The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 1995, Memorial Issue.

Part 6 out of 8

somewhat cramped handwriting.

"You have heard the readin' of the applications," said the
chairman. "Gentlemen, what is yo' pleasure?"

There being no immediate response, the chairman continued:

"As this is a matter of consid'able importance, involvin' not only
the welfare of our schools, but the progress of our race, an' as
our action is liable to be criticized, whatever we decide, perhaps
we had better discuss the subjec' befo' we act. If nobody else
has anything to obse've, I will make a few remarks."

Mr. Gillespie cleared his throat, and, assuming an oratorical
attitude, proceeded:

"The time has come in the history of our people when we should
stand together. In this age of organization the march of progress
requires that we help ourselves, or be forever left behind. Ever
since the war we have been sendin' our child'n to school an'
educatin' 'em; an' now the time has come when they are leavin' the
schools an' colleges, an' are ready to go to work. An' what are
they goin' to do? The white people won't hire 'em as clerks in
their sto's an' factories an' mills, an' we have no sto's or
factories or mills of our own. They can't be lawyers or doctors
yet, because we haven't got the money to send 'em to medical
colleges an' law schools. We can't elect many of 'em to office,
for various reasons. There's just two things they can find to do--
to preach in our own pulpits, an' teach in our own schools. If
it wasn't for that, they'd have to go on forever waitin' on white
folks, like their fo'fathers have done, because they couldn't help
it. If we expect our race to progress, we must educate our young
men an' women. If we want to encourage 'em to get education, we
must find 'em employment when they are educated. We have now an
opportunity to do this in the case of our young friend an' fellow-
citizen, Mr. Williams, whose eloquent an' fine-lookin' letter
ought to make us feel proud of him an' of our race.

"Of co'se there are two sides to the question. We have got to
consider the claims of Miss Noble. She has been with us a long
time an' has done much good work for our people, an' we'll never
forget her work an' frien'ship. But, after all, she has been paid
for it; she has got her salary regularly an' for a long time, an'
she has probably saved somethin', for we all know she hasn't lived
high; an', for all we know, she may have had somethin' left her by
her parents. An' then again, she's white, an' has got her own
people to look after her; they've got all the money an' all the
offices an' all the everythin',--all that they've made an' all
that we've made for fo' hundred years,--an' they sho'ly would look
out for her. If she don't get this school, there's probably a
dozen others she can get at the North. An' another thing: she is
gettin' rather feeble, an' it 'pears to me she's hardly able to
stand teachin' so many child'n, an' a long rest might be the best
thing in the world for her.

"Now, gentlemen, that's the situation. Shall we keep Miss Noble,
or shall we stand by our own people? It seems to me there can
hardly be but one answer. Self-preservation is the first law of
nature. Are there any other remarks?"

Old Abe was moving restlessly in his seat. He did not say
anything, however, and the chairman turned to the other member.

"Brother Cotten, what is yo' opinion of the question befo' the

Mr. Cotten rose with the slowness and dignity becoming a
substantial citizen, and observed:

"I think the remarks of the chairman have great weight. We all
have nothin' but kind feelin's fer Miss Noble, an' I came here to-
night somewhat undecided how to vote on this question. But after
listenin' to the just an' forcible arguments of Brother Glaspy, it
'pears to me that, after all, the question befo' us is not a
matter of feelin', but of business. As a business man, I am
inclined to think Brother Glaspy is right. If we don't help
ourselves when we get a chance, who is goin' to help us?"

"That bein' the case," said the chairman, "shall we proceed to a
vote? All who favor the election of Brother Williams--"

At this point Old Abe, with much preliminary shuffling, stood up
in his place and interrupted the speaker.

"Mr. Chuhman," he said, "I s'pose I has a right ter speak in dis
meet'n? I S'POSE I is a member er dis committee?"

"Certainly, Brother Johnson, certainly; we shall be glad to hear
from you."

"I s'pose I's got a right ter speak my min', ef I is po' an'
black, an' don' weah as good clo's as some other members er de

"Most assuredly, Brother Johnson," answered the chairman, with a
barber's suavity, "you have as much right to be heard as any one
else. There was no intention of cuttin' you off."

"I s'pose," continued Abe, "dat a man wid fo'teen child'n kin be
'lowed ter hab somethin' ter say 'bout de schools er dis town?"

"I am sorry, Brother Johnson, that you should feel slighted, but
there was no intention to igno' yo' rights. The committee will be
please' to have you ventilate yo' views."

"Ef it's all be'n an' done reco'nized an' 'cided dat I's got de
right ter be heared in dis meet'n', I'll say w'at I has ter say,
an' it won't take me long ter say it. Ef I should try ter tell
all de things dat Miss Noble has done fer de niggers er dis town,
it'd take me till ter-morrer mawnin'. Fer fifteen long yeahs I
has watched her incomin's an' her outgoin's. Her daddy was a
Yankee kunnel, who died fighting fer ou' freedom. She come heah
when we--yas, Mr. Chuhman, when you an' Br'er Cotten--was jes sot
free, an' when none er us didn' have a rag ter ou' backs. She
come heah, an' she tuk yo' child'n an' my child'n, an' she teached
'em sense an' manners an' religion an' book-l'arnin'. When she
come heah we didn' hab no chu'ch. Who writ up No'th an' got a
preacher sent to us, an' de fun's ter buil' dis same chu'ch-house
we're settin' in ter-night? Who got de money f'm de Bureau to
s'port de school? An' when dat was stop', who got de money f'm de
Peabody Fun'? Talk about Miss Noble gittin' a sal'ry! Who paid
dat sal'ry up ter five years ago? Not one dollah of it come outer
ou' pockets!

"An' den, w'at did she git fer de yuther things she done? Who
paid her fer de gals she kep' f'm throwin' deyse'ves away? Who
paid fer de boys she kep' outer jail? I had a son dat seemed to
hab made up his min' ter go straight ter hell. I made him go ter
Sunday-school, an' somethin' dat woman said teched his heart, an'
he behaved hisse'f, an' I ain' got no reason fer ter be 'shame' er
'im. An' I can 'member, Br'er Cotten, when you didn' own fo'
houses an' a fahm. An' when yo' fus wife was sick, who sot by her
bedside an' read de Good Book ter 'er, w'en dey wuzn' nobody else
knowed how ter read it, an' comforted her on her way across de
col', dahk ribber? An' dat ain' all I kin 'member, Mr. Chuhman!
When yo' gal Fanny was a baby, an' sick, an' nobody knowed what
was de matter wid 'er, who sent fer a doctor, an' paid 'im fer
comin', an' who he'ped nuss dat chile, an' tol' yo' wife w'at ter
do, an' save' dat chile's life, jes as sho' as de Lawd has save'
my soul?

"An' now, aftuh fifteen yeahs o' slavin' fer us, who ain't got no
claim on her, aftuh fifteen yeahs dat she has libbed 'mongs' us
an' made herse'f one of us, an' endyoed havin' her own people look
down on her, aftuh she has growed ole an' gray wukkin' fer us an'
our child'n, we talk erbout turnin' 'er out like a' ole hoss ter
die! It 'pears ter me some folks has po' mem'ries! Whar would we
'a' be'n ef her folks at de No'th hadn' 'membered us no bettuh?
An' we hadn' done nothin', neither, fer dem to 'member us fer. De
man dat kin fergit w'at Miss Noble has done fer dis town is
unworthy de name er nigger! He oughter die an' make room fer some
'spectable dog!

"Br'er Glaspy says we got a' educated young man, an' we mus' gib
him sump'n' ter do. Let him wait; ef I reads de signs right he
won't hab ter wait long fer dis job. Let him teach in de primary
schools, er in de country; an' ef he can't do dat, let 'im work
awhile. It don't hahm a' educated man ter work a little; his
fo'fathers has worked fer hund'eds of years, an' we's worked, an'
we're heah yet, an' we're free, an' we's gettin' ou' own houses
an' lots an' hosses an' cows--an' ou' educated young men. But
don't let de fus thing we do as a committee be somethin' we ought
ter be 'shamed of as long as we lib. I votes fer Miss Noble, fus,
las', an' all de time!"

When Old Abe sat down the chairman's face bore a troubled look.
He remembered how his baby girl, the first of his children that he
could really call his own, that no master could hold a prior claim
upon, lay dying in the arms of his distracted young wife, and how
the thin, homely, and short-sighted white teacher had come like an
angel into his cabin, and had brought back the little one from the
verge of the grave. The child was a young woman now, and
Gillespie had well-founded hopes of securing the superior young
Williams for a son-in-law; and he realized with something of shame
that this later ambition had so dazzled his eyes for a moment as
to obscure the memory of earlier days.

Mr. Cotten, too, had not been unmoved, and there were tears in his
eyes as he recalled how his first wife, Nancy, who had borne with
him the privations of slavery, had passed away, with the teacher's
hand in hers, before she had been able to enjoy the fruits of
liberty. For they had loved one another much, and her death had
been to them both a hard and bitter thing. And, as Old Abe spoke,
he could remember, as distinctly as though they had been spoken
but an hour before, the words of comfort that the teacher had
whispered to Nancy in her dying hour and to him in his

"On consideration, Mr. Chairman," he said, with an effort to hide
a suspicious tremor in his voice and to speak with the dignity
consistent with his character as a substantial citizen, "I wish to
record my vote fer Miss Noble."

"The chair," said Gillespie, yielding gracefully to the majority,
and greatly relieved that the responsibility of his candidate's
defeat lay elsewhere, "will make the vote unanimous, and will
appoint Brother Cotten and Brother Johnson a committee to step
round the corner to Miss Noble's and notify her of her election."

The two committeemen put on their hats, and, accompanied by
several people who had been waiting at the door to hear the result
of the meeting, went around the corner to Miss Noble's house, a
distance of a block or two away. The house was lighted, so they
knew she had not gone to bed. They went in at the gate, and
Cotten knocked at the door.

The colored maid opened it.

"Is Miss Noble home?" said Cotten.

'Yes; come in. She's waitin' ter hear from the committee."

The woman showed them into the parlor. Miss Noble rose from her
seat by the table, where she had been reading, and came forward to
meet them. They did not for a moment observe, as she took a step
toward them, that her footsteps wavered. In her agitation she was
scarcely aware of it herself.

"Miss Noble," announced Cotten, "we have come to let you know that
you have be'n 'lected teacher of the grammar school fer the next

"Thank you; oh, thank you so much!" she said. "I am very glad.
Mary"--she put her hand to her side suddenly and tottered--"Mary,
will you--"

A spasm of pain contracted her face and cut short her speech. She
would have fallen had Old Abe not caught her and, with Mary's
help, laid her on a couch.

The remedies applied by Mary, and by the physician who was hastily
summoned, proved unavailing. The teacher did not regain

If it be given to those whose eyes have closed in death to linger
regretfully for a while about their earthly tenement, or from some
higher vantage-ground to look down upon it, then Henrietta Noble's
tolerant spirit must have felt, mingling with its regret, a
compensating thrill of pleasure; for not only those for whom she
had labored sorrowed for her, but the people of her own race, many
of whom, in the blindness of their pride, would not admit during
her life that she served them also, saw so much clearer now that
they took charge of her poor clay, and did it gentle reverence,
and laid it tenderly away amid the dust of their own loved and
honored dead.

