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An Intellectual History 
of Afro- Americans 













For permission to quote from works published by them 
grateful appreciation is hereby extended to the following: 
Alfred A. Knopf, Dryden Press, Rinehart and Company, Uni- 
versity of North Carolina Press, Little, Brown and Company, 
Harpers, Dodd, Mead, American Historical Association, Co- 
lumbia University Press, Citadel Press, W. E. B. Du Bois, 
Rayford W. Logan, Association for the Study of Negro Life 
and History, Albert and Charles Boni, Quarterly Kev'ieiu of 
Higher Education Among Negroes, Pbylon, Macmillan, Har- 
courtj Brace, Grosset and Dunlap, The Free Press, University 
of Wisconsin Press, University of Chicago Press, Yale Univer- 
sity Press, Viking Press, Prentice-Hall, Chapman and Grimes, 
Houghton-Mifflin, Negro History Bulletin, Cornell University 
Press, American Journal of Sociology, Ronald Press, Doubleday, 
University of Oklahoma Pi'ess, and The Dial Press. 

For special kindnesses extended in connection with his 
efforts at scholarly productivity, the author is indebted to 
Tvv^Iey W. Barker, Jr., John B. Cade, Sr., Felton G. Clark, 
Henry E. Cobb, James S. Galloway, Elton C. Harrison, Rodney 
G. Higgins, Sr., Blyden Jackson, Ralph J. Lowery, Robert E. 
Moran, and William S. Smith. 


Chapter Page 


















DURING THE 1850s 165 




















INDEX 549 

The Task 

Any attempt at writing an intellectual history of the 
Afro-American has as a model such works as Vernon Louis 
Parrington's Mam Currents in American Thought,^ Henry 
Steele Commager's The American Mind,' and Wilbur J. Cash's 
T/je Mind of The South.^ That the mind of the Negro is 
not completely subsumed under topics treated by these scholars 
is predicated on the fact that the Afro-American has held a 
status, hence played a role in the national drama, which is 
in some ways unique. No other segment of our society was 
held in chattel slavery for over two centuries, and no other 
group has been the object of the same brand of segregation and 
discrimination. Because he has held a unique status, he has an 
intellectual history which is in a number of ways unique. 

The author hopes that this volume will have interest not 
only for the general reader, but that its coverage of the main 
facts of Negro History iss so' comprehensive that the work will 
find use as a text in courses on the Negro in American history. 
It is partly with this in mind that he adopted the procedure 
of allowing Negro spokesmen and leaders to speak for them- 
selves as often as was practical.* This study does not purport 
to be either exhaustive of the general subject or definitive in 
any way. That the chapters herein are by no means exhaustive 
of the topics treated is obvious. Perhaps a full-length book 
could be written on each chapter, as indeed already has been 
done in a few instances. 

The central theme of Negro thought has been the quest 
for freedom and equality. Where theory on the race issue is 
concerned, from beginning to end Negro thought is basically 
accommodation and attack thought, just as much of the thought 
of the white South is similarly defensive. Among other things, 
the white South generally has defended states-rights, secession, 
slavery, segregation, the agrarian way of life, and the rights of 
a minority section. On a number of these, the Negro often has 
been on the opposite side from the white South, attacking, 
equally as confident that God, the Bill of Rights, the Consti- 
tution, and right are on his side. In addition to protest against 


his status, much of the defensive element in Negro thought has 
derived from the felt need of defending the race against the 
charge of biological or racial inferiority. 

The mind of the Negro herein outlined is drawn primarily 
"from the record." This record does not show the Negro to 
have been either arrogant or insolent in his quest for equality 
of citizenship, but rather it shows the dominant aspects of his 
"nature" to have been modesty, kindness, humility, frustra- 
tion, and faith. These virtues were extolled even by the rulers 
of the Old South. The portrait does not show the Afro-Ameri- 
can to be without faults. True to the sociological concept of 
polarization, the Afro-American has manifested his nation and 
section's dominant virtues and vices in exaggerated degree. 
Among his more pronounced faults have been a too-often re- 
striction of his W eltanscJoaiiiin g to the narrow coniines of race, 
hypersensitivity, and an inferiority complex which displays 
itself in a thousand and one ways. 

While writing this volume, the author constantly has been 
aware that he was engaging in considerable generalizing, and of 
the well-known dictum that all generalizations are false. Still, 
far from being able to do without generalizations, we com- 
monly aim at them. Such is the goal of all inductive and sci- 
entific thinking. Individual facts and statements have no pat- 
tern or meaning until grouped together. Since interpretation 
is an essential part of historical writing at its best, such group- 
ing and generalizing must be done. What should be insisted on 
is that a writer shall be aware that there are exceptions to prac- 
tically every generalization and that he shall offer evidence to 
support his statements. It is hoped that these rules have been 
adhered to in this work. Despite his precautions, the necessity 
which the writer has had of relying heavily on the written 
record 3Tiay well have given this volume a too-strong middle- 
class coloring. 

In one sense, thoughts comprise or reveal the soul of any 
individual or group. In this volume the author hopes that he has, 
in some small degree, bared the soul of the American Negro, 
to one end, at least, that not only shall white America and the 
world know him better, but that the present-day Negro may 
know himself better. No person of African descent needs to 


be ashamed of that phenomenon which we have chosen to call 
"The Mind of the Negro." 

The Need for An Intellectual History of the Negro 
The history of ideas, or intellectual history, is a fairly 
new field in which there is considerable current interest, John 
Herman Randall, Jr.'s Making of the Modern Mind has be- 
come something of a classic." With The Idea of Progress,'' J. B, 
Bury earlier had shown how fruitful and revealing this ap- 
proach to history can be. The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth 
Century Philosophes, by Carl Becker, used the "ideas" ap- 
proach.' For American history, Vernon Louis Parrington's 
Main Currents in American Thought still stands as perhaps the 
best effort to date over the period covered, while in The 
American Mind,^ Henry Steele Commager ably covers the 
period since 1880, the terminal date of Parrington's treatise. 
In his The Growth of American Thought,'^ Merle Curti ably 
has traversed the whole of American history, and R. H. Gabriel 
has done the same in his The Course of American Democratic 
ThoiLghty^ These titles alone reveal that intellectual history, or 
the tracing and analyzing of ideas, is by no means a completely 
new endeavor. What is relatively new is the effort to establish 
this as a separate field or area of specialization. One of the 
broadest and most concise statements of what this effort in- 
volves is to be found in the Introduction to Crane Brinton's 
volume entitled Ideas and Men.^^ 

As surprising as it may seem, no previous study has been 
published, the main burden of which is to analyze the Negro 
mind in the United States. It is true that studies have been 
made of various aspects of Negro life and thought. Among 
these studies, some which stand out have been The Negro 
Family'^' by E. Franklin Frazier; Negro Labor^'^ by Charles 
Wesley and others; The Negro's God by Benjamin Mays; The 
Negro Atithor^^ by Vernon Loggins; The Negro in Drama^'' 
by Frederick W. Bond; Negro Art by Alain Locke, "^ as well as 
studies of the historian, ^^ the Church,^^ the poet,^^ and educa- 
tion. ^° Although Carter Woodson was interested in the thought 
theme when he edited The Negro Mind as Ke fleeted in Letters 
Written during the Crisis,-'^ that work is scarcely more than a 


compilation. The same is true of Herbert Aptheker's recent 
Documentary History of the American Negro." 

The interest by Howard Odum and other scholars in ana- 
lyzing slave songs may be said to have culminated in Miles 
Mark Fisher's Negro Slave Songs, which appeared in 195 3." 
Beginning in a big way with the interest of Joe Chandler 
Harris, numerous writers have collected, analyzed, and criti- 
cized the folk literature of this people. Scholars have studied 
jazz, the slave, the Afro-American press, and other areas of 
the life and thought of the race. In one degree or another, the 
Negro mind was a consideration of practically all of these 
writers, yet, to tackle the job of sifting through all of these 
diverse manifestations of history, to the end of telling the 
general and broad story of the evolution of the Negro mind, 
no one had done. 

The question may be raised as to whether there is a need 
for tracing the mental development of any one segment of the 
population. One reply would be that this is a long and accepted 
procedure. The Puritan mind has been studied again and again. 
The same is true of the Plainsman, or the Frontiersman, or 
The Mind of the South, or the rural as against the urban 

Such a question as the above probably would be based on 
the premise that the Negro group in its development has not 
deviated from the majority of the population, or that any 
existing deviations are not significant. Further, in such a ques- 
tion the assumption would have to' be made that almost from 
the beginning of its history here, the dark-skinned minority 
was more-or-lcss thoroughly Americanized; even now, how- 
ever, there is some disagreement as to whether so-called Negro 
culture is basically Western or "African." Such a question also 
would have to be based on the assumption that in their larger 
studies, Parrington, Commager, Gabriel, Cash, and others did 
not overlook or slight such sources as songs, poems, sermons, 
histories, speeches, plays, novels, and drama done by the Afro- 
Americans. The latter conclusion would be far from the truth. 
"Except for an occasional Nat Turner, Booker T. Washington, 
or George Washington Carver," states Richard Bardolph, "the 
Negro as a person is missing from the textbooks from which 


the millions learn their history.""* Bardolph goes on to point 
out that the treatment which this minority has received in the 
literature of this country is "largely preoccupied with Negroes 
en masse and as a 'problem,' and has rarely extended to the 
individual, creative Negroes and their contributions to Ameri- 
can society."''' Bardolph's study of the distinguished Negro re- 
vealed that persons of color make up only about six-tenths 
of one percent of the entries in the Dictionary of American 
Biography, and that in the 1950's Who's Who in America 
carried less than one percent of such entries.'*^ 

Class Distinctions and Negro Thought 
American Negroes long have belonged to fairly large and 
distinct groups. For the ante-bellum period there were the free 
persons of the North, free persons of the South, domestic or 
other skilled slaves and field slaves. First in independence, 
freedom, education, militancy and Westernization were the 
free Negroes of the North. Their spokesmen asked and fought 
doggedly for social and political equality. In such urban and 
cosmopolitan centers as Philadelphia, New York, Cincinnati, 
and Boston, members of this group were as vigorous and mod- 
ern in their denunciation of slavery, race or class prejudice 
and other forms of tyranny of man against man as any John 
Locke, Jean Rousseau, Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, or Thomas 
Jefferson. With its numbers enlarged by fugitive slaves, es- 
pecially after 1830, this group formed the substantial body of 
Negro abolitionists. 

There are several reasons why the northern free Negro 
was more militant and articulate than his southern counterpart. 
In the first place, he had less to fear from his white neighbors, 
who even when they were not abolitionists, at least usually 
believed in the right of all Americans to exercise such free- 
doms as the right to speech and assembly. Too, the free Negro 
absorbed the dominant political and social faith of the North, 
a faith which was typified by such documents as the Declara- 
tion of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. 
Finally, the northern free Negro was at almost all times con- 
sciously and actually closer to the genuine citizenship of his 
state and the nation than his southern counterpart. Numerous 


studies of modern revolutions have shown that the most revo- 
lutionary classes and groups are not those farthest down, but 
those closest to the top. It is this fact, in large part, which ex- 
plains in part the post-World War II militancy of the southern 
Negro. He is now too near the top to keep quiet and com- 
placent or to continue the somewhat traditional Uncle Tom 

In both the pre-Civil War and post bellum periods until 
his death in 1895 Frederick Douglass was the main spokesman 
for northern militancy. After his death, W. E. B. DuBois, 
though he worked for years in the South, assumed the primary 
leadership of this group and retained it until he broke with 
the NAACP in the 1930's. Since then the NAACP has re- 
tained the leadership, with Walter White holding the lime- 
light until his death in 195 5. In 1960 it appeared that newer 
more militant groups might be usurping the NAACP position. 

Within the South, which after 1830 became the almost 
exclusive home of and a synonym for slavery, the free Negro 
class came first in degree of Westernization and education. The 
largest numbers of this class were centered in the large cities, 
with Charleston and New Orleans holding top positions. There 
was much white blood in this class, and sometimes fairly close 
social ties existed between members of the ruling class and 
their colored blood relations. The latter usually were proud of 
their white blood and light complexions, while both despising 
and loving their dark-skinned brethren in bondage. In general, 
free mulattoes everywhere probably hoped for an early end to 
slavery and a subsequent uplifting of the freedmen through 
the acquisition of property, education and, culture. 

Members of the free class participated in almost all of the 
major slave plots and rebellions. This, plus the fact that their 
mere existence in the South stirred desires and hopes of free- 
dom in the slaves, caused southern states, especially after 1831, 
to proscribe the freedom, rights, and opportunities of this class. 

Among the slaves, field hands constituted a distinct group 
from those who worked at such occupations as valet, butler, 
cook, maid, overseer, and artisan. Of this, a former slave stated: 

There was a social distinction with the slaves. 
The house and personal servants were on a higher social 


plane than the field slaves, while the colored persons, 
who would associate with the 'po white trash' were 
practically outcasts, and held in very great contempt. 
The slaves who belonged to the lower class of white 
folks, were not considered on the same level as those 
belonging to the 'quality folks' and the slaves of these 
families were the most proud of and bragged of their 
connection with the better families.^' 

In the post-bellum period one finds this same tendency promi- 
nent among the frecdmen. For example, today, the Negro maid, 
butler, or chauffeur who works for the more affluent white 
families is held in higher esteem than those who work for 
persons who do not belong to the first families in the locale. 

Non-field hands had a more intimate social relation with 
the master class and hence absorbed its culture and civilization 
quicker. Scarcely was force needed in the relations between 
these two groups, whereas with field hands the language of the 
lash was the main one spoken. Having an enviable status within 
the institution, non-fi.cld hands were prone to expose slave plots 
and attempts at insurrection or escape. It w?.s the generally 
docile and contented non-field hand class that Ulrich Bonnell 
Phillips and other "pro-slavery" historians of the South have 
depicted as possessing characteristic behavior for the Negrc in 
general. On the other hand, abolitionist and other "anti-slav- 
ery" writers sometimes have generalized almost exclusivly from 
the attitudes toward the institution which were depicted by 
the free Negro of the North. However, of the total colored 
population in the nation, fi.eld hands v\'ere most numerous. By 
virtue of their circumstances they were forced to be more 
other-worldly in their hopes and aspirations, and to concen- 
trate keenly on the niatter of sheer survival. If one must utilize 
the strictly erroneous approach of generalizing about the race 
from the characteristics of one of its classes, because thev rep- 
resented the largest group or class, the field hands would be 
the most logical choice. They were definitely not the persistently 
militant creatures depicted by Herbert Aptheker and other 
Marxist-oriented historians, nor were they always or often the 
contented, docile, semi-buffoons delineated by Ulrich Phillips 
and scholars of similar biases. 


There was no single outstanding and common spokesman 
for the conservative ante-bellum tradition of the southern 
slave. This is because, w^hile the slaves had common hopes and 
aspirations, they possessed no common action or program. For 
the slave, realities of the southern geography, economy, and 
political considerations made group action impossible. 

The existence of groups or classes within ante-bellum 
Negro society indicates that one might more rationally entitle 
an intellectual history of the race, "The Minds of the Negro." 
This, however, is no more true of the colored American than 
would be the case with such volumes as H. S. Commager's 
TJoe American Mind, or John H. Randall, Jr.'s Making of the 
Modern Mind. In either case the plural would be more exact. 
But as with all such works, there are so many similarities and 
basic patterns of thought until one is justified in using the 
singular "mind" so long as he does so with caution, and with 
an awareness of class, sectional, and other differences. It is 
neither more appropriate nor inappropriate to speak of "the 
Negro" than it is to speak of "thq American," or the "West- 
erner," or "the Asiatic." 

The deluge of civil war did not destroy class divisions 
among Negroes. The South's old free class and non-field hands 
now merged to form an "upper" class which represented a 
highly Westernized group which was proud of its light com.- 
plexion and relatively high degree of civilization and culture. 
Often more cautious and conservative than the masses, they 
continued the pre-war attitude which saw them both despising 
and loving the descendants of field hands. As the latter still 
constituted the majority of the race, this contempt often had, 
and has today, the character of contempt for the race in general. 
Thus, the disparagement which Negroes sometimes have shown 
for their race stems in part from an upper class view of the 
crudeness and backwardness of the lower majority class, as well 
as being in part an unconscious acceptance of the attitude and 
views of the white dominant majority. 

Until recently the masses of Afro-Americans have been 
descendants of field hand slaves. As in the dark days of slavery, 
oppression and lack of opportunity were the diseases which 
mainly explain their plight. E. Franklin Frazier has shown well 


how crime, illegitimacy, desertion by fathers and husbands, 
and matriarchy were some of the malign characteristics among 
these "folk culture""* individuals. That their lot long pre- 
sented a brighter side, however, there can be little doubt, still 
it was mainly the plight of this large group of lower-class per- 
sons which led Booker Washington realistically to advocate as 
a program for his race "industrial" education, "character" 
training, thrift and abstinence from agitation for political and 
social equality. The slave tradition of advance through con- 
servatism, seemingly broken by the brief period of Radical 
Reconstruction, a period when so-called Carpetbaggers and 
Scalawags actually dominated the stage, was epitomized by the 
Washington leadership from 1895 until his death in 1915. 
Though it lacked a dominant personality after the latter date, 
this tradition remained strong in the South until the World 
War II period, when a number of forces combined to cause 
the mind of the southern Negro to lose much of its old dis- 
tinctiveness and to merge with that of the militant northern 

While the Negro of the North generally has represented 
the vanguard of the race's militancy, liberalism, culture, and 
Westernization, and has provided much of the leadership in 
such thought and action, his feelings and convictions probably 
have represented the highest aspirations of the southern colored 
masses. Of necessity the southerner's methods have been differ- 
ent, but not his goals. It is no exaggeration to state that al- 
most all Negroes of the ante-bellum period despised the insti- 
tution of slavery and wished its early demise, or that given a 
good opportunity, they worked in some small way to hasten 
its over-throw. Since 1865 practically all colored Americans 
have desired as their ultimate condition complete social, eco- 
nomic, political, and civil equality. Practically all constantly 
have viewed this country as their home, and have not wished 
to be expatriated or colonized. Their political and social faith 
has been the traditional faith of America, and they speedily 
and unhesitatingly have risen to the colors when the nation 
was imperilled by war. By and large, they ha\^e been basically 
American since the early days of slavery, and their so-called 
racial traits are simply American traits, accentuated here and 


there by historic circuinstance. Their behavior is to be ex- 
plained in terms of the national culture. This does not deny 
the survival of certain African words, dances, and similar 
idioms, but these survivals have become a part of the total 
national culture. 

That the Negro masses, southerners always, have been di- 
rectly influenced by many of the same geographical and cul- 
tural factors which W. J. Cash so excellently outlined in his 
The Mind of the South is not to be denied. The same hardship, 
poverty, and long distances between farms and plantations has 
helped to create in the Afro-American the spirit of southern 
hospitality. The same primitive unlettered existence so long 
characteristic of the white southern masses has helped to give 
the Negro a bent toward a hedonistic, unrealistic, romantic, -^5l 
dreaminess about life. The same is true of some other southern^^ 
characteristics, but differences, too, there have been in the 
thought of the two races. At times the mind of the South out- 
lined by Cash is the Negro mind only in broadest outlines. For 
example, the love of the latter for the South is not expressed 
in the same mood as is that of the white native of the section. 
The love of the Negro is more often mixed with feelings of 
disappointment and bitterness. This obviously is so because the 
South is the dark-skinned Americans home, but it has been, 
and still is at times his oppressor also. Too, the early and 
lengthy frontier environment of the South has not imparted 
the lynch-law spirit to the Afro-American, as Cash so well 
shows that it has done for the white South, and the realities 
of slavery and oppression often have shocked the colored south- 
erner out of his romantic and dreamy attitude toward life. 
The black had to be more realistic and objective to sur- 
vive. Another exainple of difference is the fact that the Negro 
does not "hate" the "damned Yankee" as does the white south- 
erner, but often, though not always, regards the Yankee as a 
friend and humanitarian. 

Just as, in Frederick Jackson Turner's learned opinion, the 
existence of the West did much to make the frontiersman 
American, so the present writer believes slavery and oppression 
did the same for the Negro. The realities of slavery, and op- 
pression, perhaps as much as any other factors, forced the race 


to be patient, gradualistic, legalistic, pacifistic, egalitarian, in.^>r 
genious, and resourceful. Too, as was the case with the Westerrt'^^ 
frontier, in addition to causing a negation of democracy, the 
presence of the Negro in the United States has been a great 
catalyst to and creator of American democracy. Central to the 
"color problem" in this country always have been vital ques- 
tions on the nature of human freedom, dignity, the nature of 
man, democracy, and the Christian religion, the resolution of 
which has produced not only such obvious results as the thir- 
teenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments to the Federal 
Constitution, and the May 17, 1954 Supreme Couit decision 
against compulsory segregation in public school education, but 
in many less obvious ways has forced the nation to re-think 
and sharpen its concept and practice of Christianity and de- 
mocracy. With the rise of the colored masses of humanity which 
the twentieth century is witnessing, having to resolve a racial 
and color problem on the domestic scene may yet prove a 
blessing in disguise for the nation. 





It is perhaps well known by now that the first Negroes to 
come to America were not slaves. As servants, laborers, sailors, 
and fighters, they were with Balboa when he discovered the 
Pacific Ocean, with Cortez when he overthrew Montezuma, 
with DeSoto on his epic exploration, with Mendez at the found- 
ing of St. Augustine, perhaps eveni with Columbus. But it was 
as slaves that they first came in significant numbers, almost a 
million in the sixteenth century, almost three million in the 
seventeenth, and over twice that number in the eighteenth 
century. Practically everyone knows, too, that Negroes were 
first brought to the English settlements in 1619, and that from 
Virginia they slowly appeared in all of the colonies. 

Probably the first slaves to be brought to what is now the 
United States of America came in 1526. This was a Spanish 
settlement in South Carolina headed by the colonizer, Lucas 
Vasquez de Ayllon, and it included about six hundred persons, 
one-sixth of whom were Negro slaves. Within eight months, 
disease, dissension, and Indian hostility caused this project to 
be abandoned, the Spaniards going to Haiti, while the slaves 
were left among the Indians. The latter thus became the first 
permanent, non-Indian settlers within the present limits of the 
United States of America. 

Although it is true that before Negroes were brought to 
America they had known slavery in Africa, Arabia, and me- 
dieval Europe, nowhere had they known it on such a large 
scale and with such disregard for anything save the profit mo- 
tive. Over-population and absence of the plantation system in 
Africa, Arabia, and Europe usually had made slavery imprac- 
tical save as an ornament of wealth, but the labor shortage 
which the Occident knew from 1500 A.D. - 1900 A.D. was 
the greatest that history had ever known. It was to supply this 
labor need that the Negro was brought from Africa to 

Recent research has pointed out that West Africa, which 
supplied most of the New World's slaves was not as isolated 
in the middle ages as has been popularly thought, and that the 


culture of West Africa's Negroes at the beginning of the 
modern period was considerably higher than that of the New 
World's aborigines. Thus we are led to believe that the Negro 
survived midst New World slavery not because he possessed 
any physical advantages over the Indians, but because the 
Negro's culture was advanced to a point where it could with- 
stand the economic, social, and political demands placed on it 
in the Occident. Too, the fact that Negroes had long practiced 
chattel slavery in Africa and the medieval Arab slave trade 
probably made it easier for them to accept in America. Although 
the agricultural and oligarchichal nature of their culture in 
Africa probably helped prepare Africans for these same condi- 
tions in America, as bondsmen here some would erect the fic- 
tion that before the white man came to Africa all was equality, 
democracy, harmony, and brotherhood. 

The slave trade increased and intensified wars in Europe, 
America, and Africa, as from five to fifteen million Africans 
were brought out of Africa. Negroes often compared the man- 
ner of their enslavement with piracy, and they were very 
elevated when on January 1, 1808 the federal act went into 
effect prohibiting the slave trade. Little did they realize then 
how close the newly invented cotton gin would come to making 
this law virtually a dead letter, for so great became the 
South's need for labor that the smuggling in of slaves from 
Africa continued to the very eve of the Civil War. Further, 
legislation against the African trade, coupled with declining 
profits from tobacco-raising in the upper South while cotton 
was booming in the lower South, erected a very large domestic 
slave trade. In 1836 Virginia alone exported approximately 
120,000 bondsmen to the lower South. 

In 1650 there had been only about 300 Negroes in Vir- 
ginia. By 1700 the number was increasing so rapidly that be- 
fore the end of the slave era, Virginia's slave population would 
number around one-half million, more than in any other state. 
In 1724, with a total population of less than 200,000, the 
Carolinas had three times'; as many slaves as white persons. Al- 
though none of the lower southern states had entered the 
Union when the first census was taken in 1790, by 1830 the 
lower South had 604,000 slaves. 


Slaves in the U.S.A. increased from 700,000 in 1790 to 
over 2„000,000 by 1830, hence more than doubled in less than 
a half century. In the thirty years after 183 the slave popu- 
lation again doubled, and was one-half of the South's total 
population. This tremendous increase, all coming within the 
lifetime of a few long-lived bondsmen, must have had a great 
effect on the thought of the bondsmen, increasing their doubts 
that such a thriving institution ever would fall, while on the 
other hand, hopes were increased by the dynamism of such 
rapid change. 

In the South the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel 
in Foreign Parts had opened schools for the slaves during the 
17th century. During this same century, in New England, 
John Eliot and Cotton Mather, among others, were interested 
in teaching the slaves. Although restricted to a relatively small 
number of Negroes, education was to be a prime force behind 
the race's resistance to slavery. 

The Haitian revolt began in 1791, and was dominated by 
the personality and leadership of Toussaint L'Ouverture from 
1794-1800. The effect of this revolt on slavery in the United 
States was much more widespread than is commonly known. 
In the fear of domestic insurrection which the Haitian revolt 
engendered in this country, schools, where they existed, were 
closed to the slaves, tougher slave codes were passed, and more 
careful observation of slave behavior began. On the mind of 
the slave the Haitian revolt had a similarly large effect, in- 
creasing their faith that freedom was at hand, and that they, 
through their own militancy, would have to play a part in 
bringing it about. 

It is to the twentieth century's heroes of such hell-holes 
as Belsen, Daschau, and Buchenwald that one has to turn to 
find lessons in man's strength-in-adversity comparable to that 
strength which the Negro slave exhibited when, out of the 
depths of despair and sorrow, they gave forth their spine- 
tingling rhythm, laughter, gaiety, and the heavenly music of 
the spirituals. Reflecting on these gifts today we know again 
that nowhere is any tragedy ever absolute or complete. 

Chapter I 

TJje Problem of Inevitability 

Because of the light which it may shed on the problem 
of why slavery was fated to disappear in the United States^ and 
the Western world, the present essay proposes to examine the 
frontier theory as it may be related to the slavery question. 
As traditionally stated by its proponents, this view holds that 
the frontier is the rock on which slavery broke." 

Although the moral, economic, and cultural determinists 
hold that the Civil War was inevitable, the present writer be- 
lieves that only the demise of slavery was inevitable. In the fact 
that the institution might have been eliminated without war, 
as was the case of abolition by England and France, lies justi- 
fication for the theory that inept leaders in both sections blun- 
dered into war. While slavery was fated to disappear, the Civil 
War was not inevitable, but was, like most wars, a tragedy 
which resulted when men failed to find and act with sufficient 
resolve on more intelligent alternatives. Wars originate not with 
the gods, or fate, or some other inevitability, but with men 
who always have alternatives. 

As to that other inevitability, for too long we in the 
United States have committed the error of seeking locally for 
the reasons why slavery was doomed. That any purely or largely 
domestic answer is wholly inadequate is seen in the fact that 
the disappearance of slavery in the nineteenth century was not 
a phenomenon peculiar to this country, but was rather general 
over the whole of Western civilization. Since the phenomenon 
was general, the cause must be general. Once this cause is as- 
certained, in order to solve that other riddle of why in the 
United States the institution's disappearance was attended by 
war, it would be necessary only to determine what special fac- 
tors existed here which were absent from other places. Al- 
though we do not propose to make a full investigation of this 
latter inquiry, already it appears that the most significant dif- 
ference lies in two facts. The first is that in most places, when 


heavy assaults were made on the institution, profits from the 
shive-grown produce were declining." In the United States, on 
the contrary, these heavy assaults were attended by the con- 
stantly rising price of cotton, the chief slave-produced staple. 
The second fact is that outside the United States both heavy 
assaults upon the institution and the decision to end it came 
from a source whose preponderance of power was so great as 
to present no prospect of a successful resort to arms by the 
defendants. Within the United States, however, the South 
had a reasonable chance of making good its threat of secession. 
For the British and French colonists ih-a-ih the mother coun- 
tries, there was no such probability. 

Walter P. Webb has pointed out that everywhere slavery 
appeared with the opening of the frontier and ended when the 
frontier age approached its end.^ According to this view, the 
frontier sired the institution of slavery which readily presented 
itself as a most practical means by which the vast economical 
potential presented by a virgin v/orld could be speedily realized. 
Without slavery, Eric Williams has declared, "the great devel- 
opment of the Caribbean sugar plantations, between 1650 and 
18 5G, would have been impossible."^ The same is true through- 
out the colonial world where slavery appeared. Exploitation of 
the frontier was essentially an economic problem. Slavery was 
primarily an economic institution. The latter fact is often ob- 
scured by the moral and racial implications which still loom 
large to those of us so little removed in time from abolitionists 
and civil war. Of this, William states: 

A racial twist has thereby been given to what is basic- 
ally an economic phenomenon. Slavery was not born 
of racism: rather, racism was the consequence of slav- 
ery. Unfree labor in the New World was brown, 
white, black, and yellow; Catholic, Protestant and 

The system of unfree labor in the New World did not origi- 
nate with the Negro, but with white Europeans and Indians 
as its first object. Negroes, writes U. B. Phillips, "were late 
comers fitted into a system already developed."^ Not hisi color, 
but the availability, 'cheapness, and efficiency of his labor ex- 
plains why the black man came to be the chief object of slavery. 


It is true that the frontier not only gave rise to slavery 
but, for a time, fed the vitals of the institution and prolonged 
its life. Thus the frontier had a dual effect on the institution. 
Those who see no significant effect of the frontier on slavery 
are usually guilty of taking the short view. In this area, if one 
is to speak with validity of results of the frontier, an indis- 
pensable precondition is that he shall take the long view."^ When 
the long view is used, it readily can be seen that several factors, 
which drew much of their impetus from the frontier, worked 
mightily to bring the institution to its demise. Then can it be 
seen that the disappearance of slavery was but one phase of 
the dem.ocratic and technological revolutions which have been 
wracking the modern world during the past two centuries. 
Among other things, the democratic revolution has seen growth 
of the idea that no man is inherently inferior to another, hence 
no man has the right to degrade another. The technological 
revolution has seen archaic and inefficient forms of economic 
and social organization constantly eliminated in favor of more 
efficient ones. Substitution of the power of steam, electricity, 
atom, and machine for that derived from relatively inefficient 
huiTicin muscles is one aspect of this technological revolution. 
But as we hope, to show, contrary to the general view of pro- 
ponents of the frontier hypothesis, rather than being a direct 
cause, the frontier was the cause behind the cause behind the 
cause, and there were further causes behind the frontier cause. 

With the long view it may be seen that the frontier 
doom.ed slavery by providing a powerful stimulus to the growth 
of commercial and industrial capitalism in the United States in 
general and the Western World in particular. Present economic 
development of this nation reveals that the early concentration 
of this phenomenon in the Northeast was temporary only. 
Industrialization is now national in scope and there seems to 
have been a strong element of inevitability in the inexorable 
manner which this dynamic force relentlessly crushed agrar- 
ianism into subordination. North and South, East and West. 

Also, the frontier doomed slavery by giving rise to the 
modern corporation, which is the institutionalization of the 
process of work originally done by individuals. Anv corporation 
is the group at work. "The corporation," declares Walter P. 


Webb, "moved into the position occupied by the individual, 
taking over most of the work, most of the tools, and most of 
the substances. Its success piled up wealth succeeding all 
bounds.'""' This gargantuan success made it possible to "finish 
off" the frontier faster, and as a consequence finish off the in- 
stitution of chattel slavery, which was born of and fed on, the 
frontier. The corporation made chattel slavery backward and 
outdated, for the latter remained too near the original indi- 
vidualistic work basis, to survive in a society which had evolved 
to a higher level. As the corporation helped kill the laissez- 
faire theory and practice, so it helped sweep chattel slavery into 

The frontier doomed slavery again, because, when it made 
available a plentitude of land and economic opportunity, land 
monopolies and other types of monopoly became anomalous. 
Monopoly hiis no place in a society of great and open oppor- 
tunitv. It is peculiarly characteristic of societies of scant or 
closed opportunity. While the frontier lasted, the abundance 
tq which it gave rise made it unnecessary that either the state 
should prey heavily on its subjects or that subjects should prey 
heavily on one another. Wealth generally tends to be a liberat- 
ing influence. Just as no poverty-stricken m?n is free, most 
subjects in a poverty-stricken state are not free. Herbert Apthe- 
ker has shown that under the slave regime the treatinent of 
slaves and their restiveness varied as the fortunes of the Old 
South went repeatedly from famine to prosperity.^" Perhaps 
enough economic prosperity in the South ultimately would 
have freed the slave, ^^ for then he would not have been needed. 
Despite the constantly increasing price of cotton, the section's 
continued over-all poverty kept the institution alive, much as 
this poverty later gave rise to and fed such phenomena as 
share-cropping, lynching, segregation, and race riots. In the 
mid-twentieth century, economic prosperity is contributing 
greatly to a solution of the South's race problem. 

While the plantation system had its origins in abundance 
of good farm land and scarcity of labor, in the South this 
system found itself in conflict with democratizing frontier 
forces almost as soon as it became well organized. Slavery was 
inimical to the frontier ethos which capitalism epitomized. 


Adam Smith, chief spokesman of this spirit, denounced slavery 
and declared that: "A person who can acquire no property can 
have no other interest than to eat as much, and to labour as 
little as possible."^" 

The frontier ethos emphasized "freedom, independence, in- 
dividualism, self-reliance, courage, initiative, aggressiveness, and 
finally industry."^" Of this, Webb states: 

All the high words the frontier man used to describe 
himself and to express his egoistic ideal meant ivork 
of one sort or another , . . independence, freedom, 
self-reliance, and individualism mean that each man 
expects to act for himself. It is I who possess these 
attributes; every man on the frontier is an I because 
society has been atomized down to its elemental par- 
ticles each of which is an 7.^' 

To be dependent on the labor of another, as was the slave- 
owner, was contrary to this spirit. 

The frontier not onlv doomed slavery by helping create 
the individual but by serving as a magnet which for four cen- 
turies drew millions of oppressed peoples across the ocean in 
quest of a new measure of opportunity, freedom, security, and 
self-respect. The deep-seated cravings and ambitions of these 
millions were diametrically opposed to all that slavery repre- 
sented. A republic in which all men are free and equal before 
the law existed in their minds and hearts long before they, in 
Civil War, took a major step toward making the dream a 
reality. Slavery was a clear-cut violation of their image of 
America, and it may be doubted that any major institution 
which is antithetical to this dream can ever long endure. 

The increasing tide of immigration worked in still another 
way to doom this institution. Slavery was the outgrowth of 
one of history's greater labor shortages. Just as early white 
male immigrants at times used Indian and Negro women as 
concubines because there was a shortage of white women in 
the colonies, they used forced red, brown, black, and yellow 
labor in their mines and fields because there was an acute short- 
age of manpower. Immigration ended the acuteness of the labor 

Also, because this type of labor and economic exploitation 


generally is quick to burn out the soil, the institution required 
ever newer fertile land. "Expansion," writes Eric Williams, "is 
a necessity of slave societies."^' For a while the ever-receding 
West or frontier supplied the institution with the vitally needed 
room for expansion. But what was to happen when the available 
room was exhausted? The South knew that without ever-newer 
fertile land the system would have become economically im- 
practical, and its aggressive expansionism frightened the North 
into believing that the house-divided was in danger of becom- 
ing considerably less than half-free. 

Still in another way the passing of the frontier spelled 
doom for slavery. Walter Webb points out that with the passing 
of the frontier must come a renunciation of the profit miOtive. 
He states that the masses in Europe and America already have 
been forced to renounce the freedom they once owned to use 
their tools and labor directly for profit, and that the corpora- 
tion is the last great stronghold of the capitalistic ethos. The 
corporation too, he believes, must surrender the profit motive 
in favor of what John Dev/cy called a "shared culture," or some 
form, of socialism.^'' Inasmuch as chattel slavery existed pri- 
marily as a capitalistic profit - making enterprise, this trend 
toward a non-profit shared culture may be said to have doonied 

Too, the frontier doomed slavery by dictating that ours 
would be a highly fluid society. Geoffrey Barraclough has de- 
clared: "The open spaces, the moving frontier, the flow of 
population, stood in the way of the formation of stable social 
and regional groups."^' In another place Barraclough points to 
yet another trend into which slavery could not fit. "The con- 
qixest of the frontier," he writes, "for good or for evil, has 
made the whole world one."^^ One might add that as this trend 
doomed slavery, many contemporary events indicate a com- 
parable fate for all programs of racial discrimination. 

Of the many tremendously important changes evident 
when the pre- 193 9 world is compared with that of post- 194 5, 
Barraclough singles out the most "overshadowing" of "all else" 
to be "the starting change in relations between the white and 
the coloured races." "May it not be," he concludes, "that, in a 
couple of centuries, the war of 1939-45 will appear not as the 


last in a long succession o£ successful struggles to prevent a 
European hegemony, but rather as the decisive conflict in which 
Europe . . . surrendered mastery to the coloured peoples?"^' 
If there can be validity in this viewpoint, might it not also be 
valid to consider the emancipation of slaves in the American 
Civil War of 1861-65 as but one of the steps by which the 
hegemony of the white j'ace was transferred to that of the 
colored? At least emancipation from slavery and colonialism 
were pre-conditions for the possibility which Barraclough raises. 

The Frontier and the Soiitb 

In view of the above-stated position relative to the potency 
of frontier-derived anti-slavery factors, the question may well 
be raised as to why they seem to have had so little effect on the 
South. While it is true that the most conspicuous manner in 
which these forces hit the South was indirectly, through the 
North as an instrument, they had considerable direct influ- 
encej. As Wilbur J. Cash has shown,""" the ante-bellum South 
itself was largely a frontier. Thus, from within and without 
frontier forces beat upon the section, and in both instances 
they were often frustrated by the southerners' dogged deter- 
mination to hold time still and maintain a static culture. 
Leaders of the section were convinced that they had achieved 
Plato's republic. Imperial Rome, and the Middle Ages of Sir 
Walter Scott all rolled into one, and it took the ruthless will 
and might of a section almost completely moved by the frontier 
impulse to force the South to give up the past and live in a 
present which was, to a very large extent, a one-sided creation 
of a one-sided frontier. Yet, as stated, even while it was con- 
sciously resisting aspects of the frontier impulse, unconsciously 
the South was accepting and adopting many other of its as- 
pects. Here is a source of some of the paradoxes which have 
been so persistent in southern life. 

Because of the existence of one or more powerful institu- 
tions which hold antipathy to a new on-rushing force, the 
effect of the latter may be slowed, if not negated altogether. 
In the United States the frontier impetus was only slowed and 
modified by the medieval way of life of the ante-bellum South, 
but in Latin America, even to the present day, aspects of this 


way of life practically negate much of the frontier impetus. 
A similar case is seen in the Russia of 1100-1800 A.D. where, 
partly through the influence of a church which had grown 
hostile toward the pretensions and practices of Roman Catho- 
licism, the nation successfully beat back waves emanating from 
the Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment. Even more 
ancient is the case of Greece and Rome. After the seventh and 
sixth centurv B.C. colonization, a strong frontier impulse came 
resounding back upon Greek life and thought. The same is true 
of Rome following her conquest of Carthage and the remainder 
of the Mediterranean world. Yet so firmly was slavery en- 
trenched in these societies that in neither instance was the 
frontier impetus sufficient to dislodge it. 

In the South the equalitarian urge bred by plentiful op- 
portunity actually helped to fasten slavery more firmly on the 
section. Enterprising lower and middle class persons came to 
feel that the number of acres and slaves possessed constituted 
a mark of distinction, and, wanting to be equal to the top 
"aristocrats" in their area and those of the Tidewater region, 
these persons sometimes began with a few acres and slaves and 
in fifteen or twenty years were great planters and slave-owners. 
Ironically, it was their desire and opportunity to rise in the 
economic and social scale — a democratic phenomenon — which 
caused the incubus of slavery — an undemocratic phenomenon — 
to grow to gigantic proportions. 

TJye Frontier and the Slave 

Just as it affected slavery through the mental and institu- 
tional forms which it birthed in white America, the frontier 
also had a profound impact on the mind of the slaves them- 
selves. The frontier helped mould the slaves into a force which 
contributed significantly to the demise of the institution which 
long held them in a vise-like grip. Here another problem is 
encountered, for a major difficulty in considering the southern 
frontier is that in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it 
was never isolated enough for the indigenous elements of the 
culture to develop in anything like a pure form. Thus, toj ele- 
ments in the mind of the slave which had their source in the 
South, there was constantly being added those acquired from 


the North and Toussaint L'Ouverture's Santo Domingo con- 
stantly beat upon the mind of the slave, ever modifying and 
altering it. Two streams, one liberal and the other conserva- 
tive, met in the mind of the slave. Here is one source of many 
subsequent paradoxes in Negro thought and behavior. 

There can be little doubt that midst his misery and de- 
gradation, the bondsman caught the hope and optimism which 
the nation's great economic boom and opportunities for the 
individual afforded. For too long only the pessimistic and 
other-worldly aspects of slave thought have been emphasized. 
However, the spirituals show pessimism and optimism, and 
mundane matters and materialistic considerations often domi- 
nated slave thought just as they did that of white America."^ 
Although they had their moments of doubt and despair, the 
pre-Civil War thought of Frederick Douglass, William Wells 
Brown, James W. C. Pennington and others of the Negro 
Abolitionist group was often optimistic. Later Booker Wash- 
ington would epitomize this optimism, even while telling the 
members of his race that they should fight on fronts other than 
the political and civil rights ones.'' 

Like the rest of America, and especially the white south- 
erner, the Negro received much of his love of freedom, egali- 
tarianism, boisterousness, disdain for things intellectual and 
cultural, combative proclivity and love of violence, individual- 
ism, garrulousness, and contempt for thrift from the frontier. 
Also for substantially the same reasons, the same religious de- 
nominations which found the frontier especially fertile soil also 
found great favor with the slave. As is well known, these were 
largely the Baptist and Methodist denominations. 

The fluidity and dynamic character which the frontier 
imparted caused the slave to see that little in American society 
remained long unchanged. His awareness of this, plus aboli- 
tionist sentiments and activities here and abroad, caused the 
bondsman to sing — "I'm so glad, trouble don't last always," 
and "Stand the storm, it won't be long, we'll anchor by and 
by." Proof that this optimism was sometimes very impatient 
is seen in the well-known actions of Gabriel Prosser, Nat 
Turner, Denmark Vesey, and the significant host whose story 
is told so well in Aptheker's Negro Slave Revolts. Thus it may 


be seen that the frontier worked through the slave, black aboli- 
tionists, and black troops of 1862-65 to help pull down the 
nefarious institution. 

The Frontier and the North 
By 1861 the North had become completely a frontier cre- 
ation. The will of the frontier was thus the will of the North, 
and through this instrument slavery and the whole static and 
archaic southern way of life were brought to their end. Capi- 
talism, industrialism, immigration, the gospel of work and the 
profit motive, cqualitarianism, initiative, self-reliance, industry, 
all of these reached their high point of development in the 

To the view that the frontier impetus created desires, in- 
stitutions, and a state of mind in America which doomed 
slavery, the objection can be raised that neither in the North 
or South did a majority favor abolition. But majorities almost 
never decide the course of history. Of one significant minority, 
Peter Geyl states: "The accusation of the Abolitionists was such 
a painful iiit because in it there spoke the spirit of the times. "'^ 
On this, Geyl continues: 

Behind that little group of fanatics there stood the 
silent condemnation of the free North, of Europe, of 
the world. By clinging to its 'peculiar institution' the 
South cut itself adrift from the modern development 
of Western civilization, isolated itself in an obstinate 
and wilful self-righteousness, and fell under the spell 
of its wildest, blindest, and most reactionary ele- 
Thus it is that Yankeedom was a willing mistress to her frontier 
suitor and adopted so many of this impulsive lover's thoughts 
and ways that they came to see eye-to-eye and ceased for a 
time to quarrel. Not until the furthermost extent of that virgin 
land farther and farther Westward had been reached did the 
West-Northeast marriage of 1830-1865 show clear signs of 
being headed for the divorce court. And the fact that the North 
"went frontier whole-hog," adopting frontier greed, narrow- 
mindedness, often-reckless individualism, and contempt for 
things cultural gave the South a valid reason for her refusal 
to be seduced by Yankee wiles. 

Chapter II 


The continent of Africa is daily growing in economic, 
political, and cultural significance. In the late 19 50s a Negro 
newspaper in St. Louis, Missouri contained the statement that 
the newly independent state of Ghana holds significance for 
Negro Americans which is comparable to that which Israel 
holds for Jewish Americans. How much truth is there in such 
a statement? Or better still, what does Africa and its history 
m.ean to American Negroes? Opinions on this vary greatly, 
for in an opposite vein from that contained in the St. Louis 
newspaper, the most eminent of all Negro Sociologists stated 
that most educated Negroes have little but contempt and dis- 
dain for Africa and its peoples. This sociologist, Professor E. 
Franklin Frazier, wrote: 

The black bourgeoisie have shown no interest in 
the 'liberation' of Negroes except as it affected their 
own status or acceptance by the white community. 
They viewed with scorn the Garvey Movement with 
its nationalistic aims. They showed practically no in- 
terest in the Negro Renaissance. They have attempted 
to conform to the behavior and values of the white 
community in the most minute details.^ 

When the Negro press shows an interest in Africa, Pro- 
fessor Frazier avers, this interest is limited to the social life and 
other activities of the educated elite in the African states, 
hence, does not extend to the masses of Africans. Writing one 
year earlier than Professor Frazier, Margaret Just Butcher ap- 
parently agreed with Donald Young that "the ordinary Negro 
knows little or cares less about African ways ot life."" 

What is the truth between these two rather extreme 
views? While the following does not give a categorical answer 
to this question, such a survey of the statements which Afro- 
Americans have made from time to time respecting that con- 
tinent and its peoples may shed light on the question. 



Those millions of slaves who were brought to America 
from Africa would have been less than human if they had not 
experienced intense grief and heart-rending desire to return 
to their homes and kindred. Doubtless, for most, the passing 
years diminished both the grief and desire, and many took 
their new land and its people to heart. 

Phillis Wheatley and Benjamin Banneker are perhaps the 
best known of all Negroes who lived during this nation's 
Colonial Period. Although both have been criticised by Afro- 
Americans for a seeming lack of interest in their race and in 
Africa, more recently an effort has been made to show that 
they were race conscious and militantly interested in the cause 
of their group's advanceinent. In this connection it is now 
claim.ed that in 1789 Banneker authored a militant treatise 
under the pseudonym of "Othello." Also, it is known that in 
1791 Banneker wrote a lengthy letter to Thomas Jefferson 
which was militantly anti-slavery. Some persons believe that 
this letter helped mould Jefferson's liberalism on the slavery 

In a letter dated May 19, 1772, Phillis Wheatley expressed 
thanks to God for bringing her to America. She wrote: 'Tet 
us rejoice in and adore the wonders of God's infinite love in 
bringing us from a land semblant of darkness itself, and where 
the divine light of revelation (being obscured) is in darkness. 
Here the knowledge of the True God and eternal life are made 
manifest; but there profound ignorance overshadows the land."^ 
Showing that she accepted the current myths regarding her 
race, she commented; ''Your observation is true, namely, that 
there was nothing in us to recommend us to God."' Arthur P. 
Davis is among those who have refuted the contention that Miss 
Wheatley was completely estranged from Negro culture and 
consciousness. Davis has shown that at times she was quite race 
conscious. Like many Negroes in America, Miss Wheatley felt 
that education was the phoenix of her race. She wrote in her 
poem, "On Being Brought from Africa to America" — "Re- 
member, Christians, Negroes black as Cain, May be refined, 
and join the Angelic train. "° Her poem entitled, "To the Right 
Honorable William Earl of Dartmouth," Davis calls her 


"strongest and most forthright utterance on slavery." Here 
Miss Wheatley referred briefly to Africa. She wrote: 

Should you my Lord, while you peruse my song, 
Wonder from whence my love of freedom sprung, 
Whence flow these wishes for the common good, 
By feeling hearts alone best understood, 
I, young in life, by seeming cruel fate 
Was snatched from Africa's fancied happy seat; 
What pangs excruciating must molest, 
What sorrows labor in parent's breast! . .. . 
Such, such my case. And can I then but pray 
Others may never feel tyrannic Sway? 

"She writes upon two levels," Davis informs us. "As a 
little African girl it was cruel to be snatched from her parents, 
but to find Christ as a result of this misfortune was more 
than ample compensation for this "seeming cruel fate!" "She is 
definitely race conscious in her writings," Davis concludes.' 

During the long slavery era Negroes often compared their 
bondage in the United States with that of the ancient Hebrews 
in Egypt and Babylonia. In his famous Appeal, David Walker 
made this allusion and urged that Negro leaders should be of 
the disposition of Moses in their resistance to slavery. Both Nat 
Turner and Denmark Vesey were inspired by the slavery of 
the Hebrews and the leadership of Moses. 

African Survivals 
Considerable controversy has arisen over the extent to 
which the thought and actions of Afro-Americans constitute 
persistence of African traits. Perhaps in this controversy may 
be seen evidence of attitudes held by Negro Americans toward 
Africa and the African. In his book Africaiiisiin and The 
Giillah Dialect, Professor Lorenzo Dow Turner has emphasized 
that Africanisms may be seen in numerous words which sur- 
vived and have become a part of the American language. 
Turner indicates that a number of African habits, as dances, 
chants, and shouts also remain,^ while Margaret Just Butcher 
feels that African rhythm was one of the most significant sur- 
vivals.''^ In his book Negro Slave Songs in the United States,^° 


Miles Mark Fisher interprets the slave songs in terms of African 
survivals. With Melville Herskovits and R. A. Park, Fisher 
believes that much of the culture of Africa, which he terms 
"Oriental," persists among Afro-Americans. Though he at- 
tempts no clear-cut definition of this African culture, Fisher 
makes it plain that he considers the following as being African 
traits: (a) the wearing of elaborate dress for worship, (b) 
secret meetings held by slaves, (c) sporadic violence, (d) sing- 
ing for almost all occasions, (e) a materialistic outlook on life., 
(f) polygamous practices, (g) "shouting" in church, and (h) 
belief in reincarnation. The author variously refers to these 
traits as "Africanisms" or as comprising an "African cult." 
Again ;:nd again he writes of "the traditional Orientalism of 
Africans," or "an Oriental race living under Occidental slav- 
ery." Fisher believes that the American Negro's religion al- 
ways has been Mohammedanism with a thin veneer of Chris- 
tianity. Among his many statements in this vein are: 

"Negroes expressed strong desires to be reincarnated 
in Africa." (p. 144) 

"Christianity rarely occurred as an element in ante- 
bellum Spirituals .... The characters mentioned in 
slave songs were to be sure, oriental." (p. 108) 
■ "Not one spiritual in its primary form reflected in- 
terest in anything other than full life here and now." 
(P- 137) 

Indicative of the disagreement here is the contrary judge- 
ment of Benjamin Mays, another outstanding student of the 
religious thought of Negro Americans. In his The Negro's God 
Mays has declared: 

"The majority of the spirituals were compensatory 
and other-worldly." (pp. 24, 28) 

"The Negroes' ideas of God are those of traditional 
Christianity, but they are the most lofty of the traditional 
ideas." (p. 126) 

E. Franklin Frazier is numbered among the scholars who 
deny that there are significant African survivals among Negro 
Americans.^ ^ "Most antebellum slaves," states Kenneth Stampp, 
"showed a desire to forget their African past and to embrace as 


much of white civihzation as they could. "^" Stampp recounts 
the experience of a Tennesseeian who tried to teach slaves an 
African dance which he knew. The Tennesseean found that the 
slaves "felt insulted by the insinuation which his effort con- 
veyed."^'' Also, when slaves newly-brought from Africa were 
placed in groups which had been in this country for quite 
some time, the new slaves were laughed at because of their 
awkward foreign speech and ways of acting. Thus it can be 
seen that even during the days of bondage, Negroes were be- 
ginning to feel superior to their ancestors in Africa. 

Among the slaves, belief in such things as good luck 
charms, voodoo spells, and quick and fanciful cures for diseases 
were widespread. To many observers, the long and persistent 
belief of many Negroes in voodooism and other superstitions 
is proof of the continuation of a strong African heritage, how- 
ever, what seems to be peculariarly African in these supersti- 
tions is often naught but the general, common, world-wide 
folk-belief pattern of all cultures. Stampp further concludes: 

How substantial and how durable the African heritage 
was is a question over which students of the American 
Negro have long disagreed. But the disagreement has 
been over the size of what was admittedly a fragment; 
few would deny that by the end of the antebellum 
period slaves everywhere in the South had lost most 
of their African culture. ^^ 

Despite the unsettled nature of this controversy, the bulk 
of evidence and opinion seems to indicate that Negroes in this 
country are today thoroughly Americanized. So much is this 
the case that many resent any discussion of Africa as their 
homeland, and are ashamed of their slavery-dominated past 
and want to forget it. Although there are other explanations 
for these phenomena, some Afro-Americans probably deny 
African survivals in their thought and behavior because they 
do not want either a cultural or biological connection with 
Africa. Alain Locke has pointed out that acceptance by Negroes 
of many strong African survivals, by giving the impression of 
non-assimilability of the race, would probably increase preju- 
dice between the races in America.^ ' After studying tlie rela- 


tions of the Negro with the Communist Party, Wilson Record 
concluded: "The Negro has shown that he is an American in 
the most fundamental sense. "^"^ 

The Colonization Society 

In the early decades of the nineteenth century, the work 
of the American Colonization Society and the founding of 
Liberia projected Africa into the thought of Negroes in 
America as never before. In the 1820's and 30's the colonization 
question was a doiii'niant issue in ikc iniinh of free Negroes 
and slates alike. Through an analysis of the slave songs, Miles 
Fisher shows that many slaves became possessed by the dream 
and hope of being freed and sent to Africa. He believes that 
many spirituals which seem to indicate this dream and hope 
through references to ships, captains, and sailing were com- 
posed during this period. Among these were "Old Ship of 
Zion," "My Ship is on the Ocean," "Roll Jordan Roll," "Fare 
You Well," "Don't Stay Away," "Jesus is My Captain," and 
"I Ask My Lord Will I Ever be the One." 

But if thq slave regarded expatriation to Africa as a wel- 
come eventuality, the majority of free Negroes, many of whom 
were active abolitionists, did not share this attitude. Through 
mass meetings, orations, petitions, editorials, letters, and other 
means they remonstrated against the effort to remove them 
from the United States. Yet the free Negroes revealed ambiva- 
lence in their attitude toward Africa. When they were describ- 
ing the kidnapping of their forebearcrs from the ancestral 
home and the horrors of the slave trade, they painted the con- 
tinent and its people in beautiful glowing terms, but when 
efforts were made to force free Negroes to "return" to Africa, 
the overwhelming majority refused to go there and depicted 
Africa and its people in a quite different light. 

As for the beautiful picture of Africa which the Negro 
abolitionists drew, the direction which their arguments would 
take may be seen in Benjaminj Lundy's 1831 appeal to Ameri- 
cans of color. He exhorted: 

Rouse ye' and show to your traducers, beyond the 
power of contradiction, that the African bosom yet 
glows with the generous emulation that erst nourished 


the arts and sciences to maturity in Ethiopa and 
Egypt . . . while Asia made less pretensions to knowl- 
edge and moral grandeur, Europe was in barbarism 
and America was unknown to the civilized world. ^' 

Throughout the course of American history, Negro his- 
torians constantly have pointed with pride to the black king- 
doms with high cultures which existed in Africa during the 
eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries when European 
civilization was at a low ebb. A number of the nineteenth 
century Negro historians sought to show that several outstand- 
ing ancient Greeks and Romans were of African ancestry.^® 

The first Negro newspaper in the United States, John B. 
Russwurm's Freedom's JoiLvnal, stated in its initial editorial — 
"Useful knowledge of every kind and everything that relates 
to Africa, shall find a ready admission into our columns." This 
editorial contained the author's belief that the African had a 
history worthy of high commendation.^'' In a speech delivered 
January 1, 1808, after describing the horrors of the slave trade. 
Reverend Peter Williams, Jr., of New York City cried out: 

Oh, Africa, Africa! to what horrid inhumanities have 
thy shores been witness; thy shores, which were once 
the garden of the world, the seat of almost paradisa- 
ical joys, have been transformed into regions of woe; 
thy sons who were once the happiest of mortals, are 
reduced to slavery, and bound in weighty shackles, 
now fill the traders ship.''' 

At another point Williams declared: 

Before the enterprising spirit of European genius ex- 
plored the western coast of Africa, the state of our 
forefathers was a state of simplicity, innocence, and 
contentment. Unskilled in the arts of dissimulation, 
their bosoms were the seats of confidence; and their 
lips were the organs of truth. Strangers to the refine- 
ments of civilized society, they followed with implicit 
obedience the (simple) dictates of nature. Peculiarly 
observant of hospitality, they offered a place of re- 
freshment to the weary and an asylum to the unfor- 
tunate. Ardent in their affections, their minds were 


fusceptible of the warmest emotions of love, friend- 
ship, and gratitude."^ 

Years later, in a Commencement Address at Paine College, 
Augusta, Georgia, Bishop R. A. Carter voiced similar feelings 
about Africa, and contended with those who would deny the 
Afro-American's kinship with that continent. Bishop Carter 
declared in 1923: 

Since the discoveries of the former greatness of the 
ancient Egyptians and Ethiopians, it has suddenly 
been discovered that they were not Negroes. . . . 
The Negro has been called 'Sons of Ham,' 'African,' 
and Ethiopian in scornful derision for all these years 
and it is too late to try to make him somthing else 
when it is discovered that these designations link him 
with the greatest civilizations of the past. As Negroes, 
therefore, we claim kinship with the Ancient Ethio- 
pians, and all colored races, and share the greatness 
and glory of their achievements and history."" 

As earlier indicated, however, at other times the Afro- 
American has thought of Africa and its people in less com- 
mendable terms, and has tended to look down on them as wild, 
barbarous pagans who were sorely in need of the blessings of 
Western civilization. At such times, the Negro Americans' 
attitude has come close to that which Rudyard Kipling ex- 
pressed in his epic poem, "White Man's Burden." When offered 
the chance of returning to Africa by the American Colonization 
Society, free Negroes in Philadelphia stated in January, 1817: 
"That without arts, without science, without a proper knowl- 
edge of Government, to cast into the savage wilds of Africa 
the free people of color, seems to us the circuitous route 
through which they must return to perpetual bondage."' This 
attitude was typical as free Negroes throughout the North 
used annual conventions, petitions, forum, and editorials in a 
vigorous opposition to the colonization movement."' While 
praising Negro progress in a 1905 address, another Bishop gave 
his quite different impression of the ancestral home of his racial 
group. He declared: 

Remembering the sacrifice of benefactors whose mem- 
ory is embalmed in history's urn, we mark the vast 


step from savagery of ancestor to the prdouct of the 
school today. From chattering jargon and fetish 
adoration on native heath four centuries ago, we rung 
by rung have come to poets, painters, scholars, of 
aesthetic tastes and a reverence for the Christian's 

Even in the antebellum period, Afro-Americans evidenced 
a desire to help lift Africa to a greater respectability through 
extending Christianity to the continent. In his 1827 address on 
the occasion of New York's emancipation of slaves, the Rev- 
erend Nathaniel Paul hoped that his race might yet produce 
"one whose devotedness toward the cause of God, and whose 
zeal shall cause him to leave the land which gave him birth, 
and cross the Atlantic, eager to plant the standard of the cross 
upon every hill of that vast continent, that has hitherto ignobly 
submitted to the baleful crescent, or crouched under the iron 
bondage of the vilest superstition."'" In 1867, J. Sella Martin 

A civilized and converted population of Africans in 
America means the civilization, in no very distant day, of 
Africa itself. England and France spend every year their 
millions to maintain squadrons on the coast of Africa, but 
the slave-trade still goes on. The whole civilized world 
has sent missionaries to Christianize the Africans, and but 
little headway has been made in the work, because of the 
deadly nature of the climate to the white. But if our 
labors are aided as they ought to be, by the good people 
of every country, we shall send educated Christian col- 
oured men from America proof against the deadly dis- 
eases of the climate, possessing a claim to the confidence 
of the natives in sameness of complexion, and carrying 
the principles of truth against those of error to an ardent- 
natured people, with natures of their own as ardent to 
dry up the fountain head of the slave-trade, and to stop 
the stream for ever, and to attack superstition with the 
strongest weapon next to truth itself — the ability to live 
where it prevails, and to command the confidence and 
sympathy of the natives."' 


Previous to W. E. B. DuBois, George Washington Wil- 
liams was the most distinguished of all Negro historians. To- 
gether with the Colored abolitionists and most Negro his- 
torians of the nineteenth century, Williams accepted many of 
the then-current stereotypes about his race.''^ However, Wil- 
liams and others tended to assign to Afro-Americans only the 
stereotypes which were favorable, and to leave the remainder 
for Negroes who were still in Africa. Thus Williams said of 
the colored soldiers in the Civil War that: "Endowed by nature 
with a poetic element, faithful to trusts, abiding in friend- 
ships, bound by the golden threads of attachment to places and 
persons, enthusiastic in personal endeavor, sentimental and 
chivalric, they made hardy and intrepid soldiers." But of the 
African, he declared: 

The Negro type is the result of degradation. It is 
nothing more than the lowest strata of the African 
race. . . . His blood infected with the poison of his 
lov/ habitation, his body shrivelled by disease, his in- 
tellect veiled in pagan superstitions, the noblest 
yearnings of his soul strangled at birth by the savage 
passions of a nature abandoned to sensuality, the poor 
Negro of Africa deserves more our pity than our 

Support by planters of the American Colonizntion Society's 
founding and efforts was not the first indication that they 
regarded free Negroes as a menace to their human property. 
Even before the founding of this organization in 1816, several 
states passed laws restricting the growth of the class. In some 
places, laws specifically proscribed manuinission or the allow- 
ing of slaves to work for wages." Many forces had combined 
to produce the colonization inovement. The humanitarian sen- 
timents unleased by the Revolutionary period caused a wave 
of abolitionism to sweep the nation from which even the South 
was not exempt. In the North, farms could be operated success- 
fully around family size units, and commerce and industry 
were dominant activities. Gabriel's plot of 1800 and other evi- 
dences of interracial antagonism and violence in the South 
convinced many northerners that they did not wish to fasten 
this incubus more securely around their necks. 


With the conviction that the United States was their only 
and proper home, most free Negroes opposed and fought this 
organization. A few, however, because they agreed with the 
philosophy and program of the society, supported it and emi- 
grated.'^ From its inception in the second decade of the 19 th 
century to its demise in the 18 50's, the American Colonization 
Society transported over one hundred boat loads or approxi- 
mately 12,000 Negroes to Liberia, mostly southern free persons. 
This considerable activity caused a great deal of hope to spread 
among the slaves that here at last was God's way of delivering 
them. It is not difficult to believe that most slaves' desired colo- 
nization even at the North or South Pole over remaining in 

When the Colonization Society was scarcelv a year old, 
and long before the leading white abolitionists turned from 
acceptance to rejection of colonization, approximately three 
thousand free Negroes met in Philadelphia and vigorously de- 
nounced the colonization proposals. These free Negroes, led by 
such distinguished personages as James Parker and Richard 
Allen, were especiallv suspicious of the m.any slave owners who 
were loud in their support of the society. 

At a January 24, 1817 meeting in Richmond, Virginia, 
some free Negroes said: 

We perfectlv agree with the American Coloni- 
zation Societv that it is not only proper, but would 
ultimately tend to the benefit and advantage of a 
great portion of our suffering fellow creatures, to be 
colonized; but while we thus express our approbation 
of a measure laudable in its purposes, and beneficial 
in its designs, it may not be improper in us to say, 
that we prefer being colonized in the most remote 
corner of the land of our nativity, to being exiled to 
a foreign country.^' 

Also at a January, 1817 Philadelphia meeting devoted to the 
colonization question, the free Negroes noted: ''Whereas our 
ancestors (not of choice were the first successful cultivators 
of the wilds of America), we their descendants feel ourselves 
entitled to participate in the blessings of her luxuriant soil, 
which their blood and sweat manured; and that any measure 


or system of measures, having a tendency to banish us from 
her bosom, would ... be in direct viohition of those prin- 
ciples, which have been the boast of the republic. "^^ The per- 
sistent desire of the Negro to remain in this country is one 
more proof that he was early Westernized and Americanized. 
If Miles Fisher were right in his thesis that the Negro's culture 
remains to this day strongly African, one could expect a more 
favorable response to colonization schemes than has been the 
case. Yet most bondsmen saw little hope of an early end to 
slavery, and they did not regard themselves as American citi- 
zens as free Negroes did. Thus, unlike the masses of free per- 
sons slaves were willing to accept colonization as a worthy 
alternative to bondage. Before the rise of the colonization move- 
ment, and no doubt long afterward, in slave songs such words 
as "Heaven," "Zion," "Home," often referred to the North 
or to Africa. ^^ 

The Vesey plot of 1822 and the Nat Turner revolt of 
1831 intensified the white South's fears of free Negroes and 
increased the activity to either force them out of the South 
or out of the nation. As they began to flee the South, the North 
raised barriers to them. Of the colonization proposal, James 
Forten said for free Negroes: "We have no wish to separate 
from our present homes, for any purpose whatever.""' Speak- 
ing for the slaves, Forten again opposed this idea. On this he 

If this plan of colonization now proposed isi intended 
to provide refuge and a dwelling for a portion of our 
brethren, who are now held in slavery in the South, 
we have other and stronger objections to it, and we 
entreat your consideration of them. 
The ultimate and final abolition of slavery in the 
United States is, under the guidance and protection 
of a just God, progressing. Every year witnesses the 
release of numbers of the victims of oppression, and 
affords new and safe assurances that the freedom of 
all will in the end be accomplished."'^ 

Negroes felt betrayed and alone now that even some of their 
former friends wanted to take away their homes and property 
and be rid of them. They felt that in the colonization move- 


ment their white friends were now working with the slave- 
holders. The Rev. Theodore S. Wright of New York City 
declared before the New York State abolition society in 1837 
that it had become difhcult to identify a true abolitionist any 
more. There was one test which still stood, however, he de- 
clared. On this, he opined: 

Unless men come out and take their stand on the 
principle of recognizing man as man, I tremble for 
the ark, and I fear our society will become like the 
expatriation society; everybody an abolitionist. . . . 
The identity of the human family, the principle of 
recognizing all men as brethren — that is the doctrine, 
that is the point which touches the quick of the 
community. It is an easy thing to ask about the vile- 
ness of slavery at the South, but to call the dark 
man a brother, heartily to embrace the doctrine ad- 
vanced in their moral worth, to treat the man of color 
in all circumstances as a man and brother — that is 
the test.^* 

The speaker stated that several colonization societies needed 
to catechize new members on this point and to revise their 
constitutions to take cognizance of it. "Abolitionists must 
annihilate in their own bosoms the cord of caste," he declared. 
In an 1862 speech before the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery 
Society, Dr. John S. Rock, noted abolitionist, castigated the 
efforts of northern whites to colonize his race outside the 
United States. He stated that the Afro-American was more 
afraid of the northern white men than of the slaveholder be- 
cause the iatter's motivation was simple and easily understood. 
Rock continued: 

The Northern pro-slavery men have done the free 
people of color ten-fold more injury than the Southern 
slave-holders. ... In the South, it is simply a ques- 
tion of dollars and cents. The slave holder cares no 
more for you than he does for me. They enslave their 
own children, and sell them, and they would as soon 
enslave white men as black men. The secret of the 
slave-holders attachment to slavery is to be found in 
the dollar. There is no prejudice against color among 
the slave-holders. Their social system and one million 


of mulattoes are facts which no arguments can de- 
moHsh. They [slave holders] believe in their institu- 
tion because it supports them.^^ 

The first of the annual Conventions of Afro-Americans 
was held September 20, 1830, at Bethel Church, in Philadelphia 
and was attended by many outstanding free Negroes of the 
day, including James Cornish, Junius C. Morel, Benjamin 
Paschall, and Richard Allen. The second Negro Convention, 
headed by Henry Sipkins and Philip A. Bell, met in Phila- 
delphia, June 4-13, 1832. In attendance were 29 delegates 
from 8 states, with Maryland the only southern state repre- 
sented. The convention resolved to raise money for refugees in 
Canada, to form temperance societies, to boycott slave-made 
products, to petition state and national legislatures against 
slavery and discrimination, to employ a Negro lecturer on the 
question of Negro rights, and to continue the efforts for an 
industrial school. It arranged and heard a debate on coloniza- 
tion between William Lloyd Garrison and the Reverend R. R. 
Gurley, Secretary of the American Colonization Society, as a 
result of which was reaffirmxed their opposition to emigration 
schemes. Forten held that a Negro colony in Africa would fail 
because the ex-slaves would be ignorant and untutored. Too, 
he felt that to allow some bondsmen to go to Africa would 
fasten slavery more securely on the remainder whose reduced 
numbers would be less dangerous to the owners, and only the 
non-militant slaves would remain in slavery. Thus, he believed 
that the colonization schemes would prolong the life of what 
he felt was already a dying institution. But it was August 10, 
1817 that Forten uttered these optimistic sentiments, which 
thq rise of the cotton kingdom would soon kill. 

As southern slave owners made much of the benefits of 
Christianity which they transmitted to the slave, so did the 
northern free Negroes. Forten felt that colonization in Africa 
would cut the Negro off from Christianity which would be 
shut out by the clouds of ignorance. But Forten's chief op- 
position to colonization was that "it will stay the cause of the 
entire abolition of slavery in, the United States, . . . and may 
defeat it altogether." 

In a 4th of July address in New York in 1830, Peter 


Williams declared that the prejudice - inspired colonization 
movement was responsible for the waning anti-slavery efforts 
of white liberals and the declining civil rights of free Negroes 
in the North. This movement, he declared, aimed at making 
the United States a white man's country. Throughout the con- 
troversy over colonization, free Negroes of the North felt that 
the white press was either too hostile or too silent. When the 
Rev. Samuel E. Cornish began his Freedom's Journal to give 
the free Negro a voice, one speaker declared that "it came like 
a clap of thunder."'^ This same speaker declared that when 
W. L. Garrison took up the cudgel in defense of the black man, 
"it was like the voice of an angel of mercy! Hope, hope then 
cheered our path." After listening to the arguments of the Rev- 
erend Gurley in behalf of the societies program, Negroes were 
more convinced than ever that they should oppose these ef- 
forts. Those present vowed "that the doctrines of said society, 
are at enmity with the principles and precepts of religion, hu- 
manity and justice, and should be regarded by every man of 
color as an evil for magnitude, unexcelled, and whose doctrines 
aim at the entire extinction of the free colored population and 
the riveting of Slavery."*" This remained the unbending senti- 
ment of the overwhelming majority of free persons through- 
out the history of the colonization society. 

Out of a total free population of one-half million persons, 
by 1865 the colonization movement led to approximately 2 5,- 
000 Afro-Americans having emigrated to Africa, the Carib- 
bean, and various Latin American republics. One reason that 
free Negroes resisted all colonization schemes was that they 
owned millions of dollars worth of houses and other property 
in the United States. Though the literature does not indicate 
how important a factor this was in their resistance to schemes 
to get them to leave the country, that Afro-Americans were 
aware of their immediate economic interests is clear. 

In his epic Appeal, David Walker wrote: "Let no man of 
us budge one step, . . America is more our country, than it 
is the white — we have enriched it with our blood and tears. 
The Americans have got so fat on our blood and groans, that 
they have almost forgotten the God of armies." 

From a January 25, 1831 mass meeting in New York, 


organized by Samuel Ennals and Philip A. Bell, came the fol- 
lowing statement on colonization — "We are contented to abide 
where we are. We do not believe that things will always con- 
tinue the same. The time must come when the Declaration of 
Independence will be felt in the;' heart, as well as uttered from 
the mouth. This is our home, and this is our country. Beneath 
its sod lie the bones of our fathers. Here we were born, and 
here we will die."^^ The third national Negro Convention met 
in Philadelphia in June, 183 3. The same eight states as before 
were represented. Sixty-two persons attended. The same stand 
against colonization was taken as in 1832, and the same interest 
in vocational education was voiced. Here Negroes carried the 
arguments for colonization to one of their logical extremes. 
"If shades of difference in complexion is to operate to make 
men the sport of powerful caprice," they asserted, "who can 
pretend to determine how long it may be before, on this prin- 
ciple, the colonists may be again compelled to migrate to the 
land of their fathers." 

During this period one highly nationalistic and chauvin- 
istic group of Afro-Americans who denounced the United 
States Constitution as a hopelessly pro-slavery document, fav- 
ored emigration and colonization of their race in some remote 
part of the United States, or in Africa or South America. 
Proirdnent among this group were William P. Quinn of In- 
diana, Mrs. Mary E. Bibb of Canada, Dr. Martin B. Delany of 
Ohio, H. Ford Douglass of Ohio, and William C. Monroe of 
Michigan, At an 18 54 National Emigration Convention held 
by this group at Cleveland, Ohio with 102 delegates present, 
H. Ford Douglass stated: "Is not the history of the world, the 
history of emigration? The coming in and going out of na- 
tions, is a natural and necessary result. . . . Let us then be 
up and doing. To stand still is to stagnate and die." 

Few indeed are the theoretical works dealing with the 
race question, and written by Negroes, prior to the Civil War. 
One of the most significant of these is the book, The Condition, 
Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the 
United States Politically Considered, by Martin R. Delany.*" 
In the appendix of this volume, Delany pointed to the over 
four million Negroes who were in this country, and like Fred- 


erick Douglass and other colored Americans, he realized that 
this was a very significant number. He called for a national 
Negro convention to form an emigration association for the 
purpose of re-settling Negroes in a nation of their own, pre- 
ferably in Eastern Africa, but perhaps in South America, 
Mexico, the West Indies, or any other favorable place. He felt 
that the nations of Europe would seek the trade and friendship 
of such a black republic. Africa he stated, was rich in minerals 
and metals. "The land is ours — there it lies with inexhaustible 
resources; let us go and possess it. In Eastern Africa must rise 
up a nation, to whom all the world must pay commercial tri- 
bute," he declared. We must make an issue, create an event, and 
establish a national position for ourselves and never may we 
expect to be respected as men and women until we have un- 
dertaken, some fearless, bold, and adventurous deeds of daring 
contending against every odd — regardless of every conse- 
quence," he concluded. No doubt Delany was influenced in 
his emigration schemes by the firm control which the Slavocracy 
seemed then to have over national affairs, but also very prob- 
ably he was influenced by the nationalistic movements and 
spirit which swept Europe and the Western World in the wake 
of the overthrow of the Napoleonic hegemony. 

In his 18 52 annual message to thq New York legislature, 
Governor Hunt proposed that funds be appropriated to the 
American Colonization Society. Speaking before the State Con- 
vention of Colored Citizens, Reverend James W. C. Penning- 
ton attacked the suggestions. Pennington assailed the proposed 
grant as a violation of the Constitution of New York. The 
American Colonization Society he called "a gigantic fraud . . . 
a moulder of, and a profiter by a diseased public opinion, 
[which] keeps alive an army of agents who live by plundering 
us of oar good name."*" Finally, he stated that he was against 
the proposed appropriation because free Negroes of New York 
could never forsake those of their race still in bondage in the 
United States. "May evil betide us," he asserted, "when the 
hope of gain, of the fear of oppression, shall compel or per- 
suade us to forsake them to the rayless good of perpetual 

Negro leaders seemed more willing to view with favor 


colonization to countries in the Western hemisphere than to 
Africa. Particularly, did some of them, of whom Martin 
Delany was one of the most prominent, view with favor the 
idea of colonization in Canada, the Caribbean, and Central 
and South America, Several religious leaders, among whom were 
Lott Cary and Daniel A. Payne, were friendly toward the 
move to colonize Negroes in Africa because they believed the 
race had a duty to carry Christianity to that continent. 

In his 4th of July, 1830 address against colonization to 
Africa, Rev. Peter Williams of New York City urged his lis- 
teners to support the effort to build up a strong Negro com- 
munity in Canada just in case economic, legislative, and other 
pressure should force free Negroes out of the United States 
as he felt already was being done in Cincinnati, Ohio, New 
Orleans, Louisiana, and other places. He asked that his listeners 
contribute the money which they normally would spend in 
celebration of the 4th of July to this cause. Years later, in 
1957, the Negro Mardi Gras clubs of New Orleans would be 
asked to forget their annual balls and dances in order that this 
money might be contributed to the NAACP's fight for equality 
of citizenship. 

With the overthrow of slavery in the fire of Civil War, 
the American Negro soon found, for various reasons, he was 
scarcely more than half-free. In the 1870's and 80's two ways 
that the Negro reacted against the Klu Klux Klan and other 
violence and repressions incident to the restoration of native 
white rule of the South were by emigrating to the North and 
West in considerable numbers, and by talk of "returning" to 
Africa, In 18 86 the African Emigration Association petitioned 
Congress for funds to aid any colored Americans who desired 
to go to Africa, and settle. The petition stated that sixteen 
thousand persons already had gone to Africa and that there 
were thousands more who desired to go there and erect a "United 
States in Africa," modeled after the United States of America. 
One reason for desiring this emigration, stated the petitioners, 
was "for the perpetuity of our race, which is here losing its 
identity by inter-mixture with the white races. "^^ 

In December, 1895, Bishop Henry M. Turner, a staunch 
and long-time advocate of emigration, stated: 


I believe that the Negro . . . has been tree long 
enough now to begin to think fcr himself and plan 
for better conditions than he can lay claim to in this 
country or ever will. There is no manhood future in 
the United States for the Negro ... I believe that 
two or three million of us should return to the land 
of our ancestors, and establish our own nation, civi- 
lization, laws, customs, styles of manufacture, and 
not only give the world . . . the benefit of our indi- 
viduality, but build up social conditions peculiarly 
our own, and cease to be grumblers, chronic com- 
plainers and a menace to the white man's country or 
the country he claims and is bound to dominate.*' 

As earlier indicated, the Negro American's attitude toward 
the so-called Negro type is indicative of his attitude toward 
Africa and Africans. Although Africans vary greatly in phy- 
sical type, the Afro-American's contempt for a dark skin, 
thick lips, flattened nose, and frizzled hair at times may reveal 
contempt for the African. When, around the turn of the cen- 
tury, the dialect poetry of Paul Lawrence Dunbar and James 
Weldon Johnson became popular, some educated Negroes ob- 
jected to this emphasis on folk expression as degrading. They 
similarly demanded and got much of the dialect removed from 
the Negro spirituals.*" 

After the brief flurry of talk in the 18 80's and 90's about 
emigration to Africa, and a mild protest against late nineteenth 
century imperialism, Afro-American interest in the so-called 
"Dark Continent" appears to have subsided until the 1920's, 
when, coincident with the Harlem Negro Renaissance, interest 
in Africa burgeoned anew. W. E. B. DuBois led in the spon- 
sorship of meetings designed to bring Negroid peoples closer 
together. The firsc Pan- African Congress, held in Paris in 1919, 
resulted when DuBois was sent to Europe by the National 
Association for the Advancement of Colored People to investi- 
gate the treatment of tan G.I.'s. He used this opportunity to 
organize the Congress, which was attended by fifty-seven 
delegates from the United States of America, the 'VC^est Indies, 
and Africa. Racial concord and advancement were the primary 
objectives. In 1921 a second Pan-African Congress was held 


which drew 113 delegates to Europe, two years later a third 
was held, the fourth Congress met in New York City in 1927, 
and the fifth met in Manchester, England in 1945.*^ American 
Negroes showed little interest in Pan-Americanism. 

In art and literature, the new interest in the Negro and 
Africa was part of a larger primitivist movement of the 1920's. 
This movement partly reflected the frustration of the "Lost 
Generation," partly the growing interest in anthropological and 
archeological studies, and partly the mo^xment toward natur- 
alism in art and literature which began around 1912, Among 
others, these interests could be seen in such diverse media as 
the writings of the Europeans Jean Cocteau, Blaise Cendrars, 
and Guilliame Apollinaire; the Americans Waldo Frank, Eu- 
gene O'Neill, Carl Van Vechten, Vachel Lindsay, DuBose Hey- 
wood, and Howard Odum; the paintings of such renowned 
figures as Matisse and Picasso; and the music of Milhaud and 
Honneger. These movements also saw, for the first time, a 
keen interest in Negro Art and sculpture. The Negro's new- 
found appreciation for things African, was reflected in a race 
consciousness which now tended to be based more on pride and 
less on shame, and once more Negroes depicted Africa in glow- 
ing terms. One of the leading writers of the Harlem Renais- 
sance, Claude McKay, wrote a sonnet entitled "Africa," in 
which he said of this continent: 

The Sun sought thy dim bed and brought forth light, 

The sciences were sucklings at thy breast; 

When all the world was young in pregnant night 

Thy slaves toiled at their monumental best. 

Thou ancient treasure land, thou modern prize, 

New peoples marvel at thy pyramids! 

The years roll on, thy sphinx of riddle-eyes 

Watches the mad world with immobile lids. 

Yet when one of his patrons in this period wanted Langston 
Hughes to concentrate on the African theme in his writings, 
he refused to do so. Of this experience, Hughes observed: 

She wanted me to be primitive and know and feel the 
intuitions of the primitive. But unfortunately I did 
not feel the rhythms of the primitive surging through 


me, and so, I could not live and write as though I did. 
I was only an, American Negro — who loved the sur- 
face of Africa — but I was not African. I was Chi- 
cago and Kansas City and Broadway and Harlem.*^ 

Few Negro poets of the twenties would write of Africa 
in a more nostalgic and romantic vein than Arna Bontenips.^' 
Bontemps poems paint beautiful images of African drums, 
rivers, jungles, tropical nights, desert palms, rainfalls, and 
romantic images of the Afro-American's black ancestry before 
the ravages of the slave trade. 

In the twenties Negro historians also showed a keen in- 
terest in Africa. In his little volume entitled Miscdiication of 
the Negro, published in 1923, Carter Woodson stated: "The 
'educated Negroes' have the attitude of contempt toward their 
own people because in their own as well as in their mixed 
schools Negroes are taught to admire the Hebrew, the Greek, 
the Latin and the Teuton and despise the African. " 

While most Afro-Americans have wished to be a part of 
the mainstream of the national life and culture, not all have 
wanted this integration. A few, either because they felt that 
the race actually is inferior and could not compete with whites, 
or because they went to the opposite extreme and came to be- 
lieve that Negroes were superior and would lose their distinc- 
tive qualities, or for other reasons, have desired continued seg- 
regation in some form, either here or abroad. Marcus Garvey 
belonged to the latter group, and in the late 195 O's the Rev- 
erend Clennon King, former History Professor at Alcorn Col- 
lege, testified before a Congressional Committee that funds 
should be made available and American Negroes encouraged 
to "return to Africa." 

The Garvey Movement and Race Consciousness 
The Garvey Movement revolved around an organization 
called the Universal Improvement Association. Centered in the 
North, though by no means limited to it, this movement had 
its genesis in the World War I stimulus to the desire of equal- 
ity. But while it originated out of the desire for a full share in 
democracy, the movement fed on the lynchings and racial 
strife which characterized the twenties, color consciousness 


among Negroes and on the growing maturity of the race. 
Sharing the pessimism and disillusionment, as well as the op- 
timism of the period, Marcus Garvey became convinced that 
the position of his race within the United States was eternally 
without hope. Thus he advocated a "back to Africa" move- 
ment, and in step with the new appreciation which artists and 
scholars were beginning to show for African culture, Garvey 
created a veritable cult of blackness. Reacting against the con- 
tempt for dark complexions which many white and Negro 
Americans held, he often attacked mulattoes and proclaimed 
that black is actually the best and "superior" color. Since it 
coincided with the efforts of Carter Woodson and other scholars 
in the social sciences, as well as with the aforementioned trends 
in literature, the movement "put steel into the spine of many 
Negroes who had previously been ashamed of their color. '"^^ 
Especially did Garveyism appeal to lower class Negroes, and 
even yet it represents the nearest semblance to a mass move- 
ment which has existed among Afro-Americans. Most Negro 
organizations and intellectuals opposed the movement, how- 
ever.""'" Garvey often spoke of the "Four-hundred Million Ne- 
groes" in the world, and set up branches of various organiza- 
tions in a number of countries which had large Negro popula- 
tions. Though born in the West Indies, Garvey was distinctly 
Negroid in appearance. He had lived in Europe for a while and 
came to the United States of America during the World War 
I period along with many other West Indians, who later formed 
in New York the nucleus for his movement. 

Both Garveyism and the Harlem Renaissance were in a 
sense results of the urban impact on the peasant folk culture 
of the Negro. Though these movements signalled the birth of 
the militancy of the Negro folk, they were also dying-gasp 
efforts to save the rural-based folk culture which was falling 
before the onslaughts of urbanization. The same rural-urban 
clash evoked from southern whites the sentiments and convic- 
tions of the noted volume, /'// Take My Stand. It was ironic 
and perhaps even humorous that in the Garvey "Back to 
Africa" movement Negro race pride was taking a form that 
even the Ku Klux Klan could enthusiastically support. The 
Garvey movement was fed also by the great migration of 


Negroes, from the South, especially. In Garveyism, together 
with the Holiness movement in the religion of the period, 
for the first time since they served as troops during the Civil 
War, lower class Negroes really flexed their muscles and felt 
their strength. Garveyism and the Holiness and general sect 
revolt in religion were counter-parts of the revolt by the 
Negro intellectuals or middle class which is evidenced in svich 
phenomena as the NAACP, Urban League, Negro History 
Movement, and the Talented Tenth literary and artistic move- 

Garvey was imprisoned in 1925 for using mails to defraud, 
and, deported two years later, he died abroad in 1940. How 
much the almost unanimous rejection of the Garvey move- 
ment by the Negro middle class implied a rejection of the race's 
African heritage is debatable. 

Along with Garvey, other Afro-Americans have taken 
intense pride in their race, and some have even believed that 
Negroes are "God's chosen people." In a speech made in 1916 
R. R. Moton said that members of his race represent "God's 
most perfect handiwork, and any lack of appreciation on our 
part is a reflection on the great creator.'"^' Benjamin Brawley 
was one of the most outstanding Afro-American proponents 
of the notion that "every race has its peculiar genius." This 
conviction runs through all of his published studies on Negro 
literature, and was capped in 1937 by his volume entitled The 
Negro GeniiLS.^^ Claude McKay, while often pessimistic in his 
poems, in one statement expresses a belief that God has set 
the black man on earth to be a light for true Christianity be- 
fore the white man destroys himself and civilization. In this 
vein, McKay asked the lynchers of Negroes in the twenties: 

Think you I am not fiend and savage too? 

Think you I could not arm me with a gun 

And shoot down ten of you for every one 

Of my black brothers murdered, burnt by you? 

Be not deceived, for every deed you do 

I could match-out match; am I not Africa's son. 

Black of that black land where black deeds are done? 

But the Almighty from the darkness drew 

My soul and said: Even thou shall be a light 


Awhile to burn on the benighted earth, 
The dusky face I set among the white 
For thee to prove thyself of highest worth; 
To show thy little lamp; go forth, go forth!! 

In the sense of true conviction, many Negroes have never 
consciously accepted the idea that they were inferior innately 
to Caucasians or any other group. But even these often have 
accepted the notion that they are innately different. They have 
believed that members of their race can run faster, sing better, 
live closer to God, have more patience, and so forth. From the 
very beginning, however, they have denied that the race is 
inferior. Many Negroes have accepted some of the white man's 
stereotypes about the race, often when these stereotypes were 
favorable and desirable attributes, but also when they were 
unfavorable. Probably most Afro-Americans have believed 
that the explanation for their race's shortcoming was environ- 
mental and due to lack of opportunity rather than to lack of 
ability. Many, however, have been aware of lack of effort on 
the Negro's part as one factor. In the ante-bellum period free 
persons of color often complained that they could make a 
more creditable showing if they had the opportunity of being 
full and equal citizens. '^ "At the bottom of his heart" Robert 
R. Moton declared, "the Negro believes that he has capabilities 
of culture and character equal to that of any other race; he 
believes that his gifts and endowments are of equal worth to 
those of any other people; and even in the matter of the 
mingling of racial strains, undesirable it might seem to be from 
a social point of view, he would never admit that his blood 
carries any taint of physiological, mental, or spiritual Inferior- 
ity." "^ In 1842 Charles Lenox Remond, speaking to a legisla- 
tive committee of the Massachusetts House of Representatives 
stated: "It is said we all look alike. If this is true, it is not true 
that we all behave alike. There is a marked difference; and 
we claim a recognition of this difference."'" 

In his 1843 call to the slaves to rise up and strike for 
their freedom regardless of the cost, Henry Highland Garnet 
revealed his intense racial pride and voiced some disgust at the 
bondsmen. He stated: "you are a patient people. You act as 
though, you were made for the — 


special use of these devils [slave-holders}. You act as 
though your daughters were born to pamper the lusts 
of your masters and overseers. And worse than all, 
you tamely submit while your lords tear your wives 
from your embraces and defile them before your eyes. 
In the name of God we ask, are you men? Where is 
the blood of your fathers? Has it all run out of your 

Although the attitude of this nation's majority group 
sometimes has caused many colored Americans to be ashamed 
of their dark skins, use bleaching creams, and to be proud 
when they or their sweethearts or relatives had light comple- 
xions, many Afro-Americans have felt that the white man 
often had an unfair attitude toward race and color. Since these 
are aspects of an individual's person fixed by God, the Negro 
has felt that, being all-wise and all-good, God did not intend 
for color or race to be degrading badges. "Complexion," stated 
Charles Lenox Remond in 1842, "can in no sense be construed 
into crime, much less be rightfully made the criterion of rights. 
Should the people of color, through a revolution of Providence, 
become a majority, to the last I would oppose it upon the same 
principle."''^ Negro leaders or spokesmen generally have voiced 
no shame or regret at having dark skins, rather, they have 
voiced pride in their color, partly because it was the work of a 
Benevolent God, and partly because they were aware of the 
positive contributions of their race to civilization and history. 

The 18 54 National Emigration Convention of Colored 
People meeting at Cleveland, Ohio resolved: 

That no people, as such can ever attain to greatness 
who lose their identity, as they must rise entirely upon 
their own native merits. That we shall ever cherish 
our identity or origin and race, as preferable, in our 
estimating, to any other people; That the relative 
terms Negro, African, Black, Colored and Mulatto, 
when applied to us, shall ever be held with the same 
respect and pride; and synonymous with the terms, 
Caucasian, White, Anglo-Saxon and European, when 
applied to that class of people. "^ 

Not until the twentieth century, with the rise of an edu- 


cated gi'oup not directly connected with slavery, did a signifi- 
cant number of Negroes show many clear and unmistakable 
signs of being ashamed of their race and the desire to discour- 
age use of such terms as Negro, Black, and African. It would 
seem that even more than ante-bellum racial propaganda, a 
measure of success and progress, plus education acquired 
through books written by white Americans imparted to the 
Negro race in America considerable contempt for its biological 
heritage. Twentieth Century Negroes have shown considerable 
evidence of being ashamed of their race; a shame that is, to be 
sure, often strongly mixed with pride. They have bleached to 
lighten their color, straightened their hair, and sometimes re- 
fused to read books on Negro history, or to read so-called 
Negro newspapers. In their thoughts and appearances these 
individuals try to get as far as possible from identification with 
their race. Evidence along this line moved Carter Woodson to 
pen the little volume entitled, The Miseducation of the Negro. 
Still another characteristic of the twentieth century Negro has 
been his sometimes bitterness. The nineteenth century Afro- 
American reflected less of this particular attitude. Color preju- 
dice and discrimination have made many Afro-Americans 
hyper-sensitive, thus, their novelists and historians generally 
have steered clear of "anything other than a flattering portrayal 
of the race."*'" R. R. Moton wrote in the 1920's that Negroes 
were so race conscious that "the strongest appeal to activity 
aniong them Is [the] vision and Interpretation of the signl- 
cance of their endeavors in lessening the disadvantages and re- 
moving the handicaps which the whole race suffers In Its present 
condition."*'^ Almost everything," he concluded, "Is looked at 
by Negroes from this angle." 

As previously stated, the race has tended to attribute Its 
shortcomings primarily to slavery and lack of opportunity. 
Commenting on their lack of equal achievement with white 
persons of the city of Philadelphia by 1841, one author stated: 
"but this Is the fault of circumstances — the offspring of exig- 
encies which they [Negroes] had no agency In producing — 
and which they have never been able to surmount. "°" In 1856 
some Ohio Negroes utilized this argument In petitioning for 
citizenship rights. "Our want of Intelligence is urged as a 


reason against our admission to equal citizenship," stated these 
petitioners. "The assumption that we are ignorant is untrue; 
but, even if it were true, it really affords an argument for the 
removal of the disabilities that cramp our energies, destroy that 
feeling of self respect, so essential to form the character of a 
good citizen.'"'' The first issue of the first Negro newspaper in 
the United States sounded this theme. ''We are aware that 
there are many instances of vice among us," wrote the editors, 
"hut we avow that it is because no one has taught its subjects 
to be virtuous; many instances of poverty, because no sufficient 
efforts accommodated to minds contracted by slavery, and de- 
prived early education have been made, to teach them how 
to husband their hard earnings, and to secure to themselves 
comfort." "^ 

In 1834 David Ruggles raised the question of whether the 
person of the black or white race possessed the most character. 
If a man's character depends upon the color of his skin, he 
asked, which of the two groups would come out on top. "The 
whites," he wrote, "have robbed us ... . for centuries — they 
made Africa bleed rivers of blood! — they have torn husbands 
from their wives — wives from their husbands — parents from 
their children— -children from their parents — brothers from 
their sisters — sisters from their brothers, and bound them in 
chains — forced them into holds of vessels — subjected them to 
the most unmerciful tortures: starved and murdered, ?.nd 
doomed them to endure the horrors of slavery!" There he rested 
his case. Again, David Walker thundered: 

Millions of [white Americans] are this day, so ig- 
norant and avaricious, that they cannot conceive how 
God can have an attribute of justice, and show mercy 
to us because it pleased Him to make us black — which 
color, Mr. Jefferson calls unfortunate!!! As though 
we are not thankful to our God, for having made us 
as it pleased himself, as they are for having made 
them white. They think because they hold us in their 
infernal chains of slavery, that we wish to be white, 
or of their color — but they are dreadfully deceived — 
we wish to be just as it pleased our creator to have 
us, and no avaricious and unmerciful wretches have 


any business to make slaves of, or hold us in slavery. 
How would they like for us to make slaves of, and 
hold them in cruel slavery, and murder them as they 
do us.''' 

Since the 1920' s 

With the depression of the thirties and the events leading 
to World War II, in many ways Afro-American thought 
gained a new international concern, and Africa, long the focal 
point of the international interests of Negro Americans, be- 
came more integrated in a larger world setting. By 1960 the 
interest of the American Negro in the world's underprivileged 
peoples was diffused, but despite this broader interest in the 
world's people of color, among them Africa and Africans al- 
ways have loomed largest in the Afro-American mind. 

Ethiopia always has been a cherished land and symbol to 
the American Negro.'"' The Mussolini-led Italian invasion of 
Ethiopia was particularly disturbing to Afro -Americans, and 
evoked a protest movement which was centered in New York 
City. During the thirties Negro historians reflected a continu- 
ing interest in Africa. Appearing in this general period were 
Carter Woodson's TJjc African Background Outlined"' and 
African Heroes and Heroines."" "History should be recon- 
structed," declared Charles Wesley, "so that Africa .... 
shall have its proper place.'"'' This was a major theme with 
Negro historians of the period. The first attempt of W. E. B. 
DuBois to write the history of Africa was entitled. The Ne^ro 
and appeared in 1915.'" About one-third of DuBois' Black 
Folk Then and Now, published in 1939,'^ deals with the Afri- 
can background of Negro- Americans, and in 1947 this same 
author's, The World and Africa, was published.'" The latter 
book bore the sub-title, "An Inquiry into the Part which 
Africa has played in World History," and with the volume the 
author stated that he was seeking to "remind readers of the 
crisis of civilization, of how critical a part Africa has played 
in human history, past and present, and how impossible it is 
to forget this and rightly explain the present plight of man- 
kind."" In 1931 George Schuyler published Slaves Today: A 
Story of Liberia, in which he took up the cudgel against the 
sufferings of natives of Afrca."^ 


In this period the Federal Theatre Project organized a 
special unit which was to feature African Culture, and Hamp- 
ton Institute and Fisk, Howard and Atlanta Universities led 
in establishing creative art and dance units which gave con- 
siderable attention to African culture. With this same medium 
the concert dancers Pearl Primus and Katherine Dunham 
achieved international reputations. The above-named universi- 
ties, along with Tuskegee Institute, established outstanding 
library collections on the Negro which included African his- 
tory and culture, and the Carter Woodson-led Association for 
the Study of Negro Life and History was instrumental in 
getting the noted A. A. Schomburg Collection turned over to 
the New York Public Library."' In his poem, "Heritage," writ- 
ten in this period, Countee Cullen proudly admits that he is 
a descendant of black Africa. Also in the thirties William 
Grant Still wrote an African ballett, Sahciji, and Asadata Dafora 
Horton's dance opera featuring Africa, Kyunkor, was per- 
formed before appreciative New York audiences. 

With the coming of World War II, like others, Afro- 
Americans were caught up in the war effort, and the earlier 
concern with Africa was submerged by more pressing issues. 
Still the prominence of the African theatre of battle during 
the early years of the war, participation of native African 
troops in the allied cause, and the possible demise of colonial- 
ism as a consequence of the war kept Africa prominent in the 
thought of Negro Americans. With the return of peace, the 
old race consciousness and pride were bolstered not only by 
the phenomenal overthrow of imperialism and colonialism by 
yellow, brown and black people in Asia and Africa, but by the 
dramatic achievements in racial integration within the United 
States, and just as the personality and efforts of Mahatma 
Gandhi had inspired Afro-Americans in the twenties and 
thirties, he, Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Gamel Nasser, 
Tom Mboya and other nationalist leaders in Asia and Africa 
were great sources of inspiration to them in the post-world 
war II era. It seems almost paradoxical that rampant nationalism 
in Asia and Africa have evoked a greater internationalism in 
the thought of Afro-Americans. 


As earlier indicated, Africa and Africans are still domi- 
nant among the international interests of the Negro-American. 
In the fifties, in Black Power, Richard "Wright lifted his cudgel 
in defense of nationalist aspirations in Africa,'*' while Era Bell 
Thompson struck a similar note in her Land of My Fathers.^^ 
As was the case with Schuyler's Slaves Today, both Wright and 
Thompson based their convictions on direct observation of 
conditions in Africa. Indeed, a dominant characteristic of the 
mid-twentieth century Negro vis-a-vis Africa is the greatly 
increased number who have visited that continent, many under 
auspices of the Point Four and other federally sponsored pro- 
grams. This travel is helping to dispel much of the ignorance 
about Africa and Africans which has been evident among 
Negro Americans. Thus many of the old stereotypes once 
commonly accepted are now rapidly being discarded. In July, 
1951 Poetry carried Melvin Tolson's "Libretto for the B^epublic 
of Liberia," a work which was commissioned for the Liberian 
Centennial, and, though commenting on a narrower theme, in 
1956 Margaret Just Butcher ably summarized the past and 
present attitudes and thoughts about Africa and Africans held 
by Negro Americans. She wrote: 

In the dislocating process of being transplanted from 
Africa to America, Negro art and the Negro Artist 
were somehow separated; it was generations before 
they came together again. In the interval, African 
art was forgotten; Negro themes and subject matter 
were neglected by artists generally and many Negro 
artists regarded 'Negro art' as ghetto restriction and 
fled from it in protest and indignation. Now African 
art is both recognized and prized. '^^ 

As a consequence of the degradation of slavery, Negroes 
have been unique among Americans in the rejection of the 
land of their fathers. Now a greater maturity and developing 
race pride are bringing an end tq this rejection, and it would 
not be surprising, to the present writer at least, to see the 
masses of Afro-Americans soon embrace Africa with a force 
somewhat comparable to that which the Irish and Jewish 
Americans show for the lands of their fathers. 

Chapter III 


On Slavery 

Among the statements on slavery and freedom made by 
Afro-Americans are eloquent definitions, as well as numerous 
ideas about the nature and consequences of both. Slavery was 
a scar which the freedmen would wear for decades, and the 
dark heritage of the fathers probably will be passed on to the 
sons and grandsons through countless generations. Doubtless 
the fact of his enslavement would have weighed less heavily 
on the mind of the bondsman had he been denied his freedom 
in a society which put no high premium on individual rights 
and freedom. 

That slave labor was "unrequited toil" has held a high 
place among the items of denunciation which Negroes have 
brought against the institution, pnd on the natural love of 
liberty, Henry Highland Garnet said: 

Slaiery! How much misery is comprehended in 
that single word. What mind is there that does not 
shrink from its direful effects? Unless the image of 
God be obliterated from the soul, all men cherish the 
love of liberty. The nice discerning political economist 
does not regard the sacred right more than the un- 
tutored African who roams in the wilds of the Congo. 
Nor has the one more right to the full enjoyment of 
his freedom than the other. In every man's mind the 
good seeds of liberty are planted, and he who bring? 
his fellow down so low, as to make him contented 
with a condition of slavery, commits the highest 
crime against God and man.^ 

In 18 51, speaking to an Ohio Convention of Negroes, H. 
Ford Douglass said: 

Every man is inspired with a . . . deep and abiding 
love of liberty. I care not where he may dwell . . . 
whether amid the snows of the polar regions or wel- 
tering beneath an African sun, or clanking his hot 



iron fetters in this free Republic and I care not how 
degraded the man, that Pronietheran spark still lives, 
and burns, in secret and brilliant grandeur, upon his 
inmost, and the iron-rust of slavery and uninterrupted 
despotism, can never extinguish it.' 

The Reverend Hosea Eason of Masssachusetts stated, 

Were I capable of dipping my pen in the deep- 
est dye of crime, and of" understanding the science of 
the bottomless pit, I should then fail in presenting to 
the intelligence of mortals on earth, the true nature 
of American deception." 

Another abolitionist exhorted: 

Let us view this demon, which the people here 
worshipped as a God. Come forth, thou grim mons- 
ter, that thou mayest be critically examined! There 
he stands. Behold him, one and all. His work is to 
chattelize man; to hold property in human beings. 
Great God! I would as soon attempt to enslave 
Gabriel or Michael as to enslave a man made in the 
image of God, and for whom Christ died. Slavery 
is snatching man from the high place to which he 
was lifted by the hand of God, and dragging him 
down to the level of the ox.* 

Early in the nation's history an Afro-American declared slavery 
to be "repugnant to the feelings of nature, and inconsistent 
with the original rights of man.'" This writer, who used the 
pen-name "Othello," declared that by acquiescing in slavery 
the nation was violating the tenets of its own faith as ex- 
pressed in the Declaration of Independence, and would surely 
suffer the wrath of an angered God. The then legal slave trade 
he termed "one of the greatest defects" in the federal system, 
a system which he praised on most other points. "Othello" 
asked of the institution of slavery, "can anyone say that this 
is doing as he would be done by?," and he equated the Ameri- 
can slave-trade with the piracy which was then being practiced 
by the barbary states of North Africa. He praised the latter 
for preying upon the shipping of strong states while Americans 
preyed only on the defenseless Africans.'' 


