List Of Contents | Contents of Education of the Negro by C. D. Warner
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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

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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