Nell Irvin Painter on Freedpeople’s Leadership

Bulldozers later paid [William] Murrell a personal visit: “When they came to my door, to the door of my own house, and committed such outrages, then I gave up all hope,” he said.18 Having shared that experience, Murrell reversed his anti-migrationist stand. He rejoined Black popular opinion and could again play a prominent role. Thus Murrell learned that his “leadership” hinged upon his continued agreement with the people. He was not a leader who could decide for the people, but a mouthpiece and a sounding board for the less articulate. Plain people were very seldom led by the nose or duped into something they did not agree with. A Black newspaper editor in New Orleans said of plantation, “I have seen some exhibitions of very marked intelligence among them sir, not much knowledge of books, perhaps – but exhibitions of very marked natural intelligence.”18

18 Senate Report 693, II, pg.529

P.25, Exodusters – Nell Irvin Painter, ISBN 0-393-00951-3


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