The caller's eye had caught the photograph of Tommie Billups, standing on the desk of Mr. Billups. "That your boy, Billups?" he asked. "Yes," said Billups, "he's a sophomore up at Binkton College." "Looks intellectual rather than athle... Read more of ATHLETES at Free Jokes.caInformational Site Network Informational
Privacy
  Home - Biography - I Have a Dream Speech - QuotesBlack History: Articles - Poems - Authors - Speeches - Folk Rhymes - Slavery Interviews

PATHS OF HOPE FOR THE NEGRO PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS OF A SOUTHERNER







by: Jerome Dowd
It is too late in the day to discuss whether it would have been
better had the Negro never been brought into the Southern States.
If his presence here has been beneficial, or is ever to prove so,
the price of the benefit has already been dearly paid for. He was
the occasion of the deadliest and most expensive war in modern
times. In the next place, his presence has corrupted politics and
has limited statesmanship to a mere question of race supremacy.
Great problems concerning the political, industrial, and moral
life of the people have been subordinated or overshadowed, so
that, while important strides have been made elsewhere in the
investigation of social conditions and in the administration of
State and municipal affairs, in civil-service reform, in the
management of penal and charitable institutions, and in the field
of education, the South has lagged behind.

On the charts of illiteracy and crime the South is represented by
an immense black spot. Such are a few items of the account. It
will require millions more of dollars and generations more of
earnest work before the total cost is met of bringing the black
man to this side of the globe. But the debt has been incurred and
must be liquidated.

The welfare of the Negro is bound up with that of the white man in
many important particulars:

First, the low standard of living among the blacks keeps down the
wages of all classes of whites. So long as the Negroes are
content to live in miserable huts, wear rags, and subsist upon hog
fat and cow-pease, so long must the wages of white people in the
same kind of work be pressed toward the same level. The higher we
raise the standard of living among the Negroes, the higher will be
the wages of the white people in the same occupations. The low
standard of the Negroes is the result of low productive power.
The less intelligent and skilled the Negroes are, the less they
can produce, whether working for themselves or others, and hence,
the less will be the total wealth of the country.

But it may be asked, When the standard of living of the Negroes is
raised, will not wages go up, and will not that be a drawback?
Certainly wages will go up, because the income of all classes will
be increased. High wages generally indicate high productive power
and general wealth, while low wages indicate the opposite. Only
benefits can arise from better wages.

In the next place, the Negro's propensity to crime tends to excite
the criminal tendencies of the white man. The South enjoys the
distinction of having the highest percentage of crime in all the
civilized world, and the reason is that the crimes of the one race
provoke counter-crimes in the other.

The physical well-being of the one race has such a conspicuous
influence upon that of the other that the subject requires no
elaboration. The uncleanliness of person and habits of the
Negroes in their homes and in the homes of their employers tends
to propagate diseases, and thus impairs the health and increases
the death-rate of the whole population.

Again, the lack of refinement in intellect, manners, and dress
among the Negroes is an obstacle to the cultivated life of the
whites. Ignorance and the absence of taste and self-respect in
servants result in badly kept homes and yards, destruction of
furniture and ware, ill-prepared food, poor table service, and a
general lowering of the standard of living. Furthermore, the
corrupt, coarse, and vulgar language of the Negroes is largely
responsible for the jumbled and distorted English spoken by many
of the Southern whites.

Seeing that the degradation of the Negro is an impediment to the
progress and civilization of the white man, how may we effect an
improvement in his condition?

First, municipalities should give more attention to the streets
and alleys that traverse Negro settlements. In almost every town
in the South there are settlements, known by such names as "New
Africa," "Haiti," "Log Town," "Smoky Hollow," or "Snow Hill,"
exclusively inhabited by Negroes. These settlements are often
outside the corporate limits. The houses are built along narrow,
crooked, and dirty lanes, and the community is without sanitary
regulations or oversight. These quarters should be brought under
municipal control, the lanes widened into streets and cleaned, and
provision made to guard against the opening of similar ones in the
future.

In the next place, property-owners should build better houses for
the Negroes to live in. The weakness in the civilization of the
Negroes is most pronounced in their family life. But improvement
in this respect is not possible without an improvement in the
character and the comforts of the houses they live in. Bad houses
breed bad people and bad neighborhoods. There is no more
distinctive form of crime than the building and renting of houses
unfit for human habitation.

Scarcely second in importance to improvements in house
architecture is the need among Negroes of more time to spend with
their families. Employers of Negro labor should be less exacting
in the number of hours required for a day's work. Many domestic
servants now work from six in the morning until nine and ten
o'clock at night. The Southern habit of keeping open shopping-
places until late at night encourages late suppers, retains cooks,
butlers, and nurses until bedtime, and robs them of all home life.
If the merchants would close their shops at six o'clock, as is the
custom in the North, the welfare of both races would be greatly
promoted.

Again, a revolution is needed in the character of the Negro's
religion. At present it is too largely an affair of the emotions.
He needs to be taught that the religious life is something to grow
into by the perfection of personality, and not to be jumped into
or sweated into at camp-meetings. The theological seminaries and
the graduate preachers should assume the task of grafting upon the
religion of the Negro that much sanity at least.

