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Title: A Report Concerning the Colored Women of the South
Author: Hopkins, C. E., Hobson, Elizabeth Christophers Kimball
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Report Concerning the Colored Women of the South" ***







    1882.  RUTHERFORD B. HAYES, of Ohio.                     [A]1893.
    1882.  MORRISON R. WAITE, of the District of Columbia.   [A]1888.
    1882.  WILLIAM E. DODGE, of New York.                    [A]1883.
    1882.  PHILLIPS BROOKS, of Massachusetts.                [B]1889.
    1882.  DANIEL C. GILMAN, of Maryland.
    1882.  JOHN A. STEWART, of New York.
    1882.  ALFRED H. COLQUITT, of Georgia.                   [A]1894.
    1882.  MORRIS K. JESUP, of New York.
    1882.  JAMES P. BOYCE, of Kentucky.                      [A]1888.
    1882.  WILLIAM A. SLATER, of Connecticut.

    1883.  WILLIAM E. DODGE, JR., of New York.
    1888.  MELVILLE W. FULLER, of the District of Columbia.
    1889.  JOHN A. BROADUS, of Kentucky.                     [A]1895.
    1889.  HENRY C. POTTER, of New York.
    1891.  J. L. M. CURRY, of the District of Columbia.
    1894.  WILLIAM J. NORTHEN, of Georgia.
    1894.  ELLISON CAPERS, of South Carolina.                [B]1895.
    1894.  C. B. GALLOWAY, of Mississippi.
    1895.  ALEXANDER E. ORR, of New York.
    1896.  WILLIAM L. WILSON, of West Virginia.

From 1882 to 1891, the General Agent of the Trust was Rev. A. G.
HAYGOOD, D. D., of Georgia, who resigned the office when he became a
Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Since 1891, the duties
of a General Agent have been discharged by Dr. J. L. M. CURRY, 1736
M St., N. W., Washington, D. C., who is Chairman of the Educational


[A] Died in office.

[B] Resigned.


The Trustees of the John F. Slater Fund propose to publish from time
to time papers that relate to the education of the colored race. These
papers are designed to furnish information to those who are concerned
in the administration of schools, and also to those who by their
official stations are called upon to act or to advise in respect to the
care of such institutions.

The Trustees believe that the experimental period in the education of
the blacks is drawing to a close. Certain principles that were doubted
thirty years ago now appear to be generally recognized as sound. In the
next thirty years better systems will undoubtedly prevail, and the aid
of the separate States is likely to be more and more freely bestowed.
There will also be abundant room for continued generosity on the part
of individuals and associations. It is to encourage and assist the
workers and the thinkers that these papers will be published.

Each paper, excepting the first number (made up chiefly of official
documents), will be the utterance of the writer whose name is attached
to it, the Trustees disclaiming in advance all responsibility for the
statement of facts and opinions.


              OF THE JOHN F. SLATER FUND.

_Gentlemen_:--We have the honor to submit the following report of a
recent tour (made at the request of your Board) for the purpose of
ascertaining the condition, mental and moral, of the colored women of
the South.

We started on October 20th, 1895. Our tour was confined to the five
Central States,--Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia and
Alabama. We visited twenty-four schools and institutions, examined
the life of the people in the one-roomed cabin of the plantation and
road-side, in the hovels of the manufacturing towns, as well as the
neat and attractive homes which are the result of industry and thrift
aided by education. We conversed with colored clergymen, lawyers,
doctors, druggists, artisans, cotton-factors and laborers, with male
and female teachers in educational and industrial schools, with trained
nurses and servants, with wives and mothers, and with girls in and out
of the schools.

If the conclusions we draw should seem optimistic, it should be
remembered that we received our impressions from negroes at their best,
in the five states we visited, as most of them under thirty years of
age have come under the influence of the great schools which have been
established by northern philanthropy.

