American Home Missions Among the Negroes
By Henry C. Vedder
Our Negro Population
The Negro population of the United States is increasing more rapidly than the white, if we exclude from the latter European immigrants. The census of 1900 returned 8,833,994; that of 1910 gave them 9,827,763, which by 1920 had grown to 10,463,131. While they are distributed throughout the States, three-fourths of them are found below the Ohio River and Mason and Dixon's line. Though we speak of the American Negro as a single race, we have in fact to deal with a mixture of numerous African races, of great variations. Color is the simplest mark, and these races vary in all the shades from dark brown to jet black. Practically all of them speak the English language, after a sort, but many of the old pagan ideas and customs have survived among those who have forgotten their native languages.
African slavery was not the only form of bondage in the early history of America. Some captive Indians were made slaves, and for a time England sent her criminals to be sold as slaves, some for a term of years, some for life. But neither Indian nor white slavery worked well in the New World, and African slavery was the sole survivor from the eighteenth century. Spain began to import Negroes for slaves as early as 1517, and England followed the bad example in 1564. It is worthy of note that the first English slave ship was named the "Jesus," and its commander, Captain Hawkins, was knighted by
Good Queen Bess. African slavery was firmly established in all the colonies, and New England seamen were active in the business. Virginia had slaves as early as 1619, Massachusetts by 1638, New Amsterdam in 1650, Pennsylvania in 1688, and so on.
Abolition of Slavery
Slavery proved to be an economic and political problem of the first magnitude, apart from its ethical aspects. At the time of the adoption of the Federal Constitution, it was found in practically all the States, and so it was inevitable that it should be recognized in the Constitution, and prohibition of the slave-trade even should not be forbidden before 1808. Leading Southern patriots (like Washington, Jefferson, and Henry) were opposed to slavery in principle and hoped for its complete abolition soon. Slaves were counted in the enumeration of the States, though not citizens, which gave Southern whites disproportionate political weight. That constituted the root of the political problem. The economic problem also became a sectional one, because slavery was unprofitable in the North, where estates were small and free labor abundant, and there slavery was easily extinguished. In the South, larger estates were the rule, worked by gangs of Negroes, and there was little or no free labor available. In spite of this, there was a growing sentiment in favor of abolition until the invention of the cotton-gin, by a Yankee school-teacher, suddenly opened the way to immense profits in the cultivation of cotton by slaves. This firmly established the institution in the South, and led to a demand for the extension of slavery into the territories of the great West. This conflict of interests finally brought about the Civil War, of 1861-5, in which slavery perished. The Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln, in 1862, of doubtful legal validity, was
made the organic law of the land by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, in 1868.
The Present Negro Problem
The Negro problem of today is a race problem, an industrial problem, a housing problem. Attempts have been made to solve the race problem by colonization. The republic of Liberia and the English colony of Sierra Leone are results of such attempts, not very encouraging to future enterprises of like kind. It could only be a palliative at best, for not all the shipping of the world would suffice to transport in a decade the Afro-American population of the United States to Africa, assuming that homes and sustenance could be found for them there. The futility of the plan becomes evident at any serious attempt to calculate its physical possibilities. We may as well make up our minds to this: The Negro is here to stay. The white man brought him here, and the white man must now discover a way to live with him peaceably.
Will the solution of the race problem be found in future years by the route of miscegenation or amalgamation? Some ethnologists answer, Yes ; and they point to the fact that history discloses no instance of two races living peaceably side by side without amalgamation. They call our attention also to certain facts regarding mulattoes. They increased from 584,049 in 1870 to 2,050,686 in 1910, but in 1920 were returned at 1,660,554. The amount and rate of increase are most uncertain there is good ground for suspecting the accuracy of these figures. In any case, against the plausibility of this solution lies the fact of the very stubborn prejudice of the white people against intermarriage of the races. Mulattoes are the result chiefly of illicit connections. Marriage results in social ostracism among whites, and many States have made such marriages illegal. Virginia is a good example; by a statute
of 1924 marriage is prohibited between any white person and "any save a white person, or a person with no other admixture of blood than white and American Indian." So long as this social status persists, and there is no sign of its modification, no solution of the race problem by amalgamation is possible. The Negroes of pure blood are nearly as much opposed to amalgamation as the whites, though on somewhat different grounds.
