Delegation of Black Kentuckians to the President

[Washington, D.C.  late June, 1865]

Mr President   Haveing been delegated by the Colored People of Kentuckey to wait upon you and State their greiveances and the terrible uncertainty of their future, we beg to do so in as respectfull and concise a manner as Posible–

First then, we would call your attention to the fact that Kentuckey is the only Spot within all the bounds of these United States, where the People of colour Have No rights whatever Either in Law or in fact–and were the Strong arm of Millitary Power no longer to curb her–Her Jails and workhouses would Groan with the Numbers of our people immured within their walls–

Her Stattutes are disgraced by laws in regard to us, too barbarous Even for a community of Savages to Have Perpetrated.  Not one of those laws have Even yet become obsolete,  all Have been Executed Promptly and Rigoursly up to the time the government intervened–and will be again Executed in the Most remorseless Manner and with four fold the Venom and Malignanty they were Ever Heretofore Enforced–the Very Moment the Government ceases to Shield us with the broad aegeis of her Power–

Not only that–but the brutal instincts of the Mob So Long restrained will Set no bounds to its ferocity but like an uncaged wild beast will rage fiercely among us–Evidence of which is the fact that a member of the present common council of the city of Louisville who when formerly Provost Marshall of that city caused his guards to carry bull whips and upon meeting colored men, women or children in the Public High ways any time after dark to surround them and flay them alive in the public Streets) is allready a petitioner to Genl Palmer to remove the Millitary Restrictions that he and others May again renew the brutaleties that Shocked Humanity during that Sad Period–   therefore to Prevent all the Horrible calamities that would befall us and to shut out all the terrors that So fiercely Menace us in the immediate future–we Most Humbly Petition and Pray you that you will Not Remove Marshall Law from the State of Kentuckey Nor her Noble Millitary commander under whose Protection we have allmost learned to Realise the Blessings of a Home under the Safeguard and Sanction of law for in him and him alone do we find our Safety–  we would Most Respectfully call your attention to a few of the laws that bear Most cruelly upon us–
1st we have No Oath
2nd we have no right of domicil
3rd we have no right of Locomotion
4th we have no right of Self defence
5th a Stattute law of Kentuckey makes it a penal crime with imprisonment in the Penitentiary for one year for any free man of colour under any Sircumstances whatever to pass into a free State Even although but for a Moment   any free man Not a Native found within her Borders is Subject to the Same penalty and for the Second offence Shall be sold a slave for life–

the State of Kentuckey Has contributed of her colored Sons over thirty thousand Soldiers who have illustrated their courage and devotion on Many battle fields and Have Poured out their blood Lavishly in defence of their Country and their Country's flag and we confidently hope this Blood will be carried to our credit in any Political Settlement of our Native State–  yet if the government Should give up the State to the control of her civil authorities there is not one of these Soldiers who will Not Suffer all the grinding oppression of her most inhuman laws if not in their own persons yet in the persons of their wives their children and their mothers–

Therefore your Excellency We Most Earnestly Petition and pray you that you will give us Some security for the future or if that be impracticable at least give us timely warning that we may fly to other States where law and Christian Sentiment will Protect us and our little ones from Violence and wrong.

Chas A Roxborough    Jerre Meninettee
R M Johnson               Henry H. White 
Thomas James            Wm F. Butler      

Chas A Roxborough et al. to Mr. President, [late June, 1865], President 1957 1865, Letters Received from the President & Executive Departments, Office of the Secretary of War, Record Group 107, National Archives. Endorsement. Roxborough signed as chairman and Butler as secretary of the delegation. The petition and Roxborough's signature are in the same handwriting; each of the other signatures is in a different handwriting. Martial law was continued in Kentucky until October 12, 1865. (U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 128 vols. (Washington, 1880–1901), series 1, vol. 49, pt. 2, p. 1116.)

Published in The Destruction of Slavery, pp. 624–26, and in Free at Last, pp. 406–8.