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.
factor in agriculture and industry; in large numbers he had to live, and will live, in Georgia and South Carolina, Mississippi and Texas; and there should have been some plane on which he could reside in the South not only serviceably but with justice to his self-respect.  The wealth of the New South, it is to be remembered, was won not only by the labor of black hands but also that of little white boys and girls.  As laborers and citizens, real or potential, both of these groups deserved the most earnest solicitude of the state, for it is not upon the riches of the few but the happiness of the many that a nation’s greatness depends.  Moreover no state can build permanently or surely by denying to a half or a third of those governed any voice whatever in the government.  If the Negro was ignorant, he was also economically defenseless; and it is neither just nor wise to deny to any man, however humble, any real power for his legal protection.  If these principles hold—­and we think they are in line with enlightened conceptions of society—­the prosperity of the New South was by no means as genuine as it appeared to be, and the disfranchisement of the Negro, morally and politically, was nothing less than a crime.

CHAPTER XV

“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

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