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Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Faculty, and Board of Trustees and Friends:
At the close of the great Civil War the colored people were like those lost at sea, without chart or compass by which to steer their way. There were nearly 4,000,000 throughout the south, without education, without property, without experience, with an uncharted and unknowable future before them. In this time of stress and uncertainty there were broad-minded men in the south who understood the situation and felt that the first need of the colored people was education. Religious instruction you already had. Your labor could command a support, but there was need of education that you might walk understandingly. This institution is a foundation created in 1867 by an historic church, and the Board of Trustees with which this institution was organized was a noble body of men with a broad outlook. They were Kemp P. Battle, afterwards president of our State University and State Treasurer, Gen. William R. Cox, a gallant soldier of the Confederacy, later a member of Congress from this district, and Secretary of the United States Senate, both of whom have but recently passed from among us, full of years and of honors; then there was Bishop Atkinson of this Diocese, of loved and honored memory; Rev. Dr. Mason, the Rector of Christ Church; Rev. Dr. Joseph B. Cheshire, Rector of Calvary Church at Tarboro, N. C., and father of the beloved Bishop of this Diocese; Rev. Dr. Aldert Smedes, founder and Rector of St. Mary's School; the Rev. Mr. Forbes of New Bern and Beaufort; Dr. A. J. DeRossett, an honored layman in Wilmington; and Richard H. Smith, a wealthy planter, and formerly a large slave owner, of Halifax. These men saw well into the future and did that which was right and their works do follow them. Among the many acts which they did that were of service to their State there was probably none in their lives which in the long course of the years will be of more enduring benefit to their State and its people than that which they did here. They builded wiser than they knew.
Your institution beginning at that time was probably the pioneer in the great work of education of the colored race in the South. It was a light in great darkness. It has kept its lamps burning and trimmed. It has educated many thousands who have been a benefit to their State and their race and today your institution has a well equipped plant and more than 500 students.
When requested by the authorities here to address you I felt unequal to the task of filling your expectations after these walls have heard the learned, entertaining and instructive addresses from Governor Bickett and other orators. But at the request of my good friend and yours, Bishop Cheshire, I consented to undertake it, with the understanding that I would make a plain, simple talk, giving some idea of the progress that the colored people have made, especially in education, in attaining higher standards of living and morals, in the acquirement of property, in short a brief summary of what you have done for yourselves and for your State, in these fifty-odd years, and what the State has done for you.
In looking into the subject I was amazed to find, and ashamed to learn, how little I really knew on the subject. I applied to the State Tax Commission and the State Department of Education and to the Department of the Interior, and to the Agricultural Department, at Washington, also to the War Department for the record of the colored people in War, and to the authorities of this institution. Each and all kindly and promptly replied with authentic information and with such abundance of literature that my embarrassment now is not lack of material, but how to condense it. A most interesting volume could be written on the subject of the progress of the colored people during the eventful past half century.
The necessity of condensing renders almost necessary a statement of facts and figures which are usually dry and very uninteresting to an audience, but on this occasion they are really eloquent, if I could properly present them, as a picture of the marvelous progress of a great body of 10,000,000 people in their onward march in civilization and to a higher plane in life amid inconceivable difficulties and despite many discouragements.
Nearly 2,000 years ago Terence awakened thunders of applause in the Roman Forum when he said in the sonorous tongue of old Rome: "Homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto," that is "I am a man and therefore nothing that concerns the welfare of the human race is indifferent to me." It was a great and noble sentiment which has brought the name of this great poet and writer down through the ages. It is a coincidence that may be of some interest to you that he was born in Africa and though of the white race he was brought as a slave to Rome, for throughout Roman and Grecian, and earlier times prisoners taken in war, if not slain, became slaves, and their children after them, and throughout the Roman Empire its millions of slaves, many of them highly educated men, were white people.
I was born and reared on a large farm, and my earliest friends, whom I still remember with affection, were among the colored people around me. I feel a deep and geunine interest in
your welfare, in the great progress you have made, in the steady advance in education and in well being, in the great service which you have rendered to your State in peace and in war, and the assurance which the world feels that your progress and advancement will be accelerated as the years go by.
