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Title: Darkwater - Voices from Within the Veil
Author: Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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DARKWATER

Voices from within the Veil

W.E.B. DU BOIS



Originally published in 1920 by Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York.



AD NINAM

May 12, 1896



POSTSCRIPT


These are the things of which men think, who live: of their own selves
and the dwelling place of their fathers; of their neighbors; of work and
service; of rule and reason and women and children; of Beauty and Death
and War. To this thinking I have only to add a point of view: I have
been in the world, but not of it. I have seen the human drama from a
veiled corner, where all the outer tragedy and comedy have reproduced
themselves in microcosm within. From this inner torment of souls the
human scene without has interpreted itself to me in unusual and even
illuminating ways. For this reason, and this alone, I venture to write
again on themes on which great souls have already said greater words, in
the hope that I may strike here and there a half-tone, newer even if
slighter, up from the heart of my problem and the problems of my people.

Between the sterner flights of logic, I have sought to set some little
alightings of what may be poetry. They are tributes to Beauty, unworthy
to stand alone; yet perversely, in my mind, now at the end, I know not
whether I mean the Thought for the Fancy--or the Fancy for the Thought,
or why the book trails off to playing, rather than standing strong on
unanswering fact. But this is alway--is it not?--the Riddle of Life.

Many of my words appear here transformed from other publications and I
thank the _Atlantic_, the _Independent_, the _Crisis_, and the _Journal
of Race Development_ for letting me use them again.

W.E. BURGHARDT DU BOIS.
New York, 1919.



Contents


CHAPTER                                      PAGE

      POSTSCRIPT                              ix
      _Credo_                                  1

I.    THE SHADOW OF YEARS                      3
      _A Litany at Atlanta_                   14

II.   THE SOULS OF WHITE FOLK                 17
      _The Riddle of the Sphinx_              30

III.  THE HANDS OF ETHIOPIA                   32
      _The Princess of the Hither Isles_      43

IV.   OF WORK AND WEALTH                      47
      _The Second Coming_                     60

V.    "THE SERVANT IN THE HOUSE"              63
      _Jesus Christ in Texas_                 70

VI.   OF THE RULING OF MEN                    78
      _The Call_                              93

VII.  THE DAMNATION OF WOMEN                  95
      _Children of the Moon_                 109

VIII. THE IMMORTAL CHILD                     114
      _Almighty Death_                       128

IX.   OF BEAUTY AND DEATH                    130
      _The Prayers of God_                   145

X.    THE COMET                              149
      _A Hymn to the Peoples_                161



_Credo_


I believe in God, who made of one blood all nations that on earth do
dwell. I believe that all men, black and brown and white, are brothers,
varying through time and opportunity, in form and gift and feature, but
differing in no essential particular, and alike in soul and the
possibility of infinite development.

Especially do I believe in the Negro Race: in the beauty of its genius,
the sweetness of its soul, and its strength in that meekness which shall
yet inherit this turbulent earth.

I believe in Pride of race and lineage and self: in pride of self so
deep as to scorn injustice to other selves; in pride of lineage so great
as to despise no man's father; in pride of race so chivalrous as neither
to offer bastardy to the weak nor beg wedlock of the strong, knowing
that men may be brothers in Christ, even though they be not
brothers-in-law.

I believe in Service--humble, reverent service, from the blackening of
boots to the whitening of souls; for Work is Heaven, Idleness Hell, and
Wage is the "Well done!" of the Master, who summoned all them that labor
and are heavy laden, making no distinction between the black, sweating
cotton hands of Georgia and the first families of Virginia, since all
distinction not based on deed is devilish and not divine.

I believe in the Devil and his angels, who wantonly work to narrow the
opportunity of struggling human beings, especially if they be black; who
spit in the faces of the fallen, strike them that cannot strike again,
believe the worst and work to prove it, hating the image which their
Maker stamped on a brother's soul.

I believe in the Prince of Peace. I believe that War is Murder. I
believe that armies and navies are at bottom the tinsel and braggadocio
of oppression and wrong, and I believe that the wicked conquest of
weaker and darker nations by nations whiter and stronger but foreshadows
the death of that strength.

I believe in Liberty for all men: the space to stretch their arms and
their souls, the right to breathe and the right to vote, the freedom to
choose their friends, enjoy the sunshine, and ride on the railroads,
uncursed by color; thinking, dreaming, working as they will in a kingdom
of beauty and love.

I believe in the Training of Children, black even as white; the leading
out of little souls into the green pastures and beside the still waters,
not for pelf or peace, but for life lit by some large vision of beauty
and goodness and truth; lest we forget, and the sons of the fathers,
like Esau, for mere meat barter their birthright in a mighty nation.

Finally, I believe in Patience--patience with the weakness of the Weak
and the strength of the Strong, the prejudice of the Ignorant and the
ignorance of the Blind; patience with the tardy triumph of Joy and the
mad chastening of Sorrow.



I

THE SHADOW OF YEARS


I was born by a golden river and in the shadow of two great hills, five
years after the Emancipation Proclamation. The house was quaint, with
clapboards running up and down, neatly trimmed, and there were five
rooms, a tiny porch, a rosy front yard, and unbelievably delicious
strawberries in the rear. A South Carolinian, lately come to the
Berkshire Hills, owned all this--tall, thin, and black, with golden
earrings, and given to religious trances. We were his transient tenants
for the time.

My own people were part of a great clan. Fully two hundred years before,
Tom Burghardt had come through the western pass from the Hudson with his
Dutch captor, "Coenraet Burghardt," sullen in his slavery and achieving
his freedom by volunteering for the Revolution at a time of sudden
alarm. His wife was a little, black, Bantu woman, who never became
reconciled to this strange land; she clasped her knees and rocked and
crooned:

    "Do bana coba--gene me, gene me!
    Ben d'nuli, ben d'le--"

Tom died about 1787, but of him came many sons, and one, Jack, who
helped in the War of 1812. Of Jack and his wife, Violet, was born a
mighty family, splendidly named: Harlow and Ira, Cloë, Lucinda, Maria,
and Othello! I dimly remember my grandfather, Othello,--or "Uncle
Tallow,"--a brown man, strong-voiced and redolent with tobacco, who sat
stiffly in a great high chair because his hip was broken. He was
probably a bit lazy and given to wassail. At any rate, grandmother had a
shrewish tongue and often berated him. This grandmother was Sarah--"Aunt
Sally"--a stern, tall, Dutch-African woman, beak-nosed, but
beautiful-eyed and golden-skinned. Ten or more children were theirs, of
whom the youngest was Mary, my mother.

Mother was dark shining bronze, with a tiny ripple in her black hair,
black-eyed, with a heavy, kind face. She gave one the impression of
infinite patience, but a curious determination was concealed in her
softness. The family were small farmers on Egremont Plain, between Great
Barrington and Sheffield, Massachusetts. The bits of land were too small
to support the great families born on them and we were always poor. I
never remember being cold or hungry, but I do remember that shoes and
coal, and sometimes flour, caused mother moments of anxious thought in
winter, and a new suit was an event!

At about the time of my birth economic pressure was transmuting the
family generally from farmers to "hired" help. Some revolted and
migrated westward, others went cityward as cooks and barbers. Mother
worked for some years at house service in Great Barrington, and after a
disappointed love episode with a cousin, who went to California, she met
and married Alfred Du Bois and went to town to live by the golden river
where I was born.

Alfred, my father, must have seemed a splendid vision in that little
valley under the shelter of those mighty hills. He was small and
beautiful of face and feature, just tinted with the sun, his curly hair
chiefly revealing his kinship to Africa. In nature he was a
dreamer,--romantic, indolent, kind, unreliable. He had in him the making
of a poet, an adventurer, or a Beloved Vagabond, according to the life
that closed round him; and that life gave him all too little. His
father, Alexander Du Bois, cloaked under a stern, austere demeanor a
passionate revolt against the world. He, too, was small, but squarish. I
remember him as I saw him first, in his home in New Bedford,--white hair
close-cropped; a seamed, hard face, but high in tone, with a gray eye
that could twinkle or glare.

Long years before him Louis XIV drove two Huguenots, Jacques and Louis
Du Bois, into wild Ulster County, New York. One of them in the third or
fourth generation had a descendant, Dr. James Du Bois, a gay, rich
bachelor, who made his money in the Bahamas, where he and the Gilberts
had plantations. There he took a beautiful little mulatto slave as his
mistress, and two sons were born: Alexander in 1803 and John, later.
They were fine, straight, clear-eyed boys, white enough to "pass." He
brought them to America and put Alexander in the celebrated Cheshire
School, in Connecticut. Here he often visited him, but one last time,
fell dead. He left no will, and his relations made short shrift of these
sons. They gathered in the property, apprenticed grandfather to a
shoemaker; then dropped him.

Grandfather took his bitter dose like a thoroughbred. Wild as was his
inner revolt against this treatment, he uttered no word against the
thieves and made no plea. He tried his fortunes here and in Haiti,
where, during his short, restless sojourn, my own father was born.
Eventually, grandfather became chief steward on the passenger boat
between New York and New Haven; later he was a small merchant in
Springfield; and finally he retired and ended his days at New Bedford.
Always he held his head high, took no insults, made few friends. He was
not a "Negro"; he was a man! Yet the current was too strong even for
him. Then even more than now a colored man had colored friends or none
at all, lived in a colored world or lived alone. A few fine, strong,
black men gained the heart of this silent, bitter man in New York and
New Haven. If he had scant sympathy with their social clannishness, he
was with them in fighting discrimination. So, when the white
Episcopalians of Trinity Parish, New Haven, showed plainly that they no
longer wanted black Folks as fellow Christians, he led the revolt which
resulted in St. Luke's Parish, and was for years its senior warden. He
lies dead in the Grove Street Cemetery, beside Jehudi Ashmun.

Beneath his sternness was a very human man. Slyly he wrote
poetry,--stilted, pleading things from a soul astray. He loved women in
his masterful way, marrying three beautiful wives in succession and
clinging to each with a certain desperate, even if unsympathetic,
affection. As a father he was, naturally, a failure,--hard, domineering,
unyielding. His four children reacted characteristically: one was until
past middle life a thin spinster, the mental image of her father; one
died; one passed over into the white world and her children's children
are now white, with no knowledge of their Negro blood; the fourth, my
father, bent before grandfather, but did not break--better if he had. He
yielded and flared back, asked forgiveness and forgot why, became the
harshly-held favorite, who ran away and rioted and roamed and loved and
married my brown mother.

So with some circumstance having finally gotten myself born, with a
flood of Negro blood, a strain of French, a bit of Dutch, but, thank
God! no "Anglo-Saxon," I come to the days of my childhood.

They were very happy. Early we moved back to Grandfather Burghardt's
home,--I barely remember its stone fireplace, big kitchen, and
delightful woodshed. Then this house passed to other branches of the
clan and we moved to rented quarters in town,--to one delectable place
"upstairs," with a wide yard full of shrubbery, and a brook; to another
house abutting a railroad, with infinite interests and astonishing
playmates; and finally back to the quiet street on which I was
born,--down a long lane and in a homely, cozy cottage, with a
living-room, a tiny sitting-room, a pantry, and two attic bedrooms. Here
mother and I lived until she died, in 1884, for father early began his
restless wanderings. I last remember urgent letters for us to come to
New Milford, where he had started a barber shop. Later he became a
preacher. But mother no longer trusted his dreams, and he soon faded out
of our lives into silence.

From the age of five until I was sixteen I went to a school on the same
grounds,--down a lane, into a widened yard, with a big choke-cherry tree
and two buildings, wood and brick. Here I got acquainted with my world,
and soon had my criterions of judgment.

Wealth had no particular lure. On the other hand, the shadow of wealth
was about us. That river of my birth was golden because of the woolen
and paper waste that soiled it. The gold was theirs, not ours; but the
gleam and glint was for all. To me it was all in order and I took it
philosophically. I cordially despised the poor Irish and South Germans,
who slaved in the mills, and annexed the rich and well-to-do as my
natural companions. Of such is the kingdom of snobs!

Most of our townfolk were, naturally, the well-to-do, shading downward,
but seldom reaching poverty. As playmate of the children I saw the homes
of nearly every one, except a few immigrant New Yorkers, of whom none of
us approved. The homes I saw impressed me, but did not overwhelm me.
Many were bigger than mine, with newer and shinier things, but they did
not seem to differ in kind. I think I probably surprised my hosts more
than they me, for I was easily at home and perfectly happy and they
looked to me just like ordinary people, while my brown face and frizzled
hair must have seemed strange to them.

Yet I was very much one of them. I was a center and sometimes the leader
of the town gang of boys. We were noisy, but never very bad,--and,
indeed, my mother's quiet influence came in here, as I realize now. She
did not try to make me perfect. To her I was already perfect. She simply
warned me of a few things, especially saloons. In my town the saloon was
the open door to hell. The best families had their drunkards and the
worst had little else.

Very gradually,--I cannot now distinguish the steps, though here and
there I remember a jump or a jolt--but very gradually I found myself
assuming quite placidly that I was different from other children. At
first I think I connected the difference with a manifest ability to get
my lessons rather better than most and to recite with a certain happy,
almost taunting, glibness, which brought frowns here and there. Then,
slowly, I realized that some folks, a few, even several, actually
considered my brown skin a misfortune; once or twice I became painfully
aware that some human beings even thought it a crime. I was not for a
moment daunted,--although, of course, there were some days of secret
tears--rather I was spurred to tireless effort. If they beat me at
anything, I was grimly determined to make them sweat for it! Once I
remember challenging a great, hard farmer-boy to battle, when I knew he
could whip me; and he did. But ever after, he was polite.

As time flew I felt not so much disowned and rejected as rather drawn up
into higher spaces and made part of a mightier mission. At times I
almost pitied my pale companions, who were not of the Lord's anointed
and who saw in their dreams no splendid quests of golden fleeces.

Even in the matter of girls my peculiar phantasy asserted itself.
Naturally, it was in our town voted bad form for boys of twelve and
fourteen to show any evident weakness for girls. We tolerated them
loftily, and now and then they played in our games, when I joined in
quite as naturally as the rest. It was when strangers came, or summer
boarders, or when the oldest girls grew up that my sharp senses noted
little hesitancies in public and searchings for possible public opinion.
Then I flamed! I lifted my chin and strode off to the mountains, where I
viewed the world at my feet and strained my eyes across the shadow of
the hills.

I was graduated from high school at sixteen, and I talked of "Wendell
Phillips." This was my first sweet taste of the world's applause. There
were flowers and upturned faces, music and marching, and there was my
mother's smile. She was lame, then, and a bit drawn, but very happy. It
was her great day and that very year she lay down with a sigh of content
and has not yet awakened. I felt a certain gladness to see her, at last,
at peace, for she had worried all her life. Of my own loss I had then
little realization. That came only with the after-years. Now it was the
choking gladness and solemn feel of wings! At last, I was going beyond
the hills and into the world that beckoned steadily.

There came a little pause,--a singular pause. I was given to understand
that I was almost too young for the world. Harvard was the goal of my
dreams, but my white friends hesitated and my colored friends were
silent. Harvard was a mighty conjure-word in that hill town, and even
the mill owners' sons had aimed lower. Finally it was tactfully
explained that the place for me was in the South among my people. A
scholarship had been already arranged at Fisk, and my summer earnings
would pay the fare. My relatives grumbled, but after a twinge I felt a
strange delight! I forgot, or did not thoroughly realize, the curious
irony by which I was not looked upon as a real citizen of my birth-town,
with a future and a career, and instead was being sent to a far land
among strangers who were regarded as (and in truth were) "mine own
people."

Ah! the wonder of that journey, with its faint spice of adventure, as I
entered the land of slaves; the never-to-be-forgotten marvel of that
first supper at Fisk with the world "colored" and opposite two of the
most beautiful beings God ever revealed to the eyes of seventeen. I
promptly lost my appetite, but I was deliriously happy!

As I peer back through the shadow of my years, seeing not too clearly,
but through the thickening veil of wish and after-thought, I seem to
view my life divided into four distinct parts: the Age of Miracles, the
Days of Disillusion, the Discipline of Work and Play, and the Second
Miracle Age.

The Age of Miracles began with Fisk and ended with Germany. I was
bursting with the joy of living. I seemed to ride in conquering might. I
was captain of my soul and master of fate! I _willed_ to do! It was
done. I _wished!_ The wish came true.

Now and then out of the void flashed the great sword of hate to remind
me of the battle. I remember once, in Nashville, brushing by accident
against a white woman on the street. Politely and eagerly I raised my
hat to apologize. That was thirty-five years ago. From that day to this
I have never knowingly raised my hat to a Southern white woman.

I suspect that beneath all of my seeming triumphs there were many
failures and disappointments, but the realities loomed so large that
they swept away even the memory of other dreams and wishes. Consider,
for a moment, how miraculous it all was to a boy of seventeen, just
escaped from a narrow valley: I willed and lo! my people came dancing
about me,--riotous in color, gay in laughter, full of sympathy, need,
and pleading; darkly delicious girls--"colored" girls--sat beside me and
actually talked to me while I gazed in tongue-tied silence or babbled in
boastful dreams. Boys with my own experiences and out of my own world,
who knew and understood, wrought out with me great remedies. I studied
eagerly under teachers who bent in subtle sympathy, feeling themselves
some shadow of the Veil and lifting it gently that we darker souls might
peer through to other worlds.

I willed and lo! I was walking beneath the elms of Harvard,--the name of
allurement, the college of my youngest, wildest visions! I needed money;
scholarships and prizes fell into my lap,--not all I wanted or strove
for, but all I needed to keep in school. Commencement came and standing
before governor, president, and grave, gowned men, I told them certain
astonishing truths, waving my arms and breathing fast! They applauded
with what now seems to me uncalled-for fervor, but then! I walked home
on pink clouds of glory! I asked for a fellowship and got it. I
announced my plan of studying in Germany, but Harvard had no more
fellowships for me. A friend, however, told me of the Slater Fund and
how the Board was looking for colored men worth educating. No thought of
modest hesitation occurred to me. I rushed at the chance.

The trustees of the Slater Fund excused themselves politely. They
acknowledged that they had in the past looked for colored boys of
ability to educate, but, being unsuccessful, they had stopped searching.
I went at them hammer and tongs! I plied them with testimonials and
mid-year and final marks. I intimated plainly, impudently, that they
were "stalling"! In vain did the chairman, Ex-President Hayes, explain
and excuse. I took no excuses and brushed explanations aside. I wonder
now that he did not brush me aside, too, as a conceited meddler, but
instead he smiled and surrendered.

I crossed the ocean in a trance. Always I seemed to be saying, "It is
not real; I must be dreaming!" I can live it again--the little, Dutch
ship--the blue waters--the smell of new-mown hay--Holland and the Rhine.
I saw the Wartburg and Berlin; I made the Harzreise and climbed the
Brocken; I saw the Hansa towns and the cities and dorfs of South
Germany; I saw the Alps at Berne, the Cathedral at Milan, Florence,
Rome, Venice, Vienna, and Pesth; I looked on the boundaries of Russia;
and I sat in Paris and London.

On mountain and valley, in home and school, I met men and women as I had
never met them before. Slowly they became, not white folks, but folks.
The unity beneath all life clutched me. I was not less fanatically a
Negro, but "Negro" meant a greater, broader sense of humanity and
world-fellowship. I felt myself standing, not against the world, but
simply against American narrowness and color prejudice, with the
greater, finer world at my back urging me on.

I builded great castles in Spain and lived therein. I dreamed and loved
and wandered and sang; then, after two long years, I dropped suddenly
back into "nigger"-hating America!

My Days of Disillusion were not disappointing enough to discourage me. I
was still upheld by that fund of infinite faith, although dimly about me
I saw the shadow of disaster. I began to realize how much of what I had
called Will and Ability was sheer Luck! _Suppose_ my good mother had
preferred a steady income from my child labor rather than bank on the
precarious dividend of my higher training? _Suppose_ that pompous old
village judge, whose dignity we often ruffled and whose apples we stole,
had had his way and sent me while a child to a "reform" school to learn
a "trade"? _Suppose_ Principal Hosmer had been born with no faith in
"darkies," and instead of giving me Greek and Latin had taught me
carpentry and the making of tin pans? _Suppose_ I had missed a Harvard
scholarship? _Suppose_ the Slater Board had then, as now, distinct ideas
as to where the education of Negroes should stop? Suppose _and_ suppose!
As I sat down calmly on flat earth and looked at my life a certain great
fear seized me. Was I the masterful captain or the pawn of laughing
sprites? Who was I to fight a world of color prejudice? I raise my hat
to myself when I remember that, even with these thoughts, I did not
hesitate or waver; but just went doggedly to work, and therein lay
whatever salvation I have achieved.

First came the task of earning a living. I was not nice or hard to
please. I just got down on my knees and begged for work, anything and
anywhere. I wrote to Hampton, Tuskegee, and a dozen other places. They
politely declined, with many regrets. The trustees of a backwoods
Tennessee town considered me, but were eventually afraid. Then,
suddenly, Wilberforce offered to let me teach Latin and Greek at $750 a
year. I was overjoyed!

I did not know anything about Latin and Greek, but I did know of
Wilberforce. The breath of that great name had swept the water and
dropped into southern Ohio, where Southerners had taken their cure at
Tawawa Springs and where white Methodists had planted a school; then
came the little bishop, Daniel Payne, who made it a school of the
African Methodists. This was the school that called me, and when
re-considered offers from Tuskegee and Jefferson City followed, I
refused; I was so thankful for that first offer.

I went to Wilberforce with high ideals. I wanted to help to build a
great university. I was willing to work night as well as day. I taught
Latin, Greek, English, and German. I helped in the discipline, took part
in the social life, begged to be allowed to lecture on sociology, and
began to write books. But I found myself against a stone wall. Nothing
stirred before my impatient pounding! Or if it stirred, it soon slept
again.

Of course, I was too impatient! The snarl of years was not to be undone
in days. I set at solving the problem before I knew it. Wilberforce was
a colored church-school. In it were mingled the problems of
poorly-prepared pupils, an inadequately-equipped plant, the natural
politics of bishoprics, and the provincial reactions of a country town
loaded with traditions. It was my first introduction to a Negro world,
and I was at once marvelously inspired and deeply depressed. I was
inspired with the children,--had I not rubbed against the children of
the world and did I not find here the same eagerness, the same joy of
life, the same brains as in New England, France, and Germany? But, on
the other hand, the ropes and myths and knots and hindrances; the
thundering waves of the white world beyond beating us back; the scalding
breakers of this inner world,--its currents and back eddies--its
meanness and smallness--its sorrow and tragedy--its screaming farce!

In all this I was as one bound hand and foot. Struggle, work, fight as I
would, I seemed to get nowhere and accomplish nothing. I had all the
wild intolerance of youth, and no experience in human tangles. For the
first time in my life I realized that there were limits to my will to
do. The Day of Miracles was past, and a long, gray road of dogged work
lay ahead.

I had, naturally, my triumphs here and there. I defied the bishops in
the matter of public extemporaneous prayer and they yielded. I bearded
the poor, hunted president in his den, and yet was re-elected to my
position. I was slowly winning a way, but quickly losing faith in the
value of the way won. Was this the place to begin my life work? Was this
the work which I was best fitted to do? What business had I, anyhow, to
teach Greek when I had studied men? I grew sure that I had made a
mistake. So I determined to leave Wilberforce and try elsewhere. Thus,
the third period of my life began.

First, in 1896, I married--a slip of a girl, beautifully dark-eyed
and thorough and good as a German housewife. Then I accepted a job to
make a study of Negroes in Philadelphia for the University of
Pennsylvania,--one year at six hundred dollars. How did I dare these
two things? I do not know. Yet they spelled salvation. To remain at
Wilberforce without doing my ideals meant spiritual death. Both my
wife and I were homeless. I dared a home and a temporary job. But it
was a different daring from the days of my first youth. I was ready
to admit that the best of men might fail. I meant still to be captain
of my soul, but I realized that even captains are not omnipotent in
uncharted and angry seas.

I essayed a thorough piece of work in Philadelphia. I labored morning,
noon, and night. Nobody ever reads that fat volume on "The Philadelphia
Negro," but they treat it with respect, and that consoles me. The
colored people of Philadelphia received me with no open arms. They had a
natural dislike to being studied like a strange species. I met again and
in different guise those curious cross-currents and inner social
whirlings of my own people. They set me to groping. I concluded that I
did not know so much as I might about my own people, and when President
Bumstead invited me to Atlanta University the next year to teach
sociology and study the American Negro, I accepted gladly, at a salary
of twelve hundred dollars.

My real life work was done at Atlanta for thirteen years, from my
twenty-ninth to my forty-second birthday. They were years of great
spiritual upturning, of the making and unmaking of ideals, of hard work
and hard play. Here I found myself. I lost most of my mannerisms. I grew
more broadly human, made my closest and most holy friendships, and
studied human beings. I became widely-acquainted with the real condition
of my people. I realized the terrific odds which faced them. At
Wilberforce I was their captious critic. In Philadelphia I was their
cold and scientific investigator, with microscope and probe. It took but
a few years of Atlanta to bring me to hot and indignant defense. I saw
the race-hatred of the whites as I had never dreamed of it
before,--naked and unashamed! The faint discrimination of my hopes and
intangible dislikes paled into nothing before this great, red monster
of cruel oppression. I held back with more difficulty each day my
mounting indignation against injustice and misrepresentation.

With all this came the strengthening and hardening of my own character.
The billows of birth, love, and death swept over me. I saw life through
all its paradox and contradiction of streaming eyes and mad merriment. I
emerged into full manhood, with the ruins of some ideals about me, but
with others planted above the stars; scarred and a bit grim, but hugging
to my soul the divine gift of laughter and withal determined, even unto
stubbornness, to fight the good fight.

At last, forbear and waver as I would, I faced the great Decision. My
life's last and greatest door stood ajar. What with all my dreaming,
studying, and teaching was I going to _do_ in this fierce fight? Despite
all my youthful conceit and bumptiousness, I found developed beneath it
all a reticence and new fear of forwardness, which sprang from searching
criticisms of motive and high ideals of efficiency; but contrary to my
dream of racial solidarity and notwithstanding my deep desire to serve
and follow and think, rather than to lead and inspire and decide, I
found myself suddenly the leader of a great wing of people fighting
against another and greater wing.

Nor could any effort of mine keep this fight from sinking to the
personal plane. Heaven knows I tried. That first meeting of a knot of
enthusiasts, at Niagara Falls, had all the earnestness of self-devotion.
At the second meeting, at Harper's Ferry, it arose to the solemnity of a
holy crusade and yet without and to the cold, hard stare of the world it
seemed merely the envy of fools against a great man, Booker Washington.

Of the movement I was willy-nilly leader. I hated the role. For the
first time I faced criticism and _cared_. Every ideal and habit of my
life was cruelly misjudged. I who had always overstriven to give credit
for good work, who had never consciously stooped to envy was accused by
honest colored people of every sort of small and petty jealousy, while
white people said I was ashamed of my race and wanted to be white! And
this of me, whose one life fanaticism had been belief in my Negro blood!

Away back in the little years of my boyhood I had sold the Springfield
_Republican_ and written for Mr. Fortune's _Globe_. I dreamed of being
an editor myself some day. I am an editor. In the great, slashing days
of college life I dreamed of a strong organization to fight the battles
of the Negro race. The National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People is such a body, and it grows daily. In the dark days at
Wilberforce I planned a time when I could speak freely to my people and
of them, interpreting between two worlds. I am speaking now. In the
study at Atlanta I grew to fear lest my radical beliefs should so hurt
the college that either my silence or the institution's ruin would
result. Powers and principalities have not yet curbed my tongue and
Atlanta still lives.

It all came--this new Age of Miracles--because a few persons in 1909
determined to celebrate Lincoln's Birthday properly by calling for the
final emancipation of the American Negro. I came at their call. My
salary even for a year was not assured, but it was the "Voice without
reply." The result has been the National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People and _The Crisis_ and this book, which I am finishing
on my Fiftieth Birthday.

Last year I looked death in the face and found its lineaments not
unkind. But it was not my time. Yet in nature some time soon and in the
fullness of days I shall die, quietly, I trust, with my face turned
South and eastward; and, dreaming or dreamless, I shall, I am sure,
enjoy death as I have enjoyed life.



_A Litany at Atlanta_

O Silent God, Thou whose voice afar in mist and mystery hath left our
ears an-hungered in these fearful days--

_Hear us, good Lord!_

Listen to us, Thy children: our faces dark with doubt are made a mockery
in Thy Sanctuary. With uplifted hands we front Thy Heaven, O God,
crying:

_We beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord!_

We are not better than our fellows, Lord; we are but weak and human men.
When our devils do deviltry, curse Thou the doer and the deed,--curse
them as we curse them, do to them all and more than ever they have done
to innocence and weakness, to womanhood and home.

_Have mercy upon us, miserable sinners!_

And yet, whose is the deeper guilt? Who made these devils? Who nursed
them in crime and fed them on injustice? Who ravished and debauched
their mothers and their grandmothers? Who bought and sold their crime
and waxed fat and rich on public iniquity?

_Thou knowest, good God!_

Is this Thy Justice, O Father, that guile be easier than innocence and
the innocent be crucified for the guilt of the untouched guilty?

_Justice, O Judge of men!_

Wherefore do we pray? Is not the God of the Fathers dead? Have not seers
seen in Heaven's halls Thine hearsed and lifeless form stark amidst the
black and rolling smoke of sin, where all along bow bitter forms of
endless dead?

_Awake, Thou that sleepest!_

Thou art not dead, but flown afar, up hills of endless light, through
blazing corridors of suns, where worlds do swing of good and gentle men,
of women strong and free--far from the cozenage, black hypocrisy, and
chaste prostitution of this shameful speck of dust!

_Turn again, O Lord; leave us not to perish in our sin!_

From lust of body and lust of blood,--

_Great God, deliver us!_

From lust of power and lust of gold,--

_Great God, deliver us!_

From the leagued lying of despot and of brute,--

_Great God, deliver us!_

A city lay in travail, God our Lord, and from her loins sprang twin
Murder and Black Hate. Red was the midnight; clang, crack, and cry of
death and fury filled the air and trembled underneath the stars where
church spires pointed silently to Thee. And all this was to sate the
greed of greedy men who hide behind the veil of vengeance!

_Bend us Thine ear, O Lord!_

In the pale, still morning we looked upon the deed. We stopped our ears
and held our leaping hands, but they--did they not wag their heads and
leer and cry with bloody jaws: _Cease from Crime!_ The word was mockery,
for thus they train a hundred crimes while we do cure one.

_Turn again our captivity, O Lord!_

Behold this maimed and broken thing, dear God; it was an humble black
man, who toiled and sweat to save a bit from the pittance paid him. They
told him: _Work and Rise!_ He worked. Did this man sin? Nay, but someone
told how someone said another did--one whom he had never seen nor known.
Yet for that man's crime this man lieth maimed and murdered, his wife
naked to shame, his children to poverty and evil.

_Hear us, O heavenly Father!_

Doth not this justice of hell stink in Thy nostrils, O God? How long
shall the mounting flood of innocent blood roar in Thine ears and pound
in our hearts for vengeance? Pile the pale frenzy of blood-crazed
brutes, who do such deeds, high on Thine Altar, Jehovah Jireh, and burn
it in hell forever and forever!

_Forgive us, good Lord; we know not what we say!_

Bewildered we are and passion-tossed, mad with the madness of a mobbed
and mocked and murdered people; straining at the armposts of Thy throne,
we raise our shackled hands and charge Thee, God, by the bones of our
stolen fathers, by the tears of our dead mothers, by the very blood of
Thy crucified Christ: What meaneth this? Tell us the plan; give us the
sign!

_Keep not Thou silent, O God!_

Sit not longer blind, Lord God, deaf to our prayer and dumb to our dumb
suffering. Surely Thou, too, art not white, O Lord, a pale, bloodless,
heartless thing!

_Ah! Christ of all the Pities!_

Forgive the thought! Forgive these wild, blasphemous words! Thou art
still the God of our black fathers and in Thy Soul's Soul sit some soft
darkenings of the evening, some shadowings of the velvet night.

But whisper--speak--call, great God, for Thy silence is white terror to
our hearts! The way, O God, show us the way and point us the path!

Whither? North is greed and South is blood; within, the coward, and
without, the liar. Whither? To death?

_Amen! Welcome, dark sleep!_

Whither? To life? But not this life, dear God, not this. Let the cup
pass from us, tempt us not beyond our strength, for there is that
clamoring and clawing within, to whose voice we would not listen, yet
shudder lest we must,--and it is red. Ah! God! It is a red and awful
shape.

_Selah!_

In yonder East trembles a star.

_Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord!_

Thy Will, O Lord, be done!

_Kyrie Eleison!_

Lord, we have done these pleading, wavering words.

_We beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord!_

We bow our heads and hearken soft to the sobbing of women and little
children.

_We beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord!_

Our voices sink in silence and in night.

_Hear us, good Lord!_

In night, O God of a godless land!

_Amen!_

In silence, O Silent God.

_Selah!_



II

THE SOULS OF WHITE FOLK


High in the tower, where I sit above the loud complaining of the human
sea, I know many souls that toss and whirl and pass, but none there are
that intrigue me more than the Souls of White Folk.

Of them I am singularly clairvoyant. I see in and through them. I view
them from unusual points of vantage. Not as a foreigner do I come, for I
am native, not foreign, bone of their thought and flesh of their
language. Mine is not the knowledge of the traveler or the colonial
composite of dear memories, words and wonder. Nor yet is my knowledge
that which servants have of masters, or mass of class, or capitalist of
artisan. Rather I see these souls undressed and from the back and side.
I see the working of their entrails. I know their thoughts and they know
that I know. This knowledge makes them now embarrassed, now furious.
They deny my right to live and be and call me misbirth! My word is to
them mere bitterness and my soul, pessimism. And yet as they preach and
strut and shout and threaten, crouching as they clutch at rags of facts
and fancies to hide their nakedness, they go twisting, flying by my
tired eyes and I see them ever stripped,--ugly, human.

The discovery of personal whiteness among the world's peoples is a very
modern thing,--a nineteenth and twentieth century matter, indeed. The
ancient world would have laughed at such a distinction. The Middle Age
regarded skin color with mild curiosity; and even up into the eighteenth
century we were hammering our national manikins into one, great,
Universal Man, with fine frenzy which ignored color and race even more
than birth. Today we have changed all that, and the world in a sudden,
emotional conversion has discovered that it is white and by that token,
wonderful!

This assumption that of all the hues of God whiteness alone is
inherently and obviously better than brownness or tan leads to curious
acts; even the sweeter souls of the dominant world as they discourse
with me on weather, weal, and woe are continually playing above their
actual words an obligato of tune and tone, saying:

"My poor, un-white thing! Weep not nor rage. I know, too well, that the
curse of God lies heavy on you. Why? That is not for me to say, but be
brave! Do your work in your lowly sphere, praying the good Lord that
into heaven above, where all is love, you may, one day, be born--white!"

I do not laugh. I am quite straight-faced as I ask soberly:

"But what on earth is whiteness that one should so desire it?" Then
always, somehow, some way, silently but clearly, I am given to
understand that whiteness is the ownership of the earth forever and
ever, Amen!

Now what is the effect on a man or a nation when it comes passionately
to believe such an extraordinary dictum as this? That nations are coming
to believe it is manifest daily. Wave on wave, each with increasing
virulence, is dashing this new religion of whiteness on the shores of
our time. Its first effects are funny: the strut of the Southerner, the
arrogance of the Englishman amuck, the whoop of the hoodlum who
vicariously leads your mob. Next it appears dampening generous
enthusiasm in what we once counted glorious; to free the slave is
discovered to be tolerable only in so far as it freed his master! Do we
sense somnolent writhings in black Africa or angry groans in India or
triumphant banzais in Japan? "To your tents, O Israel!" These nations
are not white!

After the more comic manifestations and the chilling of generous
enthusiasm come subtler, darker deeds. Everything considered, the title
to the universe claimed by White Folk is faulty. It ought, at least, to
look plausible. How easy, then, by emphasis and omission to make
children believe that every great soul the world ever saw was a white
man's soul; that every great thought the world ever knew was a white
man's thought; that every great deed the world ever did was a white
man's deed; that every great dream the world ever sang was a white man's
dream. In fine, that if from the world were dropped everything that
could not fairly be attributed to White Folk, the world would, if
anything, be even greater, truer, better than now. And if all this be a
lie, is it not a lie in a great cause?

Here it is that the comedy verges to tragedy. The first minor note is
struck, all unconsciously, by those worthy souls in whom consciousness
of high descent brings burning desire to spread the gift abroad,--the
obligation of nobility to the ignoble. Such sense of duty assumes two
things: a real possession of the heritage and its frank appreciation by
the humble-born. So long, then, as humble black folk, voluble with
thanks, receive barrels of old clothes from lordly and generous whites,
there is much mental peace and moral satisfaction. But when the black
man begins to dispute the white man's title to certain alleged bequests
of the Fathers in wage and position, authority and training; and when
his attitude toward charity is sullen anger rather than humble jollity;
when he insists on his human right to swagger and swear and waste,--then
the spell is suddenly broken and the philanthropist is ready to believe
that Negroes are impudent, that the South is right, and that Japan wants
to fight America.

After this the descent to Hell is easy. On the pale, white faces which
the great billows whirl upward to my tower I see again and again, often
and still more often, a writing of human hatred, a deep and passionate
hatred, vast by the very vagueness of its expressions. Down through the
green waters, on the bottom of the world, where men move to and fro, I
have seen a man--an educated gentleman--grow livid with anger because a
little, silent, black woman was sitting by herself in a Pullman car. He
was a white man. I have seen a great, grown man curse a little child,
who had wandered into the wrong waiting-room, searching for its mother:
"Here, you damned black--" He was white. In Central Park I have seen the
upper lip of a quiet, peaceful man curl back in a tigerish snarl of rage
because black folk rode by in a motor car. He was a white man. We have
seen, you and I, city after city drunk and furious with ungovernable
lust of blood; mad with murder, destroying, killing, and cursing;
torturing human victims because somebody accused of crime happened to be
of the same color as the mob's innocent victims and because that color
was not white! We have seen,--Merciful God! in these wild days and in
the name of Civilization, Justice, and Motherhood,--what have we not
seen, right here in America, of orgy, cruelty, barbarism, and murder
done to men and women of Negro descent.

Up through the foam of green and weltering waters wells this great mass
of hatred, in wilder, fiercer violence, until I look down and know that
today to the millions of my people no misfortune could happen,--of death
and pestilence, failure and defeat--that would not make the hearts of
millions of their fellows beat with fierce, vindictive joy! Do you doubt
it? Ask your own soul what it would say if the next census were to
report that half of black America was dead and the other half dying.

Unfortunate? Unfortunate. But where is the misfortune? Mine? Am I, in my
blackness, the sole sufferer? I suffer. And yet, somehow, above the
suffering, above the shackled anger that beats the bars, above the hurt
that crazes there surges in me a vast pity,--pity for a people
imprisoned and enthralled, hampered and made miserable for such a cause,
for such a phantasy!

Conceive this nation, of all human peoples, engaged in a crusade to
make the "World Safe for Democracy"! Can you imagine the United States
protesting against Turkish atrocities in Armenia, while the Turks are
silent about mobs in Chicago and St. Louis; what is Louvain compared
with Memphis, Waco, Washington, Dyersburg, and Estill Springs? In short,
what is the black man but America's Belgium, and how could America
condemn in Germany that which she commits, just as brutally, within her
own borders?

