Nannie Helen Burroughs

Unload the Leeches and Parasitic "Toms" and Take the Promised Land - c. 1933

Nannie Helen Burroughs
January 01, 1933
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The Negro must unload the leeches and parasitic leaders who are absolutely eating the life out of the struggling, desiring mass of people.

Chloroform your “Uncle Toms!” Negroes like that went out of style seventy years ago. They are relics and good for museums. I don’t care whether they are in the church as the preacher, in the school as the teacher, in the ward as a politician--the quickest way to get rid of them is the best way, and the sooner the better. They are luxurious, expensive, unworthy. The “Uncle Toms” are greater enemies than [Ben] Tillman or Cole[man] Blease had ever been to the Negro race.

They have sold us for a mess of pottage. We got the mess, but not the pottage. The question, “What am I going to get out of it?” must get out of our thinking. This race would have been one hundred years advanced if it had not been for this thought uppermost in the minds of our so-called leaders.

No Deliverers

Don’t wait for deliverers…. I like that quotation, “Moses, my servant, is dead. Therefore, arise and go over Jordan.” There are no deliverers. They’re all dead. We must arise and go over Jordon. We can take the promised land.

Die for Justice

The Negro must serve notice on the world that he is ready to die for justice. To struggle and battle and overcome and absolutely defeat every force designed against us is the only way to achieve. Men must have life, the opportunity to learn, to labor, to love. Without these fundamental virtues we cannot achieve. We must not give up the struggle until this is obtained.

No Charity

More than this, the Negro must glorify the things of the spirit and keep the things of the flesh under control. We must get a correct sense of values. When we’ve accomplished this--Shiloh will be here.

Human beings are equipped with divinely planted yearnings and longings. That’s what the constitution meant by certain unalienable rights.

Don’t Apologize

The Negro is oppressed not because he is a Negro, but because he’ll take it. Negroes, forget your color. Stop apologizing for not being white and rank your race.

Organize yourself inside. Teach your children the internals and eternals, rather than the externals. Be more concerned with “putting in” than “getting on.” Ye have been too bothered about the externals--clothes, money. What we need are mental and spiritual giants who are aflame with a purpose.

Anglo-Saxon has Four Loves

The Anglo-Saxon has four great loves. Love of liberty, love of home, love of women, and love of life. He’ll wade through blood for these. When we make up our minds to not take substitutes for them, we’ll get them.

But we’re not going to get them as individuals. The day of individualism is past. We’ll get them as a great race or group.


We’re a race ready to crusade, for we’ve recognized that we’re a race on this continent that can work out its own salvation. A race must build for nobility of character, for a conquest not on things, but on spirit.

We must have a glorified womanhood that can look any man in the face--white, red, yellow, brown or black--and tell of the nobility of character within black womanhood.

Bow Down to Women

Stop making slaves and servants of our women. We’ve got to stop singing, “Nobody works but father.” The Negro mother is doing it all. The women are carrying the burden.

The main reason is that the men lack manhood and energy. They sing too much “I can’t give you anything but love, Baby.” The women can’t build homes, rear families off of love alone. The man ought to get down on their knees to Negro women. They’ve made possible all we have around us--church, home, school, business.

Aspire to be, and all that we are not, God will give us credit for trying.

As transcribed in Graves, Kelisha B. (ed.) 2019. Nannie Helen Burroughs: A Documentary Portrait of an Early Civil Rights Pioneer, 1900–1959. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.