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African American baseball players from Morris Brown College

[Detail] African American baseball players from Morris Brown College

A sermon on the war : "the duty of colored citizens to their country" : delivered before the Colored Military Companies of Atlanta, Sunday evening, May 1st, 1898, at the First Congregational Church, Atlanta, Ga., by Rev. H.H. Proctor.

Henry Hugh Proctor (1868-1933) urges African-Americans to support the war effort against Spain in 1898 and to enroll in the U.S. army. In this excerpt, he offers reasons why African-Americans should demonstrate their loyalty, even in the face of continued suffering.

Why Be Loyal.

I pass on to some positive considerations. Why we should be loyal in this crisis? I do not, however, take stock in some of the reasons advanced.

We do not need to fight at this time to show that we are brave; that has been demonstrated. That monument on Boston common erected in honor of the first martyrs in the Revolutionary war, the noble words of Andrew Jackson to the colored men who formed the breastworks at New Orleans, the record of the two hundred thousand black soldiers in the civil war--these tell the world of the black man's bravery. You remember the incident at Fort Wagner. Colonel Shaw made a brilliant charge against great odds. The color bearer fell, but another caught the flag and carried it to the top of the fort. Tho wounded as he stood before the rain of bullets he held to the flag until retreat, and when they brought Sergeant Carney to the hospital amid cheers of his wounded comrades he said: "Boys, the old flag never touched the ground." Such men have established our claim to bravery.

We do not need to fight to show our loyalty. We have not only showed our loyalty in time of war, but at a time when it is more difficult to do so. I refer to times of peace. What portion of our complex citizenry today is more loyal than the black? At the belated call of their country they came two hundred thousand strong, and in the days of subsequent peace they showed the genuineness of their loyalty by settling down to hard work. If our loyalty has not been demonstrated in the past, we must despair of doing so now.

The Real Reason.

The real reason why the duty of the hour demands our loyalty is in this. Our country is engaged in a righteous war. It is war for larger liberty. The freedom of manhood, the purity of womanhood, the future of childhood--these are in the womb of this struggle. It is an appeal to the highest sentiments. Our country is responding to the call. We are a real part of this country, and nothing that concerns her is without interest to us. We are not Afro-Americans, but Americans to the manor born. There should be no hyphen in American citizenship.

If we do not co-operate with our country in this humanitarian movement will it not indicate that we have not caught the American spirit? Will it not show that those finer feelings and nobler instincts that move others, that are moving this whole nation, do not appeal to us? I know there are no people richer in feeling and finer in instincts than the cultured of the race I speak to tonight. The remembrance of our sad past and the Mighty Hand that delivered us but adds to our natural fitness to sympathize with the people of Cuba in their struggle to throw off the yoke that galls and dash in pieces the cup that is bitter.

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