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"The Future of the Negro Race in America"
W. E. Burghardt Du Bois

Du Bois, W.E. Burghardt. "The Future of the Negro Race in America." The East and the West; v.2 (January 1904): 4-19.

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DuBois' essay is accessible via Google Books (start page):

Robert W. Williams' Notes:
1. Du Bois makes an extended argument for social equality based on a critique of the application of Darwianin theory to race relations, especially as it was interpreted to justify segregation and oppressive practices targeting persons of color.
2. In the circum-1900s it was common to talk about the possible or even inevitable extinction of African Americans. This forms part of the historical context of Du Bois's essay. For more information on that thesis, one can read Du Bois's book review of Frederick Hoffman's Race Traits and Tendencies (1897), which is available on this site.
3. The word "Negro" is not capitalized in the original text.
4. In the original text the colons and semi-colons, as well as question marks, were separated from the preceding letters by a space, which seems to be a common style of the era. In the text presented below, I did not follow that older convention.


There are, as it seems to me, four ways in which the American negro may develop: first, his present condition of serfdom may be perpetuated; secondly, his race may die out and become extinct in this land; thirdly, he may migrate to some foreign land; and fourthly, he may become an American citizen.
In all history slavery has usually been succeeded by a period of semi-slavery or serfdom. Just how far this is necessary, and how far it is the result of imperfect emancipation, it is difficult to determine. There was a disposition in the United States, for a few years following the Civil War, to insure the complete emancipation of the negro slave. This was a tremendously difficult undertaking, but not necessarily impossible. The nation, however, quickly tired of the task, and the present state of serfdom ensued. And I call it serfdom without apology, because serfdom it is. Throughout the United States the mass of the negro population is curtailed in personal liberty, is insecure in life and property, has peculiar difficulty in earning a decent living, has almost no voice in his own government, does not enjoy adequate educational facilities, and suffers, no matter what its ability or desert, discount, impertinence and contempt, by reason of race and colour. To be more specific, it is clear that negroes are usually unable to enjoy fully the ordinary rights of domicile or of travel, the use of public conveniences, and of many facilities for instruction and entertainment. The black man is in continual danger of mob violence in New York as in New Orleans, in the West as in the South; his economic condition is especially unfortunate; he was emancipated suddenly, without land, capital, or tools, or skill, and generously bidden to go to work, be sober, and save money. He did go to work, he did work faithfully, and he did save some money. And yet his most frantic efforts, under the circumstances, could not save him from sinking into an economic serfdom which, at its best, is organised and systematic pauperism. To turn astray in modern competitive industry a mass of ignorant, unguided working-men, whose employers despise them, and for whom the rest of the nation evinces only spasmodic concern, is to invite oppression. The result is oppression. On the plantations of the southern backwoods the negro is a peon bound to the soil without wages or rights; throughout the rural South cunningly devised labour laws​—​laws as to contract and lien, vagrancy, and employer and servant​—​are so applied to black men as to reduce them to the level of fourteenth-century serfs. In the cities of the South and in the North the colour line is so drawn as to increase competition against the negro, restrict his chances of employment, and lower his labour price, and while agencies for his degradation welcome and invite him, those for his uplifting are closed or coldly tolerant.
In a day when political power is, for weal or woe, so intimately bound up with economic success and efficiency, the negro is being systematically and quickly disfranchised. Taxation without representation is the rule of his life. In the South he is taxed for libraries which he may not use, for public high schools and colleges which he may not attend, and for public parks where he cannot sit. The fear of political consequences or of labour strikes never deters an employer from discharging his negro hands or reducing their wages, while that same fear may keep out negro labourers or lead to the substitution of whites even at an economic disadvantage.
