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chapter 94: Present and Future of the Negro 1 - Viscount James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, vol. 2 
The American Commonwealth, with an Introduction by Gary L. McDowell (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1995). Vol. 2.
Part of: The American Commonwealth, 2 vols.
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Present and Future of the Negro1
The total coloured population of the United States was in 1900, 8,840,789, and in 1910 it was 9,828,294, a number far greater than that of the English people in the reign of Queen Anne, and one which might anywhere but in North America be deemed to form a considerable nation. Of this total, probably nine millions are in the old slave states, and it is of these only that the present chapter will speak.2 To understand their distribution in these states, the reader will do well to recall what was said in the last preceding chapter regarding the physical features of the South, for it is by those features that the growth of the coloured population in the various regions of the country has been determined. Though man is of all animals, except perhaps the dog, that which shows the greatest capacity for supporting all climates from Borneo to Greenland, it remains true that certain races of men thrive and multiply only in certain climates. As the races of Northern Europe have been hitherto unable to maintain themselves in the torrid zone, so the African race, being of tropical origin, dwindles away wherever it has to encounter cold winters. In what used to be called the border states—Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri—the coloured element increases but slowly.3 In West Virginia, East Kentucky, East Tennessee, and Western North Carolina, the Negro is practically unknown in the highest and coolest spots, and in the other parts of that elevated country has scarcely been able to hold his own. It is in the low warm regions that lie near the Gulf Stream and the Gulf of Mexico, and especially in the sea islands of South Carolina and on the banks of the lower Mississippi that he finds the conditions which are at once most favourable to his development and most unfavourable to that of the whites. Accordingly it is the eight states nearest the Gulf—South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas—that contain more than half the Negro population, which in two of them, South Carolina and Mississippi, exceeds the number of the whites. In Louisiana, where the two races were equal in 1890, the whites had in 1910 a majority of 227,212. These eight states showed an increase of the coloured population, from 1880 to 1890, at the rate of 18.4 per cent,4 while in the rest of the South the rate was only 5.1 per cent; from 1900 to 1910 the rate was 14.6. It is thus clear that the Negro center of population is more and more shifting southward, and that the African is leaving the colder, higher, and drier lands for regions more resembling his ancient seats in the Old World.
A not less important question is the proportion between the Negroes and the whites. In 1790 the Negroes were 19.3 per cent or nearly one-fifth of the whole population of the Union. In 1880 they were 13.1 per cent; in 1890, 11.9 per cent; in 1910, 10.7 per cent. The rate of increase of the Negro population of the whole country from 1900 to 1910 was 11.2 per cent, while that of the whites was 22.3. Even in the former slave states (which receive very few immigrants from Europe) the increase of the whites during that decade was 25.1, that of the Negroes only 11.1 per cent, or about one-half the rate shown by the whites,5 while in the eight black states mentioned above the percentage of increase of the white population is 27.4, that of the Negroes only 14.6. It thus appears that except in certain parts of these eight states, where physical conditions favourable to the growth of the coloured population prevail, the whites increase everywhere faster than the Negroes, and the latter constitute a relatively decreasing element.6 This fact, suspected previously was placed beyond doubt by the census of 1890. It is the dominating fact of the political and social situation.
Of the economic and industrial state of the whole nine millions it is hard to speak in general terms, so different are the conditions which different parts of the country present. In one point only are those conditions uniform. Everywhere, alike in the border states and in the farthest South, in the cities, both great and small, and in the rural districts, the coloured population constitute the poorest and socially lowest stratum, corresponding in this respect to the new immigrants in the Northern states, although, as we shall presently observe, they are far more sharply and permanently divided than are those immigrants from the classes above them. They furnish nine-tenths of the unskilled labour, and a still larger proportion of the domestic and hotel labour. Some, a comparatively small but possibly growing number, have found their way into the skilled handicrafts, such as joinery and metal work; and many are now employed in the mines and iron foundries of Southeastern Tennessee and Northern Alabama, where they receive wages sometimes equal to those paid to the white workmen, and are even occasionally admitted to the same trade unions.7 In textile factories they are deemed decidedly inferior to the whites; the whirr of the machinery is said to daze them or to send them to sleep. On the other hand, they handle tobacco better than the whites, and practically monopolize the less skilled departments of this large industry, though not cigar making, for which Spaniards or Cubans are deemed best. In the cities much of the small retail trade is in their hands, as are also such occupations as those of barber (in which however they are said to be yielding to the whites), shoe-black, street vendor of drinks or fruit, together with the humbler kinds of railway service. In the rural districts the immense majority are either hired labourers or tenants of small farms, the latter class becoming more numerous the further south one goes into the hot and malarious regions, where the white man is less disposed to work on his own land. Of these tenants many—and some are both active and thrifty—cultivate upon a system of crop-sharing, like that of the métayers in France. Not a few have bought plots of land, and work it for themselves. Of those who farm either their own land or that for which they pay rent, an increasing number are raising crops for the market, and steadily improving their condition. Others, however, are content with getting from the soil enough food to keep their families; and this is more especially the case in the lower lands along the coast, where the population is almost wholly black, and little affected by the influences either of commerce or of the white race. In these hot lowlands the Negro lives much as he lived on the plantations in the old days, except that he works less, because a moderate amount of labour produces enough for his bare subsistence. No railway comes near him. He sees no newspaper. He is scarcely at all in contact with anyone above his own condition. Thus there are places, the cities especially, where the Negro is improving industrially, because he has to work hard and comes into constant relation with the whites; and other places, where he need work very little, and where, being left to his own resources, he is in danger of relapsing into barbarism. These differences in his material progress in different parts of the country must be constantly borne in mind when one attempts to form a picture of his present intellectual and moral state.
