Topeka State Journal, February 11, 1896

Topeka State Journal, February 11, 1896


Meeting of Ex-Slaves Held in Topeka Last Night.


Ex-Slaves Don’t Care Who Sits in “de Golden Chair” at the White House, They Want Dem Pensions to Come a-Rollin’ Down. Bress de Lord, Honey.

In an old store building at 1320 Quincy street, which is used as a church by the colored people, about fifty of the race met last night for the purpose of making a formal demand on the United States treasury for pensions for the ex-slaves of the United States. Of this number not more than two-thirds were ex-slaves, some of whom had felt the lash, and about fifteen of them were women.

The lame and the halt and the blind were there happy in the belief that all they will have to do is to write to congress to get national relief for their distress.

The idea originated in Topeka with an old colored man named G. W. Charles, who presided at the meeting last night. Last night’s meeting was the third and the association now claims a membership in Topeka of 250, though there are possibly 1,500 ex-slaves here.

The demands of the association – if such it can be called – are to take the form of a petition that will be addressed to congress signed by all, if possible, of the ex-slaves in the United States asking pensions in the following schedule:

All over 70 years old to get $700 in cash and $15 per month thereafter. All over 60, $600 cash and $12 per month. All who were over five years old at the time of the emancipation, $300 and $5 a month. All over one year old at the time of the emancipation $100 and $1 a month.

On motion it was voted that a club of the ex-slaves be organized, but, though everybody in the room voted for it, nobody went up to register and George Charles fixed it all right. He said:

“I don’t see the necessity for a club. We want the names of the ex-slaves that we may have pensions for our old fathers and mothers with one foot in the grave and the other one following who have been brow beaten down by slavery.”

This struck W. M. Jeltz, editor of the People’s Friend, as about right, and he arose to express his appreciation of the noble cause. He said:

“I just happened over in this part of town on some legal business and at the request of my old friend Charles I dropped in here, and I tell you these words that have been said here tonight on this monumentuous question aroused my enthusiastics. They are for our earnest and consideration.”

There wasn’t anything else to do just then and a collection was taken up.

John Robinson, who announced in advance that he was a “flat foot Baptist preacher,” and he was able to prove it, was called on for a speech and said:

“At this junction I feel more than glad to see so many here. It reminds me of the time when Moses called the children of Israel out of the hands of their enemies of Pharaoh. This meeting is called to ask of congress and the president and treasurer and the supreme court pensions for those who have served in slavery in this country for the last 248 years.

“There is a demandment for this question. We do not ask this in angry spirit, but in humble spirit, so that she will look over the back walls of the past 34 years and send us the money.

“It is one of the grandest questions ever asked by the colored people. [Applause].

“On the other hand you are a little backward about coming forward and signing this constitution. Abe Lincoln issued this proclamation. [Loud applause]. It is time we got some pay for the time we served our old masters.

“Everybody else gets pensions. They pay the old soldier. That’s all right. He fought to the bitter end. But if the white soldier hadn’t asked for his pension the colored soldier wouldn’t have got his. [Applause and voices ‘that’s right’].

“One man stole you and the other man bought you [Cries of ‘that’s right’ and ‘we know it.’] One man stole you from Africa and brought you over here to be whipped in the stocks till the blood run. [‘Everlasting true’ and ‘God was with him when he said that.’]

“I’ve seen my old father stretched on the ground and whipped till the blood run like you had cut the throat of a hog and I laughed. It was better for me to laugh than to frown. [‘You know it.’]

“We may be fought in this, but I say, ‘Fight it to the death.’ It is one of the greatest questions that has ever come before this country. The colored ex-slaves come up out of the valley of sorrow to the top of the mountain and cry –

“Here I stand
With an empty hand!

“Before Grover Cleveling steps down and out I want him to look down on this bill. And I want the next president I don’t care if he is a Republican man or a Democrat man or a Populist man. I want him to have trouble with this bill when he gets into that golden chair. It don’t take no educated man nor no grady-ated language to see what we want. If anyone here tonight hasn’t had his name encrouched on this list let him come forward. We don’t entrust this in the hands of Mr. Curtis, though he’s a friend of mine. We don’t entrust it to Mr. Blue. If necessary we will send three of them to Washington and keep two of them here and send men there to substain them [applause.] We think the time has come nigh when our pensions should come rolling down from the national bank treasury.

“Many a time we have laid in the woods asleep with one eye open lestening to feel the lash of the overseer. [Loud applause].”

At the suggestion of George Charles it was voted that the president name ten places of registration in Topeka for signatures to the petition. There will be another meeting at the same place next Monday night.

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