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chapter 95: Further Reflections on the Negro Problem - 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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Further Reflections on the Negro Problem
The position of the Negro race in the United States is so peculiar and raises so many questions of the gravest social and economic kind that although the last preceding chapter has been revised and adapted to the changes that have occurred since it was first written, it seems proper to devote some additional pages to a consideration of those aspects of the subject which strike the observer of today.1
The changes of the last seventeen years have not affected the main features of the situation. The larger any problem is and the more deeply rooted in the past are the factors which determine it, the more slowly do those main features alter. There has, however, been not only an ampler but also a more temperate discussion of the whole matter during the last decade than there ever was before. This discussion has been turned into new channels by the material development of the South, and has revealed in new lights the spirit that now pervades the Southern people.
The recovery of the South from the abyss of ruin into which the Civil War had thrown large sections of it, and especially Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia, began a little before 1880 and has proceeded with growing speed. The assessed valuation of taxable property in the former slave states was in 1900 just what it had been in 1860, so long was the time needed to repair the losses of the long struggle. That recovery is now visible in all directions, in the bringing of new lands under cultivation, in the opening of mines, in the creation of iron and steel works, in the extension of cotton and other factories, in the rising value of real estate, and the parallel increase of the revenues of states and cities, in the foundation of agricultural and technical schools, and the expenditure of larger and larger sums upon public instruction, in the building of new railroads and the consolidation of many small lines into a few great systems which give a quicker and better service. The growth of population has not been so marked as in the Northern and Western states, but that is largely because very few immigrants from the Old World have hitherto come to the South, except into Texas. For some time past the backward people who dwell in the Allegheny highlands have begun to move downwards into the manufacturing and mining regions. And latterly a movement has begun, evident, though not yet large, of native Americans migrating from those parts of the North and West in which good farming land has become scarcer and dearer. The stream which ran to the West for so many years is now no longer able to spread itself out there, and tending to flow southward. Thus the increase of population is in the South of a wholesome kind, and it promises to continue.
A result of this progress is to be seen in the cheerful and hopeful spirit now visible. Men feel that they have turned the corner, and expect an expanding prosperity. Legislatures are more willing to spend money on education; and legislation is more enlightened, though in some states it still lags behind the progress of the North. This brighter view of things has affected the Southern view of the Negro. Between 1870 and 1900 his presence was to many persons a sort of nightmare. All sorts of absurd dangers were predicted; all sorts of absurd expedients for getting rid of him propounded. A calmer and saner view now prevails. The evils of the Reconstruction period are not forgotten, but as no one thinks they will ever recur, men can discuss the situation quietly and reasonably, feeling that as the Negro cannot be eliminated, the whites must learn to live with him and turn his presence to the best account.
Whatever cause the whites may have had for alarm twenty or thirty years ago, when the Negroes were supposed to be increasing faster than the whites, has now vanished. They show in each census a smaller percentage not only of the whole population of the Union, but even of the former slave states. In 1910 the percentage of Negroes to the whole population of the United States was 10.9; in 1880 it was 13.1.
This is attributable partly to a slightly declining birth rate, but more to the still high rate of Negro mortality. Infants are carelessly or ignorantly treated, and much havoc is wrought by diseases which, like tuberculosis, are the result of bad sanitary conditions.
The old controversy as to the capacity of the Negro for progress still rages. But about the fact that he has progressed there can be no dispute. What are the figures? When emancipated in 1862–65 the ex-slaves had no property at all. In 1910 they were cultivating as owners or tenants 893,384 farms. They owned in the sixteen Southern states 218,467 farms; and their aggregate property was estimated as being in 1910 between $400,000,000 and $500,000,000 (£80,000,000 to £100,000,000). Their churches are stated to own property to the value of $56,000,000, raised almost entirely by themselves.
So late as 1900 there were only two Negro banks in the United States; in 1909 there were believed to be fifty.2
They have entered all the professions. In 1900 there were more than 22,000 Negro teachers in schools and colleges, more than 15,000 ministers of religion, more than 1,700 physicians and surgeons, more than 700 lawyers. The numbers are doubtless now much larger. About two hundred Negro newspapers are now published, besides weekly and monthly magazines. Many Negroes are filling official posts with credit, and not a few have earned the respect and confidence of their white neighbours.
Their progress in education has been no less remarkable. At the date of emancipation probably less than 10 per cent of the freedmen could read and write. In 1870 the percentage of illiterate Negro adult males was 83.5. In 1910 it had fallen to 33.3. This is naturally by no means so great a reduction as among the Southern whites of native parentage, among whom the illiterates had sunk in 1910 to 7.7 per cent. But it represents an immense advance, when the conditions of a backward country and a very poor population are considered.3 The Negroes have a remarkable desire for instruction, and their churches have since 1880 contributed $10,000,000 to give to their schools aid over and above the support from public funds. The attendance at the universities and colleges and technical schools has continued to grow steadily.4
That this progress should have been very unequal in different parts of the country, and that it should leave sections of the population still far behind, is no more than was to be expected. That natural differentiation of the stronger from the weaker, of the brighter from the duller, which goes on in every community began among the Negroes as soon as the extinction of slavery started the normal social processes by which communities develop. The kidnapped unfortunates who were brought from Africa in slave ships had belonged to different Negro tribes in different stages of civilization, and to different ranks and classes in the same tribe, for few if any of these tribes were in that lowest kind of savagery which knows no ranks at all. The hold of the slaveship jumbled them all together, and the plantation life of toil, enforced by the whip, pressed them all down to the same level, though the few who obtained freedom soon showed an aptitude to rise. As soon as that pressure was removed, natural inequalities of capacity began to have their legitimate effect in raising some faster than others. Fortunate accidents of environment, the help of friendly free Negroes, the benevolent encouragement of a white ex-master or neighbour, the accident of admission to a school, heightened the action of the advantages which those who were born more capable possessed; until now, after nearly fifty years of freedom, social classes have begun to form, and the gap between the best-educated Negroes practising a profession or conducting a large business and the ignorant field labourer has become a wide one. Inequalities have reappeared, although those which we find among the American Negroes today are different from those that existed between their African ancestors before the heavy roller of servitude had passed over the captives.
