Jan. 6, 2021

Robert Brown Elliott's Historic Speech Requesting Black Civil Rights

Today, I celebrate the brilliance of Robert Brown Elliott who was one of the black congressmen during the period of Black Reconstruction. In 1874, Congressman Elliott spoke to the House of Representatives in our nation's capital appealing for the passage of the Civil Rights Bill of 1875. It was the last of the Black Reconstruction bills passed by the Republicans prior to the end of Reconstruction in 1877.

The bill was ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in 1881. This ruling basically ensured that Jim Crow would devastate black lives throughout this nation until 1964's passage of the Civil Rights Bill. The speech that was given by then Congressman Elliott on January 6, 1874, was deemed by many including Federick Douglass as one of the most historic speeches ever given in the Halls of Congress. Today, I will read the entire speech in all of its glory.

"What you give to one class you must give to all; what you deny to one class you shall deny to all, unless in the exercise of the common and universal police power of the state you find it needful to confer exclusive privileges on certain citizens, to be held and exercised still for the common good of all."

Robert Brown Elliott was born in Boston on August 11, 1842, and he died on August 9, 1884. Although Robert Elliott served in the House of Representative and had numerous other political appointments, he actually died a pauper in New Orleans, Louisana. Elliott’s decline was a direct result of the fact that every right that he and others in Congress secured for black Americans were snatched from them as a result of tyrannical Jim Crow laws enacted by southern states and replicated in other states throughout America.