BENEFITS WROUGHT BY HARDSHIPS.
The word "Offence" is a general and somewhat indefinite term. As defined by the various dictionaries, it means an attack, an assault, aggression, injustice, oppression, transgression of a law, misdemeanor, trespass, crime and persecution. In all of these definitions there is implied an act considered as disagreeable if not harmful to the recipient.
Of the various nations of the earth, those that are most powerful and that have accomplished most good are those which have endured and have survived the most offences. They have grown by reason of the obstacles which they have overcome. It is singular, yet it is true, that offences have never destroyed a nation. Those nations which have been destroyed have been destroyed not by attack from without, but by their own internal weakness.
Societies that are accomplishing the most good for the uplift of humanity today are those against whom the most offences have been committed. Take the Christian Church, the greatest of all societies. Who can enumerate the offences which have been committed against the church? Herod tried to behead it, but could not; Pilate tried to crucify it, but instead sanctified it; Paul persecuted it and it redeemed him; poor drunken and debauched Nero poured forth the fury of his wrath against it in every conceivable, wicked way. He deliberately set fire to the city of Rome and accused the Christians of the deed. He gave feasts in his garden and the bodies of the Christians were burned as torches in the evenings. Their groans and agonies constituted the music for their dance and carousal. Other Christians were fed to half-starved lions. But through it all the church has become more powerful and more glorious than before; while Nero's name will forever be a stench to the nations of the earth. In this particular case the prophecy of Christ "That offences must need be but woe unto the man by whom the offence cometh" is fulfilled. As with the church, so with all other societies and institutions that are doing good in the community, they endure their offences.
The history of the growth and rise of the various races will show that they, too, have had their bitter as well as their sweet. In fact, they have fought for every inch of territory which they now possess.
Let us consider some of the benefits which have been derived from our hardships. That the enslavement of my people was a serious offence there is no doubt. I should be the last one to apologize for slavery; but, after all, we brought more out of slavery than we carried into it. We went into it heathens, with no language, and no God; we came out American citizens, speaking the proud Anglo-Saxon tongue, and serving the God of all the earth.
Under the leadership of old Richard Allen and other noted colored divines, the Negro church was set up under a bush harbor, but today they own church property in this country valued at more than $26,000,000. As a result of the educational offences committed against the Negro, today he has 35,000 Negro teachers and more than seventeen million dollars' worth of school property in this country. The Negro has been disfranchised, but he is more capable of the ballot today than ever before. Though the disfranchisement of the Negro has wrought great harm to our Democratic form of government, it has increased in the Negro the spirit of patience, self-reliance, self-sacrifice, and, in fact, it has enhanced in him all of those virtues which make for true manhood and womanhood.
In the business world there has been less offence committed against the Negro than in any other way. What little there has been was rather slight and it has been only in recent years that the Negro has began to detect it, and establish business of his own. He has not so many stores as he has schools, nor so many shops as he has churches, yet the reports of the Negro National Business League, which recently met in Atlanta, will show that he is making rapid progress in the business world.
All great men as well as races and nations suffered their offences. Washington, Lincoln and Grant were great because they had to endure hardships. Robert Small, Frederick Douglas and Booker Washington are great because they were slaves.
The Negro of the South was emancipated 50 years ago without education, without money, without clothes, without food, without even a place to rest his head, and, in many instances, without a name. His greatest possession was ignorance. If, during slavery, he was taught many useful and helpful lessons, during slavery, also, he was denied the opportunity of exercising and developing the greatest requisite of independence, self-reliance. He was a new-born babe, as a ship in mid-ocean without a rudder. It was nothing more than natural for him at times to drift, at times to wander, and still at other times to steer in the wrong direction.
