“A Letter From Colored Citizens”

Jackson Campbell
4 min readFeb 1, 2024

Mount Sterling, Kentucky — January 28, 1914

A Screenshot from the Mt. Sterling Advocate — 1914–01–28

This is a letter written by a “Committee of Colored Citizens” in Mt. Sterling, Kentucky in the year 1914.

“Some of the local papers seem to have up a little stir, something about an anonymous letter received by the editor of the Gazette, which communication the editor says, contained threats of violence against the city police force because of mistreatment of some local colored people by some members of the force.

We know nothing of the communication, nor of its author, but we are sure, if it was written by a colored person it was some thoughtless, irresponsible, ignorant person who gives no thought to what he says or does and it is to be regretted that such a letter was not consigned to the waste basket unnoticed, for it did not, by and [sic] means, express the sentiment of the better class of colored people, nor would any such course of action meet the approval or receive the support or sympathy of the better class of colored people in Mt. Sterling, and a community of peaceable, law-abiding colored citizens should not be condemned, not should a spirit of race antagonism be created for what one or a few persons might do or say. We do not think there are any grievances or general complaints on the part of the colored people of Mt. Sterling against the police force. There may be some individual cases in whch [sic] colored people have not been treated just right, but we believe, if there be such, if brought to the attention of the proper authorities — the Chief of Police, the Mayor or the City Council — such cases will be satisfactorily adjusted. Of course the peace officers are expected to keep within the bounds of the law and not act rashly or hastily in the performance of their duty; they are elected by us to protect us, preserve peace and keep order and they should be aided by every good citizen in the performance of these duties. Every citizen, black and white, should be accorded his rights and every citizen should try to know what his rights are and not try to abuse them, nor infringe upon the rights of others. If we are as orderly on the streets and in public places as we should be; as a rule, there would be little ground for complaint. On the streets, if we block the sidewalks so others cannot pass, we are out of the bounds of out rights. At the Opera House if we are noise that others who want to hear cannot, we are out of the bounds of our rights and these are some of the things to which the colored people need give attention.

As a rule, we think negroes of Mt. Sterling are fairly law-abiding. We have no clubs, as the letter states, whose object is to fight for the rights of the negro.. We have such clubs as Woman’s Improvement Club, the W.C.T.U., the Missionary Clubs, and the Men’s Bible Classes, to which anyone black or white is welcome to come and to which we would only be too glad to have some of our white friends attend sometimes, for we feel that if the white man knew more about the better class of colored people, had a better knowledge of what the industrious negro is trying to accomplish for himself and his race, there would not be so much of a negro problem after all. Only the dark side of negro life finds its way into print of papers published by white persons and the majority of white people do not read negro papers, so it is only the bad things about the negro that they see. They read of the murders and crmes [sic], but see little of the negro achievements along industrial lines, purchasing and building good homes, etc. The negros of Mt. Sterling are not organizing to fight for their rights, but are working for their rights.

The sensible negro of this country knows that the best way to secure his rghts [sic] is to make of himself a useful, industrious, law-abiding citizen.

There is no cause for any bad race feeling in this town, no cause for any sensational newspaper articles. We have lived here together for years in peace and harmony; let us continue. The negroes do not want social equality any more so than the whites. When it comes to social affairs, let every fellow stay on his own side of the fence, but in matters industriously, educationally and for a better Mt. Sterling let us work together as one man for the good of all the people.

Yours respectfully for good order, harmony and peace. Committe [sic] of Colored Citizens:

J.S. Estill,

Abe Owings,

Buford Tipton,

W.H. Brown, Pastor of High St. Christian Church.

Rev. J. S. Webb, Pastor of C.M.E. Church

J.T. Bonner, M.D.

Henry Botts,

P.L. Hensley,

Garrett Wilson,

E.W. Stockton,

James Mitchell,

James E. Magowan.”

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