A true and worthy ideal frees and uplifts a people; a false ideal
imprisons and lowers. Say to men, earnestly and repeatedly: "Honesty is
best, knowledge is power; do unto others as you would be done by." Say
this and act it and the nation must move toward it, if not to it. But
say to a people: "The one virtue is to be white," and the people rush to
the inevitable conclusion, "Kill the 'nigger'!"

Is not this the record of present America? Is not this its headlong
progress? Are we not coming more and more, day by day, to making the
statement "I am white," the one fundamental tenet of our practical
morality? Only when this basic, iron rule is involved is our defense of
right nation-wide and prompt. Murder may swagger, theft may rule and
prostitution may flourish and the nation gives but spasmodic,
intermittent and lukewarm attention. But let the murderer be black or
the thief brown or the violator of womanhood have a drop of Negro blood,
and the righteousness of the indignation sweeps the world. Nor would
this fact make the indignation less justifiable did not we all know that
it was blackness that was condemned and not crime.

In the awful cataclysm of World War, where from beating, slandering, and
murdering us the white world turned temporarily aside to kill each
other, we of the Darker Peoples looked on in mild amaze.

Among some of us, I doubt not, this sudden descent of Europe into hell
brought unbounded surprise; to others, over wide area, it brought the
_Schaden Freude_ of the bitterly hurt; but most of us, I judge, looked
on silently and sorrowfully, in sober thought, seeing sadly the prophecy
of our own souls.

Here is a civilization that has boasted much. Neither Roman nor Arab,
Greek nor Egyptian, Persian nor Mongol ever took himself and his own
perfectness with such disconcerting seriousness as the modern white man.
We whose shame, humiliation, and deep insult his aggrandizement so often
involved were never deceived. We looked at him clearly, with world-old
eyes, and saw simply a human thing, weak and pitiable and cruel, even as
we are and were.

These super-men and world-mastering demi-gods listened, however, to no
low tongues of ours, even when we pointed silently to their feet of
clay. Perhaps we, as folk of simpler soul and more primitive type, have
been most struck in the welter of recent years by the utter failure of
white religion. We have curled our lips in something like contempt as we
have witnessed glib apology and weary explanation. Nothing of the sort
deceived us. A nation's religion is its life, and as such white
Christianity is a miserable failure.

Nor would we be unfair in this criticism: We know that we, too, have
failed, as you have, and have rejected many a Buddha, even as you have
denied Christ; but we acknowledge our human frailty, while you, claiming
super-humanity, scoff endlessly at our shortcomings.

The number of white individuals who are practising with even reasonable
approximation the democracy and unselfishness of Jesus Christ is so
small and unimportant as to be fit subject for jest in Sunday
supplements and in _Punch_, _Life_, _Le Rire_, and _Fliegende Blätter_.
In her foreign mission work the extraordinary self-deception of white
religion is epitomized: solemnly the white world sends five million
dollars worth of missionary propaganda to Africa each year and in the
same twelve months adds twenty-five million dollars worth of the vilest
gin manufactured. Peace to the augurs of Rome!

We may, however, grant without argument that religious ideals have
always far outrun their very human devotees. Let us, then, turn to more
mundane matters of honor and fairness. The world today is trade. The
world has turned shopkeeper; history is economic history; living is
earning a living. Is it necessary to ask how much of high emprise and
honorable conduct has been found here? Something, to be sure. The
establishment of world credit systems is built on splendid and
realizable faith in fellow-men. But it is, after all, so low and
elementary a step that sometimes it looks merely like honor among
thieves, for the revelations of highway robbery and low cheating in the
business world and in all its great modern centers have raised in the
hearts of all true men in our day an exceeding great cry for revolution
in our basic methods and conceptions of industry and commerce.

We do not, for a moment, forget the robbery of other times and races
when trade was a most uncertain gamble; but was there not a certain
honesty and frankness in the evil that argued a saner morality? There
are more merchants today, surer deliveries, and wider well-being, but
are there not, also, bigger thieves, deeper injustice, and more
calloused selfishness in well-being? Be that as it may,--certainly the
nicer sense of honor that has risen ever and again in groups of
forward-thinking men has been curiously and broadly blunted. Consider
our chiefest industry,--fighting. Laboriously the Middle Ages built its
rules of fairness--equal armament, equal notice, equal conditions. What
do we see today? Machine-guns against assegais; conquest sugared with
religion; mutilation and rape masquerading as culture,--all this, with
vast applause at the superiority of white over black soldiers!

War is horrible! This the dark world knows to its awful cost. But has
it just become horrible, in these last days, when under essentially
equal conditions, equal armament, and equal waste of wealth white men
are fighting white men, with surgeons and nurses hovering near?

Think of the wars through which we have lived in the last decade: in
German Africa, in British Nigeria, in French and Spanish Morocco, in
China, in Persia, in the Balkans, in Tripoli, in Mexico, and in a dozen
lesser places--were not these horrible, too? Mind you, there were for
most of these wars no Red Cross funds.

Behold little Belgium and her pitiable plight, but has the world
forgotten Congo? What Belgium now suffers is not half, not even a tenth,
of what she has done to black Congo since Stanley's great dream of 1880.
Down the dark forests of inmost Africa sailed this modern Sir Galahad,
in the name of "the noble-minded men of several nations," to introduce
commerce and civilization. What came of it? "Rubber and murder, slavery
in its worst form," wrote Glave in 1895.

Harris declares that King Leopold's régime meant the death of twelve
million natives, "but what we who were behind the scenes felt most
keenly was the fact that the real catastrophe in the Congo was
desolation and murder in the larger sense. The invasion of family life,
the ruthless destruction of every social barrier, the shattering of
every tribal law, the introduction of criminal practices which struck
the chiefs of the people dumb with horror--in a word, a veritable
avalanche of filth and immorality overwhelmed the Congo tribes."

Yet the fields of Belgium laughed, the cities were gay, art and science
flourished; the groans that helped to nourish this civilization fell on
deaf ears because the world round about was doing the same sort of thing
elsewhere on its own account.

As we saw the dead dimly through rifts of battlesmoke and heard faintly
the cursings and accusations of blood brothers, we darker men said: This
is not Europe gone mad; this is not aberration nor insanity; this _is_
Europe; this seeming Terrible is the real soul of white culture--back of
all culture,--stripped and visible today. This is where the world has
arrived,--these dark and awful depths and not the shining and ineffable
heights of which it boasted. Here is whither the might and energy of
modern humanity has really gone.

But may not the world cry back at us and ask: "What better thing have
you to show? What have you done or would do better than this if you had
today the world rule? Paint with all riot of hateful colors the thin
skin of European culture,--is it not better than any culture that arose
in Africa or Asia?"

It is. Of this there is no doubt and never has been; but why is it
better? Is it better because Europeans are better, nobler, greater, and
more gifted than other folk? It is not. Europe has never produced and
never will in our day bring forth a single human soul who cannot be
matched and over-matched in every line of human endeavor by Asia and
Africa. Run the gamut, if you will, and let us have the Europeans who in
sober truth over-match Nefertari, Mohammed, Rameses and Askia,
Confucius, Buddha, and Jesus Christ. If we could scan the calendar of
thousands of lesser men, in like comparison, the result would be the
same; but we cannot do this because of the deliberately educated
ignorance of white schools by which they remember Napoleon and forget
Sonni Ali.

The greatness of Europe has lain in the width of the stage on which she
has played her part, the strength of the foundations on which she has
builded, and a natural, human ability no whit greater (if as great) than
that of other days and races. In other words, the deeper reasons for the
triumph of European civilization lie quite outside and beyond
Europe,--back in the universal struggles of all mankind.

Why, then, is Europe great? Because of the foundations which the mighty
past have furnished her to build upon: the iron trade of ancient, black
Africa, the religion and empire-building of yellow Asia, the art and
science of the "dago" Mediterranean shore, east, south, and west, as
well as north. And where she has builded securely upon this great past
and learned from it she has gone forward to greater and more splendid
human triumph; but where she has ignored this past and forgotten and
sneered at it, she has shown the cloven hoof of poor, crucified
humanity,--she has played, like other empires gone, the world fool!

If, then, European triumphs in culture have been greater, so, too, may
her failures have been greater. How great a failure and a failure in
what does the World War betoken? Was it national jealousy of the sort of
the seventeenth century? But Europe has done more to break down national
barriers than any preceding culture. Was it fear of the balance of power
in Europe? Hardly, save in the half-Asiatic problems of the Balkans.
What, then, does Hauptmann mean when he says: "Our jealous enemies
forged an iron ring about our breasts and we knew our breasts had to
expand,--that we had to split asunder this ring or else we had to cease
breathing. But Germany will not cease to breathe and so it came to pass
that the iron ring was forced apart."

Whither is this expansion? What is that breath of life, thought to be so
indispensable to a great European nation? Manifestly it is expansion
overseas; it is colonial aggrandizement which explains, and alone
adequately explains, the World War. How many of us today fully realize
the current theory of colonial expansion, of the relation of Europe
which is white, to the world which is black and brown and yellow?
Bluntly put, that theory is this: It is the duty of white Europe to
divide up the darker world and administer it for Europe's good.

This Europe has largely done. The European world is using black and
brown men for all the uses which men know. Slowly but surely white
culture is evolving the theory that "darkies" are born beasts of burden
for white folk. It were silly to think otherwise, cries the cultured
world, with stronger and shriller accord. The supporting arguments grow
and twist themselves in the mouths of merchant, scientist, soldier,
traveler, writer, and missionary: Darker peoples are dark in mind as
well as in body; of dark, uncertain, and imperfect descent; of frailer,
cheaper stuff; they are cowards in the face of mausers and maxims; they
have no feelings, aspirations, and loves; they are fools, illogical
idiots,--"half-devil and half-child."

Such as they are civilization must, naturally, raise them, but soberly
and in limited ways. They are not simply dark white men. They are not
"men" in the sense that Europeans are men. To the very limited extent of
their shallow capacities lift them to be useful to whites, to raise
cotton, gather rubber, fetch ivory, dig diamonds,--and let them be paid
what men think they are worth--white men who know them to be well-nigh
worthless.

Such degrading of men by men is as old as mankind and the invention of
no one race or people. Ever have men striven to conceive of their
victims as different from the victors, endlessly different, in soul and
blood, strength and cunning, race and lineage. It has been left,
however, to Europe and to modern days to discover the eternal world-wide
mark of meanness,--color!

Such is the silent revolution that has gripped modern European culture
in the later nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Its zenith came in
Boxer times: White supremacy was all but world-wide, Africa was dead,
India conquered, Japan isolated, and China prostrate, while white
America whetted her sword for mongrel Mexico and mulatto South America,
lynching her own Negroes the while. Temporary halt in this program was
made by little Japan and the white world immediately sensed the peril of
such "yellow" presumption! What sort of a world would this be if yellow
men must be treated "white"? Immediately the eventual overthrow of Japan
became a subject of deep thought and intrigue, from St. Petersburg to
San Francisco, from the Key of Heaven to the Little Brother of the Poor.

The using of men for the benefit of masters is no new invention of
modern Europe. It is quite as old as the world. But Europe proposed to
apply it on a scale and with an elaborateness of detail of which no
former world ever dreamed. The imperial width of the thing,--the
heaven-defying audacity--makes its modern newness.

The scheme of Europe was no sudden invention, but a way out of
long-pressing difficulties. It is plain to modern white civilization
that the subjection of the white working classes cannot much longer be
maintained. Education, political power, and increased knowledge of the
technique and meaning of the industrial process are destined to make a
more and more equitable distribution of wealth in the near future. The
day of the very rich is drawing to a close, so far as individual white
nations are concerned. But there is a loophole. There is a chance for
exploitation on an immense scale for inordinate profit, not simply to
the very rich, but to the middle class and to the laborers. This chance
lies in the exploitation of darker peoples. It is here that the golden
hand beckons. Here are no labor unions or votes or questioning onlookers
or inconvenient consciences. These men may be used down to the very
bone, and shot and maimed in "punitive" expeditions when they revolt. In
these dark lands "industrial development" may repeat in exaggerated form
every horror of the industrial history of Europe, from slavery and rape
to disease and maiming, with only one test of success,--dividends!

This theory of human culture and its aims has worked itself through warp
and woof of our daily thought with a thoroughness that few realize.
Everything great, good, efficient, fair, and honorable is "white";
everything mean, bad, blundering, cheating, and dishonorable is
"yellow"; a bad taste is "brown"; and the devil is "black." The changes
of this theme are continually rung in picture and story, in newspaper
heading and moving-picture, in sermon and school book, until, of course,
the King can do no wrong,--a White Man is always right and a Black Man
has no rights which a white man is bound to respect.

There must come the necessary despisings and hatreds of these savage
half-men, this unclean _canaille_ of the world--these dogs of men. All
through the world this gospel is preaching. It has its literature, it
has its secret propaganda and above all--it pays!

There's the rub,--it pays. Rubber, ivory, and palm-oil; tea, coffee, and
cocoa; bananas, oranges, and other fruit; cotton, gold, and
copper--they, and a hundred other things which dark and sweating bodies
hand up to the white world from pits of slime, pay and pay well, but of
all that the world gets the black world gets only the pittance that the
white world throws it disdainfully.

Small wonder, then, that in the practical world of things-that-be there
is jealousy and strife for the possession of the labor of dark millions,
for the right to bleed and exploit the colonies of the world where this
golden stream may be had, not always for the asking, but surely for the
whipping and shooting. It was this competition for the labor of yellow,
brown, and black folks that was the cause of the World War. Other causes
have been glibly given and other contributing causes there doubtless
were, but they were subsidiary and subordinate to this vast quest of the
dark world's wealth and toil.

Colonies, we call them, these places where "niggers" are cheap and the
earth is rich; they are those outlands where like a swarm of hungry
locusts white masters may settle to be served as kings, wield the lash
of slave-drivers, rape girls and wives, grow as rich as Croesus and send
homeward a golden stream. They belt the earth, these places, but they
cluster in the tropics, with its darkened peoples: in Hong Kong and
Anam, in Borneo and Rhodesia, in Sierra Leone and Nigeria, in Panama and
Havana--these are the El Dorados toward which the world powers stretch
itching palms.

Germany, at last one and united and secure on land, looked across the
seas and seeing England with sources of wealth insuring a luxury and
power which Germany could not hope to rival by the slower processes of
exploiting her own peasants and workingmen, especially with these
workers half in revolt, immediately built her navy and entered into a
desperate competition for possession of colonies of darker peoples. To
South America, to China, to Africa, to Asia Minor, she turned like a
hound quivering on the leash, impatient, suspicious, irritable, with
blood-shot eyes and dripping fangs, ready for the awful word. England
and France crouched watchfully over their bones, growling and wary, but
gnawing industriously, while the blood of the dark world whetted their
greedy appetites. In the background, shut out from the highway to the
seven seas, sat Russia and Austria, snarling and snapping at each other
and at the last Mediterranean gate to the El Dorado, where the Sick Man
enjoyed bad health, and where millions of serfs in the Balkans, Russia,
and Asia offered a feast to greed well-nigh as great as Africa.

The fateful day came. It had to come. The cause of war is preparation
for war; and of all that Europe has done in a century there is nothing
that has equaled in energy, thought, and time her preparation for
wholesale murder. The only adequate cause of this preparation was
conquest and conquest, not in Europe, but primarily among the darker
peoples of Asia and Africa; conquest, not for assimilation and uplift,
but for commerce and degradation. For this, and this mainly, did Europe
gird herself at frightful cost for war.

The red day dawned when the tinder was lighted in the Balkans and
Austro-Hungary seized a bit which brought her a step nearer to the
world's highway; she seized one bit and poised herself for another. Then
came that curious chorus of challenges, those leaping suspicions, raking
all causes for distrust and rivalry and hatred, but saying little of the
real and greatest cause.

Each nation felt its deep interests involved. But how? Not, surely, in
the death of Ferdinand the Warlike; not, surely, in the old,
half-forgotten _revanche_ for Alsace-Lorraine; not even in the
neutrality of Belgium. No! But in the possession of land overseas, in
the right to colonies, the chance to levy endless tribute on the darker
world,--on coolies in China, on starving peasants in India, on black
savages in Africa, on dying South Sea Islanders, on Indians of the
Amazon--all this and nothing more.

Even the broken reed on which we had rested high hopes of eternal
peace,--the guild of the laborers--the front of that very important
movement for human justice on which we had builded most, even this flew
like a straw before the breath of king and kaiser. Indeed, the flying
had been foreshadowed when in Germany and America "international"
Socialists had all but read yellow and black men out of the kingdom of
industrial justice. Subtly had they been bribed, but effectively: Were
they not lordly whites and should they not share in the spoils of rape?
High wages in the United States and England might be the skilfully
manipulated result of slavery in Africa and of peonage in Asia.

With the dog-in-the-manger theory of trade, with the determination to
reap inordinate profits and to exploit the weakest to the utmost there
came a new imperialism,--the rage for one's own nation to own the earth
or, at least, a large enough portion of it to insure as big profits as
the next nation. Where sections could not be owned by one dominant
nation there came a policy of "open door," but the "door" was open to
"white people only." As to the darkest and weakest of peoples there was
but one unanimity in Europe,--that which Hen Demberg of the German
Colonial Office called the agreement with England to maintain white
"prestige" in Africa,--the doctrine of the divine right of white people
to steal.

Thus the world market most wildly and desperately sought today is the
market where labor is cheapest and most helpless and profit is most
abundant. This labor is kept cheap and helpless because the white world
despises "darkies." If one has the temerity to suggest that these
workingmen may walk the way of white workingmen and climb by votes and
self-assertion and education to the rank of men, he is howled out of
court. They cannot do it and if they could, they shall not, for they are
the enemies of the white race and the whites shall rule forever and
forever and everywhere. Thus the hatred and despising of human beings
from whom Europe wishes to extort her luxuries has led to such jealousy
and bickering between European nations that they have fallen afoul of
each other and have fought like crazed beasts. Such is the fruit of
human hatred.

But what of the darker world that watches? Most men belong to this
world. With Negro and Negroid, East Indian, Chinese, and Japanese they
form two-thirds of the population of the world. A belief in humanity is
a belief in colored men. If the uplift of mankind must be done by men,
then the destinies of this world will rest ultimately in the hands of
darker nations.

What, then, is this dark world thinking? It is thinking that as wild
and awful as this shameful war was, _it is nothing to compare with that
fight for freedom which black and brown and yellow men must and will
make unless their oppression and humiliation and insult at the hands of
the White World cease. The Dark World is going to submit to its present
treatment just as long as it must and not one moment longer._

Let me say this again and emphasize it and leave no room for mistaken
meaning: The World War was primarily the jealous and avaricious struggle
for the largest share in exploiting darker races. As such it is and must
be but the prelude to the armed and indignant protest of these despised
and raped peoples. Today Japan is hammering on the door of justice,
China is raising her half-manacled hands to knock next, India is
writhing for the freedom to knock, Egypt is sullenly muttering, the
Negroes of South and West Africa, of the West Indies, and of the United
States are just awakening to their shameful slavery. Is, then, this war
the end of wars? Can it be the end, so long as sits enthroned, even in
the souls of those who cry peace, the despising and robbing of darker
peoples? If Europe hugs this delusion, then this is not the end of world
war,--it is but the beginning!

We see Europe's greatest sin precisely where we found Africa's and
Asia's,--in human hatred, the despising of men; with this difference,
however: Europe has the awful lesson of the past before her, has the
splendid results of widened areas of tolerance, sympathy, and love among
men, and she faces a greater, an infinitely greater, world of men than
any preceding civilization ever faced.

It is curious to see America, the United States, looking on herself,
first, as a sort of natural peacemaker, then as a moral protagonist in
this terrible time. No nation is less fitted for this rôle. For two or
more centuries America has marched proudly in the van of human
hatred,--making bonfires of human flesh and laughing at them hideously,
and making the insulting of millions more than a matter of
dislike,--rather a great religion, a world war-cry: Up white, down
black; to your tents, O white folk, and world war with black and
parti-colored mongrel beasts!

Instead of standing as a great example of the success of democracy and
the possibility of human brotherhood America has taken her place as an
awful example of its pitfalls and failures, so far as black and brown
and yellow peoples are concerned. And this, too, in spite of the fact
that there has been no actual failure; the Indian is not dying out, the
Japanese and Chinese have not menaced the land, and the experiment of
Negro suffrage has resulted in the uplift of twelve million people at a
rate probably unparalleled in history. But what of this? America, Land
of Democracy, wanted to believe in the failure of democracy so far as
darker peoples were concerned. Absolutely without excuse she established
a caste system, rushed into preparation for war, and conquered tropical
colonies. She stands today shoulder to shoulder with Europe in Europe's
worst sin against civilization. She aspires to sit among the great
nations who arbitrate the fate of "lesser breeds without the law" and
she is at times heartily ashamed even of the large number of "new" white
people whom her democracy has admitted to place and power. Against this
surging forward of Irish and German, of Russian Jew, Slav and "dago" her
social bars have not availed, but against Negroes she can and does take
her unflinching and immovable stand, backed by this new public policy of
Europe. She trains her immigrants to this despising of "niggers" from
the day of their landing, and they carry and send the news back to the
submerged classes in the fatherlands.

       *       *       *       *       *

All this I see and hear up in my tower, above the thunder of the seven
seas. From my narrowed windows I stare into the night that looms beneath
the cloud-swept stars. Eastward and westward storms are
breaking,--great, ugly whirlwinds of hatred and blood and cruelty. I
will not believe them inevitable. I will not believe that all that was
must be, that all the shameful drama of the past must be done again
today before the sunlight sweeps the silver seas.

If I cry amid this roar of elemental forces, must my cry be in vain,
because it is but a cry,--a small and human cry amid Promethean gloom?

Back beyond the world and swept by these wild, white faces of the awful
dead, why will this Soul of White Folk,--this modern Prometheus,--hang
bound by his own binding, tethered by a fable of the past? I hear his
mighty cry reverberating through the world, "I am white!" Well and good,
O Prometheus, divine thief! Is not the world wide enough for two colors,
for many little shinings of the sun? Why, then, devour your own vitals
if I answer even as proudly, "I am black!"



_The Riddle of the Sphinx_


    Dark daughter of the lotus leaves that watch the Southern Sea!
    Wan spirit of a prisoned soul a-panting to be free!
       The muttered music of thy streams, the whisper of the deep,
       Have kissed each other in God's name and kissed a world to sleep.

    The will of the world is a whistling wind, sweeping a cloud-swept sky,
    And not from the East and not from the West knelled that
         soul-waking cry,
       But out of the South,--the sad, black South--it screamed from
           the top of the sky,
       Crying: "Awake, O ancient race!" Wailing, "O woman, arise!"
    And crying and sighing and crying again as a voice in the
          midnight cries,--
    But the burden of white men bore her back and the white world
          stifled her sighs.

    The white world's vermin and filth:
         All the dirt of London,
         All the scum of New York;
         Valiant spoilers of women
         And conquerers of unarmed men;
         Shameless breeders of bastards,
         Drunk with the greed of gold,
         Baiting their blood-stained hooks
         With cant for the souls of the simple;
         Bearing the white man's burden
         Of liquor and lust and lies!

    Unthankful we wince in the East,
    Unthankful we wail from the westward,
    Unthankfully thankful, we curse,
    In the unworn wastes of the wild:
            I hate them, Oh!
            I hate them well,
            I hate them, Christ!
            As I hate hell!
            If I were God,
            I'd sound their knell
            This day!
    Who raised the fools to their glory,
    But black men of Egypt and Ind,
    Ethiopia's sons of the evening,
    Indians and yellow Chinese,
    Arabian children of morning,
    And mongrels of Rome and Greece?
            Ah, well!
    And they that raised the boasters
    Shall drag them down again,--
    Down with the theft of their thieving
    And murder and mocking of men;
    Down with their barter of women
    And laying and lying of creeds;
    Down with their cheating of childhood
    And drunken orgies of war,--
            down
              down
                deep down,
    Till the devil's strength be shorn,
    Till some dim, darker David, a-hoeing of his corn,
    And married maiden, mother of God,
    Bid the black Christ be born!
    Then shall our burden be manhood,
    Be it yellow or black or white;
    And poverty and justice and sorrow,
    The humble, and simple and strong
    Shall sing with the sons of morning
    And daughters of even-song:
      Black mother of the iron hills that ward the blazing sea,
      Wild spirit of a storm-swept soul, a-struggling to be free,
      Where 'neath the bloody finger-marks thy riven bosom quakes,
      Thicken the thunders of God's Voice and lo! a world awakes!



III

THE HANDS OF ETHIOPIA


"_Semper novi quid ex Africa_," cried the Roman proconsul, and he voiced
the verdict of forty centuries. Yet there are those who would write
world history and leave out of account this most marvelous of
continents. Particularly today most men assume that Africa is far afield
from the center of our burning social problems and especially from our
problem of world war.

Always Africa is giving us something new or some metempsychosis of a
world-old thing. On its black bosom arose one of the earliest, if not
the earliest, of self-protecting civilizations, which grew so mightily
that it still furnishes superlatives to thinking and speaking men. Out
of its darker and more remote forest fastnesses came, if we may credit
many recent scientists, the first welding of iron, and we know that
agriculture and trade flourished there when Europe was a wilderness.

Nearly every human empire that has arisen in the world, material and
spiritual, has found some of its greatest crises on this continent of
Africa, from Greece to Great Britain. As Mommsen says: "It was through
Africa that Christianity became the religion of the world." In Africa
the last flood of Germanic invasions spent itself within hearing of the
last gasp of Byzantium, and it was through Africa that Islam came to
play its great rôle of conqueror and civilizer.

With the Renaissance and the widened world of modern thought Africa came
no less suddenly with her new-old gift. Shakespeare's "Ancient Pistol"
cries:

    A foutre for the world and worldlings base!
    I speak of Africa and golden joys!

He echoes a legend of gold from the days of Punt and Ophir to those of
Ghana, the Gold Coast, and the Rand. This thought had sent the world's
greed scurrying down the hot, mysterious coasts of Africa to the Good
Hope of gain, until for the first time a real world-commerce was born,
albeit it started as a commerce mainly in the bodies and souls of men.

The present problem of problems is nothing more than democracy beating
itself helplessly against the color bar,--purling, seeping, seething,
foaming to burst through, ever and again overwhelming the emerging
masses of white men in its rolling backwaters and held back by those who
dream of future kingdoms of greed built on black and brown and yellow
slavery.

The indictment of Africa against Europe is grave. For four hundred years
white Europe was the chief support of that trade in human beings which
first and last robbed black Africa of a hundred million human beings,
transformed the face of her social life, overthrew organized government,
distorted ancient industry, and snuffed out the lights of cultural
development. Today instead of removing laborers from Africa to distant
slavery, industry built on a new slavery approaches Africa to deprive
the natives of their land, to force them to toil, and to reap all the
profit for the white world.

It is scarcely necessary to remind the reader of the essential facts
underlying these broad assertions. A recent law of the Union of South
Africa assigns nearly two hundred and fifty million acres of the best of
natives' land to a million and a half whites and leaves thirty-six
million acres of swamp and marsh for four and a half-million blacks. In
Rhodesia over ninety million acres have been practically confiscated. In
the Belgian Congo all the land was declared the property of the state.

Slavery in all but name has been the foundation of the cocoa industry in
St. Thome and St. Principe and in the mines of the Rand. Gin has been
one of the greatest of European imports, having increased fifty per
cent. in ten years and reaching a total of at least twenty-five million
dollars a year today. Negroes of ability have been carefully gotten rid
of, deposed from authority, kept out of positions of influence, and
discredited in their people's eyes, while a caste of white overseers and
governing officials has appeared everywhere.

Naturally, the picture is not all lurid. David Livingstone has had his
successors and Europe has given Africa something of value in the
beginning of education and industry. Yet the balance of iniquity is
desperately large; but worse than that, it has aroused no world protest.
A great Englishman, familiar with African problems for a generation,
says frankly today: "There does not exist any real international
conscience to which you can appeal."

Moreover, that treatment shows no certain signs of abatement. Today in
England the Empire Resources Development Committee proposes to treat
African colonies as "crown estates" and by intensive scientific
exploitation of both land and labor to make these colonies pay the
English national debt after the war! German thinkers, knowing the
tremendous demand for raw material which would follow the war, had
similar plans of exploitation. "It is the clear, common sense of the
African situation," says H.G. Wells, "that while these precious regions
of raw material remain divided up between a number of competitive
European imperialisms, each resolutely set upon the exploitation of its
'possessions' to its own advantage and the disadvantage of the others,
there can be no permanent peace in the world. It is impossible."

We, then, who fought the war against war; who in a hell of blood and
suffering held hardly our souls in leash by the vision of a world
organized for peace; who are looking for industrial democracy and for
the organization of Europe so as to avoid incentives to war,--we, least
of all, should be willing to leave the backward world as the greatest
temptation, not only to wars based on international jealousies, but to
the most horrible of wars,--which arise from the revolt of the maddened
against those who hold them in common contempt.

Consider, my reader,--if you were today a man of some education and
knowledge, but born a Japanese or a Chinaman, an East Indian or a Negro,
what would you do and think? What would be in the present chaos your
outlook and plan for the future? Manifestly, you would want freedom for
your people,--freedom from insult, from segregation, from poverty, from
physical slavery. If the attitude of the European and American worlds is
in the future going to be based essentially upon the same policies as in
the past, then there is but one thing for the trained man of darker
blood to do and that is definitely and as openly as possible to organize
his world for war against Europe. He may have to do it by secret,
underground propaganda, as in Egypt and India and eventually in the
United States; or by open increase of armament, as in Japan; or by
desperate efforts at modernization, as in China; but he must do it. He
represents the vast majority of mankind. To surrender would be far worse
than physical death. There is no way out unless the white world gives up
such insult as its modern use of the adjective "yellow" indicates, or
its connotation of "chink" and "nigger" implies; either it gives up the
plan of color serfdom which its use of the other adjective "white"
implies, as indicating everything decent and every part of the world
worth living in,--or trouble is written in the stars!

It is, therefore, of singular importance after disquieting delay to see
the real Pacifist appear. Both England and Germany have recently been
basing their claims to parts of black Africa on the wishes and interests
of the black inhabitants. Lloyd George has declared "the general
principle of national self-determination applicable at least to German
Africa," while Chancellor Hertling once welcomed a discussion "on the
reconstruction of the world's colonial possessions."

The demand that an Africa for Africans shall replace the present
barbarous scramble for exploitation by individual states comes from
singularly different sources. Colored America demands that "the
conquered German colonies should not be returned to Germany, neither
should they be held by the Allies. Here is the opportunity for the
establishment of a nation that may never recur. Thousands of colored
men, sick of white arrogance and hypocrisy, see in this their race's
only salvation."

Sir Harry H. Johnston recently said: "If we are to talk, as we do,
sentimentally but justly about restoring the nationhood of Poland, about
giving satisfaction to the separatist feeling in Ireland, and about what
is to be done for European nations who are oppressed, then we can hardly
exclude from this feeling the countries of Africa."

Laborers, black laborers, on the Canal Zone write: "Out of this chaos
may be the great awakening of our race. There is cause for rejoicing. If
we fail to embrace this opportunity now, we fail to see how we will be
ever able to solve the race question. It is for the British Negro, the
French Negro, and the American Negro to rise to the occasion and start a
national campaign, jointly and collectively, with this aim in view."

From British West Africa comes the bitter complaint "that the West
Africans should have the right or opportunity to settle their future for
themselves is a thing which hardly enters the mind of the European
politician. That the Balkan States should be admitted to the Council of
Peace and decide the government under which they are to live is taken as
a matter of course because they are Europeans, but no extra-European is
credited, even by the extremist advocates of human equality, with any
right except to humbly accept the fate which Europe shall decide for
him."

Here, then, is the danger and the demand; and the real Pacifist will
seek to organize, not simply the masses in white nations, guarding
against exploitation and profiteering, but will remember that no
permanent relief can come but by including in this organization the
lowest and the most exploited races in the world. World philanthropy,
like national philanthropy, must come as uplift and prevention and not
merely as alleviation and religious conversion. Reverence for humanity,
as such, must be installed in the world, and Africa should be the
talisman.

Black Africa, including British, French, Belgian, Portuguese, Italian,
and Spanish possessions and the independent states of Abyssinia and
Liberia and leaving out of account Egypt and North Africa, on the one
hand, and South Africa, on the other, has an area of 8,200,000 square
miles and a population well over one hundred millions of black men,
with less than one hundred thousand whites.

Commercial exploitation in Africa has already larger results to show
than most people realize. Annually $200,000,000 worth of goods was
coming out of black Africa before the World War, including a third of
the world's supply of rubber, a quarter of all of the world's cocoa, and
practically all of the world's cloves, gum-arabic, and palm-oil. In
exchange there was being returned to Africa one hundred millions in
cotton cloth, twenty-five millions in iron and steel, and as much in
foods, and probably twenty-five millions in liquors.

Here are the beginnings of a modern industrial system: iron and steel
for permanent investment, bound to yield large dividends; cloth as the
cheapest exchange for invaluable raw material; liquor to tickle the
appetites of the natives and render the alienation of land and the
breakdown of customary law easier; eventually forced and contract labor
under white drivers to increase and systematize the production of raw
materials. These materials are capable of indefinite expansion: cotton
may yet challenge the southern United States, fruits and vegetables,
hides and skins, lumber and dye-stuffs, coffee and tea, grain and
tobacco, and fibers of all sorts can easily follow organized and
systematic toil.

Is it a paradise of industry we thus contemplate? It is much more likely
to be a hell. Under present plans there will be no voice or law or
custom to protect labor, no trades unions, no eight-hour laws, no
factory legislation,--nothing of that great body of legislation built up
in modern days to protect mankind from sinking to the level of beasts of
burden. All the industrial deviltry, which civilization has been driving
to the slums and the backwaters, will have a voiceless continent to
conceal it. If the slave cannot be taken from Africa, slavery can be
taken to Africa.

Who are the folk who live here? They are brown and black, curly and
crisp-haired, short and tall, and longheaded. Out of them in days
without date flowed the beginnings of Egypt; among them rose, later,
centers of culture at Ghana, Melle, and Timbuktu. Kingdoms and empires
flourished in Songhay and Zymbabwe, and art and industry in Yoruba and
Benin. They have fought every human calamity in its most hideous form
and yet today they hold some similar vestiges of a mighty past,--their
work in iron, their weaving and carving, their music and singing, their
tribal government, their town-meeting and marketplace, their desperate
valor in war.

Missionaries and commerce have left some good with all their evil. In
black Africa today there are more than a thousand government schools and
some thirty thousand mission schools, with a more or less regular
attendance of three-quarters of a million school children. In a few
cases training of a higher order is given chiefs' sons and selected
pupils. These beginnings of education are not much for so vast a land
and there is no general standard or set plan of development, but, after
all, the children of Africa are beginning to learn.

In black Africa today only one-seventeenth of the land and a ninth of
the people in Liberia and Abyssinia are approximately independent,
although menaced and policed by European capitalism. Half the land and
the people are in domains under Portugal, France, and Belgium, held with
the avowed idea of exploitation for the benefit of Europe under a system
of caste and color serfdom. Out of this dangerous nadir of development
stretch two paths: one is indicated by the condition of about three per
cent of the people who in Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast, and French
Senegal, are tending toward the path of modern development; the other
path, followed by a fourth of the land and people, has local
self-government and native customs and might evolve, if undisturbed, a
native culture along their own peculiar lines. A tenth of the land,
sparsely settled, is being monopolized and held for whites to make an
African Australia. To these later folk must be added the four and
one-half millions of the South African Union, who by every modern device
are being forced into landless serfdom.

Before the World War tendencies were strongly toward the destruction of
independent Africa, the industrial slavery of the mass of the blacks and
the encouragement of white immigration, where possible, to hold the
blacks in subjection.

Against this idea let us set the conception of a new African World
State, a Black Africa, applying to these peoples the splendid
pronouncements which have of late been so broadly and perhaps carelessly
given the world: recognizing in Africa the declaration of the American
Federation of Labor, that "no people must be forced under sovereignty
under which it does not wish to live"; recognizing in President Wilson's
message to the Russians, the "principle of the undictated development of
all peoples"; recognizing the resolution of the recent conference of the
Aborigines Protection Society of England, "that in any reconstruction of
Africa, which may result from this war, the interests of the native
inhabitants and also their wishes, in so far as those wishes can be
clearly ascertained, should be recognized as among the principal factors
upon which the decision of their destiny should be based." In other
words, recognizing for the first time in the history of the modern world
that black men are human.

It may not be possible to build this state at once. With the victory of
the Entente Allies, the German colonies, with their million of square
miles and one-half million black inhabitants, should form such a
nucleus. It would give Black Africa its physical beginnings. Beginning
with the German colonies two other sets of colonies could be added, for
obvious reasons. Neither Portugal nor Belgium has shown any particular
capacity for governing colonial peoples. Valid excuses may in both cases
be advanced, but it would certainly be fair to Belgium to have her start
her great task of reorganization after the World War with neither the
burden nor the temptation of colonies; and in the same way Portugal has,
in reality, the alternative of either giving up her colonies to an
African State or to some other European State in the near future. These
two sets of colonies would add 1,700,000 square miles and eighteen
million inhabitants. It would not, however, be fair to despoil Germany,
Belgium, and Portugal of their colonies unless, as Count Hertling once
demanded, the whole question of colonies be opened.

How far shall the modern world recognize nations which are not nations,
but combinations of a dominant caste and a suppressed horde of serfs?
Will it not be possible to rebuild a world with compact nations, empires
of self-governing elements, and colonies of backward peoples under
benevolent international control?

The great test would be easy. Does England propose to erect in India and
Nigeria nations brown and black which shall be eventually independent,
self-governing entities, with a full voice in the British Imperial
Government? If not, let these states either have independence at once
or, if unfitted for that, be put under international tutelage and
guardianship. It is possible that France, with her great heart, may
welcome a Black France,--an enlarged Senegal in Africa; but it would
seem that eventually all Africa south of twenty degrees north latitude
and north of the Union of South Africa should be included in a new
African State. Somaliland and Eritrea should be given to Abyssinia, and
then with Liberia we would start with two small, independent African
states and one large state under international control.

Does this sound like an impossible dream? No one could be blamed for so
regarding it before 1914. I, myself, would have agreed with them. But
since the nightmare of 1914-1918, since we have seen the impossible
happen and the unspeakable become so common as to cease to stir us; in a
day when Russia has dethroned her Czar, England has granted the suffrage
to women and is in the act of giving Home Rule to Ireland; when Germany
has adopted parliamentary government; when Jerusalem has been delivered
from the Turks; and the United States has taken control of its
railroads,--is it really so far-fetched to think of an Africa for the
Africans, guided by organized civilization?

No one would expect this new state to be independent and self-governing
from the start. Contrary, however, to present schemes for Africa the
world would expect independence and self-government as the only possible
end of the experiment At first we can conceive of no better way of
governing this state than through that same international control by
which we hope to govern the world for peace. A curious and instructive
parallel has been drawn by Simeon Strunsky: "Just as the common
ownership of the northwest territory helped to weld the colonies into
the United States, so could not joint and benevolent domination of
Africa and of other backward parts of the world be a cornerstone upon
which the future federation of the world could be built?"

