The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 1995, Memorial Issue.
Part 4 out of 8
of the feudal condescension of the mistress toward the slave. She
was kind to Sophy, and permitted her to play the role she had
assumed, which caused sometimes a little jealousy among the other
girls. Once she gave Sophy a yellow ribbon which she took from
her own hair. The child carried it home, and cherished it as a
priceless treasure, to be worn only on the greatest occasions.
Sophy had a rival in her attachment to the teacher, but the
rivalry was altogether friendly. Miss Myrover had a little dog, a
white spaniel, answering to the name of Prince. Prince was a dog
of high degree, and would have very little to do with the children
of the school; he made an exception, however, in the case of
Sophy, whose devotion for his mistress he seemed to comprehend.
He was a clever dog, and could fetch and carry, sit up on his
haunches, extend his paw to shake hands, and possessed several
other canine accomplishments. He was very fond of his mistress,
and always, unless shut up at home, accompanied her to school,
where he spent most of his time lying under the teacher's desk,
or, in cold weather, by the stove, except when he would go out now
and then and chase an imaginary rabbit round the yard, presumably
At school Sophy and Prince vied with each other in their
attentions to Miss Myrover. But when school was over, Prince went
away with her, and Sophy stayed behind; for Miss Myrover was white
and Sophy was black, which they both understood perfectly well.
Miss Myrover taught the colored children, but she could not be
seen with them in public. If they occasionally met her on the
street, they did not expect her to speak to them, unless she
happened to be alone and no other white person was in sight. If
any of the children felt slighted, she was not aware of it, for
she intended no slight; she had not been brought up to speak to
negroes on the street, and she could not act differently from
other people. And though she was a woman of sentiment and capable
of deep feeling, her training had been such that she hardly
expected to find in those of darker hue than herself the same
susceptibility--varying in degree, perhaps, but yet the same in
kind--that gave to her own life the alternations of feeling that
made it most worth living.
Once Miss Myrover wished to carry home a parcel of books. She had
the bundle in her hand when Sophy came up.
"Lemme tote yo' bundle fer yer, Miss Ma'y?" she asked eagerly.
"I'm gwine yo' way."
"Thank you, Sophy," was the reply. "I'll be glad if you will."
Sophy followed the teacher at a respectful distance. When they
reached Miss Myrover's home Sophy carried the bundle to the
doorstep, where Miss Myrover took it and thanked her.
Mrs. Myrover came out on the piazza as Sophy was moving away. She
said, in the child's hearing, and perhaps with the intention that
she should hear: "Mary, I wish you wouldn't let those little
darkies follow you to the house. I don't want them in the yard.
I should think you'd have enough of them all day."
"Very well, mother," replied her daughter. "I won't bring any
more of them. The child was only doing me a favor."
Mrs. Myrover was an invalid, and opposition or irritation of any
kind brought on nervous paroxysms that made her miserable, and
made life a burden to the rest of the household; so that Mary
seldom crossed her whims. She did not bring Sophy to the house
again, nor did Sophy again offer her services as porter.
One day in spring Sophy brought her teacher a bouquet of yellow
"Dey come off'n my own bush, Miss Ma'y," she said proudly, "an' I
didn' let nobody e'se pull 'em, but saved 'em all fer you, 'cause
I know you likes roses so much. I'm gwine bring 'em all ter you
as long as dey las'."
"Thank you, Sophy," said the teacher; "you are a very good girl."
For another year Mary Myrover taught the colored school, and did
excellent service. The children made rapid progress under her
tuition, and learned to love her well; for they saw and
appreciated, as well as children could, her fidelity to a trust
that she might have slighted, as some others did, without much
fear of criticism. Toward the end of her second year she
sickened, and after a brief illness died.
Old Mrs. Myrover was inconsolable. She ascribed her daughter's
death to her labors as teacher of negro children. Just how the
color of the pupils had produced the fatal effects she did not
stop to explain. But she was too old, and had suffered too deeply
from the war, in body and mind and estate, ever to reconcile
herself to the changed order of things following the return of
peace; and with an unsound yet not unnatural logic, she visited
some of her displeasure upon those who had profited most, though
passively, by her losses.
"I always feared something would happen to Mary," she said. "It
seemed unnatural for her to be wearing herself out teaching little
negroes who ought to have been working for her. But the world has
hardly been a fit place to live in since the war, and when I
follow her, as I must before long, I shall not be sorry to go."
She gave strict orders that no colored people should be admitted
to the house. Some of her friends heard of this, and
remonstrated. They knew the teacher was loved by the pupils, and
felt that sincere respect from the humble would be a worthy
tribute to the proudest. But Mrs. Myrover was obdurate.
"They had my daughter when she was alive," she said, "and they've
killed her. But she's mine now, and I won't have them come near
her. I don't want one of them at the funeral or anywhere around."
For a month before Miss Myrover's death Sophy had been watching
her rosebush--the one that bore the yellow roses--for the first
buds of spring, and when these appeared had awaited impatiently
their gradual unfolding. But not until her teacher's death had
they become full-blown roses. When Miss Myrover died, Sophy
determined to pluck the roses and lay them on her coffin.
Perhaps, she thought, they might even put them in her hand or on
her breast. For Sophy remembered Miss Myrover's thanks and praise
when she had brought her the yellow roses the spring before.
On the morning of the day set for the funeral Sophy washed her
face until it shone, combed and brushed her hair with painful
conscientiousness, put on her best frock, plucked her yellow
roses, and, tying them with the treasured ribbon her teacher had
given her, set out for Miss Myrover's home.
She went round to the side gate--the house stood on a corner--and
stole up the path to the kitchen. A colored woman, whom she did
not know, came to the door.
"W'at yer want, chile?" she inquired.
"Kin I see Miss Ma'y?" asked Sophy timidly.
"I don' know, honey. Ole Miss Myrover say she don' want no cullud
folks roun' de house endyoin' dis fun'al. I'll look an' see if
she's roun' de front room, whar de co'pse is. You sed-down heah
an' keep still, an' ef she's upstairs maybe I kin git yer in dere
a minute. Ef I can't, I kin put yo' bokay 'mongs' de res', whar
she won't know nuthin' erbout it."
A moment after she had gone there was a step in the hall, and old
Mrs. Myrover came into the kitchen.
"Dinah!" she said in a peevish tone. "Dinah!"
Receiving no answer, Mrs. Myrover peered around the kitchen, and
caught sight of Sophy.
"What are you doing here?" she demanded.
"I--I'm-m waitin' ter see de cook, ma'am," stammered Sophy.
"The cook isn't here now. I don't know where she is. Besides, my
daughter is to be buried to-day, and I won't have any one visiting
the servants until the funeral is over. Come back some other day,
or see the cook at her own home in the evening."
She stood waiting for the child to go, and under the keen glance
of her eyes Sophy, feeling as though she had been caught in some
disgraceful act, hurried down the walk and out of the gate, with
her bouquet in her hand.
"Dinah," said Mrs. Myrover, when the cook came back, "I don't want
any strange people admitted here to-day. The house will be full
of our friends, and we have no room for others."
"Yas'm," said the cook. She understood perfectly what her
mistress meant; and what the cook thought about her mistress was a
matter of no consequence.
The funeral services were held at St. John's Episcopal Church,
where the Myrovers had always worshiped. Quite a number of Miss
Myrover's pupils went to the church to attend the services. The
church was not a large one. There was a small gallery at the
rear, to which colored people were admitted, if they chose to
come, at ordinary services; and those who wished to be present at
the funeral supposed that the usual custom would prevail. They
were therefore surprised, when they went to the side entrance, by
which colored people gained access to the gallery stairs, to be
met by an usher who barred their passage.
"I'm sorry," he said, "but I have had orders to admit no one until
the friends of the family have all been seated. If you wish to
wait until the white people have all gone in, and there's any room
left, you may be able to get into the back part of the gallery.
Of course I can't tell yet whether there'll be any room or not."
Now the statement of the usher was a very reasonable one; but,
strange to say, none of the colored people chose to remain except
Sophy. She still hoped to use her floral offering for its
destined end, in some way, though she did not know just how. She
waited in the yard until the church was filled with white people,
and a number who could not gain admittance were standing about the
doors. Then she went round to the side of the church, and,
depositing her bouquet carefully on an old mossy gravestone,
climbed up on the projecting sill of a window near the chancel.
The window was of stained glass, of somewhat ancient make. The
church was old, had indeed been built in colonial times, and the
stained glass had been brought from England. The design of the
window showed Jesus blessing little children. Time had dealt
gently with the window; but just at the feet of the figure of
Jesus a small triangular piece of glass had been broken out. To
this aperture Sophy applied her eyes, and through it saw and heard
what she could of the services within.
Before the chancel, on trestles draped in black, stood the sombre
casket in which lay all that was mortal of her dear teacher. The
top of the casket was covered with flowers; and lying stretched
out underneath it she saw Miss Myrover's little white dog, Prince.
He had followed the body to the church, and, slipping in unnoticed
among the mourners, had taken his place, from which no one had the
heart to remove him.
The white-robed rector read the solemn service for the dead, and
then delivered a brief address, in which he spoke of the
uncertainty of life, and, to the believer, the certain blessedness
of eternity. He spoke of Miss Myrover's kindly spirit, and, as an
illustration of her love and self-sacrifice for others, referred
to her labors as a teacher of the poor ignorant negroes who had
been placed in their midst by an all-wise Providence, and whom it
was their duty to guide and direct in the station in which God had
put them. Then the organ pealed, a prayer was said, and the long
cortege moved from the church to the cemetery, about half a mile
away, where the body was to be interred.
When the services were over, Sophy sprang down from her perch,
and, taking her flowers, followed the procession. She did not
walk with the rest, but at a proper and respectful distance from
the last mourner. No one noticed the little black girl with the
bunch of yellow flowers, or thought of her as interested in the
The cortege reached the cemetery and filed slowly through the
gate; but Sophy stood outside, looking at a small sign in white
letters on a black background:--
"NOTICE. This cemetery is for white people only. Others please
Sophy, thanks to Miss Myrover's painstaking instruction, could
read this sign very distinctly. In fact, she had often read it
before. For Sophy was a child who loved beauty, in a blind,
groping sort of way, and had sometimes stood by the fence of the
cemetery and looked through at the green mounds and shaded walks
and blooming flowers within, and wished that she could walk among
them. She knew, too, that the little sign on the gate, though so
courteously worded, was no mere formality; for she had heard how a
colored man, who had wandered into the cemetery on a hot night and
fallen asleep on the flat top of a tomb, had been arrested as a
vagrant and fined five dollars, which he had worked out on the
streets, with a ball-and-chain attachment, at twenty-five cents a
day. Since that time the cemetery gate had been locked at night.
So Sophy stayed outside, and looked through the fence. Her poor
bouquet had begun to droop by this time, and the yellow ribbon had
lost some of its freshness. Sophy could see the rector standing
by the grave, the mourners gathered round; she could faintly
distinguish the solemn words with which ashes were committed to
ashes, and dust to dust. She heard the hollow thud of the earth
falling on the coffin; and she leaned against the iron fence,
sobbing softly, until the grave was filled and rounded off, and
the wreaths and other floral pieces were disposed upon it. When
the mourners began to move toward the gate, Sophy walked slowly
down the street, in a direction opposite to that taken by most of
the people who came out.
When they had all gone away, and the sexton had come out and
locked the gate behind him, Sophy crept back. Her roses were
faded now, and from some of them the petals had fallen. She stood
there irresolute, loath to leave with her heart's desire
unsatisfied, when, as her eyes fell upon the teacher's last
resting place, she saw lying beside the new-made grave what looked
like a small bundle of white wool. Sophy's eyes lighted up with a
"Prince! Here, Prince!" she called.
