Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/811

This page has been validated.


What shall we do with the negro? This is not a question of philanthropy, but of self-interest and self-protection. The negro has come to stay. The race at present numbers some seven or eight millions, and actually holds the balance of power numerically in several of the Southern States.

The Black Belt, as it is to-day, is a menace to the country from Mississippi to Maine, because it is black with the darkness of idleness and ignorance and immorality. It must soon be decided whether it shall grow darker and darker, or shall come to shine, bright as the Belt of Orion, with the light of intelligence and industry. The problem touches all who believe that good government rests on good citizenship, and good citizenship on individual enlightenment, that education is the tortoise which supports Atlas in his task of holding up the world.

We are confronted by a solid mass of ignorant citizens, nominally if not actually in possession of the ballot, and potent to make or mar the fabric of the republic. This mass is not decreasing, but increasing. What is to be done about it? Whether we care for the negro or his welfare matters not. If we care for the nation, we must give this question earnest consideration. We are entitled to hold the most divergent opinions on the subject, but we are not entitled to indifference, that fatal policy of letting alone growing evils which has wrecked so many communities.

There can be no divided opinion on the desirability of educating citizens of any race or color. The problem, then, so far as the negro is concerned, resolves itself into three questions: Is he capable of being educated? What system of education best meets his temperament and condition? and How can such education be given him?

To put the last two questions is, of course, to assume an affirmative answer to the first. Assuredly the negro can be educated. We may assume so much of a horse or a dog. How far, is another story, as Rudyard Kipling would say. All speculation on the comparative intellectual capacity of the black race is idle. Any accurate estimate must be based on data which, in the nature of things, can not be available for some centuries to come.

To the closest observers at the South the progress of the negro appears, on the whole, remarkable, though statistics might be prepared to present a different view. It is a well-worn truth that civilization is classification, and so it is proving with the blacks. Some of them have progressed. Some have reverted almost to barbarism. Slavery itself was in its time a great school of civili-