More from Jennie Carter, Black California Journalist

Some time ago I wrote about Jennie Carter, who lived in Nevada City and wrote letters and columns for the Elevator (San Francisco) newspaper. At the time I didn’t have a book about her, but now I do, and I plan to give you more of her enjoyable and encouraging writings.

The book is Jennie Carter: A Black Journalist of the Early West, edited by Eric Gardner and published by the University Press of Mississippi. Gardner has collected all the columns he could find, but some issues of the Elevator are missing, and Jennie may have written for other periodicals under other names. Like many 19th century writers, she used a nom de plume. At first she called herself Ann J. Trask, and claimed to be a woman some twenty years older than she really was, living at “Mud Hill” in Nevada County. Most of her columns are signed “Semper Fidelis.” Who knows what other pseudonyms she may have used for other publications.

Her early columns were directed at children, but she soon found herself writing for everyone. She had great hopes for the young rising generation, free from the bondage of the past. She wrote:

Children, you hear a great deal said about color by those around you, see attention given white persons by your friends that is wholly unmerited, while those of darker skin are treated with cool neglect. Such are wrong, and that you may avoid like mistakes I write this for you to read. Let your motto be, civility to all, servility to none. Those reminders of bondage we must get out of the way as soon as possible; and while we would treat all with respect, we should not talk about color, light and dark, black and white.

It is a mistake to think we are elevated by having white associates. Ten to one they are ashamed to be seen in our company, and only endure us for the help we give them in doing their drudgery. . . .

Now children, we do not expect to get the older ones right in this matter, but we want you to come up right, for nations and people, like individuals, have to form characters. I wish to impress it upon all that we are passing through a transition state, forming a character that shall tell on millions yet to come, and this world is looking on with over critical eyes to see us assume our places among men. . . .

Throw away prejudices of caste and color. Strive to grow in ways mental, moral, as well as physical. Let our young men adopt none of the vices of the Anglo-Saxon; our young women have all refinements of those around them, and the dear children every encouragement to study. Oh, that we might awake to the importance of a thorough, universal education. It is already acknowledged that we have the capacity; let not the world say that we lack the energy.

Jennie Carter: A Black Journalist of the Early West, pp. 4-5

Wise words! But Jennie didn’t always write in a moralizing mood. She often told stories drawn from her childhood, and painted pictures of everyday life. In the next few days I’ll give you more from “Semper Fidelis.”

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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1 Response to More from Jennie Carter, Black California Journalist

  1. Jodie says:

    Oh how true are Jennie’s words of advice for us all today.

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