"ANY LAW CONTROLLING THE BALLOT BOX THAT IS NOT ABSOLUTELY FAIR AND JUST TO BOTH RACES WILL WORK MORE PERMANENT INJURY TO THE WHITES THAN THE BLACKS": IMPORTANT FIRST EDITION OF BOOKER T. WASHINGTON'S BLACK-BELT DIAMONDS, 1898
WASHINGTON, Booker T. Black-Belt Diamonds. Gems from the Speeches, Addresses, and Talks to Students of Booker T. Washington… Selected and Arranged by Victoria Earle Matthews. New York: Fortune and Scott, 1898. Small octavo (4 by 6 inches), modern full black morocco gilt, raised bands, marbled endpapers; pp. (i-v), vi-xii, (1), 2-115 (1). $2800.
First edition of a core collection of Washington's early speeches and writings, drawing extensively on his Sunday Evening Tuskegee Talks with passages from Democracy and Education, Southern Lynch Law and other influential works, together in print for the first time, edited by prominent African American journalist and activist, Victoria Earle Matthews, "an instrumental figure in the social reform to 'uplift' African Americans."
Black-Belt Diamonds, published two years before Washington's first autobiography, Story of My Life and Work, is a signal collection of excerpts from his speeches and writings, together in print for the first time. Issued the same year he delivered his famous Madison Square Garden Address, it was compiled and edited by the prominent activist for African American women's rights, Victoria Earle Matthews. Born enslaved, she "was among the literary elite of her day, a national leader in the struggle for the rights of black women, and an instrumental figure in the social reform to 'uplift' African Americans" (Beaulieu, ed. Writing African American Women: LK-Z, 603). The book, which draws extensively from Washington's Sunday Evening Tuskegee Talks, also features major passages from speeches and articles such as Democracy and Education (1896), South and Lynch Law (1893), and his controversial 1895 speech, often called the Atlanta Compromise.
Matthews, like her contemporaries Ida B. Wells and Frances E.W. Harper, "witnessed the end of slavery, the Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction periods," and embraced the fight for woman suffrage. "Although neglected and often suppressed, theirs were voices that needed to be heard" (Gruesser & Wallinger eds., Loopholes and Retreats, 190). Raised in New York and largely self-educated, Matthews became a highly sought-after correspondent for both black and white newspapers. A friend and colleague of Ida B. Wells, she helped sponsor a fund-raising rally for her in 1892, the same year Matthews established the Women's Loyal Union of New York. In 1895, as a key speaker at the first National Conference of Colored Women, her address on The Value of Race Literature broke new ground by honoring the "accomplishments and distinctiveness of African American literary works." Her many other achievements include co-founding the White Rose Industrial Association, where southern black women who fled to New York found shelter and "access to a library rich in African American history and literature" (Beaulieu, 603-4).
In preparation for this important assemblage of Washington's early writings, Matthews wrote, in a May 1897 letter, of receiving "three large Scrap-Books, by express from Tuskegee… these with the addresses and clippings already in my possession will enable me to compile the volume" (Booker T. Washington Papers, Vol.IV:280). Like Washington, she supported the position "that African Americans should look to the future with 'helpful and stimulating' writing rather than concentrate on past wrongs," and she called "upon her generation of black women to produce their own literature" (Gruesser &Wallinger,192-91). With frontispiece portrait of Washington. Introduction by publisher T. Thomas Fortune. "Copyright, 1898, By Victoria Earle Matthews" on copyright page. Work, 478. Catalogue of Title Entries, 828. Not in Blockson; Jordan.
Text fine, expert repair to frontispiece not affecting image. Beautifully bound.