The Souls of Black Folk
W. E. B. Du Bois.

Part 1 out of 4

The Souls of
Black Folk
by W.E.B. Du Bois

Herein Is Written

The Forethought
I. Of Our Spiritual Strivings
II. Of the Dawn of Freedom
III. Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others
IV. Of the Meaning of Progress
V. Of the Wings of Atalanta
VI. Of the Training of Black Men
VII. Of the Black Belt
VIII. Of the Quest of the Golden Fleece
IX. Of the Sons of Master and Man
X. Of the Faith of the Fathers
XI. Of the Passing of the First-Born
XII. Of Alexander Crummell
XIII. Of the Coming of John
XIV. Of the Sorrow Songs
The Afterthought
Selected Bibliography

To Burghardt and Yolande
The Lost and the Found

The Forethought

Herein lie buried many things which if read with patience
may show the strange meaning of being black here at the
dawning of the Twentieth Century. This meaning is not without
interest to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the Twentieth
Century is the problem of the color line. I pray you, then,
receive my little book in all charity, studying my words with me,
forgiving mistake and foible for sake of the faith and passion
that is in me, and seeking the grain of truth hidden there.

I have sought here to sketch, in vague, uncertain outline,
the spiritual world in which ten thousand thousand Americans
live and strive. First, in two chapters I have tried to show
what Emancipation meant to them, and what was its aftermath.
In a third chapter I have pointed out the slow rise of personal
leadership, and criticized candidly the leader who bears the
chief burden of his race to-day. Then, in two other chapters I
have sketched in swift outline the two worlds within and
without the Veil, and thus have come to the central problem
of training men for life. Venturing now into deeper detail, I
have in two chapters studied the struggles of the massed
millions of the black peasantry, and in another have sought to
make clear the present relations of the sons of master and
man. Leaving, then, the white world, I have stepped within
the Veil, raising it that you may view faintly its deeper
recesses,--the meaning of its religion, the passion of its
human sorrow, and the struggle of its greater souls. All this I
have ended with a tale twice told but seldom written, and a
chapter of song.

Some of these thoughts of mine have seen the light before
in other guise. For kindly consenting to their republication
here, in altered and extended form, I must thank the publishers
of the Atlantic Monthly, The World's Work, the Dial, The
New World, and the Annals of the American Academy of
Political and Social Science. Before each chapter, as now
printed, stands a bar of the Sorrow Songs,--some echo of
haunting melody from the only American music which welled
up from black souls in the dark past. And, finally, need I add
that I who speak here am bone of the bone and flesh of the
flesh of them that live within the Veil?

W.E.B Du B.
ATLANTA, GA., FEB. 1, 1903.


Of Our Spiritual Strivings

O water, voice of my heart, crying in the sand,
All night long crying with a mournful cry,
As I lie and listen, and cannot understand
The voice of my heart in my side or the voice of the sea,
O water, crying for rest, is it I, is it I?
All night long the water is crying to me.

Unresting water, there shall never be rest
Till the last moon droop and the last tide fail,
And the fire of the end begin to burn in the west;
And the heart shall be weary and wonder and cry like the sea,
All life long crying without avail,
As the water all night long is crying to me.


Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked
question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by
others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All,
nevertheless, flutter round it. They approach me in a half-
hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously or compassionately,
and then, instead of saying directly, How does it feel to be a
problem? they say, I know an excellent colored man in my
town; or, I fought at Mechanicsville; or, Do not these Southern
outrages make your blood boil? At these I smile, or am
interested, or reduce the boiling to a simmer, as the occasion
may require. To the real question, How does it feel to be a
problem? I answer seldom a word.

And yet, being a problem is a strange experience,--peculiar
even for one who has never been anything else, save perhaps
in babyhood and in Europe. It is in the early days of rollicking
boyhood that the revelation first bursts upon one, all in a day,
as it were. I remember well when the shadow swept across
me. I was a little thing, away up in the hills of New England,
where the dark Housatonic winds between Hoosac and
Taghkanic to the sea. In a wee wooden schoolhouse, something
put it into the boys' and girls' heads to buy gorgeous visiting-
cards--ten cents a package--and exchange. The exchange
was merry, till one girl, a tall newcomer, refused my card,
--refused it peremptorily, with a glance. Then it dawned
upon me with a certain suddenness that I was different from
the others; or like, mayhap, in heart and life and longing, but
shut out from their world by a vast veil. I had thereafter no
desire to tear down that veil, to creep through; I held all
beyond it in common contempt, and lived above it in a region
of blue sky and great wandering shadows. That sky was
bluest when I could beat my mates at examination-time, or
beat them at a foot-race, or even beat their stringy heads.
Alas, with the years all this fine contempt began to fade; for
the words I longed for, and all their dazzling opportunities,
were theirs, not mine. But they should not keep these prizes,
I said; some, all, I would wrest from them. Just how I would
do it I could never decide: by reading law, by healing the
sick, by telling the wonderful tales that swam in my head,
--some way. With other black boys the strife was not so
fiercely sunny: their youth shrunk into tasteless sycophancy,
or into silent hatred of the pale world about them and mocking
distrust of everything white; or wasted itself in a bitter cry,
Why did God make me an outcast and a stranger in mine own
house? The shades of the prison-house closed round about us
all: walls strait and stubborn to the whitest, but relentlessly
narrow, tall, and unscalable to sons of night who must plod
darkly on in resignation, or beat unavailing palms against the
stone, or steadily, half hopelessly, watch the streak of blue

After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the
Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born
with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,
--a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but
only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other
world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness,
this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of
others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that
looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his
twoness,--an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts,
two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark
body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn

The history of the American Negro is the history of this
strife,--this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge
his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he
wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He would not
Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the
world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a
flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood
has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it
possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American,
without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without
having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face.

This, then, is the end of his striving: to be a co-worker in
the kingdom of culture, to escape both death and isolation, to
husband and use his best powers and his latent genius. These
powers of body and mind have in the past been strangely
wasted, dispersed, or forgotten. The shadow of a mighty
Negro past flits through the tale of Ethiopia the Shadowy
and of Egypt the Sphinx. Through history, the powers of
single black men flash here and there like falling stars, and
die sometimes before the world has rightly gauged their
brightness. Here in America, in the few days since Emanci-
pation, the black man's turning hither and thither in hesitant
and doubtful striving has often made his very strength to lose
effectiveness, to seem like absence of power, like weakness.
And yet it is not weakness,--it is the contradiction of double
aims. The double-aimed struggle of the black artisan--on the
one hand to escape white contempt for a nation of mere
hewers of wood and drawers of water, and on the other hand
to plough and nail and dig for a poverty-stricken horde--
could only result in making him a poor craftsman, for he had but
half a heart in either cause. By the poverty and ignorance of
his people, the Negro minister or doctor was tempted toward
quackery and demagogy; and by the criticism of the other
world, toward ideals that made him ashamed of his lowly
tasks. The would-be black savant was confronted by the
paradox that the knowledge his people needed was a twice-
told tale to his white neighbors, while the knowledge which
would teach the white world was Greek to his own flesh and
blood. The innate love of harmony and beauty that set the
ruder souls of his people a-dancing and a-singing raised but
confusion and doubt in the soul of the black artist; for the
beauty revealed to him was the soul-beauty of a race which
his larger audience despised, and he could not articulate the
message of another people. This waste of double aims, this
seeking to satisfy two unreconciled ideals, has wrought sad
havoc with the courage and faith and deeds of ten thousand
thousand people,--has sent them often wooing false gods and
invoking false means of salvation, and at times has even
seemed about to make them ashamed of themselves.

