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IN THE SOUTH
REMBERT W. PATRICK
PENINSULAR PUBLISHING COMPANY
Professor Rembert W. Patrick is a native of South Carolina. He
did his undergraduate study at Guilford College in Greensboro,
North Carolina, and received his Ph.D. degree from the University
of North Carolina. He served as instructor and as principal in the
North Consolidated School of South Carolina, assistant professor of
history at Meredith College, Raleigh, North Carolina, and came to
the University of Florida in 1940 as assistant professor of social
sciences. In the summer of 1956 he was visiting professor of south-
ern history in the graduate school of Columbia University.
He has been active in the historical profession and in public
life. He served as Managing Editor of the Journal of Politics, 1942-
1944; member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Southern
History, 1950-1954; member and chairman of the State Library
Board of Florida, 1950-1954; and head of the History Department
of the University of Florida, 1950-1955. Since 1955 he has edited
the Florida Historical Quarterly. In 1950, the Cuban Academy of
History elected him to membership.
Dr. Patrick-is professor of history in the College of Arts and
Sciences of the University of Florida and faculty associate of the P.
K. Yonge Library of Florida History.
The following is a speech delivered by Professor Patrick at the
Sixty-Fifth Annual Convention of the Florida State Teachers Asso-
ciation, April 25, 1958 at Miami, Florida.
Because Professor Patrick has not allowed himself to become
emotionally involved with this serious problem of Race Relations,
but maintains an appropriately objective approach, the members of
the Florida State Teachers Association, Inc. feel that this speech
should be given wide circulation among educators and other lay-
citizen groups throughout the Southern Region and the nation.
In a time as controversial as ours, it is refreshing to have some-
one present both sides of this problem objectively. We must move
forward toward a more democratic understanding in Race Relations
in this country. The South's future America's future depends on
how we face up to this our major problem and responsibility.
GILBERT L. PORTER, Executive Secretary,
Florida State Teachers Association
RACE RELATIONS IN THE SOUTH
REMBERT W. PATRICK
CLOUD-LIKE the Old South floats among peaks of myth, romance,
and reality. Often her mists descend to the living South, and her
ghostly fingers drift to other areas of the nation. Defeated and ap-
parently killed in 1865, the Old South lingers on, shrouded in the
mystery of her complexity and robed in the many-colored dress of
her interpreters. She moves from earth to sky and back again,
offering haven to the romanticist and bewilderment to the realist.
That many-sided South has thousands of interpreters. Women
confronted with the imperfections of the modern male, envision an
age of chivalrous and attentive men, of gay parties with soft music
and the rustle of crinoline dresses, and of a life-long buggy ride
through magnolia scented forests. Men dream of demure women
who acknowledged their masters and gave them a justified homage.
The segregationist believes that Grant and Sherman destroyed a
civilization which had solved the race problem. Ashamed of the
past, sensitive Negroes reject their beautiful and moving spirituals.
The Old South dotted with white mansions on every hilltop
and millions of contented black slaves is a technicolored version of
the past. Motion pictures contribute to this myth, but southern and
northern historians are also guilty of the fraud. Only one-fourth
of the Southerners of 1860 owned or belonged to families which
held slaves. Rather than a section with owners and slaves, there
were at least five classes in the ante-bellum South.
Socially and economically the elite were the planters who
owned twenty or more slaves which was the minimum for planter
classification. Certainly no more than 250,000 men, women and
children were numbered in this class, and among them was a small
percentage of Negroes. The largest class was the yeomen, the ma-
jority of whom owned no slaves, and who were the backbone of
the South. Probably seven and one half million Southerners were
in this category. (Most white people descend from this class and
they were the class who made the United States a great nation.)
Smallest of all white classes were the poor whites or the "poor
white trash" which probably totaled no more than 250,000. Mem-
bers of this group lived on the fringes of the plantations and were
diseased, almost ambitionless, and always near starvation. Because
they envied the better fed and better housed slave, they were the
one class in the South which hated the Negro. Also small in number
were the free Negroes or free persons of color. Yet there were
250,000 of these people in the South. The almost four million slaves
composed a fifth southern class. Along with the masses of whites,
the slaves are responsible for the development of the South. Any
valid history of the Old South must encompass all of these classes.
Too frequently the great yeoman class has been ignored as the
white Southerners have been portrayed as planters or poor white
trash. As a consequence modern Southerners try to identify them-
selves with the planter tradition to avoid a "poor white trash"
The second myth, that the South was a land of ancient aristoc-
racy, ignores her relative youthC At the outbreak of the Civil War
most of the South was no more than a generation away from the
frontier. Yet, ancestor worshipers who encourage the myth of
ancient respectability, date southern aristocracy from the founding
of Jamestown in 1607 and point to more than two and one half
centuries of development. They people the colonial seaboard with
cavaliers who were aristocrats in origin and who re-established the
aristocracy of England in southern North America. Such organiza-
tions as the Colonial Dames, Daughters of the American Revolu-
tion, and Sons of the American Revolution keep the aristocratic
myth alive. In reality relatively few cavaliers settled in the tide-
water. Many, many times their number were individuals too poor
to pay their passage to America. We know these people as inden-
tured servants or people who were sold into slavery for four or more
years, to pay the cost of transportation to the New World. None
of you have heard of an organization known as the "DIS" or "Daugh-
ters of Indentured Servants" for such an organization does not exist.