In regard to the present educational facilities of the land only one negro child in three receives regular instruction, and that for only a few months in the year, under teachers often poorly equipped and sometimes not equipped at all. It is fair to say that less than 20 per cent. of the negro children in the United States to-day are getting good elementary school training. There are a number of poorly furnished high schools for training teachers, and a few institutions doing college work. The only branch of education that to-day can command large and ungrudging support is manual and industrial training, the importance of which, great as it certainly is, is being obviously exaggerated and unduly emphasised at present. If those at the higher schools for negroes' training should turn their class-rooms into blacksmiths' shops and make wagons instead of making men, they would get far more enthusiastic support. They have not all seen fit to do this​—​not that for a moment they fail to recognise the importance of wagons or fail to honour the artisan. They simply maintain that there is a place in the world for training men as such, and when the public ceases to agree with them they must close their doors.
In this plain statement I am not seeking to minimise the vast efforts put forth for negro education in the United States; I am simply pointing out that, great as those efforts have been, they are strikingly inadequate, and that under present conditions the majority of negro children are growing up in ignorance, and without the proper moral and intellectual leadership of adequately trained teachers, ministers, and heads of families.
And finally the whole social atmosphere in which the negro lives and works, the intangible and powerful spiritual environment of the race, is such as to foster more and more either a false humility or hypocrisy, or an unreasoning radicalism and despair.
This is a condition of serfdom. Its symptoms vary, of course, in time and place; localities might easily be found where certain phases of the condition are better than I have indicated, and others where they are worse. The picture I have painted is perhaps an average one.
Now, I have said that the first possible future of the American negro is the perpetuation and perfection of this present serfdom. This would involve the strengthening of present prescriptive laws, the further disfranchisement of black men, and the legal recognition of customary caste distinctions. This has been the distinct tendency of the South in the last decade, and this programme has gained respectful hearing and acquiescence in influential parts of the North.
The question then is: What does such a policy involve so far as the negro is concerned? If along with the repression and proscription there could be expected cheerful acquiescence in inferiority and faithful work, then this solution would have much in its favour. It is, however, difficult to see how under the long continuance of the present system anything but degeneration into hopelessness, immorality, and crime could ensue. Under modern conditions of life and social and economic organisation, a permanent and successful caste system is impossible. The essence of modern democracy is the placing in the hand of the individual the power and responsibility for maintaining his right and liberty; and even in the larger social democracy which we see in the future the corner-stone must be that no social group is to be placed at the mercy of, or in entire dependence upon, the sense of justice of another group. To-day and to-morrow the reduction of a mass of men to permanent or long-continued economic and political inferiority means the deliberate reduction of their chances of survival, and the deliberate encouragement of degeneration among them. "chances of survival"
In any social group, however prosperous, degenerative tendencies may always be disclosed. The situation becomes critical and fatal when such tendencies are more manifest than those of upbuilding and progress. Among American negroes the tendencies to degeneration, while not yet in the ascendency, have undoubtedly been encouraged and fostered by the history of the last two decades. To-day men criticise American negroes and say they are not trustworthy​—​they cannot bear responsibility; they seem lacking in self-respect and personal dignity and in courage; and they have even lost something of the tact and courtesy of their fathers. Now a careful consideration of these defects will clearly show that they are the children, and the legitimate children, of a caste system. What is it that slavery and serfdom have been most assiduous in teaching the negro if it be not timidity, lack of a sense of personal worth, and inability to bear responsibility, and must not such teaching eventually engender carelessness and lack of courtesy? These men must be ever hesitant as to their rights and duties; in the face of continued disappointment their courage must waver; it is hard to maintain one's self-respect when all the world, even to the urchins on the street, regard you with evident contempt; and self-reliance and persistency must be fed by reasonable hope of success if it is to become characteristic of a people.
On the other hand, those qualities of character which, by four hundred years of persistent artificial selection, have been partially educated out of the negro are the very qualities upon which the civilised world is putting an exaggerated emphasis to-day. A people without pluck that borders on brazenness and courage akin to brutality is ruthlessly thrust aside, euphoniously designated as "lesser breeds without the law," and is robbed, routed, and raped by every civilised agency from the battleship to the Christian Church.
