The Negro Farmer
by Carl Kelsey
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A livelihood is easily gained. The creeks abound with fish, crabs and oysters. There is plenty of work on the farms for those who prefer more steady labor. Land valued at about $10 per acre may be rented for $1. More than ten acres to the tenant is not usual, and I was told that it is very common for a family to rent all the land it wants for $10 per year, the presumption being that not over ten acres would be utilized. The staple crop for the small farmer is the sea island cotton. Under the present culture land devoted to this lies fallow every other year. The islands are low and flat, subject to severe storms, that of 1893 having destroyed many lives and much property. The county was originally heavily wooded and there is still an abundance for local purposes, though the supply is low in places. On the islands the blacks have been almost alone for a generation and by many it is claimed that there has been a decided retrogression. By common consent St. Helena Island, which lies near Beaufort, is considered the most prosperous of the Negro districts. On this island are over 8,000 blacks and some 200 whites. The cabins usually have two rooms, many having been partitioned to make the second. They are of rough lumber, sometimes whitewashed, but seldom painted. There are few fences and some damage is done by stock. Outbuildings are few; privies are almost unknown—even at the schools there are no closets of any kind. The wells are shallow, six feet or so in depth with a few driven to 12 or 17 feet. A few have pumps, the rest are open. At present there is no dispensary on the island but there are a number of "blind tigers." The nearest physician is at Beaufort and the cost of a single visit is from five to ten dollars. The distance from the doctors is said not to be an unmixed evil as it saves much foolish expenditure of money in fancied ills.

In slavery times there were 61 plantations on the island and their names, as Fripps Corner, Oaks, still survive to designate localities. There was in olden times little contact with the whites as Negro drivers were common. Each plantation still has its "prayer house" at which religious services are held. Meetings occur on different nights on the various plantations to enable the people to get all the religion they need. These meetings are often what are known as "shouts," when with much shouting and wild rhythmic dancing the participants keep on till exhausted. The suggestion of Africa is not vague. The Virginia Negro views these gatherings with as much astonishment as does any white. Many of the blacks speak a strange dialect hard to understand. "Shum," for instance, being the equivalent for "see them."

The land is sandy and should have skillful handling to get the best results. Yet the farming is very unscientific. The first plowing is shallow and subsequent cultivation is done almost entirely with hoes. When a Hampton graduate began some new methods last year the people came for miles to see his big plow. It is said that there was more plowing than usual as a result. The daily life of the farmer is about as follows: Rising between four and five he goes directly to the field, eating nothing until eight or nine, when he has some "grits," a sort of fine hominy cooked like oat meal. Many eat nothing until they leave the field at eleven for dinner, which also consists of grits with some crabs in summer and fish in winter. Some have only these two meals a day. Corn bread and molasses are almost unknown and when they have molasses it is eaten with a spoon. Knives and forks are seldom used. One girl of eighteen did not know how to handle a knife. There are numbers of cows on the island, but milk is seldom served, the cattle being sold for beef. The draft animals are usually small oxen or ponies, called "salt marsh tackies," as they are left to pick their living from the marshes. Some chickens and turkeys are raised, but no great dependence is placed on them. There are no geese and few ducks. Little commercial fertilizer is used, the marsh grass, which grows in great abundance, being an excellent substitute of which the more progressive take advantage. The following statement will illustrate the situation of three typical families, an unusual, a good, and an average farmer. The figures are for 1902:

No. 1. No. 2. No. 3. Number in family 8 13 4 Number rooms 6 5 2 Number outbuildings 5 3 0 Number horses 4 1 0 Number cows 9 5 1 Number hogs 10 3 0 Number other animals 1 dog 2 goats 1 dog 1 dog Number fowls 90 30 10 Acres of land owned 55 21 0 Acres of land rented 0 0 10-5/8 Acres in cotton 10 3.5 5 Acres in corn 8 5 5 Acres in sweet potatoes 3 3.5 3/8 Acres in white potatoes 1/4 0 0 Acres in peas (cow) 5.5 1.5 1/4 Acres in rice 1.5 0 0 Garden Very small Poor None

The rice is grown without flooding and known as "Providence Rice."

With the great ease of getting a livelihood the advances necessarily are small. From January 1, 1902, to July 15 (which is near the close of the advancing season) several average families had gotten advances averaging $15.00. The firm which does most of the advancing on the island writes: "We have some that get more. A few get $50.00 or about that amount, but we make it a point not to let the colored people or our customers get too much in debt. We have to determine about what they need and we have always given them what was necessary to help them make a crop according to their conditions and circumstances as they present themselves to us." The firm reports that they collect each year about 90 per cent of their outstanding accounts.

Below are given the customary forms of the Bill of Sale and the Crop Lien given to secure advances:


Know all men by these presents, that ............ of the said County, in consideration of the sum of ............ dollars, to be advanced in merchandise by ............, of Beaufort County and State, have bargained and sold unto the said ............ the following personal property, ............, now in my possession, and which I promise to deliver on demand of the said ............

(Signed) .....................


On the .... day of 19.., I promise to pay to the order of ............ ..........., at Beaufort, South Carolina, ............ dollars for money and supplies to be advanced and furnished me by the said ............, merchants, Beaufort, South Carolina, for use in the cultivation of crops on the plantation or farm cultivated by me in Beaufort County, South Carolina, known as the ............ plantation, and containing about ............ acres, during the year 190...

And in consideration of the said advance made me I hereby give, make and grant to the said ............ a lien to the extent of said advance on all the crops which may be grown on the said plantation or farm during the year 190.., wherever said crops or parts of them are found.

This lien hereby given is executed and to be enforced in accordance with the laws of the State of South Carolina.

I, the said ............, in consideration of the foregoing, do hereby agree to advance to the said ........... ..... dollars, as above stated.

Witness the hands and seals of both parties.

In the presence of ............, L. S. ............ ............, L. S.

This is then recorded in the County Court as is an ordinary mortgage.

On this island considerable money has been saved and is now deposited with a firm of merchants in whom the people have confidence. In July, 1902, there were about 100 individual depositors having some $4,000 to their credit. The money can be withdrawn at any time, all debts to the firm being first settled. Interest at five per cent. is allowed. Some of this money comes from pensions. There are round about Beaufort a considerable number of U. S. pensioners, as the city was headquarters for Union soldiers for a long time. The effect of the pensions is claimed both by whites and blacks to be bad.

A great deal of the credit for the good conditions, relatively speaking, which prevail on St. Helena is given to the Penn School which for years has come into close touch with the lives of the people. The Negroes have also been in touch with a good class of whites, who have encouraged all efforts at improvement. Wherever the credit lies, the visitor is struck by the difference between conditions here and on some other islands, for instance, Lady's Island, which lies between St. Helena and Beaufort. Even here it is claimed that the older generation is more industrious.

In the trucking industry, which is very profitable along the coast, the Negroes have only been engaged as ordinary laborers. On the main land, wherever fresh water can be obtained, is the seat of a considerable rice industry. In recent years, owing to the cutting of the forests in the hills, the planters are troubled by freshets in the spring and droughts in the summer. The work is done by Negroes under direction of white foremen. The men work harder on contract jobs, but work by the day is better done. Women are in better repute as laborers than the men and it is stated that more women support their husbands than formerly was the case. Wages range from $.35 to $.50 per day, varying somewhat according to the work done. They are paid in cash and the planters have given up the plantation store in many cases. All work must be constantly supervised and it is said to be harder and harder to get work done. A planter found it almost impossible in the winter of 1901 to get fifty cords of wood cut, the work being considered too heavy. When I left the train at Beaufort and found twelve hacks waiting for about three passengers it was evident where some of the labor force had gone.

In this county there is a great development of burial and sick benefit societies. The "Morning Star", "Star of Hope", "Star of Bethlehem" are typical names. The dues are from five to ten cents a week. Many of the societies have good sized halls, rivaling ofttimes the churches, on the various islands, which are used for lodge and social purposes.

Beaufort and the other towns offer the country people an opportunity to dispose of fish and any garden produce they may raise, while it is not uncommon to see a little ox dragging a two-wheeled cart and perhaps a quarter of a cord of wood to be hawked about town. During part of the summer a good many gather a species of plant which is used in adulterating cigarettes and cigars.

This little account indicates that, so far as the farmers are concerned, there are few evidences of any decided progress save in the district which has been under the influence of one school. The ease of getting a livelihood acts as a deterrent to ambition. Yet the old families say that they have the "best niggers of the South" and certain it is that race troubles are unknown.