Consequently, he made many mistakes, some of them serious. He made mistakes in religion, mistakes in economics, and mistakes in politics, but to my mind his greatest mistake was made in the matter of education. Until the year '95 the masses of our people in the Black-Belt section of the South believed that the end of education was to free one from manual labor, especially from the labor of the farm. They furthermore believed that it was the end of education to take the people from the country to the cities and otherwise fit them for only three callings, namely, of teacher, of preacher, and of politician. This conception of education was entertained not only by the masses, but many of our schools and colleges encouraged the same view.
Just at this period, when the relation between the races seemed most strained, there loomed on the horizon the Booker Washington idea, "That the kind of education most needed by our people was that which would dignify, beautify, and make attractive and desirable country life and at the same time fit our people for high and useful citizenship." Mr. Washington further contended that any education which did not manifest itself in the practical daily life of the people was not worthy of the name.
This idea of Mr. Washington was indeed timely, but, like all other great movements for reform, it was not accomplished without obstacles, but in the face of many dangers and difficulties. But the dawn of a new day is breaking and industrialism seems to be the spirit of the age. The very fact that the Negro was not allowed to attend the white man's school in the South gave the Negro a Tuskegee. The fact that no white educator was willing to bear the black man's burden gave him a Booker Washington. For similar reasons the Negro has been forced to build his own libraries, his own theatres, his own hotels, and to establish many other business enterprises.
Hardships, trials, persecution, and offences are a primary necessity in life. We ought not, therefore, complain of them; our trials have made us what we are.
This is pre-eminently a progressive age. The world no longer stands still. We are either going forward or backward, rising or falling; there is no such thing as standing still. Those phases of our human activities that are standing still are dying. This forward movement is not accomplished without obstacles, and what is true of politics and business is equally true of individuals. The greatest strength comes from overcoming—from resistance and struggle.
THE NEGRO AND THE WORLD WAR.
No book written in the year 1918 would be complete without a word about this awful conflagration which is now sweeping over the earth.
One sometimes thinks that the end is near and that the world is being destroyed.
We know that everything that has been invented to advance civilization is now being used to destroy it. Our one consolation is that however imperfect we may have been as a nation, we know that our cause is just and because of this we believe that in the end we will and must win. The right has always been more powerful than the wrong, even more powerful than might and it will prove true in this case.
I am being constantly asked by white men in both the North and South, "How does the Negro regard this war and what about his willingness to share in its responsibilities." I have only one answer for such questions: "The Negro now knows but one word 'Loyalty.' He is no alien, he owes no allegiance to any other country, there is no hyphen to his name, he is all American, he is willing to fight and die, that the world might be made safe for democracy." He only asks that he may share in this democracy.
Already there are practically 200,000 Negroes who have been called to the colors and thousands of others are expected to be called. I hear of but few if any slackers among them, while thousands of slackers of other races are being rounded up by the police in various cities throughout the country.
The 200,000 Negro soldiers who are now at the front and in the camps have gone with as brave hearts as any American citizen. They say, "Silver and gold, have I but little, but I give my life to Uncle Sam, it is all that I can do."
The Negro is not only furnishing men to the National Army, but he is doing his part to support the boys at the front. He has bought Liberty Bonds to the fullest extent. Many of his business organizations, societies and lodges have bought large blocks of these bonds.
On Sunday morning, June 14th, Dr. Cortland L. Myers of Tremont Temple, Boston, in his sermon told of an incident of an old colored woman who had worked hard and saved up three hundred dollars in order that she might not at the end be buried in the paupers' field, but when she read that the United States wanted money, took all she had and carried it to the bank to the agent. When the agent gave her the Liberty Bond and told her that she would get four per cent on her money, she was utterly surprised and said, "Lord, Boss, I thought I was giving this money to Uncle Sam." This woman had only three hundred dollars, but she gave all.
You remember what Christ said about those who were contributing to a great cause on one occasion. Many made large gifts, but one poor woman came up and gave a penny which was all she had. Christ on commenting on this to his Disciples said that she had given more than all, because she had given all she had. Many incidents of this kind may be cited as proof of the Negroes' loyalty in this struggle.
