To the casual observer the above query is easy of solution, but it is at the same time engaging the profoundest attention and thought of the wisest statesmen, and the greatest philanthropists and humanitarians.
It is especially difficult to the black victims of present political environments.
With a proportionate share of all the elements of strength, intelligence, wealth, business and character—the Negro's attitude politically should, and would, be the same as that of the other members of society.
The writer presume that in dealing with the question at issue, he is territorially restricted to the ex-slaveholding portions of the United States, as the Negro's political status in the rest of the territorial limits of the country differs so little from that of other members of society.
As we see it, the mistake of the nineteenth century was the attempt to make the ex-slave a governor, before he had learned to be governed.
It seems that members of the race have not even yet learned that governments have their origin and growth in the necessities originating in the business and wealth of mankind, and have attained their greatest perfection where there is most business and wealth.
The naked, wandering savage has the lowest order of governments, because, in that state, he has need for no other, and could not support any higher.
It twenty intelligent and progressive men settle down in the midst of a hundred thousand such savages, they will immediately set about establishing business, accumulating wealth, and will very naturally organize in self-defense, and in time rule the ninety-nine thousand nine hundred and eighty others.
When just emerging from the shambles of two and a half centuries of slavery and inforced ignorance, penniless and without experience, it was a serious blunder to have placed the Negroes in such a position as to make them responsible for the government.
They were not only without the necessary intelligence and experience for its successful operation, but all the resources essential to its maintenance were in the hands of the minority class, and they were without the ability to compel any contribution for its support.
Placed upon the wrong track in the primary stages of emancipation, the race spent its energy in trying to control the kind of government that other people's business and resources made necessary, instead of trying to acquire the elements which would have made it welcome as part owners and rulers of that government.
Such conditions as resulted from the plans and policies pursued in the rehabilitation of civil government, after the War of the Rebellion, very naturally created great friction between the former master-class, possessing practically all the business, wealth and experience, though in the minority in many localities, and the former slave-class, without business, wealth and experience, on the other hand.
The master-class determined that in self defense it had to organize to repossess itself of governmental control, which was then in the hands of the slave-class, and withheld its support from the government, which the latter class was helpless to compel without the strong compelling arm of the Federal government, which the peaceful and considerate judgment of mankind would no longer sustain in maintaining such conditions.
Whereupon all over the South where the ex-slave class controlled merely, by reason of numbers, its power and influence failed, until to-day it finds itself absolutely shorn of power, even so much as is necessary to protect its property, family and life.
While it may be both unjust and unwise for a class in the condition of the former slave class to absolutely control a government made necessary by the resources of others, yet it is a cruel wrong to deprive it even of that influence that is absolutely necessary for the protection of family, property and life.
The paramount issue of Southern Negroes should not be political office, but the possession of such political influence as is necessary for the protection of their property and lives.
While it is desirable that as many Negroes as possible be provided for at the official pie-counter, the all important issue, in my humble judgment, is the equality of civil and political rights, without which we are in some measure worse off than slaves.
Deprived of that influence, which selfish interests always impel the master-class to give in defense of his property rights, the emancipated-class must possess a counter voting power somewhere within its own personality, which an untrammelled ballot alone affords.
Wisdom dictates that the Negro should speedily assume the task of producing such conditions as will give the needed influence.
This brings us to the question at issue, What should be the Negro's attitude politically?
In short, whatever attitude would prove most beneficial to him the Negro should adapt himself to it, until he shall have acquired sufficient strength along all lines to occupy and maintain an independent position, and shape the course of action to suit his fancy and convenience.
The difference in the treatment of colored men North and South is not half so much on account of a difference in the education and customs of the white people in the respective sections, as from the difference between the business, intellectual and political status of the members of the colored race itself in the two sections, coupled with the fact that the white man possessing practically all the business, wealth, culture and experience in the North, is divided into political camps, each controlling influence sufficient to protect each constituent member, however weak, while in the South he is united in one political party, which wholly destroys the colored man's influence and partially his own.
In fact, in the North, the combined wealth, culture and influence of the entire party with which he is allied overshadows and protects his rights, both public and private, and this brings us to the question at issue, What should be the Negro's attitude politically?
Upon this question there are as many opinions as there were colors in Joseph's coat.
Some advise that we solidly vote the Republican ticket.
Others that we should all vote the Democratic ticket; still another class advise us to divide our vote, and another class advise us not to vote at all.
There may be a grain of truth in each one of the above theories, but for all times and occasions each one is essentially false.
Under present environments it appears that we accomplish nothing by voting the Republican ticket, and gain no more by voting the Democratic ticket than we would by not voting at all.
To us the all important task is to find a way to make our ballot effective.
Though, throughout the South, a cruel and savage spirit seems triumphant, let the Negro take courage, for God is still ruling, and the very machinery that has been set in motion for his political destruction is hastening the day of his political regeneration.
The reduction of the Negro's vote to an insignificant fraction which does away with the possibility of absolute Negro control, is not an unmixed evil, as it entirely destroys the foundation of the scarecrow of Negro supremacy, which has been used as a great welding hammer to forge the white race, with so many divergent views and opinions, into one political mass, while the standards of wealth and intelligence raised as a bar to his progress are causing the Negro, as never before, to bestir himself in efforts to reach them.
Thus it is seen that his would-be enemy destroys the welding hammer at one fell blow; sets in motion irresistible currents that will inevitably find outlets in the broad ocean of the political freedom of both races, and arouse in the Negro, by the standards set up, the very desirable incentive to make preparation for the enjoyment of the destined freedom which the fates seem bent on bringing him.
Once more the wonderful hand of Providence is using man's malice and prejudice as His own marvelous highway of hope to bring good results from evil intentions.
Let the poor, desponding Negro, way down in the valley of degradation and oppression, continue to be industrious, honest and frugal, and pray, and God will again hitch His own all powerful steeds of hope to his chariot of despondency and oppression, and, riding over the mountains of man's folly, manifested in unjust rules and practices, in defiance of His will, will draw him upon the broad eminence of joy, gladness and hope.
IS THE NEGRO AS MORALLY DEPRAVED AS HE IS REPUTED TO BE?
BY PROF. B. H. PETERSON.
PROF. B. H. PETERSON.
Butler Harrison Peterson, the subject of this sketch, is a native of the State of Florida. He was born of slave parents, just in time to be spared the horrible experiences of that slave system which swept over this country with such direful results.
When the war clouds of the Civil War passed over, he was sent to an ex-slave for private instruction. Shortly after the public school system was introduced into the state of Florida he entered as a regular attendant. Three very profitable and successful sessions were spent in these schools. Soon after entering upon the fourth term his mother moved to another part of the state, leaving him in the care of an aunt, who, loving money rather than education, took him out of school and hired him to a law firm as office boy, for $1.50 per month. This lasted for nearly two years. He then took a position as porter in a dry goods store, and then a clerkship in a small grocery store, owned and controlled by a colored man, the Rev. William Bell.
During this time Mr. Peterson showed signs of a thirst for knowledge. He had now become a member of the Baptist Church and was actively engaged in Sunday-school work. Having attracted the attention of a few friends, among them Mr. John J. Montth, an opportunity soon presented itself, which Mr. Peterson eagerly seized. This opportunity opened the doors of Cookman Institute, Jacksonville, Fla. at which place he remained two years. Mr. Peterson next found himself for three years a student of the St. Augustine Normal and Collegiate Institute, Raleigh, N. C. In 1883 Mr. Peterson entered Lincoln University, Chester County. Pa., passing successfully through the freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years. He tarried yet three years longer at Lincoln, taking the full theological course; and in 1889 returned home to begin work. His first position was as principal of the Oakland Graded School, Jacksonville, Fla. During the two years spent here, he was offered the chair of "ancient languages," Selma University, Selma, Ala., which he accepted and held for two years to the satisfaction of the President, Dr. C. L. Purse, D. D., and the Board of Trustees.
At this time matters over which he had no control so shaped themselves that this very pleasant and profitable work had to be given up. In 1893 Mr. Peterson became the first assistant teacher in the Phelps Bell Bible Training School, Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, Tuskegee, Ala., and in connection with this work he is instructor in the Normal Department of Mental and Moral Science and Primary Mathematics. He is still here at work.