Though a large part of the coloured population is still ignorant and backward, especially in the hottest parts of the Gulf states and along the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia, the general advance is by no means confined to the townsfolk. On the contrary, one is often told that the least desirable Negroes are the lower class who live in the cities, while the most solid and industrious are the small farm owners and the artisans in the villages. There has certainly been a real and general progress among these better classes. It is visible in the better houses they inhabit, in the better method of cultivation some of them employ, in the figures that record the savings they place in the banks. Nor should the instances be forgotten in which the Negro has shown his capacity to do things for himself in a practical way. At Calhoun in Alabama there were lately nearly one hundred who had bought or were buying farms, having saved $80,000 for the purpose. The purely Negro town of Mound Bayou in the Mississippi delta, with a population of 2,000, is well governed, orderly, and prosperous, and there is a cooperative organization called the Farmers’ Improvement Society in Texas, whose members have helped one another forward in many ways till they came to own 71,000 acres of land and were able to erect an agricultural college to give farm training to their children. There are many associations among the Negroes, both cooperative and charitable, and by them much good has been effected. Though there are some whites, politicians and others, who, taking their notion of the coloured people from the illiterate plantation labourers and the shiftless criminal loafers of the cities, deny that the Negro has advanced, and though there are others who think that he is advancing more than is compatible with white ascendancy, still the majority of the educated white people in the South see, recognise, and gladly recognise, that the standard of industry, thrift, and education is rising and that it is for the benefit of the South as a whole hardly less than for the Negroes that it should rise. Steady and efficient labour is one of the most urgent needs of the country. The more the Negro advances, the more he acquires; the larger become his wants, so much the better is his labour; the more industrious and educated he is, the less prone is he to vagrancy and to crime. It is among the ruder and more ignorant sort of white people that nearly all of the opposition to the education of the coloured is to be found.
But all the Southern whites, however they may otherwise differ, agree in desiring to eliminate the Negro as a factor in politics. In 1890, Mississippi led the way in this direction by her new constitution. Six other states have followed in her steps, viz., South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, Louisiana, and Georgia. In the new constitutional provisions of these states, intended to exclude the bulk of the Negroes, there is not a word regarding “race, colour, or previous condition of servitude,” as a ground of discrimination, so the Fifteenth Amendment to the federal Constitution is not directly infringed. The aim in view, an aim frankly avowed and justified, has been attained by provisions requiring the person who applies to be registered as a voter to have paid his taxes and to prove his possession of an educational or property qualification. Such tests (low as they were fixed), while excluding the bulk of the Negroes, would exclude a good many whites also, so it became necessary to open some other door through which whites with neither education nor property might enter. This was done in North Carolina and Louisiana by the so-called “grandfather clause” which admitted anyone whose father or grandfather had been a voter before 1867, while several other states granted registration to war veterans or their descendants.5 Things were so arranged that by one door or another nearly all the whites could find their way in, while the control of registration by white officials made it easy to exclude Negroes whose claim was at all doubtful, or whom it was desired to keep out. In Alabama it was estimated that only 5 per cent of the Negroes would under her new constitution keep the suffrage, and in Louisiana the number was reduced from 130,000 to 5,300. In the remaining four of the states that seceded, viz., Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida, and Texas, no constitutional change has been deemed needful. In them the Negroes are a smaller part of the population, and have not been in practice a voting force. Any attmpt on their part to assert themselves would be promptly checked.
The broad result of these measures has been to reduce the number of coloured electors on the register in the states aforesaid to an average roughly conjectured at not more than 10 per cent of the total number of adult males. It is larger in some states and in some districts of each state than in other states and districts, and no one seems to know exactly how large it is in any given area. Of those who might get their names on the register very many do not care to do so—where, for instance, a poll tax is required, they omit to pay it. And of those comparatively few Negroes who are on the register, many do not in fact vote, partly from heedlessness, partly because they know that in federal elections, and to a large extent in state elections also, their votes would make no difference, except in the rare case of a division in the dominant Democratic party. That party is so strong in nearly all the Southern states6 that the voting or abstention of the coloured voters, now everywhere so unimportant, could seldom affect the result of an election.
Under these conditions the Negroes have ceased to take much interest in politics. They are generally reckoned as belonging to the Republican party, but the organization of that party is kept up not so much in the hope of carrying elections as for the sake of securing representation in the national convention of the party and establishing a claim to some federal offices, objects which may be legitimate in themselves, but from the attainment of which the ordinary Negro has nothing to gain. He is accordingly supposed to have lost such interest in politics as he once evinced, and to accept without complaints that civic passivity to which his race has been reduced.
With this result the whites are doubly, nay, trebly, satisfied. They are relieved from any fear of Negro dominance. They declare that the Negro is growing to be more industrious, orderly, and generally useful now when he has dropped all thoughts of politics, and they add that friendly relations between the races have become easier, because, as the Negro is no longer challenging equality, they are less called upon to proclaim superiority.
