Saturday, February 9, 2008

In open-borders America*, Colored Citizens warn immigrants about getting taken advantage of in Tennessee

At Nashville in 1871, the State Convention of the Colored Citizens of Tennessee tucks a message to newcomers inside a memo to Congress and the Presidents

"Decoyed to do faithful labor"

"If they come and voluntarily sink down deeper in oppression... we will gladly... extend a brother hand"

The Memorial to Congress and the President of the United States, Adopted at the State Convention of Colored Men



As the colored citizens in Middle and West Tennessee, are largely the majority of every other class, of laborers more especially in agriculture without some means to secure to them their earnings, a sadder state of affairs awaits us. With but few exceptions this class of laborers are decoyed to do faithful labor in the rural districts, some on the promise of a share of the crop and some for wages, but so soon as the crop is made the employer frames some excuse and falls out with the laborer and he is forced to leave his crop, and abandon his wages, by the terror of Kuklux, who in all cases, sympathies with the white employers. The courts of justice yield no redress in the State. The rebel press are constantly misrepresenting the facts, and that we are cheated. While we thus have no protection, we will warn all imigrants, German, Irish and Chinese, that we are unjustly delt by and tell them promptly of our treatment and if they come and voluntarily sink down deeper in oppression, so mote it be. But we will gladly hail all voluntary free labor to elevate the laborer, whether from Europe, Asia, Africa or the West Indies, and extend a brother hand to secure him in his liberty the right to his toil and to uphold this government upon equality....

*At the time of the Colored Citizens convention in 1871, the U.S. immigration policy was still "open borders," as it had been since the country's founding. As of 1862, American vessels were prohibited from carrying Chinese immigrants to U.S. soil, but otherwise the borders were wide open, and there was no such thing as an "illegal immigrant." Only in 1875 did Congress start denying admission to people wanting to come to America - and even then, it was just the criminals and prostitutes who were blacklisted.

Sources: Proceedings of the State Convention of Colored Citizens held in Nashville, Family Research Group, Google Answers

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