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"...In all the relations of life and death, we are met by the color line..."

Three Addresses on the Relations Subsisting between the White and Colored People of the United States.

Washington, D.C: Gibson Bros, 1886.

Price: $8,500.00


About the item

First edition. 68pp. 8vo. "...In all the relations of life and death, we are met by the color line..." Publisher's green lettered wrapper, lacks lower wrapper, repairs to minor tears, minor staining. Minor toning. Not in Blockson or Library Company Afro-Americana.

Item #368450

This pamphlet comprises Douglass' speech at Louisville Kentucky on September 24, 1883 at a Convention of Colored Men, a speech in Washington, D.C. on April 16, 1885 commemorating the 23rd anniversary of the abolition of slavery and a speech the same day the following year on the 24th anniversary.

The 1883 Louisville speech was an important one in Douglass' canon. Delivered at the Convention of Colored Men, his speech answered the posed question—why are we holding this convention? In his answer Douglass asserted the importance and urgency for Black communities to secure full voting rights and fair and equal treatment: "We are asked not only why hold a convention, but, with emphasis, why hold a colored convention? Why keep up this odious distinction between citizens of a common country and thus give countenance to the color line? It is argued that, if colored men hold conventions, based on color, white men may hold white conventions based upon color, and thus keep open the chasm between one and the other class of citizens, and keep alive a prejudice which we profess to deplore. We state the argument against us fairly and forcibly, and will answer it candidly and we hope conclusively. By that answer it will be seen that the force of the objection is, after all, more in sound than in substance. No reasonable man will ever object to white men holding conventions in their own interests, when they are once in our condition and we in theirs, when they are the oppresses and we the oppressors. In point of fact, however, white men are already in convention against us in various ways and at many important points. The practical construction of American life is a convention against us. Human law may know no distinction among men in respect of rights, but human practice may. Examples are painfully abundant." Indeed, three weeks later, on October 15, 1883, the United States Supreme Court struck down the Civil Rights Act of 1875.

His 1886 speech, the third speech printed in this pamphlet, was equally moving. Given on the twenty-fourth anniversary of the abolition of slavery, the speech, known as the Southern Barbarism speech, foreshadowed Martin Luther King's rhetoric of the Civil Rights era: "The American people have this lesson to learn, that where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property would be safe... While I hold now, as I held years ago, that the South is the natural home of the colored race, and that there must the destiny of that race be mainly worked out, I still believe that means can be and ought to be adopted, to assist in the emigration of such of their number as may wish to change their residence to parts of the country, where their civil and political rights are better protected than at present they can be at the South..."

While well represented institutionally, this collection of speeches by Douglass in the midst of the post-Reconstruction period is scarce on the market. It is the first example we have handled and we find no other copies in the market or in the recent auction records.