The little dog rose, and trotted down to the gate. Sophy pushed
the poor bouquet between the iron bars. "Take that ter Miss Ma'y,
Prince," she said, "that's a good doggie."
The dog wagged his tail intelligently, took the bouquet carefully
in his mouth, carried it to his mistress's grave, and laid it
among the other flowers. The bunch of roses was so small that
from where she stood Sophy could see only a dash of yellow against
the white background of the mass of flowers.
When Prince had performed his mission he turned his eyes toward
Sophy inquiringly, and when she gave him a nod of approval lay
down and resumed his watch by the graveside. Sophy looked at him
a moment with a feeling very much like envy, and then turned and
moved slowly away.
THE CASE OF THE NEGRO
by Booker T. Washington
All attempts to settle the question of the Negro in the South by
his removal from this country have so far failed, and I think that
they are likely to fail. The next census will probably show that
we have nearly ten million black people in the United States,
about eight millions of whom are in the Southern states. In fact,
we have almost a nation within a nation. The Negro population in
the United States lacks but two millions of being as large as the
whole population of Mexico, and is nearly twice as large as that
of Canada. Our black people equal in number the combined
populations of Switzerland, Greece, Honduras, Nicaragua, Cuba,
Uraguay [sic], Santo Domingo, Paraguay, and Costa Rica. When we
consider, in connection with these facts, that the race has
doubled itself since its freedom, and is still increasing, it
hardly seems possible for any one to take seriously any scheme of
emigration from America as a method of solution. At most, even if
the government were to provide the means, but a few hundred
thousand could be transported each year. The yearly increase in
population would more than likely overbalance the number
transported. Even if it did not, the time required to get rid of
the Negro by this method would perhaps be fifty or seventy-five
Some have advised that the Negro leave the South, and take up his
residence in the Northern states. I question whether this would
make him any better off than he is in the South, when all things
are considered. It has been my privilege to study the condition
of our people in nearly every part of America; and I say without
hesitation that, with some exceptional cases, the Negro is at his
best in the Southern states. While he enjoys certain privileges
in the North that he does not have in the South, when it comes to
the matter of securing property, enjoying business advantages and
employment, the South presents a far better opportunity than the
North. Few colored men from the South are as yet able to stand up
against the severe and increasing competition that exists in the
North, to say nothing of the unfriendly influence of labor
organizations, which in some way prevents black men in the North,
as a rule, from securing occupation in the line of skilled labor.
Another point of great danger for the colored man who goes North
is the matter of morals, owing to the numerous temptations by
which he finds himself surrounded. More ways offer in which he
can spend money than in the South, but fewer avenues of employment
for earning money are open to him. The fact that at the North the
Negro is almost confined to one line of occupation often tends to
discourage and demoralize the strongest who go from the South, and
makes them an easy prey for temptation. A few years ago, I made
an examination into the condition of a settlement of Negroes who
left the South and went into Kansas about twenty years since, when
there was a good deal of excitement in the South concerning
emigration from the West, and found it much below the standard of
that of similar communities in the South. The only conclusion
which any one can reach, from this and like instances, is that the
Negroes are to remain in the Southern states. As a race they do
not want to leave the South, and the Southern white people do not
want them to leave. We must therefore find some basis of
settlement that will be constitutional, just, manly; that will be
fair to both races in the South and to the whole country. This
cannot be done in a day, a year, or any short period of time. We
can, however, with the present light, decide upon a reasonably
safe method of solving the problem, and turn our strength and
effort in that direction. In doing this, I would not have the
Negro deprived of any privilege guaranteed to him by the
Constitution of the United States. It is not best for the Negro
that he relinquish any of his constitutional rights; it is not
best for the Southern white man that he should, as I shall attempt
to show in this article.
In order that we may concentrate our forces upon a wise object,
without loss of time or effort, I want to suggest what seems to me
and many others the wisest policy to be pursued. I have reached
these conclusions not only by reason of my own observations and
experience, but after eighteen years of direct contact with
leading and influential colored and white men in most parts of our
country. But I wish first to mention some elements of danger in
the present situation, which all who desire the permanent welfare
of both races in the South should carefully take into account.
First. There is danger that a certain class of impatient
extremists among the Negroes in the North, who have little
knowledge of the actual conditions in the South, may do the entire
race injury by attempting to advise their brethren in the South to
resort to armed resistance or the use of the torch, in order to
secure justice. All intelligent and well-considered discussion of
any important question, or condemnation of any wrong, whether in
the North or the South, from the public platform and through the
press, is to be commended and encouraged; but ill-considered and
incendiary utterances from black men in the North will tend to add
to the burdens of our people in the South rather than to relieve
them. We must not fall into the temptation of believing that we
can raise ourselves by abusing some one else.
Second. Another danger in the South which should be guarded
against is that the whole white South, including the wise,
conservative, law-abiding element, may find itself represented
before the bar of public opinion by the mob or lawless element,
which gives expression to its feelings and tendency in a manner
that advertises the South throughout the world; while too often
those who have no sympathy with such disregard of law are either
silent, or fail to speak in a sufficiently emphatic manner to
offset in any large degree the unfortunate reputation which the
lawless have made for many portions of the South.
Third. No race or people ever got upon its feet without severe
and constant struggle, often in the face of the greatest
discouragement. While passing through the present trying period
of its history, there is danger that a large and valuable element
of the Negro race may become discouraged in the effort to better
its condition. Every possible influence should be exerted to
Fourth. There is a possibility that harm may be done to the South
and to the Negro by exaggerated newspaper articles which are
written near the scene or in the midst of specially aggravating
occurrences. Often these reports are written by newspaper men,
who give the impression that there is a race conflict throughout
the South, and that all Southern white people are opposed to the
Negro's progress; overlooking the fact that though in some
sections there is trouble, in most parts of the South, if matters
are not yet in all respects as we would have them, there is
nevertheless a very large measure of peace, good will, and mutual
helpfulness. In the same relation, much can be done to retard the
progress of the Negro by a certain class of Southern white people,
who in the midst of excitement speak or write in a manner that
gives the impression that all Negroes are lawless, untrustworthy,
and shiftless. For example, a Southern writer said, not long ago,
in a communication to the New York Independent: "Even in small
towns the husband cannot venture to leave his wife alone for an
hour at night. At no time, in no place, is the white woman safe
from the insults and assaults of these creatures." These
statements, I presume, represented the feelings and the conditions
that existed, at the time of the writing, in one community or
county in the South; but thousands of Southern white men and women
would be ready to testify that this is not the condition
throughout the South, nor throughout any Southern state.
Fifth. Owing to the lack of school opportunities for the Negro in
the rural districts of the South, there is danger that ignorance
and idleness may increase to the extent of giving the Negro race a
reputation for crime, and that immorality may eat its way into the
fibre of the race so as to retard its progress for many years. In
judging the Negro we must not be too harsh. We must remember that
it has been only within the last thirty-four years that the black
father and mother have had the responsibility, and consequently
the experience, of training their own children. That perfection
has not been reached in one generation, with the obstacles that
the parents have been compelled to overcome, is not to be wondered
Sixth. Finally, I would mention my fear that some of the white
people of the South may be led to feel that the way to settle the
race problem is to repress the aspirations of the Negro by
legislation of a kind that confers certain legal or political
privileges upon an ignorant and poor white man, and withholds the
same privileges from a black man in a similar condition. Such
legislation injures and retards the progress of both races. It is
an injustice to the poor white man, because it takes from him
incentive to secure education and property as prerequisites for
voting. He feels that because he is a white man, regardless of
his possessions, a way will be found for him to vote. I would
label all such measures "laws to keep the poor white man in
ignorance and poverty."
The Talladega News Reporter, a Democratic newspaper of Alabama,
recently said: "But it is a weak cry when the white man asks odds
on intelligence over the Negro. When nature has already so
handicapped the African in the race for knowledge, the cry of the
boasted Anglo-Saxon for still further odds seems babyish. What
wonder that the world looks on in surprise, if not disgust? It
cannot help but say, If our contention be true that the Negro is
an inferior race, then the odds ought to be on the other side, if
any are to be given. And why not? No; the thing to do--the only
thing that will stand the test of time--is to do right, exactly
right, let come what will. And that right thing, as it seems to
us, is to place a fair educational qualification before every
citizen,--one that is self-testing, and not dependent on the
wishes of weak men,--letting all who pass the test stand in the
proud ranks of American voters, whose votes shall be counted as
cast, and whose sovereign will shall be maintained as law by all
the powers that be. Nothing short of this will do. Every
exemption, on whatsoever ground, is an outrage that can only rob
some legitimate voter of his rights."
Such laws have been made,--in Mississippi, for example,--with the
"understanding" clause, hold out a temptation for the election
officer to perjure and degrade himself by too often deciding that
the ignorant white man does understand the Constitution when it is
read to him, and that the ignorant black man does not. By such a
law, the state not only commits a wrong against its black
citizens; it injures the morals of its white citizens by
conferring such a power upon any white man who may happen to be a
judge of elections.
Such laws are hurtful, again, because they keep alive in the heart
of the black man the feeling that the white man means to oppress
him. The only safe way out is to set a high standard as a test of
citizenship, and require blacks and whites alike to come up to it.
When this is done, both will have a higher respect for the
election laws, and for those who make them. I do not believe
that, with his centuries of advantage over the Negro in the
opportunity to acquire property and education as prerequisites for
voting, the average white man in the South desires that any
special law be passed to give him further advantage over one who
has had but a little more than thirty years in which to prepare
himself for citizenship. In this relation, another point of
danger is that the Negro has been made to feel that it is his duty
continually to oppose the Southern white man in politics, even in
matters where no principle is involved; and that he is only loyal
to his own race and acting in a manly way in thus opposing the
white man. Such a policy has proved very hurtful to both races.
Where it is a matter of principle, where a question of right or
wrong is involved, I would advise the Negro to stand by principle
at all hazards. A Southern white man has no respect for or
confidence in a Negro who acts merely for policy's sake; but there
are many cases, and the number is growing, where the Negro has
nothing to gain, and much to lose, by opposing the Southern white
man in matters that relate to government.
Under the foregoing six heads I believe I have stated some of the
main points which, all high-minded white men and black men, North
and South, will agree, need our most earnest and thoughtful
consideration, if we would hasten, and not hinder, the progress of
Now as to the policy that should be pursued. On this subject I
claim to possess no superior wisdom or unusual insight. I may be
wrong; I may be in some degree right.
In the future we want to impress upon the Negro, more than we have
done in the past, the importance of identifying himself more
closely with the interests of the South; of making himself part of
the South, and at home in it. Heretofore, for reasons which were
natural, and for which no one is especially to blame, the colored
people have been too much like a foreign nation residing in the
midst of another nation. If William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell
Phillips, or George L. Stearns were alive to-day, I feel sure that
he would advise the Negroes to identify their interests as closely
as possible with those of their white neighbors,--always
understanding that no question of right and wrong is involved. In
no other way, it seems to me, can we get a foundation for peace
and progress. He who advises against this policy will advise the
Negro to do that which no people in history, who have succeeded,
have done. The white man, North or South, who advises the Negro
against it advises him to do that which he himself has not done.
The bed rock upon which every individual rests his chances for
success in life is the friendship, the confidence, the respect, of
his next-door neighbor in the little community in which he lives.