It is easy to call these disfranchising provisions evasions of the Fifteenth Amendment which was intended by its framers to secure the vote to the Negroes on the same terms as the whites. But the state of things in the period between 1873 and the adoption of these new constitutions, a period during which, first by violence and afterwards by various tricks and devices, the Negroes were over almost the whole South practically deprived of their legal voting power, was worse than is the present legal exclusion of the great majority of them. It was demoralizing to the whites;7 it exacerbated feeling between the races; and as the Negroes were gaining nothing in those years by their nominal right to the suffrage, they have lost little by its curtailment. This is so generally understood by the people of the North that few have protested against the disfranchisement, and no attempt has been made to restore the boon which the nation was in 1870 supposed to be bestowing.
Among the leaders of the Negroes themselves there is a difference of view and policy on the matter. Some, bitterly resenting the disfranchising provisions, try to keep up an opposition to them, although they see little or no prospect of getting them repealed. Others think it better to accept facts which they are powerless to alter, consoling themselves by the reflection that provisions which make the suffrage depend on education and property tend to stimulate the Negro to raise himself to the tests prescribed for active citizenship. The bulk of the coloured people who live on the plantations take no interest in the matter. Among the more educated, the authority of Dr. Booker Washington has gone some way to commend the policy of preferring industrial progress to political agitation; not to add that it is hard to see what agitation could accomplish. It would not rouse the Republican party at the North, for since 1890 they have concluded that it is better to leave the South alone, while so far as state legislation is concerned, it might actually darken the prospects of the Negro by exciting more alarm and hostility in the breasts of the less kindly among the whites.8
Although the coloured people are not directly a factor in Southern politics, because few of them are allowed to vote, their presence has had indirect effects. The qualifications for the suffrage introduced to disfranchise them have, in some states, incidentally disfranchised a few of the poorer and more ignorant whites. For the purposes of the apportionment of representation among the states, all the Negroes, the disfranchised included, are reckoned, and thus contribute to make representation larger than it would otherwise be in the very states which have by their constitutions cut down the number of coloured voters.9 The resentment which is felt by those Negroes who live in the North at the action of the Southern Democrats has ensured their sturdy support of the Republican party in states like Indiana, Ohio, and New York, where they constitute an appreciable vote. The disquiet which the presence of the black man causes in the South holds the vast bulk of the Southern whites together in the Democratic party, and has so far frustrated the efforts frequently made to build up a solid party of Southern white Republicans. Thus someone has observed, with the exaggeration deemed needed to enforce a neglected truth, that the Negro, powerless as he is, still dominates the South, for his presence is never forgotten, and makes many things different from what they would otherwise be.
No person of colour has for a long time past sat in Congress, nor in the legislature of any Southern state, though now and then one may find his way into a Northern state legislature. A few hold small county offices in the South, and a few have been appointed by presidents to federal posts, such as collectors of ports or postmasters, in the South.10
The difficulty of correctly describing the social relations of blacks and whites in the South is due not only to the very different accounts which different observers, often prejudiced, have given, but also the great diversities between the various parts of the population and various regions of a wide country, stretching from the Potomac to the Rio Grande. But some salient facts may be stated as almost universally true.
The absolute social separation of the two races continues everywhere just as described in the last preceding chapter. Rarely does any person of colour sit down to meat in a white man’s house, or is in any other way recognized as an equal. The Southern whites conceive absolute separation to be essential in order, as many of them say, to assert and emphasize inequality, and, as all of them say, utterly to bar intermarriage. To the question whether so stringent an enforcement is necessary, the invariable reply is that nothing less would suffice to avert the fatal danger of an intermixture of blood. How much illicit intermixture goes on cannot be determined, but the number of light-coloured Negroes shows how large it must have been. It has by no means ceased.
In all states, though happily not in all parts of any state, there is friction between the races. In the North it exists chiefly between members of the labouring class. White working men and their labour unions generally refuse to work with coloured men, and the entrance to employment is so largely closed to them that one may say that the large majority of the Northern Negroes are confined to unskilled or unsettled avocations. In the Southern states the friction is perhaps less marked, and is least when one element, whether black or white, is in a large majority, less also in the rural districts than in the cities, where the Negro workpeople are supposed to be less submissive, where the proportion of bad characters among them is largest, and where the white workingmen are most rude and suspicious, the jealousy of labour competition being added to the jealousy of colour.11 It is in these cities that race quarrels and race riots such as those which unhappily occurred in Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1898, and in Atlanta, in 1906, are most to be feared. In 1910, a prize fight which took place in Nevada between a white man and a Negro in which the latter prevailed produced outbreaks of race enmity all over the country (including New York City). In the conflicts and riots at least one white man and nine or ten (by some accounts many more) Negroes were killed.
The extreme form of race friction is seen in lynching, a practice not confined to the South, though more common there than in the West, and more frequently attended by circumstances of horror. As some lynchings are not reported, and some are falsely reported, it is hard to determine the number that happen, but apparently they are becoming less frequent,12 and they are more and more condemned by the opinion of the best citizens.
Deplorable as the practice is, and seriously as it aggravates race friction, because every instance, even if it seems excusable under the particular circumstances, is apt to be followed by a crop of minor outrages, still one must not ascribe it solely to racial hatred, for whites also are lynched, though less frequently. It is largely the outcome of a defective administration of criminal justice. Homicide often, in some regions usually, goes unpunished, because courts are weak or partial, juries fail to convict, even in clear cases, while the extreme technicalities of procedure, coupled with the timidity of state judges, permit legal points to be taken by which trials are protracted, cases are appealed on trivial grounds, and the carrying out of sentences is in one way or another delayed until somehow or other the criminal escapes altogether. This distrust of the regular organs and regular processes of law is the most fertile parent of these constant resorts to violent and illegal methods of punishment.13
The racial antagonism which breaks out in lynching has produced in many parts of the South an atmosphere of suspicion and disquiet on the part of the whites, of suspicion and terror on the part of the Negroes. This is less noticeable in those agricultural districts which are almost entirely black, than in the towns. Yet it has borne its part in producing an inflow of Negroes from rural districts to the larger cities as well as from the South generally toward the North. In many places planters, even those who treat their workpeople kindly, complain of the difficulty of getting Negro labour, though it is almost the only labour that can be hired for field work. Wages have been tending to rise, but it is said that with the more backward Negroes the result is not always good, for they work less regularly when they can earn as much by fewer days of toil.
