Source: Colored American Magazine
Source type: magazine
Document type: article
Document title: “Our Uncrowned Hero”
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 3
Issue number: 6
|“Our Uncrowned Hero.” Colored American Magazine Oct. 1901 v3n6: pp. 448-54.|
|James B. Parker (quotations about); McKinley assassination (African American response); McKinley assassination (James B. Parker account); James B. Parker (public statements); anarchism (African American response).|
|Leon Czolgosz; Abraham Lincoln; William McKinley; James B. Parker; Theodore Roosevelt.|
No text appears on pages 449 and 450. Page 449 bears a photograph of McKinley and page 450 one of James B. Parker.
Our Uncrowned Hero
From the New York Journal.
A Negro is a National hero today.
He is James Parker, the giant who hurled himself on the would-be assassin at Buffalo and kept him from firing a third shot that might have proved fatal.
All America is eager to know about him. At the Executive Department, Washington, it is suggested that the people reward him.
Savannah, Ga., where he was once a constable, with a fine record, is proud of him.
All of the colored people are elated that one of their race should have saved the President.
For the first time, Parker today gives to the world, through the Evening Journal, a detailed account of the thrilling scene.
His story was modestly told, but it gives a most vivid description of the historic scene. Here is his version of the shooting:
I believe that I saved President McKinley’s life
in preventing the third shot from Czolgosz’s smoking revolver.
I do not make this statement for glory, but because I believe it is best for the public to know and for any small honor that may come to the race to which I belong.
I would have tried to save any man’s life, but I would have given my life for that of the President and truly believe that if the third shot had been fired it would have lodged in my heart instead of the President’s. 
As it is I am glad beyond description that I was placed in such a position and at such a time. I can’t tell the feeling that comes over me whenever I think that it was I who stood behind the assassin and that I was the first to strangle his uncompleted crime.
To the Evening Journal I make this statement, believing it will present matters in their proper light. I seek no popularity nor wealth; it is sufficient that I did what I could.
The deed was done so quickly that it blinds me when I think of it, and I am surprised at myself that I did not lose my nerve. I acted on the moment and I believe to the best effect.
I was curious and anxious to shake hands with the first man in the land. I admired him and was glad of the chance to show my deep feeling for him. The Temple of Music was crowded and it was with great difficulty that I pressed my way through the throng. I noticed no one until I passed single file.
Here for the first time I noticed Leon Czolgosz.
There was a woman with a little girl close beside me, and in the struggle she shoved me aside to let this man between us. I do not mention this as of any moment, but as I remember the incident.
I was as anxious as Czolgosz to see the President, and I crowded forward, but he slipped in front of me and so we passed up the line.
We were close together, I can’t say now whether I noticed the bandage over his hand, but I saw that he was nervous, as he kept tramping on my toes and brushing his right arm against me.
The President was now but a few feet away from me. The woman shook his hand, and the little girl paused a moment, smiled, then hurried on to catch up with her mother.
The President looked at Czolgosz with a sympathetic eye, and at the same moment my eye caught sight of the bandaged hand. Almost instantly there were two reports like the explosion of a firecracker under a tin can. Bang! Bang!
Like a flash the realization went over me, and the last report had hardly time to die away when I snatched Czolgosz on his right shoulder with my right hand and flung him half facing me, at the same time endeavoring with my left hand to knock the smoking pistol from his hand.
“You scoundrel!” I cried, “you’ve shot the President!”
I saw nothing then but the wild look in the face of the assassin. I closed upon him, my right hand clawing at his throat. His head went back and his eyes protruded.
I tore at him like a wild beast. Tighter and tighter my fingers worked into the soft skin of his throat. His tongue stuck out. There was a low gurgling in his throat. His lips moved. I thought I heard him mutter, “I did my duty.”
Some one was snatching the revolver and handkerchief from his hand, but I saw nor heard nothing but the terrorized face before me and the furor of those about me.
Down we went in a death struggle for he was as strong as an ox and had I been a smaller man he would have overpowered me. As it was I clung on to his throat while the crowd closed in around.
In such scenes one’s mind sometimes runs blank. Mine went blank for a moment, and was not myself until I looked about and saw Czolgosz pinned to the floor, the blood streaming from his nose, and heard the wild cries of the women.
I looked up and saw the President sinking into a chair. His face was like a sheet and he struggled for breath. My heart sank within me, for I thought he was dying.
But it was soon over and I found myself alone in that terror-stricken crowd. The next day I heard that the newspapers said a Negro had dropped down on the assassin as if he had fallen from the dome.
That Negro was I. But I have said nothing, and do not care to commit my-  self except the story I have told. The truth will come out on the witness stand.
That President McKinley is still alive is due
first to the quick heroic conduct of James Parker, a colored man, and second
to the prompt action of experienced surgeons who operated carefully and successfully.
A third shot from the assassin’s pistol would have penetrated the person of
the President if Jim Parker had not hit the hand that held the pistol a blow,
throwing it upward, grabbing the assassin by the neck with the other hand, and
hurling him to the floor of the Exposition Temple of Music.
There was danger in this act of Jim Parker, but he did not hesitate on that account. With characteristic fearlessness, with dare-devil recklessness, he stretched out his brawny arms to save the President of the nation.
Secret service men, soldiers, detectives were standing all around, but it was Jim Parker whose timely blow saved the President’s life. It was Jim Parker who thrust his burly form right in the teeth of danger, thinking of nothing, caring for nothing except to preserve the President’s life.
Jim Parker was born in slavery. He was emancipated by Abraham Lincoln.  In Buffalo he was a waiter in one of the exposition restaurants, receiving the munificent sum of $5 a week for his services.
When Roosevelt climbed the hill at San Juan those who followed most closely his leadership were men of the colored race. In writing of that experience, Roosevelt says: “Those colored boys seemed to fear no danger. The hotter the fight the quicker they hurried toward the enemy. Men were being shot down all around them. Many of their companions lay upon the ground in agony, .”
Nobody saw the back of a black man in that fight at San Juan hill unless he approached from a direction opposite to that from which the enemy came.
No wonder the people of this country are talking of performing some act that will show to the world their appreciation of Jim Parker’s brave conduct at Buffalo. That man deserves the applause of the nation and he also deserves a more substantial recognition than mere applause can give him.
This miserable assassin was allowed the full privilege of citizenship in Cleveland, the city in which he resided. His vote counted for as much as that of any other citizen, but Jim Parker’s brothers, uncles and cousins in the South are disfranchised. They are not allowed to  vote, and before the right to vote was denied them their ballots were not counted.
When Jim Parker lived down South with the other members of the Parker family his vote wasn’t counted, if he was allowed to deposit it, and on several occasions he was personally driven from the polls.
Anarchists in this country are received into full citizenship, and exercise freely and without obstruction the rights of the ballot. But the blacks in the South, thousands of them born in the United States, are denied the right of suffrage.
This is not the time to extensively discuss the race question, or the conditions which prevail in the South, but it is a good time to remember that when a black man is in a position requiring brave allegiance to the best principles of government, when he is in a position where his strength is needed to protect the people of this country from bodily harm, he is never found wanting.