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African American baseball players from Morris Brown College

[Detail] African American baseball players from Morris Brown College

The Negro element in American life : an oration : delivered by Rev. A. L. DeMond, in the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, Jan. 1, 1900.

The first of January was a day of celebration for African-Americans who commemorated the day that President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. The Emancipation Proclamation Association resolved that this address by the Reverend A. L. DeMond (given in the church that much later would be pastored by Martin Luther King, Jr.) be published in pamphlet form. DeMond emphasizes that African-Americans are fully American, not African, and therefore fully deserving of all the rights of citizenship.

What better qualification could the nation make for its citizenship than that it should be industrious, great in numbers, patriotic in spirit, religious and progressive, all of which the Negro has demonstrated. He is an American not by the mere accident of birth but by measuring up to the requirements of American citizenship and becoming a element of the national life glorious in war and great in peace. The hope for our race in this country lies in our being the best men and the best Americans possible. And as one has truly said: "Remember that that the man who acts best his part, who loves his friends the best, who is willing to help others, truest to his obligations, who has the best heart, the most feeling, the deepest sympathies, and who freely gives to others the rights that he claims for himself is the best man."

I am not unmindful of the fact that it has become popular in these days to talk of going to Africa, to claim for the Negro only a lowly position, and hence only industrial education, and that the Negro should eliminate himself from political life. But those who claim these things forget that the Negro is an American, and not an African; forget that the Negro is progressive and does not confine himself to any one sphere of life, and hence needs all the education that may be necessary for him to reach different spheres of life, and fill them when reached; they forget community, his State or his nation is unbecoming an American citizen.

When other men shall have proved false to the faith of the fathers, when others have forgotten public good for private purse, when others have forsaken the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity, and let the old flag trail in the dust, may the Negro still be found true to all that is noblest and best in American life. Identified with all the interests of the nation, weaving our destiny with hers, rising as she rises or falling as she falls, let us go forward to meet the future with a brave heart. The men who rise are the men who cannot be kept down. The men who win victories, those who cannot be defeated. The men who succeed are the men determined not to fail.

Full text (Library of Congress/Daniel A.P. Murray Pamphlet Collection)