Library of Congress


The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Lesson Plans > African American Identity in the Gilded Age

Back to Lesson Plans

African American baseball players from Morris Brown College

[Detail] African American baseball players from Morris Brown College

Some lessons from the assassination of President William McKinley: by Rev. Francis J. Grimke ... ; delivered September 22, 1901.

Francis James Grimke, African-American author, activist, and pastor of the 15th Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC, uses the patriotism of a black man named Parker (who prevented a third shot from being fired at assassinated President William McKinley) as an opportunity to call on the nation to recognize blacks as full and equal citizens with guaranteed civil rights.

(5.) The tragedy at Buffalo calls attention to the Negro, and in a way that is worthy of more than a passing notice. The part which Parker played in that scene, which sent a thrill of horror throughout the nation, was magnificent. It was his strong right arm which struck down the assassin and which prevented a third shot. It is true that did not save the life of the President, but that fact can not alter in the least the character of the act. Without thought of self, in the consciousness of the fact the the nation's head was imperiled, he threw himself with all the power that he could command upon the assassin. It was heroic! It was an act that was worthy of any man! I thank God for every such exhibition of courage, of daring, of heroic self-forgetfulness, by whosoever exhibited, but I am especially thankful that, in this particular instance, it happened to be a Negro. The nation needed, and never more so than at this time, just such an object lesson to bring to its attention the true character of its black loyal citizens. What Parker did at Buffalo is what the Negro has ever stood ready to do in every crisis of its history. His strong right arm has always stood ready to strike down all foes, foreign or domestic. In the Revolutionary War, in the War of 1812, in the great Civil War, in the War with Spain, he made a glorious and imperishable record for himself. And at Buffalo he has given another proof of the fact that he may always be depended upon. There are no black traitors in this land, and never have been. There are no black anarchists in this land, and never have been. It is impossible to write the history of this country, to speak of its patriotism, of its valor, of its heroism, and leave the Negro out.

Parker's splendid deed at Buffalo---Parker, as the representative of ten millions of loyal Negroes in this land---I want to hold up this morning before the American people, and ask the nation if it can afford to treat slightingly a people which is capable of such deeds, and which has so true to it in all its history? Let this deed of Parker's be lifted up; let us make much of it; let it be spread far and wide, in the hope that the eyes of the nation may be opened to see the true value of the people whom he represents, and that its conscience may be quickened to do right by this people.


A good deal has been said about getting up some form of testimonial, of rewarding in some way this black hero, which is all well. Let the subscriptions that have been opened in various parts of the country go on; but if I understand the mind of this man Parker; if I may venture to read his heart, as a self-respecting, race-loving Negro, who has lived in this country, and who has felt the iron heel of oppression upon his neck simply because of the color of his skin, I know what he would say: "I thank you, gentlemen. Get up testimonials, if you will; but don't stop there. If the nation wants to show its appreciation of what I have done, let it manifest it by throwing around my race the strong arm of its protection; let it see to it that it is secured in the enjoyment of all its rights---civil and political---just as other citizens are. If the business and laboring men want to show their appreciation, let them manifest it by throwing wide open their places of business and labor organizations to the members of my race, as to other races, and give them the same opportunity of earning an honest and honorable living as is given to other. It wasn't the desire for notoriety that prompted the deed; nor was it in the hope of receiving any financial reward. It was simply from a sense of duty; because I felt that it was the right thing to do. I am no pauper, gentlemen; I have always been able to take care of myself. The same strong arm that struck down the assassin is still able to earn a living. Money is not an unacceptable gift; but nearer to my heart, a thousand times than millions of dollars, are the sacred, God-given rights that belong to me and my race as men and as American citizens. Though you piled your gifts of money to the skies and withheld from me and mine these rights or stood by and saw us despoiled of them, I would spurn your gifts."

And those are the sentiments of this black race all over this country, if I read its heart aright. It isn't notoriety that it wants; it isn't financial reward that it is seeking for all of its splendid service to the Republic. No! What it wants is its rights--rights guaranteed under the Constitution; what it wants is to be treated as other citizens of the Republic are treated. It has a right to expect that, and the nation ought to be ashamed of itself, in view of its past splendid record, to treat it otherwise. The heroism of this man, Parker, at Buffalo, is a challenge to the nation to show reasons why this black race should have its rights abridged and its privileges curtailed; why it should be treated with less consideration than other citizens of the Republic, and it is a challenge which the nation can not and ought not to ignore.

Full text (Library of Congress/African-American Perspectives: Pamphlets from the Daniel A.P.Murray Collection, 1818-1907)