We found the graduates of these schools[1] intelligent, modest,
self-respecting, clear sighted and frank in regard to the shortcomings
and defects of their race, and while grateful for all that has been
done for them, anxious to help themselves, and full of confidence and
hope for the future. Among those not actually in the schools we found
the desire for education and for the decencies of life to be intense,
and parents appear to be willing to make the greatest sacrifices to
secure for their children better advantages.

But the negro women of the South are subject to temptations, of which
their white sisters of the North have no appreciation, and which
come to them from the days of their race enslavement. They are still
the victims of the white man under a survival of a system tacitly
recognized, which deprives them of the sympathy and help of the
Southern white women, and to meet such temptations the negro woman can
only offer the resistance of a low moral standard, an inheritance from
the system of slavery, made still lower from a life-long residence in a
one-roomed cabin.

Remove a girl early from such degrading environment, send her home
to her people with the changed idea of personal decency acquired by
residence at one of the training schools, and she becomes at once a
powerful agent for good in her family and neighborhood. Dr. Curry, the
able Secretary of the Slater and Peabody Trusts, says:

“Of the desire of the colored people for education the proof is
conclusive, and of their capacity to receive mental culture there is
not a shade of a reason to support an adverse hypothesis.”[2]

It was a great surprise to us to learn that, at all the schools we
visited, the pupils (except in the state schools) pay from five to
seven dollars a month for board and tuition. Those who cannot pay,
work ten hours a day for the privilege of two hours schooling in the
evening. It was in this way Booker Washington obtained his education,
working his way one hundred miles to reach Hampton. The day scholars
in two rural schools we visited in the black belt of Alabama paid one
dollar a month for their tuition for eight months, as the state only
pays, on an average, thirty dollars a month to a teacher for three
months, and provides neither school-house nor books.

Where, we ask, do we find among the well-to-do working classes of the
North, to say nothing of the poorest, such an effort to educate their
children? Of the moral effect of the education so obtained there seems
to be no question.

The leaders of the race say, “all we ask is time and a fair chance,”
and judging of their future by their past since the emancipation, we
think they are right. We were surprised at their clear judgment and
general information about their people, at their freedom from malice,
and kindly feeling toward the whites, and in this connection we may
quote a conversation with Mr. Chavis, a negro graduate of Gammon
Theological Seminary, and in charge of the Bennet School at Greensboro,
N. C. He says:

“The whites complain that the educated negro declines ‘hired work’
and that education is ruining him. Those men who have acquired a
profession or trade, or learned how to cultivate the land on scientific
principles, refuse to enter the employ of the whites at six or eight
dollars a month, because independently they can earn more, and then the
whites say ‘there is a negro spoiled by education.’

“The girls who graduate from the schools have acquired knowledge which
enables them to support themselves at good wages until they marry,
which they generally do five years after they graduate, generally to
the men with whom they have been educated. If they by chance go into
domestic service, they get from four to six dollars a month, and are
treated as in the old slave days, which they naturally resent; they
therefore seek independent occupations.”

“How about their morals?” we asked.

“I can confidently assert, that of the girls I have educated very few
have gone astray, and in the face of temptations to which the whites
are not subjected. We teach them it is a part of their duty in life to
encourage and guide their ignorant sisters. We strive in this school to
found our education upon a strong Christian basis, and we feel that God
has already blessed our work.”

“What occupations are open to your young people?”

“The men become clergymen, doctors, lawyers, apothecaries and teachers.
Many of the trades are now open to them, thanks to the industrial
schools. They are buying land, and through the education they obtain at
Hampton and Tuskegee they are cultivating it more intelligently. They
have not as yet gone much into business, owing to the want of capital.”

“In the practice of the professions you mention, are they employed by
the whites?”

“Hardly at all; but we are eight millions of people, and that is a
nation in itself, so that we are independent in that respect, though no
doubt in time the whites will become accustomed to seeing us occupying
positions requiring education and intelligence, and will employ us.”

