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Full text of "Negro progress in a Mississippi town, being a study of conditions in Jackson, Mississippi"

* LIBRARY 

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NEGRO PROGRESS IN A MISSISSIPPI TOWN 

BEING A STUDY OF CONDITIONS IN 
JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI 

BY 

D. W. WOODARD 

TUSKEGEE INSTITUTE. ALABAMA 



NEGRO BANKS OF MISSISSIPPI 

BY, 

CHARLES BANKS 

MOUND BAYOU, MISSISSIPPI 



COMMITTEE OF TWELVE 

FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF THE INTERESTS OF THE NEGRO RACE 
CHEYNEY. PA. 



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NEGRO PROGRESS IN A MISSISSIPPI TOWN 

BEING A STUDY OF CONDITIONS IN 
JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI 

BY 

Vr^y De W< WOODARD 

>u 

TUSKEGEE INSTITUTE, ALABAMA 



NEGRO BANKS OF MISSISSIPPI 

BY 

CHARLES BANKS 

MOUND BAYOU, MISSISSIPPI 



COMMITTEE OF TWELVE 

FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF THE INTERESTS OF THE NEGRO RACE 
CHEYNEY. PA. 



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THE BIODLE PRESS 
1010 Cherry St.. Phila. 



NEGRO PROGRESS IN A MISSISSIPPI TOWN 

BEING A STUDY OF CONDITIONS IN 
JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI 

BY 

D. W. WOODARD 

TUSKEGEE INSTITUTE, ALABAMA 

Mississippi, largely devoted to agricultural pursuits, is a state of small 
towns. Several of these towns stand out prominently by reason of their 
rapid growth during the last twelve years a period remarkable for an un- 
precedented development of the natural resources of the state. 

Perhaps no one of these towns has shared in this general growth and 
prosperity more fully than the capitol, Jackson. The last dozen years have 
seen many changes in the town of Jackson. The confines of the town have 
been extended to the west and north to include several outlying Negro com- 
munities ; and recently the almost exclusively white suburb, Duttonville, has 
been received into the corporation by popular vote. Large lumber and 
cotton seed oil mills, giving employment to hundreds, have been established. 
New railroads, opening up to commercial purposes as never before the 
natural resources of the district in which the town is situated, have multi- 
plied its importance as a trade center many times. The 'establishment of 
large department stores, the extension of business enterprises in all direc- 
tions, the erection of larger and more modern buildings for such purposes, 
some public improvements on a more or less limited scale, are giving to 
the town an urban air. 

The Negroes of Jackson, who have always outnumbered the whites, 
but who at present constitute about one-half of the population, have figured 
largely in this era of greater prosperity for the town. Twelve years ago. 
with two conspicuous exceptions, the Negroes were not reckoned in the 
business life of the town. Comparatively few of them owned property, and 
that for the most part consisted of the homes occupied by them. A few 
fraternal societies, the churches, and a periodical organization at the time 
of national elections, constituted all there was of associated life among the 
Negroes of the town. 

Today, according to an official of the town, the 8000 or more Negroes 
own one-third of the area of the town. Statistics of the condition of prop- 
erty ownership among the Negroes of twelve years ago are not available, 
and only the citizen acquainted with the situation at that time can apprec- 
iate the great advance on the part of the Negroes implied in the above es- 
timate. While it was practically impossible at the time of this inquiry to 
determine accurately the amount of real estate possessed by the Negroes, 
the real property assessment of 566 Negroes, as recorded in the tax books 
of the town, amounted to $581,580.00 with an average of $1,027.52 to the 
individual. It is significant that but 83 of these assessments were under 



$500.00, showing that almost all of this property is in an improved condi- 
tion. More than one-third of the assessments were above $1000.00; while 
six of them were for amounts greater than $5,000.00. The largest single 
assessment was that of $23,800.00. It is to be remembered that these fig- 
ures refer to the real property only of the 566 Negroes mentioned. 

