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P. Thomas Stanford (Peter Thomas)
The Tragedy of the Negro in America: a Condensed History of the Enslavement, Sufferings, Emancipation, Present Condition and Progress of the Negro Race in the United States of America
Boston, Mass.: Charles W. Wasto, 1897.


Stanford begins The Tragedy of the Negro in America by distinguishing between the authorized tragedy of black Americans, represented by slavery, with the unauthorized tragedy of post-bellum injustice. In discussing the authorized tragedy, Stanford describes the first attempts at colonizing and Christianizing black communities in the West Indies, and moves on to the first importation of blacks into the American colonies. He condemns the false Christianity that allowed slavery to continue and grow throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Stanford acknowledges the good deeds done by various religious sects (particularly the Quakers) and praises the New England states for the restriction or abolition of slavery. He also writes at length of John Brown's abortive uprising at the US Armory in Harper's Ferry, VA.

In describing the unauthorized tragedy, Stanford blames Andrew Johnson for failing to control racist legislation in the southern states and allowing the freedmen to suffer under economic conditions little better than those suffered under slavery. He also describes the perversion of the justice system to allow for the ritual denigration of African Americans. He devotes an entire chapter to brutal accounts of lynchings that took place in the 1890s, giving statistics to show that lynchings increased markedly in the 1890s and giving numerous anecdotes of lynchings and other brutal crimes perpetrated against blacks. While cataloging the horrors of everyday life for southern blacks, Stanford also presents the accomplishments of Phyllis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, and Charles Ruffin as examples of what the race is capable of achieving. He also celebrates the burgeoning presence of universities and schools in the South that serve in the uplifting of the African American people, and looks forward to a continued remediation of the obstacles to justice.

Bryan Sinche

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