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Title: Your Negro Neighbor

Author: Benjamin Griffith Brawley

Release date: February 12, 2011 [eBook #35256]
Most recently updated: January 7, 2021

Language: English

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Transcriber's Note:

Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For a complete list, please see the end of this document.

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Joanna P. Moore





Author of "A Short History of the American
Negro," "The Negro in Literature
and Art," etc.

New York

All rights reserved

Copyright, 1918

Set up and electrotyped. Published June, 1918.


I Your Negro Neighbor 1
II The Negro in America: Historical Review 10
III The Negro As an Industrial Factor 33
IV Lynching 41
V Aspects of Negro Education 48
VI A Great Missionary: Joanna P. Moore 61
VII Some Critics and Their Fallacies 73
VIII The Promise of the Negro 84
IX A Plea for a Moralist 91





To the People of the United States of America,

Citizens and Patriots:

Our country is still in the midst of the greatest war in the history of mankind. Already our sons and brothers have died in Europe. While the sacrifice is great, and each day comes home more closely to us, there must be no ceasing of the conflict until victory is assured. The principles of Christ must prevail, and democracy must be given some chance in the world. Because we believe this, because we love our country, because we wish to see our country truly noble and great, I am once more asking your attention to the vital subject of the place of the Negro in our American life.

We feel that we may not unreasonably ask a hearing at this time. In the war now raging we have fully done our part, if [2]indeed any American could venture to say that he has done his part. Whether as officers or stevedores our men have borne their share of the brunt of battle. Let it not be supposed that many of them did not enter the conflict with misgiving. They could not readily forget that under our country's flag crimes unspeakable had been committed against them. They could not help remembering that even as they went forth to fight, their sisters and their wives did not have the full protection of the law. They still had faith, however, in the great heart of the American people; and they could not believe that when the nation's finest manhood was being given for the principles of democracy and Christianity, deliberate injustice would indefinitely be tolerated.

We remember of course at this time that public sentiment with reference to the Negro has undergone a great change within fifty years. Immediately after the Civil War there was a spirit, in the North at least, to give him a helping hand, though even here he was not always wanted as a laborer. In a period when feeling ran high there was a tendency to base his rights on the fundamental principles of the republic. Recently, however, in the stress of commercialism, the status of the [3]Negro, along with many other grave moral questions, has been much in the background. Suddenly the war burst upon us and gave us a new era of soul-questioning.

The period of industrialism was formally signalized by one of the most telling speeches ever delivered in this or any other country, all the more effective because the orator was a high-minded, patriotic gentleman. In 1886 Henry W. Grady addressed the New England Club in New York on "The New South." The two preceding decades had been an era of great scandal in the public life of the United States. Grady spoke to practical men, and he knew his ground. He asked his listeners to bring their "full faith in American fairness and frankness to judgment" upon what he had to say. He pictured in brilliant language the Confederate soldier, "ragged, half-starved, heavy-hearted," who wended his way homeward to find his house in ruins and his farms devastated. He spoke kindly also of the Negro: "Whenever he struck a blow for his own liberty he fought in open battle, and when at last he raised his black and humble hands that the shackles might be struck off, those hands were innocent of wrong against his helpless charges." But Grady also implied that the Negro had [4]already received too much attention and sympathy from the North. Said he: "To liberty and enfranchisement is as far as law can carry the Negro. The rest must be left to conscience and common sense." Hence he asked that the South be left alone in the handling of its grave problem. The North took him at his word. Result: Disfranchisement, segregation, and a lynching record that leaves us very little to say about the Turk in Armenia.

To-day the Negro daily suffers such indignities as make the very words Liberty and Democracy a travesty. If he rides in a trolley-car in the South he is assigned a few rear seats. If his part of the car is crowded and seats near the front are vacant, he must still stand. If he takes a train he must ride in a dirty half-coach, the other half being the baggage car; and he enters the railway station by a side-door. In all the cities, even some of the largest, there is a persistent endeavor to restrict his residence to some unfavorable part of the town; witness the segregation struggles in Atlanta, St. Louis, and Baltimore. Places of refinement and refreshment, libraries, parks, etc., are regularly closed to him. If Negro children go to school they stand only a fraction of a chance of getting an education—or a seat. In [5]Massachusetts, of the children from six to fourteen years of age, 93 per cent. are in school. In Louisiana 68.4 per cent. of the white children are in school and 37.4 per cent. of the Negro children. In Birmingham there is a public high school to which Negro students have to pay to go; in all Georgia there is no public high school for Negroes at all. Not long ago a colored man of excellent character and standing boarded a train between Birmingham and Chattanooga, accompanying his sister. Some white men invaded the coach and proceeded to smoke. The colored man protested to the officials, and forthwith both he and his sister received a beating. Such are the incidents that drive the iron into the Negro's soul. We submit that they are altogether unjust and entirely at variance with the principles for which we are at war.

Not only at home, however, do we have to consider the problem. The war has brought us as never before face to face with the whole foreign policy of the United States, especially as regards the mixed races and colored peoples with whom the National Government has to deal. With one country after another the question is raised whether, under her imperialistic policy and the Monroe [6]Doctrine, the United States has acted with the honor and the diplomatic courtesy that the cases demanded. Already, as is well known, in spite of repeated professions of friendship, the whole of South America views the great country at the North with suspicion; and the ultimate reason for the feeling is that in South America the color line is a vanishing quantity, whereas in the United States it is a very definite reality. Chile has not forgotten the gratuitous insults of 1891, nor Brazil our arrogance in 1893. The conscience of the nation is not yet satisfied that we did not for selfish reasons in 1898 force war upon a weaker nation; and the treatment of Colombia in the matter of the Panama Canal Zone was so infamous that ten years afterwards the United States was still wondering just what sum of money would hush the mouths of the Colombian people. In Santo Domingo we have taken away from the people the right to handle their own money; and two years ago in Hayti, ostensibly for the suppression of a revolution, the country was seized, American officers installed, and a Southern white man appointed minister to the country, by tradition one especially jealous of its integrity as a nation. More recently we have purchased St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix, on which islands, [7]let us remember, the population is made up almost entirely of Negroes. In this connection we recall the Indian, remembering that Osceola was captured under a flag of truce. It is the cold, hard truth that the treatment by the United States of all colored or mixed races has been one marked by arrogance, injustice, and lack of honor. Said L.C. Wilson, in writing from Porto Rico to the American Missionary: "When the Americans came to the island sixteen years ago there was very little color line, but now it is well established. It has probably been hastened by the presence of many officials from the Southern States. Even the Y.M.C.A. has been compelled to recognize it, and the fine new building is only for white young men."

In the face of such things we go back to fundamentals. The Declaration of Independence says: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." The Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States says: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United [8]States, or by any State, on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." But above even such noble utterances as these stand the words of Him whom we profess to follow: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself."

And who is my neighbor?

We feel that the United States can not long remain in the dilemma of fighting for democracy while at the same time she denies the fundamental principles of democracy at home. We cannot much longer pluck the mote from our brother's eye unmindful at the same time of the beam in our own.

Meanwhile, however, the Negro goes quietly about his work. He has picked cotton and pulled fodder, scrubbed floors and washed windows, fired engines and dipped turpentine. He is not quite content, however, to be simply the doormat of American civilization. Twelve million people are ceasing to accept slander and insult without a protest. They have heard about freedom, justice, and happiness, though these things seemed not for them. They can not quite see the consistency of fighting for outraged Belgians or [9]Armenians so long as the rights of citizens at home are violated. In the words of Foraker, "They ask no favors because they are Negroes, but only justice because they are men."

Yours for liberty and democracy,

Benjamin Brawley.




It was in August, 1619, that a Dutch vessel brought to Jamestown, Va., twenty Negroes, who were sold into servitude. While this event definitely signalized the coming of the Negro for permanent residence within the limits of what is now the United States, it by no means marked his first coming to this country. The records of the Negro extend as far back as the voyages of Columbus. Within a few years after the visits of the great explorer there were several Negroes in the West Indies, and in 1513 thirty assisted Balboa in the building of the first ships made on the Pacific Coast. One of the four survivors of the ill-starred expedition of De Narvaez in 1527 was the Negro Estevanico, to whom belongs the credit of the discovery of the Zuñi Indians and of New Mexico. Nothing from these early years, however, exercised any [11]abiding influence on the history of the Negro in the United States.

The status of the Negro after 1619 was for several decades complicated by the system of indentured labor known as servitude. This applied especially to white servants brought from England; but the first Negroes brought to the country technically fell into the system. According to the New International Encyclopedia, "Servitude became slavery when to such incidents as alienation, disfranchisement, whipping, and limited marriage, were added those of perpetual service and a denial of civil, juridical, marital and property rights as well as the denial of the possession of children." While legislation was enacted earlier in Massachusetts, it was Virginia that in 1661 really led the way for the South in the definite recognition of slavery as a system by saying that Negroes were "incapable of making satisfaction for the time lost in running away by addition of time." The next year the same colony enacted that the status of a child should be determined by that of the mother, which act both gave to slavery the sanction of law and made it hereditary; and thus the system definitely gained a foothold in the oldest of the colonies.

It must not be supposed that the [12]institution of slavery was fastened on the colonies without many doubts and fears. As early as 1688 the Germantown Quakers made a formal protest against the barter of human beings, and moral sentiment developed in other places as well as in Pennsylvania. In the far South, especially in the colony of South Carolina, where the slaves eventually outnumbered the white people, the constant fear of insurrections led to the imposition of heavier and heavier fines on those brought into the country; and for one reason or another Virginia before 1772 passed thirty-three acts looking toward the prohibition of the importation of slaves. Nothing, however, was able to stand in the way of the cupidity of Englishmen who were gaining riches by the traffic; economic considerations were as potent two hundred years ago as now. In the course of the eighteenth century slavery grew by leaps and bounds. By the time of the first regular census in 1790 there were 757,208 Negroes in the states, 19.3 per cent. of the total population. Fifty-nine thousand, three hundred and eleven of these were those who in one way or another had become free. It is important to note that the percentage of total population has never been higher than 19.3. It has in fact steadily declined [13]since 1790, the common figure for recent years being 11 per cent.

As a race there was little to be remarked of the Negro in the colonial period. To those in bondage there was little outlook. Occasionally there was an attempt at an insurrection; but nothing of first rate importance materialized. In 1741 there was a very unhappy panic in New York, then a prosperous town of ten thousand inhabitants. Nine fires in rapid succession led to the report that the Negroes were conspiring to burn the city. All of the eight lawyers of the town appeared against the defendants, who had no counsel and who were convicted on most insufficient evidence. Before the fury was over, fourteen of the Negroes were burned, eighteen hanged, and seventy-one deported.