TWO weeks after Miss Noble's funeral the other candidate took
charge of the grammar school, which went on without any further
obstacles to the march of progress.

by W. E. Burghardt Du Bois

The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color
line; the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in
Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea. It was a
phase of this problem that caused the Civil War; and however much
they who marched south and north in 1861 may have fixed on the
technical points of union and local autonomy as a shibboleth, all
nevertheless knew, as we know, that the question of Negro slavery
was the deeper cause of the conflict. Curious it was, too, how
this deeper question ever forced itself to the surface, despite
effort and disclaimer. No sooner had Northern armies touched
Southern soil than this old question, newly guised, sprang from
the earth,--What shall be done with slaves? Peremptory military
commands, this way and that, could not answer the query; the
Emancipation Proclamation seemed but to broaden and intensify the
difficulties; and so at last there arose in the South a government
of men called the Freedmen's Bureau, which lasted, legally, from
1865 to 1872, but in a sense from 1861 to 1876, and which sought
to settle the Negro problems in the United States of America.

It is the aim of this essay to study the Freedmen's Bureau,--the
occasion of its rise, the character of its work, and its final
success and failure,--not only as a part of American history, but
above all as one of the most singular and interesting of the
attempts made by a great nation to grapple with vast problems of
race and social condition.

No sooner had the armies, east and west, penetrated Virginia and
Tennessee than fugitive slaves appeared within their lines. They
came at night, when the flickering camp fires of the blue hosts
shone like vast unsteady stars along the black horizon: old men,
and thin, with gray and tufted hair; women with frightened eyes,
dragging whimpering, hungry children; men and girls, stalwart and
gaunt,--a horde of starving vagabonds, homeless, helpless, and
pitiable in their dark distress. Two methods of treating these
newcomers seemed equally logical to opposite sorts of minds. Said
some, "We have nothing to do with slaves." "Hereafter," commanded
Halleck, "no slaves should be allowed to come into your lines at
all; if any come without your knowledge, when owners call for
them, deliver them." But others said, "We take grain and fowl;
why not slaves?" Whereupon Fremont, as early as August, 1861,
declared the slaves of Missouri rebels free. Such radical action
was quickly countermanded, but at the same time the opposite
policy could not be enforced; some of the black refugees declared
themselves freemen, others showed their masters had deserted them,
and still others were captured with forts and plantations.
Evidently, too, slaves were a source of strength to the
Confederacy, and were being used as laborers and producers. "They
constitute a military resource," wrote the Secretary of War, late
in 1861; "and being such, that they should not be turned over to
the enemy is too plain to discuss." So the tone of the army
chiefs changed, Congress forbade the rendition of fugitives, and
Butler's "contrabands" were welcomed as military laborers. This
complicated rather than solved the problem; for now the scattering
fugitives became a steady stream, which flowed faster as the
armies marched.

Then the long-headed man, with care-chiseled face, who sat in the
White House, saw the inevitable, and emancipated the slaves of
rebels on New Year's, 1863. A month later Congress called
earnestly for the Negro soldiers whom the act of July, 1862, had
half grudgingly allowed to enlist. Thus the barriers were
leveled, and the deed was done. The stream of fugitives swelled
to a flood, and anxious officers kept inquiring: "What must be
done with slaves arriving almost daily? Am I to find food and
shelter for women and children?"

It was a Pierce of Boston who pointed out the way, and thus became
in a sense the founder of the Freedmen's Bureau. Being specially
detailed from the ranks to care for the freedmen at Fortress
Monroe, he afterward founded the celebrated Port Royal experiment
and started the Freedmen's Aid Societies. Thus, under the timid
Treasury officials and bold army officers, Pierce's plan widened
and developed. At first, the able-bodied men were enlisted as
soldiers or hired as laborers, the women and children were herded
into central camps under guard, and "superintendents of
contrabands" multiplied here and there. Centres of massed
freedmen arose at Fortress Monroe, Va., Washington, D. C.,
Beaufort and Port Royal, S. C., New Orleans, La., Vicksburg and
Corinth, Miss., Columbus, Ky., Cairo, Ill., and elsewhere, and the
army chaplains found here new and fruitful fields.

Then came the Freedmen's Aid Societies, born of the touching
appeals for relief and help from these centres of distress. There
was the American Missionary Association, sprung from the Amistad,
and now full grown for work, the various church organizations, the
National Freedmen's Relief Association, the American Freedmen's
Union, the Western Freedmen's Aid Commission,--in all fifty or
more active organizations, which sent clothes, money, school-
books, and teachers southward. All they did was needed, for the
destitution of the freedmen was often reported as "too appalling
for belief," and the situation was growing daily worse rather than

And daily, too, it seemed more plain that this was no ordinary
matter of temporary relief, but a national crisis; for here loomed
a labor problem of vast dimensions. Masses of Negroes stood idle,
or, if they worked spasmodically, were never sure of pay; and if
perchance they received pay, squandered the new thing
thoughtlessly. In these and in other ways were camp life and the
new liberty demoralizing the freedmen. The broader economic
organization thus clearly demanded sprang up here and there as
accident and local conditions determined. Here again Pierce's
Port Royal plan of leased plantations and guided workmen pointed
out the rough way. In Washington, the military governor, at the
urgent appeal of the superintendent, opened confiscated estates to
the cultivation of the fugitives, and there in the shadow of the
dome gathered black farm villages. General Dix gave over estates
to the freedmen of Fortress Monroe, and so on through the South.
The government and the benevolent societies furnished the means of
cultivation, and the Negro turned again slowly to work. The
systems of control, thus started, rapidly grew, here and there,
into strange little governments, like that of General Banks in
Louisiana, with its 90,000 black subjects, its 50,000 guided
laborers, and its annual budget of $100,000 and more. It made out
4000 pay rolls, registered all freedmen, inquired into grievances
and redressed them, laid and collected taxes, and established a
system of public schools. So too Colonel Eaton, the
superintendent of Tennessee and Arkansas, ruled over 100,000,
leased and cultivated 7000 acres of cotton land, and furnished
food for 10,000 paupers. In South Carolina was General Saxton,
with his deep interest in black folk. He succeeded Pierce and the
Treasury officials, and sold forfeited estates, leased abandoned
plantations, encouraged schools, and received from Sherman, after
the terribly picturesque march to the sea, thousands of the
wretched camp followers.

Three characteristic things one might have seen in Sherman's raid
through Georgia, which threw the new situation in deep and shadowy
relief: the Conqueror, the Conquered, and the Negro. Some see all
significance in the grim front of the destroyer, and some in the
bitter sufferers of the lost cause. But to me neither soldier nor
fugitive speaks with so deep a meaning as that dark and human
cloud that clung like remorse on the rear of those swift columns,
swelling at times to half their size, almost engulfing and choking
them. In vain were they ordered back, in vain were bridges hewn
from beneath their feet; on they trudged and writhed and surged,
until they rolled into Savannah, a starved and naked horde of tens
of thousands. There too came the characteristic military remedy:
"The islands from Charleston south, the abandoned ricefields along
the rivers for thirty miles back from the sea, and the country
bordering the St. John's River, Florida, are reserved and set
apart for the settlement of Negroes now made free by act of war."
So read the celebrated field order.

All these experiments, orders, and systems were bound to attract
and perplex the government and the nation. Directly after the
Emancipation Proclamation, Representative Eliot had introduced a
bill creating a Bureau of Emancipation, but it was never reported.
The following June, a committee of inquiry, appointed by the
Secretary of War, reported in favor of a temporary bureau for the
"improvement, protection, and employment of refugee freedmen," on
much the same lines as were afterward followed. Petitions came in
to President Lincoln from distinguished citizens and
organizations, strongly urging a comprehensive and unified plan of
dealing with the freedmen, under a bureau which should be "charged
with the study of plans and execution of measures for easily
guiding, and in every way judiciously and humanely aiding, the
passage of our emancipated and yet to be emancipated blacks from
the old condition of forced labor to their new state of voluntary

Some half-hearted steps were early taken by the government to put
both freedmen and abandoned estates under the supervision of the
Treasury officials. Laws of 1863 and 1864 directed them to take
charge of and lease abandoned lands for periods not exceeding
twelve months, and to "provide in such leases or otherwise for the
employment and general welfare" of the freedmen. Most of the army
officers looked upon this as a welcome relief from perplexing
"Negro affairs;" but the Treasury hesitated and blundered, and
although it leased large quantities of land and employed many
Negroes, especially along the Mississippi, yet it left the virtual
control of the laborers and their relations to their neighbors in
the hands of the army.

In March, 1864, Congress at last turned its attention to the
subject, and the House passed a bill, by a majority of two,
establishing a Bureau for Freedmen in the War Department. Senator
Sumner, who had charge of the bill in the Senate, argued that
freedmen and abandoned lands ought to be under the same
department, and reported a substitute for the House bill,
attaching the Bureau to the Treasury Department. This bill
passed, but too late for action in the House. The debate wandered
over the whole policy of the administration and the general
question of slavery, without touching very closely the specific
merits of the measure in hand.

Meantime the election took place, and the administration,
returning from the country with a vote of renewed confidence,
addressed itself to the matter more seriously. A conference
between the houses agreed upon a carefully drawn measure which
contained the chief provisions of Charles Sumner's bill, but made
the proposed organization a department independent of both the War
and Treasury officials. The bill was conservative, giving the new
department "general superintendence of all freedmen." It was to
"establish regulations" for them, protect them, lease them lands,
adjust their wages, and appear in civil and military courts as
their "next friend." There were many limitations attached to the
powers thus granted, and the organization was made permanent.
Nevertheless, the Senate defeated the bill, and a new conference
committee was appointed. This committee reported a new bill,
February 28, which was whirled through just as the session closed,
and which became the act of 1865 establishing in the War
Department a "Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands."

This last compromise was a hasty bit of legislation, vague and
uncertain in outline. A Bureau was created, "to continue during
the present War of Rebellion, and for one year thereafter," to
which was given "the supervision and management of all abandoned
lands, and the control of all subjects relating to refugees and
freedmen," under "such rules and regulations as may be presented
by the head of the Bureau and approved by the President." A
commissioner, appointed by the President and Senate, was to
control the Bureau, with an office force not exceeding ten clerks.
The President might also appoint commissioners in the seceded
states, and to all these offices military officials might be
detailed at regular pay. The Secretary of War could issue
rations, clothing, and fuel to the destitute, and all abandoned
property was placed in the hands of the Bureau for eventual lease
and sale to ex-slaves in forty-acre parcels.

Thus did the United States government definitely assume charge of
the emancipated Negro as the ward of the nation. It was a
tremendous undertaking. Here, at a stroke of the pen, was erected
a government of millions of men,--and not ordinary men, either,
but black men emasculated by a peculiarly complete system of
slavery, centuries old; and now, suddenly, violently, they come
into a new birthright, at a time of war and passion, in the midst
of the stricken, embittered population of their former masters.
Any man might well have hesitated to assume charge of such a work,
with vast responsibilities, indefinite powers, and limited
resources. Probably no one but a soldier would have answered such
a call promptly; and indeed no one but a soldier could be called,
for Congress had appropriated no money for salaries and expenses.