As to why he championed the cause of the slave, Charles 
Lenox Remond said: 

It is not because the slave is a poor man, nor an 
ignorant man, nor a lowly man, a despised man, an 
outraged man, a trampled man, a brutified man. It is 
because I know that He who has promulgated to us 
all truth — v.'^ho is Himself the fountain of justice — 
the source of truth — the perfection of loveliness — 
ha!j announced from the hill of Sinai, that man can- 
not attempt the bondage of his fellowman without 
being guilty of a deadly crime.' 

"Where is the man," Remond asked, "who, if asked to become 
a slave, would not hurl back the offer indignantly in the teeth 
of the oppressor? Nay, where is the woman — where is the 

To the Negro there was little middle-ground in the slavery 
issue. Charles Lenox Remond declared: 

Many there are, I grieve to say, who are deterred 
from the consideration of this subject through a vain 
and silly thought that the question is an elaborate and 
- complicated one, and that in the discussion of it they 
would become bewildered and mentally blinded, as it 
were. 'Tis false, most corruptly false, to say so. There 
is no complication in the matter. The road lies before 
us, clear, straight, and unwarped as in the path of 
truth and justice. The question is resolved into two 
words only — liberty or slavery?® 

Frederick Douglass spoke of "three millions of human 
beings deprived of every right, stripped of every privilege, 
ranked with four-footed beasts and creeping things, with no 
power over their own bodies and souls, deprived^ of the privi- 
lege of learning to read the name of the God who inade them, 
compelled to live in the grossest ignorance, herded together 
in a state of concubinage — without marriage, v/ithout God, and 
without hope."'' And again: 

Slavery ... is the granting of that power by which 
one man exercises and enforces a right of property in 
the body and soul of another. The condition of a slave 


is simply that of the brute beast. He is a piece of 
property — a marketable commodity, in the language 
of the law, to be bought or sold at the will and caprice 
of the master . . .; he is spoken of, thought of, and 
treated as property. His own good, his conscience, his 
intellect, his affections, are all set aside by the master. 
The will and the wishes of the master are the law of 
the slave. . . . Whatever of comfort is necessary to 
him for his body or soul that is inconsistent with his 
being property is carefully wrested from him, not 
onlv by public opinion, but by the law of the 

M. C. B. Mason labelled human slavery "that iniquity of all 
iniquities."" J. C. Price called it "that wrong, that iniquity, 
that hydraheaded monster,"'" while to Nathaniel Paul, slavery 
was "a hateful monster, the very demon of avarice and op- 
pression, the scourge of heaven, and the curse of the earth. "^ ' 
M. J. Butcher termed slavery, "democracy's greatest antithe- 

Just as the Afro- American has had his days of gloom and 
despair, such as the day the colonization movement was 
launched, or the day of the 18 50 fugitive slave act, or the days 
of the Dred Scott and negative civil rights decisions, so there 
have been days of jubilee. Such a day of jubilee occurred when 
in 1827 New York state abolished slavery. Significantly, the 
state chose July 4th to proclaim the end of human bondage. 
At a mass meeting m Albany, July 5th, 1827, the Reverend 
Nathaniel Paul spoke in commemoration of the event. He 
praised the manner in which it had come about. 

Not by those fearful judgments of the almighty, 
which have so often fallen upon the different parts of 
the earth, which have overturned nations and king- 
doms, scattered thrones and scepters, nor is the glory 
of the achievement tarnished with the horrors of the 
field of battle. We hear not the cries of the widow 
and the fatherless; nor are our hearts affected with the 
sight of garments rolled in blood; but all has been 
done by the diffusion and influence of the pure, yet 
powerful principles of benevolence.^'' 


The mistreatment of Negro women under slavery has 
been an especial source of rancor to Negroes. In this connec- 
tion, Charles Lenox Remond wrote: 

When I see a woman condemned to wear an iron 
collar, as it were cruelty to bind around the neck of 
a dog, working in that collar, eating in it, aye, even 
sleeping in it, for no other crime than merely that of 
having asked permission to visit her child in an ad- 
joining plantation — when, I repeat, I look on sights 
like these, my frame shudders with disgust — my blood 
freezes, and my heart bursts with indignation as I 
exclaim, Tf these things be the result of Christianity 
or of patriotism, may heaven deliver me from the 
influence of either!'^" 

On the impact of slavery on the nation, Frederick Doug- 
lass wrote: 

The existence of slavery in this country brands 
your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base 
pretense, and your Christianity as a lie. It destroys 
your moral power abroad: it corrupts your politicians 
at home. It saps the foundation of religion; it makes 
your name a hissing and a by-word to a mocking 
earth. It is the antagonistic force in your govern- 
ment, the only thing that seriously disturbs and en- 
dangers your Union. It fetters your progress; it is 
the enemy of improvement; the deadly foe of edu- 
cation; it fosters pride; it breeds insolence; it pro- 
motes vice; it shelters crime; it is a curse to the earth 
that supports it; and yet you cling to it as if it were 
the sheet anchor of all your hopes. Oh! be warned! 
be warned! a horrible reptile is coiled up in your 
nation's bosom; the venomous creature is nursing at 
the tender breast of your youthful republic; for the 
love of God, tear aivay, and fling from you the hid- 
eous monster, and let the weight of twenty millions 
crush and destroy it forever!'^'' 

During the height of the abolitionist movement, Frances Ellen 
Watkins Fiarper wrote: 


Make me a grave wher'er you will, 
In a lowly plain or a lofty hill; 
Make it among earth's humblest graves, 
But not in a land where men are slaves. 

The colored abolitionists fought to get slavery recognized 
as a sin, not just an evil or wrong. In the strongly religious 
nineteenth century, the word "sinner" was often a fighting 
word. This is a major reason for the deep bitterness which ex- 
isted between abolitionists and slave-holders. Frederick Doug- 
lass gave utterance to this view while speaking in Glasgow, 
Scotland, May 29, 1846, when he said — 

The abolitionists of the United States have 
been laboring, during the last fifteen years to estab- 
lish the conviction throughout the country that slav- 
ery is a sin, and ought to be treated as such by all 
professing Christians.^* 

Previous to the abolitionists, Douglass averred, only the Society 
of Friends and the small body of Reformed Presbyterians re- 
garded slavery as a sin. The abolitionists, he stated, wanted 
slaveholders expelled from the churches, and "the antislavery 
sentiment not tO' sit in communion with slaveholders and to 
warn the slaveholders not to come near nor partake of the em- 
blems of Christ's body and blood, lest they eat and drink dam- 
nation to themselves," Douglass declared, "is become very 
prevalent in the free States."^'' Douglass repeatedly called the 
slaveholder a sinner and a thief and a robber, "for what is a 
thief? what is a robber? but he who appropriates to himself 
what belongs to another. The slaveholders do this continually. 
They publish their willingness to do so. They defend their 
right to do so.""" Slavery he called "a foul blot upon Christi- 
anity." Douglass attacked those Christians who would denounce 
slavery, but not the slaveholder. Of these, he said: "While they 
would denounce theft, they would spare the thief; while they 
would denounce gambling, they would spare the gambler; while 
they would denounce the dice, they would spare the sharper. 
. . . Well may the thief be glad, the robber sing, the adulterer 
clap his hands for joy.""' Douglass wanted the doer and the 
deed given the same tag. For "Slavery — I hold it to be an in- 


disputable proposition — exists in the United States because it 
is respectable. The slaveholder is a respectable man in America. 
All the important officers in the Government and the Church 
are filled by slaveholders . . . one o£ the most direct, one of 
the most powerful means of making him a respectable man, is 
to say thac he is a Christian.""' Almost needless to say, it was 
the growth of the sentiment in the North that the slaveholder 
was indeed a "sinner," ''thief," and "robber" which led the 
South to secession. 

Afro-Americans have tended to believe that for them 
slavery was not all bad, that it taught ihem reverence for God, 
patience, love, humility, and in some ways, made them morally 
and physically stronger than white people. When in 1843 he 
asked bondsmen to rise and overthrow slavery, even at the risk 
of death, Henry Highland Garnet alluded to these aspects of 
the institution. "You will not be compelled to spend much time 
in order to become inured to hardships," he stated to the slaves, 
and continued: "From the first moment that you breathed the 
air of heaven, you have been accustomed to nothing else but 
hardships. The heroes of the American Revolution were never 
put upon harder fare than a< peck of corn and a few herrings 
per week. You have not become enen,'ated by the luxuries of 
life. Slavery has prepared you for any emergency."' 

Frederick Douglass states that "the very first mental ef- 
fort" that he remembered as an adult was an, attempt to solve 
the riddle of why the Negro in America was the slave of the 
white man. His first understanding of this matter was that 
God had ordained this. But, how God could so arrange things 
and "still be good," left Douglas puzzled. He thought and 
wept over this matter many times, until having overheard 
some elderly slaves discuss how their parents were stolen from 
Africa by white men, Douglass saw the answer which satisfied 
him. Slavery was not then the will of God, but the result of 
human avarice and greed. '^ 

William Wells Brown shared the conviction that slavery 
degraded the oppressor as well as the oppressed. On this, he 
wrote of the institution: 

It is regarded as an offense in the sight of God, 
and opposed to the best interests of man. There is a 


proverb, that no man can bind a chain upon the Hmb 
of his neighbor, without inevitably fate fastening the 
other end around his own body. This has been degrad- 
ingly verified by the slaveholders of America. While 
they have been degrading the colored man, by en- 
slaving him, they have become degraded themselves. 
In withholding education from the minds of their 
slaves, they have kept their own children in compara- 
tive ignorance.'" ~^ 

"The immoralities which have been found to follow in the 
train of slavery in all countries and all ages," he continued, 
"are to be seen in their worst forms in the Slave States of 

In 1837, Reverend Hosea Easton stated of slavery and 
prejudice, that the "whole system is founded in avarice." "I 
believe the premises to be the production of modern philosophy, 
bearing date with European slavery," he continued.""' He con- 
cluded with the well-known statement that "The love of 
money is the root of all evil." Interesting in the thought of 
Afro-Americans on the subject of slavery is the failure of ac- 
ceptance of the notion, so much advanced by the Slavocracy, 
that chattel slavery was ordained by God. One searches the 
literature in vain for evidence that even a small minority of 
Negroes accepted this dictum. However, human credulity 
being what it is, some bondsmen must have accepted this 
dictum. The abolitionists overwhelmingly blamed their race's 
enslavement on the avarice and sinfulness of the Caucasian, 
who sought to use his superior numbers and force to profit 
from the toil of others. Inasmuch as many of the Afro- Ameri- 
cans originally came from a land of primitive and animistic 
faith, where the gods were blamed for many things, good and 
bad, the failure to accept this particular argument of the 
Slavocracy must be taken, in part, as further proof of the 
Negro's early Westernization. The Declaration of Independ- 
ence, the arguments of the patriots of the Revolutionary War 
era, and the Constitution provided the foundation of the 
Negro's outlook on slavery and society.'^ 


On Freedom 

Most bondsmen had an intense desire for freedom. One 
ex-slave said: "We all had freedom in our bones.""'' They often 
prayed for freedom. One ex-slave said: "I thought it was fool- 
ishness then, but the old-time folks always felt they was to be 
free. It must have been something 'vealed unto 'em."" 'Booker 
T. Washington said: "I have never seen one who did not want 
to be free or one who would return to slavery."'" That slaves 
had a deep-seated desire for freedom was to be proved in their 
jubilant reaction when the news of emancipation would finally 

The desire to escape from slavery, it has been noted, con- 
stituted a major theme of Negro slave songs. J. S. Bassett 
thought that with the beginning of the radical abolitionist 
movement of 1830, at least 2,000 slaves fled to the North each 
year. Doubtless, these figures are too conservative for the 1840- 
60 period. That thousands of bondsmen escaped annually is 
well known, but how many more made the attempt each year 
only to be captured and kept in bondage cannot be known. 
Evidence that between 1831-61 there was a considerable and 
constant exodus of Negroes to the North is seen, in the many 
advertisements for fugitives that appeared in southern news- 
papers, and the persistent agitation which southern congress- 
men carried on for ever more stringent fugitive slave laws. 

Slaves ran away for many reasons. The threat of punish- 
ment, separation of families through the sale of one or more 
members, or the threat of such, news of the Toussaint's insur- 
rection, congressional debates on slavery, the nearness to free 
areas such as the North or to Florida, Mexico, or Western 
Indian territory; the encouragement of fellow slaves or of fugi- 
tives or of free Negroes or friendly southern whites; and the 
hard work of hot frenzied summer months are among the many 
things which spurred bondsmen to make the break for freedom. 

Free Negroes participated in numerous of the slave plots, 
rebellions, and abscondings, but their own precarious freedom 
kept them from making open assertions in favor of freedom 
for the bondsmen. There can be little doubt, however, that 
their sympathies lay primarily with the members of their ov/n 
race. Only when they possessed freedom and acceptance by 


the majority group to such an extent as existed in New Orleans, 
Louisiana, did the Free Negro populace occasionally feel very 
estranged from and hostile toward the slave. It seems probable 
that the slave generally was not aware of the true extent of the 
sympathy which the free person felt toward him, and that Lick 
of awareness caused the bondsmen to view the free person with 
considerable suspicion. 

Of running away, one ex-slave reported: "Canada was 
popular then [with runaways] because all of the slaves thought 
it was the last gate before you got all the way inside of heaven. 
I don't think there was much chance for a slave to make a living 
in Canada, but didn't many of 'em come back. They seem like 
they rather starve up there in the cold than to be back in 
slavery.""^ Stimulated by their participation in the War of 
1812 and campaigns in Canada, Negroes had increased their 
efforts to settle there after the war, and Canada became a sort 
of "heaven" in Negro thought. That England soon abolished 
slavery in her empire, and that Canadians were quite friendly 
to the migrants, coupled with the fears of staying anywhere 
in the United States which the fugitive slave law of 18 50 en- 
gendered, the Negro population of Canada had grown to con- 
siderable proportion by the outbreak of the Civil War. Negro 
abolitionists solicited funds to aid the fugitives who settled in 
Canada, and the African Methodist Episcopal Church organized 
a Canadian conference almost a generation before the Civil War 
came. Yet that approximately 50,000 Negroes were in Canada 
in 1860 compared with only around 20,000 in the post World 
War II period reveals that many of the migrants, because of 
lack of job opportunities, home-sickness, and increasing racial 
bias in Canada, returned to the United States in the decades 
following the Civil War. 

The slave, George Moses Horton, wrote during the height 
of the abolitionist movement: 

Come, Liberty! thou cheerful sound, 

Roll through my ravished ears; 
Come, let my grief in joys be drowned, 

And drive away my fears. 

In his epic 1843 address to the slaves, Henry Highland Garnet 


declared: "Liberty is a spirit sent out from God, and like its 
great Author, is no respector of persons." 

The Negro abolitionists certainly knew that freedom had 
restrictions and limitations for even in the North they were 
only quasi-free. Yet they appear to have held the conviction 
that human beings universally and naturally choose freedom or 
liberty over all forms of dependency. The twentieth century, 
which has seen the m.ajorities in several nations either choose or 
acquiese in various forms of totalitarianism, is inclined to be 
more skeptical of this so-called natural inclination of all men 
toward freedom. Doubtless, many of the black abolitionists 
would be rudely shocked if they could return to earth and 
witness the twentieth century retreat from freedom. Doubt- 
less, too, their own personal acquaintance with slavery would 
be yet so vivid in their minds that even the analyses of Erich 
Fromm's book Escape From Freedom would be insuflficient ex- 
planations for the twentieth century's acceptance of totalitar- 

Most of the abolitionists believed that God ordained and 
gave freedom to m^an, and that those who restricted it or denied 
it to others were blaspheming God. Also, the abolitionists based 
the claims of their race to freedom and equal rights on their 
American nativity. 

In 1847, Charles L. Reason wrote: 

O Freedom! Freedom! Oh, how oft 
Thy loving children call on Thee! 
In wailings loud and breathings soft, 
Beseeching God, Thy face to see. 

With agonizing hearts we kneel. 
While 'round us howls the oppressor's cry, 
And suppliant pray that we may feel 
The ennobling glances of Thine eye. 

One ex-bondsman said he had vowed that if he ever got free, 
he was just going to lie in bed and never get up.' Another 
reported of the 18 50s. 

We knowed freedom was on us, but we didn't 
know what was to come with it. We thought we was 
going to get rich like the white folks. We thought 


we was going to be richer than the white folks, 
'cause we was stronger and knowed how to work, and 
the whites didn't, and they didn't have us to work 
for them anymore. But it didn't turn out that way. 
We soon found out that freedom could make folks 
proud, but it didn't make 'em rich."^ 

Another showed jubilation: 

My mistress said to me when I got back home, 
'You're free. Go on out in the orchard and git your- 
self some peaches.' They had a yard full of peaches. 
Baby, did I git me some peaches. I pulled a bushel of 


Frecdoin meant different things to different persons. Some 
hated to see the old order change, while a few were indifferent. 
Some thought emancipation meant freedom from work, and 
others saw it primarily as a chance to go any place they wished. 
One Negro in Vicksburg, Mississippi believed that his race was 
scheduled to assemble in New York City and "have white men 
for niggers." ' Doubtless, most were glad because they believed 
that they were now going to be treated more "like white folks" 
and have the tangible and intangible goods which the better class 
of whites possessed. These different reactions notwithstanding, 
to most if not all of the ex-slaves, freedom was a precious jewel 
indeed. In 1876, Frederick Douglass spoke of "our blood- 
bought freedom,""' and the freeman John Mercer Langston 

Liberty is the whitest and brightest jewel in the 
firmament, and . . . the greatest heritage of Ameri- 
can citizenship is to be free. . . . Virtue is the very 
essence of popular liberty; but equally so is liberty 
the essence of public virtue." 

J. C. Price averred: "freedom implies manhood. "'^^ 

On the occasion of the emancipation of slaves in New 
York, July 4, 1827, Reverend Nathaniel Paul had pointed out 
that freedom alone was not a worthy goal. He stated: 

While we rejoice at the thought of this land's 
becoming a land of freemen, we pause, we reflect. 
What, we would ask, is liberty without virtue? It 


tends to lasciviousness; and what is freedom but a 
curse, and even destruction, to the profligate? . . . 
Brethren, we have been called into liberty; only let 
us use that liberty as not abusing it. This day com- 
mences a new era in our history; new scenes, new 
prospects open before us, and it follows as a neces- 
sary consequence that new duties devolve upon us; 
duties, which if properly attended to, cannot fail to 
improve our moral condition and elevate us to a rank 
of respectable standing with the community; or if 
neglected, we fall at once into the abyss of contempt- 
ible wretchedness. It is righteousness alone that ex- 
alteth a nation, and sin is a reproach to any people. ^° 

Later the Emancipation Proclamation, the Thirteenth Amend- 
ment, even the supreme court decision of May 17, 19H, and 
related decisions would cause these same convictions to be 
uttered by other Afro-American spokesmen. 

Chapter IV 


One primary source of Negro thought has been the cruel 
aspects of slavery. Apologists for the institution have sought 
to minimize and excuse away the lashings, sometimes unto 
death, brandings, mutilations, improper and inadequate diets, 
rapes, breaking up of families, and other types of cruelty to 
which slaves were subjected. No doubt Northern abolitionists, 
by concentrating on these aspects of slavery almost to exclu- 
sion, gave a picture of the institution that was out of focus. 
Still, it is undeniable that a characteristic feature of the in- 
stitution was cruelty. Fear, not love, was the primary weapon 
used to control slaves. To keep people working long hours in 
the southern sun solely for minimal food, clothing, and shelter 
dictated that fear had to be the chief weapon used. Cruel treat- 
ment caused thousands of bondsmen to risk their lives in such 
actions as flight to freedom or, in desperation to plot and at- 
tempt insurrection and rebellion, or to commit suicide. The 
record of cruelty has caused Negro historians pondering it to 
shed tears during their researches, and belongs to the blackest 
chapters in the long story of man's inhumanity to man. 

Amazing as it may seem, news of practically all major 
national and international debates and events concerning slav- 
ery reached the ears of bondsmen shortly after the occurrences 
and caused considerable unrest among them. There is evidence 
that, at times, such news inspired directly plots and insurrec- 
tions. Testimony at the trial of the conspirators involved with 
Denmark Vesey of South Carolina shows that among other 
things, the slaves had been aroused by anti-slavery sentiments 
voiced in Congress during debates over the Missouri Compro- 
mise questions. Similar unrest among slaves followed the aboli- 
tionist sentiments voiced during the heated 1840 presidential 
campaign, and the 18 56 candidacy of John C. Fremont. 

As early as the Revolutionary War many slaves came to 
feel that God and friendly men were asking them to rise and 


strike a blow for their freedom. Stirred by the talk of freedom 
and human rights which filled the air on every hand, slave plots 
and uprisings were numerous during and shortly after the War 
for American Independence. This pattern of behavior was re- 
peated during the War of 1812, Mexican War, French Revo- 
lution, Haitian uprising led by Toussaint L'Ouverture, revolu- 
tions of the Latin American republics during the early nine- 
teenth century, as well as the democratic revolutions in post- 
Napoleonic Europe. Slave revolts started early. In 1741 there 
\^'as a "conspiracy" in New York in which New York "bonds- 
men" destroyed many buildings by fire. For this over thirty 
persons were executed. 

Miles Mark Fisher concluded that, "Overlords did not 
see or care that field slaves dropped tears which watered the 
ground they cultivated. Indeed, the opinion of no less a person 
than George Washington was that slaves required brutal treat- 
ment."^ Henry Bibb, fugitive living in Detroit, wrote that had 
his master treated him better, he probably would not have run 

It is perhaps unfortunate that the friendly paternalism 
of which the South boasted was not more often the real basis 
of relations between black and white. Perhaps it could not have 
been otherwise, but the fear basis of race relations and cruel 
repressive measures set black and white up as enemies of one 
another. While it often created "respect" one for the other, 
this could be scarcely more than formality. Thus it is probably 
safe to say that in the Old South only the Negro who was a 
house servant or artisan or held some other privileged position 
ever really loved members of the Caucasian race with Christian 
lo\e. All the rest appear to have only feigned adm^iration and 
love. Thus was born Uncle-Tomism. Slaves often seemed de- 
lighted to pretend to be to the white man what they were not. 
As this was also their joke on the Caucasian, their way of get- 
ting even without being suspected, it is small wonder that 
many Negroes have enjoyed playing the role of Uncle Tom. 
This has been their secret and private revenge for many physi- 
cal and mental abuses and insults. Many slaves feigned stupidity. 
Many believed that the planter did not want a slave of intelli- 
gence and integrity, and that the more child-like they behaved, 


the less likely would be their chance of angering "the boss." 
Of slaves being newly broken in, one planter said:- "Let a 
hundred men show him to hoe, or drive a wheelbarrow, he'll 
still take the one by the Bottom and the other by the Wheel. ^ 

Cruelty to slaves must be viewed against the larger back- 
ground of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries which saw 
child labor, factories which commonly worked people twelve 
and more hours per day, saw sailors flogged, and prisoners, or- 
phans, and the insane often brutally treated.. 

There were no slave overseers, only slave assistants to the 
white overseer, called drivers. Coming from the poor white 
class as they usually did, overseers often hated the plantation 
system and vented their anger against the slave, the symbol 
which they could abuse with less danger of retaliation. 

The types or forms of cruelty which were in the slave 
system seemed to be legion. Slave women often resented doing 
work which they termed men's work,^ while many bondsmen 
were highly sensitive about being cursed. All resented the whip- 
pings. "They wouldn't whip horses half as hard as they would 
whip darkies," commented one ex-bondsman.'' Slaves always 
said that owners or overseers treated them like dogs or mules. 
Being placed in the same category with farm animals was one 
of the most often-mentioned of all resentments which slaves 
felt toward their situation. 

Mistresses of the plantation were neither as often loved 
or as often hated as was the case with the masters or overseers. 
Doubtless this is because the mistresses usually played a more 
passive role in the slave system. When they actively tempered 
the cruelty of masters or overseers, the mistresses tended to 
be loved and respected, but when they encouraged or partici- 
pated in the cruelty, they too were hated.'' Some mistresses beat 
their slaves habitually until blood ran down their bodies.' 
One ex-slave said of his mistress — "well, she was good as most 
any old white woman. . . . They all hated the po' nigger."° 
Suspecting that they were her husband's progeny, some mis- 
tresses were more cruel to mulatto children on the plantations 
and would not let them serve as house servants or insisted that 
they be sold. Sometimes the mistresses whipped male adult 
slaves."' Of one mean mistress, her bondsman reported that he 


laughed when she died."' One type of cruelty domestic slaves 
held against some mistresses was their not giving or allowing 
the slaves to have enough to eat. The cruelties which loomed 
largest and almost exclusively in their minds had to do with 
physical necessities. Only the black abolitionist complained 
much about cruelties involving such things as the right to vote, 
hold public office, or use public facilities without being dis- 
criminated against. 

Being sold away from friends and relatives was one of the 
crudest aspects of slavery, but that being sold meant leaving 
relatives and friends was not the only reason many slaves hated 
to be sold. They deeply resented the manner in which the sales 
were conducted. They disliked being placed on a platform, 
partly or wholly nude, while prospective buyers examined 
their physiques and peered into their mouths as if they were 
cattle on sale. One ex-slave said of his being sold: "They stands 
me up on, a block of wood, and a man bid me in. I felt mad. 
I don't know what they sold me for, but the man what bought 
me made me open my mouth while he looks at my teeth . . . 
like you sell a horse."" To some bondsmen selling a mother 
from her children was "like taking a mother from her pigs."^" 
One slave child felt no cruelty in slavery until her parents were 
sold. One mother threatened to kill her infant by holding it 
by the feet and striking its head against a tree rather than be 
sold separately.^ One ex-slave pointed to the irony involved in 
inter-racial relations in the Old South. On his plantation, he 
said, "The white folks sold one colored woman, to send their 
boy to school to be a doctor. They sold her away from her 

The Lower South states were places of horror in the minds 
of slaves who had never been there, and Afro-Americans still 
feel, along perhaps with most northern white Americans, that 
race relations are still infinitely worse in the lower South. In 
slavery many recalcitrant or captured runaway slaves were 
sold into the Lower South and the threat of being "sold down 
the river" was often used to control slaves. 

How many slaves felt about their status may be gleaned 
from words of Frederick Douglas on this topic. In a letter 
to his master, with which Douglas celebrated in 1848 the tenth 


anniversary of his flight to freedom, he describes briefly his 
feelings as a slave. He writes of himself as then trembling at 
the sound of his master's voice "lamenting that I was a man, 
and wishing myself a brute. "^"^ "When I saw the slave driver 
whip a woman," he averred, "cut the blood out of her neck, 
and heard her piteous cries, I went away into the corner of the 
fence, wept and pondered over the mystery." 

On one farm, because of cruel treatment, a large group of 
slaves plotted to throw themselves in a nearby river. They 
stayed oif the farm until after mid-night and said concern for 
their children caused them to reconsider. Doubtless one ex- 
bondsman unwittingly spoke for many others when he said of 
slavery — "There wasn't much fun to be had in them times. 
Didn't have no time for yourself."^" "Slavery was the worst 
days was ever seed in the world," one ex-slave declared."^ 
Another, reminiscing, said: "Yes, Lawd, there is a mighty whole 
lot of people today what had they been through what I been 
through they would be crazy as a bed bug."^' Of the first 
realization that he was a slave, one ex-bondsman said, "I knew 
I Was a slave after I got big enough to know that I couldn't 
do the things that I wanted to do."^*"' 

One aged ex-slave said in the 1940's: "I have sho' seen some 
bad days, and heard all about them. Times are bad enough 
now, but you ain't seen nothing. White folks will always be 
hard on niggers and niggers will never have a chance. I hope 
God will help the niggers and they will help theirselves."^^ The 
1864 National Negro Convention which met at Syracuse, New 
York said that the race in the U. S. A. had been "cruelly 
wronged by people whose might constituted their right; we 
have been subdued, not by the power of ideas, but by brute 

The late nineteenth and early twentieth century myth 
that Negroes were happy under slavery, has been exploded for 
the most part. Contributions by such persons as Herbert Apthe- 
ker, Henrietta Buckmaster, Carter Wodson, W. E. B. Dubois, 
and John Hope Franklin have shewn that while slaves made an 
adjustment to their condition, they were not happy in it. Apolo- 
gists for the institution, led by the ante-bellum planters and 
post-bellum writers such as Ulrich Bonnell Phillips and the 


W. A. Dunning School, sometimes have called adjustment and 
accommodation blissful enjoyment. They failed to realize that 
Uncle Tomism and humor were the slave's defense mechan- 
isms. Any objective examination of the spirituals reveals that 
in them sadness and longing for a better life are dominant 
themes, and it matters little whether the better life was en- 
visioned as being in this world, ir^ Africa, or in the North, as 
some interpretations of the spirituals hold, or whether it was 
to come in life after death. Of course the persons who fled the 
institution spoke out in unison in bitter denunciation of it. 

In Amevicau Negro Slave Revolts, Herbert Aptheker has 
shown that manv of the worst slave plots and insurrections 
followed economic depressions which necessitated shorter slave 
rations or the master' breaking up families and selling some of 
his human property in order to pay bills.'*' 

That the United States witnessed no large scale slave re- 
volts such as the one led by Toussaint L'Ouverture in Haiti 
would appear to be adequately explained by a lack of oppor- 
tunity for laying of plans, the elaborate system of control 
which planters exercised, opportunity of escape to the North, 
and the patient hope which Christianity brought. The same 
may be said for the lack of an even larger number of runaway 
slaves. However, these conditions notwithstanding, sporadic 
local revolts were legion and continuing and the number of 
fugitives who either escaped or attempted to do so is quite 
large. Frederick Douglass stated that nothing could keep the 
Negro satisfied in slavery. ''Give him a bad master," Douglass 
declared, "and he aspires to a good master; give him a good 
master, and he wishes to become his oicn master."'^ 

Less dramatic than the slave plots, rebellions, and abscond- 
ing was the day-by-day resistance to slavery. This resistance 
took many subtle and sometimes vicious forms. Of one type 
of resistance, Kenneth Stamp writes: 

Slaves sought to limit the quantity of their services 
in many different ways. At cotton picking time they 
carried cotton from the gin house to the field in the 
morning to be weighed with the days picking at 
night. They concealed dirt or rocks in their cotton 
baskets to escape punishment for loafing. They fixed 


their own work quotas, and master had to adopt stern 
measures to persuade them that they had been unduly 
presumptuous. Where the task system was used, they 
stubbornly resisted any attempt to increase the size 
of the daily tasks fixed by custom." 

They also would not work hard when the over-seer wasn't near, 
often refused to compete among themselves, sometimes refused 
to learn skilled trades when offered the chance, damaged crops 
and farm implements and animals, stole from the smokehouse, 
and feigned illness."' One slave-holder felt aggrieved when he 
saw that the small patches which his Negroes cultivated for 
themselves were better cared for and more productive than his 
own fields. They also maimed themselves, committed suicide, 
feigned pregnancy, ran away, helped fugitives with food, re- 
fused to inform on one another, even held a few sit-down 
strikes, poisoned their masters, and set fires.'' For the most 
paru the slaves who thus provoked masters and overseers were 
the meek, smiling ones whom many thought were contented 
though irresponsible."^ Of those slaves who "waged ceaseless 
and open warfare against their bondage" Kenneth Stamp says 
— ''As the American Revolution produced folk heroes, so also 
did southern slavery — heroes who, in both cases, gave much 
for the cause of human freedom.""'' 

Frances A. Kemble reported that every southern woman 
with whom she talked admitted to her that the planter class 
lived in constant fear of slave insurrection. She stated that 
southern men usually denied the existence of this fear."' Fred- 
erick L. Olmstead made a similar observation in his A Journey 
In The Back Country. Poisonings, arson, plots and conspiracies 
which existed, and those hundreds which never happened but 
which whites expected, charged the southern air with fear. 
Fear has ever been a major mainspring of cruelty and hate, and 
the major factor which created prejudice and hatred between 
blacks and whites in the South was not the Reconstruction era, 
as is commonly thought, but the slave regime. Clearly both 
races were victims of the institution and both were enslaved. 

For most bondsmen, death was the only release from their 
lot. The likelihood of escape to the North did not loom large 


until the rise of militant abolitionism and the Underground 
Railroad around 1830, and even then, bondsmen in the lower 
South could scarcely hope to travel the road to freedom. Still, 
after 1830, there were friends all along the route to the North, 
and the traffic grew annually. 

A number of bondsmen petitioned the colonial and state 
governors and legislatures for their freedom. Some used the 
legal ground that the will of a former master had so ordained. 
Others, on moral grounds, appealed to the consciences of the 
governors and legislators. In such petitions, the slaves generally 
stated that thev were very unhappy because of their degraded 
and non-propertied status. These petitions came from all sec- 
tions of the country."® 

For many slaves Christmas was the only holiday in the 
year, and perhaps for just as great a number Saturday after- 
noons and Sundays were not free from required labors, for 
although work might cease in the fields, many had weekly 
personal chores to perform both for themselves and their own- 
ers., By ten years of age and often earlier, childhood was over 
for slaves. By then plowing and all sorts of hard tasks became 
common. Slaves had almost no mirrors. Many never saw them- 
selves in good likeness until they were adolescent or older. 
Dressing up for Sundays or dances was a very special joy to 
them, because they usually went ragged and dirty. Lice and 
other vermin were common. It was not unusual for the Fourth 
of July to be a holiday for slaves, at which time much dancing 
and feasting went on. 

There is abundant evidence that slaves regarded the dirty 
rags which they commonly wore as one of the most hateful 
badges of their degradation. One of their happiest occasions 
came when in the fall or early winter they were given their 
annual clothing allowance. Crude and cheap though they were, 
slaves cherished these bits of new clothing as well as any cast- 
off hat, gloves, coat, dress, or trousers which were given by 
their masters. That their shoes seldom fitted accounts in large 
part for the stereotyped notion that all Negroes are innately 
cursed with corns, bunions, and other manifestations of "bad 
feet." Commenting on slave clothing, one freedman said — 


"shoes was the worstest trouble.""" Considering their long ex- 
perience in slavery, there can be little wonder that to many 
bondsmen and freedmen fine-looking shoes and other items of 
clothing became an end rather than a means. 

Slaves missed not having salt for their food. Ex-slaves 
very often commented that ''The only salt we ever got . . . 
was what dropped down on the ground from the meat that 
was hanging up. It was just the color of brown sugar. We 
never knowed about no other kind."^'"' One of the greatest 
delights of slaves was the hot biscuits which some received on 
Sunday mornings. 

One ex-slave said of table delicacies during slavery — 
"white folks would give them [slaves] a rooster and an old 
hen for supper sometimes. "^^ Also slaves were sometimes given 
and regarded as delicacies hogs' feet, heads, tails, and entrails 
(chitterlings). "Ham was white folks meat, and if you got 
any yots would have to steal it,""" one ex-bondsman reported. 
Also — "The white folks would not give us no butter and things 
like that.""^ Slaves stole jellies, sugar, chickens, ham, and other 
delicacies. Slave children were seldom given meat. They com- 
monly received "pot-likker," buttermilk, beans and cabbage 
soup. Meat usually went to adults because they had to work. 

A pleasure which most bondsmen desired to no avail was 
the opportunity and joy of acquiring knowledge. One ex-slave 
said: "When I was a little boy I always wanted to know what 
was on a piece of paper. "'"' Another ex-slave said — "Don't 
know much about education. All I got I got it out in the field. 
That was my fountain pen and pencil, the blade of the hoe, 
and my slate was the ground."^' Another commented — "The 
only writing a nigger ever git am when he git born or marry 
or die, then Marse put the name in the big book."''' Slaves be- 
lieved that whites did things much worse than most slaves had 
ever seen. They talked of whites taking infants by the heels 
and beating their brains out against trees, killing slaves and 
chopping their bodies up. Apparently one instance of extreme 
brutality went a long way among slaves. Many slaves believed 
that the master or overseer on the next plantation was always 
meaner than their own. Reminiscing en the cruelties of slav- 
ery, one aged freedman said: "Oh, white folks have done every- 


thing. I can't hardly hold the tears back. It's just awful to 
think about it, and it was awful to be there. . . . God is a 
forgiving God, but sometimes I don't think he has forgiven 
the white people for the way they treated the poor black 
folks."'' Another* ex-slave declared: "I don't know what made 
the white folks have such hard hearts; it sho was awful.""'' 

After emancipation the most recurrent remembrance of 
unpleasantnesses was the beatings administered to slaves. Even 
allowing for exaggerations on the part of the freedmen, this 
feature of the bondage stands out as one ofi its most inhuman 
aspects. Slaves were sometimes com.pletely incapacitated for 
two or more days as a result of these whippings, and the mere 
threat of a whipping was enough to cause a slave to make the 
always perilous and little-likely-to-succeed effort at running 
away. Almost always the slaves definition of a good master was 
one who neither used nor allowed much use of the lash. Es- 
pecially did the slaves resent that generally before being lashed, 
they had to remove all or part of their clothing, and that often 
the beatings were given before unwilling slave audiences.""* 
Some plantations had a regular day on which beatings were 
given, and sometimes all slaves were whipped, regardless of 
whether they had committed any offense. One ex-slave re- 
ported — "i lays in the bunk two days, gitting over that whip- 
ping, gitting over it in the body but not in the heart. No, sir, 
I has that in the heart till this day."*" Slavey being whipped to 
death was common enough so that almost every slave had 
"knowledge" of such experience. One aged ex-slave with fail- 
ing memory said — "I don't know nothing they done before the 
war but whip niggers. They whipped them all the time."^^ If 
bondsmen received lashes when they were innocent of any 
offense, they were unusually resentful of the blows, and at 
such times might either strike back or silently plot some re- 

One of the greatest fears of slaves were the bloodhounds 
or "Nigger Dogs" which were features of plantation life. In 
their wrath at the trouble which a runaway slave had caused 
them, masters or overseers sometimes allowed the dogs to give 
the caught slave a "working over," and the dogs might tear 
off the ears of slave men or the breasts of slave women. All 


bondsmen felt intense respect and fear at the ingenuity and 
cruelty of these dogs. 

Slave Pleasure 

The Afro- American ever has felt an incumbency to mini- 
mize or deny the pleasures and joys which his race had in 
slavery. To affirm this side of slavery has seemed to him an ac- 
ceptance and approval of slavery itself; thus the only image 
of slavery which has been acceptable to the mind of the Negro 
has been the image of the unhappy slave. This, of course, is the 
same psychological pattern which has caused southern whites, 
both ante and poste-bellum to blot out of their minds the 
image of the unhappy slave and avidly to maintain that only 
the jubilantly happy slave existed, for apparently it has seemed 
to southern whites that to accept the picture of the unhappy 
slave is to accept the abolitionists condemnation of slavery. 

On all major holidays or social events such as weddings, 
election days, militia muster, or a fair, some benefits of the 
holiday seeped down to slaves in the form of lessened work. 
In the colonial period New England had mock slave "elec- 
tions" and slave "Governors." 

The Mississippi black codes did not allow slaves to beat 
drums or blow horns. Throughout ante-bellum America the 
Negroes, slave and free, were required to keep the white notion 
of the Sabbath. Yet, so enjoyable a day was it generally that 
slaves could sing of the Sabbath — 

Oh laugh an' sing an' don't git tired. 

We's all gwine home, some Mond'y, 
To de honey pond an' fritter trees; 

An' ev'ry day'll be Sund'y. 

But of the other six days of the week, Joseph S. Cotter, Sr., a 
twentieth century Negro, would utter what most slaves must 
have thought and felt. Cotter wrote: 

I will suppose that fate is just, 
I will suppose that grief is wise. 
And I will tread what Path I must 
To enter Paradise. 


Kenneth Stampp has written: 

The average bondsman Hved more or less aim- 
lessly in a bleak and narrow world. He lived in a 
world without schools, without books, without learn- 
ed men; he knew less o£ the fine arts and of aesthetic 
values than he had known in Africa; and he found 
few ways to break the monotonous sameness of all 
his days/" 

Stampp states that the "culturally rootless" slaves devoted 
much of their leisure time "to the sheer pleasure of being idle." 
"The slaves," he continues, having lost the bulk of their Afri- 
can heritage were prevented from sharing in much of the best 
of southern white culture."*" And — 

In slaverv the Negro existed in a kind of cultural 
void. He lived in a twilight zone between two ways 
of life and was unable to obtain from either many of 
the attributes which distinguish man from beast.** 

Again Stampp points up this degradation when he discusses the 
slave's source of leisure-time pleasure through "alcohol in its 
crudest but cheapest and most concentrated form." "To be 
sure," he opines, "these bibulous bondsmen merely indulged in 
a common vice of an age of hard liquor and heavy drinkers: 
but they, more than their masters, made the periodic solace of 
the bottle a necessity of life."*' Bondage moulded the Negro 
into "a fatalist and f utilitarian, for nothing else could reconcile 
him to his life."*' 

Religion was one pleasure or safety valve which was some- 
times afforded the bondsman. Just as some masters encouraged 
religious exercises for the slave, they also provided such things 
as Saturday night dances which followed an afternoon of loaf- 
ing, special prizes of food, drink, money or judicious praise for 
tasks well done; f eastings and alcoholic beverages at Christmas 
and other holidays; much sexual license, and occasional slave 
weddings. When the crop was laid by there was another period 
of feasting, and at Christmas slaves were sometimes rewarded 
with a cash bonus and new clothes. Encouraging slaves to de- 
velop small gardens for extra foodstuffs not only served to help 


the planter by keeping the health of the slave up while his 
grocery bill went down, but this also served to keep the slave 
more contented. The threat of withdrawal of some or all of these 
privileges was a means of control over slave behavior. Indeed 
manipulation of these privileges sometimes took precedence 
over the lash as a means of control. With some masters the lash 
was probably a last resort. 

As stated, planters in the Upper South sometimes threat- 
ened to sell their slaves into the lower South. They painted griie- 
some pictures oi^ conditions in the rice swamps or sugar plan- 
tations. So effective was this propaganda until in the twentieth 
century many Negroes who reside in the upper South not only 
paint unrealistically dark pictures of race relations in the lower 
South, but imagine that they are in some way superior to 
members of their race who reside in the lower South. 

"Slaves yearned for some recognition of their worth as 
individuals," states one observer, "if only from those in their 
own limited social orbit for to them this wholly human as- 
piration was, if anything, more important than it was to the 
whites. Each slave cherished whatever shreds of self-respect he 
could preserve. "^^ Some slaves felt important because they were 
looked up to as persons! possessing unusual intellectual or phy- 
sical strength. At times slaves of exceptional intellect and re- 
ligious bent became preachers of the gospels. Sometimes the 
master allowed the slave to preach in religious services, while 
at other times the preacher just gave informal advice as a sort 
of community elder. It was not uncommon for female slaves 
to hold this position. At times the practice of voodoism or 
other manifestations of magic were coupled with preaching. 
As in the case of Nat Turner, some slaves claimed that they 
had visions and received messages froml God or His angels.'*^ 

Slaves boasted of the wealth possessed by their masters and 
got ego satisfaction out of belonging to very wealthy owners. 
"To be a slave, was thought to be bad enough," wrote Fred- 
erick Douglass, "but to be a poor man's slave was deemed a 
disgrace, indeed."^'' "I have heard of slaves objecting to being 
sent in very small companies to labor in the field," wrote one 
ex-slave, "lest that some passer-by should think that they be- 
longed to a poor man, who was unable to keep a large gang."'"^ 


Bondsmen also received self-respect and esteem from such 
achievements as being the best cotton picker, out-doing one 
another in some formx of athletic competition, and from stealing 
successfully or in some way outwitting the master or overseer. 
"Everybody, in the South," declared Frederick Douglass, "wants 
the privilege of whipping somebody else.'"'^ Fanny Kemblc 
stated that slavery gave the bondsmen an attitude of "un- 
bounded insolence and tyranny" toward each other."' 

Not only did slaves derive ego satisfaction out of the high 
status and wealth of their masters, but they boasted about the 
high prices which the latter paid to purchase them. If the 
master had paid $1500.00 for a slave, he sometimes felt superior 
to one who had been purchased for $1000.00. 

Corn-shuckings had great appeal to the slaves. The coin- 
petition, cameraderie, food and liquor of such occasions pro- 
vided much entertainment for them. After the work was done 
and food and drinks consumed, fights sometimes broke out 
among the bondsmen. After dances or corn-shuckings en- 
counters were sometimes encouraged in the same manner as 
fights between dogs or roosters, and it seems that the slaves 
shared heartily the love of physical encounter which W. J. 
Cash, John Hope Franklin and others have ascribed to southern 

While Negroes have been regarded by many persons as 
having complacent easily satisfied natures, evidence shows this 
stereotype like so many others, to be false. It appears that where 
the colored man has asked for little,, it is because he was real- 
istic enough to know that at best, he could get only a litle, and 
often his "satisfaction" has been only a mask to hide his true 
feelings. The mask which the Negro traditionally has worn 
presents an interesting study. The Negro often laughed when 
he was sad, sang to express practically all emotions, and often 
smiled and feigned love and admiration when lie felt hatred 
and contempt. 

The planter was sometimes rationalizing when he depicted 
the adult slave as an indolent, irresponsible, playful child, and 
yet, there was considerable truth in this description. Many 
slaves were well-nigh perfect prototypes; of the planter's char- 


acterization, and for these the latter erred only in stating that 
the attributes were innately racial. They were, of course, cul- 
tural in origin. Slave pleasures were essentially those of the 
child — food, sex, play, song, laughter, at times even work. Re- 
garded and treated as a child, the bondsman often acted as one. 
Seeing that it was in many ways good for the institution of 
slavery, the planter encouraged this child-posture at every turn, 
but here the bondsman was being encouraged to do what was 
not only good for an institution but what in some ways was 
good for him. The mid-twentieth century knows well that many 
adults age quickly and die young because they do not sing, 
play, dance and laugh enough. Modern social science knows that 
— "Except ye become as little children, ye cannot enter the 
Kingdom of Heaven," has many deep meanings. In the Old 
South the planter saw this and often envied the joy of the 
bondsman, and some persons observed that Jean Jacque Rous- 
seau's happy noble savages niight well have been the blacks of 
the American Southland. 

But just as slavery's oppression warped and dwarfed the 
character and personality of many Negroes, making children 
of what should have been adults, this same oppression moulded 
other persons into characters of sterling silver and high carat 
gold. Oppression and wretchedness did not drive these latter 
into drink, playfulness, and living for the mere moment, but 
forced them to seek refuge in the world of the spirit, and this 
flight from a harsh outer world led to a strengthening and 
sharpening of that inner world. This amazing slave-formed 
character can be seen in a Frederick Douglass, James W. C. 
Pennington, William Wells Brown, Sojourner Truth, and Har- 
riet Tubman before 1865 no less than in Booker Washington, 
William Hooper Councill, and Similar Souls after 1865. These 
knew that wretchedness and oppression were not only the 
sources of their shortcomings, but also the mainsprings of their 
strength, and many of those who lived into the 1880's and 90's 
would complain that easy living was destroying the moral 
fibre of the race. 

From the foregoing it is clear that bondsmen found both 
unhappiness and happiness in the system, and that the amount 
of each varied according to section, owner, time, and other 


factors. Slavery was no more the same everywhere than the 
South itself was the same everywhere, and it is somewhat mis- 
leading to write as we often do of "//?£' slave regime," '7/je? 
planter," or '^Hbe slave-owner." There were different types of 
slave-owners, systems and regimes, and the "typical" here is 
often little more than myth. 

Especially should any objective consideration of the ''pe- 
culiar institution" take into account the periods through which 
it passed. This is seldom done, especially by persons who wish 
to evaluate the effect of the institution on the bondsman. Yet 
from its beginnings in 1619 until approximately 1800, cotton 
figured very little in thg economic forces which provided sus- 
tenance for slavery. Throughout this period there was a fairly 
strong abolitionist movement, South and North, which must 
have had considerable to do with how slaves were treated by 
their masters. No class of human beings is ever completely 
immune to public opinion. The slave era previous to 1800 was 
quite different from that of the next sixty years, and within 
these years the institution was different in the 1800-1820 period 
from the years 1820-1860. The brief years from 1820-1860 
constitute the true cotton kingdom of classic memory, and of 
course slavery of the period 1861-65, when masters were away 
at war and there was hope on the part of the slave that a 
northern victory would bring emancipation, was different from 
anything that preceded it. 

The Old South of which most people are conscious is the 
one created by the cotton gin and which was in its hey-day 
for the brief period of about 1820-1860. It is in these forty 
years that cotton was "king" and during which, in a quest for 
ever greater profits, the slave system became geared to a feverish 
pitch. It is in these four decades that cruelties mounted, free 
Negroes had their liberties most proscribed, and the bondsman 
was driven and lashed as never before. It is here that the great 
plot of Denmark Vesey and the bloody uprising of Nat Turner 
occurred. Perhaps it is in this period also that the most sorrow- 
ful of the spirituals were "composed." Certain it is that this 
era produced the Underground Railroad in high gear and the 
greatest of all anti-slavery outcries in Garrisonism. 


It seems odd that an institution which lasted in this 
country approximately two and one-half centuries should be 
stereotyped and judged almost exclusively by a character and 
nature which was peculiar to it for only four decades. As W. J. 
Cash and others have shown, this legend of the Old South has 
determined the popular picture of the planter also. Perpetuated 
and cherished by southern whites partly because of the aristo- 
cratic ideal which it contained, fate has decreed that the stereo- 
typing of the planter at his "best" also should preserve and 
stereotype slavery at its worse. 

Chapter V 


Among historians, though not necessarily among sociolo- 
gists, one of the most persistent myths about the mind and 
personality of Negro Americans is the one which declares that, 
in and out of slavery, they felt only love for white folk. Ac- 
cording to this myth Negro Americans, true to the Uncle 
Tom-Uncle Remus pattern, have unusually Christian and for- 
giving natures and could never feel or exhibit hatred toward 
whites. Attention given by the press and other news media to 
the number of assaults on and murders of whites by Negroes 
has done little to do away with the myth in some quarters. Yet, 
a study of aggression, revenge, and protest as elements in Negro 
thought reveals that there is more fancy than fact in the tra- 
ditional picture of the Negro who cannot hate or exact revenge 
in any way, a picture which some historians have done much 
to perpetuate.^ 

John Fiske contended that Negro slaves were remarkably 
contented and happy.' James Schouler described Negroes as "a 
black servile race, sensuous, stupid, brutish, obedient . . . and 
childish."' J. G. Randall, Claude H. Van Tyne, and Ulrich B. 
Phillips are among the sizeable list of scholars who have held 
similar notions. Phillips believed the Negro to be innately 
stupid, docile, submissive, unstable, and negligent.* Another 
stereotype of the same vein would appear to be the type related 
by the sociologist John Dollard. This scholar has written: 

A highly placed white man expressed a widely-held 
view when he said that Negroes have neither malice 
nor gratitude; they will do anything in the heat of 
passion, but once rage is burnt out they do not carry 
grudges. It is this sudden blind 'passion' which the 
whites fear in Negroes, and against which they feel 
they must defend themselves.^ 

Of the mind of the slave, Herbert Aptheker concluded 
that the sources on the institution are filled with "exaggera- 



tion, distortion, censorship,"*^ Almost a hundred years before 
Aptheker arrived at this conclusion, the Negro Martin R. 
Delany wrote: 

The colored people are not yet known, even to 
their most professed friends among the white Ameri- 
cans for the reason that politicians, religionists, col- 
onizationists, and Abolitionists, have each and all, at 
different times, presumed to think for, dictate to, 
and know better what suited colored people, than 
they knew for themselves; and consequently, there 
has been no other knowledge of them obtained, than 
that which has been through these mediums/ 

Carter Woodson based his life-long crusade to establish Negro 
history as a respectable area for scholarly study on the convic- 
tion that his race was not known by most Americans.^ "The 
dominant historiography in the United States," wrote Aptheker 
in 19 51, "either omits the Negro people or presents them as a 
people without a past, as a people who have been docile, passive, 
parasitic, imitative."" "This picture," he concluded, "is a lie." 
Further evidence that the Afro-American is too often misun- 
derstood is found in the glaring mis-readings of the Negro 
mind of which the American Communist Party has been guilty. 
These mis-readings constitute one reason why that party failed 
to recruit more colored members during the 1930s and 408.^" 
As is true of a number of stereotypes, some Negroes have 
accepted the judgment that their race could bear no grudges 
or hates. In his poem "Ode to Ethiopia," Paul Laurence Dunbar 
declared — 

No other race, of white or black, 
When bound as thou wert, to the rack, 

So seldom stooped to grieving; 
No other race, when free again, 
Forgot the past and proved them men 

So noble in forgiving. 

In a speech before the Forty-first Congress, Hiram Revels de- 
clared of his race immediately after the Civil War — "They 
bear no revengeful thoughts, no hatred, no animosities toward 
their former masters. "^^ In 1905 Bishop W. T. Vernon would 
say of his race that it felt no resentment nor bitterness about 


past treatment, "nor do we cherish resentment for those who 
harm or strive to hanri us now."^' Further, he opined: 

Omniscience alone may dare to visit the mistakes of 
buried sires on breathing sons or adjust accounts be- 
tween the Hving and the dead. Time, pubhc senti- 
ment and God will finally reward this patient courage 
and make all things right/^ 

The notion that colored Americans are very forgiving 
where their oppressors and traducers are concerned is promi- 
nent in Negro literature. In ¥ire in the Fliuf,^* although the 
hero's sister's honor and his brother's life have been sacrificed 
to race prejudice, the author, Walter White, has this hero 
decide to minister to the physical ills of .1 critically sick white 
girl in the town of these mis-adventures. Similar instances of 
this chivalrous behavior are numerous in Negro literature. Ben- 
jamin Mays sees the race's view of God as one explanation for 
its penchant for forgiveness. Believing as they do about God, 
he states, Negroes in many instances have stood and suffered 
much without bitterness, without striking back.^" 

Today, among the more discerning students of the Negro, 
the supposed innate docility of the colored man is apt to be 
interpreted as a mask behind which he hides his true feelings. 
In other words, his docility, meekness, and humor were often, 
though not always, insincere. They were adjustment and sur- 
vival techniques in a society where education, economical, 
political, and military power were overwhelmingly against him. 
On this, Robert R. Moton, observed: 

Properly to interpret the Negro one should under- 
stand at the outset that the psychology of the Negro 
is protective. The Negro everywhere has a steadfast 
purpose of survival. ... It [the race] has long been 
subject to adversity; this has made the race cautious. 
. . . this has made it secretive in the presence of pre- 
ponderant power and general animosity.^^ 

Moton calls the Negro's "artful and adroit accommodation of 
his manners and methods to what he knows to be the weakness 
and foibles of his white neighbor" the race's defense mecha- 
nism."^' "The white man does not know the Negro so well as 
he thinks he does," said a post-bellum South Carolina white 


man/^ A Georgia planter said — "So deceitful is the Negro 
that as far as my own experience extends I could never in a 
single instance decipher his character. . . . We planters could 
never in a single instance get at the truth. "^■' Another planter 

The most general defect in the character of the Negro 
is hypocrisy: and this hypocrisy frequently makes him 
pretend to more ignorance than he possesses; and if 
his master treats him; as a fool, he will be sure to act 
the fool's part. This is a very convenient trait, as it 
frequently serves as an apology for awkwardness and 
neglect of duty.'" 

Hortense Powdermaker has indicated well the revenge ele- 
ment in the Uncle-Tom pose which many Negroes have as- 
sumed around whites. Calling this type "the unaggressive 
Negro," she has noted that he enjoys and feels superior to 
whites in this role because, ( 1 ) through this masochistic suffer- 
ing he atones for guilt feelings that are induced by his hatred 
of whites, (2) he feels that he is fooling whites with his posture 
of meekness and humility, (3) taking personally the injunctions 
"Blessed are the meek," and "Blessed are those who suffer," he 
feels that his Christianity is superior to the kind that is prac- 
ticed by whites, and, (4) taking personally the idea, "the first 
shall be last, and the last shall be first," he believes that the 
ultimate triumph belongs to the colored and not the white 

For too long even the opponents of slavery and oppression 
have thought of the bondsman and freedman as victim and 
hapless prey whose every danger came from the outside world, 
without realizing, perhaps, that in so doing they were accept- 
ing the biased southern white man's view o£ the slave and the 
Negro. In other words, both friend and foe of the Negro too 
often have thought of him as a helpless, passive, submissive, 
sub-human creature. Yet, though otherwise enslaved, the human 
being who has the opportunity to work and play is never com- 
pletely without defenses. As is the case with freedom, human 
bondage is never absolute." The slave had more freedom than 
is commonly realized, one of which was the freedom to hate. 


Psychologists inform us that being thwarted in our desires 
is the root of almost all hatred. Today, no one should seriously 
deny that, in an otherwise democratic society, to deprive a 
person or group of freedom and opportunity is to thwart the 
desires of that person or group. Although hatred between 
Negroes and whites always has existed, its existence is a taboo 
which both races generally have denied. While even Negro 
scholars genereally have chosen to disavow the existence of 
this hatred, Edgar Thompson, John Dollard, Gunnar Myrdal, 
Arnold M. Rose, Gordon Allport, Hortense Powdermaker and 
other white scholars have accepted it for what it actually is. 
Of the Negro's hatreds, Gunnar Myrdal noted: 

Physical attack [by Negroes] upon the whites is sui- 
cidal. Aggression has to be kept suppressed and norm- 
ally is suppressed. It creeps up, however, in thousands 
of ways. The whites do not get as wholehearted a 
response from their Negroes as they would if the 
latter were well satisfied with the necessity of accom- 
modation. Only occasional acts of violence but much 
laziness, carelessness, unreliability, petty stealing and 
lying are undoubtedly to be explained as concealed 
aggression. The shielding of Negro criminals and su- 
spects, the dislike of testifying against another Negro, 
and generally the defensive solidarity in the protec- 
tive Negro community has a definite taint of hos- 

Of one type of his "examples of Negro hatred of whites" and 
Negro self-glorification, Arnold Rose states that "in general 
they are very much like what is encouraged in the armed 
forces of a nation as 'pride in outfit,' 'loyalty to the nation,' 
and 'hatred of the enemy'. "'^ "There is," he stated, "regular 
indoctrination in these attitudes among Negroes, even though 
it is more informal than that practiced in the armed forces.""' 
Among some groups, he states, the stronger one's avowed hatred 
for whites the more acceptable he is in the group. "This hatred 
of white people is not pathological — far from it," Rose avers. 
"It is a healthy human reaction to oppression, insult, and 
terror," which "should not be surprising" to anyone, he con- 
cludes. Rose indicates his belief that, at least some of the time, 


most Negroes hate whites. "Hatred of the white man who 
has humihated and frustrated him" is the "predominating feel- 
ing" of the Negro toward "the strong dominating group" says 
Helen V. McLean. "^ John DoUard adds: 

[The Negro's] situation ... is one of frustration. 
. . . The usual human response to frustration is ag- 
gression against the frustrating object. In this case the 
frustrating object is the American white caste which 
maintains its dominance over the Negro caste in vari- 
ous ways. . . . The white caste . . . means all white 
people in America, since the caste line is drawn in 
the North as effectively, if not as formally, as in the 

That some Negro sociologists have been willing to call 
hatred by its real name is evident from the following obser- 
vations by Horace Cayton. 

There is a close analogy between Negroes living in 
America and a soldier under battle condition. . . . 
The Negro has had to learn, like the war-hardened 
veteran, to adapt himself toi fear in order to survive. 
He has developed, because of this constant presence 
of fear, a sort of immunity to it. ... I am con- 
vinced that at the core of the Negro's mentality there 
is a fear-hate-fear complex."^ 

Although they often have been reluctant to admit its 
existence, southern whites have sensed the hostility present in 
many words and acts of the Negro, and it is this awareness 
which accounts, in large part, for much of the vicious bru- 
tality which whites have inflicted on Negroes."'' In their super- 
ficial observation, many persons have not seen this hatred pro- 
ducing hatred, and have charged that the "meek, humble, help- 
less, benign" Negro has been object of such brutality because 
too m-any white southerners are depraved barbarians. Probably 
the success and popularity which Booker Washington had with 
southern whites was due not only to his compromises, as im- 
portant as these were, but in considerable part to the fact that 
whites sensed no veiled hostility in his protestations of friend- 
ship. Washington could not hate whites, but probably felt 
considerable veiled hatred for his own race.'" Although the 


origin of the Negro's hatreds is understandable, through the 
hostihty and aggression which he has never been able com- 
pletely to veil, the Negro has been the cause of some of the 
vicious and brutal treatment to which he has been subjected. 
Often when he has thought that he was fooling the white man, 
his dissembling was fooling only himself. It should be obvious, 
however, that since he did not create the conditions which 
caused him to hate whites, the Negro cannot be considered the 
primary cause of the viciousness and barbaric treatment here 
alluded to. Too often in the history of the South both the 
white and colored man have been pathetic victims of cruel 

The Slave's Aggression, Revenge, 
AND Protest 

In his famous Appeal the ex-slave David Walker referred 
to southern whites as the "natural enemies" of his race, and 
Gabriel Prosser, Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey and other leaders 
of slave plots and rebellions planned to kill as many whites as 
possible. Usuallv, however, slave aggressions and revenge were 
less direct and more veiled than what these men proposed or 
did. In his revenge against whites the slave resorted to such 
m.eans as loafing when the planter or overseer was absent, being 
cruel to the farm animals, damaging tools and the agricultural 
produce being worked, making jokes about and adversely criti- 
cizing whites when they were not present, despoiling the food 
being prepared for their consumption, setting fire to their 
property, stealing their hams, chickens, and other items, at- 
tempting to conjure them and their farm animals, poisonings, 
bodily assault, '^ feigning illness, mimicrying whites in speech, 
dress or mannerisms, consigning their souls to an eternity in 
flaming hell, playing with tongue in cheek the meek, obedient 
"good darky" role, absconding, or even committing suicide."^ 

Many Negroes always have believed that both in this life 
and the one to come God will punish anyone who mistreated 
them.^'^ To one another as well as to whites who "mistreated" 
them, they have said openly or silently, "I'm going to pray 
for you," m.eaning that they were going to ask God to exact 
retribution. They have believed that no "mean white folk" 


will be admitted into Heaven, but instead will surely burn 
pitiously and mercilessly in hell. In this hell-going category 
Negroes have tended to place many southern whites. In ante- 
bellum days, even when "Ole Marster" or his wife or the over- 
seer died of natural causes, bondsmen sometimes thought that 
the death was God's vengeance for wrongs which had been 
visited upon them. The same conclusion was often reached 
about any other calamity such as drought, plague, fire, or acci- 
dent which befell whites. 

The Afro-American has been keenly aware that, like the 
press, Suprem.e Court, Congress and other institutions, at times 
the Christian church has sided with slavery and racial segre- 
gation and discrimination. Slaves were sometimes compelled to 
sit and listen to ministers of the gospel defend slavery and the 
actions of the planter. Despite frequent injunctions to "obey 
your masters" and "wait on the lord," many bondsmen re- 
mained unconvinced. They continued to sing that, "Everybody 
talking 'bout Heaven ain't a-goin there," and slave plots, in- 
surrections, and absconding were fairly frequent. Although a 
number of the spirituals do reveal this protest and hatred of 
whites, Robert Kerlin, a close student of Negro music, chose 
to accept the myth of the non-hating Negro. "There is no 
prayer for vengeance in the Spirituals, no vindictive spirit ever 
suggested," Kerlin wrote. ^"^ The true religious feelings of slaves 
often were manifest only in the secret meetings which they 
would hold in the woods or in some other secluded place after 
singing "Steal Away to Jesus. ""^ 

Many persons have viewed the Negro's religiosity as aris- 
ing primarily out of his need to find understanding and hope 
in his plight. In this view, the shortcomings of his external 
environment created the slave's great need for the Christian 
religion and determined that he would embrace it with great 
fervor. Largely neglected to date, however, is consideration of 
the possibility that the fears and hopes which drove the bonds- 
man and freedman to religion were not due directly so much 
to the cruel and inhumane treatment to which he was sub- 
jected by his external environment, but that his compelling 
need for Christianity may well have derived more from the 
rage and hostility which he carried within himself. '' 


Revenge in Tales, Wit and Humor 
It is well recognized that, among other uses, wit and 
humor are age-old devices used by human beings to work oft 
their hostilities. Thus it is that jokes on the mother-in-law, or 
about "my sweet little wife," or about the preacher, police- 
man, or boss are universal and legion. Jokes in which a slave 
or freedman makes the white man look foolish are common 
among Afro- Americans.'"' Of this, one sociologist wrote in 
1949 that among Negroes: 

Jokes at the expense of white people are made and 
passed around with an intensity of effort that shows 
they are not merely jokes. Some of the jokes are so 
bitter as almost to lack humor, thus revealing their 
kinship to hatred. "^^^ 

Slave-owners generally overlooked that a number of the 
"harmless" tales which they delighted to hear from slaves had 
subtle undertones of a less benign character. Bondsmen de- 
lighted in such stories as those of the fox and the hare, the fox 
and the tar-baby, the race between the hare and the tortoise, 
of a magic hoe which worked itself, and of flying Africans 
who escaped whippings and bondage by magically changing 
into birds and flying away to the Dark Continent. Other tales 
poked fun at the Irish and poor whites, as well as at the 'To 
hard-working Nigger" and his unhappy lot. In these tales the 
slaves usually identified themselves with the victorious under- 
dog. With the omnipresent hare outwitting the fox the bonds- 
men were saying to themselves that the stone that was rejected 
should eventually become the corner-stone."' 

Commenting on Bernard Wolfe's study of the Uncle 
Remus tales, Arnold Rose writes that Wolfe shows that "Ne- 
groes expressed their hatred of the white man through these 
stories."^" "Wolfe shows," Rose continues, "that [Joel Chand- 
ler] Harris was aware of this but camouflaged the hatred with 
the stereotyped Uncle Remus and v/iti* the statement chat the 
stories originated in Africa. "^^ Wolfe himself declared that, "A 
(^ Negro slave who yielded his mind fully to his race hatreds in 
an absolutely white-doininated situation must go mad; and 
the function of such folk symbols as Brer Rabbit is precisely 


to prevent inner explosions by siphoning off these hatreds be- 
fore they can completely possess consciousness."*" 

Revenge In Stealing 

Slave masters often complained that stealing was a habit 
of the Negro, and many members of the ruling caste came tO' 
feel that this was a racial characteristic. Usually, however, the 
slave did not think that he could steal from his owner. Since 
the latter paid him nothing for his labors, and since most of 
the physical wealth which the master possessed was the direct 
result of the slave's labor, the latter felt that he was exacting 
revenge and only taking a portion of that which was owed to 
him. One "took" from whites, but "stole" only from fellow 
slaves. Travellers in the South were quick to notice the "tak- 
ing" habit of the slave, and contemporary sociologists have 
attested to the continuation of this practice among freedinen.*'^ 

One planter said that bondage made slaves "callous to the 
ideas of honor and even honesty," and that bondsmen were 
"heedless, thoughtless."** Another planter said that the slave's 
feeling of indebtedness to his master "is of so flimsy a character 
that none of us rely upon it."*"" While it is true that many 
slaves lied, pretended, loafed and stole, like the planters they 
were merely acting in what they conceived to be their best in- 
terests. Often neither planter nor slave could claim that any uni- 
versally acceptable moral code constituted the basis of his 
thought and actions. On questions of morality, Kenneth 
Stampp asserts that "many slaves rejected the answers which 

their masters gave The slaves did not thereby repudiate 

law and morality: rather, they formulated legal and moral 
codes of their own."*" "No slave would betray another," Stampp 
states, and informers were held, in the lowest esteem.*' In one 
instance slaves were told by a fugitive brother: 

Numerous as are the escapes from slavery, they i 
would be far more so, were you not embarassed by 
your misinterpretations of the rights of property. 
You hesitate to take even the dullest of your master's 
horses — whereas it is your duty to take the fleetest. 
Your consciences suggest doubts, whether in quitting 
your bondage, you are at liberty to put in your packs 


what you need of food and clothing. But were you 
better informed you would not scruple to break your 
masters' locks, and take all their money. You are 
taught to respect the rights of property. But, no 
such rights belong to the slaveholder. His rights to 
property is that of the robber-right. . . . You are 
prisoners of war, in an enemy's country. ... by all 
the rules of war, you have the fullest liberty to plun- 
der, burn, and kill.^* 

Of his own escape, Frederick Douglass wrote his former master, 
"In leaving you, I took nothuig but what belonged to me, and 
in no way lessened your means for obtaining an honest living."" 
On February 20, 1860 a slave owner, Mrs. Sarah Lcgue of Ten- 
nessee, wrote to one of her fugitive slaves then residing in 
Syracuse, New York, complaining that partly as a consequence 
of his running away and stealing one of her fine mares, she 
had come upon hard tim_es. She felt that the fugitive could 
square matters by sending her one thousand dollars, then she 
would give up all claims to him. He refused and called her a 
wretched old woman. "Have you got to learn that htnnan 
rights are mutual and reciprocal, and if you take my liberty 
and life, you forfeit your own liberty and life?" he asked.'"' 
Of her husband, this fugitive asked Mrs. Logue: "Is it a greater 
sin for me to steal his horse, than it was for him to rob my 
mother's cradle, and steal me?" Everywhere in the Negro's 
utterances of the ante-beUiun period is the omnipresent senti- 
ment that to eat the fruit of his own toil, to clothe his person 
with the work of his own hands, is not considered stealing. 

Crimes, Threats of Crimes, and Attacks on the 
Nation's Idealism 

Hortense Powdermaker has pointed to the aggressive ele- 
ment in stealing and other crimes. She states: 

Crimes committed by the slaves are . . . evidence of 
lack of acceptance of status and of aggressive feelings 
toward whites. . . . The fact that these crimes were 
committed in the face of the most severe deterrents, 
bears witness to the strength of the underlying ag- 


The large list of crimes committed by slaves included "murder, 
rape, attempted rape, arson, theft, burglary, and practically 
every conceivable crime."'" 

There is indication of a revenge element even in the bitter 
denunciations by Negroes of many of the nation's ideals, and 
in their threatened as well as actual lawlessness and violence. 
Was there revenge in Frederick Douglass' rejection of the na- 
tional holidays? Addressing the citizens of Rochester, New 
York for the Fourth of July celebration in 18 52, Douglass 
used the topic, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" To 
whites, he concluded: "This Fourth of July is yours, not luine. 
You may rejoice, I must mourn."'" On a sim_ilar occasion in 
18 57 Charles Lenox Remond said: 

Today, there are, on the Southern plantations, 
between three and four millions, to whom the popular 
Fourth of July ... is a most palpable insult; and to 
every white American who has any sympathy what- 
ever with the oppressed, the day is also a mock- 

The first date which Nat Turner selected for his famed insur- 
rection was the Fourth of July, 1831. He took his ensuing 
illness, however, as a sign that he should change the date. 

During the ante-bellum era, among the forms of organ- 
ized protest were the Underground Railroad; such plots and 
rebellions as the 1739 Cato conspiracy near Charleston which 
resulted in the death of approximately thirty white persons, 
the 1741 "conspiracy" to burn New York city, the 1800 Ga- 
briel plot and 1831 Nat Turner insurrection in Virginia; and 
the Denmark Vesey-led plot in South Carolina; periodic na- 
tional Negro conventions; founding of separate Negro churches 
and schools, and participation in the abolitionist movement. 
From the very beginning Negroes were prominent in the 
founding, organizing, and continuous activities of the Ameri- 
can Anti-Slavery Society, which was throughout an interracial 
enterprise. Among the early Negro leaders of this organization 
were Robert Purvis, Samuel Cornish, Christopher Rush, Charles 
B. Ray, Peter Williams, James McCrummell, James W. C. Pen- 
nington, and George Whipple. 


Appealing to European audiences for help with the Am- 
erican race problem has been one form of Negro protest. Of 
Negro abolitionists who took the bondsman's cause directly to 
European audiences were William Wells Brown, Ellen and 
Williami Craft, Alexander Crummell, Frederick Douglass, 
Henry Highland Garnet, Nathaniel Paul, Charles Lenox Re- 
mond, and Samuel Ringgold Ward. 

Speaking in celebration of New York's abolition of slavery 
in 1827 the Reverend Nathaniel Paul indicated what his re- 
venge would be if slavery did not end all over the nation. 
He wrote: 

Did I believe that it [slavery] would always 
continue, and that man to the end of time would be 
permited with impunity to usurp the same undue 
authority over his fellows, I would disallow any al- 
legiance or obligation I was under to my fellow crea- 
tures, or any submission that I owed to the law of 
the country; I would deny the superintending power 
of divine Providence in the art airs of this life; I 
would ridicule the religion of the Saviour of the 
World, and treat as the worst of men the ministers 
of the everlasting gospel; I would consider my Bible 
as a book of false and delusive fables, and commit it 
to flame. Nay, I would still go further: I would at 
once confess myself an atheist, and deny the exis- 
tence of a holy God. "" 

During the Mexican War period, Frederick Douglass had said: 

I should welcome the intelligence tomorrow, should it 
come, that the slaves had risen in the South, and that 
the sable arms which had been engaged in beautify- 
ing and adorning the South were engaged in spread- 
ing death and devastation there. . . . Why you wel- 
comed the intelligence from France, that Louis 
Philippe had . . . [achieved a victory] by Republic- 
anism over Royalty and should you not hail, 

with equal pleasure, the tidings from the South that 
the slaves had risen?"*^ 

The 18 50 fugitive slave act, 18 54 Kansas-Nebraska Act, 
and 18 56 Dred Scott decision joined with other seeming south- 


ern victories in the sectional struggle to make the 1850s a par- 
ticularly depressing period for Negro abolitionists. Although 
they continued to protest through such meeans as participating 
in the Underground Railroad and writing and speaking against 
slavery, a new and strong note of threatened disloyalty and 
violence entered their utterances. Reflecting the northern spirit 
which produced the personal liberty statutes and open violation 
of the fugitive slave law, some colored persons passed resolu- 
tions stating unequivocally that they disapproved of the law 
and had absolutely no intention of obeying it. "We will re- 
pudiate all and every law," said one group, "that has for its 
object the oppression of any human being, or seeks to assign 
us degrading positions."" This same group formed a vigilance 
association "to look out for the panting fugitive, and also for 
the oppressor, when he shall make his approach."'' In a similar 
vein, Frederick Douglas exhorted: 

Without appealing to anv higher feeling I would 
warn the American people, and the American gov- 
ernment, [that] . . . there is a point beyond which 
human endurance cannot go. The crushed worm may 
yet turn under the heel of the oppressor. . . . Those 
sable arms that have, for the last two centuries, been 
engaged in cultivating and adorning the fair fields of 
our country, may yet become the instruments of ter- 
ror, desolation and death, throughout our borders.'" 

At another point, Douglass declared: "Slaveholders have made 
it almost impossible for the slave to commit any crime, known 
either to the laws of God or the laws of man. If he steals he 
takes his own; if he kills his master, he imitates only the heroes 
of the revolution. . . . Make a man a slave and you rob him 
of moral responsibility.""" 

Douglass pointed out that should the nation find itself 
involved in a life and death war with a European power, three 
million slaves might use this as an opportunity to strike for 
their freedom. To Douglass, this was "a fearful multitude to 
be in chains." While opposing the Mexican War, Douglass had 
said two years earlier: 

For my part, I would not care if, tomorrow, I should 
hear of the death of every man who engaged in that 


bloody war in Mexico, and that every man had met 
the fate he went therel to perpetrate upon unoffend- 
ing Mexicans."^ 
At an 1851 state convention of Ohio Negroes Charles H. Lang- 
ston and H. Ford Douglass were among those present who 
agreed that the United States Constitution was a pro-slavery 
document. Langston said, "I would call on every slave, from 
Maryland to Texas, to rise and assert their liberties, and cut 
their masters' throats if they attempt again to reduce them to 
slavery.""" Robert Purvis suggested that, in reply to the Dred 
Scott decision, for Free Negroes to continue to support the 
United States government was "the height of folly and the 
depth of pusillanimity.""" Calling American democracy "pie- 
bald and rotten," "the only duty the colored man owes" to 
the Constitution, he declared, "is to denounce and repudiate 
it."''^ C. L. Remond held similar views. In 18 57 Remond told 
a meeting of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society: 

The time is coming when a larger number than Is 
gathered here today will subscribe to the idea of a 
dissolution of the Union as the only means of their 
own safety, as well as of the emancipation of the 

Perhaps because he was a fugitive Remond feared that he 
would be returned to slavery. Fie regretted intensely that after 
18 50 Massachusetts was no longer a safe place for fugitives. A 
genuine revolutionist like David Walker and Williami Lloyd 
Garrison, Remond called for immediate uncompromising aboli- 
tion of slavery."'' So bitter was he in 18 58 that he recommended 
slave insurrections as proper action, and "boldly proclaimed 
himself a traitor to the government and the Union.""' As early 
as 1843 Fienry Fiighland Garnet had issued a burning call for 
all bondsmen to rise, demand immediate emancipation, and 
back the demand with the price of their lives and blood if this 
were necessary. "There is not much hope of redemption with- 
out the shedding of blood," he declared. *^^ In this period the 
figure of Toussaint L'Ouverture loomed larger than ever in 
Negro thought. In 18 57 James Theodore Fiolly gave an es- 
pecially eloquent plea for the L'Ouverture type of leader- 
ship. "° 


Out of a total of eighteen persons, five Negroes were di- 
rect participants in John Brown's "raid" at Harpers Ferry. 
Negroes showed their feeHngs in favor of the ''raid" through 
mass meetings, letters to Brown and to friends and newspapers, 
and in other ways. They voted their endorsement and hearty 
approval of the spirit shown by Brown, and their regrets that 
he did not succeed. One group declared: "We will teach our 
children to revere his name ... as being the greatest man in 
the nineteenth century."'*^ Commenting on Brown's venture, 
Frederick Douglass wrote: 

I am ever ready to write, speak, publish, organize, 
combine, and even to conspire against Slavery, when 
there is a reasonable hope for success. Men who live 
by robbing their fellow men of their labor and lib- 
erty, have forfeited their right to know anything of 
the thoughts, feeling or purposes of those whom they 
rob and plunder.'^ 

If the thinking of Remond and others that only militant 
action would end slavery was radical, it must be remembered 
that the institution actually was eliminated in the most radical 
action imaginary — civil war. And the Free Negro was by no 
means alone as he drifted toward more radical thinking in the 
1850s. This was an age of radicalism which saw the birth of 
the Republican party, William Seward's "Irrepressible Conflict" 
utterances, Harriet Beecher Stowe's epic indictment, and the 
daring of John Brown all well-matched by the incendiary pro- 
posals of such southern Fire-Eaters as R. B. Rhett and William 
H. Yancey. 

Revenge in Civil War and Reconstruction Eras 
During the Civil War bondsmen were to get revenge in 
such ways as loafing more than ever, being openly impudent 
and sassy, telling Yankee soldiers where "Ole Missy" hid the 
silverware and other valuables, or running away to fight or 
work for the Federals. In his book. Black Reconstruction, 
W. E. B. Du Bois declared that the slaves went on a virtual 
sit-down strike during the war.'" This conclusion is doubtless 
an exaggeration, although Bell I. Wiley has stated that slave 
unruliness was "far more common than postwar commentators 


have usually admitted.'"^ Also, no doubt overdrawn is the 
picture which Herbert Aptheker, a Marxist like Du Bois, has 
drawn of slave militancy during the war/^ 

Negroes saw the war not only in terms of their own re- 
venge acts and thoughts, but they were convinced that through 
the war God was using the North to punish the South, and 
using the suffering and casualties to punish the entire nation 
for the wrongs which the white man had visited upon the black. 
That Negroes were not alone in this latter thought can be seen 
in the words of President Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address. 
Here the President declared that it might be God's will that the 
war should continue until every drop of blood drawn with the 
lash should be repaid by one drawn with the sword. In the 
mind of the slave the planter was "Satan," who was getting 
his due punishment. 

That revenge was not the uppermost thought in the mind 
of the Negro soldier is clear. One ex-slave Union soldier visited 
his former mistress in Tennessee while on a furlough. She re- 
minded him of the manner in which she had nursed him as a 
child and said, "Now you are fighting me." The ex-slave an- 
swered: "No'm, I ain't fighting you, I'm fighting to get free."'' 
Another ex-bondsman said — "I fought to free my mammy and 
her little children all through Nashville and Franklin and 
Columbia, Tennessee, and all down through Alabama and Au- 
gusta, Georgia. "''^ 

When the planters returned home from the battlefields 
and saw the poverty, desolation and wretchedness which their 
gamble had wrought, the despair, remorse and guilt which 
many felt could be assuaged by nothing short of self-destruc- 
tion. Locking backward, the planter knew that even with the 
abolitionists, high-tariff men, and internal - improvementers, 
the world of 1831-1861 was heaven compared with the hell 
which secession had wrought. And try as he might to blame 
Abe Lincoln for tricking the South into war, deep down inside 
the planter knew that the decision to secede and fight if need 
be was the South's alone. While he looked around for scape- 
goats, the planter could not| escape an awful sense of personal 
guilt nor the human need to punish himself in atonement. 
Thus it is said by the freedmen that scores of ex- slave owners 


took to malingering and died of strokes, heart attacks, or 
slowly wasted away in awesome silence.'' Remorse and guilt, 
however, are not all that the planter felt. "With fear, bitterness, 
and rage in their hearts," Dollard says of them, "the white 
people of the South set out to salvage what they could of the 
old order,'"^ and — "Reconstruction was in a sense a prolonged 
race riot."^" 

But midst his jubilation the ex-slave, too, felt some guilt 
for the desolation brought upon the South. Despite his lowly 
estate, even while a bondsman he, too, loved the section. He, 
too, loved its rivers, hills, valleys, woods, climate, cotton, to- 
bacco, and epic watermelon,, chicken, pork, and hominy. The 
South had long since seeped into his heart and bones, and he 
felt guilty at being the central issue in the controversy which 
had brought a proud section to its knees. In part it may have 
been as atonement for guilt feelings which prodded the freed- 
man to vow to share willingly the sufferings and hardship which 
were the price of lifting the section to its former eminence, 
wealth, and pride. Still there was probably a revenge element, 
albeit again mixed with and often submerged by other motives, 
in such acts as the freedman's refusal to work for "Ole Mars- 
ter,"*° being lazy on the job, joining the Union League and 
voting the Republican ticket, dressing "fancy-like," refusing 
to attend religious services if he had been compelled to do so 
in bondage, migrating from southern farm to the city or to 
some western or northern city, serving as strike-breaker, vio- 
lating the laws of urban communities, or even aspiring to get 
an education,^^ wealth, or a white collar job^" so as to poossess 
in freedom those attributes and material things which bondage 
had scrupulously withheld. Also, Dollard sees aggression in the 
"withdrawal of deference forms and prestige acknowledge- 
ments to white people, "'^■' frequent moving from one share- 
cropping farm to another,*^ and "telling tales about southern 
white people to northerners and other democratic sympathiz- 
ers."''" Dollard points out that in their dreams Negroes get off 
aggressions against whites, and he gives actual cases. *'° Freed- 
men would also get revenge by, where possible, making whites 
use the titles "Mr." or "Mrs." when addressing them, and in- 
sisting that whites take off their hats while inside their homes. 


not trading wth stores whose clerks are impolite to Negroes, 
or by automobile driving which threatens to run over white 
pedestrians, going out of their way to pick fist fights, suing 
white businessm-en, telling tales on whites to whites in an effort 
to get one fired from his job or otherwise start trouble, and by 
exhibiting prejudice against poor whites and Jews, Chinese, 
Mexicans, "Dagos," "Polocks," and other minorities, or, in- 
deed, against other Negroes.*' Too, Negroes have been criticized 
for contributing so meagerly to their own charitable, educa- 
tional, and similar enterprises. On this, Arnold Rose states — 
"There is a certain amount! of protest involved in this lack of 
charity — Jf the whites want segregation, let them pay for it',"^' 
they seem to say. Related to this, probably present in the readi- 
ness with which some Negroes have been willing to becoine 
public charges or even spend time in jail, or with which some 
slave and free un-married Negro girls accept public aid for re- 
peated pregnancies is a revenge motive. Perhaps relevant here 
is the song, popular during the depression of the 'thirties, which 
had as its theme the words — "Let Jesus lead you, and the wel- 
fare feed you." 

Charles S. Johnson told of Negroes who "get the white 
man's nerves" by maintaining in their presence a posture of 
cold politeness, and he stated that some Negroes get revenge 
by avoidance of contact with whites.^'' During bondage, in ad- 
dition to the sheer thrill of "conquest," to outwit the white 
man often carried the reward of a stolen bit of ham, water- 
melon, or some other denied delicacy, or of respite from work. 
While this game was so dangerous that bondsmen played it 
only occasionally, there would be freedmen who would regard 
living by their wits as the only smart way to live. Now in their 
revenge against "the white man's work," they could render 
part-time service for full-time pay, or steal money or other 
material goods from the white employer, or if they refused to 
work at all they had to live by crimes in which members of 
their own race were exploited as well as whites. Perhaps many 
have viewed all forms of "revenge against work" as revenge 
against whites. 

In the post-bellum period, the prevalence of lynching in 
the South and nation has focussed considerable attention on the 


rape of white women by Negroes. Recent research has shown 
that rape was not a charge in most lynchings, that the ante- 
bellum period was by no means free of instances of rape, and 
that in the rape of white women by Negroes there has some- 
times been present the revenge motive. Here the rapist, by 
despoiling that which the white man seems to prize most, may 
think of himself as exacting the revenge par excellence. 

During the Reconstruction period, mingled with the 
Negro's joy of freedom was remorse and pity for the planter. ^^ 
Some freedm.en believed that the younger whites were ashamed 
of the licentious and cruel behavior which their parents and 
grandparents too often had been guilty of during slavery, and 
most freedmen ardently desired that there should be peace 
between the races in the South. ^" Examples of this spirit are 
numerous. During the first session of the Forty-second Congress 
Representative Benjamin S. Turner of Alabama introduced a 
bill to remove all political and legal disabilities from southern 
whites.''' He also sought to get the cotton tax money refunded 
to the South. Other Negro congressmen sponsored similar legis- 
lation, and in some instances Negro politicians holding state 
and national offices lost favor with their own race because they 
were thought to be too friendly toward southern whites. Al- 
though the enactment of such a program would seriously jeo- 
pardize his political future, Senator Hiram Revels fought for 
general amnesty. In the Senate he never showed either bitter- 
ness or vindictiveness and sought to advance the interests of 
all Mississippians."* He never joined in the popular villihcation 
of Jefferson Davis and once declared: "The white race has no 
better friend than I," and it is generally agreed that he matched 
word with deed in this regards."'^' Representative Charles E. Nash 
of Louisiana said of white southerners: 

We are not enemies but brethren. . . . This country 
is our joint inheritance. . . . Over brothers' graves 
let brothers' quarrels die. Let there be peace between 
us that swords which we have learned to use so well, 
may strike only at a common foe.""^ 

There were times, however, when, focussing in their 
speeches on the uglier facts of slavery and Reconstruction, 


Negro congressmen and other politicians appeared to be anti- 
South and filled with bitterness. In his defense of Radical Re- 
construction measures Robert B. Elliott, South Carolina con- 
gressman, made bitter assaults on the class of former slave 
holders/' But even Elliott worked for measures which benefited 
southern whites exclusively.'^^ In a speech in support of the 
Force Bill Representative Thomas E. Miller of South Carolina 
bitterly castigated the South. In bitter language, reminiscent 
of H. L. Mencken's famed indictment, he declared of white 

There is no people in the world more self-opinionated 
without cause, more bigoted without achievements, 
more boastful without a status, no people in the world 
so quick to misjudge their countrymen and to mis- 
state historical facts of political economy and to im- 
pugn the motives of others. History does not record 
a civilized people who have been contented with so 
little and who can feed so long on a worthless, buried 

Among Negro congressmen of this period Miller's attitude and 
record is one of the closest to the most radical of the Radicals. 
Also in support of the Force Bill, Representative John M. Lang- 
ston of Virginia said: 'T woull pass bills and pile, up penalties 
and put behind every bill soldiers with bayonets until they 
rose to the top of mountains and kissed the stars" to protect 
Negro rights.^"" 

Impudence or "sassiness" has been one long-standing form 
of revenge which the Negro has exacted. Because of the rise of 
revenge in this and other forms some freedmen felt that the 
work of the Ku Klux Klan was largely good. Klansmen whipped 
many white and colored men for mismanaging their farms 
through laziness, for commiting adultery or otherwise mistreat- 
ing their families, and for other forms of immorality. One 
freedman opined that, "any nigger that behave hisself and don't 
go running round late at night and drinking never had no 
trouble with the Kluckers."^"^ Another averred: 'T think the 
Ku Klux Klan was a good thing. . . . The darkies got sassy, 
trifling, lazy. They was notorious — they got mean. The men 


wouldn't work. . . . They woulda starved the whites out and 
theirselves too/'^"' Another opined: "Seems hke there wa'n't no 
trouble 'mongst the whites and blacks till after the war. Some 
white mens come down from North and mess up with the 

Revenge in the Exoduses 
In the late 1870s around forty thousand freedmen left the 
South and moved to the North and West, with Kansas as the 
main goal of emigration. Although there were many motives 
behind this exodus and subsequent ones from the section, re- 
venge against southern whites probably has been one of these 
motives.^'" As one "Pap" Singleton wrote a pamphlet on "The 
Advantage of Living in a Free State," as inspiration for the 
exodus which began in the seventies, the Chicago Defender 
would provide similar and greater encouragement and help for 
the great exodus of the "World War I era which saw around 
one million Negroes move from South to North. Reporting on 
the role of the Defender, one leading sociologist states. 
The Chicago Defender . . . not only propagandized 
for migration but printed train schedules, railroad 
rates, and gave other detailed information that mi- 
grants would need to know. It described in glowing 
and exaggerated terms the advantages of the North; 
it printed advertisements of specific jobs.^'^^'' 

Analyzing the exodus, this sociologist also has noted: 
Migration was not a temporary response to the needs 
of Northern war industry; it was also a permanent 
expression of the Negro protest. Escape from the 
South was a protest against the South, and the escape 
allowed an increase in protest. ^"^"^ 

With many Negroes the hatred which they have been 
compelled to suppress while in the South has come out in marked 
fashion after migration to the North. It seems that the long 
period of suppression has increased the intensity of the reaction. 
This is probably one source of the strength of the assaults on 
slavery made by Frederick Douglass and other fugitives from 
slavery who participated in the abolitionist movement. Also, 
the mounting scope and intensity of Negro protest since 1920 
is partly to be explained by this fact^ Part of the explanation 


for Richard Wright's strong and eloquent protest can be ac- 
quired from a reading of his autobiographical Black Boy, giv- 
ing particular attention to the hatreds which he was forced to 
suppress while living as a youth in the South.^"' The last two 
pages of this volume, in which he gives his reasons for leaving 
the South, indicate that he saw an element of revenge in his 

1 • ins 


Revenge in Sports 
It is generally recognized that individuals may direct their 
hostilities and aggressions against themselves in diverse self- 
destructive ways or else they may direct them against society 
in destructive ways. Similarly, hostilities and aggressions may 
be channeled into socially useful activities in recreation or in 
some competitive work, business, or political action. Long large- 
ly excluded from the worlds of politics and business, and taught 
contempt for work by his bondage, sports or recreation has 
been an ideal area in which the Negro could work off his hos- 
tilities. Here, as in few other areas, he could endeavor to "beat" 
the white man. With his energies so channeled into this area, 
there can be small wonder that the Negro has had such a promi- 
nent role in boxing, track, football, basketball, and whatever 
sport he has turned his attention to, or that the Negro masses 
have participated vicariously but enthusiastically in the vic- 
tories and defeats of their outstanding athletes. ^"° "It is prob- 
able," one eminent sociologist has stated, "that when a Negro 
prize fighter knocks out a white opponent, many Negroes are 
pleased not only because they feel he is showing white people 
that a Negro has ability, but also because a Negro is hitting 
and hurting a white man."^^'' Some persons have viewed the 
legal battles of the National Association for the Advancement 
of Colored People and other race protest organizations in the 
same way. On this, Arnold Rose notes that, "In fighting the 
bully, the protest organization acts as a big brother to the 
average Negro."^'^ 

Boomerangs from the Urge to Revenge 
The Negro's hate-induced revenge urges have led not only 
to his making mental, verbal, and bodily assaults on the white 


man and on the national culture, but, in a number of ways, 
the Negro himself has been an object of his own hatreds. 

One scholar has noted that hate leads to a flight-fight pat- 
tern in human behavior. ^^" This is doubtless one source of the 
Negro's desire to flee from himself through such devices as 
"passing" for white, bleaching his skin, straightening his hair, 
or denving that there is a distinct and valid Negro history, 
press, business, or culture. Contrary to popular belief, the 
Negro's self -hatred is not all absorbed from the negative views 
of his race held by many whites. A number of psychologists 
hold that in human behavior there is a frustration — hate — re- 
venge — guilt — atonement syndrome. The individual can ef- 
fectively rid himself of oppressive guilt feelings derived from 
hating and revenge thoughts and acts only through some form 
of punishment, ^^^ either self-administered or coming from an 
external source. Thus it is probable that some of the Negro's 
self-degradation is self-punishment administered to atone for 
guilt feelings derived from hostility and revenge thoughts and 
acts directed at whites. 

If some Negroes have felt a revenge element in passing 
for white, it would seem that the opposite is also true. "One 
way of expressing hatred of whites," writes Arnold Rose, "is to 
avoid becoming white when the opportunity offers itself."^^'* 

Aggression by Negroes Against Negroes 

Fighting is the overt physical expression of hating, and 
there are countless ways of fighting. Gunnar Myrdal and other 
scholars have held that deflected hatred of the white man is a 
primary reason that Negroes fight one another in notorious 
fashion. Among forms of Negro aggression against Negroes 
because of hatred of whites, Dollard lists excessive sexual jeal- 
ousy, gambling, boasting and banter (playing the "dozens"), 
gossip, and economic exploitation."' Arnold Rose has noted 
the bossy attitude which some Negroes have toward members 
of their race. Of this penchant in Booker Washington, Rose 

The 'Tuskegee Machine' was ruthless toward any 
Negro who tried to voice the Negro protest or go 
against Washington in any way. Forced to be weak 


in the presence of whites, Washington was arrogant 
toward other Negroes.^" 

Myrdal notes that while the lower class Negro may take out 
his aggressions against whites in fighting other Negroes, gen- 
erally middle and upper class Negroes are hindered from this 
outlet by "caste, prudence, and respectability," and hence "they 
have to store up their aggression.""^ This, he concludes, "is 
probably another cause of their greater sensitivity.""" 

Impact of Hate on the Health of Slave and Freedmau 

Freudian psychologists have long held that always present 
with human beings is a wish to "die" and a wish to "live," and 
that when the former is predominant the individual is prey to 
suicide, malingering, martydom, asceticism, polysurgery, alco- 
holism, psychosis, and other forms of self-destruction.^'" Study 
of Negro spirituals and other sources have shown that the wish 
to die was sometimes strong with both the slave and freedman. 
It is known, too, that actual suicide has beeru rare among Ne- 
groes. ^'^ Considering, however, the close relationship between 
the mental and the organic, might not this strong wish to die 
account for much of the high incidence of mental and physical 
illness to which bondsmen and freedmen were so prone, thereby 
contributing to the high death rate for which the race has been 
notorious? Usually the high incidence of physical illness and 
death have been blamed exclusively on such factors as poor 
diet, clothing, and housing, a purely physical explanation. 
Might there not also be valid psychological explanations for 
some of these phenomena?^'" 

The Negro male or female with the "misery" in the arms, 
back, or legs is legendary. How much of this neuralgia, rheu- 
matism, or arthritis was of emotional origin can never be known, 
but it may be suspected that much of it was psychosomatic in 
nature. Calling hypertension "one of the most typical of all 
the psychosomatic diseases," a leading physician and scholar 
stated in 1947: 

The African Bush Negro does not have hypertension. 
His brother who was brought to America as a slave, 
however, quickly developed it and has outstripped the 


southern white in the incidence of high blood pres- 
sure. The southern white, on the other hand, suffers 
considerably less from it than his northern brother. 
But when the southern Negro moves North to live, 
his hypertension rate jumps quite sharply.^^^ 

According to this view, appendicitis also should be common 
to the Negro. Ulcers, often called the most common of psy- 
chosomatic illnesses, should also have been very common with 
both slave and frsedman except that, according to some schol- 
ars, to be a "true ulcer type" one has to be an ambitious, driv- 
ing, mner-directed personality.^"* In slavery and freedom many 
Negroes have been deprived of drive and ambition by an op- 
pressing culture, hence have shown more tendencies of the 
"colon type" of personality which is non-ambitious and other- 
directed.^"'' Thus spastic and ulcerative colitis and related ail- 
ments said to be common to this personality type should and 
have been prevalent among Negroes. Also, guilt feelings de- 
rived from hate and revenge thoughts and acts directed at 
whites, and the need for atonement by self-punishment, prob- 
ably account for much of the recklessness and devil-may-care 
attitude, accident proneness, criminality, addiction to alcohol, 
sex, and dope, as well as asceticism and martyrdom which have 
been common among some elements of Negroes. ^"° 

A major factor which kept the slave and masses of freed- 
men from suffering and dying even more of psychosomatic 
illnesses than actually occurred, was their lack of urbanity and 
sophistication. They were thus able to give vent to their emo- 
tions by laughing, yelling, singing, crying, and working in- 
stead of repressing them completely. Only under the eyes of 
the overseer or planter did they have to repress their thoughts 
and emotions, and even then they had to repress only anger, 
hostility, resentment or hatred. Because it was believed that a 
"happy"' slave was a safe one, andj a good worker in addition, 
any and all expressions of joy or gladness were encouraged 
in the slaves, who, not only with impunity but actual approval, 
could thus laugh, sing, and dance with abandon. Here is a 
major source of the laughing, singing, dancing characteristic 
which has become a well-known stereotype of the race. 


Although the Negro's singing, joking, laughing, dancing, 
and working got rid of a considerable amount of his aggres- 
sions, this did not completely rid him of the boiling volcano 
of hostility deep in his subconscious, hence did not in the long 
run save him from psychosomatic disease. In slaver)^ and since, 
this volcano has been an important contributing factor to such 
psychosomatic illnesses among Negroes as hypertension, heart 
disease, arthritis, rheumatism, strokes, kidney ailments, ulcers, 
diabetes, dementia praecox, asthma, headaches, backache, pur- 
posive accidents, and tuberculosis, as well as to other malign 

The Flight From Hatred Toward Love 

As it was impossible for Negro slaves not to hate their 
white masters, it was also impossible for these same bondsmen 
not to love their masters. It is probably impossible for human 
beings not to feel a considerable degree of love for whomever 
provides the only food, shelter, clothing, and security they 
possess, regardless of how meager these provisions may be. When 
human beings hate those whom they also love, figuratively bite 
the hand that feeds them, it is then that resultant guilt feelings 
are especially intense. Perhaps, however, only through such 
long-term bitter hating and being hated as they have been 
subjected to could Afro-Americans develop the mature realisin 
about the nature of hate, and hence such a proper fear of and 
flight from it toward love as many have exhibited. Hatred and 
revenge are usually childish reactions which often do greater 
damage to the hater than to the hated. Too, the social conse- 
quences of hatred are very serious. Many Afro-American lead- 
ers have seen this and have urged their race not to succumb 
to hate. Booker Washington often wisely said that no man 
could make him stoop so low as to hate. The majority of 
Negroes, slave and free, always have had strong guilt feelings 
about their hatred for white people and, for several reasons, 
have sought to suppress, restrain, and eliminate it. This is a 
major source of the "forgive the former slave-holder" talk of 
the Reconstruction era, and the', theme is common in the writ- 
ings and speeches of the descendants of the ex-slaves. In the 


1920s this tradition caused Margaret Adelaide Shaw to write 
in her "Closed Doors": 

You who find closed doors before you 
Turn not bitter while )^ou wait: 
Work and grow, for nothing shrivels 
Up the soul like burning hate. 

Reflecting in verse in the same period on his races' "trampled 
rights" and on "caste," in a poem entitled "The Feet of Judas," 
George Marion Horton urged his race not to forget that "Christ 
washed the feet of Judas." In his poem "Judas Iscariot." 
written in the same period, Countee Cullen even found it in 
his heart to exculpate Judas and make room for him in Heaven. 
Beginning in the late 19 5 0s this tradition would provide per- 
haps the largest source of the Reverend Martin Luther King's 
famed emphasis on love.^"^ 

Already mentioned is the manner in which the glorification 
of blackness and the Negro physical "type" became a medium 
of revenge. This is especially to be seen in the; Marcus Garvey 
movement of the 1920s. According to Garvey black is the most 
beautiful color and one which even God and His angels in 
Heaven bear. While denouncing the earlier-exalted mulatto, 
Garvey praised and flattered the darker-skinned Negro masses. 
That there was some precedent for his type of thinking may 
be seen in a pre-Civil War statement by the noted abolitionist, 
Dr. John S. Rock. In 1858 Dr. Rock had declared: 

The prejudice which some white men have, or 
affected to have against my color gives me no pain. 
If any man does not fancy my color, ... I shall 
give myself no trouble because he lacks good taste. 
... I will not deny that I admire the talents and 
noble character of many white men. But I cannot 
say that I am particularly pleased with their physical 
appearance. . . . When I contrast the fine tough 
muscular system, the beautiful, rich color, the full 
broad features, and the gracefully frizzled hair of the 
Negro, with the delicate physical organization, wan 
color, sharp features and lank hair of the Caucasian, 
I am inclined to believe that when the white man was 
created, nature was pretty well exhausted.^"® 


On this Arnold M. Rose has stated: ''While whites are more 
inclined to select a light Negro, the Negro group itself, when 
the choice is up to it, is more inclined to select a dark man."^^' 
Adverse criticism by Negroes o£ the person of the white man 
has extended to such area as the assertion that characteristically 
whites have a bad body odor and are "cold-natured." 

With the rest of the nation, Negroes turned in the 195 0s 
to a much closer consideration of the nation's economic and 
social problems, and as a consequence their thought became 
somewhat less race-centered. Their aggressions became less di- 
rected at the white man and more toward the economic and 
social system, and as Afro-Americans came to view themselves 
more as co-victims with whites — members of the same "pro- 
letariat," there was, perhaps, less hatred of "the white man." 

During the thirties, and since, rising living standards, 
superior education on both sides of the racial front and attacks 
on racial bias by the Urban League, NAACP, CIO, scholars 
in various fields, and numerous other organizations and persons, 
have served to reduce hatreds, hence also the felt need for 
revenge, between colored and white Americans. In the thirties 
the rise of totalitarianism and tyranny abroad served to shift 
some of the Negro Americans' aggressions away from the 
white man at home. Especially did Benito Mussolini's "rape" 
of Ethiopa, and the British persecution of Mahatma Gandhi 
and his brown-skinned followers combine with Adolf Hitler's 
racism to work as catalysts to this end. In the post-World War 
II era, integration in industry, sports, the military, and other 
areas of American life also have worked to this end. Despite 
the stubborn efforts by some persons — South and North — to 
preserve the old order of things, the trend in race relations 
would seem to indicate that the day may not be too distant 
when the type of revenge herein discussed will not be a sig- 
nificant aspect of the mind of the Negro. ^'^ 

Chapter V 

Discounting the changes in beHef and practice which al- 
ways occur when a rehgion is transmitted from one group of 
people to another, the master — slave relationship was not an 
ideal posture for white Americans to introduce transplanted 
Africans to the Christian religion. Despite this very serious 
difficulty, an effective transmission was made, and this religion 
became not only the dominant thought stream in the mind of 
the Negro, but a major vehicle for transmitting Occidental 
culture to this alien race. 