Yet I doubt that a single person qualified by ancestry to gain ad-
mission to the Daughters of the American Revolution or the Co-
lonial Dames would not be eligible for the Daughters of Indentured
Servants. The overwhelming majority of Southerners came from
humble economic and social backgrounds.
Apart from the enclaves of long standing respectability along the
Maryland to Georgia tidewater and in New Orleans, the pre-Revo-
lutionary South was a frontier. In the tidewater there were tradi-
tions of silver plate, candlelight, and late evening meals, of liveried
carriages, of courtly manners, and intellectual achievement. This
small but real aristocracy of the coastal regions was later fiction-
alized to encompass the entire South. Before the Civil War these
older areas were in economic and intellectual decline.
Rather than a land of courtly manners, the South in 1860 is best
described in the plebian phrases of the humorist Johnson Jones
Hooper. His characters are motivated by the principle that it is
good to be shifty in a new country. His hero, Simon Suggs, tries to
dupe everyone; he gambles at faro tables and at camp meetings,
and speaks of an early morning hour as "fust drink time."
More characteristic than the concept of an ancient aristocracy
is the example cited by Wilbur Cash of the Irishman who brought
his bride in 1800 to the upcountry of South Carolina. He spent
his entire savings of twenty dollars for forty acres of land on which
he built a two room log cabin. He and his bride worked from sun-
rise to dusk felling trees, burning logs, grubbing out stumps, and
planting corn. The latter, after harvest, he converted into whiskey
and took it, with some coarse woolen cloth woven by his wife, to
the Charleston market. There he bought some cotton seed for he
thought the blooms and the white bolls would appeal to his bride's
desire for beauty. Then he discovered the cotton could be spun and
woven into cloth, and that there was a machine to separate the
seed from the lint. He bought a bony, half-starved horse from a
wandering peddler, paying for his purchase with a dollar, a knife,
and a gallon of whiskey. Then every day including Sunday,
weather permitting, by sunlight and moonlight he held the plow
and his wife followed with the hoe.
On another trip to Charleston, he traded his cotton for a mangy,
black slave, worn out from labor in the rice lands. As years passed
his cotton paid for more land and additional slaves. With his in-
crease in wealth, he added four rooms to his house to care for a
growing family. Then he built a new frame house, barns, a cotton
gin, and acquired a carriage. As men with background similar to
his populated the upland, he entered politics as a magistrate. Now
he built his third house: a box of four rooms bisected by a hallway
laid upon another box of four rooms bisected by a second hallway.
There was a detached kitchen in back and columns in front. The
building cost $1000, and it was windswept and cold in winter, but
it was eventually painted white and looked imposing in its setting
of pinelands and cotton fields.
The country around his house grew more populous and nearby
was built a country town with a brick courthouse, stores, and frame
dwelling houses. A wandering Presbyterian minister opened an
academy. A vagabond German stopped at the Irishman's home
long enough to teach the planter's daughters to play as well as
young ladies should play on a recently acquired piano. The eldest
son went to college in Columbia and returned to be county judge.
The Irishman was elected to the legislature, donned a long tailed
coat, and grew white whiskers which set off the brick red of his
weather beaten face. To one social function in Columbia, he took
his youngest daughter a rather pretty girl, though plain in man-
ner and shy. There she met a Charleston gentleman of ancient
heritage and empty pocketbook who married her for her father's
The Irishman died in 1854, and left an estate of 2,000 acres,
114 slaves, and four cotton gins. The recently established local
newspaper eulogized him as a "gentleman of the old school" and
"a noble specimen of chivalry at its best." The Charleston papers
gave him a column and the state legislature passed a resolution in
his memory. His widow outlived him by ten years to become a
beautiful, fragile woman with hands knotted and twisted just
enough to give them character and a finely transparent skin through
which her blue veins showed most aristocratically.
Cotton planted on virgin land brought men of lowly origin to
affluence within less than a generation. In the nineteenth century,
cotton and the cotton gin made it possible to expand the planta-
tion system from the narrow tidelands to the uplands and the trans-
Appalachians. But it was less than seventy years from the date of
the cotton gin to the Civil War. The plantation was not in full
march until 1820 and the conquest of the frontier was paramount
in the South until twenty years before the war. In 1861, nine-
tenths of the leaders of the South came from the newly rich.
No one description applies to southern planters. Some were
gentle, well-mannered, and well read; others were loud, vulgar,
and ignorant. Southern society produced the kindly Robert E. Lee,
the introspective Alexander H. Stephens, the able Judah P. Ben-
jamin, the loud mouthed Robert H. Toombs, and the slavetrader
Nathan B. Forrest. There were tens of other nameless men who
bullied and swaggered their way through life. Some of them could
be seen on riverboats; prosperous and well dressed, but a coarse
type of people; drinking a great deal and usually under the in-
fluence of some alcoholic excitement, showing the handles of guns
and knives under their waistcoats; very ill-informed except on the
subjects of cotton, land, and Negroes; and ungrammatical, idiomatic,
and extravagant in their speech. There were men of refinement
among these wealthy planters, but their number was smaller in
proportion to that of the immoral, vulgar, and ignorant newly-rich
than in any other part of the United States.
These planters agreed that the agrarian life was the highest
economic ideal. No other occupation gave a man such dignity and
importance as the cultivation of the soil with slave labor. The
ownership of Negroes was a symbol of success and carried the pre-
sumption that the owner and his family had attained social status.
