A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

African-American Series: Lakewood Preacher Advises His Fellow Negroes to Behave or Risk Lynching (1903)

Morris F Matthews, an African American preacher, born in Virginia and living in Lakewood, submitted the text below to The Matawan Journal. The 25 Jun 1903 edition featured this most shocking broadside on the front page directed to his fellow blacks. His references to a 35th anniversary may represent bad math or a mistaken belief that emancipation took place in 1868.

There was a Morris F Matthews, age 27, who was living in Plainfield as a gardener in the 1900 Federal Census, along with a wife of two years. Ten years later, Morris Matthews, age 34, was living on John Street in Lakewood as a pastor at a church, along with his supposed first and only wife of three years and two sons. I believe both listings are for the same man, the man who wrote this piece.

Reverend M F Matthews to the Negro.


For the benefit of my people please permit space in the columns of your valuable paper for me to warn the negro.

If the negro would study to learn his lesson well he would find, as he advances with the twentieth century, more sympathy from the man of power in this country. When he, the negro, has not enough respect for himself and the well being of his fellow men—after thirty-five years of liberty—to pass along the highways and mind his own affairs without disturbing people of honor who pass that way, such negro does not deserve any sympathy. A negro who will interfere with the white race will do the same with his own people. Thirty-five years is sufficient for him to learn common sense and if there is one who acts unbecomingly in a vicinity he should be looked after. If he cannot see the advantages of behaving himself as intelligent people, he must expect what follows. Negro, they lynch in the North as much as in the South. This is no place of refuge. Be careful.

There is no negro from the Southland who has not had the advantage of schools that he might receive a reasonable degree of knowledge. Matters not how dumb he may appear in public he had the opportunity to prepare himself, and as endeavoring to elevate my people I have but little time and sympathy for some of them. Negro, stay in your place. For what wrong one does, all will suffer.

Rev Morris F. Matthews


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