In the central district life is a little more strenuous than on the sea coast. The cabins are about the same. The average tenant has a "one mule farm," some thirty or thirty-five acres. Occasionally the tenant has more land, but only about this amount is cultivated and no rent is paid for the balance. The area of the land is usually estimated and only rarely is it surveyed. This land ranges in value from $5.00 to $15.00 per acre on the average. The customary rental for a "one mule farm" is about two bales of cotton, whose value in recent years would be in the neighborhood of $75.00, thus making the rental about $3.00 per acre. On this farm from four to six bales of cotton are raised. The soil has been injured by improper tillage and requires an expenditure of $1.75 to $2.00 per acre for fertilizers if the best results are to be obtained. As yet the Negroes do not fully appreciate this. The farmer secures advances based on 1 peck of meal and 3 pounds of "side meat," fat salt pork, per week for each working hand. About six dollars a month is the limit for advances and as these are continued for only seven months or so the average advance received is probably not far from $50.00 per year. An advance of $10.00 per month is allowed for a two horse farm. The advancer obligates himself to furnish only necessities and any incidentals must be supplied from sale of poultry, berries and the like. Clothing may often be reckoned as an incidental. The luxuries are bought with cash or on the installment plan and are seldom indicated by the books of the merchant. The cost of the average weekly advances for a family in 1902 was:

10 pounds meat (salt port sides) @ 13-1/2c $1.35 1 bushel corn meal .90 1 plug tobacco (reckoned a necessity) .10 ——— $2.35


Conditions throughout this district are believed to be fairly uniform, but the following information was gathered in Lowndes County, Alabama, so has closest connection with the prairie region of that state:

Lowndes County lies just southwest of Montgomery and there are 47 persons to the square mile. The Negroes form 86 per cent. of the population. East and West throughout the county runs the Chennenugga Ridge, a narrow belt of hills which separate the prairie from the pine hills to the South. The ridge is quite broken and in places can not be tilled profitably. The county is of average fertility, however.

There are not an unusual number of one-room cabins. Out of 74 families, comprising 416 people, the average was 7 to the room, the greatest number living in one room was 11. The families were housed as follows:

No. No. Largest No. Average No. Families. Rooms. Persons. Persons. 17 1 11 6 31 2 12 (3 fam.) 6 16 3 9 5 7 4 14 6 3 5 9 5

The cabins are built of both boards and logs as indicated by cuts on pages 43 and 44 while the interior economy is well shown by the photograph on page 29.

Field work is from sun to sun with two hours or so rest at noon. The man usually eats breakfast in the field, the wife staying behind to prepare it. It consists of pork and corn bread. The family come from the field about noon and have dinner consisting of pork and corn bread, with collards, turnip greens, roasting ears, etc. At sundown work stops and supper is eaten, the menu being as at breakfast. The pork eaten by the Negroes, it may be said, is almost solid fat, two or three inches thick, lean meat not being liked. The housewife has few dishes, the food being cooked in pots or in small ovens set among the ashes. Stoves are a rarity. Lamps are occasionally used, but if the chimney be broken it is rarely replaced, the remainder being quite good enough for ordinary purposes. The cabins seldom have glass windows, but instead wooden shutters, which swing outward on hinges. These are shut at night and even during the hottest summer weather there is practically no ventilation. How it is endured I know not, but the custom prevails even in Porto Rico I am told. In winter the cabins are cold. To meet this the thrifty housewife makes bed quilts and as many as 25 or 30 of these are not infrequently found in a small cabin. The floors are rough and not always of matched lumber, while the cabins are poorly built. The usual means of heating, and cooking, is the big fireplace. Sometimes the chimney is built of sticks daubed over with mud, the top of the chimney often failing to reach the ridge of the roof. Fires sometimes result. Tables and chairs are rough and rude. Sheets are few, the mattresses are of cotton, corn shucks or pine straw, and the pillows of home grown feathers.

The following regarding the cooking of the Alabama Negro is taken from a letter published in Bulletin No. 38, U. S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Experiment Stations:

"The daily fare is prepared in very simple ways. Corn meal is mixed with water and baked on the flat surface of a hoe or griddle. The salt pork is sliced thin and fried until very brown and much of the grease tried out. Molasses from cane or sorghum is added to the fat, making what is known as 'sap,' which is eaten with the corn bread. Hot water sweetened with molasses is used as a beverage. This is the hill of fare of most of the cabins on the plantations of the 'black belt' three times a day during the year. It is, however, varied at times; thus collards and turnips are boiled with the bacon, the latter being used with the vegetables to supply fat 'to make it rich.' The corn meal bread is sometimes made into so-called 'cracklin bread,' and is prepared as follows: A piece of fat bacon is fried until it is brittle; it is then crushed and mixed with corn meal, water, soda and salt, and baked in an oven over the fireplace.... One characteristic of the cooking is that all meats are fried or otherwise cooked until they are crisp. Observation among these people reveals the fact that very many of them suffer from indigestion in some form."

As elsewhere the advances are supplied by the planter or some merchant. The legal rate of interest is 8 per cent, but no Negro ever borrows money at this rate. Ten per cent. per year is considered cheap, while on short terms the rate is often 10 per cent. per week. The average tenant pays from 12.5 per cent. to 15 per cent. for his advances, which are sold at an average of 25 per cent. higher than cash prices on the average. To avoid any possible trouble it is quite customary to reckon the interest and then figure this into the face of the note so that none can tell either the principal or the rate. Below is an actual copy of such a note, the names being changed:

$22.00. Calhoun, Alabama, June 2, 1900.

On the first day of October, 1900, I promise to pay to the order of A. B. See Twenty Two Dollars at ............

Value received.

And so far as this debt is concerned, and as part of the consideration thereof, I do hereby waive all right which I or either of us have under the Constitution and Laws of this or any other State to claim or hold any personal property exempt to me from levy and sale under execution. And should it become necessary to employ an attorney in the collection of this debt I promise to pay all reasonable attorney's fees charged therefor.


The possibility of extortion which this method makes possible is evident.

It is worth while also to reproduce a copy, actual with the exception of the names, of one of the blanket mortgages often given. The italics are mine.


On or before the first day of October next I promise to pay Jones and Co., or order, the sum of $77.00 at their office in Fort Deposit, Alabama. And I hereby waive all right of exemption secured to me under and by the Laws and Constitution of the State of Alabama as to the collection of this debt. And I agree to pay all the costs of making, recording, probating or acknowledging this instrument, together with a reasonable attorney's fee, and all other expenses incident to the collection of this debt, whether by suit or otherwise. And to secure the payment of the above note, as well as all other indebtedness I may now owe the said Jones and Co., and all future advances I may purchase from the said Jones and Co. during the year 1900, whether due and payable during the year 1900 or not, and for the further consideration of one Dollar to me in hand paid by Jones and Co., the receipt whereof I do hereby acknowledge, I do hereby grant, bargain, sell and convey unto said Jones and Co. the entire crops of corn, cotton, cotton seed, fodder, potatoes, sugar cane and its products and all other crops of every kind and description which may be made and grown during the year 1900 on lands owned, leased, rented or farmed on shares for or by the undersigned in Lowndes County, Alabama, or elsewhere. Also any crops to or in which the undersigned has or may have any interest, right, claim or title in Lowndes County or elsewhere during and for each succeeding year until the indebtedness secured by this instrument is fully paid. Also all the corn, cotton, cotton seed, fodder, peas, and all other farm produce now in the possession of the undersigned. Also all the live stock, vehicles and farming implements now owned by or furnished to the undersigned by Jones and Co. during the year 1900. Also one red horse "Lee," one red neck cow "Priest," and her calf, one red bull yearling. Said property is situated in Lowndes County, Alabama. If, after maturity, any part of the unpaid indebtedness remains unpaid, Jones and Co., or their agents or assigns, are authorized and empowered to seize and sell all or any of the above described property, at private sale or public auction, as they may elect, for cash. If at public auction, before their store door or elsewhere, in Fort Deposit, Alabama, after posting for five days written notice of said sale on post office door in said town, and to apply the proceeds of said sale to the payment, first of all costs and expenses provided for in the above note and expense of seizing and selling said property; second, to payment in full of debt or debts secured by said mortgage, and the surplus, if any, pay to the undersigned. And the said mortgagee or assigns is hereby authorized to purchase at his own sale under this mortgage. I agree that no member of my family, nor anyone living with me, nor any person under my control, shall have an extra patch on the above described lands, unless covered by this mortgage; and I also agree that this mortgage shall cover all such patches. It is further agreed and understood that any securities held by Jones and Co. as owner or assignee on any of the above described property executed by me prior to executing this mortgage shall be retained by them, and shall remain in full force and effect until the above note and future advances are paid in full, and shall be additional security for this debt. There is no lien or encumbrance upon any property conveyed by this instrument except that held by Jones and Co. and the above specified rents. If, before the demands hereby secured are payable, any of the property conveyed herein shall be in danger of (or from) waste, destruction or removal, said demands shall be then payable and all the terms, rights and powers of this instrument operative and enforceable, as if and under a past due mortgage.

