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The Wife of his Youth and Other Stories of the Color Line, and by Charles Waddell Chesnutt

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favor of the whites; they are not _rights_. The whites have so declared;
they proclaim that the country is theirs, that the Negro should be
thankful that he has so much, when so much more might be withheld from
him. He stands upon a lower footing than any alien; he has no government
to which he may look for protection.

Moreover, the white South sends to Congress, on a basis including the
Negro population, a delegation nearly twice as large as it is justly
entitled to, and one which may always safely be relied upon to oppose in
Congress every measure which seeks to protect the equality, or to
enlarge the rights of colored citizens. The grossness of this injustice
is all the more apparent since the Supreme Court, in the Alabama case
referred to, has declared the legislative and political department of
the government to be the only power which can right a political wrong.
Under this decision still further attacks upon the liberties of the
citizen may be confidently expected. Armed with the Negro's sole weapon
of defense, the white South stands ready to smite down his rights. The
ballot was first given to the Negro to defend him against this very
thing. He needs it now far more than then, and for even stronger
reasons. The 9,000,000 free colored people of to day have vastly more to
defend than the 3,000,000 hapless blacks who had just emerged from
slavery. If there be those who maintain that it was a mistake to give
the Negro the ballot at the time and in the manner in which it was
given, let them take to heart this reflection: that to deprive him of it
to-day, or to so restrict it as to leave him utterly defenseless against
the present relentless attitude of the South toward his rights, will
prove to be a mistake so much greater than the first, as to be no less
than a crime, from which not alone the Southern Negro must suffer, but
for which the nation will as surely pay the penalty as it paid for the
crime of slavery. Contempt for law is death to a republic, and this one
has developed alarming symptoms of the disease.

And now, having thus robbed the Negro of every political and civil
_right_, the white South, in palliation of its course, makes a great
show of magnanimity in leaving him, as the sole remnant of what he
acquired through the Civil War, a very inadequate public school
education, which, by the present program, is to be directed mainly
towards making him a better agricultural laborer. Even this is put
forward as a favor, although the Negro's property is taxed to pay for
it, and his labor as well. For it is a well settled principle of
political economy, that land and machinery of themselves produce
nothing, and that labor indirectly pays its fair proportion of the tax
upon the public's wealth. The white South seems to stand to the Negro at
present as one, who, having been reluctantly compelled to release
another from bondage, sees him stumbling forward and upward, neglected
by his friends and scarcely yet conscious of his own strength; seizes
him, binds him, and having bereft him of speech, of sight and of
manhood, "yokes him with the mule" and exclaims, with a show of virtue
which ought to deceive no one: "Behold how good a friend I am of yours!
Have I not left you a stomach and a pair of arms, and will I not
generously permit you to work for me with the one, that you may thereby
gain enough to fill the other? A brain you do not need. We will relieve
you of any responsibility that might seem to demand such an organ."

The argument of peace-loving Northern white men and Negro opportunists
that the political power of the Negro having long ago been suppressed by
unlawful means, his right to vote is a mere paper right, of no real
value, and therefore to be lightly yielded for the sake of a
hypothetical harmony, is fatally short-sighted. It is precisely the
attitude and essentially the argument which would have surrendered to
the South in the sixties, and would have left this country to rot in
slavery for another generation. White men do not thus argue concerning
their own rights. They know too well the value of ideals. Southern white
men see too clearly the latent power of these unexercised rights. If the
political power of the Negro was a nullity because of his ignorance and
lack of leadership, why were they not content to leave it so, with the
pleasing assurance that if it ever became effective, it would be because
the Negroes had grown fit for its exercise? On the contrary, they have
not rested until the possibility of its revival was apparently headed
off by new State constitutions. Nor are they satisfied with this. There
is no doubt that an effort will be made to secure the repeal of the
Fifteenth Amendment, and thus forestall the development of the wealthy
and educated Negro, whom the South seems to anticipate as a greater
menace than the ignorant ex-slave. However improbable this repeal may
seem, it is not a subject to be lightly dismissed; for it is within the
power of the white people of the nation to do whatever they wish in the
premises--they did it once; they can do it again. The Negro and his
friends should see to it that the white majority shall never wish to do
anything to his hurt. There still stands, before the Negro-hating whites
of the South, the specter of a Supreme Court which will interpret the
Constitution to mean what it says, and what those who enacted it meant,
and what the nation, which ratified it, understood, and which will find
power, in a nation which goes beyond seas to administer the affairs of
distant peoples, to enforce its own fundamental laws; the specter, too,
of an aroused public opinion which will compel Congress and the Courts
to preserve the liberties of the Republic, which are the liberties of
the people. To wilfully neglect the suffrage, to hold it lightly, is to
tamper with a sacred right; to yield it for anything else whatever is
simply suicidal. Dropping the element of race, disfranchisement is no
more than to say to the poor and poorly taught, that they must
relinquish the right to defend themselves against oppression until they
shall have become rich and learned, in competition with those already
thus favored and possessing the ballot in addition. This is not the
philosophy of history. The growth of liberty has been the constant
struggle of the poor against the privileged classes; and the goal of
that struggle has ever been the equality of all men before the law. The
Negro who would yield this right, deserves to be a slave; he has the
servile spirit. The rich and the educated can, by virtue of their
influence, command many votes; can find other means of protection; the
poor man has but one, he should guard it as a sacred treasure. Long ago,
by fair treatment, the white leaders of the South might have bound the
Negro to themselves with hoops of steel. They have not chosen to take
this course, but by assuming from the beginning an attitude hostile to
his rights, have never gained his confidence, and now seek by foul means
to destroy where they have never sought by fair means to control.

