The Negro Farmer
by Carl Kelsey
Previous Part     1  2  3
Home - Random Browse

Yet, even these schools have not turned out as many farmers as is often supposed. On examination of the catalog of Tuskegee for 1901 I find only sixteen graduates who are farming and thirteen of these have other occupations (principally teaching). The combination, I think, desirable rather than otherwise. Three others are introducing cotton raising in Africa under the German Government. From the industrial department nine have received certificates in agriculture and six in dairying, but their present occupations are not given. Asking a prominent man at Tuskegee for the reason, he exclaimed, rather disgustedly, that they disliked work and preferred to teach. This merely indicates the handicap Tuskegee has to overcome, and perhaps the average agricultural college of the North cannot show a higher percentage of farmers. An official of the Department of Agriculture tells me that only 5 per cent of the graduates of the agricultural colleges become farmers. To show how much agricultural training is given at Tuskegee the following statement for the year 1902-3 is of interest: No pupil is counted twice. One hundred and eighty-one students are engaged in the actual operations of the farm, truck garden, orchard, etc. Seventy-nine are taking the dairying, etc., and 207 are taking agriculture as part of their academic work. Yet, more of the graduates become professional men (lawyers, preachers, etc.) than farmers, the proportion being about three to one. In citing Tuskegee I am, of course, not forgetting that other schools, such as Tougaloo and Talladega, have excellent farms and are seeking (though their chief emphasis is elsewhere) to give agricultural training.

Reverting to the different lines of work which seem hopeful, the subject may be subdivided into several sections. We have first to do with the efforts to make the young child appreciate Nature and become interested in her processes. Perhaps Hampton has developed this side most extensively, both in the little garden plots cultivated by the children and the nature study leaflets prepared for use in other schools. Personally I can but feel that there is a possibility of vastly extending such instruction by means of the country schools. If they may be consolidated, and this is being done in many sections, I think a way can be found to make the school house the social center of the district in such a way as will greatly help conditions.

Actual instruction in practical farming, dairying, horticulture, etc., is given in an increasing number of schools, but the opportunities are still very inadequate to the needs. If it be possible the way must be found to enable the Negro to use more and better machinery. The average planter does not care to introduce expensive machinery lest it be ruined by careless and ignorant tenants.

These industrial schools can never hope to reach more than a certain percentage of the people. There must be measures adopted to widen the influence of the school. Tuskegee may be mentioned for its attempts to reach out. For many years an annual Farmers' Conference has been held which bids fair to become the Mecca of the Negro farmer. The influence exerted cannot be measured, but it is believed to be great. One weak spot in many of the schools is that they have little if any direct influence upon the life of the community in which they are situated. There are, however, some exceptions. The Calhoun Colored School has a farmer's association meeting monthly. This is made up chiefly of men who are purchasing land through a company formed by the school. Topics of local interest, methods of farming, etc., are the subjects for discussion. There is also a mother's meeting with subjects of more domestic interest, with a savings department for co-operative buying. Curiously enough the formation of the mother's meeting was at first opposed by the men (and by some whites), as it took the women out of the fields occasionally. Now it is more favored. As Tuskegee and many other places there are similar farmers' associations, of which no special mention need be made. Tuskegee has an outpost some miles from the school which is doing a general neighborhood work. The following papers circulated by the school will give a general idea of their conceptions of the needs as well as of their efforts to influence conditions for the better:


I may take in washing, but every day I promise myself that I will do certain work for my family.

I will set the table for every meal. I will wash the dishes after every meal.

Monday, I will do my family washing. I will put my bedclothes out to air. I will clean the safe with hot water and soap.

Tuesday, I will do my ironing and family patching.

Wednesday, I will scrub my kitchen and clean my yard thoroughly.

Thursday, I will clean and air the meal and pork boxes. I will scour my pots and pans with soap and ashes.

Friday, I will wash my dish cloth, dish towels and hand towels. I will sweep and dust my whole house and clean everything thoroughly.

Sunday, I will go to church and Sunday school. I will take my children with me. I will stay at home during the remainder of the day. I will try to read something aloud helpful to all.


1. How many bushels of potatoes, corn, beans, peas and peanuts have we raised this year?

2. How many hogs and poultry do we keep?

3. How much poultry have we raised?

4. How many bales of cotton have we raised?

5. How much have we saved to buy a home?

6. How much have we done towards planting flowers and making our yard look pretty?

7. How many kinds of vegetables did we raise in our home garden?

8. How many times did we stay away from miscellaneous excursions when we wished to go? What were our reasons for staying at home?

9. How have we helped our boys and girls to stay out of bad company?

10. What paper have we taken, and why have we taken our children to church and had them sit with us?


Keep clean, body and soul. Remember that weak minds, diseased bodies, bad acts are often the result of bad food.

