The Southern Situation, Some Suggestive Facts

First Fact. The condition of the colored man In the South is becoming more pitiable and precarious. Mr. Grady, in his last speech, announced the unalterable purpose of the Southern whites never to submit to Negro rule, and we read not long since of a “quiet election” held in a Southern city, because the colored people, duly warned, kept away from the polls. We know something, also, of the struggles of that people against almost insuperable difficulties in trying to obtain food, homes and education. In addition to all this, the public press keeps us informed with sad frequency of the repeated murders inflicted upon the defenseless colored people.

Second Fact. We learn with gratification that Southern people of high standing denounce these outrages. Governor Richardson, of South Carolina, assured a colored delegation that called upon him, that he had offered a reward for the apprehension of the Barnwell murderers, and pledged his sacred word that nothing would be undone on his part to bring the lynchers to condign punishment. Senator Wade Hampton is said to have endorsed the sentiments of the Governor, and leading Southern papers have censured in unmeasured terms this outrage.

But as yet these murderers have not been arrested, and we presume that no one expects they will be. The murderers of Mr. Clayton, of Arkansas, who presumed to run as an independent candidate for Congress, were denounced by the authorities of the State, and rewards were offered for their apprehension. But, though many months have elapsed, they have not been arrested, and no one, North or South, imagines that they will be punished. Kind words from Southern officials will not solve the great problem.

Third Fact. The colored people bear up well under all these trying circumstances. We should suppose they would be utterly discouraged, for they see little prospect of securing their rights as men and citizens, and even life and property are not safe. They are allured to a change of location by flaming handbills, making tempting but deceptive offers of better wages and better homes. They are hunted down and massacred, and yet their wrongs are unredressed.

But in spite of all this, they struggle on, constantly gaining property and homes, some of them acquiring wealth. If they are deceived on reaching some new Eldorado, losing their all in making the change, they do not give up, but strike in again. If they are not safe in some rural districts, they go to the cities. But best of all, their educated men are showing great wisdom and moderation, as witness the calm and dispassionate action of the Convention of the most intelligent and influential colored men in Charleston, S.C., after the Barnwell massacre. They passed resolutions of dignified condemnation of the wrong, yet urged their people to remain quiet, and let the proper authorities vindicate the law. The forbearance of that meeting has won the commendations of leading white men in the South.

And here let us say, that the white people of the South make no greater mistake, than when they imagine that it is a dangerous thing to educate the colored people. On the contrary, we believe that the facts make it manifest that it is by these educated men that their race will be guided wisely and safely through this great crisis, and that if a war of races is to be avoided, these educated colored men will be a grand factor in averting it.

Fourth Fact. It is conceded by all right-thinking people, that the education of the colored race is the only true solution of the Southern problem. This has been declared in Presidential messages, in the utterances of such candid men as Dr. Curry, Dr. Haygood and Colonel Keating, by writers in all the Northern religious papers, and is, we believe, the accepted and settled opinion of Christian people at the North. Everybody admits, also, that there is a crisis coming, and that what is done for Negro education must be done quickly. The North has a duty in this matter, and admits it. Our constituents have a special duty in the case, and they feel it. They have done nobly in the past, and have assumed great responsibilities which cannot now be neglected or deferred. But here is the strangest of all the facts in this series: With the urgency before them, our constituents do not make a corresponding increase in their donations.

We feel impelled to urge this upon the attention of pastors, churches and individuals. Brethren and friends, do not delay as in the case of slavery, till the conflict comes! Do not expect that everybody else is doing what is needed. The responsibility is personal and pressing, and each individual and church can meet it only by making larger gifts—not from an impulse, but from a deliberate purpose formed under a sense of obligation to the Negro, the Nation and to Christ.

A Different “Watch Night” Meeting

Since the foregoing article was in type, we have received the following sketch of a “Watch Night” meeting in one of the churches of our Association.