It is absolutely impossible for any man, much less any race or large body of people, to live solely for and to themselves. None are above the need of sympathy nor can they withdraw themselves from their duty to others. What affects one race will as surely affect others. If ignorance is permitted to abound the security of property is shaken. If slums are permitted to exist the diseases there bred will invade the palaces of the rich. If injustice is perpetrated and those in power and authority do not punish and repress it, the foundation of government is impaired. Truly in this world we are "our brother's keeper." The query made of old, "Who is my neighbor," and why should I take any interest in his welfare, was never better exemplified than by an incident which is said to have taken place in Raleigh not long since. A lady had two beautiful children, the idols of her heart. They were stricken with that terrible disease, scarlet fever. They had been guarded from exposure to every evil, and in her terror she was unable to recall where they could possibly have contracted the contagion. When her cook came the next morning the lady was considerate enough to tell her that she had better not come in, as her two children had been stricken with scarlet fever. The cook replied that she did not mind it at all, for her own children were just getting over an attack and that one of them had died. The lady had taken no interest in the surroundings or troubles of her servant, had made no inquiries and offered no aid, but on the viewless winds the disease had traveled and the germs which might have been destroyed by medical attention rendered in time to the children of her neighbor--though that neighbor was a cook--made her own home the abode of death.
In making a brief statement of the most striking incidents of the wonderful progress you have made, I shall restrict myself to a consideration of the subject as a business and humanitarian proposition and your development as a matter of history, without any reference to the political standpoint.
To get a fairer and fuller idea of the subject and contrast the status of your people when this institution was founded and at present it may aid us to consider the location of the colored people in this State and their relative numbers in proportion to total population.
In North Carolina, in 20 counties, beginning with Rowan and then Burke, and in nearly all the counties north and west of Burke, there is less than one person in ten who is colored. In some counties in the extreme west there are practically none at all. In one county, I believe, the census shows only 3 colored people, and in others but the merest handful. On the other hand there are only 14 counties in the State in which the colored people are in the majority, and in most of them barely a majority. Contrary to the general opinion these 14 counties are not located in the east, or in a group on our southern border. Ten of these 14 counties in which the colored people predominate in numbers are in one compact group on the northeastern border of our State--Vance, Warren, Halifax, Edgecombe, Northampton, Hertford, Bertie, Chowan, Perquimans, and Pasquotank--the other 4 counties are isolated. One is on our northern or Virginia border--Caswell. One only is in the east--Craven. The other two are on our southern border, but not contiguous--Scotland and Anson. On the other hand over the border in Virginia there are 30 counties in which the colored people are in the majority. To the south of us the colored people are in the majority in the whole State of South Carolina, and indeed in most of the counties. In none of them is there as low a ratio as ten per cent colored, and in four counties they are over 75 per cent. There are 17 so-called Southern States, including Oklahoma, and the ratio of colored people to the whites throughout the whole of this great territory is about 30 per cent, ranging very low in Kentucky, West Virginia, East Tennessee, Maryland, and Delaware. In only two States, South Carolina and Mississippi, the colored people are in a small majority.
In North Carolina at the close of the Civil War the colored people were about 36 per cent of the population. This ratio has dwindled till by the census of 1910 it was something over 31 per cent considerably under one-third--and at the present time they probably number a little under 30 per cent, for the census Department informs me that they have not yet complete returns. The ratio therefore of colored people in this State is about the average of the South as a whole.
In 1865, when by Emancipation your future was placed in your own hands, the number of colored people in the Union was in round numbers 5,000,000, of whom about 4,500,000 were in the south. Those at the north were all free. The last slaves in New Jersey had been emancipated in 1850, and I believe there were a few slaves in New York and other northern states till about 1820. Of the 4,500,000 in the south there were probably 200,000 previously free, and among these, according to the census, were 6,275 colored people who were themselves the owners of slaves. During the War many also had been taken in the Federal lines or had gone north, so according to the best estimates the number of colored people in the South who were emancipated were around 4,000,000. The government publications on this subject are necessarily in round numbers, by taking an average for 1865, the date of emancipation, between the figures of the census of 1860 and that of 1870. In North Carolina the estimate is that at the surrender there were 400,000 colored people.
Today in the United States, exclusive of the Philippines, there are in round numbers 110,000,000 people. Of these about one-tenth--11 millions--are colored people. There are probably nine millions in the Southern States and something under two millions in the northern and western States.
