Author Archives: mabuwi

Belonging at Berkeley


                                           Belonging at Berkeley


                                         Marshall  S, Cabiness, Jr.

                                 (aka Marshall Musa Muslim Abuwi)

                                                (c) 2003                                                                

     A ship’s low foghorn could be heard across the Golden Gate bridge. I walked quickly from my black ghetto home in Berkeley. It was a typical, drizzly fall morning. I had decided to cut my morning classes at the University of California. It was my first semester and I was going to the Army recruiter’s office in downtown Berkeley. I raced when I saw the city bus coming to a stop. I nearly tripped with anxiety when I descended from the bus in front of the sign that said “ARMY”.

A weathered, fit-looking Army sergeant was lounging behind his gray desk in the sparsely furnished office. He was waiting for suckers to walk in. When I appeared in his sights, he quickly turned his usual scowl into a charming smile. He studied the opened book logo on my U. C. Berkeley sweatshirt, then looked me up and down before he said,

 “Sit down, son. What can I do for you?”

“Japan”,  I replied with a wide open grin.   “I want to go to Japan.”

 “You ever been in jail, or on probation ?” “Don’t lie, it’ll get you five years in Leavenworth.”

 “No, Sergeant. I’ve never been in any trouble. Clean record.”

  The recruiter then sat me down at a table in the corner of his large office, which was filled with pictures of teenagers having exciting adventures, like standing with beautiful Asian girls in front of an ancient temple, or rafting down white water rapids, or crawling through swamps. He gave me a test to see if I was smart enough to be a soldier in the Army. That was no problem for me, because I had scored in the top ten percent on my Scholastic Aptitude Tests. The recruiter’s test was easy. Simple reading and math exercises.  A few geometry puzzles.

 The sergeant was elated when he called me the next day, catching me at home just as I was leaving to go on campus for my ROTC class. I had to rush our conversation because I did not want my senior class ROTC captain to ride me for being late.  From my very first day at drill, he and his arrogant lieutenants had convinced me that I was persona non grata for being the solitary Negro in my Air Force ROTC unit.

 Excitement electrified me during my humiliating drill where I was treated like a peon by the pompous ROTC officers. They obviously did not know that I myself had been a top notch cadet officer, at a military school, the previous year. I stood in ranks, feeling defeated. I had been rejected for admission into the elite Naval ROTC program. The Navy Commander at the ROTC office said, “Mr. Cabiness, you do not have the right background to be a Naval Officer.” I was confused.

 “What kind of background do I need to have?” I asked myself.

 My family had been one of the leading Negro families in the Nation’s capital after Reconstruction. Grandpa had established a Negro industrial college in Alabama. How could I, a great-grandson of Booker T. Washington, have the “wrong background” for serving in the officer corps. Grandpa’s school provided the first Negro Army officers for America’s Army and Air Forces. I had graduated from a prestigious, though segregated, prep school, at the top of my class. My school, the Saint Emma Military Academy prided itself for having one of the nation’s best Army Junior ROTC programs. It also was one of the few nationally accredited Black high schools in the country.

 I had not learned much about African-American history at that point in my life, but I knew one thing for certain.  I knew that Black people back home in Alabama were treated like we were a subhuman species that thrived on cruel mistreatment.  We were made to live under a rigid code of oppression call racial segregation. Racial segregation in America, particularly in the South, was based on the dehumanization efforts of the white masters of Negro African slaves. By severely controlling the living conditions of the former slaves, after the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth  amendments were added to the U. S. Constitution, the white southerners, in effect, nullified those laws. The result of this was that the former slaves, and their descendants, were virtually returned to slavery, not as chattels, but as free slaves. The same rational was presented for this strategy to dehumanize the Negroes that had been presented in the 17th  and 18th centuries when the profit potential of the Negro slavery was recognized by the great land lords and empire builders of Europe and America.

As a political science major at Berkeley, I sought out information about Black history, and I learned that a Virginia legislator, Henry Berry, had announced to his colleagues in 1832, “We have as far as possible, closed every avenue by which light may enter the slaves minds. If it were possible, we would extinguish the light (of humanity) from their minds, and reduce them to the level of dumb beasts. We would do his on the plea of necessity” (Embree, Edwin, Brown Americans). 

 I believed that I had escaped from racial prejudice when I enrolled at U. C. Berkeley. Until my father was forced out of our Alabama town for challenging the white business leaders about racial injustice, I thought I might want to live near Grandpa’s college, Tuskegee Institute, in Alabama.  I envisioned myself going  to school and teaching  there. But my Dad’s desertion of my family, in 1957, changed all that. Embarrassed by her divorce from Dad, my mom wanted a new town for us. We made the long drive out to sunny California in the summer of 1960, seeking a chance to have a better life.

After I had finished high school and was enrolled at U. C. Berkeley, I received a shocking surprise! My chilling reception by the Air Force ROTC staff assured me that I was not wanted in their all-white officer training unit. I was stunned!   I was only seventeen years old, with a nearly-perfect academic record. I had never been in any trouble with the law. I was an Eagle Scout and I had been selected for admission to Princeton and Yale. If these great universities wanted me, why did my Nordic military leaders reject me?

I had yet to understand that their treatment of me was part of a carefully designed plan to destroy the self-esteem of all African-Americans. The real meaning of this repressive system of the psychic destruction has been the continued dehumanization of an entire race of people. This psychic destruction has continued for three centuries so that American Negroes can be used in whatever way that the power brokers see fit, whether as convict labor to build America’s new cities, or canon fodder to fight America’s wars of global expansion.

The emotional effect of being pushed into a ghetto, with minimal municipal services, and repressive police agencies, is devastating. Even worse, however, is the denial of the natural right of human self-development, which is sought by every people on earth. That is, unless they have been beaten down so low, for so long, that they believe that subjugation is their natural place in the universe.

 My psychic destruction began very early.  When I was a ten year- old boy, in Alabama, the pain of being called a “nigger” by a truckload of redneck white boys, had seared my soul. It cut deeper than any memory that I have, other than my first sight of my father in the Air Force pilot’s uniform that the white racist generals tried to take away from him after he jettisoned a burning fighter plane that he was flying in 1943. He had angrily accused the Army of trying to kill the Black pilot trainees at Tuskegee by giving them flying crates of junk for training planes. Now the same repression had come home to me.

Is it any wonder that I became black nationalist college dropout? I joined a black separatist movement after hearing a revealing expose about slavery while I was a Berkeley student. I sought Black separatism, because I saw no other choice open to me, except to be a “house negro”, tipping around in corporate America, hoping to be left alone, or racing to break my head on the glass ceiling of the racist ‘good ole boy’ network, that was so evident in the officer training programs at Berkeley?

My poor, highly-educated father fared even worse, under segregation, than I did. Eventually, the  racist Air Force generals, or their cousins destroyed my dad, as their children sought to destroy me, killing his spirit to achieve anything in America. They forced him to give up fighting for justice in racist Alabama, even though he had fought for America’s freedom in Europe, against Hitler. But in America, like me, he was just another “coon.”

 In despair, my brilliant, poetic father turned to self-destruction, escaping from the emotional pain of segregation in a bottle of cheap gin whiskey. I would often watch him and his rejected Air Force buddies drink themselves into a stupor, as they replayed old indignities that had been heaped upon them by their white Air Force training officers during World War Two.

  All this raced through my tormented mind as I stood in ranks one breezy, October afternoon during my first college semester. I looked up into the bigoted, wind-swept face of the stern ROTC officer, whose steel blue eyes were piercing my soul with his venom. He moved to the blond-haired, freshman cadet beside me, to offer him some encouragement. I bitterly started to plot my escape from American racism, far away from the U.S.A. I could not wait to hear the command “Dismissed from drill!

 The Army recruiter just couldn’t get me back down to his office fast enough. He had made me promise that I would return there right after my ROTC drill ended, so I had to wear my Air Force Officer Cadet’s uniform into his office. Still in my uniform, I raced to the bus stop at Bancroft and Telegraph Avenue. I had just made it to the bus stop when the Shattuck Avenue bus arrived.  The sergeant had a wide smile on his face, and a look of amusement.

 This enlisted soldier was supposed to address me as “Sir”, and salute me, since I was a officer trainee. He was a hard, old, warrior and he did not give a damn about college boys. He was not about to call a seventeen year old Black kid, “Sir.” This gruff white sergeant reminded me of an old saying that I had once heard a white Alabama politician say at a rally against the Civil Rights movement in the 1950’s. “Black people have no rights that a white man is bound to respect.”

 The Army recruiter’s large, Army-ringed hand shoved some papers towards me. He answered my questions impatiently, as I asked him about being able to go to Japan, if I dropped out of college and enlisted in the Army right away.

 “You nearly got 100 percent of the questions right on your Army aptitude test”, he mused aloud.

  “What do you want to do in the Army?  Do you want to go Infantry?”

 “Oh no, Sergeant”, I replied. “I want to go to Japan!”

 “No problem”, he said, typing something on one of his many forms. “That’s where we’ll be sending you, right after Basic Training.”

 My mind became flooded with pictures of the soft, brown Japanese coeds on CAL’s campus. My dream was about to come true!

  I sat across from the recruiting sergeant and wondered how I could convince my mother to sign the enlistment papers that he pushed before me, permitting me to sign up for the Army. My poor Negro mother was very proud of me for getting into Berkeley. Only the world’s top high school graduates were considered for a place there.

 I was unhappy living in the small apartment that Mom was renting as she began her life as a divorcee with three children. She was upset and depressed most of the time. She did not have a California teaching certificate yet, so she only got minimum wages as a teacher. She was trying to feed her kids with no help from my father. He was back at a far away graduate school, hoping that another college degree would erase his label of “subhuman”. But, in his quest for his own self-esteem, he had left us to fend alone.

  If my Dad had made something out of his life besides being a drunk poet, I could have lived in the freshman dormitory. Then I could have made some friends to compensate for my sense of rejection on the huge campus. Instead, rejected everywhere I went, I felt like a nobody. I wanted desperately to believe that this encouraging old soldier was going to help me change all that.

 When I was finished filling out the papers, the old soldier typed up an Enlistment Agreement. He said, “Sign it and press hard enough to imprint all six copies.” Meekly I signed his papers, while daydreaming about the Japanese delights that were soon to come into my sensuous, segregated Negro life. I left his office and ambled towards the campus.

 The juke box inside the Berkeley student union blared out, “Those were the days my friend. We thought they’d never end.” and “The lion sleeps tonight.” Chatter about President John F. Kennedy’s new Peace Corps program was overheard at several of the heavy, dark wood tables. An inverted Eskimo canoe, attached to the ceiling in the campus hangout, kept watch over the noisy students. Bear-hunting trophies looked hungrily at tables piled with burgers and fries. Their huge brown eyes issued ferocious challenges. Here, the best and the brightest relaxed.

 It was Friday evening on America’s “Oxford by the Bay”. A motley-looking quartet tuned up their music on a low stage in the back of the Bears’ Lair cafe. The customers were warmed by the serene twilight, exotic coffee smells, and a funky Jimmy Hendrix song.  I’d never fit in here. I descended into the gloom of my lonely soul.

The red golden glow of sunset on the campanile had signaled the end of the day. The campus was now wrapped in long shadows. Evening chimes peeled out CALIFORNIA’s school song. I got off the city bus and walked a few yards to my financial aid job in the Bears’ cafe. When I arrived, I smelled the broiling steaks on the busy grills. Cooked onions drifted out to the street to pull me inside. The perspiring Negro chefs joked as they shouted orders over the laughter around them.

  I moved to the locker room. As I put on my fresh, white busboy apron, my mind lingered on the Army recruiter’s promise. Outside, the twilight spread over the Berkeley hills above the university. A slight chill pushed drifters inside candlelit espresso bars.  I would soon be leaving all of this. I would soon be free! Free from Negro-haters!

Although my mother refused to sign the enlistment papers which would have permitted me to join the Army at 17, a week after my 18th birthday I was inducted into the U. S. Army and on my way to basic training at Fort Ord, California.    As a former cadet commissioned officer, I performed superbly as an Army basic trainee and was made an Acting Sergeant. 

 I quickly learned that the Army recruiter had lied to me about going to Japan, where I had eagerly anticipated an end to racial segregation, in a rich land of brown people, like me. anxious to see my orders to my Asian Dream Land posted on the trainees’ bulletin board, I was excited when someone shouted, “The orders are up.”  I saw my name and assignment.  The assignment read, “Eighth Army, Infantry Unassigned.    When I asked my drill sergeant if Eighth Army meant Japan, he laughed at me.  The rough-cut veteran informed me that I was going to The Land of the Morning Sun, a stink-hole called Korea.

  I went to Korea, determined to make the most out of a bad situation. The Army denied me admission into their officer training program until they needed canon fodder lieutenants for Viet Nam. Only then did they approve my Officer Candidate School application. But I had seen enough stinking rice paddies for awhile, so I took my discharge.

 Later, three years after my October encounter with the racist ROTC officers at U. C. Berkeley, I was a disenchanted Black college student again. I found myself, in Montgomery, Alabama, standing in front of another Army recruiter. He was telling me that I was crazy for trying to rejoin the Army, to once again escape from the self-destructive effects of segregation. Self-destructive because the pervasive anti-Black racial hatred everywhere in America made me hate being a Negro, hate being me. Running from the “frying pan to the fire, I returned to my alma mater, U. C. Berkeley. Not very much had changed. I still hated my Black self. Segregation still existed and it had destroyed my soul.

 One summer night, driving a few blocks from the U. C. campus, I put my drunken head down on my chest. Then I pushed my car’s accelerator pedal all the way to the floor, and I quit giving a damn about trying to belong at Berkeley.  My subsequent terrible auto wreck was the subject of a feature article in the Berkeley Gazaette the next day.  Fortunately, the only person that I hurt on that sobering night was myself.  But, from that point on I no longer needed the smiles of my enemies to sustain me.  I knew that I had survived my death attempt for a reason, and it was not to be petted or repressed by white society.  I went back to U. C. Berkeley that school year with my mind made up to “keep my eyes on the prize,” regarding of whether I was invited to belong at Berkeley.

                                                     THE END



Chocolate Teardrops


                                          Chocolate Teardrops


                                              Marshall Abuwi                                                 

                                 © 2005.  All rights reserved.

 Santee stretched out the last wailing blues note on his saxophone. He nodded his curly head to the BuckWilde Lounge’s audience.  The place was packed, wall to wall, with college students. The lounge’s spicy East Indian food smells contrasted sharply with the large African paintings on the walls. The pungent aroma of barbeque from the old Negro’s cafe wafted in from next door. The BBQ sauce and charred beef blended in with delicious fragrance of the mocha coffee that was steaming behind the bar. A siren blared in the next block, where a young Negro was being busted for selling crack.

 Santee was a handsome brown-skinned twenty-four year old.  He was studying Art History and Music at Oakland’s Merritt Community College.  Playing for the college crowds at night was earning him a good reputation in the music world. He closed his eyes tightly when he played his tenor saxaphone. He dreamed of hitting it big and bringing his dear mother to America. His left baby-finger sported a diamond ring, a keepsake from his mother. Santee Esperanza had been searching for a woman to love who was a saint, like his mother down in Rio, Brazil. Somebody beautiful and pure.

Eighteen year-old Natalie, who was Santee’s new girlfriend,  sat on a oversized orange pillow in the front row. The exquisitely beautiful co-ed had a large, fresh rose stuck in the v-neck of her sweater. The rose’s yellow petals separated her heavy cocoa-colored breasts. She was wearing an expensive burgundy cashmere sweater. Her tan Gucci sandals lay near her bared feet. Natalie dressed richly for a Black college girl. A stranger would have guessed her to be a prominent doctor’s daughter.

Natalie was massaging her left leg. When Santee opened his eyes at the end of his song and looked over at her, Natalie quietly said, “Santee, come over here, Baby.” He eased onto the huge pillow, beside her. Natalie handed Santee the cup of hot chocolate that she had ordered for him and watched him take a sip of it. When he finished sipping the hot chocolate, Natalie reached inside her purse.  She took out a crumpled piece of paper. The bold letters at the top spelled out PHYSICIAN’S REPORT. The voluptuous student handed the paper to Santee and waited for him to read it carefully. When he finished, she said, “Well?”

Santee calmly replied, “Let’s get married Natalie. I want you to keep our baby. I’m glad that I got you pregnant. College can wait. I’ll take care of you.”

 Natalie looked away, out through the open side door of the off-campus juke-joint. Out to the street where hookers walked by, flaunting their stuff.

 Natalie took the paper back from Santee’s hand.  She said, “I’ve got to go to work now. She slid her sandals onto her beautiful brown feet and said “See you in the morning, Santee. Call me at seven. I love you.”  She got up and smoothed out her tight mini-skirt. Santee’s eyes followed her as she limped outside.

  A girl singer, who was working at the BuckWilde to pay for college, belted out Lover Man, trying to sound like a drugged Billlie Holiday.  She was soulful, but weak in her effort. She just didn’t know the pain, yet.  It would come eventually, as it had come to Natalie. Her father had shot her beautiful, young, unfaithful mother between the eyes. That was when she was in the third grade. It had happened at the dining room table. Her mother’s adulterous blood had covered Natalie. She had run from the house, screaming wildly until the police made her stop. She went to a foster home. She never saw her father, a once-prominent physician, again. She heard he had died in prison.  Raped, and then stabbed to death by a jealous prison lover.  

Santee called Natalie on the telephone at seven o’clock in the morning, but there was no answer. He darted from one thing to another, rushing to get dressed.  His bus to the courthouse would be leaving in an hour. Quickly, he tried to tidy up the small studio apartment, hoping that Natalie would stop in while he was at work. He enjoyed the surprise of coming home and finding her in the kitchen, or soaking in the tub. “Where was she?” “Damn, Natalie, where are you?” It was too early for her not to be home. He nicked himself as he shaved, Then he tried to call her again. Still, no answer.

 Natalie was supposed to meet him at the Berkeley Free Clinic at lunch time. She had promised him that she’d allow the clinic to x-ray her injured leg. He was shocked on their first night of love-making when he saw the dark bruises on her shapely left leg. When he had asked her about the large marks, Natalie had told him that her jealous ex-boyfriend had stomped her. She had been limping on the leg for two weeks. Santee wished he knew who the guy was. He would teach the chump how it felt to get knocked around and stomped.

Santee finally gave up trying to reach Natalie. He had to rush now to catch his bus. He jerked up his jacket.  He looked back at the telephone, once, before he ran out to the bus stop. He was angry that his woman was not home.  He glared at the other riders when he got on the bus. He pushed his token into the meter, then he crashed into a back seat. At every stop, foxy young women got on the bus, going to school and to work.  Santee looked for Natalie in the crowd.  He saw her when he got off the bus downtown at the courthouse. 

“What the hell is she doing down here?”

Natalie was thirty feet in front of him, with her arm wrapped around the waist of a tall blond sailor. She was still limping very slightly, as if she was trying hard to hide her discomfort. She never saw Santee, but he watched Natalie and the sailor go into the City Marriage License Office.

 Santee knew he was not mistaken. It was Natalie. But she was in the Marriage License Office, acting very romantic with this stranger, this white sailor. From a far corner in the large court-house lobby,  Santee watched Natalie leave the Marriage Office. She was smiling up at the sailor.

 “Can I can you ‘Vanilla Cookie’, Herbert, cause you’re so white and sweet?”

  “Natalie, you’re going to make me one happy dude, when we get married. Did you call the preacher yet?” The sailor named “Herbert” patted her softly on her curvaceous butt.

 Santee watched Natalie wiggle beneath his wide hand. She adjusted his sailor cap on his head and giggled. Her youthful dark fingers held the burly, blond sailor’s hand.

“Herbert, give me $200.00. I’ll go rent the chapel and get my wedding dress.”

Santee got off work at noon. He was still in shock from what he had seen.  He had always trusted this young Negro college co-ed.  Or at least that’s what she’d told him she was. A freshman in Art History at Merritt College.  She had quickly become the love of his life, after the’d made love the very first time.  He had even helped pay for her school books for the fall semester. She seemed so dependent on him. Now she was pregnant, with his baby.  He planned to do the right thing and marry her. “But what was she doing with the sailor. Who was he?”

He kept leaving his work in the courthouse basement mailroom to see if she was still hanging around the courthouse.  He went through the heavy wide, glass doors and peered up and down the street.  She was gone.

 Santee had to pass by the Buck Wilde on his way to the Free Clinic. “She better be at the clinic. She’s got some explaining to do.” He was stunned to see Natalie sitting at one of the small tables on the lounge’s patio. It was too early for the usual crowd.  The juke-box inside the bar blasted a hit song,  Baby, I’m Yours.

 Natalie was drinking from a coffee cup and sobbing softly. The muscular, blond sailor was nowhere in sight.  Natalie’s bushy head was bowed. She was staring at the coffee-stained, crumbled pregnancy report.  Her hands were shaking nervously.

 Santee strode up to her. He accidentally knocked over one of the plastic chairs before he reached her. It toppled, noisily over on its side.  Natalie looked up at him and brushed the tears from her eyes with her cheap paper coffee napkin. Her dark brown skin contrasted sharply with the gold and red and orange leaves on her African-print blouse. Her large hoop earrings made her wide nostrils seem smaller. She softly said “Hi, Baby.”

“Flashy Richard” Thigpen, a notorious twenty-two year old Black pimp relaxed in a brand new yellow Cadillac across the street. He kept looking at his watch and then back at Natalie. Santee sat down across from Natalie and touched her hand. “Natalie, what’s the matter, girl? Who made you cry? You know I’ll kick his sorry ass.”

 Santee’s seething, hot Brazilian temper made him to want to see blood, after seeing his Natalie with the big sailor. “Don’t worry, Sugar Daddy”, Natalie replied. “Your sweet thing’s gonna be all right.  And we can get married in the morning. But I’ve gotta go now.”  She was always leaving him. But her eyes were so sad and saintly, just like his mother’s. Her tearful look said that she needed him.

 Natalie’s wide brass ear-rings jangled as she gave Santee a good-bye kiss.  Then she rose and limped across the wide street to the pimp’s fancy Cadillac.  Santee followed her with a curious stare. He watched her as she took a wad of folded bills out of her oversized bra cup. She reached over and gave the money to the flashy pimp.

 “Here, Richard.” She was seething. “That’s all Blondie gave me.  I hope you won’t hurt me any more.  I don’t know why I stay with you anyway. You’re so mean to me, Richard.” The pimp stared at his tearful teenage hooker coldly.

 Natalie got in the Cadillac, beside her flashy pimp.  The car pulled off. Santee looked down at the table. Then he saw the dead rose that his woman had left behind.

Santee called out to her. “Natalie!” “Or whoever the hell you are.”

As he ran towards the moving Cadillac, it sped around a corner. Suddenly, his dream lover was no longer anywhere in sight. Gone. The soiled, discarded pregnancy report, soaking wet with her tears, lay beneath her dead yellow rose.







Marshall Abuwi

Dogs were howling because they heard the cries of the Negro who was being brutally beaten by the five Ku Klux Klansmen in Boss Ray Pickens’ barn.  Lying on the dirt and hay floor of the barn, Steele’s arms and feet were tied to stakes in the ground.  Blood from a fresh cut made by a blackjack blow to Reverend Steel’s head flowed into the dirt near Boss Ray Pickens’ boots.  The harvest moon outside revealed the grey U. S. Navy surplus Dodge pick-up truck Pickens had used to kidnap Reverend Steele as he walked towards his home on that cool October night.  Now the preacher was stripped naked and stretched out in agony, like he was Jesus nailed to the cross.

Tears rolled down Reverend Steele’s face and into his blood-filled mouth which had been smashed by one of the Ku Klux Klansmen.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” muttered Steele, as he tried to fend off the fear of another kick to his exposed groin.  “Father, please make these devils stop killing your servant.”

“Shut your damn mouth, nigger!  I got a mind to break your jaw with my boot, except I want you to preach about how to stay away from white folks’ fun places.  How many times did I warn you last summer about y’all black coons going to the city pool?  We white Alabama citizens are sick and tired of y’all niggers trying to mix  with us here in Huntsville and every-damn-where else.”

One of the other Klansmen, a weak-looking, bow-legged ex-convict named Empty Ledtop chimed in, “Say yas-sir, Boss to Mr. Pickens, boy,” as he flicked his rawhide bullwhip across Steele chest, making the big Negro preacher writhe in pain.

Steele replied softly, “Go to hell, white devils.”  After that he lost consciousness as Boss Ray Pickens black jack popped him hard on his wooly head.

When Steele regained consciousness just before dawn, his head lay in a pool of blood, but the dirt on the ground had clogged the wound and the bleeding had stopped.  He was covered from his chest to his feet with welts from being bull-whipped.  His genitals were swollen from being kicked.  He had two upper teeth knocked out on the right side of his mouth.  One of his eyes was black and purple and swollen shut.  A scrawled note lay on his chest, which read. “Obama my ass!  Stay in your place, dirty black niggers!

“Jesus, Oh Jesus, help me,” cried Steele, as he tried to raise his right wrist upward to pull the wooden stake to which it was tied out of the ground.  By rolling towards his left side he was able to get more power in his upward pull.  It took him two hours of agony to do it, since two of his left ribs were broken from being kicked, but he managed to get his right hand free. With his free hand, Steele untied his left hand, and then his feet.  He looked for something to cover his nakedness, but all he could see was a large piece of tar paper that had been tacked on one of the barn’s windows to replace its broken-out panes.  He crawled over to the window and reeling from pain with every movement, he raised himself up and ripped the tar paper out of the window with his right hand.  He wrapped the tar paper around his manhood with the rope that had bound him.

The sun had not risen and Steele was nearly freezing in the mid-October early morning cold.  He tried to walk down the country road leading from Boss Ray Pickens’ farm, but he kept falling down.   When he looked over toward the farmhouse, he noticed that Pickens’ pickup truck was gone.  Steele, naked except for the tar paper wrapped around his midsection with a rope, crawled to the main road and passed out.

As the sun rose on the lonely country highway which led into the city of Huntsville, Alabama, a county van that took rural seniors to doctors’ appointments came barreling down the two-lane road.  Steele was lying across the driver’s lane. The driver swerved to miss hitting Steele’s stretched-out body.  Over-reacting, he lost control of the vehicle.  Boss Ray Pickens’ mother, who was the only passenger, was thrown out of the vehicle as it flipped over into a gulley.  The driver of the van was not wearing his seatbelt either and was killed instantly when his head crashed into the van’s windshield.  75 year-old Missus Lula Ann Pickens lay on the opposite side of the road from Steele.  She was unconscious from her head hitting the hard tar and gravel road.  Steele came to when he heard the old white woman screaming for Jesus.  When Steele reached her after crawling painfully inch by inch, she had stopped breathing. 

A police cruiser passing down the road came to a screeching stop when the white deputy sheriff saw Steele bending over the white woman on the ground, pumping her chest.  Thinking that the big Negro was indecently assaulting poor old Missus Lula Ann Pickens, the white cop pulled out his pistol and shot Steel twice in his head.  Reverend Steele died instantly.  He toppled over on Lula Ann, who moaned from the shock of his weight.  Bathed in his blood, old lady Pickens joined Reverend Steele in the loving arms of Jesus. 

                                                         THE END

The War Bonnet


                                         The War Bonnet


                                       Marshall M. Abuwi

                             (c) 2006.  All rights reserved.     

“Jimmy Scout Lickins was a big, rough, Indian Negro who didn’t know who his Pa was, but he suspected his Ma was lyin’ when she tole’ him he was dead from a shootout wid de Comanchees. She herself was a preddy, red-brown squaw, wid long, jet-black hair, straight like his. She had a body that just wont neba git ole. That’s ‘cause she was a full-blood Cherokee and they had to walk a lot ‘cause the Spanish ain’t give ‘em any hosses like dey did the Apaches. So, anyway, when Jimmy got his lumber mill job, he bought his dear Ma a car, but to keep her figga she preferred to walk. She liked to feel the squish, squish of rotted persimmons beneath her brown toes, as she trekked down stream to the hide-out by the Smokey Ridge. Dat was where she kept her daddy’s war bonnet so she could give it to Jimmy Scout whenever Fancy Rainbow, his hot-blood woman, gave him his mind back, and he stopped sweating for her sugar like a damn fool.”
Morning arose over the earthy mists from the colorful valley. The honey suckles began to open their arms and raise their lips to pout at being awakened by the red day that hastened to them. A spent rabbit darted from his mate’s soft cushion where he’d stayed the night. Fancy Rainbow purred, rejoicing at the beauty of Jimmy Scout’s firm lithe body beside her. Outside their teepee, trouble approached. It was Feather Love, looking for her son.
Lucky Strike took another puff at his Veterans Administration cigarette and looked intently at the big boulder on a ridge facing us. “Yep, das where she climbed to meet ‘em, back in de spring of ‘50. De war ain’t started up yet in Korea, so Jimmy was still here. Hadn’t gone in de Army. But sooner o’ later dey got ‘em. ‘Had to go. Negroes didn’t have no choice. White boys did, though, ‘iffen dey wanted ta go ta college and be officers. Most de rich white peoples sons did dat. Some didn’t have ta go nohow, cause dey was so smart, dey jes stayed in school ‘til de war was all over. Den dey came home and took over de stoe.”
Fancy Rainbow nudged Jimmy Scout softly with her nose against his neck. He stirred, pulling her over on top of him, feeling her softness covering his muscular chest. They froze when Feather Love tore open the tanned thick deer hide door of the teepee. She marched up to the wide pallet which filled one whole side of the large teepee.


Feather Love roughly grabbed Fancy Rainbow by wrist. She jerked his scantily-clad lover away from her son. Fancy Rainbow stood, shivering in the cool autumn morning air, without her man’s warm body next to her. She quickly reached for a soft chamois robe that was on the floor near the pallet. Feather Love growled at her son’s woman, “You’re not good for Jimmy Scout. ‘Too much heat in your blood, girl. He needs to be with the priests. You know that. With you, he’ll end up cut up at the mill or worked to death like most of our men.”

Jimmy Scout, who had risen up on his elbows on the thick pallet, motioned to his mother to go out of the teepee with Fancy Rainbow, while he got dressed.

When Jimmy Scout came outside, his he saw that Fancy Rainbow was gone. Her horse’s tracks showed him that she had left the camp in a hurry. He mounted the young black stallion the he had tied to a tree outside and bent over so that Feather Love could hold his arm as she swung up on the horse behind him.

“Where now, Momma?” he said.

“You know where, Jimmy Scout. To the Purple Eagle’s rock on the ridge. It’s time to deliver the gift.”

Lucky Strike smiled, his cigarette’s embers glowing in the twilight.

“Ya see. It was de gif dat Feather Love wanted to keep taking to de eagles up on de ridge. ‘Dat’s where de white man done tole her she had to bring it. He say one day he was gone be der to get it, but iff’n he won’t der, to take it home ‘til de next time. Feather Love been bringin de gif for eighteen years, but de white man still ain’t took it yet. Funny thang, Jimmy Scout always wondered where his ma kep de gif hid. He ain’t see no gif nowhere, but she keep saying she got one for de white man, and why don’t he be quiet?”

Rising behind a shallow forest of tall green pines and red-orange oaks, the Purple Eagle rock was reflected in the lazy Corn Dance Creek. The red, brown, and yellow bursts of color announced that Dancing Squaw Valley was enjoying her final pleasures before the steel gray days of winter came to stay.

Bass hungrily sucked the insects from the rippling surface of Corn Dance Creek. The clomp, clomp, clomp of Brave Warrior’s hooves echoed across the small valley as Jimmy Scout trotted him out of the woods into the path that circled the creek. When Jimmy Scout and Feather Love reached the far side, she told him to stop. She eased herself down from the sweaty black stallion and examined the fresh tracks on the moist bushy path. The bushes and the path were still wet from the early morning drizzle.

Lucky Strike had a twinkle in his eyes as he blew out the last smoke from his Veterans Administration cigarette.

“You know, Billie, lots a people say you look like Fancy Rainbow, ‘specially ‘round yo’ eyes, all fiery and excited like hers was. But you know, I see’d dat African in you dat came from Jimmy Scout. ‘Course he didn’t know when Fancy Rainbow was run off dat morning by yo’ gramma dat he done gone and got her pregnant wif you. He went on wif his momma and dey met up wif the de white, bushyhead priest.

Lots o’ people still talk about dat ole priest. Some say his granpapa was one o’ dem calvary soldiers what come ridin’ down from Firginny. His gramama was one of dem chillen from Black Knife, the slave, and Tinakita, the chief’s girl. ‘Cept for his bushy hair, couldn’t see no black in him, jes white man, and Cherokee.

