Of the Training of Black Men
Why, if the Soul can fling the Dust aside, And naked on the Air of Heaven ride, Were't not a Shame--were't not a Shame for him In this clay carcase crippled to abide?
An excerpt from Omar Khayyam’s “Rubaiyat”
An introduction to the concept of “the Veil”, where one component is the physical pigment of skin pertaining to the black folks separate them from white folks, causing prejudice and racism.
In this paragraph, we get in depth with “the Veil”. DuBois states“. . . some of them with favoring chance might become men, but in sheer self-defence we dare not let them, and we build about them walls so high, and hang between them and the light a veil so thick, that they shall not even think of breaking through.” This sentence alone shows the conflict between the white folks and black folks, where the black folks are often put by back white folks, to be made inferior so they do not succeed them.
DuBois again pinpoint the issues that relate to the black folks constantly made inferior by white folks, They are constantly belittled by the white folks, that they soon believe they are actually inferior and question their existence.
“The Veil” itself is a mental manifestation, as a means of a barrier to deter black folks and make them inferior.
Again, we may decry the color-prejudice of the South, yet it remains a heavy fact. Such curious kinks of the human mind exist and must be reckoned with soberly. They cannot be laughed away, nor always successfully stormed at, nor easily abolished by act of legislature. And yet they must not be encouraged by being let alone. They must be recognized as facts, but unpleasant facts; things that stand in the way of civilization and religion and common decency. They can be met in but one way,–by the breadth and broadening of human reason, by catholicity of taste and culture. And so, too, the native ambition and aspiration of men, even though they be black, backward, and ungraceful, must not lightly be dealt with. To stimulate wildly weak and untrained minds is to play with mighty fires; to flout their striving idly is to welcome a harvest of brutish crime and shameless lethargy in our very laps. The guiding of thought and the deft coordina- tion of deed is at once the path of honor and humanity.
Clickable images to source.News article from 1911, from the Chicago Defender. “The Unions VS. The Negro”.With such prejudice, there would often be physical assaults done against black folks.People say we live in a society where racism and prejudice are diminishing, but folks of many colors, especially black folks are constantly living on the fear brutality and violence.
Pictured above is Eric Garner, a 43 year old African American, who was approached by police officers in Staten Island. He was confronted by officers due to selling untaxed cigarettes, which led to a struggled confrontation. His final words after being pinned to the ground were “I can’t breathe”. This is one of many killings against blacks talked about today, with others such as Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.Michael Brown, another victim of many to police brutality. Under the suspicion of stealing from a store and fitting the description, officer Darren Wilson pursues Michael Brown. After turning and giving himself in to officer Wilson, with his hands raised to the sky, he was shot multiple times, fatally wounding him and ending his young life.
“The Union Navy began enlisting African Americans as early as September 1861, well before the Emancipation Proclamation. These African Americans served as stewards, cooks and powder boys. By 1862, following an observation of the performance of these stewards, cooks and powder boys, the ranks of the regular seaman were opened to African Americans. Thirty thousand African Americans (or 25 percent of the Union naval enlisted strength), served in the racially integrated Navy of the United States.” (Reason, 1997, A Lesson in Black History: African Americans in Military Service During the Civil War)
That a system logically so complete was historically impos- sible, it needs but a little thought to prove. Progress in human affairs is more often a pull than a push, a surging forward of the exceptional man, and the lifting of his duller brethren slowly and painfully to his vantage-ground. Thus it was no accident that gave birth to universities centuries before the common schools, that made fair Harvard the first flower of our wilderness. So in the South: the mass of the freedmen at the end of the war lacked the intelligence so necessary to modern workingmen. They must first have the common school to teach them to read, write, and cipher; and they must have higher schools to teach teachers for the common schools. The white teachers who flocked South went to establish such a common-school system. Few held the idea of founding col- leges; most of them at first would have laughed at the idea. But they faced, as all men since them have faced, that central paradox of the South,–the social separation of the races. At that time it was the sudden volcanic rupture of nearly all relations between black and white, in work and government and family life. Since then a new adjustment of relations in economic and political affairs has grown up,–an adjustment subtle and difficult to grasp, yet singularly ingenious, which leaves still that frightful chasm at the color-line across which men pass at their peril. Thus, then and now, there stand in the South two separate worlds; and separate not simply in the higher realms of social intercourse, but also in church and school, on railway and street-car, in hotels and theatres, in streets and city sections, in books and newspapers, in asy- lums and jails, in hospitals and graveyards. There is still enough of contact for large economic and group cooperation, but the separation is so thorough and deep that it absolutely precludes for the present between the races anything like that sympathetic and effective group-training and leadership of the one by the other, such as the American Negro and all back- ward peoples must have for effectual progress.
