By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: A Voice from the South. - By a Black Woman of the South.
Author: Cooper, Anna Julia
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Voice from the South. - By a Black Woman of the South." ***


[Illustration: Yours sincerely A. J. Cooper.]

                        A VOICE FROM THE SOUTH.

                      A BLACK WOMAN OF THE SOUTH.

                              XENIA, OHIO:
                       THE ALDINE PRINTING HOUSE.

                             COPYRIGHT 1892
                           ANNA JULIA COOPER.

                        A VOICE FROM THE SOUTH.

                     “WITH REGRET
                     I FORGET
                     IF THE SONG BE LIVING YET,
                         YET REMEMBER, VAGUELY NOW,
                         IT WAS HONEST, ANYHOW.”




                           GOD AND THE RACE,

             both in Church and in State,—and with sincere
             esteem for his unselfish espousal of the cause
             of the Black Woman and of every human interest
             that lacks a Voice and needs a Defender, this,
             the primary utterance of my heart and pen,

                      IS AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED.



                               PART FIRST.

                            SOPRANO OBLIGATO.

   RACE                                                                9

 THE HIGHER EDUCATION OF WOMAN                                        48

 “WOMAN VS. THE INDIAN”                                               80

 THE STATUS OF WOMAN IN AMERICA                                      127

                              PART SECOND.

                            TUTTI AD LIBITUM.



 WHAT ARE WE WORTH?                                                  228

 THE GAIN FROM A BELIEF                                              286

                           OUR RAISON D’ÊTRE.

In the clash and clatter of our American Conflict, it has been said that
the South remains Silent. Like the Sphinx she inspires vociferous
disputation, but herself takes little part in the noisy controversy. One
muffled strain in the Silent South, a jarring chord and a vague and
uncomprehended cadenza has been and still is the Negro. And of that
muffled chord, the one mute and voiceless note has been the sadly
expectant Black Woman,

                   An infant crying in the night,
                   An infant crying for the light;
                   And with _no language—but a cry_.

The colored man’s inheritance and apportionment is still the sombre
crux, the perplexing _cul de sac_ of the nation,—the dumb skeleton in
the closet provoking ceaseless harangues, indeed, but little understood
and seldom consulted. Attorneys for the plaintiff and attorneys for the
defendant, with bungling _gaucherie_ have analyzed and dissected,
theorized and synthesized with sublime ignorance or pathetic
misapprehension of counsel from the black client. One important witness
has not yet been heard from. The summing up of the evidence deposed, and
the charge to the jury have been made—but no word from the Black Woman.

It is because I believe the American people to be conscientiously
committed to a fair trial and ungarbled evidence, and because I feel it
essential to a perfect understanding and an equitable verdict that truth
from _each_ standpoint be presented at the bar,—that this little Voice
has been added to the already full chorus. The “other side” has not been
represented by one who “lives there.” And not many can more sensibly
realize and more accurately tell the weight and the fret of the “long
dull pain” than the open-eyed but hitherto voiceless Black Woman of

The feverish agitation, the perfervid energy, the busy objectivity of
the more turbulent life of our men serves, it may be, at once to cloud
or color their vision somewhat, and as well to relieve the smart and
deaden the pain for them. Their voice is in consequence not always
temperate and calm, and at the same time radically corrective and
sanatory. At any rate, as our Caucasian barristers are not to blame if
they cannot _quite_ put themselves in the dark man’s place, neither
should the dark man be wholly expected fully and adequately to reproduce
the exact Voice of the Black Woman.

Delicately sensitive at every pore to social atmospheric conditions, her
calorimeter may well be studied in the interest of accuracy and fairness
in diagnosing what is often conceded to be a “puzzling” case. If these
broken utterances can in any way help to a clearer vision and a truer
pulse-beat in studying our Nation’s Problem, this Voice by a Black Woman
of the South will not have been raised in vain.

      SEPT. 17, 1892.

                           SOPRANO OBLIGATO.

           For they the _Royal-hearted Women_ are
           Who nobly love the noblest, yet have grace
           For needy, suffering lives in lowliest place;
           Carrying a choicer sunlight in their smile,
           The heavenliest ray that pitieth the vile.

                  ·       ·       ·       ·       ·

           Though I were happy, throned beside the king,
           I should be tender to each little thing
           With hurt warm breast, that had no speech to tell
           Its inward pangs; and I would soothe it well
           With tender touch and with a low, soft moan
           For company.

                                             —_George Eliot._



The two sources from which, perhaps, modern civilization has derived its
noble and ennobling ideal of woman are Christianity and the Feudal

Footnote 1:

  Read before the convocation of colored clergy of the Protestant
  Episcopal Church at Washington, D. C., 1886.

In Oriental countries woman has been uniformly devoted to a life of
ignorance, infamy, and complete stagnation. The Chinese shoe of to-day
does not more entirely dwarf, cramp, and destroy her physical powers,
than have the customs, laws, and social instincts, which from remotest
ages have governed our Sister of the East, enervated and blighted her
mental and moral life.

Mahomet makes no account of woman whatever in his polity. The Koran,
which, unlike our Bible, was a product and not a growth, tried to
address itself to the needs of Arabian civilization as Mahomet with his
circumscribed powers saw them. The Arab was a nomad. Home to him meant
his present camping place. That deity who, according to our western
ideals, makes and sanctifies the home, was to him a transient bauble to
be toyed with so long as it gave pleasure and then to be thrown aside
for a new one. As a personality, an individual soul, capable of eternal
growth and unlimited development, and destined to mould and shape the
civilization of the future to an incalculable extent, Mahomet did not
know woman. There was no hereafter, no paradise for her. The heaven of
the Mussulman is peopled and made gladsome not by the departed wife, or
sister, or mother, but by _houri_—a figment of Mahomet’s brain,
partaking of the ethereal qualities of angels, yet imbued with all the
vices and inanity of Oriental women. The harem here, and—“dust to dust”
hereafter, this was the hope, the inspiration, the _summum bonum_ of the
Eastern woman’s life! With what result on the life of the nation, the
“Unspeakable Turk,” the “sick man” of modern Europe can to-day

Says a certain writer: “The private life of the Turk is vilest of the
vile, unprogressive, unambitious, and inconceivably low.” And yet Turkey
is not without her great men. She has produced most brilliant minds; men
skilled in all the intricacies of diplomacy and statesmanship; men whose
intellects could grapple with the deep problems of empire and manipulate
the subtle agencies which check-mate kings. But these minds were not the
normal outgrowth of a healthy trunk. They seemed rather ephemeral
excrescencies which shoot far out with all the vigor and promise,
apparently, of strong branches; but soon alas fall into decay and
ugliness because there is no soundness in the root, no life-giving sap,
permeating, strengthening and perpetuating the whole. There is a worm at
the core! The homelife is impure! and when we look for fruit, like
apples of Sodom, it crumbles within our grasp into dust and ashes.

It is pleasing to turn from this effete and immobile civilization to a
society still fresh and vigorous, whose seed is in itself, and whose
very name is synonymous with all that is progressive, elevating and
inspiring, viz., the European bud and the American flower of modern

And here let me say parenthetically that our satisfaction in American
institutions rests not on the fruition we now enjoy, but springs rather
from the possibilities and promise that are inherent in the system,
though as yet, perhaps, far in the future.

“Happiness,” says Madame de Stael, “consists not in perfections
attained, but in a sense of progress, the result of our own endeavor
under conspiring circumstances _toward_ a goal which continually
advances and broadens and deepens till it is swallowed up in the
Infinite.” Such conditions in embryo are all that we claim for the land
of the West. We have not yet reached our ideal in American civilization.
The pessimists even declare that we are not marching in that direction.
But there can be no doubt that here in America is the arena in which the
next triumph of civilization is to be won; and here too we find promise
abundant and possibilities infinite.

Now let us see on what basis this hope for our country primarily and
fundamentally rests. Can any one doubt that it is chiefly on the
homelife and on the influence of good women in those homes? Says
Macaulay: “You may judge a nation’s rank in the scale of civilization
from the way they treat their women.” And Emerson, “I have thought that
a sufficient measure of civilization is the influence of good women.”
Now this high regard for woman, this germ of a prolific idea which in
our own day is bearing such rich and varied fruit, was ingrafted into
European civilization, we have said, from two sources, the Christian
Church and the Feudal System. For although the Feudal System can in no
sense be said to have originated the idea, yet there can be no doubt
that the habits of life and modes of thought to which Feudalism gave
rise, materially fostered and developed it; for they gave us chivalry,
than which no institution has more sensibly magnified and elevated
woman’s position in society.

Tacitus dwells on the tender regard for woman entertained by these
rugged barbarians before they left their northern homes to overrun
Europe. Old Norse legends too, and primitive poems, all breathe the same
spirit of love of home and veneration for the pure and noble influence
there presiding—the wife, the sister, the mother.

And when later on we see the settled life of the Middle Ages “oozing
out,” as M. Guizot expresses it, from the plundering and pillaging life
of barbarism and crystallizing into the Feudal System, the tiger of the
field is brought once more within the charmed circle of the goddesses of
his castle, and his imagination weaves around them a halo whose
reflection possibly has not yet altogether vanished.

It is true the spirit of Christianity had not yet put the seal of
catholicity on this sentiment. Chivalry, according to Bascom, was but
the toning down and softening of a rough and lawless period. It gave a
roseate glow to a bitter winter’s day. Those who looked out from castle
windows revelled in its “amethyst tints.” But God’s poor, the weak, the
unlovely, the commonplace were still freezing and starving none the less
in unpitied, unrelieved loneliness.

Respect for woman, the much lauded chivalry of the Middle Ages, meant
what I fear it still means to some men in our own day—respect for the
elect few among whom they expect to consort.

The idea of the radical amelioration of womankind, reverence for woman
as woman regardless of rank, wealth, or culture, was to come from that
rich and bounteous fountain from which flow all our liberal and
universal ideas—the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

And yet the Christian Church at the time of which we have been speaking
would seem to have been doing even less to protect and elevate woman
than the little done by secular society. The Church as an organization
committed a double offense against woman in the Middle Ages. Making of
marriage a sacrament and at the same time insisting on the celibacy of
the clergy and other religious orders, she gave an inferior if not an
impure character to the marriage relation, especially fitted to reflect
discredit on woman. Would this were all or the worst! but the Church by
the licentiousness of its chosen servants invaded the household and
established too often as vicious connections those relations which it
forbade to assume openly and in good faith. “Thus,” to use the words of
our authority, “the religious corps became as numerous, as searching,
and as unclean as the frogs of Egypt, which penetrated into all
quarters, into the ovens and kneading troughs, leaving their filthy
trail wherever they went.” Says Chaucer with characteristic satire,
speaking of the Friars:

                 ‘Women may now go safely up and doun,
                 In every bush, and under every tree,
                 Ther is non other incubus but he,
                 And he ne will don hem no dishonour.’

Henry, Bishop of Liege, could unblushingly boast the birth of twenty-two
children in fourteen years.[2]

Footnote 2:


It may help us under some of the perplexities which beset our way in
“the one Catholic and Apostolic Church” to-day, to recall some of the
corruptions and incongruities against which the Bride of Christ has had
to struggle in her past history and in spite of which she has kept,
through many vicissitudes, the faith once delivered to the saints.
Individuals, organizations, whole sections of the Church militant may
outrage the Christ whom they profess, may ruthlessly trample under foot
both the spirit and the letter of his precepts, yet not till we hear the
voices audibly saying “Come let us depart hence,” shall we cease to
believe and cling to the promise, “_I am with you to the end of the

                  “Yet saints their watch are keeping,
                  The cry goes up ‘How long!’
                  And soon the night of weeping
                  Shall be the morn of song.”

However much then the facts of any particular period of history may seem
to deny it, I for one do not doubt that the source of the vitalizing
principle of woman’s development and amelioration is the Christian
Church, so far as that church is coincident with Christianity.

Christ gave ideals not formulæ. The Gospel is a germ requiring millennia
for its growth and ripening. It needs and at the same time helps to form
around itself a soil enriched in civilization, and perfected in culture
and insight without which the embryo can neither be unfolded or
comprehended. With all the strides our civilization has made from the
first to the nineteenth century, we can boast not an idea, not a
principle of action, not a progressive social force but was already
mutely foreshadowed, or directly enjoined in that simple tale of a meek
and lowly life. The quiet face of the Nazarene is ever seen a little way
ahead, never too far to come down to and touch the life of the lowest in
days the darkest, yet ever leading onward, still onward, the tottering
childish feet of our strangely boastful civilization.

By laying down for woman the same code of morality, the same standard of
purity, as for man; by refusing to countenance the shameless and equally
guilty monsters who were gloating over her fall,—graciously stooping in
all the majesty of his own spotlessness to wipe away the filth and grime
of her guilty past and bid her go in peace and sin no more; and again in
the moments of his own careworn and footsore dejection, turning
trustfully and lovingly, away from the heartless snubbing and sneers,
away from the cruel malignity of mobs and prelates in the dusty marts of
Jerusalem to the ready sympathy, loving appreciation and unfaltering
friendship of that quiet home at Bethany; and even at the last, by his
dying bequest to the disciple whom he loved, signifying the protection
and tender regard to be extended to that sorrowing mother and ever
afterward to the sex she represented;—throughout his life and in his
death he has given to men a rule and guide for the estimation of woman
as an equal, as a helper, as a friend, and as a sacred charge to be
sheltered and cared for with a brother’s love and sympathy, lessons
which nineteen centuries’ gigantic strides in knowledge, arts, and
sciences, in social and ethical principles have not been able to probe
to their depth or to exhaust in practice.

It seems not too much to say then of the vitalizing, regenerating, and
progressive influence of womanhood on the civilization of to-day, that,
while it was foreshadowed among Germanic nations in the far away dawn of
their history as a narrow, sickly and stunted growth, it yet owes its
catholicity and power, the deepening of its roots and broadening of its
branches to Christianity.

The union of these two forces, the Barbaric and the Christian, was not
long delayed after the Fall of the Empire. The Church, which fell with
Rome, finding herself in danger of being swallowed up by barbarism, with
characteristic vigor and fertility of resources, addressed herself
immediately to the task of conquering her conquerers. The means chosen
does credit to her power of penetration and adaptability, as well as to
her profound, unerring, all-compassing diplomacy; and makes us even now
wonder if aught human can successfully and ultimately withstand her
far-seeing designs and brilliant policy, or gainsay her well-earned
claim to the word _Catholic_.

She saw the barbarian, little more developed than a wild beast. She
forbore to antagonize and mystify his warlike nature by a full blaze of
the heartsearching and humanizing tenets of her great Head. She said
little of the rule “If thy brother smite thee on one cheek, turn to him
the other also;” but thought it sufficient for the needs of those times,
to establish the so-called “Truce of God” under which men were bound to
abstain from butchering one another for three days of each week and on
Church festivals. In other words, she respected their individuality:
non-resistance pure and simple being for them an utter impossibility,
she contented herself with less radical measures calculated to lead up
finally to the full measure of the benevolence of Christ.

Next she took advantage of the barbarian’s sensuous love of gaudy
display and put all her magnificent garments on. She could not capture
him by physical force, she would dazzle him by gorgeous spectacles. It
is said that Romanism gained more in pomp and ritual during this trying
period of the Dark Ages than throughout all her former history.

The result was she carried her point. Once more Rome laid her ambitious
hand on the temporal power, and allied with Charlemagne, aspired to rule
the world through a civilization dominated by Christianity and permeated
by the traditions and instincts of those sturdy barbarians.

Here was the confluence of the two streams we have been tracing, which,
united now, stretch before us as a broad majestic river. In regard to
woman it was the meeting of two noble and ennobling forces, two kindred
ideas the resultant of which, we doubt not, is destined to be a potent
force in the betterment of the world.

Now after our appeal to history comparing nations destitute of this
force and so destitute also of the principle of progress, with other
nations among whom the influence of woman is prominent coupled with a
brisk, progressive, satisfying civilization,—if in addition we find this
strong presumptive evidence corroborated by reason and experience, we
may conclude that these two equally varying concomitants are linked as
cause and effect; in other words, that the position of woman in society
determines the vital elements of its regeneration and progress.

Now that this is so on _a priori_ grounds all must admit. And this not
because woman is better or stronger or wiser than man, but from the
nature of the case, because it is she who must first form the man by
directing the earliest impulses of his character.

Byron and Wordsworth were both geniuses and would have stamped
themselves on the thought of their age under any circumstances; and yet
we find the one a savor of life unto life, the other of death unto
death. “Byron, like a rocket, shot his way upward with scorn and
repulsion, flamed out in wild, explosive, brilliant excesses and
disappeared in darkness made all the more palpable.”[3]

Footnote 3:

  Bascom’s Eng. Lit. p. 253.

Wordsworth lent of his gifts to reinforce that “power in the Universe
which makes for righteousness” by taking the harp handed him from Heaven
and using it to swell the strains of angelic choirs. Two locomotives
equally mighty stand facing opposite tracks; the one to rush headlong to
destruction with all its precious freight, the other to toil grandly and
gloriously up the steep embattlements to Heaven and to God. Who—who can
say what a world of consequences hung on the first placing and starting
of these enormous forces!

Woman, Mother,—your responsibility is one that might make angels tremble
and fear to take hold! To trifle with it, to ignore or misuse it, is to
treat lightly the most sacred and solemn trust ever confided by God to
human kind. The training of children is a task on which an infinity of
weal or woe depends. Who does not covet it? Yet who does not stand
awe-struck before its momentous issues! It is a matter of small moment,
it seems to me, whether that lovely girl in whose accomplishments you
take such pride and delight, can enter the gay and crowded salon with
the ease and elegance of this or that French or English gentlewoman,
compared with the decision as to whether her individuality is going to
reinforce the good or the evil elements of the world. The lace and the
diamonds, the dance and the theater, gain a new significance when
scanned in their bearings on such issues. Their influence on the
individual personality, and through her on the society and civilization
which she vitalizes and inspires—all this and more must be weighed in
the balance before the jury can return a just and intelligent verdict as
to the innocence or banefulness of these apparently simple amusements.

Now the fact of woman’s influence on society being granted, what are its
practical bearings on the work which brought together this conference of
colored clergy and laymen in Washington? “We come not here to talk.”
Life is too busy, too pregnant with meaning and far reaching
consequences to allow you to come this far for mere intellectual

The vital agency of womanhood in the regeneration and progress of a
race, as a general question, is conceded almost before it is fairly
stated. I confess one of the difficulties for me in the subject assigned
lay in its obviousness. The plea is taken away by the opposite
attorney’s granting the whole question.

“Woman’s influence on social progress”—who in Christendom doubts or
questions it? One may as well be called on to prove that the sun is the
source of light and heat and energy to this many-sided little world.

Nor, on the other hand, could it have been intended that I should apply
the position when taken and proven, to the needs and responsibilities of
the women of our race in the South. For is it not written, “Cursed is he
that cometh after the king?” and has not the King already preceded me in
“The Black Woman of the South”?[4]

Footnote 4:

  Pamphlet published by Dr. Alex. Crummell.

They have had both Moses and the Prophets in Dr. Crummell and if they
hear not him, neither would they be persuaded though one came up from
the South.

I would beg, however, with the Doctor’s permission, to add my plea for
the _Colored Girls_ of the South:—that large, bright, promising fatally
beautiful class that stand shivering like a delicate plantlet before the
fury of tempestuous elements, so full of promise and possibilities, yet
so sure of destruction; often without a father to whom they dare apply
the loving term, often without a stronger brother to espouse their cause
and defend their honor with his life’s blood; in the midst of pitfalls
and snares, waylaid by the lower classes of white men, with no shelter,
no protection nearer than the great blue vault above, which half
conceals and half reveals the one Care-Taker they know so little of. Oh,
save them, help them, shield, train, develop, teach, inspire them!
Snatch them, in God’s name, as brands from the burning! There is
material in them well worth your while, the hope in germ of a staunch,
helpful, regenerating womanhood on which, primarily, rests the
foundation stones of our future as a race.

It is absurd to quote statistics showing the Negro’s bank account and
rent rolls, to point to the hundreds of newspapers edited by colored men
and lists of lawyers, doctors, professors, D. D’s, LL D’s, etc., etc.,
etc., while the source from which the life-blood of the race is to flow
is subject to taint and corruption in the enemy’s camp.

True progress is never made by spasms. Real progress is growth. It must
begin in the seed. Then, “first the blade, then the ear, after that the
full corn in the ear.” There is something to encourage and inspire us in
the advancement of individuals since their emancipation from slavery. It
at least proves that there is nothing irretrievably wrong in the shape
of the black man’s skull, and that under given circumstances his
development, downward or upward, will be similar to that of other
average human beings.

But there is no time to be wasted in mere felicitation. That the Negro
has his niche in the infinite purposes of the Eternal, no one who has
studied the history of the last fifty years in America will deny. That
much depends on his own right comprehension of his responsibility and
rising to the demands of the hour, it will be good for him to see; and
how best to use his present so that the structure of the future shall be
stronger and higher and brighter and nobler and holier than that of the
past, is a question to be decided each day by every one of us.

The race is just twenty-one years removed from the conception and
experience of a chattel, just at the age of ruddy manhood. It is well
enough to pause a moment for retrospection, introspection, and
prospection. We look back, not to become inflated with conceit because
of the depths from which we have arisen, but that we may learn wisdom
from experience. We look within that we may gather together once more
our forces, and, by improved and more practical methods, address
ourselves to the tasks before us. We look forward with hope and trust
that the same God whose guiding hand led our fathers through and out of
the gall and bitterness of oppression, will still lead and direct their
children, to the honor of His name, and for their ultimate salvation.

But this survey of the failures or achievements of the past, the
difficulties and embarrassments of the present, and the mingled hopes
and fears for the future, must not degenerate into mere dreaming nor
consume the time which belongs to the practical and effective handling
of the crucial questions of the hour; and there can be no issue more
vital and momentous than this of the womanhood of the race.

Here is the vulnerable point, not in the heel, but at the heart of the
young Achilles; and here must the defenses be strengthened and the watch

We are the heirs of a past which was not our fathers’ moulding. “Every
man the arbiter of his own destiny” was not true for the American Negro
of the past: and it is no fault of his that he finds himself to-day the
inheritor of a manhood and womanhood impoverished and debased by two
centuries and more of compression and degradation.

But weaknesses and malformations, which to-day are attributable to a
vicious schoolmaster and a pernicious system, will a century hence be
rightly regarded as proofs of innate corruptness and radical

Now the fundamental agency under God in the regeneration, the
re-training of the race, as well as the ground work and starting point
of its progress upward, must be the _black woman_.

With all the wrongs and neglects of her past, with all the weakness, the
debasement, the moral thralldom of her present, the black woman of
to-day stands mute and wondering at the Herculean task devolving upon
her. But the cycles wait for her. No other hand can move the lever. She
must be loosed from her bands and set to work.

Our meager and superficial results from past efforts prove their
futility; and every attempt to elevate the Negro, whether undertaken by
himself or through the philanthropy of others, cannot but prove abortive
unless so directed as to utilize the indispensable agency of an elevated
and trained womanhood.

A race cannot be purified from without. Preachers and teachers are
helps, and stimulants and conditions as necessary as the gracious rain
and sunshine are to plant growth. But what are rain and dew and sunshine
and cloud if there be no life in the plant germ? We must go to the root
and see that that is sound and healthy and vigorous; and not deceive
ourselves with waxen flowers and painted leaves of mock chlorophyll.

We too often mistake individuals’ honor for race development and so are
ready to substitute pretty accomplishments for sound sense and earnest

A stream cannot rise higher than its source. The atmosphere of homes is
no rarer and purer and sweeter than are the mothers in those homes. A
race is but a total of families. The nation is the aggregate of its
homes. As the whole is sum of all its parts, so the character of the
parts will determine the characteristics of the whole. These are all
axioms and so evident that it seems gratuitous to remark it; and yet,
unless I am greatly mistaken, most of the unsatisfaction from our past
results arises from just such a radical and palpable error, as much
almost on our own part as on that of our benevolent white friends.

The Negro is constitutionally hopeful and proverbially irrepressible;
and naturally stands in danger of being dazzled by the shimmer and
tinsel of superficials. We often mistake foliage for fruit and
overestimate or wrongly estimate brilliant results.

The late Martin R. Delany, who was an unadulterated black man, used to
say when honors of state fell upon him, that when he entered the council
of kings the black race entered with him; meaning, I suppose, that there
was no discounting his race identity and attributing his achievements to
some admixture of Saxon blood. But our present record of eminent men,
when placed beside the actual status of the race in America to-day,
proves that no man can represent the race. Whatever the attainments of
the individual may be, unless his home has moved on _pari passu_, he can
never be regarded as identical with or representative of the whole.

Not by pointing to sun-bathed mountain tops do we prove that Phœbus
warms the valleys. We must point to homes, average homes, homes of the
rank and file of horny handed toiling men and women of the South (where
the masses are) lighted and cheered by the good, the beautiful, and the
true,—then and not till then will the whole plateau be lifted into the

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_.” Is it not evident then that as individual workers for this race we
must address ourselves with no half-hearted zeal to this feature of our
mission. The need is felt and must be recognized by all. There is a call
for workers, for missionaries, for men and women with the double
consecration of a fundamental love of humanity and a desire for its
melioration through the Gospel; but superadded to this we demand an
intelligent and sympathetic comprehension of the interests and special
needs of the Negro.

I see not why there should not be an organized effort for the protection
and elevation of our girls such as the White Cross League in England.
English women are strengthened and protected by more than twelve
centuries of Christian influences, freedom and civilization; English
girls are dispirited and crushed down by no such all-levelling prejudice
as that supercilious caste spirit in America which cynically assumes “A
Negro woman cannot be a lady.” English womanhood is beset by no such
snares and traps as betray the unprotected, untrained colored girl of
the South, whose only crime and dire destruction often is her
unconscious and marvelous beauty. Surely then if English indignation is
aroused and English manhood thrilled under the leadership of a Bishop of
the English church to build up bulwarks around their wronged sisters,
Negro sentiment cannot remain callous and Negro effort nerveless in view
of the imminent peril of the mothers of the next generation. “_I am my
Sister’s keeper!_” should be the hearty response of every man and woman
of the race, and this conviction should purify and exalt the narrow,
selfish and petty personal aims of life into a noble and sacred purpose.

We need men who can let their interest and gallantry extend outside the
circle of their æsthetic appreciation; men who can be a father, a
brother, a friend to every weak, struggling unshielded girl. We need
women who are so sure of their own social footing that they need not
fear leaning to lend a hand to a fallen or falling sister. We need men
and women who do not exhaust their genius splitting hairs on
aristocratic distinctions and thanking God they are not as others; but
earnest, unselfish souls, who can go into the highways and byways,
lifting up and leading, advising and encouraging with the truly catholic
benevolence of the Gospel of Christ.

As Church workers we must confess our path of duty is less obvious; or
rather our ability to adapt our machinery to our conception of the
peculiar exigencies of this work as taught by experience and our own
consciousness of the needs of the Negro, is as yet not demonstrable.
Flexibility and aggressiveness are not such strong characteristics of
the Church to-day as in the Dark Ages.

As a Mission field for the Church the Southern Negro is in some aspects
most promising; in others, perplexing. Aliens neither in language and
customs, nor in associations and sympathies, naturally of deeply rooted
religious instincts and taking most readily and kindly to the worship
and teachings of the Church, surely the task of proselytizing the
American Negro is infinitely less formidable than that which confronted
the Church in the Barbarians of Europe. Besides, this people already
look to the Church as the hope of their race. Thinking colored men
almost uniformly admit that the Protestant Episcopal Church with its
quiet, chaste dignity and decorous solemnity, its instructive and
elevating ritual, its bright chanting and joyous hymning, is eminently
fitted to correct the peculiar faults of worship—the rank exuberance and
often ludicrous demonstrativeness of their people. Yet, strange to say,
the Church, claiming to be missionary and Catholic, urging that schism
is sin and denominationalism inexcusable, has made in all these years
almost no inroads upon this semi-civilized religionism.

Harvests from this over ripe field of home missions have been gathered
in by Methodists, Baptists, and not least by Congregationalists, who
were unknown to the Freedmen before their emancipation.

Our clergy numbers less than two dozen[5] priests of Negro blood and we
have hardly more than one self-supporting colored congregation in the
entire Southland. While the organization known as the A. M. E. Church
has 14,063 ministers, itinerant and local, 4,069 self-supporting
churches, 4,275 Sunday-schools, with property valued at $7,772,284,
raising yearly for church purposes $1,427,000.

Footnote 5:

  The published report of ’91 shows 26 priests for the entire country,
  including one not engaged in work and one a professor in a
  non-sectarian school, since made Dean of an Episcopal Annex to Howard
  University known as King Hall.

Stranger and more significant than all, the leading men of this race (I
do not mean demagogues and politicians, but men of intellect, heart, and
race devotion, men to whom the elevation of their people means more than
personal ambition and sordid gain—and the men of that stamp have not all
died yet) the Christian workers for the race, of younger and more
cultured growth, are noticeably drifting into sectarian churches, many
of them declaring all the time that they acknowledge the historic claims
of the Church, believe her apostolicity, and would experience greater
personal comfort, spiritual and intellectual, in her revered communion.
It is a fact which any one may verify for himself, that representative
colored men, professing that in their heart of hearts they are
Episcopalians, are actually working in Methodist and Baptist pulpits;
while the ranks of the Episcopal clergy are left to be filled largely by
men who certainly suggest the propriety of a “_perpetual_ Diaconate” if
they cannot be said to have created the necessity for it.

Now where is the trouble? Something must be wrong. What is it?

A certain Southern Bishop of our Church reviewing the situation, whether
in Godly anxiety or in “Gothic antipathy” I know not, deprecates the
fact that the colored people do not seem _drawn_ to the Episcopal
Church, and comes to the sage conclusion that the Church is not adapted
to the rude untutored minds of the Freedmen, and that they may be left
to go to the Methodists and Baptists whither their racial proclivities
undeniably tend. How the good Bishop can agree that all-foreseeing
Wisdom, and Catholic Love would have framed his Church as typified in
his seamless garment and unbroken body, and yet not leave it broad
enough and deep enough and loving enough to seek and save and hold seven
millions of God’s poor, I cannot see.

But the doctors while discussing their scientifically conclusive
diagnosis of the disease, will perhaps not think it presumptuous in the
patient if he dares to suggest where at least the pain is. If this be
allowed, a _Black woman of the South_ would beg to point out two
possible oversights in this southern work which may indicate in part
both a cause and a remedy for some failure. The first is _not
calculating for the Black man’s personality_; not having respect, if I
may so express it, to his manhood or deferring at all to his conceptions
of the needs of his people. When colored persons have been employed it
was too often as machines or as manikins. There has been no disposition,
generally, to get the black man’s ideal or to let his individuality work
by its own gravity, as it were. A conference of earnest Christian men
have met at regular intervals for some years past to discuss the best
methods of promoting the welfare and development of colored people in
this country. Yet, strange as it may seem, they have never invited a
colored man or even intimated that one would be welcome to take part in
their deliberations. Their remedial contrivances are purely theoretical
or empirical, therefore, and the whole machinery devoid of soul.

The second important oversight in my judgment is closely allied to this
and probably grows out of it, and that is not developing Negro womanhood
as an essential fundamental for the elevation of the race, and utilizing
this agency in extending the work of the Church.

Of the first I have possibly already presumed to say too much since it
does not strictly come within the province of my subject. However,
Macaulay somewhere criticises the Church of England as not knowing how
to use fanatics, and declares that had Ignatius Loyola been in the
Anglican instead of the Roman communion, the Jesuits would have been
schismatics instead of Catholics; and if the religious awakenings of the
Wesleys had been in Rome, she would have shaven their heads, tied ropes
around their waists, and sent them out under her own banner and
blessing. Whether this be true or not, there is certainly a vast amount
of force potential for Negro evangelization rendered latent, or worse,
antagonistic by the halting, uncertain, I had almost said, _trimming_
policy of the Church in the South. This may sound both presumptuous and
ungrateful. It is mortifying, I know, to benevolent wisdom, after having
spent itself in the execution of well conned theories for the ideal
development of a particular work, to hear perhaps the weakest and
humblest element of that work asking “what doest thou?”

Yet so it will be in life. The “thus far and no farther” pattern cannot
be fitted to any growth in God’s kingdom. The universal law of
development is “onward and upward.” It is God-given and inviolable. From
the unfolding of the germ in the acorn to reach the sturdy oak, to the
growth of a human soul into the full knowledge and likeness of its
Creator, the breadth and scope of the movement in each and all are too
grand, too mysterious, too like God himself, to be encompassed and
locked down in human molds.

After all the Southern slave owners were right: either the very alphabet
of intellectual growth must be forbidden and the Negro dealt with
absolutely as a chattel having neither rights nor sensibilities; or else
the clamps and irons of mental and moral, as well as civil compression
must be riven asunder and the truly enfranchised soul led to the
entrance of that boundless vista through which it is to toil upwards to
its beckoning God as the buried seed germ to meet the sun.

A perpetual colored diaconate, carefully and kindly superintended by the
white clergy; congregations of shiny faced peasants with their clean
white aprons and sunbonnets catechised at regular intervals and taught
to recite the creed, the Lord’s prayer and the ten commandments—duty
towards God and duty towards neighbor, surely such well tended sheep
ought to be grateful to their shepherds and content in that station of
life to which it pleased God to call them. True, like the old professor
lecturing to his solitary student, we make no provision here for
irregularities. “Questions must be kept till after class,” or dispensed
with altogether. That some do ask questions and insist on answers, in
class too, must be both impertinent and annoying. Let not our spiritual
pastors and masters however be grieved at such self-assertion as merely
signifies we have a destiny to fulfill and as men and women we must _be
about our Father’s business_.

It is a mistake to suppose that the Negro is prejudiced against a white
ministry. Naturally there is not a more kindly and implicit follower of
a white man’s guidance than the average colored peasant. What would to
others be an ordinary act of friendly or pastoral interest he would be
more inclined to regard gratefully as a condescension. And he never
forgets such kindness. Could the Negro be brought near to his white
priest or bishop, he is not suspicious. He is not only willing but often
longs to unburden his soul to this intelligent guide. There are no
reservations when he is convinced that you are his friend. It is a
saddening satire on American history and manners that it takes something
to convince him.

That our people are not “drawn” to a church whose chief dignitaries they
see only in the chancel, and whom they reverence as they would a
painting or an angel, whose life never comes down to and touches theirs
with the inspiration of an objective reality, may be “perplexing” truly
(American caste and American Christianity both being facts) but it need
not be surprising. There must be something of human nature in it, the
same as that which brought about that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt
among us” that He might “draw” us towards God.

Men are not “drawn” by abstractions. Only sympathy and love can draw,
and until our Church in America realizes this and provides a clergy that
can come in touch with our life and have a fellow feeling for our woes,
without being imbedded and frozen up in their “Gothic antipathies,” the
good bishops are likely to continue “perplexed” by the sparsity of
colored Episcopalians.

