The Works of James M. Whitfield: America and Other Writings by a Nineteenth-Century African American Poet

By James M. Whitfield; Robert S. Levine et al. | Go to book overview

LETTER TO FRANK P. BLAIR, JR., 1 FEBRUARY 1858 80

LETTER FROM J. M. WHITFIELD,
EDITOR OF THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN REPOSITORY,
(A COLORED MAN.)

Buffalo, New York, Feb. 1, 1858

DEAR SIR: Having read a portion of your late speech in Congress in favor of colonizing free blacks in Central or South America, 81 I have taken the liberty of addressing you, feeling, as one of that race, and an advocate of the same policy, a vital interest in its success.

In August, 1854, a Convention was held at Cleveland of those colored men in favor of emigration to the West India islands, Central and South America. That Convention organized a Board of Emigration, which appointed a commissioner (Rev. J. T. Holly, now rector of St. Luke’s church, New Haven) to go to Hayti, and confer with the Haytien government upon the subject. 82

80. From the appendix to Frank P. Blair Jr., The Destiny of the Races of this Continent: An Address Delivered before the Mercantile Library Association, Boston, Massachusetts. On the 26th of January 1859 (Washington, D.C.:Buell & Blanchard, Printers, 1859), 37–38. Also included in the appendix are supportive letters from Holly and Delany. Because both Holly’s and Whitfield’s letters were reprinted in Carter G. Woodson’s pioneering The Mind of the Negro as Reflected in Letters Written During the Crisis, 1800–1860 (1926), with Whitfield’s letter immediately following Holly’s, the letter to Blair has been misidentified as a letter to Holly in several Whitfield bibliographies.

81. On 14 January 1858, Francis (Frank) P. Blair Jr. (1821–75), a U.S. representative from Missouri, gave a speech before Congress calling for financial support for his plan to encourage the free blacks to emigrate to what he called in his 1859 The Destiny of the Races of this Continent “the vacant regions of Central and South America” (23). A graduate of Princeton University, Blair practiced law in his home state of Kentucky before moving to Missouri. Following two terms in the Missouri legislature, Blair became the lone Free-Soiler in Congress from a slave state when he was elected in 1856. He urged southerners to adopt a policy of continued emancipation by deportation and colonization and opposed the extension of slavery on economic as well as social and moral grounds. A veteran of the Mexican-American war, Blair distinguished himself during the Civil War as a general in the Union army

82. Holly first visited Haiti in 1855. He moved there in 1861, and in 1878 he was named bishop of the Orthodox Apostolic Church of Haiti.

-201-

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