Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900

By Philip S. Foner; Robert James Branham | Go to book overview

We're men and fear no rivals now; Freed from the shackles of the rod, We only ask with lifted brow, Justice from man and strength from God.■


93 THE RIGHT OF WOMEN TO VOTE

Mary Ann Shadd Cary

Before the Civil War, Mary Ann Shadd Cary established a formidable reputation as a reporter, editor (she was the first black woman newspaper editor in North America), orator, and debater in support of abolitionism and emigration. After the war, Cary moved to Washington, D.C., where she served as principal of several public high schools and wrote regularly for Frederick Douglass New National Era and other papers. In 1869, at the age of forty-six, Cary became the first woman student in the Howard University Law School. She received her degree in 1883.

Cary was an ardent champion of women's suffrage and, in particular, of the importance of the franchise for African American women. Cary joined the Universal Franchise Association (founded in 1867) soon after her arrival in Washington and spoke as its representative at the Colored National Labor Union convention in December 1869. After the suffrage movement split at the 1869 equal rights convention over the question of whether to support the Fifteenth Amendment granting black men, but not women, the vote, Cary aligned with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and the new National Woman's Suffrage Association. In December 1870 and January 1872, Cary attended the women's suffrage conventions in Washington, D.C. Following each of these conventions, a delegation of the suffragists met with members of the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives to present petitions (including Victoria Woodhull's famed memorial) and deliver speeches. Cary probably drafted the following speech for the second of these meetings.

Cary addresses the committee "as a colored woman, a resident of this District, a tax-payer of the same." As a "citizen" according to the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, she argues, she is entitled to full citizenship rights. Where Stanton and Anthony chose to denigrate black men in their quest to win the ballot for women, Cary instead praises the extension of the franchise to African American men and uses the princi-

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