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

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some neat and homelike, and some dirty. The dwellings were
scattered rather aimlessly, but they centred about the twin
temples of the hamlet, the Methodist, and the Hard-Shell
Baptist churches. These, in turn, leaned gingerly on a sad-
colored schoolhouse. Hither my little world wended its crooked
way on Sunday to meet other worlds, and gossip, and won-
der, and make the weekly sacrifice with frenzied priest at the
altar of the "old-time religion." Then the soft melody and
mighty cadences of Negro song fluttered and thundered.

I have called my tiny community a world, and so its
isolation made it; and yet there was among us but a half-
awakened common consciousness, sprung from common joy
and grief, at burial, birth, or wedding; from a common
hardship in poverty, poor land, and low wages; and, above
all, from the sight of the Veil that hung between us and
Opportunity. All this caused us to think some thoughts to-
gether; but these, when ripe for speech, were spoken in
various languages. Those whose eyes twenty-five and more
years before had seen "the glory of the coming of the Lord,"
saw in every present hindrance or help a dark fatalism bound
to bring all things right in His own good time. The mass of
those to whom slavery was a dim recollection of childhood
found the world a puzzling thing: it asked little of them, and
they answered with little, and yet it ridiculed their offering.
Such a paradox they could not understand, and therefore sank
into listless indifference, or shiftlessness, or reckless bravado.
There were, however, some--such as Josie, Jim, and Ben--to
whom War, Hell, and Slavery were but childhood tales,
whose young appetites had been whetted to an edge by school
and story and half-awakened thought. Ill could they be con-
tent, born without and beyond the World. And their weak
wings beat against their barriers,--barriers of caste, of youth,
of life; at last, in dangerous moments, against everything that
opposed even a whim.

The ten years that follow youth, the years when first the
realization comes that life is leading somewhere,--these were
the years that passed after I left my little school. When they
were past, I came by chance once more to the walls of Fisk
University, to the halls of the chapel of melody. As I lingered
there in the joy and pain of meeting old school-friends, there
swept over me a sudden longing to pass again beyond the
blue hill, and to see the homes and the school of other days,
and to learn how life had gone with my school-children; and I

Josie was dead, and the gray-haired mother said simply,
"We've had a heap of trouble since you've been away." I
had feared for Jim. With a cultured parentage and a social
caste to uphold him, he might have made a venturesome
merchant or a West Point cadet. But here he was, angry with
life and reckless; and when Fanner Durham charged him with
stealing wheat, the old man had to ride fast to escape the
stones which the furious fool hurled after him. They told Jim
to run away; but he would not run, and the constable came
that afternoon. It grieved Josie, and great awkward John
walked nine miles every day to see his little brother through
the bars of Lebanon jail. At last the two came back together
in the dark night. The mother cooked supper, and Josie
emptied her purse, and the boys stole away. Josie grew thin
and silent, yet worked the more. The hill became steep for
the quiet old father, and with the boys away there was little to
do in the valley. Josie helped them to sell the old farm, and
they moved nearer town. Brother Dennis, the carpenter, built
a new house with six rooms; Josie toiled a year in Nashville,
and brought back ninety dollars to furnish the house and
change it to a home.

When the spring came, and the birds twittered, and the
stream ran proud and full, little sister Lizzie, bold and thought-
less, flushed with the passion of youth, bestowed herself on
the tempter, and brought home a nameless child. Josie shiv-
ered and worked on, with the vision of schooldays all fled,
with a face wan and tired,--worked until, on a summer's
day, some one married another; then Josie crept to her mother
like a hurt child, and slept--and sleeps.

I paused to scent the breeze as I entered the valley. The
Lawrences have gone,--father and son forever,--and the
other son lazily digs in the earth to live. A new young widow
rents out their cabin to fat Reuben. Reuben is a Baptist
preacher now, but I fear as lazy as ever, though his cabin has
three rooms; and little Ella has grown into a bouncing woman,
and is ploughing corn on the hot hillside. There are babies
a-plenty, and one half-witted girl. Across the valley is a
house I did not know before, and there I found, rocking one
baby and expecting another, one of my schoolgirls, a daugh-
ter of Uncle Bird Dowell. She looked somewhat worried with
her new duties, but soon bristled into pride over her neat
cabin and the tale of her thrifty husband, and the horse and
cow, and the farm they were planning to buy.

My log schoolhouse was gone. In its place stood Progress;
and Progress, I understand, is necessarily ugly. The crazy
foundation stones still marked the former site of my poor
little cabin, and not far away, on six weary boulders, perched
a jaunty board house, perhaps twenty by thirty feet, with
three windows and a door that locked. Some of the window-
glass was broken, and part of an old iron stove lay mourn-
fully under the house. I peeped through the window half
reverently, and found things that were more familiar. The
blackboard had grown by about two feet, and the seats were still
without backs. The county owns the lot now, I hear, and every
year there is a session of school. As I sat by the spring and
looked on the Old and the New I felt glad, very glad, and yet--

After two long drinks I started on. There was the great
double log-house on the corner. I remembered the broken,
blighted family that used to live there. The strong, hard face
of the mother, with its wilderness of hair, rose before me.
She had driven her husband away, and while I taught school a
strange man lived there, big and jovial, and people talked. I
felt sure that Ben and 'Tildy would come to naught from such
a home. But this is an odd world; for Ben is a busy farmer in
Smith County, "doing well, too," they say, and he had cared
for little 'Tildy until last spring, when a lover married her. A
hard life the lad had led, toiling for meat, and laughed at
because he was homely and crooked. There was Sam Carlon,
an impudent old skinflint, who had definite notions about
"niggers," and hired Ben a summer and would not pay him.
Then the hungry boy gathered his sacks together, and in
broad daylight went into Carlon's corn; and when the hard-
fisted farmer set upon him, the angry boy flew at him like a
beast. Doc Burke saved a murder and a lynching that day.

The story reminded me again of the Burkes, and an impa-
tience seized me to know who won in the battle, Doc or the
seventy-five acres. For it is a hard thing to make a farm out
of nothing, even in fifteen years. So I hurried on, thinking of
the Burkes. They used to have a certain magnificent barba-
rism about them that I liked. They were never vulgar, never
immoral, but rather rough and primitive, with an unconven-
tionality that spent itself in loud guffaws, slaps on the back,
and naps in the corner. I hurried by the cottage of the misborn
Neill boys. It was empty, and they were grown into fat, lazy
farm-hands. I saw the home of the Hickmans, but Albert,
with his stooping shoulders, had passed from the world. Then
I came to the Burkes' gate and peered through; the enclosure
looked rough and untrimmed, and yet there were the same
fences around the old farm save to the left, where lay twenty-
five other acres. And lo! the cabin in the hollow had climbed
the hill and swollen to a half-finished six-room cottage.

The Burkes held a hundred acres, but they were still in debt.
Indeed, the gaunt father who toiled night and day would scarcely
be happy out of debt, being so used to it. Some day he must
stop, for his massive frame is showing decline. The mother wore
shoes, but the lion-like physique of other days was broken.
The children had grown up. Rob, the image of his father, was
loud and rough with laughter. Birdie, my school baby of six,
had grown to a picture of maiden beauty, tall and tawny.
"Edgar is gone," said the mother, with head half bowed,--"gone
to work in Nashville; he and his father couldn't agree."

Little Doc, the boy born since the time of my school, took
me horseback down the creek next morning toward Farmer
Dowell's. The road and the stream were battling for mastery,
and the stream had the better of it. We splashed and waded,
and the merry boy, perched behind me, chattered and laughed.
He showed me where Simon Thompson had bought a bit of
ground and a home; but his daughter Lana, a plump, brown,
slow girl, was not there. She had married a man and a farm
twenty miles away. We wound on down the stream till we
came to a gate that I did not recognize, but the boy insisted
that it was "Uncle Bird's." The farm was fat with the
growing crop. In that little valley was a strange stillness as I
rode up; for death and marriage had stolen youth and left age
and childhood there. We sat and talked that night after the
chores were done. Uncle Bird was grayer, and his eyes did
not see so well, but he was still jovial. We talked of the acres
bought,--one hundred and twenty-five,--of the new guest-
chamber added, of Martha's marrying. Then we talked of
death: Fanny and Fred were gone; a shadow hung over the
other daughter, and when it lifted she was to go to Nashville
to school. At last we spoke of the neighbors, and as night fell,
Uncle Bird told me how, on a night like that, 'Thenie came
wandering back to her home over yonder, to escape the blows
of her husband. And next morning she died in the home that
her little bow-legged brother, working and saving, had bought
for their widowed mother.

My journey was done, and behind me lay hill and dale, and
Life and Death. How shall man measure Progress there where
the dark-faced Josie lies? How many heartfuls of sorrow shall
balance a bushel of wheat? How hard a thing is life to the
lowly, and yet how human and real! And all this life and love
and strife and failure,--is it the twilight of nightfall or the
flush of some faint-dawning day?

Thus sadly musing, I rode to Nashville in the Jim Crow


Of the Wings of Atalanta

O black boy of Atlanta!
But half was spoken;
The slave's chains and the master's
Alike are broken;
The one curse of the races
Held both in tether;
They are rising--all are rising--
The black and white together.


South of the North, yet north of the South, lies the City of a
Hundred Hills, peering out from the shadows of the past into
the promise of the future. I have seen her in the morning, when
the first flush of day had half-roused her; she lay gray and
still on the crimson soil of Georgia; then the blue smoke
began to curl from her chimneys, the tinkle of bell and
scream of whistle broke the silence, the rattle and roar of
busy life slowly gathered and swelled, until the seething whirl
of the city seemed a strange thing in a sleepy land.

Once, they say, even Atlanta slept dull and drowsy at the
foot-hills of the Alleghanies, until the iron baptism of war
awakened her with its sullen waters, aroused and maddened
her, and left her listening to the sea. And the sea cried to the
hills and the hills answered the sea, till the city rose like a
widow and cast away her weeds, and toiled for her daily
bread; toiled steadily, toiled cunningly,--perhaps with some
bitterness, with a touch, of reclame,--and yet with real ear-
nestness, and real sweat.

It is a hard thing to live haunted by the ghost of an untrue
dream; to see the wide vision of empire fade into real ashes
and dirt; to feel the pang of the conquered, and yet know that
with all the Bad that fell on one black day, something was
vanquished that deserved to live, something killed that in
justice had not dared to die; to know that with the Right that
triumphed, triumphed something of Wrong, something sordid
and mean, something less than the broadest and best. All this
is bitter hard; and many a man and city and people have
found in it excuse for sulking, and brooding, and listless

Such are not men of the sturdier make; they of Atlanta
turned resolutely toward the future; and that future held aloft
vistas of purple and gold:--Atlanta, Queen of the cotton
kingdom; Atlanta, Gateway to the Land of the Sun; Atlanta,
the new Lachesis, spinner of web and woof for the world. So
the city crowned her hundred hills with factories, and stored
her shops with cunning handiwork, and stretched long iron
ways to greet the busy Mercury in his coming. And the
Nation talked of her striving.

