Friday, November 29, 2013

Our Colored People. Were They Fairly Treated & Dealt with During the Epidemic? 1873

We have frequently been asked, says the Baltimore American, whether the colored people of Memphis suffered equally with the white people in the dreadful visitation which has just departed from the city, and whether they received a proportionate share of the money sent from other cities to relieve the wants of the suffering.  Very little mention was made of the colored people in the Memphis papers during the reign of the pestilence, and from them we could derive no information on the subject.  We have recently received a letter, however, from Dr. N.D. Smith, cashier of the Memphis branch of the Freedmen's savings and trust company, which fully and intelligently answers the inquiries which have been so frequently made.  We are glad to relieve the apprehension of those friends of the colored people who feared that baleful prejudices might stifle the promptings of humanity even in the presence of this terrible visitation.  Mr. Smith assures us that in the distribution of the relief fund there was no discrimination on account of color.  The black people shared equally with the white in the bounty of the benevolent people of the land according to their necessities. So well were they satisfied with the fairness and impartiality of those who dispensed the charity fund, that they turned over the money which they received from the north for their special relief into the common treasury, and had it measured out to them again by the Howard association.  The citizen's committee under charge of Major J.J. Busby, did everything in their power to supply the needy, and Mr. Smith heard no one complain of being passed over on account of his color.  It affords us the greatest pleasure to publish these facts, inasmuch as they show that the rancor which crops out in the Memphis papers a month or two before each election is merely political gasconade, and that the all-embracing charity which stoops to succor the lowest of the lowly does not belong to any particular city or any section of the Union. Wherever there are Christian men and women, there it is found.  Mr. smith also informs us that the colored people did not suffer from the yellow-fever in the same proportion as the white.  Some of those who were stricken by the pestilence died, but the majority recovered.  The suspension of business and the flight of the white people from the city bore very hardly upon the colored laborers.  There greatest distress came from the want of employment.  business has been dull during the last year, and there has been rather more suffering from this cause than usual.  Still the colored people managed to keep up their deposits in the Freedmen's savings bank, and when the dark days came upon them, many of them had a snug little sum in reserve which helped through the panic.
Originally published in the Memphis Daily Appeal Nov. 29 1873

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