The problem of the Negro in the South turns on whether he can make
himself of such indispensable service to his neighbor and the
community that no one can fill his place better in the body
politic. There is at present no other safe course for the black
man to pursue. If the Negro in the South has a friend in his
white neighbor, and a still larger number of friends in his own
community, he has a protection and a guarantee of his rights that
will be more potent and more lasting than any our Federal Congress
or any outside power can confer.
The London Times, in a recent editorial discussing affairs in the
Transvaal, where Englishmen have been denied certain privileges by
the Boers, says: "England is too sagacious not to prefer a gradual
reform from within, even should it be less rapid than most of us
might wish, to the most sweeping redress of grievances imposed
from without. Our object is to obtain fair play for the
Outlanders, but the best way to do it is to enable them to help
themselves." This policy, I think, is equally safe when applied
to conditions in the South. The foreigner who comes to America
identifies himself as soon as possible, in business, education,
and politics, with the community in which he settles. We have a
conspicuous example of this in the case of the Jews, who in the
South, as well as in other parts of our country, have not always
been justly treated; but the Jews have so woven themselves into
the business and patriotic interests of the communities in which
they live, have made themselves so valuable as citizens, that they
have won a place in the South which they could have obtained in no
other way. The Negro in Cuba has practically settled the race
question there, because he has made himself a part of Cuba in
thought and action.
What I have tried to indicate cannot be accomplished by any sudden
revolution of methods, but it does seem that the tendency should
be more and more in this direction. Let me emphasize this by a
practical example. The North sends thousands of dollars into the
South every year for the education of the Negro. The teachers in
most of the Southern schools supported by the North are Northern
men and women of the highest Christian culture and most unselfish
devotion. The Negro owes them a debt of gratitude which can never
be paid. The various missionary societies in the North have done
a work which to a large degree has proved the salvation of the
South, and the results of it will appear more in future
generations than in this. We have now reached the point, in the
South, where, I believe, great good could be accomplished in
changing the attitude of the white people toward the Negro, and of
the Negro toward the whites, if a few Southern white teachers, of
high character, would take an active interest in the work of our
higher schools. Can this be done? Yes. The medical school
connected with Shaw University at Raleigh, North Carolina, has
from the first had as instructors and professors almost
exclusively Southern white doctors who reside in Raleigh, and they
have given the highest satisfaction. This gives the people of
Raleigh the feeling that the school is theirs, and not something
located in, but not a part of, the South. In Augusta, Georgia,
the Payne Institute, one of the best colleges for our people, is
officered and taught almost wholly by Southern white men and
women. The Presbyterian Theological School at Tuscaloosa,
Alabama, has only Southern white men as instructors. Some time
ago, at the Calhoun School in Alabama, one of the leading white
men in the county was given an important position; since then the
feeling of the white people in the county has greatly changed
toward the school.
We must admit the stern fact that at present the Negro, through no
choice of his own, is living in the midst of another race, which
is far ahead of him in education, property, and experience; and
further, that the Negro's present condition makes him dependent
upon the white people for most of the things necessary to sustain
life, as well as, in a large measure, for his education. In all
history, those who have possessed the property and intelligence
have exercised the greatest control in government, regardless of
color, race, or geographical location. This being the case, how
can the black man in the South improve his estate? And does the
Southern white man want him to improve it? The latter part of
this question I shall attempt to answer later in this article.
The Negro in the South has it within his power, if he properly
utilizes the forces at land, to make of himself such a valuable
factor in the life of the South that for the most part he need not
seek privileges, but they will be conferred upon him. To bring
this about, the Negro must begin at the bottom and lay a sure
foundation, and not be lured by any temptation into trying to rise
on a false footing. While the Negro is laying this foundation, he
will need help and sympathy and justice from the law. Progress by
any other method will be but temporary and superficial, and the
end of it will be worse than the beginning. American slavery was
a great curse to both races, and I should be the last to apologize
for it; but in the providence of God I believe that slavery laid
the foundation for the solution of the problem that is now before
us in the South. Under slavery, the Negro was taught every trade,
every industry, that furnishes the means of earning a living. Now
if on this foundation, laid in a rather crude way, it is true, but
a foundation nevertheless, we can gradually grow and improve, the
future for us is bright. Let me be more specific. Agriculture is
or has been the basic industry of nearly every race or nation that
has succeeded. The Negro got a knowledge of this under slavery:
hence in a large measure he is in possession of this industry in
the South to-day. Taking the whole South, I should say that
eighty per cent of the Negroes live by agriculture in some form,
though it is often a very primitive and crude form. The Negro can
buy land in the South, as a rule, wherever the white man can buy
it, and at very low prices. Now, since the bulk of our people
already have a foundation in agriculture, are at their best when
living in the country engaged in agricultural pursuits, plainly,
the best thing, the logical thing, is to turn the larger part of
our strength in a direction that will put the Negroes among the
most skilled agricultural people in the world. The man who has
learned to do something better than any one else, has learned to
do a common thing in an uncommon manner, has power and influence
which no adverse surroundings can take from him. It is better to
show a man how to make a place for himself than to put him in one
that some one else has made for him. The Negro who can make
himself so conspicuous as a successful farmer, a large taxpayer, a
wise helper of his fellow men, as to be placed in a position of
trust and honor by natural selection, whether the position be
political or not, is a hundredfold more secure in that position
than one placed there by mere outside force or pressure. I know a
Negro, Hon. Isaiah T. Montgomery, in Mississippi, who is mayor of
a town; it is true that the town is composed almost wholly of
Negroes. Mr. Montgomery is mayor of this town because his genius,
thrift, and foresight have created it; and he is held and
supported in his office by a charter granted by the state of
Mississippi, and by the vote and public sentiment of the community
in which he lives.
Let us help the Negro by every means possible to acquire such an
education in farming, dairying, stock-raising, horticulture, etc.,
as will place him near the top in these industries, and the race
problem will in a large part be settled, or at least stripped of
many of its most perplexing elements. This policy would also tend
to keep the Negro in the country and smaller towns, where he
succeeds best, and stop the influx into the large cities, where he
does not succeed so well. The race, like the individual, which
produces something of superior worth that has a common human
interest, wins a permanent place, and is bound to be recognized.
At a county fair in the South, not long ago, I saw a Negro awarded
the first prize, by a jury of white men, over white competitors,
for the production of the best specimen of Indian corn. Every
white man at the fair seemed to be proud of the achievement of the
Negro, because it was apparent that he had done something that
would add to the wealth and comfort of the people of both races in
that county. At the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, in
Alabama, we have a department devoted to training men along the
lines of agriculture that I have named; but what we are doing is
small when compared with what should be done in Tuskegee, and at
other educational centres. In a material sense the South is still
an undeveloped country. While in some other affairs race
prejudice is strongly marked, in the matter of business, of
commercial and industrial development, there are few obstacles in
the Negro's way. A Negro who produces or has for sale something
that the community wants finds customers among white people as
well as black. Upon equal security, a Negro can borrow money at
the bank as readily as a white man can. A bank in Birmingham,
Alabama, which has existed ten years, is officered and controlled
wholly by Negroes. This bank has white borrowers and white
depositors. A graduate of the Tuskegee Institute keeps a well-
appointed grocery store in Tuskegee, and he tells me that he sells
about as many goods to one race as to the other. What I have said
of the opening that awaits the Negro in the business of
agriculture is almost equally true of mechanics, manufacturing,
and all the domestic arts. The field is before him and right
about him. Will he seize upon it? Will he "cast down his bucket
where he is"? Will his friends, North and South, encourage him
and prepare him to occupy it? Every city in the South, for
example, would give support to a first-class architect or
housebuilder or contractor of our race. The architect or
contractor would not only receive support, but through his example
numbers of young colored men would learn such trades as carpentry,
brickmasonry, plastering, painting, etc., and the race would be
put into a position to hold on to many of the industries which it
is now in danger of losing, because in too many cases brain,
skill, and dignity are not imparted to the common occupations.
Any individual or race that does not fit itself to occupy in the
best manner the field or service that is right about it will
sooner or later be asked to move on and let another take it.
But I may be asked, Would you confine the Negro to agriculture,
mechanics, the domestic arts, etc.? Not at all; but just now and
for a number of years the stress should be laid along the lines
that I have mentioned. We shall need and must have many teachers
and ministers, some doctors and lawyers and statesmen, but these
professional men will have a constituency or a foundation from
which to draw support just in proportion as the race prospers
along the economic lines that I have pointed out. During the
first fifty or one hundred years of the life of any people, are
not the economic occupations always given the greater attention?
This is not only the historic, but, I think, the common-sense
view. If this generation will lay the material foundation, it
will be the quickest and surest way for enabling later generations
to succeed in the cultivation of the fine arts, and to surround
themselves with some of the luxuries of life, if desired. What
the race most needs now, in my opinion, is a whole army of men and
women well-trained to lead, and at the same time devote
themselves to agriculture, mechanics, domestic employment, and
business. As to the mental training that these educated leaders
should be equipped with, I should say, give them all the mental
training and culture that the circumstances of individuals will
allow,--the more the better. No race can permanently succeed
until its mind is awakened and strengthened by the ripest thought.
But I would constantly have it kept in the minds of those who are
educated in books that a large proportion of those who are
educated should be so trained in hand that they can bring this
mental strength and knowledge to bear upon the physical conditions
in the South, which I have tried to emphasize.
Frederick Douglass, of sainted memory, once, in addressing his
race, used these words: "We are to prove that we can better our
own condition. One way to do this is to accumulate property.
This may sound to you like a new gospel. You have been accustomed
to hear that money is the root of all evil, etc.; on the other
hand, property, money, if you please, will purchase for us the
only condition by which any people can rise to the dignity of
genuine manhood; for without property there can be no leisure,
without leisure there can be no thought, without thought there can
be no invention, without invention there can be no progress."
The Negro should be taught that material development is not an
end, but merely a means to an end. As professor W. E. B. Du Bois
puts it, the idea should not be simply to make men carpenters, but
to make carpenters men. The Negro has a highly religious
temperament; but what he needs more and more is to be convinced of
the importance of weaving his religion and morality into the
practical affairs of daily life. Equally does he need to be
taught to put so much intelligence into his labor that he will see
dignity and beauty in the occupation, and love it for its own
sake. The Negro needs to be taught to apply more of the religion
that manifests itself in his happiness in prayer meeting to the
performance of his daily task. The man who owns a home, and is in
the possession of the elements by which he is sure of a daily
living, has a great aid to a moral and religious life. What
bearing will all this have upon the Negro's place in the South, as
a citizen and in the enjoyment of the privileges which our
To state in detail just what place the black man will occupy in
the South as a citizen, when he has developed in the direction
named, is beyond the wisdom of any one. Much will depend upon the
sense of justice which can be kept alive in the breast of the
American people; almost as much will depend upon the good sense of
the Negro himself. That question, I confess, does not give me the
most concern just now. The important and pressing question is,
Will the Negro, with his own help and that of his friends, take
advantage of the opportunities that surround him? When he has
done this, I believe, speaking of his future in general terms,
that he will be treated with justice, be given the protection of
the law and the recognition which his usefulness and ability
warrant. If, fifty years ago, one had predicted that the Negro
would receive the recognition and honor which individuals have
already received, he would have been laughed at as an idle
dreamer. Time, patience, and constant achievement are great
factors in the rise of a race.