No Longer a Sectional Problem
The Negro problem is no longer an exclusive Southern problem, if it ever was such. There has been steady movement of the Negro population northward, ever since the Civil War. At times there have been notable mass movements. In 1879 for example, there was large emigration from Louisiana and Mississippi to Kansas, caused by local political and social conditions. It was a salutary lesson, that when and where any people are denied just protection of their legal rights, the denial carries with it its own punishment. The State then most at fault suffered serious economic losses. Peonage, disfranchisement, mob violence, unjust segregation, curtailment of educational privileges, are some of the things that have led to Negro emigration. Lynching and intimidation by certain elements of the white race, avowedly to "keep the n----r in his place," have reacted upon themselves to retard the development of the guilty regions. The late war gave rise to a demand for labor that the people of the Northern States could not meet, especially with the depletion of their working force by conscription, and the result was a sudden and great influx of Negroes into Northern communities. Floods and the boll-weevil worked such destruction in the South as to induce a further exodus of Negroes, which, however, in recent years, appears to have practically ceased from natural
causes, rather than from application of any of the proposed remedies. One of the results is that the two largest Negro communities in the world are the Harlem district of New York and the city of Detroit.
The most spectacular manifestations of race feeling have been occasional riots and lynchings. While these have been most prevalent in the South, that appears to be due merely to the fact that there are more Negroes there; for the manifestations are not confined to any region. There are two kinds of lynchings that are easily discriminated: one due to outbursts of passion on the occurrence of revolting crimes, the other deliberately fomented by organizations under various names, such as "White Caps." The remedy in both cases is similar : prompt and stern dealing by police and courts with all criminals, under existing laws, and the strengthening of laws regarding crime whenever necessary. It is the present laxity, the slowness and uncertainty of "justice," that constitutes a permanent incitement to mob violence. Only a small percentage of murderers are convicted and punished, although the percentage of homicidal crime is larger than in any other civilized nation. All crimes against the person are much less severely punished than crimes against property ; brutal assault with intent to kill will often result in imprisonment for two years, while a burglar will get a sentence of twenty years. Such anomalies cannot fail to provoke social resentment and mob violence.
Religion Among the Negroes
The Negro has a natural bent toward religion, of the emotional type, but his emotions are violent and unstable. Religious progress is mainly the result of "revivals" or "protracted meetings " during which great excitement often prevails. Those physical manifestations, that were once common among whites but have now almost ceased
among them, are still characteristic of Negro revivals. Because of this natural bent, the great bulk of Negro Christians are either Baptists or Methodists the two denominations that have always laid greatest stress on conversion, or a personal experience of divine grace in the forgiveness of sins. The Episcopal Church is making some progress among the Negroes, numbering about 15,000. The Roman Catholics are doing still better, and claim 150,000. But these are trifling numbers compared with the 3,137,160 of Baptists and the 1,384,209 of Methodists among the Negroes (1923).
Before the Civil War and emancipation, such Negroes as became Christians became members of the white churches of the South, and to some extent of the North also. Negro churches were not tolerated in the South under slavery, and were few in the North, where they were not forbidden indeed, but scarcely encouraged. With freedom came a disposition to organize by themselves; churches and preachers came into existence with startling rapidity, and further organizations followed the same steps as among the whites generations before. The first State Convention of Negro Baptists was organized in North Carolina in 1866, and a National Convention followed in 1880. They have the usual Boards and are engaged in a variety of missionary enterprises, in principle and method different not at all from those of the white Baptists. Their Publication Board is located at Nashville, Tenn., where it has a plant worth $500,000, and supplies their churches with Sunday-school and general religious literature. BYPU and Church Extension Boards are also at Nashville; the Home Mission Board is at Little Rock, Arkansas, and the Woman's Auxiliary has headquarters at Washington. The Educational Board at Chicago is operating 108 high schools and colleges, besides cooperating with the A B H M S. A National
Theological School has lately been begun at Nashville. The Woman's Auxiliary operates a training-school, one of their most valuable institutions, with a plant valued at $300,000. Several religious weeklies are published among them and have a considerable circulation. The Negro Methodists have a similar history, and there are several varieties of them, corresponding to the divisions among the whites. It should be added that there are some Presbyterian and Congregational churches also, but these denominations, comparatively speaking, have made no impression on the Negro population.
