Popular Science Monthly/Volume 72/May 1908/The Education of the Colored Race Is the Duty of the Nation
|THE EDUCATION OF THE COLORED RACE IS THE DUTY OF THE NATION|
UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI
FORTY years ago the civil war was ended, the negro freed. Individually there will always be persons who entertain feelings of animosity against their fellow man of another section; for sectionalism will ever exist. But as a nation such feelings must be buried, if there are any which influence the political government of the people. For every section is a part of the nation and the nation is under equal obligations to every section. Each state is an integral part of the nation, and no state may be regarded by the union as a province.
It is a historical fact that slavery was forced upon this country by England against the protests of the states, both north and south. For example, in 1769 the House of Burgesses of Virginia by a vote abolished slavery, but was prohibited from so doing by George III., King of England, "in the interests of commerce." Further, in 1778 Virginia, and in 1798 Georgia, passed acts prohibiting the importation of slaves, Virginia fixing as a penalty the heavy fine of one thousand pounds; it is also true that Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky were banded together in the support of a practical system of emancipating the slaves by degrees, a movement which was eventually stopped by the abolitionists, a party that came into existence after the Missouri compromise, in 1820-21. This party demanded the immediate and uncompensated freedom of all slaves, notwithstanding the fact that England had just liberated four hundred thousand slaves at the cost of twenty million pounds. No other such attack upon private property can be found in the history of civilized nations. We emphasize the fact that some of the southern states led the world in an earnest appeal to prevent slavery, although with a peculiar irony the world to-day holds the south responsible absolutely for the existence of this institution. And further to show that the nation as a whole was responsible for the existence of the colored race in America, it must be recognized that although the south was at that time somewhat of a maritime people, no slave was ever brought to this country by a southern vessel, and that "New England ship-owners practically monopolized the traffic of slavery for a number of years" It is also found that Massachusetts was the first colonial state (1641) that legalized slave traffic in America. Slavery existed at the north, as long as it was found profitable, and throughout the nation slaves were regarded as "property." This was a heritage handed down to us from England, in which country a law was enacted in 1713, the venerable Holt presiding, that held slaves to be "merchandise."
Thus the presence of the negro slaves in America was legally established by the courts of England and was for the most part effected through vessels of New England. Being more profitable in the south, they were soon gathered together there in great numbers.
It is not the purpose of the writer to go into the causes of the civil war, to consider which side was right, which wrong, or whether either side was either right or wrong. He believes that historians of the future will agree with Mr. Lunt when he says: "Self-seeking and ambitious demagogues, the pest of republics, disturbed the equilibrium, and were able at length to plunge this country into the worst of all calamities—civil war. The question of morals had as little as possible to do with the result."
The advocates of emancipation always declared that the fate of the colored man was a responsibility of the whole nation. This doctrine was accepted as a fact by the United States government and the colored man was eventually freed. But having accepted the responsibility of this race, it is and always has been the duty of the whole nation to care for the improvement and education of the colored man. His up-building, however, has been left entirely to the charge of the south, which consequently has had to assume the task of "educating two races out of the poverty of one."
It may be noted here that the national census shows that from 1860 to 1870 the assessed value of southern property diminished by practically one half, while the increase in northern property was approximately multiplied by two. And upon this basis the northern states by means of the protective tariff and other legislations have increased in wealth far more rapidly than those parts of the country which are primarily agricultural.
The disparity that is thereby produced in the funds for the education of the children in the different sections at the present time is seen from the following statement: The average amount spent in the United States at large is—per capita of the pupils in average attendance—$21.38; in the western states the average expenditure is $31.59, while for such states as Alabama and the Carolinas this expenditure is approximately $4.50. These figures are given by Mr. Murphy in an address delivered before the General Session of the National Education Association, Boston, July 10, 1903. In this address Mr. Murphy says: "A democracy which imposes an equal distribution of political obligations must find some way to afford a more equal distribution of educational opportunities."
