booker t. washington portrait

Closing Address: The National Negro Business League

Aug. 24, 1900
Boston, Mass., J. R. Hamm, 1901, pp. 213-14

It is a decided imposition for me to make any extended remarks. That, I promise you, I shall not do. I simply rise for the purpose of emphasizing the thanks of this organization to the citizens of Boston for their very generous hospitality and especially I thank the members of the Local Committee, who have stood by this effort by night and by day and have made it the success which has attended it; and I am sure that this whole audience, including not only the delegates, but the visitors, joins with me in extending a hearty unanimous vote of thanks to Mr. Louis F. Baldwin, who has stood at the helm of this convention as the Chairman. I am sure that we shall go away from here with it in our minds that we for once have seen a model chairman of a meeting, and we are grateful to Mr. Baldwin and to you that we have not heard a single "point of order” from the beginning to the end of the meeting. It is sometimes said that the Negroes cannot come together: that they cannot unite in praiseworthy effort and hold meetings as we have tried to hold these during the last two days.

This has been a demonstration of the fact that it is possible for colored men to come together and conduct themselves in a fitting and praiseworthy manner. The thing that has given me most encouragement, and I may add most surprise, from the beginning to the ending of this meeting, is the manly, straightforward tone which all of you have used in the description of your work and in the description of the communities where you live. We haven't heard a single "baby cry" from the beginning to the ending of this meeting. We haven't heard any complaints; we haven't heard any man asking for a quarter because of his color or because of his location. All that has been said here has been straightforward, manly and praiseworthy.

My friends, I must not detain you longer, but I must make a single request, and that is that you take the spirit of this meeting into your homes, to your immediate localities; that you take the resolutions which you will find printed and distributed, plenty of them here, to your own homes; that you take the spirit of this meeting, the suggestions that the committee have put in print, and that in each community you try to plant the spirit to form an organization that will result in the employment of the colored people where you live. I believe the spirit of this meeting will go into every portion of our country, and where there has been disunion, and where there has been luke-warmness, in the future there will be union and a hearty support for all these efforts that look forward to the upbuilding of our people. Let us in our communities come together and throw aside this spirit of jealousy.

Let us, no matter what business we are engaged in, meet the brother from across the street - meet and shake hands together and stand together in the community. I believe that next year you will come with larger numbers, with stronger reports; and I believe that through this organization will be put on foot a spirit that shall make us feel that notwithstanding color we can succeed; that we can grow and be a people right here in America. We must not grow discouraged, my friends; we must keep up our spirits; and I hope you will teach to your boys and girls, when you return home, that right here about them are opportunities through which they can rise to manhood and womanhood. As Mr. Garrison said last night, "Who will take the job of keeping down, repressing such an audience as this?" There is no force on earth that can keep back a people continually getting education, light, intelligence, property and Christian character.

In our efforts to rise we may for a while have obstacles cast in our pathway; we may be inconvenienced, but we can never be defeated in our purpose.

I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, again for your interest in this meeting for your hearty support, and the citizens of Boston for their generous hospitality.