CHAPTER VII.

SOURCES OF THE NEGRO POPULATION.

17. The Seventh Ward.--We have seen that there is in Philadelphia a large population of Negroes, largely young unmarried folks with a disproportionate number of women. The question now arises, whence came these people ? How far are they native Philadelphians, and how far immigrants, and if the latter, how long have they been here? Much depends on the answer to these questions; no conclusions as to the effects of Northern city conditions on Negroes, as to the effects of long, close contact with modern culture, as to the general question of social and economic survival on the part of this race, can be intelligently answered until we know how long these people have been under the influence of given conditions, and how they were trained before they came.1

It is often tacitly assumed that the Negroes of Philadelphia are one homogeneous mass, and that the slums of the Fifth Ward, for instance, are one of the results of long contact with Philadelphia city life on the part of this mass. There is just enough truth and falsehood in such an assumption to make it dangerously misleading. The slums of Seventh and Lombard streets are largely the results of the contact of the Negro with city life, but the Negro in question is a changing variable quantity and has felt city influences for periods varying in different persons from one day to seventy years. A generalization then that includes a North Carolina boy who has migrated to the city for work aud has been here for a couple of months, in the same class with a descendant of several generations of Philadelphia Negroes, is apt to make serious mistakes. The first lad may deserve to be pitied if he falls into dissipation and crime, the second ought perhaps to be condemned severely. In other words our judgment of the thousands of Negroes of this city must be in all cases considerably modified by a knowledge of their previous history and antecedents.

Of the 9675 Negroes in the Seventh Ward, 9138 gave returns as to their birthplace. Of these, there were born:

In Philadelphia

2939 or 32.1 per cent.

In Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia

526 or 6.0 per cent.

In the New England and Middle States

485 or 5.3 per cent.

In the South

4980 or 54.3 per cent.

In the West and in foreign lands

208 or 2.3 per cent.

 

That is to say, less than one-third of the Negroes living in this ward were born here, and over one-half were born in the South. Separating them by sex and giving their birthplaces more in detail, we have:

 

BIRTHPLACE OF NEGROES, SEVENTH WARD.

Born in

Males

Females

Total.

Philadelphia

1,307

1,632

2,939

Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia

231

295

526

Virginia

939

1,012

1,951

Maryland

550

794

1,344

Delaware

168

296

464

New Jersey

141

190

331

District of Columbia

146

165

311

Other parts, and undesignated parts, of the
South

528

382

910

Other New England and Middle States

62

92

154

Western States

28

27

55

Foreign countries

110

43

153

Unknown

291

246

537

Total

4,501

5,174

9,675

 

This means that a study of the Philadelphia Negroes would properly begin in Virginia or Maryland and that only a portion have had the opportunity of being reared amid the advantages of a great city. To study this even more minutely let us divide the population according to age periods:

 

BIRTHPLACE BY AGE PERIODS.

Birthplace.

0-9

10-20

21-30

31-40

Over 40

Unknown

Total

Philadelphia

1,004

737

502

289

396

11

2,939

Pennsylvania

8

52

185

110

168

3

526

Virginia, Maryland,
New Jersey, Delaware,
District of Columbia

137

432

1,564

1,150

1,090

28

4,401

South in general

20

79

375

259

175

2

910

North

11

12

45

36

48

2

154

West

10

9

12

18

6

0

55

Foreign lands

2

2

63

43

42

1

153

Unknown

19

19

142

105

63

189

537

Total

1,211

1,342

2,888

2,010

1,988

236

9,675

 

That the Negro immigration to the city is not an influx of whole families is shown by the fact that 83 per cent of the children under ten were born in Philadelphia. Of the youth from ten to twenty about one-half were born in the city. The great influx comes in the years from twenty-one to thirty, for of these but 17 per cent were born in the city; of the men and women born between 1856 and 1865, that is, in war time, about one-seventh were born in the city; of the freedmen, that is those born before 1856, a larger portion, one-fifth, were born in Philadelphia. The wave of immigration may therefore be thus plotted:

 

 

The square represents the Negro population of the Seventh Ward, divided into segments according to age by the upright lines; the shaded portions show the proportion of immigrants.

Further detailed information as to birthplace is given in the next table. (See pages 77 aud 78.)