From such considerations it seems inevitable that the present policy of the nation toward the negro must eventually result in increasing hopelessness, immorality, and crime. Indeed, it is one of the most curious developments of the present to witness the widespread and touching surprise of the people in the United States at the spread of crime among negroes. Men shake their heads and say, "How surprising! And such a docile and sweet-tempered race!" And yet is it surprising? If you enslave and oppress a people, ravish and degrade their women, emancipate them into poverty, helplessness, and ignorance, systematically teach them humility in a braggart age​—​would you expect to develop angels or devils? The negro criminal has appeared, and negro crime is spreading. Is this phenomenon a new and peculiar race characteristic, or simply the logical effect of known causes?
Suppose, now, that these tendencies to degenerate among the negroes gain the ascendency over the persistent struggles of the negro to rise; suppose that crime and immorality gain such a headway as to check and choke the accumulation of wealth and the education of children​—​what then?
There seems to be a fatuous and curious notion among some Americans that such a consummation is devoutly to be wished; they discover with evident glee any indication that a wholesale process of degeneration has finally mastered the negro. But has America no interest​—​no merely selfish interest​—​in such an outcome? If men fear with a mighty fear an epidemic of small-pox, or are urged to extraordinary exertions to stamp out yellow fever, can they look with equanimity and lack-lustre eye upon the infection of nine million neighbours with a far more deadly virus? Can anyone but a fool think it is to his interest to make every eighth man in his country a pauper and a criminal, in addition to the growing load of his own degenerates? Not even a rich and healthy land like America could, without imminent and lasting peril, stand the moral and physical shock, the frightful contagion which must accompany the slow degradation and social murder of ten million human souls. Every selfish interest of this land​—​and I hesitate to appeal to higher motives​—​every selfish interest of this land demands that if the negro is to remain there he be raised, and raised rapidly, to the level of the best culture of the day.
The second possible future of the American negro arises from the possibility hinted at that the negro is not destined to remain long in this land. It is the expectation of many Americans, and Americans too of honesty and integrity, that gradually but inevitably the negro will die out before degeneration sets in to such an extent as to make him a menace to the land. These are the portion of Americans who cannot conceive how the negro can ever become an integral part of this republic; for the sake of the land, therefore, and the interests of the many, and from no especial dislike or prejudice against the negro, they hope that the race will either die out or migrate from the land. This is the practical and unemotional way in which the Darwinian doctrine of survival is applied in America to the negro problem. And I presume it is fair to say that a very large proportion, if not the majority, of the thinking people of America have adopted this attitude. "Darwinian doctrine of survival"
The question of race and survival which is thus touched upon is of so deep a significance to-day, when European civilisation is coming in contact with nearly all the world's great races, that it is of the utmost importance that sane and correct ideas on the subject should be current among the mass of citizens. To-day this is not the case. On the contrary, there is unfortunately widespread ignorance of the doctrines of race survival and human efficiency current even among people who ought to think more clearly. And this ignorance is helped on by the marvellous [sic] ignorance of human history permissible among people called intelligent, among Jingo writers, and the readers of Kipling's doggerel. "doctrines of race survival and human efficiency"
In such way we have come to a more or less clearly conceived public opinion which considers the present civilisation of Europe and America as by far the greatest the world has seen; which gives the credit of this culture to the white germanic peoples, and considers that these races have a divine right to rule the world in such way as they think best. This, I take it, is the creed of most Englishmen and Americans to-day. That such a creed is dangerous and needs the most careful scrutiny and revision is clear from the extraordinary deeds that have been committed under its guidance. The red-handed crimes that to-day may be laid at the door of men who have honestly and sincerely sought to work in accordance with this scheme of survival are enough to cause heart-searching among decent people, not to mention Christians and Christian Churches. "this scheme of survival"
I need cite here but a single case. There lies to the westward of America, in the summer seas, a cluster of islands bursting with beauty and fragrance, with men and women and children neither better nor worse than the average of primitive folk. Some of the grandfathers and grandmothers of present Americans wandered over there with the Bible in their hands and the golden rule of Christ on their lips. They told these children of the sea of Christian civilisation founded on Justice and Truth and Right, and then they invited their fellow-citizens to come over and finish the tale. And they came, and with them came land-grabbers, swindlers, and whoremongers, who began the work of robbery and debauchery until finally they suddenly discovered that the God of the Americans never intended islands so sweet and rich for weak-minded immoral Hawaiians; so they stole the soil from beneath the converts' feet, sent their queen wandering on the face of the earth, and gave the booty to America, and America took it. You may dress this tale of Hawaii in the most gracious clothing you can command. You may emphasise the degradation of the nation, the guileless altruism of the Americans, and the present prosperity of the sugar-planters; and yet if there sits beyond the stars a God of Justice who metes out to men their reward for murder and theft and adultery, then the blood of this helpless people will rest on America and on its children's children.