Away back in the days of bondage they thought to see in
one divine event the end of all doubt and disappointment; few
men ever worshipped Freedom with half such unquestioning
faith as did the American Negro for two centuries. To him, so
far as he thought and dreamed, slavery was indeed the sum of
all villainies, the cause of all sorrow, the root of all prejudice;
Emancipation was the key to a promised land of sweeter
beauty than ever stretched before the eyes of wearied Israelites.
In song and exhortation swelled one refrain--Liberty; in his
tears and curses the God he implored had Freedom in his
right hand. At last it came,--suddenly, fearfully, like a dream.
With one wild carnival of blood and passion came the message
in his own plaintive cadences:--

"Shout, O children!
Shout, you're free!
For God has bought your liberty!"

Years have passed away since then,--ten, twenty, forty;
forty years of national life, forty years of renewal and
development, and yet the swarthy spectre sits in its accustomed
seat at the Nation's feast. In vain do we cry to this our vastest
social problem:--

"Take any shape but that, and my firm nerves
Shall never tremble!"

The Nation has not yet found peace from its sins; the freedman
has not yet found in freedom his promised land. Whatever of
good may have come in these years of change, the shadow of
a deep disappointment rests upon the Negro people,--a
disappointment all the more bitter because the unattained
ideal was unbounded save by the simple ignorance of a lowly people.

The first decade was merely a prolongation of the vain
search for freedom, the boon that seemed ever barely to elude
their grasp,--like a tantalizing will-o'-the-wisp, maddening
and misleading the headless host. The holocaust of war, the
terrors of the Ku-Klux Klan, the lies of carpet-baggers, the
disorganization of industry, and the contradictory advice of
friends and foes, left the bewildered serf with no new
watchword beyond the old cry for freedom. As the time flew,
however, he began to grasp a new idea. The ideal of liberty
demanded for its attainment powerful means, and these the
Fifteenth Amendment gave him. The ballot, which before he
had looked upon as a visible sign of freedom, he now regarded
as the chief means of gaining and perfecting the liberty with
which war had partially endowed him. And why not? Had not
votes made war and emancipated millions? Had not votes
enfranchised the freedmen? Was anything impossible to a
power that had done all this? A million black men started
with renewed zeal to vote themselves into the kingdom. So
the decade flew away, the revolution of 1876 came, and left
the half-free serf weary, wondering, but still inspired. Slowly
but steadily, in the following years, a new vision began
gradually to replace the dream of political power,--a pow-
erful movement, the rise of another ideal to guide the unguided,
another pillar of fire by night after a clouded day. It was the
ideal of "book-learning"; the curiosity, born of compulsory
ignorance, to know and test the power of the cabalistic letters
of the white man, the longing to know. Here at last seemed to
have been discovered the mountain path to Canaan; longer
than the highway of Emancipation and law, steep and rugged,
but straight, leading to heights high enough to overlook life.

Up the new path the advance guard toiled, slowly, heavily,
doggedly; only those who have watched and guided the faltering
feet, the misty minds, the dull understandings, of the dark
pupils of these schools know how faithfully, how piteously,
this people strove to learn. It was weary work. The cold
statistician wrote down the inches of progress here and there,
noted also where here and there a foot had slipped or some
one had fallen. To the tired climbers, the horizon was ever
dark, the mists were often cold, the Canaan was always dim
and far away. If, however, the vistas disclosed as yet no goal,
no resting-place, little but flattery and criticism, the journey
at least gave leisure for reflection and self-examination; it
changed the child of Emancipation to the youth with dawning
self-consciousness, self-realization, self-respect. In those sombre
forests of his striving his own soul rose before him, and he
saw himself,--darkly as through a veil; and yet he saw in
himself some faint revelation of his power, of his mission. He
began to have a dim feeling that, to attain his place in the
world, he must be himself, and not another. For the first time
he sought to analyze the burden he bore upon his back, that
dead-weight of social degradation partially masked behind a
half-named Negro problem. He felt his poverty; without a
cent, without a home, without land, tools, or savings, he had
entered into competition with rich, landed, skilled neighbors.
To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of
dollars is the very bottom of hardships. He felt the weight of
his ignorance,--not simply of letters, but of life, of business,
of the humanities; the accumulated sloth and shirking and
awkwardness of decades and centuries shackled his hands and
feet. Nor was his burden all poverty and ignorance. The red
stain of bastardy, which two centuries of systematic legal
defilement of Negro women had stamped upon his race,
meant not only the loss of ancient African chastity, but also
the hereditary weight of a mass of corruption from white
adulterers, threatening almost the obliteration of the Negro

A people thus handicapped ought not to be asked to race
with the world, but rather allowed to give all its time and
thought to its own social problems. But alas! while sociologists
gleefully count his bastards and his prostitutes, the very soul
of the toiling, sweating black man is darkened by the shadow
of a vast despair. Men call the shadow prejudice, and learnedly
explain it as the natural defence of culture against barbarism,
learning against ignorance, purity against crime, the "higher"
against the "lower" races. To which the Negro cries Amen!
and swears that to so much of this strange prejudice as is
founded on just homage to civilization, culture, righteousness,
and progress, he humbly bows and meekly does obeisance.
But before that nameless prejudice that leaps beyond all this
he stands helpless, dismayed, and well-nigh speechless; before
that personal disrespect and mockery, the ridicule and systematic
humiliation, the distortion of fact and wanton license of
fancy, the cynical ignoring of the better and the boisterous
welcoming of the worse, the all-pervading desire to inculcate
disdain for everything black, from Toussaint to the devil,
--before this there rises a sickening despair that would disarm
and discourage any nation save that black host to whom
"discouragement" is an unwritten word.

But the facing of so vast a prejudice could not but bring the
inevitable self-questioning, self-disparagement, and lowering
of ideals which ever accompany repression and breed in an
atmosphere of contempt and hate. Whisperings and portents
came home upon the four winds: Lo! we are diseased and
dying, cried the dark hosts; we cannot write, our voting is
vain; what need of education, since we must always cook and
serve? And the Nation echoed and enforced this self-criticism,
saying: Be content to be servants, and nothing more; what
need of higher culture for half-men? Away with the black
man's ballot, by force or fraud,--and behold the suicide of a
race! Nevertheless, out of the evil came something of good,
--the more careful adjustment of education to real life, the
clearer perception of the Negroes' social responsibilities, and
the sobering realization of the meaning of progress.

So dawned the time of Sturm und Drang: storm and stress
to-day rocks our little boat on the mad waters of the world-
sea; there is within and without the sound of conflict, the
burning of body and rending of soul; inspiration strives with
doubt, and faith with vain questionings. The bright ideals of
the past,--physical freedom, political power, the training of
brains and the training of hands,--all these in turn have
waxed and waned, until even the last grows dim and overcast.
Are they all wrong,--all false? No, not that, but each alone
was over-simple and incomplete,--the dreams of a credulous
race-childhood, or the fond imaginings of the other world
which does not know and does not want to know our power.
To be really true, all these ideals must be melted and welded
into one. The training of the schools we need to-day more
than ever,--the training of deft hands, quick eyes and ears,
and above all the broader, deeper, higher culture of gifted
minds and pure hearts. The power of the ballot we need in
sheer self-defence,--else what shall save us from a second
slavery? Freedom, too, the long-sought, we still seek,--the
freedom of life and limb, the freedom to work and think, the
freedom to love and aspire. Work, culture, liberty,--all these
we need, not singly but together, not successively but together,
each growing and aiding each, and all striving toward that
vaster ideal that swims before the Negro people, the ideal of
human brotherhood, gained through the unifying ideal of
Race; the ideal of fostering and developing the traits and
talents of the Negro, not in opposition to or contempt for
other races, but rather in large conformity to the greater ideals
of the American Republic, in order that some day on American
soil two world-races may give each to each those characteristics
both so sadly lack. We the darker ones come even now not
altogether empty-handed: there are to-day no truer exponents
of the pure human spirit of the Declaration of Independence
than the American Negroes; there is no true American music
but the wild sweet melodies of the Negro slave; the American
fairy tales and folklore are Indian and African; and, all in all,
we black men seem the sole oasis of simple faith and reverence
in a dusty desert of dollars and smartness. Will America be
poorer if she replace her brutal dyspeptic blundering with
light-hearted but determined Negro humility? or her coarse
and cruel wit with loving jovial good-humor? or her vulgar
music with the soul of the Sorrow Songs?

