The Problem of the Negroes
The following editorial in the Confederate Veteran magazine of January 1907 presents the view of the American race problem common of that time. A later submission to that journal asked the question: “How does it happen that blacks who took care of the helpless women and children during the war cannot now be trusted to live in the same town?” That writer observed that the carpetbag element after 1865 “created between the races a strong propulsive force to drive them apart, placing on the defensive the white . . .” and on the part of the black, “arousing an envy and hatred inevitably born of a feeling that in being debarred from social equality by the native whites he was being deprived of something to which he was entitled by right.” The author also reveals the reason behind “Jim Crow” railroad accommodations.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com The Great American Political Divide
The Problem of the Negroes
“The Veteran has been silent on this most important question; but every phase of it has been considered constantly and diligently, especially from the standpoint of friendship for that thriftless but most amiable race. Antagonisms exist as they never did before, and the neglect of white people in behalf of these issues has been greatly to their discredit.
We all like the old Negroes, and those of the fast-decaying remnant of ex-slaves are still faithful and loyal to the families of their former masters. The same instincts are much more prevalent among their offspring than is generally realized. While the Associated Press flashes a horrible account of a fiendish deed of one Negro, ten thousand others are going quietly about their business as law-abiding and worthy of consideration as could be expected of them.
It seems that education has been a curse rather than a blessing to them. The editor of the Veteran soon after attaining his majority, early after the close of the war, took an active part in behalf of their education. He antagonized some of his people as editor of a country newspaper in advocacy of public schools, which required that as good facilities be given to blacks as he whites.
He attended a venerable divine, President of the Davidson County School Board, who, when the movement was quite unpopular, canvassed his native county of Bedford in their behalf from purely benevolent motives, making the one argument that all men should learn to read the Bible. It seems, however, that when a Negro has learned to read he ceases to work, and his idleness begets mischief, and often of the worst kind.
There is not sufficient cooperation of the two races. Besides, many whites are not justly considerate of Negroes. White people should confer with the better classes of blacks for the common good, and they should cooperate cordially.
[railroad] car laws are proper, and became a necessity because of the insolent presumption of the Negroes. It was quite the rule for them to string out the length of the cars, so as to compel whites to sit among them, and every act toward social equality has proven a tendency of insolence [toward white people]. The Negroes made this isolation a necessity, and they may expect its perpetuity.
With these laws in force the whites should be very considerate and see that no injustice is done the Negroes. Again, there is a sore lack of consideration for Negroes in conversation with white people. The Negro is not to blame for his color . . . and inasmuch as we declare his inferiority, we should be diligent that justice be done him.
Often are remarks made in the presence of Negroes that instinctively create hatred not only toward those who are inconsiderate but against the white race. Every white person should be on guard to avoid giving offense in this manner.
At the first annual dinner of the Alabama Society (of one hundred and fifty members) in New York near Christmas day the Hon. Seth Low, of that great city, was a special guest. This race question was the theme of the evening, and Mr. Low, with exquisite deference, suggested that the white people of the South consider these unhappy disturbances as fairly as possible, looking at the situation from the standpoint of the Negro.
The condition confronts us, and the sooner we grapple it the better. White people intend to control, and the Negro will be the great sufferer in the end for all disturbances, so that both races should do all in their power for the friendliest relations possible.
No more Negroes should be admitted to the army, and the amendment to the Constitution giving Negroes the ballot should be repealed. This ballot is the luring one in social as well as political strife. In compelling the Negro to keep his place the highest instincts of life should be exercised to treat him kindly and justly in every way.
Let us confront the problem honestly. The Negro did not come among us of his own accord, and they can’t all get away. If tact were exercised, it would be quite sufficient. Let the white people of the South revive the old rule of kindness, and never, anyhow in their presence, speak ill of the Negro race.”
(Problem of the Negroes, S.A. Cunningham, Editor, Confederate Veteran, January 1907, page 8)