Perhaps Atlanta was not christened for the winged maiden
of dull Boeotia; you know the tale,--how swarthy Atalanta,
tall and wild, would marry only him who out-raced her; and
how the wily Hippomenes laid three apples of gold in the
way. She fled like a shadow, paused, startled over the first
apple, but even as he stretched his hand, fled again; hovered
over the second, then, slipping from his hot grasp, flew over
river, vale, and hill; but as she lingered over the third, his
arms fell round her, and looking on each other, the blazing
passion of their love profaned the sanctuary of Love, and they
were cursed. If Atlanta be not named for Atalanta, she ought
to have been.

Atalanta is not the first or the last maiden whom greed of
gold has led to defile the temple of Love; and not maids
alone, but men in the race of life, sink from the high and
generous ideals of youth to the gambler's code of the Bourse;
and in all our Nation's striving is not the Gospel of Work
befouled by the Gospel of Pay? So common is this that
one-half think it normal; so unquestioned, that we almost fear
to question if the end of racing is not gold, if the aim of man
is not rightly to be rich. And if this is the fault of America,
how dire a danger lies before a new land and a new city, lest
Atlanta, stooping for mere gold, shall find that gold accursed!

It was no maiden's idle whim that started this hard racing;
a fearful wilderness lay about the feet of that city after the
War,--feudalism, poverty, the rise of the Third Estate, serf-
dom, the re-birth of Law and Order, and above and between
all, the Veil of Race. How heavy a journey for weary feet!
what wings must Atalanta have to flit over all this hollow and
hill, through sour wood and sullen water, and by the red
waste of sun-baked clay! How fleet must Atalanta be if she
will not be tempted by gold to profane the Sanctuary!

The Sanctuary of our fathers has, to be sure, few Gods,--
some sneer, "all too few." There is the thrifty Mercury of
New England, Pluto of the North, and Ceres of the West; and
there, too, is the half-forgotten Apollo of the South, under
whose aegis the maiden ran,--and as she ran she forgot him,
even as there in Boeotia Venus was forgot. She forgot the old
ideal of the Southern gentleman,--that new-world heir of the
grace and courtliness of patrician, knight, and noble; forgot
his honor with his foibles, his kindliness with his carelessness,
and stooped to apples of gold,--to men busier and sharper,
thriftier and more unscrupulous. Golden apples are beautiful--I
remember the lawless days of boyhood, when orchards in
crimson and gold tempted me over fence and field--and, too,
the merchant who has dethroned the planter is no despicable
parvenu. Work and wealth are the mighty levers to lift this
old new land; thrift and toil and saving are the highways to
new hopes and new possibilities; and yet the warning is
needed lest the wily Hippomenes tempt Atalanta to thinking
that golden apples are the goal of racing, and not mere
incidents by the way.

Atlanta must not lead the South to dream of material
prosperity as the touchstone of all success; already the fatal
might of this idea is beginning to spread; it is replacing the
finer type of Southerner with vulgar money-getters; it is
burying the sweeter beauties of Southern life beneath pretence
and ostentation. For every social ill the panacea of Wealth
has been urged,--wealth to overthrow the remains of the
slave feudalism; wealth to raise the "cracker" Third Estate;
wealth to employ the black serfs, and the prospect of wealth
to keep them working; wealth as the end and aim of politics,
and as the legal tender for law and order; and, finally, instead
of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, wealth as the ideal of the
Public School.

Not only is this true in the world which Atlanta typifies,
but it is threatening to be true of a world beneath and beyond
that world,--the Black World beyond the Veil. Today it
makes little difference to Atlanta, to the South, what the
Negro thinks or dreams or wills. In the soul-life of the land
he is to-day, and naturally will long remain, unthought of,
half forgotten; and yet when he does come to think and will
and do for himself,--and let no man dream that day will
never come,--then the part he plays will not be one of
sudden learning, but words and thoughts he has been taught
to lisp in his race-childhood. To-day the ferment of his
striving toward self-realization is to the strife of the white
world like a wheel within a wheel: beyond the Veil are
smaller but like problems of ideals, of leaders and the led, of
serfdom, of poverty, of order and subordination, and, through
all, the Veil of Race. Few know of these problems, few who
know notice them; and yet there they are, awaiting student,
artist, and seer,- -a field for somebody sometime to discover.
Hither has the temptation of Hippomenes penetrated; already
in this smaller world, which now indirectly and anon directly
must influence the larger for good or ill, the habit is forming
of interpreting the world in dollars. The old leaders of Negro
opinion, in the little groups where there is a Negro social
consciousness, are being replaced by new; neither the black
preacher nor the black teacher leads as he did two decades
ago. Into their places are pushing the farmers and gardeners,
the well-paid porters and artisans, the business-men,--all
those with property and money. And with all this change, so
curiously parallel to that of the Other-world, goes too the
same inevitable change in ideals. The South laments to-day
the slow, steady disappearance of a certain type of Negro,
--the faithful, courteous slave of other days, with his incor-
ruptible honesty and dignified humility. He is passing away
just as surely as the old type of Southern gentleman is passing,
and from not dissimilar causes,--the sudden transformation
of a fair far-off ideal of Freedom into the hard reality of
bread-winning and the consequent deification of Bread.

In the Black World, the Preacher and Teacher embodied
once the ideals of this people--the strife for another and a
juster world, the vague dream of righteousness, the mystery
of knowing; but to-day the danger is that these ideals, with
their simple beauty and weird inspiration, will suddenly sink
to a question of cash and a lust for gold. Here stands this
black young Atalanta, girding herself for the race that must
be run; and if her eyes be still toward the hills and sky as in
the days of old, then we may look for noble running; but
what if some ruthless or wily or even thoughtless Hippomenes
lay golden apples before her? What if the Negro people be
wooed from a strife for righteousness, from a love of know-
ing, to regard dollars as the be-all and end-all of life? What if
to the Mammonism of America be added the rising Mam-
monism of the re-born South, and the Mammonism of this
South be reinforced by the budding Mammonism of its half-
wakened black millions? Whither, then, is the new-world
quest of Goodness and Beauty and Truth gone glimmering?
Must this, and that fair flower of Freedom which, despite the
jeers of latter-day striplings, sprung from our fathers' blood,
must that too degenerate into a dusty quest of gold,--into
lawless lust with Hippomenes?

The hundred hills of Atlanta are not all crowned with
factories. On one, toward the west, the setting sun throws
three buildings in bold relief against the sky. The beauty of
the group lies in its simple unity:--a broad lawn of green
rising from the red street and mingled roses and peaches;
north and south, two plain and stately halls; and in the midst,
half hidden in ivy, a larger building, boldly graceful, spar-
ingly decorated, and with one low spire. It is a restful group,
--one never looks for more; it is all here, all intelligible.
There I live, and there I hear from day to day the low hum of
restful life. In winter's twilight, when the red sun glows, I
can see the dark figures pass between the halls to the music of
the night-bell. In the morning, when the sun is golden, the
clang of the day-bell brings the hurry and laughter of three
hundred young hearts from hall and street, and from the busy
city below,--children all dark and heavy-haired,--to join
their clear young voices in the music of the morning sacrifice.
In a half-dozen class-rooms they gather then,--here to follow
the love-song of Dido, here to listen to the tale of Troy
divine; there to wander among the stars, there to wander
among men and nations,--and elsewhere other well-worn
ways of knowing this queer world. Nothing new, no time-sav-
ing devices,--simply old time-glorified methods of delving
for Truth, and searching out the hidden beauties of life, and
learning the good of living. The riddle of existence is the
college curriculum that was laid before the Pharaohs, that was
taught in the groves by Plato, that formed the trivium and
quadrivium, and is to-day laid before the freedmen's sons by
Atlanta University. And this course of study will not change;
its methods will grow more deft and effectual, its content
richer by toil of scholar and sight of seer; but the true college
will ever have one goal,--not to earn meat, but to know the
end and aim of that life which meat nourishes.

The vision of life that rises before these dark eyes has in it
nothing mean or selfish. Not at Oxford or at Leipsic, not at
Yale or Columbia, is there an air of higher resolve or more
unfettered striving; the determination to realize for men, both
black and white, the broadest possibilities of life, to seek the
better and the best, to spread with their own hands the Gospel
of Sacrifice,--all this is the burden of their talk and dream.
Here, amid a wide desert of caste and proscription, amid the
heart-hurting slights and jars and vagaries of a deep race-
dislike, lies this green oasis, where hot anger cools, and the
bitterness of disappointment is sweetened by the springs and
breezes of Parnassus; and here men may lie and listen, and learn
of a future fuller than the past, and hear the voice of Time:

"Entbehren sollst du, sollst entbehren."

They made their mistakes, those who planted Fisk and
Howard and Atlanta before the smoke of battle had lifted; they
made their mistakes, but those mistakes were not the things at
which we lately laughed somewhat uproariously. They were
right when they sought to found a new educational system
upon the University: where, forsooth, shall we ground knowl-
edge save on the broadest and deepest knowledge? The roots
of the tree, rather than the leaves, are the sources of its life;
and from the dawn of history, from Academus to Cambridge,
the culture of the University has been the broad foundation-
stone on which is built the kindergarten's A B C.

But these builders did make a mistake in minimizing the
gravity of the problem before them; in thinking it a matter of
years and decades; in therefore building quickly and laying
their foundation carelessly, and lowering the standard of know-
ing, until they had scattered haphazard through the South
some dozen poorly equipped high schools and miscalled them
universities. They forgot, too, just as their successors are
forgetting, the rule of inequality:--that of the million black
youth, some were fitted to know and some to dig; that some
had the talent and capacity of university men, and some the
talent and capacity of blacksmiths; and that true training
meant neither that all should be college men nor all artisans,
but that the one should be made a missionary of culture to an
untaught people, and the other a free workman among serfs.
And to seek to make the blacksmith a scholar is almost as
silly as the more modern scheme of making the scholar a
blacksmith; almost, but not quite.

The function of the university is not simply to teach bread-
winning, or to furnish teachers for the public schools or to be
a centre of polite society; it is, above all, to be the organ of
that fine adjustment between real life and the growing knowl-
edge of life, an adjustment which forms the secret of civiliza-
tion. Such an institution the South of to-day sorely needs. She
has religion, earnest, bigoted:--religion that on both sides the
Veil often omits the sixth, seventh, and eighth command-
ments, but substitutes a dozen supplementary ones. She has,
as Atlanta shows, growing thrift and love of toil; but she
lacks that broad knowledge of what the world knows and
knew of human living and doing, which she may apply to the
thousand problems of real life to-day confronting her. The
need of the South is knowledge and culture,--not in dainty
limited quantity, as before the war, but in broad busy abun-
dance in the world of work; and until she has this, not all the
Apples of Hesperides, be they golden and bejewelled, can
save her from the curse of the Boeotian lovers.

