The Negro at Work in New York City - A Study in Economic Progress
by George Edmund Haynes
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Studies in History, Economics and Public Law

Edited by the Faculty of Political Science of Columbia University

Volume XLIX Number 3

Whole Number 124


A Study in Economic Progress



Sometime Fellow of the Bureau of Social Research, New York School of Philanthropy; Professor of Social Science in Fisk University

New York Columbia University Longmans, Green & Co., Agents London: P.S. King & Son 1912

Copyright, 1912 by George Edmund Haynes


This study was begun as one of the several researches of the Bureau of Social Research of the New York School of Philanthropy, largely at the suggestion of Dr. Samuel McCune Lindsay, the director, to whose interest, advice and sympathy its completion is largely due. Sincere thanks are due the Bureau for making the investigation possible.

The material was gathered between January, 1909, and January, 1910, except about four weeks in August, 1909, during the time that I was pursuing studies at the School of Philanthropy and at Columbia University.

The investigation necessarily involved many questions concerning the personal affairs of many Negroes of New York and it is a pleasant duty to acknowledge the unvarying cheerfulness with which they rendered assistance in securing the facts.

I wish to acknowledge especially the help of Dr. William L. Bulkley in making possible many of the interviews with wage-earners, of Dr. Roswell C. McCrea for criticism and encouragement in preparation of the monograph, and of Dr. E.E. Pratt, sometime fellow of the Bureau of Social Research; Miss Dora Sandowsky for her careful and painstaking tabulation of most of the figures. They should not be charged, however, with responsibility for any of the errors that may be detected by the trained eye.

The study as now published is incomplete. Part I, the Negro as a Wage-earner and Part II, the Negro in Business, were to be supplemented by Part III, the Negro in the Professions. But the time absorbed in gathering the material for the first two parts prevented the securing of a sufficient amount of personally ascertained data for the third; it seemed best to concentrate on the first two for the sake of thoroughness.

The summaries following the data on the several points and at the end of each chapter, and the conclusion at the end of the volume contain some repetitions which may be open to criticism, but they have been retained with the hope of making the monograph useful to those who wish to know the conclusions from the succession of figure upon figure and percentage upon percentage, without necessarily going through these details. At the same time, anyone who may wish to weigh the inferences in the light of the facts has the details before him.

Conditions among Negroes in Philadelphia have been adequately studied in the work of Dr. W.E.B. DuBois and Dr. R.R. Wright, Jr. It is to be hoped that some time soon the need of similar inquiries in other cities—East, West, North and South—may be realized and that provision may be made in this way for the guidance of the growing impulses of those who wish to better conditions in urban centers.

I am aware that there are good reasons for criticism of these pages. But what has been done was done in the search for the truth, that the enthusiasm of reform may be linked with the reliability of knowledge in the efforts to better the future conditions of the city and the Negro.














1. Sex and Age of Negro Wage-Earners 54 2. Nativity of Negro Wage-Earners 57 3. Marital Condition of Wage-Earners 60 4. Families and Lodgers 61



1. A Historical View of Occupations 66 2. Occupations in 1890 and 1900 69 3. Occupations in 1905 72



1. Wages in Domestic and Personal Service 78 2. Wages in Other Occupations 82 3. Efficiency of Wage-Earners 83





1. The Business Promise 93 2. A History of the Negro in Business 94 3. The Nature of the Establishments in 1909 98 4. Ownership of Establishments 100 5. Size of Business Enterprises 104



1. Valuation of Tools and Fixtures 109 2. The Amount of Merchandise on Hand 111 3. Gross Receipts in 1907 and 1908 113



1. Age of Establishments 117 2. Permanence of Location 118 3. Business Methods 120 4. Credit Relationships 122 5. The Purchasing Public 123



1. Individuals and Partnerships 127 2. The Negro Corporation 137









The city of to-day, the growth of the past century, is a permanent development. Dr. Weber has effectively treated the history, nature, causes and effects of the concentration. He shows[2] that the percentage of urban population has varied in different countries; and that this is due mainly to the varying density of population and to the diverse physical features of the countries which have been differently affected by the Industrial Revolution and the era of railroads. The causes of this concentration have been the divorce of men from the soil, the growth of commercial centers, the growth of industrial centers, and such secondary and individual causes as legislation, educational and social advantages.

In the United States, city growth has been affected by all of the several causes that have operated in other countries, modified at times and in places by exceptional influences.[3]

In the discussions concerning the Negro and his movement cityward, it is often assumed that his migration is affected by causes of a different kind from those moving other populations; or that it is not similar in respect to the movement of the white population under similar conditions; or that the concentration can result only in dire disaster both to himself and to the community into which he moves. Such facts as are available suggest that these assumptions are ill-founded. The efforts that are being put forth to improve rural conditions and to advance agricultural arts among Negroes are highly commendable and effective. The thesis of this chapter is that, notwithstanding improvements resulting from these efforts for rural districts, wherever similar causes operate under similar conditions, the Negro, along with the white population, is coming to the city to stay; that the problems which grow out of his maladjustment to the new urban environment are solvable by methods similar to those that help other elements of the population.

In the first place, so far as we know now, the general movement of the Negroes, speaking for the South, does not seem to have been very different from that of the whites. Professor Wilcox says,[4]

It is sometimes alleged that the migration to cities, which has characterized nearly all countries and all classes of population during the last half century, has affected Southern whites more than Southern negroes, and that the latter race is thus being segregated in the rural districts. That such a movement may have gone on, or may now be in progress, in parts of the South can neither be affirmed nor denied on the basis of the present figures, but it may be said with some confidence that, as a general statement applied to the whole South, it is not correct. To be sure the negroes constitute 32.6 per cent of the population of the country districts in the entire South and only 30.9 per cent of the city population, but an examination of the figures (Census 1900) for the several divisions and states will show that what is in some degree true of the South as a whole is not true of most of its parts.

Therefore, it is of importance to note that the movement of white and Negro populations toward cities tends to be coincident. We may get some indication of these movements of white and Negro populations cityward by comparing the growth of their numbers in the principal Northern and Southern cities from 1860 to 1900.

The Negro population has shown a greater increase than the white in each southern city taken separately for the entire period, 1860 to 1900, but together the movement of the white and Negro populations was similar except between 1860 and 1870. That fourteen of the southern cities show an excessive proportional increase of Negro population between 1860 and 1870 is probably due (1) to the very small proportionate Negro population in each of these cities in 1860, the Negroes being almost entirely in the rural districts, and (2) to the exceptional influences following the Civil War which uprooted the rural Negro population that was proportionately larger than the white. The truth of this is corroborated by the per cent of increase by decades for these southern cities taken together. Comparisons with the white population in Northern cities were not made because of the influence of foreign immigration of whites. The per cent of increase of the populations in Southern cities from 1860 to 1870 were white 16.7 per cent, Negro 90.7 per cent; from 1870 to 1880, white 20.3 per cent, Negro 25.5 per cent; from 1880 to 1890, white 35.7 per cent, Negro 38.7 per cent; from 1890 to 1900, white 20.8 per cent, Negro 20.6 per cent; from 1900 to 1910, white 27.7 per cent, Negro 20.6 per cent. That is, when the proportion between the urban and rural populations of blacks and whites becomes normal, and exceptional influences no longer bear upon the Negro, the two populations show about the same rate of increase in their migrations to these Southern cities. The percent of increase of the Negro population for eight Northern cities (counting all the boroughs of New York City as now constituted as one) was as follows: 1860-1870, 51 per cent; 1870-1880, 36.4 per cent; 1880-1890, 32.3 per cent; 1890-1900, 59.2 per cent. The larger liberty of Northern cities was coupled with the economic call of better wages. And this probably may account for the fact that Southern cities show an increase of whites of 7.7 per cent more than of Negroes between 1900-1910. The migration to both Southern and Northern cities is graphically illustrated in the accompanying diagram.

The figures for Southern cities represented in the diagram are given in Table I.