Merely a concrete test of the underlying principles of the
great republic is the Negro Problem, and the spiritual striving
of the freedmen's sons is the travail of souls whose burden is
almost beyond the measure of their strength, but who bear it
in the name of an historic race, in the name of this the land of
their fathers' fathers, and in the name of human opportunity.

And now what I have briefly sketched in large outline let
me on coming pages tell again in many ways, with loving
emphasis and deeper detail, that men may listen to the striving
in the souls of black folk.


Of the Dawn of Freedom

Careless seems the great Avenger;
History's lessons but record
One death-grapple in the darkness
'Twixt old systems and the Word;
Truth forever on the scaffold,
Wrong forever on the throne;
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above His own.


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 real 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 Negroes? Peremptory military commands
this way and that, could not answer the query; the Emancipation
Proclamation seemed but to broaden and intensify the
difficulties; and the War Amendments made the Negro problems
of to-day.

It is the aim of this essay to study the period of history
from 1861 to 1872 so far as it relates to the American Negro.
In effect, this tale of the dawn of Freedom is an account of
that government of men called the Freedmen's Bureau,--one
of the most singular and interesting of the attempts made by a
great nation to grapple with vast problems of race and social

The war has naught to do with slaves, cried Congress, the
President, and the Nation; and yet 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 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. Ben Butler, in
Virginia, quickly declared slave property contraband of war,
and put the fugitives to work; while Fremont, in Missouri,
declared the slaves free under martial law. Butler's action
was approved, but Fremont's was hastily countermanded, and
his successor, Halleck, saw things differently. "Hereafter,"
he commanded, "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." Such a policy was
difficult to enforce; some of the black refugees declared
themselves freemen, others showed that 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
Secretary Cameron, late in 1861; "and being such, that they
should not be turned over to the enemy is too plain to
discuss." So gradually 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-chiselled 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 levelled and the deed was done. The stream of fugitives
swelled to a flood, and anxious army officers kept inquiring:
"What must be done with slaves, arriving almost daily? Are
we 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.
He was a firm friend of Secretary Chase; and when, in 1861,
the care of slaves and abandoned lands devolved upon the
Treasury officials, Pierce was specially detailed from the
ranks to study the conditions. First, he cared for the refugees
at Fortress Monroe; and then, after Sherman had captured
Hilton Head, Pierce was sent there to found his Port Royal
experiment of making free workingmen out of slaves. Before
his experiment was barely started, however, the problem of
the fugitives had assumed such proportions that it was taken
from the hands of the over-burdened Treasury Department
and given to the army officials. Already centres of massed
freedmen were forming at Fortress Monroe, Washington,
New Orleans, Vicksburg and Corinth, Columbus, Ky., and
Cairo, Ill., as well as at Port Royal. Army chaplains found
here new and fruitful fields; "superintendents of contrabands"
multiplied, and some attempt at systematic work was made
by enlisting the able-bodied men and giving work to the

Then came the Freedmen's Aid societies, born of the
touching appeals from Pierce and from these other 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 daily growing worse rather
than better.

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 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 it was that 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,
South and West. The government and 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 ninety
thousand black subjects, its fifty thousand guided laborers,
and its annual budget of one hundred thousand dollars and
more. It made out four thousand pay-rolls a year, 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 one hundred thousand
freedmen, leased and cultivated seven thousand acres of cotton
land, and fed ten thousand paupers a year. 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 that 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 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 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 rice-fields 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 Number Fifteen."

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 afterwards 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 taken to accomplish this, in
part, by putting the whole matter again in charge of the
special Treasury agents. 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 greeted this as a welcome
relief from perplexing "Negro affairs," and Secretary
Fessenden, July 29, 1864, issued an excellent system of
regulations, which were afterward closely followed by General
Howard. Under Treasury agents, large quantities of land were
leased in the Mississippi Valley, and many Negroes were em-
ployed; but in August, 1864, the new regulations were
suspended for reasons of "public policy," and the army was
again in control.

Meanwhile Congress had turned its attention to the subject;
and in March the House passed a bill by a majority of two
establishing a Bureau for Freedmen in the War Department.
Charles 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 by the House. The debates
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. Then the national
election took place; and the administration, with a vote of
renewed confidence from the country, addressed itself to the
matter more seriously. A conference between the two branches
of Congress agreed upon a carefully drawn measure which
contained the chief provisions of Sumner's bill, but made the
proposed organization a department independent of both the
War and the Treasury officials. The bill was conservative,
giving the new department "general superintendence of all
freedmen." Its purpose 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. Never-
theless, 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 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 thereaf-
ter," 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 regu-
lations 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 assistant 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, cloth-
ing, 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 pecu-
liarly 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 and
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

Less than a month after the weary Emancipator passed to
his rest, his successor assigned Major-Gen. Oliver O. How-
ard 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
but the year before had been assigned to the command of the
Department of Tennessee. An honest man, with too much
faith in human nature, little aptitude for business and intricate
detail, he had had large opportunity of becoming acquainted
at first hand with much of the work before him. And of that
work it has been truly said that "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 exam-
ining the field of work. A curious mess he looked upon: little
despotisms, communistic experiments, slavery, peonage, busi-
ness speculations, organized charity, unorganized almsgiving,
--all reeling on under the guise of helping the freedmen, and
all enshrined in the smoke and blood of the 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 ap-
pointed. They were to hasten to their fields of work; seek
gradually to close relief establishments, and make the desti-
tute 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 eight hundred thousand 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 seven thousand 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 one hundred thousand souls, and more.

Evidently, Congress must soon legislate again on the hast-
ily 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 concep-
tion 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. These two arguments were
unanswered, and indeed unanswerable: the one that the ex-
traordinary 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 re-
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. Mean-
time, however, the breach between Congress and the Presi-
dent 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 cogni-
zance. The government of the unreconstructed South was thus
put very largely in the hands of the Freedmen's Bureau,
especially as in many cases the departmental military com-
mander was now made also assistant commissioner. It was
thus that the Freedmen's Bureau became a full-fledged gov-
ernment 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 mea-
sures as it thought necessary and proper for the accomplish-
ment 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 Amend-
ment 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 forces 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 four million slaves to an as-
sured and self-sustaining place in the body politic and eco-
nomic would have been a 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 instru-
ment 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 un-
thinkable, the maddest of experiments.

The agents that the Bureau could command varied all the
way from unselfish philanthropists to narrow-minded busy-
bodies and thieves; and even though it be true that the aver-
age was far better than the worst, it was the occasional fly
that helped spoil the ointment.

Then amid all crouched the freed slave, bewildered be-
tween 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 something
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 wel-
comed freedom with a cry. They shrank from the master who
still strove for their chains; they fled to the friends that had
freed them, even though those friends stood ready to use
them as a club for driving the recalcitrant South back into
loyalty. 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 carpet-bagger, and the slave, here; and there, all the
South that was white, whether gentleman or vagabond, hon-
est 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 ages,--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 threatened 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 quailed at that white master's command, had bent
in love over the cradles of his sons and daughters, and closed
in death the sunken eyes of his wife,--aye, too, at his behest
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 Nig-
gers." These were the saddest sights of that woful 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 today.