Once he absorbed the basic tenets of the Christian faith, 
the Negro's religion would be affected not only by his own 
peculiar past and present, but by almost every major historical 
current which swept across the nation. This was true of the 
1764-1789 revolutionary fervor which created a new nation. 
The eighteenth century Great Awakening also had a significant 
impact on slaves just as it did on white Americans. In New 
England, and probably elsewhere, this movement, among other 
things, resulted in the conversion of many more slaves to 
Christianity. During this century Negroes began to establish 
segregated churches. Ex-slave Richard Allen, with Absalom 
Jones organized the Free African Society, and in 1794 organized 
Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. 
Allen became the second AME Bishop. In 1796 some New 
York Methodists separated from the whites and formed the 
African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. In 1822 James 
Varick was elected first Bishop of this church, which also num- 
bered among its early leaders George Collins and Christopher 
Rush. Beginning around 1806 Negro Baptists began to separate 
from whites, and the African Methodist Episcol Church began 
its great contribution to Negro journalism and thought in 1847 
when it began to issue the Christian Herald. In 1852 the name 
of this publication was changed to The Christian Recorder. 

Afro-Americans have held slavery and racial oppression 
to be foul blots on the white Americans' religion, and they 
have been especially critical because the white clergy usually 



either has supported or been silent on these topics. As recently 
as the 1920's one Negro declared: "The colored races the world 
over will have even more doubt in the future than they have 
had in the past of the real Christianity of any church which 
holds out to them the prospect of being united in heaven after 
being separated on earth. "^ In 1923 James Weldon Johnson 
echoed an oft-repeated strain when he said: "The Negro stands 
as the suprme test of the civilization, the Christianity and the 
common decency of the American people."" 

The slave received religious indoctrination from ministers 
who told him that his highest duty on earth was to be faithful, 
obedient, and hard-working. His plight was explained to him 
as indeed a hard one, but a condition ordained by God and 
not to be rectified by man. Rosy pictures were painted of 
Heaven as the reward for being "good,' and Biblical authority 
was cited as proof of all conclusions about the institution of 
slavery. Bondsmen sometimes stole away, however, and held 
illicit religious meetings of their own, at which they were given 
a contrary doctrine by "preachers" among their own group. 
Here they learned that the deity had not ordained slavery and 
that the evil system would soon be overthrown by the com- 
bined efforts of God and man. These secret meetings held at 
night, often were announced by clever code systems, during 
the work day, in full view of white overseers. Often impro- 
vised words sung in the tune of a popular spiritual was the 
means of passing the information around that a meeting was 
to be held that night. Slavery schooled the Negro in duplicity 
and deceit, and the eagerness of the ruling class to believe that 
slaves were happy, contented, obedient, child-like creatures, 
made the deceit easier to put over. Without these code systems 
and secret meetings it may well be doubted that such a large- 
scale conspiracy as that of Denmark Vesey could have been 
organized. Of religious training, M. M. Fisher states that: 
"Negroes soon learned that their plantation teachers [Mission- 
aries] were interested primarily in making slavery more secure, 
and slaves paid their missionaries scant attention."" But that the 
indoctrination had considerable success, there can be little doubt. 
"I have met many religious colored people, at the South," wrote 
Frederick Douglass, "who are under the delusion that God re- 


quires them to submit to slavery, and to wear their chains with 
meekness and humility. I could entertain no such nonsense as 
this; and I almost lost my patience when I found any colored 
man weak enough to believe such stuff."'' Whether religious in- 
doctrination and other emoluments which the institution af- 
forded the bondsman brought him happiness is a much debated 
question. On this, Frederick Douglass observed: 

We are sometimes told of the contentment of the 
slaves, and are entertained with vivid pictures of their 
happiness. We are told that they often dance and sing; 
that their masters frequently give them wherewith to 
make merry; in fine, that they have little of which to 
complain. I admit that the slave does sometimes sing, 
dance and appear to be merry. But what does this 
prove? It only proves to my mind, that though 
slavery is armed with a thousand stings, it is not able 
entirely to kill the elastic spirit of the bondsman. 
That spirit will rise and walk abroad, despite whips 
and chains, and extract from the cup of nature, oc- 
casional drops of joy and gladness.^ 

''Why is it," Douglass continued, "that all the reports of 
contentment and happiness among the slaves at the South come 
to us upon the authority of slave-holders, or (what is equally 
significant) of slave-holders' friends? Why is it that we do not 
hear from the slave direct? The answer to this question furn- 
ishes the darkest features in the American slave system. "*" This 
was a persistent argument with Douglass against the myth that 
the slaves were contented and happy with their lot. Douglass 
was a great believer in the right of individual expression, and 
lamented constantly that the slave was not allowed to speak for 
himself. "If there were no other fact descriptive of slavery," 
he wrote, "than that the slave is dumb [silent], this alone 
would be sufficient to mark the slave system as a grand aggre- 
gation of human horrors."' Douglass admitted that religious 
services, often surrepticious ones, brought considerable happi- 
ness to the slave. "We were at times remarkably buoyant, sing- 
ing hymns, and making joyous exclamations, almost as trium- 
phant in their tone as if we had reached a land of freedom and 
safety,"^ he wrote. But that these meetings were dangerous to 


the system, even the planters came to know. For here slaves 
were alone, could express their grievances unrestrainedly, and 
plot rebellion and insurrection. Douglass stated of the buoyant 
singing about "heaven" and "Canaan Land," "A keen observer 
might have detected in our repeated singing of: 

'O Cannan, sweet Cannan, 

I am bound for the land of Cannan' 

something more than a hope of reaching heaven. We meant to 
reach the North, and the North was our Canaan."'' Douglass 
conceived and planned his escape during one of these meetings. 
The ruling class prohibited these religious meetings, but still 
slaves would often sing, and act on their singing: "Steal away, 
steal away, steal away to Jesus, Steal away, steal away home, 
I ain't got long to stay here." Thus did the meetings continue. 

Perhaps most bondsmen were convinced that to take Chris- 
tianity literally and live a meek, lowly, uncomplaining, hard- 
working, hard-suffering life was the best path for them to 
follow. Many felt this way partly because such is one side of 
the spirit of Christianity, and partly because wisdom dictated 
this as the best course in the face of overwhelming odds. It is 
this effect of Christianity on people which caused Rome to op- 
pose it for her soldiers, and brought Lenin to characterize it as 
the opiate of the proletariat. Since 1865 several Afro- Americans 
have denounced religiosity as a primary source of the continued 
degradation of their race. 

Fisher shows that even the "Uncle Tom" slave often felt 
that he was acting in the best interests of Christianity and his 
race. R. R. Moton tells how these persons, commonly called 
"white folks' niggers" have always been "thoroughly disgust- 
ing and humiliating to all thinking members of their race."^" 
In his volume, The Wife of His Youth and Other Stories of the 
Color Line, Charles Chesnutt includes a story entitled, "The 
Passing of Grandison." Here a slave pretends to hate abolition- 
ists and their movement, only to trick his master so that he 
wins freedom in Canada for himself and his family. 

The already-mentioned controversy over the extent to 
which the thought and action of Afro-Americans is a persis- 
tence of African traits involves the religion of the Negro. 


In his Negro Slave Songs in the United States Miles Mark 
Fisher (see Chapter I) interprets the slave songs in terms of 
African survivals, and concludes that the American Negro's 
religion has long retained numerous pagan and Mohammedan, 
or ''Oriental" elements. The error which Dr. Fisher makes is 
to mistake general characteristics of many different primitive 
groups for peculiar Negro traits. The traits which he considers 
to be peculiarly African have been characteristics of various 
ethnic and geographical groups in the United States and in 
many other countries; many primitive groups dress elaborately 
for worship, and certainly no one has shown that the Mormons 
practiced polygamy because of African influence. Alfred 
Kinsey never argued that present day "polygamous" tendencies 
among whites in the United States have been learned from 

Fisher appears to believe that the primary reason why 
many slaves were gradually denied the right to worship with 
whites was the slaves' habit of "shouting." Slaves, he writes, 
"disturbed quiet and dignified Methodist worship by beating 
out the rhythm of songs with feet patting and hands clapping, 
in place of African instruments .... until their odors were 
quite repulsive." He hints that American whites learned the 
shouting habit from Negroes, but the author fails to marshal 
any evidence to support this belief which is so divergent from 
accepted opinions. Most scholars hold that shouting, stamping 
of feet, and other such spirited behvior in worship was fairly 
typical of many lower class white Americans,, especially in the 
West and South. Kenneth Stampp has declared that ''slave 
superstitions did not all originate in Africa, and it would even 
be difficult to prove that most did. For the slaves picked up 
plenty of them from the good Puritans, Baptists, Methodists, 
and other religious" groups. "Indeed," Stampp continues, "more 
than likely Negroes and whites made a generous exchange of 
superstitions. There is no need to trace back to Africa the 
slave's fear of beginning to plant a crop on Friday, his dread 
of witches, ghosts, and goblins, his confidence in good-luck 
charms, his alarm at evil omens, his belief in dreams, and his 
reluctance to visit burying grounds after dark. These supersti- 


tlons were all firmly rooted in Ango-Saxon folklore. "^^ Of the 
"shouting" traits, Stampp notes: 

But again it is not easy to tell how much of their 
'heathenism' the slaves learned in the white churches 
and at white revival meetings. One Sunday morning, 
in . . . Virginia a visitor attended a Methodist 
Church where the slaves were permitted to hold their 
meetings before the whites occupied the building. 
Such a medley of sounds, I never heard before. They 
exhorted, prayed, sang, shouted, cried, grunted and 
growled. Poor Souls' they knew no better for I found 
that when other services began the sounds were simi- 
lar, which the white folks made; and the Negroes 
only imitated them and shouted a little louder.^^ 

"In the Americas," Fisher declares, ''the institution of the 
African cult [secret meetings] rather than the home .... 
was relied upon by adult Negroes to train their children to 
take every step in life," and that this was the chief reason for 
"continuing the African institution of the secret meetings." He 
concludes that the Negro churches of the twentieth century 
were founded on doctrines which were "superficially Christian, 
but in truth they were the traditional beliefs of the secret 

In America pondering the slave-trade, Negroes would 
conveniently forget the large and essential role which African 
chiefs played in the capture and sale of slaves, and erect the 
myth that all slaves were stolen by whites in a form of wanton 
piracy. The ugly inhumanity of the Middle Passage has been 
bitterly criticized by Afro-Americans. Reflecting on it Kelly 
Miller wrote in the second decade of the twentieth century — 
"I see the ocean basin whitened with bones, and the ocean cur- 
rent running red with (their) blood. "^^ 

It is well-known that slave owners discouraged and "kill- 
ed," as much as possible, such African customs as conflicted 
with the pattern of slavery. Among these discouraged customs 
and practices were secret meetings, the practice of sorcery, use 
of African languages, and the sending of messages by code. 
Other customs, harmless to the institution were not discouraged 
but rather were sometimes encouraged. 


Magic, like much of religion, is a propitiation of feared 
threatening forces within and without man himself. The ar- 
bitrariness and cruelty of the world of the slave heightened his 
fear and gave him great need for any and all supports which 
were at hand. Religion and magic were two of his greatest sup- 
ports. Rabbits' feet, horseshoes, four-leaf clovers, and the po- 
tions of the "Hoodoo" man were all meant to give the be- 
nighted belcagured bondsman a greater feeling of security, 
hence comfort and happiness. The domestic and skilled slaves 
were not less superstitious than the field-hands because they 
were more intelligent, but rather in large part because there was 
less arbitrariness, cruelty, and fear in their lives. The Negro 
slave lived in an age where faith in witchcraft was very wide- 
spread. The infamous Salem witch trials were not perpetrated 
by Negroes, and even in the twentieth century a considerable 
number of white Americans believe in witchcraft. 

David Walker, perhaps the most outspoken colored radical 
of the pre-lS30 era, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina 
in 178 5. Offspring of a slave! father and free mother, Walker 
early left the South and settled in Boston, Massachusetts, where 
he acquired the rudiments of an education and was caught uv 
in the abolitionist fervor which was sweeping New England 
and the North. In 1829 his famous APPEAL was published. 
The consternation which this work caused in the South is rem- 
iniscent of the furor later raised over Harriet Beecher Stowe's 
famed volume. Leaders of southern states demanded that the 
APPEAL be suppressed and offered ten thousand dollars for the 
capture and delivery of Walker. To his race Walker said: "The 
man who would not fight under our Lord and Master Jesus 
Christ, in the glorious and heavenly cause of freedom and of 
God .... ought to be kept with all of his children or family, 
in slavery, or in chains, to be butchered by his cruel enemies." 
In the most intemperate language, Walker poured out an intense 
hatred against all justifications for human bondage, as well as 
against those who, for any reasons, would not see slavery im- 
mediately overthrown regardless of the means which might be 
necessary to accomplish this end. Walker based his recommen- 
dations on strong personal religious convictions. Before 1831 
there was probably one or more Negro preachers on every 


plantation. Shortly after the Nat Turner insurrection Negro 
preachers were generally outlawed. In places where slaves were 
allowed to attend churches with whites, sitting in back or in 
the gallery, this was sometimes done because of the fear that at 
separate religious gatherings of slaves rebellions were too easily 

There is still considerable controversy as to whether the 
early slave songs or spirituals are essentially secularistic or other- 
wordly in tone. Sterling Brown has indicated the difficulty of 
interpreting the slave ways and other expressions of the Negro 
folk mind. "The field of folklore in general," he has written, 
"is known to be a battle area, and the Negro front is one of the 
hottest centers. One sharply contended point is the problem of 
definition of the folk; and then that of origin. "^^ 

Perhaps no scholar has interpreted the day-by-day mes- 
sage of spirituals with the thoroughness of Miles Mark Fisher. ^^ 
Although one may well quarrel with the over-all thesis behind 
Fisher's interpretation of these songs, no one has so skillfully 
fitted them around the major historical events of the ante-bel- 
lum( period. Fisher probably goes much too far when he says, 
"not one spiritual in its primary form reflected interest in any- 
thing other than a full life here and now."^*^ "Christianity," 
Fisher continues: "rarely occurred as an element in antebellum 
spirituals." And — "The characters mentioned in slave songs, 
were to be sure. Oriental."^' In the effort to prove his exag- 
gerated thesis, Fisher makes several erroneous statements. For 
example, he contends that Frederick Douglass "was indebted 
to secret [slave] meetings for his total ideology. "^^ It is difficult 
to see how one can rationalize away the other- wordly aspect of 
the spirituals, as Fisher attempts to do. "The other-wordly idea 
of God," Mays has noted, "finds fertile soil among the people 
who fare worst in this world; and it grows dimmer and dim- 
mer as the social and economic conditions improve."^" Although 
he concludes that the dominant note of the spirituals is other- 
wordly. Mays correctly observes that purely secularistic em- 
phases are present. In two separate statements on the message of 
the spirituals. Mays reflects both the other-wordly and secu- 
laristic! emphases. Here he concludes: 


The ideas reflected in the spirituals may be brief- 
ly summarized: God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and 
omiscient. In both Heaven and earth God is sovereign. 
He is a just God — just to the point of cruelty. In the 
very nature of things sinners will be punished by God. 
He will see to it that the wicked are destroyed. God 
is revengeful. He hardened the heart of Pharaoh for 
the express purpose of trapping him and his host in 
the Red Sea. This indicates that God is a warrior and 
He fights the battles of His chosen people. 'Go Down 
Moses' and 'Joshua Fit De Battle of Jerico' are filled 
with the confidence that God takes care of His own. 
He will also see to it that the righteous are vindicated 
and that the heavily laden are given rest for the trou- 
bles of the world. The spirituals, 'Mos' Done Toilin' 
Here' and 'Members, Don't Git Weary,' are illustra- 
tive of the assurance that God will give rest to those 
who toil here below. This rest comes after death. God 
saves for Heaven those who hold out to the end. He 
provides golden crowns, slippers, robes, and eternal 
life for the righteous, the principal reward comes in 
the other world."" 

"The Negroes' ideas of God," in the period 1760-1860, 
Mays found, "are those of traditional Christianity, but they 
are the most lofty of the traditional ideas .... It is clear 
that these early Negro writers exercised a keen sense of selec- 
tivity and chose those ideas of God that supported their claim 
for social justice and complete emancipation."'^ Even M. M. 
Fisher makes some slight concession to the other-worldly inter- 
pretation of the slave songs. On this he states: 

Possibly, the originals of other worldly spirituals 
were not in existence when the first collectors made 
their search. There can be no doubt, however, that 
slaves like other people, transferred their earthly de- 
sires to the other world when they were frustrated. 
Negroes expressed strong desires to be reincarnated in 

Although he is correct in pointing out that late nineteenth 
and early twentieth century Americans of color often resented 
spirituals as hateful "plantation melodies," R. R. Moton errors 


somewhat in asserting that by 1929 Negroes had come to ac- 
cept them. On this, Moton states that the race had begun. "To 
sing them with a zest and abandon that was previously known 
only amid the scenes of their origin."'' The truth is that even 
today there are many colored Americans who feel that the 
fewer Negro spirituals their choirs sing, the better. 

In Native Son, Richard Wright's portrayal of the mother 
of Bigger Thomas is of the unlettered submissive person who 
willingly bears the extreme burden of life with the sole con- 
solation of a happier life in Heaven. In Native Sou Wiight 
reacts against this other-wordly consolation, as he later does 
even more effectively in his autobiographical Black Boy. Reac- 
tion against the other-wordly thought of many lower class 
Negroes has caused a number of middle class persons to be 
against organized religion, just as the passivity of the Russian 
peasantry caused Communists to view religion as the opiate of 
the people. Of his early religious experiences, Frederick Doug- 
lass states: 

Many slaves rejected the religious ideas which 
planters sought to drill in them. By some means 1 
learned from these inquiries [questions about God 
when a child], that God, up in the sky, made every- 
body; and that He made white people to be masters 
and mistresses, and black people to be slaves. This 
did not satisfy me, nor lessen my interest in the sub- 
ject. I was told, too, that God was good, and that He 
knew what was best for me and everybody. This was 
less satisfactory than the first statement; because it 
came, point blank, against all my notions of goodness. 
It was not good to let old master cut the flesh off 
Esther, and make her cry so. Besides, how did people 
know that God made blacks to be slaves?-* 

Later Douglass concluded about slavery: "I was not very long 
in finding out [that] it was not color, but crime, not God, 
but man, that afforded the true explanation of the existence 
of slavery"-' [And] "I was just as well aware of the unjust, 
unnatural and murderous character of slavery, when nine years 
old, as I am now. Without an appeal to books, to laws, or to 


authorities of any kind, it was enough to accept God as a 
Father, to regard slavery asj a crime."'° 

The spirituals give insight into attitudes and ideas which 
the bondsmen had toward such topics as human rights, coop- 
eration, and security. The thought of the race was rooted in 
religion. To the Negro, God has been the Father and creator 
of humanity, and all men brothers made of one flesh. The 
Creator had no favored children, hence could not be the author 
of racial inequality; all of His children ought to have the same 
privileges and immunities. "Whence, then, the actual and very 
real inequalities?", many have asked. "Why freedoms for white, 
and not for black?" The record of his efforts to find a satis- 
factory answer to these queries presents a inottled picture born 
of the colored Americans' confusion. 

With the attitude of the race toward cooperation, the 
religious note is again struck first. Slavery made group con- 
sciousness acute and these outcast Americans often thought of 
them.selves as a despised race or band. They were to "walk to- 
gether Children and Don't Get Weary," for "Dere's a Great 
Camp Meeting in de Promised Land." During the ante-bellum 
period security to the black man did not have the same eco- 
nomic implications that it was to have in the twentieth cen- 
tury. Then the quest was primarily for emotional and physical 
security, and in a sense, the Heavenly Father and His Son con- 
stituted the main sources! of security. The spirituals are replete 
with the attitude, "I Got a Home in Dat Rock, Don't You 
See," or "Jesus is My Friend, He'll Keep Me to De 'En," or "My 
Soul'f Been Anchored in De Lord." 

Like that of inost Americans, the thought of Negroes has 
tended toward the materialistic emphasis. Even as slaves they 
were caught up in the Great American Dream which centered 
around possession of an abundance of worldly goods. This de- 
sire, then as now, they could not help but absorb from the cul- 
tural milieu of which they represented the lower order. But 
plainly, as slaves their status precluded ownership of goods in 
this world, for not even possessing their own bodies, how could 
they hope for mundane fortune? The answer lay in Heaven, 
the city of golden streets and pearly gates. There, "I Got a 


Robe, You Got a Robe, All-a God's Chillun Got A Robe," And 
they sang: "Deep River, My Home is Over Jordan," and "I 
Know De Udder Worl' is Not Like Dis." 

Rather than something to be avoided as today, to the 
bondsman suffering generally was something to be borne pa- 
tiently. As with Job, this suffering would be rewarded on earth 
and in Heaven. The constancy of this outlook reveals that 
pessimism usually out-weighed the buoyant optimism which 
the black American sometimes expressed, and shows that he saw 
no early escape from his miserable condition. God's help was 
sure, but; slow and distant. The slave-owner would never will- 
ingly give him his freedom, and the slave was too wise to be- 
lieve that his own effort could overthrow the hated institution. 
Still, in his despondence, he sang: "De Harder dc Cross, de 
Brighter de Crown." 

Thus a primary burden of the spirituals was to impart 
encouragement and hope. Conditions were bound to improve 
the slaves sang. An omnipotent and all-wise God still reigned 
in Heaven and everything proceeds out of His divine plan. He 
will right all wrongs, if not in this world, then surely in the 
world to some. So, "Don't Git Weary, A Better Day's A'com- 
ing": "Just a Little Talk Wid Jesus Makes It Right." Then, 
"Steal Away, Steal Away to Jesus." A slave working in the 
cotton fields, barefooted and dressed in battered simple cloth- 
ing longs for the fine clothing seen on the white members of 
the master class. The slave begins to sing: "I got shoes, you got 
shoes, all God's chillun got shoes. When I get to heab'n gonna 
put on my shoes, and shout all over God's heab'n." Or another, 
recently whipped, overworked, and constantly abused, begins 
to sing: "Nobody knows de trouble I've seen, nobody knows 
but Jesus"; Sometimes I'm up, sometimes I'm down, O' yes 
Lord! Sometimes I'm almost to the ground, O' yes Lord!", 
while still another sings, "I'ni so glad trouble don' las' always." 
Often with this beleagured people hope bordered on despair, 
and they sang — "Sometimes I feel like a Motherless Child." 

If faith and hope had the virtue of sustaining slaves, they 
also often kept them obedient, submissive, and humble. So it 
was intended by the ruling class. 


The impact of the story of Jewish slavery and deHverance 
has had a great impact on Afro-Americans, who have seen 
themselves as Daniel in the Lion's Den and as the three Hebrew 
children in the fiery furnace. From their earliest utterances, 
Afro- Americans appear to have believed that God is love, and 
that under no circumtances should they hate even their op- 
pressors. When the teaching efforts of Daniel A. Payne, a 
Charleston, S. C, free Negro, were curtailed by law in 183 5 
it seemed as if life and God had closed a door in his face. He 
began to question the very existence of God. In this dark hour 
the scripture sustained him as he recalled: "With God one day 
is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. Trust 
in Him, and He will bring slavery and all its outrages to an 


Contrary to the rather general belief that most masters 
used religious instruction to help their slaves adjust to and 
accept their status, many slaves were given no religious in- 
struction at all. Their masters felt that the lash alone was suf- 
ficient to control their slaves, and as many owners themselves 
were not religious, they saw no need to make provisions for or 
allow religious instruction to their slaves. "° Ex-slaves did much 
to perpetuate the myth of their great religiosity with oft-re- 
peated tales of mid-week prayer meetings held in the woods or 
in the cabins with pots turned down to keep the noise in, and 
their boasting about the validity of the "old-timed" religion. 
Romantically-minded southern whites bent on justifying and 
glorifying the Old South also did much to launch and perpetu- 
ate the myth of slave religiosity. Thus Miles Mark Fisher is 
correct in his conclusion that most slaves were not basically, 
essentially, or seriously Christian. One ex-slave said: "White 
people were very hard on colored for being religious. They 
liked to see you fiddlin and dancing all the time.""^ This re- 
porter said that whites gave Negro preachers a hard time. Many 
freedmen became acquainted with religious instruction for the 
first time after they were grown. Although there were many 
Negro preachers, due to careful selection and control by plant- 
ers, the monotonous theme of their sermons was the same as 
with white preachers, i.e., "Servants obey your masters." Slaves 
hated these one-sided sermons."'* Slaves observed that planters 


who were ministers of the gospel were often just as cruel as 
those masters who did not wear the cloth.^° 

Although they often feigned regret and sorrow, many 
slaves were actually jubilant at the news of a master's or mistress' 
death. An ex-slave declared: ''If I had my way with them 
all I would like to have is a chopping block and chop every 
one of their heads off. Of course I don't hate them that is good. 
There are some good white folks. Mighty few though."'* An- 
other ex-slave said: "When I first embraced a hope in Christ 
I never have felt that way since. It just looked like to me I 
had more strength than four or five men had. It just looked 
like to me I could just pick up a house and tote it.""' One ex- 
slave mentioned the inhuman treatment given his race during 
slavery in a manner reminiscent of Booker T. Washington. "I 
don't like to get mad because I will sin," he declared. " Slaves 
particularly resented that many of them were not given "decent 
Christian burials." '* Perhaps this accounts for the rather com- 
mon observation that few things have been more important to 
the freedman than a respectable funeral at the end of life's 
earthly sojourn. 

In general, history to the Afro-American has been a 
theodicy. The heady humanism of the eighteenth century, and 
the materialism and Godlessness of the nineteenth and twentieth 
centuries have little touched the Negro masses. Preaching in 
Trinity Church, Monrovia, Liberia in 1863, the Rev. Alexander 
Crummell stated: "We sec everywhere God's hand in historv; 
we feel that its anointing spirit is the breath of God. In all the 
movements of society we see the clear, distinct, 'finger of God,' 
ordering, controlling, directing the footsteps of men, of fami- 
lies, and of races."'" But the tendency of slavery to produce 
polarization of thought and behavior is revealed in the abun- 
dant evidence of a contrary view. Here God's law taught dis- 
obedience to earthly masters and encouraged overt rebellion. It 
was this attitude toward law which inspired Nat Turner, Den- 
mark Vesey, and Frederick Douglass no less than Garrison 
Seward, the Tappan Brothers, and John Brown. 

David, who slew the giant Goliath with his small sling- 
shot weapon, was a great hero of the slaves. In their oppressed 
circumstance, bondsmen often dreamed of and longed for a 


"Moses" who would "Tell Old Pharoah to let My People Go." 
They variously thought of God as patient and long-suffering 
and as an angry, impatient, warrior God, and of Joshua who "Fit 
de Battle of Jericho." Still, the overwhelming preponderance 
of power held by the master class dictated and advised a gen- 
eral attitude of non-violence. 

Afro- Americans sometimes have held sterotyped notions of 
themselves as a superior race. These ideas have varied from the 
belief that they were a chosen and favored race collectively to 
notions that Negroes are generally better Christians, singers, 
orators, lovers, and athletes than Caucasians. At least one slave 
believed that white people were not gifted by nature with the 
slaves' ability to see ghosts. ^° Mays and Nicholson, in The 
Negro's Church, quote from a chauvinistic sermon which has 
been often used in Negro churches. The text listed is: "Princes 
shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her 
hands unto God." Here the clear implication is that Negroes 
constitute a chosen race.'" These same authors found that in 
most modern sermons by Negroes, the Kingdom of God is 
placed on earth. It will be a kingdom of social justice, brother- 
hood, and equality."^ 

As with the nation generally, the earliest preoccupation of 
the Negro with the concept of law centered around divine law, 
and God's Will. This attitude was inextricably and unavoidably 
tied in with the shifting concept of God which the thought of 
the race manifests. At times, God's "law" dictated obedience 
on this earth to the master's will, and the ultimate aim of this 
law was to test the patience and endurance of the slave. Heaven 
certainly would be the reward for obedience, docility, and 
meekness. God could not err nor injustice endure after death. 
Since the slaves made no sustained effort to overthrow the sys- 
tem, and since this note is so often struck in the spirituals and 
other vitterances, one must conclude that it was a dominant 
view of law which they held. Even the spirituals. Mays ob- 
serves, did not necessarily motivate them to"strive to eliminate 
the source of the ills they suffered."'" 

As already has been indicated, Afro-Americans have been 
greatly inspired and directed in their behavior by the life of 
Christ. Especially have His suffering, death and resurrection 


been signiiicant in their thought — the suffering because they 
could identify it with their own, and the resurrection as a 
symbol of hope and victory, both in this world and the world 
to come. Next to Christ, perhaps no other biblical figure has 
so inspired the Negro as much as Moses. Few have been the 
leaders of the race who did not in some degree identify their 
actions with and draw inspiration from this man who led an- 
other enslaved race to the promised land, just as few have been 
the leaders and plotters of militant action for emancipation and 
equal citizenship rights who did not happily identify the perils 
which they were inviting upon their heads with the dangers 
and sufferings into which Christ willingly walked; and few 
have been the executed martyrs who did not, like John Brown 
himself, walk to their deaths drawing consolation from the 
knowledge that the Galilean carpenter bore His cross to an 
awful but triumphant Calvary. The event which finally con- 
vinced Nat Turner that he should seek to free Virginia's slaves 
was a vision in which he saw himself ordered by God to pick 
up the cross which Christ had laid down. Denmark Vesey was 
inspired by the Jewish epic, and believed that as God had de- 
livered the Israelites out of Egypt and Babylonia, He would 
help Vesey 's plot and insurrection to succeed.^" 

The Negro church has a record of considerable militancy, 
and has been a primary source of the race's optimism. As has 
been previously stated, the abolitionist movement was star- 
studded with the names of Negro ministers, and the various 
conferences of colored denominations held during ante-bellum, 
days were seldom concluded without speeches and resolutions 
which demanded an end to slavery and racial bias. Typical is 
the resolution adopted at the 10th Annual Conference of the 
A.M.E. Church, September 5, 18 50, which was presided over 
by Bishop Morris Brown. Here the Church voted to support 
education, temperance, moral improvement, and abolitionists 
"until every fetter shall be broken and all men enjoy the lib- 
erty which the gospel proclaiins."*^ From his study of the Negro 
Church Carter Woodson concluded that this organization has 
been conservative. Yet, if by "conservative" is implied that it 
has been silent or non-militant against oppression and injustice, 
such a conclusion is false. Perhaps it would be better to state 


that this institution hke the race and Americans in general, has 
been cautious and judicious.^" 

The southern reaction of the 1830-60 period wiped out 
almost every semblance of an independent Negro ministry in 
the South, and both slave and free Negro were often forced to 
hold worship service in the presence of whites. The beginnings 
which the African Methodist Episcopal Church had made in 
Charleston, South Carolina were eliminated as the Rev. Morris 
Brown yielded to unrelenting pressure and moved to the North. 
To protect slavery the white South accepted the greatest measure 
of integration in the churches which the section has ever known. 

In anger at the 18 50 Fugitive Slave Law Frederick Doug- 
lass said: "I take this law to be one of the grossest infringements 
of Christian Liberty, and, if the churches and ministers of our 
country were not stupidly blind, or most wickedly indifferent, 
they, too, would so regard it."*' In his definition of true re- 
ligion, Douglass said: 

I love the religion of our blessed Savior. I love that 
religion that comes from above, in the wisdom of God, 
which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy 
to be entreated, 'full of mercy and good fruits, with- 
out partiality and without hypocrisy.' I love that reli- 
gion that sends its votaries to bind up the wounds of 
him that has fallen among thieves. I love that religion 
that makes it the duty of its disciples to visit the 
fatherless and the widow in their affliction. I love 
that religion that is based upon the glorious principles, 
of love to God and love to man; which makes its 
followers do unto others as they themselves would be 
done by. If you demand liberty to yourself, it says, 
grant it to your neighbors. If you claim a right to 
think for yourself, it says, allow your neighbors the 
same right. If you claim to act for yourself, it says 
allow your neighbors the same right. It is because I 
love this religion that I hate the slaveholding, the 
woman-whipping, the mind-darkening, the soul-de- 
stroying religion that exists in the southern states of 

Speaking in England May 12, 1846 Douglass declared that the 
treatment of the slave was not the worst thing about the U.S.A. 


An even darker feature, he stated, was "that the reHgion of 
the southern states ... is the great supporter, the great sanc- 
tioner" of these "bloody atrocities." The slave, he declared "is 
trampled under foot by the very churches of the land." "Slav- 
ery," he averred, had been made part of the religion of the 
land, and "Ministers of religion stand forth as the foremost, 
the strongest defenders of this institution."^' "This I conceive," 
he continued, "to be the darkest feature of slavery, and the 
most difficult to attack, because it is identified with religion, 
and exposes those who denounce ic to the charge of infidelity. 
Yes, those with whom I have been laboring, namely, the old 
organization anti-slavery society of America, have been again 
and again stigmatized as infidels, and for what reason? Why, 
solely in consequence of the faithfulness of their attacks upon 
the slaveholding of the southern states, and the northern re- 
ligion that sympathizes with it." Again he opined: 

The fact that the church of our country (with 
fractional exceptions) does not esteem 'the Fugitive 
Slave Law' as a declaration of war against religious 
liberty, implies that the church regards religion sim- 
ply as a form of worship, an empty ceremony, and 
not a vital principle requiring active benevolence, 
justice, love, and good will toward men. It esteems 
sacrifice above mercy; psalm-singing above right do- 
ing; solemn meetings above practical righteousness. 
A v/orship that can be conducted by persons who 
refuse to give shelter to the houseless, to give bread 
to the hungry, clothing to the naked, and who enjoin 
obedience to a law forbidding these acts of mercy is 
a curse, not a blessing to mankind.^*^ 

"In prosecuting the anti-slavery enterprise, we have been asked 
to spare the church, to spare the ministry; but how, we ask, 
could such a thing be done? We are met on the threshold of 
our efforts for the redemption of the slave, by the church and 
ministry of the country, in battle arrayed against us; and we 
are compelled to fight or flee. From what quarter, I beg to 
know, has proceeded a fire so deadly upon our ranks, during 
the last two years, as from the Northern pulpit?" 

"The successors of Penn, Franklin, and Woolman," stated 
one observer in 1837, "have shown themselves the friends of 


the colored race. They have done more in this cause than any 
other church and they are still doing great things both in 
Europe and America. I was taught in childhood to remember 
the man of the broed-brimmed hat and drab-colored coat and 
venerate him." But this observer opined that even the Friends 
did not go far enough in their devotion to the colored man. 
With "but here and there a noble exception," he declared, "they 
go but halfway. — When they come to the grand doctrine, to 
lay the ax right down at the root of the tree, and destroy the 
very spirit of slavery — there they are defective. Their doctrine 
is to set the slave free, and let him take care of himself. Hence 
we hear nothing about their being brought into the Friends' 
Church, or of their being viewed and treated according to 
their moral worth."*' In conclusion, stated this observer: "Let 
every man take his stand, burn out this prejudice, live it down, 
talk it down, everywhere consider the colored man as a man, 
in the church, the stage, the steamboat, the public house, in 
all places, and the death-blow to slavery will be struck. " 
McCune Smith once remarked: "It is a remarkable fact that 
the slaves of Catholics are better fed and better treated than 
those of Protestants."*' 

In addition to the appeal to be true to his professed Chris- 
tianity and to the ideals and traditions upon which this nation 
was founded, one constant argument which the Afro-American 
has used in his appeal to the white man has been to the latter's 
sense of fair play and manliness. The Negro has questioned 
often the kind of courage which shows fear of a minority 
which started late in the race for education and economic 
goods. "Give us the opportunity of elevating ourselves: — It can 
do you no harm, and may do us much good," stated an 18 56 
address of Ohioans to that state's Senate and House of Repre- 
sentatives.*^ In this addressi was another persistent theme, that 
is, the malign consequences to the nation inherent in allowing 
Negroes to remain ignorant and degraded. "If we are deprived 
of education, of equal political privileges," commented these 
petitioners, "The natural consequences will follow; and the 
State, for her planting of injustice, will reap her harvest of 
sorrow and crime. She will contain within her limits a discon- 
tented population — dissatisfied, estranged — ready to welcome 


any revolution or invasion as a relief."'" While he did not utilize 
the argument of possible treason, Booker Washington often 
mentioned that for the South to keep the Negro down it had to 
stay down with him. 

One able observer points out that one light in which slaves 
saw planters and their mistresses was as crude, boisterous, gamb- 
ling, uncouth braggarts who drank too heavily and were too 
often inexcusably and inordinately licentious and cruel. This 
same observer notes that "nearly all" ex-slaves who wrote ac- 
counts of their lives under the institution "refer to the cohabi- 
tation of masters and overseers with Negro women. ""^ Like the 
Negro novelists of the 1865-1920i period, miscegenation was a 
subject of which both slaves and ex-slaves of the ante-bellum 
period were acutely conscious. Ignoring the agrarian-base of 
southern society and the impact of the ideal of medieval chiv- 
alry, Charles H. Nichols, Jr. concluded that: "Southern White 
Womanhood has long been glorified for the very obvious reason 
that her guilty [adulterous] men folk felt they owed it to 
her.""" On this point Nichols quotes Harriet Martineau's state- 
ment that the plantation mistress was only "The chief slave of 
the Harem." Of the white American's religion, David Walker 
declared in his Appeal: 

Can anything be greater mockery of religion 
than the way in which it is conducted by the Ameri- 
cans? It appears as though they are bent only on 
daring God Almighty to do His best — they chain 
and handcuff us and our children and drive us around 
the country like brutes, and go into the house of the 
God of justice to return Him thanks for having aided 
them in their infernal cruelties inflicted upon us. 
Will the Lord suffer this people to go on much long- 
er, taking His holy name in vain? Will He not stop 
them, preachers and all? 

"God was against slavery," asserted one observer, "and in 
His own time and way He removed the foul blot from the 
national escutcheon. . . . God has wrought wonderfully among 
us. God is still opening the way for greater progress." Booker 
T. Washington declared: "From the time the first mutterings 
of rebellion were heard, and the war cloud no larger than a 


man's hand appeared on our country's horizon, the Negro be- 
lieved, with an unswerving faith, that slavery was the one 
cause of the war; that God was now ready to punish the des- 
poiler and let the oppressed go free."°^ Bondsmen regarded 
President Abraham Lincoln as the long-awaited Moses whom 
God had promised would lead them out of bondage. Through- 
out the war they prayed for his success. 

As in the days of slavery, for the freedman religion was 
a chief source of inspiration, hope, and understanding of his 
plight in the drama of history. 

Often Afro-Americans have placed their preachers on a 
pedestal and expected them to be not only saintly in their 
thoughts and acts but solvers of all personal and social prob- 
lems. When cracks and weaknesses have been revealed in the 
minister's character or when his followers have realized that 
the minister lacked the ability or desire to solve their social 
problems, wrath born of disappointment has often been di- 
rected at him and his class. As recent as the 1920's a Negro 
poet would write: 

That the Negro church possesses 

Extraordinary power 

That it is the greatest medium 

For influencing our people, 

That it long has slept and faltered, 

Failed to meet its obligations. 

Are, to honest and true thinkers. 

Facts which have to be admitted. 

For these reasons there are many 
Who would have the church awaken 
And adopt the modern methods 
Of all other institutions. 
Make us more enlightened Christians, 
Teach us courtesy and English, 
Racial pride and sanitation. 
Science, thrift and Negro history.^* 

Of the Negro church in the 1865-1900 period, Wilson 
Record has noted: 

During this time the only organization that 
really reached down among the grass roots of the 


race was the church. ... It was conservative in the 
extreme; its appeals were emotional; its eyes were 
fixed on another world — after death. It held fast the 
values of Negro protest and piped the stream of re- 
volt harmlessly into the clouds. It recognized the op- 
pression of the Negro people, and spoke eloquently 
of their trials and tribulations. But it preached sal- 
vation after death and sang of the glories on the 
other side of Jordan.'^' 

Record does not include here the facts that this was previous 
to the dominance of the social gospel, that white churches of 
the South also fitted this general picture, and that by 1900 a 
growing group of educated Afro- Americans were demanding 
that their churches de-emphasize this traditional conservatism, 
emotionalism, and extreme other- wordly outlook. This group 
demanded a more educated clergy to fit the growing literacy 
of the race, and an increased social consciousness and progres- 
sivism on the part of their churches. More and more Afro- 
Americans withdrew from their traditional Baptist and Metho- 
dist loyalties and affiliated with Catholic, Presbyterian, Epis- 
copalian and other churches. Yet in the quarter century previ- 
ous to 1900, Negro religious bodies were not dramatically af- 
fected by the controversy over Darwinism and the sometimes- 
ridiculous conflict between science and religion which was 
rending many whit^ ecclesiastical bodies. Too, this period wit- 
nessed a growing interest in, and affiliation with the Young 
Men's Christian Association. Negro Y's date back to the 18 50's, 
but it was not until 1888 that the organization had its first 
paid colored officer, in the person of William A. Hinton. A 
decade later Jesse E. Moorland became the second such person. 
In the first decade of the twentieth century, Julius Rosenwald 
and George Peabody extended their great philanthropy to edu- 
cation by contributing funds to erect YMCA buildings for the 
race. As the exoduses of World Wars I and II later increased 
the northern urban colored population, participation in the Y 
movement increased. With this organization, growing urbani- 
zation has had a similar result in the South. 

Many Negroes took a moralistic attitude toward the lynch- 
Ings, beatings, and other forms of brutality and oppression 


which were associated with the over-throw of Radical Recon- 
struction. Speaking on the subject, "Why is the Negro lynch- 
ed," Frederick Douglass said: 

It should be remembered that, in the order of 
Divine Providence, the man, who puts one end of a 
chain around the ankle of his fellowman, will find 
the other end around his own neck. And it is the 
same with a nation. ... As we sow we shall reap. 
. . . We tolerated slavery and it has cost us a million 
graves, and it may be that lawless murder now rag- 
ing, if permitted to go on, may yet bring the red 
hand of vengeance, not only on the reverend head 
of age, and upon the helpless] women, but upon even 
the innocent babes of the cradle."'' 

Douglass held the same Biblically-inspired moralistic con- 
ception of social affairs which permeated practically almost 
every avenue of Negro expression throughout the nineteenth 
and early twentieth century. This view held that there is a 
divine law which works to the end that we reap what we sow, 
that such a catastrophe as the Civil War was the result of the 
sin of slavery, and that hence the nation had best be careful 
in its treatment of the colored minority or God will send some 
other evil to punish the nation. Commenting on the later 
Spanish-American War, Booker Washington struck this same 
note. He observed: 

From the results of the war with Spain, let us 
leaern this, that God has been teaching the Spanish 
nation a terrible lesson. , . . God has been teaching 
Spain that for every one of her subjects that she has 
left in ignorance, poverty and crime the price must 
be paid; and, if it has not been paid with the very 
heart of the nation, it must be paid with the proudest 
and bluest blood of her sons and with treasure that 
is beyond computation. From this spectacle I pray 
God that America will learn a lesson in respect to the 
ten million Negroes in this country."" 

Washington believed that God is just and will punish all un- 
righteousness eventually. He saw God behind every triumph 
of right and justice in the nation's history, and evil behind 


every failure, and firmly believed that God answers prayer. 
Daniel Alexander Payne declared that, "When God has a work 
to be executed he also chooses the man to execute it and quali- 
fies the workman for thei work."°^ Kelly Miller gave this con- 
viction a somewhat different slant, and used his ideas about God 
to refute the doctrine of white supremacy. "In olden times, 
when God communicated with man from burnish bush and on 
mountain top," Miller declared, "He selected men of lowly, 
loyal souls as the chosen channel of revelation. To believe that 
those who breath out slaughter and hatred against their fel- 
lowmen are now His chosen mouthpiece is to assum^e that Provi- 
dence . . . has grown less particular than aforetime in the 
choice of spokesmen. "^^ Like Frederick Douglass, W. S. Scar- 
borough, then Professor at Wilberforce University of Ohio, 
hinted at the possible dire effects of continued oppression of the 
colored man. "It is not a wise policy to continue alienating the 
affections of the Negro," Scarborough wrote in 1891. "What- 
ever be the methods adopted by the blacks to ensure safety and 
protection," he continued, "I'm justified in saying that no 
radical measures will be taken until all other efforts fail."''^ In 
one of his poems entitled "Resignation," Paul Lawerence Dun- 
bar probably came closer to expressing the real mood of the 
Negro. Dunbar wrote — 

Long had I grieved at what I deemed abuse. 
But now I am a grain within the mill; 
If so be thou must crush me for Thy use; 
Grind on, O potent God, and do Thy will.*^^ 

In his poem, "Fifty Years," written in 1913, James Weldon 
Johnson erpressed the conviction that God has some large pur- 
pose in mind for the Negro. He believed, like so many other 
members of his race, that the Heavenly Father had sent the 
Abolitionists and the Civil War, and would in freedom always 
send men competent and willing to do his work. In this poem, 
Johnson wrote: 

Courage! Look out, beyond, and see 
The far horizon's beckoning span! 
Faith in your God-known destiny! 
We are a part of som.e great plan. 


That for which milHons prayed and sighed, 
That for which tens of thousands fought 
For which so many freely died, 
God cannot let it come to naught.''" 

The intense fervor of the religiosity manifested by many 
freedmen was, even for the South, a unique and colorful phe- 
nomenon. Based largely on Old Testament precepts and fed by 
the dire circumstances of the benighted freedman's daily ex- 
istence, these religious professions and manifestations impressed 
some persons as being a revival of ideal primitive Christianity. 
But as with many other Americans, with the freedmen there 
was often a big gap between the religion professed and that 
practiced.*''^ Their religious faith and hope had all of the in- 
tensity and simplicity characteristic of mental children. Many 
believed that the wicked man, like the wicked nation, ulti- 
mately "never succeeded in life" in a material way."^ 

By 1900 there was considerable contempt one for the 
other among aged and young Negroes, as the old thought that 
the young were too irreligious, worldly-minded and soft, while 
the latter viewed the older generation as too old fashioned and 
uneducated. One ex-slave said of post-war youths .... "None 
of them ain't raised."*"' 

Between 1900-193 several new religious denominations 
of Negroes appeared on the national scenes, including the Apos- 
tolic Overcoming Holy Church of God, House of Lord, and 
the African Orthodox Church. 

Princeton trained Rev. Francis J. Grimke believed that 
out of World War I would come "a higher type of Christianity 
than at present prevails — than the miserable apology that now 
goes under that name." Further, he opined in Dec, 1918: 

Things are as they are today in these great nations of 
the world, and it has fared with these weaker and 
darker races and nations as it has, because the so- 
called Church of God has been recreant to its high 
trust; has been dominated by such a cowardly and 
wordly spirit that it has always been willing to listen 
to the voice of man instead of the voice of God.*'*' 

This, of course, is the same criticism which Frederick Douglass 
levelled at the church during the days of slavery, and in the 


1950's Benjamin Mays and other leading Negro spokesmen 
often through pen and forum would reiterate a similar charge. 
In the twenties Archibald Grimke penned The Shame of 
America or The Negro's Case Against the Republic in which 
he gave a ringing indictment of the nation's maltreatment of 
the black man. Here he declared: 

The North and the South are in substantial 
accord in respect to us and in respect to the position 
which we are to occupy in this land. We are to be 
forever exploited, forever treated as an alien race, 
allowed to live here in strict subordination and sub- 
jection to the white race. We are to hew for it wood, 
draw for it water, till for it the earth, drive for it 
coaches, wait for it at tables, black for it boots, run 
for it errands, receive from it crumbs and kicks, to 
be for it, in short, social mudsills on which shall rest 
the foundations of the vast fabric of its industrial 
democracy and civilization. 

No one can save us from such a fate but God, 
but ourselves. 

Robert Kerling said of the Negro's protest of the twenties that 
it was "protest sometimes pathetic and prayerful, 
vehement and bitter.'"' 

Race pride and racial unity were central themes of the 
thought of Negro leaders during the twenties. A new sophis- 
tication toward religion came into the thought of more Negroes 
than ever before; with some this sophistication inclined 
strongly toward agnosticism and atheism. Perhaps William 
Stanley Braithwaite typified the less radical sophistication. In 
his poem "Thanking God," Braithwaite describes the prayer 
of such a person. 

During this period, "the first suggestion that God is prob- 
ably useless in the Negro's struggle for decent existence comes 
from Countce Cullen."^^ Cullen wrote: 

A man was lynched last night; 
God, if He was, kept to His skies. 
And left us to our enemies. 

In another place Cullen expresses faith that there must be 
reason in all events, that Gods plan is being worked out, but: 


Inscrutable His ways are, and immune 
To cathechism by a mind too strewn 
With petty cares to slightly understand 
What awful brain compels His awful hand. 
Yet do I marvel at this curious thing: 
To make a poet black, and bid him sing!^° 

In Dark water, W. E. B. Du Bois sounded a similar note when 
he cried: 

Keep not Thou Silent, O God! 

Sit not longer blind, Lord God, 

Deaf to our prayer 

And dumb to our suflfering. 

Surely Thou, too are not white, 
a pale, bloodless, 

Heartless thing. ^^ 

DuBois often identified humanity with God and held that in- 
justice done to any member of the human race is done to God; 
to exploit the darker races or to lynch their members is to ex- 
ploit and lynch the Deity. This trend of thought is evident in 
his "Prayers of God" found in Darkwaicr. Here is found again 
the beautiful sensitiveness and hatred which DuBois had for all 
war and killing. With him this feeling extended to dumb ani- 
mals. Another outstanding writer of the period, Benjamin 
Brawley, was less pessimistic and wrote: 

Far above the strife and striving. 
And the hate of man; for man, 
I can see the great contriving 
Of a more than human plan. 

And day by day more clearly 
Do we see the great design. 
And day by day more nearly 
Do our footsteps fall in line. 

For in spite of the winds repeating 
The rule of the lash and rod, 
The heart of the world is beating. 
With the love that was born of God.'^" 

Obviously referring to the Garvey movement, in an ad- 
dress delivered at the Harvard University Commencement, 


June 22, 1922 Mordecai Johnson stated of his race that one 
"group among us believes in religion and believes in the prin- 
ciples of democracy, but not in the white man's religion and 
not in the white man's democracy. It believes that the creed 
of the former slave states is the tacit creed of the whole nation, 
and that the Negro may never expect to acquire economic, 
political, and spiritual liberty in America."'" In one sense, the 
Negro Zionism to which Johnson was referring was a part of 
the rampant world-wide nationalism which contributed di- 
rectly to the coming of World Wars I and TI and to the great 
colonial unrest which have plagued the twentieth century. 

Indicative of the de-emphasis on race which was one 
characteristic of Negro thought of the 1920's and 30's is the 
fact that the religious cult launched by "Father Divine" 
(George Baker) is inter-racial. This movement specifically 
forbids practice of race prejudice and does not allow use of 
the words "Negro," "Black," or "White" among its menibers. 
In its emphasis on providing economic security for its mem- 
bers, the Divine movement was a true child of the depression. 
In the penchant for purchasing expensive hotels and other 
properties, it is a child of the Great American Dream of mate- 
rial wealth, while, in the emphasis on Baker as a leader and a 
God, the movement reflects the traditional desire of Afro- 
Americans for a "Moses." In the ardent emotionalism of its 
practice of religion, the movement reflects the persistent tend- 
ency of lower-class people toward great emotionalism, and an- 
other twentieth century tendency of some Afro-American 
leaders to start "rackets" to exploit the credulity and emo- 

In the 1920's Kelly Miller had closely tied his race's fate 
and destiny to the plan of God.'^ "The Negro's cause is right," 
he declared "and right must finally win. The devils believe 
this, and tremble."'' "Thinking of the experiences through 
which my ancestors passed along with thousands of other slaves, 
in their contact with the white people of America," opined 
R. R. Moton, "I have often felc that somehow in spite of the 
hardships and oppression which they suffered — that in the 
providence of God, the Negro has come through the ordeal 
with much to his credit, and with a great many advantages 


over his condition when he entered the relationship."''' Moton 
beheved that the nation had gained also. In a speech which he 
delivered in Washington, D. C. at the dedication of the Lincoln 
Monument, May 30, 1922, he said: "In the providence of God 
the black race in America was thrust across the path of the 
onward-marching white race to demonstrate not only for 
America, but for the World, whether the principles of freedom 
are of universal application, and ultimately to extend its bless- 
ings to all mankind."'^ 

Many Afro-Americans have had a fatalistic conception of 
life that is derived from their view of history as a theodicy. 
When he could not draw faith and hope from his social en- 
vironment, the Negro could turn to this teleological conception 
of history and life and find consolation. If this fatalism has 
been stultifying on the lives of some, it has not been so on the 
lives of many others. For the lives of Moton, James Weldon 
Johnson, Booker Washington, DuBois, and most other race 
leaders attest to their belief in helping fate along. Negroes have 
shared confidence in the Protestant gospel of work and idi- 

Carter Woodson said of the religious views of the masses 
of Negroes in the 1920s and '30s — . 

They laugh at those who doubt the existence of 
an all-seeing Providence and question the divinity of 
His Son. The Lord has delivered these Negroes from 
too many trials and tribulations for them to doubt 
His power or His interest in mankind. God is not 
held responsible for the Negroes' being carried away 
captive to be the slaves of white men; but He is given 
credit for delivering them from bondage. God has 
nothing to do with their long persecution and the in- 
tolerant conditions under which they have to live, 
but great praise should be given Him for permitting 
them to exist under the circumstances. '° 

"The appeal of the Negro rural church, very much like that of 
the whites," concluded Woodson, "is based upon fear. God is not 
so much the loving Father who has provided many good things 
for His obedient children; He is rather Jehovah, Lord of Hosts, 
working the destruction of those who do not heed His com- 


mands."®" "The large majority of Negro preachers of today," 
Woodson opined, "are doing nothing more than to keep up the 
medieval hell-fire scare which the whites have long since aband- 
oned to emphasize the humanitarian trend in religion through 
systematic education."*^ Of Woodson's own religious views, 
Mays states: "In most of his writings where conceptions of reli- 
gion and God are given, Woodson is an enemy to views of God 
that lead the Negro to look for salvation in Heaven and to 
ideas of God that blind the Negro so that he cannot see the 
seriousness of the plight in which he finds himself."*" Woodson, 
like Walter White and others, had come to believe that too 
often religion as then practiced was an opiate to many persons, 
and that it made their thoughts too otherworldly. Further Mays 

Woodson revolts against the white man's religion 
because it is a religion that has been used to justify 
slavery . . . Garveyites revolt against it because eco- 
nomic, political, and spiritual liberties are denied. It 
is a religion held by a people who still oppress and 
exploit the weak. Their idea of God is that of a God 
who opposes exploitation and who loves all mankind.®^ 

Of the twentieth century religious views of Afro-American 
writers. Mays has stated that, "in the development of the idea 
of God in Negro Literature there is a tendency or threat to 
abandon the idea of God as a useful instrument in social ad- 
justment."** Obvious here is the considerable difference between 
the ultra-modern religious views of the writers, or intelligentia, 
and fundamentalist views referred to by Woodson. For the 
class referred to by Mays, here again is further evidence that 
with the twentieth century the faith, confidence, self-respect, 
and secularistic outlook of the race were developing rapidly. 
But that the rank and file of colored Americans were still large- 
ly of the older persuasions is to be seen in the 1930-31 analysis 
by Mays and Nicholson of one hundred persons and fifty-one 
prayers used in Negro churches. The study revealed that in the 
thought of the masses: 

This life is almost completely denied and refuge 
is sought in Heaven. Even the fulfilling of the desire 
for intimate response in Jesus or God is a means of 


endurance to the end, so that Heaven may be gained. 
It is not a response which sends one out buoyantly to 
achieve. God is to give complete security and ade- 
quate response but these are to be experienced in 
Heaven. Like the ideas of God expressed in the spir- 
ituals, Gods Tronbones, and in the other-wordly ser- 
mons, the ideas of God in the prayers adhere to tra- 
ditional, compensatory patterns in that they support 
and sustain compensatory beliefs with respect to God.^" 

In this period Langston Hughes and a few other Negro 
intellectuals turned to Communist persuasions and repudiated 
many of the dominant elements of Western culture. Hughes 
wrote a poem entitled "Good-bye Christ," in which he accused 
Christianity of having become an organized racket and imperial- 
ist too of the white man.^'" Throughout its period of existence. 
The Messenger magazine severely attacked the fundamentalist 
tendencies of the Negro church. A Thanksgiving 1919 editorial 
of this journal stated: "Our Deity is the toiling masses of the 
world. "^' A few persons departed from the trend toward ag- 
nosticism and boasted of their atheism. Perhaps the best-known 
of them, George Schuyler, wrote: 

It is well known, of course, that I am an atheist. 
I have said so time and time again and long before 
any of my literary contemporaries in Senegambia be- 
gan to be< assailed with doubts and said so in public. 
However, I am realist enough to agree with Voltaire 
that 'if there were no God, it would be necessary to 
create Him.' There is much that is noble and beauti- 
ful in religion and I would not take one iota of faith 
away from any human being who is comforted and 
can escape from harsh reality thereby. Much of the 
ranting against religion and the church is utterly de- 
void of sense. True, as religion comes to be highly 
institutionalized it develops into a racket and even- 
tually suffers the fate of all rackets; that is, makes 
place for another racket. But what is here true of 
religion is likewise true of all the rest of man's ac- 

Here Schuyler's view of religion is similar to some of the ideas 
which were held by James Weldon Johnson. The statement or 


implication that much of organized reHgion is a racket is found 
in F. W. Bond, and in Woodson's writings,, and the statement 
of a number of other educated Negroes. Mays has pointed out 
the manner in which reHgious doubts are evident in the writ- 
ings of Nella Larsen,^® and shows how Walter White, in his 
novel Fire in the Flint, "revolts against an other-wordly re- 
ligion and the malignity of God as pictured by most ministers." 
The same tendency is evident in Jessie Remond Fauset's book, 
Flnni Bun and in Richard Wright's novel, The Outsider,'" all 
of which is evidence of a growing secularization of Negro 
thought. Gone was much of the romantic idealism found earlier, 
but rather than having changed to something less commendable, 
this idealism had matured and become more inhibited and ob- 
jective. Throughout the Negro has remained a spearhead of 
Christian idealism in the United States and the Western World. 

Chapter YII 


Although its true extent may have been exaggerated by 
abohtionists, sexual intimacy between planters and slave-women 
was doubtless more common than the Old South would ever 
admit. At times this intimacy was the result of force used by 
the master against his unwilling chattel, while at other times 
there was mutual consent. Southern cities saw women openly 
sold for the purpose of serving as mistresses, and long before 
the end of the slave era, thousands of mulattoes had been pro- 
duced by these unions. They were a dominant element in the 
Free Negro class, and, provided much of the leadership for the 
race during both the ante- and post-bellum eras. Recently the 
argument has been advanced that most mulattoes in the South 
were the result of illicit relations between Negroes and carpet- 
baggers during the days of Reconstruction, but, E, Franklin 
Frazier and other scholars have refuted this.^ 

Among factors which increased racial mixing were: (1) 
the fact that planters actually owned the bodies of their slaves, 
and the law took this to be literal even where sexual intercourse 
was concerned; (2) the economic value which mulattoes had 
over dark-skinned persons, (3) the existence of a chronic sur- 
plus of white males over white females in the South. 

There is abundant evidence that mulattoes were keenly 
aware of their relationship to the dominant race in the South. 
Sometimes a kindly planter would manumit such of his off- 
spring and send them to northern or foreign schools, or other- 
wise help them get started in life. At times he remained close 
to them, counselling and petting his illegitimate progeny along 
with his legitimate children. Doubtless this relationship accel- 
erated considerably the Negro's acculturation in the United 

"It is almost impossible for slaves to give a correct account 
of their male parentage . . . There is no legal marriage among 
the slaves of the South,"" Henry Bibb declared. Sometimes the 



master chose each slave's marital partner, with no thought given 
to the feelings of the slaves. In such cases the breeding potential 
was usually the master's primary concern and the lash was used 
to persuade the dissident. One ex-slave declared — "Yes'm, the 
master would do all thel courting for you."'"^ There is some evi- 
dence that these forced unions produced in some female slaves 
a distaste for sexual cohabitation which lasted throughout their 
lives, and such forced unions did little to instill in the slaves 
an appreciation for the sex act as either an art or as an expres- 
sion of gentle love. Here, as in so many other areas, slavery 
debased rather tharv elevated. 

In their practically unanimous denunciation of miscegena- 
tion, Negroes have shown a streak of puritanism and respect 
for the women of their race that is reminiscent of the glorifica- 
tion of their women which southern white men have been given 
credit for. Looking back at this miscegenation of the slave era, 
Kelly Miller wrote in 1914: 

I see the haughty sons of a haughty race pouring 
out their lustful passion upon black womanhood, 
filling our land with a bronzed and tawny brood.* 

Slaves usually accepted illegitimate children and their 
mothers the same as the legitimate. Some slaves had a song 
they sang: 

Ring a ring a rineo 

Ain't seen a nigger in a mile or more 

You take Sal and I take Sue, 

Ain't no difference 'tween the two.' 

Still bondsmen longed to be married "right" like the whites. 
They felt that merely having their names "written in the 
book" or the widespread jumping over the broom was inade- 
quate and discriminatory. Most of the time there was no mar- 
riage ceremony of any kind for slaves.'^ In the 1940's, one f reed- 
man reported of the slave-era marriages — "We were just like 
folks are now sometimes, just living together like cats and 
dogs."^ William Wells Brown declared: "There is no such thing 
as slaves being lawfully married. There never yet was a case 
where a slave has been tried for bigamy. The man may have 
as many women as he wishes, and the women as many men."® 


Like Booker Washington and many other slaves, Frederick 
Douglass never knew who his father was. Douglass scarcely 
ever saw his mother, and attested that most slaves did not even 
know their proper ages.° "Oh! Sir," Douglass wrote, "a slave- 
holder never appears to me so completely an agent of hell, as 
when I think of and look upon my dear children. It is then that 
my feelings rise above my control. "^° 

According to the census of 1860, about twelve percent, 
or over 500,000 Negroes in the South were mulattoes. Not only 
census report figures, but statements given by former slaves 
reveal that miscegenation was far more widespread than is 
generally believed. ^^ Kenneth Stampp states that the one-half 
million figure was certainly an underestimate.^" Although it is 
well-known that slave women had sexual relations with mem- 
bers of the planter class, that a similar relationship between 
male slaves and female members of the dominant race sometime 
existed, is seldom mentioned. Helen Catteral reports cases where 
a number of white men sought to divorce their wives on 
grounds that the latter had been intimate with slaves. ^^ 

Stampp declares that "miscegenation . . . had a sharp 
psychological impact upon the slaves." On this he wrote: 

A devoted slave husband who was unable to pro- 
tect his wife from the master or overseer, or whose 
wife willingly submitted to the advances of a white 
man faced a personal crisis of major proportions. Oc- 
casionally the husband ignored the consequences and 
retaliated violently against a white man for taking 
liberties with his wife. On the other hand, a male 
bondsman might incur the master's hostility if he 
won the affection of a female in whom the master also 
had an interest. Thus an Alabama slave found himself 
in trouble when the master 'became jealous' of him 
for 'running around after one of his women. '^* 

Stampp concludes his discussion of miscegenation thus: "When 
the effects of miscegenation upon all groups in southern society 
have been measured, one can hardly escape the conclusion that 
the principle victims were the colored females who were directly 
involved in it."^' He points out that slaves resented and ostra- 
cized women who became regular and willing lovers of white 


men. These women were also often despised by the white wife 
on the plantation. "The veneration of white womanhood," he 
avers, "combined with the disrespect for Negro womanhood 
was a peculiarly cynical application of a double standard."^*' 

Mulatto slaves who were field hands apparently had no 
preferential treatment,^' and many were not proud of their 
white ancestry. One ex-slave reported "I hate to say it but I 
am just going to tell the truth,, and that is that my old master 

was my father I hate to say these things, but they often 

happened this way back in those days. The masters were often 
the fathers. "^'^ One aged ex-slave reported: "Some of them 
thought it was an honor to have' the marsa, but I didn't want 
no white man foolin' with me."^^ 

During slavery, as in the early years of freedom, a light 
complexion often conferred privileges and opportunities upon 
the Negro. Mulattoes were preferred as domestic servants and 
as skilled artisans, but few planters would buy them for service 
as field hands, as they often resented the more menial tasks. 
Their kinship to the master class sometimes won manumission, 
and it often won kinder treatment. The same is true of the 
early days of freedom. So obvious were these advantages that 
dark-skinned persons sometimes consciously sought to marry 
into the mulatto class, both before and after emancipation. '° 

Among Negroes the attraction for light complexions has 
often taken the form of contempt for "dark" or "black" skins, 
and, with many persons the word "black" has been a synonym 
for "inferior," "debased," or "degraded." But the sam.e words 
often have been symbols of pride, and at times the mulatto has 
been looked down upon as an inferior and contemptuous mixed 
breed. Writing in 1930, Langston Hughes has an old Negro 
character in his story, Not Without^ Laughter, reflect: "I ain't 
never seen a yaller dude yet that meant a dark woman no 
good." R. R. Moton stated in 1929: It "may sound strange to 
these accustomed to think that the Negro is ashamed of his 
race" to learn that "that is not true of the Negro everywhere."'^ 
Still Moton felt compelled to admit that, "A certain propaganda 
has pretty well succeeded in putting the stigma of inferiority on 
most things associated with the race, color, hair, speech." Moton 


contends that it is to escape prejudice and discrimination that 
some Afro- Americans take pains to conceal their racial identity. 
Yet, this defensive attitude does not explain why many colored 
Americans boast among themselves of their thin lips, pointed 
noses, light complexions, "straight" hair, and Caucasian an- 

There is evidence that slaves reverred the mulatto because 
a light skin sometimes brought favors from the master-parent. 
Henry Bibb states that the mother of the slave-girl whose hand 
he sought in marriage opposed him because she "wanted her 
daughter to marry a mulatto slave who, because of his relation- 
ship to his master, might be manumitted."" As the post-bellum 
growth of Negro business began to presage the development of 
a bourgeois class, studies of this class revealed that its members 
often tended to marry light colored women. "^ 

Because of the prejudice which many white Americans 
have held against Afro-Americans the latter has tended to be 
suspicious of all Caucasians who offer him friendship, and this 
fear and distrust of the white man has sometimes been extended 
to mulattoes. The truth would seem to be that most Negroes 
have long held both pride in and contempt for their race. like 
the mind of the white South, the mind of the Negro is filled 
with paradoxes. other things, slavery, white suprem- 
acy, and the fiction that the Negro is not human, but a sub- 
species, have created these paradoxes for both races. Wilson 
Record has observed the tendency of many Afro- Americans to 
accept notions of their inferiority, and so to despise all char- 
acteristics and efforts thought of as peculiar to their race. "The 
phenomenon of self-hatred," he notes, is "not limited to Jews, 
Mexicans, or Indians.""^ Frances Kemble reported that slaves 
accepted and shared much of the contempt for their race which 
the planters held. The slaves, she wrote, "profess, and really 
seem to feel it [contempt] for themselves, and the . . . faintest 
admixture of white blood in their veins appears at once, by 
common consent of their own race, to raise them in the scale 
of humanity."^' 

In 1843'"'^ Henry Highland Garnett admonished the slaves 


Look around you, and behold the bosoms of your 
loving wives heaving with untold agonies! Hear the 
cries of your poor children! Remember the stripes 
your fathers bore. Think of the torture and disgrace 
of your noble mothers. Tliink of your wretched 
sisters, loving virtue and purity, as they are driven 
to concubinage and are exposed to the unbridled lusts 
of incarnate devils."^ 

Negro literature shows more bitterness about miscegena- 
tion after the Civil War than before. However, as stated, in 
ante-bellum days slaves often looked down on women of their 
group who willingly yielded to whites and black abolitionists 
constantly showed resentment at the fact that slave women 
were sometimes forced to serve as planter's mistresses. Probably 
the typical position on miscegenation was well-stated by a col- 
ored man in 1834. "Abolitionists," he stated, "do not wish 
'amalgamation:' I do not wish it, nor does any colored man or 
woman of my acquaintance, nor can instances be adduced 
where a desire was manifested by any colored person; but I 
deny that 'inter-marriages' between 'white and blacks' are un- 
natural.""" This remained throughout the characteristic position 
of Afro-Americans, that is, while they were not seeking nor 
did they desire intermarriage between the races, they defended 
the right to this just as with all other rights. Here, on a sensi- 
tive subject, is proof that the colored American generally has 
sought nothing short of full and complete civil, social, and 
political equality. 

There were only 400,000 town slaves in 18 50, but in town 
and on plantations were a great number of skilled slaves. The 
number of highly skilled slaves working at trades in almost 
every community made a lie of the argument that slaves] were 
too stupid to learn. 

One ex-bondsman observed of domestic slaves: "They are 
ever regarded as a privileged class; and are sometimes greatly 
envied, . . . [imitated, and feared] while others are bitterly 
hated.""" An ex-domestic said: "We house slaves thought we 
was bettern' the others what worked in the field . . . We was 
raised; they, that is the field hands, wasn't."^" Field hand slaves 
were usually afraid to discuss many of their feelings, or hopes, 


or plans before domestics and artisans, and the latter were often 
prohibited from talking or fraternizing with field slaves. Still, 
because they were uncomfortable around white persons, some 
slaves preferred field over domestic work.'^ 

Domestics took pride in their uniforms and degree of re- 
sponsibility, and they worked for the praise of their masters as 
to how efficiently the table was served or how well the food 
tasted. Skilled slaves often took great pride in their craftsman- 
ship. "It was pride in craftsmanship, not monetary rewards 
which gave most carpenters, blacksmiths, coopers, cobblers and 
wheelrights their chief incentive," states a leading student of 
the institution. '" Planters encouraged class thought and divisions 
among slaves as a means of controlling them. 

There is evidence that field hands not only envied the 
domestics and artisans, but also felt at times that they were 
better off in some ways than these more privileged slaves. For 
example, when offered the opportunity of learning trades, some 
of the field hands refused on the grounds that while training 
would increase their value to the master, it scarcely meant that 
they would have any greater degree of real freedom. Frederick 
Law Olmsted was of the opinion that the field hands viewed 
"the close control and careful movements required of house- 
servants" as a mode of life less desirable than their own.^" Too, 
field hands liked the manner in which their quarters constituted 
an isolated community existence in which all persons were inti- 
mate equals. Alone in their own groups they were free to give 
vent to their true feelings. 

Frazier asserts that the cruelties inflicted on pregnant 
Negro women during the middle passage voyage from Africa, 
as well as during slave-trading within the United States, and 
on the plantation, sometimes caused these women to lose all 
maternal feeling for their own children. Often, he asserts, slave 
women felt more maternal feeling for the white children placed 
under their charge. ^^ This he thinks, explains the celebrated 
devotion between black mammies or Grannies and the white 
children whom they nursed. In the latter case there was more 
intim.acy and comfort associated with the relationship, hence 
a greater opportunity for the development of tender feelings. 


Yet, it is clear that many slave mothers also developed a strong 
love for their own progeny. One ex-slave reported that while in 
bondage, her man died and left her an infant girl child orphan. 
The little child soon died, too, and the former said she was glad 
it died because then it was free of bondage." ' Of her mother 
who had been sold away from her children. Sojourner Truth 

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, T 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!' 

In the intimate relationship which existed between the 
"Mammy" who was a foster-mother to white children of the 
plantation, and the concubinage which existed between planters 
and slave women, E. F. Frazier discerns "the fundamental 
paradox of the slave system."'' This paradox he calls, "maxi- 
mum intimacy existing in conjunction with the most rigid 
caste system." The image of the slave mammy has made a great 
impression on the mind of the Negro just as it has on the mind 
of white America. 

When domestics married they were sometimes allowed 
ceremonies which included much of the traditional form and 
solemnity. For all of the slaves these weddings and the accom- 
panying feasts were occasions of great joy. 

Slave families were largely matriarchal. Since the husband 
lacked practically all of the legal, economic, and other supports 
which made the white father a dominating figure in the house- 
hold, the slave husband often did not command the love, re- 
spect, obedience or faithfulness of his wife or children. Be- 
cause of their weak authority, children of slaves were some- 
times disrespectful of both parents. Married males could not 
wear the pants in their households, as those were worn by the 
planter who had the right to chastize all family members with 
the lash, break up the family through sale, or otherwise abuse 
it."^ Kenneth Stampp points out that "the number of bastardy 


cases in southern court records seems to confirm the conclusion 
that women of the poor white class "carried about the same 
reputation for easy virtue as their sable sisters.""^ Although 
there were numerous instances where slave families were stable 
and ideal in spite of the great odds against them, there is much 
evidence that throughout the period since emancipation, Negro 
men have deserted their wives and children more often than 
men belonging to other racial groups/*^ 

A unrque characteristic of Negro family life has been the 
prevalence of matriarchal tendencies. This has been a heritage 
from slavery. During the ante-bellum period both tradition 
and economic necessity were lacking to instill in the slave wife 
subordination to masculine authority. After emancipation, since 
many mothers had to support themselves and their children, 
female independence and self-reliance were further strengthen- 
ed.^" The census reports constantly have revealed proportionally 
more female heads of families among Negroes than among 
white Americans. In 1940 almost one-third of the families in 
urban areas of the South had female heads. Also typical and 
very important in this connection, has been the role of the 
grandmother as tutor, adviser, and stabilizing element. Quite 
often it has been "Granny" who took under her care and 
guidance the deserted youths who were unfortunate products 
of illegitimacy or the lack of stable family life. Also her role 
as "midwife" has added to the esteem and veneration given 
her by many communities. The independent and domineering 
proclivities which some Negro women acquired is perhaps to 
be seen in another connection. In the ante-bellum period, some 
free persons purchased their wives from slavery and then re- 
fused to manumit them until a probationary period had been 
passed. If the wife did not pass this period satisfactorily, her 
husband sometimes sold her as a slave to another master.*^ 

Just as urbanization and industrialization were primary 
factors in causing the pre-Civil War North to become strongly 
abolitionist in thought and action, these factors also militated 
against slavery within the South. Bondsmen in areas near south- 
ern cities were sometimes utilized as parttime labor in southern 
industries, and came to have less tolerance for slavery than 
persons employed in agricultural occupations. A number of the 


bondsmen were allowed to keep a portion of their earnings, and 
in this way bought their freedom. Some who lived in urban 
areas were literate skilled artisans, and held a higher estimation 
of their personal worth than the cotton, sugar cane, or rice 
field worker. Cities ever have been centers of the dynamic, 
cosmopolitan, and deniocratic life, and urban slaves were in- 
evitably and unavoidably affected. Also, in the towns and cities 
were to be found more persons who felt themselves to be friends 
of the slave, either because of racial kinship as with the free 
Negroes, or because of ties of liberal thought, as was the case 
with a number of white southern abolitionists. Too, arms for 
insurrection could be more easily obtained and hidden in urban 
areas, and there was greater opportunity for absconding, or 
plotting rebellion. Planters knew these dangers to their slave 
property, and frequently commented that those employed in 
agricultural occupations were easier to manage.^" 

Slaves not only had systems for communicating with one 
another on the same plantation about the most forbidden topics, 
but they sometimes sent letters all over the South.*'' These might 
be passed on to bondsmen in urban areas, who would in turn 
pass them on to slaves working on boats, or those travelling 
with their masters. Because of these erstwhile committees of 
correspondence, insurrections were sometimes plotted which 
involved thousands of persons.** 

It was among ante-bellum free persons that family life 
first became institutional among Afro- Americans.^' At one 
time Baltimore alone had 2 5,647 free Negroes, while 18,647 
were living in New Orleans. Almost one-half of the free 
population were listed as mulattoes.*'' There were over 3 2,- 
000 free Negroes in the South in 1790, and approximately 
2)0,000 in 1860. Of Pennsylvania's 10,000 Negroes in 1790, 
one-third were free persons. By 18 50 the northern free Negro 
population was about equal to that of the South. Before 
the Nat Turner revolt and the rise of militant abolitionism, free 
Negroes had a fairly large measure of freedom. By 18 50, hovv^- 
ever, the South allowed free Negroes to hold no public meet- 
ings of any kind unless a white person was present; they could 
not visit or receive slaves in their homes, nor vote anywhere in 


the South after 183 5, had Hmited job opportunities, and in many 
places they could not buy or sell spirited beverages. 

In 1850 California had a Negro population of 962; by 
1860, this figure had more than tripled, and there were 4,086 
Negroes in the state. In the same decade, Michigan's Negro 
population had more than doubled to reach a figure slightly 
over six thousand. As after 1830 militant abolitionism was an 
unwelcome force everywhere, stirring up issues and consciences 
as it did, the Negro in the Old and New West was generally 
an unwanted personage, stoned, chased, beaten, legally pro- 
scribed, and lynched by individuals and mobs in western cities 
and states throughout the 1830-1860 period. If free Negroes, 
North and South, had been treated as equals of white persons, 
perhaps so many free Negroes would not have been such zealous 

Like Americans in general, Negroes have been enthusiastic 
organizers of societies and associations. One of the first societies 
was formed in Philadelphia in 1787, through the leadership of 
Absalom Jones and Richard Allen. This society existed to bring 
together for mutual benefit, northern free persons of color of 
various religious denominations. Like many of the fraternal 
orders, this society set up a welfare service to provide financial 
aid to indigent members. Also evidencing the constant aware- 
ness which the Afro- American has shown that many members 
of his group do not always conduct themselves publicly in the 
most socially acceptable way, this organization provided that 
"no drunkard or disorderly person be admitted as a member."*'' 
In 1843 Peter Ogden and other Baltimore free Negroes founded 
the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows. Racial discrimination 
practiced by whites is the main reason that separate Negro 
churches, lodges, communities, schools, and other groups have 
come into existence. Between 1784-87 Barbados-born Rev. 
Prince Hall had launched in Boston the English-charted Negro 
masonic order which bears his name, and soon separate Negro 
churches and other institutions and organizations appeared. 
Evidence of the militant activity against slavery of Negro 
Masons is seen in the fact that the Liberator of March 17, 1843 
reported that a Baltimore Grand Jury had ruled Negro Lodges 
as sources of danger to the institution of slavery. 


Free persons sometimes participated in slave plots and re- 
bellions. How often they fed and hid runaway slaves can never 
be known, but they probably behaved much as slaves did when 
the latter generally aided and refused to inform on fugitives. 
That there were many persons of opposite calibre is sufficiently 
evident. A slave exposed the Denmark Vesey plot, as well as 
the hiding place of Nat Turner. Yet three free Negroes and 
thirteen slaves were hanged immediately after the Turner revolt 
was put down. Planters encouraged slaves to spy on one another 
and to report all misdoings. While slaves often turned informer 
because of a reward which stood to be gained, at times both 
bondsmen and free persons informed because they were genu- 
inely convinced that the plotted action was against the best 
interests of Negroes."' 

A few free persons of color rose to positions of consider- 
able affluence. In the North, the almost steady growth in 
property, education jmd culture of this class fitted it not only 
for a prominent and vital role in the abolitionist crusade, but 
also for roles of military leadership during the Civil War, and 
for serving as the leader, prodder, and inspirer of the race on 
all fronts in the post-bellum period. It should not be forgotten 
that thousands of the North's free Negroes were fugitives 
from the South. Even as early as 1830 the increase of free Ne- 
groes in the North, many by flight from the South, intensified 
race riots, proscriptions, and prejudice in the North. 

Free Negroes were nowhere contented with their lot, and 
constantly petitioned governors and legislators for equal citi- 
zenship benefits.*^ Of proscriptions against the northern free 
Negro, Rev. Theodore S. Wright stated in 1837: 

It is true that in these United States and in this 
state, there are men like myself, colored with the skin 
like my own, who are not subjected to the lash, who 
are not liable to have their wives and their infants 
torn from them; from whose hand the Bible is not 
taken. It is true that we may walk abroad; we may 
enjoy our domestic comforts, our families; retire to 
the closet; visit the sanctuary, . . . But sir, still we 
are slaves — everywhere we feel the chain galling us. 
It is by . . . prejudice . . ., the spirit of slavery, 


... by corrupt public sentiment, through the influ- 
ence of slavery . . . This spirit is withering all our 
hopes, and oftimes causes the colored parent as he 
looks upon his child, to wish he had never been born. 
Often is the heart of the colored mother, as she 
presses her child to her bosom, filled with sorrow to 
think that, by reason of this prejudice, it is cut off 
from all hopes of usefulness in this land. Sir, this 
prejudice is wicked. ^° 

On the specific difficulties encountered. Rev. Wright mentioned 
the difficulty which the northern free person of color had in 
learning a trade, or in finding employment if he learned one, 
due to the exclusion policies of the unions. He also mentioned 
that while free Negroes could attend the public grade schools, 
the colleges were barred against them. Seven years earlier an- 
other northern free Negro had declared: 

The freedom to which we have attained is de- 
fective. Freedom and equality have been 'put asunder.' 
The rights of men are decided by the colour of their 
skin; and there is as much difference made between 
the rights of a free white man and a free coloured 
man as there is between a free coloured man and a 

While interested in improving their own lot, free Negroes 
in the North were passionately concerned with the plight of 
their enslaved brethren in the South. Frederick Douglass, Wil- 
liam W. Brown, and other northern free Negroes were spear- 
heads of the abolitionist movement. By unceasing word and 
deed they revealed a deep love for, and interest in their race. 
At a January, 1817 meeting in Philadelphia devoted to the 
efforts of the American Colonization Society, a group of free 
Negroes resolved: "That we never will separate ourselves vol- 
untarily from the slave population in this country; they are our 
brethren by the ties of consanguinity, of suffering, and of 
wrong; and we feel that there is more virtue in suffering pri- 
vations with them, than fancied advantages for a season." The 
first Negro newspaper in the United States championed the 
cause of ''our brethren who are still in the iron fetters of 
bondage," although the editors were not of the opinion that 


their efforts would greatly affect the institution.'" In his ''Ad- 
dress to the Slaves of the United States," given at the 1843 
National Negro Convention, Buffalo, New York, youthful 
Henry Highland Garnet echoed the sentiments of such men 
as Frederick Douglass, Charles L. Remond, William Wells 
Brown and Charles B. Ray. To the slaves he stated: ''While you 
have been oppressed, we have also been partakers with you; 
nor can we be free while you are enslaved. Many of you are 
bound to us, not only by the ties of a common humanity, but 
we are connected by the more tender relations of parents, wives, 
husbands, children, brothers, sisters, and friends." The 1864 
National Convention meeting at Syracuse, New York declared: 

We feel the terrible sting of this stupendous 
wrong, and that we cannot be free while our brothers 
are slaves. The enslavement of a vast majority of our 
people extends its baleful influence over every member 
of our race; and makes freedom, even to the free, a 
mockery and a delusion. 

Chapter VIII 


Neither slavery nor racial segregation and discrimination 
have been able to kill the Afro- American's faith in himself and 
in American democracy. Though in his trek along the road of 
American history there ever has been much to make him des- 
pair, many sources of faith and hope always have been present. 
In addition to drinking often from the same sources of faith 
as white Americans, the Negro has had a number of sources 
of faith and hope which were peculiar unto himself. 

His long-time close identity in peace and war with the 
nation's central interests has been a source of the Negro's con- 
tinuing faith in himself and in the nation. During the Recon- 
struction era Negro Congressman Richard H. Cain said of his 
race, ''We have been identihed with the interests of this country 
from its very foundation." 

Like William Lloyd Garrison, Afro-Americans have based 
much of their faith on "the nature of man, the inherent wrong- 
fulness of oppression, the power of truth, and the omnipotence 
of God." Faith in God, and in history as a theodicy rather than 
an odyssey, ever has been a source of the Negro's faith and 
optimism. On this, The Reverend Francis J. Grimke declared: 
"The ringing in of Jesus Christ holds the solution of all our 
problems, racial or otherwise."^ 

Each generation of Negroes in this country has been mind- 
ful that the "race problem" could not be completely solved in 
its day, and has been deeply concerned that they could leave 
their children improved circumstances. In order to do this, 
Negroes often have been willing to make great sacrifices. They 
have thought a great deal about the question of what type of 
social, economic, and political conditions they were going to 
bequeath to their children. Tomorrow, because of its promise 
of a better life, always has been a major source of the Negro's 
faith and hope. Paul Lawrence Dunbar avowed in his poem, 
"With the Lark,": 



And though, Kke the rain-drops, I grieved through 

the dark, 
I shall wake in the morning to sing with the lark. 

On this, Frederick Douglass said to the nation in 1852: 

Three score years and ten is the allotted time 
for individual men; but nations number their years 
by thousands. According to this fact, you are, even 
now, only in the beginning of your national career, 
... I am glad this is so. There is hope in the 
thought, and hope is much needed, under the dark 
clouds which lower above the horizon. The eye of the 
reformer is met with angry flashes, portending dis- 
astrous times; but his heart may well beat lighter at 
the thought that America is young, and that she is 
still in the impressible stage of her existence. . . . 
there is consolation in the thought that America is 
young. — Great streams are not easily turned from 
channels, worn deep in the course of ages. . . . As 
with rivers so with nations.^ 

While drawing encouragement from the 'Declaration 
of Independence,' the great principles it contains, and 
the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also 
cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations 
do not now stand in the same relation to each other 
that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself 
up from the surrounding world and trot round in the 
same old path of its fathers without interference. The 
time was when such could be done. Long established 
customs of hurtful character could formerly fence 
themselves in, and do their evil work with social 
impunity. Knowledge was then confined and enjoyed 
by the privileged few, and the multitude walked on 
in mental darkness. But a change has now come. . . . 
Walled cities and empires have become unfashionable. 
The arm of commerce has borne away the gates of 
the strong city. Intelligence is penetrating the darkest 
corners of the globe. . . . Oceans no longer divide, 
but link nations together. . . . Space is comparatively 

These sentiments and convictions are reminiscent of many 


which would be heard emanating from Negro spokesmen over 
a century later. 

Past achievements toward solving the race problem have 
been a constant source of faith that tomorrow would bring 
still more progress. Near the turn of the century J. C. Price 

In the memory of men now living, colored people 
were only allowed to ride on the outside of stages 
running between Boston and Cambridge. Prudence 
Crandall, whose house was burned to the ground 
because she dared, in Connecticut, to teach Negro 
boys and girls to read and write, died only a few 
months ago."" 
Reflecting in 1914 on the ups and downs of his race and the 
periods of indifference which the nation-at-large too often has 
had toward the Negro's plight, Kelly Miller could still be opti- 
mistic. On this, he wrote: 

I see that the great generous American heart, des- 
pite the temporary flutter, will finally beat true to 
the higher human impulse, and my soul abounds with 
reassurance and hope." 

The past achievements of individual Negroes have been 
a source of the race's faith in its future in America. R. R. 
Moton correctly observed that Booker T. Washington's life 
was a triumph of democracy itself. The lives of such men and 
women as Washington, Benjamin Banneker, Frederick Douglass, 
Mary M. Bethune, Marian Anderson, George Washington Car- 
ver, Charles C. Spaulding, Joseph S. Clark, Joe Touis, Sugar 
Ray Robinson, Jackie Robinson and Ralph Bunche have con- 
tributed greatly to the Negro's continuing faith in American 
democracy. This is a part of the rationale behind such celebra- 
tions as "Negro History Week" and the entire Negro History 
Movement, and the Negro Business League and its annual cele- 

The collective achievement of the race in America always 
has been a source of the Negro's faith in himself and the nation. 
In 1913, Harvard Law graduate and Asst. Attorney General of 
the United States, William H. Lewis, asked: 

What of the Negro himself? Has he justified 
Emancipation? The statistics of his physical, intellec- 


tual and material progress are known to all. He has 
increased his numbers nearly threefold. . . . He has 
reduced his illiteracy to 30 percent. He owns nearly 
$700,000,000 worth of property including nearly 
one million homes. He has shown that his tutelage 
in American civilization has not been vain; that he 
could live under the most trying and oppressive con- 

Whatever be his present disadvantages and in- 
equalities, one thing is absolutely certain, that no- 
where else in the world does so large a number of 
people of African descent enjoy so many rights and 
privileges as here in America.^ 

And then: 

I predict that within the next 50 years all these dis- 
criminations, disfranchisements, and segregation will 
pass away. Antipathy to color is not natural, and the 
fear of ten by eighty million of people is only a 
spook of politics, a ghost summoned to the banquet 
to frighten the timid and foolish.'" 

In 1905 Bishop W. T. Vernon stated: 

Though weighted with the frailties as a necessary 
consequence of the past, though far from what we 
desire, we point to some things accomplished since 

From nothing we could call our own, in forty 
years we own eight hundred and fifty thousand 
farms, nine banks, two street railways, and pay taxes 
on seven hundred million dollars in property." 

In his volume Black Bourgeoisie, E. Franklin Frazier would 
show quite clearly that even in the 1940's and 50's Negroes 
were still pointing often to their material achievements and 
possessions as a source of faith. Also, the consciousness of and 
boastfulness about the growth of his educational and business 
institutions long have shown that faith in the power of educa- 
tion and of money have been persistent elements in Negro 
thought. In 1905 Bishop Reverdy C. Ransom asked, "Do white 
men believe that 10,000,000 blacks, after having imbibed the 
spirit of American institutions, . . . will ever accept a place 
of permanent inferiority in the Republic?"^'^ 


The Negro long has known that human progress is not a 
straight Hne from down to up, and this knowledge has given 
him hope whenever his path seemed to take a sudden dip. Re- 
flecting on the ups and downs in the advance of his race toward 
citizenship and equality, Kelly Miller wrote: 

I see that the path of progress has never been 
a straight line, but has always been a zigzag course 
amid the conflicting forces of right and wrong, truth 
and error, justice and injustice, cruelty and mercy.^^ 

In his poem, "Daybreak," George Marion McClellan said that: 
In spite of all the Babel cries 

Of those who rage and shout, 
God's silent forces daily rise 

To bring His Will about. 

Negroes have been inspired by the fight of people in other 
lands for freedom and equality. Beginning with the revolt of 
the thirteen colonies against Britain in the eighteenth century, 
reports of similar protest movements the world over have in- 
spired and encouraged the Afro-American's fight for freedom 
and equality. These movements have given him the feeling that 
he was not alone in his sufferings, that his militant actions were 
part of a great tradition and movement which goes back at 
least to the fight of the ancient Hebrews against the Egyptian 
and Babylonian persecutions. These movements have been a 
source of faith to the Afro-American, strengthening his belief 
that ultimately right makes might. The speeches and literature 
of the Negro are full of allusions to history's democratic plots, 
revolts, and crusades. Although the Afro-American, true to his 
larger American cultural heritage, generally has shied away 
from advocacy and practice of violence, he has felt always that, 
considering his degraded status, not to protest is unmanly. 

When the British and French carried out their emancipa- 
tion of slaves — the British, with a gradual method (1833-3 8), 
followed closely on the 1808 U.S.A. end of the slave trade — 
Negroes in the U.S.A. were made glad and hopeful. The free 
Negroes especially praised the A^oluntary nature of the British 
and French emancipation, and Negro Anglophobia was con- 
siderably tempered by Britain's early abolition of the slave trade 
and slavery. 


Throughout his struggle for freedom and first-class citi- 
zenship the Negro has known both moments of great optimism 
and despair. In 1832, Peter Osborne, a Connecticut Negro, ad- 
dressed a meeting of members of his race with hope and opti- 
mism. "The signs in the North, the signs in the South, in the 
East and West, are all favorable to our cause," he averred.^' 
But this did not cause him to feel that his race should just sit 
and wait. "What man of rational feeling would slumber in 
content under the yoke of slavery and oppression, in his own 
country?" he asked; and answered, "Not the most degraded 
barbarian in the mterior of Africa!" The same year Charles 
Lenox Remond, agent of the American Anti-Slavery Society, 
said: "We have everything ... to encourage us. Slavery is 
trembling, prejudice is falling, and I hope will soon be buried. "^^ 
As early as 1827, Nathaniel Paul stated: "I declare that slavery 
will be extinct; a universal and not a partial emancipation must 
take place; nor is the period far distant." His reading of the 
signs of the times gave as evidence for this assertion — "The in- 
defatigable exertions of the philanthropists in England to have 
it [slavery] abolished in their West India Islands, the recent 
revolutions in South America, the catastrophe and exchange of 
power in the Isle of Hayti, the restless disposition of both master 
and slave in the southern states, the constitution of our govern- 
ment, the effects of literary and moral instruction, the generous 
feelings of the pious and benevolent, the influence and spread 
of the holy religion of the cross of Christ, and the irrevocable 
decrees of Almighty God."^^ It is difficult to imagine a more 
realistic, objective, and thorough summary of the forces which 
were then militating against the institution. The Industrial 
Revolution would seein to be the only item not directly men- 
tioned. In the statements by Negroes examples of allusion to 
the forces which were arraigned against the institution of slavery 
are legion. 

Quakers were among the first abolitionists in the United 
States. Because of their championing cf the cause of equality 
and freedom, many were beaten and driven from northern and 
southern communities. They sometimes bought and manumitted 
slaves, and among the plans laid by slave plotters-at-revolt was 
sometimes a stipulation that the lives of all Quakers in the 


area would be spared. Benjamin Banncker received much help 
in securing his education from a Quaker named George Ellicott, 
and William Wells Brown took on the name of a Quaker who 
befriended him as he was making good his escape from slavery. 
The Negro American never has had to wage his battle in 
behalf of a greater democracy alone. Almost from the begin- 
ning of slavery in this country, there have been liberal reform 
movements, domestic or foreign, which included the Negro's 
objectives. There have been the Quaker and Jeftersonian brands 
of liberalism in the 18th century, the first half of the 19th 
century age of reform, then Grangerism and Populism, Progres- 
sivism. Socialism, NeW and Fair Deals, and the mid-20th cen- 
tury internationalism-rooted liberalism. In 1876, while dedi- 
cating the freedmen's monument in Washington, D. C., Fred- 
erick declared of his race: "That we are here today is a com- 
pliment and a credit to American civilization, and a prophecy 
of still greater national enlightenment and progress in the 
future."^" A generation later Bishop W. T. Vernon stated — 
"In the darkest hours we hear the voice of the best of that which 
makes American life glorious, saying, 'Onward, freedmen' On- 
ward, struggling race, we are with you!"^^ And near the turn 
of the century, J. C. Price averred: 

I have confidence not only in the better element 
... of the South; but I have also an unswerving 
faith in the appearance of a better, brighter day in 
that section, — a day filled with the gladdening light 
of freedom, prosperity and peace. 

Not to believe in such an era is to doubt the 
ultimate triumph of truth over error, of right over 
wrong, and to question the victories of the onward 
sweep and universal conquest of the subduing, hu- 
manizing and eternal principles of the enlightened 
Christian civilization of the nineteenth century.^' 

Travels abroad, as well as news from overseas always have 
done much to mould Negro thought. For example, when refu- 
gees in London, Ontario, having settled a community which 
they named Wilberforce, sent the Rev. Nathaniel Paul to Eng- 
land tq raise money, he wrote William Lloyd Garrison of the 
contrast between treatment accorded a colored man in England 


with that received in America. The treatment accorded by the 
latter was such as to fill his soul with "sorrow and indigna- 
tion."^' Overseas experiences of Negro troops during World 
Wars I and II and the Korean War have had a similar impact 
on Negro thought. 

The sense of group solidarity provided by national, state 
and local Negro conventions has been an important source of 
the race's optimism. At such meetings, the various evidence and 
data which revealed race progress have been given emphasis, and 
plans have been laid for quickening the pace of this progress. 
At the Fourth Annual National Convention, 1834, held in 
New York City, there were fifty delegates, including two 
visitors from Canada and Haiti. The leaders often mentioned 
the commendable condition of the Negro in those two countries 
compared with his treatment in the U.S.A. 

The successful revolt against the French led by Tous- 
saint L'Ouverture provided a great source of hope and opti- 
mism for Negroes. After this episode slaveholders frequently 
shunned the purchase of slaves from the West Indies because 
of their recalcitrancy and unwavering determination not to 
live in bondage. The spirit of Toussaint L'Ouverture weighed 
heavily on these Negroes and on the southern planters, and 
time and again slaves or free persons of color from the Carib- 
bean were blam.ed for slave insurrections within the U.S.A. At 
the 1834 Fourth Annual National Negro Convention, bonds- 
mtn were admonished to "Cheer up!" because: 

Already a right feeling begins to prevail. The friends 
of justice, of humanity, and the rights of man are 
drawing rapidly together, and are forming a moral 
phalanx in your defense . . . From present appear- 
ances the prospect is cheering, in a high degree. Anti- 
Slavery Societies are forming in every direction. Next 
August proclaims the British dominions free from 
slaves. These United States are her children, they will 
soon follow so good an example. Slavery . . . shall 
be chained and cast down into blackness and dark- 
ness forever." 

On his 1840 trip to the London World Anti-Slavery Con- 
ference, Charles L. Remond pointed out that he had the op- 


portunity to listen to an address in Exeter Hall, on the 24tli 
of June by Daniel O'Connell. This Irish patriot "alluded to the 
American declaration, and contrasted the theory with the prac- 
tice; then," states Remond, "was I moved to think and feel, 
and speak; and from his soul-stirring eloquence and burning 
sarcasm would every fibre of my heart contract in abominating 
the worse than Spanish Inquisition system in my own [coun- 
try]."^'' Remond also contrasted the lack of race prejudice in 
England with the prevalence which it enjoyed in the U.S.A. 
"If you would rouse the honest indignation of the intelligent 
Englishman," he wrote, "tell him of our school and academy 
exclusions. If you would enlist the sympathies of the pious, 
refer him to our Negro pews in the house of worship, and when 
you tell him of . . . Jim Crow . . ., He at once, turning pale 
then red, requires if this is American republicanism." On this 
same trip a West Indian is quoted as having remarked to Re- 
mond that "liberty in the U.S.A." was, "in its best estate, hut 
the grossest licentiousness." 

An October, 1843 Michigan convention of colored Amer- 
icans, held in Detroit, urged Negroes to "come up, and, like 
the oppressed people of England, Ireland, and Scotland, band 
ourselves together and wage unceasing war against the high- 
handed wrongs of the hideous monster Tyranny." In 1849, writ- 
ing from London to his friend Wendell Phillips, William Wells 
Brown stated: 

Dear Friend, — I observed in the American papers 
an elaborate discussion upon the subject of passports 
for colored men. What must . . . the countries think 
of the people of the United States, when they read, as 
they do, the editorials of some of the Southern papers 
against recognizing colored Americans as citizens? In 
looking over some of these articles, I have felt asham- 
ed that I had the misfortune to be born in such a 
country. We may search history in vain to find a 
people who have sunk themselves as low, and made 
themselves appear as infamous by their treatment of 
their fellow men, as have the people of the United 
Brown praised the unprejudiced treatment which he received 
during anti-slavery lectures in England, and charged that his 


own country was hypocritical in its interest in the underdogs 
and oppressed of the world. "^ "I£ the atrocities recently prac- 
ticed upon defenseless women in Austria make the blood run 
cold through the veins of the human and good throughout the 
civilized world," he asserted, "the acts committed daily upon 
the slave women of America should not only cause the blood 
to chill,, but to stop its circulation." ''With this gigantic evil 
in the land [slavery]," added Frederick Douglass, "we are 
constantly told to look at home; if we say aught against 
crowned heads, we are pointed to our enslaved millions now 
lying in worse than heathen darkness; if we express a word of 
sympathy for Kossuth and his Hungarian fugitive brethren, 
we are pointed to that horrible and hell-black enactment 'The 
Fugitive Slave Bill'.'''' Further evidence of European influence 
on Negro thought is seen in the modeling of the Colored Na- 
tional League, organized during the 1880's, after the pattern 
of the Irish Land League, as well as in the impact of Socialism 
and Communism.'' 

Colored Americans have drawn comfort from the fact 
that they have long been numerous in this country. This, they 
have known, made them significant as laborers and potential 
purchasers and voters, made it impossible for them, ever to be 
successfully colonized outside the U.S.A., and made it im- 
probable that persecutions and discrimination could ever ex- 
terminate them. That they long have comprised at least one- 
tenth of the nation's population, and an average of one-third 
of that of the South, has caused Afro- Americans to know that 
the "Negro Problem" was something that could not be hidden 
from the world's view, but always would be, until solved, there 
to embarrass the nation before the world. In a similar vein, 
Booker T. Washington said in his famed 1895 Atlanta address: 
One-third of the population of the South is of the 
Negro race. No enterprise seeking the material, civil 
or moral welfare of this section can disregard this ele- 
ment of our population and reach the highest success. 

Some Afro-Americans even thought in ante-bellum times that 
their rapid increase would cause them soon to outnumber 
southern whites, thus by this means sound the death knell of 
slavery. One writer thought that by 1900 there would be in the 


slave states ten million white persons, and fifteen million slaves, 
and that for the nation-at-largc the racial ratio would be fifty- 
fifty. When that happened, he stated, the "two great safety- 
valves for the restless and energetic among the slaves, — Chris- 
tianity and the Underground Railroad" — would be ineffective 
in preventing the Negro from rising and overthrowing the 
institution by force. "^ Of the significance of population, P. B. S. 
Pinchback declared in 1875: 

The black people of this country can furnish in 
time of need, for its defense, over 800,000 soldiers 
to march under the glorious banner of universal lib- 
erty. With this force as a political element, and as 
laborers, producers and consumers, we are an element 
of strength and wealth too powerful to be ignored 
by the American people. All we need is a just appre- 
ciation of our own power and our own manhood. 
This rolling in the dust — this truckling to power, 
whether wrapped up in an individual or a party, I 
have long since abandoned ... I am groping about 
through this American forest of prejudice and pro- 
scription, determined to find some form of civiliza- 
tion where all men will be accepted for what they 
are worth."" 

In the 1880's and 90's several Negro spokesmen were still 
of the opinion that the rapid rate of increase of their group 
would be a solution to the race problem. J. C. Price, for ex- 
ample, often mentioned the Negro's "marvelous fecundity" 
and pointed out that in the( United States his racial group had 
in less than twenty-five years increased from four to eight 
million persons."*^ 

While both bondsmen and ex-bondsmen found some con- 
solation and hope in their large numbers in the U.S.A., they 
would have had their pride and hope stimulated to even greater 
heights had they known generally that in 18 50 Negroes com- 
prised one-half of the population of Brazil, that over 200,000 
Negroes had been taken into Mexico, over a half million into 
Venezuela, and that throughout Latin America there were 
large numbers of persons of African descent. This consolation 
and hope would have been increased still further if they had 
known better of the splendid record of Latin America's Catho- 


lie Church in mitigating the evils of slavery and bringing about 
its demise, and that the attitude toward race held by whites 
"south of the border" was a far cry more modern and humane 
than that which prevailed in the U.S.A. 

To many slaves the colonization movement provided a 
source of hope that they might be freed and sent to Africa. 
The very existence of Africa and the conception of that con- 
tinent as the Negro's "homeland" has been a source of hope to 
Afro-Americans. The sam.e is true of the existence within the 
United States of a North and West which ever have been to 
many Negro's both symbol and actuality of hope as an escape 
from their plight in the South. Too, the slow improvement 
of race relations, and efl'orts being made to effect this end, long 
have been sources of the Negro's faith not only in himself and 
the nation, but in the Southland with which he has been so 
intimately connected. Although the topic "North and South 
in Negro Thought" is given separate treatment herein, it is 
a fact perhaps worthy of repetition that the Negro has been 
mindful that within the South he long has had genuine friends 
in the majority group, and he ever has hoped and believed that 
their num.ber would expand into that mighty chorus attuned 
to mutual respect and esteem which is needed for wholesome 
and happy human relationships. 