He is also a pastor of one of the churches of the town of Tuskegee and spends a part of his vacations at the Summer Schools of the Hampton Normal and Industrial Institute and the University of Chicago.
In this brief sketch no reference is made to ways or means, but only the results are announced, the rosebush, however, has thorns as well as roses.
The conclusion reached in this discussion will depend in part upon the viewpoint of the observation, upon the character of the judges and upon the logic employed. In considering any subject it is always best, fair and proper, to admit freely and fully the well known facts in the case. The book of books, which is an infallible code of morals, says that "there is none good, no not one." But there is none as depraved as he could be. In either direction, progression is possible.
Unfortunately, immorality is not a stranger to any people; and that it is to be found among the Negroes, should not excite wonder and amazement; for it grows out of their previous condition of servitude.
The horrible system of slavery, with its direful effects, is still felt to a greater or less degree by the American Negro. And the ex-slaveholders, from the very nature of the case, could not make their escape from its awful consequences. The market still has fruit from this system.
There can be little doubt that the arrangement which places one man or any number of men at the entire disposal and control of another, subject to his absolute and irresponsible will and power, is a system of things not the most favorable to moral excellence, whether of the master or the slave. The exercise of such authority must, from the very nature of the case, tend to foster the spirit of pride and arrogance, to make a man overbearing and haughty in temper, quick and irascible, impatient of restraint and contradiction. The passions of our nature, the animal propensities, ever ready to assume the mastery, and requiring to be kept in check with a firm hand, finding now no barriers to their indulgence but those which are self imposed, will be likely to break over those feeble barriers, and acquire unrestrained course and dominion. The tendency of the system to these results in morals, so far as the master is concerned, is inevitable. There may be some honorable exceptions, but the tendency is ever the same. It must and will be so while human nature is what it is. The temptation to the abuse of power over those who cannot or dare not resist to undue severity of punishment, where the passions of the master are aroused, and there is no one to say, What doest thou? to the gratification of the baser appetites in their various forms, must be too great for ordinary and unaided human virtue. The tendency of such a system must ever be, not to progressive self refinement and moral culture, but to barbarism. We should expect to find in connection with such a civil polity, a state of society, of religion and morals somewhat peculiar—acts of violence and barbarity not infrequent, the street affray, the duel, the murderous assault, the unrestrained indulgence of the animal appetites. It would be quite natural and reasonable under such a state of affairs to expect this; and such, unless all history and experience be false, we find the world over, to be the general state and tendency of things wherever the system of slavery prevails.
Nor is the effect on the morals of the slave more favorable; on the contrary, it is even more disastrous. In proportion as the feeling of self respect and self dependence is taken away, and a man is taught to look upon himself as merely the tool in the hands of another, the instrument of another's will and pleasure, without responsibility of his own, just in that proportion the foundation of moral character is undermined. Nothing can be more demoralizing in its effect upon the character. Strip a man of all that constitutes manhood; of all self reliance and self respect; of all the rights which nature has conferred upon him, and all the faculties with which God has endowed him; take away from him all control and disposal of himself, all ownership of himself and all that can stimulate to activity, and incite to noble attainment and excellence, is gone at once. He sinks down to the level of the brute. What inducement is there for him to hope or strive for anything further or better than his present lot, and enjoyment which the moment may bring with it? He becomes as a matter of course improvident and reckless, content with the gratification, so far as may be, of his merely animal appetites; indolent, for why should he be otherwise?
Deceptive and dishonest, for what motive has he to be honest? He is governed only by fear of the lash, with little thought of anything future, with little knowledge of that hereafter whence are derived the most powerful motives to present virtue. His mind is shrouded in ignorance, his moral nature almost wholly uncultivated, his condition is little above that of the beast with whom he toils, and with whom he perishes. As in the case of the master, so in the case of the slave; some will rise above the influence that surround and drag them down, and, in spite of all these depressing and demoralizing influences, will maintain their integrity. But such is not the rule, such is not the tendency of the system. No one who has either reflected on the matter or observed the actual working of the system can honestly suppose that it is. It is a notorious fact that, as a general rule, wherever this system exists, the slave is indolent, deceptive, dishonest, improvident, not to be trusted away from the eyes of honest people.
Such a system having a growth of two hundred and fifty years, would it be reasonable to expect that thirty-five years could eradicate entirely the work done during the two hundred and fifty years? While this is all true, can any one with so many facts and figures all about him, entertain a doubt as to the Negro's progress along all lines of human activity and toil? The Negro has either advanced, morally and religiously, or the proud Anglo-Saxon's standard of morals and religion is a hopeless failure. Considering the depths from which he came, the fact that he has come at all, or any part of the way, shows at least some progress.
A journey through this country, especially the South, the home of the Negroes, and an inspection of the homes and surroundings, and coming into near contact with them, will serve to change a great many baseless and unfair criticisms found afloat among a certain class of people, of whom Mr. Wm. Hannibal Thomas' book, entitled "The American Negro," is the mouthpiece. One room log huts, dirty floor, the home of the Negro, for large families during the period when slavery existed, are giving away to neat little cottages, sometimes two-story buildings, with rooms, furniture and surroundings sufficient to make each member of the family comfortable, and secluded enough to avoid the temptation to immoral conduct. And these homes, together with lands attached, in great many cases are owned by the colored people whose morals are called in question. Some of the most fashionable weddings of the day are celebrated among the Negroes. Births out of wedlock, the plurality of wives and divorced cases, have decreased among the Negroes 65 per cent. Womanhood, virtue and honor are defended at any cost, at the proper time and place.
The Negro got the idea imbedded in him during his servitude that religion and morality, like the Jews and Samaritans, had no dealings with each other. To-day this idea has lost its power and influence. The professors of religion and leaders of the people stand first and foremost with the people, and are expected to take the lead in all matters of reform. The church property owned and controlled by the Negro tells its own story. The Sermon on the Mount is taking a hold of the Negro as never before. If I should offer an adverse criticism on the Negro's religion, it would be that, as he understands it, he has a surplus of religion. But he is surely grasping the idea that God is a Spirit, and "they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." There are to be found among the Negroes those whose words are as good as gold. The true significance of morality is being better understood and practiced by the Negro. The newspaper gossip and sophistical reasoning to the effect that some Negroes have been apprehended for immoral conduct, and therefore all Negroes are immoral, would astonish all creation if applied to the white race. Let us be fair and try the Negro by the same logic that the white man is tried by.
A very sure and hopeful sign is the fact that the Negro is ashamed of any immoral conduct which he hears has been committed by any member of his race. The mere desire of better things is indicative of a better state of affairs. A straw often shows which way the wind is blowing. It is a historical fact that any race which has been subdued and ruled over by another race will imbibe, imitate and copy after the dominant race, and especially is this true if the conquered race live in and among the conquering race. It follows, then, that if the Negro is wholly immoral, his white neighbor needs to move a pace in the moral world.
Other causes might have been assigned accounting for the Negro's previous immorality, but slavery comprehends them all. But for the sake of emphasis and showing the contrast, let us note the following: Granting that the Negro as a mass is ignorant. Is he as ignorant as he was? If he is, then in what light shall we regard the philanthropists of this country North and South who have done and are doing so much for the Negro's elevation? The public school system, so well organized and maintained throughout this country, and patronized so largely by the Negro youth, either means the Negro's advancement morally or a lack of wisdom on the part of those who administer the nation's affairs. I realize that a people could advance intellectually without advancing morally at the same time. But such is not possible in this country where the Bible is made the basis of our education. A mere reference to this topic is all that is needed.
The Negro is poverty stricken, this needs no demonstration. But is he as poor as he has been? The banks, county records and business enterprises of the country are living witnesses to the Negro's advancement along this line. How could a man wholly depraved come into such relationship with a moral man and get along so well? "How can two walk together except they be abreed," asks the faithful prophet.