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 until 1869, let us look upon four years of its
work as a whole. There were, in 1868, nine hundred Bureau
officials scattered from Washington to Texas, ruling, directly
and indirectly, many millions of men. 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 hospi-
tals and asylums had been in operation. In fifty months twenty-
one million free rations were distributed at a cost of over four
million dollars. Next came the difficult question of labor.
First, thirty thousand 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 instructions went
out from Washington: the laborers must be free to choose
their employers, no fixed rate of wages was prescribed, and
there was to be no peonage or forced labor. So far, so good;
but where local agents differed toto caelo in capacity and
character, where the personnel was continually changing, the
outcome was necessarily varied. The largest element of suc-
cess lay in the fact that the majority of the freedmen were
willing, even eager, to work. So labor contracts were written,
--fifty thousand in a single State,--laborers advised, wages
guaranteed, and employers supplied. In truth, the organiza-
tion became a vast labor bureau,--not perfect, indeed, notably
defective here and there, but on the whole successful beyond
the dreams of thoughtful men. The two great obstacles which
confronted the officials were the tyrant and the idler,--the
slaveholder who was determined to perpetuate slavery under
another name; and, the freedman who regarded freedom as
perpetual rest,--the Devil and the Deep Sea.

In the work of establishing the Negroes as peasant propri-
etors, the Bureau was from the first handicapped and at last
absolutely checked. Something was done, and larger things
were planned; abandoned lands were leased so long as they
remained in the hands of the Bureau, and a total revenue of
nearly half a million dollars derived from black tenants. Some
other lands to which the nation had gained title were sold on
easy terms, and public lands were opened for settlement to
the very few freedmen who had tools and capital. But the
vision of "forty acres and a mule"--the righteous and rea-
sonable ambition to become a landholder, which the nation
had all but categorically promised the freedmen--was des-
tined in most cases to bitter disappointment. And those men
of marvellous hindsight who are today seeking to preach the
Negro back to the present peonage of the soil know well, or
ought to know, that the opportunity of binding the Negro
peasant willingly to the soil was lost on that day when the
Commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau had to go to South
Carolina and tell the weeping freedmen, after their years of
toil, that their land was not theirs, that there was a mistake--
somewhere. If by 1874 the Georgia Negro alone owned three
hundred and fifty thousand acres of land, it was by grace of
his thrift rather than by bounty of the government.

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 school-mistresses through the benevolent
agencies and built them schoolhouses, but it helped discover
and support such apostles of human culture as Edmund Ware,
Samuel Armstrong, and Erastus Cravath. The opposition to
Negro education in the South was at first bitter, and showed
itself in ashes, insult, and blood; 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. Perhaps some inkling of this paradox,
even in the unquiet days of the Bureau, helped the bayonets
allay an opposition to human training which still to-day lies
smouldering in the South, but not flaming. Fisk, Atlanta,
Howard, and Hampton were founded in these days, and six
million dollars were expended for educational work, seven
hundred and fifty thousand dollars of which the freedmen
themselves gave of their poverty.

Such contributions, together with the buying of land and
various other enterprises, showed that the ex-slave was han-
dling 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
six million dollars was thus distributed to five thousand claim-
ants, and in the end the sum exceeded eight million dollars.
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 Bu-
reau's work lay in the exercise of its judicial functions. 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. 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 impris-
oned, 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 institu-
tions 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 gave 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 made.

All this is easy, but it is neither sensible nor just. Someone
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 re-enslaved, to all intents and pur-
poses. 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 accom-
plished was not undeserving of commendation.

Such was the dawn of Freedom; such was the work of the
Freedmen's Bureau, which, summed up in brief, may be
epitomized thus: for some fifteen million dollars, beside the
sums spent before 1865, and the dole of benevolent societies,
this Bureau set going a system of free labor, established a
beginning of peasant proprietorship, secured the recognition
of black freedmen before courts of law, and founded the free
common school in the South. On the other hand, it failed to
begin the establishment of good-will between ex-masters and
freedmen, to guard its work wholly from paternalistic meth-
ods which discouraged self-reliance, and to carry out to any
considerable extent its implied promises to furnish the freedmen
with land. Its successes were the result of hard work, sup-
plemented by the aid of philanthropists and the eager striving
of black men. Its failures were the result of bad local agents,
the inherent difficulties of the work, and national neglect.

Such an institution, from its wide powers, great re-
sponsibilities, large control of moneys, and generally con-
spicuous position, was naturally open to repeated and bitter
attack. It sustained a searching Congressional investigation at
the instance of Fernando Wood in 1870. Its archives and few
remaining functions were 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 rec-
ommendation. Finally, in consequence of grave intimations
of wrong-doing made by the Secretary and his subordinates,
General Howard was court-martialed in 1874. In both of
these trials the Commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau was
officially exonerated from any wilful misdoing, and his work
commended. Nevertheless, many unpleasant things were
brought to light,--the methods of transacting the business of
the Bureau were faulty; several cases of defalcation were
proved, and other frauds strongly suspected; there were some
business transactions which savored of dangerous specula-
tion, if not dishonesty; and around it all lay the smirch of the
Freedmen's Bank.

Morally and practically, the Freedmen's Bank was part of
the Freedmen's Bureau, although it had no legal connection
with it. With the prestige of the government back of it, and a
directing board of unusual respectability and national reputa-
tion, this banking institution had made a remarkable start in
the development of that thrift among black folk which slavery
had kept them from knowing. Then in one sad day came the
crash,--all the hard-earned dollars of the freedmen disap-
peared; but that was the least of the loss,--all the faith in
saving went too, and much of the faith in men; and that was a
loss that a Nation which to-day sneers at Negro shiftlessness
has never yet made good. Not even ten additional years of
slavery could have done so much to throttle the thrift of the
freedmen as the mismanagement and bankruptcy of the series
of savings banks chartered by the Nation for their especial
aid. Where all the blame should rest, it is hard to say;
whether the Bureau and the Bank died chiefly by reason of
the blows of its selfish friends or the dark machinations of its
foes, perhaps even time will never reveal, for here lies un-
written history.

Of the foes without the Bureau, the bitterest were those
who attacked not so much its conduct or policy under the law
as the necessity for any such institution at all. Such attacks
came primarily 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 gathered tremen-
dous strength South and North; but its very strength was its
weakness. For, argued the plain common-sense of the nation,
if it is unconstitutional, unpractical, 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. Moreover, the path of the
practical politician pointed the same way; for, argued this
opportunist, if we cannot peacefully reconstruct the South
with white votes, we certainly can with black votes. So
justice and force joined hands.

The alternative thus offered the nation 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 Eman-
cipation 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, and the only method of compelling the South
to accept the results of the war. Thus Negro suffrage ended a
civil war by beginning a race feud. And some felt gratitude
toward the race thus sacrificed in its swaddling clothes on the
altar of national integrity; and some felt and feel only in-
difference and contempt.

Had political exigencies been less pressing, the opposition
to government guardianship of Negroes 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 impar-
tial 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

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

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. To-day, 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, 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 Highways sat and sits a
figure veiled and bowed, by which the traveller'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 a century new for the
duty and the deed. The problem of the Twentieth Century is
the problem of the color-line.


Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others

From birth till death enslaved; in word, in deed, unmanned!
* * * * * * * * *
Hereditary bondsmen! Know ye not
Who would be free themselves must strike the blow?


Easily the most striking thing in the history of the American
Negro since 1876 is the ascendancy of Mr. Booker T. Wash-
ington. It began at the time when war memories and ideals
were rapidly passing; a day of astonishing commercial devel-
opment was dawning; a sense of doubt and hesitation over-
took the freedmen's sons,--then it was that his leading began.
Mr. Washington came, with a simple definite programme, at
the psychological moment when the nation was a little ashamed
of having bestowed so much sentiment on Negroes, and was
concentrating its energies on Dollars. His programme of in-
dustrial education, conciliation of the South, and submission
and silence as to civil and political rights, was not wholly
original; the Free Negroes from 1830 up to war-time had
striven to build industrial schools, and the American Mission-
ary Association had from the first taught various trades; and
Price and others had sought a way of honorable alliance with
the best of the Southerners. But Mr. Washington first indis-
solubly linked these things; he put enthusiasm, unlimited
energy, and perfect faith into his programme, and changed it
from a by-path into a veritable Way of Life. And the tale of
the methods by which he did this is a fascinating study of
human life.

