Shufeldt Robert Wilson - The Negro A menace to American civilization

Author : Shufeldt Robert Wilson
Title : The Negro A menace to American civilization
Year : 1907

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When one comes to write a book upon such a subject as is treated of in the pages of the present little volume, there is usually some very definite reason that inspires the undertaking. This was distinctly the case in the present instance, and apart from all other considerations, be their nature what they may, my object in publishing a book on the negro race as it is now represented in this country, has been for the sole purpose of pointing out, from a purely scientific viewpoint, the effect that these introduced Ethiopians have had upon our progress and civilization, in the past, and what their continued presence among us means in the future. In offering to my readers what I have in the following pages I desire above all else to state that, although anthropologically speaking, the negro race of the stock here treated is not by any means a favorite ethnic group of mine among the world’s peoples, either to study or to come in contact with, still I have no special prejudice against them, and in penning what is set forth in the ensuing chapters I have in no case or instance been actuated by any other motive than telling the truth, and telling the truth most plainly and fully. For nearly forty years past I have enjoyed unusually good opportunities to study the negro in the United States as well as in the West Indies, and that, too, in every phase of his existence, and those opportunities have never been neglected. I have met with in my life-time any number of people who have and are prejudiced against the negro purely on account of his color. This has never been the case with myself, though I confess, that, when taken as a race and as a whole, what that color represents is extremely repugnant to me—by which I mean that color in this particular group of people in the world’s anthropofauna. This I am the more certain of, for the reason that the representatives of other black or dark-skinned races do not affect me in a similar manner. There is another point—with negroes, as with everything else in the world—some are very much better than others. I have met with a good many very worthy negro men in my life; I have met with my full share of the much revered, old-fashioned southern “mammies,” also the much venerated “aunties”; picturesque types of negro children, scores of “piccaninies” and the rest,—but I have yet to meet one of these people anywhere, or any of their hybrids, that have not been more or less deeply imbued with superstition, or had the general characters of the race still clinging to them,—characters and characteristics of a kind by no means to be envied or desirable. Superstition alone, whether religious or otherwise, will eventually cause the downfall of any people in the world, no matter what their civilization may be, or to what height they have risen. In so far as this aspect of my subject is concerned it is quite unnecessary for me to dilate upon it further, that is in a prefatory way, inasmuch as it is fully treated in several of the chapters of the present work. The bringing of the negro to our shores requires no special comment other than what I have given in its proper place in the body of the work, beyond inviting the attention of the reader to the fact which I desire to lay especial stress upon here as in all other places where the opportunity presents itself, and that is, the taking of Africans out of Africa and settling them in this country by no means makes Americans of them. It would be quite as reasonable to expect zebras to turn into horses when similarly transported. Nature cares not a straw for human laws and politics, and the passing of a race into any new political area makes not another race of it. Profound and comparatively rapid changes can be effected only through crossing with other races and this is what is happening, in the case of the African in the United States as I have elsewhere abundantly pointed out. It is, therefore, only to the hybrids thus produced that the recently much used appellation of “Afro-American” can be truthfully applied. The unmixed African in this country is just as much of a negro today as his ancestors were before him in Africa. He simply stands upon our soil, in every such individual case, as a potential ethnic factor ready at any and at all times to do his share in debasing the blood of the white race in America. There is no greater danger assailing American civilization than this,—there can be no greater danger than anything which will effect the degradation of a race, and it is the presence of this danger which has impelled me to write this book. I desire to add my voice to the voices of others who have pointed out this danger before and doubtless more potently than I have here, as well as to lend encouragement to those who will surely raise their voices in a similar manner in the future, perhaps long after mine and those of others now living shall be stilled forever. It is extremely rare to have the people of any civilized nation listen to the warnings of science, much less to act upon them,—and, it is still less likely to have anything of that kind happen, when the danger, as it is in this matter, is so wide-spread, so insidious, insinuative and so subtle. In treating the question of lynching I have intentionally touched upon it only in a general way, and supported my remarks by accounts culled from various newspapers, and these latter I have personally collected for a period extending over ten years. The cases are by no means the most horrible known in the history of this country, nor did I deem it necessary to present more than I have on the subject. My illustrations give in a pictorial way one of the most terrible lynchings known to us, that is of the negro Henry Smith at Paris, Texas, on the first of February, 1893. The papers all over the country were filled with it at the time. The New York Herald of the date mentioned gave it over a column, leading off in the following words: “Henry Smith, a negro, was killed by slow torture here today (Paris, Texas). He had committed a terrible crime, and every torment that the ingenuity of an angry mob could suggest was inflicted upon him. “His agonies were long prolonged. Hot irons were placed upon the soles of his feet, rolled over his quivering body, poked into his eyes and down his throat. A scaffold upon which he lay was then set on fire. His clothes and fetters burned off and he threw himself on the ground, he was tossed back into the flames again and again until death came to his relief. The murder of little Myrtle Vance, aged three years, had been horribly avenged. He had killed the child, after assaulting her, last Tuesday night.” But enough; as I have said, nothing would be gained here by recounting in full such ghastly horrors. It takes a negro to assault a pretty and winsome little girl less than four years of age; then catch her by her feet and tear her body in twain; and afterwards to be so indifferent to the crime as to lie down and sleep by his mutilated little victim all night. Scores of similar cases might easily have been retold in the pages of this book, but for very obvious reasons I have refrained from doing so. It is scarcely necessary for me to say, that I am morally opposed to all forms of lynch law, but the negro is with us; savagery and barbarous acts beget savagery and barbarous acts; what some are pleased to call the Christian religion has no more to do with it, has no more control over it, than the bursting of a soap-bubble has to do with an earthquake,—and there you have it. Lynchings, in spite of everything, will continue to occur in the United States of America just so long as there is a negro left here alive, and there is a white woman living for him to assault. He can no more help his instincts than he is responsible for the color of his skin. So far as transporting any considerable number, say a million or two of the most undesirable class, out of this country, I have little to add beyond what I have said in Chapter VIII at the end of this volume. The members of the National Academy of Sciences, a body supposed to be the advisers to Congress on questions affecting the weal of the country as a whole, might recommend such a step to Congress, and the latter act upon it. But, the Academy, as a rule, do not make such use of its profound knowledge of ethnology, history and the now well-understood laws of biology. Then there are plenty of people in this country of ours who would far rather see, were it possible for them to live long enough, the entire white race here rotted by heroic injections into their veins of all the savagery and criminality there is in the negro, than have any number of the latter, however great or small, in any way inconvenienced by their being returned to the country from which their ancestors came. In closing this introduction there are a few to whom it affords me pleasure to express my profound thanks for their assistance in steering this book safely through the press. Two of these gentlemen I am not permitted to name, but my most sincere thanks are extended to them nevertheless, and none the less heartily upon that account, and had it not been for their prompt and substantial support this little volume may never have seen the light. I am responsible for everything that appears in it and it only remains for me to thank my friend Mr. W. F. Fleming, of Denison, Texas, who kindly went over the entire galley proof for me, thus giving it a revision which his long experience and great skill made of especial value, not to mention the labor it saved me at a time when other literary work was demanding nearly my entire attention. R. W. S. New York City. ...

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