Not only in the Liberty Loan drive, but in the Red Cross and War Savings Stamp drives, the Negro is doing his part. There are Negro agents all over the South who are educating our people up to what the Government at Washington wants. Such schools as Snow Hill, Laurinburg, Denmark, Utica, Okalona and Calhoun and many others are serving as bureaus of information for this war work among the Negroes.
Nor is this all. The Negro is doing his part in the various industries of the country. I have heard of many strikes and walk-outs since we entered the war, but not once have a group of Negroes struck. In some places where a few are working with the unions, the unions have forced them out at the risk of their lives, but where he is free, nowhere in this country has the Negro struck during the war.
He is doing his bit on the farm. Everywhere the Negro farmers, man, woman and child, believe that they can help win the war by making a good crop and they are at work on the farm trying to do this, so you see that the Negro in every way is in the war to a finish.
These are answers to questions asked me by the white man both North and South as to the attitude of the Negro toward this world's war.
But on the other hand the Negro soldiers and civilians are not asleep and they too are asking such questions as these:—
"Are we to share in the democracy for which we are giving our lives?
When the world is made safe for democracy, will the entire country be made safe for it?
Will my father, mother, sister and brother be allowed to share in this democracy?
Will lynchings and burnings at the stake cease?
Will the white man who makes the laws allow these laws to take their course?
Will they allow us or give us a fair trial before their courts, which have only white men as jurors?
Will they cease taxing us without representation?
Will they give us an equal part of the money spent for education? (In many places in the Black Belt the Negro child receives thirty cents a year for education, while the white child receives fifteen dollars.) Will the Negro be given any work that he is capable of doing and not be denied it on account of his color?
Will it be possible for a Negro travelling from Alabama to California or Massachusetts, to find a place to sleep at night?
Will the baggage masters and the conductors of the South ever treat the Negro passengers with courtesy and respect and finally will the white man in the South after making the laws for the qualifications of voters, allow a Negro to vote if he measures up to these qualifications?"
The Negro does not care what these qualifications may be. He only wants a fair chance in case he measures up to them.
The Negro only seeks equal rights and justice before all the courts of the land. He expects this because of his teachings. He was brought to this country against his will, even against his protest. He has been given the white man's language, his history, his literature, his Bible and even his God. His aspirations, inspirations and desires have been brought about as a result of these and if they are wrong, the white man is to blame. The Negro has been taught to believe that God is no respecter of persons and therefore his subjects should not be. He thought that if he did what other men did he would obtain the same results.
Now evidently the Negro is a man. He loves as other men do, he lives as others do, he dies as others die, he has joy and sorrow as others do, even hates as others do, laughs and cries as others. He must therefore, be a man as man is the only being which possesses these faculties. Then he asks for a man's chance and the world will never be right until this is given him. The world will never be safe for democracy until all the races of the earth are allowed to share in it.
In answer to all of the foregoing questions asked me by both the white and black, I have said that things will be better for the Negro after the war. I have said that it was impossible for the world to be made safe for democracy unless every county in the South is made safe for it.
I have gone as far as to cite a recent occurrence in Camden, Wilcox County, Alabama, where more than one hundred and forty Negroes were sent to the cantonments and I was asked to be one of the speakers on the occasion. The white people there gave the Negroes a great banquet and in my remarks after thanking them for their hospitality, I said "That it would be foolish and cowardly on my part to stand here in your presence and say that as a race we have no grievances, for we have them, but this is no time to air them. When the house is on fire it is no time for family quarrels, but the thing to do is to put the fire out and then we can adjust the quarrels after.
"Today our National house is on fire and it is the duty of every man, both white and black, rich and poor, great and small, to rise in his might and put the fire out and when the fire is out, we will see you about these grievances."
