Mary Church Terrell

Something for Colored People to Think About - 1932

Mary Church Terrell
January 01, 1932
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Something for Colored People to Think About.

Written by Mary Church Terrell

1615 S St., N.W. Washingyon, D.C.

[1932]

Everybody who loves his country, his family and his fellowman should work with might and main to keep the Republican Party in control of national affairs. But no group of citizens should exert themselves more strenuously to do so than colored people, For no group will lose more if the Republican Party loses in the approaching election and no group will gain more by its success than colored people.

Every right which the colored people of this country enjoy was bestowed upon them by the Republican Party. The amendments to the Constitution which abolished slavery, and which bestowed upon ex-slaves the right of citizenship were written and passed by the Republican Party. On the other hand, every law which withholds from colored people the rights and privileges to which they are entitled as citizens has been passed by the Democratic party. Every measure designed to debar them from privileges which others enjoy has been instigated and sponsored by that same party.

In the section of this country where the Democratic Party wields absolute power colored citizens have been practically disfranchised for years, and they have been made victims of injustice in many ways. The Democratic Party is the father of the Jim Crow Car Laws which have worked an unspeakable hardship upon all colored people, but which bear down especially heavy upon colored women. The indignities to which colored women have been subjected on account of these laws and the horrors they have endured, no pen can portray and no tongue can tell.

In the stronghold of the Democratic Party hundreds of colored men and women have been lynched, and children too, while their murderers have, as a rule, not only escaped punishment, but have often not even been called to account for their crimes. In this same section colored people have been the victims of the Convict Lease System, which is another form of slavery and which in some respects is more cruel and more crushing than the old. By the Contract Labor System Colored people have been cheated and robbed in the stronghold of the Democratic Party for years.

When a man has the privilege of deciding who shall manage his affairs, he usually selects those who have promoted his welfare in the past and turns his back upon those who have retarded his progress and injured him again and again. Under the circumstances it is inconceivable that anybody through whose brain one drop of African blood flows and whose brain is hitting on all six would vote to give the Democratic Party control of national affairs.

“But let us live in the present and forget the past,” somebody suggests. “The Republican Party is no longer the party of Abraham Lincoln; colored people have paid it the debt of gratitude they owed it long ago and the Democratic Party may change.” Even though one grants for the sake of argument that the Republican Party might have done more to promote the welfare of colored people than it has done, it has always been their friend and has never been their foe. Of whatever sins of omission or commission the Republican Party may be accused, the fact remains that colored people are indebted to it for the only rights and privileges which they enjoy as citizens in the United States to day. When they are urged to change their political affiliations just for the sake of change, one is reminded of that classical little rhyme which runs: “Change just for the sake of change is like those big hotels Which are always changing plates and feed their guests on smells.”

The Democratic Party’s attitude toward colored people is the same today that it has always been. It is constantly proving in season and out that it has not changed toward them one single bit. Only recently in several states where the Democrats wield absolute power they have barred colored men from the polls and have refused to let them vote in the primaries. Texas, the state in which the Democratic candidate for the Vice-Presidency lives, is one of those States. Thus are the Democrats still withholding from colored people the right of citizenship and are still fighting the law that bestowed it upon them. Even after the Supreme Court rendered a decision that colored men have a right to vote in the Democratic primaries the men representing that party boast that they would find a way to circumvent the highest law in the land.

There are many broad-minded, justice loving Democrats in the North, who stand for justice and fair play, it is true. But the strength of the Democratic Party lies in the South. The South is the Democratic Party. The traditions, customs and laws of that section must be respected and observed by the North, though the Heavens fall. However eager northern Democrats may be to change these conditions they lack the power to put ideas and wishes into effect.

Not only has the Democratic Party assumed an unfriendly attitude toward the colored citizens of this country, but it has perpetrated an unspeakable injustice upon the dark people of a foreign land. Under President Wilson’s administration the United States marines were sent to seize and occupy Haiti in the name of the American government, although Haiti had been an independent government for more than one hundred years, was a member of the League of Nations and signed the Treaty of Versailles. Franklin Roosevelt, the man whom the Democrats want to make president of the United States, was Assistant Secretary of the Navy under Josephus Daniels and wrote the Constitution which snatched from that small and helpless country every right which it had previously possessed as a sovereign nation and made the people of Haiti vassals of the United States.

President Harding once declared that Franklin Roosevelt’s constitution was forced down the throat of the Haitian people at the point of the bayonet.

When Alfred Smith was the Democratic candidate for the presidency in 1928 he expressed himself forcibly against imperialism and promised to renounce it if he were elected. This attitude greatly endeared him to the Haitians. But the Haitian minister paid a glowing tribute to Herbert Hoover as a man with sound judgement, broad views and deep sympathy, to whom he himself would prefer to entrust the destiny of his country. Although Alfred Smith himself might have many admirable qualities, he said, he could not forget that the occupation of Haiti was the work of the Democratic party, that the Constitution of 1918 which was “forced down the throat of the Haitian people at the point of a bayonet” was written by Franklin Roosevelt, (then the friend of Alfred Smith) and that the army with which the Democrats would fight Herbert Hoover would be drawn from the Anti-Negro South.

One of the charges preferred against the Republican Party is that it is responsible for the hard times. But nobody who knows the facts and has any regard for the truth, would lay that at its door. The financial conditions which confronts the United States at present obtains practically all over the civilized world. The Republican Party is no more responsible for the depression to day than it would be for an epidemic of whooping cough that broke out in Swampoodle.

Both on account of its past and present record there is every reason why colored people should vote to keep the Republican Party in power. Sensible folks do not swap horses in the middle of a stream. There is no group of citizens in this country who would cast their ballots for a party which has been so inconsiderate and so unjust toward them as the Democratic Party has been toward colored people, when it was possible to vote for a party which had done so much to promote their welfare as the Republican Party has done for colored people.

Mary Church Terrell.

Terrell, Mary Church. “Something for Colored People to Think About.” Mary Church Terrell Papers. Library of Congress. 1932.