Dat warm, September day in ’50. dey all met on dat dere Purple Eagle rock over yonder. See, ober dem tall oak and pine trees? Yeah, das it, Billie. Das where de priest and Feather Love had always planned to meet when she deliver de gif to de priest. Den yo’ pa went away wif de priest to join de Army and Fancy Rainbow neber seed him again.

When Fancy Rainbow heard dat Jimmy Scout went and got shot in de war wif de China mens she went lookin’ fo’ his spirit on de Purple Eagle rock. She stayed up dere, eating dem berries and nuts fo’ ‘bout six months. Den when it was ‘bout time to have you, she learnt I was his friend, so she asked me to tell you ‘bout ‘im iffen she somehow didn’t make it.

“Seems so strange how yo’ granma ain’t neber liked yo’ ma and den she started bringing her dat root tea ‘for she had you. ‘Seems strange she couldn’t stop wid loosing blood and died when you was born, Billie.”

“Anyway, here’s de war bonnet from yo’ great, great grandpa what he took to de Trail O’ Tears. Dis de gif what Jimmy’s ma done saved fo’ him. Had hid it up on the Purple Eagle rock and waited  fo’ de white bushy head priest to take him fo’ she give it to him.”

“Dat ole bushyhead white priest say he was Jimmy Scout’s pa. Said he kept de war bonnet when Jimmy went ober dere to Korea, den give it back to yo’ gramama, Feather Love. She say to tell you it yo’s now. Now you de chief. See dat red on de feather tips? De story goes dat it’s Jimmy’s blood, from off his finger. Dat blood what Jimmy done put dere ta keep his spirit alive. Now de war bonnet’s yours, Billie. Dey all woulda been proud fo’ you to wear it. ‘specially yo’ gramama. Too bad she and de priest couldn’t neber marry fo’ she had her stroke and died dis morning.”

From the edge of the woods where we sat, looking at the reflection of the trees and the Purple Eagle rock, the old veteran ended his story while the bass quietly sucked insects from the Corn Dance Creek.

                                                               THE END

Fraid D. Scarecrow, Doctor of “Education”


Fraid D. Scarecrow, Doctor of “Education”


Marshall M. Abuwi, M.A., M.Ed.

© 2009.  All rights reserved.

           Morning eased into the window of Fraid D. Scarecrow’s presidential office on the campus of Tough’s College.  Founded in 1899, by General Samuel Roberts Tough, a Confederate war veteran, the college annually produced 500 Negro servants for the Big Houses of Dixie Land.  A stream of light targeted Doctor Scarecrow’s college diploma, which hung directly over his head, so that all visitors could see it immediately.  The diploma read, “Old South College for Negro Boys awards the degree of Bachelor of Advanced Negerology (B.A.N.) to Fraid D. Scarecrow, June Tenth, One Thousand Nine Hundred and Thirty-Five.”

           Fraid D. Scarecrow knelt in prayer in a corner of his large, plush office, beneath a picture of the blond, blue-eyed General Tough.  In low tones, he recited his daily worship:  “Oh Lawd, Make me a good Negro, please.  Make the boys and girls in my charge grow strong in body and weak in mind, so that they will always obey you and please you.  In all things, Lawd, not my will, but thy will be done.  Amen.”  The lofty portrait of his  lily-white benefactor smiled down on him.  President Fraid D. Scarecrow really was a “good Negro.” 

           Now that his morning worship service was completed, Doctor Fraid D. Scarecrow was ready to begin his day.  His first order of business was to call in his very black, vivacious secretary, whose name was Lovey Washington Williams.  She entered wearing her Jackie Kennedy-styled hairdo, which had been done in Big Mama Pearl’s kitchen over the weekend.  Getting her hair straightened by Big Mama Pearl was a regular Sunday night event for Lovey.  Big Mama called Lovey “one of her girls” because she had made it big in Sugar Town, Mississippi.

           Lovey was the personal secretary of President Fraid D. Scarecrow, and everybody knows what that was all about.  Missus Lucretia Dubones Scarecrow, the golden-hued wife of the “high-yaller” master of the Tough College plantation for mental slaves, turned a deaf ear to all the gossip about her husband and Lovey.  “Talk is cheap,” she said, as she threw back her long mane of “blow hair” and headed to town on her latest shopping spree.

           “Doc, your boss called from Atlanta about fifteen minutes ago.  I told him that you were doing your morning worship in your office and that I would give him your message to call him right back.”  Lovey stood in front of Fraid Scarecrow’s desk with her right hand on her hip as she handed him the morning mail.  She pushed out her full, red lips and gave him a big smile, displaying perfect, white teeth.

          Lovey’s  orthodontist father had made sure he had taken care of all her dental needs as a teenager before he went to prison for tax evasion.  He had just been released last year and was now picking cotton out on Doctor Fraid Scarecrow’s small plantation.  Fraid employed close to a hundred discredited Negro former professionals to help keep up the cotton and peanuts crops on his farm.  Between picking cotton and peanuts, Doctor  Johnny Washington, practiced dentistry on the other field hands.

           Doctor Fraid D. Scarecrow looked at his platinum Rolex watch, which was a gift from the faculty made possible through automatic deductions from their meager pay.  It was a tradition begun a century ago, under “Gen’ral Samuel,” that each Christmas the Negro faculty would give Tough’s president an expensive gift.  In return, the president gave each colored female teacher a bottle of cheap perfume.  To each colored male teacher, a pint of cheap whiskey was given.

           The time looked back at Fraid, clear as a bell.  It said 9:00 o’clock A. M.  It was time for the brass chimes over the school’s chapel to play, “How Great Thou Art.”  Fraid D. Scarecrow loved that song, especially the way that Elvis Presley sang it.  He especially loved the words, “When burdens press, and seem beyond endurance, bowed down with grief, to Him I lift my face.”

           As if on cue, the three large musical chimes, which were donated by Ebenezer Baptist Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania began to play their majestic tune.  As the music played, Fraid bowed his head in silent meditation as he reflected on how far he’d come, all the way from the cotton fields of Macon County, Alabama.  With a Greyhound bus ticket in his hand, and five dollars, he had started out for the Old South College for Negro Boys, which was merely a four room colored high school.  He was so happy on his graduation day to see his dear mother in the audience beaming with pride.  She had endured the long bus ride from Alabama to watch her oldest boy walk in dignity across the tropical palm-loaded stage.  Someone in the white section of the audience had been heard to remark, “It sho’ takes a heap of work to teach Naygras.   I sho’ hope they work out and don’t be shiftless and lazy!”

           The telephone rang.  Lovey, who was still standing in front of Fraid, posing as if waiting to be admired, picked it up.   “President Tough’s office, Who’s calling, please?” 

           The booming voice on the other end, announced, “Dammit, Lovey, put the Naygra on the phone and don’t get cute with me.  Don’t forget about that hand-me-down car of mine you’re driving, Miss Sassy Thang.”

           When Fraid picked up the telephone, Lovey noticed that his knees were trembling.  She always was fascinated at how just the sound of Mister Charlie’s voice made him act like that.  He started scratching his leg as he listened to his boss man.

           “Doctor Scarecrow, If I don’t own your black ass, my name is not Colonel Charles Armstrong Jackson, and my grand-daddy’s name is not General Stonewall Lee Jackson.  Now you listen to me.  I want you to understand one thing, Boy!  Martin Luther King is not going to be allowed to speak on your campus.  Is that clear?”

           “But, Boss.  All the boys here are wanting to see him.  Many of them came to school just to learn how to talk like him.  All they want to do is hear him talk about what freedom will be like, when it comes.”

           “You listen to me.  Don’t you start getting smart with me, DOCTAH  Scarecrow!  You want to end up like that Malcolm X Naygra that went down to Selma looking to stir up racial trouble?  I want you to tell them King people and nawthern agitators to keep their communist tails away from our campus, ya hear?  Ya hear, me, Boy?”

           The telephone went dead in Fraid Scarecrow’s honey-colored hand.  His right leg burned under his Brooks Brothers pants, where he had been feverishly scratching it when Mister Charlie was chewing on his behind.  Lovey patted him on his processed wavy head, while gently murmuring to him, “There is a balm in Gilead, to make the wounded whole.  Don’t ever be discouraged for Jesus is your friend.”

           “Doc, why don’t you go out to your plantation and take Daddy his lunch pail.  He ran off and left it this morning.  You know he can’t work without his biscuit and fried chicken for lunch.  His big college education did not cure him of his bred-in Negro habits, like it cured you of yours, Fraid.  Why, Sugah, you can’t even do the buck dance no more!”

           An hour later, Fraid D. Scarecrow could be seen on the south end of the large cotton field, standing by the fence.  He had his arms outstretched like a scarecrow, and was hollering like a field Negro to get Dr. Washington’s attention. 

           “Yo, Washington.  Yo, Washington.  Get down here and get your lunch pail Lovey sent you.  Hurry up now.  I got a class to teach back at the school.” 

           The crisp fall air was invigorating as Dr. Fraid D. Scarecrow walked to the three story classroom building from his office.  Armstrong Hall was impressive, with its white classical columns in front, and its Greek-styled portico.  The building was a gift from the Armstrong Diamond Mines of South Africa.  Each year Tough College sent ten of its graduates to work as house servants in the Cape Town mansions of the mines’ owners.  All of the twenty young Negroes in Dr. Scarecrow’s class on Moral Psychology for Negro Servants, jokingly called “Mental Slavery 101“,  stood up when the president entered. 

           “Sit down, boys, and give me your full attention!  Look at me, Dr. Fraid D. Scarecrow, president of Tough’s College, a school founded by one of the great slave masters of Mississippi – General S. R. Tough.  Now how do you think I reached this lofty position?  I will tell you, and I want you to remember this all of your black days, so that you can succeed like I have.  You boys are some strange fruit, strange as hell, and you need to know this.”

           “When I was a young man, like you are now – merely a colored boy, actually, I studied the teachings of a wise, very rich Jew named Lawrence  Kohlberg.  He said, and don’t you all forget this:

 “Total flexibility, total mental flexibility…It is good to be able to defend the indefensible.   It is good to know that there are few moral judgments that you have to stand by.  Stay flexible, even  though such thinking may be bad for you as a person,               may   destroy you as a person, but it will make you successful    in this world.”

          The enraptured looks that had greeted Dr. Fraid Scarecrow now had turned to looks of confusion; some were even of hatred and disgust.  One  face in particular looked extremely angry.  That was the face of Wallace Freedman. 

           “What seems to be your problem, Mister Wallace Freedman?  Do you have a problem with my class?  Is this lesson too heavy for your  youthful, undeveloped mind?”

           “Sir!  With all respect.  I do have a big problem with the im-moral psychology of that old Jew.  Brother Malcolm X, said, “The youth have less  stake in this corrupt system and therefore can look at it more objectively, whereas the adults usually have a stake in this corrupt system and  they lose their ability to look at it objectively because of their stake in it.’  What I am unhappy about, very angry about, is I do not  understand what Tough’s College expects us to do with our moral flexibility and mental enslavement miseducation?”

           As he was hearing these words, Dr. Fraid D. Scarecrow’s facial features became grotesquely twisted and his blue-grey eyes bulged out  from their sockets.  He started twitching with abject fear, looking toward the door to see if any of the white professors heard this rebellious  student’s remarks. 

           “Class dismissed.  Wallace Freedman, I want you to get off my campus today.  You are expelled from this college.  I cannot have our colored boys  talking like that here.  This is a college to train servants for our white bosses.  Where do you think that kind of thinking is going to get you.   Are you trying to end up down here like Emmett Till?”

           “Give me liberty or give me death, Dr. Scarecrow!  Freedom now!  I want my freedom now!  Before I’ll be a slave, I’ll be buried in my grave, and go home to my Lord, and be free!  That is the real American philosophy!” retorted Wallace Freedman, as he picked up his  armload of books and headed to the door without looking back.  Nineteen pairs of eyes looked admiringly at the Freedman boy’s back.

          Fraid D. Scarecrow wiped buckets of perspiration from his face with the oversized hankie that he wrapped around his head when he  entered the back doors to dine  in the kitchens of the white trustees of  his beloved Tough’s College.

                                                    To be continued.





Thunder Like Night


Thunder Like Night


Marshall Abuwi

(c) 2009. All rights reserved.

Dominic Savio Cabaness listened to the rain beating against the window across the room. His one room studio apartment at the foot of the Berkeley hills was perfect for the twenty-five year-old college student. He looked at the large clock on the wall, whose clicking away the minutes of his life in military rhythm gave him a sense of reassurance. This was his third try at mastering the intricacies of life as a Berkeley undergraduate. The first time he had set foot on the sprawling University of California campus, he was a mere seventeen years old, fresh from the cloistered life of a boarding school situated on a remote Virginia hill. Berkeley was too big for him then, too full of multi-racial cupidic fascinations. After he had returned from a volunteer three-year sprint in the U. S. Army, and a two-year hiatus at a small southern college, he felt ready to conquer Berkeley. He pledged a popular fraternity and managed to get all “A’s” with the light load that he carried as he sought to reestablish himself as a yearling California scholar.


When offered an opportunity to go the the hub of the New South’s modernization for summer employment, Dominic jumped at the chance. Once in Atlanta, however, the enticements of the comforts of a steady income, a nice apartment, a sporty car and lots of gorgeous lady friends postponed his return to the collegiate life for eighteen dilatory months. Now he was back in his natural element, ready to get down to serious business. His alarm for rising from his surplus Army bunk went off like a klaxon horn on a ship sounding a collision alarm. Briefly, he let his mind drift back to the idyllic cruise in the South Pacific that he had enjoyed at age nineteen, courtesy of the military. Memories of his maiden sea voyage on the troop ship, USNS Sultan were etched in his mind. Now it was time to rise to the task of learning how to grab the golden ring from the proud and elusive California Bear. He raised his lips to meet those of Lady Luck as she greeted him, “Good-Morning, Lover”.


His ten minutes under the hot shower reminded him of the welcome hot showers aboard the USNS Sultan. Washing off the salt water spray that clung to a seafarer’s skin like sticky paste was a necessary daily ritual. The feeling of clean freedom that accompanied the prickly stream of water jets as they hit his flesh was paradise in the man-smelly environment of the steaming ship’s bowels. As Dominic toweled off with one of his few luxury items, an extra-large, super thick towel that his mother had given to him for a birthday present, he hummed the Navy Hymn. It was ironic that as a soldier, he had sailed on four Navy ships and loved the Navy hymn more than any other martial melody. The Army had nothing to compare to its evocation of the power of the sea. Fully dried off now, Dominic donned his clothing, a necessary chore which preceeded his reentry into the world outside his private Kasbah, where he was the ruling sheik.


The two-block walk over to Shattuck Avenue where he caught the Bancroft Way bus to the campus initiated his daily exercise program, which would continue as he walked from class to class on the asphalt and grass U. C. campus. At twenty-five, Dominic was as fit as he had been four years ago when he had received his honorable discharge as a U. S. Army sergeant. Returning to the San Francisco Bay area, under the Golden Gate bridge, as his homecoming ship sailed majestically into the morning sunlight, was the capstone of an accomplishment that only he could understand. His family wondered why he had wasted his precious academic time with such a frivolous diversion as leaving an officer training program to enlist as a buck private in the U. S. Army. It was useless to try to explain to any one of his college-degreed relatives that he had received more real education about life in the villages and hooches of Korea, and the man’s world of the combat army, than all their degrees combined could have taught him.


Looking out the bus window at the hundreds of students crossing Bancroft Way to enter the University of California’s flagship campus at Berkeley, Dominic Savio wondered what this classy education would mean to him in the future. When he hopped off the bus, he caught up with his friend, Paul Baker, a history major.


“Think we’ve got time for coffee in the Bear’s Lair, Domini?” asked Paul.


Dominic’s best friend liked to tease him with that nickname, which meant “My Lord” in Latin. In a moment of self-disclosure, Dominic had revealed to Paul that he had once desired to be a Dominican priest.


“Sure, why not?” replied Dominic. “Nobody will notice if we are late to Old Horatio’s political science lecture. Besides every one of the 300 seats will probably be filled when we get there and we will just have to buy the Fybate Notes for the lecture. No big deal!”


When the two friends were comfortably seated in the dark brown, varnished captains’ chairs tht marked out the Bear’s Lair as a haunt for adventurers, a student activist named Mario approached them.


“I suppose you heard about Professor Horatio’s class being cancelled?”


Paul answered, “No, what happened?”


“He’s been suspended from teaching until the Faculty Senate can hear his case next week.”


Dominic’s curiosity overcame him, “Are they trying to oust him because he said America would be better off under a socialist economic system?”


“That’s part of it, Dom, but the other part is that his Swedish wife has been passing out English-version copies of Russia’s Pravda all semester.  Dr. Horatio refused his Dean’s order to make her stop.  He’s adamant that Berkeley is an open campus, and all ideas are welcome for consideration, according to the Fasculty By-Laws and the Student Code of Conduct.”


“Erica Horatio is sure to lose her graduate teaching fellowship, even if the Professor manages to hang on to his tenure-track job,” Paul offered.


“Well, not if I and the Students for Free Speech have anything to say about it, guys. We are having a rally in front of Sproul Hall at noon today. Be there. Got to go! See ya at the rally. Chiao, future statesmen!”


Dominic looked up. Coming directly towards him was Erika Horatio’s best friend, Angelica Sorenson. With a wide smile, she waved.


“Join us, Venus de Milo, and feast with the gods,” offered the ever-friendly Paul.


“I need to talk to you and Dominic about something real serious.” She scooted into the captain’s chair next to Paul and looked into Dominic’s bue-grey eyes.


“Anyting, fair nymph. State your pleasure.”


“Guys, you’ve got to help us get the wording right for the flyers for the rally today. Somehow, what Erika and I have put together just doesn’t sound right.”


Dominic looked at the sheet that Angelica laid before him and Paul. She was right. The wording about free speech was off. It souded too much like a law student’s brief. Angelica’s Boalt Hall Law School training was showing too much. Something more proletarian-sounding was needed.


“Let me think for a minute. I am going to walk outside on the patio with this, Angel, while you fill Paul in on the details of Dr. Horatio’s fight with the administration. I’ll be right back.”


When Domnic returned, he had rewritten the flyer. It simply stated:


Help God Bless America or Damn Her to Hell. Take your pick. Kill the Messenger and you destroy our Soul. Free the Students.

Be in front of Sproul Hall today at noon to stop the lynching of Black Professor Horatio and His White Wife by the Klan.


The End





I love you, Mommie

I love you, Mommie


Marshall “Butch”  Cabiness Abuwi

I love you so much, dear Mommie!

My heart is about to break

In little pieces that can never be repaired.

Each piece represents your love for me,

And the friendship we forever shared.

In all my failings there you were

With kindness in your hugs.

And when I finally got it right,

Your smile was so full of love.

What you gave came so much

From your heart

Which was sweet as honey-suckles

And rose buds.


At the summer’s end

Your last kiss said

It all to me,

“You are my son, my king, my friend.

So now move up,

My dear first-born,

My earthly work

Down here is done.”

I love you, Mommie.

From “Butch”,

Your son.





Tuskegee’s Black Eagles of World War Two

A Class of Tuskegee's Black Eagles

A Class of Tuskegee's Black Eagles

Tuskegee:  The Nest of the Black Eagles of World War Two 


Marshall S. Cabiness, Jr., AKA Marshall M. M. Abuwi

(Son of First Lieutenant Marshall S. Cabiness, AC, USAR)


From 1942 until the end of World War II in 1945, a well-built, but hastily-constructed Army Air Forces base was operated near the famed African American college, Tuskegee Institute.  The Tuskegee Army Flying School, located on the base was the training ground for nearly a thousand African American pilots who served in World War II.  Many of these pilots were involved in combat missions in Africa and Europe as part of the 99th Pursuit Squadron and the 332nd Fighter Group.  The training of these very-carefully selected men and their deployment as Army Air Forces combat pilots in the Second World War was known both officially and unofficially as “The Tuskegee Experiment.” 

The null hypothesis of the “Tuskegee Experiment,” and of this military history research paper, is that African Americans are sub-human and do not possess the mental or physical ability to fly fighter planes proficiently in combat.  The basis for this hypothesis is a 1925 study conducted by the Army War College, based upon data collected on African Americans serving in World War I.   The conclusion of the 1925 Army War College Study holds that the black man is physically unqualified for combat duty, is by nature subservient, mentally inferior, and believes himself to be inferior to the white man; is susceptible to the influence of crowd psychology; cannot control himself in the face of danger; and does not have the initiative and resourcefulness of the white man.[1]   Lieutenant Colonel Charles Dryden (U. S. air Forced, Retired), one of the pilots in “The Tuskegee Experiment” asserts that every man in the program tried his utmost to disprove the blatantly racist War College Study’s conclusions.[2] 

For over a century prior to World War II, African Americans were involved in a determined struggle to undo the popular notion, fostered by America’s founding fathers, that they were not fully human.  It was this rationale that allowed even the most progressive framers of America’s future, all English American white men, to treat the imported and enslaved Africans as inhumanely as they treated their often-overworked field animals.  In fact, more often than not, the Africans were treated even worse than the other live chattel that these white Americans owned.

The infamous architect of the dehumanization of the Africans in America was Mr. William Lynch of Virginia.  Lynch summarized America’s plan for her enslaved Africans in 1712 in these words:

Continually, through the braking of uncivilized savage niggers [from ‘negro,’ meaning black person, or Niger, an area in Africa], by throwing the nigger female into a frozen psychological state of independency, by killing of the protective image by creating a submissive dependent male savage, we have created an orbiting cycle that turns on its own axis forever.[3]

A few generations later, Mr. Henry Berry announced to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1832, “We have, as far as possible, closed every avenue by which light may enter the slaves’ mind.  If we could extinguish the capacity to see the light, our work would be completed; they would then be on a level with the beast of the field and we would be safe.”[4] 

Of course African Americans protested against this inhuman approach to their lives.  They fought back physically, as demonstrated in Nat Turner’s bloody slave uprising in Virginia in 1831 and also intellectually.  The famous African American escaped slave, Frederick Douglass, whose own father was a white man who ignored him, declared concerning his thrashing of a white slave breaker,

 “He can only understand the deep satisfaction which I experienced, who has himself repelled by force the bloody arm of slavery.  I felt as I never felt before.  It was a glorious resurrection, from the tomb of slavery, to the heaven of freedom.  My long-crushed spirit rose, cowardice departed, bold defiance took its place…”[5] 

Later, after three decades of tirelessly writing and speaking on behalf of the emancipation of the Africans enslaved in America, Douglass encouraged his fellow slaves and African free men in America to make war against their slave-masters to win their freedom.  The war that Douglass advocated occurred in 1861 and at its end, in 1865, the victors amended the U. S. Constitution to grant guarantees of freedom and U. S. citizenship to all African Americans.

In order to secure their freedom African Americans fought in every war involving the United States including the Revolutionary War.  The African American  54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment distinguished itself by its extraordinary heroism during the U. S. Civil War.  In fact, a son of Frederick Douglass served honorably as Sergeant Major of the regiment.  Later, African Americans fought in Cuba alongside Colonel Theodore Roosevelt and again distinguished themselves by their gallantry.  In the American conquest of the western frontier, African American soldiers won acclaim for their bravery and devotion to duty in the face of hostile Indian armies and terrain.  The same devotion to serving the nation carried thousands of volunteer of color into the First World War.  One of these soldiers was Benjamin Oliver Davis, Sr.

Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. was a former enlisted U. S. Cavalry soldier who, because he was very literate, articulate and conscientious, had quickly risen to the top of the enlisted ranks in the racially-segregated U. S. Army.  His outstanding skills as a self-educated military leader earned him a commission as an Regular Army officer in 1901.  When World War I occurred, the War Department ruled that no African American officer could command white troops and that all regimental commands would be officered only by white colonels.  The only African American colonel serving in the Regular Army was Colonel Charles Young, a West Point graduate.  Colonel Young was forced into medical retirement in order prevent him being assigned to command Fort Des Moines in Iowa, where he would have commanded white officers.[6] 

Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. was left as the only other Regular Army Officer in the Army.  He was unable to utilize his command skills as he was promoted in rank because of the War Department’s restriction on African American officer assignments.  Consequently, Lieutenant Colonel Davis was shuffled between ROTC[7] units at Wilberforce University in Ohio and Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.  Whenever possible, he and his wife took extended trips to Europe so that he might achieve the recognition of full humanity that even his unique status as a field grade officer in the Regular Army could not gain for him in racially-segregated America.

World War II was preceded by the New Deal administration of the liberal Democrat president, Franklin D. Roosevelt (“A chicken in every pot.”).  Because he sought the African American vote in the northern precincts in his bid for a third term in the 1940 election, he was willing to listen to the pleas of African Americans for improved living conditions.  He was also wisely trying to forestall a threatened large civil rights demonstration in Washington that was planned for the summer of 1941.  African American leaders such as labor leader A. Phillip Randolph and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People leader Walter White personally appealed to President Roosevelt to create better job opportunities for African Americans in the federal government and specifically in the War Department.  One area in the War Department organization which had excluded African Americans since its inception was the Army Air Corps (changed to Army Air Forces in 1942). 

 There were many ambitious young African Americans who wanted to fly airplanes as Army Air Corps pilots.  The War Department, as directed by President Roosevelt, had mandated that the Air Corps accept qualified, college-educated African Americans for pilot training.  The Air Corps steadfastly stalled in its compliance.  The top ranking Army Air Corps officer, General Henry (Hap) Arnold protested to his Operations Staff (G-3) in a memo dated May 31, 1940, that the Army Air Corps would not employ African American pilots “since this would result in having Negro officers serving over white enlisted men.  This would create an impossible social problem.”[8] 

The War Department published an announcement on January 16, 1941 that pursuit flying training would be given to qualified African American college men by the Army Air Corps in order for them to receive commissions as officers in the Army Air Corps Reserve.  The 99th Pursuit Squadron, as it was designated by the Army Air Corps, was to be an all African American unit, trained at a segregated southern air field.  The irony of offering only pursuit flying to the first African American Army aviation trainees was that it was the most difficult type of military aviation to master.  The planes that were to be assigned were worn-out in addition to being very unsafe for inexperienced pilots to fly.   The only option for pilots who “washed out” of the advanced pursuit flying training was to be permanently grounded since the initial plan of the Army Air Corps was to offer no other combat aviation training to African Americans.  Clearly, the Army Air Corps expected and desired a high failure rate.

One of the early applicants for training as an Army Air Corps pilot was the son of Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. who was a first classman (senior) at the United States Military Academy in the fall of 1935.  Cadet Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. had developed an ardent passion for aviation when he was a fourteen year old boy.  He had his heart set on becoming a pilot in the U. S. Army Air Corps upon graduation from West Point.  Although he was found to be highly qualified in every respect when he applied in October, 1935 his application was returned the following month explaining to him that the Army Air Corps was rejecting him because it did not plan to establish any African American flying units.  The unwritten message to this ambitious young future Army officer was that racial segregation and the denial of equal opportunities was the tenacious policy of the War Department, and the Army Air Corps in particular.

Pressure on many fronts, from private lawsuits to NAACP[9] campaigns to have African Americans apply for pilot training to Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt using her personal influence with the President persuaded Mr. Roosevelt to act.   The War Department compelled the recalcitrant Air Army Corps to establish the pursuit pilot training program at Tuskegee in July, 1941.  The Army Air Corps, convinced by the 1925 War College Study that African Americans were innately incapable of being able to fly military airplanes and fight successfully in aerial combat, grudgingly complied with its War Department orders to train African American pilots for the 99th Pursuit Squadron that would be based at the Tuskegee Army Air Field.

When the decision was made in early 1941 to execute the plan, known as “The Tuskegee Experiment,” Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. was a captain of infantry, serving as Professor of Military Science at Tuskegee Institute.  Political pressure on the Army had resulted in Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. being promoted by President Roosevelt to Brigadier General at election time in 1940.  As a general officer he was free to choose his personal aide.   Brigadier Davis was stationed at Fort Riley Kansas and his son joined him there in February, 1941. The Commanding General of the Fourth Army Corps Area informed the President of Tuskegee Institute, in a letter dated June 1941, of Captain Davis’ assignment to the Army Air Corps.[10]  Then-Captain Benjamin O. Davis notes in his memoirs, written decades later,

In 1941 the Army still regarded all blacks as totally inferior to whites—somewhat less than human, and certainly incapable of contributing positively to its combat mission.  But we were only months away from war with Japan. Germany and their allies, and events in the approaching conflict would prove once and for all the fallacy of that position.[11]

The Army Air Corps requested that Brigadier General Davis release Captain Davis to be trained as a pursuit fighter pilot.  His mission, after receiving his “wings,” would be to command the newly forming 99th Pursuit Squadron.  Elated, he reported to Tuskegee Institute and the Tuskegee Flying School being established nearby to begin the “Tuskegee Experiment.”  Along with Captain Davis there were twelve other men, all college graduates, selected for the first class.  By design, this class had been reduced to only five men by the day of graduation on March 7, 1942.  It was, and still is, the practice of military aviation training programs to put three times as many people in the training pipeline as they need to graduate, be commissioned and rated as military aviators.  In this way, the trainers can cull out all but the very best.  Consistently, the Tuskegee Experiment produced the very best African American fighter pilots that were available.   It was the intention of the Army Air Corps to “wash out” even the best and the brightest of the college-educated African American aviation cadets.   The Army was determined to prove that (because of the myth concerning the smaller brain size of African Americans) black people could not fly military airplanes and did not have the intelligence needed for aerial combat.[12]

Primary flight training for the first class of African American Army Air Corps pilots, affectionately called “Black Eagles” by the African American press, began in late spring of 1941.  On July 1, 1941, at the Booker T. Washington Monument in the center of  the Tuskegee Institute campus, Moton Field was officially inaugurated by the Army Air Corps as the primary training airfield for new trainee pilots.  Most of the trainees washed out in this phases, which was designed to determine if they could master the basic complexities of aviation.  If they successfully completed this phase of training they were moved to a class in the Aviation Cadet Corps at the newly-constructed Army Air Field.  Upon his graduation from the Basic Pursuit Pilot training program in March, 1942 Captain Davis was appointed Tuskegee Flying School Commandant of Cadets.  Two months later he was promoted twice, to Major and Lieutenant Colonel.  He was then reassigned as Executive for Troops.  This was an Army Air Corps ploy to prevent him from having white officers under his command as one of the senior officers stationed at the Tuskegee Army Air field.     

Moton Field, under the supervision of  primary flying Chief  Training Instructor Alfred “Chief” Anderson, was located two and a half miles from the Tuskegee Institute campus.  The college received a grant from a philanthropist to purchase the land in order to provide the primary aviation training.  Throughout World War II, Moton Field continued to supply the Army Air Corps with young college men who had demonstrated that they were capable of being trained to fly military aircraft.   Daily, the Tuskegee Experiment was proving that the conclusion of the 1925 Army War College Study was seriously flawed and that the still-held Army Air Corps position regarding African American learning to fly planes was wrong. 

 It was perhaps even more challenging to the program that practically all the white residents of Macon County, where the Tuskegee Experiment took place, wanted it shut down.  It intimidated these undereducated white farmers and town residents to see colored men flying military planes fly over their towns and farms.  White southerners had always harbored a deep seated fear, since slavery, that African Americans planned to one day do bodily harm to them in return for the way they were treated.  Seeing African Americans in fighter planes or riding along the roads with rifles and automatic pistols made them angry and frightened.  Their attempts to curtail the program fell on deaf ears because it was wartime and the president wanted the program to continue even if the Army Air Corps and the Alabama residents did not.

An African American construction company was contracted by the Army Air Forces to construct the base, which was a “cookie cutter” replica of  dozens of new Army bases being constructed all over the United States to perform various wartime missions.  The Tuskegee Army Air Field (TAAF) became operational in November, 1941.  Although Spartan in its appearance and facilities, operationally it was very functional.  One outstanding thing that made the Tuskegee Army Air Field different from other air bases operated by the Army Air Corps was the rigid code of racial segregation that was enforced.  The first base commander, Major James A. Ellison, was fired when the Tuskegee officials complained that he protested after an incident when  white civilians disarmed an African American military policeman in the town.  The harsh reality of the Tuskegee Army Air Field was that its environment was an exact reflection of the attitudes that existed in the nearby racially-segregated communities.  “White Only” and “For Colored” signs marked all of the drinking fountains, rest-rooms and snack bars.  There were separate quarters for the African American officers to keep them from living with the white officers assigned to the base.  African American officers were not allowed to the white-only Officers Club on the base.  Separate facilities were provided for the African American to enforce segregation.

