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The Clarence Darrow Letters

Charles W. Chesnutt to Clarence Darrow, February 8, 1907

Chesnutt is referring to a speech Darrow gave at the Bethel A.M.E. Church in Chicago in December of 1906. Darrow urged the African-Americans in the congregation to avoid working in positions of servitude and he criticized Booker T. Washington's policy of racial accommodation that focused on vocational instruction and work instead of full equality.

Click on the image to view as a PDF. A transcription of the letter is on the right.

Chas. W. Chesnutt
1105 Williamson Building
Cleveland, O.

Cleveland, O., February 8, 1907.

Clarence S. Darrow, Esq.,



My dear Mr Darrow:

Mr. Apthorp handed me, the other day, a copy of the Broad Axe, in which the report of your address, delivered in Bethel Church, December 16th, was published. I thank you very much for sending it to me. I agree with you that the only solution for the race problem is to grant the negro equality, without reservation, and with whatever the word implies, or whatever it may logically lead to. I agree with you that too much emphasis has been placed upon the doctrine of work, e. i. manual labor, as applied to the negro, to the overlooking of the higher ideals. I am given to moods upon the subject, and just at present am in a more hopeful one than I would gather that you are.

I am entirely convinced that in time the colored people will get their rights. For, deeply underlying the surface, I think the nation is firmly committed to the democratic principle, and that it will ultimately prevail. To think otherwise would be to lose all hope for the republic, for it is inconceivable that it should go forward in other directions, and backward in so vital a question as that of human equality and human rights.

Surely, so long as the negro has such fearless advocates as yourself, he can go forward hopefully and as patiently as poor human nature will allow. Thanking you again for the speech, I remain,

Cordially yours,

Chas. W. Chesnutt

Chas. W. Chesnutt
1105 Williamson Building
Cleveland, O.
Clarence S. Darrow, Esq.,
Attorney at Law,
59 Clarke St.,