I have spoken of the effect of disfranchisement upon the colored race;
it is to the race as a whole, that the argument of the problem is
generally directed. But the unit of society in a republic is the
individual, and not the race, the failure to recognize this fact being
the fundamental error which has beclouded the whole discussion. The
effect of disfranchisement upon the individual is scarcely less
disastrous. I do not speak of the moral effect of injustice upon those
who suffer from it; I refer rather to the practical consequences which
may be appreciated by any mind. No country is free in which the way
upward is not open for every man to try, and for every properly
qualified man to attain whatever of good the community life may offer.
Such a condition does not exist, at the South, even in theory, for any
man of color. In no career can such a man compete with white men upon
equal terms. He must not only meet the prejudice of the individual, not
only the united prejudice of the white community; but lest some one
should wish to treat him fairly, he is met at every turn with some legal
prohibition which says, "Thou shalt not," or "Thus far shalt thou go and
no farther." But the Negro race is viable; it adapts itself readily to
circumstances; and being thus adaptable, there is always the temptation

"Crook the pregnant hinges of the knee,
Where thrift may follow fawning."

He who can most skillfully balance himself upon the advancing or
receding wave of white opinion concerning his race, is surest of such
measure of prosperity as is permitted to men of dark skins. There are
Negro teachers in the South--the privilege of teaching in their own
schools is the one respectable branch of the public service still left
open to them--who, for a grudging appropriation from a Southern
legislature, will decry their own race, approve their own degradation,
and laud their oppressors. Deprived of the right to vote, and,
therefore, of any power to demand what is their due, they feel impelled
to buy the tolerance of the whites at any sacrifice. If to live is the
first duty of man, as perhaps it is the first instinct, then those who
thus stoop to conquer may be right. But is it needful to stoop so low,
and if so, where lies the ultimate responsibility for this abasement?

I shall say nothing about the moral effect of disfranchisement upon the
white people, or upon the State itself. What slavery made of the
Southern whites is a matter of history. The abolition of slavery gave
the South an opportunity to emerge from barbarism. Present conditions
indicate that the spirit which dominated slavery still curses the fair
section over which that institution spread its blight.

And now, is the situation remediless? If not so, where lies the remedy?
First let us take up those remedies suggested by the men who approve of
disfranchisement, though they may sometimes deplore the method, or
regret the necessity.

Time, we are told, heals all diseases, rights all wrongs, and is the
only cure for this one. It is a cowardly argument. These people are
entitled to their rights to-day, while they are yet alive to enjoy them;
and it is poor statesmanship and worse morals to nurse a present evil
and thrust it forward upon a future generation for correction. The
nation can no more honestly do this than it could thrust back upon a
past generation the responsibility for slavery. It had to meet that
responsibility; it ought to meet this one.