I went a step further and told that "already the war had brought some good results as this was the most democratic day that this little city had ever seen." Before the war, two expressions were commonly used by the white man and the Negro. The Negro's expression was this:—"I haven't any country," and the white man's expression was:—"This is a white man's country." Now both of these classes are saying, "This is our country." I further said that "we should win this war, because democracy was right and autocracy is wrong, and if we lose, and God forbid that we should, the fault will not be in democracy, but it will be due to the fact that we are not practicing what we preach."
At the close of my remarks many of the white citizens, including the judge, the sheriff, lawyers and other prominent men came forward and congratulated me on what I had said and some said that the white people of Camden needed more of such plain talk. I took these signs to mean that better things were coming for the Negro of the South after the war, but I must admit that when I read in the evening papers of June 27th that Senator John Sharp Williams of Mississippi had practically defeated the bill for women suffrage, because he said that he favored the vote for white women only and that the bill in its present form would not be allowed in his state—I must confess that this action almost took away all of my hopes especially after there was no one to rise and rebut his argument. There was no one in the United States Senate to speak for democracy for all the people. Now I think that just such spirit as this exhibited by that great Senator from Mississippi is at the foundation of this world's war and until that spirit is crushed, I fear that this war will continue. For of a truth, "God is no respecter of persons."
Now I have given my answers to both the Negro and the white man. What is the answer of the white man?
Are we fighting for democracy for all the people, or are we fighting for democracy for the white man only?
This question has never been answered by the white man, but it must be answered after this great war.
Address Delivered by Mr. Edwards on the Twentieth Anniversary of His Graduation from Tuskegee.
"Two decades ago, twenty members constituting the class of '93, received their commission from the illustrious Principal of this great institution on yonder hill, to go ye into all parts of the South and teach and preach Tuskegee's gospel. This gospel was then as it is now, a gospel of service. Now after the lapse of twenty years we have assembled here to review the efforts of past years. Although twenty years are not long enough in which to record the life's work of a class, it is sufficiently long to indicate the direction in which this work is tending.
"So we come today, not so much to tell what we have accomplished as to tell what we are doing to renew our allegiance to our Alma Mater, and to assure its Principal and members of the Faculty that our motto, "Deeds Not Words," is still our guiding star. Four of our number have passed to the great beyond. We must therefore wait a later and greater day to hear their record read or told. Of the remaining sixteen, we have lost all communication with two, and it would be mere speculation for us to say what these two are doing. We can only hope, and do most fervently pray, that wherever they are they have with them the deep and abiding spirit of Tuskegee, and this we believe they have. This leaves then only fourteen live, vigorous and active members with which we are concerned. All of these, except one, have been engaged more or less in teaching. They are located as follows:
"Two in Normal School at Snow Hill, Alabama; one at the head of a large Industrial School at Topeka, Kansas; three in Birmingham, Alabama; one teaching in Miles Memorial College; one in Government Service; one doing settlement work; two are in Asheville, N. C., where they are engaged in teaching and doing settlement work respectively; another teaching in Dothan, Alabama; two in Montgomery, one of these teaching and the other doing settlement work; one in Selma, Alabama, farming and doing extension work; one at the head of a prosperous Industrial School at China, Alabama, and one teaching in Georgia. All have been remarkably successful and they have touched and made better the lives of more than five thousand souls. While losing their lives for others, they have saved their own somewhat, materially.
"Having been out on the tempestuous sea of life for twenty years amidst both storms and calms, it may not be out of place for us to speak a word of warning or make a few suggestions to those who are to set sail today, and to those who hope to go to sea at a later date. This, then, is our message. First of all, it is necessary for you to know where the work of the world is to be done.
"On one occasion during Christ's sojourn on earth, He took a few of His disciples with Him upon the mountain and there transfigured Himself. He clothed Himself in heavenly beauty and splendor; He arrayed Himself in His Godlike power. These men were so overjoyed at this manifestation of His glory and power, that old Peter, impulsive as he was, spoke out and said: 'Lord, it is good for us to be here, if it be Thy will, let us build here three tabernacles, one for Thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias.' The place was so glorious that they wanted to abide there. But at the same time the multitude was waiting at the foot of the mountain, hungering and desiring to be fed; naked and desiring to be clothed; sick, and desiring to be healed. The work of Jesus Christ and His disciples was not on the transfigured mountain, but at the foot among the masses. So as they came down from the mountain, there met Him a man whose son was a lunatic, desiring that the Master might heal him.