In spite of the difficult conditions on the new base, a very carefully-developed training program commenced that rigorously determined whether aviation officer candidates were qualified to be awarded the Army Air Corps pursuit pilot rating and be commissioned as Army Air Forces officers.  Initially, in addition to basic Army officer candidate training, the aviation cadets were trained on PT-17 trainer.  They moved, during basic flying training, to the more powerful BT-13.  After mastering night flying and formation flying in the BT-13, the Tuskegee cadets were moved to the AT-6, with its 650 horsepower engine.  At this point they had completed aviation officer candidate training and were graduated with commissions as second lieutenants in the Army Air Forces Reserve and their coveted “wings” of silver, designating them as Army Air Forces pilots.

After being commissioned the new aviation officers remained at Tuskegee to complete advance training and become familiar with the plane that had been assigned as the weapon of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, the P-40 Tomahawk.  The P-40 also known as “The Flying Coffin.”  It was given this nickname because of the tendency of its powerful engine to catch on fire and to veer off to the side during taxi, or flip over on its wings during landing.  Its advantage as a military plane was its power in the air and its ability to perform close turns which made it an excellent plane for aerial battles.  Unfortunately, the P-40 assigned for training at the Tuskegee Army Airfield Flying School were relics from combat that were badly in need of spare parts that were hard to obtain.  The planes also leaked oil badly.[13]  Many tragic accidents occurred at Tuskegee because of the conditions of these planes.  Captain Davis, however, was impressed with the P-40.  He felt that the training the pilots received at Tuskegee was excellent, even though he and his wife were very unhappy about the segregated living conditions on the base and in the local community.[14]

The third commander of the Tuskegee Army Air Field was Colonel Noel Parrish, who assumed command on December 26, 1942.  Although he adhered to the Air Forces policy of maintaining a segregated military base, in order to appease the local white community he was very sympathetic to the plight of the African Americans that were stationed at Tuskegee.  He contracted with popular African American entertainers to perform at the Tuskegee base.  Colonel Parrish directed his morale officer and his physical fitness officer to provide morale-building activities such as intramural and college level-competition athletic teams in addition to educational and recreational activities.   Later, when senior Army Air Force leaders criticized the 99th’s pilots, Colonel Parrish defended them as excellent pilots.

All of the pilots stationed at the Tuskegee Army Air Field were anxious to get into the war so that they could prove that they were able to perform as combat pilots or as ground support officers.  In September, 1942 the 3rd Air Force Headquarters, to which the 99th Pursuit Squadron was assigned, pronounced the unit ready for deployment.  Colonel Davis notes, “Within the bounds of segregation and racial prejudice, the AAF [Army Air Forces] did a good job of preparing the 99th and assigning it to combat operations in an active theater…I thought we were as ready as we were ever going to be in the tense TAAF environment.  Antagonism between airfield personnel and white Tuskegee [still] continued.”[15] 

By February 1943, it had become apparent to all that definite plans were being made for the 99th to enter combat.  The pilots and ground crews were given extensive training in combat tactics.”[16]   Secretary of War Stimson remarked during his February, 1943 visit to TAAF that the 99th Pursuit Squadron looked as good as any he had ever seen, indicating that they were ready to be sent overseas to fight.[17]  Their chance to establish their humanity and their right to be treated as equal American citizens was drawing near.  

On April 2, 1943 the 99th Pursuit Squadron, the Black Eagles of World War II, left the racially tumultuous nest of the Tuskegee Army Airfield.  They traveled by train to their Port of Embarkation.  The 99th Pursuit Squadron boarded a converted luxury liner in Brooklyn.  The unit departed the United States on April 15, 1943 bound for the North African Army Theater of Operation.  The immediate destination was Casablanca, Morocco.  Ironically, it was to the African “Motherland” that these African American warriors  had come to reassert the status of human-ness that had been cruelly stripped from their ancestors three centuries prior.

At their new base in Oued N’ja (Own-jah) Morocco, the Black Eagles were given brand-new P-40’s.  They performed simulated dog-fights with the all-white fighter squadrons in the area and got along particularly well with the men of the white 27th Fighter Group.  After a month of getting settled in, the pilots of the 99th Pursuit Squadron flew from their North African base to perform their first combat mission, their “baptism of fire” in the Mediterranean skies.  Two 99th pilots, Lieutenants William Campbell and Charles Hall flew as an element of the 33rd Fighter group commander by Colonel William W. Momyer. 

The mission of the 33rd fighter Group on June 2, 1943 was to attack the Axis forces on the island of  Pantelleria off the coast of northern Africa.  The pursuit fighters were equipped with small 500 pound bombs, to be dropped on designated targets on Pantelleria.  Because of the smallness of the bombs it was difficult to hit targets from high altitudes.  No known hits were reported, however Colonel Davis notes, “I was proud of the quality of their performance.”[18]  On June 9, 1943 Lieutenants Willie Ashley of the 99th damaged a German fighter plan that was attacking an American bomber curtailing the attack.  For the Black Eagles, the fight was on.  Lieutenant Charles Dryden led his six-plane element in a dog-fight against the Nazis where two German planes were damaged by missiles hurled from the 99th’s weapons bays. 

Sadly, the following month, on July 2, 1943, the Black Eagles lost their first two pilots.  Lieutenant Sherman White and James McCullin were shot down by the German over Sicily while flying on a bomber escort mission.  They became the first African American United States military officers to be killed in aerial combat.  While their losses were mourned, however, the 99th Pursuit Squadron was able to rejoice in the fact that Lieutenant Charles Hall achieved the distinction of shooting down a German FW-190.  He also damaged a Me-109 in that engagement.  Generals Eisenhower, Spaatz, Doolittle and Cannon paid the unit a visit later that day to congratulate the victorious Lieutenant Hall and further encourage the African American combat pilots. 

During the Allied invasion of Sicily which began at approximately 2:45 AM on July 10, 1943, the 99th Pursuit Squadron guarded the invasion fleet from an Axis attack from the air.  The invasion fleet numbered over 1400 seagoing vessels of all types.  Genera Omar Bradley, one of the invasion leaders, observed, “By far it was the largest aggregation of sea power the world had ever seen.”[19]   During the Sicily invasion the mission of the 99th included strafing, dive-bombing and bomber escort duty.   As a portent of things to come, General Omar Bradley was of the impression that “the air support provided us on Sicily was scandalously casual, careless and ineffective.”  This was due to almost nonexistent air support pre-coordination.[20]

  After most of Sicily has been cleared of Axis forces, the 99th moved from its base in Morocco to Licata, Sicily.  By August 17, 1943 the entire island of Sicily had been cleared of Axis forces by the Allied invasion forces.  This strategic advantage paved the way for an allied invasion of southern Europe.  After the Allies invaded Italy on September 3, 1943 the strategic emphasis of the air war planners shifted from the Mediterranean theater to central Europe,  Because of the limited range of their P-40’s, the Black Eagles were kept out of action during the Italian invasion.   The African American pilots did escort bombers from Sicily to Nola and Salerno, Italy.  On September 18, 1943, during a bomber escort mission Lieutenant Sidney Brooks of the 99th Pursuit Squadron died as the result of a crash landing at his home base.  In spite of their grief at the loss of the well-liked Lt. Brooks, the Black Eagles of the 99th Pursuit Squadron flew on, still fighting to dispel the prevailing Army Air Corps perception that, as an allegedly-inferior race, African Americans were innately ill-equipped to perform proficiently in aerial combat.

On September 3, 1943 Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.  was ordered to return to the Selgridge Air Base in Michigan to assume command of the 332nd Fighter Group, which was an all-African American unit whose pilots were also trained at the Tuskegee Army Airfield.  He relieved the unit’s white commanding officer, Colonel Robert R. Selway, Jr.  Selway had made life miserable for the African American officers under his command, and their families.  He would allow officer-designated housing unit on the Selfridge Air Base to remain vacant rather than let an African American officer and his family live in it.[21] 

The 332nd Fighter Group was composed of the 100th, the 301st and 302nd Fighter Squadrons.  Later, the 99th Pursuit Squadron would become part of the 332nd Fighter Group in Italy.  Colonel Davis was in the United States waiting to deploy his new command to the theater of war when he learned that the combat performance of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, under his command, had been severely criticized by Colonel William Momyer as part of a readiness evaluation conducted by General Edwin J. House, the Commander of the Twelfth Air Support Command.  Colonel Momyer had written:

The ground discipline and ability to accomplish and execute orders promptly are excellent.  Air discipline has not been completely satisfactory.  The ability to work and fight as a team has not yet been acquired.  Their formation flying has been very satisfactory until jumped by enemy aircraft, when the squadron seems to disintegrate.  This has repeatedly been brought to the attention of the Squadron [sic], but attempts to correct this deficiency so far have been unfruitful…The unit has shown a lack of aggressive spirit that is necessary for a well-organized fighter squadron.  Based on the performance of the 99th Fighter Squadron to date, it is my opinion that they are not of the fighting caliber of any squadron in this Group.  They have failed to display the aggressiveness and desire for combat that are necessary to a first-class fighting organization.  It may be expected that we will get less work and less operational time out of the 99th Fighter Squadron than any squadron in this Group.[22]

Colonel Momyers report was endorsed by General House, the 99th Pursuit Squadron’s official evaluator.  General  House added the following adverse assessment:

On [sic] many discussions held with officers of all professions, including the medical, the consensus of opinion seems to be that the negro type has not the proper reflexes to make a first-class fighter pilot…I believe it would be much better to assign the 99th to the Northwest African Coastal Force, equip it with P-39’s and make the present P-40’s available to this Command as replacements for the active operations still to come in this theater.  It is recommended that if and when a colored group is formed in the United States, it be retained for either the eastern or western defense zone and a white fighter group be released for movement overseas.[23]

General House was supported in his and Colonel Momyers’ assessments of the African American pilots by General J. K. Cannon, the Deputy Commander, Northwest African Tactical Air Force.   General House noted, “The pilots of the 99th fell well below the standards of other fighter squadrons, because they were not eager to engage in combat, lacked aggressiveness, did not possess and seemed unable to acquire the will to win or reach an objective, did not have the necessary stamina and were unable to fight as a team under pressure.”[24] 

Lieutenant General Carl Spaatz, the Commander of the Northwest African Air Force and who later succeeded General Henry “Hap” Arnold as the Army Air Forces Chief of Staff, concurred with Generals House and Cannon’s evaluations of the performance of the African American pilots which he commanded.  General Spaatz defended the training that the Army Air Corps had provided these men at the Tuskegee Army Air Corps Flying School.   He maintained that no squadron had been introduced more carefully into the theater with a better background of training [to fly fighter planes in combat]. 

Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., the commander of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, was then required by the War Department to respond to this negative assessment of the 99th’s performance in the Northwest African Army Theater of Operations.   He appeared before the War Department Committee on Special Troop Policies, which was headed by Assistant Secretary of State John J. McCloy.  The committee had been established in August, 1942 by the War Department to hear screen ideas from the members of the War Department staff concerning the utilization of African American troops in World War II.  The committee had read the negative report about the performance of the African American pilots in combat operations overseas.  They wanted to hear the squadron commander’s side of the story. 

Colonel Davis, the 99th Pursuit Squadron Commanding Officer, offered no excuses for his or his squadron’s performance on their assigned missions.  He did assert that he was certain that combat experience, which, initially, he and his unit completely lacked, would clear up their combat deficiencies.  He also noted that the lack of combat experience caused his pilots to lack the confidence displayed by more seasoned fighter pilots.[25]   Brigadier General Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. wrote a long memo directly to Secretary McCloy and in which he protested against the adverse report on the 99th’s performance in the war.  He commented, “The colored officers and soldiers feel that they are denied the protection and rewards that ordinarily result from good behavior and proper performance of duty…I believe the problem is large enough and serious enough …to study the conditions surrounding the colored soldier.[26]  

After Colonel Davis testified before the McCloy Committee, the 99th Pursuit Squadron was reevaluated based upon operational statistics compiled by the Operations Staff (G-3) of the Army.  The G-3 report concluded that, “An examination of the record of the 99th Fighter Squadron reveals no significant general difference between this squadron and the balance of the P-40 squadrons in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations.”

Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. (General, USAF, Retired) writes in his memoirs, “All those who wished to denigrate the quality of the 99th’s operations were silenced once and for all by its aerial victories over Anzio [Italy] on two successive days in January, 1944.  There would be no more talk of lack of aggressiveness, absence of teamwork, or disintegrating under fire.”[27]   Captain Charles Hall, the first African American to have shot down a German plane, destroyed two more enemy airplanes during the Anzio battle.  Lieutenants Diez and Smith of the 99th Pursuit Squadron each destroyed one enemy plane during the battle. 

Major General Cannon, who earlier had endorsed an unfavorable report on the combat performance of the 99th revised his opinion of the squadron after the air battle over the Anzio Beachhead.  He congratulated the victorious African American pilots.  The success of the 99th Pursuit Squadron over Anzio brought an official commendation from General Arnold, the Army Air Forces chief of Staff.  General Arnold had initially opposed using African American fighter pilots in World War II because of his fear that they would have command over white men.[28]  On the other hand, General Arnold  had demonstrated his fairness when he had ruled favorably concerning the retention of the pilot rating of an African American pilot who had been grounded at the Tuskegee Army Air Corps Flying School for having difficulties flying the P-40.[29]

On February 7, 1944 the 99th Pursuit Squadron was credited with two more aerial victories, resulting in the destruction of two FW-190s.  The Army Air Forces perception of the unit was now becoming more favorable.   From its entrance into combat in June, 1943 until February, 1944 the 99th Pursuit Squadron was receiving the necessary combat experience and seasoning to make it a highly effective unit.  It had achieved a record of 17 probable destroyed enemy planes, 4 confirmed destroyed enemy planes and 6 confirmed damaged enemy planes.  In addition, one enemy ship was sunk by the 99th Pursuit squadron.  The 99th Pursuit Squadron was re-designated as the 99th Fighter Squadron when it was integrated into the 332nd Fighter Group, headed by its former commander, Colonel B. O. Davis, Jr. on July 3, 1944.  It continued to distinguish itself throughout the remainder of the war. 

Upon assuming command of the 332nd Fighter Group in October, 1943 Colonel Davis became the first African American appointed by the United States Armed Forces to command a regiment-sized unit in combat.  Still, the Army Air Corps racial segregation policy remained in effect.  The 332nd was an entirely all-African American unit, which required special considerations always be made for them, even including the assignment of Red Cross “Donut Dollies.”[30]

The 332nd Fighter Group embarked aboard a troop transport ship in Virginia and departed the United Sates for Taranto, Italy on January 3, 1944.  Former Lieutenant Marshall Cabiness recalls the voyage as being a “cold, dreary ride.”[31]   The 332nd Fighter Group arrived at Taranto, Italy after a three week voyage at sea, which was required by the need to evade enemy attack submarines.  Normally the trans-Atlantic crossing would have been accomplished in ten days.  The Group disembarked at Taranto and was assigned to the Naples, Italy area.  The Group headquarters was at the Capodichio Airport at the foot of Mount Vesuvius in Naples.  Mount Vesuvius is a very active volcano which erupted shortly after the unit arrived, spraying volcanic ash over a large area.  On the whole, however, conditions were very pleasant for the members of the 332nd Fighter Group in Italy. The climate was desirable and the Neapolitan people warmly accepted the African American pilots and soldiers.  In Italy, for the first time the African Americans were treated as equal human beings by “white” people. 

The 332nd Fighter Group assigned one of its squadrons, the 301st, to provide close air support for ground troops fighting in the Anzio, Italy area.  It remained in Montevino, Italy under the command of Major Lee Rayford.[32]  The 332nd lost two pilots soon after arriving in the theater of operations.  Lieutenant Harry J. Daniels was lost during a routine training mission on February 24, 1944.  Sonn afterwards, on March 18, Lieutenant Clemenceau Givings was killed when his plane went into a spin and crashed into the Adriatic Sea while returning from a mission.  In spite of the grief at losing their friends and comrades in arms, the pilots of of the all-African American Fighter Group knew that all eyes were on them, either wanting them to do well, or hoping they would fail, thus disproving the null hypothesis of “The Tuskegee Experiment,” that negroes cannot not fly airplanes and perform like white people in combat due to innate deficiencies which maked them not quite human.[33]

Initially, much to the chagrin of  Lieutenant Colonel Davis, the 332nd was assigned to coastal patrol duties, which had been the recommendation of General Hunter in his evaluation of the performance of the “experimental” 99th Pursuit Squadron.  In February, 1944 the unit was relieved of this duty and assigned to the 62nd Fighter wing, 12th Air Force.  As an element of this unit the Black Eagles (now a combat group) performed multiple missions involving convoy and harbor protection.[34]  On May 31, 11944 the 332nd was assigned as an element of the 15th Fighter Command, under Brigadier General Dean C. Strother.  Lieutenant Colonel Davis was promoted to full Colonel simultaneously with his unit’s new assignment, which was to escorts bombers destroying Germany’s industrial cities.   His new theater commander was General Ira C. Eaker, the Commander of the Mediterranean Air Force.  General Eaker commended Colonel Davis and his African American pilots and crews. 

 In April, 1944 General Eaker announced to personnel from the 99th Fighter Squadron, “By the magnificent showing your flyers have made since coming to this theater, and especially in the Anzio Beachhead operation, you have not only won the plaudits of the Air Forces, but you have earned the opportunity to do much more advanced work than was at one time planned for you.”[35]  General Eaker also informed General Barney Giles of the Air Staff, who was opposed to a combat role for the African American pilots, that “in the Anzio Beachhead battle the Colored combat pilots have demonstrated that they fight better against the Germans in the air than they do on ground support missions…I am confident they will do a good job as close support bomber escorts.”[36]

From May 31, 1944 until the 332nd Fighter Group flew its last mission in April, 1945 the Black Eagles of Tuskegee gained fame as red-tailed fighter escorts for the bombers of the 15th Strategic Air Force.  It is a matter of record that these African American combat pilots, who were once thought incapable of flying airplanes, never lost a single bomber to Hitler’s Luftwaffe.  When given the opportunity, and after gaining experience, they proved that they could perform as well or better than their fellow white combat pilots.  Unfortunately, old race-based attitudes die hard and Wing Commander, Brigadier General Dean C. Strother, rated the combat performance of the African American fighter escorts as “merely satisfactory and remarked that even with additional experience they never came up to the proficiency level of the white pilots.  He remained convinced of the prior official Air Forces leadership’s opinion that the African American pilots were “substandard in leadership, initiative, aggressiveness, and dependability.”[37]  

Although the Army Air Forces “Tuskegee Experiment” failed to prove that African Americans, because a natural racial inferiority, were not capable of flying combat airplanes to Air Force standards or of fighting successfully against armed and hostile enemies in combat, the experiment did prove that these officers and gentlemen were human beings and in Italy, where they were stationed, the indigenous people recognized them as such and admired them.  Lieutenant Cabiness fondly remembered being called El Tenente Bruno (Mr. Brown Lieutenant). 

Sadly, conditions upon the return to Tuskegee in the summer of 1945 were still intolerable for the pilots. In fact, Lieutenant Cabiness was forced to help his own brother escape a very probable lynching in Tuskegee shortly after his release from active duty in 1945.  The humiliation that the leader of the 99th Pursuit Squadron and 332nd Fighter Group experienced is reflected in the following poem, written by Mrs. Agatha Davis, the wife of Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. in which the speaker is the protesting on behalf of all of the Black Eagles of Tuskegee:

Dear Mom, this is a Hell of a hole.

Well, it really didn’t take very long for us all to see

That the morale and place were not what they’re supposed to be.


The Air Corps officers seemed to be a mighty fine bunch,

I thought when I talked to a group of them after a light lunch.


The tales they told of the feeling of hate were sad but true;

In the South, they said, that was the lot that all black men drew.


It makes them ever so bitter, angry, and hateful too

Because about it, there is not a single thing that they can do.


To tell of the awful treatment that the colored men took,

Honestly would fill page after page and book after book.


He’s neither man nor American in this State you know;

He’s a nigger or a coon, a darkly or something low,


He has no right, no peace, no voice, no, not even a vote.

The crackers in this area on the race issue dote.


In other words, the law says do all and what you can

To make a Negro feel small, down and much less of a man.[38]


When World War II ended in the summer of 1945, the African American officers, who were primarily reservists, were discharged with the exception of a small number of them.  They learned that, although they had served their nation well and had proved beyond a doubt that they could fly airplanes and command troops in combat, they still were not considered “human enough” to have authority over white military personnel, or be allowed to socialize with them in the Officers Clubs on Air Force bases throughout America.  For a while they were relegated to menial administrative jobs at the Tuskegee Army Airfield and then re-located to Godman Field, Kentucky and Freeman Field, Indiana where more racial trouble awaited them, simply because they were African Americans. 

  Tragically, two decades after “The Tuskegee Experiment” a Negro veteran was murdered in downtown Tuskegee by Ku Klux Klan for trying to vote.   As recently as the Vietnam War, the Army and Navy’s race-based policies continued.  In the face of all obstacles, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. was able be retired as a Four Star General in the U. S. Air Force, along with another of the Black Eagles of Tuskegee, General Daniel “Chappie” James.  Once, as a Colonel in 1957, who had achieved “Fighter Ace” status in the Air Force, “Chappie” James announced, “The Air Force does not want to make me a General but I am going stay on board until they change their mind and promote me.  I deserve it and they know it.”[39]

The achievements of African American pilots recorded in the annals of  U. S. Army Air Forces and U. S. Air Force Military History, and the documented background of the intentional conspiracy to dehumanize the African American in every possible way to prevent his/her achieving social equality and justice in America disprove the null hypothesis without a doubt.  Furthermore, it has been established that the notion of African sub-humanity is an unfounded, but tenacious myth that has no basis in scientific fact.



Bradley, Omar N., and Clay Blair. A General Life:  An Autobiography of General of the Army Omar N. Bradley.  New York:  Simon and Schuster, 1983.


Cabiness, Marshall S. (1st LT, USAAF Reserve)  Marshall S. Cabiness Military Service Record, 201 File, 1942-1957, Letter from General Henry  Arnold, Chief of Staff, Army Air Forces  to Commanding Officer, Army Air Base, Selfridge Field, Michigan ,  September, 21, 1943. 


Davis, Jr.,  Benjamin O.  Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., American:  An Autobiography.  Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institute Press, 1991.


Douglass, Frederick.   Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.  Boston: The Anti-Slavery Office, 1845; New York: Dover Publications, 1845.


Dryden, Charles W.  A-Train:  Memoirs of a Tuskegee Airman.  Tuscaloosa, AL:  University of Alabama Press, 1997.


Embree, Edwin R. Brown Americans, The Story of a Tenth of the Nation.  New York: The Viking Press, 1943.


Fletcher, Marvin E.  America’s First Black General:  Benjamin O. Davis, Sir., 1880-1970.  Lawrence, KS:  University of Kansas Press, 1989.


Francis, Charles E.   The Men Who Changed a Nation:  The Tuskegee Airmen.  Boston:  Brandon Publishing, 1993.


Lynch, William. 1712 James River Speech in The Willie Lynch Letter and The Making of a Slave. Chicago: Lushena Books, 1999.


Morris J. MacGregor.  Integration of the Armed Forces: 1940-1965.  Washington. DC: U. S. Army Center for Military History, 1980.


Osur, Alan M.  Blacks in the Army Air Force During World War II:  The Problem of Race Relations.   Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History, 1977.


Patton, Gerald W.  War and Race:  The Black Officer in the American Military, 1915-1941. Westport, CT:  Greenwood Press, 1981 44.


Phelps, J. Alfred.  Chappie, America’s First Black Four-Star General:  The Life and Times of Daniel James, Jr.  Novato, CA:  Presidio Press, 1991.





























[1] Alan M. Osur, Blacks in the Army Air Force During World War II:  The Problem of Race Relations (Washington, DC:  Office of Air Force History, 1977), 2.


[2] Charles W. Dryden, A-Train:  Memoirs of a Tuskegee Airman ( Tuscaloosa, AL:  University of Alabama Press, 1997), 392.


[3] William Lynch.  1712 James River Speech in The Willie Lynch Letter and The Making of a Slave (Chicago: Lushena Books, 1999), 17.


[4] Edwin R. Embree, Brown Americans, The Story of a Tenth of the Nation (New York: The Viking Press, 1943),  54.


[5] Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Boston: The Anti-Slavery Office, 1845; New York: Dover Publications, 1845) 43.


[6] Gerald W. Patton, War and Race:  The Black Officer in the American Military, 1915-1941 (Westport, CT:  Greenwood Press, 1981), 44.


[7] Reserve Officers Training Corps – A training pipeline for recruiting and training reserve military officers on college campuses in the United States.


[8] Morris J. MacGregor, Integration of the Armed Forces: 1940-1965 (Washington. DC: U. S. Army Center for Military History, 1980), 27.


[9] NAACP – National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the major civil rights organization in America since the early 1900’s.  W. E. B. DuBois was one of its founders in 1901.


[10] L. Albert Scipio II, Pre-War Days at Tuskegee:  Historical Essay on Tuskegee Institute (1881-1943) (Silver Spring, MD:  Roman Publications, 1987), 462. 


[11] Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., American:  An Autobiography (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institute Press, 1991), 69.


[12] Herbert E. Carter, LTCOL, USAF (Ret), Personal reflections on “The Tuskegee Experiment,” of which he was a part, shared with Marshall Abuwi on November 18, 2006.

[13] Davis, 88,


[14] Davis, 77.


[15] Davis, 89.


[16] Charles E. Francis, LTCOL, USAF (Ret) The Men Who Changed a Nation:  The Tuskegee Airmen (Boston:  Brandon Publishing, 1993), 43 and Personal reflections on “The Tuskegee Experiment,” of which he was a part, shared with Marshall Abuwi on November 16, 2006.



[17] Francis, 43.


[18] Davis, 99.


[19] Omar N. Bradley and Clay Blair, A General Life:  An Autobiography of General of the Army Omar N. Bradley (New York:  Simon and Schuster, 1983), 178.


[20] Bradley and Blair, 178.


16 Osur, 48.


[21] J. Alfred Phelps, Chappie, America’s First Black Four-Star General:  The Life and Times of Daniel James, Jr. (Novato, CA:  Presidio Press, 1991), 56.


[22] Osur, 48.


[23] Osur, 49.


[24] Osur, 49.


[25] Osur, 50.


[26] Marvin E. Fletcher, America’s First Black General:  Benjamin O. Davis, Sir., 188-1970 (Lawrence, KS:  University of Kansas Press, 1989), 117).


[27] Davis, 93. 


[28]  MacGregor, 27.


[29] Marshall S. Cabiness, Military Service Record, 201 File, 1942-1957, Letter from General Henry  Arnold, Chief of Staff, Army Air Forces to Commanding Officer, Army Air Base, Selfridge Field, Michigan endorsing request by Lt. Marshall Cabiness, USAAF Reserve, to retain privilege to wear pilot qualification wings after having been grounded in advanced phase (P-40) training at TAAF, March 1943.


[30] The Red Cross “Donut Dollies” were college-age women who performed volunteer work for the American Red Cross.  They visited overseas and isolated military installations and dispensed small talk, coffee and donuts, magazines and paper back novels to help the morale of the troops.  Although they wore Red Cross uniforms they did not carry the air of military personnel and thus were very relaxing for the enlisted troops in particular.


[31]  Cabiness, Personal reflections on his military service, Various conversations with Marshall Abuwi (Marshall Cabiness, Jr.) 1960-1988.

[32] Francis, 108.


[33] Dryden, 392.  Personal reflections as told to Marshall Abuwi on November 16, 2006.


[34] Davis, 115.  This was an essential mission as it was vital that the naval supply lines providing support for the ground fighting at Anzio be kept open and unmolested by Axis fighter planes.


[35] Davis, 119.  Essentially, the 332nd pilots saved General Eaker’s career because they took on a bomber escort role that no other fighter pilots desired when General Eaker was suffering very heavy losses of his strategic bombers to the Luftwaffe.  Later, he turned his back on them when they sought to integrate the Air Force.


[36] Francis, 113.


[37] Osur, 51.


[38] Davis, 78.


[39] Daniel James, Jr. (General, USAAF Retired),  Personal reflections shared with Marshall Abuwi in 1957.

The African American (Negro) Problem Discussed

The Vision for a New People

The Vision for a New People






  I      Industrial Education for the Negro

         _Booker T. Washington_         7


 II      The Talented Tenth

         _W.E. Burghardt DuBois_       31


III      The Disfranchisement of the Negro

         _ Charles W. Chesnutt_        77


 IV      The Negro and the Law

         _Wilford H. Smith_           125


  V      The Characteristics of the Negro People

         _H.T. Kealing_               161


 VI      Representative American Negroes

         _Paul Laurence Dunbar_       187


VII      The Negro’s Place in American Life at the Present Day

         _T. Thomas Fortune_          211



[_Transcriber's Note: Variant spellings have been left in the text. Obvious

typos have been corrected and indicated with a footnote._]






_Industrial Education for the Negro_




Principal of Tuskegee Institute


  The necessity for the race’s learning the difference between being

  worked and working. He would not confine the Negro to industrial life,

  but believes that the very best service which any one can render to what

  is called the “higher education” is to teach the present generation to

  work and save. This will create the wealth from which alone can come

  leisure and the opportunity for higher education.



One of the most fundamental and far-reaching deeds that has been

accomplished during the last quarter of a century has been that by which

the Negro has been helped to find himself and to learn the secrets of

civilization–to learn that there are a few simple, cardinal principles

upon which a race must start its upward course, unless it would fail, and

its last estate be worse than its first.


It has been necessary for the Negro to learn the difference between being

worked and working–to learn that being worked meant degradation, while

working means civilization; that all forms of labor are honorable, and all

forms of idleness disgraceful. It has been necessary for him to learn that

all races that have got upon their feet have done so largely by laying an

economic foundation, and, in general, by beginning in a proper cultivation

and ownership of the soil.


Forty years ago my race emerged from slavery into freedom. If, in too many

cases, the Negro race began development at the wrong end, it was largely

because neither white nor black properly understood the case. Nor is it

any wonder that this was so, for never before in the history of the world

had just such a problem been presented as that of the two races at the

coming of freedom in this country.


For two hundred and fifty years, I believe the way for the redemption of

the Negro was being prepared through industrial development. Through all

those years the Southern white man did business with the Negro in a way

that no one else has done business with him. In most cases if a Southern

white man wanted a house built he consulted a Negro mechanic about the

plan and about the actual building of the structure. If he wanted a suit

of clothes made he went to a Negro tailor, and for shoes he went to a

shoemaker of the same race. In a certain way every slave plantation in the

South was an industrial school. On these plantations young colored men and

women were constantly being trained not only as farmers but as carpenters,

blacksmiths, wheelwrights, brick masons, engineers, cooks, laundresses,

sewing women and housekeepers.


I do not mean in any way to apologize for the curse of slavery, which was

a curse to both races, but in what I say about industrial training in

slavery I am simply stating facts. This training was crude, and was given

for selfish purposes. It did not answer the highest ends, because there

was an absence of mental training in connection with the training of the

hand. To a large degree, though, this business contact with the Southern

white man, and the industrial training on the plantations, left the Negro

at the close of the war in possession of nearly all the common and skilled

labor in the South. The industries that gave the South its power,

prominence and wealth prior to the Civil War were mainly the raising of

cotton, sugar cane, rice and tobacco. Before the way could be prepared for

the proper growing and marketing of these crops forests had to be cleared,

houses to be built, public roads and railroads constructed. In all these

works the Negro did most of the heavy work. In the planting, cultivating

and marketing of the crops not only was the Negro the chief dependence,

but in the manufacture of tobacco he became a skilled and proficient

workman, and in this, up to the present time, in the South, holds the lead

in the large tobacco manufactories.