This has excited so restless and migratory a spirit that several Southern states have passed laws intended to keep the Negro on the soil by throwing difficulties in the way of his going out of the state, while bills have been introduced to exclude him from mechanical trades in order that he may stick to farm labour. Sometimes, like the ryot of India, he falls into the toils of the usurious money lender; and in all his disputes, legal or extra legal, with the whites, the chances are against him. It is also alleged that when he works on the system of receiving part of the produce of the farm, he is sometimes cozened out of his proper share by his landlord, or, if he works for wages, is held in a sort of servitude through the debts he is forced to incur for the articles supplied to him by the employer. This peonage (as it is called) is facilitated by law and in some places has grown to be a system which, where employers and creditors are harsh in enforcing their claims, makes the Negro more unrestful and drives him away from the plantations to the cities or even into the North. Yet he is often no better off at the North, where the white labourers may refuse to work with him, and where he has no more chance than in the South of receiving, except in very exceptional cases, any sort of social recognition from any class of whites, while in the cities everywhere he is met by the competition of the generally more diligent and more intelligent whites. So the Negro is after all better off in the South and on the land than anywhere else; and in the South, where the need for labourers is great and he is not generally discriminated against in business matters, a wider door is open to him both in town and in country.
At the bottom of all the labour question there stands the fact that, as compared with the white man, whether he be a native or an Italian or Polish immigrant, the average Negro is an inefficient worker. He cannot be depended to come regularly to his work, and he does less in a given time. He plies his shovel with less vigour than an Irishman, and he is not so steady as a Chinaman. He has a still unchecked liking for vagrancy, and the Negro vagrant is prone to crime; these after all are the faults that depress him in the struggle for life. All that can be said is that they are the natural result of the previous conditions, that he is less lazy in the United States than in the West Indies, and that he is improving steadily if slowly—improving in the way which is surest, viz., by his own exertions and by the example of a few of the best among his own race. A solid ground of hope lies in the fact that the evils described will naturally diminish as he grows more efficient, and that with the extension of agricultural and manual instruction, his labour will doubtless become more efficient.
Broadly speaking, there are two tendencies at work among the Southern whites, which correspond to the two classes of which Southern society consists.
The lower and more ignorant whites, including both the descendants of those who before the war were called “mean whites,” and those who have come down out of the mountains where the people had remained comparatively rude, dislike the Negroes, desiring to thrust them down and to keep them down, and, so far as they legally can, to deny them civil rights as well as social opportunities. With this class, the jealousy of labour competition has reinforced the repulsion of colour sentiment. From this class come not only the lynchings but the petty outrages practised on the weaker race; and it is in order to capture the votes of this class, which is unwilling to pay for Negro education and will sometimes boycott a white woman who devotes herself to teaching the Negroes, that anti-Negro harangues are delivered and anti-Negro bills are introduced by politicians of the less worthy type. The enmity is more collective than personal, for even where prejudice and jealousy are strongest, there are often friendly relations between individual white men of this class and their Negro neighbours, and although men of the kind described are not generally amenable to humanitarian appeals, yet those democratic doctrines which are engrained in the American mind have a certain power even over them, restraining impulses toward tyranny which might in other countries be irresistible. They might wish that the Negro was not a citizen at all, but as he is a citizen even when not a voter, his citizenship cannot be ignored.
The cultivated and progressive white people of the South, including most, though not quite all, of the leading businessmen and professional men, and many of the large landowners, cherish more kindly feelings. There are of course optimists and pessimists among them. Some, noting the progress which the Negro has already made, expect much from the effects of education and sympathetic help. Others, struck by the inferior quality of most Negro labour, think he will not in any assignable time be equal to the white as a skilled or reliable workman. But all agree in recognizing that as he is there and his labour is indispensable they must make the best of the position by giving him instruction, especially of an industrial kind, and by helping him to rise. Accordingly they advocate more liberal grants for Negro schools, and do their best to secure practical equality of civil rights and an administration of the law honestly impartial as between the races. They dislike lynching just as much as people in the North do. After the lamentable outbreak at Atlanta in September 1906, the best white citizens formed a committee for the protection of the Negroes, and this developed into the Atlanta Civil League, under the influence of which conditions showed a marked improvement. The same wish to secure protection for the Negro has been conspicuous among the most energetic and thoughtful white men in other cities.
As this opposition of two classes and two tendencies in the South is the key to the present position, so the best prospect for the future lies in the increase of the more enlightened class and the growing strength of the more friendly sentiment they represent. But it must be remembered that upon some things all Southern whites are agreed. They all dread intermarriage. They all deem absolute social separation as necessary to prevent mixture of blood. They all wish to keep strong drink away from the Negro,14 and most of them are willing even to forego, for that purpose, facilities for getting it themselves. They all desire to prevent the Negro vote from being a factor in politics, though some would concede the suffrage to the few who have education and property. And they would all alike resent the slightest interference by the national government in any matter which concerns their state legislation, political or social, upon questions affecting the coloured race.