Education Among the Negroes
The Civil War resulted in the freedom of African slaves that is, it freed their bodies. The real battle for the freedom of the Negro race spiritual freedom came later. It was a bloodless conflict, in which North and South have been allies, not enemies. Emancipation was a national enterprise; it was natural that national aid should be extended to help the freed race make the best of their new opportunities. The Freedmen's Bureau was established by Act of Congress, in 1865, with this objective. Its project was an ambitious one, too large perhaps for successful accomplishment during the brief time of its existence; and while it did much for the relief and advancement of Negroes, it failed in two important particulars to do what was hoped: it did not make Negroes landholders in any considerable numbers, and it did not establish good-will between the freedmen and their former owners. It expired by limitation in 1869.
In the meantime it had done considerable work of education, most notable of all by founding Howard University at Washington, chartered by the United States in 1867. It has grown to be a great institution, with a faculty of 150 or more, and students numbering over
1,400. It has a fine plant, and in addition to its College of Arts and Sciences has a large group of professional schools, not only the usual Law, Medicine, and Theology, but various schools of Manual Arts and Applied Sciences, a Conservatory of Music, a Commercial College, and an Academy. Recently Rev. Mordecai W. Johnson has been chosen President, the first Negro to fill that post, a product of Chicago, Rochester, and Harvard, who has already shown his capacity as organizer and is now in the way to demonstrate that the Negro race can furnish its own leadership in education.
Immediately after the conclusion of peace, practically all the Home Mission societies and Boards began work among the freedmen. It was recognized that their great need was education, and especially after their enfranchisement this became a matter of patriotism no less than religion. So great a mass of ignorant citizens was a menace to our institutions that could not be suffered to exist. One of the first organizations in the field was the American Missionary Association, begun as an undenominational body, but gradually coming under the control of Congregationalists chiefly, as its largest supporters. In 1866 Fisk University was established at Nashville, Tenn., by the Association, where it has done a work probably excelled by no similar institution.
Hampton Institute is another school that owes its existence to this Association. It was chartered in 1870, but began its career two years earlier in an old barrack, with two teachers and 15 pupils. It grew to splendid propor- tions under the wise management of General S. C. Armstrong, who proved himself one of the great educators of his day. It now has a campus and farms of 188 acres,60 buildings, and more than 1,400 students each year.
Besides school buildings, its plant includes workshops, and laboratories for all forms of engineering, as well as a fine stock-farm and all its appurtenances. It has done and is doing a marvelous work for the Negro race. Moreover, since 1878 many Indians have been educated here, mostly Sioux, under the capable direction of Captain R. H. Pratt. Besides the regular sessions, a summer school for teachers is maintained, at which 1,800 teachers from all over the South come for additional training in their calling.
One of the finest achievements of Hampton was the training of Booker Washington, and if it had graduated but this one man, it would have amply justified its existence. He was born about 1858, went to Hampton in, 1872, was graduated in 1875, taught several years in several places, and then organized a school at Tuskegee, Ala., that in the end became even more famous than Hampton. It was Washington's good sense that enabled him to see the defects of previous attempts to educate the Negro. Northern people began this work with the determination to give the Negro just as good educational opportunities as the white race had, believing that they had minds capable of responding, that the Negro could acquire languages, higher mathematics, and the sciences as well as any white man. So they established colleges and universities and seemed to prove their case Negro youths pur- sued the higher studies successfully and qualified themselves for various professions. But many of the graduates found no careers open to them; their own people were chary of support, the whites would not employ them professionally. It was apparent that the higher education of Negroes had been overdone, the colleges and universities did not give them the kind of training that their actual environment and social status called for. A new educational ideal was demanded.