From the British Labor Party comes this declaration: "With regard to the
colonies of the several belligerents in tropical Africa, from sea to
sea, the British Labor Movement disclaims all sympathy with the
imperialist idea that these should form the booty of any nation, should
be exploited for the profit of the capitalists, or should be used for
the promotion of the militarists' aims of government. In view of the
fact that it is impracticable here to leave the various peoples
concerned to settle their own destinies it is suggested that the
interests of humanity would be best served by the full and frank
abandonment by all the belligerents of any dreams of an African Empire;
the transfer of the present colonies of the European Powers in tropical
Africa, however, and the limits of this area may be defined to the
proposed Supernational Authority, or League of Nations."

Lloyd George himself has said in regard to the German colonies a word
difficult to restrict merely to them: "I have repeatedly declared that
they are held at the disposal of a conference, whose decision must have
primary regard to the wishes and interests of the native inhabitants of
such colonies. None of those territories is inhabited by Europeans. The
governing considerations, therefore, must be that the inhabitants should
be placed under the control of an administration acceptable to
themselves, one of whose main purposes will be to prevent their
exploitation for the benefit of European capitalists or governments."

The special commission for the government of this African State must,
naturally, be chosen with great care and thought. It must represent, not
simply governments, but civilization, science, commerce, social reform,
religious philanthropy without sectarian propaganda. It must include,
not simply white men, but educated and trained men of Negro blood. The
guiding principles before such a commission should be clearly
understood. In the first place, it ought by this time to be realized by
the labor movement throughout the world that no industrial democracy can
be built on industrial despotism, whether the two systems are in the
same country or in different countries, since the world today so nearly
approaches a common industrial unity. If, therefore, it is impossible in
any single land to uplift permanently skilled labor without also raising
common labor, so, too, there can be no permanent uplift of American or
European labor as long as African laborers are slaves.

Secondly, this building of a new African State does not mean the
segregation in it of all the world's black folk. It is too late in the
history of the world to go back to the idea of absolute racial
segregation. The new African State would not involve any idea of a vast
transplantation of the twenty-seven million Negroids of the western
world, of Africa, or of the gathering there of Negroid Asia. The Negroes
in the United States and the other Americas have earned the right to
fight out their problems where they are, but they could easily furnish
from time to time technical experts, leaders of thought, and
missionaries of culture for their backward brethren in the new Africa.

With these two principles, the practical policies to be followed out in
the government of the new states should involve a thorough and complete
system of modern education, built upon the present government, religion,
and customary laws of the natives. There should be no violent tampering
with the curiously efficient African institutions of local
self-government through the family and the tribe; there should be no
attempt at sudden "conversion" by religious propaganda. Obviously
deleterious customs and unsanitary usages must gradually be abolished,
but the general government, set up from without, must follow the example
of the best colonial administrators and build on recognized, established
foundations rather than from entirely new and theoretical plans.

The real effort to modernize Africa should be through schools rather
than churches. Within ten years, twenty million black children ought to
be in school. Within a generation young Africa should know the essential
outlines of modern culture and groups of bright African students could
be going to the world's great universities. From the beginning the
actual general government should use both colored and white officials
and later natives should be worked in. Taxation and industry could
follow the newer ideals of industrial democracy, avoiding private land
monopoly and poverty, and promoting co-operation in production and the
socialization of income. Difficulties as to capital and revenue would be
far less than many imagine. If a capable English administrator of
British Nigeria could with $1,500 build up a cocoa industry of twenty
million dollars annually, what might not be done in all Africa, without
gin, thieves, and hypocrisy?

Capital could not only be accumulated in Africa, but attracted from the
white world, with one great difference from present usage: no return so
fabulous would be offered that civilized lands would be tempted to
divert to colonial trade and invest materials and labor needed by the
masses at home, but rather would receive the same modest profits as
legitimate home industry offers.

There is no sense in asserting that the ideal of an African State, thus
governed and directed toward independence and self-government, is
impossible of realization. The first great essential is that the
civilized world believe in its possibility. By reason of a crime
(perhaps the greatest crime in human history) the modern world has been
systematically taught to despise colored peoples. Men of education and
decency ask, and ask seriously, if it is really possible to uplift
Africa. Are Negroes human, or, if human, developed far enough to absorb,
even under benevolent tutelage, any appreciable part of modern culture?
Has not the experiment been tried in Haiti and Liberia, and failed?

One cannot ignore the extraordinary fact that a world campaign beginning
with the slave-trade and ending with the refusal to capitalize the word
"Negro," leading through a passionate defense of slavery by attributing
every bestiality to blacks and finally culminating in the evident modern
profit which lies in degrading blacks,--all this has unconsciously
trained millions of honest, modern men into the belief that black folk
are sub-human. This belief is not based on science, else it would be
held as a postulate of the most tentative kind, ready at any time to be
withdrawn in the face of facts; the belief is not based on history, for
it is absolutely contradicted by Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and
Arabian experience; nor is the belief based on any careful survey of the
social development of men of Negro blood to-day in Africa and America.
It is simply passionate, deep-seated heritage, and as such can be moved
by neither argument nor fact. Only faith in humanity will lead the world
to rise above its present color prejudice.

Those who do believe in men, who know what black men have done in human
history, who have taken pains to follow even superficially the story of
the rise of the Negro in Africa, the West Indies, and the Americas of
our day know that our modern contempt of Negroes rests upon no
scientific foundation worth a moment's attention. It is nothing more
than a vicious habit of mind. It could as easily be overthrown as our
belief in war, as our international hatreds, as our old conception of
the status of women, as our fear of educating the masses, and as our
belief in the necessity of poverty. We can, if we will, inaugurate on
the Dark Continent a last great crusade for humanity. With Africa
redeemed Asia would be safe and Europe indeed triumphant.

I have not mentioned North and South Africa, because my eye was centered
on the main mass of the Negro race. Yet it is clear that for the
development of Central Africa, Egypt should be free and independent,
there along the highway to a free and independent India; while Morocco,
Algeria, Tunis, and Tripoli must become a part of Europe, with modern
development and home rule. South Africa, stripped of its black serfs and
their lands, must admit the resident natives and colored folk to its
body politic as equals.

The hands which Ethiopia shall soon stretch out unto God are not mere
hands of helplessness and supplication, but rather are they hands of
pain and promise; hard, gnarled, and muscled for the world's real work;
they are hands of fellowship for the half-submerged masses of a
distempered world; they are hands of helpfulness for an agonized God!

       *       *       *       *       *

Twenty centuries before Christ a great cloud swept over seas and settled
on Africa, darkening and well-nigh blotting out the culture of the land
of Egypt. For half a thousand years it rested there, until a black
woman, Queen Nefertari, "the most venerated figure in Egyptian history,"
rose to the throne of the Pharaohs and redeemed the world and her
people. Twenty centuries after Christ, Black Africa,--prostrated, raped,
and shamed, lies at the feet of the conquering Philistines of Europe.
Beyond the awful sea a black woman is weeping and waiting, with her sons
on her breast. What shall the end be? The world-old and fearful
things,--war and wealth, murder and luxury? Or shall it be a new
thing,--a new peace and a new democracy of all races,--a great humanity
of equal men? "_Semper novi quid ex Africa_!"



_The Princess of the Hither Isles_


Her soul was beautiful, wherefore she kept it veiled in lightly-laced
humility and fear, out of which peered anxiously and anon the white and
blue and pale-gold of her face,-beautiful as daybreak or as the laughing
of a child. She sat in the Hither Isles, well walled between the This
and Now, upon a low and silver throne, and leaned upon its armposts,
sadly looking upward toward the sun. Now the Hither Isles are flat and
cold and swampy, with drear-drab light and all manner of slimy, creeping
things, and piles of dirt and clouds of flying dust and sordid scraping
and feeding and noise.

She hated them and ever as her hands and busy feet swept back the dust
and slime her soul sat silver-throned, staring toward the great hill to
the westward, which shone so brilliant-golden beneath the sunlight and
above the sea.

The sea moaned and with it moaned the princess' soul, for she was
lonely,--very, very lonely, and full weary of the monotone of life. So
she was glad to see a moving in Yonder Kingdom on the mountainside,
where the sun shone warm, and when the king of Yonder Kingdom, silken in
robe and golden-crowned and warded by his hound, walked down along the
restless waters and sat beside the armpost of her throne, she wondered
why she could not love him and fly with him up the shining mountain's
side, out of the dirt and dust that nested between the This and Now. She
looked at him and tried to be glad, for he was bonny and good to look
upon, this king of Yonder Kingdom,--tall and straight, thin-lipped and
white and tawny. So, again, this last day, she strove to burn life into
his singularly sodden clay,--to put his icy soul aflame wherewith to
warm her own, to set his senses singing. Vacantly he heard her winged
words, staring and curling his long mustaches with vast thoughtfulness.
Then he said:

"We've found more gold in Yonder Kingdom."

"Hell seize your gold!" blurted the princess.

"No,--it's mine," he maintained stolidly.

She raised her eyes. "It belongs," she said, "to the Empire of the Sun."

"Nay,--the Sun belongs to us," said the king calmly as he glanced to
where Yonder Kingdom blushed above the sea. She glanced, too, and a
softness crept into her eyes.

"No, no," she murmured as with hesitating pause she raised her eyes
above the sea, above the hill, up into the sky where the sun hung silent
and splendid. Its robes were heaven's blue, lined and broidered in
living flame, and its crown was one vast jewel, glistening in glittering
glory that made the sun's own face a blackness,--the blackness of utter
light. With blinded, tear-filled eyes she peered into that formless
black and burning face and sensed in its soft, sad gleam unfathomed
understanding. With sudden, wild abandon she stretched her arms toward
it appealing, beseeching, entreating, and lo!

"Niggers and dagoes," said the king of Yonder Kingdom, glancing
carelessly backward and lighting in his lips a carefully rolled wisp of
fragrant tobacco. She looked back, too, but in half-wondering terror,
for it seemed--

A beggar man was creeping across the swamp, shuffling through the dirt
and slime. He was little and bald and black, rough-clothed, sodden with
dirt, and bent with toil. Yet withal something she sensed about him and
it seemed,--

The king of Yonder Kingdom lounged more comfortably beside the silver
throne and let curl a tiny trail of light-blue smoke.

"I hate beggars," he said, "especially brown and black ones." And he
then pointed at the beggar's retinue and laughed,--an unpleasant laugh,
welded of contempt and amusement. The princess looked and shrank on her
throne. He, the beggar man, was--was what? But his retinue,--that
squalid, sordid, parti-colored band of vacant, dull-faced filth and
viciousness--was writhing over the land, and he and they seemed almost
crouching underneath the scorpion lash of one tall skeleton, that looked
like Death, and the twisted woman whom men called Pain. Yet they all
walked as one.

The King of Yonder Kingdom laughed, but the princess shrank on her
throne, and the king on seeing her thus took a gold-piece from out of
his purse and tossed it carelessly to the passing throng. She watched it
with fascinated eyes,--how it rose and sailed and whirled and struggled
in the air, then seemed to burst, and upward flew its light and sheen
and downward dropped its dross. She glanced at the king, but he was
lighting a match. She watched the dross wallow in the slime, but the
sunlight fell on the back of the beggar's neck, and he turned his head.

The beggar passing afar turned his head and the princess straightened
on her throne; he turned his head and she shivered forward on her
silver seat; he looked upon her full and slow and suddenly she saw
within that formless black and burning face the same soft, glad gleam of
utter understanding, seen so many times before. She saw the suffering of
endless years and endless love that softened it. She saw the burning
passion of the sun and with it the cold, unbending duty-deeds of upper
air. All she had seen and dreamed of seeing in the rising, blazing sun
she saw now again and with it myriads more of human tenderness, of
longing, and of love. So, then, she knew. She rose as to a dream come
true, with solemn face and waiting eyes.

With her rose the king of Yonder Kingdom, almost eagerly.

"You'll come?" he cried. "You'll come and see my gold?" And then in
sudden generosity, he added: "You'll have a golden throne,-up there-when
we marry."

But she, looking up and on with radiant face, answered softly: "I come."

So down and up and on they mounted,-the black beggar man and his
cavalcade of Death and Pain, and then a space; and then a lone, black
hound that nosed and whimpered as he ran, and then a space; and then the
king of Yonder Kingdom in his robes, and then a space; and last the
princess of the Hither Isles, with face set sunward and lovelight in her
eyes.

And so they marched and struggled on and up through endless years and
spaces and ever the black beggar looked back past death and pain toward
the maid and ever the maid strove forward with lovelit eyes, but ever
the great and silken shoulders of the king of Yonder Kingdom arose
between the princess and the sun like a cloud of storms.

Now, finally, they neared unto the hillsides topmost shoulder and there
most eagerly the king bent to the bowels of the earth and bared its
golden entrails,-all green and gray and rusted-while the princess
strained her pitiful eyes aloft to where the beggar, set 'twixt Death
and Pain, whirled his slim back against the glory of the setting sun and
stood somber in his grave majesty, enhaloed and transfigured,
outstretching his long arms, and around all heaven glittered jewels in a
cloth of gold.

A while the princess stood and moaned in mad amaze, then with one wilful
wrench she bared the white flowers of her breast and snatching forth her
own red heart held it with one hand aloft while with the other she
gathered close her robe and poised herself.

The king of Yonder Kingdom looked upward quickly, curiously, still
fingering the earth, and saw the offer of her bleeding heart.

"It's a Negro!" he growled darkly; "it may not be."

The woman quivered.

"It's a nigger!" he repeated fiercely. "It's neither God nor man, but a
nigger!"

The princess stepped forward.

The king grasped his sword and looked north and east; he raised his
sword and looked south and west.

"I seek the sun," the princess sang, and started into the west.

"Never!" cried the king of Yonder Kingdom, "for such were blasphemy and
defilement and the making of all evil."

So, raising his great sword he struck with all his might, and more. Down
hissed the blow and it bit that little, white, heart-holding hand until
it flew armless and disbodied up through the sunlit air. Down hissed the
blow and it clove the whimpering hound until his last shriek shook the
stars. Down hissed the blow and it rent the earth. It trembled, fell
apart, and yawned to a chasm wide as earth from heaven, deep as hell,
and empty, cold, and silent.

On yonder distant shore blazed the mighty Empire of the Sun in warm and
blissful radiance, while on this side, in shadows cold and dark, gloomed
the Hither Isles and the hill that once was golden, but now was green
and slimy dross; all below was the sad and moaning sea, while between
the Here and There flew the severed hand and dripped the bleeding heart.

Then up from the soul of the princess welled a cry of dark
despair,--such a cry as only babe-raped mothers know and murdered loves.
Poised on the crumbling edge of that great nothingness the princess
hung, hungering with her eyes and straining her fainting ears against
the awful splendor of the sky.

Out from the slime and shadows groped the king, thundering: "Back--don't
be a fool!"

But down through the thin ether thrilled the still and throbbing warmth
of heaven's sun, whispering "Leap!"

And the princess leapt.



IV

OF WORK AND WEALTH


For fifteen years I was a teacher of youth. They were years out of the
fullness and bloom of my younger manhood. They were years mingled of
half breathless work, of anxious self-questionings, of planning and
replanning, of disillusion, or mounting wonder.

The teacher's life is a double one. He stands in a certain fear. He
tends to be stilted, almost dishonest, veiling himself before those
awful eyes. Not the eyes of Almighty God are so straight, so
penetrating, so all-seeing as the wonder-swept eyes of youth. You walk
into a room: to the left is a tall window, bright with colors of crimson
and gold and sunshine. Here are rows of books and there is a table.
Somber blackboards clothe the walls to the right and beside your desk is
the delicate ivory of a nobly cast head. But you see nothing of this:
you see only a silence and eyes,--fringed, soft eyes; hard eyes; eyes
great and small; eyes here so poignant with beauty that the sob
struggles in your throat; eyes there so hard with sorrow that laughter
wells up to meet and beat it back; eyes through which the mockery and
ridicule of hell or some pulse of high heaven may suddenly flash. Ah!
That mighty pause before the class,--that orison and benediction--how
much of my life it has been and made.

I fought earnestly against posing before my class. I tried to be natural
and honest and frank, but it was a bitter hard. What would you say to a
soft, brown face, aureoled in a thousand ripples of gray-black hair,
which knells suddenly: "Do you trust white people?" You do not and you
know that you do not, much as you want to; yet you rise and lie and say
you do; you must say it for her salvation and the world's; you repeat
that she must trust them, that most white folks are honest, and all the
while you are lying and every level, silent eye there knows you are
lying, and miserably you sit and lie on, to the greater glory of God.

I taught history and economics and something called "sociology" at
Atlanta University, where, as our Mr. Webster used to say, we professors
occupied settees and not mere chairs. I was fortunate with this teaching
in having vivid in the minds of my pupils a concrete social problem of
which we all were parts and which we desperately desired to solve. There
was little danger, then, of my teaching or of their thinking becoming
purely theoretical. Work and wage were thrilling realities to us all.
What did we study? I can tell you best by taking a concrete human case,
such as was continually leaping to our eyes and thought and demanding
understanding and interpretation and what I could bring of prophecy.

       *       *       *       *       *

St. Louis sprawls where mighty rivers meet,--as broad as Philadelphia,
but three stories high instead of two, with wider streets and dirtier
atmosphere, over the dull-brown of wide, calm rivers. The city overflows
into the valleys of Illinois and lies there, writhing under its grimy
cloud. The other city is dusty and hot beyond all dream,--a feverish
Pittsburg in the Mississippi Valley--a great, ruthless, terrible thing!
It is the sort that crushes man and invokes some living superman,--a
giant of things done, a clang of awful accomplishment.

Three men came wandering across this place. They were neither kings nor
wise men, but they came with every significance--perhaps even
greater--than that which the kings bore in the days of old. There was
one who came from the North,--brawny and riotous with energy, a man of
concentrated power, who held all the thunderbolts of modern capital in
his great fists and made flour and meat, iron and steel, cunning
chemicals, wood, paint and paper, transforming to endless tools a
disemboweled earth. He was one who saw nothing, knew nothing, sought
nothing but the making and buying of that which sells; who out from the
magic of his hand rolled over miles of iron road, ton upon ton of food
and metal and wood, of coal and oil and lumber, until the thronging of
knotted ways in East and real St. Louis was like the red, festering
ganglia of some mighty heart.

Then from the East and called by the crash of thunderbolts and
forked-flame came the Unwise Man,--unwise by the theft of endless ages,
but as human as anything God ever made. He was the slave for the miracle
maker. It was he that the thunderbolts struck and electrified into
gasping energy. The rasp of his hard breathing shook the midnights of
all this endless valley and the pulse of his powerful arms set the great
nation to trembling.

And then, at last, out of the South, like a still, small voice, came the
third man,--black, with great eyes and greater memories; hesitantly
eager and yet with the infinite softness and ancient calm which come
from that eternal race whose history is not the history of a day, but
of endless ages. Here, surely, was fit meeting-place for these curiously
intent forces, for these epoch-making and age-twisting forces, for these
human feet on their super-human errands.

Yesterday I rode in East St. Louis. It is the kind of place one quickly
recognizes,--tireless and with no restful green of verdure; hard and
uneven of street; crude, cold, and even hateful of aspect; conventional,
of course, in its business quarter, but quickly beyond one sees the ruts
and the hollows, the stench of ill-tamed sewerage, unguarded railroad
crossings, saloons outnumbering churches and churches catering to
saloons; homes impudently strait and new, prostitutes free and happy,
gamblers in paradise, the town "wide open," shameless and frank; great
factories pouring out stench, filth, and flame--these and all other
things so familiar in the world market places, where industry triumphs
over thought and products overwhelm men. May I tell, too, how yesterday
I rode in this city past flame-swept walls and over gray ashes; in
streets almost wet with blood and beside ruins, where the bones of dead
men new-bleached peered out at me in sullen wonder?

Across the river, in the greater city, where bronze St. Louis,--that
just and austere king--looks with angry, fear-swept eyes down from the
rolling heights of Forest Park, which knows him not nor heeds him, there
is something of the same thing, but this city is larger and older and
the forces of evil have had some curbing from those who have seen the
vision and panted for life; but eastward from St. Louis there is a land
of no taxes for great industries; there is a land where you may buy
grafting politicians at far less rate than you would pay for franchises
or privileges in a modern town. There, too, you may escape the buying of
indulgences from the great terminal fist, which squeezes industry out of
St. Louis. In fact, East St. Louis is a paradise for high and frequent
dividends and for the piling up of wealth to be spent in St. Louis and
Chicago and New York and when the world is sane again, across the seas.

So the Unwise Men pouring out of the East,--falling, scrambling, rushing
into America at the rate of a million a year,--ran, walked, and crawled
to this maelstrom of the workers. They garnered higher wage than ever
they had before, but not all of it came in cash. A part, and an
insidious part, was given to them transmuted into whiskey, prostitutes,
and games of chance. They laughed and disported themselves. God! Had not
their mothers wept enough? It was a good town. There was no veil of
hypocrisy here, but a wickedness, frank, ungilded, and open. To be sure,
there were things sometimes to reveal the basic savagery and thin
veneer. Once, for instance, a man was lynched for brawling on the public
square of the county seat; once a mayor who sought to "clean up" was
publicly assassinated; always there was theft and rumors of theft,
until St. Clair County was a hissing in good men's ears; but always,
too, there were good wages and jolly hoodlums and unchecked wassail of
Saturday nights. Gamblers, big and little, rioted in East St. Louis. The
little gamblers used cards and roulette wheels and filched the weekly
wage of the workers. The greater gamblers used meat and iron and undid
the foundations of the world. All the gods of chance flaunted their wild
raiment here, above the brown flood of the Mississippi.

Then the world changed; then civilization, built for culture, rebuilt
itself for wilful murder in Europe, Asia, America, and the Southern
Seas. Hands that made food made powder, and iron for railways was iron
for guns. The wants of common men were forgotten before the groan of
giants. Streams of gold, lost from the world's workers, filtered and
trickled into the hands of gamblers and put new power into the
thunderbolts of East St. Louis.

Wages had been growing before the World War. Slowly but remorselessly
the skilled and intelligent, banding themselves, had threatened the
coffers of the mighty, and slowly the mighty had disgorged. Even the
common workers, the poor and unlettered, had again and again gripped the
sills of the city walls and pulled themselves to their chins; but, alas!
there were so many hands and so many mouths and the feet of the
Disinherited kept coming across the wet paths of the sea to this old El
Dorado.

War brought subtle changes. Wages stood still while prices fattened. It
was not that the white American worker was threatened with starvation,
but it was what was, after all, a more important question,--whether or
not he should lose his front-room and victrola and even the dream of a
Ford car.

There came a whirling and scrambling among the workers,--they fought
each other; they climbed on each others' backs. The skilled and
intelligent, banding themselves even better than before, bargained with
the men of might and held them by bitter threats; the less skilled and
more ignorant seethed at the bottom and tried, as of old, to bring it
about that the ignorant and unlettered should learn to stand together
against both capital and skilled labor.

It was here that there came out of the East a beam of unearthly
light,--a triumph of possible good in evil so strange that the workers
hardly believed it. Slowly they saw the gates of Ellis Island closing,
slowly the footsteps of the yearly million men became fainter and
fainter, until the stream of immigrants overseas was stopped by the
shadow of death at the very time when new murder opened new markets over
all the world to American industry; and the giants with the thunderbolts
stamped and raged and peered out across the world and called for men and
evermore,--men!

The Unwise Men laughed and squeezed reluctant dollars out of the fists
of the mighty and saw in their dream the vision of a day when labor, as
they knew it, should come into its own; saw this day and saw it with
justice and with right, save for one thing, and that was the sound of
the moan of the Disinherited, who still lay without the walls. When they
heard this moan and saw that it came not across the seas, they were at
first amazed and said it was not true; and then they were mad and said
it should not be. Quickly they turned and looked into the red blackness
of the South and in their hearts were fear and hate!

What did they see? They saw something at which they had been taught to
laugh and make sport; they saw that which the heading of every newspaper
column, the lie of every cub reporter, the exaggeration of every press
dispatch, and the distortion of every speech and book had taught them
was a mass of despicable men, inhuman; at best, laughable; at worst, the
meat of mobs and fury.

What did they see? They saw nine and one-half millions of human beings.
They saw the spawn of slavery, ignorant by law and by deviltry, crushed
by insult and debauched by systematic and criminal injustice. They saw a
people whose helpless women have been raped by thousands and whose men
lynched by hundreds in the face of a sneering world. They saw a people
with heads bloody, but unbowed, working faithfully at wages fifty per
cent. lower than the wages of the nation and under conditions which
shame civilization, saving homes, training children, hoping against
hope. They saw the greatest industrial miracle of modern days,--slaves
transforming themselves to freemen and climbing out of perdition by
their own efforts, despite the most contemptible opposition God ever
saw,--they saw all this and what they saw the distraught employers of
America saw, too.

The North called to the South. A scream of rage went up from the cotton
monopolists and industrial barons of the new South. Who was this who
dared to "interfere" with their labor? Who sought to own their black
slaves but they? Who honored and loved "niggers" as they did?

They mobilized all the machinery of modern oppression: taxes, city
ordinances, licenses, state laws, municipal regulations, wholesale
police arrests and, of course, the peculiarly Southern method of the mob
and the lyncher. They appealed frantically to the United States
Government; they groveled on their knees and shed wild tears at the
"suffering" of their poor, misguided black friends, and yet, despite
this, the Northern employers simply had to offer two and three dollars a
day and from one-quarter to one-half a million dark workers arose and
poured themselves into the North. They went to the mines of West
Virginia, because war needs coal; they went to the industries of New
Jersey and Pennsylvania, because war needs ships and iron; they went to
the automobiles of Detroit and the load-carrying of Chicago; and they
went to East St. Louis.

Now there came fear in the hearts of the Unwise Men. It was not that
their wages were lowered,--they went even higher. They received, not
simply, a living wage, but a wage that paid for some of the decencies,
and, in East St. Louis, many of the indecencies of life. What they
feared was not deprivation of the things they were used to and the
shadow of poverty, but rather the definite death of their rising dreams.
But if fear was new-born in the hearts of the Unwise Men, the black man
was born in a house of fear; to him poverty of the ugliest and straitest
type was father, mother, and blood-brother. He was slipping stealthily
northward to escape hunger and insult, the hand of oppression, and the
shadow of death.

Here, then, in the wide valley which Father Marquette saw peaceful and
golden, lazy with fruit and river, half-asleep beneath the nod of
God,--here, then, was staged every element for human tragedy, every
element of the modern economic paradox.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ah! That hot, wide plain of East St. Louis is a gripping thing. The
rivers are dirty with sweat and toil and lip, like lakes, along the low
and burdened shores; flatboats ramble and thread among them, and above
the steamers bridges swing on great arches of steel, striding with
mighty grace from shore to shore. Everywhere are brick kennels,--tall,
black and red chimneys, tongues of flame. The ground is littered with
cars and iron, tracks and trucks, boxes and crates, metals and coal and
rubber. Nature-defying cranes, grim elevators rise above pile on pile of
black and grimy lumber. And ever below is the water,--wide and silent,
gray-brown and yellow.

This is the stage for the tragedy: the armored might of the modern world
urged by the bloody needs of the world wants, fevered today by a
fabulous vision of gain and needing only hands, hands, hands! Fear of
loss and greed of gain in the hearts of the giants; the clustered
cunning of the modern workman, skilled as artificer and skilled in the
rhythm of the habit of work, tasting the world's good and panting for
more; fear of poverty and hate of "scabs" in the hearts of the workers;
the dumb yearning in the hearts of the oppressed; the echo of laughter
heard at the foot of the Pyramids; the faithful, plodding slouch of the
laborers; fear of the Shadow of Death in the hearts of black men.

We ask, and perhaps there is no answer, how far may the captain of the
world's industry do his deeds, despite the grinding tragedy of its
doing? How far may men fight for the beginning of comfort, out beyond
the horrid shadow of poverty, at the cost of starving other and what the
world calls lesser men? How far may those who reach up out of the slime
that fills the pits of the world's damned compel men with loaves to
divide with men who starve?

The answers to these questions are hard, but yet one answer looms above
all,--justice lies with the lowest; the plight of the lowest man,--the
plight of the black man--deserves the first answer, and the plight of
the giants of industry, the last.

Little cared East St. Louis for all this bandying of human problems, so
long as its grocers and saloon-keepers flourished and its industries
steamed and screamed and smoked and its bankers grew rich. Stupidity,
license, and graft sat enthroned in the City Hall. The new black folk
were exploited as cheerfully as white Polacks and Italians; the rent of
shacks mounted merrily, the street car lines counted gleeful gains, and
the crimes of white men and black men flourished in the dark. The high
and skilled and smart climbed on the bent backs of the ignorant; harder
the mass of laborers strove to unionize their fellows and to bargain
with employers.

Nor were the new blacks fools. They had no love for nothings in labor;
they had no wish to make their fellows' wage envelopes smaller, but they
were determined to make their own larger. They, too, were willing to
join in the new union movement. But the unions did not want them. Just
as employers monopolized meat and steel, so they sought to monopolize
labor and beat a giant's bargain. In the higher trades they succeeded.
The best electrician in the city was refused admittance to the union and
driven from the town because he was black. No black builder, printer, or
machinist could join a union or work in East St. Louis, no matter what
his skill or character. But out of the stink of the stockyards and the
dust of the aluminum works and the sweat of the lumber yards the willing
blacks could not be kept.

They were invited to join unions of the laborers here and they joined.
White workers and black workers struck at the aluminum works in the fall
and won higher wages and better hours; then again in the spring they
struck to make bargaining compulsory for the employer, but this time
they fronted new things. The conflagration of war had spread to America;
government and court stepped in and ordered no hesitation, no strikes;
the work must go on.

Deeper was the call for workers. Black men poured in and red anger
flamed in the hearts of the white workers. The anger was against the
wielders of the thunderbolts, but here it was impotent because employers
stood with the hand of the government before their faces; it was against
entrenched union labor, which had risen on the backs of the unskilled
and unintelligent and on the backs of those whom for any reason of race
or prejudice or chicane they could beat beyond the bars of competition;
and finally the anger of the mass of white workers was turned toward
these new black interlopers, who seemed to come to spoil their last
dream of a great monopoly of common labor.

These angers flamed and the union leaders, fearing their fury and
knowing their own guilt, not only in the larger and subtler matter of
bidding their way to power across the weakness of their less fortunate
fellows, but also conscious of their part in making East St. Louis a
miserable town of liquor and lust, leaped quickly to ward the gathering
thunder from their own heads. The thing they wanted was even at their
hands: here were black men, guilty not only of bidding for jobs which
white men could have held at war prices, even if they could not fill,
but also guilty of being black! It was at this blackness that the unions
pointed the accusing finger. It was here that they committed the
unpardonable crime. It was here that they entered the Shadow of Hell,
where suddenly from a fight for wage and protection against industrial
oppression East St. Louis became the center of the oldest and nastiest
form of human oppression,--race hatred.

The whole situation lent itself to this terrible transformation.
Everything in the history of the United States, from slavery to Sunday
supplements, from disfranchisement to residence segregation, from
"Jim-Crow" cars to a "Jim-Crow" army draft--all this history of
discrimination and insult festered to make men think and willing to
think that the venting of their unbridled anger against 12,000,000
humble, upstriving workers was a way of settling the industrial tangle
of the ages. It was the logic of the broken plate, which, seared of old
across its pattern, cracks never again, save along the old destruction.

So hell flamed in East St. Louis! The white men drove even black union
men out of their unions and when the black men, beaten by night and
assaulted, flew to arms and shot back at the marauders, five thousand
rioters arose and surged like a crested stormwave, from noonday until
midnight; they killed and beat and murdered; they dashed out the brains
of children and stripped off the clothes of women; they drove victims
into the flames and hanged the helpless to the lighting poles. Fathers
were killed before the faces of mothers; children were burned; heads
were cut off with axes; pregnant women crawled and spawned in dark, wet
fields; thieves went through houses and firebrands followed; bodies were
thrown from bridges; and rocks and bricks flew through the air.

The Negroes fought. They grappled with the mob like beasts at bay. They
drove them back from the thickest cluster of their homes and piled the
white dead on the street, but the cunning mob caught the black men
between the factories and their homes, where they knew they were armed
only with their dinner pails. Firemen, policemen, and militiamen stood
with hanging hands or even joined eagerly with the mob.

It was the old world horror come to life again: all that Jews suffered
in Spain and Poland; all that peasants suffered in France, and Indians
in Calcutta; all that aroused human deviltry had accomplished in ages
past they did in East St. Louis, while the rags of six thousand
half-naked black men and women fluttered across the bridges of the calm
Mississippi.

The white South laughed,--it was infinitely funny--the "niggers" who had
gone North to escape slavery and lynching had met the fury of the mob
which they had fled. Delegations rushed North from Mississippi and
Texas, with suspicious timeliness and with great-hearted offers to take
these workers back to a lesser hell. The man from Greensville,
Mississippi, who wanted a thousand got six, because, after all, the end
was not so simple.

No, the end was not simple. On the contrary, the problem raised by East
St. Louis was curiously complex. The ordinary American, tired of the
persistence of "the Negro problem," sees only another anti-Negro mob and
wonders, not when we shall settle this problem, but when we shall be
well rid of it. The student of social things sees another mile-post in
the triumphant march of union labor; he is sorry that blood and rapine
should mark its march,--but, what will you? War is life!

Despite these smug reasonings the bare facts were these: East St. Louis,
a great industrial center, lost 5,000 laborers,--good, honest,
hard-working laborers. It was not the criminals, either black or white,
who were driven from East St. Louis. They are still there. They will
stay there. But half the honest black laborers were gone. The crippled
ranks of industrial organization in the mid-Mississippi Valley cannot be
recruited from Ellis Island, because in Europe men are dead and maimed,
and restoration, when restoration comes, will raise a European demand
for labor such as this age has never seen. The vision of industrial
supremacy has come to the giants who lead American industry and finance.
But it can never be realized unless the laborers are here to do the
work,--the skilled laborers, the common laborers, the willing laborers,
the well-paid laborers. The present forces, organized however cunningly,
are not large enough to do what America wants; but there is another
group of laborers, 12,000,000 strong, the natural heirs, by every logic
of justice, to the fruits of America's industrial advance. They will be
used simply because they must be used,--but their using means East St.
Louis!

Eastward from St. Louis lie great centers, like Chicago, Indianapolis,
Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburg, Philadelphia, and New York; in every one
of these and in lesser centers there is not only the industrial unrest
of war and revolutionized work, but there is the call for workers, the
coming of black folk, and the deliberate effort to divert the thoughts
of men, and particularly of workingmen, into channels of race hatred
against blacks. In every one of these centers what happened in East St.
Louis has been attempted, with more or less success. Yet the American
Negroes stand today as the greatest strategic group in the world. Their
services are indispensable, their temper and character are fine, and
their souls have seen a vision more beautiful than any other mass of
workers. They may win back culture to the world if their strength can be
used with the forces of the world that make for justice and not against
the hidden hates that fight for barbarism. For fight they must and fight
they will!

Rising on wings we cross again the rivers of St. Louis, winding and
threading between the towers of industry that threaten and drown the
towers of God. Far, far beyond, we sight the green of fields and hills;
but ever below lies the river, blue,--brownish-gray, touched with the
hint of hidden gold. Drifting through half-flooded lowlands, with
shanties and crops and stunted trees, past struggling corn and
straggling village, we rush toward the Battle of the Marne and the West,
from this dread Battle of the East. Westward, dear God, the fire of Thy
Mad World crimsons our Heaven. Our answering Hell rolls eastward from
St. Louis.

       *       *       *       *       *

Here, in microcosm, is the sort of economic snarl that arose continually
for me and my pupils to solve. We could bring to its unraveling little
of the scholarly aloofness and academic calm of most white universities.
To us this thing was Life and Hope and Death!

How should we think such a problem through, not simply as Negroes, but
as men and women of a new century, helping to build a new world? And
first of all, here is no simple question of race antagonism. There are
no races, in the sense of great, separate, pure breeds of men, differing
in attainment, development, and capacity. There are great groups,--now
with common history, now with common interests, now with common
ancestry; more and more common experience and present interest drive
back the common blood and the world today consists, not of races, but of
the imperial commercial group of master capitalists, international and
predominantly white; the national middle classes of the several nations,
white, yellow, and brown, with strong blood bonds, common languages, and
common history; the international laboring class of all colors; the
backward, oppressed groups of nature-folk, predominantly yellow, brown,
and black.

Two questions arise from the work and relations of these groups: how to
furnish goods and services for the wants of men and how equitably and
sufficiently to satisfy these wants. There can be no doubt that we have
passed in our day from a world that could hardly satisfy the physical
wants of the mass of men, by the greatest effort, to a world whose
technique supplies enough for all, if all can claim their right. Our
great ethical question today is, therefore, how may we justly distribute
the world's goods to satisfy the necessary wants of the mass of men.

What hinders the answer to this question? Dislikes, jealousies,
hatreds,--undoubtedly like the race hatred in East St. Louis; the
jealousy of English and German; the dislike of the Jew and the Gentile.
But these are, after all, surface disturbances, sprung from ancient
habit more than from present reason. They persist and are encouraged
because of deeper, mightier currents. If the white workingmen of East
St. Louis felt sure that Negro workers would not and could not take the
bread and cake from their mouths, their race hatred would never have
been translated into murder. If the black workingmen of the South could
earn a decent living under decent circumstances at home, they would not
be compelled to underbid their white fellows.

Thus the shadow of hunger, in a world which never needs to be hungry,
drives us to war and murder and hate. But why does hunger shadow so vast
a mass of men? Manifestly because in the great organizing of men for
work a few of the participants come out with more wealth than they can
possibly use, while a vast number emerge with less than can decently
support life. In earlier economic stages we defended this as the reward
of Thrift and Sacrifice, and as the punishment of Ignorance and Crime.
To this the answer is sharp: Sacrifice calls for no such reward and
Ignorance deserves no such punishment. The chief meaning of our present
thinking is that the disproportion between wealth and poverty today
cannot be adequately accounted for by the thrift and ignorance of the
rich and the poor.

Yesterday we righted one great mistake when we realized that the
ownership of the laborer did not tend to increase production. The world
at large had learned this long since, but black slavery arose again in
America as an inexplicable anachronism, a wilful crime. The freeing of
the black slaves freed America. Today we are challenging another
ownership,-the ownership of materials which go to make the goods we
need. Private ownership of land, tools, and raw materials may at one
stage of economic development be a method of stimulating production and
one which does not greatly interfere with equitable distribution. When,
however, the intricacy and length of technical production increased, the
ownership of these things becomes a monopoly, which easily makes the
rich richer and the poor poorer. Today, therefore, we are challenging
this ownership; we are demanding general consent as to what materials
shall be privately owned and as to how materials shall be used. We are
rapidly approaching the day when we shall repudiate all private property
in raw materials and tools and demand that distribution hinge, not on
the power of those who monopolize the materials, but on the needs of the
mass of men.

Can we do this and still make sufficient goods, justly gauge the needs
of men, and rightly decide who are to be considered "men"? How do we
arrange to accomplish these things today? Somebody decides whose wants
should be satisfied. Somebody organizes industry so as to satisfy these
wants. What is to hinder the same ability and foresight from being used
in the future as in the past? The amount and kind of human ability
necessary need not be decreased,--it may even be vastly increased, with
proper encouragement and rewards. Are we today evoking the necessary
ability? On the contrary, it is not the Inventor, the Manager, and the
Thinker who today are reaping the great rewards of industry, but rather
the Gambler and the Highwayman. Rightly-organized industry might easily
save the Gambler's Profit and the Monopolist's Interest and by paying a
more discriminating reward in wealth and honor bring to the service of
the state more ability and sacrifice than we can today command. If we do
away with interest and profit, consider the savings that could be made;
but above all, think how great the revolution would be when we ask the
mysterious Somebody to decide in the light of public opinion whose wants
should be satisfied. This is the great and real revolution that is
coming in future industry.

