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Title: The Ballotless Victim of One-Party Governments - The American Negro Academy, Occasional Papers No. 16
Author: Grimké, Archibald Henry, 1849-1930
Language: English
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  OCCASIONAL PAPERS, NO. 16.

  THE AMERICAN NEGRO ACADEMY.


  THE BALLOTLESS VICTIM OF
  ONE-PARTY GOVERNMENTS.

  ANNUAL ADDRESS
  BY ARCHIBALD H. GRIMKE


  PRICE, 15 CENTS.

  WASHINGTON, D. C.:
  PUBLISHED BY THE ACADEMY,
  1913



THE BALLOTLESS VICTIM OF ONE-PARTY GOVERNMENTS.


The legal status of the Negro in the United States is difficult to define
or describe, because on paper he is an American citizen, entitled to the
rights of an American citizen, but in practice he does not get what he is
entitled to or anything like it in certain parts of the Republic. His life
is safe-guarded by written law, and so is his liberty and his activities
in pursuit of happiness and to better his condition. Moreover in order
that he may protect himself against the predatory aggression and greed of
other citizens he is invested by the supreme law of the land with the
right to vote, with a voice in the Government, to enable him to defend
himself against the enactment of bad and unequal laws and against their
bad and unequal administration. Certainly the Negro seems to be the equal
in rights of any other American. That he is on paper there is not a doubt,
but that he is not in reality there is not a doubt either. What he is
entitled to does not anywhere in the South and in some states of the North
square itself with what he actually enjoys. There is an enormous
discrepancy in his case between National promise or guarantees and
National performance or possessions. He is an American citizen under the
National Constitution. To be sure he is, but with a big qualification. He
has the right to reach up and out and to grow in every direction like
other American citizens whose race and color are different from his own.
Not a doubt of it in legal theory but when he puts his theoretical rights
to the test of fact he finds that he is different, that he may not do many
of the things which white men all about him are doing all the time. He
finds that even the Chinese who are denied citizenship in the Republic,
receive better treatment, are accorded larger liberties as men than are
allowed him in the South.

Why is this? Why does the Negro occupy this very anomalous position in his
country? Is it because he is an alien? It cannot really be that, because
he is not an alien. But perhaps it is because the whites choose to make
believe that he is an alien, which comes nearer the real reason.
Nevertheless no alien is he any more than are the whites themselves, if
duration of occupancy of the soil has anything to do with making a race
native and to the manner born. Is it because the Negro has proved himself
an undesirable citizen? Certainly not if past services to the country of
the greatest value are any proof to the contrary. In the Revolutionary War
he was no insignificant factor in achieving American independence; and in
the War of 1812 which defended this independence against British
aggression; and in the Civil War which saved the Union and abolished
slavery; and in the Spanish-American War which removed a chronic peril to
the National peace and added immensely to the National domain. Nor has he
failed as a laborer, for he does annually his share of the work of the
Nation, and in the production of its wealth. Without Negro labor how much
less cotton would the South produce annually, or sugar or rice or tobacco,
think you? His labor besides is very much in evidence in southern mines
and mills and trades. Then, has he ever plotted against the Government,
state or national, was he ever as a class a menace to law and order, or an
enemy to property, or a breeder of industrial unrest and violence? On the
contrary has he not been patient and peaceful and cheerful under wrongs
which would have made any other class of Americans sullen and dangerous
and lawless? No, he is not an undesirable citizen for these sufficient
reasons, but there is yet another good answer on this head. Negro labor
could not in any considerable numbers leave the South voluntarily because
Southern capital and landed interests would not let it, would resist by
force if found necessary its migration to other parts.

This sounds singular in this land of the free and it is singular, for of
no other class of American labor could it be said that its right to
migrate from one state to another is actually obstructed by law and would
be resisted by force. It is singular but it is nevertheless true. If a
thousand, or ten thousand, or a hundred thousand agricultural laborers in
the West were to make up their minds to move to the cotton belt of the
South, they would be free to do so, regardless of the injury which Western
farmers might suffer in consequence of their migration. But if one hundred
thousand, or ten thousand, or even one thousand Negro cotton pickers
desired to quit picking cotton and to seek their fortune in other states,
does anyone imagine that they would be allowed to depart in peace, that
they would not find rather by violent experience that they are not at
liberty to make the change? The South does not regard the Negro laborer
then as undesirable but quite the contrary--only it wants to retain
possession of it on its own terms, not on those advantageous to that
labor.