The phenomena he presents in this latter aspect are absolutely new in the annals of the world. History is a record of the progress towards civilization of races originally barbarous. But that progress has in all previous cases been slow and gradual. In the case of the chief Asiatic and European races, the earlier stages are lost in the mists of antiquity. Even the middle and later stages, as we gather them from the writings of the historians of antiquity and from the records of the Dark and Middle Ages, show an advance in which there is nothing sudden or abrupt, but rather a process of what may be called tentative development, the growth and enlargement of the human mind resulting in and being accompanied by a gradual improvement of political institutions and of the arts and sciences. In this process there are no leaps and bounds; and it is the work, not of any one race alone, but of the mingled rivalry and cooperation of several. Utterly dissimilar is the case of the African Negro, caught up in and whirled along with the swift movement of the American democracy. In it we have a singular juxtaposition of the most primitive and the most recent, the most rudimentary and the most highly developed, types of culture. Not greater is the interval which separates the chipped flints of the Stone Age from the Maxim gun of today. A body of savages is violently carried across the ocean and set to work as slaves on the plantations of masters who are three or four thousand years in advance of them in mental capacity and moral force. They are treated like horses or oxen, are kept at labour by the lash, are debarred from even the elements of education, have no more status before the law, no more share in the thought or the culture of their owner than the sheep which he shears. The children and grandchildren of those whom the slaveship brought to the plantation remain like their parents, save indeed that they have learnt a new and highly developed tongue and have caught up so much of a new religion as comes to them through preachers of their own blood. Those who have housework to do, or who live in the few and small towns, pick up some knowledge of white ways, and imitate them to the best of their power. But the great mass remain in their notions and their habits much what their ancestors were in the forests of the Niger or the Congo. Suddenly, even more suddenly than they were torn from Africa, they find themselves, not only freed, but made full citizens and active members of the most popular government the world has seen, treated as fit to bear an equal part in ruling, not themselves only, but also their recent masters. Rights which the agricultural labourers of England did not obtain till 1885 were in 1867 thrust upon these children of nature, whose highest form of pleasure had hitherto been to caper to the strains of a banjo.
This tremendous change arrested one set of influences that were telling on the Negro, and put another set in motion. The relation of master and servant came to an end, and with it the discipline of compulsory labour and a great part of such intercourse as there had been between the white and the black races. Very soon the whites began to draw away from the Negro, who became less a friend in fact the more he was an equal in theory. Presently the mixture of blood diminished, a mixture which may have been doing something for the blacks in leavening their mass—only slightly on the plantations, but to some extent in the towns and among the domestic servants—with persons of superior capacity and talent. On the other hand, there were immediately turned on the freedman a volume of new forces which had scarcely affected him as a slave. He had now to care for himself, in sickness and in health. He might go where he would, and work as much or as little as he pleased. He had a vote to give, or to sell. Education became accessible; and facilities for obtaining it were accorded to him, first by his Northern liberators, and thereafter, though insufficiently, by his old masters also. As he learned to read and to vote, a crowd of modern American ideas, political, social, religious, and economic, poured in upon him through the newspapers. No such attempt has ever been made before to do for a race at one stroke what in other times and countries Nature has spent centuries in doing. Other races have desired freedom and a share in political power. They have had to strive, and their efforts have braced and disciplined them. But these things were thrust upon the Negro, who found himself embarrassed by boons he had not thought of demanding.
To understand how American ideas work in an African brain, and how American institutions are affecting African habits, one must consider what are the character and gifts of the Negro himself.
He is by nature affectionate, docile, pliable, submissive, and in these respects most unlike the Red Indian, whose conspicuous traits are pride and a certain dogged inflexibility. He is seldom cruel or vindictive—which the Indian often is—nor is he prone to violence, except when spurred by lust or drink. His intelligence is rather quick than solid; and though not wanting in a sort of shrewdness, he shows the childishness as well as the lack of self-control which belongs to the primitive peoples. A nature highly impressionable, emotional, and unstable is in him appropriately accompanied by a love of music, while for art he has—unlike the Red Indian—no taste or turn whatever. Such talent as he has runs to words; he learns languages easily and speaks fluently, but shows no capacity for abstract thinking, for scientific inquiry, or for any kind of invention. It is, however, not so conspicuously on the intellectual side that his weakness lies, as in the sphere of will and action. Having neither foresight nor “roundsight,” he is heedless and unthrifty, easily elated and depressed, with little tenacity of purpose, and but a feeble wish to better his condition. Sloth, like that into which the Negroes of the Antilles have sunk, cannot be generally charged upon the American coloured man, partly perhaps because the climate is less enervating and nature less bountiful. Although not so steady a workman as is the white, he is less troublesome to his employers, because less disposed to strike. It is by his toil that a large part of the cotton, rice, and sugar crop of the South is now raised. But anyone who knows the laborious ryot or coolie of the East Indies is struck by the difference between a race on which ages of patient industry have left their stamp and the volatile children of Africa.
Among the modes or avenues in and by which the influences of white America are moulding the Negro, five deserve to be specially noted, those of the schools, of the churches, of literature, of industry, and of business or social relations.
Looking merely at the figures, elementary education would seem to have made extraordinary progress. In the former slave states there were, in 1907–8, 54.36 per cent of the coloured population of school age enrolled on the books of some school, the percentage of white pupils to the white population of school age in the same states being 70.34, and the percentage of enrolments to population over the whole United States 69.32.8 In these states the coloured people were in 1910 33.1 per cent of the total population, and the coloured pupils 31.47 per cent of the total school enrolments. A smaller percentage of them than of white children is, therefore, on the books of the schools; but when it is remembered that in 1865 only an infinitesimally small percentage were at school at all, and that in many states it was a penal offence to teach a Negro to read, the progress made is remarkable. Between 1877 and 1908, while the white pupils in the common schools of the South increased 156 per cent, the coloured pupils increased 191 per cent. It must not, however, be concluded from these figures that nearly the whole of the coloured population are growing up possessed even of the rudiments of education. The ratio of attendance to school enrolment was, indeed, in 1908 almost as good for the Negroes as for the whites (62.18 against 66.13), the Negroes, both parents and children, having a desire for instruction. But the school terms are so short in most of the Southern states that a good many of whites and a far larger number of coloured children receive too little teaching to enable them to read and write with ease. Thus out of the Negroes in the old slave states over ten years of age, nearly 33.4 per cent were in 1910 returned as illiterates. That the amount of higher education—secondary, collegiate, or university education—obtained by the Negroes is not only absolutely small, but incomparably smaller than that obtained by the whites, is no more than might be expected from the fact that they constitute the poorest part of the population. The total number of institutions of this description was in 1908 as follows:9
These universities are, of course, on a comparatively humble scale, and most of them might rather be called secondary schools. The grants made by the state governments nearly all go to elementary education, and the institutions which provide higher education for the Negro are quite unequal to the demands made upon them. Swarms of applicants for admission have to be turned away from the already overcrowded existing upper and normal schools and colleges; and thus the supply of qualified teachers for the coloured schools is greatly below the needs of the case. The total number is at present only 33,000, with 1,800,000 pupils to deal with. In the white schools, with 4,692,927 pupils, there are 116,539 teachers, a proportion (about 1 teacher to 40 pupils) obviously much too low, and too low even if we allow for the difference between enrolment and attendance. But the proportion in the coloured schools is lower still (1 to 55), and the teachers themselves are less instructed. The need for secondary and normal schools is, therefore, still urgent, though much has been and is being done by Northern benevolence for this admirable purpose.11 There is something pathetic in the eagerness of the Negroes, parents, young people, and children, to obtain instruction. They seem to think that the want of it is what keeps them below the whites, just as in the riots which broke out in South Carolina during Sherman’s invasion, the Negro mob burnt a library at Columbia because, as they said, it was from the books that “the white folks got their sense.” And they have a notion (which, to be sure, is not confined to them) that it is the want of book-learning which condemns the vast bulk of their race to live by manual labor, and that, therefore, by acquiring such learning they may themselves rise in the industrial scale.