At our first census in 1790 the colored people in the whole Union were nearly one fifth (to be exact 19 3-10) of the entire population of the Union, which was slightly under 4,000,000 at that time, and there were slaves in every State of the Union except one. There has been a steady decrease in the proportion of colored people to the whites, the colored people being now only about one-tenth in the Union, though they have increased from 750,000 at the first census to 11,000,000 at present. This has been due almost entirely to the immense immigration from foreign countries of white people, there being almost no accession to the colored race from that source. Beginning slowly this immigration from Europe took on enormous proportions until between 1904 and 1914 the average increase of whites by immigration was a million per year, some years largely more than that.
It is estimated that in this country today between thirty and thirty-five millions of people are either foreign-born or their children. These have furnished the labor and the population to a very great extent which have given the North and the West their gigantic growth. A large number of these, however,
still speak only their own language and are not yet fully assimilated to our customs and habits and institutions, and form a far more serious problem than the colored race, who are 100 per cent American by birth, are 100 per cent loyal, who all speak our language, are devoted to our institutions and are professors of the same religious faith with the people among whom they live. Notwithstanding some deplorable conflicts there has been therefore far less racial conflict than in those sections where there are vast bodies of people of other races not speaking our tongue and alien to us in religious faith and political ideas.
In North Carolina, while accurate figures can not yet be given by the Census Bureau, the best estimate is that we have now a total population of about 2,750,000, of whom 900,000, or about 30 per cent, are colored. The status and well being, the continued progress and contentment and the effectiveness of their labor, are of serious interest, both from a business and a humanitarian standpoint, to the entire State.
While there has been an increase in the number of colored people in this and other Southern States their ratio to the whites has, however, steadily dwindled from causes that are worthy of consideration. The enormous white immigration at the north has reduced the national ratio. At the South, while in most parts there has been small immigration from Europe, or from the north, there has been more or less a steady emigration of colored people to the north, most largely due to better wages, but to some extent to dissatisfaction with conditions in certain parts of the south. In North Carolina some years ago there was a very considerable emigration of colored people to the southwestern states, under the impulse of labor agents, who offered large increases in wages. This became so serious a menace to our farmers in the loss of labor that stringent acts were passed by our Legislature requiring a license fee of $1,000 and imposing other restrictions.
The emigration to the North in the last few years of colored people is estimated by the government authorities to have been, after deductions for those returning, a permanent loss of considerably over a million. These have been largely able-bodied young men or skilled cooks and other domestics.
Another causes for the relative loss in numbers of the colored people in this State is the fact, as shown by the Bureau of Health, that the mortality among the colored people in North Carolina and the South is almost double that among the whites. Among the whites the average mortality is 13 to 15 per thousand, while among the colored it averages from 25 to 29 per thousand. The government authorities looking into this matter were first of opinion that this was due to the fact that the colored race, physically, were of less stamina and less able to resist disease, but when the great draft was made for the war the records of the War Department show that while 75 per cent of the colored people were accepted as sound, only about 70 per cent of the whites could pass the physical test. This was due to the fact, doubtless, that the large majority of colored men were engaged in agriculture, in healthy and outdoor life and accustomed to exercise.
Judge Tourgee, well known in this State, some years ago created a sensation in the South by articles in northern magazines demonstrating that by the greater relative increase of the colored people they would soon overwhelm the south. He did this by taking the statistics of the higher birth rate among the colored people and not adverting to the fact that their average mortality was nearly double. This latter has now been shown to be due not to inferior physique, but mostly to the terrific ratio of deaths among the very young children, which writers ascribe to the lack of knowledge among their mothers and the fact that so many of them are engaged in field work or in domestic service, and can not give proper attention to their children.
These matters as to population are of great importance, not only to historians, but to those who consider that the prosperity and progress of a State depend almost entirely upon the welfare and characteristics of its labor element upon whom in the last analysis rests the structure of society and the welfare of the whole people.
All historians now recognize that the rise and fall of empires and of government have not depended upon kings or political parties, but have been due to economic conditions. The spread of malaria in Rome was more fatal than the irruption of the barbarians, and the pestilence of the Black Plague, which destroyed so large a portion of the working people in Europe, doubled wages and changed the whole economic basis of society. A shrewd historian has said that it was this that overthrew the Feudal system.
The basis of all progress and indeed of human existence is labor. The Creator of all things made only the earth, the water, the air. The forests that have grown were a part of the soil and the animals have been dependent upon man whose function has been to destroy the harmful and to improve and increase in number those which serve for food or otherwise contribute to the wants of the human race.