Witness my hand and seal this 10th day of January, 1900.


It may be granted that experience has shown all this verbiage to be necessary. In the hands of an honest landlord it is as meaningless as that in the ordinary contract we sign in renting a house. In the hands of a dishonest landlord or merchant it practically enables him to make a serf of the Negro. The mortgage is supposed to be filed at once, but it is sometimes held to see if there is any other security which might be included. The rascally creditor watches the crop and if the Negro may have a surplus he easily tempts him to buy more, or more simply still, he charges to his account imaginary purchases, so that at the end of the year the Negro is still in debt. The Negro has no redress. He can not prove that he has not purchased the goods and his word will not stand against the merchant's. Practically he is tied down to the land, for no one else will advance him under these conditions. Sometimes he escapes by getting another merchant to settle his account and by becoming the tenant of the new man. When it is remembered that land is abundant and good labor rare, the temptation to hold a man on the land by fair means or foul is apparent. Moreover, the merchant by specious reasoning often justifies his own conduct. He says that the Negro will spend his money at the first opportunity and that he might just as well have it as some other merchant. I would not be understood as saying that this action is anything but the great exception but there are dishonest men everywhere who are ready to take advantage of their weaker fellows and the Negro suffers as a result, just as the ignorant foreigner does in the cities of the North.

The interest may also be reckoned into the face of the mortgage. In any case it begins the day the paper is signed, although the money or its equivalent is only received at intervals and a full year's interest is paid, often on the face of the mortgage, even if only two-thirds of it has actually been advanced to the Negro, no matter when the account is settled. The helplessness of the Negro who finds himself in the hands of a sharper is obvious when that sharper has practical control of the situation. In many and curious ways the landlord seeks to hold his tenants. He is expected to stand by them in time of trouble, to protect them against the aggressions of other blacks and of whites as well. This paternalism is often carried to surprising lengths.

The size of a man's family is known and the riders see to it that he keeps all the working hands in the field. If the riders have any trouble with a Negro they are apt to take it out in physical punishment, to "wear him out," as the phrase goes. Thus resentment is seldom harbored against a Negro and there are many who claim that this physical discipline is far better than any prison regime in its effects upon the Negro. In spite of all that is done it is claimed that the Negroes are getting less reliable and that the chief dependence is now in the older men, the women and the children. One remark, made by a planter's wife, which impressed me as having a good deal of significance, was, "the Negroes do not sing as much now as formerly."

To get at anything like an accurate statement of the income and expenses of a Negro family is a difficult matter. The following account of three families will give a fair idea of their budget for part of the year at least.

Family No. 1 consists of five adults (over 14) and one child. They live in a two-roomed cabin and own one mule, two horses two cows. Their account with the landlord for the years 1900 and 1901 was:

1900. To balance 1899 $ 32.60 Cash ($25.00) for mule 36.00 Clothing 19.68 Feed 15.20 Provisions 23.00 Tools 2.03 Interest and Recording Fee 16.87 ———- $145.38

1901. To balance 1900 $ 15.21 Cash 26.57 Clothing 9.55 Feed and seed 44.19 Provisions 26.29 Tools .55 Interest and Recording Fee 16.34 ———- $138.70

Their credit for 1901 was $10392, thus leaving a deficit for the beginning of the next year. As the advances stop in August or September, and the balance of the purchases are for cash and may be at other stores, there is no way of getting at them. In 1900 the family paid $201 toward the 85 acres they are purchasing, part of this sum probably coming from the crop of 1899, and in 1901 they made a further payment of $34. This family is doing much better than the average. It may be interesting to see a copy of his account for the year 1901 taken from the ledger of the planter.

Jan. 1. Balance 1900 $ 15.21

Jan. 12. 10 bu. corn, $5.00; fodder, $1.20; cash, $8.00 14.20

Jan. 19. Cash for tax, $1.43; recording fee, $1.00; cash, $13.25 15.68

Feb. 2. Plowshoes, $1.40; gents' hose, 10c; 20 yds. check, $1.00; 2 straw hats, $1.20 3.70

Feb. 2. 23.5 bu. corn, $14.94; cash, 79c; shoes, $1.50; plow lines, 20c 17.43

Mar. 15. 15 yds. drilling, $1.20; 15 yds. check, 75c; 4.5 lbs. bacon, 48c 2.43

Apr. 6. 10 bu. corn, $7.00; 5 bu. cotton seed, $1.75; 4.5 lbs. bacon, 53c 9.28

Apr. 12. Bu. meal, 65c; spool cotton, 5c; tobacco, 10c; 7 lbs. bacon, 81c; 5 bu. corn. $3.50 5.11

May 1. Cash, $1.00; 30 lbs. bacon, $3.45; work shoes, $1.10; gents' shoes, $1.25; half bu. meal, 35c 7.15

May 1. 30 lbs. bacon, $3.45; (25) 30 lbs. bacon, $3.30; sack meal, $1.35 8.10

June 8. 2-3 bu. oats, 35c; 1-3 bu. corn, 25c; bu. meal, 70c; sack feed, $2.50 3.80

June 14. Sack meal, $1.35; 12 lbs. bacon, $1.32; cash, $1.00; (22) 12 lbs. bacon, $1.38 5.05

June 22. Sack meal, $1.35; sack feed, $2.50; plow sweep, 35c 4.20

July 1. 6 lbs. bacon, 69c; (5) sack feed, $2.60; half bu. meal, 35c; (9) bu. meal, 75c; 10 lbs. bacon, $1.15 5.54

July 18. 8 lbs. bacon, 92c; (19) sack feed, $2.60; (25) bu. meal, 90c 4.42

Aug. 6. Half bu. meal, 50c; 4 lbs. bacon, 46c; cash, 35c 1.31

Aug. 6. Interest 15.34

Oct. 6. Cash, 75c .75 ———- $138.70

The second family consists of three adults and three children. They have three one-roomed cabins, own one mule and two cows, and are leasing fifty acres of land, the effort to buy it having proven too much. Their account for 1900 and 1901 was as follows:

1900. Balance Jan. 1 $ .50 Cash 9.00 Clothing 9.79 Feed 11.50 Provisions 13.48 Tobacco .80 Tools, etc. .40 Interest and recording fee 5.77 ——— $52.24

1901. Balance Jan. 1 $ 4.15 Cash 2.82 Clothing 7.55 Feed 21.22 Provisions 17.69 Tobacco .55 Tools, etc. .70 Interest and fee 7.90 ——— $62.48

The debit for 1900 was all paid by November first and by November first, 1901, $58.40 of the charge for that year had been paid. In 1900 the man paid $94.61 towards his land but has since been leasing.

The third family consists of two adults and three children. They live in a board cabin of two rooms, have one mule, one cow and one horse. They are purchasing 50 acres of land. Their accounts for 1900 and 1901 stand between the two already given.

1900. Balance 1899 $17.24 Cash 23.20 Clothing 4.73 Provisions 19.80 Tools 4.40 Interest and fee 8.04 ——— $77.41

1901. Balance 1900 $13.93 Cash 21.28 Clothing 6.30 Feed 26.50 Provisions 21.36 Tools 3.50 Interest and fee 12.40 ———- $109.28

By November 30, 1901, they had paid $79.13 of their account. In 1900 they paid $180 towards their land and $29.60 in 1901.

All of these families are a little above the average. The income is supplemented by the sale of chickens, eggs and occasionally butter. In hard years when the crops are poor the men and older boys seek service in the mines of North Alabama or on the railroads during the summer before cotton picking begins, and again during the winter.

