The following is from the New York Times book review section from 1915.
It is interesting to read and see how, on one hand, we have come so far as a nation. And how, on another hand, we still have so far to go.
The Field Negro education series continues.
July 18, 1915
“America’s Greatest Problem: The Negro” — Three Students of the Subject View the Racial Question from Different Angles and Offer Suggestions for Its Solution
By THE NEW YORK TIMES
THE NEGRO By W. E.Burghardt Du Bois.
Of these three books on the negro, Dr. Shufeldt’s “America’s Greatest Problem: The Negro” is the least satisfactory, but it shall be discussed first because the others refute some of its sensational statements. It has the merit of sincerity, and it is not without substance; but its violence and prejudice destroy its value. The defect of its judgments is seen in statements such as this: “Men like Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois are traitors to their race in this country, and are the worst enemies negroes in the United States have today.”
According to this author the full-blooded negro in this country has never “contributed a single line to literature worth the printing; a single cog in the machine of invention; an idea to any science; or, in short, advanced civilization a single millimeter since the first Congo pair were placed on this soil.” A large portion of the book is devoted to trying to prove scientifically that all negroes come of cannibal stock, that they are hopelessly sensual, subject to “sex madness,” and incapable of improvement. “It is impossible to improve the morals of a people when they have no morals to improve” is one of his comments. Burke once said that one cannot indict a whole nation, but Dr. Shufeldt would indict a whole race.
The deplorable situation in parts of the South, of course, with the daily terror that it imposes on white women, is discussed at length. The problem is there, an grave enough it is, but it requires a different treatment from that given it by the author who can see nothing but a “seething mass of black bestiality.” Dr. Shufeldt asserts that miscegenation is going on in our cities through the lower-class whites, and he jumps at the conclusion that because there is some white blood in 4,000,000 of the 10,000,000 negroes in the United States the whole negro population is going to be absorbed into the white race to our lasting degradation. Our only salvation, he believes, is in “complete and thorough separation” of the two races, and he therefore urges:
“the enactment of a Federal law to the effect that all negroes and descendents of negroes within the boundaries of the United States of America shall leave this country for all time within ten years after the passage of said law.”
Dr. Shufeldt would send them to the Philippines, South America, Mexico, the West Indies, and Haiti, and he says we could well afford to spend $150,000,000 on the work. He thinks such a law would “entail no hardship whatever,” but he would hardly take the same view if the people to be expatriated were white. The book is so intemperate and unjust that it defeats its own ends.
Dr. Woodson’s “The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861” is a dispassionate monograph, done in the modern scientific spirit, to show the persistent strivings of slaves to learn to read and write. It covers a chapter of American history hitherto almost untouched. Dr. Woodson has gathered his facts from innumerable sources and assembled them in an orderly mosaic. His method involves a good deal of repetition, but it leaves no room to question the soundness of his conclusions.
This book recalls the half-forgotten fact that in the beginning the negro slaves were taught to read and write as freely as they were taught Christianity. That epoch continued until about 1835, and it produced some brainy persons of color, such as Phyllis Wheatley, the poet, and Benjamin Banneker, who, in 1770, made the first manufactured in the United States. Another instance is that of James Durham, who spoke French and Spanish fluently, as well as English, and was a distinguished New Orleans physician. The noted Dr. Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia once deigned to converse with him professionally and afterward confessed: “I learned more from him than he could expect of me.” Dr. Woodson also tells of a native African who had amazing powers as a mathematician. Many such instances controvert Dr. Shufeldt’s sweeping negatives.
About 1835, however, the dark age set in, when it became a crime even for a negro to teach his own children to read and write. The coming of the cotton gin and other modern machinery, coupled with an increasing fear of negro insurrections, caused the slave barons to enact stringent laws forbidding the education of negroes. Dr. Woodson’s chapter on “The Reaction” sounds almost incredible, but it is well-authenticated American history.
The policy of keeping slaves in complete ignorance soon had a deteriorating effect on their minds and characters, and the more thoughtful whites tried to overcome this by teaching them “religion without letters,” but even such enlightenment often brought persecution to the teachers. A chapter entitled “Learning in Spite of Oppositions” tells of secret struggles to overcome those obstacles — with pathetically meagre results.
The thirteen chapters of this book cover all the main phases of ante-bellum attempts at negro education in the North as well as in the South. It is a thorough and intelligent study, with just enough sympathetic spirit to humanize its array of well-ordered facts.
Critics on both sides of the Atlantic have long agreed in praising the high average of the compact little volumes in the Home University Library of Modern Knowledge. The volume on “The Negro,” by Dr. Du Bois, editor of The Crisis, measures up to the standard of the series. It is a brief history of the black race in Africa, of its beginnings of culture, and of the slave trade and its disastrous effects. The author holds — with modern science to support him — that there are no definite lines separating the various human races, and that the comparative backwardness of the black race is due mainly to the fact that the interior of Africa contains no natural barriers such as protected early civilization in the Nile Valley and in Europe. Thus the beginnings of culture on the Niger and Congo were repeatedly wiped out by savage invasions and especially by the slave raids of Mohammedan and Christian nations.
That there was such a thing as negro culture in Africa is abundantly attested. At the time when Columbus was discovering America a full-blooded black, Mohammed Askia, was ruling over an empire as large as all of Europe. On his pilgrimage to Mecca he was accompanied by “a brilliant group of scholars and holy men with a small escort of 1,500 soldiers and $9,000,000 in gold. He stopped and consulted with scholars and politicians and studied matters of taxation, weights and measures, trade, religious tolerance, and manners. The University of Sankore became a centre of learning in correspondence with Egypt and North Africa, and had a swarm of black Sudanese students. Law, literature, grammar, geography, and surgery were studied.”
In a chapter on “African Culture” Dr. Du Bois tells of the achievements of African negroes as workers in iron bronze, copper, wood, and pottery, recalling that “Schweinfurth, von Luschan, Boaz, and others incline to the belief that the negroes invented smelting of iron and passed it on to the Egyptians and to modern Europe.”
All this was swept away by the slave trade, says the author. He estimates that every slave imported to America cost “five corpses in Africa or on the high seas,” and that the American and Arabian raids together meant the death, expatriation, or forcible migration of at least 100,000,000 natives. “And yet people ask today the cause of, the stagnation of culture in that land since 1600!”
The last two chapters are devoted to the negro in the United States. The author defends the fifteenth amendment, believing that it alone could have insured his race such measure of freedom as it now has. He holds that in the chaos of reconstruction days “the venality was much greater among whites than negroes,” and that “while ignorance was the curse of the negroes, the fault was not theirs, and they took the initiative to correct it.” As usual, Dr. Du Bois opposes Booker T. Washington’s ideas of education, one of the few mistakes that he makes in this book. The whole is written with an intellectual force, a breadth of learning, and a judicious poise that compel respect.” [Source]
There are a lot of thinkers like Dr. Shufeldt floating around out there today. (Just read the comments section in this and other blogs.) Although they have become somewhat marginalized (Somewhat. You can still find his book on Amazon.), because it is not currently proper to express such views in polite company.
See the original article here: