Living as a colored person in the United State of America was very difficult for many African-Americans back in the early 1900's. Mary Church Terrell faced these struggles first hand. Terrell decided it was time the world knew of her struggles and made a speech on October 10, 1906 called "What it Means to be Colored in the Capitol of the U.S." She explains in her speech
how everyday tasks are more of a hassle than necessary. Her speech isn't as long as others, but it is effective in getting her message across that there is an abundance of prejudice in America. She delivered her speech at a United Woman's Club in Washington D.C., but it soon became well known all across American for her strong message and confident deliverance.
In this speech, Terrell talks about the challenges she overcomes being a colored woman. For example, if she was walking down the street at night, in a town she had lived in for fifteen years, it was almost impossible to find a place to stay or rest unless she happened to know somebody. She could have all the money in the world in her pockets, but not be allowed into an eating establishment because of the color of her skin, unless she was willing to sit behind a screen and not be seen while she eats. Life was rough for her and her speech reflects this. Her days required more of an effort to get through everyday situations. She led a lucky childhood: getting the opportunity to go to school and go on to college to earn a degree. Mary's father was a self taught slave who became wealthy. She became a member of the Colored Woman's league and began to help many underprivileged colored women and children. Such programs included evening classes for adults, and free kindergarten and day nursery for children whose parents work throughout the day and cannot afford childcare.
(Figure 1 shows Terrell in her fine clothes at Martha Washington Ball.)
The point of her speech was to inform Americans about how bad it got for her and others. After reading it and analyzing it, it's clear that her message was sent. She gives many examples and uses strong emotions in her words. She did a good job telling America exactly what it means to be colored in this country. She used many details to help the audience to clearly understand what she meant and gave them a better understanding when trying to put their selves in her shoes.
Overall, Terrell's speech was effective in delivering her message about what it means to be colored in America to all of Washington D.C. She gave the audience a clear understanding on her lifestyle. She covers a wide variety in audience and easily brought her circumstance to many people's attention. Lastly, Mary Church Terrell explained that no matter how descriptive and detailed she speaks of her experiences, no white person can ever understand what it truly means to be black in the capitol of the U.S.
Terrell, Mary Church. "What it Means to be Colored in the Capitol of the U.S." 10 October 1906.
Colonial Costume Ball. N.d. Private Collection. The Black Art Depot Today. Web. 4 Oct. 2010.