The time was when the Negro could not take out a policy in a life insurance company, because he was regarded immoral, and would soon die out and bring the company under obligations to his estate. To-day the Negro can hold a policy in almost any insurance company of whatever nature it may be. This is a case where the Negro's advancement in morals is admitted and he himself not a judge in the case. Negro lawyers consult with white lawyers, Negro doctors consult with white doctors, Negro teachers consult with white teachers, Negro preachers consult with white preachers, Negro workmen of whatever kind confer with the whites of like occupation, and, sometimes, the process is reversed, the white mechanics go to the Negro mechanics for counsel. In all of this, the Negro's upward march is admitted. And there is no advancement worthy of the name of advancement that does not include moral strength, worth and improvement.
We hail with joy the rapidly approaching time, under the sunlight of civilization and Christianity, when the color of the skin and the texture of the hair will not be badges of reproach, humiliation, degradation and contempt. True merit will yet be the worth of the man, under the wise and just government of a beneficent God and Father, who "of one blood made all nations for to dwell upon the face of all the earth." The poet Burns labored under no misapprehension when he wrote the following lines:
"Is there for honest poverty Wha hangs his head, and a' that? The coward slave! we pass him by; We dare be poor for a' that— For a' that, and a' that, Our toils obscure, and a' that! The rank is but the guinea's stamp— The man's the gowd for a' that.
"What, though on hamely fare we dine, Wear hodden pray, and a' that? Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine; A man's a man for a' that— For a' that, and a' that, Their tinsel show, and a' that; The honest man, though e'er sae poor, Is king o' men for a' that.
"A prince can mak a belted knight, A marquis, duke, and a' that; But an honest man's aboon his might— Guid faith, he maunna fa' that! For a' that, and a' that, Their dignities and a' that; The pith o' sense and pride o' worth Are higher ranks than a' that.
"Then let us pray that come it may— As come it will, for a' that— That sense and worth, o'er a' the earth, May bend the gree, and a' that. For a' that, and a' that, Its coming yet, for a' that— When man to man, the world o'er, Shall brothers be for a' that!"
IS THE NEGRO AS MORALLY DEPRAVED AS HE IS REPUTED TO BE?
BY PROF. A. U. FRIERSON.
AUGUSTUS ULYSSES FRIERSON, D. D.
Mr. A. U. Frierson was born in the State of South Carolina a few years before the Civil War. His parents were slaves, and, of course, were uneducated. After some preparation in the public schools, he entered Biddle University, from which he graduated with honor in 1885. The same year he entered the theological department of the same university, graduating therefrom in 1888.
The Summer of 1885 was spent as teacher and preacher to the ex-slaves of the Choctaw Indians, Indian Territory. He worked under the Freedman's Board of the Presbyterian Church. For several years he acted as pastor of different Presbyterian churches in North and South Carolina.
In 1891 he was called to the chair of Greek language and literature at Biddle University, which position he holds at this writing.
In 1893, his alma mater conferred upon him the degree of D. D.
A question so pertinent, so comprehensive, so thoroughly charged with what must give rank and standing to a people in the eyes of the world, ought not to be superficially considered, nor lightly and rashly answered. On the surface it would seem to involve a simple yes or no. But slight reflection reveals the fact that the yes or no fails to satisfy the conditions. That the answer to this question has long since been removed from the realm of the simple negative and affirmative, becomes very evident from what has been, and is still being, said pro and con.
The moral status of the Negro of the United States has long since given rise to a debated question. This debate waxes hotter and hotter, and the lines are more closely drawn as the years go by. For it is impossible to think of the future of the Negro apart from his moral status. His future will be bright, gloomy, or blighted, in proportion as he is able or not able to set to his account true moral worth. I speak of the Negro by limitations as I feel that only the American Negro, and that, too, of the United States, can be contemplated by the query under consideration; hence by the discussion.
That my answer will be in line of an emphatic negative will appear from what follows. I know full well the tremendous task I have set myself by this position. In doing this, I must take up the defensive as well as offensive alike against a large per cent of people, outside of the Negro race, who set themselves up as an authority on all questions affecting the Negro, and, mark you, from their decision there is no appeal; as also against the know-alls within the ranks of the race. But I am not deterred by this, since I feel that I owe it to the friends of the race; to those of the race who honestly strive to do what is right, and to myself, to utter no uncertain sound in responding to this important question.
For the encouragement of a weak and struggling people and their friends, for the better enlightenment of mankind in general, touching the moral status of the Negro, I place in evidence and offer in support of my negative the following considerations:
First: As far as my knowledge goes, the sum total of the considerations and discussions tending to show and set forth the moral turpitude of the Negro, leave out, if they do not ignore wholly, a most vital element. Any conclusion, therefore, reached, must eliminate the same, and in the degree that this element is important, the conclusion will be inconclusive and defective.
I contend, in the outset, that any just and charitable answer to this question must take into account the fact that the Negro is not unlike the other children of Adam, in that he is possessed of an inherent immoral tendency. Yet how many, speaking to this subject, reckon from this point? I think all sane people, at least, are agreed that since the fall, conformity to the moral standard, as set up by our Creator, is relative and not absolute. I think it would be a very light task to prove this assertion true, on the best authority known to man—the Bible. A single instance will suffice to put to silence all dissenters. David, "the man after God's own heart," gives us a life whose complexity at once presents the elements of passion, tenderness, generosity, and fierceness. From this life flowed a character blackened by adultery and murder. Rather checkered, measured by a perfect moral standard.
Grant that the Negro is a child of Adam, and I score one of the most important points on the side of my negative. Weighed in the balance of a perfect moral scale, "There is none good, but one, and that is God."
Second: When talking or writing on this subject, men seem to forget also that this inherent or natural immoral tendency in the Negro has had the impetus of the most debasing influences of a baser system of slavery, covering a period of two and a half centuries. This is not a defense, nor by any means an apology, for the shortcomings of the Negro, which are too many by far, but it is a plea for fairness in making up a verdict which is very far-reaching in its consequences.
In my humble opinion this thought is sufficient to temper, at least, the criticisms of the most rabid and reckless assailants of Negro morals. Let friends and foes alike think, if they can, what two hundred and fifty years of training means in a system whose principal tenet was that a Negro had no wish or will of his own—either morally or otherwise—a mere thing, acting only as it is acted upon. Under this system the next most natural thing would be and was the breaking down and beating back of every bar to the baser passions, except when its observance, perchance, contributed to the physical vigor and resistance of the Negro, thus rendering him more valuable and indispensable to his master. Add to this, if you please, the fact that there were few, if any, formal marriages; the "shanty" system instead of home; no responsibility in the training of boys and girls that naturally came to the so-called homes; no safeguard thrown around the morals of the tender years of boyhood and girlhood, but, on the other hand, everything most favorable and conducive to the development of bad morals. Out of this condition, unless the superior—the master—had a very high moral sense, which was highly improbable, if not impossible, under the existing circumstances, little could justly be expected of the inferior—the Negro. Yet, in spite of all this, the Negro gave the world a very few rapists of whom we hear so much nowadays, and on whose account we are so often called upon to defend him from the viewpoint of our question.
As regards this particular crime, I digress here to say that my faith is small. For this reason, there was a time when the commission of it was more opportune and easy than now. For example, during the Civil War, when it was scarcely, if ever, heard of. I have introduced this subject here simply to say this, that human nature is one and the same in mankind, and the argument that natural tendencies do not assert themselves alike in a slave and a freeman under like favorable conditions, is open to serious objections, if not in a degree fallacious. The pertinence of this reference will also appear when attention is drawn to the fact that the tendency of the rate to criminality, hence, to moral worthlessness, is more largely hypothecated upon this than upon any other single crime. By a similar process of reasoning it would not be difficult to show that all the races of the world are moral reprobates. For what escape would there be for any measured by its criminal class? I, therefore, contend, finally, that the standard by which the Negro is measured is seriously at fault, if not wholly wrong. Coming out of the most untoward circumstances, with less than a half century in which to outlive and unlearn the deadly doings of two hundred and fifty years, who can lay claim to more or to so much as the Negro? Measure him by the depths from which he came as well as by the heights which you would have him attain, when taking his moral pulse.