Less than a month after the weary emancipator passed to his rest,
his successor assigned Major General Oliver O. Howard to duty as
commissioner of the new Bureau. He was a Maine man, then only
thirty-five years of age. He had marched with Sherman to the sea,
had fought well at Gettysburg, and had but a year before been
assigned to the command of the Department of Tennessee. An honest
and sincere men, with rather too much faith in human nature,
little aptitude for systematic business and intricate detail, he
was nevertheless conservative, hard-working, and, above all,
acquainted at first-hand with much of the work before him. And of
that work it has been truly said, "No approximately correct
history of civilization can ever be written which does not throw
out in bold relief, as one of the great landmarks of political and
social progress, the organization and administration of the
Freedmen's Bureau."

On May 12, 1865, Howard was appointed, and he assumed the duties
of his office promptly on the 15th, and began examining the field
of work. A curious mess he looked upon: little despotisms,
communistic experiments, slavery, peonage, business speculations,
organized charity, unorganized almsgiving,--all reeling on under
the guise of helping the freedman, and all enshrined in the smoke
and blood of war and the cursing and silence of angry men. On May
19 the new government--for a government it really was--issued its
constitution; commissioners were to be appointed in each of the
seceded states, who were to take charge of "all subjects relating
to refugees and freedmen," and all relief and rations were to be
given by their consent alone. The Bureau invited continued
cooperation with benevolent societies, and declared, "It will be
the object of all commissioners to introduce practicable systems
of compensated labor," and to establish schools. Forthwith nine
assistant commissioners were appointed. They were to hasten to
their fields of work; seek gradually to close relief
establishments, and make the destitute self-supporting; act as
courts of law where there were no courts, or where Negroes were
not recognized in them as free; establish the institution of
marriage among ex-slaves, and keep records; see that freedmen were
free to choose their employers, and help in making fair contracts
for them; and finally, the circular said, "Simple good faith, for
which we hope on all hands for those concerned in the passing away
of slavery, will especially relieve the assistant commissioners in
the discharge of their duties toward the freedmen, as well as
promote the general welfare."

No sooner was the work thus started, and the general system and
local organization in some measure begun, than two grave
difficulties appeared which changed largely the theory and outcome
of Bureau work. First, there were the abandoned lands of the
South. It had long been the more or less definitely expressed
theory of the North that all the chief problems of emancipation
might be settled by establishing the slaves on the forfeited lands
of their masters,--a sort of poetic justice, said some. But this
poetry done into solemn prose meant either wholesale confiscation
of private property in the South, or vast appropriations. Now
Congress had not appropriated a cent, and no sooner did the
proclamations of general amnesty appear than the 800,000 acres of
abandoned lands in the hands of the Freedmen's Bureau melted
quickly away. The second difficulty lay in perfecting the local
organization of the Bureau throughout the wide field of work.
Making a new machine and sending out officials of duly ascertained
fitness for a great work of social reform is no child's task; but
this task was even harder, for a new central organization had to
be fitted on a heterogeneous and confused but already existing
system of relief and control of ex-slaves; and the agents
available for this work must be sought for in an army still busy
with war operations,--men in the very nature of the case ill
fitted for delicate social work,--or among the questionable camp
followers of an invading host. Thus, after a year's work,
vigorously as it was pushed, the problem looked even more
difficult to grasp and solve than at the beginning. Nevertheless,
three things that year's work did, well worth the doing: it
relieved a vast amount of physical suffering; it transported 7000
fugitives from congested centres back to the farm; and, best of
all, it inaugurated the crusade of the New England schoolma'am.

The annals of this Ninth Crusade are yet to be written, the tale
of a mission that seemed to our age far more quixotic than the
quest of St. Louis seemed to his. Behind the mists of ruin and
rapine waved the calico dresses of women who dared, and after the
hoarse mouthings of the field guns rang the rhythm of the
alphabet. Rich and poor they were, serious and curious. Bereaved
now of a father, now of a brother, now of more than these, they
came seeking a life work in planting New England schoolhouses
among the white and black of the South. They did their work well.
In that first year they taught 100,000 souls, and more.

Evidently, Congress must soon legislate again on the hastily
organized Bureau, which had so quickly grown into wide
significance and vast possibilities. An institution such as that
was well-nigh as difficult to end as to begin. Early in 1866
Congress took up the matter, when Senator Trumbull, of Illinois,
introduced a bill to extend the Bureau and enlarge its powers.
This measure received, at the hands of Congress, far more thorough
discussion and attention than its predecessor. The war cloud had
thinned enough to allow a clearer conception of the work of
emancipation. The champions of the bill argued that the
strengthening of the Freedmen's Bureau was still a military
necessity; that it was needed for the proper carrying out of the
Thirteenth Amendment, and was a work of sheer justice to the ex-
slave, at a trifling cost to the government. The opponents of the
measure declared that the war was over, and the necessity for war
measures past; that the Bureau, by reason of its extraordinary
powers, was clearly unconstitutional in time of peace, and was
destined to irritate the South and pauperize the freedmen, at a
final cost of possibly hundreds of millions. Two of these
arguments were unanswered, and indeed unanswerable: the one that
the extraordinary powers of the Bureau threatened the civil rights
of all citizens; and the other that the government must have power
to do what manifestly must be done, and that present abandonment
of the freedmen meant their practical enslavement. The bill which
finally passed enlarged and made permanent the Freedmen's Bureau.
It was promptly vetoed by President Johnson, as
"unconstitutional," "unnecessary," and "extrajudicial," and failed
of passage over the veto. Meantime, however, the breach between
Congress and the President began to broaden, and a modified form
of the lost bill was finally passed over the President's second
veto, July 16.

The act of 1866 gave the Freedmen's Bureau its final form,--the
form by which it will be known to posterity and judged of men. It
extended the existence of the Bureau to July, 1868; it authorized
additional assistant commissioners, the retention of army officers
mustered out of regular service, the sale of certain forfeited
lands to freedmen on nominal terms, the sale of Confederate public
property for Negro schools, and a wider field of judicial
interpretation and cognizance. The government of the un-
reconstructed South was thus put very largely in the hands of the
Freedmen's Bureau, especially as in many cases the departmental
military commander was now made also assistant commissioner. It
was thus that the Freedmen's Bureau became a full-fledged
government of men. It made laws, executed them and interpreted
them; it laid and collected taxes, defined and punished crime,
maintained and used military force, and dictated such measures as
it thought necessary and proper for the accomplishment of its
varied ends. Naturally, all these powers were not exercised
continuously nor to their fullest extent; and yet, as General
Howard has said, "scarcely any subject that has to be legislated
upon in civil society failed, at one time or another, to demand
the action of this singular Bureau."

To understand and criticise intelligently so vast a work, one must
not forget an instant the drift of things in the later sixties:
Lee had surrendered, Lincoln was dead, and Johnson and Congress
were at loggerheads; the Thirteenth Amendment was adopted, the
Fourteenth pending, and the Fifteenth declared in force in 1870.
Guerrilla raiding, the ever present flickering after-flame of war,
was spending its force against the Negroes, and all the Southern
land was awakening as from some wild dream to poverty and social
revolution. In a time of perfect calm, amid willing neighbors and
streaming wealth, the social uplifting of 4,000,000 slaves to an
assured and self-sustaining place in the body politic and economic
would have been an herculean task; but when to the inherent
difficulties of so delicate and nice a social operation were added
the spite and hate of conflict, the Hell of War; when suspicion
and cruelty were rife, and gaunt Hunger wept beside Bereavement,--
in such a case, the work of any instrument of social regeneration
was in large part foredoomed to failure. The very name of the
Bureau stood for a thing in the South which for two centuries and
better men had refused even to argue,--that life amid free Negroes
was simply unthinkable, the maddest of experiments. The agents
which the Bureau could command varied all the way from unselfish
philanthropists to narrow-minded busybodies and thieves; and even
though it be true that the average was far better than the worst,
it was the one fly that helped to spoil the ointment. Then, amid
all this crouched the freed slave, bewildered between friend and
foe. He had emerged from slavery: not the worst slavery in the
world, not a slavery that made all life unbearable,--rather, a
slavery that had here and there much of kindliness, fidelity, and
happiness,--but withal slavery, which, so far as human aspiration
and desert were concerned, classed the black man and the ox
together. And the Negro knew full well that, whatever their
deeper convictions may have been, Southern men had fought with
desperate energy to perpetuate this slavery, under which the black
masses, with half-articulate thought, had writhed and shivered.
They welcomed freedom with a cry. They fled to the friends that
had freed them. They shrank from the master who still strove for
their chains. So the cleft between the white and black South
grew. Idle to say it never should have been; it was as inevitable
as its results were pitiable. Curiously incongruous elements were
left arrayed against each other: the North, the government, the
carpetbagger, and the slave, here; and there, all the South that
was white, whether gentleman or vagabond, honest man or rascal,
lawless murderer or martyr to duty.

Thus it is doubly difficult to write of this period calmly, so
intense was the feeling, so mighty the human passions, that swayed
and blinded men. Amid it all two figures ever stand to typify
that day to coming men: the one a gray-haired gentleman, whose
fathers had quit themselves like men, whose sons lay in nameless
graves, who bowed to the evil of slavery because its abolition
boded untold ill to all; who stood at last, in the evening of
life, a blighted, ruined form, with hate in his eyes. And the
other, a form hovering dark and mother-like, her awful face black
with the mists of centuries, had aforetime bent in love over her
white master's cradle, rocked his sons and daughters to sleep, and
closed in death the sunken eyes of his wife to the world; ay, too,
had laid herself low to his lust and borne a tawny man child to
the world, only to see her dark boy's limbs scattered to the winds
by midnight marauders riding after Damned Niggers. These were the
saddest sights of that woeful day; and no man clasped the hands of
these two passing figures of the present-past; but hating they
went to their long home, and hating their children's children live

Here, then, was the field of work for the Freedmen's Bureau; and
since, with some hesitation, it was continued by the act of 1868
till 1869, let us look upon four years of its work as a whole.
There were, in 1868, 900 Bureau officials scattered from
Washington to Texas, ruling, directly and indirectly, many
millions of men. And the deeds of these rulers fall mainly under
seven heads,--the relief of physical suffering, the overseeing of
the beginnings of free labor, the buying and selling of land, the
establishment of schools, the paying of bounties, the
administration of justice, and the financiering of all these
activities. Up to June, 1869, over half a million patients had
been treated by Bureau physicians and surgeons, and sixty
hospitals and asylums had been in operation. In fifty months of
work 21,000,000 free rations were distributed at a cost of over
$4,000,000,--beginning at the rate of 30,000 rations a day in
1865, and discontinuing in 1869. Next came the difficult question
of labor. First, 30,000 black men were transported from the
refuges and relief stations back to the farms, back to the
critical trial of a new way of working. Plain, simple
instructions went out from Washington,--the freedom of laborers to
choose employers, no fixed rates of wages, no peonage or forced
labor. So far so good; but where local agents differed toto coelo
in capacity and character, where the personnel was continually
changing, the outcome was varied. The largest element of success
lay in the fact that the majority of the freedmen were willing,
often eager, to work. So contracts were written,--50,000 in a
single state,--laborers advised, wages guaranteed, and employers
supplied. In truth, the organization became a vast labor bureau;
not perfect, indeed,--notably defective here and there,--but on
the whole, considering the situation, successful beyond the dreams
of thoughtful men. The two great obstacles which confronted the
officers at every turn were the tyrant and the idler: the
slaveholder, who believed slavery was right, and was determined to
perpetuate it under another name; and the freedman, who regarded
freedom as perpetual rest. These were the Devil and the Deep Sea.

