Chesnutt's Works

Reviews

Bibliography

Manuscripts

Related Links

Home

Chesnutt in the Classroom

Site Info

info on the text

An Eloquent Appeal

A TALL, TOLERABLY WELL-DRESSED and somewhat distinguished--looking colored man came into my office the other morning.

"Can you spare me a moment of your valuable time?" he inquired, in excellent English.

"Certainly," I replied. (My time was not very valuable, but I did n't feel called upon to say so.)

"Sir," he continued: "you see in me the representative of a despised and down-trodden race. For centuries the race with which you are identified held my people in a bondage more cruel than death, and lived lapped in luxury while their black bondmen toiled beneath the burning sun."

"That 's largely true," I remarked, as he paused. He fixed me with his eye, and continued:

"When at last the exigencies of war made the abolition of slavery necessary for the preservation of the Union, your statesmen reluctantly granted us the tardy boon of liberty."

I was not able to deny this, and he went on:

"You gave us a theoretical liberty, and turned us loose, penniless and ignorant, among the people who had oppressed us. Is not this true?"

"Substantially true," I assented.

"The catalogue of our wrongs is a long and bloody one. But I notice now a growing sentiment among the white people of this country--a feeling that, in merely giving the negro back the liberty they had forcibly taken from him, they have not done their whole duty toward him, but that they owe him reparation for the wrongs he has suffered."

I remarked, at this point of the interview, that I had an engagement which would require me to leave the office in a very short time.

"Just one moment," he continued: "As a member of the dominant race, do you not feel it your duty to do what you can toward lifting my race to a higher level--toward repaying, in some small degree, the debt this country owes them?"

I remarked that I was willing enough, but that I happened to be financially embarrassed just at that particular time.

"You misconstrue me," he replied, with dignity: "I do not seek charity for myself, or for others. I mean business. If, for instance, you could confer a favor on my race, with profit to yourself at the same time, would you do it?"

I answered in the affirmative.

"Then," he said, running his hand into his coat-pocket: "you will certainly take a stick of my 'Magic Corn Cure,' warranted to remove hard or soft corns on one application; or, if used occasionally, to entirely prevent their formation. Will one stick be enough?"

Before I could recover from my astonishment, he had collected a quarter from me, and left the office with a bow that would have done credit to any head-waiter in America.

Chas. W. Chesnutt.