A colored priest of my acquaintance recently related to me, with tears
in his eyes, how his reverend Father in God, the Bishop who had ordained
him, had met him on the cars on his way to the diocesan convention and
warned him, not unkindly, not to take a seat in the body of the
convention with the white clergy. To avoid disturbance of their godly
placidity he would of course please sit back and somewhat apart. I do
not imagine that that clergyman had very much heart for the Christly (!)
deliberations of that convention.

To return, however, it is not on this broader view of Church work, which
I mentioned as a primary cause of its halting progress with the colored
people, that I am to speak. My proper theme is the second oversight of
which in my judgment our Christian propagandists have been guilty: or,
the necessity of church training, protecting and uplifting our colored
womanhood as indispensable to the evangelization of the race.

Apelles did not disdain even that criticism of his lofty art which came
from an uncouth cobbler; and may I not hope that the writer’s oneness
with her subject both in feeling and in being may palliate undue
obtrusiveness of opinions here. That the race cannot be effectually
lifted up till its women are truly elevated we take as proven. It is not
for us to dwell on the needs, the neglects, and the ways of succor,
pertaining to the black woman of the South. The ground has been ably
discussed and an admirable and practical plan proposed by the oldest
Negro priest in America, advising and urging that special organizations
such as Church Sisterhoods and industrial schools be devised to meet her
pressing needs in the Southland. That some such movements are vital to
the life of this people and the extension of the Church among them, is
not hard to see. Yet the pamphlet fell still-born from the press. So far
as I am informed the Church has made no motion towards carrying out Dr.
Crummell’s suggestion.

The denomination which comes next our own in opposing the proverbial
emotionalism of Negro worship in the South, and which in consequence
like ours receives the cold shoulder from the old heads, resting as we
do under the charge of not “having religion” and not believing in
conversion—the Congregationalists—have quietly gone to work on the
young, have established industrial and training schools, and now almost
every community in the South is yearly enriched by a fresh infusion of
vigorous young hearts, cultivated heads, and helpful hands that have
been trained at Fisk, at Hampton, in Atlanta University, and in
Tuskegee, Alabama.

These young people are missionaries actual or virtual both here and in
Africa. They have learned to love the methods and doctrines of the
Church which trained and educated them; and so Congregationalism surely
and steadily progresses.

Need I compare these well known facts with results shown by the Church
in the same field and during the same or even a longer time.

The institution of the Church in the South to which she mainly looks for
the training of her colored clergy and for the help of the “Black Woman”
and “Colored Girl” of the South, has graduated since the year 1868, when
the school was founded, _five young women_;[6] and while yearly numerous
young men have been kept and trained for the ministry by the charities
of the Church, the number of indigent females who have here been
supported, sheltered and trained, is phenomenally small. Indeed, to my
mind, the attitude of the Church toward this feature of her work is as
if the solution of the problem of Negro missions depended solely on
sending a quota of deacons and priests into the field, girls being a
sort of _tertium quid_ whose development may be promoted if they can pay
their way and fall in with the plans mapped out for the training of the
other sex. Now I would ask in all earnestness, does not this force
potential deserve by education and stimulus to be made dynamic? Is it
not a solemn duty incumbent on all colored churchmen to make it so? Will
not the aid of the Church be given to prepare our girls in head, heart,
and hand for the duties and responsibilities that await the intelligent
wife, the Christian mother, the earnest, virtuous, helpful woman, at
once both the lever and the fulcrum for uplifting the race.

Footnote 6:

  Five have been graduated since ’86, two in ’91, two in ’92.

As Negroes and churchmen we cannot be indifferent to these questions.
They touch us most vitally on both sides. We believe in the Holy
Catholic Church. We believe that however gigantic and apparently remote
the consummation, the Church will go on conquering and to conquer till
the kingdoms of this world, not excepting the black man and the black
woman of the South, shall have become the kingdoms of the Lord and of
his Christ.

That past work in this direction has been unsatisfactory we must admit.
That without a change of policy results in the future will be as meagre,
we greatly fear. Our life as a race is at stake. The dearest interests
of our hearts are in the scales. We must either break away from dear old
landmarks and plunge out in any line and every line that enables us to
meet the pressing need of our people, or we must ask the Church to allow
and help us, untrammelled by the prejudices and theories of individuals,
to work aggressively under her direction as we alone can, with God’s
help, for the salvation of our people.

The time is ripe for action. Self-seeking and ambition must be laid on
the altar. The battle is one of sacrifice and hardship, but our duty is
plain. We have been recipients of missionary bounty in some sort for
twenty-one years. Not even the senseless vegetable is content to be a
mere reservoir. Receiving without giving is an anomaly in nature.
Nature’s cells are all little workshops for manufacturing sunbeams, the
product to be _given out_ to earth’s inhabitants in warmth, energy,
thought, action. Inanimate creation always pays back an equivalent.

Now, _How much owest thou, my Lord?_ Will his account be overdrawn if he
call for singleness of purpose and self-sacrificing labor for your
brethren? Having passed through your drill school, will you refuse a
general’s commission even if it entail responsibility, risk and anxiety,
with possibly some adverse criticism? Is it too much to ask you to step
forward and direct the work for your race along those lines which you
know to be of first and vital importance?

Will you allow these words of Ralph Waldo Emerson? “In ordinary,” says
he, “we have a snappish criticism which watches and contradicts the
opposite party. We want the will which advances and dictates [acts].
Nature has made up her mind that what cannot defend itself, shall not be
defended. Complaining never so loud and with never so much reason, is of
no use. What cannot stand must fall; _and the measure of our sincerity
and therefore of the respect of men is the amount of health and wealth
we will hazard in the defense of our right_.”

                     THE HIGHER EDUCATION OF WOMEN.

In the very first year of our century, the year 1801, there appeared in
Paris a book by Silvain Marechal, entitled “Shall Woman Learn the
Alphabet.” The book proposes a law prohibiting the alphabet to women,
and quotes authorities weighty and various, to prove that the woman who
knows the alphabet has already lost part of her womanliness. The author
declares that woman can use the alphabet only as Moliere predicted they
would, in spelling out the verb _amo_; that they have no occasion to
peruse Ovid’s _Ars Amoris_, since that is already the ground and limit
of their intuitive furnishing; that Madame Guion would have been far
more adorable had she remained a beautiful ignoramus as nature made her;
that Ruth, Naomi, the Spartan woman, the Amazons, Penelope, Andromache,
Lucretia, Joan of Arc, Petrarch’s Laura, the daughters of Charlemagne,
could not spell their names; while Sappho, Aspasia, Madame de Maintenon,
and Madame de Stael could read altogether too well for their good;
finally, that if women were once permitted to read Sophocles and work
with logarithms, or to nibble at any side of the apple of knowledge,
there would be an end forever to their sewing on buttons and
embroidering slippers.

Please remember this book was published at the _beginning_ of the
Nineteenth Century. At the end of its first third, (in the year 1833)
one solitary college in America decided to admit women within its sacred
precincts, and organized what was called a “Ladies’ Course” as well as
the regular B. A. or Gentlemen’s course.

It was felt to be an experiment—a rather dangerous experiment—and was
adopted with fear and trembling by the good fathers, who looked as if
they had been caught secretly mixing explosive compounds and were
guiltily expecting every moment to see the foundations under them shaken
and rent and their fair superstructure shattered into fragments.

But the girls came, and there was no upheaval. They performed their
tasks modestly and intelligently. Once in a while one or two were found
choosing the gentlemen’s course. Still no collapse; and the dear,
careful, scrupulous, frightened old professors were just getting their
hearts out of their throats and preparing to draw one good free breath,
when they found they would have to change the names of those courses;
for there were as many ladies in the gentlemen’s course as in the
ladies’, and a distinctively Ladies’ Course, inferior in scope and aim
to the regular classical course, did not and could not exist.

Other colleges gradually fell into line, and to-day there are one
hundred and ninety-eight colleges for women, and two hundred and seven
coeducational colleges and universities in the United States alone
offering the degree of B. A. to women, and sending out yearly into the
arteries of this nation a warm, rich flood of strong, brave, active,
energetic, well-equipped, thoughtful women—women quick to see and eager
to help the needs of this needy world—women who can think as well as
feel, and who feel none the less because they think—women who are none
the less tender and true for the parchment scroll they bear in their
hands—women who have given a deeper, richer, nobler and grander meaning
to the word “womanly” than any one-sided masculine definition could ever
have suggested or inspired—women whom the world has long waited for in
pain and anguish till there should be at last added to its forces and
allowed to permeate its thought the complement of that masculine
influence which has dominated it for fourteen centuries.

Since the idea of order and subordination succumbed to barbarian brawn
and brutality in the fifth century, the civilized world has been like a
child brought up by his father. It has needed the great mother heart to
teach it to be pitiful, to love mercy, to succor the weak and care for
the lowly.

Whence came this apotheosis of greed and cruelty? Whence this sneaking
admiration we all have for bullies and prize-fighters? Whence the
self-congratulation of “dominant” races, as if “dominant” meant
“righteous” and carried with it a title to inherit the earth? Whence the
scorn of so-called weak or unwarlike races and individuals, and the very
comfortable assurance that it is their manifest destiny to be wiped out
as vermin before this advancing civilization? As if the possession of
the Christian graces of meekness, non-resistance and forgiveness, were
incompatible with a civilization professedly based on Christianity, the
religion of love! Just listen to this little bit of Barbarian brag:

  “As for Far Orientals, they are not of those who will survive.
  Artistic attractive people that they are, their civilization is like
  their own tree flowers, beautiful blossoms destined never to bear
  fruit. If these people continue in their old course, their earthly
  career is closed. Just as surely as morning passes into afternoon,
  so surely are these races of the Far East, if unchanged, destined to
  disappear before the advancing nations of the West. Vanish, they
  will, off the face of the earth, and leave our planet the eventual
  possession of the dwellers where the day declines. Unless their
  newly imported ideas really take root, it is from this whole world
  that Japanese and Koreans, as well as Chinese, will inevitably be
  excluded. Their Nirvana is already being realized; already, it has
  wrapped Far Eastern Asia in its winding sheet.”—_Soul of the Far
  East—P. Lowell._

Delightful reflection for “the dwellers where day declines.” A spectacle
to make the gods laugh, truly, to see the scion of an upstart race by
one sweep of his generalizing pen consigning to annihilation one-third
the inhabitants of the globe—a people whose civilization was hoary
headed before the parent elements that begot his race had advanced
beyond nebulosity.

How like Longfellow’s Iagoo, we Westerners are, to be sure! In the few
hundred years, we have had to strut across our allotted territory and
bask in the afternoon sun, we imagine we have exhausted the
possibilities of humanity. Verily, we are the people, and after us there
is none other. Our God is power; strength, our standard of excellence,
inherited from barbarian ancestors through a long line of male
progenitors, the Law Salic permitting no feminine modifications.

Says one, “The Chinaman is not popular with us, and we do not like the
Negro. It is not that the eyes of the one are set bias, and the other is
dark-skinned; but the Chinaman, the Negro is weak—_and Anglo Saxons
don’t like weakness_.”

The world of thought under the predominant man-influence, unmollified
and unrestrained by its complementary force, would become like Daniel’s
fourth beast: “dreadful and terrible, and _strong_ exceedingly;” “it had
great iron teeth; it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the
residue with the feet of it;” and the most independent of us find
ourselves ready at times to fall down and worship this incarnation of

Mrs. Mary A. Livermore, a woman whom I can mention only to admire, came
near shaking my faith a few weeks ago in my theory of the thinking
woman’s mission to put in the tender and sympathetic chord in nature’s
grand symphony, and counteract, or better, harmonize the diapason of
mere strength and might.

She was dwelling on the Anglo-Saxon genius for power and his contempt
for weakness, and described a scene in San Francisco which she had

The incorrigible animal known as the American small-boy, had pounced
upon a simple, unoffending Chinaman, who was taking home his work, and
had emptied the beautifully laundried contents of his basket into the
ditch. “And,” said she, “when that great man stood there and blubbered
before that crowd of lawless urchins, to any one of whom he might have
taught a lesson with his two fists, _I didn’t much care_.”

This is said like a man! It grates harshly. It smacks of the worship of
the beast. It is contempt for weakness, and taken out of its setting it
seems to contradict my theory. It either shows that one of the highest
exponents of the Higher Education can be at times untrue to the
instincts I have ascribed to the thinking woman and to the contribution
she is to add to the civilized world, or else the influence she wields
upon our civilization may be potent without being necessarily and always
direct and conscious. The latter is the case. Her voice may strike a
false note, but her whole being is musical with the vibrations of human
suffering. Her tongue may parrot over the cold conceits that some man
has taught her, but her heart is aglow with sympathy and loving
kindness, and she cannot be true to her real self without giving out
these elements into the forces of the world.

No one is in any danger of imagining Mark Antony “a plain blunt man,”
nor Cassius a sincere one—whatever the speeches they may make.

As individuals, we are constantly and inevitably, whether we are
conscious of it or not, giving out our real selves into our several
little worlds, inexorably adding our own true ray to the flood of
starlight, quite independently of our professions and our masquerading;
and so in the world of thought, the influence of thinking woman far
transcends her feeble declamation and may seem at times even opposed to

A visitor in Oberlin once said to the lady principal, “Have you no
rabble in Oberlin? How is it I see no police here, and yet the streets
are as quiet and orderly as if there were an officer of the law standing
on every corner.”

Mrs. Johnston replied, “Oh, yes; there are vicious persons in Oberlin
just as in other towns—_but our girls are our police_.”

With from five to ten hundred pure-minded young women threading the
streets of the village every evening unattended, vice must slink away,
like frost before the rising sun: and yet I venture to say there was not
one in a hundred of those girls who would not have run from a street
brawl as she would from a mouse, and who would not have declared she
could never stand the sight of blood and pistols.

There is, then, a real and special influence of woman. An influence
subtle and often involuntary, an influence so intimately interwoven in,
so intricately interpenetrated by the masculine influence of the time
that it is often difficult to extricate the delicate meshes and analyze
and identify the closely clinging fibers. And yet, without this
influence—so long as woman sat with bandaged eyes and manacled hands,
fast bound in the clamps of ignorance and inaction, the world of thought
moved in its orbit like the revolutions of the moon; with one face (the
man’s face) always out, so that the spectator could not distinguish
whether it was disc or sphere.

Now I claim that it is the prevalence of the Higher Education among
women, the making it a common every-day affair for women to reason and
think and express their thought, the training and stimulus which enable
and encourage women to administer to the world the bread it needs as
well as the sugar it cries for; in short it is the transmitting the
potential forces of her soul into dynamic factors that has given
symmetry and completeness to the world’s agencies. So only could it be
consummated that Mercy, the lesson she teaches, and Truth, the task man
has set himself, should meet together: that righteousness, or
_rightness_, man’s ideal,—and _peace_, its necessary ‘other half,’
should kiss each other.

We must thank the general enlightenment and independence of woman (which
we may now regard as a _fait accompli_) that both these forces are now
at work in the world, and it is fair to demand from them for the
twentieth century a higher type of civilization than any attained in the
nineteenth. Religion, science, art, economics, have all needed the
feminine flavor; and literature, the expression of what is permanent and
best in all of these, may be gauged at any time to measure the strength
of the feminine ingredient. You will not find theology consigning
infants to lakes of unquenchable fire long after women have had a chance
to grasp, master, and wield its dogmas. You will not find science
annihilating personality from the government of the Universe and making
of God an ungovernable, unintelligible, blind, often destructive
physical force; you will not find jurisprudence formulating as an axiom
the absurdity that man and wife are one, and that one the man—that the
married woman may not hold or bequeath her own property save as subject
to her husband’s direction; you will not find political economists
declaring that the only possible adjustment between laborers and
capitalists is that of selfishness and rapacity—that each must get all
he can and keep all that he gets, while the world cries _laissez faire_
and the lawyers explain, “it is the beautiful working of the law of
supply and demand;” in fine, you will not find the law of love shut out
from the affairs of men after the feminine half of the world’s truth is

Nay, put your ear now close to the pulse of the time. What is the
key-note of the literature of these days? What is the banner cry of all
the activities of the last half decade? What is the dominant seventh
which is to add richness and tone to the final cadences of this century
and lead by a grand modulation into the triumphant harmonies of the
next? Is it not compassion for the poor and unfortunate, and, as Bellamy
has expressed it, “indignant outcry against the failure of the social
machinery as it is, to ameliorate the miseries of men!” Even
Christianity is being brought to the bar of humanity and tried by the
standard of its ability to alleviate the world’s suffering and lighten
and brighten its woe. What else can be the meaning of Matthew Arnold’s
saddening protest, “We cannot do without Christianity,” cried he, “and
we cannot endure it as it is.”

When went there by an age, when so much time and thought, so much money
and labor were given to God’s poor and God’s invalids, the lowly and
unlovely, the sinning as well as the suffering—homes for inebriates and
homes for lunatics, shelter for the aged and shelter for babes,
hospitals for the sick, props and braces for the falling, reformatory
prisons and prison reformatories, all show that a “mothering” influence
from some source is leavening the nation.

Now please understand me. I do not ask you to admit that these
benefactions and virtues are the exclusive possession of women, or even
that women are their chief and only advocates. It may be a man who
formulates and makes them vocal. It may be, and often is, a man who
weeps over the wrongs and struggles for the amelioration: but that man
has imbibed those impulses from a mother rather than from a father and
is simply materializing and giving back to the world in tangible form
the ideal love and tenderness, devotion and care that have cherished and
nourished the helpless period of his own existence.

All I claim is that there is a feminine as well as a masculine side
to truth; that these are related not as inferior and superior, not
as better and worse, not as weaker and stronger, but as
complements—complements in one necessary and symmetric whole. That
as the man is more noble in reason, so the woman is more quick in
sympathy. That as he is indefatigable in pursuit of abstract truth,
so is she in caring for the interests by the way—striving tenderly
and lovingly that not one of the least of these ‘little ones’ should
perish. That while we not unfrequently see women who reason, we say,
with the coolness and precision of a man, and men as considerate of
helplessness as a woman, still there is a general consensus of
mankind that the one trait is essentially masculine and the other as
peculiarly feminine. That both are needed to be worked into the
training of children, in order that our boys may supplement their
virility by tenderness and sensibility, and our girls may round out
their gentleness by strength and self-reliance. That, as both are
alike necessary in giving symmetry to the individual, so a nation or
a race will degenerate into mere emotionalism on the one hand, or
bullyism on the other, if dominated by either exclusively; lastly,
and most emphatically, that the feminine factor can have its proper
effect only through woman’s development and education so that she
may fitly and intelligently stamp her force on the forces of her
day, and add her modicum to the riches of the world’s thought.

           “For woman’s cause is man’s: they rise or sink
           Together, dwarfed or godlike, bond or free:
           For she that out of Lethe scales with man
           The shining steps of nature, shares with man
           His nights, his days, moves with him to one goal.
           If she be small, slight-natured, miserable,
           How shall men grow?
           * * *  Let her make herself her own
           To give or keep, to live and learn and be
           All that not harms distinctive womanhood.
           For woman is not undeveloped man
           But diverse; could we make her as the man
           Sweet love were slain; his dearest bond is this,
           Not like to like, but like in difference.
           Yet in the long years liker must they grow;
           The man be more of woman, she of man;
           He gain in sweetness and in moral height,
           Nor lose the wrestling thews that throw the world;
           She mental breadth, nor fail in child-ward care,
           Nor lose the childlike in the larger mind;
           Till at the last she set herself to man,
           Like perfect music unto noble words.”

Now you will argue, perhaps, and rightly, that higher education for
women is not a modern idea, and that, if that is the means of setting
free and invigorating the long desired feminine force in the world, it
has already had a trial and should, in the past, have produced some of
these glowing effects. Sappho, the bright, sweet singer of Lesbos, “the
violet-crowned, pure, sweetly smiling Sappho” as Alcaeus calls her,
chanted her lyrics and poured forth her soul nearly six centuries before
Christ, in notes as full and free, as passionate and eloquent as did
ever Archilochus or Anacreon.

Aspasia, that earliest queen of the drawingroom, a century later
ministered to the intellectual entertainment of Socrates and the leading
wits and philosophers of her time. Indeed, to her is attributed, by the
best critics, the authorship of one of the most noted speeches ever
delivered by Pericles.

Later on, during the Renaissance period, women were professors in
mathematics, physics, metaphysics, and the classic languages in Bologna,
Pavia, Padua, and Brescia. Olympia Fulvia Morata, of Ferrara, a most
interesting character, whose magnificent library was destroyed in 1553
in the invasion of Schweinfurt by Albert of Brandenburg, had acquired a
most extensive education. It is said that this wonderful girl gave
lectures on classical subjects in her sixteenth year, and had even
before that written several very remarkable Greek and Latin poems, and
what is also to the point, she married a professor at Heidelberg, and
became a _help-meet for him_.

It is true then that the higher education for women—in fact, the highest
that the world has ever witnessed—belongs to the past; but we must
remember that it was possible, down to the middle of our own century,
only to a select few; and that the fashions and traditions of the times
were before that all against it. There were not only no stimuli to
encourage women to make the most of their powers and to welcome their
development as a helpful agency in the progress of civilization, but
their little aspirations, when they had any, were chilled and snubbed in
embryo, and any attempt at thought was received as a monstrous
usurpation of man’s prerogative.

Lessing declared that “the woman who thinks is like the man who puts on
rouge—ridiculous;” and Voltaire in his coarse, flippant way used to say,
“Ideas are like beards—women and boys have none.” Dr. Maginn remarked,
“We like to hear a few words of sense from a woman sometimes, as we do
from a parrot—they are so unexpected!” and even the pious Fenelon taught
that virgin delicacy is almost as incompatible with learning as with

That the average woman retired before these shafts of wit and ridicule
and even gloried in her ignorance is not surprising. The Abbe Choisi, it
is said, praised the Duchesse de Fontanges as being pretty as an angel
and silly as a goose, and all the young ladies of the court strove to
make up in folly what they lacked in charms. The ideal of the day was
that “women must be pretty, dress prettily, flirt prettily, and not be
too well informed;” that it was the _summum bonum_ of her earthly hopes
to have, as Thackeray puts it, “all the fellows battling to dance with
her;” that she had no God-given destiny, no soul with unquenchable
longings and inexhaustible possibilities—no work of her own to do and
give to the world—no absolute and inherent value, no duty to self,
transcending all pleasure-giving that may be demanded of a mere toy; but
that her value was purely a relative one and to be estimated as are the
fine arts—by the pleasure they give. “Woman, wine and song,” as “the
world’s best gifts to man,” were linked together in praise with as
little thought of the first saying, “What doest thou,” as that the wine
and the song should declare, “We must be about our Father’s business.”

Men believed, or pretended to believe, that the great law of self
development was obligatory on their half of the human family only; that
while it was the chief end of man to glorify God and put his five
talents to the exchangers, gaining thereby other five, it was, or ought
to be, the sole end of woman to glorify man and wrap her one decently
away in a napkin, retiring into “Hezekiah Smith’s lady during her
natural life and Hezekiah Smith’s relict on her tombstone;” that higher
education was incompatible with the shape of the female cerebrum, and
that even if it could be acquired it must inevitably unsex woman
destroying the lisping, clinging, tenderly helpless, and beautifully
dependent creatures whom men would so heroically think for and so
gallantly fight for, and giving in their stead a formidable race of blue
stockings with corkscrew ringlets and other spinster propensities.

But these are eighteenth century ideas.

We have seen how the pendulum has swung across our present century. The
men of our time have asked with Emerson, “that woman only show us how
she can best be served;” and woman has replied: the chance of the
seedling and of the animalcule is all I ask—the chance for growth and
self development, the permission to be true to the aspirations of my
soul without incurring the blight of your censure and ridicule.

                   “Audetque viris concurrere virgo.”

In soul-culture woman at last dares to contend with men, and we may cite
Grant Allen (who certainly cannot be suspected of advocating the
unsexing of woman) as an example of the broadening effect of this
contest on the ideas at least of the men of the day. He says in his
_Plain Words on the Woman Question_, recently published:

“The position of woman was not [in the past] a position which could bear
the test of nineteenth-century scrutiny. Their education was inadequate,
their social status was humiliating, their political power was nil,
their practical and personal grievances were innumerable; above all,
their relations to the family—to their husbands, their children, their
friends, their property—was simply insupportable.”

And again: “As a body we ‘Advanced men’ are, I think, prepared to
reconsider, and to reconsider fundamentally, without prejudice or
misconception, the entire question of the relation between the sexes. We
are ready to make any modifications in those relations which will
satisfy the woman’s just aspiration for personal independence, for
intellectual and moral development, for physical culture, for political
activity, and for a voice in the arrangement of her own affairs, both
domestic and national.”

Now this is magnanimous enough, surely; and quite a step from eighteenth
century preaching, is it not? The higher education of Woman has
certainly developed the men;—let us see what it has done for the women.

Matthew Arnold during his last visit to America in ’82 or ’83, lectured
before a certain coeducational college in the West. After the lecture he
remarked, with some surprise, to a lady professor, that the young women
in his audience, he noticed, paid as close attention as the men, “_all
the way through_.” This led, of course, to a spirited discussion of the
higher education for women, during which he said to his enthusiastic
interlocutor, eyeing her philosophically through his English eyeglass:
“But—eh—don’t you think it—eh—spoils their _chawnces_, you know!”

Now, as to the result to women, this is the most serious argument ever
used against the higher education. If it interferes with marriage,
classical training has a grave objection to weigh and answer.

For I agree with Mr. Allen at least on this one point, that there must
be marrying and giving in marriage even till the end of time.

I grant you that intellectual development, with the self-reliance and
capacity for earning a livelihood which it gives, renders woman less
dependent on the marriage relation for physical support (which, by the
way, does not always accompany it). Neither is she compelled to look to
sexual love as the one sensation capable of giving tone and relish,
movement and vim to the life she leads. Her horison is extended. Her
sympathies are broadened and deepened and multiplied. She is in closer
touch with nature. Not a bud that opens, not a dew drop, not a ray of
light, not a cloud-burst or a thunderbolt, but adds to the expansiveness
and zest of her soul. And if the sun of an absorbing passion be gone
down, still ’tis night that brings the stars. She has remaining the
mellow, less obtrusive, but none the less enchanting and inspiring light
of friendship, and into its charmed circle she may gather the best the
world has known. She can commune with Socrates about the _daimon_ he
knew and to which she too can bear witness; she can revel in the majesty
of Dante, the sweetness of Virgil, the simplicity of Homer, the strength
of Milton. She can listen to the pulsing heart throbs of passionate
Sappho’s encaged soul, as she beats her bruised wings against her prison
bars and struggles to flutter out into Heaven’s æther, and the fires of
her own soul cry back as she listens. “Yes; Sappho, I know it all; I
know it all.” Here, at last, can be communion without suspicion;
friendship without misunderstanding; love without jealousy.

We must admit then that Byron’s picture, whether a thing of beauty or
not, has faded from the canvas of to-day.

    “Man’s love,” he wrote, “is of man’s life a thing apart,
    ’Tis woman’s whole existence.
    Man may range the court, camp, church, the vessel and the mart,
    Sword, gown, gain, glory offer in exchange.
    Pride, fame, ambition, to fill up his heart—
    And few there are whom these cannot estrange.
    Men have all these resources, we _but one—
    To love again and be again undone_.”

This may have been true when written. _It is not true to-day._ The old,
subjective, stagnant, indolent and wretched life for woman has gone. She
has as many resources as men, as many activities beckon her on. As large
possibilities swell and inspire her heart.

Now, then, does it destroy or diminish her capacity for loving?

Her standards have undoubtedly gone up. The necessity of speculating in
‘chawnces’ has probably shifted. The question is not now with the woman
“How shall I so cramp, stunt, simplify and nullify myself as to make me
elegible to the honor of being swallowed up into some little man?” but
the problem, I trow, now rests with the man as to how he can so develop
his God-given powers as to reach the ideal of a generation of women who
demand the noblest, grandest and best achievements of which he is
capable; and this surely is the only fair and natural adjustment of the
chances. Nature never meant that the ideals and standards of the world
should be dwarfing and minimizing ones, and the men should thank us for
requiring of them the richest fruits which they can grow. If it makes
them work, all the better for them.

As to the adaptability of the educated woman to the marriage relation, I
shall simply quote from that excellent symposium of learned women that
appeared recently under Mrs. Armstrong’s signature in answer to the
“Plain Words” of Mr. Allen, already referred to. “Admitting no longer
any question as to their intellectual equality with the men whom they
meet, with the simplicity of conscious strength, they take their place
beside the men who challenge them, and fearlessly face the result of
their actions. They deny that their education in any way unfits them for
the duty of wifehood and maternity or primarily renders these conditions
any less attractive to them than to the domestic type of woman. On the
contrary, they hold that their knowledge of physiology makes them better
mothers and housekeepers; their knowledge of chemistry makes them better
cooks; while from their training in other natural sciences and in
mathematics, they obtain an accuracy and fair-mindedness which is of
great value to them in dealing with their children or employees.”

So much for their willingness. Now the apple may be good for food and
pleasant to the eyes, and a fruit to be desired to make one wise. Nay,
it may even assure you that it has no aversion whatever to being tasted.
Still, if you do not like the flavor all these recommendations are
nothing. Is the intellectual woman _desirable_ in the matrimonial

This I cannot answer. I confess my ignorance. I am no judge of such
things. I have been told that strong-minded women could be, when they
thought it worth their while, quite endurable, and, judging from the
number of female names I find in college catalogues among the alumnae
with double patronymics, I surmise that quite a number of men are
willing to put up with them.

Now I would that my task ended here. Having shown that a great want of
the world in the past has been a feminine force; that that force can
have its full effect only through the untrammelled development of woman;
that such development, while it gives her to the world and to
civilization, does not necessarily remove her from the home and
fireside; finally, that while past centuries have witnessed sporadic
instances of this higher growth, still it was reserved for the latter
half of the nineteenth century to render it common and general enough to
be effective; I might close with a glowing prediction of what the
twentieth century may expect from this heritage of twin forces—the
masculine battered and toil-worn as a grim veteran after centuries of
warfare, but still strong, active, and vigorous, ready to help with his
hard-won experience the young recruit rejoicing in her newly found
freedom, who so confidently places her hand in his with mutual pledges
to redeem the ages.

               “And so the twain upon the skirts of Time,
           Sit side by side, full-summed in all their powers,
           Dispensing harvest, sowing the To-be,
           Self-reverent each and reverencing each.”

Fain would I follow them, but duty is nearer home. The high ground of
generalities is alluring but my pen is devoted to a special cause: and
with a view to further enlightenment on the achievements of the century
for THE HIGHER EDUCATION OF COLORED WOMEN, I wrote a few days ago to the
colleges which admit women and asked how many colored women had
completed the B. A. course in each during its entire history. These are
the figures returned: Fisk leads the way with twelve; Oberlin next with
five; Wilberforce, four; Ann Arbor and Wellesley three each, Livingstone
two, Atlanta one, Howard, as yet, none.

I then asked the principal of the Washington High School how many out of
a large number of female graduates from his school had chosen to go
forward and take a collegiate course. He replied that but one had ever
done so, and she was then in Cornell.[7]

Footnote 7:

  Graduated from Scientific Course, June, 1890, the first colored woman
  to graduate from Cornell.

Others ask questions too, sometimes, and I was asked a few years ago by
a white friend, “How is it that the men of your race seem to outstrip
the women in mental attainment?” “Oh,” I said, “so far as it is true,
the men, I suppose, from the life they lead, gain more by contact; and
so far as it is only apparent, I think the women are more quiet. They
don’t feel called to mount a barrel and harangue by the hour every time
they imagine they have produced an idea.”

But I am sure there is another reason which I did not at that time see
fit to give. The atmosphere, the standards, the requirements of our
little world do not afford any special stimulus to female development.

It seems hardly a gracious thing to say, but it strikes me as true, that
while our men seem thoroughly abreast of the times on almost every other
subject, when they strike the woman question they drop back into
sixteenth century logic. They leave nothing to be desired generally in
regard to gallantry and chivalry, but they actually do not seem
sometimes to have outgrown that old contemporary of chivalry—the idea
that women may stand on pedestals or live in doll houses, (if they
happen to have them) but they must not furrow their brows with thought
or attempt to help men tug at the great questions of the world. I fear
the majority of colored men do not yet think it worth while that women
aspire to higher education. Not many will subscribe to the “advanced”
ideas of Grant Allen already quoted. The three R’s, a little music and a
good deal of dancing, a first rate dress-maker and a bottle of magnolia
balm, are quite enough generally to render charming any woman possessed
of tact and the capacity for worshipping masculinity.

My readers will pardon my illustrating my point and also giving a reason
for the fear that is in me, by a little bit of personal experience. When
a child I was put into a school near home that professed to be normal
and collegiate, i. e. to prepare teachers for colored youth, furnish
candidates for the ministry, and offer collegiate training for those who
should be ready for it. Well, I found after a while that I had a good
deal of time on my hands. I had devoured what was put before me, and,
like Oliver Twist, was looking around to ask for more. I constantly felt
(as I suppose many an ambitious girl has felt) a thumping from within
unanswered by any beckoning from without. Class after class was
organized for these ministerial candidates (many of them men who had
been preaching before I was born). Into every one of these classes I was
expected to go, with the sole intent, I thought at the time, of enabling
the dear old principal, as he looked from the vacant countenances of his
sleepy old class over to where I sat, to get off his solitary pun—his
never-failing pleasantry, especially in hot weather—which was, as he
called out “Any one!” to the effect that “_any_ one” then meant “_Annie_

Finally a Greek class was to be formed. My inspiring preceptor informed
me that Greek had never been taught in the school, but that he was going
to form a class _for the candidates for the ministry_, and if I liked I
might join it. I replied—humbly I hope, as became a female of the human
species—that I would like very much to study Greek, and that I was
thankful for the opportunity, and so it went on. A boy, however meager
his equipment and shallow his pretentions, had only to declare a
floating intention to study theology and he could get all the support,
encouragement and stimulus he needed, be absolved from work and invested
beforehand with all the dignity of his far away office. While a
self-supporting girl had to struggle on by teaching in the summer and
working after school hours to keep up with her board bills, and actually
to fight her way against positive discouragements to the higher
education; till one such girl one day flared out and told the principal
“the only mission opening before a girl in his school was to marry one
of those candidates.” He said he didn’t know but it was. And when at
last that same girl announced her desire and intention to go to college
it was received with about the same incredulity and dismay as if a brass
button on one of those candidate’s coats had propounded a new method for
squaring the circle or trisecting the arc.

Now this is not fancy. It is a simple unvarnished photograph, and what I
believe was not in those days exceptional in colored schools, and I ask
the men and women who are teachers and co-workers for the highest
interests of the race, that they give the girls a chance! We might as
well expect to grow trees from leaves as hope to build up a civilization
or a manhood without taking into consideration our women and the home
life made by them, which must be the root and ground of the whole
matter. Let us insist then on special encouragement for the education of
our women and special care in their training. Let our girls feel that we
expect something more of them than that they merely look pretty and
appear well in society. Teach them that there is a race with special
needs which they and only they can help; that the world needs and is
already asking for their trained, efficient forces. Finally, if there is
an ambitious girl with pluck and brain to take the higher education,
encourage her to make the most of it. Let there be the same flourish of
trumpets and clapping of hands as when a boy announces his determination
to enter the lists; and then, as you know that she is physically the
weaker of the two, don’t stand from under and leave her to buffet the
waves alone. Let her know that your heart is following her, that your
hand, though she sees it not, is ready to support her. To be plain, I
mean let money be raised and scholarships be founded in our colleges and
universities for self-supporting, worthy young women, to offset and
balance the aid that can always be found for boys who will take

The earnest well trained Christian young woman, as a teacher, as a
home-maker, as wife, mother, or silent influence even, is as potent a
missionary agency among our people as is the theologian; and I claim
that at the present stage of our development in the South she is even
more important and necessary.