As an American citizen then the Negro has a paper right to move freely
from one place to another, but in the South were he to attempt to realize
on this right he would in all probability find himself realizing on a
totally different proposition--maybe the chain gang at the hands of a
prejudiced court on some trumped up charge of an employer, or death at the
hands of a mob. This sounds amazing and it is amazing because it fits the
Negro's case so exactly, because it is an accurate description of his
condition as an agricultural laborer in many of the Southern states.

On every hand over against his paper rights as a citizen, the Negro faces
facts which make his citizenship seem like a snare and a delusion. Let us
suppose that a member of the American Negro Academy wishes with wife or
daughter to visit Florida for his health. He cannot make the journey there
like a white man, whether citizen or foreigner, or like any other
traveller to that section whatever his race since he be not a Negro. And
it makes no difference how refined or educated or wealthy or infirm or
aged a colored passenger may be, whether man, woman or child, he
encounters the same unjust and unequal treatment at the hands of the
railroads. What though he has paid for himself and wife or daughter the
same fare which passengers of the favored class pay, he finds that there
is a vast difference between what he gets and what they get for precisely
the same money. They get always the best accommodations for themselves and
families, while he gets the worst. There is not a restaurant along the
route where he may get a meal, and not a hotel which would give him a bed
over night. If he can afford it he may procure a seat in a Pullman, and
then again he may not be able to do so, and in this case as in the event
of his not being able to afford to buy a seat in a Pullman, he must make
the journey in a "Jim Crow" car, without separate toilet arrangements for
the sexes, deficient in soap and towels, in water and in general and
particular cleanliness, exposed constantly to the intrusions and the
fumes, alcoholic and tobacco, of white men passing to and from their
smoker, which is one-half of the "Jim Crow" coach and divided from it only
by an inadequate partition.

The colored passenger is, to be sure, an American citizen on paper, but
what is it worth to him under the circumstances? Can it compel railroads
to furnish him decent accommodations, which federal law provides shall be
equal to those furnished to white passengers, and for which the colored
passenger pays the same fare as the white one? It is notorious that the
accommodations furnished by the railroads in interstate commerce to their
colored passengers are inferior to those which they furnish white
passengers for the same fare. The Interstate Commerce Commission knows
this and knows it well, yet it makes no determined and persistent attempt
to compel railroads to give to their colored passengers accommodations
equal to those which they furnish their white ones. It is too busy
attending to the more important business relating to the property rights
and interests of shippers and capitalists to spare the time to break up an
evil which makes the existence of colored interstate passengers an
unbroken experience of bitter hardships and humiliations. Surely there are
American citizens and American citizens--citizens whom Government protects
and enables to make good their claim to equality before the law, and other
citizens whom Government does not protect or enable to make good their
claim to equality before the law. And to this latter class belongs the
Negro nearly every time and almost everywhere.

The Negro is the great American anomaly. Judged by his rights on paper his
citizenship is indisputable, but judged by his rights in fact it is full
of mutilations and amputations which disfigure it almost beyond
recognition. One-half of it appears in the light clothed with fragments of
his rights, and the other half is in eclipse, exposed naked to biting cold
and bitter wrong. He appeals to good men and true in the South and in the
North and in the Government too, to give him what he is entitled to. He
does not get it or anything like it. There does not appear to be common
honesty and decency enough in the railroads to give him what he pays for
as an interstate traveller, human compassion to say nothing of common
justice enough in the Interstate Commerce Commission to enforce against
the railroads the law made by the Government to conciliate the race
prejudice of the South. The separate car feature of the Railroad Rate Bill
was inserted in deference to the demand of the South, and the equal
accommodation feature as an act of plain commercial justice to the Negro.
The South has never failed to get its separate cars, while the Negro has
never failed either to receive the most unequal accommodations in open
violation of the provisions of that bill.

But this is not all or anything like all that mars almost beyond
recognition the citizenship of the Negro. If one doubts this, let him go
into the South and let him venture to incite the Negroes there to an
assertion of their rights. Freedom of the press is theirs under the
Constitution. Does anyone suppose that they would be allowed to say
publicly what they think about the un-Christian and undemocratic way in
which they are treated? Let them try it and see what will happen to them,
that is, if they be wholly reckless of consequences. Freedom of the press
is another of their rights, one of the boasted bulwarks of the
Constitution. Does anyone suppose that they would be allowed to write as
freely or anything like as freely about white men and women, especially
the latter, as white men write about colored men and women? Let some
colored editor make the experiment and tell afterward what happened to him
hot on the heels of his article. He may not be able to enlighten the
public but the associated press dispatch will give the grim facts relating
to the end of that editor, who undertook to monkey with the buzz saw of
the freedom of the press in a Southern community.

