Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/328

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that of other oppressed peoples. "The color line" had been drawn offensively at the same time in different parts of the United States. Policemen in New York had threatened to strike if a negro were appointed on the force. A High School in Indianapolis had dispensed with commencement exercises, because eight girls of the graduating class refused to appear on the platform with a colored girl. "To insult and degrade a free man and tie his hands with social and statute wires, that cut and burn as well as restrain," wrote O'Reilly, "is worse than to seize him bodily and yoke him to a dray as a slave . . . . The girls who have disgraced themselves and their city ought to be marked with a scarlet letter.

"Every fair-minded man and woman and child in America ought to seize these shameful facts as a reason to make up their minds on the negro question. They ought to say that every policeman in New York or elsewhere, who dared to say he was better than his colored fellow-citizen, was unfit to wear the uniform of an American city; and that every school-girl who was so un-Christian and so unladylike as to ostracize a fellow-student because her skin was dark, was utterly unworthy of a diploma from the public schools."

The massacre of colored men at Carrolton, Miss., in April, called out an indignation meeting of the colored citizens of Boston, who assembled in the Phillips Street Baptist Church on the evening of April 12. O'Reilly vented his righteous indignation at the perpetrators of the atrocity, and uttered this timely word of sympathy and encouragement to his colored hearers:

I know nothing and care nothing about your politics or party preferences; but I know that if I were a colored man I should use political parties, as I would a club or a hatchet, to smash the prejudice that dared to exclude my children from a public school, or myself from a public hall, theater, or hotel. The interest you have to protect and defend is not that of a party, but of your own manhood. Use party as they use you—for your own best interests. But the thing that most deeply afflicts the colored American is not going to be cured by politics. You have received from politics already