The New Student's Reference Work/Negroes
Ne′groes, a name given to most of the races inhabiting Africa, though it does not include all the inhabitants. The inhabitants of northern Africa, as the Abyssinians or Nubians, and the Hottentots of the south do not belong to the negro race. The physical characteristics of the true negro are black skin, woolly hair, flat nose and thick lips. Their skin is soft, and in the infant is a dull red, becoming black very soon. The negroes of the Guinea coast, who are rude savages, have a deep-black color and ugly features. Other tribes of the interior are tall, well-formed and warlike, and have some ingenuity in making implements from iron. The skull is long and narrow, with low forehead, prominent jaws and retreating chin. As a rule they are of a low order of intelligence, mechanical in their work but capable of great endurance. They are of a less nervous disposition than whites, more frequently color-blind, have smaller lungs and larger livers. The negro has long been a prey to the slave-traffic, being captured in large numbers and sold as slaves in other countries. The first slaves were brought to the United States in 1619, and this traffic was not discontinued until 1794, when it was prohibited by act of congress. The Spaniards began the trade, and King James and Queen Elizabeth both issued patents to companies. Between 1794 and 1840 the trade was confined mostly from the African coast to the West Indies and Brazil. The coast of Guinea was the largest slave-market, but inasmuch as they sold none of their own people but relied on those captured in war or by strategem, most of the slaves sent to the United States were of the pure negro type of the interior; while most of those taken to Brazil and the West Indies were closely allied to the Kafir and Zulu stock of the eastern coast. The mortality among the negroes is greater than the whites, attributed in the south much to the fact of their low condition and inattention to the laws of health, in the north to their inability to withstand the cold and variable weather, as the diseases from which they suffer are mostly those of the respiratory organs. Therefore the publication, at frequent intervals, of accounts of long-lived negroes may be ascribed to the ignorance of their ages, and not to any exceptional tenacity of life.
In disposition the negro, as a rule, is cheerful and peaceable, unconcerned for the future, inclined to live in colonies and of emotionally religious instincts. Common among them even to the present day is the exercise of a certain form of witchcraft, called voodooism, prosecuted by means of charms, philters and fetiches.
The African negroes are quite ingenious in weaving mats and cloth and in making baskets from grasses; in constructing their huts; and in making various utensils and implements for household use. They all acknowledge a supreme power, and are much given to a belief in witchcraft, charms and spells. They have wooden images, which they think have power to drive away evil spirits and to protect them from sickness and witchcraft. They are fond of music, and make various musical instruments of simple and rude character. Among the negroes in this country many become skillful in the use of musical instruments, especially the violin and the banjo. Since the emancipation of the slaves in this country many individuals have developed an ambition for education and the accumulation of property.