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  --  THE COLORED DELEGATES.   Table of Contents

Albert, Octavia V. Rogers
The House of Bondage



The Cotton Centennial Exposition of 1884--Dr. Lee's great speech--Aunt Jane Lee finds her long lost son--The reunion.

I CANNOT close my story until I tell you of a very touching incident which I can never forget, which took place about four years before that which I have just related. I know you will enjoy it, and therefore I don't feel that it is necessary for me to make any further apology for going back to recall it. The incident took place during the great Cotton Centennial Exposition which was held in New Orleans in 1884. It was one of the finest and most extensive ever witnessed in any country. On one of the many special days that were observed there I had the pleasure of listening to many very eloquent and gifted orators, and among them was a young colored man who was said to have been a slave, and who was to speak as the representative of his race. The programme was a

long and tedious one, and the people grew tired and restless; but of the sixty thousand people that had gathered nearly all remained to the last in order to get a chance to hear the colored man that would dare attempt to interest such a concourse of people after so many able orators had almost nauseated them with the choicest flower of classical oratory. At the appointed time, however, he made his appearance and was introduced. Although there were nearly sixty thousand people present when he uttered his first sentence you could almost have heard a pin drop, so intent was every one to hear what he would say. To say that he acquitted himself creditably but feebly expresses the fact. He did so well that not only the local press, but the press of the whole country, echoed his praise to the very skies. Indeed, he surprised the nation. Describing the occasion in Harper's Magazine , that matchless writer, Charles Dudley Warner, said:

"The colored citizens took their full share of the parade and the honors, Their societies marched with the others, and the races mingled on the grounds in unconscious equality of privileges. Speeches were made glorifying

the State and its history, by able speakers, the governor among them; but it was testimony of Democrats of undoubted Southern orthodoxy that the honors of the day were carried off by a colored clergyman, an educated man, who united eloquence with excellent good sense, and who spoke as a citizen of Lousiana, proud of his native State, dwelling with richness of allusion upon its history. It was perfectly manly speech in the assertion of the rights and the position of his race, and it breathed throughout a spirit of good-will and amity in a common hope of progress. It was warmly applauded and accepted, so far as I heard, as a matter of course".

This colored man, I learned, was the Rev. Dr. Coleman Lee, pastor of a prominent church in Louisiana. I was so delighted with his speech, and felt so proud of him, that I forced my way through the crowd to shake his hand and to thank him, in the name of the race, for the honor he had reflected upon himself and his race. After congratulating him I said:

"Your name is Dr. Lee?"

"Yes", said he; "my father was a white man, and he would not let me be called by his

name. So mother gave me her name, which was Lee, and so I have kept it right along".

"Are you a native of this State?" said I.

"O, yes," said he; "I am a native of this State,
and was born, right on Bayou Terre Bonne".
Said I, "Is your mother living?"

Said he, "The Lord only knows. She was sold from me when I was only four or five years old. She was sold and taken to Texas somewhere. I have advertised for her and inquired for her every-where, but have never been able to hear a word of her".

"Pray tell me, sir, what was her name?"said I.

Said he, "Her name was Jane Lee, who originally was sold to Louisiana from Virginia".

"Well, well!" thought I; and just as I was about to tell him about Aunt Charlotte, and what she told me of Aunt Jane Lee, there came a woman apparently about fifty or sixty years of age, who, upon hearing him, rushed wildly, and, throwing her arms around his neck, cried out, amid tears of great joy,

"My long-lost son, my long-lost son! my son, my son!"

Every body turned around to see what was

the matter, only to unite in praise to God for the wonderful reunion that he had thus vouchsafed to this long-separated mother and son. I almost felt that I was one of the family, too, for Aunt Charlotte had told me so many thing about Aunt Jane Lee; and now that I was permitted to form her acquaintance under such circumstances I could not restrain my tears nor my joy. I then took them to my house, which was only a few squares away, where I listened to them as they recited to each other the wonderful story of their lives during the years of their separation.

After spending nearly half the night with me and my family and friends who had gathered to witness this affecting scene we all united in singing, "Praise God, from whom all blessings flow", after which Dr. Lee led in prayer, and the company separated, and Dr. Lee and his mother left, with the promise that they would soon write. Dr. Lee was well situated in life. He had managed to work his way through college, had amassed a considerable amount of property, had married a very excellent wife, a former school-mate, and had one daughter; and now he was going to complete

his family circle by the addition of his long-lost mother, who was going to accompany him to his and comfortable and cultured home in Baton Rouge.

But when will all this scattered race be reunited that was thus most cruelly separated by our inhuman system of slavery? Never, till they gather before the throne of God, when all nations, great and small, shall then be called to their final account. Let us all thank God and rejoice that the unearthly institution has been swept away forever in a sea of blood never to rise again.

"Sound the loud timbrel o'er Egypt's dark sea;
Jehovah has triumphed, his people are free!
Sing, for the pride of this tyrant is broken,
His chariots, his horsemen, all splendid and brave--
How void was their boast, for the Lord hath but spoken
And chariot and horsemen are sunk in the wave.
Sound the loud timbrel o'er Egypt's dark sea;
Jehovah has triumphed, his people are free!

Praise to the Conqueror, praise to the Lord!
His word was our arrow, his breath was our sword.
Who shall return to tell Egypt the story
Of those she sent forth in the hour of her pride?
For the Lord hath looked out from his pillar of glory,
And all the brave thousands are dashed in the tide.
Sound the loud timbrel o'er Egypt's dark sea;
Jehovah has triumphed, his people are free!"

  --  THE COLORED DELEGATES.   Table of Contents