In most of the industries, though, what happened? For nearly twenty years

after the war, except in a few instances, the value of the industrial

training given by the plantations was overlooked. Negro men and women were

educated in literature, in mathematics and in the sciences, with little

thought of what had been taking place during the preceding two hundred and

fifty years, except, perhaps, as something to be escaped, to be got as

far away from as possible. As a generation began to pass, those who had

been trained as mechanics in slavery began to disappear by death, and

gradually it began to be realized that there were few to take their

places. There were young men educated in foreign tongues, but few in

carpentry or in mechanical or architectural drawing. Many were trained in

Latin, but few as engineers and blacksmiths. Too many were taken from the

farm and educated, but educated in everything but farming. For this reason

they had no interest in farming and did not return to it. And yet

eighty-five per cent. of the Negro population of the Southern states lives

and for a considerable time will continue to live in the country

districts. The charge is often brought against the members of my race–and

too often justly, I confess–that they are found leaving the country

districts and flocking into the great cities where temptations are more

frequent and harder to resist, and where the Negro people too often become

demoralized. Think, though, how frequently it is the case that from the

first day that a pupil begins to go to school his books teach him much

about the cities of the world and city life, and almost nothing about the

country. How natural it is, then, that when he has the ordering of his

life he wants to live it in the city.


Only a short time before his death the late Mr. C.P. Huntington, to whose

memory a magnificent library has just been given by his widow to the

Hampton Institute for Negroes, in Virginia, said in a public address some

words which seem to me so wise that I want to quote them here:


“Our schools teach everybody a little of almost everything, but, in my

opinion, they teach very few children just what they ought to know in

order to make their way successfully in life. They do not put into their

hands the tools they are best fitted to use, and hence so many failures.

Many a mother and sister have worked and slaved, living upon scanty food,

in order to give a son and brother a “liberal education,” and in doing

this have built up a barrier between the boy and the work he was fitted to

do. Let me say to you that all honest work is honorable work. If the labor

is manual, and seems common, you will have all the more chance to be

thinking of other things, or of work that is higher and brings better pay,

and to work out in your minds better and higher duties and

responsibilities for yourselves, and for thinking of ways by which you can

help others as well as yourselves, and bring them up to your own higher



Some years ago, when we decided to make tailoring a part of our training

at the Tuskegee Institute, I was amazed to find that it was almost

impossible to find in the whole country an educated colored man who could

teach the making of clothing. We could find numbers of them who could

teach astronomy, theology, Latin or grammar, but almost none who could

instruct in the making of clothing, something that has to be used by every

one of us every day in the year. How often have I been discouraged as I

have gone through the South, and into the homes of the people of my race,

and have found women who could converse intelligently upon abstruse

subjects, and yet could not tell how to improve the condition of the

poorly cooked and still more poorly served bread and meat which they and

their families were eating three times a day. It is discouraging to find a

girl who can tell you the geographical location of any country on the

globe and who does not know where to place the dishes upon a common dinner

table. It is discouraging to find a woman who knows much about theoretical

chemistry, and who cannot properly wash and iron a shirt.


In what I say here I would not by any means have it understood that I

would limit or circumscribe the mental development of the Negro-student.

No race can be lifted until its mind is awakened and strengthened. By the

side of industrial training should always go mental and moral training,

but the pushing of mere abstract knowledge into the head means little. We

want more than the mere performance of mental gymnastics. Our knowledge

must be harnessed to the things of real life. I would encourage the Negro

to secure all the mental strength, all the mental culture–whether gleaned

from science, mathematics, history, language or literature that his

circumstances will allow, but I believe most earnestly that for years to

come the education of the people of my race should be so directed that the

greatest proportion of the mental strength of the masses will be brought

to bear upon the every-day practical things of life, upon something that

is needed to be done, and something which they will be permitted to do in

the community in which they reside. And just the same with the

professional class which the race needs and must have, I would say give

the men and women of that class, too, the training which will best fit

them to perform in the most successful manner the service which the race



I would not confine the race to industrial life, not even to agriculture,

for example, although I believe that by far the greater part of the Negro

race is best off in the country districts and must and should continue to

live there, but I would teach the race that in industry the foundation

must be laid–that the very best service which any one can render to what

is called the higher education is to teach the present generation to

provide a material or industrial foundation. On such a foundation as this

will grow habits of thrift, a love of work, economy, ownership of

property, bank accounts. Out of it in the future will grow practical

education, professional education, positions of public responsibility. Out

of it will grow moral and religious strength. Out of it will grow wealth

from which alone can come leisure and the opportunity for the enjoyment of

literature and the fine arts.


In the words of the late beloved Frederick Douglass: “Every blow of the

sledge hammer wielded by a sable arm is a powerful blow in support of our

cause. Every colored mechanic is by virtue of circumstances an elevator of

his race. Every house built by a black man is a strong tower against the

allied hosts of prejudice. It is impossible for us to attach too much

importance to this aspect of the subject. Without industrial development

there can be no wealth; without wealth there can be no leisure; without

leisure no opportunity for thoughtful reflection and the cultivation of

the higher arts.”


I would set no limits to the attainments of the Negro in arts, in letters

or statesmanship, but I believe the surest way to reach those ends is by

laying the foundation in the little things of life that lie immediately

about one’s door. I plead for industrial education and development for the

Negro not because I want to cramp him, but because I want to free him. I

want to see him enter the all-powerful business and commercial world.


It was such combined mental, moral and industrial education which the late

General Armstrong set out to give at the Hampton Institute when he

established that school thirty years ago. The Hampton Institute has

continued along the lines laid down by its great founder, and now each

year an increasing number of similar schools are being established in the

South, for the people of both races.


Early in the history of the Tuskegee Institute we began to combine

industrial training with mental and moral culture. Our first efforts were

in the direction of agriculture, and we began teaching this with no

appliances except one hoe and a blind mule. From this small beginning we

have grown until now the Institute owns two thousand acres of land, eight

hundred of which are cultivated each year by the young men of the school.

We began teaching wheelwrighting and blacksmithing in a small way to the

men, and laundry work, cooking and sewing and housekeeping to the young

women. The fourteen hundred and over young men and women who attended the

school during the last school year received instruction–in addition to

academic and religious training–in thirty-three trades and industries,

including carpentry, blacksmithing, printing, wheelwrighting

harnessmaking, painting, machinery, founding, shoemaking, brickmasonry and

brickmaking, plastering, sawmilling, tinsmithing, tailoring, mechanical

and architectural drawing, electrical and steam engineering, canning,

sewing, dressmaking, millinery, cooking, laundering, housekeeping,

mattress making, basketry, nursing, agriculture, dairying and stock

raising, horticulture.


Not only do the students receive instruction in these trades, but they do

actual work, by means of which more than half of them pay some part or all

of their expenses while remaining at the school. Of the sixty buildings

belonging to the school all but four were almost wholly erected by the

students as a part of their industrial education. Even the bricks which go

into the walls are made by students in the school’s brick yard, in which,

last year, they manufactured two million bricks.


When we first began this work at Tuskegee, and the idea got spread among

the people of my race that the students who came to the Tuskegee school

were to be taught industries in connection with their academic studies,

were, in other words, to be taught to work, I received a great many verbal

messages and letters from parents informing me that they wanted their

children taught books, but not how to work. This protest went on for three

or four years, but I am glad to be able to say now that our people have

very generally been educated to a point where they see their own needs and

conditions so clearly that it has been several years since we have had a

single protest from parents against the teaching of industries, and there

is now a positive enthusiasm for it. In fact, public sentiment among the

students at Tuskegee is now so strong for industrial training that it

would hardly permit a student to remain on the grounds who was unwilling

to labor.


It seems to me that too often mere book education leaves the Negro young

man or woman in a weak position. For example, I have seen a Negro girl

taught by her mother to help her in doing laundry work at home. Later,

when this same girl was graduated from the public schools or a high school

and returned home she finds herself educated out of sympathy with laundry

work, and yet not able to find anything to do which seems in keeping with

the cost and character of her education. Under these circumstances we

cannot be surprised if she does not fulfill the expectations made for her.

What should have been done for her, it seems to me, was to give her along

with her academic education thorough training in the latest and best

methods of laundry work, so that she could have put so much skill and

intelligence into it that the work would have been lifted out from the

plane of drudgery[A]. The home which she would then have been able to

found by the results of her work would have enabled her to help her

children to take a still more responsible position in life.


Almost from the first Tuskegee has kept in mind–and this I think should

be the policy of all industrial schools–fitting students for occupations

which would be open to them in their home communities. Some years ago we

noted the fact that there was beginning to be a demand in the South for

men to operate dairies in a skillful, modern manner. We opened a dairy

department in connection with the school, where a number of young men

could have instruction in the latest and most scientific methods of dairy

work. At present we have calls–mainly from Southern white men–for twice

as many dairymen as we are able to supply. What is equally satisfactory,

the reports which come to us indicate that our young men are giving the

highest satisfaction and are fast changing and improving the dairy product

in the communities into which they go. I use the dairy here as an example.

What I have said of this is equally true of many of the other industries

which we teach. Aside from the economic value of this work I cannot but

believe, and my observation confirms me in my belief, that as we continue

to place Negro men and women of intelligence, religion, modesty,

conscience and skill in every community in the South, who will prove by

actual results their value to the community, I cannot but believe, I say,

that this will constitute a solution to many of the present political and

social difficulties.


Many seem to think that industrial education is meant to make the Negro

work as he worked in the days of slavery. This is far from my conception

of industrial education. If this training is worth anything to the Negro,

it consists in teaching him how not to work, but how to make the forces of

nature–air, steam, water, horse-power and electricity–work for him. If

it has any value it is in lifting labor up out of toil and drudgery into

the plane of the dignified and the beautiful. The Negro in the South works

and works hard; but too often his ignorance and lack of skill causes him

to do his work in the most costly and shiftless manner, and this keeps him

near the bottom of the ladder in the economic world.


I have not emphasized particularly in these pages the great need of

training the Negro in agriculture, but I believe that this branch of

industrial education does need very great emphasis. In this connection I

want to quote some words which Mr. Edgar Gardner Murphy, of Montgomery,

Alabama, has recently written upon this subject:


“We must incorporate into our public school system a larger recognition of

the practical and industrial elements in educational training. Ours is an

agricultural population. The school must be brought more closely to the

soil. The teaching of history, for example, is all very well, but nobody

can really know anything of history unless he has been taught to see

things grow–has so seen things not only with the outward eye, but with

the eyes of his intelligence and conscience. The actual things of the

present are more important, however, than the institutions of the past.

Even to young children can be shown the simpler conditions and processes

of growth–how corn is put into the ground–how cotton and potatoes

should be planted–how to choose the soil best adapted to a particular

plant, how to improve that soil, how to care for the plant while it grows,

how to get the most value out of it, how to use the elements of waste for

the fertilization of other crops; how, through the alternation of crops,

the land may be made to increase the annual value of its products–these

things, upon their elementary side are absolutely vital to the worth and

success of hundreds of thousands of these people of the Negro race, and

yet our whole educational system has practically ignored them.


       *       *       *       *       *


“Such work will mean not only an education in agriculture, but an

education through agriculture and education, through natural symbols and

practical forms, which will educate as deeply, as broadly and as truly as

any other system which the world has known. Such changes will bring far

larger results than the mere improvement of our Negroes. They will give

us an agricultural class, a class of tenants or small land owners, trained

not away from the soil, but in relation to the soil and in intelligent

dependence upon its resources.”


I close, then, as I began, by saying that as a slave the Negro was worked,

and that as a freeman he must learn to work. There is still doubt in many

quarters as to the ability of the Negro unguided, unsupported, to hew his

own path and put into visible, tangible, indisputable form, products and

signs of civilization. This doubt cannot be much affected by abstract

arguments, no matter how delicately and convincingly woven together.

Patiently, quietly, doggedly, persistently, through summer and winter,

sunshine and shadow, by self-sacrifice, by foresight, by honesty and

industry, we must re-enforce argument with results. One farm bought, one

house built, one home sweetly and intelligently kept, one man who is the

largest tax payer or has the largest bank account, one school or church

maintained, one factory running successfully, one truck garden profitably

cultivated, one patient cured by a Negro doctor, one sermon well

preached, one office well filled, one life cleanly lived–these will tell

more in our favor than all the abstract eloquence that can be summoned to

plead our cause. Our pathway must be up through the soil, up through

swamps, up through forests, up through the streams, the rocks, up through

commerce, education and religion!


[Footnote A: In the original, this was 'drudggery'.]





_The Talented Tenth_




  A strong plea for the higher education of the Negro, which those who are

  interested in the future of the freedmen cannot afford to ignore. Prof.

  DuBois produces ample evidence to prove conclusively the truth of his

  statement that “to attempt to establish any sort of a system of common

  and industrial school training, without _first_ providing for the higher

  training of the very best teachers, is simply throwing your money to the



[Illustration: W.E. BURGHARDT DuBOIS.]



The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional

men. The problem of education, then, among Negroes must first of all deal

with the Talented Tenth; it is the problem of developing the Best of this

race that they may guide the Mass away from the contamination and death of

the Worst, in their own and other races. Now the training of men is a

difficult and intricate task. Its technique is a matter for educational

experts, but its object is for the vision of seers. If we make money the

object of man-training, we shall develop money-makers but not necessarily

men; if we make technical skill the object of education, we may possess

artisans but not, in nature, men. Men we shall have only as we make

manhood the object of the work of the schools–intelligence, broad

sympathy, knowledge of the world that was and is, and of the relation of

men to it–this is the curriculum of that Higher Education which must

underlie true life. On this foundation we may build bread winning, skill

of hand and quickness of brain, with never a fear lest the child and man

mistake the means of living for the object of life.


       *       *       *       *       *


If this be true–and who can deny it–three tasks lay before me; first to

show from the past that the Talented Tenth as they have risen among

American Negroes have been worthy of leadership; secondly, to show how

these men may be educated and developed; and thirdly, to show their

relation to the Negro problem.


       *       *       *       *       *


You misjudge us because you do not know us. From the very first it has

been the educated and intelligent of the Negro people that have led and

elevated the mass, and the sole obstacles that nullified and retarded

their efforts were slavery and race prejudice; for what is slavery but

the legalized survival of the unfit and the nullification of the work of

natural internal leadership? Negro leadership, therefore, sought from the

first to rid the race of this awful incubus that it might make way for

natural selection and the survival of the fittest. In colonial days came

Phillis Wheatley and Paul Cuffe striving against the bars of prejudice;

and Benjamin Banneker, the almanac maker, voiced their longings when he

said to Thomas Jefferson, “I freely and cheerfully acknowledge that I am

of the African race, and in colour which is natural to them, of the

deepest dye; and it is under a sense of the most profound gratitude to the

Supreme Ruler of the Universe, that I now confess to you that I am not

under that state of tyrannical thraldom and inhuman captivity to which too

many of my brethren are doomed, but that I have abundantly tasted of the

fruition of those blessings which proceed from that free and unequalled

liberty with which you are favored, and which I hope you will willingly

allow, you have mercifully received from the immediate hand of that Being

from whom proceedeth every good and perfect gift.


“Suffer me to recall to your mind that time, in which the arms of the

British crown were exerted with every powerful effort, in order to reduce

you to a state of servitude; look back, I entreat you, on the variety of

dangers to which you were exposed; reflect on that period in which every

human aid appeared unavailable, and in which even hope and fortitude wore

the aspect of inability to the conflict, and you cannot but be led to a

serious and grateful sense of your miraculous and providential

preservation, you cannot but acknowledge, that the present freedom and

tranquility which you enjoy, you have mercifully received, and that a

peculiar blessing of heaven.


“This, sir, was a time when you clearly saw into the injustice of a state

of Slavery, and in which you had just apprehensions of the horrors of its

condition. It was then that your abhorrence thereof was so excited, that

you publicly held forth this true and invaluable doctrine, which is worthy

to be recorded and remembered in all succeeding ages: ‘We hold these

truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal; that they are

endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that among these are life,

liberty and the pursuit of happiness.'”


Then came Dr. James Derham, who could tell even the learned Dr. Rush

something of medicine, and Lemuel Haynes, to whom Middlebury College gave

an honorary A.M. in 1804. These and others we may call the Revolutionary

group of distinguished Negroes–they were persons of marked ability,

leaders of a Talented Tenth, standing conspicuously among the best of

their time. They strove by word and deed to save the color line from

becoming the line between the bond and free, but all they could do was

nullified by Eli Whitney and the Curse of Gold. So they passed into



But their spirit did not wholly die; here and there in the early part of

the century came other exceptional men. Some were natural sons of

unnatural fathers and were given often a liberal training and thus a race

of educated mulattoes sprang up to plead for black men’s rights. There was

Ira Aldridge, whom all Europe loved to honor; there was that Voice crying

in the Wilderness, David Walker, and saying:


“I declare it does appear to me as though some nations think God is

asleep, or that he made the Africans for nothing else but to dig their

mines and work their farms, or they cannot believe history, sacred or

profane. I ask every man who has a heart, and is blessed with the

privilege of believing–Is not God a God of justice to all his creatures?

Do you say he is? Then if he gives peace and tranquility to tyrants and

permits them to keep our fathers, our mothers, ourselves and our children

in eternal ignorance and wretchedness to support them and their families,

would he be to us a God of Justice? I ask, O, ye Christians, who hold us

and our children in the most abject ignorance and degradation that ever a

people were afflicted with since the world began–I say if God gives you

peace and tranquility, and suffers you thus to go on afflicting us, and

our children, who have never given you the least provocation–would He be

to us a God of Justice? If you will allow that we are men, who feel for

each other, does not the blood of our fathers and of us, their children,

cry aloud to the Lord of Sabaoth against you for the cruelties and murders

with which you have and do continue to afflict us?”


This was the wild voice that first aroused Southern legislators in 1829 to

the terrors of abolitionism.


In 1831 there met that first Negro convention in Philadelphia, at which

the world gaped curiously but which bravely attacked the problems of race

and slavery, crying out against persecution and declaring that “Laws as

cruel in themselves as they were unconstitutional and unjust, have in many

places been enacted against our poor, unfriended and unoffending brethren

(without a shadow of provocation on our part), at whose bare recital the

very savage draws himself up for fear of contagion–looks noble and

prides himself because he bears not the name of Christian.” Side by side

this free Negro movement, and the movement for abolition, strove until

they merged into one strong stream. Too little notice has been taken of

the work which the Talented Tenth among Negroes took in the great

abolition crusade. From the very day that a Philadelphia colored man

became the first subscriber to Garrison’s “Liberator,” to the day when

Negro soldiers made the Emancipation Proclamation possible, black leaders

worked shoulder to shoulder with white men in a movement, the success of

which would have been impossible without them. There was Purvis and

Remond, Pennington and Highland Garnett, Sojourner Truth and Alexander

Crummel, and above all, Frederick Douglass–what would the abolition

movement have been without them? They stood as living examples of the

possibilities of the Negro race, their own hard experiences and well

wrought culture said silently more than all the drawn periods of

orators–they were the men who made American slavery impossible. As Maria

Weston Chapman once said, from the school of anti-slavery agitation “a

throng of authors, editors, lawyers, orators and accomplished gentlemen of

color have taken their degree! It has equally implanted hopes and

aspirations, noble thoughts, and sublime purposes, in the hearts of both

races. It has prepared the white man for the freedom of the black man, and

it has made the black man scorn the thought of enslavement, as does a

white man, as far as its influence has extended. Strengthen that noble

influence! Before its organization, the country only saw here and there in

slavery some faithful Cudjoe or Dinah, whose strong natures blossomed even

in bondage, like a fine plant beneath a heavy stone. Now, under the

elevating and cherishing influence of the American Anti-slavery Society,

the colored race, like the white, furnishes Corinthian capitals for the

noblest temples.”


Where were these black abolitionists trained? Some, like Frederick

Douglass, were self-trained, but yet trained liberally; others, like

Alexander Crummell and McCune Smith, graduated from famous foreign

universities. Most of them rose up through the colored schools of New York

and Philadelphia and Boston, taught by college-bred men like Russworm, of

Dartmouth, and college-bred white men like Neau and Benezet.


After emancipation came a new group of educated and gifted leaders:

Langston, Bruce and Elliot, Greener, Williams and Payne. Through political

organization, historical and polemic writing and moral regeneration, these

men strove to uplift their people. It is the fashion of to-day to sneer at

them and to say that with freedom Negro leadership should have begun at

the plow and not in the Senate–a foolish and mischievous lie; two hundred

and fifty years that black serf toiled at the plow and yet that toiling

was in vain till the Senate passed the war amendments; and two hundred

and fifty years more the half-free serf of to-day may toil at his plow,

but unless he have political rights and righteously guarded civic

status, he will still remain the poverty-stricken and ignorant plaything

of rascals, that he now is. This all sane men know even if they dare

not say it.


And so we come to the present–a day of cowardice and vacillation, of

strident wide-voiced wrong and faint hearted compromise; of double-faced

dallying with Truth and Right. Who are to-day guiding the work of the

Negro people? The “exceptions” of course. And yet so sure as this Talented

Tenth is pointed out, the blind worshippers of the Average cry out in

alarm: “These are exceptions, look here at death, disease and crime–these

are the happy rule.” Of course they are the rule, because a silly nation

made them the rule: Because for three long centuries this people lynched

Negroes who dared to be brave, raped black women who dared to be virtuous,

crushed dark-hued youth who dared to be ambitious, and encouraged and

made to flourish servility and lewdness and apathy. But not even this was

able to crush all manhood and chastity and aspiration from black folk. A

saving remnant continually survives and persists, continually aspires,

continually shows itself in thrift and ability and character. Exceptional

it is to be sure, but this is its chiefest promise; it shows the

capability of Negro blood, the promise of black men. Do Americans ever

stop to reflect that there are in this land a million men of Negro blood,

well-educated, owners of homes, against the honor of whose womanhood no

breath was ever raised, whose men occupy positions of trust and

usefulness, and who, judged by any standard, have reached the full measure

of the best type of modern European culture? Is it fair, is it decent, is

it Christian to ignore these facts of the Negro problem, to belittle such

aspiration, to nullify such leadership and seek to crush these people back

into the mass out of which by toil and travail, they and their fathers

have raised themselves?


Can the masses of the Negro people be in any possible way more quickly

raised than by the effort and example of this aristocracy of talent and

character? Was there ever a nation on God’s fair earth civilized from the

bottom upward? Never; it is, ever was and ever will be from the top

downward that culture filters. The Talented Tenth rises and pulls all that

are worth the saving up to their vantage ground. This is the history of

human progress; and the two historic mistakes which have hindered that

progress were the thinking first that no more could ever rise save the few

already risen; or second, that it would better the unrisen to pull the

risen down.


How then shall the leaders of a struggling people be trained and the hands

of the risen few strengthened? There can be but one answer: The best and

most capable of their youth must be schooled in the colleges and

universities of the land. We will not quarrel as to just what the

university of the Negro should teach or how it should teach it–I

willingly admit that each soul and each race-soul needs its own peculiar

curriculum. But this is true: A university is a human invention for the

transmission of knowledge and culture from generation to generation,

through the training of quick minds and pure hearts, and for this work no

other human invention will suffice, not even trade and industrial schools.


All men cannot go to college but some men must; every isolated group or

nation must have its yeast, must have for the talented few centers of

training where men are not so mystified and befuddled by the hard and

necessary toil of earning a living, as to have no aims higher than their

bellies, and no God greater than Gold. This is true training, and thus in

the beginning were the favored sons of the freedmen trained. Out of the

colleges of the North came, after the blood of war, Ware, Cravath, Chase,

Andrews, Bumstead and Spence to build the foundations of knowledge and

civilization in the black South. Where ought they to have begun to build?

At the bottom, of course, quibbles the mole with his eyes in the earth.

Aye! truly at the bottom, at the very bottom; at the bottom of knowledge,

down in the very depths of knowledge there where the roots of justice

strike into the lowest soil of Truth. And so they did begin; they founded

colleges, and up from the colleges shot normal schools, and out from the

normal schools went teachers, and around the normal teachers clustered

other teachers to teach the public schools; the college trained in Greek

and Latin and mathematics, 2,000 men; and these men trained full 50,000

others in morals and manners, and they in turn taught thrift and the

alphabet to nine millions of men, who to-day hold $300,000,000 of

property. It was a miracle–the most wonderful peace-battle of the 19th

century, and yet to-day men smile at it, and in fine superiority tell us

that it was all a strange mistake; that a proper way to found a system of

education is first to gather the children and buy them spelling books and

hoes; afterward men may look about for teachers, if haply they may find

them; or again they would teach men Work, but as for Life–why, what has

Work to do with Life, they ask vacantly.


Was the work of these college founders successful; did it stand the test

of time? Did the college graduates, with all their fine theories of life,

really live? Are they useful men helping to civilize and elevate their

less fortunate fellows? Let us see. Omitting all institutions which have

not actually graduated students from a college course, there are to-day in

the United States thirty-four institutions giving something above high

school training to Negroes and designed especially for this race.


Three of these were established in border States before the War; thirteen

were planted by the Freedmen’s Bureau in the years 1864-1869; nine were

established between 1870 and 1880 by various church bodies; five were

established after 1881 by Negro churches, and four are state institutions

supported by United States’ agricultural funds. In most cases the college

departments are small adjuncts to high and common school work. As a matter

of fact six institutions–Atlanta, Fisk, Howard, Shaw, Wilberforce and

Leland, are the important Negro colleges so far as actual work and number

of students are concerned. In all these institutions, seven hundred and

fifty Negro college students are enrolled. In grade the best of these

colleges are about a year behind the smaller New England colleges and a

typical curriculum is that of Atlanta University. Here students from the

grammar grades, after a three years’ high school course, take a college

course of 136 weeks. One-fourth of this time is given to Latin and Greek;

one-fifth, to English and modern languages; one-sixth, to history and

social science; one-seventh, to natural science; one-eighth to

mathematics, and one-eighth to philosophy and pedagogy.


In addition to these students in the South, Negroes have attended Northern

colleges for many years. As early as 1826 one was graduated from Bowdoin

College, and from that time till to-day nearly every year has seen

elsewhere, other such graduates. They have, of course, met much color

prejudice. Fifty years ago very few colleges would admit them at all. Even

to-day no Negro has ever been admitted to Princeton, and at some other

leading institutions they are rather endured than encouraged. Oberlin was

the great pioneer in the work of blotting out the color line in colleges,

and has more Negro graduates by far than any other Northern college.


The total number of Negro college graduates up to 1899, (several of the

graduates of that year not being reported), was as follows:



               |Negro Colleges.| White Colleges.


Before ’76     |     137       |        75

       ’75-80  |     143       |        22

       ’80-85  |     250       |        31

       ’85-90  |     413       |        43

       ’90-95  |     465       |        66

       ’96-99  |     475       |        88

Class Unknown  |      57       |        64


Total          |   1,914       |       390



Of these graduates 2,079 were men and 252 were women; 50 per cent. of

Northern-born college men come South to work among the masses of their

people, at a sacrifice which few people realize; nearly 90 per cent. of

the Southern-born graduates instead of seeking that personal freedom and

broader intellectual atmosphere which their training has led them, in some

degree, to conceive, stay and labor and wait in the midst of their black

neighbors and relatives.


The most interesting question, and in many respects the crucial question,

to be asked concerning college-bred Negroes, is: Do they earn a living? It

has been intimated more than once that the higher training of Negroes has

resulted in sending into the world of work, men who could find nothing to

do suitable to their talents. Now and then there comes a rumor of a

colored college man working at menial service, etc. Fortunately, returns

as to occupations of college-bred Negroes, gathered by the Atlanta

conference, are quite full–nearly sixty per cent. of the total number of



This enables us to reach fairly certain conclusions as to the occupations

of all college-bred Negroes. Of 1,312 persons reported, there were:



                                 | Per Cent.|


Teachers,                        |  53.4    |************

Clergymen,                       |  16.8    |******

Physicians, etc.,                |   6.3    |****

Students,                        |   5.6    |***

Lawyers,                         |   4.7    |***

In Govt. Service,                |   4.0    |**

In Business,                     |   3.6    |**

Farmers and Artisans,            |   2.7    |*

Editors, Secretaries and Clerks, |   2.4    |*

Miscellaneous.                   |    .5    |*



Over half are teachers, a sixth are preachers, another sixth are students

and professional men; over 6 per cent. are farmers, artisans and

merchants, and 4 per cent. are in government service. In detail the

occupations are as follows:


_Occupations of College-Bred Men._



  Presidents and Deans,                       19

  Teacher of Music,                            7

  Professors, Principals and Teachers,       675      Total 701



  Bishop,                                      1

  Chaplains U.S. Army,                         2

  Missionaries,                                9

  Presiding Elders,                           12

  Preachers,                                 197      Total 221



  Doctors of Medicine,                        76

  Druggists,                                   4

  Dentists,                                    3      Total  83


Students,                                                    74


Lawyers,                                                     62


Civil Service:

  U.S. Minister Plenipotentiary,               1

  U.S. Consul,                                 1

  U.S. Deputy Collector,                       1

  U.S. Gauger,                                 1

  U.S. Postmasters,                            2

  U.S. Clerks,                                44

  State Civil Service,                         2

  City Civil Service,                          1       Total 53


Business Men:

  Merchants, etc.,                            30

  Managers,                                   13

  Real Estate Dealers,                         4       Total 47


Farmers,                                                     26


Clerks and Secretaries:

  Secretary of National Societies,             7

  Clerks, etc.,                               15       Total 22


Artisans,                                                     9


Editors,                                                      9


Miscellaneous,                                                5


These figures illustrate vividly the function of the college-bred Negro.

He is, as he ought to be, the group leader, the man who sets the ideals of

the community where he lives, directs its thoughts and heads its social

movements. It need hardly be argued that the Negro people need social

leadership more than most groups; that they have no traditions to fall

back upon, no long established customs, no strong family ties, no well

defined social classes. All these things must be slowly and painfully

evolved. The preacher was, even before the war, the group leader of the

Negroes, and the church their greatest social institution. Naturally this

preacher was ignorant and often immoral, and the problem of replacing the

older type by better educated men has been a difficult one. Both by direct

work and by direct influence on other preachers, and on congregations, the

college-bred preacher has an opportunity for reformatory work and moral

inspiration, the value of which cannot be overestimated.


It has, however, been in the furnishing of teachers that the Negro college

has found its peculiar function. Few persons realize how vast a work, how

mighty a revolution has been thus accomplished. To furnish five millions

and more of ignorant people with teachers of their own race and blood, in

one generation, was not only a very difficult undertaking, but a very

important one, in that, it placed before the eyes of almost every Negro

child an attainable ideal. It brought the masses of the blacks in contact

with modern civilization, made black men the leaders of their communities

and trainers of the new generation. In this work college-bred Negroes were

first teachers, and then teachers of teachers. And here it is that the

broad culture of college work has been of peculiar value. Knowledge of

life and its wider meaning, has been the point of the Negro’s deepest

ignorance, and the sending out of teachers whose training has not been

simply for bread winning, but also for human culture, has been of

inestimable value in the training of these men.


In earlier years the two occupations of preacher and teacher were

practically the only ones open to the black college graduate. Of later

years a larger diversity of life among his people, has opened new avenues

of employment. Nor have these college men been paupers and spendthrifts;

557 college-bred Negroes owned in 1899, $1,342,862.50 worth of real

estate, (assessed value) or $2,411 per family. The real value of the total

accumulations of the whole group is perhaps about $10,000,000, or $5,000 a

piece. Pitiful, is it not, beside the fortunes of oil kings and steel

trusts, but after all is the fortune of the millionaire the only stamp of

true and successful living? Alas! it is, with many, and there’s the rub.