The urgent needs of better educational facilities in the south are at once apparent from the following statement:
The illiteracy of the native white population (meaning those who can neither read nor write) ranges from 8.6 per cent. in Florida, 8 per cent. in Mississippi and 6.1 per cent. in Texas to 17.3 per cent. in Louisiana and 19.5 in North Carolina; as contrasted with 0.8 per cent. in Nebraska, 1.3 per cent. in Kansas, 2.1 per cent. in Illinois, 1.2 per cent. in New York and 0.8 per cent. in Massachusetts. In all the states taken outside the southern states and forming a group, the average rate of illiteracy among the native white population is only 2.8 per cent. as against 12.2 per cent. of native white illiterates in the south.
According to the figures of Dr. Charles W. Dabney, there are 3,500,000 people in the south ten years of age and over, who can not read and write, of these about 50 per cent. of the colored population and 12.5 per cent. of the white.
In 1900, the states south of the Potomac and east of the Mississippi contained in round numbers 16,400,000 people, of whom there were 10,400,000 white and 6,000,000 black.
In these states there are 3,981,000 white children from five to twenty years old and 2,420,000 black children of the same age, making a total of 6,401,000 children to be educated.
These are distributed among the states as follows (see the above-mentioned report):
Only 60 per cent. of these children were enrolled in the schools in 1900 and the average daily attendance was only 70 per cent. of those enrolled; so that only 42 per cent. of the southern children are actually at school. One half of the negroes get no schooling whatever and one white child in five is left wholly illiterate.
|In North Carolina the average citizen gets only||2.6||years' schooling.|
|In South Carolina the average citizen gets only||2.5||years' schooling.|
|In Alabama the average citizen gets only||2.4||years' schooling.|
In the whole south the average citizen gets only three years' schooling. And what sort of schooling is it? The answer may be inferred from what is found elsewhere in this discussion.
|In North Carolina the average value of school property is||$180|
|In South Carolina the average value of school property is||175|
|In Georgia the average value of school property is||523|
|In Alabama the average value of school property is||512|
|The average monthly salary of a teacher in North Carolina is||$23.36|
|The average monthly salary of a teacher in South Carolina is||23.20|
|The average monthly salary of a teacher in Georgia is||27.00|
|The average monthly salary of a teacher in Alabama is||27.50|
|The schools of North Carolina are open on an average of||70.8||days per year.|
|The schools of South Carolina are open on an average of||88.4||days per year.|
|The schools of Georgia are open on an average of||112.0||days per year.|
|The average expenditure per pupil in average attendance is $4.54 per annum in North Carolina.|
|The average expenditure per pupil in average attendance is $4.44 per annum in South Carolina.|
|The average expenditure per pupil in average attendance is $6.64 per annum in Georgia.|
|The average expenditure per pupil in average attendance is $4.50 per annum in Alabama.|
These figures, compared with those indicating like expenditures in the other states of the union, show that the expenditures in those states are from four to six times as great as in the south.
Mr. Geo. S. Dickinson of New Haven, Conn., one of the best informed students of southern conditions, says:
other races, who wrote: "If any provideth not for his own, and especially his own household, he hath denied the faith and is worse than infidel." And so, to-day, our interest in other people should deepen our sense of responsibility for those who are nearest of kin.
Who are these 10,000,000 whites of the south? They are the children of the colonial pioneers, of the soldiers who made the continental army, of the fathers who established the republic. They are many of them descendants from a New England ancestor as well as from settlers of Virginia and the Carolinas. A cursory study of the subject leads me to believe that in some counties of Georgia a larger proportion of the people can trace back through some line to a New England sire than in the city of Boston. The cracker is of the same blood as the merchant prince. This is to be seen in their very names. The people of the north and south are one, in feature and in native force, cherishing common religious beliefs and conserving the immemorial traditions of freedom and independence.
In Alaska the expenditure upon the children of the nation, although sixty per cent. of them are Eskimo, is annually $17.78 per capita of enrolment. Similar provisions are being made for the children of the Filipino, while $4.41 is annually spent upon the student of Alabama, and this too when the people of Alabama are taxed to pay for the education of the Eskimo and Filipino.
We make no criticism regarding the money spent upon the children of our territories. Attention, however, should be called to the fact that our government has already spent more money on the Philippine Islands than would be required to educate our entire negro population for the next fifty years, as is shown by the figures given below. And the United States now considers itself under moral obligation to the civilized world to educate the Filipinos and make them responsible citizens.