The outfit of the average farmer is very inexpensive and is somewhat as follows:

Harness, $1.50; pony plow, $3.00; extra point, 25c $4.75

Sweepstock (a), 75c; 3 sweeps, 90c; scooter (b), 10c 1.75

2 hoes, 80c; blacksmith (yearly average), 50c 1.30 ——- Total $7.80

(a) A sweep is a form of cultivator used in cleaning grass and weeds from the rows of cotton.

(b) A scooter or "bull-tongue" is a strip of iron used in opening the furrow for the cotton seed.

A cow costs $25, pigs $2 to $2.50, wagon (seldom owned) $45. A mule now costs from $100 to $150, but may be rented by the year for $20 or $25. Owners claim there is no profit in letting them at this price and the Negroes assert that if one dies the owner often claims that it had been sold and proceeds to collect the value thereof. From either point of view the plan seems to meet with but little favor.

The following table will give some idea of the condition and personal property of a number of families in Lowndes County:

- - - - - + A B C D E F G H I J K L + - - - - - Family 1 4 1 2 0 2 0 [9]0 0 0 2 0 2 " 2 2 1 1 0 1 0 2 0 0 2 0 1 " 3 3 3 3 0 3 1 1 0 0 2 0 1 " 4 2 3 0 1 2 0 1 1 0 1 0 1 " 5 4 2 1 1 2 0 0 2 0 1 2 1 " 6 5 1 1 0 2 0 1 2 0 2 0 0 " 7 3 0 1 1 3 0 1 0 0 2 0 1 " 8 3 1 1 1 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 " 9 4 0 0 3 5 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 " 10 5 4 1 1 3 0 1 0 0 2 0 1 - - - - - + 10 35 16 11 8 25 1 8 6 1 14 2 10 + - - - - -

Key to columns:

A Adults B Children under 14 C Log Cabins D B'd Cabins E No. Rooms F Sewing Machines G Mules H Horses I Oxen J Cows K Pigs L Dogs

It will be seen that the number of oxen is small. I should not be surprised if some of the hogs escaped observation.

An account of this district would not be complete without reference to the herb doctors who do a thriving business, charging from twenty-five cents per visit up. They make all sorts of noxious compounds which are retailed as good for various ailments. The medicines are perhaps no more harmful than the patent compounds of other places. There are also witch doctors, of whom the Negroes stand in great awe and many a poor sufferer has died because it was believed that he or she was bewitched by some evil person, hence physicians could have no power.

The budgets given indicate, and this is my own belief, that the farmers in this district are just about holding their own. They are not trained to take advantage of their environment to the full so they do not prosper as they might, while occasional designing persons take great advantage of them, thereby rendering them discouraged. The introduction of a more diversified farming, the greater utilization of local resources in fruits and vegetables, thereby giving variety in the diet, the development of pastures and stock raising would enable them to break away from the mortgage system, which retards them in many ways.

This view that the farmers here are about able to make a living is supported by the investigations of Professor Du Bois.[10] He gives the following report of 271 families in Georgia:

Year, 1898. Price of cotton low. Bankrupt and sold out 3 $100 or over in debt 61 $25 to $100 in debt 54 $1 to $25 in debt 47 Cleared nothing 53 Cleared $1 to $25 27 Cleared $25 to $100 21 Cleared $100 and over 5 —— 271

Regarding the general situation he says: "A good season with good prices regularly sent a number out of debt and made them peasant proprietors; a bad season, either in weather or prices, still means the ruin of a thousand black homes." Under existing conditions the outlook does not seem to me especially hopeful.



The Mississippi river, deflected westward by the hills of Tennessee, at Memphis sweeps in a long arc to the hills at Natchez. The oval between the river and the hills to the East is known as the "Delta." The land is very flat, being higher on the border of the river so that when the river overflows the entire bottom land is flooded. The waters are not restrained by a good system of levees and the danger of floods is reduced. There are similar areas in Arkansas and Louisiana and along the lower courses of the Red and other rivers, but what is said here will have special reference to Mississippi conditions. The land is extremely fertile, probably there is none better in the world, and is covered with a dense growth of fine woods, oak, ash, gum and cypress. The early settlements, as already stated, were along the navigable streams, but the great development of railroads is opening up the entire district. The country may still be called new and thousands of acres may be purchased at a cost of less than $10 per acre, wild land, of course. Cultivated land brings from $25 up.

Considering its possibilities the region is not yet densely populated, but a line of immigration is setting in and the indications are that the Delta will soon be the seat of the heaviest Negro population in the country. Already it rivals the black prairie of Alabama. There have been many influences to retard immigration, the fear of fevers, malaria and typhoid, commonly associated with low countries, and the dread of overflows. Because of the lack of the labor force to develop the country planters have been led to offer higher wages, better houses, etc. There is about the farming district an air of prosperity which is not noticeable to the East. The country is particularly adapted to cotton, the yield is heavier, about a bale to the acre if well cultivated, though the average is a little less, the staple is longer, and the price is about a cent a pound higher, than in the hills. Fertilizers are seldom used and are not carried in the stores. Some of the lands which have been longest in use have been harmed by improper tillage, but the injury may easily be repaired by intelligent management.

In the Delta the average size of the plantations is large, but the amount of land under the care of the tenant is smaller than in other sections. About 20 acres is probably the average to one work animal. The soil is heavier, requiring longer and more constant cultivation. For this land a rental of from $6 to $8 per acre is paid, while plantations will rent for a term of years at an acre. A good deal of new land is brought in cultivation by offering it rent free to a Negro for three years, the tenant agreeing to clear off the timber and bring the soil under cultivation. On some plantations no interest is charged on goods advanced by the Negro usually pays 25 per cent. for all money he borrows. The white planter has to pay at least 8 per cent and agree to sell his cotton through the factor of whom the money is obtained and pay him a commission of 2.5 per cent. for handling the cotton.

The plantation accounts of three families follow for the year 1901. They live in Washington County, Mississippi, in which the Negroes form 89 per cent. of the total population.

The first family consists of three adults and one child under 14. They own two mules, two cows, ten pigs and some chickens. They also have a wagon and the necessary farm implements.

Their expenses were enlarged, as were those of the other families, by an epidemic of smallpox.

Debit. Credit. Doctor $39.50 Cotton $826.80 Blacksmith 1.85 Cotton seed 147.00 Implements 15.05 ———- Clothes 102.55 $973.80 Provisions 42.10 856.95 Rent 175.07 ———- Extra labor 53.50 Balance $116.85 Seed 31.30 Ginning Cotton 61.30 Cash drawn 334.73 ———- $856.95

Their account at the close of the year showed thus a balance of $116.85. The family raised 2 bales of cotton and had besides 180 bushels of corn from six acres.

The second family came to the plantation in 1900 with nothing, not even with decent clothing. Now they have two mules, keep some pigs, own a wagon and farming tools. There are five adults in the family and two children. They live in a three-roomed cabin and till 30 acres of land, four acres being wood land taken for clearing, for which there is no rent.

Debit. Credit. Doctor $ 35.35 Cotton $1,091.28 Feed 5.00 Cotton seed 196.00 Mule (balance) 77.00 ————- Rations and clothes 284.10 $1,287.28 Rent 175.50 1,035.82 Extra labor 67.60 ————- Ginning 101.25 Balance $ 251.46 Cash drawn 290.02 ————- $1,035.82

The third family is of different type. They are always behind, although the wife is a good worker and the man is willing and seems to try. They are considered one of the poorest families on the plantation. There are two adults and one child. They own farming implements, one mule and some pigs. They have a two-roomed cabin and farm 18 acres for which they pay a crop rent of 1,800 pounds of cotton.

Debit. Credit. Doctor $ 24.45 Cotton $498.57 Mule 33.00 Cotton seed 91.00 Clothing 53.40 ———- Rations 60.00 $589.57 Feed 11.25 576.55 Rent 130.50 ———- Extra labor 179.45 Balance $ 13.02 Seed 11.90 Ginning 43.50 Cash down 53.50 ———- $576.55

An examination of the accounts reveals that there is a charge for extra labor, which for the third family was very heavy. This results from the fact that the average family could, but does not pick all the cotton it makes, so when it is seen that enough is on hand to pay all the bills and leave a balance it is very careless about the remainder. Planters have great difficulty in getting all the cotton picked and a considerable portion is often lost. Extra labor must be imported. This is hard to get and forms, when obtained, a serious burden on the income of the tenant.

On the plantation from whose books the above records were taken the system of bookkeeping is more than usually careful and the gin account thus forms a separate item so that although all planters charge for the ginning the charge does not always appear on the books.

