Nov. 15, 2016

In Their Words My Voice

Project Uplift Literacy
In their Words My Voice
Race Unity
May 6, 1879


Today Ferdinand L. Barnett is best known as the husband of the anti-lynching crusader, Ida Wells-Barnett. However by 1879, Barnett, a graduate of Chicago’s College of Law and editor the Chicago Conservator, the city’s first black newspaper, which he founded in 1878, was one of a rising number of post-Reconstruction black leaders. On May 6 9, 1879, at a national conference of African American men meeting in Nashville, Tennessee where most of the issues discussed related to Southern black poverty and anti-black violence in the region, Barnett, the delegate from Chicago gave a speech which called for race unity as the necessary precondition of African American progress. His address specifically called African Americans to unite both politically and economically; to set aside jealousy and infighting, to assist the poor and support black-owned businesses which in turn would hire African American workers and urged the black schools of the South to be staffed by African American teachers not only to build a middle class but also because he believed these teachers would be especially committed to education and racial uplift. Far from being unique, Barnett’s calls echoed earlier leaders such as Henry Highland Garnet and anticipated future leaders such as Booker T. Washington and W.E. B. DuBois.