The most elementary mathematics applied to the principles of sociology will show that millions of dollars will be required to make of this people a nation comparable to others of the civilized world. Suppose that this result may be achieved, what guaranty is there that the Filipinoes will be our friends and allies in time of trouble, say in the case of a foreign war; or what recompense do we gain from the civilized world for "moral obligations" rendered? Charity begins at home and a nation must consider carefully its own ultimate safety and welfare.
We do not claim that the education of the negro is a charity due him by the nation, nor do we wish to consider it a part of friendship of the people of the north to the white people of the south, nor do we hold it a part of philanthropy or a moral obligation to the outside civilized world. We assert that it is a fundamental duty of the United States government to its own citizenship in the promotion of morality and in the establishment of every department of industry, invention and manufacture which ultimately tends to the improvement, progress and prosperity of the nation as a whole and stands as a bulwark of strength in the time of trouble.
Granting the correctness of statistics already given, every true citizen of the nation will admit that the present conditions existing for the education of southern children must be improved. The writer has ventured to outline a method by which this may be accomplished. It is evident that if the United States government assumes the responsibility of the education of the colored children of the south, the white people, relieved of this burden, will be the better able to meet the educational requirements of their own children.
There are 600 places in the southern states, not counting Virginia, Maryland and Kentucky, which contain 1,000 people or over. In these dwell about 3,000,000 people, white and colored. The other 14,000,000 are country people. This number is over 17,000,000 if the above-named states are added. About 10,000,000 of these are native white Americans with 3,500,000 children to be educated; and there are seven millions of colored people with 2,500,000 children to be educated.
The area of this country is seen in the following table:
Owing to the small proportion of colored people with respect to the total population in Kentucky and West Virginia and the small proportion of them in comparison with the great area of Texas, these states are omitted from the present calculations. Other appropriations may be made for these states as are found necessary after the proposed system of education has been put into operation in the states where the great masses of negro population are found. Counting Maryland, there are practically 500,000 square miles of this country that are densely populated with colored people.
One schoolhouse for each sixteen square miles would make the average distance about a mile that each child would have to walk. In no case would this distance be as great as three miles. This is seen by forming a square, each side being four miles, and by placing the school house in the center of the square. These buildings, however, may be placed nearer together or farther apart according to the density of the population.
A schoolhouse with grounds may be secured for $500, which property may be kept in repairs with funds mentioned later. Teachers in most localities may be readily secured at $40 per month and six days per week, so that the expenditure below may be regarded as quite sufficient.
A teacher at $50 per month for ten months—$500. His time may be divided between two schoolhouses, he teaching five months at the one and five months at the other, or he might teach alternate days at either schoolhouse, in which case he should live about halfway between the two. In the latter case, which seems preferable, the pupil has less time to forget what he has already acquired and besides he may be of considerable service to his parents.
Beginning at eight years old, the child should be required to attend school six years. If it attends school a longer time, payments for the same should be made. This money may be used to help in part to keep the schoolhouse in repairs.
About thirty thousand schoolhouses are necessary for the above area of territory. These houses would require an initial expenditure of $15,000,000. All of this sum need not be used at one time, as it will take several years for the consummation of the system and in the building of the houses. The yearly expenditure for the thirty thousand teachers, fuel, etc., at say $250 per house is $7,500,000. This is about the cost of one battleship.
In the six years of primary study these children may learn good behavior, discipline, reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, spelling, elementary grammar, elementary history, something about farming. The average pupil in the primary school will for ages to come be more adapted to working the land than for any other occupation. The exceptional scholar (and there will be about one in thirty) should be given an opportunity at the higher schools of becoming teachers, preachers, doctors, shoemakers, wheelwrights, etc. They should also be fitted to fill the better positions in manufacturing and mining establishments. Before entering these higher institutions the pupil should be made to pass satisfactory matriculation examinations and it should be shown that he is of good character.
