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A Solution Of The Race Problem


J. MILTON WALDRON, D.D., of Washington, D. C. Noted as having erected
and operated the first Institutional Church among Negroes in America in
Jacksonville, Florida, 1890-1907.

[Note 44: Delivered at Cooper Institute, New York, 1912.]

That fearless, able, and broad-minded author of "The Negro and the Sunny
South"--a book, by the way, every American citizen should read--Samuel
Creed Cross, a white man of West Virginia, takes up an entire chapter in
giving with the briefest comments even a partial list of the crimes
committed by the whites of the South against the Negroes during the
author's recent residence of six months in the section. Last year eighty
or ninety colored persons, some of them women and children, were
murdered, lynched, or burned for "the nameless crime," for murder or
suspected murder, for barn-burning, for insulting white women and
"talking back" to white men, for striking an impudent white lad, for
stealing a white boy's lunch and for no crime at all--unless it be a
crime for a black man to ask Southern men to accord him the rights
guaranteed him by the Constitution.

Within the last twelve months Georgia disfranchised her colored citizens
by a constitutional subterfuge and Florida attempted the same crime. And
within the same period almost every white secular newspaper, and many
of the religious journals, of the South contained in every issue of
their publications abusive and malicious articles concerning the Negro
in which they inflamed the whites against the brother in black and
sought to justify the South in robbing him of his labor, his
self-respect, his franchise, his liberty, and life itself. Many of the
officials of Southern States, including numerous judges and not a few
Christian ministers, helped or sanctioned these Negro-hating editors and
reporters in their despicable onslaught upon the Negro, while tens of
thousands of white business men of the South fattened upon Negro convict
labor and the proceeds of the "order system."

Not satisfied with the wrongs and outrages she has heaped upon the
colored people in her own borders the South is industriously preaching
her wicked doctrine of Negro inferiority, Negro suppression, and Negro
oppression everywhere in the North, East, and West. And yet, in the face
of this terrible record of crime against the liberty, manhood, and
political rights and the life of the colored man which is being
rewritten in the South every day, there are those in high places who
have the temerity to tell us that "The Southern people are the Negro's
best friends," and that the Negro problem is a Southern problem and the
South should be allowed to solve it in her own way without any
interference on the part of the North.

The North and the South together stole the black man from his home in
Africa and enslaved him in this land, and this whole nation has reaped
the benefits of his two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil, and
this whole nation must see to it that the black man is fully
emancipated, enfranchised, thoroughly educated in heart, head, and hand,
and permitted to exercise his rights as a citizen and earn, wherever and
however he can, an honest and sufficient living for himself, his wife,
and children--this the South cannot do alone and unaided.

Nearly three millions of the ten million Negroes in this country live
north of Mason and Dixon's line, and thousands of others are coming
North and going West every month; over four hundred thousand of the
three millions mentioned above live in Washington, Baltimore,
Philadelphia, New York, St. Louis, and Chicago; if the Negro problem was
ever a Southern problem, the colored brother has taken it with him into
the North and the West and made it a national problem.

The life, liberty, and happiness of the black man and of the white man
of this country are so wrapped up together that it is impossible to
oppress the one without eventually oppressing the other. The white man
of the South was cursed by slavery as much almost as the black man whom
he robbed of life, liberty, and virtue. In many parts of the South
to-day the masses of poor white men are no better off in any sphere of
life than the colored people, with the single exception that their faces
are white. The rights and liberties of the common people of this entire
country have grown less secure, and their ballots have steadily
diminished in power, while the colored man has been robbed of his
franchise by the South. The trusts and the favored classes of this
country have seen the rights of millions of loyal black citizens taken
from them by the South in open violation of the Federal Constitution,
and that with the indirect approval of the highest courts of the land.
And these trusts and interests have come to feel that constitutions and
laws are not binding upon them, and that the common people--white and
black--have no rights which they are bound to respect. The South alone
cannot right these gigantic wrongs nor restore to the white people (not
to mention the Negroes) within her own borders the liberties and
privileges guaranteed them by the Constitution of the United States.

