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CHAPTER XXXVIII

EVOLUTION

The story of slavery merges in the stories of the white man and the black man, to which there is no end. As the main period to the present study we have taken the beginning of President Hayes's administration in 1877, when the withdrawal of Federal troops from the South marked the return of the States of the Union to their normal relations, and also marked the disappearance of the negro problem as the central feature in national politics. From that time to the present we shall take but a bird's-eye view of the fortunes and the mutual relation of the two races.

The people of the Southern States realized gradually but at last fully that the conduct of their affairs was left in their own hands. From this time there was no important Federal legislation directed specially at the South. The restrictive laws left over from the reconstruction period were in some cases set aside by the Supreme Court and in general passed into abeyance. There was rare and brief discussion of a renewal of Federal supervision of elections. But the Northern people, partly from rational conviction and partly from absorption in new issues, were wholly indisposed to any further interference. Without such interference there was no slightest chance of any restoration of political preponderance of the negroes over the whites. The specter of "negro domination " haunted the Southern imagination long after it had become an impossibility. Then it was used as a bogy by small politicians. But the only serious attempt at national legislation for the South has been of a wholly,

different character. It was the plan of Senator Blair of New Hampshire, long urged upon Congress, and sometimes with good hope of success, for national assistance to local education, on the basis of existing illiteracy, for a term of ten years, to a total amount of $100,000,000. That is the only kind of special legislation for the South that has had any chance of enactment for almost thirty years.

Through the twelve years of political reconstruction, 1865-77, the Southern people were gradually adapting themselves to the new industrial and social conditions. Then the body of the whites, finding themselves fully restored to political mastery, grasped the entire situation with new clearness and vigor. They thrust the freedmen not only out of legislative majorities and the State offices, but out of all and any effective exercise of the suffrage. The means were various, consisting largely of indirect and technical hindrances, "tissue-paper ballots” and the like. The intelligent class massed against the ignorant found no serious difficulty in having their own way at all points. A considerable number of negroes still voted, and had their votes counted, but their party was always somehow put in the minority; almost all offices passed out of their hands; their representatives speedily disappeared from Congress, and before long from the Legislatures. Negro suffrage was almost nullified, and that, too, before the legislation of the last decade.

But, in asserting their complete political superiority, the whites also recognized a large responsibility for the race they controlled. A degree of civil rights was secured to them, short of a perfect equality with the whites, but far beyond the status intended by the "black codes " of 1865-6. The fundamental rights, of liberty to dispose of their labor and earnings in their own way, and protection of person and property by the law and the courts, were substantially

secured. And, very notably, the common school education of blacks as well as whites was undertaken with fidelity, energy and new success. This great and vital advance, inaugurated by the Southern Republican governments, was accepted and carried on, loyally and at heavy cost, by the succeeding Democratic governments. The figures show a great advance from 1875 to 1880 in the number of schools and scholars of both races throughout the South. Political inferiority for the negroes, but civil rights, industrial freedom, and rudimentary education,—that was the theory and largely the practice of their white neighbors.

One clause they added with emphatic affirmation: “I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so following; but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you.” Social superiority, indicated by separation in all the familiar and courteous intercourse of daily life, was asserted by the whites with a rigor beyond that of the days of slavery. When humiliated and stung by the political ascendency of their former bondmen, they wrapped themselves in their social superiority with a new haughtiness. The pride of race, of color, of the owner above the serf, stripped of its old power and insignia, but no whit weakened in root and core, set an adamantine wall along the line of social familiarity. Let the black man have his own place—in school and church, in street and market and hotel; but the same place, never! Separate schools, churches, cars. And as in a hospitable country the social meal is the special occasion and symbol of good fellowship and equal comradeship, right there let the line be fixed, no black man or woman shall sit at table with whites.

The usage came down by tradition, and became only a little more rigid under the new conditions. At the North the general practice had always been much the same; but there it was occasionally and growingly superseded, when

people of the two races found a common level of education and manners. The Southern whites for a while took their own practice as a matter of course. But then, especially as by degrees some black men and women acquired mental cultivation and social polish,—then came question and challenge from the world without and from conscience within; why this rigid separation ? An answer must be found or made,—and presently the answer appeared: If white and black men and women eat and drink together, play and work together,—then they will intermarry, and the white race will become mixed and degenerate. So that became the conviction, the creed, the shibboleth, of the Southern whites,-race purity, to be safeguarded by complete prohibition of all social intimacy, especially as symbolized by the common meal. And the prohibition was enforced among the whites by the penalty of sure and stern ostracism.

Under these conditions, then, the two sections of the Southern people have been working their way, for almost thirty years. How first have the negroes fared? Of the prophecies for their future, made when they were in bondage and in view of possible emancipation, one was that they would die out,—but in less than half a century they have doubled. Another was that if freed they would refuse to work,—but the industrial product of the South has never fallen off, but has steadily and vastly increased, with the negro still as the chief laborer. Another prediction was that they would lapse into barbarism. The Southern negroes as a mass have a fringe of barbarism—a heavy fringe. So has every community, white, black or yellow, the world over. Have the Southern blacks, as a body, moved toward barbarism or toward civilization since they were set free?

The comparative tests between civilization and barbarism are, broadly speaking, productive industry, intelligence and

morality. If we gauge industry by results, we find that the class which forty years ago entered into freedom with empty hands now owns more than $300,000,000 of property by the tax-gatherers' lists. Another estimate-cited by Prof. Albert Bushnell Hart-puts their entire property holdings at $500,000,000. Though most of them are tenants or hired laborers, yet there are more than 173,000 who own their farms. The total number of farms worked by them in the South-owned, leased, or rented on shares—is figured at 700,000. The census of 1900 shows that in almost every profession, trade and handicraft the black race has numerous representatives—their range of occupation and industrial opportunity being far wider in the South than in the North. Taking the whole country, the percentage of adults in gainful pursuits is a trifle higher among blacks than among whites. Allow for the more frequent employment in toil of the black woman; allow, too, for the more intermittent character of black labor,—yet the relative showing is not unfavorable to the enfranchised race. And this comparison touches, too, the more difficult problem of morality,- for industry is itself a chief safeguard of morality.

As to intelligence, the statistics show that, roughly speaking, about half the blacks over ten years old can read and write. That is not much below the status of the people of England half a century ago. In the higher fields of intelligence, the American negroes,—there are 9,000,000 of them, -supply to-day a large part of their own teachers, ministers, lawyers and doctors, and in all these professions the standard is steadily rising.

In regard to morality, generalization is difficult. There is undoubtedly a much larger criminal element among the blacks than among the whites. There are proportionately more crimes against property, crimes of sensuality, crimes

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