Transcripts of the Richmond Whig
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Richmond Whig, 27 March 1866
The Third of April and the Freedman
The rumor that the freedmen of this city and vicinity contemplated celebrating the third of April by a procession, music, and speeches, in commemoration of their deliverance from servitude, has been the cause of considerable feeling and remark among our citizens. The associations connected with that day of terror, which not only witnessed the humiliation of the white population, but the burning of one third of the city, would have made that day an ill-chosen occasion for a jubilee by the colored inhabitants. If not so intended, it would have looked like exultation over their late masters, and would have begotten ill-feelings, and perhaps have led to consequences of an unpleasant nature. We are pleased, therefore, to learn that it has been determined not to have the contemplated celebration; or at least, to defer it to another occasion. Whether this more judicious after-thought was the result of advice from the military officers here, of old citizens in whom the freedmen have confidence, or of their own uninfluenced volition, it is an evidence of good judgment, proper feeling and correct taste, which will be appreciated by the whole community. The negroes born and raised in Virginia understand and appreciate the feelings and characters of the whites, and when not misled and imposed upon by strangers, will set discreetly and with a due regard to all the proprieties, in nine cases out of ten. Bad advice from designing and evil-disposed persons, who do not understand and do not appreciate the relations that subsist between them and the whites, is the danger to which they are most exposed. Fortunately, the colored people have much shrewdness in discriminating character, and in judging between gold and pinchbeck. They can tell a gentleman and a true man almost at a glance. They were, for some time after the great and sudden change in their condition, bewildered, almost distraught. They saw new faces at every turn, and heard from almost every tongue condemnation of their late masters. Their new acquaintances were so warm in their professions of love that they would have deceived wiser men than the negroes. Besides, it seemed unnatural and ungrateful not to listen to and trust those who had made them free. Super-added to this was a vague expectation and fear that the Southern people wanted to re-enslave them and would avail of the first opportunity that offered to do so. They have now had time to collect their wits, to cast about them, to observe men and events, to learn who are their true friends and who are not, and to consider their real interests. They have found out that they upon whom they can most implicitly rely are those among whom they were raised; and they consider carefully before they take any advice that would hazard a misunderstanding with them. It is fortunate for them that they have learned this lesson, for so long as they remain here—and they are likely to close their lives they began them—their prosperity, comfort, respectability, their very bread and meat, depend upon the continued good feeling of the whites. Those who advise them to affect equality, to assume airs, to disregard former relations, or in any way to outrage the feelings of whites, may pretend to be their friends but they are, in fact, their worst enemies.
We are glad therefore, that they have had the good sense to abandon their much talked of 3rd of April celebration. It could not have been otherwise than distasteful to the whole white community. There are other reasons besides, why such a celebration should not take place now. A gathering and procession of thousands and tens of thousands of negroes, enlivened by music, marching under banners, and excited by contact and sympathy, might, without any such purpose originally, by the slightest provocation, such as the ridicule of a thoughtless and mischievous boy, or an accidental fight between a white and colored boy, lose their self-control, presume upon their numbers, and be betrayed into excesses that would entail upon them consequences too fearful to be hazarded at all, much less for merely an unnecessary display.
In every point of view, they have acted wisely in concluding not to have their celebration. They will be just as free without it as with it, and far more comfortable.
Richmond Whig, 10 April 1866
Negro Celebration on the Third of April
The interest and importance of the negro celebration of the third of April were chiefly derived from unpleasant possibilities, which it was feared, might result from it. It passed off, happily, without any such results, for which our thanks are not due to the authority that risked so much to accomplish so little, but to the conservatism of our population and the admirable police arrangements that were made and so efficiently carried out.
We observe that the Northern papers, those especially in the interest of the Radicals, publish the most extravagant accounts of the numbers engaged in the celebration. They say that seven or eight thousand negroes were in the procession, and that twenty-five thousand were on the streets. If this affair is of importance enough to be mentioned, it should be correctly represented. Those accustomed to estimate numbers agree in the opinion that the number in the procession ranged from five to eight hundred. Our own opinion is that it was nearer the former than the latter. It certainly did not exceed the latter. The streets were undoubtedly thronged with negroes who would have been in the streets if there had been no procession, for the day was a holiday. They were not properly a part of the pageant. It is due to the negroes to say that by far the greater number objected to the demonstration as unnecessary and improper. Nearly all who live by their labor continued at their work. The only part they took in the observances was to jeer awkward but gaudily emblazoned marshals as they careened past them, looking as if they would burst with self-importance. The well raised negro has a keen sense of the ridiculous, and a great contempt for those of his own color who put on airs. The loud and hearty guffaw was heard from the sidewalks whenever any uncommon display of vanity was made. Ass far as we could judge, most of those in the procession were the common order of negroes, or young bucks who wanted to show themselves off in their finery, or the hangers-on upon the Freedmen's Bureau. The "colored aristocracy" looked with disdain upon the whole proceeding.
Back to Broadside, from the Committee, 2 April 1866