Let us then, here and now, recognize this force and resolve to make the
most of it—not the boys less, but the girls more.

                       “WOMAN VERSUS THE INDIAN.”

In the National Woman’s Council convened at Washington in February 1891,
among a number of thoughtful and suggestive papers read by eminent
women, was one by the Rev. Anna Shaw, bearing the above title.

That Miss Shaw is broad and just and liberal in principal is proved
beyond contradiction. Her noble generosity and womanly firmness are
unimpeachable. The unwavering stand taken by herself and Miss Anthony in
the subsequent color ripple in Wimodaughsis ought to be sufficient to
allay forever any doubts as to the pure gold of these two women.

Of Wimodaughsis (which, being interpreted for the uninitiated, is a
woman’s culture club whose name is made up of the first few letters of
the four words wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters) Miss Shaw is
president, and a lady from the Blue Grass State _was_ secretary.

Pandora’s box is opened in the ideal harmony of this modern Eden without
an Adam when a colored lady, a teacher in one of our schools, applies
for admission to its privileges and opportunities.

The Kentucky secretary, a lady zealous in good works and one who, I
can’t help imagining, belongs to that estimable class who daily thank
the Lord that He made the earth that they may have the job of
superintending its rotations, and who really would like to help
“elevate” the colored people (in her own way of course and so long as
they understand their places) is filled with grief and horror that any
persons of Negro extraction should aspire to learn type-writing or
languages or to enjoy any other advantages offered in the sacred halls
of Wimodaughsis. Indeed, she had not calculated that there were any
wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters, except white ones; and she is
really convinced that _Whimodaughsis_ would sound just as well, and then
it need mean just _white mothers, daughters and sisters_. In fact, so
far as there is anything in a name, nothing would be lost by omitting
for the sake of euphony, from this unique mosaic, the letters that
represent wives. _Whiwimodaughsis_ might be a little startling, and on
the whole wives would better yield to white; since clearly all women are
not wives, while surely all wives are daughters. The daughters therefore
could represent the wives and this immaculate assembly for propagating
liberal and progressive ideas and disseminating a broad and humanizing
culture might be spared the painful possibility of the sight of a black
man coming in the future to escort from an evening class this solitary
cream-colored applicant. Accordingly the Kentucky secretary took the
cream-colored applicant aside, and, with emotions befitting such an
epochmaking crisis, told her, “as kindly as she could,” that colored
people were not admitted to the classes, at the same time refunding the
money which said cream-colored applicant had paid for lessons in

When this little incident came to the knowledge of Miss Shaw, she said
firmly and emphatically, NO. As a minister of the gospel and as a
Christian woman, she could not lend her influence to such unreasonable
and uncharitable discrimination; and she must resign the honor of
president of Wimodaughsis if persons were to be proscribed solely on
account of their color.

To the honor of the board of managers, be it said, they sustained Miss
Shaw; and the Kentucky secretary, and those whom she succeeded in
inoculating with her prejudices, resigned.

’Twas only a ripple,—some bewailing of lost opportunity on the part of
those who could not or would not seize God’s opportunity for broadening
and enlarging their own souls—and then the work flowed on as before.

Susan B. Anthony and Anna Shaw are evidently too noble to be held in
thrall by the provincialisms of women who seem never to have breathed
the atmosphere beyond the confines of their grandfathers’ plantations.
It is only from the broad plateau of light and love that one can see
petty prejudice and narrow priggishness in their true perspective; and
it is on this high ground, as I sincerely believe, these two grand women

As leaders in the woman’s movement of to-day, they have need of
clearness of vision as well as firmness of soul in adjusting
recalcitrant forces, and wheeling into line the thousand and one
none-such, never-to-be-modified, won’t-be-dictated-to banners of their
somewhat mottled array.

The black woman and the southern woman, I imagine, often get them into
the predicament of the befuddled man who had to take singly across a
stream a bag of corn, a fox and a goose. There was no one to help, and
to leave the goose with the fox was death—with the corn, destruction. To
re-christen the animals, the lion could not be induced to lie down with
the lamb unless the lamb would take the inside berth.

The black woman appreciates the situation and can even sympathize with
the actors in the serio-comic dilemma.

But, may it not be that, as women, the very lessons which seem hardest
to master now, are possibly the ones most essential for our promotion to
a higher grade of work?

We assume to be leaders of thought and guardians of society. Our
country’s manners and morals are under our tutoring. Our standards are
law in our several little worlds. However tenaciously men may guard some
prerogatives, they are our willing slaves in that sphere which they have
always conceded to be woman’s. Here, no one dares demur when her fiat
has gone forth. The man would be mad who presumed, however inexplicable
and past finding out any reason for her action might be, to attempt to
open a door in her kingdom officially closed and regally sealed by her.

The American woman of to-day not only gives tone directly to her
immediate world, but her tiniest pulsation ripples out and out, down and
down, till the outermost circles and the deepest layers of society feel
the vibrations. It is pre-eminently an age of organizations. The
“leading woman,” the preacher, the reformer, the organizer “enthuses”
her lieutenants and captains, the literary women, the thinking women,
the strong, earnest, irresistible women; these in turn touch their
myriads of church clubs, social clubs, culture clubs, pleasure clubs and
charitable clubs, till the same lecture has been duly administered to
every married man in the land (not to speak of sons and brothers) from
the President in the White House to the stone-splitter of the ditches.
And so woman’s lightest whisper is heard as in Dionysius’ ear, by quick
relays and endless reproductions, through every recess and cavern as
well as on every hilltop and mountain in her vast domain. And her
mandates are obeyed. When she says “thumbs up,” woe to the luckless
thumb that falters in its rising. They may be little things, the
amenities of life, the little nothings which cost nothing and come to
nothing, and yet can make a sentient being so comfortable or so
miserable in this life, the oil of social machinery, which we call the
courtesies of life, all are under the magic key of woman’s permit.

The American woman then is responsible for American manners. Not merely
the right ascension and declination of the satellites of her own drawing
room; but the rising and the setting of the pestilential or life-giving
orbs which seem to wander afar in space, all are governed almost wholly
through her magnetic polarity. The atmosphere of street cars and parks
and boulevards, of cafes and hotels and steamboats is charged and
surcharged with her sentiments and restrictions. Shop girls and serving
maids, cashiers and accountant clerks, scribblers and drummers, whether
wage earner, salaried toiler, or proprietress, whether laboring to
instruct minds, to save souls, to delight fancies, or to win bread,—the
working women of America in whatever station or calling they may be
found, are subjects, officers, or rulers of a strong centralized
government, and bound together by a system of codes and countersigns,
which, though unwritten, forms a network of perfect subordination and
unquestioning obedience as marvelous as that of the Jesuits. At the head
and center in this regime stands the Leading Woman in the principality.
The one talismanic word that plays along the wires from palace to
cook-shop, from imperial Congress to the distant plain, is _Caste_. With
all her vaunted independence, the American woman of to-day is as fearful
of losing caste as a Brahmin in India. That is the law under which she
lives, the precepts which she binds as frontlets between her eyes and
writes on the door-posts of her homes, the lesson which she instils into
her children with their first baby breakfasts, the injunction she lays
upon husband and lover with direst penalties attached.

The queen of the drawing room is absolute ruler under this law. Her pose
gives the cue. The microscopic angle at which her pencilled brows are
elevated, signifies who may be recognized and who are beyond the pale.
The delicate intimation is, quick as electricity, telegraphed down. Like
the wonderful transformation in the House that Jack Built (or regions
thereabouts) when the rat began to gnaw the rope, the rope to hang the
butcher, the butcher to kill the ox, the ox to drink the water, the
water to quench the fire, the fire to burn the stick, the stick to beat
the dog, and the dog to worry the cat, and on, and on, and on,—when
miladi causes the inner arch over her matchless orbs to ascend the
merest trifle, _presto!_ the Miss at the notions counter grows curt and
pert, the dress goods clerk becomes indifferent and taciturn, hotel
waiters and ticket dispensers look the other way, the Irish street
laborer snarls and scowls, conductors, policemen and park
superintendents jostle and push and threaten, and society suddenly seems
transformed into a band of organized adders, snapping, and striking and
hissing just because they like it on general principles. The tune set by
the head singer, sung through all keys and registers, with all qualities
of tone,—the smooth, flowing, and gentle, the creaking, whizzing,
grating, screeching, growling—according to ability, taste, and
temperament of the singers. Another application of like master, like
man. In this case, like mistress, like nation.

It was the good fortune of the Black Woman of the South to spend some
weeks, not long since, in a land over which floated the Union Jack. The
Stars and Stripes were not the only familiar experiences missed. A
uniform, matter-of-fact courtesy, a genial kindliness, quick perception
of opportunities for rendering any little manly assistance, a readiness
to give information to strangers,—a hospitable, thawing-out atmosphere
everywhere—in shops and waiting rooms, on cars and in the streets,
actually seemed to her chilled little soul to transform the commonest
boor in the service of the public into one of nature’s noblemen, and
when the old whipped-cur feeling was taken up and analyzed she could
hardly tell whether it consisted mostly of self pity for her own wounded
sensibilities, or of shame for her country and mortification that her
countrymen offered such an unfavorable contrast.

Some American girls, I noticed recently, in search of novelty and
adventure, were taking an extended trip through our country unattended
by gentleman friends; their wish was to write up for a periodical or
lecture the ease and facility, the comfort and safety of American
travel, even for the weak and unprotected, under our well-nigh perfect
railroad systems and our gentlemanly and efficient corps of officials
and public servants. I have some material I could furnish these young
ladies, though possibly it might not be just on the side they wish to
have illuminated. The Black Woman of the South has to do considerable
travelling in this country, often unattended. She thinks she is quiet
and unobtrusive in her manner, simple and inconspicuous in her dress,
and can see no reason why in any chance assemblage of _ladies_, or even
a promiscuous gathering of ordinarily well-bred and dignified
individuals, she should be singled out for any marked consideration. And
yet she has seen these same “gentlemanly and efficient” railroad
conductors, when their cars had stopped at stations having no raised
platforms, making it necessary for passengers to take the long and
trying leap from the car step to the ground or step on the narrow little
stool placed under by the conductor, after standing at their posts and
handing woman after woman from the steps to the stool, thence to the
ground, or else relieving her of satchels and bags and enabling her to
make the descent easily, deliberately fold their arms and turn round
when the Black Woman’s turn came to alight—bearing her satchel, and
bearing besides another unnamable burden inside the heaving bosom and
tightly compressed lips. The feeling of slighted womanhood is unlike
every other emotion of the soul. Happily for the human family, it is
unknown to many and indescribable to all. Its poignancy, compared with
which even Juno’s _spretae injuria formae_ is earthly and vulgar, is
holier than that of jealousy, deeper than indignation, tenderer than
rage. Its first impulse of wrathful protest and proud self vindication
is checked and shamed by the consciousness that self-assertion would
outrage still further the same delicate instinct. Were there a brutal
attitude of hate or of ferocious attack, the feminine response of fear
or repulsion is simple and spontaneous. But when the keen sting comes
through the finer sensibilities, from a hand which, by all known
traditions and ideals of propriety, should have been trained to
reverence and respect them, the condemnation of man’s inhumanity to
woman is increased and embittered by the knowledge of personal identity
with a race of beings so fallen.

I purposely forbear to mention instances of personal violence to colored
women travelling in less civilized sections of our country, where women
have been forcibly ejected from cars, thrown out of seats, their
garments rudely torn, their person wantonly and cruelly injured. America
is large and must for some time yet endure its out-of-the-way jungles of
barbarism as Africa its uncultivated tracts of marsh and malaria. There
are murderers and thieves and villains in both London and Paris.
Humanity from the first has had its vultures and sharks, and
representatives of the fraternity who prey upon mankind may be expected
no less in America than elsewhere. That this virulence breaks out most
readily and commonly against colored persons in this country, is due of
course to the fact that they are, generally speaking, weak and can be
imposed upon with impunity. Bullies are always cowards at heart and may
be credited with a pretty safe instinct in scenting their prey. Besides,
society, where it has not exactly said to its dogs “s-s-sik him!” has at
least engaged to be looking in another direction or studying the rivers
on Mars. It is not of the dogs and their doings, but of society holding
the leash that I shall speak. It is those subtile exhalations of
atmospheric odors for which woman is accountable, the indefinable,
unplaceable aroma which seems to exude from the very pores in her finger
tips like the delicate sachet so dexterously hidden and concealed in her
linens; the essence of her teaching, guessed rather than read, so
adroitly is the lettering and wording manipulated; it is the undertones
of the picture laid finely on by woman’s own practiced hand, the
reflection of the lights and shadows on her own brow; it is, in a word,
the reputation of our nation for general politeness and good manners and
of our fellow citizens to be somewhat more than cads or snobs that shall
engage our present study. There can be no true test of national courtesy
without travel. Impressions and conclusions based on provincial traits
and characteristics can thus be modified and generalized. Moreover, the
weaker and less influential the experimenter, the more exact and
scientific the deductions. Courtesy “for revenue only” is not
politeness, but diplomacy. Any rough can assume civility toward those of
“his set,” and does not hesitate to carry it even to servility toward
those in whom he recognizes a possible patron or his master in power,
wealth, rank, or influence. But, as the chemist prefers distilled H_{2}O
in testing solutions to avoid complications and unwarranted reactions,
so the Black Woman holds that her femineity linked with the
impossibility of popular affinity or unexpected attraction through
position and influence in her case makes her a touchstone of American
courtesy exceptionally pure and singularly free from extraneous
modifiers. The man who is courteous to her is so, not because of
anything he hopes or fears or sees, but because _he is a gentleman_.

I would eliminate also from the discussion all uncharitable reflections
upon the orderly execution of laws existing in certain states of this
Union, requiring persons known to be colored to ride in one car, and
persons supposed to be white in another. A good citizen may use his
influence to have existing laws and statutes changed or modified, but a
public servant must not be blamed for obeying orders. A railroad
conductor is not asked to dictate measures, nor to make and pass laws.
His bread and butter are conditioned on his managing his part of the
machinery as he is told to do. If, therefore, I found myself in that
compartment of a train designated by the sovereign law of the state for
presumable Caucasians, and for colored persons only when traveling in
the capacity of nurses and maids, should a conductor inform me, as a
gentleman might, that I had made a mistake, and offer to show me the
proper car for black ladies; I might wonder at the expensive
arrangements of the company and of the state in providing special and
separate accommodations for the transportation of the various hues of
humanity, but I certainly could not take it as a want of courtesy on the
conductor’s part that he gave the information. It is true, public
sentiment precedes and begets all laws, good or bad; and on the ground I
have taken, our women are to be credited largely as teachers and
moulders of public sentiment. But when a law has passed and received the
sanction of the land, there is nothing for our officials to do but
enforce it till repealed; and I for one, as a loyal American citizen,
will give those officials cheerful support and ready sympathy in the
discharge of their duty. But when a great burly six feet of masculinity
with sloping shoulders and unkempt beard swaggers in, and, throwing a
roll of tobacco into one corner of his jaw, growls out at me over the
paper I am reading, “Here gurl,” (I am past thirty) “you better git out
’n dis kyar ’f yer don’t, I’ll put yer out,”—my mental annotation is
_Here’s an American citizen who has been badly trained. He is sadly
lacking in both ‘sweetness’ and ‘light’_; and when in the same section
of our enlightened and progressive country, I see from the car window,
working on private estates, convicts from the state penitentiary, among
them squads of boys from fourteen to eighteen years of age in a
chain-gang, their feet chained together and heavy blocks attached—not in
1850, but in 1890, ’91 and ’92, I make a note on the fly-leaf of my
memorandum, _The women in this section should organize a Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Human Beings, and disseminate civilizing
tracts, and send throughout the region apostles of anti-barbarism for
the propagation of humane and enlightened ideas_. And when farther on in
the same section our train stops at a dilapidated station, rendered yet
more unsightly by dozens of loafers with their hands in their pockets
while a productive soil and inviting climate beckon in vain to industry;
and when, looking a little more closely, I see two dingy little rooms
with “FOR LADIES” swinging over one and “FOR COLORED PEOPLE” over the
other; while wondering under which head I come, I notice a little way
off the only hotel proprietor of the place whittling a pine stick as he
sits with one leg thrown across an empty goods box; and as my eye falls
on a sample room next door which seems to be driving the only wide-awake
and popular business of the commonwealth, I cannot help ejaculating
under my breath, “What a field for the missionary woman.” I know that if
by any fatality I should be obliged to lie over at that station, and,
driven by hunger, should be compelled to seek refreshments or the bare
necessaries of life at the only public accommodation in the town, that
same stick-whittler would coolly inform me, without looking up from his
pine splinter, “We doan uccommodate no niggers hyur.” And yet we are so
scandalized at Russia’s barbarity and cruelty to the Jews! We pay a man
a thousand dollars a night just to make us weep, by a recital of such
heathenish inhumanity as is practiced on Sclavonic soil.

A recent writer on Eastern nations says: “If we take through the earth’s
temperate zone, a belt of country whose northern and southern edges are
determined by certain limiting isotherms, not more than half the width
of the zone apart, we shall find that we have included in a relatively
small extent of surface almost all the nations of note in the world,
past or present. Now, if we examine this belt and compare the different
parts of it with one another, we shall be struck by a remarkable fact.
_The peoples inhabiting it grow steadily more personal as we go west._
So unmistakable is this gradation, that one is almost tempted to ascribe
it to cosmical rather than to human causes. It is as marked as the
change in color of the human complexion observable along any meridian,
which ranges from black at the equator to blonde toward the pole. In
like manner the sense of self grows more intense as we follow in the
wake of the setting sun, and fades steadily as we advance into the dawn.
America, Europe, the Levant, India, Japan, each is less personal than
the one before.... _That politeness should be one of the most marked
results of impersonality_ may appear surprising, yet a slight
examination will show it to be a fact. Considered _a priori_, the
connection is not far to seek. Impersonality by lessening the interest
in one’s self, induces one to take an interest in others. Looked at _a
posteriori_, we find that where the one trait exists the other is most
developed, while an absence of the second seems to prevent the full
growth of the first. This is true both in general and in detail.
_Courtesy increases as we travel eastward round the world, coincidently
with a decrease in the sense of self._ Asia is more courteous than
Europe, Europe than America. Particular races show the same concomitance
of characteristics. France, the most impersonal nation of Europe, is at
the same time the most polite.” And by inference, Americans, the most
personal, are the least courteous nation on the globe.

The Black Woman had reached this same conclusion by an entirely
different route; but it is gratifying to vanity, nevertheless, to find
one’s self sustained by both science and philosophy in a conviction,
wrought in by hard experience, and yet too apparently audacious to be
entertained even as a stealthy surmise. In fact the Black Woman was
emboldened some time since by a well put and timely article from an
Editor’s Drawer on the “Mannerless Sex,” to give the world the benefit
of some of her experience with the “_Mannerless Race_”; but since Mr.
Lowell shows so conclusively that the entire Land of the West is a
_mannerless continent_, I have determined to plead with our women, the
mannerless sex on this mannerless continent, to institute a reform by
placing immediately in our national curricula a department for teaching

Now, am I right in holding the American Woman responsible? Is it true
that the exponents of woman’s advancement, the leaders in woman’s
thought, the preachers and teachers of all woman’s reforms, can teach
this nation to be courteous, to be pitiful, having compassion one of
another, not rendering evil for inoffensiveness, and railing in
proportion to the improbability of being struck back; but contrariwise,
being _all_ of one mind, to love as brethren?

I think so.

It may require some heroic measures, and like all revolutions will call
for a determined front and a courageous, unwavering, stalwart heart on
the part of the leaders of the reform.

The “_all_” will inevitably stick in the throat of the Southern woman.
She must be allowed, please, to except the ‘darkey’ from the ‘all’; it
is too bitter a pill with black people in it. You must get the Revised
Version to put it, “_love all white people_ as brethren.” She really
could not enter any society on earth, or in heaven above, or in—the
waters under the earth, on such unpalatable conditions.

The Black Woman has tried to understand the Southern woman’s
difficulties; to put herself in her place, and to be as fair, as
charitable, and as free from prejudice in judging her antipathies, as
she would have others in regard to her own. She has honestly weighed the
apparently sincere excuse, “But you must remember that these people were
once our slaves”; and that other, “But civility towards the Negroes will
bring us on _social equality_ with them.”

These are the two bugbears; or rather, the two humbugbears: for, though
each is founded on a most glaring fallacy, one would think they were
words to conjure with, so potent and irresistible is their spell as an
argument at the North as well as in the South.

One of the most singular facts about the unwritten history of this
country is the consummate ability with which Southern influence,
Southern ideas and Southern ideals, have from the very beginning even up
to the present day, dictated to and domineered over the brain and sinew
of this nation. Without wealth, without education, without inventions,
arts, sciences, or industries, without well-nigh every one of the
progressive ideas and impulses which have made this country great,
prosperous and happy, personally indolent and practically stupid, poor
in everything but bluster and self-esteem, the Southerner has
nevertheless with Italian finesse and exquisite skill, uniformly and
invariably, so manipulated Northern sentiment as to succeed sooner or
later in carrying his point and shaping the policy of this government to
suit his purposes. Indeed, the Southerner is a magnificent manager of
men, a born educator. For two hundred and fifty years he trained to his
hand a people whom he made absolutely his own, in body, mind, and
sensibility. He so insinuated differences and distinctions among them,
that their personal attachment for him was stronger than for their own
brethren and fellow sufferers. He made it a crime for two or three of
them to be gathered together in Christ’s name without a white man’s
supervision, and a felony for one to teach them to read even the Word of
Life; and yet they would defend his interest with their life-blood; his
smile was their happiness, a pat on the shoulder from him their reward.
The slightest difference among themselves in condition, circumstances,
opportunities, became barriers of jealousy and disunion. He sowed his
blood broadcast among them, then pitted mulatto against black, bond
against free, house slave against plantation slave, even the slave of
one clan against like slave of another clan; till, wholly oblivious of
their ability for mutual succor and defense, all became centers of
myriad systems of repellent forces, having but one sentiment in common,
and that their entire subjection to that master hand.

And he not only managed the black man, he also hoodwinked the white man,
the tourist and investigator who visited his lordly estates. The slaves
were doing well, in fact couldn’t be happier,—plenty to eat, plenty to
drink, comfortably housed and clothed—they wouldn’t be free if they
could; in short, in his broad brimmed plantation hat and easy
aristocratic smoking gown, he made you think him a veritable patriarch
in the midst of a lazy, well fed, good natured, over-indulged tenantry.

Then, too, the South represented blood—not red blood, but blue blood.
The difference is in the length of the stream and your distance from its
source. If your own father was a pirate, a robber, a murderer, his hands
are dyed in red blood, and you don’t say very much about it. But if your
great great great grandfather’s grandfather stole and pillaged and slew,
and you can prove it, your blood has become blue and you are at great
pains to establish the relationship. So the South had neither silver nor
gold, but she had blood; and she paraded it with so much gusto that the
substantial little Puritan maidens of the North, who had been making
bread and canning currants and not thinking of blood the least bit,
began to hunt up the records of the Mayflower to see if some of the
passengers thereon could not claim the honor of having been one of
William the Conqueror’s brigands, when he killed the last of the Saxon
kings and, red-handed, stole his crown and his lands. Thus the ideal
from out the Southland brooded over the nation and we sing less lustily
than of yore

                  ‘Kind hearts are more than coronets
                  And simple faith than Norman blood.’

In politics, the two great forces, commerce and empire, which would
otherwise have shaped the destiny of the country, have been made to
pander and cater to Southern notions. “Cotton is King” meant the South
must be allowed to dictate or there would be no fun. Every statesman
from 1830 to 1860 exhausted his genius in persuasion and compromises to
smooth out her ruffled temper and gratify her petulant demands. But like
a sullen younger sister, the South has pouted and sulked and cried: “I
won’t play with you now; so there!” and the big brother at the North has
coaxed and compromised and given in, and—ended by letting her have her
way. Until 1860 she had as her pet an institution which it was death by
the law to say anything about, except that it was divinely instituted,
inaugurated by Noah, sanctioned by Abraham, approved by Paul, and just
ideally perfect in every way. And when, to preserve the autonomy of the
family arrangements, in ’61, ’62 and ’63, it became necessary for the
big brother to administer a little wholesome correction and set the
obstreperous Miss vigorously down in her seat again, she assumed such an
air of injured innocence, and melted away so lugubriously, the big
brother has done nothing since but try to sweeten and pacify and laugh
her back into a companionable frame of mind.

Father Lincoln did all he could to get her to repent of her petulance
and behave herself. He even promised she might keep her pet, so
disagreeable to all the neighbors and hurtful even to herself, and might
manage it at home to suit herself, if she would only listen to reason
and be just tolerably nice. But, no—she was going to leave and set up
for herself; she didn’t propose to be meddled with; and so, of course,
she had to be spanked. Just a little at first—didn’t mean to hurt,
merely to teach her who was who. But she grew so ugly, and kicked and
fought and scratched so outrageously, and seemed so determined to smash
up the whole business, the head of the family got red in the face, and
said: “Well, now, he couldn’t have any more of that foolishness.
Arabella must just behave herself or take the consequences.” And after
the spanking, Arabella sniffed and whimpered and pouted, and the big
brother bit his lip, looked half ashamed, and said: “Well, I didn’t want
to hurt you. You needn’t feel so awfully bad about it, I only did it for
your good. You know I wouldn’t do anything to displease you if I could
help it; but you would insist on making the row, and so I just had to.
Now, there—there—let’s be friends!” and he put his great strong arms
about her and just dared anybody to refer to that little
unpleasantness—he’d show them a thing or two. Still Arabella
sulked,—till the rest of the family decided she might just keep her
pets, and manage her own affairs and nobody should interfere.

So now, if one intimates that some clauses of the Constitution are a
dead letter at the South and that only the name and support of that pet
institution are changed while the fact and essence, minus the expense
and responsibility, remain, he is quickly told to mind his own business
and informed that he is waving the bloody shirt.

Even twenty-five years after the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments to
our Constitution, a man who has been most unequivocal in his outspoken
condemnation of the wrongs regularly and systematically heaped on the
oppressed race in this country, and on all even most remotely connected
with them—a man whom we had thought our staunchest friend and most noble
champion and defender—after a two weeks’ trip in Georgia and Florida
immediately gives signs of the fatal inception of the virus. Not even
the chance traveller from England or Scotland escapes. The
arch-manipulator takes him under his special watch-care and training,
uses up his stock arguments and gives object lessons with his choicest
specimens of Negro depravity and worthlessness; takes him through what,
in New York, would be called “the slums,” and would predicate there
nothing but the duty of enlightened Christians to send out their light
and emulate their Master’s aggressive labors of love; but in Georgia is
denominated “our terrible problem, which people of the North so little
understand, yet vouchsafe so much gratuitous advice about.” With an
injured air he shows the stupendous and atrocious mistake of reasoning
about these people as if they were just ordinary human beings, and
amenable to the tenets of the Gospel; and not long after the inoculation
begins to work, you hear this old-time friend of the oppressed
delivering himself something after this fashion: “Ah, well, the South
must be left to manage the Negro. She is most directly concerned and
must understand her problem better than outsiders. We must not meddle.
We must be very careful not to widen the breaches. The Negro is not
worth a feud between brothers and sisters.”

Lately a great national and international movement characteristic of
this age and country, a movement based on the inherent right of every
soul to its own highest development, I mean the movement making for
Woman’s full, free, and complete emancipation, has, after much courting,
obtained the gracious smile of the Southern woman—I beg her pardon—the
Southern _lady_.

She represents blood, and of course could not be expected to leave that
out; and firstly and foremostly she must not, in any organization she
may deign to grace with her presence, be asked to associate with “these
people who were once her slaves.”

Now the Southern woman (I may be pardoned, being one myself) was never
renowned for her reasoning powers, and it is not surprising that just a
little picking will make her logic fall to pieces even here.

In the first place she imagines that because her grandfather had slaves
who were black, all the blacks in the world of every shade and tint were
once in the position of her slaves. This is as bad as the Irishman who
was about to kill a peaceable Jew in the streets of Cork,—having just
learned that Jews slew his Redeemer. The black race constitutes
one-seventh the known population of the globe; and there are
representatives of it here as elsewhere who were never in bondage at any
time to any man,—whose blood is as blue and lineage as noble as any,
even that of the white lady of the South. That her slaves were black and
she despises her slaves, should no more argue antipathy to all dark
people and peoples, than that Guiteau, an assassin, was white, and I
hate assassins, should make me hate all persons more or less white. The
objection shows a want of clear discrimination.

The second fallacy in the objection grows out of the use of an ambiguous
middle, as the logicians would call it, or assigning a double
signification to the term “_Social equality_.”

Civility to the Negro implies social equality. I am opposed to
_associating_ with dark persons on terms of social equality. Therefore,
I abrogate civility to the Negro. This is like

                       Light is opposed to darkness.
                       Feathers are light.
               _Ergo_, Feathers are opposed to darkness.

The “social equality” implied by civility to the Negro is a very
different thing from forced association with him socially. Indeed it
seems to me that the mere application of a little cold common sense
would show that uncongenial social environments could by no means be
forced on any one. I do not, and cannot be made to associate with all
dark persons, simply on the ground that I am dark; and I presume the
Southern lady can imagine some whose faces are white, with whom she
would no sooner think of chatting unreservedly than, were it possible,
with a veritable ‘darkey.’ Such things must and will always be left to
individual election. No law, human or divine, can legislate for or
against them. Like seeks like; and I am sure with the Southern lady’s
antipathies at their present temperature, she might enter ten thousand
organizations besprinkled with colored women without being any more
deflected by them than by the proximity of a stone. The social equality
scare then is all humbug, conscious or unconscious, I know not which.
And were it not too bitter a thought to utter here, I might add that the
overtures for forced association in the past history of these two races
were not made by the manacled black man, nor by _the silent and
suffering black woman_!

When I seek food in a public café or apply for first-class
accommodations on a railway train, I do so because my physical
necessities are identical with those of other human beings of like
constitution and temperament, and crave satisfaction. I go because I
want food, or I want comfort—not because I want association with those
who frequent these places; and I can see no more “social equality” in
buying lunch at the same restaurant, or riding in a common car, than
there is in paying for dry goods at the same counter or walking on the
same street.

The social equality which means forced or unbidden association would be
as much deprecated and as strenuously opposed by the circle in which I
move as by the most hide-bound Southerner in the land. Indeed I have
been more than once annoyed by the inquisitive white interviewer, who,
with spectacles on nose and pencil and note-book in hand, comes to get
some “points” about “_your people_.” My “people” are just like other
people—indeed, too like for their own good. They hate, they love, they
attract and repel, they climb or they grovel, struggle or drift, aspire
or despair, endure in hope or curse in vexation, exactly like all the
rest of unregenerate humanity. Their likes and dislikes are as strong;
their antipathies—and prejudices too I fear, are as pronounced as you
will find anywhere; and the entrance to the inner sanctuary of their
homes and hearts is as jealously guarded against profane intrusion.

What the dark man wants then is merely to live his own life, in his own
world, with his own chosen companions, in whatever of comfort, luxury,
or emoluments his talent or his money can in an impartial market secure.
Has he wealth, he does not want to be forced into inconvenient or
unsanitary sections of cities to buy a home and rear his family. Has he
art, he does not want to be cabined and cribbed into emulation with the
few who merely happen to have his complexion. His talent aspires to
study without proscription the masters of all ages and to rub against
the broadest and fullest movements of his own day.

Has he religion, he does not want to be made to feel that there is a
white Christ and a black Christ, a white Heaven and a black Heaven, a
white Gospel and a black Gospel,—but the one ideal of perfect manhood
and womanhood, the one universal longing for development and growth, the
one desire for being, and being better, the one great yearning,
aspiring, outreaching, in all the heart throbs of humanity in whatever
race or clime.

A recent episode in the Corcoran art gallery at the American capital is
to the point. A colored woman who had shown marked ability in drawing
and coloring, was advised by her teacher, himself an artist of no mean
rank, to apply for admission to the Corcoran school in order to study
the models and to secure other advantages connected with the
organization. She accordingly sent a written application accompanied by
specimens of her drawings, the usual _modus operandi_ in securing

The drawings were examined by the best critics and pronounced excellent,
and a ticket of admission was immediately issued together with a highly
complimentary reference to her work.

The next day my friend, congratulating her country and herself that at
least in the republic of art no caste existed, presented her ticket of
admission _in propria persona_. There was a little preliminary side play
in Delsarte pantomime,—aghast—incredulity—wonder; then the
superintendent told her in plain unartistic English that of course he
had not dreamed a colored person could do such work, and had he
suspected the truth he would never have issued the ticket of admission;
that, to be right frank, the ticket would have to be cancelled,—she
could under no condition be admitted to the studio.

Can it be possible that even art in America is to be tainted by this
shrivelling caste spirit? If so, what are we coming to? Can any one
conceive a Shakespeare, a Michael Angelo, or a Beethoven putting away
any fact of simple merit because the thought, or the suggestion, or the
creation emanated from a soul with an unpleasing exterior?

What is it that makes the great English bard pre-eminent as the
photographer of the human soul? Where did he learn the universal
language, so that Parthians, Medes and Elamites, and the dwellers in
Mesopotamia, in Egypt and Libya, in Crete and Arabia do hear every one
in our own tongue the wonderful revelations of this myriad mind? How did
he learn our language? Is it not that his own soul was infinitely
receptive to Nature, the dear old nurse, in all her protean forms? Did
he not catch and reveal her own secret by his sympathetic listening as
she “would constantly sing a more wonderful song or tell a more
marvellous tale” in the souls he met around him?

“Stand off! I am better than thou!” has never yet painted a true
picture, nor written a thrilling song, nor given a pulsing, a
soul-burning sermon. ’Tis only sympathy, another name for love,—that one
poor word which, as George Eliot says, “expresses so much of human
insight”—that can interpret either man or matter.

It was Shakespeare’s own all-embracing sympathy, that infinite
receptivity of his, and native, all-comprehending appreciation, which
proved a key to unlock and open every soul that came within his radius.
And _he received as much as he gave_. His own stores were infinitely
enriched thereby. For it is decreed

          Man like the vine supported lives,
          The strength he gains is from th’ embrace he gives.

It is only through clearing the eyes from bias and prejudice, and
becoming one with the great all pervading soul of the universe that
either art or science can

                      “Read what is still unread
                      In the manuscripts of God.”

No true artist can allow himself to be narrowed and provincialized by
deliberately shutting out any class of facts or subjects through
prejudice against externals. And American art, American science,
American literature can never be founded in truth, the universal beauty;
can never learn to speak a language intelligible in all climes and for
all ages, till this paralyzing grip of caste prejudice is loosened from
its vitals, and the healthy sympathetic eye is taught to look out on the
great universe as holding no favorites and no black beasts, but bearing
in each plainest or loveliest feature the handwriting of its God.