In the work of establishing the Negroes as peasant proprietors the
Bureau was severely handicapped, as I have shown. Nevertheless,
something was done. Abandoned lands were leased so long as they
remained in the hands of the Bureau, and a total revenue of
$400,000 derived from black tenants. Some other lands to which
the nation had gained title were sold, and public lands were
opened for the settlement of the few blacks who had tools and
capital. The vision of landowning, however, the righteous and
reasonable ambition for forty acres and a mule which filled the
freedmen's dreams, was doomed in most cases to disappointment.
And those men of marvelous hind-sight, who to-day are seeking to
preach the Negro back to the soil, know well, or ought to know,
that it was here, in 1865, that the finest opportunity of binding
the black peasant to the soil was lost. Yet, with help and
striving, the Negro gained some land, and by 1874, in the one
state of Georgia, owned near 350,000 acres.

The greatest success of the Freedmen's Bureau lay in the planting
of the free school among Negroes, and the idea of free elementary
education among all classes in the South. It not only called the
schoolmistress through the benevolent agencies, and built them
schoolhouses, but it helped discover and support such apostles of
human development as Edmund Ware, Erastus Cravath, and Samuel
Armstrong. State superintendents of education were appointed, and
by 1870 150,000 children were in school. The opposition to Negro
education was bitter in the South, for the South believed an
educated Negro to be a dangerous Negro. And the South was not
wholly wrong; for education among all kinds of men always has had,
and always will have, an element of danger and revolution, of
dissatisfaction and discontent. Nevertheless, men strive to know.
It was some inkling of this paradox, even in the unquiet days of
the Bureau, that allayed an opposition to human training, which
still to-day lies smouldering, but not flaming. Fisk, Atlanta,
Howard, and Hampton were founded in these days, and nearly
$6,000,000 was expended in five years for educational work,
$750,000 of which came from the freedmen themselves.

Such contributions, together with the buying of land and various
other enterprises, showed that the ex-slave was handling some free
capital already. The chief initial source of this was labor in
the army, and his pay and bounty as a soldier. Payments to Negro
soldiers were at first complicated by the ignorance of the
recipients, and the fact that the quotas of colored regiments from
Northern states were largely filled by recruits from the South,
unknown to their fellow soldiers. Consequently, payments were
accompanied by such frauds that Congress, by joint resolution in
1867, put the whole matter in the hands of the Freedmen's Bureau.
In two years $6,000,000 was thus distributed to 5000 claimants,
and in the end the sum exceeded $8,000,000. Even in this system,
fraud was frequent; but still the work put needed capital in the
hands of practical paupers, and some, at least, was well spent.

The most perplexing and least successful part of the Bureau's work
lay in the exercise of its judicial functions. In a distracted
land where slavery had hardly fallen, to keep the strong from
wanton abuse of the weak, and the weak from gloating insolently
over the half-shorn strength of the strong, was a thankless,
hopeless task. The former masters of the land were peremptorily
ordered about, seized and imprisoned, and punished over and again,
with scant courtesy from army officers. The former slaves were
intimidated, beaten, raped, and butchered by angry and revengeful
men. Bureau courts tended to become centres simply for punishing
whites, while the regular civil courts tended to become solely
institutions for perpetuating the slavery of blacks. Almost every
law and method ingenuity could devise was employed by the
legislatures to reduce the Negroes to serfdom,--to make them the
slaves of the state, if not of individual owners; while the Bureau
officials too often were found striving to put the "bottom rail on
top," and give the freedmen a power and independence which they
could not yet use. It is all well enough for us of another
generation to wax wise with advice to those who bore the burden in
the heat of the day. It is full easy now to see that the man who
lost home, fortune, and family at a stroke, and saw his land ruled
by "mules and niggers," was really benefited by the passing of
slavery. It is not difficult now to say to the young freedman,
cheated and cuffed about, who has seen his father's head beaten to
a jelly and his own mother namelessly assaulted, that the meek
shall inherit the earth. Above all, nothing is more convenient
than to heap on the Freedmen's Bureau all the evils of that evil
day, and damn it utterly for every mistake and blunder that was

All this is easy, but it is neither sensible nor just. Some one
had blundered, but that was long before Oliver Howard was born;
there was criminal aggression and heedless neglect, but without
some system of control there would have been far more than there
was. Had that control been from within, the Negro would have been
reenslaved, to all intents and purposes. Coming as the control
did from without, perfect men and methods would have bettered all
things; and even with imperfect agents and questionable methods,
the work accomplished was not undeserving of much commendation.
The regular Bureau court consisted of one representative of the
employer, one of the Negro, and one of the Bureau. If the Bureau
could have maintained a perfectly judicial attitude, this
arrangement would have been ideal, and must in time have gained
confidence; but the nature of its other activities and the
character of its personnel prejudiced the Bureau in favor of the
black litigants, and led without doubt to much injustice and
annoyance. On the other hand, to leave the Negro in the hands of
Southern courts was impossible.

What the Freedmen's Bureau cost the nation is difficult to
determine accurately. Its methods of bookkeeping were not good,
and the whole system of its work and records partook of the hurry
and turmoil of the time. General Howard himself disbursed some
$15,000,000 during his incumbency; but this includes the bounties
paid colored soldiers, which perhaps should not be counted as an
expense of the Bureau. In bounties, prize money, and all other
expenses, the Bureau disbursed over $20,000,000 before all of its
departments were finally closed. To this ought to be added the
large expenses of the various departments of Negro affairs before
1865; but these are hardly extricable from war expenditures, nor
can we estimate with any accuracy the contributions of benevolent
societies during all these years.

Such was the work of the Freedmen's Bureau. To sum it up in
brief, we may say: it set going a system of free labor; it
established the black peasant proprietor; it secured the
recognition of black freemen before courts of law; it founded the
free public school in the South. On the other hand, it failed to
establish good will between ex-masters and freedmen; to guard its
work wholly from paternalistic methods that discouraged self-
reliance; to make Negroes landholders in any considerable numbers.
Its successes were the result of hard work, supplemented by the
aid of philanthropists and the eager striving of black men. Its
failures were the result of bad local agents, inherent
difficulties of the work, and national neglect. The Freedmen's
Bureau expired by limitation in 1869, save its educational and
bounty departments. The educational work came to an end in 1872,
and General Howard's connection with the Bureau ceased at that
time. The work of paying bounties was transferred to the adjutant
general's office, where it was continued three or four years

Such an institution, from its wide powers, great responsibilities,
large control of moneys, and generally conspicuous position, was
naturally open to repeated and bitter attacks. It sustained a
searching congressional investigation at the instance of Fernando
Wood in 1870. It was, with blunt discourtesy, transferred from
Howard's control, in his absence, to the supervision of Secretary
of War Belknap in 1872, on the Secretary's recommendation.
Finally, in consequence of grave intimations of wrongdoing made by
the Secretary and his subordinates, General Howard was court-
martialed in 1874. In each of these trials, and in other attacks,
the commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau was exonerated from any
willful misdoing, and his work heartily commended. Nevertheless,
many unpleasant things were brought to light: the methods of
transacting the business of the Bureau were faulty; several cases
of defalcation among officials in the field were proven, and
further frauds hinted at; there were some business transactions
which savored of dangerous speculation, if not dishonesty; and,
above all, the smirch of the Freedmen's Bank, which, while legally
distinct from, was morally and practically a part of the Bureau,
will ever blacken the record of this great institution. Not even
ten additional years of slavery could have done as much to
throttle the thrift of the freedmen as the mismanagement and
bankruptcy of the savings bank chartered by the nation for their
especial aid. Yet it is but fair to say that the perfect honesty
of purpose and unselfish devotion of General Howard have passed
untarnished through the fire of criticism. Not so with all his
subordinates, although in the case of the great majority of these
there were shown bravery and devotion to duty, even though
sometimes linked to narrowness and incompetency.

The most bitter attacks on the Freedmen's Bureau were aimed not so
much at its conduct or policy under the law as at the necessity
for any such organization at all. Such attacks came naturally
from the border states and the South, and they were summed up by
Senator Davis, of Kentucky, when he moved to entitle the act of
1866 a bill "to promote strife and conflict between the white and
black races . . . by a grant of unconstitutional power." The
argument was of tremendous strength, but its very strength was its
weakness. For, argued the plain common sense of the nation, if it
is unconstitutional, unpracticable, and futile for the nation to
stand guardian over its helpless wards, then there is left but one
alternative: to make those wards their own guardians by arming
them with the ballot. The alternative offered the nation then was
not between full and restricted Negro suffrage; else every
sensible man, black and white, would easily have chosen the
latter. It was rather a choice between suffrage and slavery,
after endless blood and gold had flowed to sweep human bondage
away. Not a single Southern legislature stood ready to admit a
Negro, under any conditions, to the polls; not a single Southern
legislature believed free Negro labor was possible without a
system of restrictions that took all its freedom away; there was
scarcely a white man in the South who did not honestly regard
emancipation as a crime, and its practical nullification as a
duty. In such a situation, the granting of the ballot to the
black man was a necessity, the very least a guilty nation could
grant a wronged race. Had the opposition to government
guardianship of Negroes been less bitter, and the attachment to
the slave system less strong, the social seer can well imagine a
far better policy: a permanent Freedmen's Bureau, with a national
system of Negro schools; a carefully supervised employment and
labor office; a system of impartial protection before the regular
courts; and such institutions for social betterment as savings
banks, land and building associations, and social settlements.
All this vast expenditure of money and brains might have formed a
great school of prospective citizenship, and solved in a way we
have not yet solved the most perplexing and persistent of the
Negro problems.

That such an institution was unthinkable in 1870 was due in part
to certain acts of the Freedmen's Bureau itself. It came to
regard its work as merely temporary, and Negro suffrage as a final
answer to all present perplexities. The political ambition of
many of its agents and proteges led it far afield into
questionable activities, until the South, nursing its own deep
prejudices, came easily to ignore all the good deeds of the
Bureau, and hate its very name with perfect hatred. So the
Freedmen's Bureau died, and its child was the Fifteenth Amendment.

The passing of a great human institution before its work is done,
like the untimely passing of a single soul, but leaves a legacy of
striving for other men. The legacy of the Freedmen's Bureau is
the heavy heritage of this generation. Today, when new and vaster
problems are destined to strain every fibre of the national mind
and soul, would it not be well to count this legacy honestly and
carefully? For this much all men know: despite compromise,
struggle, war, and struggle, the Negro is not free. In the
backwoods of the Gulf states, for miles and miles, he may not
leave the plantation of his birth; in well-nigh the whole rural
South the black farmers are peons, bound by law and custom to an
economic slavery, from which the only escape is death or the
penitentiary. In the most cultured sections and cities of the
South the Negroes are a segregated servile caste, with restricted
rights and privileges. Before the courts, both in law and custom,
they stand on a different and peculiar basis. Taxation without
representation is the rule of their political life. And the
result of all this is, and in nature must have been, lawlessness
and crime. That is the large legacy of the Freedmen's Bureau, the
work it did not do because it could not.