When one comes to speak of the views and attitude of the Negroes themselves, it is necessary to premise that only a small percentage have any views at all. Even among those who can read and write, the number with sufficient knowledge or intelligence to comprehend the whole situation is small. The average Negro is a naturally thoughtless, lighthearted, kindly, easygoing being, whose interests in life are of the most elementary order, and whose vision is limited to the few miles around his house. When he had a vote, he used it, unless influenced by a white employer or patron, at the bidding of a local leader of his own race, probably a preacher. In those cities where it is worth buying, he is said to be ready to sell it. In some places, and especially where outrages have recently occurred, he lives in terror of violence from the ruder whites. But he has no racial enmity to the whites, and on the contrary is naturally deferential and submissive, responding quickly to any kindness shown to him, dangerous only when he is one of a mob, and trebly dangerous when the mob is drunk.
Among the small class of educated and reflective Negroes one may distinguish two tendencies. Reference has already been made to the opposite views of those who counsel acquiescence in, and of those who would agitate against, the restriction of the suffrage to a small section of their race. The divergence of views, however, goes further. There are those led by Dr. Booker Washington, who see no use in resisting patent facts, and therefore hold that all the Negro can at present do, and the most effective thing that, with a view to the future, he could in any case do, is to raise himself in intelligence, knowledge, industry, thrift, whatever else makes for self-help and self-respect. When he has gained these things, when he is felt to be a valuable part of the community, his colour will not exclude him from the opportunities of advancement which business presents, nor from the suffrage, nor from a share in public office. Complaints of injustice, well grounded as many of them may be, will profit little, and may even rouse further antagonism, but industrial capacity and the possession of property are sure to tell.
Others there are, such as Professor Du Bois,15 who find it hard to practise this patience; and some are beginning to organize themselves in a more aggressive spirit for common help and protection. The only political power they can exert is through the votes of the Negroes in some Northern states, and it has not yet been shown that these will follow any leaders of the type described. They can, however, both in North and South, act together for trade purposes, can patronize stores kept by members of their race, and in other ways render material aid and make their presence felt.
One thing is now common to both these sections of the educated men of colour—a growing sense of race solidarity and a perception that instead of seeking favours from the whites or trying to cling to their skirts, the Negro must go his own way, make his own society, try to stand on his own feet, in the confidence that the more he succeeds in doing this, the more respected will he be. This race consciousness finds expression in various organizations which have been formed among the Negroes for helping themselves, as well as in appeals, not always, however, responded to, to give their patronage by preference to members of the race in business relations and in professional work.
This feeling of race consciousness has in most places included, and now more and more includes, the people of mixed blood, about whom a word may be said. Whereas in Spanish and Portuguese countries persons who are not evidently black are reckoned as white, in the United States any trace of African blood marks a man as a Negro and subjects him to the disabilities attaching to the race. In Latin America whoever is not black is white; in Teutonic America whoever is not white is black. The number of this mixed population, though it cannot be exactly ascertained, is estimated at not quite one-third of the total coloured population, that is, about three millions. The proportion is largest in the Northern and Middle states, smallest in South Carolina, Georgia, and the Gulf states. While in some far Southern districts it does not reach one-fifth, there are parts of Missouri, Kentucky, Virginia, and Maryland where it is two-fifths. All these persons, even if there be only an eighth or a sixteenth of Negro blood, and there be nothing in face or accent to indicate their origin, are held to belong to the Negro race.16 To what extent children continue to be born from parents of different races no one knows. In eleven Northern and Western states, as well as in all the Southern and in Arizona, intermarriage is illegal, and in some states a punishable offence, but illicit connections are said to be still frequent, though some state laws have tried to repress this practice also by penalties. One-eighth is in some states taken as the infusion which makes a man legally a Negro; but less than that would affect him socially. There is much controversy, and so far no scientific certainty because no adequate data, regarding the physiological effect of race mixture. The common view holds the mixed race to be superior in intelligence but rather inferior in physical stamina to the pure black. It dwells on the fact that nearly all the Negroes who have risen to distinction have been mulattoes. But there are men of large experience who think differently.17 In some cities, especially in the North, mulattoes and quadroons are said to have formerly looked down on the pure blacks, and sought to create an exclusive society of their own. But that racial consciousness to which I have already referred has been drawing all sections of the African race together, disposing the lighter coloured, since they can get no nearer to the whites, to identify themselves with the mass of those who belong to their own stock.
Among these light-coloured people, it is on those who, knowing their white relatives by sight, and forced to feel that persons by nature their cousins—perhaps even their brothers or sisters—are placed above them on a level to which they cannot climb, that the sense of social inequality presses most cruelly. But it presses on every educated Negro. He may have studied at a Northern university, may have associated there in a friendly if not intimate way with white students, may have passed his examinations with equal credit.18 In face and figure he may be scarcely distinguishable from them. But in after life an impassable barrier will stand between him and them. That under such conditions there should be bitterness can excite no surprise. The wonder rather is that not more bitterness finds expression; and this may be ascribed partly to the simple faith and religious resignation which lie deep in the Negro character, partly also to the fact that the coloured people have from childhood grown up accustomed to it, so that the contrast becomes keenly painful only to a few. It is fortunate that the African race is not naturally sullen or vindictive, and that its gaiety of temper finds many alleviations for the trials of life.
Whoever, revisiting a country after a long interval, seeks to form a sound judgment on the changes that are passing, does well to check the statistical facts by his personal impressions and his personal impressions by the statistical facts. As regards the position of the Negroes, the facts that can be expressed in figures are generally encouraging. They must be growing more industrious, because they own far more land, and their total property has increased much faster than their numbers. Their sanitary condition is still in many places deplorable, but the efforts which are being made to reduce disease, and particularly tuberculosis, offer a prospect of improvement. Educationally too there is visible progress, not merely in the reduction of illiteracy, but in the increased proportion who receive industrial training and in the number who enter occupations requiring a cultivated intelligence. The statistics of crime are still regrettably high, but it must be remembered that the poorest part of a population is always that from which by far the largest proportion of offenders comes, and offences committed by Negroes are in some parts of the country more constantly and severely dealt with than those committed by whites. Lynchings are less frequent. The prohibition of the use of intoxicating drinks, which has now been enacted in nearly every state of the South, will, if strictly carried out, do much to diminish both the volume of Negro crime and the risks of violent white revenge.