A reform is as much needed in the methods and aims of Negro
education. Up to the present Negro education has shared with that
of the white man the fault of being top-heavy. Colleges and
universities have developed out of proportion to, and at the
expense of, common schools. Then, the kind of education afforded
the Negro has not been fitted to his capacities and needs. He has
been made to pursue courses of study parallel to those prescribed
for the whites, as though the individuals of both races had to
fill the same positions in life. Much of the Negro's education
has had nothing to do with his real life-work. It has only made
him discontented and disinclined to unfold his arms. The survival
of the Negroes in the race for existence depends upon their
retaining possession of the few bread-winning occupations now open
to them. But instead of better qualifying themselves for these
occupations they have been poring over dead languages and working
problems in mathematics. In the meantime the Chinaman and the
steam-laundry have abolished the Negro's wash-tub, trained white
"tonsorial artists" have taken away his barber's chair, and
skilled painters and plasterers and mechanics have taken away his
paint-brushes and tool-chests. Every year the number of
occupations open to him becomes fewer because of his lack of
progress in them. Unless a radical change takes place in the
scope of his education, so that he may learn better how to do his
work, a tide of white immigration will set in and force him out of
his last stronghold, domestic service, and limit his sphere to the
farm.

All primary schools for the Negroes should be equipped for
industrial training in such work as sewing, cooking, laundering,
carpentry, and house-cleaning, and, in rural districts, in
elementary agriculture.

Secondary schools should add to the literary courses a more
advanced course in industrial training, so as to approach as
nearly as possible the objects and methods of the Tuskegee and
Hampton Industrial and Normal Schools. Too much cannot be said in
behalf of the revolution in the life of the Negro which the work
of these schools promises and, in part, has already wrought. The
writer is fully aware that education has a value aside from and
above its bread-winning results, and he would not dissuade the
Negro from seeking the highest culture that he may be capable of;
but it is folly for him to wing his way through the higher realms
of the intellect without some acquaintance with the requirements
and duties of life.

Changes are needed in the methods of Negro education as well as in
its scope. Educators should take into account, more than they
have yet done, the differences in the mental characteristics of
the two races. It is a well-established fact that, while the
lower races possess marked capacity to deal with simple, concrete
ideas, they lack power of generalization, and soon fatigue in the
realm of the abstract. It is also well known that the inferior
races, being deficient in generalization, which is a subjective
process, are absorbed almost entirely in the things that are
objective. They have strong and alert eyesight, and are
susceptible to impressions through the medium of the eye to an
extent that is impossible to any of the white races. This fact is
evidenced in the great number of pictures found in the homes of
the Negroes. In default of anything better, they will paper their
walls with advertisements of the theater and the circus, and even
with pictures from vicious newspapers. They delight in street
pageantry, fancy costumes, theatrical performances, and similar
spectacles. Factories employing Negroes generally find it
necessary to suspend operations on "circus day." They love
stories of adventure and any fiction that gives play to their
imaginations. All their tastes lie in the realm of the objective
and the concrete.

Hence, in the school-room stress should be laid on those studies
that appeal to the eye and the imagination. Lessons should be
given in sketching, painting, drawing, and casting. Reprints of
the popular works of art should be placed before the Negroes, that
their love for art may be gratified and their taste cultivated at
the same time. Fancy needlework, dress-making, and home
decorations should also have an important place. These studies,
while not contributing directly to bread-winning, have a refining
and softening influence upon character, and inspire efforts to
make the home more attractive. The more interest we can make the
Negro take in his personal appearance and in the comforts of his
home, the more we shall strengthen and promote his family life and
raise the level of his civilization.

The literary education of the Negro should consist of carefully
selected poems and novels that appeal to his imagination and
produce clear images upon his mind, excluding such literature as
is in the nature of psychological or moral research. Recitations
and dialogues should be more generally and more frequently
required. In history emphasis should be given to what is
picturesque, dramatic, and biographical.

Coming to the political phase of the Negro problem, there is a
general agreement among white men that the Southern States cannot
keep pace with the progress of the world as long as they are
menaced by Negro domination, and that, therefore, it is necessary
to eliminate the Negro vote from politics. When the Negroes
become intelligent factors in society, when they become thrifty
and accumulate wealth, they will find the way to larger exercise
of citizenship. They can never sit upon juries to pass upon life
and property until they are property-owners themselves, and they
can never hold the reins of government by reason of mere
superiority of numbers. Before they can take on larger political
responsibilities they must demonstrate their ability to meet them.

The Negroes will never be allowed to control State governments so
long as they vote at every election upon the basis of color,
without regard whatever to political issues or private
convictions. If the Negroes would divide their votes according to
their individual opinions, as the lamented Charles Price, one of
their best leaders, advised, there would be no danger of Negro
domination and no objection to their holding offices which they
might be competent to fill. But as there is no present prospect
of their voting upon any other basis than that of color, the white
people are forced to accept the situation and protect themselves
accordingly. Years of bitter and costly experience have
demonstrated over and over again that Negro rule is not only
incompetent and corrupt, but a menace to civilization. Some
people imagine that there is something anomalous, peculiar, or
local in the race prejudice that binds all Negroes together; but
this clan spirit is a characteristic of all savage and semi-
civilized peoples.