It is quite a custom among the colored people to hold “Watch Night” meetings. These meetings are largely attended and are full of fervor and interest. Our “Watch-Night” was a very precious one—it was held from 10 to 12 o’clock: it was divided into four half-hour services, viz: 1—Prayer and praise; 2—Bible reading; 3—Address by pastor, and 4—A testimony meeting. The last five minutes was spent in silent prayer, and at 12 o’clock, when the New Year was announced by booming of cannon and the ringing of bells throughout the city, we united in singing our song of New Year greeting, “What a Happy New Year,” while extending to one another the right hand of fellowship. At the close of the service all present pledged themselves, by standing, to abstain from the use of intoxicating liquors as a beverage during 1890.

The Future Of The Negro In Our Country, Address at the Annual Meeting in Chicago

By The Rev. C.H. Richards, D.D.

Deeper than the question, what shall we do with the Negro, lies the more fundamental question: What does God mean to do with the Negro in our country? Many a so-called solution of the “race problem” has been a foredoomed failure, because it ran counter to the Providential plan. Some have hoped that time would settle the burning question; if people would only stop talking about it, especially meddlesome people far away from the real pinch of the trouble, they fancy that somehow the mere flight of years would adjust differences and secure to all their rights. Others think the short way to peace is by force, keeping the Negro down with a strong hand, and keeping the Anglo Saxon on top by any vigorous means that may be needed. Others, again, think there never can be any solution of the problem so long as the two races occupy the same territory, and they propose some mammoth scheme of colonization to take the blacks away to some quarter of the world where they can be by themselves. But these and other remedies are utterly futile, because they are in collision with God’s plan, as indicated by certain manifest facts. Meantime, while men are so busy trying to get around the difficulty instead of solving it in a straightforward way, the problem gets a little bigger every year. The caste question agitates our great religious assemblies. The spoliation of the civil rights of the Negro is one of the most menacing features in our politics. Bitter race prejudices keep Southern cities in a ferment, and even break out in dreadful massacres. This race problem will continue to be one of the most momentous and disturbing questions in American public life, until somehow we learn how to get into line with Providence, and find some solution that harmonizes with the great movements that have the hand of God in them.

It is time to ask then, with searching inquiry, What is the divine plan with regard to the Negro here, or, in other words, What is to be the future of the Negro in America? In certain significant facts and tendencies of his past and present, we may see the finger of Providence pointing on to that future. Let us look at some of these facts and their bearings.

First of all, the Negro is here, and that not of his own consent. He has not forced himself upon the country; he has been forced to make this his home against his will. We of the white race are responsible for his presence. We invited him here in the most pressing manner, and would not take “no” for an answer.

And he is here to stay. All the ingenious schemes for settling this troublesome question by taking up the black race bodily and dropping it in some roomy region far away from all possible contact with white people, are utterly delusive. The Negro does not want to go elsewhere. Having been compelled to make his home here for two centuries, he is domesticated here, and has as good a right to remain as the white man. Moreover, he can see as well as any one that this is the best country in the world to live in—the land offering greatest opportunity for advancement, the poor man’s Paradise. Brought by force, he will not relinquish his rightful hold here except by force. And we may be sure that our National Government will never undertake the chimerical experiment of deporting him to some other land, and pay the enormous expense of it out of the National Treasury. Having been brought by the providence of God to expiate its former wrongs to the black man at such immense cost of treasure and blood, the Nation will be slow to tax itself enormously to do him another wrong.

Moreover, it is not necessary that the races should be separated in order to settle the difficulty that now disturbs us. All the Negro asks is to be treated with justice and equity, and to be given a fair chance in life. We have simply to apply the elementary principles of our common Christianity to the problem and deal with the Negro in the spirit of the Golden Rule and the whole difficulty vanishes. It looks as though God had made this a polychromatic country—red, black, white and yellow—on purpose that we might give a gospel illustration of the essential unity of all races, and show how these rainbow tints are to be blended in the white light of Christian brotherhood.

Nor is it desirable that the black man should leave us, even if he wanted to. It would impoverish us in no small degree and cripple us in our advancement. He is the natural laborer of the South, and has added, as we shall see, immensely to its prosperity since the war, and he is to be one of the chief factors in securing the future wealth of the country. These reasons combine with overwhelming force to show that an exodus is undesirable and impossible, and that the Negro is here to stay.