Panaceas, Myths, and the Race Problou 

The optimism of the Negro, as well as the sometimes des- 
perateness of his plight, has led him to project several proposals 
for solution of the "race problem" in such a form that they 
may be termed "mythical." All proposals that were conceived 
of and projected as solutions in and of themselves may be termed 
myths. This is because it seriously may be doubted that in and 
of themselves they could have effected the ends claimed for 
them. The Negro's pursuit of myths usually has been due to 
his impatience with the slowness of the democratic process and 
his optimism about and faith in the American ideals of equality 
and the good life for all, for had he not believed in American 
democracy, he would not have devised and had faith in schemes 
to bring it in its fullness to his racial group. 


Before 1876 the Negro often appealed to white America, 
through its Christian conscience and highest political ideals, 
to prot'idc freedom and equality for all of the populace. Since 
this date, most of the proposed solutions have had self-help as 
their basis, thereby reflecting the conviction between 1876 and 
1933 that too often white America was either too indifferent 
to his plight or interested only in exploiting him. 

Some of the myths accepted and propagated by Negroes 
have been: 

( 1 ) The "Revolt Myth" of Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, 
Gabriel Prosser, and others. Here members of the race have 
believed that by leading or participating in revolutionary acts 
of violence, they could bring about freedom and equality of 
rights and opportunities. Some Negroes have believed that in 
history there is no real advance of any people without the 
shedding of blood. 

(2) The "Character and Hard Work Myth." — Here the 
thought has been that, in the very nature of things, virtuous 
and exemplary living must be rewarded. The slave had it con- 
stantly drilled into him that rewards, even if only m Heaven, 
would be his if he caused no trouble. Since emancipation south- 
ern whites have continued to flatter and praise the "good darky," 
and many Negroes have believed that the only way to bring a 
solution to the race problem was for them to stay out of court, 
off public relief, go to church every Sunday, and otherwise 
lead "exemplary moral" lives. In a 1923 Commencement adr- 
dress at Paine College, Bishop R. A. Carter sounded this note. 
The Bishop urged the graduating class to "Deport yourselves 
in such a gentle and quiet and confident and unassuming man- 
ner that you will make those ashamed who practice race preju- 

(3) The "Leave the race problem to God myth." — Here 
the thought has been that the less said or done about the race 
problem, the better; that God alone, in His own good time, 
will effect a solution. 

(4) 3 The "Emigrate to the North or West Myth." — Here 
the thought has been that to leave the South is to get away 
from prejudice and discrimination based on race or color, and 


that since emigration will lessen the threat of numbers to south- 
ern whites, the latter will treat the remaining Negroes better. 

(5) The "Buy Land and stay on the farm myth." — This 
was particularly pushed by Booker T. Washington who felt 
that the southern Negro had a monopoly in the field of agri- 
cultural labor which he should not give up. 

(6) The "Industrial Education Myth." — Booker Wash- 
ington was also the leading proponent of this idea, which urged 
that by becoming artisans, Negroes would make themselves 
even more essential to the southern economy, and thereby in- 
sure an increasing measure of respect and justice. Here Wash- 
ington failed to see that many of the trades which he taught at 
Tuskegee were fast becoming obsolete in the machine age, just 
as he failed to see that the trends in agricultural production 
were away from the small farm — many laborers type of farming. 

(7) The "Good White Folks Myth."— This myth, of 
which Booker Washington was also the chief exponent, held 
that only the poor white held strong prejudices against the 
Negro and wanted to keep him down. 

(8) The "Negro History Myth." — Here the belief has been 
that if whites can be shown that in the past Negroes have 
made outstanding achievements they will respect the race and 
treat it right accordingly, and that if Negroes themselves can 
be made aware of this, their true history, they will respect them- 
selves more and demand better treatment. 

(9) The "Communism Myth." — That only through 
changing the free enterprise capitalistic system for a communist 
one can the Negro achieve equality of rights and opportuni- 

(10) The "Emigrate to Africa or Set up a Separate Negro 
State or cities in America Myth." — Here getting way from the 
white man is seen as the only solution to the "race problem." 
This is, of course, closely related to the "Emigrate to the North 
or West" myth. 

(11) The "Talented Tenth Myth." — Here the emphasis 
has been on developing an elite whose manifestation of high 
training, ability, and genius would prove the validity of the 
race's claim to equality. In connection with the Talented Tenth 
idea, and in addition to the Negro Academy, Afro-Americans 


founded in Philadelphia in 1904, the professional fraternity, 
Sigma Pi Phi. Like the Negro college fraternities, this organi- 
zation grew in membership and has been a significant positive 
force in the upward push of the race. 

(12) The "Myth of Negro Business." — Here the thought 
has been that the founding and cultivating of Negro businesses 
would supply the members of the race with adequate jobs and 
salaries and build wealth within the race, which automatically 
would command respect from whites. To establish economic 
autarky for the Negro in the United States has been one goal 
of proponents of this myth. 

There are also persons who feel that the legalistic emphasis 
of the NAACP is mythical, also the "register and vote" im- 
pulse, as well as other programs pushed at various times by 
Negro leaders. The Negro has followed none of these proposals 
consistently, has been opportunistic, and, at times, has followed 
several of them simultaneously. While singly none of these pro- 
grams was sound, taken together most; of them had merit and 
reveal not only the complexity of the race problem, but also 
that the critical thinking which their cultural economic and 
social plight forced Negroes to do was by and large sound, if 
not always so. 

Chapter IX 

DURING THE 1850's 

During the so-called "fitful fifties," Afro-Americans were 
more pessimistic about their freedom than at any time during 
the previous two-decade history of radical abolitionism. The 
Democratic party held the nation's highest political office, and 
the Slavocracy appeared to hold firm control of the Democratic 
party. In this hour before the dawn, events of the decade some- 
times kept Afro- Americans from seeing clearly the subtle forces 
which were slowly but surely working to unlock the slaves 

Free Negroes were frightened by the immigration to the 
United States which followed the failure of the European revo- 
lution of 1848. Frederick Douglass averred in 18 53: 

The old employments by which we have hereto- 
fore gained our livelihood are gradually, and it may 
be inevitably, passing into other hands. Every hour 
sees us elbowed out of some employment to make room 
perhaps for some newly-arrived immigrants, whose 
hunger and color are thought to give them a title to 
especial favor. 

White men are becoming house-servants, cooks 
and stewards, common laborers, and flunkeys to our 
gentry, and, for aught I see, they adjust themselves to 
their stations with all becoming obsequiousness. This 
fact proves* that if we cannot rise to the whites, the 
whites can fall on us. . . . While the colored people 
are thus elbowed out of employment; while the enmity 
of emigrants is being excited against us; while state 
after state enacts laws against us; while we are hunted 
down, like wild game, the colonization society renews 
Its fight In our behalf.^ 
Again Douglass opined: 

The Irish people, warm-hearted, generous, and 
sympathizing with the oppressed everywhere, when 
they stand upon their own green island, are instantly 
taught, on arriving in this Christian country, to hate 



and despise the colored people. They are taught to 
believe that we eat the bread which of right belongs 
to them. The cruel lie is told the Irish, that our ad- 
versity is essential to their prosperity. Sir, the Irish- 
American will find out his mistake one day. He will 
find that in assuming our avocation he also has as- 
sumed our degradation." 

Later, in the post-Civil War period some freedmen, fearing 
that the influx of immigrants from abroad would undermine 
their already precarious position in the American economy, 
would adopt the ugly attitudes symbolized in such epitaphs as 
"Dago," "Kike,' and "Pollock," while other freedmen would 
see that these often-despised and harassed minorities from abroad 
were allies in their pursuit of the great American dream. 

The 18 50 Fugitive Slave Act, which was passed as a part 
of the famed Compromise of that year, greatly angered and 
disturbed Afro-Americans. Because of the manner in which 
the law was designed to make capture and return of fugitives 
possible, many free persons were endangered by the possibility 
that some slaveholders would abuse the law. A master's affi- 
davit of ownership was all that was required to secure a "fugi- 
tive," and not only were northern residents required by law 
to aid in their capture but the captured persons were denied 
trial by jury, and the United States judge or Commissioner who 
received the affidavit was to be paid doubly if he ruled the 
Negroes to be fugitives. In petition and mass meeting, this law 
was fought. The fight was aided by personal liberty laws which 
were passed by northern states. Before an Ohio Convention of 
Negroes, held in Columbus, in 18 51, H. Ford Douglass called 
the fugitive slave act, "a law unequaled in the worst days of 
Roman despotism, and unparalleled in the annals of heathen 
jurisprudence, and the compound of all villainies!"^ In response 
to the act, a New York convention of fugitives, which met in 
September, 18 50, admonished bondsmen who might escape in 
the future not to join political parties that were not openly 
against slavery, not to vote for any candidate for office who 
held color to be a badge of inferiority, and not to join churches 
which had a Negro pew. This advice continued: "Better die 
than insult yourself, and insult every person of African blood. 


and insult your Maker by contributing to elevate to civil rule, 
the man who refuses to eat with you, to sit by your side in the 
House of Worship, or to let his children sit in the school by 
the side of your children." Parents were advised not to send 
their children to any segregated school started for Negroes by 
whites. "Valuable as learning is," the advice ran, "it is too 
costly if it is acquired at the expense of such self-degradation."' 
A number of Negroes have continued with this conviction and 
will walk long distances where the only alternative is to ride 
jim-crow buses, or see no movies at all if none but jim-crow 
ones are available. 

Negro abolitionists hated the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 
just as they did the one of 1850. Even before 18 50, a planter 
could remove a Negro from several northern states on affidavit 
or oath before a single judge and without trial by jury, but 
passage of the 18 50 Fugitive Slave Act caused the hope of many 
Negroes to reach a new low, and such leaders as James Theo- 
dore Holly and Martin R. Delaney began to urge that free 
Negroes leave the United States and settle in the Carribean or 
Canada. Frederick Douglass, Samuel Ringgold Ward, Charles 
Lenox Remond and other spokesmen were not pushed to such 
ends of despair, however, and they led in urging Negroes openly 
to defy the Fugitive Slave Act. Martin Delaney said: 

All the ideas I have of liberty and independence 
I obtained from reading the History of the Revolu- 
tionary Fathers. From them I learned a man has a 
right to defend his castle, even to the taking of life. 
My cottage is my castle; my wife and children are its 
inmates. If any man enters that castle to look for a 
fugitive slave — I care not if it be he who signed his 
name to that ignominous law; if he come with the 
Declaration of Independence flying in the air as a 
banner, and the Constitution of the United States 
upon his bosom as a breastplate — if he enters my 
house to search for a fugitive slave, and I do not 
strike him down dead, may the grave refuse my body 
a resting place, and righteous heaven deny my spirit 

"Such crises as these," declared Samuel Ringgold Ward, "leave 
us to the right of Revolution, and if need be, that right we 


will, at whatever cost, most sacredly maintain.'"' July 5, 1852 
Frederick Douglass thundered: 

Americans! your republican politics, not less than 
your republican religion, are flagrantly inconsistent. 
You boast of your love of liberty . . . while the 
whole political power of the nation (as embodied in 
the two great political parties) is solemnly pledged to 
support and perpetuate the enslavement of three mil- 
lions of your countrymen. You hurl your anathemas 
at the crowned . . . tyrants of Russia and Austria 
. . . while you yourselves consent to be the mere 
fools and body-guards of the tyrants of Virginia and 
Carolina. You invite to your shores fugitives of op- 
pression from abroad, . . . but the fugitives from 
your own land you advertise, hunt^ arrest, shoot, and 

You are all on fire at the mention of liberty for 
France or for Ireland; but are as cold as an iceberg 
at the thought of liberty for the enslaved of America. 
You discourse eloquently on the dignity of labor; yet, 
you sustain a system which, in its very essence, casts 
a stigma upon labor. You can bare your bosom to the 
storm of British artillery to throw off a three-penny 
tax on tea; and yet wring the last hard-earned 
farthing from the grasp of the black laborers of 
your country." 

At an 1851 State Convention, Ohio Negroes debated the 
often iised topic of whether the United States Constitution 
was pro - slavery or not, and if so, what should be the re- 
sponse of the race to this. At this meeting, H. Ford Douglass 
said: "I hold . . . that the Constitution of the United States 
is pro-slavery, considered so by those who framed it, and con- 
strued to that end ever since its adoption."^ At the same meet- 
ing, William Fioward Day of Lorain, Ohio, stated: "Coming 
up as I do, in the midst of three millions of men in chains, and 
five hundred thousand only half free, I consider every instru- 
ment precious which guarantees to me liberty. I consider the 
Constitution the foundation of American liberties, and wrap- 
ping myself in the flag of the nation, I would plant myself 
upon that Constitution, and using the weapons they have given 
me, I would appeal to the American people for the rights thus 


guaranteed." ' He stated that those who felt that the Constitu- 
tion was a pro-slavery document were mistaking the construc- 
tion which pro-slavery people put on the document for the 
Constitution itself. At this same Ohio meeting Charles H. 
Langston agreed with H. Ford Douglass that the Constitution 
was a pro-slavery document. Despite this, however, Langston 
stated that as a matter of expediency he would vote under the 
United States Constitution on the same principle, he stated, 
"that I would call on every slave, from Maryland to Texas, to 
arise and assert their Liberties, and cut their masters' throats 
if they attempt again to reduce them to slavery."^" It would 
seem that, like most Americans, Negroes in this country have 
adhered to William Day's poosition that the Constitution is 
the fountain-head of freedom and democracy for all citizens. 
True it is that a goodly number in the ante-bellum period 
accepted the doctrine that they were not citizens of this re- 
public, but the majority never stopped contending that by 
virtue of birth and service and devotion to the United States, 
as well as often by statute, they were bonafide citizens. In- 
fringements on their civil rights they regarded as unconstitu- 
tional acts. 

While he was in this country in 18 51, Lajos Kossuth, 
famed leader of the 1848 rebellion in Hungary, was addressed 
by George T. Downing on behalf of a reception committee of 
New York Negroes. Kossuth, at first popular with the race, 
was later denounced by Negro leaders because he refused to 
take a stand on American slavery." 

Speaking in 1*^52 on what was needed to rid the nation 
of slavery, Frederick Douglass in a Fourth of July address said: 

At a time like this, scorching irony, not convinc- 
ing argument, is needed. It is not light that is needed, 
but fire; it is not the gentle sTiower, but thunder. 
We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earth- 

Little could he have known that within a brief decade he would 
get all, and more, than he was calling for. 

In a December 18 52 letter to W. L. Garrison, William C. 
Nell asked that there be published in the Liberator, the state- 


ment as coming from a recent meeting of Massachusetts Ne- 
groes: — • 

Resolved, That as the Whig and so-called Demo- 
cratic parties of this country are endeavoring to 
crush, debase and dehumanize us as a people, any 
man among us voting for their respective candidates 
. . . shall be held up to public reprobation as a 
traitor, a hissing and a by-word, a pest and a nui- 
sance, the off-scouring of the earth. 

Resolved, that the candidates of the Free De- 
mocracy need no eulogy — they stand out in bold 
relief, as the representatives of principles which com- 
mand the admiration and support of every lover of 
Truth, Justice and Humanity. Our hands, our hearts 
and our votes are theirs. ^^ 

Just as the ISSO's saw a proliferation of southern conven- 
tions, free Negroes in the North held more "National Negro 
Conventions" than ever before, and despair caused some black 
abolitionists to advocate with William Llcyd Garrison that the 
North should secede from the union. These men felt that the 
18 50 Fugitive Slave Law nationalized the institution of slavery. 
Although northern secession probably would have meant aban- 
doning the slave, Charles Remond and others advocated this 
course. Remond, however, did not think this course would 
mean abandoning the slave. He always believed that the slaves 
would strike for their own freedom if such secession came. 
Earlier, Henry Highland Garnet had sounded a similar note. 
Reminiscent of the 1848 Coniiuunist Manifesto, in 1843 
Henry Highland Garnet exhorted the slaves: "Brethren, arise, 
arise! Strike for your lives and liberties. Now is the day and 
the hour. Let every slave throughout the land do this, and the 
days of slavery are numbered. You cannot be more oppressed 
than you have been — you cannot suffer greater cruelties than 
you have already. Rather die freemen than to live to be slaves. 
Remember that you are four inillions!'''^* This advice, in "An 
Address to the Slaves of the United States of America," was 
so radical that the National Convention of Colored Citizens, 
Buffalo, New York would not adopt it. However, John Brown 
did not regard it as too radical and financed its publication. 
In the address Garnet had begun on a note of hope. "Mankind 


are becoming wiser, and better," he opined, "the oppressor's 
power is fading, and you, every day, are becoming better in- 
formed and more numerous." But Garnet did not long con- 
tinue in this vein, as he said of the institution of slavery — "Its 
throne is established, and ... it reigns triumphant." As plant- 
ers used the Bible ro justify the enslavement of the black man, 
Garnet used this same book to justify the latter's revolt against 
his bondage. "The diabolical injustice by which your liberties 
are cloven down," he declared, "neither God nor angels, or 
just men, coinmand you to sufFer for a single moment. There- 
fore, it is your solemn and imperative duty to use every means, 
both moral, intellectual, and physical, that promises success." 
He urged resistance, "even to death." With most of the other 
abolitionists, Garnet indicated his belief that the wrong of 
slavery in his day was a link in a chain of wrongs which began 
with the "stealing" of the Negro in Africa, which he here 
termed "our fatherland." In his impatience, Garnet made sev- 
eral very im.practical suggestions. To the slaves he declared: 
"Brethren, the time has come when you must act for your- 
selves. . . . You can plead your own, cause, and do the work 
of emancipation better than any other." He counselled the 

Go to your lordly enslavers and tell them plain- 
ly, that you are determined to be free. Appeal to their 
sense of justice, and tell them that they have no more 
right to oppress you than you have to enslave them. 
Entreat them to remove the grievous burdens which 
they have imposed upon you, and to remunerate you 
for your labor. Promise them renewed diligence in 
the cultivation of the soil, if they will render to 
you an equivalent for your services. Point them to 
the increase of happiness and prosperity in the British 
West Indies since the Act of Emancipation. Tell them 
in language which they cannot misunderstand of the 
exceeding sinfulness of slavery, and of a future judg- 
ment, and of the righteous retribution of an indignant 
God. Inform them that all you desire is freedom, 
and that nothing else will suffice. Do this, and forever 
after cease to toil for the heartless tyrants, ... If 
:.ii8y then commence work of death, they, and noo 


you, will be responsible for the consequences. You 
had far better all die — die i in mediately, than live 
slaves, and entail your wretchedness upon your pos- 
terity. If you would be free in this generation, here 
is your only hope. 
Garnet could not know that in exactly twenty years the Eman- 
cipation Proclamation would come! It is of interest to note that 
Garnet ended this exhortation to the slaves with the words: 
"Brethren, adieu! Trust in the living God. Labor for the peace 
of the human race, and remember that you are four iniilions!" 
The most representative of the pre-Civil War National 
Negro Conventions was that held in 185 3. Attended by one 
hundred and fourteen delegates it met in Rochester, New York. 
Officers were: President, James W. C. Pennington of New 
York; Vice-President, William F. Day of Ohio, Amos G. Beman 
of Connecticut, William C. Nell of Massachusetts, Frederick 
Douglass of New York, James C. McCrummell and John B. 
Vashon of Pennsylvania, and John Jones of Illinois; Secre- 
taries, Peter H. Clarke of Ohio, Charles B. Ray and Henry M. 
Wilson of New York, and Charles Reason of Pennsylvania. 
Phis group issued another address to the American people which 
Douglass helped draft, planned for a National Negro Council, 
and a manual labor school. The latter project was backed by 
Charles Reason, George B. Vashon and Dr. Charles H. Lang- 
ston. The Convention stated that Harriet Beecher Stowe's re- 
cently published book, Uncle Tom's Cabin, had led to "the 
propitious awakening to the fact of our condition at home and 

In May and June, 18 54, the fugitive slave case of Anthony 
Burns held Boston in great excitement. Burns' own account of 
his return to and rendition from slavery are given in the 
Liberator, March 9, 185 5. Of the arrest of Burns C. L. Remond 
thundered: — 

Can any man deny that, if John Adams, and Samuel 
Adams, and John Hancock, were alive to-day, they 
would, in view of the transactions in the city of 
Boston, demand the immediate dissolution of the 
Union? I believe in my soul they would. And why? 
Because they would hold in too high estimation their 
own liberties to submit to such outraees. ... I would 


rather be ten thousand times blacker than I am than 
to be the proudest pale face that walks State Street 
today, doing the bidding of the slaveholder.^' 

In this speech Remond asked that a mob go to the courthouse 
and forcibly "rescue" Anthony Burns. He asked that the North- 
secede from the Union, and said that if this should happen the 
slaves would free themselves. "It is the North that practically 
keeps them in slavery," he declared. Remond ended with the 

I ?.m ixritable, excitable, quarrelsom/e — < . . . 
and my prayer to God is, that I may never cease to 
be irritable, that I may never cease to be excitable, 
that I may never cease to be quarrelsome, until the 
last slave shall be made free in our country, and the 
colored man's manhood acknowledged. 

The first state convention of California's approximately 
6,000 Negroes was held in Sacramento from November 20th 
to 22nd, 185 5. Present were forty-njn^ delegates from ten 
counties. Although only lukewarm toward the abolitionist 
movement, this group too was contending for their rights as 
citizens and protesting against discriminatory legislation." 

If it can be believed, the story of a decade of activity 
against slavery told by Moses Dickson is one of the most in- 
teresting of the abolitionist period. Dickson was born in Ohio 
in 1824. According to his testimony, he and eleven other Ne- 
groes from eight states formed the Twelve Knights of Tabor in 
St. Louis, Missouri. This organization was active in the Under- 
ground Railroad. Dickson himself was a minister from 1867 
until his death in 1901. A militant Missouri Republican, he 
was also a founder of that states Lincoln Institute, now Lincoln 
University. According to Dickson, the founders of this organi- 
zation caused it to grow to a membership of 47,000 Knights of 
Liberty, "for the historic purpose of aiding in breaking the 
bonds of our slavery." The name was taken from the history 
of the Israelites and, states Dickson, the name "gave the mem- 
bers Courage." The organization was highly secretive and mili- 
taristic, with headquarters at Atlanta, Georgia. Eighteen fifty- 
seven was the year in which they expected to march on Atlanta 
with around 150,000 well-armed men from their earlier drill- 


ing and hidden arms, and fight all over the South to end slavery. 
"The Chief was almost ready to give the command to move 
forward in July, 18 57," he states, "but he paused and scanned 
the signs that were gathering over the Union," and decided 
that "a higher power" showed signs of being ready to end 

The Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision of March, 18 57, 
read by Maryland's Roger B. Taney, opened all federal territory 
to slavery and denied citizenship to Negroes. Together with 
white Americans, northern persons of color bitterly assailed 
this ruling. At an April protest meeting, Robert Purvis said: 

RESOLVED, That this atrocious decision furnishes 
final corrfimiation of the already well-known fact 
that under the Constitution and Government of the 
United States, the colored people are nothing, and 
can be nothing but an alien, disfranchised and de- 
graded class. 

RESOLVED, That to persist in supporting a Gov- 
ernment which holds and exercises the power to 
trample a class under foot as an inferior and de- 
graded race, is on the part of the colored man at once 
the height of folly and the depth of pulsillanimity. 

RESOLVED, That no allegiance is due from any 
man, or any class of men,- to a Government founded 
and administered in iniquity, and that the only duty 
the colored man owes to a Constitution under which 
he is declared to be an inferior and degraded being, 
having no rights which white men are bound to re- 
spect, is to denounce and repudiate it.^^ 
In a less bitter spirit of agreement, C. L. Remond of Salem, 
Massachusetts spoke following Purvis. Remond agreed that, 
although free Negroes had been held to be citizens of individual 
states, and indeed treated as citizens on the national level, the 
Supreme Court was acting within its powers by stripping the 
race of this citizenship. Unlike Purvis, Remond saw cause for 
optimism. He stated: 

RESOLVED, That we reject that slave holding des- 
potism which lays its ruthless hand not only on the 
humble black man, but on the proud Northern 
white man; and our hope is, that when our white 


fellow slaves in these so-called free States see that 
they are alike subject with us to the slave oligarchy, 
the difference in our servitude being only in degree, 
they will make common cavise with us, and that 
throwing off the yoke and striking for impartial 
liberty, they will join with us in our efforts to re- 
cover the long lost boon of freedom.^" 
Rcmond did agree with Purvis that, "after this, to persist in 
claiming citizenship under the United States Constitution would 
be mean-spirited and craven" of the Negro, and Remond too 
denounced his patriotism. Alter considerable debate, the above 
resolutions by Purvis and Remond were approved by the body. 
In the celebration of the twenty-seventh anniversary of 
the American Anti-Slavery Society, Piu'vis gave a ringing in- 
idictment of the United States for its treatment of his race. 
In this speech Purvis stated that the "bloody code of Draco" 
of antiquity was "mild . , . a law of love, compared with the 
hellish laws and precedents that disgrace the statute books of 
this modern Democratic Christian Republic!" He called Ameri- 
can democracy "piebald and rotten" and alluded directly to 
the Dred Scott decision."" Frederick Douglass declared of this 

The Supreme Court is not the only power in this 
world. We, . . . should meet this decision, unlocked 
for and monstrous as it appears, in a cheerful spirit. 
This very attempt to blot out forever the hopes of 
an enslaved people may be one necessary link in the 
chain of events preparatory to the complete overthrow 
of the whole slave system. 

Douglass called the decision "an open, glaring, and scandalous 

tissue of lics.""^ 

So embittered was Charles Remond over the decision that 

he advocated that the North secede from the Union. In his 

bitterness at the arrest of Burns, Remond exhorted: 

Talk to me of Bunker Hill, and tell me that a 
fugitive passed through Boston today! Talk about 
Lexington, and tell me a slave mother must be kept 
secreted in Boston! Talk to me of commemorating 
the memory of Joseph Warren, while thirty thou- 
sand fugitive slaves are in Canada! I will scout the 


memory of the Revolution, the memory of Wash- 
ington, and Adams, and Hancock, until the soil of 
Massachusetts shall be as free to every fugitive, and as 
free to me, as it is to the descendants of any of them. 
And until we shall do this, we talk in vain, and cele- 
brate in vain."" 

So bitter was Remond that he regretted that Negroes had 
served in the Revolutionary War. "Better that any such man," 
he declared, "had folded his hands and crossed his knees, dur- 
ing the American Revolution, if this is the reward we are to 
derive from such hypocrites, such cowards, such panders to 
American slavery, as Judge Taney and his co-operators.""" 

One group of New England free Negroes, meeting to 
protest the Dred Scott decision, termed it "a palpably vain, 
arrogant assumption, unsustained by history, justice, reason or 
common sense. '""^ While they were hurt and further insulted 
by the decision, free Negroes were not particularly surprised at 
the ruling. Still, in the second decade of the twentieth century, 
a Harvard trained Negro lawyer, Archibald Grimke would 
give eloquent testimony of his race's estimation of Taney's epic 
decision. On it Grimke wrote: 

The fell apparition of American inhumanity, 
which those words conjured up from the depths of an 
abominable past and from that of a no less abominable 
present, was indeed black, but it wasi no blacker than 
the truth. The dark soul of the nation was embodied 
in them, all of its savage selfishness, greed and in- 
iquity. There they glared, large and lifelike, a 
devil's face among the nations, seamed and inter- 
sected with the sinister lines of a century of cruelty 
and race hatred and oppression. Of course the fair 
idealism of the Declaration of Independence was 
wanting in the photographic naturalism of the pic- 
ture, and so was the fictive beauty of the Preamble 
of the Constitution, because they were wanting in 
the terrible original, in the malignant, merciless, and 
murderous spirit of a democracy which the dark 
words of the dark judge had limned to the life."' 

In an 18 58 address in Boston, Dr. John S. Rock, Negro 
physician, lawyer and abolitionist anticipated the views which 


Booker T. Washington later popularized, that as the Afro- 
American acquired money and property race prejudice would 
disappear. Dr. Rock asserted: 

In this country, where money is the great sym- 
pathetic nerve which ramifies Society, and has ganglia 
in every man's pocket, a man is respected in propor- 
tion to his success in business. When the avenues to 
wealth are opened to us, we will then become edu- 
cated and wealthy, and then the roughest looking 
colored man that you ever saw, or ever will see, will 
be pleasanter than the harmonies of Orpheus, and 
black will be a very pretty color . . . flattery will 
then take the place of slander . . . Then, and not 
till then, will the lip of prejudice be sealed.'" 
A segment among professional and middle-class Negroes have 
been attracted to the idea that their own salvation — if not 
that all members of their race — lies in accepting the tenets and 
mores of the monetarily rich. An early argument against this 
came from the pen of Frances Ellen Watkins, who said: "The 
important lesson wq should learn and be able to teach, is how 
to make every gift, whether gold or talent, fortune or genius, 
subserve the cause of crushed humanity and carry out the 
greatest idea of the present age, the glorious idea of human 

Reporting on an August, 185 8 Massachusetts meeting of 
free Negroes in New Bedford, the Liberator of August 13, of 
that year quoted C. L. Remond as stating that both the Free 
Soil and Republican parties had been false to the Negro. So 
disheartened was Remond that he was reported as saying again: 
"We must depend upon our own self-reliance." He recom- 
mended slave insurrections as proper action, and "boldly pro- 
claimed himself a traitor to the government and the Union, 
so long as his rights were denied him for! no fault of his own. 
. . . Were there a thunderbolt of God which he could invoke 
to bring destruction upon this nation, he would gladly do it," 
the Liberator reported. Another person present at this same 
meeting, doubted, as indeed did Remond, that insurrections 
would succeed. "The slaves," he said, "had no weapons or edu- 
cation." "When I fight," he stated, "I want to whip some- 


The A fro- American constantly has been aware of the 
noblest of American traditions and principles, and of the danger 
to the nation of too-often compromising and proscribing prin- 
ciples and traditions. While his presence has without doubt un- 
leashed much of the worst behavior of which mankind is cap- 
able, the colored man's constant appeal for justice and fair 
play and Christian treatment, has sharpened the nation's con- 
science on these matters. While pondering today the shrinking 
size of the planet in the twentieth century, and of the rise of 
the colored Asian and African, it is possible to see a blessing 
in disguise in the problems and solutions which have derived 
from the Negro's presence in the United States, for in learning 
to live with the colored man at home, the white American may 
be learning to live with the vast colored majority which com- 
prises the world's population."^ 


The Negro of the first half of the nineteenth century 
was not only more militant, he was much more articulate than 
the eighteenth century Negro had been. For example, Negro 
historiography was born In 1800-1860 period. Also, a consid- 
erable number of slave narratives and autobiographies appeared, 
and Negro journalism was born. After Phyllis Wheatley and 
Jupiter Hammon, Negro poetry had its beginning in this period 
with George Moses Horton's volume entitled The Hope of 
Liberty (1829), Daniel A. Payne's, Pleasures and Other Mis- 
cellaneous Poems (18 50), Frances Harper's Poems on Miscel- 
laneous Subjects (1854), and Armand Lanusse, ed., Les Ge- 
netics, ,1 book of poems by seventeen New Orleans, Louisiana 
Negro Creoles. Dramatiq writing by Negroes was also born in 
this period with William Wells Brown's play. The Escape; or a 
Leap to Freedom (18 5 8). The same is true of the novel which 
had its beginnings with Martin R. Delany's Blake; or The Huts 
of America (1859) and WUiam Wells Brown's Clotel. The 
Negro scholar appeared in this period. While some persons may 
object to calling such members of the beginning group of Negro 
historians as William C. Nell, James W. C. Pennington, and 


William Wells Brown "scholars," none could seriously object 
to giving this appellation to Glascow University graduate Dr. 
James McCune Smith who in 1846 published an article en- 
titled, "Influence of Climate on Longevity, with Special Ref- 
erence to Life Insurance." 

Richard Bardolph has stated that, "The opening of the 
1830's marks a watershed in Negro Social History.'" In 1831 
Garrison's Liberator was founded and Nat Turner's bloody 
revolt took place in Virginia. Of the thirty-seven Negroes listed 
by Bardolph as having reached prominence during the succeed- 
ing generation, twenty-eight achieved their renown as aboli- 
tionists, approximately one-half of whom were ministers of the 
Gospel." Career Woodson, Herbert Aptheker, and other scholars 
have pointed out that in the U.S.A. the first abolitionists, singly 
or organized, were Negroes themselves. 

The period from 1830-1860 is one of the most stirring in 
the history of Negro thought and action. Through the black 
abolitionists, this era also saw the underground railroad shift 
into high gear and spread, the emergence of Negro oratory, 
journalism, and organized protest. The mass meeting, used so 
fittingly in this period by the black abolitionists, has been a 
constant weapon used by the Negro in his fight for equality of 
citizenship. At many of the Negro conventions of the 1830's, 
40's, and 5 0"s, a number of prominent whites were present to 
lend their support. Here, as always daring his fight for full 
citizenship in this country, there always have been American 
whites lending support to his cause. 

The 1830 Philadelphia meeting of free Negroes was called 
to seek means of elevating their group in the U.S.A. Samuel 
Cornish, James Forten, and John B. Vashon were among the 
outstanding Negroes present. Migration to Canada and the 
establishment of a Negro college were among the schemes which 
this convention supported, although by no means unanimously. 
At the 18 53 Rochester, New York convention, Negroes formed 
the National Council of Colored People. Doubtless, Charles 
Lenox Remond spoke for most abolitionists of his race when 
he said: 

Some there are who are prevented from joining in 

the great struggle wherein we are engaged from a 


false and corrupt pride, for they consider (or feign 
to consider) that the vindication of the slave's rights 
is an undignified emoloyment; but I tell them it is 
an employment more dignified, more noble, more 
exalted than any other whatsoever in which man can 
be engaged,^ 

Of his own, efforts, Frederick Douglass declared: 

I expose slavery in this country, because to ex- 
pose it is to kill it. Slavery is one of those monsters of 
darkness to whom the light of truth is death. Expose 
slavery, and it dies. Light is to slavery what the heat 
of the sun is to the root of a tree; it must die under 
it. All the slaveholder asks of me is silence.* 

And though many would disagree with him on other particu- 
lars, doubtless Robert Purvis spoke for his fellow-fighters when 
he thundered: 

We take our stand upon that solemn declara- 
tion, that to protect inalienable rights 'governments 
are instituted among men, deriving their just powers 
from the consent of the governed,' and proclaim that 
a government which tears away from us and our 
posterity the very power of consent is a tyrannical 
usurpation which we will never cease to oppose." 

In politics the colored abolitionists were pragmatists. In an 
1850 speech against the fugitive slave bill of that year, Samuel 
Ringgold Ward said: "I agree not with Senator Seward in 
politics, but when an individual stands up for the rights of men 
against slaveholders, I care not for party distinctions."" 

Chapter X 

The attitvides held toward war by Negro Americans gen- 
erally have coincided with those exhibited by the majority 
group. Anti-militarism long has been a strong fabric in the 
cloth from which the Amierican is cut. 

Colored Americans always have rallied to the colors when 
the nation was in danger. Yet, feeling that they were not bona 
fide citizens, at times a few persons have contemplated refusing 
any military call for their services. Following the 1841 Creole 
affair, some Americans talked of going to war with Britain to 
force return of slaves who mutinied and sailed into a British 
port. During the talk of war, a Negro newspaper wrote the 

There is no law in existence which can compel us to 
fight, and any lighting on our part, must be a volun- 
tary act. The states in which we dwell have twice 
availed themselves of our voluntary services, and 
have repaid us with chains and slavery. Shall we a 
third time kiss the foot that crushes us? If so, we de- 
serve our chains. No! let us maintain an organized 
neutrality, until the laws of the Union and of all the 
states have made us free and equal citizens.^ 

That for over two centuries force was used to keep them 
in a degraded status may have given Negroes a somewhat 
greater abhorrence of force than is usually the case with many 
other Americans. As the majority group long ago produced 
Henry David Thoreau and other pacifists, the Negro American 
could pomt to advocates of non-violent resistance in his group 
long before the mid-twenrieth century strictures of Reverend 
Martin Luther King. In the colonial period Benjamin Banneker 
gave serious thought to the problem, of war and urged that a 
Secretary of Peace be added to the federal government and 
that all military titles, uniforms, and drills should be abolished. 
In 1837 William Whipple opined: 

I would not, for a single moment, sanction the often 
made assertion that the doctrines of the holy scrip- 



tures justify war — for they are in my humble opi- 
nion its greatest enemy. And I further beheve that as 
soon as they become fully understood and practically 
adopted, wars and strifes will cease. I believe that 
every argument urged in favor of what is termed a 
'just and necessary war,' of physical self-defense, is 
at enmity with the letter and spirit of the scriptures, 
and . . . should be repudiated, as inimical to the 
principles they profess, and a reproach to Christianity 
Whipple was a pacifist and an early apostle of non-violent 
moral resistance, and in this speech he gives about all of the 
arguments that Gandhi and Martin Luther King later gave. 
Whipple praised the abolitionists for not advocating or prac- 
ticing violence even when they wore its objects, and he \owed 
that a soft answer turneth away wrath. Yet he praised the 
abolitionists for using the slogan "Liberty or Death." Whipple 
believed that Negroes had learned the principles of non-vio- 
lence from the white abolitionists. Of mob violence he declared: 

The enemies of the abolitionists are exhibiting a re- 
gard for the power of their principles that they are 
unwilHng to acknowledge. Although it is everywhere 
known over the country that abolitionists will not 
fight, yet they distrust their own strength so much 
that they frequently muster a whole neighborhood 
of from 5 to 300 men, with sticks, stones, rotten 
eggs and bowie knives, to mob and beat a single in- 
dividual, probably in his teens whose hearts law is 
non resistance. There is another way in which they 
do us honor — they admit the right of all people to 
fight for their liberty but colored people and aboli- 
tionists — plainly inferring that they are too good for 
the performance of such un-Christian acts.'* 
Shocked by the outbreak and course of World War I, in 
December, 1918 South Carolina-born and Harvard-educated 
Francis J. Grimke offered the sentiments of many Negroes and 
white Americans. Grimke declared: 

War means lying days and nights wounded and alone 
in no-man's land; it means men with jaws gone, limbs 
gone, minds gone; it means countless bodies of bo^^s 
tossed into the incenerators that follow in the train 


of every battle; it meana untended wounds and gan- 
grene and the long time it takes to die; it means 
mothers who look for letters they will never see and 
wives who wait for voices they will never hear, and 
children who listen for footsteps that will never 
come. This is war — It's heroisms are but the glancing 
sunlight on a sea of blood and tears. And through 
all these physical horrors runs a horror more appalling 
still, the persistent debauching and brutalizing of 
men's souls. One who uses his knowledge and his 
imagination to perceive in its abominations what war 
really is, while he might never dream of using Walt 
Whitman's lan,guage, finds it hard to be sorry that 
the language has been used. 'Wars,' he said, 'are hellish 
business — all wars. Any honest man says so — hates 
war, fighting, blood letting. I was in the midst of it 
all — saw war where war was worst; there I mixed 
with it, and now I say God damn the wars — all 
wars; God damn every war; God damn 'em!'* 
Despite their aversions to the military life and war, when 
the nation has been imperilled, with their fellow Americans 
Negroes have risen unhesitantly to the colors. This tradition 
of reaction dates back to the War for Independence. 

The Revolutionary War 
Carter G. Woodson said — "One cause of the Boston Massa- 
cre was that a slave, out of love of country, insulted a British 
officer. Negroes were in the front rank of those openly protest- 
ing against the quartering and billeting of British soldiers in 
Boston to enforce the laws authorizing taxation in the col- 

At the time of the Revolution there were approximately 
one-half million slaves in the English colonies, and it has been 
estimated that approximately 5,000 Negroes served in the Con- 
tinental forces. At first only free Negroes were used in the 
Revolutionary army. Although the promise of freedom was a 
great factor, there is considerable evidence that strong patrio- 
tism was one of the forces which led Negro soldiers to serve so 
ably in the Continental army. So many of the Virginia slaves 
joined the Continental army that the state had to take drastic 


action to prevent this exoclus from slavery into military service. 
Except as substitutes for freemen, after 1777 Virginia allowed 
only free Negroes to enlist. 

In their dire plight, the colonists could not afford to refuse 
the services of Negroes, who, at the time, constituted approxi- 
mately one-sixth of the total population. One focal point of the 
fear that Negroes would fight with the British in the war was 
the fact that through the promise of fredom, beginning Nov. 
7, 1775, Lord Dunmore had actually enlisted several hundred 
in his effort to maintain himself in Virginia. This and subse- 
quent enlistment of Negroes by various British officers early in 
the war forced the colonists' hand on the matter. Still it has 
been estimated that during the war, over one-half of Georgia's 
adult male slave population fought with the British, while South 
Carolina lost Negroes to the British by the thousands. 

While the colonies debated use of Negro troops, Georgia's 
delegates to the Continental Congress expressed fears that any 
British Commander who effected an occupation of the South 
might win the whole region by promising freedom to the slaves 
and enlisting them. Throughout the war, the number of run- 
away slaves mounted to vast proportions. Some were going to 
join the British Army, while others were just going. Events 
moved so fast that General George Washington's order prohib- 
iting the enlistment of Negroes lasted only a few weeks. 

Afro-Americans have shown great pride in the colored 
heroes of the war. They have been especially proud that Crispus 
Attucks was the first to die in the "Boston Massacre." George 
Washington Williams, in his history of the race, devotes four 
pages to Attuck's part in this incident.*^ In the decade before the 
Civil War free Negroes formed a military company and named 
it A/fncks Guard's, and in the twentieth century, along with 
numerous others, the poet Edward Smythe Jones, mentions 
Attucks in several of his poems. Two other Negro heroes of the 
Revolution whose praises have been sung with especial praise 
are Peter Salem, killer of Major Pitcairn, whom William calls 
"The intrepid Black Soldier," and Salem Poor, both heroes of 
the fighting at Bunker Hill. The valor of Salem Poor was com- 
mended in a report and recommendation to the Continental 


So conscious are they of the charge of cowardice which 
biased persons have given as a Negro trait, in writing of the 
Revolutionary War Negro historians almost invariably devote 
several paragraphs or pages to evidence of the valor and bravery 
of Negro troops.' Their general estimation of the service of 
Negro troops in the Revolutionary War may be evidenced in 
the words of George Washington Williams: 

From the opening to the closing scene of the 
Revolutionary War; from the death of Pitcairn to the 
surrender of Cornwallis; on many fields of strife and 
triumph, of splendid valor and republican glory; from 
the hazy dawn of unequal and uncertain conflict, to 
the bright morn of profound peace; through and out 
of the hres of a great war that gave birth to a new, a 
grand republic, — the Negro soldier fought his way 
to undimmed glory, and made for himself a mag- 
nificent record in the annals of American History.^ 

War of IS 12 

The agricultural imperialism which was a great factor in 
bringing on the War of 1812 fitted into that larger American 
ethos which has been labelled "Manifest Destiny." John Hope 
Franklin has pointed to a strange incongruity between slave 
holders giving as a central aim of manifest destiny the desire 
to expand the geographical limits of the nation so as to carry 
the blessings of liberty to more and more people.' 

Again in the War of 1812, Negro soldiers served inte- 
grated in predominantly white units. Barred from service in 
peacetime, these were largely free volunteers, often prompted 
to serve largely by love of country. Some slaves served on the 
promise of manumission at the end\ of the war. Led by Bishop 
Richard Allen and the wealthy James Forten, Philadelphia's 
free Negro population particularly performed outstanding de- 
fense services during the war. Negro soldiers have shown con- 
siderable pride in the commendations which Capt. Oliver H. 
Perry, Gen. Andrew Jackson, and other commanders gave to 
the Negro sailors and soldiers who served under them. The 
main action of ground forces in which Negroes participated was 
the famed Battle of New Orleans. In his proclamation "to the 
Free Colored Inhabitants of Louisiana," Andrew Jackson ap- 


pealed directly to their patriotic sentiments to get them to en- 
list. Yet, that their service failed to alter the existence of 
slavery in Louisiana caused George Washington Williams to say: 
"The efficient service of the Louisiana Negro troops in the 
War of 1812 was applauded on two continents at the time 
but the noise of the slave marts soon silenced the praise of the 
Black heroes of the Battle of New Orleans."^" 

As had been the case with the Revolutionary War, the 
democratic ideals and freedom which the nation enunciated 
during the War of 1812 charged even the air that the nations 
bondsmen bi'eathed, and they became restive in their chains. 
This, plus the general democratic upheaval symbolized by the 
triumphs of Jeffersonian-Jacksonianism stimulated an increase 
in slave abscondings, the awesome plots and rebellions of Nat 
Turner, Denmark Vesey and others, as well as the mighty 
protest of David Walker, Robert A. Young, Frederick Doug- 
lass, William Wells Brown, Samuel Cornish, Charles Lenox 
Remond, Henry Highland Garnet, Sojourner Truth, Harriet 
Tubman and others. And as had been the case with the Revo- 
lutionary War, during the War of 1812 the British-promise of 
freedom caused a number of Negro slaves to run away from 
their masters and to fight for the British. 

Between the War of 1812 and the Civil War, the United 
States Army refused to accept Negroes as soldiers. Unwilling 
to acquiesce in this affront to the race, northern Negroes 
formed private militia groups and repeatedly sought adnnission 
into state militias." Still, in presenting to the public his book 
entitled Services of Colored Americans in the Wars of 1776 and 
IS12,^~ William C. Nell stated in the Preface: "My predilec- 
tions are least and last for what constitutes the pomp and cir- 
cumstance of War." His excuse for writing the volume ran: 
"A combination of circumstances have veiled from the public 
eye a narration of those military services which are generally 
conceived as passports to honorable and lasting notice of Amer- 

Like Henry David Thoreau, Abraham Lincoln, and others, 
many Afro- Americans opposed the 1846-48 war against Mexico 
as unwarranted imperialism for the extension of slavery. Fred- 
erick Douglass said: 


In our judgement, those who have all along been 
loudly in favor of a vigorous prosecution of the war, 
and heralding its bloody triumph with apparent rap- 
ture, and glorifying the atrocious deeds of barbarotis 
heroism on the part of wicked men engaged in it, 
have no sincere love of peace, and are not now re- 
joicing over peace, but plunder. They have succeeded 
in robbing Mexico of her territory, and are rejoicing 
over their success under the hypocritical pretence of 
a regard for peace. Had they not succeeded in robbing 
Mexico of the most important and most valuable 
part of her territory, many of those now loudest in 
their professions of favor for peace, would be loudest 
and wildest for war — to the knife. Our soul is sick 
of such hypocrisy." 

The Civil War 

The Civil War ranks among the most momentous events 
in the history of the nation. It was the most momentous event 
in the history of slavery. Years later ex-bondsmen referred to 
it as the time of "the breaking up" and many used it as an 
Antio Domini from which they computed their ages. 

While President Lincoln and most northern whites re- 
garded the war as an hour of darkness, hardship, and sore 
travail, Negroes everywhere saw it almost immediately as the 
dawn of their day of jubilee. One of the main attitudes which 
they manifested throughout the war is joy mixed with grim 
determination not to let this glorious opportunity at eman- 
cipation pass. As Frederick Douglass said: "The day dawns: 
the morning star is bright upon the horizon! The iron gate of 
our prison stands half open." There is no time for hesitation, 
stated Douglass. "Action! Action! not criticism, is the plain 
duty of the hour, words are now useful only as they stimulate 
to blows. "^* 

Together with the rest of the nation, most slaves knew that 
war was imminent long before the outbreak of actual hostilities. 
'T think I see the finger of God in all this," opined Dr. John 
S. Rock,^ ' while Frederick Douglass called it, "A war under- 
taken and brazenly carried on for the perpetual enslavement 
of colored men."' ' At the outbreak of war, slaves sang: 'Tier, 


my savior, iicr, Satan's camp a-firc, Fier, believer, Fier, Satan's 
camp a-iire." One old slave looked hopefully to the coming 
of the Yankees. "Child," she declared, "we are going to have 
such a good time a-setting at the white folks' table, a-eating 
off the white folks' table, and a-rocking in the big rocking 

Almost immediately upon the outbreak of civil war, many 
Negroes saw this as the death knell of slavery. There was little 
question in their minds that thq long awaited day of emanci- 
pation was at hand. Richard H. Cain said, "I was a student at 
Wilberforce University, in Ohio, when the tocsin of war was 
sounded, when Fort Sumter was fired upon, and I never shall 
forget the thrill that ran through my soul when I thought of 
the coming consequences of that shot."^' Addressing a Boston 
audience, in January, 1862, John S. Rock noted physician, 
lawyer, and abolitionist declared: "This rebellion," he opined, 
"means something! Out of it emancipation must spring."^'' At 
another point. Dr. Rock declared: 

The abolitionists saw this day of tribulation [Civil 
War] and, reign of terror long ago, and warned you 
of it; but you would not hear! You now say that it is 
their agitation, which has brought about this terrible 
civil war. That is to say, your friend sees a slow 
match set near a keg of gun powder in your house 
and timely warns you of the danger which he sees is 
inevitable; you despise his warnings, and, after the 
explosion, say, if he had not told you of it, it would 
not have happened.'" 
One ex-slave commented on the buying and selling of slaves 
which continued during the war. "We hears some of 'em say 
they's gwine to throw a long war, and u:< all think what they 
buy us for if we's gwine to be free. Some was still buying nig- 
gers every Fall, and us think it too funny they kept on filling 
up when they gwine to be emptying out soon.""^ One ex-slave 
declared of the war: "niggers had no say in it. Niggers didn't 
know what the fight was 'bout."" Another said of one of the 
Confederacy's top military leaders: "Old General Jackson said 
before he would see niggers free he would build a house nine 
miles long and put them in it, and burn everyone of them up. 
A dirty old rascal; now he is dead and gone.""' One ex-slave 


reported that when the war came the slaves on his plantation 
"thought the world was come to the end.""^ "The unanimous 
testimony of old slaves," states one scholar, "is that their secret 
prayers were for the success of the Union, cause.""' Booker T. 
Washington reports that during the last days of the war, when 
slaves were fairly certain that the downfall of the Confederacy 
was imminent, slaves almost abandoned the secrecy with which 
they had cloaked their hopes and prayers for a Union victory. 
Slaves were heard singing more often than ever and the old, 
almost hushed note of freedom, rang out clearer than ever. 

Before the conflict one Negro had opined that when war 
came the South would lose because it would have to fight "with 
one hand while holding slaves and discontented poor whites 
down with the other.""" That many slaves did not revolt dur- 
ing the war may be explained, not by their docility and hap- 
piness, as is so often said, but by the facts that: (1) Many of 
the slaves absconded to join the Union army; (2) those remain- 
ing on their jobs in the South had many reasons to be patient 
and wait for the success of the Union army; (3) it is highly 
doubtful that a general uprising during the war would have 
brought the slaves anything except near extermination; (4) 
No general uprising could have been planned due to lack of 
communication facilities and the fact that the Confederate 
armies were camped all over the South; (5) The habit of obe- 
dience and subservience was deeply ingrained. 

No doubt overdrawn is the picture which Hebert Apthe- 
ker paints of slave militancy during this war. Aptheker, like 
his fellow Marxist W. E. B, DuBois, is high in praise of the 
militant role of the slave."' Although there is some trtith in 
this picture, it failsi to take into account the obvious fact that 
had the more than three million slaves been very militant, the 
Confederacy could not possibly have fought its northern foe 
for four years. In the end it was northern industry, man- 
power, and the blockade which brought the South to its knees, 
not slave militancy. It is quite easy to go to the extreme in the 
controversy which has raged over slave militancy and docility. 
Doubtless the truth about slave behavior lies somewhere be- 
tween the extreme painted by southern apologists for the in- 
stitution, and such attackers of these apologists as Aptheker 


and DuBois. DuBois and Aptheker arc together on their effort 
to show a comnionahty of interest, against a common northern 
capitalist and southern planter foe, between southern Negroes 
and poor whites both during the war and the Reconstruction 

Many white Americans were prone to term this a "nigger 
war," and to turn their backs on the call to arms. W^ell known 
is the manner in which this attitude caused Andrew Johnson 
to become the only Southern senator who remained loyal to 
the Union, and how this sentiment produced the infamous 
"Draft Riots" which gripped New York and other areas dur- 
ing July 1863. The Afro-American accepted the idea whole- 
heartedly and unreluctantly that in many respects this was 
indeed his war. Individual leaders pointed out repeatedly that 
the stakes were emancipation and citizenship, and that the 
race should not play a passive role in the realizing of these 
ends. Colored volunteers to the Union cause came in such large 
proportion and so rapidly that the Union found great difficulty 
in shaping policy and machinery to handle them. 

Black abolitionists now realized that their old program of 
speech-making and propaganda was completely outmoded, and 
that the needs of the hour were: (1) to get the federal gov- 
ernment to accept colored troops, and (2) to recruit as many 
Afro-Americans into military service as possible. 

The outbreak of Civil War found the Negroes eager to 
fight. "Well-known is the fact that their offers to fight were not 
accepted until mid- 1862. Military necessity may be listed as 
a prime factor which moved the federal government to enlist 
colored troops. In demanding the right to fight Negroes gave 
numerous reasons why they should volunteer. Many pointed 
out that it would be unmanly to acquire, and the race would 
not value as much, freedom won solely through the efforts of 
others; that being natives of the South, they knew the terrain 
and the enemy well and could thereby greatly aid the northern 
cause; that since they had more at stake than northern whites, 
Afro-Americans would probably make the better soldiers. 
Too, there is the likelihood that theyf wanted to be directly in 
the fray also because they wanted to square an account with 
the slave holders — in brief, the revenge motive. 


The race saw in the hot war. what it had seen in the 1830- 
1860 cold war between North and South. This was to the 
Afro-American clearly a struggle of Liberty versus Despotism. 
In mid-twentieth century parlance, the North was the Free 
\f'orld, representative of the eternal struggle between right and 
wrong, civilization versus barbarism, God against the devil. As 
Dr. John S. Rock said: 'Tt seems to me that a blind man can 
see that the present war is an effort to nationalize, perpetuate 
and extend slavery in this country. In short, slavery is the 
cause of the war itself."'^ In the face of persistent claims to 
the contrary by post-Civil War southerners and a number of 
historical scholars, the freedman persistently has maintained 
that slavery was the basic cause of the Civil War. Generally, 
Afro-Americans have adhered to the position of President 
Lincoln and the United States Supreme Court that during 
1861-186)' the South was in rebellion against federal authority. 
The Negro has not recognized the right of any state to secede 
from the Union, or effectively to thwart federal power through 
such devices as secession, nullification, or interposition. 

Most colored Americans have held the view that slavery 
was the almost sole cause of the Civil War, R. R. Moton held 
this view."" In a congressional speech in defense of the Civil 
Rights bill, James T. Rapier called the war "an appeal . . . 
from the forum to the sword, the highest tribunal known to 
man," and said that the war decided "that national rights are 
paramount to state-rights, and that liberty and equality before 
the law should be coextensive with the jurisdiction of the stars 
and stripes.""' The Civil Rights bill, he declared, was "simply 
to give practical effect to that decision." Frederick Douglass 

The case presented in the present war, and the light 
in which every colored man is bound to view it, may 
be stated thus. There are two governments struggling 
now for the possession of and endeavoring to bear rule 
over the United States . . . One has its capital in 
Richmond, and is represented by Mr. Jefferson Davis, 
and the other has its capitol at Washington, and is 
represented by honest Old Abe. . . . Now the ques- 
tion for every colored man is, or ought to be, what 
attitude is assumed by these respective governments, 


and armies toward the rights and Hberties of the 
colored race in this country; which is for us, and 
which against us.''" 

Negroes had beheved in the Higher Law Doctrine long 
before Seward's famed utterances. In 183 8 James McCune 
Smith opined: 

Christians are governed by the laws peculiar to 
the commonwealth of Christ, and which are indepen- 
dent of mere human laws imposed by human com- 
munities; the citizens of the Church Catholic of the 
Redeemer may be spread through many climes and 
subject to various forms of political government, but 
no difference in clime, no diversity in form of politi- 
cal creed can break the links which makes them fel- 
low-citizens in Christ, or free them from obedience 
to the precepts of the Saviour."'^ 

In 1841, Charles Lenox Remond had said: 

Very many good and well intentioned men in 
American would have lent us their assistance, long 
ago, were it not for this threat, that the slaveholders 
would dissolve tho American Union. Now, if in this 
assertion there was or could be one iota of truth — 
the smallest particle of rationality — I would grant 
that the objection should have some weight; but the 
thing is preposterous; beyond all parallel. Why, the 
very thought is absurdity. ... [in secession] would 
it be possible for the holders to retain their slaves 
greater in number than themselves? To whom should 
the slaveholders look for sympathy, cooperation, and 
support, in their endeavors to keep these) wretches in 
bondage? . . . believe me, the moment when the 
American Union is dissolved that instant the power 
of the slaveholder is prostrated in the dust."* 

Remond did not then believe that the South would ever carr)^ 
out its threat to secede. Again Frederick Douglass said: 

Jefferson Davis and his government make no 
secret as to the cause of this war, and they do not 
conceal the purpose of the war. That purpose is no- 
thing more or less than to make the slavery of the 
African race universal and perpetual on this conti- 
nent. It is not only evident from the history and 


logic of events, but the declared purpose of the 
atrocious war now being waged against this country. 
Some, indeed, have denied that slaver^^ has anything 
to do with the war, but the very slave men who do 
this affirm it in the same breath in which they denv 
it, for they tell you that the aboHtionists are the 
cause of the war. Now if the abolitionists are the 
cause of the war, they are the cause of it only be- 
cause they have sought the abolition of slavery. View 
it in any way you please, therefore, the rebels are 
fighting for the existence of slavery." 

James T. Rapier said that secession was simply "following 
to its legitimate conclusion the doctrine of state-rights (which 
of itself is secession)." ■" 

Negroes generally have taken Lincoln's position that this 
was a rebellion. ' Harvard Law graduate William H. Lewis 
stated in 1913 that the Civil War was the "culmination of a 
moral revolution, such as the world has never seen. . . . Thirty 
years of fierce agitation and fierce politics made an appeal to 
arms absolutely certain. "'' 

God's v/rath at the sinfulness of the planters, whose chief 
sin was slavehoiding, is the central cause which Afro-Ameri- 
cans have assigned to the Civil War. In support of their thesis, 
post-Civil War Afro-American authors frequently have re- 
ferred to that part of Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural 
address which stated: 

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that 
this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away, 
but if God will that it continue till all the wealth 
piled up by the bondman's 250 years of unrequitted 
toil shall be sunk and till every drop of blood drawn 
with a lash shall be paid with another drawn with a 
sword, as was said . . . 'The judgements of the Lord 
are true and righteous altogether,"® 
M. C. B. Mason blamed the war on "the slave oligarchy being 
crazed by its power." Of the sectional compromises. Mason 
declared that all of them had been "broken by the South and 
her friends," with the Kansas-Nebraska Act as the final burden 
which changed the North's mood from "quiescent" to "ag- 
gressive."^' Speaking at Harvard University in 190 5 Roscoe 


Conkling Bruce said: "In the interest of social justice, national 
economy, free institutions, human nature itself, your heroes 
fought to set my people free."^^ A few years later Archibald 
Grimke declared: 

As in Egypt more than three thousand years 
ago, the Eternal spoke to the master-race at diverse 
times and with diverse signs, saying, 'let m^y people 
go,' so he spoke to the master-race in this land through 
divers omens and events, saying likewise, 'let my peo- 
ple go.' Those with ears to hear might have heard 
that voice in the Hartford Convention and the causes 
which led to its call; in the successive sectional con- 
flicts over Missouri, the Tariff, and Texas; in the 
storm winds of the Mexican Wars, as in the wild 
uproar which followed the annexation of New Na- 
tional territory at its close; in the political rage and 
explosions of 18 50 and 18 54, and in the fierce patter 
of blood-drops over Kansas. They might have surely 
heard that commanding voice from the appointed lips 
of holy men and prophets, from the mouth of Gar- 
rison and Sumner, and Phillips, and Douglass, from 
the sacred gallows John Brown heard and repeated it 
while his soul went marching on from city to city, 
and state to state. ^' 

Following the Emancipation Proclamation and acceptance 
of colored troops by the Federal government, Frederick Doug- 
lass wrote an editorial in the North Star, March 3, 1863, en- 
titled, "Men of Color, To Arms!" "The tide is at its flood th.^t 
leads on to fortune," he exclaimed: "From East to West, from 
North and South, the sky is written all over 'Now or Never!' 
Liberty won by white men would lose half its luster! Who 
would be free themselves must strike the blow!" Through pen 
and forum he and other leaders hammered away at this theme. 
The colored soldier fought not only for the emancipation 
of his race and to strike down the slave-holder. He fought also 
because he felt within his heart that right, justice, Christianity, 
and the interest of the nation-at-largc lay on the side of the 
Union. The letters and speeches produced by A fro- Americans 
during the conflict are filled with expressions which reveal this 
larger motivation. ^'^ As the instigators of the 1864 National 


Negro Convention said: "The nation and the age have adjudged 
that the extinction of slavery is necessary to the preservation 
of hberty and repubHcanism, and that the existence of the 
Government itself is contingent upon the total overthrow of 
the slaveholders' oligarchy and the annihilation of the despot- 
ism which is inseparably connected with it.'"'' Over 200,000 
Negroes enlisted in the Union Army and 30,000 in the Navy, 
and about 2 5 0,000 more served in various capacities directly 
related to the military actions. 

In a speech in defense of the Civil Rights bill, Congress- 
man James T. Rapier of Alabama described the atmosphere in 
which the federal government made its decision to use Negro 
troops. Rapier declared that it was only when white enlistments 
were inadequate and disease and battle casualties were deci- 
mating the ranks of the Union army, and — 

when grave doubt as to the success of the Union arms 
had seized upon the minds of som.e of the most san- 
guine friends of the government; when strong men 
took counsel of their fears; when those who had all 
their lives received the fostering care of the nation 
were hesitating as to their duty in that trying hour, 
and others questioning if it were not better to allow 
the star of this Republic to go down and thus be 
blotted out from the great map of nations than to 
continue the bloodshed; when gloom and despair 
were widespread; when the last ray of hope had 
nearlv sunk below our political horizon, how the 
Negro then came forward and offered himself as a 
sacrifice in the place of the nation, made bare his 
breast to the steel, and in it received the thrust of the 
bayonets that were aimed at the life of the nation.*^ 

Archibald Grimke said: "Not until bleeding at every pore, 
sickened at the loss of its sordid dollar, and in despair at the 
threatened destruction of that to which it ascribed, as to the 
almighty, all cf its sectional progress, prosperity and power 
viz.; the dear Union, did the North turn for help to the Negro, 
whom it had despised and wronged, and whom it even then, 
in its heart of hearts, despised and intended, upon occasion, to 
wron^ anew."^° 


Douglass urged free Negroes to forget that "two years 
ago, . . . McClellan shamelessly gave out that in a war be- 
tween loyal slaves and disloyal masters he would take the side 
of the masters against the slaves," that McClellan then had 
"openly proclaimed his purpose to put down slave insurrec- 
tions with an iron hand," and similar indignities. Douglass 

I do not ask you about the dead past. I bring you to 
the living present. Events more mighty than men, 
eternal Providence, all-wise and all-controlling, have 
placed us in new relations to the government and the 
government to us. What that government is to us 
today, and what it will be tomorrow is made evident 
by a very few facts. . . . Slavery in the District of 
Columbia is abolished forever; slavery in all the ter- 
ritories of the United States is abolished forever; the 
foreign slave trade ... is rendered impossible: 
slavery in ten states of the Union is abolished forever; 
slaverv in the five remaining states is as certain to 
follow the same fate as the night is to follow the day. 
The independence of Haiti is recognized.^' 
In his enthusiasm and zeal, Douglass made at least one state- 
ment which we now know was an exaggeration. "Once let the 
black man get upon his person the brass letter U. S.; let him 
get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder, and 
bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on the earth or 
under the earth which can deny that he has earned the right 
of citizenship in the United States. "^^ At another point, Doug- 
lass averred: 

I hold that if the government of the United States 
offered nothing more, as an inducement to colored 
men to enlist, than bare subsistence and arms, consid- 
ering the moral effect of compliance upon ourselves, 
it would be the wisest and best thing for us to enlist. 
There is something ennobling in the possession of 
arms, and we of all other people in the world stand 
in need of their ennobling influence.^'' 
In his "Men of Color, To Arms!" Douglass had declared: 
The day dawns; the morning star is bright upon 
the horizon! The iron gate of our prison stands half 
open. One gallant rush from the North will fling it 


wide open, while four millions of our brothers and 
sisters shall march out into liberty. The chance is now 
given to end in a day the bondage of centuries and 
to rise in one bound from social degradation to the 
place of common equality with all other varieties of 
men. Remember Denmark Vesey . . .; remember 
Nathaniel Turner . . .; remember Shields Green and 
Copeland, who followed noble John Brown, and fell 
as glorious martyrs for the cause of the slave . . . 
This is our golden opportunity.^" 

Negro soldiers saw action in almost every battle of the 
war, a number totaling over 2 50 battles in all. Over 3 8,000 
Negro soldiers lost their lives during the war. Approximately 
one-half of the Negroes who fought in the Union Army came 
from the seceded states. Throughout the war Negro soldiers 
complained that they were being required to do too much 
fatigue duty and too little actual lighting. 

During the war Negroes were sometimes treated badly in 
Northern ccm.munities because whites there blamed the race 
for being the cause of the war which had taken their sons and 
husbands away to face possibly being maimed or killed. Also, 
northern workers feared the freedman's job competition after 
the war. That during the war Negroes were used in some places 
as strike breakers added to the animosity. 

Like almost all soldiers, the black troops revealed both 
bravery and cowardice, with the former predominant. Indeed, 
some had entered the service very much against their will."^ 
In neither the North or South was there unanimity among 
Negroes regarding the necessity for their taking up arms.^" 
Doubtless some of the reluctance to nght may be attributed 
to such things as the lack of claritv about federal war aims 
which long existed, Negro troops being often assigned to oner- 
ous work details, and for a time being paid less than white 
soldiers. The reluctance which some persons showed toward 
lighting can be niorc than matched by the zeal of the manv 
who were eager to risk their all in defense of freedom. Many 
competent persons have testified to this zeal, and perhaps there 
is significance in the fact that of the total number of Negro 
troops at least seventy per cent were slaves or former slaves 
when they took up arms. 


One veteran said: ''Heap of slaves was afraid to go to the 
army,"^" Another ex-slave who served reported: 

I sure wished lots of times I never run off from the 
plantation. I begs the General not to send me on any 
more battles, and he says I's the coward and sym- 
pathizes with the South. But I tells him I just couldn't 
stand to see all them men laying there dying and 
hollering and begging for help and a drink of water 
and blood everywhere you looks. Killing hogs back 
on the plantation didn't bother me none, but this am 
different. "* 
One ex- slave reported of his fellow sufferers — "They could en- 
list in the Union army and get good wages, more food than 
they ever had, and have all the little gals waving at 'em when 
they passed. Them blue uniforms was a nice change, too.'"*' 
Bell I. Wiley has stated that in such matters' as rank and work 
assigned the black troops "were dealt with in a manner more 
becoming to slaves than to frecdmen."'" Negroes showed a 
childish zeal for uniforms and guns and for marching and 
drilling to drums and music. The impact of their cultural at- 
tainments is seen in the fact that, despite their faults, they were 
generally better behaved than the white troops, and their 
favorite marching songs were religious.'" 

Early during the Civil War a number of free Negroes 
volunteered for military service with the Confederacy, and 
entire companies of them were formed in Richmond and New 
Orleans. The labor shortage in the South led most states by 
1862 to vote for impressment of slaves into military service as 
laborers, and in 1863 the Confederate Congress passed a general 
impressment law, which not only increased the number of 
runways among slaves but heightened the Negro's sense of 

Many of the slaves helped to carry the South's burdens 
during the war, laboring with the Confederate soldiers or at 
the plantation house and in the fields. Many of them shared 
the sorrow which southern plantations felt when the news 
came that "Ole Marster" or one of his sons had fallen in battle. 
They felt the physical deprivations which the South came to 
know, and though freedom lifted their hearts and gave them a 
new conception of themselves, they shared with white south- 


erners the want and sufifering of the reconstruction years. Al- 
though bondage had inured many of them to hardships, none- 
theless they suffered and worked with the white South through 
the long dark years of want and misery on which the new 
South was built. 

Together with the whites on the home front during the 
war slaves shared the hardships caused by the scarcity of food- 
stuffs, clothing, and other items. Yet the bondsmen were hap- 
pier probably because now the deprivation was not theirs alone, 
and because of the hope which charged the air. Too, the lack 
of white males around the plantations meant a greater oppor- 
tunity to slacken work and some freedom from lashings. Most 
slaves felt that their freedom was the central issue in the war, 
and that God would not allow Lincoln and his forces to lose. 

One proof that Negroes were not "perfectly happy" in 
bondage is that, during the war, whenever federal troops came 
near, soon almost all of the slaves in the vicinity had ab- 
sconded.'" Similarly, while the slaves did not go on a sit-down 
strike as W. E. B. DuBois contends in Black Keconstrnction,^'^ 
the lack of adequate supervision did cause their work efficiency 
to fall off noticeably. Some worked only when they felt like 
it and arrogance, insolence and assaults on whites saw a sharp 
increase. Bell Wiley reports that ''one of the chief objections 
offered by planters in the interior to sending their slaves to 
work on fortifications was that such slaves brought dangerous 
ideas back to the plantations, creating dissatisfaction and un- 
rest.""'' After reviewing the literature of this period Wiley came 
to a similar conclusion as that reached by Herbert Aptheker 
for the pre- 1861 period. "A surv'ey of the evidence," Wiley 
states, "makes inescapable the conclusion that disorder and 
unruliness on the part of the Negroes were far more common 
than post war commentators have usually admitted."'^ 

Personal attachment to whites was a strong factor in slave 
behavior during the war. Field hands gave the most trouble 
and absconded most. Of the class of body ser^^ants. Bell Wiley 
states: "No class of slaves had as good opportunities for de- 
sertion and disloyalty as the body servants but none was more 
faithful.""" On slaves serving as "soldiers" for southern whites 
one Kentucky slave reported of his father — "His young master 


was to go to war, but he didn't want to go so they put my 
father in his place.""" White children of planters sometimes 
loved their black mammy so much that they offered to run 
away to the Yankees with the mammy rather than let her leave 

During the war slaves were employed by the Confederacy 
as teamsters, cooks, body servants, railroad and dock workers, 
medical workers, for the erection of ground works and forts, 
in factories and mines of various types, and in other capacities. 
Evidence seems to indicate that, other than body servants, in 
preference to this military service, most bondsmen desired to 
remain in their old duties on the plantation where slave-life 
had taken a decided turn for the better, and they used many 
ingenius devices to avoid impressment as military laborers.'" 
One ex-slave said- — "When the war came on we stayed, scared 
— what else could we do?" Another ex-slave said of her master 
that "after war come up he got just as good.""*^ 

When federal troops reached them, many slaves were over- 
come with joy. To some bondsmen these troops were God's 
angels sent to effect their long promised deliverance, and in 
many instances "massa Linkum" was the God. One ex-slave 
reported: "I tell you, honey, some of the colored people sure 
been speak praise to them yankees. I don't know how come, 
but they never know no better. I say, they know and they 
never know. One old man been riding one of these stick horses 
and he been so glad, he say, 'thank God! Thankj God!""' An- 
other reported on the coming of the soldiers and freedom: 

Everybody went wild. We all felt like heroes, and 
nobody had made us that way but ourselves. We was 
free. Just like that, we was free. It didn't seem to 
make the whites mad, either. They went right on 
giving us food just the same. Nobody took our homes 
away, but right off colored folks started on the move. 
They seemed to want to get closer to freedom, so 
they'd know what it was — like it was a place or a 

Slaves coined many songs during the war. One song had 
the words: "Look up the road and seen the cloud arising; And 
look like we're gonna have a storm, Oh, no, you're mistaken; 


It is only the darkies' bayonets and buttons on uniform." An- 
other went: "Old Master's gone away and the darkies stayed at 
home; Must be now that the kingdom's come and the year for 
jubilee." "Old Master, he drilled so hard they called him cap- 
tain; He got so dreadful tanned he said he's going down yonder 
amongst the Yankees to pass for a counterbrand." And: 

Darkies, did you see old master 

with the mustache on his face? 

Left here early soon this morning 

Says he's going for to leave this place. °® 


Oh! fader Abraham, 

Go down into dixie's land; 

Tell Jeff Davis 

To let my people go, 

Down in the house of bondage 

Dey have watched and waited long, 

De oppressor's heel is heavy 

De oppressor's arm is strong. '° 

Federal troops in the South found some slaves willing spies and 
helpers in their cause. Yet, many slaves were afraid of the blue- 
coated strangers from the North, a fear induced in part by 
southern whites who told the bondsmen that Yankees had 
horns, only one eye, and were heartless fiends. Too, the bonds- 
men sometimes resented the manner in which northern troops 
entered plantations and insulted master and mistress while tak- 
ing off horses, foodstuffs, and other valuables. 

Whenever Yankee troops got close to their plantations 
many masters moved their slaves to places of safety. Some 
slaves were thus moved several times and although these trips 
involved considerable hardships, for the first time, perhaps, 
slaves now saw their masters frightened and running. Together 
with much heroism and sacrifice, bondsmen also saw southern 
white males of military age hiding or feigning illness in order 
to avoid risking life and limb in battle. These things must have 
contrbuted to a conviction that members of the master class 
were scarcely much more human than their human chattel.'^ 


TJjc Spanish American War 
With the imminence of war between the United States and 
Spain which existed in March, 1898, the American Negro, for 
the first time since emancipation, was faced with the possibihty 
of having to fight and die to defend a nation in which his citi- 
zenship rights were often flagrantly violated. As has been, cus- 
tomary with him, however, there was no doubt of what he 
should do when the national defense was at stake. An editorial 
in the Cleveland Gazette of March 26, 1898 stated: "This is 
our opportunity. Let us not stand upon the asking, but show 
ourselves ready to maintain intact the government from which 
we derive our hopes for life, liberty and happiness." Represen- 
tative J. T. Walls of Florida had early made an effort to get 
the United States government to grant the revolting Cubans 
belligerent rights. He was very sympathetic toward the revolt 
and argued that in Cuba a half inilJion Negroes were still 
virtually enslaved by Spain.'" Representative George H. White 
of North Carolina, only member of his race in Congress at the 
time, was an avid supporter of the war. Still some Negroes, as 
did some white American supporters of such an anti-imperialist 
symbol as the Teller Amendment, had misgivings about the 
purpose and need for the Spanish- American War. One wrote 
of what "a glorious dilemma that will be for the Cuban Negro, 
to usher him into the condition of the American Negro, '"^ 
while another viewed American participation in the Cuban 
revolt as a reactionary counter-crusade against the "socialistic 
aspects" of the revolution. This writer, too, deplored the migra- 
tion of this country's white supremacy doctrine and practice 
to the colored Cubans which he saw coming as a result of the 
war.'^ The New York Tribune of July 17, 1899 carried a re- 
port which stated that: "During the war with Spain a propor- 
tion of . . . colored people of New England and of some of 
the Middle and Southwestern States were ready to make an 
armed revolt against the United States and to espouse the cause 
of Spain." This report went on to state that the same sympathy 
of colored Americans existed where the then current war to 
suppress the Philippines was concerned. "Were it possible to 
render the fighting Fillipinos armed assistance," said this com- 
mentary on the Negro's attitude, "it would be done." It is just 


as obvious that this observer was exaggerating as it is obvious 
that colored Americans did have some misgivings about the 
nation's designs on Cuba and the PhiHppines. On this, Lewis 
H. Douglass, son of the celebrated abolitionist, wrote: 

It is a sorry, though true, fact that whatever this 
government controls, injustice to dark race^ prevails. 
The people of Cuba, Porto Rico, Hawaii and Manila 
know it well as do the wronged Indian and outraged 
black man in the United States. 

It is hypocrisy of the most sickening kind to try 
to make us believe that the killing of Filippinos is 
for the purpose of good government and to give pro- 
tection to life and liberty and the pursuit of happi- 
ness. ' "^ 

Afro- Americans took great pride in the fighting and other 
service of the four Negro regiments which saw action in the 
Spanish- American War. These, the Twenty- fourth and Twenty- 
fifth Infantry Regiments, and the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry 
units, long remained strong sources of pride to Afro-Ameri- 
cans* At the onset of the war, the Civil War drama had been 
reinacted in many particulars, for again colored Americans 
had to wage a vigorous campaign to get the Government and 
the army to accept them as soldiers and as officers. Slowly the 
prejudice against arming them, and the argument that they 
lacked the native ability and courage to fight were over-come 
enough to get the above-mentioned regiments activated. 

Only a few colored troops saw actual combat action in 
this very brief war, but their bravery and gallantry received 
high praises. There were those in both races who claimed that 
the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry units saved the famed Rough 
Riders from certain defeat at Las Guasimas. Even Theodore 
Roosevelt voiced high praise for these units. However, in the 
April, 1899 issue of Scribner's Magazine Roosevelt declared 
that without white officers, Negroes were poor soldiers. This 
remark angered many persons. 

At the beginning of his term, President McKinley had 
voiced the sentiment of most Presidents of the 1876-1914 
period. McKinley stated: 


It will be my constant aim to do nothing, and 
permit nothing to be done, that will arrest or disturb 
this growing sentiment of unity and cooperation [be- 
tween the sections], this revival of esteem and affilia- 
tion which now animates so many thousands in both 
the old antagonistic sections, but I shall cheerfully 
do everything possible to promote and increase it.'*" 

Massachusetts Negroes spoke out in petition in 1899 on Mc- 
Kinley's failure to take a stand in defense of the rights of 
colored Americans." This petition also condemned the imperi- 
alistic policies of the administration. Colored Americans no- 
where were impressed by the humanitarian preachments which 
were used to gloss over, excuse, and inspire the wave of late 
nineteenth century imperialism. Kipling's plea that Occidental's 
were merely taking up "the white man's burden" was, to the 
colored American, but another of the white man's rationaliza- 
tions. Time and again the Negro warned white America of the 
adage that charity begins at home, and that within the United 
States the colored man, under the guise of citizenship, was the 
object of a shocking exploitation which could match colonial 
exploitation in any part of the globe. 

Despite the general feeling that President McKinley was 
heartless where the plight of the race was concerned, during 
1899 and 1900 he appointed twice as many Negroes to federal 
offices as any of his predecessors had done. Still, coming before 
the age of all-out total war, the brief Spanish-American conflict 
failed to open new and broad economic, political, and social 
opportunities for the Negro such as those which World Wars 
I and II wrought. 

World War I 
Like the Spanish American war and the later World War 
II, World War I sharply focused attention on the plight of 
colored colonials, and quickened the desire for freedom and a 
better material life in India, the Indies, Africa, and the; world 
over. Thus, more Americans, brown and white, came to view 
the native race problem as part and parcel of an international 
one. As the Afro-American saw millions of humankind else- 
where segregated, discriminated against, and lynched, he felt less 


lonely in his degradation and more hopeful for an early end 
to practice of the white-supremacy doctrine. One reason why 
Negroes have fought for the exemplification of the highest 
ideals of Americanism is this realization that their destinies 
were "interwoven and linked with those of the whole American 
people." Thus slavery was not bad for the black man alone, 
but was a degradation and a threat to the welfare of the entire 
nation. The same attitude has been taken toward post-bellum 
discrimination and segregation. Thus it is that, despite these 
short-comings in democracy, the colored American always has 
answered readily the call to colors when the nation was im- 
periled. He has agreed with Lincoln that this nation is "the last 
best hope of mankind." But casting these practical considera- 
tions aside, there is abundant evidence that the Negro readily 
lights for this country because he loves it. Tc him, "be it ever 
so humble, there's no place like home," has had special signifi- 
cance. The 1864 National Negro Convention, meeting at Syra- 
cuse, New York had said to the Southern white man: "We 
would address you — not as Rebels and enemies, but as friends 
and fellow countrymen who desire to dwell among you in 
peace, and whose destinies are interwoven and linked with those 
of the whole American people, and hence must be fulfilled in 
this country . . . We ask for no special privileges, or peculiar 
favors, we ask only for even-handed justice."'^ 

The Cbristiciii Index, official organ of the C. M. E. Church, 
stated in its issue of March 19, 1908, that the Negro wanted 
"justice, . . . equality, . . . freedom of action and opportun- 
ity . . ., North and South alike." It also reiterated a main thesis 
of colored Americans where the ballot is concerned. "A labor 
class in an industrial Republic like ours," it was asserted, "which 
is deprived of the ballot, is at the mercy of those that possess 
it." Race prejudice, mob violence, and the convict lease system, 
were herein attacked. 

How much of the Afro-American's pacifist leaning has 
been stimulated by the fact that until recently the United 
States Army generally has treated him as though he was not 
wanted in the service is a debatable point. Even in time of war, 
generally Negroes were excluded from high offices and the 
more desirable jobs, and positions and the best colored regi- 


ments, such as the Tenth Cavalry and the Twenty-fourth In- 
fantry were often given "insulting assignments." 

Of Negroes and World War I, Mordecai Johnson observed: 
'Tor the first time since emancipation, they found themselves 
comparatively free to sell their labor on the open market for 
a living wage, found themselves launched on a great world 
enterprise with a chance to vote in a real and decisive way, and, 
best of all, in the heat of the struggle they found themselves 
bound with other Americans in the spiritual fellowship of a 
common cause. "^" Of the causes of the war Francis J. Grimke 

So far as making the world safe for white su- 
premacy, there is no difference, or very little, between 
the Central Powers and the Allies. . . . this war 
would never have been brought on had Germany been 
content with the status quo — with the supremacy of 
the white races over all the darker and weaker race. 
But Germany got into her head the idea of a super- 
man, and of super nation, and the super-man and 
nation, the niilitary Caste in Germany, felt itself to 
be the German nation; and, that it! was the preroga- 
tive, the divinely appointed prerogative, of this nation 
of super-men not only to be supreme over all darker 
and weaker races, but also over all the other white 
races as well. And there is where the rub came, 
where the trouble began, and that is why the war 
came on.'^ 

Of the Negro's service, Archibald Grimke observed: "The 
condition of the Negro was at its worse and his outlook in 
America at its darkest when the Government declared war 
against Germany. Then was revived the Republic's program 
of false promises and hypocritical professions in order to bring 
this black man with his brawn and brains, with his horny hands 
and lion heart, with his unquenchable loyalty and enthusiasm 
to its aid."'*' 

The Afro-American has viewed his participation in all of 
this nation's wars not only as a privilege and an opportunity 
to serve in the cause of democracy and human freedom, but as 
an opportunity to vindicate and further his own claims to the 
right of equality of treatment. During the war Francis J. 


Grimke uttered the traditional attitude of Negroes toward 
their pecuhar grievances and war emergencies. "The time to 
voice our dissatisfaction is now while the war is going on; 
while we are going across the sea to lay our lives down in order 
to make the world safe for democracy," Grimke declared. Wil- 
liam Pickens, said: 

For real democracy the American Negro will live and 
die. His loyalty is always above suspicion, but his 
extraordinary spirit in the present war is born of his 
faith that on the side of his country and her allies 
is the best hope for such democracy. And he welcomes, 
too, the opportunity to lift the 'Negro question' out of 
the narrow confines of the Southern United States 
and make it a world question. Like many other ques- 
tions our domestic race question, instead of being 
settled by Mississippi and South Carolina, will now 
seek its settlement largely on the battlefields of 

At first W. E. B. DuBois and others opposed the establish- 
ment of a separate officer training school at Des Moines, Iowa 
for Negroes, but after a brief period of opposition DuBois 
supported the effort and before the war ended he was to con- 
sider the acceptance of a commission. 

Approximately 3 50,000 Negro soldiers served in World 
War I, of whom 100,000 saw service overseas. Insults directed 
at colored troops at camps in the South were particularly irri- 
tating to soldiers from northern cities, and when white and 
colored Americans were sent to France, the "race problem" 
was evident both in bad relations aboard ship and in France. 
Negro soldiers won hundreds of medals and citations for 
their service in the war. That many of these citations were won 
by troops commanded under fire by Negro officers was con- 
sidered ammunition against the then often-heard argument 
that Negroes would fight well only if commanded by white 
officers. In late 1917, the United States Supreme Court again 
lifted the Negro's faith in American democracy when it de- 
clared the unconstitutionality of laws providing for residential 

On October 5, 1917 the federal government took a step, 
similar to one which it was to repeat during World War II. 


On that date it appointed the first advisor on Negro aflFairs in 
the person of Emmett J. Scott, long-time secretary to Booker 
T. W^ashington. Not only was Scott's appointment a source of 
pride to the race, but he served as a sort of safety-valve 
through which complaints and grievances could be channeled 
during the war. The Federal Council of Churches took a simi- 
lar step and set up a committee on the welfare of Negro troops 
which was composed of distinguished colored leaders. 

A month previous to the appointment of Scott, the 1906 
Brownsville Riot seemed to be repeated, this time with white 
citizens of Houston, Texas. Here race friction led to a blood- 
letting in which soldiers of the 24th Infantry Regiment killed 
seventeen white persons. Many Afro- Americans felt that the 
thirteen bronze soldiers who were hanged and the forty-one 
given life sentences as a result of the Houston riot did not 
receive fair trials and justice. Repeated incidents of racial strife 
kept Emmett Scott and the War Department quite busy as they 
sought to keep the nation's troubled racial waters from further 
impeding the war effort. As they were later to be during World 
War II, Negroes were enthusiastic in their purchase of govern- 
ment bonds. 

During the War Afro-Americans were not allowed to 
serve in the Marine Corps and the Navy, and the Army often 
restricted them to menial jobs. Colored troops generally have 
desired that officers immediately over them should be of their 
own race. Perhaps no better statement of the rationale behind 
this desire can be found than that given by an anonymous 
colored Sergeant during the Civil War, who wrote: 

We want black commissioned officers; and only 
because we want men we can understand and who can 
understand us. We wanC men whose hearts are truly 
loyal to the rights of man. We want men to be rep- 
resented in courts martial, where so many of us are 
liable to be tried and sentenced. We want to demon- 
strate ovir ability to rule, as we have demonstrated our 
willingness to obey. In short, we want simple justice.*'^ 

In the period immediately preceding World War I, Afro- 
Americans had been proud of the accomplishments of Col. 
Charles Young, the highest ranking Negro officer in the Army, 


but when war came they were equally disillusioned when Col. 
Young was not made a General. When he was retired by tha 
army for "reasons of health," many persons were convinced 
that the real reason for this retirement was to prevent promot- 
ing him to the next highest rank. 

The war period saw about one-half million Negroes mi- 
grate froin the South to the North, and the movement con- 
tinued at an amazing pace throughout the twenties. The num- 
ber of Afro-Americans who were residents of urban areas in- 
creased from 27.4 per cent of the total to 34.0 per cent be- 
tween 1910 and 1920. The shortage of labor in northern in- 
dustries served as a magnet to draw large numbers from the 
South. Indeed, these industries actively and consciously sought 
to pull this black labor, of which the section had a superfluity, 
into northern industries. 

Although considerable attention has been given to the 
impact of the 1900-1920 Negro migration from rural areas of 
the South to southern and northern cities, little has been said 
of the very important impact of this period's Negro migrations 
from the Carribean islands to the United States. The latter 
migration was to add greatly to the militant and egalitarian 
aspect of the northern Negro's outlook, and hence indirectly 
to the thought of the southern Negro. These island-bred Ne- 
groes had a longer tradition of protest and freedom, and they 
contributed to Afro-American thought and history such lumi- 
naries as A. A. Schomburg, Marcus Garvey, Claude McKay, 
and J. A. Rogers. 

The urban trek created a significantly large Negro eco- 
nomic market, as well as a large number of voters in several 
northern cities. Both conditions became levers which have been 
used to bring about greater integration of Negroes into the 
economical and political life of such states as Illinois, Pennsyl- 
vania, New Jersey, Ohio, and New York. The acute needs of 
the labor market, the need for large numbers of soldiers, and 
the widespread democratic ideology of the war period gave the 
Afro-American an enviable position from which to bargain 
for his rights, as both the South and North came to realize 
more fully his true significance to the nation, and this, in turn, 
brought about many advances for the race during the War, 


many of which were of a permanent character. Previous to this 
period the migration of Negroes had been largely to the West 
and within the South. For the new movement, however, Phila- 
delphia, Detroit, Chicago, and Harlem were the main points 
of attraction. Not only labor demands, but southern reaction- 
ism and terrorism following the late nineteenth and early 
twentieth century disfranchisement movement were also forces 
behind this exodus. The southern peasant was looking for better 
economic and cultural opportunities in a region where "a man 
was a man" regardless of race, creed, or color. '^^ He often en- 
tered the northern cities with exaggerated expectations and 
many were disillusioned at the existence of prejudice and squalor 
north of Mason-Dixon. Some of the disillusioned returned to 
the South, and some began to move from one northern city 
to another. Most settled down and eventually adjusted to the 
more dynamic and demanding environment. However, as the 
peasant of the South brought with him his labor, hopes, and 
ambitions, he also bequeathed to northern cities a lions share 
of their burdens of juvenile delinquency, illegitimacy, deserted 
wives and children, and intensified housing problems. 

On the migration and Negro leadership, Alain Locke 

It is the 'man farthest down' who is most active 
in getting up. One of the most characteristic symp- 
toms of this is the professional man, himself migrat- 
ing to recapture his constituency after a vain effort to 
maintain in some southern corner what for years 
back seemed an established living and clientele. The 
clergyman following his errant flock, the physician 
or lawyer trailing his clients, supply the true clues. 
In a real sense it is the rank and file who are leading, 
and the leaders who are following. A transformed and 
transforming psychology permeates the masses.^'^ 

The World War I exodus created a dilemma for labor 
unions. Apart from the Knights of Labor, and the Industrial 
Workers of the World, unions had tended to ignore the black 
laborer. In part this was because Negro labor was mostly of 
the unskilled variety, while the dominant A. F. of L. was built 
around skilled workers. The strikes of the 1920s saw some 


Negroes serving as strike breakers, and happy to work for 
lower wages than the unions were demanding, and the unions 
came to see that either they had to assimilate this large mass, 
or forever contend with its presence as a menace to labor's ef- 
forts to win higher wages and better working conditions. The 
former course would soon seem more attractive to the unions. 
R. R. Wright, eminent minister of the gospel and scholar, 
pointed out that there was considerable exaggeration of the 
extent to which Negroes participated in strikebreaking. Reasons 
given byj him as to why some participated in this practice in- 
clude: (1) many industries refused to hire colored persons ex- 
cept during times of labor troubles, and (2) attractively high 
wages were paid during strikes. Wright also criticised the 
unions, which suffered most from strikebreaking, for their 
policies of racial exclusiveness. The solution of strikebreaking 
he saw as the inclusion of colored workers as full members of 
the unions.^'' 

As World War I drew to a close, R. R. Moton, sent to 
France by the federal government to investigate rumors of 
malbehavior among colored troops, reported that he found 
practically no evidence of such. He angered these troops, how- 
ever, by advising them not to expect much change in America's 
pre-war treatment of their race when they returned home.^' 
Writing of the returning Negro soldiers, Raymond G. Dand- 
ridgc asked, "If you are still to be the herder's cattle?" and 
added — 

Democracy means more than empty letters. And 
liberty far more than partly free; yet both are void 
as long as men in fetters Are at eclipse with Op- 

Upon their return to the States in the Spring of 1919, Negro 
troops received a tremendous welcome throughout the North. 
Individual heroes the race had had before, but nothing to 
match the pride which was felt as they viewed directly or by 
news photograph the G. I.'s marching in New York City's 
great welcoming parades. 

The fear which some white Americans had that a newly 
belligerent and bellicose Negro would return from the battle 
fields of Europe was based more on the pronouncement of 


leaders at home than on any statements emanating from the 
soldiers abroad. In December, 1918 the Rev. Francis J. Grimke 
declared that the Negro troops in France had sniffed that 
country's "free, invigorating, liberty-loving air," and that when 
they returned home. 

There has got to be a change here. These boys 
will bring back that spirit with them, and it will have 
to be reckoned with. They know now what it is to 
be a man, and to be treated as a man. And that spirit 
will remain with them. It cannot be quenched. It 
will rather be sure to communicate itself to others. ^^ 

In May, 1919, W. E. B. DuBois wrote in the Crisis: "We return 
from the slavery of uniform which the world's madness de- 
manded us to don to the freedom of civil garb." And: 

We stand again to look America squarely in the 
face and call a spade a spade. The U. S. A. .. is 
yet a shameful land. It lynches ... It disfranchises 

its own citizens It encourages ignorance. . . . 

It steals from us We return. We return from 

fighting. We returni fighting. Make our way for De- 
mocracy! We saved it in France, and by the Great 
Jehovah, we will save it in the U. S. A., or know the 
reason why. 

Numerous A fro- Americans not only saw the deep and broad 
revolutionary nature of the struggle, but, with President 
Wilson, voiced hopes that this was a war to end all wars. In 
Dec-i-mber, 1919, the Rev. Francis J. Grimke declared: 

We can't begin, as yet, to realize fully what a 
terrible, awful tragedy of blood, of suffering, or sor- 
row and woe, through which the world has been 
Dassing within the past quadrennium! And now, at 
last, the whole horrible business is over, and over, we 
trust never again to be repeated until time shall be 
no more. One such war is enough for all the genera- 
tions that are to come.'"' 
Grmike stated that when President Wilson announced the end 
of hostilities, "in every possible way the people sought to ex- 
press their joy — white and black, . . . For once there was no 
division or separation, but all seemed to be moved by one 
common sentiment, as all ought to be, in all matters of public 


interest." Reminiscing on the war in his poern "The Heart of 
the World,," Joshua Henry Jones, Jr. declared: 

In the heart of the world is the call for love; 

White heart . , Red . . . Yellow . . and black. 
Love in weak people; love in the strong; 

Love that will banish all hatred and wrong. 

Archibald Grimke declared that because of the Negro veteran's 
experience in fighting for democracy on the battlefield, and 
because of the democratic treatment which he received in 
France, he had come home "not as he went but a new Negro.""'^ 
"The war over there is over; but the war over here for our 
manhood and citizenship rights is not over; and will not be 
over until they are all accorded to us as to other citizens of 
the Republic," another spokesman stated."" This same observer 
opined :i "After these four years of unparalleled suffering there 
is every reason to believe that there is going to be a great change 
in the policy of nations toward eaceh other. In their relations, 
one with the other, the principle of right, instead of might is 
going to have a larger place than it has ever had before."'' And: 
As a result of this great struggle, through which 
we have been passing, I believe, it is going to be 
better for all the darker and weaker races of the 
world. It is going to be better for them because in 
the dominant nations a higher sense of justice, of 
right, of fair play, is going to be developed; better 
for them because I believe there is going to be de- 
veloped a higher type of Christianity than at present 
prevails — then the miserable apology that now goes 
under that name.^'" 

One of the effects which World War I had on Afro- 
Americans v/as to make more of them impatient with the 
philosophy of gradualism which, for many, had been the order 
of the day in race relations since 1876. From an attitude of 
"make haste slowly" more persons were to be converted to the 
W. E. B. DuBois — Monroe Trotter philosophy of make haste 
hastily. Since in the war effort Afro-Americans had seared into 
their souls the powder burns of freedom's fight against auto- 
cracy and oppression, not even the riot of Ku Klux Klanism 
and other opposition which they encountered in the twenties 
could kill this impatience. 


One competent observer has recorded the manner in which 
some white southerners expected the colored veteran of World 
War I to return home ready to use violence to elevate his posi- 
tion in the social, economic, and political life of the South. 
In a number of communities white authorities increased the 
store of weapons and enlarged the police force in order to meet 
this expected outbreak of violence. But there was no such vio- 
lence emanating from the colored veteran, although he was 
sometimes beaten and murdered by overly anxious white au- 
thorities. Of the Negro, states this observer: 

Those who remained at home, both men and women, 
were more sensible than ever of their wrongs. But 
their indignation took the form of stern resolve to 
wield the moral weapons of their incongruous position 
to their utmost effect in securing what in the fervour 
of war was their admitted right as American Citizens, 
This was the attitude of the Negro then and is his at- 
titude now, and has been his attitude throughout his 
long contact with the white man in America."*' 

In his poem "The New Day," Fenton Johnson told American 

whites — 

For we have been with) thee in No man's Land; 
Through lake of fire and down to Hell itself; 
And now we ask of thee our liberty. 
Our freedom in the land of Stars and Stripes. 

With the rest of the South Negroes favored the prohibi- 
tion experiment. Blanche K. Bruce had sought a constitutional 
Amendment to this effect in the early years following the 
Civil War."' 

A wave of gangsterism, political immorality, anti-com- 
munism, lynchings, and race riots swept the nation during the 
twenties. Writing in 1928 R. R. Moton played down the re- 
vival of Klu Kluxism. "Tlie least important of its activities," 
he asserted, "were those directed against Negroes; and in turn 
Negroes were least disturbed over its existence.""^ In the light 
of the concern which more militant persons such as W. E. B. 
DuBois and Monroe Trotter had over this matter, it may be 
reasoned that Moton was not in this instance speaking for all 
members of the race. 


Throughout much of the South, the Hfe of the Negro was 
httle changed during the twenties. Cotton remained dominant. 
The 1942 National Survey of the Higher Echicafion of Negroes 
revealed that over one-half of the South's farmers, of both 
races, were still producing cotton as practically their sole crop 
and that their average annual cash income was pitifully low. 
The freedman's relationship to this agriculture was overwhelm- 
ingly in the status of share-cropper; his sustenance for the en- 
tire year usually coming from the white owner's credit. The 
cropper almost never got out of debt and his life was bare 
existence. His housing, clothing, and food, usually were 
wretched, and unless his children inigrated to southern or 
northern cities, their lives, too, were largely void of hope. Here 
indeed appeared to be the "timeless peasant" so aptly described 
by Oswald Spengler. From this wretched creature could come 
little hope for the future of the race, and as has been charac- 
teristic throughout history, the hope of the Afro-American lay 
in the cities and towns. To their already considerable black 
populations, a constant stream of the morel ambitious, curious, 
or more defeated contributed new numbers, and the urban 
Negro continued to move forward, to demand, to challenge, 
to grow. Asi no poet of his race had done before, in the twen- 
ties, Leon R. Harris would tell in verse the plight of both the 
black rural and urban proletariat from southern share-cropper 
to northern steel workers. Himself the product of an orphanage 
who sent himself to Berea College and Tuskegee Institute, 
Harris was well qualified by personal experience to put into 
musical words the story of these people. Yet, describing the 
South in the Post-World War II period, Carl Rowan came to 
the same conclusion in his volume entitled. South of Freedom 
that Richard Wright had reached several decades earlier. Be- 
cause the pattern of race relations was still pretty much what 
it had always been. Rowan concluded, he was leaving the South 
never to return again. 


Over five thousand Negroes have been lynched in the 
United States since emancipation. Between 1882 and 1900 
lynchings were almost weekly occurences. Many explanations 


have been given for the prevalence of such a practice, all of 
which poind up the fact that respect for law and order often 
has broken down in areas where the interests of the two races 
crossed. Booker T. Washington, R. R. Moton and some other 
persons became convinced that lynching was a major problem 
of the lower class Negro alone. In his novel Fire in the Flint, 
Walter White had the Caucasiam Roy Ewing express this sen- 
timent for the Negro Medic Kenneth Harper. "Lynching never 
bothers folks like you," Ewing averred. White knew, however, 
that no class was immune from this threat. 

The most popular reason given for lynchings has been 
that a Negro had raped a white woman. Frederick Douglass 
and other leaders early pointed out that in the South the enorm- 
ity of the crime of rape was usually dependent on who com- 
mitted the crime against whom. "For two hundred years or 
more," Douglass wrote, "white men have in the South com- 
mitted this offense against black women, and the fact has ex- 
cited little attention.""" He also pointed out that the South was 
not alone in committing lynchings. The greatest campaigner 
against this evil, however, was Ida Wells Barnett, editor, lec- 
turer, and ardent champion of justice who, because of her 
militancy, was forced to flee from Memphis, Tennessee in 1892. 
She served as Chairman of the Anti-lynching Bureau of the 
National Afro-American Council, and lectured throughout the 
United States and Europe against the evil. In 1898 she pi"oduced 
statistics to show that since the end of Radical Reconstruction 
on an average no more than twenty percent of Negroes lynched 
were charged with rape. 

To Afro-Americans a newly disturbing feature during the 
1920's was the increased boldness of the lynchers who now 
even used newspapers to advertise a lynching and welcome par- 
ticipants and onlookers to come view the show. Race riots, beat- 
ings, and killings and racial strife were so rampant during the 
first year when Negro troops returned home that James Wcldon 
Johnson labelled the middle of 1919 "The Red Summer." It 
has been estimated that over twenty-five race riots occurred 
the year of 1919, and no section east of the Plains region 
seemed to be spared. Mordecai W. Johnson called for the es- 
tablishment of a federal civil rights agency, and in 1921, many 



Negroes were hopeful that the NAACP backed Dyer Anti- 
Lynching bill would be enacted into law. In his poem "Broth- 
ers," Joshua Henry Jones, Jr., joined others in pointing to the 
paradox of lynching in a Christian land. After describing in 
verse the lynch-burning of a Negro whose charred remains 
still "hung pitifully o'er the swinging char," Claude McKay 
indicated the seeming lack of hope in it all — 

And little lads, lynchers that were to be, 

Danced round the dreadful thing in fiendish glee.^'° 
R. W. Logan has indicated that the riots and lynchings of the 
twenties might have gone further thi:n they did had whites 
been less afraid of Negro retaliation.'"' Certain it is that :n the 
face of these assaults, Negroes were not as submissive as they 
had been in the 1870's, "80's and 90's. One reason is that unlike 
the 1870's, during the twenties Northern Negroes, ever more 
militant, were main objects of attack. Perhaps some persons 
feared a general race war. The militant Claude McKay urged 
his race to fight back, meet violence with violence, for — 

If we must die, let it not be like hogs, 

Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot; 

If we must die, O let us nobly die. 

So that our precious blood may not be shed in vain. 

In the same vein, Lucius B. Watkins wrote: 

We would be peaceful! Father — but, when we must, 

Help us to thunder hard the blow that's just. 

We would be prayerful: Lord, when we have prayed, 

Let us arise courageous — unafraid! 

We would be manly — proving well our worth, 

Then would not cringe to any god on earth! 

World War II 

When Pearl Harbor was attacked on December /', 1941, 
the colored American felt the righteous indignation and deter- 
mination to defend the flag which swept the nation. While a 
few Marxist intellectuals saw in this war the doom of a capi- 
talist system in the West which, irrevocably bound by its own 
inner contradictions, was in the final stage of death by suicide, 
the masses of Negroes did not stop to spin such fine theories. 