Such schools as Hampton and Tuskegee may be established in each of the southern states. In them industrial education should be especially emphasized, and the training of preachers, doctors and teachers (who wish to teach in the lower schools) should be provided for. These schools will be for the colored people what the universities are for the white people. They may be supported through taxation of the negro property and through the munificence of philanthropists interested in the colored race. About one fifteenth of the school money expended now is derived from taxation of negro property. Whether there is a necessity of having colored lawyers for the colored race is a question. There are already institutions in which an exceptionally clever negro may get a legal education. Any legal question may be settled by white lawyers, who for a long time to come will be more skilful in law and consequently the better able to represent their clients in the courts than colored lawyers. Further, I believe the negroes prefer to have their disputes settled by white people. But the teaching of the colored children and in most cases the care of the sick will be left to the colored people.
Whatever education a colored man possesses has been given to him by the people of the south; the present system for his education is due to the people among whom he lives, and this guiding influence must of necessity always be felt.
As shown below, the south is now spending annually at least $4,000,000 towards the education of the colored race. This money has been spent through the direction of the superintendent of public instruction in each state, and its disbursement has been supervised by the superintendents of common schools in the various counties and cities. These men have almost invariably exercised their duties with zeal and honesty. It seems desirable that these officers have charge of the funds for the education of both white and colored children as hitherto has been the case. Their salaries may be somewhat increased so that additional help in the way of secretaries and stenographers may be procured. Thus the expenses for the management of the fund for the education of colored children will be a minimum. The state superintendent should make annual reports of all moneys expended to some head man at Washington.
The office of the Commissioner of Education at Washington has become of such importance that it is an urgent necessity that the head of this office be given a higher rank and be afforded better means of carrying on the great work for which he is responsible. Practically all the great nations of the world have for the discharge of such duties Departments of Education, presided over by officers that in this country would correspond to the Secretary of Education. At no distant day, the necessity of such an officer must be realized by our government. This officer would have the general management of all such funds as those proposed for the education of the colored race.
It does not seem either wise or politic that an ample appropriation once made should ever be increased. As the colored race increases, its capability of earning money should likewise increase, and consequently the taxes on its property should enhance yearly. The corresponding fund available for schools from these taxes should offset the growth of the race. It would be thus effected that the negro race is not entirely dependent upon the federal government for its education, but only in part, this part being relatively less the greater the growth of the population and the corresponding capability of earning money. Thus by the help of the federal government, the negro is given a good chance of making for himself a place in the nation and at the same time he is made dependent upon himself. In the ultimate growth of the nation no people can be expected to assume a responsibility of the education of another people. At the same time the stronger should for a period, say fifty years, lend a helping hand towards the upbuilding of the weaker.
Just as the religion of the white man has been disseminated among the colored people through negro preachers, so must all principles of morality, culture, ethics, etc., be derived from the white race and transmitted to the lower race through the agents of that race. The negro race must be developed along its own line by its own agents as a distinct race and as a separate people. Just as they have their own preachers, they must have their own doctors, their own teachers, etc. These leaders of the people must of necessity gain most of their information from the white man. As all learning is handed down to those in the lower strata of society by those who have reached the higher levels of efficiency, so must the negro ever continue to learn from the white man. That it is the duty as well as the policy of the white man to lend a helping hand no one will deny.
With remarkable foresight, the framers of most of the recent constitutions of the southern states have seen that it was equally a part of justice and to the interest of both races that a representation in the government of political affairs be based not only upon a property qualification, but also upon an educational qualification; and so through legislation they have effected that the upper section of the colored race may enjoy the suffrage while the lower (the poor and illiterate) section of the white race is excluded therefrom. Thereby equal political rights are given to all. The southern states have thus through their own councils put into practise the very ideas that an unbiased writer, the great English political scientist and statesman, the Hon. James Bryce, advocated in his Romanes lecture, delivered at Oxford, June 7, 1902. By putting himself in this upper section, and not before then, can a colored man enjoy all the privileges of an American citizen. It remains that educational facilities be given him to accomplish this end. We claim that it is a primary duty of the federal government to aid the natives of its own states in becoming good citizens and that the "moral obligations" of this country must be first exercised within its own domains.
It has been shown above that the great masses of colored people live in rural districts. The Twelfth Census of the United States, Vol. V., pp. xciii, 4, 127, shows that in 1900 there were 732,362 farms operated by negroes in the south; that 150,000 southern negroes owned their farms and that 28,000 more were part-owners. This shows a marked progress on the part of the negro farmer since the war.