Another of the sacred rights which appertain to the Negro's American
citizenship is the right of public assembly to consider his grievances and
discuss measures for their redress. Well, if any group of Negroes in
almost any part of the South are hunting for trouble, let them get up a
public meeting for such a purpose, and give vent to the righteous
indignation against oppressions which ought to stir the blood of any man
who is not a slave, and then watch results. A flaming spirit will
presently appear in the midst of that meeting, and it will not be the
flaming spirit of liberty, but of a Southern mob on arson and murder
bent. Negro property will be burned and Negro blood will be shed, and that
without stint or mercy. The Negro's Constitutional right to assemble to
consider his wrongs is in reality too weak to resist the murderous
violence of a Southern mob. The mob burns Negroes and their property
almost everywhere in the South with absolute impunity. Nothing is done by
the authorities to punish the mob or to protect their victims. And yet
both the mob and its victims are American citizens, entitled alike on
paper to the law's protection and amenable alike to its penalties. The
white man enjoys a monopoly of the first and the Negro gets the lion's
share of the second. The colored man who has the temerity to agitate for
his rights in the South may find himself agitating speedily at the end of
a rope, unless he more speedily finds some hole in the ground to give him
the protection which Government refuses him. He would in that event be
surer of the thing which he seeks if the hole in the ground were a hole in
some grave yard, for then the hole might be pulled in after him, when he
would find rest at last--surcease from all the cruel perplexities and
inequalities of his American citizenship.

Again I ask why is all this thus? It is not because the Negro is an alien
or because he is an undesirable citizen. For he is not that at all, as we
have seen, but quite the contrary. But how explain this enormous
contradiction between the rights which he is legally entitled to and those
which he actually possesses? Here he is fifty years after emancipation,
forty-four years after his investiture with American citizenship, and
forty-two years after the adoption of the great Amendment to the
Constitution which gave him the right to vote, a voice in making the laws,
not more than half free, than half a citizen in many States of the Union.
Why is this so, I ask again? Is it not because he is the ballotless victim
in those states of one-party governments in which he is denied a voice? In
1866 Governor John A. Andrew foresaw clearly what would be the fate of the
Negro in the old slave states without the ballot. The condition which the
great War Governor foresaw then fits remarkably well the Negro's actual
condition to-day in certain sections of the nation. "Meanwhile," he said,
"the disfranchised freedmen, hated by some because he is black, contemned
by some because he has been a slave, feared by some because of the
antagonisms of society, is condemned to the condition of a hopeless pariah
of a merciless civilization. In the community he is not of it. He neither
belongs to a master nor to society." The thing which John A. Andrew
foresaw in 1866 as likely to come to pass in case of disfranchisement of
the blacks, has been coming to pass ever since. And the cause which has
reduced the Negro to his present anomalous position in the Republic of
which he is a citizen, is his lack of the right to vote, which makes its
possessor a part of the community in which he lives, and enables him to
make that community respond to his needs as a vital part of its body
social and politic.

The Negro in the mass is a disfranchised man. His political influence in
Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina
and Virginia is practically at the zero point. The mass of the
disfranchised in those seven Southern States is so great that by the law
of gravitation its very weight and number affect more or less adversely
the status of the rest of the race in other states. The disfranchised
Negro operates in many ways to depreciate the rights of the enfranchised
Negro, and to draw him by the invisible threads of race kinship and of
race prejudice toward if not quite within the zone of his own limitations
and disabilities. A disfranchised class in an industrial republic like
ours is as much at the mercy of an enfranchised class as is a flock of
shepherdless sheep at the mercy of a pack of wolves. The wolves will
devour the sheep and the enfranchised class will prey on the disfranchised
class. To the wall the weak will be driven and harried and destroyed
whether they be sheep or men, and this the strong will do every time
whether they be men or wolves. The shepherd protects the sheep from the
depredations of the wolves, and the ballot protects poverty against
property, a weak race or class against the hate and aggressions of
stronger ones within the same country.

A citizen without the ballot in America is in fact, whatever he may be in
law, a de-citizenized man--exposed in consequence to the enmities, the
jealousies, the insults and the violence of other citizens who are more
fortunate in this regard. He is, whatever may be his legal status on
paper, a proscribed man, subject to unmerited and unmeasured ignominies
and injustices at the hands of his country, its society, its passions and
prejudices. Governor Andrew was right, a disfranchised man, a
disfranchised class must become ultimately, "The hopeless pariah of a
merciless civilization." This is the peril, the fate which hangs over the
colored race at the close of the first fifty years of its emancipation.

