Nannie Helen Burroughs

A Celebrated Speech by a Celebrated Woman - Undated

Nannie Helen Burroughs
December 31, 1969
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I am publishing the speech of Miss Nannie H. Burroughs in my book, because of my superlative admiration for that superlative woman.

Out of many bright stars which have appeared upon the Race horizon, to shine in the firmament of Race uplift, and light the path to guide the footsteps of others--of those living and dead--there is one type for which I have supreme admiration; and they are the militant type of leadership.

Before and since emancipation, the race has claimed a few of these Fighting Cocks. They have been the salt of “our earth”, the “main stay” of the race. They are the Hannibals, the L’Overtures, the Sojourner Truths, the Napoleons of our group.

To this militant class belong Miss Nannie Burroughs, Roscoe Dunjee, William Pickens, Robert S. Abbott, John and Mrs. J. B. Bass of the California Eagle, of Los Angeles, and about a hand full of others I might mention. But these militant leaders are few and far between, in comparison with the ‘Uncle Toms’, as Miss Burroughs calls the parasitic element of our leadership.

In every country and clime there have ever been two opposing schools of though. These two opposing elements are in science, art, politics, and even religion. White people, to say nothing of Negros, are divided into two opposing schools of thought on the Negro’s rights and privilieges in America.

This is a “new age,” and we must needs develop a new type of leadership. The age and predicament of the race demands a militant type of leadership--militant editors, writers, preachers, teachers, lawyers. This new type of leadership will necessarily transform our group into a “New Nation.”

We, as a race, are the modern Israelites. We haven’t as yet reached the promised land, as Miss Burroughs so wittily tells us. We are still in the wilderness of doubt and fear, because of the old type of leadership; many of whom not only craved and cried for the “flesh pots of Egypt,” but actually returned to the land of Egypt. They returned because they were too near-sighted to see the land of promise just across the river--a land of plenty.

But, as the older heads who returned to Egypt have died, saving a few, and as the greater number of those who failed to return have died in the wilderness of fear and doubt, it is now time for the younger ones to cross over into the land “flowing with “Milk and Honey.” But it can only be done through united effort.

The following lecture of Miss Burroughs appeared in the December 23rd, issue of the Black Dispatch, published in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.



Nannie H. Burroughs.

Speaking on the subject, “What Must the Negro do to be Saved” Miss Burroughs said, “The Negro must unload the leeches and parasitic leaders who are absolutely eating the life out of the great 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 Tillman or Cole 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,” she admonished her listeners. Then taking a scripture for Joshua, she continued, “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 fet 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 womanhoon that can look any man in the face--white, red, yellow, brown or black--and tell of the nobility of character with 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, and 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,” she concluded. “and all that we are not, God will give us credit for trying.”