A Social History of the American Negro
Then, beginning in January, , the Voice of the Negro , a magazine published in Atlanta for three years, definitely helped toward the cultivation of racial ideals. Publication of the periodical became irregular after the Atlanta Massacre, and it finally expired in Some of the articles dealt with older and more philosophical themes, but there were also bright and illuminating studies in education and other social topics, as well as a strong stand on political issues.
The Colored American , published in Boston just a few years before the Voice began to appear, also did inspiring work. Various local or state organizations, moreover, from time to time showed the virtue of cooeperation; thus the Georgia Equal Rights Convention, assembled in Macon in February, , at the call of William J.
White, the veteran editor of the Georgia Baptist , brought together representative men from all over the state and considered such topics as the unequal division of school taxes, the deprivation of the jury rights of Negroes, the peonage system, and the penal system. In twenty-nine men of the race launched what was known as the Niagara Movement.
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The aims of this organization were freedom of speech and criticism, an unlettered and unsubsidized press, manhood suffrage, the abolition of all caste distinctions based simply on race and color, the recognition of the principle of human brotherhood as a practical present creed, the recognition of the highest and best training as the monopoly of no class or race, a belief in the dignity of labor, and united effort to realize these ideals under wise and courageous leadership.
The time was not yet quite propitious, and the Niagara Movement as such died after three or four years. Its principles lived on, however, and it greatly helped toward the formation of a stronger and more permanent organization. In Moorfield Storey, a distinguished lawyer of Boston, became national president, and W.
Burghardt DuBois director of publicity and research, and editor of the Crisis , which periodical began publication in November of this year. The organization was successful from the first, and local branches were formed all over the country, some years elapsing, however, before the South was penetrated.
Said the Director: "Of two things we Negroes have dreamed for many years: An organization so effective and so powerful that when discrimination and injustice touched one Negro, it would touch 12,, We have not got this yet, but we have taken a great step toward it. We have dreamed, too, of an organization that would work ceaselessly to make Americans know that the so-called 'Negro problem' is simply one phase of the vaster problem of democracy in America, and that those who wish freedom and justice for their country must wish it for every black citizen.
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This is the great and insistent message of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Of special interest along the line of economic betterment has been the National League on Urban Conditions among Negroes, now known as the National Urban League, which also has numerous branches with headquarters in New York and through whose offices thousands of Negroes have been placed in honorable employment.
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The National Urban League was also formally organized in ; it represented a merging of the different agencies working in New York City in behalf of the social betterment of the Negro population, especially of the National League for the Protection of Colored Women and of the Committee for Improving the Industrial Conditions among Negroes in New York, both of which agencies had been organized in As we shall see, the work of the League was to be greatly expanded within the next decade by the conditions brought about by the war; and under the direction of the executive secretary, Eugene Kinckle Jones, with the assistance of alert and patriotic officers, its work was to prove one of genuinely national service.
Interesting also was a new concern on the part of the young Southern college man about the problems at his door. Within just a few years after the close of the period now considered, Phelps-Stokes fellowships for the study of problems relating to the Negro were founded at the Universities of Virginia and Georgia; it was expected that similar fellowships would be founded in other institutions; and there was interest in the annual meetings of the Southern Sociological Congress and the University Commission on Southern Race Questions.
Thus from one direction and another at length broke upon a "vale of tears" a new day of effort and of hope. For the real contest the forces were gathering. The next decade was to be one of unending bitterness and violence, but also one in which the Negro was to rise as never before to the dignity of self-reliant and courageous manhood. Character of the Period The decade , momentous in the history of the world, in the history of the Negro race in America must finally be regarded as the period of a great spiritual uprising against the proscription, the defamation, and the violence of the preceding twenty years.
As never before the Negro began to realize that the ultimate burden of his salvation rested upon himself, and he learned to respect and to depend upon himself accordingly. The decade naturally divides into two parts, that before and that after the beginning of the Great War in Europe. Even in the earlier years, however, the tendencies that later were dominant were beginning to be manifest. The greater part of the ten years was consumed by the two administrations of President Woodrow Wilson; and not only did the National Government in the course of these administrations discriminate openly against persons of Negro descent in the Federal service and fail to protect those who happened to live in the capital, but its policy also gave encouragement to outrage in places technically said to be beyond its jurisdiction.
A great war was to give new occasion and new opportunity for discrimination, defamatory propaganda was to be circulated on a scale undreamed of before, and the close of the war was to witness attempts for a new reign of terror in the South. Even beyond the bounds of continental America the race was now to suffer by reason of the national policy, and the little republic of Hayti to lift its bleeding hands to the calm judgment of the world.
Both a cause and a result of the struggle through which the race was now to pass was its astonishing progress.
The fiftieth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation—January 1, —called to mind as did nothing else the proscription and the mistakes, but also the successes and the hopes of the Negro people in America. Throughout the South disfranchisement seemed almost complete; and yet, after many attempts, the movement finally failed in Maryland in and in Arkansas in In , moreover, the disfranchising act of Oklahoma was declared unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court, and henceforth the Negro could feel that the highest legal authority was no longer on the side of those who sought to deprive him of all political voice.
Eleven years before, the Court had taken refuge in technicalities. The year was also marked by the appointment of the first Negro policeman in New York, by the election of the first Negro legislator in Pennsylvania, and by the appointment of a man of the race, William H. Banks, insurance companies, and commercial and industrial enterprises were constantly being capitalized; churches erected more and more stately edifices; and fraternal organizations constantly increased in membership and wealth.