Governor Andrew's scheme for the reconstruction of the rebel states
included not only the extension of the suffrage to the blacks but the
re-admission to their full citizenship of the class of old slaveholders
who had carried those states out of the Union. They were needed as leaders
in the work of restoration and reconstruction, he shrewdly argued. And he
was right. They were indeed the natural leaders of the South, and had they
turned their backs upon the past and faced patriotically the new problems
and the new posture of their affairs they might have led both races into
the promised land of freedom and peace and Southern industrial expansion
and greatness. Had they seized their golden opportunity for progressive
and constructive statesmanship, the sceptre of their ascendency in the
governments of their section could not have been wrested from them by
another class of whites, risen since the war, who distrust and hate them,
but they might instead have transmitted their ascendency undiminished to
their descendants, who ought to be today the leaders of the new South.

The course laid down by Governor Andrew was not followed either by the
South or by the North. The Southern leaders taking advantage of the
opportunity given them by Andrew Johnson reconstructed their section along
the lines of their old social system, reducing its changes to a minimum.
They emerged out of their reconstruction operation with a Negro serf
system to take the place of their old slave system. The Negro as a serf
was just about as valuable as an industrial asset to the great landlords
and to the small ones too for that matter, as had been the Negro as a
slave. Just about as much unpaid and involuntary labor could be got out of
the first as out of the last. Thus did the old master class perform their
task without changing materially their old social system. But they
likewise issued from their labors not less fortunate in another respect.
Their old political power would not suffer any radical change in
consequence of the abolition of slavery either. For whereas five slaves
had counted for them in the ante bellum apportionment of representatives
as three freemen, five serfs would count in the post-bellum apportionment
as five free men--a pretty large gain for the new power over the old one
in federal numbers. But in achieving this double success the old master
class overreached itself. The return of the South into the newly restored
Union stronger as a serf power than it had been as a slave power aroused
the instant fear of the North and set Congress in motion to thwart such
reappearance of that section into the arena of national politics.

Congress thereupon took upon itself the work of Southern reconstruction.
The extreme gravity of the situation as it affected the Negro lay in the
political solidity of that section with its one-party governments in which
he was denied a voice. His freedom could not long survive such a
combination of Southern race prejudice and passion and political power as
constituted at that time the solid South and its one-party governments.
They were then and they continue to be the greatest obstacle to the
freedom and advancement of the Negro as an American citizen. They
signalized their first entrance upon the stage of national affairs by an
attempt to create a serf class out of their former slaves. When I say that
they constitute the greatest obstacle to the freedom and advancement of
the Negro, I mean, of course, the greatest obstacle outside of the Negro
himself. For I take it that no race that possesses intelligence, industry
and character, coupled with unity of purpose and action can be kept
forever out of its rights and in a backward state even by the American
white people, accomplished as they are in this species of national
wickedness, unless they intend to reverse the wheel of their progress and
to retrograde in free institutions and civilization.

Against Southern political solidity and its one-party governments Congress
directed its reconstruction measures. With the dissolution of this
solidity and the introduction of bi-party in place of one-party
governments the Republican leaders looked for the passing of the danger to
Northern sectional supremacy and the freedom of the Negro. The freedmen
were utilized at this juncture to effect the necessary changes in the
Southern situation which the exigency demanded. He was first raised to
citizenship, and when that proved inadequate to meet the emergency, he was
invested with the right to vote on equal terms with the whites. This great
constitutional revolution in the status of the Negro laid the basis for a
political revolution in the old slave states also. The solid South was
dissolved for the nonce and two-party governments made their re-entrance
upon the stage of Southern affairs. There followed prompt repeal of the
reactionary legislation hostile to the Negro, which had signalized the
rise to power of the solid South and its one-party governments. The North
received its share likewise of the gains incident to this revolution in
the increase of its partisan strength in both branches of the National
Legislature, and which in turn confirmed its political domination in the
Union.