The problem of training the Negro is to-day immensely complicated by the

fact that the whole question of the efficiency and appropriateness of our

present systems of education, for any kind of child, is a matter of active

debate, in which final settlement seems still afar off. Consequently it

often happens that persons arguing for or against certain systems of

education for Negroes, have these controversies in mind and miss the real

question at issue. The main question, so far as the Southern Negro is

concerned, is: What under the present circumstance, must a system of

education do in order to raise the Negro as quickly as possible in the

scale of civilization? The answer to this question seems to me clear: It

must strengthen the Negro’s character, increase his knowledge and teach

him to earn a living. Now it goes without saying, that it is hard to do

all these things simultaneously or suddenly, and that at the same time it

will not do to give all the attention to one and neglect the others; we

could give black boys trades, but that alone will not civilize a race of

ex-slaves; we might simply increase their knowledge of the world, but this

would not necessarily make them wish to use this knowledge honestly; we

might seek to strengthen character and purpose, but to what end if this

people have nothing to eat or to wear? A system of education is not one

thing, nor does it have a single definite object, nor is it a mere matter

of schools. Education is that whole system of human training within and

without the school house walls, which molds and develops men. If then we

start out to train an ignorant and unskilled people with a heritage of bad

habits, our system of training must set before itself two great aims–the

one dealing with knowledge and character, the other part seeking to give

the child the technical knowledge necessary for him to earn a living under

the present circumstances. These objects are accomplished in part by the

opening of the common schools on the one, and of the industrial schools on

the other. But only in part, for there must also be trained those who are

to teach these schools–men and women of knowledge and culture and

technical skill who understand modern civilization, and have the training

and aptitude to impart it to the children under them. There must be

teachers, and teachers of teachers, and to attempt to establish any sort

of a system of common and industrial school training, without _first_

(and I say _first_ advisedly) without _first_ providing for the higher

training of the very best teachers, is simply throwing your money to the

winds. School houses do not teach themselves–piles of brick and mortar

and machinery do not send out _men_. It is the trained, living human soul,

cultivated and strengthened by long study and thought, that breathes the

real breath of life into boys and girls and makes them human, whether they

be black or white, Greek, Russian or American. Nothing, in these latter

days, has so dampened the faith of thinking Negroes in recent educational

movements, as the fact that such movements have been accompanied by

ridicule and denouncement and decrying of those very institutions of

higher training which made the Negro public school possible, and make

Negro industrial schools thinkable. It was Fisk, Atlanta, Howard and

Straight, those colleges born of the faith and sacrifice of the

abolitionists, that placed in the black schools of the South the 30,000

teachers and more, which some, who depreciate the work of these higher

schools, are using to teach their own new experiments. If Hampton,

Tuskegee and the hundred other industrial schools prove in the future to

be as successful as they deserve to be, then their success in training

black artisans for the South, will be due primarily to the white colleges

of the North and the black colleges of the South, which trained the

teachers who to-day conduct these institutions. There was a time when the

American people believed pretty devoutly that a log of wood with a boy at

one end and Mark Hopkins at the other, represented the highest ideal of

human training. But in these eager days it would seem that we have changed

all that and think it necessary to add a couple of saw-mills and a hammer

to this outfit, and, at a pinch, to dispense with the services of Mark



I would not deny, or for a moment seem to deny, the paramount necessity of

teaching the Negro to work, and to work steadily and skillfully; or seem

to depreciate in the slightest degree the important part industrial

schools must play in the accomplishment of these ends, but I _do_ say, and

insist upon it, that it is industrialism drunk with its vision of success,

to imagine that its own work can be accomplished without providing for the

training of broadly cultured men and women to teach its own teachers, and

to teach the teachers of the public schools.


But I have already said that human education is not simply a matter of

schools; it is much more a matter of family and group life–the training

of one’s home, of one’s daily companions, of one’s social class. Now the

black boy of the South moves in a black world–a world with its own

leaders, its own thoughts, its own ideals. In this world he gets by far

the larger part of his life training, and through the eyes of this dark

world he peers into the veiled world beyond. Who guides and determines the

education which he receives in his world? His teachers here are the

group-leaders of the Negro people–the physicians and clergymen, the

trained fathers and mothers, the influential and forceful men about him of

all kinds; here it is, if at all, that the culture of the surrounding

world trickles through and is handed on by the graduates of the higher

schools. Can such culture training of group leaders be neglected? Can we

afford to ignore it? Do you think that if the leaders of thought among

Negroes are not trained and educated thinkers, that they will have no

leaders? On the contrary a hundred half-trained demagogues will still hold

the places they so largely occupy now, and hundreds of vociferous

busy-bodies will multiply. You have no choice; either you must help

furnish this race from within its own ranks with thoughtful men of trained

leadership, or you must suffer the evil consequences of a headless

misguided rabble.


I am an earnest advocate of manual training and trade teaching for black

boys, and for white boys, too. I believe that next to the founding of

Negro colleges the most valuable addition to Negro education since the

war, has been industrial training for black boys. Nevertheless, I insist

that the object of all true education is not to make men carpenters, it is

to make carpenters men; there are two means of making the carpenter a man,

each equally important: the first is to give the group and community in

which he works, liberally trained teachers and leaders to teach him and

his family what life means; the second is to give him sufficient

intelligence and technical skill to make him an efficient workman; the

first object demands the Negro college and college-bred men–not a

quantity of such colleges, but a few of excellent quality; not too many

college-bred men, but enough to leaven the lump, to inspire the masses, to

raise the Talented Tenth to leadership; the second object demands a good

system of common schools, well-taught, conveniently located and properly



The Sixth Atlanta Conference truly said in 1901:


“We call the attention of the Nation to the fact that less than one

million of the three million Negro children of school age, are at present

regularly attending school, and these attend a session which lasts only a

few months.


“We are to-day deliberately rearing millions of our citizens in ignorance,

and at the same time limiting the rights of citizenship by educational

qualifications. This is unjust. Half the black youth of the land have no

opportunities open to them for learning to read, write and cipher. In the

discussion as to the proper training of Negro children after they leave

the public schools, we have forgotten that they are not yet decently

provided with public schools.


“Propositions are beginning to be made in the South to reduce the already

meagre school facilities of Negroes. We congratulate the South on

resisting, as much as it has, this pressure, and on the many millions it

has spent on Negro education. But it is only fair to point out that Negro

taxes and the Negroes’ share of the income from indirect taxes and

endowments have fully repaid this expenditure, so that the Negro public

school system has not in all probability cost the white taxpayers a single

cent since the war.


“This is not fair. Negro schools should be a public burden, since they are

a public benefit. The Negro has a right to demand good common school

training at the hands of the States and the Nation since by their fault he

is not in position to pay for this himself.”


What is the chief need for the building up of the Negro public school in

the South? The Negro race in the South needs teachers to-day above all

else. This is the concurrent testimony of all who know the situation. For

the supply of this great demand two things are needed–institutions of

higher education and money for school houses and salaries. It is usually

assumed that a hundred or more institutions for Negro training are to-day

turning out so many teachers and college-bred men that the race is

threatened with an over-supply. This is sheer nonsense. There are to-day

less than 3,000 living Negro college graduates in the United States, and

less than 1,000 Negroes in college. Moreover, in the 164 schools for

Negroes, 95 per cent. of their students are doing elementary and secondary

work, work which should be done in the public schools. Over half the

remaining 2,157 students are taking high school studies. The mass of

so-called “normal” schools for the Negro, are simply doing elementary

common school work, or, at most, high school work, with a little

instruction in methods. The Negro colleges and the post-graduate courses

at other institutions are the only agencies for the broader and more

careful training of teachers. The work of these institutions is hampered

for lack of funds. It is getting increasingly difficult to get funds for

training teachers in the best modern methods, and yet all over the South,

from State Superintendents, county officials, city boards and school

principals comes the wail, “We need TEACHERS!” and teachers must be

trained. As the fairest minded of all white Southerners, Atticus G.

Haygood, once said: “The defects of colored teachers are so great as to

create an urgent necessity for training better ones. Their excellencies

and their successes are sufficient to justify the best hopes of success in

the effort, and to vindicate the judgment of those who make large

investments of money and service, to give to colored students opportunity

for thoroughly preparing themselves for the work of teaching children of

their people.”


The truth of this has been strikingly shown in the marked improvement of

white teachers in the South. Twenty years ago the rank and file of white

public school teachers were not as good as the Negro teachers. But they,

by scholarships and good salaries, have been encouraged to thorough normal

and collegiate preparation, while the Negro teachers have been discouraged

by starvation wages and the idea that any training will do for a black

teacher. If carpenters are needed it is well and good to train men as

carpenters. But to train men as carpenters, and then set them to teaching

is wasteful and criminal; and to train men as teachers and then refuse

them living wages, unless they become carpenters, is rank nonsense.


The United States Commissioner of Education says in his report for 1900:

“For comparison between the white and colored enrollment in secondary and

higher education, I have added together the enrollment in high schools and

secondary schools, with the attendance on colleges and universities, not

being sure of the actual grade of work done in the colleges and

universities. The work done in the secondary schools is reported in such

detail in this office, that there can be no doubt of its grade.”


He then makes the following comparisons of persons in every million

enrolled in secondary and higher education:


      _Whole Country._  _Negroes._

1880       4,362            1,289

1900      10,743            2,061


And he concludes: “While the number in colored high schools and colleges

had increased somewhat faster than the population, it had not kept pace

with the average of the whole country, for it had fallen from 30 per cent.

to 24 per cent. of the average quota. Of all colored pupils, one (1) in

one hundred was engaged in secondary and higher work, and that ratio has

continued substantially for the past twenty years. If the ratio of colored

population in secondary and higher education is to be equal to the average

for the whole country, it must be increased to five times its present

average.” And if this be true of the secondary and higher education, it is

safe to say that the Negro has not one-tenth his quota in college studies.

How baseless, therefore, is the charge of too much training! We need Negro

teachers for the Negro common schools, and we need first-class normal

schools and colleges to train them. This is the work of higher Negro

education and it must be done.


Further than this, after being provided with group leaders of

civilization, and a foundation of intelligence in the public schools, the

carpenter, in order to be a man, needs technical skill. This calls for

trade schools. Now trade schools are not nearly such simple things as

people once thought. The original idea was that the “Industrial” school

was to furnish education, practically free, to those willing to work for

it; it was to “do” things–i.e.: become a center of productive industry,

it was to be partially, if not wholly, self-supporting, and it was to

teach trades. Admirable as were some of the ideas underlying this scheme,

the whole thing simply would not work in practice; it was found that if

you were to use time and material to teach trades thoroughly, you could

not at the same time keep the industries on a commercial basis and make

them pay. Many schools started out to do this on a large scale and went

into virtual bankruptcy. Moreover, it was found also that it was possible

to teach a boy a trade mechanically, without giving him the full

educative benefit of the process, and, vice versa, that there was a

distinctive educative value in teaching a boy to use his hands and eyes in

carrying out certain physical processes, even though he did not actually

learn a trade. It has happened, therefore, in the last decade, that a

noticeable change has come over the industrial schools. In the first place

the idea of commercially remunerative industry in a school is being pushed

rapidly to the back-ground. There are still schools with shops and farms

that bring an income, and schools that use student labor partially for the

erection of their buildings and the furnishing of equipment. It is coming

to be seen, however, in the education of the Negro, as clearly as it has

been seen in the education of the youths the world over, that it is the

_boy_ and not the material product, that is the true object of education.

Consequently the object of the industrial school came to be the thorough

training of boys regardless of the cost of the training, so long as it was

thoroughly well done.


Even at this point, however, the difficulties were not surmounted. In the

first place modern industry has taken great strides since the war, and the

teaching of trades is no longer a simple matter. Machinery and long

processes of work have greatly changed the work of the carpenter, the

ironworker and the shoemaker. A really efficient workman must be to-day an

intelligent man who has had good technical training in addition to

thorough common school, and perhaps even higher training. To meet this

situation the industrial schools began a further development; they

established distinct Trade Schools for the thorough training of better

class artisans, and at the same time they sought to preserve for the

purposes of general education, such of the simpler processes of elementary

trade learning as were best suited therefor. In this differentiation of

the Trade School and manual training, the best of the industrial schools

simply followed the plain trend of the present educational epoch. A

prominent educator tells us that, in Sweden, “In the beginning the

economic conception was generally adopted, and everywhere manual training

was looked upon as a means of preparing the children of the common people

to earn their living. But gradually it came to be recognized that manual

training has a more elevated purpose, and one, indeed, more useful in the

deeper meaning of the term. It came to be considered as an educative

process for the complete moral, physical and intellectual development of

the child.”


Thus, again, in the manning of trade schools and manual training schools

we are thrown back upon the higher training as its source and chief

support. There was a time when any aged and wornout carpenter could teach

in a trade school. But not so to-day. Indeed the demand for college-bred

men by a school like Tuskegee, ought to make Mr. Booker T. Washington the

firmest friend of higher training. Here he has as helpers the son of a

Negro senator, trained in Greek and the humanities, and graduated at

Harvard; the son of a Negro congressman and lawyer, trained in Latin and

mathematics, and graduated at Oberlin; he has as his wife, a woman who

read Virgil and Homer in the same class room with me; he has as college

chaplain, a classical graduate of Atlanta University; as teacher of

science, a graduate of Fisk; as teacher of history, a graduate of

Smith,–indeed some thirty of his chief teachers are college graduates,

and instead of studying French grammars in the midst of weeds, or buying

pianos for dirty cabins, they are at Mr. Washington’s right hand helping

him in a noble work. And yet one of the effects of Mr. Washington’s

propaganda has been to throw doubt upon the expediency of such training

for Negroes, as these persons have had.


       *       *       *       *       *


Men of America, the problem is plain before you. Here is a race

transplanted through the criminal foolishness of your fathers. Whether you

like it or not the millions are here, and here they will remain. If you do

not lift them up, they will pull you down. Education and work are the

levers to uplift a people. Work alone will not do it unless inspired by

the right ideals and guided by intelligence. Education must not simply

teach work–it must teach Life. The Talented Tenth of the Negro race

must be made leaders of thought and missionaries of culture among their

people. No others can do this work and Negro colleges must train men

for it. The Negro race, like all other races, is going to be saved by

its exceptional men.





_The Disfranchisement of the Negro_




  In this paper the author presents a straightforward statement of facts

  concerning the disfranchisement of the Negro in the Southern States. Mr.

  Chesnutt, who is too well known as a writer to need any introduction to

  an American audience, puts the case for the Negro to the American people

  very plainly, and spares neither the North nor the South.


[Illustration: CHARLES W. CHESNUTT.]



The right of American citizens of African descent, commonly called

Negroes, to vote upon the same terms as other citizens of the United

States, is plainly declared and firmly fixed by the Constitution. No such

person is called upon to present reasons why he should possess this right:

that question is foreclosed by the Constitution. The object of the

elective franchise is to give representation. So long as the Constitution

retains its present form, any State Constitution, or statute, which seeks,

by juggling the ballot, to deny the colored race fair representation, is a

clear violation of the fundamental law of the land, and a corresponding

injustice to those thus deprived of this right.


For thirty-five years this has been the law. As long as it was measurably

respected, the colored people made rapid strides in education, wealth,

character and self-respect. This the census proves, all statements to the

contrary notwithstanding. A generation has grown to manhood and womanhood

under the great, inspiring freedom conferred by the Constitution and

protected by the right of suffrage–protected in large degree by the mere

naked right, even when its exercise was hindered or denied by unlawful

means. They have developed, in every Southern community, good citizens,

who, if sustained and encouraged by just laws and liberal institutions,

would greatly augment their number with the passing years, and soon wipe

out the reproach of ignorance, unthrift, low morals and social

inefficiency, thrown at them indiscriminately and therefore unjustly, and

made the excuse for the equally undiscriminating contempt of their persons

and their rights. They have reduced their illiteracy nearly 50 per cent.

Excluded from the institutions of higher learning in their own States,

their young men hold their own, and occasionally carry away honors, in

the universities of the North. They have accumulated three hundred million

dollars worth of real and personal property. Individuals among them have

acquired substantial wealth, and several have attained to something like

national distinction in art, letters and educational leadership. They are

numerously represented in the learned professions. Heavily handicapped,

they have made such rapid progress that the suspicion is justified that

their advancement, rather than any stagnation or retrogression, is the

true secret of the virulent Southern hostility to their rights, which has

so influenced Northern opinion that it stands mute, and leaves the colored

people, upon whom the North conferred liberty, to the tender mercies of

those who have always denied their fitness for it.


It may be said, in passing, that the word “Negro,” where used in this

paper, is used solely for convenience. By the census of 1890 there were

1,000,000 colored people in the country who were half, or more than half,

white, and logically there must be, as in fact there are, so many who

share the white blood in some degree, as to justify the assertion that the

race problem in the United States concerns the welfare and the status of a

mixed race. Their rights are not one whit the more sacred because of this

fact; but in an argument where injustice is sought to be excused because

of fundamental differences of race, it is well enough to bear in mind that

the race whose rights and liberties are endangered all over this country

by disfranchisement at the South, are the colored people who live in the

United States to-day, and not the low-browed, man-eating savage whom the

Southern white likes to set upon a block and contrast with Shakespeare and

Newton and Washington and Lincoln.


Despite and in defiance of the Federal Constitution, to-day in the six

Southern States of Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, North Carolina, South

Carolina and Virginia, containing an aggregate colored population of about

6,000,000, these have been, to all intents and purposes, denied, so far

as the States can effect it, the right to vote. This disfranchisement is

accomplished by various methods, devised with much transparent ingenuity,

the effort being in each instance to violate the spirit of the Federal

Constitution by disfranchising the Negro, while seeming to respect its

letter by avoiding the mention of race or color.


These restrictions fall into three groups. The first comprises a property

qualification–the ownership of $300 worth or more of real or personal

property (Alabama, Louisiana, Virginia and South Carolina); the payment of

a poll tax (Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia); an educational

qualification–the ability to read and write (Alabama, Louisiana, North

Carolina). Thus far, those who believe in a restricted suffrage

everywhere, could perhaps find no reasonable fault with any one of these

qualifications, applied either separately or together.


But the Negro has made such progress that these restrictions alone would

perhaps not deprive him of effective representation. Hence the second

group. This comprises an “understanding” clause–the applicant must be

able “to read, or understand when read to him, any clause in the

Constitution” (Mississippi), or to read and explain, or to understand and

explain when read to him, any section of the Constitution (Virginia); an

employment qualification–the voter must be regularly employed in some

lawful occupation (Alabama); a character qualification–the voter must be

a person of good character and who “understands the duties and obligations

of citizens under a republican (!) form of government” (Alabama).


The qualifications under the first group it will be seen, are capable of

exact demonstration; those under the second group are left to the

discretion and judgment of the registering officer–for in most instances

these are all requirements for registration, which must precede voting.


But the first group, by its own force, and the second group, under

imaginable conditions, might exclude not only the Negro vote, but a large

part of the white vote. Hence, the third group, which comprises: a

military service qualification–any man who went to war, willingly or

unwillingly, in a good cause or a bad, is entitled to register (Ala.,

Va.); a prescriptive qualification, under which are included all male

persons who were entitled to vote on January 1, 1867, at which date the

Negro had not yet been given the right to vote; a hereditary

qualification, (the so-called “grandfather” clause), whereby any son

(Va.), or descendant (Ala.), of a soldier, and (N.C.) the descendant of

any person who had the right to vote on January 1, 1867, inherits that

right. If the voter wish to take advantage of these last provisions, which

are in the nature of exceptions to a general rule, he must register within

a stated time, whereupon he becomes a member of a privileged class of

permanently enrolled voters not subject to any of the other restrictions.


It will be seen that these restrictions are variously combined in the

different States, and it is apparent that if combined to their declared

end, practically every Negro may, under color of law, be denied the right

to vote, and practically every white man accorded that right. The

effectiveness of these provisions to exclude the Negro vote is proved by

the Alabama registration under the new State Constitution. Out of a total,

by the census of 1900, of 181,471 Negro “males of voting age,” less than

3,000 are registered; in Montgomery county alone, the seat of the State

capital, where there are 7,000 Negro males of voting age, only 47 have

been allowed to register, while in several counties not one single Negro

is permitted to exercise the franchise.


These methods of disfranchisement have stood such tests as the United

States Courts, including the Supreme Court, have thus far seen fit to

apply, in such cases as have been before them for adjudication. These

include a case based upon the “understanding” clause of the Mississippi

Constitution, in which the Supreme Court held, in effect, that since there

was no ambiguity in the language employed and the Negro was not directly

named, the Court would not go behind the wording of the Constitution to

find a meaning which discriminated against the colored voter; and the

recent case of Jackson vs. Giles, brought by a colored citizen of

Montgomery, Alabama, in which the Supreme Court confesses itself impotent

to provide a remedy for what, by inference, it acknowledges _may_ be a

“great political wrong,” carefully avoiding, however, to state that it is

a wrong, although the vital prayer of the petition was for a decision upon

this very point.


Now, what is the effect of this wholesale disfranchisement of colored men,

upon their citizenship. The value of food to the human organism is not

measured by the pains of an occasional surfeit, but by the effect of its

entire deprivation. Whether a class of citizens should vote, even if not

always wisely–what class does?–may best be determined by considering

their condition when they are without the right to vote.


The colored people are left, in the States where they have been

disfranchised, absolutely without representation, direct or indirect, in

any law-making body, in any court of justice, in any branch of

government–for the feeble remnant of voters left by law is so

inconsiderable as to be without a shadow of power. Constituting one-eighth

of the population of the whole country, two-fifths of the whole Southern

people, and a majority in several States, they are not able, because

disfranchised where most numerous, to send one representative to the

Congress, which, by the decision in the Alabama case, is held by the

Supreme Court to be the only body, outside of the State itself, competent

to give relief from a great political wrong. By former decisions of the

same tribunal, even Congress is impotent to protect their civil rights,

the Fourteenth Amendment having long since, by the consent of the same

Court, been in many respects as completely nullified as the Fifteenth

Amendment is now sought to be. They have no direct representation in any

Southern legislature, and no voice in determining the choice of white men

who might be friendly to their rights. Nor are they able to influence the

election of judges or other public officials, to whom are entrusted the

protection of their lives, their liberties and their property. No judge is

rendered careful, no sheriff diligent, for fear that he may offend a black

constituency; the contrary is most lamentably true; day after day the

catalogue of lynchings and anti-Negro riots upon every imaginable pretext,

grows longer and more appalling. The country stands face to face with the

revival of slavery; at the moment of this writing a federal grand jury in

Alabama is uncovering a system of peonage established under cover of law.


Under the Southern program it is sought to exclude colored men from every

grade of the public service; not only from the higher administrative

functions, to which few of them would in any event, for a long time

aspire, but from the lowest as well. A Negro may not be a constable or a

policeman. He is subjected by law to many degrading discriminations. He is

required to be separated from white people on railroads and street cars,

and, by custom, debarred from inns and places of public entertainment. His

equal right to a free public education is constantly threatened and is

nowhere equitably recognized. In Georgia, as has been shown by Dr. DuBois,

where the law provides for a pro rata distribution of the public school

fund between the races, and where the colored school population is 48 per

cent. of the total, the amount of the fund devoted to their schools is

only 20 per cent. In New Orleans, with an immense colored population, many

of whom are persons of means and culture, all colored public schools above

the fifth grade have been abolished.


The Negro is subjected to taxation without representation, which the

forefathers of this Republic made the basis of a bloody revolution.


Flushed with their local success, and encouraged by the timidity of the

Courts and the indifference of public opinion, the Southern whites have

carried their campaign into the national government, with an ominous

degree of success. If they shall have their way, no Negro can fill any

federal office, or occupy, in the public service, any position that is not

menial. This is not an inference, but the openly, passionately avowed

sentiment of the white South. The right to employment in the public

service is an exceedingly valuable one, for which white men have struggled

and fought. A vast army of men are employed in the administration of

public affairs. Many avenues of employment are closed to colored men by

popular prejudice. If their right to public employment is recognized, and

the way to it open through the civil service, or the appointing power, or

the suffrages of the people, it will prove, as it has already, a strong

incentive to effort and a powerful lever for advancement. Its value to the

Negro, like that of the right to vote, may be judged by the eagerness of

the whites to deprive him of it.


Not only is the Negro taxed without representation in the States referred

to, but he pays, through the tariff and internal revenue, a tax to a

National government whose supreme judicial tribunal declares that it

cannot, through the executive arm, enforce its own decrees, and,

therefore, refuses to pass upon a question, squarely before it, involving

a basic right of citizenship. For the decision of the Supreme Court in the

Giles case, if it foreshadows the attitude which the Court will take upon

other cases to the same general end which will soon come before it, is

scarcely less than a reaffirmation of the Dred Scott decision; it

certainly amounts to this–that in spite of the Fifteenth Amendment,

colored men in the United States have no political rights which the States

are bound to respect. To say this much is to say that all the privileges

and immunities which Negroes henceforth enjoy, must be by favor of the

whites; they are not _rights_. The whites have so declared; they proclaim

that the country is theirs, that the Negro should be thankful that he has

so much, when so much more might be withheld from him. He stands upon a

lower footing than any alien; he has no government to which he may look

for protection.


Moreover, the white South sends to Congress, on a basis including the

Negro population, a delegation nearly twice as large as it is justly

entitled to, and one which may always safely be relied upon to oppose in

Congress every measure which seeks to protect the equality, or to enlarge

the rights of colored citizens. The grossness of this injustice is all the

more apparent since the Supreme Court, in the Alabama case referred to,

has declared the legislative and political department of the government to

be the only power which can right a political wrong. Under this decision

still further attacks upon the liberties of the citizen may be confidently

expected. Armed with the Negro’s sole weapon of defense, the white South

stands ready to smite down his rights. The ballot was first given to the

Negro to defend him against this very thing. He needs it now far more than

then, and for even stronger reasons. The 9,000,000 free colored people of

to-day have vastly more to defend than the 3,000,000 hapless blacks who

had just emerged from slavery. If there be those who maintain that it was

a mistake to give the Negro the ballot at the time and in the manner in

which it was given, let them take to heart this reflection: that to

deprive him of it to-day, or to so restrict it as to leave him utterly

defenseless against the present relentless attitude of the South toward

his rights, will prove to be a mistake so much greater than the first, as

to be no less than a crime, from which not alone the Southern Negro must

suffer, but for which the nation will as surely pay the penalty as it paid

for the crime of slavery. Contempt for law is death to a republic, and

this one has developed alarming symptoms of the disease.


And now, having thus robbed the Negro of every political and civil

_right_, the white South, in palliation of its course, makes a great show

of magnanimity in leaving him, as the sole remnant of what he acquired

through the Civil War, a very inadequate public school education, which,

by the present program, is to be directed mainly towards making him a

better agricultural laborer. Even this is put forward as a favor, although

the Negro’s property is taxed to pay for it, and his labor as well. For it

is a well settled principle of political economy, that land and machinery

of themselves produce nothing, and that labor indirectly pays its fair

proportion of the tax upon the public’s wealth. The white South seems to

stand to the Negro at present as one, who, having been reluctantly

compelled to release another from bondage, sees him stumbling forward and

upward, neglected by his friends and scarcely yet conscious of his own

strength; seizes him, binds him, and having bereft him of speech, of sight

and of manhood, “yokes him with the mule” and exclaims, with a show of

virtue which ought to deceive no one: “Behold how good a friend I am of

yours! Have I not left you a stomach and a pair of arms, and will I not

generously permit you to work for me with the one, that you may thereby

gain enough to fill the other? A brain you do not need. We will relieve

you of any responsibility that might seem to demand such an organ.”


The argument of peace-loving Northern white men and Negro opportunists

that the political power of the Negro having long ago been suppressed by

unlawful means, his right to vote is a mere paper right, of no real value,

and therefore to be lightly yielded for the sake of a hypothetical

harmony, is fatally short-sighted. It is precisely the attitude and

essentially the argument which would have surrendered to the South in the

sixties, and would have left this country to rot in slavery for another

generation. White men do not thus argue concerning their own rights. They

know too well the value of ideals. Southern white men see too clearly the

latent power of these unexercised rights. If the political power of the

Negro was a nullity because of his ignorance and lack of leadership, why

were they not content to leave it so, with the pleasing assurance that if

it ever became effective, it would be because the Negroes had grown fit

for its exercise? On the contrary, they have not rested until the

possibility of its revival was apparently headed off by new State

Constitutions. Nor are they satisfied with this. There is no doubt that an

effort will be made to secure the repeal of the Fifteenth Amendment, and

thus forestall the development of the wealthy and educated Negro, whom the

South seems to anticipate as a greater menace than the ignorant ex-slave.

However improbable this repeal may seem, it is not a subject to be lightly

dismissed; for it is within the power of the white people of the nation to

do whatever they wish in the premises–they did it once; they can do it

again. The Negro and his friends should see to it that the white majority

shall never wish to do anything to his hurt. There still stands, before

the Negro-hating whites of the South, the specter of a Supreme Court

which will interpret the Constitution to mean what it says, and what those

who enacted it meant, and what the nation, which ratified it, understood,

and which will find power, in a nation which goes beyond seas to

administer the affairs of distant peoples, to enforce its own fundamental

laws; the specter, too, of an aroused public opinion which will compel

Congress and the Courts to preserve the liberties of the Republic, which

are the liberties of the people. To wilfully neglect the suffrage, to hold

it lightly, is to tamper with a sacred right; to yield it for anything

else whatever is simply suicidal. Dropping the element of race,

disfranchisement is no more than to say to the poor and poorly taught,

that they must relinquish the right to defend themselves against

oppression until they shall have become rich and learned, in competition

with those already thus favored and possessing the ballot in addition.

This is not the philosophy of history. The growth of liberty has been the

constant struggle of the poor against the privileged classes; and the

goal of that struggle has ever been the equality of all men before the

law. The Negro who would yield this right, deserves to be a slave; he has

the servile spirit. The rich and the educated can, by virtue of their

influence, command many votes; can find other means of protection; the

poor man has but one, he should guard it as a sacred treasure. Long ago,

by fair treatment, the white leaders of the South might have bound the

Negro to themselves with hoops of steel. They have not chosen to take this

course, but by assuming from the beginning an attitude hostile to his

rights, have never gained his confidence, and now seek by foul means to

destroy where they have never sought by fair means to control.


I have spoken of the effect of disfranchisement upon the colored race; it

is to the race as a whole, that the argument of the problem is generally

directed. But the unit of society in a republic is the individual, and not

the race, the failure to recognize this fact being the fundamental error

which has beclouded the whole discussion. The effect of disfranchisement

upon the individual is scarcely less disastrous. I do not speak of the

moral effect of injustice upon those who suffer from it; I refer rather to

the practical consequences which may be appreciated by any mind. No

country is free in which the way upward is not open for every man to try,

and for every properly qualified man to attain whatever of good the

community life may offer. Such a condition does not exist, at the South,

even in theory, for any man of color. In no career can such a man compete

with white men upon equal terms. He must not only meet the prejudice of

the individual, not only the united prejudice of the white community; but

lest some one should wish to treat him fairly, he is met at every turn

with some legal prohibition which says, “Thou shalt not,” or “Thus far

shalt thou go and no farther.” But the Negro race is viable; it adapts

itself readily to circumstances; and being thus adaptable, there is

always the temptation to


    “Crook the pregnant hinges of the knee,

    Where thrift may follow fawning.”


He who can most skilfully balance himself upon the advancing or receding

wave of white opinion concerning his race, is surest of such measure of

prosperity as is permitted to men of dark skins. There are Negro teachers

in the South–the privilege of teaching in their own schools is the one

respectable branch of the public service still left open to them–who, for

a grudging appropriation from a Southern legislature, will decry their own

race, approve their own degradation, and laud their oppressors. Deprived

of the right to vote, and, therefore, of any power to demand what is their

due, they feel impelled to buy the tolerance of the whites at any

sacrifice. If to live is the first duty of man, as perhaps it is the first

instinct, then those who thus stoop to conquer may be right. But is it

needful to stoop so low, and if so, where lies the ultimate

responsibility for this abasement?


I shall say nothing about the moral effect of disfranchisement upon the

white people, or upon the State itself. What slavery made of the Southern

whites is a matter of history. The abolition of slavery gave the South an

opportunity to emerge from barbarism. Present conditions indicate that the

spirit which dominated slavery still curses the fair section over which

that institution spread its blight.


And now, is the situation remediless? If not so, where lies the remedy?

First let us take up those remedies suggested by the men who approve of

disfranchisement, though they may sometimes deplore the method, or regret

the necessity.


Time, we are told, heals all diseases, rights all wrongs, and is the only

cure for this one. It is a cowardly argument. These people are entitled to

their rights to-day, while they are yet alive to enjoy them; and it is

poor statesmanship and worse morals to nurse a present evil and thrust it

forward upon a future generation for correction. The nation can no more

honestly do this than it could thrust back upon a past generation the

responsibility for slavery. It had to meet that responsibility; it ought

to meet this one.


Education has been put forward as the great corrective–preferably

industrial education. The intellect of the whites is to be educated to the

point where they will so appreciate the blessings of liberty and equality,

as of their own motion to enlarge and defend the Negro’s rights. The

Negroes, on the other hand, are to be so trained as to make them, not

equal with the whites in any way–God save the mark! this would be

unthinkable!–but so useful to the community that the whites will protect

them rather than to lose their valuable services. Some few enthusiasts go

so far as to maintain that by virtue of education the Negro will, in time,

become strong enough to protect himself against any aggression of the

whites; this, it may be said, is a strictly Northern view.


It is not quite clearly apparent how education alone, in the ordinary

meaning of the word, is to solve, in any appreciable time, the problem of

the relations of Southern white and black people. The need of education of

all kinds for both races is wofully apparent. But men and nations have

been free without being learned, and there have been educated slaves.

