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The Negro eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 168 pages of information about The Negro.

2.  A mixture of these strains with the blood of white Americans through a system of concubinage of colored women in slavery days, together with some legal intermarriage.

The figures as to mulattoes[90] have been from time to time officially acknowledged to be understatements.  Probably one-third of the Negroes of the United States have distinct traces of white blood.  This blending of the races has led to interesting human types, but racial prejudice has hitherto prevented any scientific study of the matter.  In general the Negro population in the United States is brown in color, darkening to almost black and shading off in the other direction to yellow and white, and is indistinguishable in some cases from the white population.

Much has been written of the black man in America, but most of this has been from the point of view of the whites, so that we know of the effect of Negro slavery on the whites, the strife among the whites for and against abolition, and the consequent problem of the Negro so far as the white population is concerned.

This chapter, however, is dealing with the matter more from the point of view of the Negro group itself, and seeking to show what slavery meant to them, how they reacted against it, what they did to secure their freedom, and what they are doing with their partial freedom to-day.

The slaves landing from 1619 onward were received by the colonies at first as laborers, on the same plane as other laborers.  For a long time there was in law no distinction between the indented white servant from England and the black servant from Africa, except in the term of their service.  Even here the distinction was not always observed, some of the whites being kept beyond term of their service and Negroes now and then securing their freedom.  Gradually the planters realized the advantage of laborers held for life, but they were met by certain moral difficulties.  The opposition to slavery had from the first been largely stilled when it was stated that this was a method of converting the heathen to Christianity.  The corollary was that when a slave was converted he became free.  Up to 1660 or thereabouts it seemed accepted in most colonies and in the English West Indies that baptism into a Christian church would free a Negro slave.  Masters therefore, were reluctant in the seventeenth century to have their slaves receive Christian instruction.  Massachusetts first apparently legislated on this matter by enacting in 1641 that slavery should be confined to captives in just wars “and such strangers as willingly sell themselves or are sold to us,"[91] meaning by “strangers” apparently heathen, but saying nothing as to the effect of conversion.  Connecticut adopted similar legislation in 1650, and Virginia declared in 1661 that Negroes “are incapable of making satisfaction” for time lost in running away by lengthening their time of services, thus implying that they were slaves for life.  Maryland declared in 1663 that Negro slaves should serve durante vita, but it was not until 1667 that Virginia finally plucked up courage to attack the issue squarely and declared by law:  “Baptism doth not alter the condition of the person as to his bondage or freedom, in order that diverse masters freed from this doubt may more carefully endeavor the propagation of Christianity."[92]

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