I have seen a land right merry with the sun; where children sing,
and rolling hills lie like passioned women, wanton with harvest.
And there in the King's Highway sat and sits a figure, veiled and
bowed, by which the traveler's footsteps hasten as they go. On
the tainted air broods fear. Three centuries' thought has been
the raising and unveiling of that bowed human heart, and now,
behold, my fellows, a century new for the duty and the deed. The
problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.

by W. E. Burghardt Du Bois

From the shimmering swirl of waters where many, many thoughts ago
the slave-ship first saw the square tower of Jamestown have flowed
down to our day three streams of thinking: one from the larger
world here and over-seas, saying, the multiplying of human wants
in culture lands calls for the world-wide co-operation of men in
satisfying them. Hence arises a new human unity, pulling the ends
of earth nearer, and all men, black, yellow, and white. The
larger humanity strives to feel in this contact of living nations
and sleeping hordes a thrill of new life in the world, crying, If
the contact of Life and Sleep be Death, shame on such Life. To be
sure, behind this thought lurks the afterthought of force and
dominion,--the making of brown men to delve when the temptation of
beads and red calico cloys.

The second thought streaming from the death-ship and the curving
river is the thought of the older South: the sincere and
passionate belief that somewhere between men and cattle God
created a tertium quid, and called it a Negro,--a clownish, simple
creature, at times even lovable within its limitations, but
straitly foreordained to walk within the Veil. To be sure, behind
the thought lurks the afterthought,--some of them with favoring
chance might become men, but in sheer self-defense we dare not let
them, and build about them walls so high, and hang between them
and the light a veil so thick, that they shall not even think of
breaking through.

And last of all there trickles down that third and darker thought,
the thought of the things themselves, the confused half-conscious
mutter of men who are black and whitened, crying Liberty, Freedom,
Opportunity--vouchsafe to us, O boastful World, the chance of
living men! To be sure, behind the thought lurks the
afterthought: suppose, after all, the World is right and we are
less than men? Suppose this mad impulse within is all wrong, some
mock mirage from the untrue?

So here we stand among thoughts of human unity, even through
conquest and slavery; the inferiority of black men, even if forced
by fraud; a shriek in the night for the freedom of men who
themselves are not yet sure of their right to demand it. This is
the tangle of thought and afterthought wherein we are called to
solve the problem of training men for life.

Behind all its curiousness, so attractive alike to sage and
dilettante, lie its dim dangers, throwing across us shadows at
once grotesque and awful. Plain it is to us that what the world
seeks through desert and wild we have within our threshold;--a
stalwart laboring force, suited to the semi-tropics; if, deaf to
the voice of the Zeitgeist, we refuse to use and develop these
men, we risk poverty and loss. If, on the other hand, seized by
the brutal afterthought, we debauch the race thus caught in our
talons, selfishly sucking their blood and brains in the future as
in the past, what shall save us from national decadence? Only
that saner selfishness which, Education teaches men, can find the
rights of all in the whirl of work.

Again, we may decry the color prejudice of the South, yet it
remains a heavy fact. Such curious kinks of the human mind exist
and must be reckoned with soberly. They cannot be laughed away,
nor always successfully stormed at, nor easily abolished by act of
legislature. And yet they cannot be encouraged by being let
alone. They must be recognized as facts, but unpleasant facts;
things that stand in the way of civilization and religion and
common decency. They can be met in but one way: by the breadth
and broadening of human reason, by catholicity of taste and
culture. And so, too, the native ambition and aspiration of men,
even though they be black, backward, and ungraceful, must not
lightly be dealt with. To stimulate wildly weak and untrained
minds is to play with mighty fires; to flout their striving idly
is to welcome a harvest of brutish crime and shameless lethargy in
our very laps. The guiding of thought and the deft coordination
of deed is at once the path of honor and humanity.

And so, in this great question of reconciling three vast and
partially contradictory streams of thought, the one panacea of
Education leaps to the lips of all; such human training as will
best use the labor of all men without enslaving or brutalizing;
such training as will give us poise to encourage the prejudices
that bulwark society, and stamp out those that in sheer barbarity
deafen us to the wail of prisoned souls within the Veil, and the
mounting fury of shackled men.

But when we have vaguely said Education will set this tangle
straight, what have we uttered but a truism? Training for life
teaches living; but what training for the profitable living
together of black men and white? Two hundred years ago our task
would have seemed easier. Then Dr. Johnson blandly assured us
that education was needed solely for the embellishments of life,
and was useless for ordinary vermin. To-day we have climbed to
heights where we would open at least the outer courts of knowledge
to all, display its treasures to many, and select the few to whom
its mystery of Truth is revealed, not wholly by truth or the
accidents of the stock market, but at least in part according to
deftness and aim, talent and character. This programme, however,
we are sorely puzzled in carrying out through that part of the
land where the blight of slavery fell hardest, and where we are
dealing with two backward peoples. To make here in human
education that ever necessary combination of the permanent and the
contingent--of the ideal and the practical in workable
equilibrium--has been there, as it ever must be in every age and
place, a matter of infinite experiment and frequent mistakes.

In rough approximation we may point out four varying decades of
work in Southern education since the Civil War. From the close of
the war until 1876 was the period of uncertain groping and
temporary relief. There were army schools, mission schools, and
schools of the Freedmen's Bureau in chaotic disarrangement,
seeking system and cooperation. Then followed ten years of
constructive definite effort toward the building of complete
school systems in the South. Normal schools and colleges were
founded for the freedmen, and teachers trained there to man the
public schools. There was the inevitable tendency of war to
underestimate the prejudice of the master and the ignorance of the
slave, and all seemed clear sailing out of the wreckage of the
storm. Meantime, starting in this decade yet especially
developing from 1885 to 1895, began the industrial revolution of
the South. The land saw glimpses of a new destiny and the
stirring of new ideals. The educational system striving to
complete itself saw new obstacles and a field of work ever broader
and deeper. The Negro colleges, hurriedly founded, were
inadequately equipped, illogically distributed, and of varying
efficiency and grade; the normal and high schools were doing
little more than common school work, and the common schools were
training but a third of the children who ought to be in them, and
training these too often poorly. At the same time the white
South, by reason of its sudden conversion from the slavery ideal,
by so much the more became set and strengthened in its racial
prejudice, and crystallized it into harsh law and harsher custom;
while the marvelous pushing forward of the poor white daily
threatened to take even bread and butter from the mouths of the
heavily handicapped sons of the freedmen. In the midst, then, of
the larger problem of Negro education sprang up the more practical
question of work, the inevitable economic quandary that faces a
people in the transition from slavery to freedom, and especially
those who make that change amid hate and prejudice, lawlessness
and ruthless competition.

The industrial school springing to notice in this decade, but
coming to full recognition in the decade beginning with 1895, was
the proffered answer to this combined educational and economic
crisis, and an answer of singular wisdom and timeliness. From the
very first in nearly all the schools some attention had been given
to training in handiwork, but now was this training first raised
to a dignity that brought it in direct touch with the South's
magnificent industrial development, and given an emphasis which
reminded black folk that before the Temple of Knowledge swing the
Gates of Toil.

Yet after all they are but gates, and when turning our eyes from
the temporary and the contingent in the Negro problem to the
broader question of the permanent uplifting and civilization of
black men in America, we have a right to inquire, as this
enthusiasm for material advancement mounts to its height, if after
all the industrial school is the final and sufficient answer in
the training of the Negro race; and to ask gently, but in all
sincerity, the ever recurring query of the ages, Is not life more
than meat, and the body more than raiment? And men ask this to-
day all the more eagerly because of sinister signs in recent
educational movements. The tendency is here born of slavery and
quickened to renewed life by the crazy imperialism of the day, to
regard human beings as among the material resources of a land to
be trained with an eye single to future dividends. Race
prejudices, which keep brown and black men in their "places," we
are coming to regard as useful allies with such a theory, no
matter how much they may dull the ambition and sicken the hearts
of struggling human beings. And above all, we daily hear that an
education that encourages aspiration, that sets the loftiest of
ideals and seeks as an end culture and character than bread-
winning, is the privilege of white men and the danger and delusion
of black.

Especially has criticism been directed against the former
educational efforts to aid the Negro. In the four periods I have
mentioned, we find first boundless, planless enthusiasm and
sacrifice; then the preparation of teachers for a vast public
school system; then the launching and expansion of that school
system amid increasing difficulties; and finally the training of
workmen for the new and growing industries. This development has
been sharply ridiculed as a logical anomaly and flat reversal of
nature. Soothly we have been told that first industrial and
manual training should have taught the Negro to work, then simple
schools should have taught him to read and write, and finally,
after years, high and normal schools could have completed the
system, as intelligence and wealth demanded.

That a system logically so complete was historically impossible,
it needs but a little thought to prove. Progress in human affairs
is more often a pull than a push, surging forward of the
exceptional man, and the lifting of his duller brethren slowly and
painfully to his vantage ground. Thus it was no accident that
gave birth to universities centuries before the common schools,
that made fair Harvard the first flower of our wilderness. So in
the South: the mass of the freedmen at the end of the war lacked
the intelligence so necessary to modern workingmen. They must
first have the common school to teach them to read, write, and
cipher. The white teachers who flocked South went to establish
such a common school system. They had no idea of founding
colleges; they themselves at first would have laughed at the idea.
But they faced, as all men since them have faced, that central
paradox of the South, the social separation of the races. Then it
was the sudden volcanic rupture of nearly all relations between
black and white, in work and government and family life. Since
then a new adjustment of relations in economic and political
affairs has grown up,--an adjustment subtle and difficult to
grasp, yet singularly ingenious, which leaves still that frightful
chasm at the color line across which men pass at their peril.
Thus, then and now, there stand in the South two separate worlds;
and separate not simply in the higher realms of social
intercourse, but also in church and school, on railway and street
car, in hotels and theatres, in streets and city sections, in
books and newspapers, in asylums and jails, in hospitals and
graveyards. There is still enough of contact for large economic
and group cooperation, but the separation is so thorough and deep,
that it absolutely precludes for the present between the races
anything like that sympathetic and effective group training and
leadership of the one by the other, such as the American Negro and
all backward peoples must have for effectual progress.

This the missionaries of '68 soon saw; and if effective industrial
and trade schools were impractical before the establishment of a
common school system, just as certainly no adequate common schools
could be founded until there were teachers to teach them.
Southern whites would not teach them; Northern whites in
sufficient numbers could not be had. If the Negro was to learn,
he must teach himself, and the most effective help that could be
given him was the establishment of schools to train Negro
teachers. This conclusion was slowly but surely reached by every
student of the situation until simultaneously, in widely separated
regions, without consultation or systematic plan, there arose a
series of institutions designed to furnish teachers for the
untaught. Above the sneers of critics at the obvious defects of
this procedure must ever stand its one crushing rejoinder: in a
single generation they put thirty thousand black teachers in the
South; they wiped out the illiteracy of the majority of the black
people of the land, and they made Tuskegee possible.

