PATHS OF HOPE FOR THE NEGRO PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS OF A SOUTHERNER





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?





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