In discussing the South's attitude towards the colored man we seek only
to hold up to scorn and contempt the spirit which pervades the majority
of the people who live in that section; and we desire to condemn only
the men of the South who hate their fellow men; we wish to bear
testimony now and here to the truth that there is an undercurrent in the
South which is making for righteousness, and that there are a few noble
and heroic souls in every Southern State who believe that the Negro
ought to be treated as a man and be given all the rights and privileges
accorded any other man. This righteous spirit must, however, be
encouraged and strengthened, and the number of noble and fair-minded men
and women in the South must be greatly augmented, or the battle for
human liberty and the manhood and political rights of both races in that
section will never be won.

We beg to say that all the enemies of human rights in general, and of
the rights of black men in particular, are not in the South; the wrongs
complained of by the Negro in that section are, for the most part, the
same as those bewailed by him in the North, with this difference: the
Northern Negro's right to protest against the wrongs heaped upon him is
less restricted, and, his means of protection and defense are more
numerous in the North than in the South. Already in at least one State
north of Mason and Dixon's line Herculean efforts are being put forth to
disfranchise the colored man by constitutional enactment; the
discrimination against a man on account of his color, and the lynching
of Negroes and the burning of their houses by infuriated mobs of white
men, are not unheard of things in the North and West. Most of the
labor-unions of these sections are still closed to the brother in black,
and most white working-men in the Northern and Western States are
determined that the Negro shall not earn a living in any respectable
calling if they can prevent it. Many of the newspapers North and West
(and a few right here in New York City) often use their columns to
misrepresent and slander the colored man, and it was only last week when
one of the highest courts in the Empire State rendered a decision in
which it justified discrimination against a man on the grounds of his
color and his condition of servitude. Verily, the Negro problem is not a
Southern, but a national problem!

* * * * *

Many solutions for the Negro problem have been proposed, but to our mind
there is one and only one practical and effective answer to the
question. In the first place we claim that the early friends of the
Negro grasped the true solution, which is that his needs and
possibilities are the same as those of the other members of the human
family; that he must be educated not only for industrial efficiency and
for private gain, but to share in the duties and responsibilities of a
free democracy; that he must have equality of rights, for his own sake,
for the sake of the human race, and for the perpetuity of free
institutions. America will not have learned the full lesson of her
system of human slavery until she realizes that a rigid caste system is
inimical to the progress of the human race and to the perpetuity of
democratic government.

In the second place, the Negro must make common cause with the working
class which to-day is organizing and struggling for better social and
economic conditions. The old slave oligarchy maintained its ascendency
largely by fixing a gulf between the Negro slave and the white free
laborer, and the jealousies and animosities of the slave period have
survived to keep apart the Negro and the laboring white man. Powerful
influences are at work even to-day to impress upon the Negro the fact
that he must look to the business men of the South alone for protection
and recognition of his rights, while at the same time these very same
influences inflame the laboring white man against the black man with
fears of social equality and race fusion. The Negro, being a laborer,
must see that the cause of labor is his cause, that his elevation can be
largely achieved by having the sympathy, support, and co-operation of
that growing organization of working men the world over which is working
out the larger problems of human freedom and economic opportunity.

In the third place, wherever in this country the Negro has the
franchise, and where by complying with requirements he can regain it,
let him exercise it faithfully and constantly, but let him do so as an
independent and not as a partisan, for his political salvation in the
future depends upon his voting for men and measures, rather than with
any particular party.