When one turns from the tangible facts to the less tangible impressions which the traveller receives, the strongest among these is the sense of a revival of life and energy among the whites over nearly all the South. The spirit of this generation is a different spirit from that of the generation which fought, and largely perished, in the Civil War; but it retains some measure of the dignity and largeness of view which adorned the old Southern aristocracy. And although sectionalism is passing away, the Southern men of today have along with their pride in the Union a special pride in their own land, and a Southern patriotism of their own, like the Scottish patriotism which Scotsmen superadd to the allegiance they owe to the United Kingdom. This love of the South is an inspiring motive. It not merely spurs men to the development of the material resources of a region whose wealth in such resources is scarcely even yet appreciated, but it makes them strive to build up a community with high standards in public and private life, and with an intellectual culture abreast of that of the older Northern states. There have been many evidences (notably in the progress of the temperance movement and of the Laymen’s Missionary Movement) of the strength of moral and religious sentiment in the South. Such an enlargement of view and sense of what befits a great people naturally disposes the best citizens to a more generous and sympathetic treatment of the Negro and a wiser handling of the Negro question as a whole than was possible in the days immediately following the Reconstruction period. Thus one finds among the most thoughtful Southern men, the men whose moral leadership is recognized, a more hopeful and cheerful spirit than formerly, a spirit which sees that justice and tenderness toward the weak and backward race will make for the good of the stronger race also.
Nor is this more friendly attitude visible only among the leaders of thought. Although the mass of the poorer and more ignorant whites remain suspicious and unfriendly, the visitor discerns all through the educated class in the South a greater disposition to be indulgent to the Negroes, to protect and to help them in their difficult, upward path. This is most visible where there is evident activity and prosperity—one is struck by it in North Carolina, for instance. Nor is the reason hard to find, for when people feel themselves advancing, their hearts expand, and when they are busy they cease to brood gloomily over a problem which has been for many years a sort of obsession in many parts of the country. They feel with Senator John Sharp Williams of Mississippi when he said, “In the face of this great problem it would be well that wise men think more, that good men pray more, and that all men talk less and curse less.” So lately spoke another eminent Southerner, “Not another word about the negro problem. Get to work.”
Thus if we compare 1870 with 1890 and 1890 with 1910, there are grounds for hope. But if we regard the actual state of things, and note how slowly changes for the better have been moving, we shall realize how much remains to be done. As the pessimist, fixing his eye only on existing evils, fails to allow for the forces which are tending to lessen them, so the optimist, who sees these forces at work, is always in danger of expecting them to work too quickly. In such a case as this, where the scale is enormous because in the South nearly ten millions of black men are scattered over nearly a million of square miles, and where the real improvement to be effected, that from which all the rest must spring, is an improvement in the character and habits which a race has formed during thousands of years, progress must needs be slow.
It was observed in the last preceding chapter that forecasts are unusually difficult in a case to the phenomena of which no parallel can be found. All prediction must rest on an observation of similar facts observed before elsewhere and on the historical development those facts have taken. Now, though there have been endless instances in history of the contact of advanced and backward races, none of these instances present phenomena sufficiently resembling those of the South to enable us to conjecture the future from the past.
The case most nearly resembling that of the Southern states is to be found in South Africa at the present day. There we see a large population of black people, the settled part of whom enjoy private civil rights equal to those of the whites, while in one part of the country (Cape Colony) a small number, who have attained a certain standard of education and property, enjoy political rights also. There, as in the South, we note a complete social separation between the races, with no prospect of any fusion between them, and a tendency also on the part of the ruder section of the whites to dislike the blacks and treat them scornfully. The outlook in South Africa is in so far darker than it is in the Southern states that the Kafir population immensely outnumbers the whites, and, though the bulk of it still remains in a tribal condition, far behind the American Negroes in point of education, it is naturally of a more vigorous character and more martial spirit than are most of the latter. However, the native problem in South Africa is still so far from being solved that one can only begin to conjecture the forms it is likely to take when the Kafirs become more civilized. It is in an earlier phase than the American problem, and does not help us toward a solution of the latter.
That latter was never more tersely and forcibly stated than by the late Mr. Henry W. Grady of Atlanta when he said:19
The problem of the South is to carry on within her body politic two separate races, equal in civil and political rights, and nearly equal in numbers. She must carry these races in peace, for discord means ruin. She must carry them separately, for assimilation means debasement. She must carry them in equal justice, for to this she is pledged in honour and in gratitude. She must carry them even unto the end, for in human probability she will never be quit of either.
All that whoever wishes to forecast the future of the Southern Negroes can do is to study the forces actually at work in the South and try to form an estimate of the power they will respectively exert hereafter. Those forces are curiously intertwined, and while some promise to work for the bettering of existing conditions, others may work for their worsening. Many of the wiser minds in the South think that their combined effect will on the whole be for good. Some, however, think otherwise. The best way of stating the case is to present each view separately, and the more hopeful view may come first. I give it in the five paragraphs that follow.
The growing material prosperity of the South, a prosperity likely to increase still further, will make the labour of the Negro more and more needed, and will therefore make the Southern whites feel more and more anxious to retain him, to encourage him, to improve the quality of his work.