And he is to be here in greatly increased numbers. The fecundity of the race is remarkable. The 4,000,000 blacks that were freed by the emancipation proclamation are 8,000,000 now. They multiply by births alone 7 per cent. faster than the whites by births and immigration combined. It is estimated that they are increasing at the rate of 500 a day and that their numbers are now doubling every twenty years. This may be a little exaggerated, but it is not far out of the way. If they are increasing and continue to increase at this rate, in twenty years they will be 16,000,000 strong, or nearly as many as the entire population of the whole country in 1840; by 1930, they will number 32,000,000, or more than we had of all races here at the outbreak of our Civil War; by the middle of the next century they will number 64,000,000, or more than our present population within the borders of the Republic. Discount this estimate as much as you please, the increase in the colored race is sure to be tremendous, and it is plain that the race problem will increase in difficulty and in momentous consequences to the Nation until it is settled on Christian principles. And the work of settling it admits of no delay.

The Negro is to be a very important factor in promoting the future prosperity of the country. Already it is manifest that his value to the South as a freed man is far greater than the price formerly set upon him as a chattel. The unrequited toil of the slave is seen in the light of history to be the dearest kind of labor. It was frequently said after the war that the emancipated Negro would be worthless as a laborer; that he was naturally lazy, shiftless, and a shirk, and that he would relapse into a vagabond. But, as a matter of fact, far more good work has been done in the South since the war than before, and for the most part the Negro has done it. Great crops of cotton, sugar, rice, tobacco, corn, and other staples have been raised and marketed; mines have been developed, railroads built, manufactures established, and hundreds of other industries opened and pushed in the new era of prosperity which has dawned in the South; and while the capital and brains for this have been furnished by the whites, and largely from the North, the manual labor has been done mainly by the blacks. They have made the New South possible. Take the single item of the cotton they have raised: The twenty-one cotton crops from 1841 to 1861, raised by slave labor, amounted to 58,500,000 bales; the twenty-one cotton crops from 1865 to 1885, raised by free labor, amounted to 93,500,000 bales. There was a gain, with free labor, of nearly 35,000,000 bales, worth $2,000,000,000, or about the full estimated value of all the slaves set free by the war. These facts show the value of the Negro to the South simply as a common laborer.

But his importance as a factor in securing a National prosperity is much enhanced when we note his remarkable capacity for improvement. Grant that the great bulk of these eight millions are still in a pitiable condition, poor, ignorant, sometimes vicious, the victims often of barbaric superstitions, living often in hovels rather than houses, without thrift or cleanliness, in crying need of kindly hands to help uplift them to a better life. Yet, granting all this physical and moral destitution among them, it must be said that history gives no record of a race, stripped and stranded so completely as these freedmen were in 1865, that has shown such marvelous progress in a quarter of a century. They have responded wonderfully to every effort made to elevate them, and have shown in themselves such versatility and vigor of intellect as give high promise for their future.

Their own advancement in material prosperity is an indication of this. Never was there a people left in worse plight than they were at the close of the war. In a country ravaged and denuded by a long and destructive conflict, themselves penniless, with none of the knowledge and training that would fit them for competition with shrewder and abler classes, there seemed small hope of their getting more than a bare livelihood. But ambition, mother wit, and a rare aptitude for learning have helped them on till the gains they have made for themselves are quite astonishing. Not long ago the New York Independent made extensive inquiries through the Southern States with regard to this matter, and the replies showed that the disposition to accumulate property was very strong among the colored people, and that industry and economy and forecast for this purpose were virtues rapidly developing among them. A large proportion of them are owners of their own homes, the proportions differing widely in different localities, ranging from 10 per cent. in North Carolina, to 20 per cent. in Virginia, 50 and 60 per cent. in some parts of Georgia, and 75 per cent. in some parts of Florida. A writer from Montgomery, Ala., even claimed 90 per cent. of home-owners among his acquaintances.

Many, also, are coming into the ownership of land. Mr. Morris stated four years ago that colored people owned 680,000 acres of land in Georgia, and 5,000,000 acres in the whole South. Dr. Haygood estimates that they own about $10,000,000 worth of taxable property in Georgia, and it is stated that “within twenty-five years the colored people of sixteen Southern States have accumulated real and personal property estimated at more than $200,000,000.” This, certainly, is a most remarkable showing for a people of whom it was freely prophesied that they would never be more than an indolent race of beggars. It shows that if they can only be given “a white man’s chance” they will be as thrifty and prosperous as their Caucasian brothers, and that the wealth which this rapidly increasing race will produce in the next half century will much of it be their own property. Poverty is no more an essential characteristic of the African than of the white American, and it looks as though the Negro was likely to win his fair share of our prosperity in the years to come.