It startled the nation to hear a Negro advocating such a
programme after many decades of bitter complaint; it startled
and won the applause of the South, it interested and won the
admiration of the North; and after a confused murmur of
protest, it silenced if it did not convert the Negroes themselves.

To gain the sympathy and cooperation of the various ele-
ments comprising the white South was Mr. Washington's first
task; and this, at the time Tuskegee was founded, seemed, for
a black man, well-nigh impossible. And yet ten years later it
was done in the word spoken at Atlanta: "In all things purely
social we can be as separate as the five fingers, and yet one
as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress." This
"Atlanta Compromise" is by all odds the most notable thing
in Mr. Washington's career. The South interpreted it in dif-
ferent ways: the radicals received it as a complete surrender
of the demand for civil and political equality; the conserva-
tives, as a generously conceived working basis for mutual
understanding. So both approved it, and to-day its author is
certainly the most distinguished Southerner since Jefferson
Davis, and the one with the largest personal following.

Next to this achievement comes Mr. Washington's work in
gaining place and consideration in the North. Others less
shrewd and tactful had formerly essayed to sit on these two
stools and had fallen between them; but as Mr. Washington
knew the heart of the South from birth and training, so by
singular insight he intuitively grasped the spirit of the age
which was dominating the North. And so thoroughly did he
learn the speech and thought of triumphant commercialism,
and the ideals of material prosperity, that the picture of a lone
black boy poring over a French grammar amid the weeds and
dirt of a neglected home soon seemed to him the acme of
absurdities. One wonders what Socrates and St. Francis of
Assisi would say to this.

And yet this very singleness of vision and thorough one-
ness with his age is a mark of the successful man. It is as
though Nature must needs make men narrow in order to give
them force. So Mr. Washington's cult has gained unquestion-
ing followers, his work has wonderfully prospered, his friends
are legion, and his enemies are confounded. To-day he stands
as the one recognized spokesman of his ten million fellows,
and one of the most notable figures in a nation of seventy
millions. One hesitates, therefore, to criticise a life which,
beginning with so little, has done so much. And yet the time
is come when one may speak in all sincerity and utter cour-
tesy of the mistakes and shortcomings of Mr. Washington's
career, as well as of his triumphs, without being thought
captious or envious, and without forgetting that it is easier to
do ill than well in the world.

The criticism that has hitherto met Mr. Washington has not
always been of this broad character. In the South especially
has he had to walk warily to avoid the harshest judgments,
--and naturally so, for he is dealing with the one subject of
deepest sensitiveness to that section. Twice--once when at
the Chicago celebration of the Spanish-American War he
alluded to the color-prejudice that is "eating away the vitals
of the South," and once when he dined with President
Roosevelt--has the resulting Southern criticism been violent
enough to threaten seriously his popularity. In the North the
feeling has several times forced itself into words, that Mr.
Washington's counsels of submission overlooked certain ele-
ments of true manhood, and that his educational programme
was unnecessarily narrow. Usually, however, such criticism
has not found open expression, although, too, the spiritual
sons of the Abolitionists have not been prepared to acknowl-
edge that the schools founded before Tuskegee, by men of
broad ideals and self-sacrificing spirit, were wholly failures
or worthy of ridicule. While, then, criticism has not failed to
follow Mr. Washington, yet the prevailing public opinion of
the land has been but too willing to deliver the solution of a
wearisome problem into his hands, and say, "If that is all
you and your race ask, take it."

Among his own people, however, Mr. Washington has
encountered the strongest and most lasting opposition, amount-
ing at times to bitterness, and even today continuing strong
and insistent even though largely silenced in outward expres-
sion by the public opinion of the nation. Some of this opposi-
tion is, of course, mere envy; the disappointment of displaced
demagogues and the spite of narrow minds. But aside from
this, there is among educated and thoughtful colored men in
all parts of the land a feeling of deep regret, sorrow, and
apprehension at the wide currency and ascendancy which
some of Mr. Washington's theories have gained. These same
men admire his sincerity of purpose, and are willing to
forgive much to honest endeavor which is doing something
worth the doing. They cooperate with Mr. Washington as far
as they conscientiously can; and, indeed, it is no ordinary
tribute to this man's tact and power that, steering as he must
between so many diverse interests and opinions, he so largely
retains the respect of all.

But the hushing of the criticism of honest opponents is a
dangerous thing. It leads some of the best of the critics to
unfortunate silence and paralysis of effort, and others to burst
into speech so passionately and intemperately as to lose lis-
teners. Honest and earnest criticism from those whose inter-
ests are most nearly touched,--criticism of writers by readers,
--this is the soul of democracy and the safeguard of modern
society. If the best of the American Negroes receive by outer
pressure a leader whom they had not recognized before,
manifestly there is here a certain palpable gain. Yet there is
also irreparable loss,--a loss of that peculiarly valuable educa-
tion which a group receives when by search and criticism it
finds and commissions its own leaders. The way in which this
is done is at once the most elementary and the nicest problem
of social growth. History is but the record of such group-
leadership; and yet how infinitely changeful is its type and
character! And of all types and kinds, what can be more
instructive than the leadership of a group within a group?--
that curious double movement where real progress may be
negative and actual advance be relative retrogression. All this
is the social student's inspiration and despair.

Now in the past the American Negro has had instructive
experience in the choosing of group leaders, founding thus a
peculiar dynasty which in the light of present conditions is
worth while studying. When sticks and stones and beasts
form the sole environment of a people, their attitude is largely
one of determined opposition to and conquest of natural
forces. But when to earth and brute is added an environment
of men and ideas, then the attitude of the imprisoned group
may take three main forms,--a feeling of revolt and revenge;
an attempt to adjust all thought and action to the will of the
greater group; or, finally, a determined effort at self-realization
and self-development despite environing opinion. The influ-
ence of all of these attitudes at various times can be traced in
the history of the American Negro, and in the evolution of his
successive leaders.

Before 1750, while the fire of African freedom still burned
in the veins of the slaves, there was in all leadership or
attempted leadership but the one motive of revolt and revenge,
--typified in the terrible Maroons, the Danish blacks, and Cato
of Stono, and veiling all the Americas in fear of insurrection.
The liberalizing tendencies of the latter half of the eighteenth
century brought, along with kindlier relations between black
and white, thoughts of ultimate adjustment and assimilation.
Such aspiration was especially voiced in the earnest songs of
Phyllis, in the martyrdom of Attucks, the fighting of Salem
and Poor, the intellectual accomplishments of Banneker and
Derham, and the political demands of the Cuffes.

Stern financial and social stress after the war cooled much
of the previous humanitarian ardor. The disappointment and
impatience of the Negroes at the persistence of slavery and
serfdom voiced itself in two movements. The slaves in the
South, aroused undoubtedly by vague rumors of the Haytian
revolt, made three fierce attempts at insurrection,--in 1800
under Gabriel in Virginia, in 1822 under Vesey in Carolina,
and in 1831 again in Virginia under the terrible Nat Turner.
In the Free States, on the other hand, a new and curious
attempt at self-development was made. In Philadelphia and
New York color-prescription led to a withdrawal of Negro
communicants from white churches and the formation of a
peculiar socio-religious institution among the Negroes known
as the African Church,--an organization still living and con-
trolling in its various branches over a million of men.

Walker's wild appeal against the trend of the times showed
how the world was changing after the coming of the cotton-
gin. By 1830 slavery seemed hopelessly fastened on the
South, and the slaves thoroughly cowed into submission. The
free Negroes of the North, inspired by the mulatto immigrants
from the West Indies, began to change the basis of their
demands; they recognized the slavery of slaves, but insisted
that they themselves were freemen, and sought assimilation
and amalgamation with the nation on the same terms with
other men. Thus, Forten and Purvis of Philadelphia, Shad of
Wilmington, Du Bois of New Haven, Barbadoes of Boston,
and others, strove singly and together as men, they said, not
as slaves; as "people of color," not as "Negroes." The trend
of the times, however, refused them recognition save in
individual and exceptional cases, considered them as one with
all the despised blacks, and they soon found themselves
striving to keep even the rights they formerly had of voting
and working and moving as freemen. Schemes of migration
and colonization arose among them; but these they refused to
entertain, and they eventually turned to the Abolition movement
as a final refuge.