At present one-half of the Negro families of the town own their homes. 
This fact was brought to light in an investigation made of 543 houses occu- 
pied by Negroes in various parts of the town. While one-half of the Negro 
families own the homes occupied by them, more than two-thirds of the 
houses in which Negroes live are in the possession of members of their own 
race. In the canvass mentioned above, 400 out of the 543 families were in 
houses owned by Negroes. This shows that the rent paid by Negroes to 
other Negroes throughout the town is no inconsiderable item. Thus, in the 
543 houses, the 169 families that rented from Negro owners paid to them 
yearly more than $13,000.00. It may be interesting in this connection to 
state, as indicative of the thrifty character of those that did own their 
homes, that more than one-half of these had other property than the homes 
occupied by them. And this property of the Negroes reflects a growing 
consciousness of a. better way of living. One has only to observe the 
dwellings in a Negro district, for the Negroes have always been severely 
districted to themselves, to find in the many comfortable, and, in many 
instances, tastefully furnished homes, evidences of this fact. 

The activity of Negro real estate dealers and of the two Negro banks, 
and the easy terms on which homes can be bought, especially in a tract 
outside of the town set aside exclusively for Negroes by an enterprising 
firm of white real estate dealers, have done much to encourage the owner- 
ship of property on the part of Negroes. I was surprised to find, again and 
again, even in the humblest of the rented homes, that the occupants were 
saving from their meager earnings the monthly payment on some lot on 
which they hoped to build the future home. It is a noteworthy fact, also, 
that these more recently built houses greatly excel the ones earlier con- 
structed in size and conveniences. The study of many of these homes 
revealed that as the Negroes moved from rented houses to those built by 
themselves as homes, these new houses were on an average one room larger 
than the ones rented. 

Next to the real property in the possession of the Negroes, their bank 
deposits attest the growth of a more healthy economic condition. In speak- 
ing of this matter, the president of one of the flourishing white banks said 
that the Negroes had just begun to save in the last ten or twelve years. He 
added that they were learning to handle their money to much greater 
advantage. He was in a position to know, for Negroes had on deposit in 
his bank more than $25,000.00. Inquiries made at the various banks of 
the town make it safe to estimate the savings of Negroes on deposit in 
the banks of Jackson at about $200,000.00, more than one-third of which 
is to be accredited to the two Negro banks. Other resources than the real 
property and the bank deposits, including $75,000.00 worth of property 
owned by nine Negro churches, will bring the total value of the wealth of 
the Negroes of the town to about one and one-quarter million of dollars. 

A considerable part of this wealth is in the hands of a few individuals. 
The aggregate wealth of seven of these more well-to-do Negroes is, by a 









conservative estimate, at least $200,000.00. This wealth is largely in the 
form of real estate. In fact, an increasing number of enterprising Negroes 
are looking to their real estate holdings for the greater part of their incomes. 
About five of these men, whose exceptional incomes place them in a class 
by themselves, own from 30 to 100 houses each. 

Perhaps the most conspicuously successful of them all is Dr. S. D. 
Redmond, who enjoys the largest practice of any of the Negro physicians 
of the town. Dr. Redmond, who received his medical training at the Illinois 
Medical College and Harvard University came to Jackson about ten years 
ago without sufficient means to establish himself properly in his practice. 
Today, at 36 years of age, he is probably the wealthiest Negro in the 
town. He is president of the American Trust and Savings Bank, the 
older of the two Negro banks, and a stockholder in three banks controlled 
by whites as well as in one of the power and light companies. He owns 
much valuable property in various parts of the town, receiving rent from 
more than 100 houses. Two drug stores, one of which is situated on the 
chief business street of the town, belong to him and are doing a paying 
business. 

While it is true that two Negro enterprises, the bakery of H. K. Risher 
and the store of Alexander Williams, have been successfully conducted for 
more than twenty years, yet it has only been comparatively recently that 
Negroes generally have had the temerity to engage in independent busi- 
nesses. More than 80 per cent, of the enterprises now controlled by Negroes 
were established within the last ten years. An inquiry into the condition 
of 46 of the older and better established of these concerns showed that 
41 had been in existence less than ten years, the average term of existence 
being a little more than five years. 

