The American Negro at Paris
W. E. Burghardt Du Bois
Du Bois, W.E. Burghardt. 1900. "The American Negro at Paris." The American Monthly Review of Reviews,
Start page of the essay within the periodical; it is accessible at Google Books. Another digital copy: start page.
R.W. Williams' Note:
An anonymous writer summarized the contents of The American [Monthly] Review of Reviews for November 1900 and wrote this brief statement: "Mr. W. E. Burghardt du Bois [sic] gives a pleasant account of the progress of the American negroes, [sic] whose exhibit will be found in the Congress Hall at the Paris Exhibition." [Citation: In "The Reviews Reviewed" section of The Review of Reviews, v.22 (15 November 1900): p.472 (at Google Books)].
THE AMERICAN NEGRO AT PARIS
BY W. E. BURGHARDT DU BOIS
|On the banks of the Seine, opposite the Rue des Nations, stands a large, plain white building, where the promoters of the Paris Exposition have housed the world's ideas of sociology. As a matter of fact, any one who takes his sociology from theoretical treatises would be rather disappointed at the exhibit; for there is little here of the "science of society." On the other hand, those who have followed historically the development, out of the old Political Economy, of a miscellaneous body of knowing chiefly connected with the larger aspects of human benevolence, will here find much of interest: the building and mutual-aid societies of France; the working-man's circles of Belgium; the city governments of Sweden; the Red Cross Society; the state insurance of Germany,--are all here strikingly exhibited by charts, statistics, models, and photographs.|
|The United States section of this building is small, and not, at first glance, particularly striking. There are, in the center, well-made tenement-house models; in one corner a small exhibit of the American Library Association, and elsewhere sets of interesting maps and photographs showing the work of factory inspectors and typical industrial plants. All these exhibits, are, unfortunately, rather fragmentary, and do scant justice to the wonderful social and economic development of America.|
|In the right-hand corner, however, as one enters, is an exhibit which, more than most others in the building, is sociological in the larger sense of the term--that is, is an attempt to give, in as systematic and compact a form as possible, the history and present condition of a large group of human beings. This is the exhibit of American Negroes, planned and executed by Negroes, and collected and installed under the direction of a Negro special agent, Mr. Thomas J. Calloway.||On p.576 (upper right) there is a large photograph with the caption "Exhibit of American Negroes at the Paris Exposition". This photo can be viewed in another browser window (and afterwards, click the BackSpace key to return to the essay).|
In this exhibit there are, of course, the usual paraphernalia for catching the eye-- photographs, models, industrial work, and pictures. But it does not stop here; beneath all this is a carefully thought-out plan, according to which the exhibitors have tried to show:
(a) The history of the American Negro.
(b) His present condition.
(c) His education.
(d) His literature.
|The history of the Negro is illustrated by charts and photographs; there is, for instance, a series of striking models of the progress of the colored people, beginning with the homeless freedman and ending with the modern brick schoolhouse and its teachers. There are charts of the increase of Negro population, the routes of the African slave-trade, the progress of emancipation, and the decreasing illiteracy. There are pictures of the old cabins, and, in three great manuscript volumes, the complete black code of Georgia, from colonial times to the end of the nineteenth century. Not the least interesting contribution to history is the case given to Negro medal-of-honor men in the army and navy -- from the man who "seized the colors after two color-bearers had been shot down and bore them nobly through the fight" to the black men in the Spanish War who "voluntarily went ashore in the face of the enemy and aided in the rescue of their wounded comrades." It was a Massachusetts lawyer who replied to the Patent Office inquiry, "I never knew a negro to invent anything but lies;" and yet here is a record of 350 patents granted to black men since 1834.||
The "voluntarily went ashore" quotation is from General Orders No. 15, published by the Headquaters of the Army, Adjutant General's Office (February 13, 1900). It refers to the heroic acts done during the Spanish American War that won four African American soldiers the Medal of Honor: William H. Thompkins, Fitz Lee, Dennis Bell, and George H. Wanton [Page of G.O. # 15 on Google Books].
Although published later, let us note that Henry E. Baker, Assistant Examiner of the U.S. Patent Office, wrote The Colored Inventor, A Record of Fifty Years (NY: The Crisis Publishing Co., 1913) [Download page at Project Gutenberg].
|The bulk of the exhibit, is naturally, an attempt to picture present conditions. Thirty-two charts, 500 photographs, and numerous maps and plans form the basis of this exhibit. The charts are in two sets, one illustrating conditions in the entire United States and the other conditions in the typical State of Georgia. At a glance one can see the successive steps by which the 220,000 Negroes of 1750 had increased to 7,500,000 in 1890; their distribution throughout the different States; a comparison of the size of the Negro population with European countries bringing out the striking fact that there are nearly half as many Negroes in the United States as Spaniards in Spain. The striking movement by which the 4 1/5 per cent. of Negroes living in the cities in 1860 has increased to 12 per cent. in 1890 is shown, as is also the fact that recognized mulattoes have increased 50 per cent. in 30 years, even in the defective census returns. Twenty per cent. of the Negroes are shown to be home-owners, 60 per cent. of their children are in school, and their illiteracy is less than that of Russia, and only equal to that of Hungary.||
Regarding the "4 1/5 per cent." amount: this is somewhat illegible on the page image at Google Books (p. 577). It might be "4 2/5 per cent."
Note the comparisons with foreign countries; Du Bois continued the cross-national perspective that he had used in The Philadelphia Negro (1899) and "The Negroes of Farmville, Virginia" (1898).
