It seemed as if the light then kindled would not only continue to burn, but would penetrate all the dark and stolid communities. It was my fortune to see many of these institutions in their early days, and to believe that they were full of the greatest promise for the race. I have no intention of criticising the generosity and the noble self- sacrifice that produced them, nor the aspirations of their inmates. There is no doubt that they furnish shining examples of emancipation from ignorance, and of useful lives. But a few years have thrown much light upon the careers and characters of a great proportion of the graduates, and their effect upon the communities of which they form a part, I mean, of course, with regard to the industrial and moral condition of those communities. Have these colleges, as a whole,--[This sentence should have been further qualified by acknowledging the excellent work done by the colleges at Atlanta and Nashville, which, under exceptionally good management, have sent out much-needed teachers. I believe that their success, however, is largely owing to their practical features.-- C.D.W.]--stimulated industry, thrift, the inclination to settle down to the necessary hard work of the world, or have they bred idleness, indisposition to work, a vaporous ambition in politics, and that sort of conceit of gentility of which the world has already enough? If any one is in doubt about this he can satisfy himself by a sojourn in different localities in the South. The condition of New Orleans and its negro universities is often cited. It is a favorable example, because the ambition of the negro has been aided there by influence outside of the schools. The federal government has imposed upon the intelligent and sensitive population negro officials in high positions, because they were negroes and not because they were specially fitted for those positions by character or ability. It is my belief that the condition of the race in New Orleans is lower than it was several years ago, and that the influence of the higher education has been in the wrong direction. This is not saying that the higher education is responsible for the present condition of the negro. Other influences have retarded his elevation and the development of proper character, and most important means have been neglected. I only say that we have been disappointed in our extravagant expectations of what this education could do for a race undeveloped, and so wanting in certain elements of character, and that the millions of money devoted to it might have been much better applied. We face a grave national situation. It cannot be successfully dealt with sentimentally. It should be faced with knowledge and candor. We must admit our mistakes, both social and political, and set about the solution of our problem with intelligent resolution and a large charity. It is not simply a Southern question. It is a Northern question as well. For the truth of this I have only to appeal to the consciousness of all Northern communities in which there are negroes in any considerable numbers. Have the negroes improved, as a rule (always remembering the exceptions), in thrift, truthfulness, morality, in the elements of industrious citizenship, even in States and towns where there has been the least prejudice against their education? In a paper read at the last session of this Association, Professor W. F. Willcox of Cornell University showed by statistics that in proportion to population there were more negro criminals in the North than in the South. "The negro prisoners in the Southern States to ten thousand negroes increased between 1880 and 1890 twenty-nine per cent., while the white prisoners to ten thousand whites increased only eight per cent." "In the States where slavery was never established, the white prisoners increased seven per cent. faster than the white population, while the negro prisoners no less than thirty-nine per cent. faster than the negro population. Thus the increase of negro criminality, so far as it is reflected in the number of prisoners, exceeded the increase of white criminality more in the North than it did in the South." This statement was surprising. It cannot be accounted for by color prejudice at the North; it is related to the known shiftlessness and irresponsibility of a great portion of the negro population. If it could be believed that this shiftlessness is due to the late state of slavery, the explanation would not do away with the existing conditions. Schools at the North have for a long time been open to the negro; though color prejudice exists, he has not been on the whole in an unfriendly atmosphere, and willing hands have been stretched out to help him in his ambition to rise. It is no doubt true, as has been often said lately, that the negro at the North has been crowded out of many occupations by more vigorous races, newly come to this country, crowded out not only of factory industries and agricultural, but of the positions of servants, waiters, barbers, and other minor ways of earning a living. The general verdict is that this loss of position is due to lack of stamina and trustworthiness. Wherever a negro has shown himself able, honest, attentive to the moral and economic duties of a citizen, either successful in accumulating property or filling honorably his station in life, he has gained respect and consideration in the community in which he is known; and this is as true at the South as at the North, notwithstanding the race antagonism is more accentuated by reason of the preponderance of negro population there and the more recent presence of slavery. Upon this ugly race antagonism it is not necessary to enlarge here in discussing the problem of education, and I will leave it with the single observation that I have heard intelligent negroes, who were honestly at work, accumulating property and disposed to postpone active politics to a more convenient season, say that they had nothing to fear from the intelligent white population, but only from the envy of the ignorant. The whole situation is much aggravated by the fact that there is a considerable infusion of white blood in the negro race in the United