+ -+ -+ -+ - Population Increase Population Increase 14 cities. 1860-1870. 15 cities. 1870-1880. + -+ -+ -+ -+ -+ -+ -+ - 1860. 1870. No. Per 1870. 1880. No. Per cent cent + -+ -+ -+ -+ -+ -+ -+ - White 610,015 712,015 102,000 16.7 715,887 867,403 145,081 20.3 Negro 141,709 270,212 128,503 90.7 272,433 341,907 69,474 25.5 + -+ -+ -+ -+ -+ -+ -+ - Population Increase Population Increase 15 cities. 1880-1890. 16 cities. 1890-1900. + -+ -+ -+ -+ -+ - 1890 Per 1900 Per No. cent No. cent + -+ -+ -+ -+ -+ - White 1,183,419 307,542 35.7 1,429,931 246,512 20.8 Negro 485,477 132,316 38.7 585,931 100,054 20.6 + -+ -+ -+ -+ -+ - Population Increase 16 cities. 1900-1910. + + + 1910. No. Per cent + + + White 1,817,155 387,224 27.7 Negro 706,352 120,821 20.6 + + + [A] Table is based on figures compiled from Eighth Census, Pop., pp. 9, 19, 46, 74, 132, 195, 215, 452, 487, 519; Tenth Census, vol. i, Pop., pp. 416-425; Eleventh Census, vol. i, Pop., pp. 451-485; Twelfth Census, vol. i, pt. 2, Pop., pp. cxix-cxxi and Bulletin 8, Negroes of the United States, pp. 230-232. For 1860, compare Hoffman, Race Traits and Tendencies of the American Negro p. 10.

Both the diagram and the table support the conclusion that the movement of the white and Negro populations to these cities have been similar under similar conditions and influences.

In like manner such statistics as are available show that the causes that have concentrated the white population in urban centres have operated likewise to send the Negro thither.

I. The Divorce of the Negro from the Soil.—With other rural populations improvements in agriculture have made fewer workers necessary. In the case of the Negro, the main moving force from the rural districts since 1860 has been the breaking down of the old regime. The decades from 1840 to 1890, except 1870 to 1880, or the period of the "industrial paralysis" after the panic of 1873, were decades of remarkable urban growth in the United States.[5] The first two decades of this time were the years of violent slavery agitation. Then followed the Civil War and the boon of freedom, which gave rise to an unusual mobility of Negro labor. The inevitable Wanderlust which sudden social upheaval entails was increased by Ku-Klux terrorism and the breaking down of the slave plantation system.[6] Thousands of the wandering freedmen flocked to the Union army posts which were located in towns and cities.

This was only the beginning. The landless freedman furnished occasion for the creation of the share-tenant and crop-lien systems. In many cases these handicaps often became intolerable under dishonest merchants, unscrupulous landlords, and ill-treatment by overseers.[7] All this tended to loosen the hold of the Negro tenant upon the soil.

Simultaneously with these dominant forces in agriculture, another began to be felt. The one crop of cotton or tobacco taxed the land in many sections year after year until it was worn out. In 1899, 70.5 per cent of Negro farmers reported cotton as the principal source of income. Tobacco formed the principal source of income of 16 per cent of Negro farmers in Virginia, of 30.1 per cent in Kentucky and of 18.7 per cent in Maryland.[8] Compared with the growing industrial pursuits, these old agricultural lands no longer offer attractive returns.[9]

Again, where thrift, improvement in agricultural methods and knowledge develop, just as among other farmers, there begins to be a surplus of hands to the cultivator, and Negroes turn toward better paid employment in the urban centres.

It is true that there are large uncultivated, virgin areas of the Southwest, especially in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas, that are calling loudly for farm labor. The population these areas can support is very considerable and the returns to labor are better than in many of the older agricultural sections. Granting this, the tendency of modern civilization and improvements in facilities for transportation favors the urban centers. So that migration is easier toward the city than away from it or toward these untilled agricultural areas. The Negro is in the population stream.

II. The Migration of the Negro to Industrial and Commercial centers.—A study of the growth of the Southern cities shows influences at work similar to those of other sections. Statistics of manufactures of the United States Censuses are not altogether conclusive or reliable, but they measurably indicate conditions. We turn to these records for light upon the Southern situation.

A study of the value of manufactured products of sixteen Southern cities shows that there was a marked increase during the twenty-five years from 1880 to 1905. The industrial centers, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Birmingham, Alabama, have come into prominence in the decade, 1890-1900, and show an increase in value of products of 17.8 per cent and 78.9 per cent respectively. The comparatively small increase during 1890-1900 for Richmond, Va.; Charleston, S.C.; Augusta and Savannah, Ga., and Mobile, Ala., was probably due to unknown local causes and to a reaction during the industrial crisis of 1892-1894 from the excessive increases of the preceding decade. Yet these cities along with nine of the others show remarkable increase in the total value of products for the entire twenty years from 1880 to 1900. Richmond, with an increase of 39 per cent and Savannah, with an increase of 90.3 per cent, were the only cities which had an increase of less than one hundred per cent in value of products during the score of years from 1880 to 1900. The total increase in value of products from 1880 to 1900 for 14 of the cities (Chattanooga and Birmingham being omitted) was 143.3 per cent. The following comparative statement in Table II shows the increase in the value of products of manufactures in sixteen Southern cities from 1880 to 1905, and gives the detailed figures which are the bases of the preceding conclusion. (See p. 21.)

Along with the increase of production has gone the growth in the average number of wage-earners in manufacturing establishments. Each city made a decided advance in the average number of wage-earners in manufactures during the twenty years from 1880 to 1900. In that period, out of fourteen cities, two increased over 300 per cent in the average number of wage-earners, two cities increased over 240 per cent in the average number of wage-earners, five cities increased over 100 per cent and the remaining five cities showed an increase of 76.3 per cent, 57 per cent, 39.8 per cent, 18.8 per cent, and 7.5 per cent respectively. Chattanooga, Tenn., and Birmingham, Ala., from 1890 to 1900 increased 5.2 per cent and 105.6 per cent respectively. Omitting these, the other fourteen cities taken together increased in the number of wage-earners during the twenty years from 1880 to 1900, 60.9 per cent. Table III, which follows, brings into full view this large and constant increase in the average number of wage-earners in manufacturing establishments, exclusive of proprietors, salaried officers, clerks, etc.


+ Total value of products. + -+ -+ -+ + - Cities. Per cent 1880. 1890. 1900. increase 1905[B] 1880-1900. + -+ -+ -+ + - $ $ $ $ Wilmington 13,205,370 24,568,125 34,053,324 157.9 30,390,039 Baltimore 78,417,304 141,723,599 161,249,240 105.6 151,546,580 Washington[C] 11,882,316 39,331,437 47,667,622 301.2 18,359,159 Norfolk 1,455,987 5,100,408 9,397,355 545.4 5,900,129 Richmond 20,790,106 27,792,672 28,900,616 39.0 28,202,607 Charleston 2,732,590 9,005,421 9,562,387 249.9 6,007,094 Atlanta 4,861,727 13,074,037 16,707,027 243.6 25,745,650 Augusta 3,139,029 9,244,850 10,041,900 219.9 8,829,305 Savannah 3,396,297 6,319,066 6,461,816 90.3 6,340,004 Louisville 35,423,203 54,515,226 78,746,390 122.3 83,204,125 Chattanooga 10,216,109 12,033,780 17.8[D] 15,193,909 Memphis 4,413,422 13,244,538 17,923,058 306.1 21,348,817 Nashville 8,597,278 14,590,823 18,469,823 114.8 23,109,601 Birmingham 7,034,248 12,581,066 78.9[D] 7,592,958 Mobile 1,335,579 3,826,399 4,451,062 233.3 4,942,331 New Orleans 18,808,096 48,295,449 63,514,505 237.7 84,604,006 + -+ -+ -+ + - Total 208,458,304 427,882,407 531,760,971 143.3[E] 521,316,314 + -+ -+ -+ + - [A] Compiled from Census Reports: 1880, 10th Census, Manufactures, pp. xxiv, xxv; 1890-1900, 12th Census, vol. viii, Manufactures, Part ii, pp. 7, 108, 115, 134, 279, 301, 335, 831, 848, 908; 1905, 12th Census, Manufactures, Part ii, pp. 20, 142, 152, 179, 339, 361, 403, 1025, 1056, 1127.

[B] In Tables ii and iii the figures of Manufactures from 1880 to 1900 are not exactly comparable with those of 1905, because the census of 1905 was limited to manufacturing establishments and excluded all neighborhood work and establishments for custom work and repairing. Hence percentage of increase was not worked out for this period.

[C] Figures for Washington, D.C., apply to the District of Columbia and include governmental establishments.

[D] Increase 1890-1900.

[E] Increase per cent for 14 cities from 1880 to 1900, exclusive of Chattanooga and Birmingham.