He personalized his feeding, clothing, and sheltering the slaves.
He bemoaned the necessity of punishing them, and dwelt on his
care of the young, the old, and the afflicted. He quoted passages
from the Bible and cited illustrations from ancient, honored civili-
zations to prove the necessity of slavery. In the face of financial
reverse or difficulty with his slaves, he shed tears for himself as
the capstone of southern society. Long before such slogans as
"what aids business aids you" or "what's good for General Motors is
good for the people" the planter acted on the theory that the good
of the planter was the good of all. It must be recalled, however,
that slavery existed to benefit the planter and not the slave.
Most planters believed that in slavery the South had solved the
race problem. In reality, however, this is a third myth of the Old
South. By its very nature the institution of slavery varied accord-
ing to the character of the slave owner. It is impossible to get a
fair picture of slavery because a thousand pictures are possible, all
different and all true. Between the master and domestic slave there
was affection and kindness. Negroes received a rough fare, ade-
quate clothing, and some type of shelter. Although public opinion
condemned the owner who inhumanly treated his slaves, it did not
prevent such mistreatment. A thousand apologists for slavery can-
not cover the fact that the institution could not have existed without
the lash as punishment. The scarred backs and the number of
slave hunters with their trained dogs testify to the unhappiness of
many. The fear, the ever-present fear, of slave uprisings haunted
Slaves claimed and enjoyed holidays as well as Sundays which
were free of work. But the periods of fleeting joy were long in
coming, and between them was labor, suffering, and hopelessness.
One of the worst features of slavery lay in its effect on white and
black families. Under the slave system there could be no family
life in the usual American way for Negroes. Although many slaves
enjoyed a marriage ceremony, more were united by assignment of
a cabin, jumping over a broomstick, or some other simple method.
Some conscientious ministers, knowing that husband and wife
might be sold, changed the phrase "until death do you part" to
"until death or distance do you part".
In Africa Negroes had been accustomed to a strictly regulated
family life, but in America, they lost their native culture and could
not replace it with that of the white man because the white code
was not applicable to the slave's peculiar condition. The Negro
'father was reduced to a biological necessity, for he had no responsi-
bility for the care of his off-spring or his wife. Rations were issued
to her and she took what little care was taken of the children.
White marriages were civil contracts with obligations on both
parties and penalties in law as well as public opinion for their viola-
tion. Slave masters could assign husbands to women. While there
is no evidence of planned breeding of children for profit, owners
were not unmindful of the value added by the increase in children.
It is not surprising, therefore, that one slave had seven children
by seven different men. One Virginia planter, giving up the at-
tempt to list fathers of children, wrote that they were sired "by the
Commonwealth of Virginia, by the Universe, or God knows who
The fact that slave women were fair game for colored and white
men disrupted white and Negro families. Planters who were them-
selves above moral reproach would send their sons to northern
schools because they could not be brought up at home in decency.
"Like the patriarchs of old," Mrs. James Chesnut wrote, "our men
live all in one house with their wives and concubines, and the mu-
lattoes one sees in every family partly resemble the white children.
Anybody is ready to tell you who is the father of all the mulatto
children in everybody's household but her own. These she seems
to think, drop from the clouds."
There is no hiding the fact that slavery was a vicious institution
- harmful to the owner and to the slave. By 1860 the Southerner
was pushed to the wall in defense of an indefensible institution.
He was a minority in his country and the western world condemned
him. He answered with flowing oratory and heated argument. The
Southerner talked of minority rights, and saw no inconsistency in
his position for he did not think the Negro possessed of rights. The
majority of Southerners defied public opinion of a larger part of
their states and of the western world.
Not all Southerners hailed secession with joy. Benjamin Frank-
lin Perry of South Carolina, denounced it as madness and folly. His
fellow Carolinian, James Louis Petigrew exclaimed, "they have this
day set a blazing torch to the temple of constitutional liberty, and
please God, we shall have no more peace whatever." A planter
in another southern state said; "Well, sir, I know slavery is wrong,
and God will put an end to it. It's bound to come to an end, and
when it does come, there'll be woe in the land."
And woe came to the land. Six hundred thousand Americans
were killed. Although only 250,000 of these were in the South, she
suffered relatively more than did the North. The South lost almost
a generation of young men, tens of thousands of crippled or maimed
lived as economic burdens to their families, and women shouldered
this burden without help from the federal government and with
little from state and local sources.
No wonder Southerners developed a worship cult of their dead
and wounded. They could not bear the thought that so many men
had died for nothing more than failure. No wonder they were de-
termined to give the dead some kind of immortality and to pass on
to later generations some memory of so many lost sons. As early
as 1867, Confederate graves in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston
were covered with flowers as a chorus sang Henry Timrod's poem.
Sleep sweetly in your humble graves,
Sleep martyrs to a fallen cause;
Though yet no marble column craves
The pilgrim here to pause.
Young, pretty girls laid more flowers on the mounds as the
chorus sang another stanza.
Stoop, angels, hither from the skies!
There is no holier spot of ground
Than where defeated valor lies,
By mourning beauty crowned!
In time no southern soldier died for anything so crass as the
defense of slavery. Rather he gave his life for state sovereignty,
for the homeland, or for the southern way of life. The cause of the
South became a glorious one. Men and women wandered in
memory to the good old days. "I've never seen such a beautiful
moon," a visitor said to his southern host. "Ah," the Southerner
replied, "you should have seen it before the war."