For two hundred and fifty years the black man of America toiled in the
South without pay and without thanks; he cleared her forests, tunneled
her mountains, bridged her streams, built her cottages and palaces,
enriched her fields with his sweat and blood, nursed her children,
protected her women and guarded her homes from the midnight marauder,
the devouring flames, and approaching disease and death. The colored
American willingly and gladly enlisted and fought in every war waged by
this country, from the first conflict with the Indians to the last
battle in Cuba and the Philippines; when enfranchised he voted the
rebellious States back into the Union, and from that day until this he
has, as a race, never used his ballot, unless corrupted or intimidated
by white men, to the detriment of any part of America. When in power in
the South, though for the most part ignorant and just out of slavery and
surrounded by vindictive ex-slave owners and mercenary, corrupted and
corrupting "carpet baggers," he did what his former masters had failed
for centuries to do--he established the free school system, erected
asylums for the insane and indigent poor, purged the statute-books of
disgraceful marriage laws and oppressive and inhuman labor regulations,
revised and improved the penal code, and by many other worthy acts
proved that the heart of the race was, and is, in the right place, and
that whenever the American Negro has been trusted, he has proven himself
trustworthy and manly. And when the colored man is educated, and is
treated with fairness and justice, and is accorded the rights and
privileges which are the birthright of every American citizen, he will
show himself a man among men, and the race problem will vanish as the
mist before the rising sun.



Vice Principal Manual Training and Industrial School, Bordentown, New

"Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long in the
land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."

While obedience to parents is the primary significance of this command,
its widening scope is seen in the comprehensive authority of the father
of the old Hebrew family. He was the ruler and the protector of the
family, and as human society enlarged and much of the original authority
of the parent passed from him, the child was prepared to give honor to
such authority and wisdom as he had recognized in the father. Thus
generically the command may cover the wide range suggested by the
Westminster Assembly: "The Fifth Commandment requireth the preserving
the honor and performing the duties belonging to every one in their
several places and relations as superiors, inferiors or equals." And
this honor idea in the home not only spreads out, but it climbs, and we
may say that as the Hebrew family contained the beginning of government,
all other authorities of this world wind up and out of the home,
ascending in spiral form until the little coil of the domestic circle

* * * * *

Last summer, while seated in a crowded train, my attention was
attracted by a little family group. The heat-worn mother held a baby in
one arm, and the other hand was steadying a toddling boy. She had
repeatedly reproved her half-grown daughter and finally spoke sharply to
her, when the child suddenly lifted the heavy umbrella in her hand and
struck her mother!

These are the facts that impressed me: the unmasked powerlessness of the
mother, the cool unconcern of the father, but above all the apathetic
indifference of the passengers.

The modern family is without discipline, all of the elements in the home
having a tendency to wander from the hearth center. There is the father
whose absence, because of occupational absorption, is lengthened by many
extraneous interests. The mother, too, is receding from the home center
in her misguided enthusiasm for so-called equality in business,
professional, and political life. And the children? As one sad-faced
mother said to me the other day, "They get out of the home so early!"

* * * * *

All the reverence for parents in the world's history, is hallowed by the
lofty example of Jesus in his dutiful subjection to his earthly parents,
and in the marvelous solicitude of his dying words, "Son, behold thy

* * * * *

A great light is thrown on this economic relation of the commandment by
the attitude of the Centurion pleading with the Master for his servant's
life. Here was an employer whose stretched-out arm of authority could be
transformed into a gesture of appeal, for his servant lying sick at
home. Indeed only as the spirit of this commandment makes itself felt in
our business life will the clenched hands of capital and labor relax
from the hilts of their dripping blades and grasp each other with the
warm pressure of brotherly sympathy.

* * * * *

Then there are the mutual relations between the young and the aged. Oh,
for a return in our youth to that ancient bowing deference to old age a
beautiful instance of which Cicero preserves for us. Into the crowded
amphitheatre at Athens, with the multitudes' expectant hush, there
staggered an aged man, who made his tottering progress, beneath tier
after tier of indifferent or averted faces, looking in vain for a place,
until finally he came in front of the section occupied by the
Lacaedemonians, who rose as one man and offered him a seat!