The Negro will share in this prosperity; and as his material condition improves, as he is better housed and clothed and acquires a taste for the comforts of life, he will be more industrious and more efficient. Thus will he become more self-respecting; and therewith also more respected. In becoming more educated, and especially better trained for industrial pursuits, the Negro will not only be able to hold his own in handicrafts, even in those which at present he seems in danger of losing, but will generally begin to awaken to the duties and responsibilities of citizenship. As he will be more eager to qualify himself for the suffrage, by reaching the prescribed standard of knowledge and property, so there will be less objection to his enjoying the suffrage when it is perceived that he has grown fitter for it.
As more and more among the coloured people rise to the level which the more advanced have now reached, and as they form higher aims in life than physical enjoyment and amusement, they will gain more self-control and steadiness of purpose. Crime will tend to diminish, and the occasions for friction between the races will be fewer.
As Negro society becomes more settled, and more of the more ambitious and capable men rise to positions of influence in the occupations of merchants and bankers, lawyers and physicians, the educated African will feel less discontented and less resentful at his social isolation from the whites, because he will have a better society of his own. To stand well in that society will be a legitimate subject for pride. His nascent race consciousness will then take the direction not of antagonism to the whites, but of showing what the African can do when he has got his chance, and the current that might have been dangerous in one channel will be harmless and fertilizing in another.
The growing agricultural and industrial progress of the whole South, accompanied by a scarcely less marked educational progress, will reduce both the enmity and the suspicion which now fill the breasts of so many of the ruder and more ignorant Southern whites. Men are more kindly when they are more comfortable. When they come to be occupied with pushing themselves forward in the world as are native Americans in the North, they will not let the presence of the Negro darken their sky and embitter their feelings as he has done for the last forty years. The memories of the Reconstruction period will in time pass away. People will see the present as it is and not in the light of a dismal past. The best part of the South has already recovered its old life and spring; and as this renovation spreads among the hitherto backward classes, they too will come to see the African and the difficulties his presence causes with a calmer and less unfriendly eye, and will recognize that harshness or scorn toward a weaker race tells harmfully on the stronger itself, as everyone now recognizes that slavery hurt the character of the slaveholder more than it did that of the slave.
Against these sanguine anticipations let us set a pessimist’s view of the probabilities, though Southern pessimism finds its grounds less in philosophic or historical reasonings than in an instinctive race antagonism which is quite compatible with kindliness to the individual Negro. These also must be stated, and as far as possible in the words of the men who hold them.
If the Negro shares in the prosperity of the South, if he grows richer and enters the professions more largely, he will become more “uppish,” will be quicker to claim social equality and more resentful of its denial. What the whites deem his insolence will provoke the reprisals from them. This will increase the tension between the two colours. And as the upper section of the Negroes find that all their advance in knowledge and material well-being brings them socially no nearer to the whites, their feelings will grow more bitter and the relations of the races more strained.
So too, assuming that race consciousness grows among the coloured people, may it not lead them to organize themselves in a way calculated to alarm and provoke the whites? The desire of the bulk of the whites to “keep down” the Negro and make him “know his place,” may be unchristian. But it exists, and any display of increasing strength on the part of the weaker race will aggravate it.
This tendency may show itself especially where the suffrage is concerned. If the Negroes so advance in property and in the capacity to pass the education tests now prescribed as to make them constitute, in some states, or counties, or cities, one-half or even one-third or one-fourth of the voters, the old alarms regarding their political influence will recur, possibly with increased force, because they will be more intelligent and better organized than they were before 1890, when electoral rights began to be withdrawn. If such a largely increased body of coloured voters should possess the franchise, the politics of the South will be disturbed and warped by the presence of a body likely to vote all together as a race irrespective of the ordinary political issues, and bartering their votes (not necessarily for money) to one party or the other as temporary advantage suggests. Probably an effort would under such circumstances be made to devise new methods for excluding at least the bulk of the coloured men; but such methods would seem more objectionable and would excite more resistance when applied to educated persons than they have done as applied in recent years to the ignorant multitude which has little or no property.
The difficulties attendant on competition in the labour market which have already caused trouble in a few places or trades are likely to be aggravated as a larger number of Negroes enter the more skilled employments. Though white workmen are deemed more efficient, the difference in efficiency is less than the difference in the wages paid to the Negroes, who at present accept much less than whites will. Irritation may follow similar to that which arose when Chinese content with lower wages competed with Americans in California and with Australians in Victoria and New South Wales. In those countries the Chinese were at last excluded. But the African cannot be prevented from seeking to improve his position merely because his competition will displease the white.
Already it is a thing without precedent in the world’s annals that two races enjoying equal civil and to some extent equal political rights should live side by side in close juxtaposition yet never intermingling, one of them stronger than the other and under constant temptation to abuse its strength. The more completely the weaker race absorbs the civilization of the stronger race and rises to its level, the more extraordinary will the situation become. Can anything but trouble be expected?
Though it is right to let the pessimist’s case be fully stated, and though his gloomy prognostications cannot be dismissed as visionary, for there may be an element of future conflict in the strengthening of African race consciousness, still the more hopeful of these two views of the situation will commend itself to one who compares the present with the past and who notes that the best men in the South, the men whose intimate knowledge and freedom from prejudice gives weight to their judgment, incline to the hopeful side. The matter may be summed up by these final observations.
The white population increases faster than the Negro not only over the whole Union, but in the South. The Negro therefore is not a political danger.
The Negro is needed as a labourer, and the more he advances, the more useful is his labour to a country which urgently needs labour. To treat the Negro fairly and help him to progress is therefore the interest of the whites.
