Burton, Annie L.
|THE RACE QUESTION IN AMERICA -- DR. P. THOMAS STANFORD -- Author of the "Tragedy of the Negro in America "|
As a member of the negro race, I myself have suffered as a child whose parents were born in slavery, deprived of all influences of the ennobling life, made obedient to the will of the white man by the lash and chain, and sold to the highest bidder when there was no more use for them.
The first negro fact for white thought is--that my clients, the colored people here in America, are not responsible for being here any more than they are responsible for their conditions of ignorance and poverty. They suddenly emerge from their prison house poor, without a home, without food or clothing, and ignorant. Now the enemies of God and of the progress of civilization in our country are to-day introducing a system of slavery with which they hope to again enslave the colored people. To carry out their evil designs they retain able politicians, lawyers and newspapers to represent them, such as Senator Tillman, the Hon. John Temple Graves of Georgia and the Baltimore Sun, and they are trying the negro on four counts which allege that the race is ignorant, cannot be taught, is lazy and immoral.
Now, are the negroes, as a whole, guilty of these charges? In the first place, the negro race of America is not ignorant. In the year 1833 John C. Calhoun, senator from South Carolina, is reported to have said that if he could find a single negro who understood the Greek syntax, he would believe the negro was human and would treat him as such. At that time it was a very safe test. God accepted the challenge in behalf of the negro race, and inspired his white sons and daughters both in the North and South to teach their brothers in black; and a few years afterward black men were examined and the world pronounced them scholars, while later still the schools were using a Greek grammar written by a black man, W. S. Scarborough of Wilberforce, O. In his class were Frederick Douglas, Henry Highland Garnett, Robert Elliot, the Rev. J. C. Price and John M. Langstone, as defenders of the race. Bishop Allen Payne, Bishop Hood and John B. Reaver will ever be remembered for their godly piety and Christian example, as we shall also remember Bishop, Sumner and Bubois for their great literary productions, William Washington Brown as the greatest organizer and financier of the century, Prof. Booker Washington as the greatest industrial educator of the world, and last, but not least, Thomas Condon, the greatest crank for the spiritual training and higher education of the negro race.
Under the leadership of such men, assisted by our white friends and backed up by our colored race journals--the Christian Banner of Philadelphia, the Christian Recorder, the Star of Zion and the Afro-American Ledger of Baltimore,
"In the South we have over $12,000,000 worth of school property, 3,000 teachers, 50 high schools, 17 academies, 125 colleges, 10 law and medical schools, 25 theological seminaries, all doing a mighty work for God and humanity.
Now as to laziness. We have now in practice 14,000 lawyers and doctors, and have accumulated over $150,000,000 worth of church property. In the South we have over 150,000 farms and houses, valued at $900,000,000, and personal property at $170,000,000. We have raised over $11,000,000 for educational purposes. The property per capita for every colored man, woman and child in the United States is estimated at $75, and we are operating successfully several banks and factories; we have 7,500,000 acres of land, and the business activity of the colored people was never as thoroughly aroused as it is to-day.
When I come to deal with the charge of immorality I bow my head and blush for shame, first because if the charge be true, I see they are getting like the white man every day. I know that at the close of the American civil war the 4,000,000 negroes had more than 25 per cent. of white blood coursing through their veins.
What about this new educated negro? Just ask the Pullman Car Company, which employs hundreds of negroes,
Now, you cannot do without the negro, because if you send him away, you will run after him. He is here to stay. The only way to deal successfully with the colored race is God's way. First, recognize that he is your guest; second, recognize that you have robbed him of his birthplace, home, family and savings. It is these facts that are causing so much unrest on the part of the whites in this country. The negro loves his country, which he has proved beyond a doubt in every American battle, in every act of loyalty to his country, and in his long and patient suffering. Pay him what you owe him by educating him. Give him an opportunity to live. Allow him to live in decent parts of your city. Pay wages sufficient to support his children. Do this and God will remove the objectionable negro from the land.
The Negro stands to-day upon an eminence that overlooks more than two decades spent in efforts to ameliorate the condition of seven million immortal souls by opening before their hitherto dark and cheerless lives possibilities of development into a perfect and symmetrical manhood and womanhood.
The retrospect presents to us a picture of a people's moral degradation and mental gloom caused by slavery. A people absolutely sunk in the lowest depth of a poverty which reduced them to objects of charity and surrounded them with difficulties which have ever stood as impregnable barriers in
Hated and oppressed by the combined wisdom, wealth and statesmanship of a mighty confederacy who watched and criticised their mistakes which were strongly magnified by those who fain would write destruction upon the Emancipation; they are expected to rise from this condition.
The idea of giving to the newly enfranchised a sound, practical education was considered at the dawn of freedom, an easy solution of what as an unsolved problem threatened the perpetuity of republican institutions. Within a year from the firing on Sumter, benevolent and farsighted Northern friends had established schools from Washington to the Gulf of Mexico, which became centers of light penetrating the darkness and scattering the blessings of an enlightened manhood far and wide.