And this is why, as it appears to me, woman in her lately acquired
vantage ground for speaking an earnest helpful word, can do this country
no deeper and truer and more lasting good than by bending all her
energies to thus broadening, humanizing, and civilizing her native land.

“Except ye become as little children” is not a pious precept, but an
inexorable law of the universe. God’s kingdoms are all sealed to the
seedy, moss-grown mind of self-satisfied maturity. Only the little child
in spirit, the simple, receptive, educable mind can enter. Preconceived
notions, blinding prejudices, and shrivelling antipathies must be wiped
out, and the cultivable soul made a _tabula rasa_ for whatever lesson
great Nature has to teach.

This, too, is why I conceive the subject to have been unfortunately
worded which was chosen by Miss Shaw at the Woman’s Council and which
stands at the head of this chapter.

Miss Shaw is one of the most powerful of our leaders, and we feel her
voice should give no uncertain note. Woman should not, even by
inference, or for the sake of argument, seem to disparage what is weak.
For woman’s cause is the cause of the weak; and when all the weak shall
have received their due consideration, then woman will have her
“rights,” and the Indian will have his rights, and the Negro will have
his rights, and all the strong will have learned at last to deal justly,
to love mercy, and to walk humbly; and our fair land will have been
taught the secret of universal courtesy which is after all nothing but
the art, the science, and the religion of regarding one’s neighbor as
one’s self, and to do for him as we would, were conditions swapped, that
he do for us.

It cannot seem less than a blunder, whenever the exponents of a great
reform or the harbingers of a noble advance in thought and effort allow
themselves to seem distorted by a narrow view of their own aims and
principles. All prejudices, whether of race, sect or sex, class pride
and caste distinctions are the belittling inheritance and badge of snobs
and prigs.

The philosophic mind sees that its own “rights” are the rights of
humanity. That in the universe of God nothing trivial is or mean; and
the recognition it seeks is not through the robber and wild beast
adjustment of the survival of the bullies but through the universal
application ultimately of the Golden Rule.

Not unfrequently has it happened that the impetus of a mighty thought
wave has done the execution meant by its Creator in spite of the weak
and distorted perception of its human embodiment. It is not strange if
reformers, who, after all, but think God’s thoughts after him, have
often “builded more wisely than they knew;” and while fighting
consciously for only a narrow gateway for themselves, have been driven
forward by that irresistible “Power not ourselves which makes for
righteousness” to open a high road for humanity. It was so with our
sixteenth century reformers. The fathers of the Reformation had no idea
that they were inciting an insurrection of the human mind against all
domination. None would have been more shocked than they at our
nineteenth century deductions from their sixteenth century premises.
Emancipation of mind and freedom of thought would have been as appalling
to them as it was distasteful to the pope. They were right, they argued,
to rebel against Romish absolutism—because Romish preaching and Romish
practicing were wrong. They denounced popes for hacking heretics and
forthwith began themselves to roast witches. The Spanish Inquisition in
the hands of Philip and Alva was an institution of the devil; wielded by
the faithful, it would become quite another thing. The only “rights”
they were broad enough consciously to fight for was the right to
substitute the absolutism of their conceptions, their party, their
‘_ism_’ for an authority whose teaching they conceived to be corrupt and
vicious. Persecution for a belief was wrong only when the persecutors
were wrong and the persecuted right. The sacred prerogative of the
individual to decide on matters of belief they did not dream of
maintaining. Universal tolerance and its twin, universal charity, were
not conceived yet. The broad foundation stone of all human rights, the
great democratic principle “A man’s a man, _and his own sovereign_ for
a’ that” they did not dare enunciate. They were incapable of drawing up
a Declaration of Independence for humanity. The Reformation to the
Reformers meant one bundle of authoritative opinions vs. another bundle
of authoritative opinions. Justification by faith, vs. justification by
ritual. Submission to Calvin vs. submission to the Pope. English and
Germans vs. the Italians.

To our eye, viewed through a vista of three centuries, it was the death
wrestle of the principle of thought enslavement in the throttling grasp
of personal freedom; it was the great Emancipation Day of human belief,
man’s intellectual Independence Day, prefiguring and finally compelling
the world-wide enfranchisement of his body and all its activities. Not
Protestant vs. Catholic, then; not Luther vs. Leo, not Dominicans vs.
Augustinians, nor Geneva vs. Rome;—but humanity rationally free, vs. the
clamps of tradition and superstition which had manacled and muzzled it.

The cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or a sect, a party or a
class,—it is the cause of human kind, the very birthright of humanity.
Now unless we are greatly mistaken the Reform of our day, known as the
Woman’s Movement, is essentially such an embodiment, if its pioneers
could only realize it, of the universal good. And specially important is
it that there be no confusion of ideas among its leaders as to its scope
and universality. All mists must be cleared from the eyes of woman if
she is to be a teacher of morals and manners: the former strikes its
roots in the individual and its training and pruning may be accomplished
by classes; but the latter is to lubricate the joints and minimize the
friction of society, and it is important and fundamental that there be
no chromatic or other aberration when the teacher is settling the point,
“Who is my neighbor?”

It is not the intelligent woman vs. the ignorant woman; nor the white
woman vs. the black, the brown, and the red,—it is not even the cause of
woman vs. man. Nay, ’tis woman’s strongest vindication for speaking that
_the world needs to hear her voice_. It would be subversive of every
human interest that the cry of one-half the human family be stifled.
Woman in stepping from the pedestal of statue-like inactivity in the
domestic shrine, and daring to think and move and speak,—to undertake to
help shape, mold, and direct the thought of her age, is merely
completing the circle of the world’s vision. Hers is every interest that
has lacked an interpreter and a defender. Her cause is linked with that
of every agony that has been dumb—every wrong that needs a voice.

It is no fault of man’s that he has not been able to see truth from her
standpoint. It does credit both to his head and heart that no greater
mistakes have been committed or even wrongs perpetrated while she sat
making tatting and snipping paper flowers. Man’s own innate chivalry and
the mutual interdependence of their interests have insured his treating
her cause, in the main at least, as his own. And he is pardonably
surprised and even a little chagrined, perhaps, to find his legislation
not considered “perfectly lovely” in every respect. But in any case his
work is only impoverished by her remaining dumb. The world has had to
limp along with the wobbling gait and one-sided hesitancy of a man with
one eye. Suddenly the bandage is removed from the other eye and the
whole body is filled with light. It sees a circle where before it saw a
segment. The darkened eye restored, every member rejoices with it.

What a travesty of its case for this eye to become plaintiff in a suit,
_Eye vs. Foot_. “There is that dull clod, the foot, allowed to roam at
will, free and untrammelled; while I, the source and medium of light,
brilliant and beautiful, am fettered in darkness and doomed to
desuetude.” The great burly black man, ignorant and gross and depraved,
is allowed to vote; while the franchise is withheld from the intelligent
and refined, the pure-minded and lofty souled white woman. Even the
untamed and untamable Indian of the prairie, who can answer nothing but
‘ugh’ to great economic and civic questions is thought by some worthy to
wield the ballot which is still denied the Puritan maid and the first
lady of Virginia.

Is not this hitching our wagon to something much lower than a star? Is
not woman’s cause broader, and deeper, and grander, than a blue stocking
debate or an aristocratic pink tea? Why should woman become plaintiff in
a suit versus the Indian, or the Negro or any other race or class who
have been crushed under the iron heel of Anglo-Saxon power and
selfishness? If the Indian has been wronged and cheated by the puissance
of this American government, it is woman’s mission to plead with her
country to cease to do evil and to pay its honest debts. If the Negro
has been deceitfully cajoled or inhumanly cuffed according to selfish
expediency or capricious antipathy, let it be woman’s mission to plead
that he be met as a man and honestly given half the road. If woman’s own
happiness has been ignored or misunderstood in our country’s legislating
for bread winners, for rum sellers, for property holders, for the family
relations, for any or all the interests that touch her vitally, let her
rest her plea, not on Indian inferiority, nor on Negro depravity, but on
the obligation of legislators to do for her as they would have others do
for them were relations reversed. Let her try to teach her country that
every interest in this world is entitled at least to a respectful
hearing, that every sentiency is worthy of its own gratification, that a
helpless cause should not be trampled down, nor a bruised reed broken;
and when the right of the individual is made sacred, when the image of
God in human form, whether in marble or in clay, whether in alabaster or
in ebony, is consecrated and inviolable, when men have been taught to
look beneath the rags and grime, the pomp and pageantry of mere
circumstance and have regard unto the celestial kernel uncontaminated at
the core,—when race, color, sex, condition, are realized to be the
accidents, not the substance of life, and consequently as not obscuring
or modifying the inalienable title to life, liberty, and pursuit of
happiness,—then is mastered the science of politeness, the art of
courteous contact, which is naught but the practical application of the
principal of benevolence, the back bone and marrow of all religion; then
woman’s lesson is taught and woman’s cause is won—not the white woman
nor the black woman nor the red woman, but the cause of every man or
woman who has writhed silently under a mighty wrong. The pleading of the
American woman for the right and the opportunity to employ the American
method of influencing the disposal to be made of herself, her property,
her children in civil, economic, or domestic relations is thus seen to
be based on a principle as broad as the human race and as old as human
society. Her wrongs are thus indissolubly linked with all undefended
woe, all helpless suffering, and the plenitude of her “rights” will mean
the final triumph of all right over might, the supremacy of the moral
forces of reason and justice and love in the government of the nation.

God hasten the day.

                    THE STATUS OF WOMAN IN AMERICA.

Just four hundred years ago an obscure dreamer and castle builder,
prosaically poor and ridiculously insistent on the reality of his
dreams, was enabled through the devotion of a noble woman to give to
civilization a magnificent continent.

What the lofty purpose of Spain’s pure-minded queen had brought to the
birth, the untiring devotion of pioneer women nourished and developed.
The dangers of wild beasts and of wilder men, the mysteries of unknown
wastes and unexplored forests, the horrors of pestilence and famine, of
exposure and loneliness, during all those years of discovery and
settlement, were braved without a murmur by women who had been most
delicately constituted and most tenderly nurtured.

And when the times of physical hardship and danger were past, when the
work of clearing and opening up was over and the struggle for
accumulation began, again woman’s inspiration and help were needed and
still was she loyally at hand. A Mary Lyon, demanding and making
possible equal advantages of education for women as for men, and, in the
face of discouragement and incredulity, bequeathing to women the
opportunities of Holyoke.

A Dorothea Dix, insisting on the humane and rational treatment of the
insane and bringing about a reform in the lunatic asylums of the
country, making a great step forward in the tender regard for the weak
by the strong throughout the world.

A Helen Hunt Jackson, convicting the nation of a century of dishonor in
regard to the Indian.

A Lucretia Mott, gentle Quaker spirit, with sweet insistence, preaching
the abolition of slavery and the institution, in its stead, of the
brotherhood of man; her life and words breathing out in tender melody
the injunction

                  “Have love. Not love alone for one
                  But man as man thy brother call;
                  And scatter, like the circling sun,
                  Thy charities _on all_.”

And at the most trying time of what we have called the Accumulative
Period, when internecine war, originated through man’s love of gain and
his determination to subordinate national interests and black men’s
rights alike to considerations of personal profit and loss, was
drenching our country with its own best blood, who shall recount the
name and fame of the women on both sides the senseless strife,—those
uncomplaining souls with a great heart ache of their own, rigid features
and pallid cheek their ever effective flag of truce, on the battle
field, in the camp, in the hospital, binding up wounds, recording dying
whispers for absent loved ones, with tearful eyes pointing to man’s last
refuge, giving the last earthly hand clasp and performing the last
friendly office for strangers whom a great common sorrow had made kin,
while they knew that somewhere—somewhere a husband, a brother, a father,
a son, was being tended by stranger hands—or mayhap those familiar eyes
were even then being closed forever by just such another ministering
angel of mercy and love.

But why mention names? Time would fail to tell of the noble army of
women who shine like beacon lights in the otherwise sordid wilderness of
this accumulative period—prison reformers and tenement cleansers, quiet
unnoted workers in hospitals and homes, among imbeciles, among
outcasts—the sweetening, purifying antidotes for the poisons of man’s
acquisitiveness,—mollifying and soothing with the tenderness of
compassion and love the wounds and bruises caused by his overreaching
and avarice.

The desire for quick returns and large profits tempts capital ofttimes
into unsanitary, well-nigh inhuman investments,—tenement tinder boxes,
stifling, stunting, sickening alleys and pestiferous slums; regular
rents, no waiting, large percentages,—rich coffers coined out of the
life-blood of human bodies and souls. Men and women herded together like
cattle, breathing in malaria and typhus from an atmosphere seething with
moral as well as physical impurity, revelling in vice as their native
habitat and then, to drown the whisperings of their higher consciousness
and effectually to hush the yearnings and accusations within, flying to
narcotics and opiates—rum, tobacco, opium, binding hand and foot, body
and soul, till the proper image of God is transformed into a fit
associate for demons,—a besotted, enervated, idiotic wreck, or else a
monster of wickedness terrible and destructive.

These are some of the legitimate products of the unmitigated tendencies
of the wealth-producing period. But, thank Heaven, side by side with the
cold, mathematical, selfishly calculating, so-called practical and
unsentimental instinct of the business man, there comes the sympathetic
warmth and sunshine of good women, like the sweet and sweetening breezes
of spring, cleansing, purifying, soothing, inspiring, lifting the
drunkard from the gutter, the outcast from the pit. Who can estimate the
influence of these “daughters of the king,” these lend-a-hand forces, in
counteracting the selfishness of an acquisitive age?

To-day America counts her millionaires by the thousand; questions of
tariff and questions of currency are the most vital ones agitating the
public mind. In this period, when material prosperity and well earned
ease and luxury are assured facts from a national standpoint, woman’s
work and woman’s influence are needed as never before; needed to bring a
heart power into this money getting, dollar-worshipping civilization;
needed to bring a moral force into the utilitarian motives and interests
of the time; needed to stand for God and Home and Native Land _versus
gain and greed and grasping selfishness_.

There can be no doubt that this fourth centenary of America’s discovery
which we celebrate at Chicago, strikes the key-note of another important
transition in the history of this nation; and the prominence of woman in
the management of its celebration is a fitting tribute to the part she
is destined to play among the forces of the future. This is the first
congressional recognition of woman in this country, and this Board of
Lady Managers constitute the first women legally appointed by any
government to act in a national capacity. This of itself marks the dawn
of a new day.

Now the periods of discovery, of settlement, of developing resources and
accumulating wealth have passed in rapid succession. Wealth in the
nation as in the individual brings leisure, repose, reflection. The
struggle with nature is over, the struggle with ideas begins. We stand
then, it seems to me, in this last decade of the nineteenth century,
just in the portals of a new and untried movement on a higher plain and
in a grander strain than any the past has called forth. It does not
require a prophet’s eye to divine its trend and image its possibilities
from the forces we see already at work around us; nor is it hard to
guess what must be the status of woman’s work under the new regime.

In the pioneer days her role was that of a camp-follower, an additional
something to fight for and be burdened with, only repaying the anxiety
and labor she called forth by her own incomparable gifts of sympathy and
appreciative love; unable herself ordinarily to contend with the bear
and the Indian, or to take active part in clearing the wilderness and
constructing the home.

In the second or wealth producing period her work is abreast of man’s,
complementing and supplementing, counteracting excessive tendencies, and
mollifying over rigorous proclivities.

In the era now about to dawn, her sentiments must strike the key-note
and give the dominant tone. And this because of the nature of her
contribution to the world.

Her kingdom is not over physical forces. Not by might, nor by power can
she prevail. Her position must ever be inferior where strength of muscle
creates leadership. If she follows the instincts of her nature, however,
she must always stand for the conservation of those deeper moral forces
which make for the happiness of homes and the righteousness of the
country. In a reign of moral ideas she is easily queen.

There is to my mind no grander and surer prophecy of the new era and of
woman’s place in it, than the work already begun in the waning years of
the nineteenth century by the W.C.T.U. in America, an organization which
has even now reached not only national but international importance, and
seems destined to permeate and purify the whole civilized world. It is
the living embodiment of woman’s activities and woman’s ideas, and its
extent and strength rightly prefigure her increasing power as a moral

The colored woman of to-day occupies, one may say, a unique position in
this country. In a period of itself transitional and unsettled, her
status seems one of the least ascertainable and definitive of all the
forces which make for our civilization. She is confronted by both a
woman question and a race problem, and is as yet an unknown or an
unacknowledged factor in both. While the women of the white race can
with calm assurance enter upon the work they feel by nature appointed to
do, while their men give loyal support and appreciative countenance to
their efforts, recognizing in most avenues of usefulness the propriety
and the need of woman’s distinctive co-operation, the colored woman too
often finds herself hampered and shamed by a less liberal sentiment and
a more conservative attitude on the part of those for whose opinion she
cares most. That this is not universally true I am glad to admit. There
are to be found both intensely conservative white men and exceedingly
liberal colored men. But as far as my experience goes the average man of
our race is less frequently ready to admit the actual need among the
sturdier forces of the world for woman’s help or influence. That great
social and economic questions await her interference, that she could
throw any light on problems of national import, that her intermeddling
could improve the management of school systems, or elevate the tone of
public institutions, or humanize and sanctify the far reaching influence
of prisons and reformatories and improve the treatment of lunatics and
imbeciles,—that she has a word worth hearing on mooted questions in
political economy, that she could contribute a suggestion on the
relations of labor and capital, or offer a thought on honest money and
honorable trade, I fear the majority of “Americans of the colored
variety” are not yet prepared to concede. It may be that they do not yet
see these questions in their right perspective, being absorbed in the
immediate needs of their own political complications. A good deal
depends on where we put the emphasis in this world; and our men are not
perhaps to blame if they see everything colored by the light of those
agitations in the midst of which they live and move and have their
being. The part they have had to play in American history during the
last twenty-five or thirty years has tended rather to exaggerate the
importance of mere political advantage, as well as to set a fictitious
valuation on those able to secure such advantage. It is the astute
politician, the manager who can gain preferment for himself and his
favorites, the demagogue known to stand in with the powers at the White
House and consulted on the bestowal of government plums, whom we set in
high places and denominate great. It is they who receive the hosannas of
the multitude and are regarded as leaders of the people. The thinker and
the doer, the man who solves the problem by enriching his country with
an invention worth thousands or by a thought inestimable and precious is
given neither bread nor a stone. He is too often left to die in
obscurity and neglect even if spared in his life the bitterness of
fanatical jealousies and detraction.

And yet politics, and surely American politics, is hardly a school for
great minds. Sharpening rather than deepening, it develops the faculty
of taking advantage of present emergencies rather than the insight to
distinguish between the true and the false, the lasting and the
ephemeral advantage. Highly cultivated selfishness rather than
consecrated benevolence is its passport to success. Its votaries are
never seers. At best they are but manipulators—often only jugglers. It
is conducive neither to profound statesmanship nor to the higher type of
manhood. Altruism is its _mauvais succes_ and naturally enough it is
indifferent to any factor which cannot be worked into its own immediate
aims and purposes. As woman’s influence as a political element is as yet
nil in most of the commonwealths of our republic, it is not surprising
that with those who place the emphasis on mere political capital she may
yet seem almost a nonentity so far as it concerns the solution of great
national or even racial perplexities.

There are those, however, who value the calm elevation of the thoughtful
spectator who stands aloof from the heated scramble; and, above the
turmoil and din of corruption and selfishness, can listen to the
teachings of eternal truth and righteousness. There are even those who
feel that the black man’s unjust and unlawful exclusion temporarily from
participation in the elective franchise in certain states is after all
but a lesson “in the desert” fitted to develop in him insight and
discrimination against the day of his own appointed time. One needs
occasionally to stand aside from the hum and rush of human interests and
passions to hear the voices of God. And it not unfrequently happens that
the All-loving gives a great push to certain souls to thrust them out,
as it were, from the distracting current for awhile to promote their
discipline and growth, or to enrich them by communion and reflection.
And similarly it may be woman’s privilege from her peculiar coigne of
vantage as a quiet observer, to whisper just the needed suggestion or
the almost forgotten truth. The colored woman, then, should not be
ignored because her bark is resting in the silent waters of the
sheltered cove. She is watching the movements of the contestants none
the less and is all the better qualified, perhaps, to weigh and judge
and advise because not herself in the excitement of the race. Her voice,
too, has always been heard in clear, unfaltering tones, ringing the
changes on those deeper interests which make for permanent good. She is
always sound and orthodox on questions affecting the well-being of her
race. You do not find the colored woman selling her birthright for a
mess of pottage. Nay, even after reason has retired from the contest,
she has been known to cling blindly with the instinct of a turtle dove
to those principles and policies which to her mind promise hope and
safety for children yet unborn. It is notorious that ignorant black
women in the South have actually left their husbands’ homes and
repudiated their support for what was understood by the wife to be race
disloyalty, or “voting away,” as she expresses it, the privileges of
herself and little ones.

It is largely our women in the South to-day who keep the black men solid
in the Republican party. The latter as they increase in intelligence and
power of discrimination would be more apt to divide on local issues at
any rate. They begin to see that the Grand Old Party regards the Negro’s
cause as an outgrown issue, and on Southern soil at least finds a too
intimate acquaintanceship with him a somewhat unsavory recommendation.
Then, too, their political wits have been sharpened to appreciate the
fact that it is good policy to cultivate one’s neighbors and not depend
too much on a distant friend to fight one’s home battles. But the black
woman can never forget—however lukewarm the party may to-day appear—that
it was a Republican president who struck the manacles from her own
wrists and gave the possibilities of manhood to her helpless little
ones; and to her mind a Democratic Negro is a traitor and a time-server.
Talk as much as you like of venality and manipulation in the South,
there are not many men, I can tell you, who would dare face a wife
quivering in every fiber with the consciousness that her husband is a
coward who could be paid to desert her deepest and dearest interests.

Not unfelt, then, if unproclaimed has been the work and influence of the
colored women of America. Our list of chieftains in the service, though
not long, is not inferior in strength and excellence, I dare believe, to
any similar list which this country can produce.

Among the pioneers, Frances Watkins Harper could sing with prophetic
exaltation in the darkest days, when as yet there was not a rift in the
clouds overhanging her people:

            “Yes, Ethiopia shall stretch
        Her bleeding hands abroad;
        Her cry of agony shall reach the burning throne of God.
            Redeemed from dust and freed from chains
              Her sons shall lift their eyes,
            From cloud-capt hills and verdant plains
              Shall shouts of triumph rise.”

Among preachers of righteousness, an unanswerable silencer of cavilers
and objectors, was Sojourner Truth, that unique and rugged genius who
seemed carved out without hand or chisel from the solid mountain mass;
and in pleasing contrast, Amanda Smith, sweetest of natural singers and
pleaders in dulcet tones for the things of God and of His Christ.

Sarah Woodson Early and Martha Briggs, planting and watering in the
school room, and giving off from their matchless and irresistible
personality an impetus and inspiration which can never die so long as
there lives and breathes a remote descendant of their disciples and

Charlotte Fortin Grimke, the gentle spirit whose verses and life link
her so beautifully with America’s great Quaker poet and loving reformer.

Hallie Quinn Brown, charming reader, earnest, effective lecturer and
devoted worker of unflagging zeal and unquestioned power.

Fannie Jackson Coppin, the teacher and organizer, pre-eminent among
women of whatever country or race in constructive and executive force.

These women represent all shades of belief and as many departments of
activity; but they have one thing in common—their sympathy with the
oppressed race in America and the consecration of their several talents
in whatever line to the work of its deliverance and development.

Fifty years ago woman’s activity according to orthodox definitions was
on a pretty clearly cut “sphere,” including primarily the kitchen and
the nursery, and rescued from the barrenness of prison bars by the
womanly mania for adorning every discoverable bit of china or canvass
with forlorn looking cranes balanced idiotically on one foot. The woman
of to-day finds herself in the presence of responsibilities which ramify
through the profoundest and most varied interests of her country and
race. Not one of the issues of this plodding, toiling, sinning,
repenting, falling, aspiring humanity can afford to shut her out, or can
deny the reality of her influence. No plan for renovating society, no
scheme for purifying politics, no reform in church or in state, no
moral, social, or economic question, no movement upward or downward in
the human plane is lost on her. A man once said when told his house was
afire: “Go tell my wife; I never meddle with household affairs.” But no
woman can possibly put herself or her sex outside any of the interests
that affect humanity. All departments in the new era are to be hers, in
the sense that her interests are in all and through all; and it is
incumbent on her to keep intelligently and sympathetically _en rapport_
with all the great movements of her time, that she may know on which
side to throw the weight of her influence. She stands now at the gateway
of this new era of American civilization. In her hands must be moulded
the strength, the wit, the statesmanship, the morality, all the psychic
force, the social and economic intercourse of that era. To be alive at
such an epoch is a privilege, to be a woman then is sublime.

In this last decade of our century, changes of such moment are in
progress, such new and alluring vistas are opening out before us, such
original and radical suggestions for the adjustment of labor and
capital, of government and the governed, of the family, the church and
the state, that to be a possible factor though an infinitesimal in such
a movement is pregnant with hope and weighty with responsibility. To be
a woman in such an age carries with it a privilege and an opportunity
never implied before. But to be a woman of the Negro race in America,
and to be able to grasp the deep significance of the possibilities of
the crisis, is to have a heritage, it seems to me, unique in the ages.
In the first place, the race is young and full of the elasticity and
hopefulness of youth. All its achievements are before it. It does not
look on the masterly triumphs of nineteenth century civilization with
that _blasé_ world-weary look which characterizes the old washed out and
worn out races which have already, so to speak, seen their best days.

Said a European writer recently: “Except the Sclavonic, the Negro is the
only original and distinctive genius which has yet to come to growth—and
the feeling is to cherish and develop it.”

Everything to this race is new and strange and inspiring. There is a
quickening of its pulses and a glowing of its self-consciousness. Aha, I
can rival that! I can aspire to that! I can honor my name and vindicate
my race! Something like this, it strikes me, is the enthusiasm which
stirs the genius of young Africa in America; and the memory of past
oppression and the fact of present attempted repression only serve to
gather momentum for its irrepressible powers. Then again, a race in such
a stage of growth is peculiarly sensitive to impressions. Not the
photographer’s sensitized plate is more delicately impressionable to
outer influences than is this high strung people here on the threshold
of a career.

What a responsibility then to have the sole management of the primal
lights and shadows! Such is the colored woman’s office. She must stamp
weal or woe on the coming history of this people. May she see her
opportunity and vindicate her high prerogative.

                           TUTTI AD LIBITUM.

         A _People_ is but the attempt of many
         To rise to the completer life of one.

                ·       ·       ·       ·       ·

         The common _Problem_, yours, mine, every one’s
         Is—not to fancy what were fair in life
         Provided it could be,—but, finding first
         What may be, then find how to make it fair
         Up to our means; a very different thing!

                                           —_Robert Browning._

  The greatest question in the world is how to give every man a man’s
  share in what goes on in life—we want a freeman’s share, and that is
  to think and speak and act about what concerns us all, and see
  whether these fine gentlemen who undertake to govern us are doing
  the best they can for us.—_Felix Holt._


There are two kinds of peace in this world. The one produced by
suppression, which is the passivity of death; the other brought about by
a proper adjustment of living, acting forces. A nation or an individual
may be at peace because all opponents have been killed or crushed; or,
nation as well as individual may have found the secret of true harmony
in the determination to live and let live.

A harmless looking man was once asked how many there were in his family.

“Ten,” he replied grimly; “my wife’s a one and I a zero.” In that family
there was harmony, to be sure, but it was the harmony of a despotism—it
was the quiet of a muzzled mouth, the smoldering peace of a volcano
crusted over.

Now I need not say that peace produced by suppression is neither natural
nor desirable. Despotism is not one of the ideas that man has copied
from nature. All through God’s universe we see eternal harmony and
symmetry as the unvarying result of the equilibrium of opposing forces.
Fair play in an equal fight is the law written in Nature’s book. And the
solitary bully with his foot on the breast of his last antagonist has no
warrant in any fact of God.

The beautiful curves described by planets and suns in their courses are
the resultant of conflicting forces. Could the centrifugal force for one
instant triumph, or should the centripetal grow weary and give up the
struggle, immeasurable disaster would ensue—earth, moon, sun would go
spinning off at a tangent or must fall helplessly into its master
sphere. The acid counterbalances and keeps in order the alkali; the
negative, the positive electrode. A proper equilibrium between a most
inflammable explosive and the supporter of combustion, gives us water,
the bland fluid that we cannot dispense with. Nay, the very air we
breathe, which seems so calm, so peaceful, is rendered innocuous only by
the constant conflict of opposing gases. Were the fiery, never-resting,
all-corroding oxygen to gain the mastery we should be burnt to cinders
in a trice. With the sluggish, inert nitrogen triumphant, we should die
of inanition.

These facts are only a suggestion of what must be patent to every
student of history. Progressive peace in a nation is the result of
conflict; and conflict, such as is healthy, stimulating, and
progressive, is produced through the co-existence of radically opposing
or racially different elements. Bellamy’s ox-like men pictured in
_Looking Backward_, taking their daily modicum of provender from the
grandmotherly government, with nothing to struggle for, no wrong to put
down, no reform to push through, no rights to vindicate and uphold, are
nice folks to read about; but they are not natural; they are not
progressive. God’s world is not governed that way. The child can never
gain strength save by resistance, and there can be no resistance if all
movement is in one direction and all opposition made forever an

I confess I can see no deeper reason than this for the specializing of
racial types in the world. Whatever our theory with reference to the
origin of species and the unity of mankind, we cannot help admitting the
fact that no sooner does a family of the human race take up its abode in
some little nook between mountains, or on some plain walled in by their
own hands, no sooner do they begin in earnest to live their own life,
think their own thoughts, and trace out their own arts, than they begin
also to crystallize some idea different from and generally opposed to
that of other tribes or families.

Each race has its badge, its exponent, its message, branded in its
forehead by the great Master’s hand which is its own peculiar key-note,
and its contribution to the harmony of nations.

Left entirely alone,—out of contact, that is with other races and their
opposing ideas and conflicting tendencies, this cult is abnormally
developed and there is unity without variety, a predominance of one tone
at the expense of moderation and harmony, and finally a sameness, a
monotonous dullness which means stagnation,—death.

It is this of which M. Guizot complains in Asiatic types of
civilization; and in each case he mentions I note that there was but one
race, one free force predominating.

In Lect. II. Hist. of Civ. he says:

“In Egypt the theocratic principle took possession of society and showed
itself in its manners, its monuments and in all that has come down to us
of Egyptian civilization. In India the same phenomenon occurs—a
repetition of the almost exclusively prevailing influence of theocracy.
In other regions the domination of a conquering caste; where such is the
case the principle of force takes entire possession of society. In
another place we discover society under the entire influence of the
democratic principle. Such was the case in the commercial republics
which covered the coasts of Asia Minor and Syria, in Ionia and Phœnicia.
In a word whenever we contemplate the civilization of the ancients, we
find them all impressed with _one ever prevailing character of unity_,
visible in their institutions, their ideas and manners; _one sole
influence seems to govern and determine all things_.... In one nation,
as in Greece, the unity of the social principle led to a development of
wonderful rapidity; no other people ever ran so brilliant a career in so
short a time. But Greece had hardly become glorious before she appeared
worn out. Her decline was as sudden as her rise had been rapid. It seems
as if the principle which called Greek civilization into life was
exhausted. No other came to invigorate it or supply its place. In India
and Egypt where again only one principle of civilization prevailed (_one
race predominant you see_) society became stationary. Simplicity
produced monotony. Society continued to exist, but there was no
progression. It remained torpid and inactive.”

Now I beg you to note that in none of these systems was a RACE PROBLEM
possible. The dominant race had settled that matter forever. Asiatic
society was fixed in cast-iron molds. Virtually there was but one race
inspiring and molding the thought, the art, the literature, the
government. It was against this shrivelling caste prejudice and
intolerance that the zealous Buddha set his face like a flint. And I do
not think it was all blasphemy in Renan when he said Jesus Christ was
first of democrats, i. e., a believer in the royalty of the individual,
a preacher of the brotherhood of man through the fatherhood of God, a
teacher who proved that the lines on which worlds are said to revolve
are _imaginary_, that for all the distinctions of blue blood and black
blood and red blood—_a man’s a man for a’ that_. Buddha and the Christ,
each in his own way, wrought to rend asunder the clamps and bands of
caste, and to thaw out the ice of race tyranny and exclusiveness. The
Brahmin, who was Aryan, spurned a suggestion even, from the Sudra, who
belonged to the hated and proscribed Turanian race. With a Pariah he
could not eat or drink. They were to him outcasts and unclean.
Association with them meant contamination; the hint of their social
equality was blasphemous. Respectful consideration for their rights and
feelings was almost a physical no less than a moral impossibility.

No more could the Helots among the Greeks have been said to contribute
anything to the movement of their times. The dominant race had them
effectually under its heel. It was the tyranny and exclusiveness of
these nations, therefore, which brought about their immobility and
resulted finally in the barrenness of their one idea. From this came the
poverty and decay underlying their civilization, from this the
transitory, ephemeral character of its brilliancy.

To quote Guizot again: “Society belonged to _one exclusive_ power which
could bear with no other. Every principle of a different tendency was
proscribed. The governing principle would nowhere suffer by its side the
manifestation and influence of a rival principle. This character of
unity in their civilization is equally impressed upon their literature
and intellectual productions. Those monuments of Hindoo literature
lately introduced into Europe seem all struck from the same die. They
all seem the result of one same fact, the expression of one idea.
Religious and moral treatises, historical traditions, dramatic poetry,
epics, all bear the same physiognomy. The same character of unity and
monotony shines out in these works of mind and fancy, as we discover in
their life and institutions.” Not even Greece with all its classic
treasures is made an exception from these limitations produced by

But the course of empire moves one degree westward. Europe becomes the
theater of the leading exponents of civilization, and here we have a
_Race Problem_,—if, indeed, the confused jumble of races, the clash and
conflict, the din and devastation of those stormy years can be referred
to by so quiet and so dignified a term as “problem.” Complex and
appalling it surely was. Goths and Huns, Vandals and Danes, Angles,
Saxons, Jutes—could any prophet foresee that a vestige of law and order,
of civilization and refinement would remain after this clumsy horde of
wild barbarians had swept over Europe?

“Where is somebody’ll give me some white for all this yellow?” cries one
with his hands full of the gold from one of those magnificent monuments
of antiquity which he and his tribe had just pillaged and demolished.
Says the historian: “Their history is like a history of kites and
crows.” Tacitus writes: “To shout, to drink, to caper about, to feel
their veins heated and swollen with wine, to hear and see around them
the riot of the orgy, this was the first need of the barbarians. The
heavy human brute gluts himself with sensations and with noise.”