Wilson Record has opined that well after Pearl Harbor, 
Afro-Americans had little enthusiasm for the War,^"" yet this 


cannot be construed to mean that they ever doubted on which 
side their loyalty lay. On this there never has been; any serious 
doubt, and where doubt existed, it was sometimes due to pessi- 
mism springing from World War I memories as to whether war 
would substantially better the plight of the race. Too, this 
doubt was in part the larger feeling of a nation which could no 
longer feel enthusiasm for such World War I slogans as "mak- 
ing the world safe for democracy" or a "war to end all wars." 
Doubt as to what the nation should have done has been well 
demonstrated by that fairly large body of scholars who contend 
that President Franklin D. Roosevelt connived through Pearl 
Harbor to push a reluctant nation into war.^'^'^ 

Once the Japanese blow was struck, and the nation openly 
committed itself, there is little doubt that the Negro was ardent 
and enthusiastic in his support of the war effort. When the 
German invasion of Russia brought about another jolting switch 
in the party line, even Negro Communists became arch "pa- 

As America geared itself for the struggle against totali- 
tarianism, Negroes demanded a larger share of jobs in the de- 
fense program. Early in 1940 Afro- Americans organized The 
Committee for Participation of Negroes in the National De- 
fense Program in order to push for greater acceptance of their 
brains and brawn in both civilian and military capacities. The 
Negro press. Urban League, NAACP, and other groups pushed 
relentlessly and successfully toward these ends. Among the 
encouraging victories which they won were: (1) Opening of a 
training center for Negro pilots at Tuskegee Institute; (2) 
acceptance of officers trained on a racially integrated basis; (3) 
acceptance by the Marine Corps, (4) greater and wider use by 
army and navy, ( 5 ) William H. Hastie appointed civilian aide 
to the Secretary of War, and Major Campbell C. Johnson ap- 
pointed Executive Assistant to the Director of Selective Service; 
and, (6) More Negroes appointed to West Point and Annapolis. 
In late 1940, A. Philip Randolph had laid plans for a 1941 
nationwide March-on-Washington to dramatize these and 
other demands. The embarrassed White House, unable to fore- 
stall the March by persuasion, yielded and issued Executive 
Order 8802, which launched the Fair Employment Practices 


Commission. Randolph had consciously steered clear of the 
Communist-dominated National Negro Congress, but whether 
he was indebted for the idea of the "March" to Communist 
handling of the Scottsboro case and their techniques in general, 
to "Coxey's Army," or similar precedents is an interesting 

World War II liberalism and increased political activity 
of the race; combined with other factors to more than double 
the number of Negro clerical workers between 1940 and 19 5 8, 
and during the war the number of skilled workers in industry 
doubled in what has been a veritable revolution in the pattern 
of Negro employment in the United States. During the war 
the PU/sburgh Courier carried on a "Double V" campaign 
which was aimed at winning the war on the foreign battlefield 
as well as winning the fight for racial equality at home. Most 
other Negro newspapers were equally arduous and enthusiastic 
in support of the war effort. 

On October 2 5, 1940, Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., became the 
first American Negro to hold the rank of General in the U. S. 
Army. That thil promotion came on the eve of a presidential 
election caused some persons to view it as a political move.^^'* 
The Negro soldier who stood up for his rights on the home- 
front became a sort of folk hero. "Well, if I am going to die 
for democracy," he said, "I might as well die for some of it 
down here in Georgia." Oft-repeated was the quotation: "Here 
lies a black man, killed by a yellow man, while fighting to save 
democracy for the white man."^"' 

In this war almost 1,200,000 Negroes saw active military 
service, of whom approximately 500,000 served overseas, and 
the stimulus to cultural growth and social protest was greater 
in this war than had been the case in any previous military 
effort. These results were due to such factors as the greater 
effort put forth by the federal government through such pro- 
grams as U.S.A.F.I., A.S.T.P., and The Army University Ex- 
tension Program. Also, during World War II Afro- Americans 
served in a world-wide theater, whereas during World War I 
service had been largely confined to France. The G. I. Bill which 
provided government sponsored educational opportunities was 
eagerly grasped by A fro- Americans, many of whom had never 


dreamed that they would be able to aftord the up-to-then 
luxury of graduate and professional training. Similarly, the 
G. I. home loan legislation encouraged and made it possible 
for many persons to become home owners who otherwise might 
not have done so. 

Soon after the United States entered the war the all-col- 
ored 99th Pursuit Squadron, headed by B. O. Davis, Jr., was 
created. Again the military policy was one of segregation, but 
the race was especially proud of its fighter pilots and of the all- 
Negro 92nd and 93rd Infantry Divisions. The 92nd was the 
only colored combat division in Europe, and its vicissitudes were 
followed closely by the home-front. When Senator Bilbo of 
Mississippi attacked the fighting prowess of the colored soldiers, 
criticism was directed at him from all quarters of Negro life. 
The race was proud, too, because President Roosevelt, while 
making no major governmental appointments among them, 
consulted Negro leaders on major policy matters which directly 
concerned the race's welfare. 

While most Afro-Americans dearly loved him and sup- 
ported Roosevelt's wartime bids for third and fourth terms, 
the Pittsburgh Courier was especially opposed to the fourth 
term. With bold headlines stating that "Power Leads to Tyran- 
ny," the September 30, 1944 issue carried a page-one protest 
against Roosevelt's bid for another term. "Whatever tends to 
destroy the two-party system in this country," the paper 
averred, "is dangerous for the Negro." By this date, the 
Courier was highly critical of the New Deal and claimed that 
many of Roosevelt's policies had led "directly to racial con- 
flict."^'^'" The paper advised its readers that a "straight Repub- 
lican ticket is the strongest and the most intelligent protest 
against racial discrimination and indignites."^"' Joining this 
protest against Roosevelt and the New Deal were the St. Louis 
American, Aiiisterdani Neivs, Afro - American, Philadelphia 
Tribune, and several other papers. One author hinted rather 
strongly that some elements of the Negro press had been 
"bought" by the Republicans.^"" Such criticism must be viewed, 
however, in the light of the fact that the nation later amended 
the federal Constitution to make it impossible for any future 
president to be elected to four consecutive terms. 


One result of the war was an increase in the number of 
inter-racial marriages and the lack of excitement which colored 
Americans in general showed toward them. Several such mar- 
riages were between tan G.I.'s or veterans and European, Japa- 
nese, or Hawaiian girls, while a number of others involved 
white and colored Americans. Only in the case of Walter White 
was any considerablq resentment shown toward these matches. 
His case was complicated because, as Executive Secretary of the 
NAACP, White occupied a sensitive position. He had come to 
be thought of as "Mr. Negro," and "Mr. Civil Rights," and 
his marriage seemed to many to be traitorous to the racial cause. 
In his post-war novel, Last of the Conquerors, William Gardner 
Smith championed social equality even to the point of inter- 
marriage.^"'' There is evidence that their overseas experiences 
during World War II and the Korean conflict left many Negro 
men with a heightened sensitivity to the characteristic inde- 
pendence of American females. Malcolm Cowley has observed 
that the G.I.'s portrayed in The Last of the Conquerors, voiced 
dissatisfaction with the self-centered American female. Cowley 
notes that this theme is "almost a constant refrain in almost all 
of the books by veterans of foreign service. "^^" 

During and following World War II, there was another 
exodus of Negroes to southern and northern cities, and approxi- 
mately 250,000 moved to Western cities during this period. 
As California, to which many moved, has been for sometime 
the fastest growing state in the Union, here again the race was 
following a national trend. 

Chapter XI 

In the history of nations, institutions, and racial or other 
groups there is usually one day the significance of which causes 
it to stand out in bold relief.^ To Americans, for example, In- 
dependence Day stands perhaps unrivalled in significance. Yet, 
because of the institution of slavery, for almost one hundred 
years this day had little significance to a very large segment 
of the nation's populace. Although some slaves were granted 
respite from labor on each Fourth of July, they could scarcely 
enter into the real joy and meaning of the day. Addressing a 
group of citizens of Rochester, New York for the Fourth of 
July celebration in 18)2, Frederick Douglass used the topic: 
"What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" To whites, he con- 
cluded: "This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may re- 
joice, I must mourn. To, drag a man in fetters into the grand 
illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in 
joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious 
irony."" Douglass stated that the character and conduct of the 
nation never looked blacker to him than on the Fourth of July. 
"America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly 
binds herself to be false to the future," he said. Slavery he 
called "The great sin and shame of America!" 

In the species of knowledge termed Afro-American history 
there is probably no day more significant than that on which 
the bondsman became aware of the elevation of his status from 
slave to free person. Today the words "slave" and, "free" lack 
ability to reveal the tremendous meaning and magnitude which 
this change meant to nineteenth century persons, black and 
white. North and South. Now the advantage of hindsight 
which lets us know that the cx-bondsman's new freedom was 
to be far from ideal also makes it unlikely that we can appre- 
ciate fully what this day originally meant. Thus it may be well 
in the mid-twentieth century to attempt to see this day through 
the eyes and hearts of some of the persons who were directly 



affected by the transformation. The reader doubtless will 
quickly perceive that for Afro- Americans in general there was 
no one day on which freedom came, and that for this reason, 
what we are discussing is more accurately "The Days that 
Freedom Came." 

Individual Negroes were to experience a great day of 
freedom when as fugitives they fled to the North from the 
South. It may be forev^er impossible to know fully whether 
these thousands of persons were more pushed into their daring 
escapes by the horrors of slavery or pulled by the bright promise 
of freedom. Evidence would seem to indicate that the former 
was the case. Despite the existence of compelling motivations 
on both sides, almost always the decision to flee bondage was 
made with painful apprehensiveness and fear. For always 
countering freedom's gentle tug was the fear of dreadful re- 
prisal if the break was unsuccessful, unhappiness at leaving 
relatives and friends, and perhaps even fear of freedom itself — 
a state of mind largely atrributable to the bondsman never 
having known freedom directly. Frederick Douglass has given 
a poignant account of this feeling. 

The hopes which I had treasured up for weeks 
of a safe and successful escape . . . were powerfully 
confronted at this last hour by dark clouds of doubt 
and fear, making my person shake and my bosom to 
heave with the heavy contest between hope and fear. 
I have no words to describe . . . the deep agony of 
soul which I experienced on that never to be forgotten 
morning. ... I was making a leap in the dark. The 
probabilities, so far as I could by reason determine 
them, were stoutly against the undertaking. ... I 
was like one going to war without weapons — ten 
chances of defeat to one of victory.^ 

Yet to the thousands who, like Douglass, successfully fled the 
institution, the joy of the day freedom came more than matched 
the apprehension and fear. None ever chose to return to bond- 
age and so sweet did they find the joys of freedom that many 
became zealous crusaders in the abolitionist movement, some- 
times even risking their very lives by daring trips into the South 
to urge and help others escape. 


The next great day of freedom to Afro-Americans was 
January 1, 1863. The occasion was Abraham Lincoln's signing 
of the Eniancipation Proclamation. Free Negroes of the North 
had long exerted pressure to get the President to issue such a 
declaration and were to feel when the order came that they 
had gained a hard-earned victory. When after the battle of 
Antietam Lincoln announced on September 22, 1862 that on 
January 1 of the ensuing year he would declare bondsmen in 
states still in rebellion "henceforth and forever free," northern 
Negroes began to rejoice. But the exultation was qualified by 
a fear that the President might change his mind. Again Doug- 
lass has given what is perhaps the most vivid description of the 
fullness of joy which swept over northern Negroes when the 
Proclamation finally came. In Boston, Massachusetts a large 
crowd gathered in Tremont Temple to await the news. "We 
were waiting and listening as for a bolt from the sky, which 
would rend the fetters of four millions of slaves," Douglass 
stated. "We were watching as it were, by the dim light of the 
stars for the dawn of a new day." Near midnight, after several 
hours of tense expectation, the glad tidings started coming 
through from the nation's capital. Douglass continues: 

At last when patience was well-nigh exhausted, and 
suspense was becoming agony, a man . . . with hasty 
step advanced through the crowd and with a face 
fairly illumined with the news he bore, exclaimed in 
tones that thrilled all hearts, 'It is coming!' 'It is on 
the wires!' 

The effect of this announcement was startling 

beyond description, and the scene was wild and grand. 

Joy and gladness exhausted all forms of expression, 

from shouts of praise to sobs and tears. My old friend 

Rue, a Negro preacher, . . . expressed the heartfelt 

emotion of the hour, when he led all voices in the 

anthem, 'Sound the Loud Timbrel o'er Egypt's Dark 

Sea, Jehovah Hath Triumphed, his people are free!'* 

For years after 1865, January 1, as Emancipation Day, was 

celebrated by Afro-Americans with parades, speeches, and great 

festivity. Although now more toned down and dignified, each 

year still sees Emancipation Day celebrations in many of the 

leading coloi'ed churches throughout the nation. 


The majority of Afro- Americans had to wait until 1865 
for their "Day of Jubilee." If the greatest joys are those which 
come suddenly and unexpected, perhaps a little of the signifi- 
cance of this day was diminished by the fact that, with the 
rest of the nation, the majority of bondsmen knew for m.onths 
in advance of actual surrender that the Confederacy was in its 
death-throes and that freedom was a probability for them. 

When the war ended agents of the federal government 
went from farm to farm checking on the status of the ex- 
slaves. A number of masters either had failed to inform their 
Negroes that they were free or else had compelled them to 
continue working in a state of servitude.' Thus it was that 
some person-; did not learn of their legal emancipation for a 
year or two, and often they heard the news from these federal 
agents whom they called "freedom men." Some slaves found 
out they were free from sympathetic poor whites who had 
owned no slaves," and often the Yankee soldier in blue brought 
the first news of freedom. An ex-slave reported: 

I don't remember how the slaves found it out. I re- 
member them saying, 'Well, they's all free.' . . . And 
I remember someone saying — asking a question — 'You 
got to say 'Master'? And somebody answered and 
said, 'Naw.' But they said it all the same. They said 
it for a long time.' 

Another remembered: "One day Mr. Mose came and told us 
that the war was over and that we would have to root for our- 
selves after that."^ Planters often referred to their own status 
when informing slaves that they were emancipated. One ex- 
slave said his master stated: "Well, you all is just as free as I is 
this morning."® 

At emancipation Negroes were told, "You are now free." 
Practically no provision had been made for their easy adjust- 
m.ent from slavery to freedom. They had almost no money, 
clothes, food, home, or education and were in the midst of an 
indifferent or hostile environment. It is not easy to imagine 
more difficult circumstances under which a people ever set out 
to make their way in the world, and there can be little wonder 
that some took to idleness, vice, and wandering. Many felt 
that this vagabondage was necessary to prove that they were 


really free or that they would not be reenslaved. But de- 
spite these most unfavorable circumstances under which free- 
dom came, nothing could dampen the initial ardour with which 
it was received. 

When the glad tidings actually came, indescribable joy 
leapt from the souls of these long oppressed people. John Green- 
leaf Whittier, writing for newly emancipated brown and black 
school children on St. Helena Island, South Carolina, caught 
the spirit which charged the air. Whittier wrote: 

The very oaks are greener clad, 
The waters brightly smile; 

Oh, never shone a day so glad, 
On sweet St. Helena's Isle! 

For none in all the world before 
Were ever glad as we. 

We're free on Carolina's shore. 

We're all at home and free!^° 
Booker T. Washington stated that on the plantation where he 
had been a slave the news of emancipation was greeted with an 
all-night revelry of rejoicing and "wild scenes of ecstasy." 
While pondering the news, one ex-slave female got "happy" 
and pierced the night with a blood-curdling "Thank Gawd! 
Thank Gawd A' Mighty!"^" Another ex-slave remembered that 
"When freedom come, folks left home, out in the streets, cry- 
ing, praying, singing, shouting, yelling, and knocking down 
everything. Some shot off big guns."" "When news of the sur- 
render come," stated another, "lots of colored folks seem to 
be rejoicing and sing, 'I's free, I's free as a frog,' 'cause a frog 
had freedom to git on, a log and jump off when he please."" 
Still another group of ex-slaves sang jubilantly: 

Mammy, don't you cook no more, 

You are free, you are free! 

Rooster, don't you crow no more, 

You are free, you are free! 

Old hen, don't you lay no more eggs, 

You free, you free!^'^ 
Another composed a ditty which went: 

I free, I free, 

I free as a frog 

I free till I fool 

Glory Alleluia!^' 


One ex-slave reported that on his plantation all bondsmen were 
called together and told they were free. Then, he said, ''Old 
colored folks, old as I am now, that was on sticks, throwed 
them sticks away and shouted.'"' Another declared: 

When the war ended, white man come to the field 
and tell my mother-in-law she free as he is. She 
dropped her hoe and danced up to the turn road and 
danced right up into Old Master's parlor. She went 
so fast a bird coulda sot on her dress tail. . . . That 
night she sent and got all the neighbors, and they 
danced all night long.^^ 
Most Negroes left their masters as soon as they found out 
they were free and could get away.^^ 

At the very moment that the ex-bondsman's spirits were 
vibrantly soaring from the mountain tops and into the heavens, 
those of his former master were in the lowest depths of despair. 
The white South was shocked, stunned, humiliated, aggrieved 
and dismayed. Not only had a war and a way of life been lost, 
but the bulk of southern wealth, represented by the invest- 
ment in slave property, was at once forever lost to the planters. 
Here stood the ex-slave overwhelmed by and blissfully lost in 
what the present moment meant, and the planter completely 
despondent because of concern over a future which looked 
bieak indeed. Here stood the two great segments of the south- 
ern populace diametrically opposed in their attitudes and feel- 
ings about this day, one convinced that it was emerging into 
the light while the other was equally convinced that it was 
entering into the blackest darkness. This day's gap in the 
feelings and emotions of the two popvilation groups is poignant 
testament to the yawning gap which had so long existed in 
their' efforts at survival and life. 

Years later there would be those to erect the myth that 
Negroes as slaves had been idyll ically happy. Such a conviction 
is entirely contrary to the almost unanimous testimony of the 
persons who were in the best position to know the truth, the 
ex-slaves themselves. Their practically unvarying testimony 
repeats sentiments and convictions such as the following. 
What I likes best, to be slave or free? Well, it's this 
way. In slavery I owns nothing and never owns no- 
thing. In freedom Fs own the home and raise the 


family. All that cause me worriment, and in slavery 
I has no worriment, but I takes the freedom."" 

A man has got more his own say now than he did 
have. We can do more what we want to and don't 
have to go to the other fellow. Slavery mighta done 
the other fellow some good, but I don't think it ever 
done the colored people no good. Some of them after 
freedom didn't know how to go out and work for 
themselves. . . . Depending on somebody else is poor 
business. Look at the Indians! They're all living. I'.s 
always been able to eat and sleep. "^ 
Another proof of the contempt and revulsion which they felt 
toward slavery as against their love of freedom is found in the 
following. The spirituals, escapes, revolts, plots to revolt, lash- 
ings, patrols, and mass of repressive legislation stand as starkly 
vivid testimony that the slave was not generally contented and 
happy. Too, while there is no record that the ex-bondsmen 
ever formed organizations and petitioned and fought to be 
returned to bondage, the record is replete with instances where 
they continuously have organized, petitioned, entered litigation, 
and in other ways fought to protect and extend their freedom. 
After 1865-66 Afro- Americans were to have other days 
of freedom. In the 1870's and 80's, and again in the eras of 
World Wars I and II, many would once again relive the ex- 
perience of "escaping" from South to North. Although Roi 
Ottley would declare that there was no day of triumph'" and 
others would write of no green pastures, in the 1940's and 50's 
Richard Wright would end Black Boy''' on a contrary note, 
Carl Rowan would declare that Dixie was still south of free- 
dom,"* and the United States Supreme Court would make May 
17, 1954 a day to remember. In the mid-twentieth century, 
his belief that the promised land of genuine and full freedom 
is near, coupled with the distantness of the long night of slav- 
ery makes it highly doubtful that the Afro-American ever 
again will have another day of freedom comparable to those 
which he already has known. Probably no other statement 
could better illustrate the fact that criticism which long has 
been directed at America because of the tragic gap between 
national ideals and reality may soon be completely invalid. 

Chapter XII 


As might be expected, Negro historians, orators, and poets 
have led in extolHng the praises of their race's benefactors. 
So much is this the case with the historians that at times their 
writings appear to be a long song of praise to those who fought 
to make Negro freedom and citizenship possible, and to the 
members of their race whose noteworthy achievements are held 
up as justifications for this freedom and citizenship. While 
Negroes have written little in the area of biography, largely 
through their poets and orators they have not failed to eulogize 
the outstanding members of their race. Thus it is largely to 
their verse, and oratory that one must turn to find evidence of 
this race's pride in and gratitude for the achievements and 
contributions of such personages as Phillis Wheatley, Benjamin 
Banneker, Frederick Douglass, Joe Louis, and others. 

Discussed herein are only a few of the more prominent 
nineteenth century benefactors of the race. From the majority 
group, attitudes toward the most prominent benefactor of all, 
Lincoln the Great Emancipator, are discussed elsewhere in this 

Of the nineteenth century Negro fighters for Civil 
rights, Frederick Douglass is easily the most outstanding. So 
well has he been remembered and honored that practically 
every colored high school or college boy and girl long has 
known his name, although often they cannot be specific about 
any of his achievements. 

Leaders of Slave Plots and Revolts 

Negro writers appear to have shown greater interest in the 
plot to revolt led by Denmark Vesey than in the bloody in- 
surrection led by the enigmatic Nathaniel Turner. Not long 
after the Vesey plot, Henry Highland Garnet informed the 
nation's bondsmen that Vesey ''was betrayed by the treachery 
of his own people, and died a martyr to freedom. . . . but 



history, faithful to her high trust, will transcribe his name on 
the same monument with Moses, Hampden, Tell, Bruce, and 
Wallace, Toussaint L'Ouverture, Lafayette, and Washington. 
Vesey's tremendous plot shook the whole empire of slavery. 
The guilty soul-thieves were overwhelmed with fear."^ 

George Washington Williams spoke highly of Nat Turner, 
and called him the "Black John Brown." Williams concluded 
in 1882: 

The image of Nat. Turner is carved on the fleshy 
tablets of four million hearts. His history has been 
kept from the Colored people at the South, but the 
women have handed the tradition to their children, 
and the 'Prophet Nat.' is still marching on." 
The heroes closest to the slaves probably were not such 
radical leaders of the resistance as Gabriel Prosser, Denmark 
Vesey, and Nat Turner. Probably more than anything else 
such radicalism frightened the slaves. However much they may 
have admired these or Toussaint L'Ouverture and the people 
of Santo Domingo, the majority of bondsmen in America were 
confident that open revolt on their part could not be effective. 
Years later there would be persons who would call this attitude 
and conviction timidity or cowardice or natural docility, but 
contrary to the popular stereotype, the Negro in America has 
been primarily a realist, not a romanticist, and it is his realism 
which helped to save him from extinction. In addition to those 
bondsmen who could plow the straightest row, chop the most 
cotton, or outdo all others in wrestling, foot racing, or some 
similar feat, heroes also were those cautiously bold persons who 
"outwitted" the whites in the little things — successfully feigned 
sickness, or shirked hard work without getting the lash, stole 
a chicken or a ham, with tongue in cheek told an overseer or 
owner a straight-faced lie about how handsome a figure he cut 
in his clothes. Such heroism drew praise in the form of laughter 
from fellow slaves to whom the tales were told. By their choice 
of heroes, the slaves reveal the great role which fear, caution 
and conservatism played in their lives and thought. 

Elijah P. Lovejoy 
In late 1837, Elijah P. Lovejoy was killed by a pro-slavery 
mob as he attempted to defend the press of the Alton, Illinois 


Observer. In editorials and mass meetings, Negroes denounced 
Lovejoy's murderers and raised funds for his bereaved family. 
Lamenting the murder, a New York group stated: "Who are 
guilty in this matter? Is it the poor, ignorant, sunken and 
abandoned wretches who consummate the work planned out 
by 'gentlemen of property and standing'? No! They know not 
what they do. But the Press, which from the commencement 
of the Anti-Slavery controversy, has kept alive by base misrep- 
resentations, the worse passions of the human heart, and pointed 
at Abolitionists as fit subjects for the assassin's dagger ... is 
guilty of this crime."' A number of Afro- Americans constant- 
ly have voiced the opinion that the nation's press generally has 
sided with "gentlemen of property and standing." Still, like 
most Americans, Negroes generally have kept their faith in 
the fourth estate, and have continued to demand a free and 
untrammeled press. In protest against Lovejoy's murder, the 
above-mentioned group also stated: "The Pulpit, . . . stand- 
ing aloof from the contest and the efforts for emancipation, 
by putting forth its bulls of condemnation, against the efforts 
making for Em.ancipation, is guilty."* Here also, the failure of 
the white pulpit to rise up in a body against the institution of 
slavery, and its often seeming acquiescence in post-bellum dis- 
crimination and segregation, plus evidences of un-Christian 
behavior in their own segregated churches, have all combined 
with the general secularstic outlook of the modern age to make 
a number of Afro-Americans severe critics of organized re- 

William Lloyd Garrison 

Little known is the fact that without Negro aid, William 
Lloyd Garrison's Liberator would not have succeeded. During 
its first year, this paper had approximately four hundred and 
fifty subscribers, of whom all but about fifty were Afro-Ameri- 
cans. Leaders of the race, appreciating this effort, and sensing 
its importance, were active in soliciting colored subscribers for 
Garrison, and not only did they assist him financially, but en- 
couraged him greatly by letter and in other ways. 

When, in 1839, the Abolitionist movement split because 
of differing opinions regarding the suffragette movement, 
whether to iict through political channels, and Garrison's ex- 


treme criticism of organized religion, Afro-American members 
of the movement became divided on the same issues. James 
Barbadoes, Wilham C. Nell, and William Powell were promi- 
nent among those who remained loyal to the views and methods 
of Garrison, while Frederick Douglass, Charles B. Ray, Chris- 
topher Rush, and Samuel Cornish seceded and formed a new 
abolitionist society. In 1954, Jack Abramowitz would write of 
"the patronizing attitude" which "many abolitionists" had 
held toward Negroes.' 

Partly because he believed that the race could and should 
plead its own cause, Frederick Douglass started his paper The 
North Star, in Rochester, New York on December 3, 1847. In 
the first issue, Douglass editorialized: "We solemnly dedicate the 
"North Star" to the cause of our long oppressed and plundered 
fellow countrymen. Giving no quarter to slavery at the South, 
it will hold no truce with oppressors at the North."' Co-editor 
of the paper was Martin R. Delany. For thus dividing aboli- 
tionist efforts, Douglass was criticized by Garrison and others. 
To the criticism from his anti-slavery cohorts, Douglass stated: 
"It is neither a reflection on the fidelity, nor a disparagement 
of the ability of our friends and fellow-laborers, to assert what 
'common sense affirms and only folly denies,' that the man 
who has suffered the lurong is the man to demand redress, the 
man struck is the man to cry out and that he who has endured 
the cruel pangs of slavery is the man to advocate liberty."' 
Along with numerous other colored abolitionists, Douglass' life 
is proof that the charge that the Negro did not fight for his 
own freedom is wholly incorrect. Speaking before the New 
York anti-slavery society, September 20, 1837, the Rev. Theo- 
dore S. Wright stated: "Were it not for the fact that none can 
feel the lash but those who have it upon them, that none know 
where the chain galls but those who wear it, I would not address 

Speaking in Faneuil Fiall, Boston in 1905 and taking 
jibes at the Booker T. Washington philosophy of compromise, 
Bishop Reverdy C. Ransom had nothing but praise for William 
Lloyd Garrison's uncompromising fight and zealous devotion 
to the cause of human freedom. Here Bishop Ransom assailed 
the compromise philosophy and told colored Americans that 


it was not their right but their duty to fight to ehminate all 
bars to equahty of citizenship and opportunity, and to eman- 
cipate the nation "from un-ChristHke feeHngs of race hatred 
and the . . . bondage of prejudice." Of Garrison, Ransom 
said: "He put manhood above money, humanity above race, 
the justice of God above the justices of the Supreme Court, and 
conscience above the Constitution."'^ 

Concerning the schism among Abohtionists, David Rug- 
gles lamented the division within the Negro group. At a meet- 
ing of free persons in New York, September 8, 1841, he stated: 
While every man's hand is against us, our everv 
hand is against each other. I speak plainly, because 
the truth will set us free. Are we not guilty of cher- 
ishing to an alarming extent, the sin of sectarian, 
geographical, and complcxional proscription? The 
spirit abroad is this: Is that brother a Methodist? He 
is not one of us. A Baptist? He is not one of us„ A 
Presbyterian? He is not one of us. An Episcopalian? 
He is not one of us. A Roman Catholic? He is not 
one of us. Does he live above human creeds, and en- 
joy the religion of the heart? He is of Beelzebub. 

Again, is that brother from the East? He is not 
of us. From the West? He is not of us. From the 
North? He is not one of us. From the South? He is 
not of us. From the Middle States? He is not of us. 
Is he a Foreigner? He can never be of us. But, for- 
sooth, is that brother of a dark complexion? He is of 
no worth. Is he of light complexion? He is of no 
nation. Such, sir, are the visible lines of distinction 
marked by slavery for us to follow. If we hope for 
redemption from our present condition, we\ must re- 
pent, turn, and unite in the hallowed cause of re- 

In 1840 a group of Boston Negroes wrote of the maligned 
Garrison: "We doubt not that the day will come, when many 
an emancipated slave will say of him, while weeping over his 
monument, 'This was my best friend and benefactor. I here 
bathe his tomb with the tears of that liberty, which his services 
and sufferings achieved for me'."^^ Even after the 1839-40 
schism, those who broke with Garrison to help form the Ameri- 
can and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society remained admirers of the 


man and his work. Still, his reading of the documents of Negro 
thought causes the present writer to feel that Afro-Americans 
generally have not shown the enthusiastic appreciation for the 
work of such men as Garrison, John Brown, Charles Sumner, 
and Thaddeus Stevens which one might expect. 

]obn Broiun 
Five Negroes were direct participants in John Brown's 
famed "raid' at Harper's Ferry, Virginia. They were Shields 
Green, Dangerfield Newby, Sherrard Lewis Leary, Osborne P. 
Anderson, and John A. Copeland. Copeland escaped and later 
published the story of the "raid."^' Copeland emphatically de- 
nied the charge that the slaves had not been in sympathy with 
Brown's effort, reported that the Afro-Americans who fell 
during the siege died with commendable bravery and that 
Brown himself stated that he was agreeably surprised at the 
loyalty and bravery which the slaves showed. Replying to an 
im.plication that he was involved in the conspiracy, Frederick 
Douglass denied any participation, but praised "the noble old 
hero" John Brown. Douglass denied that the fact that he was 
not present at the time of the raid showed him to be a coward. 
He neven promised to be there as some charged, he stated. He 
gave evidence that he thought the venture "rash and wild."^" 
Nonetheless, as Superintendent of the Rochester, New York 
Underground Railroad Station, Frederick Douglass directly 
aided approximately four hundred fugitives per year in their 
break for freedom, and there is little doubt that he was an ac- 
cessory before the fact in John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry.^' 
Throughout the Civil war, a number of slaves reckoned time 
from the year of Brown's death. ^' One Virginia slave, who 
"happily" witnessed Brown's death because he had never seen 
a hanging before, years later did not understand what the 
martyr had in mind.^*^ George Washington Williams said that 
Brown was "greater than Peter the Hermit, . . . Ignatius 
Loyola, . . . Oliver Cromwell,"^' and Williams reports that by 
coincidence the first Negro killed in the Civil War was named 
John Brown. ^* Negroes showed their feelings about the "raid" 
through mass meetings, letters to Brown, letters to friends and 
newspapers, and in other ways." The Liberator of December 
16, 18 59 reported that at a Massachusetts meeting one group 


voted endorsement and hearty approval of the spirit shown 
by Brown, and their regrets that he did not succeed. This group 
stated: "That act will do more to hasten the down-fall of 
slavery than the liberation of a thousand slaves," and "the 
memory of John Brown shall be indelibly written upon the 
tablets of our hearts, and . . . we will teach our children to 
revere his name ... as being the greatest man in the 19th 
century." In the dawn of August, 1906, W. E. B. DuBois, John 
Hope, and other intellectuals, in organization designated as 
the Niagara Movement and marching in solemn procession at 
Harper's Ferry, found in Brown's martydom inspiration for 
their fight for equality of citizenship. They viewed themselves 
as legatees of Brown who owed him an obligation to carry the 
torch which he had so dramatically sustained. 
Charles Simmer 
Between Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner, the latter 
has been much more honored by Afro-Americans of the late 
nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The 1864 National Negro 
Convention, held at Syracuse, New York, voted its thanks to 
Senator Sumner for his efforts to win political and civil equality 
for the race, and declared: 

The Democratic Party belongs to slavery; and 
the Republican Party is largely under the power of 
prejudice against color. While gratefully recognizing 
a vast difference in our favor in the character and 
composition of the Republican Party, and regarding 
the accession to power of the Democratic Party, as 
the heaviest calamity that could befall us in the 
present juncture of affairs, it cannot be disguised, 
that, while that party is our bitterest enemy, and is 
positively and actively reactionary, the Republican 
Party is negatively and passively so in its tendency. 
At Sumner's death James Hayne Rainey of South Carolina de- 
livered an; able eulogy in the House of Representatives of the 
United States Congress."" Castigating the deceased Congressman 
Brooks for his celebrated assault on Sumner, R. B. Elliot said 
in Boston's Faneuil Hall in 1874: "My heart bows in gratitude 
to every man who struck a blow for the liberty of my race. 
But how can I fail to remember that alone, alone, of all the 
great leaders of our cause at Washington, Charles Sumner kept 


his faith to freedom, stern and true. '^^ Elliot felt that Sumner 
saved the nation from "the fatal mistake of Mr. Lincoln's Lou- 
isiana scheme of reconstruction," and called Sumner, "the fair 
consummate flower of humanity, the fruit of the ages." Elliott 
declared that "to the colored race, he is and ever will be the 
great leader in political life, whose ponderous and incessant 
blows battered down the walls of our prison house."" "If others 
forget," Elliot declared, "thy fame shall be granted by the 
millions of that emancipated race whose gratitude shall be more 
enduring than monumental marble or brass." Elliott said: "He 
was a man of absolute rectitude of purpose and of life. His 
personal purity was perfect . . . He carried morals into poli- 

Since Sumner's death many Afro-Americans have not 
known of his mighty efforts in their behalf. It seems that the 
opprobrium and neglect which the condemnation of many 
white Americans has brought upon such men as Garrison, 
Brown and Sumner because of their "radicalism," has tarnished 
also the respect and esteem which Afro-Americans have held 
for them. Few, indeed, have been the biographies, novels, plays, 
poems, paintings, and other expressions which Americans of 
color have centered around these often-despised benefactors of 
the colored man. 

Chapter XIII 


Some persons interested in the bondsmen wondered whe- 
ther they could take care of themselves if emancipated. In 
some quarters there were doubts about the race's capacity to 
survive competition with other groups in a free society. As the 
day of emancipation drew nearer, colored abolitionists spoke 
repeatedly to this theme, and they berated and belittled the 
fear.' Especially did Dr. John S. Rock and Frederick Douglass 
point out that for years the Negro's labor often had been tak- 
ing care of both himself and many southern white men." Writ- 
ing from St. Helena's Island, South Carolina, November 20, 
1862 Charlotte Forten said of the Negroes there: 

They are eager to learn; they rejoice in their 
newfound freedom. It does one good to see how jubi- 
lant they are; . . . There is not a man, woman, or 
even child that is old enough to be sensible, that 
would submit to being a slave again. There is evi- 
dently a deep determination in their souls, that shall 
never be. Their hearts are full of gratitude to the 
Government and to the 'Yankeees.'' 

As anyone would expect, behavior of many of the freed- 
men markedly revealed the effectiveness of the long years of 
conditioning which they had undergone, and for decades a 
majority of the race were fated to live in the shadow of the 
plantation. Some of the least desirable heritages were docility, 
disparagement of their race and its history, color consciousness, 
suspiciousness and distrust, two-facedness, lack of initiative and 
self-reliance, lack of foresight and industry; lack of apprecia- 
tion of value of time, person, property, marital obligations, or 
written contracts; excessive love of titles, positions, and mem- 
bership in organizations; and love of ostentation, noise, and 
display.^ Of one deficiency an ex-slave said: "You now our 
folks just won't hang together, they won't be in no union or 
nothing. It's a shame."' The freedmen developed m.anias to 
hold the positions and to own the material goods which white 
Americans cherished and which had been denied them during 



slavery. To be sure, they did not always understand either the 
nature or purpose of many of the things which, at a distance, 
they had observed whites cherishing, and the freedmen's mis- 
conception of the "right" thing to own, wear, or do some- 
times made them objects of jokes and laughter. In addition to 
the general national culture as a source, their bondage some- 
times gave an added impulse and dimension to the freedmen's 
desire to wear fine clothes (especially shoes and hats) and 
jewelry, own land, get "educated," hold a white collar job, be 
a homeowner, vote, hold public oflBce, own and operate a busi- 
ness; given parties, banquets, dances, and dinners; hold a posi- 
tion at the head of some institution or organization, live in the 
city, spend money, have a wife and children of light com- 
plexions, aquiline noses, thin lips, and "good" hair, and similar 
behavior patterns which certain segments of the Negro populace 
have manifested. 

Their experiences in slavery left ingrained in many freed - 
men some other attitudes and proclivities which, together with 
forces operating on the general populace, have been major 
factors in shaping their thoughts and actions. Among these are: 

1. Although the lack of physical cleanliness, neatness, 
and orderliness to which bondage had doomed most of them 
caused some freedmen to revel in dirt, others were led to an 
especial abhorrence of all forms of untidiness. Since emancipa- 
tion, great stress on cleanliness, orderliness, and neatness has 
been a unique characteristic of the thought pattern of many 
Negro teachers and parents. 

2. Some Negroes accepted the negative picture of their 
race which had been used to justify slavery, and hence entered 
freedom with a strong sense of shame and a weak group and 
personal ego. Wanting to forget their history and race, as evi- 
denced in such things as not "liking" chicken, watermelon, 
beans, grits, hominy or similar "hallmarks" of the race, and 
not wanting to read or see anything with a "Negro" label on 
it, is a form of psychological repression. Too many Negroes 
have shown a strong sense of personal unworthiness, which 
also at times has caused them to care little about their own 
lives, time, ballot, or rights. To rectify this attitude Negro 
leaders constantly have pointed to and sometimes exaggerated 


the achievements of individual members o£ their race as well 
as of the group collectively. 

If at one extreme race has deprived the Negro of drive, 
at the other it has added to the Negro's drive. When Booker 
Washington, Jackie Robinson, Joe Lewis, Marion Anderson, 
Jessie Owens, John Thomas, Oscar Robertson, or Wilt Cham- 
berlin perform they are not just artists or athletes, and doubt- 
less most derive a little extra ambition, drive, and determina- 
tion from the fact of race. Individuals with outstanding family 
backgrounds often get this extra drive, ambition, and deter- 
mination from their family name, but lacking family names 
of distinction, the factor of race often has filled this role for 

Because of the brevity, hence poverty, of their history as 
freemen, in their effort to unearth history of which they can 
be proud, some Negroes have had a tendency to make veritable 
mountains out of mole-hills. Irwin D. Rinder noted this in a 
recent study of the Negro pictorial,*' and in his Black Bour- 
geoisie' E. Franklin Frazier described this as a characteristic 
of Negro newspapers. Other examples are numerous. One ex- 
slave reported that in 1872 there was a fire in which all of 
Clarksville, Tennessee ''liked to have burned down," and "all 
the fire departments from Nashville came . . = only the Cv">lored 
fire department putt it out."" Both George Washington Williams 
and John Hope Franklin thought it worth mentioning in their 
histories of the race that by butting in a door with his head 
the Negro, Tack Sisson, became a "hero" when George Wash- 
ington's colonial forces captured the English General Prescott 
at Newport, Rhode Island in 1777. In his discussion of the 
troops in World War I Franklin found it noteworthy that 
the overseas service of Negro stevedores "amazed" French- 
men by the rapidity with which they could unload flour from 
boats. In his discussion of the services of his race on the home- 
front during the war, this same scholar found it noteworthy 
that a Negro helping to build ships broke the world's record 
for driving rivets.^ 

3. Both his bondage and segregation instilled in the f reed- 
man a sense of being an outsider, which had provided impetus 


to his desire to be integrated into the mainstream in all areas 
of human activity. 

4. Not being able to strike or talk back to whites who 
abused them under the slave regime left many freedmen with 
a sense of cowardice for which they often have over-compen- 
sated by becoming bullies with an extraordinary readiness, will- 
ingness, and eagerness to do personal combat with one another. 

5. Many Negroes entered freedom with a strong sense 
of rootlessness which has manifested itself in an unusual desire 
to belong. Thus Negroes have been great "joiners." Yet, partly 
because bondage instilled in them a strong distrust for the ad- 
vantaged slave, who in freedom often became the "leader," a 
sizeable number of freedmen would be reluctant to join any- 
thing which was promoted and led by members of their own 

6. In sexual promiscuity, both male and female slave 
found compensation for other pleasures denied them. They did 
not have the baffling, oppressive, and frustrating restrictions 
imposed on their natural sex urges with which society im- 
prisons the cultured and sophisticated. During slavery and 
freedom some persons revelled in this promiscuity and others 
reacted strongly against it. 

Although some Negroes came to share the low attitude 
held by some whites toward their women, many Negroes have 
exalted the female members of their group. As would be the 
case with Negro novelists of the 1865-1920 period, miscegena- 
tion was a subject of which both slaves and ex-slaves of the 
ante-bellum period were acutely conscious. In his 1843 exhor- 
tation to the slaves, Henry Highland Garnet several times re- 
ferred to the abused treatment of slave women. At one point 
he thundered: "Think of the torture and disgrace of your 
noble mothers. Think of your wretched sisters, loving virtue 
and purity, as they are driven into concubinage and are exposed 
to the unbridled lusts of incarnate devils." Later he added: 
"Seq your sons murdered, and your wives, mothers and sisters 
doomed to prostitution. In the name of the merciful God, and 
by all that life is worth, let it no longer be a debatable ques- 
tion, whether it is better to choose liberty or death."'" Criticiz- 
ing slave patience, he added: "And worse than all, you tamely 


submit while your lords tear your wives from your embraces 
and defile them before yourj eyes. In the name of God, we ask, 
are you men?" In 1849, writing from London, England to his 
friend Wendell Phillips, Williams Wells Brown stated: "If the 
atrocities recently practiced upon defenseless women in Austria 
make the blood run cold through the veins of the human and 
good throughout the civilized world, the acts committed daily 
upon the slave women of America should not only cause the 
blood to chill, but to stop its circulation."" In the 1920's the 
Negro poet Andrea Razafkeriefo would say in a poem entitled 
"The Negro Women": 

Were it mine to select a woman 
As queen of the hall of fame; 

One who has fought the gamest fight 

And climbed from the depths of shame; 

I would have to give the sceptre 
To the lowliest of them all; 

She, who has struggled through the years. 
With her back against the wall. 

Wronged by the men of an alien race. 
Deserted by those of her own; 

With a prayer in her heart, a song on her lips 
She carried the fight alone. 

A number of Afro-Americans have glorified in the myth 
of their perfect bodies and physiques and have believed that 
their women were especially beautiful examples of these unex- 
celled physiques.^" 

As ever has been the case between the sexes, the female 
among slaves was usually, but by no means always, more con- 
servative than the male, ever cautioning him to mind his sassy 
tongue, to work hard, believe in God, don't run away, or even 
think of such things. A major reason why planters loved the 
black "Auntie" or "Granny" was her loyalty and devotion, 
and it is highly probable that but for her the number of plots, 
revolts, and runaways among slaves would have been consid- 
erably increased. The female slaves' greater "loyalty" to the 
planter implied no rejection of her own race, rather great con- 
cern for its preservation and well-being was the mainspring of 
her "loyalty and devotion" to the planter class. Respecting the 


odds, she urged caution and patience. Giving and preserving, 
healing and sustaining, ever have been the central roles of 
women, and it well may be that in controlling bondsmen, the 
female slave was as potent a force as the overseer's lash. It is 
she who probably first sang: "O' Stand the Storm, it won't be 
long, we'll anchor by and by." Woman has ever been more 
receptive, patient, adaptive, more psychologically elastic, and 
it is precisely these qualities which enabled the Negro race to 
survive slavery in America. 

7. Because during slavery food given them was poor in 
terms of quantity and quahty, while such things as cakes, 
candies, and ham were generally denied them, many Negroes 
entered freedom with an unusual ambition and determination 
to "eat well" or "high on the hog." 

8. Some persons entered freedom with a strong impulse 
toward playfulness. The clowning, joking antics of the slave 
were an absolute necessity for his physical and spiritual sur- 
vival. There is a cruel element in the fact that urbane, sophis- 
ticated jokers have made light of this playfulness which was 
born of one of the greatest human tragedy's short of death, 
chattel slavery. One of the world's leading psychiatrists, in a 
chapter on "Play," has indicated this great human need, par- 
ticularly for the oppressed. Of play, this psychologist, Karl 
Menninger, writes: "play permits the opportunity for many 
miniature victories in compensation for the injuries inflicted 
by the daily wear and tear of life. This is a comfort which some 
egos sorely need." And: 

The most important value of this unrealistic 
nature of play is the opportunities that it affords for 
the relief of repressed aggressions. It enables us to 
express aggression without reality consequences; we 
can hurt people without really hurting them; ... 'It 
is all in play.' We say that we do not really mean it, 
although this is not quite true. We do mean it, but 
we know and our victim knows that it has no dan- 
gerous consequences and he can therefore tolerate it 
and [usually] forgive us.^^ 

The Nature of Freedom 
Years after their emancipation ex-bondsmen were lament- 
ing that they were not given clothing, food, money, or land 


along with their freedom. One declared: "They makes us git 
right off the place just like you take a old hoss and turn it 
loose, No money, no nothing. "^^ Another said: "I don't know 
as I 'spected nothing from freedom, but they turned us out 
like a bunch of stray dogs, no homes, no clothing, no nothing, 
not 'nough food to last us one meal."^ ' One ex-slave reported 
that she and her sister learned they were free one year after the 
Civil War, and that when they left the plantation on which 
they had been slaves they were completely nude. The angry 
mistress had hid their clothes.^'' 

Freedom wrought few discernible changes in the lives of 
many persons. Some of those who had been well treated under 
bondage, or who were especially deficient in initiative and self- 
reliance, revealed few signs of elation and upon being notified 
of their freedom remained on the plantation quite content 
with whatever adjustment the former master contrived.' Bond- 
age had robbed a sizeable number of Negroes of the courage, 
self-reliance, and hope which freedom demanded, and some 
ex-slaves doubted that they could live without the direct super- 
vision of the former ruling class. One ex-slave reported that 
when bondsmen were told they were free, "some rejoiced so 
they shouted, but some didn't, they were sorry. "^' Another 

When freedom come, folks left home, out in the 
streets, crying, praying, singing, shouting, yelling, 
and knocking down everything. Some shot off big 
guns. Then come the calm. It was sad then. So many 
folks done dead, things tore up, and nowheres to go 
and nothing to eat, nothing to do. It got squally. 
Folks got sick, so hungry. Some folks starved nearly 
to death. Times got hard.^^ 

Although Afro-Americans still were celebrating Eman- 
cipation Day over ninety years after the end of the great war, 
the latter celebrations generally lacked the fervor and enthu- 
siasm of the first few celebrations. While the speech-making 
remained, the earlier parades and feasts are lacking in the cele- 
brations of the twentieth century. One ex-slave quickly wanted 
to forget the race's dark past. He exclaimed — "I think it is 
against the race to tell about how the white people done us 


back in slavery. I don't want to do anything to tear down; I 
want to build up.""" 

1t\ the words of R. R. Moton emancipation, "released the 
Negroes' energies for self-improvement, and ambitions repressed 
by slavery found immediate expression in efforts toward edu- 
cation, the acquisition of property, and the cultivation of re- 
ligion.""^ William H. Lewis declared: 

Emancipation redeemed the precious promises of 
the Declaration of Independence. It rid the Republic 
of its one great inconsistency, a government of the 
people resting upon despotism; it rescued the ship of 
state from the rocks of slavery and sectionalism, and 
set her with sails full and chart and compass true 
once more upon the broad; ocean of humanity to lead 
the world to the haven of true human brotherhood."' 
J. C, Price said — ''The Confederacy surrendered its sword at 
Appomattox, but did not there surrender its convictions.""^ 
Of emancipation, Frederick Douglass lamented that the bonds- 
man was set free ''Without food, without shelter, without land, 
without money or friends.""* 

"Indeed, two nations have been born in a day," said John 
Mercer Langston of Emancipation, "for in the death of slavery 
. . . the colored American has been spoken into the new life 
of liberty and law; while new, other and better purposes, as- 
pirations and feelings, have possessed and moved the soul of his 
fellow countrymen.""' 

In 1867 John Sella Martin said that during the Civil War 
the Negro "proved that he will fight, though for one I have 
no high eulogy to pass upon him for doing that which is the 
last resort of a cur that cannot run away.""'' John Mercer Lang- 
ston thought that the war settled the matter of a homeland 
for the Negro, and that no longer would Negroes be persuaded 
to become expatriates as the Colonization Society had done 
with some. For the Negro, the war decided "that the country 
of his birth ... is his country . . . With emancipation . . . 
comes . . . that which is dearer to the true patriot than life 
itself: country and home.""' Another Negro opined before the 
Forty-Second congress: 

The decision of the sword is conceded to be the most 
arbitrary of all decisions which we have on record. 


and it might be added that they are written in blood 
and will assuredly withstand, all corrosive arguments 
to the contrary notwithstanding. The results of the 
rebellion have decided some things, and, in my judg- 
ment, defined the boundaries of State rights. Sir, 
speaking of centralization, all powerful Governments 
have a tendency in that direction, and those who have 
not are showing this day their sad want of power to 
control their internal affairs, and at the same time 
exercise a salutary influence on the actions and, affairs 
of other nations.'"^ 
Emancipation ended the long-standing modus vivendi between 
the two races which slavery had afforded, and there was now 
desperate need for a new relationship to be fashioned which 
would be reasonably tolerable for both. During Reconstruction, 
the federal government attempted to impose a pattern of racial 
equality, but for the white South this proved wholly too radical 
a departure from the slave-master relationship. In a section 
experiencing the abounding economic prosperity such as the 
North had after the Civil War, the effort to establish equality 
before the law might have had a chance, but not in the eco- 
nomically ruined and prostrate South. Both races long have 
been criticized for their ignorance, shiftlessness, prejudices, and 
superstition, but poverty has been the real nemesis of the post- 
bellum South. Race relations tend to be worse and illiteracy 
and ignorance greatest in those southern states and sections 
where per capita income is lowest. 

Reconstruction was not only a continuation of the Civil 
War, usually in cold-war form, but it saw a continuation of 
the fight over the same basic issues of the status of the Negro 
and state or local versus federal authority which had vexed the 
nation so sorely in the eighteen thirties, forties, and fifties. To 
the whites of the North and South, and to the Negro, at bottom 
all of the issues were related to the question of the democratic 
rights of the individual. It was their democratic rights that 
white Southerners held were being violated bv abolitionists and 
radical Republicans, but on practically every issue the Aboli- 
tionists and radical Republicans held that not they, but the 
slave-holders and segregationists were the real negators of 
democracy, and throughout it all the Negro held that the white 


South was indeed the enemy rather than the friend of democ- 
racy. To assume that the white South was insincere in its be- 
liefs is to fly in the face of the bravery, tenacity, and sacrifice 
which it long made in defense of its beliefs. It may be doubted 
if anywhere a clearer example of the essential and basic problem 
of all democratic societies can be found, that is, the problem 
of reconciling equally sincere rival, and sometimes contradic- 
tory, feelings, convictions, claims, and rights. In such instances 
it is obvious that either compromise is effected or someone's 
claim to democratic treatment must be entirely ignored. Those 
who cannot compromise are not democrats, and in this sense 
democratic decisions are usually imperfect from the stand- 
point of all groups involved in a conflict. The New South was 
in part a creature compelled to take on a certain posture. The 
bourgeois ideals of pragmatism and racial and political democ- 
racy were forced down the South's throat, and as is common 
in such matters, a part of this forced meal was regurgitated, 
and a part of that which remained down was not digested. 

During the maelstrom of events which was the year 1865 
Negroes North and South met to consider their condition and 
push for means to improve it. Few large cities of either section 
were without such meetings by Negroes. Of the key political 
events of the year, perhaps R. B. Elliott voiced the sentiment 
of most Negroes when he called Andrew Johnson's efforts 
"ill-advised.""'' Bishop W. T. Vernon felt in 190 5 that Radical 
Reconstruction was necessary if the Negro was not to lose his 
freedom by being thrown on the "mercy of his oppressors."'" 

In the second decade of the 20th century Harvard-trained 
Negro lawyer Archibald Grimke would view the passage of the 
13 th, 14th, and 15 th amendments as acts inspired by the 
North's desire to erect "a solid wall of Negro votes" between 
itself and the danger of a return of the South to political 
power.'' Grimke declared that during Reconstruction the North 
"considering mainly it's own and not the Negro's necessities 
at this crisis, . . . gave the peculiar wants of the Negro be- 
yond that of the ballot but scant attention." Deploring that 
m.ore was not done by the federal government for his race, 
Grimke said that in addition to the ballot the freedmen needed 
the "unfaltering care and guardianship," of the federal govern- 


ment during "the whole of their transition from slavery to 
citizenship.'"' Retrospecting on the amendments, Kelly Miller 
said— -"I watch the Congress as it adds to the Constitution new 
words, which make the document a character of liberty in- 

Some ex-bondsmen felt that emancipation meant freedom 
from certain types of work. Some refused to perform domestic 
services in the belief that to do such was a stigma reminiscent 
of their former status. "Some would work for one man and 
not another."'* Although federal troops and officials in the 
South were to some degree responsible for the freedman's atti- 
tude that he was a privileged person, it required no great de- 
gree of intelligence for all freedmen to see that they were the 
central theme of the war and Reconstruction, or that against 
the federal might aligned on their side white Southerners had 
little immediate chance. This realization accounts for much of 
the arrogance, pride and conceit which some freedrnen mani- 
fested. There is evidence that some freedmen did not properly 
understand the tentative and limited nature of aid provided 
by the Freedmen's Bureau. Often these persons actually ex- 
pected to receive forty acres and a mule, and some expected 
free rations to be provided ad infinitiiin. Some whites felt that 
the aid provided by the Freedmen's Bureau was the main reason 
why some Negroes were reluctant to enter into work agree- 
ments.^" Especially were towns and cities centers of idleness, 
vice, disease and death. 

Most of the freedmen remained in the economic pursuits 
which had been their lot under slavery. The comparative few 
who were skilled craftsmen continued to ply their trades while 
the vast majority remained in agriculture. So strong was the 
hold of agriculture on the freedmen that many were long con- 
vinced that their best future lay in eternally husbanding the 
soil. There were those, however, who were convinced that any 
type of work with the hands was degrading, and these persons 
often spared no sacrifice that their children might gain enough 
education to enter one of the professions. 

While most freedmen readily acquired that love of money 
which has been such a pronounced characteristic of American 
society, many had little idea as to the best ways of spending 


the money which they acquired. Long deprivation had given 
them an inordinate love of frills and genuine necessities were 
sometimes slighted in order that needless gloves, hats, kerchiefs, 
spats, watches, rings, canned meats, candies, alcohol, and similar 
items might be purchased. While some were short-sighted, and 
this was why they failed to save for a rainy day, because of 
their small earnings many believed that to attempt to save 
would not be worth the effort. 

Freedmen preferred wages over the share-crop system but 
the cash shortage in the South soon forced most of them into 
the latter. Because many knew that the end of the year would 
find them still in debt, the share cropping system deprived them 
of initiative and hope. Some consciously over-purchased on 
their accounts at the general store with the conviction that, if 
they could not get ahead, at least they might as well live in 
as satisfying a manner as possible. Roscoe Conkling Bruce's 
description of share-cropping in 190 5 was true from the be- 
ginning. Bruce declared: 

Idle a large part of the year, burdened with no 
particular responsibility, a member of no particular 
community with position and reputation to make or 
sustain, without a home or even a fixed abode, access- 
ible to few of the incentives to probity and thrift 
and progress that wholesome family life exerts, ex- 
posed to the myriad temptations of careless roving — 
the black farm hand presents a very grave problem. '*" 
A portion, but by no means all, of the share-croppers convic- 
tion that he was always cheated when "reckoning time" came 
was due to the suspiciousness engendered by his own illiteracy. 
Freedmen often refused to work on plantations Y\^hich kept 
the overseer and g^ng system cf work. Some planters found it 
necessary to change the title of the overseer to superintendent 
or to break up their estates into several sinall farms. The anti- 
pathy held by freedmen toward working in large groups was a 
factor in the spread of share-cropping. For some time after 
emancipation some freedmen had an aversion to the cultivation 
of cotton. In some sections they destroyed gins in an effort to 
make certain that cotton cultivation would not be resumed.'" 
Many had so much of forced labor under bondage until they 
never again wanted to perform the same tasks, and this aver- 

SHADO^v' OF THE PLANTATION, 1865-1900 249 

sion was sometimes applied to the foods or some items of 
clothing which had been their common fare under slavery."^ 
Some freedmen had little respect for the work contracts they 
signed. Used to a regime under which all of their serious and 
important obligations were fixed by oral expressions, they were 
poorly equipped for life in a society of written laws. 

When Congress in 1866 placed the public lands of Ala- 
bama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi and Missouri on sale, sev- 
eral thousand families of freedmen found it possible to make 
purchases. Some of the freedmen early realized the value of co- 
operative efforts and in a few urban areas this attitude mani- 
fested itself in the establishment of building and loan associa- 
tions.''' In conformity with the trend evident in efforts of the 
Granger Movement and the Patrons of Husbandry some freed- 
men launched cooperative stores, brickyards, farms, and other 

Some freedmen looked back at the days of slaverv with 
deep nostalgia. One freedman said — "Yes, the South is a beau- 
tiful place; it's so pretty."'^" Another reported: "Where I was 
born, it is a mighty fine country, and they was awful miean to 
the colored people in that country."" Significant in the life of 
the sla^'e was ringing bells and resounding horns. One ex-slave 
reported the beginning of a typical day on the plantation with 
eloquent nostalgia. He stated: 

When the day begin to crack, the whole planta- 
tion break out with all kinds of noise you hear. 

Come the daybreak you hear the guinea fowls 
potracking down at the edge of the woods lot, and 
then the roosters all start up round the barn, and the 
ducks finally wake up and iine. You can smell the 
sowbelly frying down at the cabins in the row, to go 
with the hoecake and the buttermilk. 

Then pretty soon the wind rise a little, and you 
can hear a bell donging way on some plantation a 
mile or two off, and then more bells at other places 
and maybe a horn, and pretty soon yonder go Old 
Master's old ram horn with a long toot and then 
some short toots, and here come the overseer down 
the row of cabins, hollering right and left, and pick- 


ing the ham out of his teeth with a long shiny goose- 
quill pick/" 

Other ex-slaves had similar memories. One remembered: 
It wasn't very fancy at the big house, but it was 
mighty pretty just the same, with the gray moss hang- 
ing from the big trees, and the cool green grass all 
over the yard, and I can shut my old eyes and see it 
just like it was before the war come along and bust 
it up. 

I can see Old Master setting out under a big tree, 
smoking one of his long cheroots his tobacco nigger 
made by hand, and fanning hisself with his big wide 
hat another nigger platted outen young inside corn 
shucks for him, and I can hear him holler at a big 
bunch of white geese what's gitting in his flower 
beds and see em string off behind the old gander 
toward the big road.*^ 
Contrasting slavery with freedom one aged ex-bondsman re- 
ported in the 1940's — ''"We ain't got a bit more show now than 
we has then. Let me tell you, child, black folks, black men 
ain't got a bit more show with white folks than a rabbit sitting 
before a gun. Just to see how they treat us — we ain't got no 
law; we ain't got a chance."** Another said: "Sometimes I 
think we was a little better oif than now. Then we didn't have 
to worry about nothing to eat and wear."*' Still another opined 
of such things as corn-shuckings and slave dances, "Sometimes 
I think a nigger was happier then than he is now."*" Some ex- 
bondsmen felt that Negroes "stuck together" better as slaves, 
than they did in freedom.*' Some felt that because they had 
such hard times together in bondage, "colored people oughtn't 
be so mean to one another."*^ Yet some Negro leaders felt 
it necessary to inveigh against the fact that during recon- 
struction pride in their new-found status and seeming iinpor- 
tance in national and local affairs sometimes carried the atti- 
tudes gjid behavior of freedmen to unseemly heights of arro- 
gance. Jliey also cautioned against taking excessive pride in 
one's skin-color, appearance, or education.*" At emancipation 
approximately ninety per cent of the race was illiterate, and 
by the turn of the century, approximately one-half were still 
adjudged illiterate. Nineteen hundred thirty saw this figure 


reduced to three-eighths.'" By 1900 the nation's colored popu- 
lation had doublecf^ 

At emancipation, by the thousands Negroes left their plan- 
tation quarters to find a new job or lost relatives, visit the 
nearest town or army camp, or sometimes just to travel, more 
or less aimlessly. Problems of morality, health, food supply, 
housing, and medical care were created by this sudden and 
unplanned emancipation of over three million persons. It can- 
not be said with complete truthfulness that these were largely 
aimless, childish vagrants who needed the restraints which the 
post-war Black Codes attempted to provide. Often they had 
very legitimate reasons for being on the move. If hundreds of 
freedmen remained on the plantations, it was not always out of 
love for the former master. Oftentimes this seemed to be the 
only way to assure the necessities of life. Much, though by no 
means all, of the old paternal relationship between black and 
white was gone. One observer wrote of the planter in this 
period that, "He [the planter] finds it impossible to come near 
enough to them [freedmen] to win and hold their attention, 
for child and parent alike shrink from association with him. 
His advances are not cordially met."'^ 

Laiul Hunger and Family Life 

Negroes had long shown considerable interest in acquiring 
western lands. Before 1865, on the basis of their lack of citizen- 
ship, efforts were made to deny their land claims. The 1864 
National Negro Convention, meeting in Syracuse, New York 
had declared: "We claim the right to be heard in the halls of 
Congress; and wc claim cur fair share of the public domain, 
whether acquired by purchase, by treaty, confiscation, or mili- 
tary conquest.'"' After emancipation this agitation for land 
continued. In an 1869 petition to Congress the Negro Na- 
tional Labor Union stated that the dire economic plight of the 
freedman left him in no position to fight to protect his political 
and civil rights. "The freedom of the ballot is thus sought to be 
subdued by the necessity for bread," it was averred. "The true 
and immediately practicable remedy," which they saw for this 
defenseless position was "in making a fair proportion of the 
laborers themselves landowners. [For] this will place colored 


agricultural labor beyond the absolute control of artificial or 
political cause, by lessening the amount of labor for hire, and 
increasing at the same time the demand for that class of lab- 
orers."'" The AME Church Reiiew declared in July, 1887: 
Life at best is; a serious problem with the Negro. 
Throughout the land he is the football of caste, the 
servant of mercenary capital. Whatever therefore, 
lifts him above his present level is to be eagerlv em- 
braced and fostered. Every true man in the race should 
bestir himself and organize land purchase associa- 
tions; the cry should be heard from one end of the 
country to the other, 'Land for the landless Negroes.' 

The ideal of thrift taught freedmen, especially by the 
New England missionaries, sometimes bore commendable fruit. 
At the same time the puritanical outlook which many Negroes 
had earlier absorbed from Christian teachings was enforced by 
the puritanical bent of many of these missionaries. As slaves, 
with quarters devoid of floors, windows, or beds, and usually 
living overcrowded, often with an average of five persons per 
cabin, it is not difficult to see the effect on health, or the later 
strong desire to become homeowners which some freedmen 

Proof that some Afro-Americans were able to view the 
plight of their race in a larger setting is found in the views of 
Pennsylvania-born Richard T. Greener, educator, lawyer, and 
first Negro graduate of Harvard University. Li 1874 Greener 
declared before the American Social Science Association: 

The land question is no new one, at the present 
time there are difficulties in England, Ireland, Scot- 
land, and India with regard to this tenure of land; 
and when we come to study them, we find many cases 
analogous to those in America. There are remarkable 
coincidences . . . which show conclusions that in- 
justice and wrong, and disregard of rights and abuses 
of privilege are not confined to any one country, 
race or class. As a rule, capital takes advantage of the 
needs of labor.""* 

Some colored Americans have felt since emancipation that 
once northern and southern whites realize the true economic 
potential of their race, both as producer and consumer, they 


could not persist in their prejudice and discrimination. Legis- 
lation and other efforts to keep them down they have felt, also 
keeps the white man down. Especially did Booker Washington 
repeat this theme over and over again. Writing in July, 18 87, 
William H. Thomas said: "The financial world has no concep- 
tion of the wealth which would grow out of the acquisition of 
land by Negroes." Even in the ante-bellum period colored 
abolitionists often were wont to speak of the economic bene- 
fits which would come to the nation as a result of emancipation 
and the elevation of the slave. 

In his 1913 novel, The Conquest's: The Story of a Negro 
Pioneer, Oscar Micheaux proposed migration of freedmen to 
the West as a means of improving race relations in the South. 
Micheaux also believed that colored Americans were over-look- 
ing great economic opportunities in the West. 

As the period since 1865 has found the Afro- American 
trying to establish himself as a businessman and citizen, it also 
has found him struggling to establish a stable family. His prob- 
lems in this regard, like those of all Americans, have been 
further compounded by the rapid urbanization, industrializa- 
tion, and individualization of Occidental society, but the colored 
American has had the added disadvantage that the slave family 
was largely a matriarchiate and was highly unstable. '^'^ 

To some married ex-bondsmen freedom meant release from 
family obligations. The weak marital bonds which slavery had 
allowed the Negro all too often broke when freedom came and 
in their new-found mobility a number of males deserted their 
wives and children. For a long time common-law niarriages, 
desertions, bigamy, and bastardy would bo sins peculiarly pre- 
valent among Negroes. Yet there were exceptions aplenty, and 
many freedmen took unusual pride in contracting legal mar- 
riages and supporting their famihes. Too, some took especial 
pride in exercising the domestic authority which often had been 
denied them under slavery. With the less sensitive or malad- 
justed males this delight too often took the form of violent 
beatings inflicted on both wives and children, and the latter 
too frequently left home in early adolescence to lead indepen- 
dent lives. This tendency was aggravated by the fact that the 


little formal education acquired by the young son\etimes caused 
them to be contemptuous of their usually illiterate parents. 

That not all freedmen were childish spend-thrifts is at- 
tested by the fact that by 1900 many had become property 
owners. When the Freedmen's Savings Bank and Trust Com- 
pany failed, its 61,131 depositors — almost all of whom were 
Negroes, had deposited over three million dollars in savings in 
the bank. The Panic of 1873, and the conditions which pro- 
duced it, wiped out the Freedmen's Bank which closed during 
the summer of 1874. Repr. J. H. Rainey of S. C, declared that 
business conditions and not fraud or mismanagement cavised 
the failure of the Bank."'' Although the failure of this bank, 
plus too frequent failures of banks operated by white Ameri- 
cans, shook the faith of many freedmen in "money houses." 
Yet Negro banks continued to appeal' in the last decade of the 
century and after, and by 1948 fourteen Negro banks in the 
United States had total assets of over thirty-one millions of 
dollars." During the post-bellum period fraternal associations 
continued to grow among Negroes. Like those formed during 
the pre- war period, their growth was rooted in the abject pov- 
erty of the race. In addition to the factors which have made 
secret and fraternal societies everywhere attractive to all people, 
the loneliness, isolation and frustration of Negro life were con- 
tributors to this phenomenon. Especially attractive were the 
burial insurance features of these organizations. Because they 
had been buried "like dogs" during slavery, having a ''big" 
funeral is said to have been a peculiar' desire of the freedmen. 

Kecointructioii, Political and Social 
Despite the existence of the Thirteenth Amendment, in 
186 5 Frederick Douglass fought to keep the American Anti- 
Slavery Society from disbanding. "What advantage is a pro- 
vision like this Amendment to the black man," he asked, "if 
the legislature of any State can tomorrow declare that no black 
man's testimony shall be received in a court of law?" '' In this 
speech, delivered before the 3 2nd Annual Convention of the 
Society, Douglass asserted: "While the Legislatures of the South 
retain the right to pass laws making any discrimination between 
black and white, slavery still lives there." Thus he wanted the 
Society to maintain an active organization until the civil and 


political equality of his race was assured. He asked the members, 
before voting to disband, to "wait and see what new form the 
old monster will assume, and in what new skin this old snake 
will come forth." "Where shall the black man look for sup- 
port, my friends, if the American Anti-Slavery Society fails 
him?" he asked. '^ Beginning as early as the so-called "Bargain 
of 1877," events of practically every year made it clearer to 
Afro- Americans that many white liberals had tired of the race 

That Radical Reconstruction represented no period of 
Negro domination in the South is rapidly gaining acceptance 
today. For a long time, however, this propaganda was chanted 
as an excuse for the fraud, violence, and intimidation which 
was inflicted on the Negro people. Even the view that the 
Radical Reconstruction legislators were generally ignorant, 
incompetent, and crooked is losing ground. The contemporary 
accounts by critics who can be considered in any way objective 
reveal that most of the participants were intelligent and well- 
mannered. Much of the increase of governmental expense which 
the southern states saw has been traced to the provision of new 
and necessary social services. For the first time the South ac- 
quired a state supported public school system, modern criminal 
code, universal manhood suffrage, internal improvements, ended 
Jim Crow legislation, and acquired eleemosynary institutions. 
Numerous large estates were broken up and came into the 
hands of the poor. Of the graft and corruption which existed, 
it is generally agreed today that the colored man was neither 
the primary instigator nor benefactor, nor did the South suffer 
from these evils during this period much more than New York 
did from .the Tweed Ring, St. Louis the Whiskey Ring, or many 
other cities and states as well as the federal government. Im- 
migration, the newness of industry and urbanization, as well as 
the malign effects of four years of fratricidal warfare brought 
corrupt machine government to practically every section of the 
nation. Through Credit Mobilier, the Jay Gould instituted 
"Black Friday," and similar episodes, the evils of corruption 
reached right up to the cabinet of President Grant. 

From 1869-1877 a total of 14 Negroes served as members 
of the House of Representatives.^" Two, Hiram R. Revels and 


Blanche K. Bruce, both of Mississippi, served as members of the 
Senate. The longest period served in Congress was from 1875 
to 1887 by Robert B. Smalls of South Carolina. Little but 
praise has been said of the service of these men. 

In addition to the American tradition and the temper of 
the times, a major factor in the equalitarian drive of freedmen 
during the immediate post-Civil War period was that a goodly 
number of Negro spokesmen in the South were highly sensi- 
tive mullatoes or else were either born in the North or had 
spent considerable time there. The latter was the case with such 
men as P. B. S. Pinchback of Louisiana and Representative James 
Thomas Rapier of Alabama. 

The political leaders of the race stood practically unani- 
mous in their support of universal suffrage. Samuel D. Smith 
says that in Alabama during the Radical Reconstruction era 
Negroes "furnished 90,000 votes in the Republican party, but 
the whites with only 10,000 votes, held all major ofiices.'"^^ 
A very similar situation existed in Georgia and other states, 
with the exception of South Carolina. Defending his race 
against the charge of "Negro domination," Rep. Joseph H. 
Rainey of South Carolina said: 

I ask this House, T ask the country ... I ask 
Democrats, I ask Republicans whether the Negroes 
have presumed to take improper advantage of the 
majority they hold in that State by disregarding 
the interest of the minority? They have not. Our 
convention which met in 1868, and in which the 
Negroes were in a large majority, did not pass any 
proscriptive or disfranchising acts, but adopted a 
liberal constitution, securing alike equal rights to all 
citizens, white and black, male and female, as far as 
possible. Mark you, we did not discriminate, although 
we had a majority.*'" 

The freedmen showed a commendable realism in yielding the 
political initiative to the whites who were more experienced in 
such matters, yet, in some instances their trust was betrayed 
by unscrupulous men. J. C. Price denied that cojnplete en- 
franchisement of freedmen would lead to control of political 
affairs by the most ignorant and base persons. Price pointed out 
that although the majority of southern whites had full en- 


franchisement in the 80's and 90's, control of political affairs 
was still in the hands of the most enlightened whites. "The 
Negroes believed in an intelligent administration of govern- 
ment as much as anybody else," he declared. "The Negroes 
enter protest — to the presumption that all the intelligence or 
capability is in one party, or one race.'"^' Price continued: 
The Negro is not seeking supremacy through the 
ballot, he is not after power, but protection — not con- 
trol, but right. He has no desire to rule the whites, 
but he does insist that the whites shall rule him only 
on the principle of humxanity and justice. The Negro 
is after friends, more than supremacy. If he does not 
find them in one set of men, he seeks them in another, 
if not in one section of the country, he looks to 

If intelligent, forceful, and sound presentation of one's 
case before Congress were all that was needed, the Negro would 
have been granted full civil rights during Reconstruction, never 
again to lose them. The greatest concern of Negro politicians 
during Reconstruction was with education, civil rights, and 
promoting racial and sectional concord. Some backed legisla- 
tion to benefit directly the cities or states from which they 
came. While in general Negro congressmen were regarded as 
race heroes, this opinion was by no means unanimous. Northern 
Negroes especially were sometimes critical of the ineffectiveness 
of the congressmen and sometimes implied that they were quasi- 
ignorant men. Even among southern Negroes they had opposi- 
tion and critics, sometimes on charges that they were selfish 
and corrupt, sometimes that they were too friendly with whites, 
and sometimes on the ground that they were mulattoes. 

Afro-Americans have tended to believe that, in the long 
run, federal legislation improves race relations. They have never 
believed that legislation guaranteeing civil rights leads to social 
equality and inter-marriage. They have felt that the cause of 
justice and the national ideals demand that there be only one 
legal class of citizenship, and that social equality is an indi- 
vidual, not a group matter. 

A major source of the myth that Negro politicians of the 
Reconstruction era were mostly corrupt is to be found in the 
investigation weapons used by the Democracy to justify the 


Klu Kluxisni, fraud, bribery, anti-democratic legislation, and 
other ugly aspects of its program. While not all charges were 
fabricated, exaggeration was rampant. Too, Samuel D. Smith 
in his assertion that every Negro Congressman of the 1869- 
1901 era "was a Negro first, and a Republican next," appears 
to be incorrect.*^'' 

Negroes generally approved of the use of federal troops in 
the South, but there were those opposed to this. Jeremiah 
Haralson of Alabama opposed the use of troops in 1876. "Every 
blue jacket sent to the South," he declared, "makes Democratic 
votes." Like William H. Councill and Booker T. Washington of 
the same state, Haralson was intensely devoted to racial peace 
in the South. 

Negro Congressmen of this period were stout in defense 
of all civil rights for their race but they usually took pains to 
point out that social equality was not their object. J. H. R. 
Rainey declared that "social equality consists in congeniality 
of feeling, a reciprocity of sentiment and mutual social recog- 
nition among men which is graded according to desire and taste 
and not by any known or possible law,"''° 

When Congress was debating its first Civil Rights bill, 
several southern states already had in their own constitutions 
and laws similar provisions as those set forth in the proposed 
federal legislation, but the state constitutions and laws had 
been enacted when Republicans were in power in southern 
states, and often were not being sustained. Debate over this 
civil rights bill was long and acrimonious. Speaking to the 43rd 
Congress in defense of the Civil Rights Bill, John R. Lynch 
stated that he did not feel that either the state-supremacy or 
central-government supremacy argument had been settled by 
the war. He hoped, however, that the war resulted in "accept- 
ance of what may be called a medium between these two ex- 

The question of social equality between the races became 
a big issue for the first time during the debates over the civil 
rights laws. Lynch gave the charactristic attitude of Afro- 
Americans on this topic, "I have never believed for a moment," 
he declared, "that social equality could be brought about even 
between persons of thd same race. I have always believed that 


social distinctions existed among white persons the same as 

among colored people.'"'^ 

J. C. Price declared: 

The Negro does not desire and does not seek 
social equality with the whites. Such an equality does 
not obtain among the Negroes themselves . . . The 
Negro in his own race has the rare privilege of choos- 
ing any color, from the snowy white to the ebony 

The colored man . . . does not seek a seat in a 
car free from tobacco smoke and juice, or profanity 
and obscenity, or ask for a meal in a decent dining 
room because he desires to be in the society of whites, 
but because he desires comfort, protection, and nour- 

Lynch tore into a North Carolina Congressman for his mani- 
festations of race prejudice, and praised the state of Mississippi 
for its "better" race relations. In the next Congress, Lynch 

I deny that race prejudice has anything to do 
with fraud and violence at elections in the Southern 
States- There is not half as much race feeling at the 
South as many of the Bourbon leaders in that section 
would have the country believe. The antagonisms 
that exist there today are not based on antipathies of 
race, but they are based on antipathies of parties. 
The race feeling was strong shortly after the war, 
but it has now very nearly died out. Colored men are 
not now persecuted in the section from which I 
come on account of their color, but Republicans, 
white and colored, are persecuted in many localities 
on account of their politics. More colored than white 
men are thus persecuted, simply because they consti- 
tute in larger numbers the opposition to the Demo- 
cratic party. 

Richard H. Cain declared of his race: 

We do not want any discriminations. I do not ask 
legislation for the colored people of this country that 
is not applied to the white people. All that we ask is 
equal laws, equal legislation, and equal rights through- 
out the length and breadth o£ this land.''^ 


Lynch referred to the 14th and 15th amendments and said that 
those who argued the unconstitutionaHty of the bill "seem to 
forget that the Constitution ... is not in every respect the 
Constitution it was" before the War.'^ He denied that the recent 
supreme court decision in the Slaughterhouse cases ruled out 
federal action on civil rights.^' In the 1950s the United States 
Supreme Court would vindicate his argument. Lynch ended his 
lengthy speech on this bill thus: 

The duty of the law-maker is to know no race, 
no color, no religion, no nationality, except to prevent 
distinctions on any of these grounds, so far as the 
law is concerned. 

Mr. Speaker, if this unjust discrimination is to 
be longer tolerated by the American people, which 
I do not, cannot, and will not believe until I am forced 
to do so, then I can only say with sorrow and regret 
that our boasted civilization is a fraud; our republi- 
can institutions a failure; our social system a dis- 
grace; and our religion a complete hypocrisy. . . . 
but still I have an abiding confidence in the patriot- 
ism of this people, ... I hope that I will not be 
deceived. I love the land that gave me birth; I love 
the Stars and Stripes. This country is where I intend 
to live, where I expect to die. To preserve the 
honor of the national flag and to maintain perpetually 
the Union of the States hundreds, and I may say 
thousands, of noble, brave, and true-hearted colored 
men have fought, bled, and died. And now, Mr. 
Speaker, I ask, can it be possible that the flag under 
which they fought is to be a shield and a protection 
to all races and classes of persons except the colored 
race? God forbid! 

My honest opinion is that the passage of this bill 
will have a tendency to harmonize the apparently 
conflicting interests between the two races. It will 
have a tendency to bring them more closely together 
in all matters pertaining to their public and political 
duties. It will cause them to know, appreciate and 
respect the rights and privileges of each other more 
than ever before. ^^ 

With every advance in civil rights, Afro-American spokes- 
men or leaders have been concerned that the race would ex- 

SHADO\\^ OF THE PLANTATION, 1865-1900 261 

ercise their new wen freedoms with dignity and proper humility. 
In his defense of the Civil Rights bill, John R. Lynch had said: 
"Let us confer upon the colored citizens equal rights, and . . . 
they will exercise their rights with moderation and with wise 
discretion.'"* Almost a century later, when Negroes of Mont- 
gomery, Alabama won the right to sit in any vacant seat on 
city busses, the Reverend Martin Luther King challenged the 
Negroes to exercise this newly won right with discretion and 
dignity. Freedmen often told white southerners how, as slaves 
during the Civil War, they had faithfully cared for the sections' 
white Vv'ives and children. In the minds of manv freedmen this 
left the white South obligated to treat their race with fairness 
and justice. Richard H. Cain said: 

I have voted in this House with a free heart to 
declare Universal amnesty. Inasmuch as general am- 
nesty has been proclaimed, I would hardly have ex- 
pected there would be any objection on this floor to 
the civil-rights bill, giving to all m.en the equal rights 
of citizens. There should be no more contest. Amnesty 
and civil rights should be together. Gentlemen on the 
other side will admit that we have been faithful; and 
now, when we propose to bury the hatchet, let's 
shake hands upon this measure of justice; and if here- 
tofore we have been enemies, let us be friends now 
and forever.' ' 

Speaking in defense of the Civil Rights bill before the 
44th Congress, Canadian - educated Congressman James T. 
Rapier of Alabama declared: 

I am told that I must respect the prejudices of others 
... no one respects reasonable and intelligent pre- 
judice more than I . . . But how can I have respect 
for the prejudices that prompt a man to turn up his 
nose at the males of a certain race, while at the same 
timie he has a fondness for the females of the same 
race to the extent of cohabitation? 
Of the contradictions in American thought. Rapier further 
stated — "Here a drunken white man is not equal to a drunken 
Negro . . ., but superior to the most sober and orderly one; 
here an ignorant white nian is not only the equal of an un- 
lettered Negro, but is superior to the most cultivated." Rapier 


Mr. Speaker, nothing short of a complete ac- 
knowledgement of my manhood will satisfy me. I 
have no compromises to make and shall unwillingly 
accept any ... I cannot willingly accept anything 
less than my full measure of rights as a man, because 
I am unwilling to present myself as a candidate for 
the brand of inferiority, which will be as plain and 
lasting as the mark of Cain. If I am to be thus 
branded, the country must do it against my solemn 

Of Southern whites Rapier said: "They question the constitu- 
tionality of every measure that is advanced to ameliorate the 
condition of the colored man," and Rapier continued: 

Just think that the law recognizes my right to secure 
to me any accommodations whatever while traveling 
here to discharge my duties as a Representative of a 
large and wealthy constituency. Here I am the peer 
of the proudest, but on a steamboat or car I am not 
equal to thej most degraded. Is not this most anoma- 
lous and ridiculous? 

And: "1 affirm, without fear of contradiction, that any white 
ex-convict . . . may start with me today to Montgomery, 
that all the way down he will be treated as a gentleman, while 
I will be treated as the convict. He will be allowed a berth in 
a sleeping-car with all its comforts, while I will be forced into 
a dirty, rough box with the drunkards, apple-sellers, railroad 
hands, and next to any dead that may be in transit, regardless 
of how far decomposition may have progressed. Tender, pure, 
intelligent young ladies are forced to travel in this way if 
they are guilty of the crime of color, the v>nly unpardonably 
sin known in our Christian and Bible land . . ." "Now . . . 
is there a man upon this floor who is so heartless, whose breast 
is so void of the better feelings, as to say that this brutal custom 
needs no regulation? I hold that it does and that Congress is 
the body to regulate it. Authority for its action is found not 
only in the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution, but by 
virtue of that amendment . . . authority is found in Article 
4, section 2, of the Federal Constitution, which declares in 
positive language 'that the citizens of each state shall have the 
same right as the citizens of the several States." "Congress," 


Rapier said, "is the law-making power of the General Govern- 
ment, whose duty is to see that there be no unjust and odious 
discriminations made between its citizens." This, ho said, is 
why "I come to the national, instead of going to the local Legis- 
latures for relief."" Richard H. Cain also asked for equality of 
rights for Negroes in all public places and on public convey- 

In an age of strict party loyalty Negro Congressmen gen- 
erally voted with their party. Owing perhaps to their staunch 
party loyalty Representatives Benjaim S. Turner of Alabama 
and R. H. Smalls of South Carolina both opposed civil service 
reform. Although throughout his career he remained a party 
regular, Blanche K. Bruce denounced both Grant and the 
Republican party because of their refusal to sent P. B. S. 

Frederick Douglass and John Mercer Langston were poli- 
tical enemies. Langston, sometimes able lawyer, Vice-Presi- 
dent of Howard University, and President of Virginia State 
College, was born of an ex-slave mother and her white owner. 
The latter had him educated in Ohio. Langston became an 
outstanding abolitionist and also held the office of Inspector- 
General of the Freedmen's Bureau. Douglass and Langston be- 
came rivals for primacy in Negro leadership. When Langston 
won a congressional seat from Virginia in late 1890, he pre- 
dicted that soon Negroes would sit in the United States Senate 
again and ultimately would hold the Presidency of the nation.'^ 

The End of Keconstrnction 
Some colored Americans have believed that R;idical Re- 
construction was unfair to the South, but probably most have 
believed that the section deserved the disfranchisement and 
military rule which was imposed on it by the Act of March, 
1867. Too, Negro writers have tended to minimize the cor- 
ruption and other evils which then plagued the section. ''It is 
significant," R. R. Moton has observed, "that during the re- 
construction period, when the Negro was represented both in 
the state legislatures and the national congress, there were no 
disabling laws passed against the white men and no legislation 
enacted specially favoring the Negro. "^" This is a point of 
which Negroes have been especially proud. 


As the "Carpetbag" — Negro — "Scalawag" coalition began 
to assert its influence, the white South turned to thoughts and 
deeds of violence. Rioting was particularly vicious in Memphis, 
Tennessee, in early May of 1866 and in New Orleans, Louisi- 
ana, on July 30 of the same year. In the majority of these and 
similar assaults on the person and property of the freedmen, 
there was surprisingly little meeting of force with force. To be 
sure whites were wounded and killed in almost every major 
outbreak, but the preponderance of casualities was almost al- 
ways on the side of the colored man. When it is considered 
that the lynching and pillage usually represented an invasion 
of a colored community, this failure of the freedmen to orga- 
nize and effectively meet this violence is all the more interest- 
ing. Perhaps their acceptance of the American creed plus the 
long years of indoctrination to the effect that no Negro should 
do violence to the person of any white man, whatever the cir- 
cumstances, and that all violence is sinful, caused this reaction. 
During the Reconstruction period there were a few instances in 
which Negroes lynched whites, of less serious instances of mob 
action by Negroes, and on occasions Negroes carried arms to 
the polls. ""^ Doubtless another reason why freedmen failed to 
fight violence with violence is the fact that many of them were 
without guns. A major objective of the Klan was to seize and 
confiscate all guns found in the possession of Negroes. 

As Reconstruction was a great traumatic experience for 
southern whites, its overthrow was no less of a trauma for the 
Negro. On one aspect of the end of Reconstruction, Boston- 
born and England-educated Robert Brown Elliott, who served 
in the 42nd Congress admitted the soundness of the dual citi- 
zenship annunciation by the Supreme Court, yet he claimed 
that for a state to deny him "the right to enjoy the common 
public conveniences of travel on public highways, of rest and 
refreshment at public inns, of education in public schools, of 
burial in public cemeteries" is "a denial to me of the equal 
protection of the laws." "No matter, therefore," Elliot con- 
tinued, "whether his rights are held under the United States 
or under his particular State, [the Negro] is equally protected 
by this Fourteenth Amendment. He is always and everywhere 
entitled to the equal protection of the laws. All discrimination 


is forbidden; and while the rights of citizens of a State as such 
arc not defined or conferred by the Constitution of the United 
States, yet all discrimination, all denial of equality before the 
law, all denial of the equal protection of the lav/s, whether 
State or before national laws, is forbidden,"^" 

John Mercer Langston declared in 1877 that Radical Re- 
construction was "a failure" and must end, and "some new 
and, if possible, better method . . . tried. This, the welfare of 
those immediately concerned, as well as the general good of 
the country in all its material and moral interests, requires.'"'' 
Here almost twenty years before Booker T. Washington's famed 
"Atlanta Compromise" speech, is the same note and spirit of 
retreat .md compromise for which Washington was to be so 
vehemently denunciated during the opening years of the twen- 
tieth century. Langston regretted the use of troops in the South 
and asked that this means not be used again to settle disputes. 
The use of troops, he declared, was "exciting, irritating, and 
exasperating" to- white Southerners. Langson denounced Radical 
Reconstruction and gave a number of reasons for its demise. 
Among these were: "The unhandsome and obnoxious conduct 
of political adventurers; the unnecessary and too constant po- 
litical excitement and agitation of the people, the injudicious 
and oppre?sive acts of Republican legislatures and officials, the 
former composed, frequently, largely of ignorant, unqualified, 
and impecunious persons, white and black, and the latter fre- 
quently not only incompetent but offensive and exasperating 
in their conduct; the too frequent interference by the Na- 
tional Government in State affairs with the Army, seemingly 
for party purposes; the general bad temper and purpose of the 
native dominant white class. '""^Langston was eager to see the 
South returned to local control, and he apparently believed 
and hoped that somehow this could be done and Negro equality 
made a reality at the same time. 

Although at the time few Negroes expressed lament at the 
Bargain of 1877, in the twentieth century Archibald Grimke, 
W. E. B. DuBois, Rayford W. Logan and others would scath- 
ingly denounce the laissez-faire attitude toward the race prob- 
lem which the Bargain signaled. Giving his estimation of how 


and why this turn of events ensued, Grimke declared of the 

The cLamor of all its million-wheeled industry and 
prosperity was for peace. 'Let us have peace,' said 
Grnnt, and 'let; us have peace' blew forthwith and in 
deafening union, all the big and little whistles of all 
the big and little factories and locomotives, and steam- 
ships from Maine to California. Every pen of mer- 
chant and editor scratched paper to the same mad 
tune. The pulpit and the platform of the land cooed 
their Cuckoo-song in honor of those piping times of 
peace. The loud noise of chinking coin pouring into 
vaults like coal into bins, drowned the agonizing cry 
of the forgotten and long-suffering Negro. Deserting 
him in 1876, the North, stretching across the bloody 
chasm its two greedy, commercial hands, grasped the 
ensanguined ones of the South, and repeated, 'let us 
have peace.' Little did the Northern people and the 
government reck then or now that at the bottom of 
that bloody chasm lay their faithful black friends."'' 

Retrospeccing about the Negro and the end of Radical Recon- 
struction, Kelly Miller later wrote: "I see him thrust down 
from the high scat of political power, by fraud and force, while 
the nation looks on in sinister silence find acquiescent guilt.'""" 
As Sojourner Truth .ind Harriet Tubman had been active 
in the iight against slavery, so Negro women were often quite 
active in arousing their husbands and relatives to oppose the 
discrimination and oppression which followed the overthrow 
of Radical Reconstruction. Failing in efforts to secure equality 
of treatment within the South, many women urged their fami- 
lies to emigrate. The high incidence of violence and threats of 
violence attendent upon the effort has caused a number of 
Negroes to feel that the fight to exercise their political and 
civil rights is not worth the pi'ice. During the early years of 
Radical Reconstruction the number of persons who held this 
conviction was small, but as violence and opposition increased 
to a point constituting an undeclared civil war against the 
legally constituted authority, and as the federal government 
slowly retreated from its militant support of Negro rights, 
"Uncle Tomism" in the race increased. For this and other rea- 


sons, a number of colored southerners became supporters of 
the Democratic party. 

hinigratiGu and hu migration 

The first great Negro exodus from the South was Free 
Negroes of the early 19th century who fled the section after 
cotton became King and Garrisonianism and the Nat Turner 
and Vesey acts evoked strong repressive measures in the South. 
This exodus helped to make the "Negro problem" national 
instead of sectional. 

The exodus of freedmen from the South which started in 
the 1870's, and had Kansas, Oklahoma, and such northern 
cities as Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York as primary 
targets, was due to such factors as the overthrow of Radical 
Reconstruction, lack of civil, educational, and political oppor- 
tunities, peonage, and crop failure. Too, the post-Civil War 
wanderlust was doubtless one cause of the exodus of 1879. 
Here were ccJored 49'ers, or the Africaander Trekkers, or the 
thousands of Conestoga- wagoned white Americans who crossed 
or conquered the plains. In some aspects the Negroes who went 
West were drawn by the same forces which lured American 
whites. Among the causes of the exodus was a speech made in 
the Senate during the winter of the previous year by Senator 
Windom. Frederick Douglass called this speech "a powerful 
stimulus to this emigration. '"~' Evils in, and blind-alley na- 
ture of share-cropping, the crop lien system, poor educational 
facilities, violence and intimidation, unequal application of the 
criminal code, fear that the return to power of the "Slavo- 
cracy" meant the virtual reenslavenicnt of the Negro, the low 
price of cotton, charging of excessive rent and prices for credit, 
food, clothing, and land, and the insecurity of life and prop- 
erty, appear again and again as factors generally recognized 
by Douglass, Richard Greener and other Negro spokesmen as 
contributing heavily to the migrations. Particularly onerous to 
Negroes was the manner in which whites invaded their homes 
to search or arrest without warrants or to pillage and abuse 
without punishment. 

During the first eight months of 1874 approximately 15,- 
000 southern Negroes moved to the West. The exodus started 
in Mississippi, but soon all of the lower South was involved. 


Another mass movement started in early 1879, beginning 
witli the state of Louisiana, and during 18 89, the same hap- 
pened to Alabama. So large were these migrations that the 
United States Senate was moved to investigate the causes. In 
the migration to Kansas and other western states which started 
in 1879 approximately 40,000 Negroes went West. The census 
of 1910 revealed that almost two million Negroes were living 
in places other than the state of their birth. The significance 
of this exodus can hardly be exaggerated. To the freedmen who 
left the South to go West, to those who remained in the South, 
and to those of the North as well, the exodus was in part a 
protest, and although few saw it as a solution of the "race 
problem," Negroes everywhere took pride in it. 

Frederick Douglass thought that the rigors of northern 
and western climates and the speedy tempo of life in these 
sections were too much for most "South-adjusted" Negroes to 
take, but he, too, praised the protest element in the exodus. 
Some Negroes opposed the exodus of 1879, as well as those of 
the World War eras, because their race stood "to lose" politic- 
ally, economically, or otherwise by the loss of population to the 
North or West. Throughout the history of the nation there 
always have been Negroes who were acutely conscious of their 
vested interest in the status quo. Segregation, discrimination, 
and the amassed colored population in the South have been 
conditions out of which some Negroes have made capital, and 
thus some have not wanted these conditions changed. 

A major reason for the western migration of Negroes was 
the propaganda which helped pull whites into the West. Horace 
Greeley was urging, "Go West Young Man," and the railroad 
companies were advertising as far away as Europe. Speaking 
before the American Social Science Association in September 
12, 1874, Richard T. Greener declared that over the previous 
ten years southern Negroes "had heard" and "read . . . much" 
of the "great West."^"^ In part, these migrants were attracted 
by the growing labor demands of the industrial North and the 
expanding West. Some freedmen who left the Southeast to go 
West did so because they Jiad heard tall tales of easy livelihoods 
to be made in Arkansas, Texas, or Oklahoma, where it was 
reputed that cotton and corn required no tending, white pota- 


toes grew as big as watermelons, and cotton grew as tall as a 
man. Blanche K. Bruce thought that many Negroes might 
improve their lot through emigration to Liberia. 

The migrations not infrequently had dramatic leadership. 
Edwin P. McCabe performed almost unbelievable services in 
getting Afro-Americans out of the South. A former state 
auditor of Kansas, he is generally credited with having been 
directly responsible for over eight hundred families from the 
Carolinas leaving those two states. His plan to settle 5,000 fami- 
lies in Oklahoma had the backing of several congressmen, but 
not enough to get federal aid for the ill-fated project.^'' That 
southern whites in Congress, in both the ante- and post-bellum 
periods, opposed and blocked any substantial federal aid in 
support of schemes which would drain oif their labor is un- 
derstandable. Still, had the South supported these colonization 
efforts more, the section might today have a less acute racial 
situation. The move to Kansas had some leadership in Benjamin 
Smgleton. Henry Adams, Georgia born ex-slave, was prominent 
also in the 1879 migrations. Adams reported that he was a 
leader of a Sovith-wide colored committee of up to five hundred 
mem.bers. This committee, he stated, was started in 1869 for 
the purpose of investigating opportunities for the race in the 
South. Its members reported that conditions were best in the 
upper South, but far from ideal even there. After the over- 
throw of Radical Reconstruction, this committee appealed to 
the federal government for permission to colonize the Negro 
within the boundaries of the United States. This failing, the 
group decided on emigration from the South. Adams summed 
up the reasons for the exodus as follows: 

It is because the largest majority of the people, 
of the white people, that held us as slaves treats our 
people so bad . . . that it is impossible for them to 
stand it . . . Our people most as well be slaves as 
to be free; because in times of politics, if they have 
any idea that the Republicans will carry a parish or 
ward . . . why, they would do anything on God's 
earth. There ain't nothing too mean for them to do 
to prevent it. '" 

Some white southerners became alarmed at this drain on 
the section's cheap labor supply. In numerous areas cotton was 


left standing in the fields with no one to pick it, and to halt 
the movement, in some areas local debts were held over the 
heads of tenant-farmers to prevent their leaving, and at times 
ticket agents at railroad stations refused to sell tickets to Ne- 

Frederick Douglass was in favor of the exodus because it 
indicated to southern whites the limits to which the race would 
allow itself to be pushed and exploited, and "revealed to south- 
ern men the humiliating fact that the prosperity and civiliza- 
tion of the South are at the mercy of the despised and hated 
Negro."'"' Accepting some of the current stereotypes about his 
race, Douglass felt that only the Negro could perform the agri- 
cultural labors of the South. Accepting also the stereotype of 
the lazy southern white, he felt that the Negro was the only 
person in rhe South who would work. The South had to depend 
on Negro labor or starve. Of southern whites, Douglass averred: 
There is only ono mode of escape for them, and that 
mode they will certainly not adopt. It is to take off 
their own coats, cease to whittle sticks and talk poli- 
tics at the cross-roads, and go themselves to work in 
their broad and sunny fields of cotton and sugar. An 
invitation to do this is about as harsh and distasteful 
to all their inclinations as would be an invitation to 
step down into their graves. With the Negro, all this 
is diflerent. Neither natural, artificial nor traditional 
causes stand in the way of the freedman to such labor 
in the South. Neither heat; nor the fever demon . . . 
affrights him, and he stands today the admitted author 
of whatever prosperity, beauty, and civilization are 
now possessed bv the South. He is the arbiter of her 

This, then, is the high vantage ground of the 
Negro; he has labor, the South wants it, and must have 
it or perish. Since he is free he can now give it, or 
withhold it; use it where he is, or take it elsewhere, as 
he pleases. His labor ... is more to him than either 
fire, sword, ballot-boxes, or bayonet. It touches the 
heart of the South through its pocket."" 

Clearly Douglass overlooked or minimized the difficulties which 
the oftentimes benighted impoverished Negro would have in 
using his labor as such a weapon, and he exaggerated the extent 


of the white man's contempt for labor. Here Douglass probably 
generalized from the image of the southern planter class as not 
being willing to soil their hands with manual labor. Along with 
many abolitionists, Douglass overlooked the fact that most 
southern whites had never owned a single slave a day in their 
lives. Because of this reasoning and the "monopoly of the labor 
market" which he thought the race had in the South and be- 
cause of the "careless and improvident habits" which he thought 
slavery had inculcated in the Negro, and the rigorous northern 
and western climates, Douglass' final advice on the exodus 
coincided with that of Booker Washington — Negroes should 
remain in the South. However, the success of these and sub- 
sequent migrations have proved that Douglass, like so many of 
his contemporaries among colored leaders, was wrong in ac- 
cepting some of the stereotyped and mistaken notions about 
the race.' ' In opposing the exodus Douglass penned resolutions 
and made numerous speeches before important groups, and he 
gave still another reason why most Negroes should remain in 
the South: 

By staying where they are they may be able to send 
abler, better, and more effective representatives of 
their race to Congress. In the South the Negro has at 
least the possibility of power; in the North he has no 
such possibility, and it is for him to say how well he 
can afford to part with this possible power. 
Douglass continued realistically: 

Go where they will, they must, for a time, inevitably 
carry with them poverty, ignorance and other repul- 
sive incidents inherited from their former conditions 
as slaves; a circumstance which is about as likely to 
make votes for Democrats as for Republicans, and to 
raise up bitter prejudices against them as to raise up 
friends for them.''* 
Douglass feared that the Republican party would lose Negro 
voters by the exodus, and that by giving up concentration for 
dispersal Negroes would lose the ability to elect members of 
their own race to high public office. "No people can be much 
respected in this country . . . that cannot point to any one 
of their class in an honorable, responsible position," he declared. 
Douglass opposed the exodus also because of, ( 1 ) his optimism 


that the pHght of the southern Negro was improving, and (2) 
his behef that it is un-manly to run from a fight or hard con- 
ditions. To run, he said, "is necessarily an abandonment of the 
great and paramount principle of protection to person and 
property in every State of the Union. It is an evasion of a 
solemn obligation and duty. The business of this nation is to 
protect its citizens where they arc, not to transport them where 
they will not need protection." "A rolling stone gathers no 
moss," he declared. "The colored people of the South," he 
averred, "just beginning to accumulate a little properety, and 
to lay the foundation of families, should not be in haste to sell 
that iittld and be oft to the banks of the Mississippi." 

Douglass felt that Negroes would do better if most re- 
mained on farms. In towns and cities, he said, they would 
come into competition with white labor. Too, he believed that 
Negroes were slow mentally and physically, and by tempera- 
ment best suited to the rural South. It seems that by the end 
of the Civil War, and even before, Douglass had risen from 
slavery to a middle class outlook which, among other things, 
carried an attitude of both contempt and love for the masses 
of his own race. Booker T. Washington appears to have gone 
through a similar metamorphosis. Although he opposed the 
exodus, Douglass stated: 

In no case must thg Negro be 'bottled up' or 'caged 
up.' He must be left free like every other American 
citizen, to choose his own local habitation and to go 
where he shall like. Though it may not be for his 
interest to leave the South, his right and power to 
leave it may be his best means of making it possible 
for him to stay there in peace. Woe to the oppressed 
and destitute of all countries and races if the rich and 
powerful are to decide when and where they shall go 
or stay. The deserving hired man gets his wages in- 
creased when he can tell his employer that he can get 
better wages elsewhere. And when all hope is gone 
from the hearts of the laboring classes of the old 
world, they can come across the sea to the new. 

Richard T. Greener advocated the formation of a national 
Negro organization to aid the freedmen who wished to go West. 
Greener thought the movement "came from God." "That the 


departure of the few will benefit the many," he declared, 
"might be abundantly illustrated by the condition of Ireland 
after the famine of 1848, or England after the Lancashire dis- 
tress, when Canon Girdlestone, Mr. Froude and Goldwin Smith 
counseled emigration." Later to be a close associate of Booker 
Washington, where the exodus was concerned, in 1874 Greener 
diflfered with Douglass on practically all counts. For those who 
remained in the South Greener thought the emigration would 
lead to higher wages, while the emigrants would be stimulated 
to unlearn the lack of thrift, excessive drinking, and other bad 
habits and qualities which he felt were characteristic of south- 
erners of both races. Douglass had drawn an analogy between 
the emigration to the West of the 1870s and the earlier des- 
pised schemes of colonization in Africa. Greener denied the 
validity of this analogy, pointing out that the Westward mi- 
gration did not involve leaving the land of the Afro-American's 
nativity. Where Douglass saw a great difference between the 
climates of the South and Kansas, Greener minimized the dif- 
ference. To Douglass' argument relative to the "potential" 
power of the Negro vote in the South, Greener countered, with 
the observation that the vote was presently impotent, and that 
as Negro legislators had appeared already in such states as 
Massachusetts and Ohio, even in the West ihcy would appear. 
Greener was firm in his conviction that Greeley's advice, "Go 
West, young man" was good for colored as well as white Ameri- 
cans. ' 

Study of the rising economic wealth possessed by the 
race, of the establishment on a firm foundation of its churches, 
colleges and normal schools, of the growing number of college 
graduates and the battles against illiteracy, of the shifting of 
population to urban areas of the North, South, and West; of 
participation in the Populist Revolt and the labor movement, 
and of the developing race pride, reveals that despite the defeats 
sutfered on the political front, for Negroes the period from 
1877-1900 was not a static era. 

By the 1880's Carl Schurz, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, 
and a number of former abolitionists had joined the ranks of 
Liberal Republicans. They became highly critical of Negroes, 
and sympathetic to the views and program of the white South. 