Such higher training schools tended naturally to deepen broader
development: at first they were common and grammar schools, then
some became high schools. And finally, by 1900, some thirty-four
had one year or more of studies of college grade. This
development was reached with different degrees of speed in
different institutions: Hampton is still a high school, while Fisk
University started her college in 1871, and Spelman Seminary about
1896. In all cases the aim was identical: to maintain the
standards of the lower training by giving teachers and leaders the
best practicable training; and above all to furnish the black
world with adequate standards of human culture and lofty ideals of
life. It was not enough that the teachers of teachers should be
trained in technical normal methods; they must also, so far as
possible, be broad-minded, cultured men and women, to scatter
civilization among a people whose ignorance was not simply of
letters, but of life itself.

It can thus be seen that the work of education in the South began
with higher institutions of training, which threw off as their
foliage common schools, and later industrial schools, and at the
same time strove to shoot their roots ever deeper toward college
and university training. That this was an inevitable and
necessary development, sooner or later, goes without saying; but
there has been, and still is, a question in many minds if the
natural growth was not forced, and if the higher training was not
either overdone or done with cheap and unsound methods. Among
white Southerners this feeling is widespread and positive. A
prominent Southern journal voiced this in a recent editorial:

"The experiment that has been made to give the colored students
classical training has not been satisfactory. Even though many
were able to pursue the course, most of them did so in a parrot-
like way, learning what was taught, but not seeming to appropriate
the truth and import of their instruction, and graduating without
sensible aim or valuable occupation for their future. The whole
scheme has proved a waste of time, efforts, and the money of the

While most far-minded men would recognize this as extreme and
overdrawn, still without doubt many are asking, Are there a
sufficient number of Negroes ready for college training to warrant
the undertaking? Are not too many students prematurely forced
into this work? Does it not have the effect of dissatisfying the
young Negro with his environment? And do these graduates succeed
in real life? Such natural questions cannot be evaded, nor on the
other hand must a nation naturally skeptical as to Negro ability
assume an unfavorable answer without careful inquiry and patient
openness to conviction. We must not forget that most Americans
answer all queries regarding the Negro a priori, and that the
least that human courtesy can do is to listen to evidence.

The advocates of the higher education of the Negro would be the
last to deny the incompleteness and glaring defects of the present
system: too many institutions have attempted to do college work,
the work in some cases has not been thoroughly done, and quantity
rather than quality has sometimes been sought. But all this can
be said of higher education throughout the land: it is the almost
inevitable incident of educational growth, and leaves the deeper
question of the legitimate demand for the higher training of
Negroes untouched. And this latter question can be settled in but
one way--by a first-hand study of the facts. If we leave out of
view all institutions which have not actually graduated students
from a course higher than that of a New England high school, even
though they be called colleges; if then we take the thirty-four
remaining institutions, we may clear up many misapprehensions by
asking searchingly, What kind of institutions are they, what do
they teach, and what sort of men do they graduate?

And first we may say that this type of college, including Atlanta,
Fisk and Howard, Wilberforce and Lincoln, Biddle, Shaw, and the
rest, is peculiar, almost unique. Through the shining trees that
whisper before me as I write, I catch glimpses of a boulder of New
England granite, covering a grave, which graduates of Atlanta
University have placed there:--


This was the gift of New England to the freed Negro: not alms, but
a friend; not cash, but character. It was not and is not money
these seething millions want, but love and sympathy, the pulse of
hearts beating with red blood; a gift which to-day only their own
kindred and race can bring to the masses, but which once saintly
souls brought to their favored children in the crusade of the
sixties, that finest thing in American history, and one of the few
things untainted by sordid greed and cheap vainglory. The
teachers in these institutions came not to keep the Negroes in
their place, but to raise them out of their places where the filth
of slavery had wallowed them. The colleges they founded were
social settlements; homes where the best of the sons of the
freedmen came in close and sympathetic touch with the best
traditions of New England. They lived and ate together, studies
and worked, hoped and harkened in the dawning light. In actual
formal content their curriculum was doubtless old-fashioned, but
in educational power it was supreme, for it was the contact of
living souls.

From such schools about two thousand Negroes have gone forth with
the bachelor's degree. The number in itself is enough to put at
rest the argument that too large a proportion of Negroes are
receiving higher training. If the ratio to population of all
Negro students throughout the land, in both college and secondary
training, be counted, Commissioner Harris assures us "it must be
increased to five times its present average" to equal the average
of the land.

Fifty years ago the ability of Negro students in any appreciable
numbers to master a modern college course would have been
difficult to prove. To-day it is proved by the fact that four
hundred Negroes, many of whom have been reported as brilliant
students, have received the bachelor's degree from Harvard, Yale,
Oberlin, and seventy other leading colleges. Here we have, then,
nearly twenty-five hundred Negro graduates, of whom the crucial
query must be made. How far did their training fit them for life?
It is of course extremely difficult to collect satisfactory data
on such a point,--difficult to reach the men, to get trustworthy
testimony, and to gauge that testimony by any generally acceptable
criterion of success. In 1900, the Conference at Atlanta
University undertook to study these graduates, and published the
results. First they sought to know what these graduates were
doing, and succeeded in getting answers from nearly two thirds of
the living. The direct testimony was in almost all cases
corroborated by the reports of the colleges where they graduated,
so that in the main the reports were worthy of credence. Fifty-
three per cent of these graduates were teachers,--presidents of
institutions, heads of normal schools, principals of city school
systems, and the like. Seventeen per cent were clergymen; another
seventeen per cent were in the professions, chiefly as physicians.
Over six per cent were merchants, farmers, and artisans, and four
per cent were in the government civil service. Granting even that
a considerable proportion of the third unheard from are
unsuccessful, this is a record of usefulness. Personally I know
many hundreds of these graduates and have corresponded with more
than a thousand; through others I have followed carefully the
life-work of scores; I have taught some of them and some of the
pupils whom they have taught, lived in homes which they have
builded, and looked at life through their eyes. Comparing them as
a class with my fellow students in New England and in Europe, I
cannot hesitate in saying that nowhere have I met men and women
with a broader spirit of helpfulness, with deeper devotion to
their life-work, or with more consecrated determination to succeed
in the face of bitter difficulties than among Negro college-bred
men. They have, to be sure, their proportion of ne'er-do-weels,
their pedants and lettered fools, but they have a surprisingly
small proportion of them; they have not that culture of manner
which we instinctively associate with university men, forgetting
that in reality it is the heritage from cultured homes, and that
no people a generation removed from slavery can escape a certain
unpleasant rawness and gaucherie, despite the best of training.

With all their larger vision and deeper sensibility, these men
have usually been conservative, careful leaders. They have seldom
been agitators, have withstood the temptation to head the mob, and
have worked steadily and faithfully in a thousand communities in
the South. As teachers they have given the South a commendable
system of city schools and large numbers of private normal schools
and academies. Colored college-bred men have worked side by side
with white college graduates at Hampton; almost from the beginning
the backbone of Tuskegee's teaching force has been formed of
graduates from Fisk and Atlanta. And to-day the institute is
filled with college graduates, from the energetic wife of the
principal down to the teacher of agriculture, including nearly
half of the executive council and a majority of the heads of
departments. In the professions, college men are slowly but
surely leavening the Negro church, are healing and preventing the
devastations of disease, and beginning to furnish legal protection
for the liberty and property of the toiling masses. All this is
needful work. Who would do it if Negroes did not? How could
Negroes do it if they were not trained carefully for it? If white
people need colleges to furnish teachers, ministers, lawyers, and
doctors, do black people need nothing of the sort?

If it be true that there are an appreciable number of Negro youth
in the land capable by character and talent to receive that higher
training, the end of which is culture, and if the two and a half
thousand who have had something of this training in the past have
in the main proved themselves useful to their race and generation,
the question then comes, What place in the future development of
the South might the Negro college and college-bred man to occupy?
That the present social separation and acute race sensitiveness
must eventually yield to the influences of culture as the South
grows civilized is clear. But such transformation calls for
singular wisdom and patience. If, while the healing of this vast
sore is progressing, the races are to live for many years side by
side, united in economic effort, obeying a common government,
sensitive to mutual thought and feeling, yet subtly and silently
separate in many matters of deeper human intimacy--if this unusual
and dangerous development is to progress amid peace and order,
mutual respect and growing intelligence, it will call for social
surgery at once the delicatest and nicest in modern history. It
will demand broad-minded, upright men both white and black, and in
its final accomplishment American civilization will triumph. So
far as white men are concerned, this fact is to-day being
recognized in the South, and a happy renaissance of university
education seems imminent. But the very voices that cry Hail! to
this good work are, strange to relate, largely silent or
antagonistic to the higher education of the Negro.

Strange to relate! for this is certain, no secure civilization can
be built in the South with the Negro as an ignorant, turbulent
proletariat. Suppose we seek to remedy this by making them
laborers and nothing more: they are not fools, they have tasted of
the Tree of Life, and they will not cease to think, will not cease
attempting to read the riddle of the world. By taking away their
best equipped teachers and leaders, by slamming the door of
opportunity in the faces of their bolder and brighter minds, will
you make them satisfied with their lot? or will you not rather
transfer their leading from the hands of men taught to think to
the hands of untrained demagogues? We ought not to forget that
despite the pressure of poverty, and despite the active
discouragement and even ridicule of friends, the demand for higher
training steadily increases among Negro youth: there were, in the
years from 1875 to 1880, twenty-two Negro graduates from Northern
colleges; from 1885 to 1895 there were forty-three, and from 1895
to 1900, nearly 100 graduates. From Southern Negro colleges there
were, in the same three periods, 143, 413, and over 500 graduates.
Here, then, is the plain thirst for training; by refusing to give
this Talented Tenth the key to knowledge can any sane man imagine
that they will lightly lay aside their yearning and contentedly
become hewers of wood and drawers of water?