“Where do your best pupils come from?”

“From the rural districts. The girls and boys from the country are more
anxious to learn, more diligent and ambitious. They turn out better
than those from the towns, who are lazy, and are always longing for
diversions and ‘_fascinating frivolities_.’”

From Mr. and Mrs. Satterfield (white), of Scotia Seminary, N. C., we
received similar replies to the same questions. Mr. Satterfield said:

“We have been here many years, and I have carefully followed the lives
of my girls after they have left, and I can safely say that I can count
on the fingers of one hand those who have gone astray. As a rule they
marry within five years after they graduate, and their chief ambition
is to have comfortable, Christian homes. As they generally marry the
young men who have had educations like their own, both work for the
same object. In fact,” he added, “the character and intelligence of the
negro, like the whites, is the result of environment and heredity, and
these factors produce corresponding results upon each.”

In this opinion all the white teachers we saw agreed, from Hampton
to Montgomery, without exception. We also learned that the teachers
discover no difference in mental capacity between the Afro-Americans of
pure blood and those who have an admixture of white blood.

At Tuskegee, Mrs. Booker Washington gathered, from within a radius of
seven miles, about thirty married women that we might talk with them,
and hear about their lives. Some of them walked seven miles to meet
the “Northern Ladies,” and they ranged in age from thirty to seventy
years. None had less than five children, and one had had nineteen.
Their husbands were all laborers. Some few owned their land and houses,
though most of these were so heavily mortgaged as to give them no
chance to get ahead, interest sometimes running as high as 20 per cent.
Their stories reminded us of the accounts that have come from Russia of
the oppression of the peasants by the Jews, which led to the edicts of
expulsion of the latter by the late Czar.

These women, however, had all come under the influence which Mr. and
Mrs. Booker Washington exercise at Tuskegee. They are striving to have
more decent homes, to educate their children, and to get out of debt.
They have taken the first step toward elevation; they have learned what
is better, and are willing and anxious to work for it.

The negro problem of which we hear so much does not seem to us as
difficult to solve as the labor problem of the North, complicated as
that is by the mixture of races and religions. The negroes, on the
contrary, are a homogeneous race, Afro-Americans, knowing no other
country than the United States, and desiring no other; agricultural in
their habits and tastes, intensely attached to the soil, loyal to the
government, and mostly Protestant in faith, except in Louisiana and
parts of Florida.

The Afro-American to-day in the five central Southern States is not so
degraded or ignorant as was the French peasant before the revolution of
1792. In fact he is less degraded, for while his poverty and ignorance
are no greater, he is not unjustly oppressed nor weighed down by

Mr. Arthur Young, whose account of his travels in France on the eve of
the revolution is quoted authoritatively by historians, states:[3]
“Husbandry is not much further advanced than among the Hurons, and the
people almost as wild as their country. Their houses brutally filthy,
no windows, no other light than the door, mud floors and chimneys. The
people can neither read nor write, girls and women terribly ragged,
if possible worse clad than with no clothes at all. All without shoes
and stockings. People so ignorant that they know nothing of their own
weights and measures.”

From this deplorable condition, the French peasant has risen in a
hundred years to be the most thrifty, industrious and intelligent
agriculturist in Europe.

With this example before us, one may reasonably expect, judging from
his progress in the last twenty-five years, that the Afro-American, by
the middle of the 20th century, may stand side by side with the other
races now crowding into the Republic. We were told at Hampton that the
students who now apply for entrance are nearly as advanced as those who
graduated twenty years ago, and at the Scotia School for girls they are
commencing to receive the daughters of their first graduates, and find
these know nearly as much on entering as their mothers did when they

In 1890, only a generation after they were emancipated, not less than
forty-three out of every hundred negroes of ten years of age and over
were able to read and write. In 1870 only three per cent. of all
negroes attended school, and in twenty years the increase was nearly
nineteen per cent. of all negroes. The proportion of negro school
children increased at a far more rapid rate than white school children,
and in 1890 the proportion was nearly equal.[4]

In 1877-78 the attendance in private institutions was 12,146; in
1894-95 the attendance was 25,717.[5]

But help from the North must still continue, and if possible increase.
Matters have not yet so adjusted themselves in the South as to warrant
the leaving the educational interests of the colored race altogether to
the hands of the Southern whites, and the negroes instinctively turn to
the Northern teachers for education and guidance, notwithstanding the
large appropriations made for schools by the Southern whites.