Here, led by Remond, Nell, Wells-Brown, and Douglass, a
new period of self-assertion and self-development dawned.
To be sure, ultimate freedom and assimilation was the ideal
before the leaders, but the assertion of the manhood rights of
the Negro by himself was the main reliance, and John Brown's
raid was the extreme of its logic. After the war and eman-
cipation, the great form of Frederick Douglass, the greatest of
American Negro leaders, still led the host. Self-assertion,
especially in political lines, was the main programme, and
behind Douglass came Elliot, Bruce, and Langston, and the
Reconstruction politicians, and, less conspicuous but of greater
social significance, Alexander Crummell and Bishop Daniel

Then came the Revolution of 1876, the suppression of the
Negro votes, the changing and shifting of ideals, and the
seeking of new lights in the great night. Douglass, in his old
age, still bravely stood for the ideals of his early manhood,
--ultimate assimilation through self-assertion, and on no other
terms. For a time Price arose as a new leader, destined, it
seemed, not to give up, but to re-state the old ideals in a form
less repugnant to the white South. But he passed away in his
prime. Then came the new leader. Nearly all the former ones
had become leaders by the silent suffrage of their fellows,
had sought to lead their own people alone, and were usually,
save Douglass, little known outside their race. But Booker T.
Washington arose as essentially the leader not of one race but
of two,--a compromiser between the South, the North, and
the Negro. Naturally the Negroes resented, at first bitterly,
signs of compromise which surrendered their civil and politi-
cal rights, even though this was to be exchanged for larger
chances of economic development. The rich and dominating
North, however, was not only weary of the race problem, but
was investing largely in Southern enterprises, and welcomed
any method of peaceful cooperation. Thus, by national opin-
ion, the Negroes began to recognize Mr. Washington's lead-
ership; and the voice of criticism was hushed.

Mr. Washington represents in Negro thought the old atti-
tude of adjustment and submission; but adjustment at such a
peculiar time as to make his programme unique. This is an
age of unusual economic development, and Mr. Washing-
ton's programme naturally takes an economic cast, becoming
a gospel of Work and Money to such an extent as apparently
almost completely to overshadow the higher aims of life.
Moreover, this is an age when the more advanced races are
coming in closer contact with the less developed races, and
the race-feeling is therefore intensified; and Mr. Washing-
ton's programme practically accepts the alleged inferiority of
the Negro races. Again, in our own land, the reaction from
the sentiment of war time has given impetus to race-prejudice
against Negroes, and Mr. Washington withdraws many of the
high demands of Negroes as men and American citizens. In
other periods of intensified prejudice all the Negro's tendency
to self-assertion has been called forth; at this period a policy
of submission is advocated. In the history of nearly all other
races and peoples the doctrine preached at such crises has
been that manly self-respect is worth more than lands and
houses, and that a people who voluntarily surrender such
respect, or cease striving for it, are not worth civilizing.

In answer to this, it has been claimed that the Negro can
survive only through submission. Mr. Washington distinctly
asks that black people give up, at least for the present, three

First, political power,

Second, insistence on civil rights,

Third, higher education of Negro youth,--
and concentrate all their energies on industrial education, and
accumulation of wealth, and the conciliation of the South.
This policy has been courageously and insistently advocated
for over fifteen years, and has been triumphant for perhaps
ten years. As a result of this tender of the palm-branch, what
has been the return? In these years there have occurred:

1. The disfranchisement of the Negro.

2. The legal creation of a distinct status of civil inferiority
for the Negro.

3. The steady withdrawal of aid from institutions for the
higher training of the Negro.

These movements are not, to be sure, direct results of Mr.
Washington's teachings; but his propaganda has, without a
shadow of doubt, helped their speedier accomplishment. The
question then comes: Is it possible, and probable, that nine
millions of men can make effective progress in economic
lines if they are deprived of political rights, made a servile
caste, and allowed only the most meagre chance for develop-
ing their exceptional men? If history and reason give any
distinct answer to these questions, it is an emphatic NO. And
Mr. Washington thus faces the triple paradox of his career:

1. He is striving nobly to make Negro artisans business
men and property-owners; but it is utterly impossible, under
modern competitive methods, for workingmen and property-
owners to defend their rights and exist without the right of

2. He insists on thrift and self-respect, but at the same time
counsels a silent submission to civic inferiority such as is
bound to sap the manhood of any race in the long run.

3. He advocates common-school and industrial training,
and depreciates institutions of higher learning; but neither the
Negro common-schools, nor Tuskegee itself, could remain
open a day were it not for teachers trained in Negro colleges,
or trained by their graduates.

This triple paradox in Mr. Washington's position is the
object of criticism by two classes of colored Americans. One
class is spiritually descended from Toussaint the Savior, through
Gabriel, Vesey, and Turner, and they represent the attitude of
revolt and revenge; they hate the white South blindly and
distrust the white race generally, and so far as they agree on
definite action, think that the Negro's only hope lies in
emigration beyond the borders of the United States. And yet,
by the irony of fate, nothing has more effectually made this
programme seem hopeless than the recent course of the United
States toward weaker and darker peoples in the West Indies,
Hawaii, and the Philippines,--for where in the world may we
go and be safe from lying and brute force?

The other class of Negroes who cannot agree with Mr.
Washington has hitherto said little aloud. They deprecate the
sight of scattered counsels, of internal disagreement; and
especially they dislike making their just criticism of a useful
and earnest man an excuse for a general discharge of venom
from small-minded opponents. Nevertheless, the questions in-
volved are so fundamental and serious that it is difficult to see
how men like the Grimkes, Kelly Miller, J. W. E. Bowen,
and other representatives of this group, can much longer be
silent. Such men feel in conscience bound to ask of this
nation three things:

1. The right to vote.

2. Civic equality.

3. The education of youth according to ability.
They acknowledge Mr. Washington's invaluable service in
counselling patience and courtesy in such demands; they do
not ask that ignorant black men vote when ignorant whites are
debarred, or that any reasonable restrictions in the suffrage
should not be applied; they know that the low social level of
the mass of the race is responsible for much discrimination
against it, but they also know, and the nation knows, that
relentless color-prejudice is more often a cause than a result
of the Negro's degradation; they seek the abatement of this
relic of barbarism, and not its systematic encouragement and
pampering by all agencies of social power from the Associ-
ated Press to the Church of Christ. They advocate, with Mr.
Washington, a broad system of Negro common schools sup-
plemented by thorough industrial training; but they are sur-
prised that a man of Mr. Washington's insight cannot see that
no such educational system ever has rested or can rest on any
other basis than that of the well-equipped college and univer-
sity, and they insist that there is a demand for a few such
institutions throughout the South to train the best of the Negro
youth as teachers, professional men, and leaders.

This group of men honor Mr. Washington for his attitude
of conciliation toward the white South; they accept the "At-
lanta Compromise" in its broadest interpretation; they recog-
nize, with him, many signs of promise, many men of high
purpose and fair judgment, in this section; they know that no
easy task has been laid upon a region already tottering under
heavy burdens. But, nevertheless, they insist that the way to
truth and right lies in straightforward honesty, not in indis-
criminate flattery; in praising those of the South who do well
and criticising uncompromisingly those who do ill; in taking
advantage of the opportunities at hand and urging their fel-
lows to do the same, but at the same time in remembering
that only a firm adherence to their higher ideals and aspirations
will ever keep those ideals within the realm of possibility.
They do not expect that the free right to vote, to enjoy civic
rights, and to be educated, will come in a moment; they do
not expect to see the bias and prejudices of years disappear at
the blast of a trumpet; but they are absolutely certain that the
way for a people to gain their reasonable rights is not by
voluntarily throwing them away and insisting that they do not
want them; that the way for a people to gain respect is not by
continually belittling and ridiculing themselves; that, on the
contrary, Negroes must insist continually, in season and out
of season, that voting is necessary to modern manhood, that
color discrimination is barbarism, and that black boys need
education as well as white boys.