I do not believe that the world ever takes a race seriously, in
its desire to share in the government of a nation, until a large
number of individual members of that race have demonstrated beyond
question their ability to control and develop their own business
enterprises. Once a number of Negroes rise to the point where
they own and operate the most successful farms, are among the
largest taxpayers in their county, are moral and intelligent, I do
not believe that in many portions of the South such men need long
be denied the right of saying by their votes how they prefer their
property to be taxed, and who are to make and administer the laws.
I was walking the street of a certain town in the South lately in
company with the most prominent Negro there. While we were
together, the mayor of the town sought out the black man, and
said, "Next week we are going to vote on the question of issuing
bonds to secure water-works; you must be sure to vote on the day
of election." The mayor did not suggest whether he should vote
yes or no; but he knew that the very fact of this Negro's owning
nearly a block of the most valuable property in the town was a
guarantee that he would cast a safe, wise vote on this important
proposition. The white man knew that because of this Negro's
property interests he would cast his vote in the way he thought
would benefit every white and black citizen in the town, and not
be controlled by influences a thousand miles away. But a short
time ago I read letters from nearly every prominent white man in
Birmingham, Alabama, asking that the Rev. W. R. Pettiford, a
Negro, be appointed to a certain important federal office. What
is the explanation of this? For nine years Mr. Pettiford has been
the president of the Negro bank in Birmingham, to which I have
alluded. During these nine years, the white citizens have had the
opportunity of seeing that Mr. Pettiford can manage successfully a
private business, and that he has proved himself a conservative,
thoughtful citizen, and they are willing to trust him in a public
office. Such individual examples will have to be multiplied, till
they become more nearly the rule than the exception they now are.
While we are multiplying these examples, the Negro must keep a
strong and courageous heart. He cannot improve his condition by
any short-cut course or by artificial methods. Above all, he must
not be deluded into believing that his condition can be
permanently bettered by a mere battledoor [sic] and shuttlecock of
words, or by any process of mere mental gymnastics or oratory.
What is desired along with a logical defense of his cause are
deeds, results,--continued results, in the direction of building
himself up, so as to leave no doubt in the mind of any one of his
ability to succeed.
An important question often asked is, Does the white man in the
South want the Negro to improve his present condition? I say yes.
From the Montgomery (Alabama) Daily Advertiser I clip the
following in reference to the closing of a colored school in a
town in Alabama:--
"EUFALA, May 25, 1899. The closing exercises of the city colored
public school were held at St. Luke's A. M. E. Church last night,
and were witnessed by a large gathering, including many whites.
The recitations by the pupils were excellent, and the music was
also an interesting feature. Rev. R. T. Pollard delivered the
address, which was quite an able one, and the certificates were
presented by Professor T. L. McCoy, white, of the Sanford Street
School. The success of the exercises reflects great credit on
Professor S. M. Murphy, the principal, who enjoys a deserved good
reputation as a capable and efficient educator."
I quote this report, not because it is the exception, but because
such marks of interest in the education of the Negro on the part
of the Southern white people may be seen almost every day in the
local papers. Why should white people, by their presence, words,
and actions, encourage the black man to get education, if they do
not desire him to improve his condition?
The Payne Institute, an excellent college, to which I have already
referred, is supported almost wholly by the Southern white
Methodist church. The Southern white Presbyterians support a
theological school for Negroes at Tuscaloosa. For a number of
years the Southern white Baptists have contributed toward Negro
education. Other denominations have done the same. If these
people do not want the Negro educated to a higher standard, there
is no reason why they should pretend they do.
Though some of the lynchings in the South have indicated a
barbarous feeling toward Negroes, Southern white men here and
there, as well as newspapers, have spoken out strongly against
lynching. I quote from the address of the Rev. Mr. Vance, of
Nashville, Tennessee, delivered before the National Sunday School
Union, in Atlanta, not long since, as an example:--
"And yet, as I stand here to-night, a Southerner speaking for my
section and addressing an audience from all sections, there is one
foul blot upon the fair fame of the South, at the bare mention of
which the heart turns sick and the cheek is crimsoned with shame.
I want to lift my voice to-night in loud and long and indignant
protest against the awful horror of mob violence, which the other
day reached the climax of its madness and infamy in a deed as
black and brutal and barbarous as can be found in the annals of
"I have a right to speak on the subject, and I propose to be
heard. The time has come for every lover of the South to set the
might of an angered and resolute manhood against the shame and
peril of the lynch demon. These people whose fiendish glee taunts
their victim as his flesh crackles in the flames do not represent
the South. I have not a syllable of apology for the sickening
crime they meant to avenge. But it is high time we were learning
that lawlessness is no remedy for crime. For one, I dare to
believe that the people of my section are able to cope with crime,
however treacherous and defiant, through their courts of justice;
and I plead for the masterful sway of a righteous and exalted
public sentiment that shall class lynch law in the category with
It is a notable and encouraging fact that no Negro educated in any
of our larger institutions of learning in the South has been
charged with any of the recent crimes connected with assaults upon
If we go on making progress in the directions that I have tried to
indicate, more and more the South will be drawn to one course. As
I have already said, it is not to the best interests of the white
race of the South that the Negro be deprived of any privilege
guaranteed him by the Constitution of the United States. This
would put upon the South a burden under which no government could
stand and prosper. Every article in our Federal Constitution was
placed there with a view of stimulating and encouraging the
highest type of citizenship. To continue to tax the Negro without
giving him the right to vote, as fast as he qualifies himself in
education and property for voting, would insure the alienation of
the affections of the Negro from the state in which he lives, and
would be the reversal of the fundamental principles of government
for which our states have stood. In other ways than this the
injury would be as great to the white man as to the Negro.
Taxation without the hope of becoming voters would take away from
one third of the citizens of the Gulf states their interest in
government, and a stimulus to become taxpayers or to secure
education, and thus be able and willing to bear their share of the
cost of education and government, which now rests so heavily upon
the white taxpayers of the South. The more the Negro is
stimulated and encouraged, the sooner will he be able to bear a
larger share of the burdens of the South. We have recently had
before us an example, in the case of Spain, of a government that
left a large portion of its citizens in ignorance, and neglected
their highest interests.
As I have said elsewhere: "There is no escape, through law of man
or God, from the inevitable.
'The laws of changeless justice bind
Oppressor with oppressed;
And close as sin and suffering joined
We march to fate abreast.'
Nearly sixteen millions of hands will aid you in pulling the load
upwards, or they will pull the load downwards against you. We
shall constitute one third and more of the ignorance and crime of
the South, or one third of its intelligence and progress; we shall
contribute one third to the business and industrial prosperity of
the South, or we shall prove a veritable body of death,
stagnating, depressing, retarding every effort to advance the body
My own feeling is that the South will gradually reach the point
where it will see the wisdom and the justice of enacting an
educational or property qualification, or both, for voting, that
shall be made to apply honestly to both races. The industrial
development of the Negro in connection with education and
Christian character will help to hasten this end. When this is
done, we shall have a foundation, in my opinion, upon which to
build a government that is honest, and that will be in a high
degree satisfactory to both races.
I do not suffer myself to take too optimistic a view of the
conditions in the South. The problem is a large and serious one,
and will require the patient help, sympathy, and advice of our
most patriotic citizens, North and South, for years to come. But
I believe that if the principles which I have tried to indicate
are followed, a solution of the question will come. So long as
the Negro is permitted to get education, acquire property, and
secure employment, and is treated with respect in the business
world, as is now true in the greater part of the South, I shall
have the greatest faith in his working out his own destiny in our
Southern states. The education and preparation for citizenship of
nearly eight millions of people is a tremendous task, and every
lover of humanity should count it a privilege to help in the
solution of a problem for which our whole country is responsible.
by Charles W. Chesnutt
"I hate and despise you! I wish never to see you or speak to you
"Very well; I will take care that henceforth you have no
opportunity to do either."
These words--the first in the passionately vibrant tones of my
sister-in-law, and the latter in the deeper and more restrained
accents of an angry man--startled me from my nap. I had been
dozing in my hammock on the front piazza, behind the honeysuckle
vine. I had been faintly aware of a buzz of conversation in the
parlor, but had not at all awakened to its import until these
sentences fell, or, I might rather say, were hurled upon my ear.
I presume the young people had either not seen me lying there,--
the Venetian blinds opening from the parlor windows upon the
piazza were partly closed on account of the heat,--or else in
their excitement they had forgotten my proximity.
I felt somewhat concerned. The young man, I had remarked, was
proud, firm, jealous of the point of honor, and, from my
observation of him, quite likely to resent to the bitter end what
he deemed a slight or an injustice. The girl, I knew, was quite
as high-spirited as young Murchison. I feared she was not so
just, and hoped she would prove more yielding. I knew that her
affections were strong and enduring, but that her temperament was
capricious, and her sunniest moods easily overcast by some small
cloud of jealousy or pique. I had never imagined, however, that
she was capable of such intensity as was revealed by these few
words of hers. As I say, I felt concerned. I had learned to like
Malcolm Murchison, and had heartily consented to his marriage with
my ward; for it was in that capacity that I had stood for a year
or two to my wife's younger sister, Mabel. The match thus rudely
broken off had promised to be another link binding me to the
kindly Southern people among whom I had not long before taken up
Young Murchison came out of the door, cleared the piazza in two
strides without seeming aware of my presence, and went off down
the lane at a furious pace. A few moments later Mabel began
playing the piano loudly, with a touch that indicated anger and
pride and independence and a dash of exultation, as though she
were really glad that she had driven away forever the young man
whom the day before she had loved with all the ardor of a first
I hoped that time might heal the breach and bring the two young
people together again. I told my wife what I had overheard. In
return she gave me Mabel's version of the affair.
"I do not see how it can ever be settled," my wife said. "It is
something more than a mere lovers' quarrel. It began, it is true,
because she found fault with him for going to church with that
hateful Branson girl. But before it ended there were things said
that no woman of any spirit could stand. I am afraid it is all
over between them."
I was sorry to hear this. In spite of the very firm attitude
taken by my wife and her sister, I still hoped that the quarrel
would be made up within a day or two. Nevertheless, when a week
had passed with no word from young Murchison, and with no sign of
relenting on Mabel's part, I began to think myself mistaken.
One pleasant afternoon, about ten days after the rupture, old
Julius drove the rockaway up to the piazza, and my wife, Mabel,
and I took our seats for a drive to a neighbor's vineyard, over on
the Lumberton plankroad.
"Which way shall we go," I asked,--"the short road or the long
"I guess we had better take the short road," answered my wife.
"We will get there sooner."
"It's a mighty fine dribe roun' by de big road, Mis' Annie,"
observed Julius, "en it doan take much longer to git dere."
"No," said my wife, "I think we will go by the short road. There
is a bay tree in blossom near the mineral spring, and I wish to
get some of the flowers."
"I 'spec's you'd find some bay trees 'long de big road, ma'am,"
"But I know about the flowers on the short road, and they are the
ones I want."
We drove down the lane to the highway, and soon struck into the
short road leading past the mineral spring. Our route lay partly
through a swamp, and on each side the dark, umbrageous foliage,
unbroken by any clearing, lent to the road solemnity, and to the
air a refreshing coolness. About half a mile from the house, and
about halfway to the mineral spring, we stopped at the tree of
which my wife had spoken, and reaching up to the low-hanging
boughs I gathered a dozen of the fragrant white flowers. When I
resumed my seat in the rockaway, Julius started the mare. She
went on for a few rods, until we had reached the edge of a branch
crossing the road, when she stopped short.
"Why did you stop, Julius?" I asked.
"I didn', suh," he replied. "'T wuz de mare stop'. G' 'long
dere, Lucy! W'at you mean by dis foolis'ness?"
