What are the Negro problems of America? The children of the slave trade; and it is safe to say that whatever conditions, questions, and prejudices are bound together in these problems all are, in truth, a heritage from the past. Upon the state in which I live, upon the South, upon the nation, the shadow of Negro slavery, by a must bring to the solving of present difficulties in full knowledge of the evils of a shameful chapter of human history.
Here in America rose a nation which declared that all men should have freedom of opportunity, and join in an effort to promote justice for all men; it was a magnificent dream, a dream of universal suffrage, of humanity, of republican government. In its very dawning that dream was choked by the shadow of Negro slavery, by a flat and cruel denial of the very liberty which was the corner stone of the new nation.
More than once has this nation had occasion to hearken to the voice of its founders and turn back to the great watch words of the past freedom of government and liberty of men. Today the question still is: Shall the American nation still stand for liberty of opportunity, for indiscriminating justice? Shall the ideals of the past stand? The tendency born of cowardice and vacillation is still with us; "let it be," temporize, conciliate after all these be but black men we hear. The way to meet problem is to stand and face it and not to dodge before it. Here we have an "alien race." Who brought them here? This nation did, in cruelty and against their will. Here we have in the body politic a poor people. Who made them poor? This nation did. Are they trying to save? They have accumulated at least 300 millions of dollars in a generation. Then we have an ignorant people. Who kept them in ignorance? This nation did. Have they tried to learn? In 1870, 80 per cent could read and write. Then we have a group that is furnishing, it is said, an abnormal amount of crimes. Who taught them this lawlessness, licentiousness and theft? This nation did. Have they learned nothing else? They have built houses and educated children and paid taxes, and done their duty in every community in the land. For every failure, sunk in crime, they can point to 10 cases of silent success.
If these things are so then the course of action open to the nation is clear as the sun at noon. Treat black men as men. If they do their duty as citizens, give them the rights of citizens; if they wish to know, let them learn; if they have ability, open the gates of opportunity; if they commit crime, punish them by lawful methods and protect them from violence of other criminals.From The Denver Statesman, April 28, 1904.