Outside of these elemental matters everything on this earth is the creation of labor. It is to labor that we owe the food which we eat, the clothes that we wear, the houses that we live in and everything which renders possible the continuance of the human race. Thought and genius have created labor-saving devices, by which one man may do the work formerly done by ten, or a hundred, and in some cases of a thousand men, but all these would be in vain if the human machine was not there to operate the other machine. The gigantic engine on its narrow ribbons of steel that rushes across the continent with its long train of cars has movement only because human muscle and human intelligence have brought out the coal and the ore, transformed them into iron and steel and now moves the lever of the engine. The hills have been leveled, the trees have been made into cross-ties, the depots have been built from brick and lumber shaped by human hands. Without these workers the human race would disappear, as they have departed from the once populous Sahara.
It is therefore of the utmost importance to every country to consider whether the supply of labor is decreasing or increasing, whether by education and proper support it is becoming more efficient. In North Carolina we have some years made as high as 1,100,000 bales of cotton. Last year we made over 875,000 bales, which, with its seed, is worth at present prices $200,000,000. Adding the tobacco and other crops the total agricultural products in the State last year were worth $683,000,000, according to the United States Agricultural Department, making us the fourth State in agricultural products in the Union.
The colored people, as I have said, are about 30 per cent of our population, but as they are more largely engaged in agricultural pursuits, and on the richest lands in the State, it is a fair estimate that one-half of our immense agricultural production, in which we now stand fourth in the entire list of 48 states, has
been made by colored labor. That is to say $340,000,000 in agricultural products, exclusive of the value of their labor as domestics, as workers on the railroads, in factories and in other pursuits.
Strike from our products this immense sum of $340,000,000 annually and the other services rendered by colored labor, the State would be paralyzed. From fourth in the Union in the value of our products we would sink to near the bottom. The banks would no longer be full of money. The railroads could neither be supported or kept in operation, at least to the same extent. The basis of civilization is wealth, and wealth comes from production and production is derived, in the last analysis, solely from labor. We have a large and prosperous element of white labor, which, man for man, may be more productive than the same number of colored men, but white labor could not supply their places unless brought hither from Europe in competition with northern employers and their foreign customs and alien tongues and ideas would here, as at the North, be a cause of greater race conflicts than that which we have with the colored people, who, despite exaggerated statements, are living on the whole in peace with their white neighbors and in contentment. Without a sufficiency of labor no country can progress, and where it is diminished in number or efficiency it is a public calamity. North Carolina is dependent upon and interested in the growth in numbers and their greater efficiency by better education and better sanitary conditions and maintenance in their physical and moral well being of all its laborers, white or black, and in the continued kindly relations between the races.
We have not done enough for the education of either white or colored children. In educational matters this State stands nearly at the bottom in the length of the school term, in the salaries to its teachers and the appropriation to schools and in illiteracy. On an average, the State through, we pay only $5.27 per annum for the education of each white child and only $2.40 for the education of the colored children. In this county (Wake) it is $7.89 for each white child and $2.64 for each colored child. Fortunately there has been supplementary aid by donations or devises from philanthropic northern people to the education of the colored people, particularly by the five great funds known as the Jeanes Foundation, the Slater Fund, the Rosenwald Fund, the Phelps Stokes Fund, and the General Education Fund. And besides, the colored people themselves have contributed by voluntary donations large sums for the support of education.
The loss to the State in not increasing efficiency by the support of education was shown by Aycock, Alderman, McIver, and Joyner, and their co-laborers in their apostolic campaigns to arouse our people to proper efforts in this respect. Yet it is said that there is $70,000,000 invested in automobiles in this State, while the entire cost of our school buildings and equipments of all kinds for education, from the State University down, is less than $14,000,000.
In the first few years of freedom the growth in wealth of the colored people was slow. As late as 1902 they listed in North Carolina for taxation only about $11,000,000. In 1917 they were on the tax list for $37,000,000. In 1918 this had grown to $48,000,000. Doubtless this year, at the same rate, the property owned by colored people on the tax list would be $65,000,000. If it is true, as generally estimated, that property is listed in this State at one-third its value, the colored people of the State must own around $200,000,000. Among the colored people of this country there are several well known millionaires. One colored woman who died recently in New York disposed by her will of more than $1,000,000, of which she left $100,000 to charitable purposes. In North Carolina there is more than one colored man who is believed to have passed the $100,000 mark.