Booker Washington established a school for industrial training; he saw that his race could progress only by winning economic independence, by demonstrating to the world that Negroes are a people who can stand on their own feet and go forward " under their own steam." His success was so unquestionable, the growth of the Tuskegee institution was so rapid and great, that both North and South recognized him as the distinguished benefactor of his race. Harvard recognized his accomplishment by giving him the degree of M. A. in 1896, and Dartmouth made him an LL. D. in 1901. Tuskegee has trained over 2,500 young men and women, has over 100 buildings and 20,000 acres of public lands. A Bible training-school and a theological seminary have been added in recent years. Best of all perhaps is the fact that its success has stimulated at least 15 similar schools in various parts of the South. A recent movement for the endowment of Hampton and Tuskegee resulted in the raising of a fund of $7,000,000, and both institutions have now been placed on a firm and enduring foundation.
Southern Methodists have been active in educational work among the Negroes, having given nearly $700,000 during the last four years for this purpose. Among the principal items in this budget have been the erection and equipment of a building for Texas College at Tyler, at a cost of $125,000; another with its equipment costing $100,000 at Haygood College, Ark.; a building worth $40,000 at Boley, Okla., and one worth $100,000 at the industrial institute, Holly Springs, Miss.; a dormitory worth $60,000 and a $50,000 domestic-science building at Paine College, Augusta, Ga.; and the projection of a $125,000 science building for Lane College at Jackson, Tenn., besides $30,000 in endowment for the same institution. This, is one of the greatest contributions to the education of Negroes that has yet been made.
Economic and Social Progress of Negroes
According to the census of 1920 Negroes own 600,000 houses, an increase of 100 per cent, in twenty years, be- sides 250,000 farms, of 21,000,000 acres, the value of which is $700,000,000. They have 59,000 business establishments, operate 74 banks, and their total wealth is estimated at $1,000,000,000. Illiteracy has been reduced among them from 44 per cent, to 20 per cent. There are 1,800,000 Negro children in public schools. They have 43,000 churches, with 4,800,000 communicant members, and their church property has an estimated value of $86,000,000. About 50 per cent, of their professing Christians are affiliated with Baptists: 21,762 churches and 3,020,950 members.
In general culture and contributions to literature and art, Negroes are making their mark as well. Their proficiency in oratory is well known, and few names stand higher in the annals of American eloquence than those of Frederick Douglass and Booker Washington. The poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar and William Stanley Braithewaite are known and prized by all lovers of the best modern literature. The stories of Charles Waddell Chesnuth are familiar to all readers of the Atlantic Monthly. W. E. B. DuBois, a graduate of Harvard, is an outstanding writer on social and political topics who commands attention whenever he speaks. Some have won distinction in art; the pictures of Henry O. Tanner are highly esteemed. In music, both as performers and composers, they have done remarkable work. Samuel Coleridge Taylor ranks high among our recent American composers. Harry T. Burleigh is well known as the composer of "Deep River" and many other popular songs. Roland Hayes is one of our great singers and has highly distinguished himself as a soloist with the Boston Symphony
orchestra. In scientific research and invention they have also made contributions of acknowledged value. The future possibilities of the race are very great.
Of colleges and universities for Negroes there are now 52. Besides these, there are 18 schools for girls, 35 theological schools or departments, 2 law schools, 3 of medicine, pharmacy, and dentistry. Seventeen State agricultural and mechanical schools are maintained, and fifteen normal schools. For secondary education, there are several hundred schools claiming academic rank and a large number of public high schools.