Liberty has been known to languish where culture had reached a very high

development. Nations do not first become rich and learned and then free,

but the lesson of history has been that they first become free and then

rich and learned, and oftentimes fall back into slavery again because of

too great wealth, and the resulting luxury and carelessness of civic

virtues. The process of education has been going on rapidly in the

Southern States since the Civil War, and yet, if we take superficial

indications, the rights of the Negroes are at a lower ebb than at any time

during the thirty-five years of their freedom, and the race prejudice more

intense and uncompromising. It is not apparent that educated Southerners

are less rancorous than others in their speech concerning the Negro, or

less hostile in their attitude toward his rights. It is their voice alone

that we have heard in this discussion; and if, as they state, they are

liberal in their views as compared with the more ignorant whites, then God

save the Negro!


I was told, in so many words, two years ago, by the Superintendent of

Public Schools of a Southern city that “there was no place in the modern

world for the Negro, except under the ground.” If gentlemen holding such

opinions are to instruct the white youth of the South, would it be at all

surprising if these, later on, should devote a portion of their leisure to

the improvement of civilization by putting under the ground as many of

this superfluous race as possible?


The sole excuse made in the South for the prevalent injustice to the Negro

is the difference in race, and the inequalities and antipathies resulting

therefrom. It has nowhere been declared as a part of the Southern program

that the Negro, when educated, is to be given a fair representation in

government or an equal opportunity in life; the contrary has been

strenuously asserted; education can never make of him anything but a

Negro, and, therefore, essentially inferior, and not to be safely trusted

with any degree of power. A system of education which would tend to soften

the asperities and lessen the inequalities between the races would be of

inestimable value. An education which by a rigid separation of the races

from the kindergarten to the university, fosters this racial antipathy,

and is directed toward emphasizing the superiority of one class and the

inferiority of another, might easily have disastrous, rather than

beneficial results. It would render the oppressing class more powerful to

injure, the oppressed quicker to perceive and keener to resent the injury,

without proportionate power of defense. The same assimilative education

which is given at the North to all children alike, whereby native and

foreign, black and white, are taught side by side in every grade of

instruction, and are compelled by the exigencies of discipline to keep

their prejudices in abeyance, and are given the opportunity to learn and

appreciate one another’s good qualities, and to establish friendly

relations which may exist throughout life, is absent from the Southern

system of education, both of the past and as proposed for the future.

Education is in a broad sense a remedy for all social ills; but the

disease we have to deal with now is not only constitutional but acute. A

wise physician does not simply give a tonic for a diseased limb, or a high

fever; the patient might be dead before the constitutional remedy could

become effective. The evils of slavery, its injury to whites and blacks,

and to the body politic, was clearly perceived and acknowledged by the

educated leaders of the South as far back as the Revolutionary War and the

Constitutional Convention, and yet they made no effort to abolish it.

Their remedy was the same–time, education, social and economic

development;–and yet a bloody war was necessary to destroy slavery and

put its spirit temporarily to sleep. When the South and its friends are

ready to propose a system of education which will recognize and teach the

equality of all men before the law, the potency of education alone to

settle the race problem will be more clearly apparent.


At present even good Northern men, who wish to educate the Negroes, feel

impelled to buy this privilege from the none too eager white South, by

conceding away the civil and political rights of those whom they would

benefit. They have, indeed, gone farther than the Southerners themselves

in approving the disfranchisement of the colored race. Most Southern men,

now that they have carried their point and disfranchised the Negro, are

willing to admit, in the language of a recent number of the _Charleston

Evening Post_, that “the attitude of the Southern white man toward the

Negro is incompatible with the fundamental ideas of the republic.” It

remained for our Clevelands and Abbotts and Parkhursts to assure them that

their unlawful course was right and justifiable, and for the most

distinguished Negro leader to declare that “every revised Constitution

throughout the Southern States has put a premium upon intelligence,

ownership of property, thrift and character.” So does every penitentiary

sentence put a premium upon good conduct; but it is poor consolation to

the one unjustly condemned, to be told that he may shorten his sentence

somewhat by good behavior. Dr. Booker T. Washington, whose language is

quoted above, has, by his eminent services in the cause of education, won

deserved renown. If he has seemed, at times, to those jealous of the best

things for their race, to decry the higher education, it can easily be

borne in mind that his career is bound up in the success of an industrial

school; hence any undue stress which he may put upon that branch of

education may safely be ascribed to the natural zeal of the promoter,

without detracting in any degree from the essential value of his

teachings in favor of manual training, thrift and character-building. But

Mr. Washington’s prominence as an educational leader, among a race whose

prominent leaders are so few, has at times forced him, perhaps

reluctantly, to express himself in regard to the political condition of

his people, and here his utterances have not always been so wise nor so

happy. He has declared himself in favor of a restricted suffrage, which at

present means, for his own people, nothing less than complete loss of

representation–indeed it is only in that connection that the question has

been seriously mooted; and he has advised them to go slow in seeking to

enforce their civil and political rights, which, in effect, means silent

submission to injustice. Southern white men may applaud this advice as

wise, because it fits in with their purposes; but Senator McEnery of

Louisiana, in a recent article in the _Independent_, voices the Southern

white opinion of such acquiescence when he says: “What other race would

have submitted so many years to slavery without complaint? _What other

race would have submitted so quietly to disfranchisement?_ These facts

stamp his (the Negro’s) inferiority to the white race.” The time to

philosophize about the good there is in evil, is not while its correction

is still possible, but, if at all, after all hope of correction is past.

Until then it calls for nothing but rigorous condemnation. To try to read

any good thing into these fraudulent Southern constitutions, or to accept

them as an accomplished fact, is to condone a crime against one’s race.

Those who commit crime should bear the odium. It is not a pleasing

spectacle to see the robbed applaud the robber. Silence were better.


It has become fashionable to question the wisdom of the Fifteenth

Amendment. I believe it to have been an act of the highest statesmanship,

based upon the fundamental idea of this Republic, entirely justified by

conditions; experimental in its nature, perhaps, as every new thing must

be, but just in principle; a choice between methods, of which it seemed

to the great statesmen of that epoch the wisest and the best, and

essentially the most just, bearing in mind the interests of the freedmen

and the Nation, as well as the feelings of the Southern whites; never

fairly tried, and therefore, not yet to be justly condemned. Not one of

those who condemn it, has been able, even in the light of subsequent

events, to suggest a better method by which the liberty and civil rights

of the freedmen and their descendants could have been protected. Its

abandonment, as I have shown, leaves this liberty and these rights frankly

without any guaranteed protection. All the education which philanthropy or

the State could offer as a _substitute_ for equality of rights, would be a

poor exchange; there is no defensible reason why they should not go hand

in hand, each encouraging and strengthening the other. The education which

one can demand as a right is likely to do more good than the education for

which one must sue as a favor.


The chief argument against Negro suffrage, the insistently proclaimed

argument, worn threadbare in Congress, on the platform, in the pulpit, in

the press, in poetry, in fiction, in impassioned rhetoric, is the

reconstruction period. And yet the evils of that period were due far more

to the venality and indifference of white men than to the incapacity of

black voters. The revised Southern Constitutions adopted under

reconstruction reveal a higher statesmanship than any which preceded or

have followed them, and prove that the freed voters could as easily have

been led into the paths of civic righteousness as into those of

misgovernment. Certain it is that under reconstruction the civil and

political rights of all men were more secure in those States than they

have ever been since. We will hear less of the evils of reconstruction,

now that the bugaboo has served its purpose by disfranchising the Negro,

it will be laid aside for a time while the nation discusses the political

corruption of great cities; the scandalous conditions in Rhode Island; the

evils attending reconstruction in the Philippines, and the scandals in

the postoffice department–for none of which, by the way, is the Negro

charged with any responsibility, and for none of which is the restriction

of the suffrage a remedy seriously proposed. Rhode Island is indeed the

only Northern State which has a property qualification for the franchise!


There are three tribunals to which the colored people may justly appeal

for the protection of their rights: the United States Courts, Congress and

public opinion. At present all three seem mainly indifferent to any

question of human rights under the Constitution. Indeed, Congress and the

Courts merely follow public opinion, seldom lead it. Congress never enacts

a measure which is believed to oppose public opinion;–your Congressman

keeps his ear to the ground. The high, serene atmosphere of the Courts is

not impervious to its voice; they rarely enforce a law contrary to public

opinion, even the Supreme Court being able, as Charles Sumner once put it,

to find a reason for every decision it may wish to render; or, as

experience has shown, a method to evade any question which it cannot

decently decide in accordance with public opinion. The art of straddling

is not confined to the political arena. The Southern situation has been

well described by a colored editor in Richmond: “When we seek relief at

the hands of Congress, we are informed that our plea involves a legal

question, and we are referred to the Courts. When we appeal to the Courts,

we are gravely told that the question is a political one, and that we must

go to Congress. When Congress enacts remedial legislation, our enemies

take it to the Supreme Court, which promptly declares it

unconstitutional.” The Negro might chase his rights round and round this

circle until the end of time, without finding any relief.


Yet the Constitution is clear and unequivocal in its terms, and no Supreme

Court can indefinitely continue to construe it as meaning anything but

what it says. This Court should be bombarded with suits until it makes

some definite pronouncement, one way or the other, on the broad question

of the constitutionality of the disfranchising Constitutions of the

Southern States. The Negro and his friends will then have a clean-cut

issue to take to the forum of public opinion, and a distinct ground upon

which to demand legislation for the enforcement of the Federal

Constitution. The case from Alabama was carried to the Supreme Court

expressly to determine the constitutionality of the Alabama Constitution.

The Court declared itself without jurisdiction, and in the same breath

went into the merits of the case far enough to deny relief, without

passing upon the real issue. Had it said, as it might with absolute

justice and perfect propriety, that the Alabama Constitution is a bold and

impudent violation of the Fifteenth Amendment, the purpose of the lawsuit

would have been accomplished and a righteous cause vastly strengthened.


But public opinion cannot remain permanently indifferent to so vital a

question. The agitation is already on. It is at present largely academic,

but is slowly and resistlessly, forcing itself into politics, which is the

medium through which republics settle such questions. It cannot much

longer be contemptuously or indifferently elbowed aside. The South itself

seems bent upon forcing the question to an issue, as, by its arrogant

assumptions, it brought on the Civil War. From that section, too, there

come now and then, side by side with tales of Southern outrage, excusing

voices, which at the same time are accusing voices; which admit that the

white South is dealing with the Negro unjustly and unwisely; that the

Golden Rule has been forgotten; that the interests of white men alone have

been taken into account, and that their true interests as well are being

sacrificed. There is a silent white South, uneasy in conscience, darkened

in counsel, groping for the light, and willing to do the right. They are

as yet a feeble folk, their voices scarcely audible above the clamor of

the mob. May their convictions ripen into wisdom, and may their numbers

and their courage increase! If the class of Southern white men of whom

Judge Jones of Alabama, is so noble a representative, are supported and

encouraged by a righteous public opinion at the North, they may, in time,

become the dominant white South, and we may then look for wisdom and

justice in the place where, so far as the Negro is concerned, they now

seem well-nigh strangers. But even these gentlemen will do well to bear in

mind that so long as they discriminate in any way against the Negro’s

equality of right, so long do they set class against class and open the

door to every sort of discrimination. There can be no middle ground

between justice and injustice, between the citizen and the serf.


It is not likely that the North, upon the sober second thought, will

permit the dearly-bought results of the Civil War to be nullified by any

change in the Constitution. As long as the Fifteenth Amendment stands, the

_rights_ of colored citizens are ultimately secure. There were would-be

despots in England after the granting of Magna Charta; but it outlived

them all, and the liberties of the English people are secure. There was

slavery in this land after the Declaration of Independence, yet the faces

of those who love liberty have ever turned to that immortal document. So

will the Constitution and its principles outlive the prejudices which

would seek to overthrow it.


What colored men of the South can do to secure their citizenship to-day,

or in the immediate future, is not very clear. Their utterances on

political questions, unless they be to concede away the political rights

of their race, or to soothe the consciences of white men by suggesting

that the problem is insoluble except by some slow remedial process which

will become effectual only in the distant future, are received with scant

respect–could scarcely, indeed, be otherwise received, without a voting

constituency to back them up,–and must be cautiously made, lest they meet

an actively hostile reception. But there are many colored men at the

North, where their civil and political rights in the main are respected.

There every honest man has a vote, which he may freely cast, and which is

reasonably sure to be fairly counted. When this race develops a sufficient

power of combination, under adequate leadership,–and there are signs

already that this time is near at hand,–the Northern vote can be wielded

irresistibly for the defense of the rights of their Southern brethren.


In the meantime the Northern colored men have the right of free speech,

and they should never cease to demand their rights, to clamor for them, to

guard them jealously, and insistently to invoke law and public sentiment

to maintain them. He who would be free must learn to protect his freedom.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. He who would be respected must

respect himself. The best friend of the Negro is he who would rather see,

within the borders of this republic one million free citizens of that

race, equal before the law, than ten million cringing serfs existing by a

contemptuous sufferance. A race that is willing to survive upon any other

terms is scarcely worthy of consideration.


The direct remedy for the disfranchisement of the Negro lies through

political action. One scarcely sees the philosophy of distinguishing

between a civil and a political right. But the Supreme Court has

recognized this distinction and has designated Congress as the power to

right a political wrong. The Fifteenth Amendment gives Congress power to

enforce its provisions. The power would seem to be inherent in government

itself; but anticipating that the enforcement of the Amendment might

involve difficulty, they made the superorogatory declaration. Moreover,

they went further, and passed laws by which they provided for such

enforcement. These the Supreme Court has so far declared insufficient. It

is for Congress to make more laws. It is for colored men and for white men

who are not content to see the blood-bought results of the Civil War

nullified, to urge and direct public opinion to the point where it will

demand stringent legislation to enforce the Fourteenth and Fifteenth

Amendments. This demand will rest in law, in morals and in true

statesmanship; no difficulties attending it could be worse than the

present ignoble attitude of the Nation toward its own laws and its own

ideals–without courage to enforce them, without conscience to change

them, the United States presents the spectacle of a Nation drifting

aimlessly, so far as this vital, National problem is concerned, upon the

sea of irresolution, toward the maelstrom of anarchy.


The right of Congress, under the Fourteenth Amendment, to reduce Southern

representation can hardly be disputed. But Congress has a simpler and more

direct method to accomplish the same end. It is the sole judge of the

qualifications of its own members, and the sole judge of whether any

member presenting his credentials has met those qualifications. It can

refuse to seat any member who comes from a district where voters have been

disfranchised: it can judge for itself whether this has been done, and

there is no appeal from its decision.


If, when it has passed a law, any Court shall refuse to obey its behests,

it can impeach the judges. If any president refuse to lend the executive

arm of the government to the enforcement of the law, it can impeach the

president. No such extreme measures are likely to be necessary for the

enforcement of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments–and the

Thirteenth, which is also threatened–but they are mentioned as showing

that Congress is supreme; and Congress proceeds, the House directly, the

Senate indirectly, from the people and is governed by public opinion. If

the reduction of Southern representation were to be regarded in the light

of a bargain by which the Fifteenth Amendment was surrendered, then it

might prove fatal to liberty. If it be inflicted as a punishment and a

warning, to be followed by more drastic measures if not sufficient, it

would serve a useful purpose. The Fifteenth Amendment declares that the

right to vote _shall not_ be denied or abridged on account of color; and

any measure adopted by Congress should look to that end. Only as the power

to injure the Negro in Congress is reduced thereby, would a reduction of

representation protect the Negro; without other measures it would still

leave him in the hands of the Southern whites, who could safely be

trusted to make him pay for their humiliation.


Finally, there is, somewhere in the Universe a “Power that works for

righteousness,” and that leads men to do justice to one another. To this

power, working upon the hearts and consciences of men, the Negro can

always appeal. He has the right upon his side, and in the end the right

will prevail. The Negro will, in time, attain to full manhood and

citizenship throughout the United States. No better guaranty of this is

needed than a comparison of his present with his past. Toward this he must

do his part, as lies within his power and his opportunity. But it will be,

after all, largely a white man’s conflict, fought out in the forum of the

public conscience. The Negro, though eager enough when opportunity

offered, had comparatively little to do with the abolition of slavery,

which was a vastly more formidable task than will be the enforcement of

the Fifteenth Amendment.





_The Negro and the Law_




  The law and how it is dodged by enactments infringing upon the rights

  guaranteed to the freedmen by constitutional amendment. A powerful plea

  for justice for the Negro.


[Illustration: WILFORD H. SMITH.]



The colored people in the United States are indebted to the beneficent

provisions of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution of

the United States, for the establishment of their freedom and citizenship,

and it is to these mainly they must look for the maintenance of their

liberty and the protection of their civil rights. These amendments

followed close upon the Emancipation Proclamation issued January 1st,

1863, by President Lincoln, and his call for volunteers, which was

answered by more than three hundred thousand negro soldiers, who, during

three years of military service, helped the Union arms to victory at

Appomattox. Standing in the shadow of the awful calamity and deep distress

of the civil war, and grateful to God for peace and victory over the

rebellion, the American people, who upheld the Union, rose to the sublime

heights of doing justice to the former slaves, who had grown and

multiplied with the country from the early settlement at Jamestown. It

looked like an effort to pay them back for their years of faithfulness and

unrequited toil, by not only making them free but placing them on equal

footing with themselves in the fundamental law. Certainly, they intended

at least, that they should have as many rights under the Constitution as

are given to white naturalized citizens who come to this country from all

the nations of Europe.


The 13th amendment provides that neither slavery nor involuntary

servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have

been duly convicted, shall exist in the United States or any place subject

to their jurisdiction.


The 14th amendment provides in section one, that all persons born or

naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,

are citizens of the United States, and of the State wherein they reside.

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges

or immunities of citizens of the United States, nor shall any State

deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of

law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection

of the law.


The 15th amendment provides that the right of citizens of the United

States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States, or by

any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.


Chief Justice Waite, in the case of the United States vs. Cruikshank, 92nd

U.S. 542, said:–


“The 14th amendment prohibits a State from denying to any person within

its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law. The equality of the

rights of citizens is a principle of republicanism. Every Republican

government is in duty bound to protect all its citizens in the enjoyment

of this principle if within its power.”


The same Chief Justice, in the case of the United States vs. Reese, 92nd

U.S. 214, said:


“The 15th amendment does not confer the right of suffrage upon anyone. It

prevents the States or the United States from giving preference in this

particular to one citizen of the United States over another, on account of

race, color or previous condition of servitude. Before its adoption this

could be done. It was as much within the power of a State to exclude

citizens of the United States from voting on account of race and color, as

it was on account of age, property or education. Now it is not.”


Notwithstanding the manifest meaning of equality of citizenship contained

in the constitutional amendments, it was found necessary to reinforce them

by a civil rights law, enacted by the Congress of the United States, March

1st, 1875, entitled, “An Act To Protect All Citizens In Their Civil and

Legal Rights.” Its preamble and first section are as follows:–Preamble:

“Whereas, it is essential to just government we recognize the equality of

all men before the law, and hold that it is the duty of government in its

dealings with the people to mete out equal and exact justice to all, of

whatever nativity, race, color or persuasion, religious or political, and

it being the appropriate object of legislation to enact great fundamental

principles into law, therefore,


“Be it enacted that all persons within the jurisdiction of the United

States shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the

accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of inns, public

conveyances on land or water, theatres and other places of public

amusement, subject only to the conditions and limitations established by

law, and applicable alike to citizens of every race and color, regardless

to any previous condition of servitude.”


The Supreme Court of the United States has held this salutary law

unconstitutional and void as applied to the States, but binding in the

District of Columbia, and the Territories over which the government of the

United States has control.–Civil Rights cases 109 U.S. 63. Since the

Supreme Court’s ruling, many Northern and Western States have enacted

similar civil rights laws. Equality of citizenship in the United States

suffered a severe blow when the civil rights bill was struck down by the

Supreme Court. The colored people looked upon the decision as unsound, and

prompted by race prejudice. It was clear that the amendments to the

Constitution were adopted to secure not only their freedom, but their

equal civil rights, and by ratifying the amendments the several States

conceded to the Federal government the power and authority of maintaining

not alone their freedom, but their equal civil rights in the United States

as well.


The Federal Supreme Court put a narrow interpretation on the Constitution,

rather than a liberal one in favor of equal rights; in marked contrast to

a recent decision of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New

York in a civil rights case arising under the statute of New York, Burks

vs. Bosso, 81 N.Y. Supp, 384. The New York Supreme Court held this

language: “The liberation of the slaves, and the suppression of the

rebellion, was supplemented by the amendments to the national Constitution

according to the colored people their civil rights and investing them with

citizenship. The amendments indicated a clear purpose to secure equal

rights to the black people with the white race. The legislative intent

must control, and that may be gathered from circumstances inducing the

act. Where that intent has been unvaryingly manifested in one direction,

and that in the prohibition of any discrimination against a large class of

citizens, the courts should not hesitate to keep apace with legislative

purpose. We must remember that the slightest trace of African blood places

a man under the ban of belonging to that race. However respectable and

whatever he may be, he is ostracized socially, and when the policy of the

law is against extending the prohibition of his civil rights, a liberal,

rather than a narrow interpretation should be given to enactments

evidencing the intent to eliminate race discrimination, as far as that

can be accomplished by legislative intervention.”


The statutory enactments and recent Constitutions of most of the former

slave-holding States, show that they have never looked with favor upon the

amendments to the national Constitution. They rather regard them as war

measures designed by the North to humiliate and punish the people of those

States lately in rebellion. While in the main they accept the 13th

amendment and concede that the negro should have personal freedom, they

have never been altogether in harmony with the spirit and purposes of the

14th and 15th amendments. There seems to be a distinct and positive fear

on the part of the South that if the negro is given a man’s chance, and is

accorded equal civil rights with white men on the juries, on common

carriers, and in public places, that it will in some way lead to his

social equality. This fallacious argument is persisted in, notwithstanding

the well-known fact, that although the Jews are the leaders in the wealth

and commerce of the South, their civil equality has never, except in rare

instances, led to any social intermingling with the Southern whites.


Holding these views the Southern people in 1875, found means to overcome

the Republican majorities in all the re-constructed States, and

practically drove the negroes out of the law-making bodies of all those

States. So that, now in all the Southern States, so far as can be

ascertained, there is not one negro sitting as a representative in any of

the law-making bodies. The next step was to deny them representation on

the grand and petit juries in the State courts, through Jury

Commissioners, who excluded them from the panels.


To be taxed without representation is a serious injustice in a republic

whose foundations are laid upon the principle of “no taxation without

representation.” But serious as this phase of the case must appear,

infinitely more serious is the case when we consider the fact that they

are likewise excluded from the grand and petit juries in all the State

courts, with the fewest and rarest exceptions. The courts sit in judgment

upon their lives and liberties, and dispose of their dearest earthly

possessions. They are not entitled to life, liberty or property if the

courts should decide they are not, and yet in this all-important tribunal

they are denied all voice, except as parties and witnesses, and here and

there a negro lawyer is permitted to appear. One vote on the grand jury

might prevent an indictment, and save disgrace and the risk of public

trial; while one vote on the petit jury might save a life or a term of

imprisonment, for an innocent person pursued and persecuted by powerful



With no voice in the making of the laws, which they are bound to obey, nor

in their administration by the courts, thus tied and helpless, the negroes

were proscribed by a system of legal enactments intended to wholly nullify

the letter and spirit of the war amendments to the national organic law.

This crusade was begun by enacting a system of Jim-Crow car laws in all

the Southern States, so that now the Jim-Crow cars run from the Gulf of

Mexico into the national capital. They are called, “Separate Car Laws,”

providing for separate but equal accommodations for whites and negroes.

Though fair on their face, they are everywhere known to discriminate

against the colored people in their administration, and were intended to

humiliate and degrade them.


Setting apart separate places for negroes on public carriers, is just as

repugnant to the spirit and intent of the national Constitution, as would

be a law compelling all Jews or all Roman Catholics to occupy compartments

specially set apart for them on account of their religion. If these

statutes were not especially aimed at the negro, an arrangement of

different fares, such as first, second and third classes, would have been

far more just and preferable, and would have enabled the refined and

exclusive of both races to avoid the presence of the coarse and vicious,

by selecting the more expensive fare. Still these laws have been upheld by

the Federal Supreme Court, and pronounced not in conflict with the

amendments to the Constitution of the United States.


City ordinances providing for separate street cars for white and colored

passengers, are in force in Atlanta, New Orleans, and in nearly all the

cities of the South. In all the principal cities of Alabama, a certain

portion of the street cars is set apart and marked for negroes. The

conductors are clothed with the authority of determining to what race the

passenger belongs, and may arrest persons refusing to obey his orders. It

is often a very difficult task to determine to what race some passengers

belong, there being so many dark-white persons that might be mistaken for

negroes, and persons known as negroes who are as fair as any white person.


In the State of Georgia, a negro cannot purchase a berth in a sleeping

car, under any circumstances, no matter where his destination, owing to

the following statute enacted December 20th, 1899: “Sleeping car

companies, and all railroads operating sleeping cars in this State, shall

separate the white and colored races, and shall not permit them to occupy

the same compartment; provided, that nothing in this act shall be

construed to compel sleeping car companies or railroads operating sleeping

cars, to carry persons of color in sleeping or parlor cars; provided also,

that this act shall not apply to colored nurses or servants travelling

with their employers.” The violation of this statute is a misdemeanor.


Article 45, section 639 of the statutes of Georgia, 1895, makes it a

misdemeanor to keep or confine white and colored convicts together, or to

chain them together going to and from work. There is also a statute in

Georgia requiring that a separate tax list be kept in every county, of the

property of white and colored persons. Both races generally approve the

laws prohibiting inter-marriages between white and colored persons, which

seem to be uniform throughout the Southern States.


Florida seems to have gone a step further than the rest, and by sections

2612 and 2613, Revised Statutes, 1892, it is made a misdemeanor for a

white man and a colored woman, and vice versa, to sleep under the same

roof at night, occupying the same room. Florida is entitled to credit,

however, for a statute making marriages between white and colored persons

prior to 1866, where they continue to live together, valid and binding to

all intents and purposes.


In addition to this forced separation of the races by law, “from the

cradle to the grave,” there is yet a sadder and more deplorable

separation, in the almost universal disposition to leave the negroes

wholly and severely to themselves in their home life and religious life,

by the white Christian people of the South, distinctly manifesting no

concern in their moral and religious development.


In Georgia and the Carolinas, and all the Gulf States (except Texas, where

the farm labor is mostly white) the negroes on the farms are held by a

system of laws which prevents them from leaving the plantations, and

enables the landlord to punish them by fine and imprisonment for any

alleged breach of contract. In the administration of these laws they are

virtually made slaves to the landlord, as long as they are in debt, and it

is wholly in the power of the landlord to forever keep them in debt.


By section 355, of the Criminal Code of South Carolina, 1902, it is made a

misdemeanor to violate a contract to work and labor on a farm, subject to

a fine of not less than five dollars, and more than one hundred dollars,

or imprisonment for not less than ten days, or more than thirty. It is

also made a misdemeanor to employ any farm laborer while under contract

with another, or to persuade or entice a farm laborer to leave his



The Georgia laws are a little stronger in this respect than the laws of

the other States. By section 121, of the Code of Georgia, 1895, it is

provided, “that if any person shall, by offering higher wages, or in any

other way entice, persuade or decoy, or attempt to entice, persuade or

decoy any farm laborer from his employer, he shall be guilty of a

misdemeanor.” Again, by act of December 17th, 1901, the Georgia

Legislature passed a law making it an offense to rent land, or furnish

land to a farm laborer, after he has contracted with another landlord,

without first obtaining the consent of the first landlord.


The presence of large numbers of negroes in the towns and cities of the

South and North can be accounted for by such laws as the above,

administered by ignorant country magistrates, in nearly all cases the

pliant tools of the landlords.


The boldest and most open violation of the negro’s rights under the

Federal Constitution, was the enactment of the grand-father clauses, and

understanding clauses in the new Constitutions of Louisiana, Alabama, the

Carolinas, and Virginia, which have had the effect to deprive the great

body of them of the right to vote in those States, for no other reason

than their race and color. Although thus depriving him of his vote, and

all voice in the State governments at the South, in all of them his

property is taxed to pay pensions to Confederate soldiers, who fought to

continue him in slavery. The fact is, the franchise had been practically

taken from the negroes in the South since 1876, by admitted fraudulent

methods and intimidation in elections, but it was not until late years

that this nullification of the amendments was enacted into State



This brings me to the proposition that it is mainly in the enforcement, or

the administration of the laws, however fair and equal they may appear on

their face, that the constitutional rights of negroes to equal protection

and treatment are denied, not only in the South but in many Northern

States. There are noble exceptions, however, of high-toned honorable

gentlemen on the bench as trial judges, and Supreme Court justices, in the

South, who without regard to consequences have stood for fairness and

justice to the negro in their courts.


With the population of the South distinctly divided into two classes, not

the rich and poor, not the educated and ignorant, not the moral and

immoral, but simply whites and blacks, all negroes being generally

regarded as inferior and not entitled to the same rights as any white

person, it is bound to be a difficult matter to obtain fair and just

results, when there is any sort of conflict between the races. The negro

realizes this, and knows that he is at an immense disadvantage when he is

forced to litigate with a white man in civil matters, and much more so

when he is charged with a crime by a white person.


The juries in the South almost always reject the testimony of any number

of negroes if given in opposition to that of a white witness, and this is

true in many instances, no matter how unreasonable or inconsistent the

testimony of the white witness may be. Jurors in the South have been heard

to admit that they would be socially ostracized if they brought in a

verdict upon colored testimony alone, in opposition to white testimony.


Perhaps it can be best explained how the negro fares in the courts of the

South by giving a few cases showing how justice is administered to him:


A negro boy was brought to the bar for trial before a police magistrate,

in a Southern capital city, charged with assault and battery on a white

boy about the same age, but a little larger. The testimony showed that the

white boy had beat the negro on several previous occasions as he passed on

his way to school, and each time the negro showed no disposition to fight.

On the morning of the charge he attacked the negro and attempted to cut

him with a knife, because the negro’s mother had reported to the white

boy’s mother the previous assaults, and asked her to chastise him. The

colored boy in trying to keep from being cut was compelled to fight, and

got the advantage and threw the white boy down and blacked his eyes. The

magistrate on this evidence fined the negro twenty-five dollars. The

mother of the negro having once been a servant for the magistrate, found

courage to rise, and said: “Jedge, yo Honer, can I speak?” The magistrate

replied, “Yes, go on.” She said, “Well, Jedge, my boy is ben tellin’ me

about dis white boy meddlin’ him on his way to school, but I would not let

my boy fight, ’cause I ‘tole him he couldn’t git no jestice in law. But he

had no other way to go to school ‘ceptin’ gwine dat way; and den jedge,

dis white chile is bigger an my chile and jumped on him fust with a knife

for nothin’, befo’ my boy tetched him. Jedge I am a po’ woman, and washes

fur a livin’, and ain’t got nobody to help me, and can’t raise all dat

money. I think dat white boy’s mammy ought to pay half of dis fine.” By

this time her voice had become stifled by her tears. The judge turned to

the mother of the white boy and said, “Madam, are you willing to pay half

of this fine?” She answered, “Yes, Your Honor.” And the judge changed the

order to a fine of $12.50 each, against both boys.


A celebrated case in point reported in the books is, George Maury vs. The

State of Miss., 68 Miss. 605. I reproduce the court’s statement of the

case:–“This is an appeal from the Circuit Court of Kemper County.

Appellant was convicted of murder and sentenced to imprisonment for life.

