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The American Prejudice Against Color
William G. Allen
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Pages (PDF): 72
Publication Date: 1853
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I am a quadroon, that is, I am of one-fourth African blood, and three-fourths Anglo-Saxon. I graduated at Oneida Institute, in Whitesboro', New York, in 1844; subsequently studied Law with Ellis Gray Loring, Esq., of Boston, Massachusetts; and was thence called to the Professorship of the Greek and German languages, and of Rhetoric and Belles-Lettres of New York Central College, situated in Mc. Grawville, Cortland County,—the only College in America that has ever called a colored man to a Professorship, and one of the very few that receive colored and white students on terms of perfect equality, if, indeed, they receive colored students at all.
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In April, 1851, I was invited to Fulton, to deliver a course of Lectures. I gladly accepted the invitation, and none the less that Fulton had always maintained a high reputation for its love of impartial freedom, and that its citizens were highly respected for their professed devotion to the teachings of Christianity.
I am glad to say, that on this occasion I was well received, and at the close of my first lecture was invited to spend the evening at the house of the Rev. Lyndon King. This gentleman having long been known as a devoted abolitionist,—a fervid preacher of the doctrine, that character is above color,—and as one of the ablest advocates of the social, political, and religious rights of the colored man, I, of course, had a pleasant visit with the family; and, remaining with them several days, conceived a deep interest in one of the Elder's daughters,—Miss Mary E. King, who was then preparing to enter the College in Mc. Grawville. I accompanied Miss King to Mc. Grawville, where she remained in college, a year and a half.
Boarding in tenements quite opposite each other, we frequently met in other than college halls, and as freely conversed,—Miss K. being of full age, and legally, as well as intellectually and morally, competent to discuss the subjects in which, it is generally supposed, young men and women feel an absorbing interest.
It is of no consequence what we said; and if it were, the reader, judging in the light of the results, will perhaps as correctly imagine that, as I can possibly describe it. I pass on at once, therefore, simply stating that at the close of the year and a half, my interest in the young lady had become fully reciprocated, and we occupied a relation to each other much more significant than that of teacher and pupil.
Miss King returned to her father's house in October, 1852. I visited the family in December following. Then and there we discussed the subject of marriage more fully between ourselves; and deeming it a duty obligatory upon us, by an intelligent regard for our future happiness, to survey, before consummating an engagement even, the whole field of difficulties, embarrassments, trials, insults and persecutions, which we should have to enter on account of our diversity of complexion, and to satisfy ourselves fully as to our ability to endure what we might expect to encounter; we concluded to separate unengaged, and, in due season, each to write to the other what might be the results of more mature deliberation. This may seem unromantic to the reader; nevertheless, it was prudent on our part.
After remaining in Fulton a week, I left for Boston. Several letters then passed between us, and in January last, our engagement was fixed. I will not speak of myself, but on the part of Miss King, this was certainly a bold step. It displayed a moral heroism which no one can comprehend who has not been in America, and who does not understand the diabolical workings of prejudice against color. Whatever a man may be in his own person,—though he should have the eloquence, talents, and character of Paul and Apollos, and the Angel Gabriel combined,—though he should be as wealthy as Cr[oe]sus,—and though, in personal appearance, he should be as fair as the fairest Anglo-Saxon, yet, if he have but one drop of the blood of the African flowing in his veins, no white young lady can ally herself to him in matrimony, without bringing upon her the anathemas of the community, with scarcely an exception, and rendering herself an almost total outcast, not only from the society in which she formerly moved, but from society in general.
Such is American Caste,—the most cruel under the sun. And such it is, notwithstanding the claims set up by the American people, that they are Heaven's Vicegerents, to teach to men, and to nations as well, the legitimate ideas of Christian Democracy.
To digress a moment. This Caste-spirit of America sometimes illustrates itself in rather ridiculous ways.
A beautiful young lady—a friend of mine—attended, about two years since, one of the most aristocratic Schools of one of the most aristocratic Villages of New York. She was warmly welcomed in the highest circles, and so amiable in temper was she, as well as agreeable in mind and person, that she soon became not only a favorite, but the favorite of the circle in which she moved. The young gentlemen of the village were especially interested in her, and what matrimonial offer might eventually have been made her, it is not for me to say. At the close of the second term, however, she left the school and the village; and then, for the first time, the fact became known (previously known only to her own room-mate) that she was slightly of African blood. Reader,—the consternation and horror which succeeded this "new development," are, without exaggeration, perfectly indescribable. The people drew long breaths, as though they had escaped from the fangs of a boa constrictor; the old ladies charged their daughters, that should Miss —— be seen in that village again, by no means to permit themselves to be seen in the street with her; and many other charges were delivered by said mothers, equally absurd, and equally foolish. And yet this same young lady, according to their own previous showing, was not only one of the most beautiful in person and manners who had ever graced their circle, but was also of fine education; and in complexion as white as the whitest in the village. Truly, this, our human nature, is extremely strange and vastly inconsistent!
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