Life treads on life, and heart on heart;
We press too close in church and mart
To keep a dream or grave apart.
[On the meaning of the bar of music]
The world-old phenomenon of the contact of diverse racesof men is to have new exemplification during the new century. Indeed, thecharacteristic of our age is the contact of European civilization with theworld's undeveloped peoples. Whatever we may say of the results of such contactin the past, it certainly forms a chapter in human action not pleasant to lookback upon. War, murder, slavery, extermination, and debauchery, -- this hasagain and again been the result of carrying civilization and the blessed gospelto the isles of the sea and the heathen without the law. Nor does it altogethersatisfy the conscience of the modern world to be told compla- cently that allthis has been right and proper, the fated triumph of strength over weakness, ofrighteousness over evil, of superiors over inferiors. It would certainly besoothing
ing if one could readily believe all this; and yet there are too many uglyfacts for everything to be thus easily explained away. We feel and know thatthere are many delicate differences in race psychology, numberless changes thatour crude social measurements are not yet able to follow minutely, whichexplain much of history and social development. At the same time, too, we knowthat these considerations have never adequately explained or excused thetriumph of brute force and cunning over weakness and innocence.
It is, then, the strife of all honorable men of thetwentieth century to see that in the future competition of races the survivalof the fittest shall mean the triumph of the good, the beautiful, and the true;that we may be able to preserve for future civilization all that is really fineand noble and strong, and not continue to put a premium on greed and impudenceand cruelty. To bring this hope to fruition, we are compelled daily to turnmore and more to a conscientious study of the phenomena of race-contact, -- toa study frank and fair, and not falsified and colored by our wishes or ourfears. And we have in the South as fine a field for such a study as the worldaffords, -- a field, to be sure, which the average American scientist deemssomewhat beneath his dignity, and which the average man who is not a scientistknows all about, but nevertheless a line of study which by reason of theenormous race complications with which God seems about to punish this nationmust increasingly claim our sober attention, study, and thought, we must ask,what are the actual relations of whites and blacks in the South? and we must beanswered, not by apology or fault-finding, but by a plain, unvarnished tale.
In the civilized life of to-day the contact of men andtheir relations to each other fall in a few main lines of action andcommunication: there is, first, the physical proximity of home anddwelling-places, the way in which neighborhoods group themselves, and thecontiguity of neighborhoods. Secondly, and in our age chiefest, there are theeconomic relations, -- the methods by which individuals cooperate for earning aliving, for the mutual satisfaction of wants, for the production of wealth.Next, there are the political relations, the cooperation
in social control, in group government, in laying and paying the burden oftaxation. In the fourth place there are the less tangible but highly importantforms of intellectual contact and commerce, the interchange of ideas throughconversation and conference, through periodicals and libraries; and, above all,the gradual formation for each community of that curious tertium quidwhich we call public opinion. Closely allied with this come the various formsof social contact in everyday life, in travel, in theatres, in housegatherings, in marrying and giving in marriage. Finally, there are the varyingforms of religious enterprise, of moral teaching and benevolent endeavor. Theseare the principal ways in which men living in the same communities are broughtinto contact with each other. It is my present task, therefore, to indicate,from my point of view, how the black race in the South meet and mingle with thewhites in these matters of everyday life.
First, as to physical dwelling. It is usually possible todraw in nearly every Southern community a physical color-line on the map, onthe one side of which whites dwell and on the other Negroes. The winding andintricacy of the geographical color-line varies, of course, in differentcommunities. I know some towns where a straight line drawn through the middleof the main street separates nine-tenths of the whites from nine- tenths of theblacks. In other towns the older settlement of whites has been encircled by abroad band of blacks; in still other cases little settlements or nuclei ofblacks have sprung up amid surrounding whites. Usually in cities each streethas its distinctive color, and only now and then do the colors meet in closeproximity. Even in the country something of this segregation is manifest in thesmaller areas, and of course in the larger phenomena of the Black Belt.