Seemingly abandoned by the North and its party, Negroes were 
at first shocked and dismayed at the retreat of many of their 
former supporters. For the iirst time in their history in the 
United States, Afro-Americans found themselves to a consider- 
able extent without paternalistic sponsorship. Now the race 
had to "call its own plays" and justify them, and despite the 
substantial financial aid received from white philanthropy, 
many Negroes knew that financial aid was increasingly both 
more difficult to get and inadequate for their needs. Through 
pen and forum some spokesmen unleashed their anger and re- 
sentment at their "former friends" for abandoning their cause. 
But they did not stop with anger. They began to grope for new 
solutions to their problems. 

Some sought an answer in emigration. In both West and 
South one solution tried was that of segregated Negro towns. 
Some persons proposed emigration to Africa, while others 
sought a solution through the launching of a national Afro- 
American political party and labor union. To some, acquies- 
cence in the social and political status quo was the key to ad- 
vancement of the race, while there were others who were equally 
certain that the panacea was the acquisition of culture and 
character. Many others felt that most important were frugality 
and the acquisition of property and wealth. At times several of 
these views, even where they were contradictory, were held by 
the same person, and for every proponent of m_ost of them, 
there were numerous opponents. In brief, with the more 
thoughtful Negroes, among other things this was an age of 
confusion. As much as anything else, their dire plight and 
frustration caused some Afro-American leaders with divergent 
views to be suspicious of and to quarrel with not only white 
persons of both sections, but with one another. One individual 
or group impugned the motives, character, and sincerity of the 
other. The well-known quarrel between Booker Washington 
and W. E. B. DuBoi> was not the only instance of this. Yet it 
is clear that most spokesmen sincerely had their racial group 
at heart, and it is highly probable that the masses of Negroes, 
not given to or able to base their actions on finely-spun theo- 
retical beliefs, plodded on scarcely mindful of the conflicting 
views, eyes fixed on obtaining the humble necessities of life. 


Despite the often confused counsels which emanated from 
without and within Negro ranks, during this period the basic 
Americanization of the Negro dictated the central trend of 
his actions. Most Negroes simply thought and acted like most 
Americans — particularly southern Americans — of the age. In- 
deed, it always has been easy to exaggerate the extent to which 
the colored American and his problems were different from 
those of other Americans. While his problems without doubt 
had their unique aspects, they had even more in common with 
those of the nation-at-large, and despite the noise and raised 
blood pressures which the "race question" caused, the problems 
of the South were not at bottom racial, but largely cultural 
and economical. 

Especially did Negro conventions of the 18 80"s and 90's 
urge financial support for the migrants from the South, federal 
aid to education, and anti-lynching legislation. During this 
period not only did northern Negroes continue the national 
conventions which the colored abolitionists had begun, but the 
freedmen of the South adopted this method of group protest 
and progress. North and South, the race made considerable 
progress, evidences of which are to be seen not only in such 
economical areas as the growth of Negro business and expan- 
sion of land and home ownership, but in cultural growth as 
well. F(jr example. In 1892 the Colored Women's League was 
organized in Washington, D. C. Within three years the Na- 
tional Federation of Afro-American women was organized, 
and a year later these two organizations merged into the Na- 
tional Association of Colored Women. In addition to their sup- 
port of anti-lynching legislation and federal aid to education, 
industrial and college training for Negroes, these groups sup- 
ported civil rights, temperance, and women's rights and at- 
tacked the delinquent behavior of members of their race. By 
the 1950s this organization could boast of a membership of 
over 40,000 and a long record of outstanding service. Its annual 
conventions, plus its journal Woman's Era, have been effective 
media for evaluating the progress of the race, attracting atten- 
tion to its plight, and planning courses of action. One of the 
founders of this organization, Mrs. Mary Church Terrell, was 
for over a half century a most ardent spokesman and agitator 


for equality. The same is true of Mrs. Daisy Lampkin, Mrs. 
Mary McCloud Bethune, and other women who have been 
identified with this organization. Chailes Chestnutt, the first 
outstanding Negro noveUst, was writing in this period, which 
saw also George Washington Williams begin the serious study 
of Negro history. In addition, Henry Ossawa Tanner's "Pvesur- 
rection of Lazarus" waa received with great praise at the Paris 
Exhibition of 1897. Similar examples of social and cultural 
growth arc numerous. 

Before the year 1900 the more able southern Negroes had 
been caught up in the great American dream of becoming 
millionnaircs. As many whites had done two or three decades 
earlier, the more able Negroes frequently turned their backs 
on politics and viewed education, religion, and business as the 
more roseate fields of personal endeavor. Negroes were not all 
pushed out of politics by the proscriptions which southern 
states placed on Negro voting, but rather many were pulled 
away by new and dynamic economic and social forces. Indeed, 
the ease with which southern states got away with the pro- 
scriptions of Negro voting was due not only to the acquiescence 
of northern whites, but to a comparable acquiescence by many 

Ray ford W. Logan believes that the presidents of the 
United States between 1877 and 1901 were "weak," and that 
having such men in the White House facilitated the overthrow 
of the Reconstruction efforts."'' So far as the racial situation in 
the South was concerned, Logan, like Frederick Douglass and 
nL:merous other Negro spokesmen, does not seem to have much 
respect for the leadership of Rutherford B. Hayes, Chester A. 
Arthur, Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland, or William 
McKinley. The same is true of the race's general attitude toward 
Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover. The failure of the 
nineteenth century presidents vigorously to enforce the Four- 
teenth and Fifteenth Amendments or to offer much political 
patronage to Negroes helped bring about a steady drift of the 
race away from the Republican Party, and led in the late nine- 
teenth century to their demand for a third party. Especially 
notable was this alienation after the Supreme Court decision 
of 1883 which declared the Civil Rights Act of 1875 to be 

SHADO>5r OF THE PLANTATION, 1865-1900 277 

unconstitutional. How much this disaflfection had to do with 
Grover Cleveland's two presidential victories is a moot question. 

It was not the twentieth century which discovered, 
through the researches of Carter Woodson, W. E. B. DuBois, 
Herbert Aptheker and other scholars, the true record of Negro 
militancy in this country. In 18 82 John R. Lynch stated in 
the House of Representatives: 'The impartial historian will 
record the fact that the colored people of the South have con- 
tended for their rights with a bravery and a gallantry that is 
worthy of the highest commendation.""' Despite the compro- 
mise which the race was forced to make in this period, Lynch 
was right. The compromise was one of expediency rather than 
principle. Furthermore, as indicated, the de-emphasis on political 
action coincided with the national trend which saw most Amer- 
ican boys become more interested in becoming financial mag- 
nates and millionaires rather than senators or presidents. 

Hundreds of thousands of Post-Civil War immigrants 
from Europe, approximately 4,000,000 freedmen, and the move 
to the cities of rural people created new political, economic, 
and social problems for the nation. In his 1895 Atlanta Exposi- 
tion Address Booker T. Washington urged the White South not 
to "look to the incoming of those of foreign birth and strange 
tongue and habits for the prosperity of the South," but instead 
to depend on and utilize the labors of the "8,000,000 Negroes 
whose habits you know, whose fidelity and love you have tested 
in days when to have proved treacherous meant the ruin of 
your fire sides." The Negro's labor, he declared, "without strikes 
and labor* wars," had been a great boon to the South and the 
nation. To the White South, Washington said of his race — "we 
shall stand by you with a devotion that no foreigner can ap- 
proach, ready to lay down our lives if need be, in defense of 
yours." Throughout the period of 18 80-1924 Afro- Americans 
showed considerable fear that the influx of immigration from 
Europe and Asia would displace them in the labor market, 
particularly if these immigrants were to come into the South 
in considerable numbers. Too, colored Americans were sensi- 
tive to the fact that in the land of their birth they were often 
treated as pariahs while the country served as an asylum for 
the oppressed of Europe."^ Despite the popularity of proposals 


to stop Chinese immigration into the United States, in 1879 
Blanche E. Bruce placed his political career in jeopardy and 
voted against exclusion."" In this same period Representative 
Rainey sought to bring about better treatment of the Chinese 
on the West Coast. ""^ 

Bishop Reverdy C. Ransom voiced the opinion that im- 
migation of millions of white Europeans to this country kept 
white Americans from properly appreciating and accepting 
the Afro- American citizenry. "Once the tides of immigration 
have ceased to flow to our shores," he said in 1905, "this nation 
will evolve a people who shall be one in purpose, one in spirit, 
one in destiny — a composite American by the co-mingling of 

Tn addition to the race riot which Fayetteville, North 
Carolina witnessed during the waning months of the nineteenth 
century, and riots in Atlanta, Georgia and Brownsville, Texas 
in 1906. the disfranchisement period which followed the fu- 
sion ist threat saw many other riots and lynchings, both North 
and South of the Mason-Dixon Line. Neither New York, 
Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, or Indiana were spared. Spring- 
field, Ohio had a particularly protracted riot in 1904, while in 
August, 1908 one in Springfield, Illinois so disgusted thinking 
Americans until it led directly to the formation of the National 
Association for the Advancement of Colored People. 

Rayford Logan stated in 1954 that during the late nine- 
teenth and early twentieth centuries — "Negroes were subjected 
t^\ X , to villiiication in Congress the like of which has rarely been 
equalled except in the early days of Nazi struggle for power 
in Germany and some recent attacks upon eminent Americans 
by an irresponsible senator.'""" One of the stereotypes which 
crystallized in some sectors after 1865 was the notion that 
Afro-Americans are innately lazy. Like practically all stereo- 
types of racial groups, this one, too, had origin in fact and 
fancy. On the factual side are the obvious truths of prevalent 
conditions such as hook worm, tuberculosis, and malnutrition, 
and that as slaves and share-croppers Negroes often had no 
inner incentives for hard work and ambition. The profit motive 
scarcely existed in their world. Then there is the observation 
that contemot for manual labor and an easy-going nonchalance 


in speech, thought, and action has been ascribed to the majority 
of white southerners, doubtless behavior patterns to which hot 
summers and the section's agrarianism, poverty, and frontier 
nature contributed. When freedom came to Negroes, many 
aped the planters in habits and thought. Whether with fairness 
or not, most of the stereotypes which have been hsted as pe- 
cuKarlv Negroid, also at one time or another have been ascribed 
to southern whites. Still, this '"laziness," where it existed, v/as 
not innate, and many freedmen were soon caught up in the 
great American effort to go from rags to riches. While a num- 
ber of the unlettered long hoped through such devices as rab- 
bits feet, "mojos,"' horse shoes, gambling, and "playing the 
numbers" suddenly and effortlessly to strike it rich, most knew 
well what such leaders as Booker Washington and Frederick 
Douglass preached, that hard labor, thrift, and character were 
the surest roads to success. 

The early decades after Reconstruction, as a part of the 
Romanticist penchant of the southern writers of the period, saw 
Uncle Remus and Uncle Tom made into the "typical" Negro 
folk characters. Their amiable docility and picturesqueness 
fitted well into the idolization of the Old South. Since Afro- 
Americans were often ashamed of their slave heritage, as well 
as of slave songs and spirituals, they long neglected their folk 
tales and aphorisms. By the early years of the twentieth cen- 
tury, however, the growing spiritual and intellectual emanci- 
pation of the race, plus resentment at the interpretations which 
white collectors were placing on these materials, caused Negroes 
themselves to begin an objective and scholarly interest in the 
various manifestations of their folk heritage. This interest re- 
vealed, "Both Uncle Remus and LeadbeJly" to be portraycrs 
of "sides of the Negro folk, but to round out the portraiture 
Bessie Smith, Josh White, the Gospel Singing Two Keys, and 
such big old liars as those heard by E. C. L. Adams in the Con- 
garee swamps and by Zora Neale Hurstcn in central Florida" 
were needed also.'"^ During this period, folk expression de- 
picted nearly all aspects of the hard lot of the near illiterate 
lower class Negro. Whether on the sharecropper farm, in a saw- 
mill gang, on the chain-gang, working on the railroad or con- 
struction crew, the theme is the same — too much work and too 


little pay, no future in sight, and ever the object of race pre- 
judice and oppression. But also ever present was the humorous 
tv/ist, and the optimism-blended -with-pessimism which these 
persons gave to even the harshest and most ironic of experiences. 
The Negro novelist, unlike the unlettered authors of blues, 
spirituals, and tunes, has seldom been able to mix the "saving 
grace" of humor with his dark portraiture of life. But humor, 
if often the Pagliacci type, has been a dominant aspect of the 
mind of the Negro masses. 

Of this period James Weldon Johnson wrote — "The Negro 

was to have a new day in drama. Ambitious playwrights of the 

race had long been anxious to bring a higher degree of artistry 

to Negro songs, with an idea of displacing the 'coon songs' 

which had as their themes jamborees, razors with the gastrono- 

mical delights of cliicken, pork chops and watermelons, and 

y—N the experiences of their red-hot 'mamas' and their never too 

i\li jfaithful 'papas'. '""■^xlWilliam Stanley Braithwaite has given an 

V_yexcellent evaluation of the treatment which the race received 

in the serious literature of the 1865-1900 period. In 192 5 he 


In literature, it was a period when Negro life 
was a shuttle cock between the two extremes of humor 
and pathos. The Negro was free, and was not free. 
The writers who dealt with him for the most part 
refused to see more than skin-deep— the grin, the 
grimaces and the picturesque externalities. . . . [Fori 
to see more than the humble happy peasant would 
have been to flout the fixed ideas and conventions of 
an entire generation. For more than artistic reasons, 
indeed against them, these writers refused to see the 
Tragedy of the Negro and capitalized his comedy. 
The social conscience had as much need for this comic 
mask as the Negro.^*'' 

The birth of minstrel shov/s added color to the American 
scene as they went from town to town caricaturing the lighter 
side of the life of the Negro masses. Minstrelsy in organized 
form has been traced to the year 1865 when Charles Hick's 
famed Georgia Minstrels was started. From that company to the 
celebrated "Silas Green from New Orleans," minstrel companies 
appeared one after another, leaving a long line of individual 


Stars among whom were Lew Johnson, Wallace King, Primrose 
and West, Billy Windom and William Kersands. These were 
the fore-runners of such nationally acclaimed individuals as Bill 
"Bojangles" Robinson, Steppin' Fetchit, Eddie "Rochester" An- 
derson, Mantan Moreland, Hattie MacDaniels, and Louise 
Beavers, persons who operated through the different media of 
legitimate stage, screen, and radio. The more educated Negro 
usually has resented the stereotyped roles depicted by these 
persons. The Great Depression and changed attitudes killed most 
minstrel companies; by the 1940's this type of entertainment 
had all but disappeared, and southern whites had come to pre- 
sent the only group still putting on the black-faced comic 
show to any noticeable extent. Still the contempt and disre- 
spect for the race which the stereotypes showed sometimes be- 
came a part of the Negro's own attitude, but this racial dis- 
paragement always was mixed with race pride. George H. 
White, last colored Congressman from North Carolina, an- 
swered attacks on his race in Congress with a reply similar to 
that long used by Afro- Americans. Speaking in February, 1900, 
White declared: 

It is easy for these gentlemen to taunt us with our in- 
feriority, at the same time not mentioning the cause 
of this inferiority. It is rather hard to be accused of 
shiftlessness and idleness when the accuser closes the 
avenue of labor and industrial pursuits to us. It is 
hardly fair to accuse us of ignorance when it was 
made a crime under the former code of things to 
learn enough about letters to even read the Word of 
Still another source put its finger on a central point in the 
"race problem." "Much of the opposition to the Negro today," 
this source averred, "is not based as formerly on the ground of 
the Negro's fundamental incapacity, but is publicly stated and 
stoutly defended on the theory that the superior race must be 
protected from the Negro's physical prowess, his enthusiasm 
and acknowledged capacity, [which is] a plain confession that 
the prevailing secret opinion of the Negro of 1895-96 is that 
he is not an inferior but a formidable competitor."^"' 

Chapter XIV 


The interest of the Afro-American in education always 
has been keen. Inasmuch as the English Colonies were from 
the very first education-minded, one would expect that colored 
persons brought into North America would share this desire 
for learning. In addition to drawing impetus and stimulation 
from the culture at large, many Afro-Americans have shown 
awareness that in the quest for knowledge their group started 
behind and hence must "run faster" than others or remain for- 
ever behind.' Too, Negroes often have conceived of the tools 
of knowledge as very useful weapons in the fight to help lift 
themselves to freedom and equality of citizenship. "It is per- 
fectly well understood at the South," Frederick Douglass once 
wrote, "that to educate a slave is to make him discontented with 
slavery, and to invest him with power which shall open to him 
the treasures of freedom."" 

Negroes have believed that not only is the race prejudice 
directed at them due to the miseducation of many white men, 
but that members of their own race were too often poorly in- 
formed. The race often has been quite objective about its short- 
comings and constantly has sought to remedy them.' For ex- 
ample, in 1818 free persons of color founded the Augustine 
Society for the propagation of education within their group, 
and in the first issue of the first colored newspaper the editors 
expressed an interest in education as a means of elevating the 
race.* In his classic militancy, David Walker stated that he 
would make every exertion to throw off the ignorant condition 
which then beset members of his race. "I would crawl on my 
hands and knees through mud and mire," he wrote, "to the 
feet of a learned man where I would sit and humbly supplicate 
him to instil into me, that which neither devils nor tyrants 
could remove . . . for colored people to acquire learning in 
this country, makes tyrants quake and tremble on their sandy 
foundation." Nat Turner, famed leader of the 1831 insurrec- 



tion in Southhampton, Virginia reported that the slaves looked 
up to him because of his learning and intelligence, and won- 
dered why he did not run away. "If they had my sense," he 
reports them, as saying, "they would not serve any master in 
the world."' In IS 34 Negroes in Cincinnati opened their first 
school. Within a year three more were opened. In Pennsylvania 
in 183 8 there were among the Negroes of Philadelphia, Pitts- 
burg, York, West Chester, and Columbia, 22 churches, 48 
clergymen, 26 day schools, 20 Sabbath schools, 125 Sabbath 
school teachers, 4 literary societies, 2 public libraries, with a 
total of around 800 volumes and ten times that number of 
volumes in private libraries, 2 Bible societies, and 7 temperance 
societies.' At a Troy, New York meeting in 1847 William C. 
Nell pushed a scheme whereby Negro students would begin to 
enlist in the colleges of the North, which had up to this time 
almost completely excluded them, from their student bodies. 
Since, there was at this time not a single Negro college in the 
nation to match the fairlv numerous Negro grade schools, the 
push of free persons to establish a college or fight for adniis- 
sion to the white ones is indication of the growing m.aturity 
of the free Negro population. On December 28, 18 57 the New 
York Society for the Promotion of Education Among Colored 
Children, led by Charles B. Ray and Philip A. White, pre- 
sented a request lor improved educational facilities to a state 
education commission. As early as 1853 Afro-Americans were 
advocating industrial education as a prime need of their group. 
The 1853 National Negro Convention heard arguments in 
favor of its founding a manual labor school. One advocate of 
this idea said: "Every person is here not merely to enjoy, but 
to work; and schools are only valuable in their teachings, as 
they assist in making both thinker and worker. They may 
saturate men with the learning of everv age and yet, except 
they strive to make them something more than literary flowers, 
they sin greatly against the individual and humanity also."' 
This same advocate declared: "Literature has too long kept it- 
self aloof from the furrowed field, and from the dust and 
bustle of the workshop. The pale, sickly brow and emaciated 
form have been falsely shown to the world as the ripeness of 
mental discipline." The entire statement was strongly in favor 


of agricultural and mechanical training as the most intensive 
need of the Afro-American. This anticipated by several de- 
cades later thought along these lines popularized by William 
Hooper Councill, Booker Washington, and others. Here is good 
evidence that the economic and educational thought of the 
Negro was in step with the rising industrialism and scientific 
advance. Charles Reason was one of the leading champions of 
industrial education. Reason gave serious thought to preparation 
for the emancipation which all expected. He wrote: 

Whenever emancipation shall take place, immediate 
though it be, thq subjects of it, like many who now 
make up the so-called free population, will be in what 
geologists call, the 'Transition State.' The prejudice 
now felt against them for bearing on their persons 
the brand of slaves, cannot die out immediately. 
Severe trials will still be their portion and the curse 
of a 'tainted race' must be expiated by almost mirac- 
ulous proofs of advancement; and some of the 
miracles must be antecedent to the ^reat day of Ju- 

He felt that preparation for a worthy vocational contribution 

to the nation was the immediate need. 

Few facts belie the claim of the Slavocracy that the bonds- 
man was mentally inferior and always happy than the zeal 
with which the freedmen sought formal education. After 
emancipation, schools sprang up everywhere, in churches, homes, 
tents, or old abandoned buildings and were taught by any and 
all who knew or thought they knew the barest rudiments of 
spelling and ciphermg. The race seems to have hungered for 
generations for the opportunity to know. Well-known is the 
manner in which Booker Washington left the coal helds of 
West Virginia to hike penniless to Hampton Institute, and his 
case is duplicated many-fold. Slavery and repression seem 
sometimes to have given the race added zeal for knowledge 
and song, eternal expressions which symbolize freedom. His 
childlike curiosity, laughter, song, boisterousness, and activism 
have been called qualities inherent in the race, but they may 
more properly be explained as the result of living in a society 
where he is often repressed. 


While the freedman deserves great credit for what he did 
for himself during the early days of freedom, from 1861-65 
and after, white America rendered aid to the freedman in a 
magnitude and manner which has not yet been properly told. 
The real story of the freedmen's aid societies belongs to one of 
the noblest chapters of the American spirit. Perhaps the Ameri- 
can Missionary Society led all of the organizations that were 
active in founding schools for the freedmen. Northern whites 
instituted much philanthropy aimed at aiding Negroes without 
being asked and as early as 1863. General Sherman was one of 
the first to take initiative as he saw the needs of freedmen his 
army encountered. In the major cities of the North, freedmen's 
aid societies sprang up as if by magic, and when the Freed- 
men's Bureau was founded by Congress, this was but the insti- 
tutionalization at the federal level of a process already well 
under way^ After 1865, the problem of providing formal edu- 
cation for the race was especially crucial. Before the Civil War, 
in 18 56, the Methodist Episcopal Church had founded Wilber- 
force University in Ohio. After the war this denomination 
started Morris Brown, Paul Quinn, Allen, and Kittrell colleges. ' 
D. O. W. Holmes pointed out that Negro "Colleges and Uni- 
versities" of the period 1861-188 5 represented in their titles 
"The expression of distant hopes rather than actual descrip- 
tions."^" The primary concern of the Freedmen's Bureau was 
educating the freedman, and in this effort the bureau founded 
over four thousand schools, among which were not only grade 
schools, but Howard, Atlanta, and Fisk Universities. These and 
other universities were established with an eye toward fitting 
Negro teachers to man the classrooms which their race increas- 
ingly would have to fill before it could meet the demands of 
the equality for which it yearned. Among the other colleges 
thatt the bureau either founded or aided were Hampton Insti- 
tute, Johnson C. Smith University, and St. Agustine College. 
At the same time that thet bureau was working in the field of 
education, so were the churches of both races, through their 
missionary societies, and when the bureau ceased operations in 
1870, almost a quarter million Negroes were enrolled in almost 
five thousand schools in the South. 



During Reconstruction and since, Afro-Americans have 
had only deep gratitude for the work of the Freedman's Bureau. 
Like the Liter WTA and similar New Deal agencies of the de- 
pression era, the Freedmen's Bureau was a friend in time of dire 
need. It is not that Negro scholars have not been aware of the 
faults and evils which went with the operation, of this agency, 
but they have been aware that, as ever with the nation's war- 
time agencies, and with the New Deal attempts at relief, re- 
covery, and reform, these faults and evils have been traditional, 
not just peculiar to the Freedmen's Bureau. In 1903, W. E. B. 
DuBois expressed a wish that the federal government had set 
up a permanent Freedmen's Bureau. Doubtless through its many 
programs the Freedmen's Bureau contributed much to teach 
many freedmen not only the three R's but a new respect for 
manual labor, education, maintenance of good health, and re- 
spect for contractual obligations and the ballot. 

The so-called mania for classical education which the 
freedmen supposedly possessed was simply an imitation of white 
scholars of the era. That the classical pattern often seemed pre- 
dominant was due in part to the fact that the white northern 
teachers who emigrated Southward as humanitarian educators 
of freedmen, were themselves educated in the classical mode 
and "had known no other kind of schools and felt that what 
had been good for them was best for . . . their lately liberated 
pupil."" In a number of instances white state educational of- 
ficials chose the classical curriculum and carried it out over 
protests of the freedmen. Such was the case with the curricu- 
lum of Southern University in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

How much of Negro "disinterest" in education can be laid 
at the feet of southern whites who openly opposed "nigger edu- 
cation" is open to question. Still, it is a fact that in numerous 
in'^tances, white southerners stoned and beat both colored stu- 
dents and teachers as well as the northern whites who sought to 
teach Negroes. ^^;^ 

The contribution of Negro colleges to the race's social and 
cultural growth is of tremendous significance. Beginning es- 
sentially as grade schools, only since the end of World War II 
did most of them come to justify the titles college or univer- 
sity. Yet from their early beginnings, they have been oases of 


culture, and even when practically no one regarded Negro 
college students as "scholars," most persons recognized that they 
were relatively refined. As such, to both friendly whites and the 
Negro masses, these colleges and their students long have con- 
stituted a central hope of the race. 

By the opening of World War I, a few of the faculties of 
such schools as Wilberforce, Howard and Fisk Universities, and 
Morehouse College, had made them recognized centers not only 
of Negro culture but of scholarship as well, while other insti- 
tutions, such as Spellman and Bennett College for girls, Tal- 
ladega in Alabama, Xavier in New Orleans, Wiley in Texas, 
Payne in Georgia, Bethune-Cookman in Florida, were especially 
noted as centers of cultural training. By 1905, most teachers 
of Negro pupils in the South were of their own race. Yet, by 
this date only about fifty percent of Negro children of school 
age were in school, and of these, fewer than one-third attended 
school as many as six months per year. At this time southern 
states were spending less than one-fifth of school expenditures 
on Negro schools and teachers. Perhaps for most freedmen, the 
word education meant only an elementary knowledge of reading, 
writing, and arithmetic. Many who aspired for more learning 
had in mind entering the ministry, teaching or perhaps politics. 
To most, education was a badge of freedom and key to dis- 
tinctiveness, and sometimes was expressed as a love for "big" 
words and Latin phrastes. Too few conceived of knowledge as 
having intrinsic as well as extrinsic values and it was not long 
before with some the initial intense interest in education would 
give way in some to indifterence and even hostility, and teach- 
ers throughout the South would be complaining of parents who 
kept their children out of school at the slightest pretense. '' 

Although the Afro- American has absorbed much of his 
conservatism from the same sources which have bred this atti- 
tude in American whites, the conservative character of Negro 
education has been due in no small degree to control exercised, 
albeit ever so indirectly, by those who granted the money to 
make the schools possible. The most notable sources of funds 
have been appropriations by Negro religious bodies, southern 
state legislatures, and the philanthropy of northern capitalists. 
Because so many were sponsored by religious societies, the freed- 


men's schools represented a close marriage of religion and edu- 
cation, and in time, some critics came lo feel that in a number 
of these schools too often there was such an emphasis on re- 
ligion that education in other things was slighted. 

Representative Josiah T. Walls of Florida declared: "Edu- 
cation is the panacea for all our social evils, injustices, and op- 
pressions."^* Believing that southern states could not be trusted 
to give the Negro ample educational opportunities. Walls sought 
to get Congress to establish a national education fund. 

At the national level the debate over Negro education may 
be said to have begun in earnest when the 43rd Congress was 
debating the Civil Rights bill which contained an education 
clause. John R. Lynch took a moderate stand: 

The colored people in asking the passage of this 
bill ... do not thereby admit that their children can 
be better educated in white than in colored schools, nor 
that white teachers because they are white are better 
qualified to teach than colored ones. But they recog- 
nize the fact that the distinction when made and 
tolerated by law is an unjust and odious proscription 
. . . Let us confer upon all citizens, then, the rights 
to which they are entitled under the Constitution; 
and then if they choose to have their children edu- 
cated in separate schools, as they do in my own State, 
then both races will be satisfied, because they will 
know that the separation is their own voluntary act 
and not legislative compulsion.^' 

Again Lynch said: 

Another reason why the school clause ought to 
be retained is because the Negro question ought to be 
removed from the politics of the country. It has been 
a disturbing element in the country ever since the 
Declaration of Independence, and it will continue to 
be so long as the colored man is denied any right or 
privilege that is enjoyed by the white man. Pass this 
bill as it passed the Senate, and there will be nothing 
more for the colored people to ask or expect in the 
way of civil rights. . . . Let us confer upon the 
colored citizens equal rights, and . . . they will ex- 
ercise their rights with moderation and with wise 


Time after time in these debates, Negro spokesmen indicated 
that they were tired of the tight for equal rights and wanted 
it ended through the granting of equality before the law. 

Congressman Joseph H. Rainey declared: "What we want 
is schools, and more of them. We want them strung along the 
highways and by-ways of this country."^' In defence of a bill 
to provide federal aid to education which was being debated 
before the 42nd Congress, Rainey declared that the recent mili- 
tary victory of the Germans over the French was due to the 
superior educational system of Germany. Further, he felt that 
federal aid to education "will materially assist and eventually 
succeed in obliterating sectional feeling" and thus contribute 
to "harmony, concord and perpetual peace; thereby aiding the 
industries of our country and developing our vast national re- 
sources."^^ Bishop W. T. Vernon stated: 

Fie who denies education to any class of citi- 
zens, in such measure inveighs against public safety, 
gives us a dangerous element, places a millstone 
around the neck of all, and jeopardize the welfare of 
our common country/*" 
Since emancipation this has been a favorite argument of Afro- 
Americans as to why they should be granted educational op- 
portunities. They have emphasized the benefits to be gained by 
the South from its investment in Negro education and have 
thought little of the conviction held by some southerners that 
to educate the Negro might create more problems for the ma- 
jority group than it might solve. On this another Negro opined: 
There can be no real democracy between two 
natural groups if one represents the extreme of ignor- 
ance and the other the best intelligence. The common 
public school and the state university should be the 
foundation stones of democracy.'" 
Another stated: "The free play of each individual's best po\\ers 
can be secured only through education,""^ while still another 
declared, "It does not become southern white men ... to 
boast about the ignorance of the colored people, when you 
know that their ignorance is the result of the enforcement of 
your unjust laws.""" 

Evidence that Negroes were not just interested in education 
for their race alone, but that they felt that more and better 


education was a great need of many American whites is to be 
seen in their support of the education clauses of the post-Civil 
^^ir southern constitutions and of federal aid to education 
proposals. Joseph H. Rainey averred that "educational facilities 
are needed alike by all classes, both white and black." "There is 
an appalling array of the illiterate in America," he stated, 
"surely this ought to be sufficient to disarm all hostility to this 
laudable J.nd much-needed measure.""" 

To the charge that federal aid to education would lead to 
racial integration in the schools, Rainey replied: 

What of that? Suppose it should be so, what harm 
would result therefrom? Why this fear of the Negro 
since he has been a freedman, when in the past he 
was almost a household god, gamboling and playing 
with the children of his old master? And occasionally 
it was plain to be seen that there was a strong family 
resemblance between them. . . . Schools have been 
mixed in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and other 
States, and no detriment has occurred.'* 

John Mercer Langston said: 

Schools which tend to separate the children of 
the country in their feelings, aspirations and purposes, 
which foster and perpetuate sentiments of caste, ha- 
tred, and ill-will, which breed a sense of degradation 
on the one part and of superiority on the other, 
which beget clannish notions rather than teach and 
impress an omnipresent and living principle and faith 
that we are all Americans, in no wise realize our ideal 
of common schools, while they are contrary to the 
spirit of our laws and institutions. 

Two separate school systems, tolerating discrimi- 
nations in favor of one class against another, inflating 
on the one part, degrading on the other . . . cannot 
educate these classes to live harmoniously together, 
meeting the responsibilities and discharging the duties 
imposed by a common government in the interest of 
a common country."' 

Thus it can be seen that although they disclaimed desire for 
social equality, a number of Negro spokesmen fought for inte- 
grated education,"'' and Representative John R. Lynch and 


others championed federal aid to education, while Representa- 
tive R. H. Cain of South Carolina and others proposed that the 
nation's surplus of public lands be used for educational pur- 

It has been often charged that after emancipation, too 
many Negroes wanted an education which would lead to a 
white collar job. If in education many were copying the domi- 
nant curriculum of the era, in the latter they were, to a large 
extent, but imitating the national trend evoked by the indus- 
trial revolution and urbanization. 

Americans of color generally have felt that prejudice and 
false notions on race stemmed largely from an educational and 
propaganda campaign aimed at them. "Do children feel and 
exercise that prejudice toward colored persons? Do not colored 
and white children play together promiscuously until the white 
is taught to despise the colored?" asked David Ruggles in 1834.''" 
This conviction was a vital force in producing the Negro His- 
tory Movement of the 18 SO- 1900 period, and of the later more 
scientific movement launched by Carter Woodson, W. E. B. 
DuBois, and others. The Afro-American has wanted to bring 
about a re-education of the white American on race so as to 
overthrow the stereotypes and race sociology concocted by both 
the old and new imperialisms to justify degradation of the 

A significant index of the growing protest and rising edu~ 
cational level of the Negro was the emergence of Negro college 
fraternities around the turn of the century. Interestingly 
enough, the first such organization to be formed. Alpha Phi 
Alpha, was begun in 1906 by Negro students attending Cornell 
University, who had experienced a good deal of social ostra- 
cism. Within two years a chapter of this fraternity, along with 
its female counterpart, was established on the Howard Uni- 
versity campus in Washington, D. C, and within a decade at 
least three other Negro college fraternities, and female counter- 
parts, had been organized. All have continued to have a thriv- 
ing existence and, in addition to their social activities, they have 
devoted considerable attention and effort to the end of bringing 
about full citizenship rights for Negroes. 


The economic boost which the World War I era gave the 
nation's economy, together with the new critical awakening, 
produced commendable growth in Negro education, one aspect 
of which was the effort made to up-grade higher education to 
a level where it could more nearly merit this long-abused des- 
ignation. Significant improvement in organization and financ- 
ing were made with Howard University, by organization of 
the Atlanta University system, and the mergers in New Or- 
leans, Louisiana which produced Dillard University. W. E. 
B. DuBois and others led in a successful campaign to get both 
faculty and administrators of Negro colleges members of their 
own race. There was evident in these and other changes a revolt 
against the old educational and social order and its ideals. 

In 1917 the Phelps-Stokes Fund had published through 
the United States Bureau of Education the results of an exten- 
sive survey of Negro education which revealed the existence of 
serious inadequacies, and which stimulated members of both 
races toward greater appropriations for better facilities and 
curricula at all levels. This study had given conclusive proof 
that the seventeen state-supported Negro land-grant "colleges" 
were, in terms of faculties and instruction being offered, scarce- 
ly more than secondary schools. Indeed, showed this study, in 
all 17 of these institutions, only twelve students were enrolled 
as college students. Furthermore, in 1915 there were in all 
southern states combined just sixty-four state-supported high 
schools for colored Americans."'' In 1928 the United States 
Bureau of Education published its Siiriry of Negro Colleges, 
a study which again stimulated much criticism and improve- 
ment of these institutions. The effort which most southern 
states were making in the area of Negro education was confined 
primarily to the grammar grades and to the so-called colleges. 
To fill this gap between the grammar grades and college, num- 
erous private and church schools had been started. Many colored 
Americans have been well aware of the manner in which the 
poverty of southern states limited what they could do for 
public education, but they often have pointed out that at 
least seventy percent of available funds were long used to 
educate white youth. Negroes have been very grateful to such 
altruistic contributions as the Peabody, Carnegie, and Rosen- 


wald Funds, as well as the host of wealthy northerners and 
southerners who have made contributions to their schools. 

In their writings, George Schuyler, Nella Larson, J. 
saunders Redding, and a number of other Afro- American au- 
thors are highly critical of southern Negro colleges. No doubt 
much of this criticism stems from a comparison of these schools 
with the outstanding northern universities. Perhaps also, some 
of the criticism stems from the fact that presidents and staffs 
of southern colleges long have been thought of by some Negroes 
as being unqualified submissive "Uncle Toms." Greater Need 
Below, published by O'Wendell Shaw in 193 6 is perhaps the 
most denunciatory treatment of these colleges. Like most novel- 
ists of his race who have touched upon this theme, Shaw's 
criticism is directed primarily at the "Uncle Tom" demeanor 
of the presidents of some of these institutions, as well as the 
autocratic government of their administration, and poor facili- 
ties and inadequate training and courage of the teaching staifs. 
J. Saunders Rcdding's Stranger and Alone (1950) is a work 
of similar vein. 

Nortliern universities have provided most of the graduate 
training which Afro-Americans have received. Since the North 
usually has been ahead of the South in its liberalism and social 
dynamism, no doubt this has had important implications for 
the Negro mind. Daniel A. Payne, J. C. Gibbs, John B. Russ- 
wurm, Henry Highland Garnet, and a number of other aboli- 
tionists were graduates of northern colleges, and in the post- 
bellum period many outstanding race leaders have received their 
graduate training in northern universities. More than any single 
institution. Harvard has provided perhaps the largest share of 
the top scholars of the race. In retrospect, it would seem that 
the South might have succeeded better in its object of "control- 
ling" the colored man if the section had opened its graduate 
and professional schools to him from the beginning, for then 
the section could have controlled the education of future lead- 
ers of the race. For example, there can be little doubt that the 
liberalism and equalitarianism of Harvard University and New 
England played a considerable role in shaping the lives of such 
leaders as Carter Woodson and W. E. B. DuBois. 


Though Afro-Americans comprise about one-third of the 
South's population, in 1941-42 there were only 417 colored 
medical students in the South, all at Howard University and 
Meharry Medical College, the race's only two medical schools, 
while at the same time there were 6,5 80 white southerners in 
the section's own medical schools. Almost all Afro-Americans 
who have earned the Ph.D. degree have done so since 1914. 
From 1876 to 1936, 132 persons were awarded this degree. ^° 

Near the turn of the century there was held at Atlanta 
University, under the inspiration and guidance of W. E. B. 
DuBois, twelve annual conferences devoted to a collection of 
scientific information on the race. These conferences studied 
and reported on such things as mortality, family life, efforts 
at group betterment and self-help, business, schools, churches, 
and crime; and also published bibliographical information on 
the race. The studies grew out of the conviction that too m.uch 
confused thinking about the Negro existed, and that an initial 
need in solving the race problem was the collection of sound 
and reliable facts. This idea was also prominent in the activities 
of the Association for the study of Negro life and History, 
which was started in Chicago by Carter G. Woodson in 1915. 
To attain a more adequate financial structure, in 1944 the 
United Negro College Fund was started in an effort to put the 
fund-soliciting of about thirty-two Negro colleges on a basis 
similar to that of the Red Feather or United Givers and similar 

Racial Discrhiiiuat'iou 

The animosity which many Negroes have felt because of 
racial segregation and discrimination in education and other 
areas is evident in their earliest commentaries on the American 
scene. Chattel slavery was not the only condition against which 
they protested previous to 1865; Negro abolitionists constantly 
protested against all manifestations of color prejudice. Speaking 
at Oberlin University in 1874 John M. Langston summarized 
several aspects of the race's reasoning in protesting against dis- 
crimination on public conveyances and at inns. Langston said: 

The obligations and liabilities of the common 
carrier of passengers can, in no sense, be made de- 
pendent upon the nationality or color of those with 


whom he deals. He may not, according to law, answer 
his engagements to one class and justify non-perform- 
ance or neglect as to another by consideration drawn 
from race. His contract is originally and fundamen- 
tally with the entire community, and with all its 
members he is held to equal and impartial obligation."^ 
. . . these are doctrines as old as the common law 
itself; indeed, older, for they come down to us from 

Gaius and Papinian It is strange, indeed, that 

the colored American may find place in the Senate, 
but is denied access and welcome to the public place 
of learning, the theater, the church and the grave- 
yard, upon terms accorded to all others. '" 
In the 1920's Robert Russa Moton stated: 

No phase of discrimination against the Negro 
touches the race more widely or intimately than seg- 
regation. In its application no measure operates so 
effectively to retard the general progress of the race, 
not even disfranchisement. Its defenders urged it 
originally to reduce friction between the two races, 
which it probably has done on the face of it; but it 
acts daily and hourly to excite the resentment of all 
Negroes against the continuous injustices perpetrated 
under the cover and protection of segregation poli- 
cies. '^^ 
And in the same general period another Negro opined: 
Discrimination laws are the mother of the mob spirit. 
The political philosopher in Washington, after pub- 
lishing his opinion that a Negro by the fault of being 
a Negro is unfit to be a member of Congress, cannot 
expect an ignorant white man in Tennessee to believe 
that the same Negro is, nevertheless, fit to have a fair 
and impartial trial in a Tennessee court. Ignorance 
is too logical for that.'* 

The origins of the recent success which Negroes have had 
in their legal battle against racial segregation and discrimination 
date back at least to the founding of the NAACP. Although 
the organization was less than five years old when its first 
significant legal victory was attained, a victory against the 
"Grandfather Clause," the organization and the nation would 
have to wait until the World War II era before achievement of 


the goal of total citizenship equality would seem to be within 
sight. The 1941 Supreme Court decision in U. S. vs. Classic, 
in which the court upheld the conviction of election officials 
guilty of fraud committed in the course of holding federal elec- 
tions was held as a great step forward. In thci Mitchell decision 
of the same year the court used the Interstate Commerce Act 
to keep railroads from barring Negroes from unrestricted use 
of pullman cars. In 1944, the fighters for racial equality were 
greatly encouraged by the decision in Smith vs. Alhvright, in 
which the court ruled that discriminatory acts against Negroes 
committed by the state Democratic party were tantamount to 
discrimination by the state itself. This decision, dealing spe- 
cifically with the Avhite or closed primary, opened many local 
elections to Afro-Americans. The 1946 decision in the case of 
Morgan vs. Virginia, in which the court ruled that interstate 
bus passengers cannot be discriminated against on account of 
race or color led to emboldened action by Negroes in this area, 
and a number of test actions and resulting litigations in several 
states followed. Since many colored interstate bus and train pas- 
sengers were northerners visiting the South or college students 
traveling between home and school, these persons were more 
likely to resent and oppose segregation than many others. En- 
couragement to militancy in this area was brought about by 
the 19 50 ruling in Henderson vs U. S. which forbade discrimi- 
nation in dining cars and the 195 5 ICC ruling against passen- 
gers being discriminated against in waiting rooms of bus and 
train stations. The growing interest by the federal government 
in the Negro's quest for equality of treatment was reflected 
also in the late 1946 establishment of the President's Commit- 
tee on Civil Rights. This step by President Harry S. Truman 
was one of several which endeared him to Negro voters, and 
doubtless aided considerably in his election in 1948. The 1947 
committee's publication, To Secure These Rights, was in part 
a propaganda device which probably did much to commit Ne- 
groes, as well as whites, more firmly to the object reflected in 
the establishment of the committee and title of the report. The 
recommendations of the committee were largely the whole body 
of proposed legislation which W. E. B. DuBois and other un- 
compromising Negro spokesmen had been championing for at 


least a half century, and if effected would eliminate all legal 
discriminations based on race or color. 

Integration in the armed forces, begun during, the closing 
months of World War II, proceeded with such smoothness that 
most Afro-Americans paid scant attention to President Tru- 
man's organization in 1948 of a committee whose job it was 
to study and recommend ways to augment this integration. The 
report of this committee, which appeared two summers later 
under the title, Freedom lo Serve, was accepted in similar 
manner by Afro-Americans, who, by this time were more likely 
to get excited about the feats on the baseball diamond of tan 
players than by unspectacular steps forward in the fight for 
equality. Still Congressman Adam Clayton Powell kept the 
initiative in pointing out to the American public that vestiges 
of segregation and discrimination remained here and there among 
the military establishments. 

In the battle against segregation the District of Columbia 
has been a focal point of Negro interest and protest the same 
as it was in the 1800-1861 battle against slavery. As the center 
from, which radiates the spirit of such things as the Presidency, 
the Supreme Court, and the nation's most outstanding Negro 
University, violations of democracy in the District of Columbia 
ever have been of major concern to Negroes. Thus it is that the 
19 5 5 Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia is. John 
R. Thompson Company, which opened the District's theaters, 
hotels, and restaurants to Negroes was hailed as a significant 
omen of similar victories to be won in other parts of the coun- 
try. Afro- Americans repeatedly have voiced their belief that 
segregation has served, probably more than any other f^ingle 
factor, to keep alive the myth that they are "different" and 
"inferior." They have declared that one needs no verbal argu- 
ments to convince a white child that a group which is forced 
to live in the least desirable parts of town, perform the most 
menial jobs, use the smallest and worst public facilities, and to 
ride in the back of public conveyances or in the worst train 
coaches is "beneath" white people. 

Perhaps Negroes generally have felt that all racial segre- 
gation was originally imposed on the race, while in actual fact 
some of it was sought and created by themselves. Such was the 



case with the first race churches. Rather than remain in white 
churches and be discriminated against, they organized their 
own. The same has been true in a number of other endeavors. 
Many of the first schools which sprang up after emancipation 
were of necessity segregated, but not so by law. This voluntary 
segregation, regardless of which side initiates it, has not been 
resented. It is largely when legal sanction and coercion is used 
that the Afro- American has complained. 

Afro- Americans have been well aware that segregation has 
carried some benefits for the race. The main benefit of segre- 
gated education, R. R. Moton saw as being the "opportunity 
for employment which these separate schools provide for Negro 
men and women as teachers."'' He pointed out that in 1928 
some 50,000 were employed as teachers, almost exclusively in 
segregated schools, with an aggregate annual income of $15,- 
000,000. When in 1951 the Negro municipal college at Louis- 
ville, Kentucky was closed and the students taken into the 
University of Louisville, Negro teachers were alarmed because 
only one faculty member of the closed school was retained at 
the white university. A similar reaction later occurred when 
schools were integrated in West Virginia and other states. To 
some, this presaged a trend which would see the end of the class 
of Negro teachers along with the demise of segregated educa- 
tion. Some fear that although the nation generally may agree 
to allow its colored and white children to attend the same 
schools as pupils, in most places public opinion and group eco- 
nomic selfishness will not allow all colored teachers to be ab- 
sorbed into integrated systems. However, so strong is their 
antipathy toward compulsory segregation and their faith in the 
ultimate triumph of democracy, until by far the majority of 
Negroes seem willing to take the risk. These are not blind to 
the fact that the nation has a serious shortage of teachers at 
the grade school levels. 

Along with other spokesmen, Rufus Clement, President of 
Atlanta University, has pointed out that when southern states 
completely abandon their segregation practices in higher edu- 
cation, the major reason for the existence of colleges exclusively 
for Negroes will no longer exist. The best of these he believes, 
along with Benjamin Mays and others, should then become in- 


tegrated Institutions. These spokesmen believe that, among 
other factors, the poverty oi southern states leaves them where 
they could ill afford to do away with Negro teachers and their 
facilities. Also, with a growing number of Americans, Dr. 
Clement believes that with their characteristically greater aca- 
demic freedom and oftentimes richer tradition, and greater 
emphasis on high scholarship, private colleges are a vital and 
necessary part of the nation's educational pattern." 

Segregatiori has been defended often on the grounds that 
it reduces friction between the races, but many Negroes feel 
that it also perpetuates a condition where friction is inevitable. 
The modern Negro declares that two groups kept as far apart 
as white and colored are in the South cannot but distrust, and 
remain generally ignorant of each other. The colored American 
always has "pooh-poohed" the idea that what he ultimately 
and really wants is racial intermarriage. He has pointed out re- 
peatedly that in those sections of the country where intermar- 
riage is not forbidden, it still remains rare and unusual, and 
the Negro still often looks down on members of his group who 
marry into the majority race. 

Perhaps more than any other factors, segregation and dis- 
crimination have prevented the Negro intelligentsia from se- 
ceding from their race. It is likely that had Negroes not all been 
treated alike before the law, the upper class would have been 
less wedded to the cause of the race. Evidence of this is found 
in the fact that in the ante-bellum South domestic slaves and 
members of the free class sometimes betrayed the cause of the 
slave. The free Negro populace of New Orleans, Louisiana 
offered over a regiment of mulatto troops to the cause of the 
Confederacy. But even New Orleans, by prejudice and discrim- 
ination, drove her mulattos closer and closer to the slave popu- 
lation. Many of the former sought to settle in France in order 
to escape this prejudice against their class. 

Where life work is concerned, millions of Afro-Ameri- 
cans have been discouraged by race prejudice. Often the colored 
man has had to begin at the bottom, generally with no hope of 
rising to the top as the American success story promises. Except 
in Negro-owned enterprises, managerial and supervisory posi- 
tions almost all of the time have been closed to him. In both 


northern and southern schools and colleges, at times he has been 
trained in vocations where there was very little opportunity of 
his finding employment. Afro-Americans have been either ex- 
cluded or frozen at the bottom, in the menial low-paying oc- 
cupations. This fact has caused large numbers of northern youth 
to lose interest in school even before the grammar grades were 
completed. It has discouraged many others from attending the 
colleges and universities. 

R. R. Moton, following Booker Washington's views, was 
willing to accept segregation provided that it was "equitable 
and voluntary" and ''following the natural lines of social 
cleavage."'* In his book entitled What the Negro Thinks, Moton 
revealed that there is a class aspect where attitudes toward some 
forms of discrimination are concerned. When he discusses seg- 
regation and discrimination on trains and other common car- 
riers, Moton showed that segregation on trains was especially 
chafKng to him. He devoted twelve pages to this type of seg- 
regation, while alloting only four to discrimination on street- 
cars. Obviously, sine© many Negroes seldom or never had been 
on a train previous to 1929 when this book appeared, it was 
the latter type of discrimination that was most general. Moton 
observed that it was not necessarily segregation per se that the 
Negro always resented, but the fact that the race always got the 
worst of segregated facilities."^'' Since the colored American is 
forced to pay the same price for schools, tickets on trains, 
busses, or trolleys, he feels that it is unfair to give him inferior 
services. The same applies to public parks, playgrounds, and 
similar facilities for which the race has been taxed but excluded 
from their enjoyment. Thus the Negro feels that he is being 
cheated. This conviction, observed Moton, "rankles deep in his 
[the Negro's] bosom, producing inevitably an ever-increasing 
contempt for the white man's standards of honour and justice 
and simple honesty."'" On this point, in a vein reminiscent of 
the Black Abolitionists, Moton continued: 

When he [the Negro] has outgrown his resent- 
ments the thinking Negro conies at length to pity the 
white man who is the victim of this conception and 
this system of establishing 'superiority.' When a man 
must crucify his own finer impulses toward justice and 


honesty and even courtesy in order to establish his 
superiority over another individual or another race 
he is in reality degrading himself rather than the 
other, and of the two is the more to be pitied. . . . 
For the man who is kept down may still preserve his 
ideals and his character intact; but he who keeps him 
down cannot do so without deadening his own sensi- 
bilities and searing his own soul/^ 

The colored American has viewed segregation and discrimina- 
tion as being motivated not only by the desire to quarantine 
the worst aspects of his behavior, but that often discriminatory 
laws were aimed at insuring "an advantage to the white man 
and A degree of ignorance and incompetence in the Negro that 
will avoid the individual hazards of a too keen competition.""" 
"The real animus" behind segregation, many Negroes have felt, 
is not the concern of southern whites with their own comfort, 
but their "morbid repugnance to secirjg coloured people amid 
scenes and circumstances with which they are unaccustomed to 
associate them."*'^ Colored Americans often have observed that 
there is no place frequented by southern whites where a Negro 
cannot go so long as he or she is a butler or maid, or otherwise 
cast in a servile role. Moton writes that in America the race's 
lot has been living among "uncertainties, perplexities, and in- 
consistencies."^^ He went on to describe some of these incon- 

There is no one word to describe the complex of his 
[the Negro's] emotions when a Pullman ticket agent 
tells him he has no space, and he then, going around 
the corner and calling the agent over the 'phone, is 
told that there is plenty of space. Only the word 
'contempt' describes his emotional reaction when, 
after reading of a 'black brute' done to death by a 
quiet, orderly mob' accompanied by women and chil- 
dren, on the next day he reads of young colored girls 
ravaged by a member of one of the 'best white fami- 
lies' v/ho is later declared 'insane'; and then recalls 
that a short while before a Negro already adjudged 
insane and confined in a state asylum for his malady 
is dragged out of his bed and lynched for the ir- 
responsible killing of a white nurse. '^'^ 


Benjamin Mays stated in 195 5 that of all sins, discrim- 
ination on account of race is the greatest because it says: "You 
made a mistake, God, when you made people of different races 
and colors."" Drake and Cay ton contend that Negroes, "feel 
most resentful about the Job Ceiling, are ambivalent about 
residential segregation, and are generally indifferent to the taboo 
on intermarriage."^' Although it is true, as these writers con- 
tend, that "in the matter of 'social segregation' .... [Negroes] 
are seldom articulate," the concern which novelists of the race 
have shown for intermarriage and passing, plus the resentment 
which colored Americans have sometimes shown toward mar- 
riages across race lines, would seem to belie the contention that 
Negroes are "generally indifferent to the taboo on intermar- 
riage." Then, too, recent experience with the compulsory school 
segregation laws would seem to indicate that colored Americans 
resent all legal restrictions on their freedom which are not 
equally applied to white persons. 

The Afro-American often has deplored the need which he 
has had to form segregated racial organizations. He has felt that 
such self-segregation should not be necessary in a democratic 
republic, but like most Americans, he has believed profoundly 
in the merits of organization and group action as often the best 
means of securing results in a democratic society. Finding him- 
self ignored and excluded from many institutions, he has been 
forced to organize his own. Churches, schools, fraternal orders, 
political and economic associations, and alinost every other con- 
ceivable type of organization have arisen among colored Ameri- 
cans. Often colored Americans have indicated their qualms 
about segregated organizations through a keen awareness of the 
word "Negro" in the name of the various groups. They have 
pointed out that their churches, schools, and other institutions 
were not closed to white Americans and a number of groups 
recently have ceased altogether to use the word "Negro" in 
their title. The post-World War II scene at Durham, N. C, 
where students at the North Carolina College for Negroes cele- 
brated the change of their school's name to "North Carolina 
College at Durham," has been repeated by numerous institu- 
tions and organizations, and in this period there has been acute 
concern as to whether certain organizations should not be 


abandoned altogether. At times this movement takes on illogi- 
cal proportions and seems to be a flight from racial identity. 
Especially does this become clear when members of such an 
organization as the Association for the Study of Negro Life 
and Histor}'' holds serious debates, as happened at the 1954 
meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, as to whether their efforts should 
be continued. The debate revealed that this Association has not 
been devoted to scientific scholarship alone, but that it has had 
a persistent and strong propagandist design and orientation. 
The Negro ever has been aware that Irish, German, Jewish, 
Polish and other minority groups in this country have formed 
their restricted associations and activities to further their own 
efforts at fullness of citizenship and expression. 

A prominent feature of the 19 50's was one? climax to the 
fight of colored Americans to end compulsory segregation in 
the public schools. The immediate story which led to this cli- 
max, coming in the May 17, 19 54 Supreme Court decision of 
current interest, h:is a lengthy history. In 193 8 came the United 
States Supreme Court rendering the decision in the case of 
Gaines is. Missouri, in essence ultimately "compelling" states 
to make available to Negroes the same educational offerings 
being given whites. From press and platform, optimistic spokes- 
men saw in this decision the beginning of the end for compul- 
sory segregated public education. These spokesmen knew that 
most southern states either could not or would not provide the 
equal facilities which the court declared had to exist to meet 
the demands of the law, hence the only legal alternative ulti- 
mately would be use by Negroes of integrated educational 
facilities. In 1949, Ada Sipuel gained admittance to the Okla- 
homa University law school. She had refused to attend a seg- 
regated school launched by Oklahoma after a 1946 court order 
ruled that the state had to provide her with opportunities for a 
legal education. The demand of several persons for graduate 
and professional training caused several states to come forward 
by 1946 with the idea of regional schools for Negroes. When 
Oklahoma, rather than organize an expensive graduate school 
for G. W. McLaurin, admitted him, under a strict caste ar- 
rangement, to the white university, McLaurin sued. In June, 
1950, the Supreme Court held that he had been denied the equal 


protection of the laws. Some southern states started setting up 
Negro graduate schools, while others opened doors of the white 
schools, and some did nothing about this particular problem. 
Another case, Sweat! is. Fainter, coming out of Texas, was 
decided in 1950. The state of Texas had set up a segregated law 
school which Sweatt did not like because of its obvious; inferi- 
ority. The Supreme Court found in his favor. In this case, 
Chief Justice Fred Vinson mentioned the intangible qualities 
of a school which physical facilities alone cannot give. This 
viewpoint prompted the NAACP to begin a fight to get all 
compulsory segregated education declared unconstitutional, not 
on grounds of inferior physical facilities, but on the fact of 
segregation itself. Thus it can be seen that, in a number of de- 
cisions, while refusing to overthrow the 1896 established "sep- 
arate but equal" doctrine, the court had been gradually emas- 
culating it; first, by insisting on what for at least three decades 
had been largely ignored, that is, that the separate facilities 
shall actually exist and be "substantially equal," then by show- 
ing that separate facilities cannot be equal. 

Indicative of the widespread nature of the Afro-Americans 
protest against segregation is the fact that the four cases ruled 
on together in the epochal May 17, 1954 decision came from 
widely separated Delaware, Kansas, South Carolina. Too, top 
NAACP spokesmen have stated that in this and similar in- 
stances of court action against segregation, the initiative came 
from local communities which acted first and later sought 
NAACP assistance in their legal efforts. When on May 31, 
195 5 the Court indicated more clearly the mod us operandi of 
its 19 54 ruling, Afro-Americans found no major quarrel with 
the courts doctrine. Supremely realistic by now, they knew 
that "all deliberate speed" was as close as a democratic body 
could come in ordering integration, and they appreciated that 
federal courts were given the responsibility of supervising inte- 
gration. Many Negroes agreed that in each community they had 
a new responsibility constantly to prod their school boards into 
quickened action. 

In the realm of education, from 1865 to May 17, 1954 
there usually was contact between Negroes and whites only at 
the summit, that is, between the leaders of both races. This con- 


tact often took place between "safe' or conservative Negroes 
and state or local education officials. After the Supreme Court 
decision that the schools must de-segregate, a prominent white 
educational leader declared that the contact "must now be at 
the crossroads in every hajulet in this country." "In many re- 
spects," comments this observer, "it is at the local level . . . 
that we shall [now] hammer out our future and chart our 

In an address to the forty-second annual convention of the 
NAACP, held in Atlanta, Georgia, July 1, 1951, Ralph Bunchc 
probably voiced the general sentiment of his race on social aims 
of the mid-twentioth century. The Negro demands, Bunche as- 
serted, "complete integration as an American citizen." Bunche 
continued: "That means simply that he insists upon his Consti- 
tutional heritage, without let or hinderance; equally, without 
qualification of race or color; an end to discrimination and 
segregation, for segregation itself, in any form, is discrimina- 
tion. To speak of 'segregated equality' among American citi- 
zens is to engage in wanton sophistry."*' 

In the South repressive measures followed the famed May 
17, 19 54 Supreme Court rulings. As Georgia, Mississippi, Lou- 
isiana, and South Carolina passed legislation to the effect that 
any teacher caught championing racial integration would be 
immediately fired, and to ban from the schools members of the 
NAACP, Negroes saw these as blows at freedom of thought 
and expression." When the state of Georgia set September 15, 
19 5 5 as the deadline for its teachers to resign from the NAACP, 
the colored head of the Protestant Episcopal Church in North 
Georgia accused the state of attempting to bring about state 
control of thought, and charged that the Georgia State Board 
of Education was "taking its place in line with those subversive 
organizations that seek to change our Government by force." '^ 

Speaking to the forty-second annual convention of the 
NAACP at Atlanta, Ralph Bunche had voiced a theme that 
has been prominent in the post World War II utterances of 
colored Americans. That theme is the urgency which America'; 
race problem assumes vis-a-vis the Communist threat to the 
United States and the entire Western world. This threat, stated 
Bunche, leaves the nation precious little time to solve a prob- 


lem which is robbing it of "strength, unity, moral position and 
prestige. "^^ ''Indeed," Bunche continued, "it might well be said 
that rapid progress toward the full integration of the Negro in 
the society is of even greater urgency for the nation today than 
for the Negro."''^ 

The post-May 17, 1954 period saw an especial stiffening of 
southern opposition to the growing integration movement. 
While opposition has largely operated through White Citizens 
Councils and legislative enactments aimed at silencing protest 
and killing the NAACP in the section, this movement has in- 
cluded economic reprisal, beatings, bombings, and inurders. 
The 19 5 5 murder of young Emmett Till and subsequent shoot- 
ings of others, including a prominent Mississippi preacher and 
a South Carolina physician, plus the threats to the life of Au- 
therine Lucy at Tuscaloosa, Alabama stirred some members of 
both races to raise the cry that the Negro had better slow down 
his relentless push toward integration and equality. A colored 
North Carolina editor probably voiced the convictions of the 
majority of his race when he said that to accept this "slow 
down" advice would only give whites the opportunity to wipe 
out gains made by the Negro. "Why is it that the Negro 
[alone] is always asked to 'go slow'," he asked. ""* 

There were several new elements in the Negro's position 
by 19 5 5. One condition which had given rise to such essential 
legal-action organizations as the NAACP was the inability of 
individual Negroes to carry expensive litigation to federal 
courts when justice was denied them. By 19 5 5 such litigation 
was often no longer prohibitively expensive for the reason that, 
so clear was the Supreme Court's position, one needed only to 
introduce a complaint into any federal district court. Further- 
more, the fear and timidity of many southern Negroes had 
clearly disappeared. If school teachers often could be easily 
silenced because they were on the public payroll, ministers, 
physicians, dentists, businessmen and college students had a new 
and unyielding militancy. And unlike a generation previously, 
when Negro lawyers were very scarce in southern states, by 
195 5 they were more plentiful and eager to obtain civil rights 


By 19 5 5 many Negroes had concluded that after the sine 
qua non oi getting the law and federal courts committed to 
their fight for equal rights and opportunities, the rest must be 
up to both races at the local level; that with emotionally charged 
issues, there comes a p>oint beyond which laws and courts are 
ineffective. They were convinced that ultimately only law-re- 
specting local leaders and civic groups can make progress and 
bring a final solution to America's color problem. On the racial 
"front," almost always leaders of both racial groups have acted, 
talked, and written of "the fight." There was a growing con- 
viction among both groups that where this is the dominant 
attitude and approach, ideal race relations are impossible, for a 
fight or contest implies competition, winner — vanquished, su- 
perior — inferior, and the possibility where feelings are high 
that Marquis of Queensbury rules may not be adhered to. In- 
stead of competition, conflict, and different goals, these persons 
felt, harmonious cooperation toward common sectional goals 
must be more than ever the preeminent consideration. 

In 1959 on the television program Outlook, the noted news 
analyst Chet Huntley suggested that Afro-Americans and the 
NAACP might well consider easing up the pressure of their 
fight for integration, as a tactic which would illow passions to 
cool and further their aim.g better than a continuing policy of 
pressure. Through the Negro press, a storm of "No's" came 
back at Huntley as Afro-Americans repeatedly voiced the con- 
viction that they had followed a policy of gradualism and 
waiting long enough. Their answer to Huntley was reminiscent 
of the statement made by the Rev. Francis J. Grimke when the 
suggestion was made in the immediate post-World War I period 
that Negroes might best not press right away for a fuller 
measure of rights and opportunities. To this Grimke replied: 
Should we be less insistent, less persistent, less determ- 
ined, less alive, less wide awake to the things that 
pertain to our rights, than the people who are sleep- 
lessly vigilant in their efforts and determination to 
filch them from us to keep us in, what they call, our 
proper place . . .? It is astounding, almost incred- 
ible, that any colored man, even to the stupidest of 
them, should be led into such utter folly as to counsel 
the cessation of the struggle for our rights, even for a 


moment, when nothing is ever accomphshed except 
by a struggle, by earnest, persistent effort. 

When in August, 1959, the Little Rock, Arkansas Board of 
Education voted acceptance of token integration of the city's 
Central High School, the NAACP protested that the city's 
plan whereby only five Negro students were enrolled was in- 
adequate and would be fought in the courts. However, the 
Rev. Joseph Jackson, then president of the National Baptist 
Convention, wired the NAACP that its continuing pressure 
was unrealistic and that the small victory should be accepted 
as adequate for the time being. As further token integration 
was achieved in the schools of several southern cities, Negroes 
seemed at least temporarily willing to settle for it, but the stu- 
dent "sit-in'" assaults on segregated lunch counters, beaches, 
and churches, plus a stepped up boycotting of business firms 
which discriminated racially in their hiring practices, clearly 
revealed a growing impatience with the existence of caste in 

Recent evidences of the militant turn of the Negro mind 
was the wave of lunch-counter or "sit-in" demonstrations by 
college students which swept the South during 1960. At least 
two years earlier, with their Youth Marches on the nation's 
capital, Negroes had given warning that enlistment of teen- 
agers and young adults was a new-found weapon in their battle 
for equality. An equally significant aspect of these protests 
against second-class citizenship status was the manner in which, 
unlike the characteristic behavior of their predecessors of the 
previous generation, most Negro college presidents and parents 
of the students refused to take direct responsibility for sup- 
pressing the demonstrations. Ihose southern whites who did 
not want to accept the New Negro found this radically new 
and effective type of leadership and militancy particuarly dis- 
tressing, and some southern governors began to take a new look 
at Negro colleges and to wonder what could be done to get 
the students to stick to their books and to refrain from at- 
tacking the status quo. A few governors spoke of Communist 
influence and apparently could see no relationship between stu- 
dent protest movements in such places as Korea and Turkey 
and those in their own states, and seemed to feel that the 


teachers of the students might be to blame. Wanting in the 
Spring, 1960 issue of Harpers, Louis Lomax expressed the 
opinion that in their miHtancy Negro youth was repudiating 
the traditionally conservative leadership of such organizations 
as the NAACP and Urban League. 

Among Negroes per capita income had risen from ap- 
proximately $365.00 in 1939 to approximately $1,300.00 in 
1950. Although these figures represented scarcely one-half of 
the national average, they reflected some progress and indicated 
one main source of the constant drive to accelerate it. Speaking 
in Boston in 190 5 Bishop Reverdy C. Ransom had evinced a 
belief that the Negro, by his "steadfast devotion to the flag 
[and emphasis on] constitutional rights" may some day be the 
salvation of the nation when the majority of its citizenry may 
be "surfeited with wealth, haughty with the boasting pride of 
race superiority, morally corrupt in the high places of honor 
and trust, enervated through the pursuit of pleasure, or the 
political bondmen of some strong man plotting to seize the 
reigns of power."" During the 19 50's a number of Negroes 
would be heard voicing opinions that the nation had reached 
some such condition and that their race was indeed performing 
such a work of salvation. This judgment would derive in no 
small degree from such incidents as the corruption being re- 
vealed at home and the contrast between the mobbing of 
American embassies or then Vice-President Richard Nixon's 
unpopular reception in Latin America and the acclaim re- 
cently given to Marian Anderson in Asia and Louis Armstrong 
and other Negro artists in Europe. 

Chapter XV 


The 1895 Atlanta Exposition address of Booker T. Wash- 
ington is the focal point around which much controversy as to 
the man's personality, character, and philosophy has revolved. 
That an able and eminent scholar could in 1954 make Wash- 
ington the "bctc iioir and most evil genius" of a historical 
volume reveals that this controversy is far from settled/ 

The Atlanta speech catapulted Washington into the na- 
tional limelight. Here in a brief but memorable message that 
is sometimes compared with Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg 
Address, he struck a conciliatory note on race relations which 
was attuned to the thought of most white southerners and 
northerners alike. Although he states that "there was practically 
nothing new in the address," Rayford W. Logan believes that 
this speech "was one of the most effective pieces of political 
oratory in the history of the United States."" Logan thinks that 
it "deserves a place" alongside the earlier epic utterances of 
Patrick Henry and William Jennings Bryan.' At the conclusion 
of the Atlanta address, most of the platform speakers, includ- 
ing an ex-governor of Georgia, enthusiastically shook Washing- 
ton's hand, and the next day telegrams containing; coneratula- 
tions and ofters of lecture engagements began to pour into his 
office from all over the nation. One telegram came from Presi- 
dent Grover Cleveland, and the next year Harvard University 
conferred on Washington the first honorary degree which any 
New England school ever granted a Negro. 

In this speech Washington expressed a faith in economic 
determinism. He said: 

The wisest among my race understand that the 
agitation of questions of social equality is the ex- 
tremest folly, and that progress in the enjoyment of 
all the privileges that will come to us must be the 
result of severe and constant struggle, rather than of 
artificial forcing. No race that has anything to con- 
tribute to the markets of the world is long in any 
degree ostracized.* 



While one may quarrel with this doctrine, there is no doubting 
the soundness of the statement which followed it. "The oppor- 
tunity to earn a dollar in a factory just now," he said of his 
race, "is worth infinitely more than the opportunity to spend 
a dollar in an opera house."' Sheer wisdom stood out also when, 
to the white South, he declared — "There is no defense or se- 
curity for any of us except in the highest intelligence and de- 
velopment of all."" 

Washington probably spoke for the majority of the race 
in the South when he renounced "agitation of questions" of 
equality of citizenship until such a time as more white people 
would feel differently toward the colored man. While tempo- 
rarily "accepting" this modus livendi between the two races, 
Washington asked for the quid p^ro quo of a good neighbor 
policy. Unharmonious race relations, he believed, would serve 
to the detriment of all. "In all things that are purely social," 
he declared, "we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as 
the hand in all things essential to mutual progress." Washing- 
ton apologized to southern whites because the freedmen, in his 
belief, had put interest in politics before such interests as learn- 
ing a trade or building character, and he indicated his belief 
that the race had thus put the cart before the horse, and that 
the Negro was now ready to reverse the situation and by so 
doing slowly cam the political and civil rights which had been 
held briefly as the result of "artificial forcing." With Abraham 
Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, and others, Washington believed 
that only the most literate and cultured Negroes, like hLmself, 
were fit and had a right to exercise the franchise. Again reflect- 
ing his economic determinism, realism, and optimism, Wash- 
ington said: 

Our greatest danger is, that, in the great leap from 
slavery to freedom, we may overlook the fact that 
the masses of us are to live by the productions of our 
hands, and fail to keep in mind that we shall prosper 
in the proportion as we learn to dignify and glorify 
common labor and put brains and skill into the com- 
mon occupations of life; shall prosper in proportion 
as we learn to draw the line between the superficial 
and the substantial. ... It is at the bottom of life 


we must begin and not the top. Nor should we permit 
our grievances to overshadow our opportunities. 
He urged the South to view the Negro as a friend, be- 
cause the latter had made a great contribution in labor to the 
building of the nation. Playing up to the anti-labor sentiment 
of the times, Washington stated that the Negro had made his 
contribution in labor "without strikes and labor wars." Of the 
South, Washington averred: "To those of my race who depend 
on bettering their condition in a foreign land, or who under- 
estimate the importance of cultivating friendly relations with 
the Southern white man who is their next door neighbor, I 
would say, cast down your bucket where you are. . . . And 
in this connection it is well to bear in mind that, whatever 
other sins the South inay be called upon to bear, when it comes 
to business pure and simple it is in the South that the Negro 
is given a man's chance in the commercial world." In this 
speech Washington spoke of 'our beloved South." No doubt 
he shared much of the faith in the section which Henry W. 
Grady and others were then revealing, but here Washington also 
was reflecting the views of many Afro-Americans on their 
native Southland. The sentiment which provoked such songs 
as "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny," and "My Old Kentucky 
Home," caused Frederick Douglass to express similar feelings 
in a letter to his former slave master. On this, Douglass wrote 
in 1848: 

The fact is, there are few [fugitive slaves] here who 
would not return to the South in the event of eman- 
cipation. We want to live in the land of our birth, 
and to lay our bones by the side of our fathers; and 
nothing short of an intense love of personal freedom 
keeps us fiom the South. ^ 
Still another Afro- American had opined in 1884: 

The colored man is in the South to stay there. He 
will not leave it voluntarily and he cannot be driven 
out. He had no voice in being carried into the South, 
but he will have a very loud voice in any attempt to 
put him out.^ 

The Industrial Education Issue 
Washington believed that education could work wonders 
in eliminating the race problem. On this, he wrote: " The proper 


education of all the whites will benefit the Negro as much as 
the education of the Negro will benefit the whites. The Gover- 
nor of Alabama would probably count it no disgrace to ride 
in the same railroad coach with a colored man, but the ignorant 
white man who curries the Governor's horse would turn up his 
nose in disgust."' Washington believed that there is "an in- 
describable something about work with the hands that tends 
to develop a student's mind."'" Having been exposed to General 
Armstrong and Hampton Institute, this was the only type of 
education that Washington knew well. There is an adage in 
education which states that people teach as they were taught. 
In view, however, of Washington's very strong emphasis on 
maintaining at least the semblance of amicable relations between 
the races in the South, there can be little doubt that one of his 
majo'; reasons for championing so-called industrial education 
was that southern whites favored this type for his race. Then, 
too, his close friendship with the nation's top industrialists un- 
doubtedly helped mould his views. He came to share practically 
every article of their faith, from the laissez-faire emphasis and 
Horatio Alger rags-to-riches dream to their antipathy toward 
labor unions. Also through the temper of the times and General 
Armstrong Washington was a staunch champion of the Gospel 
of Work. 

Washington stated in many places his preference for 
manual or industrial training rather than general education or 
the liberal arts. Like so many Americans of his period, he be- 
lieved that acquisition of wealth was the panacea for practically 
all of an individual's or nation's needs. Washington knew that, 
while the white South tended to fear liberally educated Negroes, 
it did not fear the person who was supposedly educated to work 
only with his hands. Washington never believed that he was 
compromising or retreating from his own principles or the 
principles and ultimate goals of his race. To him it was largely 
a matter of method and of expediency. His educational con- 
victions were expressed as early as 18 84, just three years after 
Tuskegee Institute was founded. Speaking on the subject, "The 
Educational Outlook in the South," before the National Asso- 
ciation meeting in Madison, Wisconsin, he stated: "A certain 
class of whites in the South object to the general education of 


the colored man on the ground that when he is educated he 
ceases to do manual labor, and there is no evading the fact that 
much aid is withheld from Negro education in the South by 
the states on these grounds. Just here the great mission of 
hidmtrial Education coupled with the mental comes in. It 'kills 
two birds with one stone,' viz.: secures the cooperation of the 
whites, and does the best possible thing for the black man."^^ 
"God for two hundred and fifty years, in my opinion," Wash- 
ington declared, "prepared the way for the redemption of the 
Negro through industrial development."^" 

Long before Washington, industrial education had been an 
especial interest of Afro- Americans. Beginning in 1831, most 
of the annual Negro conventions championed this type of edu- 
cation.^^ Frederick Douglass was a very active leader in most 
of these conventions. The first such convention had met in 
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Fifteen delegates from five states 
attended. This Convention voted to institutionalize a voca- 
tional training program for Negroes which had been proposed 
as early as 1827 by Samuel Cornish, and which had the sup- 
port of such outstanding abolitionists as William Lloyd Garri- 
son, Benjamin Lundy, and Arthur Tappan. It was proposed 
that this school should be located in New Fiaven, Connecticut, 
but opposition from this city and from persons elsewhere kept 
this project from being realized. As early as 18 53, Frederick 
Douglass had advised members of his race to "learn trades or 
starve." "If the alternative were presented to us of learning a 
trade or getting an education," Douglass had said, "we should 
learn the trade, for the reason that with the trade we could get 
the education while with the education we could not get a 
trade. "^* Later, continuing the industrial school trend, Hampton 
and Tuskegee graduates founded in Alabama the Snow Hill and 
Mount Meigs institutes; Voorhees Industrial School of South 
Carolina; in Virginia the St. Paul Industrial School, Christians- 
burgh Institute, the Franklin Normal and Industrial Institute, 
and the Glouchester Agricultural and Industrial School; and 
other institutions. In 1900 and thereafter Tuskegee students 
went to Africa to introduce cotton growing into German, 
British, and Belgian colonies, and the Tuskegee idea even spread 
to China. 


Washington, ever a pragmatist of sorts, had Httle use for 
the "education-for-private-use" attitude. To him the benefits 
of education had to be clearly visible. On this, he stated: 

I would set no limits to the attainments of the Negro 
in arts, in letters or statesmanship, but I believe the 
surest way to reach those ends is by laying the foun- 
dation in the little things of life. ... I plead for 
industrial education and development for the Negro 
not because I want to cramp him, but because I want 
to free him. I want to see him enter the all-powerful 
business and commercial world. 
In 190 5 Harvard trained former Tuskegee instructor, Roscoe 
Conkling Bruce attacked this Washington-propagated attitude. 
Bruce declared: 

The effects of education are really to be sought in the 
mind and character and growing power of the stu- 
dent; the process is . . .. essentially intangible, and 
to estimate the thoroughness of the process and its 
value for life in terms of the ponderable character of 
the apparatus is a fundamental error. Anything is 
practical that is of service to the community. Clear 
thinking and insight into human nature, certainly 
have as many practical uses as deftness with hammer 
and tongs. ^'^ 

In his emphasis on industrial-type education, Washington was 
in step with a major trend of his times, and the opposition 
which was directed toward him was in many ways characteristic 
of the same critcism which was then being directed at white 
pedagogues who were calling for a deemphasia of the old aris- 
tocratic education and the giving of more attention to meeting 
the educational needs peculiar to an industrialized society. 

Many Negro leaders) saw that the classical curriculum did 
not properly fit the needs of the freedmen, but, they pointed 
out that by the '70s and 80s this curriculum no longer fitted 
the needs of most whites rlso, and the strong opposition which 
Horace Mann and other educational reformers encountered 
proved that the classical curriculum was a fetish to many whites 
as well as Negroes. Among the outstandmg Negro educators 
who saw these things was Roscoe Conkling Bruce who was for 
fifteen years Assistant Superintendent in charge of Colored 


Schools in the District of Cokimbia. In 190 5 Bruce was cham- 
pioning an enriched curriculum for Negro colleges in the South, 
a curriculum which would see the addition of "thorough courses 
in natural science with its application to industry; in history 
and social science with special attention to the traditions and 
progress of Negro peoples in Africa and in America, and to 
the sociological problems in which Negro life in America is 
enmeshed today.'"" Further, he added, "the Negro college 
should render its curriculum flexible and more widely service- 
able through the introduction of an elective system by the 
provisions of which the dead languages might give way to the 
living languages and history and social science, and advanced 
mathematics to psychology and ethics and the principles and 
practices of education."^' He also urged Negro colleges to have 
well-equipped schools of education, agriculture, engineering, 
and medicine. It was essentially the idea and principle implied 
in industrial education which was most repugnant to many 
Negroes. In truth, all such schools as Tuskegee or Hampton 
rapidly became primarily teacher training institutions. Since 
over sixty per cent of the graduates of almost all Negro col- 
leges have entered the teaching profession, whether the institu- 
tion was labeled a liberal arts college or an agricultural and 
mechanical one often has mattered little. 

With many Afro-Americans, Washington believed that 
the race problem is essentially a moral issue. William Hooper 
Councill, an outstanding contemporary, who was also an Ala- 
bama educator, enunciated the same opinion. "Problems are 
born in the souls of men," Councill declared, "and if solved at 
all, must be solved there. "^^ In the same vein, Washington 
averred: "If you want to know how to solve the race problem, 
place your hands upon your heart and then, with a prayer to 
God, ask him how you . . ., were you placed in the position 
that thq black man occupies, how you would desire the white 
man to treat you."^' 

One would make a grave error in concluding that Wash- 
ington was an Uncle Tom typo in the sense of a meek, fright- 
ened, and cowed individual. Quite the contrary is true. Espe- 
cially in his speeches made in northern cities, he was outspoken 
in his contention that ultimate equality of the races was his 


desire. About the only justification one could have for calling 
Washington an "Uncle Tom" was his insistence that, in his 
day, the southern Negro should de-emphasize political action 
in favor of fighting on the economic and educational fronts. 
"Brains, property, and character for the Negro," he stated, 
"will settle the question of civil rights.""" "Now, in regard to 
what I have said about the relations of the two races," he once 
said, "there should be no unmanly cowering or stooping to 
satisfy unreasonable whims of southern white men, but it is 
charity and wisdom to keep in mind the two hundred years' 
schooling in prejudice against the Negro which the ex-slave 
holders are called upon to conquer."'^ With reservations, Wash- 
ington favored the founding of the NAACP. Washington's 
resentment at the color line in labor unions was very bitter."' 
While working in West Virginia's coal mines, he had belonged 
to the Knights of Labor for several years. Also, in his usual in- 
offensive way, he tried to arouse the best white people of the 
South against lynching. He reminded them constantly that if 
they were to maintain home-rule in the section free from fed- 
eral interference, they would have to carry out their "sacred 
trust" of maintaining law and order.'' Washington also some- 
times planted "radical" letters in newspapers under pseu- 
donyms, and quietly contributed money to test in court various 
disfranchisement laws."' Still Rayford W. Logan, writing in 
19 54, made Washington the "hctc noh and most evil genius" 
of his historical volume on the period 1 877-1 90 L In a review 
of Logan's study, G. W. Grimke observes that, "Washington 
was an ardent politician, but he has not yet been proved to 
have been an Uncle Tom.""'^^ 

Washington believed htat the freedmen themselves had 
to complete the work of emancipation. He averred: 

This work must be completed in the public school, 
industrial school and college. The most of it must 
be completed in the effort of the Negro himself, in 
his effort to withstand temptation, to economize, to 
exercise thrift, to disregard the superficial for the real, 
the shadow for the substance, to be great and yet 
small, in his effort to be patient in the laying of a 
firm foundation, to grow so strong in skill and 


knowledge that he shall place his service in demand 
by reason of his intrinsic and superior worth. 

Even before he achieved nation-wide fame, Washington ex- 
pressed the belief that "reforms in the South are to come from 
within." Indicative of the fact that he based his approach to 
the race problem on cooperating with rather than clashing with 
southern whites, he declared that these persons "don't like to 
obey orders that coine from Washington that they must lay 
aside at once customs that they have followed for centuries." 
In his agrarianism, deep love of the South, and respect for states 
rights, Booker Washington is somewhat reminiscent of Thomas 
Jefferson, while in his contrary views on these points and in 
his faith in an elite (the "Talented Tenth"), W. E. B. DuBois 
is somewhat reminiscent of Alexander Hamilton. Washington 
seems to ha\e understood the stubborn unreasoning nature of 
human prejudice, yet, with great faith in the power of edu- 
cation and human reason, he always believed that more formal 
education would lift both poor whites and Negroes to a level 
where thought triumphs over emotions. Although he fought 
for his race, typical of educated mulattoes of his day, he had 
considerable contempt for the Negro masses. To Washington, 
farm ownership was a sort of panacea which could eliminate 
the evil crop lien system and also give Negroes pride in their 
work and an incentive to work harder and make improvements. 
He knew that his race needed a second emancipation which re- 
quired attention to the economic and cultural spheres as much 
or moreso than to the area of political and civil rights action. 
He often spoke of his dream that both sectionalism and racism 
would disappear from the nation. There was a strong strain of 
puritanism in him, which was partly religious in origin, and 
which fitted in with and was partially derived from the Vic- 
torianism of his times. His puritanism and disdain of violence 
are characteristics evident in many Negro leaders, even those 
who may stand at variance with other aspects of his philosophy. 
Washington was a disciple of the Liberal Republicanism which 
Radical Reconstruction spawned. As was the case with such 
politicians as Horace Greely and Carl Schurz, and the nation's 
leading industrialists, Washington wanted the sections to "shake 
hands across the bloody chasm," and like these he thought that 


a quiescent race relations front was essential to the growth and 
development of business, hence of the nation. He urged that 
his race must learn to "mix with their religion some land, cot- 
ton, and corn, a house with two or three rooms, and a little 
bank account.""' In his view that politics was the area of life 
Negro participation in which southern whites were most ve- 
hemently opposed, Washington had plenty of company among 
members of both races. The eminent educator J. C. Price stated 
on numerous occasions: 

The great discordant element between the races, that 
which makes the so-called race problem, is Negro 
Citizenship and its consequent eligibilitv to office. If 
there is a race problem, here are its centripetal and 
centrifugal forces."* 

Washington urged Negroes to be Republican in national poli- 
tics, but Democratic at the state and local level. 

Between 1866-1876 Booker Washington's program of ac- 
commodation would not have been acceptable to the leading 
white and colored politicians, who were then idealistically 
championing a program of uncompromising racial equality. 
Even in the heyday of Washington's dominance, the rising 
democratic fervor evident in the Populist revolt and Progres- 
sive movement led to a mounting protest against the view of 
black mankind which quiescence in the face of jim-crow im- 
plied. Washington's triumph and popularity is proof of the 
great need which the South and the nation had by 1895 for a 
respite from the long-drawn out strife over the status and rights 
of the colored man. Washington's triumph was the Thermido- 
rean reaction which follows almost every intense and protracted 
attempt at social, economic, and political reform. Knowing that 
his race, starting late and handicapped, had greater obstacles 
to overcome, Washington asked it to glorify in this and to rise 
cheerfully to the challenge. During slavery most of the Negro's 
impetus to work was external in origin and symbolized by the 
lash. Washington wisely knew that, in order for it to survive 
and prosper, the race's impetus to work would have to be in- 
ternalized. On this, he stated: 

We must not be afraid to pay the price for success — 
the price of sleepless nights, the price of toil when 


Others rest, the price of planning today for tomorrow, 
this year for next year. If someone else endures the 
hardships, someone else will reap the harvest and en- 
joy the reward."" 

Again and again he declared that the greater one's difficulties, 
the greater should be his success. 

Washington accepted the dictum that the masses of Ne- 
groes were not ready for equality of citizenship and oppor- 
tunity, and he felt that they would not be ready for fifty or 
more years. At a Harvard alumni dinner in 1896, as he had 
at Atlanta the previous year, he laid down the conditions which 
his race must meet before it would be ready. At Harvard he 
declared — • 

During the next half century and more, my race must 
continue passing through the severe American cru- 
cible. We are to be tested in our patience, our forbear- 
ance, our perseverance, our power to endure wrong, 
to withstand temptations, to economize, to acquire 
and use skill, and our ability to compete, to succeed 
in commerce. . . . This, this is the passport to all 
that is best in the life of our Republic, and the Ne- 
gro must possess it, or be debarred.'" 
Washington's emphasis on "self-help, self discipline, self- 
salvaiion" were also m step with his times, for these emphases 
had their echoes in Horatio Alger, William Makepeace Thayer, 
Russell Conwell, Orison Swett Marden, and others. "It is im- 
portant and right that all privileges of the law be ours," Wash- 
ington wrote, "but it is vastly more important that we be 
prepared for the exercise of those privileges." And again: "With 
proper habits, intelligence and property, there is no power on 
earth that can permanently stay our progress."' 

Negro novelists of the period 1895-1920 paid considerable 
attention to the controversy over whether their race should 
follow the Washington formula in race relations or take the 
more militant line which W. E. B. Du Bois was championing. 
Most of the writers sided with Du Bois, but how much their 
inclinations represented the rank and file of the race is a moot 
question. Quoting the views of numerous Tuskegee alumni who 
were polled by Washington in 1894 as to their views on solving 
the race problem. Jack Abramowitz shows that they were avid 


in their suppori; of the self-help-accommodation philosophy of 
Washington. On this, Abramowitz comments: 

Such views by the men and women graduates from 
Tuskegee stemmed from the fact that the virtues of 
self-government, progress through economic success, 
and advancement within the framework of existing 
conditions rather than struggle against them, were 
an integral part of the curriculum of the institution. 
Day in, day out, in class and at chapel, in private 
conversations and in Sunday evening talks to the stu- 
dents, the pomt was made that the failure of any 
man stems from his ov/n deficiencies. . . . Tuskegee 
students heard this from Booker T. Washington who 
had learned it from General Samuel Chapman Arm- 
strong at Hampton.' 
Further, Abramowitz notes: 

Insistence upon ascribing the conditions of the Negro 
to personal deficiencies runs rampant in the Negro 
press of the 1890s, and it was particularly stressed in 
such institutions as Hampton and Tuskegee and the 
scores of lesser schools modeled after them.'"^ 
Numerous writers have pointed out that Washington did 
not properly understand the changes which laissez-faire capi- 
talism was undergoing in his day. In the antipathy which he 
seems to have developed toward labor unions, he was unreal- 
istic. The same is true of his insistence that Negroes remain 
in rural areas, or even in the South while mechanization of 
farms and the rising development of urban areas counselled 
differently. Washington did not see that the growth of com- 
mercial and monopoly capitalism was fast killing the great 
American illusion that by dint of hard work and ingenuity 
any boy could become a millionaire, and where he genuinely 
believed that liberal education was of little value, he did the 
race a disservice. '* Still, by "accepting" the harsh and cold facts 
of their fait accompli, Washington performed the important 
and needed service of allaying the fears of southern whites. In 
the effort which Radical Reconstructionists made to force po- 
litical and civil equality of the Negro on southern whites, the 
latter saw this as a dire threat to practically every aspect of 
their traditional way of life. Washington calmed these fears 
somewhat by pointing out that his race would accept without 


violence the subordinate role to which it was forcibly assigned 
in southern life. If he was wrong in that he misled some Ne- 
groes into the dangerous belief that political and civil rights 
are of secondary importance, he was very correct in the em- 
phasis which he gave to the importance of industry, thrift, 
manners, morals, and character. 

William Edward Burghardi Du Bois was the first person 
to raise effectively objection to the Washington philosophy. In 
his The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois took Washington to task, 
accusing hini of advocating a "gospel of Work and Money" 
which would make men carpenters but not carpenters men. ' 
"Men we shall have," Du Bois wrote, "only as we make man- 
hood the object of the work of the schools — intelligence, broad 
sympathy, knowledge of tho world that was and is, and of the 
relation of men to it.""" He dubbed Washington's 189 5 speech 
the "Atlanta Compromise." On the racial formula which Wash- 
ington had laid down, Du Bois said that the formula contained 
a "triple paradox." These were: 

1. He [Washington] is striving nobly to make Negro 
artisans, business men and property-owners; but 
it is utterly impossible, under modern competitive 
methods, for workingmen and property-owners 
to defend their rights and exist without the right 
of suffrage. 

2. He insists on thrift and self-respect, but at the 
same time counsels a silent submission to civic in- 
feriority such as is bound to sap the manhood of 
any race in the long run. 

3. He advocates common-school and industrial train- 
ing, and deprecates institutions of higher learn- 
ing; but neither the Negro common-schools, nor 
Tuskegee itself, could remain open a day were it 
not for teachers trained in Negro colleges, or 
trained by their graduates.'^ 

Du Bois contended that Washington's protests against lynch- 
ings and disfranchisement were too mild, and that his insis- 
tence on self-help was placing on the Negro's back practically 
alone a burden which properly belonged to all of the South 
and the Nation as a whole. Du Bois charged that the price 
which the white South was demanding for Negro cooperation 


and friendship was excessive. While Washington constantly 
thought of the southern white man as a friend, Du Bois 
thought of him as a foe. 

The Boston Guardian, founded by Monroe Trotter and 
George Forbes in 1901, was dedicated to a crusade against the 
leadership of Washington. Du Bois, friend and admirer of 
Trotter, led in founding the Niagara Movement in 190 5-6, 
which also was dedicated to a denunciation of the Washington 
formula and to a more militant type of leadership. Nineteen 
hundred nine saw the founding of the National Association for 
the Advancement of Colored People as a prototype of the 
Niagara Movement, and the C^'isis, founded and long edited 
by DuBois, and official organ of the NAACP, took the place 
which the Guardian had filled in championing an approach to 
the race problem which was practically the opposite of that 
which Washington was advocating. Thus it m.ay be said that, 
due perhaps to the leadership of Du Bois more than to any 
other person, the radical-militant type of racial leadership of 
which Frederick Douglass was for so long one of the highest 
embodiments rose to prominence again. 

One ke\' to an understanding of the quarrel between Wash- 
ington and Du Bois lies in the personalities of the two men. 
But their ultimate desires and goals were the same. Essentially 
Washington ajid Du Bois diflered in method. The latter, 
throughout most of his life, was an uncompromising idealist, 
while the former, in line with the slave tradition to which he 
was a successor and the compromising spirit for which his age 
was so especiallv noted, was more of a pragmatist. To Washing- 
ton, as with all good pragmatists, each thought and act was 
to be measured chiefly by its results. Pragmatism has been called 
a uniquely American philosophy, and Washington's contempt 
for higher education is also in the American tradition of con- 
tempt for the professor and the man of theory. Booker Wash- 
ington was a gradualist, an evolutionist, and he was supremely 
patient. Having known first-hand the hopelessness and lack of 
opportunity which existed under chattel slavery, even the ad- 
vance to third-class citizenship was to him cause for thankful- 
ness and optimism, while Du Bois, having begun life in New 
England where race and color were not so much noticed, had 


not gone through the same conditioning. Ever conscious of his 
origins in slavery, Washington usually tended to look back at 
the distance the race had come, while Du Bois tended more to 
look forward at the long miles yet to be travelled, hence he 
was less optimistic, more bitter, and less patient. Washington 
never v/ent before an audience to speak without "asking the 
blessing of God" upon what he wanted to say,'" but, while he 
was employed as a teacher at Wilberforce University, Du Bois 
sharply refused to lead a student audience in prayer. ''' Du Bois 
approached action through philosophy and theory, while Wash- 
ington was a man of action largely by faith and mtuition, and 
wnile Du Bois was sophisticated, urbane, and cosmopitan, 
Washington was the rural type who loved his chickens and 
pigs, as well as horse-back riding, hunting, and fishing. Du Bois 
was inuch more of the artistic and intellectual bent. Although 
he was teaching in the heart of the South when he first took 
up the cudgel against the Washington philosophy and formula, 
Du Bois was voicing the traditional sentiments of the northern 
Negro. But just as this approach, philosophy, and adjustment 
was impossible for the ante-belliun bondsman in the South, so 
it was impossible for most of the post-bcUiiiu freedmen in 
that section. Later, Du Bois gave up classroom teaching and 
moved physically to the section for which his approach and 
philosophy were indigenous. Only in the post-World War II 
period has his approach won wide acceptance in the section 
where the type of philosophy held by Washington was so long 
dominant. Washington called Du Bois and his intellectual ad- 
vocates of a "Talented Tenth" leadership "fighting windmills" 
who "know books, but . . . not . . . men," who "under- 
stand theories, but . . . not . . . things," who are "ignorant 
in regard to the actual needs oi the masses of the coloured 
people in the South. "^" 

One of the things which Du Bois resented most about 
Washington was the latter'? personal power." So great was 
Washington's prestige that he was regarded by American whites 
as the elder statesman of his race, and his approval or disap- 
proval was often decisive in determining whether some phil- 
anthropists contributed to Negro institutions. In this way he 
sometimes could often "make" or "break" men. In 1905 


Du Bois asserted that many of the most prominent Negro 
newspapers were being silenced in their opposition to Wash- 
ington. Du Bois then wrote of the "Tuskegee Machine," and 
sought to expose and weaken it. Through Ralph W. Tyler, 
whom Washington aided in getting placed in the federal gov- 
ernment, and the Colored Press Bureau of Washington, D. C, 
also launched by the Tuskcgee President, newspapers in Chi- 
cago, Indianapolis, New York and other cities were mfluenced 
by Washington's efforts.^" Not only did Washington use money 
to buy the support of several newspapers, he also secretly 
owned the mfluential Neiv York Age during the five-year 
period from 1905-1910.^" His hrm control of northern phil- 
anthropy kept some Negro liberal arts colleges from getting 
financial aid from this source.** One of his latest and ablest 
biographers agrees that Tuskegee's founder was a "benevolent 
despot."*' Although he warned Negroes not to be all for one 
political party, Washington supported William McKinley, 
Theodore Roosevelt, and William Howard Taft in almost com- 
plete devotion. In return, Washington had practically complete 
control over Negro patronage during their administrations.*" 

To Du Bois, the mere fact that one man possessed as much 
power as Washington did was objectionable in a democratic 
society. la the "Apologia" to the 19 54 reprint of his volume 
on The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United 
State's of America, Du Bois confesses to his moralistic judg- 
m.ents of men and issues, and regrets that previous to the early 
1930s he did not have a thorough appreciation of Marxism and 
Freudianism.*' This appreciation, he felt, would have altered 
his interpretation of and reaction to a number of things in his 
early lite. It is of interest to note that this clash with Washing- 
ton, in which Du Bois was by no means alone, came previous 
to his conversion to Marxism^. It may be that had he then held 
the appreciation for Marx's philosophy that he later came to 
have, Du Bois would have paid less attention to Washington. 
Dr. Du Bois asserts that he became a convert to Marxism in the 
post-World War I period. From the discussion which he gives 
of this conversion in his autobiography, the impression is given 
that his conversion was rather sudden, and the result of a trip 
to Russia which was made at the expense and invitation of the 


Soviet Union. He gives no hint of the fact that as early as 1904 
his thinking was partially Marxist-oriented. His early faith in 
economic determinism seems to have sprung mainly from his 
observations of the growing political and social power of capi- 
talists as they manipulated and controlled many facets of the 
national life, including, he thought, the Booker Washington 
"machine." Alihough previous to the Russian Revolution of 
1917 there is evident in the writings and speeches of Du Bois a 
growing faith in economic determinism, there is no evidence 
that previous to this date he believed in the imminent down- 
fall of capitalism and its displacement by socialism, or in the 
need for militant group action aimed directly at the downfall 
of monopoly capitalism. He was not yet a doctrinaire. Previous 
to his trip to Russia, he did not speak often of the Afro-Ameri- 
can as being part of the "world proletariat" as he so often has 
done since the early 193 O's. Until his complete conversion to 
Marxism, one finds little bitterness in his writings, and he seems 
to have had more patience with slow democratic processes. 
Previous to this conversion, Du Bois' writings seem less propa- 
gandistic, and he showed considerable contempt for dictatorial 
movements and individuals. Earlier he had felt that the race 
problem sprang either from ignorance or from a failure in the 
nation's morals, but his Marxist conversion caused him to feel 
that at last he really "understood" the American white man, 
the race problem and Western civilization for the first time. 
The real eneniy and determinist factor was now viewed as being 
the capitalist system, for the nation was not being iinmoral if 
one considered that capitalism dictated "profits by any means 
and at all costs." To the new Du Bois, as with all Marxists, this 
eternal and infernal quest for profits was the source of the 
slave trade, the cruelties and fanaticism of slavery as well as of 
such phenomena as racial segregation, lynchings and the too- 
low wages of industrial and agricultural workers. Thus, instead 
of being Immoral, the white American exploiter of the Negro 
was a good or amoral capitalist-Christian. What was immoral 
and wrong now was not so much the man as the economic sys- 
tem which bred him, and the race problem, as only one of a 
multiplicity of wrongs bred by this system, would disappear 
only through the triumph of socialism. 


Although many Afro-Americans have long dreamed o£ a 
"Moses," who would lead the race into full integration in so- 
ciety, a significant fact is that most of the race's major move- 
ments have been without any one outstanding leader. Although 
Frederick Douglass gave voice to the highest aspirations of his 
race before 1895, he did not lead the race, the majority of 
whom were in the South and unfree to follow his militant 
eflorts. Within the South, no individual was largely responsible 
for either the militancy against or resignation to slavery which 
the race showed. The Reconstruction period also sav/ no single 
outstanding leader in the South. Although after 1896 Wash- 
ington was accepted by whites as the spokesman for his race, 
it may be doubted that Washington was ever as much a true 
leader of the masses of his race as is popularly imagined. That 
he, in his patience, gradualism, compromise, Social Darwinism 
and emphasis on industrial education did not speak for many 
northern Negroes is clear. The desire of most southern Negroes 
for equality of treatment and opportunity was dominant with 
them before Washington was born, and their acquiescence in 
third-class citizenship, and their temporary abandonment of 
political action and of the quest for equality was not done by 
choice. Long before Washington "accepted" this modus Viv- 
endi, it was a fait accompli, brought about by the federal gov- 
ernment's laissez-faire policy after 18/6, and other factors.*^ 

"Washington was first and last an American, Du Bois first 
and last a Negro," one of Washington's latest biographers has 
declared.^'' This statement, however, makes the erroneous im- 
plication that there was in the period in which this controversy 
raged most heatedly a significant difference between being an 
American and being a Negro. Just as was true of their race in 
general, both of these men were thoroughly American. The 
primary difference between them, and a main historical source 
of their quarrels, was that they represented different sides of 
the coin. The thought and life of Dr. Du Bois are in the mili- 
tant, protesting, even radical American tradition which is typi- 
fied by Tom Paine, Samuel Adams, William Lloyd Garrison, 
Frederick Douglass, Populists, Muckrakers, and others, while 
Booker Washington's life and thought follow that more con- 
servative tradition of compronaise which is to be seen in the 


life and thought of Alexander Hamilton, Daniel Webster, 
Henry Clay, and others. 

Great concern with the Hot War which existed between 
the sections from 1861-65 and the Cold War which they waged 
from 1865-75 has obscured the fact that when Washington 
spoke in 1895 there had been going on constantly in the South 
for over two hundred and seventy-five years a cold war be- 
tween the black and white races/' For the brutal fact is that 
Cold War between the races was often inherent in slavery be- 
fore 1865, just as it often has been inherent in segregation and 
discrimination since 1865. And just as Winston Churchill at 
Fulton, Missouri urged the United States to accept the realities 
of the cold war with Russia, some Negro spokesmen from David 
Walker, Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, Frederick Douglass, and 
W. E. B. Du Bois to Robert Williams of Monroe, North Caro- 
lina in 19 59 have urged Negroes to accept the existence of cold 
war as a reality between the races. At times this ''cold war" 
has erupted into ''hot war" in such forms as revolts, riots, beat- 
ings and lynchings, and southern whites ever have had their 
spokesmen who openly have proclaimed war as an inherent and 
essential reality of southern Negro^ — white relations. These 
spokesmen constantly have urged that the Negro be clearly 
recognized and plainly treated as a v/eak but dangerous enemy 
of the "v/hite man's civilization." 

During the 18 50s Negro Abolitionists, together with Elijah 
Lovejoy, John Quincy Adams, William Lloyd Garrison, the 
Tappans, John Brown, and others succeeded in convincing 
many northerners that the more intense age-old cold war be- 
tween the races in the South had spread and that in the in- 
terest of self-preservation the North should abandon its isola- 
tionist or quarantine "foreign policy" vis-a-v'n the South in 
favor of a more open interventionist policy. Thus the North 
came to see that there could be no peace in the Nation until 
there was an end to the situation between the races in the South. 
This is what Abraham Lincoln gave voice to in his "House 
Divided" speech, and this is what the Civil War sought to 
effect. The reconstruction policy voted by the Radicals in 
March, 1867 fitted the realities of the existing situation much 
better than the Lincoln-Johnson plans which failed because of 


their unreality. The plundering and profiteering in the South, 
as well as the Ku Klux Klan and other southern groups based 
on the use of naked force are best understood in the light of a 
war theory applied to the post 1865 period, just as many of the 
pre- 1861 incidents and utterances and acts are best under- 
stood in this light. 