* * * * *

Then there are the superiors and inferiors in wisdom. As we look back
through the mists of years to our student years, there stand out sharply
distinguished the kindly figures of our intellectual fathers. I recall
at this moment that man of infinite reserve behind the desk at Yale,
whose eye could flash with authority and yet kindle with concern at the
sight of the necessity of one of his boys--in Browning's thought, "As
sheathes a film the mother eagle's eye when her bruised eaglet

* * * * *

I need scarcely suggest the obvious pertinence of this command to the
relations of the pastor and his congregation. We cling very jealously
to the term, "Father," as it has been applied to the men of God in the
history of the Church. The picture is beautiful of the Roman Catholic
priest, conscious of the reluctance of her neighbors to bear to the poor
widow the evil news of the sudden death of her only son, walking quietly
up the gravel path, and covering with his healthy hands the two withered
ones as he met her at the doorway, answering her searching inquiry,
"Father?" with an unmistakable inflection of the words, "My child!" That
also of the American Protestant Episcopal bishop, leaving his little
birthday gathering already interrupted for three successive years, and
foregoing a breath of country air, after weary months of toil in the hot
city, to comfort a simple family hovering piteously about a little white
casket:--these are attitudes far more impressive than the ceremonious
exercise of their loftiest ecclesiastical functions.

* * * * *

Many lines of evidence from the side of reason converge on the Biblical
teaching that civil government is a divine institution. Perhaps one of
the most striking features of our later American growth is the colossal
selfishness of our people. The habit of freedom from restraint is fast
hardening into a lawlessness of character.

* * * * *

Listen to some of the palliating expressions with which our legal
atmosphere is permeated: "indiscreet and untactful," "the unwritten
law," "swift justice," "murder a fine art," and remember that these are
the terms that play around that triangle of corrupt judge, dallying
lawyer, and bribed and illiterate jury--all conspiring to "shove by
justice" with technicalities. And what are those sinister figures,
flitting and stalking through the land--the law-maker with his spoils,
the rioter with his rock, the anarchist with his bomb, the assassin
thrusting out his black hand, the lyncher with his battering ram, his
rope and his rifle; these are some of the outside lawless who conspire
with the inside lawless to make a scarecrow of American law, making it
the perch and not the terror of the birds of prey. And who knows how
soon all of these lawless ones may stand up together and, with a
monarch's voice cry, Havoc in the confines of this Republic!

* * * * *

But we must be conscious of our Heavenly Father behind the earthly type.
This unmistakably is the significance of the Biblical words: "To obey
your parents in the Lord"; "To be obedient unto your masters as unto
Christ"; "To fear God in honoring the face of the old man"; "To be
subject unto rulers as the ministers of God." And this leads us to the
great levelling truth, that we are all equally accountable to our
Heavenly Father, that we are nations and individuals, in the high
thought of Lincoln, "Under God."

* * * * *

This command carries with it the promise of a reward restated by Paul,
"Honor thy father and thy mother that it may be well with thee and that
thou mayest live long on the earth." In fact this is the logic of life.
This retributive justice is bound up in the laws of nature. Plants that
array themselves against these laws wither and die. And higher up in
the animal kingdom, Kipling's verse tells us that this inexorable
sequence prevails:

"And these are the laws of the Jungle,
And many and mighty are they;
But the head and the hoof of the law is,
And the haunch and the hump is--obey."

And it is true that obedience in a human being conduces to a long and
prosperous life. The beautiful truth is gradually emerging in science
and theology that religion is healthful. As one of my discerning fathers
was often wont to say, "The whole Bible is a text-book of Advanced
Biology, telling men how they may gain the fuller life."

* * * * *

Here and there the obedient die early, you say.--Yes; and this fact
sounds the deeper spiritual import of this promise, for they, sooner
than we, enter upon that eternal life, and pass over into that greener
Canaan, to that inheritance incorruptible and undefiled.

Standing one afternoon in the Gallery of the Louvre in Paris, a vision
of the perfect adjustment of our seemingly conflicting relations to
Caesar and to God shone forth to me, in the divine gesture of the Master
in Da Vinci's wonderful painting of the Last Supper, where the hand
turned downward lays hold of the things of earth, and the hand turned
upward grips the things which are eternal, both of which obligations are
glorified in those later words of the Saviour spoken out of the agony of
the Cross: "Son, behold thy mother! Father, into thy hands I commend my

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