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"Open Letter to President (William) McKinley by Colored People of Massachusetts," October 3, 1899

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Courtesy of Library of Congress, "Open letter to President McKinley," Colored National League, 1899


This document is an open letter from prominent African-American citizens of Boston to President William McKinley protesting presidential inaction and toleration of racial prejudice, discrimination and violence against African Americans in the South. The letter was sent October 3, 1899, and in it, they plead for a guarantee of civil rights as set forth in the U.S. Constitution to enable African Americans to rise out of poverty, ignorance and social degradation.

Full Transcript of "Open Letter to President McKinley"

Transcribed Excerpts from "Open Letter to President McKinley"

Source-Dependent Questions

  • Using evidence from the open letter, explain the Colored People of Boston's understanding of the proper relationship between themselves and the president.
  • Using your previous knowledge, explain why the Colored People of Boston felt the need to appeal to the national government.
  • The Colored People of Boston referred to President McKinley's April 11, 1896, speech to Congress in which he requested a declaration of war to drive the Spanish out of Cuba. For what reasons did McKinley ask to fight the Spanish? How did the Colored People of Boston use those words to meet their purpose in writing?
  • Use at least two passages from the open letter to explain its tone.

Citation Information 

"Open Letter to President McKinley," Colored National League, 1899. Courtesy of Library of Congress