Mary Church Terrell

Black People and Arguments by Democrats in Favor of the League of Nations - 26 October 1920

Mary Church Terrell
October 26, 1920— Providence, Rhode Island
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Providence, R. I.

October 26, 1920

When were the rights incorporated in the treaty, he asks? When was there a league in defense of the black man? In what peace council have we been represented?

In answer to that question, I would like to say, the rights of the colored people were incorporated in the Constitution of the United States, and they have been scrapped and scuttled and destroyed by the Party which this writer of “pretty stuff” represents.

There was once upon a time a league in defense of the black man which the representatives of the Democratic Party have been trying for many years to destroy. There were once representatives in the councils of the United States, thanks to the efforts put forth by the Republican Party, but owing to the inquitous means made by the Democratic Party which have disfranchised the colored men in sixteen states, fifteen million colored people of this country have not one single representative in the halls of Congress today.

The questions which this write of Buncum asks are not unanswerable at all, but they certainly justify the apathy which intelligent colored people have shown to that party which has done nothing but evil to them all of its unjust, negro hating life. The writer claims that though other races have much to gain in the league and covenant, that it holds for the colored people everything that men hold most dear. He is right when he say that “when civilization trembled in the balance from Senegal alone hundreds of thousands of brave black men cam to fight for the right, and more than 90,000 of them lie buried on those battlefields, along that frontier of freedom which for four long years they helped to hold against bullet, shell-blast and gas.”

He says “I have seen fields like these on which black men from the Niger and from the West Indies, from the Mississippi and from Morocco, from Senegal and South Carolina had made the supreme sacrifice together. Often they knew not a word of each other’s language, but they were animated by a single purpose, they fought for equal rights for all men without distinction of color or as to former servitudes. They won and died. You live, and it seems to me unthinkable that you should repudiate what they won for you and your children’s children. And yet that is the question before you at the coming election. You must vote for the treaty, or you must vote it down”.

The record which this writer of Buncum shows that the black men from all parts of the world made is the only truthful statement that he makes. It is true that the black races of the earth fought and won that great battle at the Marne, but if those same black men who were saving the civilization of France, the whole of Europe and the United States as well; if those same black men came to this country and went to that section where democrats are strongest, they would be disfranchised and lynched if they attempted to secure their rights.

[hw] This person perpetrating a piece of pretty writing on the public accuses [colored people] of showing apathy toward the treaty. The intelligent deserve great credit for showing only apathy. They exhibit commendable self-control not to treat those high-sounding phrases and glittering generalities about self-determination of small nations and other [loving] rot like that with scorn and contempt. In answer to the question when were the rights of the c. r incorporated? I wd like to say the rights of the c r were incorporated by the R.P in a civil treaty right after the war which we call the 13 14 & 16 amendments of the constitution of the U.S and ever since the R.P incorporated the rights of the c r unto the constitution of the US the Dem Party has done everything in its power to make them null & void. So that today in that section of the country where the D are the strongest the c r has no rights at all which the D.P is bound to support.

He also asks when was there a league in defense of the black man? It is no wonder that this rep of the D.P is [illegible] to ask such a question. The D have never forced a league for the defense of the black man from the day it was organized till the present time. But since he asks that question I will try to answer it. Before the war there was a league formed for the defense of the black man. It was composed of some of the strongest most courageous men the world has ever seen. These men & women were known as abolitionists. The men who belong to the party this writer represents, their fathers & grandfathers did nothing for fear but persecute & [harass] these men & women who composed the league for the colored man’s defense. There is to day another league for the col man’s defense. It is necessary because of the injustice perpetrated upon c. r by members of the Dem party because in that section where a Dem grows on every bush and tree col people are beaten & shot & burned to death. Not long a representative of this modern league formed for the col man’s defense went into the State of Texas. There he was beaten badly by leading men of one of the large [illegible]. When one of the highest State officials was urged to punish the lawbreakers, he upheld them in this brutal attack upon the man who belongs to the league formed in the col man’s defense and these criminals have been allowed to escape. They have never been punished at all.

Again the question is asked by this rep of the Dem Party, in what peace courts have colored people been represented. The col people were represented in a council here in our own country called the Congress of the U.S. But they have been robbed of the right of citizensh by the D Party that there is not a single rep of 15 col people in the country in the Congress of the US. [hw]

It is difficult to imagine a greater reflection upon the intelligence of the colored people of this country than to have representatives of that Party which has done everything in its power to destroy the right of black men, call our attention to the fact that black men vote for equal rights for all men, when they have no rights of any description where the Democratic Party holds forth.