More pressing than the "Lost Cause" in 1865 was the problem
of the freed slave. The quarter million free Negroes of prewar days
were now more than four million in number. Would they in their
freedom run wild as many whites had feared? In the first flush of
freedom, numbers of former slaves flocked to cities and towns.
The Negro had been held in ignorance, and far from preparing him
for freedom, slavery kept the Negro as close as possible to com-
plete dependency. Most ex-slaves thought freedom synonymous
with the absence of work. One Negro recalled that it was 'like
Greek" to him when his mother whispered, "Son, we have been
slaves all our lives, and now Mr. Abe Lincoln done set us free, and
we can go anywhere we please in this country, without getting a
pass.... like we used to do." On hearing of freedom, another
mother took her small children in her arms, and said: "Chillun,
didn't I tell you God would answer prayer."
The freedmen soon learned that freedom and responsibility
were joined. And the white man attempted to fix the Negro's place
in society. In a series of laws, the freedmen were given second class
citizenship. Persons with one-eighth or more of Negro genes were
classified as Negro and special laws gave them an inferior place
in society. Reaction in the North was immediate and unfavorable.
The Chicago Tribune warned the white men of Mississippi that
"the North will convert the State of Mississippi into a frog-pond
before it will allow any such laws to disgrace one foot of soil in
which the bones of our soldiers sleep and over which the flag of
freedom waves." These laws or "black codes" were not the only
reason why the North instituted a Congressional reconstruction of
the South, but they did contribute to a more rigorous program than
that which was being enforced by presidential direction.
Angry Southerners unwisely and bitterly criticized the North.
A Georgian wrote Thaddeus Stevens, a leader of the Northern
radicals, "Pass as many laws as you please, ... you miserable
scoundrel ... Hell's dominions are too good for you. Now call me
disloyal. Yes, I am disloyal to any damned government ruled by
such men as you, and I shall live to hate you." A South Caro-
linian said the Yankees have left me "one unquestionable privilege
. to hate 'em." The editor of the Panola, Mississippi, Star, after
a savage and almost hysterical attack on Northerners in general,
requested that Southerners be remembered as people
What hates the Cotton Mather
And Roger Williams' stock.
That dirty pile of Hell's manure
First dumped on Plymouth Rock.
Proud and defiant Southerners made a costly mistake with
their vitriolic criticism. After all, the North did win the war, and
few peoples are so magnanimous as to allow the conquered freedom
to criticize. In almost a century since Civil War Reconstruction,
the South has gained considerable sympathy for herself as a tram-
pled and abused land. Few Southerners consider the leniency of
the North after the Civil War. As the result of a conflict in which
350,000 Northerners were killed, one Southerner was executed
and some leaders were imprisoned for periods ranging from a few
months to two years. There was some confiscation of property, but
most of it was restored to its owners. Voting and officeholding in
the states were denied to some white Southerners, but mainly for
one election. After the vote for the constitutional conventions of
1867 and 1868, practically no limitation was placed on any South-
erner with regard to voting or officeholding within the states.
In view of the suffering, death, economic cost, and the desire
for revenge even Congressional Reconstruction was amazingly
lenient. The French Revolution resulted in the execution of
thousands and the Russian and Spanish civil wars of this century
numbered victims in the hundreds of thousands. After the Civil
War the North could have followed a reconstruction policy of
leniency, harshness, or some middle ground between the two ex-
tremes. She began with leniency and shifted to the middle policy.
In the end, she slapped the South sufficiently hard to arouse anger
but not to subdue.
The results of Reconstruction are well-known. Northern and
southern opportunists banded together, and supported by Negro
and some white voters, brought an era of graft and corruption
which almost equaled the dismal record of the entirely white con-
trolled city of New York. The bottom rail was never placed on
top. Few Negroes achieved high office in the South and the
yearning of the mass for land was not satisfied. This hunger of
the Negro for land made him an easy mark for the trickster,
who for a dollar a stake, gave the illiterate ex-slave a faked deed
to forty acres of land, which read: "Know all men by these presents,
that naught is a naught, and a figure is a figure; all for the white
man, and none for the nigger, and whereas Moses lifted up the
serpent in the Wilderness, so I lifted this damned old nigger out
of four dollars." There were more than 45 million acres of
federal land in the South, but at a time when governments gave
some 200 million acres to railroads, the ex-slave received almost
nothing. One real tragedy of Reconstruction lay in this failure to
provide economic opportunity for the Negro.
Another tragedy was the southerner's resort to violence. De-
terred by fear from attacking northern whites, the Southerner hit
at the Negro. In the Klu Klux Klan and similar organizations
dedicated to violence were written one of the worst chapters of
southern history. The Klan left a heritage which was to bedevil
and disgrace the South thereafter, as mobs took law into their
hands and perpetrated barbarous acts, unjustified under any code
of civilized rule.
Southerners came out of Congressional Reconstruction embit-
tered in mind. They knew that slavery, secession, and state sover-
eignty could not be resurrected, but they hated the Yankee and
were growing more antagonistic toward the Negro. In reality
Reconstruction did not end in 1877 with the withdrawal of Federal
troops from the South. In the larger sense, 1877 was a year of
beginnings for the South. Reconstruction lay in the future.
Few peoples of the modern world faced so many tasks so ill-
equipped as did Southerners. Basically, the South was illiterate.