The history of the world cannot produce a more affecting spectacle than the growth of this mighty Christian philanthropy which, in beginning amid the din of battle, has steadily marched on through every opposing influence, and lifted a race from weakness to strength, from poverty to wealth, from moral and intellectual nonentity to place and power among the nations of the earth.
We have ten millions of colored people in the United States
Now it is reckoned that the negroes in the United States are paying about $700,000,000 property taxes and this is only one-fifth of all they have accumulated, for the negro is getting more like the white people every day and has learned from him that it is not a sign of loyalty and patriotism to publish his property at its full taxable value.
In education and morals the progress is still greater. As you all know, at the close of the war the whole race was practically illiterate. It was a rare thing, indeed, to find a man of the race who even knew his letters. In 1880 the illiteracy had fallen to 70 per cent. and rapid strides along that line have been made ever since.
To-day there are 37,000 negro teachers in America, of which number 23,000 are regular graduates of high and normal schools and colleges, 23 are college presidents, 169 are principals of seminaries and many are principals of higher institutions. At present there are 369 negro men and women taking courses in the universities of Europe. The negro ministry, together with these teachers have been prepared for
To-day there are those who wish to impede the negro's progress and lessen his educational advantages by industrializing such colleges as Howard University of Washington by placing on their Boards of Trustees and Managers the pronounced leaders of industrialism, giving as a reason that the better he is educated the worse he is; in other words, they say crime has increased among educated negroes. While stern facts show the opposite, the exact figures from the last census show that the greater proportion of the negro criminals are from the illiterate class. To-day the marriage vow, which by the teaching of the whites the negro held to be of so little importance before the war, is guarded more sacredly. The one room cabin, with its attendant evils, is passing away, and the negro woman, the mightiest moral factor in the life of her people, is beginning to be more careful in her deportment and is no longer the easy victim of the unlicensed passion of certain white men. This is a great gain and is a sign of real progress, for no race can rise higher than its women.
Let me plead with the friends of the negro. Please continue to give him higher ideals of a better life and stand by him in the struggle. He has done well with the opportunities given him and is doing something along all the walks of life to help himself, which is gratitude of the best sort. What he needs to-day is moral sympathy, which in his condition years ago he could hardly appreciate. The sympathy
Let this great Christian nation of eighty millions of people do justice to the Black Battalion, and seeing President Roosevelt acknowledges that he overstepped the bounds of his power in discharging and renouncing them before they had a fair trial, and now that they are vindicated before the world, to take back what he called them, Cutthroats, Brutal Murderers, Black Midnight Assassins, and Cowards. This and this alone will to some extent atone for the wrong he has done and help him to regain the respect and confidence of the world.
Now in order to change the condition of things, I would suggest: First, that an international, industrial association be formed to help Afro-Americans to engage in manufacturing and commercial pursuits, assist them to buy farms, erect factories, open shops in which their young men and women can enter and produce what the world requires every day for its inhabitants.
If they were able to-day to produce the articles in common use as boots, shoes, hats, cotton and woolen goods, made-up clothing and enterprises such as farming, mining, forging, carpentering, etc., negroes would find a ready sale in preference
I would suggest "A School History of the Negro Race" to be placed in our public schools as a text book. The general tone of all the histories taught in our public schools points to the inferiority of the negro and the superiority of the white. It must be indeed a stimulus to any people to be able to refer to their ancestry as distinguished in deeds of valor, and particularly so to the colored people. With what eyes can the white child look upon the colored child and the colored child look upon himself, when they have completed the assigned course of United States history, and in it found not one word of credit, not one word of favorable comment for even one among the millions of his fore-parents who have lived through nearly three centuries of his country's history. In them he is credited with no heritage of valor, he is mentioned only as a slave, while true historical records prove him to have been among the bravest of soldiers and a faithful producer of the nation's wealth. Though then a slave to the government, the negro's was the first blood shed in its defence in those days when a foreign foe threatened its destruction. In each and all of the American wars the negro was faithful, yes, faithful in battle while members of his race were being lynched to death; faithful to a land
Last but not least the negro needs a daily newspaper in every large city, managed and edited by members of the race.
Such papers are needed to deal with questions of state and reflect the thoughts of the social world, to enter the province of ethics and tread the domain of morals and to give their opinion on the varying phases of religious truths and pass judgment on matters of a political nature.
There are hidden wrongs perpetrated by the whites against the negro race that will never be brought to light until the race owns and controls its own daily newspapers which alone have the power to discover and enthrone truth, thus becoming a safe guide to all honest seekers of facts respecting the race whether from a moral, educational, political or religious field. To carry out the plans suggested, whether viewed from an intellectual, industrial, commercial, or editorial standpoint, the world must acknowledge that to-day the negro race has the men and women, who are true to their race and all that stands for negro progress.