In May, 1870, Henry O. Wagoner, Jr., the twenty year old son of one of black Denver"s leading civil rights advocates, was given the rare privilege of addressing a local audience gathered to celebrate the ratification of the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Wagoner congratulated the audience and praised those who had fought for the amendment but he also warned of the civic responsibilities that accompany the newly won voting rights. Part of his address is reprinted below.
Mr. President and Fellow Citizens: My own youthful appearance will naturally suggest the improbability of my being a public speaker of either experience or ability, and hence an extended apology would be needless repetition of what is already apparent. But the occasion is one well calculated to move even the most subtle and most timid from silence. I see before me a vast audience of my fellow people, glowing with enthusiasm, and I am inclined to ask what is the cause of this meeting? For what purpose are we assembled here tonight? Is it to give aid and comfort to some runaway slave? Is it to adopt resolutions declaring the existence of rights whose exercise we are unjustly denied? Is it to appoint representatives to be sent to state capitals, there to plead our cause... Is it to give expression to our utter horror and indignation at some violence perpetrated on the person or property of some of our fellow people? No sir. No such objects as these bring us here tonight. No longer must we come together stealthily by night to give relief to fugitive slaves. No more need we send champions of our rights to state capitals or national conventions; for the reason no longer exists. No more do we hear the heart rending cry of poor mortals bleeding under the lash.... Such things....happily for ourselves, happily for our posterity...are doomed to exist only in the memories and records of the past.
We are here tonight for thanksgiving and rejoicing at the ratification of the fifteenth amendment to the constitution of the United States,