Third: I note the work of the press, which is largely in the hands of, and controlled by, those least friendly to the Negro's progress. Hence, a magnificent contribution is daily made from this quarter, to his moral impeachment. I think it is never, perhaps, properly considered, that the class generally held up by the press is one and the same with that already noticed under the preceding head—the criminal. Further, news gatherers are at great pains to ferret out and dole out to the public daily whatever serves to excite, and especially whatever shows the moral crookedness of the Negro, and that the years of freedom already enjoyed by him have simply brought forth a generation of vipers. Too often, from the lowest to the highest court, the records are so manipulated as to show the moral obliquity of the Negro. It is a potent fact that public opinion of the Negro is largely, if not wholly, based upon press reports, whether it pertains to religion, politics, morality, or otherwise. I hold, therefore, that it is largely misinformation that brings the Negro into bad odor in this regard, and earns for him the opinion that he is on the decline or "moral lapse," if you please. Then, too, the dying testimony of what is commonly called the worthless Negro, is given wider publicity and greater credence than the precept and example of ten thousand living, straightforward, upright Negroes. I say this because the opinion obtains so widely that the Negro is growing worse.
Fourth: That the Negro is not as morally depraved as he is generally reputed to be, and that those who are foremost to note and proclaim it do not believe it themselves, I place in evidence the following: 1st. A considerable number of Southern states has passed laws restrictive, if not prohibitive, of the removal of the Negro from his holy (?) confines, and this, too, where most is seen and known of him. What! Make it a misdemeanor to influence to emigrate or to deport a people whose presence is a standing menace to the good morals of those who enact measures and those who uphold them? Do not they make themselves liable to mild criticism? Other countries and sections of countries seek to rid themselves of all incubus of whatever kind. Of this we have numerous examples in the scum from Europe and other parts of the world unloaded upon our shores annually. 2d. Let the Negro with all his moral depravity initiate any movement looking toward his withdrawal even from one part of our country to another. The scene of such activities attracts special attention, and unsought advice is poured upon his "worthless" head; words of warning flow apace, and direct steps are taken to defeat the end in view. In view of this fact, the Negro is seldom allowed to organize, secretly, for mutual protection and helpfulness, in some sections; and, when organized, he is always looked upon with grave suspicions. That people should go so far out of the way to circumvent the legitimate endeavors of the undeserving, to my mind, is the most unnatural thing to be sure. "Consistency, thou art a jewel!"
Fifth: What people regard as a most discouraging sign touching the Negro of this country, I consider a most portentous and hopeful one. I refer to it here, because it bears decidedly upon my answer, and is strictly in line therewith. As shown by the census of 1890 and 1900, the increase of the Negro has suffered a positive check, if not back-set. In explanation of this, one theory and another has been advanced. Some have seen that he, like the American Indian, is on the road to a kindred fate—final and utter extinction. Others have consigned him to this or that destiny, according as they have felt kindly or unkindly towards him. True, he has increased less rapidly, but more surely, because of his stricter observance and growing regard for the proper and God-appointed channels to this end. His propagation by marriage, in which case one man is the husband of one woman, and one woman the wife of one man, would naturally lend to this.
I might record and add to what has already been said, a rich and varied experience, growing out of actual contact with, and work for, my people covering twenty-four years—a period in which no year has passed without leaving something done or suffered. But time and space will not permit.
Finally, out of the unfavorable moral conditions to which the Negro as a child of Adam is heir; out of the most untoward circumstances, surrounding him in the dark days of his enslavement; out of the traductions to which he is exposed at the hands of a most cruel and relentless foe—the printing press; out of the mock trials and false convictions visited upon him by the courts, too often manned by his oppressors; out of the barriers put in the way of his withdrawal from the midst of those who pronounce him without moral worth; out of the glaring inconsistency of all dissenters; out of the pure and spotless lives of ten thousand women—the wives, mothers, sisters, and lovers—of as high souled and moral men as the world ever saw or produced, I here and now once again and forever record my most unconditioned and emphatic no to the query I have in some measure tried to answer.
I have attempted no fine analysis of the case, but simply tried to point out a few facts more or less familiar to all.
IS THE NEGRO AS MORALLY DEPRAVED AS HE IS REPUTED TO BE?
BY MRS. M. E. C. SMITH
MRS. MARY E. C. SMITH.
Mrs. Mary E. C. Smith, daughter of Peter H. Day, was a native of New York city. Her education was provided for by her energetic widowed mother, to whom she ascribes the secret of her success. From early childhood she showed strong power of mind, and inherited from her mother that force and determination of purpose which prefigure success in whatever is undertaken. As a pupil, she was prompt and energetic, and never failed to win one of the Ridgeway prizes for good scholarship, which were given annually to successful contestants. She was an excellent Bible student, and when ten years old was elected a teacher in the Sunday-school. At this age she was impressed with the idea that it was her duty to go to the South to instruct her people, who were just emerging from bondage.
By a strange coincidence she was led to Florida, when she had finished her school course, the very place she had named when in an outburst of childish enthusiasm, while preparing a geography lesson, she had said: "O, mother, how I long to go there and teach my people!" The "land of flowers" has been the principal field of her labors as a teacher. Her ability as a teacher was soon discovered, and in 1890 she became principal of the Normal Department of the Edward Waters College, under the presidency of Prof. B. W. Arnett, Jr. Hundreds of students are better citizens because of her faithful teaching and Christian influence. As a church and Sunday-school worker she has few equals. The earnestness of purpose with which she performs the slightest duty is an example worthy of imitation.
This question is as grave as it is suggestive. There being a marked difference between character and reputation, its discussion naturally leads to a consideration of the Negro as he really is, and not as he is represented. The delineation of the Negro's true character is one of the most effectual means of refuting the columnious epithets so constantly hurled at him—a veritable blasphemy against his higher and better nature.
Has the Negro a higher and better nature? We shall see.
To separate him from the rest of the human family would be to dispute the great truth, that has been so long accepted, by all thoroughly Christianized nations—the Fatherhood of God, and the brotherhood of man. "Of one blood God formed all nations, for to dwell upon the face of the earth." Man, in his first estate, was supremely moral, being created in the righteous image of his Maker; had man continued in this condition, he would have been perfectly innocent and happy, favored with the exalted privilege of direct communion with God, inspired only by Him who is the Great Source, all light and perfection, from whom emanates nothing dark, unholy or unclean.
But man fell, and was driven from Eden. Hence, he began to wander away from God, in spirit and purpose; the tempter had been admitted and man's heart grew very deceitful and desperately wicked. The command of God, however, as written in Genesis, 1st chap., 28th verse, was inviolable. The earth must be peopled; thus man continued to wander, and his heart became proud and defiant, even to the resistance of the will and purpose or God. So far did the distance become between man and his Maker and so greatly abounded his wickedness, that at last God gave him over to his own evil imaginations.
The inhabitants of the antediluvian world, as a consequence of man's first transgression, fell lower and lower in the scale of good morals. They became so confirmed in wickedness, so totally depraved, that God destroyed them all, save one man and his family, whom He accounted as righteous, for the sake of his faithful obedience, and whose seed He preserved for the repeopling of the earth. The races, whether Semitic, Hamitic or Japhetic, as springing from the three sons of Noah, all partook of some of the natural proclivities of their revered and ancient grand-sire. What Canaan lacked in the line of perfection in the moral ethics of his day, may be directly attributed to heredity. The lineage of the Negro has been directly traced through Cush to Ham; hence, to argue the total moral depravity of the sons of Ham is but to concede the total moral depravity of the entire human race, as emanated from Noah in the postdiluvian age.
To assert that the Negro has no defects, and is morally good, would be to deny him as one of the legitimate heirs of the family of Noah, and deprive him of his natural inheritance. On the contrary, the Negro is joint-heir to all the virtues and all the infirmities of the other members of the human family. He is just as good and equally as bad as his fairer-complexioned brothers.
"Multiply and replenish the earth," was the eternal fiat. The subsequent confusion of tongues, and the dispersion of the people even to the remotest parts of the globe, were but links in the chain of God's design. The entire globe must be peopled, not a portion of it; hence the sons of man continued their migration until they were lost to each other.