In failing thus to state plainly and unequivocally the legiti-
mate demands of their people, even at the cost of opposing an
honored leader, the thinking classes of American Negroes
would shirk a heavy responsibility,--a responsibility to them-
selves, a responsibility to the struggling masses, a responsi-
bility to the darker races of men whose future depends so
largely on this American experiment, but especially a respon-
sibility to this nation,--this common Fatherland. It is wrong
to encourage a man or a people in evil-doing; it is wrong to
aid and abet a national crime simply because it is unpopular
not to do so. The growing spirit of kindliness and reconcilia-
tion between the North and South after the frightful difference
of a generation ago ought to be a source of deep congratula-
tion to all, and especially to those whose mistreatment caused
the war; but if that reconciliation is to be marked by the
industrial slavery and civic death of those same black men,
with permanent legislation into a position of inferiority, then
those black men, if they are really men, are called upon by
every consideration of patriotism and loyalty to oppose such a
course by all civilized methods, even though such opposition
involves disagreement with Mr. Booker T. Washington. We
have no right to sit silently by while the inevitable seeds are
sown for a harvest of disaster to our children, black and

First, it is the duty of black men to judge the South
discriminatingly. The present generation of Southerners are
not responsible for the past, and they should not be blindly
hated or blamed for it. Furthermore, to no class is the indis-
criminate endorsement of the recent course of the South
toward Negroes more nauseating than to the best thought of
the South. The South is not "solid"; it is a land in the
ferment of social change, wherein forces of all kinds are
fighting for supremacy; and to praise the ill the South is today
perpetrating is just as wrong as to condemn the good.
Discriminating and broad-minded criticism is what the South
needs,--needs it for the sake of her own white sons and
daughters, and for the insurance of robust, healthy mental
and moral development.

Today even the attitude of the Southern whites toward the
blacks is not, as so many assume, in all cases the same; the
ignorant Southerner hates the Negro, the workingmen fear his
competition, the money-makers wish to use him as a laborer,
some of the educated see a menace in his upward develop-
ment, while others--usually the sons of the masters--wish to
help him to rise. National opinion has enabled this last class
to maintain the Negro common schools, and to protect the
Negro partially in property, life, and limb. Through the pres-
sure of the money-makers, the Negro is in danger of being
reduced to semi-slavery, especially in the country districts;
the workingmen, and those of the educated who fear the
Negro, have united to disfranchise him, and some have urged
his deportation; while the passions of the ignorant are easily
aroused to lynch and abuse any black man. To praise this
intricate whirl of thought and prejudice is nonsense; to in-
veigh indiscriminately against "the South" is unjust; but to
use the same breath in praising Governor Aycock, exposing
Senator Morgan, arguing with Mr. Thomas Nelson Page, and
denouncing Senator Ben Tillman, is not only sane, but the
imperative duty of thinking black men.

It would be unjust to Mr. Washington not to acknowledge
that in several instances he has opposed movements in the
South which were unjust to the Negro; he sent memorials to
the Louisiana and Alabama constitutional conventions, he has
spoken against lynching, and in other ways has openly or
silently set his influence against sinister schemes and unfortunate
happenings. Notwithstanding this, it is equally true to assert
that on the whole the distinct impression left by Mr.
Washington's propaganda is, first, that the South is justified in
its present attitude toward the Negro because of the Negro's
degradation; secondly, that the prime cause of the Negro's
failure to rise more quickly is his wrong education in the past;
and, thirdly, that his future rise depends primarily on his own
efforts. Each of these propositions is a dangerous half-truth.
The supplementary truths must never be lost sight of: first,
slavery and race-prejudice are potent if not sufficient causes
of the Negro's position; second, industrial and common-
school training were necessarily slow in planting because they
had to await the black teachers trained by higher institutions,--it
being extremely doubtful if any essentially different develop-
ment was possible, and certainly a Tuskegee was unthinkable
before 1880; and, third, while it is a great truth to say that the
Negro must strive and strive mightily to help himself, it is
equally true that unless his striving be not simply seconded,
but rather aroused and encouraged, by the initiative of the
richer and wiser environing group, he cannot hope for great

In his failure to realize and impress this last point, Mr.
Washington is especially to be criticised. His doctrine has
tended to make the whites, North and South, shift the burden
of the Negro problem to the Negro's shoulders and stand
aside as critical and rather pessimistic spectators; when in fact
the burden belongs to the nation, and the hands of none of us
are clean if we bend not our energies to righting these great

The South ought to be led, by candid and honest criticism,
to assert her better self and do her full duty to the race she has
cruelly wronged and is still wronging. The North--her co-
partner in guilt--cannot salve her conscience by plastering it
with gold. We cannot settle this problem by diplomacy and
suaveness, by "policy" alone. If worse come to worst, can
the moral fibre of this country survive the slow throttling and
murder of nine millions of men?

The black men of America have a duty to perform, a duty
stern and delicate,--a forward movement to oppose a part of
the work of their greatest leader. So far as Mr. Washington
preaches Thrift, Patience, and Industrial Training for the
masses, we must hold up his hands and strive with him,
rejoicing in his honors and glorying in the strength of this
Joshua called of God and of man to lead the headless host.
But so far as Mr. Washington apologizes for injustice, North
or South, does not rightly value the privilege and duty of
voting, belittles the emasculating effects of caste distinctions,
and opposes the higher training and ambition of our brighter
minds,--so far as he, the South, or the Nation, does this,--we
must unceasingly and firmly oppose them. By every civilized
and peaceful method we must strive for the rights which the
world accords to men, clinging unwaveringly to those great
words which the sons of the Fathers would fain forget: "We
hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created
equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness."


Of the Meaning of Progress

Willst Du Deine Macht verkunden,
Wahle sie die frei von Sunden,
Steh'n in Deinem ew'gen Haus!
Deine Geister sende aus!
Die Unsterblichen, die Reinen,
Die nicht fuhlen, die nicht weinen!
Nicht die zarte Jungfrau wahle,
Nicht der Hirtin weiche Seele!


Once upon a time I taught school in the hills of Tennessee,
where the broad dark vale of the Mississippi begins to roll
and crumple to greet the Alleghanies. I was a Fisk student
then, and all Fisk men thought that Tennessee--beyond the
Veil--was theirs alone, and in vacation time they sallied forth
in lusty bands to meet the county school-commissioners.
Young and happy, I too went, and I shall not soon forget that
summer, seventeen years ago.

First, there was a Teachers' Institute at the county-seat; and
there distinguished guests of the superintendent taught the
teachers fractions and spelling and other mysteries,--white
teachers in the morning, Negroes at night. A picnic now and
then, and a supper, and the rough world was softened by
laughter and song. I remember how-- But I wander.

There came a day when all the teachers left the Institute
and began the hunt for schools. I learn from hearsay (for my
mother was mortally afraid of firearms) that the hunting of
ducks and bears and men is wonderfully interesting, but I am
sure that the man who has never hunted a country school has
something to learn of the pleasures of the chase. I see now
the white, hot roads lazily rise and fall and wind before me
under the burning July sun; I feel the deep weariness of heart
and limb as ten, eight, six miles stretch relentlessly ahead; I
feel my heart sink heavily as I hear again and again, "Got a
teacher? Yes." So I walked on and on--horses were too
expensive--until I had wandered beyond railways, beyond
stage lines, to a land of "varmints" and rattlesnakes, where
the coming of a stranger was an event, and men lived and
died in the shadow of one blue hill.