Any evidence of progress in this period would of course have to be found among the free Negroes. The position of these people was a very anomalous one. In the South especially very harsh laws were passed against them; but very frequently these were not enforced. In general the class was regarded as idle and shiftless and a breeder of mischief. More and more, however, individuals made their way in gainful occupations. The free Negro might become skilled at a trade; he might [14]buy land; he might even buy slaves; and he might have one gun with which to protect his home. Liberty, however, genuine liberty, he did not possess. In all the finer things of life, the things that make life worth living, the lot that was his was only less hard than that of the slave.

The general period of the Revolution was one of idealism. Humanitarianism and liberalism were in the air, and both principles were exerting a profound influence on English literature and life. In 1772 Lord Mansfield, Chief Justice of England, thrilled all English-speaking people by handing down from the Court of King's Bench the decision that as soon as a slave set foot upon the soil of England he became free. The logic of the position of the patriots, Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson, naturally forced them to defend liberty at all times; and by the time the convention for the framing of the Constitution of the United States met in Philadelphia, at least two of the original thirteen states (Massachusetts and New Hampshire) had positively prohibited slavery, while in three others (Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Rhode Island) gradual abolition was in progress. Under the influence of commercialism and industrialism, however, great convictions [15]gradually declined; and at least two of the three great compromises that entered into the Constitution were a concession to the slave-holding South. Then across the page of history flashed the brilliant figure of Toussaint L'Ouverture, who led the Negro race to obtain its first independent colony outside of the continent of Africa. In America the influence of the chieftain became one of the reasons for the cheap selling of Louisiana, and rendered more certain the prohibition of the slave-trade at the end of 1807. A wave of fear swept over the South, and Georgia and the Carolinas at once passed repressive measures designed especially to restrict the importation of Negroes from the West Indies.

All-potent, however, proved the cotton-gin. Almost suddenly Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana appeared on the map. By 1830 the exports of what then comprised the Southern states amounted to $32,000,000, and this section had not less than $2,000,000,000 invested in slaves. As a system of labor, however, in spite of seeming advantages, slavery was not slow in revealing its shortcomings. Its ultimate effects on the South were disastrous. As Rhodes says, "It needed no extensive marshaling of statistics to prove that the welfare of the North was greater than that [16]of the South. Two simple facts, everywhere admitted, were of so far-reaching moment that they amounted to irrefragable demonstration. The emigration from the slave states was much larger than the movement in the other direction; and the South repelled the industrious emigrants who came from Europe, while the North attracted them." It was the rich planter rather than the white man of slender means who profited by slavery, wealth being more and more concentrated in the hands of a few; and in 1860, 41 per cent. of the white men who had been born in South Carolina were living in other states. More and more the South realized that she was not keeping pace with the country's development; and one of her own sons, speaking "simply as the voice of the non-slaveholding whites of the South," set forth such unpleasant truths as that the personal and real property, including slaves, of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, Florida, and Texas, taken all together, was less than that of the single state of New York; that representation in Southern legislatures was unfair; that slavery was to blame for the migration from the South to the West; and in short that the system was harmful in every way. Helper's book was [17]proscribed in some quarters; nevertheless it succeeded because, in spite of the fact that it did not rest on the broadest principles of humanity, it did attempt to attack with some degree of honesty a great economic problem.

Meanwhile the sections were being arrayed against each other. The first fugitive slave law had been passed in 1793. The period 1820-60 was marked by five great aggressive steps on the part of the slave power: the Missouri Compromise (1820), the annexation of Texas (1845), the Fugitive Slave Law (1850), the Kansas-Nebraska Bill (1854), and the Dred Scott Decision (1857). One after another appeared Lundy and Garrison, Parker and Birney, Whittier and Lovejoy, Phillips and Sumner, Lydia Maria Child and Harriet Beecher Stowe; the South replied to the Underground Railroad with a virtual reopening of the slave-trade; John Brown made a raid on Harper's Ferry; and then came the appeal to arms.

And what of the Negro himself in all this period of turmoil and tumult? The inner life of the race was one of furious ferment. Already were there sharp cries for vengeance, for economic freedom, and for the immediate granting of the full privileges of citizenship; and on the other [18]hand there were those who tried to look far into the future with an air of conservatism and philosophy. Naturally there was the appeal to force; the only wonder is that there was not more of this. As early as 1687 a conspiracy among the Negroes in the Northern Neck in Virginia was detected just in time to prevent slaughter. In Surry County in 1710 there was a similar plot, betrayed by one of the conspirators. An attempt in New York in 1712 resulted in the execution of many Negroes. In 1740 some slaves on the coast of South Carolina, under the lead of one of their number named Cato, began an indiscriminate slaughter of the white people in which many lives were lost. Somewhat more ambitious was the effort made in Richmond in 1800 and known as Gabriel's Insurrection. In 1822 an unusually intelligent Negro, Denmark Vesey, the deepest thinker of all Negro insurrectionists, conceived a plan that contemplated nothing less than the total annihilation of the people of Charleston. His plot was divulged, and as a result thirty-five men were executed and thirty-seven banished. For the magnitude of its plan, the care with which it was matured, and the faithfulness of the leaders to one another, Vesey's insurrection was never [19]equaled by a similar attempt for freedom in the United States. Nine years later, however, Nat Turner, the type of the emotional insurrectionist, with the assistance of five other men, actually killed fifty-seven white people before he was stopped. The effect of this revolt upon legislation was immediate. Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, and other states at once passed harshly repressive measures.

Less direct than open revolt, but more effective sometimes, was escape by running away. In general the slaves directed their way to the North or to the swamps such as those in Virginia and Florida. The Dismal Swamp became a famous hiding-place. Soldiers never ventured into the colony, and bloodhounds sent thither did not return. The first Seminole War was very largely caused by fugitives who had been befriended by the Indians, and the second was even more directly so caused than the first.

In the ordinary social life of the Negro, however, the decade after Nat Turner's insurrection was one of the most trying in the history of the race in America. Repressive measures in the Southern states have just been remarked. In the North the free Negro was beginning to feel the force of economic ostracism. In Ohio no [20]Negro was allowed to settle unless he gave bond for his support. When this law and others of similar import began to be put in force in 1829, serious riots prevailed in Cincinnati for three days, in the course of which several Negroes were killed. Mobs in Philadelphia at various times within the period also murdered Negroes.

Meanwhile migration was strongly urged in some quarters as a solution of the problem. Says Dr. DuBois: "As early as 1788 a Negro union of Newport, Rhode Island, had proposed a general exodus to Africa. John and Paul Cuffe, after petitioning for the right to vote in 1780, started in 1815 for Africa, organizing an expedition at their own expense which cost four thousand dollars. Lott Carey organized the African Mission Society in 1813, and the first Negro college graduate went to Liberia in 1829 and became superintendent of public schools.... About two thousand black emigrants eventually settled in Hayti."

Even after the Civil War migration efforts were renewed, the Baptists and the Methodists of South Carolina joining hands in 1877 in the formation of the Liberian Exodus Joint Stock Company. As early as 1833, however, in his pamphlet entitled "Thoughts on African [21]Colonization," Garrison showed the futility of the whole plan as a means of solving the problem of the Negro in the United States, and time has justified his view.

Gradually, in spite of all the discouraging circumstances, hope appeared on the horizon. England emancipated the slaves in her colonies in 1833, and more and more conventions of free Negroes showed an interest in the welfare of the race. A strong foothold began to be gained in certain occupations, such as those of the barber and caterer. Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass appeared on the public platform; the poems of Phillis Wheatley ran through three new editions within four years; Elizabeth Greenfield sang before the royalty of Europe; and the African Methodist Church began to show what it was possible for the Negro to do in organization. By 1850, the year of the Fugitive Slave Law, when things were looking especially dark, the turning of the tide was much nearer than most people imagined. The South was still triumphant; but each new victory had to be more fiercely fought for than the last, and awakened stronger and stronger elements of opposition.

Into the crucible of war of course fell not only slavery, but every other great [22]question of interest to the American people. Free labor, free speech, woman suffrage, the authority of the Federal Government, were all at stake as well as the cause of the Negro. So far as the Negro himself was concerned, one of the first questions that the Northern generals had to settle was what to do with the fugitive slaves that flocked to their standards. In May, 1861, while in command at Fortress Monroe, Major-General Benjamin F. Butler put such men to work, justifying their retention on the ground that, being of service to the enemy for purposes of war, they were, like guns, powder, etc., "contraband of war," and could not be reclaimed. On August 30th of this year Major-General John C. Frémont, in command in Missouri, placed the state under martial law and declared the slaves there emancipated. The administration was embarrassed, Frémont's order was annulled, and he was relieved of his command. The next May, however, Major-General David Hunter, in charge of the Department of the South, issued his famous order freeing the slaves in his territory, and thus brought to general attention the matter of the employment of Negro soldiers in the Union armies. The Confederate government outlawed Hunter, Lincoln annulled his [23]order, and the grace of the nation was again saved; but in the meantime a new situation had arisen. While Brigadier-General John W. Phelps was taking part in the expedition against New Orleans, a large sugar-planter near the city, disgusted with Federal interference with the affairs of his plantation, drove all the slaves away, telling them to go to their friends, the Yankees. Phelps attempted to organize the Negroes who came into troops. Accordingly he too was outlawed by the Confederates and his act disavowed by the Union, that was not ready to take this step. It was not until a great many men had been killed, and until the Emancipation Proclamation had changed the status of the Negro, that steps were taken by the Union for his employment as a soldier. Opinion in his favor gained force after the Draft Riot in New York, when Negroes in the city were mobbed and beaten by the enemies of conscription. Soon a distinct bureau was established in Washington for the recording of all matters pertaining to Negro troops, a board was organized for the examination of candidates, and recruiting stations were set up in Maryland, Missouri, and Tennessee. By the end of 1864 nearly 200,000 Negroes had been enrolled in the army. The exploits of [24]these men at Port Hudson, Fort Wagner, and Fort Pillow are a part of the romance of American History.

The Civil War meant more than the emancipation of four million slaves, with all the perplexing problems that that liberation brought with it; it involved the overturning of the whole economic system of the South. To educate the freedmen, to train them in citizenship, and to give them a place in the new labor system, was all a problem calling for the wisest statesmanship and the largest and most unselfish patriotism. Strange contradictions moreover were frequently in evidence to increase the practical difficulties of the situation. Some Negroes, because of personal attachment, refused to leave their former masters; while the South in general, although it laid all its ills at the door of the Negro, violently opposed any considerable effort to have him taken away.

