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With Respect to My Complexion

July 4, 1852 — Independent Hotel, Cruces, New Granada (now Panama)


[In response to a white man giving a speech at a farewell dinner in which he toasted to Seacole, saying “God bless the best yaller woman he ever made,” and said: “I calculate, gentlemen, you’re all as vexed as I am that she’s not holly white.” Then he asked the listeners to join with him in rejoicing that “she’s so many shades removed from being entirely black.” He went on to say that “if we could bleach her by any means we would, and thus make her acceptable in any company . . . “]

Gentlemen, — I return you my best thanks for your kindness in drinking my health. As for what I have done in Cruces, Providence evidently made me to be useful, and I can’t help it. But I must say that I don’t altogether appreciate your friend’s kind wishes with respect to my complexion.

If it had been as dark as any nigger’s, I should have been just as happy and as useful, and as much respected by those whose respect I value; and as to his offer of bleaching me, I should, even it were practicable, decline it without any thanks.

As to the society which the process might gain me admission into, all I can say is, that, judging from the specimens I have met with here and elsewhere, I don’t think that I shall lose much by being excluded from it.

So gentlemen, I drink to you and the general reformation of American manners.



Source: Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands, by Mary Seattle (London: James Blackwood), 1857, p. 48.