All this segregation by color is largely independent ofthat natural clustering by social grades common to all communities. A Negroslum may be in dangerous proximity to a white residence quarter, while it isquite common to find a white slum planted in the heart of a respectable Negrodistrict. One thing, however, seldom occurs: the best of the whites and thebest of the Negroes almost never live in anything like close proximity. It thushappens that in nearly every Southern town
and city, both whites and blacks see commonly the worst of each other. This isa vast change from the situation in the past, when, through the close contactof master and house- servant in the patriarchal big house, one found the bestof both races in close contact and sympathy, while at the same time the squalorand dull round of toil among the field-hands was removed from the sight andhearing of the family. One can easily see how a person who saw slavery thusfrom his father's parlors, and sees freedom on the streets of a great city,fails to grasp or comprehend the whole of the new picture. On the other hand,the settled belief of the mass of the Negroes that the Southern white people donot have the black man's best interests at heart has been intensified in lateryears by this continual daily contact of the better class of blacks with theworst representatives of the white race.
Coming now to the economic relations of the races, we areon ground made familiar by study, much discussion, and no little philanthropiceffort. And yet with all this there are many essential elements in thecooperation of Negroes and whites for work and wealth that are too readilyoverlooked or not thoroughly understood. The average American can easilyconceive of a rich land awaiting development and filled with black laborers. Tohim the Southern problem is simply that of making efficient workingmen out ofthis material, by giving them the requisite technical skill and the help ofinvested capital. The problem, however, is by no means as simple as this, fromthe obvious fact that these workingmen have been trained for centuries asslaves. They exhibit, therefore, all the advantages and defects of suchtraining; they are willing and good-natured, but not self-reliant, provident,or careful. If now the economic development of the South is to be pushed to theverge of exploitation, as seems probable, then we have a mass of workingmenthrown into relentless competition with the workingmen of the world, buthandicapped by a training the very opposite to that of the modern self-reliantdemocratic laborer. What the black laborer needs is careful personal guidance,group leadership of men with hearts in their bosoms, to train them toforesight, carefulness, and honesty. Nor does it require any fine-spun theoriesof racial differences to prove the necessity of such group training after
the brains of the race have been knocked out by two hundred and fifty years ofassiduous education in submission, carelessness, and stealing. AfterEmancipation, it was the plain duty of some one to assume this group leadershipand training of the Negro laborer. I will not stop here to inquire whose dutyit was -- whether that of the white ex-master who had profited by unpaid toil,or the Northern philanthropist whose persistence brought on the crisis, or theNational Government whose edict freed the bondmen; I will not stop to ask whoseduty it was, but I insist it was the duty of some one to see that theseworkingmen were not left alone and unguided, without capital, without land,without skill, without economic organization, without even the bald protectionof law, order, and decency, -- left in a great land, not to settle down to slowand careful internal development, but destined to be thrown almost immediatelyinto relentless and sharp competition with the best of modern workingmen underan economic system where every participant is fighting for himself, and toooften utterly regardless of the rights or welfare of his neighbor.
For we must never forget that the economic system of theSouth to-day which has succeeded the old regime is not the same system as thatof the old industrial North, of England, or of France, with their trade-unions,their restrictive laws, their written and unwritten commercial customs, andtheir long experience. It is, rather, a copy of that England of the earlynineteenth century, before the factory acts, -- the England that wrung pityfrom thinkers and fired the wrath of Carlyle. The rod of empire that passedfrom the hands of Southern gentlemen in 1865, partly by force, partly by theirown petulance, has never returned to them. Rather it has passed to those menwho have come to take charge of the industrial exploitation of the New South,-- the sons of poor whites fired with a new thirst for wealth and power,thrifty and avaricious Yankees, and unscrupulous immigrants. Into the hands ofthese men the Southern laborers, white and black, have fallen; and this totheir sorrow. For the laborers as such, there is in these new captains ofindustry neither love nor hate, neither sympathy nor romance; it is a coldquestion of dollars and dividends. Under such a system all labor is
bound to suffer. Even the white laborers are not yet intelligent, thrifty, andwell trained enough to maintain themselves against the powerful inroads oforganized capital. The results among them, even, are long hours of toil, lowwages, child labor, and lack of protection against usury and cheating. Butamong the black laborers all this is aggravated, first, by a race prejudicewhich varies from a doubt and distrust among the best element of whites to afrenzied hatred among the worst; and, secondly, it is aggravated, as I havesaid before, by the wretched economic heritage of the freedmen from slavery.With this training it is difficult for the freedman to learn to grasp theopportunities already opened to him, and the new opportunities are seldom givenhim, but go by favor to the whites.