It is clear that a good farmer increases the value of his own farm, and a good farm increases the value of the adjoining farms. Hence country property advances directly as the advance in intelligence of the agricultural laborer, and the advance in the intelligence of this laborer is made directly through the education of his children. Thus education makes labor more effective and thereby enhances the value of all farming lands. Viewed from its moral aspect, statistics have already been collected sufficient to show that the literate negroes are the least criminal. It is practically axiomatic that among people closely identified the betterment of one race must also uplift the other, while the deterioration of the one must retard the progress of the other; and that either condition has a direct effect upon the nation at large. The danger of any commonwealth lies not in the education of any one class, but rather in the degeneracy of that class through lack of education; and the peril of the south is not in the rise and progress of the negro, but in his total downfall. We may note the advantage gained by the white people of the south if they are relieved of the education of the colored people:
In the Report of the United States Commissioner of Education, 1899-1900, Vol. II., p. 2501, we find that during the thirty years up to that time, from 1870, the south expended $109,000,000 on the education of the colored people, or say $3,600,000 annually. This money should be added to the educational fund for the white children, and these funds must be gradually increased until they are doubled before these children will have anything like adequate educational advantages.
The average salary of a teacher is not $30 per month, while the average salary of a brickmason is at least double this amount. Further, the facilities that these teachers have had of obtaining knowledge and of equipping themselves for teachers have been very meager, so that many of them are very poorly educated. Hence there is a dearth of knowledge as well as of money in the schools, colleges and even universities. This unfortunate condition must be admitted, when we note that out of a total of $157,000,000 of productive funds held by American colleges, the south has but $15,000,000; the valuation of grounds and buildings of southern colleges is $8,500,000 in a total $146,000,000. The total annual income available for higher education in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi,
Louisiana, Tennessee and Kentucky is $19,000 less than the yearly income of Harvard University.
A southern state university considers itself fortunate if it receives an annual appropriation of from $50,000 to $75,000; and whereas in the larger universities, like Harvard, the professors teach from five to ten hours per week, it is necessary that they teach from twenty to thirty hours per week in the southern universities. This practically prevents the southern teachers from becoming great scholars in their respective fields, as they are able to do practically nothing in research work, when all of their nervous energy is expended in the class-room. They can, therefore, contribute but little to the future development of the world's knowledge. This dwarfing of mental power is necessarily experienced in every grade of teacher, starting with the university and ending with the lowest primary school or vice versa.
What is naturally to be expected from the conditions just given is conclusively corroborated when we note how seldom an article from a southern scholar appears in the leading journals that are devoted to the propagation of the arts and sciences, and when we observe how seldom a southern writer is quoted by a European savant.
It was a favorite saying of the great French statesman Danton that a state must first have bread and then education, thus making education the next necessity of life after bread.
It must be admitted by all that the southern white people are in great need of better educational facilities; and every one must also grant that it is not right that the south be sapped of its energies to provide wholly for the education of an inferior race, while its own white population is in such need of better education.
The educators (college presidents, etc.) of the south should recognize and make better known to the people the present conditions of the educational world (which conditions should not be hidden under a cloak of self-sufficiency); the statesmen of the south should make them known to the nation; and finally, it is the duty of the nation to rectify these conditions and assume the responsbility of the education of the negro race.
That the southern people in all the states believe in the education of the negro is shown by the fact that the negro is being educated. Still, there are many people, men of foresight and ability, who say that "education spoils good laborers." This great minority of thinkers are as a rule either unmindful or ignorant of the fact that such arguments have been in vogue regarding the education of the lower classes for thousands of years. Still, the education of the masses has ever increased and the world thereby has gradually become more enlightened.
But with respect to the education of the colored people the great objection expressed by those who oppose this education is to be found in the "increasing peril resulting from the higher education of the negro."
It may be said that along the higher paths of education but few of those who have been civilized for centuries ever tread, and the higher the paths the fewer those who tread them. As would be expected, this is preeminently the case among the negro population.
