, prosperous, and happy people."

"I saw this with my own eyes, and therefore can testify before God and man as to the fact."

The entire address can be found here:

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