|Articles, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2014-12-17 18:59Z by Steven|
In 1869 A NATIONAL WOMAN’S SUFFRAGE convention was held for the first time in Washington, D.C. The Fourteenth Amendment had recently been ratified and the Fifteenth was about to be introduced into Congress. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and other women present used the opportunity to object to black men receiving the vote before women, both black and white, were enfranchised. Their arguments were countered by those of Frederick Douglass, Edward M. Davis, Dr. Charles Burleigh Purvis, and others, who maintained that the Southern black male needed the shield of suffrage to protect him from the reign of terror being visited upon him by former slave owners.
A tall slender man with fair skin and white hair rose at his seat and began to speak. Elizabeth Stanton invited him to come forward and address the convention from the platform. Robert Purvis of Philadelphia said that he was willing to wait for the vote for himself and his sons and his race until women were also permitted to enjoy it. It was important to him that his daughter be enfranchised, since she bore the double curse of sex and race. He chided his son, Dr. Charles Purvis, for holding a narrow position, and reminded him that his sister Hattie also deserved to be enfranchised.
Alone among the black men who had supported women’s rights in the antislavery movement, Robert Purvis remained an advocate of suffrage for women throughout the period of debate and schism over the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments. In 1888 he was honored by Susan B. Anthony at the International Council of Women, meeting in Washington, D.C., for his courageous stand in 1869 in opposition to his own son.
Purvis’s advocacy of women’s rights was rooted in his deeply held convictions on human rights. He believed strongly that the struggle for equality for blacks could not be separated from that of women, of American Indians, of Irish nationalists demanding home rule, of all minorities. He objected to all associations based on color alone and rejected the term “African-American.” ‘There is not a single African in the United States,” he told a Philadelphia audience in 1886. “We are to the manner born; we are native Americans.”
Purvis’s position on human rights undoubtedly stemmed in part from his own mixed-race background. His grandmother, Dido Badaracka, was born in Morocco. Purvis described her as a “full-blooded Moor of magnificent features and great beauty. She had crisp hair and a stately manner.” In approximately 1766, at the age of twelve, she was captured by a slave trader along with an Arab girl. The two had been enticed to go a mile or two out of the city where they lived to see a deer that had been caught. They were seized, loaded on the backs of camels, and carried to a slave market on the coast. Here they were loaded onto a slaver and transported to Charleston, South Carolina. At the slave market in Charleston, Dido was bought by a kind white woman, named Day or Deas, who educated her, treated her as a companion, and left instructions that she was to be freed when the woman died, nine years later, in 1775…
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