This man says “in the treaty drawn up in Versailles there is full recognition of what your race did in the cause of civilization in the days of great danger that persisted from 1914 to 1918, and that Ex-President Taft said, “that article X embodies the commandment, “thou shalt not steal”.” Nevertheless, the Democratic Party has done nothing but steal the rights from the colored man ever since the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

We are also told “that Article XXII extends the Emancipation Proclamation of Lincoln to the whold world.” I would like to ask him how any article can extend the Emancipation Proclamation of Lincoln to the whold world, when liberty, freedom, and equality of opportunities are not extended to colored people right here in the United States.

We are also told by this writer “if you vote for Governor Cox, the man who says “I will go in,” it means that you and your race, from poll to poll, wherever the children of Ham are held in political and economic slavery, will be free with equal rights before the world law with any other men whatsoever their color. How stupid we would be if we really believed such a promise as that one when right here in the United States where that Party is supporting the treaty fifteen loyal patriotic citizens are not and can not enjoy equal rights.

We are told also “the treaty of Versailles was signed by the negro representatives of Haiti and Liberia, and by the American peace delegates in representation of our twelve million colored citizens.” If President King of Liberia or the representatives of Haiti tried to travel through that section where the Democrats have their strongest hold they would be forced to ride in Jim-Crow cars. If they committed an offense they might be thrown in police camps or placed on the chain gang with a ball and chain hanging at their feet as they trudged their weary way working through the streets. The fact that Mr. King was president of Liberia would not help him to secure hotel accommodations; neither could he buy a sandwich unless he found colored people who sold them in the section where Democrats hold forth.

We are also told that we may bring to the attention of the assembly “any circumstance whatever affecting international relations which threaten to disturb international peace or the good understanding between nations upon which peace depends. That a man or woman of African race may be chosen to represent the continent of his ancestors and it is certain that those who sit there will be chosen in part by his vote and can only stay there subject to his approval. Can any sane colored man who knows anything about the way Democrats respect the laws made in the interest of his race believe that a black man would be able to do anything in the council of the league if the Democrats had power to prevent it

We are also told “that one million square miles of African which was taken away from Germany has been redeemed by the Treaty and removed from the encroachments of all powers that might be tempted to steal them, and that this African territory is placed under mandataries and trustees who will have to report to us colored people at fixed periods and render and account of their stewardship at least once a year. Those of us who know anything of the dealings of the white race of the world with the colored race know full well that the only place anything could be put which would keep the white race on earth from stealing it would be in Heaven itself, and then the Lord would have to keep a very watchful eye over these white angels to keep them from slipping it away.

We are told also there is nothing so small, or so unimportant that the members of the negro race can not bring to the council of the Nation. How can we believe that we would be able to induce Democrats who might represent this country on the council to consider anything to which we try to call their attention since no matter how big or important a matter concerning us may be in the United States, they pay no attention to it whatever. Can we plead with them to respect the Constitution of the United States? What in the world could be more vital to human beings than the right to protect themselves by ballot at the polls. They laugh us to scorn. When we beg them to allow us to chose a man to represent us, they look upon us as a huge joke.

We are also told that the American Negro is to decide whether this treaty should be voted for, or voted down, we would now hold the balance of power in the coming election as we did in 1892, and a change of 25% in the negro vote of six pivotal states this year will decide not only who will be inaugurated in Washington next year, but it will decide whether the Emancipation Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln is to have world-wide force and effect. If it were possible to prove to the intelligent colored people of this country? ---If we could be made to realize that their votes could remove from power the party who has so shamefully abused and mistreated them, I am quite certain that they would do their duty to their race.

There is no colored man or woman in the United States outside of the insane asylum who believes that the Democratic Party would raise its finger to cause the Emancipation Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln to have world-wide force when it makes no attempt to do such a thing at home. Colored people in this country have been loyal, patriotic in every sense of the word.

The wealth of the South has been made for the white people of that section by the black man’s unrequited toil for three hundred years and by his poorly paid labor. When a man does not love his neighbor whom he has seen, how can he love those whom he has not seen?

Terrell, Mary Church. “Black People and Arguments by Democrats in Favor of the League of Nations.” Mary Church Terrell Papers. Library of Congress. 26 October 1920.