But this is not the need of the revolution nor indeed, perhaps, its real
beginning. What we must decide sometime is who are to be considered
"men." Today, at the beginning of this industrial change, we are
admitting that economic classes must give way. The laborers' hire must
increase, the employers' profit must be curbed. But how far shall this
change go? Must it apply to all human beings and to all work throughout
the world?

Certainly not. We seek to apply it slowly and with some reluctance to
white men and more slowly and with greater reserve to white women, but
black folk and brown and for the most part yellow folk we have widely
determined shall not be among those whose needs must justly be heard and
whose wants must be ministered to in the great organization of world
industry.

In the teaching of my classes I was not willing to stop with showing
that this was unfair,--indeed I did not have to do this. They knew
through bitter experience its rank injustice, because they were black.
What I had to show was that no real reorganization of industry could be
permanently made with the majority of mankind left out. These
disinherited darker peoples must either share in the future industrial
democracy or overturn the world.

Of course, the foundation of such a system must be a high, ethical
ideal. We must really envisage the wants of humanity. We must want the
wants of all men. We must get rid of the fascination for exclusiveness.
Here, in a world full of folk, men are lonely. The rich are lonely. We
are all frantic for fellow-souls, yet we shut souls out and bar the ways
and bolster up the fiction of the Elect and the Superior when the great
mass of men is capable of producing larger and larger numbers for every
human height of attainment. To be sure, there are differences between
men and groups and there will ever be, but they will be differences of
beauty and genius and of interest and not necessarily of ugliness,
imbecility, and hatred.

The meaning of America is the beginning of the discovery of the Crowd.
The crowd is not so well-trained as a Versailles garden party of Louis
XIV, but it is far better trained than the Sans-culottes and it has
infinite possibilities. What a world this will be when human
possibilities are freed, when we discover each other, when the stranger
is no longer the potential criminal and the certain inferior!

What hinders our approach to the ideals outlined above? Our profit from
degradation, our colonial exploitation, our American attitude toward the
Negro. Think again of East St. Louis! Think back of that to slavery and
Reconstruction! Do we want the wants of American Negroes satisfied? Most
certainly not, and that negative is the greatest hindrance today to the
reorganization of work and redistribution of wealth, not only in
America, but in the world.

All humanity must share in the future industrial democracy of the world.
For this it must be trained in intelligence and in appreciation of the
good and the beautiful. Present Big Business,--that Science of Human
Wants--must be perfected by eliminating the price paid for waste, which
is Interest, and for Chance, which is Profit, and making all income a
personal wage for service rendered by the recipient; by recognizing no
possible human service as great enough to enable a person to designate
another as an idler or as a worker at work which he cannot do. Above
all, industry must minister to the wants of the many and not to the few,
and the Negro, the Indian, the Mongolian, and the South Sea Islander
must be among the many as well as Germans, Frenchmen, and Englishmen.

In this coming socialization of industry we must guard against that same
tyranny of the majority that has marked democracy in the making of laws.
There must, for instance, persist in this future economics a certain
minimum of machine-like work and prompt obedience and submission. This
necessity is a simple corollary from the hard facts of the physical
world. It must be accepted with the comforting thought that its routine
need not demand twelve hours a day or even eight. With Work for All and
All at Work probably from three to six hours would suffice, and leave
abundant time for leisure, exercise, study, and avocations.

But what shall we say of work where spiritual values and social
distinctions enter? Who shall be Artists and who shall be Servants in
the world to come? Or shall we all be artists and all serve?



_The Second Coming_


Three bishops sat in San Francisco, New Orleans, and New York, peering
gloomily into three flickering fires, which cast and recast shuddering
shadows on book-lined walls. Three letters lay in their laps, which
said:

"And thou, Valdosta, in the land of Georgia, art not least among the
princes of America, for out of thee shall come a governor who shall rule
my people."

The white bishop of New York scowled and impatiently threw the letter
into the fire. "Valdosta?" he thought,--"That's where I go to the
governor's wedding of little Marguerite, my white flower,--" Then he
forgot the writing in his musing, but the paper flared red in the
fireplace.

"Valdosta?" said the black bishop of New Orleans, turning uneasily in
his chair. "I must go down there. Those colored folk are acting
strangely. I don't know where all this unrest and moving will lead to.
Then, there's poor Lucy--" And he threw the letter into the fire, but
eyed it suspiciously as it flamed green. "Stranger things than that have
happened," he said slowly, "'and ye shall hear of wars and rumors of
wars ... for nation shall rise against nation and kingdom against
kingdom.'"

In San Francisco the priest of Japan, abroad to study strange lands, sat
in his lacquer chair, with face like soft-yellow and wrinkled parchment.
Slowly he wrote in a great and golden book: "I have been strangely
bidden to the Val d' Osta, where one of those religious cults that swarm
here will welcome a prophet. I shall go and report to Kioto."

So in the dim waning of the day before Christmas three bishops met in
Valdosta and saw its mills and storehouses, its wide-throated and sandy
streets, in the mellow glow of a crimson sun. The governor glared
anxiously up the street as he helped the bishop of New York into his car
and welcomed him graciously.

"I am troubled," said the governor, "about the niggers. They are acting
queerly. I'm not certain but Fleming is back of it."

"Fleming?"

"Yes! He's running against me next term for governor; he's a firebrand;
wants niggers to vote and all that--pardon me a moment, there's a darky
I know--" and he hurried to the black bishop, who had just descended
from the "Jim-Crow" car, and clasped his hand cordially. They talked in
whispers. "Search diligently," said the governor in parting, "and bring
me word again." Then returning to his guest, "You will excuse me, won't
you?" he asked, "but I am sorely troubled! I never saw niggers act so.
They're leaving by the hundreds and those who stay are getting impudent!
They seem to be expecting something. What's the crowd, Jim?"

The chauffeur said that there was some sort of Chinese official in town
and everybody wanted to glimpse him. He drove around another way.

It all happened very suddenly. The bishop of New York, in full
canonicals for the early wedding, stepped out on the rear balcony of his
mansion, just as the dying sun lit crimson clouds of glory in the East
and burned the West.

"Fire!" yelled a wag in the surging crowd that was gathering to
celebrate a southern Christmas-eve; all laughed and ran.

The bishop of New York did not understand. He peered around. Was it that
dark, little house in the far backyard that flamed? Forgetful of his
robes he hurried down,--a brave, white figure in the sunset. He found
himself before an old, black, rickety stable. He could hear the mules
stamping within.

No. It was not fire. It was the sunset glowing through the cracks.
Behind the hut its glory rose toward God like flaming wings of cherubim.
He paused until he heard the faint wail of a child. Hastily he entered.
A white girl crouched before him, down by the very mules' feet, with a
baby in her arms,-a little mite of a baby that wailed weakly. Behind
mother and child stood a shadow. The bishop of New York turned to the
right, inquiringly, and saw a black man in bishop's robes that faintly
re-echoed his own. He turned away to the left and saw a golden Japanese
in golden garb. Then he heard the black man mutter behind him: "But He
was to come the second time in clouds of glory, with the nations
gathered around Him and angels--" at the word a shaft of glorious light
fell full upon the child, while without came the tramping of unnumbered
feet and the whirring of wings.

The bishop of New York bent quickly over the baby. It was black! He
stepped back with a gesture of disgust, hardly listening to and yet
hearing the black bishop, who spoke almost as if in apology:

"She's not really white; I know Lucy--you see, her mother worked for the
governor--" The white bishop turned on his heel and nearly trod on the
yellow priest, who knelt with bowed head before the pale mother and
offered incense and a gift of gold.

Out into the night rushed the bishop of New York. The wings of the
cherubim were folded black against the stars. As he hastened down the
front staircase the governor came rushing up the street steps.

"We are late!" he cried nervously. "The bride awaits!" He hurried the
bishop to the waiting limousine, asking him anxiously: "Did you hear
anything? Do you hear that noise? The crowd is growing strangely on the
streets and there seems to be a fire over toward the East. I never saw
so many people here--I fear violence--a mob--a lynching--I fear--hark!"

What was that which he, too, heard beneath the rhythm of unnumbered
feet? Deep in his heart a wonder grew. What was it? Ah, he knew! It was
music,--some strong and mighty chord. It rose higher as the
brilliantly-lighted church split the night, and swept radiantly toward
them. So high and clear that music flew, it seemed above, around, behind
them. The governor, ashen-faced, crouched in the car; but the bishop
said softly as the ecstasy pulsed in his heart:

"Such music, such wedding music! What choir is it?"



V

"THE SERVANT IN THE HOUSE"


The lady looked at me severely; I glanced away. I had addressed the
little audience at some length on the disfranchisement of my people in
society, politics, and industry and had studiously avoided the while her
cold, green eye. I finished and shook weary hands, while she lay in
wait. I knew what was coming and braced my soul.

"Do you know where I can get a good colored cook?" she asked. I
disclaimed all guilty concupiscence. She came nearer and spitefully
shook a finger in my face.

"Why--won't--Negroes--work!" she panted. "I have given money for years
to Hampton and Tuskegee and yet I can't get decent servants. They won't
try. They're lazy! They're unreliable! They're impudent and they leave
without notice. They all want to be lawyers and doctors and" (she spat
the word in venom) "ladies!"

"God forbid!" I answered solemnly, and then being of gentle birth, and
unminded to strike a defenseless female of uncertain years, I ran; I ran
home and wrote a chapter in my book and this is it.

       *       *       *       *       *

I speak and speak bitterly as a servant and a servant's son, for my
mother spent five or more years of her life as a menial; my father's
family escaped, although grandfather as a boat steward had to fight hard
to be a man and not a lackey. He fought and won. My mother's folk,
however, during my childhood, sat poised on that thin edge between the
farmer and the menial. The surrounding Irish had two chances, the
factory and the kitchen, and most of them took the factory, with all its
dirt and noise and low wage. The factory was closed to us. Our little
lands were too small to feed most of us. A few clung almost sullenly to
the old homes, low and red things crouching on a wide level; but the
children stirred restlessly and walked often to town and saw its
wonders. Slowly they dribbled off,--a waiter here, a cook there, help
for a few weeks in Mrs. Blank's kitchen when she had summer boarders.

Instinctively I hated such work from my birth. I loathed it and shrank
from it. Why? I could not have said. Had I been born in Carolina instead
of Massachusetts I should hardly have escaped the taint of "service."
Its temptations in wage and comfort would soon have answered my
scruples; and yet I am sure I would have fought long even in Carolina,
for I knew in my heart that thither lay Hell.

I mowed lawns on contract, did "chores" that left me my own man, sold
papers, and peddled tea--anything to escape the shadow of the awful
thing that lurked to grip my soul. Once, and once only, I felt the sting
of its talons. I was twenty and had graduated from Fisk with a
scholarship for Harvard; I needed, however, travel money and clothes and
a bit to live on until the scholarship was due. Fortson was a
fellow-student in winter and a waiter in summer. He proposed that the
Glee Club Quartet of Fisk spend the summer at the hotel in Minnesota
where he worked and that I go along as "Business Manager" to arrange for
engagements on the journey back. We were all eager, but we knew nothing
of table-waiting. "Never mind," said Fortson, "you can stand around the
dining-room during meals and carry out the big wooden trays of dirty
dishes. Thus you can pick up knowledge of waiting and earn good tips and
get free board." I listened askance, but I went.

I entered that broad and blatant hotel at Lake Minnetonka with distinct
forebodings. The flamboyant architecture, the great verandas, rich
furniture, and richer dresses awed us mightily. The long loft reserved
for us, with its clean little cots, was reassuring; the work was not
difficult,--but the meals! There were no meals. At first, before the
guests ate, a dirty table in the kitchen was hastily strewn with
uneatable scraps. We novices were the only ones who came to eat, while
the guests' dining-room, with its savors and sights, set our appetites
on edge! After a while even the pretense of meals for us was dropped. We
were sure we were going to starve when Dug, one of us, made a startling
discovery: the waiters stole their food and they stole the best. We
gulped and hesitated. Then we stole, too, (or, at least, they stole and
I shared) and we all fattened, for the dainties were marvelous. You
slipped a bit here and hid it there; you cut off extra portions and gave
false orders; you dashed off into darkness and hid in corners and ate
and ate! It was nasty business. I hated it. I was too cowardly to steal
much myself, and not coward enough to refuse what others stole.

Our work was easy, but insipid. We stood about and watched overdressed
people gorge. For the most part we were treated like furniture and were
supposed to act the wooden part. I watched the waiters even more than
the guests. I saw that it paid to amuse and to cringe. One particular
black man set me crazy. He was intelligent and deft, but one day I
caught sight of his face as he served a crowd of men; he was playing the
clown,--crouching, grinning, assuming a broad dialect when he usually
spoke good English--ah! it was a heartbreaking sight, and he made more
money than any waiter in the dining-room.

I did not mind the actual work or the kind of work, but it was the
dishonesty and deception, the flattery and cajolery, the unnatural
assumption that worker and diner had no common humanity. It was uncanny.
It was inherently and fundamentally wrong. I stood staring and thinking,
while the other boys hustled about. Then I noticed one fat hog, feeding
at a heavily gilded trough, who could not find his waiter. He beckoned
me. It was not his voice, for his mouth was too full. It was his way,
his air, his assumption. Thus Caesar ordered his legionaries or
Cleopatra her slaves. Dogs recognized the gesture. I did not. He may be
beckoning yet for all I know, for something froze within me. I did not
look his way again. Then and there I disowned menial service for me and
my people.

I would work my hands off for an honest wage, but for "tips" and
"hand-me-outs," never! Fortson was a pious, honest fellow, who regarded
"tips" as in the nature of things, being to the manner born; but the
hotel that summer in other respects rather astonished even him. He came
to us much flurried one night and got us to help him with a memorial to
the absentee proprietor, telling of the wild and gay doings of midnights
in the rooms and corridors among "tired" business men and their
prostitutes. We listened wide-eyed and eager and wrote the filth out
manfully. The proprietor did not thank Fortson. He did not even answer
the letter.

When I finally walked out of that hotel and out of menial service
forever, I felt as though, in a field of flowers, my nose had been held
unpleasantly long to the worms and manure at their roots.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Cursed be Canaan!" cried the Hebrew priests. "A servant of servants
shall he be unto his brethren." With what characteristic complacency did
the slaveholders assume that Canaanites were Negroes and their
"brethren" white? Are not Negroes servants? _Ergo_! Upon such spiritual
myths was the anachronism of American slavery built, and this was the
degradation that once made menial servants the aristocrats among colored
folk. House servants secured some decencies of food and clothing and
shelter; they could more easily reach their master's ear; their personal
abilities of character became known and bonds grew between slave and
master which strengthened from friendship to love, from mutual service
to mutual blood.

Naturally out of this the West Indian servant climbed out of slavery
into citizenship, for few West Indian masters--fewer Spanish or
Dutch--were callous enough to sell their own children into slavery. Not
so with English and Americans. With a harshness and indecency seldom
paralleled in the civilized world white masters on the mainland sold
their mulatto children, half-brothers and half-sisters, and their own
wives in all but name, into life-slavery by the hundreds and thousands.
They originated a special branch of slave-trading for this trade and the
white aristocrats of Virginia and the Carolinas made more money by this
business during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries than in any
other way.

The clang of the door of opportunity thus knelled in the ears of the
colored house servant whirled the whole face of Negro advancement as on
some great pivot. The movement was slow, but vast. When emancipation
came, before and after 1863, the house servant still held advantages. He
had whatever education the race possessed and his white father, no
longer able to sell him, often helped him with land and protection.
Notwithstanding this the lure of house service for the Negro was gone.
The path of salvation for the emancipated host of black folk lay no
longer through the kitchen door, with its wide hall and pillared veranda
and flowered yard beyond. It lay, as every Negro soon knew and knows, in
escape from menial serfdom.

In 1860, 98 per cent of the Negroes were servants and serfs. In 1880, 30
per cent were servants and 65 per cent were serfs. The percentage of
servants then rose slightly and fell again until 21 per cent were in
service in 1910 and, doubtless, much less than 20 per cent today. This
is the measure of our rise, but the Negro will not approach freedom
until this hateful badge of slavery and mediaevalism has been reduced to
less than 10 per cent.

Not only are less than a fifth of our workers servants today, but the
character of their service has been changed. The million menial workers
among us include 300,000 upper servants,--skilled men and women of
character, like hotel waiters, Pullman porters, janitors, and cooks,
who, had they been white, could have called on the great labor movement
to lift their work out of slavery, to standardize their hours, to define
their duties, and to substitute a living, regular wage for personal
largess in the shape of tips, old clothes, and cold leavings of food.
But the labor movement turned their backs on those black men when the
white world dinned in their ears. _Negroes are servants; servants are
Negroes._ They shut the door of escape to factory and trade in their
fellows' faces and battened down the hatches, lest the 300,000 should be
workers equal in pay and consideration with white men.

But, if the upper servants could not escape to modern, industrial
conditions, how much the more did they press down on the bodies and
souls of 700,000 washerwomen and household drudges,--ignorant,
unskilled offal of a millionaire industrial system. Their pay was the
lowest and their hours the longest of all workers. The personal
degradation of their work is so great that any white man of decency
would rather cut his daughter's throat than let her grow up to such a
destiny. There is throughout the world and in all races no greater
source of prostitution than this grade of menial service, and the Negro
race in America has largely escaped this destiny simply because its
innate decency leads black women to choose irregular and temporary
sexual relations with men they like rather than to sell themselves to
strangers. To such sexual morals is added (in the nature of
self-defense) that revolt against unjust labor conditions which
expresses itself in "soldiering," sullenness, petty pilfering,
unreliability, and fast and fruitless changes of masters.

Indeed, here among American Negroes we have exemplified the last and
worst refuge of industrial caste. Menial service is an anachronism,--the
refuse of mediaeval barbarism. Whey, then, does it linger? Why are we
silent about it? Why in the minds of so many decent and up-seeing folks
does the whole Negro problem resolve itself into the matter of their
getting a cook or a maid?

No one knows better than I the capabilities of a system of domestic
service at its best. I have seen children who were spiritual sons and
daughters of their masters, girls who were friends of their mistresses,
and old servants honored and revered. But in every such case the Servant
had transcended the Menial, the Service had been exalted above the Wage.
Now to accomplish this permanently and universally, calls for the same
revolution in household help as in factory help and public service.
While organized industry has been slowly making its help into
self-respecting, well-paid men, and while public service is beginning to
call for the highest types of educated and efficient thinkers, domestic
service lags behind and insists upon seeking to evolve the best types of
men from the worst conditions.

The cause of this perversity, to my mind, is twofold. First, the ancient
high estate of Service, now pitifully fallen, yet gasping for breath;
secondly, the present low estate of the outcasts of the world, peering
with blood-shot eyes at the gates of the industrial heaven.

The Master spoke no greater word than that which said: "Whosoever will
be great among you, let him be your servant!" What is greater than
Personal Service! Surely no social service, no wholesale helping of
masses of men can exist which does not find its effectiveness and beauty
in the personal aid of man to man. It is the purest and holiest of
duties. Some mighty glimmer of this truth survived in those who made the
First Gentlemen of the Bedchamber, the Keepers of the Robes, and the
Knights of the Bath, the highest nobility that hedged an anointed king.
Nor does it differ today in what the mother does for the child or the
daughter for the mother, in all the personal attentions in the
old-fashioned home; this is Service! Think of what Friend has meant, not
simply in spiritual sympathies, but in physical helpfulness. In the
world today what calls for more of love, sympathy, learning, sacrifice,
and long-suffering than the care of children, the preparation of food,
the cleansing and ordering of the home, personal attendance and
companionship, the care of bodies and their raiment--what greater, more
intimate, more holy Services are there than these?

And yet we are degrading these services and loathing them and scoffing
at them and spitting upon them, first, by turning them over to the
lowest and least competent and worst trained classes in the world, and
then by yelling like spoiled children if our babies are neglected, our
biscuits sodden, our homes dirty, and our baths unpoured. Let one
suggest that the only cure for such deeds is in the uplift of the doer
and our rage is even worse and less explicable. We will call them by
their first names, thus blaspheming a holy intimacy; we will confine
them to back doors; we will insist that their meals be no gracious
ceremony nor even a restful sprawl, but usually a hasty, heckled gulp
amid garbage; we exact, not a natural, but a purchased deference, and we
leave them naked to insult by our children and by our husbands.

I remember a girl,--how pretty she was, with the crimson flooding the
old ivory of her cheeks and her gracious plumpness! She had come to the
valley during the summer to "do housework." I met and walked home with
her, in the thrilling shadows, to an old village home I knew well; then
as I turned to leave I learned that she was there alone in that house
for a week-end with only one young white man to represent the family.
Oh, he was doubtless a "gentleman" and all that, but for the first time
in my life I saw what a snare the fowler was spreading at the feet of
the daughters of my people, baited by church and state.

Not alone is the hurt thus offered to the lowly,--Society and Science
suffer. The unit which we seek to make the center of society,--the
Home--is deprived of the help of scientific invention and suggestion. It
is only slowly and by the utmost effort that some small foothold has
been gained for the vacuum cleaner, the washing-machine, the power tool,
and the chemical reagent. In our frantic effort to preserve the last
vestiges of slavery and mediaevalism we not only set out faces against
such improvements, but we seek to use education and the power of the
state to train the servants who do not naturally appear.

Meantime the wild rush from house service, on the part of all who can
scramble or run, continues. The rules of the labor union are designed,
not simply to raise wages, but to guard against any likeness between
artisan and servant. There is no essential difference in ability and
training between a subway guard and a Pullman porter, but between their
union cards lies a whole world.

Yet we are silent. Menial service is not a "social problem." It is not
really discussed. There is no scientific program for its "reform." There
is but one panacea: Escape! Get yourselves and your sons and daughters
out of the shadow of this awful thing! Hire servants, but never be one.
Indeed, subtly but surely the ability to hire at least "a maid" is still
civilization's patent to respectability, while "a man" is the first word
of aristocracy.

All this is because we still consciously and unconsciously hold to the
"manure" theory of social organization. We believe that at the bottom of
organized human life there are necessary duties and services which no
real human being ought to be compelled to do. We push below this mudsill
the derelicts and half-men, whom we hate and despise, and seek to build
above it--Democracy! On such foundations is reared a Theory of
Exclusiveness, a feeling that the world progresses by a process of
excluding from the benefits of culture the majority of men, so that a
gifted minority may blossom. Through this door the modern democrat
arrives to the place where he is willing to allot two able-bodied men
and two fine horses to the task of helping one wizened beldam to take
the morning air.

Here the absurdity ends. Here all honest minds turn back and ask: Is
menial service permanent or necessary? Can we not transfer cooking from
the home to the scientific laboratory, along with the laundry? Cannot
machinery, in the hands of self-respecting and well-paid artisans, do
our cleaning, sewing, moving, and decorating? Cannot the training of
children become an even greater profession than the attending of the
sick? And cannot personal service and companionship be coupled with
friendship and love where it belongs and whence it can never be divorced
without degradation and pain?

In fine, can we not, black and white, rich and poor, look forward to a
world of Service without Servants?

A miracle! you say? True. And only to be performed by the Immortal
Child.



_Jesus Christ in Texas_


It was in Waco, Texas.

The convict guard laughed. "I don't know," he said, "I hadn't thought of
that." He hesitated and looked at the stranger curiously. In the solemn
twilight he got an impression of unusual height and soft, dark eyes.
"Curious sort of acquaintance for the colonel," he thought; then he
continued aloud: "But that nigger there is bad, a born thief, and ought
to be sent up for life; got ten years last time--"

Here the voice of the promoter, talking within, broke in; he was bending
over his figures, sitting by the colonel. He was slight, with a sharp
nose.

"The convicts," he said, "would cost us $96 a year and board. Well, we
can squeeze this so that it won't be over $125 apiece. Now if these
fellows are driven, they can build this line within twelve months. It
will be running by next April. Freights will fall fifty per cent. Why,
man, you'll be a millionaire in less than ten years."

The colonel started. He was a thick, short man, with a clean-shaven face
and a certain air of breeding about the lines of his countenance; the
word millionaire sounded well to his ears. He thought--he thought a
great deal; he almost heard the puff of the fearfully costly automobile
that was coming up the road, and he said:

"I suppose we might as well hire them."

"Of course," answered the promoter.

The voice of the tall stranger in the corner broke in here:

"It will be a good thing for them?" he said, half in question.

The colonel moved. "The guard makes strange friends," he thought to
himself. "What's this man doing here, anyway?" He looked at him, or
rather looked at his eyes, and then somehow he felt a warming toward
him. He said:

"Well, at least, it can't harm them; they're beyond that."

"It will do them good, then," said the stranger again.

The promoter shrugged his shoulders. "It will do us good," he said.

But the colonel shook his head impatiently. He felt a desire to justify
himself before those eyes, and he answered: "Yes, it will do them good;
or at any rate it won't make them any worse than they are." Then he
started to say something else, but here sure enough the sound of the
automobile breathing at the gate stopped him and they all arose.

"It is settled, then," said the promoter.

"Yes," said the colonel, turning toward the stranger again. "Are you
going into town?" he asked with the Southern courtesy of white men to
white men in a country town. The stranger said he was. "Then come along
in my machine. I want to talk with you about this."

They went out to the car. The stranger as he went turned again to look
back at the convict. He was a tall, powerfully built black fellow. His
face was sullen, with a low forehead, thick, hanging lips, and bitter
eyes. There was revolt written about his mouth despite the hang-dog
expression. He stood bending over his pile of stones, pounding
listlessly. Beside him stood a boy of twelve,--yellow, with a hunted,
crafty look. The convict raised his eyes and they met the eyes of the
stranger. The hammer fell from his hands.

The stranger turned slowly toward the automobile and the colonel
introduced him. He had not exactly caught his name, but he mumbled
something as he presented him to his wife and little girl, who were
waiting.

As they whirled away the colonel started to talk, but the stranger had
taken the little girl into his lap and together they conversed in low
tones all the way home.

In some way, they did not exactly know how, they got the impression that
the man was a teacher and, of course, he must be a foreigner. The long,
cloak-like coat told this. They rode in the twilight through the lighted
town and at last drew up before the colonel's mansion, with its
ghost-like pillars.

The lady in the back seat was thinking of the guests she had invited to
dinner and was wondering if she ought not to ask this man to stay. He
seemed cultured and she supposed he was some acquaintance of the
colonel's. It would be rather interesting to have him there, with the
judge's wife and daughter and the rector. She spoke almost before she
thought:

"You will enter and rest awhile?"

The colonel and the little girl insisted. For a moment the stranger
seemed about to refuse. He said he had some business for his father,
about town. Then for the child's sake he consented.

Up the steps they went and into the dark parlor where they sat and
talked a long time. It was a curious conversation. Afterwards they did
not remember exactly what was said and yet they all remembered a certain
strange satisfaction in that long, low talk.

Finally the nurse came for the reluctant child and the hostess
bethought herself:

"We will have a cup of tea; you will be dry and tired."

She rang and switched on a blaze of light. With one accord they all
looked at the stranger, for they had hardly seen him well in the
glooming twilight. The woman started in amazement and the colonel half
rose in anger. Why, the man was a mulatto, surely; even if he did not
own the Negro blood, their practised eyes knew it. He was tall and
straight and the coat looked like a Jewish gabardine. His hair hung in
close curls far down the sides of his face and his face was olive, even
yellow.

A peremptory order rose to the colonel's lips and froze there as he
caught the stranger's eyes. Those eyes,--where had he seen those eyes
before? He remembered them long years ago. The soft, tear-filled eyes of
a brown girl. He remembered many things, and his face grew drawn and
white. Those eyes kept burning into him, even when they were turned half
away toward the staircase, where the white figure of the child hovered
with her nurse and waved good-night. The lady sank into her chair and
thought: "What will the judge's wife say? How did the colonel come to
invite this man here? How shall we be rid of him?" She looked at the
colonel in reproachful consternation.

Just then the door opened and the old butler came in. He was an ancient
black man, with tufted white hair, and he held before him a large,
silver tray filled with a china tea service. The stranger rose slowly
and stretched forth his hands as if to bless the viands. The old man
paused in bewilderment, tottered, and then with sudden gladness in his
eyes dropped to his knees, and the tray crashed to the floor.

"My Lord and my God!" he whispered; but the woman screamed: "Mother's
china!"

The doorbell rang.

"Heavens! here is the dinner party!" exclaimed the lady. She turned
toward the door, but there in the hall, clad in her night clothes, was
the little girl. She had stolen down the stairs to see the stranger
again, and the nurse above was calling in vain. The woman felt
hysterical and scolded at the nurse, but the stranger had stretched out
his arms and with a glad cry the child nestled in them. They caught some
words about the "Kingdom of Heaven" as he slowly mounted the stairs with
his little, white burden.

The mother was glad of anything to get rid of the interloper, even for a
moment. The bell rang again and she hastened toward the door, which the
loitering black maid was just opening. She did not notice the shadow of
the stranger as he came slowly down the stairs and paused by the newel
post, dark and silent.

The judge's wife came in. She was an old woman, frilled and powdered
into a semblance of youth, and gorgeously gowned. She came forward,
smiling with extended hands, but when she was opposite the stranger,
somewhere a chill seemed to strike her and she shuddered and cried:

"What a draft!" as she drew a silken shawl about her and shook hands
cordially; she forgot to ask who the stranger was. The judge strode in
unseeing, thinking of a puzzling case of theft.

"Eh? What? Oh--er--yes,--good evening," he said, "good evening." Behind
them came a young woman in the glory of youth, and daintily silked,
beautiful in face and form, with diamonds around her fair neck. She came
in lightly, but stopped with a little gasp; then she laughed gaily and
said:

"Why, I beg your pardon. Was it not curious? I thought I saw there
behind your man"--she hesitated, but he must be a servant, she
argued--"the shadow of great, white wings. It was but the light on the
drapery. What a turn it gave me." And she smiled again. With her came a
tall, handsome, young naval officer. Hearing his lady refer to the
servant, he hardly looked at him, but held his gilded cap carelessly
toward him, and the stranger placed it carefully on the rack.

Last came the rector, a man of forty, and well-clothed. He started to
pass the stranger, stopped, and looked at him inquiringly.

"I beg your pardon," he said. "I beg your pardon,--I think I have met
you?"

The stranger made no answer, and the hostess nervously hurried the
guests on. But the rector lingered and looked perplexed.

"Surely, I know you. I have met you somewhere," he said, putting his
hand vaguely to his head. "You--you remember me, do you not?"

The stranger quietly swept his cloak aside, and to the hostess'
unspeakable relief passed out of the door.

"I never knew you," he said in low tones as he went.

The lady murmured some vain excuse about intruders, but the rector stood
with annoyance written on his face.

"I beg a thousand pardons," he said to the hostess absently. "It is a
great pleasure to be here,--somehow I thought I knew that man. I am sure
I knew him once."

The stranger had passed down the steps, and as he passed, the nurse,
lingering at the top of the staircase, flew down after him, caught his
cloak, trembled, hesitated, and then kneeled in the dust.

He touched her lightly with his hand and said: "Go, and sin no more!"

With a glad cry the maid left the house, with its open door, and turned
north, running. The stranger turned eastward into the night. As they
parted a long, low howl rose tremulously and reverberated through the
night. The colonel's wife within shuddered.

"The bloodhounds!" she said.

The rector answered carelessly:

"Another one of those convicts escaped, I suppose. Really, they need
severer measures." Then he stopped. He was trying to remember that
stranger's name.

The judge's wife looked about for the draft and arranged her shawl. The
girl glanced at the white drapery in the hall, but the young officer was
bending over her and the fires of life burned in her veins.

Howl after howl rose in the night, swelled, and died away. The stranger
strode rapidly along the highway and out into the deep forest. There he
paused and stood waiting, tall and still.

A mile up the road behind a man was running, tall and powerful and
black, with crime-stained face and convicts' stripes upon him, and
shackles on his legs. He ran and jumped, in little, short steps, and his
chains rang. He fell and rose again, while the howl of the hounds rang
louder behind him.

Into the forest he leapt and crept and jumped and ran, streaming with
sweat; seeing the tall form rise before him, he stopped suddenly,
dropped his hands in sullen impotence, and sank panting to the earth. A
greyhound shot out of the woods behind him, howled, whined, and fawned
before the stranger's feet. Hound after hound bayed, leapt, and lay
there; then silently, one by one, and with bowed heads, they crept
backward toward the town.

The stranger made a cup of his hands and gave the man water to drink,
bathed his hot head, and gently took the chains and irons from his feet.
By and by the convict stood up. Day was dawning above the treetops. He
looked into the stranger's face, and for a moment a gladness swept over
the stains of his face.

"Why, you are a nigger, too," he said.

Then the convict seemed anxious to justify himself.

"I never had no chance," he said furtively.

"Thou shalt not steal," said the stranger.

The man bridled.

"But how about them? Can they steal? Didn't they steal a whole year's
work, and then when I stole to keep from starving--" He glanced at the
stranger.

"No, I didn't steal just to keep from starving. I stole to be stealing.
I can't seem to keep from stealing. Seems like when I see things, I just
must--but, yes, I'll try!"

The convict looked down at his striped clothes, but the stranger had
taken off his long coat; he had put it around him and the stripes
disappeared.

In the opening morning the black man started toward the low, log
farmhouse in the distance, while the stranger stood watching him. There
was a new glory in the day. The black man's face cleared up, and the
farmer was glad to get him. All day the black man worked as he had never
worked before. The farmer gave him some cold food.

"You can sleep in the barn," he said, and turned away.

"How much do I git a day?" asked the black man.

The farmer scowled.

"Now see here," said he. "If you'll sign a contract for the season, I'll
give you ten dollars a month."

"I won't sign no contract," said the black man doggedly.

"Yes, you will," said the farmer, threateningly, "or I'll call the
convict guard." And he grinned.

The convict shrank and slouched to the barn. As night fell he looked out
and saw the farmer leave the place. Slowly he crept out and sneaked
toward the house. He looked through the kitchen door. No one was there,
but the supper was spread as if the mistress had laid it and gone out.
He ate ravenously. Then he looked into the front room and listened. He
could hear low voices on the porch. On the table lay a gold watch. He
gazed at it, and in a moment he was beside it,--his hands were on it!
Quickly he slipped out of the house and slouched toward the field. He
saw his employer coming along the highway. He fled back in tenor and
around to the front of the house, when suddenly he stopped. He felt the
great, dark eyes of the stranger and saw the same dark, cloak-like coat
where the stranger sat on the doorstep talking with the mistress of the
house. Slowly, guiltily, he turned back, entered the kitchen, and laid
the watch stealthily where he had found it; then he rushed wildly back
toward the stranger, with arms outstretched.

The woman had laid supper for her husband, and going down from the house
had walked out toward a neighbor's. She was gone but a little while, and
when she came back she started to see a dark figure on the doorsteps
under the tall, red oak. She thought it was the new Negro until he said
in a soft voice:

"Will you give me bread?"

Reassured at the voice of a white man, she answered quickly in her soft,
Southern tones:

"Why, certainly."

She was a little woman, and once had been pretty; but now her face was
drawn with work and care. She was nervous and always thinking, wishing,
wanting for something. She went in and got him some cornbread and a
glass of cool, rich buttermilk; then she came out and sat down beside
him. She began, quite unconsciously, to tell him about herself,--the
things she had done and had not done and the things she had wished for.
She told him of her husband and this new farm they were trying to buy.
She said it was hard to get niggers to work. She said they ought all to
be in the chain-gang and made to work. Even then some ran away. Only
yesterday one had escaped, and another the day before.

At last she gossiped of her neighbors, how good they were and how bad.

"And do you like them all?" asked the stranger.

She hesitated.

"Most of them," she said; and then, looking up into his face and putting
her hand into his, as though he were her father, she said:

"There are none I hate; no, none at all."

He looked away, holding her hand in his, and said dreamily:

"You love your neighbor as yourself?"

She hesitated.

"I try--" she began, and then looked the way he was looking; down under
the hill where lay a little, half-ruined cabin.

"They are niggers," she said briefly.

He looked at her. Suddenly a confusion came over her and she insisted,
she knew not why.

"But they are niggers!"

With a sudden impulse she arose and hurriedly lighted the lamp that
stood just within the door, and held it above her head. She saw his dark
face and curly hair. She shrieked in angry terror and rushed down the
path, and just as she rushed down, the black convict came running up
with hands outstretched. They met in mid-path, and before he could stop
he had run against her and she fell heavily to earth and lay white and
still. Her husband came rushing around the house with a cry and an oath.

"I knew it," he said. "It's that runaway nigger." He held the black man
struggling to the earth and raised his voice to a yell. Down the highway
came the convict guard, with hound and mob and gun. They paused across
the fields. The farmer motioned to them.

"He--attacked--my wife," he gasped.

The mob snarled and worked silently. Right to the limb of the red oak
they hoisted the struggling, writhing black man, while others lifted the
dazed woman. Right and left, as she tottered to the house, she searched
for the stranger with a yearning, but the stranger was gone. And she
told none of her guests.

"No--no, I want nothing," she insisted, until they left her, as they
thought, asleep. For a time she lay still, listening to the departure of
the mob. Then she rose. She shuddered as she heard the creaking of the
limb where the body hung. But resolutely she crawled to the window and
peered out into the moonlight; she saw the dead man writhe. He stretched
his arms out like a cross, looking upward. She gasped and clung to the
window sill. Behind the swaying body, and down where the little,
half-ruined cabin lay, a single flame flashed up amid the far-off shout
and cry of the mob. A fierce joy sobbed up through the terror in her
soul and then sank abashed as she watched the flame rise. Suddenly
whirling into one great crimson column it shot to the top of the sky and
threw great arms athwart the gloom until above the world and behind the
roped and swaying form below hung quivering and burning a great crimson
cross.

She hid her dizzy, aching head in an agony of tears, and dared not look,
for she knew. Her dry lips moved:

"Despised and rejected of men."

She knew, and the very horror of it lifted her dull and shrinking
eyelids. There, heaven-tall, earth-wide, hung the stranger on the
crimson cross, riven and blood-stained, with thorn-crowned head and
pierced hands. She stretched her arms and shrieked.

He did not hear. He did not see. His calm dark eyes, all sorrowful, were
fastened on the writhing, twisting body of the thief, and a voice came
out of the winds of the night, saying:

"This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise!"



VI

OF THE RULING OF MEN


The ruling of men is the effort to direct the individual actions of many
persons toward some end. This end theoretically should be the greatest
good of all, but no human group has ever reached this ideal because of
ignorance and selfishness. The simplest object would be rule for the
Pleasure of One, namely the Ruler; or of the Few--his favorites; or of
many--the Rich, the Privileged, the Powerful. Democratic movements
inside groups and nations are always taking place and they are the
efforts to increase the number of beneficiaries of the ruling. In 18th
century Europe, the effort became so broad and sweeping that an attempt
was made at universal expression and the philosophy of the movement said
that if All ruled they would rule for All and thus Universal Good was
sought through Universal Suffrage.

