Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/417

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a kind of a rattle, utters some appropriate sentence, while the petitioner repeats it in unison with him. Particularly well-trained praying-masters deliver themselves of the prayer in a high falsetto, which appears to them to have a more insinuating, and therefore more effective, sound. There is no real priest class. There are negroes accustomed to daily religious exercises, like devotees among us; but of earnestness and devotion, in the sense in which we understand those terms, not a trace can be observed. The cheerfulness of the negro temperament is never suppressed. If a person happens to come upon any of their religious exercises, and betrays an expression of amusement, the whole company of worshipers will break out into laughter, and be glad that their demeanor has been found so pleasing. Aside from the fear of wicked fetiches, which is a great source of trouble, and from the pleasure of trading, which occasionally carries him hither and thither, the life of the negro passes with a uniform freedom from care. He is born, brought up, takes a wife, begets offspring, grows old, and dies, without having undergone any training, gone to school, had to choose a calling, or been subject to any other kind of anxiety. He has no regularly recurring festivals; but the revelries on the occasion of a death in the connection or in the circle of neighbors and friends are often protracted through many days or even weeks. How many years old he is he neither knows nor cares.

A system for computing time can hardly be predicated of such a people; but they have a kind of superficial calendar of the months, which they make to help regulate their agricultural operations. The Angola negroes count the moons during the period of cultivation, and indicate them by numbers from one to ten. During the dry season, when agriculture is dormant, the calendar also is asleep. In August, when the distant lightning announces the approach of the rainy season, the women start out to clear the fields for the crops; and, as soon as the ground has been wet by the first rains, they plant their ground-nuts. The moon in which this is done is the first. The divisions of the day are measured off according to the place of the sun in the sky.

The often asked and variously answered question of the capacity of the negro for civilization applies in an equal degree to him and to all other savage people. It arises more frequently with respect to the negro, only because the attention of philanthropic men has been more prominently directed to him. It must be answered in his favor. The negro undoubtedly possesses all the capacity for education and civilization to at least as great an extent as our primitive ancestors had it. But, just as our ancestors could not at once and immediately emerge from barbarism into our present conditions of many-sided development and refinement, so we have no reason to expect that the African savages can, in one or two generations, reach the standard of modern