In the days of slavery, religion was practically the only civilizing influence which told upon the plantation hands. But religion, like everything else that enters the mind, is conditioned by the mental state of the recipient. Among the Negroes, it took a highly emotional and sensational form, in which there was little apprehension of doctrine and still less of virtue, while physical excitement constantly passed into ecstasy, hysterics, and the other phenomena which accompany what are called in America camp meetings. This form it has hitherto generally retained. The evils have been palpable, but the good has been greater than the evil; and one fears to conjecture what this vast mass of Africans might have been had no such influence been at work to soften and elevate them, and to create a sort of tie between them and their masters. Christianity, however, has been among the Negroes as it often was in the Dark Ages and as it is in some countries even today, widely divorced from morality. The Negro preachers, the natural and generally the only leaders of their people, are (doubtless with noble exceptions) by no means a model class, while through the population at large religious belief and even religious fervour are found not incompatible with great laxity in sexual relations and a proneness to petty thefts. Fortunately, here also there is evidence of improvement. The younger pastors are described as being more rarely lazy and licentious than were those of the older generation; their teaching appeals less to passion and more to reason. As it is only coloured preachers who reach Negro congregations, the importance of such an improvement can hardly be overestimated. There is, of course, an enormous difference between the coloured churches in the cities, especially those of the border states, where one finds a comparatively educated clergy and laity, with ideas of decorum modelled on those of their white neighbors, and the pure Negro districts further south,12 in some of which, as in parts of Louisiana, not merely have the old superstitions been retained, but there have been relapses into the Obeah rites and serpent worship of African heathendom. How far this has gone no one can say. There are parts of the lower Mississippi valley as little explored, so far as the mental and moral condition of the masses is concerned, as are the banks of the Congo and the Benué.
From what has been said of the state of education, it will have been gathered that the influence of books is confined to extremely few, and that even of newspapers to a small fraction of the coloured people. Nevertheless, the significance of whatever forms the mind of that small fraction must not be underestimated. The few thousands who read books or magazines, the few tens of thousands who see a daily paper, acquire the ideas and beliefs and aspirations of the normal white citizen, subject of course to the inherent differences in race character already referred to. They are in a sense more American than the recent immigrants from Central Europe and from Italy, who are now a substantial element in the population of the Middle and Western states. Within this small section of the coloured people are the natural leaders of the millions who have not yet attained to what may be called the democratic American consciousness. And the number of those upon whom books and newspapers play, in whom democratic ideas stimulate discontent with the present inferiority of their people, is steadily, and in some districts, rapidly increasing. The efforts of those who are best fitted to lead have been hitherto checked by the jealousy which the mass is apt to feel for those who rise to prominence; but this tendency may decline, and there will be no reason for surprise if men of eloquence and ambition are one day found to give voice to the sentiments of their brethren as Frederick Douglass did.13
The influence of industry is another name for the influence of self-help. As a slave, the Negro was no doubt taught to give steady, though unintelligent, labour; and this was probably a step forward from his condition in Africa. But labour all of it performed under supervision, and none of it followed by any advantage to the labourer except relief from the lash, labour whose aim was to accomplish not the best possible but the least that would suffice, did nothing to raise the character or to train the intelligence. Every day’s work that the Negro has done since he became a freedman has helped him. Most of the work is rough work, whether on the land or in the cities, and is done for low wages. But the number of those who, either as owners or as tenant farmers, raise their own crops for the market, and of those who are finding their way into skilled employments, is an always increasing number. To raise crops for the market is an education in thrift, foresight, and business aptitude, as well as in agriculture; to follow a skilled industry is to train the intelligence as well as the hand, and the will as well as the intelligence. The provision for the instruction of the young Negroes in any handicraft is still quite inadequate, though such institutions at Hampton and Tuskegee have set admirable examples,14 and the need of means for imparting it is even more urgent than is that of secondary schools. It is satisfactory to know that the necessity is beginning to be recognized, and some effort made to provide industrial training. The first person to point out that it was the thing most needful, was the founder of Hampton, one of the noblest characters of his time, the late General S. C. Armstrong.
Against the industrial progress of the Negro there must be set two depressing phenomena. One is the increase of insanity, marked since emancipation, and probably attributable to the increased facilities which freedom has given for obtaining liquor, and to the stress which independence and education have imposed on the undeveloped brain of a backward race. The other, not unconnected with the former, is the large amount of crime. Most of it is petty crime, chiefly thefts of hogs and poultry, but there are also a good many crimes against women. Seventy per cent of the convicts in Southern jails are Negroes;15 and though one must allow for the fact that they are the poorest part of the population and that the law is probably more strictly enforced against them than against the whites, this is a proportion double that of their numbers.16 Even in the District of Columbia more than half the arrests are among the coloured people, though they are only one-third of the inhabitants.
The most potent agency in the progress of the humbler and more ignorant sections of a community has always been their intercourse with those who are more advanced. In the United States it is by their social commixture with the native citizens that European immigrants become so quickly assimilated, the British in two or three years, the Germans and Scandinavians in eight or ten. But the precondition of such commixture is the absence of race repulsion and especially the possibility of intermarriage. In the case of the American Negro, the race repulsion exists, and fusion by intermarriage is deemed impossible. The day of his liberation was also the day when the whites began to shun intercourse with him, and when opinion began to condemn, not merely regular marriage with a person of colour, for that had been always forbidden, but even an illicit union.