The Wings of Atalanta are the coming universities of the
South. They alone can bear the maiden past the temptation of
golden fruit. They will not guide her flying feet away from
the cotton and gold; for--ah, thoughtful Hippomenes!--do
not the apples lie in the very Way of Life? But they will
guide her over and beyond them, and leave her kneeling in
the Sanctuary of Truth and Freedom and broad Humanity,
virgin and undefiled. Sadly did the Old South err in human
education, despising the education of the masses, and nig-
gardly in the support of colleges. Her ancient university
foundations dwindled and withered under the foul breath of
slavery; and even since the war they have fought a failing
fight for life in the tainted air of social unrest and commercial
selfishness, stunted by the death of criticism, and starving for
lack of broadly cultured men. And if this is the white South's
need and danger, how much heavier the danger and need of
the freedmen's sons! how pressing here the need of broad
ideals and true culture, the conservation of soul from sordid
aims and petty passions! Let us build the Southern university--
William and Mary, Trinity, Georgia, Texas, Tulane, Vander-
bilt, and the others--fit to live; let us build, too, the Negro
universities:--Fisk, whose foundation was ever broad; How-
ard, at the heart of the Nation; Atlanta at Atlanta, whose ideal
of scholarship has been held above the temptation of numbers.
Why not here, and perhaps elsewhere, plant deeply and for
all time centres of learning and living, colleges that yearly
would send into the life of the South a few white men and a
few black men of broad culture, catholic tolerance, and trained
ability, joining their hands to other hands, and giving to this
squabble of the Races a decent and dignified peace?

Patience, Humility, Manners, and Taste, common schools
and kindergartens, industrial and technical schools, literature
and tolerance,--all these spring from knowledge and culture,
the children of the university. So must men and nations build,
not otherwise, not upside down.

Teach workers to work,--a wise saying; wise when applied
to German boys and American girls; wiser when said of
Negro boys, for they have less knowledge of working and
none to teach them. Teach thinkers to think,--a needed knowl-
edge in a day of loose and careless logic; and they whose lot
is gravest must have the carefulest training to think aright. If
these things are so, how foolish to ask what is the best
education for one or seven or sixty million souls! shall we
teach them trades, or train them in liberal arts? Neither and
both: teach the workers to work and the thinkers to think;
make carpenters of carpenters, and philosophers of philoso-
phers, and fops of fools. Nor can we pause here. We are
training not isolated men but a living group of men,--nay, a
group within a group. And the final product of our training
must be neither a psychologist nor a brickmason, but a man.
And to make men, we must have ideals, broad, pure, and
inspiring ends of living,--not sordid money-getting, not ap-
ples of gold. The worker must work for the glory of his
handiwork, not simply for pay; the thinker must think for
truth, not for fame. And all this is gained only by human
strife and longing; by ceaseless training and education; by
founding Right on righteousness and Truth on the unham-
pered search for Truth; by founding the common school on
the university, and the industrial school on the common
school; and weaving thus a system, not a distortion, and
bringing a birth, not an abortion.

When night falls on the City of a Hundred Hills, a wind
gathers itself from the seas and comes murmuring westward.
And at its bidding, the smoke of the drowsy factories sweeps
down upon the mighty city and covers it like a pall, while
yonder at the University the stars twinkle above Stone Hall.
And they say that yon gray mist is the tunic of Atalanta
pausing over her golden apples. Fly, my maiden, fly, for
yonder comes Hippomenes!


Of the Training of Black Men

Why, if the Soul can fling the Dust aside,
And naked on the Air of Heaven ride,
Were't not a Shame--were't not a Shame for him
In this clay carcase crippled to abide?


From the shimmering swirl of waters where many, many
thoughts ago the slave-ship first saw the square tower of
Jamestown, have flowed down to our day three streams of
thinking: one swollen from the larger world here and over-
seas, saying, the multiplying of human wants in culture-lands
calls for the world-wide cooperation of men in satisfying
them. Hence arises a new human unity, pulling the ends of
earth nearer, and all men, black, yellow, and white. The
larger humanity strives to feel in this contact of living Nations
and sleeping hordes a thrill of new life in the world, crying,
"If the contact of Life and Sleep be Death, shame on such
Life." To be sure, behind this thought lurks the afterthought
of force and dominion,--the making of brown men to delve
when the temptation of beads and red calico cloys.

The second thought streaming from the death-ship and the
curving river is the thought of the older South,--the sincere
and passionate belief that somewhere between men and cattle,
God created a tertium quid, and called it a Negro,--a clown-
ish, simple creature, at times even lovable within its limita-
tions, but straitly foreordained to walk within the Veil. To be
sure, behind the thought lurks the afterthought,--some of
them with favoring chance might become men, but in sheer
self-defence we dare not let them, and we build about them
walls so high, and hang between them and the light a veil so
thick, that they shall not even think of breaking through.

And last of all there trickles down that third and darker
thought,--the thought of the things themselves, the confused,
half-conscious mutter of men who are black and whitened,
crying "Liberty, Freedom, Opportunity--vouchsafe to us, O
boastful World, the chance of living men!" To be sure,
behind the thought lurks the afterthought,--suppose, after all,
the World is right and we are less than men? Suppose this
mad impulse within is all wrong, some mock mirage from the

So here we stand among thoughts of human unity, even
through conquest and slavery; the inferiority of black men,
even if forced by fraud; a shriek in the night for the freedom
of men who themselves are not yet sure of their right to
demand it. This is the tangle of thought and afterthought
wherein we are called to solve the problem of training men
for life.

Behind all its curiousness, so attractive alike to sage and
dilettante, lie its dim dangers, throwing across us shadows at
once grotesque and awful. Plain it is to us that what the world
seeks through desert and wild we have within our threshold,--a
stalwart laboring force, suited to the semi-tropics; if, deaf to
the voice of the Zeitgeist, we refuse to use and develop these
men, we risk poverty and loss. If, on the other hand, seized
by the brutal afterthought, we debauch the race thus caught in
our talons, selfishly sucking their blood and brains in the
future as in the past, what shall save us from national deca-
dence? Only that saner selfishness, which Education teaches,
can find the rights of all in the whirl of work.

Again, we may decry the color-prejudice of the South, yet
it remains a heavy fact. Such curious kinks of the human
mind exist and must be reckoned with soberly. They cannot
be laughed away, nor always successfully stormed at, nor
easily abolished by act of legislature. And yet they must not
be encouraged by being let alone. They must be recognized
as facts, but unpleasant facts; things that stand in the way of
civilization and religion and common decency. They can be
met in but one way,--by the breadth and broadening of
human reason, by catholicity of taste and culture. And so,
too, the native ambition and aspiration of men, even though
they be black, backward, and ungraceful, must not lightly be
dealt with. To stimulate wildly weak and untrained minds is
to play with mighty fires; to flout their striving idly is to
welcome a harvest of brutish crime and shameless lethargy in
our very laps. The guiding of thought and the deft coordina-
tion of deed is at once the path of honor and humanity.

And so, in this great question of reconciling three vast and
partially contradictory streams of thought, the one panacea of
Education leaps to the lips of all:--such human training as will
best use the labor of all men without enslaving or brutalizing;
such training as will give us poise to encourage the prejudices
that bulwark society, and to stamp out those that in sheer
barbarity deafen us to the wail of prisoned souls within the
Veil, and the mounting fury of shackled men.

But when we have vaguely said that Education will set this
tangle straight, what have we uttered but a truism? Training
for life teaches living; but what training for the profitable
living together of black men and white? A hundred and fifty
years ago our task would have seemed easier. Then Dr.
Johnson blandly assured us that education was needful solely
for the embellishments of life, and was useless for ordinary
vermin. To-day we have climbed to heights where we would
open at least the outer courts of knowledge to all, display its
treasures to many, and select the few to whom its mystery of
Truth is revealed, not wholly by birth or the accidents of the
stock market, but at least in part according to deftness and
aim, talent and character. This programme, however, we are
sorely puzzled in carrying out through that part of the land
where the blight of slavery fell hardest, and where we are
dealing with two backward peoples. To make here in human
education that ever necessary combination of the permanent
and the contingent--of the ideal and the practical in workable
equilibrium--has been there, as it ever must be in every age
and place, a matter of infinite experiment and frequent mistakes.

In rough approximation we may point out four varying
decades of work in Southern education since the Civil War.
From the close of the war until 1876, was the period of
uncertain groping and temporary relief. There were army
schools, mission schools, and schools of the Freedmen's
Bureau in chaotic disarrangement seeking system and co-
operation. Then followed ten years of constructive definite
effort toward the building of complete school systems in the
South. Normal schools and colleges were founded for the
freedmen, and teachers trained there to man the public schools.
There was the inevitable tendency of war to underestimate the
prejudices of the master and the ignorance of the slave, and
all seemed clear sailing out of the wreckage of the storm.
Meantime, starting in this decade yet especially developing
from 1885 to 1895, began the industrial revolution of the
South. The land saw glimpses of a new destiny and the
stirring of new ideals. The educational system striving to
complete itself saw new obstacles and a field of work ever
broader and deeper. The Negro colleges, hurriedly founded,
were inadequately equipped, illogically distributed, and of
varying efficiency and grade; the normal and high schools
were doing little more than common-school work, and the
common schools were training but a third of the children who
ought to be in them, and training these too often poorly. At
the same time the white South, by reason of its sudden
conversion from the slavery ideal, by so much the more
became set and strengthened in its racial prejudice, and crys-
tallized it into harsh law and harsher custom; while the mar-
vellous pushing forward of the poor white daily threatened to
take even bread and butter from the mouths of the heavily
handicapped sons of the freedmen. In the midst, then, of the
larger problem of Negro education sprang up the more practi-
cal question of work, the inevitable economic quandary that
faces a people in the transition from slavery to freedom, and
especially those who make that change amid hate and preju-
dice, lawlessness and ruthless competition.

The industrial school springing to notice in this decade, but
coming to full recognition in the decade beginning with 1895,
was the proffered answer to this combined educational and
economic crisis, and an answer of singular wisdom and time-
liness. From the very first in nearly all the schools some
attention had been given to training in handiwork, but now
was this training first raised to a dignity that brought it in
direct touch with the South's magnificent industrial develop-
ment, and given an emphasis which reminded black folk that
before the Temple of Knowledge swing the Gates of Toil.

Yet after all they are but gates, and when turning our eyes
from the temporary and the contingent in the Negro problem
to the broader question of the permanent uplifting and civili-
zation of black men in America, we have a right to inquire,
as this enthusiasm for material advancement mounts to its
height, if after all the industrial school is the final and suffi-
cient answer in the training of the Negro race; and to ask
gently, but in all sincerity, the ever-recurring query of the
ages, Is not life more than meat, and the body more than
raiment? And men ask this to-day all the more eagerly be-
cause of sinister signs in recent educational movements. The
tendency is here, born of slavery and quickened to renewed
life by the crazy imperialism of the day, to regard human
beings as among the material resources of a land to be trained
with an eye single to future dividends. Race-prejudices, which
keep brown and black men in their "places," we are coming
to regard as useful allies with such a theory, no matter how
much they may dull the ambition and sicken the hearts of
struggling human beings. And above all, we daily hear that
an education that encourages aspiration, that sets the loftiest
of ideals and seeks as an end culture and character rather than
bread-winning, is the privilege of white men and the danger
and delusion of black.