What was the Federal Government to do with the freedman? Of course it could leave him alone. Having emancipated him, it could let him work out his destiny as he would. In view of the situation, however, and the principles for which the war had been fought, such a course was manifestly impossible, especially as the so-called Black Codes of some of the [25]Southern states raised the question if the results of the war were really being accepted in good faith. The next course then was some form of Federal oversight; and thus we have the Freedmen's Bureau. The best exposition of the work of this institution is to be found in the writings of Dr. DuBois. It started the ex-slaves on their new career as free laborers, gave them recognition before the courts, and established the free common school in the South. It did not wholly guard its methods from paternalism, however; it did not live up to its implied promise to furnish the freedmen with land; and, worst of all, when the Negroes in spite of all their disadvantages had actually accumulated a total of three million dollars, the same being deposited in the Freedman's Bank, this bank, morally if not technically a part of the Freedmen's Bureau, failed, and the former slaves, at the very beginning of their economic freedom, received a severe blow not only to their confidence in the good faith of their government but also to that in the virtues of self-reliance and thrift. Gradually, through the efforts of Charles Sumner in the Senate and Thaddeus Stevens in the House, the conviction was forced upon the country that the only solution of the problem was to give the Negro the ballot as the [26]full protection of his citizenship. Thus in 1870 the Fifteenth Amendment was passed. All the logic of the situation demanded it, in spite of temporary disadvantages; and yet it has never since ceased to be bewailed in some quarters as a grave political error, even by such a representative student as James Bryce. In proof of this position theft and the incompetency of officials in the Reconstruction era are cited, when everybody knows that the carpetbaggers rather than the freedmen themselves received most of the spoil, and that the good points of the Reconstruction governments, such as the emphasis on common school education, have just as sedulously been belittled. In 1875 the second Civil Rights Act was passed, designed to give Negroes equality of treatment in theaters, railway cars, hotels, etc.; but this the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in 1883. Meanwhile the KuKlux Klan was already at work; the withdrawal of the Federal troops and the wholesale removal of disabilities by Congress weakened the Reconstruction governments; and thus the way was paved for democratic success in the South.

Now ensued a period of such harshness in the ordinary life of the Negro as can not easily be imagined. The general lack [27]of protection in the country districts and the greater economic attractiveness of the cities led many laborers to leave the farms and to find an outlet in some other occupations. To counteract this movement the "convict lease system" appeared in all its hideousness. By every possible means the effort was made to bind the Negro laborer to the soil, and in numberless instances not even the sanctity of his home life was regarded. At the same time, in ordinary intercourse with his fellowmen, many times a day was he subjected to personal indignities. By 1879, by reason of such things as these, as well as excessive rents and the exorbitant prices at some stores, matters had become so bad as in many places to be no longer tolerable. Not unnaturally many Negroes had come to fear that they were about to be remanded to slavery. A general convention in Nashville in May, 1879, adopted a report that set forth their grievances and encouraged migration to the North and West. Thousands now left their homes in the South, going in greatest numbers to Kansas, Missouri, and Indiana. Within about twenty months Kansas alone received thus an addition to her population of 40,000 Negroes. Difficulties of adjustment of course arose, but the whole movement was [28]sufficient to prove utterly false the contention of some that no amount of unfairness and injustice in the South would induce the Negro to move away.

As the KuKlux Klan declined, however, and the Negro, in spite of discouraging circumstances, steadily advanced in property, education, and culture, more and more the South felt the need of reënforcing its position by definite legislation. In 1890 the era of disfranchisement was formally inaugurated. In this year Mississippi so amended her constitution as to exclude from the suffrage any person who had not paid his poll-tax or who was unable to read any section of the Constitution, understand it when read to him, or give a reasonable interpretation of it. Real discretion in interpretation of course lay only with the registrars, who could admit just so many persons as they deemed of good character and as understanding the duties of citizenship. South Carolina amended her constitution to similar purpose in 1895; and in 1898 Louisiana invented the so-called "grandfather clause." This excused from the operation of her disfranchising act all descendants of men who had voted before the Civil War, thus admitting to the suffrage all white men who were illiterate and without property. Other Southern [29]states in one way or another followed these three. In the final estimate of history the whole effort must appear simply as a pathetic attempt to delay the full operation of justice and the rights of man.

For the present, however, the question of the Negro's attitude toward the problem was one of surpassing moment. Suddenly, in 1895, arose a new and genuine leader, Booker T. Washington, who offered a very definite program. In a remarkable speech at the Atlanta Exposition he said to the white South: "In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.... Ignorant and inexperienced, it is not strange that in the first years of our new life we began at the top instead of at the bottom; that a seat in Congress or the State Legislature was worth more than real estate or industrial skill." What seemed the common sense and the sweet reasonableness of this program at once commanded attention; and the South, in the first flush of a new era of industrial development, and the North, perfectly ready to accept any program that promised to make Southern investments secure, both approved the new [30]leader, who along the lines of thrift and self-reliance certainly gave tremendous inspiration to thousands of his brother-laborers in the South.

From the very first, however, there was a distinct group of Negro men that honestly questioned the wisdom of the platform offered by Mr. Washington. They felt that in seeming to be willing temporarily to accept segregation and to waive political rights he had given up altogether too much. As the opposition, however, they were not at first unitedly constructive, and in their utterance they sometimes offended by harshness of tone. Some years ago they were sneered at as the "intellectuals," "the idealists," etc. It is significant that to-day the sneers are few, and that a constructive program has more and more commanded attention. The recognized leader who has risen from the group is W.E. Burghardt DuBois, editor of the Crisis, the voice of an organization formed in 1910 and known as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. This organization frankly "proposes to make 11,000,000 Americans physically free from peonage, mentally free from ignorance, politically free from disfranchisement, and socially free from insult." To this end it is [31]waging a fight for justice in every way, whether at the polls, in the courts, in public conveyances, in schools, in chances for earning a living, and it has widened the door of hope not only for the college man or woman, but for the agricultural laborer as well.

Let it not be forgotten that even in the first of these two large programs there was much that was admirable. Its virtues, however, fell distinctly short of the second. A man might have ten thousand dollars in his pocket; but if he was in a strange town and legally denied a bed late at night, or if he could not buy a meal in a restaurant when he was hungry, he would learn that there are some things in the world greater than money; and to-day more than ever we might assert that anything other than the fullest emphasis on the ordinary rights of citizenship is out of harmony with the principles of American democracy.

In this rapid review we have of course touched only lightly upon some matters of the highest importance. Among these are the economic advance of the race and its very great importance as an industrial factor; lynching; education; political significance; literature and music; and the connections with the present great war. [32]Some of these will be considered more fully in the pages that follow. More and more we trust that it will be found that a struggling people is working out its own salvation, slowly out of the darkness climbing to the light.


[1] This chapter is naturally indebted in some degree to the author's "A Short History of the American Negro" (Macmillan, 1913).




If the war has taught us anything, it has given us new respect for labor. There may once have been a time when great plantation owners despised workers in fields; but that time is past. Under the stress of new conditions, our richest captains of industry value the man who can raise cotton or make a shell or fix rivets in a ship.

The Negro has importance in America to-day as a working-man; and, aside from all questions of philanthropy or sentiment, he asks for consideration in this capacity. Some of our greatest businesses are becoming dependent upon him. In turn he asks if it is unreasonable for him to expect a man's chance to earn a living, fair wages for fair work, and such working conditions as make for general health and social betterment.

In 1910, of 3,178,554 Negro men at work in this country, 981,922 were listed as farm laborers and 798,509 as farmers. [34]That is to say, 56 per cent. of the whole number were engaged in raising farm products either on their own account or by way of assisting somebody else. The great staples were of course the cotton and corn of the Southern states, and the new importance given to these crops by the war no one can gainsay. That is not all, however. If we take along with the farmers those engaged in the next occupations employing the greatest numbers of men—those of the building and hand trades, saw and planing mills, as well as those of railway firemen and porters, draymen, teamsters, and coal mine operatives—we shall find a total of 71.2 per cent. engaged in such work as represents the very foundation of American industry. What of the women? Of these, 1,047,146, or 52 per cent., were either farm laborers or farmers, and 28 per cent. more were either cooks or washerwomen. In other words, a total of exactly 80 per cent. were doing some of the hardest and at the same time some of the most necessary work in our home and industrial life. These are the workers for whom we ask consideration; and we make the request not on the basis of what they did fifty or a hundred years ago, but what they are worth now, to-day, as an important asset in [35]the industrial life of the United States.

It has sometimes been said that these people are not reliable as workers, that they are migratory, that they fail to appear on Monday mornings, etc., and hence that it is hardly advisable to give them a chance in American industry on a large scale. Hear the testimony of Homer L. Ferguson, described as "the most human shipbuilder in America—and one of the ablest," fully half of whose 7,800 men and boys in his great Newport News shipyard are Negroes. Mr. Ferguson was born in North Carolina and he was talking to a Northern reporter: "Don't you dare come down from the North to this yard and tell us that the black man in the South is an industrial failure—you who only use him as an elevator boy or a parlor-car porter or a chauffeur and refuse to give him an equal industrial opportunity with white labor. How long would one of our expert machinists last at Taunton or at Paterson or at Schenectady? What opportunity would the unions give him? Can one of our good riveters go north and join the union? He can not. And otherwise he can not drive a single rivet."

What would the unions do in fact? What have they done already? We learn from the very valuable study by Mr. [36]Abraham Epstein, "The Negro Migrant in Pittsburgh," in the publications of the School of Economics of the University of Pittsburgh, that an official of a union which has a membership of nearly five thousand, said that it had about five colored members. An official of an even more powerful union was "greatly astonished when he learned that there are white people who take an interest in the Negro question. He absolutely refused to give any information and did not think it worth while to answer such questions, although he admitted that his union had no colored people and would never accept them." To be thoroughly concrete, however, let us consider the Negro plasterers of Pittsburgh. On January 1, 1917, about thirty of these men, discriminated against by the local white union, wrote to the national organization in Middletown, Ohio, asking formally to have a local body of their own. Headquarters sent back reply to the effect that a charter could not be given without the consent of the older organization. Then followed a meeting in which the Negro secretary was given five minutes before the white local at its regular meeting. Nothing resulted. Under such circumstances is it any wonder that Negroes adopt a canny attitude when labor unions [37]are concerned? More than this, can not organized labor itself realize the dangers for all in this hostile attitude toward the black race?