Julius jerked the reins and applied the whip lightly, but the mare
did not stir.
"Perhaps you had better get down and lead her," I suggested. "If
you get her started, you can cross on the log and keep your feet
Julius alighted, took hold of the bridle, and vainly essayed to
make the mare move. She planted her feet with even more evident
"I don't know what to make of this," I said. "I have never known
her to balk before. Have you, Julius?"
"No, suh," replied the old man, "I nebber has. It's a cu'ous
thing ter me, suh."
"What's the best way to make her go?"
"I 'spec's, suh, dat ef I'd tu'n her roun' she'd go de udder way."
"But we want her to go this way."
"Well, suh, I 'low ef we des set heah fo' er fibe minutes, she'll
sta't up by herse'f."
"All right," I rejoined, "it is cooler here than any place I have
struck to-day. We'll let her stand for a while, and see what she
We had sat in silence for a few minutes, when Julius suddenly
ejaculated, "Uh huh! I knows w'y dis mare doan go. It des flash
'cross my reccommemb'ance."
"Why is it, Julius?" I inquired.
"Ca'se she sees Chloe."
"Where is Chloe?" I demanded.
"Chloe's done be'n dead dese fo'ty years er mo'," the old man
returned. "Her ha'nt is settin' ober yander on de udder side er
de branch, unner dat willer tree, dis blessed minute."
"Why, Julius!" said my wife, "do you see the haunt?"
"No'm," he answered, shaking his head, "I doan see 'er, but de
mare sees 'er."
"How do you know?" I inquired.
"Well, suh, dis yer is a gray hoss, en dis yer is a Friday; en a
gray hoss kin alluz see a ha'nt w'at walks on Friday."
"Who was Chloe?" said Mabel.
"And why does Chloe's haunt walk?" asked my wife.
"It's all in de tale, ma'am," Julius replied, with a deep sigh.
"It's all in de tale."
"Tell us the tale," I said. "Perhaps, by the time you get
through, the haunt will go away and the mare will cross."
I was willing to humor the old man's fancy. He had not told us a
story for some time; and the dark and solemn swamp around us; the
amber-colored stream flowing silently and sluggishly at our feet,
like the waters of Lethe; the heavy, aromatic scent of the bays,
faintly suggestive of funeral wreaths,--all made the place an
ideal one for a ghost story.
"Chloe," Julius began in a subdued tone, "use' ter b'long ter ole
Mars' Dugal' McAdoo--my ole marster. She wuz a ladly gal en a
smart gal, en ole mis' tuk her up ter de big house, en l'arnt her
ter wait on de w'ite folks, 'tel bimeby she come ter be mis's own
maid, en 'peared ter 'low she run de house herse'f, ter heah her
talk erbout it. I wuz a young boy den, en use' ter wuk about de
stables, so I knowed ev'ythin' dat wuz gwine on roun' de
"Well, one time Mars' Dugal' wanted a house boy, en sont down ter
de qua'ters fer hab Jeff en Hannibal come up ter de big house nex'
mawnin'. Ole marster en ole mis' look' de two boys ober, en
'sco'sed wid deyse'ves fer a little w'ile, en den Mars' Dugal'
"'We laks Hannibal de bes', en we gwine ter keep him. Heah,
Hannibal, you'll wuk at de house fum now on. En ef you're a good
nigger en min's yo' bizness, I'll gib you Chloe fer a wife nex'
spring. You other nigger, you Jeff, you kin go back ter de
qua'ters. We ain' gwine ter need you.'
"Now Chloe had be'n standin' dere behin' ole mis' dyoin' all er
dis yer talk, en Chloe made up her min' fum de ve'y fus' minute
she sot eyes on dem two dat she didn' lak dat nigger Hannibal, en
wa'n't nebber gwine keer fer 'im, en she wuz des ez sho' dat she
lak Jeff, en wuz gwine ter set sto' by 'im, whuther Mars' Dugal'
tuk 'im in de big house er no; en so co'se Chloe wuz monst'us
sorry w'en ole Mars' Dugal' tuk Hannibal en sont Jeff back. So
she slip' roun' de house en waylaid Jeff on de way back ter de
qua'ters en tol' 'im not ter be downhea'ted, fer she wuz gwine ter
see ef she couldn' fin' some way er 'nuther ter git rid er dat
nigger Hannibal, en git Jeff up ter de house in his place.
"De noo house boy kotch on monst'us fas', en it wa'n't no time
ha'dly befo' Mars' Dugal' en ole mis' bofe 'mence' ter 'low
Hannibal wuz de bes' house boy dey eber had. He wuz peart en
soopl', quick ez lightnin', en sha'p ez a razor. But Chloe didn'
lak his ways. He wuz so sho' he wuz gwine ter git 'er in de
spring, dat he didn' 'pear ter 'low he had ter do any co'tin', en
w'en he'd run 'cross Chloe 'bout de house, he'd swell roun' 'er in
a biggity way en say:
"'Come heah en kiss me, honey. You gwine ter be mine in de
spring. You doan 'pear ter be ez fon' er me ez you oughter be.'
"Chloe didn' keer nuffin' fer Hannibal, en hadn' keered nuffin'
fer 'im, en she sot des ez much sto' by Jeff ez she did de day she
fus' laid eyes on 'im. En de mo' fermilyus dis yer Hannibal got,
de mo' Chloe let her min' run on Jeff, en one ebenin' she went
down ter de qua'ters en watch', 'tel she got a chance fer ter talk
wid 'im by hisse'f. En she tol' Jeff fer ter go down en see ole
Aun' Peggy, de cunjuh-'oman down by de Wim'l'ton Road, en ax her
fer ter gib 'im sump'n ter he'p git Hannibal out'n de big house,
so de w'ite folks 'u'd sen' fer Jeff ag'in. En bein' ez Jeff
didn' hab nuffin' ter gib Aun' Peggy, Chloe gun i'm a silber
dollah en a silk han'kercher fer ter pay her wid, fer Aun' Peggy
nebber lak ter wuk fer nobody fer nuffin'.
"So Jeff slip' off down ter Aun' Peggy's one night, en gun 'er de
presents he brung, en tol' er all 'bout 'im en Chloe en Hannibal,
en ax' 'er ter he'p 'im out. Aun' Peggy tol' 'im she'd wuk 'er
roots, en fer 'im ter come back de nex' night, en she'd tell 'im
w'at she c'd do fer 'im.
"So de nex' night Jeff went back, en Aun' Peggy gun 'im a baby-
doll, wid a body made out'n a piece er co'n-stalk, en wid
splinters fer a'ms en legs, en a head made out'n elderberry peth,
en two little red peppers fer feet.
"'Dis yer baby-doll,' sez she, 'is Hannibal. Dis yer peth head is
Hannibal's head, en dese yer pepper feet is Hannibal's feet. You
take dis en hide it unner de house, on de sill unner de do', whar
Hannibal'll hafter walk ober it ev'y day. En ez long ez Hannibal
comes anywhar nigh dis baby-doll, he'll be des lak it is--light-
headed en hot-footed; en ef dem two things doan git 'im inter
trouble mighty soon, den I'm no cunjuh-'oman. But w'en you git
Hannibal out'n de house, en git all thoo wid dis baby-doll, you
mus' fetch it back ter me, fer it's monst'us powerful goopher, en
is liable ter make mo' trouble ef you leabe it layin' roun'.'
"Well, Jeff tuk de baby-doll, en slip' up ter de big house, en
whistle' ter Chloe, en w'en she come out he tol' 'er w'at ole Aun'
Peggy had said. En Chloe showed 'im how ter git unner de house,
en w'en he had put de cunjuh-doll on de sill he went 'long back
ter de qua'ters--en des waited.
"Nex' day, sho' 'nuff, de goopher 'mence' ter wuk. Hannibal
sta'ted in de house soon in de mawnin' wid a armful er wood ter
make a fier, en he hadn' mo' d'n got 'cross de do'sill befo' his
feet begun ter bu'n so dat he drap' de armful er wood on de flo'
en woke ole mis' up an hour sooner'n yuzhal, en co'se ole mis'
didn' lak dat, en spoke sha'p erbout it.
"W'en dinner-time come, en Hannibal wuz help'n de cook kyar de
dinner f'm de kitchen inter de big house, en wuz gittin' close ter
de do' what he had ter go in, his feet sta'ted ter bu'n en his
head begun ter swim, en he let de big dish er chicken en dumplin's
fall right down in de dirt, in de middle er de ya'd, en de w'ite
folks had ter make dey dinner dat day off'n col' ham en sweet
"De nex' mawnin' he overslep' hisse'f, en got inter mo' trouble.
Atter breakfus', Mars' Dugal' sont 'im ober ter Mars' Marrabo
Utley's fer ter borry a monkey wrench. He oughter be'n back in
ha'f an hour, but he come pokin' home 'bout dinner'time wid a
screw-driver stidder a monkey wrench. Mars' Dugal' sont ernudder
nigger back wid de screw-driver, en Hannibal didn' git no dinner.
'Long in de atternoon, ole mis' sot Hannibal ter weedin' de
flowers in de front gyahden, en Hannibal dug up all de bulbs ole
mis' had sont erway fer, en paid a lot er money fer, en tuk 'em
down ter de hawg-pen by de ba'nya'd, en fed 'em ter de hawgs.
W'en ole mis' come out in de cool er de ebenin', en seed w'at
Hannibal had done, she wuz mos' crazy, en she wrote a note en sont
Hannibal down ter de obserseah wid it.
"But w'at Hannibal got fum de oberseah didn' 'pear ter do no good.
Ev'y now en den 'is feet'd 'mence ter torment 'im, en 'is min'
'u'd git all mix' up, en his conduc' kep' gittin' wusser en
wusser, 'tel fin'ly de w'ite folks couldn' stan' it no longer, en
Mars' Dugal' tuk Hannibal back down ter de qua'ters.
"'Mr. Smif,' sez Mars' Dugal' ter de oberseah, 'dis yer nigger has
tu'nt out so triflin' yer lately, dat we can't keep 'im at de
house no mo', en I's fotch' 'im ter you ter be straighten' up.
You's had 'casion ter deal wid 'im once, so he knows w'at ter
expec'. You des take 'im in han', en lemme know how he tu'ns out.
En w'en de han's comes in fum de fiel' dis ebenin' you kin sen'
dat yaller nigger Jeff up ter de house. I'll try 'im, en see ef
he's any better'n Hannibal.'
"So Jeff went up ter de big house, en pleas' Mars' Dugal' en ole
mis' en de res' er de fambly so well dat dey all got ter lakin'
'im fus'rate, en dey'd 'a' fergot all 'bout Hannibal ef it hadn'
be'n fer de bad repo'ts w'at come up fum de qua'ters 'bout 'im fer
a mont' er so. Fac' is dat Chloe en Jeff wuz so int'rusted in one
ernudder since Jeff be'n up ter de house, dat dey fergot all about
takin' de baby-doll back ter Aun' Peggy, en it kep' wukkin fer a
w'ile, en makin' Hannibal's feet bu'n mo' er less, 'tel all de
folks on de plantation got ter callin' 'im Hot-Foot Hannibal. He
kep' gittin' mo' en mo' triflin', 'tel he got de name er bein' de
mos' no 'countes' nigger on de plantation, en Mars' Dugal' had ter
th'eaten ter sell 'im in de spring; w'en bimeby de goopher quit
wukkin', en Hannibal 'mence' ter pick up some en make folks set a
little mo' sto' by 'im.
"Now, dis yer Hannibal was a monst'us sma't nigger, en w'en he got
rid er dem so' feet his min' kep' runnin' on 'is udder troubles.