The changes wrought in the South by the reconstruction measures did not
last. Those measures afforded temporary relief and that was all. They did
not go deep enough and besides the whites refused to cooperate with the
blacks to make them a success. They failed to moderate or abate Southern
opinions, race prejudice and passions and were therefore doomed to fail as
an experiment in social and political reconstruction. Social and political
reconstruction in those states it seems now must come from within and by
voluntary action not from without and by compulsory legislation. This is
true today whatever might have been possible in this regard immediately
after the overthrow of the Southern Confederacy. What was attempted then
and failed would certainly fail today if it were possible to repeat the
self same experiment. The repetition of such an attempt, however, being
wholly outside of the range of the probable in American politics makes all
speculation as to what might be its fate therefore nugatory.

After the Presidential election of 1876, the North abandoned its attempt
to reconstruct the South and to keep it reconstructed according to its
standard of justice and political proportion. The stream of reaction
against the Negro set in strongly from that time and it has gathered
volume each succeeding year since. The failure of the old master class to
seize the opportunity which had come to them a second time, following the
collapse of the Rebellion, for progressive and constructive leadership of
their section on the race question was an egregious blunder. They set in
motion instead the forces and passions which have at length wrested the
ballot from the Negro. But they themselves have not escaped the
consequences of their egregious blunder, for a new class of whites have in
turn wrested from them their leadership in Southern affairs. The black
seeds of this blunder of the old master class to lead their section in
social justice and progress, the bitter years have ploughed deep into the
life of both races. From the black seeds of their blunder black crops of
race hatred and crime and misery have been reaped annually by the South
along with those other crops of cotton and rice and sugar and tobacco, and
sent like them to all parts of the Republic.

The process of Southern political solidification, partially suspended for
a few years, resumed promptly after 1876 all of its natural functions and
its one party governments. Since that time legislation hostile to the
Negro has increased enormously in that section. Its old reconstructed
State Constitutions have been one by one revised most favorably to the
whites and most unfavorably and unjustly for the blacks. For what with
grandfather and understanding clauses, educational and property
qualifications, partisan registration boards and election supervisors and
white primaries, the great majority of the colored people have been
excluded from the electorate, from any voice in the Government, while the
vote of the small minority who are included in the electorate has been
reduced to a nullity by their exclusion from the white primaries. The
states which have thus revised their constitutions have thereby effected
the practical disfranchisement of their entire colored population. While
they have done this they have managed at the same time to leave the ballot
in the hands of every white man.

Under such unequal conditions, the white man is immune from legislation
and administration unfriendly to his class, while the black man is exposed
to the aggressions of this favored class; either directly through mobs or
indirectly through hostile legislation and administration, which fix upon
him the brand of a caste whose members have no rights in Southern society
which white men are bound to respect. Such social injustice and political
inequality as exist between the races in the South are bad for the whites
as they are bad for the blacks--are very bad for their collective
interests and for the National interests of the great industrial democracy
of which they form a part. Is it astonishing then that under such
circumstances there have sprung up and flourish in the South the peonage
and convict lease systems, the plantation lease and credit systems,
contract labor and "Jim Crow" laws, lynching and the inequitable
distribution of the public school funds between the races? For the
Southern white man, and he is not different from any other white man or
black man either for that matter who possesses irresponsible power over
others, regulates his conduct toward the Negro in his midst by the law of
might, which allows him with a good conscience to do to the Negro whatever
he wants to do, and to take from him whatever he wants to take whether
life or liberty, while it forbids his victim to do what he wants to do; or
to retain what belongs to him as an American citizen whether it be his
life or his liberty--that is, to do so by identically the same means
which white men use to retain what belongs to them under similar
circumstances.

Things would undoubtedly be different for the colored people in those
states had they though slight, some positive and appreciable influence at
the polls. Their condition would not even then be ideal--far from it. But
their hard lot as men would improve, their worth as citizens, their social
and industrial value to their community, state and country would rise
correspondingly in the scale of being and character, with the increased
freedom, self-respect and security which in consequence would come to them
as a race. Legislatures and administrative officers would begin to make
some response to their claim for social justice and political rights, and
the courts would begin also to lend a more attentive ear to their rights
of person and property. The end of all those terrible systems which
exploit and rob and oppress them and keep them poor and ignorant and weak,
the sad victims of race prejudice and greed and cruelty, would grow nearer
to the perfect day of the race's final deliverance as American citizens.
They would begin to get for their children more and better schools and
longer school terms, and for their teachers more equal pay as compared
with that received by white teachers for similar service.