Such higher training-schools tended naturally to deepen broader development: at first they were common and gram- mar schools, then some became high schools. And finally, by 1900, some thirty-four had one year or more of studies of college grade. This development was reached with different degrees of speed in different institutions: Hampton is still a high school, while Fisk University started her college in 1871, and Spelman Seminary about 1896. In all cases the aim was identical,–to maintain the standards of the lower train- ing by giving teachers and leaders the best practicable train- ing; and above all, to furnish the black world with adequate standards of human culture and lofty ideals of life. It was not enough that the teachers of teachers should be trained in technical normal methods; they must also, so far as possible, be broad-minded, cultured men and women, to scatter civili- zation among a people whose ignorance was not simply of letters, but of life itself.
It can thus be seen that the work of education in the South began with higher institutions of training, which threw off as their foliage common schools, and later industrial schools, and at the same time strove to shoot their roots ever deeper toward college and university training. That this was an inevitable and necessary development, sooner or later, goes without saying; but there has been, and still is, a question in many minds if the natural growth was not forced, and if the higher training was not either overdone or done with cheap and unsound methods. Among white Southerners this feeling is widespread and positive. A prominent Southern journal voiced this in a recent editorial.
“The experiment that has been made to give the colored students classical training has not been satisfactory. Even though many were able to pursue the course, most of them did so in a parrot-like way, learning what was taught, but not seeming to appropriate the truth and import of their instruc- tion, and graduating without sensible aim or valuable oc- cupation for their future. The whole scheme has proved a waste of time, efforts, and the money of the state.”
While most fair-minded men would recognize this as ex- treme and overdrawn, still without doubt many are asking, Are there a sufficient number of Negroes ready for college training to warrant the undertaking? Are not too many stu- dents prematurely forced into this work? Does it not have the effect of dissatisfying the young Negro with his environment? And do these graduates succeed in real life? Such natural questions cannot be evaded, nor on the other hand must a Nation naturally skeptical as to Negro ability assume an unfavorable answer without careful inquiry and patient open- ness to conviction. We must not forget that most Americans answer all queries regarding the Negro a priori, and that the least that human courtesy can do is to listen to evidence.
The advocates of the higher education of the Negro would be the last to deny the incompleteness and glaring defects of the present system: too many institutions have attempted to do college work, the work in some cases has not been thor- oughly done, and quantity rather than quality has sometimes been sought. But all this can be said of higher education throughout the land; it is the almost inevitable incident of educational growth, and leaves the deeper question of the legitimate demand for the higher training of Negroes un- touched. And this latter question can be settled in but one way,–by a first-hand study of the facts. If we leave out of view all institutions which have not actually graduated stu- dents from a course higher than that of a New England high school, even though they be called colleges; if then we take the thirty-four remaining institutions, we may clear up many misapprehensions by asking searchingly, What kind of insti- tutions are they? what do they teach? and what sort of men do they graduate?
And first we may say that this type of college, including Atlanta, Fisk, and Howard, Wilberforce and Claflin, Shaw, and the rest, is peculiar, almost unique. Through the shining trees that whisper before me as I write, I catch glimpses of a boulder of New England granite, covering a grave, which graduates of Atlanta University have placed there,–
"GRATEFUL MEMORY OF THEIR FORMER TEACHER AND FRIEND AND OF THE UNSELFISH LIFE HE LIVED, AND THE NOBLE WORK HE WROUGHT; THAT THEY, THEIR CHILDREN, AND THEIR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN MIGHT BE BLESSED."
This was the gift of New England to the freed Negro: not alms, but a friend; not cash, but character. It was not and is not money these seething millions want, but love and sympa- thy, the pulse of hearts beating with red blood;–a gift which to-day only their own kindred and race can bring to the masses, but which once saintly souls brought to their favored children in the crusade of the sixties, that finest thing in American history, and one of the few things untainted by sordid greed and cheap vainglory. The teachers in these institutions came not to keep the Negroes in their place, but to raise them out of the defilement of the places where slavery had wallowed them. The colleges they founded were social settlements; homes where the best of the sons of the freedmen came in close and sympathetic touch with the best traditions of New England. They lived and ate together, studied and worked, hoped and harkened in the dawning light. In actual formal content their curriculum was doubtless old-fashioned, but in educational power it was supreme, for it was the contact of living souls.
Although African Americans have been barred from the education system, given unequal opportunities to better themselves, they have come a long way. The “Brown v Board of Education” was a huge turning point for this, as this ended segregation of schooling. This pushed the equality stance for African Americans.
Example of segregation in schools. This not only related to water fountains, but bathrooms, public transportation, bathrooms, and many more.