Walker, on the simple business of toilet articles and hair preparations built up an enterprise of national scope and conducted in accordance with the principles regularly governing great American commercial organizations. Fifty years after emancipation, moreover, very nearly one-fourth of all the Negroes in the Southern states were living in homes that they themselves owned; thus , of 1,, houses occupied in these states were reported in as owned, and , were free of all encumbrance.
The percentage of illiteracy decreased from 70 in to Excellent high schools, such as those in St. Louis, Washington, Kansas City both cities of this name , Louisville, Baltimore, and other cities and towns in the border states and sometimes as far away as Texas, were setting a standard such as was in accord with the best in the country; and in one year, , young people of the race received the degree of bachelor of arts, while throughout the decade different ones received honors and took the highest graduate degrees at the foremost institutions of learning in the country.
Early in the decade the General Education Board began actively to assist in the work of the higher educational institutions, and an outstanding gift was that of half a million dollars to Fisk University in Meanwhile, through the National Urban League and hundreds of local clubs and welfare organizations, social betterment went forward, much impetus being given to the work by the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs organized in Along with its progress, throughout the decade the race had to meet increasing bitterness and opposition, and this was intensified by the motion picture, "The Birth of a Nation," built on lines similar to those of The Clansman.
Negro men standing high on civil service lists were sometimes set aside; in the white railway mail clerks of the South began an open campaign against Negroes in the service in direct violation of the rules; and a little later in the same year segregation in the different departments became notorious. In the American Bar Association raised the question of the color-line; and efforts for the restriction of Negroes to certain neighborhoods in different prominent cities sometimes resulted in violence, as in the dynamiting of the homes of Negroes in Kansas City, Missouri, in When the Progressive party was organized in the Negro was given to understand that his support was not sought, and in a strike of firemen on the Queen and Crescent Railroad was in its main outlines similar to the trouble on the Georgia Railroad two years before.
Meanwhile in the South the race received only 18 per cent of the total expenditures for education, although it constituted more than 30 per cent of the population. Worse than anything else, however, was the matter of lynching. In each year the total number of victims of illegal execution continued to number three- or fourscore; but no one could ever be sure that every instance had been recorded.
Between the opening of the decade and the time of the entrance of the United States into the war, five cases were attended by such unusual circumstances that the public could not soon forget them. At Coatesville, Pennsylvania, not far from Philadelphia, on August 12, , a Negro laborer, Zach Walker, while drunk, fatally shot a night watchman. He was pursued and attempted suicide. Wounded, he was brought to town and placed in the hospital. From this place he was taken chained to his cot, dragged for some miles, and then tortured and burned to death in the presence of a great crowd of people, including many women, and his bones and the links of the chain which bound him distributed as souvenirs.
At Monticello, Georgia, in January, , when a Negro family resisted an officer who was making an arrest, the father, Dan Barbour, his young son, and his two daughters were all hanged to a tree and their bodies riddled with bullets. Before the close of the year there was serious trouble in the southwestern portion of the state, and behind this lay all the evils of the system of peonage in the black belt. Driven to desperation by the mistreatment accorded them in the raising of cotton, the Negroes at last killed an overseer who had whipped a Negro boy.
A reign of terror was then instituted; churches, society halls, and homes were burnt, and several individuals shot. On December 30 there was a wholesale lynching of six Negroes in Early County. Less than three weeks afterwards a sheriff who attempted to arrest some more Negroes and who was accompanied by a mob was killed. Then January 20, five Negroes who had been taken from the jail in Worth County were rushed in automobiles into Lee County adjoining, and hanged and shot. On May 15, , at Waco, Texas, Jesse Washington, a sullen and overgrown boy of seventeen, who worked for a white farmer named Fryar at the town of Robinson, six miles away, and who one week before had criminally assaulted and killed Mrs.
Fryar, after unspeakable mutilation was burned in the heart of the town. A part of the torture consisted in stabbing with knives and the cutting off of the boy's fingers as he grabbed the chain by which he was bound. He had come to town to the store of W. Barksdale to sell a load of cotton-seed, and the two men had quarreled about the price, although no blow was struck on either side.
A little later, however, Crawford was arrested by a local policeman and a crowd of idlers from the public square rushed to give him a whipping for his "impudence. The mob then set upon him, nearly killed him, and at length threw him into the jail. A few hours later, fearing that the sheriff would secretly remove the prisoner, it returned, dragged the wounded man forth, and then hanged and shot him, after which proceedings warning was sent to his family to leave the county by the middle of the next month.
It will be observed that in these five noteworthy occurrences, in only one case was there any question of criminal assault. On the other hand, in one case two young women were included among the victims; another was really a series of lynchings emphasizing the lot of some Negroes under a vicious economic system; and the last simply grew out of the jealousy and hatred aroused by a Negro of independent means who knew how to stand up for his rights.
Such was the progress, such also the violence that the Negro witnessed during the decade. Along with his problems at home he now began to have a new interest in those of his kin across the sea, and this feeling was intensified by the world war. It raises questions of such far-reaching importance, however, that it must receive separate and distinct treatment. Migration; East St. Louis Very soon after the beginning of the Great War in Europe there began what will ultimately be known as the most remarkable migratory movement in the history of the Negro in America.
Migration had indeed at no time ceased since the great movement of , but for the most part it had been merely personal and not in response to any great emergency.