The history of civilization discloses to us the land of the Hamites, as the cradle from whence sprang all learning, literature and arts, but man's heart still being deceitful, proud and wicked, continued to wander away from the true God; and, notwithstanding his acquired knowledge, and the very high state of civilization to which he had attained, he forgot God, and was allowed to drift into pagan darkness and superstition. These people were scattered, and their land despoiled, and they fled for refuge far into the wilderness where they were left in thick darkness:
"Grouping in ignorance, dark as the night," with "No blessed Bible to give them the light."
Had any other division of the human family been subjected to the influences of the same depressing climate, for an equal length of time, as were the Hamites, and surrounded by the same degrading circumstances, having no light without the assistance of divine counsel, their degeneration would have been equally as great as these descendants of Ham, when first began their involuntary migration into this country. The subsequent training which the Negro received in the school of bondage, while, in some respects, may have been a very potent lever in raising them from the pit of darkness and superstition, was not that which would best serve in the development of his higher moral nature.
Prior to the beginning of colonial slave traffic, the Negro, as found in his original home, the dark continent, was innocent and simple in his habits, possessed of a very high regard for truth and virtue. And, though very ignorant and superstitious, the result of his paganistic worship, vice and immorality was to him almost unknown. He was a lover of the beautiful, and in disposition easily entreated; and, because of these very tractile elements in his character, he fell an easy prey to the machinations of his more wily and crafty brother Japhet.
A study of the American Negro since his most remarkable advent into this country, after being decoyed from his fatherland, portrays him as a mild, impressionable and submissive being—extremely imitative and very easily led or controlled. Those who speculated upon him, as human chattel, very often took advantage of his traits of character in order to further their own interests, and perpetuate the abominable institution of slavery.
The Negro was so tractile in disposition and so easily trained for good or bad that he was frequently developed in the practice of deceit, hypocrisy, tattling and numerous other weaknesses, as the result of the course of training which he received from those who were directly responsible for his physical and moral well being. That peculiar nature of his education in the school of bondage, which taught him that his owner's will was supreme, divested him of his very high regard for virtue; and, wherever resistance was presumed, coercion soon forced him to yield, and he instinctively bowed to the inevitable. Thus, the females drifted into the belief that their bodies were the absolute property of their owners, and that they had no sacred personal rights which he, their self-imposed master, was bound to respect. But, like begets like. What wonder, then, that the seed of unrighteousness, which was implanted in the modern American Negro, before his birth, should spring up and bring forth abundantly of the same kind? Whatever is immoral about the American Negro of to-day was bequeathed to him by his unrighteous ancestors of fairer hue.
A closer inspection of the Negro's home life reveals him as an upright, religious character, and, even under the most adverse circumstances of his unholy environments, he was in many instances so tenacious of his preconceived standard of good morals that he defended his principles even to the extent of yielding his life.
The Negro's native integrity and fidelity were so thoroughly relied upon that during the Civil War, which arrayed in fratricidal strife the two sections of our beloved country, the heroes of the South left their homes and went forth to battle, feeling perfectly secure in entrusting their wives, their daughters, and, in many instances, their fortunes, in the hands of their faithful Negro servants, who remained true to their trusts, caring for, and defending, their precious charges, even at the risk of their own lives. To their credit, it may be inscribed that, although they were aware that victory for the South and the return of their masters meant the prolongation, if not the perpetuation, of their unjust bondage, they swerved not from their posts of duty, and took no advantage of the situation, thus proving the high standard of their moral character.
In the darkest days of thralldom the dominant powers relied upon the Negro's higher moral sense; to the nurse was entrusted almost the entire care of their offspring, and numerous other duties of great responsibility were frequently imposed upon their male and female Negro servants, who invariably proved their high sense of honor, based upon their highest conception of good morals.
Notwithstanding the efforts made to keep the Negro ignorant and degraded, ever and anon, the scintillations from his superior nature would flash out like a burning meteor and exhibit him as he was designed by God his Father, who is no respector of persons. In this connection, we cannot help referring to the beautiful character of Phyllis Wheatley, whose life was absolutely pure, and who was so remarkably inspired by the poetic muse that, even in the darkest days of Negro bondage, she forced the recognition of mankind. Her genius flashed forth as a beacon light to her benighted brethren as a token of assurance to them of the fulfillment of the promise, "Ethiopia shall again stretch forth her hand unto God." Benjamin Banneker, the great mathematician and astronomer, was another instance, in those remote days of darkness, that the Great Dispenser of all light, and truth, imparted His gifts alike to all; and there were others, but for our purpose, these names must forever stand as exponents of that higher and better life that was pent up within the Negro's breast, as a dimly-lighted torch, enshrouded under the mantle of slavery, which needed only the removal of the garment to be clearly seen; and thus, surrounded by the igniting influences of the atmosphere of liberty, would burst forth into all the effulgency of a brilliant light.
As a rule, the modern Negro of America, since his liberation from the shackles of his unjust bondage, has put forth strenuous efforts to uplift himself. And he has succeeded beyond his own most sanguine expectations; having had so many obstacles to overcome, he should not be measured by the heights he has attained, but by the depths from which he came. Out of the depths cried the Negro unto God; and He heard him! A few have arisen far above the masses, and are by their noble examples beckoning the others to come on. The general response is, "We are coming," up out of the cesspool of darkness, ignorance and immorality to the higher plane of virtue, knowledge, purity, and true righteousness which exalteth nations.
That there are dark sides to the picture of the Negro's career since his emergency from that dreary school of bondage, must be admitted, but many of his defects are directly traceable to his imitative propensity. To his own sorrow, he imitates the BAD, as well as the good.
Like the Indian, the fire-water which he has learned to imbibe has divested him of his manhood, and robbed him of his virtue, and it is a sad truth that he is encouraged in this personal debasement of himself by his brother in white, who is still, in many instances, taking advantages of his weak traits, offering him every inducement to continue in his course of self-degradation.
Thirty-six years of light and privilege have wrought wonders for the Negro, but these are scarcely a day, when compared with the long night of over two hundred years of bondage; it is impossible for him in this short period to have totally eradicated the evils for which he was not wholly responsible, but which were entailed upon him at his birth.
Those deflections in the Negro's practice of his code of good morals, which are so often exhibited as an argument against the entire race, are but the results of the development of his weaknesses, by the methods of former years, which he now, finds it so hard to overcome. But those who transgress the general rule of uplifting are the exceptions. To God be the glory for the present Negro, measured, not by the few, who have overlooked their most sacred rights and privileges, but by the many who are daily demonstrating, by honest toil and labor, that they have the highest regard for all that is pure, ennobling, and virtuous.
The Negro's inspiration for poetry, music and the fine arts, proves conclusively that there dwells within him a higher and better nature, which needs only to be developed to its fullest capacity to convince the world beyond the possibility of a successful contradiction that his standard of good morals is as elevated as that of mankind in general. As it is impossible for any fountain to pour forth pure and impure water at the same time, so is it impossible for total depravity to exist in the same mind where dwells that finer sense or appreciation of the beautiful, which originates music, poetry and the fine arts. Again, we refer the world to such beautiful examples as our own dear Edmonia Lewis, B. T. Tanner, now abroad; Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Frances W. Harper, Madam Salika, Flora Batsen Bergen, Nellie Brown Mitchell, Virginia Adele Montgomery, Hallie Quinn Brown, and scores of others; some, perhaps not quite so famous as those mentioned, but who along the line of the higher inspiration of the Negro, refute any argument that may be opposed. As an ensign of the very high standard of Christian ethics attainable by the race, we mention with heart-felt gratitude our dear Amanda Smith, the leader among hundreds of other noble Christian women, who have given not only their lives to God and their race, but feel themselves responsible for the general uplifting of mankind wherever found, knowing that there is no difference with Him, for whom they labor, "whether Greek or Jew." There is no difference, whether high or low, rich or poor, bond or free, white or black; all have a part in the common salvation of Him who came to lift the world up to its original standard of morality by sacrificing His own pure life, and who said, "And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." The essential need of the human family is charity. Our Saviour said of the Christian graces, "And now abideth these three, Faith, Hope and Charity, but the greatest of these is CHARITY." The time was when there was very little, if any, faith in the Negro's ability to rise and equip himself as a man; afterwards there came a faint glimmer of hope, which commingled with the slowly but gradually increasing faith, proved a blessed and powerful agent in the line of effectual assistance. The Negro began to rise, and he has, with the omnipotent aid of God, his Father, continued his rising until the present, with wonderfully good results, as must be conceded by all minds unbiased by prejudice.