The old private school system was destroyed during the war. The
former practice of training the upper class for leadership in south-
ern colleges, northern institutions, and foreign universities could
not be resumed in the midst of poverty. Decade by decade able
men of the older generation passed away, and few trained youth
were available to take their places. Living in unbelievable poverty,
and faced with the cruel necessity of family effort to make a living,
parents could not spare sons or daughters from the plow and hoe.
The Old South had trained leaders supported by semi-illiterate
and illiterate peoples. In the New South, the less ignorant led
the more ignorant. In primitive society this state of affairs would
not have been disastrous. The New South, however, existed in a
modern age. The sweep of the industrial revolution, mass produc-
tion, and the business revolution brought an unknown complexity
to society. In the absence of knowledge, few decisions were based
on reason; most came out of emotion. Leaders of the lost cause
became the glorious end-result of that ideal planter-slave regime.
Women whose fathers never achieved any distinction in the Old
South other than a clerkship in a railroad station, talked of the
good old days on the plantation when "we dined at eight." And
listeners wondered whether dinner had been delayed until 8:00
because of a plantation economy or because it took that long to
scratch up some corn and fat back for the meal. The old planter
class was endowed with wisdom, justice, humanity, and social
consciousness. The legend of the Old South was rounded out and
Southerners put a great white manor house on every hilltop and
populated the land with more black slaves than China has Chinese.
One great burden of the South was the Negro. The North
liberated him and only for a time even attempted to help him.
Few people will deny the goodness of freedom, and few will
attempt to justify the Northerner's contented, self-righteous attitude
of "I've done my duty. Let the Negro work out his own economic
salvation." The Negro was free, but he was almost propertyless
and unequipped to secure a place in society. He along with the
whites made up a southern generation of ignorance. Since the
whites were numerically, intellectually, and economically the
stronger, they reconstructed a society for the white man.
For a time, the conservative and wealthier whites ruled the
South. Often they used the Negro vote to retain their power. In
the 1880's and 1890's the poorer whites rebelled, and just as had
been done in Reconstruction attacked the Negro. By various means
such as economic intimidation, poll taxes, literacy tests along with
grandfather clauses which enabled the illiterate white to vote,
and the white Democratic primaries, the Negro was eliminated
as a factor in southern politics. Party solidarity of the whites be-
came the trademark of southern patriotism.
The poorer whites were unwilling to limit Negroes to political
oblivion. They demanded that he be segregated in every possible
way. In the Old South Negro and white rode in the same stage-
coach and railroad car; domestics lived in close association with
the master class; on small farms people of all colors worked and
ate together, and children of all classes played with one another.
During Congressional Reconstruction, the races were separated in
churches and schools. For years after 1877 Negroes were not
segregated in railways cars, stations, or even restaurants. As the
poorer whites of the South became more politically articulate,
they pushed the Negro further out of the white world and deeper
into his own society.
A North Carolina Negro wrote in 1890: "The best people of the
South do not demand this separate car business.. .This whole thing
is but a pandering to the lower instincts of the worst class of whites
in the South." For more that twenty years after the Civil War
no southern state had "Jim Crow" laws. Then Florida began in
1887 and the other states followed. Within the next two decades,
laws, court decisions, and custom segregated the races in railroad
cars, stations, restaurants, hotels, libraries, parks, theaters, hospitals,
asylums, residential districts, and even in the cemeteries. The com-
pleted new codes part law and part practice were more com-
plex than the ante-bellum slave codes or the black codes and even
more rigorously enforced.
The South established this caste system with the consent of
the North. For decades after 1877, Southerners acted carefully
with regard to the Negro. Too obvious intimidation and denial
of political rights to freedmen might bring the Federal bayonets
back again. But in time the Northerner tired of the Negro question.
In the hyper-emotionalism of the post-war era, Northerners looked
upon Negroes as superior beings. They had been held down by
slavery, and all they needed was political opportunity to demon-
strate their inherent qualities. Because of the Negro's slow advance,
most Northerners lost patience with him.
There are many reasons why the North abandoned the Negro.
The prevailing economic belief that individual initiative could
earn economic independence in this land of great opportunity did
not seem to be valid with regard to the Negro. Neither was it
true of the mass of poverty-stricken southern whites. The leading
northern newspapers and magazines such as Harper's, Atlantic,
and Scribners either advocated a policy of allowing the South to rule
the South or were almost maudlin in their sympathy. In 1903
Thomas Dixon, Jr., had a hit play on Broadway, The Leopard Spots,
which portrayed Congressional Reconstruction from the rabid pro-
southern point of view. Two years later he wrote: "One drop of
Negro blood makes a Negro. It kinks the hair, flattens the nose,
thickens the lips, puts out the light of intellect, and lights the
fires of brutal passions."
Since the North was having difficulty with alien nationalities
and races, perhaps there was validity to the southern contention of
the biological inferiority of the Negro. Certainly the Poles, the
southern Italian, and the Slav in general with their peculiar folk-
ways and mores and their Catholicism were undesirable arrivals.
As more and more of the yellow race came to the United States, it
became obvious that they were inferior to the white American. Con-
tact with the Slav and the Oriental converted many Northerners to
the southern point of view.
The United States Supreme Court gave legal sanction to the
new order. Following as it does public opinion and more interested
in interpreting the 14th amendment to protect business than
the Negro, the court declared the Civil Rights Act of 1875 un-
constitutional and in the 1890's enunciated the separate but equal
doctrine. Under this doctrine almost every act of southern states
to make the Negro a second class citizen gained the support
of the court.