Remember that you can set a good table by raising fruit, vegetables, grains and your meat.

Remember that you intend to train your children to stay at home out of bad company.

Remember that if you would have their minds and yours clean, you will be obliged to help them learn something outside the school room. Remember, that you can do this in no better way than by taking a good paper—the New York Weekly Witness or The Sabbath Reading, published in New York, cost very little. Have your children read to you from the Bible and from the papers.


You need chairs in your house. Get boxes. Cover with bright calico, and use them for seats until you can buy chairs.

You need plates, knives and forks, spoons and table cloths. Buy them with the tobacco and snuff money.

You need more respect for self. Get it by staying away from street corners, depots and, above all, excursions.

You need to stay away from these excursions to keep out of bad company, out of court, out of jail, and out of the disgust of every self-respecting person.

You need more race pride. Cultivate this as you would your crops. It will mean a step forward.

You need a good home. Save all you can. Get your home, and that will bring you nearer citizenship.

You can supply all these needs. When will you begin? Every moment of delay is a loss.


1. Keep no more than one dog.

2. Stay away from court.

3. Buy no snuff, tobacco and whisky.

4. Raise your own pork.

5. Raise your vegetables.

6. Put away thirty cents for every dollar you spend.

7. Keep a good supply of poultry. Set your hens. Keep your chickens until they will bring a good price.

8. Go to town on Thursday instead of Saturday. Buy no more than you need. Stay in town no longer than necessary.

9. Starve rather than sell your crops before you raise them. Let your mind be fixed on that the first day of January, and stick to that every day in the year.

10. Buy land and build you a home.

The various states are beginning to establish institutions in which agriculture and industrial training may be given. Among these may be mentioned that of Alabama at Normal, and of Mississippi at Westside. Alabama has also established an experiment station in connection with the Tuskegee Institute.

In Texas there is an interesting movement among the Negro farmers known as the "Farmers' Improvement Society." The objects are:

1. Abolition of the credit system. 2. Stimulate improvements in farming. 3. Co-operative buying. 4. Sickness and life insurance. 5. Encouragement of purchase of land and home.

The Association holds a fair each year which is largely attended. According to the Galveston News of October 12, 1902, the society has about 3,000 members, who own some 50,000 acres of land, more than 8,000 cattle and 7,000 horses and mules. This organization, founded and maintained entirely by Negroes, promises much in many ways. In October, 1902, a fair was held in connection with the school at Calhoun, Ala., with 83 exhibitors and 416 entries, including 48 from the school and a very creditable showing of farm products and live stock.

Besides these general lines which seem to be of promise it is in place to mention a couple of attempts to get the Negroes to purchase land. There have been not a few persons who have sold land to them on the installment plan with the expectation that later payments would be forfeited and the land revert. There are some enterprises which are above suspicion. I am not referring now to private persons or railroad companies who have sold large tracts to the Negroes, but to organizations whose objects are to aid the blacks in becoming landholders. The Land Company at Calhoun. Ala., started in 1896, buying 1,040 acres of land, which was accurately surveyed and divided into plots of fifty acres, so arranged that each farm should include different sorts of land. This was sold to the Negroes at cost price, $8 per acre, the purchasers to pay 8 per cent on deferred payments. The sums paid by the purchasers each year have been as follows:

1896—$ 741.03. Found later to be borrowed money in the main. 1897—$1,485.15. Largely borrowed money. 1898—$ 367.34. Men paying back borrowed money. Advances large. 1899—$ 374.77. 1900—$1,649.25. Money not borrowed. Advances small. 1901—$ 871.49. Bad year. Poor crops. Money not borrowed. 1902—$2,280.42. Advances very small. Outlook encouraging.

There have been some failures on part of tenants, and it has been necessary to gradually select the better men and allow the others to drop out. The company has paid all expenses and interest on its capital. A second plantation has been purchased and is being sold. There is a manager who is a trained farmer, and by means of the farmers' association already mentioned much pressure is brought to bear on the Negroes to improve their condition. The results are encouraging. In Macon County the Southern Land Company has purchased several thousand acres which it is selling in much the same way, but it is too early to speak of results. Even at Calhoun but few of the men have yet gotten deeds for their land.

A word regarding the methods of the Southern Land Company will be of interest. The land was carefully surveyed in forty-acre plots. These are sold at $8 per acre, the payments covering a period of seven years. The interest is figured in advance, and to each plot is charged a yearly fee of $5 for management. In this total is also included the cost of house and well (a three-roomed cabin is furnished for about $100, a well for $10). This sum is then divided into seven equal parts so that the purchaser knows in advance just what he must pay each year. The object of the company is to encourage home ownership. Until the place is paid for control of the planting, etc., remains with the manager of the company. Advances are in cash (except fertilizers), as no store is conducted by the company and interest is charged at 8 per cent for the money advanced and for the time said money is used.

