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Bob Markle to Frederick Douglass, September 10, 1851



F. Douglass, Esq.—Dear Sir:—You have traveled extensively in Europe. You know how different the people of that country are from the people of this country, in respect to the social and political treatment of negroes. But did you ever notice how readily a poor, miserable, ragged Irishman, who, in his own country, would gladly beg you for pence to keep him from starving, and would pronounce "blessings on yer honor's honor," learns, when here, to become one of the bittrest and most heartless of all slaveocrats and negro-haters? Is it not [strange] that just as soon as the great mass of Europeans, great or small, distinguished or obscure, land on these shores, they become friends of slavery and despisers of blacks?—And yet how true it is. What exhibitions of it we have in every ship-load of the poor subjects of foreign despotism that comes crowding our shores monthly—weekly! How readily are these people welcomed among us by the politicians and the merchants, who deny to us the commonest of civil, social and political rights!

In no land under heaven is the color of a man's skin a badge of disgrace, but in this. In the West Indies, slavery existed in some of its most revolting forms. The slaves, as a class, were more ignorant than the most degraded of our slave-population, and their stupidity was proverbial. But prejudice against colored persons never assumed the form, nor perpetrated the deeds, which are every-day matters in this country. Colored men were always editors, lawyers, statesmen, divines, anything that white men were, and


they were always respected as men, too, according to their moral and intellectual worth, and their social standing was not affected by their complexion. Certainly, this has been so for the last one hundred and fifty years in the English, French and Danish West India Islands, in the very midst of slavery. The same is now true of all parts of South America. In Brazil, the slave, the priest, the doctor, and the merchant, are of one and the same color; and the fact that the slave is black, does not at all affect the standing of the free colored gentleman. Be it prejudice against color, condition, or association, it has no existence there.

But in the States of the "twice-blessed Union," a free black man is subject to all manner of disabilities, loaded with the severest and most unjust forms of taxation, deprived of the commonest rights, denied the most ordinary privileges, and made, legally, civilly and socially, as wretched almost as the slave. It seems to be the object of these States, to destroy, in their free colored people, every vestige of self-respect. They seem to say to them, "If you live here, you shall live 'like a toad under a harrow,' all your days," (Still, as many as one half of the entire free colored population live in the slave States.) This state of things is found in no other country on the earth. How do you account for it? What explanation of it can be given? I know of none.

In the Revolutionary War, black men fought, bled, and died, with as much bravery and patriotism as any men. Crispus Attucks, a brave mulatto, was the first adult killed by the British soldiery previous to the Revolution, in the patriotic struggle which produced the Revolution. Several colored men were among the most actively engaged in the "Boston tea party." In the late war with Great Britain, there was more than a full proportion of colored soldiers in the


army and navy. Our people, in all things which go to make up men, citizens, patriots and Christians, compare with any class of Anglo-Saxons on the continent.

But in the majority of the free States, we are denied the right to vote. The schools, and academies, and colleges, are shut against us. The churches, as a general thing, treat us as anything else than equal men, brethren and christians. The only place for black christians, in ninety-nine churches out of a hundred, in Connecicut, Eastern New York, New Jersey, and the larger cities in the West, is the Negro Pew. And the steamboats, stage-coaches, and hotels, throughout the country, practice the religion taught in the churches on this subject.

Let me give your readers a sample or two. During a communion season in a Presbyterian Church in Ulster county, N.Y., after the bread had been passed, a white man took a seat among the colored communicants. The whites, some of them, looked on with horror, and held their bread in their fingers. When the wine was passed, the elders, in order to reach that white brother, let the cup go to to him and to the blacks. Some of the faithful threw their bread down upon the floor, and utterly refused the wine.

S. R. Ward will vouch for the following, I was present when it occured. Mr. Ward was at Corning. He had been to Markledom to visit my family. The Pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Corning, DeGraves, asked Mr. W. to aid him at the communion table. Whereupon, Mr. B. B. Hubbell, a member of the church, arose, left the communion table, went out, and slammed the door after him. It was a hot day in June. Mr. Hubbell is a good and acceptable member of the Corning Presbyterian Church, now.

You doubtless recollect that very gentlemanly man, Captain J. Malvin, of Cleveland,


Ohio. When travelling in Western Canada, a few years since, Capt. M. had for a fellow-passenger a poor white man, who was obliged to borrow money of the Captain—money to pay his traveling bills. This same white-skinned fellow refused to sit at the same table with Capt. M., because the Captain is a black man.

