Monday, July 04, 2016

A Fourth of July speech

A little while back I noticed someone mention book I'd never heard of -- Nathan Bedford Forrest's Redemption. Sounded interesting. I ordered it. The following excerpt comes from “that (redeemed) devil Forrest” speaking in 1875 to a black group called the Pole-Bearers Association (according to the author, this was a forerunner of the NAACP) and others at a Fourth of July celebration.

Forrest: “I came here with the jeers of some white people, who think that I am doing wrong. I believe I can exert some influence, and do much to assist the people in strengthening fraternal relations, and shall do all in my power to elevate every man, to depress none. I want to elevate you to take positions in law offices, in stores, on farms, and wherever you are capable of going...I did not come here to make you a long speech, although invited to do so by you. I am not much of a speaker, and my business prevented me from preparing myself. I came to meet you as friends, and welcome you to the white people. I want you to come nearer to us. When I can serve you I will do so. We have but one flag, one country; let us stand together. We may differ in color, but not in sentiment. Many things have been said about me which are wrong, and which white and black persons here, who stood by me through the war, can contradict. Go to work, be industrious, live honestly and act truly, and when you are oppressed I'll come to your relief. I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for this opportunity you have afforded me to be with you, and to assure you that I am with you in heart and in hand.”

Nathan Bedford Forrest is known for many things, but very seldom for his late in life Christian conversion. The text of Forrest's speech was printed in the Memphis Daily Appeal, July 06, 1875, page 1.

No comments: