University of California Berkeley
CLASS of 1887
VOICES FROM WITHIN
W. E. BURGHARDT DU BOIS
AUTHOR OF "THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK," "THE QUEST
OF THE SILVER FLEECE," ETC.
HARCOURT, BRACE AND HOWE
COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY
HARCOURT, BRACE AND HOWE, INC.
THE OUINN ft BADEN CO. PRESS
RAHWAY, N. J.
MAY 12, 1896
THESE are the things of which men think, who live :
of their own selves and the dwelling place of their
fathers; of their neighbors; of work and service; of
rule and reason and women and children; of Beauty
and Death and War. To this thinking I have only to
add a point of view: I have been in the world, but
not of it. I have seen the human drama from a veiled
corner, where all the outer tragedy and comedy have
reproduced themselves in microcosm within. From
this inner torment of souls the human scene without
has interpreted itself to me in unusual and even illumi
nating ways. For this reason, and this alone, I ven
ture to write again on themes on which great souls
have already said greater words, in the hope that I
may strike here and there a half-tone, newer even if
slighter, up from the heart of my problem and the
problems of my people.
Between the sterner flights of logic, I have sought
to set some little alightings of what may be poetry.
They are tributes to Beauty, unworthy to stand alone ;
yet perversely, in my mind, now at the end, I know
not whether I mean the Thought for the Fancy or
the Fancy for the Thought, or why the book trails
off to playing, rather than standing strong on unan-
swering fact. But this is alway is it not? the Rid
dle of Life.
Many of my words appear here transformed from
other publications and I thank the Atlantic, the Inde
pendent, the Crisis, and the Journal of Race Develop
ment for letting me use them again.
W. E. BURGHARDT Du BoiS.
New York, 1919.
I. THE SHADOW OF YEARS 5
A Litany at Atlanta 25
II. THE SOULS OF WHITE FOLK ... 29
The Riddle of the Sphinx .... 53
III. THE HANDS OF ETHIOPIA .... 56
The Princess of the Hither Isles ... 75
IV. OF WORK AND WEALTH . . . .81
The Second Coming 105
V. "THE SERVANT IN THE HOUSE" . . 109
Jesus Christ in Texas 123
VI. OF THE RULING OF MEN . . . .134
The Call 161
VII. THE DAMNATION OF WOMEN . . . 163
Children of the Moon 187
VIII. THE IMMORTAL CHILD 193
Almighty Death 219
IX. OF BEAUTY AND DEATH .... 221
The Prayers of God 249
X. THE COMET 253
A Hymn to the Peoples 275
I BELIEVE in God, who made of one blood all nations
that on earth do dwell. I believe that all men, black
and brown and white, are brothers, varying through time
and opportunity, in form and gift and feature, but differ
ing in no essential particular, and alike in soul and the
possibility of infinite development.
Especially do I believe in the Negro Race: in the
beauty of its genius, the sweetness of its soul, and its
strength in that meekness which shall yet inherit this tur
I believe in Pride of race and lineage and self: in
pride of self so deep as to scorn injustice to other selves ;
in pride of lineage so great as to despise no man's father;
in pride of race so chivalrous as neither to offer bastardy
to the weak nor beg wedlock of the strong, knowing that
men may be brothers in Christ, even though they be not
I believe in Service humble, reverent service, from the
blackening of boots to the whitening of souls ; for Work
is Heaven, Idleness Hell, and Wage is the " Well done ! "
of the Master, who summoned all them that labor and
are heavy laden, making no distinction between the black,
sweating cotton hands of Georgia and the first families
of Virginia, since all distinction not based on deed is
devilish and not divine.
I believe in the Devil and his angels, who wantonly
work to narrow the opportunity of struggling human
beings, especially if they be black ; who spit in the faces
of the fallen, strike them that cannot strike again, be
lieve the worst and work to prove it, hating the image
which their Maker stamped on a brother's soul.
I believe in the Prince of Peace. I believe that War
is Murder. I believe that armies and navies are at bot
tom the tinsel and braggadocio of oppression and wrong,
and I believe that the wicked conquest of weaker and
darker nations by nations whiter and stronger but fore
shadows the death of that strength.
I believe in Liberty for all men: the space to stretch
their arms and their souls, the right to breathe and the
right to vote, the freedom to choose their friends, enjoy
the sunshine, and ride on the railroads, uncursed by
color ; thinking, dreaming, working as they will in a king
dom of beauty and love.
I believe in the Training of Children, black even as
white ; the leading out of little souls into the green pas
tures and beside the still waters, not for pelf or peace,
but for life lit by some large vision of beauty and good
ness and truth; lest we forget, and the sons of the
fathers, like Esau, for mere meat barter their birthright
in a mighty nation.
Finally, I believe in Patience patience with the weak
ness of the Weak and the strength of the Strong, the
prejudice of the Ignorant and the ignorance of the Blind ;
patience with the tardy triumph of Joy and the mad
chastening of Sorrow; patience with God!
THE SHADOW OF YEARS
I WAS born by a golden river and in the shadow of
two great hills, five years after the Emancipation
Proclamation. The house was quaint, with clap
boards running up and down, neatly trimmed, and
there were five rooms, a tiny porch, a rosy front yard,
and unbelievably delicious strawberries in the rear. A
South Carolinian, lately come to the Berkshire Hills,
owned all this tall, thin, and black, with golden ear
rings, and given to religious trances. We were his
transient tenants for the time.
My own people were part of a great clan. Fully
two hundred years before, Tom Burghardt had come
through the western pass from the Hudson with his
Dutch captor, " Coenraet Burghardt," sullen in his
slavery and achieving his freedom by volunteering
for the Revolution at a time of sudden alarm. His
wife was a little, black, Bantu woman, who never
became reconciled to this strange land; she clasped
her knees and rocked and crooned :
" Do bana coba gene me, gene me !
Ben d'nuli, ben d'le "
Tom died about 1787, but of him came many sons,
and one, Jack, who helped in the War of 1812. Of
Jack and his wife, Violet, was born a mighty family,
splendidly named: Harlow and Ira, Cloe, Lucinda,
Maria, and Othello! I dimly remember my grand
father, Othello, or " Uncle Tallow," a brown man,
strong-voiced and redolent with tobacco, who sat
stiffly in a great high chair because his hip was broken.
He was probably a bit lazy and given to wassail. At
any rate, grandmother had a shrewish tongue and
often berated him. This grandmother was Sarah
" Aunt Sally " a stern, tall, Dutch-African woman,
beak-nosed, but beautiful-eyed and golden-skinned.
Ten or more children were theirs, of whom the young
est was Mary, my mother.
Mother was dark shining bronze, with a tiny ripple
in her black hair, black-eyed, with a heavy, kind face.
She gave one the impression of infinite patience, but
a curious determination was concealed in her softness.
The family were small farmers on Egremont Plain,
between Great Barrington and Sheffield, Massachu
setts. The bits of land were too small to support the
great families born on them and we were always poor.
I never remember being cold or hungry, but I do re
member that shoes and coal, and sometimes flour,
caused mother moments of anxious thought in winter,
and a new suit was an event !
At about the time of my birth economic pressure
was transmuting the family generally from farmers
to " hired " help. Some revolted and migrated west
ward, others went cityward as cooks and barbers.
Mother worked for some years at house service in
Great Barrington, and after a disappointed love epi-
THE SHADOW OF YEARS 7
sode with a cousin, who went to California, she met
and married Alfred Du Bois and went to town to
live by the golden river where I was born.
Alfred, my father, must have seemed a splendid
vision in that little valley under the shelter of those
mighty hills. He was small and beautiful of face
and feature, just tinted with the sun, his curly hair
chiefly revealing his kinship to Africa. In nature he
was a dreamer, romantic, indolent, kind, unreliable.
He had in him the making of a poet, an adventurer,
or a Beloved Vagabond, according to the life that
closed round him; and that life gave him all too little.
His father, Alexander Du Bois, cloaked under a stern,
austere demeanor a passionate revolt against the
world. He, too, was small, but squarish. I remember
him as I saw him first, in his home in New Bedford,
white hair close-cropped; a seamed, hard face, but
high in tone, with a gray eye that could twinkle or
Long years before him Louis XIV drove two
Huguenots, Jacques and Louis Du Bois, into wild
Ulster County, New York. One of them in the third
or fourth generation had a descendant, Dr. James Du
Bois, a gay, rich bachelor, who made his money in
the Bahamas, where he and the Gilberts had planta
tions. There he took a beautiful little mulatto slave
as his mistress, and two sons were born: Alexander
in 1803 and John, later. They were fine, straight,
clear-eyed boys, white enough to " pass." He brought
them to America and put Alexander in the celebrated
Cheshire School, in Connecticut Here he often vis-
ited him, but one last time, fell dead. He left no will,
and his relations made short shrift of these sons.
They gathered in the property, apprenticed grand
father to a shoemaker; then dropped him.
Grandfather took his bitter dose like a thorough
bred. Wild as was his inner revolt against this treat
ment, he uttered no word against the thieves and made
no plea. He tried his fortunes here and in Haiti,
where, during his short, restless sojourn, my own
father was born. Eventually, grandfather became
chief steward on the passenger boat between New
York and New Haven; later he was a small merchant
in Springfield; and finally he retired and ended his
days at New Bedford. Always he held his head high,
took no insults, made few friends. He was not a
" Negro " ; he was a man ! Yet the current was too
strong even for him. Then even more than now a
colored man had colored friends or none at all, lived
in a colored world or lived alone. A few fine, strong,
black men gained the heart of this silent, bitter man
in New York and New Haven. If he had scant sym
pathy with their social clannishness, he was with them
in fighting discrimination. So, when the white Epis
copalians of Trinity Parish, New Haven, showed
plainly that they no longer wanted black folk as fellow
Christians, he led the revolt which resulted in St.
Luke's Parish, and was for years its senior warden.
He lies dead in the Grove Street Cemetery, beside
Beneath his sternness was a very human man. Slyly
he wrote poetry, stilted, pleading things from a soul
THE SHADOW OF YEARS 9
astray. He loved women in his masterful way, marry
ing three beautiful wives in succession and clinging
to each with a certain desperate, even if unsympa
thetic, affection. As a father he was, naturally, a fail
ure, hard, domineering, unyielding. His four chil
dren reacted characteristically: one was until past
middle life a thin spinster, the mental image of her
father; one died; one passed over into the white world
and her children's children are now white, with no
knowledge of their Negro blood; the fourth, my
father, bent before grandfather, but did not break
better if he had. He yielded and flared back, asked
forgiveness and forgot why, became the harshly-held
favorite, who ran away and rioted and roamed and
loved and married my brown mother.
So with some circumstance having finally gotten
myself born, with a flood of Negro blood, a strain
of French, a bit of Dutch, but, thank God! no
" Anglo-Saxon," I come to the days of my child
They were very happy. Early we moved back to
Grandfather Burghardt's home, I barely remember
its stone fireplace, big kitchen, and delightful wood
shed. Then this house passed to other branches of
the clan and we moved to rented quarters in town,
to one delectable place " upstairs," with a wide yard
full of shrubbery, and a brook; to another house abut
ting a railroad, with infinite interests and astonishing
playmates; and finally back to the quiet street on which
I was born, down a long lane and in a homely, cozy
cottage, with a living-room, a tiny sitting-room, a pan-
try, and two attic bedrooms. Here mother and I
lived until she died, in 1884, for father early began
his restless wanderings. I last remember urgent let
ters for us to come to New Mil ford, where he had
started a barber shop. Later he became a preacher.
But mother no longer trusted his dreams, and he soon
faded out of our lives into silence.
From the age of five until I was sixteen I went to
school on the same grounds, down a lane, into a
widened yard, with a big choke-cherry tree and two
buildings, wood and brick. Here I got acquainted
with my world, and soon had my criterions of judg
Wealth had no particular lure. On the other hand,
the shadow of wealth was about us. That river of
my birth was golden because of the woolen and paper
waste that soiled it. The gold was theirs, not ours;
but the gleam and glint was for all. To me it was
all in order and I took it philosophically. I cordially
despised the poor Irish and South Germans, who slaved
in the mills, and annexed the rich and well-to-do as
my natural companions. Of such is the kingdom of
'Most of our townfolk were, naturally, the well-
to-do, shading downward, but seldom reaching pov
erty. As playmate of the children I saw the homes
of nearly every one, except a few immigrant New
Yorkers, of whom none of us approved. The homes
I saw impressed me, but did not overwhelm me.
Many were bigger than mine, with newer and shinier
things, but they did not seem to differ in kind. I
THE SHADOW OF YEARS 11
think I probably surprised my hosts more than they
me, for I was easily at home and perfectly happy
and they looked to me just like ordinary people, while
my brown face and frizzled hair must have seemed
strange to them.
Yet I was very much one of them. I was a center
and sometimes the leader of the town gang of boys.
We were noisy, but never very bad, and, indeed,
my mother's quiet influence came in here, as I realize
now. She did not try to make me perfect. To her
I was already perfect. She simply warned me of a
few things, especially saloons. In my town the saloon
was the open door to hell. The best families had their
drunkards and the worst had little else.
Very gradually, I cannot now distinguish the steps,
though here and there I remember a jump or a jolt
but very gradually I found myself assuming quite
placidly that I was different from other children. At
first I think I connected the difference with a manifest
ability to get my lessons rather better than most and
to recite with a certain happy, almost taunting, glib-
ness, which brought frowns here and there. Then,
slowly, I realized that some folks, a few, even several,
actually considered my brown skin a misfortune; once
or twice I became painfully aware that some human
beings even thought it a crime. I was not for a mo
ment daunted, although, of course, there were some
days of secret tears rather I was spurred to tireless
effort. If they beat me at anything, I was grimly
determined to make them sweat for it! Once I re
member challenging a great, hard farmer-boy to battle,
when I knew he could whip me; and he did. But
ever after, he was polite.
As time flew I felt not so much disowned and re
jected as rather drawn up into higher spaces and
made part of a mightier mission. At times I almost
pitied my pale companions, who were not of the Lord's
anointed and who saw in their dreams no splendid
quests of golden fleeces.
Even in the matter of girls my peculiar phantasy
asserted itselL Naturally, it was in our town voted
bad form for boys of twelve and fourteen to show
any evident weakness for girls. We tolerated them
loftily, and now and then they played in our games,
when I joined in quite as naturally as the rest. It
was when strangers came, or summer boarders, or
when the oldest girls grew up that my sharp senses
noted little hesitancies in public and searchings for
possible public opinion. Then I flamed! I lifted my
chin and strode off to the mountains, where I viewed
the world at my feet and strained my eyes across the
shadow of the hills.
I was graduated from high school at sixteen, and
I talked of " Wendell Phillips." This was my first
sweet taste of the world's applause. There were
flowers and upturned faces, music and marching, and
there was my mother's smile. She was lame, then,
and a bit drawn, but very happy "t was her great
day and that very year she lay down with a sigh
of content and has not yet awakened. I felt a cer
tain gladness to see her, at last, at peace, for she had
worried all her life. Of my own loss I had then
THE SHADOW OF YEARS 13
little realization. That came only with the after-years.
Now it was the choking gladness and solemn feel of
wings! At last, I was going beyond the hills and
into the world that beckoned steadily.
There came a little pause, a singular pause. I
was given to understand that I was almost too young
for the world. Harvard was the goal of my dreams,
but my white friends hesitated and my colored friends
were silent. Harvard was a mighty conjure-word
in that hill town, and even the mill owners' sons
had aimed lower. Finally it was tactfully explained
that the place for me was in the South among my
people. A scholarship had been already arranged at
Fisk, and my summer earnings would pay the fare.
My relatives grumbled, but after a twinge I felt a
strange delight! I forgot, or did not thoroughly re
alize, the curious irony by which I was not looked upon
as a real citizen of my birth-town, with a future and
a career, and instead was being sent to a far land
among strangers who were regarded as (and in truth
were) "mine own people."
Ah ! the wonder of that journey, with its faint spice
of adventure, as I entered the land of slaves; the
never-to-be-forgotten marvel of that first supper at
Fisk with the world " colored " and opposite two of
the most beautiful beings God ever revealed to the
eyes of seventeen. I promptly lost my appetite, but
I was deliriously happy !
As I peer back through the shadow of my years,
seeing not too clearly, but through the thickening veil
of wish and after-thought, I seem to view my life
i 4 DARKWATER
divided into four distinct parts : the Age of Miracles,
the Days of Disillusion, the Discipline of Work and
Play, and the Second Miracle Age.
The Age of Miracles began with Fisk and ended
with Germany. I was bursting with the joy of living.
I seemed to ride in conquering might. I was captain
of my soul and master of fate! I willed to do! It
was done. I wished! The wish came true.
Now and then out of the void flashed the great
sword of hate to remind me of the battle. I remem
ber once, in Nashville, brushing by accident against
a white woman on the street. Politely and eagerly
I raised my hat to apologize. That was thirty-five
years ago. From that day to this I have never know
ingly raised my hat to a Southern white woman.
I suspect that beneath all of my seeming triumphs
there were many failures and disappointments, but
the realities loomed so large that they swept away
even the memory of other dreams and wishes. Con
sider, for a moment, how miraculous it all was to
a boy of seventeen, just escaped from a narrow val
ley : I willed and lo ! my people came dancing about
me, riotous in color, gay in laughter, full of sym
pathy, need, and pleading; darkly delicious girls
"colored" girls sat beside me and actually talked
to me while I gazed in tongue-tied silence or babbled
in boastful dreams. Boys with my own experiences
and out of my own world, who knew and understood,
wrought out with me great remedies. I studied
eagerly under teachers who bent in subtle sympathy,
feeling themselves some shadow of the Veil and lift-
THE SHADOW OF YEARS 15
ing it gently that we darker souls might peer through
to other worlds.
I willed and lo! I was walking beneath the elms
of Harvard, the name of allurement, the college of
my youngest, wildest visions ! I needed money; schol
arships and prizes fell into my lap, not all I wanted
or strove for, but all I needed to keep in school.
Commencement came and standing before governor,
president, and grave, gowned men, I told them cer
tain astonishing truths, waving my arms and breath
ing fast! They applauded with what now seems to
me uncalled-for fervor, but then! I walked home on
pink clouds of glory! I asked for a fellowship and
got it. I announced my plan of studying in Germany,
but Harvard had no more fellowships for me. A
friend, however, told me of the Slater Fund and how
the Board was looking for colored men worth edu
cating. No thought of modest hesitation occurred
to me. I rushed at the chance.
The trustees of the Slater Fund excused themselves
politely. They acknowledged that they had in the
past looked for colored boys of ability to educate,
but, being unsuccessful, they had stopped searching.
I went at them hammer and tongs ! I plied them with
testimonials and mid-year and final marks. I inti
mated plainly, impudently, that they were " stalling " !
In vain did the chairman, Ex-President Hayes, ex
plain and excuse. I took no excuses and brushed ex
planations aside. I wonder now that he did not brush
me aside, too, as a conceited meddler, but instead he
smiled and surrendered.
1 6 DARKWATER
I crossed the ocean in a trance. Always I seemed
to be saying, " It is not real; I must be dreaming! "
I can live it again the little, Dutch ship the blue
waters the smell of new-mown hay Holland and
the Rhine. I saw the Wartburg and Berlin; I made
the Harzreise and climbed the Brocken; I saw the
Hansa towns and the cities and dorfs of South Ger
many; I saw the Alps at Berne, the Cathedral at
Milan, Florence, Rome, Venice, Vienna, and Pesth;
I looked on the boundaries of Russia; and I sat in
Paris and London.
On mountain and valley, in home and school, I
met men and women as I had never met them before.
Slowly they became, not white folks, but folks. The
unity beneath all life clutched me. I was not less
fanatically a Negro, but " Negro " meant a greater,
broader sense of humanity and world-fellowship. I
felt myself standing, not against the world, but simply
against American narrowness and color prejudice,
with the greater, finer world at my back urging me on.
I builded great castles in Spain and lived therein.
I dreamed and loved and wandered and sang; then,
after two long years, I dropped suddenly back into
" nigger "-hating America !
My Days of Disillusion were not disappointing
enough to discourage me. I was still upheld by that
fund of infinite faith, although dimly about me I saw
the shadow of disaster. I began to realize how much
of what I had called Will and Ability was sheer Luck !
Suppose my good mother had preferred a steady in
come from my child labor rather than bank on the
THE SHADOW OF YEARS 17
precarious dividend of my higher training? Suppose
that pompous old village judge, whose dignity we
often ruffled and whose apples we stole, had had his
way and sent me while a child to a " reform " school
to learn a " trade " ? Suppose Principal Hosmer had
been born with no faith in " darkies," and instead
of giving me Greek and Latin had taught me car
pentry and the making of tin pans? Suppose I had
missed a Harvard scholarship? Suppose the Slater
Board had then, as now, distinct ideas as to where
the education of Negroes should stop? Suppose and
suppose! As I sat down calmly on flat earth and
looked at my life a certain great fear seized me.
Was I the masterful captain or the pawn of laughing
sprites? Who was I to fight a world of color preju
dice? I raise my hat to myself when I remember
that, even with these thoughts, I did not hesitate or
waver; but just went doggedly to work, and therein
lay whatever salvation I have achieved.
First came the task of earning a living. I was
not nice or hard to please. I just got down on my
knees and begged for work, anything and anywhere.
I wrote to Hampton, Tuskegee, and a dozen other
places. They politely declined, with many regrets.
The trustees of a backwoods Tennessee town consid
ered me, but were eventually afraid. Then, suddenly,
Wilberforce offered to let me teach Latin and Greek
at $750 a year. I was overjoyed!
I did not know anything about Latin and Greek,
but I did know of Wilberforce. The breath of that
great name had swept the water and dropped into
1 8 DARKWATER
southern Ohio, where Southerners had taken their
cure at Tawawa Springs and where white Methodists
had planted a school; then came the little bishop,
Daniel Payne, who made it a school of the African
Methodists. This was the school that called me, and
when re-considered offers from Tuskegee and Jeffer
son City followed, I refused; I was so thankful for
that first offer.
I went to Wilberforce with high ideals. I wanted
to help to build a great university. I was willing to
work night as well as day. I taught Latin, Greek,
English, and German. I helped in the discipline, took
part in the social life, begged to be allowed to
lecture on sociology, and began to write books. But
I found myself against a stone wall. Nothing stirred
before my impatient pounding! Or if it stirred, it
soon slept again.
Of course, I was too impatient ! The snarl of years
was not to be undone in days. I set at solving the
problem before I knew it. Wilberforce was a colored
church-school. In it were mingled the problems of
poorly-prepared pupils, an inadequately-equipped
plant, the natural politics of bishoprics, and the pro
vincial reactions of a country town loaded with tradi
tions. It was my first introduction to a Negro world,
and I was at once marvelously inspired and deeply
depressed. I was inspired with the children, had I
not rubbed against the children of the world and did
I not find here the same eagerness, the same joy of
life, the same brains as in New England, France, and
Germany? But, on the other hand, the ropes and
THE SHADOW OF YEARS 19
myths and knots and hindrances; the thundering
waves of the white world beyond beating us back;
the scalding breakers of this inner world, its currents
and back eddies its meanness and smallness its sor
row and tragedy its screaming farce !
In all this I was as one bound hand and foot
Struggle, work, fight as I would, I seemed to get
nowhere and accomplish nothing. I had all the wild
intolerance of youth, and no experience in human
tangles. For the first time in my life I realized that
there were limits to my will to do. The Day of
Miracles was past, and a long, gray road of dogged
work lay ahead.
I had, naturally, my triumphs here and there. I
defied the bishops in the matter of public extempora
neous prayer and they yielded. I bearded the poor,
hunted president in his den, and yet was re-elected to
my position. I was slowly winning a way, but quickly
losing faith in the value of the way won. Was this
the place to begin my life work? Was this the work
which I was best fitted to do? What business had
I, anyhow, to teach Greek when I had studied men?
I grew sure that I had made a mistake. So I de
termined to leave Wilberforce and try elsewhere.
Thus, the third period of my life began.
First, in 1896, I married a slip of a girl, beauti
fully dark-eyed and thorough and good as a German
housewife. Then I accepted a job to make a study
of Negroes in Philadelphia for the University of
Pennsylvania, one year at six hundred dollars. How
did I dare these two things? I do not know. Yet
they spelled salvation. To remain at Wilberforce
without doing my ideals meant spiritual death. Both
my wife and I were homeless. I dared a home and
a temporary job. But it was a different daring from
the days of my first youth. I was ready to admit
that the best of men might fail. I meant still to be
captain of my soul, but I realized that even captains
are not omnipotent in uncharted and angry seas.
I essayed a thorough piece of work in Philadelphia.
I labored morning, noon, and night. Nobody ever
reads that fat volume on " The Philadelphia Negro/!
but they treat it with respect, and that consoles me.
The colored people of Philadelphia received me with
no open arms. They had a natural dislike to being
studied like a strange species. I met again and in
different guise those curious cross-currents and inner
social whirlings of my own people. They set me to
groping. I concluded that I did not know so much
as I might about my own people, and when President
Bumstead invited me to Atlanta University the next
year to teach sociology and study the American Negro,
I accepted gladly, at a salary of twelve hundred dol
My real life work was done at Atlanta for thirteen
years, from my twenty-ninth to my forty-second birth
day. They were years of great spiritual upturning,
of the making and unmaking of ideals, of hard work
and hard play. Here I found myself. I lost most
of my mannerisms. I grew more broadly human,
made my closest and most holy friendships, and
studied human beings. I became widely-acquainted
THE SHADOW OF YEARS 21
with the real condition of my people. I realized the
terrific odds which faced them. At Wilberforce I
was their captious critic. In Philadelphia I was their
cold and scientific investigator, with microscope and
probe. It took but a few years of Atlanta to bring
me to hot and indignant defense. I saw the race
hatred of the whites as I had never dreamed of it
before, naked and unashamed! The faint discrimi
nation of my hopes and intangible dislikes paled into
nothing before this great, red monster of cruel oppres
sion. I held back with more difficulty each day my
mounting indignation against injustice and misrepre
With all this came the strengthening and harden
ing of my own character. The billows of birth, love,
and death swept over me. I saw life through all its
paradox and contradiction of streaming eyes and mad
merriment. I emerged into full manhood, with the
ruins of some ideals about me, but with others planted
above the stars; scarred and a bit grim, but hugging
to my soul the divine gift of laughter and withal
determined, even unto stubbornness, to fight the good
At last, forbear and waver as I would, I faced
the great Decision. My life's last and greatest door
stood ajar. What with all my dreaming, studying,
and teaching was I going to do in this fierce fight?
Despite all my youthful conceit and bumptiousness, I
found developed beneath it all a reticence and new
fear of forwardness, which sprang from searching
criticisms of motive and high ideals of efficiency;
but contrary to my dream of racial solidarity and
notwithstanding my deep desire to serve and follow
and think, rather than to lead and inspire and de
cide, I found myself suddenly the leader of a great
wing of people fighting against another and greater
Nor could any effort of mine keep this fight from
sinking to the personal plane. Heaven knows I tried.
That first meeting of a knot of enthusiasts, at Niagara
Falls, had all the earnestness of self-devotion. At the
second meeting, at Harper's Ferry, it arose to the
solemnity of a holy crusade and yet without and to the
cold, hard stare of the world it seemed merely the
envy of fools against a great man, Booker Washing
Of the movement I was willy-nilly leader. I hated
the role. For the first time I faced criticism and
cared. Every ideal and habit of my life was cruelly
misjudged. I who had always overstriven to give
credit for good work, who had never consciously
stooped to envy was accused by honest colored people
of every sort of small and petty jealousy, while white
people said I was ashamed of my race and wanted
to be white! And this of me, whose one life fanati
cism had been belief in my Negro blood 1
Away back in the little years of my boyhood I had
sold the Springfield Republican and written for Mr.
Fortune's Globe. I dreamed of being an editor my
self some day. I am an editor. In the great, slashing
days of college life I dreamed of a strong organization
to fight the battles of the Negro race. The National
THE SHADOW OF YEARS 23
Association for the Advancement of Colored People
is such a body, and it grows daily. In the dark days
at Wilberforce I planned a time when I could speak
freely to my people and of them, interpreting between
two worlds. I am speaking now. In the study at
Atlanta I grew to fear lest my radical beliefs should
so hurt the college that either my silence or the in
stitution's ruin would result. Powers and principali
ties have not yet curbed my tongue and Atlanta still
It all came this new Age of Miracles because a
few persons in 1909 determined to celebrate Lincoln's
Birthday properly by calling for the final emancipa
tion of the American Negro. I came at their call.
My salary even for a year was not assured, but it
was the " Voice without reply." The result has been
the National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People and The Crisis and this book, which
I am finishing on my Fiftieth Birthday.
Last year I looked death in the face and found
its lineaments not unkind. But it was not my time.
Yet in nature some time soon and in the fullness of
days I shall die, quietly, I trust, with my face turned
South and eastward; and, dreaming or dreamless, I
shall, I am sure, enjoy death as I have enjoyed life.
A Litany at Atlanta
O Silent God, Thou whose voice afar in mist and
mystery hath left our ears an-hungered in these fearful
Hear us, good Lord!
Listen to us, Thy children : our faces dark with doubt
are made a mockery in Thy Sanctuary. With uplifted
hands we front Thy Heaven, O God, crying:
We beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord!
We are not better than our fellows, Lord ; we are but
weak and human men. When our devils do deviltry,
curse Thou the doer and the deed, curse them as we
curse them, do to them all and more than ever they have
done to innocence and weakness, to womanhood and
Have mercy upon us, miserable sinners!
And yet, whose is the deeper guilt? Who made these
devils? Who nursed them in crime and. fed them on
injustice? Who ravished and debauched their mothers
and their grandmothers? Who bought and sold their
crime and waxed fat and rich on public iniquity?
Thou knowest, good God!
Is this Thy Justice, O Father, that guile be easier than
innocence and the innocent be crucified for the guilt of
the untouched guilty?
Justice, O Judge of men!
Wherefore do we pray? Is not the God of the Fathers
dead? Have not seers seen in Heaven's halls Thine
hearsed and lifeless form stark amidst the black and
rolling smoke of sin, where all along bow bitter forms
of endless dead?
Awake, Thou that steepest!
Thou art not dead, but flown afar, up hills of endless
light, through blazing corridors of suns, where worlds
do swing of good and gentle men, of women strong and
free far from the cozenage, black hypocrisy, and chaste
prostitution of this shameful speck of dust!
Turn again, O Lord; leave us not to perish in our sin!
From lust of body and lust of blood,
Great God, deliver us!
From lust of power and lust of gold,
Great God, deliver its!
From the leagued lying of despot and of brute,
Great God, deliver us!
A city lay in travail, God our Lord, and from her
loins sprang twin Murder and Black Hate. Red was the
midnight; clang, crack, and cry of death and fury rilled
the air and trembled underneath the stars where church
spires pointed silently to Thee. And all this was to
sate the greed of greedy men who hide behind the veil
Bend us Thine ear, O Lord!
In the pale, still morning we looked upon the deed.
We stopped our ears and held our leaping hands, but
they did they not wag their heads and leer and cry
with bloody jaws: Cease from Crime! The word was
mockery, for thus they train a hundred crimes while we
do cure one.
Turn again our captivity, O Lord!
Behold this maimed and broken thing, dear God; it
was an humble black man, who toiled and sweat to save^
a bit from the pittance paid him. They told him : Work
and Rise! He worked. Did this man sin? Nay, but
someone told how someone said another did one whom
he had never seen nor known. Yet for that man's crime
this man lieth maimed and murdered, his wife naked to
shame, his children to poverty and evil.
Hear us, heavenly Father!
Doth not this justice of hell stink in Thy nostrils, O
A LITANY AT ATLANTA 27
God? How long shall the mounting flood of innocent
blood roar in Thine ears and pound in our hearts for
vengeance? Pile the pale frenzy of blood-crazed brutes,
who do such deeds, high on Thine Altar, Jehovah Jireh,
and burn it in hell forever and forever!
Forgive us, good Lord; we know not what we say!
Bewildered we are and passion-tossed, mad with the
madness of a mobbed and mocked and murdered people ;
straining at the armposts of Thy throne, we raise our
shackled hands and charge Thee, God, by the bones of
our stolen fathers, by the tears of our dead mothers, by
the very blood of Thy crucified Christ: What meaneth
this ? Tell us the plan ; give us the sign !
Keep not Thou silent, God!
Sit not longer blind, Lord God, deaf to our prayer and
dumb to our dumb suffering. Surely Thou, too, art
not white, O Lord, a pale, bloodless, heartless thing !
Ah! Christ of all the Pities!
Forgive the thought ! Forgive these wild, blasphemous
words ! Thou art still the God of our black fathers and
in Thy Soul's Soul sit some soft darkenings of the
evening, some shado wings of the velvet night.
But whisper speak call, great God, for Thy silence
is white terror to our hearts! The way, O God, show
us the way and point us the path!
Whither ? North is greed and South is blood ; within,
the coward, and without, the liar. Whither ? To death ?
Amen! Welcome, dark sleep!
Whither? To life? But not this life, dear God, not
this. Let the cup pass from us, tempt us not beyond
our strength, for there is that clamoring and clawing
within, to whose voice we would not listen, yet shudder
lest we must, and it is red. Ah ! God ! It is a red and
In yonder East trembles a star.
Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord!
Thy Will, O Lord, be done !
Lord, we have done these pleading, wavering words.
We beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord!
We bow our heads and hearken soft to the sobbing of
women and little children.
We beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord!
Our voices sink in silence and in night.
Hear us, good Lord!
In night, O God of a godless land!
In silence, O Silent God.
THE SOULS OF WHITE FOLK
HIGH in the tower, where I sit above the loud com
plaining of the human sea, I know many souls that
toss and whirl and pass, but none there are that in
trigue me more than the Souls of White Folk.
Of them I am singularly clairvoyant. I see in and
through them. I view them from unusual points of
vantage. Not as a foreigner do I come, for I am
native, not foreign, bone of their thought and flesh
of their language. Mine is not the knowledge of the
traveler or the colonial composite of dear memories,
words and wonder. Nor yet is my knowledge that
which servants have of masters, or mass of class, or
capitalist of artisan. Rather I see these souls un
dressed and from the back and side. I see the working
of their entrails. I know their thoughts and they know
that I know. This knowledge makes them now em
barrassed, now furious! They deny my right to live
and be and call me misbirth! My word is to them
mere bitterness and my soul, pessimism. And yet as
they preach and strut and shout and threaten, crouch
ing as they clutch at rags of facts and fancies to
hide their nakedness, they go twisting, flying by my
tired eyes and I see them ever stripped, ugly, human.
The discovery of personal whiteness among the
world's peoples is a very modern thing, a nineteenth
and twentieth century matter, indeed. The ancient
world would have laughed at such a distinction. The
Middle Age regarded skin color with mild curiosity;
and even up into the eighteenth century we were
hammering our national manikins into one, great,
Universal Man, with fine frenzy which ignored color
and race even more than birth. Today we have
changed all that, and the world in a sudden, emo
tional conversion has discovered that it is white and
by that token, wonderful !
This assumption that of all the hues of God white
ness alone is inherently and obviously better than
brownness or tan leads to curious acts ; even the sweeter
souls of the dominant world as they discourse with
me on weather, weal, and woe are continually playing
above their actual words an obligate of tune and tone,
" My poor, un-white thing ! Weep not nor rage.
I know, too well, that the curse of God lies heavy
on you. Why? That is not for me to say, but be
brave! Do your work in your lowly sphere, praying
the good Lord that into heaven above, where all is
love, you may, one day, be born white ! "
I do not laugh. I am quite straight-faced as I ask
" But what on earth is whiteness that one should
so desire it?" Then always, somehow, some way,
silently but clearly, I am given to understand that
whiteness is the ownership of the earth forever and
THE SOULS OF WHITE FOLK 31
Now what is the effect on a man or a nation when
it comes passionately to believe such an extraordinary
dictum as this? That nations are coming to believe
it is manifest daily. Wave on wave, each with in
creasing virulence, is dashing this new religion of
whiteness on the shores of our time. Its first effects
are funny: the strut of the Southerner, the arrogance
of the Englishman amuck, the whoop of the hoodlum
who vicariously leads your mob. Next it appears
dampening generous enthusiasm in what we once
counted glorious; to free the slave is discovered to be
tolerable only in so far as it freed his master! Do
we sense somnolent writhings in black Africa or angry
groans in India or triumphant banzais in Japan ? " To
your tents, O Israel ! " These nations are not white !
After the more comic manifestations and the chill
ing of generous enthusiasm come subtler, darker deeds.
Everything considered, the title to the universe claimed
by White Folk is faulty. It ought, at least, to look
plausible. How easy, then, by emphasis and omission
to make children believe that every great soul the
world ever saw was a white man's soul; that every
great thought the world ever knew was a white man's
thought; that every great deed the world ever did
was a white man's deed; that every great dream the
world ever sang was a white man's dream. In fine,
that if from the world were dropped everything that
could not fairly be attributed to White Folk, the
world would, if anything, be even greater, truer, bet
ter than now. And if all this be a lie, is it not a lie
in a great cause?
Here it is that the comedy verges to tragedy. The
first minor note is struck, all unconsciously, by those
worthy souls in whom consciousness of high .descent
brings burning desire to spread the gift abroad,
the obligation of nobility to the ignoble. Such sense
of duty assumes two things: a real possession of the
heritage and its frank appreciation by the humble-born.
So long, then, as humble black folk, voluble with
thanks, receive barrels of old clothes from lordly and
generous whites, there is much mental peace and
moral satisfaction. But when the black man begins
to dispute the white man's title to certain alleged
bequests of the Fathers in wage and position, author
ity and training; and when his attitude toward charity
is sullen anger rather than humble jollity; when he
insists on his human right to swagger and swear
and waste, then the spell is suddenly broken and the
philanthropist is ready to believe that Negroes are im
pudent, that the South is right, and that Japan wants
to fight America.
After this the descent to Hell is easy. On the pale,
white faces which the great billows whirl upward
to my tower I see again and again, often and still
more often, a writing of human hatred, a deep and
passionate hatred, vast by the very vagueness of its
expressions. Down through the green waters, on the
bottom of the world, where men move to and fro,
I have seen a man an educated gentleman grow
livid with anger because a little, silent, black woman
was sitting by herself in a Pullman car. He was a
white man. I have seen a great, grown man curse
THE SOULS OF WHITE FOLK 33
a little child, who had wandered into the wrong wait
ing-room, searching for its mother : " Here, you
damned black " He was white. In Central Park
I have seen the upper lip of a quiet, peaceful man
curl back in a tigerish snarl of rage because black
folk rode by in a motor car. He was a white man.
We have seen, you and I, city after city drunk and
furious with ungovernable lust of blood; mad with
murder, destroying, killing, and cursing; torturing
human victims because somebody accused of crime
happened to be of the same color as the mob's inno
cent victims and because that color was not white!
We have seen, Merciful God! in these wild days
and in the name of Civilization, Justice, and Mother
hood, what have we not seen, right here in America,
of orgy, cruelty, barbarism, and murder done to men
and women of Negro descent.
Up through the foam of green and weltering waters
wells this great mass of hatred, in wilder, fiercer vio
lence, until I look down and know that today to the
millions of my people no misfortune could happen,
of death and pestilence, failure and defeat that
would not make the hearts of millions of their fel
lows beat with fierce, vindictive joy! Do you doubt
it? Ask your own soul what it would say if the next
census were to report that half of black America was
dead and the other half dying.
Unfortunate ? Unfortunate. But where is the mis
fortune? Mine? Am I, in my blackness, the sole
sufferer? I suffer. And yet, somehow, above the
suffering, above the shackled anger that beats the
bars, above the hurt that crazes there surges in me
a vast pity, pity for a people imprisoned and en
thralled, hampered and made miserable for such a
cause, for such a phantasy!
Conceive this nation, of all human peoples, engaged
in a crusade to make the " World Safe for Democ
racy"! Can you imagine the United States protest
ing against Turkish atrocities in Armenia, while the
Turks are silent about mobs in Chicago and St. Louis;
what is Louvain compared with Memphis, Waco,
Washington, Dyersburg, and Estill Springs? In
short, what is the black man but America's Belgium,
and how could America condemn in Germany that
which she commits, just as brutally, within her own
A true and worthy ideal frees and uplifts a people;
a false ideal imprisons and lowers. Say to men,
earnestly and repeatedly : " Honesty is best, knowl
edge is power; do unto others as you would be done
by." Say this and act it and the nation must move
toward it, if not to it. But say to a people: "The
one virtue is to be white," and the people rush to the
inevitable conclusion, " Kill the ' nigger ' ! "
Is not this the record of present America? Is not
this its headlong progress ? Are we not coming more
and more, day by day, to making the statement " I
am white," the one fundamental tenet of our practical
morality? Only when this basic, iron rule is involved
is our defense of right nation-wide and prompt. Mur
der may swagger, theft may rule and prostitution may
flourish and the nation gives but spasmodic, inter-
THE SOULS OF WHITE FOLK 35
mittent and lukewarm attention. But let the murderer
be black or the thief brown or the violator of woman
hood have a drop of Negro blood, and the righteous
ness of the indignation sweeps the world. Nor would
this fact make the indignation less justifiable did not
we all know that it was blackness that was condemned
and not crime.
In the awful cataclysm of World War, where from
beating, slandering, and murdering us the white world
turned temporarily aside to kill each other, we of the
Darker Peoples looked on in mild amaze.
Among some of us, I doubt not, this sudden de
scent of Europe into hell brought unbounded sur
prise; to others, over wide area, it brought the
Schadcn Freude of the bitterly hurt; but most of us,
I judge, looked on silently and sorrowfully, in sober
thought, seeing sadly the prophecy of our own souls.
Here is a civilization that has boasted much.
Neither Roman nor Arab, Greek nor Egyptian, Per
sian nor Mongol ever took himself and his own per-
fectness with such disconcerting seriousness as the
modern white man. We whose shame, humiliation,
and deep insult his aggrandizement so often involved
were never deceived. We looked at him clearly, with
world-old eyes, and saw simply a human thing, weak
and pitiable and cruel, even as we are and were.
These super-men and world-mastering demi-gods
listened, however, to no low tongues of ours, even
when we pointed silently to their feet of clay. Per
haps we, as folk of simpler soul and more primitive
type, have been most struck in the welter of recent
3 6 DARKWATER
years by the utter failure of white religion. We have
curled our lips in something like contempt as we have
witnessed glib apology and weary explanation. Noth
ing of the sort deceived us. A nation's religion is its
life, and as such white Christianity is a miserable
Nor would we be unfair in this criticism : We know
that we, too, have failed, as you have, and have re
jected many a Buddha, even as you have denied
Christ; but we acknowledge our human frailty, while
you, claiming super-humanity, scoff endlessly at our
The number of white individuals who are practising
with even reasonable approximation the democracy
and unselfishness of Jesus Christ is so small and un
important as to be fit subject for jest in Sunday sup
plements and in Punch, Life, Le Rire, and Fliegende
Blatter. In her foreign mission work the extraordi
nary self-deception of white religion is epitomized:
solemnly the white world sends five million dollars
worth of missionary propaganda to Africa each year
and in the same twelve months adds twenty-five mil
lion dollars worth of the vilest gin manufactured.
'Peace to the augurs of Rome !
We may, however, grant without argument that
religious ideals have always far outrun their very
human devotees. J^et us, then, turn to more mundane
matters of honor and fairness. The world today is
trade. The world has turned shopkeeper; history is
economic history; living is earning a living. Is it
necessary to ask how much of high emprise and hon-
THE SOULS OF WHITE FOLK 37
orable conduct has been found here? Something, to
be sure. The establishment of world credit systems
is built on splendid and realizable faith in fellow-men.
But it is, after all, so low and elementary a step that
sometimes it looks merely like honor among thieves,
for the revelations of highway robbery and low cheat
ing in the business world and in all its great modern
centers have raised in the hearts of all true men in our
day an exceeding great cry for revolution in our basic
methods and conceptions of industry and commerce.
We do not, for a moment, forget the robbery of
other times and races when trade was a most uncer
tain gamble; but was there not a certain honesty and
frankness in the evil that argued a saner morality?
There are more merchants today, surer deliveries, and
wider well-being, but are there not, also, bigger thieves,
deeper injustice, and more calloused selfishness in
well-being? Be that as it may, certainly the nicer
sense of honor that has risen ever and again in groups
of forward-thinking men has been curiously and
broadly blunted. Consider our chiefest industry,
fighting. Laboriously the Middle Ages built its rules
of fairness equal armament, equal notice, equal con
ditions. What do we see today? Machine-guns
against assegais; conquest sugared with religion; mu
tilation and rape masquerading as culture, all this,
with vast applause at the superiority of white over
War is horrible! This the dark world knows to
its awful cost. But has it just become horrible, in
these last days, when under essentially equal condi-
3 8 DARKWATER
tions, equal armament, and equal waste of wealth
white men are righting white men, with surgeons and
nurses hovering near?
Think of the wars through which we have lived
in the last decade: in German Africa, in British
Nigeria, in French and Spanish Morocco, in China,
in Persia, in the Balkans, in Tripoli, in Mexico, and
in a dozen lesser places were not these horrible, too ?
Mind you, there were for most of these wars no Red
Behold little Belgium and her pitiable plight, but
has the world forgotten Congo? What Belgium now
suffers is not half, not even a tenth, of what she has
done to black Congo since Stanley's great dream of
1880. Down the dark forests of inmost Africa sailed
this modern Sir Galahad, in the name of " the noble-
minded men of several nations," to introduce com
merce and civilization. What came of it? "Rubber
and murder, slavery in its worst form," wrote Glave
Harris declares that King Leopold's regime meant
the death of twelve million natives, " but what we
who were behind the scenes felt most keenly was
the fact that the real catastrophe in the Congo was
desolation and murder in the larger sense. The in
vasion of family life, the ruthless destruction of every
social barrier, the shattering of every tribal law, the
introduction of criminal practices which struck the
chiefs of the people dumb with horror in a word,
a veritable avalanche of filth and immorality over
whelmed the Congo tribes."
THE SOULS OF WHITE FOLK 39
Yet the fields of Belgium laughed, the cities were
gay, art and science flourished; the groans that helped
to nourish this civilization fell on deaf ears because
the world round about was doing the same sort of
thing elsewhere on its own account.
As we saw the dead dimly through rifts of battle-
smoke and heard faintly the cursings and accusations
of blood brothers, we darker men said : This is not
Europe gone mad; this is not aberration nor insanity;
this is Europe; this seeming Terrible is the real soul
of white culture back of all culture, stripped and
visible today. This is where the world has arrived,
these dark and awful depths and not the shining
and ineffable heights of which it boasted. Here is
whither the might and energy of modern humanity
has really gone.
But may not the world cry back at us and ask:
" What better thing have you to show ? What have
you done or would do better than this if you had
today the world rule? Paint with all riot of hateful
colors the thin skin of European culture, is it not
better than any culture that arose in Africa or Asia ? "
It is. Of this there is no doubt and never has been;
but why is it better? Is it better because Europeans
are better, nobler, greater, and more gifted than other
folk? It is not. Europe has never produced and
never will in our day bring forth a single human soul
who cannot be matched and over-matched in every
line of human endeavor by Asia and Africa. Run
the gamut, if you will, and let us have the Europeans
who in sober truth over-match Nefertari, Mohammed,
Rameses and Askia, Confucius, Buddha, and Jesus
Christ. If we could scan the calendar of thousands
of lesser men, in like comparison, the result would
be the same; but we cannot do this because of the
deliberately educated ignorance of white schools by
which they remember Napoleon and forget Sonni AH.
The greatness of Europe has lain in the width of
the stage on which she has played her part, the
strength of the foundations on which she has builded,
and a natural, human ability no whit greater (if as
great) than that of other days and races. In other
words, the deeper reasons for the triumph of Euro
pean civilization lie quite outside and beyond Europe,
back in the universal struggles of all mankind.
Why, then, is Europe great? Because of the foun
dations which the mighty past have furnished her to
build upon: the iron trade of ancient, black Africa,
the religion and empire-building of yellow Asia, the
art and science of the " dago " Mediterranean shore,
east, south, and west, as well as north. And where
she has builded securely upon this great past and
learned from it she has gone forward to greater and
more splendid human triumph ; but where she has ig
nored this past and forgotten and sneered at it, she
has shown the cloven hoof of poor, crucified human
ity, she has played, like other empires gone, the
world fool !
If, then, European triumphs in culture have been
greater, so, too, may her failures have been greater.
How great a failure and a failure in what does the
World War betoken? Was it national jealousy of
THE SOULS OF WHITE FOLK 41
the sort of the seventeenth century? But Europe has
done more to break down national barriers than any
preceding culture. Was it fear of the balance of
power in Europe? Hardly, save in the half-Asiatic
problems of the Balkans. What, then, does Haupt-
mann mean when he says : " Our jealous enemies
forged an iron ring about our breasts and we knew
our breasts had to expand, that we had to split
asunder this ring or else we had to cease breathing.
But Germany will not cease to breathe and so it came
to pass that the iron ring was forced apart."
Whither is this expansion? What is that breath
of life, thought to be so indispensable to a great Euro
pean nation? Manifestly it is expansion overseas; it
is colonial aggrandizement which explains, and alone
adequately explains, the World War. How many of
us today fully realize the current theory of colonial
expansion, of the relation of Europe which is white,
to the world which is black and brown and yellow?
Bluntly put, that theory is this : It is the duty of white
Europe to divide up the darker world and administer
it for Europe's good.
This Europe has largely done. The European
world is using black and brown men for all the uses
which men know. Slowly but surely white culture
is evolving the theory that " darkies " are born beasts
of burden for white folk. It were silly to think other
wise, cries the cultured world, with stronger and
shriller accord. The supporting arguments grow and
twist themselves in the mouths of merchant, scientist,
soldier, traveler, writer, and missionary : Darker peo-
pies are dark in mind as well as in body; of dark, un
certain, and imperfect descent; of frailer, cheaper
stuff; they are cowards in the face of mausers and
maxims; they have no feelings, aspirations, and loves;
they are fools, illogical idiots, " half -devil and half-
Such as they are civilization must, naturally, raise
them, but soberly and in limited ways. They are
not simply dark white men. They are not " men "
in the sense that Europeans are men. To the very
limited extent of their shallow capacities lift them
to be useful to whites, to raise cotton, gather rubber,
fetch ivory, dig diamonds, and let them be paid
what men think they are worth white men who know
them to be well-nigh worthless.
Such degrading of men by men is as old as mankind
and the invention of no one race or people. Ever
have men striven to conceive of their victims as differ
ent from the victors, endlessly different, in soul and
blood, strength and cunning, race and lineage. It
has been left, however, to Europe and to modern days
to discover the eternal world-wide mark of meanness,
Such is the silent revolution that has gripped mod
ern European culture in the later nineteenth and twen
tieth centuries. Its zenith came in Boxer times : White
supremacy was all but world-wide, Africa was dead,
India conquered, Japan isolated, and China prostrate,
while white America whetted her sword for mongrel
Mexico and mulatto South America, lynching her own
Negroes the while. Temporary halt in this program
THE SOULS OF WHITE FOLK 43
was made by little Japan and the white world imme
diately sensed the peril of such " yellow " presump
tion! What sort of a world would this be if yellow
men must be treated " white " ? Immediately the
eventual overthrow of Japan became a subject of deep
thought and intrigue, from St. Petersburg to San
Francisco, from the Key of Heaven to the Little
Brother of the Poor.
The using of men for the benefit of masters is no
new invention of modern Europe. It is quite as old
as the world. But Europe proposed to apply it on
a scale and with an elaborateness of detail of which no
former world ever dreamed. The imperial width of
the thing, the heaven-defying audacity makes its
The scheme of Europe was no sudden invention,
but a way out of long-pressing difficulties. It is plain
to modern white civilization that the subjection of
the white working classes cannot much longer be
maintained. Education, political power, and increased
knowledge of the technique and meaning of the in
dustrial process are destined to make a more and
more equitable distribution of wealth in the near fu
ture. The day of the very rich is drawing to a close, so
far as individual white nations are concerned. But
there is a loophole. There is a chance for exploitation
on an immense scale for inordinate profit, not simply
to the very rich, but to the middle class and to the
laborers. This chance lies in the exploitation of
darker peoples. It is here that the golden hand beck
ons. Here are no labor unions or votes or ques-
tioning onlookers or inconvenient consciences. These
men may be used down to the very bone, and shot and
maimed in " punitive " expeditions when they revolt.
In these dark lands " industrial development " may
repeat in exaggerated form every horror of the indus
trial history of Europe, from slavery and rape to
disease and maiming, with only one test of success,
This theory of human culture and its aims has
worked itself through warp and woof of our daily
thought with a thoroughness that few realize. Every
thing great, good, efficient, fair, and honorable is
"white"; everything mean, bad, blundering, cheating,
and dishonorable is " yellow " ; a bad taste is
" brown"; and the devil is " black." The changes of
this theme are continually rung in picture and story,
in newspaper heading and moving-picture, in sermon
and school book, until, of course, the King can do no
wrong, a White Man is always right and a Black
Man has no rights which a white man is bound to
There must come the necessary despisings and
hatreds of these savage half-men, this unclean canaille
of the world these dogs of men. All through the
world this gospel is preaching. It has its literature,
it has its priests, it has its secret propaganda and above
all it pays!
There's the rub, it pays. Rubber, ivory, and
palm-oil; tea, coffee, and cocoa; bananas, oranges, and
other fruit; cotton, gold, and copper they, and a
hundred other things which dark and sweating bodies
THE SOULS OF WHITE FOLK 4 5
hand up to the white world from their pits of slime,
pay and pay well, but of all that the world gets the
black world gets only the pittance that the white world
throws it disdainfully.
Small wonder, then, that in the practical world of
things-that-be there is jealousy and strife for the pos
session of the labor of dark millions, for the right
to bleed and exploit the colonies of the world where
this golden stream may be had, not always for the
asking, but surely for the whipping and shooting. It
was this competition for the labor of yellow, brown,
and black folks that was the cause of the World War.
Other causes have been glibly given and other contrib
uting causes there doubtless were, but they were sub
sidiary and subordinate to this vast quest of the dark
world's wealth and toil.
Colonies, we call them, these places where
"niggers" are cheap and the earth is rich; they are
those outlands where like a swarm of hungry locusts
white masters may settle to be served as kings, wield
the lash of slave-drivers, rape girls and wives, grow
as rich as Croesus and send homeward a golden
stream. They belt the earth, these places, but they
cluster in the tropics, with its darkened peoples: in
Hong Kong and Anam, in Borneo and Rhodesia, in
Sierra Leone and Nigeria, in Panama and Havana
these are the El Dorados toward which the world
powers stretch itching palms.
Germany, at last one and united and secure on land,
looked across the seas and seeing England with
sources of wealth insuring a luxury and power which
Germany could not hope to rival by the slower pro
cesses of exploiting her own peasants and working-
men, especially with these workers half in revolt, im
mediately built her navy and entered into a desperate
competition for possession of colonies of darker
peoples. To South America, to China, to Africa, to
Asia Minor, she turned like a hound quivering on the
leash, impatient, suspicious, irritable, with blood-shot
eyes and dripping fangs, ready for the awful word.
England and France crouched watchfully over their
bones, growling and wary, but gnawing industriously,
while the blood of the dark world whetted their greedy
appetites. In the background, shut out from the
highway to the seven seas, sat Russia and Austria,
snarling and snapping at each other and at the last
Mediterranean gate to the El Dorado, where the Sick
Man enjoyed bad health, and where millions of serfs
in the Balkans, Russia, and Asia offered a feast to
greed well-nigh as great as Africa.
The fateful day came. It had to come. The cause
of war is preparation for war; and of all that Europe
has done in a century there is nothing that has equaled
in energy, thought, and time her preparation for
wholesale murder. The only adequate cause of this
preparation was conquest and conquest, not in Eu
rope, but primarily among the darker peoples of Asia
and Africa; conquest, not for assimilation and uplift,
but for commerce and degradation. For this, and
this mainly, did Europe gird herself at frightful cost
The red day dawned when the tinder was lighted
THE SOULS OF WHITE FOLK 47
in the Balkans and Austro-Hungary seized a bit which
brought her a step nearer to the world's highway; she
seized one bit and poised herself for another. Then
came that curious chorus of challenges, those leaping
suspicions, raking all causes for distrust and rivalry
and hatred, but saying little of the real and greatest
Each nation felt its deep interests involved. But
how? Not, surely, in the death of Ferdinand the
.Warlike; not, surely, in the old, half -forgotten
revanche for Alsace-Lorraine; not even in the neu
trality of Belgium. No! But in the possession of
land overseas, in the right to colonies, the chance to
levy endless tribute on the darker world, on coolies
in China, on starving peasants in India, on black
savages in Africa, on dying South Sea Islanders, on
Indians of the Amazon all this and nothing more.
Even the broken reed on which we had rested high
hopes of eternal peace, the guild of the laborers the
front of that very important movement for human
justice on which we had builded most, even this flew
like a straw before the breath of king and kaiser.
Indeed, the flying had been foreshadowed when in
Germany and America " international " Socialists had
all but read yellow and black men out of the kingdom
of industrial justice. Subtly had they been bribed,
but effectively: Were they not lordly whites and
should they not share in the spoils of rape? High
wages in the United States and England might be
the skilfully manipulated result of slavery in Africa
and of peonage in Asia.
With the dog-in-the-manger theory of trade, with
the determination to reap inordinate profits and to ex
ploit the weakest to the utmost there came a new impe
rialism, the rage for one's own nation to own the
earth or, at least, a large enough portion of it to
insure as big profits as the next nation. Where sec
tions could not be owned by one dominant nation there
came a policy of " open door," but the " door " was
open to " white people only." As to the darkest and
weakest of peoples there was but one unanimity in
Europe, that which Herr Dernberg of the German
Colonial Office called the agreement with England to
maintain white " prestige " in Africa, the doctrine
of the divine right of white people to steal.
Thus the world market most wildly and desperately
sought today is the market where labor is cheapest
and most helpless and profit is most abundant. This
labor is kept cheap and helpless because the white
world despises " darkies." If one has the temerity
to suggest that these workingmen may walk the way
of white workingmen and climb by votes and self-
assertion and education to the rank of men, he is
howled out of court. They cannot do it and if they
could, they shall not, for they are the enemies of the
white race and the whites shall rule forever and for
ever and everywhere. Thus the hatred and despising
of human beings from whom Europe wishes to extort
her luxuries has led to such jealousy and bickering
between European nations that they have fallen afoul
of each other and have fought like crazed beasts.
Such is the fruit of human hatred.
THE SOULS OF WHITE FOLK 49
But what of the darker world that watches ? Most
men belong to this world. With Negro and Negroid,
East Indian, Chinese, and Japanese they form two-
thirds of the population of the world. A belief in
humanity is a belief in colored men. If the uplift of
mankind must be done by men, then the destinies of
this world will rest ultimately in the hands of darker
What, then, is this dark world thinking? It is
thinking that as wild and awful as this shameful war
was, it is nothing to compare with that fight for free
dom which black and brown and yellow men must
and will make unless their oppression and humilia
tion and insult at the hands of the White World
cease. The Dark World is going to submit to its
present treatment just as long as it must and not one
Let me say this again and emphasize it and leave
no room for mistaken meaning: The World War
was primarily the jealous and avaricious struggle for
the largest share in exploiting darker races. As such
it is and must be but the prelude to the armed and
indignant protest of these despised and raped peoples.
Today Japan is hammering on the door of justice,
China is raising her half -manacled hands to knock
next, India is writhing for the freedom to knock,
Egypt is sullenly muttering, the Negroes of South
and West Africa, of the West Indies, and of the
United States are just awakening to their shameful
slavery. Is, then, this war the end of wars? Can
it be the end, so long as sits enthroned, even in the
souls of those who cry peace, the despising and robbing
of darker peoples? If Europe hugs this delusion,
then this is not the end of world war, it is but the
We see Europe's greatest sin precisely where we
found Africa's and Asia's, in human hatred, the
despising of men; with this difference, however: Eu
rope has the awful lesson of the past before her, has
the splendid results of widened areas of tolerance,
sympathy, and love among men, and she faces a
greater, an infinitely greater, world of men than any
preceding civilization ever faced.
It is curious to see America, the United States,
looking on herself, first, as a sort of natural peace
maker, then as a moral protagonist in this terrible
time. No nation is less fitted for this role. For two
or more centuries America has marched proudly in the
van of human hatred, making bonfires of human
flesh and laughing at them hideously, and making the
insulting of millions more than a matter of dislike,
rather a great religion, a world war-cry: Up
white, down black; to your tents, O white folk, and
world war with black and parti-colored mongrel
Instead of standing as a great example of the suc
cess of democracy and the possibility of human
brotherhood America has taken her place as an awful
example of its pitfalls and failures, so far as black
and brown and yellow peoples are concerned. And
this, too, in spite of the fact that there has been no
actual failure; the Indian is not dying out, the Japan-
THE SOULS OF WHITE FOLK 51
ese and Chinese have not menaced the land, and
the experiment of Negro suffrage has resulted in the
uplift of twelve million people at a rate probably un
paralleled in history. But what of this? America,
Land of Democracy, wanted to believe in the failure
of democracy so far as darker peoples were concerned.
Absolutely without excuse she established a caste sys
tem, rushed into preparation for war, and conquered
tropical colonies. She stands today shoulder to
shoulder with Europe in Europe's worst sin against
civilization. She aspires to sit among the great na
tions who arbitrate the fate of " lesser breeds without
the law " and she is at times heartily ashamed even
of the large number of " new " white people whom
her democracy has admitted to place and power.
Against this surging forward of Irish and German,
of Russian Jew, Slav and " dago " her social bars
have not availed, but against Negroes she can and
does take her unflinching and immovable stand,
backed by this new public policy of Europe. She
trains her immigrants to this despising of " niggers "
from the day of their landing, and they carry and
send the news back to the submerged classes in the
All this I see and hear up in my tower, above the
thunder of the seven seas. From my narrowed win
dows I stare into the night that looms beneath the
cloud-swept stars. Eastward and westward storms
are breaking, great, ugly whirlwinds of hatred and
blood and cruelty. I will not believe them inevitable.
I will not believe that all that was must be, that all the
shameful drama of the past must be done again today
before the sunlight sweeps the silver seas.
If I cry amid this roar of elemental forces, must
my cry be in vain, because it is but a cry, a small
and human cry amid Promethean gloom?
Back beyond the world and swept by these wild,
white faces of the awful dead, why will this Soul
of White Folk, this modern Prometheus, hang
bound by his own binding, tethered by a fable of the
past? I hear his mighty cry reverberating through
the world, " I am white ! " Well and good, O Pro
metheus, divine thief! Is not the world wide enough
for two colors, for many little shinings of the sun?
Why, then, devour your own vitals if I answer even
as proudly, " I am black! "
The Riddle of the Sphinx
Dark daughter of the lotus leaves that watch the South
ern Sea !
Wan spirit of a prisoned soul a-panting to be free!
The muttered music of thy streams, the whisper of
Have kissed each other in God's name and kissed a
world to sleep.
The will of the world is a whistling wind, sweeping a
And not from the East and not from the West knelled
that soul-waking cry,
But out of the South, the sad, black South it
screamed from the top of the sky,
Crying : " Awake, O ancient race ! " Wailing, " O
woman, arise ! "
And crying and sighing and crying again as a voice in
the midnight cries,
But the burden of white men bore her back and the
white world stifled her sighs.
The white world's vermin and filth :
All the dirt of London,
All the scum of New York;
Valiant spoilers of women
And conquerors of unarmed men ;
Shameless breeders of bastards,
Drunk with the greed of gold,
Baiting their blood-stained hooks
With cant for the souls of the simple ;
Bearing the white man's burden
Of liquor and lust and lies!
Unthankful we wince in the East,
Unthankful we wail from the westward,
Unthank fully thankful, we curse,
In the unworn wastes of the wild:
I hate them, Oh !
I hate them well,
I hate them, Christ!
As I hate hell !
If I were God,
I'd sound their knell
This day !
Who raised the fools to their glory,
But black men of Egypt and Ind,
Ethiopia's sons of the evening,
Indians and yellow Chinese,
Arabian children of morning,
And mongrels of Rome and Greece?
Ah, well !
And they that raised the boasters
Shall drag them down again,
Down with the theft of their thieving
And murder and mocking of men;
Down with their barter of women
And laying and lying of creeds ;
Down with their cheating of childhood
And drunken orgies of war,
Till the devil's strength be shorn,
Till some dim, darker David, a-hoeing of his corn,
And married maiden, mother of God,
Bid the black Christ be born !
Then shall our burden be manhood,
Be it yellow or black or white ;
And poverty and justice and sorrow,
The humble and simple and strong
THE RIDDLE OF THE SPHINX 55
Shall sing with the sons of morning
And daughters of even-song:
Black mother of the iron hills that ward the
Wild spirit of a storm-swept soul, a-struggling
to be free,
Where 'neath the bloody finger-marks thy
riven bosom quakes,
Thicken the thunders of God's Voice and lol
a world awakes!
THE HANDS OF ETHIOPIA
"Semper novi quid ex Africa" cried the Roman
proconsul, and he voiced the verdict of forty centuries.
Yet there are those who would write world history
and leave out of account this most marvelous of con
tinents. Particularly today most men assume that
Africa is far afield from the center of our burning
social problems and especially from our problem of
Always Africa is giving us something new or some
metempsychosis of a world-old thing. On its black
bosom arose one of the earliest, if not the earliest, of
self -protecting civilizations, which grew so mightily
that it still furnishes superlatives to thinking and
speaking men. Out of its darker and more remote
forest fastnesses came, if we may credit many recent
scientists, the first welding of iron, and we know
that agriculture and trade flourished there when Eu
rope was a wilderness.
Nearly every human empire that has arisen in the
world, material and spiritual, has found some of its
greatest crises on this continent of Africa, from
Greece to Great Britain. As Mommsen says : " It was
through Africa that Christianity became the religion
of the world." In Africa the last flood of Germanic
THE HANDS OF ETHIOPIA 57
invasions spent itself within hearing of the last gasp
of Byzantium, and it was through Africa that Islam
came to play its great role of conqueror and civilizer.
With the Renaissance and the widened world of
modern thought Africa came no less suddenly with
her new-old gift. Shakespeare's " Ancient Pistol "
A foutre for the world and worldlings base !
I speak of Africa and golden joys !
He echoes a legend of gold from the days of Punt
and Ophir to those of Ghana, the Gold Coast, and
the -Rand. This thought had sent the world's greed
scurrying down the hot, mysterious coasts of Africa
to the Good Hope of gain, until for the first time a
real world-commerce was born, albeit it started as a
commerce mainly in the bodies and souls of men.
The present problem of problems is nothing more
than democracy beating itself helplessly against the
color bar, purling, seeping, seething, foaming to
burst through, ever and again overwhelming the
emerging masses of white men in its rolling back
waters and held back by those who dream of future
kingdoms of greed built on black and brown and
The indictment of Africa against Europe is grave.
For four hundred years white Europe was the chief
support of that trade in human beings which first and
last robbed black Africa of a hundred million human
beings, transformed the face of her social life, over
threw organized government, distorted ancient indus-
try, and snuffed out the lights of cultural development.
Today instead of removing laborers from Africa to
distant slavery, industry built on a new slavery ap
proaches Africa to deprive the natives of their land,
to force them to toil, and to reap all the profit for
the white world.
It is scarcely necessary to remind the reader of the
essential facts underlying these broad assertions. A
recent law of the Union of South Africa assigns
nearly two hundred and fifty million acres of the best
of natives' land to a million and a half whites and
leaves thirty-six million acres of swamp and marsh
for four and a half-million blacks. In Rhodesia over
ninety million acres have been practically confiscated.
In the Belgian Congo all the land was declared the
property of the state.
Slavery in all but name has been the foundation
of the cocoa industry in St. Thome and St. Principe
and in the mines of the Rand. Gin has been one of
the greatest of European imports, having increased
fifty per cent, in ten years and reaching a total of at
least twenty-five million dollars a year today.
Negroes of ability have been carefully gotten rid of,
deposed from authority, kept out of positions of in
fluence, and discredited in their people's eyes, while a
caste of white overseers and governing officials has ap
Naturally, the picture is not all lurid. David Liv
ingstone has had his successors and Europe has given
(Africa something of value in the beginning of educa
tion and industry. Yet the balance of iniquity is
THE HANDS OF ETHIOPIA 59
desperately large; but worse than that, it has aroused
no world protest. A great Englishman, familiar with
African problems for a generation, says frankly to
day : " There does not exist any real international
conscience to which you can appeal."
Moreover, that treatment shows no certain signs
of abatement. Today in England the Empire Re
sources Development Committee proposes to treat
iA'f rican colonies as " crown estates " and by intensive
scientific exploitation of both land and labor to make
these colonies pay the English national debt after the
war! German thinkers, knowing the tremendous
demand for raw material which would follow the war,
had similar plans of exploitation. " It is the clear,
common sense of the African situation," says H. G.
Wells, " that while these precious regions of raw
material remain divided up between a number of
competitive European imperialisms, each resolutely
set upon the exploitation of its ' possessions ' to its
own advantage and the disadvantage of the others,
there can be no permanent peace in the world. It is
We, then, who fought the war against war; who
in a hell of blood and suffering held hardly our souls
in leash by the vision of a world organized for peace;
who are looking for industrial democracy and for the
organization of Europe so as to avoid incentives to
war, we, least of all, should be willing to leave the
backward world as the greatest temptation, not only to
wars based on international jealousies, but to the most
horrible of wars, which arise from the revolt of the
maddened against those who hold them in common
Consider, my reader, if you were today a man of
some education and knowledge, but born a Japanese
or a Chinaman, an East Indian or a Negro, what
would you do and think? What would be in the
present chaos your outlook and plan for the future?
Manifestly, you would want freedom for your people,
freedom from insult, from segregation, from
poverty, from physical slavery. If the attitude of the
European and American worlds is in the future going
to be based essentially upon the same policies as in
the past, then there is but one thing for the trained
man of darker blood to do and that is definitely and
as openly as possible to organize his world for war
against Europe. He may have to do it by secret,
uiaderground propaganda, as in Egypt and India and
eventually in the United States; or by open increase
of armament, as in Japan; or by desperate efforts at
modernization, as in China; but he must do it. He
represents the vast majority of mankind. To surrender
would be far worse than physical death. There is no
way out unless the white world opens the door.
Either the white world gives up such insult as its
modern use of the adjective " yellow " indicates, or
its connotation of "chink" and "nigger" implies;
either it gives up the plan of color serfdom which its
use of the other adjective " white " implies, as indicat
ing everything decent and every part of the world
worth living in, or trouble is written in the stars !
It is, therefore, of singular importance after dis-
THE HANDS OF ETHIOPIA 6r
quieting delay to see the real Pacifist appear. Both
England and Germany have recently been basing their
claims to parts of black Africa on the wishes and
interests of the black inhabitants. Lloyd George has
declared " the general principle of national self-deter
mination applicable at least to German Africa," while
Chancellor Hertling once welcomed a discussion " on
the reconstruction of the world's colonial posses
The demand that an Africa for Africans shall re
place the present barbarous scramble for exploitation
by individual states comes from singularly different
sburces. Colored America demands that " the con
quered German colonies should not be returned to Ger
many, neither should they be held by the Allies. Here
is the opportunity for the establishment of a nation
that may never recur. Thousands of colored men, sick
of white arrogance and hypocrisy, see in this their
race's only salvation."
Sir Harry H. Johnston recently said : "If we are
to talk, as we do, sentimentally but justly about restor
ing the nationhood of Poland, about giving satis
faction to the separatist feeling in Ireland, and about
what is to be done for European nations who are op
pressed, then we can hardly exclude from this feeling
the countries of Africa."
Laborers, black laborers, on the Canal Zone write:
" Out of this chaos may be the great awakening of
our race. There is cause for rejoicing. If we fail
to embrace this opportunity now, we fail to see how
we will be ever able to solve the race question. It
is for the British Negro, the French Negro, and the
'American Negro to rise to the occasion and start a
national campaign, jointly and collectively, with this
aim in view."
From British West Africa comes the bitter com
plaint " that the West Africans should have the right
or opportunity to settle their future for themselves
is a thing which hardly enters the mind of the Eu
ropean politician. That the Balkan States should be
admitted to the Council of Peace and decide the gov
ernment under which they are to live is taken as a
matter of course because they are Europeans, but no
extra-European is credited, even by the extremest ad
vocates of human equality, with any right except to
humbly accept the fate which Europe shall decide for
Here, then, is the danger and the demand; and the
real 'Pacifist will seek to organize, not simply the
masses in white nations, guarding against exploitation
and profiteering, but will remember that no permanent
relief can come but by including in this organization
the lowest and the most exploited races in the world.
World philanthropy, like national philanthropy, must
come as uplift and prevention and not merely as al
leviation and religious conversion. Reverence for
humanity, as such, must be installed in the world, and
Africa should be the talisman.
Black Africa, including British, French, Belgian,
Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish possessions and the
independent states of Abyssinia and Liberia and leav
ing out of account Egypt and North Africa, on the
THE HANDS OF ETHIOPIA 63
one hand, and South Africa, on the other, has an area
of 8,200,000 square miles and a population well over
one hundred millions of black men, with less than
one hundred thousand whites.
Commercial exploitation in Africa has already
larger results to show than most people realize. An
nually $200,000,000 worth of goods was coming out
of black Africa before the World War, including a
third of the world's supply of rubber, a quarter of all
of the world's cocoa, and practically all of the world's
cloves, gum-arabic, and palm-oil. In exchange there
was being returned to Africa one hundred millions in
cotton cloth, twenty-five millions in iron and steel, and
as much in foods, and probably twenty-five millions in
Here are the beginnings of a modern industrial sys
tem : iron and steel for permanent investment, bound
to yield large dividends; cloth as the cheapest ex
change for invaluable raw material; liquor to tickle
the appetites of the natives and render the alienation
of land and the break-down of customary law easier;
eventually forced and contract labor under white
drivers to increase and systematize the production of
raw materials. These materials are capable of indefi
nite expansion : cotton may yet challenge the southern
United States, fruits and vegetables, hides and skins,
lumber and dye-stuffs, coffee and tea, grain and
tobacco, and fibers of all sorts can easily follow organ
ized and systematic toil.
Is it a paradise of industry we thus contemplate?
It is much more likely to be a hell. Under present
plans there will be no voice or law or custom to
protect labor, no trades unions, no eight-hour laws,
no factory legislation, nothing of that great body of
legislation built up in modern days to protect mankind
from sinking to the level of beasts of burden. All
the industrial deviltry, which civilization has been
driving to the slums and the backwaters, will have a
voiceless continent to conceal it. If the slave cannot
be taken from Africa, slavery can be taken to Africa.
Who are the folk who live here ? They are brown
and black, curly and crisp-haired, short and tall, and
longheaded. Out of them in days without date flowed
the beginnings of Egypt; among them rose, later,
centers of culture at Ghana, Melle, and Timbuktu.
Kingdoms and empires flourished in Songhay and
Zymbabwe, and art and industry in Yoruba and Benin.
They have fought every human calamity in its most
hideous form and yet today they hold some similar
vestiges of a mighty past, their work in iron, their
weaving and carving, their music and singing, their
tribal government, their town-meeting and market
place, their desperate valor in war.
Missionaries and commerce have left some good
with all their evil. In black Africa today there are
more than a thousand government schools and some
thirty thousand mission schools, with a more or less
regular attendance of three-quarters of a million school
children. In a few cases training of a higher order is
given chiefs' sons and selected pupils. These begin
nings of education are not much for so vast a land
and there is no general standard or set plan of develop-
THE HANDS OF ETHIOPIA 65
ment, but, after all, the children of Africa are begin
ning to learn.
In black Africa today only one-seventeenth of the
land and a ninth of the people in Liberia and Abys
sinia are approximately independent, although men
aced and policed by European capitalism. Half the
land and the people are in domains under Portugal,
France, and Belgium, held with the avowed idea of
exploitation for the benefit of Europe under a system
of caste and color serfdom. Out of this dangerous
nadir of development stretch two paths: one is indi
cated by the condition of about three per cent of the
people who in Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast, and
French Senegal, are tending toward the path of mod
ern development ; the other path, followed by a fourth
of the land and people, has local self-government and
native customs and might evolve, if undisturbed, a
native culture along their own peculiar lines. A tenth
of the land, sparsely settled, is being monopolized and
held for whites to make an African Australia. To
these later folk must be added the four and one-half
millions of the South African Union, who by every
modern device are being forced into landless serfdom.
Before the World War tendencies were strongly
toward the destruction of independent Africa, the
industrial slavery of the mass of the blacks and the
encouragement of white immigration, where possible,
to hold the blacks in subjection.
Against this idea let us set the conception of a new
African World State, a Black Africa, applying to
these peoples the splendid pronouncements which have
of late been so broadly and perhaps carelessly given
the world: recognizing in Africa the declaration of
the American Federation of Labor, that "no people
must be forced under sovereignty under which it
does not wish to live " ; recognizing in President
Wilson's message to the Russians, the "principle of
the undictated development of all peoples"; recog
nizing the resolution of the recent conference of the
Aborigines Protection Society of England, " that in
any reconstruction of Africa, which may result from
this war, the interests of the native inhabitants and
also their wishes, in so far as those wishes can be
clearly ascertained, should be recognized as among
the principal factors upon which the decision of their
destiny should be based." In other words, recogniz
ing for the first time in the history of the modern
world that black men are human.
It may not be possible to build this state at once.
With the victory of the Entente Allies, the German
colonies, with their million of square miles and one-
half million black inhabitants, should form such a
nucleus. It would give Black Africa its physical
beginnings. Beginning with the German colonies two
other sets of colonies could be added, for obvious
reasons. Neither Portugal nor Belgium has shown
any particular capacity for governing colonial peo
ples. Valid excuses may in both cases be advanced,
but it would certainly be fair to Belgium to have her
start her great task of reorganization after the World
War with neither the burden nor the temptation of
colonies; and in the same way Portugal has, in reality,
THE HANDS OF ETHIOPIA 67
the alternative of either giving up her colonies to
an African State or to some other European State
in the near future. These two sets of colonies would
add 1,700,000 square miles and eighteen million in
habitants. It would not, however, be fair to despoil
Germany, Belgium, and Portugal of their colonies
unless, as Count Hertling once demanded, the whole
question of colonies be opened.
How far shall the modern world recognize nations
which are not nations, but combinations of a domi
nant caste and a suppressed horde of serfs? Will
it not be possible to rebuild a world with compact
nations, empires of self-governing elements, and col
onies of backward peoples under benevolent interna
The great test would be easy. Does England pro
pose to erect in India and Nigeria nations brown and
black which shall be eventually independent, self-gov
erning entities, with a full voice in the British Im
perial Government? If not, let these states either
have independence at once or, if unfitted for that,
be put under international tutelage and guardianship.
It is possible that France, with her great heart, may
welcome a Black France, an enlarged Senegal in
Africa; but it would seem that eventually all Africa
south of twenty degrees north latitude and north of
the Union of South Africa should be included in a
new African State. Somaliland and Eritrea should
be given to Abyssinia, and then with Liberia we would
start with two small, independent African states and
one large state under international control.
Does this sound like an impossible dream? No
one could be blamed for so regarding it before 1914.
I, myself, would have agreed with them. But since
the nightmare of 1914-1918, since we have seen the
impossible happen and the unspeakable become so
common as to cease to stir us; in a day when Russia
has dethroned her Czar, England has granted the
suffrage to women and is in the act of giving Home
Rule to Ireland; when Germany has adopted parlia
mentary government; when Jerusalem has been de
livered from the Turks; and the United States has
taken control of its railroads, is it really so far
fetched to think of an Africa for the Africans, guided
by organized civilization?
No one would expect this new state to be inde
pendent and self-governing from the start. Contrary,
however, to present schemes for Africa the world
would expect independence and self-government as
the only possible end of the experiment. At first
we can conceive of no better way of governing this
state than through that same international control
by which we hope to govern the world for peace. A
curious and instructive parallel has been drawn by
Simeon Strunsky : " Just as the common ownership
of the northwest territory helped to weld the colonies
into the United States, so could not joint and benev
olent domination of Africa and of other backward
parts of the world be a cornerstone upon which the
future federation of the world could be built?"
From the British Labor Party comes this declara
tion : " With regard to the colonies of the several
THE HANDS OF ETHIOPIA 69
belligerents in tropical Africa, from sea to sea, the
British Labor Movement disclaims all sympathy with
the imperialist idea that these should form the booty
of any nation, should be exploited for the profit of the
capitalists, or should be used for the promotion of the
militarists' aims of government. In view of the fact
that it is impracticable here to leave the various peo
ples concerned to settle their own destinies it is sug
gested that the interests of humanity would be best
served by the full and frank abandonment by all
the belligerents of any dreams of an African Empire;
the transfer of the present colonies of the European
Powers in tropical Africa, however, and the limits of
this area may be defined to the proposed Super-
national Authority, or League of Nations."
Lloyd George himself has said in regard to the
German colonies a word difficult to restrict merely to
them : " I have repeatedly declared that they are held
at the disposal of a conference, whose decision must
have primary regard to the wishes and interests of
the native inhabitants of such colonies. None of those
territories is inhabited by Europeans. The govern
ing consideration, therefore, must be that the inhab
itants should be placed under the control of an ad
ministration acceptable to themselves, one of whose
main purposes will be to prevent their exploitation
for the benefit of European capitalists or govern
The special commission for the government of this
African State must, naturally, be chosen with great
care and thought. It must represent, not simply gov-
ernments, but civilization, science, commerce, social
reform, religious philanthropy without sectarian prop
aganda. It must include, not simply white men, but
educated and trained men of Negro blood. The guid
ing principles before such a commission should be
clearly understood. In the first place, it ought by this
time to be realized by the labor movement through
out the world that no industrial democracy can be
built on industrial despotism, whether the two sys
tems are in the same country or in different countries,
since the world today so nearly approaches a common
industrial unity. If, therefore, it is impossible in any
single land to uplift permanently skilled labor with
out also raising common labor, so, too, there can be
no permanent uplift of American or European labor as
long as African laborers are slaves.
Secondly, this building of a new African State does
not mean the segregation in it of all the world's black
folk. It is too late in the history of the world to go
back to the idea of absolute racial segregation. The
new African State would not involve any idea of a
vast transplantation of the twenty-seven million Ne
groids of the western world, of Africa, or of the
gathering there of Negroid Asia. The Negroes
in the United States and the other Americas have
earned the right to fight out their problems where
they are, but they could easily furnish from time to
time technical experts, leaders of thought, and mis-
'sionaries of culture for their backward brethren in
the new Africa.
With these two principles, the practical policies to
THE HANDS OF ETHIOPIA 71
be followed out in the government of the new states
should involve a thorough and complete system of
modern education, built upon the present government,
religion, and customary laws of the natives. There
should be no violent tampering with the curiously
efficient African institutions of local self-government
through the family and the tribe; there should be
no attempt at sudden " conversion " by religious prop
aganda. Obviously deleterious customs and un
sanitary usages must gradually be abolished, but the
general government, set up from without, must follow
the example of the best colonial administrators and
build on recognized, established foundations rather
than from entirely new and theoretical plans.
The real effort to modernize Africa should be
through schools rather than churches. Within ten
years, twenty million black children ought to be in
school. Within a generation young Africa should
know the essential outlines of modern culture and
groups of bright African students could be going to the
world's great universities. From the beginning the ac
tual general government should use both colored and
white officials and later natives should be worked in.
Taxation and industry could follow the newer ideals of
industrial democracy, avoiding private land monopoly
and poverty, and promoting co-operation in produc
tion and the socialization of income. Difficulties as
to capital and revenue would be far less than many
imagine. If a capable English administrator of Brit
ish Nigeria could with $1,500 build up a cocoa indus
try of twenty million dollars annually, what might
not be done in all Africa, without gin, thieves, and
Capital could not only be accumulated in Africa,
but attracted from the white world, with one great
difference from present usage: no return so fabulous
would be offered that civilized lands would be tempted
to divert to colonial trade and invest materials and
labor needed by the masses at home, but rather would
receive the same modest profits as legitimate home
There is no sense in asserting that the ideal of an
African State, thus governed and directed toward
independence and self-government, is impossible of
realization. The first great essential is that the civi
lized world believe in its possibility. By reason of
a crime (perhaps the greatest crime in human history)
the modern world has been systematically taught to
despise colored peoples. Men of education and de
cency ask, and ask seriously, if it is really possible
to uplift Africa. Are Negroes human, or, if hu
man, developed far enough to absorb, even under
benevolent tutelage, any appreciable part of .modern
culture? Has not the experiment been tried in Haiti
and Liberia, and failed?
One cannot ignore the extraordinary fact that a
world campaign beginning with the slave-trade and
ending with the refusal to capitalize the word " Ne
gro," leading through a passionate defense of slav
ery by attributing every bestiality to blacks and finally
culminating in the evident modern profit which lies in
degrading blacks, all this has unconsciously trained
THE HANDS OF ETHIOPIA 73
millions of honest, modern men into the belief that
black folk are sub-human. This belief is not based
on science, else it would be held as a postulate of
the most tentative kind, ready at any time to be
withdrawn in the face of facts; the belief is not based
on history, for it is absolutely contradicted by Egyp
tian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Arabian experi
ence; nor is the belief based on any careful survey of
the social development of men of Negro blood to-day
in Africa and America. It is simply passionate, deep-
seated heritage, and as such can be moved by neither
argument nor fact. Only faith in humanity will lead
the world to rise above its present color prejudice.
Those who do believe in men, who know what black
men have done in human history, who have taken pains
to follow even superficially the story of the rise of the
Negro in Africa, the West Indies, and the Americas
of our day know that our modern contempt of Ne
groes rests upon no scientific foundation worth a
moment's attention. It is nothing more than a vicious
habit of mind. It could as easily be overthrown as
our belief in war, as our international hatreds, as
our old conception of the status of women, as our fear
of educating the masses, and as our belief in the
necessity of poverty. We can, if we will, inaugurate
on the Dark Continent a last great crusade for hu
manity. With Africa redeemed Asia would be safe
and Europe indeed triumphant.
I have not mentioned North and South Africa, be
cause my eye was centered on the main mass of the
Negro race. Yet it is clear that for the development
of Central Africa, Egypt should be free and inde
pendent, there along the highway to a free and inde
pendent India; while Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, and
Tripoli must become a part of Europe, with modern
development and home rule. South Africa, stripped of
its black serfs and their lands, must admit the resi
dent natives and colored folk to its body politic as
The hands which Ethiopia shall soon stretch out
unto God are not mere hands of helplessness and sup
plication, but rather are they hands of pain and prom
ise; hard, gnarled, and muscled for the world's real
work; they are hands of fellowship for the half-sub
merged masses of a distempered world ; they are hands
of helpfulness for an agonized God!
Twenty centuries before Christ a great cloud swept
over seas and settled on Africa, darkening and well-
nigh blotting out the culture of the land of Egypt.
For half a thousand years it rested there, until a
black woman, Queen Nefertari, " the most venerated
figure in Egyptian history," rose to the throne of the
Pharaohs and redeemed the world and her people.
Twenty centuries after Christ, Black Africa, pros
trated, raped, and shamed, lies at the feet of the con
quering Philistines of Europe. Beyond the awful sea
a black woman is weeping and waiting, with her sons
on her breast. What shall the end be? The world-
old and fearful things, war and wealth, murder and
luxury? Or shall it be a new thing, a new peace
and a new democracy of all races, a great humanity
of equal men ? " Semper novi quid ex Africa! "
The Princess of the Hither Isles
Her soul was beautiful, wherefore she kept it veiled in
lightly-laced humility and fear, out of which peered
anxiously and anon the white and blue and pale-gold of
her face, beautiful as daybreak or as the laughing of
a child. She sat in the Hither Isles, well walled be
tween the This and Now, upon a low and silver throne,
and leaned upon its armposts, sadly looking upward
toward the sun. Now the Hither Isles are flat and cold
and swampy, with drear-drab light and all manner of
slimy, creeping things, and piles of dirt and clouds of
flying dust and sordid scraping and feeding and noise.
She hated them and ever as her hands and busy feet
swept back the dust and slime her soul sat silver-throned,
staring toward the great hill to the westward, which
shone so brilliant-golden beneath the sunlight and above
The sea moaned and with it moaned the princess' soul,
for she was lonely, very, very lonely, and full weary
of the monotone of life. So she was glad to see a mov
ing in Yonder Kingdom on the mountainside, where the
sun shone warm, and when the king of Yonder Kingdom,
silken in robe and golden-crowned and warded by his
hound, walked down along the restless waters and sat
beside the armpost of her throne, she wondered why she
could not love him and fly with him up the shining moun
tain's side, out of the dirt and dust that nested between
the This and Now. She looked at him and tried to be
glad, for he was bonny and good to look upon, this
king of Yonder Kingdom, tall and straight, thin-lipped
and white and tawny. So, again, this last day, she
strove to burn life into his singularly sodden clay, to
put his icy soul aflame wherewith to warm her own, to
set his senses singing. Vacantly he heard her winged
words, staring and curling his long mustaches with
vast thoughtf ulness. Then he said :
" We've found more gold in Yonder Kingdom."
" Hell seize your gold ! " blurted the princess.
" No, it's mine," he maintained stolidly.
She raised her eyes. " It belongs," she said, " to the
Empire of the Sun."
" Nay, the Sun belongs to us," said the king calmly
as he glanced to where Yonder Kingdom blushed above
the sea. She glanced, too, and a softness crept into her
" No, no," she murmured as with hesitating pause she
raised her eyes above the sea, above the hill, up into the
sky where the sun hung silent and splendid. Its robes
were heaven's blue, lined and broidered in living flame,
and its crown was one vast jewel, glistening in glittering
glory that made the sun's own face a blackness, the
blackness of utter light. With blinded, tear-filled eyes
she peered into that formless black and burning face and
sensed in its soft, sad gleam unfathomed understanding.
With sudden, wild abandon she stretched her arms
toward it appealing, beseeching, entreating, and lo !
" Niggers and dagoes," said the king of Yonder King
dom, glancing carelessly backward and lighting in his
lips a carefully rolled wisp of fragrant tobacco. She
looked back, too, but in half-wondering terror, for it
A beggar man was creeping across the swamp, shuf
fling through the dirt and slime. He was little and bald
and black, rough-clothed, sodden with dirt, and bent with
toil. Yet withal something she sensed about him and it
The king of Yonder Kingdom lounged more comfort
ably beside the silver throne and let curl a tiny trail of
THE PRINCESS OF THE HITHER ISLES 77
" I hate beggars," he said, " especially brown and
black ones." And he then pointed at the beggar's ret
inue and laughed, an unpleasant laugh, welded of con
tempt and amusement. The princess looked and shrank
on her throne. He, the beggar man, was was what?
But his retinue, that squalid, sordid, parti-colored
band of vacant, dull-faced filth and viciousness was
writhing over the land, and he and they seemed al
most crouching underneath the scorpion lash of one
tall skeleton, that looked like Death, and the twisted
woman whom men called Pain. Yet they all walked as
The king of Yonder Kingdom laughed, but the princess
shrank on her throne, and the king on seeing her thus
took a gold-piece from out of his purse and tossed it
carelessly to the passing throng. She watched it with
fascinated eyes, how it rose and sailed and whirled
and struggled in the air, then seemed to burst, and up
ward flew its light and sheen and downward dropped
its dross. She glanced at the king, but he was lighting
a match. She watched the dross wallow in the slime, but
the sunlight fell on the back of the beggar's neck, and
he turned his head.
The beggar passing afar turned his head and the prin
cess straightened on her throne ; he turned his head and
she shivered forward on her silver seat; he looked upon
her full and slow and suddenly she saw within that form
less black and burning face the same soft, glad gleam
of utter understanding, seen so many times before. She
saw the suffering of endless years and endless love that
softened it. She saw the burning passion of the sun
and with it the cold, unbending duty-deeds of upper
air. All she had seen and dreamed of seeing in the ris
ing, blazing sun she saw now again and with it myriads
more of human tenderness, of longing, and of love. So,
then, she knew. She rose as to a dream come true, with
solemn face and waiting eyes.
With her rose the king of Yonder Kingdom, almost
"You'll come?" he cried. "You'll come and see my
gold ? " And then in sudden generosity, he added :
" You'll have a golden throne, up there when we
But she, looking up and on with radiant face, answered
softly: "I come."
So down and up and on they mounted, the black
beggar man and his cavalcade of Death and Pain, and
then a space ; and then a lone, black hound that nosed and
whimpered as he ran, and then a space; and then the
king of Yonder Kingdom in his robes, and then a space ;
and last the princess of the Hither Isles, with face set
sunward and lovelight in her eyes.
And so they marched and struggled on and up through
endless years and spaces and ever the black beggar looked
back past death and pain toward the maid and ever the
maid strove forward with lovelit eyes, but ever the great
and silken shoulders of the king of Yonder Kingdom
arose between the princess and the sun like a cloud of
Now, finally, they neared unto the hillside's topmost
shoulder and there most eagerly the king bent to the
bowels of the earth and bared its golden entrails, all
green and gray and rusted while the princess strained
her pitiful eyes aloft to where the beggar, set 'twixt
Death and Pain, whirled his slim back against the glory
of the setting sun and stood somber in his grave majesty,
enhaloed and transfigured, outstretching his long arms,
and around all heaven glittered jewels in a cloth of
A while the princess stood and moaned in mad amaze,
then with one wilful wrench she bared the white flowers
of her breast and snatching forth her own red heart held
it with one hand aloft while with the other she gathered
close her robe and poised herself.
THE PRINCESS OF THE HITHER ISLES 79
The king of Yonder Kingdom looked upward quickly,
curiously, still fingering the earth, and saw the offer of
her bleeding heart.
" It's a Negro ! " he growled darkly; " it may not be."
The woman quivered.
" It's a nigger ! " he repeated fiercely. " It's neither
God nor man, but a nigger ! "
The princess stepped forward.
The king grasped his sword and looked north and
east; he raised his sword and looked south and west.
" I seek the sun," the princess sang, and started into
" Never ! " cried the king of Yonder Kingdom, " for
such were blasphemy and defilement and the making of
So, raising his great sword he struck with all his might,
and more. Down hissed the blow and it bit that little,
white, heart-holding hand until it flew armless and dis-
bodied up through the sunlit air. Down hissed the blow
and it clove the whimpering hound until his last shriek
shook the stars. Down hissed the blow and it rent the
earth. It trembled, fell apart, and yawned to a chasm
wide as earth from heaven, deep as hell, and empty,
cold, and silent.
On yonder distant shore blazed the mighty Empire of
the Sun in warm and blissful radiance, while on this
side, in shadows cold and dark, gloomed the Hither
Isles and the hill that once was golden, but now was
green and slimy dross ; all below was the sad and moan
ing sea, while between the Here and There flew the
severed hand and dripped the bleeding heart.
Then up from the soul of the princess welled a cry
of dark despair, such a cry as only babe-raped mothers
know and murdered loves. Poised on the crumbling edge
of that great nothingness the princess hung, hungering
with her eyes and straining her fainting ears against the
awful splendor of the sky.
Out from the slime and shadows groped the king,
thundering: " Back don't be a fool!"
But down through the thin ether thrilled the still and
throbbing warmth of heaven's sun, whispering " Leap ! "
And the princess leapt.
OF WORK AND WEALTH
FOR fifteen years I was a teacher of youth. They
were years out of the fullness and bloom of my
younger manhood. They were years mingled of half
breathless work, of anxious self -questionings, of
planning and replanning, of disillusion, or mounting
The teacher's life is a double one. He stands in a
certain fear. He tends to be stilted, almost dishonest,
veiling himself before those awful eyes. Not the
eyes of Almighty God are so straight, so penetrating,
so all-seeing as the wonder-swept eyes of youth. You
walk into a room : to the left is a tall window, bright
with colors of crimson and gold and sunshine. Here
are rows of books and there is a table. Somber black
boards clothe the walls to the right and beside your
desk is the delicate ivory of a nobly cast head. But
you see nothing of this: you see only a silence and
eyes, fringed, soft eyes; hard eyes; eyes great and
small; eyes here so poignant with beauty that the
sob struggles in your throat; eyes there so hard with
sorrow that laughter wells up to meet and beat it
back; eyes through which the mockery and ridicule
of hell or some pulse of high heaven may suddenly
flash. Ah! That mighty pause before the class,
that orison and benediction how much of my life it
has been and made.
I fought earnestly against posing before my class. I
tried to be natural and honest and frank, but it was
bitter hard. What would you say to a soft, brown
face, aureoled in a thousand ripples of gray-black
hair, which knells suddenly : " Do you trust white
people?" You do not and you know that you do
not, much as you want to; yet you rise and lie and
say you do; you must say it for her salvation and the
world's; you repeat that she must trust them, that
most white folks are honest, and all the while you
are lying and every level, silent eye there knows you
are lying, and miserably you sit and lie on, to the
greater glory of God.
I taught history and economics and something
called " sociology " at Atlanta University, where, as
our Mr. Webster used to say, we professors occupied
settees and not mere chairs. I was fortunate with this
teaching in having vivid in the minds of my pupils
a concrete social problem of which we all were parts
and which we desperately desired to solve. There
was little danger, then, of my teaching or of their
thinking becoming purely theoretical. Work and wage
were thrilling realities to us all. What did we study?
I can tell you best by taking a concrete human case,
such as was continually leaping to our eyes and
thought and demanding understanding and interpreta
tion and what I could bring of prophecy.
St. Louis sprawls where mighty rivers meet, as
broad as Philadelphia, but three stories high instead
of two, with wider streets and dirtier atmosphere,
OF WORK AND WEALTH 83
over the dull-brown of wide, calm rivers. The city
overflows into the valleys of Illinois and lies there,
writhing under its grimy cloud. The other city is
dusty and hot beyond all dream, a feverish Pitts-
burg in the Mississippi Valley a great, ruthless, ter
rible thing! It is the sort that crushes man and in
vokes some living super-man, a giant of things done,
a clang of awful accomplishment.
Three men came wandering across this place. They
were neither kings nor wise men, but they came with
every significance perhaps even greater than that
which the kings bore in the days of old. There was
one who came from the North, brawny and riotous
with energy, a man of concentrated power, who held
all the thunderbolts of modern capital in his great fists
and made flour and meat, iron and steel, cunning chem
icals, wood, paint and paper, transforming to endless
tools a disemboweled earth. He was one who saw
nothing, knew nothing, sought nothing but the mak
ing and buying of that which sells; who out from the
magic of his hand rolled over miles of iron road, ton
upon ton of food and metal and wood, of coal and
oil and lumber, until the thronging of knotted ways
in East and real St. Louis was like the red, festering
ganglia of some mighty heart.
Then from the East and called by the crash of
thunderbolts and forked-flame came the Unwise Man,
unwise by the theft of endless ages, but as human as
anything God ever made. He was the slave for the
miracle maker. It was he that the thunderbolts struck
and electrified into gasping energy. The rasp of his
hard breathing shook the midnights of all this end
less valley and the pulse of his powerful arms set
the great nation to trembling.
And then, at last, out of the South, like a still,
small voice, came the third man, black, with great
eyes and greater memories; hesitantly eager and yet
with the infinite softness and ancient calm which come
from that eternal race whose history is not the his
tory of a day, but of endless ages. Here, surely,
was fit meeting-place for these curiously intent forces,
for these epoch-making and age-twisting forces, for
these human feet on their super-human errands.
Yesterday I rode in East St. Louis. It is the kind
of -place one quickly recognizes, tireless and with
no restful green of verdure; hard and uneven of
street; crude, cold, and even hateful of aspect; con
ventional, of course, in its business quarter, but
quickly beyond one sees the ruts and the hollows, the
stench of ill-tamed sewerage, unguarded railroad
crossings, saloons outnumbering churches and
churches catering to saloons; homes impudently strait
and new, prostitutes free and happy, gamblers in
paradise, the town " wide open/' shameless and frank;
great factories pouring out stench, filth, and flame
these and all other things so familiar in the world
market places, where industry triumphs over thought
and products overwhelm men. May I tell, too, how
yesterday I rode in this city past flame-swept walls
and over gray ashes; in streets almost wet with blood
and beside ruins, where the bones of dead men new-
bleached peered out at me in sullen wonder ?
OF WORK AND WEALTH 85
Across the river, in the greater city, where bronze
St. Louis, that just and austere king looks with
angry, fear-swept eyes down from the rolling heights
of Forest Park, which knows him not nor heeds
him, there is something of the same thing, but this
city is larger and older and the forces of evil have
had some curbing from those who have seen the
vision and panted for life; but eastward from St.
Louis there is a land of no taxes for great industries;
there is a land where you may buy grafting politi
cians at far less rate than you would pay for fran
chises or privileges in a modern town. There, too,
you may escape the buying of indulgences from the
great terminal fist, which squeezes industry out of
St. Louis. In fact, East St. Louis is a paradise for
high and frequent dividends and for the piling up
of wealth to be spent in St. Louis and Chicago and
New York and when the world is sane again, across
So the Unwise Men pouring out of the East, fall
ing, scrambling, rushing into America at the rate of
a million a year, ran, walked, and crawled to this
maelstrom of the workers. They garnered higher
wage than ever they had before, but not all of it
came in cash. A part, and an insidious part, was
given to them transmuted into whiskey, prostitutes,
and games of chance. They laughed and disported
themselves. God! Had not their mothers wept
enough? It was a good town. There was no veil of
hypocrisy here, but a wickedness, frank, ungilded, and
open. To be sure, there were things sometimes to re-
veal the basic savagery and thin veneer. Once, for
instance, a man was lynched for brawling on the
public square of the county seat; once a mayor who
sought to " clean up " was publicly assassinated ; al
ways there was theft and rumors of theft, until St.
Clair County was a hissing in good men's ears; but
always, too, there were good wages and jolly hood
lums and unchecked wassail of Saturday nights.
Gamblers, big and little, rioted in East St. Louis.
The little gamblers used cards and roulette wheels and
filched the weekly wage of the workers. The greater
gamblers used meat and iron and undid the founda
tions of the world. All the gods of chance flaunted
their wild raiment here, above the brown flood of the
Then the world changed; then civilization, built for
culture, rebuilt itself for wilful murder in Europe,
Asia, America, and the Southern Seas. Hands that
made food made powder, and iron for railways was
iron for guns. The wants of common men were for
gotten before the groan of giants. Streams of gold,
lost from the world's workers, filtered and trickled
into the hands of gamblers and put new power into
the thunderbolts of East St. Louis.
Wages had been growing before the World War.
Slowly but remorselessly the skilled and intelligent,
banding themselves, had threatened the coffers of the
mighty, and slowly the mighty had disgorged. Even
the common workers, the poor and unlettered, had
again and again gripped the sills of the city walls and
pulled themselves to their chins; but, alas! there were
OF WORK AND WEALTH 87
so many hands and so many mouths and the feet of
the Disinherited kept coming across the wet paths of
the sea to this old El Dorado.
War brought subtle changes. Wages stood still
while prices fattened. It was not that the white
American worker was threatened with starvation, but
it was what was, after all, a more important question,
whether or not he should lose his front-room and
victrola and even the dream of a Ford car.
There came a whirling and scrambling among the
workers, they fought each other; they climbed on
each others' backs. The skilled and intelligent, band
ing themselves even better than before, bargained with
the men of might and held them by bitter threats;
the less skilled and more ignorant seethed at the bot
tom and tried, as of old, to bring it about that the
ignorant and unlettered should learn to stand together
against both capital and skilled labor.
It was here that there came out of the East a beam
of unearthly light, a triumph of possible good in
evil so strange that the workers hardly believed it.
Slowly they saw the gates of Ellis Island closing,
slowly the footsteps of the yearly million men be
came fainter and fainter, until the stream of immi
grants overseas was stopped by the shadow of death
at the very time when new murder opened new mar
kets over all the world to American industry; and the
giants with the thunderbolts stamped and raged and
peered out across the world and called for men and
evermore, men !
The Unwise Men laughed and squeezed reluctant
dollars out of the fists of the mighty and saw in their
dream the vision of a day when labor, as they knew
it, should come into its own; saw this day and saw it
with justice and with right, save for one thing, and
that was the sound of the moan of the Disinherited,
who still lay without the walls. When they heard
this moan and saw that it came not across the seas,
they were at first amazed and said it was not true;
and then they were mad and said it should not be.
Quickly they turned and looked into the red blackness
of the South and in their hearts were fear and hate !
What did they see ? They saw something at which
they had been taught to laugh and make sport; they
saw that which the heading of every newspaper column,
the lie of every cub reporter, the exaggeration of
every press dispatch, and the distortion of every speech
and book had taught them was a mass of despicable
men, inhuman; at best, laughable; at worst, the meat
of mobs and fury.
What did they see? They saw nine and one-half
millions of human beings. They saw the spawn of
slavery, ignorant by law and by deviltry, crushed by
insult and debauched by systematic and criminal in
justice. They saw a people whose helpless women
have been raped by thousands and whose men lynched
by hundreds in the face of a sneering world. They
saw a people with heads bloody, but unbowed, work
ing faithfully at wages fifty per cent, lower than the
wages of the nation and under conditions which shame
civilization, saving homes, training children, hoping
against hope. They saw the greatest industrial mir-
OF WORK AND WEALTH 89
acle of modern days, slaves transforming themselves
to freemen and climbing out of perdition by their
own efforts, despite the most contemptible opposition
God ever saw, they saw all this and what they saw
the distraught employers of America saw, too.
The North called to the South. A scream of rage
went up from the cotton monopolists and industrial
barons of the new South. Who was this who dared
to " interfere " with their labor ? Who sought to own
their black slaves but they? Who honored and loved
" niggers " as they did ?
They mobilized all the machinery of modern oppres
sion: taxes, city ordinances, licenses, state laws, mu
nicipal regulations, wholesale police arrests and, of
course, the peculiarly Southern method of the mob
and the lyncher. They appealed franctically to the
United States Government; they groveled on their
knees and shed wild tears at the " suffering " of their
poor, misguided black friends, and yet, despite this,
the Northern employers simply had to offer two and
three dollars a day and from one-quarter to one-half
a million dark workers arose and poured themselves
into the North. They went to the mines of West
Virginia, because war needs coal; they went to the
industries of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, because
war needs ships and iron; they went to the automo
biles of Detroit and the load-carrying of Chicago;
and they went to East St. Louis.
Now there came fear in the hearts of the Unwise
Men. It was not that their wages were lowered,
they went even higher. They received, not simpljr
a living wage, but a wage that paid for some of the
decencies, and, in East St. Louis, many of the inde
cencies of life. What they feared was not deprivation
of the things they were used to and the shadow of
poverty, but rather the definite death of their rising
dreams. But if fear was new-born in the hearts
of the Unwise Men, the black man was born in a
house of fear; to him poverty of the ulgiest and
straitest type was father, mother, and blood-brother.
He was slipping stealthily northward to escape hunger
and insult, the hand of oppression, and the shadow of
Here, then, in the wide valley which Father Mar-
quette saw peaceful and golden, lazy with fruit and
river, half-asleep beneath the nod of God, here, then,
was staged every element for human tragedy, every
element of the modern economic paradox.
Ah! That hot, wide plain of East St. Louis is a
gripping thing. The rivers are dirty with sweat and
toil and lip, like lakes, along the low and burdened
shores; flatboats ramble and thread among them,
and above the steamers bridges swing on great arches
of steel, striding with mighty grace from shore to
shore. Everywhere are brick kennels, tall, black
and red chimneys, tongues of flame. The ground is
littered with cars and iron, tracks and trucks, boxes
and crates, metals and coal and rubber. Nature-de
fying cranes, grim elevators rise above pile on pile
of black and grimy lumber. And ever below is the
water, wide and silent, gray-brown and yellow.
OF WORK AND WEALTH 91
This is the stage for the tragedy : the armored might
of the modern world urged by the bloody needs of
the world wants, fevered today by a fabulous vision
of gain and needing only hands, hands, hands! Fear
of loss and greed of gain in the hearts of the giants;
the clustered cunning of the modern workman, skilled
as artificer and skilled in the rhythm of the habit of
work, tasting the world's good and panting for more ;
fear of poverty and hate of " scabs " in the hearts of
the workers'; the dumb yearning in the hearts of the
oppressed; the echo of laughter heard at the foot of
the Pyramids; the faithful, plodding slouch of the
laborers; fear of the Shadow of Death in the hearts
of black men.
We ask, and perhaps there is no answer, how far
may the captain of the world's industry do his deeds,
despite the grinding tragedy of its doing? How far
may men fight for the beginning of comfort, out be
yond the horrid shadow of poverty, at the cost of
starving other and what the world calls lesser men?
How far may those who reach up out of the slime
that fills the pits of the world's damned compel men
with loaves to divide with men who starve?
The answers to these questions are hard, but yet
one answer looms above all, justice lies with the
lowest; the plight of the lowest man, the plight of
the black man deserves the first answer, and the
plight of the giants of industry, the last.
Little cared East St. Louis for all this bandying
of human problems, so long as its grocers and saloon
keepers flourished and its industries steamed and
screamed and smoked and its bankers grew rich. Stu
pidity, license, and graft sat enthroned in the City
Hall. The new black folk were exploited as cheer
fully as white Polacks and Italians ; the rent of shacks
mounted merrily, the street car lines counted gleeful
gains, and the crimes of white men and black men
flourished in the dark. The high and skilled and smart
climbed on the bent backs of the ignorant; harder the
mass of laborers strove to unionize their fellows and
to bargain with employers.
Nor were the new blacks fools. They had no love
for nothings in labor; they had no wish to make their
fellows' wage envelopes smaller, but they were de
termined to make their own larger. They, too, were
willing to join in the new union movement. But the
unions did not want them. Just as employers monopo
lized meat and steel, so they sought to monopolize la
bor and beat a giant's bargain. In the higher trades
they succeeded. The best electrician in the city was
refused admittance to the union and driven from the
town because he was black. No black builder, printer,
or machinist could join a union or work in East St.
Louis, no matter what his skill or character. But out
of the stink of the stockyards and the dust of the
aluminum works and the sweat of the lumber yards
the willing blacks could not be kept.
They were invited to join unions of the laborers
here and they joined. White workers and black work
ers struck at the aluminum works in the fall and won
higher wages and better hours; then again in the
spring they struck to make bargaining compulsory for
OF WORK AND WEALTH 93
the employer, but this time they fronted new things.
The conflagration of war had spread to America;
government and court stepped in and ordered no hesi
tation, no strikes; the work must go on,
Deeper was the call for workers. Black men poured
in and red anger flamed in the hearts of the white
workers. The anger was against the wielders of the
thunderbolts, but here it was impotent because em
ployers stood with the hand of the government before
their faces; it was against entrenched union labor,
which had risen on the backs of the unskilled and
unintelligent and on the backs of those whom for any
reason of race or prejudice or chicane they could beat
beyond the bars of competition; and finally the anger
of the mass of white workers was turned toward
these new black interlopers, who seemed to come to
spoil their last dream of a great monopoly of common
These angers flamed and the union leaders, fearing
their fury and knowing their own guilt, not only
in the larger and subtler matter of bidding their way
to power across the weakness of their less fortunate
fellows, but also conscious of their part in making
East St. Louis a miserable town of liquor and lust,
leaped quickly to ward the gathering thunder from
their own heads. The thing they wanted was even at
their hands: here were black men, guilty not only of
bidding for jobs which white men could have held at
war prices, even if they could not fill, but also guilty
of being black! It was at this blackness that the
unions pointed the accusing finger. It was here that
they committed the unpardonable crime. It was here
that they entered the Shadow of Hell, where sud
denly from a fight for wage and protection against
industrial oppression East St. Louis became the center
of the oldest and nastiest form of human oppression,
The whole situation lent itself to this terrible
transformation. Everything in the history of the
United States, from slavery to Sunday supplements,
from disfranchisement to residence segregation, from
" Jim-Crow " cars to a " Jim-Crow " army draft
all this history of discrimination and insult festered
to make men think and willing to think that the vent
ing of their unbridled anger against 12,000,000 humble,
upstriving workers was a way of settling the industrial
tangle of the ages. It was the logic of the broken
plate, which, seared of old across its pattern, cracks
never again, save along the old destruction.
So hell flamed in East St. Louis! The white men
drove even black union men out of their unions and
when the black men, beaten by night and assaulted,
flew to arms and shot back at the marauders, five
thousand rioters arose and surged like a crested storm-
wave, from noonday until midnight; they killed and
beat and murdered; they dashed out the brains of
children and stripped off the clothes of women; they
drove victims into the flames and hanged the helpless
to the lighting poles. Fathers were killed before the
faces of mothers; children were burned; heads were
cut off with axes; pregnant women crawled and
spawned in dark, wet fields; thieves went through
OF WORK AND WEALTH 95
houses and firebrands followed; bodies were thrown
from bridges; and rocks and bricks flew through the
The Negroes fought. They grappled with the mob
like beasts at bay. They drove them back from the
thickest cluster of their homes and piled the white
dead on the street, but the cunning mob caught the
black men between the factories and their homes,
where they knew they were armed only with their
dinner pails. Firemen, policemen, and militiamen
stood with hanging hands or even joined eagerly with
It was the old world horror come to life again: all
that Jews suffered in Spain and Poland; all that peas
ants suffered in France, and Indians in Calcutta; all
that aroused human deviltry had accomplished in
ages past they did in East St. Louis, while the rags
'of six thousand half -naked black men and women
fluttered across the bridges of the calm Mississippi.
The white South laughed, it was infinitely funny
the " niggers " who had gone North to escape
slavery and lynching had met the fury of the mob
which they had fled. Delegations rushed North from
Mississippi and Texas, with suspicious timeliness and
with great-hearted offers to take these workers back to
a lesser hell. The man from Greensville, Mississippi,
who wanted a thousand got six, because, after all,
the end was not so simple.
No, the end was not simple. On the contrary, the
problem raised by East St. Louis was curiously com
plex. The ordinary American, tired of the persist-
ence of " the Negro problem," sees only another anti-
Negro mob and wonders, not when we shall settle
this problem, but when we shall be well rid of it.
The student of social things sees another mile-post
in the triumphant march of union labor; he is sorry
that blood and rapine should mark its march, but,
what will you? War is life!
Despite these smug reasonings the bare facts were
these: East St. Louis, a great industrial center, lost
5,000 laborers, good, honest, hard-working laborers.
It was not the criminals, either black or white, who
were driven from East St. Louis. They are still
there. They will stay there. But half the honest
black laborers were gone. The crippled ranks of in
dustrial organization in the mid-Mississippi Valley
cannot be recruited from Ellis Island, because in Eu
rope men are dead and maimed, and restoration, when
restoration comes, will raise a European demand for
labor such as this age has never seen. The vision of
industrial supremacy has come to the giants who lead
American industry and finance. But it can never be
realized unless the laborers are here to do the work,
the skilled laborers, the common laborers, the will
ing laborers, the well-paid laborers. The present
forces, organized however cunningly, are not large
enough to do what America wants; but there is another
group of laborers, 12,000,000 strong, the natural heirs,
by every logic of justice, to the fruits of America's in
dustrial advance. They will be used simply because
they must be used, but their using means East St.
OF WORK AND WEALTH 97
Eastward from St. Louis lie great centers, like
Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburg,
Philadelphia, and New York; in every one of these
and in lesser centers there is not only the industrial
unrest of war and revolutionized work, but there is
the call for workers, the coming of black folk, and
the deliberate effort to divert the thoughts of men,
and particularly of workingmen, into channels of
race hatred against blacks. In every one of these
centers what happened in East St. Louis has been at
tempted, with more or less success. Yet the Ameri
can Negroes stand today as the greatest strategic
group in the world. Their services are indispensable,
their temper and character are fine, and their souls
have seen a vision more beautiful than any other mass
of workers. They may win back culture to the world
if their strength can be used with the forces of the
world that make for justice and not against the hidden
hates that fight for barbarism. For fight they must
and fight they will!
Rising on wings we cross again the rivers of St.
Louis, winding and threading between the towers of
industry that threaten and drown the towers of God.
Far, far beyond, we sight the green of fields and hills ;
but ever below lies the river, blue, brownish-gray,
touched with the hint of hidden gold. Drifting
through half-flooded lowlands, with shanties and crops
and stunted trees, past struggling corn and straggling
village, we rush toward the Battle of the Marne and
the West, from this dread Battle of the East. West
ward, dear God, the fire of Thy Mad World crimsons
our Heaven. Our answering Hell rolls eastward from
Here, in microcosm, is the sort of economic snarl
that arose continually for me and my pupils to solve.
We could bring to its unraveling little of the scholarly
aloofness and academic calm of most white universi
ties. To us this thing was Life and Hope and Death!
How should we think such a problem through, not
simply as Negroes, but as men and women of a new
century, helping to build a new world? And first of
all, here is no simple question of race antagonism.
There are no races, in the sense of great, separate,
pure breeds of men, differing in attainment, develop
ment, and capacity. There are great groups, now
with common history, now with common interests,
now with common ancestry; more and more common
experience and present interest drive back the com
mon blood and the world today consists, not of races,
but of the imperial commercial group of master capi
talists, international and predominantly white; the na
tional middle classes of the several nations, white,
yellow, and brown, with strong blood bonds, common
languages, and common history; the international la
boring class of all colors; the backward, oppressed
groups of nature-folk, predominantly yellow, brown,
Two questions arise from the work and relations of
these groups: how to furnish goods and services for
the wants of men and how equitably and sufficiently
to satisfy these wants. There can be no doubt that
OF WORK AND WEALTH 99
we have passed in our day from a world that could
hardly satisfy the physical wants of the mass of men,
by the greatest effort, to a world whose technique
supplies enough for all, if all can claim their right.
Our great ethical question today is, therefore, how
may we justly distribute the world's goods to satisfy
the necessary wants of the mass of men.
What hinders the answer to this question? Dis
likes, jealousies, hatreds, undoubtedly like the race
hatred in East St. Louis; the jealousy of English and
German; the dislike of the Jew and the Gentile. But
these are, after all, surface disturbances, sprung from
ancient habit more than from present reason. They
persist and are encouraged because of deeper, mightier
currents. If the white workingmen of East St. Louis
felt sure that Negro workers would not and could
not take the bread and cake from their mouths, their
race hatred would never have been translated into
murder. If the black workingmen of the South could
earn a decent living under decent circumstances at
home, they would not be compelled to underbid their
Thus the shadow of hunger, in a world which never
needs to be hungry, drives us to war and murder and
hate. But why does hunger shadow so vast a mass
of men? Manifestly because in the great organizing
of men for work a few of the participants come out
with more wealth than they can possibly use, while
a vast number emerge with less than can decently sup
port life. In earlier economic stages we defended
this as the reward of Thrift and Sacrifice, and as the
punishment of Ignorance and Crime. To this the an
swer is sharp: Sacrifice calls for no such reward and
Ignorance deserves no such punishment. The chief
meaning of our present thinking is that the dispro
portion between wealth and poverty today cannot be
adequately accounted for by the thrift and ignorance
of the rich and the poor.
Yesterday we righted one great mistake when we
realized that the ownership of the laborer did not tend
to increase production. The world at large had learned
this long since, but black slavery arose again in Amer
ica as an inexplicable anachronism, a wilful crime.
The freeing of the black slaves freed America. To
day we are challenging another ownership, the own
ership of materials which go to make the goods we
need. Private ownership of land, tools, and raw ma
terials may at one stage of economic development be
a method of stimulating production and one which
does not greatly interfere with equitable distribution.
When, however, the intricacy and length of technical
production increased, the ownership of these things
becomes a monopoly, which easily makes the rich
richer and the poor poorer. Today, therefore, we are
challenging this ownership; we are demanding general
consent as to what materials shall be privately owned
and as to how materials shall be used. We are rapidly
approaching the day when we shall repudiate all pri
vate property in raw materials and tools and demand
that distribution hinge, not on the power of those who
monopolize the materials, but on the needs of the
mass of men.
OF WORK AND WEALTH 101
Can we do this and still make sufficient goods,
justly gauge the needs of men, and rightly decide who
are to be considered "men"? How do we arrange
to accomplish these things today? Somebody decides
whose wants should be satisfied. Somebody organizes
industry so as to satisfy these wants. What is to
hinder the same ability and foresight from being used
in the future as in the past? The amount and kind
of human ability necessary need not be decreased,
it may even be vastly increased, with proper encour
agement and rewards. Are we today evoking the
necessary ability? On the contrary, it is not the
Inventor, the Manager, and the Thinker who today are
reaping the great rewards of industry, but rather the
Gambler and the Highwayman. Rightly-organized
industry might easily save the Gambler's Profit and
the Monopolist's Interest and by paying a more dis
criminating reward in wealth and honor bring to the
service of the state more ability and sacrifice than we
can today command. If we do away with interest
and profit, consider the savings that could be made;
but above all, think how great the revolution would be
when we ask the mysterious Somebody to decide in
the light of public opinion whose wants should be
satisfied. This is the great and real revolution that
is coming in future industry.
But this is not the end of the revolution nor indeed,
perhaps, its real beginning. What we must decide
sometime is who are to be considered " men." Today,
at the beginning of this industrial change, we are ad
mitting that economic classes must give way. The
laborers' hire must increase, the employers 5 profit must
be curbed. But how far shall this change go ? Must
it apply to all human beings and to all work through
out the world?
Certainly not. We seek to apply it slowly and with
some reluctance to white men and more slowly and
with greater reserve to white women, but black folk
and brown and for the most part yellow folk we have
widely determined shall not be among those whose
needs must justly be heard and whose wants must be
ministered to in the great organization of world in
In the teaching of my classes I was not willing to
stop with showing that this was unfair, indeed I
did not have to do this. They knew through bitter
experience its rank injustice, because they were black.
What I had to show was that no real reorganization
of industry could be permanently made with the ma
jority of mankind left out. These disinherited darker
peoples must either share in the future industrial de
mocracy or overturn the world.
Of course, the foundation of such a system must be
a high, ethical ideal. We must really envisage the
wants of humanity. We must want the wants of all
men. We must get rid of the fascination for exclu-
siveness. Here, in a world full of folk, men are
lonely. The rich are lonely. We are all frantic for
fellow-souls, yet we shut souls out and bar the ways
and bolster up the fiction of the Elect and the Superior
when the great mass of men is capable of producing
larger and larger numbers for every human height of
OF WORK AND WEALTH 103
attainment. To be sure, there are differences between
men and groups and there will ever be, but they will
be differences of beauty and genius and of interest
and not necessarily of ugliness, imbecility, and hatred.
The meaning of America is the beginning of the dis
covery of the Crowd. The crowd is not so well-trained
as a Versailles garden party of Louis XIV, but it
is far better trained than the Sans-culottes and it has
infinite possibilities. What a world this will be when
human possibilities are freed, when we discover each
other, when the stranger is no longer the potential
criminal and the certain inferior!
What hinders our approach to the ideals outlined
above ? Our profit from degradation, our colonial ex
ploitation, our American attitude toward the Negro.
Think again of East St. Louis! Think back of that
to slavery and Reconstruction ! Do we want the wants
of American Negroes satisfied? Most certainly not,
and that negative is the greatest hindrance today to
the reorganization of work and redistribution of
wealth, not only in America, but in the world.
All humanity must share in the future industrial
democracy of the world. For this it must be trained
in intelligence and in appreciation of the good and
the beautiful. Present Big Business, that Science of
Human Wants must be perfected by eliminating the
price paid for waste, which is Interest, and for Chance,
which is Profit, and making all income a personal
wage for service rendered by the recipient; by recog
nizing no possible human service as great enough to
enable a person to designate another as an idler or
as a worker at work which he cannot do. Above all,
industry must minister to the wants of the many and
not to the few, and the Negro, the Indian, the Mon
golian, and the South Sea Islander must be among the
many as well as Germans, Frenchmen, and English
In this coming socialization of industry we must
guard against that same tyranny of the majority that
has marked democracy in the making of laws. There
must, for instance, persist in this future economics a
certain minimum of machine-like work and prompt
obedience and submission. This necessity is a simple
corollary from the hard facts of the physical world.
It must be accepted with the comforting thought that
its routine need not demand twelve hours a day or
even eight. With Work for All and All at Work
probably from three to six hours would suffice, and
leave abundant time for leisure, exercise, study, and
But what shall we say of work where spiritual
values and social distinctions enter? Who shall be
Artists and who shall be Servants in the world to
come ? Or shall we all be artists and all serve ?
The Second Coming
Three bishops sat in San Francisco, New Orleans, and
New York, peering gloomily into three flickering fires,
which cast and recast shuddering shadows on book-lined
walls. Three letters lay in their laps, which said:
" And thou, Valdosta, in the land of Georgia, art not
least among the princes of America, for out of thee
shall come a governor who shall rule my people."
The white bishop of New York scowled and impa
tiently threw the letter into the fire. "Valdosta?" he
thought, " That's where I go to the governor's wedding
of little Marguerite, my white flower, " Then he for
got the writing in his musing, but the paper flared red
in the fireplace.
"Valdosta?" said the black bishop of New Orleans,
turning uneasily in his chair. " I must go down there.
Those colored folk are acting strangely. I don't know
where all this unrest and moving will lead to. Then,
there's poor Lucy " And he threw the letter into the
fire, but eyed it suspiciously as it flamed green. " Stran
ger things than that have happened," he said slowly,
" ' and ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars . . .
for nation shall rise against nation and kingdom against
In San Francisco the priest of Japan, abroad to study
strange lands, sat in his lacquer chair, with face like
soft-yellow and wrinkled parchment. Slowly he wrote
in a great and golden book : " I have been strangely
bidden to the Val d' Osta, where one of those religious
cults that swarm here will welcome a prophet. I shall
go and report to Kioto."
So in the dim waning of the day before Christmas
three bishops met in Valdosta and saw its mills and
storehouses, its wide-throated and sandy streets, in the
mellow glow of a crimson sun. The governor glared
anxiously up the street as he helped the bishop of New
York into his car and welcomed him graciously.
" I am troubled," said the governor, " about the nig
gers. They are acting queerly. I'm not certain but
Fleming is back of it."
" Yes ! He's running against me next term for gov
ernor; he's a fire-brand; wants niggers to vote and all
that pardon me a moment, there's a darky I know "
and he hurried to the black bishop, who had just de
scended from the " Jim-Crow " car, and clasped his hand
cordially. They talked in whispers. " Search diligently,"
said the governor in parting, " and bring me word
again." Then returning to his guest, " You will excuse
me, won't you ? " he asked, " but I am sorely troubled !
I never saw niggers act so. They're leaving by the
hundreds and those who stay are getting impudent!
They seem to be expecting something. What's the crowd,
The chauffeur said that there was some sort of Chinese
official in town and everybody wanted to glimpse him.
He drove around another way.
It all happened very suddenly. The bishop of New
York, in full canonicals for the early wedding, stepped
out on the rear balcony of his mansion, just as the dying
sun lit crimson clouds of glory in the East and burned
" Fire ! " yelled a wag in the surging crowd that was
gathering to celebrate a southern Christmas-eve; all
laughed and ran.
The bishop of New York did not understand. He
peered around. Was it that dark, little house in the
far backyard that flamed? Forgetful of his robes he
hurried down, a brave, white figure in the sunset. He
THE SECOND COMING 107
found himself before an old, black, rickety stable. He
could hear the mules stamping within.
No. It was not fire. It was the sunset glowing
through the cracks. Behind the hut its glory rose
toward God like flaming wings of cherubim. He paused
until he heard the faint wail of a child. Hastily he
entered. A white girl crouched before him, down by the
very mules' feet, with a baby in her arms, a little mite
of a baby that wailed weakly. Behind mother and child
stood a shadow. The bishop of New York turned to the
right, inquiringly, and saw a black man in bishop's robes
that faintly re-echoed his own. He turned away to the
left and saw a golden Japanese in golden garb. Then
he heard the black man mutter behind him : " But He
was to come the second time in clouds of glory, with
the nations gathered around Him and angels " at the
word a shaft of glorious light fell full upon the child,
while without came the tramping of unnumbered feet
and the whirring of wings.
The bishop of New York bent quickly over the baby.
It was black! He stepped back with a gesture of
disgust, hardly listening to and yet hearing the black
bishop, who spoke almost as if in apology:
" She's not really white ; I know Lucy you see, her
mother worked for the governor The white bishop
turned on his heel and nearly trod on the yellow priest,
who knelt with bowed head before the pale mother and
offered incense and a gift of gold.
Out into the night rushed the bishop of New York.
The wings of the cherubim were folded black against
the stars. As he hastened down the front staircase the
governor came rushing up the street steps.
" We are late ! " he cried nervously. " The bride
awaits ! " He hurried the bishop to the waiting limou
sine, asking him anxiously: "Did you hear anything?
Do you hear that noise ? The crowd is growing strangely
on the streets and there seems to be a fire over toward
the East. I never saw so many people hereI fear vio
lence a mob a lynching I fear hark ! "
What was that which he, too, heard beneath the rhythm
of unnumbered feet? Deep in his heart a wonder grew.
What was it? Ah, he knew! It was music, some
strong and mighty chord. It rose higher as the brilliantly-
lighted church split the night, and swept radiantly toward
them. So high and clear that music flew, it seemed
above, around, behind them. The governor, ashen-faced,
crouched in the car; but the bishop said softly as the
ecstasy pulsed in his heart:
" Such music, such wedding music ! What choir is
" THE SERVANT IN THE HOUSE "
THE lady looked at me severely; I glanced away. I
had addressed the little audience at some length on
the disfranchisement of my people in society, poli
tics, and industry and had studiously avoided the
while her cold, green eye. I finished and shook weary
hands, while she lay in wait. I knew what was com
ing and braced my soul.
" "Do you know where I can get a good colored
cook?" she asked.
I disclaimed all guilty concupiscence. She came
nearer and spitefully shook a finger in my face.
" Why won't Negroes work ! " she panted. " I
have given money for years to Hampton and Tuske-
gee and yet I can't get decent servants. They won't
try. They're lazy! They're unreliable! They're im
pudent and they leave without notice. They all want
to be lawyers and doctors and " (she spat the word in
" God forbid ! " I answered solemnly, and then be
ing of gentle birth and unminded to strike a defense
less female of uncertain years, I ran; I ran home and
wrote a chapter in my book and this is it.
I speak and speak bitterly as a servant and a serv
ant's son, for my mother spent five or more years of
her life as a menial; my father's family escaped, al
though grandfather as a boat steward had to fight
hard to be a man and not a lackey. He fought and
won. My mother's folk, however, during my child
hood, sat poised on that thin edge between the farmer
and the menial. The surrounding Irish had two
chances, the factory and the kitchen, and most of them
took the factory, with all its dirt and noise and low
wage. The factory was closed to us. Our little lands
were too small to feed most of us. A few clung almost
sullenly to the old homes, low and red things crouching
on a wide level; but the children stirred restlessly and
walked often to town and saw its wonders. Slowly
they dribbled off, a waiter here, a cook there, help
for a few weeks in Mrs. Blank's kitchen when she
had summer boarders.
Instinctively I hated such work from my birth. I
loathed it and shrank from it. Why? I could not
have said. Had I been born in Carolina instead of
Massachusetts I should hardly have escaped the taint
of " service." Its temptations in wage and comfort
would soon have answered my scruples; and yet I am
sure I would have fought long even in Carolina, for
I knew in my heart that thither lay Hell.
I mowed lawns on contract, did " chores " that
left me my own man, sold papers, and peddled tea
anything to escape the shadow of the awful thing
that lurked to grip my soul. Once, and once only, I
felt the sting of its talons. I was twenty and had
graduated from Fisk with a scholarship for Harvard;
I needed, however, travel money and clothes and a
"THE SERVANT IN THE HOUSE" in
bit to live on until the scholarship was due. Fortson
was a fellow-student in winter and a waiter in sum
mer. He proposed that the Glee Club Quartet of
Fisk spend the summer at the hotel in Minnesota
where he worked and that I go along as " Business
Manager " to arrange for engagements on the journey
back. We were all eager, but we knew nothing of
table-waiting. " Never mind," said Fortson, " you
can stand around the dining-room during meals and
carry out the big wooden trays of dirty dishes. Thus
you can pick up knowledge of waiting and earn good
tips and get free board." I listened askance, but I
I entered that broad and blatant hotel at Lake Min-
netonka with distinct forebodings. The flamboyant
architecture, the great verandas, rich furniture, and
richer dresses awed us mightily. The long loft re
served for us, with its clean little cots, was reas
suring; the work was not difficult, but the meals!
There were no meals. At first, before the guests ate,
a dirty table in the kitchen was hastily strewn with
uneatable scraps. We novices were the only ones who
came to eat, while the guests' dining-room, with its
savors and sights, set our appetites on edge! After
a while even the pretense of meals for us was dropped.
We were sure we were going to starve when Dug, one
of us, made a startling discovery : the waiters stole
their food and they stole the best. We gulped and
hesitated. Then we stole, too, (or, at least, they
stole and I shared) and we all fattened, for the dain
ties were marvelous. You slipped a bit here and hid
it there; you cut off extra portions and gave false
orders; you dashed off into darkness and hid in
corners and ate and ate! It was nasty business. I
hated it. I was too cowardly to steal much myself,
and not coward enough to refuse what others stole.
Our work was easy, but insipid. We stood about
and watched overdressed people gorge. For the most
part we were treated like furniture and were sup
posed to act the wooden part. I watched the waiters
even more than the guests. I saw that it paid to amuse
and to cringe. One particular black man set me
crazy. He was intelligent and deft, but one day I
caught sight of his face as he served a crowd of men;
he was playing the clown, crouching, grinning, as
suming a broad dialect when he usually spoke good
English ah! it was a heartbreaking sight, and he
made more money than any waiter in the dining-room.
I did not mind the actual work or the kind of
work, but it was the dishonesty and deception, the
flattery and cajolery, the unnatural assumption that
worker and diner had no common humanity. It was
uncanny. It was inherently and fundamentally wrong.
I stood staring and thinking, while the other boys
hustled about. Then I noticed one fat hog, feeding at
a heavily gilded trough, who could not find his waiter.
He beckoned me. It was not his voice, for his mouth
was too full. It was his way, his air, his assumption.
Thus Caesar ordered his legionaries or Cleopatra her
slaves. Dogs recognized the gesture. I did not. He
may be beckoning yet for all I know, for something
froze within me. I did not look his way again. Then
"THE SERVANT IN THE HOUSE" 113
and there I disowned menial service for me and my
I would work my hands off for an honest wage, but
for " tips " and " hand-me-outs," never ! Fortson was
a pious, honest fellow, who regarded " tips " as in
the nature of things, being to the manner born; but
the hotel that summer in other respects rather aston
ished even him. He came to us much flurried one
night and got us to help him with a memorial to the
absentee proprietor, telling of the wild and gay do
ings of midnights in the rooms and corridors among
" tired " business men and their prostitutes. We lis
tened wide-eyed and eager and wrote the filth out
manfully. The proprietor did not thank Fortson. He
did not even answer the letter.
When I finally walked out of that hotel and out of
menial service forever, I felt as though, in a field of
flowers, my nose had been held unpleasantly long to
the worms and manure at their roots.
" Cursed be Canaan ! " cried the Hebrew priests.
" A servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren."
With what characteristic complacency did the slave
holders assume that Canaanites were Negroes and
their " brethren " white ? Are not Negroes servants ?
Ergo! Upon such spiritual myths was the anachron
ism of American slavery built, and this was the de
gradation that once made menial servants the aristo
crats among colored folk. House servants secured
some decencies of food and clothing and shelter; they
could more easily reach their master's ear; their per-
sonal abilities of character became known and bonds
grew between slave and master which strengthened
from friendship to love, from mutual service to mu
Naturally out of this the West Indian servant
climbed out of slavery into citizenship, for few West
Indian masters fewer Spanish or Dutch were cal
lous enough to sell their own children into slavery.
Not so with English and Americans. With a harsh
ness and indecency seldom paralleled in the civilized
world white masters on the mainland sold their mu
latto children, half-brothers and half-sisters, and their
own wives in all but name, into life-slavery by the
hundreds and thousands. They originated a special
branch of slave-trading for this trade and the white
aristocrats of Virginia and the Carolinas made more
money by this business during the eighteenth and nine
teenth centuries than in any other way.
The clang of the door of opportunity thus knelled
in the ears of the colored house servant whirled the
whole face of Negro advancement as on some great
pivot. The movement was slow, but vast. When
emancipation came, before and after 1863, the house
servant still held advantages. He had whatever edu
cation the race possessed and his white father, no
longer able to sell him, often helped him with land
and protection. Notwithstanding this the lure of
house service for the Negro was gone. The path of
salvation for the emancipated host of black folk lay
no longer through the kitchen door, with its wide
hall and pillared veranda and flowered yard beyond.
"THE SERVANT IN THE HOUSE" 115
It lay, as every Negro soon knew and knows, in es
cape from menial serfdom.
In 1860, 98 per cent, of the Negroes were servants
and serfs. In 1880, 30 per cent were servants and
65 per cent were serfs. The percentage of servants
then rose slightly and fell again until 21 per cent
were in service in 1910 and, doubtless, much less than
20 per cent today. This is the measure of our rise,
but the Negro will not approach freedom until this
hateful badge of slavery and mediaevalism has been
reduced to less than 10 per cent.
Not only are less than a fifth of our workers serv
ants today, but the character of their service has been
changed. The million menial workers among us in
clude 300,000 upper servants, skilled men and women
of character, like hotel waiters, Pullman porters, jani
tors, and cooks, who, had they been white, could have
called on the great labor movement to lift their work
out of slavery, to standardize their hours, to define
their duties, and to substitute a living, regular wage
for personal largess in the shape of tips, old clothes,
and cold leavings of food. But the labor movement
turned their backs on those black men when the white
world dinned in their ears. Negroes are servants;
servants are Negroes. They shut the door of escape
to factory and trade in their fellows' faces and bat
tened down the hatches, lest the 300,000 should be
workers equal in pay and consideration with white
But, if the upper servants could not escape to mod
ern, industrial conditions, how much the more did
they press down on the bodies and souls of 700,000
washerwomen and household drudges, ignorant, un
skilled offal of a millionaire industrial system. Their
pay was the lowest and their hours the longest of all
workers. The personal degradation of their work
is so great that any white man of decency would
rather cut his daughter's throat than let her grow up
to such a destiny. There is throughout the world and
in all races no greater source of prostitution than this
grade of menial service, and the Negro race in Amer
ica has largely escaped this destiny simply because its
innate decency leads black women to choose irregular
and temporary sexual relations with men they like
rather than to sell themselves to strangers. To such
sexual morals is added (in the nature of self-defense)
that revolt against unjust labor conditions which ex
presses itself in " soldiering," sullenness, petty pilfer
ing, unreliability, and fast and fruitless changes of
Indeed, here among American Negroes we have ex
emplified the last and worst refuge of industrial caste.
Menial service is an anachronism, the refuse of me
diaeval barbarism. Why, then, does it linger? Why
are we silent about it? Why in the minds of so many
decent and up-seeing folks does the whole Negro prob
lem resolve itself into the matter of their getting a
cook or a maid ?
No one knows better than I the capabilities of a
system of domestic service at its best. I have seen
children who were spiritual sons and daughters of
their masters, girls who were friends of their mis-
"THE SERVANT IN THE HOUSE" 117
tresses, and old servants honored and revered. But
in every such case the Servant had transcended the
Menial, the Service had been exalted above the Wage.
Now to accomplish this permanently and universally,
calls for the same revolution in household help as in
factory help and public service. While organized in
dustry has been slowly making its help into self-respect
ing, well-paid men, and while public service is begin
ning to call for the highest types of educated and
efficient thinkers, domestic service lags behind and
insists upon seeking to evolve the best types of men
from the worst conditions.
The cause of this perversity, to my mind, is two
fold. First, the ancient high estate of Service, now
pitifully fallen, yet gasping for breath; secondly, the
present low estate of the outcasts of the world, peer
ing with blood-shot eyes at the gates of the industrial
The Master spoke no greater word than that which
said : " Whosoever will be great among you, let him
be your servant ! " What is greater than Personal
Service! Surely no social service, no wholesale help
ing of masses of men can exist which does not find its
effectiveness and beauty in the personal aid of man
to man. It is the purest and holiest of duties. Some
mighty glimmer of this truth survived in those who
made the First Gentlemen of the Bedchamber, the
Keepers of the Robes, and the Knights of the Bath,
the highest nobility that hedged an anointed king.
Nor does it differ today in what the mother does for
the child or the daughter for the mother, in all the
personal attentions in the old-fashioned home; this
is Service! Think of what Friend has meant, not
simply in spiritual sympathies, but in physical help
fulness. In the world today what calls for more of
love, sympathy, learning, sacrifice, and long-suffering
than the care of children, the preparation of food,
the cleansing and ordering of the home, personal at
tendance and companionship, the care of bodies and
their raiment what greater, more intimate, more
holy Services are there than these?
And yet we are degrading these services and loath
ing them and scoffing at them and spitting upon them,
first, by turning them over to the lowest and least
competent and worst trained classes in the world, and
then by yelling like spoiled children if our babies are
neglected, our biscuits sodden, our homes dirty, and
our baths unpoured. Let one suggest that the only
cure for such deeds is in the uplift of the doer and
our rage is even worse and less explicable. We will
call them by their first names, thus blaspheming a
holy intimacy; we will confine them to back doors;
we will insist that their meals be no gracious ceremony
nor even a restful sprawl, but usually a hasty, heckled
gulp amid garbage; we exact, not a natural, but a
purchased deference, and we leave them naked to
insult by our children and by our husbands.
I remember a girl, how pretty she was, with the
crimson flooding the old ivory of her cheeks and her
gracious plumpness ! She had come to the valley dur
ing the summer to " do housework." I met and walked
home with her, in the thrilling shadows, to an old
"THE SERVANT IN THE HOUSE" 119*
village home I knew well; then as I turned to leave
I learned that she was there alone in that house for
a week-end with only one young white man to repre
sent the family. Oh, he was doubtless a " gentleman "
and all that, but for the first time in my life I saw
what a snare the fowler was spreading at the feet of
the daughters of my people, baited by church and
Not alone is the hurt thus offered to the lowly,
Society and Science suffer. The unit which we seek
to make the center of society, the Home is de
prived of the help of scientific invention and sugges
tion. It is only slowly and by the utmost effort that
some small foothold has been gained for the vacuum
cleaner, the washing-machine, the power tool, and the
chemical reagent. In our frantic effort to preserve
the last vestiges of slavery and mediaevalism we not
only set our faces against such improvements, but
we seek to use education and the power of the state
to train the servants who do not naturally appear.
Meantime the wild rush from house service, on
the part of all who can scramble or run, continues.
The rules of the labor union are designed, not simply
to raise wages, but to guard against any likeness be
tween artisan and servant. There is no essential dif
ference in ability and training between a subway guard
and a Pullman porter, but between their union cards
lies a whole world.
Yet we are silent. Menial service is not a " social
problem." It is not really discussed. There is no
scientific program for its " reform/' There is but
one panacea : Escape ! Get yourselves and your sons
and daughters out of the shadow of this awful thing!
Hire servants, but never be one. Indeed, subtly but
surely the ability to hire at least " a maid " is still
civilization's patent to respectability, while " a man "
is the first word of aristocracy.
All this is because we still consciously and uncon
sciously hold to the " manure " theory of social or
ganization. We believe that at the bottom of organ
ized human life there are necessary duties and services
which no real human being ought to be compelled to
do. We push below this mudsill the derelicts and
half-men, whom we hate and despise, and seek to build
above it Democracy! On such foundations is reared
a Theory of Exclusiveness, a feeling that the world
progresses by a process of excluding from the benefits
of culture the majority of men, so that a gifted mi
nority may blossom. Through this door the modern
democrat arrives to the place where he is willing to
allot two able-bodied men and two fine horses to the
task of helping one wizened beldam to take the morn
Here the absurdity ends. Here all honest minds
turn back and ask: Is menial service permanent or
necessary? Can we not transfer cooking from the
home to the scientific laboratory, along with the laun
dry? Cannot machinery, in the hands of self-respect
ing and well-paid artisans, do our cleaning, sewing,
moving, and decorating? Cannot the training of
children become an even greater profession than the
attending of the sick? And cannot personal service
"THE SERVANT IN THE HOUSE" 121
and companionship be coupled with friendship and
love where it belongs and whence it can never be di
vorced without degradation and pain?
In fine, can we not, black and white, rich and poor,
look forward to a world of Service without Servants ?
A miracle! you say? True. And only to be per
formed by the Immortal Child.
Jesus Christ in Texas
It was in Waco, Texas.
The convict guard laughed. " I don't know," he said,
" I hadn't thought of that." He hesitated and looked at
the stranger curiously. In the solemn twilight he got an
impression of unusual height and soft, dark eyes. " Curi
ous sort of acquaintance for the colonel," he thought;
then he continued aloud : " But that nigger there is bad,
a born thief, and ought to be sent up for life; got ten
years last time "
Here the voice of the promoter, talking within, broke
in ; he was bending over his figures, sitting by the colonel.
He was slight, with a sharp nose.
" The convicts," he said, " would cost us $96 a year
and board. Well, we can squeeze this so that it won't
be over $125 apiece. Now if these fellows are driven,
they can build this line within twelve months. It will
be running by next April. Freights will fall fifty per
cent. Why, man, you'll be a millionaire in less than ten
The colonel started. He was a thick, short man, with
a clean-shaven face and a certain air of breeding about
the lines of his countenance ; the word millionaire sounded
well to his ears. He thought he thought a great deal;
he almost heard the puff of the fearfully costly automo
bile that was coming up the road, and he said:
" I suppose we might as well hire them."
"Of course," answered the promoter.
The voice of the tall stranger in the corner broke in
" It will be a good thing for them?" he said, half in
The colonel moved. " The guard makes strange
friends," he thought to himself. " What's this man do
ing here, anyway ? " He looked at him, or rather looked
at his eyes, and then somehow he felt a warming toward
him. He said:
"Well, at least, it can't harm them; they're beyond
" It will do them good, then," said the stranger again.
The promoter shrugged his shoulders. " It will do
us good," he said.
But the colonel shook his head impatiently. He felt
a desire to justify himself before those eyes, and he
answered : " Yes, it will do them good ; or at any rate
it won't make them any worse than they are." Then he
started to say something else, but here sure enough the
sound of the automobile breathing at the gate stopped
him and they all arose.
" It is settled, then," said the promoter.
" Yes," said the colonel, turning toward the stranger
again. " Are you going into town ? " he asked with the
Southern courtesy of white men to white men in a
country town. The stranger said he was. " Then come
along in my machine. I want to talk with you about
They went out to the car. The stranger as he went
turned again to look back at the convict. He was a tall,
powerfully built black fellow. His face was sullen, with
a low forehead, thick, hanging lips, and bitter eyes. There
was revolt written about his mouth despite the hang
dog expression. He stood bending over his pile of
stones, pounding listlessly. Beside him stood a boy of
twelve, yellow, with a hunted, crafty look. The con
vict raised his eyes and they met the eyes of the stranger.
The hammer fell from his hands.
The stranger turned slowly toward the automobile
and the colonel introduced him. He had not exactly
caught his name, but he mumbled something as he
JESUS CHRIST IN TEXAS 125
presented him to his wife and little girl, who were
As they whirled away the colonel started to talk, but
the stranger had taken the little girl into his lap and
together they conversed in low tones all the way home.
In some way, they did not exactly know how, they
got the impression that the man was a teacher and, of
course, he must be a foreigner. The long, cloak-like coat
told this. They rode in the twilight through the lighted
town and at last drew up before the colonel's mansion,
with its ghost-like pillars.
The lady in the back seat was thinking of the guests
she had invited to dinner and was wondering if she ought
not to ask this man to stay. He seemed cultured and she
supposed he was some acquaintance of the colonel's. It
would be rather interesting to have him there, with the
judge's wife and daughter and the rector. She spoke
almost before she thought :
" You will enter and rest awhile ? "
The colonel and the little girl insisted. For a moment
the stranger seemed about to refuse. He said he had
some business for his father, about town. Then for the
child's sake he consented.
Up the steps they went and into the dark parlor where
they sat and talked a long time. It was a curious con
versation. Afterwards they did not remember exactly
what was said and yet they all remembered a certain
strange satisfaction in that long, low talk.
Finally the nurse came for the reluctant child and the
hostess bethought herself:
" We will have a cup of tea ; you will be dry and
She rang and switched on a blaze of light. With one
accord they all looked at the stranger, for they had
hardly seen him well in the glooming twilight. The
woman started in amazement and the colonel half rose
in anger. Why, the man was a mulatto, surely; even
if he did not own the Negro blood, their practised eyes
knew it. He was tall and straight and the coat looked
like a Jewish gabardine. His hair hung in close curls
far down the sides of his face and his face was olive,
A peremptory order rose to the colonel's lips and
froze there as he caught the stranger's eyes. Those
eyes, where had he seen those eyes before? He re
membered them long years ago. The soft, tear-filled
yes of a brown girl. He remembered many things,
and his face grew drawn and white. Those eyes kept
burning into him, even when they were turned half
away toward the staircase, where the white figure of
the child hovered with her nurse and waved good-night.
The lady sank into her chair and thought : " What will
the judge's wife say? How did the colonel come to
invite this man here? How shall we be rid of him?"
She looked at the colonel in reproachful consterna
Just then the door opened and the old butler came
in. He was an ancient black man, with tufted white
hair, and he held before him a large, silver tray filled
with a china tea service. The stranger rose slowly and
stretched forth his hands as if to bless the viands. The
old man paused in bewilderment, tottered, and then
with sudden gladness in his eyes dropped to his knees,
and the tray crashed to the floor.
" My Lord and my God ! " he whispered ; but the
woman screamed : " Mother's china ! "
The doorbell rang.
" Heavens ! here is the dinner party ! " exclaimed the
lady. She turned toward the door, but there in the
hall, clad in her night clothes, was the little girl. She
had stolen down the stairs to see the stranger again,
and the nurse above was calling in vain. The woman
felt hysterical and scolded at the nurse, but the stranger
had stretched out his arms and with a glad cry the child
JESUS CHRIST IN TEXAS 127
nestled in them. They caught some words about the
" Kingdom of Heaven " as he slowly mounted the stairs
with his little, white burden.
The mother was glad of anything to get rid of the
interloper, even for a moment. The bell rang again
and she hastened toward the door, which the loitering
black maid was just opening. She did not notice the
shadow of the stranger as he came slowly down the
stairs and paused by the newel post, dark and silent.
The judge's wife came in. She was an old woman,
frilled and powdered into a semblance of youth, and
gorgeously gowned. She came forward, smiling with
extended hands, but when she was opposite the
stranger, somewhere a chill seemed to strike her and she
shuddered and cried :
" What a draft ! " as she drew a silken shawl about
her and shook hands cordially; she forgot to ask who
the stranger was. The judge strode in unseeing, think
ing of a puzzling case of theft.
" Eh ? What ? Oh er yes, good evening," he said,
" good evening." Behind them came a young woman
in the glory of youth, and daintily silked, beautiful in
face and form, with diamonds around her fair neck.
She came in lightly, but stopped with a little gasp;
then she laughed gaily and said:
"Why, I beg your pardon. Was it not curious? I
thought I saw there behind your man " she hesitated,
but he must be a servant, she argued " the shadow of
great, white wings. It was but the light on the drapery.
What a turn it gave me." And she smiled again. With
her came a tall, handsome, young naval officer. Hear
ing his lady refer to the servant, he hardly looked at
him, but held his gilded cap carelessly toward him, and
the stranger placed it carefully on the rack.
Last came the rector, a man of forty, and well-
clothed. He started to pass the stranger, stopped, and
looked at him inquiringly.
" I beg your pardon," he said. " I beg your pardon,
I think I have met you ? "
The stranger made no answer, and the hostess nerv
ously hurried the guests on. But the rector lingered
and looked perplexed.
" Surely, I know you. I have met you somewhere/*
he said, putting his hand vaguely to his head. " You
you remember me, do you not? "
The stranger quietly swept his cloak aside, and to the
hostess' unspeakable relief passed out of the door.
" I never knew you," he said in low tones as he
The lady murmured some vain excuse about in
truders, but the rector stood with annoyance written on
" I beg a thousand pardons," he said to the hostess
absently. " It is a great pleasure to be here, somehow
I thought I knew that man. I am sure I knew him
The stranger had passed down the steps, and as he
passed, the nurse, lingering at the top of the staircase,
flew down after him, caught his cloak, trembled, hesi
tated, and then kneeled in the dust.
He touched her lightly with his hand and said : " Go,
and sin no more ! "
With a glad cry the maid left the house, with its open
door, and turned north, running. The stranger turned
eastward into the night. As they parted a long, low
howl rose tremulously and reverberated through the
night. The colonel's wife within shuddered.
" The bloodhounds ! " she said.
The rector answered carelessly:
" Another one of those convicts escaped, I suppose.
Really, they need severer measures." Then he stopped.
He was trying to remember that stranger's name.
The judge's wife looked about for the draft and
arranged her shawl. The girl glanced at the white
JESUS CHRIST IN TEXAS 129
drapery in the hall, but the young officer was bending
over her and the fires of life burned in her veins.
Howl after howl rose in the night, swelled, and died
away. JE ne stranger strode rapidly along the highway
and out into the deep forest. There he paused and
stood waiting, tall and still.
A mile up the road behind a man was running, tall
and powerful and black, with crime-stained face and
convicts' stripes upon him, and shackles on his legs. He
ran and jumped, in little, short steps, and his chains
rang. He fell and rose again, while the howl of the
hounds rang louder behind him.
Into the forest he leapt and crept and jumped and
ran, streaming with sweat; seeing the tall form rise
before him, he stopped suddenly, dropped his hands in
sullen impotence, and sank panting to the earth. A
greyhound shot out of the woods behind him, howled,
whined, and fawned before the stranger's feet. Hound
after hound bayed, leapt, and lay there; then silently,
one by one, and with bowed heads, they crept backward
toward the town.
The stranger made a cup of his hands and gave the
man water to drink, bathed his hot head, and gently
took the chains and irons from his feet. By and by
the convict stood up. Day was dawning above the
treetops. He looked into the stranger's face, and for
a moment a gladness swept over the stains of his face.
" Why, you are a nigger, too," he said.
Then the convict seemed anxious to justify himself.
" I never had no chance/' he said furtively.
" Thou shalt not steal," said the stranger.
The man bridled.
" But how about them ? Can they steal ? Didn't they
steal a whole year's work, and then when I stole to
keep from starving " He glanced at the stranger.
" No, I didn't steal just to keep from starving. I
stole to be stealing. I can't seem to keep from stealing.
Seems like when I see things, I just must but, yes, I'll
The convict looked down at his striped clothes, but
the stranger had taken off his long coat; he had put
it around him and the stripes disappeared.
In the opening morning the black man started toward
the low, log farmhouse in the distance, while the
stranger stood watching him. There was a new glory in
the day. The black man's face cleared up, and the farmer
was glad to get him. All day the black man worked
as he had never worked before. The farmer gave him
some cold food.
" You can sleep in the barn," he said, and turned
" How much do I git a day ? " asked the black man.
The farmer scowled.
" Now see here," said he. " If you'll sign a contract
for the season, I'll give you ten dollars a month."
" I won't sign no contract," said the black man dog
" Yes, you will," said the farmer, threateningly, " or
I'll call the convict guard." And he grinned.
The convict shrank and slouched to the barn. As
night fell he looked out and saw the farmer leave the
place. Slowly he crept out and sneaked toward the
house. He looked through the kitchen door. No one
was there, but the supper was spread as if the mistress
had laid it and gone out. He ate ravenously. Then
he looked into the front room and listened. He could
hear low voices on the porch. On the table lay a gold
watch. He gazed at it, and in a moment he was beside
it, his hands were on it! Quickly he slipped out of
the house and slouched toward the field. He saw his
employer coming along the highway. He fled back in
terror and around to the front of the house, when
suddenly he stopped. He felt the great, dark eyes of
the stranger and saw the same dark, cloak-like coat
JESUS CHRIST IN TEXAS 131
where the stranger sat on the doorstep talking with the
mistress of the house. Slowly, guiltily, he turned back
entered the kitchen, and laid the watch stealthily where
he had found it; then he rushed wildly back toward
the stranger, with arms outstretched.
The woman had laid supper for her husband, and
going down from the house had walked out toward a
neighbor's. She was gone but a little while, and when
she came back she started to see a dark figure on the
doorsteps under the tall, red oak. She thought it was
the new Negro until he said in a soft voice:
"Will you give me bread?"
Reassured at the voice of a white man, she answered
qukkly in her soft, Southern tones :
" Why, certainly."
She was a little woman, and once had been pretty;
but now her face was drawn with work and care. She
was nervous and always thinking, wishing, wanting
for something. She went in and got him some corn-
bread and a glass of cool, rich buttermilk; then she came
out and sat down beside him. She began, quite uncon
sciously, to tell him about herself, the things she had
done and had not done and the things she had wished
for. She told him of her husband and this new farm
they were trying to buy. She said it was hard to get
niggers to won , She said they ought all to be in the
chain-gang and made to work. Even then some ran
away. Only yeste day one had escaped, and another the
At last she gossiped of her neighbors, how good they
were and how bad.
" And do you like them all ? " asked the stranger.
" Most of them," she said ; and then, looking up into
his face and putting her hand into his, as though he were
her father, she said:
" There are none I hate ; no, none at all."
He looked away, holding her hand in his, and said
" You love your neighbor as yourself ? "
" I try " she began, and then looked the way he
was looking; down under the hill where lay a little, half-
" They are niggers," she said briefly.
He looked at her. Suddenly a confusion came over
her and she insisted, she knew not why.
" But they are niggers ! "
With a sudden impulse she arose and hurriedly lighted
the lamp that stood just within the door, and held it
above her head. She saw his dark face and curly hair.
She shrieked in angry terror and rushed down the path,
and just as she rushed down, the black convict came
running up with hands outstretched. They met in mid-
path, and before he could stop he had run against her
and she fell heavily to earth and lay white and still. Her
husband came rushing around the house with a cry
and an oath.
" I knew it," he said. " It's that runaway nigger."
He held the black man struggling to the earth and raised
his voice to a yell. Down the highway came the con
vict guard, with hound and mob and gun. They paused
across the fields. The farmer motione<i to them.
" He attacked my wife," he gasped.
The mob snarled and worked silently. Right to the
limb of the red oak they hoisted the struggling, writhing
black man, while others lifted the aazed woman. Right
and left, as she tottered to the house, she searched for
the stranger with a yearning, but the stranger was gone.
And she told none of her guests.
" No no, I want nothing," she insisted, until they
left her, as they thought, asleep. For a time she lay
still, listening to the departure of the mob. Then she
rose. She shuddered as she heard the creaking of the
JESUS CHRIST IN TEXAS 133
limb where the body hung. But resolutely she crawled
to the window and peered out into the moonlight; she
saw the dead man writhe. He stretched his arms out
like a cross, looking upward. She gasped and clung
to the window sill. Behind the swaying body, and
down where the little, half -ruined cabin lay, a single
flame flashed up amid the far-off shout and cry of the
mob. A fierce joy sobbed up through the terror in her
soul and then sank abashed as she watched the flame
rise. Suddenly whirling into one great crimson column
it shot to the top of the sky and threw great arms
athwart the gloom until above the world and behind
the roped and swaying form below hung quivering and
burning a great crimson cross.
She hid her dizzy, aching head in an agony of tears,
and dared not look, for she knew. Her dry lips moved :
" Despised and rejected of men."
She knew, and the very horror of it lifted her dull
and shrinking eyelids. There, heaven-tall, earth-wide,
hung the stranger on the crimson cross, riven and blood
stained, with thorn-crowned head and pierced hands. She
stretched her arms and shrieked.
He did not hear. He did not see. His calm dark
eyes, all sorrowful, were fastened on the writhing, twist
ing body of the thief, and a voice came out of the winds
of the night, saying:
" This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise ! "
OF THE RULING OF MEN
THE ruling of men is the effort to direct the individual
actions of many persons toward some end. This end
theoretically should be the greatest good of all, but
no human group has ever reached this ideal because
of ignorance and selfishness. The simplest object
would be rule for the Pleasure of One, namely the
Ruler; or of the Few his favorites; or of many the
Rich, the Privileged, the Powerful. Democratic
movements inside groups and nations are always tak
ing place and they are the efforts to increase the
number of beneficiaries of the ruling. In i8th cen
tury Europe, the effort became so broad and sweep
ing that an attempt was made at universal expression
and the philosophy of the movement said that if All
ruled they would rule for All and thus Universal Good
was sought through Universal Suffrage.
The unrealized difficulty of this program lay in the
widespread ignorance. The mass of men, even of
the more intelligent men, not only knew little about
each other but less about the action of men in groups
and the technique of industry in general. They could
only apply universal suffrage, therefore, to the things
they knew or knew partially : they knew personal and
menial service, individual craftsmanship, agriculture
OF THE RULING OF MEN 135
and barter, taxes or the taking of private property
for public ends and the rent of land. With these
matters then they attempted to deal. Under the cry
of " Freedom " they greatly relaxed the grip of selfish
interests by restricting menial service, securing the
right of property in handiwork and regulating public
taxes; distributing land ownership and freeing trade
While they were doing this against stubborn re
sistance, a whole new organization of work suddenly
appeared. The suddenness of this " Industrial Revo
lution " of the igth century was partly fortuitous
in the case of Watt's teakettle partly a natural de
velopment, as in the matter of spinning, but largely
the determination of powerful and intelligent individ
uals to secure the benefits of privileged persons, as
in the case of foreign slave trade.
The result was on the one hand a vast and un
exampled development of industry. Life and civili
zation in the late iQth and early 2Oth century were
Industry in its whole conception, language, and ac
complishment : the object of life was to make goods.
Now before this giant aspect of things, the new
democracy stood aghast and impotent. It could not
rule because it did not understand : an invincible king
dom of trade, business, and commerce ruled the world,
and before its threshold stood the Freedom of i8th
century philosophy warding the way. Some of the
very ones who were freed from the tyranny of the
Middle Age became the tyrants of the industrial age.
There came a reaction. Men sneered at " democ-
i 3 6 DARKWATER
racy " and politics, and brought forth Fate and Philan-
/ thropy to rule the world Fate which gave divine
right to rule to the Captains of Industry and their
created Millionaires; Philanthropy which organized
vast schemes of relief to stop at least the flow of
blood in the vaster wounds which industry was
It was at this time that the lowest laborers, who
worked hardest, got least and suffered most, began
to mutter and rebel, and among these were the Amer
ican Negroes. Lions have no historians, and there
fore lion hunts are thrilling and satisfactory human
reading. Negroes had no bards, and therefore it has
been widely told how American philanthropy freed
the slave. In truth the Negro revolted by armed re
bellion, by sullen refusal to work, by poison and mur
der, by running away to the North and Canada, by
giving point and powerful example to the agitation
of the abolitionists and by furnishing 200,000 soldiers
and many times as many civilian helpers in the Civil
War. This war was not a war for Negro freedom,
but a duel between two industrial systems, one of
which was bound to fail because it was an anachron
ism, and the other bound to succeed because of the
When now the Negro was freed the Philanthropists
sought to apply to his situation the Philosophy of
Democracy handed down from the i8th century.
There was a chance here to try democratic rule
in a new way, that is, against the new industrial op
pression with a mass of workers who were not yet
OF THE RULING OF MEN 137
in its control. With plenty of land widely distributed,
staple products like cotton, rice, and sugar cane, and
a thorough system of education, there was a unique
chance to realize a new modern democracy in industry
in the southern United States which would point
the way to the world. This, too, if done by black folk,
would have tended to a new unity of human beings
and an obliteration of human hatreds festering along
the color line.
Efforts were begun. The I4th and I5th amend
ments gave the right to vote to white and black la
borers, and they immediately established a public
school system and began to attack the land question.
The United States government was seriously consider
ing the distribution of land and capital " 40 acres
and a mule " and the price of cotton opened an easy
way to economic independence. Co-operative move
ments began on a large scale.
But alas! Not only were the former slave-owners
solidly arrayed against this experiment, but the owners
of the industrial North saw disaster in any such be
ginnings of industrial democracy. The opposition
based its objections on the color line, and Recon
struction became in history a great movement for the
self-assertion of the white race against the impudent
ambition of degraded blacks, instead of, in truth, the
rise of a mass of black and white laborers.
The result was the disfranchisement of the blacks
of the South and a world-wide attempt to restrict
democratic development to white races and to dis
tract them with race hatred against the darker races.
This program, however, although it undoubtedly
helped raise the scale of white labor, in much greater
proportion put wealth and power in the hands of the
great European Captains of Industry and made mod
ern industrial imperialism possible.
This led to renewed efforts on the part of white
European workers to understand and apply their po
litical power to its reform through democratic con
Whether known as Communism or Socialism or
what not, these efforts are neither new nor strange
nor terrible, but world-old and seeking an absolutely
justifiable human ideal the only ideal that can be
sought: the direction of individual action in industry
so as to secure the greatest good of all. Marxism was
one method of accomplishing this, and its panacea
was the doing away with private property in machines
and materials. Two mighty attacks were made on
this proposal. One was an attack on the fundamental
democratic foundation: modern European white in
dustry does not even theoretically seek the good of
all, but simply of all Europeans. This attack was
virtually unanswered indeed some Socialists openly
excluded Negroes and Asiatics from their scheme.
From this it was easy to drift into that form of
syndicalism which asks socialism for the skilled
laborer only and leaves the common laborer in his
This throws us back on fundamentals. It compels
us again to examine the roots of democracy.
Who may be excluded from a share in the ruling
OF THE RULING OF MEN 139
of men? Time and time again the world has an
That is, we have assumed that only the intelligent
should vote, or those who know how to rule men, or
those who are not under benevolent guardianship, or
those who ardently desire the right.
These restrictions are not arguments for the wide
distribution of the ballot they are rather reasons for
restriction addressed to the self-interest of the present
real rulers. We say easily, for instance, " The igno
rant ought not to vote." We would say, " No civilized
state should have citizens too ignorant to participate
in government," and this statement is but a step to
the fact: that no state is civilized which has citizens
too ignorant to help rule it. Or, in other words, ed
ucation is not a prerequisite to political control -polit
ical control is the cause of popular education.
Again, to make experience a qualification for the
franchise is absurd: it would stop the spread of de
mocracy and make political power hereditary, a pre
requisite of a class, caste, race, or sex. It has of course
been soberly argued that only white folk or English
men, or men, are really capable of exercising sovereign
power in a modern state. The statement proves too
much: only yesterday it was Englishmen of high de-
i 4 o DARKWATER
scent, or men of " blood/' or sovereigns " by divine
right " who could rule. Today the civilized world
is being ruled by the descendants of persons who a
century ago were pronounced incapable of ever devel
oping a self-ruling people. In every modern state
there must come to the polls every generation, and
indeed every year, men who are inexperienced in the
solutions of the political problems that confront them
and who must experiment in methods of ruling men.
Thus and thus only will civilization grow.
Again, what is this theory of benevolent guardian
ship for women, for the masses, for Negroes for
" lesser breeds without the law " ? It is simply the
old cry of privilege, the old assumption that there are
those in the world who know better what is best for
others than those others know themselves, and who
can be trusted to do this best.
In fact no one knows himself but that self's own
soul. The vast and wonderful knowledge of this mar
velous universe is locked in the bosoms of its indi
vidual souls. To tap this mighty reservoir of ex
perience, knowledge, beauty, love, and deed we must
appeal not to the few, not to some souls, but to all.
The narrower the appeal, the poorer the culture; the
wider the appeal the more magnificent are the possi
bilities. Infinite is human nature. We make it finite
by choking back the mass of men, by attempting to
speak for others, to interpret and act for them, and
we end by acting for ourselves and using the world
as our private property. If this were all, it were
crime enough but it is not all : by our ignorance we
OF THE RULING OF MEN 141
make the creation of the greater world impossible;
we beat back a world built of the playing of dogs
and laughter of children, the song of Black Folk and
worship of Yellow, the love of women and strength
of men, and try to express by a group of doddering
ancients the Will of the World.
There are people who insist upon regarding the
franchise, not as a necessity for the many, but as a
privilege for the few. They say of persons and
classes: "They do not need the ballot." This is
often said of women. It is argued that everything
which women with the ballot might do for themselves
can be done for them; that they have influence and
friends " at court," and that their enfranchisement
would simply double the number of ballots. So, too,
we are told that American Negroes can have done for
them by other voters all that they could possibly do
for themselves with the ballot and much more be
cause the white voters are more intelligent.
Further than this, it is argued that many of the
disfranchised people recognize these facts. " Women
do not want the ballot" has been a very effective
counter war-cry, so much so that many men have
taken refuge in the declaration : " When they want to
vote, why, then " So, too, we are continually
told that the " best " Negroes stay out of politics.
Such arguments show so curious a misapprehen
sion of the foundation of the argument for democracy
that the argument must be continually restated and
emphasized. We must remember that if the theory
of democracy is correct, the right to vote is not merely
a privilege, not simply a method of meeting the needs
of a particular group, and least of all a matter of
recognized want or desire. Democracy is a method of
realizing the broadest measure of justice to all human
beings. The world has, in the past, attempted various
methods of attaining this end, most of which can be
summed up in three categories:
The method of the benevolent tyrant.
The method of the select few.
The method of the excluded groups.
The method of intrusting the government of a
people to a strong ruler has great advantages when
the ruler combines strength with ability, unselfish de
votion to the public good, and knowledge of what
that good calls for. Such a combination is, however,
rare and the selection of the right ruler is very diffi
cult. To leave the selection to force is to put a pre
mium on physical strength, chance, and intrigue; to
make the selection a matter of birth simply transfers
the real power from sovereign to minister. Inevit
ably the choice of rulers must fall on electors.
Then comes the problem, who shall elect. The
earlier answer was : a select few, such as the wise, the
best born, the able. Many people assume that it was
corruption that made such aristocracies fail. By no
means. The best and most effective aristocracy, like
the best monarchy, suffered from lack of knowledge.
The rulers did not know or understand the needs of
the people and they could not fijad out, for in the
OF THE RULING OF MEN 143
last analysis only the man himself, however humble,
knows his own condition. He may not know how to
remedy it, he may not realize just what is the matter;
but he knows when something hurts and he alone
knows how that hurt feels. Or if sunk below feeling
or comprehension or complaint, he does not even know
that he is hurt, God help his country, for it not only
lacks knowledge, but has destroyed the sources of
So soon as a nation discovers that it holds in the
heads and hearts of its individual citizens the vast
mine of knowledge, out of which it may build a
just government, then more and more it calls those
citizens to select their rulers and to judge the justice of
Even here, however, the temptation is to ask only
for the wisdom of citizens of a certain grade or those
of recognized worth. Continually some classes are
tacitly or expressly excluded. Thus women have been
excluded from modern democracy because of the per
sistent theory of female subjection and because it was
argued that their husbands or other male folks would
look to their interests. Now, manifestly, most hus
bands, fathers, and brothers, will, so far as they know
how or as they realize women's needs, look after
them. But remember the foundation of the argument,
^-that in the last analysis only the sufferer knows his
.sufferings and that no state can be strong which
.excludes from its expressed wisdom the knowledge
possessed by mothers, wives, and daughters. We have
jbut to view the unsatisfactory relations of the sexes
the world over and the problem of children to realize
how desperately we need this excluded wisdom.
The same arguments apply to other excluded groups :
if a race, like the Negro race, is excluded, then so
far as that race is a part of the economic and social
organization of the land, the feeling and the experi
ence of that race are absolutely necessary to the reali
zation of the broadest justice for all citizens. Or if
the " submerged tenth " be excluded, then again, there
is lost from the world an experience of untold value,
and they must be raised rapidly to a place where they
can speak for themselves. In the same way and for
the same reason children must be educated, insanity
prevented, and only those put under the guardianship
of others who can in no way be trained to speak for
The real argument for democracy is, then, that in
the people we have the source of that endless life and
unbounded wisdom which the rulers of men must
have. A given people today may not be intelligent,
but through a democratic government that recognizes,
not only the worth of the individual to himself, but
the worth of his feelings and experiences to all, they
can educate, not only the individual unit, but genera
tion after generation, until they accumulate vast stores
of wisdom. Democracy alone is the method of show
ing the whole experience of the race for the benefit
of the future and if democracy tries to exclude women
or Negroes or the poor or any class because of innate
characteristics which do not interfere with intelligence,
then that democracy cripples itself and belies its name.
OF THE RULING OF MEN 145
From this point of view we can easily see the weak
ness and strength of current criticism of extension of
the ballot. It is the business of a modern government
to see to it, first, that the number of ignorant within
its bounds is reduced to the very smallest number.
Again, it is the duty of every such government to ex
tend as quickly as possible the number of persons of
mature age who can vote. Such possible voters
must be regarded, not as sharers of a limited treas
ure, but as sources of new national wisdom and
The addition of the new wisdom, the new points of
view, and the new interests must, of course, be from
time to time bewildering and confusing. Today those
who have a voice in the body politic have expressed
their wishes and sufferings. The result has been a
smaller or greater balancing of their conflicting in
terests. The appearance of new interests and com
plaints means disarrangement and confusion to the
older equilibrium. It is, of course, the inevitable pre
liminary step to that larger equilibrium in which the
interests of no human soul will be neglected. These
interests will not, surely, be all fully realized, but
they will be recognized and given as full weight as
the conflicting interests will allow. The problem of
government thereafter would be to reduce the neces
sary conflict of human interests to the minimum.
From such a point of view one easily sees the
strength of the demand for the ballot on the part of
certain disfranchised classes. When women ask for
the ballot, they are asking, not for a privilege, but
for a necessity. You may not see the necessity, you
may easily argue that women do not need to vote.
Indeed, the women themselves in considerable numbers
may agree with you. Nevertheless, women do need
the ballot. They need it to right the balance of a
world sadly awry because of its brutal neglect of the
rights of women and children. With the best will
and knowledge, no man can know women's wants as
well as women themselves. To disfranchise women
is deliberately to turn from knowledge and grope in
So, too, with American Negroes: the South con
tinually insists that a benevolent guardianship of whites
over blacks is the ideal thing. They assume that white
people not only know better what Negroes need than
Negroes themselves, but that they are anxious to sup
ply these needs. As a result they grope in ignorance
and helplessness. They cannot " understand " the
Negro; they cannot protect him from cheating and
lynching; and, in general, instead of loving guardian
ship we see anarchy and exploitation. If the Negro
could speak for himself in the South instead of be
ing spoken for, if he could defend himself instead of
having to depend on the chance sympathy of white
citizens, how much healthier a growth of democracy
the South would have.
So, too, with the darker races of the world. No
federation of the world, no true inter-nation can ex
clude the black and brown and yellow races from its
counsels. They must equally and according to number
act and be heard at the world's council.
OF THE RULING OF MEN 147
It is not, for a moment, to be assumed that en
franchising women will not cost something. It will
for many years confuse our politics. It may even
change the present status of family life. It will admit
to the ballot thousands of inexperienced persons, un
able to vote intelligently. Above all, it will interfere
with some of the present prerogatives of men and
probably for some time to come annoy them con
So, too, Negro enfranchisement meant reconstruc
tion, with its theft and bribery and incompetency as
well as its public schools and enlightened, social legisla
tion. It would mean today that black men in the
South would have to be treated with consideration,
have their wishes respected and their manhood rights
recognized. Every white Southerner, who wants peons
beneath him, who believes in hereditary menials and a
privileged aristocracy, or who hates certain races be
cause of their characteristics, would resent this.
Notwithstanding this, if America is ever to become
a government built on the broadest justice to every
citizen, then every citizen must be enfranchised. There
may be temporary exclusions, until the ignorant and
their children are taught, or to avoid too sudden an
influx of inexperienced voters. But such exclusions
can be but temporary if justice is to prevail.
The principle of basing all government on the con
sent of the governed is undenied and undeniable.
Moreover, the method of modern democracy has placed
within reach of the modern state larger reserves of
efficiency, ability, and even genius than the ancient or
mediaeval state dreamed of. That this great work of
the past can be carried further among all races and
nations no one can reasonably doubt.
Great as are our human differences and capabilities
there is not the slightest scientific reason for assum
ing that a given human being of any race or sex can
not reach normal, human development if he is granted
a reasonable chance. This is, of course, denied. It
is denied so volubly and so frequently and with such
positive conviction that the majority of unthinking
people seem to assume that most human beings are not
human and have no right to human treatment or hu
man opportunity. All this goes to prove that human
beings are, and must be, woefully ignorant of each
other. It always startles us to find folks thinking
like ourselves. We do not really associate with each
other, we associate with our ideas of each other, and
few people have either the ability or courage to ques
tion their own ideas. None have more persistently
and dogmatically insisted upon the inherent inferior
ity of women than the men with whom they come in
closest contact. It is the husbands, brothers, and
sons of women whom it has been most difficult to in
duce to consider women seriously or to acknowledge
that women have rights which men are bound to
respect. So, too, it is those people who live in closest
contact with black folk who have most unhesitatingly
asserted the utter impossibility of living beside Ne
groes who are not industrial or political slaves or
social pariahs. All this proves that none are so blind
as those nearest the thing seen, while, on the other
OF THE RULING OF MEN 149
hand, the history of the world is the history of the
discovery of the common humanity of human beings
among steadily-increasing circles of men.
If the foundations of democracy are thus seen to
be sound, how are we going to make democracy ef
fective where it now fails to function particularly
in industry? The Marxists assert that industrial de
mocracy will automatically follow public ownership of
machines and materials. Their opponents object that
nationalization of machines and materials would not
suffice because the mass of people do not understand
the industrial process. They do not know:
What to do
How to do it
Who could do it best
How to apportion the resulting goods.
There can be no doubt but that monopoly of ma
chines and materials is a chief source of the power of
industrial tyrants over the common worker and that
monopoly today is due as much to chance and cheat
ing as to thrift and intelligence. So far as it is
due to chance and cheating, the argument for public
ownership of capital is incontrovertible even though
it involves some interference with long vested rights
and inheritance. This is being widely recognized in
the whole civilized world. But how about the accu
mulation of goods due to thrift and intelligence
would democracy in industry interfere here to such
an extent as to discourage enterprise and make im
possible the intelligent direction of the mighty and
intricate industrial process of modern times?
The knowledge of what to do in industry and how
to do it in order to attain the resulting goods rests in
the hands and brains of the workers and managers,
and the judges of the result are the public. Conse
quently it is not so much a questien as to whether the
world will admit democratic control here as how can
such control be long avoided when the people once
understand the fundamentals of industry. How can
civilization persist in letting one person or a group
of persons, by secret inherent power, determine what
goods shall be made whether bread or champagne,
overcoats or silk socks ? Can so vast a power be kept
from the people?
But it may be opportunely asked: has our experi
ence in electing public officials led us to think that we
could run railways, cotton mills, and department stores
by popular vote? The answer is clear: no, it has not,
and the reason has been lack of interest in politics
and the tyranny of the Majority. Politics have not
touched the matters of daily life which are nearest the
interests of the people namely, work and wages; or
if they have, they have touched it obscurely and in
directly. When voting touches the vital, everyday in
terests of all, nominations and elections will call for
more intelligent activity. Consider too the vast un
used and misused power of public rewards to obtain
ability and genius for the service of the state. If
millionaires can buy science and art, cannot the Demo-
OF THE RULING OF MEN 151
cratic state outbid them not only with money but with
the vast ideal of the common weal?
There still remains, however, the problem of the
What is the cause of the undoubted reaction and
alarm that the citizens of democracy continually feel?
It is, I am sure, the failure to feel the full significance
of the change of rule from a privileged minority to
that of an omnipotent majority, and the assumption
that mere majority rule is the last word of govern
ment; that majorities have no responsibilities, that
they rule by the grace of God. Granted that govern
ment should be based on the consent of the governed,
does the consent of a majority at any particular time
adequately express the consent of all? Has the mi
nority, even though a small and unpopular and un
fashionable minority, no right to respectful consid
I remember that excellent little high school text
book, " NordhofFs Politics/' where I first read of gov
ernment, saying this sentence at the beginning of its
most important chapter: "The first duty of a mi
nority is to become a majority." This is a state
ment which has its underlying truth, but it also has
its dangerous falsehood; viz., any minority which can
not become a majority is not worthy of any considera
tion. But suppose that the out-voted minority is
necessarily always a minority ? Women, for instance,
can seldom expect to be a majority; artists must al
ways be the few; ability is always rare, and black
folk in this land are but a tenth. Yet to tyrannize
over such minorities, to browbeat and insult them, to
call that government a democracy which makes ma
jority votes an excuse for crushing ideas and individu
ality and self -development, is manifestly a peculiarly
dangerous perversion of the real democratic ideal. It
is right here, in its method and not in its object, that
democracy in America and elsewhere has so often
failed. We have attempted to enthrone any chance
majority and make it rule by divine right. We have
kicked and cursed minorities as upstarts and usurpers
when their sole offense lay in not having ideas or hair
like ours. Efficiency, ability, and genius found often
no abiding place in such a soil as this. Small wonder
that revolt has come and high-handed methods are
rife, of pretending that policies which we favor or per
sons that we like have the anointment of a purely
imaginary majority vote.
; Are the methods of such a revolt wise, howsoever
great the provocation and evil may be? If the abso
lute monarchy of majorities is galling and inefficient,
is it any more inefficient than the absolute monarchy
of individuals or privileged classes have been found to
be in the past ? Is the appeal from a numerous-minded
despot to a smaller, privileged group or to one man
likely to remedy matters permanently? Shall we step
backward a thousand years because our present prob
lem is baffling?
Surely not and surely, too, the remedy for absolut
ism lies in calling these same minorities to council.
As the king-in-council succeeded the king by the grace
of God, so in future democracies the toleration and
OF THE RULING OF MEN 153
encouragement of minorities and the willingness to
consider as " men " the crankiest, humblest and poor
est and blackest peoples, must be the real key to the
consent of the governed. Peoples and governments
will not in the future assume that because they have
the brute power to enforce momentarily dominant
ideas, it is best to do so without thoughtful con
ference with the ideas of smaller groups and individu
als. Proportionate representation in physical and
spiritual form must come.
That this method is virtually coming in vogue we
can see by the minority groups of modern legislatures.
Instead of the artificial attempts to divide all possible
ideas and plans between two great parties, modern
legislatures in advanced nations tend to develop smaller
and smaller minority groups, while government is car
ried on by temporary coalitions. For a time we in
veighed against this and sought to consider it a per
version of the only possible method of practical de
mocracy. Today we are gradually coming to realize
that government by temporary coalition of small and
diverse groups may easily become the most efficient
method of expressing the will of man and of setting
the human soul free. The only hindrance to the
faster development of this government by allied mi
norities is the fear of external war which is used
again and again to melt these living, human, thinking
groups into inhuman, thoughtless, and murdering ma
The persons, then, who come forward in the dawn
of the 20th century to help in the ruling of men
must come with the firm conviction that no nation,
race, or sex, has a monopoly of ability or ideas; that
no human group is so small as to deserve to be ig
nored as a part, and as an integral and respected part,
of the mass of men; that, above all, no group of
twelve million black folk, even though they are at the
physical mercy of a hundred million white majority,
can be deprived of a voice in their government and
of the right to self -development without a blow at
the very foundations of all democracy and all hu
man uplift; that the very criticism aimed today at
universal suffrage is in reality a demand for power
on the part of consciously efficient minorities, but
these minorities face a fatal blunder when they as
sume that less democracy will give them and their
kind greater efficiency. However desperate the temp
tation, no modern nation can shut the gates of oppor
tunity in the face of its women, its peasants, its la
borers, or its socially damned. How astounded the
future world-citizen will be to know that as late as
1918 great and civilized nations were making des
perate endeavor to confine the development of ability
and individuality to one sex, that is, to one-half of
the nation; and he will probably learn that similar
effort to confine humanity to one race lasted a hundred
The doctrine of the divine right of majorities leads
to almost humorous insistence on a dead level of medi
ocrity. It demands that all people be alike or that they
be ostracized. At the same time its greatest accusa
tion against rebels is this same desire to be alike : the
OF THE RULING OF MEN 155
suffragette is accused of wanting to be a man, the so
cialist is accused of envy of the rich, and the black
man is accused of wanting to be white. That any one
of these should simply want to be himself is to the
average worshiper of the majority inconceivable, and
yet of all worlds, may the good Lord deliver us from
a world where everybody looks like his neighbor and
thinks like his neighbor and is like his neighbor.
The world has long since awakened to a realization
of the evil which a privileged few may exercise over
the majority of a nation. So vividly has this truth
been brought home to us that we have lightly assumed
that a privileged and enfranchised majority cannot
equally harm a nation. Insane, wicked, and wasteful
as the tyranny of the few over the many may be, it
is not more dangerous than the tyranny of the many
over the few. Brutal physical revolution can, and
usually does, end the tyranny of the few. But the
spiritual losses from suppressed minorities may be
vast and fatal and yet all unknown and unrealized
because idea and dream and ability are paralyzed by
If, now, we have a democracy with no excluded
groups, with all men and women enfranchised, what
is such a democracy to do? How will it function?
What will be its field of work?
The paradox which faces the civilized world today
is that democratic control is everywhere limited in
its control of human interests. Mankind is engaged
in planting, forestry, and mining, preparing food and
shelter, making clothes and machines, transporting
goods and folk, disseminating news, distributing
products, doing public and private personal service,
teaching, advancing science, and creating art.
In this intricate whirl of activities, the theory of
government has been hitherto to lay down only very
general rules of conduct, marking the limits of ex
treme anti-social acts, like fraud, theft, and murder.
The theory was that within these bounds was Free
dom the Liberty to think and do and move as one
wished. The real realm of freedom was found in
experience to be much narrower than this in one
direction and much broader in another. In matters
of Truth and Faith and Beauty, the Ancient Law
was inexcusably strait and modern law unforgivably
stupid. It is here that the future and mighty fight
for Freedom must and will be made. Here in the
heavens and on the mountaintops, the air of Free
dom is wide, almost limitless, for here, in the highest
stretches, individual freedom harms no man, and,
therefore, no man has the right to limit it.
On the other hand, in the valleys of the hard, un
yielding laws of matter and the social necessities of
time production, and human intercourse, the limits on
our freedom are stern and unbending if we would
exist and thrive. This does not say that everything
here is governed by incontrovertible " natural " law
which needs no human decision as to raw materials,
machinery, prices, wages, news-dissemination, educa
tion of children, etc.; but it does mean that decisions
here must be limited by brute facts and based on
science and human wants.
OF THE RULING OF MEN 157
Today the scientific and ethical boundaries of our
industrial activities are not in the hands of scientists,
teachers, and thinkers; nor is the intervening oppor
tunity for decision left in the control of the public
whose welfare such decisions guide. On the contrary,
the control of industry is largely in the hands of a
powerful few, who decide for their own good and
regardless of the good of others. The making of the
rules of Industry, then, is not in the hands of All,
but in the hands of the Few. The Few who govern
industry envisage, not the wants of mankind, but
their own wants. They work quietly, often secretly,
opposing Law, on the one hand, as interfering with
the "freedom of industry"; opposing, on the other
hand, free discussion and open determination of the
rules of work and wealth and wages, on the ground
that harsh natural law brooks no interference by De
These things today, then, are not matters of free
discussion and determination. They are strictly con
trolled. Who controls them? Who makes these in
ner, but powerful, rules? Few people know. Others
assert and believe these rules are " natural " a part
of our inescapable physical environment. Some of
them doubtless are; but most of them are just as
clearly the dictates of self-interest laid down by the
powerful private persons who today control industry.
Just here it is that modern men demand that Democ
racy supplant skilfully concealed, but all too evident,
In industry, monarchy and the aristocracy rule,
and there are those who, calling themselves democratic,
believe that democracy can never enter here. Indus
try, they maintain, is a matter of technical knowl
edge and ability, and, therefore, is the eternal heri
tage of the few. They point to the failure of attempts
at democratic control in industry, just as we used to
point to Spanish-American governments, and they
expose, not simply the failures of Russian Soviets,
they fly to arms to prevent that greatest experiment
in industrial democracy which the world has yet seen.
These are the ones who say: We must control labor
or civilization will fail; we must control white labor
in Europe and America; above all, we must control
yellow labor in Asia and black labor in Africa and
the South, else we shall have no tea, or rubber, or
cotton. And yet, and yet is it so easy to give up the
dream of democracy? Must industry rule men or
may men rule even industry? And unless men rule
industry, can they ever hope really to make laws or
educate children or create beauty?
That the problem of the democratization of indus
try is tremendous, let no man deny. We must spread
that sympathy and intelligence which tolerates the
widest individual freedom despite the necessary pub
lic control; we must learn to select for public office
ability rather than mere affability. We must stand
ready to defer to knowledge and science and judge by
result rather than by method; and finally we must
face the fact that the final distribution of goods
the question of wages and income is an ethical and
not a mere mechanical problem and calls for grave
OF THE RULING OF MEN 159
public human judgment and not secrecy and closed
doors. All this means time and development. It
comes not complete by instant revolution of a day,
nor yet by the deferred evolution of a thousand years
it comes daily, bit by bit and step by step, as men and
women learn and grow and as children are trained in
These steps are in many cases clear: the careful,
steady increase of public democratic ownership of in
dustry, beginning with the simplest type of public
utilities and monopolies, and extending gradually as
we learn the way; the use of taxation to limit in
heritance and to take the unearned increment for public
use beginning (but not ending) with a " single tax " on
monopolized land values; the training of the public in
business technique by co-operation in buying and sell
ing, and in industrial technique by the shop committee
and manufacturing guild.
But beyond all this must come the Spirit the Will to
Human Brotherhood of all Colors, Races, and Creeds ;
the Wanting of the Wants of All. Perhaps the finest
contribution of current Socialism to the world is neither
its light nor its dogma, but the idea back of its one
mighty word Comrade !
In the Land of the Heavy Laden came once a dreary
day. And the King, who sat upon the Great White
Throne, raised his eyes and saw afar off how the hills
around were hot with hostile feet and the sound of the
mocking of his enemies struck anxiously on the King's
ears, for the King loved his enemies. So the King lifted
up his hand in the glittering silence and spake softly,
saying: "Call the Servants of the King." Then the
herald stepped before the armpost of the throne, and
cried : " Thus saith the High and Mighty One, who
inhabiteth Eternity, whose name is Holy, the Servants
of the King!"
Now, of the servants of the king there were a hundred
and forty-four thousand, tried men and brave, brawny
of arm and quick of wit; aye, too, and women of wis
dom and women marvelous in beauty and grace. And
yet on this drear day when the King called, their ears
were thick with the dust of the enemy, their eyes were
blinded with the flashing of his spears, and they hid
their faces in dread silence and moved not, even at the
King's behest. So the herald called again. And the
servants cowered in very shame, but none came forth.
But the third blast of the herald struck upon a woman's
heart, afar. And the woman straightway left her baking
and sweeping and the rattle of pans; and the woman
straightway left her chatting and gossiping and the sew
ing of garments, and the woman stood before the King,
saying : " The servant of thy servants, O Lord."
Then the King smiled, smiled wondrously, so that
the setting sun burst through the clouds, and the hearts
of the King's men dried hard within them. And the
low-voiced King said, so low that even they that lis
tened heard not well : " Go, smite me mine enemies, that
they cease to do evil in my sight." And the woman
quailed and trembled. Three times she lifted her eyes
unto the hills and saw the heathen whirling onward in
their rage. And seeing, she shrank three times she
shrank and crept to the King's feet.
"O King," she cried, "I am but a woman."
And the King answered : " Go, then, Mother of Men."
And the woman said, " Nay, King, but I am still a
maid." Whereat the King cried : " O maid, made Man,
thou shalt be Bride of God."
And yet the third time the woman shrank at the thun
der in her ears, and whispered : " Dear God, I am black ! "
The King spake not, but swept the veiling of his
face aside and lifted up the light of his countenance
upon her and lo! it was black.
So the woman went forth on the hills of God to do
battle for the King, on that drear day in the land of the
Heavy Laden, when the heathen raged and imagined a
THE DAMNATION OF WOMEN
I REMEMBER f our women of my boyhood : my mother,
cousin Inez, Emma, and Ide Fuller. They represented
the problem of the widow, the wife, the maiden, and
the outcast. They were, in color, brown and light-
brown, yellow with brown freckles, and white. They
existed not for themselves, but for men; they were
named after the men to whom they were related and
not after the fashion of their own souls.
They were not beings, they were relations and these
relations were enfilmed with mystery and secrecy. We
did not know the truth or believe it when we heard it.
Motherhood! What was it? We did not know or
greatly care. My mother and I were good chums. I
liked her. After she was dead I loved her with a
fierce sense of personal loss.
Inez was a pretty, brown cousin who married.
What was marriage? We did not know, neither did
she, poor thing! It came to mean for her a litter of
children, poverty, a drunken, cruel companion, sick
ness, and death. Why?
There was no sweeter sight than Emma, slim,
straight, and dainty, darkly flushed with the passion
of youth; but her life was a wild, awful struggle to
crush her natural, fierce joy of love. She crushed it
and became a cold, calculating mockery.
Last there was that awful outcast of the town, the
white woman, Ide Fuller. What she was, we did
not know. She stood to us as embodied filth and
wrong, but whose filth, whose wrong?
Grown up I see the problem of these women trans
fused; I hear all about me the unanswered call of
youthful love, none the less glorious because of its
clean, honest, physical passion. Why unanswered?
Because the youth are too poor to marry or if they
marry, too poor to have children. They turn aside,
then, in three directions: to marry for support, to
what men call shame, or to that which is more evil
than nothing. It is an unendurable paradox; it must
be changed or the bases of culture will totter and fall.
The world wants healthy babies and intelligent
workers. Today we refuse to allow the combination
and force thousands of intelligent workers to go child
less at a horrible expenditure of moral force, or we
damn them if they break our idiotic conventions. Only
at the sacrifice of intelligence and the chance to do
their best work can the majority of modern women
bear children. This is the damnation of women.
All womanhood is hampered today because the
world on which it is emerging is a world that tries
to worship both virgins and mothers and in the end
despises motherhood and despoils virgins.
The future woman must have a life work and
economic independence. She must have knowledge.
She must have the right of motherhood at her own
THE DAMNATION OF WOMEN 165
discretion. The present mincing horror at free wom
anhood must pass if we are ever to be rid of the besti
ality of free manhood; not by guarding the weak in
weakness do we gain strength, but by making weak
ness free and strong.
The world must choose the free woman or the white
wraith of the prostitute. Today it wavers between
the prostitute and the nun. Civilization must show
two things: the glory and beauty of creating life and
the need and duty of power and intelligence. This
and this only will make the perfect marriage of love
God is Love,
Love is God;
There is no God but Love
And Work is His Prophet !
All this of woman, but what of black women?
The world that wills to worship womankind studi
ously forgets its darker sisters. They seem in a sense
to typify that veiled Melancholy :
" Whose saintly visage is too bright
To hit the sense of human sight,
And, therefore, to our weaker view
O'er-laid with black."
Yet the world must heed these daughters of sorrow,
from the primal black All-Mother of men down
through the ghostly throng of mighty womanhood,
who walked in the mysterious dawn of Asia and
Africa; from Neith, the primal mother of all, whose
feet rest on hell, and whose almighty hands uphold
the heavens; all religion, from beauty to beast, lies
on her eager breasts; her body bears the stars, while
her shoulders are necklaced by the dragon; from
black Neith down to
" That starr'd Ethiop queen who strove
To set her beauty's praise above
through dusky Cleopatras, dark Candaces, and darker,
fiercer Zinghas, to our own day and our own land,
in gentle Phillis; Harriet, the crude Moses; the
sybil, Sojourner Truth; and the martyr, Louise De
The father and his worship is Asia; Europe is the
precocious, self-centered, forward-striving child; but
the land of the mother is and was Africa. In subtle
and mysterious way, despite her curious history, her
slavery, polygamy, and toil, the spell of the African
mother pervades her land. Isis, the mother, is still
titular goddess, in thought if not in name, of the dark
continent. Nor does this all seem to be solely a sur
vival of the historic matriarchate through which all
nations pass, it appears to be more than this, as if
the great black race in passing up the steps of human
culture gave the world, not only the Iron Age, the
cultivation of the soil, and the domestication of ani
mals, but also, in peculiar emphasis, the mother-idea.
" No mother can love more tenderly and none is
more tenderly loved than the Negro mother," writes
Schneider. Robin tells of the slave who bought his
mother's freedom instead of his own. Mungo Park
THE DAMNATION OF WOMEN 167
writes : " Everywhere in Africa, I have noticed that
no greater affront can be offered a Negro than insult
ing his mother. * Strike me/ cries a Mandingo to
his enemy, ' but revile not my mother ! ' And the
Krus and Fantis say the same. The peoples on the
Zambezi and the great lakes cry in sudden fear or
joy: "O, my mother!" And the Herero swears
(endless oath) "By my mother's tears!" "As the
mist in the swamps," cries the Angola Negro, " so
lives the love of father and mother."
A student of the present Gold Coast life describes
the work of the village headman, and adds: "It is
a difficult task that he is set to, but in this matter he
has all-powerful helpers in the female members of
the family, who will be either the aunts or the sisters
or the cousins or the nieces of the headman, and as
their interests are identical with his in every particular,
the good women spontaneously train up their children
to implicit obedience to the headman, whose rule in
the family thus becomes a simple and an easy matter.
' The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world/
What a power for good in the native state system
would the mothers of the Gold Coast and Ashanti
become by judicious training upon native lines!"
Schweinf urth declares of one tribe : " A bond be
tween mother and child which lasts for life is the
measure of affection shown among the Dyoor" and
" Agreeable to the natural relation the mother
stands first among the chief influences affecting the
children. From the Zulus to the Waganda, we find
1 68 DARKWATER
the mother the most influential counsellor at the court
of ferocious sovereigns, like Chaka or Mtesa; some
times sisters take her place. Thus even with chiefs
who possess wives by hundreds the bonds of blood
are the strongest and that the woman, though often
heavily burdened, is in herself held in no small esteem
among the Negroes is clear from the numerous Negro
queens, from the medicine women, from the partici
pation in public meetings permitted to women by
many Negro peoples."
As I remember through memories of others, back
ward among my own family, it is the mother I evef
recall, the little, far-off mother of my grandmothers,
who sobbed her life away in song, longing for her lost
palm-trees and scented waters; the tall and bronzen
grandmother, with beaked nose and shrewish eyes,
who loved and scolded her black and laughing hus
band as he smoked lazily in his high oak chair ; above
all, my own mother, with all her soft brownness,
the brown velvet of her skin, the sorrowful black-
brown of her eyes, and the tiny brown-capped waves
of her midnight hair as it lay new parted on her fore
head. All the way back in these dim distances it is
mothers and mothers of mothers who seem to count,
while fathers are shadowy memories.
Upon this African mother-idea, the westward slave
trade and American slavery struck like doom. In the
cruel exigencies of the traffic in men and in the sud
den, unprepared emancipation the great pendulum of
social equilibrium swung from a time, in 1800,
when America had but eight or less black women to
THE DAMNATION OF WOMEN 169
every ten black men, all too swiftly to a day, in 1870,
when there were nearly eleven women to ten men
in our Negro population. This was but the outward
numerical fact of social dislocation; within lay polyg
amy, polyandry, concubinage, and moral degradation,
They fought against all this desperately, did these
black slaves in the West Indies, especially among the
half-free artisans; they set up their ancient house
hold gods, and when Toussaint and Cristophe founded
their kingdom in Haiti, it was based on old African
tribal ties and beneath it was the mother-idea.
The crushing weight of slavery fell on black women.
Under it there was no legal marriage, no legal family,
no legal control over children. To be sure, custom
and religion replaced here and there what the law
denied, yet one has but to read advertisements like
the following to see the hell beneath the system:
" One hundred dollars reward will be given for my
two fellows, Abram and Frank. Abram has a wife at
Colonel Stewart's, in Liberty County, and a mother at
Thunderbolt, and a sister in Savannah.