Heah th'ee er fo' weeks befo' he'd had a' easy job, waitin' on de
w'ite folks, libbin off'n de fat er de lan', en promus' de fines'
gal on de plantation fer a wife in de spring, en now heah he wuz
back in de co'nfiel', wid de oberseah a-cussin' en a r'arin' ef he
didn' get a ha'd tas' done; wid nuffin' but co'n bread en bacon en
merlasses ter eat; en all de fiel-han's makin' rema'ks, en pokin'
fun at 'im ca'se he be'n sont back fum de big house ter de fiel'.
En de mo' Hannibal studied 'bout it de mo' madder he got, 'tel he
fin'ly swo' he wuz gwine ter git eben wid Jeff en Chloe ef it wuz
de las' ac'.
"So Hannibal slipped 'way fum de qua'ters one Sunday en hid in de
co'n up close ter de big house, 'tel he see Chloe gwine down de
road. He waylaid her, en sezee:--
"'I ain't got no time fer ter fool wid fiel'-han's,' sez Chloe,
tossin' her head; 'W'at you want wid me, Hot-Foot?'
"'I wants ter know how you en Jeff is gittin' 'long.'
"'I 'lows dat's none er yo' bizness, nigger. I doan see w'at
'casion any common fiel'-han' has got ter mix in wid de 'fairs er
folks w'at libs in de big house. But ef it'll do you any good ter
know, I mought say dat me en Jeff is gittin' 'long mighty well, en
we gwine ter git married in de spring, en you ain' gwine ter be
'vited ter de weddin' nuther.'
"'No, no!' sezee, 'I wouldn' 'spec' ter be 'vited ter de weddin',--
a common, low-down fiel'-han' lak I is. But I's glad ter heah
you en Jeff is gittin' 'long so well. I didn' knowed but w'at he
had 'mence' ter be a little ti'ed.'
"'Ti'ed er me? Dat's rediklus!' sez Chloe. 'W'y, dat nigger lubs
me so I b'liebe he'd go th'oo fier en water fer me. Dat nigger is
des wrop' up in me.'
"'Uh huh,' sez Hannibal, 'den I reckon is mus' be some udder
nigger w'at meets a 'oman down by de crick in de swamp ev'y Sunday
ebenin', ter say nuffin' 'bout two er th'ee times a week.'
"'Yas, hit is ernudder nigger, en you is a liah w'en you say it
"'Mebbe I is a liah, en mebbe I ain' got good eyes. But 'less'n I
IS a liah, en 'less'n I AIN' got good eyes, Jeff is gwine ter meet
dat 'oman dis ebenin' long 'bout eight o'clock right down dere by
de crick in de swamp 'bout halfway betwix' dis plantation en Mars'
"Well, Chloe tol' Hannibal she didn' b'liebe a wud he said, en
call' 'im a low-down nigger who wuz tryin' ter slander Jeff 'ca'se
he wuz mo' luckier'n he wuz. But all de same, she couldn' keep
her min' fum runnin' on w'at Hannibal had said. She 'membered
she'd heared one er de niggers say dey wuz a gal ober at Mars'
Marrabo Utley's plantation w'at Jeff use' ter go wid some befo' he
got 'quainted wid Chloe. Den she 'mence' ter figger back, en sho'
'nuff, dey wuz two er th'ee times in de las' week w'en she'd be'n
he'p'n de ladies wid dey dressin' en udder fixin's in de ebenin',
en Jeff mought 'a' gone down ter de swamp widout her knowin' 'bout
it at all. En den she 'mence' ter 'member little things w'at she
hadn' tuk no notice of befo', en w'at 'u'd make it 'pear lak Jeff
had sump'n on his min'.
"Chloe set a monst'us heap er sto' by Jeff, en would 'a' done mos'
anythin' fer 'im, so long ez he stuck ter her. But Chloe wuz a
mighty jealous 'oman, en w'iles she didn' b'liebe w'at Hannibal
said, she seed how it COULD 'a' be'n so, en she 'termine' fer ter
fin' out fer herse'f whuther it WUZ so er no.
"Now, Chloe hadn' seed Jeff all day, fer Mars' Dugal' had sont
Jeff ober ter his daughter's house, young Mis' Ma'g'ret's, w'at
libbed 'bout fo' miles fum Mars' Dugal's, en Jeff wuzn' 'spected
home 'tel ebenin'. But des atter supper wuz ober, en w'iles de
ladies wuz settin' out on de piazzer, Chloe slip' off fum de house
en run down de road,--dis yer same road we come; en w'en she got
mos' ter de crick--dis yer same crick right befo' us--she kin' er
kip' in de bushes at de side er de road, 'tel fin'ly she seed Jeff
settin' on de back on de udder side er de crick,--right under dat
ole willer tree droopin' ober de watah yander. En ev'y now en den
he'd git up en look up de road to'ds Mars' Marrabo's on de udder
side er de swamp.
"Fus' Chloe felt lak she'd go right ober de crick en gib Jeff a
piece er her min'. Den she 'lowed she better be sho' befo' she
done anythin'. So she helt herse'f in de bes' she could, gittin'
madder en madder ev'ry minute, 'tel bimeby she seed a 'oman comin'
down de road on de udder side fum to'ds Mars' Marrabo Utley's
plantation. En w'en she seed Jeff jump up en run to'ds dat 'oman,
en th'ow his a'ms roun' her neck, po' Chloe didn' stop ter see no
mo', but des tu'nt roun' en run up ter de house, en rush' up on de
piazzer, en up en tol' Mars' Dugal' en ole mis' all 'bout de baby-
doll, en all 'bout Jeff gittin' de goopher fum Aun' Peggy, en
'bout w'at de goopher had done ter Hannibal.
"Mars' Dugal' wuz monst'us mad. He didn' let on at fus' lak he
b'liebed Chloe, but w'en she tuk en showed 'im whar ter fin' de
baby-doll, Mars' Dugal' tu'nt w'ite ez chalk.
"'What debil's wuk is dis?' sezee. 'No wonder de po' nigger's
feet eetched. Sump'n got ter be done ter l'arn dat ole witch ter
keep her han's off'n my niggers. En ez fer dis yer Jeff, I'm
gwine ter do des w'at I promus', so de darkies on dis
plantation'll know I means w'at I sez.'
"Fer Mars' Dugal' had warned de han's befo' 'bout foolin' wid
cunju'ation; fac', he had los' one er two niggers hisse'f fum dey
bein' goophered, en he would 'a' had ole Aun' Peggy whip' long
ago, on'y Aun' Peggy wuz a free 'oman, en he wuz 'feard she'd
cunjuh him. En wi'les Mars' Dugal' say he didn' b'liebe in
cunj'in' en sich, he 'peared ter 'low it wuz bes' ter be on de
safe side, en let Aun' Peggy alone.
"So Mars' Dugal' done des ez he say. Ef ole mis' had ple'd fer
Jeff he mought 'a' kep' 'im. But ole mis' hadn' got ober losin'
dem bulbs yit, en she nebber said a wud. Mars' Dugal' tuk Jeff
ter town nex' day en' sol' 'im ter a spekilater, who sta'ted down
de ribber wid 'im nex' mawnin' on a steamboat, fer ter take 'im
"Now, w'en Chloe tol' ole Mars' Dugal' 'bout dis yer baby-doll en
dis udder goopher, she hadn' ha'dly 'lowed Mars' Dugal' would sell
Jeff down Souf. Howsomeber, she wuz so mad wid Jeff dat she
'suaded herse'f she didn' keer; en so she hilt her head up en went
roun' lookin' lak she wuz rale glad 'bout it. But one day she wuz
walkin' down de road, w'en who sh'd come 'long but dis yer
"W'en Hannibal seed 'er he bus' out laffin' fittin' fer ter kill:
'Yah, yah, yah! ho, ho, ho! ha, ha, ha! Oh, hol' me, honey, hol'
me, er I'll laf myse'f ter def. I ain' nebber laf' so much sence
I be'n bawn.'
"'W'at you laffin' at, Hot-Foot?'
"'Yah, yah, yah! W'at I laffin' at? W'y, I's laffin' at myse'f,
tooby sho',--laffin' ter think w'at a fine 'oman I made.'
"Chloe tu'nt pale, en her hea't come up in her mouf.
"'W'at you mean, nigger?' sez she, ketchin' holt er a bush by de
road fer ter stiddy herse'f. 'W'at you mean by de kin' er 'oman
"W'at do I mean? I means dat I got squared up wid you fer
treatin' me de way you done, en I got eben wid dat yaller nigger
Jeff fer cuttin' me out. Now, he's gwine ter know w'at it is ter
eat co'n bread en merlasses once mo', en wuk fum daylight ter
da'k, en ter hab a oberseah dribin' 'im fum one day's een' ter de
udder. I means dat I sont wud ter Jeff dat Sunday dat you wuz
gwine ter be ober ter Mars' Marrabo's visitin' dat ebenin', en you
want i'm ter meet you down by de crick on de way home en go de
rest er de road wid you. En den I put on a frock en a sun-bonnet
en fix' myse'f up ter look lak a 'oman; en w'en Jeff seed me
comin' he run ter meet me, en you seed 'im,--fer I had be'n
watchin' in de bushes befo' en 'skivered you comin' down de road.
En now I reckon you en Jeff bofe knows w'at it means ter mess wid
a nigger lak me.'
"Po' Chloe hadn' heared mo' d'n half er de las' part er w'at
Hannibal said, but she had heared 'nuff to l'arn dat dis nigger
had fooler her en Jeff, en dat po' Jeff hadn' done nuffin', en dat
fer lovin' her too much en goin' ter meet her she had cause' 'im
ter be sol' erway whar she'd nebber, nebber see 'im no mo'. De
sun mought shine by day, de moon by night, de flowers mought
bloom, en de mawkin'-birds mought sing, but po' Jeff wuz done los'
ter her fereber en fereber.
"Hannibal hadn' mo' d'n finish' w'at he had ter say, w'en Chloe's
knees gun 'way unner her, en she fell down in de road, en lay dere
half a' hour er so befo' she come to. W'en she did, she crep' up
ter de house des ez pale ez a ghos'. En fer a mont' er so she
crawled roun' de house, en 'peared ter be so po'ly dat Mars'
Dugal' sont fer a doctor; en de doctor kep' on axin' her questions
'tel he foun' she wuz des pinin' erway fer Jeff.
"W'en he tol' Mars' Dugal', Mars' Dugal' lafft, en said he'd fix
dat. She could hab de noo house boy fer a husban'. But ole mis'
say, no, Chloe ain' dat kinder gal, en dat Mars' Dugal' should buy
"So Mars' Dugal' writ a letter ter dis yer spekilater down ter
Wim'l'ton, en tol' ef he ain' done sol' dat nigger Souf w'at he
bought fum 'im, he'd lak ter buy 'm back ag'in. Chloe 'mence' ter
pick up a little w'en ole mis' tol' her 'bout dis letter.
Howsomeber, bimeby Mars' Dugal' got a' answer fum de spekilater,
who said he wuz monst'us sorry, but Jeff had fell ove'boa'd er
jumped off'n de steamboat on de way ter Wim'l'ton, en got
drownded, en co'se he couldn' sell 'im back, much ez he'd lak ter
'bleedge Mars' Dugal'.
