"The Negro Should Not Enter the Army"

Missionary Department of the Atlanta, Georgia, A.M.E. Church

Voice of Missions 7 (May 1, 1899). It is about time for the ministers of the A. M. E. Church, who, in the aggregate, are the most progressive, enlightened and racial of the Africanite ministry of the world, with the highest regard for all other denominations, to begin to tell the young men of our race to stay out of the United States army. If it is a white man's government, and we grant it is, let him take care of it.
The Negro has no flag to defend. There is not a star in the flag of this nation, out of the forty odd, that the colored race can claim, nor is there any symbol signalized in the colors of the flag that he can presume to call his, unless it would be the stripes, and the stripes are now too good for him. He is only regarded as entitled to powder and lead and the burning fagots. He has no civil, social, political, judicial or existing rights any longer. He may exist, be or live till the lynchers say he must die, and when they get ready to demand his life, the nation, from President McKinley down, down and down to the most contemptible white riff-raff, says well done! If not in words, they say it by their silence; and those who did enlist some months ago, were abused, misrepresented and vilified when they even passed through the country, worse than brutes would have been. If they came out of the cars and walked about the depot, they were charged with trying to kill men, women and children, and fire the cities and villages. If they sat in the cars and failed to get out, the newspapers branded them with cowardice, and said they were afraid, they knew what would follow, while one town would telegraph to the next that Negro soldiers would pass through. "Have your armed police at the railroad station, armed to the teeth and ready to shoot them down upon the slightest provocation." Yet the same towns and villages were ready to supply them with all the rot-gut whiskey they were able to purchase, to transform them into maniacs and human devils, if these soldiers were low enough to drink the infernal drug.
We now ask, in the face of these facts, and they are not half told, what does the Negro want to enlist lay his life upon the alter of the nation and die for? What is to be gained? Where is the credit? Who will accord it to him? In what particular will the race be benefited? Suppose the Negro should enlist in great numbers and go to the Spanish islands and help to subjugate the territory now in dispute, and subordinate it to the dictatorial whim of the United States. What right, what privilege, what immunity, what enjoyment, what possession will he be the recipient of? A Cuban from Havana who was compelled to ride with us in a jim-crow car a week ago, and who was as mad as vengeance at this restriction of his manhood, told us that the diabolical prejudice of the United States was being exhibited there, and his curse-words were sulphuretic vengeance itself. He said "This valuing a man by his color was unknown in Cuba until the scoundrels and villains of this country went there." He showed us papers which represented him as a great business man, dealing in the finest tobacco and cigars, yet he was compelled to ride in the jim-crow car or be mobbed at every station, and this Cuban was not a black man. We ask the young men of the Negro race if you have got any life to throw away for such a country as this? If you have a spare life on hand, that you wish to dispose of by sacrifice, for mercy's sake, for honor's sake, for manhood's sake, and for common sense sake throw it away for a better purpose, in a nobler act, in doing something that will perpetuate your memory, to say the least. While we are the first Africanite Chaplain in the history of the nation, and have once been proud of the flag of this nation as it waved and flaunted in the air, as a Negro we regard it a worthless rag. It is the symbol of liberty, of manhood sovereignty and of national independence to the white man, we grant, and he should justly be proud of it, but to the colored man, that has any sense, any honor, and is not a scullionized fool, it is a miserable dirty rag. We repeat that the A. M. E. ministry, yes, and the Negro ministry of the country should fight the enlistment of colored men in the United States army, as they would liquor brothels, thievery, breaking the Sabbath, or any crime even in the catalogue of villainy. The Negro minister of the gospel who would encourage enlistment in the United States army, in the conditions things are now, encourages murder and the shedding of innocent blood for nothing, as the foolish young men do not know what steps they are taking.
Moreover, the bulk of the white people do not want colored soldiers. Our own governor disapproves of it. The majority of the white press is against it. They regard the black soldiers as monstrosities, and we regard them monstrosities also. Again we say to the colored men, stay out of the United States army. Take no oath to protect any flag that offers no protection to its sable defenders.
If we had the voice of seven thunders, we would sound a protest against Negro enlistment till the very ground shook below our feet.

Back To History Is A Weapon's Front Page