The unrealized difficulty of this program lay in the widespread
ignorance. The mass of men, even of the more intelligent men, not only
knew little about each other but less about the action of men in groups
and the technique of industry in general. They could only apply
universal suffrage, therefore, to the things they knew or knew
partially: they knew personal and menial service, individual
craftsmanship, agriculture and barter, taxes or the taking of private
property for public ends and the rent of land. With these matters then
they attempted to deal. Under the cry of "Freedom" they greatly relaxed
the grip of selfish interests by restricting menial service, securing
the right of property in handiwork and regulating public taxes;
distributing land ownership and freeing trade and barter.

While they were doing this against stubborn resistance, a whole new
organization of work suddenly appeared. The suddenness of this
"Industrial Revolution" of the 19th century was partly fortuitous--in
the case of Watt's teakettle--partly a natural development, as in the
matter of spinning, but largely the determination of powerful and
intelligent individuals to secure the benefits of privileged persons, as
in the case of foreign slave trade.

The result was on the one hand a vast and unexampled development of
industry. Life and civilization in the late 19th and early 20th century
were Industry in its whole conception, language, and accomplishment: the
object of life was to make goods. Now before this giant aspect of
things, the new democracy stood aghast and impotent. It could not rule
because it did not understand: an invincible kingdom of trade, business,
and commerce ruled the world, and before its threshold stood the Freedom
of 18th century philosophy warding the way. Some of the very ones who
were freed from the tyranny of the Middle Age became the tyrants of the
industrial age.

There came a reaction. Men sneered at "democracy" and politics, and
brought forth Fate and Philanthropy to rule the world--Fate which gave
divine right to rule to the Captains of Industry and their created
Millionaires; Philanthropy which organized vast schemes of relief to
stop at least the flow of blood in the vaster wounds which industry was
making.

It was at this time that the lowest laborers, who worked hardest, got
least and suffered most, began to mutter and rebel, and among these were
the American Negroes. Lions have no historians, and therefore lion hunts
are thrilling and satisfactory human reading. Negroes had no bards, and
therefore it has been widely told how American philanthropy freed the
slave. In truth the Negro revolted by armed rebellion, by sullen refusal
to work, by poison and murder, by running away to the North and Canada,
by giving point and powerful example to the agitation of the
abolitionists and by furnishing 200,000 soldiers and many times as many
civilian helpers in the Civil War. This war was not a war for Negro
freedom, but a duel between two industrial systems, one of which was
bound to fail because it was an anachronism, and the other bound to
succeed because of the Industrial Revolution.

When now the Negro was freed the Philanthropists sought to apply to his
situation the Philosophy of Democracy handed down from the 18th century.

There was a chance here to try democratic rule in a new way, that is,
against the new industrial oppression with a mass of workers who were
not yet in its control. With plenty of land widely distributed, staple
products like cotton, rice, and sugar cane, and a thorough system of
education, there was a unique chance to realize a new modern democracy
in industry in the southern United States which would point the way to
the world. This, too, if done by black folk, would have tended to a new
unity of human beings and an obliteration of human hatreds festering
along the color line.

Efforts were begun. The 14th and 15th amendments gave the right to vote
to white and black laborers, and they immediately established a public
school system and began to attack the land question. The United States
government was seriously considering the distribution of land and
capital--"40 acres and a mule"--and the price of cotton opened an easy
way to economic independence. Co-operative movements began on a large
scale.

But alas! Not only were the former slave-owners solidly arrayed against
this experiment, but the owners of the industrial North saw disaster in
any such beginnings of industrial democracy. The opposition based its
objections on the color line, and Reconstruction became in history a
great movement for the self-assertion of the white race against the
impudent ambition of degraded blacks, instead of, in truth, the rise of
a mass of black and white laborers.

The result was the disfranchisement of the blacks of the South and a
world-wide attempt to restrict democratic development to white races and
to distract them with race hatred against the darker races. This
program, however, although it undoubtedly helped raise the scale of
white labor, in much greater proportion put wealth and power in the
hands of the great European Captains of Industry and made modern
industrial imperialism possible.

This led to renewed efforts on the part of white European workers to
understand and apply their political power to its reform through
democratic control.

Whether known as Communism or Socialism or what not, these efforts are
neither new nor strange nor terrible, but world-old and seeking an
absolutely justifiable human ideal--the only ideal that can be sought:
the direction of individual action in industry so as to secure the
greatest good of all. Marxism was one method of accomplishing this, and
its panacea was the doing away with private property in machines and
materials. Two mighty attacks were made on this proposal. One was an
attack on the fundamental democratic foundation: modern European white
industry does not even theoretically seek the good of all, but simply of
all Europeans. This attack was virtually unanswered--indeed some
Socialists openly excluded Negroes and Asiatics from their scheme. From
this it was easy to drift into that form of syndicalism which asks
socialism for the skilled laborer only and leaves the common laborer in
his bonds.

This throws us back on fundamentals. It compels us again to examine the
roots of democracy.

Who may be excluded from a share in the ruling of men? Time and time
again the world has answered:

The Ignorant
The Inexperienced
The Guarded
The Unwilling

That is, we have assumed that only the intelligent should vote, or those
who know how to rule men, or those who are not under benevolent
guardianship, or those who ardently desire the right.

These restrictions are not arguments for the wide distribution of the
ballot--they are rather reasons for restriction addressed to the
self-interest of the present real rulers. We say easily, for instance,
"The ignorant ought not to vote." We would say, "No civilized state
should have citizens too ignorant to participate in government," and
this statement is but a step to the fact: that no state is civilized
which has citizens too ignorant to help rule it. Or, in other words,
education is not a prerequisite to political control--political control
is the cause of popular education.

Again, to make experience a qualification for the franchise is absurd:
it would stop the spread of democracy and make political power
hereditary, a prerequisite of a class, caste, race, or sex. It has of
course been soberly argued that only white folk or Englishmen, or men,
are really capable of exercising sovereign power in a modern state. The
statement proves too much: only yesterday it was Englishmen of high
descent, or men of "blood," or sovereigns "by divine right" who could
rule. Today the civilized world is being ruled by the descendants of
persons who a century ago were pronounced incapable of ever developing a
self-ruling people. In every modern state there must come to the polls
every generation, and indeed every year, men who are inexperienced in
the solutions of the political problems that confront them and who must
experiment in methods of ruling men. Thus and thus only will
civilization grow.

Again, what is this theory of benevolent guardianship for women, for the
masses, for Negroes--for "lesser breeds without the law"? It is simply
the old cry of privilege, the old assumption that there are those in the
world who know better what is best for others than those others know
themselves, and who can be trusted to do this best.

In fact no one knows himself but that self's own soul. The vast and
wonderful knowledge of this marvelous universe is locked in the bosoms
of its individual souls. To tap this mighty reservoir of experience,
knowledge, beauty, love, and deed we must appeal not to the few, not to
some souls, but to all. The narrower the appeal, the poorer the culture;
the wider the appeal the more magnificent are the possibilities.
Infinite is human nature. We make it finite by choking back the mass of
men, by attempting to speak for others, to interpret and act for them,
and we end by acting for ourselves and using the world as our private
property. If this were all, it were crime enough--but it is not all: by
our ignorance we make the creation of the greater world impossible; we
beat back a world built of the playing of dogs and laughter of children,
the song of Black Folk and worship of Yellow, the love of women and
strength of men, and try to express by a group of doddering ancients the
Will of the World.

There are people who insist upon regarding the franchise, not as a
necessity for the many, but as a privilege for the few. They say of
persons and classes: "They do not need the ballot." This is often said
of women. It is argued that everything which women with the ballot might
do for themselves can be done for them; that they have influence and
friends "at court," and that their enfranchisement would simply double
the number of ballots. So, too, we are told that American Negroes can
have done for them by other voters all that they could possibly do for
themselves with the ballot and much more because the white voters are
more intelligent.

Further than this, it is argued that many of the disfranchised people
recognize these facts. "Women do not want the ballot" has been a very
effective counter war-cry, so much so that many men have taken refuge in
the declaration: "When they want to vote, why, then--" So, too, we are
continually told that the "best" Negroes stay out of politics.

Such arguments show so curious a misapprehension of the foundation of
the argument for democracy that the argument must be continually
restated and emphasized. We must remember that if the theory of
democracy is correct, the right to vote is not merely a privilege, not
simply a method of meeting the needs of a particular group, and least of
all a matter of recognized want or desire. Democracy is a method of
realizing the broadest measure of justice to all human beings. The world
has, in the past, attempted various methods of attaining this end, most
of which can be summed up in three categories:

The method of the benevolent tyrant.
The method of the select few.
The method of the excluded groups.

The method of intrusting the government of a people to a strong ruler
has great advantages when the ruler combines strength with ability,
unselfish devotion to the public good, and knowledge of what that good
calls for. Such a combination is, however, rare and the selection of the
right ruler is very difficult. To leave the selection to force is to put
a premium on physical strength, chance, and intrigue; to make the
selection a matter of birth simply transfers the real power from
sovereign to minister. Inevitably the choice of rulers must fall on
electors.

Then comes the problem, who shall elect. The earlier answer was: a
select few, such as the wise, the best born, the able. Many people
assume that it was corruption that made such aristocracies fail. By no
means. The best and most effective aristocracy, like the best monarchy,
suffered from lack of knowledge. The rulers did not know or understand
the needs of the people and they could not find out, for in the last
analysis only the man himself, however humble, knows his own condition.
He may not know how to remedy it, he may not realize just what is the
matter; but he knows when something hurts and he alone knows how that
hurt feels. Or if sunk below feeling or comprehension or complaint, he
does not even know that he is hurt, God help his country, for it not
only lacks knowledge, but has destroyed the sources of knowledge.

So soon as a nation discovers that it holds in the heads and hearts of
its individual citizens the vast mine of knowledge, out of which it may
build a just government, then more and more it calls those citizens to
select their rulers and to judge the justice of their acts.

Even here, however, the temptation is to ask only for the wisdom of
citizens of a certain grade or those of recognized worth. Continually
some classes are tacitly or expressly excluded. Thus women have been
excluded from modern democracy because of the persistent theory of
female subjection and because it was argued that their husbands or other
male folks would look to their interests. Now, manifestly, most
husbands, fathers, and brothers will, so far as they know how or as they
realize women's needs, look after them. But remember the foundation of
the argument,--that in the last analysis only the sufferer knows his
sufferings and that no state can be strong which excludes from its
expressed wisdom the knowledge possessed by mothers, wives, and
daughters. We have but to view the unsatisfactory relations of the sexes
the world over and the problem of children to realize how desperately we
need this excluded wisdom.

The same arguments apply to other excluded groups: if a race, like the
Negro race, is excluded, then so far as that race is a part of the
economic and social organization of the land, the feeling and the
experience of that race are absolutely necessary to the realization of
the broadest justice for all citizens. Or if the "submerged tenth" be
excluded, then again, there is lost from the world an experience of
untold value, and they must be raised rapidly to a place where they can
speak for themselves. In the same way and for the same reason children
must be educated, insanity prevented, and only those put under the
guardianship of others who can in no way be trained to speak for
themselves.

The real argument for democracy is, then, that in the people we have
the source of that endless life and unbounded wisdom which the rulers of
men must have. A given people today may not be intelligent, but through
a democratic government that recognizes, not only the worth of the
individual to himself, but the worth of his feelings and experiences to
all, they can educate, not only the individual unit, but generation
after generation, until they accumulate vast stores of wisdom. Democracy
alone is the method of showing the whole experience of the race for the
benefit of the future and if democracy tries to exclude women or Negroes
or the poor or any class because of innate characteristics which do not
interfere with intelligence, then that democracy cripples itself and
belies its name.

From this point of view we can easily see the weakness and strength of
current criticism of extension of the ballot. It is the business of a
modern government to see to it, first, that the number of ignorant
within its bounds is reduced to the very smallest number. Again, it is
the duty of every such government to extend as quickly as possible the
number of persons of mature age who can vote. Such possible voters must
be regarded, not as sharers of a limited treasure, but as sources of new
national wisdom and strength.

The addition of the new wisdom, the new points of view, and the new
interests must, of course, be from time to time bewildering and
confusing. Today those who have a voice in the body politic have
expressed their wishes and sufferings. The result has been a smaller or
greater balancing of their conflicting interests. The appearance of new
interests and complaints means disarrangement and confusion to the older
equilibrium. It is, of course, the inevitable preliminary step to that
larger equilibrium in which the interests of no human soul will be
neglected. These interests will not, surely, be all fully realized, but
they will be recognized and given as full weight as the conflicting
interests will allow. The problem of government thereafter would be to
reduce the necessary conflict of human interests to the minimum.

From such a point of view one easily sees the strength of the demand for
the ballot on the part of certain disfranchised classes. When women ask
for the ballot, they are asking, not for a privilege, but for a
necessity. You may not see the necessity, you may easily argue that
women do not need to vote. Indeed, the women themselves in considerable
numbers may agree with you. Nevertheless, women do need the ballot. They
need it to right the balance of a world sadly awry because of its brutal
neglect of the rights of women and children. With the best will and
knowledge, no man can know women's wants as well as women themselves. To
disfranchise women is deliberately to turn from knowledge and grope in
ignorance.

So, too, with American Negroes: the South continually insists that a
benevolent guardianship of whites over blacks is the ideal thing. They
assume that white people not only know better what Negroes need than
Negroes themselves, but that they are anxious to supply these needs. As
a result they grope in ignorance and helplessness. They cannot
"understand" the Negro; they cannot protect him from cheating and
lynching; and, in general, instead of loving guardianship we see anarchy
and exploitation. If the Negro could speak for himself in the South
instead of being spoken for, if he could defend himself instead of
having to depend on the chance sympathy of white citizens, how much
healthier a growth of democracy the South would have.

So, too, with the darker races of the world. No federation of the world,
no true inter-nation--can exclude the black and brown and yellow races
from its counsels. They must equally and according to number act and be
heard at the world's council.

It is not, for a moment, to be assumed that enfranchising women will not
cost something. It will for many years confuse our politics. It may even
change the present status of family life. It will admit to the ballot
thousands of inexperienced persons, unable to vote intelligently. Above
all, it will interfere with some of the present prerogatives of men and
probably for some time to come annoy them considerably.

So, too, Negro enfranchisement meant reconstruction, with its theft and
bribery and incompetency as well as its public schools and enlightened,
social legislation. It would mean today that black men in the South
would have to be treated with consideration, have their wishes respected
and their manhood rights recognized. Every white Southerner, who wants
peons beneath him, who believes in hereditary menials and a privileged
aristocracy, or who hates certain races because of their
characteristics, would resent this.

Notwithstanding this, if America is ever to become a government built on
the broadest justice to every citizen, then every citizen must be
enfranchised. There may be temporary exclusions, until the ignorant and
their children are taught, or to avoid too sudden an influx of
inexperienced voters. But such exclusions can be but temporary if
justice is to prevail.

The principle of basing all government on the consent of the governed is
undenied and undeniable. Moreover, the method of modern democracy has
placed within reach of the modern state larger reserves of efficiency,
ability, and even genius than the ancient or mediaeval state dreamed of.
That this great work of the past can be carried further among all races
and nations no one can reasonably doubt.

Great as are our human differences and capabilities there is not the
slightest scientific reason for assuming that a given human being of any
race or sex cannot reach normal, human development if he is granted a
reasonable chance. This is, of course, denied. It is denied so volubly
and so frequently and with such positive conviction that the majority of
unthinking people seem to assume that most human beings are not human
and have no right to human treatment or human opportunity. All this goes
to prove that human beings are, and must be, woefully ignorant of each
other. It always startles us to find folks thinking like ourselves. We
do not really associate with each other, we associate with our ideas of
each other, and few people have either the ability or courage to
question their own ideas. None have more persistently and dogmatically
insisted upon the inherent inferiority of women than the men with whom
they come in closest contact. It is the husbands, brothers, and sons of
women whom it has been most difficult to induce to consider women
seriously or to acknowledge that women have rights which men are bound
to respect. So, too, it is those people who live in closest contact with
black folk who have most unhesitatingly asserted the utter impossibility
of living beside Negroes who are not industrial or political slaves or
social pariahs. All this proves that none are so blind as those nearest
the thing seen, while, on the other hand, the history of the world is
the history of the discovery of the common humanity of human beings
among steadily-increasing circles of men.

If the foundations of democracy are thus seen to be sound, how are we
going to make democracy effective where it now fails to
function--particularly in industry? The Marxists assert that industrial
democracy will automatically follow public ownership of machines and
materials. Their opponents object that nationalization of machines and
materials would not suffice because the mass of people do not understand
the industrial process. They do not know:

    What to do
    How to do it
    Who could do it best
            or
    How to apportion the resulting goods.

There can be no doubt but that monopoly of machines and materials is a
chief source of the power of industrial tyrants over the common worker
and that monopoly today is due as much to chance and cheating as to
thrift and intelligence. So far as it is due to chance and cheating, the
argument for public ownership of capital is incontrovertible even though
it involves some interference with long vested rights and inheritance.
This is being widely recognized in the whole civilized world. But how
about the accumulation of goods due to thrift and intelligence--would
democracy in industry interfere here to such an extent as to discourage
enterprise and make impossible the intelligent direction of the mighty
and intricate industrial process of modern times?

The knowledge of what to do in industry and how to do it in order to
attain the resulting goods rests in the hands and brains of the workers
and managers, and the judges of the result are the public. Consequently
it is not so much a question as to whether the world will admit
democratic control here as how can such control be long avoided when the
people once understand the fundamentals of industry. How can
civilization persist in letting one person or a group of persons, by
secret inherent power, determine what goods shall be made--whether bread
or champagne, overcoats or silk socks? Can so vast a power be kept from
the people?

But it may be opportunely asked: has our experience in electing public
officials led us to think that we could run railways, cotton mills, and
department stores by popular vote? The answer is clear: no, it has not,
and the reason has been lack of interest in politics and the tyranny of
the Majority. Politics have not touched the matters of daily life which
are nearest the interests of the people--namely, work and wages; or if
they have, they have touched it obscurely and indirectly. When voting
touches the vital, everyday interests of all, nominations and elections
will call for more intelligent activity. Consider too the vast unused
and misused power of public rewards to obtain ability and genius for the
service of the state. If millionaires can buy science and art, cannot
the Democratic state outbid them not only with money but with the vast
ideal of the common weal?

There still remains, however, the problem of the Majority.

What is the cause of the undoubted reaction and alarm that the citizens
of democracy continually feel? It is, I am sure, the failure to feel the
full significance of the change of rule from a privileged minority to
that of an omnipotent majority, and the assumption that mere majority
rule is the last word of government; that majorities have no
responsibilities, that they rule by the grace of God. Granted that
government should be based on the consent of the governed, does the
consent of a majority at any particular time adequately express the
consent of all? Has the minority, even though a small and unpopular and
unfashionable minority, no right to respectful consideration?

I remember that excellent little high school text book, "Nordhoff's
Politics," where I first read of government, saying this sentence at the
beginning of its most important chapter: "The first duty of a minority
is to become a majority." This is a statement which has its underlying
truth, but it also has its dangerous falsehood; viz., any minority which
cannot become a majority is not worthy of any consideration. But suppose
that the out-voted minority is necessarily always a minority? Women,
for instance, can seldom expect to be a majority; artists must always be
the few; ability is always rare, and black folk in this land are but a
tenth. Yet to tyrannize over such minorities, to browbeat and insult
them, to call that government a democracy which makes majority votes an
excuse for crushing ideas and individuality and self-development, is
manifestly a peculiarly dangerous perversion of the real democratic
ideal. It is right here, in its method and not in its object, that
democracy in America and elsewhere has so often failed. We have
attempted to enthrone any chance majority and make it rule by divine
right. We have kicked and cursed minorities as upstarts and usurpers
when their sole offense lay in not having ideas or hair like ours.
Efficiency, ability, and genius found often no abiding place in such a
soil as this. Small wonder that revolt has come and high-handed methods
are rife, of pretending that policies which we favor or persons that we
like have the anointment of a purely imaginary majority vote.

Are the methods of such a revolt wise, howsoever great the provocation
and evil may be? If the absolute monarchy of majorities is galling and
inefficient, is it any more inefficient than the absolute monarchy of
individuals or privileged classes have been found to be in the past? Is
the appeal from a numerous-minded despot to a smaller, privileged group
or to one man likely to remedy matters permanently? Shall we step
backward a thousand years because our present problem is baffling?

Surely not and surely, too, the remedy for absolutism lies in calling
these same minorities to council. As the king-in-council succeeded the
king by the grace of God, so in future democracies the toleration and
encouragement of minorities and the willingness to consider as "men" the
crankiest, humblest and poorest and blackest peoples, must be the real
key to the consent of the governed. Peoples and governments will not in
the future assume that because they have the brute power to enforce
momentarily dominant ideas, it is best to do so without thoughtful
conference with the ideas of smaller groups and individuals.
Proportionate representation in physical and spiritual form must come.

That this method is virtually coming in vogue we can see by the minority
groups of modern legislatures. Instead of the artificial attempts to
divide all possible ideas and plans between two great parties, modern
legislatures in advanced nations tend to develop smaller and smaller
minority groups, while government is carried on by temporary coalitions.
For a time we inveighed against this and sought to consider it a
perversion of the only possible method of practical democracy. Today we
are gradually coming to realize that government by temporary coalition
of small and diverse groups may easily become the most efficient method
of expressing the will of man and of setting the human soul free. The
only hindrance to the faster development of this government by allied
minorities is the fear of external war which is used again and again to
melt these living, human, thinking groups into inhuman, thoughtless, and
murdering machines.

The persons, then, who come forward in the dawn of the 20th century to
help in the ruling of men must come with the firm conviction that no
nation, race, or sex, has a monopoly of ability or ideas; that no human
group is so small as to deserve to be ignored as a part, and as an
integral and respected part, of the mass of men; that, above all, no
group of twelve million black folk, even though they are at the physical
mercy of a hundred million white majority, can be deprived of a voice in
their government and of the right to self-development without a blow at
the very foundations of all democracy and all human uplift; that the
very criticism aimed today at universal suffrage is in reality a demand
for power on the part of consciously efficient minorities,--but these
minorities face a fatal blunder when they assume that less democracy
will give them and their kind greater efficiency. However desperate the
temptation, no modern nation can shut the gates of opportunity in the
face of its women, its peasants, its laborers, or its socially damned.
How astounded the future world-citizen will be to know that as late as
1918 great and civilized nations were making desperate endeavor to
confine the development of ability and individuality to one sex,--that
is, to one-half of the nation; and he will probably learn that similar
effort to confine humanity to one race lasted a hundred years longer.

The doctrine of the divine right of majorities leads to almost humorous
insistence on a dead level of mediocrity. It demands that all people be
alike or that they be ostracized. At the same time its greatest
accusation against rebels is this same desire to be alike: the
suffragette is accused of wanting to be a man, the socialist is accused
of envy of the rich, and the black man is accused of wanting to be
white. That any one of these should simply want to be himself is to the
average worshiper of the majority inconceivable, and yet of all worlds,
may the good Lord deliver us from a world where everybody looks like his
neighbor and thinks like his neighbor and is like his neighbor.

The world has long since awakened to a realization of the evil which a
privileged few may exercise over the majority of a nation. So vividly
has this truth been brought home to us that we have lightly assumed that
a privileged and enfranchised majority cannot equally harm a nation.
Insane, wicked, and wasteful as the tyranny of the few over the many may
be, it is not more dangerous than the tyranny of the many over the few.
Brutal physical revolution can, and usually does, end the tyranny of the
few. But the spiritual losses from suppressed minorities may be vast and
fatal and yet all unknown and unrealized because idea and dream and
ability are paralyzed by brute force.

If, now, we have a democracy with no excluded groups, with all men and
women enfranchised, what is such a democracy to do? How will it
function? What will be its field of work?

The paradox which faces the civilized world today is that democratic
control is everywhere limited in its control of human interests. Mankind
is engaged in planting, forestry, and mining, preparing food and
shelter, making clothes and machines, transporting goods and folk,
disseminating news, distributing products, doing public and private
personal service, teaching, advancing science, and creating art.

In this intricate whirl of activities, the theory of government has been
hitherto to lay down only very general rules of conduct, marking the
limits of extreme anti-social acts, like fraud, theft, and murder.

The theory was that within these bounds was Freedom--the Liberty to
think and do and move as one wished. The real realm of freedom was found
in experience to be much narrower than this in one direction and much
broader in another. In matters of Truth and Faith and Beauty, the
Ancient Law was inexcusably strait and modern law unforgivably stupid.
It is here that the future and mighty fight for Freedom must and will be
made. Here in the heavens and on the mountaintops, the air of Freedom is
wide, almost limitless, for here, in the highest stretches, individual
freedom harms no man, and, therefore, no man has the right to limit it.

On the other hand, in the valleys of the hard, unyielding laws of matter
and the social necessities of time production, and human intercourse,
the limits on our freedom are stern and unbending if we would exist and
thrive. This does not say that everything here is governed by
incontrovertible "natural" law which needs no human decision as to raw
materials, machinery, prices, wages, news-dissemination, education of
children, etc.; but it does mean that decisions here must be limited by
brute facts and based on science and human wants.

Today the scientific and ethical boundaries of our industrial activities
are not in the hands of scientists, teachers, and thinkers; nor is the
intervening opportunity for decision left in the control of the public
whose welfare such decisions guide. On the contrary, the control of
industry is largely in the hands of a powerful few, who decide for their
own good and regardless of the good of others. The making of the rules
of Industry, then, is not in the hands of All, but in the hands of the
Few. The Few who govern industry envisage, not the wants of mankind, but
their own wants. They work quietly, often secretly, opposing Law, on the
one hand, as interfering with the "freedom of industry"; opposing, on
the other hand, free discussion and open determination of the rules of
work and wealth and wages, on the ground that harsh natural law brooks
no interference by Democracy.

These things today, then, are not matters of free discussion and
determination. They are strictly controlled. Who controls them? Who
makes these inner, but powerful, rules? Few people know. Others assert
and believe these rules are "natural"--a part of our inescapable
physical environment. Some of them doubtless are; but most of them are
just as clearly the dictates of self-interest laid down by the powerful
private persons who today control industry. Just here it is that modern
men demand that Democracy supplant skilfully concealed, but all too
evident, Monarchy.

In industry, monarchy and the aristocracy rule, and there are those who,
calling themselves democratic, believe that democracy can never enter
here. Industry, they maintain, is a matter of technical knowledge and
ability, and, therefore, is the eternal heritage of the few. They point
to the failure of attempts at democratic control in industry, just as we
used to point to Spanish-American governments, and they expose, not
simply the failures of Russian Soviets,--they fly to arms to prevent
that greatest experiment in industrial democracy which the world has yet
seen. These are the ones who say: We must control labor or civilization
will fail; we must control white labor in Europe and America; above all,
we must control yellow labor in Asia and black labor in Africa and the
South, else we shall have no tea, or rubber, or cotton. And yet,--and
yet is it so easy to give up the dream of democracy? Must industry rule
men or may men rule even industry? And unless men rule industry, can
they ever hope really to make laws or educate children or create beauty?

That the problem of the democratization of industry is tremendous, let
no man deny. We must spread that sympathy and intelligence which
tolerates the widest individual freedom despite the necessary public
control; we must learn to select for public office ability rather than
mere affability. We must stand ready to defer to knowledge and science
and judge by result rather than by method; and finally we must face the
fact that the final distribution of goods--the question of wages and
income is an ethical and not a mere mechanical problem and calls for
grave public human judgment and not secrecy and closed doors. All this
means time and development. It comes not complete by instant revolution
of a day, nor yet by the deferred evolution of a thousand years--it
comes daily, bit by bit and step by step, as men and women learn and
grow and as children are trained in Truth.

These steps are in many cases clear: the careful, steady increase of
public democratic ownership of industry, beginning with the simplest
type of public utilities and monopolies, and extending gradually as we
learn the way; the use of taxation to limit inheritance and to take the
unearned increment for public use beginning (but not ending) with a
"single tax" on monopolized land values; the training of the public in
business technique by co-operation in buying and selling, and in
industrial technique by the shop committee and manufacturing guild.

But beyond all this must come the Spirit--the Will to Human Brotherhood
of all Colors, Races, and Creeds; the Wanting of the Wants of All.
Perhaps the finest contribution of current Socialism to the world is
neither its light nor its dogma, but the idea back of its one mighty
word--Comrade!



The Call


In the Land of the Heavy Laden came once a dreary day. And the King, who
sat upon the Great White Throne, raised his eyes and saw afar off how
the hills around were hot with hostile feet and the sound of the mocking
of his enemies struck anxiously on the King's ears, for the King loved
his enemies. So the King lifted up his hand in the glittering silence
and spake softly, saying: "Call the Servants of the King." Then the
herald stepped before the armpost of the throne, and cried: "Thus saith
the High and Mighty One, who inhabiteth Eternity, whose name is
Holy,--the Servants of the King!"

Now, of the servants of the king there were a hundred and forty-four
thousand,--tried men and brave, brawny of arm and quick of wit; aye,
too, and women of wisdom and women marvelous in beauty and grace. And
yet on this drear day when the King called, their ears were thick with
the dust of the enemy, their eyes were blinded with the flashing of his
spears, and they hid their faces in dread silence and moved not, even at
the King's behest. So the herald called again. And the servants cowered
in very shame, but none came forth. But the third blast of the herald
struck upon a woman's heart, afar. And the woman straightway left her
baking and sweeping and the rattle of pans; and the woman straightway
left her chatting and gossiping and the sewing of garments, and the
woman stood before the King, saying: "The servant of thy servants, O
Lord."

Then the King smiled,--smiled wondrously, so that the setting sun burst
through the clouds, and the hearts of the King's men dried hard within
them. And the low-voiced King said, so low that even they that listened
heard not well: "Go, smite me mine enemies, that they cease to do evil
in my sight." And the woman quailed and trembled. Three times she lifted
her eyes unto the hills and saw the heathen whirling onward in their
rage. And seeing, she shrank--three times she shrank and crept to the
King's feet.

"O King," she cried, "I am but a woman."

And the King answered: "Go, then, Mother of Men."

And the woman said, "Nay, King, but I am still a maid." Whereat the King
cried: "O maid, made Man, thou shalt be Bride of God."

And yet the third time the woman shrank at the thunder in her ears, and
whispered: "Dear God, I am black!"

The King spake not, but swept the veiling of his face aside and lifted
up the light of his countenance upon her and lo! it was black.

So the woman went forth on the hills of God to do battle for the King,
on that drear day in the land of the Heavy Laden, when the heathen raged
and imagined a vain thing.



VII

THE DAMNATION OF WOMEN


I remember four women of my boyhood: my mother, cousin Inez, Emma, and
Ide Fuller. They represented the problem of the widow, the wife, the
maiden, and the outcast. They were, in color, brown and light-brown,
yellow with brown freckles, and white. They existed not for themselves,
but for men; they were named after the men to whom they were related and
not after the fashion of their own souls.

They were not beings, they were relations and these relations were
enfilmed with mystery and secrecy. We did not know the truth or believe
it when we heard it. Motherhood! What was it? We did not know or greatly
care. My mother and I were good chums. I liked her. After she was dead I
loved her with a fierce sense of personal loss.

Inez was a pretty, brown cousin who married. What was marriage? We did
not know, neither did she, poor thing! It came to mean for her a litter
of children, poverty, a drunken, cruel companion, sickness, and death.
Why?

There was no sweeter sight than Emma,--slim, straight, and dainty,
darkly flushed with the passion of youth; but her life was a wild, awful
struggle to crush her natural, fierce joy of love. She crushed it and
became a cold, calculating mockery.

Last there was that awful outcast of the town, the white woman, Ide
Fuller. What she was, we did not know. She stood to us as embodied filth
and wrong,--but whose filth, whose wrong?

Grown up I see the problem of these women transfused; I hear all about
me the unanswered call of youthful love, none the less glorious because
of its clean, honest, physical passion. Why unanswered? Because the
youth are too poor to marry or if they marry, too poor to have children.
They turn aside, then, in three directions: to marry for support, to
what men call shame, or to that which is more evil than nothing. It is
an unendurable paradox; it must be changed or the bases of culture will
totter and fall.

The world wants healthy babies and intelligent workers. Today we refuse
to allow the combination and force thousands of intelligent workers to
go childless at a horrible expenditure of moral force, or we damn them
if they break our idiotic conventions. Only at the sacrifice of
intelligence and the chance to do their best work can the majority of
modern women bear children. This is the damnation of women.

All womanhood is hampered today because the world on which it is
emerging is a world that tries to worship both virgins and mothers and
in the end despises motherhood and despoils virgins.

The future woman must have a life work and economic independence. She
must have knowledge. She must have the right of motherhood at her own
discretion. The present mincing horror at free womanhood must pass if we
are ever to be rid of the bestiality of free manhood; not by guarding
the weak in weakness do we gain strength, but by making weakness free
and strong.

The world must choose the free woman or the white wraith of the
prostitute. Today it wavers between the prostitute and the nun.
Civilization must show two things: the glory and beauty of creating life
and the need and duty of power and intelligence. This and this only will
make the perfect marriage of love and work.

    God is Love,
    Love is God;
    There is no God but Love
    And Work is His Prophet!

All this of woman,--but what of black women?

The world that wills to worship womankind studiously forgets its darker
sisters. They seem in a sense to typify that veiled Melancholy:

    "Whose saintly visage is too bright
    To hit the sense of human sight,
    And, therefore, to our weaker view
      O'er-laid with black."

Yet the world must heed these daughters of sorrow, from the primal black
All-Mother of men down through the ghostly throng of mighty womanhood,
who walked in the mysterious dawn of Asia and Africa; from Neith, the
primal mother of all, whose feet rest on hell, and whose almighty hands
uphold the heavens; all religion, from beauty to beast, lies on her
eager breasts; her body bears the stars, while her shoulders are
necklaced by the dragon; from black Neith down to

    "That starr'd Ethiop queen who strove
    To set her beauty's praise above
    The sea-nymphs,"

through dusky Cleopatras, dark Candaces, and darker, fiercer Zinghas, to
our own day and our own land,--in gentle Phillis; Harriet, the crude
Moses; the sybil, Sojourner Truth; and the martyr, Louise De Mortie.

The father and his worship is Asia; Europe is the precocious,
self-centered, forward-striving child; but the land of the mother is and
was Africa. In subtle and mysterious way, despite her curious history,
her slavery, polygamy, and toil, the spell of the African mother
pervades her land. Isis, the mother, is still titular goddess, in
thought if not in name, of the dark continent. Nor does this all seem to
be solely a survival of the historic matriarchate through which all
nations pass,--it appears to be more than this,--as if the great black
race in passing up the steps of human culture gave the world, not only
the Iron Age, the cultivation of the soil, and the domestication of
animals, but also, in peculiar emphasis, the mother-idea.

"No mother can love more tenderly and none is more tenderly loved than
the Negro mother," writes Schneider. Robin tells of the slave who bought
his mother's freedom instead of his own. Mungo Park writes: "Everywhere
in Africa, I have noticed that no greater affront can be offered a Negro
than insulting his mother. 'Strike me,' cries a Mandingo to his enemy,
'but revile not my mother!'" And the Krus and Fantis say the same. The
peoples on the Zambezi and the great lakes cry in sudden fear or joy:
"O, my mother!" And the Herero swears (endless oath) "By my mother's
tears!" "As the mist in the swamps," cries the Angola Negro, "so lives
the love of father and mother."

A student of the present Gold Coast life describes the work of the
village headman, and adds: "It is a difficult task that he is set to,
but in this matter he has all-powerful helpers in the female members of
the family, who will be either the aunts or the sisters or the cousins
or the nieces of the headman, and as their interests are identical with
his in every particular, the good women spontaneously train up their
children to implicit obedience to the headman, whose rule in the family
thus becomes a simple and an easy matter. 'The hand that rocks the
cradle rules the world.' What a power for good in the native state
system would the mothers of the Gold Coast and Ashanti become by
judicious training upon native lines!"

Schweinfurth declares of one tribe: "A bond between mother and child
which lasts for life is the measure of affection shown among the Dyoor"
and Ratzel adds:

"Agreeable to the natural relation the mother stands first among the
chief influences affecting the children. From the Zulus to the Waganda,
we find the mother the most influential counsellor at the court of
ferocious sovereigns, like Chaka or Mtesa; sometimes sisters take her
place. Thus even with chiefs who possess wives by hundreds the bonds of
blood are the strongest and that the woman, though often heavily
burdened, is in herself held in no small esteem among the Negroes is
clear from the numerous Negro queens, from the medicine women, from the
participation in public meetings permitted to women by many Negro
peoples."

As I remember through memories of others, backward among my own family,
it is the mother I ever recall,--the little, far-off mother of my
grandmothers, who sobbed her life away in song, longing for her lost
palm-trees and scented waters; the tall and bronzen grandmother, with
beaked nose and shrewish eyes, who loved and scolded her black and
laughing husband as he smoked lazily in his high oak chair; above all,
my own mother, with all her soft brownness,--the brown velvet of her
skin, the sorrowful black-brown of her eyes, and the tiny brown-capped
waves of her midnight hair as it lay new parted on her forehead. All the
way back in these dim distances it is mothers and mothers of mothers who
seem to count, while fathers are shadowy memories.

Upon this African mother-idea, the westward slave trade and American
slavery struck like doom. In the cruel exigencies of the traffic in men
and in the sudden, unprepared emancipation the great pendulum of social
equilibrium swung from a time, in 1800,--when America had but eight or
less black women to every ten black men,--all too swiftly to a day, in
1870,--when there were nearly eleven women to ten men in our Negro
population. This was but the outward numerical fact of social
dislocation; within lay polygamy, polyandry, concubinage, and moral
degradation. They fought against all this desperately, did these black
slaves in the West Indies, especially among the half-free artisans; they
set up their ancient household gods, and when Toussaint and Cristophe
founded their kingdom in Haiti, it was based on old African tribal ties
and beneath it was the mother-idea.

The crushing weight of slavery fell on black women. Under it there was
no legal marriage, no legal family, no legal control over children. To
be sure, custom and religion replaced here and there what the law
denied, yet one has but to read advertisements like the following to see
the hell beneath the system:

     "One hundred dollars reward will be given for my two fellows, Abram
     and Frank. Abram has a wife at Colonel Stewart's, in Liberty
     County, and a mother at Thunderbolt, and a sister in Savannah.

     "WILLIAM ROBERTS."


     "Fifty dollars reward--Ran away from the subscriber a Negro girl
     named Maria. She is of a copper color, between thirteen and
     fourteen years of age--bareheaded and barefooted. She is small for
     her age--very sprightly and very likely. She stated she was going
     to see her mother at Maysville.


     "SANFORD THOMSON."

     "Fifty dollars reward--Ran away from the subscriber his Negro man
     Pauladore, commonly called Paul. I understand General R.Y. Hayne
     has purchased his wife and children from H.L. Pinckney, Esq., and
     has them now on his plantation at Goose Creek, where, no doubt, the
     fellow is frequently lurking.

     "T. DAVIS."


The Presbyterian synod of Kentucky said to the churches under its care
in 1835: "Brothers and sisters, parents and children, husbands and
wives, are torn asunder and permitted to see each other no more. These
acts are daily occurring in the midst of us. The shrieks and agony often
witnessed on such occasions proclaim, with a trumpet tongue, the
iniquity of our system. There is not a neighborhood where these
heartrending scenes are not displayed. There is not a village or road
that does not behold the sad procession of manacled outcasts whose
mournful countenances tell that they are exiled by force from all that
their hearts hold dear."

A sister of a president of the United States declared: "We Southern
ladies are complimented with the names of wives, but we are only the
mistresses of seraglios."

