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In The Wake Of The Coming Ages

BY J. MADISON VANCE, of New Orleans, La.

[Note 20: Extract from an address delivered at the Music Hall,
Boston, Mass., October 4, 1894, before the Seventh Biennial Meeting of
the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows of America.]

In these trying times of peace with tears of blood; these times of
crimes so horrible and fiendish that Christianity bows in supplication
for surcease of sorrow, and the advance of civilization seems in vain;
in these times when the Negro is compared to the brute, and his
mentality limited to the ordinary; in these times when the holy robes of
the Church are used to decry, villify and malign the race; in these
times when the subsidized press of the country loudly proclaims the
Negro's incapacity for government; in these times I turn with pardonable
pride to the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, an organization the
affairs of which are administered entirely by colored men, an
organization that typifies the possibilities of the race; the
organization whose very existence gives the lie to the damnable
aspersions cast upon us by the enemies of humanity.

This grand organization is but a collection of individuals, and as
individuals we must shape our destiny. The time is past for pleading;
these are days of action. The higher we rise, the sharper will become
the prejudice of color. The laboring white is jealous of the
competition of the blacks. The problem is to be worked out in the
South, and largely by ourselves. With all the disadvantages and
proscriptive doctrines that encroach upon us in that Southland, I
honestly believe that this land with all its natural beauties and
advantages, this land below the mountains; this land of passion and
pleasure, of fever and fret, this land famed in history, song, and story
as the "land of Dixie," is the Negro's coming Arcadia. From its lowlands
and marshes will yet come forth the peerless leader, who will not only
point out the way, but will climb the battlements of tolerance and race
prejudice, backed by the march of civilization, and, with his face to
the enemy, fight the battle of common humanity.

The romance of "Emancipation" is fading out. The old slave is rapidly
passing. The mythology of his period is extinct. The Republic has
declared against the "Force Bill." The "Praetorian Guard" is mustered
out, and the sentiment of the times is against paternalism. "Every tub
must stand on its own bottom," and the eloquence of the orator cannot
arrest the trend of the times. A problem is half solved when facts are
apprehended; it is more than half solved when the facts are
comprehended, and practical sense succeeds sentiment.

The Negro confronts destiny. He must be the architect of his own
fortune. He must demonstrate capacity and independence, because
mendicancy is always destructive. The living present calls us away from
the ashes of the dead and buried past. Our hopes are brighter and our
ambitions higher. Let us stand on our own racial pride, and prove our
claim for equality by showing the fruits of thrift, talent, and
frugality. The brotherhood of genius will not refuse the need of merit,
and within the sweep of our constant observations great artists,
musicians, poets, and orators are more than hinted possibilities. We
would be criminals to despair. The Negro is here, and here to stay, and
traveling rapidly in "the wake of coming ages." We know not how far the
goal may still be distant, but at least we think we see it and our most
fervent hope is to approach it more and more nearly--

"Till each man find his own in all men's good,
And all men work in noble brotherhood,
Breaking their mailed fleets and armed towers,
And ruling by obeying nature's powers,
And gathering all the fruits of earth and crowned with her flowers."

As the shadows come creeping over the dial of time, the nineteenth
century faces the setting sun; a century replete with the grandest
inventions of modern times, and with a fullness of scientific
investigation beyond the possible conception of man one hundred years
ago. This century has emancipated woman, and like the "Dreamers on the
brow of Parnassus," she is not forgetful of the toilers on other
altitudes within the horizon's rim. She is not blind to the signal
lights, which in their blaze proclaim new knowledge, new power for man,
new triumphs, new glory for the human spirit in its march on chaos and
the dark. Any message of love would be incomplete without her gentle
voice. Her love is her life, white-winged and eternal. Her welcome is
spontaneous, fervid, whole-souled, generous. Her influence is felt
everywhere, throughout the ramifications of our "Order." The wholesome
power of her persuasive counsel is ofttimes needed, and the tender
mercies of her tireless devotion have smoothed away the grim visage of
discontent, brought solace to the fevered brain, and made peaceful that
dreary journey from life to death.

* * * * *

We look out upon our vast army of followers, and glory in our stalwart
band. * * * * * Out of the darkness of the night, imposing in our
numbers, stand we forth, splendid and terrible, in "The Wake of the
Coming Ages." And when we look at all the magnificent fabric we call
civilization, its incalculable material, its wealth, its amazing
mechanical resources, its wonderful scientific discoveries, its
many-sided literature, its sleepless and ubiquitous journalism, its
lovely art, its abounding charities, its awful fears and sublime hopes,
we get a magnificent conception of the possibilities of life, as this
latest of the centuries draws its purple robe about its majestic form
and stands up to die as the old Roman Caesar stood, in all the
magnificence of its riches, and the plenitude of its power.

But after all, the measure of its value is the character of it

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