Such is the deplorable situation of the Negro in the South at the close of
the first fifty years of his freedom. There will be no improvement in that
situation to any material extent until he gets the ballot, a voice in the
government of those states. He can not obtain a voice in those governments
of and by himself. He must get help from some power outside of himself.
But from whom and in what direction ought he to look for it? Not certainly
from the North, from the Republican Party. For they gave up long ago
trying to solve the problem how to make a vote in that section count as
much as a vote in the solid South. They will not again enact a Force Bill
or attempt to do so or anything like it. They have during recent years
made no movement to execute that clause of the Fourteenth Amendment which
provides for a reduction of Southern representation in the lower Branch of
Congress proportioned to the number of the disfranchised male population
of those states, and they have in fact no disposition to do so. On the
contrary non-interference is the ominous word which now gags the Northern
people and press, its pulpit and platform and hobbles the action of the
general government. Indeed, the outgoing occupant of the White House has
carried the policy of non-interference to extreme limits. For he it is who
laid down the rule at the beginning of his administration, and has
observed it strictly for four years, that it would be unwise to make
appointments of colored men to federal office in the South whenever the
South objects to such appointments. In consequence of the consistent
enforcement of this rule colored federal office-holders in the South are
like angels' visits to that section, few and far between. The South, as
we have seen, has succeeded most thoroughly in depriving the Negro in its
midst of any voice in its governments and it has shut him out of state
offices, and now thanks to President Taft, has at last succeeded in
depriving him of holding federal office in its midst likewise.

But there yet remains to the Southern colored man a tattered and
bedraggled remnant of his citizenship in that section, if indeed even that
shall be left to him four years hence. I refer to his quadrennial
appearance as a delegate in Republican National Conventions, where for a
brief hour he enjoys the spotlight importance of a political supernumerary
on the party stage. Since 1884, there has been an increasing inclination
among Republican leaders to reduce the representation of the party's
Southern wing in National Conventions to a number proportioned to the size
of its vote on election day. But the leaders have not yet got their
courage to the sticking point to tackle this proposition, perhaps because
they have not been willing to tackle the prior one of a reduction of
Southern representation in Congress, and perhaps for other good and
sufficient considerations of an emergency character, they have allowed the
matter to drift and to let for the time being well enough alone.

But whatever has been the motive of that party for its policy of
inactivity and indecision on this question heretofore, there are not
wanting signs of a change of that policy presently into one of activity
and decision. It seems probable that reduction of representation of its
Southern wing in its National Conventions will occupy a prominent place on
the program of Republican reorganization within the next four years. That
party in a half dozen Southern States has been called in derision by its
enemies a "ghost party" and a "phantom party." And such it is in reality.
It is dead and I do not believe that its corpse can ever be galvanized
into life again. There are decomposing parts of it known as "Regulars" and
"Lily Whites," stricken both with the microbes of death, obscenely alive
with the maggots of place-hunters. It is powerless to dissolve the solid
South and to restore to that section bi-party in place of one-party
governments. It is wholly incapable of attracting Southern whites in
sufficient numbers to raise it to the rank of a party of opposition, or to
give to it the barest chance of achieving success at the polls. Its very
name is a political bugaboo and makes it a party impossibility in those
states. Since 1876, rather than utilize it as a party of opposition, the
Southern whites have preserved their sectional solidity and one-party
governments, notwithstanding the fact that many of their more enlightened
and far seeing men have felt that such a course is bad for their section
as it would be bad for any group of states, North, East or West in the
Union.

Just at this point let me refer in passing to sundry causes which are
affecting adversely the Negro's status as a citizen, and are contributing
by their collateral pressure to force him into a sort of political and
industrial blind alley of our American civilization. The Southern
propaganda against the Negro is advancing apace in the North by many dark
and devious ways and by many subtle and potent means. Northern capital and
enterprise, which are exploiting the South industrially, assimilate very
readily the Southern view of the Negro, who must be kept at the bottom of
the white man's labor system and civilization. Intermarriage of Northern
men and women with Southern men and women helps tremendously the
propagation of the Southern view and solution of the race problem. The
annual meeting and mingling at the National Capital in social intercourse
of the wealth and fashion and leadership of both sections exerts a
powerful influence in accenting points of agreement rather than points of
difference between them. The feeling has risen throughout the North that
the white people of the country can not afford either in terms of business
or of politics to quarrel among themselves over the rights and wrongs of
another race, which in consequence of the injustices and inequalities
suffered by it at their hands, is being pushed brutally to the wall. The
whites of both sections make themselves believe, as a sort of salve to
their conscience, I suppose, that the Negro in their midst is an alien
race, is a non-assimilable element in the body politic, whose ejectment or
isolation the health of that body and the race purity of the whites render
necessary. Since ejectment is impracticable as involving too huge a
displacement of or amputation from the productive labor of the South,
isolation remains the only alternative. The whites of course will do what
they can without injuring themselves or corrupting their race ideals, or
affronting their race prejudices to alleviate the inevitably hard lot of
this unfortunate people. But in what may be done for them there must be a
care not to mix with it any foolish sentiment of human liberty and
brotherhood lest it give offense to the South and so interrupt the flow of
that beautiful and brotherly affection which is increasingly making the
Southern whites and the Northern whites one people in the bonds of an
indissoluble friendship and union. Non-interference is the ominous word
which has cast its dark spell over the North and has turned its once warm
and active sympathy into cold indifference and cruel apathy.