No. The dangerously clear logic of the Negro's position will more
and more loudly assert itself in that day when increasing wealth
and more intricate social organization preclude the South from
being, as it so largely is, simply an armed camp for intimidating
black folk. Such waste of energy cannot be spared if the South is
to catch up with civilization. And as the black third of the land
grows in thrift and skill, unless skillfully guided in its larger
philosophy, it must more and more brood over the red past and the
creeping, crooked present, until it grasps a gospel of revolt and
revenge and throws its new-found energies athwart the current of
advance. Even to-day the masses of the Negroes see all too
clearly the anomalies of their position and the moral crookedness
of yours. You may marshal strong indictments against them, but
their counter-cries, lacking though they be in formal logic, have
burning truths within them which you may not wholly ignore, O
Southern Gentlemen! If you deplore their presence here, they ask,
Who brought us? When you shriek, Deliver us from the vision of
intermarriage, they answer, that legal marriage is infinitely
better than systematic concubinage and prostitution. And if in
just fury you accuse their vagabonds of violating women, they also
in fury quite as just may wail: the rape which your gentlemen have
done against helpless black women in defiance of your own laws is
written on the foreheads of two millions of mulattoes, and written
in ineffaceable blood. And finally, when you fasten crime upon
this race as its peculiar trait, they answer that slavery was the
arch-crime, and lynching and lawlessness its twin abortion; that
color and race are not crimes, and yet they it is which in this
land receive most unceasing condemnation, North, East, South, and

I will not say such arguments are wholly justified--I will not
insist that there is no other side to the shield; but I do say
that of the nine millions of Negroes in this nation, there is
scarcely one out of the cradle to whom these arguments do not
daily present themselves in the guise of terrible truth. I insist
that the question of the future is how best to keep these millions
from brooding over the wrongs of the past and the difficulties of
the present, so that all their energies may be bent toward a
cheerful striving and cooperation with their white neighbors
toward a larger, juster, and fuller future. That one wise method
of doing this lies in the closer knitting of the Negro to the
great industrial possibilities of the South is a great truth. And
this the common schools and the manual training and trade schools
are working to accomplish. But these alone are not enough. The
foundations of knowledge in this race, as in others, must be sunk
deep in the college and university if we would build a solid,
permanent structure. Internal problems of social advance must
inevitably come,--problems of work and wages, of families and
homes, of morals and the true valuing of the things of life; and
all these and other inevitable problems of civilization the Negro
must meet and solve largely for himself, by reason of his
isolation; and can there be any possible solution other than by
study and thought and an appeal to the rich experience of the
past? Is there not, with such a group and in such a crisis,
infinitely more danger to be apprehended from half-trained minds
and shallow thinking than from over-education and over-refinement?
Surely we have wit enough to found a Negro college so manned and
equipped as to steer successfully between the dilettante and the
fool. We shall hardly induce black men to believe that if their
bellies be full it matters little about their brains. They
already dimly perceive that the paths of peace winding between
honest toil and dignified manhood call for the guidance of skilled
thinkers, the loving, reverent comradeship between the black lowly
and black men emancipated by training and culture.

The function of the Negro college then is clear: it must maintain
the standards of popular education, it must seek the social
regeneration of the Negro, and it must help in the solution of
problems of race contact and cooperation. And finally, beyond all
this, it must develop men. Above our modern socialism, and out of
the worship of the mass, must persist and evolve that higher
individualism which the centres of culture protect; there must
come a loftier respect for the sovereign human soul that seeks to
know itself and the world about it; that seeks a freedom for
expansion and self-development; that will love and hate and labor
in its own way, untrammeled alike by old and new. Such souls
aforetime have inspired and guided worlds, and if we be not wholly
bewitched by our Rhine-gold, they shall again. Herein the longing
of black men must have respect: the rich and bitter depth of their
experience, the unknown treasures of their inner life, the strange
rendings of nature they have seen, may give the world new points
of view and make their loving, living, and doing precious to all
human hearts. And to themselves in these the days that try their
souls the chance to soar in the dim blue air above the smoke is to
their finer spirits boon and guerdon for what they lose on earth
by being black.

I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not. Across the color line I
move arm in arm with Balzac and Dumas, where smiling men and
welcoming women glide in gilded halls. From out the caves of
Evening that swing between the strong-limbed earth and the tracery
of the stars, I summon Aristotle and Aurelius and what soul I
will, and they come all graciously with no scorn nor
condescension. So, wed with Truth, I dwell above the Veil. Is
this the life you grudge us, O knightly America? Is this the life
you long to change into the dull red hideousness of Georgia? Are
you so afraid lest peering from this high Pisgah, between
Philistine and Amalekite, we sight the Promised Land?

by Booker T. Washington

The political, educational, social, and economic evolution through
which the South passed during, say, the first fifteen or twenty
years after the close of the civil war furnishes one of the most
interesting periods that any country has passed through.

A large share of the thought and activity of the white South, of
the black South, and of that section of the North especially
interested in my race, was directed during the years of the
Reconstruction period toward politics, or toward matters bearing
upon what were termed civil or social rights. The work of
education was rather slow, and covered a large section of the
South; still I think I am justified in saying that in the public
mind the Negro's relation to politics overshadowed nearly every
other interest. The education of the race was conducted quietly,
and attracted comparatively little attention, just as is true at
the present time. The appointment of one Negro postmaster at a
third or fourth rate post office will be given wider publicity
through the daily press than the founding of a school, or some
important discovery in science.

With reference to the black man's political relation to the state
and Federal governments, I think I am safe in saying that for many
years after the civil war there were sharp and antagonistic views
between the North and the South, as well as between the white
South and the black South. At practically every point where there
was a political question to be decided in the South the blacks
would array themselves on one side and the whites on the other. I
remember that very soon after I began teaching school in Alabama
an old colored man came to me just prior to an election. He said:
"You can read de newspapers and most of us can't, but dar is one
thing dat we knows dat you don't, and dat is how to vote down
here; and we wants you to vote as we does." He added: "I tell you
how we does. We watches de white man; we keeps watching de white
man; de nearer it gits to election time de more we watches de
white man. We watches him till we finds out which way he gwine to
vote. After we finds out which way he gwine to vote, den we votes
exactly de other way; den we knows we 's right."

Stories on the other side might be given showing that a certain
class of white people, both at the polls and in the Legislatures,
voted just as unreasonably in opposing politically what they
thought the Negro or the North wanted, no matter how much benefit
might ensue from a contrary action. Unfortunately such antagonism
did not end with matters political, but in many cases affected the
relation of the races in nearly every walk of life. Aside from
political strife, there was naturally deep feeling between the
North and the South on account of the war. On nearly every
question growing out of the war, which was debated in Congress, or
in political campaigns, there was the keenest difference and often
the deepest feeling. There was almost no question of even a semi-
political nature, or having a remote connection with the Negro,
upon which there was not sharp and often bitter division between
the North and South. It is needless to say that in many cases the
Negro was the sufferer. He was being ground between the upper and
nether millstones. Even to this day it is well-nigh impossible,
largely by reason of the force of habit, in certain states to
prevent state and even local campaigns from being centred in some
form upon the black man. In states like Mississippi, for example,
where the Negro ceased nearly a score of years ago, by operation
of law, to be a determining factor in politics, he forms in some
way the principal fuel for campaign discussion at nearly every
election. The sad feature of this is, that it prevents the
presentation before the masses of the people of matters pertaining
to local and state improvement, and to great national issues like
finance, tariff, or foreign policies. It prevents the masses from
receiving the broad and helpful education which every political
campaign should furnish, and, what is equally unfortunate, it
prevents the youth from seeing and hearing on the platform the
great political leaders of the two national parties. During a
national campaign few of the great Democratic leaders debate
national questions in the South, because it is felt that the old
antagonism to the Negro politically will keep the South voting one
way. Few of the great Republican leaders appear on Southern
platforms, because they feel that nothing will be gained.

One of the saddest instances of this situation that has come
within my knowledge occurred some years ago in a certain Southern
state where a white friend of mine was making the race for
Congress on the Democratic ticket in a district that was
overwhelmingly Democratic. I speak of this man as my friend,
because there was no personal favor in reason which he would have
refused me. He was equally friendly to the race, and was generous
in giving for its education, and in helping individuals to buy
land. His campaign took him into one of the "white" counties,
where there were few colored people, and where the whites were
unusually ignorant. I was surprised one morning to read in the
daily papers of a bitter attack he had made on the Negro while
speaking in this county. The next time I saw him I informed him
of my surprise. He replied that he was ashamed of what he had
said, and that he did not himself believe much that he had stated,
but gave as a reason for his action that he had found himself
before an audience which had heard little for thirty years in the
way of political discussion that did not bear upon the Negro, and
that he therefore knew it was almost impossible to interest them
in any other subject.

But this is somewhat aside from my purpose, which is, I repeat, to
make plain that in all political matters there was for years after
the war no meeting ground of agreement for the two races, or for
the North and South. Upon the question of the Negro's civil
rights, as embodied in what was called the Civil Rights Bill,
there was almost the same sharp line of division between the
races, and, in theory at least, between the Northern and Southern
whites,--largely because the former were supposed to be giving the
blacks social recognition, and encouraging intermingling between
the races. The white teachers, who came from the North to work in
missionary schools, received for years little recognition or
encouragement from the rank and file of their own race. The lines
were so sharply drawn that in cities where native Southern white
women taught Negro children in the public schools, they would have
no dealings with Northern white women who, perhaps, taught Negro
children from the same family in a missionary school.

I want to call attention here to a phase of Reconstruction policy
which is often overlooked. All now agree that there was much in
Reconstruction which was unwise and unfortunate. However we may
regard that policy, and much as we may regret mistakes, the fact
is too often overlooked that it was during the Reconstruction
period that a public school system for the education of all the
people of the South was first established in most of the states.
Much that was done by those in charge of Reconstruction
legislation has been overturned, but the public school system
still remains. True, it has been modified and improved, but the
system remains, and is every day growing in popularity and

As to the difference of opinion between the North and the South
regarding Negro education, I find that many people, especially in
the North, have a wrong conception of the attitude of the Southern
white people. It is and has been very generally thought that what
is termed "higher education" of the Negro has been from the first
opposed by the white South. This opinion is far from being
correct. I remember that, in 1891, when I began the work of
establishing the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, practically all of
the white people who talked to me on the subject took it for
granted that instruction in the Greek, Latin, and modern languages
would be one of the main features of our curriculum. I heard no
one oppose what he thought our course of study was to embrace. In
fact, there are many white people in the South at the present time
who do not know that instruction in the dead languages is not
given at the Tuskegee Institute. In further proof of what I have
stated, if one will go through the catalogue of the schools
maintained by the states for Negro people, and managed by Southern
white people, he will find in almost every case that instruction
in the higher branches is given with the consent and approval of
white officials. This was true as far back as 1880. It is not
unusual to meet at this time Southern white people who are as
emphatic in their belief in the value of classical education as a
certain element of colored people themselves. In matters relating
to civil and political rights, the breach was broad, and without
apparent hope of being bridged; even in the matter of religion,
practically all of the denominations had split on the subject of
the Negro, though I should add that there is now, and always has
been, a closer touch and more cooperation in matters of religion
between the white and colored people in the South than is
generally known. But the breach between the white churches in the
South and North remains.

In matters of education the difference was much less sharp. The
truth is that a large element in the South had little faith in the
efficacy of the higher or any other kind of education of the
Negro. They were indifferent, but did not openly oppose; on the
other hand, there has always been a potent element of white people
in all of the Southern states who have stood out openly and
bravely for the education of all the people, regardless of race.
This element has thus far been successful in shaping and leading
public opinion, and I think that it will continue to do so more
and more. This statement must not be taken to mean that there is
as yet an equitable division of the school funds, raised by common
taxation, between the two races in many sections of the South,
though the Southern states deserve much credit for what has been
done. In discussing the small amount of direct taxes the Negro
pays, the fact that he pays tremendous indirect taxes is often

I wish, however, to emphasize the fact that while there was either
open antagonism or indifference in the directions I have named, it
was the introduction of industrial training into the Negro's
education that seemed to furnish the first basis for anything like
united and sympathetic interest and action between the two races
in the South and between the whites in the North and those in the
South. Aside from its direct benefit to the black race,
industrial education has furnished a basis for mutual faith and
cooperation, which has meant more to the South, and to the work of
education, than has been realized.