Left by the best elements of the South with littleprotection or oversight, he has been made in law and custom the victim of theworst and most unscrupulous men in each community. The crop-lien system whichis depopulating the fields of the South is not simply the result ofshiftlessness on the part of Negroes, but is also the result of cunninglydevised laws as to mortgages, liens, and misdemeanors, which can be made byconscienceless men to entrap and snare the unwary until escape is impossible,further toil a farce, and protest a crime. I have seen, in the Black Belt ofGeorgia, an ignorant, honest Negro buy and pay for a farm in installments threeseparate times, and then in the face of law and decency the enterprisingAmerican who sold it to him pocketed the money and deed and left the black manlandless, to labor on his own land at thirty cents a day. I have seen a blackfarmer fall in debt to a white storekeeper, and that storekeeper go to his farmand strip it of every single marketable article, -- mules, ploughs, storedcrops, tools, furniture, bedding, clocks, looking-glass, -- and all thiswithout a sheriff or officer, in the face of the law for homestead exemptions,and without rendering to a single responsible person any account or reckoning.And such proceedings can happen, and will happen, in any community where aclass of ignorant toilers are placed by custom and race-prejudice beyond thepale of sympathy and race- brotherhood. So long as the best elements of acommunity do
not feel in duty bound to protect and train and care for the weaker members oftheir group, they leave them to be preyed upon by these swindlers and rascals.
This unfortunate economic situation does not mean thehindrance of all advance in the black South, or the absence of a class of blacklandlords and mechanics who, in spite of disadvantages, are accumulatingproperty and making good citizens. But it does mean that this class is notnearly so large as a fairer economic system might easily make it, that thosewho survive in the competition are handicapped so as to accomplish much lessthan they deserve to, and that, above all, the personnel of thesuccessful class is left to chance and accident, and not to any intelligentculling or reasonable methods of selection. As a remedy for this, there is butone possible procedure. We must accept some of the race prejudice in the Southas a fact, -- deplorable in its intensity, unfortunate in results, anddangerous for the future, but nevertheless a hard fact which only time canefface. We cannot hope, then, in this generation, or for several generations,that the mass of the whites can be brought to assume that close sympathetic andself-sacrificing leadership of the blacks which their present situation soeloquently demands. Such leadership, such social teaching and example, mustcome from the blacks themselves. For some time men doubted as to whether theNegro could develop such leaders; but to-day no one seriously disputes thecapability of individual Negroes to assimilate the culture and common sense ofmodern civilization, and to pass it on, to some extent at least, to theirfellows. If this is true, then here is the path out of the economic situation,and here is the imperative demand for trained Negro leaders of character andintelligence, -- men of skill, men of light and leading, college-bred men,black captains of industry, and missionaries of culture; men who thoroughlycomprehend and know modern civilization, and can take hold of Negro communitiesand raise and train them by force of precept and example, deep sympathy, andthe inspiration of common blood and ideals. But if such men are to be effectivethey must have some power, -- they must be backed by the best public opinion ofthese communities, and
able to wield for their objects and aims such weapons as the experience of theworld has taught are indispensable to hu- man progress.
Of such weapons the greatest, perhaps, in the modernworld is the power of the ballot; and this brings me to a consideration of thethird form of contact between whites and blacks in the South, -- politicalactivity.
