1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Negro
NEGRO (see 19.346). As a result of the publication of preliminary returns for the American census of 1920, it became possible in June 1921 not only to record the growth of the negro pop. of the United States during the decade 1910-20, but to compare the growth during 60 years of slavery with that during almost 60 years of freedom. In 1920 the negro pop. was 10,463,013, as compared with 9,827,763 in 1910, an increase of 635,250 or 6.5%. In the preceding decade the increase had been 993,769, or slightly over 11%. In the period between 1800 and 1860 the negro pop. increased from 1,002,037 to 4,441,830 or 343%; in the period between 1860 and 1920 it increased from 4,441,830 to 10,463,013 or 136%. The increase under freedom, although nearly twice as great numerically, was at only about four-tenths of the rate under slavery. Much of this difference is to be attributed to the negro's participation in the slackening rate of the country's growth. The white pop. of the United States, notwithstanding its reinforcement by more than 28,000,000 immigrants in the later period and only about 5,250,000 in the earlier, increased in the second 60-year period less than half as fast as between 1800 and 1860. The figures for the negroes show, however, that their emancipation has not stimulated the growth of population as emancipation of the Russian serfs did and as many Americans of a generation ago anticipated. During the first period negroes increased about two-thirds as fast as whites; during the second little more than half as fast.
For a fuller examination of the changes in pop. growth, each of these 60-year periods has been divided into 3 of 20 years each, a method which neglects the admittedly inaccurate count of 1870 and the probably inaccurate count of 1890.
| Increase of
|Per cent|| Increase of
( = 100)
The numerical increase rose period by period to a maximum in the last 20 years of the 19th century and then decreased, so that between 1900 and 1920 it was little more than it was 60 years before. The rate of increase, on the contrary, diminished steadily from period to period. At each period the rate of negro increase was less than that of the white. Apparently the immediate result of the Civil War and emancipation was to raise the relative rate of negro increase between 1860 and 1880 to nearly four-fifths of that of the white, a change due to the sharp check of white increase and a much slighter check in negro increase. But since 1880 the rate of negro increase has fallen much the more rapidly, and between 1900 and 1920 it was about four-ninths of that of the more numerous race. As a result of these changes negroes, who in 1800 were 18.9% of the country's pop., in 1920 were only 10%. If each race should increase through the present century at a rate identical with that prevailing between 1900 and 1920, as of course it will not, the pop. of the country in 2000 A.D. would be over 400,000,000, of which about 20,000,000, or one-twentieth, would be negro. The rate of increase of each race is likely to fall, but the difference in favour of the white race is unlikely to diminish.
The Census Bureau has compared the rates of increase of negroes and whites after correction for the probable inaccuracy of certain recent census figures. Those rates are reproduced below, with the addition of figures for 1920 and slight changes to allow for the fact that the intervals between the censuses of 1900, 1910 and 1920 were less than ten years.
|Rate of Decennial Increase||Per cent of|
In the decade 1910-20 the percentage increase of negroes was two-fifths of that of the whites. Since 1880 the darker race has been relatively and rapidly losing ground.
In the years immediately following the Civil War a belief was commonly held that under freedom the negroes would rapidly distribute themselves over the country. At every census before 1870 between 91% and 93% of the negroes resided in the southern or slave states. Between 1860 and 1910 this proportion fell only from 92.2% to 89.0%. But between 1910 and 1920 it fell to 85.1%. During that decade the increase in the number of negroes living in the northern and western states was greater than the increase during the 30 years between 1880 and 1910. As a result of this outflow the negro pop. of the southern states increased only 2%, while that of the northern states increased 43% and of the western 55%. The movement cannot yet be thoroughly studied, but what information is available indicates that the migration has been almost exclusively to the northern and western industrial districts. Whether it is a temporary dislocation of population due to war-time conditions or a persistent drift cannot yet be foreseen.
The remarkable fall in the rate of negro increase and the rapid distribution of negroes over other parts of the country than the South are the striking changes revealed by the preliminary census figures. How is the fall in the rate of increase to be explained? Has it any connexion with the growth of interstate migration? To get light upon these questions we turn from the census figures of living population to the registration figures of births and deaths. Since 1900 the United States has been developing towards a national system of vital statistics by voluntary cooperation between the Federal Government and the Governments of the states and cities. For five years, 1915-9 inclusive, the births and deaths of negroes in a number of northern states, including the New England states, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota, and for a shorter period the same facts for several other northern and a few southern states, are known.
The figures for the northern states are as follows:—
Births and Deaths of Negroes in Certain Northern States, 1915-9.
In each of these divisions negro deaths outnumbered negro births by an average of about 15%, and in consequence the increase of negroes in all these states, and probably in the other northern and western states, has been wholly due to immigration.
In the southern states the following compilation of all available figures shows results which are widely different:—
|District of Columbia||1915-9||11,042||13,280||−2,238||120||81|
While in each of the northern states for which the information exists negro deaths outnumber births, in the southern states the conditions are reversed: but to this rule there are exceptions. Kentucky and the District of Columbia resemble the North rather than the South. Maryland holds a middle position, births equalling deaths and the farther south the state the greater the excess of negro births over deaths.
The difference between the District of Columbia and the two states adjoining it suggests that an excess of deaths over births may be found in cities, whether northern or southern, rather than in northern states, whether mainly urban or not.
Births and Deaths of Negroes in Cities and Rural Districts of Registration Area, 1915-9.
| Deaths |
Clearly the difference between conditions in cities and those in rural districts is almost as influential upon race increase as the difference between South and North, which in this case closely parallels it. Further analysis shows that throughout the North and in the cities of the South deaths are more numerous than births.
| Deaths |
|Northern rural districts||14,148||19,033||−4,885||135|
|Southern rural districts||155,205||103,532||51,673||67|
The figures show as conclusively as their incompleteness permits that the conditions under which negroes live in the North are unfavourable to the natural increase of their race and that in this regard no important difference appears between city and country. They show also that southern cities are even more unfavourable than those in the North to natural increase. The great reservoir for the natural increase of negroes is the rural districts of the South, in which apparently there are about three births for every two deaths. This evidence seems to answer our questions. The sharp check in the growth of negro population between 1910 and 1920 was due primarily to the flood of migration from the agricultural districts of the South largely to the cities and industrial districts of the North, but partly also to the cities of the South, and the exposure of negroes in their new homes to conditions tending to raise the death-rate or reduce the birth-rate, or both. The census of 1920 showed that about 19.9% of the negroes were living in states other than those in which they were born. But contrary to popular belief the proportion of those who had migrated from the South to the North and West was only about one-fourth larger than that of those who had migrated from the North and West to the South.
The white race is not equally burdened. In the cities of the registration area in 1915-9 there were only 62 deaths among whites for each 100 births, the corresponding figure for negroes being 121. In this regard the negroes of the United States are in somewhat the same position as the whites on both sides of the Atlantic a century or more ago, when cities were in a sense parasites upon the surrounding rural districts, at whose expense alone they could grow or even maintain themselves.
- (W. F. W.)
- These figures indicate the volume and page number of the previous article.