This was, at the least, something in the way of construction.
Many people, I think, fail to appreciate the difference between
the problems now before us and those that existed previous to the
civil war. Slavery presented a problem of destruction; freedom
presents a problem of construction.

From its first inception the white people of the South had faith
in the theory of industrial education, because they had noted,
what was not unnatural, that a large element of the colored people
at first interpreted freedom to mean freedom from work with the
hands. They naturally had not learned to appreciate the fact that
they had been WORKED, and that one of the great lessons for
freemen to learn is to WORK. They had not learned the vast
difference between WORKING and BEING WORKED. The white people saw
in the movement to teach the Negro youth the dignity, beauty, and
civilizing power of all honorable labor with the hands something
that would lead the Negro into his new life of freedom gradually
and sensibly, and prevent his going from one extreme of life to
the other too suddenly. Furthermore, industrial education
appealed directly to the individual and community interest of the
white people. They saw at once that intelligence coupled with
skill would add wealth to the community and to the state, in which
both races would have an added share. Crude labor in the days of
slavery, they believed, could be handled and made in a degree
profitable, but ignorant and unskilled labor in a state of freedom
could not be made so. Practically every white man in the South
was interested in agricultural or in mechanical or in some form of
manual labor; every white man was interested in all that related
to the home life,--the cooking and serving of food, laundering,
dairying, poultry-raising, and housekeeping in general. There was
no family whose interest in intelligent and skillful nursing was
not now and then quickened by the presence of a trained nurse. As
already stated, there was general appreciation of the fact that
the industrial education of the black people had direct, vital,
and practical bearing upon the life of each white family in the
South; while there was no such appreciation of the results of mere
literary training. If a black man became a lawyer, a doctor, a
minister, or an ordinary teacher, his professional duties would
not ordinarily bring him in touch with the life of the white
portion of the community, but rather confine him almost
exclusively to his own race. While purely literary or
professional education was not opposed by the white population, it
was something in which they found little or no interest, beyond a
confused hope that it would result in producing a higher and a
better type of Negro manhood. The minute it was seen that through
industrial education the Negro youth was not only studying
chemistry, but also how to apply the knowledge of chemistry to the
enrichment of the soil, or to cooking, or to dairying, and that
the student was being taught not only geometry and physics, but
their application to blacksmithing, brickmaking, farming, and what
not, then there began to appear for the first time a common bond
between the two races and cooperation between North and South.

One of the most interesting and valuable instances of the kind
that I know of is presented in the case of Mr. George W. Carver,
one of our instructors in agriculture at Tuskegee Institute. For
some time it has been his custom to prepare articles containing
information concerning the conditions of local crops, and warning
the farmers against the ravages of certain insects and diseases.
The local white papers are always glad to publish these articles,
and they are read by white and colored farmers.

Some months ago a white land-holder in Montgomery County asked Mr.
Carver to go through his farm with him for the purpose of
inspecting it. While doing so Mr. Carver discovered traces of
what he thought was a valuable mineral deposit, used in making a
certain kind of paint. The interests of the land-owner and the
agricultural instructor at once became mutual. Specimens of the
deposits were taken to the laboratories of the Tuskegee Institute
and analyzed by Mr. Carver. In due time the land-owner received a
report of the analysis, together with a statement showing the
commercial value and application of the mineral. I shall not go
through the whole interesting story, except to say that a stock
company, composed of some of the best white people in Alabama, has
been organized, and is now preparing to build a factory for the
purpose of putting their product on the market. I hardly need to
add that Mr. Carver has been freely consulted at every step, and
his services generously recognized in the organization of the
concern. When the company was being formed the following
testimonial, among others, was embodied in the printed copy of the

"George W. Carver, Director of the Department of Agriculture,
Tuskegee, Alabama, says:--

"'The pigment is an ochreous clay. Its value as a paint is due to
the presence of ferric oxide, of which it contains more than any
of the French, Australian, American, Irish, or Welsh ochres.
Ferric oxides have long been recognized as the essential
constituents of such paints as Venetian red, Turkish red, oxide
red, Indian red, and scarlet. They are most desirable, being
quite permanent when exposed to light and air. As a stain they
are most valuable.'"

In further proof of what I wish to emphasize, I think I am safe in
saying that the work of the Hampton Normal and Agricultural
Institute, under the late General S. C. Armstrong, was the first
to receive any kind of recognition and hearty sympathy from the
Southern white people, and General Armstrong was perhaps the first
Northern educator of Negroes who won the confidence and
cooperation of the white South. The effects of General
Armstrong's introduction of industrial education at Hampton, and
its extension to the Tuskegee Institute in the far South, are now
actively and helpfully apparent in the splendid work being
accomplished for the whole South by the Southern Education Board,
with Mr. Robert C. Ogden at its head, and by the General Education
Board, with Mr. William H. Baldwin, Jr., as its president.
Without the introduction of manual training it is doubtful whether
such work as is now being wrought through these two boards for
both races in the South could have been possible within a quarter
of a century to come. Later on in the history of our country it
will be recognized and appreciated that the far-reaching and
statesman-like efforts of these two boards for general education
in the South, under the guidance of the two gentlemen named, and
with the cooperation and assistance of such men as Mr. George
Foster Peabody, Dr. Wallace Buttrick, Mr. John D. Rockefeller, of
the North, and Mr. Edgar Gardner Murphy, Chancellor Hill, Dr.
Alderman, Dr. McIver, Dr. Dabney, and others of the South, will
have furnished the material for one of the brightest and most
encouraging chapters in the history of our country. The fact that
we have reached the point where men and women who were so far
apart twenty years ago can meet in the South and discuss freely
from the same platform questions relating to the industrial,
educational, political, moral, and religious development of the
two races marks a great step in advance. It is true that as yet
the Negro has not been invited to share in these discussions.

Aside from the reasons I have given showing why the South favored
industrial education, coupled with intellectual and moral
training, many of the whites saw, for example, that the Negroes
who were master carpenters and contractors, under the guidance of
their owners, could become still greater factors in the
development of the South if their children were not suddenly
removed from the atmosphere and occupations of their fathers, and
if they could be taught to use the thing in hand as a foundation
for higher growth. Many of the white people were wise enough to
see that such education would enable some of the Negro youths to
become more skillful carpenters and contractors, and that if they
laid an economic foundation in this way in their generation, they
would be laying a foundation for a more abstract education of
their children in the future.

Again, a large element of people at the South favored manual
training for the Negro because they were wise enough to see that
the South was largely free from the restrictive influences of the
Northern trades unions, and that such organizations would secure
little hold in the South so long as the Negro kept abreast in
intelligence and skill with the same class of people elsewhere.
Many realized that the South would be tying itself to a body of
death if it did not help the Negro up. In this connection I want
to call attention to the fact that the official records show that
within one year about one million foreigners came into the United
States. Notwithstanding this number, practically none went into
the Southern states; to be more exact, the records show that in
1892 only 2278 all told went into the states of Alabama, Arkansas,
Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina,
Tennessee, and Virginia. One ship sometimes brings as many to New
York. Various reasons are given to explain why these foreigners
systematically avoid the South. One is that the climate is so
hot; and another is that they do not like the restrictions thrown
about the ballot; and still another is the presence of the Negro
is so large numbers. Whatever the true reason is, the fact
remains that foreigners avoid the South, and the South is more and
more realizing that it cannot keep pace with the progress being
made in other parts of the country if a third of its population is
ignorant and without skill.

The South must frankly face this truth, that for a long period it
must depend upon the black man to do for it what the foreigner is
now doing for the great West. If, by reason of his skill and
knowledge, one man in Iowa learns to produce as much corn in a
season as four men can produce in Alabama, it requires little
reasoning to see that Alabama will buy most of her corn from Iowa.

Another interesting result of the introduction of industrial
education for the Negro has been its influence upon the white
people of the South, and, I believe, upon the whites of the North
as well. This phase of it has proved of interest in making hand
training a conciliatory element between the races.

In 1883 I was delivering an address on industrial education before
the colored State Teachers' Association of one of our Southern
states. When I had finished, some of the teachers began to ask
the State Superintendent of Education, who was on the programme,
some questions about the subject. He politely but firmly stopped
the questions by stating that he knew absolutely nothing about
industrial training, and had never heard it discussed before. At
that time there was no such education being given at any white
institution in that state. With one or two exceptions this case
will illustrate what was true of all the Southern states. A
careful investigation of the subject will show that it was not
until after industrial education was started among the colored
people, and its value proved, that it was taken up by the Southern
white people.

Manual training or industrial and technical schools for the whites
have, for the most part, been established under state auspices,
and are at this time chiefly maintained by the states. An
investigation would also show that in securing money from the
state legislatures for the purpose of introducing hand work, one
of the main arguments used was the existence and success of
industrial training among the Negroes. It was often argued that
the white boys and girls would be left behind unless they had the
opportunities for securing the same kind of training that was
being given the colored people. Although it is, I think, not
generally known, it is a fact that since the idea of industrial or
technical education for white people took root within the last few
years, much more money is spent annually for such education for
the whites than for the colored people. Any one who has not
looked into the subject will be surprised to find how thorough and
high grade the work is. Take, for example, the state of Georgia,
and it will be found that several times as much is being spent at
the Industrial College for white girls at Milledgeville, and at
the technical school for whites at Atlanta, as is being spent in
the whole state for the industrial education of Negro youths. I
have met no Southern white educators who have not been generous in
their praise of the Negro schools for taking the initiative in
hand training. This fact has again served to create in matters
relating to education a bond of sympathy between the two races in
the South. Referring again to the influence of industrial
training for the Negro in education, in the Northern states I
find, while writing this article, the following announcement in
the advertisement of what is perhaps the most high-priced and
exclusive girls' seminary in Massachusetts:--

"In planning a system of education for young ladies, with the view
of fitting them for the greatest usefulness in life, the idea was
conceived of supplementing the purely intellectual work by a
practical training in the art of home management and its related

"It was the first school of high literary grade to introduce
courses in Domestic Science into the regular curriculum.

"The results were so gratifying as to lead to the equipment of
Experiment Hall, a special building, fitted for the purpose of
studying the principles of Applied Housekeeping. Here the girls
do the actual work of cooking, marketing, arranging menus, and
attend to all the affairs of a well-arranged household.

"Courses are arranged also in sewing, dressmaking, and millinery;
they are conducted on a similarly practical basis, and equip the
student with a thorough knowledge of the subject."

A dozen years ago I do not believe that any such announcement
would have been made.

Beginning with the year 1877, the Negro in the South lost
practically all political control; that is to say, as early as
1885 the Negro scarcely had any members of his race in the
national Congress or state legislatures, and long before this date
had ceased to hold state offices. This was true, notwithstanding
the protests and fervent oratory of such strong race leaders as
Frederick Douglass, B. K. Bruce, John R. Lynch, P. B. S.
Pinchback, and John M. Langston, with a host of others. When
Frederick Douglass, the greatest man that the race has produced,
died in 1895, it is safe to say that the Negro in the Southern
states, with here and there a few exceptions, had practically no
political control or political influence, except in sending
delegates to national conventions, or in holding a few Federal
positions by appointment. It became evident to many of the wise
Negroes that the race would have to depend for its success in the
future less upon political agitations and the opportunity of
holding office, and more upon something more tangible and


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