Especially has criticism been directed against the former
educational efforts to aid the Negro. In the four periods I
have mentioned, we find first, boundless, planless enthusi-
asm and sacrifice; then the preparation of teachers for a vast
public-school system; then the launching and expansion of that
school system amid increasing difficulties; and finally the
training of workmen for the new and growing industries. This
development has been sharply ridiculed as a logical anomaly
and flat reversal of nature. Soothly we have been told that
first industrial and manual training should have taught the
Negro to work, then simple schools should have taught him
to read and write, and finally, after years, high and normal
schools could have completed the system, as intelligence and
wealth demanded.

That a system logically so complete was historically impos-
sible, it needs but a little thought to prove. Progress in human
affairs is more often a pull than a push, a surging forward of
the exceptional man, and the lifting of his duller brethren
slowly and painfully to his vantage-ground. Thus it was no
accident that gave birth to universities centuries before the
common schools, that made fair Harvard the first flower of
our wilderness. So in the South: the mass of the freedmen at
the end of the war lacked the intelligence so necessary to
modern workingmen. They must first have the common school
to teach them to read, write, and cipher; and they must have
higher schools to teach teachers for the common schools. The
white teachers who flocked South went to establish such a
common-school system. Few held the idea of founding col-
leges; most of them at first would have laughed at the idea.
But they faced, as all men since them have faced, that central
paradox of the South,--the social separation of the races. At
that time it was the sudden volcanic rupture of nearly all
relations between black and white, in work and government
and family life. Since then a new adjustment of relations in
economic and political affairs has grown up,--an adjustment
subtle and difficult to grasp, yet singularly ingenious, which
leaves still that frightful chasm at the color-line across which
men pass at their peril. Thus, then and now, there stand in the
South two separate worlds; and separate not simply in the
higher realms of social intercourse, but also in church and
school, on railway and street-car, in hotels and theatres, in
streets and city sections, in books and newspapers, in asy-
lums and jails, in hospitals and graveyards. There is still
enough of contact for large economic and group cooperation,
but the separation is so thorough and deep that it absolutely
precludes for the present between the races anything like that
sympathetic and effective group-training and leadership of the
one by the other, such as the American Negro and all back-
ward peoples must have for effectual progress.

This the missionaries of '68 soon saw; and if effective
industrial and trade schools were impracticable before the
establishment of a common-school system, just as certainly
no adequate common schools could be founded until there
were teachers to teach them. Southern whites would not teach
them; Northern whites in sufficient numbers could not be
had. If the Negro was to learn, he must teach himself, and the
most effective help that could be given him was the establish-
ment of schools to train Negro teachers. This conclusion was
slowly but surely reached by every student of the situation
until simultaneously, in widely separated regions, without
consultation or systematic plan, there arose a series of institu-
tions designed to furnish teachers for the untaught. Above the
sneers of critics at the obvious defects of this procedure must
ever stand its one crushing rejoinder: in a single generation
they put thirty thousand black teachers in the South; they
wiped out the illiteracy of the majority of the black people of
the land, and they made Tuskegee possible.

Such higher training-schools tended naturally to deepen
broader development: at first they were common and gram-
mar schools, then some became high schools. And finally, by
1900, some thirty-four had one year or more of studies of
college grade. This development was reached with different
degrees of speed in different institutions: Hampton is still a
high school, while Fisk University started her college in
1871, and Spelman Seminary about 1896. In all cases the aim
was identical,--to maintain the standards of the lower train-
ing by giving teachers and leaders the best practicable train-
ing; and above all, to furnish the black world with adequate
standards of human culture and lofty ideals of life. It was not
enough that the teachers of teachers should be trained in
technical normal methods; they must also, so far as possible,
be broad-minded, cultured men and women, to scatter civili-
zation among a people whose ignorance was not simply of
letters, but of life itself.

It can thus be seen that the work of education in the South
began with higher institutions of training, which threw off as
their foliage common schools, and later industrial schools,
and at the same time strove to shoot their roots ever deeper
toward college and university training. That this was an
inevitable and necessary development, sooner or later, goes
without saying; but there has been, and still is, a question in
many minds if the natural growth was not forced, and if the
higher training was not either overdone or done with cheap
and unsound methods. Among white Southerners this feeling
is widespread and positive. A prominent Southern journal
voiced this in a recent editorial.

"The experiment that has been made to give the colored
students classical training has not been satisfactory. Even
though many were able to pursue the course, most of them
did so in a parrot-like way, learning what was taught, but not
seeming to appropriate the truth and import of their instruc-
tion, and graduating without sensible aim or valuable oc-
cupation for their future. The whole scheme has proved a
waste of time, efforts, and the money of the state."

While most fair-minded men would recognize this as ex-
treme and overdrawn, still without doubt many are asking,
Are there a sufficient number of Negroes ready for college
training to warrant the undertaking? Are not too many stu-
dents prematurely forced into this work? Does it not have the
effect of dissatisfying the young Negro with his environment?
And do these graduates succeed in real life? Such natural
questions cannot be evaded, nor on the other hand must a
Nation naturally skeptical as to Negro ability assume an
unfavorable answer without careful inquiry and patient open-
ness to conviction. We must not forget that most Americans
answer all queries regarding the Negro a priori, and that the
least that human courtesy can do is to listen to evidence.

The advocates of the higher education of the Negro would
be the last to deny the incompleteness and glaring defects of
the present system: too many institutions have attempted to
do college work, the work in some cases has not been thor-
oughly done, and quantity rather than quality has sometimes
been sought. But all this can be said of higher education
throughout the land; it is the almost inevitable incident of
educational growth, and leaves the deeper question of the
legitimate demand for the higher training of Negroes un-
touched. And this latter question can be settled in but one
way,--by a first-hand study of the facts. If we leave out of
view all institutions which have not actually graduated stu-
dents from a course higher than that of a New England high
school, even though they be called colleges; if then we take
the thirty-four remaining institutions, we may clear up many
misapprehensions by asking searchingly, What kind of insti-
tutions are they? what do they teach? and what sort of men do
they graduate?

And first we may say that this type of college, including
Atlanta, Fisk, and Howard, Wilberforce and Claflin, Shaw,
and the rest, is peculiar, almost unique. Through the shining
trees that whisper before me as I write, I catch glimpses of a
boulder of New England granite, covering a grave, which
graduates of Atlanta University have placed there,--


This was the gift of New England to the freed Negro: not
alms, but a friend; not cash, but character. It was not and is
not money these seething millions want, but love and sympa-
thy, the pulse of hearts beating with red blood;--a gift which
to-day only their own kindred and race can bring to the
masses, but which once saintly souls brought to their favored
children in the crusade of the sixties, that finest thing in
American history, and one of the few things untainted by
sordid greed and cheap vainglory. The teachers in these
institutions came not to keep the Negroes in their place, but
to raise them out of the defilement of the places where
slavery had wallowed them. The colleges they founded were
social settlements; homes where the best of the sons of the
freedmen came in close and sympathetic touch with the best
traditions of New England. They lived and ate together,
studied and worked, hoped and harkened in the dawning
light. In actual formal content their curriculum was doubtless
old-fashioned, but in educational power it was supreme, for it
was the contact of living souls.

From such schools about two thousand Negroes have gone
forth with the bachelor's degree. The number in itself is
enough to put at rest the argument that too large a proportion
of Negroes are receiving higher training. If the ratio to population
of all Negro students throughout the land, in both college and
secondary training, be counted, Commissioner Harris assures
us "it must be increased to five times its present average" to
equal the average of the land.

Fifty years ago the ability of Negro students in any appre-
ciable numbers to master a modern college course would have
been difficult to prove. To-day it is proved by the fact that
four hundred Negroes, many of whom have been reported as
brilliant students, have received the bachelor's degree from
Harvard, Yale, Oberlin, and seventy other leading colleges.
Here we have, then, nearly twenty-five hundred Negro gradu-
ates, of whom the crucial query must be made, How far did
their training fit them for life? It is of course extremely
difficult to collect satisfactory data on such a point,--difficult
to reach the men, to get trustworthy testimony, and to gauge
that testimony by any generally acceptable criterion of suc-
cess. In 1900, the Conference at Atlanta University undertook
to study these graduates, and published the results. First they
sought to know what these graduates were doing, and suc-
ceeded in getting answers from nearly two-thirds of the liv-
ing. The direct testimony was in almost all cases corroborated
by the reports of the colleges where they graduated, so that in
the main the reports were worthy of credence. Fifty-three per
cent of these graduates were teachers,--presidents of institu-
tions, heads of normal schools, principals of city school-
systems, and the like. Seventeen per cent were clergymen;
another seventeen per cent were in the professions, chiefly as
physicians. Over six per cent were merchants, farmers, and
artisans, and four per cent were in the government civil-
service. Granting even that a considerable proportion of the
third unheard from are unsuccessful, this is a record of use-
fulness. Personally I know many hundreds of these graduates,
and have corresponded with more than a thousand; through
others I have followed carefully the life-work of scores; I
have taught some of them and some of the pupils whom they
have taught, lived in homes which they have builded, and
looked at life through their eyes. Comparing them as a class
with my fellow students in New England and in Europe, I
cannot hesitate in saying that nowhere have I met men and
women with a broader spirit of helpfulness, with deeper
devotion to their life-work, or with more consecrated determi-
nation to succeed in the face of bitter difficulties than among
Negro college-bred men. They have, to be sure, their propor-
tion of ne'er-do-wells, their pedants and lettered fools, but
they have a surprisingly small proportion of them; they have
not that culture of manner which we instinctively associate
with university men, forgetting that in reality it is the heritage
from cultured homes, and that no people a generation re-
moved from slavery can escape a certain unpleasant rawness
and gaucherie, despite the best of training.

With all their larger vision and deeper sensibility, these
men have usually been conservative, careful leaders. They
have seldom been agitators, have withstood the temptation to
head the mob, and have worked steadily and faithfully in a
thousand communities in the South. As teachers, they have
given the South a commendable system of city schools and
large numbers of private normal-schools and academies. Col-
ored college-bred men have worked side by side with white
college graduates at Hampton; almost from the beginning the
backbone of Tuskegee's teaching force has been formed of
graduates from Fisk and Atlanta. And to-day the institute is
filled with college graduates, from the energetic wife of the
principal down to the teacher of agriculture, including nearly
half of the executive council and a majority of the heads of
departments. In the professions, college men are slowly but
surely leavening the Negro church, are healing and prevent-
ing the devastations of disease, and beginning to furnish legal
protection for the liberty and property of the toiling masses.
All this is needful work. Who would do it if Negroes did not?
How could Negroes do it if they were not trained carefully for
it? If white people need colleges to furnish teachers, minis-
ters, lawyers, and doctors, do black people need nothing of
the sort?