" WILLIAM ROBERTS."
" Fifty dollars reward Ran away from the sub
scriber a Negro girl named Maria. She is of a copper
color, between thirteen and fourteen years of age bare
headed and barefooted. She is small for her age very
sprightly and very likely. She stated she was going to
see her mother at Maysville.
" SANFORD THOMSON."
" Fifty dollars reward Ran away from the subscriber
his Negro man Pauladore, commonly called Paul. I un-
derstand General R. Y. Hayne has purchased his wife
and children from H. L. Pinckney, Esq., and has them
now on his plantation at Goose Creek, where, no doubt,
the fellow is frequently lurking.
" T. DAVIS."
The Presbyterian synod of Kentucky said to the
churches under its care in 1835 : " Brothers and sisters,
parents and children, husbands and wives, are torn
asunder and permitted to see each other no more.
These acts are daily occurring in the midst of us. The
shrieks and agony often witnessed on such occasions
proclaim, with a trumpet tongue, the iniquity of our
system. There is not a neighborhood where these
heartrending scenes are not displayed. There is not
a village or road that does not behold the sad proces
sion of manacled outcasts whose mournful counte
nances tell that they are exiled by force from all that
their hearts hold dear."
A sister of a president of the United States de
clared : " We Southern ladies are complimented with
the names of wives, but we are only the mistresses of
Out of this, what sort of black women could be
born into the world of today? There are those who
hasten to answer this query in scathing terms and who
say lightly and repeatedly that out of black slavery
came nothing decent in womanhood; that adultery and
uucleanness were their heritage and are their continued
Fortunately so exaggerated a charge is humanly
impossible of truth. The half-million women of Ne-
THE DAMNATION OF WOMEN 171
gro descent who lived at the beginning of the igth
century had become the mothers of two and one-
fourth million daughters at the time of the Civil
War and five million granddaughters in 1910. Can
all these women be vile and the hunted race con
tinue to grow in wealth and character? Impossible.
Yet to save from the past the shreds and vestiges of
self-respect has been a terrible task. I most sincerely
doubt if any other race of women could have brought
its fineness up through so devilish a fire.
Alexander Crummell once said of his sister in the
blood : " In her girlhood all the delicate tenderness
of her sex has been rudely outraged. In the field, in
the rude cabin, in the press-room, in the factory she
was thrown into the companionship of coarse and
ignorant men. No chance was given her for delicate
reserve or tender modesty. From her childhood she
was the doomed victim of the grossest passion. All
the virtues of her sex were utterly ignored. If the
instinct of chastity asserted itself, then she had to
fight like a tiger for the ownership and possession
of her own person and ofttimes had to suffer pain
and lacerations for her virtuous self-assertion. When
she reached maturity, all the tender instincts of her
womanhood were ruthlessly violated. At the age of
marriage, always prematurely anticipated under slav
ery she was mated as the stock of the plantation were
mated, not to be the companion of a loved and chosen
husband, but to be the breeder of human cattle for
the field or the auction block."
Down in such mire has the black motherhood of
this race struggled, starving its own wailing off
spring to nurse to the world their swaggering masters;
welding for its children chains which affronted even
the moral sense of an unmoral world. Many a man
and woman in the South have lived in wedlock as holy
as Adam and Eve and brought forth their brown and
golden children, but because the darker woman was
helpless, her chivalrous and whiter mate could cast
her off at his pleasure and publicly sneer at the body
he had privately blasphemed.
I shall forgive the white South much in its final
judgment day : I shall forgive its slavery, for slavery
is a world-old habit; I shall forgive its fighting for a
well-lost cause, and for remembering that struggle with
tender tears; I shall forgive its so-called "pride of
race," the passion of its hot blood, and even its dear,
old, laughable strutting and posing; but one thing I
shall never forgive, neither in this world nor the
world to come: its wanton and continued and persist
ent insulting of the black womanhood which it sought
and seeks to prostitute to its lust. I cannot forget
that it is such Southern gentlemen into whose hands
smug Northern hypocrites of today are seeking to place
our women's eternal destiny, men who insist upon
withholding from my mother and wife and daughter
those signs and appellations of courtesy and respect
which elsewhere he withholds only from bawds and
The result of this history of insult and degradation
has been both fearful and glorious. It has birthed
the haunting prostitute, the brawler, and the beast of
THE DAMNATION OF WOMEN 173
burden; but it has also given the world an efficient
womanhood, whose strength lies in its freedom and
whose chastity was won in the teeth of temptation and
not in prison and swaddling clothes.
To no modern race does its women mean so much
as to the Negro nor come so near to the fulfilment
of its meaning. As one of our women writes : " Only
the black woman can say * when and where I enter, in
the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, with
out violence and without suing or special patronage,
then and there the whole Negro race enters with me/ '
They came first, in earlier days, like foam flashing
on dark, silent waters, bits of stern, dark woman
hood here and there tossed almost carelessly aloft to
the world's notice. First and naturally they assumed
the panoply of the ancient African mother of men,
strong and black, whose very nature beat back the
wilderness of oppression and contempt. Such a one
was that cousin of my grandmother, whom western
Massachusetts remembers as " Mum Bett." Scarred
for life by a blow received in defense of a sister, she
ran away to Great Barrington and was the first slave,
or one of the first, to be declared free under the Bill
of Rights of 1780. The son of the judge who freed
" Even in her humble station, she had, when occasion
required it, an air of command which conferred a degree
of dignity and gave her an ascendancy over those of her
rank, which is very unusual in persons of any rank or
color. Her determined and resolute character, which
enabled her to limit the ravages of Shay's mob, was
manifested in her conduct and deportment during her
whole life. She claimed no distinction, but it was yielded
to her from her superior experience, energy, skill, and
sagacity. Having known this woman as familiarly as
I knew either of my parents, I cannot believe in the
moral or physical inferiority of the race to which she
belonged. The degradation of the African must have
been otherwise caused than by natural inferiority."
It was such strong women that laid the founda
tions of the great Negro church of today, with its
five million members and ninety millions of dol
lars in property. One of the early mothers of
the church, Mary Still, writes thus quaintly, in the
" When we were as castouts and spurned from the
large churches, driven from our knees, pointed at by the
proud, neglected by the careless, without a place of wor
ship, Allen, faithful to the heavenly calling, came for
ward and laid the foundation of this connection. The
women, like the women at the sepulcher, were early to
aid in laying the foundation of the temple and in helping
to carry up the noble structure and in the name of their
God set up their banner; most of our aged mothers are
gone from this to a better state of things. Yet some
linger still on their staves, watching with intense interest
the ark as it moves over the tempestuous waves of oppo
sition and ignorance. . . .
" But the labors of these women stopped not here,
for they knew well that they were subject to affliction
and death. For the purpose of mutual aid, they banded
themselves together in society capacity, that they might
be better able to administer to each others' sufferings
and to soften their own pillows. So we find the females
THE DAMNATION OF WOMEN 175
in the early history of the church abounding in good
works and in acts of true benevolence."
From such spiritual ancestry came two striking
figures of war-time, Harriet Tubman and Sojourner
For eight or ten years previous to the breaking out
of the Civil War, Harriet Tubman was a constant at
tendant at anti-slavery conventions, lectures, and other
meetings; she was a black woman of medium size,
smiling countenance, with her upper front teeth gone,
attired in coarse but neat clothes, and carrying always
an old-fashioned reticule at her side. Usually as
soon as she sat down she would drop off in sound
She was born a slave in Maryland, in 1820, bore
the marks of the lash on her flesh; and had been made
partially deaf, and perhaps to some degree mentally
unbalanced by a blow on the head in childhood. Yet
she was one of the most important agents of the
Underground Railroad and a leader of fugitive slaves.
She ran away in 1849 an< ^ went to Boston in 1854,
where she was welcomed into the homes of the lead
ing abolitionists and where every one listened with
tense interest to her strange stories. She was abso
lutely illiterate, with no knowledge of geography,
and yet year after year she penetrated the slave states
and personally led North over three hundred fugitives
without losing a single one. A standing reward of
$10,000 was offered for her, but as she said : " The
whites cannot catch us, for I was born with the charm,
and the Lord has given me the power." She was one
of John Brown's closest advisers and only severe sick
ness prevented her presence at Harper's Ferry.
When the war cloud broke, she hastened to the
front, flitting down along her own mysterious paths,
haunting the armies in the field, and serving as guide
and nurse and spy. She followed Sherman in his
great march to the sea and was with Grant at Peters
burg, and always in the camps the Union officers si
lently saluted her.
The other woman belonged to a different type,
a tall, gaunt, black, unsmiling sybil, weighted with
the woe of the world. She ran away from slavery and
giving up her own name took the name of Sojourner
Truth. She says : " I can remember when I was a
little, young girl, how my old mammy would sit out
of doors in the evenings and look up at the stars and
groan, and I would say, ' Mammy, what makes you
groan so ? ' And she would say, * I am groaning to
think of my poor children; they do not know where
I be and I don't know where they be. I look up at the
stars and they look up at the stars ! '
Her determination was founded on unwavering faith
in ultimate good. Wendell Phillips says that he was
once in Faneuil Hall, when Frederick Douglass was
one of the chief speakers. Douglass had been describ
ing the wrongs of the Negro race and as he proceeded
he grew more and more excited and finally ended by
saying that they had no hope of justice from the
whites, no possible hope except in their own right
arms. It must come to blood! They must fight for
themselves. Sojourner Truth was sitting, tall and
THE DAMNATION OF WOMEN 177
dark, on the very front seat facing the platform, and
in the hush of feeling when Douglass sat down she
spoke out in her deep, peculiar voice, heard all over the
"Frederick, is God dead?"
Such strong, primitive types of Negro womanhood
in America seem to some to exhaust its capabilities.
They know less of a not more worthy, but a finer
type of black woman wherein trembles all of that
delicate sense of beauty and striving for self-realiza
tion, which is as characteristic of the Negro soul
as is its quaint strength and sweet laughter. George
Washington wrote in grave and gentle courtesy to
a Negro woman, in 1776, that he would "be happy
to see " at his headquarters at any time, a person " to
whom nature has been so liberal and beneficial in her
dispensations." This child, Phillis Wheatley, sang
her trite and halting strain to a world that wondered
and could not produce her like. Measured today her
muse was slight and yet, feeling her striving spirit,
we call to her still in her own words :
" Through thickest glooms look back, immortal shade."
'Perhaps even higher than strength and art loom
human sympathy and sacrifice as characteristic of
Negro womanhood. Long years ago, before the Dec
laration of Independence, Kate Ferguson was born
in New York. Freed, widowed, and bereaved of her
children before she was twenty, she took the children
of the streets of New York, white and black, to her
empty arms, taught them, found them homes, and
1 78 DARKWATER
with Dr. Mason of Murray Street Church established
the first modern Sunday School in Manhattan.
Sixty years later came Mary Shadd up out of Dela
ware. She was tall and slim, of that ravishing dream-
born beauty, that twilight of the races which we call
mulatto. Well-educated, vivacious, with determina
tion shining from her sharp eyes, she threw herself
singlehanded into the great Canadian pilgrimage when
thousands of hunted black men hurried northward and
crept beneath the protection of the lion's paw. She
became teacher, editor, and lecturer; tramping afoot
through winter snows, pushing without blot or blem
ish through crowd and turmoil to conventions and
meetings, and finally becoming recruiting agent for
the United States government in gathering Negro sol
diers in the West.
After the war the sacrifice of Negro women for
freedom and uplift is one of the finest chapters in
their history. Let one life typify all : Louise De Mor-
tie, a free-born Virginia girl, had lived most of her
life in Boston. Her high forehead, swelling lips, and
dark eyes marked her for a woman of feeling and
intellect. She began a successful career as a public
reader. Then came the War and the Call. She
went to the orphaned colored children of New Or
leans, out of freedom into insult and oppression and
into the teeth of the yellow fever. She toiled and
dreamed. In 1887 she had raised money and built
an orphan home and that same year, in the thirty-
fourth of her young life, she died, saying simply:
" I belong to God."
THE DAMNATION OF WOMEN 179
As I look about me today in this veiled world of
mine, despite the noisier and more spectacular advance
of my brothers, I instinctively feel and know that it
is the five million women of my race who really count.
Black women (and women whose grandmothers were
black) are today furnishing our teachers; they are
the main pillars of those social settlements which we
call churches; and they have with small doubt raised
three-fourths of our church property. If we have
today, as seems likely, over a billion dollars of accu
mulated goods, who shall say how much of it has been
wrung from the hearts of servant girls and washer
women and women toilers in the fields? As makers
of two million homes these women are today seeking
in marvelous ways to show forth our strength and
beauty and our conception of the truth.
In the United States in 1910 there were 4,931,882
women of Negro descent; over twelve hundred thou
sand of these were children, another million were
girls and young women under twenty, and two and a
half-million were adults. As a mass these women
were unlettered, a fourth of those from fifteen to
twenty-five years of age were unable to write. These
women are passing through, not only a moral, but an
economic revolution. Their grandmothers married
at twelve and fifteen, but twenty-seven per cent of
these women today who have passed fifteen are still
Yet these black women toil and toil hard. There
were in 1910 two and a half million Negro homes in
the United States. Out of these homes walked daily
to work two million women and girls over ten years of
age, over half of the colored female population as
against a fifth in the case of white women. These,
then, are a group of workers, fighting for their daily
bread like men; independent and approaching eco
nomic freedom ! They furnished a million farm labor
ers, 80,000 farmers, 22,000 teachers, 600,000 servants
and washerwomen, and 50,000 in trades and merchan
The family group, however, which is the ideal of
the culture with which these folk have been born, is
not based on the idea of an economically independent
working mother. Rather its ideal harks back to the
sheltered harem with the mother emerging at first as
nurse and homemaker, while the man remains the sole
breadwinner. What is the inevitable result of the
clash of such ideals and such facts in the colored
group? Broken families.
Among native white women one in ten is separated
from her husband by death, divorce, or desertion.
Among Negroes the ratio is one in seven. Is the
cause racial? No, it is economic, because there is
the same high ratio among the white foreign-born.
The breaking up of the present family is the result
.of modern working and sex conditions and it hits
the laborers with terrible force. The Negroes are
put in a peculiarly difficult position, because the wage
of the male breadwinner is below the standard, while
the openings for colored women in certain lines of
domestic work, and now in industries, are many. Thus
while toil holds the father and brother in country and
THE DAMNATION OF WOMEN 181
town at low wages, the sisters and mothers are called
to the city. As a result the Negro women outnumber
the men nine or ten to eight in many cities, making
what Charlotte Oilman bluntly calls "cheap women."
What shall we say to this new economic equality in
a great laboring class ? Some people within and with
out the race deplore it. " Back to the homes with the
women," they cry, " and higher wage for the men."
But how impossible this is has been shown by war
conditions. Cessation of foreign migration has raised
Negro men's wages, to be sure but it has not only
raised Negro women's wages, it has opened to them
a score of new avenues of earning a living. Indeed,
here, in microcosm and with differences emphasizing
sex equality, is the industrial history of labor in the
1 9th and 2Oth centuries. We cannot abolish the new
economic freedom of women. We cannot imprison
women again in a home or require them all on pain
of death to be nurses and housekeepers.
What is today the message of these black women
to America and to the world? The uplift of women
is, next to the problem of the color line and the peace
movement, our greatest modern cause. When, now,
two of these movements woman and color combine
in one, the combination has deep meaning.
In other years women's way was clear : to be beauti
ful, to be petted, to bear children. Such has been
their theoretic destiny and if perchance they have
been ugly, hurt, and barren, that has been forgotten
with studied silence. In partial compensation for this
narrowed destiny the white world has lavished its
politeness on its womankind, its chivalry and bows,
its uncoverings and courtesies all the accumulated
homage disused for courts and kings and craving
exercise. The revolt of white women against this
preordained destiny has in these latter days reached
splendid proportions, but it is the revolt of an aris
tocracy of brains and ability, the middle class and
rank and file still plod on in the appointed path, paid
by the homage, the almost mocking homage, of men.
From black women of America, however, (and
from some others, too, but chiefly from black women
and their daughters' daughters) this gauze has been
withheld and without semblance of such apology they
have been frankly trodden under the feet of men.
They are and have been objected to, apparently for
reasons peculiarly exasperating to reasoning human
beings. When in this world a man comes forward
with a thought, a deed, a vision, we ask not, how does
he look, but what is his message? It is of but pass
ing interest whether or not the messenger is beautiful
or ugly, the message is the thing. This, which is
axiomatic among men, has been in past ages but par
tially true if the messenger was a woman. The world
still wants to ask that a woman primarily be pretty and
if she is not, the mob pouts and asks querulously,
"What else are women for?" Beauty "is its own
excuse for being,'* but there are other excuses, as most
men know, and when the white world objects to black
women because it does not consider them beautiful,
the black world of right asks two questions : " What
is beauty? " and, " Suppose you think them ugly, what
THE DAMNATION OF WOMEN 183
then? If ugliness and unconventionality and eccen
tricity of face and deed do not hinder men from do
ing the world's work and reaping the world's reward,
why should it hinder women ? "
Other things being equal, all of us, black and white,
would prefer to be beautiful in face and form and
suitably clothed; but most of us are not so, and one
of the mightiest revolts of the century is against the
devilish decree that no woman is a woman who is
not by present standards a beautiful woman. This
decree the black women of America have in large
measure escaped from the first. Not being expected
to be merely ornamental, they have girded themselves
for work, instead of adorning their bodies only for
play. Their sturdier minds have concluded that if
a woman be clean, healthy, and educated, she is as
pleasing as God wills and far more useful than most
of her sisters. If in addition to this she is pink and
white and straight-haired, and some of her fellow-men
prefer this, well and good; but if she is black or
brown and crowned in curled mists (and this to us is
the most beautiful thing on earth), this is surely the
flimsiest excuse for spiritual incarceration or banish
The very attempt to do this in the case of Negro
Americans has strangely over-reached itself. By so
much as the defective eyesight of the white world
rejects black women as beauties, by so much the more
it needs them as human beings, an enviable alterna
tive, as many a white woman knows. Consequently,
for black women alone, as a group, " handsome is that
handsome does" and they are asked to be no more
beautiful than God made them, but they are asked to
be efficient, to be strong, fertile, muscled, and able
to work. If they marry, they must as independent
workers be able to help support their children, for
their men are paid on a scale which makes sole sup
port of the family often impossible.
On the whole, colored working women are paid as
well as white working women for similar work, save
in some higher grades, while colored men get from
one-fourth to three- fourths less than white men. The
result is curious and three- fold : the economic inde
pendence of black women is increased, the breaking
up of Negro families must be more frequent, and the
number of illegitimate children is decreased more
slowly among them than other evidences of culture are
increased, just as was once true in Scotland and
What does this mean? It forecasts a mighty di
lemma which the whole world of civilization, despite
its will, must one time frankly face : the unhusbanded
mother or the childless wife. God send us a world
with woman's freedom and married motherhood in
extricably wed, but until He sends it, I see more of
future promise in the betrayed girl-mothers of the
black belt than in the childless wives of the white
North, and I have more respect for the colored serv
ant who yields to her frank longing for motherhood
than for her white sister who offers up children for
clothes. Out of a sex freedom that today makes us
shudder will come in time a day when we will no
THE DAMNATION OF WOMEN 185
longer pay men for work they do not do, for the
sake of their harem; we will pay women what they
earn and insist on their working and earning it; we
will allow those persons to vote who know enough to
vote, whether they be black or female, white or male;
and we will ward race suicide, not by further burden
ing the over-burdened, but by honoring motherhood,
even when the sneaking father shirks his duty.
" Wait till the lady passes/' said a Nashville white
" She's no lady; she's a nigger," answered another.
So some few women are born free, and some amid
insult and scarlet letters achieve freedom; but our
women in black had freedom thrust contemptuously
upon them. With that freedom they are buying an
untrammeled independence and dear as is the price they
pay for it, it will in the end be worth every taunt and
groan. Today the dreams of the mothers are coming
true. We have still our poverty and degradation, our
lewdness and our cruel toil; but we -have, too, a vast
group of women of Negro blood who for strength of
character, cleanness of soul, and unselfish devotion of
purpose, is today easily the peer of any group of
women in the civilized world. And more than that, in
the great rank and file of our five million women we
have the up-working of new revolutionary ideals,
which must in time have vast influence on the thought
and action of this land.
For this, their promise, and for their hard past,
I honor the women of my race. Their beauty, their
dark and mysterious beauty of midnight eyes, crumpled
hair, and soft, full-featured faces is perhaps more to
me than to you, because I was born to its warm and
subtle spell ; but their worth is yours as well as mine.
No other women on earth could have emerged from
the hell of force and temptation which once engulfed
and still surrounds black women in America with half
the modesty and womanliness that they retain. I have
always felt like bowing myself before them in all
abasement, searching to bring some tribute to these
long-suffering victims, these burdened sisters of mine,
whom the world, the wise, white world, loves to af
front and ridicule and wantonly to insult. I have
known the women of many lands and nations, I have
known and seen and lived beside them, but none have
I known more sweetly feminine, more unswervingly
loyal, more desperately earnest, and more instinctively
pure in body and in soul than the daughters of my
black mothers. This, then, a little thing to their
memory and inspiration.
Children of the Moon
I am dead;
Yet somehow, somewhere,
In Time's weird contradiction, I
May tell of that dread deed, wherewith
I brought to Children of the Moon
Freedom and vast salvation.
I was a woman born,
And trod the streaming street,
That ebbs and flows from Harlem's hills,
Through caves and canons limned in light,
Down to the twisting sea.
That night of nights,
I stood alone and at the End,
Until the sudden highway to the moon,
Golden in splendor,
Became too real to doubt.
Dimly I set foot upon the air,
I fled, I flew, through thrills of light,
With all about, above, below, the whirring
Of almighty wings.
I found a twilight land,
Where, hardly hid, the sun
Sent softly-saddened rays of
Red and brown to burn the iron soil
And bathe the snow-white peaks
In mighty splendor.
Black were the men,
Hard-haired and silent-slow,
Moving as shadows,
Bending with face of fear to earthward ;
And women there were none.
" Woman, woman, woman ! "
I cried in mounting terror.
"Woman and Child!"
And the cry sang back
Through heaven, with the
Whirring of almighty wings.
Wings, wings, endless wings,
Heaven and earth are wings;
Wings that flutter, furl, and fold,
Always folding and unfolding,
Ever folding yet again ;
Wings, veiling some vast
And veiled face,
In blazing blackness,
Behind the folding and unfolding,
The rolling and unrolling of
Almighty wings !
I saw the black men huddle,
Fumed in fear, falling face downward ;
Vainly I clutched and clawed,
Dumbly they cringed and cowered,
Moaning in mournful monotone:
O Freedom, O Freedom,
O Freedom over me;
Before I'll be a slave,
I'll be buried in my grave,
And go home to my God,
And be free.
CHILDREN OF THE MOON 189
It was as angel-music
From the dead,
And ever, as they sang,
Some winged thing of wings, filling all heaven,
Folding and unfolding, and folding yet again,
Tore out their blood and entrails,
J Til I screamed in utter terror ;
And a silence came,
A silence and the wailing of a babe.
Then, at last, I saw and shamed;
I knew how these dumb, dark, and dusky things
Had given blood and life,
To fend the caves of underground,
The great black caves of utter night,
Where earth lay full of mothers
And their babes.
Little children sobbing in darkness,
Little children crying in silent pain,
Little mothers rocking and groping and strug
Digging and delving and groveling,
Amid the dying-dead and dead-in-life
And drip and dripping of warm, wet blood,
Far, far beneath the wings,
The folding and unfolding of almighty wings.
I bent with tears and pitying hands,
Above these dusky star-eyed children,
Crinkly-haired, with sweet-sad baby voices,
Pleading low for light and love and living
And I crooned :
" Little children weeping there,
God shall find your faces fair;
Guerdon for your deep distress,
He shall send His tenderness;
For the tripping of your feet
Make a mystic music sweet
In the darkness of your hair;
Light and laughter in the air
Little children weeping there,
God shall find your faces fair ! "
I strode above the stricken, bleeding men,
The rampart 'ranged against the skies,
" Up, I say, build and slay ;
Fight face foremost, force a way,
Unloose, unfetter, and unbind;
Be men and free ! "
Dumbly they shrank,
Muttering they pointed toward that peak,
Than vastness vaster,
Whereon a darkness brooded,
" Who shall look and live," they sighed ;
And I sensed
fine folding and unfolding of almighty wings.
Yet did we build of iron, bricks, and blood ;
We built a day, a year, a thousand years,
Blood was the mortar, blood and tears,
And, ah, the Thing, the Thing of wings,
The winged, folding Wing of Things
Did furnish much mad mortar
For that tower.
Slow and ever slower rose the towering task,
And with it rose the sun,
Until at last on one wild day,
Wind-whirled, cloud-swept and terrible
I stood beneath the burning shadow
Of the peak,
CHILDREN OF THE MOON 191
Beneath the whirring of almighty wings,
While downward from my feet
Streamed the long line of dusky faces
And the wail of little children sobbing under
I saw through firmaments on high
The drama of Almighty God,
With all its flaming suns and stars.
"Freedom!" I cried.
" Freedom ! " cried heaven, earth, and stars ;
And a Voice near-far,
Amid the folding and unfolding of almighty
Answered, " I am Freedom
Who sees my face is free
He and his."
I dared not look ;
Downward I glanced on deep-bowed heads and
Outward I gazed on flecked and flaming blue
But ever onward, upward flew
The sobbing of small voices,
Down, down, far down into the night.
Slowly I lifted livid limbs aloft ;
Upward I strove: the face! the face!
Onward I reeled: the face! the face!
To beauty wonderful as sudden death,
Or horror horrible as endless life
Up! Up! the blood-built way;
( Shadow grow vaster !
Terror come faster!)
Up! Up! to the blazing blackness
Of one veiled face.
And endless folding and unfolding,
Rolling and unrolling of almighty wings.
The last step stood!
The last dim cry of pain
Fluttered across the stars,
Wings, wings, triumphant wings,
Lifting and lowering, waxing and waning,
Swinging and swaying, twirling and whirling,
Whispering and screaming, streaming and
Spreading and sweeping and shading and flam
Wings, wings, eternal wings,
Til the hot, red blood,
Flood fleeing flood,
Thundered through heaven and mine ears,
While all across a purple sky,
The last vast pinion.
Trembled to unfold.
I rose upon the Mountain of the Moon,
I felt the blazing glory of the Sun ;
I heard the Song of Children crying, " Free ! "
I saw the face of Freedom
And I died.
THE IMMORTAL CHILD
IF a man die shall he live again? We do not know.
But this we do know, that our children's children live
forever and grow and develop toward perfection as
they are trained. All human problems, then, center in
the Immortal Child and his education is the problem
of problems. And first for illustration of what I
would say may I not take for example, out of many
millions, the life of one dark child.
It is now nineteen years since I first saw Coleridge-
Taylor. We were in London in some somber hall
where there were many meeting, men and women
called chiefly to the beautiful World's Fair at Paris;
and then a few slipping over to London to meet Pan-
Africa. We were there from Cape Colony and Li
beria, from Haiti and the States, and from the Islands
of the Sea. I remember the stiff, young officer who
came with credentials from Menelik of Abyssinia; I
remember the bitter, black American who whispered
how an army of the Soudan might some day cross
the Alps; I remember Englishmen, like the Colensos,
who sat and counseled with us; but above all, I re
He was a little man and nervous, with dark-golden
face and hair that bushed and strayed. His fingers
were always nervously seeking hidden keys and he
was quick with enthusiasm, instinct with life. His
bride of a year or more, dark, too, in her whiter
way, was of the calm and quiet type. Her soft con
tralto voice thrilled us often as she sang, while her
silences were full of understanding.
Several times we met in public gatherings and then
they bade me to their home, a nest of a cottage,
with gate and garden, hidden in London's endless
rings of suburbs. I dimly recall through these years
a room in cozy disorder, strewn with music music
on the floor and music on the chairs, music in the air
as the master rushed to the piano now and again
to make some memory melodious some allusion real.
And then at last, for it was the last, I saw Coleridge-
Taylor in a mighty throng of people crowding the
Crystal Palace. We came in facing the stage and
scarcely dared look around. On the stage were a
full orchestra, a chorus of eight hundred voices, and
some of the world's famous soloists. He left his wife
sitting beside me, and she was very silent as he went
forward to lift the conductor's baton. It was one
of the earliest renditions of " Hiawatha's Wedding
Feast." We sat at rapt attention and when the last,
weird music died, the great chorus and orchestra rose
as a man to acclaim the master; he turned toward the
audience and then we turning for the first time saw
that sea of faces behind, the misty thousands whose
voices rose to one strong shout of joy! It was a
moment such as one does not often live. It seemed,
and was, prophetic.
THE IMMORTAL CHILD 195
This young man who stepped forth as one of the
most notable of modern English composers had a
simple and uneventful career. His father was a black
surgeon of Sierra Leone who came to London for
study. While there he met an English girl and this
son was born, in London, in 1875.
Then came a series of chances. His father failed
to succeed and disappeared back to Africa leaving the
support of the child to the poor working mother.
The child showed evidences of musical talent and a
friendly workingman gave him a little violin. A mu
sician glancing from his window saw a little dark boy
playing marbles on the street with a tiny violin in
one hand; he gave him lessons. He happened to gain
entrance into a charity school with a master of un
derstanding mind who recognized genius when he saw
it; and finally his beautiful child's treble brought him
to the notice of the choirmaster of St. George's,
So by happy accident his way was clear. Within
his soul was no hesitation. He was one of those
fortunate beings who are not called to Wander-Jahre,
but are born with sails set and seas charted. Already
the baby of four little years was a musician, and
as choir-boy and violinist he walked unhesitatingly
and surely to his life work. He was graduated with
honors from the Royal Academy of Music in 1894,
and married soon after the daughter of one of his
professors. Then his life began, and whatever it
lacked of physical adventure in the conventional round
of a modern world-city, it more than gained in the
almost tempestuous outpouring of his spiritual nature.
Life to him was neither meat nor drink, it was crea
tive flame; ideas, plans, melodies glowed within him.
To create, to do, to accomplish; to know the white
glory of mighty midnights and the pale Amen of
dawns was his day of days. Songs, pianoforte and
violin pieces, trios and quintets for strings, incidental
music, symphony, orchestral, and choral works rushed
from his fingers. Nor were they laboriously con
trived or light, thin things made to meet sudden pop
ularity. Rather they were the flaming bits that must
be said and sung, that could not wait the slower
birth of years, so hurried to the world as though
their young creator knew that God gave him but a
day. His whole active life was scarcely more than
a decade and a half, and yet in that time, without
wealth, friends, or influence, in the face of perhaps
the most critical and skeptical and least imaginative
civilization of the modern world, he wrote his name
so high as a creative artist that it cannot soon be
And this was but one side of the man. On the
other was the sweet-tempered, sympathetic comrade,
always willing to help, never knowing how to refuse,
generous with every nerve and fiber of his being.
Think of a young musician, father of a family, who
at the time of his death held positions as Associate
of the Royal College of Music, Professor in Trinity
College and Crystal Palace, Conductor of the Handel
Choral Society and the Rochester Choral Society,
Principal of the Guildhall School of Music, where he
THE IMMORTAL CHILD 197
had charge of the choral choir, the orchestra, and
the opera. He was repeatedly the leader of music
festivals all over Great Britain and a judge of con
tests. And with all this his house was open in cheer
ing hospitality to friends and his hand ever ready
with sympathy and help.
When such a man dies, it must bring pause to a
reasoning world. We may call his death-sickness
pneumonia, but we all know that it was sheer over
work, the using of a delicately-tuned instrument too
commonly and continuously and carelessly to let it last
its normal life. We may well talk of the waste of
wood and water, of food and fire, but the real and
unforgivable waste of modern civilization is the waste
of ability and genius, the killing of useful, indis
pensable men who have no right to die ; who deserve,
not for themselves, but for the world, leisure, freedom
from distraction, expert medical advice, and intelli
Coleridge-Taylor's life work was not finished, it
was but well begun. He lived only his first period
of creative genius, when melody and harmony flashed
and fluttered in subtle, compelling, and more than
promising profusion. He did not live to do the or
ganized, constructive work in the full, calm power
of noonday, the reflective finishing of evening. In
the annals of the future his name must always stand
high, but with the priceless gift of years, who can say
where it might not have stood.
Why should he have worked so breathlessly, almost
furiously? It was, we may be sure, because with
unflinching determination and with no thought of
surrender he faced the great alternative, the choice
which the cynical, thoughtless, busy, modern world
spreads grimly before its greater souls food or
beauty, bread and butter, or ideals. And continually
we see worthier men turning to the pettier, cheaper
thing the popular portrait, the sensational novel, the
jingling song. The choice is not always between the
least and the greatest, the high and the empty, but
only too often it is between starvation and some
thing. When, therefore, we see a man, working des
perately to earn a living and still stooping to no paltry
dickering and to no unworthy work, handing away
a " Hiawatha " for less than a song, pausing for
glimpses of the stars when a world full of charcoal
glowed far more warmly and comfortably, we know
that such a man is a hero in a sense never approached
by the swashbuckling soldier or the lying patriot.
Deep as was the primal tragedy in the life of Cole
ridge-Taylor, there lay another still deeper. He
smiled at it lightly, as we all do, we who live within
the veil, to hide the deeper hurt. He had, with us,
that divine and African gift of laughter, that echo
of a thousand centuries of suns. I mind me how once
he told of the bishop, the well-groomed English bishop,
who eyed' the artist gravely, with his eye-glass hair
and color and figure, and said quite audibly to his
friends, "Quite interesting looks intelligent, yes
Fortunate was Coleridge-Taylor to be born in Eu
rope and to speak a universal tongue. In America
THE IMMORTAL CHILD 199
he could hardly have had his career. His genius was,
to be sure, recognized (with some palpitation and con
sternation) when it came full-grown across the seas
with an English imprint; but born here, it might never
have been permitted to grow. We know in America
how to discourage, choke, and murder ability when
it so far forgets itself as to choose a dark skin. Eng
land, thank God, is slightly more civilized than her
colonies; but even there the path of this young man
was no way of roses and just a shade thornier than
that of whiter men. He did not complain at it, he
" Wince and cry aloud."
Rather the hint here and there of color discrimina
tion in England aroused in him deeper and more
poignant sympathy with his people throughout the
world. He was one with that great company of
mixed-blooded men: Pushkin and Dumas, Hamilton
and Douglass, Browning and many others; but he
more than most of these men knew the call of the
blood when it came and listened and answered. He
came to America with strange enthusiasm. He took
with quite simple and unconscious grace the conven
tional congratulations of the musical world. He was
used to that. But to his own people to the sad
sweetness of their voices, their inborn sense of music,
their broken, half -articulate voices, he leapt with new
enthusiasm. From the fainter shadowings of his own
life, he sensed instinctively the vaster tragedy of
theirs. His soul yearned to give voice and being to
this human thing. He early turned to the sorrow
songs. He sat at the faltering feet of Paul Laurence
Dunbar and he asked (as we sadly shook our heads)
for some masterpiece of this world-tragedy that his
soul could set to music. And then, so characteris
tically, he rushed back to England, composed a half-
dozen exquisite harmonies haunted by slave-songs,
led the Welsh in their singing, listened to the Scotch,
ordered great music festivals in all England, wrote
for Beerbohm Tree, took on another music professor
ship, promised a trip to Germany, and at last, stagger
ing home one night, on his way to his wife and little
boy and girl, fell in his tracks and in four days was
dead, at the age of thirty-seven. They say that in
his death-throe he arose and facing some great,
ghostly choir raised his last baton, while all around
the massive silence rang with the last mist-music of
his dying ears.
He was buried from St. Michael's on September 5,
1912, with the acclaim of kings and music masters
and little children and to the majestic melody of his
own music. The tributes that followed him to his
grave were unusually hearty and sincere. The head
of the Royal College calls the first production of
" Hiawatha " one of the most remarkable events in
modern English musical history and the trilogy one
of the most universally-beloved works of modern
English music. One critic calls Taylor's a name
" which with that of Elgar represented the nation's
most individual output " and calls his " Atonement "
" perhaps the finest passion music of modern times."
THE IMMORTAL CHILD 201
Another critic speaks of his originality : " Though
surrounded by the influences that are at work in Eu
rope today, he retained his individuality to the end,
developing his style, however, and evincing new ideas
in each succeeding work. His untimely death at the
age of thirty-seven, a short life like those of Schu
bert, Mendelssohn, Chopin, and Hugo Wolf has
robbed the world of one of its noblest singers, one
of those few men of modern times who found ex
pression in the language of musical song, a lyricist
of power and worth."
But the tributes did not rest with the artist; with
peculiar unanimity they sought his " sterling charac
ter," "the good husband and father," the "staunch
and loyal friend." And perhaps I cannot better end
these hesitating words than with that tribute from
one who called this master, friend, and whose lament
cried in the night with more of depth and passion
than Alfred Noyes is wont in his self-repression to
" Through him, his race, a moment, lifted up
Forests of hands to beauty, as in prayer,
Touched through his lips the sacramental cup
And then sank back, benumbed in our bleak air."
Yet, consider : to many millions of people this man
was all wrong. First, he ought never to have been
born, for he was the mulatto son of a white woman.
Secondly, he should never have been educated as a
musician, he should have been trained for his
" place " in the world and to make him satisfied there-*
with. Thirdly, he should not have married the
woman he loved and who loved him, for she was
white and the niece of an Oxford professor.
Fourthly, the children of such a union but why pro
ceed? You know it all by heart.
If he had been black, like Paul Laurence Dunbar,
would the argument have been different? No. He
should never have been born, for he is a " problem."
He should never be educated, for he cannot be edu
cated. He should never marry, for that means chil
dren and there is no place for black children in this
In the treatment of the child the world foreshadows
its own future and faith. All words and all thinking
lead to the child, to that vast immortality and wide
sweep of infinite possibility which the child repre
sents. Such thought as this it was that made the
Master say of old as He saw baby faces:
"And whosoever shall offend one of these little
ones, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged
about his neck and he were cast into the sea."
And yet the mothers and fathers and the men and
women of my race must often pause and ask: Is it
worth while? Ought children be born to us? Have
we any right to make human souls face what we
face today? The answer is clear: If the great battle
of human right against poverty, against disease,
against color prejudice is to be won, it must be won,
not in our day, but in the day of our children's chil
dren. Ours is the blood and dust of battle; theirs
THE IMMORTAL CHILD 203
the rewards of victory. If, then, they are not there
because we have not brought them into the world, we
have been the guiltiest factor in conquering ourselves.
It is our duty, then, to accomplish the immortality of
black blood, in order that the day may come in this
dark world when poverty shall be abolished, privilege
be based on individual desert, and the color of a man's
skin be no bar to the outlook of his soul.
If it is our duty as honest colored men and women,
battling for a great principle, to bring not aimless
rafts of children to the world, but as many as, with
reasonable sacrifice, we can train to largest manhood,
what in its inner essence shall that training be, par
ticularly in its beginning?
The first temptation is to shield the child, to hedge
it about that it may not know and will not dream
of the color line. Then when we can no longer wholly
shield, to indulge and pamper and coddle, as though
in this dumb way to compensate. From this attitude
comes the multitude of our spoiled, wayward, disap
pointed children. And must we not blame ourselves?
For while the motive was pure and the outer menace
undoubted, is shielding and indulgence the way to
Some Negro parents, realizing this, leave their chil
dren to sink or swim in this sea of race prejudice.
They neither shield nor explain, but thrust them forth
grimly into school or street and let them learn as
they may from brutal fact. Out of this may come
strength, poise, self-dependence, and out of it, too,
may come bewilderment, cringing deception, and self-
distrust. It is, all said, a brutal, unfair method, and
in its way it is as bad as shielding and indulgence.
Why not, rather, face the facts and tell the truth?
Your child is wiser than you think.