In spite of the labor unions, however, the Negro has gone North. The war, suddenly putting an end to the great immigrant stream from Europe, brought a sudden demand for unskilled labor undreamed of five years ago. Nobody knows how many Negroes have gone from the South to the North within the last three years. Perhaps 500,000; perhaps even 200,000 more. We do know, however, that they have gone in amazing numbers; and the thing of really vital importance is that these people shall be adequately adjusted to their new environment. Some opportunity should be afforded them to rise from the ranks of unskilled into those of skilled laborers. It is moreover of the highest importance that these newcomers to our large cities shall be adequately housed. Thirty persons are known to have lived recently in a seven-room house in Philadelphia; and in Pittsburgh 57 out of 390 rooms investigated have shown over six persons using the same room. In many cases the paper is torn off the walls, plaster sags from the laths, windows are broken, and the ceiling [38]is low and damp. The whole question is of course closely connected with disease and mortality. In many places, and even in some of our training camps, there is too little opportunity for wholesome refreshment for the Negro. When will our cities learn that tuberculosis and typhoid fever are no respecter of persons? It is not enough to isolate bad cases after they are found out. The conditions of home sanitation, or lack of sanitation, that lead to these should be made impossible. I recall a section of pleasant homes in the West End of Atlanta. Suddenly, in the midst of clean, comfortable little cottages for white people there yawned before me an alley in which Negroes lived, with its dilapidated two-room dwellings, general lack of cleanliness, and its unwholesome air. From these places came the cooks and the washerwomen for the white families in the neighborhood; and this condition in one section of Atlanta can be duplicated in any city in the South, and in many in the North.

In 1910 the death-rate in 57 representative cities was 27.8 per 1,000 for Negroes and 15.9 for white people. The rates for both white people and Negroes were higher in the South than in the North, but not a great deal more so. Among the Negroes [39]the diseases that overwhelmingly outnumbered the others in their victims were tuberculosis and pneumonia. Can any one doubt that this is due to the unsanitary conditions under which these people are in many instances forced to live?

To argue, however, that the Negro should be looked after in order that white people should be protected is to be guilty of a fallacy. All should be protected because all should have the best chance at life that their city or their state can afford them. All the more important is the question since it involves the welfare of three million men and women upon whom so largely rest the burdens of our farming, our mining, our railroading, our planing industries, and our home life.

The war has already taught us many things, and among the most important is the need for a new adjustment of social and economic values. If we are to be together in a crisis we must be together in times of peace, with the broadest sympathy one for another. Especially must we give due consideration to those who have the hardest work to do. Too long have some few become rich by exploiting the poor, the unprotected, the ignorant. True democracy does not mean that any one race or any one class shall be on top or [40]at the bottom, but that all shall advance together to the height of human attainment. Only thus can we finally be secure. Only thus can our country be the country of our dreams.




Within the last thirty-five years 3,200 Negro men and women have been lynched within the boundaries of the United States, an average of just a little less than 100 a year. While there has been some decrease within recent years, the figures between 1890 and 1900 were so extraordinary that the average is still high. Nor can one find much comfort in the fact that there has been some decrease within recent years, for some of the most recent cases were those of the most revolting torture. The year 1917 moreover was marked by the greatest outbreak of mob violence that the race has ever suffered, considerably more than one hundred Negro men, women, and children losing their lives in East St. Louis.

Fifteen years ago, in Mississippi, a Negro became involved in a quarrel with a white man who was just about to shoot him when the Negro himself fired, fatally wounding the man. He then fled to the woods and his wife accompanied him. [42]Bloodhounds were sent after them, and after a long chase they were captured. Then followed such torture as is without parallel even in the history of lynching. The man and his wife were both tied to trees, one after another their fingers were cut off, then their ears, both fingers and ears being distributed as souvenirs among the members of the mob. The supreme stroke, however, was still to come. A large corkscrew was bored into the more fleshy parts of the two writhing bodies, and so jerked out as to tear out large pieces of flesh. Both the man and his wife were then burned alive. And the sun still shone in heaven!

Such is the story that with necessary differences of situation and detail has disgraced our country for forty years. Within eight months recently the state of Tennessee has been distinguished by three separate burnings. At Dyersburg a red-hot poker was rammed down the throat of the victim, and he was further mutilated in ways indecent and unmentionable. At Estill Springs all the colored people in the vicinity were made to walk around the scene of the burning as an object-lesson. Of Henry Smith in Texas some years ago we are told that "he was taken from his guards, red-hot irons were thrust into his [43]eyes, down his throat, and on his abdomen, and he was then burned." In the case of Jesse Washington, a Negro boy of seventeen, in Waco, Texas, in May, 1916, we read: "On the way to the scene of the burning, people on every hand took a hand in showing their feelings in the matter by striking the Negro with anything obtainable; some struck him with shovels, bricks, clubs, and others stabbed him and cut him until when he was strung up his body was a solid color of red." It was estimated that the boy had twenty-five stab wounds. "Fingers, ears, pieces of clothing, toes and other parts of the Negro's body were cut off by members of the mob."

It will be argued, however, that only in extreme cases is burning resorted to; but to this it might be replied that sometimes there is a burning when rape is not even alleged, as in the case of the man and woman in Mississippi. Indeed, it may be remarked in passing that in only a third or a fourth of the cases enumerated each year is rape even alleged as a cause. The theft of seventy-five cents, a small debt, a fight, relationship to an offender, have all been considered sufficient cause for lynching within recent years. Moreover, even where there is not a burning, [44]but a hanging, the circumstances are often such as to disgrace our civilization. Thus, early in 1915, at Monticello, Ga., because an officer was resisted, a father, his young son, and his two grown daughters were all lynched.

What must inevitably be the result of all this? Such an incident as the following: Very recently, at Gadsden, Ala., four little white boys at play, all twelve or thirteen years of age, decided that they would play "lynching." One of the four accordingly had a rope tied around his neck and was slowly strangling to death when a passer-by relieved him. The result of the incident was that the three playmates of the boy were all placed in jail under the charge of assault such as might have resulted in murder.

What is the remedy? Respect for the law of course, with proper enforcement of the same. All too frequently, however, the law is simply a subterfuge behind which officials take refuge; and this is a condition that applies to many things in our American life besides lynching. Asked a Georgia judge, however, in despair at the conditions that surrounded him: "If the grand jury won't indict lynchers, if the petit juries won't convict, [45]and if soldiers won't shoot, what are we coming to?"

How this all works out from the stand-point of the Negro may be seen from the following. After the burning of M'Ilheron at Estill Springs the Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People sent a telegram to the President of the United States asking him to denounce such acts as disgraced the country at the very moment that we were fighting for justice and humanity abroad. The telegram was referred to the Attorney General, and the reply from his department was to the effect that "under the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, the Federal Government has absolutely no jurisdiction over matters of this kind; nor are they connected with the war in any such way as to justify the action of the Federal Government under the war power." The Association then appealed to Governor Rye of Tennessee to take action to bring to justice the perpetrators of the wrong against the honor of the state. The Governor replied in part as follows: "I could not anticipate that local officers, whose duty it is to take custody of prisoners would fail to accord protection, nor could any action [46]upon my part be taken without being requested so to do by the local authorities or court officers." The Nashville Banner, however, printed an editorial, and the Chamber of Commerce in Chattanooga passed some resolutions, and at last accounts this was about all that had been done. The Negro citizen accordingly wonders about his general position when neither the Federal nor the State Government seems to have the power to protect him.

Meanwhile these outrages injure us abroad. We look upon Russia as benighted and chaotic; yet this was the country that hurled at a distinguished Baptist minister, Dr. R.S. MacArthur, the charge that his was the only civilized country in the world that tolerated lynching. We speak of Pan-Americanism and the Monroe Doctrine; but Professor Bingham informs us of a hostile paper in Lima, the government organ, that printed the following headlines to a two-column article: "NORTH AMERICAN EXCESSES—THE TERRIBLE LYNCHINGS—AND THEY TALK OF THE PUTEMAYO!" And the Peruvian editor says: "Do you realize that in the full twentieth century, when there is not a single country in the world whose inhabitants are permitted to [47]supersede justice by summary punishment, there are repeatedly taking place, almost daily, in the United States, lynchings like that of which we are told in the telegraphic dispatch?" The natural result is to unite Latin America against us, especially when the United States draws a color-line offensive to South American sensibilities.

We call upon our country for a new consecration—to law, to order, to justice. Too long has the crime of lynching disgraced us in the eyes of the world. Too long have we eased our conscience with a specious thought of necessity or irresponsibility. What concerns our country's honor concerns every one of us; and as our Negro soldiers take up arms and embark for France, let them not think that their loved ones left behind are not protected. Let them rather feel that from our national escutcheon shall be washed away every stain, that justice shall yet be triumphant, and that democracy shall indeed find its true place in the world.




No one who really studies the problem has any reason to be discouraged at the results of fifty years of education for the Negro people of America. In 1880 the percentage of illiterates among the race was approximately 70. By 1890 it was 57, by 1900 44.5, and by 1910 the figure had been reduced to 30.4. We may then not unreasonably affirm that at the present time (1918) not more than one-fourth of all the Negroes of the country are illiterate, and this in spite of the fact that thousands of persons who did not have early advantages are still living.

In other ways also may improvement be marked. By reason of a more enlightened sentiment the schoolhouses in more than one vicinity are gradually being improved, civic and social organizations are constantly working for better conditions, and organizations among the institutions themselves look to greater coherence and [49]coördination of effort in the future. The last few years have witnessed not only a continuance of the work of such agencies as the John F. Slater Fund and the General Education Board, but also the beginning of that of the Anna T. Jeanes Fund for the maintenance and assistance of elementary schools for Negroes in the Southern States and of the Phelps-Stokes Fund, a part of whose income also goes to Negro education. Meanwhile among the teachers actively at work have arisen different organizations, notably the Association of Colleges for Negro Youth. This association was formed at Knoxville, Tenn., in November, 1913, by representatives of the following institutions: Howard University, Atlanta University, Wilberforce University, Virginia Union University, Fisk University, Morehouse College, Knoxville College, and Talladega College. Since 1913 Shaw University, Bishop College, and Benedict College have also become members. The general aim of the organization has been to bring more closely together the colleges concerned for the consideration of such subjects as uniform requirements for entrance to college, the requirements for the college degree, the reception of students from other colleges, and other topics of vital interest.

[50]All such things denote progress. And yet, when all consideration is given to the advance that has been made, there are those who feel that with the opportunity still more should have been done. They feel that the past is irrevocable, but that it is not too late to correct certain errors and tendencies for the future.