These three families are believed to be average and indicate what it is possible for the typical family to do under ordinary conditions. It is but fair to state that the owners of this plantation make many efforts to get their tenants to improve their condition and will not long keep those whose accounts do not show a credit balance at the end of the year. A copy of the lease in use will be of interest and its stipulations form quite a contrast to the one quoted from Alabama. The cash and share leases are identical save for necessary changes in form. The names are fictitious.

"This Contract, made this date and terminating December 31, 1902, between Smith and Brown, and John Doe, hereinafter called tenant, Witnesses: That Smith and Brown have this day rented and set apart to John Doe for the year 1902 certain twenty acres of land on James Plantation, Washington County, Mississippi, at a rental price per acre of seven dollars and fifty cents. Smith and Brown hereby agree to furnish, with said land, a comfortable house and good pump, and to grant to the said tenant the free use of such wood as may be necessary for his domestic purposes and to advance such supplies, in such quantity and manner as may be mutually agreed upon as being necessary to maintain him in the cultivation of said land; it being now mutually understood that by the term "supplies" is meant meat, meal, molasses, tobacco, snuff, medicine and medical attention, good working shoes and clothes, farming implements and corn. It is also hereby mutually agreed and understood that anything other than the articles herein enumerated is to be advanced to the said tenant only as the condition of his crops and account and the manner of his work shall, in the judgment of Smith and Brown, be deemed to entitle him. They also agree to keep said house and pump in good repair and to keep said land well ditched and drained.

Being desirous of having said tenant raise sufficient corn to supply his needs during the ensuing year, in consideration of his planting such land in corn as they may designate, they hereby agree to purchase from said tenant all corn over and above such as may be necessary for his needs, and to pay therefor the market price; and to purchase all corn raised by him in the event be wishes to remove from James plantation at the termination of this contract. In consideration of the above undertaking on Smith and Brown's part, the said tenant hereby agrees to sell to them all surplus corn raised by him and in the event of his leaving James' plantation at the termination of this contract to sell to them all corn he may have on hand: in each case at the market price.

The said Smith and Brown hereby reserve to themselves all liens for rent and supplies on all cotton, cotton seed, corn and other agricultural products, grown upon said land during the year 1902, granted under Sections 2495 and 2496 of the Code of 1892. They hereby agree to handle and sell for the said tenant all cotton and other crops raised by him for sale, to the best of their ability, and to account to him for the proceeds of the same when sold. They also reserve to themselves the right to at all times exercise such supervision as they may deem necessary over the planting and cultivating of all crops to be raised by him during the year 1902.

The said John Doe hereby rents from Smith and Brown the above mentioned land for the year 1902 and promises to pay therefor seven dollars and a half per acre on or before November the first, 1902, and hereby agrees to all the terms and stipulations herein mentioned.

He furthermore represents to Smith and Brown that he has sufficient force to properly plant and cultivate same, and agrees that if at any time in their judgment his crops may be in need of cultivation, they may have the necessary work done and charge same to his account.

He furthermore agrees to at all times properly control his family and hands, both as to work and conduct, and obligates himself to prevent any one of them from causing any trouble whatsoever, either to his neighbors or to Smith and Brown.

He also agrees to plant and cultivate all land allotted to him, including the edges of the roads, turn rows, and ditch banks, and to keep the latter at all times clean and to plant no garden or truck patches in his field.

He also agrees to gather and deliver all agricultural products which he may raise for sale to said Smith and Brown, as they may designate to be handled and sold by them, for his account.

He also agrees not to abandon, neglect, turn back or leave his crops or any part of them, nor to allow his family or hands to do so, until entirely gathered and delivered.

In order that Smith and Brown may be advised of the number of tenants which they may have to secure for the ensuing year, in ample time to enable them to provide for the same, the said tenant hereby agrees to notify them positively by December 10, 1902, whether or not he desires to remain on James' Plantation for the ensuing year. Should he not desire to remain, then he agrees to deliver to Smith and Brown possession of the house now allotted to him by January 1st, 1903. In order that said tenant may have ample time in which to provide for himself a place for the ensuing year, Smith and Brown hereby agree to notify him by December 10, 1902, should they not want him as a tenant during the ensuing year.

Witness our signatures, this the 15th day of December, 1901.


Witness: J. W. JAMES.

The owners have been unable to carry out their efforts in full, but the result has been very creditable. The lease is much preferable to the one given on page 46.

If, as I believe, the families above reported are average and are living under ordinary conditions, it seems evident that a considerable surplus results from their labors each year. I wish I could add that the money were being either wisely spent or saved and invested. This does not seem to be the case and it is generally stated that the amount of money wasted in the fall of the year by the blacks of the Delta is enormous. In the cabins the great catalogs of the mail order houses of Montgomery Ward & Co., and Sears, Roebuck & Co., of Chicago are often found, and the express agents say that large shipments of goods are made to the Negroes. Patent medicines form no inconsiderable proportion of these purchases, while "Stutson" hats, as the Negro says, are required by the young bloods. The general improvidence of the people is well illustrated by the following story related by a friend of the writer. At the close of one season an old Negro woman came to his wife for advice as to the use to be made of her savings, some $125. She was advised to buy some household necessities and to put the remainder in a bank, above all she was cautioned to beware of any who sought to get her to squander the money. The woman left but in about two weeks' time returned to borrow some money. It developed that as she went down the street a Jewess invited her to come in and have a cup of coffee. The invitation was accepted and during the conversation she was advised to spend the money. This she did, and when the transactions were over the woman had one barrel of flour, one hundred pounds of meat, ten dollars or so worth of cheap jewelry, some candy and other incidentals and no money. Foolish expenditures alone, according to the belief of the planters, prevent the Negroes from owning the entire land in a generation. I would not give the impression that there are no Negro land owners in this region. Thousands of acres have been purchased and are held by them, but we are speaking of average families.

Some curious customs prevail. The planters generally pay the Negroes in cash for their cotton seed and this money the blacks consider as something peculiarly theirs, not to be used for any debts they may have. Although the prices for goods advanced are higher than cash prices, the Negroes will often, when spring comes, insist that they be advanced, so have the goods charged even at the higher prices, even though they have the cash on hand. This great over-appreciation of present goods is a drawback to their progress.

In this district I found little dissatisfaction among the Negro farmers. They felt that their opportunities were good. Those who come from the hills can scarce believe their eyes at the crops produced and constantly ask when the cotton plants are going to turn yellow and droop. That there is little migration back to the hills is good evidence of the relative standing of the two districts in their eyes.

Wages for day labor range from 60 to 75 cents, but the extra labor imported for cotton picking makes over double this.


South of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the alluvial district is largely given over to the growing of sugar cane with occasional fields of rice. The district under cultivation stretches back from the river a couple of miles or so to the edge of the woods beyond which at present there is no tillable ground, though drainage will gradually push back the line of the forest. These sugar lands are valued highly, $100 or so an acre, and the capital invested in the great sugar houses is enormous. Probably nowhere in agricultural pursuits is there a more thorough system of bookkeeping than on these plantations. This land is cultivated by hired hands, who work immediately under the eye of overseers. Nowhere is the land let out in small lots to tenants. Conditions are radically different from those prevailing in the cotton regions. The work season, it is claimed, begins on the first day of January and ends on the 31st of December, and every day between when the weather permits work in the fields there is work to be done.


These plantations present an attractive appearance. The cabins are not scattered as in the cotton country, but are usually ranged on either side of a broad street, with rows of trees in front. The cabins are often for two families and each has a plot of ground for a garden. The planters say the Negroes will not live in the houses unless the garden plots are provided, even if they make no use of them. To each family is allotted a house so long as they are employed on the place. Wood is free and teams are provided for hauling it from the forest. Free pasture for stock is often provided.

From the fact that the men would seldom work more than five and a half days a week arose the custom of paying off every eleven days. Each workman has a time book and as soon as he has completed his eleven days his pay is due. This avoids a general pay day and the demoralization that would likely follow. Work is credited by quarters of a day: Sunrise to breakfast, breakfast to dinner, dinner to about 3:00 p. m., 3:00 p. m. to sunset. Wages vary according to the season, being much larger during autumn when the cane is being ground. For field work men get 70 cents per day, women 55 to 60 cents. During the grinding season the men earn from $1 to $1.25, the women about 85 cents, children from 25 cents up. Wages are usually paid through a store which may or may not be under the direct ownership of the plantation. All accounts against the store are deducted, but the balance must be paid in cash if it is so desired. Nominally the men are free to trade where they will, but it is easy to see that pressure might be brought to bear to make it advantageous to trade at the local store.