He appears in this court without counsel. The facts are briefly these:

One, Nicholson, a white man, accompanied by his little son seven years

old, was driving an ox team along a public road; he had occasion to stop

and the oxen were driven by his son; defendant, a negro, also in an ox

wagon, was going along the road in an opposite direction, and met

Nicholson’s wagon in charge of the little boy. It was after dark, and when

the wagons met, according to the testimony of Nicholson, the defendant

insultingly demanded of the boy to give the way, and cursed and abused

him. Nicholson, hearing the colloquy, hurried to the scene and a fight

ensued between him and Maury, in which the latter got the advantage,

inflicting severe blows upon Nicholson. This occurred on Thursday, and on

the following Sunday night, Nicholson, in company with eleven or twelve of

his friends, rode to the farm of Maury, and after sending several of their

number to ascertain if he was at home, rode rapidly into his yard and

called for him. Not finding him, they proceeded to search the premises,

and found several colored men shut up in the smoke house, the door of

which some of the searching party had broken open. Maury, the accused, was

not found there, and about that time some one called out, “Here is

George.” Some of the party then started in the direction of the cotton

house from which the voice proceeded, when a volley was fired from it, and

two of the searching party were killed, one of whom was the son of the

former owner of the defendant, and the other a brother-in-law of

Nicholson. The members of the raiding party testified that their purpose

in going to the home of the defendant was merely to arrest him. It was,

however, shown that Nicholson, immediately after the fight on Thursday,

informed Cobb, and Cobb between Thursday and Sunday night collected the

men who joined in the raid. No affidavit for the arrest of Maury had been

made, and none of the party had any warrant, or made any announcement to

the defendant or his family, of the object of their visit. The accused who

testified in his own behalf, denied that he was at home at the time of the

shooting, and says he fled before the raiding party arrived. He also

contradicted Nicholson in his account of the difficulty with him, and

denies that he spoke harshly to the child.” Chief Justice Campbell, in

delivering the opinion of the court said, “It is inconceivable that the

crime of murder is predicable of the facts disclosed by the evidence in

this case. The time and place and circumstances of the killing forbid any

such conclusion as a verdict of guilty of murder.” The judgment of the

trial court was reversed.


This same Chief Justice, in the case of Monroe vs. Mississippi, 71 Miss.

201, where a negro was convicted of rape, makes use of the following

brave and noble language, reversing the case on the ground of the

insufficiency of the evidence: “We might greatly lighten our labors by

deferring in all cases to the verdict approved by the presiding judge as

to the facts, but our duty is to administer justice without respect of

persons, and do equal right to the poor and the rich. Hence the

disposition, which we are not ashamed to confess we have, to guard

jealously the rights of the poor and friendless and despised, and to be

astute as far as we properly may, against injustice, whether proceeding

from wilfulness or indifference.”


The country has produced no abler jurist, nor the South no greater man

than Ex-Chief Justice Campbell of Mississippi. If the counsel of such men

as he and Chief Justice Garret of the Court of Civil Appeals of Texas,

could obtain in the South, there would be no problem between the races.

All would be contented because justice would be administered to the whites

and blacks alike.


In the administration of the suffrage sections under the new

Constitutions of the South by the partisan boards of registrars, the same

discrimination against negroes was practiced. Their methods are of more or

less interest. The plan was to exclude all negroes from the electorate

without excluding a single white man. Under the Alabama Constitution, a

soldier in the Civil War, either on the Federal or Confederate side, is

entitled to qualification. When a negro goes up to register as a soldier

he is asked for his discharge. When he presents it he is asked, “How do we

know that you are the man whose name is written in this discharge? Bring

us two white men whom we know and who will swear that you have not found

this paper, and that they know that you were a soldier in the company and

regiment in which you claim to have been.” This, of course, could not be

done, and the ex-soldier who risked his life for the Union is denied the

right to vote.


The same Constitution provides that if not a soldier or the legal

descendant of one, an elector must be of good character and understand the

duties and obligations of citizenship under a Republican form of

government. When a negro claims qualifications under the good character

and understanding clauses he is put through an examination similar to the



“What is a republican form of government?


“What is a limited monarchy?


“What islands did the United States come into possession of by the

Spanish-American War?


“What is the difference between Jeffersonian Democracy and Calhoun

principles, as compared to the Monroe Doctrine?


“If the Nicaragua Canal is cut, what will be the effect if the Pacific

Ocean is two feet higher than the Atlantic?” Should these questions be

answered satisfactorily, the negro must still produce two white men known

to the registrars to testify to his good character. A remarkable

exception in the treatment of negroes by the registrars of Dallas county,

Alabama, is shown in the following account taken from the Montgomery



“An old negro barber by the name of Edward E. Harris, stepped in before

the registrars, hat in hand, humble and polite, with a kindly smile on his

face. He respectfully asked to be registered. He signed the application

and waited a few minutes until the registrars had disposed of some other

matters, and being impressed with his respectful bearing, some member of

the board commenced to ask a few questions. The old man told his story in

a straight forward manner. He said: “Gentlemen, I am getting to be a

pretty old man. I was born here in the South, and I followed my young

master through all of the campaigns in Virginia, when Mas’ Bob Lee made it

so warm for the Yankees. But our luck left us at Gettysburg. The Yankees

got around in our rear there, and I got a bullet in the back of my head,

and one in my leg before I got out of that scrape. But I was not hurt

much, and my greatest anxiety was about my young master, Mr. John Holly,

who was a member of the Bur Rifles, 18th Mississippi. He was a private and

enlisted at Jackson, Miss.


“He could not be found the first day; I looked all among the dead on the

battle field for him and he was not there. Next day I got a permit to go

through the hospitals, and I looked into the face of every soldier

closely, in the hope of finding my young master. After many hours of

searching I found him, but he was dangerously wounded. I stayed by his

side, wounded as I was, for three long weeks, but he gradually grew worse

and then he died. I went out with the body and saw it buried as decently

as I could, and then I went back to Jackson and told the young mistress

how brave he was in battle, how good he was to me, and told her all the

words he had sent her, as he lay there on that rude cot in the hospital.

That is my record as a Confederate soldier, and if you gentlemen care to

give me a certificate of registration, I would be much obliged to you.”

It is needless to say that old Ed. Harris got his certificate.


It is insisted upon by the leaders of public opinion at the South, that

negroes should not be given equal political and civil rights with white

men, defined by law and enforceable by the courts; but that they should be

content to strive to deserve the good wishes and friendly feeling of the

whites, and if the South is let alone, they will see to it that negroes

get becoming treatment.


While there is a large number of the high-toned, chivalrous element of the

old master class yet living, who would stand by the negro and not permit

him to be wronged if they could prevent it, yet they are powerless to

control the great mass of the poor whites who are most bitter in their

prejudices against the negro. They should also bear in mind that the old

master class is rapidly passing way, and that there is constantly an

influx of foreigners to the South, and in less than fifty years the

Italians, or some other foreign nationality, may be the ruling class in

all the Southern States; and the negro, deprived of all political and

civil rights by the Constitution and laws, would be wholly at the mercy of

a people without sympathy for him.


In order to show the fallacy and the wrong and injustice of this doctrine,

and how helplessly exposed it leaves the negro to the prejudices of the

poor whites, I relate a tragedy in the life of a friend of mine, who was

well known and respected in the town of Rayville, Louisiana.


Sewall Smith, for many years ran the leading barber shop for whites in the

town of Rayville, and was well-liked and respected by the leading white

men of the entire parish. At the suggestion of his customers he bought

Louisiana state lands while they were cheap, before the railroad was put

through between Vicksburg and Shreveport; and as the road passed near his

lands he was thereby made a rich man, as wealth goes in those parts. His

good fortune, however, did not swell his head and he remained the same to

his friends. He became so useful in his parish that there was never a

public gathering of the leading white business men that he was not invited

to it, and he was always on the delegations to all the levee or river

conventions sent from his parish. He was chosen to such places by white

men exclusively; and in his own town he was as safe from wrong or injury,

on account of his race or color, as any white man.


After the trains began to run through Rayville, on the Shreveport road, he

had occasion to visit the town of Ruston, in another parish some miles in

the interior, and as he got off at the depot, a barefoot, poor white boy

asked to carry his satchel. Smith was a fine looking mulatto, dressed

well, and could have easily been taken for a white man, and the boy might

not have known at the time he was a negro. When he arrived at his stopping

place he gave the boy such a large coin that he asked permission to take

his satchel back to the train on the following day when he was to return.

The next day the boy came for the satchel, and they had nearly reached the

depot about train time, when they passed a saloon where a crowd of poor

whites sat on boxes whittling sticks. The sight of a negro having a white

boy carrying his satchel quite enraged them, and after cursing and abusing

Smith and the boy, they undertook to kick and assault Smith. Smith

defended himself. The result was a shooting affair, in which Smith shot

two or three of them and was himself shot. The train rolled up while the

fight was in progress, and without inquiring the cause or asking any

questions whatever, fully a hundred white men jumped off the train and

riddled Smith with bullets. That was the end of it. Nobody was indicted or

even arrested for killing an insolent “nigger” that did not keep his

place. That is the way the affair was regarded in Ruston. Of course, the

people of Rayville very much regretted it, but they could not do anything,

and could not afford to defend the rights of a negro against white men

under such circumstances, and the matter dropped.


I have preferred not to mention the numerous ways and many instances in

which the rights of negroes are denied in public places, and on the common

carriers in the South, under circumstances very humiliating and degrading.

Nor have I cared to refer to the barbarous and inhuman prison systems of

the South, that are worse than anything the imagination can conceive in a

civilized and Christian land, as shown by reports of legislative



If the negro can secure a fair and impartial trial in the courts, and can

be secure in his life and liberty and property, so as not to be deprived

of them except by due process of law, and can have a voice in the making

and administration of the laws, he shall have gone a great way in the

South. It is to be hoped that public opinion can be awakened to this

extent, and that it may assist him to attain that end.





_The Characteristics of the Negro People_




  A frank statement of the virtues and failings of the race, indicating

  very clearly the evils which must be overcome, and the good which must

  be developed, if success is really to attend the effort to uplift them.


[Illustration: H.T. KEALING.]



The characteristics of the Negro are of two kinds–the inborn and the

inbred. As they reveal themselves to us, this distinction may not be seen,

but it exists. Inborn qualities are ineradicable; they belong to the

blood; they constitute individuality; they are independent, or nearly so,

of time and habitat. Inbred qualities are acquired, and are the result of

experience. They may be overcome by a reversal of the process which

created them. The fundamental, or inborn, characteristics of the Negro may

be found in the African, as well as the American, Negro; but the inbred

characteristics of the latter belong to the American life alone.


There is but one human nature, made up of constituent elements the same in

all men, and racial or national differences arise from the predominance

of one or another element in this or that race. It is a question of

proportion. The Negro is not a Caucasian, not a Chinese, not an Indian;

though no psychological quality in the one is absent from the other. The

same moral sense, called conscience; the same love of harmony in color or

in sound; the same pleasure in acquiring knowledge; the same love of truth

in word, or of fitness in relation; the same love of respect and

approbation; the same vengeful or benevolent feelings; the same appetites,

belong to all, but in varying proportions. They form the indicia to a

people’s mission, and are our best guides to God’s purpose in creating us.

They constitute the material to be worked on in educating a race, and

suggest in every case where the stress of civilization or education should

be applied in order to follow the lines of least resistance.


But there are also certain manifestations, the result of training or

neglect, which are not inborn. As they are inculcable, so they are

eradicable; and it is only by a loose terminology that we apply the term

characteristics to them without distinction between them and the inherent

traits. In considering the characteristics of the Negro people, therefore,

we must not confuse the constitutional with the removable. Studied with

sympathy and at first hand, the black man of America will be seen to

possess certain predominant idiosyncrasies of which the following form a

fair catalogue:


_He is intensely religious._ True religion is based upon a belief in the

supernatural, upon faith and feeling. A people deeply superstitious are

apt to be deeply religious, for both rest upon a belief in a spiritual

world. Superstition differs from religion in being the untrained and

unenlightened gropings of the human soul after the mysteries of the higher

life; while the latter, more or less enlightened, “feels after God, if

haply,” it may find Him. The Negro gives abundant evidence of both phases.

The absolute inability of the master, in the days of slavery, while

successfully vetoing all other kinds of convocation, to stop the Negro’s

church meetings, as well as the almost phenomenal influence and growth of

his churches since; and his constant referring of every event, adverse or

favorable, to the personal ministrations of the Creator, are things unique

and persistent. And the master class reposed more faith in their slaves’

religion ofttimes than they did in their own. Doubtless much of the

reverential feeling that pervades the American home to-day, above that of

all other nations, is the result of the Negro mammy’s devotion and loyalty

to God.


_He is imaginative._ This is not evinced so much in creative directions as

in poetical, musical, combinatory, inventional and what, if coupled with

learning, we call literary imagination. Negro eloquence is proverbial. The

crudest sermon of the most unlettered slave abounded in tropes and glowing

tongue pictures of apochalyptic visions all his own; and, indeed, the

poetic quality of his mind is seen in all his natural efforts when the

self-consciousness of education does not stand guard. The staid religious

muse of Phillis Wheatley and the rollicking, somewhat jibing, verse of

Dunbar show it equally, unpremeditated and spontaneous.


I have heard by the hour some ordinary old uneducated Negro tell those

inimitable animal stories, brought to literary existence in “Uncle Remus,”

with such quaint humor, delicious conceit and masterly delineation of

plot, character and incident that nothing but the conventional rating of

Aesop’s Fables could put them in the same class. Then, there are more

Negro inventors than the world supposes. This faculty is impossible

without a well-ordered imagination held in leash by a good memory and

large perception.


_He is affectionate and without vindictiveness._ He does not nurse even

great wrongs. Mercurial as he is, often furiously angry and frequently in

murderous mood, he comes nearer not letting the sun go down upon his anger

than any other man I know. Like Brutus, he may be compared to the flint



    “Much enforced, shows a hasty spark,

    And straight is cold again.”


His affection is not less towards the Caucasian than to his own race. It

is not saying too much to remark that the soul of the Negro yearns for the

white man’s good will and respect; and the old ties of love that subsisted

in so many instances in the days of slavery still survive where the

ex-slave still lives. The touching case of a Negro Bishop who returned to

the State in which he had been a slave, and rode twenty miles to see and

alleviate the financial distress of his former master is an exception to

numerous other similar cases only in the prominence of the Negro

concerned. I know of another case of a man whose tongue seems dipped in

hyssop when he begins to tell of the wrongs of his race, and who will not

allow anyone to say in his presence that any good came out of slavery,

even incidentally; yet he supports the widowed and aged wife of his

former master. And, surely, if these two instances are not sufficient to

establish the general proposition, none will gainsay the patience,

vigilance, loyalty and helpfulness of the Negro slave during the Civil

War, and of his good old wife who nursed white children at her breast at a

time when all ties save those of affection were ruptured, and when no

protection but devoted hearts watched over the “great house,” whose head

and master was at the front, fighting to perpetuate slavery. Was it

stupidity on the Negro’s part? Not at all. He was well informed as to the

occurrences of the times. A freemasonry kept him posted as well as the

whites were themselves on the course of the war and the issue of each

battle. Was it fear that kept him at the old home? Not that, either. Many

thousands _did_ cross the line to freedom; many other thousands (200,000)

fought in the ranks for freedom, but none of them–those who went and

those who stayed–those who fought and those who worked,–betrayed a

trust, outraged a female, or rebelled against a duty. It was love, the

natural wellings of affectionate natures.


_He has great endurance, both dispositional and physical._ So true is the

first that his patience has been the marvel of the world; and, indeed,

many, regarding this trait manifested in such an unusual degree, doubted

the Negro’s courage, till the splendid record of the ’60’s and the equal,

but more recent, record of the ’90’s, wrote forbearance as the real

explanation of an endurance seemingly so at variance with manly spirit.


Of his physical powers, his whole record as a laborer at killing tasks in

the most trying climate in America speaks so eloquently that nothing but

the statistics of cotton, corn, rice, sugar, railroad ties and felled

forests can add to the praise of this burden-bearer of the nation. The

census tables here are more romantic and thrilling than figures of



_He is courageous._ His page in the war record of this country is without

blot or blemish. His commanders unite in pronouncing him admirable for

courage in the field, commendable for obedience in camp. That he should

exhibit such excellent fighting qualities as a soldier, and yet exercise

the forbearance that characterizes him as a citizen, is remarkable.


_He is cheerful._ His ivories are as famous as his songs. That the South

is “sunny” is largely due to the brightness his rollicking laugh and

unfailing good nature bring to it. Though the mudsill of the labor world,

he whistles as he hoes, and no dark broodings or whispered conspirings mar

the cheerful acceptance of the load he bears. Against the rubber bumper of

his good cheer things that have crushed and maddened others rebound

without damage. When one hears the quaint jubilee songs, set to minor

cadence, he might suppose them the expressions of a melancholy people.

They are not to be so interpreted. Rather are they the expression of an

experience, not a nature. Like the subdued voice of a caged bird, these

songs are the coinage of an occasion, and not the free note of nature.

The slave sang of griefs he was not allowed to discuss, hence his songs.

This cheerfulness has enabled the Negro to live and increase under

circumstances which, in all other instances, have decimated, if not

exterminated, inferior peoples. His plasticity to moulding forces and his

resiliency against crushing ones come from a Thalian philosophy,

unconscious and unstudied, that extracts Epicurean delights from funeral



The above traits are inborn and fundamental, belonging to the race

everywhere, in Africa as well as America. Strict correctness requires,

however, that attention be called to the fact that there are tribal

differences among African Negroes that amount almost to the national

variations of Europe; and these are reflected in American Negroes, who are

the descendants of these different tribes. There is as much difference

between the Mandingo and the Hottentot, both black, as between the Italian

and the German, both white; or between the Bushman and the Zulu, both

black, as between the Russian and the Englishman, both white. Scientific

exactness, therefore, would require a closer analysis of racial

characteristics than an article of this length could give; but, speaking

in a large way, it may be said that in whatever outward conformity may

come to the race in America by reason of training or contact, these traits

will lie at the base, the very warp and woof of his soul texture.


If, now, we turn to consider his inbred traits, those the result of

experience, conditions and environments, we find that they exist mainly as

deficiencies and deformities. These have been superimposed upon the native

soul endowment. Slavery has been called the Negro’s great schoolmaster,

because it took him a savage and released him civilized; took him a

heathen and released him a Christian; took him an idler and released him a

laborer. Undoubtedly it did these things superficially, but one great

defect is to be charged against this school–it did not teach him the

meaning of home, purity and providence. To do this is the burden of



The emancipated Negro struggles up to-day against many obstacles, the

entailment of a brutal slavery. Leaving out of consideration the many who

have already emerged, let us apply our thoughts to the great body of

submerged people in the congested districts of city and country who

present a real problem, and who must be helped to higher things. We note

some of the heritages under which they stagger up into full development:


_Shiftlessness._ He had no need to devise and plan in bondage. There was

no need for an enterprising spirit; consequently, he is lacking in

leadership and self-reliance. He is inclined to stay in ruts, and applies

himself listlessly to a task, feeling that the directive agency should

come from without.


_Incontinence._ It is not to the point to say that others are, too.

Undoubtedly, example has as much to do with this laxity as neglect. We

simply record the fact. A slave’s value was increased by his prolificacy.

Begetting children for the auction block could hardly sanctify family

ties. It was not nearly so necessary for a slave to know his father as his

owner. Added to the promiscuity encouraged and often forced among this

class, was the dreadful license which cast lustful Caucasian eyes upon

“likely” Negro women.


_Indolence._ Most men are, especially in a warm climate: but the Negro

acquired more than the natural share, because to him as a bondman laziness

was great gain, for he had no pecuniary interest in his own labor. Hence,

holidays were more to be desired than whole labor days, and he learned to

do as little as he might, be excused as often as he could, and hail

Saturday as the oasis in a desert week. He hails it yet. The labor

efficiency of the Negro has greatly increased since the emancipation, for

self-interest is a factor now. In 1865, each Negro produced two-thirds of

a bale of cotton; now he produces an average of one whole bale to the man.

But there is still woful waste of productive energy. A calculation

showing the comparative productive capacity, man for man, between the

Northern[B] and Southern laborer would be very interesting.


_Improvidence and Extravagance._ He will drop the most important job to go

on an excursion or parade with his lodge. He spends large sums on

expensive clothing and luxuries, while going without things necessary to a

real home. He will cheerfully eat fat bacon and “pone” corn-bread all the

week[C] in order to indulge in unlimited soda-water, melon and fish at the

end. In the cities he is oftener seen dealing with the pawn-broker than

the banker. His house, when furnished at all, is better furnished that

that of a white man of equal earning power, but it is on the installment

plan. He is loath to buy a house, because he has no taste for

responsibility nor faith in himself to manage large concerns; but organs,

pianos, clocks, sewing-machines and parlor suits, on time, have no terrors

for him. This is because he has been accustomed to think in small

numbers. He does not regard the Scotchman’s “mickle,” because he does not

stop to consider that the end is a “muckle.” He has amassed, at full

valuation, nearly a billion dollars’ worth of property, despite this, but

this is about one-half of what proper providence would have shown.


_Untidiness._ Travel through the South and you will be struck with the

general misfit and dilapidated appearance of things. Palings are missing

from the fences, gates sag on single hinges, houses are unpainted, window

panes are broken, yards unkempt and the appearance of a squalor greater

than the real is seen on every side. The inside of the house meets the

suggestions of the outside. This is a projection of the slave’s “quarters”

into freedom. The cabin of the slave was, at best, a place to eat and

sleep in; there was no thought of the esthetic in such places. A quilt on

a plank was a luxury to the tired farm-hand, and paint was nothing to the

poor, sun-scorched fellow who sought the house for shade rather than

beauty. Habits of personal cleanliness were not inculcated, and even now

it is the exception to find a modern bath-room in a Southern home.


_Dishonesty._ This is the logic, if not the training, of slavery. It is

easy for the unrequited toiler in another’s field to justify reprisal;

hence there arose among the Negroes an amended Commandment which added to

“Thou shalt not steal” the clause, “except thou be stolen from.” It was no

great fault, then, according to this code, to purloin a pig, a sheep, a

chicken, or a few potatoes from a master who took all from the slave.


_Untruthfulness._ This is seen more in innocent and childish exaggeration

than in vicious distortion. It is the vice of untutored minds to run to

gossip and make miracles of the matter-of-fact. The Negro also tells

falsehoods from excess of good nature. He promises to do a piece of work

on a certain day, because it is so much easier and pleasanter to say Yes,

and stay away, than it is to say No.


_Business Unreliability._ He does not meet a promise in the way and at

the time promised. Not being accustomed to business, he has small

conception of the place the promise has in the business world. It is only

recently he has begun to deal with banks. He, who has no credit, sees[D]

no loss of it in a protested note, especially if he intends to pay it some

time. That chain which links one man’s obligation to another man’s

solvency he has not considered. He is really as good and safe a debt-payer

when he owes a white man as the latter can have, but the methods of the

modern bank, placing a time limit on debts, is his detestation. He much

prefers the _laissez-faire_ of the Southern plantation store.


_Lack of Initiative._ It was the policy of slavery to crush out the

combining instinct, and it was well done; for, outside of churches and

secret societies, the Negro has done little to increase the social

efficiency which can combine many men into an organic whole, subject to

the corporate will and direction. He has, however, made some hopeful



_Suspicion of his own race._ He was taught to watch other Negroes and tell

all that they did. This was slavery’s native detective force to discover

incipient insurrection. Each slave learned to distrust his fellow. And

added to this is the knowledge one Negro has that no other has had half

sufficient experience in business to be a wise counsellor, or a safe

steward of another man’s funds. Almost all Negroes who have acquired

wealth have entrusted its management to white men.


_Ignorance._ The causes of his ignorance all know. That he has thrown off

one-half of it in forty years is a wonderful showing; but a great incubus

remains in the other half, and it demands the nation’s attention. What the

census calls literacy is often very shallow. The cause of this shallowness

lies, in part, in the poor character and short duration of Southern

schools; in the poverty that snatches the child from school prematurely to

work for bread; in the multitude of mushroom colleges and get-smart-quick

universities scattered over the South, and in the glamour of a

professional education that entices poorly prepared students into special



Add to this, too, the commercialism of the age which regards each day in

school as a day out of the market. Boys and girls by scores learn the

mechanical parts of type-writing and stenography without the basal culture

which gives these callings their greatest efficiency. They copy a

manuscript, Chinese-like, mistakes and all; they take you phonetically in

sense as well as sound, having no reserve to draw upon to interpret a

learned allusion or unusual phrase. Thus while prejudice makes it hard to

secure a place, auto-deficiency loses many a one that is secured.


We have discussed the leading characteristics of the Negro, his inborn

excellencies and inbred defects, candidly and as they are to be seen in

the great mass whose place determines the status of the race as a whole.

It would, however, be to small purpose if we did not ask what can be done

to develop the innate good and correct the bad in a race so puissant and

numerous? This mass is not inert; it has great reactionary force,

modifying and influencing all about it. The Negro’s excellences have

entered into American character and life already; so have his weaknesses.

He has brought cheer, love, emotion and religion in saving measure to the

land. He has given it wealth by his brawn and liberty by his blood. His

self-respect, even in abasement, has kept him struggling upward; his

confidence in his own future has infected his friends and kept him from

nursing despondency or planning anarchy. But he has laid, and does lay,

burdens upon the land, too: his ignorance, his low average of morality,

his low standards of home, his lack of enterprise, his lack of

self-reliance–these must be cured.


Evidently, he is to be “solved” by educational processes. Everyone of his

inborn traits must be respected and developed to proper proportion.

Excesses and excrescences must not be carelessly dealt with, for they mark

the fertility of a soil that raises rank weeds because no gardener has

tilled it. His religion must become “ethics touched with feeling”–not a

paroxysm, but a principle. His imagination must be given a rudder to guide

its sails; and the first fruits of its proper exercise, as seen in a

Dunbar, a Chesnutt, a Coleridge-Taylor and a Tanner, must be pedestaled

along the Appian Way over which others are to march. His affection must be

met with larger love; his patience rewarded with privilege; his courage

called to defend the rights of others rather than redress his own wrongs.

Thus shall he supplement from within the best efforts of good men without.


To cure the evils entailed upon him by an unhappy past, he must be

educated to work with skill, with self-direction, in combination and

unremittingly. Industrial education with constant application, is the

slogan of his rise from racial pauperism to productive manliness. Not that

exceptional minds should not have exceptional opportunities (and they

already exist); but that the great majority of awkward and unskilled ones,

who must work somehow, somewhere, all the time, shall have their

opportunities for training in industrial schools near them and with

courses consonant with the lives they are to lead. Let the ninety and nine

who must work, either with trained or fumbling hands, have a chance. Train

the Negro to accept and carry responsibility by putting it upon him. Train

him, more than any schools are now doing, in morals–to speak the truth,

to keep a promise, to touch only his own property, to trust the

trustworthy among his own race, to risk something in business, to strike

out in new lines of endeavor, to buy houses and make homes, to regard

beauty as well as utility, to save rather than display. In short, let us

subordinate mere knowledge to the work of invigorating the will,

energizing productive effort and clarifying moral vision. Let us make safe

men rather than vociferous mountebanks; let us put deftness in daily labor

above sleight-of-hand tricks, and common sense, well trained, above

classical smatterings, which awe the multitude but butter no parsnips.


If we do this, America will have enriched her blood, ennobled her record

and shown the world how to deal with its Dark Races without reproach.


[Footnote B: In the original, this was 'Northen'.]


[Footnote C: In the original, this was 'weeek'.]


[Footnote D: In the original, this was 'seees'.]





_Representative American Negroes_




  An enumeration of some of the noteworthy American Negroes of to-day and

  yesterday, with some account of their lives and their work. In this

  paper Mr. Dunbar has turned out his largest and most successful picture

  of the colored people. It is a noble canvas crowded with heroic figures.



In considering who and what are representative Negroes there are

circumstances which compel one to question what is a representative man of

the colored race. Some men are born great, some achieve greatness and

others lived during the reconstruction period. To have achieved something

for the betterment of his race rather than for the aggrandizement of

himself, seems to be a man’s best title to be called representative. The

street corner politician, who through questionable methods or even through

skillful manipulation, succeeds in securing the janitorship of the Court

House, may be written up in the local papers as “representative,” but is



I have in mind a young man in Baltimore, Bernard Taylor by name, who to me

is more truly representative of the race than half of the “Judges,”

“Colonels,” “Doctors” and “Honorables” whose stock cuts burden the pages

of our negro journals week after week. I have said that he is young.

Beyond that he is quiet and unobtrusive; but quiet as he is, the worth of

his work can be somewhat estimated when it is known that he has set the

standard for young men in a city that has the largest colored population

in the world.


It is not that as an individual he has ridden to success one enterprise

after another. It is not that he has shown capabilities far beyond his

years, nor yet that his personal energy will not let him stop at one

triumph. The importance of him lies in the fact that his influence upon

his fellows is all for good, and in a large community of young Negroes the

worth of this cannot be over-estimated. He has taught them that striving

is worth while, and by the very force of his example of industry and

perseverance, he stands out from the mass. He does not tell how to do

things, he does them. Nothing has contributed more to his success than

his alertness, and nothing has been more closely followed by his

observers, and yet I sometimes wonder when looking at him, how old he must

be, how world weary, before the race turns from its worship of the

political janitor and says of him, “this is one of our representative



This, however, is a matter of values and neither the negro himself, his

friends, his enemies, his lauders, nor his critics has grown quite certain

in appraising these. The rabid agitator who goes about the land preaching

the independence and glory of his race, and by his very mouthings

retarding both, the saintly missionary, whose only mission is like that of

“Pooh Bah,” to be insulted; the man of the cloth who thunders against the

sins of the world and from whom honest women draw away their skirts, the

man who talks temperance and tipples high-balls–these are not

representative, and whatever their station in life, they should be rated

at their proper value, for there is a difference between attainment and



Under the pure light of reason, the ignorant carpet bagger judge is a

person and not a personality. The illiterate and inefficient black man,

whom circumstance put into Congress, was “a representative” but was not

representative. So the peculiar conditions of the days immediately after

the war have made it necessary to draw fine distinctions.


When Robert Smalls, a slave, piloted the Confederate ship Planter out of

Charleston Harbor under the very guns of the men who were employing him,

who owned him, his body, his soul, and the husk of his allegiance, and

brought it over to the Union, it is a question which forty years has not

settled as to whether he was a hero or a felon, a patriot or a traitor. So

much has been said of the old Negro’s fidelity to his masters that

something different might have been expected of him. But take the singular

conditions: the first faint streaks of a long delayed dawn had just begun

to illumine the sky and this black pilot with his face turned toward the

East had no eye for the darkness behind him. He had no time to analyze his

position, the right or wrong of it. He had no opportunity to question

whether it was loyalty to a union in which he aspired to citizenship, or

disloyalty to his masters of the despised confederacy. It was not a time

to argue, it was a time to do; and with rare power of decision, skill of

action and with indomitable courage, he steered the good ship Planter past

Fort Johnson, past Fort Sumter, past Morris Island, out where the flag,

the flag of his hopes and fears floated over the federal fleet. And Robert

Smalls had done something, something that made him loved and hated,

praised and maligned, revered and despised, but something that made him

representative of the best that there is in sturdy Negro manhood.


It may seem a far cry from Robert Smalls, the pilot of the Planter, to

Booker T. Washington, Principal of the Institute at Tuskegee, Alabama.

But much the same traits of character have made the success of the two

men; the knowledge of what to do, the courage to do it, and the following

out of a single purpose. They are both pilots, and the waters through

which their helms have swung have been equally stormy. The methods of both

have been questioned; but singularly neither one has stopped to question

himself, but has gone straight on to his goal over the barriers of

criticism, malice and distrust. The secret of Mr. Washington’s power is

organization, and organization after all is only a concentration of force.

This concentration only expresses his own personality, in which every

trait and quality tend toward one definite end. They say of this man that

he is a man of one idea, but that one is a great one and he has merely

concentrated all his powers upon it; in other words he has organized

himself and gone forth to gather in whatever about him was essential.


Pilot he is, steadfast and unafraid, strong in his own belief,–yes

strong enough to make others believe in him. Without doubt or skepticism,

himself he has confounded the skeptics.


Less statesmanlike than Douglass, less scholarly than DuBois, less

eloquent than the late J.C. Price, he is yet the foremost figure in Negro

national life. He is a great educator and a great man, and though one may

not always agree with him, one must always respect him. The race has

produced no more adroit diplomatist than he. The statement is broad but

there is no better proof of it than the fact that while he is our most

astute politician, he has succeeded in convincing both himself and the

country that he is not in politics. He has none of the qualities of the

curb-stone politician. He is bigger, broader, better, and the highest

compliment that could be paid him is that through all his ups and downs,

with all he has seen of humanity, he has kept his faith and his ideals.

While Mr. Washington stands pre-eminent in his race there are other names

that must be mentioned with him as co-workers in the education of the

world, names that for lack of time can be only mentioned and passed.