If it is true that there are an appreciable number of Negro
youth in the land capable by character and talent to receive
that higher training, the end of which is culture, and if the
two and a half thousand who have had something of this
training in the past have in the main proved themselves useful
to their race and generation, the question then comes, What
place in the future development of the South ought the Negro
college and college-bred man to occupy? That the present
social separation and acute race-sensitiveness must eventually
yield to the influences of culture, as the South grows civi-
lized, is clear. But such transformation calls for singular
wisdom and patience. If, while the healing of this vast sore is
progressing, the races are to live for many years side by side,
united in economic effort, obeying a common government,
sensitive to mutual thought and feeling, yet subtly and si-
lently separate in many matters of deeper human intimacy,--if
this unusual and dangerous development is to progress amid
peace and order, mutual respect and growing intelligence, it
will call for social surgery at once the delicatest and nicest in
modern history. It will demand broad-minded, upright men,
both white and black, and in its final accomplishment Ameri-
can civilization will triumph. So far as white men are con-
cerned, this fact is to-day being recognized in the South, and
a happy renaissance of university education seems imminent.
But the very voices that cry hail to this good work are,
strange to relate, largely silent or antagonistic to the higher
education of the Negro.

Strange to relate! for this is certain, no secure civilization
can be built in the South with the Negro as an ignorant,
turbulent proletariat. Suppose we seek to remedy this by
making them laborers and nothing more: they are not fools,
they have tasted of the Tree of Life, and they will not cease
to think, will not cease attempting to read the riddle of the
world. By taking away their best equipped teachers and lead-
ers, by slamming the door of opportunity in the faces of their
bolder and brighter minds, will you make them satisfied with
their lot? or will you not rather transfer their leading from the
hands of men taught to think to the hands of untrained
demagogues? We ought not to forget that despite the pressure
of poverty, and despite the active discouragement and even
ridicule of friends, the demand for higher training steadily
increases among Negro youth: there were, in the years from
1875 to 1880, 22 Negro graduates from Northern colleges;
from 1885 to 1890 there were 43, and from 1895 to 1900,
nearly 100 graduates. From Southern Negro colleges there
were, in the same three periods, 143, 413, and over 500
graduates. Here, then, is the plain thirst for training; by
refusing to give this Talented Tenth the key to knowledge,
can any sane man imagine that they will lightly lay aside their
yearning and contentedly become hewers of wood and draw-
ers of water?

No. The dangerously clear logic of the Negro's position
will more and more loudly assert itself in that day when
increasing wealth and more intricate social organization pre-
clude the South from being, as it so largely is, simply an
armed camp for intimidating black folk. Such waste of energy
cannot he spared if the South is to catch up with civilization.
And as the black third of the land grows in thrift and skill,
unless skilfully guided in its larger philosophy, it must more
and more brood over the red past and the creeping, crooked
present, until it grasps a gospel of revolt and revenge and
throws its new-found energies athwart the current of advance.
Even to-day the masses of the Negroes see all too clearly the
anomalies of their position and the moral crookedness of
yours. You may marshal strong indictments against them, but
their counter-cries, lacking though they be in formal logic,
have burning truths within them which you may not wholly
ignore, O Southern Gentlemen! If you deplore their presence
here, they ask, Who brought us? When you cry, Deliver us
from the vision of intermarriage, they answer that legal mar-
riage is infinitely better than systematic concubinage and
prostitution. And if in just fury you accuse their vagabonds of
violating women, they also in fury quite as just may reply:
The rape which your gentlemen have done against helpless
black women in defiance of your own laws is written on the
foreheads of two millions of mulattoes, and written in inef-
faceable blood. And finally, when you fasten crime upon this
race as its peculiar trait, they answer that slavery was the
arch-crime, and lynching and lawlessness its twin abortions;
that color and race are not crimes, and yet it is they which in
this land receive most unceasing condemnation, North, East,
South, and West.

I will not say such arguments are wholly justified,--I will
not insist that there is no other side to the shield; but I do say
that of the nine millions of Negroes in this nation, there is
scarcely one out of the cradle to whom these arguments do
not daily present themselves in the guise of terrible truth. I
insist that the question of the future is how best to keep these
millions from brooding over the wrongs of the past and the
difficulties of the present, so that all their energies may be
bent toward a cheerful striving and cooperation with their
white neighbors toward a larger, juster, and fuller future.
That one wise method of doing this lies in the closer knitting
of the Negro to the great industrial possibilities of the South
is a great truth. And this the common schools and the manual
training and trade schools are working to accomplish. But
these alone are not enough. The foundations of knowledge in
this race, as in others, must be sunk deep in the college and
university if we would build a solid, permanent structure.
Internal problems of social advance must inevitably come,
--problems of work and wages, of families and homes, of
morals and the true valuing of the things of life; and all these
and other inevitable problems of civilization the Negro must
meet and solve largely for himself, by reason of his isolation;
and can there be any possible solution other than by study and
thought and an appeal to the rich experience of the past? Is
there not, with such a group and in such a crisis, infinitely
more danger to be apprehended from half-trained minds and
shallow thinking than from over-education and over-refine-
ment? Surely we have wit enough to found a Negro college
so manned and equipped as to steer successfully between the
dilettante and the fool. We shall hardly induce black men to
believe that if their stomachs be full, it matters little about
their brains. They already dimly perceive that the paths of
peace winding between honest toil and dignified manhood
call for the guidance of skilled thinkers, the loving, reverent
comradeship between the black lowly and the black men
emancipated by training and culture.

The function of the Negro college, then, is clear: it must
maintain the standards of popular education, it must seek the
social regeneration of the Negro, and it must help in the
solution of problems of race contact and cooperation. And
finally, beyond all this, it must develop men. Above our
modern socialism, and out of the worship of the mass, must
persist and evolve that higher individualism which the centres
of culture protect; there must come a loftier respect for the
sovereign human soul that seeks to know itself and the world
about it; that seeks a freedom for expansion and self-
development; that will love and hate and labor in its own
way, untrammeled alike by old and new. Such souls afore-
time have inspired and guided worlds, and if we be not
wholly bewitched by our Rhinegold, they shall again. Herein
the longing of black men must have respect: the rich and
bitter depth of their experience, the unknown treasures of
their inner life, the strange rendings of nature they have seen,
may give the world new points of view and make their
loving, living, and doing precious to all human hearts. And to
themselves in these the days that try their souls, the chance to
soar in the dim blue air above the smoke is to their finer
spirits boon and guerdon for what they lose on earth by being

I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not. Across the color
line I move arm in arm with Balzac and Dumas, where
smiling men and welcoming women glide in gilded halls.
From out the caves of evening that swing between the strong-
limbed earth and the tracery of the stars, I summon Aristotle
and Aurelius and what soul I will, and they come all gra-
ciously with no scorn nor condescension. So, wed with Truth,
I dwell above the Veil. Is this the life you grudge us, O
knightly America? Is this the life you long to change into the
dull red hideousness of Georgia? Are you so afraid lest
peering from this high Pisgah, between Philistine and
Amalekite, we sight the Promised Land?


Of the Black Belt

I am black but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem,
As the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon.
Look not upon me, because I am black,
Because the sun hath looked upon me:
My mother's children were angry with me;
They made me the keeper of the vineyards;
But mine own vineyard have I not kept.


Out of the North the train thundered, and we woke to see the
crimson soil of Georgia stretching away bare and monotonous
right and left. Here and there lay straggling, unlovely vil-
lages, and lean men loafed leisurely at the depots; then again
came the stretch of pines and clay. Yet we did not nod, nor
weary of the scene; for this is historic ground. Right across
our track, three hundred and sixty years ago, wandered the
cavalcade of Hernando de Soto, looking for gold and the Great
Sea; and he and his foot-sore captives disappeared yonder in
the grim forests to the west. Here sits Atlanta, the city of a
hundred hills, with something Western, something Southern,
and something quite its own, in its busy life. Just this side
Atlanta is the land of the Cherokees and to the southwest, not
far from where Sam Hose was crucified, you may stand on a
spot which is to-day the centre of the Negro problem,--the
centre of those nine million men who are America's dark
heritage from slavery and the slave-trade.

Not only is Georgia thus the geographical focus of our
Negro population, but in many other respects, both now and
yesterday, the Negro problems have seemed to be centered in
this State. No other State in the Union can count a million
Negroes among its citizens,--a population as large as the
slave population of the whole Union in 1800; no other State
fought so long and strenuously to gather this host of Africans.
Oglethorpe thought slavery against law and gospel; but the
circumstances which gave Georgia its first inhabitants were
not calculated to furnish citizens over-nice in their ideas about
rum and slaves. Despite the prohibitions of the trustees, these
Georgians, like some of their descendants, proceeded to take
the law into their own hands; and so pliant were the judges,
and so flagrant the smuggling, and so earnest were the
prayers of Whitefield, that by the middle of the eighteenth
century all restrictions were swept away, and the slave-trade
went merrily on for fifty years and more.

Down in Darien, where the Delegal riots took place some
summers ago, there used to come a strong protest against
slavery from the Scotch Highlanders; and the Moravians of
Ebenezer did not like the system. But not till the Haytian
Terror of Toussaint was the trade in men even checked; while
the national statute of 1808 did not suffice to stop it. How
the Africans poured in!--fifty thousand between 1790 and
1810, and then, from Virginia and from smugglers, two
thousand a year for many years more. So the thirty thousand
Negroes of Georgia in 1790 doubled in a decade,--were over
a hundred thousand in 1810, had reached two hundred thou-
sand in 1820, and half a million at the time of the war. Thus
like a snake the black population writhed upward.

But we must hasten on our journey. This that we pass as
we near Atlanta is the ancient land of the Cherokees,--that
brave Indian nation which strove so long for its fatherland,
until Fate and the United States Government drove them
beyond the Mississippi. If you wish to ride with me you must
come into the "Jim Crow Car." There will be no objection,
--already four other white men, and a little white girl with
her nurse, are in there. Usually the races are mixed in there;
but the white coach is all white. Of course this car is not so
good as the other, but it is fairly clean and comfortable. The
discomfort lies chiefly in the hearts of those four black men
yonder--and in mine.

We rumble south in quite a business-like way. The bare red
clay and pines of Northern Georgia begin to disappear, and in
their place appears a rich rolling land, luxuriant, and here and
there well tilled. This is the land of the Creek Indians; and a
hard time the Georgians had to seize it. The towns grow more
frequent and more interesting, and brand-new cotton mills
rise on every side. Below Macon the world grows darker; for
now we approach the Black Belt,--that strange land of
shadows, at which even slaves paled in the past, and whence
come now only faint and half-intelligible murmurs to the
world beyond. The "Jim Crow Car" grows larger and a
shade better; three rough field-hands and two or three white
loafers accompany us, and the newsboy still spreads his
wares at one end. The sun is setting, but we can see the great
cotton country as we enter it,--the soil now dark and fertile,
now thin and gray, with fruit-trees and dilapidated buildings,
--all the way to Albany.