What Baptists Have Done
The Baptist schools for Negroes number sixteen, well distributed and located at strategic points : Storer College, at Harper's Ferry, W. Va.; Virginia Union University and Hartshorn Memorial College at Richmond; Shaw University at Raleigh, N. C.; Mather College at Beaufort and Benedict at Columbia, S. C. ; Florida Normal and Industrial Institute at St. Augustine; Morehouse College and Spelman Seminary at Atlanta, and Selma University at Selma, Ala.; Jackson College at Jackson, Miss.; Coleman Academy at Gibsland, La.; Bishop College at Marshall, Texas; Arkansas College at Little Rock; Roger Williams University at Nashville; and Simmons University at Louisville. Of these schools, Virginia Union and Morehouse are for boys, Hartshorn Memorial and Spelman for girls, and the rest are coeducational. The W A B H M S cares for Hartshorn, and also for Mather School for girls, located at Beaufort, S. C., in which elementary and high-school grades are maintained. These institutions have a total enrolment [sic] of about 6,000 students, and faculties of over 340. Most schools offer industrial courses and cultivate the spirit of independence, self-reliance, and thrift. Nearly 1 1,000 teachers have gone out,
and are today filling positions of all sorts, from grade schools to 350 college professors and presidents. In round numbers, they have graduated 700 physicians, 300 pharmacists and dentists, 150 lawyers, and many welfare workers. "When you educate the Negro," said President Maxson of Bishop College, "you are removing them from the liability side of the book and putting them on the asset side."
What Negroes Are Doing for Themselves
The best testimony to the effectiveness of the educational work Northern Baptists have done in the South, and other agencies as well, is to the stimulus it has given toward self-help among the Negroes. Five of the schools named above (Selma, Arkansas, Florida, Roger Williams, Simmons) have had some help from the A B H M S, but have been established and maintained very largely by the efforts of the Southern Negroes themselves. The following schools have been almost wholly founded and supported by them: Central City College, Ga.; and Rome Industrial School: Baptist State University, Ky.; Louisiana College; Natchez College, Western College, Mo.; Morris College, S. C.; Houston College, Texas. Their combined property is estimated to be worth $405,000.
One of the most remarkable institutions is Piney Woods College, near Jackson, Miss., founded by Laurence E. Jones, a Negro born at St. Joseph, Mo., educated at a white man's college, stimulated by the example of Washington to begin a work among his own people. He started without a dollar, with an open-air school under a cedar tree; then moved into an old cabin given by another Negro for the purpose, and gradually built up what he calls the Country Life School. It never closes; the pupils study and work the year around. A visitor thus describes a commencement in this unique school:
The stage represented a hive of industry. There were a sewing-machine, a typewriter, an adding-machine, a miniature store with its scales and cash-register; a cream-separator and a churn, a hand-loom, laundry devices, a forge, bricks and mortar, lumber, and car- penter's tools, a pile of cornshucks, a bottomless chair, a model kitchen, and a homemade electric light and water plant.In fifteen years Piney Woods has grown from nothing at all to a school in which 30x3 boys and girls are receiving such training; and has an industrial farm of acres and buildings valued at more than $100,000, mostly erected by the students themselves. An extension work is now carried into every county of the State.
The graduating class went to work. One girl prepared and cooked a meal, another made a dress, another took the cornshucks and wove them into a seat for the chair. Other girls made a rag rug. Others washed and ironed, wrought wonderful baskets out of pine needles, or with clay and colored wax converted fruit-jars and old bottles into colorful decorative objects to brighten humble homes. One boy started up his homemade light plant, and 40. bulbs in the auditorium glowed.
The industrial feature is emphasized in all the Baptist schools. Clubs for farm boys and girls are being organized in many communities by teachers in our schools. This work is done in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture and County Farm Bureaus. A part of the summer vacation each year is devoted by the teachers to the supervision of the projects undertaken by the members of the clubs. The activities are all practical and must measure up to national standards. Each member is encouraged to raise a pig or set a hen, or grow potatoes or corn, or raise lambs or a calf, or do cold-pack canning or plain sewing. Practical farming is taught at several of our schools.
The Great Educational Funds
It is gratifying to know that illiteracy is rapidly declining in the Negro race. The Southern States have been making increasingly generous appropriations for
Negro schools from decade to decade. Much has also been accomplished by private beneficence, more in the way of aiding institutions already established than in establishing new. The first large gift for this purpose was that of George Peabody, who in 1867 gave $2,500,000. In March, 1882, John Fox Slater gave $1,000,000, and in 1888 Daniel Hand gave $1,500,000. The income of these funds is administered under the direction of trustees for the support of normal and industrial schools, and to aid public schools in the more needy sections.