To understand the very peculiar phenomena which mark the relations of the two races, one must distinguish between the Northern and Southern states.
In the North there was before the war a marked aversion to the Negro and a complete absence of social intercourse with him. The Negroes were, of course, among the poorest and least educated persons in the community. But the poorest white looked down upon them just as much as the richest; and in many states they enjoyed no political rights. The sympathy felt for them during the Civil War, the evidence of courage and capacity for discipline they gave as soldiers in the Federal Army, and the disposition to protect them which the Republican party showed during the Reconstruction period, modified this aversion; and in the North they are not subject to any legal disabilities. They are occasionally admitted to some inferior political office, or even to a seat in a state legislature. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union receives them as members, and so does the Grand Army of the Republic, though they are grouped in distinct “posts.” People sometimes take pleasure in going out of their way to compliment them. A coloured student was once chosen by his companions at Harvard University to be the “class orator” of the year; and I know of cases in which the lawyers of a city have signed memorials recommending a coloured barrister for appointment to an important federal office. Nevertheless, there is practically no social intermixture of white and coloured people. Except on the Pacific coast, a Negro never sits down to dinner with a white man, in a railway refreshment room. You never encounter him at a private party. He is not received in a hotel of the better sort, no matter how rich he may be. He will probably be refused a glass of soda water at a drug store. He is not shaved in a place frequented by white men, not even by a barber of his own colour. He worships in a church of his own. No native white woman would dream of receiving his addresses. Kindly condescension is the best he can look for, accompanied by equality of access to a business or profession. Social equality is utterly out of his reach, and in many districts he has not even equality of economic opportunity, for the white labourer may refuse to work with him and his colour may prove a bar to his obtaining employment except of the lowest kind.
In the South, on the other hand, the whites had before the war no sense of personal repulsion from the Negro. The domestic slave was in the closest relation with his master’s family. Sometimes he was his master’s trusted friend. The white child grew up with the black child as its playmate. The legal inequality was so immense that familiarity was not felt to involve any disturbance of the attitude of command. With emancipation there must needs come a change; but the change would have come more gently, and left a better relation subsisting, had it not been for the unhappy turn which things took in the Reconstruction period under the dominance of the Negro vote. The white people were then thoroughly frightened. They thought that the aim of the North was to force them to admit not only the civic but the social equality of the freedmen, and they resolved, if one can apply the language of deliberate purpose to what was rather an unconscious and uncontrollable impulse, to maintain the social inferiority of the Negro as well as to exclude him from political power. They declare that they know him better and like him better than the Northern people do. That there is not among the educated whites of the South any hostility to the race as a race is true enough. The sons of the planters, and of the better class generally, have kindly recollections of their former slaves, and get on well with their Negro servants and workmen; while among the freedmen, now comparatively few, there is still a loyal attachment to the children of their former masters. The poor whites, however, dislike the Negroes, resent the slightest assumption of equality on the part of the latter,17 and show their hatred by violence, sometimes even by ferocity, when any disturbance arises or when a Negro fugitive has to be pursued. Except so far as it is involved in domestic service, the servants in the South being nearly all Negroes, there is now little intercourse between whites and blacks. In many states the law requires the railroad and even the streetcar companies to provide separate cars for the latter, though there are cities, such as Baltimore and Washington, where the same cars are used by both races. In most parts of the South a person of colour cannot enter a public refreshment room used by the whites except as the servant of a white; and one may see the most respectable and, possibly, even educated coloured woman, perhaps almost white, forced into the coloured car among rough Negroes, while the black nurse in charge of a white child is admitted to the white car. The two races are everywhere taught in distinct schools and colleges, though in one or two places Negroes have been allowed to study in the medical or law classes. They worship in different churches. Though the Negroes read the ordinary papers, they also support their own distinct organs. They have distinct Young Men’s Christian Associations. With some exceptions in the case of unskilled trades, they are not admitted to trade unions.18 In concert halls and theatres, if the coloured are admitted at all, it is to an inferior part of the chamber. They are, however, sometimes called to serve on juries. Civil justice is mostly fairly administered as between the races, but not criminal justice. In most parts of the South a white man would run little more risk of being hanged for the murder of a Negro than a Mussulman in Turkey for the murder of a Christian.
Under so complete a system of separation, it is clear that the influence of social intercourse between whites and blacks, an influence to which the domestic slaves before the war owed much, now counts for little. But the question of the attitude of the whites has another side. It means more than the suspension of a civilizing agency. Some Southern observers say that the coloured generation which has grown up since the war, and which has been in less close touch with the white people than were the slaves and freedmen of the last generation, is less friendly to them. It has lost the instinctive sense of subservience and dependence, and its more educated members feel acutely the contrast between their legal equality and their inequality in every other respect. The lower class are also often unfriendly, prone to suspicion and violence. In this situation there lie possibilities of danger. The strained relations of the races appear most frequently in the lynchings of Negroes. It is extremely hard to ascertain the truth of the reports regarding these lawless acts. But there can be no doubt that over the South and, to a smaller extent, in the North also, Negroes accused of assassinating white men, or of outraging white women or children are frequently seized by white mobs and summarily killed; that occasionally, though probably not often, an innocent man perishes, and that the killing is sometimes accompanied by circumstances of revolting cruelty. Now and then the culprit is burned alive. Often his body, after he has been hanged, is riddled with bullets, a piece of barbarism akin to the Eastern habit of mutilating the corpses of the slain. The excuses offered for these acts are that white women, especially in sparsely inhabited regions, are in considerable danger from the lust of brutal Negroes, and that the swift apprehension and slaughter of the culprit not only strikes greater dread than the regular process of justice, but does not gratify the Negro’s enjoyment of the pomp and ceremony of a formal trial before a judge. It is also declared, and with truth, that whites also are lynched, though not so frequently and in a less atrocious way,19 that the Negroes themselves occasionally lynch a Negro, that it is hard for the executive authority, with no force except the militia at its command, to protect prisoners and repress disorder, and that the lynchings are the work of a comparatively small and rude part of the white population; the better citizens disapproving, but being unable or unwilling to interfere.