Out of this, what sort of black women could be born into the world of
today? There are those who hasten to answer this query in scathing terms
and who say lightly and repeatedly that out of black slavery came
nothing decent in womanhood; that adultery and uncleanness were their
heritage and are their continued portion.

Fortunately so exaggerated a charge is humanly impossible of truth. The
half-million women of Negro descent who lived at the beginning of the
19th century had become the mothers of two and one-fourth million
daughters at the time of the Civil War and five million grand-daughters
in 1910. Can all these women be vile and the hunted race continue to
grow in wealth and character? Impossible. Yet to save from the past the
shreds and vestiges of self-respect has been a terrible task. I most
sincerely doubt if any other race of women could have brought its
fineness up through so devilish a fire.

Alexander Crummell once said of his sister in the blood: "In her
girlhood all the delicate tenderness of her sex has been rudely
outraged. In the field, in the rude cabin, in the press-room, in the
factory she was thrown into the companionship of coarse and ignorant
men. No chance was given her for delicate reserve or tender modesty.
From her childhood she was the doomed victim of the grossest passion.
All the virtues of her sex were utterly ignored. If the instinct of
chastity asserted itself, then she had to fight like a tiger for the
ownership and possession of her own person and ofttimes had to suffer
pain and lacerations for her virtuous self-assertion. When she reached
maturity, all the tender instincts of her womanhood were ruthlessly
violated. At the age of marriage,--always prematurely anticipated under
slavery--she was mated as the stock of the plantation were mated, not to
be the companion of a loved and chosen husband, but to be the breeder of
human cattle for the field or the auction block."

Down in such mire has the black motherhood of this race
struggled,--starving its own wailing offspring to nurse to the world
their swaggering masters; welding for its children chains which
affronted even the moral sense of an unmoral world. Many a man and woman
in the South have lived in wedlock as holy as Adam and Eve and brought
forth their brown and golden children, but because the darker woman was
helpless, her chivalrous and whiter mate could cast her off at his
pleasure and publicly sneer at the body he had privately blasphemed.

I shall forgive the white South much in its final judgment day: I shall
forgive its slavery, for slavery is a world-old habit; I shall forgive
its fighting for a well-lost cause, and for remembering that struggle
with tender tears; I shall forgive its so-called "pride of race," the
passion of its hot blood, and even its dear, old, laughable strutting
and posing; but one thing I shall never forgive, neither in this world
nor the world to come: its wanton and continued and persistent insulting
of the black womanhood which it sought and seeks to prostitute to its
lust. I cannot forget that it is such Southern gentlemen into whose
hands smug Northern hypocrites of today are seeking to place our women's
eternal destiny,--men who insist upon withholding from my mother and
wife and daughter those signs and appellations of courtesy and respect
which elsewhere he withholds only from bawds and courtesans.

The result of this history of insult and degradation has been both
fearful and glorious. It has birthed the haunting prostitute, the
brawler, and the beast of burden; but it has also given the world an
efficient womanhood, whose strength lies in its freedom and whose
chastity was won in the teeth of temptation and not in prison and
swaddling clothes.

To no modern race does its women mean so much as to the Negro nor come
so near to the fulfilment of its meaning. As one of our women writes:
"Only the black woman can say 'when and where I enter, in the quiet,
undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing
or special patronage, then and there the whole Negro race enters with
me.'"

They came first, in earlier days, like foam flashing on dark, silent
waters,--bits of stern, dark womanhood here and there tossed almost
carelessly aloft to the world's notice. First and naturally they assumed
the panoply of the ancient African mother of men, strong and black,
whose very nature beat back the wilderness of oppression and contempt.
Such a one was that cousin of my grandmother, whom western Massachusetts
remembers as "Mum Bett." Scarred for life by a blow received in defense
of a sister, she ran away to Great Barrington and was the first slave,
or one of the first, to be declared free under the Bill of Rights of
1780. The son of the judge who freed her, writes:

     "Even in her humble station, she had, when occasion required it, an
     air of command which conferred a degree of dignity and gave her an
     ascendancy over those of her rank, which is very unusual in persons
     of any rank or color. Her determined and resolute character, which
     enabled her to limit the ravages of Shay's mob, was manifested in
     her conduct and deportment during her whole life. She claimed no
     distinction, but it was yielded to her from her superior
     experience, energy, skill, and sagacity. Having known this woman as
     familiarly as I knew either of my parents, I cannot believe in the
     moral or physical inferiority of the race to which she belonged.
     The degradation of the African must have been otherwise caused than
     by natural inferiority."

It was such strong women that laid the foundations of the great Negro
church of today, with its five million members and ninety millions of
dollars in property. One of the early mothers of the church, Mary Still,
writes thus quaintly, in the forties:

     "When we were as castouts and spurned from the large churches,
     driven from our knees, pointed at by the proud, neglected by the
     careless, without a place of worship, Allen, faithful to the
     heavenly calling, came forward and laid the foundation of this
     connection. The women, like the women at the sepulcher, were early
     to aid in laying the foundation of the temple and in helping to
     carry up the noble structure and in the name of their God set up
     their banner; most of our aged mothers are gone from this to a
     better state of things. Yet some linger still on their staves,
     watching with intense interest the ark as it moves over the
     tempestuous waves of opposition and ignorance....

     "But the labors of these women stopped not here, for they knew well
     that they were subject to affliction and death. For the purpose of
     mutual aid, they banded themselves together in society capacity,
     that they might be better able to administer to each others'
     sufferings and to soften their own pillows. So we find the females
     in the early history of the church abounding in good works and in
     acts of true benevolence."

From such spiritual ancestry came two striking figures of
war-time,--Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth.

For eight or ten years previous to the breaking out of the Civil War,
Harriet Tubman was a constant attendant at anti-slavery conventions,
lectures, and other meetings; she was a black woman of medium size,
smiling countenance, with her upper front teeth gone, attired in coarse
but neat clothes, and carrying always an old-fashioned reticule at her
side. Usually as soon as she sat down she would drop off in sound sleep.

She was born a slave in Maryland, in 1820, bore the marks of the lash on
her flesh; and had been made partially deaf, and perhaps to some degree
mentally unbalanced by a blow on the head in childhood. Yet she was one
of the most important agents of the Underground Railroad and a leader of
fugitive slaves. She ran away in 1849 and went to Boston in 1854, where
she was welcomed into the homes of the leading abolitionists and where
every one listened with tense interest to her strange stories. She was
absolutely illiterate, with no knowledge of geography, and yet year
after year she penetrated the slave states and personally led North over
three hundred fugitives without losing a single one. A standing reward
of $10,000 was offered for her, but as she said: "The whites cannot
catch us, for I was born with the charm, and the Lord has given me the
power." She was one of John Brown's closest advisers and only severe
sickness prevented her presence at Harper's Ferry.

When the war cloud broke, she hastened to the front, flitting down along
her own mysterious paths, haunting the armies in the field, and serving
as guide and nurse and spy. She followed Sherman in his great march to
the sea and was with Grant at Petersburg, and always in the camps the
Union officers silently saluted her.

The other woman belonged to a different type,--a tall, gaunt, black,
unsmiling sybil, weighted with the woe of the world. She ran away from
slavery and giving up her own name took the name of Sojourner Truth. She
says: "I can remember when I was a little, young girl, how my old mammy
would sit out of doors in the evenings and look up at the stars and
groan, and I would say, 'Mammy, what makes you groan so?' And she would
say, 'I am groaning to think of my poor children; they do not know where
I be and I don't know where they be. I look up at the stars and they
look up at the stars!'"

Her determination was founded on unwavering faith in ultimate good.
Wendell Phillips says that he was once in Faneuil Hall, when Frederick
Douglass was one of the chief speakers. Douglass had been describing the
wrongs of the Negro race and as he proceeded he grew more and more
excited and finally ended by saying that they had no hope of justice
from the whites, no possible hope except in their own right arms. It
must come to blood! They must fight for themselves. Sojourner Truth was
sitting, tall and dark, on the very front seat facing the platform, and
in the hush of feeling when Douglass sat down she spoke out in her deep,
peculiar voice, heard all over the hall:

"Frederick, is God dead?"

Such strong, primitive types of Negro womanhood in America seem to some
to exhaust its capabilities. They know less of a not more worthy, but a
finer type of black woman wherein trembles all of that delicate sense of
beauty and striving for self-realization, which is as characteristic of
the Negro soul as is its quaint strength and sweet laughter. George
Washington wrote in grave and gentle courtesy to a Negro woman, in 1776,
that he would "be happy to see" at his headquarters at any time, a
person "to whom nature has been so liberal and beneficial in her
dispensations." This child, Phillis Wheatley, sang her trite and halting
strain to a world that wondered and could not produce her like. Measured
today her muse was slight and yet, feeling her striving spirit, we call
to her still in her own words:

     "Through thickest glooms look back, immortal shade."

Perhaps even higher than strength and art loom human sympathy and
sacrifice as characteristic of Negro womanhood. Long years ago, before
the Declaration of Independence, Kate Ferguson was born in New York.
Freed, widowed, and bereaved of her children before she was twenty, she
took the children of the streets of New York, white and black, to her
empty arms, taught them, found them homes, and with Dr. Mason of Murray
Street Church established the first modern Sunday School in Manhattan.

Sixty years later came Mary Shadd up out of Delaware. She was tall and
slim, of that ravishing dream-born beauty,--that twilight of the races
which we call mulatto. Well-educated, vivacious, with determination
shining from her sharp eyes, she threw herself singlehanded into the
great Canadian pilgrimage when thousands of hunted black men hurried
northward and crept beneath the protection of the lion's paw. She became
teacher, editor, and lecturer; tramping afoot through winter snows,
pushing without blot or blemish through crowd and turmoil to conventions
and meetings, and finally becoming recruiting agent for the United
States government in gathering Negro soldiers in the West.

After the war the sacrifice of Negro women for freedom and uplift is one
of the finest chapters in their history. Let one life typify all: Louise
De Mortie, a free-born Virginia girl, had lived most of her life in
Boston. Her high forehead, swelling lips, and dark eyes marked her for a
woman of feeling and intellect. She began a successful career as a
public reader. Then came the War and the Call. She went to the orphaned
colored children of New Orleans,--out of freedom into insult and
oppression and into the teeth of the yellow fever. She toiled and
dreamed. In 1887 she had raised money and built an orphan home and that
same year, in the thirty-fourth year of her young life, she died, saying
simply: "I belong to God."

As I look about me today in this veiled world of mine, despite the
noisier and more spectacular advance of my brothers, I instinctively
feel and know that it is the five million women of my race who really
count. Black women (and women whose grandmothers were black) are today
furnishing our teachers; they are the main pillars of those social
settlements which we call churches; and they have with small doubt
raised three-fourths of our church property. If we have today, as seems
likely, over a billion dollars of accumulated goods, who shall say how
much of it has been wrung from the hearts of servant girls and
washerwomen and women toilers in the fields? As makers of two million
homes these women are today seeking in marvelous ways to show forth our
strength and beauty and our conception of the truth.

In the United States in 1910 there were 4,931,882 women of Negro
descent; over twelve hundred thousand of these were children, another
million were girls and young women under twenty, and two and a
half-million were adults. As a mass these women were unlettered,--a
fourth of those from fifteen to twenty-five years of age were unable to
write. These women are passing through, not only a moral, but an
economic revolution. Their grandmothers married at twelve and fifteen,
but twenty-seven per cent of these women today who have passed fifteen
are still single.

Yet these black women toil and toil hard. There were in 1910 two and a
half million Negro homes in the United States. Out of these homes walked
daily to work two million women and girls over ten years of age,--over
half of the colored female population as against a fifth in the case of
white women. These, then, are a group of workers, fighting for their
daily bread like men; independent and approaching economic freedom! They
furnished a million farm laborers, 80,000 farmers, 22,000 teachers,
600,000 servants and washerwomen, and 50,000 in trades and
merchandizing.

The family group, however, which is the ideal of the culture with which
these folk have been born, is not based on the idea of an economically
independent working mother. Rather its ideal harks back to the sheltered
harem with the mother emerging at first as nurse and homemaker, while
the man remains the sole breadwinner. What is the inevitable result of
the clash of such ideals and such facts in the colored group? Broken
families.

Among native white women one in ten is separated from her husband by
death, divorce, or desertion. Among Negroes the ratio is one in seven.
Is the cause racial? No, it is economic, because there is the same high
ratio among the white foreign-born. The breaking up of the present
family is the result of modern working and sex conditions and it hits
the laborers with terrible force. The Negroes are put in a peculiarly
difficult position, because the wage of the male breadwinner is below
the standard, while the openings for colored women in certain lines of
domestic work, and now in industries, are many. Thus while toil holds
the father and brother in country and town at low wages, the sisters and
mothers are called to the city. As a result the Negro women outnumber
the men nine or ten to eight in many cities, making what Charlotte
Gilman bluntly calls "cheap women."

What shall we say to this new economic equality in a great laboring
class? Some people within and without the race deplore it. "Back to the
homes with the women," they cry, "and higher wage for the men." But how
impossible this is has been shown by war conditions. Cessation of
foreign migration has raised Negro men's wages, to be sure--but it has
not only raised Negro women's wages, it has opened to them a score of
new avenues of earning a living. Indeed, here, in microcosm and with
differences emphasizing sex equality, is the industrial history of labor
in the 19th and 20th centuries. We cannot abolish the new economic
freedom of women. We cannot imprison women again in a home or require
them all on pain of death to be nurses and housekeepers.

What is today the message of these black women to America and to the
world? The uplift of women is, next to the problem of the color line and
the peace movement, our greatest modern cause. When, now, two of these
movements--woman and color--combine in one, the combination has deep
meaning.

In other years women's way was clear: to be beautiful, to be petted, to
bear children. Such has been their theoretic destiny and if perchance
they have been ugly, hurt, and barren, that has been forgotten with
studied silence. In partial compensation for this narrowed destiny the
white world has lavished its politeness on its womankind,--its chivalry
and bows, its uncoverings and courtesies--all the accumulated homage
disused for courts and kings and craving exercise. The revolt of white
women against this preordained destiny has in these latter days reached
splendid proportions, but it is the revolt of an aristocracy of brains
and ability,--the middle class and rank and file still plod on in the
appointed path, paid by the homage, the almost mocking homage, of men.

From black women of America, however, (and from some others, too, but
chiefly from black women and their daughters' daughters) this gauze has
been withheld and without semblance of such apology they have been
frankly trodden under the feet of men. They are and have been objected
to, apparently for reasons peculiarly exasperating to reasoning human
beings. When in this world a man comes forward with a thought, a deed, a
vision, we ask not, how does he look,--but what is his message? It is of
but passing interest whether or not the messenger is beautiful or
ugly,--the _message_ is the thing. This, which is axiomatic among men,
has been in past ages but partially true if the messenger was a woman.
The world still wants to ask that a woman primarily be pretty and if she
is not, the mob pouts and asks querulously, "What else are women for?"
Beauty "is its own excuse for being," but there are other excuses, as
most men know, and when the white world objects to black women because
it does not consider them beautiful, the black world of right asks two
questions: "What is beauty?" and, "Suppose you think them ugly, what
then? If ugliness and unconventionality and eccentricity of face and
deed do not hinder men from doing the world's work and reaping the
world's reward, why should it hinder women?"

Other things being equal, all of us, black and white, would prefer to be
beautiful in face and form and suitably clothed; but most of us are not
so, and one of the mightiest revolts of the century is against the
devilish decree that no woman is a woman who is not by present standards
a beautiful woman. This decree the black women of America have in large
measure escaped from the first. Not being expected to be merely
ornamental, they have girded themselves for work, instead of adorning
their bodies only for play. Their sturdier minds have concluded that if
a woman be clean, healthy, and educated, she is as pleasing as God wills
and far more useful than most of her sisters. If in addition to this she
is pink and white and straight-haired, and some of her fellow-men prefer
this, well and good; but if she is black or brown and crowned in curled
mists (and this to us is the most beautiful thing on earth), this is
surely the flimsiest excuse for spiritual incarceration or banishment.

The very attempt to do this in the case of Negro Americans has strangely
over-reached itself. By so much as the defective eyesight of the white
world rejects black women as beauties, by so much the more it needs them
as human beings,--an enviable alternative, as many a white woman knows.
Consequently, for black women alone, as a group, "handsome is that
handsome does" and they are asked to be no more beautiful than God made
them, but they are asked to be efficient, to be strong, fertile,
muscled, and able to work. If they marry, they must as independent
workers be able to help support their children, for their men are paid
on a scale which makes sole support of the family often impossible.

On the whole, colored working women are paid as well as white working
women for similar work, save in some higher grades, while colored men
get from one-fourth to three-fourths less than white men. The result is
curious and three-fold: the economic independence of black women is
increased, the breaking up of Negro families must be more frequent, and
the number of illegitimate children is decreased more slowly among them
than other evidences of culture are increased, just as was once true in
Scotland and Bavaria.

What does this mean? It forecasts a mighty dilemma which the whole world
of civilization, despite its will, must one time frankly face: the
unhusbanded mother or the childless wife. God send us a world with
woman's freedom and married motherhood inextricably wed, but until He
sends it, I see more of future promise in the betrayed girl-mothers of
the black belt than in the childless wives of the white North, and I
have more respect for the colored servant who yields to her frank
longing for motherhood than for her white sister who offers up children
for clothes. Out of a sex freedom that today makes us shudder will come
in time a day when we will no longer pay men for work they do not do,
for the sake of their harem; we will pay women what they earn and insist
on their working and earning it; we will allow those persons to vote who
know enough to vote, whether they be black or female, white or male; and
we will ward race suicide, not by further burdening the over-burdened,
but by honoring motherhood, even when the sneaking father shirks his
duty.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Wait till the lady passes," said a Nashville white boy.

"She's no lady; she's a nigger," answered another.

So some few women are born free, and some amid insult and scarlet
letters achieve freedom; but our women in black had freedom thrust
contemptuously upon them. With that freedom they are buying an
untrammeled independence and dear as is the price they pay for it, it
will in the end be worth every taunt and groan. Today the dreams of the
mothers are coming true. We have still our poverty and degradation, our
lewdness and our cruel toil; but we have, too, a vast group of women of
Negro blood who for strength of character, cleanness of soul, and
unselfish devotion of purpose, is today easily the peer of any group of
women in the civilized world. And more than that, in the great rank and
file of our five million women we have the up-working of new
revolutionary ideals, which must in time have vast influence on the
thought and action of this land.

For this, their promise, and for their hard past, I honor the women of
my race. Their beauty,--their dark and mysterious beauty of midnight
eyes, crumpled hair, and soft, full-featured faces--is perhaps more to
me than to you, because I was born to its warm and subtle spell; but
their worth is yours as well as mine. No other women on earth could
have emerged from the hell of force and temptation which once engulfed
and still surrounds black women in America with half the modesty and
womanliness that they retain. I have always felt like bowing myself
before them in all abasement, searching to bring some tribute to these
long-suffering victims, these burdened sisters of mine, whom the world,
the wise, white world, loves to affront and ridicule and wantonly to
insult. I have known the women of many lands and nations,--I have known
and seen and lived beside them, but none have I known more sweetly
feminine, more unswervingly loyal, more desperately earnest, and more
instinctively pure in body and in soul than the daughters of my black
mothers. This, then,--a little thing--to their memory and inspiration.



_Children of the Moon_


    I am dead;
    Yet somehow, somewhere,
    In Time's weird contradiction, I
    May tell of that dread deed, wherewith
    I brought to Children of the Moon
    Freedom and vast salvation.

    I was a woman born,
    And trod the streaming street,
    That ebbs and flows from Harlem's hills,
    Through caves and cañons limned in light,
    Down to the twisting sea.

    That night of nights,
    I stood alone and at the End,
    Until the sudden highway to the moon,
    Golden in splendor,
    Became too real to doubt.

    Dimly I set foot upon the air,
    I fled, I flew, through the thrills of light,
    With all about, above, below, the whirring
    Of almighty wings.

    I found a twilight land,
    Where, hardly hid, the sun
    Sent softly-saddened rays of
    Red and brown to burn the iron soil
    And bathe the snow-white peaks
    In mighty splendor.

    Black were the men,
    Hard-haired and silent-slow,
    Moving as shadows,
    Bending with face of fear to earthward;
    And women there were none.

    "Woman, woman, woman!"
    I cried in mounting terror.
    "Woman and Child!"
    And the cry sang back
    Through heaven, with the
    Whirring of almighty wings.

    Wings, wings, endless wings,--
    Heaven and earth are wings;
    Wings that flutter, furl, and fold,
    Always folding and unfolding,
    Ever folding yet again;
    Wings, veiling some vast
    And veiléd face,
    In blazing blackness,
    Behind the folding and unfolding,
    The rolling and unrolling of
    Almighty wings!

    I saw the black men huddle,
    Fumed in fear, falling face downward;
    Vainly I clutched and clawed,
    Dumbly they cringed and cowered,
    Moaning in mournful monotone:

      O Freedom, O Freedom,
      O Freedom over me;
      Before I'll be a slave,
      I'll be buried in my grave,
      And go home to my God,
            And be free.

    It was angel-music
    From the dead,
    And ever, as they sang,
    Some wingéd thing of wings, filling all heaven,
    Folding and unfolding, and folding yet again,

    Tore out their blood and entrails,
    'Til I screamed in utter terror;
    And a silence came--
    A silence and the wailing of a babe.

    Then, at last, I saw and shamed;
    I knew how these dumb, dark, and dusky things
    Had given blood and life,
    To fend the caves of underground,
    The great black caves of utter night,
    Where earth lay full of mothers
    And their babes.

    Little children sobbing in darkness,
    Little children crying in silent pain,
    Little mothers rocking and groping and struggling,
    Digging and delving and groveling,
    Amid the dying-dead and dead-in-life
    And drip and dripping of warm, wet blood,
    Far, far beneath the wings,--
    The folding and unfolding of almighty wings.

    I bent with tears and pitying hands,
    Above these dusky star-eyed children,--
    Crinkly-haired, with sweet-sad baby voices,
    Pleading low for light and love and living--
    And I crooned:

    "Little children weeping there,
    God shall find your faces fair;
    Guerdon for your deep distress,
    He shall send His tenderness;
    For the tripping of your feet
    Make a mystic music sweet
    In the darkness of your hair;
    Light and laughter in the air--
    Little children weeping there,
    God shall find your faces fair!"

    I strode above the stricken, bleeding men,
    The rampart 'ranged against the skies,
    And shouted:
    "Up, I say, build and slay;
    Fight face foremost, force a way,
    Unloose, unfetter, and unbind;
    Be men and free!"

    Dumbly they shrank,
    Muttering they pointed toward that peak,
    Than vastness vaster,
    Whereon a darkness brooded,
    "Who shall look and live," they sighed;
    And I sensed
    The folding and unfolding of almighty wings.

    Yet did we build of iron, bricks, and blood;
    We built a day, a year, a thousand years,
    Blood was the mortar,--blood and tears,
    And, ah, the Thing, the Thing of wings,
    The wingéd, folding Wing of Things
    Did furnish much mad mortar
    For that tower.

    Slow and ever slower rose the towering task,
    And with it rose the sun,
    Until at last on one wild day,
    Wind-whirled, cloud-swept and terrible
    I stood beneath the burning shadow
    Of the peak,
    Beneath the whirring of almighty wings,
    While downward from my feet
    Streamed the long line of dusky faces
    And the wail of little children sobbing under earth.

    Alone, aloft,
    I saw through firmaments on high
    The drama of Almighty God,
    With all its flaming suns and stars.
    "Freedom!" I cried.
    "Freedom!" cried heaven, earth, and stars;
    And a Voice near-far,
    Amid the folding and unfolding of almighty wings,
    Answered, "I am Freedom--
    Who sees my face is free--
    He and his."

    I dared not look;
    Downward I glanced on deep-bowed heads and closed eyes,
    Outward I gazed on flecked and flaming blue--
    But ever onward, upward flew
    The sobbing of small voices,--
    Down, down, far down into the night.

    Slowly I lifted livid limbs aloft;
    Upward I strove: the face! the face!
    Onward I reeled: the face! the face!
    To beauty wonderful as sudden death,
    Or horror horrible as endless life--
    Up! Up! the blood-built way;
    (Shadow grow vaster!
    Terror come faster!)
    Up! Up! to the blazing blackness
    Of one veiléd face.

    And endless folding and unfolding,
    Rolling and unrolling of almighty wings.
    The last step stood!
    The last dim cry of pain
    Fluttered across the stars,
    And then--
    Wings, wings, triumphant wings,
    Lifting and lowering, waxing and waning,
    Swinging and swaying, twirling and whirling,
    Whispering and screaming, streaming and gleaming,
    Spreading and sweeping and shading and flaming--
    Wings, wings, eternal wings,
    'Til the hot, red blood,
    Flood fleeing flood,
    Thundered through heaven and mine ears,
    While all across a purple sky,
    The last vast pinion.
    Trembled to unfold.

    I rose upon the Mountain of the Moon,--
    I felt the blazing glory of the Sun;
    I heard the Song of Children crying, "Free!"
    I saw the face of Freedom--
    And I died.



VIII

THE IMMORTAL CHILD


If a man die shall he live again? We do not know. But this we do know,
that our children's children live forever and grow and develop toward
perfection as they are trained. All human problems, then, center in the
Immortal Child and his education is the problem of problems. And first
for illustration of what I would say may I not take for example, out of
many millions, the life of one dark child.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is now nineteen years since I first saw Coleridge-Taylor. We were in
London in some somber hall where there were many meeting, men and women
called chiefly to the beautiful World's Fair at Paris; and then a few
slipping over to London to meet Pan-Africa. We were there from Cape
Colony and Liberia, from Haiti and the States, and from the Islands of
the Sea. I remember the stiff, young officer who came with credentials
from Menelik of Abyssinia; I remember the bitter, black American who
whispered how an army of the Soudan might some day cross the Alps; I
remember Englishmen, like the Colensos, who sat and counseled with us;
but above all, I remember Coleridge-Taylor.

He was a little man and nervous, with dark-golden face and hair that
bushed and strayed. His fingers were always nervously seeking hidden
keys and he was quick with enthusiasm,--instinct with life. His bride of
a year or more,--dark, too, in her whiter way,--was of the calm and
quiet type. Her soft contralto voice thrilled us often as she sang,
while her silences were full of understanding.

Several times we met in public gatherings and then they bade me to their
home,--a nest of a cottage, with gate and garden, hidden in London's
endless rings of suburbs. I dimly recall through these years a room in
cozy disorder, strewn with music--music on the floor and music on the
chairs, music in the air as the master rushed to the piano now and
again to make some memory melodious--some allusion real.

And then at last, for it was the last, I saw Coleridge-Taylor in a
mighty throng of people crowding the Crystal Palace. We came in facing
the stage and scarcely dared look around. On the stage were a full
orchestra, a chorus of eight hundred voices, and some of the world's
famous soloists. He left his wife sitting beside me, and she was very
silent as he went forward to lift the conductor's baton. It was one of
the earliest renditions of "Hiawatha's Wedding Feast." We sat at rapt
attention and when the last, weird music died, the great chorus and
orchestra rose as a man to acclaim the master; he turned toward the
audience and then we turning for the first time saw that sea of faces
behind,--the misty thousands whose voices rose to one strong shout of
joy! It was a moment such as one does not often live. It seemed, and
was, prophetic.

This young man who stepped forth as one of the most notable of modern
English composers had a simple and uneventful career. His father was a
black surgeon of Sierra Leone who came to London for study. While there
he met an English girl and this son was born, in London, in 1875.

Then came a series of chances. His father failed to succeed and
disappeared back to Africa leaving the support of the child to the poor
working mother. The child showed evidences of musical talent and a
friendly workingman gave him a little violin. A musician glancing from
his window saw a little dark boy playing marbles on the street with a
tiny violin in one hand; he gave him lessons. He happened to gain
entrance into a charity school with a master of understanding mind who
recognized genius when he saw it; and finally his beautiful child's
treble brought him to the notice of the choirmaster of St. George's,
Croyden.

So by happy accident his way was clear. Within his soul was no
hesitation. He was one of those fortunate beings who are not called to
_Wander-Jahre_, but are born with sails set and seas charted. Already
the baby of four little years was a musician, and as choir-boy and
violinist he walked unhesitatingly and surely to his life work. He was
graduated with honors from the Royal Academy of Music in 1894, and
married soon after the daughter of one of his professors. Then his life
began, and whatever it lacked of physical adventure in the conventional
round of a modern world-city, it more than gained in the almost
tempestuous outpouring of his spiritual nature. Life to him was neither
meat nor drink,--it was creative flame; ideas, plans, melodies glowed
within him. To create, to do, to accomplish; to know the white glory of
mighty midnights and the pale Amen of dawns was his day of days. Songs,
pianoforte and violin pieces, trios and quintets for strings, incidental
music, symphony, orchestral, and choral works rushed from his fingers.
Nor were they laboriously contrived or light, thin things made to meet
sudden popularity. Rather they were the flaming bits that must be said
and sung,--that could not wait the slower birth of years, so hurried to
the world as though their young creator knew that God gave him but a
day. His whole active life was scarcely more than a decade and a half,
and yet in that time, without wealth, friends, or influence, in the face
of perhaps the most critical and skeptical and least imaginative
civilization of the modern world, he wrote his name so high as a
creative artist that it cannot soon be forgotten.

And this was but one side of the man. On the other was the
sweet-tempered, sympathetic comrade, always willing to help, never
knowing how to refuse, generous with every nerve and fiber of his being.
Think of a young musician, father of a family, who at the time of his
death held positions as Associate of the Royal College of Music,
Professor in Trinity College and Crystal Palace, Conductor of the Handel
Choral Society and the Rochester Choral Society, Principal of the
Guildhall School of Music, where he had charge of the choral choir, the
orchestra, and the opera. He was repeatedly the leader of music
festivals all over Great Britain and a judge of contests. And with all
this his house was open in cheering hospitality to friends and his hand
ever ready with sympathy and help.

When such a man dies, it must bring pause to a reasoning world. We may
call his death-sickness pneumonia, but we all know that it was sheer
overwork,--the using of a delicately-tuned instrument too commonly and
continuously and carelessly to let it last its normal life. We may well
talk of the waste of wood and water, of food and fire, but the real and
unforgivable waste of modern civilization is the waste of ability and
genius,--the killing of useful, indispensable men who have no right to
die; who deserve, not for themselves, but for the world, leisure,
freedom from distraction, expert medical advice, and intelligent
sympathy.

Coleridge-Taylor's life work was not finished,--it was but well begun.
He lived only his first period of creative genius, when melody and
harmony flashed and fluttered in subtle, compelling, and more than
promising profusion. He did not live to do the organized, constructive
work in the full, calm power of noonday,--the reflective finishing of
evening. In the annals of the future his name must always stand high,
but with the priceless gift of years, who can say where it might not
have stood.

Why should he have worked so breathlessly, almost furiously? It was, we
may be sure, because with unflinching determination and with no thought
of surrender he faced the great alternative,--the choice which the
cynical, thoughtless, busy, modern world spreads grimly before its
greater souls--food or beauty, bread and butter, or ideals. And
continually we see worthier men turning to the pettier, cheaper
thing--the popular portrait, the sensational novel, the jingling song.
The choice is not always between the least and the greatest, the high
and the empty, but only too often it is between starvation and
something. When, therefore, we see a man, working desperately to earn a
living and still stooping to no paltry dickering and to no unworthy
work, handing away a "Hiawatha" for less than a song, pausing for
glimpses of the stars when a world full of charcoal glowed far more
warmly and comfortably, we know that such a man is a hero in a sense
never approached by the swashbuckling soldier or the lying patriot.

Deep as was the primal tragedy in the life of Coleridge-Taylor, there
lay another still deeper. He smiled at it lightly, as we all do,--we who
live within the veil,--to hide the deeper hurt. He had, with us, that
divine and African gift of laughter, that echo of a thousand centuries
of suns. I mind me how once he told of the bishop, the well-groomed
English bishop, who eyed the artist gravely, with his eye-glass--hair
and color and figure,--and said quite audibly to his friends, "Quite
interesting--looks intelligent,--yes--yes!"

Fortunate was Coleridge-Taylor to be born in Europe and to speak a
universal tongue. In America he could hardly have had his career. His
genius was, to be sure, recognized (with some palpitation and
consternation) when it came full-grown across the seas with an English
imprint; but born here, it might never have been permitted to grow. We
know in America how to discourage, choke, and murder ability when it so
far forgets itself as to choose a dark skin. England, thank God, is
slightly more civilized than her colonies; but even there the path of
this young man was no way of roses and just a shade thornier than that
of whiter men. He did not complain at it,--he did not

     "Wince and cry aloud."

Rather the hint here and there of color discrimination in England
aroused in him deeper and more poignant sympathy with his people
throughout the world. He was one with that great company of
mixed-blooded men: Pushkin and Dumas, Hamilton and Douglass, Browning
and many others; but he more than most of these men knew the call of the
blood when it came and listened and answered. He came to America with
strange enthusiasm. He took with quite simple and unconscious grace the
conventional congratulations of the musical world. He was used to that.
But to his own people--to the sad sweetness of their voices, their
inborn sense of music, their broken, half-articulate voices,--he leapt
with new enthusiasm. From the fainter shadowings of his own life, he
sensed instinctively the vaster tragedy of theirs. His soul yearned to
give voice and being to this human thing. He early turned to the sorrow
songs. He sat at the faltering feet of Paul Laurence Dunbar and he asked
(as we sadly shook our heads) for some masterpiece of this world-tragedy
that his soul could set to music. And then, so characteristically, he
rushed back to England, composed a half-dozen exquisite harmonies
haunted by slave-songs, led the Welsh in their singing, listened to the
Scotch, ordered great music festivals in all England, wrote for Beerbohm
Tree, took on another music professorship, promised a trip to Germany,
and at last, staggering home one night, on his way to his wife and
little boy and girl, fell in his tracks and in four days was dead, at
the age of thirty-seven. They say that in his death-throe he arose and
facing some great, ghostly choir raised his last baton, while all around
the massive silence rang with the last mist-music of his dying ears.

He was buried from St. Michael's on September 5, 1912, with the acclaim
of kings and music masters and little children and to the majestic
melody of his own music. The tributes that followed him to his grave
were unusually hearty and sincere. The head of the Royal College calls
the first production of "Hiawatha" one of the most remarkable events in
modern English musical history and the trilogy one of the most
universally-beloved works of modern English music. One critic calls
Taylor's a name "which with that of Elgar represented the nation's most
individual output" and calls his "Atonement" "perhaps the finest passion
music of modern times." Another critic speaks of his originality:
"Though surrounded by the influences that are at work in Europe today,
he retained his individuality to the end, developing his style, however,
and evincing new ideas in each succeeding work. His untimely death at
the age of thirty-seven, a short life--like those of Schubert,
Mendelssohn, Chopin, and Hugo Wolf--has robbed the world of one of its
noblest singers, one of those few men of modern times who found
expression in the language of musical song, a lyricist of power and
worth."

But the tributes did not rest with the artist; with peculiar unanimity
they sought his "sterling character," "the good husband and father," the
"staunch and loyal friend." And perhaps I cannot better end these
hesitating words than with that tribute from one who called this master,
friend, and whose lament cried in the night with more of depth and
passion than Alfred Noyes is wont in his self-repression to voice:

    "Through him, his race, a moment, lifted up
      Forests of hands to beauty, as in prayer,
    Touched through his lips the sacramental cup
      And then sank back, benumbed in our bleak air."

Yet, consider: to many millions of people this man was all wrong.
_First_, he ought never to have been born, for he was the mulatto son of
a white woman. _Secondly_, he should never have been educated as a
musician,--he should have been trained, for his "place" in the world and
to make him satisfied therewith. _Thirdly_, he should not have married
the woman he loved and who loved him, for she was white and the niece of
an Oxford professor. _Fourthly_, the children of such a union--but why
proceed? You know it all by heart.

If he had been black, like Paul Laurence Dunbar, would the argument have
been different? No. He should never have been born, for he is a
"problem." He should never be educated, for he cannot be educated. He
should never marry, for that means children and there is no place for
black children in this world.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the treatment of the child the world foreshadows its own future and
faith. All words and all thinking lead to the child,--to that vast
immortality and the wide sweep of infinite possibility which the child
represents. Such thought as this it was that made the Master say of old
as He saw baby faces:

"And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones, it is better for
him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and he were cast into
the sea."

And yet the mothers and fathers and the men and women of my race must
often pause and ask: Is it worth while? Ought children be born to us?
Have we any right to make human souls face what we face today? The
answer is clear: If the great battle of human right against poverty,
against disease, against color prejudice is to be won, it must be won,
not in our day, but in the day of our children's children. Ours is the
blood and dust of battle; theirs the rewards of victory. If, then, they
are not there because we have not brought them into the world, we have
been the guiltiest factor in conquering ourselves. It is our duty, then,
to accomplish the immortality of black blood, in order that the day may
come in this dark world when poverty shall be abolished, privilege be
based on individual desert, and the color of a man's skin be no bar to
the outlook of his soul.

If it is our duty as honest colored men and women, battling for a great
principle, to bring not aimless rafts of children to the world, but as
many as, with reasonable sacrifice, we can train to largest manhood,
what in its inner essence shall that training be, particularly in its
beginning?

The first temptation is to shield the child,--to hedge it about that it
may not know and will not dream of the color line. Then when we can no
longer wholly shield, to indulge and pamper and coddle, as though in
this dumb way to compensate. From this attitude comes the multitude of
our spoiled, wayward, disappointed children. And must we not blame
ourselves? For while the motive was pure and the outer menace undoubted,
is shielding and indulgence the way to meet it?

Some Negro parents, realizing this, leave their children to sink or swim
in this sea of race prejudice. They neither shield nor explain, but
thrust them forth grimly into school or street and let them learn as
they may from brutal fact. Out of this may come strength, poise,
self-dependence, and out of it, too, may come bewilderment, cringing
deception, and self-distrust. It is, all said, a brutal, unfair method,
and in its way it is as bad as shielding and indulgence. Why not,
rather, face the facts and tell the truth? Your child is wiser than you
think.

The truth lies ever between extremes. It is wrong to introduce the child
to race consciousness prematurely; it is dangerous to let that
consciousness grow spontaneously without intelligent guidance. With
every step of dawning intelligence, explanation--frank, free, guiding
explanation--must come. The day will dawn when mother must explain
gently but clearly why the little girls next door do not want to play
with "niggers"; what the real cause is of the teacher's unsympathetic
attitude; and how people may ride in the backs of street cars and the
smoker end of trains and still be people, honest high-minded souls.

Remember, too, that in such frank explanation you are speaking in nine
cases out of ten to a good deal clearer understanding than you think and
that the child-mind has what your tired soul may have lost faith
in,--the Power and the Glory.

Out of little, unspoiled souls rise up wonderful resources and healing
balm. Once the colored child understands the white world's attitude and
the shameful wrong of it, you have furnished it with a great life
motive,--a power and impulse toward good which is the mightiest thing
man has. How many white folk would give their own souls if they might
graft into their children's souls a great, moving, guiding ideal!

With this Power there comes, in the transfiguring soul of childhood, the
Glory: the vision of accomplishment, the lofty ideal. Once let the
strength of the motive work, and it becomes the life task of the parent
to guide and to shape the ideal; to raise it from resentment and revenge
to dignity and self-respect, to breadth and accomplishment, to human
service; to beat back every thought of cringing and surrender.

Here, at last, we can speak with no hesitation, with no lack of faith.
For we know that as the world grows better there will be realized in our
children's lives that for which we fight unfalteringly, but vainly now.