The truth lies ever between extremes. It is wrong
to introduce the child to race consciousness prema
turely; it is dangerous to let that consciousness grow
spontaneously without intelligent guidance. With
every step of dawning intelligence, explanation
frank, free, guiding explanation must come. The
day will dawn when mother must explain gently but
clearly why the little girls next door do not want to
play with " niggers " ; what the real cause is of the
teachers' unsympathetic attitude ; and how people may
ride in the backs of street cars and the smoker end
-of trains and still be people, honest high-minded souls.
Remember, too, that in such frank explanation you
are speaking in nine cases out of ten to a good deal
clearer understanding than you think and that the
child-mind has what your tired soul may have lost
faith in, the Power and the Glory.
Out of little, unspoiled souls rise up wonderful re
sources and healing balm. Once the colored child un
derstands the white world's attitude and the shameful
wrong of it, you have furnished it with a great life J
motive, a power and impulse toward good which is
the mightiest thing man has. How many white folk
would give their own souls if they might graft into
their children's souls a great, moving, guiding ideal
With this Power there comes, in the transfiguring
.soul of childhood, the Glory : the vision of accomplish-
THE IMMORTAL CHILD 205
ment, the lofty ideal. Once let the strength of the
motive work, and it becomes the life task of the
parent to guide and to shape the ideal; to raise it
from resentment and revenge to dignity and self-re
spect, to breadth and accomplishment, to human serv
ice; to beat back every thought of cringing and sur
Here, at last, we can speak with no hesitation, with
no lack of faith. For we know that as the world
grows better there will be realized in our children's
lives that for which we fight unfalteringly, but vainly
So much for the problem of the home and our own
dark children. Now let us look beyond the pale upon
the children of the wide world. What is the real
lesson of the life of Coleridge-Taylor? It is this:
humanly speaking it was sheer accident that this boy
developed his genius. We have a right to assume
that hundreds and thousands of boys and girls today
are missing the chance of developing unusual talents
because the chances have been against them; and that
indeed the majority of the children of the world are
not being systematically fitted for their life work and
for life itself. Why?
Many seek the reason in the content of the school
program. They feverishly argue the relative values
of Greek, mathematics, and manual training, but fail
with singular unanimity in pointing out the funda
mental cause of our failure in human education : That
failure is due to the fact that we aim not at the full
development of the child, but that the world regards,
and always has regarded education first as a means
of buttressing the established order of things rather
than improving it. And this is the real reason why
strife, war, and revolution have marked the onward
march of humanity instead of reason and sound re
form. Instead of seeking to push the coming genera
tion ahead of our pitiful accomplishment, we insist
that it march behind. We say, morally, that high
character is conformity to present public opinion; we
say industrially that the present order is best and that
children must be trained to perpetuate it.
But, it is objected, what else can we do? Can we
teach Revolution to the inexperienced in hope that
they may discern progress? No, but we may teach
frankly that this world is not perfection, but develop
ment: that the object of education is manhood and
womanhood, clear reason, individual talent and genius
and the spirit of service and sacrifice, and not simply
a frantic effort to avoid change in present institutions ;
that industry is for man and not man for industry
and that while we must have workers to work, the
prime object 01 our training is not the work but the
worker not the maintenance of present industrial
caste but the development of human intelligence
by which drudgery may be lessened and beauty
Back of our present educational system is the phil
osophy that sneers at the foolish Fathers who believed
it self-evident, " that all men were created free and.
equal." Surely the overwhelming evidence is to
day that men are slaves and unequal. But is it not
THE IMMORTAL CHILD 207
education that is the creator of this freedom and equal
ity? Most men today cannot conceive of a freedom
that does not involve somebody's slavery. They do
not want equality because the thrill of their happiness
comes from having things that others have not. But
may not human education fix the fine ideal of an
equal maximum of freedom for every human soul
combined with that minimum of slavery for each soul
which the inexorable physical facts of the world im
pose rather than complete freedom for some and com
plete slavery for others ; and, again, is not the equality
toward which the world moves an equality of honor
in the assigned human task itself rather than equal
facility in doing different tasks? Human equality is
not lack of difference, nor do the infinite human dif
ferences argue relative superiority and inferiority.
And, again, how new an aspect human differences may
assume when all men are educated. Today we think
of apes, semi-apes, and human beings; tomorrow
we may think of Keir Hardies, Roosevelts, and
Beethovens not equals but men. Today we are
forcing men into educational slavery in order that
others may enjoy life, and excuse ourselves by saying
that the world's work must be done. We are degrad
ing some sorts of work by honoring others, and then
expressing surprise that most people object to having
their children trained solely to take up their father's
Given as the ideal the utmost possible freedom for
every human soul, with slavery for none, and equal
honor for all necessary human tasks, then our prob-
lem of education is greatly simplified : we aim to de
velop human souls; to make all intelligent; to discover
special talents and genius. With this course of train
ing beginning in early childhood and never ceasing
must go the technical training for the present world's
work according to carefully studied individual gifts
On the other hand, if we arrange our system of
education to develop workmen who will not strike and
Negroes satisfied with their present place in the world,
we have set ourselves a baffling task. We find our
selves compelled to keep the masses ignorant and to
curb our own thought and expression so as not to
inflame the ignorant. We force moderate reformers
and men with new and valuable ideas to become red
radicals and revolutionists, since that happens to be
the only way to make the world listen to reason.
Consider our race problem in the South: the South
has invested in Negro ignorance; some Northerners
proposed limited education, not, they explained, to bet
ter the Negro, but merely to make the investment more
profitable to the present beneficiaries. They thus
gained wide Southern support for schools like Hamp
ton and Tuskegee. But could this program be ex
pected long to satisfy colored folk? And was this
shifty dodging of the real issue the wisest statesman
ship ? No ! The real question in the South is the ques
tion of the permanency of present color caste. The
problem, then, of the formal training of our colored
children has been strangely complicated by the strong
feeling of certain persons as to their future in America
THE IMMORTAL CHILD 209
and the world. And the reaction toward this caste
education has strengthened the idea of caste educa
tion throughout the world.
Let us then return to fundamental ideals. Children
must be trained in a knowledge of what the world is
and what it knows and how it does its daily work.
These things cannot be separated: we cannot teach
pure knowledge apart from actual facts, or separate
truth from the human mind. Above all we must not
forget that the object of all education is the child it
self and not what it does or makes.
It is here that a great movement in America has
grievously sinned against the light. There has arisen
among us a movement to make the Public School pri
marily the hand-maiden of production. America is
conceived of as existing for the sake of its mines, fields
and factories, and not those factories, fields and mines
as existing for America. Consequently, the public
schools are for training the mass of men as servants
and laborers and mechanics to increase the land's in
Those who oppose this program, especially if they
are black, are accused of despising common toil and
humble service. In fact, we Negroes are but facing
in our own children a world problem: how can we,
while maintaining a proper output of goods and fur
nishing needed services, increase the knowledge of
experience of common men and conserve genius for
the common weal ? Without wider, deeper intelligence
among the masses Democracy cannot accomplish its
greater ends. Without a more careful conservation
of human ability and talent the world cannot secure
the services which its greater needs call for. Yet
today who goes to college, the Talented or the Rich?
Who goes to high school, the Bright or the Well-to-
Do ? Who does the physical work of the world, those
whose muscles need the exercise or those whose souls
and minds are stupefied with manual toil ? How is the
drudgery of the world distributed, by thoughtful jus
tice or the lash of Slavery?
We cannot base the education of future citizens on
the present inexcusable inequality of wealth nor on
physical differences of race. We must seek not to
make men carpenters but to make carpenters men.
Colored Americans must then with deep determina
tion educate their children in the broadest, highest
way. They must fill the colleges with the talented and
fill the fields and shops with the intelligent. Wisdom
is the principal thing. Therefore, get wisdom.
But why am I talking simply of " colored " chil
dren? Is not the problem of their education simply
an intensification of the problem of educating all chil
dren ? Look at our plight in the United States, nearly
150 years after the establishment of a government
based on human intelligence.
If we take the figures of the Thirteenth Census, we
find that there were five and one-half million illiterate
Americans of whom 3,184,633 were white. Remem
bering that illiteracy is a crude and 'extreme test of ig
norance, we may assume that there are in the United
States ten million people over ten years of age who
are too ignorant either to perform their civic duties or
THE IMMORTAL CHILD 211
to teach industrial efficiency. Moreover, it does not
seem that this illiteracy is disappearing rapidly.
For instance, nine per cent of American children be
tween ten and nineteen years of age cannot read and
write. Moreover, there are millions of children who,
judging by the figures for the school year 1909-10, are
not going to learn to read and write, for of the Ameri
cans six to fourteen years of age there were 3,125,392
who were not in school a single day during that year.
If we take the eleven million youths fifteen to twenty
years of age for whom vocational training is particu
larly adapted, we find that nearly five per cent of
these, or 448,414, are absolutely illiterate; it is not too
much to assume that a million of them have not ac
quired enough of the ordinary tools of intelligence to
make the most of efficient vocational training.
Confining ourselves to the white people, over fifteen
per cent of the white children six to fourteen years of
age, or 2,253,198, did not attend school during the
school year 1909-10. Of the native white children of
native parents ten to fourteen years of age nearly a
tenth were not in school during that year; 121,878
native white children of native parents, fifteen to nine
teen years of age, were illiterate.
If we confine our attention to the colored children,
the case is, of course, much worse.
We cannot hope to make intelligent workmen and
intelligent citizens of a group of people, over forty
per cent of whose children six to fourteen years of
age were not in school a single day during 1909-10;
for the other sixty per cent the school term in the
majority of cases was probably less than five months.
Of the Negro children ten to fourteen years of age
18.9 per cent were illiterate; of those fifteen to nine
teen years of age 20.3 per cent were illiterate; of those
ten to fourteen years of age 31.4 per cent, did not go
to school a single day in 1909-10.
What is the trouble? It is simple. We are spend
ing one dollar for education where we should spend
ten dollars. If tomorrow we multiplied our effort to
educate the next generation ten-fold, we should but
begin our bounden duty. The heaven that lies about
our infancy is but the ideals come true which every
generation of children is capable of bringing; but we,
selfish in our own ignorance and incapacity, are mak
ing of education a series of miserable compromises:
How ignorant can we let a child grow to be in order
to make him the best cotton mill operative ? What is
the least sum that will keep the average youth out of
'jail? How many months saved on a high school
course will make the largest export of wheat ?
If we realized that children are the future, that
immortality is the present child, that no education
which educates can possibly be too costly, then we
know that the menace of Kaiserism which called for
the expenditure of more than 332 thousand millions
of dollars was not a whit more pressing than the
menace of ignorance, and that no nation tomorrow
will call itself civilized which does not give every
single human being college and vocational training
free and under the best teaching force procurable for
love or money.
THE IMMORTAL CHILD 213
This world has never taken the education of chil
dren seriously. Misled by selfish dreamings of per
sonal life forever, we have neglected the true and
practical immortality through the endless life of chil
dren's children. Seeking counsels of our own souls'
perfection, we have despised and rejected the possible
increasing perfection of unending generations. Or
if we are thrown back in pessimistic despair from mak
ing living folk decent, we leap to idle speculations of
a thousand years hereafter instead of working stead
ily and persistently for the next generation.
All our problems center in the child. All our hopes,
our dreams are for our children. Has our own life
failed? Let its lesson save the children's lives from
similar failure. Is democracy a failure? Train up
citizens that will make it succeed. Is wealth too
crude, too foolish in form, and too easily stolen?
Train up workers with honor and consciences and
brains. Have we degraded service with menials?
Abolish the mean spirit and implant sacrifice. Do we
despise women? Train them as workers and thinkers
and not as playthings, lest future generations ape
our worst mistake. Do we despise darker races?
Teach the children its fatal cost in spiritual degrada
tion and murder, teach them that to hate " niggers "
or " chinks " is to crucify souls like their own. Is
there anything we would accomplish with human be
ings? Do it with the immortal child, with a stretch
of endless time for doing it and with infinite possibili
ties to work on.
Is this our attitude toward education? It is not
neither in England nor America in France nor Ger
many with black nor white nor yellow folk. Educa
tion to the modern world is a burden which we are
driven to carry. We shirk and complain. We do just
as little as possible and only threat or catastrophe in
duces us to do more than a minimum. If the ignorant
mass, panting to know, revolts, we dole them gingerly
enough knowledge to pacify them temporarily. If, as
in the Great War, we discover soldiers too ignorant
to use our machines of murder and destruction, we
train them to use machines of murder and destruc
tion. If mounting wealth calls for intelligent work
men, we rush tumultuously to train workers in order
to increase our wealth. But of great, broad plans to
train all men for all things to make a universe intelli
gent, busy, good, creative and beautiful where in this
wide world is such an educational program? To an
nounce it is to invite gasps or Brobdingnagian laughter.
It cannot be done. It will cost too much.
What has been done with man can be done with
men, if the world tries long enough and hard enough.
And as to the cost all the wealth of the world, save
that necessary for sheer decent existence and for the
maintenance of past civilization, is, and of right ought
to be, the property of the children for their education.
I mean it. In one year, 1917, we spent $96,700,-
000,000 for war. We blew it away to murder, maim,
and destroy! Why? Because the blind, brutal crime
of powerful and selfish interests made this path
through hell the only visible way to heaven. We did
it. We had to do it, and we are glad the putrid horror
THE IMMORTAL CHILD 215
is over. But, now, are we prepared to spend less to
make a world in which the resurgence of such devilish
pow^r will be impossible ?
Do we really want war to cease?
Then educate the children of this generation at a
cost no whit less and if necessary a hundred times
as great as the cost of the Great War.
Last year, 1917, education cost us $915,000,000.
Next year it ought to cost us at least two thousand
million dollars. We should spend enough money to
hire the best teaching force possible the best organiz
ing and directing ability in the land, even if we have to
strip the railroads and meat trust. We should dot
city and country with the most efficient, sanitary, and
beautiful school -houses the world knows and we
should give every American child common school,
high school, and college training and then vocational
guidance in earning a living.
Is this a dream?
Can we afford less ?
Consider our so-called educational " problems " i
" How may we keep pupils in the high school ? "
Feed and clothe them. " Shall we teach Latin, Greek,
and mathematics to the ' masses ' ? " If they are worth
teaching to anybody, the masses need them most.
"Who shall go to college?" Everybody. "When
shall culture training give place to technical educa
tion for work?" Never.
These questions are not "problems." They are
simply " excuses " for spending less time and money
on the next generation. Given ten millions of dollars
a year, what can we best do with the education of a
million children? The real answer is kill nine hun
dred and ninety thousand of them quickly and not
gradually, and make thoroughly-trained men and
women of the other ten thousand. But who set the
limit of ten million dollars? Who says it shall not
be ten thousand millions, as it ought to be ? You and
I say it, and in saying it we sin against the Holy
We sin because in our befuddled brains we have
linked money and education inextricably. We assume
that only the wealthy have a real right to education
when, in fact, being born is being given a right to
college training. Our wealth today is, we all know,
distributed mainly by chance inheritance and personal
favor and yet we attempt to base the right to educa
tion on this foundation. The result is grotesque!
We bury genius; we send it to jail; we ridicule and
mock it, while we send mediocrity and idiocy to col
lege, gilded and crowned. For three hundred years
we have denied black Americans an education and
now we exploit them before a gaping world: See
how ignorant and degraded they are! All they are
fit for is education for cotton-picking and dish-wash
ing. When Dunbar and Taylor happen along, we are
torn between something like shamefaced anger or
A world guilty of this last and mightiest war has
no right to enjoy or create until it has made the future
safe from another Arkansas or Rheims. To this there
is but one patent way, proved and inescapable, Educa-
THE IMMORTAL CHILD 217
tion, and that not for me or for you but for the Im
mortal Child. And that child is of all races and all
colors. All children are the children of all and not of
individuals and families and races. The whole gen
eration must be trained and guided and out of it
as out of a huge reservoir must be lifted all genius,
talent, and intelligence to serve all the world.
Almighty Death *
Softly, quite softly
For I hear, above the murmur of the sea,
Faint and far-fallen footsteps, as of One
Who comes from out beyond the endless ends of Time,
With voice that downward looms thro* singing stars;
Its subtle sound I see thro' these long-darkened eyes,
I hear the Light He bringeth on His hands
Softly, oh, softly, lest He pass me by,
And that unquivering Light toward which my longing
And tortured body through these years have writhed,
Fade to the dun darkness of my days.
Softly, full softly, let me rise and greet
The strong, low luting of that long-awaited call;
Swiftly be all my good and going gone,
And this vast veiled and vanquished vigor of my soul
Seek somehow otherwhere its rest and goal,
Where endless spaces stretch,
Where endless time doth moan,
Where endless light doth pour
Thro' the black kingdoms of eternal death.
Then haply I may see what things I have not seen,
Then I may know what things I have not known;
Then may I do my dreams.
Farewell ! No sound of idle mourning let there be
*For Joseph Pulitzer, October 29, 1911.
To shudder this full silence save the voice
Of children little children, white and black,
Whispering the deeds I tried to do for them;
While I at last unguided and alone
Pass softly, full softly.
OF BEAUTY AND DEATH
FOR long years we of the world gone wild have looked
into the face of death and smiled. Through all our
bitter tears we knew how beautiful it was to die
for that which our souls called sufficient. Like all
true beauty this thing of dying was so simple, so
matter-of-fact. The boy clothed in his splendid youth
stood before us and laughed in his own jolly way,
went and was gone. Suddenly the world was full of
the fragrance of sacrifice. We left our digging and
burden-bearing; we turned from our scraping and
twisting of things and words; we paused from our
hurrying hither and thither and walking up and down,
and asked in half-whisper: this Death is this Life?
And is its beauty real or false? And of this heart-
questioning I am writing.
My friend, who is pale and positive, said to me
yesterday, as the tired sun was nodding:
:< You are too sensitive."
I admit, I am sensitive. I am artificial. I cringe
or am bumptious or immobile. I am intellectually
dishonest, art-blind, and I lack humor.
" Why don't you stop all this ? " she retorts trium
You will not let us.
" There you go, again. You know that I "
Wait! I answer. Wait!
I arise at seven. The milkman has neglected me.
He pays little attention to colored districts. My white
neighbor glares elaborately. I walk softly, lest I dis
turb him. The children jeer as I pass to work. The
women in the street car withdraw their skirts or pre
fer to stand. The policeman is truculent. The ele
vator man hates to serve Negroes. My job is inse
cure because the white union wants it and does not
want me. I try to lunch, but no place near will serve
me. I go forty blocks to Marshall's, but the Com
mittee of Fourteen closes Marshall's; they say white
women frequent it.
" Do all eating places discriminate ? "
No, but how shall I know which do not except
I hurry home through crowds. They mutter or get
angry. I go to a mass-meeting. They stare. I go
to a church. " We don't admit niggers ! "
Or perhaps I leave the beaten track. I seek new
work. "Our employees would not work with you;
our customers would object."
I ask to help in social uplift.
" Why er we will write you."
I enter the free field of science. Every laboratory
door is closed and no endowments are available.
I seek the universal mistress, Art; the studio door
I write literature. " We cannot publish stories of
colored folks of that type." It's the only type I know.
OF BEAUTY AND DEATH 223
This is my life. It makes me idiotic. It gives me
artificial problems. I hesitate, I rush, I waver. In
fine, I am sensitive !
My pale friend looks at me with disbelief and curl
" Do you mean to sit there and tell me that this
is what happens to you each day?"
Certainly not, I answer low.
" Then you only fear it will happen ? "
"Well, haven't you the courage to rise above a
almost a craven fear?"
Quite quite craven is my fear, I admit; but the
terrible thing is these things do happen!
" But you just said "
They do happen. Not all each day, surely not.
But now and then now seldom, now, sudden; now
after a week, now in a chain of awful minutes; not
everywhere, but anywhere in Boston, in Atlanta.
That's the hell of it. Imagine spending your life look
ing for insults or for hiding places from them
shrinking (instinctively and despite desperate bolster-
ings of courage) from blows that are not always but
ever; not each day, but each week, each month, each
year. Just, perhaps, as you have choked back the
craven fear and cried, " I am and will be the master of
" No more tickets downstairs ; here's one to the
You hesitate. You beat back your suspicions.
After all, a cigarette with Charlie Chaplin then a
white man pushes by
" Three in the orchestra."
'* Yes, sir." And in he goes.
Suddenly your heart chills. You turn yourself
away toward the golden twinkle of the purple night
and hesitate again. What's the use? Why not al
ways yield always take what's offered, always bow
to force, whether of cannon or dislike? Then the
great fear surges in your soul, the real fear the fear
beside which other fears are vain imaginings; the
fear lest right there and then you are losing your own
soul; that you are losing your own soul and the soul
of a people; that millions of unborn children, black
and gold and mauve, are being there and then de
spoiled by you because you are a coward and dare not
Suddenly that silly orchestra seat and the cavorting
of a comedian with funny feet become matters of
life, death, and immortality; you grasp the pillars of
the universe and strain as you sway back to that be-
frilled ticket girl. You grip your soul for riot and
murder. You choke and sputter, and she seeing that
you are about to make a " fuss " obeys her orders and
throws the tickets at you in contempt. Then you slink
to your seat and crouch in the darkness before the
film, with every tissue burning! The miserable wave
of reaction engulfs you. To think of compelling pup
pies to take your hard-earned money; fattening hogs
to hate you and yours; forcing your way among
OF BEAUTY AND DEATH 225
cheap and tawdry idiots God! What a night of
Here, then, is beauty and ugliness, a wide vision
of world-sacrifice, a fierce gleam of world-hate.
Which is life and what is death and how shall we
face so tantalizing a contradiction? Any explanation
must necessarily be subtle and involved. No pert and
easy word of encouragement, no merely dark despair,
can lay hold of the roots of these things. And first
and before all, we cannot forget that this world is
beautiful. Grant all its ugliness and sin the petty,
horrible snarl of its putrid threads, which few have
seen more near or more often than I notwithstanding
all this, the beauty of this world is not to be
Casting my eyes about I dare not let them rest on
the beauty of Love and Friend, for even if my tongue
were cunning enough to sing this, the revelation of
reality here is too sacred and the fancy too untrue.
Of one world-beauty alone may we at once be brutally
frank and that is the glory of physical nature; this,
though the least of beauties, is divine !
And so, too, there are depths of human degradation
which it is not fair for us to probe. With all their
horrible prevalence, we cannot call them natural. But
may we not compare the least of the world's beauty
with the least of its ugliness not murder, starvation,
and rapine, with love and friendship and creation
but the glory of sea and sky and city, with the little
hatef ulnesses and thoughtlessnesses of race prejudice,
that out of such juxtaposition we may, perhaps, de
duce some rule of beauty and life or death?
There mountains hurl themselves against the stars
and at their feet lie black and leaden seas. Above
float clouds white, gray, and inken, while the clear,
impalpable air springs and sparkles like new wine.
Last night we floated on the calm bosom of the sea
in the southernmost haven of Mount Desert. The
water flamed and sparkled. The sun had gone, but
above the crooked back of cumulus clouds, dark and
pink with radiance, and on the other sky aloft to the
eastward piled the gorgeous-curtained mists of even
ing. The radiance faded and a shadowy velvet veiled
the mountains, a humid depth of gloom behind which
lurked all the mysteries of life and death, while above,
the clouds hung ashen and dull; lights twinkled and
flashed along the shore, boats glided in the twilight,
and the little puffing of motors droned away. Then
was the hour to talk of life and the meaning of life,
while above gleamed silently, suddenly, star on star.
Bar Harbor lies beneath a mighty mountain, a great,
bare, black mountain that sleeps above the town; but
as you leave, it rises suddenly, threateningly, until far
away on Frenchman's Bay it looms above the town
in withering vastness, as if to call all that little world
petty save itself. Beneath the cool, wide stare of
that great mountain, men cannot live as giddily as in
some lesser summer's playground. Before the un
veiled face of nature, as it lies naked on the Maine
coast, rises a certain human awe.
OF BEAUTY AND DEATH 227
God molded his world largely and mightily off this
marvelous coast and meant that in the tired days of
life men should come and worship here and renew
their spirit. This I have done and turning I go to
work again. As we go, ever the mountains of Mount
Desert rise and greet us on our going somber, rock-
ribbed and silent, looking unmoved on the moving
world, yet conscious of their everlasting strength.
About us beats the sea the sail-flecked, restless
sea, humming its tune about our flying keel, unmindful
of the voices of men. The land sinks to meadows,
black pine forests, with here and there a blue and
wistful mountain. Then there are islands bold rocks
above the sea, curled meadows; through and about
them roll ships, weather-beaten and patched of sail,
strong-hulled and smoking, light gray and shining.
All the colors of the sea lie about us gray and yel
lowing greens and doubtful blues, blacks not quite
black, tinted silvers and golds and dreaming whites.
Long tongues of dark and golden land lick far out
into the tossing waters, and the white gulls sail and
scream above them. It is a mighty coast ground out
and pounded, scarred, crushed, and carven in massive,
frightful lineaments. Everywhere stand the pines
the little dark and steadfast pines that smile not,
neither weep, but wait and wait. Near us lie isles
of flesh and blood, white cottages, tiled and meadowed.
Afar lie shadow-lands, high mist-hidden hills, moun
tains boldly limned, yet shading to the sky, faint and
.We skirt the pine-clad shores, chary of men, and
know how bitterly winter kisses these lonely shores
to fill yon row of beaked ice houses that creep up the
hills. We are sailing due westward and the sun, yet
two hours high, is blazoning a fiery glory on the
sea that spreads and gleams like some broad, jeweled
trail, to where the blue and distant shadow-land lifts
its carven front aloft, leaving 1 , as it gropes, shades of
Why do not those who are scarred in the world's
battle and hurt by its hardness travel to these places
of beauty and drown themselves in the utter joy of
life? I asked this once sitting in a Southern home.
Outside the spring of a Georgia February was luring
gold to the bushes and languor to the soft air. Around
me sat color in human flesh brown that crimsoned
readily; dim soft-yellow that escaped description;
cream-like duskiness that shadowed to rich tints of
autumn leaves. And yet a suggested journey in the
world brought no response.
" I should think you would like to travel/' said
the white one.
But no, the thought of a journey seemed to depress
Did you ever see a " Jim-Crow " waiting-room ?
There are always exceptions, as at Greensboro but
usually there is no heat in winter and no air in sum
mer; with undisturbed loafers and train hands and
broken, disreputable settees; to buy a ticket is torture;
you stand and stand and wait and wait until every
white person at the " other window " is waited on.
OF BEAUTY AND DEATH 229
Then the tired agent yells across, because all the
tickets and money are over there
" What d'ye want ? What ? Where ? "
The agent browbeats and contradicts you, hurries
and confuses the ignorant, gives many persons the
wrong change, compels some to purchase their tickets
on the train at a higher price, and sends you and me
out on the platform, burning with indignation and
The " Jim-Crow " car is up next the baggage car
and engine. It stops out beyond the covering in the
rain or sun or dust. Usually there is no step to help
you climb on and often the car is a smoker cut in two
and you must pass through the white smokers or else
they pass through your part, with swagger and noise
and stares. Your compartment is a half or a quarter
or an eighth of the oldest car in service on the road.
Unless it happens to be a through express, the plush is
caked with dirt, the floor is grimy, and the windows
dirty. An impertinent white newsboy occupies two
seats at the end of the car and importunes you to the
point of rage to buy cheap candy, Coco-Cola, and
worthless, if not vulgar, books. He yells and swag
gers, while a continued stream of white men saunters
back and forth from the smoker to buy and hear.
The white train crew from the baggage car uses the
" Jim-Crow " to lounge in and perform their toilet.
The conductor appropriates two seats for himself and
his papers and yells gruffly for your tickets before the
train has scarcely started. It is best not to ask him
for information even in the gentlest tones. His in-
formation is for white persons chiefly. It is difficult
to get lunch or clean water. Lunch rooms either
don't serve niggers or serve them at some dirty and
ill-attended hole in the wall. As for toilet rooms,
don't! If you have to change cars, be wary of junc
tions which are usually without accommodation and
filled with quarrelsome white persons who hate a
"darky dressed up." You are apt to have the com
pany of a sheriff and a couple of meek or sullen black
prisoners on part of your way and dirty colored sec
tion hands will pour in toward night and drive you
to the smallest corner.
" No," said the little lady in the corner (she looked
like an ivory cameo and her dress flowed on her like
a caress), "we don't travel much."
Pessimism is cowardice. The man who cannot
frankly acknowledge the " Jim-Crow " car as a fact
and yet live and hope is simply afraid either of him
self or of the world. There is not in the world a
more disgraceful denial of human brotherhood than
the "Jim-Crow" car of the southern United States;
but, too, just as true, there is nothing more beautiful
in the universe than sunset and moonlight on Montego
Bay in far Jamaica. And both things are true and
both belong to this our world, and neither can be
The sun, prepared to cross that awful border which
men call Night and Death, marshals his hosts. I
seem to see the spears of mighty horsemen flash
OF BEAUTY AND DEATH 231
golden in the light; empurpled banners flame afar, and
the low thunder of marching hosts thrills with the
thunder of the sea. Athwart his own path, screen
ing a face of fire, he throws cloud masses, masking
his trained guns. And then the miracle is done. The
host passes with roar too vast for human ear and the
sun is set, leaving the frightened moon and blinded
In the dusk the green-gold palms turn their star-
like faces and stretch their fan-like fingers, lifting
themselves proudly, lest any lordly leaf should know
the taint of earth.
Out from the isle the serpent hill thrusts its great
length around the bay, shouldering back the waters
and the shadows. Ghost rains sweep down, smearing
his rugged sides, yet on he writhes, undulant with
pine and palm, gleaming until his low, sharp head and
lambent tongue, grown gray and pale and silver in
the dying day, kisses the molten gold of the golden
Then comes the moon. Like fireflies nesting in the
hand of God gleams the city, dim-swathed by fairy
palms. A long, thin thumb, mist-mighty, points
shadowy to the Spanish Main, while through the
fingers foam the Seven Seas. Above the calm and
gold-green moon, beneath the wind-wet earth; and
here, alone, my soul enchained, enchanted!
From such heights of holiness men turn to master
the world. All the pettiness of life drops away and
it becomes a great battle before the Lord. His trum-
pet, where does it sound and whither? I go. I
saw Montego Bay at the beginning of the World
War. The cry for service as high as heaven, as wide
as human feeling, seemed filling the earth. What
were petty slights, silly insults, paltry problems, beside
this call to do and dare and die? We black folk
offered our services to fight. What happened? Most
Americans have forgotten the extraordinary series of
events which worked the feelings of black America to
First was the refusal to accept Negro volunteers for
the army, except in the four black regiments already
established. While the nation was combing the coun
try for volunteers for the regular army, it would not
let the American Negro furnish even his proportionate
quota of regular soldiers. This led to some grim
bantering among Negroes :
" Why do you want to volunteer ? " asked many.
"Why should you fight for this country?"
Before we had chance to reply to this, there came
the army draft bill and the proposal by Vardaman
and his ilk to except Negroes. We protested to
Washington in various ways, and while we were in
sisting that colored men should be drafted just as
other citizens, the bill went through with two little
First, it provided that Negroes should be drafted,
but trained in "separate" units; and, secondly, it
somewhat ambiguously permitted men to be drafted
for " labor."
A wave of fear and unrest spread among Negroes
OF BEAUTY AND DEATH 233
and while we were looking at both these provisions
askance, suddenly we received the draft registration
blank. It directed persons " of African descent "
to " tear off the corner ! " Probably never before in
the history of the United States has a portion of
the citizens been so openly and crassly discriminated
against by action of the general government. It was
disheartening, and on top of it came the celebrated
" German plots." It was alleged in various parts of
the country with singular unanimity that Germans
were working among the Negroes, and it was further
intimated that this would make the Negroes too dan
gerous an element to trust with guns. To us, of course,
it looked as though the discovery and the proposition
came from the same thinly-veiled sources.
Considering carefully this series of happenings the
American Negro sensed an approaching crisis and
faced a puzzling dilemma. Here was evidently pre
paring fertile ground for the spread of disloyalty and
resentment among the black masses, as they were
forced to choose apparently between forced labor or a
" Jim-Crow " draft. Manifestly when a minority
group is thus segregated and forced out of the nation,
they can in reason do but one thing take advantage
of the disadvantage. In this case we demanded
colored officers for the colored troops.
General Wood was early approached and asked to
admit suitable candidates to Plattsburg. He refused.
We thereupon pressed the government for a " sepa
rate " camp for the training of Negro officers. Not
only did the War Department hesitate at this request.
but strong opposition arose among colored people
themselves. They said we were going too far. " We
will obey the law, but to ask for voluntary segregation
is to insult ourselves." But strong, sober second
thought came to our rescue. We said to our protest
ing brothers: "We face a condition, not a theory.
There is not the slightest chance of our being ad
mitted to white camps; therefore, it is either a case of
a ' Jim-Crow ' officers' training camp or no colored
officers. Of the two things no colored officers would
be the greater calamity."
Thus we gradually made up our minds. But the
War Department still hesitated. It was besieged, and
when it presented its final argument, "We have no
place for such a camp," the trustees of Howard Uni
versity said : " Take our campus." Eventually twelve
hundred colored cadets were assembled at Fort Des
Moines for officers' training.
The city of Des Moines promptly protested, but it
finally changed its mind. Des Moines never before
had seen such a class of colored men. They rapidly
became popular with all classes and many encomiums
were passed upon their conduct. Their commanding
colonel pronounced their work first class and de
clared that they presented excellent material for
Meantime, with one accord, the thought of the
colored people turned toward Colonel Young, their
highest officer in the regular army. Charles Young
is a heroic figure. He is the typical soldier, silent,
uncomplaining, brave, and efficient! From his days
OF BEAUTY AND DEATH 235
at West Point throughout his thirty years of serv
ice he has taken whatever task was assigned him
and performed it efficiently; and there is no doubt
but that the army has been almost merciless in the
requirements which it has put upon this splendid
officer. He came through all with flying colors. In
Haiti, in Liberia, in western camps, in the Sequoia
Forests of California, and finally with Pershing in
Mexico, in every case he triumphed. Just at the time
we were looking to the United States government to
call him to head the colored officers' training at Des
Moines, he was retired from the army, because of
" high blood pressure! " There is no disputing army
surgeons and their judgment in this case may be justi
fied, but coming at the time it did, nearly every Negro
in the United States believed that the "high blood
pressure " that retired Colonel Young was in the
prejudiced heads of the Southern oligarchy who were
determined that no American Negro should ever wear
the stars of a General.
To say that Negroes of the United States were dis
heartened at the retirement of Colonel Young is to
put it mildly, but there was more trouble. The pro
vision that Negroes must be trained separately looked
simple and was simple in places where there were large
Negro contingents, but in the North with solitary
Negroes drafted here and there we had some extra
ordinary developments. Regiments appeared with one
Negro where the Negro had to be separated like a
pest and put into a house or even a village by himself
while the commander frantically telegraphed to Wash-
ington. Small wonder that one poor fellow in Ohio
solved the problem by cutting his throat. The whole
process of drafting Negroes had to be held up until
the government could find methods and places for
Then came Houston. In a moment the nation for
got the whole record of one of the most celebrated
regiments in the United States Army and its splen
did service in the Indian Wars and in the Philippines.
It was the first regiment mobilized in the Spanish-
American War and it was the regiment that volun
teered to a man to clean up the yellow fever camps
when others hesitated. It was one of the regiments
to which Pershing said in December :
'' Men, I am authorized by Congress to tell you all
that our people back in the States are mightily glad
and proud at the way the soldiers have conducted
themselves while in Mexico, and I, General Pershing,
can say with pride that a finer body of men never
stood under the flag of our nation than we find here
The nation, also, forgot the deep resentment mixed
with the pale ghost of fear which Negro soldiers call
up in the breasts of the white South. It is not so
much that they fear that the Negro will strike if he
gets a chance, but rather that they assume with curi
ous unanimity that he has reason to strike, that any
other persons in his circumstances or treated as he is
would rebel. Instead of seeking to relieve the cause
of such a possible feeling, most of them strain every
effort to bottle up the black man's resentment. Is it
OF BEAUTY AND DEATH 237
inconceivable that now and then it bursts all bounds,
as at Brownsville and Houston?
So in the midst of this mental turmoil came Hous
ton and East St. Louis. At Houston black soldiers,
goaded and insulted, suddenly went wild and " shot
up " the town. At East St. Louis white strikers on
war work killed and mobbed Negro workingmen, and
as a result 19 colored soldiers were hanged and 51
imprisoned for life for killing 17 whites at Hous
ton, while for killing 125 Negroes in East St. Louis,
20 white men were imprisoned, none for more than
15 years, and 10 colored men with them.
Once upon a time I took a great journey in this
land to three of the ends of our world and over seven
thousand mighty miles. I saw the grim desert and
the high ramparts of the Rocky Mountains. Three
days I flew from the silver beauty of Seattle to the
somber whirl of Kansas City. Three days I flew
from the brute might of Chicago to the air of the
Angels in California, scented with golden flowers,
where the homes of men crouch low and loving on
the good, broad earth, as though they were kissing
her blossoms. Three days I flew through the em
pire of Texas, but all these shall be tales untold, for
in all this journey I saw but one thing that lived
and will live eternal in my soul, the Grand Canon.
It is a sudden void in the bosom of earth, down to
its entrails a wound where the dull titanic knife has
turned and twisted in the hole, leaving its edges livid,
scarred, jagged, and pulsing over the white, and red,
and purple of its mighty flesh, while down below
down, down below, in black and severed vein, boils
the dull and sullen flood of the Colorado.
It is awful. There can be nothing like it. It is the
earth and sky gone stark and raving mad. The moun
tains up-twirled, disbodied and inverted, stand on their
peaks and throw their bowels to the sky. Their
arth is air; their ether blood-red rock engreened.
You stand upon their roots and fall into their pin
nacles, a mighty mile.
Behold this mauve and purple mocking of time and
space! See yonder peak! No human foot has trod
it. Into that blue shadow only the eye of God has
looked. Listen to the accents of that gorge which
mutters : " Before Abraham was, I am." Is yonder
wall a hedge of black or is it the rampart between
heaven and hell? I see greens, is it moss or giant
pines? I see specks that may be boulders. Ever the
winds sigh and drop into those sun-swept silences.
Ever the gorge lies motionless, unmoved, until I fear.
It is a grim thing, unholy, terrible! It is human
some mighty drama unseen, unheard, is playing there
its tragedies or mocking comedy, and the laugh of
endless years is shrieking onward from peak to peak,
unheard, unechoed, and unknown.
One throws a rock into the abyss. It gives back
no sound. It falls on silence the voice of its thunders
cannot reach so far. It is not it cannot be a mere,
inert, unfeeling, brute fact its grandeur is too serene
: its beauty too divine! It is not red, and blue, and
green, but, ah! the shadows and the shades of all the
OF BEAUTY AND DEATH 239
world, glad colorings touched with a hesitant spiritual
delicacy. What does it mean what does it mean?
Tell me, black and boiling water !
It is not real. It is but shadows. The shading of
eternity. Last night yonder tesselated palace was
gloom dark, brooding thought and sin, while hither
rose the mountains of the sun, golden, blazing, en
sanguined. It was a dream. This blue and brilliant
morning shows all those burning peaks alight,
while here, shapeless, mistful, brood the shadowed
I have been down into the entrails of earth down,
down by straight and staring cliffs down by sound
ing waters and sun-strewn meadows; down by green
pastures and still waters, by great, steep chasms
down by the gnarled and twisted fists of God to the
deep, sad moan of the yellow river that did this thing
of wonder, a little winding river with death in its
depth and a crown of glory in its flying hair.
I have seen what eye of man was never meant to
see. I have profaned the sanctuary. I have looked
upon the dread disrobing of the Night, and yet I live.
Ere I hid my head she was standing in her cavern
halls, glowing coldly westward her feet were black
ness: her robes, empurpled, flowed mistily from
shoulder down in formless folds of folds; her head,
pine-crowned, was set with jeweled stars. I turned
away and dreamed the canon, the awful, its depths
called; its heights shuddered. Then suddenly I arose
and looked. Her robes were falling. At dim-dawn
they hung purplish-green and black. Slowly she
stripped them from her gaunt and shapely limbs
her cold, gray garments shot with shadows stood re
vealed. Down dropped the black-blue robes, gray-
pearled, and slipped, leaving a filmy, silken, misty
thing, and underneath I glimpsed her limbs of utter
My God! For what am I thankful this night?