At Albany, in the heart of the Black Belt, we stop. Two
hundred miles south of Atlanta, two hundred miles west of
the Atlantic, and one hundred miles north of the Great Gulf
lies Dougherty County, with ten thousand Negroes and two
thousand whites. The Flint River winds down from Anderson-
ville, and, turning suddenly at Albany, the county-seat, hur-
ries on to join the Chattahoochee and the sea. Andrew Jackson
knew the Flint well, and marched across it once to avenge the
Indian Massacre at Fort Mims. That was in 1814, not long
before the battle of New Orleans; and by the Creek treaty that
followed this campaign, all Dougherty County, and much
other rich land, was ceded to Georgia. Still, settlers fought
shy of this land, for the Indians were all about, and they were
unpleasant neighbors in those days. The panic of 1837, which
Jackson bequeathed to Van Buren, turned the planters from
the impoverished lands of Virginia, the Carolinas, and east
Georgia, toward the West. The Indians were removed to
Indian Territory, and settlers poured into these coveted lands
to retrieve their broken fortunes. For a radius of a hundred
miles about Albany, stretched a great fertile land, luxuriant
with forests of pine, oak, ash, hickory, and poplar; hot with
the sun and damp with the rich black swamp-land; and here
the corner-stone of the Cotton Kingdom was laid.

Albany is to-day a wide-streeted, placid, Southern town,
with a broad sweep of stores and saloons, and flanking rows
of homes,--whites usually to the north, and blacks to the
south. Six days in the week the town looks decidedly too
small for itself, and takes frequent and prolonged naps.
But on Saturday suddenly the whole county disgorges itself
upon the place, and a perfect flood of black peasantry pours
through the streets, fills the stores, blocks the sidewalks,
chokes the thoroughfares, and takes full possession of the
town. They are black, sturdy, uncouth country folk, good-
natured and simple, talkative to a degree, and yet far more
silent and brooding than the crowds of the Rhine-pfalz, or
Naples, or Cracow. They drink considerable quantities of
whiskey, but do not get very drunk; they talk and laugh
loudly at times, but seldom quarrel or fight. They walk up
and down the streets, meet and gossip with friends, stare at
the shop windows, buy coffee, cheap candy, and clothes, and
at dusk drive home--happy? well no, not exactly happy, but
much happier than as though they had not come.

Thus Albany is a real capital,--a typical Southern county
town, the centre of the life of ten thousand souls; their point
of contact with the outer world, their centre of news and
gossip, their market for buying and selling, borrowing and
lending, their fountain of justice and law. Once upon a time
we knew country life so well and city life so little, that we
illustrated city life as that of a closely crowded country
district. Now the world has well-nigh forgotten what the
country is, and we must imagine a little city of black people
scattered far and wide over three hundred lonesome square
miles of land, without train or trolley, in the midst of cotton
and corn, and wide patches of sand and gloomy soil.

It gets pretty hot in Southern Georgia in July,--a sort of
dull, determined heat that seems quite independent of the
sun; so it took us some days to muster courage enough to
leave the porch and venture out on the long country roads,
that we might see this unknown world. Finally we started. It
was about ten in the morning, bright with a faint breeze, and
we jogged leisurely southward in the valley of the Flint. We
passed the scattered box-like cabins of the brickyard hands,
and the long tenement-row facetiously called "The Ark," and
were soon in the open country, and on the confines of the
great plantations of other days. There is the "Joe Fields
place"; a rough old fellow was he, and had killed many a
"nigger" in his day. Twelve miles his plantation used to
run,--a regular barony. It is nearly all gone now; only strag-
gling bits belong to the family, and the rest has passed to
Jews and Negroes. Even the bits which are left are heavily
mortgaged, and, like the rest of the land, tilled by tenants.
Here is one of them now,--a tall brown man, a hard worker
and a hard drinker, illiterate, but versed in farmlore, as his
nodding crops declare. This distressingly new board house is
his, and he has just moved out of yonder moss-grown cabin
with its one square room.

From the curtains in Benton's house, down the road, a dark
comely face is staring at the strangers; for passing carriages
are not every-day occurrences here. Benton is an intelligent
yellow man with a good-sized family, and manages a planta-
tion blasted by the war and now the broken staff of the
widow. He might be well-to-do, they say; but he carouses too
much in Albany. And the half-desolate spirit of neglect born
of the very soil seems to have settled on these acres. In times
past there were cotton-gins and machinery here; but they have
rotted away.

The whole land seems forlorn and forsaken. Here are the
remnants of the vast plantations of the Sheldons, the Pellots,
and the Rensons; but the souls of them are passed. The
houses lie in half ruin, or have wholly disappeared; the fences
have flown, and the families are wandering in the world.
Strange vicissitudes have met these whilom masters. Yonder
stretch the wide acres of Bildad Reasor; he died in war-time,
but the upstart overseer hastened to wed the widow. Then he
went, and his neighbors too, and now only the black tenant
remains; but the shadow-hand of the master's grand-nephew
or cousin or creditor stretches out of the gray distance to
collect the rack-rent remorselessly, and so the land is uncared-
for and poor. Only black tenants can stand such a system, and
they only because they must. Ten miles we have ridden
to-day and have seen no white face.

A resistless feeling of depression falls slowly upon us,
despite the gaudy sunshine and the green cottonfields. This,
then, is the Cotton Kingdom,--the shadow of a marvellous
dream. And where is the King? Perhaps this is he,--the
sweating ploughman, tilling his eighty acres with two lean
mules, and fighting a hard battle with debt. So we sit musing,
until, as we turn a corner on the sandy road, there comes a
fairer scene suddenly in view,--a neat cottage snugly en-
sconced by the road, and near it a little store. A tall bronzed
man rises from the porch as we hail him, and comes out to
our carriage. He is six feet in height, with a sober face that
smiles gravely. He walks too straight to be a tenant,--yes, he
owns two hundred and forty acres. "The land is run down
since the boom-days of eighteen hundred and fifty," he
explains, and cotton is low. Three black tenants live on his
place, and in his little store he keeps a small stock of tobacco,
snuff, soap, and soda, for the neighborhood. Here is his
gin-house with new machinery just installed. Three hundred
bales of cotton went through it last year. Two children he has
sent away to school. Yes, he says sadly, he is getting on, but
cotton is down to four cents; I know how Debt sits staring at

Wherever the King may be, the parks and palaces of the
Cotton Kingdom have not wholly disappeared. We plunge
even now into great groves of oak and towering pine, with an
undergrowth of myrtle and shrubbery. This was the "home-
house" of the Thompsons,--slave-barons who drove their
coach and four in the merry past. All is silence now, and
ashes, and tangled weeds. The owner put his whole fortune
into the rising cotton industry of the fifties, and with the
falling prices of the eighties he packed up and stole away.
Yonder is another grove, with unkempt lawn, great magno-
lias, and grass-grown paths. The Big House stands in half-
ruin, its great front door staring blankly at the street, and the
back part grotesquely restored for its black tenant. A shabby,
well-built Negro he is, unlucky and irresolute. He digs hard
to pay rent to the white girl who owns the remnant of the
place. She married a policeman, and lives in Savannah.

Now and again we come to churches. Here is one now,
--Shepherd's, they call it,--a great whitewashed barn of a
thing, perched on stilts of stone, and looking for all the world
as though it were just resting here a moment and might be
expected to waddle off down the road at almost any time.
And yet it is the centre of a hundred cabin homes; and
sometimes, of a Sunday, five hundred persons from far and
near gather here and talk and eat and sing. There is a school-
house near,--a very airy, empty shed; but even this is an
improvement, for usually the school is held in the church.
The churches vary from log-huts to those like Shepherd's,
and the schools from nothing to this little house that sits
demurely on the county line. It is a tiny plank-house, perhaps
ten by twenty, and has within a double row of rough unplaned
benches, resting mostly on legs, sometimes on boxes. Oppo-
site the door is a square home-made desk. In one corner are
the ruins of a stove, and in the other a dim blackboard. It
is the cheerfulest schoolhouse I have seen in Dougherty, save in
town. Back of the schoolhouse is a lodgehouse two stories
high and not quite finished. Societies meet there,--societies
"to care for the sick and bury the dead"; and these societies
grow and flourish.

We had come to the boundaries of Dougherty, and were
about to turn west along the county-line, when all these sights
were pointed out to us by a kindly old man, black, white-
haired, and seventy. Forty-five years he had lived here, and
now supports himself and his old wife by the help of the steer
tethered yonder and the charity of his black neighbors. He
shows us the farm of the Hills just across the county line in
Baker,--a widow and two strapping sons, who raised ten
bales (one need not add "cotton" down here) last year. There
are fences and pigs and cows, and the soft-voiced, velvet-
skinned young Memnon, who sauntered half-bashfully over
to greet the strangers, is proud of his home. We turn now to
the west along the county line. Great dismantled trunks of
pines tower above the green cottonfields, cracking their na-
ked gnarled fingers toward the border of living forest beyond.
There is little beauty in this region, only a sort of crude
abandon that suggests power,--a naked grandeur, as it were.
The houses are bare and straight; there are no hammocks or
easy-chairs, and few flowers. So when, as here at Rawdon's,
one sees a vine clinging to a little porch, and home-like
windows peeping over the fences, one takes a long breath. I
think I never before quite realized the place of the Fence in
civilization. This is the Land of the Unfenced, where crouch
on either hand scores of ugly one-room cabins, cheerless and
dirty. Here lies the Negro problem in its naked dirt and
penury. And here are no fences. But now and then the
crisscross rails or straight palings break into view, and then
we know a touch of culture is near. Of course Harrison
Gohagen,--a quiet yellow man, young, smooth-faced, and
diligent,--of course he is lord of some hundred acres, and we
expect to see a vision of well-kept rooms and fat beds and
laughing children. For has he not fine fences? And those over
yonder, why should they build fences on the rack-rented
land? It will only increase their rent.

On we wind, through sand and pines and glimpses of old
plantations, till there creeps into sight a cluster of buildings,
--wood and brick, mills and houses, and scattered cabins. It
seemed quite a village. As it came nearer and nearer, how-
ever, the aspect changed: the buildings were rotten, the bricks
were falling out, the mills were silent, and the store was
closed. Only in the cabins appeared now and then a bit of
lazy life. I could imagine the place under some weird spell,
and was half-minded to search out the princess. An old
ragged black man, honest, simple, and improvident, told us
the tale. The Wizard of the North--the Capitalist--had rushed
down in the seventies to woo this coy dark soil. He bought a
square mile or more, and for a time the field-hands sang, the
gins groaned, and the mills buzzed. Then came a change. The
agent's son embezzled the funds and ran off with them. Then
the agent himself disappeared. Finally the new agent stole
even the books, and the company in wrath closed its business
and its houses, refused to sell, and let houses and furniture
and machinery rust and rot. So the Waters-Loring plantation
was stilled by the spell of dishonesty, and stands like some
gaunt rebuke to a scarred land.

Somehow that plantation ended our day's journey; for I
could not shake off the influence of that silent scene. Back
toward town we glided, past the straight and thread-like
pines, past a dark tree-dotted pond where the air was heavy
with a dead sweet perfume. White slender-legged curlews
flitted by us, and the garnet blooms of the cotton looked gay
against the green and purple stalks. A peasant girl was hoeing
in the field, white-turbaned and black-limbed. All this we
saw, but the spell still lay upon us.