It is to the interest of the entire people of the State that the colored people should be educated and aspire to obtain a higher standard of living and
well being and to become owners of property, and especially of real estate. Educated men owning a stake in the country, living in their own homes, whether in country or town and on good terms with their neighbors, can never be a dangerous element to the stability of government, but will be a strong support to the maintenance of law and order.
As a brief summary of the financial condition to which the colored people have attained I give the following fragmentary statement taken from the United States government reports.
It is stated therein that the colored people in the late war aided the government by buying $225,000,000 of Liberty Bonds, and made other large contributions to war activities. In the United States colored men own over 700,000 homes, and seventy-five per cent of them can read and write. The percentage would be larger but for the illiteracy of the older negroes in the South who had no school advantages. The colored people have 500 colleges or other high institutions of learning, worth in equipments and endowments $22,000,000 and supported by themselves with aid from the states and some assistance from the funds spoken of and other contributions. In the whole Union there are 1,800,000 colored students in the public schools. The expenditures for education of the colored race in the South is annually $15,000,000, of which $500,000 is contributed by themselves, besides their share of the taxes. They own 45,000 churches with 4,500,000 members, and the value of their church property is $90,000,000. Throughout the South, especially in Texas, there are colored men owning 500 to 5,000 acres each.
In one county in Georgia there are three times as many colored men owning farms as white men, and this is not an exceptional case. In another county four-fifths of all the farms cultivated by their owners were cultivated by colored men and there was no mortgage whatever recorded on the farms owned by the negroes.
From a tax list furnished me by the State Tax Commission I find that in 1919 the colored people listed in North Carolina over $51,000,000 property, the highest in this respect being Halifax County, with nearly two and one-half millions property listed by colored men, the next highest being Wake with $2,377,000, and Warren being third with $1,622,000. By the census of 1910 there were 21,443 colored men owning the farms on which they lived and 44,139 operating farms as tenants. These numbers have been greatly increased since.
In a publication issued by the United States Department of the Interior in 1916 it is said that "No other racial group in the United States shows a better adjustment in their relations with the white natives than the 10,000,000 of negroes (now 11,000,000. . . . (In the fifty years since freedom, illiteracy among them has decreased from 90 per cent to 30 per cent. One million colored men are now farmers, either as renters or owners; over a quarter of a million of them being owners, and the total amount of land owned by them aggregates over 20,000,000 acres." It is further said that they are "capable of progress and their white neighbors have not only looked with favor upon their struggles but in many cases have given substantial aid, outside of that furnished by the State governments, and that it is clear that the masses of the colored people are just beginning to appreciate the possibilities of their gaining an independence financially and improving their moral standards and attaining a higher grade in the comforts and conveniences of life. But that they are still retarded by the lingering ignorance and poverty of a portion of the race and the still unfavorable conditions in which a large part of them are compelled to live." The report comments upon the fact that the death rate among them in the South was nearly double that of the whites and that there are five times as many of them in the prisons in the south as whites, but adds that "The decrease of illiteracy and the increasing ownership of land and other property are sure evidences of the inherent worth of the colored people and of the genuine friendship of their white neighbors." It also said that the gifts of the colored people to the public schools in the South over and above the support given by State aid and the charitable funds already mentioned would aggregate over half a million dollars a year over and above their share of the public taxes. This was said four years ago, and doubtless today these figures as to the ownership of property and the decrease of illiteracy have been very largely bettered.
Among the later statistics it appears that there are in the South more than 50,000 colored men engaged in business as bankers, lawyers, doctors, and in various other business other than farming. There are now in the South 100 banks owned and operated entirely by colored men, having an aggregate capital of three and one-half million dollars and doing more than $50,000,000 business annually. The center of colored population, which at the first census in 1790 was near Petersburg, is now in Northern Alabama. Much more information could be given from the official reports, of the almost marvelous progress which the colored race has made along these lines, but it would take too much of your time. The race has furnished, and from the South, orators, painters, sculptors, authors, poets, musicians, lawyers, doctors, and bankers prominent in their professions. For music and poetry the colored people seem to have an especial talent.
I will give only two quotations from the many interesting letters which I have received from public officials in sending the literature requested. A chief of bureau in the United States Department of Agriculture writes: "The negroes as a rule are ready and willing to take advice and have followed it even more closely than the average white farmer." The latest official report shows that the colored people in the South own 35,000 square miles of land, a territory nearly a fifth larger than the entire State of South Carolina.
