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Byrd Parker to Frederick Douglass, February 3, 1854



CHICAGO, Feb. 3, 1854.

FREDERICK DOUGLASS: DEAR BROTHER:— It is with some degree of diffidence
that I take my pen in hand to become an occasional correspondent to your excellent paper,
if found worthy. I do not feel at a loss for a subject to write on, but at a loss for ability to
write on the important subjects that at once present themselves, and about which we
should all feel deeply concerned, in such manner as to do something in advocacy of the
cause of our elevation. I was about to say something in reference to the prospects—yea,
encouraging prospects that are presenting themselves before the colored people of this
country, growing out of the united effort that was commenced in your city at our late
National Convention, which seemed to me like the little leaven that was hid in the three
measures of meal, about which we read in the New Testament, that leavened the whole
lump; or, like the electricity of which the Methodists frequently speak in prayer, that run
from breast to breast, and from heart to heart, until we hoped that all our people, or
especially those in the free States, would be aroused to sense of their best interest, and
have been ready to have made a simultaneous move—yes, to make a strong, long and
united pull in order to convince the world, and especially our hyprocritical enemies and
our half-hearted friends, that can see everything else in this day of boasted light and
understanding but this is one thing, that God hath made of one blood every nation to
dwell upon the face of the whole earth. It seems to be essentially necessary,
notwithstanding all the Scripture teaches, and notwithstanding all the parson preaches,
and notwithstanding all that has been said and written by our friends for the last 20 years,


and in despite of all opposition that has been thrown in our way, and the unparalleled
progress of the colored people in this country;—I say, that notwithstanding all this, it
seems yet to be necessary to convince the world of our individuality, and that we are men
and women—yes, after more than two hundred years of the severest oppression that ever
any people were called to endure under the circumstances, the punishment being inflicted
by those who profess to be governed by those self-evident truths, that all men are created
free and equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among
which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yes sir, we are called upon in the
presence of this nation of Christians, after we have showed our hand in clearing out the
forest, hewing wood, drawing water, tilling the ground, watering the earth with our tears,
sweat and blood, and our mothers, our sisters and our daughters being made the wives,
concubines and slaves to those who have oppressed us—we must now rise from this low
state of degradation, and, as Moses went in before Pharaoh, and in ten different ways
attempted to convince him that it was the will of God that Israel should be free, so have
we go in before such men as Doctors of Divinity, ministers of Jesus Christ, and all
the meek followers of our Lord and Savior, and prove to them that God has made us
capable of living and breathing, reading, writing, hoping and believeing, seeing and
feeling, and existing and enjoying our health if we had the chance, in this glorious
country, that has spread wide her doors to receive of every nation under the whole
heavens, and that stands ready to welcome them to this land, securing them that they can
be happy here, while they are seriously and solemnly convinced notwithstanding they
have nearly four millions of our brethren in the South that they are holding on to like
grim death. This is no country for the free people of color, I am sorry to say, Bro.


Douglass, is not only the doctrine that is believed and preached by pro-slavery people
North and South, but at last many of our
friends have become convinced that
the best thing that can be done for the free people of color is to send them to Liberia/ It is
no use to tell them that the Colonization scheme, according to the declaration of John
Randolph, and many others of the early advocates of that enterprise, was not intended for
any other purpose, or at least that was the principal object to remove the free blacks, in
order to increase the usefulness of slaves. And again, it is of no use to tell them and to
prove that all that have been removed to Liberia, since the commencement of the
American Colonization Society up to the present time, to say nothing of the suffering and
death of those that have been removed, has not been equal to the increase of this despised
race in one year in this country, where the Christians say we cannot live. Although all of
these things have failed to keep together the leaders in the great cause of human freedom,
and although the great Liberator has conceded the point that the great anti-/slavery cause
has become so sublime that the colored people cannot understand its philosphy; yet we
must go on. Although some of our best men of color (sorry we are to say it) have seen fit,
just at the time when we had met in solemn assembly from eight of the principal free
States, coming up from important points in that vast territory, and after mature
deliberation resolved, without a dissenting voice, that this was our native land, and that
here we were bound to stay to plant our tree and repose under tis shades—yes, just at this
time, when we had unitedly resolved to give the world to understand that this was our
home, and that we intended to remain until our brethren in bonds are set free, and when
even our enemies are beginning to believe that matter at least was settled, is it not to be
lamented that some of our best men should call for a National Emigration Convention, as


though nothing had been done? What effect will this have?—What shall be the
conclusion of those that feel interested for our welfare? What shall be the feeling of our
enemies? Will not our friends feel that nothing has been settled, that is of no use to assist
us to remain, as we are about to take steps to remove? Will not our enemies say their
ranks are broken? One says, advance; another says, retreat.—What could be more
desirable to any and all of our enemies that to see us thrown into confusion and
misunderstanding—such misunderstanding as seems to exist at this time among our
leading men? Why is it that we colored people do not hang together like the white people,
especially in a cause in which we are and ought to feel alike interested.—I know well that
the effects of slavery, among many of its blasting consequences, is calculated to create a
spirit of distrust and a want of confidence in us, respecting the plans and arrangements
that are put forth by ourselves for our own elevation. We are taught from our infancy, by
those that would keep us in bondage, to not only look with a suspicious and envious eye
at each other, but to do all that is in our power to destroy the character and standing of
our brethren. And has our enemies, in this respect, not succeeded but too well? Hence,
the great want of that high regard and manly defence, which we should all be ready to
make for those among us that are laboring in the cause of elevation. Why not let us
effectually try this one great thing that was proposed at our last National Council, before
agitating another, in the meantime leaving any of our people free to emigrate to any place
they may choose; but for Heaven's sake let not the idea of us emigrating, as a nation, be
so much named among us, until we have effectually tried the plans already proposed—
and I say not until our brethren in the South are set free.


But I must close, after asking one question: what is the reason that the Aliened
has not given an expression with regard to its views on what friend Garrison
has seen fit to say in the late war that has been going on against yourself, and, I consider,
against the colored people generally in this country? Are we understand by its silence,
that it consents to the death blows that was aimed at us, in the declaration that the anti-
slavery cause had rose above the capacity of colored men? To understand its philosophy,
are we to understand, according to the declaration of that journal, that Mr. Day is not
abolitionist enough of the Fred. Douglass school to speak when his friend and brother is
attacked? But I hope we will hear from his soon; so, no more at present, but remain

Yours, for God and

Universal Liberty



Parker, Byrd


February 3, 1854


Byrd Parker to Frederick Douglass. PLSr: Frederick DouglassP, 17 February 1854. Compliments National Convention in Rochester; criticizes colonization schemes; questions Garrison’s motives for attacking Douglass.


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


Frederick Douglass' Paper (Rochester, N.Y.) 1851-18??



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