"Well, atter Chloe heared dis she pu'tended ter do her wuk, en ole
mis' wa'n't much mo' use ter nobody. She put up wid her, en hed
de doctor gib her medicine, en let 'er go ter de circus, en all
so'ts er things fer ter take her min' off'n her troubles. But dey
didn' none un 'em do no good. Chloe got ter slippin' down here in
de ebenin' des lak she 'uz comin' ter meet Jeff, en she'd set dere
unner dat willer tree on de udder side, en wait fer 'im, night
atter night. Bimeby she got so bad de w'ite folks sont her ober
ter young Mis' Ma'g'ret's fer ter gib her a change; but she runned
erway de fus' night, en w'en dey looked fer 'er nex' mawnin' dey
foun' her co'pse layin' in de branch yander, right 'cross fum whar
we're settin' now.
"Eber sence den," said Julius in conclusion, "Chloe's ha'nt comes
eve'y ebenin' en sets down unner dat willer tree en waits fer
Jeff, er e'se walks up en down de road yander, lookin' en lookin',
en' [sic] waitin' en waitin', fer her sweethea't w'at ain' nebber,
nebber come back ter her no mo'."
There was silence when the old man had finished, and I am sure I
saw a tear in my wife's eye, and more than one in Mabel's.
"I think, Julius," said my wife after a moment, "that you may turn
the mare around and go by the long road."
The old man obeyed with alacrity, and I noticed no reluctance on
the mare's part.
"You are not afraid of Chloe's haunt, are you?" I asked jocularly.
My mood was not responded to, and neither of the ladies smiled.
"Oh no," said Annie, "but I've changed my mind. I prefer the
When we had reached the main road and had proceeded along it for a
short distance, we met a cart driven by a young negro, and on the
cart were a trunk and a valise. We recognized the man as Malcolm
Murchison's servant, and drew up a moment to speak to him.
"Who's going away, Marshall?" I inquired.
"Young Mistah Ma'colm gwine 'way on de boat ter Noo Yo'k dis
ebenin', suh, en I'm takin' his things down ter de wharf, suh."
This was news to me, and I heard it with regret. My wife looked
sorry, too, and I could see that Mabel was trying hard to hide her
"He's comin' 'long behin', suh, en I 'spec's you'll meet 'im up de
road a piece. He's gwine ter walk down ez fur ez Mistah Jim
Williams's, en take de buggy fum dere ter town. He 'spec's ter be
gone a long time, suh, en say prob'ly he ain' nebber comin' back."
The man drove on. There were a few words exchanged in an
undertone between my wife and Mabel, which I did not catch. Then
Annie said: "Julius, you may stop the rockaway a moment. There
are some trumpet-flowers by the road there that I want. Will you
get them for me, John?"
I sprang into the underbrush, and soon returned with a great bunch
of scarlet blossoms.
"Where is Mabel?" I asked, noting her absence.
"She has walked on ahead. We shall overtake her in a few
The carriage had gone only a short distance when my wife
discovered that she had dropped her fan.
"I had it where we were stopping. Julius, will you go back and
get it for me?"
Julius got down and went back for the fan. He was an
unconscionably long time finding it. After we got started again
we had gone only a little way, when we saw Mabel and young
Murchison coming toward us. They were walking arm in arm, and
their faces were aglow with the light of love.
I do not know whether or not Julius had a previous understanding
with Malcolm Murchison by which he was to drive us round by the
long road that day, nor do I know exactly what motive influenced
the old man's exertions in the matter. He was fond of Mabel, but
I was old enough, and knew Julius well enough, to be skeptical of
his motives. It is certain that a most excellent understanding
existed between him and Murchison after the reconciliation, and
that when the young people set up housekeeping over at the old
Murchison place Julius had an opportunity to enter their service.
For some reason or other, however, he preferred to remain with us.
The mare, I might add, was never known to balk again.
A NEGRO SCHOOLMASTER IN THE NEW SOUTH
by W. E. Burghardt Du Bois
Once upon a time I taught school in the hills of Tennessee, where
the broad dark vale of the Mississippi begins to roll and crumple
to greet the Alleghanies. I was a Fisk student then, and all Fisk
men think that Tennessee--beyond the Veil--is theirs alone, and in
vacation time they sally forth in lusty bands to meet the county
school commissioners. Young and happy, I too went, and I shall
not soon forget that summer, ten years ago.
First, there was a teachers' Institute at the county-seat; and
there distinguished guests of the superintendent taught the
teachers fractions and spelling and other mysteries,--white
teachers in the morning, Negroes at night. A picnic now and then,
and a supper, and the rough world was softened by laughter and
song. I remember how--But I wander.
There came a day when all the teachers left the Institute, and
began the hunt for schools. I learn from hearsay (for my mother
was mortally afraid of firearms) that the hunting of ducks and
bears and men is wonderfully interesting, but I am sure that the
man who has never hunted a country school has something to learn
of the pleasures of the chase. I see now the white, hot roads
lazily rise and fall and wind before me under the burning July
sun; I feel the deep weariness of heart and limb, as ten, eight,
six miles stretch relentlessly ahead; I feel my heart sink heavily
as I hear again and again, "Got a teacher? Yes." So I walked on
and on,--horses were too expensive,--until I had wandered beyond
railways, beyond stage lines, to a land of "varmints" and
rattlesnakes, where the coming of a stranger was an event, and men
lived and died in the shadow of one blue hill.
Sprinkled over hill and dale lay cabins and farmhouses, shut out
from the world by the forests and the rolling hills toward the
east. There I found at last a little school. Josie told me of
it; she was a thin, homely girl of twenty, with a dark brown face
and thick, hard hair. I had crossed the stream at Watertown, and
rested under the great willows; then I had gone to the little
cabin in the lot where Josie was resting on her way to town. The
gaunt farmer made me welcome, and Josie, hearing my errand, told
me anxiously that they wanted a school over the hill; that but
once since the war had a teacher been there; that she herself
longed to learn,--and thus she ran on, talking fast and loud, with
much earnestness and energy.
Next morning I crossed the tall round hill, lingered to look at
the blue and yellow mountains stretching toward the Carolinas;
then I plunged into the wood, and came out at Josie's home. It
was a dull frame cottage with four rooms, perched just below the
brow of the hill, amid peach trees. The father was a quiet,
simple soul, calmly ignorant, with no touch of vulgarity. The
mother was different,--strong, bustling, and energetic, with a
quick, restless tongue, and an ambition to live "like folks."
There was a crowd of children. Two boys had gone away. There
remained two growing girls; a shy midget of eight; John, tall,
awkward, and eighteen; Jim, younger, quicker, and better looking;
and two babies of indefinite age. Then there was Josie herself.
She seemed to be the centre of the family: always busy at service
or at home, or berry-picking; a little nervous and inclined to
scold, like her mother, yet faithful, too, like her father. She
had about her a certain fineness, the shadow of an unconscious
moral heroism that would willingly give all of life to make life
broader, deeper, and fuller for her and hers. I saw much of this
family afterward, and grew to love them for their honest efforts
to be decent and comfortable, and for their knowledge of their own
ignorance. There was with them no affectation. The mother would
scold the father for being so "easy;" Josie would roundly rate the
boys for carelessness; and all knew that it was a hard thing to
dig a living out of a rocky side hill.
I secured the school. I remember the day I rode horseback out to
the commissioner's house, with a pleasant young white fellow, who
wanted the white school. The road ran down the bed of a stream;
the sun laughed and the water jingled, and we rode on. "Come in,"
said the commissioner,--"come in. Have a seat. Yes, that
certificate will do. Stay to dinner. What do you want a month?"
Oh, thought I, this is lucky; but even then fell the awful shadow
of the Veil, for they ate first, then I--alone.
The schoolhouse was a log hut, where Colonel Wheeler used to
shelter his corn. It sat in a lot behind a rail fence and thorn
bushes, near the sweetest of springs. There was an entrance where
a door once was, and within, a massive rickety fireplace; great
chinks between the logs served as windows. Furniture was scarce.
A pale blackboard crouched in the corner. My desk was made of
three boards, reinforced at critical points, and my chair,
borrowed from the landlady, had to be returned every night. Seats
for the children,--these puzzled me much. I was haunted by a New
England vision of neat little desks and chairs, but, alas, the
reality was rough plank benches without backs, and at times
without legs. They had the one virtue of making naps dangerous,--
possibly fatal, for the floor was not to be trusted.
It was a hot morning late in July when the school opened. I
trembled when I heard the patter of little feet down the dusty
road, and saw the growing row of dark solemn faces and bright
eager eyes facing me. First came Josie and her brothers and
sisters. The longing to know, to be a student in the great school
at Nashville, hovered like a star above this child woman amid her
work and worry, and she studied doggedly. There were the Dowells
from their farm over toward Alexandria: Fanny, with her smooth
black face and wondering eyes; Martha, brown and dull; the pretty
girl wife of a brother, and the younger brood. There were the
Burkes, two brown and yellow lads, and a tiny haughty-eyed girl.
Fat Reuben's little chubby girl came, with golden face and old
gold hair, faithful and solemn. 'Thenie was on hand early,--a
jolly, ugly, good-hearted girl, who slyly dipped snuff and looked
after her little bow-legged brother. When her mother could spare
her, 'Tildy came,--a midnight beauty, with starry eyes and
tapering limbs; and her brother, correspondingly homely. And then
the big boys: the hulking Lawrences; the lazy Neills, unfathered
sons of mother and daughter; Hickman, with a stoop in his
shoulders; and the rest.
There they sat, nearly thirty of them, on the rough benches, their
faces shading from a pale cream to a deep brown, the little feet
bare and swinging, the eyes full of expectation, with here and
there a twinkle of mischief, and the hands grasping Webster's
blue-back spelling-book. I loved my school, and the fine faith
the children had in the wisdom of their teacher was truly
marvelous. We read and spelled together, wrote a little, picked
flowers, sang, and listened to stories of the world beyond the
hill. At times the school would dwindle away, and I would start
out. I would visit Mun Eddings, who lived in two very dirty
rooms, and ask why little Lugene, whose flaming face seemed ever
ablaze with the dark red hair uncombed, was absent all last week,
or why I missed so often the inimitable rags of Mack and Ed. Then
the father, who worked Colonel Wheeler's farm on shares, would
tell me how the crops needed the boys; and the thin, slovenly
mother, whose face was pretty when washed, assured me that Lugene
must mind the baby. "But we'll start them again next week." When
the Lawrences stopped, I knew that the doubts of the old folks
about book-learning had conquered again, and so, toiling up the
hill, and getting as far into the cabin as possible, I put Cicero
pro Archia Poeta into the simplest English with local
applications, and usually convinced them--for a week or so.
On Friday nights I often went home with some of the children;
sometimes to Doc Burke's farm. He was a great, loud, thin Black,
ever working, and trying to buy the seventy-five acres of hill and
dale where he lived; but people said that he would surely fail,
and the "white folks would get it all." His wife was a
magnificent Amazon, with saffron face and shining hair, uncorseted
and barefooted, and the children were strong and beautiful. They
lived in a one-and-a-half-room cabin in the hollow of the farm,
near the spring. The front room was full of great fat white beds,
scrupulously neat; and there were bad chromos on the walls, and a
tired centre-table. In the tiny back kitchen I was often invited
to "take out and help" myself to fried chicken and wheat biscuit,
"meat" and corn pone, string beans and berries. At first I used
to be a little alarmed at the approach of bed-time in the one lone
bedroom, but embarrassment was very deftly avoided. First, all
the children nodded and slept, and were stowed away in one great
pile of goose feathers; next, the mother and the father discreetly
slipped away to the kitchen while I went to bed; then, blowing out
the dim light, they retired in the dark. In the morning all were
up and away before I thought of awaking. Across the road, where
fat Reuben lived, they all went outdoors while the teacher
retired, because they did not boast the luxury of a kitchen.