Whatever palliations may be found in these circumstances—and it is quite true that in a thinly peopled and unpoliced country white women do stand in serious risk—there can be no doubt that the practice of lynching has a pernicious effect on the whites themselves, accustoming them to cruelty, and fostering a spirit of lawlessness which tells for evil on every branch of government and public life. Were the Negroes less cowed by the superior strength and numbers of the whites, reprisals, now rare, would be more frequent. Yet even in a race with so little vindictiveness or temper, terrible mischief is done. The tendency to accept the leadership of the whites, and to seek progress rather by industrial and educational than by political efforts has been damped, and the establishment of good feeling and a sense of public security retarded. The humble Negro shuns contact with the whites, not knowing when some band of roughs may mishandle him; and sometimes a lynching is followed by a sudden rush of coloured emigration from the state or district where it has happened.20 The educated and aspiring Negro resents the savage spirit shown towards his colour, though he feels his helplessness too keenly to attempt any action which could check it.
This social repulsion and its consequences present a painful contrast to the effect of the four previous influences we have examined. As respects their intelligence, their character, their habits of industry, the coloured people are in most states making real progress. It is a progress very unequal as regards the different regions of the country, and perhaps may not extend to some districts of the so-called black belt, which stretches from the coast of South Carolina across the Gulf states. It is most evident in the matter of education, less evident as respects religion and the influence of literature. Its economic results are perceptible in the accumulation of property by city workmen, in the acquisition of small farms by rural cultivators, in the slow, but steady, increase in the number of coloured people in the professions of medicine, law, and literature. Were it accompanied by a growth of good feeling between whites and Negroes, and a more natural and friendly intercourse between them in business and in social matters, the horizon would be bright, and the political difficulties, which I shall presently describe, need not cause alarm. This intercourse is, however, conspicuously absent. The progress of the coloured people has been accompanied by the evolution of social classes within their own body. Wealthy and educated Negroes, such as one may now find in cities like Baltimore, Louisville, Richmond, Atlanta, and New Orleans, have come to form a cultured group, who are looked up to by the poorer class.21 But these cultured groups are as little in contact with their white neighbours as are the humblest coloured labourers, perhaps even less so. No prospect is open to them, whatever wealth or culture they may acquire, of finding an entrance into white society, and they are made to feel in a thousand ways that they belong to a caste condemned to perpetual inferiority. Their spokesmen in the press have latterly so fully realized the position as to declare that they do not seek social equality with the whites, that they are quite willing to build up a separate society of their own, and seek neither intermarriage nor social intercourse, but that what they do ask is equal opportunity in business, the professions, and politics, equal recognition of the worth of their manhood, and a discontinuance of the social humiliations they are now compelled to endure.
From this attempt to sketch the phenomena of the present, I proceed to consider the future. The future has two problems to solve. One is political; the other social. How is the determination of the whites to rule to be reconciled with the possession by the Negroes of equal rights of suffrage? How can the social severance or antagonism of the two races—by whichever term we are to describe it—the haughty assertion of superiority by the whites and the suppressed resentment of the more advanced among the coloured people, be prevented from ripening into a settled distrust and hostility which may affect the peace and prosperity of the South for centuries to come?
The methods whereby the Negroes have been prevented from exercising the rights of suffrage vested in them by law have been described in the last preceding chapter. These means became less violent as the Negroes more and more acquiesced in their exclusion; but whether violent or pacific, they were almost uniformly successful. In the so-called border states, the whites have been in so great a majority that they do not care to interfere with the coloured vote, except now and then by the use of money. Through the rest of the South the Negro came to realize that he would not be permitted to exercise any influence on the government; and his interest in coming to the polls declined accordingly. The main cause of this resolve of the whites to keep power entirely in their own hands is the alarm they feel at the possibility of Negro domination. A stranger, whether from the North or from Europe, thinks this alarm groundless. He perceives that the whites have not only the habit of command, but also nearly all the property, the intelligence, and the force of character which exist in the country. He reminds his Southern hosts that the balance even of numbers is inclining more and more in their favour; and that the probability of Northern intervention on behalf of the excluded Negro voter has become, since the failure of the Federal Elections Bill of 1890, extremely slight, while the other conditions of 1867 can never recur. On this point, however, the Southern man is immovable. To him it is a simple question of self-preservation. “We like the negro,” said a leader among them to me some years ago; “we know he must stay; we desire to treat him well. But if he votes, we must vote him, or outvote him.”
The results of the policy followed were unfortunate. The Negroes, naturally docile and disposed to follow the lead of their white employer or neighbour, felt themselves suspected, and lived in a terror of being stripped of the civic rights which they were not suffered to exercise, like the terror which for a time possessed them of being thrown back into slavery. So far as they voted at all they mostly clung together, and voted solid, intimidating or boycotting anyone of their number who was supposed to be a “bolter.” The whites, accustomed to justify their use of force or fraud by the plea of necessity, became callous to electoral malpractices. The level of purity and honesty in political methods, once comparatively high, declined; and the average Southern conscience grew to be no more sensitive than is that of professional politicians in Northern cities. Nor was the mischief confined to elections. The existence of this alarm has, by making the South regard the Negro as the capital question in national as well as state politics, warped the natural growth of political opinion and political parties upon all those other current questions which engage the mind of the people, and has to that extent retarded their reabsorption into the general political life of the Republic.
These evils were generally recognized. Out of the various remedies that were proposed for their cure, three deserve to be specially noted.
The first was (as proposed in the bill of 1890) to give protection to the coloured voter by the action of federal officers backed by federal troops. This could, of course, be done under the Constitution at federal elections only, and would not cover the equally important state and local elections. It would, moreover (as the discussions of 1890 showed), provoke great exasperation at the South, and might lead to breaches of the peace, from which the Negroes would be the chief sufferers. The whole South would resist it, and no small part of the Northern people would dislike it.
A second and opposite remedy was to repeal the Fifteenth Amendment to the federal Constitution, and leave each state free to exclude Negroes from the suffrage. This plan, although sometimes put forward by men of ability, was even more impracticable than the preceding one. A majority of three-fourths of the states could not possibly be secured for the repeal of a provision which the Northern people regard as sealing one of the main results of the Civil War.