What is the situation as we actually find it to-day? Go to any one of the most representative institutions, and what do we find? Efficient teachers struggling against most enormous disadvantages and frequently dealing with the crudest possible material. The wonder is that so much has been accomplished in the face of the handicap. It is not enough to reply that in all the schools and colleges of the country the teaching is irregular and the systems too lenient—that there is no human perfection in fact; these Negro colleges are crying for a better chance and they ought to have it. Go into any one of their high school departments (for all are still forced to conduct closely affiliated academies), and the actual attainment of many of the students exhibits more and more the appalling shortcomings of the common schools. How could it be otherwise with a system that operates schools for only four or five months a year [51]and that pays teachers twenty or thirty-five dollars a month? "It was this way, you see," said one young man who presented himself for entrance upon the work of the academy, "we had only a three months' school at my home, and I went one winter and my brother went the next." Said another, "I had a good teacher in arithmetic, but we didn't do much in grammar"; and the grammar may be said to embrace every subject in the common school in which precision is required except arithmetic. Penmanship is completely lacking in neatness and finish, and in nineteen cases out of twenty the students from the country can not spell. Nor can they read. Take them as you come to them, at the supposed completion of the eighth grade, and ask them to read aloud a single paragraph from Irving, or Cooper, or the morning paper, and very few indeed will be able to get through without an apology or serious errors in pronunciation or interpretation.

Grammar and reading and spelling, however, are apparent. Little by little the teacher becomes aware of something more fundamental—the lack of any adequate background for appreciation and culture. No time had the mother at the washtub or in the field for Cinderella or [52]Mother Goose, and the childhood that should have been enriched by lines from Longfellow or Tennyson or the Bible was nodded away by the fire. Youth that craved adventure and inspiration found relief from the deadening routine of the week only in the coarse pleasure of the railroad on Sundays, or the big-meeting that came once a year. A gymnasium, a library, or an art museum the young man coming up to the academy in the city never saw in his life.

Such a background makes neither for accuracy in technical training nor for the foundation of the larger reaches of culture. Within recent years the problem has been even more complicated by the inadequate school facilities in the cities. As the population has shifted from the rural districts to the larger towns, congestion in the schools has resulted, and the lack of an adequate number of seats and the system of half-day sessions have frequently resulted only in the semblance of thorough and efficient training. Nor has the matter been made any better by the tendency in some places still further to degrade the schools.

There is yet a larger question, however, and that is the extent to which the higher schools and colleges themselves are [53]fulfilling their function. We do not forget the work of Atlanta University in the training of common school teachers, nor that of Morehouse College for the Negro Baptists of Georgia, nor that of Spelman Seminary for the homes and Sunday Schools and rural schools of Georgia, when we raise the question if such institutions are really doing all that they should for their respective communities. We do not believe that they are, and we do not believe that the fault is wholly theirs.

All of this takes us back to some very fundamental things. For some years we have heard of a war between classical and industrial ideals, and it has become more and more the fashion to sneer at the sturdy pioneers who sought to instill into the minds of the recently emancipated freedmen the ideas of education that obtained in New England. Homer and Horace, it is affirmed, have no place in the education of a man who is to be a leader in a rural community. The whole utilitarian tendency has recently been strongly represented by the paper, "A Modern School," by Dr. Abraham Flexner, published in the Review of Reviews for April, 1916, and reprinted as a pamphlet by the General Education Board. We read: "Modern education will include nothing simply [54]because tradition recommends it or because its inutility has not been conclusively established. It proceeds in precisely the opposite way: It includes nothing for which an affirmative case can not now be made out."

Now hardly any one will be found to object to this principle, though when education in the large is considered many distinguished educators feel that in arriving at its large aim the "Modern School" is not altogether fair to some of the more traditional subjects in the curriculum. So far as higher education for the Negro is concerned, however, there is one point at which the utilitarians persistently misunderstand those who do not wholly agree with them. No one better appreciates the value of genuine industrial education than the teachers in the Southern colleges. What they do oppose, however, is that sort of large legislation which says that because the Negro is mainly an agricultural race, his children as a whole should have that sort of education which will make of them good farmers and domestics. Such a program offers no outlet at all for the boy of unusual talent and would ultimately irrevocably bind the whole race in the chains of serfs.

What then should be the aim of Negro [55]education? We affirm that each boy should receive such education as would not only enable him to develop his individual powers to their highest point, but also enable him to fulfill his function most serviceably as a citizen of a great free republic. Such an aim it seems not altogether unreasonable to ask. Many Negroes will undoubtedly for many years find their true economic place as domestic servants, many will be and should be farmhands; but no scheme of education whatsoever should be devised that would logically force every Negro boy or girl into such occupations as these whatever may be the individual capacity or desire.

In Negro schools accordingly we ask first of all for that education which will understand that all individuals are not alike and that will so plan the course of study for each student as to enable him ultimately to be of most service to his fellowmen. Logically no set program of study can do this. The student's playtime as well as his work time should be most carefully supervised. Here is a budding machinist. His true bent should, by some scientific test, be manifest to his principal or dean after just a few months of acquaintance. A special course of study should be built up for him. His reading [56]should be so studied as to vary articles on mechanics with such fiction as would awaken his imagination. He should be taken to visit great industrial plants so as to see how they are operated, and any inventive faculty that he possesses should be encouraged. Here again is a bookish lad, one who seems to study always and who never wants to play. One instructor would inspire him along the line of history or literature or art, as the case might require, while the physical director would (without the boy's realizing it) seek until he found some form of exercise into which the boy would enter with enthusiasm and which would save him from undue introspection and generally look to his physical well-being. Whatever may be the special field, the training should be absolutely thorough. We should rather see a boy plane a board correctly than have him work a problem in trigonometry incorrectly; and on the other hand we should rather see a student construe Homer with precision than keep a dairy that is not perfectly clean.

Any such education as this of course calls for experts, and we are thus led on to our second point. We ask that the teachers in Negro schools and colleges should in deed and in truth be specialists. [57]He who would teach any American youth in the new day, and certainly any Negro American youth, should be a genuine psychologist and sociologist and a large-hearted Christian man at the same time that he is a most thorough student in his own department. By "specialist" we do not mean a man who in English would count up the infinitives in Gower's poems, but one who in grammar, for instance, could bring from a broad scholarly background such a capacity for illustration as would inspire his students to be honestly more careful in their speaking or writing. The teacher of geometry would be one who could genuinely teach boys to think better; and with the true teacher of Latin, boys would have no desire to be dishonest. Whatever is taught should be dynamic; now as never before it must justify itself in terms of human life. Such instructors for our youth would call for such an outlay for education as has not yet been dreamed of. They could not be ready, however, until they had passed through a long period of preparation; and for such an investment they should later of course be adequately paid. Along with better teachers would go better equipment generally. Mr. Carnegie has given several library buildings, for instance. We wish [58]now that somebody would give some books to put in them. More than one of the Negro colleges have no regular library appropriation. Whenever a book is bought it must be taken out of current funds and thus be stolen from some other legitimate use. And yet some people presume to sneer at what these institutions have done!

The third matter is a large and subtle one. It has to do with the whole moral and spiritual import of the schools in question. One of the amazing things about Negro education in the large in America is that one hears so much about boards and units and courses of study and so little about deeper essentials. Aside from the curriculum, what is the atmosphere that a boy breathes as soon as he sets foot on a college campus? Is he trained in honesty, in politeness, in high ideals of speech, in lofty conceptions of character? Does he have to obey orders? Is he taught to be neat, prompt, and industrious? Such questions are of things too often taken for granted, and too often lacking. We need new emphasis on the whole missionary impulse in education. In the providence of God, but through no effort of his own, the freedman in the decades after the Civil War had the benefit [59]of the labors of consecrated men and women who served, sometimes even without pay, for his salvation. Cravath at Fisk, Graves at Morehouse, Tupper at Shaw, Ware at Atlanta, Armstrong at Hampton, and Packard and Giles at Spelman are names that should ever be recalled with thanksgiving and praise. These men and women were not people of means. They labored often with the most inadequate facilities. And yet somehow they had the key to the eternal verities. They were earnest, efficient, and true, and to them a human soul was worth more than the kingdoms of this world.

Such consecrated workers, however, have now become rarer and rarer. Materialism and commercialism are abroad in the land. Segregation and proscription and injustice abound. We plead now that in all the disappointments and distractions of the new day our teachers shall at least remember the faith and high ideals of the pioneers, and remain close to God.

To train our boys in the virtues of citizenship and at the same time in knowledge of the rights of others; to teach them respect for others at the same time that they cultivate their own self-respect; to teach them the value of scholarship and also to let them know when scholarship [60]must become dynamic; to teach them to work, to love, to sing, to have faith, even when they see wrong all around them—this is a task calling for all one has of Christianity, of scholarship, and of delicacy.




In the fall of 1862 a young woman who was destined to be a great missionary entered the Seminary at Rockford, Illinois. There was little to distinguish her from the other students except that she was exceedingly plainly dressed, and seemed forced to spend most of her spare time at work. Yes, there was one other difference. She was older than most of the girls—already thirty, and rich in experience. When not yet fifteen she had taught a country school in Pennsylvania. At twenty she was considered capable of managing an unusually turbulent crowd of boys and girls. When she was twenty-seven her father had died, leaving upon her very largely the care of her mother. At twenty-eight she already looked back upon a career of fourteen years as a teacher, of some work for Christ incidentally accomplished, but also upon a fading youth of wasted hopes and unfulfilled desires.

[62]Then came a great decision—not the first, but one of the most important that marked her long career. Her education was by no means complete, and at whatever cost she was determined to go to school. That she had no money, that her clothes were shabby, that her mother needed her, made no difference; now or never she would realize her ambition. She would do anything, however menial, if it was honest and would give her food while she attended school. For one long day she walked the streets of Belvidere looking for a home. Could any one use a young woman who wanted to work for her board? Always the same reply. Nightfall brought her to a farmhouse in the suburbs of the town. She timidly knocked on the door. "No, we do not need any one," said the woman who greeted her, "but wait until I see my husband." The man of the house was very unwilling, but decided to give her shelter for the night. The next morning he thought differently about the matter; and a few days afterward the young woman entered school. The work was hard; fires were to be made, breakfasts on cold mornings had to be prepared, and sometimes the washing was heavy. In the midst of it all, the time for lessons was [63]frequently cut short or extended far into the night. But the woman of the house was kind, and her daughter a helpful fellow-student.

The next summer came another season at school-teaching, and then the term at Rockford. 1862! a great year that in American history, one fraught with great events, and more famous for the defeat of the Union arms than for their success. But in September came Antietam, and the heart of the North took courage. Lincoln now issued a preliminary proclamation, "That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any state or designated part of a state, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever, free."

The girls at Rockford, like the people everywhere, were interested in the great events shaking the nation. A new note of seriousness crept into their work. Embroidery was laid aside; instead, socks were knit and bandages prepared. On the night of January 1 a jubilee meeting was held in the town. At last the black man was free and everywhere throughout the North there were shouts of joy.

[64]To Joanna P. Moore, however, the news bore a strange undertone of sadness. She was, as we have said, much more mature than her schoolmates, and to her, somehow, the problem of the spiritual and intellectual freedom of the bondsmen presented itself. Strange that she should be so possessed by this problem! She had of course thought of the possibility of working in China, or India, or Africa—but of this, never!