Still there is much land to be possessed, and one thing is yet lacking in the attitude of those who scrutinize him daily for the purpose of rendering an unfavorable judgment. "Charity suffereth long and is kind." Suffer in this connection means to bear; those who claim to have attained a higher standard of morality should bear patiently the infirmities of the Negro, while he is rising, knowing full well that his inherent weaknesses are not of his own begetting, and that it will require some time to overcome the inertia of wrong instruction and practice. But "thanks be unto God, who giveth the victory," to all who obey Him, the Negro as well, God requires simply the earnest effort on his part, and then accomplishes the work Himself.
The highest type of morality is that which generates a disposition on the part of its possessor to have compassion for the lowly and extend a helping hand toward the elevation, comfort and restoration of their inferiors. It has been wisely asserted that "an idle brain is the devil's work-shop." In view of this truism it is wisdom to keep the hand and brain well employed. Booker T. Washington comprehended this fully when he commenced the great work which he is now so successfully prosecuting at Tuskegee. Like the sainted bishop, Daniel A. Payne's, Booker T. Washington's standard of true morality was far above the average of his race. The range of his vision being so extensive, he saw clearly the situation of his people, and without hesitation undertook, in his own way, the work of ameliorating the condition of the masses with the hope of uplifting them to a higher plane of truth and virtue. His motives being pure, his success has been thus far commensurate with the scope of his prodigious undertaking. Notwithstanding his being misunderstood and misinterpreted by many, he has, with unswerving purpose, pursued the trend of his own honest convictions, proved his fidelity to the race, and convinced the world of his unshaken faith in the ultimate success of his enterprise. He is still practically demonstrating his obedience to the Moral Law, as summed up in the Divine command, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Many noble women, also of the race, having outrun their less-favored sisters and reached the highest standard, are now extending their hands to assist others in making their ascent into the more etherial atmosphere of that highest sense of good morals. Thousands, with organization as their watchword, have banded themselves into associations and federations under the significant motto, "Lifting as we climb." The Negro race, under the combined influence of its army of noble workers, both male and female, is fast journeying the upward way of truth and virtue; new heights it is gaining every day.
The little leaven of purity will be unceasingly applied until the whole lump of Negro humanity is raised upon the lofty plane which will force the recognition of his antagonistic brother and convince him that the same high sense of morality governs the Negro as does the Caucasian, or any other highly civilized race upon the globe.
God grant that the refining fires of truth may burn until all the dross of prejudice shall be melted and consumed, when,
"Man to man united, The whole world shall be lighted, As Eden was of old."
IS THE YOUNG NEGRO AN IMPROVEMENT, MORALLY, ON HIS FATHER?
BY EDWARD MACKNIGHT BRAWLEY, A. M., D. D.
REV. EDWARD MacKNIGHT BRAWLEY, A. M., D. D.
Edward MacKnight Brawley was born at Charleston, S. C., March 18, 1851. His parents, James M. and Ann L. Brawley, were both free. Before the Civil War, in order that he might secure good educational advantages, he was sent to Philadelphia, Pa., where he passed through the grammar school; then he entered the Colored High School, of which Prof. E. D. Bassett was principal, and there prepared for college. In the fall of 1871 he entered Bucknell University, where he was graduated Bachelor of Arts in the class of 1875. During his college course he also pursued theological studies and was ordained for the ministry on the day after his graduation, by a council composed largely of professors of the university. He was the first colored student to attend Bucknell, and in 1878 he secured from his college the degree of Master of Arts. In 1885 the State University of Louisville, Ky., conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Divinity, and Rev. E. M. Brawley has this distinction, that he has held this degree for a longer time than any other living colored Baptist minister. For eight years he was State Missionary in South Carolina for the American Baptist Publication Society.
In 1883 he was called to the presidency of Selma University, Selma, Ala., and devoted several years to educational work. He then became District Secretary for the South for the American Baptist Publication Society, which work he resigned in 1890 to accept the call to the pastorate of the First Baptist Church of Petersburg, Va., the oldest colored Baptist Church in the country, which he subsequently left to go back to the work of the Society, at its earnest solicitation. He has also served in the pastorate at Greenville, S. C., Darien, Ga., and Palatka, Fla. He has done considerable newspaper work, and has devoted much time to religious writing, many pamphlets and books along race and denominational lines having been written by him. He is now Editorial Secretary of the National Baptist Publishing Board, of Nashville, Tenn., under the auspices of the National Baptist Convention. Dr. Brawley's qualifications and experience well fit him for his present position, for he has made a specialty of Sunday-school and denominational literature.
A generation has come since the passing away of the period to which the old Negro belonged, and this generation has lived in the period of the new Negro. Is this new Negro an improvement morally on his father? Zealous friends of the race stoutly maintain that he is; while enemies assert that he is not as good. It is the purpose of this article to present some facts which will prove that the young Negro, in spite of his dreadful inheritance, has, by the aid of generous friends and the grace of God, lifted himself to a higher moral plane than that upon which his unfortunate father stood.
It is well, however, to note carefully at the very beginning, that we are not dealing with exceptions in this discussion, but with the race as a whole. At a river bank the water sometimes appears to run up stream, while if one will but look in the middle, he will see the river in full force gliding smoothly on to the ocean. So in all matters belonging to the realm of morals we must discard the narrow vision, and, taking the broad view of the Christian philosopher, sweep the entire horizon.
Let us first, as an antecedent matter, consider some reasons why the young Negro should be expected to be better than his father.
1. His father had no moral training. His very person was the victim of a prodigious theft, and his labor was daily stolen. Could such a man be effectively taught honesty? To have taught the slave the elements of morals meant the quickening not only of his moral, but also of his intellectual nature; and such a thing would ultimately have developed resistance on the part of the slave. No true instruction in morals was possible in a condition of slavery. Look over the entire moral code as set forth in the Ten Commandments, and the impossibility of teaching effectively those great truths to slaves—American slaves—becomes apparent. The old enslaved Negro was destitute of true moral training; and very much of what was offered to him as such was nothing more than "sounding brass," and he knew it and could not profit by it.
2. And while the old Negro did not have true moral training, he did have positive training in the opposite direction. For the very system under which he lived was a training in evil. His ancestors had been stolen; he himself was stolen; his civil liberty was stolen. Could he form any adequate conception of property rights? And is it now a matter of surprise to us that the old man sometimes did a little stealing himself in order to relieve a hungry stomach? He was not taught the sacredness of the married life. Indeed, he was not taught to marry at all. He was, as a rule, simply told to live with a woman whom he might call his wife, and when the good pleasure or the necessities of his master demanded that she should be sold away, to take another woman and live with her and call her wife, also. He was not allowed to develop the idea of fatherhood toward his children, for they were not his, but rather mere chattel, to be sold at the pleasure of his master. The two great vices charged against the Negro race are theft and adultery. Whatever truth there is in this charge is due to the long training slavery gave. Indeed, slavery was largely a training in moral evil. Antecedently, therefore, we expect the old Negro to be worse than his son.
But, now, what are the positive arguments to prove that the young Negro is an improvement morally on his father?
1. Slavery has been abolished, and the young Negro has not felt it. He has, therefore, missed its direct evil training. It is not denied that he is damaged because he was trained by a father who was brought up in slavery; but it is claimed that he has not received from his father, and cannot receive, as much injury as his father received from the system of slavery.
2. The young Negro now has the gospel. The many thousands who came to Christ in the days of slavery, and are now at rest from their earthly toils and sufferings, are not forgotten. That they were saved is due to the fact that, owing to God's infinite goodness and mercy, a little knowledge and a little faith can save a sinner; and God pitied our fathers. But the young Negro now has the gospel in its fullness. He gets it from the pulpit, from the Sunday-school, and daily in scores of our highest literary institutions. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and our youth, constantly learning it, have in large numbers been made to feel its power. Their lives having thus been purified and ennobled, beautiful and strong Christian characters have resulted.