So much for the problem of the home and our own dark children. Now let
us look beyond the pale upon the children of the wide world. What is the
real lesson of the life of Coleridge-Taylor? It is this: humanly
speaking it was sheer accident that this boy developed his genius. We
have a right to assume that hundreds and thousands of boys and girls
today are missing the chance of developing unusual talents because the
chances have been against them; and that indeed the majority of the
children of the world are not being systematically fitted for their life
work and for life itself. Why?

Many seek the reason in the content of the school program. They
feverishly argue the relative values of Greek, mathematics, and manual
training, but fail with singular unanimity in pointing out the
fundamental cause of our failure in human education: That failure is due
to the fact that we aim not at the full development of the child, but
that the world regards and always has regarded education first as a
means of buttressing the established order of things rather than
improving it. And this is the real reason why strife, war, and
revolution have marked the onward march of humanity instead of reason
and sound reform. Instead of seeking to push the coming generation ahead
of our pitiful accomplishment, we insist that it march behind. We say,
morally, that high character is conformity to present public opinion; we
say industrially that the present order is best and that children must
be trained to perpetuate it.

But, it is objected, what else can we do? Can we teach Revolution to the
inexperienced in hope that they may discern progress? No, but we may
teach frankly that this world is not perfection, but development: that
the object of education is manhood and womanhood, clear reason,
individual talent and genius and the spirit of service and sacrifice,
and not simply a frantic effort to avoid change in present institutions;
that industry is for man and not man for industry and that while we must
have workers to work, the prime object of our training is not the work
but the worker--not the maintenance of present industrial caste but the
development of human intelligence by which drudgery may be lessened and
beauty widened.

Back of our present educational system is the philosophy that sneers at
the foolish Fathers who believed it self-evident, "that all men were
created free and equal." Surely the overwhelming evidence is today that
men are slaves and unequal. But is it not education that is the creator
of this freedom and equality? Most men today cannot conceive of a
freedom that does not involve somebody's slavery. They do not want
equality because the thrill of their happiness comes from having things
that others have not. But may not human education fix the fine ideal of
an equal maximum of freedom for every human soul combined with that
minimum of slavery for each soul which the inexorable physical facts of
the world impose--rather than complete freedom for some and complete
slavery for others; and, again, is not the equality toward which the
world moves an equality of honor in the assigned human task itself
rather than equal facility in doing different tasks? Human equality is
not lack of difference, nor do the infinite human differences argue
relative superiority and inferiority. And, again, how new an aspect
human differences may assume when all men are educated. Today we think
of apes, semi-apes, and human beings; tomorrow we may think of Keir
Hardies, Roosevelts, and Beethovens--not equals but men. Today we are
forcing men into educational slavery in order that others may enjoy
life, and excuse ourselves by saying that the world's work must be done.
We are degrading some sorts of work by honoring others, and then
expressing surprise that most people object to having their children
trained solely to take up their father's tasks.

Given as the ideal the utmost possible freedom for every human soul,
with slavery for none, and equal honor for all necessary human tasks,
then our problem of education is greatly simplified: we aim to develop
human souls; to make all intelligent; to discover special talents and
genius. With this course of training beginning in early childhood and
never ceasing must go the technical training for the present world's
work according to carefully studied individual gifts and wishes.

On the other hand, if we arrange our system of education to develop
workmen who will not strike and Negroes satisfied with their present
place in the world, we have set ourselves a baffling task. We find
ourselves compelled to keep the masses ignorant and to curb our own
thought and expression so as not to inflame the ignorant. We force
moderate reformers and men with new and valuable ideas to become red
radicals and revolutionists, since that happens to be the only way to
make the world listen to reason. Consider our race problem in the South:
the South has invested in Negro ignorance; some Northerners proposed
limited education, not, they explained, to better the Negro, but merely
to make the investment more profitable to the present beneficiaries.
They thus gained wide Southern support for schools like Hampton and
Tuskegee. But could this program be expected long to satisfy colored
folk? And was this shifty dodging of the real issue the wisest
statesmanship? No! The real question in the South is the question of the
permanency of present color caste. The problem, then, of the formal
training of our colored children has been strangely complicated by the
strong feeling of certain persons as to their future in America and the
world. And the reaction toward this caste education has strengthened the
idea of caste education throughout the world.

Let us then return to fundamental ideals. Children must be trained in a
knowledge of what the world is and what it knows and how it does its
daily work. These things cannot be separated: we cannot teach pure
knowledge apart from actual facts, or separate truth from the human
mind. Above all we must not forget that the object of all education is
the child itself and not what it does or makes.

It is here that a great movement in America has grievously sinned
against the light. There has arisen among us a movement to make the
Public School primarily the hand-maiden of production. America is
conceived of as existing for the sake of its mines, fields and
factories, and not those factories, fields and mines as existing for
America. Consequently, the public schools are for training the mass of
men as servants and laborers and mechanics to increase the land's
industrial efficiency.

Those who oppose this program, especially if they are black, are accused
of despising common toil and humble service. In fact, we Negroes are but
facing in our own children a world problem: how can we, while
maintaining a proper output of goods and furnishing needed services,
increase the knowledge of experience of common men and conserve genius
for the common weal? Without wider, deeper intelligence among the masses
Democracy cannot accomplish its greater ends. Without a more careful
conservation of human ability and talent the world cannot secure the
services which its greater needs call for. Yet today who goes to
college, the Talented or the Rich? Who goes to high school, the Bright
or the Well-to-Do? Who does the physical work of the world, those whose
muscles need the exercise or those whose souls and minds are stupefied
with manual toil? How is the drudgery of the world distributed, by
thoughtful justice or the lash of Slavery?

We cannot base the education of future citizens on the present
inexcusable inequality of wealth nor on physical differences of race. We
must seek not to make men carpenters but to make carpenters men.

Colored Americans must then with deep determination educate their
children in the broadest, highest way. They must fill the colleges with
the talented and fill the fields and shops with the intelligent. Wisdom
is the principal thing. Therefore, get wisdom.

But why am I talking simply of "colored" children? Is not the problem of
their education simply an intensification of the problem of educating
all children? Look at our plight in the United States, nearly 150 years
after the establishment of a government based on human intelligence.

If we take the figures of the Thirteenth Census, we find that there were
five and one-half million illiterate Americans of whom 3,184,633 were
white. Remembering that illiteracy is a crude and extreme test of
ignorance, we may assume that there are in the United States ten million
people over ten years of age who are too ignorant either to perform
their civic duties or to teach industrial efficiency. Moreover, it does
not seem that this illiteracy is disappearing rapidly.

For instance, nine percent of American children between ten and
nineteen years of age cannot read and write. Moreover, there are
millions of children who, judging by the figures for the school year
1909-10, are not going to learn to read and write, for of the Americans
six to fourteen years of age there were 3,125,392 who were not in school
a single day during that year. If we take the eleven million youths
fifteen to twenty years of age for whom vocational training is
particularly adapted, we find that nearly five per cent of these, or
448,414, are absolutely illiterate; it is not too much to assume that a
million of them have not acquired enough of the ordinary tools of
intelligence to make the most of efficient vocational training.

Confining ourselves to the white people, over fifteen per cent of the
white children six to fourteen years of age, or 2,253,198, did not
attend school during the school year 1909-10. Of the native white
children of native parents ten to fourteen years of age nearly a tenth
were not in school during that year; 121,878 native white children of
native parents, fifteen to nineteen years of age, were illiterate.

If we continue our attention to the colored children, the case is, of
course, much worse.

We cannot hope to make intelligent workmen and intelligent citizens of a
group of people, over forty per cent of whose children six to fourteen
years of age were not in school a single day during 1909-10; for the
other sixty per cent the school term in the majority of cases was
probably less than five months. Of the Negro children ten to fourteen
years of age 18.9 per cent were illiterate; of those fifteen to nineteen
years of age 20.3 per cent were illiterate; of those ten to fourteen
years of age 31.4 per cent did not go to school a single day in 1909-10.

What is the trouble? It is simple. We are spending one dollar for
education where we should spend ten dollars. If tomorrow we multiplied
our effort to educate the next generation ten-fold, we should but begin
our bounden duty. The heaven that lies about our infancy is but the
ideals come true which every generation of children is capable of
bringing; but we, selfish in our own ignorance and incapacity, are
making of education a series of miserable compromises: How ignorant can
we let a child grow to be in order to make him the best cotton mill
operative? What is the least sum that will keep the average youth out of
jail? How many months saved on a high school course will make the
largest export of wheat?

If we realized that children are the future, that immortality is the
present child, that no education which educates can possibly be too
costly, then we know that the menace of Kaiserism which called for the
expenditure of more than 332 thousand millions of dollars was not a whit
more pressing than the menace of ignorance, and that no nation tomorrow
will call itself civilized which does not give every single human being
college and vocational training free and under the best teaching force
procurable for love or money.

This world has never taken the education of children seriously. Misled
by selfish dreamings of personal life forever, we have neglected the
true and practical immortality through the endless life of children's
children. Seeking counsels of our own souls' perfection, we have
despised and rejected the possible increasing perfection of unending
generations. Or if we are thrown back in pessimistic despair from making
living folk decent, we leap to idle speculations of a thousand years
hereafter instead of working steadily and persistently for the next
generation.

All our problems center in the child. All our hopes, our dreams are for
our children. Has our own life failed? Let its lesson save the
children's lives from similar failure. Is democracy a failure? Train up
citizens that will make it succeed. Is wealth too crude, too foolish in
form, and too easily stolen? Train up workers with honor and consciences
and brains. Have we degraded service with menials? Abolish the mean
spirit and implant sacrifice. Do we despise women? Train them as workers
and thinkers and not as playthings, lest future generations ape our
worst mistake. Do we despise darker races? Teach the children its fatal
cost in spiritual degradation and murder, teach them that to hate
"niggers" or "chinks" is to crucify souls like their own. Is there
anything we would accomplish with human beings? Do it with the immortal
child, with a stretch of endless time for doing it and with infinite
possibilities to work on.

Is this our attitude toward education? It is not--neither in England nor
America--in France nor Germany--with black nor white nor yellow folk.
Education to the modern world is a burden which we are driven to carry.
We shirk and complain. We do just as little as possible and only threat
or catastrophe induces us to do more than a minimum. If the ignorant
mass, panting to know, revolts, we dole them gingerly enough knowledge
to pacify them temporarily. If, as in the Great War, we discover
soldiers too ignorant to use our machines of murder and destruction, we
train them--to use machines of murder and destruction. If mounting
wealth calls for intelligent workmen, we rush tumultuously to train
workers--in order to increase our wealth. But of great, broad plans to
train all men for all things--to make a universe intelligent, busy,
good, creative and beautiful--where in this wide world is such an
educational program? To announce it is to invite gasps or Brobdingnagian
laughter. It cannot be done. It will cost too much.

What has been done with man can be done with men, if the world tries
long enough and hard enough. And as to the cost--all the wealth of the
world, save that necessary for sheer decent existence and for the
maintenance of past civilization, is, and of right ought to be, the
property of the children for their education.

I mean it. In one year, 1917, we spent $96,700,000,000 for war. We blew
it away to murder, maim, and destroy! Why? Because the blind, brutal
crime of powerful and selfish interests made this path through hell the
only visible way to heaven. We did it. We had to do it, and we are glad
the putrid horror is over. But, now, are we prepared to spend less to
make a world in which the resurgence of such devilish power will be
impossible?

Do we really want war to cease?

Then educate the children of this generation at a cost no whit less and
if necessary a hundred times as great as the cost of the Great War.

Last year, 1917, education cost us $915,000,000.

Next year it ought to cost us at least two thousand million dollars. We
should spend enough money to hire the best teaching force possible--the
best organizing and directing ability in the land, even if we have to
strip the railroads and meat trust. We should dot city and country with
the most efficient, sanitary, and beautiful school-houses the world
knows and we should give every American child common school, high
school, and college training and then vocational guidance in earning a
living.

Is this a dream?

Can we afford less?

Consider our so-called educational "problems"; "How may we keep pupils
in the high school?" Feed and clothe them. "Shall we teach Latin, Greek,
and mathematics to the 'masses'?" If they are worth teaching to anybody,
the masses need them most. "Who shall go to college?" Everybody. "When
shall culture training give place to technical education for work?"
Never.

These questions are not "problems." They are simply "excuses" for
spending less time and money on the next generation. Given ten millions
of dollars a year, what can we best do with the education of a million
children? The real answer is--kill nine hundred and ninety thousand of
them quickly and not gradually, and make thoroughly-trained men and
women of the other ten thousand. But who set the limit of ten million
dollars? Who says it shall not be ten thousand millions, as it ought to
be? You and I say it, and in saying it we sin against the Holy Ghost.

We sin because in our befuddled brains we have linked money and
education inextricably. We assume that only the wealthy have a real
right to education when, in fact, being born is being given a right to
college training. Our wealth today is, we all know, distributed mainly
by chance inheritance and personal favor and yet we attempt to base the
right to education on this foundation. The result is grotesque! We bury
genius; we send it to jail; we ridicule and mock it, while we send
mediocrity and idiocy to college, gilded and crowned. For three hundred
years we have denied black Americans an education and now we exploit
them before a gaping world: See how ignorant and degraded they are! All
they are fit for is education for cotton-picking and dish-washing. When
Dunbar and Taylor happen along, we are torn between something like
shamefaced anger or impatient amazement.

A world guilty of this last and mightiest war has no right to enjoy or
create until it has made the future safe from another Arkansas or
Rheims. To this there is but one patent way, proved and inescapable,
Education, and that not for me or for you but for the Immortal Child.
And that child is of all races and all colors. All children are the
children of all and not of individuals and families and races. The whole
generation must be trained and guided and out of it as out of a huge
reservoir must be lifted all genius, talent, and intelligence to serve
all the world.



Almighty Death[1]


    Softly, quite softly--
    For I hear, above the murmur of the sea,
    Faint and far-fallen footsteps, as of One
    Who comes from out beyond the endless ends of Time,
    With voice that downward looms thro' singing stars;
    Its subtle sound I see thro' these long-darkened eyes,
    I hear the Light He bringeth on His hands--
    Almighty Death!
    Softly, oh, softly, lest He pass me by,
    And that unquivering Light toward which my longing soul
    And tortured body through these years have writhed,
    Fade to the dun darkness of my days.

    Softly, full softly, let me rise and greet
    The strong, low luting of that long-awaited call;
    Swiftly be all my good and going gone,
    And this vast veiled and vanquished vigor of my soul
    Seek somehow otherwhere its rest and goal,
    Where endless spaces stretch,
    Where endless time doth moan,
    Where endless light doth pour
    Thro' the black kingdoms of eternal death.

    Then haply I may see what things I have not seen,
    Then I may know what things I have not known;
    Then may I do my dreams.

    Farewell! No sound of idle mourning let there be
    To shudder this full silence--save the voice
    Of children--little children, white and black,
    Whispering the deeds I tried to do for them;
    While I at last unguided and alone
    Pass softly, full softly.

[Footnote 1: For Joseph Pulitzer, October 29, 1911.]



IX

OF BEAUTY AND DEATH


For long years we of the world gone wild have looked into the face of
death and smiled. Through all our bitter tears we knew how beautiful it
was to die for that which our souls called sufficient. Like all true
beauty this thing of dying was so simple, so matter-of-fact. The boy
clothed in his splendid youth stood before us and laughed in his own
jolly way,--went and was gone. Suddenly the world was full of the
fragrance of sacrifice. We left our digging and burden-bearing; we
turned from our scraping and twisting of things and words; we paused
from our hurrying hither and thither and walking up and down, and asked
in half-whisper: this Death--is this Life? And is its beauty real or
false? And of this heart-questioning I am writing.

       *       *       *       *       *

My friend, who is pale and positive, said to me yesterday, as the tired
sun was nodding:

"You are too sensitive."

I admit, I am--sensitive. I am artificial. I cringe or am bumptious or
immobile. I am intellectually dishonest, art-blind, and I lack humor.

"Why don't you stop all this?" she retorts triumphantly.

You will not let us.

"There you go, again. You know that I--"

Wait! I answer. Wait!

I arise at seven. The milkman has neglected me. He pays little attention
to colored districts. My white neighbor glares elaborately. I walk
softly, lest I disturb him. The children jeer as I pass to work. The
women in the street car withdraw their skirts or prefer to stand. The
policeman is truculent. The elevator man hates to serve Negroes. My job
is insecure because the white union wants it and does not want me. I try
to lunch, but no place near will serve me. I go forty blocks to
Marshall's, but the Committee of Fourteen closes Marshall's; they say
white women frequent it.

"Do all eating places discriminate?"

No, but how shall I know which do not--except--

I hurry home through crowds. They mutter or get angry. I go to a
mass-meeting. They stare. I go to a church. "We don't admit niggers!"

Or perhaps I leave the beaten track. I seek new work. "Our employees
would not work with you; our customers would object."

I ask to help in social uplift.

"Why--er--we will write you."

I enter the free field of science. Every laboratory door is closed and
no endowments are available.

I seek the universal mistress, Art; the studio door is locked.

I write literature. "We cannot publish stories of colored folks of that
type." It's the only type I know.

This is my life. It makes me idiotic. It gives me artificial problems. I
hesitate, I rush, I waver. In fine,--I am sensitive!

My pale friend looks at me with disbelief and curling tongue.

"Do you mean to sit there and tell me that this is what happens to you
each day?"

Certainly not, I answer low.

"Then you only fear it will happen?"

I fear!

"Well, haven't you the courage to rise above a--almost a craven fear?"

Quite--quite craven is my fear, I admit; but the terrible thing
is--these things do happen!

"But you just said--"

They do happen. Not all each day,--surely not. But now and then--now
seldom, now, sudden; now after a week, now in a chain of awful minutes;
not everywhere, but anywhere--in Boston, in Atlanta. That's the hell of
it. Imagine spending your life looking for insults or for hiding places
from them--shrinking (instinctively and despite desperate bolsterings of
courage) from blows that are not always but ever; not each day, but each
week, each month, each year. Just, perhaps, as you have choked back the
craven fear and cried, "I am and will be the master of my--"

"No more tickets downstairs; here's one to the smoking gallery."

You hesitate. You beat back your suspicions. After all, a cigarette with
Charlie Chaplin--then a white man pushes by--

"Three in the orchestra."

"Yes, sir." And in he goes.

Suddenly your heart chills. You turn yourself away toward the golden
twinkle of the purple night and hesitate again. What's the use? Why not
always yield--always take what's offered,--always bow to force, whether
of cannon or dislike? Then the great fear surges in your soul, the real
fear--the fear beside which other fears are vain imaginings; the fear
lest right there and then you are losing your own soul; that you are
losing your own soul and the soul of a people; that millions of unborn
children, black and gold and mauve, are being there and then despoiled
by you because you are a coward and dare not fight!

Suddenly that silly orchestra seat and the cavorting of a comedian with
funny feet become matters of life, death, and immortality; you grasp the
pillars of the universe and strain as you sway back to that befrilled
ticket girl. You grip your soul for riot and murder. You choke and
sputter, and she seeing that you are about to make a "fuss" obeys her
orders and throws the tickets at you in contempt. Then you slink to your
seat and crouch in the darkness before the film, with every tissue
burning! The miserable wave of reaction engulfs you. To think of
compelling puppies to take your hard-earned money; fattening hogs to
hate you and yours; forcing your way among cheap and tawdry idiots--God!
What a night of pleasure!

       *       *       *       *       *

Here, then, is beauty and ugliness, a wide vision of world-sacrifice, a
fierce gleam of world-hate. Which is life and what is death and how
shall we face so tantalizing a contradiction? Any explanation must
necessarily be subtle and involved. No pert and easy word of
encouragement, no merely dark despair, can lay hold of the roots of
these things. And first and before all, we cannot forget that this world
is beautiful. Grant all its ugliness and sin--the petty, horrible snarl
of its putrid threads, which few have seen more near or more often than
I--notwithstanding all this, the beauty of this world is not to be
denied.

Casting my eyes about I dare not let them rest on the beauty of Love and
Friend, for even if my tongue were cunning enough to sing this, the
revelation of reality here is too sacred and the fancy too untrue. Of
one world-beauty alone may we at once be brutally frank and that is the
glory of physical nature; this, though the last of beauties, is divine!

And so, too, there are depths of human degradation which it is not fair
for us to probe. With all their horrible prevalence, we cannot call them
natural. But may we not compare the least of the world's beauty with the
least of its ugliness--not murder, starvation, and rapine, with love and
friendship and creation--but the glory of sea and sky and city, with the
little hatefulnesses and thoughtfulnesses of race prejudice, that out
of such juxtaposition we may, perhaps, deduce some rule of beauty and
life--or death?

       *       *       *       *       *

There mountains hurl themselves against the stars and at their feet lie
black and leaden seas. Above float clouds--white, gray, and inken, while
the clear, impalpable air springs and sparkles like new wine. Last night
we floated on the calm bosom of the sea in the southernmost haven of
Mount Desert. The water flamed and sparkled. The sun had gone, but above
the crooked back of cumulus clouds, dark and pink with radiance, and on
the other sky aloft to the eastward piled the gorgeous-curtained mists
of evening. The radiance faded and a shadowy velvet veiled the
mountains, a humid depth of gloom behind which lurked all the mysteries
of life and death, while above, the clouds hung ashen and dull; lights
twinkled and flashed along the shore, boats glided in the twilight, and
the little puffing of motors droned away. Then was the hour to talk of
life and the meaning of life, while above gleamed silently, suddenly,
star on star.

Bar Harbor lies beneath a mighty mountain, a great, bare, black mountain
that sleeps above the town; but as you leave, it rises suddenly,
threateningly, until far away on Frenchman's Bay it looms above the town
in withering vastness, as if to call all that little world petty save
itself. Beneath the cool, wide stare of that great mountain, men cannot
live as giddily as in some lesser summer's playground. Before the
unveiled face of nature, as it lies naked on the Maine coast, rises a
certain human awe.

God molded his world largely and mightily off this marvelous coast and
meant that in the tired days of life men should come and worship here
and renew their spirit. This I have done and turning I go to work again.
As we go, ever the mountains of Mount Desert rise and greet us on our
going--somber, rock-ribbed and silent, looking unmoved on the moving
world, yet conscious of their everlasting strength.

About us beats the sea--the sail-flecked, restless sea, humming its tune
about our flying keel, unmindful of the voices of men. The land sinks to
meadows, black pine forests, with here and there a blue and wistful
mountain. Then there are islands--bold rocks above the sea, curled
meadows; through and about them roll ships, weather-beaten and patched
of sail, strong-hulled and smoking, light gray and shining. All the
colors of the sea lie about us--gray and yellowing greens and doubtful
blues, blacks not quite black, tinted silvers and golds and dreaming
whites. Long tongues of dark and golden land lick far out into the
tossing waters, and the white gulls sail and scream above them. It is a
mighty coast--ground out and pounded, scarred, crushed, and carven in
massive, frightful lineaments. Everywhere stand the pines--the little
dark and steadfast pines that smile not, neither weep, but wait and
wait. Near us lie isles of flesh and blood, white cottages, tiled and
meadowed. Afar lie shadow-lands, high mist-hidden hills, mountains
boldly limned, yet shading to the sky, faint and unreal.

We skirt the pine-clad shores, chary of men, and know how bitterly
winter kisses these lonely shores to fill yon row of beaked ice houses
that creep up the hills. We are sailing due westward and the sun, yet
two hours high, is blazoning a fiery glory on the sea that spreads and
gleams like some broad, jeweled trail, to where the blue and distant
shadow-land lifts its carven front aloft, leaving, as it gropes, shades
of shadows beyond.

       *       *       *       *       *

Why do not those who are scarred in the world's battle and hurt by its
hardness travel to these places of beauty and drown themselves in the
utter joy of life? I asked this once sitting in a Southern home. Outside
the spring of a Georgia February was luring gold to the bushes and
languor to the soft air. Around me sat color in human flesh--brown that
crimsoned readily; dim soft-yellow that escaped description; cream-like
duskiness that shadowed to rich tints of autumn leaves. And yet a
suggested journey in the world brought no response.

"I should think you would like to travel," said the white one.

But no, the thought of a journey seemed to depress them.

Did you ever see a "Jim-Crow" waiting-room? There are always exceptions,
as at Greensboro--but usually there is no heat in winter and no air in
summer; with undisturbed loafers and train hands and broken,
disreputable settees; to buy a ticket is torture; you stand and stand
and wait and wait until every white person at the "other window" is
waited on. Then the tired agent yells across, because all the tickets
and money are over there--

"What d'ye want? What? Where?"

The agent browbeats and contradicts you, hurries and confuses the
ignorant, gives many persons the wrong change, compels some to purchase
their tickets on the train at a higher price, and sends you and me out
on the platform, burning with indignation and hatred!

The "Jim-Crow" car is up next the baggage car and engine. It stops out
beyond the covering in the rain or sun or dust. Usually there is no step
to help you climb on and often the car is a smoker cut in two and you
must pass through the white smokers or else they pass through your part,
with swagger and noise and stares. Your compartment is a half or a
quarter or an eighth of the oldest car in service on the road. Unless it
happens to be a thorough express, the plush is caked with dirt, the
floor is grimy, and the windows dirty. An impertinent white newsboy
occupies two seats at the end of the car and importunes you to the point
of rage to buy cheap candy, Coco-Cola, and worthless, if not vulgar,
books. He yells and swaggers, while a continued stream of white men
saunters back and forth from the smoker to buy and hear. The white train
crew from the baggage car uses the "Jim-Crow" to lounge in and perform
their toilet. The conductor appropriates two seats for himself and his
papers and yells gruffly for your tickets before the train has scarcely
started. It is best not to ask him for information even in the gentlest
tones. His information is for white persons chiefly. It is difficult to
get lunch or clean water. Lunch rooms either don't serve niggers or
serve them at some dirty and ill-attended hole in the wall. As for
toilet rooms,--don't! If you have to change cars, be wary of junctions
which are usually without accommodation and filled with quarrelsome
white persons who hate a "darky dressed up." You are apt to have the
company of a sheriff and a couple of meek or sullen black prisoners on
part of your way and dirty colored section hands will pour in toward
night and drive you to the smallest corner.

"No," said the little lady in the corner (she looked like an ivory cameo
and her dress flowed on her like a caress), "we don't travel much."

       *       *       *       *       *

Pessimism is cowardice. The man who cannot frankly acknowledge the
"Jim-Crow" car as a fact and yet live and hope is simply afraid either
of himself or of the world. There is not in the world a more disgraceful
denial of human brotherhood than the "Jim-Crow" car of the southern
United States; but, too, just as true, there is nothing more beautiful
in the universe than sunset and moonlight on Montego Bay in far Jamaica.
And both things are true and both belong to this our world, and neither
can be denied.

       *       *       *       *       *

The sun, prepared to cross that awful border which men call Night and
Death, marshals his hosts. I seem to see the spears of mighty horsemen
flash golden in the light; empurpled banners flame afar, and the low
thunder of marching hosts thrills with the thunder of the sea. Athwart
his own path, screening a face of fire, he throws cloud masses, masking
his trained guns. And then the miracle is done. The host passes with
roar too vast for human ear and the sun is set, leaving the frightened
moon and blinded stars.

In the dusk the green-gold palms turn their star-like faces and stretch
their fan-like fingers, lifting themselves proudly, lest any lordly leaf
should know the taint of earth.

Out from the isle the serpent hill thrusts its great length around the
bay, shouldering back the waters and the shadows. Ghost rains sweep
down, smearing his rugged sides, yet on he writhes, undulant with pine
and palm, gleaming until his low, sharp head and lambent tongue, grown
gray and pale and silver in the dying day, kisses the molten gold of the
golden sea.

Then comes the moon. Like fireflies nesting in the hand of God gleams
the city, dim-swathed by fairy palms. A long, thin thumb, mist-mighty,
points shadowy to the Spanish Main, while through the fingers foam the
Seven Seas. Above the calm and gold-green moon, beneath the wind-wet
earth; and here, alone, my soul enchained, enchanted!

       *       *       *       *       *

From such heights of holiness men turn to master the world. All the
pettiness of life drops away and it becomes a great battle before the
Lord. His trumpet,--where does it sound and whither? I go. I saw Montego
Bay at the beginning of the World War. The cry for service as high as
heaven, as wide as human feeling, seemed filling the earth. What were
petty slights, silly insults, paltry problems, beside this call to do
and dare and die? We black folk offered our services to fight. What
happened? Most Americans have forgotten the extraordinary series of
events which worked the feelings of black America to fever heat.

First was the refusal to accept Negro volunteers for the army, except in
the four black regiments already established. While the nation was
combing the country for volunteers for the regular army, it would not
let the American Negro furnish even his proportionate quota of regular
soldiers. This led to some grim bantering among Negroes:

"Why do you want to volunteer?" asked many. "Why should you fight for
this country?"

Before we had chance to reply to this, there came the army draft bill
and the proposal by Vardaman and his ilk to except Negroes. We protested
to Washington in various ways, and while we were insisting that colored
men should be drafted just as other citizens, the bill went through with
two little "jokers."

First, it provided that Negroes should be drafted, but trained in
"separate" units; and, secondly, it somewhat ambiguously permitted men
to be drafted for "labor."

A wave of fear and unrest spread among Negroes and while we were looking
at both these provisions askance, suddenly we received the draft
registration blank. It directed persons "of African descent" to "tear
off the corner!" Probably never before in the history of the United
States has a portion of the citizens been so openly and crassly
discriminated against by action of the general government. It was
disheartening, and on top of it came the celebrated "German plots." It
was alleged in various parts of the country with singular unanimity that
Germans were working among the Negroes, and it was further intimated
that this would make the Negroes too dangerous an element to trust with
guns. To us, of course, it looked as though the discovery and the
proposition came from the same thinly-veiled sources.

Considering carefully this series of happenings the American Negro
sensed an approaching crisis and faced a puzzling dilemma. Here was
evidently preparing fertile ground for the spread of disloyalty and
resentment among the black masses, as they were forced to choose
apparently between forced labor or a "Jim-Crow" draft. Manifestly when a
minority group is thus segregated and forced out of the nation, they can
in reason do but one thing--take advantage of the disadvantage. In this
case we demanded colored officers for the colored troops.

General Wood was early approached and asked to admit suitable candidates
to Plattsburg. He refused. We thereupon pressed the government for a
"separate" camp for the training of Negro officers. Not only did the War
Department hesitate at this request, but strong opposition arose among
colored people themselves. They said we were going too far. "We will
obey the law, but to ask for voluntary segregation is to insult
ourselves." But strong, sober second thought came to our rescue. We said
to our protesting brothers: "We face a condition, not a theory. There is
not the slightest chance of our being admitted to white camps;
therefore, it is either a case of a 'Jim-Crow' officers' training camp
or no colored officers. Of the two things no colored officers would be
the greater calamity."

Thus we gradually made up our minds. But the War Department still
hesitated. It was besieged, and when it presented its final argument,
"We have no place for such a camp," the trustees of Howard University
said: "Take our campus." Eventually twelve hundred colored cadets were
assembled at Fort Des Moines for officers' training.

The city of Des Moines promptly protested, but it finally changed its
mind. Des Moines never before had seen such a class of colored men. They
rapidly became popular with all classes and many encomiums were passed
upon their conduct. Their commanding colonel pronounced their work first
class and declared that they presented excellent material for officers.

Meantime, with one accord, the thought of the colored people turned
toward Colonel Young, their highest officer in the regular army. Charles
Young is a heroic figure. He is the typical soldier,--silent,
uncomplaining, brave, and efficient! From his days at West Point
throughout his thirty years of service he has taken whatever task was
assigned him and performed it efficiently; and there is no doubt but
that the army has been almost merciless in the requirements which it has
put upon this splendid officer. He came through all with flying colors.
In Haiti, in Liberia, in western camps, in the Sequoia Forests of
California, and finally with Pershing in Mexico,--in every case he
triumphed. Just at the time we were looking to the United States
government to call him to head the colored officers' training at Des
Moines, he was retired from the army, because of "high blood pressure!"
There is no disputing army surgeons and their judgment in this case may
be justified, but coming at the time it did, nearly every Negro in the
United States believed that the "high blood pressure" that retired
Colonel Young was in the prejudiced heads of the Southern oligarchy who
were determined that no American Negro should ever wear the stars of a
General.

To say that Negroes of the United States were disheartened at the
retirement of Colonel Young is to put it mildly,--but there was more
trouble. The provision that Negroes must be trained separately looked
simple and was simple in places where there were large Negro
contingents, but in the North with solitary Negroes drafted here and
there we had some extraordinary developments. Regiments appeared with
one Negro where the Negro had to be separated like a pest and put into a
house or even a village by himself while the commander frantically
telegraphed to Washington. Small wonder that one poor fellow in Ohio
solved the problem by cutting his throat. The whole process of drafting
Negroes had to be held up until the government could find methods and
places for assembling them.

Then came Houston. In a moment the nation forgot the whole record of one
of the most celebrated regiments in the United States Army and its
splendid service in the Indian Wars and in the Philippines. It was the
first regiment mobilized in the Spanish-American War and it was the
regiment that volunteered to a man to clean up the yellow fever camps
when others hesitated. It was one of the regiments to which Pershing
said in December:

"Men, I am authorized by Congress to tell you all that our people back
in the States are mightily glad and proud at the way the soldiers have
conducted themselves while in Mexico, and I, General Pershing, can say
with pride that a finer body of men never stood under the flag of our
nation than we find here tonight."

The nation, also, forgot the deep resentment mixed with the pale ghost
of fear which Negro soldiers call up in the breasts of the white South.
It is not so much that they fear that the Negro will strike if he gets a
chance, but rather that they assume with curious unanimity that he has
_reason_ to strike, that any other persons in his circumstances or
treated as he is would rebel. Instead of seeking to relieve the cause of
such a possible feeling, most of them strain every effort to bottle up
the black man's resentment. Is it inconceivable that now and then it
bursts all bounds, as at Brownsville and Houston?

So in the midst of this mental turmoil came Houston and East St. Louis.
At Houston black soldiers, goaded and insulted, suddenly went wild and
"shot up" the town. At East St. Louis white strikers on war work killed
and mobbed Negro workingmen, and as a result 19 colored soldiers were
hanged and 51 imprisoned for life for killing 17 whites at Houston,
while for killing 125 Negroes in East St. Louis, 20 white men were
imprisoned, none for more than 15 years, and 10 colored men with them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Once upon a time I took a great journey in this land to three of the
ends of our world and over seven thousand mighty miles. I saw the grim
desert and the high ramparts of the Rocky Mountains. Three days I flew
from the silver beauty of Seattle to the somber whirl of Kansas City.
Three days I flew from the brute might of Chicago to the air of the
Angels in California, scented with golden flowers, where the homes of
men crouch low and loving on the good, broad earth, as though they were
kissing her blossoms. Three days I flew through the empire of Texas, but
all these shall be tales untold, for in all this journey I saw but one
thing that lived and will live eternal in my soul,--the Grand Cañon.

It is a sudden void in the bosom of the earth, down to its entrails--a
wound where the dull titanic knife has turned and twisted in the hole,
leaving its edges livid, scarred, jagged, and pulsing over the white,
and red, and purple of its mighty flesh, while down below--down, down
below, in black and severed vein, boils the dull and sullen flood of the
Colorado.

It is awful. There can be nothing like it. It is the earth and sky gone
stark and raving mad. The mountains up-twirled, disbodied and inverted,
stand on their peaks and throw their bowels to the sky. Their earth is
air; their ether blood-red rock engreened. You stand upon their roots
and fall into their pinnacles, a mighty mile.

Behold this mauve and purple mocking of time and space! See yonder peak!
No human foot has trod it. Into that blue shadow only the eye of God has
looked. Listen to the accents of that gorge which mutters: "Before
Abraham was, I am." Is yonder wall a hedge of black or is it the rampart
between heaven and hell? I see greens,--is it moss or giant pines? I see
specks that may be boulders. Ever the winds sigh and drop into those
sun-swept silences. Ever the gorge lies motionless, unmoved, until I
fear. It is a grim thing, unholy, terrible! It is human--some mighty
drama unseen, unheard, is playing there its tragedies or mocking comedy,
and the laugh of endless years is shrieking onward from peak to peak,
unheard, unechoed, and unknown.

One throws a rock into the abyss. It gives back no sound. It falls on
silence--the voice of its thunders cannot reach so far. It is not--it
cannot be a mere, inert, unfeeling, brute fact--its grandeur is too
serene--its beauty too divine! It is not red, and blue, and green, but,
ah! the shadows and the shades of all the world, glad colorings touched
with a hesitant spiritual delicacy. What does it mean--what does it
mean? Tell me, black and boiling water!

It is not real. It is but shadows. The shading of eternity. Last night
yonder tesselated palace was gloom--dark, brooding thought and sin,
while hither rose the mountains of the sun, golden, blazing,
ensanguined. It was a dream. This blue and brilliant morning shows all
those burning peaks alight, while here, shapeless, mistful, brood the
shadowed towers.

I have been down into the entrails of earth--down, down by straight and
staring cliffs--down by sounding waters and sun-strewn meadows; down by
green pastures and still waters, by great, steep chasms--down by the
gnarled and twisted fists of God to the deep, sad moan of the yellow
river that did this thing of wonder,--a little winding river with death
in its depth and a crown of glory in its flying hair.

I have seen what eye of man was never meant to see. I have profaned the
sanctuary. I have looked upon the dread disrobing of the Night, and yet
I live. Ere I hid my head she was standing in her cavern halls, glowing
coldly westward--her feet were blackness: her robes, empurpled, flowed
mistily from shoulder down in formless folds of folds; her head,
pine-crowned, was set with jeweled stars. I turned away and dreamed--the
cañon,--the awful, its depths called; its heights shuddered. Then
suddenly I arose and looked. Her robes were falling. At dim-dawn they
hung purplish-green and black. Slowly she stripped them from her gaunt
and shapely limbs--her cold, gray garments shot with shadows stood
revealed. Down dropped the black-blue robes, gray-pearled and slipped,
leaving a filmy, silken, misty thing, and underneath I glimpsed her
limbs of utter light.

       *       *       *       *       *

My God! For what am I thankful this night? For nothing. For nothing but
the most commonplace of commonplaces; a table of gentlewomen and
gentlemen--soft-spoken, sweet-tempered, full of human sympathy, who made
me, a stranger, one of them. Ours was a fellowship of common books,
common knowledge, mighty aims. We could laugh and joke and think as
friends--and the Thing--the hateful, murderous, dirty Thing which in
American we call "Nigger-hatred" was not only not there--it could not
even be understood. It was a curious monstrosity at which civilized folk
laughed or looked puzzled. There was no elegant and elaborate
condescension of--"We once had a colored servant"--"My father was an
Abolitionist"--"I've always been interested in _your people_"--there was
only the community of kindred souls, the delicate reverence for the
Thought that led, the quick deference to the guest. You left in quiet
regret, knowing that they were not discussing you behind your back with
lies and license. God! It was simply human decency and I had to be
thankful for it because I am an American Negro, and white America, with
saving exceptions, is cruel to everything that has black blood--and
this was Paris, in the years of salvation, 1919. Fellow blacks, we must
join the democracy of Europe.