"So on occasions like this when Dr. Washington takes us upon the mountain and reveals to us Tuskegee in all of her beauty and splendor, we are likely, in such a state of ecstasy, to cry out saying, Principal Washington, it is good for us to be here, and let us build three tabernacles; one for thee, one for Armstrong, and one for Douglas. But my friends, we cannot abide here. We must go down to the foot of the mountain among the masses. We must go out into the rural districts for there it is that the people are a hungry and thirsty crowd, and there it is that the harvest is great, but the laborers are few, and there it is the work of the world must be done.
"Another suggestion is, that as you go out to work, you will find that for the most part Negro society is built upon a false basis. Instead of being built upon the sound basis of merit and character, it is built upon display; instead of being built upon substance, it is built upon shadow.
"We need young men and women who have confidence in themselves; confidence in the race, and abiding faith in God. We need young men and women who are more interested in the opportunity to make a dollar than in the privilege to spend one. We need young men and women who are imbued with the spirit of sacrifice and service, whose mission is, 'Not to be ministered unto, but to minister.' We need young men and women with a purpose.
"To illustrate what we mean by a purpose, we take the action of Grant during the late Civil War. When Winfield Scott and McClellan had practically failed with the army of the Potomac and things were looking very dark for the Union forces, Lieutenant U. S. Grant was placed in command of all the Union forces. From the date of his command, his purpose was: 'On to Richmond.' Day after day his command was: 'On to Richmond.' When they had rivers to ford and mountains to climb, his command was: 'On to Richmond.' At times thousands were laid low by the ravage of disease, but his command was: 'On to Richmond.' When the cannon of his enemy roared like thunder and bullets like lightning struck his men down by the tens of thousands, his command was: 'On to Richmond.' He received letters and telegrams by the thousands saying: 'My God, General, are you going to kill all of our husbands, all of our sons, our brothers? Are you going to make all of the North a land of widows and orphans?' His reply was: 'On to Richmond.' When rivers of blood were before him, flames of fire swept over his forces, his command was: 'On to Richmond.' And the command never ceased until Lee surrendered his sword to Grant at Appomattox Court House. We repeat, that for the work that lies before us, we need young men and women with a purpose.
"A third warning is, that we must not mistake the aim and end of education. You will find somewhere in the Bible a sentence like this: 'And the word was made flesh and it dwelled among us.' The word had been spoken by Abraham; Moses thundered it from Mt. Sinai's ragged brow; Ezekiel preached it; David sang it; Solomon proclaimed it; Jeremiah prophesied it; Elijah saw it in the whirlwind; Moses saw it in the burning bush, and Isaiah saw it and in amazement cried: 'Who is this that cometh from Edom with dyed garments from Bazroh? this that is glorious in his apparel, traveling in the greatness of His strength?' But my friends, none of this would do. Speaking the word would not atone; hearing it would not redeem; and seeing it would not save. The word had to be made flesh and blood in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and then come down on earth and live, move, and dwell among us.
"As with the word, so with education. You have been here a number of years trying to obtain it. You have heard education from your teachers; you have heard it in the class-rooms; you have heard it from the platform; you have heard it in the Sunday-School; you have gleaned it from your text-books; you have sung it; you have prayed it; you have spoken it; you have walked it; you have assumed it. But none of these will suffice. Education, in order to be real, must be applied; in order to be effective, it must be digested and assimilated. It must become a part of your flesh and blood; it must transform you into a new creature and then go out and move, live and dwell among us.