Both the Peabody and Slater Funds have in late years been affiliated as to administration with the General Education Board, which administers the great gift of $50,000,000 by John D. Rockefeller. While these funds are used for general purposes, the Negro schools have received their due proportion of aid from them.
The SBC Work Among Negroes
Southern Baptists were slow in undertaking work among the Negroes. For this there were many reasons, perhaps the chief one being the poverty of the South-land in the years immediately following the Civil War. That struggle left the South exhausted, stripped of its antebellum wealth, and for a time life was a hard struggle for existence. But in these later decades, with the growth in numbers and wealth that has characterized the Southern Baptist churches, a commendable degree of interest has been manifested in the religious and social welfare of the Negro race. As Northern Baptists have confined their efforts mostly to education, so Southern Baptists have mainly emphasized evangelism. They co-operate in this work with the National Baptist Convention (Negro) and at their last reports had 14 workers, who had in the year 1925 baptized 2,736. In their five- year movement, the SBC churches proposed to spend
$60,000 on evangelism, $103,000 on teachers, and $405,000 on building and equipping schools, a total of $573,000 to be devoted to this part of their work.
A Weakness of the Race
In their present state of intelligence, many Negroes fall easy victims to religious enthusiasts and impostors, and the result is the frequent appearance among them of queer new sects. Two of these originated at nearly the same time. In 1889, Rev. William Christian became dissatisfied with any church or form of religion known to him and organized the first Church of the Living God at Wrightsville, Arkansas, whence it has spread to many Southern States, and to the central belt, from Ohio to Kansas. This church practises immersion, washing of feet, and administers the eucharist with water and unleavened bread. The last religious census (1916) gave this body 136 churches and 9,626 members. The other sect, known as the Church of God and Saints of Christ, owes its origin to William S. Crowdy, a cook on a Western railway car, who claimed a prophetic vision in obedience to which he organized the first church of this order at Lawrence, Kansas, in 1896. These Saints believe that Negroes are descended from the ten lost tribes of Israel, observe the Jewish calendar and fast-days and many of the Mosaic dietary laws. They agree with the Church of the Living God in the doctrine and practise of the ordinances. The census gave them 94 churches and 3,311 members, which was 100 per cent, increase in ten years. While pretty well scattered, they are strongest in the three States of New York, Virginia, and North Carolina. They hold an annual assembly, usually at Washington, which is largely attended, many making great sacrifices in order to be present. Occurrences like these emphasize the value and need of the educational work now carried
on for the benefit of this race, and admonish us to "strengthen the things that remain."
Anthology of American Negro Verse. Durham, S. C, n. d.
Brawley, Benjamin, The Negro in Literature and Art. New York, 1918.
The Negro Problem: A Social History of the American Negro. New York, 1921.
Du Bois, W. E. B., The Negro. New York, 1915.
Darkwater: Voices From Within the Veil. New York, 1920.
The Souls of the Black Folks. New York, 1903.
Dunbar, Paul Laurence, Collected Poems. New York,
Gregory, J. W., The Menace of Color. New York, 1925.
King, Willis J., The Negro in American Life. New York, 1926.
Locke, Allain, The Negro: An Interpretation. New York, 1925.
Mecklin, J. M., Democracy and Race Friction. New York, 1914.
Negro's Progress in Fifty Years. American Academy of Science, 1913.
Oldham, J. H., Christianity and the Race Problem. New York, 1924.
Simpson, B. L., The Conflict of Color. New York, 1910.
Smith, Robert Edwin, Christianity and the Race Problem. New York, 1922.
Washington, Booker, Up from Slavery. New York, 1901.
Tuskegee and Its People. New York, 1905.
Working with the Hands. New York, 1904.
Woodson, C. G., A Century of Negro Migration New York, 1918.
[From Henry C. Vedder, A Short History of Baptist Missions, chapter XXII, Judson Press, 1927, pp. 469-485. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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