The Report of the U. S. Commissioner of Education for 1899-1900, Vol. I., pp. lviii and lix of the preface, shows that 2,061 colored persons out of each 1,000,000 were enrolled in secondary and higher education for the year 1890; for the year 1907 it was 2,517 for each 1,000,000, while the general average for the whole United States had increased from 4,362 to 10,743 per 1,000,000. Thus while the attendance at the colored high school or college had increased somewhat faster than the population, it had not kept pace with the general average of the whole country, for it had fallen from 30 per cent. to 24 per cent. of the average quota.
This report also shows that of all the colored pupils only one in one hundred was engaged in secondary and higher work. These figures correspond almost exactly with those given above that were compiled by Dr. Dabney from different data.
As one teacher can not handle successfully more than from forty to fifty pupils, and as all preachers and doctors should have at least some training in a high school, it is seen how entirely without foundation are the above objections regarding the higher education of the negro.
It is further to be noted that the above averages are for the whole colored population of the United States. The percentage of negro children that attend the high schools in cities, especially northern cities, is much larger than it is for the rural districts in the south. In 1900 the number of negroes in Washington, D. C., was 86,702; in Baltimore, 79,258; in Philadelphia, 62,613; in New York, 60,666, etc.
From the Report of the U. S. Commissioner of Education (1905) Vol, 2, p. 1295, it is seen that 3,349 colored students attended high schools in the territory considered in the present paper. As there are approximately seven million colored people living within this area, there is not one colored person out of every two thousand population that ever enters the high school.
- See "The True Civil War," pp. 28, 29, 30; and in this connection see also "Origin of the Late War," by George Lunt, an eminent lawyer of Massachusetts.
- Cf. also Murphy, "The Present South," p. 42.
- See Report of the Proceedings of the Sixth Conference for Education in the South.
- Chas. W. Dabney, loc. cit.
- Cf. also statistics given by him in Chap. XVIII. of Vol. I. of the Report of the U. S. Commissioner of Education for 1902 and also the Southern Workman, January, 1903.
- These figures, of course, vary slightly from year to year.
- This method must be regarded as merely provisional. It is intended for the most part to give an idea of the expenses necessary for an adequate education of the colored race.
- A successful system is in operation in the University of Cincinnati among some of the engineering students, who spend alternate weeks at the university and at their employers' factories. These students are thus able in six years to earn their way through the engineering course.
- Booker T. Washington (Tradesman, Chattanooga, January 1, 1904, p. 99) claims almost double this number.
- Cf., for example, Clarence A. Poe, of Raleigh, N. C., in The Atlantic Monthly, February, 1904.
- It is easy to show the fallacy of an apprehension entertained by some people that the entire population of this country will eventually be "negroid." For suppose, as an extreme case, that five per cent, of the colored population were mulattoes (one half black, one half white); i. e., 19 blacks to one mulatto. (The true percentage is much smaller than the one assumed, which makes the hypothesis much in favor of the negroid proposition.) These mulattoes having no social circle of their own cohabit as readily with the pure black as with
another mulatto. Hence, left to themselves, among every 400 children of the second generation there would probably be:
361 (blacks), 38 (three fourths black, one fourth white), 1 (one half black, one half white); while among 8,000 children of the third generation there probably will be: 6,859 (blacks), 1,083 (seven eighths black, one eighth white), 57 (three fourths black, one fourth white), 1 (one half black, one half white).
In other words, among 400 children of the second generation, there would probably be one child that has as much white blood in it as there was in its grandmother, and among 8,000 of the third generation there would probably be one as near white as its great-grandmother. Thus negro returns to negro.
In a similar manner it is seen that the number of children (three fourths white, and one fourth black) that are born in the second generation from mulatto women (one half black, one half white) is very small; while the number of those that are (seven eighths white, one eighth black) in the third generation born from women (three fourths white, one fourth black) is also small, etc. The ultimate white child is correspondingly rare.
Thus even if illicit sexual intercourse between the races existed to the extent supposed in the above hypothesis, it is evident that under the present conditions negro blood can not permeate the white. Mr. Bruce ("Plantation Negro," p. 243) claims that this intercourse practically does not exist, except in the cities, and that it is on the decline in the cities. Certain it is that miscegenation in the south is meeting with little toleration.
- See "Educational Endowments of the South," by Elizabeth M. Howe, The Popular Science Monthly, October, 1903.
- See Murphy, "The Present South," p. 61.