W.H. Council, of Normal, Alabama, has been doing at his school a good and

great work along the same lines as Tuskegee. R.R. Wright, of the State

College of Georgia, “We’se a-risin’ Wright,” he is called, and by his own

life and work for his people he has made true the boyish prophecy which in

the old days inspired Whittier’s poem. Three decades ago this was his

message from the lowly South, “Tell ‘em we’se a-risin,” and by thought, by

word, by deed, he has been “Tellin’ em so” ever since. The old Southern

school has melted into the misty shades of an unregretted past. A new

generation, new issues, new conditions, have replaced the old, but the boy

who sent that message from the heart of the Southland to the North’s heart

of hearts has risen, and a martyred President did not blush to call him



So much of the Negro’s time has been given to the making of teachers that

it is difficult to stop when one has begun enumerating some of those who

have stood out more than usually forceful. For my part, there are two more

whom I cannot pass over. Kelly Miller, of Howard University, Washington,

D.C., is another instructor far above the average. He is a mathematician

and a thinker. The world has long been convinced of what the colored man

could do in music and in oratory, but it has always been skeptical, when

he is to be considered as a student of any exact science. Miller, in his

own person, has settled all that. He finished at Johns Hopkins where they

will remember him. He is not only a teacher but an author who writes with

authority upon his chosen themes, whether he is always known as a Negro

writer or not. He is endowed with an accurate, analytical mind, and the

most engaging blackness, for which some of us thank God, because there can

be no argument as to the source of his mental powers.


Now of the other, William E.B. DuBois, what shall be said? Educator and

author, political economist and poet, an Eastern man against a Southern

back-ground, he looms up strong, vivid and in bold relief. I say looms

advisedly, because, intellectually, there is something so distinctively

big about the man. Since the death of the aged Dr. Crummell, we have had

no such ripe and finished scholar. Dr. DuBois, Harvard gave him to us, and

there he received his Ph.D., impresses one as having reduced all life and

all literature to a perfect system. There is about him a fascinating calm

of certain power, whether as a searcher after economic facts, under the

wing of the University of Pennsylvania, or defying the “powers that be” in

a Negro college or leading his pupils along the way of light, one always

feels in him this same sense of conscious, restrained, but assured force.


Some years ago in the course of his researches, he took occasion to tell

his own people some plain hard truths, and oh, what a howl of protest and

denunciation went up from their assembled throats, but it never once

disturbed his magnificent calm. He believed what he had said, and not for

a single moment did he think of abandoning his position.


He goes at truth as a hard-riding old English squire would take a

difficult fence. Let the ditch be beyond if it will.


Dr. DuBois would be the first to disclaim the name of poet but everything

outside of his statistical work convicts him. The rhythm of his style, his

fancy, his imagery, all bid him bide with those whose souls go singing by

a golden way. He has written a number of notable pamphlets and books, the

latest of which is “The Soul of the Black Folk,” an invaluable

contribution to the discussion of the race problem by a man who knows

whereof he speaks.


Dr. DuBois is at Atlanta University and has had every opportunity to

observe all the phases of America’s great question, and I wish I might

write at length of his books.


It may be urged that too much time has already been taken up with the

educational side of the Negro, but the reasonableness of this must become

apparent when one remembers that for the last forty years the most helpful

men of the race have come from the ranks of its teachers, and few of those

who have finally done any big thing, but have at some time or other held

the scepter of authority in a school. They may have changed later and

grown, indeed they must have done so, but the fact remains that their

poise, their discipline, the impulse for their growth came largely from

their work in the school room.


There is perhaps no more notable example of this phase of Negro life than

the Hon. Richard Theodore Greener, our present Consul at Vladivostok. He

was, I believe, the first of our race to graduate from Harvard and he has

always been regarded as one of the most scholarly men who, through the

touch of Negro blood, belongs to us. He has been historian, journalist and

lecturer, but back of all this he was a teacher; and for years after his

graduation he was a distinguished professor at the most famous of all the

old Negro colleges. This institution is now a thing of the past, but the

men who knew it in its palmy days speak of it still with longing and

regret. It is claimed, and from the names and qualities of the men, not

without justice, that no school for the higher education of the black man

has furnished a finer curriculum or possessed a better equipped or more

efficient faculty. Among these, Richard T. Greener was a bright,

particular star.


After the passing of the school, Mr. Greener turned to other activities.

His highest characteristics were a fearless patience and a hope that

buoyed him up through days of doubt and disappointment. Author and editor

he was, but he was not satisfied with these. Beyond their scope were

higher things that beckoned him. Politics, or perhaps better, political

science, allured him, and he applied himself to a course that brought him

into intimate contact with the leaders of his country, white and black. A

man of wide information, great knowledge and close grasp of events he made

himself invaluable to his party and then with his usual patience awaited

his reward.


The story of how he came to his own cannot be told without just a shade of

bitterness darkening the smile that one must give to it all. The cause for

which he had worked triumphed. The men for whom he had striven gained

their goal and now, Greener must be recognized, but–


Vladivostok, your dictionary will tell you, is a sea-port in the maritime

Province of Siberia, situated on the Golden Horn of Peter the Great. It

will tell you also that it is the chief Russian naval station on the

Pacific. It is an out of the way place and one who has not the

world-circling desire would rather hesitate before setting out thither. It

was to this post that Mr. Greener was appointed.


“Exile,” his friends did not hesitate to say. “Why didn’t the Government

make it a sentence instead of veiling it in the guise of an appointment?”

asked others sarcastically.


“Will he go?” That was the general question that rose and fell, whispered

and thundered about the new appointee, and in the midst of it all, silent

and dignified, he kept his council. The next thing Washington knew he was

gone. There was a gasp of astonishment and then things settled back into

their former state of monotony and Greener was forgotten.


But in the eastern sky, darkness began to arise, the warning flash of

danger swept across the heavens, the thunder drum of war began to roll.

For a moment the world listened in breathless suspense, the suspense of

horror. Louder and louder rose the thunder peal until it drowned every

other sound in the ears of the nation, every other sound save the cries

and wails of dying women and the shrieks of tortured children. Then

France, England, Germany, Japan and America marshalled their forces and

swept eastward to save and to avenge. The story of the Boxer uprising has

been told, but little has been said of how Vladivostok, “A sea-port in the

maritime Province of Siberia,” became one of the most important points of

communication with the outside world, and its Consul came frequently to be

heard from by the State Department. And so Greener after years of patience

and toil had come to his own. If the government had wished to get him out

of the way, it had reckoned without China.


A new order of things has come into Negro-American politics and this man

has become a part of it. It matters not that he began his work under the

old regime. So did Judge Gibbs, a man eighty years of age, but he, too,

has kept abreast of the times, and although the reminiscences in his

delightful autobiography take one back to the hazy days when the land was

young and politics a more strenuous thing than it is even now, when there

was anarchy in Louisiana and civil war in Arkansas, when one shot first

and questioned afterward; yet because his mind is still active, because

he has changed his methods with the changing time, because his influence

over young men is greatly potent still; he is, in the race, perhaps, the

best representative of what the old has brought to the new.


Beside him strong, forceful, commanding, stands the figure of George H.

White, whose farewell speech before the Fifty-sixth Congress, when through

the disfranchisement of Negroes he was defeated for re-election, stirred

the country and fired the hearts of his brothers. He has won his place

through honesty, bravery and aggressiveness. He has given something to the

nation that the nation needed, and with such men as Pinchback, Lynch,

Terrell and others of like ilk, acting in concert, it is but a matter of

time when his worth shall induce a repentant people, with a justice

builded upon the foundation of its old prejudice, to ask the Negro back to

take a hand in the affairs of state.


Add to all this the facts that the Negro has his representatives in the

commercial world: McCoy and Granville T. Woods, inventors; in the

agricultural world with J.H. Groves, the potato king of Kansas, who last

year shipped from his own railway siding seventy-two thousand five hundred

bushels of potatoes alone; in the military, with Capt. Charles A. Young, a

West Pointer, now stationed at the Presidio; that in medicine, he

possesses in Daniel H. Williams, of Chicago, one of the really great

surgeons of the country; that Edward H. Morris, a black man, is one of the

most brilliant lawyers at the brilliant Cook County bar; that in every

walk of life he has men and women who stand for something definite and

concrete, and it seems to me that there can be little doubt that the race

problem will gradually solve itself.


I have spoken of “men and women,” and indeed the women must not be

forgotten, for to them the men look for much of the inspiration and

impulse that drives them forward to success. Mrs. Mary Church Terrell

upon the platform speaking for Negro womanhood and Miss Sarah Brown, her

direct opposite, a little woman sitting up in her aerie above a noisy New

York street, stand for the very best that there is in our mothers, wives

and sisters. The one fully in the public eye, with learning and eloquence,

telling the hopes and fears of her kind; the other in suffering and

retirement, with her knowledge of the human heart and her gentleness

inspiring all who meet her to better and nobler lives. They are both doing

their work bravely and grandly. But when the unitiate ask who is “la

Petite Reine,” we think of the quiet little woman in a New York fifth

floor back and are silent.


She is a patron of all our literature and art and we have both. Whether it

is a new song by Will Marion Cook or a new book by DuBois or Chestnut,

than whom no one has ever told the life of the Negro more accurately and

convincingly, she knows it and has a kindly word of praise or



In looking over the field for such an article as this, one just begins to

realize how many Negroes are representative of something, and now it seems

that in closing no better names could be chosen than those of the two



From time immemorial, Religion and Art have gone together, but it remained

for us to place them in the persons of these two men, in the relation of

father and son. Bishop Benj. Tucker Tanner, of the A.M.E. Church, is not

only a theologian and a priest, he is a dignified, polished man of the

higher world and a poet. He has succeeded because he was prepared for

success. As to his writings, he will, perhaps, think most highly of “His

Apology For African Methodism;” but some of us, while respecting this,

will turn from it to the poems and hymns that have sung themselves out of

his gentle heart.


Is it any wonder that his son, Henry O. Tanner, is a poet with the brush

or that the French Government has found it out? From the father must have

come the man’s artistic impulse, and he carried it on and on to a golden

fruition. In the Luxembourg gallery hangs his picture, “The Raising of

Lazarus.” At the Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, I saw his

“Annunciation,” both a long way from his “Banjo Lesson,” and thinking of

him I began to wonder whether, in spite of all the industrial tumult, it

were not in the field of art, music and literature that the Negro was to

make his highest contribution to American civilization. But this is merely

a question which time will answer.


All these of whom I have spoken are men who have striven and achieved and

the reasons underlying their success are the same that account for the

advancement of men of any other race: preparation, perseverance, bravery,

patience, honesty and the power to seize the opportunity.


It is a little dark still, but there are warnings of the day and somewhere

out of the darkness a bird is singing to the Dawn.





_The Negro’s Place in American Life at the Present Day_




  Considering the two hundred and forty-five years of his slavery and the

  comparatively short time he has enjoyed the opportunities of freedom,

  his place in American life at the present day is creditable to him and

  promising for the future.


[Illustration: T. THOMAS FORTUNE.]



There can be no healthy growth in the life of a race or a nation without a

self-reliant spirit animating the whole body; if it amounts to optimism,

devoid of egotism and vanity, so much the better. This spirit necessarily

carries with it intense pride of race, or of nation, as the case may be,

and ramifies the whole mass, inspiring and shaping its thought and effort,

however humble or exalted these may be,–as it takes “all sorts and

conditions of men” to make up a social order, instinct with the ambition

and the activity which work for “high thinking and right living,” of which

modern evolution in all directions is the most powerful illustration in

history. If pride of ancestry can, happily, be added to pride of race and

nation, and these are re-enforced by self-reliance, courage and correct

moral living, the possible success of such people may be accepted, without

equivocation, as a foregone conclusion. I have found all of these

requirements so finely blended in the life and character of no people as

that of the Japanese, who are just now emerging from “the double night of

ages” into the vivifying sunlight of modern progress.


What is the Negro’s place in American life at the present day?


The answer depends entirely upon the point of view. Unfortunately for the

Afro-American people, they have no pride of ancestry; in the main, few of

them can trace their parentage back four generations; and the “daughter of

an hundred earls” of whom there are probably many, is unconscious of her

descent, and would profit nothing by it if this were not true. The blood

of all the ethnic types that go to make up American citizenship flows in

the veins of the Afro-American people, so that of the ten million of them

in this country, accounted for by the Federal census, not more than four

million are of pure negroid descent, while some four million of them, not

accounted for by the Federal census, have escaped into the ranks of the

white race, and are re-enforced very largely by such escapements every

year. The vitiation of blood has operated irresistibly to weaken that

pride of ancestry, which is the foundation-stone of pride of race; so that

the Afro-American people have been held together rather by the segregation

decreed by law and public opinion than by ties of consanguinity since

their manumission and enfranchisement. It is not because they are poor and

ignorant and oppressed, as a mass, that there is no such sympathy of

thought and unity of effort among them as among Irishmen and Jews the

world over, but because the vitiation of blood, beyond the honorable

restrictions of law, has destroyed, in large measure, that pride of

ancestry upon which pride of race must be builded. In no other logical

way can we account for the failure of the Afro-American people to stand

together, as other oppressed races do, and have done, for the righting of

wrongs against them authorized by the laws of the several states, if not

by the Federal Constitution, and sanctioned or tolerated by public

opinion. In nothing has this radical defect been more noticeable since the

War of the Rebellion than in the uniform failure of the people to sustain

such civic organizations as exist and have existed, to test in the courts

of law and in the forum of public opinion the validity of organic laws of

States intended to deprive them of the civil and political rights

guaranteed to them by the Federal Constitution. The two such organizations

of this character which have appealed to them are the National

Afro-American League, organized in Chicago, in 1890, and the National

Afro-American Council, organized in Rochester, New York, out of the

League, in 1898. The latter organization still exists, the strongest of

its kind, but it has never commanded the sympathy and support of the

masses of the people, nor is there, or has there been, substantial

agreement and concert of effort among the thoughtful men of the race along

these lines. They have been restrained by selfish, personal and petty

motives, while the constitutional rights which vitalize their citizenship

have been “denied or abridged” by legislation of certain of the States and

by public opinion, even as Nero fiddled while Rome burned. If they had

been actuated by a strong pride of ancestry and of race, if they had felt

that injury to one was injury to all, if they had hung together instead of

hanging separately, their place in the civil and political life of the

Republic to-day would not be that, largely, of pariahs, with none so poor

as to do them honor, but that of equality of right under the law enjoyed

by all other alien ethnic forces in our citizenship. They who will not

help themselves are usually not helped by others. They who make a loud

noise and courageously contend for what is theirs, usually enjoy the

respect and confidence of their fellows and get, in the end, what belongs

to them, or a reasonable modification of it.


As a consequence of inability to unite in thought and effort for the

conservation of their civil and political rights, the Afro-American

Negroes and colored people have lost, by fundamental enactments of the old

slave-holding States, all of the civil and political rights guaranteed

them by the Federal Constitution, in the full enjoyment of which they were

from the adoption of the War Amendments up to 1876-7, when they were

sacrificed by their Republican allies of the North and West, in the

alienation of their State governments, in order to save the Presidency to

Mr. Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio. Their reverses in this matter in the old

slave-holding States, coupled with a vast mass of class legislation,

modelled on the slave code, have affected the Afro-American people in

their civil and political rights in all of the States of the Republic,

especially as far as public opinion is concerned. This was inevitable,

and follows in every instance in history where a race element of the

citizenship is set aside by law or public opinion as separate and distinct

from its fellows, with a fixed status or caste.


It will take the Afro-American people fully a century to recover what they

lost of civil and political equality under the law in the Southern States,

as a result of the re-actionary and bloody movement begun in the

Reconstruction period by the Southern whites, and culminating in

1877,–the excesses of the Reconstruction governments, about which so much

is said to the discredit of the Negro, being chargeable to the weakness

and corruption of Northern carpet-baggers, who were the master and

responsible spirits of the time and the situation, rather than to the

weakness, the ignorance and venality of their Negro dupes, who, very

naturally, followed where they led, as any other grateful people would

have done. For, were not these same Northern carpet-baggers the direct

representatives of the Government and the Army which crushed the slave

power and broke the shackles of the slave? Even so. The Northern

carpet-baggers planned and got the plunder, and have it; the Negro got the

credit and the odium, and have them yet. It often happens that way in

history, that the innocent dupes are made to suffer for the misdeeds and

crimes of the guilty.


The recovery of civil and political rights under the Constitution, as

“denied or abridged” by the constitutions of the States, more especially

those of the old slave holding ones, will be a slow and tedious process,

and will come to the individual rather than to the race, as the reward of

character and thrift; because, for reasons already stated, it will hardly

be possible in the future, as it has not been in the past, to unify the

mass of the Afro-American people, in thought and conduct, for a proper

contention in the courts and at the ballot-box and in the education of

public opinion, to accomplish this purpose. Perhaps there is no other

instance in history where everything depended so largely upon the

individual, and so little upon the mass of his race, for that development

in the religious and civic virtues which makes more surely for an

honorable status in any citizenship than constitutions or legislative

enactments built upon them.


But even from this point of view, I am disposed to believe that the

Negro’s civil and political rights are more firmly fixed in law and public

opinion than was true at the close of the Reconstruction period, when

everything relating to him was unsettled and confused, based in

legislative guarantees, subject to approval or disapproval of the dominant

public opinion of the several States, and that he will gradually work out

his own salvation under the Constitution,–such as Charles Sumner,

Thaddeus Stevens, Benjamin F. Butler, Frederick Douglass, and their

co-workers, hoped and labored that he might enjoy. He has lost nothing

under the fundamental law; such of these restrictions, as apply to him by

the law of certain of the States, necessarily apply to white men in like

circumstances of ignorance and poverty, and can be overcome, in time, by

assiduous courtship of the schoolmaster and the bank cashier. The extent

to which the individual members of the race are overcoming the

restrictions made a bar to their enjoyment of civil and political rights

under the Constitution is gratifying to those who wish the race well and

who look beyond the present into the future: while it is disturbing the

dreams of those who spend most of their time and thought in abortive

efforts to “keep the ‘nigger’ in his place”–as if any man or race could

have a place in the world’s thought and effort which he did not make for

himself! In our grand Republic, at least, it has been so often

demonstrated as to become proverbial, that the door of opportunity shall

be closed to no man, and that he shall be allowed to have that place in

our national life which he makes for himself. So it is with the Negro now,

as an individual. Will it be so with him in the future as a race? To

answer that we shall first have to determine that he has a race.


However he may be lacking in pride of ancestry and race, no one can accuse

the Negro of lack of pride of Nation and State, and even of county.

Indeed, his pride in the Republic and his devotion to it are among the

most pathetic phases of his pathetic history, from Jamestown, in 1620, to

San Juan Hill, in 1898. He has given everything to the Republic,–his

labor and blood and prayers. What has the Republic given him, but blows

and rebuffs and criminal ingratitude! And he stands now, ready and eager,

to give the Republic all that he has. What does the Republic stand ready

and eager to give him? Let the answer come out of the mouth of the future.


It is a fair conclusion that the Negro has a firmer and more assured civil

and political status in American life to-day than at the close of the

Reconstruction period, paradoxical as this may appear to many, despite the

adverse legislation of the old slave-holding States, and the tolerant

favor shown such legislation by the Federal Supreme Court, in such

opinions as it has delivered, from time to time, upon the subject, since

the adoption of the War amendments to the Federal Constitution.

Technically, the Negro stands upon equality with all other citizens under

this large body of special and class legislation; but, as a matter of

fact, it is so framed that the greatest inequality prevails, and was

intended to prevail, in the administration of it by the several States

chiefly concerned. As long as such legislation by the States specifies, on

the face of it, that it shall operate upon all citizens equally, however

unequally and unjustly the legislation may be interpreted and administered

by the local courts, the Federal Supreme Court has held, time and again,

that no hardship was worked, and, if so, that the aggrieved had his

recourse in appeal to the higher courts of the State of which he is a

citizen,–a recourse at this time precisely like that of carrying coal to

New Castle.


Under the circumstances, there is no alternative for the Negro citizen

but to work out his salvation under the Constitution, as other citizens

have done and are doing. It will be a long and tedious process before the

equitable adjustment has been attained, but that does not much matter, as

full and fair enjoyment of civil and political rights requires much time

and patience and hard labor in any given situation, where two races come

together in the same governmental environment; such as is the case of the

Negro in America, the Irishman in Ireland, and the Jew everywhere in

Europe. It is just as well, perhaps, that the Negro will have to work out

his salvation under the Constitution as an individual rather than as a

race, as the Jew has done it in Great Britain and as the Irishman will

have to do it under the same Empire, as it is and has been the tendency of

our law and precedent to subordinate race elements and to exalt the

individual citizens as indivisible “parts of one stupendous whole.” When

this has been accomplished by the law in the case of the Negro, as in the

case of other alien ethnic elements of the citizenship, it will be more

gradually, but assuredly, accomplished by society at large, the

indestructible foundation of which was laid by the reckless and brutal

prostitution of black women by white men in the days of slavery, from

which a vast army of mulattoes were produced, who have been and are,

gradually, by honorable marriage among themselves, changing the alleged

“race characteristics and tendencies” of the Negro people. A race element,

it is safe and fair to conclude, incapable, like that of the North

American Indian, of such a process of elimination and assimilation, will

always be a thorn in the flesh of the Republic, in which there is,

admittedly, no place for the integrality and growth of a distinct race

type. The Afro-American people, for reasons that I have stated, are even

now very far from being such a distinct race type, and without further

admixture of white and black blood, will continue to be less so to the end

of the chapter. It seems to me that this view of the matter has not

received the consideration that it deserves at the hands of those who set

themselves up as past grand masters in the business of “solving the race

problem,” and in accurately defining “The Negro’s Place in American Life

at the Present Day.” The negroid type and the Afro-American type are two

very distinct types, and the sociologist who confounds them, as is very

generally done, is bound to confuse his subject and his audience.


It is a debatable question as to whether the Negro’s present industrial

position is better or worse than it was, say, at the close of the

Reconstruction period. As a mass, I am inclined to the opinion that it is

worse, as the laws of the States where he is congregated most numerously

are so framed as to favor the employer in every instance, and he does not

scruple to get all out of the industrial slave that he can; which is, in

the main, vastly more than the slave master got, as the latter was at the

expense of housing, feeding, clothing and providing medical service for

his chattel, while the former is relieved of this expense and trouble.

Prof. W.E.B. DuBois, of Atlanta University, who has made a critical study

of the rural Negro of the Southern States, sums up the industrial phase of

the matter in the following (“The Souls of Black Folk,” pp. 39-40):


“For this much all men know: Despite compromise, war and struggle, the

Negro is not free. In the backwoods of the Gulf States, for miles and

miles, he may not leave the plantation of his birth; in well-nigh the

whole rural South the black farmers are peons, bound by law and custom to

an economic slavery, from which the only escape is death or the

penitentiary. In the most cultured sections and cities of the South the

Negroes are a segregated servile caste, with restricted rights and

privileges. Before the courts, both in law and custom, they stand on a

different and peculiar basis. Taxation without representation is the rule

of their political life. And the result of all this is, and in nature must

have been, lawlessness and crime.”


It is a dark and gloomy picture, the substitution of industrial for

chattel slavery, with none of the legal and selfish restraints upon the

employer which surrounded and actuated the master. And this is true of the

entire mass of the Afro-American laborers of the Southern States. Out of

the mass have arisen a large number of individuals who own and till their

own lands. This element is very largely recruited every year, and to this

source must we look for the gradual undermining of the industrial slavery

of the mass of the people. Here, too, we have a long and tedious process

of evolution, but it is nothing new in the history of races circumstanced

as the Afro-American people are. That the Negro is destined, however, to

be the landlord and master agriculturist of the Southern States is a

probability sustained by all the facts in the situation; not the least of

which being the tendency of the poor white class and small farmers to

abandon agricultural pursuits for those of the factory and the mine, from

which the Negro laborer is excluded, partially in the mine and wholly in

the factory. The development of mine and factory industries in the

Southern States in the past two decades has been one of the most

remarkable in industrial history.


In the skilled trades, at the close of the War of the Rebellion, most of

the work was done by Negroes educated as artisans in the hard school of

slavery, but there has been a steady decline in the number of such

laborers, not because of lack of skill, but because trade unionism has

gradually taken possession of such employments in the South, and will not

allow the Negro to work alongside of the white man. And this is the rule

of the trade unions in all parts of the country. It is to be hoped that

there may be a gradual broadening of the views of white laborers in this

vital matter and a change of attitude by the trade unions that they

dominate. Can we reasonably expect this? As matters now stand, it is the

individual Negro artisan, often a master contractor, who can work at his

trade and give employment to his fellows. Fortunately, there are a great

many of these in all parts of the Southern States, and their number is

increasing every year, as the result of the rapid growth and high favor of

industrial schools, where the trades are taught. A very great deal should

be expected from this source, as a Negro contractor stands very nearly on

as good footing as a white one in the bidding, when he has established a

reputation for reliability. The facts obtained in every Southern city bear

out this view of the matter. The individual black man has a fighting

chance for success in the skilled trades; and, as he succeeds, will draw

the skilled mass after him. The proper solution of the skilled labor

problem is strictly within the power of the individual Negro. I believe

that he is solving it, and that he will ultimately solve it.


It is, however, in the marvellous building up of a legal, comfortable and

happy home life, where none whatever existed at the close of the War of

the Rebellion; in the no less stupendous development of the church life,

with large and puissant organizations that command the respect and

admiration of mankind, and owning splendid church property valued at

millions of dollars; in the quenchless thirst of the mass of the people

for useful knowledge, displayed at the close of the War of the Rebellion,

and abating nothing of its intense keenness since, with the remarkable

reduction in the illiteracy of the mass of the people, as is eloquently

disclosed by the census reports–it is in these results that no cause for

complaint or discouragement can be found. The whole race here stands on

improved ground over that it occupied at the close of the War of the

Rebellion; albeit, even here, the individual has outstripped the mass of

the race, as it was but natural that he should and always will. But, while

this is true and gratifying to all those that hope the Afro-American

people well, it is also true, and equally gratifying that, as far as the

mass is concerned, the home life, the church and the school house have

come into the life of the people, in some sort, everywhere, giving the

whole race a character and a standing in the estimation of mankind which

it did not have at the close of the war, and presaging, logically, unless

all signs fail, a development along high and honorable lines in the

future; the results from which, I predict, at the end of the ensuing half

century, builded upon the foundation already laid, being such as to

confound the prophets of evil, who never cease to doubt and shake their

heads, asking: “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” We have the

answer already in the social and home life of the people, which is so vast

an improvement over the conditions and the heritage of slavery as to

stagger the understanding of those who are informed on the subject, or

will take the trouble to inform themselves.


If we have much loose moral living, it is not sanctioned by the mass,

wedlock being the rule, and not the exception; if we have a vast volume of

illiteracy, we have reduced it by forty per cent. since the war, and the

school houses are all full of children eager to learn, and the schools of

higher and industrial training cannot accommodate all those who knock at

their doors for admission; if we have more than our share of criminality,

we have also churches in every hamlet and city, to which a vast majority

of the people belong, and which are insistently pointing “the way, the

light and the truth” to higher and nobler living.


Mindful, therefore, of the Negro’s two hundred and forty-five years of

slave education and unrequited toil, and of his thirty years of partial

freedom and less than partial opportunity, who shall say that his place in

American life at the present day is not all that should be reasonably

expected of him, that it is not creditable to him, and that it is not a

sufficient augury for better and nobler and higher thinking, striving and

building in the future? Social growth is the slowest of all growth. If

there be signs of growth, then, there is reasonable hope for a healthy

maturity. There are plenty of such signs, and he who runs may read them,

if he will.

Wine for the Feast


                                          Wine for the Feast                                               


Marshall M. Abuwi

© 2009 All rights reserved.

“And their Nourisher and Sustainer will give them to drink of a wine [from the fountain called Salsabil] that is pure and holy.”  Holy Qur’an, Al Insan (The Human Being) 76:21.

Marshall stood in the sun on his favorite beach, upon a lofty rock.  He watched the gentle Caribbean surf wash the rock as the sea ebbed and flowed.  He looked out over the rippling sea.  In the golden twilight he could see a luxury cruise ship on the horizon.  From his radio came the sounds of Bahamian music,  from Nassau, which was only thirty miles away.  Unlike the busy port of Nassau, the island of Eleuthera was so quiet that Marshall could spend long hours on his favorite beach, meditating and reflecting on the hand that Life had dealt to him.  Eleuthera means “freedom”.  Marshall was totally free, while basking in the Bahamian sun.

The Silk Cushion Temple was three thousand miles away.  Marshall doubted if the Gorilla-Stompers cared about him now.  They were still reeling from the quick action the Saviour-Redeemer had taken to destroy their ruthless power over Allah’s chosen people.  The last big ploy in which they had succeeded was in 1974, when they extorted two million dollars from a newspaper magnate to help rescue his 19 year-old daughter from a motley band of black and white terrorists. Marshall felt safe for the first time in a decade.  He did not even fear attacks from the large sharks that frequented the warm water where he swam freely.  He sensed that the Divine Power was protecting him, since the Saviour-Redeemer had saved him from being assassinated by renegade Gorilla-Stompers.

Now there was time to think, to understand, and to learn.  First, there was the Holy Qur’an, whose allegorical meanings needed to be deciphered, based on the new teachings given by the Saviour-Redeemer.  The new wine that Marshall drank  from the fountain of  Divine Mind was helping him understand why he had to go through the Silk Cushion Temple experience in order to comprehend the extent to which the Blue People had been mentally destroyed.   Marshall did not need to pray to a mystery god, or to a false prophet, or to a mythical made-up god, whose fake ID allowed him to hoodwink the Lost and Founds.  He was free from the toxic mind games of Dr. Willie Bo-Bo, and the tricknology of the Great Reformer. Marshall reflected on the thought that “God is All-in-All (Allah).”  That God IS, and is IN everything…in fact, the union of the Creator with the Creation is so close that “it is impossible to say where one begins and the other leaves off.” 

As he watched the gentle waves of the Caribbean Sea break into surf at the decline of the day on the island called “Freedom”, it became clearer to Marshall that “God’s Creative Power of Divine Mind is right here within our minds, that we have as much of this power to use as we believe in and embody.  That the storehouse of nature is filled with infinite good, awaiting the touch of our awakened thought to spring forth into manifestation in our lives; but the awakening must be within our thought”…We shall behold a new heaven and a new, earth, a real Garden of Paradise, a real Jannah, not in some far off place following our demise on this earth, but here and now on this very earth where we are currently living, loving, working and dying, and being reborn into new creations. (Quotes from (Holmes, 1966, p. 103).

As Marshall climbed down from his high place from which he saw the sun setting on the far western horizon, he thought of the Lost and Founds back in America.  As he bathed in the dusk in the warm, gentle shallow water that kissed the pink-sand coral beach, he realized what the Lost and Founds really needed was not the mythical teachings of Dr. Willie Bo-Bo, no matter how fascinating they sounded.  They needed to understand that they needed to be nourished and sustained by the Almighty, All-Knowing Nourisher and Sustainer, the Creator, who resides within themselves.  They needed to know and understand that the human being has no limitation outside of his or her own ignorance of the Divine Mind, and the immutable Laws that that Mind – which is the core of our Divine consciousness – produces. 

Marshall  used water goggles to see the life beneath the surface of the water as he swam.  In the water, he reflected that “Man is conscious Mind and the Universe is the result of the contemplation of the Divine Mind, or the Holy Spirit, which is God.  He knew in that experience of being self-baptized in the Fountain of Life, far from the threats of the Gorilla-Stompers, or the esoteric, misunderstood  teachings of Great Reformer, that he was being healed.  He knew that healing is accomplished by uncovering, neutralizing, and erasing false images of thought; and letting the perfect idea, the Divine Wine from the Divine Mind from the Fountain called Salsabil correct his thinking until he returned to his true nature as a God-conscious, right-thinking man.  (From Ernest Holmes, Science of Mind, 1966, p. 197). 

Marshall removed himself from the warm, soothing water as the sun dipped behind the ocean, and the golden-red glow of its light spread across the sky.  Walking briskly up the jungle path to his beach house, from which he could smell his evening meal of fish, peas, rice and cooked bananas, mangos and papayas, he reflected on the teachings of the ancients from the East:  “As far as this world, this universal space extends, so far extends the dimensions of my own heart and my union with the Divine Mind. Within my heart and within my union with the Divine Mind, indeed, are contained heaven and earth, fire and air, sun and moon, lightning and the stars.  Whatever there is of this universe and whatever is not, all that is contained within my own Divinely-guided and nourished Mind” (From The Principal Upanishads, 1953, p. 492) – and I accept my invitation to enjoy God’s feast, and be free.”    



Note:  Author will provide APA-style citations upon request.  MMA.