How curious a land is this,--how full of untold story, of
tragedy and laughter, and the rich legacy of human life;
shadowed with a tragic past, and big with future promise!
This is the Black Belt of Georgia. Dougherty County is the
west end of the Black Belt, and men once called it the Egypt
of the Confederacy. It is full of historic interest. First there is
the Swamp, to the west, where the Chickasawhatchee flows
sullenly southward. The shadow of an old plantation lies at its
edge, forlorn and dark. Then comes the pool; pendent gray
moss and brackish waters appear, and forests filled with
wildfowl. In one place the wood is on fire, smouldering in
dull red anger; but nobody minds. Then the swamp grows
beautiful; a raised road, built by chained Negro convicts, dips
down into it, and forms a way walled and almost covered in
living green. Spreading trees spring from a prodigal luxuri-
ance of undergrowth; great dark green shadows fade into the
black background, until all is one mass of tangled semi-
tropical foliage, marvellous in its weird savage splendor.
Once we crossed a black silent stream, where the sad trees
and writhing creepers, all glinting fiery yellow and green,
seemed like some vast cathedral,--some green Milan builded
of wildwood. And as I crossed, I seemed to see again that
fierce tragedy of seventy years ago. Osceola, the Indian-
Negro chieftain, had risen in the swamps of Florida, vowing
vengeance. His war-cry reached the red Creeks of Dougherty,
and their war-cry rang from the Chattahoochee to the sea.
Men and women and children fled and fell before them as
they swept into Dougherty. In yonder shadows a dark and
hideously painted warrior glided stealthily on,--another and
another, until three hundred had crept into the treacherous
swamp. Then the false slime closing about them called the
white men from the east. Waist-deep, they fought beneath the
tall trees, until the war-cry was hushed and the Indians glided
back into the west. Small wonder the wood is red.

Then came the black slaves. Day after day the clank of
chained feet marching from Virginia and Carolina to Georgia
was heard in these rich swamp lands. Day after day the songs
of the callous, the wail of the motherless, and the muttered
curses of the wretched echoed from the Flint to the Chickasaw-
hatchee, until by 1860 there had risen in West Dougherty
perhaps the richest slave kingdom the modern world ever
knew. A hundred and fifty barons commanded the labor of
nearly six thousand Negroes, held sway over farms with
ninety thousand acres tilled land, valued even in times of
cheap soil at three millions of dollars. Twenty thousand bales
of ginned cotton went yearly to England, New and Old; and
men that came there bankrupt made money and grew rich. In
a single decade the cotton output increased four-fold and the
value of lands was tripled. It was the heyday of the nouveau
riche, and a life of careless extravagance among the masters.
Four and six bobtailed thoroughbreds rolled their coaches to
town; open hospitality and gay entertainment were the rule.
Parks and groves were laid out, rich with flower and vine,
and in the midst stood the low wide-halled "big house," with
its porch and columns and great fireplaces.

And yet with all this there was something sordid, some-
thing forced,--a certain feverish unrest and recklessness; for
was not all this show and tinsel built upon a groan? "This
land was a little Hell," said a ragged, brown, and grave-
faced man to me. We were seated near a roadside blacksmith
shop, and behind was the bare ruin of some master's home.
"I've seen niggers drop dead in the furrow, but they were
kicked aside, and the plough never stopped. Down in the
guard-house, there's where the blood ran."

With such foundations a kingdom must in time sway and
fall. The masters moved to Macon and Augusta, and left only
the irresponsible overseers on the land. And the result is such
ruin as this, the Lloyd "home-place":--great waving oaks, a
spread of lawn, myrtles and chestnuts, all ragged and wild; a
solitary gate-post standing where once was a castle entrance;
an old rusty anvil lying amid rotting bellows and wood in the
ruins of a blacksmith shop; a wide rambling old mansion,
brown and dingy, filled now with the grandchildren of the
slaves who once waited on its tables; while the family of the
master has dwindled to two lone women, who live in Macon
and feed hungrily off the remnants of an earldom. So we ride
on, past phantom gates and falling homes,--past the once
flourishing farms of the Smiths, the Gandys, and the Lagores,
--and find all dilapidated and half ruined, even there where a
solitary white woman, a relic of other days, sits alone in state
among miles of Negroes and rides to town in her ancient
coach each day.

This was indeed the Egypt of the Confederacy,--the rich
granary whence potatoes and corn and cotton poured out to
the famished and ragged Confederate troops as they battled
for a cause lost long before 1861. Sheltered and secure, it
became the place of refuge for families, wealth, and slaves.
Yet even then the hard ruthless rape of the land began to tell.
The red-clay sub-soil already had begun to peer above the
loam. The harder the slaves were driven the more careless
and fatal was their farming. Then came the revolution of war
and Emancipation, the bewilderment of Reconstruction,--and
now, what is the Egypt of the Confederacy, and what mean-
ing has it for the nation's weal or woe?

It is a land of rapid contrasts and of curiously mingled hope
and pain. Here sits a pretty blue-eyed quadroon hiding her
bare feet; she was married only last week, and yonder in the
field is her dark young husband, hoeing to support her, at
thirty cents a day without board. Across the way is Gatesby,
brown and tall, lord of two thousand acres shrewdly won and
held. There is a store conducted by his black son, a black-
smith shop, and a ginnery. Five miles below here is a town
owned and controlled by one white New Englander. He owns
almost a Rhode Island county, with thousands of acres and
hundreds of black laborers. Their cabins look better than
most, and the farm, with machinery and fertilizers, is much
more business-like than any in the county, although the man-
ager drives hard bargains in wages. When now we turn and
look five miles above, there on the edge of town are five
houses of prostitutes,--two of blacks and three of whites; and
in one of the houses of the whites a worthless black boy was
harbored too openly two years ago; so he was hanged for
rape. And here, too, is the high whitewashed fence of the
"stockade," as the county prison is called; the white folks
say it is ever full of black criminals,--the black folks say that
only colored boys are sent to jail, and they not because they
are guilty, but because the State needs criminals to eke out its
income by their forced labor.

Immigrants are heirs of the slave baron in Dougherty; and
as we ride westward, by wide stretching cornfields and stubby
orchards of peach and pear, we see on all sides within the
circle of dark forest a Land of Canaan. Here and there are
tales of projects for money-getting, born in the swift days of
Reconstruction,--"improvement" companies, wine compa-
nies, mills and factories; most failed, and foreigners fell heir.
It is a beautiful land, this Dougherty, west of the Flint. The
forests are wonderful, the solemn pines have disappeared,
and this is the "Oakey Woods," with its wealth of hickories,
beeches, oaks and palmettos. But a pall of debt hangs over
the beautiful land; the merchants are in debt to the wholesal-
ers, the planters are in debt to the merchants, the tenants owe
the planters, and laborers bow and bend beneath the burden
of it all. Here and there a man has raised his head above these
murky waters. We passed one fenced stock-farm with grass
and grazing cattle, that looked very home-like after endless
corn and cotton. Here and there are black free-holders: there
is the gaunt dull-black Jackson, with his hundred acres. "I
says, 'Look up! If you don't look up you can't get up,'"
remarks Jackson, philosophically. And he's gotten up. Dark
Carter's neat barns would do credit to New England. His
master helped him to get a start, but when the black man died
last fall the master's sons immediately laid claim to the
estate. "And them white folks will get it, too," said my
yellow gossip.

I turn from these well-tended acres with a comfortable
feeling that the Negro is rising. Even then, however, the
fields, as we proceed, begin to redden and the trees disap-
pear. Rows of old cabins appear filled with renters and
laborers,--cheerless, bare, and dirty, for the most part, al-
though here and there the very age and decay makes the scene
picturesque. A young black fellow greets us. He is twenty-
two, and just married. Until last year he had good luck
renting; then cotton fell, and the sheriff seized and sold all he
had. So he moved here, where the rent is higher, the land
poorer, and the owner inflexible; he rents a forty-dollar mule
for twenty dollars a year. Poor lad!--a slave at twenty-two.
This plantation, owned now by a foreigner, was a part of the
famous Bolton estate. After the war it was for many years
worked by gangs of Negro convicts,--and black convicts
then were even more plentiful than now; it was a way of
making Negroes work, and the question of guilt was a minor
one. Hard tales of cruelty and mistreatment of the chained
freemen are told, but the county authorities were deaf until
the free-labor market was nearly ruined by wholesale migra-
tion. Then they took the convicts from the plantations, but
not until one of the fairest regions of the "Oakey Woods"
had been ruined and ravished into a red waste, out of which
only a Yankee or an immigrant could squeeze more blood
from debt-cursed tenants.

No wonder that Luke Black, slow, dull, and discouraged,
shuffles to our carriage and talks hopelessly. Why should he
strive? Every year finds him deeper in debt. How strange that
Georgia, the world-heralded refuge of poor debtors, should
bind her own to sloth and misfortune as ruthlessly as ever
England did! The poor land groans with its birth-pains, and
brings forth scarcely a hundred pounds of cotton to the acre,
where fifty years ago it yielded eight times as much. Of his
meagre yield the tenant pays from a quarter to a third in rent,
and most of the rest in interest on food and supplies bought
on credit. Twenty years yonder sunken-cheeked, old black
man has labored under that system, and now, turned day-
laborer, is supporting his wife and boarding himself on his
wages of a dollar and a half a week, received only part of the

The Bolton convict farm formerly included the neighboring
plantation. Here it was that the convicts were lodged in the
great log prison still standing. A dismal place it still remains,
with rows of ugly huts filled with surly ignorant tenants.
"What rent do you pay here?" I inquired. "I don't know,
--what is it, Sam?" "All we make," answered Sam. It is a
depressing place,--bare, unshaded, with no charm of past
association, only a memory of forced human toil,--now,
then, and before the war. They are not happy, these black
men whom we meet throughout this region. There is little of
the joyous abandon and playfulness which we are wont to
associate with the plantation Negro. At best, the natural
good-nature is edged with complaint or has changed into
sullenness and gloom. And now and then it blazes forth in
veiled but hot anger. I remember one big red-eyed black
whom we met by the roadside. Forty-five years he had la-
bored on this farm, beginning with nothing, and still having
nothing. To be sure, he had given four children a common-
school training, and perhaps if the new fence-law had not
allowed unfenced crops in West Dougherty he might have
raised a little stock and kept ahead. As it is, he is hopelessly
in debt, disappointed, and embittered. He stopped us to in-
quire after the black boy in Albany, whom it was said a
policeman had shot and killed for loud talking on the side-
walk. And then he said slowly: "Let a white man touch me,
and he dies; I don't boast this,--I don't say it around loud, or
before the children,--but I mean it. I've seen them whip my
father and my old mother in them cotton-rows till the blood
ran; by--" and we passed on.

Now Sears, whom we met next lolling under the chubby
oak-trees, was of quite different fibre. Happy?--Well, yes;
he laughed and flipped pebbles, and thought the world was as
it was. He had worked here twelve years and has nothing but
a mortgaged mule. Children? Yes, seven; but they hadn't
been to school this year,--couldn't afford books and clothes,
and couldn't spare their work. There go part of them to the
fields now,--three big boys astride mules, and a strapping
girl with bare brown legs. Careless ignorance and laziness
here, fierce hate and vindictiveness there;--these are the
extremes of the Negro problem which we met that day, and
we scarce knew which we preferred.