3. Many young Negroes have been thoroughly trained for the ministry, who have led strictly upright lives and have taught others to do the same; and many others, not ministers, have enjoyed systematic training in ethics. Is it conceivable that the combined work of this class of our young people has accomplished nothing in the moral uplifting of the race? Such work must and does count powerfully on the right side, or else the gospel is a failure. Just as heathen nations have been redeemed and regenerated, having put away their savage life and accepted civilization and Christ because the gospel was preached to them, even so has our race been saved; and just as no other people ever received the gospel without being immeasurably blessed and lifted up, so also is that true of the Negro. And it is further true of all men that the more gospel privileges they enjoy, the better will be their condition. For the kingdom of evil is sure to be overthrown, and the kingdom of Christ established on the earth. And thus the young Negro cannot help being a better man morally than his father.
4. The young Negro is living in an age of higher morals and necessarily partakes of its superior advantages. The age of brute force is fast passing away. When after our great civil war the adjustment of our troubles with England was arranged by arbitration rather than settled by war, an immense stride in civilization, men say, was made. Very true, but why not say that the men in control of the two great nations involved were moved to act as they did because of their strong ethical principles? And from that time until now the moral advance of the world has been rapid and steady. The new Negro is living in this higher and better age, and his moral constitution has been built up and made strong because of it. The principles of international comity are fast spreading among the nations. And just as the economic principles of the trust are being applied to religious organizations, even so the stronger ethical principles that are moving the nations are inducing Christian white men to come nearer to their brethren in black, and to treat them more as men, brethren, than has ever been done before. And thus both external and internal forces have combined to make the young Negro morally better than his father.
5. And, last of all, the young Negro is turning his social and political disadvantages to his best interest by relying calmly upon the justice and wisdom of God's moral government. Life is, indeed, but a conflict of forces, but the intelligent young Christian Negro knows that the universe does not operate by chance. He feels the full force of what Charles Sumner said in his eulogy on Abraham Lincoln: "In the providence of God there is no accident—from the fall of a sparrow, to the fall of an empire or the sweep of a planet, all is controlled by divine law." And thus he lives undisturbed by the wrathful elements that are at play around him. His full confidence in God at this trying hour, and his firm belief that the wrath of man will yet be turned to his advantage, are but the evidence that he trusts intelligently; and the fact that he does so, and does not become an anarchist, is the proof of his higher moral life. If it be said that his father did not become an anarchist, the answer may be that slavery had dispirited him. But the young Negro is not dispirited. He knows enough and has spirit enough to make this country tremble; but whatever knowledge and spirit he has which could be used for evil, he has restrained and will yet further restrain, because he has abiding confidence in God, and knows that "giant right is more than might;" and this confidence has aided in making him a better man than his father.
IS THE YOUNG NEGRO AN IMPROVEMENT, MORALLY, ON HIS FATHER?
BY REV. J. S. FLIPPER.
REV. J. SIMEON FLIPPER, D. D.
The subject of this sketch was among the first to enter Atlanta University the first day it opened, 1869, and there remained until 1876. He taught school in Georgia for several years. He was converted in 1877 and joined the A. M. E. Church at Thomasville, Ga. He was licensed both to exhort and to preach. In January, 1880, he joined the Georgia Annual Conference. In 1882 was elected secretary of the Georgia Conference, which position he held for five consecutive years. In this same year he was ordained a Deacon by Bishop W. F. Dickerson and sent to Darien, Ga., where he prepared for and took care of the session of the Georgia Conference.
In 1884 he met the Georgia Conference at Valdosta, Ga., and was ordained an Elder by Bishop W. F. Dickerson, and was stationed at Quitman, Ga., remaining there two years. In January, 1886, he was transferred by Bishop James A. Shorter to the North Georgia Conference and stationed at Big Bethel A. M. E. Church, Atlanta, Ga., the city in which he was born. His mother had been a member of this church and its old members knew him when a boy. There he remained four years with great success, raising the largest amount of dollar money that had up to that time been raised in the State: by this he became one of the dollar money kings of the connection for 1886 and was awarded a gold badge by the Financial Department of the A. M. E. Church. Thus, in six years after entering the ministry, he became pastor of the largest church in the State at the age of twenty-seven years. In 1889 he was assigned to Pierce's Chapel, Athens, Ga., and served it three years. In 1892 he was made Presiding Elder of the Athens District, which place he filled for three years. In 1893 he preached the annual sermon to the students of Allen University, Columbia, S. C., when the faculty and Trustee Board conferred on him the title of Doctor of Divinity. In 1892 he was a delegate to the General Conference of the A. M. E. Church, which met in Philadelphia, and served as a member on the committee on statistics.
In 1895 he was stationed a second time in Atlanta, at Allen Temple, A. M. E. Church, remaining here four years with great success and entertaining the session of the North Georgia Conference in his last year. He was elected again to the General Conference, which met at Wilmington, N. C., in May, 1896, and served on the committee on revision of discipline.
In 1899 he was elected not only a delegate but the leader of his delegation to the General Conference, which met at Columbus, Ohio, in May, 1900. Here he was elected without opposition chairman of the Episcopal Committee, the most important committee of the church; it is composed of all the leaders of the delegations from all parts of the church, and before this committee the Bishops appear for an examination in their moral, religious and official character; it fixes the boundaries of the districts and assigns the Bishops to their fields of labor.
He is now a trustee of Morris Brown College, Secretary of the Trustee and Executive Boards, Treasurer of the Theological Fund, Chairman and treasurer of the dollar money committee of the Atlanta, Ga., Conference, Book Steward, Chairman of Committee on Fourth Year's Studies. He is a prominent craftsman and for one year was Deputy Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Union Grand Lodge, A. F. and A. M. of Georgia, Grand Representative of the Stringer Grand Lodge of Mississippi to the Grand East of Georgia, with the rank of Grand Senior Warden. He is now a Trustee of the W. E. Terry Masonic Orphan and Widows' Home and Industrial School, located at Americus, Ga., Associate Editor of the "Voice of Missions," the missionary organ of the A. M. E. Church, published in New York.
One of the greatest events of his life was the receiving of Rev. Jas. M. D'wane of the Ethiopian Church from Pretoria, Transvaal Republic, South Africa, into the A. M. E. Church, and through him eighty preachers and two thousand eight hundred members.
The difficulty of considering this question deepens as we consider the young Negro from every phase of life. Universally it cannot be answered in the affirmative, for the Negro is divided into classes as well as are other races, and as no people are universally, morally good, so such cannot be expected of the Negro.
The Negro possesses an upper class, a middle class, and a lower class, and in a consideration of these classes we shall look for an answer to the question. The upper class consists of those who have made extraordinary progress, morally, religiously, mentally and materially; who have outstripped their fellows in the race of life and attained a standard of civilization commensurate with their opportunities and proved to the civilized world that under favorable circumstances the Negro is as capable of a high development in civilization as any other race. This class is an improvement, morally, upon their fathers. For their opportunities have been such as to render them more capable of a higher conception of morality and of their duties to their fellowmen, and in proportion as a man is enlightened on morality does he improve in morality, other things being equal, and reaches a higher type of manhood. Morality is always affected by one's religious views. The moral binds us to our fellowmen, and the religious to our God; and a man may in many respects be better than his fellowman but he can never be better than his God. If a man has low and meagre ideas of God his ideas of man will be low and meagre whatever may be his conceptions of the law, government, and the character of his Creator will be his ideas of duty to wife, children, neighbors and country.
The educational qualifications on moral and religious lines must furnish some of the rules by which the standard can be gauged for the man who has by liberal and extensive educational facilities gotten the capacity to know his God and His moral government over His creatures must rise in moral improvement and stand out as the towering mountain above the plain that surrounds it. And on this line the upper class of Negroes, by reason of religious and educational advantages, are an improvement morally on their fathers, whose opportunities for moral improvement were very meagre, indeed.