Taine describes them as follows:

“Huge white bodies, cool-blooded, with fierce blue eyes, reddish flaxen
hair; ravenous stomachs, filled with meat and cheese, heated by strong
drinks. Brutal drunken pirates and robbers, they dashed to sea in their
two-sailed barks, landed anywhere, killed everything; and, having
sacrificed in honor of their gods the tithe of all their prisoners,
leaving behind the red light of their burning, went farther on to begin

A certain litany of the time reads: “From the fury of the Jutes, Good
Lord deliver us.” “Elgiva, the wife of one of their kings,” says a
chronicler of the time, “they hamstrung and subjected to the death she
deserved;” and their heroes are frequently represented as tearing out
the heart of their human victim and eating it while it still quivered
with life.

A historian of the time, quoted by Taine, says it was the custom to buy
men and women in all parts of England and to carry them to Ireland for
sale. The buyers usually made the women pregnant and took them to market
in that condition to ensure a better price. “You might have seen,”
continues the historian, “long files of young people of both sexes and
of great beauty, bound with ropes and daily exposed for sale. They sold
as slaves in this manner, their nearest relatives and even their own

What could civilization hope to do with such a swarm of sensuous,
bloodthirsty vipers? Assimilation was horrible to contemplate. They will
drag us to their level, quoth the culture of the times. Deportation was
out of the question; and there was no need to talk of their emigrating.
The fact is, the barbarians were in no hurry about moving. They didn’t
even care to colonize. They had come to stay. And Europe had to grapple
with her race problem till time and God should solve it.

And how was it solved, and what kind of civilization resulted?

Once more let us go to Guizot. “Take ever so rapid a glance,” says he,
“at modern Europe and it strikes you at once as diversified, confused,
and stormy. All the principles of social organization are found existing
together within it; powers temporal, and powers spiritual, the
theocratic, monarchic, aristocratic, and democratic elements, all
classes of society _in a state of continual struggle_ without any one
having sufficient force to master the others and take sole possession of
society.” Then as to the result of this conflict of forces:
“Incomparably more rich and diversified than the ancient, European
civilization has within it the promise of _perpetual progress_. It has
now endured more than fifteen centuries and in all that time has been in
a state of progression, not so rapidly as the Greek nor yet so
ephemeral. While in other civilizations the exclusive domination of a
principle (_or race_) led to tyranny, in Europe the diversity of social
elements (_growing out of the contact of different races_) the
incapability of any one to exclude the rest, gave birth to the LIBERTY
which now prevails. This inability of the various principles to
exterminate one another compelled each to endure the others and made it
necessary for them in order to live in common to enter into a sort of
mutual understanding. Each consented to have only that part of
civilization which equitably fell to its share. Thus, while everywhere
else the predominance of one principle produced tyranny, the variety and
warfare of the elements of European civilization gave birth to
_reciprocity and liberty_.”

There is no need to quote further. This is enough to show that the law
holds good in sociology as in the world of matter, _that equilibrium,
not repression among conflicting forces is the condition of natural
harmony, of permanent progress, and of universal freedom_. That
exclusiveness and selfishness in a family, in a community, or in a
nation is suicidal to progress. Caste and prejudice mean immobility. One
race predominance means death. The community that closes its gates
against foreign talent can never hope to advance beyond a certain point.
Resolve to keep out foreigners and you keep out progress. Home talent
develops its one idea and then dies. Like the century plant it produces
its one flower, brilliant and beautiful it may be, but it lasts only for
a night. Its forces have exhausted themselves in that one effort.
Nothing remains but to wither and to rot.

It was the Chinese wall that made China in 1800 A. D. the same as China
in the days of Confucius. Its women have not even yet learned that they
need not bandage their feet if they do not relish it. The world has
rolled on, but within that wall the thoughts, the fashions, the art, the
tradition, and the beliefs are those of a thousand years ago. Until very
recently, the Chinese were wholly out of the current of human progress.
They were like gray headed infants—a man of eighty years with the
concepts and imaginings of a babe of eight months. A civilization
measured by thousands of years with a development that might be
comprised within as many days—arrested development due to exclusive

But European civilization, rich as it was compared to Asiatic types, was
still not the consummation of the ideal of human possibilities. One more
degree westward the hand on the dial points. In Europe there was
conflict, but the elements crystallized out in isolated nodules, so to
speak. Italy has her dominant principle, Spain hers, France hers,
England hers, and so on. The proximity is close enough for interaction
and mutual restraint, though the acting forces are at different points.
To preserve the balance of power, which is nothing more than the
equilibrium of warring elements, England can be trusted to keep an eye
on her beloved step-relation-in-law, Russia,—and Germany no doubt can be
relied on to look after France and some others. It is not, however, till
the scene changes and America is made the theater of action, that the
interplay of forces narrowed down to a single platform.

Hither came Cavalier and Roundhead, Baptist and Papist, Quaker,
Ritualist, Freethinker and Mormon, the conservative Tory, the liberal
Whig, and the radical Independent,—the Spaniard, the Frenchman, the
Englishman, the Italian, the Chinaman, the African, Swedes, Russians,
Huns, Bohemians, Gypsies, Irish, Jews. Here surely was a seething
caldron of conflicting elements. Religious intolerance and political
hatred, race prejudice and caste pride—

                   “Double, double, toil and trouble;
                   Fire burn and cauldron bubble.”

Conflict, Conflict, Conflict.

America for Americans! This is the white man’s country! The Chinese must
go, shrieks the exclusionist. Exclude the Italians! Colonize the blacks
in Mexico or deport them to Africa. Lynch, suppress, drive out, kill
out! America for Americans!

“_Who are Americans?_” comes rolling back from ten million throats. Who
are to do the packing and delivering of the goods? Who are the
home-folks and who are the strangers? Who are the absolute and original
tenants in fee-simple?

The red men used to be owners of the soil,—but they are about to be
pushed over into the Pacific Ocean. They, perhaps, have the best right
to call themselves “Americans” by law of primogeniture. They are at
least the oldest inhabitants of whom we can at present identify any
traces. If early settlers from abroad merely are meant and it is only a
question of squatters’ rights—why, the Mayflower, a pretty venerable
institution, landed in the year of Grace 1620, and the first delegation
from Africa just one year ahead of that,—in 1619. The first settlers
seem to have been almost as much mixed as we are on this point; and it
does not seem at all easy to decide just what individuals we mean when
we yell “America for the Americans.” At least the cleavage cannot be
made by hues and noses, if we are to seek for the genuine F. F. V.’s as
the inhabitants best entitled to the honor of that name.

The fact is this nation was foreordained to conflict from its
incipiency. Its elements were predestined from their birth to an
irrepressible clash followed by the stable equilibrium of opposition.
Exclusive possession belongs to none. There never was a point in its
history when it did. There was never a time since America became a
nation when there were not more than one race, more than one party, more
than one belief contending for supremacy. Hence no one is or can be
supreme. All interests must be consulted, all claims conciliated. Where
a hundred free forces are lustily clamoring for recognition and each
wrestling mightily for the mastery, individual tyrannies must inevitably
be chiselled down, individual bigotries worn smooth and malleable,
individual prejudices either obliterated or concealed. America is not
from choice more than of necessity republic in form and democratic in
administration. The will of the majority must rule simply because no
class, no family, no individual has ever been able to prove sufficient
political legitimacy to impose their yoke on the country. All attempts
at establishing oligarchy must be made by wheedling and cajoling,
pretending that not supremacy but service is sought. The nearest
approach to outspoken self-assertion is in the conciliatory tones of
candid compromise. “I will let you enjoy that if you will not hinder me
in the pursuit of this” has been the American sovereign’s home policy
since his first Declaration of Independence was inscribed as his policy
abroad. Compromise and concession, liberality and toleration were the
conditions of the nation’s birth and are the _sine qua non_ of its
continued existence. A general amnesty and universal reciprocity are the
only _modus vivendi_ in a nation whose every citizen is his own king,
his own priest and his own pope.

De Tocqueville, years ago, predicted that republicanism must fail in
America. But if republicanism fails, America fails, and somehow I can
not think this colossal stage was erected for a tragedy. I must confess
to being an optimist on the subject of my country. It is true we are too
busy making history, and have been for some years past, to be able to
write history yet, or to understand and interpret it. Our range of
vision is too short for us to focus and image our conflicts. Indeed Von
Holtz, the clearest headed of calm spectators, says he doubts if the
history of American conflict can be written yet even by a disinterested
foreigner. The clashing of arms and the din of battle, the smoke of
cannon and the heat of combat, are not yet cleared away sufficiently for
us to have the judicial vision of historians. Our jottings are like
newspaper reports written in the saddle, mid prancing steeds and roaring

But of one thing we may be sure: the God of battles is in the conflicts
of history. The evolution of civilization is His care, eternal progress
His delight. As the European was higher and grander than the Asiatic, so
will American civilization be broader and deeper and closer to the
purposes of the Eternal than any the world has yet seen. This the last
page is to mark the climax of history, the bright consummate flower
unfolding _charity toward all and malice toward none_,—the final triumph
of universal reciprocity born of universal conflict with forces that
cannot be exterminated. Here at last is an arena in which every agony
has a voice and free speech. Not a spot where no wrong can exist, but
where each feeblest interest can cry with Themistocles, “_Strike, but
hear me!_” Here you will not see as in Germany women hitched to a cart
with donkeys; not perhaps because men are more chivalrous here than
there, but because woman can speak. Here labor will not be starved and
ground to powder, because the laboring man can make himself heard. Here
races that are weakest can, _if they so elect_, make themselves felt.

The supremacy of one race,—the despotism of a class or the tyranny of an
individual can not ultimately prevail on a continent held in equilibrium
by such conflicting forces and by so many and such strong fibred races
as there are struggling on this soil. Never in America shall one man
dare to say as Germany’s somewhat bumptious emperor is fond of
proclaiming: “There is only one master in the country and I am he. I
shall suffer no other beside me. Only to God and my conscience am I
accountable.” The strength of the opposition tones down and polishes off
all such ugly excrescencies as that. “I am the State,” will never be
proclaimed above a whisper on a platform where there is within arm’s
length another just as strong, possibly stronger, who holds, or would
like to hold that identical proposition with reference to himself. In
this arena then is to be the last death struggle of political tyranny,
of religions bigotry, and intellectual intolerance, of caste
illiberality and class exclusiveness. And the last monster that shall be
throttled forever methinks is race prejudice. Men will here learn that a
race, as a family, may be true to itself without seeking to exterminate
all others. That for the note of the feeblest there is room, nay a
positive need, in the harmonies of God. That the principles of true
democracy are founded in universal reciprocity, and that “A man’s a man”
was written when God first stamped His own image and superscription on
His child and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. And I
confess I can pray for no nobler destiny for my country than that it may
be the stage, however far distant in the future, whereon these ideas and
principles shall ultimately mature; and culminating here at whatever
cost of production shall go forth hence to dominate the world.

Methought I saw a mighty conflagration, plunging and heaving, surging
and seething, smoking and rolling over this American continent. Strong
men and wise men stand helpless in mute consternation. Empty headed
babblers add the din of their bray to the crashing and crackling of the
flames. But the hungry flood rolls on. The air is black with smoke and
cinders. The sky is red with lurid light. Forked tongues of fiery flame
dart up and lick the pale stars, and seem to laugh at men’s feebleness
and frenzy. As I look on I think of Schiller’s sublime characterization
of fire: “Frightful becomes this God-power, when it snatches itself free
from fetters and stalks majestically forth on its own career—the free
daughter of Nature.” Ingenuity is busy with newly patented snuffers all
warranted to extinguish the flame. The street gamin with a hooked wire
pulls out a few nuggets that chanced to be lying on the outskirts where
they were cooked by the heat; and gleefully cries “What a nice fire to
roast my chestnuts,” and like little Jack Horner, “what a nice boy am

Meantime this expedient, that expedient, the other expedient is
suggested by thinkers and theorizers hoping to stifle the angry,
roaring, devouring demon and allay the mad destruction.

                     “Wehe wenn sie losgelassen,
                       Wachsend ohne Widerstand,
                     Durch die volkbelebten Gassen
                       Walzt den ungeheuren Brand!”

But the strength of the Omnipotent is in it. The hand of God is leading
it on. It matters not whether you and I in mad desperation cast our
quivering bodies into it as our funeral pyre; or whether, like the
street urchins, we pull wires to secure the advantage of the passing
moment. We can neither help it nor hinder; only

                 “Let thy gold be cast in the furnace,
                   Thy red gold, precious and bright.
                 Do not fear the hungry fire
                   With its caverns of burning light.”

If it takes the dearest idol, the pet theory or the darling ‘ism’, the
pride, the selfishness, the prejudices, the exclusiveness, the bigotry
and intolerance, the conceit of self, of race, or of family
superiority,—nay, if it singe from thee thy personal gratifications in
thy distinction by birth, by blood, by sex—everything,—and leave thee
nothing but thy naked manhood, solitary and unadorned,—let them go—let
them go!

               “And thy gold shall return more precious,
               Free from every spot and stain,
               For gold must be tried by fire.”

And the heart of nations must be tried by pain; and their polish, their
true culture must be wrought in through conflict.

Has America a Race Problem?


What are you going to do about it?

Let it alone and mind my own business. It is God’s problem and He will
solve it in time. It is deeper than Gehenna. What can you or I do!

Are there then no duties and special lines of thought growing out of the
present conditions of this problem?

Certainly there are. _Imprimis_; let every element of the conflict see
that it represent a positive force so as to preserve a proper equipoise
in the conflict. No shirking, no skulking, no masquerading in another’s
uniform. Stand by your guns. And be ready for the charge. The day is
coming, and now is, when America must ask each citizen not “who was your
grandfather and what the color of his cuticle,” but “_What can you do?_”
Be ready each individual element,—each race, each class, each family,
each man to reply “_I engage to undertake an honest man’s share_.”

God and time will work the problem. You and I are only to stand for the
quantities _at their best_, which he means us to represent.

Above all, for the love of humanity stop the mouth of those learned
theorizers, the expedient mongers, who come out annually with their new
and improved method of getting the answer and clearing the slate:
amalgamation, deportation, colonization and all the other ations that
were ever devised or dreamt of. If Alexander wants to be a god, let him;
but don’t have Alexander hawking his patent plan for universal
deification. If all could or would follow Alexander’s plan, just the
niche in the divine cosmos meant for man would be vacant. And we think
that men have a part to play in this great drama no less than gods, and
so if a few are determined to be white—amen, so be it; but don’t let
them argue as if there were no part to be played in life by black men
and black women, and as if to become white were the sole specific and
panacea for all the ills that flesh is heir to—the universal solvent for
all America’s irritations. And again, if an American family of whatever
condition or hue takes a notion to reside in Africa or in Mexico, or in
the isles of the sea, it is most un-American for any power on this
continent to seek to gainsay or obstruct their departure; but on the
other hand, no power or element of power on this continent, least of all
a self-constituted tribunal of “recent arrivals,” possesses the right to
begin figuring beforehand to calculate what it would require _to send_
ten millions of citizens, whose ancestors have wrought here from the
planting of the nation, to the same places at so much per head—at least
till some one has consulted those heads.

We would not deprecate the fact, then, that America has a Race Problem.
It is guaranty of the perpetuity and progress of her institutions, and
insures the breadth of her culture and the symmetry of her development.
More than all, let us not disparage the factor which the Negro is
appointed to contribute to that problem. America needs the Negro for
ballast if for nothing else. His tropical warmth and spontaneous
emotionalism may form no unseemly counterpart to the cold and
calculating Anglo-Saxon. And then his instinct for law and order, his
inborn respect for authority, his inaptitude for rioting and anarchy,
his gentleness and cheerfulness as a laborer, and his deep-rooted faith
in God will prove indispensable and invaluable elements in a nation
menaced as America is by anarchy, socialism, communism, and skepticism
poured in with all the jail birds from the continents of Europe and
Asia. I believe with our own Dr. Crummell that “the Almighty does not
preserve, rescue, and build up a lowly people merely for ignoble ends.”
And the historian of American civilization will yet congratulate this
country that she has had a Race Problem and that descendants of the
black race furnished one of its largest factors.


For nations as for individuals, a product, to be worthy the term
literature, must contain something characteristic and _sui generis_.

So long as America remained a mere English colony, drawing all her life
and inspiration from the mother country, it may well be questioned
whether there was such a thing as American literature. “Who ever reads
an American book?” it was scornfully asked in the eighteenth century.
Imitation is the worst of suicides; it cuts the nerve of originality and
condemns to mediocrity: and ’twas not till the pen of our writers was
dipped in the life-blood of their own nation and pictured out its own
peculiar heart throbs and agonies that the world cared to listen. The
nightingale and the skylark had to give place to the mocking bird, the
bobolink and the whippoorwill, the heather and the blue bells of
Britain, to our own golden-rod and daisy; the insular and monarchic
customs and habits of thought of old England must develop into the
broader, looser, freer swing of democratic America, before her
contributions to the world of thought could claim the distinction of
individuality and gain an appreciative hearing.

And so our writers have succeeded in becoming national and
representative in proportion as they have from year to year entered more
and more fully, and more and more sympathetically, into the distinctive
life of their nation, and endeavored to reflect and picture its
homeliest pulsations and its elemental components. And so in all the
arts, as men have gradually come to realize that

                    Nothing useless is or low
                    Each thing in its place is best,

and have wrought into their products, lovingly and impartially and
reverently, every type, every tint, every tone that they felt or saw or
heard, just to that degree have their expressions, whether by pen or
brush or rhythmic cadence, adequately and simply given voice to the
thought of Nature around them. No man can prophesy with another’s
parable. For each of us truth means merely the re-presentation of the
sensations and experiences of our personal environment, colored and
vivified—fused into consistency and crytallized into individuality in
the crucible of our own feelings and imaginations. The mind of genius is
merely the brook, picturing back its own tree and bush and bit of sky
and cloud ensparkled by individual salts and sands and rippling motion.
And paradoxical as it may seem, instead of making us narrow and
provincial, this trueness to one’s habitat, this appreciative eye and
ear for the tints and voices of one’s own little wood serves but to
usher us into the eternal galleries and choruses of God. It is only
through the unclouded perception of our tiny “part” that we can come to
harmonize with the “stupendous whole,” and in order to do this our
sympathies must be finely attuned and quick to vibrate under the touch
of the commonplace and vulgar no less than at the hand of the elegant
and refined. Nothing natural can be wholly unworthy; and we do so at our
peril, if, what God has cleansed we presume to call common or unclean.
Nature’s language is not writ in cipher. Her notes are always simple and
sensuous, and the very meanest recesses and commonest byways are fairly
deafening with her sermons and songs. It is only when we ourselves are
out of tune through our pretentiousness and self-sufficiency, or are
blinded and rendered insensate by reason of our foreign and unnatural
“cultivation” that we miss her meanings and inadequately construe her
multiform lessons.

For two hundred and fifty years there was in the American commonwealth a
great _silent_ factor. Though in themselves simple and unique their
offices were those of the barest utility. Imported merely to be hewers
of wood and drawers of water, no artist for many a generation thought
them worthy the sympathetic study of a model. No Shakespeare arose to
distil from their unmatched personality and unparalleled situations the
exalted poesy and crude grandeur of an immortal Caliban. Distinct in
color, original in temperament, simple and unconventionalized in thought
and action their spiritual development and impressionability under their
novel environment would have furnished, it might seem, as interesting a
study in psychology for the poetic pen, as would the gorges of the
Yosemite to the inspired pencil. Full of vitality and natural
elasticity, the severest persecution and oppression could not kill them
out or even sour their temper. With massive brawn and indefatigable
endurance they wrought under burning suns and chilling blasts, in swamps
and marshes,—they cleared the forests, tunneled mountains, threaded the
land with railroads, planted, picked and ginned the cotton, produced the
rice and the sugar for the markets of the world. Without money and
without price they poured their hearts’ best blood into the enriching
and developing of this country. _They wrought but were silent._

The most talked about of all the forces in this diversified
civilization, they seemed the great American fact, the one objective
reality, on which scholars sharpened their wits, at which orators and
statesmen fired their eloquence, and from which, after so long a time,
authors, with varied success and truthfulness have begun at last to draw
subjects and models. Full of imagination and emotion, their sensuous
pictures of the “New Jerusalem,” “the golden slippers,” “the long white
robe,” “the pearly gates,” etc., etc., seem fairly to steam with
tropical luxuriance and naive abandon. The paroxysms of religious fervor
into which this simple-minded, childlike race were thrown by the
contemplation of Heaven and rest and freedom, would have melted into
sympathy and tender pity if not into love, a race less cold and
unresponsive than the one with which they were thrown in closest
contact. There was something truly poetic in their weird moanings, their
fitful gleams of hope and trust, flickering amidst the darkness of their
wailing helplessness, their strange sad songs, the half coherent
ebullitions of souls in pain, which become, the more they are studied,
at once the wonder and the despair of musical critics and imitators. And
if one had the insight and the simplicity to gather together, to digest
and assimilate these original lispings of an unsophisticated people
while they were yet close—so close—to nature and to nature’s God, there
is material here, one might almost believe, as rich, as unhackneyed, as
original and distinctive as ever inspired a Homer, or a Cædmon or other
simple genius of a people’s infancy and lisping childhood.

In the days of their bitterest persecution, their patient endurance and
Christian manliness inspired Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which revolutionized the
thought of the world on the subject of slavery and at once placed its
author in the front rank of the writers of her country and age. Here at
last was a work which England could not parallel. Here was a work
indigenous to American soil and characteristic of the country—a work
which American forces alone could have produced. The subject was at once
seen to be fresh and interesting to the world as well as national and
peculiar to America; and so it has since been eagerly cultivated by
later writers with widely varying degrees of fitness and success.

By a rough classification, authors may be separated into two groups:
first, those in whom the artistic or poetic instinct is uppermost—those
who write to please—or rather who write because _they_ please; who
simply paint what they see, as naturally, as instinctively, and as
irresistibly as the bird sings—with no thought of an audience—singing
because it loves to sing,—singing because God, nature, truth sings
through it. For such writers, to be true to themselves and true to
Nature is the only canon. They cannot warp a character or distort a fact
in order to prove a point. They have nothing to prove. All who care to,
may listen while they make the woods resound with their glad sweet
carolling; and the listeners may draw their own conclusions as to the
meaning of the cadences of this minor strain, or that hushed and almost
awful note of rage or despair. And the myriad-minded multitude attribute
their myriad-fold impressions to the myriad-minded soul by which they
have severally been enchanted, each in his own way according to what he
brings to the witching auditorium. But the singer sings on with his hat
before his face, unmindful, it may be unconscious, of the varied strains
reproduced from him in the multitudinous echoes of the crowd. Such was
Shakespeare, such was George Eliot, such was Robert Browning. Such, in
America, was Poe, was Bryant, was Longfellow; and such, in his own
degree perhaps, is Mr. Howells.

In the second group belong the preachers,—whether of righteousness or
unrighteousness,—all who have an idea to propagate, no matter in what
form their talent enables them to clothe it, whether poem, novel, or
sermon,—all those writers with a purpose or a lesson, who catch you by
the buttonhole and pommel you over the shoulder till you are forced to
give assent in order to escape their vociferations; or they may lure you
into listening with the soft music of the siren’s tongue—no matter what
the expedient to catch and hold your attention, they mean to fetter you
with their one idea, whatever it is, and make you, if possible, ride
their hobby. In this group I would place Milton in much of his writing,
Carlyle in all of his, often our own Whittier, the great reformer-poet,
and Lowell; together with such novelists as E. P. Roe, Bellamy, Tourgee
and some others.

Now in my judgment writings of the first class will be the ones to
withstand the ravages of time. ‘Isms’ have their day and pass away. New
necessities arise with new conditions and the emphasis has to be shifted
to suit the times. No finite mind can grasp and give out the whole
circle of truth. We do well if we can illuminate just the tiny arc which
we occupy and should be glad that the next generation will not need the
lessons we try so assiduously to hammer into this. In the evolution of
society, as the great soul of humanity builds it “more lofty chambers,”
the old shell and slough of didactic teaching must be left behind and
forgotten. The world for instance has outgrown, I suspect, those
passages of Paradise Lost in which Milton makes the Almighty Father
propound the theology of a seventeenth century Presbyterian. But a
passage like the one in which Eve with guileless innocence describes her
first sensations on awaking into the world is as perennial as man.

          “That day I oft remember, when from sleep
          I first awaked and found myself reposed
          Under a shade on flowers, much wondering where
          And what I was, whence thither brought and how.
          Not distant far from thence a murmuring sound
          Of waters issued from a cave, and spread
          Into a liquid plain, then stood unmoved
          Pure as the expanse of Heaven;
                      I thither went
          With unexperienced thought and laid me down
          On the green bank, to look into the clear
          Smooth lake that to me seemed another sky.
          As I bent down to look, just opposite
          A shape within the watery gleam appeared,
          Bending to look on me; I started back,
          It started back; but pleased I soon returned,
          Pleased it returned as soon with answering looks
          Of sympathy and love; there I had fixed
          Mine eyes till now,—and pined with vain desire,
          Had not a voice thus warned me.
                      ‘What thou seest,
          What there thou seest, fair creature, is thyself;
          With thee it came and goes; but follow me,
          And I will bring thee where no shadow stays
          Thy coming and thy soft embraces.’
                      What could I do but follow straight
          Invisibly thus led?
          Till I espied thee, fair indeed and tall,
          Under a plantain; yet methought less fair,
          Less winning soft, less amiably mild
          Than that smooth watery image; back I turned
          Thou following criedst aloud, ‘Return, fair Eve,
          Whom fliest thou? whom thou fliest, of him thou art.
          Part of my soul, I seek thee, and thee claim
          My other half.’”

This will never cease to throb and thrill as long as man is man and
woman is woman.

Now owing to the problematical position at present occupied by
descendants of Africans in the American social polity,—growing, I
presume, out of the continued indecision in the mind of the more
powerful descendants of the Saxons as to whether it is expedient to
apply the maxims of their religion to their civil and political
relationships,—most of the writers who have hitherto attempted a
portrayal of life and customs among the darker race have belonged to our
class II: they have all, more or less, had a point to prove or a mission
to accomplish, and thus their art has been almost uniformly perverted to
serve their ends; and, to add to their disadvantage, most, if not all
the writers on this line have been but partially acquainted with the
life they wished to delineate and through sheer ignorance ofttimes, as
well as from design occasionally, have not been able to put themselves
in the darker man’s place. The art of “thinking one’s self imaginatively
into the experiences of others” is not given to all, and it is
impossible to acquire it without a background and a substratum of
sympathetic knowledge. Without this power our portraits are but death’s
heads or caricatures and no amount of cudgeling can put into them the
movement and reality of life. Not many have had Mrs. Stowe’s power
because not many have studied with Mrs. Stowe’s humility and love. They
forget that underneath the black man’s form and behavior there is the
great bed-rock of humanity, the key to which is the same that unlocks
every tribe and kindred of the nations of earth. Some have taken up the
subject with a view to establishing evidences of ready formulated
theories and preconceptions; and, blinded by their prejudices and
antipathies, have altogether abjured all candid and careful study.
Others with flippant indifference have performed a few psychological
experiments on their cooks and coachmen, and with astounding egotism,
and powers of generalization positively bewildering, forthwith aspire to
enlighten the world with dissertations on racial traits of the Negro. A
few with really kind intentions and a sincere desire for information
have approached the subject as a clumsy microscopist, not quite at home
with his instrument, might study a new order of beetle or bug. Not
having focused closely enough to obtain a clear-cut view, they begin by
telling you that all colored people look exactly alike and end by noting
down every chance contortion or idiosyncrasy as a race characteristic.
Some of their conclusions remind one of the enterprising German on a
tour of research and self-improvement through Great Britain, who
recommended his favorite sauer kraut both to an Irishman, whom he found
sick with fever, and to a Scotchman, who had a cold. On going that way
subsequently and finding the Scotchman well and the Irishman dead, he
writes: _Mem.—Sauer kraut good for the Scotch but death to the Irish_.

This criticism is not altered by our grateful remembrance of those who
have heroically taken their pens to champion the black man’s cause. But
even here we may remark that a painter may be irreproachable in motive
and as benevolent as an angel in intention, nevertheless we have a right
to compare his copy with the original and point out in what respects it
falls short or is overdrawn; and he should thank us for doing so.

It is in no captious spirit, therefore, that we note a few contributions
to this phase of American literature which have been made during the
present decade; we shall try to estimate their weight, their tendency,
their truthfulness and their lessons, if any, for ourselves.

Foremost among the champions of the black man’s cause through the medium
of fiction must be mentioned Albion W. Tourgee. No man deserves more the
esteem and appreciation of the colored people of this country for his
brave words. For ten years he has stood almost alone as the enthusiastic
advocate, not of charity and dole to the Negro, but of justice. The
volumes he has written upon the subject have probably been read by from
five to ten millions of the American people. Look over his list
consecrated to one phase or another of the subject: “A Fool’s Errand,”
“A Royal Gentleman,” “Bricks without Straw,” “An Appeal to Cæsar,” “Hot
Ploughshares,” “Pactolus Prime,”—over three thousand pages—enough almost
for a life work, besides an almost interminable quantity published in

Mr. Tourgee essays to paint life with the coloring of fiction, and yet,
we must say, we do not think him a novelist primarily; that is, novel
making with him seems to be a mere incident, a convenient vehicle
through which to convey those burning thoughts which he is constantly
trying to impress upon the people of America, whether in lecture, stump
speech, newspaper column or magazine article. His power is not that
already referred to of thinking himself imaginatively into the
experiences of others. He does not create many men of many minds. All
his offspring are little Tourgees—they preach his sermons and pray his

In “Pactolus Prime,” for example, one of his latest, his hero, a colored
bootblack in a large hotel, is none other than the powerful,
impassioned, convinced and convincing lecturer, Judge Tourgee himself,
done over in ebony. His caustic wit, his sledge hammer logic, his
incisive criticism, his righteous indignation, all reflect the
irresistible arguments of the great pleader for the Negro; and all the
incidents are arranged to enable this bootblack to impress on senators
and judges, lawyers, and divines, his plea for justice to the Negro,
along with the blacking and shine which he skillfully puts on their
aristocratic toes. And so with all the types which Mr. Tourgee
presents—worthy or pitiful ones always—they uniformly preach or teach,
convict or convert. Artistic criticism aside, it is mainly as a
contribution to polemic literature in favor of the colored man that most
of Tourgee’s works will be judged; and we know of no one who can more
nearly put himself in the Negro’s place in resenting his wrongs and
pleading for his rights. In presenting truth from the colored American’s
standpoint Mr. Tourgee excels, we think, in fervency and frequency of
utterance any living writer, white or colored. Mr. Cable is brave and
just. He wishes to see justice done in the Freedman’s case in equity,
and we honor and revere him for his earnest manly efforts towards that
end. But Mr. Cable does not forget (I see no reason why he should, of
course,) that he is a white man, a Southerner and an ex-soldier in the
Confederate army. To use his own words, he writes, “with an admiration
and affection for the South, that for justice and sincerity yield to
none; in a spirit of faithful sonship to a Southern state.” Of course
this but proves his sincerity, illustrates his candor, and adds weight
to the axiomatic justice of a cause which demands such support from a
thoroughly disinterested party, or rather a party whose interest and
sympathy and affection must be all on the side he criticises and
condemns. The passion of the partisan and the bias of the aggrieved can
never be charged against him. Mr. Cable’s is the impartiality of the
judge who condemns his own son or cuts off his own arm. His attitude is
judicial, convincing, irreproachable throughout.

Not only the Christian conscience of the South, but also its enlightened
self-interest is unquestionably on the side of justice and manly dealing
toward the black man; and one can not help feeling that a cause which
thus enlists the support and advocacy of the “better self” of a nation
must ultimately be invincible: and Mr. Cable, in my judgment, embodies
and represents that Christian conscience and enlightened self-interest
of the hitherto silent South; he vocalizes and inspires its better self.
To him the dishonesty and inhumanity there practiced against the black
race is a blot on the scutcheon of that fair land and doomed to bring in
its wake untold confusion, disaster, and disgrace. From his calm
elevation he sees the impending evil, and with loving solicitude urges
his countrymen to flee the wrath to come. Mr. Tourgee, on the other
hand, speaks with all the eloquence and passion of the aggrieved party
himself. With his whip of fine cords he pitilessly scourges the
inconsistencies, the weaknesses and pettiness of the black man’s
persecutors. The fire is burning within him, he cannot but speak. He has
said himself that he deserves no credit for speaking and writing on this
subject, for it has taken hold of him and possesses him to the exclusion
of almost everything else. Necessity is laid upon him. Not more bound
was Saul of Tarsus to consecrate his fiery eloquence to the cause of the
persecuted Nazarene than is this white man to throw all the weight of
his powerful soul into the plea for justice and Christianity in this
American anomaly and huge inconsistency. Not many colored men would have
attempted Tourgee’s brave defense of Reconstruction and the alleged
corruption of Negro supremacy, more properly termed the period of white
sullenness and desertion of duty. Not many would have dared, fearlessly
as he did, to arraign this country for an enormous pecuniary debt to the
colored man for the two hundred and forty-seven years of unpaid labor of
his ancestors. Not many could so determinedly have held up the glass of
the real Christianity before these believers in a white Christ and these
preachers of the gospel, “Suffer the little _white_ children to come
unto me.” We all see the glaring inconsistency and feel the burning
shame. We appreciate the incongruity and the indignity of having to
stand forever hat in hand as beggars, or be shoved aside as intruders in
a country whose resources have been opened up by the unrequited toil of
our forefathers. We know that our bill is a true one—that the debt is as
real as to any pensioners of our government. But the principles of
patience and forbearance, of meekness and charity, have become so
ingrained in the Negro character that there is hardly enough
self-assertion left to ask as our right that a part of the country’s
surplus wealth be _loaned_ for the education of our children; even
though we know that our present poverty is due to the fact that the toil
of the last quarter century enriched these coffers, but left us the
heirs of crippled, deformed, frost-bitten, horny-handed and empty handed
mothers and fathers. Oh, the shame of it!