Education has been put forward as the great corrective--preferably
industrial education. The intellect of the whites is to be educated to
the point where they will so appreciate the blessings of liberty and
equality, as of their own motion to enlarge and defend the Negro's
rights. The Negroes, on the other hand, are to be so trained as to make
them, not equal with the whites in any way--God save the mark!--this
would be unthinkable!--but so useful to the community that the whites
will protect them rather than lose their valuable services. Some few
enthusiasts go so far as to maintain that by virtue of education the
Negro will, in time, become strong enough to protect himself against any
aggression of the whites; this, it may be said, is a strictly Northern

It is not quite clearly apparent how education alone, in the ordinary
meaning of the word, is to solve, in any appreciable time, the problem
of the relations of Southern white and black people. The need of
education of all kinds for both races is wofully apparent. But men and
nations have been free without being learned, and there have been
educated slaves. Liberty has been known to languish where culture had
reached a very high development. Nations do not first become rich and
learned and then free, but the lesson of history has been that they
first become free and then rich and learned, and oftentimes fall back
into slavery again because of too great wealth, and the resulting luxury
and carelessness of civic virtues. The process of education has been
going on rapidly in the Southern States since the Civil War, and yet, if
we take superficial indications, the rights of the Negroes are at a
lower ebb than at any time during the thirty-five years of their
freedom, and the race prejudice more intense and uncompromising. It is
not apparent that educated Southerners are less rancorous than others in
their speech concerning the Negro, or less hostile in their attitude
toward his rights. It is their voice alone that we have heard in this
discussion; and if, as they state, they are liberal in their views as
compared with the more ignorant whites, then God save the Negro!

I was told, in so many words, two years ago, by the Superintendent of
Public Schools of a Southern city that "there was no place in the modern
world for the Negro, except under the ground." If gentlemen holding such
opinions are to instruct the white youth of the South, would it be at
all surprising if these, later on, should devote a portion of their
leisure to the improvement of civilization by putting under the ground
as many of this superfluous race as possible?

The sole excuse made in the South for the prevalent injustice to the
Negro is the difference in race, and the inequalities and antipathies
resulting therefrom. It has nowhere been declared as a part of the
Southern program that the Negro, when educated, is to be given a fair
representation in government or an equal opportunity in life; the
contrary has been strenuously asserted; education can never make of him
anything but a Negro, and, therefore, essentially inferior, and not to
be safely trusted with any degree of power. A system of education which
would tend to soften the asperities and lessen the inequalities between
the races would be of inestimable value. An education which by a rigid
separation of the races from the kindergarten to the university, fosters
this racial antipathy, and is directed toward emphasizing the
superiority of one class and the inferiority of another, might easily
have disastrous, rather than beneficial results. It would render the
oppressing class more powerful to injure, the oppressed quicker to
perceive and keener to resent the injury, without proportionate power of
defense. The same assimilative education which is given at the North to
all children alike, whereby native and foreign, black and white, are
taught side by side in every grade of instruction, and are compelled by
the exigencies of discipline to keep their prejudices in abeyance, and
are given the opportunity to learn and appreciate one another's good
qualities, and to establish friendly relations which may exist
throughout life, is absent from the Southern system of education, both
of the past and as proposed for the future. Education is in a broad
sense a remedy for all social ills; but the disease we have to deal with
now is not only constitutional but acute. A wise physician does not
simply give a tonic for a diseased limb, or a high fever; the patient
might be dead before the constitutional remedy could become effective.
The evils of slavery, its injury to whites and blacks, and to the body
politic, were clearly perceived and acknowledged by the educated leaders
of the South as far back as the Revolutionary War and the Constitutional
Convention, and yet they made no effort to abolish it. Their remedy was
the same--time, education, social and economic development;--and yet a
bloody war was necessary to destroy slavery and put its spirit
temporarily to sleep. When the South and its friends are ready to
propose a system of education which will recognize and teach the
equality of all men before the law, the potency of education alone to
settle the race problem will be more clearly apparent.