By 1900 Henry Cabot Lodge stood almost alone in Congress
calling for the protection of Negroes, and world events were taking
care of him. The new imperialism of the world was reaching its
peak. The powers of Western Europe were dividing Africa and
Asia, talking of the "Whiteman's burden," and not doubting the
superiority of one race over the others. Thrust into imperialism by
the Spanish-American War, the United States was soon concerned
with "inferior races" and the white man's burden. Then Pitchfork
Ben Tillman of South Carolina laughed at the northern "do-gooders"
who shed tears for the black babies of the South while voting funds
to kill brown babies in the Philippine Islands. And so, for the
time being, the southern point of view on race became the national
Just as intelligent Negroes had feared, segregation and the caste
system were not so much evils of themselves as were their concur-
rent effects. To keep the colored man politically inarticulate and
socially segregated, most whites felt it necessary to limit their eco-
nomic opportunity. Thus all but the lower paying jobs, the dirty
work, and the unskilled places were closed to him in government
and in most business enterprises. Gradually pressure was applied
to limit his opportunity in his time honored place as artisan and
he was pushed out of such personal service as barbering.
The South found the ideological basis for this political, social,
and economic discrimination in the biological inferiority of the
Negro race. Emphasis on this race inferiority became the order of
the day in conversation, gesture, literature, law enforcement, and
court decisions. The violence of a few colored people after the
Civil War was magnified while the greater lawlessness of the Ku
Klux Klan was praised. The Negro was described as a menace, a
beast in human form, and one writer even changed the tempter of
Eve in the garden of Eden from a snake to a Negro. Since the
race was biologically inferior, no Negro, however well educated,
inventive, or public spirited was equal to the dirtiest, most selfish,
and most vicious white.
Colored wives and girls suffered because of segregation. Many
white men, who thought of their women along with God and
the southland, considered the Negro fair game. The extra-curricu-
lar alliances of bygone days were mostly reduced to catch and run
affairs. Some whites felt a responsibility for their mulatto offspring.
This sense of duty varied from that of money for upbringing, edu-
cation, and remembrance in will to that of a small town man who
did no more than give his adult progeny a quart of beer on
Saturday from the colored window of the local bar. Southerners
often point to the terrific economic burden of widowed mothers in
rearing families after the Civil War. They seldom mention the
greater burden colored mothers bore in the cost of feeding, cloth-
ing, and sheltering children of white fathers.
This racial ambidexterity of white males in sex (and it was by
no means limited to the lower classes) disturbed many Southerners.
Even the Victorian apologist for the South, Myrta Lockett Avary,
could not ignore race mixture in her partisan writings. The fact
that miscegenation continued after slavery, she happily reported,
contradicted the abolitionist claim that masters had forced slaves
to submit. Then Avary points her finger at the Northern man. A
Northern tourist in Florida, she reported, asked a "orange-woman":
"They say Southerners do not believe in intermingling of the races.
But look at all these half-white coons:" "Well, Marster," the
woman replied, "don't you give Southern folks too much credit fuh
dat. Rich Yankees in de winter-time; crap uh white-nigger babies in
de fall." Basically, however, Avary with her victorian regard of
sex as a necessary evil, blamed the Negro woman with her primitive
sex instincts and lack of sex conscience. Furthermore, she said
the "average negress will accept, invite, with every wile she may,
the purely animal attention of a 'no-count white man' in preference
to marriage with a black." There is a basic aspiration of the Negro
to become white, Avary concluded, and it is an acknowledgment in
itself of inferiority and self-loathing.
Such a diatribe was a concomitant of segregation. Though some
Negroes accepted white men for immediate economic gain, more
reacted to fear. Unfortunately, the Negro woman had little re-
course in court against the white for child support. Negroes of
both sexes learned that courts were not in being to protect the
rights of colored people. Judges did fine Negroes who brought
charges against whites and issued their decisions on some such
basis as "you must respect white folk." In South Carolina, a man
sitting in a crossroad store told his audience of a Negro who brought
a white man into court. Witness after witness testified that they
saw the white man steal the Negro's cow, butcher her, and sell
the meat. All the while the white defendant sat unperturbed, even
disdaining legal counsel. At the conclusion of the state's case,
he rose, pointed to his accuser and said, "Ain't dat a nigger?" Then
touching his breast, he cried, "Ain't I a white man?" Finally he
pointed to the state seal hanging behind the judge and said, "Ain't
dis South Carolina?" On these three facts he rested his defense
and the jury brought in a verdict of not guilty. One old Carolinian
sitting on an empty nail keg shook his head at the conclusion of
the story. "You know that's not true," he said. "The Negro would
never have gotten his case into court."
This illustration presents a one-sided picture, but nevertheless
the Negro learned through experience and by intimidation to stay
out of court. In addition to law enforcement agencies, extra-legal
means were used to keep the Negro in his place. Lynching came
to the New South from the Old. In the modern era, however, it
became an instrument of intimidation. The ideology of the act was
the protection of white women. In reality it was used as a means
to keep the Negro in his inferior political, economic and social
place. At its worst, it was nothing more than sadism in action.
For a time, it became an integral part of the caste system in
Thus in the twentieth century the caste system became a fixture.
