The most important gathering of Negroes that probably has ever occurred, was in Macon, Ga., a few weeks since. Five hundred leading Negro representatives convened to discuss and adopt “a thorough plan of State organization.” A permanent organization was effected and named the “United Brotherhood of Georgia,” the purpose of which is “to resist oppression, wrong and injustice.” We note the following resolutions, which were passed by the convention:
Resolved, That we, in convention assembled, respectfully but earnestly demand of the powers that be, that the Negro be given what, and only what, he is entitled to.
Resolved further, That never, until we are in the fullest enjoyment of our rights at the ballot-box, will we cease to agitate and work for what justly belongs to us in the shape of suffrage.
Further resolved, That it shall be the policy of the colored race to vote so as to bring the greatest division to the white voters of this country, for in this we believe lies the boon of our desire.
The last resolution is not entirely plain to us, and we refrain from comment upon it, but the convention itself, the fact of leadership taking shape among the Negroes, and the forth-putting of their purposes, are very significant.
When the Glenn Bill was born, and when the Georgia House of Representatives stood sponsor for its baptism, we believed that the enemy of righteousness had made a mistake, and that this particular piece of artillery would kick. They who think to thwart the providence’s of God usually help them forward. Christianity has had many a help from its opposers.
Upon the incidental question of temperance, the sentiments of the convention were voiced by one of the speakers in these words: “The best thing for the Negro is industry, temperance, virtue, economy, union and courage. Get land, get money, get education; be sober and be virtuous. We have drunk enough whiskey since the war to build a railroad from Atlanta to Savannah. The Negro race cannot be great except as individuals rise towards greatness.” They are rising. A little more yeast, good friends.
The Black Woman of the South
The Rev. Alexander Crummell, D.D., formerly a missionary in Africa and now Rector of St. Luke’s Church in Washington, D.C., is a native of Africa, a graduate of one of the leading Universities of England, who adds to the strength and graces of a sound scholarship, the devotion of a noble Christian character.
From an address made by him upon the “Needs and Neglects of the Black Woman of the South,” we quote his plea for “Woman’s Work for Woman.” Referring to the Negro woman in slavery days, he says:
“She was a ‘hewer of wood and a drawer of water.’ She had to keep her place in the gang from morn till eve, under the burden of a heavy task, or under the stimulus or the fear of a cruel lash. She was a picker of cotton. She labored at the sugar mill and in the tobacco factory. When, through weariness or sickness, she had fallen behind her allotted task, then came, as punishment, the fearful stripes upon her shrinking, lacerated flesh.
“Her home life was of the most degrading nature. She lived in the rudest huts, and partook of the coarsest food, and dressed in the scantiest garb, and slept, in multitudinous cabins, upon the hardest boards!
“There was no sanctity of family, no binding tie of marriage, none of the fine felicities and the endearing affections of home. Few of these things were the lot of the Southern black woman. Instead, thereof, a gross barbarism, which tended to blunt the tender sensibilities, to obliterate feminine delicacy and womanly shame, came down as her heritage from generation to generation; and it seems a miracle of providence and grace that, notwithstanding these terrible circumstances, so much struggling virtue lingered amid the rude cabins, that so much womanly worth and sweetness remained, as slaveholders themselves have borne witness to.
“Freed, legally, she has been; but the act of emancipation had no talismanic influence to reach to and alter and transform her degrading social life. The truth is, ‘Emancipation Day’ found her a prostrate and degraded being; and, although it has brought numerous advantages to her sons, it has produced but the simplest changes in her social and domestic condition. She is still the crude, rude, ignorant mother. Remote from cities, the dweller still in the old plantation hut, neighboring to the sulky, disaffected master-class, who still think her freedom was a personal robbery of themselves, none of the ‘fair humanities’ have visited her humble home. The light of knowledge has not fallen upon her eyes. The fine domesticities which give the charm to family life, and which, by the refinement and delicacy of womanhood, preserve the civilization of nations, have not come to her. She has still the rude, coarse labor of men. With her rude husband, she still shares the hard service of a field-hand. Her house, which shelters, perhaps, some six or eight children, embraces but two rooms. Her furniture is of the rudest kind. The clothing of the household is scant and of the coarsest material; has oft-times the garniture of rags, and for herself and offspring is marked, not seldom, by the absence of both hats and shoes. She has rarely been taught to sew, and the field-labor of slavery times has kept her ignorant of the habitudes of neatness and the requirements of order. Indeed, coarse food, coarse clothes, coarse living, coarse manners, coarse companions, coarse surroundings, coarse neighbors, both white and black, yea, everything coarse, down to the coarse, ignorant, senseless religion, which excites her sensibilities and starts her passions, go to make up the life of the masses of black women in the hamlets and villages of the South. This is the state of black womanhood.