Dr. James H. Dillard, in a recent address says: "Never in the history of the world has any race in the same length of time made such progress in physical, intellectual, and moral improvements as the colored race has done in the last sixty years. There are still thousands who are uneducated, thousands who are very poor and in need of moral advancement." And he added, "Never before in history, during the short period of sixty years have two races--thrown together as these two races--been known to make such approach towards satisfactory adjustment. . . . We forget that a period of 56 years is a short time in history; that habits of thought and habits of feeling are not changed overnight. It takes time for individual habits of thought and individual habits of feeling to change. It takes even longer for the habits and morals and customs of a whole people to change, and we have got to be patient, as Carlyle said, 'yet a while,' " and adds: "We are here in the South together, we are going to stay together, and the sensible people of both races know and feel and believe more and more that it is much better for us to stay here in good fellowship and cooperation than in hostility."
Mr. C. R. Hudson of our State official demonstration work, writes a most
interesting letter, from which I would be glad to quote largely, but from which I would take this only: "The average yield of corn in the State last year was about 20 bushels per acre. The yield of negro farmers was probably not over 12 bushels per acre. Over 500 farmers who were following our teachings on 4,500 acres produced an average of 40 6/10 bushels per acre, or twice the average yield of the State. Results were similar in the growing of cotton and other crops. The important fact in this connection is that these high yields were made without a corresponding increase in the cost of production, but in most cases with a reduction in the cost per acre." Besides further interesting details as to their purchase of 154 dairy cows of improved strains and of hogs and poultry and planting of orchards and in cooperative buying and selling and the preparation of food and in sanitation and canning and other details he says of our State along these lines: "Negroes are taught to make their farms self-supporting rather than to depend on the buying of home supplies at high rate time prices or the borrowing of money at exorbitant rates. We believe that since the negro is with us to stay, anything that can be done to help him help himself is beneficial for the white race and the country as a whole. . . . The attitude of negro farmers towards the bettering of their condition shows they are intensely interested in these matters. They are calling for help; they are teachable; they respond readily to suggestions and follow the methods given very satisfactorily. We believe that the outlook for the negro race for the future is very bright. The better methods which they are rapidly getting will give them funds with which to better their condition. Civilization can rise no higher than the earning capacity of the masses of its people to support." This is a very statesmanlike conclusion in which the ablest minds of the country will concur.
Dr. E. C. Branson of the State University, in an address made some two years ago on "The Negro Working Out His Own Salvation," says: "During the last 30 years the negroes of the South have come to feel that bank books and bonds are more important than ballot boxes." And he adds that one-fourth of all the negro farmers in the South (not including laborers) own their farms--in Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Maryland, and Virginia, more than half of them; in West Virginia, four-fifths; and that while they have increased 10 per cent in population they have increased 17 per cent in ownership of farms as against 12 per cent increase of white farm owners throughout the South. In Georgia the white farm owners increased 7 per cent and the negro farm owners 38 per cent. In North Carolina there was an increase of only 9 per cent white farm owners and 22 per cent colored, and in Arkansas about the same.
Along this line the "University News Letter" states that the census shows that in the counties of Warren and Halifax there are more colored men working on land which they own than white men. This does not mean, of course, that they own a larger number of acres, for their holdings generally must be smaller than many of the holdings among the whites.
While North Carolina has not done what she should as to education for either colored or white, this State has a larger percentage of colored children in the public schools (over 75 per cent) than any other southern State, except Oklahoma. In this State there is for the colored people, maintained by the State, an A. and M. College, an Insane Asylum, a Deaf and Dumb and Blind Institute; 10 county training schools; 3 Normal Schools, and 38 separate county superintendents of education for the colored people.
A northern man not long since told me that the greatest drawback at the South was what he called the "Negro Problem." I told him that frankly there was no "Negro Problem." I pointed him to the fact that the north, where the immigation from the least advanced states in Europe for several years prior to the war had average over a million a year, they had millions speaking all languages, advocating all kinds of isms, and professing all kinds of religion, and many of them ignorant of our customs and our forms of government, there was perpetual hostility between the different races and towards the government, whereas down here the colored people were all native born, there was no diversity of languages, for they all spoke our own speech and they were 100 per cent loyal to the government. I told him that in no country that I knew of was there better feeling between the races. In Ireland the immense majority are Catholics and Celts, while the English are mostly Protestants and arrogant, with the result that Ireland is in perpetual rebellion. In Austria there were ten or twelve different races, ignorant of each others' language, antagonistic to each others' religious views and in perpetual turmoil and there was not a state in Europe scarcely which did not have its problems of one or more "subject races." At the South we all speak the same tongue and practically there is no hostility on account of religion, which is ever the cause of the bitterest antagonism wherever it exists.
