Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

adversity, and now in his turn is carrying on the good work. And for every such story that gets told there are a hundred that are acted.

The wider leadership of the negroes by their own men is exemplified,-it is not measured or exhausted, by a pregnant little volume of essays entitled The Negro Problem. Seven of its phases are discussed by Booker Washington, Professor DuBois, Charles W. Chestnutt, Wilfred H. Smith, H. T. Kealing, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, and T. Thomas Fortune. As a collection, these essays are noteworthy for their cogency and clearness, for their earnest and self-respectful plea for full justice and opportunity, and their calmness and candor. The race that can speak for itself in such tones has an assured future,-if democracy, evolution, Christianity, are the ruling powers.

This story is concerned mainly with the slave and the freedman, but it must also touch on his former master, now his neighbor and fellow-citizen. The new South is far too ample a theme for a paragraph or a chapter. But it must be said in a word that its main trait is the substitution, for a territorial and slave-owning aristocracy, of an industrial democracy. It is the coming of the new man,-laborious, enterprising, pushing his way. His development began when the whole community was set to work its way up from the impoverishment left by the war. It was accelerated when new resources were found, when coal and iron mines were started, when cotton manufacturing began where the cotton is grown. New types of character and society are developing, yet blending with the remnant of the old.

Politics, in all its forms, plays a smaller part in to-day's society than in that of fifty years ago. Not only has the South never regained its old ascendency at Washington, but it has not stood, and does not stand, for any distinct set of ideas or principles in the national life. It has clung

closely together, under the influence of old sentiments and lingering apprehensions. In its fear of a recurrence of "negro domination," it has lost touch with the living questions of to-day and to-morrow. "The Solid South" has meant a secure contingent of electoral votes for the Democratic Presidential candidate,-whether he stood for a gold or a silver currency, for revenue reform or its opposite, for radicalism or conservatism,—and a solid array of members in Senate and House equally without pilotage on living issues. Until the South breaks away from its fetish of past fears and prejudices, it cannot rise to its proper opportunities of statesmanship.

Yet better than the old-time absorption in Federal politics and the prizes of the Capitol is the more diversified life of the South to-day. It is being swept into the current of industrialism-with its energies, its prizes, its perils. In other directions, too, the new life of the South flows free and strong. It is creating a literature,-a branch of American literature, incomparably beyond any product of its earlier days. After what may be called a literature of statesmanship, the work of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Marshall, the old South was almost wholly barren of original scholarship and creative genius. Now it bears a harvest so rich that one cannot here begin to classify or to name. The war-time is bearing an aftermath, of less importance in its romances, but admirable and delightful in its biographies and reminiscences. Of these the most notable feature, full as they are of vivid human interest and striking personal characteristics,-is the freedom from rancor, the generosity toward old foes which seems even unconscious of any necessity to forgive. And in these personal sketches there are disclosed certain broad yet distinct types of manhood and womanhood, the special Southern contributions to the composite American. In general literature, too, the

South is doing its full share. In its histories, the note of provincialism still lingers, inevitably, and not blamably. The Southern essayist or historian naturally gravitates to the past of his own section,—and naturally he seeks to vindicate his comrades or his ancestors, and to interpret the past from their standpoint. But, compared with the provincialism of the South of 1860, he is a cosmopolitan.

The new South is doing perhaps its best work in education. Its leaders are both raising and widening their standards, they are reaching out toward modern and progressive ways, while they are trying to amplify their systems so as to include the whole youthful population. Their intelligence and enthusiasm are seen alike in the ancient universities like that of Virginia, in the younger colleges such as Roanoke and Berea, and in the leaders of the public schools. Intelligence, enthusiasm, devotion,-all are needed, and all will be tasked to the utmost. For the education of the people's children, everywhere the most pressing of common concerns, and the most perplexing in the transition from old to new ideas and methods-bear's with especial weight and importunity upon the South. Its thinly-spread population, its still limited resources of finance, the presence of the two races with their separate and common needs,— all set a gigantic task to the South, and one that calls for sympathy and aid from the nation at large.

CHAPTER XXXIX

EBB AND FLOW

THUS, in broadest outline, have the two races at the South been faring on their way. And now in recent years, under their separate development and with their close intermingling, have come new complications and difficulties. The tendency has been in some ways to a wider separation. The old relations between the household servants and their employers, often most kindly, and long continuing to link the two races at numberless points, have passed away with the old generation. Once the inmates of mansion and cabin knew well each other's ways. Now they are almost unacquainted. The aristocracy and its dependents had their mutual relations of protection and loyalty, and gracious and helpful they often were. Now comes democracy,-vigorous, jostling, self-assertive,-its true social ideal of brotherly comradeship being yet far from realization. The negro is in a doubly hard position; under democratic competition the weaker is thrust to the wall, yet he has not even the equality which democracy asserts, but is held in the lower place by caste. And so there is a new or a newly apparent aggression upon the weaker race.

Its most obvious form is the legal limitation of suffrage. The irregular and indirect suppression of the negro vote which had prevailed since the close of the Reconstruction period, was not thorough and sure enough to satisfy the white politicians. And the lawless habit which it fostered, and whose effects could by no means be confined to one race, alarmed the better classes. So from two directions

there was a pressure toward some restriction of the negro vote which should be both legal and effective. The movement became active about the year 1895, and accomplished its end in the States of Virginia, the Carolinas, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, by constitutional amendments. The qualifications thus prescribed are so various and so variously combined that a full statement here is forbidden by limits of space, but their general characteristics are these: The requirement (in Virginia, South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana) of $300 worth of property; the payment of a poll tax (in Virginia, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana); the ability to read and write (in North Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana); the ability, if not to read, to understand and explain any section of the Constitution (in Virginia, Mississippi); regular employment in some lawful occupation, good character, and an understanding of the citizen's duties and obligations (Alabama).1

These restrictions apply in theory alike to both races. But exemption from them is allowed, and the suffrage is given, to certain classes: To all who served in the Civil War (Virginia, Alabama); to all who were entitled to vote on January 1, 1867, also to the sons (or descendants) of these two classes (Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana).

In these States, if these requirements are impartially enforced, the effect is to impose on the negroes a moderate property or intelligence qualification, or the two combined; and to give practically universal suffrage to the whites. This

1 In Maryland, an amendment prescribing a series of elaborate and vexing inquiries, investing the registration officers with judicial powers, and avowedly aiming at the elimination of the negro vote, was passed by the Legislature, at the instigation of Senator Gorman and against the opposition of a Democratic governor, and decisively rejected by the popular vote in November, 1905.

« AnteriorContinuar »