I liked to stay with the Dowells, for they had four rooms and
plenty of good country fare. Uncle Bird had a small, rough farm,
all woods and hills, miles from the big road; but he was full of
tales,--he preached now and then,--and with his children, berries,
horses, and wheat he was happy and prosperous. Often, to keep the
peace, I must go where life was less lovely; for instance,
'Tildy's mother was incorrigibly dirty, Reuben's larder was
limited seriously, and herds of untamed bedbugs wandered over the
Eddingses' beds. Best of all I loved to go to Josie's, and sit on
the porch, eating peaches, while the mother bustled and talked:
how Josie had bought the sewing-machine; how Josie worked at
service in winter, but that four dollars a month was "mighty
little" wages; how Josie longed to go away to school, but that it
"looked like" they never could get far enough ahead to let her;
how the crops failed and the well was yet unfinished; and,
finally, how "mean" some of the white folks were.
For two summers I lived in this little world; it was dull and
humdrum. The girls looked at the hill in wistful longing, and the
boys fretted, and haunted Alexandria. Alexandria was "town,"--a
straggling, lazy village of houses, churches, and shops, and an
aristocracy of Toms, Dicks, and Captains. Cuddled on the hill to
the north was the village of the colored folks, who lived in three
or four room unpainted cottages, some neat and homelike, and some
dirty. The dwellings were scattered rather aimlessly, but they
centred about the twin temples of the hamlet, the Methodist and
the Hard-Shell Baptist churches. These, in turn, leaned gingerly
on a sad-colored schoolhouse. Hither my little world wended its
crooked way on Sunday to meet other worlds, and gossip, and
wonder, and make the weekly sacrifice with frenzied priest at the
altar of the "old-time religion." Then the soft melody and mighty
cadences of Negro song fluttered and thundered.
I have called my tiny community a world, and so its isolation made
it; and yet there was among us but a half-awakened common
consciousness, sprung from common joy and grief, at burial, birth,
or wedding; from a common hardship in poverty, poor land, and low
wages; and, above all, from the sight of the Veil that hung
between us and Opportunity. All this caused us to think some
thoughts together; but these, when ripe for speech, were spoken in
various languages. Those whose eyes thirty and more years before
had seen "the glory of the coming of the Lord" saw in every
present hindrance or help a dark fatalism bound to bring all
things right in His own good time. The mass of those to whom
slavery was a dim recollection of childhood found the world a
puzzling thing: it asked little of them, and they answered with
little, and yet it ridiculed their offering. Such a paradox they
could not understand, and therefore sank into listless
indifference, or shiftlessness, or reckless bravado. There were,
however, some such as Josie, Jim, and Ben,--they to whom War,
Hell, and Slavery were but childhood tales, whose young appetites
had been whetted to an edge by school and story and half-awakened
thought. Ill could they be content, born without and beyond the
World. And their weak wings beat against their barriers,--
barriers of caste, of youth, of life; at last, in dangerous
moments, against everything that opposed even a whim.
The ten years that follow youth, the years when first the
realization comes that life is leading somewhere,--these were the
years that passed after I left my little school. When they were
past, I came by chance once more to the walls of Fisk University,
to the halls of the chapel of melody. As I lingered there in the
joy and pain of meeting old school friends, there swept over me a
sudden longing to pass again beyond the blue hill, and to see the
homes and the school of other days, and to learn how life had gone
with my school-children; and I went.
Josie was dead, and the gray-haired mother said simply, "We've had
a heap of trouble since you've been away." I had feared for Jim.
With a cultured parentage and a social caste to uphold him, he
might have made a venturesome merchant or a West Point cadet. But
here he was, angry with life and reckless; and when Farmer Durham
charged him with stealing wheat, the old man had to ride fast to
escape the stones which the furious fool hurled after him. They
told Jim to run away; but he would not run, and the constable came
that afternoon. It grieved Josie, and great awkward John walked
nine miles every day to see his little brother through the bars of
Lebanon jail. At last the two came back together in the dark
night. The mother cooked supper, and Josie emptied her purse, and
the boys stole away. Josie grew thin and silent, yet worked the
more. The hill became steep for the quiet old father, and with
the boys away there was little to do in the valley. Josie helped
them sell the old farm, and they moved nearer town. Brother
Dennis, the carpenter, built a new house with six rooms; Josie
toiled a year in Nashville, and brought back ninety dollars to
furnish the house and change it to a home.
When the spring came, and the birds twittered, and the stream ran
proud and full, little sister Lizzie, bold and thoughtless,
flushed with the passion of youth, bestowed herself on the
tempter, and brought home a nameless child. Josie shivered, and
worked on, with the vision of schooldays all fled, with a face wan
and tired,--worked until, on a summer's day, some one married
another; then Josie crept to her mother like a hurt child, and
I paused to scent the breeze as I entered the valley. The
Lawrences have gone; father and son forever, and the other son
lazily digs in the earth to live. A new young widow rents out
their cabin to fat Reuben. Reuben is a Baptist preacher now, but
I fear as lazy as ever, though his cabin has three rooms; and
little Ella has grown into a bouncing woman, and is ploughing corn
on the hot hillside. There are babies a plenty, and one half-
witted girl. Across the valley is a house I did not know before,
and there I found, rocking one baby and expecting another, one of
my schoolgirls, a daughter of Uncle Bird Dowell. She looked
somewhat worried with her new duties, but soon bristled into pride
over her neat cabin, and the tale of her thrifty husband, the
horse and cow, and the farm they were planning to buy.
My log schoolhouse was gone. In its place stood Progress, and
Progress, I understand, is necessarily ugly. The crazy foundation
stones still marked the former site of my poor little cabin, and
not far away, on six weary boulders, perched a jaunty board house,
perhaps twenty by thirty feet, with three windows and a door that
locked. Some of the window glass was broken, and part of an old
iron stove lay mournfully under the house. I peeped through the
window half reverently, and found things that were more familiar.
The blackboard had grown by about two feet, and the seats were
still without backs. The county owns the lot now, I hear, and
every year there is a session of school. As I sat by the spring
and looked on the Old and the New I felt glad, very glad, and yet--
After two long drinks I started on. There was the great double
log house on the corner. I remembered the broken, blighted family
that used to live there. The strong, hard face of the mother,
with its wilderness of hair, rose before me. She had driven her
husband away, and while I taught school a strange man lived there,
big and jovial, and people talked. I felt sure that Ben and
'Tildy would come to naught from such a home. But this is an odd
world; for Ben is a busy farmer in Smith County, "doing well,
too," they say, and he had cared for little 'Tildy until last
spring, when a lover married her. A hard life the lad had led,
toiling for meat, and laughed at because he was homely and
crooked. There was Sam Carlon, an impudent old skinflint, who had
definite notions about niggers, and hired Ben a summer and would
not pay him. Then the hungry boy gathered his sacks together, and
in broad daylight went into Carlon's corn; and when the hard-
fisted farmer set upon him, the angry boy flew at him like a
beast. Doc Burke saved a murder and a lynching that day.
The story reminded me again of the Burkes, and an impatience
seized me to know who won in the battle, Doc or the seventy-five
acres. For it is a hard thing to make a farm out of nothing, even
in fifteen years. So I hurried on, thinking of the Burkes. They
used to have a certain magnificent barbarism about them that I
liked. They were never vulgar, never immoral, but rather rough
and primitive, with an unconventionality that spent itself in loud
guffaws, slaps on the back, and naps in the corner. I hurried by
the cottage of the misborn Neill boys. It was empty, and they
were grown into fat, lazy farm hands. I saw the home of the
Hickmans, but Albert, with his stooping shoulders, had passed from
the world. Then I came to the Burkes' gate and peered through;
the inclosure looked rough and untrimmed, and yet there were the
same fences around the old farm save to the left, where lay
twenty-five other acres. And lo! the cabin in the hollow had
climbed the hill and swollen to a half-finished six-room cottage.
The Burkes held a hundred acres, but they were still in debt.
Indeed, the gaunt father who toiled night and day would scarcely
be happy out of debt, being so used to it. Some day he must stop,
for his massive frame is showing decline. The mother wore shoes,
but the lionlike physique of other days was broken. The children
had grown up. Rob, the image of his father, was loud and rough
with laughter. Birdie, my school baby of six, had grown to a
picture of maiden beauty, tall and tawny. "Edgar is gone," said
the mother, with head half bowed,--"gone to work in Nashville; he
and his father couldn't agree."
Little Doc, the boy born since the time of my school, took me
horseback down the creek next morning toward Farmer Dowell's. The
road and the stream were battling for mastery, and the stream had
the better of it. We splashed and waded, and the merry boy,
perched behind me, chattered and laughed. He showed me where
Simon Thompson had bought a bit of ground and a home; but his
daughter Lana, a plump, brown, slow girl, was not there. She had
married a man and a farm twenty miles away. We wound on down the
stream till we came to a gate that I did not recognize, but the
boy insisted that it was "Uncle Bird's." The farm was fat with
the growing crop. In that little valley was a strange stillness
as I rode up; for death and marriage had stolen youth, and left
age and childhood there. We sat and talked that night, after the
chores were done. Uncle Bird was grayer, and his eyes did not see
so well, but he was still jovial. We talked of the acres bought,--
one hundred and twenty-five,--of the new guest chamber added, of
Martha's marrying. Then we talked of death: Fanny and Fred were
gone; a shadow hung over the other daughter, and when it lifted
she was to go to Nashville to school. At last we spoke of the
neighbors, and as night fell Uncle Bird told me how, on a night
like that, 'Thenie came wandering back to her home over yonder, to
escape the blows of her husband. And next morning she died in the
home that her little bow-legged brother, working and saving, had
bought for their widowed mother.
My journey was done, and behind me lay hill and dale, and Life and
Death. How shall man measure Progress there where the dark-faced
Josie lies? How many heartfuls of sorrow shall balance a bushel
of wheat? How hard a thing is life to the lowly, and yet how
human and real! And all this life and love and strife and
failure,--is it the twilight of nightfall or the flush of some
Thus sadly musing, I rode to Nashville in the Jim Crow car.
THE CAPTURE OF A SLAVER
by J. Taylor Wood
From 1830 to 1850 both Great Britain and the United States, by
joint convention, kept on the coast of Africa at least eighty guns
afloat for the suppression of the slave trade. Most of the
vessels so employed were small corvettes, brigs, or schooners;
steam at that time was just being introduced into the navies of
Nearly fifty years ago I was midshipman on the United States brig
Porpoise, of ten guns. Some of my readers may remember these
little ten-gun coffins, as many of them proved to be to their
crews. The Porpoise was a fair sample of the type; a full-rigged
brig of one hundred and thirty tons, heavily sparred, deep
waisted, and carrying a battery of eight twenty-four-pound
carronades and two long chasers; so wet that even in a moderate
breeze or sea it was necessary to batten down; and so tender that
she required careful watching; only five feet between decks, her
quarters were necessarily cramped and uncomfortable, and, as far
as possible, we lived on deck. With a crew of eighty all told,
Lieutenant Thompson was in command, Lieutenant Bukett executive
officer, and two midshipmen were the line officers. She was so
slow that we could hardly hope for a prize except by a fluke.
Repeatedly we had chased suspicious craft only to be out-sailed.
At this time the traffic in slaves was very brisk; the demand in
the Brazils, in Cuba, and in other Spanish West Indies was urgent,
and the profit of the business so great that two or three
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