This is but one of the many tales of nineteenth-century enterprise in civilising the heathen, and arranging for the survival of the fittest: West Africa, South Africa, Uganda, the Congo Free State, China, Cuba, and the Philippines are similar chapters. Making all due allowance for different ways of interpreting facts, it must be confessed by all honest men that a theory of human civilisation which stands sponsor for the enormities committed by European civilisation on native races is an outrage and a lie. "survival of the fittest"
But do the theories of Darwin and Spencer, properly interpreted, support any such crude views of justice and right and the spread of civilisation as those current to-day? It may safely be answered they do not. Ignorant and selfish interpretation of great sociological laws must not any longer be allowed to obscure and degrade those laws. Darwin and Spencer "properly interpreted"
First of all, the man of true learning and breadth of views is less sanguine of the overmastering completeness of our present culture or of its incomparable superiority over civilisations of the past. He sees its strength and its weaknesses, and above all he realises that the one conspicuous triumph of modern culture​—​namely, the diffusion of its benefits among the lower strata of society​—​is an accomplishment which is, logically, a flat contradiction to the theory of the natural aristocracy of races. He knows that the world has staggered and struggled up to the idea that national welfare is not simply the welfare of a privileged few, and he consequently has serious doubts of a theory of races which assumes that white-faced men must inherit the earth simply because they have bigger guns and looser morals, and which forestalls the writhings of other races by branding them as inferior and then sitting on them.
Such a course is not simply arrogant, it is at once dangerous and unreasonable. Why is it that, while European races are at present leading civilisation, most African races are in barbarism? This is a question that cannot be satisfactorily and definitely answered. A Greek of the age of Pericles might have put just as puzzling and unanswerable a query to the ancestors of the present Europeans who were crawling about the forests of Germany half-naked and periodically drunk. And the ancient Egyptians in the day of their glory might have put equally uncomfortable queries to the ancestors of the Greeks. Why at certain times in the world's history civilisations have flashed up here and there, have smouldered and died, smouldered and burned anew, while the rest of the world lay still in common darkness, is a mystery which true intelligence frankly acknowledges to be such. Du Bois is arguing against a teleological conception of history that posits a unilinear and inevitable (deterministic) path of development towards an end goal of white supremacy, which itself would supposedly mark the acme of human achievement.
But the failure of complete knowledge here is no denial or disparagement of the great light thrown upon race development by the theories of evolution and by sociological research. It has become clearer to us that races and nations as well as men may be healthy and vigorous, may contract diseases and waste away, may commit sin and pay the penalty. It may easily happen too that circumstances and surroundings which favour one race may be fatal to another. And it is here that those who look for the extinction of the negro in America may legitimately take their stand. If, for instance, under conditions of civilised life as favourable as ordinary justice can make them a race of people have not the sheer physical stamina to survive, then, however pitiable the spectacle, there is little that surrounding civilisation can do. And it certainly cannot jeopardise the lives and prospects of the great mass of people by efforts to save a doomed remnant. While this is certainly true, it is by no means certain that such a case often occurs. Nearly all the instances of native races fading away on the advent of civilisation have been instances where the fading away was easily explicable. If all authority is stripped from a people, their customs interfered with, their religion laughed at, their children corrupted, and ruin, gambling, and prostitution forced upon them​—​such a proceeding will undoubtedly kill them off, and kill them quickly. But that is not the survival of the fittest​—​it is plain murder. Du Bois criticizes what he argues is the incorrect application of Darwinian evolutionary theory. The "survival of the fittest", or the failure to survive, under conditions of oppression is explained by the relations of colonial domination, not by any supposedly innate aspects of the "native races".