The third suggested scheme was to limit the suffrage by some educational or even some pecuniary qualification—although American sentiment dislikes a property qualification, calculated to exclude many or most of the Negroes, not as Negroes, but because they were ignorant or poor. Such a scheme, though proposed by Gen. Wade Hampton in South Carolina as far back as 1867, was not tried until 1890, when Mississippi, by her constitution of that year,22 provided that a person applying to be registered as a voter “shall be able to read any section of the Constitution, or be able to understand the same when read to him, or to give a reasonable interpretation thereof.”
The advantages of such a method are obvious, and have suggested its adoption in a British colony where the presence of a large coloured population raised a problem not dissimilar to that we have been examining.23 Recognizing the need of knowledge and intelligence for the due exercise of political power, it excludes a large mass of confessedly incompetent persons, while leaving the door open for those Negroes whose instructed capacity brings them up to the level of the bulk of the whites, and who, in some places, may be now from one-fifth to one-fourth of the whole Negro population. Thus it may operate, not only as an improvement in the electoral body, but as an incentive to educational progress.
The obstacles to the adoption of the plan were, however, serious. One was that in disfranchising their Negroes for want of education, most Southern states would have also to disfranchise that part of their white population, which was below any educational standard high enough to exclude the mass of Negroes. The percentage of illiterates to the whole population over ten years of age was in 1890 in the Southeastern states 14.5 and in the Southwestern 15. To expect these voters (about 1,412,000) to disfranchise themselves for the sake of excluding Negroes was to expect too much. The other was that every limitation of the suffrage might diminish pro tanto (Amendment XIV) a state’s representation in federal elections, thereby weakening its influence in federal affairs and mortifying its self-esteem. The state of Mississippi, while facing, as it safely might, this possibility, evaded the former difficulty by the ingenious loophole under which the registering officials may admit whites who, though illiterate, are able to give a “reasonable interpretation” of any section of the state constitution. Such whites have, one is told, been able to satisfy the officials far more generally than have the Negroes. And if this particular section happens to be put to them, their common sense will find its interpretation obvious. Other states have since 1890 tried other methods, which are mentioned in the following chapter.
Even graver than the political difficulties which have been described is the social problem raised by the coexistence on the same soil, under the same free government, of two races so widely differing that they do not intermingle. Social disparity or social oppression cuts deeper than any political severance; and time, so far from curing the mischief, seems during the last thirty or forty years to have aggravated it. Politics leave untouched large parts of the field of human life, even in the United States; and the political inferiority of the coloured race, since it is the result of their retarded intellectual development, seems in accord with nature. Social inferiority, which is felt at every moment, and which reduces or destroys the sense of human brotherhood, is a more serious matter.
This problem is, moreover, a new one in history, for the relations of the ruling and subject races of Europe and Asia supply no parallel to it. Whoever examines the records of the past will find that the continued juxtaposition of two races has always been followed either by the disappearance of the weaker or by the intermixture of the two. Where race antagonisms still remain, as in parts of Eastern Europe, and on a far larger scale in Asia, one may expect a similar solution to be ultimately reached. In Transylvania, for instance, Saxons, Magyars, and Roumans stand apart from one another, all three, but especially the two latter, mutually suspicious and politically hostile. So further east one finds strong religious antagonisms (not without serious attendant evils), such as those of Sunnis, Shiahs, and Christians in Western Asia, or of Hindus and Mussulmans in India, antagonisms, however, which only partially coincide with race differences, and have thrown the latter quite into the shade. In all such cases, however, though one race or religion may be for the moment dominant, there is no necessary or permanent distinction between them; and there is, if the religious difficulty can be overcome, a possibility of intermarriage. Other cases may be suggested where a fusion is improbable, as between the British and the natives in India, or the colonists and the natives in South Africa. But the European rulers of India are a mere handful in comparison with the natives, nor do they settle in India so as to form a part of its permanent population. In New Zealand, the Maoris, hitherto a diminishing body, though now just maintaining their numbers, live apart on their own lands, but seem likely to be ultimately absorbed by the whites. In western South America the Spanish settlers have, in some regions, very largely mingled their blood with that of the native Indians, and may ultimately become as much blent with the latter as has befallen in Mexico. The peculiar feature of the race problem as it presents itself in the United States is, that the Negroes are in many districts one-third or even one-half of the population, are forced to live in the closest local contiguity with the whites, and are for the purposes of industry indispensable to the latter, yet are so sharply cut off from the whites by colour and all that colour means, that not merely a mingling of blood, but any social approximation, is regarded with horror, and perpetual severance is deemed a law of nature.
From such a position what issue? One hears little said in America of any possible issue, partly because the nation is tired of the whole subject, which has, in one form or another, vexed it ever since the early days of last century, partly because every plan that has been suggested is open to patent objections. Several, however, may deserve to be mentioned.
Even long before the war, and often since, it has been proposed that the Negroes should be retransported to Africa. The petty and stagnant Republic of Liberia owes its origin to the idea that it might furnish a home for Afro-American freedmen, and a centre whence they might be dispersed in larger and larger numbers through their ancient home. But in 1910 the more or less civilized population of Liberia of American origin was only some 18,000, the million of other inhabitants being aborigines, and the badly administered state was unable to pay its way.
There are two fatal objections to the plan of exporting the Southern Negroes to Africa. One is that they will not go; the other that the whites cannot afford to let them go. There is nothing to attract them in the prospect of being uprooted from their homes in a country where the comforts of civilization are attainable by industry, and thrown upon a new shore, already occupied by savages of whose very languages, except in the few spots where English is spoken, they are ignorant.24 The Southern whites, so far from encouraging, would resist their departure; for it would mean the loss of the labour by which more than half the crops of the South are raised, and a great part of her mining and iron-working industries carried on. Much of the country might, for a time at least, remain untilled and useless were the Negro to disappear; for of the introduction of coolie labour from India there can be no talk in a nation which has so strictly forbidden the entrance of Chinese. The Negro, in short, is essential to the material prosperity of the South, and his departure would mean ruin to it. Even now, the Atlantic states do what they can to prevent their coloured labourers from leaving them to go west.25
Apart from these obstacles, the transference of many millions of people from one continent to another is beyond the horizon of the possible. Their annual increase exceeds 200,000, quite as large a number as could be, in a single year, conveyed to and provided for in Africa. How many emigrant ships, and at what cost, would be needed even for this, not to speak of the far larger expenses needed to keep them from starving till they had begun to scatter themselves through the interior of Africa! To proceed by transporting even 200,000 a year, would be to try to empty a running stream by a ladle. The notion of such a solution has been abandoned by all sensible men in America, though here and there a belated voice repeats it.