At present even good Northern men, who wish to educate the Negroes, feel
impelled to buy this privilege from the none too eager white South, by
conceding away the civil and political rights of those whom they would
benefit. They have, indeed, gone farther than the Southerners themselves
in approving the disfranchisement of the colored race. Most Southern
men, now that they have carried their point and disfranchised the Negro,
are willing to admit, in the language of a recent number of the
Charleston _Evening Post_, that "the attitude of the Southern white man
toward the Negro is incompatible with the fundamental ideas of the
republic." It remained for our Clevelands and Abbotts and Parkhursts to
assure them that their unlawful course was right and justifiable, and
for the most distinguished Negro leader to declare that "every revised
Constitution throughout the Southern States has put a premium upon
intelligence, ownership of property, thrift and character." So does
every penitentiary sentence put a premium upon good conduct; but it is
poor consolation to the one unjustly condemned, to be told that he may
shorten his sentence somewhat by good behavior. Dr. Booker T.
Washington, whose language is quoted above, has, by his eminent services
in the cause of education, won deserved renown. If he has seemed, at
times, to those jealous of the best things for their race, to decry the
higher education, it can easily be borne in mind that his career is
bound up in the success of an industrial school; hence any undue stress
which he may put upon that branch of education may safely be ascribed to
the natural zeal of the promoter, without detracting in any degree from
the essential value of his teachings in favor of manual training, thrift
and character-building. But Mr. Washington's prominence as an
educational leader, among a race whose prominent leaders are so few, has
at times forced him, perhaps reluctantly, to express himself in regard
to the political condition of his people, and here his utterances have
not always been so wise nor so happy. He has declared himself in favor
of a restricted suffrage, which at present means, for his own people,
nothing less than complete loss of representation--indeed it is only in
that connection that the question has been seriously mooted; and he has
advised them to go slow in seeking to enforce their civil and political
rights, which, in effect, means silent submission to injustice. Southern
white men may applaud this advice as wise, because it fits in with their
purposes; but Senator McEnery of Louisiana, in a recent article in the
_Independent_, voices the Southern white opinion of such acquiescence
when he says: "What other race would have submitted so many years to
slavery without complaint? _What other race would have submitted so
quietly to disfranchisement?_ These facts stamp his [the Negro's]
inferiority to the white race." The time to philosophize about the good
there is in evil, is not while its correction is still possible, but, if
at all, after all hope of correction is past. Until then it calls for
nothing but rigorous condemnation. To try to read any good thing into
these fraudulent Southern constitutions, or to accept them as an
accomplished fact, is to condone a crime against one's race. Those who
commit crime should bear the odium. It is not a pleasing spectacle to
see the robbed applaud the robber. Silence were better.

It has become fashionable to question the wisdom of the Fifteenth
Amendment. I believe it to have been an act of the highest
statesmanship, based upon the fundamental idea of this Republic,
entirely justified by conditions; experimental in its nature, perhaps,
as every new thing must be, but just in principle; a choice between
methods, of which it seemed to the great statesmen of that epoch the
wisest and the best, and essentially the most just, bearing in mind the
interests of the freedmen and the Nation, as well as the feelings of the
Southern whites; never fairly tried, and therefore, not yet to be justly
condemned. Not one of those who condemn it, has been able, even in the
light of subsequent events, to suggest a better method by which the
liberty and civil rights of the freedmen and their descendants could
have been protected. Its abandonment, as I have shown, leaves this
liberty and these rights frankly without any guaranteed protection. All
the education which philanthropy or the State could offer as a
_substitute_ for equality of rights, would be a poor exchange; there is
no defensible reason why they should not go hand in hand, each
encouraging and strengthening the other. The education which one can
demand as a right is likely to do more good than the education for which
one must sue as a favor.

The chief argument against Negro suffrage, the insistently proclaimed
argument, worn threadbare in Congress, on the platform, in the pulpit,
in the press, in poetry, in fiction, in impassioned rhetoric, is the
reconstruction period. And yet the evils of that period were due far
more to the venality and indifference of white men than to the
incapacity of black voters. The revised Southern constitutions adopted
under reconstruction reveal a higher statesmanship than any which
preceded or have followed them, and prove that the freed voters could as
easily have been led into the paths of civic righteousness as into those
of misgovernment. Certain it is that under reconstruction the civil and
political rights of all men were more secure in those States than they
have ever been since. We will hear less of the evils of reconstruction,
now that the bugaboo has served its purpose by disfranchising the Negro.
It will be laid aside for a time while the nation discusses the
political corruption of great cities; the scandalous conditions in Rhode
Island; the evils attending reconstruction in the Philippines, and the
scandals in the postoffice department--for none of which, by the way, is
the Negro charged with any responsibility, and for none of which is the
restriction of the suffrage a remedy seriously proposed. Rhode Island is
indeed the only Northern State which has a property qualification for
the franchise!

