A Social History of the American Negro eBook

Benjamin Griffith Brawley
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 546 pages of information about A Social History of the American Negro.
and the common form of currency became paper notes, issued in denominations as low as one and two shillings.  These the natives have refused to accept.  They go even further:  rather than bring their produce to the towns and receive paper for it they will not come at all.  In Monrovia an effort was made to introduce the British West African paper currency, and while this failed, more and more the merchants insisted on being paid in silver, nor in an ordinary purchase would silver be given in change on an English ten-shilling note.  Prices accordingly became exorbitant; children were not properly nourished and the infant mortality grew to astonishing proportions.  Nor were conditions made better by the lack of sanitation and by the prevalence of disease.  Happily relief for these conditions—­for some of them at least—­seems to be in sight, and it is expected that before very long a hospital will be erected in Monrovia.

One or two reflections suggest themselves.  It has been said that the circumstances under which Liberia was founded led to a despising of industrial effort.  The country is now quite awake, however, to the advantages of industrial and agricultural enterprise.  A matter of supreme importance is that of the relation of the Americo-Liberian to the native; this will work itself out, for the native is the country’s chief asset for the future.  In general the Republic needs a few visible evidences of twentieth century standards of progress; two or three high schools and hospitals built on the American plan would work wonders.  Finally let it not be forgotten that upon the American Negro rests the obligation to do whatever he can to help to develop the country.  If he will but firmly clasp hands with his brother across the sea, a new day will dawn for American Negro and Liberian alike.



1. Current Tendencies

It is evident from what has been said already that the idea of the Negro current about 1830 in the United States was not very exalted.  It was seriously questioned if he was really a human being, and doctors of divinity learnedly expounded the “Cursed be Canaan” passage as applying to him.  A prominent physician of Mobile[1] gave it as his opinion that “the brain of the Negro, when compared with the Caucasian, is smaller by a tenth ... and the intellect is wanting in the same proportion,” and finally asserted that Negroes could not live in the North because “a cold climate so freezes their brains as to make them insane.”  About mulattoes, like many others, he stretched his imagination marvelously.  They were incapable of undergoing fatigue; the women were very delicate and subject to all sorts of diseases, and they did not beget children as readily as either black women or white women.  In fact, said Nott, between the ages of twenty-five and forty mulattoes died ten times as fast as either white or black people; between forty and fifty-five fifty times as fast, and between fifty-five and seventy one hundred times as fast.

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A Social History of the American Negro from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.