Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/368

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360

POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

THEOLOGY VERSUS THRIFT IN THE BLACK BELT.
By CHARLES BARTLETT DYKE,

HONOLULU.

THE negro's real menace to the South lies in the paucity of his earthly wants. His few demands upon the world can be met with little exertion, and the outgrowth of his indolence is vice and crime. Generations of slavery have crushed out the spirit of accumulation. The 'collecting instinct' so prominent in the early life of the white child, is almost lacking in the average negro child of the South. Poverty, even though it may entail dishonesty, is too often accepted as a dispensation of Providence, to be compensated for later by the glories of Heaven.

A recent study of twelve hundred negro children brings out strongly their limited ideas of what constitutes wealth, their lack of thrift, and the sanction placed upon poverty by their religious teachers.[1] These children returned written answers to the following questions:

Would you like to be rich? Why? How much money of your own did you have last week? What did you do with it?

One half of the replies came from the cities of Wilmington (Del.), Baltimore, Washington, Norfolk, Newport News and Hampton. The other half came from the most enlightened rural districts of Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina and Alabama.

To all these children, from city and country alike, wealth means only the satisfaction of the simplest and most legitimate wants. To wear shoes and an overcoat when it is cold, and to have a hot fire in the winter, to have enough money to pay the landlord and the grocer, to own a horse or a cow or a mule, to assist the mother, so that she will not have to go out washing every day—this is their idea of riches. A boy of twelve wants wealth "So I could be more comfortable and have a better home than I have at this time. If I was the writ kind of a man I would spen it for food or wood or coal for to burn."

Girls of thirteen write, as reasons for wanting to be rich: "When you want anything you get it, and you don't hafter sit down and wish for it because you don't get it when you wish." "Poor people cannot have anything they want because they have to pay store bills, and the landlord is running to the house every Saturday night for rent."


  1. The writer wishes to thank for valuable material Miss Kruse, of Wilmington, Del.; Miss Grooms, of Baltimore; Mr. Cardoza, of Washington, and the members of Mrs. Dyke's Hampton Child Study Circle.