During the year 1901 two families were able to earn the following amounts. The first family consists of three adults and two children, but the wife did not work in the field.

$10.50 7.00 13.80 12.60 10.85 12.60 11.55 10.85 6.65 13.80 12.95 15.40 14.50 11.20 2.62 1.25 2.25 4.35

————————————————————— $23.97 14.90 27.60 25.55 26.25 29.35 27.10

11.55 8.40 9.80 20.60 25.75 28.75 Man 11.20 7.35 9.80 7.95 16.00 10.15 Son 4.35 3.05 1.20 6.40 18.15 15.75 Boy 1.85 10.12 6.75 Boy —————————————————————— 27.10 18.80 20.80 36.80 70.02 61.40—$382.54

During the grinding season the men's wages were increased to $1 a day and the boys' to 40 cents and the father had chances to make extra time as nightwatchman, etc. This family own a horse and buggy, keep poultry and have a fair garden. They are rather thrifty and have money stowed away somewhere.

The second family consists of the parents and eight children. Their income is fair, but they are always "hard up." They spend their money extravagantly. The man is head teamster on the plantation and makes 80 cents per day, which is increased to $1.30 during the grinding season. The wife in this family also did no work save in the fall.

$16.00 14.40 17.60 15.40 18.40 16.80 17.80 7.87 6.85 10.10 9.25 9.65 10.10 11.00 12.60 8.75 12.60 13.30 15.55 14.50 11.90 2.90 1.50 4.50 1.25 1.80 .65

————————————————————— $40.62 33.30 45.45 37.95 43.60 41.40 40.70

17.80 18.00 16.60 23.30 44.95 43.05 Man 11.00 10.25 4.00 6.00 19.30 18.00 Boy 11.90 12.40 11.70 19.25 25.75 23.00 Son 6.75 17.25 14.75 Girl 1.60 Boy 2.10 8.00 5.25 Boy 3.00 15.15 13.50 Woman ——————————————————————— 40.70 40.65 32.30 60.40 130.30 119.15—665.82

These families are typical so far as known. In comparing their incomes with those in other districts it must be borne in mind that they have no rent to pay and their only necessary expenses are for food and clothes and incidentals. Certainly both of the families should have money to their credit at the end of the year. The total wages depends not only on the willingness to work, but also on weather conditions. One gets the impression that in some places conditions are pretty bad and even by some white residents of the state it is claimed that a state of servitude almost prevails on many plantations. In any case the Negroes do not seem satisfied. The labor is rather heavy. For this or other reasons there has been quite an exodus to the cotton country in recent years, which has caused the cane planters much trouble and they will make many concessions to keep their tenants. To meet this emigration for some time efforts have been made to import Italian labor but the results have not been wholly satisfactory. The Italians are more reliable and this is a great argument in their favor, but with this exception they are not considered much better workers than the blacks. The storekeepers much prefer the Negroes, who spend their money more freely.

The planters claim that the labor is unreliable and say they never know on Saturday how many workers they will have on Monday. They also say it is hard to get extra labor done. In 1900 on one plantation the women were offered ten cents a day extra for some hoeing, but only four held out. Higher wages were offered if some cane were cut by the ton instead of by the day, but after a week the hands asked to return to the gang at the lower wage.

In the rice fields along the river about the same wages prevail as for the field hands in the cane plantations. The rice crop, however, is but a six months crop, so other employment must be found for part of the year if nothing but rice is raised. It is usual in this region to raise rice as a side crop.



Hitherto we have had to do chiefly with the economic situation of the Negro farmer. There is, however, another set of forces which may not be ignored if we are to understand the situation which confronts us. These are, of course, the social forces. In discussing these it is more than ever essential to remember that a differentiation has been taking place among the Negroes and that there are large numbers who are not to be grouped with the average men and women whom we seek to describe. It may even be true that there are communities which have gained a higher level. Any statement of the social environment of 8,000,000 people must necessarily be false if applied strictly to each individual. The existence of the higher class must not, however, be allowed to blind us to the condition of the rest.

The average Negro boy or girl is allowed to grow. It is difficult to say much more for the training received at home. We must remember that there is an almost total absence of home life as we understand it. The family seldom sits down together at the table or do anything else in common. The domestic duties are easily mastered by the girls and chores do not weigh heavily on the boys. At certain periods of the year the children are compelled to assist in the farm operations, such as picking cotton, but most of the time they are care free. Thus they run almost wild while the parents are at work in the fields, and the stranger who suddenly approaches a cabin and beholds the youngsters scattering for shelter will not soon forget the sight. Obedience, neatness, punctuality do not thrive in such an atmosphere. The introduction to the country school a little later does not greatly improve conditions. The teachers are often incompetent and their election often depends upon other things than fitness to teach; upon things, indeed, which are at times far from complimentary to the school trustees. The school year seldom exceeds four months and this may be divided into two terms, two months in the fall and two in the spring. School opens at an indefinite time in the morning, if scheduled for nine it is just as likely as not that it begins at ten thirty, while the closing hour is equally uncertain. The individual attention received by the average child is necessarily small. The schools are poorly equipped with books or maps. The interior view given on page 61 is by no means exceptional.

It may not be out of place to mention the fact that recognition of these evils is leading in many places in the South to the incorporation of private schools, which then offer their facilities to the public in return for partial support at the public expense. Public moneys are being turned over to these schools in considerable amounts. In some counties the public does not own a school building. Without questioning the fact that these schools are an improvement over existing conditions, history will belie itself if this subsidizing of private organizations does not some day prove a great drawback to the proper development of the public school system, unless it may be, that the courts will declare the practice illegal and unconstitutional.

The home and the school being from our point of view unsatisfactory, the next social institution to which we turn is the church. Since the war this has come to be the most influential in the opinion of the Negro and it deserves more careful study than has yet been given to it. Only some of the more obvious features can here be considered. The first thing to impress the observer is the fact that time is again no object to the Negro. The service advertised for eleven may get fairly under way by twelve and there is no predicting when it will stop. The people drift in and out, one or two at a time, throughout the service. Families do not enter nor sit together. Outside is always a group talking over matters of general interest. The music, lined out, consists of the regulation church hymns, which are usually screeched all out of time in a high key. The contrast between this music and the singing of the plantation songs at Hampton or some other schools which impresses one as does little music he hears elsewhere is striking. The people have the idea that plantation songs are out of place in the church. The collection is taken with a view to letting others know what each one does. At the proper time a couple of the men take their places at a table before the pulpit and invite the people to come forward with their offerings. The people straggle up the aisle with their gifts, being constantly urged to hasten so as not to delay the service. After half an hour or so the results obtained are remarkable and the social emulation redounds to the benefit of the preacher. It is difficult for the white visitor to get anything but hints of the real possibilities of the preacher, for he is at once introduced to the audience and induced to address them if it is possible. Even when this is not done there is usually an air of restraint which is noticeable. Only occasionally does the speaker forget himself and break loose, as it were. The study then presented is interesting in the extreme. While the minister shouts, the audience are swaying backward and forward in sympathetic rhythm, encouraging the speaker with cries of "Amen", "That's right", "That's the Gospel", "Give it to 'em bud", "Give 'em a little long sweetening". There is no question that they are profoundly moved, but the identity of the spirit which troubles the waters is to me sometimes a question. The forms of the white man's religion have been adopted, but the content of these forms seems strangely different. Seemingly the church, or rather, religion, is not closely identified with morality. I am sorry to say that in the opinion of the best of both races the average country (and city) pastor does not bear a good reputation, the estimates of the immoral running from 50 to 98 per cent. of the total number. It is far from me to discount any class of people, but if the situation is anything as represented by the estimate, the seriousness of it is evident. This idea is supported by the fact that indulgence in immorality is seldom a bar to active church membership, and if a member be dismissed from one communion there are others anxious to receive him or her. There are churches and communities of which these statements are not true. It is interesting to note that the churches are securing their chief support from the women. As an organization the church does not seem to have taken any great interest in the matters which most vitally affect the life of the people, except to be a social center. If these things be considered it is easy to see why the best informed are seeking for the country districts men who can be leaders of the people during the week on the farms as well as good speakers on Sunday. It is a pleasure to note that here and there some busy pastor is also spending a good deal of his time cultivating a garden, or running a small farm, with the distinct purpose of setting a good example. The precise way in which the church may be led to exert a wider and more helpful influence on the people is a matter of great importance, but it must be solved from within.