Although there are a few white store-keepers who cater almost exclu- 
sively to Negro patronage, the business establishments in the Negro dis- 
tricts are conducted for the most part by Negroes. These business ventures 
now number about 100, representing a wide range of endeavor. Among 
them are the two banks already mentioned, four drug stores, two undertak- 
ing companies, two real estate agencies, one theatre, one first-class bakery, 
four shoemaking and repairing shops (one doing the largest business of its 
kind in the town), one millinery shop, besides numerous stores, barber 
shops, and other smaller concerns of various kinds. Many of these estab- 
lishments in size, equipment, and volume of business, compare favorably 
with similar enterprises among the whites. Forty-four of these concerns, 
including five contracting firms, did about $380,000.00 worth of business 
last year and gave employment to 203 persons. 

The pioneer business man among the Negroes is H. K. Risher, the 
baker, who at one time practically controlled the bakery output of the 
town. His bakery is one of the oldest concerns in the place, having been 
established in 1881. This business, which amounts to about $30,000.00 a 
year and gives employment to 12 persons, is conducted in one of the best 
equipped establishments of its kind in that section of the State. 

The two Negro Banks represent the first successful attempts on the 
part of the Negroes to organize for commercial purposes. The older of 
the two, the American Trust and Savings Bank, capitalized at $20,000, was 
established six years ago. The Southern Bank, capitalized at $10,000, came 



into being two years later, and is, in a sense, an outgrowth of the older 
institution. It is interesting to note that of the 186 stockholders of these 
two banks, 80 individuals are mechanics, showing how these enterprises 
are influencing a class of workmen who make fair wages, but who, per- 
haps, would not otherwise invest their earnings. The Southern Bank in 
particular has been unusually successful in interesting this class of Negroes, 
70 out of its 100 stockholders being mechanics. These banks have had a 
tremendous influence in encouraging the masses of Negroes to save. In 
July, 1908, there were savings deposits in these two banks to the amount 
of $73,000.00. Their place in the business interests of the community has 
been fully recognized by the white business men of the town. This appears 
from the fact that several of the prominent officials of the Negro banks 
have, upon invitation, become stockholders in banks and other enterprises 
controlled by white men. 

L. K. Atwood, the president of the Southern Bank, belongs to the small 
group of professional Negroes who have found business more lucrative 
than the practice of their professions. Born in Willcox County, Ala., in 
1851, he was sold on the block as a slave when 18 months' old. His 
mother bought him for $300, and moved with him to Ohio. Later he 
attended Lincoln University, Pa., graduating in 1874. Two years later he 
was admitted to the bar in Mississippi. He has served tw r o terms as a 
member of the Mississippi Legislature, and has held the positions of United 
States Commissioner and United States Deputy Revenue Collector for the 
Louisiana-Mississippi district. In addition to his connection with the bank, 
he is actively identified with the Negro enterprises in the town. He has 
amassed considerable property, and is generally regarded as one of the 
shrewdest of the Negro business men of Jackson. 

There are about ten Negro contractors in the town, a few of whom are 
doing a rapidly growing business. These are men who started out as 
ordinary skilled mechanics, and, after accumulating a small capital, have 
launched out upon an independent basis. This kind of enterprise has been 
made possible to Negroes by the unprecedented amount of building that 
has been carried on in the town in the last few years. Five of these con- 
tracting companies did a combined business last year of $180,000.00, and 
gave employment constantly to about 84 men. C. C. Sims, who does a 
business that compares favorably with that done by the largest white con- 
tractors, was born on a farm, near Jackson, 43 years ago, and spent his 
youth there with only such limited advantages as a Mississippi rural com- 
munity of that time gave to the Negro boy. Twenty-five years ago he 
came to Jackson where he picked up the carpenter's trade, finally engaging 
in 1893 in an independent contracting business. During the last year his 
contracts amounted to more than $75,000.00. Mr. Sims frequently employs 
whites among the 50 or more men that work for him. His pay roll for 
labor is between $600 and $700 a week. His work has gained for him such 
a reputation that his contracts are placed in many of the towns near 
Jackson. 

The group of skilled workmen from which these contractors have 
sprung form, on the whole, a very desirable class of the Negro citizenship. 
They receive good wages, and, in increasing numbers, are investing their 
earnings in property or business. Of 83 mechanics, about whom information 






was secured, more than two-thirds owned their homes. Negro mechanics, 
as has been mentioned, constitute a large part, more than two-fifths, of the 
stockholders of the two Negro banks. 

