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African American baseball players from Morris Brown College

[Detail] African American baseball players from Morris Brown College

The race problem: great speech of Frederick Douglass, delivered before the Bethel Literary and Historical Association, in the Metropolitan A.M.E. Church, Washington, D.C., October 3, 1899.

Although approaching the end of his life, Frederick Douglass (1817?-1895) maintained his passionate oratory in a speech that denounced southern "Resurrectionists" and their attempts to deprive southern blacks of their recently won civil rights. He examines the so-called "negro problem" in this light and insists that it is the responsibility of the federal government to continue to enforce civil rights for African-Americans in the South.

The true problem is not the negro, but the nation. Not the law-abiding blacks of the South, but the white men of that section, who by fraud, violence, and persecution, are breaking the law, trampling on the Constitution, corrupting the ballot-box, and defeating the ends of justice. The true problem is whether these white ruffians shall be allowed by the nation to go on in their lawless and nefarious career, dishonoring the Government and making its very name a mockery. It is whether this nation has in itself sufficient moral stamina to maintain its own honor and integrity by vindicating its own Constitution and fulfilling its own pledges, or whether it has already touched that dry rot of moral depravity by which nations decline and fall, and governments fade and vanish. The United States Government made the negro a citizen, will it protect him as a citizen? This is the problem. It made him a soldier, will it honor him as a patriot? This is the problem. It made him a voter, will it defend his right to vote? This is the problem. This, I say, is more a problem for the nation than for the negro, and this is the side of the question far more than the other which should be kept in view by the American people.

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