Negroes Threaten Bolt From Taft
April 11, 1908
Black voters start a movement against Secretary Taft and President Roosevelt, denouncing his presidency by boldly declaring “he is a herod who had destroyed the innocent without mercy.”
A concerted movement by colored voters against the candidacy of Secretary of War Taft for the Republican nomination for President, which will be carried to the polls should he be selected, was revealed last evening when Negroes of prominence from twenty-five States assembled in convention at Zion’s Baptist Church, Thirteenth and Wallace Streets and placed themselves on record at unalterably opposed to the Secretary. They denounced President Roosevelt as a “herod who had destroyed the innocent without mercy,” and the speaker without an exception strongly asserted that the time had come when the Negro race must assert its independence, or it would be completely eliminated as a political faction. The convention was called the National Political Conference of Colored Americans, and brought together lawyers, editors and clergymen of influence from all parts of the country. At an afternoon executive session Professor William M. Trotter, of Boston, was elected as President and Bishop Alexander Walters, or New York, as Vice-President of the Convention. Among the delegates who took part in the conference were Dr. George W. Lee, of Washington; James M. Summers, of Xenia, O. Rev E.L. Gilliam, Dr. W.G. Wren, Capt W.S. Thomas. A public mass meeting was held at the Zion Church in the evening the auditorium being crowded to its fullest capacity, and ex-Congressman George H. White, who presided, aroused the meeting to a white heat in his opening speech by the declaration. “I have been a Republican all my life, but I was a Negro before I was a Republican, and I am proud still to be a Negro. We are not here in a partisan capacity, but I want to say that I would sooner vote for an avowed enemy like Ben Tillman than for a hypocritical friend who had stabbed me in the back.” He then pointed out that while the Negro race was entitled by numerical strength to 83 Congressmen and 11 United States Senators they had been deprived of their last Representative in Congress at a time when the Republicans were in full control of both Houses, of the Supreme Court and the Presidency. Rev. J.M. Waldo of Washington, D.C. spoke upon the discharge of the Negro Battalion of the Twenty-fifth Regiment at Brownsville, Texas describing it as an unspeakable outrage. He could find but two parallels in history to President Roosevelt's action, that of Nebuchadnezzar when he destroyed the soothsayers, who could not remember his dream, and Herod, who slaughtered all the innocent children of Bethlehem. Roosevelt’s action he regarded as entirely without warrant or precedent, and he said the Negroes of the country would never condone the affront until every man of the battalion had been restored to his position with full back pay. Secretary Taft, in his judgement, could have prevented the outrage but he had the collar of Roosevelt around his neck, “and we say to you, Mr. Taft, that as you could not be trusted with the interests of the black soldier, you are not worthy to look out for the white soldier, either.” James H. Hayes, an attorney of Richmond, evoked prolonged applause when he said, in stentorian tones, that “if the Republican party does not treat us right at Chicago by repudiating Taft, we will act as did Samson of old, and wrapping our arms about the pillars of the temple we will bring it crashing down upon the heads of the false friends who have betrayed over our race.” Rev. Dr. George W. Lee, of Washington, the last speaker, was constantly interrupted by prolonged cheers. He denounced President Roosevelt in scathing terms as playing into the hands of the South and giving the Negro race the worst blow it had received from any president. The colored soldiers, he said, had always been ready to fight for the flag, and would not tolerate treatment such as would not have been offered to any other race. “I am not afraid to be called a Democrat,” he said, and “if Taft is nominated I shall take the stump against him. We should hold indignation meetings in every large city of the North and wind up with a week’s political revival at Chicago just before the Republican Convention.” The convention will hold sessions at the Zion Church this morning and afternoon, for the purpose of preparing an address to the country. It was announced at the close of last night's meeting that a telegram had been sent to Senator Foraker, who is expected to be present at the session tonight.
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“Negroes Threaten Bolt From Taft,” Black Virginia: The Richmond Planet, 1894-1909, accessed May 17, 2021, https://blackvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/545.