There are three tribunals to which the colored people may justly appeal
for the protection of their rights: the United States Courts, Congress
and public opinion. At present all three seem mainly indifferent to any
question of human rights under the Constitution. Indeed, Congress and
the Courts merely follow public opinion, seldom lead it. Congress never
enacts a measure which is believed to oppose public opinion;--your
Congressman keeps his ear to the ground. The high, serene atmosphere of
the Courts is not impervious to its voice; they rarely enforce a law
contrary to public opinion, even the Supreme Court being able, as
Charles Sumner once put it, to find a reason for every decision it may
wish to render; or, as experience has shown, a method to evade any
question which it cannot decently decide in accordance with public
opinion. The art of straddling is not confined to the political arena.
The Southern situation has been well described by a colored editor in
Richmond: "When we seek relief at the hands of Congress, we are informed
that our plea involves a legal question, and we are referred to the
Courts. When we appeal to the Courts, we are gravely told that the
question is a political one, and that we must go to Congress. When
Congress enacts remedial legislation, our enemies take it to the Supreme
Court, which promptly declares it unconstitutional." The Negro might
chase his rights round and round this circle until the end of time,
without finding any relief.

Yet the Constitution is clear and unequivocal in its terms, and no
Supreme Court can indefinitely continue to construe it as meaning
anything but what it says. This Court should be bombarded with suits
until it makes some definite pronouncement, one way or the other, on the
broad question of the constitutionality of the disfranchising
Constitutions of the Southern States. The Negro and his friends will
then have a clean-cut issue to take to the forum of public opinion, and
a distinct ground upon which to demand legislation for the enforcement
of the Federal Constitution. The case from Alabama was carried to the
Supreme Court expressly to determine the constitutionality of the
Alabama Constitution. The Court declared itself without jurisdiction,
and in the same breath went into the merits of the case far enough to
deny relief, without passing upon the real issue. Had it said, as it
might with absolute justice and perfect propriety, that the Alabama
Constitution is a bold and impudent violation of the Fifteenth
Amendment, the purpose of the lawsuit would have been accomplished and a
righteous cause vastly strengthened. But public opinion cannot remain
permanently indifferent to so vital a question. The agitation is already
on. It is at present largely academic, but is slowly and resistlessly,
forcing itself into politics, which is the medium through which
republics settle such questions. It cannot much longer be contemptuously
or indifferently elbowed aside. The South itself seems bent upon forcing
the question to an issue, as, by its arrogant assumptions, it brought on
the Civil War. From that section, too, there come now and then, side by
side with tales of Southern outrage, excusing voices, which at the same
time are accusing voices; which admit that the white South is dealing
with the Negro unjustly and unwisely; that the Golden Rule has been
forgotten; that the interests of white men alone have been taken into
account, and that their true interests as well are being sacrificed.
There is a silent white South, uneasy in conscience, darkened in
counsel, groping for the light, and willing to do the right. They are as
yet a feeble folk, their voices scarcely audible above the clamor of the
mob. May their convictions ripen into wisdom, and may their numbers and
their courage increase! If the class of Southern white men of whom Judge
Jones of Alabama, is so noble a representative, are supported and
encouraged by a righteous public opinion at the North, they may, in
time, become the dominant white South, and we may then look for wisdom
and justice in the place where, so far as the Negro is concerned, they
now seem well-nigh strangers. But even these gentlemen will do well to
bear in mind that so long as they discriminate in any way against the
Negro's equality of right, so long do they set class against class and
open the door to every sort of discrimination, there can be no middle
ground between justice and injustice, between the citizen and the serf.

It is not likely that the North, upon the sober second thought, will
permit the dearly-bought results of the Civil War to be nullified by any
change in the Constitution. So long as the Fifteenth Amendment stands,
the _rights_ of colored citizens are ultimately secure. There were
would-be despots in England after the granting of Magna Charta; but it
outlived them all, and the liberties of the English people are secure.
There was slavery in this land after the Declaration of Independence,
yet the faces of those who love liberty have ever turned to that
immortal document. So will the Constitution and its principles outlive
the prejudices which would seek to overthrow it.

