Skip to main content

Charles W. Chesnutt to Albion W. Tourgée, 25 April 1896

Textual Feature Appearance
alterations to base text (additions or deletions) added or deleted text
passage deleted with a strikethrough mark deleted passage
passage deleted by overwritten added text Deleted text Added text
position of added text (if not added inline) [right margin] text added in right margin; [above line] text added above the line
page number, repeated letterhead, etc. page number or repeated letterhead
supplied text [supplied text]
archivist note archivist note
  9128 CHAS. W. CHESNUTT, 7361024 SOCIETY FOR SAVINGS BLD'G. Hon. A. W. Tourgee, Editor "Basis," Mayville, N.Y. Dear Sir:-

Will you kindly look at the subscription list of the Basis or have some one do so, and see if I have given correctly the address of Mr. JAMES A. JOYCE, of this city, as a subscriber to the Basis?1 It should be No. 20 VAN NESS St., Cleveland O. If it is otherwise shown in your list, the mistake was doubtless mine in sending on the name. I hope the Basis is doing well.

Permit me as a citizen of this State, desirous of social order and good government, and also as one of those for whose benefit the work was in part at least undertaken, to thank you for your kind collaboration with our Mr. H. C. Smith2 in securing the passage through the State legislature of the anti-lynching bill.3 It can do no harm, and if it did no more than simply to express by the mouth of its legislature the condemnation by the State of the abominable practice which has done so much to disgrace the country, it would be worth all the labor that has been spent in promoting its passage. You will never get an adequate reward in this world for your efforts in baehalf of the oppressed and the humble, but you believe in a hereafter, and I hope there is one, if for no other (over)   reason than that you and those like you may receive their reward.

Sincerely yours, Chas. W. Chesnutt.

Correspondent: Albion Winegar Tourgée (1838–1905) was a White activist, author, and judge. During Reconstruction, he settled in North Carolina and became an advocate for racial equality. Tourgée wrote his bestselling autobiographical novel, A Fool's Errand (1879), before moving to Mayville, New York, in 1881. He published 15 more novels in the next 17 years, and several times attempted to found magazines, often inviting Chesnutt to serve as editor. In 1891, he founded the National Citizens' Rights Association, an organization devoted to equality for African-American citizens, and in 1896 served as Homer Plessy's lead counsel in the U.S. Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson (1896).

1. The Basis: A Journal of Citizenship was founded by Albion W. Tourgée along with several Buffalo, New York, reformers and businessmen. The journal lasted thirteen months.[back]

2. Harry C. Smith (1863–1941) was a Black journalist, editor, and politician. Born in West Virginia, his family moved to Cleveland after the Civil War. While attending Cleveland's Central High School, he wrote for several newspapers. In 1883, along with three others, he founded the Cleveland Gazette, a weekly newspaper, and within three years became the sole proprietor. He edited the newspaper until his death. His political career included three terms in the Ohio General Assembly (1893-99). He introduced and played a major role in the passage of the Ohio Civil Rights Law (1894) and an anti-lynching law, the Smith Act (1896). He also sought other offices: Ohio Secretary of State (1920) and Governor (1926 and 1928).[back]

3. In 1896, Harry C. Smith and Albion W. Tourgée introduced an anti-lynching bill in the Ohio General Assembly. The Smith Act allowed victims and their families to sue county governments. It was the most stringent anti-lynching law in the United States at the time.[back]