Item #5475 A Larger Manhood for the Negro. Conkling Wassom, oscoe.
A Larger Manhood for the Negro.

A Larger Manhood for the Negro.

Kansas City, Mo. Franklin Hudson Publishing Co., 1914. 6¾” x 4 5/8”. Red cloth. pp. 81. Very good minus: moderate wear and soiling to boards, small owner stamp to all four endpapers as well as eleven pages in the text; textblock split but holding b/t pages 50/51; heavy dampstain in margin of last few leaves; faint dampstain in upper margin of most leaves.

This is an uplift book by a little known African American lawyer and activist whose work involved the founding of a short-lived movement in Kansas, as well as being an officer of an activist organization in California. Most of what we know of Roscoe Wassom comes from contemporary newspaper accounts: he graduated from Austin High School in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1901 and as of 1904 he was the watchboy for an all-Black team of firemen in Kansas City. In 1909 he was the keynote speaker at an Emancipation Day celebration in Paola, Kansas. We know Wassom attended the University of Kansas School of Law and according to a 1911 article in the Kansas City Times, he was president of a local organization called the “Young Men's Civic League.”

In March, 1912, a photo of Wassom was featured on the front page of the Kansas Baptist Herald. It accompanied an article about the “National Civic League Movement,” (“NCLM”) and its call for a convention to be held that August. The convention was to occur in late August 1912 and articles leading up to it touted Booker T. Washington as a keynote speaker as well as an expectation of up to 800 attendees. We know the convention took place, though we find no record of Washington's attendance and newspapers stated there were 225 delegates from thirty-two states in attendance. One of those articles stated that Wassom was the founder of NCLM and that he had “been fighting for the civil rights of his people and a higher standard of living among the folk of his race for a number of years.” Among the movement's aims were to “aid the race and assist them through moral suasion to renovate itself of the serious embarrassment and chagrin it often is confronted with.” The group was known by several names with various articles calling the group the “National Civic Movement”, “Negro National Civic Movement,” and/or the “Negro National Forward Movement.”

This book may have been an outgrowth of Wassom's aims and hopes for the NCLM as its title page stated that the book was “designed to interest men and women in their civic duties toward society and inspire in them a sense of true moral and Christian worth, as a solution of the world problem of the color-line.” The book contains several rambling essays that stressed the importance of hard work, education, property ownership and more. Included is a list of eleven steps one could take to become a “good, responsible, and self-sustaining citizen,” that included the admonition to, “read your Negro newspaper; if not a subscriber, subscribe! See what your people are doing.” Wassom also believed,

“Our purpose is not only to make of the Negro a self-sustaining creature, but through educational and vocational avenues to teach him the higher plane of living, that he might battle with unfaltering efforts for the civil rights that are guaranteed to him under the Constitution of the United States.”

We have been unable to determine whether the NCLM made any progress after its 1912 convention and have uncovered little else related to Wassom. We know that as of 1920 he was in Los Angeles where he was secretary of a group called the “Commercial Council of People of African Descent” an organization apparently founded that year. Our trail ends there.

A rare uplift tract, with OCLC locating three copies.

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Price: $1,500.00

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