"And now a final word for the class of '93. What of its loyalty to Tuskegee, our Alma Mater? It is true that at times our purposes and aims have been misunderstood and misconstructed; at times your attitude towards us has been misinterpreted, but not once have we doubted your love. We hope that you have never mistrusted ours.
"It is true that at times we are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in dispair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed. Through all of this, our love and loyalty to dear old Tuskegee has never wavered, and now as a token of this love and loyalty, I hand to Dr. Washington as a Memorial Scholarship for the class of '93, a check for one thousand dollars."
I think that this act pleased Dr. Washington more than anything that had ever been done by the class of '93. We all were proud of this because we wanted Dr. Washington to see that we had not forgotten what he had done for us. We wanted to do this during his lifetime, and this we succeeded in doing.
An address before the Alabama State Teachers' Association, held in Montgomery, Ala., the subject being:
"School Building Under Difficulties."
"There is no work pertaining to the welfare of our race that is of more importance than that of the teacher, and no class of people has a harder task to perform than the earnest and conscientious Negro teacher of today.
"The problems that come before the large educational associations of this and other countries, are problems dealing largely with the child, such as the treatment of backward children, treating of abnormal children, care of the blind, of the deaf, special treatment for incorrigibles, the feeble minded, and many other kinds of mental and physical defectives.
"Other problems that demand the attention of such meetings, are problems dealing with the teacher, his preparation and qualification for the various grades of our schools, for instance, preparation of the teacher for the elementary school, for the secondary school, and for colleges and universities. These associations also give much time to such subjects as The Relation of Education to Real Life; The Defects of our Present School System; and how these defects may be remedied. In other words, how can the school better fit the student to take his place in the social and economic life of today? I repeat, these are the problems which largely consume the time of these educational meetings. They are vital and far-reaching, and demand the closest attention of our wisest and best educators. They are not racial; not sectional; not even national, but are universal in their scope and teachers in all parts of the world must contend with them.
"The average Negro teacher of the South today must assume his share of the burden of these problems along with other teachers, whether he wills it or not. In addition to this he has to deal with the serious problem of his bread and butter. This makes the burden of the Negro teacher of a two-fold nature, and in this respect he is at a disadvantage of the average American teacher. He has not as yet been able to live up to the Biblical injunction, 'Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.' No teacher can do his best so long as there is doubt and uncertainty about his daily bread.
"The Negro student who finishes at one of our higher institutions of learning today, and goes forth to teach, does not find everything to his liking. He soon learns that there has been no voice before him crying in the wilderness saying: 'Prepare ye the way of the teacher, make straight in the desert a highway for our educator.' He learns here for the first time that in addition to the ordinary educational problems, it is for him to exalt every valley, make low every hill and mountain, make the crooked straight, and the rough places plain. He finds no way prepared, he must make one; he finds no school-house ready, he must build one; he finds no people anxiously awaiting him, he must persuade them. In many cases the Negro teacher who is imbued with the spirit of sacrifice and service can truly say as did the Master, 'The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the teacher who would redeem a poverty stricken and ignorant people, has not where to lay his head.'
"The purpose of the Snow Hill Institute is to prepare young men and young women to go into communities where they propose to work and influence the people to stop living in rented one-room log cabins, buy land, and build dwelling houses having at least four rooms, and thus improve the home life of the people. Second, to influence the people to build better school-houses and lengthen the school terms and thus by arousing educational interest, assist in bringing about the needed reform that is so essential to economic and upright living; and finally to promote good character building. To some extent the purpose is being realized, for more than one thousand different students who have been more or less benefited by having spent a year or more under its guidance, are leading sober and useful lives. Two hundred fifteen have either been granted certificates or diplomas, and are engaged as follows: Fifty are teachers, twenty-five are housekeepers, three of the teachers have founded schools of their own, one at Laurinburg, N. C., one at West Butler, Alabama, and one at Richmond, Alabama.
"Though the majority of the ex-students are located in the Black Belt of Alabama and are engaged principally in farming, a large number of them are found in the following states: Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas."