A coward during the war gets a few scratches and bruises—often in
_fleeing from the enemy_—and his heirs are handsomely pensioned by his
_grateful_ country! But these poor wretches stood every man to his post
for two hundred and fifty years, digging trenches, building roads,
tunneling mountains, clearing away forests, cultivating the soil in the
cotton fields and rice swamps till fingers dropped off, toes were
frozen, knees twisted, arms stiff and useless—and when their sons and
heirs, with the burdens of helpless parents to support, wish to secure
enough education to enable them to make a start in life, _their_
grateful country sagely deliberates as to the feasibility of sending
them to another undeveloped jungle to show off their talent for
unlimited pioneer work in strange climes! The Indian, during the entire
occupancy of this country by white men, has stood proudly aloof from all
their efforts at development, and presented an unbroken front of
hostility to the introduction and spread of civilization. The Negro,
though brought into the country by force and compelled under the lash to
lend his brawn and sturdy sinews to promote its material growth and
prosperity, nevertheless with perfect amiability of temper and
adaptability of mental structure has quietly and unhesitatingly accepted
its standards and fallen in line with its creeds. He adjusts himself
just as readily and as appreciatively, it would seem, to the higher and
stricter requirements of freedom and citizenship; and although from
beginning to end, nettled and goaded under unprecedented provocation, he
has never once shown any general disposition to arise in his might and
deluge this country with blood or desolate it with burning, as he might
have done. It is no argument to charge weakness as the cause of his
peaceful submission and to sneer at the “inferiority” of a race who
would allow themselves to be made slaves—unrevenged. It _may_ be nobler
to perish red-handed, to kill as many as your battle-axe holds out to
hack and then fall with an exultant yell and savage grin of fiendish
delight on the huge pile of bloody corpses,—expiring with the solace and
unction of having ten thousand wounds all in front. I don’t know. I
sometimes think it depends on where you plant your standard and who
wears the white plume which your eye inadvertently seeks. If Napoleon is
the ideal of mankind, I suppose ’tis only noble to be strong; and true
greatness may consist in an adamantine determination never to serve. The
greatest race with which I am even partially acquainted, proudly boasts
that it has never met another race save as either enemy or victim. They
seem to set great store by this fact and I judge it must be immensely
noble according to their ideals. But somehow it seems to me that those
nations and races who choose the Nazarene for their plumed knight would
find some little jarring and variance between such notions and His
ideals. There could not be at all times perfect unanimity between Leader
and host. A good many of his sayings, it seems to me, would have to be
explained away; not a few of his injunctions quietly ignored, and I am
not sure but the great hulk of his principles and precepts must after
all lie like leaden lumps, an undigested and unassimilable mass on an
uneasy overburdened stomach. I find it rather hard to understand these
things, and somehow I feel at times as if I have taken hold of the wrong
ideal. But then, I suppose, it must be because I have not enough of the
spirit that comes with the blood of those grand old _sea kings_ (I
believe you call them) who shot out in their trusty barks speeding over
unknown seas and, like a death-dealing genius, with the piercing eye and
bloodthirsty heart of hawk or vulture killed and harried, burned and
caroused. This is doubtless all very glorious and noble, and the seed of
it must be an excellent thing to have in one’s blood. But I haven’t it.
I frankly admit my limitations. I am hardly capable of appreciating to
the full such grand intrepidity,—due of course to the fact that the
stock from which I am sprung did not attain that royal kink in its blood
ages ago. My tribe has to own kinship with a very tame and unsanguinary
individual who, a long time ago when blue blood was a distilling in the
stirring fiery world outside, had no more heroic and daring a thing to
do than help a pale sorrow-marked man as he was toiling up a certain
hill at Jerusalem bearing his own cross whereon he was soon to be
ignominiously nailed. This Cyrenian fellow was used to bearing burdens
and he didn’t mind giving a lift over a hard place now and then, with no
idea of doing anything grand or memorable, or that even so much as his
name would be known thereby. And then, too, by a rather strange
coincidence this unwarlike and insignificant kinsman of ours had his
home in a country (the fatherland of all the family) which had afforded
kindly shelter to that same mysterious Stranger, when, a babe and
persecuted by bloody power and heartless jealousy, He had to flee the
land of his birth. And somehow this same country has in its day done so
much fostering and sheltering of that kind—has watched and hovered over
the cradles of religions and given refuge and comfort to the persecuted,
the world weary, the storm tossed benefactors of mankind so often that
she has come to represent nothing stronger or more imposing than the
“eternal womanly” among the nations, and to accept as her mission and
ideal, _loving service_ to mankind.

With such antecedents then the black race in America should not be
upbraided for having no taste for blood and carnage. It is the fault of
their constitution that they prefer the judicial awards of peace and
have an eternal patience to abide the bloodless triumph of right. It is
no argument, therefore, when I point to the record of their physical
supremacy—when the homes and helpless ones of this country were
absolutely at the black man’s mercy and not a town laid waste, not a
building burned, and _not a woman insulted_—it is no argument, I say,
for you to retort: “_He was a coward; he didn’t dare!_” The facts simply
do not show this to have been the case.

Now the tardy conscience of the nation wakes up one bright morning and
is overwhelmed with blushes and stammering confusion because convicted
of dishonorable and unkind treatment of _the Indian_; and there is a
wonderful scurrying around among the keepers of the keys to get out more
blankets and send out a few primers for the “_wards_.” While the black
man, a faithful son and indefeasible heir,—who can truthfully say, “Lo,
these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy
commandment, and yet thou never gavest me a kid that I might make merry
with my friends,”—is snubbed and chilled and made unwelcome at every
merry-making of the family. And when appropriations for education are
talked of, the section for which he has wrought and suffered most,
actually defeats the needed and desired assistance for fear they may not
be able to prevent his getting a fair and equitable share in the

Oh, the shame of it!

In Pactolus Prime Mr. Tourgee has succeeded incomparably, we think, in
photographing and vocalizing the feelings of the colored American in
regard to the Christian profession and the pagan practice of the
dominant forces in the American government. And as an impassioned
denunciation of the heartless and godless spirit of caste founded on
color, as a scathing rebuke to weak-eyed Christians who cannot read the
golden rule across the color line, as an unanswerable arraignment of
unparalleled ingratitude and limping justice in the policy of this
country towards the weaker of its two children, that served it so long
and so faithfully, the book is destined to live and to furnish an
invaluable contribution to this already plethoric department of American

Mr. Cable and Mr. Tourgee represent possibly the most eminent as well as
the most prolific among the writers on this subject belonging to the
didactic or polemic class. A host of others there are—lesser lights, or
of more intermittent coruscations—who have contributed on either side
the debate single treatises, numerous magazine articles or newspaper
editorials, advocating some one theory some another on the so-called
_race problem_. In this group belongs the author of “An Appeal to
Pharaoh,” advocating the deportation absurdity; also the writings of H.
W. Grady; “In Plain Black and White,” “The Brother in Black,” “The South
Investigated,” “A Defense of the Negro Race,” “The Prosperity of the
South Dependent on the Elevation of the Negro,” “The Old South and the
New,” “Black and White,” etc., etc., among which are included articles
from the pen of colored men themselves, such as Mr. Douglass, Dr.
Crummell, Dr. Arnett, Dr. Blyden, Dr. Scarborough, Dr. Price, Mr.
Fortune, and others. These are champions of the forces on either side.
They stand ever at the forefront dealing desperate blows right and left,
now fist and skull, now broad-sword and battle-axe, now with the flash
and boom of artillery; while the little fellows run out ever and anon
from the ranks and deliver a telling blow between the eyes of an
antagonist. All are wrought up to a high tension, some are blinded with
passion, others appalled with dread,—all sincerely feel the reality of
their own vision and earnestly hope to compel their world to see with
their eyes. Such works, full of the fever and heat of debate belong to
the turmoil and turbulence of the time. A hundred years from now they
may be interesting history, throwing light on a feature of these days
which, let us hope, will then be hardly intelligible to an American
citizen not over fifty years old.

Among our artists for art’s sweet sake, Mr. Howells has recently tried
his hand also at painting the Negro, attempting merely a side light in
half tones, on his life and manners; and I think the unanimous verdict
of the subject is that, in this single department at least, Mr. Howells
does not know what he is talking about. And yet I do not think we should
quarrel with _An Imperative Duty_ because it lacks the earnestness and
bias of a special pleader. Mr. Howells merely meant to press the button
and give one picture from American life involving racial complications.
The kodak does no more; it cannot preach sermons or solve problems.

Besides, the portrayal of Negro characteristics was by no means the main
object of the story, which was rather meant, I judge, to be a thumb nail
sketch containing a psychological study of a morbidly sensitive
conscience hectoring over a weak and vacillating will and fevered into
increased despotism by reading into its own life and consciousness the
analyses and terrible retributions of fiction,—a product of the
Puritan’s uncompromising sense of “_right though the heavens fall_,”
irritated and kept sore by being unequally yoked with indecision and
cowardice. Of such strokes Mr. Howells is undoubtedly master. It is true
there is little point and no force of character about the beautiful and
irresponsible young heroine; but as that is an attainment of so many of
Mr. Howells’ models, it is perhaps not to be considered as illustrating
any racial characteristics. I cannot help sharing, however, the
indignation of those who resent the picture in the colored
church,—“evidently,” Mr. Howells assures us, “representing _the best
colored society_”; where the horrified young prig, Rhoda Aldgate, meets
nothing but the frog-like countenances and cat-fish mouths, the musky
exhalations and the “bress de Lawd, Honey,” of an uncultivated people.
It is just here that Mr. Howells fails—and fails because he gives only a
half truth, and that a partisan half truth. One feels that he had no
business to attempt a subject of which he knew so little, or for which
he cared so little. There is one thing I would like to say to my white
fellow countrymen, and especially to those who dabble in ink and affect
to discuss the Negro; and yet I hesitate because I feel it is a fact
which persons of the finer sensibilities and more delicate perceptions
must know instinctively: namely, that it is an insult to humanity and a
sin against God to publish any such sweeping generalizations of a race
on such meager and superficial information. We meet it at every
turn—this obtrusive and offensive vulgarity, this gratuitous sizing up
of the Negro and conclusively writing down his equation, sometimes even
among his ardent friends and bravest defenders. Were I not afraid of
falling myself into the same error that I am condemning, I would say it
seems an _Anglo-Saxon characteristic_ to have such overweening
confidence in his own power of induction that there is no equation which
he would acknowledge to be indeterminate, however many unknown
quantities it may possess.

Here is an extract from Dr. Mayo, a thoroughly earnest man and sincerely
friendly, as I believe, to the colored people.

  “Among these women are as many grades of native, intellectual, moral
  and executive force as among the white people. The plantations of
  the Gulf, the Atlantic coast and the Mississippi bottoms swarm with
  negro women who seem hardly lifted above the brutes. I know a group
  of young colored women, many of them accomplished teachers, who bear
  themselves as gently and with as varied womanly charms as any score
  of ladies in the land. The one abyss of perdition _to this class_ is
  the slough of unchastity in which, _as a race_ they still flounder,
  half conscious that it is a slough—the double inheritance of savage
  Africa and slavery.”

Now there may be one side of a truth here, yet who but a self-confident
Anglo-Saxon would dare make such a broad unblushing statement about a
people _as a race_? Some developments brought to light recently through
the scientific Christianity and investigating curiosity of Dr. Parkhurst
may lead one to suspect the need of missionary teaching to “elevate” the
white race; and yet I have too much respect for the autonomy of races,
too much reverence for the collective view of God’s handiwork to speak
of any such condition, however general, as characterizing _the race_.
The colored people do not object to the adequate and truthful portrayal
of types of their race in whatever degree of the scale of civilization,
or of social and moral development, is consonant with actual facts or
possibilities. As Mr. Howells himself says, “A man can be anything along
the vast range from angel to devil, and without living either the good
thing or the bad thing in which his fancy dramatizes him, he can
perceive it”—and I would add, can appreciate and even enjoy its
delineation by the artist. The average Englishman takes no exception to
the humorous caricatures of Dickens or to the satires and cynicisms of
Thackeray. The Quilps and the Bernsteins are but strongly developed
negatives of our universal human nature on the dark side. We recognize
them as genre sketches,—and with the Agneses and Esthers and Aunt
Lamberts as foils and correctives, we can appreciate them accordingly:
while we do not believe ourselves to be the original of the portrait,
there is enough sympathy and fellow feeling for the character to prevent
our human relationship from being outraged and insulted. But were
Dickens to introduce an average scion of his countrymen to a whole
congregation of _Quilps_, at the same time sagely informing him that
these represented _the best there was_ of English life and morals, I
strongly suspect the charming author would be lifted out on the toe of
said average Englishman’s boot, in case there shouldn’t happen to be a
good horsewhip handy.

Our grievance then is not that we are not painted as angels of light or
as goody-goody Sunday-school developments; but we do claim that a man
whose acquaintanceship is so slight that he cannot even discern
diversities of individuality, has no right or authority to hawk “the
only true and authentic” pictures of a race of human beings. Mr.
Howells’ point of view is precisely that of a white man who sees colored
people at long range or only in certain capacities. His conclusions
about the colored man are identical with the impressions that will be
received and carried abroad by foreigners from all parts of the globe,
who shall attend our Columbian Exposition for instance, and who, through
the impartiality and generosity of our white countrymen, will see
colored persons only as bootblacks and hotel waiters, grinning from ear
to ear and bowing and courtesying for the extra tips. In the same way
Mr. Howells has met colored persons in hotels or on the commons
promenading and sparking, or else acting as menials and lazzaroni. He
has not seen, and therefore cannot be convinced that there exists a
quiet, self-respecting, dignified class of easy life and manners (save
only where it crosses the roughness of their white fellow countrymen’s
barbarity) of cultivated tastes and habits, and with no more in common
with the class of his acquaintance than the accident of
complexion,—beyond a sympathy with their wrongs, or a resentment at
being socially and morally classified with them, according as the
principle of altruism or of self love is dominant in the individual.

I respectfully submit that there is hardly a colored church in any
considerable city in this country, which could be said in any sense to
represent _the best colored society_, in which Rhoda Aldgate could not
have seen, when she opened her eyes, persons as quietly and as
becomingly dressed, as cultivated in tone and as refined in manner, as
herself; persons, too, as sensitive to rough contact and as horribly
alive as she could be (though they had known it from childhood) to the
galling distinctions in this country which insist on _levelling down_
all individuals more or less related to the Africans. So far from the
cringing deference which Mr. Howells paints as exhibited to “the young
white lady,” in nine cases out of ten the congregation would have
supposed intuitively that she was a quadroon, so far from the unusual
was her appearance and complexion. In not a few such colored churches
would she have found young women of aspiration and intellectual activity
with whom she could affiliate without nausea and from whom she could
learn a good many lessons—and, sadly I say it, even more outside the
churches whom bitterness at racial inconsistency of white Christians had
soured into a silent disbelief of all religion. In either class she
would have found no trouble in reaching a heart which could enter into
all the agony of her own trial and bitter grief. Nor am I so sure, if
she had followed her first gushing impulse to go South and “elevate” the
race with whom she had discovered her relationship, that she would have
found even them so ready to receive her condescending patronage.

There are numerous other inadvertent misrepresentations in the book—such
as supposing that colored people voluntarily and deliberately prefer to
keep to themselves in all public places and that from choice “they have
their own neighborhoods, their own churches, their own amusements, their
own resorts,”—the intimation that there is a “_black_ voice,” a black
character, easy, irresponsible and fond of what is soft and pleasant, a
black ideal of art and a black barbaric taste in color, a black
affinity—so that in some occult and dreadful way one, only one-sixteenth
related and totally foreign by education and environment, can still feel
that one-sixteenth race calling her more loudly than the
fifteen-sixteenths. I wish to do Mr. Howells the justice to admit,
however, that one feels his blunders to be wholly unintentional and due
to the fact that he has studied his subject merely from the outside.
With all his matchless powers as a novelist, not even he can yet “think
himself imaginatively” into the colored man’s place.

To my mind the quaintest and truest little bit of portraiture from
low-life that I have read in a long time is the little story that
appeared last winter in the Harpers, of the “_Widder Johnsing and how
she caught the preacher_.” It is told with naive impersonality and
appreciative humor, and is quite equal, I think, both in subject and
treatment to the best of Mrs. Stowe’s New England dialect stories. It is
idyllic in its charming simplicity and naturalness, and delightfully
fresh in its sparkling wit and delicious humor. We do not resent such
pictures as this of our lowly folk—such a homely and honest

     “Pomegranate, which, if cut deep down the middle,
     Shows a heart within blood tinctured of a _veined humanity_,”

is always sweet to the taste and dear to the heart, however plain and
humble the setting.

A longer and more elaborate work, Harold, published anonymously, comes
properly in our group second, the didactic novel. It gives the picture
of a black Englishman cultured and refined, brought in painful contact
with American,—or rather _un-American_, color prejudice. The point of
the book seems to be to show that education for the black man is a
curse, since it increases his sensitiveness to the indignities he must
suffer in consequence of white barbarity. The author makes Harold, after
a futile struggle against American inequalities, disappear into the
jungles of Africa, “there to wed a dusky savage,” at the last cursing
the day he had ever suspected a broader light or known a higher
aspiration; a conclusion which, to my mind, is a most illogical one. If
the cultivated black man cannot endure the white man’s barbarity—the
cure, it seems to me, would be to cultivate the white man. Civilize
both, then each will know what is due from man to man, and that reduces
at once to a minimum the friction of their contact.

In the same rank as Harold belongs that improbability of
improbabilities, Doctor Huguet, by the arch-sensationalist, Ignatius
Donelly. As its purpose is evidently good, I shall not undertake to
review the book. Suffice it to say the plot hinges on the exchange of
soul between the body of a black chicken thief and that of a cultivated
white gentleman, and sets forth the indignities and wrongs to which the
cultured soul, with all its past of refinement and learning, has to
submit in consequence of its change of cuticle. The book is an able
protest against that snobbishness which elevates complexion into a
touchstone of aristocracy and makes the pigment cells of a man’s skin
his badge of nobility regardless of the foulness or purity of the soul
within; the only adverse criticism from the colored man’s point of view
being the selection of a chicken thief as his typical black man; but on
the principle of antitheses this may have been artistically necessary.

I shall pass next to what I consider the most significant contribution
to this subject for the last ten years—a poem by Maurice Thompson in the
New York Independent for January 21, 1892, entitled _A Voodoo Prophecy_.
From beginning to end it is full of ghoulish imagery and fine poetic
madness. Here are a few stanzas of it:

         “I am the prophet of the dusky race,
           The poet of wild Africa. Behold,
         The midnight vision brooding in my face!
                     Come near me,
                     And hear me,
           While from my lips the words of Fate are told.

         A black and terrible memory masters me,
           The shadow and the substance of deep wrong;
         You know the past, hear now what is to be:
                     From the midnight land,
                     Over sea and sand,
           From the green jungle, hear my Voodoo-song;

         A tropic heat is in my bubbling veins,
           Quintessence of all savagery is mine,
         The lust of ages ripens in my reins,
                     And burns
                     And yearns,
           Like venom-sap within a noxious vine.

         Was I a heathen? Ay, I was—am still
           A fetich worshipper; but I was free
         To loiter or to wander at my will,
                     To leap and dance,
                     To hurl my lance,
           And breathe the air of savage liberty.

         You drew me to a higher life, you say;
           Ah, drove me, with the lash of slavery!
         Am I unmindful? Every cursed day
                     Of pain
                     And chain
           Roars like a torrent in my memory.

         You make my manhood whole with ‘equal rights!’
           Poor empty words! Dream you I honor them?—
         I who have stood on Freedom’s wildest hights?
                     My Africa,
                     I see the day
           When none dare touch thy garment’s lowest hem.

         You cannot make me love you with your whine
           Of fine repentance. Veil your pallid face
         In presence of the shame that mantles mine;
                     At command
           Of the black prophet of the Negro race!

         I hate you, and I live to nurse my hate,
           Remembering when you plied the slaver’s trade
         In my dear land ... How patiently I wait
                     The day,
                     Not far away,
           When all your pride shall shrivel up and fade.

         Yea, all your whiteness darken under me!
           Darken and be jaundiced, and your blood
         Take in dread humors from my savagery,
                     Your will
           Lapse into mine and seal my masterhood.

         You, seed of Abel, proud of your descent,
           And arrogant, because your cheeks are fair,
         Within my loins an inky curse is pent,
                     To flood
                     Your blood
           And stain your skin and crisp your golden hair.

         As you have done by me, so will I do
           By all the generations of your race;
         Your snowy limbs, your blood’s patrician blue
                     Shall be
                     Tainted by me,
           And I will set my seal upon your face!

         Yea, I will dash my blackness down your veins,
           And through your nerves my sensuousness I’ll fling;
         Your lips, your eyes, shall bear the musty stains
                     Of Congo kisses,
                     While shrieks and hisses
           Shall blend into the savage songs I sing!

         Your temples will I break, your fountains fill,
           Your cities raze, your fields to deserts turn;
         My heathen fires shall shine on every hill,
                     And wild beasts roam,
                     Where stands your home;—
           Even the wind your hated dust shall spurn.

         I will absorb your very life in me,
           And mold you to the shape of my desire;
         Back through the cycles of all cruelty
                     I will swing you,
                     And wring you,
           And roast you in my passions’ hottest fire.

         You, North and South, you, East and West,
           Shall drink the cup your fathers gave to me;
         My back still burns, I bare my bleeding breast,
                     I set my face,
                     My limbs I brace,
           To make the long, strong fight for mastery.

         My serpent fetich lolls its withered lip
           And bares its shining fangs at thought of this:
         I scarce can hold the monster in my grip.
                     So strong is he,
                     So eagerly
           He leaps to meet my precious prophecies.

         Hark for the coming of my countless host,
           Watch for my banner over land and sea.
         The ancient power of vengeance is not lost!
                     Lo! on the sky
                     The fire-clouds fly,
           And strangely moans the windy, weltering sea.”

Now this would be poetry if it were only truthful. Simple and sensuous
it surely is, but it lacks the third requisite—truth. The Negro is
utterly incapable of such vindictiveness. Such concentrated venom might
be distilled in the cold Saxon, writhing and chafing under oppression
and repression such as the Negro in America has suffered and is
suffering. But the black man is in real life only too glad to accept the
olive branch of reconciliation. He merely asks to be let alone. To be
allowed to pursue his destiny as a free man and an American citizen, to
rear and educate his children in peace, to engage in art, science,
trades or industries according to his ability,—and _to go to the wall if
he fail_. He is willing, if I understand him, to let bygones be bygones.
He does not even demand satisfaction for the centuries of his ancestors’
unpaid labor. He asks neither pension, nor dole nor back salaries; but
is willing to start from the bottom, all helpless and unprovided for as
he is, with absolutely nothing as his stock in trade, with no capital,
in a country developed, enriched, and made to blossom through his
father’s “sweat and toil,”—with none of the accumulations of ancestors’
labors, with no education or moral training for the duties and
responsibilities of freedom; nay, with every power, mental, moral, and
physical, emasculated by a debasing slavery—he is willing, even glad to
take his place in the lists alongside his oppressors, who have had every
advantage, to be tried with them by their own standards, and to ask no
quarter from them or high Heaven to palliate or excuse the ignominy of a

The Voodoo Prophecy has no interest then as a picture of the black, but
merely as a revelation of the white man. Maurice Thompson in penning
this portrait of the Negro, has, unconsciously it may be, laid bare his
own soul—its secret dread and horrible fear. And this, it seems to me,
is the key to the Southern situation, the explanation of the apparent
heartlessness and cruelty of some, and the stolid indifference to
atrocity on the part of others, before which so many of us have stood
paralyzed in dumb dismay. The Southerner is not a cold-blooded villain.
Those of us who have studied the genus in its native habitat can testify
that his impulses are generous and kindly, and that while the South
presents a solid phalanx of iron resistance to the Negro’s advancement,
still as individuals to individuals they are warm-hearted and often even
tender. And just here is the difference between the Southerner and his
more philosophical, less sentimental Northern brother. The latter in an
abstract metaphysical way rather wants you to have all the rights that
belong to you. He thinks it better for the country, better for him that
justice, universal justice be done. But he doesn’t care to have the
blacks, in the concrete, too near him. He doesn’t know them and doesn’t
want to know them. He really can’t understand how the Southerner could
have let those little cubs get so close to him as they did in the old
days—nursing from the same bottle and feeding at the same breast.

To the Southerner, on the other hand, race antipathy and color-phobia
_as such_ does not exist. Personally, there is hardly a man of them but
knows, and has known from childhood, some black fellow whom he loves as
dearly as if he were white, whom he regards as indispensable to his own
pleasures, and for whom he would break every commandment in the
decalogue to save him from any general disaster. But our Bourbon seems
utterly incapable of generalizing his few ideas. He would die for A or
B, but suddenly becomes utterly impervious to every principle of logic
when you ask for the simple golden rule to be applied to the class of
which A or B is one. Another fact strikes me as curious. A Southern
white man’s regard for his black friend varies in inverse ratio to the
real distance between them in education and refinement. Puck expresses
it—“I can get on a great deal better with a nigger than I can with a
Negro.” And Mr. Douglass puts it: “Let a colored man be out at elbows
and toes and half way into the gutter and there is no prejudice against
him; but let him respect himself and be a man and Southern whites can’t
abide to ride in the same car with him.”

Why this anomaly? Is it pride? Ordinarily, congeniality increases with
similarity in taste and manners. Is it antipathy to color? It does not
exist. The explanation is the white man’s dread dimly shadowed out in
this Voodoo Prophecy of Maurice Thompson, and fed and inspired by such
books as Minden Armais and a few wild theorizers who have nothing better
to do with their time than spend it advocating the fusion of races as a
plausible and expedient policy. Now I believe there are two ideas which
master the Southern white man and incense him against the black race. On
this point he is a monomaniac. In the face of this feeling he would not
admit he was convinced of the axioms of Geometry. The one is personal
and present, the fear of Negro political domination. The other is for
his posterity—the future horror of being lost as a race in this virile
and vigorous black race. Relieve him of this nightmare and he becomes
“as gentle as the sucking dove.” With that dread delusion maddening him
he would drive his sword to the hilt in the tender breast of his darling
child, did he fancy that through her the curse would come.

Now argument is almost supersensible with a monomaniac. What is most
needed is a sedative for the excited nerves, and then a mental tonic to
stimulate the power of clear perception and truthful cerebration. The
Southern patient needs to be brought to see, by the careful and cautious
injection of cold facts and by the presentation of well selected object
lessons that so far as concerns his first named horror of black
supremacy politically, the usual safeguards of democracy are in the
hands of intelligence and wealth in the South as elsewhere. The weapons
of fair argument and persuasion, the precautionary bulwark of education
and justice, the unimpeachable supremacy and insuperable advantage of
intelligence and discipline over mere numbers—are all in his reach. It
is to his interest to help make the black peasant an intelligent and
self-respecting citizen. No section can thrive under the incubus of an
illiterate, impoverished, cheerless and hopeless peasantry. Let the
South once address herself in good faith to the improvement of the
condition of her laboring classes, let her give but a tithe of the care
and attention which are bestowed in the North on its mercurial and
inflammable importations, let her show but the disposition in her
relative poverty merely to utter the benediction, _Be ye warmed and fed
and educated_, even while she herself has not the wherewithal to emulate
the Pullman villages and the Carnegie munificence, let her but give him
a fair wage and an honest reckoning and a kindly God-speed,—and she will
find herself in possession of the most tractable laborer, the most
faithful and reliable henchman, the most invaluable co-operator and
friendly vassal of which this or any country can boast.

So far as regards the really less sane idea that amicable relations
subsisting between the races may promote their ultimate blending and
loss of identity, it hardly seems necessary to refute it. Blending of
races in the aggregate is simply an unthinkable thought, and the union
of individuals can never fall out by accident or haphazard. There must
be the deliberate wish and intention on each side; and the average black
man in this country is as anxious to preserve his identity and transmit
his type as is the average white man. In any case, hybridity is in no
sense dependent on sectional or national amity. Oppression and outrage
are not the means to chain the affections. Cupid, who knows no bolt or
bars, is more wont to be stimulated with romantic sympathy towards a
forbidden object unjustly persecuted. The sensible course is to remove
those silly and unjust barriers which protect nothing and merely call
attention to the possibilities of law-breaking, and depend instead on
religion and common sense to guide, control and direct in the paths of
purity and right reason.

The froth and foam, the sticks and debris at the water-top may have an
uncertain movement, but as deep calleth unto deep the mighty ocean swell
is always true to the tides; and whatever the fluctuations along the
ragged edge between the races, the home instinct is sufficiently strong
with each to hold the great mass true to its attractions. If Maurice
Thompson’s nightmare vision is sincere on his part, then, it has no
objective reality; ’tis merely a hideous phantasm bred of his own
fevered and jaundiced senses; if he does not believe in it himself, it
was most unkind and uncalled for to publish abroad such inflaming and
irritating fabrications.

After this cursory glance at a few contributions which have peculiarly
emphasized one phase of our literature during the last decade or two, I
am brought to the conclusion that an authentic portrait, at once
æsthetic and true to life, presenting the black man as a free American
citizen, not the humble slave of _Uncle Tom’s Cabin_—but the _man_,
divinely struggling and aspiring yet tragically warped and distorted by
the adverse winds of circumstance, has not yet been painted. It is my
opinion that the canvas awaits the brush of the colored man himself. It
is a pathetic—a fearful arraignment of America’s conditions of life,
that instead of that enrichment from the years and days, the summers and
springs under which, as Browning says,

        “The flowers turn double and the leaves turn flowers,”—

the black man’s native and original flowers have in this country been
all hardened and sharpened into thorns and spurs. In literature we have
no artists for art’s sake. Albery A. Whitman in “_Twasinta’s Seminoles_”
and “_Not a Man and Yet a Man_” is almost the only poet who has
attempted a more sustained note than the lyrics of Mrs. Harper, and even
that note is almost a wail.

The fact is, a sense of freedom in mind as well as in body is necessary
to the appreciative and inspiring pursuit of the beautiful. A bird
cannot warble out his fullest and most joyous notes while the wires of
his cage are pricking and cramping him at every heart beat. His tones
become only the shrill and poignant protest of rage and despair. And so
the black man’s vexations and chafing environment, even since his
physical emancipation has given him speech, has goaded him into the
eloquence and fire of oratory rather than the genial warmth and cheery
glow of either poetry or romance. And pity ’tis, ’tis true. A race that
has produced for America the only folk-lore and folk songs of native
growth, a race which has grown the most original and unique assemblage
of fable and myth to be found on the continent, a race which has
suggested and inspired almost the only distinctive American note which
could chain the attention and charm the ear of the outside world—has as
yet found no mouthpiece of its own to unify and perpetuate its wondrous
whisperings—no painter-poet to distil in the alembic of his own
imagination the gorgeous dyes, the luxuriant juices of this rich and
tropical vegetation. It was the glory of Chaucer that he justified the
English language to itself—that he took the homely and hitherto despised
Saxon elements and ideas, and lovingly wove them into an artistic
product which even Norman conceit and uppishness might be glad to
acknowledge and imitate. The only man who is doing the same for Negro
folk-lore is one not to the manner born. Joel Chandler Harris has made
himself rich and famous by simply standing around among the black
railroad hands and cotton pickers of the South and compiling the simple
and dramatic dialogues which fall from their lips. What I hope to see
before I die is a black man honestly and appreciatively portraying both
the Negro as he is, and the white man, occasionally, as seen from the
Negro’s standpoint.

There is an old proverb “The devil is always painted _black_—by white
painters.” And what is needed, perhaps, to reverse the picture of the
lordly man slaying the lion, is for the lion to turn painter.

Then too we need the calm clear judgment of ourselves and of others born
of a disenchantment similar to that of a little girl I know in the
South, who was once being laboriously held up over the shoulders of a
surging throng to catch her first glimpse of a real live president. “Why
Nunny,” she cried half reproachfully, as she strained her little neck to
see—“_It’s nuffin but a man!_”

When we have been sized up and written down by others, we need not feel
that the last word is said and the oracles sealed. “It’s nuffin but a
man.” And there are many gifts the giftie may gie us, far better than
seeing ourselves as others see us—and one is that of Bion’s maxim “_Know
Thyself_.” Keep true to your own ideals. Be not ashamed of what is
homely and your own. Speak out and speak honestly. Be true to yourself
and to the message God and Nature meant you to deliver. The young David
cannot fight in Saul’s unwieldy armor. Let him simply therefore gird his
loins, take up his own parable and tell this would-be great American
nation “_A chile’s amang ye takin’ notes_;” and when men act the part of
cowards or wild beasts, this great silent but open-eyed constituency has
a standard by which they are being tried. Know thyself, and know those
around at their true weight of solid intrinsic manhood without being
dazzled by the fact that littleness of soul is often gilded with wealth,
power and intellect. There can be no nobility but that of soul, and no
catalogue of adventitious circumstances can wipe out the stain or
palliate the meanness of inflicting one ruthless, cruel wrong. ’Tis not
only safer, but nobler, grander, diviner,

                             “To be that which we destroy
             Than, by destruction, dwell in doubtful joy.”

With this platform to stand on we can with clear eye weigh what is
written and estimate what is done and ourselves paint what is true with
the calm spirit of those who know their cause is right and who believe
there is a God who judgeth the nations.

                           WHAT ARE WE WORTH?

I once heard Henry Ward Beecher make this remark: “Were Africa and the
Africans to sink to-morrow, how much poorer would the world be? A little
less gold and ivory, a little less coffee, a considerable ripple,
perhaps, where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans would come together—that
is all; not a poem, not an invention, not a piece of art would be missed
from the world.”

This is not a flattering statement; but then we do not want flattery if
seeing ourselves as others see us is to help us in fulfilling the higher
order, “know thyself.” The world is often called cold and hard. I don’t
know much about that; but of one thing I am sure, it is intensely
practical. Waves of sentiment or prejudice may blur its old eyes for a
little while but you are sure to have your bill presented first or last
with the inexorable “How much owest thou?” What have you produced, what
consumed? What is your real value in the world’s economy? What do you
give to the world over and above what you have cost? What would be
missed had you never lived? What are you worth? What of actual value
would go down with you if you were sunk into the ocean or buried by an
earthquake to-morrow? Show up your cash account and your balance sheet.
In the final reckoning do you belong on the debit or the credit side of
the account? according to a fair and square, an impartial and practical
reckoning. It is by this standard that society estimates individuals;
and by this standard finally and inevitably the world will measure and
judge nations and races.

It may not be unprofitable then for us to address ourselves to the task
of casting up our account and carefully overhauling our books. It may be
well to remember at the outset that the operation is purely a
mathematical one and allows no room for sentiment. The good housewife’s
pet chicken which she took when first hatched, fed from her own hand and
fondled on her bosom as lovingly as if it were a babe, is worth no more
(for all the affection and care lavished on it) when sold in the
shambles: and that never-to-be-forgotten black hen that stole into the
parlor, flew upon the mantel looking for a nest among those handsome
curios, smashed the sèvers vases and picked the buds from the lovely tea
rose—so exasperatingly that the good woman could never again endure the
sight of her—this ill-fated bird is worth no less. There are sections of
this country in which the very name of the Negro, even in homeopathic
doses, stirs up such a storm of feeling that men fairly grow wild and
are unfit to discuss the simplest principles of life and conduct where
the colored man is concerned; and you would think it necessary for the
Ethiopian actually to change his skin before there can be any harmonious
living or lucid thinking: there are a few nooks and crannies, on the
other hand, in another quarter of the same country, in which that name
embodies an idealized theory and a benevolent sentiment; and the black
man (the blacker the better) is the petted nursling, the haloed idea,
the foregone conclusion. In these Arcadias, it is as good capital as
pushing selfishness and aspiring mediocrity need ask, to be advertised
as one of the oppressed race and probably born a slave.

But after all sentiment, whether adverse or favorable, is ephemeral.
Ever shifting and unreliable, it can never be counted in estimating
values. The sentiments of youth are outgrown in age, and we like to-day
what we despised or were indifferent to yesterday. Nine-tenths of the
mis-called color prejudice or race prejudice in this country is mere
sentiment governed by the association of ideas. It is not color
prejudice at all. The color of a man’s face _per se_ has no more to do
with his worthiness and companionableness than the color of his eyes or
the shades of his hair. You admire the one or think the other more
beautiful to rest the gaze upon. But every one with brains knows and
must admit that he must look deeper than this for the man. Mrs.
Livermore once said in my hearing: “It is not that the Negro is black;
Spaniards, Portuguese, East Indians, enter our parlors, sup at our
tables, and, if they have a sufficiently long bank account, they may
marry our daughters: but the Negro is weak—and we don’t like weakness.”

