Marie Foster

Address at First Baptist Church - Oct. 5, 1963

Marie Foster
October 05, 1963— Selma, Alabama
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Master of ceremonies, platform guests, ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys, I'm happy to see all of you tonight. We welcome you back to our sixteenth mass meeting. We welcome you to our first-class citizenship council. Our continuation of theme, tonight, is time: time to accept and time to refuse. What is it time for the Negro to accept and refuse? It is time for the Negro to accept the fact that discrimination is worldwide, and other countries express horror at the United States' handling of the racial problem. And it is time to refuse to compromise and cooperate with race discrimination.

Racial segregation in Britain has caused Parliament to end free entry from other countries. Negroes had been coming in from the Caribbean at the rate of six thousand a month; now fewer than seven hundred and fifty a month may enter. In Britain, we are discriminated against in housing, jobs, and sometimes restaurants. When Negroes make hotel reservations, they often find no rooms available when they appear. The thirty-two thousand Negroes in Canada often encounter discrimination in seeking jobs or housing accommodations. Negro tourists from the United States are sometimes turned away from resorts despite advanced reservations and deposits. In Bulgaria, authorities banned the African Student Union because Bulgarian students refused to sit by African students.

Are we pushing too hard for our rightful place in God's world and this supposed to be land of freedom? No. Because we refuse to believe what a Mrs. Bernard Gaillot of New Orleans said. She says she doesn't have to wonder what God thinks about race. She knows God is a segregationist. That is sad, sad, sad. That anyone would be so mislead, so ignorant, so filled with prejudice, and have so much prejudice, hatred, and wrong information instilled into their hearts and minds that they would use God to cover up their prejudice. Then it is time for the Negro to awaken and realize what is going on.

It is time that other races besides the Negro race awaken to realization. And realize that if they live, eat, and sleep in church, their efforts would be just what one of the greatest leaders in our history, Frederick Douglass said. "Just a sham, their boast of liberty for the Negro. If they boast of liberty for the Negro, it's an unholy license. Their denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impotence, their shouts of liberty and equality is hollow mockery. Their prayers, hymns, sermons , thanksgivings, and religious parades are to God fraud, deception, hypocrisy, and a veil to cover up crimes that would disgrace a nation of savages if they don't believe that the God they serve loves every man regardless of the color of his skin."

And speaking of the word "savages," some time ago it was leaflets put out and strung up and down the highways of Alabama. And on these leaflets it was something like this written, "Do you want your children to go to school with Negroes? Do you want your children to go to school with savages?" It is in a late issue in one of our magazines where a survey and interview were made. It was made of the north, east, and west. And what these men wanted to know was what white people thought about integration and equal rights for Negroes. They said they received some "yes" and some "no's", and they think a greater percentage of "yes," but with a lot of "but's." It was a lot of "but's" that went along with the answers "yes." And it was something like this: "Yes, I think they should have equal rights, but I wouldn't like to live next door to a Negro. They put their garbage on the lawn." Others would say, "Yes, I think they should have their equal rights, but they should work their way up." Some would say they thought we should have our equal rights, but we are pushing too hard. The housing subject was the most touchy subject. It was said by one man that he wouldn't like for a Negro to live next door to him because he thought Negroes were like savages.

These people think that we are like savages because they know nothing about us. Nothing, absolutely nothing. And why they don't know anything about us? Because they don't communicate with us. And why they don't communicate with us? Because as little children they have been told that Negroes are niggers. And niggers are dirty, shiftless, lazy, and just plain inferior. I have been walking down the street and little white children, small things, just little tender things, and they would point their finger at me and say, "Nigger, nigger, nigger, you an old, old nigger." And I would say to the child, "Honey, who told you that?" And she would say, "My momma."

It's really pathetic 'cause I have actually held conversations with them. And they are just as innocent and sweet, and you talk with them, and they are friendly with you, but they have been told these things. And it grows up in 'em, and so when they become men and women, then they look down on us. And they actually think that all of us are inferior, dirty, shiftless, and lazy. And they also think that we never get grown, especially the men; they are always boys. And women, if we marry ten times, we're still just called by our first names. We can't be given the title "Mrs."; we can't be given that distinction. But there are places in Alabama that have awakened. They realize the value of the black dollar. So some of them are giving married Negro women their title as "Mrs." So we are just letting Selma sleep.

Here is proof of what training and the ballot can do for savages. In 1875 a Negro by the name of Pinckney Benton Steward Pinchback was sitting in the governor's mansion in Louisiana. Blanche Kelso Bruce, a Negro, attended Oberlin College, moved to Mississippi, and in 1869 became county sheriff of Mississippi. And in 1875 he was sitting in Jefferson Davis's old seat in the United States Senate. A Negro was secretary of state in Florida. James Pike, a Negro, was in the House of Representatives in South Carolina. It was the first western assembly of its kind, and Pike reported, "The speaker is black, the clerk is black, the door keepers are black, the little pages are black, the chairman of Ways and Means Committee is black, and the chaplain is coal black." Now we see, the ballot has no color line and is colorblind.

As printed in Houck, D.W., and Dixon, D.E. (Eds.) (2009). Women and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965. Jackson, Miss.: University Press of Mississippi.