Turning, then, to the second possible future of the negro in America​—​namely, that he may die out​—​it must be candidly acknowledged that this is quite possible. If the negro is given no voice in his own government and welfare, if he continues increasingly to be shut out of employment, if his wages become lower and lower, and his chances of justice and consideration less; if, inconsequence of this, he loses hope and lets himself sink deeper and deeper into carelessness, incompetence and crime; if, instead of educating his brains, we get increasing pleasure and profit in making him simply a useful instrument of labour​—​ a mere hand​—​if his common school system continues to be neglected, if his family life has no respect in custom and little in law, it is quite possible​—​I might say probable​—​that the American negro will dwindle away and die from starvation and excess. This will simply add a few million more murders to the account of civilisation. But it would, of course, prove nothing as to the stamina and capabilities of the negro race.
Such a course of action is to-day impossible, however. The chances are that, along with the repressive, discouraging, and debauching influences, philanthropic and educational agencies will continue their work, and in some degree counteract them. In such event everything depends on the ability of the negroes to keep up their courage and hope. If they succeed in this, the chances of their dying out are exceedingly small. A people that have withstood the horrors of the African slave trade, American slavery, reconstruction, disfranchisement, the disruption of the family, unhealthy homes, famine, pestilence, and disease, and, above all, the studied, ingenious, and bitter prejudice and contempt of their fellow-citizens, and yet, in a single century, with practically no additions from without, have increased from one to ten millions of souls, are, to say the least, in no immediate danger of extinction. If extinction comes, it will be a long and tedious process covering many decades, accompanied by widespread crime and disease, and caused by unusual race bitterness and proscription. And during such a process we must always face the possibility of revolt and insurrection on the part of the oppressed.
I was sitting in the Philadelphia depot not long ago with the editor of an influential paper. We spoke of a late riot against negroes, and he turned to me after several minutes of general talk and said point-blank, "Why didn't the negroes fight?" I answered, "Because they are hopeful." The negro knows that in a trial of brute strength the odds are infinitely against him. He still believes, however, that he can in other ways gain success at some time. So long as that hope remains general, there is little chance of widespread degeneration or extinction. But when that hope goes, and in its place comes blank despair, when the desperation of disappointed striving and the mockery of effort seize the millions of black people in this land, no man can answer for the consequences. That seventy-two millions can eventually overpower nine millions goes without saying. But it will cost something.
Suppose, then, that we acknowledge that present conditions cannot continue, that the doctrine of the survival of fit races does not compel us to assume that the negro race is incapable of advancement, or likely with an ordinary chance of living to become extinct in America, there are then left two possible alternatives​—​the migration of the negro or his raising himself to full citizenship. "survival of fit races"
It is the irony of fate that the solution of the negro problem which would seem in some respects most simple is made complex and improbable by the very theory that most warmly supports it​—​viz., the theory of race incompatibility and relative inferiority. I mean this, the present tendency among civilised nations towards land-grabbing and overawing weaker nations and races makes the possibility of any permanent settlement by American negroes being left in peace extremely small. Nay, more, the absorption has already gone so far that nowhere is there left in the world a foothold for a new nation; certainly not in Africa, where every inch of soil is claimed, and where the negro immigrant would only exchange the tyranny of America for the tyranny of Europe, with the additional disadvantage of being further from the ear of the sovereign power.
Moreover, modern methods make it impossible to hold a rich or even moderately rich country without capital to exploit it. Yet the negro immigrants from the United States must be comparatively poor. Let a gold mine appear in their midst, or an iron mine, or even good crops of potatoes, and immediately some one would hear the voice of God calling him to rescue this beautiful land from the lazy blacks​—​at a profit of seventy per cent.