ADDRESS DELIVERED BY MR. EDWARDS IN BESSEMER, ALABAMA
"THE SIGNS OF TIMES"
It was customary in ancient times for nations to build walls around their cities to protect them from the enemy. War was the rule, and peace the exception. Nations therefore spent most of their time in preparing for war, as they believed that their advancement depended largely upon their conquest. Watchmen would be placed here and there on the walls to keep a sharp look-out for the enemy and when detected, would warn the inhabitants of his approach. As a result of these warlike times and military activities, some of the world's greatest generals were produced during that period.
Undoubtedly, conditions here mentioned, existed because of the poor methods of transportation and communication that were uncertain during that day, for since the advent of the steam-engine, telegraph, telephone, the automobile, and other means of rapid transit, national lines of demarcation have been becoming less distinct. As nations communed with nations and understood each other better, they found less causes for differences and less need of watchmen on the walls.
We cannot help but believe that with a better knowledge of each race by the other and on the part of each a better understanding of the great and common end of life, which is to serve and uplift, that racial strife and conflict will cease and ere long this old world will become the kingdom of our God.
But these are not ancient times and things that were are not now. The cities of the plain are no longer separated, for the walls have been demolished and instead of the watchmen we have the teacher, the preacher and the politician to tell us the signs of the times.
This is, pre-eminently, a progressive age; an age of going forth; an age in which things move. With the new and varied inventions of the 19th and 20th Centuries, old customs and conditions are rapidly passing away and those nations, races, and individuals who cannot adjust themselves to these new conditions must be left behind. Just now grave and serious problems confront the American People and this, in itself, is a proof of our going forth. We must not deprecate them, we must not shirk them, they are ours, we must face them manfully, must shoulder them and stand up and walk. These problems are the mothers of progress and instead of trying to turn from them or to dodge them, we should rejoice because we live at a time when we can help in the solution of such complex problems, whose results will have such far reaching and lasting effect upon the social and economic life of the American People.
This country is one and inseparable and whatever is beneficial to the white man is beneficial to the black man also. The negro cannot hope at the present to play a very important part in the solution of great questions. At our best the part we must play can only be secondary. First, because our business operations have not brought us into intimate relation to these questions and we do not fully comprehend their meaning. Second, we can do but little because these questions are political in their nature and must be settled by the ballot. The Negro in this section has been disfranchised and therefore he cannot play at that game. Our being thus handicapped and prohibited from assisting in the solution of these great problems, is no reason why we should say there is nothing we can do.
"If you cannot cross the ocean And the heathen lands explore You can find the heathen nearer; You can help them at your door."
There are some problems, however, that are within our reach, upon the solution of which depends our future welfare in this country. They are, inefficiency, vagrancy, and crime. For a long time we have been hearing of the inefficiency of the Negro teacher, the inefficiency of the Negro preacher, but all the while it was said that he was a good worker; that he was only fitted to do manual labor. The cry has gone out and is rapidly spreading to the effect that the Negro is worthless; that there is inefficiency in the pulpit, inefficiency in the school-room, and now inefficiency on the farm. Inefficiency everywhere. Our race has lost many places of trust and honor because of this cry. I know personal cases where Negro men have been replaced by white men because, they say, the black men were inefficient. This is as much true in New York as it is in Alabama. As the supply of efficient men increases, the demand for inefficient men will decrease and sooner or later there will be no room for the inefficient man. He will be idle, cannot get any work to do. He will be added to the vagrant class. Already this class is too large among us; strong able-bodied men walking about with no home and nothing to do. This is a dangerous class. Of course, unless the vagrant gets some work to do he will starve or have to leave the country; but this man does not do either. He becomes a parasite and lives of the honest toil of others. Sometimes he lives out of the white man's kitchen, because his sweetheart is the cook; sometimes because his old mother is a wash woman, and sometimes because his sister is a nurse. This is the class, my white friends, that gives you trouble, this is the class that gives us trouble, this is the class that will give trouble to any community and we are as anxious as you are to rid ourselves of this body of death.