The question whether the races can live peaceably together is at bottom a moral question, a question of good feeling, of humanity, of the application of the principles of the Gospel. Race antagonism is no doubt a strong sentiment. Many a time it has shown its formidable power. Yet it may decline under the influence of reason and good feeling. In 1810 slavery existed over nearly the whole of the American continent and its islands. Those whom it shocked were few, and still fewer contemplated its abolition. Even so late as 1860 it was defended on principle and defended out of the Bible. When the sentiment of a common humanity has so grown and improved within a century as to destroy slavery everywhere, may it not be that a like sentiment will soften the bitterness of race friction also? It is at any rate in that direction that the stream of change is running.
 Among recent books to which reference may be made upon the topics dealt with in this chapter are Mr. Ray S. Baker’s Following the Color Line, Mr. Stone’s American Race Problem, Mr. E. G. Murphy’s Present South and Basis of Ascendancy, Dr. Booker T. Washington’s Story of the Negro, and Professor Albert Hart’s The Southern South. See also the U.S. Census Bulletin, No. 8.
The Story of the Negro, Vol. II, p. 204. It may be added that the industrial progress would doubtless have been still greater but for the prevalence of tuberculosis and other preventable diseases which depress the efficiency of the race.
 Nowhere in the South is school attendance compulsory, and the provision of schools for Negro children is still inadequate in most parts of the country. There is an urgent need for more and better educated teachers.
 The imperfection of the statistics, owing to the neglect of some institutions to supply statements, makes it impossible to give complete figures on this subject.
 In 1910 Oklahoma amended her constitution by inserting the following provision: “No person shall be registered as an elector or vote in any election, unless he be able to read and write any section of the Constitution of the State, but no person who was on January 1st, 1866, or at any time prior thereto, entitled to vote under any form of government or who at that time resided in some foreign nation, and no lineal descendant of such person, shall be denied the right to vote because of his inability so to read and write sections of such Constitution.”
The enactment of such a provision in Oklahoma, which was not a state till 1907, and in which there were never any slaves except a few belonging to the Red Indians who were its only inhabitants till long after the Civil War, is the more remarkable because the Negroes are a small minority of the population.
It has been alleged, with what truth I know not, that irregularities occurred in the taking of the popular vote on this question; and the result seemed to excite surprise.
 This is less true of Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina than of the states further south.
 Thoughtful men among the whites felt this. Mr. J. A. Hamilton, in his pamphlet Negro Suffrage and Congressional Representation, quotes among other deliverances to this effect the following words of Mr. Clarence Poe of North Carolina: “There is nothing more uncontrollable than lawlessness. Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. Wink at your election officer’s thievery in times of stress and peril and next you may have election thievery to aid in plundering schemes or to save the rings and cliques to which the election officer belongs. Give rein to mob violence at a time when you think such action justifiable, and you will find your reward in a popular contempt for the restraint of law.”
 It is not, however, to be supposed that any Negro leaders undervalue the suffrage or have expressed an approval of the enactments which withhold it from the great mass of their race. Speaking of the aim of the Tuskegee Agricultural Institute, Dr. Booker Washington writes, “We did not seek to give our people the idea that political rights were not valuable or necessary, but rather to impress upon them that economic efficiency was the foundation for every kind of success” (The Story of the Negro, Vol. II, p. 292). “It ought to be clearly recognized that in a republican form of government if any group of people is left permanently without the franchise, it is placed at a serious disadvantage. I do not object to restrictions being placed on the use of the ballot, but if any portion of the population is prevented from taking part in the government by reason of these restrictions, they should have held out before them the incentive of securing the ballot in proportion as they grow in property-holding, intelligence, and character” (Vol. II, p. 370).
 It has been sometimes proposed by Northern politicians to exclude these disfranchised Negroes from the computation in the manner contemplated by the Fourteenth Amendment to the federal Constitution, but this has not been done. There would be vehement opposition, and any political gain would not be worth the trouble.
 A good many are employed in the federal departments at Washington, some of these having entered by competition.
 Serious trouble arose in Georgia in 1909–10 over the attempt of a railway company to promote Negro firemen to be locomotive engineers.
 Professor Cutler, who has carefully examined the subject, gives the total number of persons lynched in the United States from 1882 to 1903 at 3,337, of whom 1,997 were killed in the Southern, 363 in the Western, and 105 in the Eastern states. The largest number in any one year was 235 in 1892. More than one-third of the persons lynched were whites. In 1903 the number (for the whole United States) is given as 86, in 1907 as 63, only 2 of these in the North. At Coatesville in Pennsylvania a Negro was in 1911 lynched by being burnt to death, and nobody was punished.
 Upon this subject, see p. 14 of the Address of Mr. Taft (since president) to the Pennsylvania State Bar Association delivered in 1906; and also a paper by Professor J. W. Garner entitled Crime and Judicial Inefficiency (Annals of Amer. Acad. of Polit. Science, 1907).
 See upon this subject an article by the Rev. Dr. White of Atlanta in the South Atlantic Quarterly, April 1908.
 His book, The Souls of Black Folk, presents in a striking manner the hardship of the coloured man’s lot.
 The laws of some states treat a man with at least one-eighth of Negro blood as a Negro; others speak merely of “visible admixture.”
 The authorities of Hampton Institute report that their pure black pupils pass just as high in the examinations as do the mulattoes. If the latter are frequently quicker, the former are more persevering.
 At one large and flourishing state university of the North, seeing some ten or fifteen coloured students graduate, I was told that they were treated with due courtesy by their fellow students and in no way discriminated against, but it was added that if there had been in the university hundreds instead of tens of them, things would have been different.
 These words of a brilliant Southerner, too soon lost to his country, are quoted from Professor Hart’s Southern South, p. 151.