Easier seems the alternative plan of setting apart for the coloured people certain districts of the country, such as, for instance, the southern part of the Atlantic coast region and the lowlands of the Gulf, and moving them into these districts from the rest of the country, as Oliver Cromwell drove the wild Irish into Connaught. But neither does this solution find any favour in America. No state would consent to see even a part of its territory cut off and allotted to the Negroes, to be by them administered in their own way. The rest of the country would hardly admit a purely black state to be represented in Congress and to vote in presidential elections on equal terms. And in many parts of the South, which are better suited for whites than for Negroes, and in which, therefore, the white population is now much larger, the leading industries would suffer severely from the removal of Negro labour. Northern Alabama, for instance, is in point of climate a region well fitted for whites. But the iron works there employ great numbers of Negroes who are found efficient, and whose place might not be easily filled. Virginia is, in the main, a white state. But not only the growing of tobacco, but also its preparation for the market, is a Negro industry; and it would be no simple matter to find white workpeople to do it equally well and cheaply. This scheme, therefore, may also be dismissed as outside the range of practical politics.
There remains the suggestion that the method by which race antagonisms have been so often removed in the past in the Old World, and to some extent (as, for instance, in Mexico) in the New World also, may eventually be applied in the United States; that is to say, that the two races may be blent by intermarriage into one. To some Europeans, and to a very few old survivors of the Abolitionist party in the North, this solution appears possible and even natural. To all Southern sentiment it is shocking. I have never met a Southern man, whether born there or an incomer from the North, who would even discuss the possibility of such a general commixture of whites and blacks as Brazil has begun to show or as exists in some Mussulman countries. In no Southern state can such a marriage be legally contracted; and what is more remarkable, in every Southern state such unions are excessively rare. Even at the North, where the aversion to Negro blood is now less strong, “miscegenation,” as they call it, is deemed such a disgrace to the white who contracts it that one seldom hears of its occurrence. Enlightened Southern men, who have themselves no dislike to the black race, justify this horror of intermarriage by arguing that no benefit which might thereby accrue to the Negroes could balance the evil which would befall the rest of the community. The interests of the nation and of humanity itself would, in their view, suffer by such a permanent debasement of the Anglo-American race as would follow. Our English blood is suffering enough already, they say, from the intrusion of inferior stock from continental Europe; and we should be brought down to the level of San Domingo were we to have an infusion from Africa added. This is the argument to which reason appeals. That enormous majority which does not reason is swayed by a feeling so strong and universal that there seems no chance of its abating within any assignable time. Revolutions in sentiment are, no doubt, conceivable, but they are more rare than revolutions in politics.
We arrive, therefore, at three conclusions:
His position may, however, change from what it is now.
He may more and more draw southwards into the lower and hotter regions along the coasts of the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. Whether in the more northerly states, such as Maryland and Missouri, he will decrease, may be doubtful. But it is certainly in those southerly regions that his chief future increase may be expected. In other words, he will be a relatively smaller, and probably much smaller, element than at present in the whole population north of latitude 36°, and a relatively larger one south of latitude 33°, and east of longitude 94° W.
This change would have both its good and its evil side. It may involve less frequent occasions for collision between the two races, and may dispose the Negroes, where they are comparatively few, to acquiesce less reluctantly in white predominance. But it will afford scantier opportunities for the gradual elevation of the race in the districts where they are most numerous. Contact with the whites is the chief condition for the progress of the Negro. Where he is isolated, or where he greatly outnumbers the whites, his advance will be retarded, although nothing has yet occurred to justify the fear that he will, even along the Gulf coast, or in the sea islands of Carolina, sink to the level of the Haytian.
The Negro may, indeed, in time he doubtless will, though more rapidly in some regions than in others, continue to advance in education, intelligence, and wealth, as well as in habits of thrift and application. Such progress may seem an unmixed good. Yet it can hardly fail to be accompanied in that small minority who advance most quickly, by a growing discontent with the social disabilities imposed upon the race. It will give them greater capacity for organization, possibly greater tenacity and courage, than they now possess; and these very things might, by alarming the whites, tend to widen the chasm between the races. Whether the coloured people will be any better able to give effect to any resentment they may feel, is doubtful, so great is the disparity in strength. But they might be more embittered, and this embitterment, reacting upon white sentiment, might retard the working of those healing influences which the progress of civilization generally brings in its train. Already one hears the younger whites of the South talk of the growing “uppishness” and impertinence of the Negro, as things to be resented and punished.
That sense of haughty superiority which other nations note in the English has in their Indian dominions done much to destroy the happy effects of the enormous social and economic improvements which the rule of Britain has effected. A young indigo planter, or a lieutenant only just released from school at home, will treat with wanton insolence or contumely natives of the highest caste, perhaps of dignified social position and ancient lineage; and though government punishes these offences in the rare cases when they are brought to its knowledge, the sentiment of Anglo-Indian society scarcely condemns them. Thus the very classes whom rank and education might have been expected to render loyal to British authority are alienated. When similar tendencies appear in the Anglo-American of the South, the Englishman, who knows how not a few of his own countrymen behave to the ancient and cultivated races of the East whom they have conquered, feels that he is not entitled to sit in judgment.
I do not suggest that there is any present political danger to the Republic, or even to any particular Southern state, from the phenomena here described. But the evil of these things is to be measured not merely by any such menace to political stability as they may involve, but also by the diminution of happiness which they cause, by the passions hurtful to moral progress they perpetuate, by the spirit of lawlessness they evoke, by the contempt for the rights of man as man which they engender. In a world already so full of strife and sorrow it is grievous to see added to the other fountains of bitterness a scorn of the strong for the weak, and a dread by the weak of the strong, grounded on no antagonism of interests, for each needs the other, but solely on a difference in race and colour.