The capacity for improvement is also indicated by the large variety of occupations which the Negro is successfully pursuing. It has been imagined by some that the work he could do is exceedingly limited in its range, and that he must needs be a barber, a waiter, or a small farmer. But at the New Orleans Exposition not long ago, an entire gallery across one end of the building was assigned to the colored people, and they more than filled it with an astonishing array of their products in all sorts of work. There were exhibits of mechanical, agricultural and artistic skill; specimens of millinery, tailoring, painting, photography, sculpture; many useful inventions; models of engines, steamboats, rail-cars; specimens of all kinds of tools, pianos, organs, pottery, tinware, and so on. It was made manifest that the Negro can succeed in any trade or occupation that the white man follows. They are diversifying their labor more and more. They are physicians, lawyers, master-mechanics, bridge-builders. They edit, own and manage a hundred newspapers.

The avidity with which they receive education, and profit by it, is another indication of their capacity for advancement. True, there is still an appalling illiteracy among them, some 70 per cent. of them in the South being unable to write. But we must remember that hardly a quarter of a century ago it was a crime to teach one of them to read; they were sedulously kept in compulsory ignorance, and since the ban was removed, poverty, lack of schools and teachers, and other causes have prevented their advancement as rapidly as we may expect in future. But much has been done for them in this particular. Dr. Haygood estimates that about $50,000,000 has been spent for the education of the Negro since the war, nearly half of which has come from the benevolence of the North. Through the American Missionary Association alone some $10,000,000 has gone into the school and church work for the Negro, both alike educational. There are some 200 schools carried on in the South by different benevolent organizations, having over 28,000 colored youth in them. Of these, ninety are colleges or high schools, and furnish teachers and educated leaders for this race. Three-quarters of a million dollars a year flows southward from Northern generosity to this work. And besides this, is the work being done by the South itself for the colored youth in its public schools. A million Negroes are in the 15,000 colored schools of the South to-day, being taught by 15,000 teachers of their own color, the best of whom have been educated in these schools nurtured by Northern benevolence. And what is the result? The illiteracy in this race diminished 10 per cent. between 1870 and 1880, showing the eagerness of the people for improvement. It is estimated that two millions of the blacks can now read the Bible for themselves. And the universities for higher education find the Negro as susceptible to the best culture, as capable of receiving thorough discipline and of being highly educated as the white boys and girls in our Northern colleges. The time is not far distant when colored college graduates, instead of being reckoned by hundreds as now, will be numbered by thousands, and when we shall see some Mark Hopkins in ebony.

The time has gone by when intelligent men can talk about the inferiority of this race. When representative Southern men declare that they were mistaken in their former view, when such men as ex-Governor Brown, of Georgia, convinced by the examinations of our Atlanta University, publicly declares, “I was wrong; I am converted,” that ought to be enough. But if not, the men of recognized ability and success among the blacks refute the old misrepresentation, now being revived in some quarters. When our Government sends its ministers abroad, Frederick Douglass and John M. Langston; when Senator Bruce and Representative Lynch are regarded as peers of their white brethren in the political arena; when college chairs are ably filled by such men as Professor Gregory, of Howard University; when colored delegates captivate a National council by their eloquence and ability; when Harvard University and Cornell University, by the choice of the students themselves, elect colored men to be their representative orators, surely it is much too late in the day to talk of the inferiority of the colored race. They are as well endowed by the Creator as any people in the world, and with training, culture, and a fair chance they will play their part in the world as well as any. It is such a people that we may predict will have a large share in adding to our National prosperity in the future.