Here and there we meet distinct characters quite out of the
ordinary. One came out of a piece of newly cleared ground,
making a wide detour to avoid the snakes. He was an old,
hollow-cheeked man, with a drawn and characterful brown
face. He had a sort of self-contained quaintness and rough
humor impossible to describe; a certain cynical earnestness
that puzzled one. "The niggers were jealous of me over on
the other place," he said, "and so me and the old woman
begged this piece of woods, and I cleared it up myself. Made
nothing for two years, but I reckon I've got a crop now."
The cotton looked tall and rich, and we praised it. He curtsied
low, and then bowed almost to the ground, with an imper-
turbable gravity that seemed almost suspicious. Then he con-
tinued, "My mule died last week,"--a calamity in this land
equal to a devastating fire in town,--"but a white man
loaned me another." Then he added, eyeing us, "Oh, I gets
along with white folks." We turned the conversation. "Bears?
deer?" he answered, "well, I should say there were," and he
let fly a string of brave oaths, as he told hunting-tales of the
swamp. We left him standing still in the middle of the road
looking after us, and yet apparently not noticing us.

The Whistle place, which includes his bit of land, was
bought soon after the war by an English syndicate, the "Dixie
Cotton and Corn Company." A marvellous deal of style their
factor put on, with his servants and coach-and-six; so much
so that the concern soon landed in inextricable bankruptcy.
Nobody lives in the old house now, but a man comes each
winter out of the North and collects his high rents. I know not
which are the more touching,--such old empty houses, or the
homes of the masters' sons. Sad and bitter tales lie hidden
back of those white doors,--tales of poverty, of struggle, of
disappointment. A revolution such as that of '63 is a terrible
thing; they that rose rich in the morning often slept in pau-
pers' beds. Beggars and vulgar speculators rose to rule over
them, and their children went astray. See yonder sad-colored
house, with its cabins and fences and glad crops! It is not
glad within; last month the prodigal son of the struggling
father wrote home from the city for money. Money! Where
was it to come from? And so the son rose in the night and
killed his baby, and killed his wife, and shot himself dead.
And the world passed on.

I remember wheeling around a bend in the road beside a
graceful bit of forest and a singing brook. A long low house
faced us, with porch and flying pillars, great oaken door, and
a broad lawn shining in the evening sun. But the window-
panes were gone, the pillars were worm-eaten, and the moss-
grown roof was falling in. Half curiously I peered through the
unhinged door, and saw where, on the wall across the hall,
was written in once gay letters a faded "Welcome."

Quite a contrast to the southwestern part of Dougherty
County is the northwest. Soberly timbered in oak and pine, it
has none of that half-tropical luxuriance of the southwest.
Then, too, there are fewer signs of a romantic past, and more
of systematic modern land-grabbing and money-getting. White
people are more in evidence here, and farmer and hired labor
replace to some extent the absentee landlord and rack-rented
tenant. The crops have neither the luxuriance of the richer
land nor the signs of neglect so often seen, and there were
fences and meadows here and there. Most of this land was
poor, and beneath the notice of the slave-baron, before the
war. Since then his poor relations and foreign immigrants
have seized it. The returns of the farmer are too small to
allow much for wages, and yet he will not sell off small
farms. There is the Negro Sanford; he has worked fourteen
years as overseer on the Ladson place, and "paid out enough
for fertilizers to have bought a farm," but the owner will not
sell off a few acres.

Two children--a boy and a girl--are hoeing sturdily in the
fields on the farm where Corliss works. He is smooth-faced
and brown, and is fencing up his pigs. He used to run a
successful cotton-gin, but the Cotton Seed Oil Trust has
forced the price of ginning so low that he says it hardly pays
him. He points out a stately old house over the way as the
home of "Pa Willis." We eagerly ride over, for "Pa Willis"
was the tall and powerful black Moses who led the Negroes
for a generation, and led them well. He was a Baptist preacher,
and when he died, two thousand black people followed him
to the grave; and now they preach his funeral sermon each
year. His widow lives here,--a weazened, sharp-featured
little woman, who curtsied quaintly as we greeted her. Fur-
ther on lives Jack Delson, the most prosperous Negro farmer
in the county. It is a joy to meet him,--a great broad-shoul-
dered, handsome black man, intelligent and jovial. Six hun-
dred and fifty acres he owns, and has eleven black tenants. A
neat and tidy home nestled in a flower-garden, and a little
store stands beside it.

We pass the Munson place, where a plucky white widow is
renting and struggling; and the eleven hundred acres of the
Sennet plantation, with its Negro overseer. Then the character
of the farms begins to change. Nearly all the lands belong to
Russian Jews; the overseers are white, and the cabins are bare
board-houses scattered here and there. The rents are high, and
day-laborers and "contract" hands abound. It is a keen, hard
struggle for living here, and few have time to talk. Tired with
the long ride, we gladly drive into Gillonsville. It is a silent
cluster of farmhouses standing on the crossroads, with one of
its stores closed and the other kept by a Negro preacher. They
tell great tales of busy times at Gillonsville before all the
railroads came to Albany; now it is chiefly a memory. Riding
down the street, we stop at the preacher's and seat ourselves
before the door. It was one of those scenes one cannot soon
forget:--a wide, low, little house, whose motherly roof reached
over and sheltered a snug little porch. There we sat, after the
long hot drive, drinking cool water,--the talkative little store-
keeper who is my daily companion; the silent old black
woman patching pantaloons and saying never a word; the
ragged picture of helpless misfortune who called in just to see
the preacher; and finally the neat matronly preacher's wife,
plump, yellow, and intelligent. "Own land?" said the wife;
"well, only this house." Then she added quietly. "We did
buy seven hundred acres across up yonder, and paid for it;
but they cheated us out of it. Sells was the owner." "Sells!"
echoed the ragged misfortune, who was leaning against the
balustrade and listening, "he's a regular cheat. I worked for
him thirty-seven days this spring, and he paid me in card-
board checks which were to be cashed at the end of the
month. But he never cashed them,--kept putting me off.
Then the sheriff came and took my mule and corn and furni-
ture--" "Furniture? But furniture is exempt from seizure by
law." "Well, he took it just the same," said the hard-faced


Of the Quest of the Golden Fleece

But the Brute said in his breast, "Till the mills I grind have ceased,
The riches shall be dust of dust, dry ashes be the feast!

"On the strong and cunning few

Cynic favors I will strew;
I will stuff their maw with overplus until their spirit dies;

From the patient and the low

I will take the joys they know;
They shall hunger after vanities and still an-hungered go.
Madness shall be on the people, ghastly jealousies arise;
Brother's blood shall cry on brother up the dead and empty skies.


Have you ever seen a cotton-field white with harvest,--its
golden fleece hovering above the black earth like a silvery
cloud edged with dark green, its bold white signals waving
like the foam of billows from Carolina to Texas across that
Black and human Sea? I have sometimes half suspected that
here the winged ram Chrysomallus left that Fleece after which
Jason and his Argonauts went vaguely wandering into the
shadowy East three thousand years ago; and certainly one
might frame a pretty and not far-fetched analogy of witchery
and dragons' teeth, and blood and armed men, between the
ancient and the modern quest of the Golden Fleece in the
Black Sea.

And now the golden fleece is found; not only found, but,
in its birthplace, woven. For the hum of the cotton-mills is
the newest and most significant thing in the New South
to-day. All through the Carolinas and Georgia, away down to
Mexico, rise these gaunt red buildings, bare and homely, and
yet so busy and noisy withal that they scarce seem to belong
to the slow and sleepy land. Perhaps they sprang from drag-
ons' teeth. So the Cotton Kingdom still lives; the world still
bows beneath her sceptre. Even the markets that once defied
the parvenu have crept one by one across the seas, and then
slowly and reluctantly, but surely, have started toward the
Black Belt.

To be sure, there are those who wag their heads knowingly
and tell us that the capital of the Cotton Kingdom has moved
from the Black to the White Belt,--that the Negro of to-day
raises not more than half of the cotton crop. Such men forget
that the cotton crop has doubled, and more than doubled,
since the era of slavery, and that, even granting their con-
tention, the Negro is still supreme in a Cotton Kingdom
larger than that on which the Confederacy builded its hopes.
So the Negro forms to-day one of the chief figures in a great
world-industry; and this, for its own sake, and in the light of
historic interest, makes the field-hands of the cotton country
worth studying.

We seldom study the condition of the Negro to-day hon-
estly and carefully. It is so much easier to assume that we
know it all. Or perhaps, having already reached conclusions
in our own minds, we are loth to have them disturbed by
facts. And yet how little we really know of these millions,--of
their daily lives and longings, of their homely joys and
sorrows, of their real shortcomings and the meaning of their
crimes! All this we can only learn by intimate contact with the
masses, and not by wholesale arguments covering millions
separate in time and space, and differing widely in training
and culture. To-day, then, my reader, let us turn our faces to
the Black Belt of Georgia and seek simply to know the
condition of the black farm-laborers of one county there.

Here in 1890 lived ten thousand Negroes and two thousand
whites. The country is rich, yet the people are poor. The
keynote of the Black Belt is debt; not commercial credit, but
debt in the sense of continued inability on the part of the
mass of the population to make income cover expense. This
is the direct heritage of the South from the wasteful econo-
mies of the slave regime; but it was emphasized and brought
to a crisis by the Emancipation of the slaves. In 1860,
Dougherty County had six thousand slaves, worth at least two
and a half millions of dollars; its farms were estimated at
three millions,--making five and a half millions of property,
the value of which depended largely on the slave system, and
on the speculative demand for land once marvellously rich but
already partially devitalized by careless and exhaustive cul-
ture. The war then meant a financial crash; in place of the
five and a half millions of 1860, there remained in 1870 only
farms valued at less than two millions. With this came in-
creased competition in cotton culture from the rich lands of
Texas; a steady fall in the normal price of cotton followed,
from about fourteen cents a pound in 1860 until it reached
four cents in 1898. Such a financial revolution was it that
involved the owners of the cotton-belt in debt. And if things
went ill with the master, how fared it with the man?

The plantations of Dougherty County in slavery days were
not as imposing and aristocratic as those of Virginia. The Big
House was smaller and usually one-storied, and sat very near
the slave cabins. Sometimes these cabins stretched off on
either side like wings; sometimes only on one side, forming a
double row, or edging the road that turned into the plantation
from the main thoroughfare. The form and disposition of the
laborers' cabins throughout the Black Belt is to-day the same
as in slavery days. Some live in the self-same cabins, others
in cabins rebuilt on the sites of the old. All are sprinkled in
little groups over the face of the land, centering about some
dilapidated Big House where the head-tenant or agent lives.
The general character and arrangement of these dwellings
remains on the whole unaltered. There were in the county,
outside the corporate town of Albany, about fifteen hundred
Negro families in 1898. Out of all these, only a single family

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