In its extreme form it brought peonage to many colored people. At
best it allowed them inferior schools and second rate accomoda-
tions on trains and buses. Negroes not only existed in poverty,
but also suffered from legal and extra-legal limitations. Some sym-
pathetic white people believed the Negro had enjoyed a better
life as a slave. One Southerner asked an harassed Negro "Wouldn't
you be better off as a slave?" The Negro thought for only a moment,
then shook his head and replied; "There is a certain looseness about
freedom I kinda enjoys."
Booker T. Washington urged the Negro to accept the caste
system, but to train himself for skilled employment. Washington
believed that the educated and propertied colored man would
eventually be accepted by the whites. Undoubtedly, he contri-
buted much to aleviate a critical situation. In reality, however,
his larger aim of acceptance of a man on the basis of worth rather
than color of skin was never attained.
The National Association For the Advancement of Colored
People attacked the caste system by legal action. Since the Negro
was technically a citizen of the United States, the Association sought
to secure his right to trial by a jury of his peers, to obtain equal
pay for equal work in state jobs, to win the franchise, to gain
equal though separate facilities in transportation and schools, and
finally to destroy the caste system.
The aggressiveness of the NAACP resulted in many victories,
but the improved position of the Negro by the 1950's also came
from changes in sectional, national, and world attitudes. South-
erners themselves did much to better the lot of the Negro within
the caste system. Many white people protested vigorously infrac-
tions of law which allowed peonage; they supported education,
better housing, and fairer treatment for the minority in general.
An aroused social consciousness not only demanded some respect
for Negro aspirations, but also pointed to the fact that a large
minority could not be kept at low economic and educational levels
without pulling down those enjoying a higher civilization. The
Negro contributed to his bettered position. By hard work and
thrift he acquired property. He sent his children to school and
took more pride in his race as he developed a stronger sense of
responsibility. Yet many Southerners were exasperated with evi-
dences of failure by so many Negroes to be more responsible and
to take more pride in themselves. Never in the relations between
white and Negro was the bad all on one side and the good on the
other. The story was a complex one with repeated accounts of
friendly, selfless, and even affectionate relations by both races as
well as incidents which good Southerners, white and colored, would
like to forget. Between individual white and individual Negro,
there were often most friendly associations, with whites doing more
than their share to meet the needs of the colored people. Unfortu-
nately, this individual relationship too seldom carried over to the
mass, and the better class, economically and socially, would not
speak vigorously against mistreatment which did not apply to
individuals under their patronage. The reservoir of good feeling
for the Negro could and did dry up quickly in the face of his
show of independence and his protests against the caste system.
As this system was based in part on the assumption of the bio-
logical inferiority of the Negro race, the discoveries of the twentieth
century shocked many Southerners. The fact that northern Negroes
made a better showing than southern whites in intelligence tests
given during World War I was disconcerting. Psychologists, bio-
logists, anthropologists and socialogists denied that races could be
classed as superior and inferior. These assertions together with
Hitler's emphasis on the superiority of Germans over all other
peoples brought new studies of race and new concepts of native
Undoubtedly, the New Deal aided the Negro economically,
as it did most lower income classes. A more secure economy,
together with his voting power in northern states won him political
consideration. His service in World War II and world opinion
against race discrimination enhanced the Negro's position. In
post-World War II, Broadway plays and musicals reflected an in-
creasing awareness of the Negro. And the Supreme Court reflected
not only legal rights but public opinion in its decisions.
Certainly race relations have deteriorated in the South since
1954. The cause, too, is obvious. Moderates on race made few
protests against the actions and organizations of agitators.
The results of the last years are peculiarly unfortunate for the
South. After decades of poverty, the number one economic prob-
lem of the nation was becoming a land of opportunity. Other
regions of the United States protested the loss of their industries
to the South. Southerners who for so many decades begged for
loans and paid high interest rates for capital were in the unbeliev-
able historic position of being able to export capital to other regions
of the nation. This economic affluence was particularly true of
Texas and Florida. And so true that resentment shows in anecdote.
Only recently a Floridian who requested one of the less expensive
single rooms in the Rice Hotel in Houston, found on registration
that he had been assigned to a room in the most expensive category.
To his protests, the suave hotel clerk replied, "You're from Florida,
and we knew you really desired the best." This regional resent-
ment of the advancing South is illustrated by the general circulation
of such stories as that of the Texan who made a long distance call
while in New York City. After concluding his conversation he
asked the operator for the charge. On being told it was $16.45 he
blew his top in the Texas manner. The telephone operator, trained
as she was to answer wrath with gentle words, tried to appease the
irate Texan. But when he yelled: "$16.45! Why in Texas I could
call to Hell and back for that," the modulated voice of the tele-
phone operator came; "Oh, I know you could, Sir, for that would be
a local call."
What are some of the economic costs of segregation to the
South? A report in the Wall Street Journal of November 5, 1957,
stated that underwriters added as much as 38 one hundreds of one
per cent to interest charges in bidding on public bond issues of
the South. Even at 3 of one per cent, the total added cost of a ten
million issue of twenty year bonds would come to half a million
dollars. Refusal of hotels to take either the educated or the rela-
tively wealthy colored means the loss of millions to the South
from conventions. The hotels are not the only sufferers for trans-
portation and merchants are affected. Refusal of Louisiana to allow
contact between Negro and white on athletic fields has meant the
loss of revenue to many organizations in that state. Refusal to serve
Negroes at luncheons and dinners has ended sponsorship of such
meals by numbers of southern associations meeting in conventions.