In the attitude of the American mind toward Negrosuffrage can be traced with unusual accuracy the prevalent conceptions ofgovernment. In the fifties we were near enough the echoes of the FrenchRevolution to believe pretty thoroughly in universal suffrage. We argued, as wethought then rather logically, that no social class was so good, so true, andso disinterested as to be trusted wholly with the political destiny of itsneighbors; that in every state the best arbiters of their own welfare are thepersons directly affected; consequently that it is only by arming every handwith a ballot, -- with the right to have a voice in the policy of the state, --that the greatest good to the greatest number could be attained. To be sure,there were objections to these arguments, but we thought we had answered themtersely and convincingly; if some one complained of the ignorance of voters, weanswered, "Educate them." If another complained of their venality, wereplied, "Disfranchise them or put them in jail." And, finally, tothe men who feared demagogues and the natural perversity of some human beingswe insisted that time and bitter experience would teach the most hardheaded. Itwas at this time that the question of Negro suffrage in the South was raised.Here was a defenceless people suddenly made free. How were they to be protectedfrom those who did not believe in their freedom and were determined to thwartit? Not by force, said the North; not by government guardianship, said theSouth; then by the ballot, the sole and legitimate defence of a free people,said the Common Sense of the Nation. No one thought, at the time, that theex-slaves could use the ballot intelligently or very effectively; but they didthink that the possession of so great power by a great class in the nationwould compel their fellows to educate this class to its intelligent use.
Meantime, new thoughts came to the nation: the inevitableperiod of moral retrogression and political trickery that ever follows in thewake of war overtook us. So flagrant became the political scandals thatreputable men began to leave politics alone, and politics consequently becamedisreputable. Men began to pride themselves on having nothing to do with theirown government, and to agree tacitly with those who regarded public office as aprivate perquisite. In this state of mind it became easy to wink at thesuppression of the Negro vote in the South, and to advise self-respectingNegroes to leave politics entirely alone. The decent and reputable citizens ofthe North who neglected their own civic duties grew hilarious over theexaggerated importance with which the Negro regarded the franchise. Thus iteasily happened that more and more the better class of Negroes followed theadvice from abroad and the pressure from home, and took no further interest inpolitics, leaving to the careless and the venal of their race the exercise oftheir rights as voters. The black vote that still remained was not trained andeducated, but further debauched by open and unblushing bribery, or force andfraud; until the Negro voter was thoroughly inoculated with the idea thatpolitics was a method of private gain by disreputable means.
And finally, now, to-day, when we are awakening to thefact that the perpetuity of republican institutions on this continent dependson the purification of the ballot, the civic training of voters, and theraising of voting to the plane of a solemn duty which a patriotic citizenneglects to his peril and to the peril of his children's children, -- in thisday, when we are striving for a renaissance of civic virtue, what are we goingto say to the black voter of the South? Are we going to tell him still thatpolitics is a disreputable and useless form of human activity? Are we going toinduce the best class of Negroes to take less and less interest in government,and to give up their right to take such an interest, without a protest? I amnot saying a word against all legitimate efforts to purge the ballot ofignorance, pauperism, and crime. But few have pretended that the presentmovement for disfranchisement in the South is for such a purpose; it has beenplainly and
frankly declared in nearly every case that the object of the disfranchisinglaws is the elimination of the black man from politics.
Now, is this a minor matter which has no influence on themain question of the industrial and intellectual development of the Negro? Canwe establish a mass of black laborers and artisans and landholders in the Southwho, by law and public opinion, have absolutely no voice in shaping the lawsunder which they live and work? Can the modern organization of industry,assuming as it does free democratic government and the power and ability of thelaboring classes to compel respect for their welfare, -- can this system becarried out in the South when half its laboring force is voiceless in thepublic councils and powerless in its own defence? To-day the black man of theSouth has almost nothing to say as to how much he shall be taxed, or how thosetaxes shall be expended; as to who shall execute the laws, and how they shalldo it; as to who shall make the laws, and how they shall be made. It ispitiable that frantic efforts must be made at critical times to get law-makersin some States even to listen to the respectful presentation of the black man'sside of a current controversy. Daily the Negro is coming more and more to lookupon law and justice, not as protecting safeguards, but as sources ofhumiliation and oppression. The laws are made by men who have little interestin him; they are executed by men who have absolutely no motive for treating theblack people with courtesy or consideration; and, finally, the accusedlaw-breaker is tried, not by his peers, but too often by men who would ratherpunish ten innocent Negroes than let one guilty one escape.