“And now look at the vastness of this degradation. If I had been speaking of the population of a city, or town, or even a village, the tale would be a sad and melancholy one. But I have brought before you the condition of millions of women. And when you think that the masses of these women live in the rural districts; that they grow up in rudeness and ignorance; that their former masters are using few means to break up their hereditary degradation, you can easily take in the pitiful condition of this population and forecast the inevitable future to multitudes of females, unless a mighty special effort is made for the improvement of the black womanhood of the South.
“I am anxious for a permanent and uplifting civilization to be engrafted on the Negro race in this land. And this can only be secured through the womanhood of a race. If you want the civilization of a people to reach the very best elements of their being, and then, having reached them, there to abide as an indigenous principle, you must imbue the womanhood of that people with all its elements and qualities. Any movement which passes by the female sex is an ephemeral thing. Without them, no true nationality, patriotism, religion, cultivation, family life, or true social status, is a possibility. In this matter it takes two to make onemankind is a duality. The male may bring, as an exotic, a foreign graft, say, of civilization, to a new people. But what then! Can a graft live or thrive of itself? By no manner of means. It must get vitality from the stock into which it is put; and it is the women who give the sap to every human organization which thrives and flourishes on earth.
“I plead, therefore, for the establishment of at least one large ‘Industrial school’ in every Southern State for the black girls of the South. I ask for the establishment of schools which may serve specially the home life of the rising womanhood of my race.
“I want boarding schools for the industrial training of one hundred and fifty or two hundred of the poorest girls, of the ages of twelve to eighteen years.
“I wish the intellectual training to be limited to reading, writing, arithmetic and geography.
“I would have these girls taught to do accurately all domestic work, such as sweeping floors, dusting rooms, scrubbing, bed-making, washing and ironing, sewing, mending and knitting.
“I would have the trades of dress-making, millinery, straw-plating, tailoring for men, and such like, taught them.
“The art of cooking should be made a specialty, and every girl should be instructed in it.
“In connection with these schools, garden plats should be cultivated, and every girl should be required daily, to spend at least an hour in learning the cultivation of small fruits, vegetables and flowers.
“It is hardly possible to exaggerate either the personal, family or society influence which would flow from these schools. Every class, yea, every girl in an out-going class, would be a missionary of thrift, industry, common-sense, and practicality. They would go forth, year by year, a leavening power into the houses, towns and villages of the Southern black population; girls fit to be the wives of the honest peasantry of the South, the worthy matrons of their numerous households.
“I am looking after the domestic training of the masses; for the raising up of women meet to be the helpers of poor men, the rank and file of black society, all through the rural districts of the South.
“A true civilization can only be attained when the life of woman is reached, her whole being permeated by noble ideas, her fine taste enriched by culture, her tendencies to the beautiful gratified and developed, her singular and delicate nature lifted up to its full capacity, and then, when all these qualities are fully matured, cultivated and sanctified, all their sacred influences shall circle around ten thousand firesides, and the cabins of the humblest freedmen shall become the homes of Christian refinement through the influence of the uplifted and cultivated black woman of the South.”
The above appeal is in the line of our American Missionary Association work. While we have higher schools and institutions for more thorough education, which these Negro women need as much as any women in the world, we are increasingly developing this idea which Dr. Crummell eloquently pleads.
We remind our friends and those Christian women who are interested in the uplifting of Negro womanhood, that the American Missionary Association, the ordained agency of the Congregational Churches for this work, could do much more of it if the means were forthcoming. The marked success of the domestic training in our schools at Tougaloo, Miss., Talladega, Ala., Thomasville, Ga., Memphis, Tenn., and other points, shows the advantage gained in the twenty-five years’ experience which the A.M.A. has had in its work for the Negroes.
We need the co-operation of all Christian women in carrying on these Industrial Schools already established, and to enable us to establish and carry forward many more.
