Landmark Speeches in African American History
Note: This speech has been published in its original format.
John E. Bruce, better known as “Bruce Grit” to the public, was described in 1901 as the “prince of Negro Newspaper correspondents.” He was the author of The Bloody Red Record, a compilation of lynchings in the United States published in 1901. However, few people were aware of his call for “organized resistance” against lynching and other violent acts against black Americans. In the speech below, which he gave on October 5, 1889 in an undisclosed location, he called on African Americans to apply the principle of self-defense against the white terrorists who sought to harm them.
I fully realize the delicacy of the position I occupy in this discussion d know too well that those who are to follow me will largely benefit by what I shall have to say in respect to the application of force as one of the means to the solution of the problem known as the Negro problem. I am not unmindful of that fact that there are those living who have faith in the efficacy of submission, who are impregnated with the slavish fear which had its origin in oppression and the peculiar environments of the slave period. Those who are thus minded will advise a pacific policy in order, as they believe, to effect a settlement of this question, with which the statesmanship of a century has grappled without any particularly gratifying results. Agitation is a good thing, organization is a better thing. The million Negro voters of Georgia, and the undiscovered millions in other Southern states—undiscovered so far as our knowledge of their number exists—could with proper organization and intelligent leadership meet force with force with most beneficial results. The issue upon us cannot be misunderstood by those who are watching current events.... The man who will not fight for the protection of his wife and children is a coward and deserves to be ill-treated. The man who takes his life in his hand and stands up for what he knows to be right will always command the respect of his enemy.
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