Although the long-vanquished Negro was in the role of 
victor roughly from 1867-76, by the latter date this short- 
lived position and role were over. Some vengeance was wreaked 
upon him, for his briefly successful revolt, but the watchful eye 
of his old northern ally helped to prevent his annihilation, and 
previous to the emergence of Washington, numerous southern 
leaders had decided that there might be merit and profit in 
changing the posture between the races and sections from one 
of war to something less exacting in terms of attention, time, 
energy, hatred and bloodshed. Perhaps there is no greater proof 
to be found that by 1895 a new South was em.erging than the 
popularity of Washington's ideas. By 189 5 the South, black 
and white, was tired of war between the sections and between 
the races. Although the white South wanted peace en thi race 
relations front, the section was still too bound by the war- 
induced prejudices and convictions and the old desire to make 
capital out of class divisions to accept the obvious fact that a 
peace based on segregation and racial discrimination could not 
be deep and enduring. Midst these circumstances, Booker Wash- 
ington stepped forth as a practical-minded "General" who saw 
that his weak and beleaguered forces sorely needed peace at 
almost any price. Never despairing of ultimate victory, and 
ever fighting on different ground, he hoped to build the strength 
of his forces and perhaps renew the old fight at some more 
propitious future date. Subsequently the American democratic 
creed itself was the source of the division and revolt which 
occurred as the more articulate minority within his ranks be- 
came more and more impatient with all approaches to battle 
which allowed the nation peacefully to renege even for a mo- 
ment on its promise that all men are born and of right ought 
to be free and equal. 

The Booker Washington philosophy and program were the 
first positive ones that the masses of Negroes in America ever 


had. Previous to 1865 these masses had an externally imposed 
life-program which, for them, may be called negative in nature; 
almost nowhere in their lives had there been much opportunity 
or room for initiative, advance, growth, or maturity. For most 
bondsmen only death or insanity — and they are only slightly 
different — provided an escape from that most awful plight of 
being forced forever to remain a child. Here was the central 
and great wrong of slavery to which the beatings and other 
wrongs were subsidiary and symbolic. For most southern Ne- 
groes, and many whites, slavery made true adulthood impossible. 
Limited though it was, Washington's philosophy and program 
had enough elements of positive thought and action in them 
for the Negro to attain a type of adulthood under them, and 
in this sense, Washington offered an advance to his race and 
not a retreat. Washington correctly saw that for most of the 
freedmen even his philosophy-program was revolutionary, and 
thus it is that despite his conservatism, he conceived of himself 
as a revolutionary leader. He did not conceive of his quarrel 
with Du Bois in the light of a conservative versus a militant 
liberal, but rather in the light of a practical brand of militancy 
versus an impractical type. 

Many Negro leaders have been aware that so low was 
their race's position on tlie scale of rights and opportunities, 
that to bridge the gap between its position and that of the 
majority group would of necessity constitute an achievement 
of revolutionary proportions. Thus it is that, although having 
racial uplift as their dominant theme, whether the programs 
they espoused were popularly thought of as ultra-conservative 
or radical, Negro leaders have tended to conceive of themselves 
as social revolutionaries. Too, whether they worked in the re- 
ligious, fraternal, political, educational, or business worlds, and 
whether their positions were "big" or "little," these leaders often 
have tended to conceive of their work as a holy mission and of 
themselves as indispensable divinely-inspired emissaries. Because 
of this, the tremendous obstacles which they have faced, and 
their own group's long lack of education, culture, and wealth, 
Negro leaders too often have been unusually suspicious and in- 
secure, two results of which have been a deep intolerance tow- 
ard differences of opinion emanating from within their group, 


and unusual concern with the question of loyalty to the group. 
Although they frequently have claimed that as leaders, in the 
interest of "the cause," they were sacrificing themselves in a 
dangerous inhospitable work, Negroes have shown what is per- 
haps an unusual desire to attain and keep positions of leader- 
ship. Doubtless the fact that most high offices in the "white 
world" of industry, politics, and general culture long have been 
closed to Afro-Americans has helped give them an especial 
reverence and desire for the leadership positions which exist 
in the "Negro world," and has made competition for these posi- 
tions unusually intense. This pattern of charismatic leadership 
was especially dominant during the 1877-193 3 period. The un- 
compromising William Monroe Trotter and W. h. B. Du Bois 
were amxong the best-known prototypes of this pattern of lead- 
ership, but by no means the only examples of it. Before the 
overthrow of Reconstruction, the democratic leadership typi- 
fied by Frederick Douglass was probably doininant among 
Negroes, a leadership which was typically American in its 
optimism and friendliness. During this period the Negro had 
white allies of significance in the North before 1865, and in 
both major sections from 1865-1895. By 1895, however, laissez- 
faire and Social Darwinist-thinking combined with other factors 
to change this situation, and Negro leadership felt more alone, 
threatened, desperate, and pessimistic than ever before. Too, the 
general weakening of religious faith in this period tended to 
rob this leadership of another strong source of its confidence, 
optimism, and patience. Since 1933, due to the federal govern- 
ment's abandonment of the laissez-faire philosophy, the ever- 
expanding world liberalism on race, and an awareness that its 
army of "followers" is better educated and possesses greater 
economic resources, Negro leadership probably has tended to 
return to the pre- 1877 democratic pattern. 

Some Aspects of the Thought of Frederick Douglass, Booker 
Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois Compared 

A comparison of some aspects of the thought of three of 
the best known leaders of the Negro race in America is reveal- 
ing. Although perhaps popularly Frederick Douglass, Bf^cker 
Washington, and W. E. B. Du Bois are thought of as greatly 


diverse personalities and types of leaders, the similarities among 
them are greater than is commonly thought. 

All three of these men started their adulthood with a 
highly moralistic outlook on men and society, and gradually 
changed to a rather thorough-going pragmatism. Influenced 
greatly by William Lloyd Garrison, Douglass began his career 
as an enthusiastic critic of organized religion, as an anarchist or 
no-government man, and as an opponent of political oarties.^^ 
He felt that political parties were composed of venally selfish 
men and that abolitionism should be carried out through moral 
suasion alone. So strong was the religious influence on him that 
it moulded his thinking into the narrow cast for which Garri- 
son is so often criticized. Douglass' conversion to a broader view 
of religion, politics, and government, first openly declared at 
an 1851 anti-slavery convention, was the beginning of his cele- 
brated breach with Garrison. 

T hrough Mrs. Viola Ruffner in the town of Maiden, West 
Virginia, and later through General Samuel C. Armstrong of 
Hampton Institute and others, Booker Washington v^as greatly 
influenced by New England's Puritan tradition." This was the 
same New England into which Du Bois was born and nurtured, 
and in his life and thought a similar strong strand of puritanism 
is evident. Practically all of his writings express a moral in- 
dignation for which he has been criticized, and which he him- 
self came to deprecate. ^^ There is little or no evidence that 
Washington ever harbored any strong feelings against organized 
religion, and he never seems to have shown the antipathies 
toward political activity which was at times evident in the 
thought of Douglass and Du Bois. Of the three men, idealism 
as opposed to pragmatism never seems to have had as firm a 
grip on Washington as was the case with Douglass and Du Bois, 
and of these latter two, Du Bois is the only one of whom it 
may be said that throughout his life the hold of idealism on 
him was firmer than that of pragmatism. Du Bois shared Doug- 
lass' antipathies toward organized religion and political parties. 
Although Douglass became an avid supporter of the Republi- 
can party, and Washington always remained such, Du Bois al- 
ways tended toward political independence. As has been previ- 
ously stated, during the 1930s Du Bois became a convert to 


Marxism, the only one of the three to be so influenced."* After 
his conversion, like every true Marxist, Du Bois acted more in 
terms of what he conceived to be the practical and achievable."'' 
His once thoroughly scholarly productions became more propa- 
gandistic, and he attempted to get the National Association 
for the Advancement of Colored People co align itself with and 
to work for what he was convinced wa«: the inevitability of a 
socialist order. '" 

Douglass' and Washington's conversions to pragmatisin 
seem to have been rooted in large part in their personalities. 
They were by nature opportunistic. Quarles states 
that Douglass, essentially a reformer and compromiser, had a 
"resilient mind."" One example of this bent is the fact that 
after about ten years of supporting the futile Liberty Parly, 
in 18 56 Douglass suddenly switched to the Republican Party.'' 
This change "betrayed his anxiety to be affiliated with a group 
that had a chance of success at the polls." "' Even on the very 
eve of the Civil War — 

Douglass despaired as the new year got underway. To 
him the 'fifties had been a decade of unfulfillments. 
He had no new plans for hastening the good timf 
coming. His feelings were so caught up in the day- 
tc-day struggle that his perspective was distorted. 
. . . his gaze [was] endlessly on the immediate.'"' 

Although Frederick Douglass was never involved in any 
great controversy which necessitated an elaboration of his edu- 
cational views, it seems that they had more in common with 
those held by Booker Washington than those of W. E. B. 
Du Bois. How much Douglass' own lack of formal education 
had to do with his failure to say more on Negro education 
during the last twenty years of his life is a moot question. He 
was not alive when the Washington-Du Bois controversy was 

All three of these men believed in the American Gospel of 
Work and may loosely be termed economic determinists. The 
mere fact of Du Bois' admitted Marxist convictions suffice to 
place him under such a heading. Douglass, a man of consider- 
able financial means during his last years, said: "Aristotle and 


Pericles are all right; get all that, too; but get money besides, 
and plenty of it.'"'' He once advised Negroes: 

The American Colonization Society tells you to go 
to Liberia. Mr. Bibb tells you to go to Canada. Others 
tell you to go to school. We tell you to go to work.*^" 
"No race that has anything to contribute to the markets of 
the world," Washington declared, "is long in any degree ostra- 
cized." ' His willingness to retreat from activity on the political 
and civil rights fronts, in favor of pushing on the econcmic 
and educational ones, sprang perhaps as much from his economic 
determini.'m as from his realization, that southern whites were 
bitterly against the political activity of his race. 

The ultimate desires and goals of Washington, as with 
Douglass and Du Bois, were equality of rights, opportunities, 
and privileges for their race. Although they diifered in tempera- 
ment and personality, essentially their dilference was one of 

Chapter XVI 


TJjc South and Southern Whiter 

In 1843 Henry Hibhland Garnet gave his description of 
the initial contact of Africans with the wh-te man. Speaking 
of his ancestors, he stated: "The first dealings they had with 
nien calhng themselves Christians, exhibited to them the worst 
features of corrupt and sordid hearts; and convinced them that 
no cruelty is too great, no villainy and no robbery too abhor- 
rent for even enlightened men to perform, when influenced by 
avarice and lust.'" Reverend Nathaniel Paul said in 1827 that 
the "pernicious tendency" of slavery was all per'-asivc. "Not 
only are its effects of the most disastrous character, in relation 
to the slave," he declared, "but it extends its influence to the 
slave-holder; and in many instances it is hard to say which is 
most wretched, the slave or the master."' The colored aboli- 
tionists often said that slavery made for a corrupting excess of 
power, idleness, and luxury for southern whites. Charles Lenox 
Rernond declared in 1841: 

If I must take the alternative of being the op- 
pressed slave or the oppressor, give me the condition 
of the former. Give me the chance ... of being the 
poor slave, rather than the oppressor, when they shall 
meet at the bar of God, and there shall be no ques- 
tion of bank or antibank, tariff or antitariff. I trust 
that the day is not far distant when . . . mankind 
shall be considered great only as they are good." 
A constant strand in Negro thought is the strong denunci- 
ation of those "who deny a common brotherhood." Perhaps 
the young poet of the 1920's, Roscoe C. Jamison, put this as 
well as anyone, when in his "The Edict," he wrote: 
All these must die before the morning break: 
They who at God an angry finger shake. 
Declaring that because he made them white, 
Their race should rule the world by sacred right. 
They who deny a common brotherhood — 
Who cry aloud, and think no blackman good. 



Another Negro opined: 

Of all the fools who have crawled to dusty death the 
most stupendous and bedeviled lot are those who strut 
their fools' feet and toss their fools' heads across their 
little stage of life, thanking their fools' selves that 
God made them different from other men — superior 
to other m.en — to rule over other men.* 
Writing on slave attitudes toward whites, Kenneth Stampp 

Several points are clear: (1) slaves did not have 
one uniform attitude toward whites, but a whole 
range of attitudes; (2) they gave much attention to 
the problem of their relationship with whites; and 
(3) they found the 'management of whites' as com- 
plex a matter as their masters found the management 
of Negroes.' 
Stampp describes some of the attitudes and feelings shown by 
slaves toward whites as being "coldly opportunistic," "deep 
suspicion," "hatred," "indiflfercnce," and "deep aftection." 
When the latter feeling predominated, he points out that "a 
slave's love for the good white people he knew was not neces- 
sarily a love of servitude.'"' Stampp concluded that "the pre- 
dominant and overpowering emotion that whites aroused in the 
majority of slaves was neither love nor hate but fear."' 

Attitudes Toward Poor Whites and Their ''Betters" 

In the ante-bellum period bondsmen sometimes sang, 

I'd druther be a Nigger, an plow ole Beck, 
Dan a white Hill Billv wid his long neck. 

I had a dog, his name was Dash 
I'd rather be a nigger, than poor white trash 
Planters forbade fraternization of slaves with poor whites, often 
telling the former that the poor whites would teach them bad 
habits such as stealing and drinking.^ Much of the superiority 
which slaves sometimes felt where poor whites were concerned, 
and vice versa, was cultivated by the planters, doubtless out 
of realization that as have-nots, poor whites constituted natural 
potential class allies of the slaves. In a number of the slave plots 
and rebellions poor whites were found to have aided the slaves. ' 


Yet, many Negroes have long believed that the upperclass 
white man was more of a friend to the black man than is the 
case with the poor white. This is partly because of ( 1 ) The 
"meanness" of some poor white overseers and "Pattyrollers." 
The slave system relied heavily on the lash as inducement to 
work, and often the overseer's job depended on his willingness 
to use the lash. (2) Negroes have seen that since both they and 
poor whites were largely unskilled, sometimes they were both 
natural competitors for the same jobs. This is the main burden 
of thought in H. R. Helper's hupending Crisis. (3) Poor whites 
often have manned the lynch mobs. In his book Black Recon- 
struction, which appeared in 1935, W. E. B. DuBois is highly 
critical of southern poor whites for not effecting an alliance 
with the freedmen to bring about a greater measure of political 
and economic democracy in the South." In his poem, "Let 
America Be America Again," Langston Hughes wrote in the 
thirties — 'T am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart." The 
note of this class being duped and exploited along with the 
Negro was also struck in this period by Frank Marshall Davis' 
poem "Snapshots of the Cotton South," and in the writings of 
Richard Wright and other persons and is in line with the sym- 
pathy and concern for this class which was then being shown 
by Erskine Caldwell, John Steinbeck and other white writers. 
In "Let America Be America Again" Langston Hughes depicted 
the plight of the Negro and white sharecropper as well as the 
urban white and colored workers who were, "Tangled in the 
ancient endless chain of profit, power, gain, and grab of land 
and gold." Here, with Hughes, as with many other Negro 
writers of this period, the previous almost exclusive concern 
with plight of race has grown to the larger concern of plight 
of class. 

By no means have all Negroes denied the genteel tradition 
to which the Old South laid claim. Reflecting on this, Kelly 
Miller wrote in 1914: 

I see a chivalric civilization instinct with dignity, 

comity and grace rising upon pillars supported by 

the slave's strength and brawny arm.^^ 

Many slaves and freedmen believed that "quality white folks' 

were always kind and in all ways exemplary of the highest con- 


duct. They tended to blame the cruelty and degraded behavior 
of many slave traders and overseers on their poor - white 
origin.'" 'Tt is this class of the white race," wfrites Moton of 
"the best white people," "who have made the ternii 'white' the 
hall-mark of excellence so commonly used by Negroes, and 
appropriated by other whites for such advantages as it gives. "^^ 
Moton points out another aspect of the Negro's high estimate 
of this class. He writes that "for a long time many of the race 
found it hard to believe that a Negro could be just as proficient 
as a white man in the same line, diplomas and licenses notwith- 
standing."" This attitude, though now disappearing, still may 
be found among numerous Negroes. 

Commenting on whites who were cioxel to their slaves, one 
freedman said: "I hear my children read about General Lee, 
and I know he was a good man. I didn't know nothing about 
him then, but I know now he wasn't fighting for that kind of 
white folk."^" Some ex-slaves dreamed of spending eternity in 
heaven with the ex-master whom they had venerated. ^'^ Hard 
times, plus loss of friends and acquaintances, caused the aged 
slaves sometimes to look back at the days in bondage with 
some of the same nostalgia and longing that ex-planters did. 

Some freedmen saw and sympathized with the difficult 
revolution in thought which was necessary before most south- 
ern whites could accept the Negro as a brother and fellow 
citizen. By the late nineteenth century, J. C. Price was mildly 
optimistic where the "race problem" was concerned, and 
thought that considerable progress had been made by southern 
whites in making the necessary "thought revolution." 

Looking back at slavery, Kelly Miller said: 

I see . . . the patriarchal solicitude of the kindly- 
hearted owners of men, in whose breast not even an 
iniquitous system could sour the milk of human 

Booker T. Washington, J. C. Price, and other leaders constantly 
extolled the virtues of "the best white people," and declared 
that they were true friends of the Negro. Price averred: "The 
white man of the South has evolved into his present attitude 
by the environments which logically drove him to it; and he 
can only be effectually and permanent changed by a corre- 


spondent change, not of the portion, but of the character of 
the environment.'" *"Time and patience," Price continued, "will 
be large elements in the solution of the problem." As Booker 
Washington and others often had done, in a 1923 commence- 
ment address to Negro college students Bishop R. A. Carter 

Try to make friends with and command the respect 
of those with whom you live. Do not depend upon 
friends who are far away. WTiatever the color of the 
people with whom you deal daily, they will respect 
refinement, modesty, integrity, scrupulous honesty, 
industry, and money. ^'^ 
In this same period, in his poem "Daybreak," George McClellan 

Though wrongs there are, and wrongs have been 

And wrongs we still must face. 
We have more friends than foes within 
The Anglo-Saxon race. 

Loir for the South 
As the Negro has felt hatred for the South, lie al^o has 
felt deep love for that section. It was the latter sentiment which 
inspired songs as "Carry Me Back to Ole Virginny," "My 
Old Kentucky Home," and "Way Down upon the Swanee 
River," "Basin Street," "Beale Street Blues," "Southern Echoes," 
and "Tuxedo Junction." In a notable 1874 speech in defence of 
the Civil Right Bill, Congressman R. B. Elliot declared that 
the Negro would never leave the South. Ot the section he 

Entreat me not to leave thee, nor to depart from 
following after thee . . . The Lord do so to me and 
more also, if aught but death part thee and me.'^' 
In 189 5 and after, Booker T. Washington urgedi upon Negroes 
his conviction that their best hope lay in the South. Lamenting 
the violence and corruption attendant upon the 1875-76 Mis- 
sissippi elections, John R. Lynch blamed the trouble on a small 
Democratic clique which was determined to rule at any cost. 
Yet he said of the state — "My home is there, my interests are 
there, my relatives are there, and I want to see the state happy 
and prosperous.""' During the 1920's few persons of other races 
would match the lyric hymns of the southern scene found in 


the poetry of George Marion McClellan. His book, The 'Path of 
Dreams, is in many ways an, ode to the natural beauty of the 
South which he never ceased to love. In the same period a 
southern-reared Brown University graduate and, New England 
journalist would sing of the South in a manner which would 
do justice to the most avid native white. In his poem, "A 
Southern Love Song," this poet, Joshua Henry Jones, Jr. wrote; 

Dogwoods all a-bloom 

Perfume earth's big room 
White full moon is gliding o'er the sky serene. 

Quiet reigns about, 

In the house and out; 
Hoot owl in the hollow mopes with solemn mien. 

Birds have gone to rest 

In each tree-top nest; 
Cotton fields a-shimmer lash forth silver-green. 

O'er the wild cane brake, 

Whip-poor-wills awake, 
And they speak in tender voicings, heart, of you. 

After asking the South if it had not heard "The mighty beat 
of onward feet," James Wcldon Johnson wrote: 

O Southland, fair Southland! 

Then why do you still cling 
To an idle age and a musty page, 

To a dead and useless thing? 
'Tis springtime.' 'Tis work-time'. 

The world is young again! 
And God's above, and God is love. 

And men are only men. 
O Southland! my Southland! 

O birthland! do not shirk 
The toilsome task, nor respite ask. 

But gird you for the work. 
Remember, remember 

That weakness stalks in pride; 
That he is strong who helps along 

The faint one at his side"" 

One evidence of the love of the Negro for the South is 
the manner in which he constantly has contended that the ad- 
vancement of his own group means the advancement of the 


South. Afro-Americans have viewed their progress in such 
things as land and home-ownership, business growth, and ris- 
ing hteracy as not only progress for themselves, but for their 
states and the entire southern region, and many have believed 
that material progress in the section automatically would bring 
progress in the area of race relations. Near the turn of the 
century, J. C. Price opined: 

The great need of the South today is industrial power, 
and the development of this power is imperative, not 
only for the speedy recovery of lost fortunes and the 
rapid strengthening of paralyzed energies, but as an 
unfailing agency in unifying the interests and mak- 
ing common the destiny of both races in the South, 
and in the nation as well."^ 
Many, perhaps most, of the Negroes who launched business 
enterprises in the South during the late nineteenth and early 
twentieth centuries were gripped by the notion that the exis- 
tence of successful Negro businesses would bring independence 
and respectability to their race, and would serve as a means of 
furthering racial harmony. Price nnd these other economic de- 
terminists of his race failed to see what Wilbur Cash so ably 
has pointed out, that to the white South industrialization was 
viewed as a means of preserving and not destroying the old 
racial pattern. 

Some Af re- Americans ha\e prided themselves on "under- 
standing" and being able to manipulate whites in a fashion 
reminiscent of the claim of southern whites that they possess 
a unique understanding of the colored man. For example, one 
of Booker T. Washington's admirers declared that Washington 
"knew the southern white man better than he knew himself, 
and knew the sure road to his . . . heart.""* 

The North 
Although they looked to the North as a haven of freedom, 
Negroes were from the beginning acutely aware of the racial 
prejudice and discrimination there. Speaking before the Pennsvl- 
vania Senate in opposition to an early-nineteenth century bill 
to exclude free Negroes from migrating to the state, James 
Forten said: . . . the passage of this bill "will only tend to 
show that the advocates of emancipation can enact laws more 


degrading to the free man, and more injurious to his fecHngs, 
than all the tyranny of slavery, or the shackles of infatuated 
despotism.""' Although they were direct participants in the 
abolitionist movement, colored Americans often protested that 
the North, where this movement was concentrated, was also 
very prejudiced against their race, and that within the national 
abolitionist society itself, considerable race prejudice existed. 
This matter was disparaged at almost every one of the first five 
national Negro conventions which began in 1830. At the Sep- 
tember 20, 1837 meeting of the New York Anti-Slavery So- 
ciety, Reverend Theodore Wright scored this prejudice, and 
stated that many constitutions of anti-slavery societies, because 
of a desire to make the societiea acceptable and popular, "have 
overlooked the giant sin of prejudice . . . which is at once 
the parent and off-spring of slavery." In the 1840's Frederick 
Douglass stated: 

The northern people have been long connected 
with slavery; they have been linked to a decaying 
corpse, which has destroyed the moral health. The 
union of the government, the union of the North, 
and the union of the South, in the political parties; 
the union in the religious organizations of the land, 
have all served to deepen the moral sense of the north- 
ern people, and to impregnate them with sentiments 
and ideas forever in conflict with what as a nation, 
we call Genius of American Institutions. ... In a 
moral sense, as well as in a national sense, the whole 
American people are responsible for slavery.''' 
Despite the advice of Frederick Douglass, Booker T. 
Washington, and others that they should stay in the South, 
since the late 1870's Negro Americans have migrated to the 
North by the hundreds of thousands. Throughout the twentieth 
century race riots have not been uncomnion in the North, and 
segregation and discrimination, while often more subtle, in 
many communities have been constant. After the Atlanta Race 
Riot of 1906 W. E. B. Du Bois stated that he did not know in 
which direction the race should move. In his "A Litany at 
Atlanta," he said: "Whither? North is greed and South is blood 
— within the coward, and without the liar!" And in the 1920's, 
Archibald Grimke informed his race — • 


You think, I know, that the North is more friendly 
to you than the South, that the Repubhcan party does 
more for the solution of this problem than the Demo- 
cratic. Friends, you are mistaken. A white man is a 
white man on this question, whether he lives in the 
North or in the South. "^ 

Still the Afro-American has regarded some northern cities and 
states as meccas of freedom and opportunity. One of the first 
formal Negro churches of record was formed by free Negroes 
in Boston in 1805. The same city had seen the Negro Prince 
Hall Masonia Lodge founded in 1784. Charles Lenox Remond 
called Boston "the Athens of America.""^ Frederick Douglass 
fought for the return to freedom of George Latimer, fugitive 
captured in Boston and returned to slavery in the South. Of 
this case, Douglass wrote: "Just look at it; here is George Lati- 
mer a man and a brother and a husband and a father, stamped 
with the likeness of God, and redeemed by the blood of Jesus 
Christ, out-lawed, hunted down like a wild beast, and fero- 
ciusly dragged through the streets of Boston ... all this is 
done in Boston — in liberty-loving slavery-hating Boston and 
intellectual, moral, and religious Boston . . . Boston has be- 
come the hunting ground of merciless men-hunters and men- 

1 "29 


One of the nine Afro-Americans awarded the Congres- 
sional Medal of Honor for bravery during the Civil War, de- 
scribed his trek northward from Norfolk, Virginia. Accom- 
panied by his father who was looking "for a place to live in 
peace and freedom," he states that they first stopped in Pennsyl- 
vania. They did not remain there long because "the black man 
was not secure on the soil where the Declaration of Indepen- 
dence was written."'" They proceeded on to the state of New 
York, but did not stay there because her "ambition seemed to 
be for commerce and gold," and "she heard not the slave." 
Of his father's subsequent arrival in Massachusetts, this spokes- 
man said: 

At last he set his weary feet upon the sterile rocks 
of 'Old Massachusetts.' The very air he breathed put 
enthusiasm into his spirit. He selected as his dwelling- 
place the city of New Bedford where 'Liberty Hall' 
is a sacred edifice. Like the Temple of Diana which 


covered the Virgins from harm in olden times, so 
old Liberty Hall in New Bedford protects the op- 
pressed slave of the nineteenth century. After stopping 
a short time, he sent for his family, and there they 
still dwell. 
Samuel Ringgold Ward referred to Massachusetts as, "A State to 
which many of us are accustomed to look to as our fatherland., 
just as we look back to England as our mother country."'^ In 
his 1863 appeal, "Men of Color, to Arms," Frederick Douglass 
pointed out that Massachusetts was accepting and training 
colored persons. Of this state, he i-.sserted, "she was the first in 
the War of Independence; first to break the chains of her 
slaves; first to make black men equal before the law; first to 
admit colored children to her common schools, and she was 
first to answer with her blood the alarm cry of the nation, 
when its capital was menaced by rebels. You know her patriotic 
governor, you know Charles Sumner. I need not add more."" 
When an early nineteenth century Philadelphia Senate was de- 
bating a bill to bar free Negroes from migrating into the state, 
Negroes protested against this proposed action. In a speech 
before this body, James Forten declared: 

This is almost the only state in the union wherein the 
African race has justly boasted of rational liberty and 
the protection of the laws, and shall it now be said 
they have been deprived of that liberty, and publjclv 
exposed for sale to the highest bidder? Shall colonial 
inhumanity that has marked many of us with shame- 
ful stripes, become the practice of the people of 
Philadelphia, while Mercy stands weeping at the mis- 
erable spectacle? People of Philadelphia, descendants 
of the immortal Penn, doom us not to the unhappy 
fate of thousands of our countrymen in the Southern 
States and the West Indies; despise the traffic in blood, 
and the blessing of the African will forever be around 
Afro-Americans have been especially concerned about the 
status of freedom, and civil rights in the nation's capital. In 
1846 Frederick Douglass stated: 

In the national District of Columbia, over which the 
star-spangled emblem is constantly waving, where 
orators are ever holding forth on the subject of Am- 


erican liberty, American democracy, American Re- 
publicanism, there are two slave prisons."* 
In 1876 after emancipation had been effected, Douglass called 
Washington, D. C. "the most luminous point of American ter- 
ritory; a city recently transformed and made beautiful in its 
body and its spirit."" Yet in the 1920's, another eminent 
spokesman would say of the national capital: 

In this city where Christianity has back of it so mvich 
respectability, so much oflEcial dignity and power 
... a colored man, if he were down on Pennsylvania 
Avenue, never mind how hungry he might be, 
couldn't find a restaurant in which he could get a 
cup of tea, or a sandwich and a glass of milk; or 
however tired he might be, is there a rests room into 
which he could go and be received, and simply be- 
cause of the color of his skin, because of his race 
Afro-Am.ericans have been especially proud nf the great strides 
made since World War II toward ending racial segregation and 
discrimination in the national capital. 

Urban Trends 
Since emancipation, cities and towns have served as a 
great magnet for Afro -Americans. As indicated, probably the 
greatest feature of this attraction was the same expanding eco- 
nomic, cultural, and social opportunities which lured white 
Americans in such large numbers. The city offered a richer 
and more exciting life than could be found in rural ideas. For 
the young, urban areas offered among other things, escape from 
the tyranny of rural public opinion as night club, cabaret, or 
private party offered unbridled liberty to an increasingly se- 
cularistic Negro. Jazz music typified this unreined freedom, 
but earlier than jazz came the "Blues." From Beale Street in 
Memphis, Fourth Avenue in Birmingham, or South Rampart 
Street in New Orleans, these songs made their way to northern 
cities. In 1918, W. C. Handy had published a blues authology. 
Like the modern cowboy and hillbilly ballads which rose to 
popularity at about the same time, blues songs are folk music. 
The dominant note is sadness and disappointment over a lost 
lover, or nostalgic longing for the warmth and friendship 
knov/n "back home" in small town or on the farm, but not 


present In the cold and impersonal city. This is much like the 
cowboy on the lonely prairie who yearns for the girl he left 
behind, for friendship, sympathy, and a more settled life. 
Frazier states that in blues songs one may find the beginnings 
of expressed romantic sentiments among Afro-Americans."'^ 
These sentiments, he found, had, been conspicuously lacking in 
the sex and mating practices of the rural slave and peasant 

Alain Locke has noted the prominence of singing and 
dancing as modes of expression for the Afro-American. Calling 
him a "master artist" in the plastic idioms of his original Afri- 
can culture, Locke declares: 

Slavery not only transplanted the Negro; it cut 
him off from all this. Stripped of all else, the Negro's 
own body became his prime and only artistic instru- 
ment, so that dance, pantomlne and song became the 
only gateway for his creative expression. Thus was the 
American Negro forced away from the craft arts and 
the old ancestral skills to the emotional arts of song 
and dance, for which he is now so noted. ^® 
In the cities, the transplanted Negro often continued in 
many of the attitudes and behavior patterns which had char- 
acterized him on the plantation. In speech, Saturday night 
revelries, snd other ways, this was evident. Couples still fre- 
quently married and separated, and remarried without benefit 
of legal divorce, and illegitimate off-spring abovinded. Loose 
habits and unfamillarity with urban laws and customs brought 
many before the courts and welfare agencies. Yet, with the 
mass migrations to northern urban areas, and resultant con- 
flicts and race riots over housing and job opportunities, the 
nation began to realize that the so-called "Negro problem" 
v/as national In scope rather than peculiarly southern, and north- 
ern liberalism, which had become silent on race relations after 
the storm of abolitionism had been followed by Civil War and 
radical reconstruction, was aroused to speak out again against 
racial prejudice and discrimination. This liberalism, the earliest 
and most ardent protagonist of racial equality, was again the 
ally of BroM n America, and was to play a significant role in 
the NAACP, Urban League, and almost all other subsequent 
similar efforts of the race. 


With the rest of the nation, beginning with the 1920's, 
Afro- Americans waxed enthusiastic over motion pictures. Al- 
though from the beginning, educated Negroes chafed at the 
menial and servile roles given their race in many of the pictures 
being produced, the masses of Negroes appear to have ac- 
cepted the actors of these roles as stars, hence race heroes in 
their own right. In the post World War II period most Negro 
actors were refusing such roles and some criticism was even 
directed at the well-known boxer, Archie Moore, for accepting 
the role of Jim in "Huckleberry Finn." 

The clubs or lodges established by Negro fraternal organi- 
zations provided a major source of recreation for many adult 
Negroes. The 1920's also brought the automobile to the fore 
on the American scene. In addition to such advantages and 
benefits as enabling one to live a good distance from his place 
of employment, and making it possible for rural people to enjoy 
the recreational benefits of urban areas, to the colored Ameri- 
can the automobile has been an additional boon, for with it 
he has found it possible to travel long distances within the 
South and escape the discriminations long found on trains and 
busses and at restrooms. Until the advent of the automobile, 
manv persons refrained from taking vacations rather than sub- 
ject themselves to insult and injury on the common carriers, 
while others without cars always have walked rather than ride 
local segregated streetcars or busses. 

Chicago, Illinois was a magnet which attracted many 
Negroes, who have taken pride in such things as the fact that 
a person of color, Baptiste Point de Saible, is given credit for 
founding the city,'"' and in their militant race paper located 
there, the Chicago Defender. Another mecca was New York's 
Harlem. Although colored occupancy of this area appears to 
have begun around 1903, it was the World War I period which 
saw Harlem become the capitol of the Negro world. Of the 
Harlem vogue in the 1920's, Langston Hughes has written that 
"thousands of whites came to Harlem night after night, think- 
ing the Negroes loved to have them there and firmly believing 
that all Harlemites left their houses at sundown to sing and 
dance in cabarets."^" Colored writers and other intellectuals 
poured into the area, and, for the first time, major New York 


publishers were eager for manuscripts on tlie Negro. Harlem 
was the headquarters for the Garvey movement, the NAACP, 
and the Urban League. Crisis and Opportunity, journals of the 
latter two organizations, respectively, published much of the 
material of these intellectuals. 

The maze of southern segregation laws have been a source 
of no small confusion to the Negro, but one thing he has al- 
ways ''appreciated" about prejudice and segregation is the fact 
that usually it is open and unhidden. The bronze southerner 
has known that in public services, one was marked "White 
Only" and the other "Colored," and he has looked for the 
facilities and place for his group and has seldom been caught 
in humiliating surprise. He has known, however, that in the 
North prejudice is often subtle and hidden, but still there 
poised, ugly, and ready to strike when a dark face appears. This 
has been a source of bitterness and resentment to the southern 
migrant to northern cities. Of the freedom of the North during 
the 1920s, George Schuyler wrote that it was "pretty much a 

The liberal spirit which was behind the Progressive Move- 
ment brought to the fore a growing number of inter-racial 
commissions in the South. In addition to the growing liberal 
spirit, the white South was increasingly concerned that the sec- 
tion, because of its too-often ugly racial situation and anti- 
democracy, had become the butt of criticism and jokes. The 
Negro exodus also had an effect, and a new objectivity toward 
the color problem was clearly evident in some circles. With 
many others, Alain Locke saw welcome signs in this new de- 
velopment. In 1925 he wrote: "It doea not follow that if the 
Negro were better known, he would be better liked or better 
treated. But mutual understanding is basic for any subsequent 
cooperation and adjustment. [The races] have touched too 
closely at the unfavorable and too lightly at the favorable 

In 1919, the Commission on Interracial Cooperation was 
founded. Although the Commission was very conservative, with 
white southern liberals setting the pattern of its efforts, still, 
to Negro intellectuals, this and similar commissions represented 
a significant step forward. Perhaps the best known of all 


southern interracial groups was the Southern Conference for 
Human Welfare, which was founded in November, 1938 in 
Birmingham, Alabama. With support from the federal govern- 
ment, the movement was launched by many of the South's 
top white and colored citizens, and aimed at raising the section 
from its position at the bottom of the social, cultural and eco- 
nomic scale. Among the Negro leaders were Dr. F. D. Patter- 
son, then president of Tuskegee Institute, and John P. Davis, 
then Executive Secretary of the National Negro Congress.*' 
By this time, the Tennessee Valley Authority and other large 
scale social and economic planning efforts had given a stimulus 
to thought and activity on the regional scale. Many Afro- 
Americans viewed these trends optimistically and the Southern 
Conference for Human Welfare got off to a good start, how- 
ever, the coming of World War 11, internal bickering, and 
other factors caused it to become less important. 

The new lower class Negro, contrasting the freedom of 
the North with the lack of it in the deep South from which 
he had recently migrated, was less liable to be so aware of the 
North's "mockery" of freedom. To him. New York or Chi- 
cago, or other points North, were all "Nigger Heavens," and 
he would "rather be a lamp post in Chicago than mayor of New 
Orleans." This class has been sorely neglected in serious litera- 
ture. Largely in jokes, cartoons, and in isolated cases of fiction 
only has he been dealt with. So much is this the case that the 
book to which Alain Locke appended the title. The Neiu Negro, 
omits him entirely. Carl Van Vechten, who closely studied 
some aspects of the Negro mind, stated that: "Negroes are 
sensitive in regard to diction which attempts to picture the 
lower strata of the race."*' What Van Vechten observed of 
fiction was long true in general. 

The new lower class person, who began to emerge around 
the turn of the century and was clearly distinct by the 1920's, 
represented the sons and daughters of recent rural migrants to 
the towns and cities. To be sure, he had his counterpart in 
white America. Usually lacking all but the barest rudiments of 
formal education, he was distinct by speech, dress, walk, and 
general demeanor. He loved the bizarre and flashy, created the 


zoot-suit craze of the late thirties and early forties, and v/as 
often humorous in his imitation of high society. He wqrked 
hard, played hard, loved hard, and drank hard. Among colored 
Americans, he was especially noted for his love of fast flashy 
cars, brightly colored clothes, and "yaller gals." By the mid- 
twentieth century education and assimilation are causing this 
type to lose much of its distinctiveness and in outlook and be- 
havior to merge into the middle class. The latter, whose mem- 
bers often have graduated from high school or beyond, can 
scarcely be distinguished in behavior from any other segment 
of the nation's populace. 

There is much in the poetry and novels of Negro writers 
of the twenties which reveals that the "big times" which, ac- 
cording to the popular image, transplanted Negroes, were sup- 
posed to be having in the metropolitan centers of the North 
was often more form than reality. For even here, the ability 
which the slave had shown to laugh "like Pagliacci" was evi- 
dent. In his poem about "Zalka Peetruza" who was christened 
Lucy Jane, Raymond Garfield Dandridge informs us that "her 
all was dancing — save her face." Claude McKay strikes a simi- 
lar note in his "The Harlem Dancers," whose seeming ecstatic 
joy was much form and little substance. 

Studies have shown that Negro boys and girls run afoul 
of the law in urban areas far more than juveniles of other 
groups. Due to poverty, broken homes, slum conditions and 
other factors, this has long been the case,^^ and an average of 
twelve percent of Negro births since emancipation have been 
illegitimate.*' Frazier points out that much of this illegitimacy 
as it is reflected in urban areas was but a carry-over of behavior 
regarded as more-or-less normal on post-bellum southern plan- 
tations, and that strong family ties have been long in develop- 
ing with many Negroes.*'' Also, much of this behavior can be 
traced to the same sources which, in the twentieth century, 
have produced such widespread juvenile delinquency among 
all elements of the population. Studies have shown that illegi- 
timacy was highest with girls who were newcomers to northern 
cities.*' The peasant from the South had to make many ad- 
justments. The impersonal element in many of the large 
churches caused some to feel that they were veritably lost in 


the crowd/^ and consequently, many of these lonely individuals 
organized small "store-front" churches. In order to attract at- 
tention, many of the younger persons resorted to boisterous- 
ness and flashy dress and automobiles. Many were extremely 
sensitive and race conscious, and the slightest sign of race preju- 
dice aroused their fighting impulses. 

At times the Negro lias resorted to "passing" as a Hindu, 
Latin American, or some other group which was less an object 
of race prejudice. Of course "passing" was possible for only 
those persons who possessed considerable intelligence and fea- 
tures not readily typed as Negroid. Equally well known is that 
a number of mulattoes each year pass over into the white world, 
while others "pass" en their jobs and then return to a Negro 

Booker T. Washington, his successor at Tuskegee, R. R. 
Moton, and some other Negro spokesmen, especially southern 
ones, appear to have believed that segregation, and discrimina- 
tion "are attributable more to the activities of a vociferous 
minority [of whites who are] able to command the floor and 
give the semblance of a majority support to its unchallenged 
declarations."^' As Moton stated: "a mob bent on lynching" 
does not represent "the charactristic sentiment of the whole 
community." Still bronze America paradoxically has idolized 
"white people" and "the white man." Writing in 1930, Lang- 
ston Hughes has one of the characters in his story, Nof Without 
LaiLghtcr, reflect this view. This character declared that "Col- 
ored people certainly need to come up in the world . . . 
dress like white people, think like white people, talk like white 
people, — and then they would no longer be called 'niggers'." 
And Moton observed: "There was a time when a large element 
of the Negro race associated superiority almost invariably with 
a white skin. But this spell has been broken by two distinct 
developments — one of them the Negro's own excursions into 
fields of achievement previously occupied by the white man 
alone; and second, the failure of so many of the latter to mani- 
fest the superiority with which they would be credited. "''° 
Moton's statement that "This spell has been broken" is not yet 
true for many Afro-Americans, and always there have been 
many who never cama under "the spell." 


The Afro-American ever has been aware of the manner 
in which his presence in the United States has caused the Dec- 
laration of Independence, Constitution, state and federal legis- 
lation and judicial rulings, and all that is finest and most de- 
cent in the American tradition to be trammelled, abased, and 
and ashamed both at home and in the eyes of foreigners, and 
he knows that his presence has led an ever-impoverished South 
to keep itself impoverished by its attempt to maintain dual 
facilities for the two races. He long has believed that the dis- 
criminatory laws of the South aimed at keeping him down, also 
keep the South down, and that the only way for the section 
to rise is to let the dark-skinned one-third of its population 
rise; that rhc tremendous mental and physical energy expended 
to keep him down, if turned into channels of cooperative inter- 
racial activity could make the South a veritable Garden of Eden. 
Commenting in 1929 on progress made in relieving racial pre- 
judice and discrimination, R. R. Moton had high praise for the 
role of southern white women. He stated that until they re- 
ceived the ballot, these were "silent concerning things they 
have seen with their own eyes and against which their hearts 
burned with indignation."'^ With the acquisition of political 
recognition and power, he observed, they were demanding for 
Negro womanhood every protection accorded their own honor, 
and a fairer treatment for all people. Moton praised also the 
role of southern white churches in bringing about better treat- 
ment of the section's colored population. The Negro's disad- 
vantages are not, he wrote, "the result of malicious intent so 
much as of ignorance and indifference," and that "the inborn 
sense of fairness which in general characterizes American life, 
will, when the facts are revealed, assert itself in removing the 
inequalities and opening the way for the unhampered develop- 
ment of the race."'^ 

During the late nineteenth and first tv\^o decades of the 
twentieth centuries, colored Americans were especially rankled 
by the stereotypes which were by-products of the minstrel 
vogue, the general race prejudice, and pseudo-scientific notions 
of the period. These stereotypes not only depicted the Afro- 
American as a mental and emotional child of a sub-human 
species, but invariably assigned to him a large mouth, big flat 


nose, ebony complexion, red eyes, and flat feet with protruding 
heels. Of this tendency to stereotype the race, the first Negro 
newspaper in the country said in its initial editorial — "though 
there are many in society who exercise toward us benevolent 
feelings; still . . . there are others who make it their business 
to enlarge upon the least trifle, which tends to the discredit of 
any person of colour; and pronounce anathemas and denounce 
our whole body for the misconduct of this guilty one.'"'" "To 
a large extent," Moton declared in 1929, "the white people 
who do any thinking about the Negro today carry in their 
mind a picture of the black man such as is carried in the ad- 
vertisements of commodities like Cream of Wheat, Swift Hams, 
Gold Dust Washing Powder, and the illustrations accompanying 
the stories of Octavius Roy Cohen." '* 

Since emancipation Afro-Americans have been especially 
sensitive about use of such titles as "Mr." and "Mrs." The edu- 
cated Negro especially has resented being addressed by the first 
name, or by such stereotyped forms as "Boy," "Uncle," or 
"Auntie." Because of the custom which some white southerners 
have of addressing colored women by their first names, many 
have refused to allow bill collectors to come to their homes, 
and when opening accounts at downtown stores give only their 
initials or the names of their husbands. The word "nigger" has 
been an especial object of hatred. Here one observer has noted: 
The word 'nigger' as cm.ployed in the American 
vernacular embodies every shade of discrimination, 
from good-natured tolerance to despicable contempt. 
It reflects the same sentiment that has coined the 
words, Sheenie' for the Jew; 'Dago' for the Italian; 
Trog' for the Frenchman; 'Heinie' for the German; 
'Hunkie' for the Hungarian; 'Chink' for the Chi- 
nese; and 'Wop' for the European group whom the 
American cannot distinguish ethnologically. 

Only slightly less offensive are the terms 'darky,' 
'shine' all of them expressions of contempt. ^^ 
Still it seems paradoxical that Afro-Americans at times have 
called one another "nigger" in a manner denoting half good- 
natured raillery and a half-friendly contempt for the other 
person. Also, when angry, they sometimes have used this ex- 
pression in consigning the person addressed to the lowest depths 


of contempt and rascality. Here the reaction is similar to that, 
common among families and other close-knit groups, who as 
members of the in-group may criticize ane another and fight 
among themselves but resent any criticism or attack from a 
mem.ber of an out-group. "There was a time," this observer 
continues, "when the colored people of America were offended 
at the designation 'Negro.' The thinking Negro no longer finds 
opprobrium in the term but he would insist that it be spelled 
with a capital 'N' and not "n."'^*' It is not altogether true that 
"the thinking Negro no longer finds opprobrium in the term." 
Paradoxically, the slave heritage has left both pride and a defi- 
nite distaste for the word "Negro," so that anything with it 
as a prefix is per sc inferior to some colored Americans. For ex- 
ample, numerous colored social scientists have nothing but con- 
tempt for Negro History, and some persons, lay and scholarly, 
will not read anything emanating from the Afro-American 
press. To such persons usually any white physician or dentist 
is assumed to be automatically and unquestionably better than 
a Negro physician or dentist. ^^ 

Of one aspect of the Negro's sensitivities, a scholarly ob- 
server has noted: 

I am fully aware of the fact that there are many 
Negroes who do not like dialect plays. It has long 
been my opinion, however, that it is not the crude 
expressions of the peasant characters that contribute 
to this dislike; but rather the repelling atmosphere 
and the psychology of the inferior that somehow 
creep into the peasant plays of the most unbiased au- 
thors of other racial groups. ^^ 

In the open-closed society dichotomy, it has been held 
that the South is most often thq closed type which is tradition 
bound and which reacts against new ideas and change. Rigid 
conformity to the prevailing mores is stressed by the closed 
society which also tends to be more concerned with the past 
than the future. If this is a good characterization of the pre- 
vailing aspect of the white southerner, it is not so for the 
colored populace. Because the prevailing southern mores have 
glorified the Caucasian while relegating the Negro to a position 
of inferiority and degradation, the Negro frequently has been 
up-in-arms against those mores. In his struggle, the Negro often 


has looked to the North for his ideal social system, and, where 
southern mores are concerned, has venerated change, progress, 
aiid non-conformity. 

As Negroes in the 1950's took pride in and encouragement 
from the great progress which their race had made since 1865, 
progress which Margaret Just Batcher, Rayford Logan, and 
others boasted had no parallel in human history, far too few 
were willing to give the southern white man much credit for 
this record. As was sadly true from the other side, far too 
many Negroes thought of the southern white man only as "the 
enemy" who should be despised and opposed. These persons 
too often were wont to discount with contempt Booker T. 
Washington's oft-preached dictum that in the South the colored 
and white man should studiously cultivate each others friend- 
ship in everv area and manner possible. Just as too many south- 
ern whites could not see the great debt which the section's 
progress owed to the Negro, so too many Negroes had failed 
to see the debt which their progress owed to southern whites. 
Yet, their common survival and progress were in themselves 
proof that the two races had not been "enemies" only. Though 
the fact was affected by the noise and drama of conflict, head- 
lines and politics, some Negroes knew that from the days of 
slavery to the present, their race constantly has had friends 
among southern whites, that the kindness extended by these 
friends not onlv have been eternal reminders of the genuineness 
in American democracy, but substantial material and spiritual 
aid throughout the course of their trek from slavery to free- 
dom; that to extend on both sides recognition of this common 
heritage of neighborliness and friendship, and to help it to grow, 
is the debt which colored and white southerners owe each other, 
their section and their nation. 

One can only hope that time, education, and experience 
have revealed to enough members of both groups that their 
common location, history, and destiny dictate that they should 
fear disharmony, hatred, prejudice, and untruth more than 
they should fear one another. 

Chapter XVII 


The central theme of Negro history is the quest for free- 
dom and cquahty of citizenship, a inotif which inevitably has 
been tied to the central theme of the nation's history, that is, 
the effort to achieve and maintain a democratic society. Though 
he often has been critical of the portion of freedom and de- 
mocracy allotted him within this nation, the Negro's love for 
the United States always has been strong. He consistently has 
defended the nation in war and in peace, and has rejected all 
programs which would separate him from it, either physically or 
otherwise. At the first annual Negro Convention, meeting 
at Philadelphia, delegates called the United Stares "our own 
native land," and mentioned the ciistomarily stated fact that 
this was the birthplace of their forebears, whose blood and 
sweat had hallowed it. They stated that the cause of general 
emancipation "is gaining powerful and able friends abroad," 
mentioning specifically Britain and Denmark, but remarked 
that when they looked at their own native land their Conven- 
tion "had cause to hang its head and blush. "^ This was a period 
when abolitionism was rising in the North together with a 
concomitant wave of oppression in the South. "I will not yield 
to you in affection for America," wrote William Wells Brown 
from London, England, "but I hate her institution of slavery."" 
"With all her faults and all her follies," stated Charles Lenox 
Remond, "I cannot but regard my native land with feelings 
of the proudest affection."'^ And in the twentieth century, a 
noted Negro would say: 

I care nothing for the past; I look beyond the present; 
I see a great country . . . tenanted by untold mil- 
lions of happy, healthy human beings, men of every 
race that God has made out of one blood to inherit 
the earth, a great human family, governed by right- 
eousness and justice, not by greed and fear — in which 
peace and happiness shall reign supreme.* 



Citizenship and the Ballot 

Americans of color have regarded the ballot as a Sine Qua 
Non of true citizenship. Of the original thirteen states at the 
time of the adoption of the Federal Constitution eleven allowed 
free Negroes the right to vote; however, as cotton and the in- 
dustrial revolution fastened slavery more firmly on the South, 
this right was curtailed and taken away, and pro-slavery men 
began to contend that neither the Declaration of Independence, 
Federal Constitution, nor state constitutions had ever conferred 
citizenship upon the colored man. Well known is the manner 
in which this position reached its zenith with the Dred Scott 
decision in which Chief Justice Roger B. Taney declared that 
the Negro never had been, and never could be, a citizen of the 
Uniced States. 

The fight for citizenship has forced the Afro-American 
to a keen consideration of the constitutionality of his claims 
to civil and political rights. During the ante-bellum period his 
basic argument was that the fact of his birth in this country 
conferred citizenship upon him. Next came the contention that 
the long toil of his forebears, both requited and unrequited, 
which went to build the nation, plus the blood which they 
shed in defense of it. are more than ample justifications. The 
American of color has pointed to the fact that the fourth 
article of the Articles of Confederation implied that free per- 
sons of color were citizens, and that the federal Constitution 
neither directly ordained slavery nor denied Negro citizenship. 
Various state judicial decisions and constitutions were quoted 
from time to time to point out that the Negro had been included 
among the citizenry. In a speech before the Massachusetts House 
of Representatives in 1842, Charles L. Remond said: "Our 
right to citizenship in this State has been acknowledged and 
secured by the allowance of the elective franchise and conse- 
quent taxation; and I know of no good reason if admitted in 
this instance, why it should be denied in any other."" 

One source of the feeling that their treatment by the 
majority group at times has been grossly unfair is the fact that 
the African did not willingly emigrate into the United States 
of America, but was brought there by force. This was an al- 
most omnipresent statement in the speeches of colored aboli- 


tionists.' William Wells Brown asserted: "This is emphatically 
an age of discoveries; but I will venture the assertion, that none 
but an American slaveholder could have discovered that a man 
born in a country was not a citizen of it. Their chosen motto, 
that 'all men are created equal' when compared with their 
treatment of the colored people of the country, sinks them 
lower and lower in the estimation of the good and wise of all 
lands."' The National Negro Convention of 185 3, meeting in 
Rochester, New York, stated in its address to the People of the 
United States: "We would ... be understood to range our- 
selves no lower among our fellow-countrymen than is implied 
in the high appellation of 'citizen'.'"" This claim was made, the 
statement said, "Notwithstanding the impositions and depriva- 
tions which have fettered us — notwithstanding the disabilities 
. . . pending and impending — notwithstanding the cunning, 
cruel and scandalous efforts to blot out that right, we declare 
that we are, and of right we ought to be American citizens. 
We claim this right, and we claim all the rights and privileges, 
and duties which, properly attach to it." Justification given 
for this claim ran: "By birth, we are American citizens; by the 
principles of the Declaration of Independence, we are American 
citizens; within the meaning of the United States Constitu- 
tion, we are American citizens; by the facts of history, and the 
admissions of American statesmen, ... by the hardships and 
trials endured; by the courage and fidelity displayed . . . We 
are American citizens." 

Although in the post-bellum period Booker T. Washing- 
ton and others were to contend that Negroes still had to earn 
the right to equality of citizenship by acquiring property, edu- 
cation and culture, many Negro spokesmen felt that their race 
already had earned this right. In a speech in defense of the Re- 
construction era Civil Rights Bill, Congressman James T. 
Rapier declared that the Negro "has not been properly treated 
by this nation; he has purchased and paid for all, and for more, 
than he has yet received. Whatever liberty he enjoys has been 
paid for over and over again by more than two hundred years 
of forced toil; and for such citizenship as is allowed him, he 
paid the full measure of his blood, the dearest price required at 
the hands of any citizen."" Speaking in Boston in 1905, Bishop 


Ransom declared that the Negro's "title to citizenship is with- 
out blemish or flaw."^'' One of the ablest arguments against the 
charge that the race was "not ready" for first-class citizenship 
was later given by William Pickens during the 1920's. He 

The door of opportunity should not be closed to a man 
on any other ground than that of his individual un- 
fitness. The cruelest and most undemocratic thing in 
the world is to require of the individual man that his 
whole race be fit before he can be regarded as fit for 
a certain privilege or responsibility. That rule, strictly 
applied, would exclude any man of any race from 
any position. ^^ 

Negroes based their right to use public inns and transportation 
on tliei'- citizenship claim and on the English common law and 
its antecedents in Roman civil law and the theory of natural 
rights. They almost always felt that the law and the Constitu- 
tion were on their side, even when these, as they felt, were not 
being correctly applied due to racial prejudice. Speaking at 
Oberlin College, May 17, 1874, on occasion of the anniversary 
of the 15th amendment to the Federal Constitution, John 
Mercer Langston averred that the fact of equality is the soul 
of the American system. He cared little for what the written 
law might say, for this argument — 

is only to drive us back of the letter to the reasonable- 
ness, the soul of the law, in the name of which we 
would, as we do, demand the repeal of that enact- 
ment which is . . . not law, [and] contrary to its 
simplest requirements. It may be true that that which 
ought to be law is not always so written; but in this 
matter, that only ought to remain upon the statute 
book, to be enforced as to citizens and voters, which 
is law in the truest and best sense. ^' 
Thus it can be seen that another persistent theme of the Negro 
has been reference to the high ideals on which this nation was 
founded in the eighteenth century. Commented an 18 56 ad- 
dress of Ohions to their State Senate and House of Representa- 
tive: "We are aware that it has been recently asserted by a high 
political personage that this is a government of white men. 
This we cannot admit. We submit that the . . . {Founding 


Fathers} desired to found a government in which the doctrine 
of human equaUty would be reduced to practice." Seldom, if 
ever, has the American Negro been willing to accept disfran- 
chisement and indirect representation through the white man. 
In their address to the Senate and House of Representatives of 
the State of Ohio, a January, 18 56 Convention of Ohio Negroes 
said: "No class of the white population would be willing to 
concede to any class, however honest and enlightened, the cus- 
tody of their rights. To demand such a thing, would be deemed 
monstrou?; and the injustice is not lessened when the demand 
is made upon black instead of white men." In the first editorial 
of the first Negro newspaper, civil rights and the ballot were 
championed. Here, too, is found evidence of the traditional 
approach to politics for the securing of these rights. Like the 
nation's labor unions, the colored American has not sought to 
found his own political party, but rather has supported the 
major party which he thought promised to do most for him. 
This editorial called for an independent use of the ballot 
and the author stated that he did not want the race "to be- 
come the tools of a party. "^' In 1833 New York Negroes or- 
ganized what was known as the Phoenix Society to get mem- 
bers of their group to ( 1 ) attend Sunday School and Church, 
(2) subscribe to an abolitionist newspaper, (3) encourage their 
women to form Dorcas Societies, (4) help the poor and needy 
among them, (5) assist poor children in attending school, (6) 
establish circulating libraries and lyceum series, (7) assist mem- 
bers of their group in getting libraries and jobs, (8) and to 
improve their morals and behavior. Leaders of this group were 
the B.everend Christopher Rush, Reverend Theodore S. Wright, 
Benjamin Hughes, and Thomas Jinnings. Such organizations 
sprang up in practically every community in the United States 
and Canada where there were sizeable numbers of free persons 
of color. By 1840 Negroes had clearly shown that they had the 
ability and the desire to found model communities which, ev- 
erything considered, equalled the best that the majority group 
was doing. In| 1843 a group of young colored Americans, led 
by William H. Day, David Ruggles, and Henry Highland 
Garnet, formed an organization known as The Garrison Liter- 
ary and Benevolent Association of New York. Thus one hun- 


dred and fifty colored youths, under twenty - nine years of 
age, met as an organization to work for the downfall, of slav- 
ery, to promote religion, virtue, literature, and intellectual at- 
tainment/^ In 183 5, in Philadelphia, there met tha last of the 
regular annual conventions. After this, frequent conventions 
were held annually by Afro-Americans at the city and state 
level. Outstanding members of the 183 5 gathering included 
Robert Purvis and John F. Cook. Here is found one of the 
earliest instances of a movement among Negroes, to stop re- 
ferring to themselves and their institutions as "Colored," "Ne- 
gro," and "African." By the use of such prefixes, some mem- 
bers of the race have felt that they were segregating themselves 
and tacitly admitting difference and inferiority.^ ' Since World 
War II there has been a great acceleration of the movemv?nt to 
blot out this prefix, but a counter movement of considerable 
proportions also has been evident.'" 

Negroes in Pennsylvania fought vigorously the efforts of 
that state's Constitutional Convention of 1837 to disfranchise 
them. By petition and mass meeting James Forten, Bishop 
Morris Brown, James Cornish, Robert Douglass, and others, 
representing 40,000 free colored, carried on to no avail, a fight 
against disfranchisement which was repeated in many of the 
states, both Northern and Southern, during the first three de- 
cades of the nineteenth century. "This is a question, fellow 
citizens," declared Robert Purvis of Pennsylvania's disfran- 
chisement proposals, "in which we plead your cause as well as 
our own. It is the safeguard of the strongest that he lives 
under a government which is obliged to respect the voice of 
the weakest."^' Purvis appealed to the patriotism of Pennsyl- 
vanians. Of the nation, he said: "We love our native country, 
much as it has wronged us." Of the state: "We are Pennsyl- 
vanians, and we hope to see the day when Pennsylvania will 
have reason to be proud of us, as we believe she has now none 
to be ashamed. Will you starve our patriotism? Will you cast 
our hearts out of the treasury of the commonwealth.''""' At 
an 1840 state convention of New York Negroes, held in Al- 
bany, Afro- Americans spoke of the ballot as that which "sends 
life, vigor, and energy through the entire heart of a people," 
while the want of it "is the cause of carelessness, intellectual 


inertness and indolence." As to why Afro-Americans should be 
granted citizenship and the ballot, as was customary, the Dec- 
laration of Independence, nativity, and the colored man's con- 
tribution to the defense of the nation were cited. Finally given 
was: "We are Americans. We were born in no foreign clime. 
We have not been brought up under the influence of other 
strange, aristocratic, and uncongenial political relations. In this 
respect, we profess to be American and republican. With the 
nature, features, and operations of our government, we have 
been familiarized from youth; and its democratic character is 
accordant with the flow cf our feelings, and the current of out' 
thoughts." The 18 53 national convention meeting at Ro- 
chester, New York, stated in an address to the people of the 
United States: ''We ask that (inasmuch as we are, in common 
with other American citizens, supporters of the State, subject 
to its laws, interested in its welfare, liable to be called upon 
to defend it in time of war, contributors to its wealth in time 
of peace) the complete and unrestricted right of suffrage, 
which is essential to the dignity even of the white man, be ex- 
tended to the Free Colored man also."^'' 

Negro women have shared in practically every detail the 
interests and movements which have touched their sex in the 
United States, and there is no evidence that their thought on 
such matters as slavery, civil rights, lovel of country, devotion 
to education, culture, and family has been significantly differ- 
ent from that of their menfolk. Although, true to Occidental 
culture, they have not spoken out publicly as often as have 
tlic men, such silence betokens no conservatism, or lack of in- 
terest. Often when they have spoken they have done so to 
prod the males on to greater militancy and action. One of the 
earliest demands of a Negro woman that her sex should have 
equal civil, education, and voting rights with men is found in 
the August 10, 1827 issue of Freedom's Journal, the first Afro- 
American newspaper. In December, 18 52 in a letter to W. L. 
Garrison, William C. Nell reported on a Massachusetts meeting 
of Negroes in which Frederick Douglass participated. Reporting 
on one part of Douglass' address, Nell said: 

There were other ways of advancing the anti- 
slavery cause than at the ballot box; and he concurred 


with other speakers in reference to the women, who 
he regretted were yet denied their right to vote, but 
stated that their means of appeal to husbands, fathers, 
brothers, intelHgently directed, were various and all 
powerful. The emancipation of 800,000 slaves in the 
British West Indies was mostly attributable to the 
women's petition, two miles and a quarter long, which 
as declared by members of parliament, could no longer 
be resisted.'" 
Charles L. Remond, delegate to the London World Anti- 
Slavery Conference, excluded himself from this conference 
because it refused to seat women delegates. Female groups had 
been largely responsible for his being able to attend the con- 

In August, 1840, there met in Albany, New York, a 
state convention of Negroes of over one hundred and thirty 
delegates, led by Charles B. Ray, Theodore Wright, Timothy 
Seaman, John J. Zuille, Charles L. Reason, and Alexander Crum- 
mell. The object of the meeting was to formulate and take 
action to secure political and civil rights. In August of 1841 
almost one hundred and fifty persons of color met in Pitts- 
burgh in a Pennsylvania State Convention. They gave as a 
Justification of their meeting, their love of liberty, country, 
themselves, and their posterity, and, as usual the object to 
unite to secure equal rights. In general, Afro-Americans 
have ever respected the private rights of all individuals. In 
an 1842 speech before the Legislative Committee of the Mas- 
sachusetts House of Representatives, Charles Lenox Remond 
recognized this fact. He asserted: "There is a marked difference 
between social and civil rights. It has been well and justly re- 
marked that we all claim the privilege of selecting our society 
and association but, in civil rights, one man has not the prerog- 
ative to define rights for another.""' After several southern leg- 
islatures passed laws aimed at keeping free Negroes from other 
areas from entering their states, colored residents of these states 
and of non-affected ones, protested against these encroachments 
on their rights as unconstitutional. Alabama, Georgia, Louisi- 
ana, Mississippi and South Carolina had such laws by 1842. Free 
Negroes pointed out that, "inasmuch as the Constitution de- 
clares that the citizens of each State, shall be entitled to all the 


rights and immunities of citizens of the several States," such 
laws were illegal."^ 

The Democratic and Republican Parties 
Robert Purvis, fiery abolitionist from Philadelphia speak- 
ing in New York City on May 8, 1860, denounced the Repub- 
lican party because it did not take an unequivocal stand against 
slavery and because of its discriminations against colored Amer- 
icans, "How could I, a colored man, join a party that styles 
itself emphatically the 'white man's party'?" he demanded. 
''The Republicans may be, and doubtless are," he averred, "op- 
posed to the extension of slavery, but they are sworn to support, 
and they will support, slavery where it already exists.""* Little 
did he know that, though it did not oppose slavery as unquali- 
fiedly as he wished. Republican opposition to slavery, in the 
face of southern fanaticism in favor of it, was to be sufiicicnt 
for the ends which he desired. 

The Afro-American usually has been objective about the 
two major parties. He long has been highly critical of the party 
which, previous to 193 3 — he supported most — the Republican 
Party. During the Reconstruction period, Negroes became aware 
that the Republican party too often used the race question for 
political purposes, and they more and more demanded that the 
party prove its sincerity to them. It appears that even in this 
period often the Negro would have voted for some other party 
which he felt had a chance of winning, had any other party 
stood unqualifiedly for protecting his citizenship rights. Some- 
times the freedman sided with the Republican party so faith- 
fully because to him it represented the lesser of two evils. The 
1864 National Negro Convention proclaimed: "In the ranks 
of the Democratic Party, all the worst element of American 
society fraternize; and we need not expect a single voice from 
that quarter for justice, mercy, or even decency." Still another 
observer noted: 

We are not opposed to united action. We will gladly 
welcome union with all our Southern friends, but let 
them join the partv which is true and has been tried, 
and then there will be united action. But if any ad- 
vise you to leave that party whose principles are so 
clearly those of justice and right, depend upon it that 


man is your enemy. If he is our friend let him act 
with you, We bear no enmity to any but we are de- 
termined to secure our rights."'' 

With the advent of Radical Reconstruction, the attitude 
of most: Negroes toward the Republican Party became one of 
complete support. Gone then was the wavering and misgivings 
which had characterized their attitude toward this party during 
the decade before 1867, because gone was the equivocal stand 
on civil and political equality for the colored man which had 
characterized the dominant wing of the part> . Passage of the 
Reconstruction Act of March, 1867 revealed that the party 
was now dominated by the Summer-Stevens wing which had 
been persistently the champion of equality. "The Democratic 
Party may court us and try to get us to worship at their shrine, 
but . . . we are Republicans by instinct, and we will be Re- 
publicans so long as God will allow our proper senses to hold 
sway over us," declared Representative Joseph H. Rainey of 
South Carolina."" In asking the 43 rd Congress to pass the Civil 
Rights Bill, John R. Lynch urged Republicans to vote for the 
measure and by a policy of continued loyalty to the interests 
of the Negro, ensure that the latter would never desert the 
party in national elections. "Of course," Lynch added on his 
race, "in matters pertaining to their local State affairs, they 
will divide up to some extent, as they sometimes should, when- 
ever they can be assured that their rights and privileges are not 
involved in the contest.""' 

There long has been a popular misconception that at least 
during their hrst decade of freedom all Negroes were adherents 
of the Republican Party. Doubtless this idea was given impetus 
by the propaganda which many Democrats later used in their 
efforts to proscribe the Negro vote. From the beginning, hew- 
ever, a considerable number of freedmen chose, for a variety 
of reasons, to exercise their political rights under the Demo- 
cratic banner. In taking this course somiC were prompted by 
the desire to follow the lead of their former masters, while 
others were seeking some long-term political advantage or sin- 
cerely believed the Republican Party to be anti-South and domi- 
nated by corrupt whites who were "using" the Negro for their 
own advantage. It must not be forgotten that a sizeable num- 


ber of Afro- Americans have held the conviction that the South 
has pecuHar problems which only Southerners properly under- 
stand. Too, many Negroes were Democrats for the same base 
reason that some others were Republicans; they were bought 
with "hard cold cash." Some sincerely believed that in the long 
run their race would be better oft if they did not all adhere to 
one party. They did not like the idea of a black man's party 
and a white man's party any more than their progeny later 
would care for a Negro labor union or a separate colored state. 
These freedmen early sensed that extreme and one-sided politi- 
cal partisanship was a species of dangerous self-imposed seg- 
regation. '"^ Freedmen who chose to cast their political fortunes 
with the Democratic party sometimes found that the majority 
of their race directed fearsome and sometimes ugly currents of 
criticism at them. In such instances Negroes proved that they 
could be as intolerant as they often thought southern whites 
were, 'Black Democrat" and "nigger Democrat" were epithets 
of contempt, but these persons werq not only objects of harsh 
and bitter words. There were beatings, murders, ostracism, and 
intimidation in a variety of forms.""'" 

Corruption in the Republican ranks was a major reason 
why some politicians v/ent over to the Deniocracy. '" In 1875 
many Negro Republicans in Mississippi, including the venerable 
Hiram Revels joined the Democratic ranks and helped defeat 
their formiCr party. Corruption in Republican ranks appears to 
have been a dominant cause of this disa flection. Yet, no Negro 
D£rnox:rat was elected to Congress bciore :<@S®»»=»J^^fsiat in 
i,^^-!' He was also the first Negro Congressman from a north- 
ern state. While it is true that too many freedmen bartered 
their votes for money or whiskey and were sometimes voted in 
droves by and for unscrupulous members of their own and the 
majority race, this is not the whole story. Many were serious 
about voting and honestly sou.ght through political action to 
further not only their own race's interests, but those of their 
state and the nation. Probably too much attention has been 
given to those persons who were unprepared, and too little to 
those whose records were models of ideal civic action, whatever 
the motivation and limitations. A portion of the blame for 
large-scale selling of votes on the part of freedmen can be at- 


tributed to their extreme poverty and the feeHng that voting 
was a right which should bring an immediate and tangible 
result. Political tutelage given by federal soldiers and officials 
was oftentimes indoctrination for the freedmen. That in this 
period Negroes did successfully elect their own candidates to 
office was never to be forgotten and would serve as stimulus 
to political action long after most of their political power had 
been destroyed. 

The late nineteenth and early twentieth century preach- 
ment of Booker Washington and others that the colored man 
in the South should de-emphasize political activity was only 
the cuhnination of a long-growing conviction which many 
Negroes held. Such an acquiescence usually symbolized tem- 
porary acceptance of defeat on the civil and political front, and 
did not mean at all that the colored man had found and ac- 
cepted his rightful "place" in southern society, nor that he was 
happy in this acquiescence, but rather that again, as in ante- 
bellum days, he found it expedient "common sense" tempo- 
rarily to resign himself to less than first-class citizenship. After 
the cver-throw of Radical Reconstruction many Afro-Ameri- 
cans came to fear and distrust all politicians and all political 
activity."^ Many freedmen failed to perceive that one reason 
why the Republican party abandoned the race after 1876 was 
that disfranchisement m.easures had deprived the race of the 
ability to deliver electoral votes to the party; that, in politics, 
to him who can deliver the niost \'otes usually goes the most 
attention and concern. 

The new fronts on which the Afro-American resolved 
to battle after 1876 were largely the economic and educational. 
In choosing these areas for concentrated effort, the Negro again 
was revealing his basic Americanism, for the post-Civil War 
period saw the beginning of the public high school and the 
graduate education movement in the U.S.A. generally. This is 
the era of Barnard, White, Hopkins, Vanderbiit, and other 
luminaries and benefactors in the area of education. It is also 
the period when the brilliant successes and preachments of the 
"Robber Barons" created the great illusion that wealth was a 
door easily opened to everyone and the key to all other human 
wants. Of this retreat from politics, one freedman stated: 


The only way for us to get along and do well is 
to let politics alone and go to work to gather crops 
that are now growing, and have something to live on. 
Politics is a thing we know nothing about; and if we 
did, it is a mighty unprofitable business. We are en- 
couraged by a certain class of people to go ahead with 
politics, because they want to use us to get our votes. 
If we take part in politics, let us do it like men, and 
not have so much parade and 'to do' about; it. Let us 
respect everybody's opinion, and those that have 
known us since childhood till the present hour. They 
are the ones that have helped and assisted us, and all 
the money I have made since I have been free come 
from them.. We must continue to live together, and 
unless there is good feeling between us, it is impos- 
sible for us to prosper, make money or a living."" 
Here can be seen the many reasons which went into the thought 
of the freedman who advocated either abandoning political 
action entirely or else going about it in such a way as not to 
offend the majority group. Here is revealed not only the desire 
to refrain from action which might endanger person, property, 
or the opportunity to earn a living, but also an expression of 
what has been with some Negroes a genuine aifection for the 
southern white man. During the same period that some spokes- 
men were advising their race to abandon political action, a 
Montgomery, Alabama group of Negroes resolved that "the 
interests of white and colored people have been and are one 
and in common.""^ 

Evidence of one shift in Negro thought of this period is 
seen in the fact that in 1874, Robert Smalls, William Still, and 
numerous other Negroes bolted from the liberal Republicans to 
support the "Peoples Party" candidate for mayor of Phila- 
delphia. Still gave as their reasoning: 

The slavery issues on which the two parties have 
so long been contending are all, except Senator Sum- 
ner's Civil Rights Bill, settled, and the way is now 
prepared for new issues; such as tariff. Currency, 
Specie Payments, Railroads, Government bonds, the 
United States Debt, the Granger movement, etc. It 
needs but half an eye to see that these issues are soon 
to bring about many political changes.^* 


Like the nation's labor unions to date, sensing the futiHty 
of minority parties in this country, Afro-Americans generally 
have sought to bargain with the two major parties. In state and 
local elections generally they have followed the practice of 
supporting those candidates who promise and do most for the 
race. This pragmatism has extended even to their relations with 
minority parties. One authority on Communism has pointed up 
the manner in which this practice has been followed. He ob- 
serves that "in using the Communist Party when it could serve 
their immediate interests and in rejecting it when it tended to 
separate them from their friends, Negroes have displayed a rare 
political sharpness."'"' 

Most Afro-Americans have known that in the securing of 
desired political ends, what often counts most is the number of 
votes that a group can deliver to those who will exercise pow- 
er.'® "In those places where race discrimination is practiced 
least," Moton points out, "there the Negro vote is less subject 
to control by a racial appeal."'' He points out that until 1929 
Harlem Negroes, although numerically able, had sent no mem- 
bers of their group to Congress, and to instances in St. Louis, 
Missouri, where white candidates were preferred by Negroes to 
colored ones. One of the most trenchant summaries of the Afro- 
American's counter-argument to the criticism that his interest 
in office-holding is excessive comes from the pen of Frederick 
Douglass. On this point, Douglass said during the late nine- 
teenth century: 

We are as a people often reproached with ambi- 
tion for political offices and honors. We are not 
ashamed of this alleged ambition. Our destitution of 
such ambition would be our real shame. . . . 

We are far from affirming that there may not be 
too m^uch zeal among colored men in pursuit of politi- 
cal preferment; but the fault is not wholly theirs. 
They have young men among them noble and true, 
. . . who find themselves shut out from nearly all 
the avenues of wealth and respectability, and hence 
they turn their attention to politics. They do so be- 
cause they can find nothing else. The best cure for 
the evil is to throw open other avenues and activities 
to them.'^ 


Speaking in defense of the Civil Rights Bill before the 44th 
Congress, James T. Rapier of Alabamq said: "Let this bill be- 
come law and not only will it do much toward giving rest to 
this weary country on this subject, completing the manhood of 
my race and perfecting liis citizenship, but it will take him 
from the political arena as a topic of discussion, . . . and thus 
freed from anxiety respecting his political standing, hundreds 
of us will abandon the political fields who are there from ne- 
cessity, and not from choice, and enter other and more pleasant 
ones."'" So completely did both of the major parties come to 
ignore the Reconstruction Constitutional amendments and the 
plight of the colored American, until the latter became thor- 
oughly convinced that, by and large^ the platforms and prom- 
ises of presidential candidates and political parties were all sound 
and fury, signifying nothing. Still all members of the race were 
not convinced that they should abstain from political action. 
In December, 1895 Bishop Henry M. Turner stated: 

Thousands of white people in this country are 
ever and anon advising the colored people to keep 
out of politics, but they do not advise themselves. 
If the Negro is a man . . . why should he be less 
concerned about politics than any one else? Strange, 
too, that a number of would-be colored leaders are 
ignorant and debased enough to proclaim the same 
foolish jargon. For the Negro to stay out of politics 
is to level himself with a horse or a cow ... If the 
Negro is to be a man, full and complete, he must 
take part in everything that belongs to manhood. If 
he omits a single duty, responsibility or privilege, to 
that extent he is limited and incomplete.**' 
Obvious here is the manner in which Turner differs with the 
Booker 1 . Washington doctrine that the race should steer clear 
of those activities which were most liable to arouse opposition 
from white Southerners. Writing in 1903, Charles W. Chesnutt 
declared, "The direct rem.edy for the disfranchisement of the 
Negro lies through political action,"*^ but in his novel. The 
Quest of the Silver Fleece (1911), W. E. B. DuBois satirizes 
both white and colored politicians. Dark Princess, a novel pub- 
lished by DuBois m 1928, also goes to great lengths to satirize 
Negro political organizations, as well as the general politics of 


the period, and the 1896 call for another Tuskegee Conference, 
issued by that school, stated that the aim of these meetings was 
"to bring together for a quiet Conference, not the politicians, 
but the representatives of the common, hard-working farmers 
and mechanics — the bone and sinew of the Negro race — min- 
isters and teachers."^' The welcoming remarks of Booker T. 
Washington to this body/ applauded the spread of the confer- 
ence movement among Negroes. W. S. Scarborough, then Pro- 
fessor at Wilberforce, wrote in 1891: "He [the Negro] has 
seen so many broken pledges, violations of oaths, and disregard 
for platforms and public declarations on the part of political 
parties, that it is found no longer advisable for the colored 
people to have faith in them. This is the conclusion many have 
come to."^ ■ Though now in decline, this attitude is by no means 
yet dead with many Negroes. In combination with the fear of 
physical and economic reprisals, this attitude is one reason for 
the lack of interest in voting and other political activity which 
some Negroes have shown. 

Expressive ot the growing political independence of the 
Negro, the New York Age of April 11, 1907 championed the 
need for a third party. Also, in this period, on March, 1904, 
at St. Louis, Missouri, there was formed the National Liberty 
Party, one of the race parties which the colored American has 
launched, and the only national one. In 1904 this organization 
ran George Taylor, a free-born person from Arkansas, for the 
Presidency. Taylor had an interesting and varied political 
career in several midwestern states previous to 1904. Though 
the party wass short-lived, the foundation convention had dele- 
gates from over thirty-five states. In his acceptance speech to 
the convention Taylor said that his party was "struggling to 
revive the well-nigh deserted principles of the grand old Whig 
party (the mother of the Republican party)." His party, he 
said, was an outgrowth of the civil and personal liberty 
leagues which Negroes had sponsored at the state and local 
level for several years. He demanded the "full exercise" of 
citizenship rights and called for "a rebellion, a revolution, an 
uprising, not by physical force, but by the ballot."^* 

The Negro often has tended to side with the national gov- 
ernment in the matter of state against federal powers. During 


the Civil War Frederick Douglass sounded this note in urging 
Negroes to volunteer their services as soldiers. Douglass de- 

Do I hear you say you offered your services to 
Pennsylvania and were refused? I know it. But what 
of that? The State is not morel than the nation. The 
greater includes the lesser. Because the State refuses 
you, you should all the more readily turn to the 
United States. . . . 'You came unto your own, and 
your own received you not.' But the broad gates of 
the United States stand open night and day. Citizen- 
ship in the United States will, in the end, secure your 
citizenship in the State.*' 
Defending the first federal civil rights bill, a Negro con- 
gressman declared: 

If the several states had secured to all classes within 
their borders the rights contemplated in this bill, we 
would have had no need to come here; but they hav- 
ing failed to do their duty, after having had ample 
opportunity, the general government is called upon 
to exercise its rights; in the matter.*'' 
Of the dire predictions being made by southern whites as con- 
sequences of proposed federal legislation to raise the Negro to 
equality of citizenship, this congressman stated: 

I want someone to tell me of any measure that was 
intended to benefit the Negro that they have ap- 
proved of. Of which one did they fail to predict evil? 
They declared if the Negroes were emancipated that 
the country would be laid waste, and that in the end 
he would starve, because he could not take care of 
On the assertion of federal authority the Negro often has been 
Hamiltonian because, in the "home" of states-rightism, the race 
often could look only to the federal government for backing 
of its claim to first-class citizenship. Too, it was through action 
of the federal government that emancipation from slavery, the 
Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments, and most of the civil 
rights legislation which was aimed at protecting the claim to 
equality came, and in legal protests the colored American has 
met success largely through appeals to the federal courts. Thus 
in the Jeffersonian-Hamiltonian duality, the Negro usually has 


been Jeftersonian only in terms of his love for and faith in 
education and in the common masses, and in the manner which 
Booker Washington and other persons have extolled the vir- 
tues of the agricultural way of life. However, R. R. Moton 
pointed out that the Negro would prefer that the southern 
states be the main defender of his civil and political rights. 
"One feels more secure," he wrote, "in the knowledge of the 
goodwill and support of his immediate neighbors than in the 
constructive protection of police headquarters fifteen blocks 
away when he lives in a hostile neighborhood."^' The colored 
American has turned to the federal government, Moton con- 
tinued, simply because too often he did not have the more 
desired protection in the South. 

The census of 1880 showed seventy percent of the nation's 
nine million Negroes to be illiterate, but still the race continued 
the struggle against disfranchisement, discriminations, and 
lynchings, and for land and better educational opportunities. 
Examples of this are numerous. In January, 1881, a delegation 
representing six southern states, led by Robert B. Elliott of 
South Carolina, made a formal plea to President-elect James 
Garfield to foster legislation to improve the political and civil 
status of the southern Negro.^~^ In April, 18 82, forty-live dele- 
gates from, over one dozen Kansas counties met and drafted a 
petition to Congress requesting public lands in Oklahoma be 
made available. The petition requested, "That Congress appro- 
priate every third section of land in the Oklahoma territory 
for the occupancy of colored emigrants from the South, leaving 
the two intermediate sections open for settlement as may be 
thought best."*'' In late 18 82 a Rhode Island State Convention, 
meeting in Newport, attacked the Republican party for its 
failure to "properly recognize the worthiness and faithful de- 
votion of its colored adherents."'^' An 18 83 state convention, 
held in Austin, Texas, was attended by over one hundred and 
twenty delegates. This body attacked discimination in educa- 
tion, selection of juries, and many other areas. '^ At the 1883 
National Convention of Colored Men, held at Louisville, Ken- 
tucky, September 24, 18 83, Frederick Douglass justified the 
convention on the ground that the social injustices of which the 
Negro was the object made the meeting necessary. In char- 


acteristic fashion, Douglass stated that protesc was an absolute 
necessity. He continued: 

Men may combine to prevent cruelty to animals, 
for they are dumb and cannot speak for themselves; 
but we are men and must speak for ourselves, or we 
shall not be spoken for at all. We have conventions in 
America for Ireland, but we should have none if 
Ireland did not speak for herself. It is because she 
makes a noise and keeps her cause before the people 
that other people go to her help. It was the sword ot 
Washington that gave Independence the sword of 

One evidence of the growing political independence of 
the colored American was the 188 5 published volume entitled 
The Negro in Politics, by 1. Thomas Fortune. In this work. 
Fortune enthusiastically attacked the assertion by Frederick 
Douglass that — "The Republican Party is the ship, all else is the 
ocean." But Douglass, by that date, had modified his own 
earlier stand on the Republican party. At the 18 83 National 
Convention of Colored Men, he deplored that some Republi- 
cans had opposed the meeting on the grounds that the race 
issue should be played down. Douglass declared: "The sugges- 
tion came from coward lips and misapprehended the character 
of that party. If the Republican party cannot stand a demand 
for justice and fair play, it ought to go down. We were men 
before that party was born, and our manhood is more sacred 
than any party can be. Parties were made for men, not men 
for parties." In 1871 Representative Alonzo J. Rapier of South 
Carolina had called for a rejuvenation and reformation of the 
Republican party from within, a reformation which would 
consist of the elimination of crooked politicians and the; choos- 
ing of scrupulously honest men to be the party's standard 
bearers. '" T. Thomas Fortune denounced the Republican party 
because, "in 1876, it abandoned ;.ll eifort to enforce the pro- 
visions of the war amendments." The party, he Wrote, had 
come to stand for "organized corruption, while its opponent 
stands for organized brigandage," and he advocated that hence- 
forth Negroes should forget any debt of gratitude which they 
might have owed the Republicans and become independent 
voters. ' As DuBois, Rayford Logan and other leaders were later 


to do, Fortune deplored the general attitude of the American 
press on race. ''The great newspapers, which should plead the 
cause of the oppressed and downtrodden, which should be the 
palladiums of the people's rights," he declared, "are all on the 
side of the oppressor, or by silence preserve a dignified but 
ignominious neutrality." 

In Chicago in 1890 there assembled one hundred and 
forty-seven delegates from over twenty states for the purpose 
of establishing an Afro-American National League. J. C. Price, 
noted North Carolina educator was chosen as first President of 
the organization. T. Thomas Fortune became the first Secre- 
tary. This organization thrived for nearly ten years. At the 
foundation meeting, prejudice and discrimination in nearly all 
of their forms were scathingly attacked. Proposed, but not 
accepted, was an Emigration Committee which would see that 
Afro-Americans emigrated from their concentration in the 
South, and the establishment of a national Negro bank. The 
Republican party was vigorously attacked for its ''unfinished 
work" where the race and its rights were concerned, and politi- 
cal independence was advocated.'^ Still another source reflects 
the growing political independence, as another group of freed- 
men declared — "We feel that it is our duty to applaud the acts 
and endorse the utterances of our friends, it matters not where 
they are or to what party they may belong.""* 

Law and Government 
By 18 87 Afro- Americans had formed organizations spe- 
cifically devoted to fighting in the courts to win equality of 
treatment. A counsel for one of these groups, the United 
Brotherhood of Liberty, said: "We have law enough. It remains 
for us to exact our rights and privileges from the law. Our 
difficulty is our individual inability to meet the expense of a 
legal contest."'' This organization had grown out of the 1S8 3 
Supreme Court decision which invalidated the Civil Rights Bill. 
With the object of fighting on fronts other than, and in ad- 
dition to the legal, a Georgia consultation convention, at- 
tended by over three hundred delegates meeting in Macon, 
voted to form a Union Brotherhood of Georgia. As indicated, 
the racial legal-aid societies grew out of the realization that. 


due to the great expense involved individually Negroes could 
not take their cases to the federal coiirts. This movement 
reached its acme with the NAACP. Those southerners who are 
prone to think that if they can kill this organization in the 
section protest will stop, overlook the well demonstrated ability 
of colored Americans to form new organizations. Their recent 
support of the Congress of Racial Equality would appear to 
bear this out. The past of the race would seem to indicate that 
Negroes will continue to organize for protest as long as they 
are objects of discrimination. 

While the colored American generally has had great respect 
for law, always he has believed in the higher law doctrine. 
Still most Negroes have believed' in using only moral and legal 
means to combat what they felt was illegal legislation." 

The extremes of the social injustice of which their race 
sometimes has been an object has caused several Negroes to 
countenance and advocate unethical and illegal forms of retri- 
bution. In the ante-bellum period, a nuniber of abolitionists 
joined with the sentiment of David Walker's Appeal to the 
affect that whatever the cost in blood, life or property the 
bondsmen should rebel and overthrow the institution of slavery. 
It was this spirit which applauded the effort of John Brown at 
Harper's Ferry, and which welcomed the outbreak of the Civil 
War. In post-bellum days some colored newspapers, especially 
northern ones, have applauded instances where Negroes, in re- 
taliation for injustices, killed or wounded whites or burned 
their property. In November of 183 5, Afro- Americans in New 
York City formed a vigilante committee to foil the kidnapping 
of free Negroes or fugitives. Similar organizations later existed 
throughout the North. 

Colored Americans have realized well that unless legisla- 
tion is backed by public opinion, it is useless. Henry Highland 
Garnet wrote that "public opinion ... in this country is 
stronger than law." In 1897 Booker Washington stated: ''We 
are learning that neither the conqueror 'dt bullet nor the fiat of 
law could make an ignorant voter an intelligent voter; could 
make a dependent man an independent man; could give one 
citizen respect for another, a bank account, nor a foot of land, 
nor an enlightened fireside."''' A Negro Assistant Attorny 


General declared in 1913: "Laws, customs, institutions are no- 
thing unless behind them stands a vital, living, throbbing public 
sentiment in favor of their enforcement in the spirit as well as 
in the letter." " In the same period a noted Negro educator 
stated: "Wherever there is lawlessness, or disorder, or mob viol- 
ence of any kind, law is always in order to restrain and punish 
the lawbreakers. . . . but legislatiton without a sentiment to 
sustain it cannot solve the problem.'"" Still, while defending 
the Civil Rights Bill before the 44th Congress, James T. Rapier 
of Alabama said: 

I am told that I must wait for public opinion; that it 
is a matter that cannot be forced by law. While I ad- 
mit that public opinion is a power, and in many cases, 
is a law of itself, yet I cannot lose sight of the fact 
that both statute law, and the law of necessity manu- 
facture public opinion. I remember it was unpopular 
to enlist Negro soldiers in our late war and after they 
enlisted it was equally unpopular for them to fight 
in the same battles; but when it became a necessity 
in both cases, public opinion soon came around to that 
point. "^ 
Moton wrote that where race relations are concerned, public 
opinion is the paramount consideration. He opined: 

In the face of it honest hearts grow indignant 
at abuse afid outrage, but they still remain silent; 
sensitive consciences protest, what is manifestly un- 
just and even dishonest, but the protest seldom 
crystalizes into action. This dread of what his neigh- 
bor may think more than anything else appears to 
paralyze the white man in America when it comes 
to public dealings with the Negro. This is true from 
the lowest circles to the highest, from the weakest 
to the strongest.''" 

Defending the Civil Rights bill before the Forty-Third Cong- 
ress, John R. Lynch had said: 

You may ask why we do not institute civil suits 
in the State courts. What a farce! Talk about insti- 
tuting a civil rights suit in the State courts of Ken- 
tucky, for instance, where the decision of the judge 
is virtually rendered before he enters the courthouse, 


and the verdict of the jury substantially rendered 
before it is impaneled/'" 

On this same note, The Crisis observed in 1917: "It is lynch- 
ing, forced labor, and discrimination that is sending the Negro 
North. When he comes North he may hnd mobs and hostile 
labor unions, but he will also find the law and the law will be 
enforced. '"^^ 

With further reference to the Negro vis-a-vis the law, it 
has been pointed out that until the family allotments paid 
World War 11 G.I.'s made many southern Negroes conscious 
of the need for birth and marriage certificates, many of them 
saw no need for legal divorce. While religious convictions and 
custom often dictated the need for a marriage ceremony, di- 
vorce by many was a simple matter of mutual consent. Re-mar- 
riage without legal divorce could take place as often as desired 
so long as the previous mate was residing in another county or 
state.''"" Statistics have shown that in the more recent decades 
Negroes have gained a greater appreciation for the need of se- 
curing a legal divorce before entering into a subsequent mar- 
riage. Publication of bigamy prosecutions by the courts, in- 
creased educational attainment, and other factors combined to 
bring about this change. 

Since emancipation, Afro-Americans have been divided 
between two schools of thought as to whether prejudice and 
discrimination could best be ended through legislation and legal 
action or through more indirect means. Knowing the power of 
public opinion, some have felt that it was futile to concentrate 
efforts on the legislative and legal fronts. These persons feared 
that political and legal action would unnecessarily antagonize 
the white man, that the chances of success on these fronts were 
very small, and that even if successful In winning legislation 
and court action in favor of the race, these would be ineffectual 
unless white southerners realized a change of heart. So this 
latter group has preferred to concentrate on activities designed 
to bring about a changed attitude toward the Negro. This, 
they felt, could be done through the acquisition of property, 
education, and culture, and through leading exemplary Chris- 
tian lives. 


The opposing school of thought has been expressed char- 
acteristically by such a legal action group as the NAACP. Its 
niembers have urged militant action on all fronts. They have 
felt that the tremendous respect which Anglo-Saxons tradi- 
tionally have held toward law and the courts dictate that the 
race work for legislation and court rulings against racial segre- 
gation and discrimination. These men have believed, in con- 
tradistinction to the first group, that ours is a government of 
laws primarily, not a government of men. A number of ob- 
servers have pointed out, however, that both schools of thought 
are identical in their opposition to segregation and discrimina- 
tion. They dilfer only in approach. Again Moton has reflected 
what is perhaps a dominant thought with Afro-Americans. He 

Nowhere is the white man more overbearing than 
when, with the sanctioii of the law, which is to say 
with the organized support of society, his society, he 
is dealing with the person of a Negro. In many places 
an indignant retort from a Negro is sufficient occa- 
sion for an arrest for 'disorderly conduct'; the at- 
tempt to run from an officer is sufficient for killing 
the offender for 'resisting an officer of the law.' In 
prison the most palpable distinctions are made be- 
tween white and Negro prisoners in food, clothing, 
bedding and facilities.'''' 

The 18 53 meeting of the National Negro Convention had stated 
in its address to the people of the United States: "We ask that 
(since the right of trial by jury is a safeguard of liberty, against 
the encroachments of power, only as it is a trial by impartial 
men, drawn indiscriminately from the country) colored men 
shall not, in every instance, be tried by white persons; and that 
colored men shall not be either by custom or enactment ex- 
cluded from the jury-box.'"" This same sentiment was repeated 
years later when another observer noted: "An honored phrase 
in the procedure of the courts is 'A jury of his peers.' When 
a Negro is involved it is observed most in the breach, unless 
it be thought to pay an extra tribute to justice by seleccing a 
jury regarded as his superiors.""* Thus, he continued, "Negroes 
very generally feel that they have better chances for justice 


before a judge than before a jury." It sometimes has been 
charged that Negroes refuse to cooperate with the law in ap- 
prehending criminals, and that the race has little respect for 
laws where discriminatory practices against the race are con- 
cerned, Moton declares that often government appears to the 
colored man "not as an instrument of justice, but as an instru- 
ment of persecution; . , . simply white society organized to 
keep the Negro down," while officers of the law sometimes 
appear to be "agents authorized to wreak upon the helpless 
offender the contempt, the indignation, and the vengeance that 
outraged law and order feels when stimulated by prejudice."*'* 

In Detroit there was founded in January, 1896, the Na- 
tional Association of Colored Men, led by R. T. Greener, Joseph 
Dickinson, and D. A. Straker. This organization deplored the 
violation of Negro citizenship which existed in many parts of 
the nation, and asserted the claim of the race to full and equal 
citizenship. In a memorial to Congress of that year, it was 
stated that the members of this Association did not "acquiesce 
in the dictum that we must trust in time and to the pleasure 
or disposition of our enemies to grant rights."'" Unlike its 
women's counterpart, this organization had a very brief history. 

Booker Washington's 1895 Atlanta speech was followed 
the next year by the Supreme Court decision of Plessy vs. Fer- 
guson. Since the Slaughterhouse Case, the Court, reflecting the 
genera] trend of the period, had followed the line of allowing 
home-rule to the southern states where racial matters were 
concerned. Thus Plasy vs. Ferguson which legalized the "sepa- 
rate but equal" doctrine where public facilities were concerned, 
was but the recognition of a ^ciit accompli. The decision had 
been preceded by the 18 83 court ruling against the Civil Rights 
Act, and by three similar rulings by the Interstate Commerce 
Commission, and was soon to be followed by the "Insular Cases" 
rulings, in which the Court would state again and again that 
this nation could have more than one class of citizejiship. Al- 
though numerous Afro- American writers have expressed bit- 
terness at the abandonment by the Republican party of the 
cause of the freedman after 1876, R. R. Moton thought in 1924 
that this might have been a good thing. "Thinking in the 
large," he observed, "it may be well to have let the public agi- 


tat ion on this question subside while passions cooled, till think- 
ing could again become clear and straight and sane."'^ 

Popurnjn and Reaction 

The Populist movement of the 1880's and 90's was the 
last great effort of American farmers to dominate the federal 
government. This was also a partially successful effort of 
Americans to create legislature machinery for mitigating some 
of the worst evils of the nascent industrialism. Centering around 
the Farmers' Mutual Benefit Association, the Southern Alli- 
ance, and the Colored Farmers' Alliance, the movem.ent reach- 
ed the apogee of its prominence with the 1896 campaign against 
William McKinley and Republicanisni. Its greatest success, 
however, was experienced on the state level, where Populist 
candidates came to dominate some states and considerably to 
influence the course of government in others. Well-known is 
the manner in which poor whites of the South, and Negroes, 
formerly staunch Democrats and Republicans respectively, ef- 
fected a temporary union known as Fusionism. This political 
cooperation resulted in considerable democratic legislation in 
the South before it was destroyed, in part by fraud, violence, 
and a powereful propaganda designed to foment fear of Negro 
competition and another period of Negro "domination" of the 
the South. The manner in which this movement was carried out 
in one state and culminated in a bloody race riot has been mas- 
terfully described by Helen G. Edmonds in her 7'he Negro and 
Fusionisf Politics in North Carolina.'' 

The Colored Farmers' Alliance grew to proportions which 
are little known. In 1891 its membership, embracing at least 
tv/enty state branches, was almost one and one-half million 
souls. During the period of this movement, Negro participation 
in politics received a new impetus, only to end with further and 
almost complete disfranchisement. As with the nation at large, 
the Populist movement served to educate the Negro in many 
ways. It saw him learn anew the benficent possibilities of group 
action, both along racially segregated and integrated lines. In 
1891, for example, a wide-spread cotton-picker strike spread 
over the South, aimed at improved wages for this type of labor. 
St. Louis was hit the next year with a strike of over two thou- 


sand colored longshoremen, and in 1898 over two thousand 
more longshoremen struck in Galveston, Texas. 

H. S. Doyle, Negro preacher, was for a time one of the 
most ardent and open supporters of Tom Watson, the out- 
standing Georgia Populist. As Populists sought to win the vote 
of the southern Negro, especially in the year 1892, many Afro- 
Americans joined the movement. As Fusionists gained control 
of several states and cities, Negro voting and office-holding 
were made easier and took an upswing. "Never before or since," 
writes C. Vann Woodward, "have the two races in the South 
come so close together as they did during the Populist strug- 
gles."'' The Granger Movement had not experienced much 
success in the South because of the great racial strife of the 
1870's. The populist movement, however, was partly respons- 
ible for the election to Congress of several Negro Congress- 
men, especially in North and South Carolina. In Congress their 
efforts centered largely on matters designed to improve the lot 
of their race. Other than these efforts they were loyal party 

Confronted by poor white defection to the Populist part^/ 
in the early 1890's, Bourbon Democrats started courting the 
Negro vote. Thus for a time both Democrats and Populists were 
courting the Negro vote. In the 1880's the white Southern 
Farmers' Alliance cooperated for a time with the Colored Farm- 
ers' Alliance and in 1886 a cooperative union was formed. Rep- 
resentative George W. Murray of South Carolina, only Negro 
member of the 5 3rd Congress, voted in favor of free silver. 
He asserted that all Afro-Americans were in favor of free 

The Populist Revolt, representing as it did a somewhat 
acute protest of poor whites in the South against their econom- 
ically depraved status, sorely frightened the Southern ruling 
class. Perhaps for the first time, some poor whites became dimly 
av/are that the grievances of Negroes often coincided with their 
own, and that perhaps the two groups should be allies rather 
than imtagonists. But this alliance was to be short-lived indeed. 
The vast majority of poor whites were too immature in their 
social and economic thought to effect a genuine and lasting alli- 
ance. The dead hand of Old South paternalism had robbed 


them of the needed maturity to lead such an alhance, and in 
the reaction which followed, they too, were often robbed of 
their right to vote. 

Pv^epeatedly during the disfranchisement movement of the 
1890's Negro leaders stated that they were not against educa- 
tional or property qualifications for voting so long as these tests 
were applied equally to the races. During the 1920's, James 
Weldon Johnson restated this position. Johnson declared: 
The Negro in the matter of the ballot demands only 
that he should be given the right as an American 
citizen to vote under the identical qualifications re- 
quired of other citizens. He cares not how high those 
qualifications are made — whether they include the 
ability to read and write, or the possession of five 
hundred dollars, or a knowledge of the Einstein 
Theory — just so long as these qualifications are im- 
partially demanded of white men and black men.'"' 

In 1890 Mississippi adopted the first of the South's ingenious 
disfranchisement constitutions. Most of the states quickly fol- 
lowed, and by 1915 the Negro voter in the South was for all 
practical purposes an extinct species. Despite the decline of 
Negro voters, the 1890 Mississippi Disfranchisement Conven- 
tion refused to put its new constitution to the test of a state- 
wide vote, and instead put it into effect without this approval. 
James Weldon Johnson pointed out that fanning the Negro 
question by politicians not only kept Negroes from voting and 
led to race riots, but made v/hites afraid of free discussion and 
politically apathetic. Johnson declared: 

With a free vote in the South the specter of Negro 
domination would vanish into thin air. There would 
naturally follow a breakup of the South into two 
parties. There would be political light, political dis- 
cussion, the right to differences of opinion, and the 
Negro vote would naturally divide itself. No other 
procedure would be probable. The idea of a solid 
party, a minority party at that, is inconceivable.'" 
In a speech delivered before the Fifty-First Congress, John 
Mercer Langston contended that when the Republican Party 
in the South was "killed," democracy was killed for whites as 
well as Negroes." There were num.erous southern whites, Lang- 


ston avers, who did not want to belong to the Democratic 
Party. Langston said: 

When I stand here today, speaking for the cause of 
the people of my state, ... I am pleading for her 
people, both white and black, I am speaking for white 
men as well as for Negroes; for white men in my 
State are proscribed, and they are denied a free ballot. 
Afro-American participation in the Populist movement in 
such large numbers reveals again the Americanization of the 
race. Practically none of America's major movements and in- 
terests have been without the Negro's active participation. This 
largest of the nation's minorities, comprising a significant one- 
tenth of the total population, ever has been a part of the warp 
and woof of the national history and character, and few, if any, 
studies of the history of the nation can be complete without 
cognizance of the Negro's contribution. 


I'he Niagara Movement, fore-runner of the NAACP, was 
an organization of professional men founded during the sum- 
mer of 190 5 near Buffalo, New York. The foundation conven- 
tion, attended by twenty-nine persons from fourteen states, 
named the organization after the nearby Niagara Falls. The 
main instigator of this movement was W. E. B. DuBois," 
although he modestly later claimed that: "The honor of found- 
ing the organization belongs to F. L. McGhee; C. C. Bently, 
. . . and W. M. Trotter."'^ Reflecting some of the rahon d'ete 
which brought the American Federation of Labor into exist- 
ence, the organizers felt that many efforts at group action 
aniong Negroes had failed because they lacked a likeminded 
membership with unity and definiteness of aim, thus the 
Niagara Movement was limited to educated professional and 
business persons. The organization's declaration of principles 
made it clear that what it sought was political, social, and 
civil equality tor the race. In 1906 the Niagara Movement 
met at Fiarper's Ferry, at Boston in 1907, and Oberlin, Ohio 
in 1908. The next year it merged with the NAACP, which 
was incorporated in 1911. 

Angered and aroused by the attack which the Monroe 
Trotter - DuBois leadership was making against his efforts, 


Booker Washington resurrected in 1906 the old Afro- American 
Council. This organization had been started in 1890 and led 
by T. Thomas Fortune, J. C. Price, and Washington as a sort 
of Republican National Negro Committee. Washington now- 
hoped to use it to make statements to the nation on race rela- 
tions which would mitigate the often harsh, uncompromising, 
and bitter ones emanating from DuBois, Trotter, and their 
following. Opposition to the Booker T. Washington "machine" 
and its program of compromise were vital factors in producing 
the Niagara Movement. Striking also is the fact that this move- 
ment was. in a number of ways, a prototype of the NAACP. 