+ Average Number of Wage-earners. + -+ -+ + + Per cent 1880. 1890. 1900. increase, 1905.[D] 1880-1900. + -+ -+ + + Wilmington. Del. 7,852 13,370 16,055 104.5 13,554 Baltimore, Md. 56,338 76,489 78,738 39.8 65,224 Washington, D.C. 7,146 20,406 24,693 245.5 17,281 Norfolk, Va. 752 2,391 4,334 476.3 3,063 Richmond, Va. 14,047 16,891 16,692 18.8 12,883 Charleston, S.C. 2,146 4,684 5,027 134.2 3,450 Atlanta, Ga. 3,680 7,957 9,356 154.2 11,891 Augusta, Ga. 4,518 5,714 7,092 57.0 4,839 Savannah, Ga. 1,130 2,419 2,870 154.1 3,330 Louisville, Ky. 17,103 24,159 29,926 7.5 24,985 Chattanooga, Tenn.[C] 5,200 5,472 5.2 6,984 Memphis, Tenn. 2,268 5,497 8,433 271.8 8,153 Nashville, Tenn. 4,791 7,275 8,447 76.3 8,435 Birmingham, Ala.[C] 3,247 6,675 105.6 3,987 Mobile, Ala. 704 2,719 2,827 301.5 2,496 New Orleans, La. 9,504 22,342 19,435[E] 104.5 17,631 + -+ -+ + + - Total 131,979 212,313 233,925 60.9[F] 208,186 + -+ -+ + + - [A] Does not include proprietors, salaried officers, clerks, etc.

[B] 1880, Tenth Census, Manufactures, pp. xxiv, xxv; 1890 and 1900, 11th Census, Manufactures, Part ii, pp. 7, 108, 115, 134, 279, 300, 335, 831, 848, 908; 1905, 12th Census, vol. viii, Manufactures, Part ii, pp. 20, 142, 152, 179, 339, 361, 403, 1025, 1056, 1127.

[C] No return for 1880.

[D] Figures for 1905 are less and are not comparable with preceding figures, because in 1905 all neighborhood work and establishments for custom work and repairing were excluded.

[E] Does not include cotton compressing in 1900.

[F] Fourteen cities; Chattanooga and Birmingham are omitted.

The industrial pull of Southern cities, then, is shown both by the increase in the average number of wage-earners and in the total value of manufactured products.

There is no reason to doubt that commercial enterprise has operated and kept pace with industrial activity in causing the growth of these urban centers. Figures for the trade of these sixteen Southern cities are not available. However, we have side lights upon the commercial life in the amount of railroad building that has taken place in the South since 1860. In 1860, there were only 8,317 miles of railroad in the thirteen states from Maryland and Delaware to Arkansas and Texas. In 1900, there were 46,735.86 miles in the same territory, an increase of 461.9 per cent. From 1900 to 1905 this increased to 55,239.22 miles or 18.2 per cent in the five years.[10] Likewise the traffic operations, including total tonnage, and freight, passenger, express and mail earnings of selected groups of railways covering most of this territory, increased very rapidly from 1890 to 1900. In the ten years, from 1890 to 1900, the tonnage increased from 63,597,120 tons to 121,180,317 tons or 90.5 per cent; and total earnings went from $113,616,184.45 in 1890 to $168,606,233 in 1900, an increase of 48.4 per cent in ten years.

As these industrial and commercial forces affect the population, the Negro without doubt shares to a considerable extent the influence. That the Negro has been a large labor factor in the South is a patent fact. All the data available indicate that he has been affected by economic influences similar to those which have moved the white population toward the urban centers.

The most decisive set of facts is the growth in the number of whites and Negroes in gainful occupations in Southern cities. The census returns of 1890 and 1900 for a number of Southern cities were sufficient for an inference. For some occupations figures for 1890 were not available, and in other occupations some cities were not reported in 1890. So a selected list of occupations was taken.

The comparisons of those occupations selected are striking. Among the males, for domestic and personal service occupations, from 1890 to 1900, the white wage-earners increased 42.3 per cent and the Negro wage-earners increased 31.1 per cent. Here we see the influence of the growth of wealthy classes in the industrial and commercial centers, who require increasing numbers to supply their developing wants. In trade and transportation occupations, while the number of white wage-earners increased 25.2 per cent from 1890 to 1900, the Negro wage-earners increased 39.1 per cent during the same decade. For the same period, in manufacturing and mechanical pursuits, the white workers increased 6.1 per cent and the Negro workers increased 12.1 per cent. This indicates the dependence of the growing industry of the South upon its black male workers and shows how strong upon them is the economic pull.

For the females, the increases are no less telling, especially for Negro workers. In ten selected occupations for Southern cities, the white female workers decreased 29.1 per cent and the Negro female workers increased 36 per cent from 1890 to 1900. The decrease for the whites was due to an excessive decrease among dressmakers, milliners and seamstresses, which may be a discrepancy of the census returns.

The full list of selected occupations in Southern cities for 1890 and 1900 are given in full in Table IV, following:


KEY: A: No. of cities. B: Per cent increase.

+ Male. + + + Native white. Negro. + -+ -+ + -+ -+ Occupation. A 1890. 1900. B 1890. 1900. B + + -+ -+ + -+ -+ Domestic and personal service 29,407 41,854 42.3 54,179 71,047 31.1 Barbers, hairdressers 10 1,436 2,208 1,946 2,317 Bartenders 8 1,688 2,486 277 389 Laborers (not specified) 10 19,843 27,759 35,868 51,346 Restaurant and saloon keepers 9 1,577 2,107 377 474 Servants and waiters 10 1,395 1,128 15,358 16,071 Watchmen, policemen, detectives, etc. 10 3,441 6,166 353 450 Trade and transportation 71,291 89,294 25.2 18,305 25,459 39.1 Agents, collectors and commercial travelers 10 8,571 13,031 287 411 Bankers, brokers and officials (bank) 8 2,309 1,824 76 13 Draymen, hackmen, teamsters 10 6,385 8,117 11,246 14,545 Messengers, packers, porters, etc.[B] 9 3,302 4,486 3,554 6,225 Steam railway employees 10 11,033 11,532 2,213 3,048 Street railway employees 8 1,987 3,366 85 170 Bookkeepers, accountants, etc.[C] 10 37,704 46,638 844 1,057 Manufacturing and mechanical pursuits 55,236 64,288 16.3 11,548 12,887 11.6 Bakers and butchers 9 4,111 4,512 632 640 Blacksmiths[D] 10 3,722 4,003 852 935 Boot and shoemakers and repairers 10 2,195 1,816 1,184 965 Carpenters and joiners 10 12,947 12,394 3,029 2,762 Cotton and textile mill operatives 7 2,648 2,534 258 281 Engineers, firemen (not locomotive) 10 3,379 5,151 881 1,224 Iron and steel workers 9 3,366 4,808 779 752 Machinists 10 5,086 8,088 92 174 Marble and stone cutters 5 1,009 906 150 149 Masons (brick and stone) 6 2,663 2,362 731 1,264 Painters, glaziers, varnishers 10 6,807 7,372 875 782 Plasterers 7 672 633 886 811 Plumbers, gas and steam fitters 7 1,925 2,646 113 151 Saw and planing mill employees 7 2,543 4,409 749 1,062 Tailors 10 2,163 2,654 337 307 + + -+ -+ + -+ -+ Total 155,934 195,436 25.3 84,032 109,393 30.2 + + -+ -+ + -+ -+

+ Female. + + + Native white. Negro. + -+ -+ + -+ -+ Occupation. A 1890 1900 B 1890 1900 B + + -+ -+ + -+ -+ Housekeepers and stewardesses 10 1,475 1,956 752 513 Laborers (not specified) 10 332 712 676 901 Laundresses 10 1,543 2,409 25,968 41,386 Nurses and midwives 10 781 2,472 1,097 3,691 Servants[E] 10 10,176 9,983 47,198 56,729 Saleswomen 7 2,633 4,808 37 28 Dressmakers, milliners, seamstresses 10 41,313 22,007 6,528 6,859 Tailoresses 6 2,814 2,950 164 131 + + -+ -+ + -+ -+ Total 61,067 47,297 29.1 81,027 110,238 36.0 [F] [F] + + -+ -+ + -+ -+ NOTES FOR TABLE IV.

[A] Figures for 1890 from Eleventh Census, Pop., Part ii, pp. 630-703; for 1900, Twelfth Census, Occupations, Table 43. The cities are from the list in Tables III and IV supra.

