Abraham Lincoln DeMond
Reverend Abraham Lincoln DeMond (born 1867, Seneca, New York) was an advocate for African-American emancipation. He wrote the famous oration The Negro Element in American Life, which is his only known publication. DeMond was a well-recognized African-American minister in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was the first black graduate of the State Normal School at Cortland, New York, and later studied theology at Howard University. DeMond served as a pastor in Fort Payne, Alabama, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, Plymouth Congregational Church of Charleston, South Carolina, the First Congregational Church of Buxton, Iowa, and the First Congregational Church of New Orleans.
DeMond was the son of Quam and Phebe Darrow DeMond. He graduated from Howard University Seminary and was assigned to pastorates in New Orleans, Charleston, Montgomery and Memphis, Tennessee. He married Lula Watkins Patterson, a Selma University graduate and music teacher. They had four children, Al DeMond, Albert DeMond, Ruth DeMond Brooks, and Marguerite DeMond Davis.
The Negro Element in American Life was A. L. DeMond's most important contribution to history. He delivered his oration to members of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, on January 1, 1900.
The Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where DeMond gave this speech, later became known as the church from which Martin Luther King led the Civil Rights Movement. It is today a National Historic Landmark. The Emancipation Proclamation Association that published the speech was one of several so-named African-American social and beneficent organizations in the US South. William Watkins, who offered the resolution to publish the speech, was a contractor and lay leader of the congregation responsible for building much of the church.
Given on the first day of the 20th century, the speech reviews African-American history as a map for the American nation’s future. DeMond’s intense national patriotism colors the text’s sentiments and history. He identifies the Declaration of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation as the twin pillars of the American Republic, the latter constituting fulfillment of the former. (3) DeMond argues that the Emancipation Proclamation enabled African Americans to join in loyal patriotism, and he lauds the participation of black soldiers in the Spanish-American War. (4) He pays tribute to such antislavery figures as Douglass, Garnet, Garrison, Phillips, Beecher, Stowe, Whittier, Lowell, Longfellow, and Sumner for voicing a desire for freedom that informed the re-fashioning of the United States. (8) According to DeMond, American history is informed by three basic characters: “the Cavalier, the Puritan and the Negro.” (9) Much of the rest of the text is constituted of panegyrics to the role of African Americans in contributing “all that is noblest and best in American life.” (22) The tone of the speech is heavily patriotic and illustrates a rhetorical incorporation of the antislavery movement into early 20th-century nationalist discourse on freedom and the destiny of the United States.
The first of January was a day of celebration for African Americans who commemorated the day that President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. The Emancipation Proclamation Association resolved that this address by the Reverend A. L. DeMond be published in pamphlet form. DeMond emphasizes that African Americans are fully American, not African, and therefore fully deserving of all the rights of citizens. DeMond describes the Declaration of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation as:
"two great patriotic, wise and humane state papers…Both were born in days of doubt and darkness. Both were the outcome of injustice overleaping the bounds of right and reason. The one was essential to the fulfilling of the other. Without the Declaration of Independence the nation could not have been born; without the Emancipation Proclamation it could not have lived."
Reverend DeMond was a minister in Buxton, Iowa, in the early 20th century. It was an unusual community that existed in America's heartland. Originally established by the Consolidation Coal Company, Buxton was the largest unincorporated coal-mining community in Iowa. What made Buxton unique, however, is the fact that the majority of its five thousand residents were African Americans - a highly unusual racial composition for a state that was over 90 percent white.
At a time when both southern and northern blacks were disadvantaged and oppressed, blacks in Buxton enjoyed true racial integration-steady employment, above-average wages decent housing, and minimal discrimination. For such reasons, Buxton was commonly known as "the black man's utopia in Iowa."
Library of Congress American Memory "The Negro Element in American Life," an oration delivered by Rev. A. L. DeMond in the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, January 1, 1900. African American Perspectives, 1818–1907.
Project Gutenberg The Negro Element in American life: an oration: delivered by Rev. A. L. DeMond, in the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, Jan. 1, 1900