A goodly number of the skilled Negro laborers are carpenters, there being 
about 150 engaged in this trade. Besides these, there are about 40 brick- 
layers, 25 plasterers, 35 painters, 12 blacksmiths, 6 cotton samplers, 2 engi- 
neers, 7 shoemakers, and a number of others distributed among several 
trades. In the plastering trade, the Negro workmen have no white com- 
petitors. One Negro firm of contracting plasterers, Populus and Boise, 
did more than $50,000.00 worth of business last year. 

In the case of the Negro women, the means of earning a living are 
much more limited. A number of seamstresses (about 35), 3 graduate 
nurses, who enjoy lucrative practices, I milliner, and 2 stenographers com- 
plete the list of skilled workers among the colored women of the town. 

Mississippi is fertile soil for all kinds of secret and benevolent organiza- 
tions for Negroes. The strong financial condition of these organizations 
in the State appears from the report of the State Insurance Commissioner 
for the year 1907, in which the combined value of the certificates in force 
in 42 of these societies is stated to be $24,728,709.00; the amount collected 
by the 42 organizations, $709,670.00, and the losses paid, $522,757.96. No 
less than one-half, and probably more, of these societies operate in Jackson. 
The Jackson Beneficial Benevolent Association, a purely local organiza- 
tion, which has been in successful operation for almost 32 years, is a 
typical instance. This society has a membership of 750. Its members pay 
25 cents a month, with an extra assessment of 50 cents on the death of a 
member. One dollar per week is paid to sick members, and $30.00 con- 
tributed to the burial in case of death. During the year 1907, $265.00 was 
received by sick members, and $90.00 contributed to the funeral expenses 
of those lost by death. The society also makes contributions to various 
charitable purposes. The property of the organization consists of one hall, 
valued at about $4,700.00, the income from the rent of which averages 
about $80.00 per month ; and 4 acres of land, worth $2,500.00, to be used 
ultimately as a cemetery. 

Jackson has always been regarded by Negroes throughout the State 
as a good town for members of their race. The chances of making a 
living are as good or better than in most other places in the State. The 
educational advantages, although inadequate, are far above the average. 
Furthermore, there has been comparatively little friction between the 
whites and blacks. There has never been a lynching in Jackson. 

A conservative element of well-to-do white citizens have shown in no 
unmistakable manner their friendliness towards the Negro and their desire 
to help him into better ways. But lately, and particularly since the com- 
ing of Governor Vardaman, the thinking Negro has come to realize that 
conditions are changing somewhat, that the lines are being drawn closer. 
For instance, Negro and white mechanics have for many years worked 
together, often side by side, without friction; but frequent instances of 
opposition on the part of white workmen incline one to believe that com- 
petition on racial lines is increasing. In the summer of 1908, the white 
carpenters started a public campaign against the employment of Negro 
carpenters by white contractors. Very little was accomplished in this 



ii iiiiltii II 



direction, except to intensify a growing feeling against Negro mechanics 
in general. As it is, the Negro mechanics are needed in the fast growing 
town, and prejudice must wait for purely economic reasons before it can 
work them much harm. 

An organization of interest just here is the Bricklayers Union, No. 3 
(Miss.), the only association of its kind in the town. Its membership is 
composed of both white and Negro laborers. The Negroes constitute a 
majority of the members and hold all of the offices except that of secretary, 
this position being filled by one of the white members. 

The better class of Negroes and the better class of whites are coming 
closer together on purely economic grounds. The Jackson Negro has done 
well in business, and is no longer a negligible factor in the business activities 
of the town. There are, to my knowledge, at least four Negroes who are 
stockholders in business concerns conducted by white men. At present 
Negro contractors do by far the greater part of their work for white patrons. 
More than one-half of the real estate business of a particularly wide-awake 
Negro is conducted in the interests of white customers. 

The thinking Negro of Jackson has come to feel that the salvation of 
the Negro in Mississippi must be worked out, first of all, upon economic 
lines. And he is putting this belief into practice in a way that speaks for 
itself, not altogther ignorant of the conditions under which he is laboring. 