Immigrants and Negroes
The Immigrant question challenges attention. Shall immigrants be welcomed, restricted or prohibited? In the early days of the Republic, when the revolutionary war had welded the people together and our boundless territory begged for occupancy, we welcomed the oppressed of all nations. Later, the welcome has been responded to by such a rushing, heterogeneous and even dangerous mass that we are compelled to pause. Restriction is talked of, but the line of discrimination is hard to be fixed. No committee at Castle Garden can detect anarchists, criminals, or even the poor, if that line should be chosen. Prohibitionexclusion is talked ofnay, is enacted stringently against the Chinese. If need be, it may extend to all. So there is a way of averting this evil.
But the Negro question cannot be put away. The Negroes are here. They outnumber the immigrants that have come to our shores in the last thirty years, and have a foothold upon the soil as valid as the Aryan race, whether we consider the date of their coming or the labor they have put upon the land.
There is a strange disposition to shrink from the Negro question. Some avoid it by flippantly denying the danger; others turn from it because they are appalled by it. Thus an able writer on Immigration in a recent number of the Century passes the topic with this awe-stricken remark: “This problem (of the Negro) cannot be touched practically; ancient wrongs bind the nation hand and foot, and its outcome must be awaited as we await the gathering of the tempestpowerless to avert, and trembling over the steady approach” (The italics are ours.) This is not wise; it is not manly. Why try to avert the evils of immigration, or any other, if we are meanwhile only to await tremblingly the doom that is to come on us from the conflict with the Negro?
There is a strong disposition to gather hope from the newly-developed manufacturing interests in the South. But this is delusive. The South is essentially a rural population; the new industries will necessarily be confined to a few localities, and will reach but slightly the wide agricultural region, and will scarcely touch the Negroes. And more than all this, these industries will only be importing into the South the struggle between labor and capital, which so vexes us at the North. Instead, therefore, of solving the old difficulties at the South, they will add a new one.
The danger of a war of races is scouted at the North; it is not at the South. This is natural. The North is not in immediate contact with the danger; the South is. When the war of the rebellion was impending, the North refused to believe in its coming; and when it came, one of the wisest statesmen of the North, Mr. Seward, predicted that it would “not last sixty days.” No such delusion prevailed in the South. Many of the best men there, nay, nearly all the border States, dreaded its coming and held back as long as possible, but they were swept into the flood they foresaw and could not avert.
Thoughtful men at the South now have no rose-colored views about the Negro problem. They fear the impending conflict. With them the supremacy of the white race is the settled point, but they see in the growing numbers, intelligence and restlessness of the Negroes an increasing danger that will only be aggravated by delay. Why should not the North and South alike manfully face the question of a war of races? What will it mean? What will be its end? If the whites and the blacks of the South alone engage in it, the blacks will be exterminated. Nothing less will meet the case. If the North mingle in the struggle, it must be to help the whites or the blacks. If to help the whites, that will mean the more rapid defeat and slaughter of the blacks; if the North help the blacks and save them from destruction, then we shall be worse off than we are now, the two races will be together with enmities aroused a thousand fold!
But why not face the more hopeful question: Is there a remedy? There is! The teacher and the preacher, the spelling-book and the Bible, the saviors of men, the reformers of society, the uplifters of races, are spreading over the South. They go to the manufacturing townsthe Birmingham’s and the Annistons they go to the large cities with their common and normal schools, their medical, law and theological seminaries. When the pupils become teachers, they go into the smaller towns, they go into the rural districts, on the small farms, everywhere instructing, encouraging and stimulating the people, leading them to more intelligent industries, to economy, to the purchase of land, the erection of better houses, to a higher aim in life, and to the formation of a right character. Of such stuff men are made, citizens, Christians; men who can use the ballot, who own property that must be protected by the ballot; men who have homes that must be refined and pure, churches where God is worshiped intelligently and where a practical morality is taught and attained. Such a people will be safe, for they will be bone and muscle of the South, they will be needed in its wide expanse of fertile soil, needed in its practical trades, needed for the accumulated wealth, intelligence and cultivated piety they will bring into all the walks and avocations of life.
But it will be some time before these educational and religious means reach all the blacks, and in the meantime much patience and toil will be needed. To the blacks we would say: You won the admiration of men and the blessing of God by your patience under the yoke of slavery when there seemed to be no hope; now win both again by bearing in like spirit your lesser present ills, while hope dawns and help is near.
To thoughtful men North and South we urge: Take hold of this work like men. If a thousandth part of the self-sacrifice and money spent in the war were devoted to this work, the evil might be averted. Why stand over-awed at a threatened flood that if met in time may not only be averted but be turned into fertilizing waters over the broad lands?