Frederick Douglass Project Writings: Horace Greeley and Colonization

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Frederick Douglass' Paper, February 16, 1852.

Frederick Douglass' Paper is requested to take notice that the Tribune is quite as willing that the blacks should colonize in this country as out of it. Our opinion is that the work of civilizing and Christianizing Africa is one which especially commends itself to the civilized and Christianized blacks of this country; but we would like to see them buy out a township in Southern Jersey, or a county in Nebraska for a beginning, and see what work they would make of colonizing that. What we mean to make them do, even at the expense of incurring their deadliest hatred, is to stop currying horses, blacking boots and opening oysters for a living and go to plowing, hoeing and harvesting their own fields, where the world can see what they do and who does it. Hitherto the great mass of them have acted as if their race were made for servitude and unfit for anything else.— We don't believe that, but they act as if they did, and we mean to make them act differently if we can.—Tribune.

We are glad to know that the Tribune is "willing" that the blacks should colonize in this country; for, however indifferent such willingness may seem, when viewed from the stand-point of right and justice, it is magnified into a shining virtue, when compared with the cruel and bitter spirit which would drive every freeman of color off this continent. But we differ from the Tribune, even in its more innocent notion of colonization. We say to every colored man, be a man where you are; neither a "township in Southern Jersey," nor a "county in Nebraska," can serve you. You must be a man here, and force your way to intelligence, wealth and respectability. If you can't do that here, you can't do it there. By changing your place, you don't change your character. We believe that contact with the white race, even under the many unjust and painful restrictions to which we are subjected, does more toward our elevation and improvement, than the mere circumstance of being separated from them could do. The truth is
sometimes acknowledged by Colonizationists themselves. They argue (for a diabolical purpose it is true) that the condition of our race has been improved by their situation as slaves, since it has brought them into contact with a superior people, and afforded them facilities for acquiring knowledge. This position is sound, though the hearts that gave it birth, are rotten. We hold, that while there is personal liberty in the Northern States for the colored people, while they have the privilege to educate their children, to speak and write out their sentiments, to petition, and in some instances, and with some qualifications, to exercise the right of suffrage, the time has not come for them to emigrate from these States to any other country, and last of all, to the wilds of Africa. The Tribune need not, we think, apprehend the "deadliest hatred" of the colored people, by urging them to "stop currying horses, blacking boots, and opening oysters for a living." Numbers of them are taking this advice, and urging it upon others. Be patient, Mr. Greeley, a nation may not be born in a day, without a miracle.