[B] Includes office-boys, shippers, and helpers in stores in 1900, probably not separated in 1890.

[C] Includes clerks and copyists.

[D] Includes some wheelwrights for all cities except one.

[E] Includes waitresses in 1900.

[F] Decrease.

The evidence, then, that the economic call of Southern cities has received response from Negroes as from whites is fairly conclusive. That the economic motive of the Negro has had a large place in causing his migration to urban centers is further shown by the testimony of Negro wage-earners in a Northern city.

In a personal canvass in New York City, 365 wage-earners were asked their reasons for coming to New York City. In reply to the question put in this direct manner 210 out of the total 365 wage-earners gave replies; of these, 99 or 47.1 per cent gave answers that are easily classified as economic. The other replies have been grouped under "family" reasons, 68 or 32.4 per cent, and "individual" reasons, 43 or 20.5 per cent. Many cases in the last two groupings, as appear below (pp. 31-32), would probably be seen to have an underlying economic cause, if we knew more of their history. The 99 answers classed as economic were as follows:


To "get work" or "find work" 38 To secure "better wages" or "more money" 19 With former employers 18 To complete trade training 2 To engage in work previously assured 4 To "better my condition" 15 "Business low at home" 1 "Wanted to buy house at home by (with) money made here" 1 "Seeking business" 1 —- Total 99

This evidence is further corroborated by a record of the wages of 64 of the 365 wage-earners before and after their coming to New York City. For 38 males and 26 females statements of the wages received just previously to their coming to New York City and of their present wages were secured. These figures are presented because they suggest that a wider survey of such facts would probably be in line with the body of data given above. For instance, of 37 men, the median weekly wage before their coming to New York City was in the wage-group $6.00 to $6.99, and after coming, the median weekly wage increased so that it was in the wage-group $10.00 to $10.99. Of the 26 women, the median weekly wage was in the wage-group $4.00 to $4.99 before their coming to New York City and advanced so that it was in the group $6.00 to $6.99 after coming. These facts indicate a decided response to the higher wage attraction of New York City. It should be remarked that the wage-earner in his migration to secure higher wages seldom takes into consideration the higher cost of living in New York City. Table VI, following, gives the details of the comparison:


- Males. Females. - - Wages. Before. After. Before. After. - - - Less than $3.00 9 $3.00-$3.99 8 3 3 $4.00-$4.99 3 3 3 $5.00-$5.99 6 3 6 3 $6.00-$6.99 6 3 1 7 $7.00-$7.99 1 8 2 6 $8.00-$8.99 4 2 $9.00-$9.99 4 2 2 $10.00-$10.99 3 5 $11.00-$11.99 1 4 $12.00-$12.99 1 2 $13.00 and over 4 9[A] - - - Total 37 38 26 26 - - - [A] One individual replied "less than now in New York City."

In the economic movement to the Northern cities, the activity of employment agencies (especially for female domestic help) with drummers and agents in Southern communities has served to spread tales of high wages and to provide transportation for large numbers.[11] Again, many who have been to the urban centers return for visits to their more rural home communities with show of better wages in dress, in cash and in conversation[12].

The conclusion of the matter, therefore, is that the Negro is responding to the call of commerce and industry and is coming to the urban centers under economic influences similar to those that move his fellows.

III. Secondary or Individual Causes of the Negro's Movement Cityward.—It requires only a brief survey of the legislation in several of the Southern states to understand that this has played a part in uprooting the population from the soil and transplanting it in the urban centers.

The trend of legislation everywhere has been to make the city attractive at the expense of the rural districts. First among these measures have been the improved educational facilities provided by municipal authorities. In the South, this has come since 1865. Parks and recreation centers are rapidly being added. General regulation of rights and privileges has been made with the city in the foreground, and many another measure has favored the urban centers.

Labor legislation in the South that affects the Negro population has been of two kinds, aside from the laws to regulate or prohibit the exodus of laborers through the activity of labor agents or runners[13]: (1) that applying to the industrial centers and serving to make conditions of labor on railroads, in mines, and other places where Negroes are employed more attractive and payment of wages more certain and frequent than in the case of labor upon the farm and plantation; (2) that dealing with the relations of landlord and tenant which in practical operation often makes the life of the tenant and farm-hand very hard. Coupled with the ignorance of the usual Negro peasant, these laws are sometimes tools of coercion.[14]

Another line of secondary or individual causes is shown in the reasons for coming to New York City given by wage-earners mentioned above (p. 27). The tabulation of answers indicates that the influences drawing individuals to New York City are, on the one hand, family relationships. These cases, 68 or 32.4 per cent of the 210 replies noted above, have been classified as those who came because of parents, because of husband or wife, or because of other relatives. On the other hand, there are the individual inclinations. The latter, 43 or 20.5 per cent of the 210 replies, are grouped under restlessness, attraction of New York City, unattractiveness of former residence, and miscellaneous. These groupings and designations are given as suggestive only to facilitate the understanding of the mental attitude of the Negro wage-earner. Their more or less economic tinge may be seen. The reasons classified as "family" and as "individual" are reported in detail in Table VII, following:


-+ - Family reasons (68 or 32.4 per cent, of 210). T o -+ + + t a On account of parents. On account of husband On account of other l or wife relatives. . -+ + + - "Brought here by "Relatives of wife "A son here" 2 parents" 12 here" 1 "To visit a brother "With mother" 6 "Wife here" 1 and remained" 5 "Came with mother "To follow husband" 1 "Had a sister here" 9 who was here" 4 "Came with husband" 7 "My health was bad "Father was here" 2 and came to live "My husband was with sister" 1 "On account of death working on a ship of father" 1 coming here" 1 To live with other relatives on account "Father transferred of death of mother 4 in revenue service" 1 Through influence of other relatives 10 -+ + + - Total 26 Total 11 Total 31 68 -+ + + -

- - T o Individual reasons (43 or 20.5 per cent of 210). t a - l Restlessness. 16 Attraction of New Former residence, 4 York City. 15 unattractive. 6 3 . - + - "Thought I would like "I wanted to come out "To say I was leaving the place as a this way." home like everybody change;" wanted "to else." (From be goin somewhere." "Wanted to come to a St. Martin's Island.) larger (place); to "Was in Rhode Island travel to see the "Got tired of Boston and wanted a change." world." and came to New York." "Thought I'd like to "Passing through "Got tired of Virginia; make a change." several summers; came to visit friend; stopped." remained." "Wanted to make a change." "Came out with "Got tired of friends who were Baltimore; thought I'd "To change cities and coming; been back see some of New York." see New York." and forth." "Got tired of home, "Thought I would like "Was running on the that's all." change; to be going boat to New York somewhere." and stopped for a "To get away from home while." for a change." "Just for a change." "Just to see New + + "Just for a change." York; was traveling and stopped." Miscellaneous. 6 "Thought I'd make a change; came North "Took a notion to + + to try it." come; wanted to come North." "Came to get married." "Just to be coming." (To New York) "Liked New York after "Stopped on way to seeing it as a Boston, robbed in "For recreation; to sailor in the Navy." Jersey City." change cities." "Thought I would like "Came to America to go "Traveling and New York." to school." (From S. stopped." Hampton, Bermuda.) "Thought I'd like New "Split the difference York." of time." "To learn "Wanted to see the architecture." "Felt like traveling." place." "To visit friends; got "Had a roaming "To see the place and married." mind came here from be with sister." Chicago." "To see and learn and "To see the city; improve my ability." "Felt like traveling." friend wrote me of sights of the great city." "Heard talk of enjoyable life here." "Came here from Cincinnati; had read a great deal of New York City and wanted to see it." -+

Another individual cause operates especially upon the more able and intelligent classes and sends them to Northern cities. The restriction by "Jim Crow" legislation and by custom of the rights and privileges of persons of color in Southern communities leads some of them to migrate North. They long for a larger liberty for themselves and particularly for their children, which the hard conditions of Southern communities do not give. They come North to gain this and to escape the proscriptions.[15] They settle in the cities. A similar force probably operates in a few sections of the South to send Negro families to the security of the urban centers.[16]

The final conclusion from these facts concerning the causes operating upon the Negro population has been clearly indicated in the above discussion. Such fundamental economic and social causes do not cease to operate suddenly. So far as the development of the South is concerned, the agricultural, industrial and commercial movement is in its infancy, and it will doubtless be of an indefinite growth. The secondary and individual causes will continue to play their part. The Negro will be affected in a manner similar to that of the Southern white population. Any rural improvement or "back-to-the-land" movement should recognize that along with the whites, Negroes will continue to migrate to the urban centers and that they will come to the cities in comparatively large numbers to stay. The problem alike of statesman, race leader, and philanthropist is to understand the conditions of segregation and oppositions due to race prejudices that are arising as a sequel to this urban concentration and to co-operate with the Negro in his effort to learn to live in the city as well as the country.

