What It Means to be Colored in the Capital of the United States

The full text transcript of Mary E. Church Terrell's What It Means to Be Colored in the Capital of the United States speech, delivered at the United Women's Club in Washington D.C. – October 10, 1906 from EmersonKent.com:

Mary_church_terrell Washington D.C. has been called The Colored Man's Paradise. Whether this sobriquet was given to the national capital in bitter irony by a member of the handicapped race, as he reviewed some of his own persecutions and rebuffs, or whether it was given immediately after the war by an ex-slaveholder who for the first time in his life saw colored people walking about like free men, minus the overseer and his whip, history saith not. It is certain that it would be difficult to find a worse misnomer for Washington than The Colored Man's Paradise if so prosaic a consideration as veracity is to determine the appropriateness of a name.

It is impossible for any white person in the United States, no matter how sympathetic and broad, to realize what life would mean to him if his incentive to effort were suddenly snatched away. To the lack of incentive to effort, which is the awful shadow under which we live, may be traced the wreck and ruin of score of colored youth. And surely nowhere in the world do oppression and persecution based solely on the color of the skin appear more hateful and hideous than in the capital of the United States, because the chasm between the principles upon which this Government was founded, in which it still professes to believe, and those which are daily practiced under the protection of the flag, yawns so wide and deep.

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