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The Words Of Samuel Coleridge Taylor

These words were written by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor near the end of his life in connection with a lecture on 'The Negro Problem in North America' by a barrister who had spoken racial prejudice of the ugliest kind.

It is amazing that grown-up, and presumably educated, people can listen to such primitive and ignorant nonsense-mongers, who are men without vision, utterly incapable of penetrating beneath the surface of things.

No one realises more than I that the coloured people have not yet taken their place in the scheme of things, but to say that they never will is arrogant rubbish, and an insult to the God in Whom they profess to believe. Why I personally know hundreds of men and women of Negro blood who have already made their mark in the great world, and this is only the beginning.

I might suggest that the ‘Purley Circle’ engage someone to lecture on one Alexander Dumas, a rather well known author, I fancy, who had more than a drop of Negro blood in him. Who
is there who has not read and loved his Dumas? And what about Poushkin, the poet? And Du Bois, whose Souls Of Black Folk was hailed by James Payn as the greatest book that had come out of the United States for fifty years? I mention these three not only because they are distinguished men, but men of colossal genius. And will the lecturer refer to a chapter in H.G.Wells’ Future of America, called The Tragedy of Colour? – this, because Wells is
undoubtedly possessed of the heaven-born gift of insight to a greater degree than any other living Englishman – even excluding G.B.S.

The fact is there is an appalling amount of ignorance amongst English people regarding the Negro and his doings. If the Purley lecturer (I forget his name, and am away from home, the Birmingham people having engaged me to direct something that has come out of my ill-formed skull) – I say, if he is right, then let us at once and forever stop the humbling missions to darkest Africa, and let the clergy stop calling their congregations ‘dear brethren,’ at any rate whenever a black man happens to be in the church. Let us change our prayer books, our Bibles, and everything pertaining to Christianity and be honest.

Personally I consider myself the equal of any white man that ever lived, and no one could ever change me in that respect; on the other hand, no man reverences worth more than I, irrespective of colour and creed. May I further remind the lecturer that really great people always see the best in others? It is the little man who looks for the worst – and finds it. It is a peculiar thing that almost without exception all distinguished white men have been
favourable disposed towards their black brethren. No woman has ever been more courteous to me than a certain member of our own English Royal Family, and no man more so than President Roosevelt.

It was an arrogant ‘little’ white man who dared to say to the great Dumas: ‘And I hear you actually have Negro blood in you!’ ‘Yes,’ said the witty writer; ‘my father was a mulatto, his father a Negro, and his father a monkey. My ancestry began where yours ends!’

Somehow I always manage to remember that wonderful answer when I meet a certain type of white man (a type, thank goodness! as far removed from the best as the poles from each other), and the remembrance makes me feel quite happy – wickedly happy, in fact!

With special thanks to Avril Coleridge-Taylor: this excerpt was taken from her book The Heritage Of Samuel Coleridge Taylor.

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