Turning from religious work we find the church bearing an important place in the social life and amusements. Besides its many gatherings and protracted meetings which are social functions, numbers of picnics and excursions are given. These may be on the railroads to rather distant points, and because of the lack of discrimination as to participants, many earnest protests have been filed by the better class of Negroes. The amusements of the blacks are simple. Nearly all drink, but drunkenness is not a great vice. Dances are in high esteem, and are often accompanied by much drinking and not infrequently by cutting scrapes, for the Negro's passions lie on the surface and are easily aroused. In South Carolina the general belief seems to be that the dispensary law has been beneficial. There is also a universal fondness for tobacco in all its forms. Gambling prevails wherever there is ready money and not infrequently leads to serious assaults. Music has great charms while a circus needs not the excuse of children to justify it in the Negro's eyes. Some of the holidays are celebrated, and when on the coast the blacks dubbed the 30th of May "Desecration Day," there were those who thought it well named. Active sports, with the occasional exception of a ball game, are not preferred to the more quiet pleasure of sitting about in the sunshine conversing with friends. America can not show a happier, more contented lot of people than these same blacks.

If we turn our attention to other characteristics of the Negro we must notice his different moral standard. To introduce the little I shall say on this point let me quote from a well known anthropologist. "There is nothing more difficult for us to realize, civilized as we are, than the mental state of the man far behind us in cultivation, as regards what we call par excellence 'morality.' It is not indecency; it is simply an animal absence of modesty. Acts which are undeniably quite natural, since they are the expression of a primordial need, essential to the duration of the species, but which a long ancestral and individual education has trained us to subject to a rigorous restraint, and to the accomplishment of which, consequently, we can not help attaching a certain shame, do not in the least shock the still imperfect conscience of the primitive man." From somewhat this standpoint we must judge of the Negro. Two or three illustrations will suffice. Talking last summer to a porter in a small hotel, I asked him if he had ever lived on a farm. He replied that he had and that he often thought of returning. Asking him why he did not he said that it would be necessary for him to get a wife and a lot of other things. I suggested the possibility of boarding in another family. He shook his head and said: "Niggers is queer folks, boss. 'Pears to me they don' know what they gwine do. Ef I go out and live in a man's house like as not I run away wid dat man's wife." The second illustration is taken from an unpublished manuscript by Rev. J. L. Tucker of Baton Rouge.

There is a negro of good character here in Baton Rouge whose name is —— ——. He is a whitewasher by trade and does mainly odd jobs for the white people who are his patrons, and earns a good living. He is widely known through the city as a good and reliable man. Some time ago he had trouble with his wife's preacher, who came to his house too often. The trouble culminated in his wife leaving him. Soon thereafter he sent or went into the country and brought home a negro woman whom he installed in his house to cook and otherwise serve him. Explaining the circumstances to Mr. ——, he said: "I a'in' got no use for nigga preachers. Dey is de debbil wid de wimmen. I tol' dat ar fellah to keep away fr'm my house or I'd hunt him wid a shotgun, an' I meant it. But he got her'n spite a me. She went off to 'im. Now I's got me a wife from way back in de country, who don' know the ways of nigga preachers. I kin keep her, I reckon, a while, anyway. I pays her wages reg'lar, an' she does her duty by me. I tell yeh, Mr. ——, a hired wife's a heap better's a married wife any time, yeh mark dat. Ef yeh don' line er yer can sen' her off an' get anudder, an' she's nutten to complain 'bout a' longs yeh pay her wages. Yes siree, yeh put dat down; de hired wife's nuff sight better'n de married one. I don' fus no mo' wid marryin' wives, I hires 'em. An I sent word to dat preacher dat if he comes roun' my house now I lays for 'im shore wid buck shot."

Commenting, Mr. Tucker says that the man had no idea of moral wrong, the real wife has lost no caste, the preacher stands just as well with his flock and the "new wife" is well received. The third instance occurred on a plantation. A married woman, not satisfied with the shoes she received from the store, wanted a pair of yellow turned shoes. The planter would not supply them. The woman was angry and finally left her husband, went to a neighboring place and "took up" with another man.

These cases sufficiently illustrate prevailing conceptions of the sacredness of the marriage tie. Certainly this involves a theory of home life which differs from ours. Many matings are consummated without any regular marriage ceremony and with little reference to legal requirements, and divorces are equally informal. Moral lapses seldom bring the Negro before the courts. All these things but indicate the handicap which has to be overcome. Within the family there is often great abuse on the part of the men. The result of it all is that many Negroes do not know their own fathers and so little are the ties of kinship' regarded that near relatives are often unknown, and if possible less cared for. This may be substantiated by the records of any charity society in the North which has sought to trace friends of its Negro applicants. To attempt a quantitative estimate of the extent of sexual immorality is useless. It is sufficient to realize that a different standard prevails and one result today is a frightful prevalence of venereal diseases to which any practising physician in the South can bear witness. I am glad to say there are sections which have risen above these conditions.

The transition from slavery to freedom set in operation the forces of natural selection, which are sure and steadily working among the people and are weeding out those who for any reason can not adapt themselves to the new environment. Insanity, almost unknown in slavery times, has appeared and has been increasing among the Negroes of the South at a rate of about 100 per cent. a decade since 1860. Of course, the number affected is still small, but the end is perhaps not reached. We have witnessed also the development of the pauper and criminal classes. This was to be expected. There is also some evidence of an increase in the use of drugs, cocaine and the like. The point to be noted is that there is taking place a steady division of the Negroes into various social strata and in spite of race traits it is no longer to be considered as on a level.

I have sought to represent the situation as it appears to me, neither seeking to overemphasize the virtues or the vices of the race. It is clear to me that in spite of the obvious progress the road ahead is long and hard. While I do not anticipate any such acceleration of speed as will immediately bring about an economic or social millenium I believe that proper measures may be found, indeed, are already in use, which if widely adopted will lead to better things. How many of the race will fall by the way is, in one sense, a matter of indifference. In the long run, for the whites as well as the blacks, they will survive who adapt their social theories and, consequently, their modes of life to their environments.


"One of the things which militates most against the Negro here is his unreliability. * * * His mental processes are past finding out and he can not be counted on to do or not to do a given thing under given circumstances. There is scarcely a planter in all this territory who would not make substantial concessions for an assured tenantry." A Northern man, now resident in the South and employing Negro labor, says: "I am convinced of one thing and that is that there is no dependence to be placed in 90 per cent. of the Negro laborers if left to themselves and out of the overseer's sight." These quotations from men who are seeking to promote the success of the Negroes with whom they come in contact might be multiplied indefinitely from every part of the South. The statements are scarce open to discussion, so well recognized is the fact. If I have rightly apprehended the nature of the training afforded by Africa and slavery there was little in them to develop the habits of forethought, thrift and industry, upon which this reliability must be based.

I am not arguing the question as to whether this unreliability marks a decadence of Negro standards or whether it is due to the present higher standards of the white. For argument, at least, I am willing to admit that in quality of workmanship, in steadfastness and self-control there has really been great progress. My interest is in the present and future rather than the past. I have tried to show that, judged by present standards, the Negro is still decidedly lacking. Personally I am not surprised at this. I should be astonished if it were otherwise. The trouble is that we at the North are unable to disabuse ourselves of the idea that the Negro is a dark skinned Yankee and we think, therefore, that if all is not as it should be that something is wrong, that somebody or some social condition is holding him back. We accuse slavery, attribute it to the hostility of the Southern white. Something is holding him back, but it is his inheritance of thousands of years in Africa, not slavery nor the Southern whites. It is my observation that the white of the black belt deal with the Negro more patiently and endure far more of shiftless methods than the average Northerner would tolerate for a day. It is interesting to note that Northern white women who go South filled with the idea that the Negro is abused can scarce keep a servant the first year or so of their stay. Of course there are exceptions, few in number, who say as did a lumberman in Alabama last summer: "I never have any trouble with the Negro. Have worked them for twenty years. Why, I haven't had to kill one yet, though I did shoot one once, but I used fine shot and it didn't hurt him much." We have attempted to have the Negro do in a few years what it has taken us thousands to accomplish, and are surprised that he has disappointed us. There is no room for discouragement. Contrast the Negro in Africa and America to see what has been done.