I should be the last one to deny the patent weaknessesand shortcomings of the Negro people; I should be the last to withhold sympathyfrom the white South in its efforts to solve its intricate social problems. Ifreely acknowledged that it is possible, and sometimes best, that a partiallyundeveloped people should be ruled by the best of their stronger and betterneighbors for their own good, until such time as they can start and fight theworld's battles alone. I have already pointed out how sorely in need of sucheconomic and spiritual guidance
the emancipated Negro was, and I am quite willing to admit that if therepresentatives of the best white Southern public opinion were the ruling andguiding powers in the South to-day the conditions indicated would be fairlywell fulfilled. But the point I have insisted upon and now emphasize again, isthat the best opinion of the South to-day is not the ruling opinion. That toleave the Negro helpless and without a ballot to-day is to leave him not to theguidance of the best, but rather to the exploitation and debauchment of theworst; that this is no truer of the South than of the North, -- of the Norththan of Europe: in any land, in any country under modern free competition, tolay any class of weak and despised people, be they white, black, or blue, atthe political mercy of their stronger, richer, and more resourceful fellows, isa temptation which human nature seldom has withstood and seldom will withstand.
Moreover, the political status of the Negro in the Southis closely connected with the question of Negro crime. There can be no doubtthat crime among Negroes has sensibly increased in the last thirty years, andthat there has appeared in the slums of great cities a distinct criminal classamong the blacks. In explaining this unfortunate development, we must note twothings: (1) that the inevitable result of Emancipation was to increase crimeand criminals, and (2) that the police system of the South was primarilydesigned to control slaves. As to the first point, we must not forget thatunder a strict slave system there can scarcely be such a thing as crime. Butwhen these variously constituted human particles are sud- denly thrownbroadcast on the sea of life, some swim, some sink, and some hang suspended, tobe forced up or down by the chance currents of a busy hurrying world. So greatan economic and social revolution as swept the South in '63 meant a weeding outamong the Negroes of the incompetents and vicious, the beginning of adifferentiation of social grades.
Now a rising group of people are not lifted bodily fromthe ground like an inert solid mass, but rather stretch upward like a livingplant with its roots still clinging in the mould. The appearance, therefore, ofthe Negro criminal was a phenomenon to be awaited; and while it causes anxiety,it should not occasion surprise.
Here again the hope for the future depended peculiarly oncareful and delicate dealing with these criminals. Their offences at first werethose of laziness, carelessness, and im- pulse, rather than of malignity orungoverned viciousness. Such misdemeanors needed discriminating treatment, firmbut reformatory, with no hint of injustice, and full proof of guilt. For suchdealing with criminals, white or black, the South had no machinery, no adequatejails or reformatories; its police system was arranged to deal with blacksalone, and tacitly assumed that every white man was ipso facto a mem-ber of that police. Thus grew up a double system of justice, which erred on thewhite side by undue leniency and the practical immunity of red-handedcriminals, and erred on the black side by undue severity, injustice, and lackof discrimination. For, as I have said, the police system of the South wasoriginally designed to keep track of all Negroes, not simply of criminals; andwhen the Negroes were freed and the whole South was convinced of theimpossibility of free Negro labor, the first and almost universal device was touse the courts as a means of reenslaving the blacks. It was not then a questionof crime, but rather one of color, that settled a man's conviction on almostany charge. Thus Negroes came to look upon courts as instruments of injusticeand oppression, and upon those convicted in them as martyrs and victims.