Although it requires serious attention, the situation is a hopeful one. Improvement in the living and working conditions has its effect upon the health and morals of Negroes just as it has in the case of other elements of the population. Intelligence is essentially a matter of education and training. Good housing, pure milk and water supply, sufficient food and clothing, which adequate wages allow, street and sewer sanitation, have their direct effect upon health and physique. And municipal protection and freedom from the pressure of the less moral elements of the environing group go a long way toward elevating standards of morality. In spite of the limits which the neglect and prejudice of a white public sets to opportunities for improvement, Negroes do show progress along these lines.

Speaking first of the health of Negroes in cities, an index is given in the general death-rate.[17] In the period from 1871 to 1904, the death rate for the white and Negro populations of several Southern cities is summarized by Mr. Hoffman.[18] Of the consolidated death-rate of the white population, he says,

For only two cities are the returns complete for the entire period of thirty-four years. The tendency of the rate has been persistently downward from 26.7 per 1,000 in 1871 to 20.6 in 1886 and 17.4 in 1904. Commencing with the rate for the year 1871, the general death-rate of the white population of Southern cities shows an upward direction at different times during twelve years, and a downward direction during twenty-one years, following in this respect practically the same course as the corresponding death-rate for Northern and Western cities combined. The year of maximum mortality was 1878, due to a yellow fever epidemic, while the year of minimum mortality was, as in the case of the Northern and Western cities, 1903.

In reference to the table for the Negro population he says,[19]

Without exception, the death-rates are materially in excess of the corresponding death-rates of the white population, but there has also been in this case a persistent decline in the general death-rate from 38.1 per 1,000 in 1871 to 32.9 in 1886 and 28.1 in 1904. Commencing with the rate for the year 1871, the general death-rate of the colored population of Southern cities at different times assumed an upward direction during fifteen years and a downward direction during eighteen years, departing in this respect from the corresponding mortality of the white population of Southern cities and the general population of Northern and Western cities, the tendency of which was more distinctly towards a definite improvement. The year of maximum mortality for the colored population was 1873, while the year of minimum mortality was 1903.

The general correspondence and few divergencies of the two death-rates are more clearly seen from the following diagram,[20] adapted from Hoffman's study already cited:

Other data[21] for two of the cities investigated by Mr. Hoffman, and for three other cities (Atlanta, Ga., Charleston, S.C., and Richmond, Va.) from 1882 to 1905 furnish results similar to his and indicate likewise that while the general death-rate for the Negro population is uniformly in excess of that of the white, there is a tendency downward. For example, in Atlanta, Ga., the death-rates from 1882 to 1885 were for the white population, 18.22 per 1,000, Negro, 37.96; from 1886 to 1890, white, 19.25, Negro, 33.41; from 1891 to 1905, white, 18.03 per 1,000, Negro, 32.76. Baltimore, Md., Charleston, S.C., Memphis, Tenn., and Richmond, Va., show a similar decrease, except that the white and Negro populations of Baltimore show an increase in the third period, 1891 to 1905, and the rate of the Negro population of Charleston increased in the second period, 1886 to 1890.

We see, then, that while the death-rate of Negroes in Southern cities has been considerably in excess of that of the whites, there has been at the same time a similar tendency toward improvement.

And where there is unprejudiced effort the death-rate among Negroes is affected favorably by improved living conditions. The chief health-officer of Richmond, Va., Dr. E.C. Levy, has sounded a note which is not mere prophecy.[22] He said, in 1906, "There is no doubt whatsoever but that the introduction of better sanitation among the colored people would have great influence on their high death-rate, but whether, after all, it can be brought down as low as the white rate, is a matter which can not be foretold." Again, in 1907, he says,

We must clearly face the issue that the first fruits of improved sanitation in Richmond will most probably be seen in a lowering of the death-rate among the colored people, as conditions among them are so much worse at present, but this in turn will gradually react on the white race.

And, in 1908, this significant paragraph occurs in his report:

The white death-rate in Richmond during 1908 was 17.48 per 1000; the colored rate was 29.21 per 1000. Although the colored rate was thus 67 per cent higher than the white rate, the decrease in the colored rate from 1907 was greater than the decrease in the white rate, the 1907 rates being 18.11 for whites and 32.99 for Negroes.

Out of a total decrease of 166 in the number of deaths in 1908 compared with 1907, the white decrease was 27, while the colored decrease was 139. From the time that I entered office I have predicted that improved sanitation would benefit the Colored race more quickly than the white, and the figures above given justify this conclusion.

The statement of this health officer points to experience rather than to prejudiced notions about the physical weaknesses of Negroes.

From both the statistician and the sanitarian, therefore, comes the word that while the health of Negroes in cities is worse than that of whites, it shows a tendency to improve similar to that of the white population when a fairly impartial treatment is accorded.

As with health, so with other phases of the Negro's city life. There is no place for pessimism. Improvements in intelligence and in moral conditions can not be counted by case and set down in figures and tables.[23] But any one at all familiar either by reading or recollection with the condition of the Negro at the beginning of his freedom, who now takes an impartial and unprejudiced view of his intellectual and social life in urban communities, will come to no other conclusion than that in the face of peculiar whims and prejudices a large and increasing number in the group is arising to the full consciousness of a freeman and has assimilated the best that America affords in morals and intelligence; and that they are vitally concerned for the uplift of themselves and their people, persistently seeking to partake of all that makes for progress.[24]

For the whole Negro population in cities some light is thrown upon developments by the few facts at hand on crime among Negroes.[25] Statistics of crime are, of course, of limited worth in judging of moral conditions. Arrests and prison commitments have many factors which figures do not show and are quite as much a commentary upon the white communities at large as upon the unfortunate Negro law-breakers. Yet, along with other facts, these records of crime are a part of the social barometer.

An analysis of three periods of crime (prior to 1866-1867; 1867 to 1880, and 1880 to 1903) made by Mr. Monroe N. Work gives indicative results. Speaking of arrests per thousand of the Negro population in nine cities, he says,[26]

Taking the period from 1866 to 1882, it appears that at some time during this period the arrest-rate, with the possible exception of St. Louis, for each of the cities decreased. From 1882 to 1892-1896 there was, with some exceptions, a marked increase in the arrest-rates of the several cities. This was especially true of Chicago, Cincinnati, Washington and St. Louis. From 1892-1896 to 1902-1903 there appears to have been a general tendency for the Negro arrest-rates of these cities to decrease. It appears that, on the whole, we are warranted in concluding that for the nine cities considered, the rate of Negro arrests per thousand of the Negro population is decreasing.

The rates of jail commitments for Baltimore, Charleston, and St. Louis have increased slowly since the seventies until the nineties, and now apparently are beginning to decrease slightly.

The workhouse commitments for Philadelphia, Washington, Cincinnati, Louisville, Chicago and St. Louis "show a similar tendency to decrease." Penitentiary commitments[27] for Baltimore and Chicago show, on the whole, a decreasing trend. "The rate of annual commitments to the state penitentiary of Illinois from the city of Chicago in 1873 was 4.4; in 1902 the rate was 1.6," the highest rate being in 1873. Mr. Work continues,

The rate of annual commitments to the penitentiary from Baltimore in 1888 was 1.1; in 1902 the rate of annual penitentiary commitments from this city was 1.3; the highest rate of annual penitentiary commitments from Baltimore was 2.0 in 1899. Since 1898-1899 there has been a decrease in the annual Negro penitentiary commitments for both cities. The rate per thousand of the Negro population for the number of prisoners received in the Kansas penitentiary was available for four years, as follows: in 1889 and 1890 the rate of annual Negro commitments to the Kansas penitentiary was 1.5; in 1891 and 1892 the rate was 1.3. The rate per thousand of the Negro population for the number of prisoners received annually in the Indiana penitentiary was available for three years, as follows: in 1900 the rate was 2.1; in 1901 the rate was 2.5; and in 1902 the rate was 2.0.