Sprinkled over hill and dale lay cabins and farmhouses,
shut out from the world by the forests and the rolling hills
toward the east. There I found at last a little school. Josie told
me of it; she was a thin, homely girl of twenty, with a
dark-brown face and thick, hard hair. I had crossed the
stream at Watertown, and rested under the great willows; then
I had gone to the little cabin in the lot where Josie was resting
on her way to town. The gaunt farmer made me welcome,
and Josie, hearing my errand, told me anxiously that they
wanted a school over the hill; that but once since the war had
a teacher been there; that she herself longed to learn,--and
thus she ran on, talking fast and loud, with much earnestness
and energy.

Next morning I crossed the tall round hill, lingered to look
at the blue and yellow mountains stretching toward the Caro-
linas, then plunged into the wood, and came out at Josie's
home. It was a dull frame cottage with four rooms, perched
just below the brow of the hill, amid peach-trees. The father
was a quiet, simple soul, calmly ignorant, with no touch of
vulgarity. The mother was different,--strong, bustling, and
energetic, with a quick, restless tongue, and an ambition to
live "like folks." There was a crowd of children. Two boys
had gone away. There remained two growing girls; a shy
midget of eight; John, tall, awkward, and eighteen; Jim,
younger, quicker, and better looking; and two babies of
indefinite age. Then there was Josie herself. She seemed to
be the centre of the family: always busy at service, or at
home, or berry-picking; a little nervous and inclined to scold,
like her mother, yet faithful, too, like her father. She had
about her a certain fineness, the shadow of an unconscious
moral heroism that would willingly give all of life to make
life broader, deeper, and fuller for her and hers. I saw much
of this family afterwards, and grew to love them for their
honest efforts to be decent and comfortable, and for their
knowledge of their own ignorance. There was with them no
affectation. The mother would scold the father for being so
"easy"; Josie would roundly berate the boys for carelessness;
and all knew that it was a hard thing to dig a living out of a
rocky side-hill.

I secured the school. I remember the day I rode horseback
out to the commissioner's house with a pleasant young white
fellow who wanted the white school. The road ran down the
bed of a stream; the sun laughed and the water jingled, and
we rode on. "Come in," said the commissioner,--"come in.
Have a seat. Yes, that certificate will do. Stay to dinner.
What do you want a month?" "Oh," thought I, "this is
lucky"; but even then fell the awful shadow of the Veil, for
they ate first, then I--alone.

The schoolhouse was a log hut, where Colonel Wheeler
used to shelter his corn. It sat in a lot behind a rail fence and
thorn bushes, near the sweetest of springs. There was an
entrance where a door once was, and within, a massive
rickety fireplace; great chinks between the logs served as
windows. Furniture was scarce. A pale blackboard crouched
in the corner. My desk was made of three boards, reinforced
at critical points, and my chair, borrowed from the landlady,
had to be returned every night. Seats for the children--these
puzzled me much. I was haunted by a New England vision of
neat little desks and chairs, but, alas! the reality was rough
plank benches without backs, and at times without legs. They
had the one virtue of making naps dangerous,--possibly fa-
tal, for the floor was not to be trusted.

It was a hot morning late in July when the school opened. I
trembled when I heard the patter of little feet down the dusty
road, and saw the growing row of dark solemn faces and
bright eager eyes facing me. First came Josie and her brothers
and sisters. The longing to know, to be a student in the
great school at Nashville, hovered like a star above this
child-woman amid her work and worry, and she studied
doggedly. There were the Dowells from their farm over
toward Alexandria,--Fanny, with her smooth black face and
wondering eyes; Martha, brown and dull; the pretty girl-wife
of a brother, and the younger brood.

There were the Burkes,--two brown and yellow lads, and
a tiny haughty-eyed girl. Fat Reuben's little chubby girl
came, with golden face and old-gold hair, faithful and sol-
emn. 'Thenie was on hand early,--a jolly, ugly, good-hearted
girl, who slyly dipped snuff and looked after her little bow-
legged brother. When her mother could spare her, 'Tildy
came,--a midnight beauty, with starry eyes and tapering
limbs; and her brother, correspondingly homely. And then the
big boys,--the hulking Lawrences; the lazy Neills, unfa-
thered sons of mother and daughter; Hickman, with a stoop in
his shoulders; and the rest.

There they sat, nearly thirty of them, on the rough benches,
their faces shading from a pale cream to a deep brown, the
little feet bare and swinging, the eyes full of expectation,
with here and there a twinkle of mischief, and the hands
grasping Webster's blue-black spelling-book. I loved my school,
and the fine faith the children had in the wisdom of their
teacher was truly marvellous. We read and spelled together,
wrote a little, picked flowers, sang, and listened to stories of
the world beyond the hill. At times the school would dwindle
away, and I would start out. I would visit Mun Eddings, who
lived in two very dirty rooms, and ask why little Lugene,
whose flaming face seemed ever ablaze with the dark-red hair
uncombed, was absent all last week, or why I missed so often
the inimitable rags of Mack and Ed. Then the father, who
worked Colonel Wheeler's farm on shares, would tell me
how the crops needed the boys; and the thin, slovenly mother,
whose face was pretty when washed, assured me that Lugene
must mind the baby. "But we'll start them again next week."
When the Lawrences stopped, I knew that the doubts of the
old folks about book-learning had conquered again, and so,
toiling up the hill, and getting as far into the cabin as possi-
ble, I put Cicero "pro Archia Poeta" into the simplest En-
glish with local applications, and usually convinced them--for
a week or so.

On Friday nights I often went home with some of the
children,--sometimes to Doc Burke's farm. He was a great,
loud, thin Black, ever working, and trying to buy the seventy-
five acres of hill and dale where he lived; but people said that
he would surely fail, and the "white folks would get it all."
His wife was a magnificent Amazon, with saffron face and
shining hair, uncorseted and barefooted, and the children
were strong and beautiful. They lived in a one-and-a-half-
room cabin in the hollow of the farm, near the spring. The
front room was full of great fat white beds, scrupulously neat;
and there were bad chromos on the walls, and a tired centre-
table. In the tiny back kitchen I was often invited to "take out
and help" myself to fried chicken and wheat biscuit, "meat"
and corn pone, string-beans and berries. At first I used to be a
little alarmed at the approach of bedtime in the one lone
bedroom, but embarrassment was very deftly avoided. First,
all the children nodded and slept, and were stowed away in
one great pile of goose feathers; next, the mother and the
father discreetly slipped away to the kitchen while I went to
bed; then, blowing out the dim light, they retired in the dark.
In the morning all were up and away before I thought of
awaking. Across the road, where fat Reuben lived, they all
went outdoors while the teacher retired, because they did not
boast the luxury of a kitchen.

I liked to stay with the Dowells, for they had four rooms
and plenty of good country fare. Uncle Bird had a small,
rough farm, all woods and hills, miles from the big road; but
he was full of tales,--he preached now and then,--and with
his children, berries, horses, and wheat he was happy and
prosperous. Often, to keep the peace, I must go where life
was less lovely; for instance, 'Tildy's mother was incorrigibly
dirty, Reuben's larder was limited seriously, and herds of
untamed insects wandered over the Eddingses' beds. Best of
all I loved to go to Josie's, and sit on the porch, eating
peaches, while the mother bustled and talked: how Josie had
bought the sewing-machine; how Josie worked at service in
winter, but that four dollars a month was "mighty little"
wages; how Josie longed to go away to school, but that it
"looked like" they never could get far enough ahead to let
her; how the crops failed and the well was yet unfinished;
and, finally, how "mean" some of the white folks were.

For two summers I lived in this little world; it was dull and
humdrum. The girls looked at the hill in wistful longing, and
the boys fretted and haunted Alexandria. Alexandria was
"town,"--a straggling, lazy village of houses, churches, and
shops, and an aristocracy of Toms, Dicks, and Captains.
Cuddled on the hill to the north was the village of the colored
folks, who lived in three- or four-room unpainted cottages,


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