What must be the Status of the Colored Race?

Tourgee and T. Thomas Fortune had already been entertaining the idea of a new journal that might help “bridge” the white and African American readership divide, and had gone so far as to invite Charles W. Chesnutt to become a financial partner and Editor of the proposed publication they named, The National Citizen. Chesnutt, while not at all willing to make the substantial financial commitment, seemed interested to act as Editor, despite his observations in two successive letters sent to Tourgee in November 1893:

“It is needless for me to say that I recognize the need of such a journal. The demand for it, however, is a different matter, and were it not for the large roll of Citizens’ Rights Association, I would doubt the existence of such a demand, so far as white people are concerned; although I am well aware that colored people who think at all, are interested in whatever favors them…While you have infinitely better opportunities for feeling the public pulse than I have, yet in my intercourse with the best white people…I do not remember but once of hearing the subject of the wrongs of the Negro brought up, except by myself; and when brought up by me…I have observed that it is dismissed as quickly as politeness will permit. They admit the present situation is all wrong, but they do not regard it as their personal concern, and do not see how they can remedy it. ..I fear that a publication devoted entirely to a discussion of one topic…even so important as citizenship, would have a tendency to repel the average white man rather than attract him…”

Letter, Charles W. Chesnutt to Albion Winegar Tourgée, 1893-11-21. Courtesy of Chautauqua County Historical Society.