Mr. Work remarks finally,[28]

Summarizing our results, it is seen that police arrests, jail, workhouse and penitentiary commitments appear to have increased during the period from 1890 to 1892-1896. The highest rates of arrests and commitments were about 1893. Since 1894-1896 the tendency of both arrests and commitments to decrease has been notable. The crime-rate for murder is also probably decreasing. It appears, therefore, that the conclusion that crime is probably decreasing among the Negroes of the United States is warranted. The crime-rate of Negroes, North and South, appears at present to be about the same, although the rate of police arrests for some Southern cities is higher than that for the Northern cities. The claim that there is greater criminality among the Negroes of the North than those of the South is probably not true. The fallacy on which this claim was based was in comparing the criminal rate of the Negroes of the North, who live almost entirely in cities, with the criminal rate of the Negroes of the entire South, the great majority of whom live in rural communities.

Besides, differences in age-grouping are usually ignored.

On the whole, therefore, there is firm ground for hope as the Negro becomes adjusted to the urban environment.

Since, then, these economic and social causes bid fair to continue their influence for an indefinite time, the concentration of Negroes in urban centers makes imperative the need of knowledge and methods of dealing with the problems that face the Negro and the Nation in these growing urban centers.[29] These questions of how to live in the city are problems of health, of intelligence and of morals. They are economic, social, political, educational and religious. The present essay is an attempt to study carefully the economic problems arising out of the Negro's adjustment in his struggles to make a living and to live in the city as seen in the commercial Metropolis of America; to find out at what he is employed there; to inquire of his efficiency and success, and of the attitude of employer and fellow employee. As we find Negroes rising from the plane of the employed to that of the employer, these questions arise: How does he get into business and what lines does he enter? With what success does he meet? What resourcefulness does he show? What are the reasons for his failures? We want to know what are his relations with the business world with which he deals and the consuming public to whom he caters. These and many other things can be ascertained only by painstaking investigation.

This study aims to be a small contribution to the end that efforts for betterment of urban conditions may be founded upon facts. The material has been treated in two parts—that relating to wage-earners and to business undertakings. In the former the United States Census reports, a personal canvass, and the unpublished schedules for 2,500 families of the New York State Census of 1905, were used as sources; for the latter a block to block canvass was made and records of the business enterprises were secured by personal interviews.


The manner of growth has been two-fold: (1) By natural increase through the lowering of the death-rate due partially to improved housing conditions, progress in personal hygiene of the poorer classes and in city sanitation and inspection; (2) by migration: that is, short distance movements by progressive stages from the more rural districts toward the larger centers.[31] In the case of the great cities this may mean increase in density of the most populated areas.[32]

The causes of concentration in cities are the following:

I. The Divorce of Men from the Soil.[33] The diminishing relative importance of elementary wants, improvements in scientific cultivation and in agricultural machinery, and the opening of distant and virgin fields by better transportation have reduced the relative number of workers needed on the soil.

II. The Growth of Commercial Centers.[34] This went hand in hand with the Agrarian Revolution. Trade has been the basis of city founding. The prevailing influence in determining location has been "a break in transportation." Where goods are transferred and where, in addition, ownership changes hands, urban centers grow up. Wealthy classes arise which require others to supply their increasing and varied wants.

III. The Growth of Industrial Centers.[35] The passage of industry from the household, handicrafts and domestic systems to that of the factory, with the invention of power machinery and modern methods of transportation and communication, draws population away from the rural districts to the industrial centers.

IV. Secondary or Individual Causes.[36] (a) The shifting demand for transfer of labor from agricultural to industrial production was met by the economic motive of workers. (b) Political action has influenced city growth; legislation affecting trade and the migration of labor; centralization of governmental machinery in the cities; legal forms of land tenure, etc. (c) Social advantages such as better education, varied amusements, higher standard of living, intellectual associations and pursuits, draw people to urban centers, while desire for the contact of the moving crowds, for the excitement and apparent ease of city life, serve to make the rural districts distasteful.


[1] The most comprehensive study of city growth is The Growth of Cities in the 19th Century, by A.F. Weber, vol. xi, Columbia University Studies in History, Economics and Public Law (New York, 1899), pp. 1-478. The meaning of city and urban population is that used by Weber: An agglomerated population of two thousand to ten thousand for towns, more than ten thousand for cities, more than one hundred thousand for great cities. Cf. p. 16.

[2] See footnote at the end of this chapter. Weber, op. cit., pp. 146-154.

[3] Weber, op. cit., pp. 167-68; 173-74; 201-207. See also footnote at end of chapter.

[4] Twelfth Census, Bulletin 8, Negroes in the United States, p. 29.

[5] Weber, op. cit., pp. 24-27, 162.

[6] Coman, Industrial History of the United States, Revised edition, (New York, 1910), pp. 308-9.

[7] Kelsey, The Negro Farmer, (Chicago, 1903), pp. 5-103; vide pp. 24-28. Du Bois, The Negro Farmer in Bulletin 8, (Twelfth Census), pp. 79-81.

[8] DuBois, op. cit., p. 77.

[9] Kelsey, Some Causes of Negro Emigration: Charities, New York, vol. xv, no. 1, pp. 15-17; cf. DuBois, op. cit., pp. 73-74.

[10] Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1909, table 143, p. 261.

[11] Kellor. Out of Work, pp. 73, 83.

[12] Cf. Tucker, Negro Craftsmen in New York, in Southern Workman, September, 1907, p. 550.

[13] For statute provisions of state governments, see Twenty-second Annual Report of the Commissioner of Labor, Labor Laws of the United States, pp. 129, sec. 4165; 133-135, secs. 6345-6856; 146-147, secs. 3695-3696, 3905, 4057; 153, secs. 5357-58, 5383; 155-56; acts of 1901, no. 101, secs. 1-3; acts of 1905, no. 49, secs. 1-3; 157-59, act no. 219, sec. 1; act no. 225, secs. 7-18; 278, secs. 2530, 2641-42; 281, sec. 3233-34; 291, sec. 4732; 495-501, secs. 1350, 2722-2739A; 706, sec. 2139; 1228-29, secs. 2717-2720; 1231-32, secs. 338, 358; 1251-52, secs. 3794, 4339-42; 1339-40, sec. 3657D. Vide also, Digest and Summaries of Certain Classes of Laws Affecting Labor,—Mechanics' Liens, pp. 37-38, 43, 44, 49, 50, 55, 61-62, 70-72, 74.

[14] The laws referred to are framed in terms of the regulation of contracts of employment, violation of contract, and contracts of employment with intent to defraud. Breach of contract in either set of cases is usually a misdemeanor (criminal act instead of a civil tort) with a penalty of fines (or imprisonment in Florida). Often in practical operation, they place the tenant and farm laborer at the discretion or mercy of the landlord. The writer has made repeated visits to many rural communities in Ala., Ga., Fla., Miss., and La., and has observed how these legislative measures serve as barriers to thrift among the landless Negro farmers. A number of the youths have expressed their conviction that since their fathers and mothers have accumulated nothing after years of labor on the land, they do not intend to stay on the plantation to repeat the process. For provisions of statutes: See Commissioner of Labor, op. cit., pp. 133-34, secs. 6845-46; 147, sec. 5030; 284, chaps. 703-704, secs. 1146-1148.

[15] Economic Analysis of American Prejudice, by Dr. Wm. L. Bulkley, in The Colored American Magazine, July, 1909, pp. 17, 19. 20-21.

[16] Cf. Darkest America, by Kelly Miller in New England Magazine, April, 1904.

[17] Vide Hoffman, The General Death Rate of Large American Cities, 1871-1904, in Quarterly Publications of the American Statistical Association, new series, vol. x, no. 73, March, 1906. Mr. Hoffman says: "While the general death-rate is of very limited value for the purpose of comparison in the case of different localities, it is, I am satisfied, after a very careful investigation and much experience, of quite considerable value in making local comparison of the present health conditions with the past."

[18] Op. cit., pp. 5-8. The cities are Baltimore, 1871-1904; New Orleans, 1871-1904; District of Columbia, 1876-1904; Louisville, Ky., 1890-1904; Memphis, Tenn., 1876-1904.

[19] Op. cit., pp. 7-8. (Italics are mine.)

[20] In the Biennial Report of the Board of Health of New Orleans, La., 1906-1907, this diagram of Mr. Hoffman is reproduced with the following comment: (p. 113) "The colored mortality has not only been excessive, but has borne no relation whatever to the white mortality curve, being on the ascending scale at times when the white mortality was clearly on the decrease." A comparison with Mr. Hoffman's words about the two death-rates quoted above and a glance at the curves supply sufficient commentary upon this biased view.

[21] Mortality Among Negroes in Cities, Atlanta University Pubs., no. 1, (Atlanta, Ga., 1896), p. 51; vide pp. 21-25; and 2nd ed., 1903, pp. 11-15.

[22] Annual Reports of the Health Department of the City of Richmond, Va., 1906, p. 22; 1907, p. 34; 1908, pp. 39-40.

[23] Cf. Ray Stannard Baker, in American Magazine, Feb. and March, 1908, and Following the Color Line, (New York, 1909), pp. 54-55.

[24] For a large body of facts and opinions on this point see Atlanta University Pubs., no. 8, pp. 64-79; 108-110; 154-190. Personal observation during residence of the past twelve years in Louisville, Ky., Memphis and Nashville, Tenn., Atlanta, Ga., Chicago, and New York, and during visits to Baltimore, Md., Washington, D.C., Norfolk and Richmond, Va., Savannah and Augusta, Ga., Chattanooga, Tenn., Birmingham and Mobile, Ala., New Orleans, La., and smaller cities has afforded the author of this essay considerable opportunity to know at first-hand this phase of Negro city life.

[25] Atlanta University Pubs., no. 9, Notes on Negro Crime: Crime in Cities, by M.N. Work (Atlanta, Ga., 1904), pp. 18-32; cf. pp. 49-54. Vide also Kellor, Experimental Sociology, pp. 250 ff.

[26] Op. cit., p. 22.

[27] Ibid., pp. 26-29 passim.

[28] Op. cit., p. 32.

[29] Philadelphia is the only city which has had adequate study. Vide DuBois, W.E.B., The Philadelphia Negro, (Philadelphia, 1889) and Wright, R.R., Jr., The Negro in Pennsylvania, a Study in Economic History (Philadelphia, 1912).

[30] Vide Weber, op. cit., passim.

[31] Ibid., 232 ff.; 241 ff.; 283 ff.; 346-364, passim.

[32] A suggestive study on this phase of the city problem has been published recently: Industrial Causes of Congestion of Population in New York City, by E.E. Pratt, Ph.D., (New York, 1911), pp. 5-262.

[33] Weber, op. cit., pp. 161-169; 223.

[34] Ibid., pp. 171-173; 181-182; 223-224.

[35] Weber, op. cit., pp. 184-191.

[36] Ibid., pp. 210, 213-222.



The Negro population of New York City has had a history similar to that of other Northern cities. Beginning with a small body of slaves, it has since had its problems growing out of the presence of an increasing number of Negroes in the midst of the environing white group. In 1629, The Dutch West India Company pledged itself to furnish slaves to the Colonists of New Amsterdam.[37] A similar resolution was passed by the colony council in 1648[38] and by 1664 slavery had become of sufficient importance to receive legislative regulation in the Duke of York Code.[39] Both by further importations and by natural increase the Negro population grew until in 1704 it numbered about 1,500; in 1741 it was estimated at about 2,000, and in 1757 about 3,000. Beginning with the first Federal Census of 1790 there was an increase shown by each census except those of 1820 for Brooklyn and of 1850 and 1860 for other parts of New York City, mainly Manhattan.

The figures show a striking contrast in growth between Brooklyn and the other parts of New York City as now constituted, exclusive of Brooklyn. The former had a comparatively small Negro population until after 1860, but from 1790 the Negro population although small increased steadily, except the one decade between 1810 and 1820. This was a decrease of only 92 or 4.9 per cent of a population less than 2,000. Only one increase, from 1800 to 1810, was less than 13 per cent. Beginning with 5,915 at the Federal census of 1790, the Negro population of the other parts of New York City has shown a high per cent of increase in numbers, above 15 per cent, at eight of the twelve succeeding censuses, and 8.1 per cent and 5.5 per cent at two others. The decreases from 1840 to 1850, 13.2 per cent, and from 1850 to 1860, 7.5 per cent, were probably due to the unfavorable sentiment against the Negroes which arose during the abolition agitation of these periods and which had its effect on the Negro's movements to and from the city. The small increase from 1860 to 1870, 5.5 per cent, was very probably the result of the same causes—of the Civil War disturbances and the New York Draft riots, which deterred Negroes from coming to New York City and sent many Negro residents away.[40] The figures for Manhattan show a similar trend at each census. However, except the periods noted above, there has been a general trend toward increase in both Manhattan and Brooklyn. The Negro population has become a smaller and smaller part of the total population from decade to decade since 1810, but this is because the several streams of foreign immigrants have been large and not because the increase of the Negro population has been small.

Table VIII, which follows, shows the growth of the total and the Negro populations, and brings the full figures to view:


- New York City, exclusive of Brooklyn. Brooklyn. - - - Increase of Increase of Year. Population. Negro Population. Negro population. population. - - - - - - - Per Negro. Per Total. Negro. Number. cent Total. [B] Number. cent - - - - - - - 1704 1,500 1741 2,000 500 33.3 1757 3,000 1,000 50.0 1790 44,906 5,915 2,915 97.2 4,495 1,478 1800 73,476 8,626 2,711 45.9 5,740 1,811 333 25.5 1810 111,431 12,116 3,490 40.4 8,303 1,853 42 2.3 1820 140,869 13,100 984 8.1 11,187 1,761 92 4.9[C] 1830 221,743 16,082 2,982 22.8 20,535 2,007 246 13.9 1840 343,501 18,595 2,573 15.6 47,613 2,846 839 41.8 1850 557,233 16,131 2,464 13.2[C] 138,882 4,065 1,219 42.8 1860 895,657 14,927 1,204 7.5[C] 279,122 4,999 934 22.9 1870 1,058,182 15,755 828 5.5 419,921 5,653 654 13.1 1880 1,312,203 22,496 6,741 42.8 599,495 9,153 3,500 61.9 1890 1,668,867 26,330 3,834 17.0 838,547 11,307 2,154 23.5 1900 2,270,620 42,299 15,969 60.6 1,166,582 18,367 7,060 62.5 1910 3,132,532 69,700 27,403 64.8 1,634,351 22,702 4,335 23.6 - - - - - - - [A] Figures 1704-1757 from Du Bois, Notes, etc., p. 1.

[B] Negro not reported separately 1790 to 1850; includes "slaves" and all other "Free Colored" which does not involve serious error in the earlier censuses.

Census figures 1790-1910 are from the latest revisions of the Bureau of the Census. Figures for same area, outside of Manhattan and Brooklyn, are estimates of censuses 1790-1890. Figures for 1900 and 1910 are exact.

[C] Decrease.

To summarize the point, while the Negro population has become a smaller relative part of the total population each decade since 1810, it has shown a decided trend toward a large actual increase.

The distribution of the Negro population has varied with its increase and with the growth of the city. But almost from the beginning, probably the environing white group has segregated the Negroes into separate neighborhoods. The figures available for Brooklyn do not permit a positive inference, but in Manhattan, while the areas populated by Negroes have shifted somewhat from decade to decade, there have been distinctively Colored sections since 1800.[41]

An idea of this segregation is shown in the fact that in 1900, 80.9 per cent of all the Negro population of Manhattan was contained within 12 out of 35 Assembly Districts and that in 1890 seven wards of Manhattan contained fully five-sixths of the Negro population of the Borough. The largest number of Negroes, 13.8 per cent of the total number, were living, in 1900, in the Nineteenth Assembly District with numbers approximating this in the Eleventh, which contained 10.4 per cent, the Twenty-seventh, which had 9.2 per cent, and the Twenty-third, which had 8.7 per cent of the Negro population. The Negro population for Manhattan, 36,246, was distributed in 1900 by assembly districts as is shown in Table IX (p. 49).

These figures give a clear idea of the segregated character of the Negro population and show something of its present location. There has been a decided shifting from the part of Manhattan between Twenty-fifth, Forty-second streets, Sixth and Eighth avenues, and into Harlem between One Hundred and Thirtieth, One Hundred and Fortieth streets, Fifth and Eighth avenues during the past five years as business interests have been taking possession of the zone around the new Pennsylvania Railway Station, between Thirty-second and Thirty-third streets. But as the Negroes have moved into blocks in Harlem, the whites have moved out.