The December 17, 1957, Wall Street Journal featured an article
entitled "Segregation Costs." This article quoted Vance Greenslit,
President of Southeastern Greyhound Lines, who stated: "it fre-
quently costs 50% more to build a terminal with segregated facili-
ties." Many companies, reported the Journal, must duplicate facili-
ties at considerable expense, and someone consumer, labor, or
stockholder must pay for this added cost. Scripto, maker of pen-
cils and pens, bought a forty acre site in Atlanta for a proposed
$1,500,000 plant. Although the land was located in an uncongested
area which had been zoned for industrial use for 28 years, objection
on the segregation issue forced Scripto to abandon its plans for
the site and sell at a $41,000 loss. The stockholders, many of whom
are Southerners suffered the loss. Recently, the industrial develop-
ment board of a small Georgia town persuaded a clothing manu-
facturer to locate a plant in the community. Citizens of the town
congratulated themselves until they found that the plant would
employ as many as 200 colored workers. Because of opposition,
the company looked for another location. The Wall Street Journal
adds that Negroes compose approximately 20% of the southern
population and that an increasing number of colored consumers
are shopping by mail order. Such buying decreases the sales of
southern merchants, increases the cost to consumers in the South,
and discourages the establishment of branch and district offices
because of a more limited buying power. Worst of all, reports the
Journal, are the factories which would be located in the South,
but are not because of the added costs of duplicating restaurants,
water fountains, wash rooms, lounge rooms, and entrances. Fearing
retaliation in the form of a boycott of its products by southern
whites, officials of companies simply locate in non-segregated areas
and avoid stating the real cause for their decision. The inescapable
fact is that we pay, and pay dearly for segregation.
There is an even greater danger than the immediate economic
loss. For generations, Southerners have fought to secure an ade-
quate public school system. But just as we are achieving the goal,
there are individuals who take pride in advocating the closing of
those dearly won schools. The implications and results of such
a move are frightening. In this complex American civilization, any
limitation of education will have far reaching and disastrous re-
sults. Our once brightening future will be dimmed and our relative
position in the nation will decline. Any limitation placed on edu-
cation in the South will weaken the nation. In the world of today,
the United States cannot effort to relax in her training of humanists,
scientists, and social scientists. At least since 1898, Southerners
point with pride to their record of patriotism. In view of their
record of patriotism, it is strange to hear southern voices raised in
praise of acts which would weaken the nation.
Little can be said in an hour. In reviewing race relations in the
South certain facts are obvious. The Negro has always been limited
by law, custom, or public opinion from realizing his full potential.
Neither on legal nor moral grounds should we deny opportunity to
citizens because of race. A segregated society does not prevent
miscegenation. Our Negro citizens do have the right of respect,
and any white man who uses such derogatory words as "nigger,
darkie," and "coon" reflects on his own character rather than that
of the Negro race.
White Southerners speak and write of the minority rights within
the United States and on this basis attempt to justify continued
segregation. They conveniently forget that the Negro is also a min-
ority and as a minority within the South has legal as well as moral
rights to equal protection under law and equality of opportunity.
Southern white people protest the recent decisions of the United
States Supreme Court and condemn that court for its so-called
unconstitutional decisions. They fail to recall the praise bestowed
by their ancestors on that Court which rendered the Dred Scott
Decision, declared the Civil Rights Act of 1875 unconstitutional,
and enunciated the "separate but equal doctrine." They ignore the
fact that the Court in 1954 did not order integration but rather de-
clared against forced segregation. That decision allows us time to
work out our problems. It does not and will not abolish schools
which are predominately white or Negro. It did declare that Negro
students cannot be denied access to certain schools because of race.
Such a decision is just, for enforced segregation has and will result
in legal, economic, and social discrimination against the Negro.
Once a majority of the southern states limited freedom of
speech on the race question, defied the moral concepts of the west-
ern world, and the consequences were disastrous. The South did
establish the caste system and make the Negro a second class
citizen, but she succeeded only because of the tacit consent of
the rest of the nation and the powers of Western Europe. That situ-
ation is changed today. The world is in ferment, and a majority
of the peoples of the world belong to the colored races.. As a world
power, and for the sake of her very life the United States cannot
agree to any'system which makes any part of her colored popula-
tion second class citizens. Thus any victory which the segrationists
may win will be temporary. Under these circumstances the hope
for the South is calm and reasoned deliberation to meet a diffi-
cult but not unsolvable problem. For too long the Negro has been
held in the caste system. That system cannot endure with a majority
of the nation and of the world in opposition to it.
Southern and northern Negroes must work to retain a favorable
majority in the nation and world. This is not an age for relaxing
or congratulations for past victories. As a struggling minority you
will be repeatedly condemned in toto for the mistakes of a few.
The Negroes of the United States are obligated as never before
both to themselves and their friends, to demonstrate their respon-
sibility and their ability. Your task and your opportunity is to in-
crease the ability of your youth and your adults through education
and give them the desire to use their potential to the maximum.
Every child who leaves your school without a burning desire to
register and vote in adulthood will be an example of your failure.
By example and through instruction you are obligated to stimulate
the adults of your community to participate in the democratic
process of our country. But the struggle ahead will be neither
quick nor easy, and neglect of your duty will be fatal to your
cause. You can achieve equality under law and opportunity to
match your ability. A better world lies before you for you and
your children, but it will not be handed you on a silver platter.
You must win it for yourselves.
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