On this place in 1902, H. W., a man aged 68, with wife and three children, owning a horse, a mule and two cows, did as follows. He and his son-in-law are buying eighty acres. They made a good showing for the first year under considerable difficulties and on land by no means rich:

Debits. Credits. Fertilizer $ 34.88 Cotton $390.32 Whitewashing 3.00 Liming 19.76 Lease contract 180.00 Cash 130.36 Interest 3.12 ———- $371.12 ———- Balance Jan. 1, 1903 $ 19.20

This leads me to mention the question of land ownership on the part of the Negroes. This has not been mentioned hitherto for several reasons. In the first place the data for any detailed knowledge of the subject are not to be had. Few states make separate record of land owned by the blacks as distinct from general ownership. The census has to depend upon the statements of the men themselves, and I have heard tenants solemnly argue that they owned the land. Again a very considerable proportion of the land owned is also heavily mortgaged, and these mortgages are not always for improvements. Nor is it by any means self evident that land ownership necessarily means a more advanced condition than where land is rented. Moreover, a considerable proportion of the farms owned are so small that they do not suffice to support the owners. Conditions vary in different districts. In Virginia it has been possible to buy a few acres at a very low price. In parts of Alabama, or wherever the land has been held in large estates in recent years, it has often been impossible for the Negro to purchase land in small lots. Thus, though I believe heartily in land ownership for the blacks and believe that well conducted land associations will be beneficial, I cannot think that this alone will solve the questions confronting us. Retrogression is possible even with land ownership. Other things are necessary. On the basis of existing data the best article with which I am acquainted on this subject appeared in the Southern Workman for January, 1903, written by Dr. G. S. Dickerman, in which he showed that among the Negro farmers the owners and managers formed 59.8 per cent of the total in Virginia, 57.6 per cent in Maryland, 48.6 per cent in Kentucky, falling as we go South to 15.1 per cent in Alabama, 16.4 per cent in Mississippi, and 16.2 per cent in Louisiana, rising to 30.9 per cent in Texas. Evidently the forces at work are various.

Within a few months, at the suggestion of Mr. Horace Plunkett, of the Irish Agricultural Organization Society, a new work has been taken up, whose course will be watched with great interest. I quote from a letter of Mr. Plunkett to Dr. Wallace Buttrick, of the General Education Board:

From what I have seen of the negro character, my own impression is that the race has those leader-following propensities which characterize the Irish people. It has, too, I suspect, in its mental composition the same vein of idealism which my own countrymen possess, and which makes them susceptible to organization, and especially to those forms of organization which require the display of the social qualities to which I have alluded and which you will have to develop. These characteristics which express themselves largely, the old plantation songs, in the form of religions exercises, and in the maintenance of a staff of preachers out of all proportion I should think, to the spiritual requirements, should, in my opinion, lend themselves to associative action for practical ends if the organizing machinery necessary to initiate such action were provided.

What, then, is my practical suggestion? It is that your board, if it generally approves of the idea, should take one, two, or, at the most, three communities, such as that we inquired about, and organize them on the Irish plan. The farmers should at first he advised to confine their efforts to some simple object, such as the joint purchase of their immediate agricultural requirements. * * * I would at first deal solely with the colored people, beginning in a very small way, leaving larger developments for the future to decide.

Hampton Institute has taken up the suggestion and is planning to organize a community. Everything will, of course, depend on the management as well as on the people. If the results are as satisfactory as they have been in Ireland the efforts will be well expended.

With this brief and incomplete account we must take leave of the Negro farmer. Throughout the thesis I have attempted to keep two or three fundamental propositions constantly in sight. Briefly summarized these are that we have to do with a race whose inherited characteristics are largely of African origin; that these have been somewhat modified under American influences, but are still potent; that the economic environment in America is not a unit and must finally result in the creation of different types among the blacks; that the needs of the different habitats are various; that the segregation from the mass of the whites is fraught with serious consequences; that measures of wider application must be adopted if the Negro is to bear his proper part in the progress of the country; that owing to the great race differences the whites must take an active interest in the blacks; that in spite of the many handicaps under which the Negro struggles the outlook is not hopeless if his willingness to work can so be directed that a surplus will result. To my mind the Negro must work out his salvation, economic and social. It cannot be given without destroying the very thing we seek to strengthen—character. This is the justification for the emphasis now laid upon industrial training. This training and the resulting character are the pre-requisites of all race progress. Industrial education is thus not a fad nor a mere expedient to satisfy the selfish demands of southern whites. It is the foundation without which the superstructure is in vain. If I have fairly stated the difficulties in the way and have shown the possibility of ultimate success, I am content. For the future I am hopeful.