When, now, the real Negro criminal appeared, and insteadof petty stealing and vagrancy we began to have highway robbery, burglary,murder, and rape, there was a curious effect on both sides the color-line: theNegroes refused to believe the evidence of white witnesses or the fairness ofwhite juries, so that the greatest deterrent to crime, the public opinion ofone's own social caste, was lost, and the criminal was looked upon as crucifiedrather than hanged. On the other hand, the whites, used to being careless as tothe guilt or innocence of accused Negroes, were swept in moments of passionbeyond law, reason, and decency. Such a situation is bound to increase crime,and has increased it. To natural viciousness and vagrancy are being daily addedmotives of revolt and revenge which stir up all the latent savagery of
both races and make peaceful attention to economic de- velopment oftenimpossible.
But the chief problem in any community cursed with crimeis not the punishment of the criminals, but the preventing of the young frombeing trained to crime. And here again the peculiar conditions of the Southhave prevented proper precautions. I have seen twelve-year-old boys working inchains on the public streets of Atlanta, directly in front of the schools, incompany with old and hardened criminals; and this indiscriminate mingling ofmen and women and children makes the chain-gangs perfect schools of crime anddebauchery. The struggle for reformatories, which has gone on in Virginia,Georgia, and other States, is the one encouraging sign of the awakening of somecommunities to the suicidal results of this policy.
It is the public schools, however, which can be made,outside the homes, the greatest means of training decent self-respectingcitizens. We have been so hotly engaged recently in discussing trade-schoolsand the higher education that the pitiable plight of the public-school systemin the South has almost dropped from view. Of every five dollars spent forpublic education in the State of Georgia, the white schools get four dollarsand the Negro one dollar; and even then the white public-school system, save inthe cities, is bad and cries for reform. If this is true of the whites, what ofthe blacks? I am becoming more and more convinced, as I look upon the system ofcommon-school training in the South, that the national government must soonstep in and aid popular education in some way. To-day it has been only by themost strenuous efforts on the part of the thinking men of the South that theNegro's share of the school fund has not been cut down to a pittance in somehalf-dozen States; and that movement not only is not dead, but in manycommunities is gaining strength. What in the name of reason does this nationexpect of a people, poorly trained and hard pressed in severe economiccompetition, without political rights, and with ludicrously inadequatecommon-school facilities? What can it expect but crime and listlessness, offsethere and there by the dogged struggles of the fortunate and more determined who
are themselves buoyed by the hope that in due time the country will come to itssenses?
I have thus far sought to make clear the physical,economic, and political relations of the Negroes and whites in the South, as Ihave conceived them, including, for the reasons set forth, crime and education.But after all that has been said on these more tangible matters of humancontact, there still remains a part essential to a proper description of theSouth which it is difficult to describe or fix in terms easily understood bystrangers. It is, in fine, the atmosphere of the land, the thought and feeling,the thousand and one little actions which go to make up life. In any communityor nation it is these little things which are most elusive to the grasp and yetmost essential to any clear conception of the group life taken as a whole. Whatis thus true of all communities is peculiarly true of the South, where, outsideof written history and outside of printed law, there has been going on for ageneration as deep a storm and stress of human souls, as intense a ferment offeeling, as intricate a writhing of spirit, as ever a people experienced.Within and without the sombre veil of color vast social forces have been atwork, -- efforts for human betterment, movements toward disintegration anddespair, tragedies and comedies in social and economic life, and a swaying andlifting and sinking of human hearts which have made this land a land of mingledsorrow and joy, of change and excitement and unrest.