NEGRO BANKS OF MISSISSIPPI 

BY 

CHARLES BANKS 

MOUND BAYOU, MISSISSIPPI 

"Surely no better proof can be given of the Negro's desire and ability 
to rise and become a respectable member of society than the production of a 
bank-book with a good balance, or, better still, the title to a farm or a home 
free of debt. The saving man is par excellence the model citizen peace- 
able, sober, industrious and frugal." Andrew Carnegie. 



In summarizing the economic progress of the Negro in Mississippi dur- 
ing the past ten years, that made in banking comes in for no inconsiderable 
part. Beginning with the Lincoln Savings Bank, which was formerly the 
Knights of Honor Bank, about eight years ago, Negro banks have steadily 
grown in number until, to-day, we have eleven live, active, prosperous, pro- 
gressive banking institutions dotted over the state. At Vicksburg we have 
the Lincoln Savings Bank, under the management of W. E. Mollison ; with 
resources over $60,000.00, and the Union Savings Bank, managed by T. G. 
Ewing, resources over $60,000.00; at Indianola is the Delta Penny Savings 
Bank, directed by W. W. Cox, resources over $100,000.00; at Jackson is the 
American Savings Bank and Trust Company, managed by Dr. S. D. Red- 
mond, resources over $60,000.00, and the Southern Bank under the direction 
of L. K. Atwood, resources over $60,000.00; at Yazoo is the People's Sav- 
ings Bank, managed by H. H. King, resources over $40,000.00; at Colum- 
bus is the Penny Savings Bank, managed by W. I. Mitchell, resources over 
$25,000.00; at Mound Bayou is the Bank of Mound Bayou, under the 
management of the writer, resources over $100,000.00; at Natchez is the 
Bluff City Savings Bank, under the direction of Dr. J. B. Banks, resources 
over $50,000.00; at Greenville is the Delta Savings Bank, under the man- 
agement of John W. Strauther, resources over $25,000.00; at Hattiesburg 
is the Magic City Savings Bank, organized during the past year, under the 
management of Dr. J. H. Howard, resources over $15,000.00, this being, in 
fact, the reorganized Peoples' Bank of Hattiesburg, which went into volun- 
tary liquidation after the assassination of its founder and cashier, the late 
E. D. Howell. It may be well here to state that the retiring bank paid 
all of its depositors in full, in fact there has never been a real bank 
failure on the part of Negro banks in Mississippi since their existence. Dur- 
ing the panic of 1907, so far as I have been able to learn, and I am a stock- 
holder in nearly all of them, only two banks suspended specie payment, and 
not one was seriously embarrassed, emerging from that trying period 
stronger and more trusted than before. While enjoying the confidence and 
patronage of their own people, it is a noteworthy fact that the Negro banks 



of this state have the confidence, respect, and goodwill of the white bankers, 
especially their neighbors. In most cases the Negro bank clears through the 
white bank in the same town, using it largely as a correspondent. In this 
way it develops that the existence of the Negro banks in towns where there 
are also white banks, instead of being hurtful from any view point what- 
ever, are mutually beneficial. Negroes who otherwise would not be reached 
and induced to save, but for the existence influence, and education of Negro 
banks, are made depositors in Negro banks, who in turn, by using the local 
white banks as depositories and correspondents, bring into the channels of 
commerce funds that, but for them, would not be available. Of course the 
Negro banker does not pursue this policy for mere conciliation. The policy 
is in line with that of all small banks, be they white or black, to use larger 
ones as correspondents and depositories, as well as to clear through them, 
because of the advantage and facilities always had by a larger institution, 
both as to safety and making par points ; but in the operation of the whole 
it is clearly demonstrated that the prosperity of the Negro banker, as well 
as in other fields of endeavor, instead of being a menace to the Mississippi 
white man, is really and substantially beneficial to him also. I hardly think 
I would overdraw the facts if I should state that there is now deposited in 
white banks in Mississippi by Negro banks one quarter of a million dollars, 
and this can be safely counted on as the average daily balance maintained 
at least eight months in the year. Nor are the benefits following the rise 
and progress of Negro banks confined to this State alone, for nearly every 
one maintains a balance with correspondents in financial centers like New 
York, St. Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans, upon which they draw bills 
of exchange, and with whom they rediscount as occasions require ; and right 
here let me state, in justice to the white banker, both of this State and in 
the financial centers named, that no discrimination is made against the Negro 
banker when it comes to granting him lines of credit, but they invariably 
grant him credit based mainly on the average daily balance maintained and 
business ability. 