It is true that our colored people wear "the shadowed livery of the burnished sun" and there is no social equality between the races, but the latter condition exists in every country where there are two or more distinct races of people. The colored people do not wish social equality, and the white people would not tolerate it, and there the matter ends. It is not a matter of debate, but is settled and not a cause of strife like the divergence in language, in religion, in national aspirations which exists in nearly every other country.
As to the administration of justice with which in some capacity I have been associated all my life, I told my friend that there was absolute equality. A colored man may have differences with a white man, as will happen between any two men, but when they go into the courthouse to have it settled every man knows that colored men are at no disadvantage. The white men on the jury, with the pride of the Anglo-Saxon race, will see that equal and exact justice is done, and if ever I have seen any partiality shown it is that if the juries and the judges have tipped the scales at all, it has been in favor of the colored men upon the innate belief that if any advantage has been taken it has been by the white man by reason of his advantages.
I have spoken of the loyalty of the colored man. No sedition laws have ever been needed for him. At all times he has stood by his country and its institutions. His good humor and cheerfulness, patience and endurance make him a good soldier. The record of the colored man in war has been as loyal and patriotic as in times of peace. During the Revolutionary War there were thousands of colored men who served in the Patriot Army under Washington. The first Patriot killed in that struggle was a negro, Crispus Attucks, whose monument in bronze stands on Boston Commons. At Bunker Hill, Major Pitcairn of the British Army was killed by Peter Salem, a colored soldier. Amid the dark days of Valley Forge one-seventh of Washington's army was colored men. In those crude times they served in the same companies with the whites, and many thousands
of them won their freedom from their owners by service in the Patriot armies. In the War of 1812 there were many colored troops, but they usually served in separate regiments under white officers. There were several regiments of these under Jackson in the battle of New Orleans when he broke forever the British power on this Continent. After the battle General Andrew Jackson issued a special general order thanking the colored troops for their patiotism and valor. In the great Civil War on the Northern side 178,000 colored men served as soldiers. Many of these were, of course, from the North, where they lived. On the Southern side, while there were no colored troops in our army until very late in the war there were many thousands of them who were most efficient help to the Southern army, as much so as if they had borne arms. They made the roads over which our armies marched. They threw up most of the breastworks and forts behind which the Southern soldiers fought, and more than all, they made the crops, the food and the cotton for clothing, necessary to the very existence of the Southern army. And during those four eventful years, though knowing that their freedom was at stake, and that the able-bodied white men were at the front, be it said to their everlasting credit, no harm came from them to any white woman or white child throughout the wide border of the Confederacy. They were loyal to the people among whom they lived, and to the government. In the Southern Army there were thousands of colored men as cooks and body servants. There were many instances in which the latter carried their wounded masters off the field under fire and took them or their dead bodies home. I never heard of a single instance in which any of these men deserted.
Later in our War with Spain the colored troops went to the front in proportion to their numbers equally with the whites. That is about one-tenth of our 300,000 troops in that war were colored. North Carolina sent two white regiments of 12 companies each and one colored regiment of 10 companies, officered by colored men and commanded by Col. James H. Young of this city. And there is no complaint on record as to their conduct in camp or in the field. They were native-born North Carolinians and conducted themselves as such. At Santiago, at San Juan Hill, where Mr. Roosevelt won his promotion to the presidency, the two colored calvary regiments in the regular army (9th and 10th Cavalry) bore the brunt of the fight. They were commanded by white officers and at the head of one of these companies Capt. William E. Shipp, of this State, met a soldier's death along with men he led.
In the late World War of the four and one-half million men drawn as soldiers 458,000, just about one-tenth, were colored men. On the fields of France they proved again their capacity and their courage in the service of their country and on more than one occasion. Of the 80,000 soldiers furnished by North Carolina over 25,000 were colored. These colored troops distinguished themselves and helped to save the day. At Chateau Thierry, when the dense columns of the Germans had driven out the French and were bending back the second line, the colored troops from North Carolina, and other Southern States, came up and held the line. Just here I will say that the officers who commanded these colored troops must have been Southerners, or at least they understood negro psychology, for on every critical occasion when they were thrown in, they went in singing.