       *       *       *       *       *

Toul! Dim through the deepening dark of early afternoon, I saw its
towers gloom dusky toward the murk of heaven. We wound in misty roads
and dropped upon the city through the great throats of its walled
bastions. There lay France--a strange, unknown, unfamiliar France. The
city was dispossessed. Through its streets--its narrow, winding streets,
old and low and dark, carven and quaint,--poured thousands upon
thousands of strange feet of khaki-clad foreigners, and the echoes threw
back awkward syllables that were never French. Here was France beaten to
her knees yet fighting as never nation fought before, calling in her
death agony across the seas till her help came and with all its strut
and careless braggadocio saved the worthiest nation of the world from
the wickedest fate ever plotted by Fools.

       *       *       *       *       *

Tim Brimm was playing by the town-pump. Tim Brimm and the bugles of
Harlem blared in the little streets of Maron in far Lorraine. The tiny
streets were seas of mud. Dank mist and rain sifted through the cold air
above the blue Moselle. Soldiers--soldiers everywhere--black soldiers,
boys of Washington, Alabama, Philadelphia, Mississippi. Wild and sweet
and wooing leapt the strains upon the air. French children gazed in
wonder--women left their washing. Up in the window stood a black Major,
a Captain, a Teacher, and I--with tears behind our smiling eyes. Tim
Brimm was playing by the town-pump.

The audience was framed in smoke. It rose ghost-like out of
memories--bitter memories of the officer near dead of pneumonia whose
pain was lighted up by the nurses waiting to know whether he must be
"Jim-Crowed" with privates or not. Memories of that great last morning
when the thunders of hell called the Ninety-second to its last drive.
Memories of bitter humiliations, determined triumphs, great victories,
and bugle-calls that sounded from earth to heaven. Like memories framed
in the breath of God, my audience peered in upon me--good, brown faces
with great, kind, beautiful eyes--black soldiers of America rescuing
beloved France--and the words came in praise and benediction there in
the "Y," with its little stock of cigarettes and candies and its rusty
wood stove.

"_Alors_," said Madame, "_quatre sont morts_"--four dead--four tall,
strong sons dead for France--sons like the sweet and blue-eyed daughter
who was hiding her brave smile in the dusk. It was a tiny stone house
whose front window lipped the passing sidewalk where ever tramped the
feet of black soldiers marching home. There was a cavernous wardrobe, a
great fireplace invaded by a new and jaunty iron stove. Vast, thick
piles of bedding rose in yonder corner. Without was the crowded kitchen
and up a half-stair was our bedroom that gave upon a tiny court with
arched stone staircase and one green tree. We were a touching family
party held together by a great sorrow and a great joy. How we laughed
over the salad that got brandy instead of vinegar--how we ate the golden
pile of fried potatoes and how we pored over the post-card from the
Lieutenant of the Senegalese--dear little vale of crushed and risen
France, in the day when Negroes went "over the top" at Pont-à-Mousson.

       *       *       *       *       *

Paris, Paris by purple façade of the opera, the crowd on the Boulevard
des Italiens and the great swing of the Champs Elysées. But not the
Paris the world knows. Paris with its soul cut to the core--feverish,
crowded, nervous, hurried; full of uniforms and mourning bands, with
cafés closed at 9:30--no sugar, scarce bread, and tears so interwined
with joy that there is scant difference. Paris has been dreaming a
nightmare, and though she awakes, the grim terror is upon her--it lies
on the sand-closed art treasures of the Louvre. Only the flowers are
there, always the flowers, the Roses of England and the Lilies of
France.

       *       *       *       *       *

New York! Behind the Liberty that faces free France rise the white
cliffs of Manhattan, tier on tier, with a curving pinnacle, towers
square and twin, a giant inkwell daintily stoppered, an ancient pyramid
enthroned; beneath, low ramparts wide and mighty; while above,
faint-limned against the turbulent sky, looms the vast grace of that
Cathedral of the Purchased and Purchasing Poor, topping the world and
pointing higher.

Yonder the gray cobwebs of the Brooklyn bridges leap the sea, and here
creep the argosies from all earth's ends. We move to this swift home on
dun and swelling waters and hear as we come the heartbeats of the new
world.

       *       *       *       *       *

New York and night from the Brooklyn Bridge: The bees and fireflies flit
and twinkle in their vast hives; curved clouds like the breath of gods
hover between the towers and the moon. One hears the hiss of lightnings,
the deep thunder of human things, and a fevered breathing as of some
attendant and invincible Powers. The glow of burning millions melts
outward into dim and fairy outlines until afar the liquid music born of
rushing crowds drips like a benediction on the sea.

       *       *       *       *       *

New York and morning: the sun is kissing the timid dew in Central Park,
and from the Fountain of Plenty one looks along that world street, Fifth
Avenue, and walks toward town. The earth life and curves graciously down
from the older mansions of princes to the newer shops of luxury. Egypt
and Abyssinia, Paris and Damascus, London and India caress you by the
way; churches stand aloof while the shops swell to emporiums. But all
this is nothing. Everything is mankind. Humanity stands and flies and
walks and rolls about--the poor, the priceless, the world-known and the
forgotten; child and grandfather, king and leman--the pageant of the
world goes by, set in a frame of stone and jewels, clothed in scarlet
and rags. Princes Street and the Elysian Fields, the Strand and the
Ringstrasse--these are the Ways of the World today.

       *       *       *       *       *

New York and twilight, there where the Sixth Avenue "L" rises and leaps
above the tenements into the free air at 110th Street. It circles like a
bird with heaven and St. John's above and earth and the sweet green and
gold of the Park beneath. Beyond lie all the blue mists and mysteries of
distance; beneath, the city rushes and crawls. Behind echo all the roar
and war and care and maze of the wide city set in its sullen darkening
walls, flashing weird and crimson farewells. Out at the sides the stars
twinkle.

       *       *       *       *       *

Again New York and Night and Harlem. A dark city of fifty thousand rises
like magic from the earth. Gone is the white world, the pale lips, the
lank hair; gone is the West and North--the East and South is here
triumphant. The street is crowd and leisure and laughter. Everywhere
black eyes, black and brown, and frizzled hair curled and sleek, and
skins that riot with luscious color and deep, burning blood. Humanity is
packed dense in high piles of close-knit homes that lie in layers above
gray shops of food and clothes and drink, with here and there a
moving-picture show. Orators declaim on the corners, lovers lark in the
streets, gamblers glide by the saloons, workers lounge wearily home.
Children scream and run and frolic, and all is good and human and
beautiful and ugly and evil, even as Life is elsewhere.

       *       *       *       *       *

And then--the Veil. It drops as drops the night on southern seas--vast,
sudden, unanswering. There is Hate behind it, and Cruelty and Tears. As
one peers through its intricate, unfathomable pattern of ancient, old,
old design, one sees blood and guilt and misunderstanding. And yet it
hangs there, this Veil, between Then and Now, between Pale and Colored
and Black and White--between You and Me. Surely it is a thought-thing,
tenuous, intangible; yet just as surely is it true and terrible and not
in our little day may you and I lift it. We may feverishly unravel its
edges and even climb slow with giant shears to where its ringed and
gilded top nestles close to the throne of God. But as we work and climb
we shall see through streaming eyes and hear with aching ears, lynching
and murder, cheating and despising, degrading and lying, so flashed and
fleshed through this vast hanging darkness that the Doer never sees the
Deed and the Victim knows not the Victor and Each hates All in wild and
bitter ignorance. Listen, O Isles, to these Voices from within the Veil,
for they portray the most human hurt of the Twentieth Cycle of that poor
Jesus who was called the Christ!

       *       *       *       *       *

There is something in the nature of Beauty that demands an end. Ugliness
may be indefinite. It may trail off into gray endlessness. But Beauty
must be complete--whether it be a field of poppies or a great life,--it
must end, and the End is part and triumph of the Beauty. I know there
are those who envisage a beauty eternal. But I cannot. I can dream of
great and never-ending processions of beautiful things and visions and
acts. But each must be complete or it cannot for me exist.

On the other hand, Ugliness to me is eternal, not in the essence but in
its incompleteness; but its eternity does not daunt me, for its eternal
unfulfilment is a cause of joy. There is in it nothing new or
unexpected; it is the old evil stretching out and ever seeking the end
it cannot find; it may coil and writhe and recur in endless battle to
days without end, but it is the same human ill and bitter hurt. But
Beauty is fulfilment. It satisfies. It is always new and strange. It is
the reasonable thing. Its end is Death--the sweet silence of perfection,
the calm and balance of utter music. Therein is the triumph of Beauty.

So strong is the spell of beauty that there are those who, contradicting
their own knowledge and experience, try to say that all is beauty. They
are called optimists, and they lie. All is not beauty. Ugliness and hate
and ill are here with all their contradiction and illogic; they will
always be here--perhaps, God send, with lessened volume and force, but
here and eternal, while beauty triumphs in its great completion--Death.
We cannot conjure the end of all ugliness in eternal beauty, for beauty
by its very being and definition has in each definition its ends and
limits; but while beauty lies implicit and revealed in its end, ugliness
writhes on in darkness forever. So the ugliness of continual birth
fulfils itself and conquers gloriously only in the beautiful end, Death.

       *       *       *       *       *

At last to us all comes happiness, there in the Court of Peace, where
the dead lie so still and calm and good. If we were not dead we would
lie and listen to the flowers grow. We would hear the birds sing and see
how the rain rises and blushes and burns and pales and dies in beauty.
We would see spring, summer, and the red riot of autumn, and then in
winter, beneath the soft white snow, sleep and dream of dreams. But we
know that being dead, our Happiness is a fine and finished thing and
that ten, a hundred, and a thousand years, we shall lie at rest, unhurt
in the Court of Peace.



_The Prayers of God_


    Name of God's Name!
    Red murder reigns;
    All hell is loose;
    On gold autumnal air
    Walk grinning devils, barbed and hoofed;
    While high on hills of hate,
    Black-blossomed, crimson-sky'd,
    Thou sittest, dumb.

    Father Almighty!
    This earth is mad!
    Palsied, our cunning hands;
    Rotten, our gold;
    Our argosies reel and stagger
    Over empty seas;
    All the long aisles
    Of Thy Great Temples, God,
    Stink with the entrails
    Of our souls.
    And Thou art dumb.

    Above the thunder of Thy Thunders, Lord,
    Lightening Thy Lightnings,
    Rings and roars
    The dark damnation
    Of this hell of war.
    Red piles the pulp of hearts and heads
    And little children's hands.

    Allah!
    Elohim!
    Very God of God!

    Death is here!
    Dead are the living; deep--dead the dead.
    Dying are earth's unborn--
    The babes' wide eyes of genius and of joy,
    Poems and prayers, sun-glows and earth-songs,
    Great-pictured dreams,
    Enmarbled phantasies,
    High hymning heavens--all
    In this dread night
    Writhe and shriek and choke and die
    This long ghost-night--
    While Thou art dumb.

    Have mercy!
    Have mercy upon us, miserable sinners!
    Stand forth, unveil Thy Face,
    Pour down the light
    That seethes above Thy Throne,
    And blaze this devil's dance to darkness!
    Hear!
    Speak!
    In Christ's Great Name--

    I hear!
    Forgive me, God!
    Above the thunder I hearkened;
    Beneath the silence, now,--
    I hear!

    (Wait, God, a little space.
    It is so strange to talk with Thee--
    Alone!)

    This gold?
    I took it.
    Is it Thine?
    Forgive; I did not know.

    Blood? Is it wet with blood?
    'Tis from my brother's hands.
    (I know; his hands are mine.)
    It flowed for Thee, O Lord.

    War? Not so; not war--
    Dominion, Lord, and over black, not white;
    Black, brown, and fawn,
    And not Thy Chosen Brood, O God,
    We murdered.
    To build Thy Kingdom,
    To drape our wives and little ones,
    And set their souls a-glitter--
    For this we killed these lesser breeds
    And civilized their dead,
    Raping red rubber, diamonds, cocoa, gold!

    For this, too, once, and in Thy Name,
    I lynched a Nigger--

      (He raved and writhed,
       I heard him cry,
       I felt the life-light leap and lie,
       I saw him crackle there, on high,
       I watched him wither!)

    _Thou?_
    _Thee?_
    _I lynched Thee?_

    Awake me, God! I sleep!
    What was that awful word Thou saidst?
    That black and riven thing--was it Thee?
    That gasp--was it Thine?
    This pain--is it Thine?
    Are, then, these bullets piercing Thee?
    Have all the wars of all the world,
    Down all dim time, drawn blood from Thee?
    Have all the lies and thefts and hates--
    Is this Thy Crucifixion, God,
    And not that funny, little cross,
    With vinegar and thorns?
    Is this Thy kingdom here, not there,
    This stone and stucco drift of dreams?

    Help!
    I sense that low and awful cry--

    Who cries?
    Who weeps?
    With silent sob that rends and tears--
    Can God sob?

    Who prays?
    I hear strong prayers throng by,
    Like mighty winds on dusky moors--
    Can God pray?

    Prayest Thou, Lord, and to me?
    _Thou_ needest me?
    Thou _needest_ me?
    Thou needest _me_?
    Poor, wounded soul!
    Of this I never dreamed. I thought--

    _Courage, God,
    I come!_



X

THE COMET


He stood a moment on the steps of the bank, watching the human river
that swirled down Broadway. Few noticed him. Few ever noticed him save
in a way that stung. He was outside the world--"nothing!" as he said
bitterly. Bits of the words of the walkers came to him.

"The comet?"

"The comet----"

Everybody was talking of it. Even the president, as he entered, smiled
patronizingly at him, and asked:

"Well, Jim, are you scared?"

"No," said the messenger shortly.

"I thought we'd journeyed through the comet's tail once," broke in the
junior clerk affably.

"Oh, that was Halley's," said the president; "this is a new comet, quite
a stranger, they say--wonderful, wonderful! I saw it last night. Oh, by
the way, Jim," turning again to the messenger, "I want you to go down
into the lower vaults today."

The messenger followed the president silently. Of course, they wanted
_him_ to go down to the lower vaults. It was too dangerous for more
valuable men. He smiled grimly and listened.

"Everything of value has been moved out since the water began to seep
in," said the president; "but we miss two volumes of old records.
Suppose you nose around down there,--it isn't very pleasant, I suppose."

"Not very," said the messenger, as he walked out.

"Well, Jim, the tail of the new comet hits us at noon this time," said
the vault clerk, as he passed over the keys; but the messenger passed
silently down the stairs. Down he went beneath Broadway, where the dim
light filtered through the feet of hurrying men; down to the dark
basement beneath; down into the blackness and silence beneath that
lowest cavern. Here with his dark lantern he groped in the bowels of the
earth, under the world.

He drew a long breath as he threw back the last great iron door and
stepped into the fetid slime within. Here at last was peace, and he
groped moodily forward. A great rat leaped past him and cobwebs crept
across his face. He felt carefully around the room, shelf by shelf, on
the muddied floor, and in crevice and corner. Nothing. Then he went back
to the far end, where somehow the wall felt different. He sounded and
pushed and pried. Nothing. He started away. Then something brought him
back. He was sounding and working again when suddenly the whole black
wall swung as on mighty hinges, and blackness yawned beyond. He peered
in; it was evidently a secret vault--some hiding place of the old bank
unknown in newer times. He entered hesitatingly. It was a long, narrow
room with shelves, and at the far end, an old iron chest. On a high
shelf lay the two missing volumes of records, and others. He put them
carefully aside and stepped to the chest. It was old, strong, and rusty.
He looked at the vast and old-fashioned lock and flashed his light on
the hinges. They were deeply incrusted with rust. Looking about, he
found a bit of iron and began to pry. The rust had eaten a hundred
years, and it had gone deep. Slowly, wearily, the old lid lifted, and
with a last, low groan lay bare its treasure--and he saw the dull sheen
of gold!

"Boom!"

A low, grinding, reverberating crash struck upon his ear. He started up
and looked about. All was black and still. He groped for his light and
swung it about him. Then he knew! The great stone door had swung to. He
forgot the gold and looked death squarely in the face. Then with a sigh
he went methodically to work. The cold sweat stood on his forehead; but
he searched, pounded, pushed, and worked until after what seemed endless
hours his hand struck a cold bit of metal and the great door swung again
harshly on its hinges, and then, striking against something soft and
heavy, stopped. He had just room to squeeze through. There lay the body
of the vault clerk, cold and stiff. He stared at it, and then felt sick
and nauseated. The air seemed unaccountably foul, with a strong,
peculiar odor. He stepped forward, clutched at the air, and fell
fainting across the corpse.

He awoke with a sense of horror, leaped from the body, and groped up the
stairs, calling to the guard. The watchman sat as if asleep, with the
gate swinging free. With one glance at him the messenger hurried up to
the sub-vault. In vain he called to the guards. His voice echoed and
re-echoed weirdly. Up into the great basement he rushed. Here another
guard lay prostrate on his face, cold and still. A fear arose in the
messenger's heart. He dashed up to the cellar floor, up into the bank.
The stillness of death lay everywhere and everywhere bowed, bent, and
stretched the silent forms of men. The messenger paused and glanced
about. He was not a man easily moved; but the sight was appalling!
"Robbery and murder," he whispered slowly to himself as he saw the
twisted, oozing mouth of the president where he lay half-buried on his
desk. Then a new thought seized him: If they found him here alone--with
all this money and all these dead men--what would his life be worth? He
glanced about, tiptoed cautiously to a side door, and again looked
behind. Quietly he turned the latch and stepped out into Wall Street.

How silent the street was! Not a soul was stirring, and yet it was
high-noon--Wall Street? Broadway? He glanced almost wildly up and down,
then across the street, and as he looked, a sickening horror froze in
his limbs. With a choking cry of utter fright he lunged, leaned giddily
against the cold building, and stared helplessly at the sight.

In the great stone doorway a hundred men and women and children lay
crushed and twisted and jammed, forced into that great, gaping doorway
like refuse in a can--as if in one wild, frantic rush to safety, they
had rushed and ground themselves to death. Slowly the messenger crept
along the walls, wetting his parched mouth and trying to comprehend,
stilling the tremor in his limbs and the rising terror in his heart. He
met a business man, silk-hatted and frock-coated, who had crept, too,
along that smooth wall and stood now stone dead with wonder written on
his lips. The messenger turned his eyes hastily away and sought the
curb. A woman leaned wearily against the signpost, her head bowed
motionless on her lace and silken bosom. Before her stood a street car,
silent, and within--but the messenger but glanced and hurried on. A
grimy newsboy sat in the gutter with the "last edition" in his uplifted
hand: "Danger!" screamed its black headlines. "Warnings wired around the
world. The Comet's tail sweeps past us at noon. Deadly gases expected.
Close doors and windows. Seek the cellar." The messenger read and
staggered on. Far out from a window above, a girl lay with gasping face
and sleevelets on her arms. On a store step sat a little, sweet-faced
girl looking upward toward the skies, and in the carriage by her
lay--but the messenger looked no longer. The cords gave way--the terror
burst in his veins, and with one great, gasping cry he sprang
desperately forward and ran,--ran as only the frightened run, shrieking
and fighting the air until with one last wail of pain he sank on the
grass of Madison Square and lay prone and still.

When he rose, he gave no glance at the still and silent forms on the
benches, but, going to a fountain, bathed his face; then hiding himself
in a corner away from the drama of death, he quietly gripped himself and
thought the thing through: The comet had swept the earth and this was
the end. Was everybody dead? He must search and see.

He knew that he must steady himself and keep calm, or he would go
insane. First he must go to a restaurant. He walked up Fifth Avenue to a
famous hostelry and entered its gorgeous, ghost-haunted halls. He beat
back the nausea, and, seizing a tray from dead hands, hurried into the
street and ate ravenously, hiding to keep out the sights.

"Yesterday, they would not have served me," he whispered, as he forced
the food down.

Then he started up the street,--looking, peering, telephoning, ringing
alarms; silent, silent all. Was nobody--nobody--he dared not think the
thought and hurried on.

Suddenly he stopped still. He had forgotten. My God! How could he have
forgotten? He must rush to the subway--then he almost laughed. No--a
car; if he could find a Ford. He saw one. Gently he lifted off its
burden, and took his place on the seat. He tested the throttle. There
was gas. He glided off, shivering, and drove up the street. Everywhere
stood, leaned, lounged, and lay the dead, in grim and awful silence. On
he ran past an automobile, wrecked and overturned; past another, filled
with a gay party whose smiles yet lingered on their death-struck lips;
on past crowds and groups of cars, pausing by dead policemen; at 42nd
Street he had to detour to Park Avenue to avoid the dead congestion. He
came back on Fifth Avenue at 57th and flew past the Plaza and by the
park with its hushed babies and silent throng, until as he was rushing
past 72nd Street he heard a sharp cry, and saw a living form leaning
wildly out an upper window. He gasped. The human voice sounded in his
ears like the voice of God.

"Hello--hello--help, in God's name!" wailed the woman. "There's a dead
girl in here and a man and--and see yonder dead men lying in the street
and dead horses--for the love of God go and bring the officers----" And
the words trailed off into hysterical tears.

He wheeled the car in a sudden circle, running over the still body of a
child and leaping on the curb. Then he rushed up the steps and tried the
door and rang violently. There was a long pause, but at last the heavy
door swung back. They stared a moment in silence. She had not noticed
before that he was a Negro. He had not thought of her as white. She was
a woman of perhaps twenty-five--rarely beautiful and richly gowned, with
darkly-golden hair, and jewels. Yesterday, he thought with bitterness,
she would scarcely have looked at him twice. He would have been dirt
beneath her silken feet. She stared at him. Of all the sorts of men she
had pictured as coming to her rescue she had not dreamed of one like
him. Not that he was not human, but he dwelt in a world so far from
hers, so infinitely far, that he seldom even entered her thought. Yet as
she looked at him curiously he seemed quite commonplace and usual. He
was a tall, dark workingman of the better class, with a sensitive face
trained to stolidity and a poor man's clothes and hands. His face was
soft and slow and his manner at once cold and nervous, like fires long
banked, but not out.

So a moment each paused and gauged the other; then the thought of the
dead world without rushed in and they started toward each other.

"What has happened?" she cried. "Tell me! Nothing stirs. All is silence!
I see the dead strewn before my window as winnowed by the breath of
God,--and see----" She dragged him through great, silken hangings to
where, beneath the sheen of mahogany and silver, a little French maid
lay stretched in quiet, everlasting sleep, and near her a butler lay
prone in his livery.

The tears streamed down the woman's cheeks and she clung to his arm
until the perfume of her breath swept his face and he felt the tremors
racing through her body.

"I had been shut up in my dark room developing pictures of the comet
which I took last night; when I came out--I saw the dead!

"What has happened?" she cried again.

He answered slowly:

"Something--comet or devil--swept across the earth this morning
and--many are dead!"

"Many? Very many?"

"I have searched and I have seen no other living soul but you."

She gasped and they stared at each other.

"My--father!" she whispered.

"Where is he?"

"He started for the office."

"Where is it?"

"In the Metropolitan Tower."

"Leave a note for him here and come."

Then he stopped.

"No," he said firmly--"first, we must go--to Harlem."

"Harlem!" she cried. Then she understood. She tapped her foot at first
impatiently. She looked back and shuddered. Then she came resolutely
down the steps.

"There's a swifter car in the garage in the court," she said.

"I don't know how to drive it," he said.

"I do," she answered.

In ten minutes they were flying to Harlem on the wind. The Stutz rose
and raced like an airplane. They took the turn at 110th Street on two
wheels and slipped with a shriek into 135th.

He was gone but a moment. Then he returned, and his face was gray. She
did not look, but said:

"You have lost--somebody?"

"I have lost--everybody," he said, simply--"unless----"

He ran back and was gone several minutes--hours they seemed to her.

"Everybody," he said, and he walked slowly back with something film-like
in his hand which he stuffed into his pocket.

"I'm afraid I was selfish," he said. But already the car was moving
toward the park among the dark and lined dead of Harlem--the brown,
still faces, the knotted hands, the homely garments, and the
silence--the wild and haunting silence. Out of the park, and down Fifth
Avenue they whirled. In and out among the dead they slipped and
quivered, needing no sound of bell or horn, until the great, square
Metropolitan Tower hove in sight. Gently he laid the dead elevator boy
aside; the car shot upward. The door of the office stood open. On the
threshold lay the stenographer, and, staring at her, sat the dead clerk.
The inner office was empty, but a note lay on the desk, folded and
addressed but unsent:

     Dear Daughter:

     I've gone for a hundred mile spin in Fred's new Mercedes. Shall not
     be back before dinner. I'll bring Fred with me.

     J.B.H.

"Come," she cried nervously. "We must search the city."

Up and down, over and across, back again--on went that ghostly search.
Everywhere was silence and death--death and silence! They hunted from
Madison Square to Spuyten Duyvel; they rushed across the Williamsburg
Bridge; they swept over Brooklyn; from the Battery and Morningside
Heights they scanned the river. Silence, silence everywhere, and no
human sign. Haggard and bedraggled they puffed a third time slowly down
Broadway, under the broiling sun, and at last stopped. He sniffed the
air. An odor--a smell--and with the shifting breeze a sickening stench
filled their nostrils and brought its awful warning. The girl settled
back helplessly in her seat.

"What can we do?" she cried.

It was his turn now to take the lead, and he did it quickly.

"The long distance telephone--the telegraph and the cable--night rockets
and then--flight!"

She looked at him now with strength and confidence. He did not look like
men, as she had always pictured men; but he acted like one and she was
content. In fifteen minutes they were at the central telephone exchange.
As they came to the door he stepped quickly before her and pressed her
gently back as he closed it. She heard him moving to and fro, and knew
his burdens--the poor, little burdens he bore. When she entered, he was
alone in the room. The grim switchboard flashed its metallic face in
cryptic, sphinx-like immobility. She seated herself on a stool and
donned the bright earpiece. She looked at the mouthpiece. She had never
looked at one so closely before. It was wide and black, pimpled with
usage; inert; dead; almost sarcastic in its unfeeling curves. It
looked--she beat back the thought--but it looked,--it persisted in
looking like--she turned her head and found herself alone. One moment
she was terrified; then she thanked him silently for his delicacy and
turned resolutely, with a quick intaking of breath.

"Hello!" she called in low tones. She was calling to the world. The
world _must_ answer. Would the world _answer_? Was the world----

Silence!

She had spoken too low.

"Hello!" she cried, full-voiced.

She listened. Silence! Her heart beat quickly. She cried in clear,
distinct, loud tones: "Hello--hello--hello!"

What was that whirring? Surely--no--was it the click of a receiver?

She bent close, she moved the pegs in the holes, and called and called,
until her voice rose almost to a shriek, and her heart hammered. It was
as if she had heard the last flicker of creation, and the evil was
silence. Her voice dropped to a sob. She sat stupidly staring into the
black and sarcastic mouthpiece, and the thought came again. Hope lay
dead within her. Yes, the cable and the rockets remained; but the
world--she could not frame the thought or say the word. It was too
mighty--too terrible! She turned toward the door with a new fear in her
heart. For the first time she seemed to realize that she was alone in
the world with a stranger, with something more than a stranger,--with a
man alien in blood and culture--unknown, perhaps unknowable. It was
awful! She must escape--she must fly; he must not see her again. Who
knew what awful thoughts--

She gathered her silken skirts deftly about her young, smooth
limbs--listened, and glided into a sidehall. A moment she shrank back:
the hall lay filled with dead women; then she leaped to the door and
tore at it, with bleeding fingers, until it swung wide. She looked out.
He was standing at the top of the alley,--silhouetted, tall and black,
motionless. Was he looking at her or away? She did not know--she did not
care. She simply leaped and ran--ran until she found herself alone amid
the dead and the tall ramparts of towering buildings.

She stopped. She was alone. Alone! Alone on the streets--alone in the
city--perhaps alone in the world! There crept in upon her the sense of
deception--of creeping hands behind her back--of silent, moving things
she could not see,--of voices hushed in fearsome conspiracy. She looked
behind and sideways, started at strange sounds and heard still stranger,
until every nerve within her stood sharp and quivering, stretched to
scream at the barest touch. She whirled and flew back, whimpering like a
child, until she found that narrow alley again and the dark, silent
figure silhouetted at the top. She stopped and rested; then she walked
silently toward him, looked at him timidly; but he said nothing as he
handed her into the car. Her voice caught as she whispered:

"Not--that."

And he answered slowly: "No--not that!"

They climbed into the car. She bent forward on the wheel and sobbed,
with great, dry, quivering sobs, as they flew toward the cable office on
the east side, leaving the world of wealth and prosperity for the world
of poverty and work. In the world behind them were death and silence,
grave and grim, almost cynical, but always decent; here it was hideous.
It clothed itself in every ghastly form of terror, struggle, hate, and
suffering. It lay wreathed in crime and squalor, greed and lust. Only in
its dread and awful silence was it like to death everywhere.

Yet as the two, flying and alone, looked upon the horror of the world,
slowly, gradually, the sense of all-enveloping death deserted them. They
seemed to move in a world silent and asleep,--not dead. They moved in
quiet reverence, lest somehow they wake these sleeping forms who had, at
last, found peace. They moved in some solemn, world-wide _Friedhof_,
above which some mighty arm had waved its magic wand. All nature slept
until--until, and quick with the same startling thought, they looked
into each other's eyes--he, ashen, and she, crimson, with unspoken
thought. To both, the vision of a mighty beauty--of vast, unspoken
things, swelled in their souls; but they put it away.

Great, dark coils of wire came up from the earth and down from the sun
and entered this low lair of witchery. The gathered lightnings of the
world centered here, binding with beams of light the ends of the earth.
The doors gaped on the gloom within. He paused on the threshold.

"Do you know the code?" she asked.

"I know the call for help--we used it formerly at the bank."

She hardly heard. She heard the lapping of the waters far below,--the
dark and restless waters--the cold and luring waters, as they called. He
stepped within. Slowly she walked to the wall, where the water called
below, and stood and waited. Long she waited, and he did not come. Then
with a start she saw him, too, standing beside the black waters. Slowly
he removed his coat and stood there silently. She walked quickly to him
and laid her hand on his arm. He did not start or look. The waters
lapped on in luring, deadly rhythm. He pointed down to the waters, and
said quietly:

"The world lies beneath the waters now--may I go?"

She looked into his stricken, tired face, and a great pity surged within
her heart. She answered in a voice clear and calm, "No."

Upward they turned toward life again, and he seized the wheel. The
world was darkening to twilight, and a great, gray pall was falling
mercifully and gently on the sleeping dead. The ghastly glare of reality
seemed replaced with the dream of some vast romance. The girl lay
silently back, as the motor whizzed along, and looked half-consciously
for the elf-queen to wave life into this dead world again. She forgot to
wonder at the quickness with which he had learned to drive her car. It
seemed natural. And then as they whirled and swung into Madison Square
and at the door of the Metropolitan Tower she gave a low cry, and her
eyes were great! Perhaps she had seen the elf-queen?

The man led her to the elevator of the tower and deftly they ascended.
In her father's office they gathered rugs and chairs, and he wrote a
note and laid it on the desk; then they ascended to the roof and he made
her comfortable. For a while she rested and sank to dreamy somnolence,
watching the worlds above and wondering. Below lay the dark shadows of
the city and afar was the shining of the sea. She glanced at him timidly
as he set food before her and took a shawl and wound her in it, touching
her reverently, yet tenderly. She looked up at him with thankfulness in
her eyes, eating what he served. He watched the city. She watched him.
He seemed very human,--very near now.

"Have you had to work hard?" she asked softly.

"Always," he said.

"I have always been idle," she said. "I was rich."

"I was poor," he almost echoed.

"The rich and the poor are met together," she began, and he finished:

"The Lord is the Maker of them all."

"Yes," she said slowly; "and how foolish our human distinctions
seem--now," looking down to the great dead city stretched below,
swimming in unlightened shadows.

"Yes--I was not--human, yesterday," he said.

She looked at him. "And your people were not my people," she said; "but
today----" She paused. He was a man,--no more; but he was in some larger
sense a gentleman,--sensitive, kindly, chivalrous, everything save his
hands and--his face. Yet yesterday----

"Death, the leveler!" he muttered.

"And the revealer," she whispered gently, rising to her feet with great
eyes. He turned away, and after fumbling a moment sent a rocket into the
darkening air. It arose, shrieked, and flew up, a slim path of light,
and scattering its stars abroad, dropped on the city below. She scarcely
noticed it. A vision of the world had risen before her. Slowly the
mighty prophecy of her destiny overwhelmed her. Above the dead past
hovered the Angel of Annunciation. She was no mere woman. She was
neither high nor low, white nor black, rich nor poor. She was primal
woman; mighty mother of all men to come and Bride of Life. She looked
upon the man beside her and forgot all else but his manhood, his strong,
vigorous manhood--his sorrow and sacrifice. She saw him glorified. He
was no longer a thing apart, a creature below, a strange outcast of
another clime and blood, but her Brother Humanity incarnate, Son of God
and great All-Father of the race to be.

He did not glimpse the glory in her eyes, but stood looking outward
toward the sea and sending rocket after rocket into the unanswering
darkness. Dark-purple clouds lay banked and billowed in the west. Behind
them and all around, the heavens glowed in dim, weird radiance that
suffused the darkening world and made almost a minor music. Suddenly, as
though gathered back in some vast hand, the great cloud-curtain fell
away. Low on the horizon lay a long, white star--mystic, wonderful! And
from it fled upward to the pole, like some wan bridal veil, a pale, wide
sheet of flame that lighted all the world and dimmed the stars.

In fascinated silence the man gazed at the heavens and dropped his
rockets to the floor. Memories of memories stirred to life in the dead
recesses of his mind. The shackles seemed to rattle and fall from his
soul. Up from the crass and crushing and cringing of his caste leaped
the lone majesty of kings long dead. He arose within the shadows, tall,
straight, and stern, with power in his eyes and ghostly scepters
hovering to his grasp. It was as though some mighty Pharaoh lived again,
or curled Assyrian lord. He turned and looked upon the lady, and found
her gazing straight at him.

Silently, immovably, they saw each other face to face--eye to eye. Their
souls lay naked to the night. It was not lust; it was not love--it was
some vaster, mightier thing that needed neither touch of body nor thrill
of soul. It was a thought divine, splendid.

Slowly, noiselessly, they moved toward each other--the heavens above,
the seas around, the city grim and dead below. He loomed from out the
velvet shadows vast and dark. Pearl-white and slender, she shone beneath
the stars. She stretched her jeweled hands abroad. He lifted up his
mighty arms, and they cried each to the other, almost with one voice,
"The world is dead."

"Long live the----"

"Honk! Honk!" Hoarse and sharp the cry of a motor drifted clearly up
from the silence below. They started backward with a cry and gazed upon
each other with eyes that faltered and fell, with blood that boiled.

"Honk! Honk! Honk! Honk!" came the mad cry again, and almost from their
feet a rocket blazed into the air and scattered its stars upon them. She
covered her eyes with her hands, and her shoulders heaved. He dropped
and bowed, groped blindly on his knees about the floor. A blue flame
spluttered lazily after an age, and she heard the scream of an answering
rocket as it flew.

Then they stood still as death, looking to opposite ends of the earth.

"Clang--crash--clang!"

The roar and ring of swift elevators shooting upward from below made the
great tower tremble. A murmur and babel of voices swept in upon the
night. All over the once dead city the lights blinked, flickered, and
flamed; and then with a sudden clanging of doors the entrance to the
platform was filled with men, and one with white and flying hair rushed
to the girl and lifted her to his breast. "My daughter!" he sobbed.

Behind him hurried a younger, comelier man, carefully clad in motor
costume, who bent above the girl with passionate solicitude and gazed
into her staring eyes until they narrowed and dropped and her face
flushed deeper and deeper crimson.

"Julia," he whispered; "my darling, I thought you were gone forever."

She looked up at him with strange, searching eyes.

"Fred," she murmured, almost vaguely, "is the world--gone?"

"Only New York," he answered; "it is terrible--awful! You know,--but
you, how did you escape--how have you endured this horror? Are you well?
Unharmed?"

"Unharmed!" she said.

"And this man here?" he asked, encircling her drooping form with one arm
and turning toward the Negro. Suddenly he stiffened and his hand flew to
his hip. "Why!" he snarled. "It's--a--nigger--Julia! Has he--has he
dared----"

She lifted her head and looked at her late companion curiously and then
dropped her eyes with a sigh.

"He has dared--all, to rescue me," she said quietly, "and I--thank
him--much." But she did not look at him again. As the couple turned
away, the father drew a roll of bills from his pockets.

"Here, my good fellow," he said, thrusting the money into the man's
hands, "take that,--what's your name?"

"Jim Davis," came the answer, hollow-voiced.

"Well, Jim, I thank you. I've always liked your people. If you ever want
a job, call on me." And they were gone.

The crowd poured up and out of the elevators, talking and whispering.

"Who was it?"

"Are they alive?"

"How many?"

"Two!"

"Who was saved?"

"A white girl and a nigger--there she goes."

"A nigger? Where is he? Let's lynch the damned----"

"Shut up--he's all right-he saved her."

"Saved hell! He had no business----"

"Here he comes."

Into the glare of the electric lights the colored man moved slowly, with
the eyes of those that walk and sleep.

"Well, what do you think of that?" cried a bystander; "of all New York,
just a white girl and a nigger!"

The colored man heard nothing. He stood silently beneath the glare of
the light, gazing at the money in his hand and shrinking as he gazed;
slowly he put his other hand into his pocket and brought out a baby's
filmy cap, and gazed again. A woman mounted to the platform and looked
about, shading her eyes. She was brown, small, and toil-worn, and in one
arm lay the corpse of a dark baby. The crowd parted and her eyes fell on
the colored man; with a cry she tottered toward him.

"Jim!"

He whirled and, with a sob of joy, caught her in his arms.



_A Hymn to the Peoples_


    O Truce of God!
    And primal meeting of the Sons of Man,
    Foreshadowing the union of the World!
    From all the ends of earth we come!
    Old Night, the elder sister of the Day,
    Mother of Dawn in the golden East,
    Meets in the misty twilight with her brood,
    Pale and black, tawny, red and brown,
    The mighty human rainbow of the world,
    Spanning its wilderness of storm.

    Softly in sympathy the sunlight falls,
    Rare is the radiance of the moon;
    And on the darkest midnight blaze the stars--
    The far-flown shadows of whose brilliance
    Drop like a dream on the dim shores of Time,
    Forecasting Days that are to these
    As day to night.

    So sit we all as one.
    So, gloomed in tall and stone-swathed groves,
    The Buddha walks with Christ!
    And Al-Koran and Bible both be holy!

    Almighty Word!
    In this Thine awful sanctuary,
    First and flame-haunted City of the Widened World,
    Assoil us, Lord of Lands and Seas!

    We are but weak and wayward men,
    Distraught alike with hatred and vainglory;
    Prone to despise the Soul that breathes within--
    High visioned hordes that lie and steal and kill,
    Sinning the sin each separate heart disclaims,
    Clambering upon our riven, writhing selves,
    Besieging Heaven by trampling men to Hell!
    We be blood-guilty! Lo, our hands be red!
    Not one may blame the other in this sin!
    But here--here in the white Silence of the Dawn,
    Before the Womb of Time,
    With bowed hearts all flame and shame,
    We face the birth-pangs of a world:
    We hear the stifled cry of Nations all but born--
    The wail of women ravished of their stunted brood!
    We see the nakedness of Toil, the poverty of Wealth,
    We know the Anarchy of Empire, and doleful Death of Life!
    And hearing, seeing, knowing all, we cry:

    Save us, World-Spirit, from our lesser selves!
    Grant us that war and hatred cease,
    Reveal our souls in every race and hue!
    Help us, O Human God, in this Thy Truce,
    To make Humanity divine!





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