Now the best class of Negroes and the best class of white people are agreed as to the fact that this dangerous class must be gotten rid of, but they differ as to methods. The Negro believes mostly in the preventive method, the white man mostly in the cure method. The Negro says a good school in every community will prevent, the white man says a good jail in every county will cure. The Negro says teach the law, the white man says enforce the law. The Negro cries for a state reformatory for the boys and girls of his race, the white man cries for the penitentiary for them. Now, this is not a very great difference after all and we should get together by each asking for the best schools to prevent these evils and then when the evils are committed, asking for the strictest law for their punishment. As for my part, it is not a question in my mind as to the cause of this increasing class among my people. It is plain to me that ignorance is the cause of inefficiency, inefficiency the cause of vagrancy, and vagrancy the cause of crime. We must, therefore, seek the remedy in the removal of the cause. If ignorance be the mother of inefficiency, inefficiency the mother of vagrancy, and vagrancy the mother of crime, it is plain that the removal of ignorance will stop the others. This can only be done by education and civic righteousness.
I wish here to emphasize the fact that education is the source of all we have and the spring of all our future joys. Our religion, our morality, and that which is highest and best in our social and civic life, all come from education. Therefore, it is the primary factor in the elevation of all races.
Our education should be of a threefold nature, viz.: Literary, Industrial and Religious. No limit should be placed upon the Negro's literary qualification. A race so largely segregated as ours, needs its own teachers, preachers, lawyers, doctors, pharmacists, and other professional and business men, and therefore they should be given the highest and best education that is obtainable. If our preachers and teachers are inefficient, it is because they are improperly educated. If the churches are growing cold and dying and the schools accomplishing but very little good, it is because religion is not being made practical and education not being made to apply to our every day life. Such an end can only be accomplished through well and systematically trained teachers and preachers. Better teachers and better preachers will go a long way towards the alleviation of our ills. If we would secure the kind of education here referred to, we must be willing to pay for it; we must make a sacrifice, we must care less about forms and fashions and more about the higher things of life. We must see less evils in the dollar and more good.
We must not only have a good education, but we must have good industrial training. This is a scientific as well as a literary age. A scientific age is always an age of inventions and with new inventions comes the demand for men qualified to manage large interests and complicated machinery. This demand can only be supplied by industrially trained men and women. This must be done in our industrial schools. Our hands should be as truly trained to work as our minds to think, and any education that teaches otherwise, is not worthy of the name.
I know that in some sections my people are prejudiced towards industrial schools, but this is foolish in the extreme. If we are to hold our own in this country, it must be by our ability to do work and to do it in the most acceptable manner. We are in a farming section and I believe that we should therefore strive to be the best farmers in the world. Let us make a specialty of all the trades that are related in anyway to agriculture; endeavor to become the best stock raisers, the best truck gardeners, the best cooks, the best wash women, the best housekeepers, the best dress makers, the best blacksmiths, and in fact, the best in all that pertains to country life.
Let us get hold of the lands we cultivate as far as possible and build better homes and keep our homes clean. But you say that we do not need industrial training. Let us see. Many years ago Henry Clay, in order to encourage home industry, introduced a bill in the Kentucky Legislature to the effect that the people of that state should use nothing save what could be produced in the state. Suppose today the white man of this country should say that the Negro must use only the things which he could make, what would be his condition? Could we cook with proper utensils? Could we eat with knives and forks? Could we dress as we do now? Practically everything we wear or use was made by the white man and were he to institute such actions we would be helpless to provide for ourselves.
In our quest for knowledge, we must not overlook the education of the heart. Our religion should be made practical. It must be real and not visionary. No other will suffice. Our religion must consist more in deeds and less in words.
Passages in italics are indicated by underscore.
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Other than the corrections listed above, printer's inconsistencies in spelling, punctuation, and hyphenation usage have been retained.