Unless this unreliability is overcome it will form even a greater handicap for the future. Southern methods of agriculture have been more wasteful of small economies than have Northern. That a change is imperative, in many districts at least, has been shown. Is the Negro in a position to take advantage of these changes? At present it must be admitted that he does not possess the knowledge to enable him to utilize his environment and make the most out of it. It has been shown that he is bearing little part in the development of the trucking industry, nay more, that he does not even raise enough garden truck for his own support. In a bulletin of the Farmer's Improvement Society of Texas I find the following:

Very many, in the first place, do not try to make their supplies at home. Very often much is lost by bad fences. Lots of them don't know where their hoes, plows, single-trees, etc., are at this minute. Lots of them buy butter, peas, beans, lard, meat and hay. * * * Well, really, to sum up, if there's anything like scientific methods among the vast majority of our people I don't know it. * * * I venture to say that not one negro farmer in a hundred ever saw the back of one of these bulletins (agricultural), much less the inside.

If some of these primary lessons have not been mastered what chance is there that the Negro will overcome, unaided, the crop lien system and his other handicaps and introduce diversified agriculture, stock raising, etc.? Slavery taught him something about work and he is willing to work, and work hard, under leadership. Herein lies the possibility of his economic salvation. He is not yet ready as a race to stand alone and advance at the pace demanded by America of the twentieth century. He must be taught and the teaching must be by practice as well as by precept. Viewed from this standpoint, though it is equally true from another, one of the great needs of the South is that its white farmers should pay more attention to other things than cotton. So long as land is considered too valuable to use for pasture, for hay, for the various crops on which stock live and fatten, or so long as it is considered profitable to sell cotton seed for $5 a ton and throw away four or five times this amount in the food and manure which the same seed contains, the Negro will not see the advantage of a different system. Nor does the sight of thousands of tons of rice straw dumped into the Mississippi each year, just as a generation ago the oat straw in Iowa was burned, lead him to suspect unused sources of wealth. The possibilities of Southern agriculture are great, but the lead must be taken by the whites.

The Negro has a great advantage over the Italian or other European peasant in that the white man prefers him as a helper. He is patient, docile and proud of his work. He is wanted by the native whites, and if the reader doubts this let him go to any Southern community and attempt to bring about any great exodus of the Negroes and he will be surprised to find how soon he is requested to move on. This interest on the part of the whites is a factor which must be considered. It would be a happy day for the Negro if the white woman of the South took her old personal interest in his welfare. This friendly sentiment will not increase with time and each succeeding generation will emphasize, more and more, industrial efficiency, and the Negro will not be preferred. Corresponding to this is the fact that the Negro respects and willingly follows the white man, more willingly and more trustingly than he does another Negro. He is personally loyal, as the care received by the soldiers during war time illustrated. But slavery is gone and the feudalism which followed it is slowly yielding to commercialism, which gives the palm to the more efficient.

Hitherto the Negro has tilled much of the best land of the South. Meantime the great prairies have been settled and about all the good cheap land of the northwest taken. A tide of immigration is setting in towards the Southern states. Already the rice industry of Louisiana has been revolutionized by white immigrants. What may this mean for the Negro if these incoming whites defy race prejudice and seek the rich bottom lands of the Mississippi or elsewhere? Will the Negro be in a position of independence or will he only assist the white? Will he till in the future the best lands or will he be forced to the less fertile? With the knowledge of the present regarding yellow fever, malaria and typhoid the dread of the lowlands is disappearing. If the indications point, as many believe, towards the South as the seat of the next great agricultural development these questions become of vital importance to the Negro. Can he become economically secure before he is made to meet a competition which he has never yet faced? Or does the warmer climate give him an advantage, which the whites can not overcome? I must confess that I doubt it. In "The Cotton Plant" (page 242), Mr. Harry Hammond states that in 39 counties of the Black Prairie Region of Texas, in which the whites predominate, the average value of the land is $12.19 per acre, as against $6.40 for similar soil in twelve counties of the Black Prairie of Alabama, in which the Negroes are in the majority. He says further: "The number and variety of implements recently introduced in cotton culture here, especially in the prairies of Texas, is very much greater than elsewhere in the cotton belt." This would indicate that heat alone is no insurmountable obstacle.

If these things be true, then as the late Mr. J. L. M. Curry said:

"It may be assumed that the industrial problem lies at the heart of the whole situation which confronts us. Into our public and other schools should be incorporated industrial training. If to regularity, punctuality, silence, obedience to authority, there be systematically added instruction in mechanical arts, the results would be astounding."

The question of classical education does not now concern us. The absolutely essential thing is that the Negro shall learn to work regularly and intelligently. The lesson begun in slavery must be mastered. As Dr. E. G. Murphy puts it:

The industrial training supplied by that school (slavery) is now denied to him. The capacity, the equipment, and the necessity for work which slavery provided are the direct cause of the superiority of the old time darkey. Is freedom to have no substitute for the ancient school? * * * The demand of the situation is not less education, but more education of the right sort.

I would not say that I thought all Negroes should be farmers, but I do feel that the farm offers the mass of the race the most favorable opportunity for the development of solid and enduring character. It seems to me that the following words from one of our broadest minded men apply with special force to the Negro:

If I had some magic gift to bestow it would be to make our country youth see one truth, namely, that science as applied to the farm, the garden and the forest has as splendid a dignity as astronomy; that it may work just as many marvels and claim just as high an order of talent."


There remain to be considered some of the agencies at work to better the lot of the farmer. In this I shall not attempt to give a list of institutions and outline of courses but to indicate various lines of work which seem promising.

In discussing the training of the Negro farmer credit must first be given to the white planters under whom he has learned so much of what he knows. Under the changing conditions of agriculture this training, or the training received on the average farm is not sufficient and must be supplemented by special training if the desired results are to be obtained.

It probably lay in the situation that the Negro should get the idea that education meant freedom from labor. It is none the less unfortunate for him. To counteract this idea has been a difficult matter and the influence of the average school has not been of any special help. The country school taught by a teacher, usually incompetent from any standpoint, whose interest has been chiefly in the larger salary made possible by his "higher education" has not been an unmixed blessing. The children have learned to read and write and have preserved their notion that if only they could get enough education they might be absolved from manual labor. Even today Hampton and Tuskegee and similar schools have to contend with the opposition of parents who think their children should not be compelled to work, for they are sent to school to enable them to avoid labor. Quite likely it could not be expected that the country school should hold up a higher ideal, for here we have to do with the beginnings of a system of instruction which had to make use of such material as it could find for teachers. The same excuse does not suffice to explain the attitude taken by the bulk of schools maintained by the northern whites for the Negroes. Their inability to comprehend the needs of the case can only be ascribed to the conception of a Negro as a white man with a black skin and a total failure to recognize the essential conditions of race progress. When the Roman monks penetrated the German woods the chief benefits they carried were not embalmed in Latin grammars and the orations of Cicero, but were embodied in the knowledge of agriculture and the arts which, adopted by the people, made possible later the German civilization. The old rescue mission sought to yank the sinner out of the slough of despond, the social settlement seeks to help him who has fallen in the contest of life or him to whom the opportunity has not been offered, to climb, recognizing that morality and religion attend, not recede progress. The old charity gave alms and the country was overrun with hordes of beggars; the new seeks to help a man to help himself. A similar change must come in the efforts for the Negro. It has been sought to give him the fruits of civilization without its bases. It will immediately be argued that this is wrong, that the chief educational work has been but primary and that little so-called "higher education" has been given. This is true, even to the extent that it is possible to find a town of 5,000 inhabitants one-half Negroes, in which the city provides but one teacher for the black children and the balance are trained in a school supported by the gifts of northern people. But, and this is the important thing, the spirit of the education has been clear and definite and that the plan has not been carried out has not been due to lack of faith in it. General Armstrong, thanks to his observations in Hawaii, perceived that a different course was necessary. His mantle fell on H. F. Frissell and Booker T. Washington, so Hampton and Tuskegee have been the chief factors in producing the change which has been noted as coming. Now that industrial training is winning support it is amusing to note the anxiety of other schools to show that they have always believed in it. I can but feel that had the plans of General Armstrong been widely adopted, had the teachers been trained to take the people where they were and lead them to gradual improvement, that the situation today would be radically different. It is, however, not too late to do this yet and the widespread founding of schools modeled after Hampton and Tuskegee indicates a general recognition of the needs of the situation.

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