It should be well understood by this time that no foreign race
inhabiting this country and acting together politically can
dominate the native whites. To permit an inferior race, holding
less than one tenth of the property of the community, to take the
reins of government in its hands, by reason of mere numerical
strength, would be to renounce civilization. Our national
government, in making laws for Hawaii, has carefully provided for
white supremacy by an educational qualification for suffrage that
excludes the semi-civilized natives. No sane man, let us hope,
would think of placing Manila under the control of a government of
the Philippine Islands based upon universal suffrage. Yet the
problem in the South and the problem in the Philippines and in
Hawaii differ only in degree.

The only proper safeguard against Negro rule in States where the
blacks outnumber or approximate in number the whites lies in
constitutional provisions establishing an educational test for
suffrage applicable to black and white alike. If the suffrage is
not thus limited it is necessary for the whites to resort to
technicalities and ballot laws, to bribery or intimidation. To
set up an educational test with a "grandfather clause," making the
test apply for a certain time to the blacks only, seems to an
outsider unnecessary, arbitrary, and unjust. The reason for such
a clause arises from the belief that no constitutional amendment
could ever carry if it immediately disfranchised the illiterate
whites, as many property-holding whites belong to that class. But
the writer does not believe in the principle nor in the necessity
for a "grandfather clause." If constitutional amendments were to
be submitted in North Carolina and Virginia applying the
educational test to both races alike after 1908, the question
would be lifted above the level of party gain, and would receive
the support of white men of all parties and the approbation of the
moral sentiment of the American people. A white man who would
disfranchise a Negro because of his color or for mere party
advantage is himself unworthy of the suffrage. With the suffrage
question adjusted upon an educational basis the Negroes would have
the power to work out their political emancipation, the white
people having made education necessary and provided the means for
attaining it.

When the question of Negro domination is settled the path of
progress of both races will be very much cleared. Race conflicts
will then be less frequent and race feeling less bitter. With
more friendly relations growing up, and with more concentration of
energy on the part of the Negroes in industrial lines, the
opportunities for them will be widened and the task of finding
industrial adjustment in the struggle for life made easier. The
wisest and best leaders among the Negroes, such as Booker
Washington and the late Charles Price, have tried to turn the
attention of the Negroes from politics to the more profitable
pursuits of industry, and if the professional politician would
cease inspiring the Negroes to seek salvation in political
domination over the whites, the race issue would soon cease to
exist.

The field is broad enough in the South for both races to attain
all that is possible to them. In spite of the periodic political
conflicts and occasional local riots and acts of individual
violence, the relations between the races, in respect to nine
tenths of the population, are very friendly. The general
condition has been too often judged by the acts of a small
minority. The Southern people understand the Negroes, and feel a
real fondness for those that are thrifty and well behaved. When
fairly treated the Negro has a strong affection for his employer.
He seldom forgets a kindness, and is quick to forget a wrong. If
he does not stay long at one place, it is not that he dislikes his
employer so much as that he has a restless temperament and craves
change. His disposition is full of mirth and sunshine, and not a
little of the fine flavor of Southern wit and humor is due to his
influence. His nature is plastic, and while he is easily molded
into a monster, he is also capable of a high degree of culture.
Many Negroes are thoroughly honest, notwithstanding their bad
environment and hereditary disposition to steal. Negro servants
are trusted with the keys to households to an extent that,
probably, is not the case among domestics elsewhere in the
civilized world.

It is strange that two races working side by side should possess
so many opposite traits of character. The white man has strong
will and convictions and is set in his ways. He lives an indoor,
monotonous life, restrains himself like a Puritan, and is inclined
to melancholy. The prevalence of Populism throughout the South is
nothing but the outcome of this morbid tendency. Farmers and
merchants are entirely absorbed in their business, and the women,
especially the married women, contrast with the women of France,
Germany, and even England, in their indoor life and disinclination
to mingle with the world outside. Public parks and public
concerts, such as are found in Europe, which call out husband,
wife, and children for a few hours of rest and communion with
their friends, are almost unknown in the South. The few
entertainments that receive sanction generally exclude all but the
well-to-do by the cost of admission. The life of the poor in town
and country is bleak and bare to the last degree.

Contrasting with this tendency is the free-and-easy life of the
blacks. The burdens of the present and the future weigh lightly
upon their shoulders. They love all the worldly amusements; in
their homes they are free entertainers, and in their fondness for
conversation and love of street life they are equal to the French
or Italians.

May we not hope that the conflict of these two opposite races is
working out some advantages to both, and that the final result
will justify all that the conflict has cost?





Next: SIGNS OF PROGRESS AMONG THE NEGROES

Previous: MR. CHARLES W. CHESNUTT'S STORIES



Add to del.icio.us Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Del.icio.us Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network
Report
Privacy
SHAREADD TO EBOOK