Now this dislike it is useless to inveigh against and folly to raile at.
We share it ourselves and often carry it to a more unjustifiable extent.
For as a rule the narrower the mind and the more circumscribed the
experience, the greater will be the exaggeration of accidents over
substance, and of circumstance over soul. It does no good to argue with
the poor sea-sick wretch who, even on land after the voyage, is
nauseated by the sight of clear spring water. In vain you show the
unreason of the feeling. This, you explain, is a different time, a
different place, a different stage of progress in the circulation of
waters. That was salt, this is fresh, and so on. You might as well be
presenting syllogisms to Ætna. “Yes, my dear Fellow,” he cries, “You
talk admirably; but you don’t know how I feel. You don’t know how sick I
was on that nasty ship!” And so your rhetoric cannot annihilate the
association of ideas. He feels; _you know_. But he will outgrow his
feeling,—and you are content to wait.

Just as impervious to reason is the man who is dominated by the
sentiment of race prejudice. You can only consign him to the fatherly
hand of Time; and pray that your own mental sight be not thus obscured
and your judgment warped in your endeavors to be just and true.

Sentiment and cant, then, both being ruled out, let us try to study our
subject as the world finally reckons it—not certain crevices and
crannies of the earth, but the cool, practical, business-like world.
What are we worth? not in Georgia nor in Massachusetts; not to our
brothers and sisters and cousins and aunts, every one of whom would
unhesitatingly declare us worth a great gold-lump; nor to the
exasperated neighbor over the way who would be just as ready, perhaps,
to write us down a most unmitigated nuisance. But what do we represent
to the world? What is our market value. Are we a positive and additive
quantity or a negative factor in the world’s elements. What have we cost
and what do we come to?

The calculation may be made in the same way and on the same principle
that we would estimate the value of any commodity on the market. Men are
not very unlike watches. We might estimate first the cost of material—is
it gold or silver or alloy, solid or plated, jewelled or sham paste.
Settle the relative value of your raw material, and next you want to
calculate how much this value has been enhanced by labor the delicacy
and fineness, the honesty and thoroughness of the workmanship; then the
utility and beauty of the product and its adaptability to the end and
purpose of its manufacture; and lastly is there a demand in the market
for such an article. Does it meet a want, _will it go_ and _go right_?
Is it durable and reliable. How often do you have to wind it before it
runs down, how often repair it. Does it keep good time and require but
little watching and looking after. And there is no radical difference,
after all, between the world’s way of estimating men and our usual way
of valuing watches. In both the fundamental item is the question of
material, and then the refining and enhancement of that material through
labor, and so on through the list.

What then can we say for our raw material?

Again I must preface an apology for anything unpalatable in our menu. I
promised, you remember, to leave out the sentiment—you may stir it in
afterwards, mixing thoroughly according to taste. We must discuss facts,
candidly and bluntly, without rhetoric or cant if we would have a clear
light on our problem.

Now whatever notions we may indulge on the theory of evolution and the
laws of atavism or heredity, all concede that no individual character
receives its raw material newly created and independent of the rock from
whence it was hewn. No life is bound up within the period of its
conscious existence. No personality dates its origin from its birthday.
The elements that are twisted into the cord did not begin their
formation when first the tiny thread became visible in the great warp
and filling of humanity. When first we saw the light many of the threads
undoubtedly were spun and the color and fineness of the weft determined.
The materials that go to make the man, the probabilities of his
character and activities, the conditions and circumstances of his
growth, and his quantum of resistance and mastery are the resultant of
forces which have been accumulating and gathering momentum for
generations. So that, as one tersely expresses it, in order to reform a
man, you must begin with his great grandmother.

A few years ago a certain social scientist was struck by a remarkable
coincidence in the name of a number of convicts in the State prison of
New York. There were found thirty-five or forty men, of the same name
with but slight modification in the spelling, all convicted of crimes
similar in character. Looking into the matter, he traced them every one
back to one woman of inferior character who had come from England in one
of the first colonial ships. _And that woman had been a convict and
charged with pretty nearly the same crime._

Rightly to estimate our material, then, it is necessary to go back of
the twenty or thirty years during which we have been in possession, and
find out the nature of the soil in which it has been forming and

There is or used to be in England a system of entail by which a lot of
land was fixed to a family and its posterity forever, passing always on
the death of the father to his eldest son. A man may misuse or abuse, he
may impoverish, mortgage, sterilize, eliminate every element of
value—but he can never sell. He may cut down every tree, burn every
fence and house, abstract by careless tillage, or by no tillage, every
nutritive element from the soil, encumber it to two or three times its
value and destroy forever its beauty and fertility—but he can never rid
himself of it. That land with all its encumbrances and liabilities, its
barrenness and squalidness, its poverty and its degradation is
inexorably, inevitably, inalienably his; and like a shattered and
debased personality it haunts him wherever he goes. An heir coming into
an estate is thus often poorer than if he had no inheritance. He is
chained to a life long possession of debt, toil, responsibility, often
disgrace. Happier were it for him if he could begin life with nothing—an
isolated but free man with no capital but his possibilities, with no
past and no pedigree. And so it often is with men. These bodies of ours
often come to us mortgaged to their full value by the extravagance,
self-indulgence, sensuality of some ancestor. Some man, generations
back, has encumbered his estate for strong drink, his descendants coming
into that estate have the mortgage to pay off, principal and interest.
Another cut down the fences of character by debauchery and vice,—and
these have to ward off attacks of the enemy without bulwarks or
embattlements. They have burnt their houses of purity and integrity,
have rendered the soil poor and unproductive by extravagance and
folly,—and the children have to shiver amid the storms of passion and
feed on husks till they can build for themselves a shelter and fertilize
their farms. Not very valuable estates, you will say. Well, no,—nothing
to boast of, perhaps. But an energetic heir can often pay off some of
the liabilities and leave the estate to his children less involved than
when he received it. At least he can arrest the work of destruction and
see to it that no further encumbrances are added through his folly and

In estimating the value of our material, therefore, it is plain that we
must look into the deeds of our estates and ferret out their history.
The task is an individual one, as likewise its application. Certainly
the original timber as it came from the African forests was good enough.
No race of heathen are more noted for honesty and chastity than are the
tribes of Africa. For one of their women to violate the laws of purity
is a crime punishable with death; and so strictly honest are they, it is
said, that they are wont to leave their commodities at the place of
exchange and go about their business. The buyer coming up takes what he
wishes to purchase and leaves its equivalent in barter or money. A
returned missionary tells the story that certain European traders, when
at a loss as to the safe keeping of their wares, were told by a native
chief, “Oh just lay them down there. _They are perfectly safe, there are
no Christians here._”

Whatever may be said of its beauty, then, the black side of the stream
with us is pretty pure, and has no cause to blush for its honesty and
integrity. From the nature of the case the infusions of white blood that
have come in many instances to the black race in this country are not
the best that race afforded. And if anything further is needed to
account for racial irregularities—the warping and shrinking, the
knotting and cracking of the sturdy old timber, the two hundred and
fifty years of training here are quite sufficient to explain all. I have
often thought, since coming in closer contact with the Puritan element
in America, what a different planing and shaping this timber might have
received under their hands!

As I compare the Puritan’s sound, substantial, sanctified common sense
with the Feudal froth and foam of the South; the Puritan’s liberal,
democratic, ethical and at the same time calculating, economical,
stick-to-ative and go-ahead-ative spirit,—with the free and easy
lavishness, the aristocratic notions of caste and class distinctions,
the pliable consciences and unbending social bars amid which I was
reared;—I have wished that it might have been ordered that as my race
had to serve a term of bondage it might have been under the discipline
of the successors of Cromwell and Milton, rather than under the training
and example of the luxurious cavaliers. There is no doubt that the past
two hundred and fifty years of working up the material we now inherit,
has depreciated rather than enhanced its value. We find in it the
foolish ideas of aristocracy founded on anything else than a moral
claim; we find the contempt for manual labor and the horror of horny
palms, the love of lavish expenditure and costly display, and—alas, that
we must own it—the laxness of morals and easy-going consciences
inherited and imitated from the old English gentry of the reigns of
Charles and Anne. But to know our faults is one step toward correcting
them, and there are, I trust, no flaws in this first element of value,
_material_, which may not be planed and scraped and sand-papered out by
diligent and strenuous effort. One thing is certain, the flaws that are
simply ingrained in the timber are not our responsibility. A man is to
be praised primarily not for having inherited fine tools and faultless
materials but for making the most of the stuff he has, and doing his
best in spite of disadvantages and poor material. The individual is
responsible, not for what he has not, but for what he has; and the vital
part for us after all depends on the use we make of our material.

Many a passable article has by diligent workmanship been made even from
inferior material. And this brings us to our second item of value—Labor.

This is a most important item. It would seem sometimes that it is labor
that creates all value. A gold mine is worth no more than common clay
till it is worked. The simple element of labor bestowed on iron, the
cheapest and commonest of metals, multiplies its value four hundred
thousand times, making it worth sixty-five times its weight in gold, _e.

 A pound of good iron is worth about                              4 cts.

 A pound of inch screws                                            $1.00

 A pound of steel wire from                               $3.00 to $7.00

 A pound of sewing needles                                        $14.00

 A pound of fish hooks from                             $20.00 to $50.00

 A pound of jewel screws for watches                           $3,500.00

 A pound of hair springs for watches                          $16,000.00

 While a pound of fine gold in standard coin is worth
   only about                                                    $248.00

Now it is the same fundamental material in the hair springs valued at
$16,000.00 which was sold in the rough at 4 cts. per pound. It is labor
that has thus enhanced its value. Now let us see if there is a parallel
rise of value in the material of which men are made.

No animal, the scientists tell us, is in infancy so utterly helpless, so
completely destitute of the means of independent existence, so entirely
worthless in itself as the world estimates values, as is man. The chick
just out of the shell can pick up its own food and run away from
approaching danger. Touch a snapping turtle just a moment after its
birth, and it will bite at you. Cut off its head and it will still bite.
Break open the egg of the young and the vivacious little creature will,
even in the embryo, try to fight for its rights and maintain its
independence. But the human babe can for weeks and months, do nothing
but cry and feed and fear. It is a constant drain on the capital of its
parents, both physically and mentally. It is to be fed, and worked for,
and sheltered and protected. It cannot even defend itself against a
draft of wind.

What is it worth? Unsentimentally and honestly,—it is worth just as much
as a leak is worth to a ship, or what the mistletoe is worth to the oak.
He is a parasite, a thief, a destroyer of values. He thrives at
another’s expense, and filches from that other every atom of his own
existence. The infatuated mother, it is true, would not sell him, she
will tell you, for his weight in gold; but that is sentiment—not
business. Besides, there is no danger of her having the chance to make
such a bargain. No one will ever tempt her with any such offer. The
world knows too well what an outlay of time and money and labor must be
made before he is worth even his weight in ashes. His present worth no
one would accept even as a gift—and it is only the prospect of future
development of worth that could induce any one, save that mother, to
take up the burden. What an expenditure of toil and care, of heart power
and brain power, what planning, what working, what feeding, what
enriching, what sowing and sinking of values before one can tell whether
the harvest is worth the output. Yet, how gladly does the mother pour
out her strength and vitality, her energy, her life that the little
bankrupt may store up capital for its own use. How anxiously does she
hang over the lumpish little organism to catch the first awakening of a
soul. And when the chubby little hands begin to swing consciously before
the snapping eyes, and the great toe is caught and tugged towards the
open mouth, when the little pink fists for the first time linger
caressingly on her cheek and breast, and the wide open eyes say
distinctly “I know you, I love you,”—how she strains him to her bosom as
her whole soul goes out to this newly found intelligence in the
impassioned cry of Carlyle: “_Whence—and Oh Heavens, whither!_”

              “How poor, how rich, how abject, how august,
              How complicate, how wonderful is man!”

It is labor, development, training, careful, patient, painful, diligent
toil that must span the gulf between this vegetating life germ (now
worth nothing but toil and care and trouble, and living purely at the
expense of another)—and that future consummation in which “the elements
are so mixed that Nature can stand up and say to all the world, ‘_This
is a man_.’”

It is a heavy investment, requires a large outlay of money on long time
and large risk, no end of labor, skill, pains. Education is the word
that covers it all—the working up of this raw material and fitting it
into the world’s work to supply the world’s need—the manufacture of men
and women for the markets of the world. But there is no other labor
which so creates value. The value of the well developed man has been
enhanced far more by the labor, bestowed than is the iron in the watch
springs. The value of the raw material was far below zero to begin with;
but this “quintessence of dust” has become, _through labor_, “the beauty
of the world, the paragon of animals,—noble in reason and infinite in

What a piece of work, indeed!

Education, then, is the safest and richest investment possible to man.
It pays the largest dividends and gives the grandest possible product to
the world—a man. The demand is always greater than the supply—and the
world pays well for what it prizes.

Now what sort of workmanship are we putting on our raw material. What
are we doing for education? The man-factories among our people make, I
think, a fairly good showing. Figures are encouraging things to deal
with, and too they represent something tangible in casting up our
accounts. There are now 25,530 colored schools in the United States with
1,353,352 pupils; the colored people hold in landed property for
churches and schools $25,000,000. 2,500,000 colored children have
learned to read and most of these to write also. 22,956 colored men and
women are teaching in these schools. There are sixty-six academies and
high schools and one hundred and fifty schools for advanced education
taught by colored teachers, together with seven colleges administered by
colored presidents and faculties. There are now one thousand college
bred Negro ministers in the country, 250 lawyers, 749 physicians; while,
according to Dr. Rankin, there are 247 colored students preparing
themselves in the universities of Europe.

The African Methodists alone, representing the unassisted effort of the
colored people for self-development, have founded thirty-eight
institutes and colleges, with landed property valued at $502,650, and
134 teachers supported entirely by the self denying effort of the
colored people themselves.

This looks like an attempt, to say the least, to do the best we can with
our material. One feels there has not been much shirking here; the
workmanship may be crude sometimes, when measured by more finished
standards,—but they have done what they could; in their poverty and
inexperience, through self denial and perseverance, they are struggling
upward toward the light.

There is another item to be taken into account in estimating the value
of a product, to which we must give just a thought in passing, _i. e._,
the necessary waste of material in the making.

The Sultan of Turkey once sent to China to procure a _fac simile_ of
some elegant plates he had had, all of which were now broken but one and
that, unfortunately, was cracked. He sent this one as a pattern and
requested that the set be renewed exactly like the former ones. He was
surprised on receiving the plates to note the fabulous sum charged for
them,—but the Celestial explained that the cost was greatly increased by
having _to put in the crack_,—so many had been lost in the making.

The anecdote is not my own, but it suggests a thought that may be useful
to us and I borrow it for that purpose. They tell us that the waste of
material is greater in making colored men and women than in the case of
others—that a larger percentage of our children die under twenty-one
years of age, especially in large cities, and that a larger number who
reach that age and beyond, are to be classed among the world’s invalids
and paupers. According to the census of 1880 the average death rate
throughout the country was, among the whites 14.74 per 1000; among
colored 17.28 per 1000: the highest among whites being in New Mexico,
22.04, lowest in Arizona, 7.91 per 1000. Among colored, the mortality
ranges from 35.25 in the District of Columbia where it is the highest,
to 1.89 in Arizona, the lowest.

For 1889 the relative death-rate of the two races in the District of
Columbia was: whites, 15.96 per 1000; colored, 30.48, about double. In
1888 they stood 18+ to 30+; in 1886 and ’87, about 17 to 31; in ’85 and
’86, 17 to 32. Especially noticeable is the difference in the mortality
of children. This is simply alarming. The report for 1889 shows that out
of the 5,152 deaths occurring in the District of Columbia during that
year, 634 were white infants under one year old, while 834, an excess of
200, within the same limits were colored. Yet the white population of
the District outnumbers the colored two to one. The Health Commissioner,
in his report for that year, says: “This material difference in
mortality may be charged to a great extent to the massing of colored
people in alleys and unhealthy parts of the city and to their unsanitary
surroundings: while there is no doubt that a very large proportion of
these children die in consequence of being fed improper and unhealthy
food, especially cheap and badly prepared condensed milk, and cow’s milk
which has been allowed to stand to the point of acidity after having
been kept in vessels badly or unskillfully cleaned.” And he adds, “if
the general statistics of infant mortality seem astounding to the
public, the cause can most frequently be found in the reprehensible
custom of committing little impoverished waifs to hired nurses and foul
feeding bottles rather than allow them the food that nature has

Now all this unquestionably represents a most wanton and flagrant
_waste_ of valuable material. By sapping out the possibilities of a
healthy and vigorous existence it is deliberately and flagitiously
breeding and multiplying paupers, criminals, idiots, drunkards,
imbeciles and lunatics to infest and tax the commonwealth. The number
spoiled in the making necessarily adds to the cost of those who survive.
It is like the Sultan’s cracked dinner-plates. It is no use to go into
hysterics and explode in Ciceronian phillippics against life insurance
companies for refusing to insure or charging a higher premium for
colored policies. With them it is simply a question of dollars and
cents. What are you worth? What are your chances, and what does it cost
to take your risks in the aggregate? If thirty-five colored persons out
of every thousand are, from any cause whatever, lost in the making, the
remaining nine hundred and sixty-five will have to share the loss among
them. This is an unavoidable law. No man can dissociate himself from his
kind. The colored gentleman who keeps his horses, fares sumptuously, and
lives in luxury is made to feel the death gasps of every squalid denizen
of the alley and poor-house. It is God’s own precaution to temper our
self-seeking by binding our sympathies and interests indissolubly with
the helpless and the wretched.

What our men of means need to do, then, is to devote their money, their
enlightened interest, their careful attention to the improvement of
sanitation among the poor. Let some of those who can command real estate
in healthful localities build sweet and clean and wholesome tenements
_on streets_ and rent them at reasonable rates to the worthy poor who
are at present forced into association with the vileness and foulness of
alleys and filthy courts by the unfeeling discrimination of white
dealers. Let some colored capitalists buy up a few of those immense
estates in the South, divide them into single farms with neat, cheery,
well-ventilated, healthsome cottages to be rented to the colored tenants
who are toiling all these weary years in the one-room log hut, like
their own cheerless mules—just to fodder themselves.

In cities, low priced houses on streets are almost uniformly kept for
the white poor. I know of numerous houses in Washington the rent of
which is no dearer than colored people are paying in alleys—but the
advertisement says, “not rented to colored people.” If the presence of a
colored tenant in a neighborhood causes property to depreciate, it may
be a question of sentiment,—it must be a question of business. The
former it is superfluous to inveigh against or even to take cognizance
of. It is possibly subject to enlightenment, and probably a sickness not
unto death. But the practical reason underlying it is directly our
concern and should command our energetic consideration. It is largely a
question of what are we worth—and as such, subject to our immediate
responsibility and amendment. If improvement is possible, if it is in
our power to render ourselves _valuable_ to a community or neighborhood,
it should be the work of the earnest and able men and women among us,
the moral physicians and reformers, to devise and apply a remedy. Sure
it is that the burden rests on all till the deliverance comes. The
richest and most highly favored cannot afford to be indifferent or to
rest quietly complacent.

In rural districts, the relative mortality of colored people is not so
excessive, still the poverty and destitution, the apparent dearth of
accumulation notwithstanding ceaseless drudging toil is something
phenomenal in labor statistics. I confess I have felt little enthusiasm
for the labor riots which seem epidemic at the North. Carnegie’s men at
Homestead, for instance, were among the best paid workmen in the
country, receiving many of them $240 per month, living luxuriously,
dictating their own terms as to who should work with them, how many
hours, and what special labor they will perform. Their employers are
forced to hire so many and such men—for these laboring despots insist on
an exact division of labor, no one must be called on to work outside his
specialty. Then they must share profits, but be excused from all concern
in losses—a patent adjustable sliding scale for wages which slides up
beautifully, but never down! If the Northern laboring man has not become
a tyrant, I would like to know what tyranny is.

But I wonder how many know that there are throughout the Southland able
bodied, hard working men, toiling year in and year out, from sunrise to
dusk, for fifty cents per day, out of which they must feed and shelter
and clothe themselves and their families! That they often have to take
their wage in tickets convertible into meat, meal and molasses at the
village grocery, owned by the same ubiquitous employer! That there are
tenants holding leases on farms who toil sixteen hours to the day and
work every chick and child in their possession, not sparing even the
drudging wife—to find at the end of the harvesting season and the
squaring up of accounts that their accumulations have been like
gathering water in a sieve.

Do you ask the cause of their persistent poverty? It is not found in the
explanation often vouchsafed by the white landlord—that the Negro is
indolent, improvident and vicious. Taking them man for man and dollar
for dollar, I think you will find the Negro, in ninety-nine cases out of
a hundred, not a whit behind the Anglo-Saxon of equal chances. It is a
fact which every candid man who rides through the rural districts in the
South will admit, that in progressive aspirations and industry the Negro
is ahead of the white man of his chances. Indeed it would not be hard to
show that the white man _of his chances_ does not exist. The “Crackers”
and “poor-whites” were never slaves, were never oppressed or
discriminated against. Their time, their earnings, their activities have
always been at their own disposal; and pauperism in their case can be
attributed to nothing but stagnation,—moral, mental, and physical
immobility: while in the case of the Negro, poverty can at least be
partially accounted for by the hard conditions of life and labor,—the
past oppression and continued repression which form the vital air in
which the Negro lives and moves and has his being.

One often hears in the North an earnest plea from some lecturer for “our
working girls” (of course this means white working girls). And recently
I listened to one who went into pious agonies at the thought of the
future mothers of Americans having to stand all day at shop counters;
and then advertised with applause a philanthropic firm who were giving
their girls a trip to Europe for rest and recreation! I am always glad
to hear of the establishment of reading rooms and social entertainments
to brighten the lot of any women who are toiling for bread—whether they
are white women or black women. But how many have ever given a thought
to the pinched and down-trodden colored women bending over wash-tubs and
ironing boards—with children to feed and house rent to pay, wood to buy,
soap and starch to furnish—lugging home weekly great baskets of clothes
for families who pay them for a month’s laundrying barely enough to
purchase a substantial pair of shoes!

Will you call it narrowness and selfishness, then, that I find it
impossible to catch the fire of sympathy and enthusiasm for most of
these labor movements at the North?

I hear these foreigners, who would boycott an employer if he hired a
colored workman, complain of wrong and oppression, of low wages and long
hours, clamoring for eight-hour systems and insisting on their right to
have sixteen of the twenty-four hours for rest and self-culture, for
recreation and social intercourse with families and friends—ah, come
with me, I feel like saying, I can show you workingmen’s wrong and
workingmen’s toil which, could it speak, would send up a wail that might
be heard from the Potomac to the Rio Grande; and _should it unite and
act_, would shake this country from Carolina to California.

But no man careth for their souls. The labor interests of the colored
man in this country are as yet dumb and limp. The unorganized mass has
found neither tongue nor nerve. In the free and liberal North, thanks to
the amalgamated associations and labor unions of immigrant laborers, who
cannot even speak English,—the colored man is relegated to the
occupations of waiter and barber, unless he has a taste for school
teaching or politics. A body of men who still need an interpreter to
communicate with their employer, will threaten to cut the nerve and
paralyze the progress of an industry that gives work to an American-born
citizen, or one which takes measures to instruct any apprentice not
supported by the labor monopoly. A skilled mechanic, a friend of mine,
secured a job in one of our cities and was seen by union men at work on
his house. He was immediately ordered in murderous English to take down
his scaffolding and leave the town. Refusing to do so, before night he
was attacked by a force that overwhelmed him and he was obliged to
leave. Such crushing opposition is not alone against colored persons.
These amalgamated and other unions hold and are determined to continue
holding an impenetrable monopoly on the labor market, assuming supreme
censorship as regards the knowledge and practice of their trade.

In the South, on the other hand, where the colored man virtually holds
the labor market, he is too uncertain and unorganized to demand anything
like a fair share of the products of his toil. And yet the man who
thinks, must see that our labor interests lie at the foundation of our
material prosperity. The growth of the colored man in this country must
for a long time yet be estimated on his value and productiveness as a
laborer. In adding up the account the aggregate of the great toiling
mass largely overbalances the few who have acquired means and leisure.
The nation judges us as workingmen, and poor indeed is that man or race
of men who are compelled to toil all the weary years ministering to no
higher want than that of bread. To feed is not the chief function of
this material that has fallen to our care to be developed and perfected.
It is an enormous waste of values to harness the whole man in the narrow
furrow, plowing for bread. There are other hungerings in man besides the
eternal all-subduing hungering of his despotic stomach. There is the
hunger of the eye for beauty, the hunger of the ear for concords, the
hungering of the mind for development and growth, of the soul for
communion and love, for a higher, richer, fuller living—a more abundant
life! And every man owes it to himself to _let nothing in him starve_
for lack of the proper food. “What is man,” says Shakespeare, “if his
chief good and market of his time be but to sleep and feed!” Yet such
slavery as that is the settled lot of four-fifths the laboring men of
the Southland. This, I contend, is an enormous, a profligate waste of
the richest possibilities and the divinest aptitudes. And we owe it to
humanity, we owe it pre-eminently to those of our own household, to
enlarge and enrich, so far as in us lies, the opportunity and grasp of
every soul we can emancipate. Surely there is no greater boon we can
bestow on our fellow-man in this life, none that could more truly
command his deepest gratitude and love, than to disclose to his soul its
possibilities and mend its opportunities,—to place its rootlets in the
generous loam, turn its leaves towards the gracious dews and warm
sunlight of heaven and let it grow, let it mature in foliage, flower and
fruit for GOD AND THE RACE! Philanthropy will devise means—an object is
not far to seek.

Closely akin to the value that may be said to have been wasted through
the inclemency and barrenness of circumstance, through the sickness, sin
and death that wait on poverty and squalor, a large item of worth has
undoubtedly been destroyed by mistaken and unscientific
manufacture—foolhardy educators rashly attempting to put in some
theoretically desirable _crack_—the classical crack, or the professional
crack, or the artistic-æsthetic-accomplishments crack—into material
better fitted for household pottery and common every-day stone and iron
ware. I want nothing I may say to be construed into an attack on
classical training or on art development and culture. I believe in
allowing every longing of the human soul to attain its utmost reach and
grasp. But the effort must be a fizzle which seeks to hammer souls into
preconstructed molds and grooves which they have never longed for and
cannot be made to take comfort in. The power of appreciation is the
measure of an individual’s aptitudes; and if a boy hates Greek and Latin
and spends all his time whittling out steamboats, it is rather foolish
to try to force him into the classics. There may be a locomotive in him,
but there is certainly no foreshadowing evidence of either the teacher
or preacher. It is a waste of forces to strain his incompetence, and
smother his proficiencies. If his hand is far more cunning and clever
than his brain, see what he can best do, and give him a chance according
to his fitness; try him at a trade.

Industrial training has been hitherto neglected or despised among us,
due, I think, as I have said elsewhere, to two causes: first, a mistaken
estimate of labor arising from its association with slavery and from its
having been despised by the only class in the South thought worthy of
imitation; and secondly, the fact that the Negro’s ability to work had
never been called in question, while his ability to learn Latin and
construe Greek syntax needed to be proved to sneering critics. “Scale
the heights!” was the cry. “Go to college, study Latin, preach, teach,
orate, wear spectacles and a beaver!”

Stung by such imputations as that of Calhoun that if a Negro could prove
his ability to master the Greek subjunctive he might vindicate his title
to manhood, the newly liberated race first shot forward along this line
with an energy and success which astonished its most sanguine friends.

This may not have been most wise. It certainly was quite natural; and
the result is we find ourselves in almost as ludicrous a plight as the
African in the story, who, after a sermon from his missionary pleading
for the habiliments of civilization, complacently donned a Gladstone hat
leaving the rest of his body in its primitive simplicity of attire. Like
him we began at the wrong end. Wealth must pave the way for learning.
Intellect, whether of races or individuals, cannot soar to the
consummation of those sublime products which immortalize genius, while
the general mind is assaulted and burdened with “what shall we eat, what
shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed.” Work must first
create wealth, and wealth leisure, before the untrammeled intellect of
the Negro, or any other race, can truly vindicate its capabilities.
Something has been done intellectually we all know. That one black man
has written a Greek grammar is enough to answer Calhoun’s sneer; but it
is leisure, the natural outgrowth of work and wealth, which must furnish
room, opportunity, possibility for the highest endeavor and most
brilliant achievement. Labor must be the solid foundation stone—the
_sine qua non_ of our material value; and the only effective preparation
for success in this, as it seems to me, lies in the establishment of
industrial and technical schools for teaching our colored youth trades.
This necessity is obvious for several reasons. First, a colored child,
in most cases, can secure a trade in no other way. We had master
mechanics while the Negro was a chattel, and the ingenuity of brain and
hand served to enrich the coffers of his owner. But to-day skilled labor
is steadily drifting into the hands of white workmen—mostly foreigners.
Here it is cornered. The white engineer holds a tight monopoly both of
the labor market and of the science of his craft. Nothing would induce
him to take a colored apprentice or even to work beside a colored
workman. Unless then trades are to fall among the lost arts for us as a
people, they must be engrafted on those benevolent institutions for
Negro training established throughout the land. The youth must be taught
to use his trigonometry in surveying his own and his neighbor’s farm; to
employ his geology and chemistry in finding out the nature of the soil,
the constituents drafted from it by each year’s crop and the best way to
meet the demand by the use of suitable renewers; to apply his mechanics
and physics to the construction and handling of machinery—to the
intelligent management of iron works and water works and steam works and
electric works. One mind in a family or in a town may show a penchant
for art, for literature, for the learned professions, or more bookish
lore. You will know it when it is there. No need to probe for it. It is
a light that cannot be hid under a bushel—and I would try to enable that
mind to go the full length of its desires. Let it follow its bent and
develop its talent as far as possible: and the whole community might
well be glad to contribute its labor and money for the sustenance and
cultivation of this brain. Just as earth gives its raw material, its
carbons, hydrogen, and oxygen, for the tree which is to elaborate them
into foliage, flower and fruit, so the baser elements, bread and money
furnished the true brain worker come back to us with compound interest
in the rich thought, the invention, the poem, the painting, the statue.
Only let us recognize our assignment and not squander our portion in
over fond experiments. James Russell Lowell says, “As we cannot make a
silk purse out of a sow’s ear, no more can we perform the opposite
experiment without having a fine lot of spoiled silk on our hands.”

With most of us, however, the material, such as it is, has been already
delivered. The working of it up is also well under way. The gold, the
silver, the wood, the hay, the stubble, whatever there was at hand has
all gone in. Now can the world use it? Is there a demand for it, does it
perform the functions for which it was made, and is its usefulness
greater than the cost of its production? Does it pay expenses and have
anything over.

The world in putting these crucial questions to men and women, or to
races and nations, classifies them under two heads—as consumers or
producers. The man who consumes as much as he produces is simply _nil_.
It is no matter to the world economically speaking whether he is in it
or out of it. He is merely one more to count in taking the census. The
man who consumes more than he produces is a destroyer of the world’s
wealth and should be estimated precisely as the housekeeper estimates
moths and mice. These are the world’s parasites, the shirks, the lazy
lubbers who hang around rum shops and enter into mutual relationships
with lamp posts to bear each the other’s burdens, moralizing all the
while (wondrous moralists and orators they often are!) and insisting
that the world owes them a living! To be sure the world owes them
nothing of the kind. The world would consider it a happy riddance from
bad rubbish if they would pay up their debt and move over to Mars. Every
day they live their unproductive bodies sink and destroy a regular
portion of the world’s values. At the very lowest estimate, a boy who
has reached the age of twenty, has already burned up between three and
four thousand dollars of the world’s possessions. This is on the very
closest and most economical count; I charge him nothing for fuel or
lights, allowing him to have warmed by fires that would have burned for
others and estimating the cost simply of what he has eaten and worn, _i.
e._ the amount which he has actually sunk of the world’s wealth. I put
his board at the moderate sum of ten dollars per month, and charge him
the phenomenally small amount of thirty dollars a year for clothing and
incidentals. This in twenty years gives him a debt of three thousand
dollars, which no honest man should be willing to leave the world
without settling. The world does not owe them a living then—the world
only waits for them to square up and change their residence. It is only
they who produce more than they consume, that the world owes, or even
acknowledges as having any practical value.

Now to which class do we belong? The question must in the first place be
an individual one for every man of whatever race: Am I giving to the
world an equivalent of what it has given and is giving me? Have I a
margin on the outside of consumption for surplus production? We owe it
to the world to give out at least as much as we have taken in, but if we
aim to be accounted a positive value we must leave it a little richer
than we found it. The boy who dies at twenty leaving three thousand
dollars in bank to help another, has just paid expenses. If he lives
longer it increases his debit and should be balanced by a corresponding
increase on the credit side. The life that serves to develop another,
the mother who toils to educate her boy, the father who invests his
stored-up capital in education, giving to the world the energies and
usefulness of his children trained into a well disciplined manhood and
womanhood has paid his debt in the very richest coin,—a coin which is
always legal tender, a priceless gift, the most precious payment we can
make for what we have received. And we may be sure, if we can give no
more than a symmetric life, an inspiring thought, a spark caught from a
noble endeavor, its value will not be lost.

Previous to 1793 America was able to produce unlimited quantities of
cotton, but unable to free the fibre from the seeds. Eli Whitney came to
the rescue of the strangled industry and perfected a machine which did
the work needed. The deliverance which he wrought was complete. The
following year America’s exports of cotton to England were increased
from not one pound in previous years to 1,600,000 pounds. He gave

Just before the battle of Quebec Wolf repeated and enjoyed Gray’s Elegy
saying he valued that gem more highly than the capture of the city
before which he was encamped. The next day the city was taken and Wolf
was laid to rest. But the world is in debt to both the poet and the
soldier—a boundless debt, to the one for an eternal thought-gem, to the
other for immortal heroism and devoted patriotism.

Once there lived among men One whom sorrowing millions for centuries
since have joyed to call friend—One whose “come unto me ye that are
heavy laden” has given solace and comfort to myriads of the human race.
_He gave a life._

We must as individuals compare our cost with what we are able to give.
The worth of a race or a nation can be but the aggregate worth of its
men and women. While we need not indulge in offensive boasting, it may
not be out of place in a land where there is some adverse criticism and
not a little unreasonable prejudice, quietly to take account of stock
and see if we really represent a value in this great American
commonwealth. The average American is never too prejudiced, I think, to
have a keen appreciation for the utilities; and he is certainly not
behind the rest of the world in his clear perception of the purchasing
power of a dollar. Beginning here, then, I find that, exclusive of the
billions of wealth _given_ by them to enrich another race prior to the
passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, the colored people of America
to-day hold in their own right $264,000,000 of taxable property; and
this is over and above the $50,000,000 which collapsed in the Freedman’s
Savings Bank when that gigantic iniquity paralyzed the hope and shocked
the faith of an inexperienced and unfinancial people.

