Mary Church Terrell

The Progressive Party and the Negro - 1912

Mary Church Terrell
January 01, 1912
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The Progressive Convention which terminated at Chicago August 5th, 1912, was notable for its fight upon the matter of Negro rights. Every other policy as inaugurated by the new patty was outlined in advance. Every principle upon which it was based had been decided in advance. The Progressive Leaders disgrundled by the ation of the Republican Party at Chicago determined that a new party should be formed dedicates with high sounding phrases such as the “equality of all citizens”, “equality opportunity”, “social justice justice” and other mottos that would appeal to the country. A number of Negro citizens immediately decided to enter into the plans and formation of this new party. Particularly was this true of a number of Negro delegates of the Republican National Convention who had bolted the regular organizations of their states and supported Colonel Roosevelt in the Republican National Convention such as Perry W. Howard, Daniel Garey, Wm. Locker of Mississippi, Wm. P. Andrews, Baxter and Wilson of South Carolina and other colored delegates of South Carolina and many others in the Southern and Northern states.

Immediately when he was defeated for that nomination, they cast their fortunes with the Progressive Party and endeavored in the South to enter the new party. They were however met with a delegation of men like B.S. Fridge, the Roosevelt representative of Mississippi, who in promulgating his call requested “that all white men” of past party affiliations to assemble at a hotel in Jackson, Mississippi that did not allow Negroes even to enter the front door, but had to go to the back door for admission, where the servants and others were in the habit of entering. This was the rule agreed upon in all the Southern states by the leaders of the Roosevelt movement such as Pearl Whight, Colonel John N. Parker of Louisiana, Cecil Lyon of Texas and other who have long advocated the “lily-white” policy in Southern states. The Negroes and liberal white leaders of the South depending upon Colonel Roosevelt’s past attitude to the Negro organized their states of white Progressive leaders of the South. These delegates from the states of Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Florida, Georgia and Alabama were thrown out by the Committee on Credentials. It was decided to make the party a white man’s party in the South absolutely, in the endeavor to catch the white Southern vote. To minimize this effect, however Colonel Roosevelt gave personal instruction to a number of Northern states to add a Negro delegate or two in order to hold the colored vote of the North and that a plank would be put in the platform which would be satisfactory to the Northern colored voters.

After the decision to exclude the Negro delegates from the Convention it was decided by a number of the Negro’s friends in the Convention to put the party on record, as giving him some recognition. A number of their friends led by Prof. J. E. Spingarn, Chairman of the New York Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of colored people advocated the adoption of this resolution:

“The National Progressive Party recognises that distinction of race or class in political life have no place in a Democracy. Especially soed the party realize that a group of ten million people who in a generation have changed from slave to a free labor system, re-established family life, accumulated a billion dollars of real property including ten million acres of land and reduced their illiteracy from eighty to thirty percent deserve and must have a voice in their own government. The National Progressive Party therefore, assures the Americans of African descent of its deep interest in his welfare and in the gradual growth of his political power.”

Embolden however, by their success in throwing out all the Southern and elected delegates to the Convention the Southern phylanx declared that the Progressive party must not record one sentiment in favor of the Negro, but must go on record nationally as a white man’s party. Cecil Lyon, the great “lily-white” leader of the South who was defeated in his efforts to “jim-crow” the Negro in Texas in the Republican party, by Hon. Wm. McDonald, the worthy successor of Wright Cuney said:

“I presume we will have to stand for these Northern Negroes this time in order to get in.” But John N. Parker of New Orleans said:

“If this is not a white man’s party Louisiana withdraws.” and Fridge of Mississippi in busy activities raising the old democratic cry of Negro domination said:

“Negro domination always ends in lynching. I never had to kill a Negro yet, and I don’t want to begin now.”

These and other similar opinions at once participated a fight in the Convention. Miss Jane Addams of Chicago, Prof. J. E. Spingarn Chairman of the New York branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Prof. Hayes of Cornell, Mr. Halden of Minnesota and other Negro sympathizers of jsutice for the Negro demanded that he receive a square deal from the convention. Miss Addams said:

“I believe that our party should adopt a sound and consistent attitude in reference to the rights of the ten million Negroes of this country. What may we believe when we read on one column of a newspaper that the Negro has been discriminated against, and in another that our party is founded on the equality of all? We must not place this party in the position to taking from the Negroes the right of citizenship given him by the Civil War. We realize there must be a balcane of power in the South, but we must conside our attitude carefully in view of our declaration of the equality of mankind.”

Dr. Venerable of Missouri said to the Committee on Credentials: “Senator Beveridge in his keynote speech in the convention said: The hand of God extended from above, whose bedrock is truth and righteousness, is our guide. If you seated the lily-white delegates who are here by fraud, I would at once inquire to what God is it the Progressive Party is looking.”

Attorney Perry W. Howard a colored delegate elected to both the National Republican and Progressive Conventions from his state said:

“Am I to go back home and tell my children I was disfranchised by the party in the very city and almonst across the street from where Abraham Lincoln fifty-two years ago made the fight which led to our enfranchisement? I had been given to understand, and so had all of my race that this was a big humanitarian movement for the rights of all, irrespective of race, color or creed.”

The battle was tensely drawn and resulted in a clear cut victory for the Southern forces. Their persistent efforts even prevented the Spingarn resolution from being adopted by the New York state delegation of which he was a member. The resolution was laid on the table because the avowed policy was to do nothing that was not in keeping with the demand of the Southerners to have a National “lily-white”, “jim-crow” party. So exultant was this southern crowd in their victory that they demanded that General McDowell of the Confederate Veterans of Tennessee be allowed the Roosevelt nomination, and that this man who had waged bloody war for four years to keep the Negro enslaved and to separate this nation was made the greatest hero of the Progressive Convention on the nomination, while the band played, “Dixie.” The Negro voters of the North however have risen in solid phylanx to the defense of the rights of their brothers in the South. They have declared that there is no need for another National jim-crow party. The Democratic party having exercised that function for nearly fifty years, and that a party that attempts to be Progressive in the North, re-actionary in the South on the Negro question, to pet the Negro of the North and cater to the Negro hating whites of the South shall not receive the support of the Negro voters where there votes are counted.

The incidious growth of this decision of the National Progressive Convention is already felt by the attitude of the colorphobists and those who are pushing in this country the propaganda against the Negroes rights. Senator Newlands of Nevada, said:

“Colonel Roosevelt opened up a very interesting question in declaring that this new party shoule be a white man’s party.

It is true that he weakened the logic of his position by declaring that it should be white in the South and black and white in the North, but perfection in mental processes is not expected by one who is going through a revolution of long held opinions. He will come out alright in the end, and will reach the inevitable conclusion that the blacks as a race must everywhere in this country be deprived of sovereignty; and that is what black suffrage means. The same reason that justifies disfranchisement of the blacks in party disfranchises it in government. If we ought to have a white man’s party we should also have a white man’s government. Does not the same reasoning which demands the Negroes disfranchisement in parties demand his disfranchisement in government?

But the Colonel as to this question is on the right road, though he is yet unwilling to go far enough.["]

Terrell, Mary Church. “The Progressive Party and the Negro.” Mary Church Terrell Papers. Library of Congress. 1912.