It was a good idea to supplement these very general figures with a minute social study in a typical Southern State. It would hardly be suggested, in the light of recent history, that conditions in the State of Georgia are such as to give a rose-colored picture of the Negro; and yet Georgia, having the largest Negro population, is an excellent field of study. Here again we have statistics: the increase of the black population in a century from 30,000 to 860,000, the huddling in the Black Belt for self-protection since the war, and a comparison of the age distribution with France showing the wonderful reproductive powers of the blacks. The school enrollment has increased from 10,000 in 1870 to 180,000 in 1897, and the Negroes are distributed among the occupations as follows:
|In agriculture, 62 per cent.; in domestic and personal service, 28 per cent.; in manufacturing and mechanical industries, 5 per cent.; in trade and transportation, 4 1/2 per cent.; in the professions, 1/2 per cent.|
|They own 1,000,000 acres of land and pay taxes on $12,000,000 worth of property--not large, but telling figures; and the charts indicate, from year to year, the struggle they have had to accumulate and hold this property. There are several volumes of photographs of typical Negro faces, which hardly square with conventional American ideas. Several maps show the peculiar distribution of the white and black inhabitants in various towns and counties.|
|The education of the Negro is illustrated in the work of five great institutions--Fisk, Atlanta, and Howard Universities, and Tuskegee and Hampton Institutes. The exhibit from Fisk illustrates, by photographs and examination papers, the work of secondary and higher education. Atlanta University shows her work in social study and the work of her college and normal graduates; Howard University shows the work of her professional schools, especially in medicine, theology, and law. From Hampton there is an especially excellent series of photographs illustrating the Hampton idea of "teaching by doing," and from Tuskegee there are numerous specimens of work from the manual-training and technical departments.|
|Perhaps the most unique and striking exhibit is that of American Negro literature. The development of Negro thought--the view of themselves which these millions of freedmen have taken--is of intense psychological and practical interest. There are many who have scarcely heard of a Negro book, much less read one; still here is a bibliography made by the Library of Congress containing 1,400 titles of works written by Negroes; 200 of these books are exhibited on the shelves. The Negroes have 150 periodicals, mostly weekly papers, many of which are exhibited here.||
DuBois is probably referencing the Preliminary List of Books and Pamphlets by Negro Authors for Paris Exposition and Library of Congress that was compiled by Daniel Murray, Library of Congress (Washington, D.C., U.S. Commission to the Paris Exposition, 1900). The LOC has viewable page images online (a brief overview at the LOC's African American Odyssey).
Anonymously written, the "Literary Work of American Negroes at Paris Exposition" is an extensive excerpt from the Springfield (Mass.) Republican newspaper (n.d.), which was published in The Publishers Weekly, v.57, No.1467 (March 10, 1900): 478-479
We have thus, it may be seen, an honest, straightforward exhibit of a small nation of people, picturing their life and development without apology or gloss, and above all made by themselves. In a way this marks an era in the history of the Negroes of America. It is no new thing for a group of people to accomplish much under the help and guidance of a stronger group; indeed, the whole Palace of Social Economy at the Paris Exposition shows how vast a system of help and guidance of this order is being carried on to-day throughout the world. When, however, the inevitable question arises, What are these guided groups doing for themselves? there is in the whole building no more encouraging answer than that given by the American negroes [sic], who are here shown to be studying, examining, and thinking of their own progress and prospects.*
* Mr. Thomas J. Calloway, the Special agent of the Negro exhibit, gives the following list of awards to the exhibit, together with a note of explanation, which we print below:
Grand Prix--American Negro Exhibit (on the collection as a whole): Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, Hampton, Va. Gold Medals--Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, Tuskegee, Ala.; Howard University, Washington, D. C.; T. J. Calloway, Special Agent Negro Exhibit (as compiler); W. E. B. Du Bois, Collaborator as Compiler of Georgia Negro Exhibit. Silver
While these awards represent the appreciation of the several juries, taken together there is not the even balancing that might be wished. Some of the principal features were not installed till after the juries were disbanded. For example, the books, models, patents, etc., fall under this lists [sic]. The awards, therefore, except in certain cases like Hampton, Tuskegee, Atlanta, etc., do not necessarily represent the strongest features of the exhibit.
[End of original text.]
|This footnote was appended to the end of the main text of the essay. (Does the "we" in the first sentence refer to the periodical's editors? Does this first sentence imply that the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs are verbatim passages in Calloway's own words?)
Du Bois is mentioned here as winning a Gold Medal: "Collaborator as Compiler of Georgia Negro Exhibit."
DuBois' Gold Medal is noted for his exhibit, which was part of Group XVI ("Social Economy, Hygiene, and Charities"), Class 110 ("Public or Private Movements for the Welfare of the People"), No. 11c.:
"DuBois, W.E.B. Atlanta, Ga. (collective negro [sic] exhibit) . . . . Collective exhibit, results of social study of the negro [sic] in Georgia."[Citation: "List of Exhibitors and Exhibits, Group XVI", pp.467-485 in the Report of the Commissioner-General for the United States to the International Universal Exposition, Paris, 1900. Vol. II. U.S. Senate Document No. 232 (56th Congress, 2d Session). Washington, D.C.: G.P.O, 1901, at p.477 (Google Books)].
The Report of the Commissioner-General lists other awards for the "Negro Exposition" and its component exhibits: see pp.477-478 [at Google Books].
Booker T. Washington's silver-medal-winning The Education of the Negro is viewable through Google Books
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