This Day in History

Sept. 3, 1868: Henry McNeal Turner Addressed the Georgia Legislature

Time Periods: 1865
Themes: African American, Reconstruction, Democracy & Citizenship
Henry McNeal Turner | Zinn Education Project

Henry McNeal Turner

Mr. Speaker: Before proceeding to argue this question upon its intrinsic merits, I wish the members of this House to understand the position that I take. I hold that I am a member of this body. Therefore, sir, I shall neither fawn nor cringe before any party, nor stoop to beg them for my rights. . . .

You may expel us, gentlemen, but I firmly believe that you will some day repent it.

The Black man cannot protect a country, if the country doesn’t protect him; and if, tomorrow, a war should arise, I would not raise a musket to defend a country where my manhood is denied.

The fashionable way in Georgia, when hard work is to be done, is for the white man to sit at his ease while the Black man does the work; but, sir, I will say this much to the colored men of Georgia, as, if I should be killed in this campaign, I may have no opportunity of telling them at any other time: Never lift a finger nor raise a hand in defense of Georgia, until Georgia acknowledges that you are men and invests you with the rights pertaining to manhood. Read in full.

On Sept. 3, 1868, Henry McNeal Turner addressed the Georgia Legislature on its decision to expel himself and the other African American representatives from the legislature.

Listen to an excerpt of the speech read by Danny Glover from Voices of a People’s History of the United States and read the full speech at BlackPast.

Read The Other ’68: Black Power During Reconstruction and find resources below for teaching about the Reconstruction Era of the United States and the long and ongoing fight for voting rights.

Learn more in the Zinn Education Project national report, “Erasing the Black Freedom Struggle: How State Standards Fail to Teach the Truth About Reconstruction,” and find teaching resources on Reconstruction below.