(Read Part II, March 1866)
The manuscript of the following pages has been handed to me with the request that I would revise it for publication, or weave its facts into a story which should show the fitness of the Southern black for the exercise of the right of suffrage.
The narrative is a plain and unpretending account of the life of a man whose own right arm—to use his own expression—won his rights as a free man. It is written with the utmost simplicity, and has about it the verisimilitude which belongs to truth, and to truth only when told by one who has been a doer of the deeds and an actor in the scenes which he describes. It has the further rare merit of being written by one of the “despised race”; for none but a negro can fully and correctly depict negro life and character.It is written in a fair, legible hand; its words are correctly spelled; its facts are clearly stated, and—in most instances—its sentences are properly constructed. Therefore it needs no revision. On reading it over carefully, I also discover that it is in itself a stronger argument for the manhood of the negro than any which could be adduced by one not himself a freedman; for it is the argument of facts, and facts are the most powerful logic. Therefore, if I were to imbed these facts in the mud of fiction, I should simply oblige the reader to dredge for the oyster, which in this narrative he has without the trouble of dredging, fresh and juicy as it came from the hand of Nature, — or rather, from the hand of one of Nature’s noblemen, — and who, until he was thirty years of age, had never put two letters together.
General Thomas—a Southern man and a friend of the Southern negro—was once in conversation with a gentleman who has attained some reputation as a delineator of the black man, when a long, lean, “poor white man,” then a scout in the Union army, approached the latter, and, giving his shoulder a familiar slap, accosted him with, —