Slavery as a concept is demeaning to the victims. They are made to be tools, taking away their rights as human beings.
With all their larger vision and deeper sensibility, these men have usually been conservative, careful leaders. They have seldom been agitators, have withstood the temptation to head the mob, and have worked steadily and faithfully in a thousand communities in the South. As teachers, they have given the South a commendable system of city schools and large numbers of private normal-schools and academies. Col- ored college-bred men have worked side by side with white college graduates at Hampton; almost from the beginning the backbone of Tuskegee’s teaching force has been formed of graduates from Fisk and Atlanta. And to-day the institute is filled with college graduates, from the energetic wife of the principal down to the teacher of agriculture, including nearly half of the executive council and a majority of the heads of departments. In the professions, college men are slowly but surely leavening the Negro church, are healing and prevent- ing the devastations of disease, and beginning to furnish legal protection for the liberty and property of the toiling masses. All this is needful work. Who would do it if Negroes did not? How could Negroes do it if they were not trained carefully for it? If white people need colleges to furnish teachers, minis- ters, lawyers, and doctors, do black people need nothing of the sort?
If it is true that there are an appreciable number of Negro youth in the land capable by character and talent to receive that higher training, the end of which is culture, and if the two and a half thousand who have had something of this training in the past have in the main proved themselves useful to their race and generation, the question then comes, What place in the future development of the South ought the Negro college and college-bred man to occupy? That the present social separation and acute race-sensitiveness must eventually yield to the influences of culture, as the South grows civi- lized, is clear. But such transformation calls for singular wisdom and patience. If, while the healing of this vast sore is progressing, the races are to live for many years side by side, united in economic effort, obeying a common government, sensitive to mutual thought and feeling, yet subtly and si- lently separate in many matters of deeper human intimacy,–if this unusual and dangerous development is to progress amid peace and order, mutual respect and growing intelligence, it will call for social surgery at once the delicatest and nicest in modern history. It will demand broad-minded, upright men, both white and black, and in its final accomplishment Ameri- can civilization will triumph. So far as white men are con- cerned, this fact is to-day being recognized in the South, and a happy renaissance of university education seems imminent. But the very voices that cry hail to this good work are, strange to relate, largely silent or antagonistic to the higher education of the Negro.
With the increasing opportunities for colored folks to succeed, they have taken that chance to better themselves. Compared to the 1900s, there was not much opportunity to get a proper education, without being attacked physically and verbally by white folks.
Strange to relate! for this is certain, no secure civilization can be built in the South with the Negro as an ignorant, turbulent proletariat. Suppose we seek to remedy this by making them laborers and nothing more: they are not fools, they have tasted of the Tree of Life, and they will not cease to think, will not cease attempting to read the riddle of the world. By taking away their best equipped teachers and lead- ers, by slamming the door of opportunity in the faces of their bolder and brighter minds, will you make them satisfied with their lot? or will you not rather transfer their leading from the hands of men taught to think to the hands of untrained demagogues? We ought not to forget that despite the pressure of poverty, and despite the active discouragement and even ridicule of friends, the demand for higher training steadily increases among Negro youth: there were, in the years from 1875 to 1880, 22 Negro graduates from Northern colleges; from 1885 to 1890 there were 43, and from 1895 to 1900, nearly 100 graduates. From Southern Negro colleges there were, in the same three periods, 143, 413, and over 500 graduates. Here, then, is the plain thirst for training; by refusing to give this Talented Tenth the key to knowledge, can any sane man imagine that they will lightly lay aside their yearning and contentedly become hewers of wood and draw- ers of water?
No. The dangerously clear logic of the Negro’s position will more and more loudly assert itself in that day when increasing wealth and more intricate social organization pre- clude the South from being, as it so largely is, simply an armed camp for intimidating black folk. Such waste of energy cannot he spared if the South is to catch up with civilization. And as the black third of the land grows in thrift and skill, unless skilfully guided in its larger philosophy, it must more and more brood over the red past and the creeping, crooked present, until it grasps a gospel of revolt and revenge and throws its new-found energies athwart the current of advance. Even to-day the masses of the Negroes see all too clearly the anomalies of their position and the moral crookedness of yours. You may marshal strong indictments against them, but their counter-cries, lacking though they be in formal logic, have burning truths within them which you may not wholly ignore, O Southern Gentlemen! If you deplore their presence here, they ask, Who brought us? When you cry, Deliver us from the vision of intermarriage, they answer that legal mar- riage is infinitely better than systematic concubinage and prostitution. And if in just fury you accuse their vagabonds of violating women, they also in fury quite as just may reply: The rape which your gentlemen have done against helpless black women in defiance of your own laws is written on the foreheads of two millions of mulattoes, and written in inef- faceable blood. And finally, when you fasten crime upon this race as its peculiar trait, they answer that slavery was the arch-crime, and lynching and lawlessness its twin abortions; that color and race are not crimes, and yet it is they which in this land receive most unceasing condemnation, North, East, South, and West.