In February a man who had been on Island No. 10 came to the Seminary and told the girls of the hundreds of women and children there in distress. Cabins and tents were everywhere. As many as three families, with eight or ten children each, cooked their food in the same pot on the same fire. Sometimes the women were peevish or quarrelsome; always the children were ignorant and dirty. "What can a man do to help such a suffering mass of humanity?" asked the speaker. "Nothing. A woman is needed; nobody else will do." For the student listening so intently, the cheery schoolrooms with their sweet associations faded; the vision of foreign missions also vanished; and in their stead stood only a pitiful black woman with a baby in her arms.

She reached Island No. 10 in November. [65]The outlook was dismal enough. The Sunday School at Belvidere of which she was a member pledged four dollars a month toward her support; and this was all the salary in sight. The Government had provided transportation and soldiers' rations. That was in 1863, more than fifty years ago; but every year since then, until 1916, in summer and winter, in sunshine and rain, in the home and the church, with teaching and praying, feeding and clothing, nursing and hoping and loving, Joanna P. Moore in one way or another ministered to the needs of the Negro people of the South.

In April, 1864, her whole colony was removed to Helena, Arkansas. The Home Farm was three miles from Helena. Here was gathered a great crowd of women and children and helpless old men, all under the guard of a company of soldiers in a fort near by. Thither went the missionary, alone, except for her faith in God. She made an arbor with some rude seats, nailed a blackboard to a tree, divided the people into four divisions, and began to teach school. In the twilight every evening a great crowd gathered around her cabin for prayers. A verse of the Bible was read and explained, prayers were offered, one of the sorrow-songs was [66]chanted, and then the service was over.

Some Quaker workers were her friends in Helena, and in 1868 she went to Lauderdale, Mississippi, to help the Friends in an orphan asylum. Six weeks after her arrival the superintendent's daughter died, and the parents left to take their child back to their Indiana home to rest. Miss Moore was left in charge of the asylum. Cholera broke out. Eleven children died within one week. She stood by her post. Often, as she said, those who were well and happy when they retired, ere the daylight came were in the cold grave, for they were buried the same hour they died. Night after night the lone woman prayed to God in the dark, and at length the fury of the plague was abated.

From time to time the failing health of her mother called her home, and from 1870 to 1873 she once more taught school in the vicinity of Belvidere. The first winter the school was in the country. "You can never have a Sunday School in the winter," she was told. But she did; in spite of the snow the house was crowded every Sunday; whole families came in sleighs. Even at that the real work of the missionary was still with the Negroes of the South. In her prayers and in her public addresses they were always with her; and [67]in 1873 friends in Chicago made it possible for her to return to the work of her choice. In 1877 the Woman's Baptist Home Mission Society honored itself by giving to her its first commission.

Nine years she spent in the vicinity of New Orleans. Near Leland University she found a small, one-room house. After buying a bed, a table, two chairs, and a few cooking utensils, she began housekeeping. Often she started out at six in the morning, not to return until dark. Most frequently she read the Bible to those who could not read. Sometimes she gave cheer to mothers busy over the washtub. Sometimes she would teach the children to read or to sew. Often she would write letters for those who had been separated from friends or kindred in the dark days. She wrote hundreds and hundreds of such letters; and once in a while, a very long while, came some response.

Most pitiful of all the objects she found in New Orleans were the old women worn out with years of slavery. They were usually ragpickers who ate at night old scraps for which they had begged during the day. There was in the city an Old Ladies' Home; but this was not for Negroes. A house was secured and the women taken in, Miss Moore and her [68]associates moving into the second story. Sometimes, very often, there was real need; but sometimes, too, provisions came when it was not known who sent them; money or boxes came from Northern friends who had never seen the workers; and the little Negro children in the Sunday Schools in New Orleans gave their pennies.

In 1878 Miss Moore started on a journey of exploration. In Atlanta Dr. Robert at Atlanta Baptist Seminary (now Morehouse College) gave her cheer; so did President Ware at Atlanta University. At Benedict in Columbia she saw Dr. Goodspeed, President Tupper at Shaw in Raleigh, and Dr. Corey in Richmond. In May she appeared at the Baptist anniversaries, with fifteen years of missionary achievement already behind her.

But each year brought its own sorrows and disappointments. She wanted her Society to establish a training school for women; but the objection was raised to this on the score that such an institution would overlap the educational work of the American Baptist Home Mission Society. Down in Louisiana of course it was not without danger that a white woman attended a Negro Baptist Association in 1877; and there were always sneers and [69]jeers. At length, however, a training school for mothers was opened in Baton Rouge. All went well for two years; and then a notice with skull and crossbones was placed on the gate. The woman who had worked through the cholera still stood firm; but the students had gone. Sick at heart and worn out with waiting, she left Baton Rouge and the state in which so many of her best years had been spent.

Bible Band work was started in 1884, and Hope in 1885. Just how live the idea is to-day may be seen from the recent experience of one of the representative colleges for young men. With a crowded Sunday schedule, and with all the distraction of concerts, rhetoricals, and athletics, with Y.M.C.A. meetings and required chapel services, with church and Sunday School, thirty men voluntarily meet each week after the required Sunday evening service for the study of the lessons in Hope. This little paper, beginning with a circulation of five hundred, has now reached a monthly issue of more than eighteen thousand copies; and daily it brings its lesson of cheer to thousands of mothers and children in the South. In connection with it all has developed the Fireside School, than which few agencies have been more potent for the salvation [70]and uplift of the humble Negro home.

What wisdom has been gathered from the passing of fourscore years! On almost every page of her tracts, her letters, her account of her life, one finds quotations that for proverbial pith may be equaled only by the words of Franklin or Lincoln or Booker Washington:—

The love of God gave me courage for myself and the rest of mankind; therefore I concluded to invest in human souls. They surely are worth more than anything else in the world.

Beloved friends, be hopeful, be courageous. God cannot use discouraged people.

I am very thankful to-day that there has always been some one weaker than myself along some line, some one that I could really help and comfort.

The good news spread, not by telling what we were going to do, but by praising God for what had been done.

So much singing in all our churches leaves too little time for the Bible lesson. Do not misunderstand me. I do love music that impresses the meaning of words. But no one climbs to heaven on musical scales.

I thoroughly believe that the only way to succeed with any vocation is to make it a part of your very self and weave it into your every thought and prayer.

You must love before you can comfort and help.

There is no place too lowly or dark for our feet to enter, and no place so high and bright but it needs the touch of the light that we carry from the Cross.

[71]How shall we measure such a life? Who can weigh love and hope and service, and the joy of answered prayer? "An annual report of what?" she once asked the secretary of her organization. "Report of tears shed, prayers offered, smiles scattered, lessons taught, steps taken, cheering words, warning words—tender, patient words for the little ones, stern but loving tones for the wayward—songs of hope and songs of sorrow, wounded hearts healed, light and love poured into dark sad homes? Oh, Miss Burdette, you might as well ask me to gather up the raindrops of last year or the petals that fall from the flowers that bloomed. It is true I can send you a little stagnant water from the cistern, and a few dried flowers; but if you want to know the freshness, the sweetness, the glory, the grandeur, of our God-given work, then you must come and keep step with us from early morn to night for three hundred and sixty-five days in the year."

Until the very last she was on the roll of the active missionaries of the Woman's American Baptist Home Mission Society. In the fall of 1915 she decided that she must once more see the schools in the South that meant so much to her. In December she came again to her beloved Spelman. [72]While in Atlanta she met with an accident that still further weakened her. After a few weeks, however, she went on to Jacksonville, and then to Selma. There she passed.

"When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.... Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."




It is the purpose of the present chapter to reply to some of the more common of the arguments brought forward against the Negro. We shall by no means attempt to cover the whole ground, or even pretend that in every case we have summoned the most representative critics. At the same time we feel that those that are adduced are fairly typical of those of harsher view.

One of the noteworthy characteristics of discussion in recent years has been a tendency to deny the ideals on which America was founded, especially where the Negro was concerned. One of the frankest statements along this line was a Fourth of July address in 1911 by no less a person than Ex-President Eliot of Harvard University. This distinguished citizen gave voice to an opinion which is just now gaining more and more converts in this country, in effect this: The Declaration of Independence [74]is a wornout document; it never was meant to be taken seriously; and, in the words of Rufus Choate, it is made up simply of "glittering and sounding generalities of natural right." The passage to which exception seems especially to be taken is this: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." It will be observed that in a way each successive one of the three clauses here explains the one preceding; that is to say, all men are equal in the rights given to them by God, and these rights consist in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The fathers were not thinking about such things as that one child was born in a palace and another in a hut, or that one was born with brilliant intellect and the other with little power of mind. Certainly the "facts submitted to a candid world" are based on no such principles as these. The founders were talking about things moral. Each man deserved at least that no other man should have power to declare that he must live in a hut. In other words, each man deserved a man's chance in the world.

So far as the Negro is concerned then we hold that the Declaration of [75]Independence is a very live document. More and more, however, within recent years has it been the fashion to fix attention upon his shortcomings, and this attitude has led some people to strange conclusions. One of the most accessible statements of the adverse point of view is "The Color Line," by Prof. William Benjamin Smith, for years a teacher at Tulane University. This book is in no sense better than many others. At the same time it was written by a man who had broadened his scholarship in Europe, being the holder of a doctor's degree from a German university, and who in his own studies had emphasized such subjects as mathematics and philosophy. From such a source one would at least expect some degree of consideration for logic; and yet "The Color Line" but shows the lengths to which some persons will go when they discuss the Negro. The central thesis seems to be the following (p. 174): "Drawing the color line, firm and fast, between the races, first of all in social relations, and then by degrees in occupations also, is a natural process and a rational procedure, which makes equally for the welfare of both." Professor Smith remarks several Negroes of distinction, shows that in fact most of them were not pure Negroes at all, but persons [76]with an infusion of white blood, and concludes (p. 44): "It seems vain to deny that the mixed blood is notably more intelligent than the pure black; the necessary inference is that the white blood with which it was mixed is far more intelligent still." The same line of argument is used by Mr. Alfred Holt Stone in his Atlantic paper on "The Mulatto Factor in the Race Problem," included in "Studies in the American Race Problem," as well as by Mr. E.B. Reuter in his recent study in the American Journal of Sociology, "The Superiority of the Mulatto." "Have equal opportunities," we are asked, "raised the Negroes in Pennsylvania to the white level?" Education has been a complete failure. Professor Smith visited a Negro school (p. 166): "An olive-colored young man was at the board trying to explain to a mulatto woman, the only member of the class, the mysterious nature of the perpendicular. He appeared very earnest in his exposition, but unable to awaken any answering intelligence." "The higher culture at 'colored universities' merely spoils a plough-hand or house-maid." Finally (p. 259), "nearly forty years of devoted and enthusiastic effort to elevate and educate the Southern Negro lie stretched out behind us in a dead level of failure."