The centre of this spiritual turmoil has ever been themillions of black freedmen and their sons, whose destiny is so fatefully boundup with that of the nation. And yet the casual observer visiting the South seesat first little of this. He notes the growing frequency of dark faces as herides along, -- but otherwise the days slip lazily on, the sun shines, and thislittle world seems as happy and contented as other worlds he has visited.Indeed, on the question of questions -- the Negro problem -- he hears so littlethat there almost seems to be a conspiracy of silence; the morning papersseldom mention it, and then usually in a far-fetched academic way, and indeedalmost every one seems to forget and ignore the darker half of the land, untilthe astonished visitor is inclined to ask if after
all there is any problem here. But if he lingers long enough there comesthe awakening: perhaps in a sudden whirl of passion which leaves him gasping atits bitter intensity; more likely in a gradually dawning sense of things he hadnot at first noticed. Slowly but surely his eyes begin to catch the shadows ofthe color-line: here he meets crowds of Negroes and whites; then he is suddenlyaware that he cannot discover a single dark face; or again at the close of aday's wandering he may find himself in some strange assembly, where all facesare tinged brown or black, and where he has the vague, uncomfortable feeling ofthe stranger. He realizes at last that silently, resistlessly, the world aboutflows by him in two great streams: they ripple on in the same sunshine, theyapproach and mingle their waters in seeming carelessness, -- then they divideand flow wide apart. It is done quietly; no mistakes are made, or if oneoccurs, the swift arm of the law and of public opinion swings down for amoment, as when the other day a black man and a white woman were arrested fortalking together on Whitehall Street in Atlanta.
Now if one notices carefully one will see that betweenthese two worlds, despite much physical contact and daily intermingling, thereis almost no community of intellectual life or point of transference where thethoughts and feelings of one race can come into direct contact and sympathywith the thoughts and feelings of the other. Before and directly after the war,when all the best of the Negroes were domestic servants in the best of thewhite families, there were bonds of intimacy, affection, and sometimes bloodrelationship, between the races. They lived in the same home, shared in thefamily life, often attended the same church, and talked and conversed with eachother. But the increasing civilization of the Negro since then has naturallymeant the development of higher classes: there are increasing numbers ofministers, teachers, physicians, merchants, mechanics, and independent farmers,who by nature and training are the aristocracy and leaders of the blacks.Between them, however, and the best element of the whites, there is little orno intellectual com- merce. They go to separate churches, they live in separatesections, they are strictly separated in all public gatherings,
they travel separately, and they are beginning to read different papers andbooks. To most libraries, lectures, concerts, and museums, Negroes are eithernot admitted at all, or on terms peculiarly galling to the pride of the veryclasses who might otherwise be attracted. The daily paper chronicles the doingsof the black world from afar with no great regard for accuracy; and so on,throughout the category of means for intellectual communication, -- schools,conferences, efforts for social betterment, and the like, -- it is usually truethat the very representatives of the two races, who for mutual benefit and thewelfare of the land ought to be in complete understanding and sympathy, are sofar strangers that one side thinks all whites are narrow and prejudiced, andthe other thinks educated Negroes dangerous and insolent. Moreover, in a landwhere the tyranny of public opinion and the intolerance of criticism is forobvious historical reasons so strong as in the South, such a situation isextremely difficult to correct.
The white man, as well as the Negro, is bound and barredby the color-line, and many a scheme of friendliness and philanthropy, ofbroad-minded sympathy and generous fellowship between the two has droppedstill-born because some busy- body has forced the color-question to the frontand brought the tremendous force of unwritten law against the innovators.
It is hardly necessary for me to add very much in regardto the social contact between the races. Nothing has come to replace that finersympathy and love between some masters and house servants which the radical andmore uncompromising drawing of the color-line in recent years has caused almostcompletely to disappear. In a world where it means so much to take a man by thehand and sit beside him, to look frankly into his eyes and feel his heartbeating with red blood; in a world where a social cigar or a cup of teatogether means more than legislative halls and magazine articles and speeches,-- one can imagine the consequences of the almost utter absence of such socialamenities between estranged races, whose separation extends even to parks andstreetcars.