If you ask have we passed the experimental stage as bankers here, I an- 
swer, "yes, in a measure, we have." Of course, unlike our white bankers, 
we have to use raw material as bankers. We have had no presidents and 
cashiers, not even bookkeepers and tellers, who took hold of the active man- 
agement of our banks after long years of practical training and experience in 
some well established banking institution, but have had to feel our way along, 
and "read while we ran." The recent panic and its subsequent effects were, in 
a measure, calculated to test the stability and management of banking insti- 
tuitons. Be it said to the credit of the Negro banker in Mississippi, when 
the mists had cleared away, not one was found swept away. Perhaps the 
following table will serve to indicate the progress being made : In 1904 they 
had resources of $50,000.00; in 1905, $95,000.00; in 1906, $140.000.00; in 
1907, $360,000.00; and in 1908, $750,000.00. From this table we can safely 
predict that 1909 will find us way above the million dollar mark. Another 
statement I desire to make, without any comment whatever, is that all these 
banks, save two, were chartered by Ex-Governor Vardaman. 

The showing made by the banks does not take into account that of the 
fraternal organizations in the State, which, because of their singular fitness 
for supplying life insurance to many who are barred by the large Life In- 

10 



surance Companies, are quite popular as well as helpful in this State. These 
organizations, notably among which are the Masons, Odd Fellows, Knights 
of Pythias and Knights of Tabor, carry a reserve fund of about one quarter 
of a million dollars to beneficiaries of deceased members. In most cases, 
the persons managing the banks of our State are of high moral character, 
with some personal means and fair business ability. As stated above, it is 
not possible for us to draw from a stock of men who have had years of 
training in banking, perhaps working up from a runner to president, as is the 
case with our white friends, but all things being considered, the management 
and conduct generally of the institutions are creditable. Judging by what 
Negro banks have accomplished in this State in the past few years and their 
status at the present time, we can confidently look forward to greater things 
by them in the financial world in the next decade. 

CHARLES BANKS, 

Mound Bayou, Miss. 



11 



LIST OF PUBLICATIONS OF THE COMMITTEE OF TWELVE. 



Any one may obtain a copy of any of these publications now in print by 
writing to the Secretary of the Committee of Twelve, Hugh M. Browne, 
Cheyney, Pa., and enclosing for each publication desired a two-cent paper 
wrapper addressed to himself. 



*To the Colored Men of Voting Age in Alabama. 

Can the South Solve the Negro Problem ? Carl S'churz. 

Why Disfranchisement is Bad. Archibald H. Grimke. 
*Voting Instructions to Maryland Voters. 
*What a Colored Alan Should do to Vote. 

Garrison Centenary Leaflet. 

Slavery and the Race Problem in the South. Hon. Wm. H. Fleming. 

The Atlanta Riot. Ray Stannard Baker. 

The Negro in America. Andrew Carnegie. 

Address before the North Carolina Society in New York. 
William H. Taft. 

Work of the Colored Law and Order League of Baltimore, Md. 
James H. N. Waring. 

Study of the Negro's Progress in Jackson, Miss. Dr. W. Woodard. 

Negro Self -Help in Education. R. R. Wright, Jr. 

Negro Self-Help in Home Getting. Kelly Miller. 

The Convict Lease System. George W. Forbes. 

Negro Self-Help in Hospital Work. George C. Hall, M. D. 

PARAGRAPHS. 

East Bessemer, Ala. Negro Banks in Mississippi. 

Some Successful Negro Business Men. 

Business Co-operation between White and Negro Men in Helena, Ark. 
*Out of print. 



12 






"I believe also that the Negro is to continue to 
ascend morally, educationally and financially. I am 
quite resigned to our own and the Negro races oc- 
cupying the South together, confident that as time 
passes the two will view each other with increasing 
regard, and more and more realize that, destined 
as they are to dwell together, it is advantageous 
for both that they live in harmony as good 
neighbors and labor for the best interests of their 
common country." ANDREW CARNEGIE. 



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