For nothing. For nothing but the most common
place of commonplaces; a table of gentlewomen and
gentlemen soft-spoken, sweet-tempered, full of hu
man sympathy, who made me, a stranger, one of
them. Ours was a fellowship of common books,
common knowledge, mighty aims. We could laugh
and joke and think as friends and the Thing the
hateful, murderous, dirty Thing which in America
we call " Nigger-hatred " was not only not there
it could not even be understood. It was a curious
monstrosity at which civilized folk laughed or looked
puzzled. There was no elegant and elaborate con
descension of " We once had a colored servant "
" My father was an Abolitionist " " I've always been
interested in your people "there was only the com
munity of kindred souls, the delicate reverence for
the Thought that led, the quick deference to the guest.
You left in quiet regret, knowing that they were not
discussing you behind your back with lies and license.
God! It was simply human decency and I had to
be thankful for it because I am an American Negro,
and white America, with saving exceptions, is cruel
lo everything that has black blood and this was
OF BEAUTY AND DEATH 241
Paris, in the years of salvation, 1919. Fellow blacks,
we must join the democracy of Europe.
Toul! Dim through the deepening dark of early
afternoon, I saw its towers gloom dusky toward the
murk of heaven. We wound in misty roads and
dropped upon the city through the great throats of
its walled bastions. There lay France a strange,
unknown, unfamiliar France. The city was dispos
sessed. Through its streets its narrow, winding
streets, old and low and dark, carven and quaint,
poured thousands upon thousands of strange feet of
khaki-clad foreigners, and the echoes threw back awk
ward syllables that were never French. Here was
France beaten to her knees yet fighting as never na
tion fought before, calling in her death agony across
the seas till her help came and with all its strut and
careless braggadocio saved the worthiest nation of
the world from the wickedest fate ever plotted by
Tim Brimm was playing by the town-pump. Tim
Brimm and the bugles of Harlem blared in the little
streets of Maron in far Lorraine. The tiny streets
were seas of mud. Dank mist and rain sifted through
the cold air above the blue Moselle. Soldiers sol
diers everywhere black soldiers, boys of Washing
ton, Alabama, Philadelphia, Mississippi. Wild and
sweet and wooing leapt the strains upon the air.
French children gazed in wonder women left their
washing. Up in the window stood a black Major,
a Captain, a Teacher, and I with tears behind our
smiling eyes. Tim Brimm was playing by the town-
The audience was framed in smoke. It rose ghost
like out of memories bitter memories of the officer
near dead of pneumonia whose pain was lighted up
by the nurses waiting to know whether he must be
" Jim-Crowed " with privates or not. Memories of
that great last morning when the thunders of hell
called the Ninety-second to its last drive. Memories
of bitter humiliations, determined triumphs, great vic
tories, and bugle-calls that sounded from earth to
heaven. Like memories framed in the breath of God,
my audience peered in upon me good, brown faces
with great, kind, beautiful eyes black soldiers of
America rescuing beloved France and the words
came in praise and benediction there in the "Y,"
with its little stock of cigarettes and candies and its
rusty wood stove.
" Alors" said Madame, " quatre sont morts"
four dead four tall, strong sons dead for France
sons like the sweet and blue-eyed daughter who was
hiding her brave smile in the dusk. It was a tiny
stone house whose front window lipped the passing
sidewalk where ever tramped the feet of black sol
diers marching home. There was a cavernous ward
robe, a great fireplace invaded by a new and jaunty
iron stove. Vast, thick piles of bedding rose in yonder
corner. Without was the crowded kitchen and up
a half -stair was our bedroom that gave upon a tiny
court with arched stone staircase and one green tree.
OF BEAUTY AND DEATH 243
We were a touching family party held together by a
great sorrow and a great joy. How we laughed over
the salad that got brandy instead of vinegar how we
ate the golden pile of fried potatoes and how we
pored over the post-card from the Lieutenant of
the Senegalese dear little vale of crushed and risen
France, in the day when Negroes went " over the
top " at Pont-a-Mousson.
Paris, Paris by purple facade of the opera, the
crowd on the Boulevard des Italiens and the great
swing of the Champs Elysees. But not the Paris
the world knows. Paris with its soul cut to the core
feverish, crowded, nervous, hurried; full of uni
forms and mourning bands, with cafes closed at 9 130
no sugar, scarce bread, and tears so interwined
with joy that there is scant difference. Paris has
been dreaming a nightmare, and though she awakes,
the grim terror is upon her it lies on the sand-
closed art treasures of the Louvre. Only the flowers
are there, always the flowers, the Roses of England
and the Lilies of France.
New York! Behind the Liberty that faces free
France rise the white cliffs of Manhattan, tier on tier,
with a curving pinnacle, towers square and twin, a
giant inkwell daintily stoppered, an ancient pyramid
enthroned; beneath, low ramparts wide and mighty;
while above, faint-limned against the turbulent sky,
looms the vast grace of that Cathedral of the Pur-
chased and Purchasing Poor, topping the world and
Yonder the gray cobwebs of the Brooklyn bridges
leap the sea, and here creep the argosies from all
earth's ends. We move to this swift home on dun
and swelling waters and hear as we come the heart
beats of the new world.
New York and night from the Brooklyn Bridge:
The bees and fireflies flit and twinkle in their vast
hives; curved clouds like the breath of gods hover
between the towers and the moon. One hears the
hiss of lightnings, the deep thunder of human things,
and a fevered breathing as of some attendant and
invincible Powers. The glow of burning millions
melts outward into dim and fairy outlines until afar
the liquid music born of rushing crowds drips like a
benediction on the sea.
New York and morning : the sun is kissing the timid
dew in Central Park, and from the Fountain of
Plenty one looks along that world street, Fifth Ave
nue, and walks toward town. The earth lifts and
curves graciously down from the older mansions of
princes to the newer shops of luxury. Egypt and
Abyssinia, Paris and Damascus, London and India
caress you by the way; churches stand aloof while
the shops swell to emporiums. But all this is noth
ing. Everything is mankind. Humanity stands and
'flies and walks and rolls about the poor, the price
less, the world-known and the forgotten; child and
OF BEAUTY AND DEATH 245
grandfather, king and leman the pageant of the
world goes by, set in a frame of stone and jewels,
clothed in scarlet and rags. Princes Street and the
Elysian Fields, the Strand and the Ringstrasse these
are the Ways of the World today.
New York and twilight, there where the Sixth
Avenue " L " rises and leaps above the tenements
into the free air at noth Street. It circles like a
bird with heaven and St. John's above and earth and
the sweet green and gold of the Park beneath. Be
yond lie all the blue mists and mysteries of distance;
beneath, the city rushes and crawls. Behind echo all
the roar and war and care and maze of the wide
city set in its sullen darkening walls, flashing weird
and crimson farewells. Out at the sides the stirs
Again New York and Night and Harlem. A dark
city of fifty thousand rises like magic from the earth.
Gone is the white world, the pale lips, the lank hair;
gone is the West and North the East and South is
here triumphant. The street is crowd and leisure
and laughter. Everywhere black eyes, black and
brown, and frizzled hair curled and sleek, and skins
that riot with luscious color and deep, burning blood.
Humanity is packed dense in high piles of close-knit
homes that lie in layers above gray shops of food
and clothes and drink, with here and there a moving-
picture show. Orators declaim on the corners, lovers
lark in the streets, gamblers glide by the saloons,
workers lounge wearily home. Children scream and
run and frolic, and all is good and human and beauti
ful and ugly and evil, even as Life is elsewhere.
And then the Veil. It drops as drops the night
on southern seas vast, sudden, unanswering. There
is Hate behind it, and Cruelty and Tears. As one
peers through its intricate, unfathomable pattern of
ancient, old, old design, one sees blood and guilt
and misunderstanding. And yet it hangs there, this
Veil, between Then and Now, between Pale and Col
ored and Black and White between You and Me.
Surely it is a thought-thing, tenuous, intangible; yet
just as surely is it true and terrible and not in our
little day may you and I lift it. We may feverishly
unravel its edges and even climb slow with giant
shears to where its ringed and gilded top nestles
close to the throne of God. But as we work and
climb we shall see through streaming eyes and hear
with aching ears, lynching and murder, cheating and
despising, degrading and lying, so flashed and fleshed
through this vast hanging darkness that the Doer
never sees the Deed and the Victim knows not the
Victor and Each hates All in wild and bitter ignorance.
Listen, O Isles, to these Voices from within the Veil,
for they portray the most human hurt of the Twentieth
Cycle of that poor Jesus who was called the Christ !
There is something in the nature of Beauty that
demands an end. Ugliness may be indefinite. It
may trail off into gray endlessness. But Beauty must
OF BEAUTY AND DEATH 247
be complete whether it be a field of poppies or a
great life, it must end, and the End is part and
triumph of the Beauty. I know there are those who
envisage a beauty eternal. But I cannot. I can
dream of great and never-ending processions of beau
tiful things and visions and acts. But each must be
complete or it cannot for me exist.
On the other hand, Ugliness to me is eternal, not.
in the essence but in its incompleteness; but its eter
nity does not daunt me, for its eternal unfulfilment
is a cause of joy. There is in it nothing new or
unexpected; it is the old evil stretching out and ever
seeking the end it cannot find; it may coil and writhe
and recur in endless battle to days without end, but
it is the same human ill and bitter hurt. But Beauty
is fulfilment. It satisfies. It is always new and
strange. It is the reasonable thing. Its end is Death
the sweet silence of perfection, the calm and balance
of utter music. Therein is the triumph of Beauty.
So strong is the spell of beauty that there are those
who, contradicting their own knowledge and experi
ence, try to say that all is beauty. They are called
optimists, and they lie. All is not beauty. Ugliness
and hate and ill are here with all their contradiction
and illogic; they will always be here perhaps, God
send, with lessened volume and force, but here and
eternal, while beauty triumphs in its great completion
Death. We cannot conjure the end of all ugliness
in eternal beauty, for beauty by its very being and
definition has in each definition its ends and limits;
but while beauty lies implicit and revealed in its end,,
ugliness writhes on in darkness forever. So the ugli
ness of continual birth fulfils itself and conquers glori
ously only in the beautiful end, Death.
At last to us all comes happiness, there in the Court
of Peace, where the dead lie so still and calm and
good. If we were not dead we would lie and listen
to the flowers grow. We would hear the birds sing
and see how the rain rises and blushes and burns
and pales and dies in beauty. We would see spring,
summer, and the red riot of autumn, and then in
winter, beneath the soft white snow, sleep and dream
of dreams. But we know that being dead, our
Happiness is a fine and finished thing and that ten, a
hundred, and a thousand years, we shall lie at rest,
unhurt in the Court of Peace.
The Prayers of God
Name of God's Name !
Red murder reigns ;
All hell is loose ;
On gold autumnal air
Walk grinning devils, barbed and hoofed;
While high on hills of hate,
Thou sittest, dumb.
Father Almighty !
This earth is mad!
Palsied, our cunning hands;
Rotten, our gold;
Our argosies reel and stagger
Over empty seas;
All the long aisles
Of Thy Great Temples, God,
Stink with the entrails
Of our souls.
And Thou art dumb.
Above the thunder of Thy Thunders, Lord,
Lightening Thy Lightnings,
Rings and roars
The dark damnation
Of this hell of war.
Red piles the pulp of hearts and heads
And little children's hands.
Very God of God!
Death is here!
Dead are the living ; deep-dead the dead.
Dying are earth's unborn
The babes' wide eyes of genius and of joy,
Poems and prayers, sun-glows and earth-songs,
High hymning heavens all
In this dread night
Writhe and shriek and choke and die
This long ghost-night
While Thou art dumb.
Have mercy upon us, miserable sinners!
Stand forth, unveil Thy Face,
Pour down the light
That seethes above Thy Throne,
And blaze this devil's dance to darkness!
In Christ's Great Name
Forgive me, God!
Above the thunder I hearkened ;
Beneath the silence, now,
(Wait, God, a little space.
It is so strange to talk with Thee
I took it.
Is it Thine?
Forgive; I did not know.
THE PRAYERS OF GOD 251
Blood? Is it wet with blood?
Tis from my brother's hands.
(I know; his hands are mine.)
It flowed for Thee, O Lord.
War ? Not so ; not war
Dominion, Lord, and over black, not white ;
Black, brown, and fawn,
And not Thy Chosen Brood, O God,
To build Thy Kingdom,
To drape our wives and little ones,
And set their souls a-glitter
For this we killed these lesser breeds
And civilized their dead,
Raping red rubber, diamonds, cocoa, goldl
For this, too, once, and in Thy Name,
I lynched a Nigger
(He raved and writhed,
I heard him cry,
I felt the life-light leap and lie,
I saw him crackle there, on high,
I watched him wither!)
I lynched Thee?
Awake me, God! I sleep!
What was that awful word Thou saidst?
That black and riven thing was it Thee?
That gasp was it Thine?
This pain is it Thine ?
Are, then, these bullets piercing Thee?
Have all the wars of all the world,
Down all dim time, drawn blood from Thee?
Have all the lies and thefts and hates
Is this Thy Crucifixion, God,
And not that funny, little cross,
With vinegar and thorns?
Is this Thy kingdom here, not there,
This stone and stucco drift of dreams?
I sense that low and awful cry
Who cries ?
With silent sob that rends and tears
Can God sob?
Who prays ?
I hear strong prayers throng by,
Like mighty winds on dusky moors *
Can God pray?
Prayest Thou, Lord, and to me?
Thou needest me?
Thou needest me?
Thou needest me?
Poor, wounded soul !
Of this I never dreamed. I thought
HE stood a moment on the steps of the bank, watching
the human river that swirled down Broadway. Few
noticed him. Few ever noticed him save in a way
that stung. He was outside the world "nothing!'*
as he said bitterly. Bits of the words of the walkers
came to him.
" The comet "
Everybody was talking of it. Even the president,
as he entered, smiled patronizingly at him, and asked :
" Well, Jim, are you scared ? "
" No," said the messenger shortly.
" I thought we'd journeyed through the comet's
tail once," broke in the junior clerk affably.
"Oh, that was Halley's," said the president; "this
is a new comet, quite a stranger, they say wonder
ful, wonderful! I saw it last night. Oh, by the
way, Jim," turning again to the messenger, " I want
you to go down into the lower vaults today."
The messenger followed the president silently. Of
course, they wanted him to go down to the lower
vaults. It was too dangerous for more valuable men.
He smiled grimly and listened.
"Everything of value has been moved out since
the water began to seep in," said the president; "but
we miss two volumes of old records. Suppose you
nose around down there, it isn't very pleasant, I
" Not very," said the messenger, as he walked out.
" Well, Jim, the tail of the new comet hits us at
noon this time," said the vault clerk, as he passed
over the keys; but the messenger passed silently down
the stairs. Down he went beneath Broadway, where
the dim light filtered through the feet of hurrying
men; down to the dark basement beneath; down into
the blackness and silence beneath that lowest cavern.
Here with his dark lantern he groped in the bowels
of the earth, under the world.
He drew a long breath as he threw back the last
great iron door and stepped into the fetid slime within.
Here at last was peace, and he groped moodily for
ward. A great rat leaped past him and cobwebs
crept across his face. He felt carefully around the
room, shelf by shelf, on the muddied floor, and in
crevice and corner. Nothing. Then he went back
to the far end, where somehow the* wall felt different.
He sounded and pushed and pried. Nothing. He
started away. Then something brought him back.
He was sounding and working again when suddenly
the whole black wall swung as on mighty hinges, and
blackness yawned beyond. He peered in; it was
evidently a secret vault some hiding place of the
old bank unknown in newer times. He entered hesi
tatingly. It was a long, narrow room with shelves,
and at the far end, an old iron chest. On a high
THE COMET 255
shelf lay the two missing volumes of records, and
others. He put them carefully aside and stepped to
the chest. It was old, strong, and rusty. He looked
at the vast and old-fashioned lock and flashed his
light on the hinges. They were deeply incrusted with
rust. Looking about, he found a bit of iron and
began to pry. The rust had eaten a hundred years,
and it had gone deep. Slowly, wearily, the old lid
lifted, and with a last, low groan lay bare its treasure
and he saw the dull sheen of gold !
A low, grinding, reverberating crash struck upon
his ear. He started up and looked about. All was
black and still. He groped for his light and swung
it about him. Then he knew! The great stone door
had swung to. He forgot the gold and looked death
squarely in the face. Then with a sigh he went
methodically to work. The cold sweat stood on his
forehead; but he searched, pounded, pushed, and
worked until after what seemed endless hours his
hand struck a cold bit of metal and the great door
swung again harshly on its hinges, and then, striking
against something soft and heavy, stopped. He had
just room to squeeze through. There lay the body
of the vault clerk, cold and stiff. He stared at it,
and then felt sick and nauseated. The air seemed
unaccountably foul, with a strong, peculiar odor. He
stepped forward, clutched at the air, and fell fainting
across the corpse.
He awoke with a sense of horror, leaped from the
body, and groped up the stairs, calling to the guard.
The watchman sat as if asleep, with the gate swing
ing free. With one glance at him the messenger hur
ried up to the sub-vault. In vain he called to the
guards. His voice echoed and re-echoed weirdly.
Up into the great basement he rushed. Here another
guard lay prostrate on his face, cold and still. A
fear arose in the messenger's heart. He dashed up
to the cellar floor, up into the bank. The stillness
of death lay everywhere and everywhere bowed, bent,
and stretched the silent forms of men. The messen
ger paused and glanced about. He was not a man
easily moved; but the sight was appalling! "Rob
bery and murder/' he whispered slowly to himself
as he saw the twisted, oozing mouth of the president
where he lay half -buried on his desk. Then a new
thought seized him: If they found him here alone
wi^h all this money and all these dead men what
would his life be worth? He glanced about, tiptoed
cautiously to a side door, and again looked behind.
Quietly he turned the latch and stepped out into Wall
How silent the street was ! Not a soul was stirring,
and yet it was high-noon Wall Street? Broadway?
He glanced almost wildly up and down, then across
the street, and as he looked, a sickening horror froze
in his limbs. With a choking cry of utter fright he
lunged, leaned giddily against the cold building, and
stared helplessly at the sight.
In the great stone doorway a hundred men and
women and children lay crushed and twisted and
jammed, forced into that great, gaping doorway like
THE COMET 257
refuse in a can as if in one wild, frantic rush to
safety, they had crushed and ground themselves to
death. Slowly the messenger crept along the walls,
wetting his parched mouth and trying to compre
hend, stilling the tremor in his limbs and the rising
terror in his heart. He met a business man, silk-
hatted and frock-coated, who had crept, too, along
that smooth wall and stood now stone dead with
wonder written on his lips. The messenger turned
his eyes hastily away and sought the curb. A woman
leaned wearily against the signpost, her head bowed
motionless on her lace and silken bosom. Before
her stood a street car, silent, and within but the mes
senger but glanced and hurried on. A grimy news
boy sat in the gutter with the " last edition " in his
uplifted hand: " Danger!" screamed its black head
lines. " Warnings wired around the world. The
Comet's tail sweeps past us at noon. Deadly gases
expected. Close doors and windows. Seek the cel
lar." The messenger read and staggered on. Far out
from a window above, a girl lay with gasping face
and sleevelets on her arms. On a store step sat a
little, sweet-faced girl looking upward toward the
skies, and in the carriage by her lay but the mes
senger looked no longer. The cords gave way the
terror burst in his veins, and with one great, gasping
cry he sprang desperately forward and ran, ran as
only the frightened run, shrieking and fighting the
air until with one last wail of pain he sank on the
grass of Madison Square and lay prone and still.
When he arose, he gave no glance at the still and
25 8 DARKWATER
silent forms on the benches, but, going to a fountain,
bathed his face; then hiding himself in a corner away
from the drama of death, he quietly gripped himself
and thought the thing through : The comet had swept
the earth and this was the end. Was everybody dead ?
He must search and see.
He knew that he must steady himself and keep
calm, or he would go insane. First he must go to a
restaurant. He walked up Fifth Avenue to a famous
hostelry and entered its gorgeous, ghost-haunted halls.
He beat back the nausea, and, seizing a tray from dead
hands, hurried into the street and ate ravenously,
hiding to keep out the sights.
" Yesterday, they would not have served me," he
whispered, as he forced the food down.
Then he started up the street, looking, peering,
telephoning, ringing alarms; silent, silent all. Was
nobody nobody he dared not think the thought and
Suddenly he stopped still. He had forgotten. My
God! How could he have forgotten? He must rush
to the subway then he almost laughed. No a car;
if he could find a Ford. He saw one. Gently he lifted
off its burden, and took his place on the seat. He
tested the throttle. There was gas. He glided off,
shivering, and drove up the street. Everywhere stood,
leaned, lounged, and lay the dead, in grim and awful
silence. On he ran past an automobile, wrecked and
overturned ; past another, filled with a gay party whose
smiles yet lingered on their death-struck lips; on past
crowds and groups of cars, pausing by dead police-
THE COMET 259
men ; at 42nd Street he had to detour to Park Avenue
to avoid the dead congestion. He came back on Fifth
Avenue at 57th and flew past the Plaza and by the
park with its hushed babies and silent throng, until
as he was rushing past 72nd Street he heard a
sharp cry, and saw a living form leaning wildly out
an upper window. He gasped. The human voice
sounded in his ears like the voice of God.
" Hello hello help, in God's name ! " wailed the
woman. " There's a dead girl in here and a man and
and see yonder dead men lying in the street and
dead horses for the love of God go and bring the
officers " And the words trailed off into hys
He wheeled the car in ja sudden circle, running over
the still body of a child and leaping on the curb.
Then he rushed up the steps and tried the door and
rang violently. There was a long pause, but at last
the heavy door swung back. They stared a moment
in silence, he had not noticed before that he was a
Negro. He had not thought of her as white. She was
a woman of perhaps twenty-five rarely beautiful and
richly gowned, with darkly-golden hair, and jewels.
Yesterday, he thought with bitterness, she would
scarcely have looked at him twice. He would have
been dirt beneath her silken feet. She stared at him.
Of all the sorts of men she had pictured as coming
to her rescue she had not dreamed of one like him.
Not that he was not human, but he dwelt in a world
so far from hers, so infinitely far, that he seldom
even entered her thought. Yet as she looked at him
curiously he seemed quite commonplace and usual.
He was a tall, dark workingman of the better class,
with a sensitive face trained to stolidity and a poor
man's clothes and hands. His face was soft and slow
and his manner at once cold and nervous, like fires
long banked, but not out.
So a moment each paused and gauged the other;
then the thought of the dead world without rushed
in and they started toward each other.
"What has happened?" she cried. "Tell me!
Nothing stirs. All is silence! I see the dead strewn
before my window as winnowed by the breath of
God, and see " She dragged him through great,
silken hangings to where, beneath the sheen of mahog
any and silver, a little French maid lay stretched in
quiet, everlasting sleep, and near her a butler lay prone
in his livery.
The tears streamed down the woman's cheeks and
she clung to his arm until the perfume of her breath
swept his face and he felt the tremors racing through
" I had been shut up in my dark room developing
pictures of the comet which I took last night; when I
came out I saw the dead !
" What has happened ? " she cried again.
He answered slowly:
" Something comet or devil swept across the
earth this morning and many are dead ! "
" Many ? Very many ? "
" I have searched and I have seen no other living
soul but you."
THE COMET 261
She gasped and they stared at each other.
" My father ! " she whispered.
"Where is he?"
" He started for the office."
"Where is it?"
" In the Metropolitan Tower."
" Leave a note for him here and come."
Then he stopped.
" No," he said firmly " first, we must go to Har
" Harlem ! " she cried. Then she understood. She
tapped her foot at first impatiently. She looked back
and shuddered. Then she came resolutely down the
" There's a swifter car in the garage in the court,"
" I don't know how to drive it," he said.
" I do," she answered.
In ten minutes they were flying to Harlem on the
wind. The Stutz rose and raced like an airplane.
They took the turn at noth Street on two wheels
and slipped with a shriek into I35th.
He was gone but a moment. Then he returned,
and his face was gray. She did not look, but
" You have lost somebody ? "
" I have lost everybody," he said, simply " un
He ran back and was gone several minutes hours
they seemed to her.
" Everybody," he said, and he walked slowly back
with something film-like in his hand which he stuffed
into his pocket.
" I'm afraid I was selfish," he said. But already the
car was moving toward the park among the dark
and lined dead of Harlem the brown, still faces, the
knotted hands, the homely garments, and the silence
the wild and haunting silence. Out of the park, and
down Fifth Avenue they whirled. In and out among
the dead they slipped and quivered, needing no sound
of bell or horn, until the great, square Metropolitan
Tower hove in sight. Gently he laid the dead elevator
boy aside; the car shot upward. The door of the
office stood open. On the threshold lay the stenog
rapher, and, staring at her, sat the dead clerk. The
inner office was empty, but a note lay on the desk,
folded and addressed but unsent:
Dear Daughter :
I've gone for a hundred mile spin in Fred's new Mer
cedes. Shall not be back before dinner. I'll bring
Fred with me.
J. B. H.
" Come," she cried nervously. " We must search
Up and down, over and across, back again on
went that ghostly search. Everywhere was silence and
death death and silence! They hunted from Mad
ison Square to Spuyten Duyvel; they rushed across
the Williamsburg Bridge; they swept over Brooklyn;
from the Battery and Morningside Heights they
scanned the river. Silence, silence everywhere, and
THE COMET 263
no human sign. Haggard and bedraggled they puffed
a third time slowly down Broadway, under the broil
ing sun, and at last stopped. He sniffed the air. An
odor a smell and with the shifting breeze a sicken
ing stench filled their nostrils and brought its awful
warning. The girl settled back helplessly in her seat.
" What can we do ? " she cried.
It was his turn now to take the lead, and he did
" The long distance telephone the telegraph and
the cable night rockets and then flight ! "
She looked at him now with strength and confidence.
He did not look like men, as she had always pictured
men; but he acted like one and she was content. In
fifteen minutes they were at the central telephone ex
change. As they came to the door he stepped quickly
before her and pressed her gently back as he closed it.
She heard him moving to and fro, and knew his bur
dens the poor, little burdens he bore. When she
entered, he was alone in the room. The grim switch
board flashed its metallic face in cryptic, sphinx-like
immobility. She seated herself on a stool and donned
the bright earpiece. She looked at the mouthpiece.
She had never looked at one so closely before. It
was wide and black, pimpled with usage; inert; dead;
almost sarcastic in its unfeeling curves. It looked
she beat back the thought but it looked, it persisted
in looking like she turned her head and found her
self alone. One moment she was terrified; then she
thanked him silently for his delicacy and turned reso
lutely, with a quick intaking of breath.
" Hello ! " she called in low tones. She was calling
to the world. The world must answer. Would the
world answer? Was the world
She had spoken too low.
"Hello!" she cried, full-voiced.
She listened. Silence! Her heart beat quickly.
She cried in clear, distinct, loud tones : " Hello hello
What was that whirring? Surely no was it the
click of a receiver?
She bent close, she moved the pegs in the holes,
and called and called, until her voice rose almost
to a shriek, and her heart hammered. It was as if
she had heard the last flicker of creation, and the
evil was silence. Her voice dropped to a sob. She
sat stupidly staring into the black and sarcastic mouth
piece, and the thought came again. Hope lay dead
within her. Yes, the cable and the rockets remained;
but the world she could not frame the thought or
say the word. It was too mighty too terrible ! She
turned toward the door with a new fear in her heart.
For the first time she seemed to realize that she was
alone in the world with a stranger, with something
more than a stranger, with a man alien in blood and
culture unknown, perhaps unknowable. It was
awful! She must escape she must fly; he must not
see her again. Who knew what awful thoughts
She gathered her silken skirts deftly about her
young, smooth limbs listened, and glided into a side-
hall. A moment she shrank back: the hall lay filled
THE COMET 265
with dead women; then she leaped to the door and
tore at it, with bleeding fingers, until it swung wide.
She looked out. He was standing at the top of the
alley, silhouetted, tall and black, motionless. Was
he looking at her or away? She did not know she
did not care. She simply leaped and ran ran until
she found herself alone amid the dead and the tall
ramparts of towering buildings.
She stopped. She was alone. Alone! Alone on
the streets alone in the city perhaps alone in the
world! There crept in upon her the sense of decep
tion of creeping hands behind her back of silent,
moving things she could not see, of voices hushed
in fearsome conspiracy. She looked behind and side
ways, started at strange sounds and heard still stran
ger, until every nerve within her stood sharp and
quivering, stretched to scream at the barest touch.
She whirled and flew back, whimpering like a child,
until she found that narrow alley again and the dark,
silent figure silhouetted at the top. She stopped and
rested; then she walked silently toward him, looked
at him timidly; but he said nothing as he handed her
into the car. Her voice caught as she whispered :
And he answered slowly : " No not thatl "
They climbed into the car. She bent forward on
the wheel and sobbed, with great, dry, quivering sobs,
as they flew toward the cable office on the east side,
leaving the world of wealth and prosperity for the
world of poverty and work. In the world behind them
were death and silence, grave and grim, almost cyni-
cal, but always decent; here it was hideous. It clothed
itself in every ghastly form of terror, struggle, hate,
and suffering. It lay wreathed in crime and squalor,
greed and lust. Only in its dread and awful silence
was it like to death everywhere.
Yet as the two, flying and alone, looked upon the
horror of the world, slowly, gradually, the sense of
all-enveloping death deserted them. They seemed to
move in a world silent and asleep, not dead. They
moved in quiet reverence, lest somehow they wake these
sleeping forms who had, at last, found peace. They
moved in some solemn, world- wide Friedhof, above
which some mighty arm had waved its magic wand.
All nature slept until until, and quick with the same
startling thought, they looked into each other's eyes
he, ashen, and she, crimson, with unspoken thought.
To both, the vision of a mighty beauty of vast, un
spoken things, swelled in their souls; but they put it
Great, dark coils of wire came up from the earth
and down from the sun and entered this low lair
of witchery. The gathered lightnings of the world
centered here, binding with beams of light the ends
of the earth. The doors gaped on the gloom within.
H,e paused on the threshold.
" Do you know the code ? " she asked.
" I know the call for help we used it formerly at
She hardly heard. She heard the lapping of
the waters far below, the dark and restless waters
the cold and luring waters, as they called. He
THE COMET 267
stepped within. Slowly she walked to the wall, where
the water called below, and stood and waited. Long
she waited, and he did not come. Then with a start
she saw him, too, standing beside the black waters.
Slowly he removed his coat and stood there silently.
She walked quickly to him and laid her hand on his
arm. He did not start or look. The waters lapped
on in luring, deadly rhythm. He pointed down to the
waters, and said quietly:
" The world lies beneath the waters now may I
She looked into his stricken, tired face, and a great
pity surged within her heart. She answered in a voice
clear and calm, " No."
Upward they turned toward life again, and he
seized the wheel. The world was darkening to twi
light, and a great, gray pall was falling mercifully
and gently on the sleeping dead. The ghastly glare
of reality seemed replaced with the dream of some
vast romance. The girl lay silently back, as the motor
whizzed along, and looked half-consciously for the
elf -queen to wave life into this dead world again.
She forgot to wonder at the quickness with which he
had learned to drive her car. It seemed natural. And
then as they whirled and swung into Madison Square
and at the door of the Metropolitan Tower she gave a
low cry, and her eyes were great! Perhaps she had
seen the elf -queen?
The man led her to the elevator of the tower and
deftly they ascended. In her father's office they gath
ered rugs and chairs, and he wrote a note and laid
it on the desk; then they ascended to the roof and
he made her comfortable. For a while she rested and
sank to dreamy somnolence, watching the worlds
above and wondering. Below lay the dark shadows
of the city and afar was the shining of the sea. She
glanced at him timidly as he set food before her and
took a shawl and wound her in it, touching her rever
ently, yet tenderly. She looked up at him with thank
fulness in her eyes, eating what he served. He watched
the city. She watched him. He seemed very human,
very near now.
" Have you had to work hard ? " she asked softly.
" Always/' he said.
" I have always been idle," she said. " I was rich."
" I was poor," he almost echoed.
" The rich and the poor are met together," she
began, and he finished:
" The Lord is the Maker of them all."
"Yes," she said slowly; "and how foolish our
human distinctions seem now," looking down to the
great dead city stretched below, swimming in unlight-
" Yes I was not human, yesterday," he said.
She looked at him. " And your people were not
my people," she said; "but today " She paused.
He was a man, no more ; but he was in some larger
sense a gentleman, sensitive, kindly, chivalrous,
everything save his hands and his face. Yet yes
"Death, the leveler!" he muttered.
" And the revealer," she whispered gently, rising to
THE COMET 269
her feet with great eyes. He turned away, and after
fumbling a moment sent a rocket into the darkening
air. It arose, shrieked, and flew up, a slim path of
light, and, scattering its stars abroad, dropped on
the city below. She scarcely noticed it. A vision of
the world had risen before her. Slowly the mighty
prophecy of her destiny overwhelmed her. Above the
dead past hovered the Angel of Annunciation. She
was no mere woman. She was neither high nor low,
white nor black, rich nor poor. She was primal
woman; mighty mother of all men to come and Bride
of Life. She looked upon the man beside her and
forgot all else but his manhood, his strong, vigorous
manhood his sorrow and sacrifice. She saw him
glorified. He was no longer a thing apart, a creature
below, a strange outcast of another clime and blood,
but her Brother Humanity incarnate, Son of God and
great All-Father of the race to be.
He did not glimpse the glory in her eyes, but stood
looking outward toward the sea and sending rocket
after rocket into the unanswering darkness. Dark-
purple clouds lay banked and billowed in the west.
Behind them and all around, the heavens glowed in
dim, weird radiance that suffused the darkening world
and made almost a minor music. Suddenly, as though
gathered back in some vast hand, the great cloud-
curtain fell away. Low on the horizon lay a long,
white star mystic, wonderful! And from it fled
upward to the pole, like some wan bridal veil, a pale,
wide sheet of flame that lighted all the world and
dimmed the stars.
In fascinated silence the man gazed at the heavens
and dropped his rockets to the floor. Memories of
memories stirred to life in the dead recesses of his
mind. The shackles seemed to rattle and fall from
his soul. Up from the crass and crushing and cring
ing of his caste leaped the lone majesty of kings long
dead. He arose within the shadows, tall, straight, and
stern, with power in his eyes and ghostly scepters
hovering to his grasp. It was as though some mighty
Pharaoh lived again, or curled Assyrian lord. He
turned and looked upon the lady, and found her gaz
ing straight at him.
Silently, immovably, they saw each other face to
face eye to eye. Their souls lay naked to the night.
It was not lust; it was not love it was some vaster,
mightier thing that needed neither touch of body nor
thrill of soul. It was a thought divine, splendid.
Slowly, noiselessly, they moved toward each other
the heavens above, the seas around, the city grim and
dead below. He loomed from out the velvet shadows
vast and dark. Pearl-white and slender, she shone
beneath the stars. She stretched her jeweled hands
abroad. He lifted up his mighty arms, and they cried
each to the other, almost with one voice, " The world
" Long live the "
"Honk! Honk!" Hoarse and sharp the cry of
a motor drifted clearly up from the silence below.
They started backward with a cry and gazed upon
each other with eyes that faltered and fell, with blood
THE COMET 27:
" Honk ! Honk ! Honk ! Honk ! " came the mad
cry again, and almost from their feet a rocket blazed
into the air and scattered its stars upon them. She
covered her eyes with her hands, and her shoulders
heaved. He dropped and bowed, groped blindly on
his knees about the floor. A blue flame spluttered
lazily after an age, and she heard the scream of an
answering rocket as it flew.
Then they stood still as death, looking to opposite
ends of the earth.
" Clang crash clang ! "
The roar and ring of swift elevators shooting up
ward from below made the great tower tremble. A
murmur and babel of voices swept in upon the night.
All over the once dead city the lights blinked, flickered,
and flamed; and then with a sudden clanging of doors
the entrance to the platform was filled with men, and
one with white and flying hair rushed to the girl
and lifted her to his breast. "My daughter!" he
Behind him hurried a younger, comelier man, care
fully clad in motor costume, who bent above the girl
with passionate solicitude and gazed into her staring
eyes until they narrowed and dropped and her face
flushed deeper and deeper crimson.
" Julia," he whispered; " my darling, I thought you
were gone forever."
She looked up at him with strange, searching eyes.
" Fred," she murmured, almost vaguely, " is the
world gone? "
"Only New York," he answered; "it is terrible
awful! You know, but you, how did you escape
how have you endured this horror? Are you well?
" Unharmed ! " she said.
" And this man here ? " he asked, encircling her
drooping form with one arm and turning toward the
Negro. Suddenly he stiffened and his hand flew to
his hip. "Why!" he snarled. " It's a nigger-
Julia! Has he has he dared "
She lifted her head and looked at her late com
panion curiously and then dropped her eyes with a
" He has dared all, to rescue me," she said quietly,
" and I thank him much." But she did not look
at him again. As the couple turned away, the father
drew a roll of bills from his pockets.
" Here, my good fellow," he said, thrusting the
money into the man's hands, " take that, what's your
" Jim Davis," came the answer, hollow-voiced.
" Well, Jim, I thank you. I've always liked your
people. If you ever want a job, call on me." And
they were gone.
The crowd poured up and out of the elevators,
talking and whispering.
"Who was it?"
"Are they alive?"
"Who was saved?"
" A white girl and a nigger there she goes."
THE COMET 273
"A nigger? Where is he? Let's lynch the
" Shut up he's all right he saved her."
" Saved hell ! He had no business "
" Here he comes."
Into the glare of the electric lights the colored man
moved slowly, with the eyes of those that walk and
"Well, what do you think of that?" cried a by
stander; "of all New York, just a white girl and a
The colored man heard nothing. He stood silently
beneath the glare of the light, gazing at the money
in his hand and shrinking as he gazed; slowly he put
his other hand into his pocket and brought out a baby's
filmy cap, and gazed again. A woman mounted to
the platform and looked about, shading her eyes.
She was brown, small, and toil-worn, and in one arm
lay the corpse of a dark baby. The crowd parted and
her eyes fell on the colored man; with a cry she
tottered toward him.
He whirled and, with a sob of joy, caught her in
r A Hymn to the Peoples
O Truce of God!
And primal meeting of the Sons of Man,
Foreshadowing the union of the World!
From all the ends of earth we come!
Old Night, the elder sister of the Day,
Mother of Dawn in the golden East,
Meets in the misty twilight with her brood,
Pale and black, tawny, red and brown,
The mighty human rainbow of the world,
Spanning its wilderness of storm.
Softly in sympathy the sunlight falls,
Rare is the radiance of the moon;
And on the darkest midnight blaze the stars
The far-flown shadows of whose brilliance
Drop like a dream on the dim shores of Time,
Forecasting Days that are to these
As day to night.
So sit we all as one.
So, gloomed in tall and stone-swathed groves,
The Buddha walks with Christ!
And Al-Koran and Bible both be holy!
In this Thine awful sanctuary,
First and flame-haunted City of the Widened World,
Assoil us, Lord of Lands and Seas !
We are but weak and wayward men,
Distraught alike with hatred and vainglory;
276 A HYMN TO THE PEOPLES
Prone to despise the Soul that breathes within
High visioned hordes that lie and steal and kill,
Sinning the sin each separate heart disclaims,
Clambering upon our riven, writhing selves,
Besieging Heaven by trampling men to Hell!
We be blood-guilty ! Lo, our hands be red !
Not one may blame the other in this sin!
But here here in the white Silence of the Dawn,
Before the Womb of Time,
With bowed hearts all flame and shame,
We face the birth-pangs of a world:
We hear the stifled cry of Nations all but born
The wail of women ravished of their stunted brood !
We see the nakedness of Toil, the poverty of Wealth,
JVe know the Anarchy of Empire, and doleful Death
And hearing, seeing, knowing all, we cry:
Save us, World-Spirit, from our lesser selves!
Grant us that war and hatred cease,
Reveal our souls in every race and hue !
Help us, O Human God, in this Thy Truce,
Jo make Humanity divine!