Here there can be none of that social going down to thepeople, -- the opening of heart and hand of the best to the worst, in generousacknowledgment of a common humanity
and a common destiny. On the other hand, in matters of simple almsgiving, wherethere can be no question of social contact, and in the succor of the aged andsick, the South, as if stirred by a feeling of its unfortunate limitations, isgenerous to a fault. The black beggar is never turned away without a good dealmore than a crust, and a call for help for the unfortunate meets quickresponse. I remember, one cold winter, in Atlanta, when I refrained fromcontributing to a public relief fund lest Negroes should be discriminatedagainst, I afterward inquired of a friend: "Were any black peoplereceiving aid?"
"Why," said he, "they were allblack."
And yet this does not touch the kernel of the problem.Human advancement is not a mere question of almsgiving, but rather of sympathyand cooperation among classes who would scorn charity. And here is a landwhere, in the higher walks of life, in all the higher striving for the good andnoble and true, the color-line comes to separate natural friends and coworkers;while at the bottom of the social group, in the saloon, the gambling-hell, andthe brothel, that same line wavers and disappears.
I have sought to paint an average picture of realrelations between the sons of master and man in the South. I have not glossedover matters for policy's sake, for I fear we have already gone too far in thatsort of thing. On the other hand, I have sincerely sought to let no unfairexaggerations creep in. I do not doubt that in some Southern communitiesconditions are better than those I have indicated; while I am no less certainthat in other communities they are far worse. Nor does the paradox and dangerof this situation fail to interest and perplex the best conscience of theSouth. Deeply religious and intensely democratic as are the mass of the whites,they feel acutely the false position in which the Negro problems place them.Such an essentially honest-hearted and generous people cannot cite thecaste-levelling precepts of Christianity, or believe in equality of opportunityfor all men, without coming to feel more and more with each generation that thepresent drawing of the color-line is a flat contradiction to their beliefs andprofessions. But just as often as they come to this point, the present socialcondition of the Negro
stands as a menace and a portent before even the most open-minded: if therewere nothing to charge against the Negro but his blackness or other physicalpeculiarities, they argue, the problem would be comparatively simple; but whatcan we say to his ignorance, shiftlessness, poverty, and crime? can aself-respecting group hold anything but the least possible fellowship with suchpersons and survive? and shall we let a mawkish sentiment sweep away theculture of our fathers or the hope of our children? The argument so put is ofgreat strength, but it is not a whit stronger than the argument of thinkingNegroes: granted, they reply, that the condition of our masses is bad; there iscertainly on the one hand adequate historical cause for this, and unmistakableevidence that no small number have, in spite of tremendous disadvantages, risento the level of American civilization. And when, by proscription and prejudice,these same Negroes are classed with and treated like the lowest of theirpeople, simply because they are Negroes, such a policy not onlydiscourages thrift and intelligence among black men, but puts a direct premiumon the very things you complain of, -- inefficiency and crime. Draw lines ofcrime, of incompetency, of vice, as tightly and uncompromisingly as you will,for these things must be proscribed; but a color-line not only does notaccomplish this purpose, but thwarts it.
In the face of two such arguments, the future of theSouth depends on the ability of the representatives of these opposing views tosee and appreciate and sympathize with each other's position, -- for the Negroto realize more deeply than he does at present the need of uplifting the massesof his people, for the white people to realize more vividly than they have yetdone the deadening and disastrous effect of a color-prejudice that classesPhillis Wheatley and Sam Hose in the same despised class.
It is not enough for the Negroes to declare that color-prejudice is the sole cause of their social condition, nor for the white Southto reply that their social condition is the main cause of prejudice. They bothact as reciprocal cause and effect, and a change in neither alone will bringthe desired effect. Both must change, or neither can improve to any great
extent. The Negro cannot stand the present reactionary ten- dencies andunreasoning drawing of the color-line indefinitely without discouragement andretrogression. And the condition of the Negro is ever the excuse for furtherdiscrimination. Only by a union of intelligence and sympathy across thecolor-line in this critical period of the Republic shall justice and righttriumph,
"That mind and soul according well,
May make one music as before,