What colored men of the South can do to secure their citizenship to-day,
or in the immediate future, is not very clear. Their utterances on
political questions, unless they be to concede away the political rights
of their race, or to soothe the consciences of white men by suggesting
that the problem is insoluble except by some slow remedial process which
will become effectual only in the distant future, are received with
scant respect--could scarcely, indeed, be otherwise received, without a
voting constituency to back them up,--and must be cautiously made, lest
they meet an actively hostile reception. But there are many colored men
at the North, where their civil and political rights in the main are
respected. There every honest man has a vote, which he may freely cast,
and which is reasonably sure to be fairly counted. When this race
develops a sufficient power of combination, under adequate
leadership,--and there are signs already that this time is near at
hand,--the Northern vote can be wielded irresistibly for the defense of
the rights of their Southern brethren.

In the meantime the Northern colored men have the right of free speech,
and they should never cease to demand their rights, to clamor for them,
to guard them jealously, and insistently to invoke law and public
sentiment to maintain them. He who would be free must learn to protect
his freedom.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. He who would be respected
must respect himself. The best friend of the Negro is he who would
rather see, within the borders of this republic one million free
citizens of that race, equal before the law, than ten million cringing
serfs existing by a contemptuous sufferance. A race that is willing to
survive upon any other terms is scarcely worthy of consideration.

The direct remedy for the disfranchisement of the Negro lies through
political action. One scarcely sees the philosophy of distinguishing
between a civil and a political right. But the Supreme Court has
recognized this distinction and has designated Congress as the power to
right a political wrong. The Fifteenth Amendment gives Congress power to
enforce its provisions. The power would seem to be inherent in
government itself; but anticipating that the enforcement of the
Amendment might involve difficulty, they made the supererogatory
declaration. Moreover, they went further, and passed laws by which they
provided for such enforcement. These the Supreme Court has so far
declared insufficient. It is for Congress to make more laws. It is for
colored men and for white men who are not content to see the
blood-bought results of the Civil War nullified, to urge and direct
public opinion to the point where it will demand stringent legislation
to enforce the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. This demand will
rest in law, in morals and in true statesmanship; no difficulties
attending it could be worse than the present ignoble attitude of the
Nation toward its own laws and its own ideals--without courage to
enforce them, without conscience to change them, the United States
presents the spectacle of a Nation drifting aimlessly, so far as this
vital, National problem is concerned, upon the sea of irresolution,
toward the maelstrom of anarchy.

The right of Congress, under the Fourteenth Amendment, to reduce
Southern representation can hardly be disputed. But Congress has a
simpler and more direct method to accomplish the same end. It is the
sole judge of the qualifications of its own members, and the sole
judge of whether any member presenting his credentials has met those
qualifications. It can refuse to seat any member who comes from a
district where voters have been disfranchised; it can judge for itself
whether this has been done, and there is no appeal from its decision.

If, when it has passed a law, any Court shall refuse to obey its
behests, it can impeach the judges. If any president refuse to lend the
executive arm of the government to the enforcement of the law, it can
impeach the president. No such extreme measures are likely to be
necessary for the enforcement of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth
Amendments--and the Thirteenth, which is also threatened--but they are
mentioned as showing that Congress is supreme; and Congress proceeds,
the House directly, the Senate indirectly, from the people and is
governed by public opinion. If the reduction of Southern representation
were to be regarded in the light of a bargain by which the Fifteenth
Amendment was surrendered, then it might prove fatal to liberty. If it
be inflicted as a punishment and a warning, to be followed by more
drastic measures if not sufficient, it would serve a useful purpose. The
Fifteenth Amendment declares that the right to vote _shall not_ be
denied or abridged on account of color; and any measure adopted by
Congress should look to that end. Only as the power to injure the Negro
in Congress is reduced thereby, would a reduction of representation
protect the Negro; without other measures it would still leave him in
the hands of the Southern whites, who could safely be trusted to make
him pay for their humiliation.

Finally, there is, somewhere in the Universe a "Power that works for
righteousness," and that leads men to do justice to one another. To this
power, working upon the hearts and consciences of men, the Negro can
always appeal. He has the right upon his side, and in the end the right
will prevail. The Negro will, in time, attain to full manhood and
citizenship throughout the United States. No better guaranty of this is
needed than a comparison of his present with his past. Toward this he
must do his part, as lies within his power and his opportunity. But it
will be, after all, largely a white man's conflict, fought out in the
forum of the public conscience. The Negro, though eager enough when
opportunity offered, had comparatively little to do with the abolition
of slavery, which was a vastly more formidable task than will be the
enforcement of the Fifteenth Amendment.

_The Negro Problem_, 1903

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