These maps are particularly referred to in Chapter II. The chief geological districts are indicated. The figures are based upon the census of 1900. The maps are here included in the hope that they may prove of value to students of the problems herein discussed.



Total Negroes 660,722 Total Whites 1,192,855 Negroes form 35.6% of total=



Square Miles in State 40,125 Average Negroes per Mile 16.4 Average Whites per Mile 29.7=



Total Negroes 624,469 Total Whites 1,263,603 Negroes form 33% of total=



Square Miles in State 48,580 Average Negroes per Mile 12.8 Average Whites per Mile 26=



Total Whites in State 557,807 Total Negroes in State 782,321 ————- 1,340,128

Negroes form 58.4% of total=



Square Miles in State 30,170 Average Negroes to Square Mile 25.1 Average Whites to Square Mile 17.9=



Total Whites in State 1,181,294 Total Negroes in State 1,034,813 ————- 2,216,107

Negroes form 46.7% of total=



Square Miles in State 58,980 Average Negroes per Square Mile 17.6 Average Whites per Square Mile 19.9=



Total Whites 297,333 Total Negroes 230,730 ———- 528,063

Negroes form 43.7% of total=



Square miles in State 54,240 Average Negroes per Mile 4.2 Average Whites per Mile 5.4


Total Whites in State 1,001,152 Total Negroes in State 827,307 ————- 1,828,459

Negroes form 45.2% of total=



Square Miles in State 51,540 Average Negroes per Mile 16 Average Whites per Mile 19.4=



Negro Percentage in State 58.5 Total Whites 641,200 Total Negroes 907,630 ————- 1,548,830=



Average Negroes per Square Mile 19.58 Average Whites per Square Mile 13.82 Square Miles in State 46,340



Total Negroes 480,243 Total Whites 1,540,186 Negroes form 23.8% of total=



Square Miles in State 41,750 Average Negroes per Mile 11.2 Average Whites per Mile 36.8=



Total Negroes 284,706 Total Whites 1,862,309 Negroes form 13.3% of total=



Square Miles in State 40,000 Average Negroes per Mile 7.1 Average Whites per Mile 46.5=



Negro Percentage in State 28

Total Whites in State 944,850 Total Negroes in State 366,856 ————- 1,301,706=



Square Miles in State 53,045 Average Negroes per Sq. Mile 6.9 Average Whites per Sq. Mile 17.8=



Total Whites in State 729,612 Total Negroes in State 650,804 ————- 1,380,416

Negroes form 47.1% of total=



Square Miles in State 45,420 Average Negroes per Mile 14.3 Average Whites per Mile 16.1=


Whites in District 1,747,052 Negroes in District 608,301 Negro Percentage in State 20.4 In District Covered 25=



Square Miles included 60,453 Average Negro .10 Average White 28.8

Includes all Counties with one Negro per Square Mile=


[1] See article by A. H. Stone. Atlantic Monthly, May, 1903.

[2] "The Negro in Maryland."

[3] The Negro in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta.

[4] Bulletin, Department of Labor, No. 35.

[5] The Future of the American Negro.

[6] Olmsted, F. L.—The Cotton Kingdom.

[7] Olmsted, F. T. The Cotton Kingdom.

[8] Negroes of Litwalton, Va.—Bulletin Department of Labor, No. 37.

[9] Rents a mule.

[10] Bulletin, Department of Labor, No. 35.

Transcriber's Notes:

Passages in italics are indicated by underscore.

Additional spacing after some of the quotes is intentional to indicate both the end of a quotation and the beginning of a new paragraph as presented in the original text.

Inconsistencies in spelling, punctuation, and hyphenation have been retained from the original.

Misprints corrected: "entrepeneurs" corrected to "entrepreneurs" (page 6) "optomistic" corrected to "optimistic" (page 8) "from" corrected to "form" (page 9) "Atantic" corrected to "Atlantic" (page 9) "stdy" corrected to "study" (page 10) "Talledega" corrected to "Talladega" (page 16) "inhabitated" corrected to "inhabited" (page 17) "sevaral" corrected to "several" (page 31) "carefuly" corrected to "carefully" (page 37) "Tusgekee" corrected to "Tuskegee" (page 73) "Talledega" corrected to "Talladega" (page 73) "charactertistics" corrected to "characteristics" (page 77)

Two footnotes are marked [7]; both refer to the same footnote.

The key to the table on page 51 was extracted from the column headings of the original table that were printed vertically.

Wide tables have been split in half with one column repeated.


Previous Part     1  2  3
Home - Random Browse