Our first duty is to aid the Negro to attain more of moral power. Whatever he wins in the future he must secure because he deserves to. It will not come to him by favoritism nor by chance, but because he conquers the situation, and by his own ability and resolute endeavor fairly captures the prize of success. This the weak, degraded, untutored, semi-barbarous Negro can never do. He must develop a strong, clean manhood, equipped with the virtues to which success is fore-ordained, if he would be master of the future in a large way. Providence is helping him by the discipline of present exigencies, making even the wrongs and hardships he is suffering a gymnastic to eliminate weakness and develop moral power. His ambition is chastened, his indolence is rebuked, his patience, courage, and persistence are being trained. But Providence waits for us to give him more direct assistance in this matter. We can re-enforce him in certain directions where he is now in great need of help. There are certain vices against which he needs to be armed and aided. In answer to the inquiry, What is the greatest hindrance to the advancement of the colored race? the answer comes promptly from several sources, “Drink.” This is one of the new perils of his freedom, for in the old days of bondage it was a penal offense to sell liquor to a slave; but since the war, drunkenness has been a widespread curse among them, and to-day hangs like a mill-stone to the neck of many a Negro to prevent his rising. The sin of licentiousness prevails also to an alarming degree in many quarters. And wherever intemperance and social immorality abound, you find also the kindred vices of dishonesty, lying and laziness. No people can possibly have a great future in whose life these iniquities burn like a consuming fire. The manhood will be utterly burnt out of them before it can bear fruit in a large success. We need to send apostles of reform among them to turn them from their vices. We need to erect barriers of defense to protect them from temptation. Above all, we need to teach them a religion indissolubly joined with morality, a religion that means character and virtue, whose daily experience will mean the constant increase of moral power. The Negroes, like the Athenians of Paul’s day, are very religious. They revel in camp meetings and fairly wallow in revivals. But too often their piety is the mere gush of emotion, and in hideous conjunction with gross evils. They need an intelligent piety and an educated ministry. As Dr. Powell said, they ought to have 7,000 educated ministers, when now in our sense of the word educated, they have hardly 500. The church work of this Association is a powerful aid to their moral upliftment.

Our next duty is to furnish the Negro plentifully with opportunities for education. An ignorant race can have no future, save one of degradation for themselves, and of increasing danger for the nation of which it is a part. The ignorant Negro must be abolished by the school-house. Training for the mind, training for the hand, the development and drill of all the powers of life are necessary to make the Negro no more a peril, but a factor of immense value in securing the future prosperity of this country. We must do far more in this direction than has ever yet been done. The South is still poor and cannot furnish adequately the means for doing this work as it should be done. The benevolence of the North must furnish still larger sums for education, that the colored race may be made safe for us and for themselves.

And, last but not least, we must secure to the Negro the full enjoyment of all his rights and privileges in church and State. He cannot attain the measure of success and usefulness toward which Providence points, if he is to be kept in a state of peonage. A black man is no better for being black, but he is none the less a man on that account. The simple thing to be insisted on is that he shall be treated as a man, entitled to the same rights as other men, and protected in his enjoyment of them. This is no time to relax our emphasis on this point, when the bitterness of the caste spirit is venting itself in violence, and in assertion that white supremacy must be maintained by illegal means if it cannot be by legal. We maintain that the only safety for the South, and the only way to its large prosperity, is by securing fair play to every man within its borders. There must not be one law for the white man and another for the black. There must not be one standard of legal protection in the North and another in the South. Anarchy in Chicago is not a whit worse nor more dangerous than anarchy in the South, that defies law and rules by the mob in order to gratify race prejudice. Conspiracy to murder in Chicago is not more outrageous and perilous than the conspiracy of men of one color in the South to get rid of obnoxious men of another color by the shot-gun. Injustice and wrong will always bring forth a harvest of disaster in any part of the country. Fair play for every man must be our motto. We must have no color-line in politics, no color-line in the church; but equal rights for all before the law, and in the church equal privileges of Christian brotherhood.

It is for us to clear the way thus for Providence to carry out its wise designs for this race. And if we fulfill our part of the work faithfully, what may not this people, educated and regenerated, add of blessing and benefit to our common country. If out of a race of slaves God in the old time could raise up a Moses, if out of a rude race of sea pirates and robber chiefs, who drank their mead from the skulls of their enemies, He could raise up a Shakespeare, what may He not develop out of this long despised and defrauded people? Let us furnish freely the channels through which God may work, that in His providence “the weak things of the world may become mighty” for good to our land.



Various. The American Missionary, Vol. 43, No. 8, August, 1889.

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