States, leading to complications and social aspirations that are infinitely pathetic. Time only and no present contrivance of ours can ameliorate this condition. I have made this outline of our negro problem in no spirit of pessimism or of prejudice, but in the belief that the only way to remedy an evil or a difficulty is candidly and fundamentally to understand it. Two things are evident: First, the negro population is certain to increase in the United States, in a ratio at least equal to that of the whites. Second, the South needs its labor. Its deportation is an idle dream. The only visible solution is for the negro to become an integral and an intelligent part of the industrial community. The way may be long, but he must work his way up. Sympathetic aid may do much, but the salvation of the negro is in his own hands, in the development of individual character and a race soul. This is fully understood by his wisest leaders. His worst enemy is the demagogue who flatters him with the delusion that all he needs for his elevation is freedom and certain privileges that were denied him in slavery. In all the Northern cities heroic efforts are made to assimilate the foreign population by education and instruction in Americanism. In the South, in the city and on plantation, the same effort is necessary for the negro, but it must be more radical and fundamental. The common school must be as fully sustained and as far reaching as it is in the North, reaching the lowest in the city slums and the most ignorant in the agricultural districts, but to its strictly elemental teaching must be added moral instructions, and training in industries and in habits of industry. Only by such rudimentary and industrial training can the mass of the negro race in the United States be expected to improve in character and position. A top-dressing of culture on a field with no depth of soil may for a moment stimulate the promise of vegetation, but no fruit will be produced. It is a gigantic task, and generations may elapse before it can in any degree be relaxed. Why attempt it? Why not let things drift as they are? Why attempt to civilize the race within our doors, while there are so many distant and alien races to whom we ought to turn our civilizing attention? The answer is simple and does not need elaboration. A growing ignorant mass in our body politic, inevitably cherishing bitterness of feeling, is an increasing peril to the public. In order to remove this peril, by transforming the negro into an industrial, law-abiding citizen, identified with the prosperity of his country, the cordial assistance of the Southern white population is absolutely essential. It can only be accomplished by regarding him as a man, with the natural right to the development of his capacity and to contentment in a secure social state. The effort for his elevation must be fundamental. The opportunity of the common school must be universal, and attendance in it compulsory. Beyond this, training in the decencies of life, in conduct, and in all the industries, must be offered in such industrial institutions as that of Tuskegee. For the exceptional cases a higher education can be easily provided for those who show themselves worthy of it, but not offered as an indiscriminate panacea. The question at once arises as to the kind of teachers for these schools of various grades. It is one of the most difficult in the whole problem. As a rule, there is little gain, either in instruction or in elevation of character, if the teacher is not the superior of the taught. The learners must respect the attainments and the authority of the teacher. It is a too frequent fault of our common-school system that, owing to inadequate pay and ignorant selections, the teachers are not competent to their responsible task. The highest skill and attainment are needed to evoke the powers of the common mind, even in a community called enlightened. Much more are they needed when the community is only slightly developed mentally and morally. The process of educating teachers of this race, fit to promote its elevation, must be a slow one. Teachers of various industries, such as agriculture and the mechanic arts, will be more readily trained than teachers of the rudiments of learning in the common schools. It is a very grave question whether, with some exceptions, the school and moral training of the race should not be for a considerable time to come in the control of the white race. But it must be kept in mind that instructors cheap in character, attainments, and breeding will do more harm than good. If we give ourselves to this work, we must give of our best. Without the cordial concurrence in this effort of all parties, black and white, local and national, it will not be fruitful in fundamental and permanent good. Each race must accept the present situation and build on it. To this end it is indispensable that one great evil, which was inherent in the reconstruction measures and is still persisted in, shall be eliminated. The party allegiance of the negro was bid for by the temptation of office and position for which he was in no sense fit. No permanent, righteous adjustment of relations can come till this policy is wholly abandoned. Politicians must cease to make the negro a pawn in the game of politics. Let us admit that we have made a mistake. We seem to have expected that we could accomplish suddenly and by artificial Contrivances a development which historically has always taken a long time. Without abatement of effort or loss of patience, let us put ourselves in the common-sense, the scientific, the historic line. It is a gigantic task, only to be accomplished by long labor in accord with the Divine purpose. "Thou wilt not leave us in the dust; Thou madest man, he knows not why, He thinks he was not made to die; And thou hast made him; thou art just. "Oh, yet we trust that somehow good Will be the final goal of ill, To pangs of nature, sins of will, Defects of doubt, and taints of blood. "That nothing walks with aimless feet, That not one life shall be destroyed, Or cast as rubbish to the void, When God hath made the pile complete."
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