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Albion W. Tourgée to Charles W. Chesnutt, 7 November 1893

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  [1] ALBION W. TOURGÉE. MAYVILLE, N. Y., My dear Chestnutt[sic]:

The enclosed explains itself. I have worked hard to get the basis, of such a journal but the immense roll of the National Citizens' Rights Convention,1 having been thoroughly tested makes me sure of 10,000 subscribers; and I think it will give 40,000 or 50,000. I want to start it with at least half the holders of the promoters stock, who will of course constitute the Directors, colored men. I want too a colored Associate Editor, for I think such a magazine should teach what it preaches. I have assurances that the convertible stock will be rapidly taken by those who like to help a little and make a little too. I shall make it a 20— to 32 page magazine, fine heavy paper—no illustrations except some portraits now and then.2

It is sure to be profitable and all possible loss is especially guarded   [2] against.

I would like to have you take $500, or $1,000, worth of the stock and be a Director. If your business will permit &[?] think when we get started you would like the other place, too.

Or if you would like to take, say 1,000 shares for $2,500 we will make that a certainty.

I think it is going to have a great place[?] and be very profitable. I have avoided all the things that hampered[?] the Continent, kept all that helped it, and added two very potent forces—
  • 1—A specific function—a cause no such journal represents—citizenship.
  • 2—A plan of popular ownership which attracts all inclined to back the principles, &c.

Think of the the matter. We must have good men[?] and give it a high rank. I think it is an opportunity that does not often come in a literary life.

Yours, Albion W. Tourgée

Of course, if colored men do not take this stock I must place[?] it with white men who want it

AT   [4] Not "devoted entirely to a discussion of one topic" by any means; but keeping "our topic" prominently in view as the N.Y. Independent does religion.


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 reference is to the National Citizens' Rights Association, which Tourgee launched in October 1891. At its peak, the Association had 250,000 members (Carolyn L. Karcher, Refugee from His Race: Albion W. Tourgée and His Fight against White Supremacy [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006], 149).[back]

2. 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]