One would like to be able to give reliable statistics of the
agricultural and mechanical products of the colored laborer, but so far
I have not been able to obtain them. It is a modest estimate, I am sure,
to ascribe fully two-thirds of the 6,940,000 bales of cotton produced in
1888 to Negro cultivation. The reports give estimates only in bulk as to
the products of a state or county. Our efficient and capable census
enumerators never draw the color line on labor products. You have no
trouble in turning to the page that shows exactly what percentage of
colored people are illiterate, or just how many have been condemned by
the courts; no use taking the trouble to specify whether it was for the
larceny of a ginger cake, or for robbing a bank of a cool half million
and skipping off to Canada: it’s all crime of course, and crime
statistics and illiteracy statistics must be accurately detailed—and

Similar commendable handling meets the colored producer from the
managers of our Big American Show at Chicago which we are all so
nervously anxious shall put the best foot foremost in bowing to the
crowned heads and the gracious lords and ladies from over the waters. To
allow any invention or mechanism, art or farm product to be accredited a
black man would be drawing the color line! And our immaculate American
could never be guilty of anything so vile as drawing a color line!!!

I am unable to say accurately, then, just how many bales of cotton,
pounds of tobacco, barrels of molasses and bushels of corn and wheat are
given to the world through Negro industry. The same difficulty is met in
securing authentic information concerning their inventions and patents.
The records of the Patent Office at Washington do not show whether a
patentee is white or colored. And all inventions and original
suggestions made by a colored man before emancipation were necessarily
accredited to some white individual, a slave not being able to take the
oath administered to the applicant for a patent. Prof. Wright, however,
by simply collecting through personal inquiry the number of colored
patentees which could be remembered and identified by examiners and
attorneys practicing before the Patent Office authorities, published
upwards of fifty in the A. M. E. Review for April, 1886. Doubtless this
number was far within the truth, and many new patents have been taken
out since his count was made. Almost daily in my walk I pass an ordinary
looking black man, who, I am told, is considering an offer of $30,000
for his patent rights on a corn planter, which, by the way, has been
chosen as part of the Ohio exhibit for the Columbian Exposition. He has
secured as many as half a dozen patents within a few years and is
carrying around a “new machine” in his head every day.

Granville Wood, of Cincinnati, has given valuable returns to the world
as an electrician; and there is no estimating the money in the outright
gift of this people through unremunerated toil. The Negro does not
always show a margin over and above consumption; but this does not
necessarily in his case prove that he is not a producer. During the
agitations for adverse legislation against the Chinese, the charge was
alleged that they spent nothing in the country. They hoarded their
earnings, lived on nothing, and finally returned to China to live in
luxury and to circulate the wealth amassed in this country. A similar
complaint can never be lodged against the Negro. Poor fellow, he
generally lives pretty well up to his income. He labors for little and
spends it all. He has never yet gained the full consent of his mind to
“take his gruel a little thinner” till his little pile has grown a bit.
He does not like to seem short. And had he the wage of a thousand a year
his bigheartedness would immediately put him under the painful necessity
of having it do the entertainment of five thousand. He must eat, and is
miserable if he can’t dress; and seems on the whole internally fitted
every way to the style and pattern of a millionaire, rather than to the
plain, plodding, stingy old path of common sense and economy. This is a
flaw in the _material_ of the creature. The grain just naturally runs
that way. If our basal question of economics were put to him: “_What do
you give—are you adding something every year to the world’s stored up
capital?_” His ingenuous answer would be, as the ghost of a smile flits
across his mobile lips—“Yea, Lord; I give back _all_. I am even now
living on the prospects of next year’s income. I give my labor at
accommodation rates, and forthwith reconvert my wages into the general
circulation. Funds, somehow, don’t seem to stick to me. I have no
talents, or smaller coins either, hid in a napkin.” It will be well for
him to learn, however, that it is not what we make but what we save that
constitutes wealth. The hod-carrier who toils for $1.50 a day, spending
the dollar and laying up the half, is richer than the congressman with
an annual income of $5000 and annual duns of $8000. What he most
urgently needs to learn is systematic saving. He works hard enough
generally—but does not seem able to retrench expenses—to cut off the
luxuries which people of greater income and larger foresight, seeing to
be costly and unnecessary would deny themselves. He wants to set to work
vigorously to widen the margin outside the expenditures. He cannot be
too deeply impressed with the fact that tobacco and liquors—even leaving
out their moral aspects—are too costly to be indulged in by any who are
not living on the interest of capital ready in store. A man living on
his earnings should eschew luxuries, if he wishes to produce wealth. But
when those luxuries deteriorate manhood, they impoverish and destroy the
most precious commodity we can offer the world.

For after all, the highest gifts are not measurable in dollars and
cents. Beyond and above the class who run an account with the world and
merely manage honestly to pay _in kind_ for what they receive, there is
a noble army—the Shakespeares and Miltons, the Newtons, Galileos and
Darwins,—Watts, Morse, Howe, Lincoln, Garrison, John Brown—a part of the
world’s roll of honor—whose price of board and keep dwindles into
nothingness when compared with what the world owes them; men who have
taken of the world’s bread and paid for it in immortal thoughts,
invaluable inventions, new facilities, heroic deeds of loving
self-sacrifice; men who dignify the world for their having lived in it
and to whom the world will ever bow in grateful worship as its heroes
and benefactors. It may not be ours to stamp our genius in enduring
characters—but we can give what we are _at its best_.

Visiting the slave market in Boston one day in 1761, Mrs. John Wheatley
was attracted by the modest demeanor and intelligent countenance of a
delicate looking black girl just from the slave ship. She was quite nude
save for a piece of coarse carpet she had tied about her loins, and the
only picture she could give of her native home was that she remembered
her mother in the early morning every day pouring out water before the
rising sun. The benevolent Mrs. Wheatley expended some labor in
polishing up this crude gem, and in 1773 the gifted Phillis gave to the
world a small octavo volume of one hundred and twenty precious pages,
published in London and dedicated to the Countess of Huntingdon. In
1776, for some lines she had sent him, she received from the greatest
American the following tribute dated at Cambridge:

  MISS PHILLIS:— ... I thank you most sincerely for your polite notice
  of me in the elegant lines you enclosed; and however undeserving I
  may be of such encomium and panegyric, the style and manner exhibit
  a striking proof of your poetical talents; in honor of which and as
  a tribute justly due to you, I would have published the poem had I
  not been apprehensive that, while I only meant to give the world
  this new instance of your genius, I might have incurred the
  imputation of vanity. This and nothing else determined me not to
  give it place in the public prints. If you should ever come to
  Cambridge or near headquarters, I shall be happy to see a person so
  favored by the Muses, and to whom nature has been so liberal and
  beneficent in her dispensations. I am, with great respect,

                                         Your obedient humble servant,
                                                 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

That girl paid her debts _in song_.

In South Carolina there are two brothers, colored men, who own and
conduct one of the most extensive and successful farms in this country
for floriculture. Their system of irrigating and fertilizing is the most
scientific in the state, and by their original and improved methods of
grafting and cultivating they have produced a new and rich variety of
the rose called _Loiseaux_, from their name. Their roses are famous
throughout Europe and are specially prized by the French for striking
and marvellous beauty. The Loiseaux brothers send out the incense of
their grateful returns to the world in the _sweet fragrance of roses_.

Some years ago a poor and lowly orphan girl stood with strange emotions
before a statue of Benjamin Franklin in Boston. Her bosom heaved and her
eyes filled as she whispered between her clenched teeth, “Oh, how I
would like to make a stone man?” Wm. Lloyd Garrison became her
providence and enlarged her opportunity; _she paid for it_ in giving to
the world the _Madonna with the Christ and adoring Angels_, now in the
collection of the Marquis of Bute. From her studio in Rome Edmonia
Lewis, the colored sculptress, continues to increase the debt of the
world to her by her graceful thoughts in the chaste marble.

On May 27, 1863, a mixed body of troops in blue stood eagerly expectant
before a rebel stronghold. On the extreme right of the line, a post of
honor and of danger, were stationed the Negro troops, the first and
third regiments of the Louisiana Native Guards. On going into action,
says an eye witness, they were 1080 strong, and formed into four lines,
Lieut.-Colonel Bassett, 1st Louisiana, forming the first line, and
Lieut.-Colonel Henry Finnegas the second. Before any impression had been
made upon the earth works of the enemy, and in full face of the
batteries belching forth their sixty-two pounders, the order to charge
was given,—and the black regiment rushed forward to encounter grape,
canister, shell and musketry, having no artillery but two small
howitzers—which seemed mere pop-guns to their adversaries—and with no
reserve whatever. The terrible fire from the rebel guns upon the
unprotected masses mowed them down like grass. Colonel Bassett being
driven back, Colonel Finnegas took his place, and his men being
similarly cut to pieces, Bassett reformed and recommenced. And thus
these brave fellows went on from 7 o’clock in the morning till 3:30 p.
m., under the most hideous carnage that men ever had to withstand.
During this time they rallied and were ordered to make six distinct
charges, losing thirty-seven killed, one hundred and fifty-five wounded,
and one hundred and sixteen missing, “the majority, if not all of
these,” adds a correspondent of the New York Times, who was an eye
witness of the fight, “being in all probability now lying dead on the
gory field without the rights of sepulture! _for when, by flag of truce
our forces in other directions were permitted to reclaim their dead, the
benefit, through some neglect, was not extended to these black

“The deeds of heroism,” he continues, “performed by these colored men
were such as the proudest white men might emulate. Their colors are torn
to pieces by shot, and literally bespattered by blood and brains. The
color-sergeant of the 1st La. on being mortally wounded, hugged the
colors to his breast when a struggle ensued between the two
color-corporals on each side of him as to who should bear the sacred
standard—and during this generous contention one of the corporals was
wounded. One black lieutenant mounted the enemy’s works three or four
times, and in one charge the assaulting party came within fifty paces of
them. If only ordinarily supported by artillery and reserve, no one can
convince us that they would not have opened a passage through the
enemy’s works. Captain Callioux, of the 1st La., a man so black that he
prided himself on his blackness, died the death of a hero leading on his
men in the thickest of the fight. One poor wounded fellow came along
with his arm shattered by a shell, jauntily swinging it with the other,
as he said to a friend of mine: ‘Massa, guess I can fight no more.’ I
was with one of the captains looking after the wounded, when we met one
limping along toward the front. Being asked where he was going, he said,
‘I been shot in de leg, cap’n, an’ dey wants me to go to de hospital—but
I reckon I c’n gib ’em some mo’ yit.’”

Says Major-General Banks in the report from Headquarters of the Army of
the Gulf, before Port Hudson, May 30, 1863, writing to Major-General
Halleck, General-in-Chief at Washington: “The position occupied by the
Negro troops was one of importance and called for the utmost steadiness
and bravery in those to whom it was confided. It gives me pleasure to
report that they answered every expectation. Their conduct was heroic.
No troops could be more determined or more daring.”

                    “‘Charge!’ Trump and drum awoke,
                    Onward the bondmen broke;
                    Bayonet and sabre-stroke
                    Vainly opposed their rush.
                    Through the wild battle’s crush,
                    With but one thought aflush,
                    Driving their lords like chaff,
                    In the guns’ mouths they laugh;
                    Or at the slippery brands
                    Leaping with open hands,
                    Down they bear man and horse,
                    Down in their awful course;
                    Trampling with bloody heel
                    Over the crashing steel,
                    All their eyes forward bent,
                    Rushed the black regiment.

                    ‘Freedom!’ their battle-cry—
                    ‘Freedom! or leave to die!’
                    Ah! and they meant the word,
                    Not as with us ’tis heard,
                    Not a mere party-shout:
                    _They gave their spirits out_.
                    Trusted the end to God,
                    And on the gory sod
                    Rolled in triumphant blood!”

And thus they paid _their debt_. “They gave—_their spirits out_!”

In the heart of what is known as the “Black Belt” of Alabama and within
easy reach of the great cotton plantations of Georgia, Mississippi, and
Florida, a devoted young colored man ten years ago started a school with
about thirty Negro children assembled in a comical looking shanty at
Tuskegee. His devotion was contagious and his work grew; an abandoned
farm of 100 acres was secured and that gradually grew to 640 acres,
largely wood-land, on which a busy and prosperous school is located; and
besides a supply farm was added, of heavy rich land, 800 acres, from
which grain and sugar cane are main products. Since 1881, 2,947 students
have been taught here, of whom 102 have graduated, while 200 more have
received enough training to fit them to do good work as teachers,
intelligent farmers, and mechanics. The latest enrollment shows girls,
247; boys, 264. Of the 102 graduates, 70 per cent. are teachers,
ministers and farmers. They usually combine teaching and farming. Three
are printers (learned the trades at school), one is a tinner, one a
blacksmith, one a wheel-wright, three are merchants, three are
carpenters, others in the professions or filling miscellaneous

That man is paying his debt by giving to this country _living, working,
consecrated men and women_!

Now each can give something. It may not be a poem, or marble bust, or
fragrant flower even; it may not be ours to place our lives on the altar
of country as a loving sacrifice, or even to devote our living
activities so extensively as B. T. Washington to supplying the world’s
need for strong and willing helpers. But we can at least _give
ourselves_. Each can be _one_ of those strong willing helpers—even
though nature has denied him the talent of endlessly multiplying his
force. And nothing less can honorably cancel our debt. Each is under a
most sacred obligation not to squander the material committed to him,
not to sap its strength in folly and vice, and to see at the least that
he delivers a product worthy the labor and cost which have been expended
on him. A sound manhood, a true womanhood is a fruit which the lowliest
can grow. And it is a commodity of which the supply never exceeds the
demand. There is no danger of the market being glutted. The world will
always want _men_. The worth of one is infinite. To this value all other
values are merely relative. Our money, our schools, our governments, our
free institutions, our systems of religion and forms of creeds are all
first and last to be judged by this standard: what sort of men and women
do they grow? How are men and women being shaped and molded by this
system of training, under this or that form of government, by this or
that standard of moral action? You propose a new theory of education;
_what sort of men does it turn out?_ Does your system make boys and
girls superficial and mechanical? Is it a producing of average
percentages or a rounding out of manhood,—a sound, thorough, and
practical development,—or a scramble for standing and marks?

We have a notion here in America that our political institutions,—the
possibilities of a liberal and progressive democracy, founded on
universal suffrage and in some hoped-for, providential way _compelling_
universal education and devotion,—our peculiar American attainments are
richly worth all they have cost in blood and anguish. But our form of
government, divinely ordered as we dream it to be, must be brought to
the bar to be tested by this standard. It is nothing worth of
itself—independently of whether it furnishes a good atmosphere in which
to cultivate men. Is it developing a self-respecting freedom, a sound
manliness on the part of _the individual_—or does it put into the power
of the wealthy few the opportunity and the temptation to corrupt the
many? If our vaunted “_rule of the people_” does not breed nobler men
and women than monarchies have done—it must and will inevitably give
place to something better.

I care not for the theoretical symmetry and impregnable logic of your
moral code, I care not for the hoary respectability and traditional
mysticisms of your theological institutions, I care not for the beauty
and solemnity of your rituals and religious ceremonies, I care not even
for the reasonableness and unimpeachable fairness of your social
ethics,—if it does not turn out better, nobler, truer men and women,—if
it does not add to the world’s stock of valuable souls,—if it does not
give us a sounder, healthier, more reliable product from this great
factory of _men_—I will have none of it. I shall not try to test your
logic, but weigh your results—and that test is the _measure of the
stature of the fullness of a man_. You need not formulate and establish
the credibility and authenticity of Christian Evidences, when you can
demonstrate and prove the present value of CHRISTIAN MEN. And this test
for systems of belief, for schools of thought, and for theories of
conduct, is also the ultimate and inevitable test of nations, of races
and of individuals. What sort of men do you turn out? _How_ are you
supplying the great demands of the world’s market? What is your true
value? This, we may be sure, will be the final test by which the colored
man in America will one day be judged in the cool, calm, unimpassioned,
unprejudiced second thought of the American people.

Let us then quietly commend ourselves to this higher court—this final
tribunal. Short sighted idiosyncracies are but transient phenomena. It
is futile to combat them, and unphilosophical to be depressed by them.
To allow such things to overwhelm us, or even to absorb undue thought,
is an admission of weakness. As sure as time _is—these mists will clear
away_. And the world—our world, will surely and unerringly see us as we
are. Our only care need be the intrinsic worth of our contributions. If
we represent the ignorance and poverty, the vice and destructiveness,
the vagabondism and parasitism in the world’s economy, no amount of
philanthropy and benevolent sentiment can win for us esteem: and if we
contribute a positive value in those things the world prizes, no amount
of negrophobia can ultimately prevent its recognition. And our great
“problem” after all is to be solved not by brooding over it, and orating
about it, but by _living into it_.

                        THE GAIN FROM A BELIEF.

A solitary figure stands in the marketplace, watching as from some
lonely tower the busy throng that hurry past him. A strange contrast his
cold, intellectual eye to the eager, strained, hungry faces that surge
by in their never ending quest of wealth, fame, glory, bread.

Mark his pallid cheek and haggard brow, and the fitful gleam of those
restless eyes like two lone camp-fires on a deserted plain.

Why does that smile, half cynical, half sad, flit across his countenance
as he contemplates these mighty heart throbs of human passions and woes,
human hopes and human fears? Is it pity—is it contempt—is it hate for
this struggling, working, believing humanity which curls those lips and
settles upon that hitherto indifferent brow?

Who is he?

Earth’s skepticism looking on at the protean antics of earth’s
enthusiasms. Speculative unbelief, curiously and sneeringly watching the
humdrum, commonplace, bread-and-butter toil of unspeculative belief.
Lofty, unimpassioned agnosticism, _that thinks_—face to face with
hobbling, blundering, unscientific faith, _that works_.

Dare we approach?

“Sir: I perceive you are not drawn into the whirl-pool of hurrying
desires that sweep over earth’s restless sons. Your philosophy, I
presume, lifts you above the toils and anxieties the ambitions and
aspirations of the common herd. Pardon me, but do you not feel called to
devote those superior powers of yours to the uplifting of your less
favored brethren? May not you pour the oil of human kindness and love on
these troubled waters? May not your wisdom shape and direct the channel
of this tortuous stream, building up here, and clearing out there, till
this torrent become once more a smiling river, reflecting Heaven’s pure
love in its silvery bosom, and again this fruitful valley blossom with
righteousness and peace? Does not your soul burn within you as you look
on this seething mass of struggling, starving, sinning souls? Are you
not inspired to lift up despairing, sinking, grovelling man,—to wipe the
grime and tears from his marred countenance, and bid him Look aloft and
be strong, Repent and be saved, Trust God and live!”

Ah! the coldness of the look he turned on me! Methought ’twould freeze
my soul. “Poor fool!” it seemed to say; and yet I could not but think I
discovered a trace of sadness as he replied:—

“What is man?—A curiously fashioned clock; a locomotive, capable of
sensations;—a perfected brute. Man is a plant that grows and thinks; the
form and place of his growth and the product of his thought are as
little dependent on his will or effort as are the bark, leaves, and
fruit of a tree on its choice. Food, soil, climate,—these make up the
man,—the whole man, his life, his soul (if he have one). Man’s so-called
moral sense is a mere dance of molecules; his spiritual nature, a pious
invention. Remorse is a blunder, repentance is vain, self-improvement or
reformation an impossibility. The laws of matter determine the laws of
intellect, and these shape man’s nature and destiny and are as
inevitable and uncontrollable as are the laws of gravitation and
chemical affinity. You would-be reformers know not the stupendous
nonsense you are talking. Man is as little responsible for vice or crime
as for fever or an earthquake. Those in whom the cerebrum shows a
particular formation, will make their holidays in gambling, betting,
drinking, horseracing—their more serious pursuits in stealing, ravening,
murdering. They are not immoral any more than a tiger is immoral; they
are simply _un_moral. They need to be restrained, probably, as pests of
society, or submitted to treatment as lunatics. Their fellows in whom
the white and gray matter of the brain cells are a little differently
correlated, will in their merry moods sing psalms and make it their
habitual activity to reach out after the Unknown in various ways, trying
to satisfy the vague and restless longings of what they call their souls
by punishing themselves and pampering the poor. I have neither blame nor
praise. Each class simply believe and do as they must. And as for
God—science finds him not. If there be a God—He is unknown and
unknowable. The finite mind of man cannot conceive the Infinite and
Eternal. And if such a being exists, he cannot be concerned about the
miserable wretches of earth. Searching after him is vain. Man has simply
projected his own personality into space and worshipped it as a God—a
person—himself. My utmost knowledge is limited to a series of sensations
within, aware of itself; and a possibility of sensations without, both
governed by unbending laws within the limits of experience and a
reasonable distance beyond.”

“And beyond that Beyond” I ask breathlessly—“beyond that Beyond?”

I am sure I detected just then a tremor as of a chill running through
that fragile frame; and the eye, at first thoughtful and coldly scornful
only, is now unmistakably shaded with sadness. “Beyond that Beyond?” he
repeated slowly,—beyond that Beyond, _if_ there be such,—_spaces of
darkness and eternal silence!_

Whether this prolonged throb of consciousness exist after its external
possibilities have been dissolved—I cannot tell. That is to me—a
horrible plunge—_in the dark!_ I stand at the confluence of two
eternities and three immensities. I see, with Pascal, only infinities in
all directions which envelop me like an atom—like a shadow which endures
for a moment and—will never return! All that I know is that I must die,
but what I know the very least of is that very death—which I can not
avoid! _The eternal silence_ of these infinite paces maddens me!

Sick at heart, I turn away and ask myself what is this system which, in
the words of Richter, makes the universe an automaton, and man’s
future—a coffin! Is this the cold region to which thought, as it moves
in its orbit, has brought us in the nineteenth century? Is this the germ
of the “Philosophy of the future”—the exponent of our “advanced ideas,”
the “new light” of which our age so uproariously boasts? Nay rather is
not this _monstruum horrendum_ of our day but a renewal of the
empiricism and skepticism of the days of Voltaire? Here was undoubtedly
the nucleus of the cloud no bigger than a man’s hand, which went on
increasing in bulk and blackness till it seemed destined to enshroud
earth and heaven in the gloom of hell.

David Hume, who, though seventeen years younger than Voltaire, died in
1776 just two years before the great French skeptic, taught skepticism
in England on purely metaphysical grounds. Hume knew little or nothing
about natural science; but held that what we call mind consists merely
of successive perceptions, and that we can have no knowledge of anything
but phenomena. His system afterwards passes through France, is borrowed
and filtered through the brain of a half crazy French schoolmaster,
Auguste Conte, who thus becomes the founder of the Contist school of
Positivism or Nescience or Agnosticism as it is variously called. The
adherents of his school admit neither revelation, nor a God, nor the
immortality of the soul. Conte held, among other things, that two hours
a day should be spent in the worship of Collective Humanity to be
symbolized by some of the _sexe aimant_. On general principles it is not
quite clear which is the _sexe aimant_. But as Conte proceeds to mention
one’s wife, mother, and daughter as fitting objects of religious
adoration because they represent the present, past and future of
Humanity—one is left to infer that he considered the female the _loving
sex_ and the ones to be worshipped; though he does not set forth who
were to be objects of woman’s own adoring worship. In this
ecclesiastical system which Prof. Huxley wittily denominates _Romanism
minus Christianity_, Conte made himself High Pontiff, and his inamorata,
the widow of a galley slave, was chief saint. This man was founder of
the system which the agnostic prefers to the teachings of Jesus!
However, had this been all, the positivist would have been as harmless
as any other lunatic. But he goes a step farther and sets up his system
as the philosophy of _natural science_, originating in and proved by
pure observation and investigation of physical phenomena; and scoffs at
as presumptuous and unwarrantable all facts that cannot be discerned
through the senses. In this last position he is followed by John Stuart
Mill, Herbert Spencer, G. H. Lewes, and a noble army of physicists,
naturalists, physiologists, and geologists. Says one: “We have no
knowledge of anything but phenomena, and the essential nature of
phenomena and their ultimate causes are unknown and inscrutable to us.”
Says another: “All phenomena without exception are governed by
invariable laws with which no volitions natural or supernatural
interfere.” And another: “Final causes are unknown to us and the search
after them is fruitless, a mere chase of a favorite will-o-the-wisp. We
know nothing about any supposed purposes for which organs ‘were made.’
Birds fly because they have wings, a true naturalist will never say—he
can never know they have wings _in order that_ they may fly.”

And Mr. Ingersoll, the American exponent of positivism, in his “Why I Am
an Agnostic,” winds up a glittering succession of epigrammatic
inconsistencies with these words: “Let us be honest with ourselves. In
the presence of countless mysteries, standing beneath the boundless
heaven sown thick with constellations, knowing that each grain of sand,
each leaf, each blade of grass, asks of every mind the answerless
question; knowing that the simplest thing defies solution; feeling that
we deal with the superficial and the relative and that we are forever
eluded by the real, the absolute,—let us admit the limitations of our
minds, and let us have the courage and the candor to say: we do not

It is no part of my purpose to enter into argument against the
agnostics. Had I the wish, I lack the ability. It is enough for me to
know that they have been met by foemen worthy their steel and that they
are by no means invincible.

“The average man,” says Mr. Ingersoll, “does not reason—he feels.” And
surely ’twere presumption for an average woman to attempt more. For my
part I am content to ‘feel.’ The brave Switzer who sees the awful
avalanche stealing down the mountain side threatening death and
destruction to all he holds dear, hardly needs any very correct
ratiocination on the mechanical and chemical properties of ice. He
_feels_ there is danger nigh and there is just time for him to sound the
tocsin of alarm and shout to his dear ones ‘fly!’

For me it is enough to know that by this system God and Love are shut
out; prayer becomes a mummery; the human will but fixed evolutions of
law; the precepts and sanctions of morality a lie; the sense of
responsibility a disease. The desire for reformation and for propagating
conviction is thus a fire consuming its tender. Agnosticism has nothing
to impart. Its sermons are the exhortations of one who convinces you he
stands on nothing and urges you to stand there too. If your creed is
that nothing is sure, there is certainly no spur to proselytize. As in
an icicle the agnostic abides alone. The vital principle is taken out of
all endeavor for improving himself or bettering his fellows. All hope in
the grand possibilities of life are blasted. The inspiration of
beginning now a growth which is to mature in endless development through
eternity is removed from our efforts at self-culture. The sublime
conception of life as the seed-time of character for the growing of a
congenial inner-self to be forever a constant conscious presence is
changed into the base alternative conclusion, _Let us eat and drink for
to-morrow we die_.

To my mind the essence of the poison is just here. As far as the
metaphysical grounds for skepticism are concerned, they are as harmless
to the masses as if they were entombed in Greek or Hebrew. Many of the
terms, it is true, are often committed to memory and paraded pretty much
in the spirit of the college sophomore who affects gold-bowed spectacles
and stooping shoulders—it is scholarly, you know. But the real reasons
for and against agnosticism rest on psychological and scientific facts
too abstruse for the laity to appreciate. There is much subtle sophistry
in the oracular utterances of a popular speaker like Mr. Ingersoll,
which catch the fancy and charm the imagination of the many. His
brilliant blasphemies like the winged seed of the thistle are borne on
the slightest breath of wind and find lodgment in the shallowest of
soils; while the refutation of them, undertaken in a serious and logical
vein is often too conclusive to convince: that is, it is too different
in kind to reach the same class of minds that have been inoculated with
the poison germs.

My own object, however, is neither to argue nor to refute argument here.
I want to utter just this one truth:—The great, the fundamental need of
any nation, any race, is for heroism, devotion, sacrifice; and there
cannot be heroism, devotion, or sacrifice in a primarily skeptical
spirit. A great man said of France, when she was being lacerated with
the frantic stripes of her hysterical children,—_France needs a
religion!_ And the need of France during her trying Revolution is the
need of every crisis and conflict in the evolution of nations and races.
At such times most of all, do men need to be anchored to what they
_feel_ to be eternal verities. And nothing else at any time can propel
men into those sublime efforts of altruism which constitute the moral
heroes of humanity. The demand for heroism, devotion and sacrifice
founded on such a faith is particularly urgent in a race at almost the
embryonic stage of character-building. The Hour is _now_;—where is the
man? He must _believe_ in the infinite possibilities of devoted
self-sacrifice and in the eternal grandeur of a human idea heroically
espoused. It is the enthusiasms, the faiths of the world that have
heated the crucibles in which were formed its reformations and its
impulses toward a higher growth. And I do not mean by faith the holding
of correct views and unimpeachable opinions on mooted questions, merely;
nor do I understand it to be the ability to forge cast-iron formulas and
dub them TRUTH. For while I do not deny that absolute and eternal truth
_is_,—still truth must be infinite, and as incapable as infinite space,
of being encompassed and confined by one age or nation, sect or
country—much less by one little creature’s finite brain.

To me, faith means _treating the truth as true_. Jesus _believed_ in the
infinite possibilities of an individual soul. His faith was a triumphant
realization of the eternal development of _the best_ in man—an
optimistic vision of the human aptitude for endless expansion and
perfectibility. This truth to him placed a sublime valuation on each
individual sentiency—a value magnified infinitely by reason of its
immortal destiny. He could not lay hold of this truth and let pass an
opportunity to lift men into nobler living and firmer building. He could
not lay hold of this truth and allow his own benevolence to be narrowed
and distorted by the trickeries of circumstance or the colorings of

Life must be something more than dilettante speculation. And religion
(ought to be if it isn’t) a great deal more than mere gratification of
the instinct for worship linked with the straight-teaching of
irreproachable credos. Religion must be _life made true_; and life is
action, growth, development—begun now and ending never. And a life made
true cannot confine itself—it must reach out and twine around every
pulsing interest within reach of its uplifting tendrils. If then you
_believe_ that intemperance is a growing vice among a people within
touch of your sympathies; if you see that, whereas the “Lord had shut
them in,” so that from inheritance there are but few cases of
alcoholized blood,—yet that there is danger of their becoming under
their changed circumstances a generation of inebriates—if you believe
this, then this is your truth. Take up your parable and in earnestness
and faith _give it out_ by precept and by example.

Do you _believe_ that the God of history often chooses the weak things
of earth to confound the mighty, and that the Negro race in America has
a veritable destiny in His eternal purposes,—then don’t spend your time
discussing the ‘Negro Problem’ amid the clouds of your fine havanna,
ensconced in your friend’s well-cushioned arm-chair and with your patent
leather boot-tips elevated to the opposite mantel. Do those poor
“cowards in the South” need a leader—then get up and lead them! Let go
your purse-strings and begin to _live_ your creed. Or is it your modicum
of truth that God hath made of one blood all nations of the earth; and
that all interests which specialize and contract the broad, liberal,
cosmopolitan idea of universal brotherhood and equality are narrow and
pernicious, then treat that truth as true. Don’t inveigh against lines
of longitude drawn by others when at the same time you are applying your
genius to devising lines of latitude which are neither race lines, nor
character lines, nor intelligence lines—but certain social-appearance
circlets assorting your “universal brotherhood” by shapes of noses and
texture of hair. If you object to imaginary lines—don’t draw them! Leave
only the real lines of nature and character. And so whatever the vision,
the revelation, the idea, vouchsafed _you_,

   Think it truly and thy thoughts shall the soul’s famine feed.
   _Speak_ it truly and each word of thine shall be a fruitful seed;
   _Live_ it truly and thy life shall be a grand and holy creed!

Macaulay has left us in his masterly description of Ignatius Loyola a
vivid picture of the power of a belief and its independence of material

‘On the road from the Theatine convent in Venice might have been seen
once a poor crippled Spaniard, wearily but as fast as his injured limbs
can carry him making his way toward Rome. His face is pinched, his body
shrunken, from long fast and vigil. He enters the City of the Cæsars
without money, without patrons, without influence! but there burns a
light in his eye that recks not of despair. In a frequented portion of a
busy street he stops and mounts a stone, and from this rude rostrum
begins to address the passers by in barbarous Latin. Lo, there is
contagion in the man! He has actually imparted of his spirit to that
mottled audience! And now the same fire burns in a hundred eyes, that
shone erewhile from his. Men become his willing slaves to do his bidding
even unto the ends of the earth. With what courage, what zeal, what
utter self-abnegation, with what blind devotion to their ends regardless
of means do they preach, teach, write, act! Behind the thrones of kings,
at the bedside of paupers, under every disguise in every land, mid
pestilence and famine, in prisons oft, in perils by land and perils by
sea, the Jesuit, undaunted, pursues his way.’

Do you seek to know the secret charm of Ignatius Loyola, the hidden
spring of the Jesuit’s courage and unfaltering purpose? It is these
magic words, “_I believe_.” That is power. That is the stamping
attribute in every impressive personality, that is the fire to the
engine and the motor force in every battery. That is the live coal from
the altar which at once unseals the lips of the dumb—and that alone
which makes a man a positive and not a negative quantity in the world’s
arithmetic. With this potent talisman man no longer “abideth alone.” He
cannot stand apart, a cold spectator of earth’s pulsing struggles. The
flame must burst forth. The idea, the doctrine, the device for
betterment must be imparted. “_I believe_,”—this was strength and power
to Paul, to Mohammed, to the Saxon Monk and the Spanish Zealot,—and they
must be our strength if our lives are to be worth the living. They mean
as much to-day as they did in the breast of Luther or of Loyola. Who
cheats me of this robs me of both shield and spear. Without them I have
no inspiration to better myself, no inclination to help another.

It is small service to humanity, it seems to me, to open men’s eyes to
the fact that the world rests on nothing. Better the turtle of the
myths, than a _perhaps_. If “fooled they must be, though wisest of the
wise,” let us help to make them the fools of virtue. You may have
learned that the pole star is twelve degrees from the pole and forbear
to direct your course by it—preferring your needle taken from earth and
fashioned by man’s device. The slave brother, however, from the land of
oppression once saw the celestial beacon and dreamed not that it ever
deviated from due North. He _believed_ that _somewhere_ under its
beckoning light, lay a far away country where a man’s a man. He sets out
with his heavenly guide before his face—would you tell him he is
pursuing a wandering light? Is he the poorer for his ignorant hope? Are
you the richer for your enlightened suspicion?

Yes, I believe there is existence beyond our present experience; that
that existence is conscious and culturable; and that there is a noble
work here and now in helping men to live _into_ it.

              “Not in Utopia,—subterraneous fields,—
              Or some secreted island, Heaven knows where!
              But in this very world, which is the world
              Of all of us—the place where in the end
              We find our happiness, or not at all!”

There are nations still in darkness to whom we owe a light. The world is
to be moved one generation forward—whether by us, by blind force, by
fate, or by God! If thou believest, all things are possible; and _as_
thou believest, so be it unto thee.

[Illustration: FINIS.]


                          TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES

 1. P. 88, changed “Black Wo-” to “Black Woman”.
 2. P. 163, changed “1819” to “1619”.
 3. Silently corrected typographical errors and variations in spelling.
 4. Archaic, non-standard, and uncertain spellings retained as printed.
 5. Footnotes have been re-indexed using numbers.
 6. Enclosed italics font in _underscores_.
 7. Subscripts are denoted by an underscore before a series of
      subscripted characters enclosed in curly braces, e.g. H_{2}O.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Voice from the South. - By a Black Woman of the South." ***

Copyright 2023 LibraryBlog. All rights reserved.