If there were a land where negro immigrants would be welcomed, and reasonably secure of their rights and liberties and of a chance to earn a living, it might and undoubtedly would attract a large proportion of American negroes. It would, however, attract the very class that America could best afford to keep​—​the intelligent, the thrifty, those who had some capital and those who had self-respect. In other words, you would skim the cream from the mass, and leave perhaps a worse problem than before.
The hope that an asylum beyond the sea would attract all the negro population, or that they could be under any circumstances removed en masse, is, of course, chimerical. Five hundred negro children are being born every twenty-four hours in America. To carry these alone out of the country would call for a fleet of a dozen or score of ships plying constantly between America and the African coast. No such stupendous transplanting of a nation has ever been successfully attempted in human history. Six million negroes were brought to Brazil, but it took three hundred years and cost perhaps ten million human lives. Unless the transportation is to be sheer butchery, the property of negroes must be bought from them, and those with no property must be furnished with tools and food; transportation across the United States must be given and subsistence while in transport; indeed, it is safe to say that the cost of such an enterprise would exceed the cost of the Civil War, even taking it for granted that the negro wished to go​—​and he does not wish to do so. He has sense enough not to jump from the frying-pan into the fire, not to give up a fighting chance in America for a hopeless struggle against the combined civilised world. A helpless child may be ill-treated and abused in its own home, but that is little excuse for midnight wandering amid the marauders of the street.
There is left the last alternative​—​the raising of the negro in America to full rights and citizenship. And I mean by this no half-way measures; I mean full and fair equality. That is, the chance to obtain work regardless of colour, to aspire to position and preferment on the basis of desert alone, to have the right to use public conveniences, to enter public places of amusement on the same terms as other people, and to be received socially by such persons as might wish to receive them. These are not extravagant demands, and yet their granting means the abolition of the colour line. The question is: Can American negroes hope to attain to this result? The answer to this is by no means simple. To use mathematical terms, the problem is a dynamic one, with two dependent and two independent variables. Let us consider first the dependent variables: they are the social condition of the negro on the one hand, and public opinion or social environment on the other. These are dependent variables in the sense that, as the social condition of the negro improves, public opinion toward him is more tolerant, and, vice versa, as public opinion is more sympathetic, it is easier for him to improve his social condition. Now, thinkers unacquainted with the problem often see here an easy solution. One says: "Let the negroes improve in morality, gain wealth and education, and the battle is won." The other says: "Let public opinion change toward the negro, give him work and encouragement, treat him fairly and justly, and he will rapidly rise in the world." Here now are two propositions which contain a subtle logical contradiction, and yet practically all the solutions of the negro problem outside the radical ones I have mentioned have been based on the emphasis of one of these propositions. From 1860-1880 the United States insisted on the duty of liberalising the public conscience; from 1880 to 1900 they have insisted on social progress among the negroes. The difficulty with these propositions is that each alone is a half-truth which may under certain circumstances become a flat mockery. I saw once in the Black Belt a tall sad-faced young fellow with a new wife and baby; he had married in the spring and started up in the world with a mule and cabin furniture. But the season was bad, cotton fell in price, and at harvest time the landlord took the cotton and took the mule, and stripped the cabin of bed and chairs and bureau, and left the little family naked to the world. Shall I tell that man that the way to gain the world's respect and help is to rise in the world and become wealthier and wiser? On the other hand, a New York merchant hires a negro servant: he finds her incompetent, untrustworthy and slovenly; his meals are late and not worth eating when they come; his servant is unaccommodating and sour-faced, and leaves without notice. Is there anything to be gained in telling this man that a more liberal attitude and broader appreciation towards the coloured race will make them more careful and deserving? And yet, while taken apart these phases are half true, if not at times untrue, yet taken together they certainly express a truth​—​viz., that, given a continuous improvement in social conditions, there will follow increased respect and consideration, and given liberal intelligent public interest, there will be stimulated in any class a desire to be richer, truer, and better. The difficulty is, with the problem stated thus dynamically, to get the double movement started; social condition may greatly improve before public opinion realises it. Public opinion may grow liberal before men are aware of the new chances opening. And, above all, the continual tendency in such dynamic problems is to a stable equilibrium​—​where public opinion becomes fixed and immovable, and social condition merely holds its own. That has been the continual tendency with the negro problem; for a few brief years after the war a whirling revolution of public opinion was accompanied by a phenomenal rush and striving upward. Then the public conscience grew cold, the cement of the new nation hardened, and while in a few brief years we had turned slaves into serfs, we left them merely serfs, nothing more. In fine there is a great and important truth in the often-spoken-of interdependence of condition and environment in the rise of a social group; but it is no simple thing​—​it is rather a matter of peculiar subtlety and complexity.