The leaders of the race, both white and black, are now alive to
the importance of industrial education, and most of the schools we
visited had introduced manual labor of various kinds as a part of the
curriculum, and where it had not been done the additional expense had
been the obstacle. Everywhere we found the strongest desire on the
part of a large number of girls to learn the profession of nursing,
and those who have already acquired it have been very successful,
the whites willingly employing them at high wages--from $10 to even
$20 a week. Some schools already announce a course of training, but
they seem to be unaware that a nurse can no more be trained without
a hospital, than a cook without a kitchen. We found but two training
schools attached to hospitals during our travels, the Dixie at Hampton,
which is doing excellent work and should be assisted in order to
strengthen and extend it, and that at Spelman, Atlanta, where there is
a small hospital in which they nurse their own sick under an excellent
Superintendent, and have already sent out some nurses with satisfactory
results, and would be glad to extend the work if they could receive
assistance in paying teachers.

In Savannah at a meeting where we met nineteen of the leading colored
men of the place, they assured us of their ability to start a small
hospital, if they could be assisted in the salaries of teachers to
train the pupil nurses. None ask support, merely help.

Several of the schools we visited require just a little help to make
them very prosperous and useful. Those at Lawrenceville, Va., and
Kittrell, N. C., managed by Hampton graduates, are especially to be
commended and should be strengthened. A good nursing school might be
established at Mr. Joyner’s school at Columbia, S. C., where they have
a little hospital, closed for want of means. Five hundred dollars given
to Claflin would enable it to do the same work. Especially would we
urge assistance to the two rural schools in the black belt of Alabama,
where Hampton and Tuskegee graduates are bravely toiling and truly
civilizing the people around them.

As we have said, we saw the negroes at their best in the institutions
we visited, and among those graduates who were pursuing their
avocations. These served to show the possibilities of the race, their
aptitude for acquiring knowledge and amassing property. But the great
mass still lies under the burden of poverty and ignorance--and it is
this mass that must be lifted up, before we can hope for any permanent
elevation of the race,--and that must be done by work in the cabins and
among the women. It is impossible to look for a moral community, where
the women have never been taught by example and precept that Christian
virtue which raises the human being above the animal.

It is perhaps unwise at this time to give full expression to our views
regarding the moral condition of the negro women. It is sufficient to
say that the reports that had been made to us by others, before we
undertook our investigations, were fully confirmed, and we hope that in
the near future the women of the South will become so interested and
roused to the importance of the subject that they may be inclined to
cooperate with the women of the North in some plan for the elevation of
these descendants of their former servants. Meanwhile, we would make
the following suggestions to the Trustees of the Slater Fund in regard
to the special object of our mission--the elevation of the women:

The elevation should commence at the bottom. We would propose to employ
pious, intelligent women, white or colored, to travel in the rural
districts of say Virginia and Alabama, and to start Mothers’ meetings,
where the average ignorant woman, who cannot now hope to receive an
education, may at least be taught the way to keep a decent home and to
elevate the moral standard of her humble life. Through her to inspire
her husband and children with the same aspirations, so that if there
be no public school in their vicinity they may both learn to desire
and seek to obtain one started by the State. The State should then be
districted, and two or three central schools in each district should be
so aided as to give courses of lessons in sewing, cooking, and “First
Aid to Injured.”