We had better look at the situation of the Negro in the United States
to-day without blinking the facts, see it clear and see it straight. The
present outlook for that race is gloomy and depressing, and this gloom and
depression are nation-wide. Until the Negro gets in the South some
measurable freedom in the use of the ballot, the present agencies at work
for his advancement, like industrial and the higher education and the
acquisition of property, and organized agitation in the North for his
rights can do little to rescue him from the deep pit into which American
race prejudice has pushed and penned him. The colored American child has a
poorer chance to rise in the scale of being to-day than had the colored
American child of a generation ago. He has a poorer chance in the South in
spite of his increased educational opportunities and accomplishments, and
he has a poorer chance in the North. For as the condition of the race
grows worse and its citizenship deteriorates politically and civilly in
the South, it will communicate to that part of it resident in the North
something of its own sad lot, legal and industrial limitations and
contracting prospects and opportunities. This is the inevitable fate of a
ballotless race or class in an industrial democracy like ours. Such is the
fate which awaits the American Negro unless he can manage to get the right
to vote in the South. And this fate he can not escape so long as he
remains a ballotless man--with no weapon of defense against the white
man's race prejudice, which is regnant in his home and church and
government and press and mills and shops and trades and schools. It is as
impossible for the Negro to escape from his blind alley without the ballot
as it is for some foolish fly, imprisoned on a window pane, to find its
way to freedom through it. There is no escape for the fly until its
restless activities discover the right direction, and, to change the
figure, there is none for the Negro out of his slough of despond until he
can lay hold of the ballot. Wanting the ballot no amount of education and
wealth in the South and of agitation in the North will of themselves be
able to make Southern Governments responsive to the needs and the rights
of the Negro as laborer and citizen. But until they are made to respond to
his claim for social justice and civil rights he will continue in the
future as he is to-day the helpless victim of the peonage and convict
lease systems, of the plantation lease and credit systems, of contract
labor and "Jim Crow" laws, of lynching and the inequitable distribution of
the public school funds between the races. I can not repeat too often that
such monstrous depression of a part of Southern labor is not less bad for
the whites than it is for the blacks. Nothing else can possibly come of it
in the future than has come of it in the past but evil to the South,
arrested development and a backward civilization. For the whites cannot
advance in law and order, in private and public morals, in wealth and in
industrial intelligence and efficiency with the speed commensurate with
their social and sectional opportunity if they persist in wasting so much
of their individual and collective energies in keeping the Negro down at
the bottom of their social and political fabric without regard to his
merits and abilities.

Low water mark has been reached in the ebb tide of Negro citizenship in
the South. Once upon a time, the race was represented in Congress, but
today the tribe of the Negro Congressmen is extinct and has long been
extinct. A few years ago it had its representatives on the Republican
National Committee, but today the tribe of the Negro National Committeemen
is extinct. The year 1912 may be memorable among other things for
witnessing the last appearance as a power in Republican National
Conventions of the Southern Negro delegate. The place which once knew him
in those quadrennial gatherings of the Warwicks of the party will soon
know him there no more forever. For,

  "The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
    And God fulfils Himself in many ways,
  Lest one good custom should corrupt the world."

Although the situation is depressing, it is far from hopeless, I think,
since the rise of the new Progressive party. For that party will be able
to do in the South what the Republican Party has proved itself incapable
of doing, namely, of attracting to itself Southern white men in sufficient
numbers to make of it a formidable party of opposition in Southern
affairs. It will not encounter the ancient distrust, the inveterate hatred
and contempt which the Republican Party arouses in those states, and which
have paralyzed its usefulness and reduced it as a party of opposition to
the zero point in Southern politics.