There is a further point: when I said that public opinion and social condition were dependent variables, and varied inversely to each other, it must have occurred to many that sometimes this variable failed to respond proportionately; that an improving people, sometimes far from reaping approbation, reap additional hate and difficulty, and increasing liberality in the national conscience is sometimes repaid by degradation and degeneration. In plainer terms, there is, without doubt, an independent element in these variable social quantities which is above all rule and reason. And in the matter of social condition the independent variable is the question of the real capability of the negro race; and deep down beyond all questions of public opinion in this matter is the deeper problem of innate racial prejudice. Radical partisans usually place themselves upon these arguments. The radical American Southerner says that back of all questions of social condition lies the ineradicable question of race, and that varieties of the human species so utterly different as the white and black races can never live together on a basis of equality; either subordination or extermination must ensue when they come in contact. The radical negro, on the other hand, resents warmly any intimation that the negro race is deficient in ability and capacity compared with other races; he points out that for such differences as exist to-day good and sufficient cause may be found in the slave trade and slavery reconstruction; he insists that every generation in this land has seen negroes of more than ordinary ability from Phillis Wheatley and Banneker to Douglass and Dunbar. He thinks that in the history of the modern world negro genius has shown itself in Pushkin, Toussaint L'Ouverture, and Alexander Dumas, not to mention men whose negro blood was seldom acknowledged from the time of the Pharaohs to that of Robert Browning.
There are a good many exaggerations and contradictions in the statements made in regard to the accomplishments of the negro race since emancipation, but it is clear beyond dispute that the negro has done five things. He has (1) restored the home, (2) earned a living, (3) learned to read and write, (4) saved money and bought some twelve million acres of land, (5) begun to furnish his own group leaders.
There is no way of denying that these comparatively simple things are really extraordinary accomplishments. The negro home is not thoroughly pure or self-protecting or comfortable, but it is a home created by main strength out of a system of concubinage and amid discouragement and mockery. The living earned has been a poor one, and yet without hesitation, lawlessness, or wholesale pauperism the negroes have changed themselves from dumb driven cattle to labourers bearing the responsibility of their own support.
From enforced ignorance so great that over 90 per cent. of the coloured people could not read and write at the close of the war, they have brought themselves to the place where the 56 per cent. can read and write. Starting a generation ago, without a cent or the ownership of their own bodies, they have saved property to the value of not less than 300,000,000 dollars, besides supporting themselves; and finally they have begun to evolve among themselves men who know their situation and needs.
All this does not prove that the future is bright and clear, or that there is no question of race antipathy or negro capacity; but it is distinctly and emphatically hopeful, and in the light of history and human development it puts the burden of proof rather on those who deny the capabilities of the negro than on those who assume that they are not essentially different from those of other members of the great human family.
If such a hopeful attitude toward the race problem in America is to prevail, then the attitude of the cultured classes of England and Europe can do much to aid its triumph. Hitherto English sympathy and opinion has been largely cast on the side of slavery and retrogression. Can we not hope for a change? Better than that, may we not look for an example of large-hearted tolerance and far-seeing philanthropy in the treatment of our brothers in South Africa that may shame the sons of Englishmen in the United States?
W. E. Burghardt Du Bois.     

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