Today marks the 115th anniversary of George H. White’s Phoenix speech, delivered as the North Carolina representative bade farewell to Congress. The full text of the speech is available here, but here are his final ringing and prophetic words:
“This, Mr. Chairman, is perhaps the negroes’ temporary farewell to the American Congress; but let me say, Phoenix-like he will rise up some day and come again. These parting words are in behalf of an outraged, heart-broken, bruised, and bleeding, but God-fearing people, faithful, industrious, loyal people — rising people, full of potential force.
“Mr. Chairman, in the trial of Lord Bacon, when the court disturbed the counsel for the defendant, Sir Walter Raleigh raised himself up to his full height and, addressing the court, said:
“Sir, I am pleading for the life of a human being.
“The only apology that I have to make for the earnestness with which I have spoken is that I am pleading for the life, the liberty, the future happiness, and manhood suffrage for one-eighth of the entire population of the United States.”
My kinsmen Henry E. Hagans and William S. Hagans, brothers, served as secretaries to White during his terms in Washington.