“migration is hope”

“migration is hope” by Martha Lee Phelps

Mixed media, including monoprint, ink, watercolor,
and collage (Geographia World Atlas, copyright 1963).

Inspired by Frederick Douglass, speaking in 1869 against the movement to ban Chinese immigration:

“I have said that the Chinese will come, and have given some reasons why we may expect them in very large numbers in no very distant future. Do you ask, if I favor such immigration, I answer I would. Would you have them naturalized, and have them invested with all the rights of American citizenship? I would. Would you allow them to vote? I would. Would you allow them to hold office? I would.

But are there not reasons against all this? Is there not such a law or principle as that of self-preservation? Does not every race owe something to itself? Should it not attend to the dictates of common sense? Should not a superior race protect itself from contact with inferior ones? Are not the white people the owners of this continent? Have they not the right to say, what kind of people shall be allowed to come here and settle? Is there not such a thing as being more generous than wise? In the effort to promote civilization may we not corrupt and destroy what we have? Is it best to take on board more passengers than the ship will carry?

I submit that this question of Chinese immigration should be settled upon higher principles than those of a cold and selfish expediency.

There are such things in the world as human rights. They rest upon no conventional foundation, but are external, universal, and indestructible. Among these, is the right of locomotion; the right of migration; the right which belongs to no particular race, but belongs alike to all and to all alike. It is the right you assert by staying here, and your fathers asserted by coming here. It is this great right that I assert for the Chinese and Japanese, and for all other varieties of men equally with yourselves, now and forever.

I know of no rights of race superior to the rights of humanity, and when there is a supposed conflict between human and national rights, it is safe to go to the side of humanity. I have great respect for the blue eyed and light haired races of America. They are a mighty people. In any struggle for the good things of this world they need have no fear. They have no need to doubt that they will get their full share.
But I reject the arrogant and scornful theory by which they would limit migratory rights, or any other essential human rights to themselves, and which would make them the owners of this great continent to the exclusion of all other races of men.

I want a home here not only for the negro, the mulatto and the Latin races; but I want the Asiatic to find a home here in the United States, and feel at home here, both for his sake and for ours. Right wrongs no man. If respect is had to majorities, the fact that only one fifth of the population of the globe is white, the other four fifths are colored, ought to have some weight and influence in disposing of this and similar questions. It would be a sad reflection upon the laws of nature and upon the idea of justice, to say nothing of a common Creator, if four fifths of mankind were deprived of the rights of migration to make room for the one fifth. If the white race may exclude all other races from this continent, it may rightfully do the same in respect to all other lands, islands, capes and continents, and thus have all the world to itself.”

For a look back when the work was in progress: “Let Them In”

About Martha Phelps Studio ~ creative on purpose

...a meandering journal of a changing life and the unexpected graces it brings. Earlier posts may provide some history, but this series of writings aren't likely to follow a straight line as I explore topics such as raising kids, making choices, self discovery, the impact of change on a family and how to (hopefully) live with balance and purpose. www.marthaphelps.com
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4 Responses to “migration is hope”

  1. Martha, I’d like to share this quote and your piece with my colleagues at Rogue Community Health, if I may…

    • Genna! I’m honored that you want to share my art and the wise words of Frederick Douglass. The original art, “migration is hope” is now owned by a dear friend who has agreed to allow me to show it when I hang a show this coming fall. At that time there will be prints available for sale – with proceeds going to RAICES -The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.

  2. Martha, this is absolutely beautiful. I love it. It captures the hopefulness of new beginnings. Thanks for sharing

    • Beth, another bow of gratitude for your supportive feedback. This ongoing human rights violation around immigrant families and the separation of children from their parents is a hurt that awakens me in the middle of night. Like many, I am deeply troubled by this situation and the fact that it remains unattended. Making art is a small act of resistance – and certainly does nothing to fix the catastrophic “broken-ness” of the mess our current administration has created – but it is a place to channel some of the confusion, shame, fear and sadness for these families.

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