Included with DuBois in founding the NAACP were such 
outstanding persons as Mary W. Ovington, Ida Wells-Barnett, 
Francis J. Grimke, Oswald Garrison Villard, John Dewey, Lin- 
coln Steftens, William Dean Howells, Stephen S. Wise, and 
William £. Walling. Both DuBois and Lincoln Steftens were 
outstanding "Muckrakers," and the presence of other journal- 
ists and writers as Walling, Villard, and Howells reveals that 
the NAACP was a characteristic product of the Progressive 
Movement which flourished under Presidents Roosevelt, Taft, 
and Wilson. The interracial character of this organization also 
reflects another general fact about the Progressive Movement, 
that is, it was not strictly a class or sectional movement. As 
first Director of Publicity and Research, and founder and long- 
time editor of its journal, the Crisis, Dr. DuBois was a key 
figure in the growth and success of this organization. 

I'rom its beginning the NAACP has been thoroughly of 
the American tradition. Indeed, by its emphasis on legal action 
to abolish segregation and discrimination this organization is 
based on the very heart of the American tradition. Also, the 
NAACP has never been hostile to labor or capitalism, has re- 
fused to be drawn into politics, hence, among other things, has 
never found itself arrayed against the foreign policy of the 
United States. Partly because of its deep rooted Americanism, 
the NAACP has found itself severely criticized by Commun- 
ists, who have felt that it was "bourgeois" and too conserva- 
tive. As odd as it sometiines may seem, Com.m.unists have 
charged repeatedly that the NAACP leadership was Uncle 


Tomish and selling the cause of the Afro-American down the 

Led by Arthur and Joel Spingarn, by 1923 the legal de- 
fense committee of the NAACP had won three important de- 
cisions. In the 1915 case of Gniun vs. the United States, the 
Supreme Court ruled the "grandfathers clause" to be uncon- 
stitutional, two years later in Buchciuan is. Warley, the Court 
declared that city ordinances requiring compulsory residential 
segregation of the races are unconstitutional, and in 1923, in 
Moore vs. Deiiipsey the Court reversed for the first time a 
state murder conviction on the ground that Negroes had been 
systematically excluded from the jury. 

This organization has summed up its raison d'etre as fol- 
lows: "The NAACP exists to defend the full civil, legal, poHti- 
cal rights of . . . colored Americans and to obtain for them 
full equality of opportunity with all other citizens. To m^ake 
[colored Americans] physically free from lynchings, mob vio- 
lence and peonage; mentally free from enforced ignorance; 
politically free from being held voteless; and socially free from 

The NAACP has represented the most advanced thought 
of the race. It was supported at first largely by the educated 
urban Negro, but others supported financially while often 
thinking it either too conservative or too radical. As recent as 
1934 the NAACP was largely middle-class dominated. Of its 
composition at that time, Wilson Record has observed "few 
lower-class Negroes — laborers and sharecroppers — participated 
in its activtiies. Even after several years of depression the 
'talented tenth' psychology was still dominant within the 
NAACP leadership. This make-up was reflected in its pro- 
gram."" As to why he supported the NAACP for more than 
a quarter of a century, Benjamin Mays, long-time president 
of Morehouse College, stated in 195 5: "I support it because as a 
decent, law-abiding citizen, I am entitled to respect and the 
protection of the law which the Federal Constitution guaran- 
tees to me. The NAACP uses the machinery of the Constitution 
and the courts to help me achieve the status of man."*^" A num- 
ber of Afro-Americans have looked behind the front-line lead- 
ership of W. E. B. DuBois and Walter White to give much of 


the credit for the organization's success to such expert legal 
minds as those of Thurgood Marshall, Charles Houston, Wil- 
liam Hastie, Leon Ransom, and Spottswood Robinson, and 
others.'' Walter White, descendant of the Atlanta, Georgia 
aristocracy, at the age of 13 was shocked at seeing bloody 
scenes of tha-t city's race riot of 1906. These scenes made an 
indelible impression on his mind. After he became head of the 
NAACP in 1934, posing as a poor white, W^alter White inves- 
tigated first-hand over two-score lynchings and served as a 
chief spokesman for that organization and his race until he 
died in 195 5. 

Founded in 1910, a portion of the platform of The Crisis 

The object of this publication is to set forth 
those facts and arguments which show the danger of 
race prejudice, particularly as manifested today tow- 
ard colored people. It takes its name from the fact 
that the editors believe that this is a critical time In 
the history of the advancement of men. Catholicity 
and tolerance, reason and forbearance can today make 
the world-old dream of human brotherhood approach 
realization. . . . The magazine will be the organ of 
no clique or party and will avoid personal rancor of 
all sorts. In the absence of proof to the contrary it 
will assume honesty of purpose on the part of all 
men. North and South, white and black. ^* 
By 1918 the monthly circulation of this journal had reached 
over one hundred thousand copies. Indicative of his conscious- 
ness of and resentment at the Booker T. Washington philoso- 
phy, DuBois at that time contended that The Crisis had placed 
before the country "a clear-cut statement of the legitimate 
aims of the American Negro. """" DuBois conceived of this as 
a "high class" journal ''for the nine million American Negroes 
and — for the whole Negro world," which would ''tell them 
of the deeds of themselves and their neighbors, interpret the 
news of the world to them, and inspire them toward definite 

Of the NAACP, Garveyism, and other movements evident 
among early twentieth century Afro-Americans, in 192 5 Locke 
wrote : 


Each generation, however, will have its creed, and 
that of the present is the belief in the efficacy of col- 
lective effort, in race co-operation. This deep feeling 
of race is at present the mainspring of Negro life. It 
seems to be the outcome of the reaction to proscrip- 
tion and prejudice; an attempt, fairly successful on 
the whole, to convert a defensive into an offensive 
position, a handicap into an incentive. It is radical in 
tone, but not in purpose and only the most stupid 
forms of opposition, misunderstanding or* persecution 
could make it otherwise. Of course, the thinking 
Negro has shifted a little toward the left with the 
world-trend, and there is an increasing group who 
affiliate with radical and liberal movement. But fun- 
damentally for the present the Negro is radical on 
race matters, conservative on others, in other words, 
a 'forced radical,' a social protestant rather than a 
genuine radical.*^' 

By the 1950's not only were Afro-Americans taking great 
pride in such things as the rise of Asia and Africa's colored 
population abroad, but also in the growing recognition being 
given the importance of their ballot and considerable purchas- 
ing power at home. Almost every local, state, and federal elec- 
tion served as repeated boosts to their egos as they could see 
that in such cities as Chicago, New York, Detroit, and Phila- 
delphia, as well as in several states, the Negro sometimes held 
in close elections the balance of political power. By 195 5 so 
optimistic and encouraged were some persons about the pro- 
gress of their race, that they believed that 1963, the one hun- 
dredth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, would 
find their race in the "promised land" of full citizenship. 
Others, not so optimistic, set the year 2000 as a target date. 
When in 1957 colored ministers throughout the South organized 
the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and set a drive 
to get more Negroes into the status of registered voters, and 
to begin credit unions in their churches, the movement was 
launched with considerable enthusiasm and optimism. Yet in 
the May 9, 19 59 issue of the Fittsburgb Courier, George S. 
Schuyler, while praising the objects of the movement, ques- 
tioned whether it had not "petered out." Schuyler was still 


voicing his long-held conviction that the credit union and 
similar ideas designed to give the race greater economic inde- 
pendence and security were of far more importance than the 
vote drive or the 1959 student's "March-on-Washington idiocy 
and the phoney issue of New York's segregated schools." Yet 
when in 1960 a wave of student sit-down demonstrations at 
segregated lunch counters swept the South and nation the SCLC 
appeared to be working with the Congress of Racial Equality 
which had very dramatically and effectively joined the anti- 
segregation movement. 

By 1960 Afro-American spokesmen were at times critical 
of their group for the apathy which led members of the race 
to fail to take advantage of privileges already won and readily 
available. In those southern cities and rural areas where no 
bars to Negro voting existed, a vast number of Negroes, due 
to ignorance, indolence, or the feeling, "One Negro's vote 
doesn't count!," failed to register to vote. In such an outstand- 
ing southern city as New Orleans, Louisiana, although most of 
the eligible Negro voters were unregistered, by 1960 Negro 
fraternities, sororities, ministers, and other "leaders" had made 
no concerted attack on the problem. Less noticeable, but also 
signihcant, was the continuing failure of Negro college teach- 
ers to attend national and regional meetings of scholarly socie- 
ties. Although no bars existed few could be seen at the meetings 
of The National Council for the Social Studies, American His- 
torical Association, and similar organizations, and it seemed to 
be increasingly evident that legal desegregation was a first step 

Chapter XVII 


An important aspect of the political and general intellec- 
tual history of the United States is the attitudes which Negro 
Americans have held toward various occupants of the presi- 
dency. Since a fair-sized volume probably could be written on 
the subject, the following resume provides only a sketch of the 
"mind of the Negro" in this regards. Perhaps a larger study 
ought to include a rather thorough opinion poll of Negroes, 
a poll designed to get at their attitudes toward the beliefs and 
feelings about each of the presidents. Certainly for the present 
century any thorough study of Negro attitudes toward various 
presidents would have to include a more thorough analysis of 
the voting record than is herein attempted. 

Presidents Before UGO 
Of the first three pi'esidents, Negro Americans have paid 
scant attention to John Adams, while showing ambivalence of 
attitude and feeling toward George Washington and Thomas 
Jefferson. Because Washington and Jefferson were slave-holders 
and held some biased views about Negroes highly similar to 
those of Abraham Lincoln, these two men have not been quite 
the heroes to some Negroes that they have been to white Ameri- 
cans, Perhaps because he v/as a slave-holder and made no vigo- 
rous defense of Negro rights, the same is true even of the 
"leveler" Andrew Jackson. Herein can be discerned the fact 
that, so much can slavery, prejudice and discrimination narrow 
the view of a people; Negro Americans have been obsessed with 
race to such an extent that many have tended to base their 
estimation of presidents on the latter's publicized position or 
lack of position on the "race question." That this is not wholly 
true, however, is seen in the fact that while Jefferson the 
slave-holder has been somewhat of a villain in Negro thought, 
Jefferson — author of the Declaration of Independence and the 
anti-slavery clause of the Northwest Ordinance, acquaintance 



of Benjamin Banneker and great friend of education — has been 
a hero in Negro thought. Too, although they criticized Wash- 
ington and Jefferson for being slave-holders, Negro abolition- 
ists often referred to both along with Benjamin Franklin, 
Anthony Benezet, and John Woolman as friends of freedom 
among the colonial leaders. 

After comparing Jefferson's authorship of the Declaration 
of Independence with the reminder that, after penning this 
dociunent Jefferson remained a slave-holder for fifty years, 
southern born and Harvard trained Archibald Grimke de- 

This inconsistency between the man's magnifi- 
cence in profession and his smallness in practice, be- 
tween the grandeur of what he promised and the 
meanness of what he performed, taken in conjunction 
with his cool unconsciousness of the discrepancy, is 
essentially and emphatically an American trait, a na- 
tional idiosyncrasy.^ 

Grimke leveled the same criticism against George Washington 
because this president owned over two hundred slaves and 
willed that they be manumitted only after his wife's death. 
Of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, 
Grimke; stated: 

The muse of history, dipping her iron pen in the 
generous blood of the Negro, has written large across 
the page of that Preamble, and the face of the Dec- 
laration of Independence, the words, 'sham, hypoc- 

From the Declaration of Independence, Afro-Americans 
have focussed their attention niainly on the words — "We hold 
these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal; 
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalien- 
able rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit 
of happiness." 

Not only has the fact that a number of the presidents of 
the ante-bellum era were slaveholders interested Negroes great- 
ly, but there has been considerable speculation to the effect that 
a number of those who were slave-holders sired illegitimate 


off-spring by their slave women. In Clotd, or The President's 
Daughter, the first, novel penned by a Negro American, Wil- 
liam Wells Brown related the trials and tribulations of a mu- 
latto girl who was presented as the illegitimate off-spring of 
Thomas Jefferson. ' Similar rumors have been levelled at other 

In addition to the Declaration of Independence, as would 
be expected, Washington and Jefferson have been closely as- 
sociated in Negro thought with the Revolutionary War and the 
United States Constitution.^ William Cooper Nell, William 
Wells Brown, George Washington Williams and other early 
Negro historians, as well as more recent writers in this area, 
were very much interested in revealing the wide participation 
of Negro soldiers in the Revolutionary War, as well as that the 
first colonial to pour out his life's blood in the struggle against 
Britain was Crispus Attucks, a Negro. "^ Approximately 5,000 
Negroes fought with the colonists in the Revolutionary War, 
in almost every capacity in almost every battle, on land and sea, 
and were integrated with the white troops. Doubtless the man- 
ner in which both sides made strong bids for the services of 
the bondsmen, with each promising them freedom, served to 
heighten the Negro's sense of importance and to make the 
promise of freedom seem more certain. The literate progeny 
of these troops have shown keen cognizance of, and pride in, 
such facts as these, and Negro historians generally have criti- 
cized Washington for his early reluctance to use colored troops. 
Too, these scholars and other Negro spokesmen have compared, 
with some cynicism and bitterness, the exalted liberal protes- 
tations of the Revolutionary War era with the nation's failure 
to follow this with a quick end to the institution of slaverv. 
"There are too many young men being flogged as slaves," 
Charles Lenox Remond declared in 1841, "whose father receives 
a pension for his services in the Revolutionary War.'"* 

Perhaps the high hopes of Negroes can be accounted for 
partially in such a fact as that, due lairgely to the post-war 
liberalism, there was a rapid increase of the free Negro popu- 
lation between 1790 and 1830. While the first census showed 
59,000 free Negroes in the country, that of 1830 showed 


319,000. Too, at the beginning of the war in 1775 the Quakers 
had organized the nation's first anti-slavery society, and after 
the war there was a great increase of abohtionist sentiment, 
with such leaders as Benjamin Franklin, Theodore Dwight, 
Noah Webster, and Benjamin Rush taking pronounced stands 
against the institution. The liberal trend of the times is also 
evidenced in the increase of rights, privileges, and opportunities 
granted free Negroes during and immediately following the 
war. In some states, these rights already had been substantial 
throughout the colonial period, and were to increase until after 
1S31 when they were to decline greatly as, for all elements in 
the national populace, democracy was dramatically eclipsed in 
the 1830-60 period. 

By setting up a government whose continuance depended 
greatly on compromise, the Founding Fathers unwittingly gave 
to slavery a longer life for it soon became clear that in their 
devotion to the cause of the union the nation's leaders would 
extend the principle of compromise even to freedom itself. 
But if the nation-at-large had not held freedom and democracy 
in such high esteem, the black man probably would not have 
resented slavery so deeply. Negroes have been highly critical 
of the Founding Fathers for not using the occasion of the 1787 
convention to rid the nation of slavery. As recent as the second 
decade of the twentieth century, one student of Negro history 
would say of the Founding Fathers: 

If the children's teeth today are set on edge on 
the Negro question, it is because the fathers ate the 
sour grapes of race-wrong, ate those miserable grapes 
during their whole life, and dying, transmitted their 
taste for oppression, as a bitter inheritance to their 
children, and children's children, for God knows how 
many black years to come.'^ 

This is a sentiment which Archibald Grimke, George Washing- 
ton Williams, W. E. B. Du Bois and numerous other Negroes 
have expressed.' Until the end of the Civil War. Negroes en- 
gaged in a lively debate as to whether the Constitution was a 
pro- or anti-slavery document. Typical of the latter sentiment 
were the following statements by Frederick Douglass and James 


Forten. In a speech delivered July 5, 1852 at Rochester, New 

York, Douglass said of the Constitution: 

In that instrument I hold there is neither warrant, 
license, nor sanction of (slavery) ; but interpreted, 
as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a 
glorious liberty document. Read its preamble, con- 
sider its purposes. Is slavery among them? . . . What 
would be thought of an instrument drawn up . . . 
for the purpose of entitling the city of Rochester 
to a tract of land, in which no mention of land was 

Forten opined: 

It cannot be that the authors of our Constitution in- 
tended to exclude us from its benefits, for just emerg- 
ing from unjust and cruel emancipation, their souls 
were too much affected with their own deprivations 
to commence the reign of terror over others. . . . 
They felt that they had no more authority to enslave 
us, than England had to tyrannize over them. . . . 
Actuated by these sentiments they adopted the glori- 
ous fabric of our liberties, and declaring 'all men' 
free, they did not particularize white and black, be- 
cause they never supposed it would be made a 
question whether we ivere men or not.^^ 

In contrary vein, at an 18 51 state convention of Ohio Negroes 
Charles H. Langston agreed with H. Ford Douglass that the 
Constitution was a pro-slavery document." Robert Purvis, 
Henry Highland Garnet, and C. L, Remond are among the 
Negro abolitionists who held similar views. 

Like John Adams, the three presidents James Madison, 
James Monroe, and John Quincy Adams have held little unique 
significance in Negro thought. Perhaps surprisingly, in view 
of the nullification controversy and the common-man emphasis 
associated with his name, about the only special interest which 
Negroes have shown in Andrew Jackson has been to refer re- 
peatedly to the remarks of praise which he made about the 
Negro troops who fought under him at New Orleans. Also 
because of their lack of publicized position on the race ques- 
tion, or because they were not directly involved in any special 
and dramatic controversies in this area, Martin Van Buren, 


William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James K. Polk, Zachary 
Taylor, Millard Filmore, and Franklin Pierce have been of 
slight unique consequence in Negro thought. It seems some- 
what curious that, despite the prominence of the slavery issue 
in the Missouri Compromise and Texan and Mexican War 
questions, this generalization applies also to John Quincy Adams 
and James K. Polk. Perhaps this, and the consideration that 
even James Buchanan is only slightlv prominent, as a villain, in 
Negro thought, are due in part to the fact that throughout 
the 1830-1861 period the role of the nation's chief executive 
vh-a-ih the slavery issue was often eclipsed by dramatic inci- 
dents involving abolitionists and their opponents in and out 
of congress. Throughout this period no man stood to be elected 
to the presidency who was closely identified with either of 
these two extreme camps, and when elected, to protect their 
own and their party's chances in subsequent elections, where 
possible the presidents usually avoided strong stands on the 
slavery issue. This was an age of compromise on the "race 

Abraham Lincoln 
The name of no president of the United States is as dear 
to Negro Americans as that of Abraham Lincoln. Not only the 
Emancipation Proclamation, but even his poverty-stricken 
childhood and sad and homely face served to endear Lincoln 
to the hearts of black men who, often looking upon themselves 
as belonging to an ugly-duckling race, saw a kinship with 
Lincoln in this regard.'' Afro- Americans felt a kinship with 
Lincoln, too, because, like themselves, he was "a man of sor- 
row and acquainted with grief.'" ' Yet, as the following survey 
indicates, Afro-Americans have not been unanimous in their 
feelings about and estimation of the Great Emancipator. 

Today a great enigma and object of considerable myth to 
many persons, Lincoln has been accused of having been every- 
thing from a "nigger lover" of the "stripe" of Thaddeus 
Stevens and Charles Sumner, to a person who was anti-Negro. 
As with so many extreme views which his era has produced, 
no doubt the truth about Lincoln's attitude and feelings toward 
Negroes lies somewhere between these two antithetical views. 


That he beheved all people, of whatever creed or hue, to be 
entitled to freedom there can be little doubt. Furthermore, he 
believed that the basic political ideas on which the nation was 
founded, as well as the tenets of the Christian religion, sup- 
ported his views on the matter. Because he believed, however, 
that physical appearances, innate and cultural differences, and 
stubborn human prejudices would always produce racial strife 
and friction, Lincoln supported various plans to colonize the 
Negro outside the United States. When in April, 1862 the slaves 
of the District ol Columbia were emancipated, the bill bring- 
ing this about provided funds to aid in colonizing any freed- 
men who might wish to emigrate. In his second annual mes- 
sage to congress Lincoln reported that many Negroes had made 
requests to be colonized outside the United States. Earlier he 
had asked Negro leaders to support his colonization plan. Lin- 
coln consistently opposed compulsory colonization, however, 
and was always polite and courteous to colored delegations and 
petitioners who opposed his colonization plans. 

In his feelings that the nation would be best off with an 
all-white population, Lincoln is reminiscent somewhat of the 
one hundred percentism, ever a part of intense nationalism 
which saw sixteenth century Spain expel the Moors, Louis XIV 
revoke the Edict of Nantes and persecute Jansenists in the 
seventeenth century, and Adolf Hitler's twentieth century 
purge of the Jews. Of course, unlike the latter, Lincoln had 
no base ulterior motive in this lily-whiteism. In his failure to 
comprehend the manner in which cultural differences between 
racial groups may be made to disappear, Lincoln failed to an- 
ticipate the twentieth century faith in, and possibilities of, 
social engineering. Yet, in his recognition of the persistent trou- 
ble which color prejudice could cause the nation, time has 
proven him an excellent prophet. 

In 1862 Philadelphia Negroes sent to President Lincoln a 
petition against his plan to colonize the race outside the United 
States. After excoriating slaveholders, tbis statement averred, 
"We believe that the world would be benefited by giving the 
four million slaves their freedom, and the lands now possessed 
by the blood of our kinsmen. These masters 'toil not, neither 
do they spin.' They destroy, they consume, and give to the 


world in return but a small equivalent.'"^ Although, as Miles 
Mark Fisher has shown, slaves of the 1820-1860 period were 
greatly agitated in favor of the movement to colonize Negroes, 
in general free Negroes, strongly resisted the movement.^" 

Despite Lincoln's view to the contrary, during the war 
Negro leaders fought for more than giving the franchise to 
literate Negroes only. They wanted the principle of universal 
manhood suffrage applied to their group. As 1864 was a presi- 
dential election year, political action was a dominant concern. 
The National Coiivention of Negroes, held that year at Syra- 
cuse, New York, had 144 delegates with approximately one- 
half of the southern states represented. This body asserted its 
faith that Negroes would scon be accorded the "full measure 
of citizenship." Yet the delegates revealed a considerable fear 
that the South might be accepted back into the Union and 
allowed to keep slavery. They alluded to the 1787 Constitu- 
tional Convention when slaverv was under fire from those v/ho 
then wished its termination, but it managed to survive and 
spread. Referring to the two major p:irties, the delegates de- 
clared that while the Democratic party "is our bitterest enemy, 
and positively and actively reactionary, the Republican Party 
is negatively and passively so m its tendency.'"" 

Because of his reluctance to accept Negro troops, devotion 
to colonization, and hesitation in issuing an emancipation proc- 
lamation, early in the war Negroes had regarded Lincoln as a 
questionable friend. Yet, whenever he presented himself before 
Afro-Americans during the war, they shouted themselves 
hoarse in praise of his devotion to "their" cause, for they knew 
that, whatever his shortcomings, he was against slavery. In a 
speech which is quoted in The Liberator of February 14, 1862, 
John S. Rock, noted abolitionist, said: "While Mr. Lincoln has 
been more conservative than I had hoped to find him, I recog- 
nize in him an honest man, striving to redeem the country 
from the degradation and shame into which Mr. Buchanan 
and his predecessors have plunged it." This sentiment was gen- 
eral among Negro abolitionists of the day. 

Bondsmen regarded Lincoln as the long-awaited Moses 
whom God had promised would lead them out of bondage. 


Throughout the war they prayed for his success. "Indulgent 
father," prayed one Negro, "we thank Thee that Thou didst 
ever make a Linkum. O spare his hfe and bless our Union 
anny."^' One ex-slave reported, "I never seed Mr. Lincoln, but 
they told me 'bout him; I thought he was partly God.'"" An- 
other ex-slave declared that he was a first cousin of Abraham 
Lincoln. "Him and my father was first cousins .... My 
father was a Mudd. Abe Lincoln and him was brother and 
sisters children.""' During the Civil War at least one slave 
mother named her baby "Lincoln.'"" 

Just before midnight, December 31, 1862 the Emancipa- 
tion Proclamation was issued. This document prompted Julia 
Ward Howe to see "the glory of the coming of the Lord," and 
fired the determination of the Union troops to new heights. 
Probably the masses of Negroes, still in the Confederate South, 
were days later in receiving news of the official act. But for 
those who resided in Union territory, the moment was eagerly 
awaited. Frederick Douglass states that in Boston, Massachu- 
setts a crowd gathered in Tremont Temple to await the news. 
There was considerable doubt in the minds of the group that 
the President would go through with his announced plan to 
issue the proclamation. "We were waiting and listening as for 
a bolt from the sky, which would rend the fetters of four 
millions of slaves," Douglass stated. "We were watching as it 
were, by the dim light of the stars for the dawn of a new day." 
Douglass called the proclamation "the immortal paper, which 
though special in its languages, was general in its principles and 
effect, making slavery forever impossible in the United States,""' 
and declared that in their happiness at the issuance of the proc- 
lamation, "We forgot all delay, and forgot all tardiness, forgot 
that the President had bribed the rebels to lay down their arms 
by a promise to withhold the bolt which would smite the slave- 
system with destruction.""^ The Negro ever has been aware of 
the tremendous amount of hate from all sides that was levelled 
at Lincoln, and generally the Negro has been sympathetic and 
has understood. 

The dreary rainy morning that Lincoln passed from this 
world on the top floor of a Washington rooming house found 


a multitude of ex-bondsmen gathered across the street weeping 
as though their hearts would break. Of all the people around 
the dying President, Gideon Welles said of this crowd of ex- 
bondsmen — "Their hopeless grief affected me more than any- 
thing else." Only the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and re- 
action to the procession >vhich carried his body from Georgia 
northward, elicited anything like this sorrow over the passing 
of an American president. Many Negroes feared that the assas- 
sination of Lincoln meant that their protector was gone and 
they would be pushed back into slavery. Frederick Douglass 
called his assassination "the crowning crime of slavery ... a 
new crime, a pure acp of malice.""' "It was," he averred, "the 
simple gratitification of a hell-black spirit of revenge." To Afro- 
Americans John Wilkes Booth is one of history's archfiends 
and assassins."^ 

In 1876, on the occasion of the unveiling of the Freedmen's 
Monument to Lincoln, in Washington, D. C., Douglass stated: 

It must be admitted, truth compels me to ad- 
mit, . . . Abraham Lincoln was not, in the fullest 
sense of the word, either our man or our model. In 
his interest, in his associations, in his habits of 
thought, and in his prejudices, he was a white man. 

He was preeminently the white man's President, 
entirely devoted to the welfare of the white man. Ffe 
was ready and willing at any time during the first 
years of his administration to deny, postpone, and 
sacrifice the rights of humanity in the colored people 
to promote the welfare of the white people of this 
country. "'^ 

"The race to which we belong," Douglass stated, "v/ere 
not the special objects of his consideration." To the whites 
present, Douglass said: "You are the children of Abraham 
Lincoln. We are at best his stepchild; children by adoption, 
children by force of circumstances and necessity." Yet Doug- 
lass could declare of his race that during the war years — "Our 
faith in him was often taxed and strained to the uttermost, 
but it never failed. . . . We were at times grieved, stunned, 
and greatly bewildered; but our hearts believed while they 
ached and bled." This faith in Lincoln was possible, he said. 


because the Negro was able through it all "to make reasonable 
allowance for the circumstances of his position." Thus: 
By a broad survey, in the light of the stern logic of 
great events, and in view of that divinity which 
shapes our ends, rough hew them how we will, we 
came to the conclusion that the hour and the man of 
our redemption had somehow met in the person of 

Abraham Lincoln It was enough for us that 

Abraham Lincoln was at the head of a great move- 
ment, which, in the nature of things, must go on un- 
til slavery should be utterly and forever abolished in 
the United States."" 
Douglass admitted that for Lincoln to have been radically anti- 
slavery would havo driven too many Americans from him and 
killed all chance of success in his effort to save the Union and 
contain slavery. "Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, 
Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but 
measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he 
was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, 
radical, and determined.""' Douglass ended by calling Lincoln 
"our friend and liberator."""" 

Although Frederick Douglass critized Lincoln for seem- 
ingly putting every other consideration before the immediate 
interests of the Negro race, M. C. B. Mason did not feel that 
Lincoln's tactics revealed any real disinterest in the Negro race. 
Mason quoted Lincoln's famed statement to Horace Greeley — 
"If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would 
do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would 
do it; and if I could do it by freeing some and by leaving 
others, I would also do that." Of this statement, Mason declared: 
Here was statesmanship of an unusual order. Lincoln 
knew that the one great central idea around which all 
the patriotism of the North might in the end declare 
allegiance, was the preservation of the Union. This 
secured, slavery in the very nature of the case would 
be ultimately abolished. 
In defense of their claim that he was against slavery, numerous 
Negro orators have quoted Lincoln's statement — "If slavery is 
not wrong, nothing is wrong. "^'" Again differing with Douglass' 
view that Lincoln was not sincerely against slaver]-. Bishop 


Alexander Walters stated that, "A careful study of this sin- 
cere, just and sympathetic man will serve to show that from 
his earliest years he was against slavery."'^ The bishop suppcited 
his position with numerous references to anti-slavery statements 
and opinions given by Lincoln between 1839 and 1861, and 
concluded that Lincoln was "a giant in intellect, a peerless dip- 
lomat, a fearless advocate of the rights of humanity and a wise 
ruler."' With several other Afro- Americans, Bishop Walters 
felt that Lincoln not only freed the Negro but the nation as 
well, and he felt that this justified calling him "the savior of 
his country, the Emancipator of its people.""' 

As indicated, since his death numerous Negro orators and 
poets have extolled Lincoln's virtues, and some would ascribe 
to him benign motives and feelings which he never had. These 
latter persons would sometimes become convinced that Lincoln 
backed their race's freedom, not so much because of his con- 
victions about human rights as because of his faith in the ability 
of Negroes to prove their right to equality of treatment and 
opportunity. Thus it is that in his "To Our Boys," written 
in the 1920's, the Poet L'vin W. Underbill would exhort col- 
ored youth to — 

Come out and face life's problem, 

boys, With faith and courage 
too, and justify that wondrous 

faith, Abe Lincoln had in you. 

In their thoughts about Lincoln since 1865 many Negroes have 
been concerned with the question of whether the race has 
justified its emancipation. The answer has been a rather unani- 
mous "Yes." At a 1916 memorial meeting in New York hon- 
oring Booker T. Washington, Robert Russa Moton declared: 
"Booker T. Washington's life and work would have alone jus- 
tified Abraham Lincoln's ideas and actions regarding em.anci- 
pation."'^^ Speaking on the occasion of the 100th anniversary 
of Lincoln's birth, M. C. B. Mason asked Afro-Americans: 

What is the lesson he leaves us? To be honest, indus- 
trious and true, to be useful and intelligent citizens, 
to make ourselves absolutely necessary to the life of 
every community in which we live, to acquire prop- 
erty and lands, td keep out of the saloon, out of the 


police courts, to be sober, industrious, to be patient, 
to be bold, to endure and to be in our virtuous lives a 
standing argument for the wisdom of his action by 
which our liberty was secured."" 

In the 1920's, Edward Smythe Jones, poverty-stricken 
southern-reared Negro boy who wrote a poem to free himself 
from jail in Cambridge, Massachusetts, would pen as one of 
his best creations, "The Sylvan Cabin: A Centenary Ode on 
the Birth of Abraham Lincoln." In the same period, in his poem 
"Daybreak," George Marion McClellan would show an aware- 
ness that while Lincoln "gave" the race a first emancipation, 
another was needed which could come only from within the race. 

Presidents Since 186) 

Negro historians have had few kind words and little sym- 
pathy for Andrew Johnson. Perhaps the most vigorous attack 
on Johnson's personality, views, and acts isi to be found in the 
chapter entitled, "The Transubstantiation of A Poor ^^hite" 
in W. E. B. Du Bois' book. Black Reconstrnctioii:'"' The con- 
sensus appears to be among Negro historians and other thinkers 
that Johnson was a traitor to the Lincoln "liberalism" on race, 
hence traitor to the political party which was the Negro's best 

Despite their antipathies toward Andrew Johnson, and 
despite the great military achievement left by U. S. Grant which 
resulted in their freedom, and despite the fact that Radical 
Reconstruction reached its greatest heights during his tenure 
in the presidency. Grant has been neither especial hero nor 
villain in Negro thought. Although they probably would have 
concluded otherwise had he been a zealous crusader for Negro 
rights, apparently Negroes have accepted the general American 
verdict which the scandals and other examples of political in- 
eptness have placed on Grant. 

During his campaign for the presidency, Rutherford B. 
Hayes declared that, if elected — 

Let me assure my countrymen of the Southern States 
that, if I shall be charged with the duty of organizing 
an Administration, it will be one which will regard 
and cherish their truest interests, the interests of the 


white and the colored people, both and equally, and 
which will put forth its best efforts in behalf of a civil 
policy which will wipe out forever the distinction be- 
tween the North and the South in our common 
Although Hayes could well endeavor to "wipe out forever the 
distinction between the North and the South," clearly this 
was as impossible so soon after 1865 as was that other promise 
to "regard and cherish . . . equally . . . the interests of the 
white and the colored people.' Perhaps Hayes and his suc- 
cessors in the presidency to the year 193 3 did not wish to 
side with either southern whites or Negroes on the "race ques- 
tion." Still, it is axiomatic that in a fight between, grossly un- 
even opponents, not to take sides is really to support the stronger 
of the antagonists. The laissez-faire policy followed by presi- 
dents and many liberal whites. North and South, did not elimi- 
nate their weight from the struggle, nor did it eliminate their 
responsibility for the outconie. 

Although Negroes appear to have said little about James 
A. Garfield, Frederick Douglass was a severe critic of Chester 
A. Arthur. Annullment in 1883 of the 1875 Civil Rights z\ct 
by the Supreme Court did nothing to increase his popularity 
with Negroes. T. Thomas Fortune called the court's decision 
a baptism "in ice water," and John Mercer Langston felt that 
it was a "stab in the back." ' 

Disappointment with the Republican party's laissez-faire 
attitude toward the "Negro problem" caused a considerable 
number of Negroes to support Grover Cleveland in the 18 84 
election. Although Cleveland gave assurances that he would 
not seek to undo the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, 
in both of his administrations he, too, followed a policy of 
laissez-faire where the "race problem" was concerned. When 
Cleveland became President-elect, many colored Americans 
voiced concern as to whether the Democrats would be reac- 
tionary on racial matters. Frederick Douglass counselled a wait- 
and-see attitude, aand stated that he had no fears that Demo- 
crats would wish to restore slavery.'*' P. B. S. Pinchback of 
Louisiana approved of Cleveland's election and denied that the 
race would retrogress under his administration. Blanche K. 


Bruce also spoke out to counter the charge that the return of 
Democrats to national power meant an intensification of anti- 
Negroism, Bruce went so far as to assert that "Mr. Blaine's 
charges of intimidation and violence at the polls are entirely 
false.""' In his Inaugural Address, the new President seems to 
have aimed at alleviating some of these fears. To their dismay, 
however, Negroes were soon aware that, on the race issue. 
Cleveland would be true to the federal pattern of the times. 
With many northern whites, Negroes joined in the condemna- 
tion of Cleveland for some of his seemingly pro-southern acts 
such as the veto of the pension bill and the famed Battle Flag 

A temporary reversal of the federal laissez-faire policy on 
the race issue took place during the administration of Benjamin 
Harrison when the Blair bill for federal aid to education and 
the Lodge "Force Bill" became the focal points of the sec- 
tional struggle. After acrimonious debate, during which the 
South raised the cry of "states rights" and the specter of in- 
tensified violence over the race issue, both bills were defeated. 
To T. Thomas Fortune defeat of the Force Bill constituted Re- 
publican "treachery."^" 

"The last decade of the nineteenth century and the open- 
ing of the twentieth century," states Rayford W. Logan, 
"marked the nadir of the Negro's status in American society."*'' 
Logan asserts that "The nadir was reached, however, not . . . 
because of lack of attention (to the Negro's plight, but) pre- 
cisely because of the efforts made to improve it."''" Logan be- 
lieves that the seeming militancy of President Harrison's first 
annual message to congress, defeat of the Republican-backed 
civil rights legislation, and the resultant southern counter-at- 
tack helped to bring about the nadir.*' Logan ably has shown 
that, in general, the northern press of the 1876-1900 period 
approved of and supported the retreat from defense of equal 
citizenship rights for the Negro. Even such periodicals as 
Allaiitic Monthly, Harpers, and Scribner's, he declares, often 
yielded to the common temptation to caricature, stereotype, 
and ridicule Negroes. Too, this historian feels that the "let's be 
friends" pronouncements toward the South made by the presi- 
dents of this period probably encouraged the southern states to 


adopt and pass their disfranchising and discriminating consti- 
tutions and laws of the era. Especially is he condemnatory of 
President McKinley for not speaking out against the Louisiana 
adoption of the Grandfather Clause and against the Wilming- 
ton, North Carolina race riot. 

At the beginning of his term, President McKinley had 
voiced the sentiment of most presidents since 1876. McKinley 

It will be my constant aim to do nothing, and permit 
nothing to be done, that will arrest or disturb this 
growing sentiment of unity and cooperation (between 
the sections), this revival of esteem and affiliation 
which now animates so many thousands in both the 
old antagonistic sections, but I shall cheerfully do 
everything possible to promote and increase it.*^ 

W. E. B. Du Bois was active in the Anti-Imperialist League 
which had supported Bryan against McKinley.'" With other 
groups, Massachusetts Negroes spoke out in petition in 1899 on 
McKinley's failure to take a stand in defense of the rights of 
colored Americans.*'' 

Only a few colored troops saw actual combat action in 
the Spanish-American war, but their bravery and gallantry 
received high praise. There were those in both races who claimed 
that the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry units saved the famed Rough 
Riders from certain defeat at Las Guasimas. Even Theodore 
Roosevelt voiced praise for these units. However, in the April, 
1899 issue of Scribuer's Magazine Roosevelt implied that with- 
out white officers, Negroes were poor soldiers. This remark 
angered many persons. 

Colored Americans had some misgivings about the nation's 
designs on Cuba and the Philippines. On this, Lewis H. Doug- 
lass, son of the celebrated abolitionist, wrote: 

It is a sorry, though true, fact that whatever this 
government controls injustice to dark races prevails. 
The people of Cuba, Porto Eaco, Hawaii and Manila 
know it well as do the wronged Indian and outraged 
black man in the United Statees. . . . 

It is hypocrisy of the most sickening kind to try 
to make us believe that the killing of Filipinos is for 


the purpose of good government and to give protec- 
tion to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.*^ 

During Theodore Roosevelt's first term Negroes were con- 
siderably gladdened by his denunciation of lynchings, opposi- 
tion to ' Lily-Whitism," and such incidents as the famous 
luncheon with Booker T . Washington and support of the Negro 
postmistress of Indianola, Mississippi. Despite the criticism of 
some white southerners that he was too pro-Negro, in 1904 
Roosevelt and the Republican party sought to woo colored 
voters. This courtship was short-lived. Most Negro spokesmen 
were strong in their denunciation of the pro-southern flavor 
of Roosevelt's speeches during his 190 5 tour of the South. 
When, for example, in Jacksonville, Florida Roosevelt gave 
voice to the Booker Washington dictum that if Negroes attended 
properly to their duties, their rights would take care of them- 
selves, some Negroes severely denounced the president.^*" Of 
these speeches Rayford Logan states that Roosevelt "outdid 
Booker 1. Washington" and "surpassed Hayes" in playing up 
to the white South. Washington himself was slow to criticize 
the President until Roosevelt's highly unpopular handling of 
Negro soldiers accused of participating in the Brownsville riot, 
and even then most of Washington's efforts were directed tow- 
ard minimizing the animosity which his race felt toward Roose- 
velt, Taft, and the Republican party. ^'' Clearly, during his sec- 
ond term as president Theodore Roosevelt was markedly less 
friendly to the Negro than' he had been during his first term. 

During the early days of his administration, William 
Howard Taft continued the practice of touring the South in 
an effort to foster good relations with the section. As was the 
case with his predecessors, remarks made during his tour, in- 
tended to placate southern whites, did little to endear Negroes 
to the new president. Taft got into further trouble with Ne- 
groes when, in an address at Wilberforce University, Ohio, he 
spoke in favor of segregated education. Although Taft ap- 
pointed the first Negro to a sub-cabinet position, William H. 
Lewis as Assistant Attorney-General, his total number of Negro 
appointments were markedly lower than had been the case with 
Roosevelt, and Taft did not consult Booker Washington on 


patronage as much as Roosevelt had done. During Taft's ad- 
ministration, Negro and white liberals became convinced that 
the federal government had abdicated its responsibilities for 
protecting Negro rights and supporting the economic struggles 
of the freedmen and, among other things, they organized the 
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People 
and the Urban League to effect these ends. Of Taft's devotion 
to American caste, Archibald Grimke stated: "He proved him- 
self a inaster workman in following the lines of caste, in put- 
ting into place a new stone in the edifice." ' 

In 1912 Negroes were still voting largely the Republican 
ticket, and in this election they split their votes between Taft 
and Roosevelt. Very few voted for Woodrow Wilson, and con- 
spicuous among these were a few intellectuals. '^ Previous to this 
date Frederick Douglass had voiced the sentiment of many 
Negroes when he declared that, "The Republican party is the 
ship, all else the sea." By 1912, however, many Negroes were 
sorely disappointed at, among other things, what seemed to 
them Taft's "lily-white" patronage policy. That year Bishop 
Reverdy C. Ransom accused Taft of having abandoned the 
Roosevelt liberalism, and of having remained silent on the 
problem of lynching through his four years in office. The ani- 
mosity of Negroes was not directed at Taft alone, but e\en 
more so at the Republican party for its "do-nothing" attitude 
on the race problem, and a number of intellectuals were con- 
vinced that even Theodore Roosevelt and his Bull Moose party 
were giving their race the cold-shoulder. These men were in- 
clined to be impressed with Woodrow Wilson's scholarly back- 
ground, and felt that he was a new refreshing type of poli- 
tician. This feeling was increased when Wilson wrote Bishop 
Alexander Walters that he wished "to see justice done the 
Negro people in every matter; and not mere grudging justice, 
but justice with liberality and cordial good feeling."'" 

In addition to Bishop Walters, among the outstanding 
Negroes who turned their backs on the Republican party to 
support Wilson were W. E. B. Du Bois and Monroe Trotter, 
both of whom, like Bishop Walter, had supported William 
Jennings Bryan in 1908, and all of whom urged their race not 


to follow any single party blindly and slavishly. While Wilson's 
academic achievements constituted a factor in his support by 
Negro intellectuals, disappointment with the laissez-faire policy 
of the Republicans toward race was probably the most influ- 
ential factor. Although, as president, Wilson did little directly 
on the "race problem" to justify this support, and some of his 
ardent supporters turned to bitter critics, significant events 
occurred during his two terms to elevate the faith of Negroes. 
One such event came in 1915 when the Supreme Court declared 
the Oklahoma Grandfather Clause unconstitutional. It was not 
long after his election, however, that Negroes had become con- 
vinced that on the race issue the President's southern back- 
ground might be showing. They resented particularly his 
markedly fewer federal appointments than had been the case 
with Roosevelt and Taft, and his devotion to the cause of main- 
taining segregation in the nation's capital. Great disappoint- 
ment with Wilson filled many Negroes with bitterness and dis- 
may. In a letter to Walter L. Cohen of Louisiana Emmett J. 
Scott revealed this mood, "The truth of the matter is," said 
Scott late in 1916, "both you and I have proved to our own 
satisfaction, that there is nothing in politics of a substantial 
character for the black man."" It is widely believed that in 
1916 most Negro voters supported the Republican candidate 
Charles Evans Hughes. '* 

Like the Spanish-American War and the later World War 
II, World War I had sharply focused attention on the plight 
of colored colonials, and quickened the desire for freedom and 
a better material life in India, the Indies, Africa, and the 
world over. Thus, more Americans came to view the domestic 
race problem as part of an international one. As the Afro- 
American became more aware of the millions of humankind 
elsewhere who were segregated, discriminated against, and 
lynched, he felt less lonely in his own degradation and more 
hopeful for an early end to practice of the white supremacy 
doctrine. As with the rest of the nation, Woodrow Wilson 
loomed large in the picture of a better deal which this war 
stirred in the mind of the Negro. Afterwards, when the post- 
war reaction made them special objects of renewed and intensi- 
fied lynchings, riots, and other forms of oppression, they often 


were to contrast the lofty idealism with the bitter reality which 
ensued. As in the 1820-1860 era anc| in the period since 1876, 
the 1920's saw the occupants of the presidency again deeming 
it wise to maintain a hands-off policy on the race question, and 
Negro Americans again felt considerable disappointment and 
bitterness at the occupants of the presidency for not using the 
power and prestige of the office directly to improve race rela- 
tions and to help lift their group to a higher economic and 
cultural level. Contrasting in 1922 the high hopes with which 
Negroes had entered the war with their disillusionment after- 
wards, Mordecai W. Johnson referred to the postwar slander, 
abuse, and lynchings. Then he added: 

From those terrible days until this day the Ne- 
gro's faith in the righteous purpose of the Federal 
Government has sagged. Some have laid the blame on 
the parties in power. Some have laid it elsewhere. But 
all the colored people, in every section of the United 
States, believe that there is something wrong, and not 
accidentally wrong, at the very heart of the Govern- 
ment. '' 

Negro voters supported Warren G. Harding almost solidly 
in the election of 1920, but the disaffection was soon to come. 
In a speech delivered at Birmingham, Alabama, October 26, 
1921 President Harding appeared to agree with the separate- 
but-equal doctrine. For this the Boston Guardian, most militant 
Negro paper of the day, tore into the new president. Writing 
for this paper, William A. St. Clair accused the President of 
catering to the whims of southern whites and averred thtit the 
speech was "fraught with the most dangerous, pernicious, de- 
structive snd hell-born doctrines that have ever been uttered 
in the fifty years of our development, not only by a, president 
of the United States, but by any responsible Cabinet A4inister." '' 
Kelly Miller and W. E. B. Du Bois were also in the forefront 
among critics of the President's speech. Among other things, 
a number of spokesmen felt that the President's thinking was 
objectionable when he said in the speech, "There is a funda- 
mental, eternal and inescapable diflference between the Negro 
and the white man." Yet, Robert Russa Moton along with 
Walter Cohen, Perry Floward, R. R. Church. Henry L. John- 


son and other Negro political leaders praised the address.'^ Of 
both Harding and Calvin Coolidge, Negroes felt that their pro- 
nouncements against lynchings always were too vague and too 
late. E. L. Tatum ably has summed up the reaction of Negroes 
to Coolidge. On this, Tatum notes: 

During the Coolidge regime the Negro had very 
little against which to register political complaint . . . 
The Negro was employed and was making m.ore 
money . . . than ever before in peacetime. There were 
fewer race riots than in the period 1920-1924, and the 
number of Negroes lynched had declined. The Negro 
credited the Republicans and Mr. Coolidge with this.^'® 

While in 1924, a few Negroes voted for LaFoUette, the Pro- 
gressive candidate, most stayed with the Republican party. 
The Negro press was almost solidly behind Coolidge. '" 

Although they liked his liberal record and were impressed 
because Al Smith, like themselves, represented a minority group, 
and although they shared his opposition to the Ku Klux Klan 
and to Prohibition, and although they had doubts about Hoover 
because of his great wealth and tendency to cater to southern 
whites, the Negro "bolt" of the Republican party in 1928 was 
not sufficient to defeat Hoover. Still, the great enthusiasm which 
Negroes showed for Al Smith in this election was a foretaste 
of the large-scale exodus from the Republican party which they 
were to make eight years later.'" 

When the Great Depression struck, Negroes held no unique 
position in the general condemnation of Hoover's policy of 
patience and fortitude. Their dire plight during the early years 
of the depression caused a few persons to believe that the race 
was slipping from its precarious perch on the limb of freedom 
back to the wretchedness of slavery. In 1932 the Negro vote 
for Franklin D. Roosevelt was small compared to the great host 
which voted for him in 1936.''^ It took the huge relief program 
of the New Deal to complete the break with Republicanism 
which had been long in the making, but when they finally 
became committed to the Roosevelt personality and program 
and policies, the new president came to be viewed by Afro- 
"•^'i-^ii-t Americans as the reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln.'" Indeed, 




it is possible that their aftection for Roosevelt as a person was 
even greater in some ways than had been the case with Mncoln, 
for while Lincoln was an admitted white-supremacist who 
wanted to colonize Negroes outside the United States, Roose- 
velt avowed that he believed in racial equality and took dra- 
matic steps to demonstrate his avowal. Negroes were highly 
flattered that among his core of professional advisers Roosevelt 
saw ht to have a "Black Cabinet" led by such race spokesmen 
as Mrs. Mary M. Bethune, William H. Hastie, and Robert L. 
Vann, and the interest which Mrs. Roosevelt showed in the 
plight of oppressed peoples heightened the esteem which Ne- 
groes felt for the President. 

Like many white Americans, when Roosevelt died in 194^ 
many Negroes felt that they had lost a close personal friend. 
But unlike the death of Lincoln, they no longer wondered what 
would happen to them Wiijh their benefactor gone. In 194S 
Negroes felt their own strength and little despaired that anyone 
would be able to take their gains from them, and President 
Truman's forthri^t policy of racial equality soon caused them 
to know that ^'^ile they had lost one friend, they had gained 
another. For many persons, not until the ex-president's 1960 
statements against student "sit in" demonstrations was this 
ardour to cool. "' 

By 1952 the growing obstinacy and opposition of some 
southern whites to Negro progress, together with the mild 
stand on the race question by the national Democratic party, 
and its failure to pass civil rights legislation joined with other 
issues to cause a considerable number of Negroes to go over 
to the Republican party. Although the celebrated May 17, 
1954 Supreme Court decision agriinst compulsory segregation 
in public schools based on race, and the enactment of a federal 
civil rights bill made Dwight Eisenhower a hero to many Afro- 
Americans, his vacillation in the matter of the Affair-Little 
Rock, and his failure to speak out more often and in bolder 
fashion against lynchings, bombings, and other manifestations 
of race hate and general southern white opposition to federal 
law had, by 1960, tarnished considerably this earlier image. 




Although in 1900 there were almost nine million Negroes 
in the United States, only one-tenth of this number lived out- 
side the South. The 1900 census showed a total of approximate- 
ly sixty percent of the Negro population to be engaged in 
agriculture, mostly on a share-crop basis. Although by 1910, 
twenty-five percent of Negro farmers owned their own farms, 
the seventy-five percent who were largely sharecroppers still 
lived the crudest type of hand-to-mouth existence. One of the 
key areas where this extreme poverty was long felt was that 
of health. Until recently, the death rate from tuberculosis, 
pellagra, and other diseases of malnutrition, has been very high 
among southern Negroes. Less conspicuous, but of equal sig- 
nificance perhaps, was the loss of energy and labor consequent 
upon this condition. How much disease and malnutrition have 
contributed to the popular picture of the Negro peon as lazy, 
stupid, and no-account probably can never be known. 

Unfortunately for race relations, by the turn of the cen- 
tury, only ten percent of the nation's Negroes lived in the 
North, and less than one percent in the West. In most of its 
aspects, the race problem was still peculiarly a southern prob- 
lem. Among southern Negroes only twenty percent lived in 
urban areas. The census o£ 1910 revealed that 54.6 percent of 
the colored race were still employed in agriculture, but by 1930 
this figure had dropped to 36.1 percent so employed. In the 
cityward trek reflected in these statistics, the Negro again was 
following a national trend. In the brief period between 1910- 
1920, the Negro population changed from one-quarter to one- 
third urban, and almost ninety percent of all employed Negroes 
were working in domestic service or farming. Despite the opti- 
mism which Booker Washington, John Hope and others had 
where the future possibilities of Negro business were concerned, 
the general plight of the race in America brought pessimism 
and despair in the breast of many Negroes. Still, that by the 
turn of the century a "new Negro" was emerging was evident. 
Proof of this was to be seen in such things as the effort to es- 


tablish a race theater devoted to more serious themes than min- 
strelsy, in the slow but sure drift away from the Republican 
Party which had ceased to champion racial rights, the forma- 
tion of a national Negro political party, and the considerable 
opposition to Booker Washington's leadership. During the first 
two decades of the present century W. E. B. DuBois, Monroe 
Trotter, and others urged Afro-Americans in the South to 
abandon the Washington-promoted views that voting, office- 
holding, civil rights and the liberal arts are not of primary im- 
portance, and that militant social action is somehow sinful. 
During this period Negroes began to abandon the shame which 
some had felt for slavery and their folk culture. Too, this is 
the period which saw the emergence of a body of Negro schol- 
ars and the greater consciousness of the scientific spirit and 
method in DuBois, Carter Woodson, and others. These are the 
two decades when the first really able colored poets and novel- 
ists were flowering, and when some Negro colleges began to 
take seriously the business of being institutions of higher learn- 
ing in something other than name. It is in these two decades 
that the Negro consciousness and envy of the mulatto reaches 
its apogee and begins to go into limbo, and that the spirituals 
and blues came onto the American scene as recognized forms of 
music art and began to win the acceptance of cultured persons. 
It is during these decades, as the founding of the National 
Negro Business League in 1900 attests, that the race gets a 
keener awareness of its economic potential in the world of 
business, while in religion there is a beginning of the abandon- 
ment of fundamentalism and a demand for better educated 
preachers. Too, there was a demand for school teachers who 
would possess greater social consciousness, and a keener realiza- 
tion that the Negro would have to rely less on philantropic 
whites and more upon himself. Finally, the founding of the 
Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and the 
launching of the Negro history movement revealed an increased 
race pride, awareness and appreciation of social forces, of Africa, 
and of a sense of mission and destiny. Yet, probably at no 
other time in his history in this nation has the Negro experi- 
enced so much fear-mingled-with-hope as he did in the 1900- 


1914 period. The overthrow of Radical Reconstruction; ram- 
pant racism in Congress, on the political hustings, as well as in 
Ivy-drenched halls of learning; the generally worsening plight 
of the nation's white as well as agrarian and urban working 
classes; plus a tremendous wave of European emigration to the 
U. S. A, all joined to produce a great fear in the breasts of 
Afro-Americans. Numerous Negro leaders began to formulate 
programs which they urged the race to pursue diligently if it 
wished to "survive," and there was rather constant talk of com- 
mitting racial suicide unless the Negro group altered some of 
its ways and emphases. Survival became almost as large a theme 
with the Negro as it sometimes was during the days of slavery. 

It is this atmosphere of fear, plus the hope which all 
America evidenced in the Populist and Progressive movements, 
which bred such phenomena as the National Negro Business 
League, Booker Washington's Gospel of Work, the Carter 
Woodson-led Negro History Movement, the DuBois-led Tal- 
ented Tenth Movement, the Washington-led Industrial Educa- 
tion Movement, the independent Negro Labor Movement, the 
growth of the Negro Press, an emerging interest in Socialism 
and Communism, the strengthened puritanism and evangelical 
nature of much Negro preaching and religious thinking, the 
archaism evident in a renewed interest in Negro spirituals and 
dialect, and the birth of the Blues. By 1900, the Negro race in 
the United States was, in some ways, retreating mto itself. Many 
of the "emergency" programs designed to save the race from 
seeming threatened extinction "accepted" segregation in one 
form and degree or another. Many of the earlier antebellum 
and immediate post-bellum, dreams of entering the mainstream 
of American life with equality of citizenship now seemed all 
but displaced by a strengthened note of defeatism. 

Already, however, by 1900 DuBois, Trotter, and others 
were sensing that the race's salvation could not lie in any pro- 
gram based on racism, and that however great the odds, the 
Negro must continue to push toward economic, political, and 
cultural integration. 

In 1901, ex-slave turned New York-journalist and his- 
torian, John Edward Bruce, began publication of a militant 


journal entitled The Voice of the Negro, the same year, inter- 
estingly enough, that the erudite Monroe Trotter began issuing 
his militant Boston Guardian. Two years later the equally mili- 
tant and uncompromising W. E. B. DuBois, who, like Trotter 
was a Harvard graduate, published a group o£ trenchant essays 
under the title Souls of Black Folk, which eloquently assailed 
the nation's treatment of its Negro minority. Here DuBois es- 
pecially denounced lynching, the peonage of share-cropping, 
and Booker T. Washington, and called for absolute equality 
of citizenship for his race. Within two years, DuBois and Trotter 
would be leading the Niagara Movement, but many other per- 
sons, not so militant were not so hopeful. In his poem "It's a 
Long Way," William Stanley Braithwaite wrote: 

Its work we must, and love we must. 
And do the best we may. 

And take the hopel of dreams in trust 
To keep us day by day. 
In a poem entitled "Life," Paul Lawrence Dunbar probably 
spoke for the masses of Negroes when he said: 

A crust of bread and a corner to sleep in, 
A minute to smile and an hour to weep in, 
A pint of joy to a peck of trouble. 
And never a laugh but the moans come double. 
And that is life. 
In his sole volume of poetry, J. Mord Allen, contemporary of 
Paul Lawrence Dunbar, caught the spirit of the Negroes' 
rugged determination and long slow upward climb. In his "The 
Psalm of the Uplift," Allen wrote: 

'Tis ours to do 

And dare and bear not to flinch; 

To enter where is no retreat; 

To win one stride from sheer defeat; 

To die — but gain an inch. 

Had those persons who despaired in 1890-1914 been able to 
foresee such events as the downfall of colonialism in the com- 
ing two world wars and the New and Fair Deals on the domestic 
scene, they doubtless would have despaired less and shed fewer 
tears. In what seemed to many to be the freedman's darkest 
hour, the forces which were to bring a new day in race rela- 


tions actually crystallized. This crystallization and beginning 
of an upward spiral in race relations was due in considerable 
part to the very conditions which brought despair to the hearts 
of many, that is, the depths to which race relations had sunk. 
Where the democratic ideal is concerned, the American spirit 
appears to have limits beyond which it cannot be pushed re- 
gardless of the class, race, or creed which may be the object 
of the pushing. This limit was reached by 1909, and having 
touched this limit, the vital forces in the national spirit, re- 
coiling in dramatic fashion, reopened the crusade for equality 
of citizenship which had in a sense been temporarily closed 
down since 1876-77. The recoil, like the 1830-1876 crusade, 
was inter-racial in nature. 

Doubtless, the mere fact of entering a new century in- 
spired Negroes with optimism about their future, much as the 
coming of each Januaiy 1st brings new hope to many indi- 
viduals. Despite the lowly estate which the masses of freedmen 
occupied on January 1, 1900, as they looked back over the 
nineteenth century they had considerable cause to rejoice, for 
despite the slowness of their operation, the mills of the gods 
had in some ways ground exceedingly well where the Afro- 
American was concerned. The single fact that slavery was gone 
forever was itself adequate enough to lift every heart in song. 
Roscoe Conkling Bruce stated: 

Perhaps the most significant fact in recent Negro 
history is the rapid growth in this rising people . . . 
of self-consciousness and race pride. If this self-con- 
sciousness degenerates on occasion into hypersensi- 
tiveness and insolence, you must remember that . . . 
the rose . . . does not flourish under a millstone; the 
cactus may.^ 

In the same period, Reverdy C. Ransom asked: 

What kind of an American does the Negro in- 
tend to be? . . . He does not intend to be an alien 
in the land of his birth, nor an outcast in the home 
of his fathers. He will not consent to his elimination 
as a political factor; he will refuse to camp forever 
on the bordersi of the industrial world; as an Ameri- 
can, he will consider that his destiny is united by 


indissoluble bonds with the destiny of America for- 
ever; he will strive less to be a great Negro in this 
Republic and more to be an influential and useful 
American. ... he will assert himself not as a Ne- 
gro, but as 3i man; he . . . will never mar the image 
of God, reproach the dignity of his manhood, or 
tarnish the fair title of his citizenship. - 

But these were often brave voices crying out in a wilderness of 
despair, and in 1900 DuBois was sure of the goal but not of the 
road; though he was soon to identify with the Niagara and 
NAACP movements, he would later march as resolutely into 
the Marxist camp. During this period, DuBois wrote: "The 
Negro race in America is today in a critical condition. Only 
united concerted effort will save us from being crushed."' 
Proud, defiant, brave and strong. Trotter never faltered for a 
moment in his aim, and though^ he was to be accused of being 
estranged from other leaders of his race, and an impractical 
maladjusted idealist, who can now doubt that Trotter's long- 
term vision wag clearer than those who pursued mythical pro- 
grams of salvation which were based on accepting and making 
the most of segregation and second-class citizenship? Today, 
in an integrating America, most of the programs born in this 
fear-ridden period of 1890-1912 are either dead or dying, 
while the Trotter program, based on non-acceptance of com- 
promise or retreat from the ideal of full and integrated citi- 
zenship is more virile than ever. That Trotter was not alone in 
his uncompromising stand is clear, for example, at a state-wide 
meeting held in Macon, in February of 1906, five hundred 
Afro-Americans attended a session of the Georgia Equal Rights 
Convention. The delegates heard the Chairman contend for 
the right to vote, because voting "is in itself an education," 
which will soon make anyone unqualified to vote a fit person 
to do so. "Voteless working men are slaves," he stated, and 
continued: "If we are good enough to be represented by five 
Georgia Congressmen in the Councils of the nation, we are 
surely good enough to choose those representatives; and if we 
are not good enough to be represented, at leasts as human be- 
ings, we are too good to be misrepresented by our enemies." 


The Chairman also scored the systematic exclusion of Negroes 
from juries, and the cruel lease system for convicts.* 

In their reaction to the racial clashes which occurred near 
the opening of the century may be seen some dominant strands 
of Negro thought, although it occurred earlier and was of com- 
parable scope. The Wilmington, North Carolina race riot had 
no brilliant observer to immortalize it in the manner that W. 
E. B. DuBois did with the Atlanta race riot which broke out in 
late September, 1906. Negroes gave a large share of the blame 
for the latter riot to the race baiting of John Temple Graves, 
then editor of a prominent Atlanta paper. Dubbed a "Massacre" 
by Negro papers, this violence saw ten colored persons killed and 
many more injured, while two whites lest their lives. Negro 
militancy against the growing infringements on their civil and 
political rights, in both city and state, was a prime target of 
the white hatred. '" Booker T. Washington spoke out forthright- 
ly against this unfortunate occurrence. In characteristic fashion, 
he assumed that blame for the incident lay with both races, and 
he suggested that "the best white people and the best colored 
people come together in council," to devise means for correcting 
the trouble. Also characteristically, he said, that the riot "should 
net discourage our people, but should teach a lesson from 
which all can profit ... we should bear in mind that while 
there is disorder in one community there is peace and harmonv 
in thousands of others."' One of Washington's most pronounced 
virtues was the manner in which he always accentuated the 
positive aspects of situations, while playing down the negative 
ones. This was a virtue which the race sorely needed in his day. 
But if Washington was conciliatory, Frederick Douglass' son 
Lewis, was not. He deplored the fact that more whites were not 
killed in the riot. "Our people must die to be saved," he wrote, 
"and in dying must take as many along with them as it is 
possible to do with the aid of firearms and all other weapons."^ 
Doubtless, in the conclusion to his "A Litany at Atlanta," W. 
E. B. DuBois caught one mood of many Negroes in this period. 
Here DuBois lamented: 

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. 


Pondering the crimes "of the white man against the black," 
DuBois again wrote: 

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 

In this "Litany at Atlanta," perhaps DuBois touched another 
dominant strand in the Negro thought of the time w^ith his 
repeated prayer for direction in the race's effort to go forward. 
On this he wrote: 

What meaneth this? Tell us the plan; 
Give us the sign . . . The way, O God, 
Show us the way and point us the path. 

Chapter XIX 


The Capitalist System 

Although as slaves they were long capitalism's greatest 
victims, in general Afro-Americans have been avid supporters 
of the capitalistic system. They were scarcely emancipated 
from chattel slavery before many adopted as their greatest 
heroes the mighty captains of American agriculture, linance 
and industry. The business success of some members of the 
free Negro class in New Orleans, Charleston, Philadelphia, and 
other cities provided the race with examples of the blessings 
and possibilities of free enterprise even before the demise of 
the Old South. By 1900 the post-bellum emergence of a size- 
able number of Negro enterpreneurs, operating mostly in the 
fields of banking and insurance, together with the preachments 
of white American capitalists, gave further strength to the 
Negro's faith in the free enterprise profit system. Effects of 
the education, growing wealth, social maturity and the trek 
cityward were to be clear and unmistakable in the decades fol- 
lowing World War I. U. S. Census data reveals that in 1S70 
the nation's Negro urban population was only 750,000, but by 
1900 this figure had increased to tv/o million; by 1930 the 
latter figure had doubled, while in 1950 nine million Negroes 
were urban dwellers. One effect of urbanization was the ac- 
celerated development and growth of Negro business. In 1898 
there were only 1,900 colored business enterprises in the United 
States; by 193 this number had grown to 70,000, most of 
which were small personal service enterprises started on small 
capitalization. Because they were mostly in areas where the 
practice of racial segregation was l^eenest, these businesses were 
sometimes referred to as "defensive enterprises."^ 

Especially during the 1920's did Negro capitalists begin to 
make their presence seen and felt. These individuals drew their 
customers almost exclusively from black America, but their 
inspiration and ideals were drawn from the nation's top finan- 



ciers and industrialists. Banking and insurance represented the 
major businesses. In 18 88 frecdmen had organized in Wash- 
ington, D. C. the Capital Savings Bank, and by 1934, Afro- 
Americans had formed approximately one hundred thirty-four 
banks, most of which failed so rapidly that by the beginning 
of 1906 only seven Negro banks were operating. It has often 
been shov.'n that Negro banking has suffered from the fact that 
there has never been a significant number of Negro businesses 
which could serve as reliable creditors. E. F. Frazicr has pointed 
out that in Negro thought there has been shown a distrust of 
the honesty of some colored bank officials. " Negro insurance 
companies grew primarily out of burial and fraternal societies. 
In 19 50 there were approximately fift)' Negro insurance com- 
panies in the United States. 

Some of the outstanding entrepreneus were John Merrick 
and C. C. Spaulding of Durham, North Carolina; Joseph E. 
Walker of Memphis, Tennessee; A. F. Herndon of Atlanta, 
Georgia; Richard R. Wright of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; 
S. W. Rutherford of Washington, D. C; Maggie L. Walker of 
Richmond, Virginia; and Anthony Overton and Jesse Binga of 
Chicago, Illinois. Perhaps the business woman of most renown 
was Sarah Breedlove Walker, founder of the Madame C. J. 
Walker Laboratories of Indianapolis, Indiana, which specialized 
in barber and beauty supplies. These successful business men 
and women were a great source of pride, as well as envy among 
Afro-Americans. One trustworthy compiler of statistics has 
noted that by 1922 Negroes had acquired: 

22,000,000 acres of land, 600,000 homes, and 45,000 
churches. After less than sixty years of freedom, 
Negroes operated 78 banks, 100 insurance companies, 
and 5 0,000 other business enterprises with a com- 
bined capital of more than $150,000,000. Besides all 
this, there are within the race 60,000 professional 
men, 44,000 school teachers, and 400 newspapers and 
magazines; while its general illiteracy has been reduced 
to twenty-six per cent.' 

In 1898 John Fiope, then a teacher at the institution, ad- 
dressed the Fourth Atlanta University Conference, and urged 
members of the race to start their own businesses and to patro- 


nize them in preference to white-owned ones. He said thi? 
should be done even if patronage was given at the sacrifice of 
paying higher prices for inferior goods and services. In some 
degree, this has been a rather constant plea of the National 
Negro Business League, but Afro-Americans often have not 
heeded it. Like most Americans, they usually have sought the 
best goods and services at the cheapest possible prices. Some 
have felt that it would be foolish to weigh down the already 
underprivileged race with the burden of higher prices to enrich 
Negro businessmen, who themselves too often were lacking in 
race pride and the spirit of sacrifice. Still the National Negro 
Business League managed to have some 320 branches after only 
seven years of existence. One of the resolutions adopted at the 
Atlanta University Conference of 1898 declared: 

The mass of the Negroes must learn to patronize 

business enterprises conducted by their own race, even 

at some slight disadvantage. We must cooperate or 

we are lost. 

In 1900 Booker Washington and others organized in Bos- 
ton the National Negro Business League for the purpose of 
promoting racial business enterprises. The organization grew 
rapidly. W. E. B. DuBois, who had directed the business bureau 
of the Afro-American Council, furnished Washington with a 
roster of prospective members of the organization. Perhaps no 
group among Afro-AmericanS has preached the self-help rags- 
to-riches theme more than the National Negro Business League. 
At the national meetings, for years individual success stories 
were paraded before its audiences. Booker Washington, long- 
time president of the league, was a main instigator of this theme. 
In his book, Black Bourgeoisie, E. Franklin Frazier has pointed 
to the considerable exaggeration in the claims of what Negro 
business is, has done, and can do, and to the large number of 
ministers of the gospel, teachers, and other non-business people 
who were often represented as being business persons. Wash- 
ington often said that in his experience the "black man who 
was succeeding in business, who was a taxpayer, and who 
possessed intelligence and high character . . . was treated with 
the highest respect by the members of the white race."^ In 1928 
the league launched a program whereby Negro retail stores 


would crganize community-sized groups known as the Colored 
Merchants Association in order to pool wholesale buying. 
Though launched with much optimism about the boost to 
Negro business which the step would eflfect, the movement had 
little success. The role of Booker T. Washington in serving as 
the main spirit behind the formation of the National Negro 
League is characteristic of his social philosophy. As stated 
earlier, Washington may be called an economic determinist. 
The league was, and is, the Negro counterpart of the Chamber 
of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers. ' For 
a time, wrote R. R. Moton in 1929, "it seemicd that the mental 
and spiritual progress of the race had far outstripped its pro- 
gress in material things, with the result that the aspirations of 
Negroes seemed to be cultivated quite beyond their own capac- 
ity for their realization, and so producing a discontent and ir- 
ritability that threatened to make the whole effort toward full 
American citizenship abortive. However true that may have 
been a generation ago, the balance between these two lines of 
progress has been largely restored.'"' 

Many Afro- Americans have been eager advocates of tem- 
perance and economy. Realizing that theirs always has been 
a low paid group, and, that the race started with little by way 
of real property, leaders from the abolitionists to Booker T. 
Washington, George Schuyler, Martin Luther King and others 
constantly have exhorted the race to practice frugality and 
temperance. Still, elation over the novelty of acquiring many 
aspects of Occidental culture long denied them, plus the gen- 
eral secularistic outlook of the modern age, often has caused 
actual practice to deviate very noticeably from these preach- 
ments. Frazier stated in 1948 that a "sporting complex" and 
thriftlessness were widespread among Negroes, traits which he 
believes are due in part to the fact that many have been em- 
ployed as workers in domestic and personal services where they 
saw and came to imitate the leisure-time habits of white Ameri- 

In Chapter VII of his book Black Bourgeoisie, Dr. Frazier 
ably has shown that a number of persons connected with Negro 
business and life have preached the doctrine that the best way 
for the race to win equality of treatment and opportunity was 


to establish and maintain many Negro businesses. Because of 
the smallness of these businesses in terms of number, capitaH- 
zation, and of employees, Frazier labels this doctrine "mythi- 
cal," and illustrates that, both as to economic value and jobs 
afforded, business enterprises owned and operated by and for 
Negroes have been only a fractional part of the total American 
business. Thus, he concludes, Booker Washington, the National 
Negro Business League, and others who have championed race 
owned and operated business enterprises as a solution to the 
"race problem" erected and pursued a myth which Negro 
newspapers and magazines have supported and perpetuated." 
Frazier contends that there is also a myth of Negro wealth. He 
thinks that in the late 1950's the Negro market had reached no 
more than one-half of the fifteen billion dollar figure which 
erroneously had been given wide popularity, and that not only 
do most Negro "millionaires" not have the wealth attributed 
to them, but that a considerable number of the so-called wealthy 
actually derived their cash from the numbers lottery or such 
activities as those of Father Divine and Elder Solomon Light- 
foot. Frazier shows that in its desire to create a high society and 
millionaires, the Negro press too often creates "mountains out 
of mole hills." 

Afro-Americans often have complained among themselves 
that service is too often poor in their stores, cafes, cafeterias, 
and other businesses. There seems to be a strong and general 
dislike among many Negroes for serving one another, which 
doubtless is a heritage from the servant role which the race 
was forced to play during slavery and since. As a reaction 
against this role, many also look down on most occupations 
which cast them in the position of servant. Although for a 
long time domestic service positions were the major vocations 
of urban Negroes, most have hoped to educate their children 
for white collar positions, even though the latter might pay 
considerably smaller salaries. In his little book, Misediication of 
the Negro,'^ Carter Woodson cried out against this attitude, and 
pointed out that in part because of it, the race was losing its 
hold on a number of job areas., Effects of this attitude are seen 
today in the fact that although cooks, maids, and butlers who 
reside with their employers in some areas may have higher net 


incomes and other advantages than persons working at such 
occupations as secretary or social worker, few college trained 
Negroes want the former positions. 

At least one colored American has deplored the fact that 
men of his race generally are not participants in the ownership, 
managerial, or manufacturing ends of the brewery and distillery 
businesses of which, with the rest of the nation, Negroes are 
good customers, and that although the race purchases many 
automobiles, there are few Negro dealers and auto salesmen.'' 
In 19 56 Mordecai Johnson of Howard University deplored the 
sparsity of Negroes in baking, pastry, clothing (wholesale or 
retail) sale and manufacturing, butchers, laundry, tailor, and 
millinery shops. He concluded "The Negro people, just a bit 
over eighty years from slavery, are a child people in their ability 
to organize the ordinary things! that have to do with effective 
existence. "^° As early as 1900 white workers were displacing 
Negroes in the barbering, cooking, butler, maid, laundering, 
and other areas of employment. John Hope, eminent Negro 
educator, was among those who felt that neither industrial 
education nor labor unions would return the Negro to his ''old- 
time advantages," and, as indicated, the only solution which 
he could see was the creation of a capitalist class with sufficient 
Negro-owned and operated businesses to provide employment 
for many thousands. John Hope felt that because the Afro- 
American lived in a society dominated by the corporation and 
the business ethos, he could not "escape" that society's "most 
powerful motive and survive. "^^ 

The National Urban League was organized in 1910 and 
incorporated in 1913. Among the initial supporters of the or- 
ganization were E. R. A. Seligman, Julius Rosenwald, R. R. 
Moton, Booker T. Washington, and Kelly Miller. Its genesis 
had as a major precipitant a study made of economic and social 
conditions among New York Negroes. The organization's first 
executive officers were George Edmund Haynes and Eugene 
Kinckle Jones. One competent observer who has summed up 
the work of the Urban League states: 

The Urban League is chiefly concerned with the 
Negro's advancement in industry — his opportunity to 
get work on the basis of efficiency and as far as pos- 


sible without discrimination; his opportunity to im- 
prove and to be promoted on the job; and to promote 
the idea of equal pay for the same cahbre of work 
done. The League is also concerned with the making 
of scientific investigations to set forth the facts per- 
taining to the Negro as a worker to stipulate his in- 
dustrial and economic needs. It seeks to improve 
urban conditions among Negroes in matters of health, 
recreation, delinquency, and crime. It endeavors to 
get the doors of organized labor opened to the Negro. 
Like Booker T. Washington, the National Urban 
League expresses the Negro's desire to be economic- 
ally secure.^" 
In the post World War II period the Urban League had 
branches in twenty-nine states which employed over four hun- 
dred trained persons. The Urban League, like the NAACP, has 
steered clear of political action and has been largely middle 
class in leadership, orientation, and following. Wilson Record 
has observed that, "Like the NAACP," the Urban League "was 
not instrumentally or ideologically equipped to tackle the big- 
ger problems of employment, housing and welfare in the Negro 
community."^' In Black Bourgeoisie, E. Franklin Frazier has 
inferred that, in part because wealthy whites long have been 
associated with its management and support, the Urban League 
is a conservative organization. This organization, he states, 
has at times been anti-labor and was slow to support the C.I.O. 
The conciliatory and conservative spirit of Negro bu'iness 
probably found no better advocate than John Merrick, co- 
founder of the world's largest Negro-owned business — the 
North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company — v/ho was 
especially conservative on racial matters. Like Washington, he 
counselled that the race should stay away from those activities 
most likely to stir up the antagonism of the white man. 
Of the South he said: "We (Negroes) have the same privileges 
that other people have. Every avenue is open to us to do busi- 
ness as it is to any other people." He held politics and politic- 
ians in low esteem. On this, he wrote: "What difference does it 
make to us who is elected? We got to serve in the same different 
capacities of life for a living." Unwittingly perhaps he ex- 
plained much of his own conservatism when he wrote: "Now 


don't the writers of the race jump on the writer and try to 
solve my probem. Mine is solved. I solved mine by learninig 
to be courteous to those that courtesy was due, working and 
trying to save and properly appropriate what I made."'* Mer- 
rick had started out in business the operator of a small barber 
shop which catered to many white wealthy patrons, and mem- 
bers of the Duke family of Durham had helped start him on 
the road to a larger success. 

In his book Black Bourgeoisie, E. Franklin Frazier recently 
has stated that in the Post World War era the dominant group 
among Negroes is a sizeable middle class, which formal educa- 
tion and the white collar trend of American society have cre- 
ated, that is "super-patriotic" where support and promulgation 
of the conservative side of the national thought is concerned. 
Frazier contends that the mentality of the black bourgeoisie 
exhibits an ambivalence in that it admires and apes the white 
bourgeois world, but at the same both fears and hates Ameri- 
can whites; that while this class pretends to have race pride, it 
belies this in such ways as holding light complexions in great 
esteem, speaking contemptuously of the Negro masses, failing 
to support programs and organizations which are designed to 
raise the masses, and having contempt for Africa and Africans.^ ' 
Frazier avers that while the pre-depression era generation of 
Negro businessmen were still influenced by the genteel tradition 
of manners and morals, and "still felt some identification with 
the Negro masses," the new Black Bourgeoisie "has tended to 
break completely with the traditions of the Negro" and "has 
lost much of its feeling of racial solidarity with the Negro 
masses. "^"^ The new black bourgeoisie, he asserts, has little genu- 
ine pride of race and actually despises itself as well the Negro 
masses.^' To this the objection might be raised that the Negro 
proletariat does not furnish its own leaders no more than did 
the pre- 19 17 Russian proletariat. Studies hive shown that in 
most modern revolutions, leadership usually comes from the 
middle class, and so it has been with the Negro. This bourgeois 
leadership of the Negro masses betokens much more identihca- 
ton and sympathy between the colored bourgeoisie and prole- 
tariat than Frazier admits. Professor Frazier decries this class's 
over-interest in sports and poker and the lack of interest in 


things cultural. He asserts that gambling, largely in the form 
of poker, is now the middle class Negro's substitute for reli- 
gion.^* Frazier states that the colored bourgeoisie has been up- 
rooted from its folk background, and has contempt for the 
Negro's history, as well as for the Negro folk, hence lacks a 
cultural tradition and is isolated botii from the Negro folk and 
from white America.^" This isolation has served to intensify the 
inferiority feelings common to practically all Negroes, and has 
resulted in the creation of an unreal world — thought to be 
copied from, wealthy white America — whose focal point is 
Negro ''society." In this unreal world the myths of Negro 
business and wealth, along with an obsessive interest in the 
sportive life, material possessions, gambling, sex, and liquor, 
and contempt: for real culture or liigh standards of conduce or 
performance thrive. Although rheve is mucli trutli in Professor 
Frazier's criticism's Black Bourgeoisie lacks balance because the 
author fails to indicate the positive side of this class and reveals 
too much personal animosity toward it. 

Afro -American participation in the organized labor move- 
ment has a lengthy history. Nine Negroes were delegates to the 
1869 convention of the National Labor Union held in Phila- 
delphia, in which one, Isaac Myers, made a moving speech in 
which he pleaded for unity between the white and colored 
members. Colored Americans generally have deplored the racial 
discrimination and prejudice which have divided the nation's 
labor front. "'^ 

As in politics, the long failure of the major unions to ac- 
cept and recognize Negro labor caused the latter sometimes 
to connect with minor movements. In December, 1869 colored 
Americans organized the Negro National Labor Union in Wash- 
ington, D. C. With membership open to all persons regardless 
of sex or color, a special appeal was made to the white masses 
of the South to unite with Negro labor. A similar appeal was 
made to white minority groups of the North. "^ In a petition to 
Congress, this convention pointed out that the regular pro- 
cesses of supply and demand did not work to control wages 
paid Afro-Americans in the South, This, it was pointed out, 
was because planters "absolutely regulate the price of labor by 
combining against the laborer," and "resistance by organized 


effort is Impossible," because "the earnings of the laborer leave 
him no surplus, and when he ceases to labor he begins to 

During the 1880's, around 75,000 Negroes were members 
of the Knights of Labor. At the 18 83 National Convention of 
Colored Men, meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, Frederick Doug- 
lass said: "What labor everywhere wants, what it ought to have 
and will some day demand and receive, is an honest day's pay 
for an honest day's work. As the laborer becomes more intelli- 
gent, he will develop what capital already possesses — that is 
the power to organize and combine for its own protection. 
Experience demonstrates that there may be a wage slavery only 
a little less galling and crushing in its effects than chattel slav- 
ery." Wilson Record observes that the Communist movement 
in this country led Negroes, "to see that the solution of the 
complex problem of discrimination was intimately tied up with 
the success of the labor movement, thus impressing upon them 
the importance of organizing Negroes into militant trade 

Although necessity, plus ignorance, has caused the race to 
bear the label of "strike-breaker," Negroes generally have been 
warm supporters of the labor movement in the United States. 
That they were long excluded from much direct participation 
made them at critical of the restricted brand of dem^oc- 
racy which the unions preached. John R. Lynch, prominent 
Reconstruction Congressman from Mississippi, stated in 1886 
what has been the traditional attitude of many members of 
his race toward labor unions. "Colored men," wrote Lynch, 
"should not identify themselves with any organization that 
seeks the accomplishment of its purposes through a resort to 
lawlessness and violence."'" Here he specifically mentioned com- 
munism, socialism, and anarchy as faiths which the colored nian 
should not accept or countenance. "The laboring people in this 
country," he continued, "can secure all the rights to vvhich they 
are justly entitled without violating law, and there is no better 
way to bring about this result than through organization." 
The legitimate object of unions he saw as the calling of public 
attention "to the condition and wants of the laboring people 
with a view to creating a sentiment that will enforce a recog- 


nition of their just and reasonable demands." Lynch made it 
plain that Negroes should support no unions which discrimi- 
nate on account of race or color. Failing at times to under- 
stand that the American Federation of Labor's long practice 
of excluding unskilled workers from membership was one sig- 
nificant source of their exclusion, many Negroes have been con- 
vinced that this union was biased against Negroes per se. On 
the other hand, these persons have believed that the CIO al- 
ways has been very friendly to Negroes, and some persons were 
quite surprised when, in 19 59 A. Philip Randolph pointed to 
the goodly amount of race prejudice still within the nations 
labor organization. 

In the post World War II period, the American Communist 
Party pushed a program to get management-union labor con- 
tracts which would specifically guarantee rights of Negro work- 
ers. Partly because these proposals threatened further to divide 
unions along racial lines, colored workers opposed them. In 
1960 A. Philip Randolph and other Negro leaders in the union 
field were not only voicing, strong protests against the sparsity 
of Afro-Americans in labor's higher councils, but were taking 
positive actions to gain for the Negro a greater voice and rep- 
resentation at labor's policy-forming level. 

Socialism and Coniiunn'niu 
That he has received less recognition of his claim to equal 
citizenship rights than most other Americans might pre-dispose 
one to think that the Negro has been favorably responsive to 
Socialist and Communist ideology. This has not been the case. 
Speaking of the then seven million colored Americans, in 18 86 
Alexander Clark stated: 'They have cause . . . for reviewing 
themselves upon the cruelties of old systems, [but] under stress 
of burning wrongs and the opportunity of retributive justice, 
they demonstrate their ability to 'stand still and see the salva- 
tion of God!""^^ Rather than be "misled by the ambiguity of 
terms and possibly become involved in the plots of anarchists 
and other evil designing men," stated Clark, the Negro would 
continue his trust "in that genius of American liberty which 
struck the shackles from four millions of our people."'' Also, 
in the spirit of Booker Washingtotn and others of his era, Clark 


was against the "strike or the boycott, the mob or the riot.""'' 
Since a number of colored spokesmen of this period thought 
that strikes and boycotts were as wrong and harmful as the 
courts often said they were illegal, one wonders how much the 
strike-breaking of which some members of the race were accused 
was due to economic circumstances and how much to their 
attitude toward labor. 

Long before W. E. B. DuBois became an avowed Marxist, 
T. Thomas Fortune had arrived at similar economic convic- 
tions. Fortune, an ex-slave from Florida, was a noted New 
York editor who during the second half of his life became a 
conservative supporter of Booker Washington. In IS 84 For- 
tune wrote that race prejudice and other social ills which 
plagued the nation arose from one source — the capitalist svs- 
tem. Partlv becavise he was an economic determinist like Wash- 
ington, even in 1884 Fortune favored concentration on indus- 
trial education."' In his agreement with some of the famous 
preachments of Henry George, Fortune said: 'Tn the discussion 
of the land and labor problem I but pursue the theories advo- 
cated by more able and experienced men, in the attempt to 
show that the laboring classes of any country pay all the taxes, 
in the last analysis, and that they are systematically victimized 
by legislators, corporations and syndicates.'"^ Fortune's view 
of the post-bellum South coincides remarkably with the views 
which DuBois later popularized with his volume entitled Black 
Recoustnictiou. In his Preface to a book on economics Fortune 
wrote: "The primal purpose in publishing this work is to show 
. . . that the future conflict in [the South] will not be racial 
or political in character, but between capital on the one hand, 
and labor on the other." 

Socialism began to make a significant impact on American 
society near the turn of the century. This is also the period 
when the agrarian revolt. Progressive movement, and the sub- 
sequent liberalism of World War I quickened the aspirations 
and hopes of the Afro-American for complete equality. Even 
from the beginning of the socialist vogue, a number of Negroes 
saw in this ideology and its proponents an ally in their quest 
for social justice, and especially did this outlook become signifi- 
cant with the conservative reaction which characterized the 


'twenties. With the renewal of hirge-scale violence in race re- 
lations, DuBois and other leaders became convinced that only 
by conceiving of his struggle as a part of the cause of a world 
proletariat could the Negro in America hope to make significant 
progress. Communism had its genesis in the United States short- 
ly after World War I. Hopeful of a world revolution, the 
Lenin-led Bolsheviki who captured control of Russia in Novem- 
ber, 1917 launched the Third International and their well- 
knov/n tactics designed to weaken and destroy capitalist states. 
As the Negro was one of the most exploited groups in the 
United States, and a part of the vast colored population of the 
world, most of which was subjected to colonialism, the Kremlin 
early jumped on the race and color questions as the Achille's 
heel of the Western democracies. 

The Socialist Party never succeeded in winning a large 
number of converts among colored Americans. In part this is 
because, as with native whites, Negroes were suspicious of ideas 
at such variance with the deeply rooted and popular free enter- 
prise system of the day. Also, the Socialist Party made no es- 
pecial efforts to attract Negroes. Unlike the Communist Party, 
Socialists conceived of the race problem in no unique terms; 
Negro labor was simply a part of the totality of labor. While 
the Negro w^as very race conscious, the Socialist Party had no 
ideology to cater to this ethnocentrism. Despite this, however, 
Ben Fletcher and a few other colored persons became promi- 
nent in the socialistic Industrial Workers of the World. 

New York City became the center of those who embraced 
socialism. With the Messenger Magazine as their principal 
organ. Chandler Owen and A. Philip Randolph became promi- 
nent in the movement. Randolph later became an arch foe of 
all protagonists of the Marxist dogma. R. R. Moton saw a 
materialistic reason why colored Americans should not join 
groups of the extreme left wing. "The race has developed to 
the place," he opined, "where it cannot afford to be rash or 
radical in advocating public policies."'^" 

The depression saw a number of cooperatives launched 
among Negroes, and by 1950 at least eleven of these were still 
in operation. The period witnessed a considerable increase in 
radicalism, both of the right and left-wing variety. The former 


continued to be represented by Zionists, while Communists and 
radical non-Communists now made up the left. During this 
period a number of Negro artists and intellectuals had their 
tryst with the party. One evidence) of the growing radicalism 
was seen in the fact that the "conservative" leadership of such 
men as Walter White, W. E. B. DuBois, and Roy Wilkms 
came under increased attack. ^° 

A few Afro-Americans have had trips to Russia financed 
for them by Communists. These trips were for the purpose of 
studying Communism either formally or informally. Among 
such persons have been W. E. B. DuBois, Paul Robeson, William 
L. Patterson and James W. Ford. For about three decades, Ford 
was one of the most prominent Negro Communists in the United 
States, and in 1932 he was thq party's candidate for the Vice- 
Presidency of the United States. After World War II his promi- 
nence in the party declined, and Henry Winston, Benjamin 
Davis, and Edward E. Strong took over the limelight. Wilson 
Record, after studying carefully the relations of the Com- 
munist party with Negroes, concluded that "The degree of 
loyalty which the Negro has given to the conservative society 
which discriminates against him is impressive." ' At another 
point, this same observer called this record, "a striking paradox 
that the most convincing demonstration of loyalty to the 
American system has come from a group which has reaped the 
least from it."'" In 1948 it is estimated that there were no 
more than two hundred Negro members of the Communist 
party. ^'' 

Late in 192 5 the party had organized in Chicago the Am- 
erican Negro Labor Congress as a means of bringmg about 
eventual control of colored labor in the United States. The 
Congress fostered a program of setting up colored branches in 
all of the major industrial centers. These branches would be 
made up not only of industrial workers but other segments of 
Negro labor. However, the dominant race organizations such 
as the Urban League and NAACP refused to cooperate with 
this effort because it was obviously Communist-led. During 
this same period Communists set up the International Labor 
Defense, an organization aimed at legal action. Inasmuch as 
the civil rights of Afro-Americans were more flagrantly violated 


than any other segment of the social order, this body found 
ready grist in cases involving Negroes. Among the most notable 
cases were the Herndon, Scottsboro, Willie McGhee, Martins- 
ville Seven, and Trenton Six Cases. William L. Patterson, head 
of the Civil Rights Congress, early became an Executive Sec- 
retary of the International Labor Defense. 

From the very beginnings of Communist activity in the 
United States, most Afro-Americans understood that this or- 
ganization is extra-American and aimed at fostering a dis- 
tinctly alien ideology, and throughout its history the party has 
antagonized Afro-Americans by fostering programs which 
would increase rather than decrease the differentiation of treat- 
ment and segregation of the race. 

In the 1920's Leslie Pinckney Hill declared of his race: 

We ivill not u'aver in our loyalty. 

No strange voice reaches us across the sea; 

No crime at home shall stir us from this soil. 
Ours is the guerdon, ours the blight of toil, 

But raised above it by a faith sublime 

We choose to suffer here and bide our time.^* 

During the 1930's there was a marked decline in the num- 
ber of lynchings, and a seeming improvement in race relations. 
In the thirties, as earlier, Negroes criticized one another because 
of what was felt to be apathy in the face of segregation and 
discrimination. Especially were college presidents, principals, 
school teachers, and preachers the objects of this charge, and 
a sizeable number of Afro-Americans felt that the race should 
object to the very popular "Amos and Andy" radio show, and 
boycott movies in which Negroes were depicted in servile or 
clownish roles. In 1932 the court decision in Nixon vs Condon 
which over-ruled state sponsored white prim.aries, and the rul- 
ing which ordered a new trial for the Scottsboro boys were 
hailed by many Negroes as very significant steps forward. The 
193') Supreme Court decision against systematic exclusion of 
Negroes from juries {Norris is. Alabama) was considered an- 
other significant step forward in the quest for greater justice 
in the courts. Inasmuch as the case which brought this deci- 
sion, that of the nine Scottsboro boys, had been given interna- 
tional publicity and resulted in most of the defendants being 


freed, this was considered a very special victory. Communists, 
through the International Labor Defense, had wrested the 
Scottsboro case from the NAACP and thrown the weight of the 
world party apparatus behind the defense of the boys. Obvious- 
ly seeking to further the party's own popularity, the Commun- 
ists saved the lives of the boys and endeared themselves to many 

It was during this period that Communists decided to 
carry their campaign into the southland. Up to this date their 
concentration had been largely on winning over the northern 
Negro. These efforts had met with practically no success, but 
the ardent race consciousness and pride which had characerized 
the Harlem Renaissance and Garvey movements of the 1920's, 
together with the failure of efforts to organize northern Ne- 
groes, caused the party in 1928 to push the idea of a separate 
and self-sufficient southern black eniperluni in 'nupcrio. This 
scheme immediately stirred up a veritable hornets nest of pro- 
test from Afro-Americans, the vast majority of whom wee 
thoroughly tired of schemes to "colonize"' them either in this 
country or elsewhere. To push this plan, branches of the party 
were organized in the major urban and industrial areas of the 
South, and through the Trade Union Unity League efforts 
were made to control the section's colored labor. Also, unions 
of tenant farmers and share-croppers, centering in Louisiana 
and Alabama, were formed. During the early thirties strikes of 
cotton-pickers met with some small success, but after 1936 the 
Sharecroppers Union was abandoned by the party. 

In November, 1930 the party organized the League of 
Struggle for Negro Rights. This organization grew out of the 
defunct American Negro Labor Congress which the party had 
set up earlier. Elected first president of the League was Langston 
Hughes, noted author and a leader of the Harlem Renaissance, 
while among the Vice-Presidents were William L. Patterson, 
Benjamin J. Davis, Robert Minor, and James W. Ford. The 
League "proposed to correct all the wrongs of all the Negroes 
in the United States, and do it immediately." '' 

The National Negro Congress was conceived in Washing- 
ton, D. C. in 193 5 as another of the many efforts of Afro- 
Americans to organize and present a united front in the quest 


for social justice. The organization was hardly begun, how- 
ever, before it was captured by Communists. At the organiza- 
tional meeting in Chicago, in February, 1936, eight hundred 
seventeen delegates from twenty-eight states were present and 
a program of struggle for civil rights, peace, broader economic 
opportunities, and a workers political party were proposed."''^ 
The Congress set up local councils in various cities to work 
with civic, labor, and other groups. Headquartered in Wash- 
ington, D. C, the organization held a second national meeting 
in Philadelphia, in May, 1937 which was widely attended. At 
first the movement was rather warmly received and supported 
by Negroes, but by the third national meeting held in Wash- 
ington, D. C. in April, 1940, as Com.munists were plainly in 
full control, this support quickly dissolved." At this meeting 
the composition of the delegates itself was questionable. Of the 
1,264 delegates, only 888 were Negroes, and almost three- 
fourths of the delegates were from northern states. Commun- 
ists immediately ousted A. Philip Randolph from his long ten- 
ure in the presidency, elected Max Yergan to this office, and 
passed resolutions denouncing all efforts of the U.S.A. to inter- 
fere in the war against Hitler. Until American entry into the 
war, states Record, Yergan and the National Negro Congress 
proved willing tools of the Communist Party. 

During the period 193 5-39, American Communists, ob- 
sessed and occupied with the threat which Hitler, Mussolini, 
and Tojo posed for Russian security, paid much less attention 
to the Negro's struggle for social justice and equality. Indeed, 
as Communists everywhere sought friends for Russia, they 
were much less critical of all capitalist countries. Although the 
1939-1942 period of the Moscow-Berlin pact saw an increased 
attack on Franklin D. Roosevelt and all who proposed any 
action against Hitler, the invasion of Russia by Germany saw 
a sharp renewal of the friendly and conciliatory Communist 
attitude. During this period of the party's obvious use of 
Machiavellian opportunism, Afro- Americans came to see clearly 
that to Communists, their race's interests and efforts were sec- 
ondary and subordinate to those of the Russian state. Russian 
aid given Italy during the "rape of Ethiopa" also served to 
strengthen this conviction.'^ 


In Februaiy, 1937 the party, through the National iVegro 
Congress launched the Southern Negro Youth Congress in 
Richmond, Virginia, an organization which was aimed especi- 
ally at enlisting southern youth in the party's efforts. Though it 
had a larger aim, this organization remained throughout its 
history of about a decade, "primarily an agency of Negro stu- 
dent, church, and political groups centered in a few of the 
larger urban communities of the South. ""^ 

After Red capture of the National Negro Congress, the 
launching of their attack on Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the 
stand against intervention against Hitler which followed the 
Munich conference and the Moscow-Berlin Non-Aggression 
Pact, disillusionment with Communism reached a high peak. 
Wilson Record points out that between 1939-1941, ''probably 
half of the several thousand Negro Communists dropped out 
of the organization, and despite the fact of accelerated recruit- 
ment efforts, no substantial numbers of Negroes have since 
joined or supported the party."*" During the 1930's, Benjamin 
Mays wrote : 

The Negro's firm faith in God has saved him, up 
to this point from violent revolutionary methods of 
achieving his rights. His faith in God has not only 
served as an opiate for the Negro, but it has suggested 
and indicated that pacific and legal methods are to be 
used in achieving them. It is not too much to say that 
unless liberal prophetic religion moves more pro- 
gressively to the left in the effort to achieve complete 
citizenship rights for the Negro, he will become m^ore 
irreligious and he will become more militant and com.- 
munistic in his efforts to attain to full manhood in 
American life. It is significant to note that prior to 
1914, one finds no idea of God that imply doubt and 
repudiation. Since the War, and particularly since 
1920, there is a wave of cynicism, defeat, and frustra- 
tion in the writings of young Negroes where God is 

Mays does not show adequately in his study of The h'cgro's 
God that the race has drawn much of its faith, optimism, and 
gradualism from the larger American culture. Mays tended to 


look too much for explanations of Negro attitudes and beliefs 
in the colored man himself rather than in the general American 

The modern emphasis on economics as a prime motor force 
in history is one reason why the Communist movement has at- 
tracted many intellecuals. During the era of Booker T. Wash- 
ington, and earlier, this emphasis on economics was clearly 
evident. Garveyism rode the same wave, as did the Father 
Divine and similar movements, but most Negroes have known 
that for them progress was to be slow. Most have been gradual- 
ists and evolutionists, with no faith in radicalism. 

Although both white and colored American Communists 
have been small in number, according to Wilson Record and 
others, their contribution to the national life has been signi- 
ficant. Although difficult, if not impossible to measure, their 
demands that Negroes organize and agitate more, and that 
white America should accept a greater measure of racial inte- 
gration in the political, economic, and social realms did not fall 
altogether on stony ground. Too, they urged many Negroes to 
give up their romantic conceptions of life and society and to 
end their slavish abherence to either the Republican or Demo- 
cratic party. Communism also encouraged a reinterpretation 
of some aspects of Negro history, provided some fresh ideas and 
themes for creative writers, and compelled some organizations 
to adopt broader, more militant policies. In summarizing the 
efforts of the Communist party to win Negroes to its fold 
during the depression period, Wilson Record points out that 
there were never over 2,590 in the party. He continues: 

The Party failed to build any mass organizations 
with sustaining possibilities among American blacks. 
It did not succeed in appreciably weakening those 
'reformist' organizations to which it was bitterly op- 
posed. It drew only a few Negroes into Communist- 
sponsored trade unions. Its special Negro organizations 
made very limited headway. Its widely-heralded ef- 
forts to build up a radical Negro leadership did not 
come off. It alienated the bulk of the Negro intellec- 
tuals; it insulted rather than persuaded the Negro 
artists, by demanding that they conduct themselves 


as Negroes, and Communist Negroes at that rather 

than as creative human beings.*' 
Drake and Cayton have testified as to one important reason 
why some Afro- Americans became admirers of Communism 
during the 193 O's. "The Reds," they stated, "won the ad- 
miration of the Negro masses by default. They were the only 
white people who seemed to really care what happened to the 
Negro."*' Cayton points out that one source of admiration for 
Communism has been Russia's strong stand against racial preju- 
dice, both within the Soviet Union and throughout the world.'* 

The Party long has tried unsuccessfully to penetrate the 
national offices of both the NAACP and the Urban League. 
Both groups learned earl}^ in their careers that Communist or- 
ganizations are primarily instruments to promote the expansion 
and strength of the Soviet Union.*' Wilson Record has con- 
cluded that Negro membership in the Communist party has 
never exceeded 8,000 members,*'' and that in 19)1 this number 
had dwindled to 4,000. This, too, was a part of the national 
pattern, caused by a growing realization that hiding behind 
the cloak of an ideology was the ugly reality of Russian im- 
perialism and expansionism. By 1947, when the Truman Doc- 
trine declared these facts, most Afro-Americans had come to 
realize that the basic choice was not really between loyalty to 
one or more systems of economic and social belief and practice, 
but between two nations locked in a fateful ideological and 
power struggle, and as always in the past, they chose loyalty to 
the nation of their birth and forebears. Colored Americans 
joined in denouncing Russian aggression in Berlin, Greece, 
Korea and other areas. While they were equally united in their 
denunciation of Americans who were shown to have acted as 
spies for Russia, most joined in denouncing the manner of at- 
tacking native Communists which came popularly to be called 
"McCarthyism." Prominent among Negroes who, having been 
party members or followers, reversed their attitude and convic- 
tions have been Langston Hughes, George Schuyler, Richard 
Wright, Max Yergan, and Manning Johnson. In a highly sig- 
nificant statement on Communism, made before the House Un- 
American Activities Committee, Jackie Robinson was unequi- 
vocal in his denunciation of this ideology and movement. But 


he minced no words in stating that colored Americans were 
equally opposed to "any other influence that kills oft democ- 
racy" as it pertains to Negroes and all groups.*' 

The 1948 Progressive party candidacy of Henry "Wallace 
and Glen Taylor caused a great deal of interest among colored 
Americans. The great emphasis which the party platform 
placed on civil rights, the prominence of outstanding Negroes 
in the party, plus the fact that as Wallace toured the South he 
frequently resided in the homes of Negroes made the party 
popular. That this popularity did not run deep is evident in 
the relatively small Negro vote which Wallace received. Ne- 
groes were firmly wedded to the New-Fair Deal administrations, 
and suspicious of the strong Communist influence on the Pro- 
gressive Party. Too, the Democrats, by including a strong civil 
rights plank in their platform, stole much of the thunder of 
the Progressives, and probably no more than twenty thousand 
Negro votes were cast for Wallace. In Harlem, both Truman 
and Dewey ran ahead of him, and the trend was similar in 
Chicago, as well as in almost all major cities.*^ The post-World 
War 11 peace movement which centered around the Stockholm 
Peace Appeal and the Progressive Party attracted some backing. 
Perhaps the top colored supporters of the movement were Paul 
Robeson and W. E. B. DuBois. Negroes voiced no significant 
criticism of such issues and measures as the Marshall Plan, Berlin 
Airlift, or Point Four Program, and, as often has been the case, 
their failure to make many significant public statements did 
not indicate lack of interest or concern, but rather agreement 
with the pattern of national leadership. 


Chapter XX 


The Problem of Purposes or Objectives of Negro History 
An examination of the writings of such early Negro his- 
torians as William Cooper Nell, James W. C. Pennington, 
Robert Benjamin Lewis, James Theodore Holly, Joseph T. 
Wilson, William Wells Brown, and George Washington Wil- 
liams reveals that written Negro History had its beginnings 
in America primarily as an attempt to justify emancipation.^ 
Here it is of interest to compare the purposes which motivated 
the earliest Negro historians with those of their white contem- 
poraries. Posing recently the question, "What is written history 
good for?", Henry Steele Commager informs us that: 

The generation that had rejoiced in the stately his- 
tories by Bancroft, Motley, Prescott, and Parkman 
had not been troubled by this question. It had been 
content with the richness of the narrative, the sym- 
metry of the pattern, the felicity of the style that was 
to be found in these magisterial volumes.' 
As indicated, such was not the case with the Beginning School 
of Negro historians, who were as much interested in the uses 
of their history as they were in its discovery. Here it can be 
seen that Negro History originated from an urge to social re- 
form as well as the urge to scholarship. The conception of its 
nature, purposes or goals, and of values to be derived from the 
study pnd teaching of this discipline have been shaped, to a 
large extent, by this duality of urges. If we follow the practice 
of the many modern educators who "divide subjects or areas 
into two kinds called 'tool studies' and 'content studies',"' we 
find that always N