It is a notorious fact that the Southern whites as a class will not
affiliate with any political organization on terms of equality with the
blacks--that is, they may be educated to accept the Negro as a voter but
nothing can induce them to accept him as a leader. White and black party
following with white leadership is therefore the only feasible
proposition, which stands any show of success as a party of opposition in
that section under existing conditions. Such a proposition, the Republican
Party is incapable of making for reasons already pointed out, and the
Democratic Party for other and obvious reasons is precluded from offering.
And yet if relief is ever to come to the Negro in the South, it must come
to him by the way of an opposition party, which will put an end to the
political solidity of that section by introducing into it bi-party in
place of its one-party governments.

This, I take it, is the meaning of Colonel Roosevelt's action at Chicago
last August relative to the representation of Southern colored men in the
Bull Moose Convention, which launched the Progressive Party, and for which
he was widely commended and as widely censured by white and colored people
alike in all parts of the country. Some of the white people who commended
his action did so undoubtedly in the belief that the leader of the new
party gave thereby his approval to the Southern solution of the race
problem. This group is made up, speaking generally, of Southern Bourbons
and Northern Doughfaces. Their interpretation of the ex-President's action
is a total misapprehension of his far seeing and statesmanlike purpose,
and of the tremendous consequences for good which it holds for both races
at the South, and for the people of the whole nation likewise--tremendous
consequences for good which are as surely enfolded within the great man's
purpose as the fertilizing principle is contained within the egg.

Many of those on the other hand, who censured him did so because, obsessed
by their hate or dread of him, they failed to eliminate their imaginary
tyrant or dictator, their fixed idea of the man from consideration of the
immense value and far-seeing statesmanship of his act. To such men it was
but another example of the brutal and colossal selfishness of the
Third-Term Candidate. For did he not welcome to his Convention colored men
as delegates from states where the colored vote counts, and reject certain
other colored men as delegates from states where the colored vote does not
count? Now this view of Colonel Roosevelt's action seems to me to miss the
mark quite as widely as did that of our Southern Bourbons and Northern
Doughfaces.

That the founder of the new political party, as a practical man, should
discriminate between colored men with a vote and colored men without a
vote seems to me to be altogether natural, to grow, in fact, out of the
necessities of every Democracy which is governed first by one party and
then by another. That colored men with the ballot should be rated in terms
of the political game higher than other colored men who have it not,
violates no rule of business ethics. And politics is business, is the big
business is it not, or ought it not to be the big business of all self
governing peoples, who would maintain justice and freedom for themselves
and transmit them unimpaired to their posterity? Colonel Roosevelt, as the
leader of the new party, recognized at his full political value the Negro
in states where his vote is counted, and perceived the very slight value,
potential and actual, as a party asset of the Negro in states where his
vote is not counted. He and the Progressive Party have not engaged in the
big business of American politics for their health or amusement, but for
the purpose of carrying forward to success great and far reaching measures
of reform, which exclude from their benefits no race or class on account
of color or sex but includes all American citizens, black and white alike.
But to do this, to realize on their party promises and pledges to the
people, they must have votes, not mere good will which can not translate
itself into effective support on election day.

But the ex-President's action at Chicago goes deeper than this primal need
of his party for votes. It reaches down to the springs of fundamental
social and political changes at the South in relation to its race
question, and sets in motion the healing waters of its pool of Bethesda,
which will in time heal it of its sickness and cleanse it of its sins
against law, justice and democracy. I do not mean to belittle in any way
other agencies now at work on the solution of our terrible race problem,
such as education or wealth or agitation. Not at all, for they are most
important, but without the ballot they are impotent to give the relief so
much needed in the South. There must be added to them this something else,
this one thing needful to render them effective to save the blacks from
the evil consequences of their race ignorance, and the whites from the
evil consequences of their race prejudice. And this one thing needful, I
believe, the Progressive Party brings to the solution of the problem, and
that it formed the underlying motive and the statesmanlike purpose of the
action at Chicago last August of Theodore Roosevelt.


  ARCHIBALD H. GRIMKE,
  1415 CORCORAN STREET N. W.,
  WASHINGTON, D. C.



Transcriber's Notes:

The words "today" and "to-day" both appear in the original text.

The following misprints have been corrected:
  "othe" corrected to "other" (page 4)
  "blocd" corrected to "blood" (page 7)
  "oguht" corrected to "ought" (page 8)
  "atttentive" corrected to "attentive" (page 12)
  "intercoure" corrected to "intercourse" (page 14)
  "vlctim" corrected to "victim" (page 15)
  "themselvas" corrected to "themselves" (page 17)





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