The middle class of Negroes are not equal to the upper class in attainments. Their educational advantages have not been so great as those of the upper class, and yet their moral development has been correspondingly as great. The moral law of God has been heard as distinctly by them as by the upper, but they have not that discriminating judgment that enables them in every instance to distinguish between the morally wrong and the morally right, and yet there has been awakened in them a consciousness of certain things due to their fellowman and to their God that has kept them in a way that they could not be charged with wilful moral wrong, and their conservatism has placed them in a manner nearer to the morally right than to the morally wrong. And the young Negroes of this class are an improvement morally on their fathers. Solomon hath said, "As a man thinketh, so is he." Good character cannot arise out of low thoughts, but it must emanate from pure, noble, God-fearing and elevating thoughts and ideas. Correct ideas of life practically embodied in conduct can lift man above the low, sensual, evil walks of life. Now that there are many young Negroes with correct ideas of life cannot be denied. Now the lower class of Negroes are those whose ideas are distorted; who are conscience-seared, and who have no regard for God nor man; and as the upper and middle classes have ascended in the scale of moral civilization, so the bad class of Negroes have descended in the scale, their finer sensibilities having become blunted by vice and crime, so that education on moral and religious lines has no charms for them. Sinai's majestic summit and moral law are as chaff to them, and as freedom has given a greater and better opportunity for the morally good to improve and rise, so it has given the same for this class to descend and become more and more corrupt. Indeed, they have gone lower than their fathers on this line. But the character of a race is not to be judged by its degraded element, but by the upper and middle classes, which form the major portion of any race and give it a standing along the line of moral and religious civilization. We conclude by saying that the young Negro is an improvement morally upon his father.
First, because freedom has given to the young Negro aspirations for a purer life, which his father did not have.
Second. The moral atmosphere of the young Negro's home life is better than that of the old Negro.
Third. The young Negro's educational advantages give him higher conceptions of life and duty than those had by his father.
Fourth. The young Negro has a more enlightened pulpit than his father had to preach a broader and more comprehensive gospel to him, and to thus give him more correct ideas of life.
Now these superior advantages, which the young Negro has, make it possible for him to outstrip his father in moral accomplishments, and the arguments of his enemies to the contrary notwithstanding, the educated young Negro presents a striking contrast in point of morality to the old Negro.
IS THE YOUNG NEGRO AN IMPROVEMENT, MORALLY, ON HIS FATHER?
BY REV. E. C. MORRIS, D. D.
REV. E. C. MORRIS, D. D.
On May 7, 1855, near Springplace on the Connesauga, in the chestnut hills of North Georgia, of slave parentage, was born E. C. Morris, now the President of the National Baptist Convention, which is the largest deliberative body of Negroes in the world, the editor-in-chief of the Sunday School series issued by the National Baptist Publishing Board, the President of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, and pastor of the Centennial Baptist Church of Helena, Arkansas. His early education was through the common school, but practically from nature and necessity. From earliest childhood he was peculiarly interested in men and things; hence, now possesses a large stock of knowledge concerning human nature, is an advocate of prudence, conservatism and manliness in all affairs bearing upon the relation of the races in this country. He stands for self-help and racial integrity and believes that when man has acknowledged his inability and failure to ameliorate the ill conditions in this country, God will settle the same and cause the deserved recognition of all men, black and white.
He saw with his father the first train that passed through North Georgia, though the spectacle was quite an amusing draft on his youthful nerve, for, says he, "Had I been older than five years, it is questionable that my father, by whose hand I was led, could have detained me from the urgent business I felt I had back home when that mysteriously terrible locomotive came rushing down the track seemingly intent upon spending its fury upon no one else but me."
When Elias was ten years old, his parents, James and Cora Morris, moved into Alabama, settling at the little town of Stevenson. But Elias had a short while before begun living with the late Rev. Robert Caver, his brother-in-law, at Stevenson, and so lived until he arrived at the age of twenty-one. Mr. Caver taught the young man the shoemaker's trade and the latter earned his bread upon the shoemaker's bench until thirty and three years old. He felt a call to the gospel ministry immediately upon his conversion at the age of nineteen, which took place just at the time when he had grown so inimical and impatient toward a revival that had been going on for several days in the church at Stevenson that he had plotted mischievous disturbance of the meeting.
He grew in grace and general ability, and in 1879 accepted a call to the pastorate of the Centennial Baptist Church of Helena, Arkansas, which position he has held continuously to the present time. His ability as an organizer is fully recognized among his people. He established and for the first two years edited the first religious paper published by the Negroes in the State of Arkansas. In 1884, he organized the Arkansas Baptist College and for sixteen years has been Chairman of its Board of Trustees. For nineteen consecutive years he has been annually elected President of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. In 1894 he was elected President of the National Baptist Convention, whose constituency numbers about a million and a half, and has been elected every year since to the same position. Under his leadership, this society has been firmly unified and has enjoyed the greatest prosperity in its history. It was his address before this Convention at Washington, in 1893, that inspired an indomitable and uncompromising determination in the minds of the colored Baptists to begin publishing interests of their own. It was his active brain that conceived the idea of the National Baptist Young People's Union Board, which Board is located at Nashville. And so his progressive acts have multiplied as he has advanced in age and responsibility. Dr. Morris is an acknowledged adviser of the colored people of his community, in all matters relating to their general uplift. He is a friend to humanity and a lover of his race. He is a possessor and advocate of wholeheartedness and sincerity, being charitable to a difference or a fault. His influence begins at home and spreads abroad, and all distinctions that he bears are borne with gentlemanly modesty, believing leadership to him a duty rather than an honor.
The subject of this article is a very important and delicate one; important because it forms the base from which all the advancement made by the race for the last past thirty-six years must be measured, and delicate because it makes comparison between father and son. If there has been no improvement in the race, morally, since its emancipation from slavery, then no real advancement has been made; and to say that the Negro has made no advancement would be sufficient to call forth universal derision.
It must be admitted in the beginning that to do full justice to the subject, much study and space is required. In the absence of comprehensive statistics on the subject and the time in which to compile the same, several standpoints of reasoning must be assumed, and these will be taken up in no regular order, one being important as the others. I do not attempt to go upon or set up a system of scientific theories either, but simply to state and connect obvious facts. The past and present moral status of the race is involved, but I shall not go beyond that period in which the race was emancipated, and will include, as the fathers, such as were the heads of families at that time and those who were born about that time, constituting largely the heads of families now, as the respective parties to the comparison.
What is here said in comparison of father and son is not intended as unfavorable criticism even where the language may appear uncomplimentary, but rather to make a truthful statement of the virtues found in both. I wish also to be understood as placing myself with those who have faith in the race, to the extent that I believe a large majority of the freedmen and their descendants are moral, and should be counted with the good and upright in heart. Such a decision cannot be reached, however, from a surface examination or outward appearances. For it is a notorious fact that in all the years of the Negro's life in this country, he has been subjected to the most menial occupations such as would, in a large measure, prejudice the disinterested observer against any high opinion of his morals. The subject is by no means a new one, but has been investigated and discussed for a long time by great writers and thinkers. Opinions have been expressed which are by no means favorable to the race—by no means favorable because of the ignorance of the party expressing the opinion. Many of these opinions have been formed and influenced by what is seen of the Negro in the crowded streets of great cities, at railroad depots, or at steamboat landings; or upon the great cotton, rice and sugar plantations, where thousands of Negroes who are employed only as day laborers, meet. But these do not represent the majority of the Negroes. Nor should opinions be formed, of the moral status of this people, out of what may be seen of them at such places as above referred to, any more than the morals of a great city like New York or Chicago should be judged by what is seen of the motley crowds that gather about the wharfs and in the congested streets and other places where the lowest element of society is to be seen in the majority. The Negro fathers of forty years ago were as good as the circumstances and conditions of that day required, and many of them showed themselves to be superior to the requirement. It is to be admitted that environment and teaching have much to do with moral development, and that neither of these were, as a rule, favorable to the fathers. The contraband life of the Negroes during the war was perhaps the best that could be provided at that time. But it was far from being conducive to good morals, and was not, in a moral sense, an improvement upon the plantation life prior to the war, when almost all the slaves were huddled by families in one room cabins of what was known as "the quarters." It was fortunate for the race and the fathers that the contraband life was of short duration, and the heads of families among the Negroes, as fast as they could get their loved ones together, began to settle in families all over the Southland. The privilege of being a free man, to come and go at will, had its evil effect upon the fathers for a few years, but they soon became enveloped with the desire that their children become educated and otherwise cultured, as were the children of their white neighbors.