“THE VALE OF TEARS,” 1890-1910
1. Current Opinion and Tendencies
In the two decades that we are now to consider we find the working out of all the large forces mentioned in our last chapter. After a generation of striving the white South was once more thoroughly in control, and the new program well under way. Predictions for both a broader outlook for the section as a whole and greater care for the Negro’s moral and intellectual advancement were destined not to be fulfilled; and the period became one of bitter social and economic antagonism.
All of this was primarily due to the one great fallacy on which the prosperity of the New South was built, and that was that the labor of the Negro existed only for the good of the white man. To this one source may be traced most of the ills borne by both white man and Negro during the period. If the Negro’s labor was to be exploited, it was necessary that he be without the protection of political power and that he be denied justice in court. If he was to be reduced to a peon, certainly socially he must be given a peon’s place. Accordingly there developed everywhere—in schools, in places of public accommodation, in the facilities of city life—the idea of inferior service for Negroes; and an unenlightened prison system flourished in all its hideousness. Furthermore, as a result of the vicious economic system, arose the sinister form of the Negro criminal. Here again the South begged the question, representative writers lamenting the passing of the dear dead days of slavery, and pointing cynically to the effects of freedom on the Negro. They failed to remember in the case of the Negro criminal that from childhood