- - - Negro Per cent of Assembly District. population. total. - - - 5th Assembly District 1,378 3.8 9th Assembly District 1,673 4.6 11th Assembly District 3,756 10.4 13th Assembly District 2,584 7.1 17th Assembly District 1,214 3.4 19th Assembly District 4,982 13.8 21st Assembly District 1,135 3.1 23rd Assembly District 3,169 8.7 25th Assembly District 2,950 8.1 27th Assembly District 3,318 9.2 31st Assembly District 1,483 4.1 32nd Assembly District 1,680 4.6 All other Districts 6,924 19.1 - - Total 36,246 100. - - -

The exact character and extent of the segregation of the Negro population may be clearly seen from diagrams of this Harlem district, and of the "San Juan Hill" district in the West Sixties, based upon the latest figures of the Census of 1910. This is given in Diagrams III and IV (pp. 50-51)[42]

With such a distribution of the clearly segregated Negro population, the representative character of the 2,500 families chosen for closer study becomes evident. These families, from figures based upon the original returns of the New York State Census of 1905, were chosen from the Eleventh, the Nineteenth, the Twenty-third, and the Thirty-first districts. The last district was taken in preference to several which contained larger numbers, because it included certain streets that were typical of the Harlem section.

In all 2,639 families were tabulated. Of these 95 were excluded because the heads of these families were of the professional or business classes, 37 because they were too incompletely reported, and 7 because the heads were white. This reduced the number to 2,500 families, which consisted of 9,788 persons, exclusive of 17 white members of these families. The data from the State Census schedules of enumerators were tabulated in regular order as reported by them for each block or part of block for the Negro families that were designated as living in that street or block.

The families studied were from the following territory: Within the Eleventh Assembly District, the area bounded by Thirtieth and Thirty-eighth streets, Seventh and Tenth avenues; within the Nineteenth Assembly District, Sixty-first, Sixty-second, and Sixty-third streets, between Amsterdam and Eleventh avenues, commonly called "San Juan Hill;" within the Twenty-third and Thirty-first Assembly Districts, One Hundred and Thirtieth and One Hundred and Thirty-third streets between Eighth and St. Nicholas avenues, and One Hundred and Thirty-fourth and One Hundred and Thirty-fifth streets between Fifth and Seventh avenues. These three segregated neighborhoods in 1905 may be roughly characterized as follows: The first was probably in the lowest grade of social condition; the second did not show a decidedly predominant type, but ranged from the middle grade toward the more advanced; the third was the most advanced.

A comparison in detail of the distribution by assembly districts of the total Negro population and of the 2,500 selected families shows also that the latter are representative of the several neighborhoods and of the total population. Table X shows the distribution by Assembly Districts of the 2,500 families for comparison with Table IX above, which gave the total Negro population of Manhattan and its distribution.


Assembly District. No. of families. No. of persons. Eleventh 927 3,329 Nineteenth 1,018 4,024 Twenty-third 326 1,581 Thirty-first 229 854 Total 2,500 9,788

In addition to the data of the State Census of 1905, a personal canvass was made in 1909 of 73 families in their homes, having a total of 212 persons. To these were added 153 individuals at one of the evening schools of the city, a total of 365 persons. The localities within which these 365 people lived corresponded in the main to the location of the 2,500 families taken from the State Census of 1905; that is, between Twenty-fifth, Forty-fifth streets, Fifth and Eighth Avenues; Fifty-third, Sixty-fifth streets, west of Sixth Avenue and between One Hundred and Thirtieth and One Hundred and Thirty-sixth streets, Fifth and Seventh Avenues.

To sum up: The assembly districts chosen and the number of families and individuals tabulated from each district are such as to give a fairly accurate description of the clearly segregated wage-earning Negro population of the districts. The study, then, is representative of about one-fourth of the Negro population of Manhattan in 1905, and is so distributed as to be reasonably conclusive for the wage-earning element of the whole Negro population.

The next question is the composition of this toiling Negro population. The general condition of the wage-earning element of this group will now, therefore, engage our attention.


[37] New York Colonial Doc., i, 553.

[38] O'Callaghan, Laws and Ordinances of New Netherlands, 1637-1674, p. 81.

[39] DuBois, Some Notes on Negroes of New York City, p. 5.

[40] The writer has testimony of contemporary witnesses of these disturbances.

[41] Vide DuBois, Notes, etc., p. 1.

[42] Diagrams III and IV were made by Mr. Eugene K. Jones, Field Secretary of the National League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes.




In the 2,500 families composed of 9,788 individuals, the sex distribution and age grouping[44] throw some light upon the life conditions of the wage-earning class. That city life does not look with favor upon a large juvenile element in the population is generally believed. That the city draws mainly those of the working period of life is also generally conceded. The number of children in this Negro group under 15 years of age is 19 per cent, below normal for great cities, and the upper age limit is also quite low, being only 6.6 per cent between forty-five and fifty-four years, and 3.2 per cent over fifty-five years. Thus the bulk of the population, 70.8 per cent, both male and female, excluding 0.4 per cent doubtful and unknown, falls between fifteen and fifty-four years, or within the vigorous working period of life. This is fully set forth in Table XI, which gives the sex distribution and age grouping in assembly districts of the 9,788 individuals in these 2,500 families of the Census of 1905:


-+ + + Male. Female. Total. Age group. + + -+ + -+ + - Per Per Per No. cent No. cent No. cent -+ + -+ + -+ + - Less than 15 years 949 19.6 910 18.4 1859 19.0 15-24 988 20.4 1155 23.4 2143 21.9 25-34 1543 31.8 1546 31.2 3089 31.6 35-44 889 18.4 809 16.4 1698 17.3 45-54 333 6.9 311 6.3 644 6.6 55 and over 128 2.6 188 3.8 316 3.2 Doubtful and unknown 14 0.3 25 0.5 39 0.4 -+ + -+ + -+ + - Totals 4844 100. 4944 100. 9788 100. -+ + -+ + -+ + -

Figures obtained from the personal canvass made in 1909 bear comparison with those of the State Census of 1905. Substantial agreement is to be noted between the two enumerations, except for the larger percentage of those under 15 years of age in 1905 (19.6 per cent male, 18.4 per cent female), and the smaller percentages in the grouping thirty-five to forty-four years (18.4 per cent male, 16.4 per cent female). Doubtless this effect is produced because so many of the cases in 1909 were individuals attending evening school, who were required to be above 14 years of age, and because few over forty-five years of age are attracted to such a place. The other small difference in percentages is due probably to the small number of individuals, 365, in the figures for 1909. The sex distribution and age grouping in 1909 is shown in Table XII, which follows:


-+ + + Male. Female. Total. Age group. + + -+ + -+ + - Per Per Per No. cent No. cent No. cent -+ + -+ + -+ + - Less than 15 years 18 10.2 21 11.2 39 10.7 15-24 35 19.8 37 19.7 72 19.7 25-34 54 30.5 50 26.6 104 28.5 35-44 40 22.6 41 21.8 81 22.2 45-54 11 6.2 21 11.2 32 8.8 55 and over 10 5.6 4 2.1 14 3.8 Doubtful and unknown 9 5.1 14 7.4 23 6.3 -+ + -+ + -+ + - Totals 177 100. 188 100. 365 100. -+ + -+ + -+ + -

The results above correspond also with those of the United States Census of 1900 for the entire City of New York. Making allowance for some families of professional and business classes, probably not excluded from the Census figures for 1900, and for changes which five years interval may have caused, the agreement with the two preceding tables above confirms the representative character of the data for 1905 and 1909. For the total per cent under fifteen years in 1900 was 19.8; in 1905, 19.0; from fifteen to twenty-four years, 24 per cent in 1900, 21.9 per cent in 1905; from twenty-five to thirty-four years, 25.9 per cent in 1900, 31.6 per cent in 1905; from thirty-five to forty-four years, 16.2 per cent in 1900, 17.3 per cent in 1905; from forty-five to fifty-four years, 8.3 per cent in 1900, 6.6 per cent in 1905, and fifty-five years and over, 5.6 per cent in 1900, 3.2 per cent in 1905.[45]

Here, then, is a wage-earning group made up of persons in the younger and more vigorous working period. The small number of children under 15 years of age calls attention to the fact that the growth of this population takes place largely through recruits from other sections of the Country. They must find industrial and social adjustment to a new environment largely made up of the white population. They are either killed off by the conditions under which they work and live, or drift away from the city at a premature old age.

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