We see this in society today. For example, after the killing of Eric Garner, it sparked a movement across the nation. People of every ethnicity and background came together to mourn the death of Eric Garner, but also as a way to speak out against police brutality. “That tape had a huge impact on everything,” says journalist Matt Taibbi. “It’s opened the eyes — particularly of white Americans, who may not have believed that this kind of thing goes on.” (Gross, October 23rd, NPR).
I will not say such arguments are wholly justified,–I will not insist that there is no other side to the shield; but I do say that of the nine millions of Negroes in this nation, there is scarcely one out of the cradle to whom these arguments do not daily present themselves in the guise of terrible truth. I insist that the question of the future is how best to keep these millions from brooding over the wrongs of the past and the difficulties of the present, so that all their energies may be bent toward a cheerful striving and cooperation with their white neighbors toward a larger, juster, and fuller future. That one wise method of doing this lies in the closer knitting of the Negro to the great industrial possibilities of the South is a great truth. And this the common schools and the manual training and trade schools are working to accomplish. But these alone are not enough.
The foundations of knowledge in this race, as in others, must be sunk deep in the college and university if we would build a solid, permanent structure. Internal problems of social advance must inevitably come, –problems of work and wages, of families and homes, of morals and the true valuing of the things of life; and all these and other inevitable problems of civilization the Negro must meet and solve largely for himself, by reason of his isolation; and can there be any possible solution other than by study and thought and an appeal to the rich experience of the past? Is there not, with such a group and in such a crisis, infinitely more danger to be apprehended from half-trained minds and shallow thinking than from over-education and over-refine- ment? Surely we have wit enough to found a Negro college so manned and equipped as to steer successfully between the dilettante and the fool. We shall hardly induce black men to believe that if their stomachs be full, it matters little about their brains. They already dimly perceive that the paths of peace winding between honest toil and dignified manhood call for the guidance of skilled thinkers, the loving, reverent comradeship between the black lowly and the black men emancipated by training and culture.
Black folks must strive to better themselves, not to be kept behind that Veil set by the scums of society. We see progress with this today, as more blacks are going into college and finding a profession.There are even programs that help black folks strive and better themselves, like institutions recruiting minorities students and offering financial aid to them
The function of the Negro college, then, is clear: it must maintain the standards of popular education, it must seek the social regeneration of the Negro, and it must help in the solution of problems of race contact and cooperation. And finally, beyond all this, it must develop men. Above our modern socialism, and out of the worship of the mass, must persist and evolve that higher individualism which the centres of culture protect; there must come a loftier respect for the sovereign human soul that seeks to know itself and the world about it; that seeks a freedom for expansion and self- development; that will love and hate and labor in its own way, untrammeled alike by old and new. Such souls afore- time have inspired and guided worlds, and if we be not wholly bewitched by our Rhinegold, they shall again. Herein the longing of black men must have respect: the rich and bitter depth of their experience, the unknown treasures of their inner life, the strange rendings of nature they have seen, may give the world new points of view and make their loving, living, and doing precious to all human hearts. And to themselves in these the days that try their souls, the chance to soar in the dim blue air above the smoke is to their finer spirits boon and guerdon for what they lose on earth by being black.
I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not. Across the color line I move arm in arm with Balzac and Dumas, where smiling men and welcoming women glide in gilded halls. From out the caves of evening that swing between the strong- limbed earth and the tracery of the stars, I summon Aristotle and Aurelius and what soul I will, and they come all gra- ciously with no scorn nor condescension. So, wed with Truth, I dwell above the Veil. Is this the life you grudge us, O knightly America? Is this the life you long to change into the dull red hideousness of Georgia? Are you so afraid lest peering from this high Pisgah, between Philistine and Amalekite, we sight the Promised Land?
A very expressive and strong passage by DuBois. Having the ability to sit with people of different backgrounds, able to freely chat with them without being discriminated and even sit near them is truly the dream of folks who have faced discrimination and prejudice throughout their lives.
Martin Luther King Jr. with his famous “I Have a Dream Speech”. During the times of segregation and racial discrimination, Dr King envisioned a world where black folks and white folks can get along, a world where you are born into freedom, not being oppressed and face injustice. A world where all men are created equal. A world we live in today.
Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) was a civil rights activist and Baptist minister. He was a key player in the the bus boycott in Montgomery in 1955, and became the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He helped organize the March on Washington in 1963, and delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech at that event. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for 1964.