[77]This whole argument is guilty of the vicious fallacy of begging the question by arguing in a circle. First we degrade human beings by the curse of slavery for two hundred and fifty years, and then because they are not advanced we argue that they have not the capacity to rise. Far from being an advantage to both races the color line is the curse of both. Obsessed by the Negro problem, the white South has always been held back and still finds it impossible to think in the large; while the Negro is daily met with such insults as shake the very foundations of his citizenship. The argument on the mulatto goes back to the circle already remarked. Everybody knows that in a country predominantly white the quadroon has frequently been given some advantage that his black friend did not have, from the time that one was a house-servant and the other a field-hand; but no thorough test in Negro schools has ever demonstrated that the black boy is intellectually inferior to the fair one. This is all a part of the general American snobbishness that places on the Negro the burden of any blame or deficiency, but that claims for the white race any merit that an individual may show, even while many advantages of citizenship are withheld from both mulatto and Negro [78]alike. Furthermore, and this is a point not previously remarked in discussions of the Negro problem, the element of genius that distinguishes the Negro artist of mixed blood is most frequently one characteristically Negro rather than Anglo-Saxon; note the romantic and elemental sculpture of Meta Warrick Fuller and the mystical religious paintings of Henry O. Tanner. As to labor, how can any one assert that the Negro in the North has had an equal chance with the white man, in view of the attitude of the labor unions? The whole matter of education represents the circle worse than anything else. Would anybody who knows the South contend for a moment that public school appropriations are evenly divided between the white and black? And shall we allow one stupid pupil in a poorly organized school to offset the brilliant attainments in the foremost colleges in the country, from which institutions Negro graduates are each year coming by the scores? Not a year passes now but that some of these students win noteworthy honors, receive valuable prizes, or take doctors' degrees. Let one observe in full proof of this the educational number of the Crisis, published in July of each year. The point about "colored [79]universities" simply represents a state of ignorance common throughout the South. The day never was when Fisk and Knoxville and Morehouse simply crammed Greek into unreceptive minds. No schools in the country have had a clearer idea of their mission, or have done more to answer it with limited facilities. The pity is that not one of a dozen representative colleges has the beginning of an adequate endowment, and all have had to do their work with the cheapest tools. And certainly such leadership as the race has had, and such advance as the race has made, have been due primarily to the large idea of Christian service behind the missionary institutions.

Within recent years, however, there has developed a fear of the part that the Negro is to play in American civilization. This was fairly well stated in an article in the Forum a few years ago by Mr. W.W. Kenilworth, "Negro Influences in American Life." Mr. Kenilworth is much disturbed. "Can it be," he asks, "that America is falling prey to the collective soul of the Negro?" "It is unthinkable that the increase of Negro population, the increased and unhampered (sic) circumstances of Negro expression should not have an important reaction on the white [80]population." The pity is that the whole article is based on unwarranted assumptions, and, in spite of some elements of truth, the reasoning, condensed, is somewhat as follows:—

The Negro element is daily becoming more potent in American society.

American society is daily becoming more immoral.

Therefore at the door of the Negro may be laid the general increase of divorce and all other evils of society.

Somewhat more subtle than all this is the criticism in Volume VII of "The South in the Building of the Nation," in the article on "The Intellectual and Literary Progress of the Negro" written by Mr. H.I. Brock. The central thesis here is the following: "The Negro is mentally quite sufficiently developed to use his brain with effect upon the immediate and the concrete. He is not sufficiently developed to start with the white man's generalizations, or more exactly, the formulas in which these generalizations are expressed, and work down to the concrete. He is in the class in arithmetic. He is not fit yet awhile for that in algebra and analytics." In proof of this position it is asserted that Booker T. Washington was in type and in fact "exactly like Peter the successful [81]barber and Walker who runs a profitable carrier's business in a certain Southern town, though neither Peter nor Walker can read or write." As for Frederick Douglass, what happened to him "cannot be set down as his achievement. He was a sign and a symbol held up for men to see. He was floated on the top of the abolition wave into public office. He did not climb there." Phillis Wheatley was "taught the trick of verse. Her verses were printed as a curiosity at the time and her 'Poems' have no other interest." "Even Paul Laurence Dunbar has a fame quite disproportionate to his actual place in the catalogue of contemporary minor poets. He, too, is, in part, a curiosity." The whole question at issue, so far as the country at large is concerned, is "not so much how to advance the Negro as how to prevent the Negro from retarding the upward tendency of the rest of the population." All of his books and compositions so far "are like the schoolboy's essay which gets into the school magazine; they are to be considered as 'exercises,' not as achievements."

There is a very real criticism here, one deliberately frank and even harsh, but deserving of attention. If we understand it, it says in substance that the Negro in America has not yet developed the great [82]creative or organizing mind that points the way of civilization. He has so far produced no Plato, no Jonathan Edwards, no Pierpont Morgan, no Edison. The larger thought here will be considered in our next chapter. Just now let us observe that the argument makes the familiar assumption that because a thing never has been it never will be. All America is crude, however. While she has made great advance in applied science, she certainly has not as yet produced a Shakespeare or a Beethoven. If America has not reached her heights after three hundred years, she ought not to be impatient with the Negro after only fifty years of opportunity. Furthermore, all signs go to prove the assumption fundamentally false. We know of some of the younger men of to-day who have not only mastered language and science, but who have outshone brilliant groups of white students in pure philosophy. It would be a miracle if this were the everyday occurrence. It is not; but the fact that it is an occurrence at all means that the Negro is at least capable of the highest things. Furthermore, it is not true that everything that the Negro has written may be dismissed with a wave of the hand as school boy exercises, though we grant that only a beginning has been [83]made. Give us time. Give us time! Within the next fifty years we shall astound you!




So far we have lightly touched upon some of the most important phases of the life of the Negro people in America. We have looked at a people whose ancestors were brought to the country against their own will and suddenly thrust into the rising civilization of a new nation, and we have looked at some of the more hopeful features of their life as well as at some of their greatest problems. Even now, however, in spite of untoward conditions there are those who honestly ask if the effort and money that have been expended have been wisely invested. Those who have spent most time on the problem only wish that ten times as much had been done. Nevertheless for the sake of the honest seeker after truth, we wish to answer one or two fundamental questions.

First of all, to what extent has the Negro exemplified the principle of self-help and thus justified philanthropic and missionary effort in his behalf? The best [85]answer to this is found not in such a shining example of self-help as Booker Washington, but in efforts that better represent the rank and file of the race. Take education. The African Methodist Episcopal Church, that branch of the Methodists which has always emphasized the race idea, from very early years took an active interest in educational work. To-day it maintains twenty schools and colleges—one or more in each Southern state, two in Africa, and one in the West Indies. The property represented by these institutions is approximately $1,500,000. The third Sunday in September is set apart as Education Day, and on this a general collection is taken in all the churches. The total income from all sources for the educational work of the church is now not less than $175,000 a year. Two other distinct branches of Negro Methodists, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church, have sometimes raised even more money in proportion to their membership. The Baptists because of their church polity are of course not so thoroughly organized. Most of the higher missionary effort of this denomination has been done through the American Baptist Home Mission Society, which from its headquarters in New [86]York maintains wholly eight higher institutions, contributing in a smaller degree to twenty preparatory schools. The word of the secretary of this organization in a recent report may be taken as summing up what the Negro Baptists have done for themselves: "We are sometimes told that it is about time for the Negroes to do something toward their own education, and some members of our churches seem to believe that their missionary money boards and clothes the thousands of pupils in attendance at the twenty-eight schools of the Home Mission Society. The following facts entirely refute these assertions: During the ten years ending March 31, 1907, pupils paid for tuition $300,517.62; for board $954,822.01, and Negro churches and individuals gave for the support of the work or for new buildings to supplement the gifts of their Northern friends, $197,995.70. This makes a total of $1,453,335.33 paid or given by the Negroes for ten years, or $145,333.53 annually. It should be remembered that this is only a small part of the vastly larger amount contributed by these people for education, for all through the South many associations have their own denominational schools, and sacrifices are made for their maintenance which reflect credit upon the [87]race which is so rapidly coming forward. The Negro presidents and principals are showing unusual wisdom in collecting funds for their work. Negro churches, too, are taking a great interest in these mission schools. The gifts from the Home Mission Society are hastening the day of still larger efforts from those benefited."

Let us, however, grant, say some, that the Negro helps himself; that is not sufficient. Anybody should help himself, anybody can; but what is the race worth as a constructive factor in American civilization? Is it finally to be an agency making for the upbuilding of the nation, or simply one of the forces that retard? What is its promise in American life?

In reply to this we recall first of all the work that has already been remarked along industrial lines. We have seen that the nation, especially in the South, depends upon Negro men and women as the stable labor supply in such occupations as farming, sawmilling, mining, cooking, and washing. Figures bearing this out have already been given. The tremendous new emphasis on farming and mining incident to the war is known to all. The Negro is now helping most vitally to feed the American people and to produce the materials for transportation and the making [88]of munitions. Let any one ask, even the prejudiced observer, if he would like to see every Negro in the country out of it, and then he will decide whether economically the Negro is a liability for the country or an asset.

Again, consider the Negro soldier. In all our history there are no pages more heroic, more pathetic than those detailing the exploits of the black man. We remember the Negro, three thousand strong, fighting for the liberties of America when his own race was still held in bondage. We remember the deeds at Port Hudson, Fort Pillow, and Fort Wagner. We remember Santiago and San Juan Hill, not only how Negro men went gallantly to the charge, but how a black regiment faced pestilence and fever that the ranks of their white comrades might not be decimated. And then Carrizal. Once more, at an unexpected moment, the soul of the nation was thrilled by the bravery of the black troopers of the Tenth Cavalry. Once more, despite Brownsville, the tradition of Fort Wagner was preserved and passed on. It mattered not that "some one had blundered." "Theirs not to make reply; theirs but to do and die." So in the face of odds they fought by the cactus and lay dead beneath the Mexican stars.

[89]And now, all around us, everywhere is the greatest of all wars. Once more has the Negro been summoned to the colors, and, because he is not fully protected in some places, because he has not the full power of suffrage, summoned out of all proportion to his numbers, summoned even when he could best serve at his regular work on the farms—not because the government intended unfairness, but because local registration officials have not been fair, because exemption boards have not been honest. And yet, even when physically disabled, even when he had the roughest work to do, he has still obeyed orders, not because he was not brave, not because he was not strong, but because he was true. Others might desert, but not the Negro; others might be spies or strikers, but not he—not he in time of peril. In peace or war, in victory or danger, he, the Negro, has ever been loyal to the Stars and Stripes.