I remember seeing in northern magazines the statement that when the war was over and these colored soldiers should be disbanded then would come the strain; that they would not go back into the places from which they came, but would assert new rights and privileges and claim equality. We southern men knew them, and they knew us, better. When these regiments and companies were disbanded it was done quietly and without disturbance. The colored soldiers who did their duty in France are now, as they were before the war, helping in the industries of civil life and undistinguishable from their fellows, who were not in the war. Only one disturbance throughout the country has been reported and that at Washington City. I will not discuss the conflicting accounts as to the cause of that, but certainly there has been no such trouble in North Carolina, nor so far as I remember anywhere else in the South, from disbanded men.
It is but justice to the colored people of North Carolina, and to ourselves, to say that in the more than half century of freedom the vast body of them have been industrious, law-abiding, and on good terms with their white neighbors. They have not been assuming, but have patiently borne hardships and poverty, hoping for a better day. It is to the interest and duty of the white people to recognize this and encourage them not only by doing them equal and exact justice but by aiding them in all their legitimate aspirations for obtaining education and a better and higher standard of living.
There has been no complaint by the colored people as to partiality in the courts, and I think there has been none as to any inequality in the laws. There has been complaint as to lynchings, but that is not a matter of law, but lawlessness, which officials have endeavored to prevent and have done so whenever they could. There have been lynchings of white people as well as of colored. This is not a matter of race but of the lawless passions of men who believe that prompt action is necessary because the processes of the courts, often uncertain, are often too long delayed. Personally I believe that the true cure for lynching is in the promptest and most efficient execution of the laws.
There has been some times complaint as to what is known as the "Jim Crow cars," which are established by law. At the North, where there are few colored people in proportion to the population, the railroads cannot afford to furnish separate cars for them. With us, where nearly one-third of the people are colored, and probably one-fourth of the travelers by rail, it is better for them and the whites that separate cars should be furnished for them. The real objection is that sometimes these cars are inferior to those furnished the whites. This is contrary to the law, which requires the same rate to be charged for fare and the same and equally good accommodations furnished for both races. When this is not done it is not because of the law, but in violation of it, and the remedy is by application to the Corporation Commission to require better accommodations.
As to suffrage, which I do not intend to discuss in any way, I think that the wiser heads among the colored people have discouraged any attempt to intermeddle in politics and that the colored race has lost nothing but gained much by abstaining from doing so against the wishes of the white people, notwithstanding the decision of the United States Supreme Court that the "Grandfather Clause" is void.
Being Southern-born and having lived here all my life, and having traveled somewhat in foreign countries, I believe there is no other county or locality in which there is more than one race, where they live on as friendly relations with each other as in North Carolina, and that there is no large body of labor of another race that is more efficient and less assuming or troublesome than the colored people of the South.
The Southern people as a rule take an interest in your welfare and if they have not done more for the education of your children it is because they have not done as much as they should for the white children. When the Civil War ended the South was devastated, its property destroyed, a large proportion of its best and noblest young men dead on the battlefield. Our people had to start life anew, without capital and with their labor system disorganzed. Then there came upon us the trouble of Reconstruction, which left some bitterness behind, but since then there has been a steady increase in prosperity and at all times friendly cooperation between the races.
Your growth in education, in the acquirement of property, in the attainment of better standards of living, have been almost marvelous. Your prosperity makes for the prosperity of the whole people. Any man who would willfully create prejudice between the races is an enemy to both.
In conclusion, it is very clear that the colored people have become masters of their own destinies and are working out their own salvation along their own lines. Intelligent men, good men, who desire the good of the whole people, must view with pleasure and with pride the success of these people, natives of our own State, subject to our laws, adding to our prosperity, living peaceful, industrial lives, and should, and I believe will, give them
every encouragement and aid in their power.
Colored friends, I believe I speak the sentiment of the overwhelming majority of the white people of North Carolina when I say that we have appreciation of your fidelity to our institutions, your loyalty to our State, the great contributions you are making to the wealth of the country and of your laudable ambition to better your condition, and that we wish you a continuance of your success and the good reputation as a people which you have so well and nobly earned.