Tourgee appeals for more northern African Americans to join NCRA

In June, 1892, Tourgée made a lengthy appeal, particularly to northern African Americans, to join and support the National Citizen’s Rights Association.

Through newspapers far and wide, such as the Times-Mountaineer of Dalles, Oregon; the St. Paul Daily Globe in St. Paul, Minnesota; the Austin Weekly Statesman in Austin, Texas;  to the Cleveland Gazette, in Ohio, he urges the northern African American citizens to join with the large numbers of white citizens already enrolled to expand the numbers and demonstrate a single national power of "organized protest” to effect change. Tourgée sees the success for change as resting with an organization whose sole feature is a membership of equal citizens; no distinctions based on race, gender, class, political affiliation or title of office. He says:

It (the NCRA) proceeds on the hypothesis that in order to secure such results, in a nation in which power resides in the people, the public attention must be aroused, the public mind educated, the public conscience awakened and the popular will made effectual on the side of liberty.


Tourgée also wrote a pamphlet titled, "Is Liberty Worth Preserving?" under the auspices of the National Citizens Rights Association. In this piece, he again brings up the central idea of his platform for citizenship:

God teaches humanity but one lesson concerning its duty to man and that is – Justice. Individually or collectively, but one requirement is made of any man or race or class – that they should do to other men what in reserved conditions they would wish others to do to them. This is not charity nor mercy but Justice – measured by the one sure rule of self-demand…

The conditions under which the nation exists, according to Tourgée, impacts every citizen:

The Negro is not [the] only one having a distinct interest in the assertion of the rights of citizenship. Every man in the whole land who believes in the equal rights of citizens of the United States without regard to ‘race, color or previous condition of servitude,’ is touched in his own person by present conditions. No man can call himself free who has to wear a gag or put a padlock on his tongue whenever he crosses certain state lines.

Although many of Tourgée’s arguments and points made in the essay were insightful and logical, the fact remains he was calling for a new kind of organization that would supersede existing political structures (namely parties) and cultural boundaries (namely race segregation) – a situation that most people were not willing to engage in.

His was more of a personal, moral appeal to individual conscience and choice – that would translate to public action - but it came packaged in an unfamiliar socio-political structure that made many people of both races uncomfortable.


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