Not only, however, does the Negro give promise because of his economic worth; not only does he deserve the fullest rights of citizenship on the basis of his work as a soldier; he brings nothing less than a great spiritual contribution to civilization in America. His is a race of enthusiasm, imagination, and high spiritual fervor. [90]He revels in the sighing of the wind, the falling of the stars, the laughter of children, and already his music is recognized as the most original that the country has produced; from his deep-toned melodies wails a note of intolerable pathos. But over all the doubt and fear through which it passes there still rests with the great heart of the race an abiding trust in God. Around us everywhere are commercialism, politics, graft—sordidness, selfishness, cynicism. We need faith and hope and love, a new birth of idealism, more fervent faith in the unseen; and the stone that the builders rejected is become the head of the corner. Already the work of some members of the race has pointed the way to great things in the realm of conscious art; but above even art soars the great world of the spirit. This it is that America most sadly needs; this it is that her most fiercely persecuted children bring to her.




The preceding pages have more than once emphasized the need of reforms to be made in our American life. Before all reforms, however, there must be the guiding-star of high idealism. Only through the inspiration of lofty spiritual motive are changes likely to be permanent.

If now we look into our American life we are brought face to face with the fact that in our haste to get rich or even to meet new conditions that must legitimately be met we are in danger of losing all of our old standards of conduct, of training, and of morality. America is still bourgeois. We have hardly begun to reap the real fruits of rich, abiding culture, and because we have not we are still wasteful, superficial, and insincere, in our economic life, in our church life, in our courts, in literature, in education, in every phase of activity.

[92]Consider national organization. We were beguiled into thinking that our country as a whole was rich, well arrayed, amply prepared to take care of itself, invincible beyond question. As the first six months of the war slowly dragged by in their agonizing course, the conviction gradually forced itself upon us that we were only in the elementary class in economics, that we were neither organized nor prepared, and that it was after all vitally necessary for the government to assume official charge of the railroads. With our ideas of democracy we had slowly drifted into crass individualism, and sooner or later that was forced to mean selfishness. One year after the opening of the war we still had the sad spectacle of senators fiercely assailing the administration because of the tardiness of its shipping and airplane programs. We should not be too hasty in finding a scapegoat for what after all is a national delinquency. We had indeed produced such masters in large organization as Morgan and Hill and Harriman; but the talents of such men had not been utilized in Washington. Slowly we have learned that our country needs its very best brains, needs them always, and that it is folly to play petty politics when questions of great national interest are at [93]stake. To politics as we have long understood the term the present war should give the death-blow. Let responsibilities gravitate to those who are able to shoulder them without the endless coil of officialdom. Let democracy mean the perfect freedom of the individual, the equal freedom of all individuals, but not license, and not that the rights of one individual shall endanger the rights of most. When the war began we availed ourselves of the talents of Thomas Alva Edison. Suppose we had done this ten years before. No, we were rich, comfortable, safe, invincible. Suddenly our smug self-complacency received a shock. One great result of this war is going to be to give us new ideas of efficiency in our national government. We shall place greater emphasis on having not only experts in important minor positions, but also men of supreme business talents in the places of greatest responsibility. We shall have a new searching of our whole system of party government, with its arbitrary exits and entrances, and its despicable spoils system. We shall have a glorified, a chastened, a regenerated United States—a country about whose greatness there shall be no doubt, and on whose honor there shall be no stain, a country that shall in the highest sense [94]stand for law and efficiency and justice, and one for which not some, but all, would be willing to die, because all would know that the government was thinking wisely for every one of its citizens.

So in our courts. The same principle would work. The average citizen in America knows only this about our courts, that he wants to keep away from them. So far we have not been assured of justice. The poor man has not stood an equal chance with the rich, nor the black with the white. Money has been freely used for the changing of laws, if need be. In South Carolina a white man stole an automobile and was sentenced for thirty days; on the same day and by the same judge a Negro who stole a bicycle was sent to the chain-gang for three years. Such a travesty on justice can not much longer abide in a country that has passed through fire. Let us turn our faces to the morning.

Our churches need a new baptism. About thirty years ago the conviction began to force itself that somehow the church as an organization was becoming too set and staid in its ways, that it was in fact a beautiful antique, regarded with somewhat amused condescension by the young men and women who played golf on Sunday or the crowds that went to a baseball [95]game. Suddenly we became fearfully introspective; we studied sociology; we read "The Inside of the Cup"; we were ashamed of the impotency of the old sermons on justification and regeneration; and we swung to the other end of the pendulum. Our churches began to be "institutional"; the most famous evangelist in the country became the one who was outstanding for his use of slang; the music in Sunday Schools became rag-time; and in general in religious services there developed a tendency to attract the crowd by using the methods of the vaudeville stage. Evening services in Protestant churches partook more and more of the nature of socialistic conferences, and, in general, dignity and reverence suffered. After a few years of this we have found that we are just at much at fault in another way as we were thirty years ago. We have done away with Puritanism, it is true; but in its stead we have placed irreverence and worldliness. Such is the situation in the church, in organized, conventional religion; when we look at the still larger principle of vital Christianity, at the heart of things of which mere churchgoing is only a symbol, we are still more appalled. Neither bigotry nor irreverence is right. Young people will not tolerate [96]cant; but neither will they be attracted to a worship that features what they can find better done in a theater. Simple goodness and kindness, however, never fail to command respect. Love is never hissed off the stage; and the love of Christ, pure and simple, is sufficient even for the sorrow of such a sad world as ours.

What has been said about our economic life, our courts, and our churches applies also in our home-life, in education, and in literature. The family altar is almost extinct; children are not properly trained in respect for their elders; and all too generally young girls learn the lessons of extravagance and immodesty in dress. Many of our modern methods of training have so simplified and made easy the lessons to be learned that the boy who goes to school is in danger of receiving little stout mental development. Excessive emphasis on illustrations and pictures has resulted in the "moving-picture mind" that has only a modicum of initiative on its own account. In literature we have stodginess in style and decadence in morals, and vers libre, that is to say, no verse at all. In hardly anything does it seem that we have any art, any standards, any taste. Any passing fad is sufficient to gain followers and to pose as worthy [97]achievement. I quote from a representative review of a representative novel by one of the most popular writers in America: "The reader first meets X when he is still a youth of twenty-four enjoying a trip around the world. In Y he meets an American miss of fifteen who falls wholly and entirely in love with him, and he, being somewhat in love with the idea of love, imagines himself in love with her and they become engaged. Afterward, in Paris, and a year or so later on the way home across the Atlantic, the author makes known the instability of the hero's character in the grosser forms of love. Nevertheless he marries the child, barely past her middle teens, and forthwith sets out upon a career of escapades and license.... With the coming of the war he becomes first an ambulance driver and then an aviator, and his long-suffering and much-forgiving wife enters a military hospital as a nurse. But the author is discreetly silent as to the extent to which she is impressed by his assurance that he is going to be a good husband." This story was published by one of the oldest, most respectable, and supposedly most conservative firms in the United States.

It is customary for those who are brought face to face with this irreverence, [98]this injustice, this extravagance, and this loosening of the moral code to pass upon the matter lightly as a mere passing phenomenon of our industrial advance; more recently the blame has been placed on that bearer of all burdens, the war. Such an explanation is hardly sufficient. Even before the war we were beginning to be influenced by continental standards. Now that the crisis is upon us all the more do we need to think clearly and conserve our energies for the future. Germany, under the guidance of her military philosophy, has destroyed the sanctity of the tenderest of all institutions, the home, encouraging temporary unions of men and women as a patriotic duty; and France in her hour of trial has further fallen prey to debauchery. We plead that American womanhood shall be preserved sacred and inviolate.

All of this has very close connection with our chief subject, the Negro. Such characteristics and tendencies in America as we have sketched have resulted in a peculiar brand of snobbishness that has so developed as very largely to undermine our fundamental conception of morality. Mr. Alfred Booth Kuttner has recently written in the Dial "A Study of American Intolerance," showing how the tradition of tolerance was upset by "the [99]aftermath of the Civil War and by the sudden large influx of diversely alien immigrants which began during the seventies and eighties of the last century. The first of these is the more fundamental, and to a great extent it explains the second. Our hostility towards the foreigner was fostered by a comparison with the relations already existing towards a people in our midst." This spirit of hostility of course accounts for the Chinese Exclusion bill, for the alien land law against the Japanese in California, for the literacy test, and even for the American attitude toward the people of Latin-American countries; thus logically the Negro problem becomes the final test of our democracy, the crux on which all other great social problems have turned. We say that certain aliens are diseased or illiterate, that they are incipient anarchists or that they make working conditions intolerable; but let us suppose that in the main they become otherwise, as many of every race are already. Is the American white man, in the face of the rising brotherhood of man the world over, going to take the position that other races, and especially the colored races—the Japanese, the Chinese, the Hindu, the Negro—shall not occupy places of dignity and responsibility in this country? Does [100]he expect to maintain the position that any person not an Anglo-Saxon, no matter how cultured or educated or talented he may be, must forever maintain a politically and socially inferior status in the greatest republic in the world? Such a position, we hold, in view of the great events now taking place in Europe, is utterly untenable. If it were the correct point of view, it would be better that we had never fired a single gun against Germany.

The End


The following pages contain advertisements of a few of the Macmillan books on kindred subjects.


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The World War and
the Road to Peace


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An Appeal to Conscience


Mr. Miller discusses the Negro problem in this book, stating just what it is and the general lines along which its solution must be worked out. His text is divided into five parts: Race Contact; Lawlessness; Segregation; Negro Patriotism and Devotion; and Righteousness.

Wake Up, America!


There is no more pressing problem of the hour than the shipping problem. Upon its solution depends, more than is commonly realized, the early termination of the war.

Mr. Sullivan makes clear just what the present situation is, shows the critical condition in which we are placed and indicates the program which in his opinion should be followed if we would cope with the situation, successfully. He writes with fearless frankness on a subject in which every American cannot but be deeply interested at this time.

War Bread


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Where Do You Stand?

An Appeal to Americans of German Origin


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The Forks of the Road


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Mobilising America


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The Heritage
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A direct, uncompromising demand for a new American merchant marine.

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What's the Matter
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The Pentecost
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Their True Faith
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Straight America


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Publishers 64-66 Fifth Avenue New York

Typographical errors corrected in text:

Page  17:  "forced to spent" replaced with "forced to spend"
Page  99:  "problem becames" replaced with "problem becomes"

Note that M'Ilheron is a surname, of Irish origin.