These branches of instruction, so vital to woman, might be taught by
teachers of each branch (paid by the Slater Trust) passing from school
to school, giving a course of lessons at each, and leaving the pupils
to pursue the study until the teachers return to examine them. These
examinations would enable the teacher to determine the capacity of the
girls and their fitness to be sent to the higher schools, where many
now go when unfitted to enter and occupy places which should be filled
by girls of superior ability. By this process of selection, the most
intelligent and ambitious could enter Hampton, Tuskegee, Spelman, etc.,
while those of less ability will have learned the decencies of life,
the elements of school education, and those feminine occupations which
will fit them to be good wives and mothers.

By giving them courses in “First Aid,” they will learn how to act in
sudden emergencies, the importance of cleanliness and good air, and the
general principles of caring for their sick and their children.

The kind of work we propose to do cannot be done by the State at
present. It is personal influence that is required; it is the highest
missionary spirit which can alone inspire it. No board of education
appointed by any Government or State authority can choose such agents.
Each woman who undertakes it, must go for the love of the work, and
must be selected by those who know its needs. The money so liberally
expended by the North would never have produced the results we have
seen, if it had been given to the State; it is because it has passed
through the hands of devoted Christian men and women who by precept and
example have taught the beauty of honor, truthfulness and purity of
life, that the speech was made possible at Atlanta, which elicited the
applause and drew tears from the thousands who listened to it.

In conclusion, we would respectfully urge the appropriation by the
Slater Trust of a few thousand dollars to be expended for a few years
as an experiment in the manner we have suggested. If the work is
carefully supervised, we are convinced that it will be of incalculable
value in enlarging the opportunities for self-support and usefulness
among the rising generation of colored girls, and, through them,
influence for good thousands of the colored race.

            Respectfully submitted,

                          ELIZABETH C. HOBSON,
                          CHARLOTTE EVERETT HOPKINS.

  DECEMBER, 1895.



[1] Institutions visited:--

  Hampden Industrial Institute           Hampton, Va.
  Whittier School                        Hampton, Va.
  Dixie Hospital                         Hampton, Va.
  St. Paul’s School                      Lawrenceville, Va.
  Kittrell Industrial School             North Carolina.
  Shaw University                        Raleigh, N. C.
  St. Augustine School                   Raleigh, N. C.
  Bennet Seminary                        Greensboro, N. C.
  Scotia Seminary                        Concord, N. C.
  Benedict College                       Columbia, S. C.
  Allen College                          Columbia, S. C.
  Claflin University                     Orangeburg, S. C.
  Avery Institute                        Charleston, S. C.
  White Public School                    Charleston, S. C.
  Haven School                           Savannah, Ga.
  Beach Institute                        Savannah, Ga.
  Clark University                       Atlanta, Ga.
  Tuskegee Industrial Institute          Tuskegee, Ala.
  Miss Georgia Washington’s School and   { Between Tuskegee and
  Miss Bowen’s Industrial School         {   Montgomery, Ala.
  Miss White’s Industrial School         Montgomery, Ala.
  State Normal School                    Montgomery, Ala.
  Swayne Public School                   Montgomery, Ala.

[2] “Education of the Negroes since 1860,” by J. L. M. Curry, LL. D.
Occasional Papers, No. 3.

[3] See “Condition of France in the Travels of Arthur Young in the
years 1787, ’88, ’89, undertaken more particularly with a view of
ascertaining the cultivation, wealth, resources and national prosperity
of the Kingdom of France.”

[4] See “Statistics of the Negroes in the United States,” by Henry
Gannett, U. S. Geological Survey. Occasional Papers, No. 4.

[5] The statistics of the Bureau of Education show an increase in 1895
over 1878 of 185 per cent. in the number of students in colored schools
both public and private. The attendance in private institutions more
than doubled. The number of students in public institutions was nearly
thirteen times as great as in 1878.


  Italicized text is surrounded by underscores: _italics_.

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