Despite these types of powerful speeches, Democrats continued their relentless attacks against the bill. In fact, immediately following one such Democratic tirade against the bill, black Rep. Robert Brown Elliott rose to respond. It was such a climatic moment that artists of the day created illustrations depicting the verbal battle between this black Republican and racist Democrat Alexander Stephens, former Vice President of the Confederacy who was now a leader of the Democrat’s arguments against the civil rights bill. Elliott’s rebuttal of Stephens was eloquent; he began:
It is a matter of regret to me that it is necessary at this day that I should rise in the presence of an American Congress to advocate a bill which simply asserts equal rights and equal privileges for all classes of American citizens. But the motive that impels me . . . is as broad as the Constitution. Elliott explained how black Americans had long fought for
In the events that led to the achievement of American Independence, the Negro bore his part bravely upon many battlefields. For example, the tall granite shaft which a grateful State Connecticut has reared above its sons who fell in defending Fort Griswold against the attack of Benedict Arnold in 1781 at the Battle of Groton Heights bears the black republican Robert brown Elliott debated and defeated racist democrat Alexander Stephens ft. Griswold monument listing some of the thousands of African American patriots that fought in the American revolution African American rifle marksmen in the war of 1812 African American soldiers in the civil war And in during the Civil War. The Negro – true to ever characterized and marked his history on this continent – came to the aid of the name of Jordan Freeman and other brave men of the African race who there cemented with their blood the cornerstone of the Republic during the American Revolution. . . . And at the battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812, under the immortal Jackson, a colored regiment held the extreme right of the American line unflinchingly and drove back the British column that pressed upon them at the point of the bayonet 1861 that patriotism and love of country that have government in its efforts to maintain the Constitution.
Now we are told by the distinguished gentleman from Georgia Mr. Stephens that
Congress has no power under the Constitution to pass such a civil rights law. Has not the judgment of the gentleman from Georgia been warped by the ghost of the dead doctrines of States’ Rights? Has he been altogether free from prejudices engendered by long training in that school of politics that well-nigh destroyed this government? I am astonished that the gentleman from Georgia should have been so grossly misled. He now offers this government – which he has done his utmost to destroy – a very poor return for its magnanimous gracious and forgiving treatment, to come here to seek to continue – by the assertion of doctrines obnoxious to the true principles of our government – the burdens and oppressions which rest upon five millions of his countrymen democrat Alexander Stephens often led the opposition against civil rights bills