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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/48

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

shouting. Fearing the boy might be struck from behind, I moved near to him, intending to caution him not to fire too soon, for I was sure that his opponent would quickly break down. The youngster needed no advice of mine. In a steady, low voice he called, "Put up your knife—one!" With that the throng became suddenly still. "Put up your knife—two!" whereupon the ugly fellow slowly hid his knife and sank into a seat with bowed head, while the newsboy went on crying his wares, as if nothing unusual had happened.

Thinking that the negro might have had some grudge in mind, I asked the newsboy for the facts. He assured me that he had never seen the fellow before, and had no reason to expect the attack. He agreed with me that none of the people were drunk, and accounted for their conduct much as I was disposed to do—that "coons would get wild when there was a racket going on." It was interesting to note that the brakemen, who, with their pistols ready, came from either end of the car, took the affair as quietly as did the newsboy, making no kind of comment on it. I stayed on for an hour or so in the car. While I was there the negroes were perfectly quiet, it being evident that although the offender was not arrested and no blow had been struck, not even a brutal word used, a profound impression had been made on those half-savage people, as in another way on me. We both felt what means the strong hand of a masterful race—the stronger when it withholds from smiting. I had seen a good example of one of the ways by which the wild men of Africa have been shaped to the habits of their masters. Such a scene as I have sketched is happily possible in only a limited part of the South—that in which there is a great body of negroes who have not yet been to any extent influenced by civilizing contact with the whites.

There is a common assertion that the male negroes are sexually dangerous animals. The lynchings for assaults on white women appear at first sight to give some color to this view. It is, however, evidently a difficult matter on which to form an opinion. It may be fairly said that these instances of violence occur in by far the larger proportion in the States where the blacks are least domesticated, where they have been in the smallest measure removed from their primitive savagery. If we could eliminate this uncivilized material, mostly that which took shape, or rather kept its primitive shape, on the great plantation, the iniquity would be as rare everywhere as it is in Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, and Tennessee. When we recall the fact that there are now some five million negro men in the South, and that probably not one in ten thousand is guilty of the crime, we see how imper-