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List Of Contents | Contents of Education of the Negro by C. D. Warner
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powerful and brilliant civilizations were developed,--the Egyptian, the
Carthaginian, the Saracenic.  That these civilizations had more than a
surface contact with the interior, we know.  To take the most ancient of
them, and that which longest endured, the Egyptian, the Pharaohs carried
their conquests and their power deep into Africa.  In the story of their
invasions and occupancy of the interior, told in pictures on temple
walls, we find the negro figuring as captive and slave.  This contact may
not have been a fruitful one for the elevation of the negro, but it
proves that for ages he was in one way or another in contact with a
superior civilization.  In later days we find little trace of it in the
home of the negro, but in Egypt the negro has left his impress in the
mixed blood of the Nile valley.

The most striking example of the contact of the negro with a higher
civilization is in the powerful medieval empire of Songhay, established
in the heart of the negro country.  The vast strip of Africa lying north
of the equator and south of the twentieth parallel and west of the upper
Nile was then, as it is now, the territory of tribes distinctly described
as Negro.  The river Niger, running northward from below Jenne to near
Timbuctoo, and then turning west and south to the Gulf of Guinea, flows
through one of the richest valleys in the world.  In richness it is
comparable to that of the Nile and, like that of the Nile, its fertility
depends upon the water of the central stream.  Here arose in early times
the powerful empire of Songhay, which disintegrated and fell into tribal
confusion about the middle of the seventeenth century.  For a long time
the seat of its power was the city of Jenne; in later days it was
Timbuctoo.

This is not the place to enlarge upon this extraordinary piece of
history.  The best account of the empire of Songhay is to be found in the
pages of Barth, the German traveler, who had access to what seemed to him
a credible Arab history.  Considerable light is thrown upon it by a
recent volume on Timbuctoo by M. Dubois, a French traveler.  M. Dubois
finds reason to believe that the founders of the Songhese empire came
from Yemen, and sought refuge from Moslem fanaticism in Central Africa
some hundred and fifty years after the Hejira.  The origin of the empire
is obscure, but the development was not indigenous.  It seems probable
that the settlers, following traders, penetrated to the Niger valley from
the valley of the Nile as early as the third or fourth century of our
era.  An evidence of this early influence, which strengthened from
century to century, Dubois finds in the architecture of Jenne and
Timbuctoo.  It is not Roman or Saracenic or Gothic, it is distinctly
Pharaonic.  But whatever the origin of the Songhay empire, it became in
time Mohammedan, and so continued to the end.  Mohammedanism seems,
however, to have been imposed.  Powerful as the empire was, it was never
free from tribal insurrection and internal troubles.  The highest mark of
negro capacity developed in this history is, according to the record
examined by Barth, that one of the emperors was a negro.

From all that can be gathered in the records, the mass of the negroes,
which constituted the body of this empire, remained pagan, did not
become, except in outward conformity, Mohammedan and did not take the
Moslem civilization as it was developed elsewhere, and that the
disintegration of the empire left the negro races practically where they
were before in point of development.  This fact, if it is not overturned
by further search, is open to the explanation that the Moslem
civilization is not fitted to the development of the African negro.

Contact, such as it has been, with higher civilizations, has not in all
these ages which have witnessed the wonderful rise and development of
other races, much affected or changed the negro.  He is much as he would
be if he had been left to himself.  And left to himself, even in such a
favorable environment as America, he is slow to change.  In Africa there
has been no progress in organization, government, art.

No negro tribe has ever invented a written language.  In his exhaustive
work on the History of Mankind, Professor Frederick Ratzel, having
studied thoroughly the negro belt of Africa, says "of writing properly so
called, neither do the modern negroes show any trace, nor have traces of
older writing been found in negro countries."

From this outline review we come back to the situation in the United
States, where a great mass of negroes--possibly over nine millions of
many shades of colors--is for the first time brought into contact with
Christian civilization.  This mass is here to make or mar our national
life, and the problem of its destiny has to be met with our own.  What
can we do, what ought we to do, for his own good and for our peace and
national welfare?