On the Steamer Baltimore, from Cleveland to Detroit, Empire State, and Diamond, from Buffalo to Cleveland, a colored person cannot get a cabin passage. The same is true of all the steamers plying between Oswego and Kingston. On the Michigan Cent[r]al Railroad line, from Detroit to Chicago, you can get a first-class ticket; but from Chicago to Detroit, a first-class ticket is denied you, if you are black. You can get a first-class ticket to Philadelphia from New York; but from Philadelphia to New York, you cannot have a first-class ticket. Still, you can get a first-class way-ticket to Newark, and a regular first-class ticket from Newark to New York. Did you ever know the most shallow-pated black man to practice such absurdity as all this?

Well, Mr. Douglass, it seems that in legislation, in politics, in religion, in traveling, and in everything, the right of colored persons to equality of rights and privileges, is denied. But a few hundred years ago, these very Anglo-Saxons were deemed inferior to their Norman masters. But a few centuries before that, our ancestors gave light, learning, and law, to these very barbarians who were the ancestors of these very superior Anglo-Saxons. Herodotus tells you that the ancient Literati were as black as myself. He traveled among them. He saw them. Alexander H. Evritt declares that the very civilization of which the present generation of Anglo-Saxons is so proud, is traceable to the ancient Egyptians and Ethiopians, who were woolly-headed negroes. And now having, at most, but improved on arts and sciences borrowed from


blacks, these mere imitators, while aping what our ancestors taught them, swagger away about their superiority! We, on this continent, have been enslaved for 231 years. They have had all this time for improvement. And "before Israel and the sun," they produce no more real genius and intellect, in proportion to their number, year after year, than we do—we who have been all this while under their hind feet! Every boy and girl among them has the highest and best possible stimuli to improvement. We are subject to all manner of discouragements, & Slavery, colonization, negro-phobia, in all manner of devilian forms, are pressing upon us like a mighty incubus.—yet we produce orators, preachers, doctors, teachers, lawyers, and—begging pardon of your modesty—editors, comparable with any they can boast. That proves their superiority, don't it?

You know that things, with our folks, are turned just t'other end first, in this country. Here the colored people are but one-sixth.—The world over we are five-sixths of the population. For the Anglo-Saxons of this pro-slavery country to assume superiority over anybody darker than themselves, is as wanting in truth as it is in modesty—is as false as it is ridiculous. This, however, is the assumption of the great mass of Americans. But they keep precious still about it, when traveling abroad. A Yankee who would jump from a table, in an American hotel, at the approach of a negro, as a fellow-boarder, would sit still as an oyster, in a hotel in London or Paris, or Amsterdam, in company with colored persons. He would treat a black gentleman with deferential regard in Jamaica, and upon landing in New York, six


days afterwards, would be enraged if anything black, of the human species, came
"Betwixt the wind and his nobility."
Notwithstanding which, the great mass of the numerous and ever increasing mulattoes of the South, are the children of Anglo-Saxon fathers! It is also true that black prostitutes, in our large cities, have white paramours, as a general thing. It is equally true that the majority of the colored young women who practice the infernal abomination of what is termed "decent, respectable" harlotry, are the mothers of white men!—These very same white men sell their mulatto children in the South, and disfranchise and despise them in the North. Worse cannibals than these are not the rudest savages in the darkest part of Heathendom. I would not like to swear that your own city, Rochester, is not described in a part of the above.

What are the actions of men on the earth, are declarations of their practical ideas of Heaven. The way the church treats us, declares that it is their will and wish that we should be so treated in Heaven. It also forms and constitutes the standard to which they would have the heathen converted.—Nothing is plainer than this. For they can uphold and practice a different set of principles, if they choose. There is no hindrance to it, but their own will. God, in the Bible, and His true Ministry, have been for twenty years persuading and [entreating them] to treat us different. They declare, however, deliberately, that they prefer their present course. Should they risk eternal damnation by it, still they prefer it, and they determine to practice it. They think they shall be saved in spite of their negrophobia. Their preachers never deemed that they should repent of it. Never! Never!! They either hope to have it in Heaven, or they hope to have God bleach white five-sixths of His


children, to accommodate their negro-hate.—Most wofully will they be disappointed. They must either go to Heaven or to Hell with blacks, as blacks, and said blacks will not be in negro-pews, at second tables, in Jim Crow cars, or on deck as steerage passengers. Doubtless the law of equality will control Hell, if it don't control America. It will prevail in Heaven, if it don't in the Church, and all the devils and all the damned must submit to it.

Your obedient servant,

Bob Markle.

Markledom, Sept. 10, 1851.


Markle, Bob




Bob Markle to Frederick Douglass. PLSr: Frederick Douglass' Paper, 18 September 1851. Provides examples of extent of prejudice in United States as opposed to other countries.


This document was calendared in the published volume and has not been published in full before.


Frederick Douglass' Paper



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Frederick Douglass' Paper