Be these evils what they may—and serious as they seem to an observer from without, they are in most parts of the South not keenly felt in daily life—legislation and administration can do comparatively little to remove them. It is, indeed, to be wished that lynching should be sternly repressed—some of the Southern state governors are doing what they can for that purpose—and that the state statutes or local regulations enforcing separation of blacks from whites in travelling or in places of public resort should be at least modified, for they press hardly on the educated Negroes. But the real change to which the friends of the South and of the Negro look forward is a change in the feelings of the white people, and especially of the ruder and less educated part of them. The political troubles I have described have been tending to pass away under altered political conditions. For the social difficulty, rooted deep in the characters of the two races, none but moral remedies have any promise of potency, and the working of moral remedies, sure as we believe it to be, is always slow. Neither will compulsive measures quicken that working. In the United States, above all other countries, one must place one’s hopes on what physicians call the healing power of Nature, and trust that the forces which make not only for equality, but also for peace and goodwill among men, will in due time reduce these evils, as they have reduced many others. There is no ground for despondency to anyone who remembers how hopeless the extinction of slavery seemed in 1820 or even in 1850 and who marks the progress which the Negroes have made since their sudden liberation. Still less is there reason for impatience, for questions like this have in some countries of the Old World required ages for their solution. The problem which confronts the South is one of the great secular problems of the world, presented here under a form of peculiar difficulty. And as the present differences between the African and the European are the product of thousands of years, during which one race was advancing in the temperate, and the other remaining stationary in the torrid zone, so centuries may pass before their relations as neighbours and fellow-citizens have been duly adjusted.
 This chapter, which presents a general view of the Southern Negro and his relations with the whites, is supplemented by the chapter next following, which comments upon such changes in the situation as have occurred during the last sixteen years and contains the latest conclusions I have been able to form on the subject.
 The total white population of these states was, in 1910, 20,547,420, and the coloured 8,749,427.
 Kentucky showed a small decrease from 1880 to 1890, an increase in 1900, but a decrease in 1910. There was from 1890 to 1900 an absolute decrease of coloured population in eight other states—Maine (from 1870, though not from 1890, to 1900), Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Nevada, California, and New Mexico. From 1900 to 1910 there were small absolute decreases in New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Maryland.
 It was still greater in Arkansas (46.7 per cent), Florida (31.2 per cent), and Texas (24.1 per cent), but the Negroes have been in these three states much less numerous than the whites, and the increase was probably largely due to Negro immigration from other states.
 West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arkansas were the southern states which in 1910 showed a higher rate of increase of coloured than of white people. In South Carolina, Louisiana, and Texas the Negro race was about two-thirds behind in rate of increase, while in three South Atlantic and South Central States the actual number of Negroes had decreased in the decade.
 That which specially tends to keep down the Negro increase is the very large mortality among the children.
 The average pay per day of the skilled white labourer is usually much higher, but not double that of the coloured. A large employer of labour in Virginia assured me some time ago that he paid some of his Negroes (iron-workers) as much as $4.50 per day. He added that they worked along with the whites, and drank less.
Report of the Commissioner of Education for 1908–9.
Report of the Commissioner of Education for 1908–9. It is of course to be remembered that Negroes go rather more largely than formerly to professional schools in the North.
 Among the great benefactions whose income is applied for the education of the coloured people special mention may be made of the Peabody Fund, the John F. Slater Fund, and the Daniel Hand Fund, all of which seem to be very wisely administered. I find the total annual sum given by the North to normal and collegiate education among the Negroes estimated at a million dollars.
 This is noted by Mr. Bruce in his book, The Plantation Negro as a Freeman, which presents a striking, though perhaps too gloomy a picture, of the condition of the race.
Dr. Curry, who knew the South thoroughly, and admirably administered the Slater Fund, says, “One of the chief drawbacks to civilization in the negro race is the exceeding difficulty of giving a predominant ethical character to his religion. In the Black Belt, religion and virtue are often considered as distinct and separable things. The moral element, good character, is eliminated from the essential ingredients of Christianity, and good citizenship, womanliness, honesty, truth, chastity, cleanliness, trustworthiness, are not always of the essence of religious obligation. An intelligent, pious, courageous ministry is indispensable to any hopeful attempt to lift up the negro race.”—Atlantic Monthly for June 1892, p. 732.
 I remember to have listened to a striking speech by a Negro in Richmond in which he appealed to the historic glories of the State of Virginia, and sought to rouse the audience by reminding them that they too were Virginians.
 The report of the Commissioner of Education, 1908–9, indicated that 23,160 pupils were receiving industrial training in schools above the elementary grades.
 The South is still far behind the North in matters of prison management. Convicts, and sometimes white as well as coloured convicts, are in many states hired out to private employers or companies for rough work, and very harshly treated.
 Note, however, that in the rest of the Union (North East, North Central, and West), the proportion of prisoners in the jails is much higher among the foreign-born than in the population at large, doubtless because they are the poorest class.
 A Virginian observed to me, “Our whites don’t molest the negroes so long as the negroes don’t presume!”
 Their unions were however admitted to the federation of the Knights of Labor. Sometimes there is a coloured union acting in conjunction with a white one.
 There was, however, an instance some years ago, in which the party which was hunting for a white murderer announced their intention of burning him. I do not know whether he was caught. I have even read in the newspapers of a case in which a crowd allowed two women to flog a third to death, but this was in a wild mountain region. All the parties were whites.
 When the Territory of Oklahoma was opened for settlement, Negroes flocked in from Missouri and Arkansas hoping to obtain better security for themselves by their presence in considerable numbers.
 The mulattoes or quadroons are, as a rule, more advanced than the pure blacks, and are alleged to avoid intermarriage with the latter. Now and then, however, a pure black may be found of remarkable intelligence. Such a one, a Louisiana farmer, who read and talked with sense and judgment about the Greek philosophers, is described in the graphic and instructive sketches called Studies in the South.—Atlantic Monthly for February 1882.
 There was one Negro member in the convention that enacted this constitution, which was never (be it noted) submitted to the popular vote.
 In Cape Colony the Franchise and Ballot Act of 1892 raised the (previously very low) property qualification for the suffrage, and provided (§ 6) that no person shall be registered as an elector “unless he is able to sign his name and write his address and occupation.” These provisions disqualify the great bulk of the native coloured people, few of whom have, as may be supposed, any interest in politics.
 A variation of this suggestion has been that while the pure blacks should be exported to Africa, the (usually more advanced) mulattoes and quadroons might go to reclaim the Antilles. See An Appeal to Pharaoh; New York, 1890.
 Some states punish with fines or imprisonment anyone entering the state for the purpose of endeavouring to draw the Negroes to states further west.