In the first place, it is impossible to escape the profound impression
that we have made a mistake in our estimate of his evolution as a race,
in attempting to apply to him the same treatment for the development of
character that we would apply to a race more highly organized.  Has he
developed the race consciousness, the race soul, as I said before, a
collective soul, which so strongly marks other races more or less
civilized according to our standards?  Do we find in him, as a mass
(individuals always excepted), that slow deposit of training and
education called "character," any firm basis of order, initiative of
action, the capacity of going alone, any sure foundation of morality?
It has been said that a race may attain a good degree of standing in the
world without the refinement of culture, but never without virtue, either
in the Roman or the modern meaning of that word.

The African, now the American negro, has come in the United States into
a more favorable position for development than he has ever before had
offered.  He has come to it through hardship, and his severe
apprenticeship is not ended.  It is possible that the historians
centuries hence, looking back over the rough road that all races have
traveled in their evolution, may reckon slavery and the forced
transportation to the new world a necessary step in the training of the
negro.  We do not know.  The ways of Providence are not measurable by our
foot rules.  We see that slavery was unjust, uneconomic, and the worst
training for citizenship in such a government as ours.  It stifled a
number of germs that might have produced a better development, such as
individuality, responsibility, and thrift,--germs absolutely necessary to
the well-being of a race.  It laid no foundation of morality, but in
place of morality saw cultivated a superstitious, emotional, hysterical
religion.  It is true that it taught a savage race subordination and
obedience.  Nor did it stifle certain inherent temperamental virtues,
faithfulness, often highly developed, and frequently cheerfulness and
philosophic contentment in a situation that would have broken the spirit
of a more sensitive race.  In short, under all the disadvantages of
slavery the race showed certain fine traits, qualities of humor and good
humor, and capacity for devotion, which were abundantly testified to by
southerners during the progress of the Civil War.  It has, as a race,
traits wholly distinct from those of the whites, which are not only
interesting, but might be a valuable contribution to a cosmopolitan
civilization; gifts also, such as the love of music, and temperamental
gayety, mixed with a note of sadness, as in the Hungarians.

But slavery brought about one result, and that the most difficult in the
development of a race from savagery, and especially a tropical race, a
race that has always been idle in the luxuriance of a nature that
supplied its physical needs with little labor.  It taught the negro to
work, it transformed him, by compulsion it is true, into an industrial
being, and held him in the habit of industry for several generations.
Perhaps only force could do this, for it was a radical transformation.
I am glad to see that this result of slavery is recognized by Mr. Booker
Washington, the ablest and most clear-sighted leader the negro race has
ever had.

But something more was done under this pressure, something more than
creation of a habit of physical exertion to productive ends.  Skill was
developed.  Skilled labor, which needs brains, was carried to a high
degree of performance.  On almost all the Southern plantations, and in
the cities also, negro mechanics were bred, excellent blacksmiths, good
carpenters, and house-builders capable of executing plans of high
architectural merit.  Everywhere were negroes skilled in trades, and
competent in various mechanical industries.

The opportunity and the disposition to labor make the basis of all our
civilization.  The negro was taught to work, to be an agriculturist, a
mechanic, a material producer of something useful.  He was taught this
fundamental thing.  Our higher education, applied to him in his present
development, operates in exactly the opposite direction.

This is a serious assertion.  Its truth or falsehood cannot be
established by statistics, but it is an opinion gradually formed by
experience, and the observation of men competent to judge, who have
studied the problem close at hand.  Among the witnesses to the failure of
the result expected from the establishment of colleges and universities
for the negro are heard, from time to time, and more frequently as time
goes on, practical men from the North, railway men, manufacturers, who
have initiated business enterprises at the South.  Their testimony
coincides with that of careful students of the economic and social
conditions.

There was reason to assume, from our theory and experience of the higher
education in its effect upon white races, that the result would be
different from what it is.  When the negro colleges first opened, there
was a glow of enthusiasm, an eagerness of study, a facility of
acquirement, and a good order that promised everything for the future.

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