 

PHILADELPHIA--NEGROES OF SEVENTH WARD, 1896

BIRTHPLACE--MALES BY FIVE AGE PERIODS

Section Place 0-9 10-20 21-30 31-40 Over 40 Unknown
City

Philadelphia

486

337

208

123

151

2

State

Pennsylvania

5

20

92

49

64

1

Neighboring
States

New Jersey

10

14

31

42

44

0

Maryland

20

48

164

137

176

5

Virginia

19

48

420

268

178

6

District of Columbia

6

13

55

50

22

0

Delaware

2

12

40

42

71

1

South

North Carolina

5

21

97

63

35

0

South Carolina

0

5

22

16

11

1

Georgia

0

0

14

5

10

0

Florida

1

1

11

5

1

0

Alabama

0

0

2

0

4

0

Mississippi

0

0

0

2

0

0

Louisiana

0

0

4

1

1

0

West Virginia

0

1

13

3

4

0

Kentucky

0

1

2

4

3

0

Tennessee

0

0

9

3

2

0

Missouri

0

0

0

0

2

0

Texas

0

0

1

2

0

0

"South"

1

5

55

50

29

0

New England
and Middle States

Massachusetts

1

2

7

1

4

0

Connecticut

2

0

1

1

2

0

New York

1

4

8

5

15

0

Rhode Island

0

2

1

3

0

0

Maine

0

0

1

1

0

0

West

Minnesota

1

0

0

0

0

0

Nebraska

0

1

0

0

0

0

Ohio

0

4

4

5

3

0

Michigan

0

1

0

0

0

0

Illinois

0

0

2

2

0

0

California

0

0

0

1

0

0

"West"

0

0

0

2

2

0

Foreign
Countries

West Indies

0

0

37

30

24

0

Canada

2

0

1

1

3

0

Africa

0

0

3

1

0

0

Portugal

0

0

2

0

0

0

Mexico

0

0

1

0

0

0

East Indies

0

0

0

1

0

0

Nova Scotia

0

0

0

1

0

0

South America

0

0

0

2

1

0

?

Unknown

8

7

87

56

25

108

 

 


 

PHILADELPHIA--NEGROES OF SEVENTH WARD, 1896

BIRTHPLACE--FEMALES BY FIVE AGE PERIODS

Section Place 0-9 10-20 21-30 31-40 Over 40 Unknown
City

Philadelphia

518

400

294

166

245

9

State

Pennsylvania

3

32

93

61

104

2

Neighboring
States

New Jersey

15

19

44

52

58

2

Maryland

16

92

254

217

211

4

Virginia

35

129

431

242

169

6

District of Columbia

13

31

69

29

22

1

Delaware

1

26

56

71

139

3

South

North Carolina

8

31

66

32

32

0

South Carolina

1

4

8

12

11

0

Georgia

2

3

12

4

3

0

Florida

0

1

5

1

0

1

Alabama

0

0

6

0

0

0

Mississippi

0

3

1

3

1

0

Louisiana

0

0

1

2

2

0

West Virginia

0

1

7

9

1

0

Kentucky

0

0

3

1

1

0

Tennessee

0

0

1

2

4

0

Missouri

0

0

1

2

2

0

Texas

0

0

0

1

0

0

Arkansas

0

0

1

0

0

0

"South"

2

3

33

36

16

0

New England
and Middle States

Massachusetts

2

0

5

4

3

0

Connecticut

1

0

4

2

10

1

New York

4

4

17

15

9

1

Rhode Island

0

0

1

4

2

0

Maine

0

0

0

0

3

0

West

Minnesota

2

0

0

0

0

0

Ohio

0

1

6

7

1

0

Michigan

3

0

0

1

0

0

Delaware

4

1

0

0

0

0

Kansas

0

1

0

0

0

0

Foreign
Countries

West Indies

0

0

7

1

6

0

Canada

0

0

3

3

5

0

South America

0

0

1

0

0

0

Cuba

0

0

1

0

0

0

Europe*

0

2

7

3

3

1

?

Unknown

11

12

55

49

38

81

 


Much of the immigration to Philadelphlia is indirect; Negroes come from country districts to small towns; then go to larger towns; eventually they drift to Norfolk, Va., or to Richmond. Next they come to Washington, and finally settle in Baltimore or Philadelphia.2 The training they receive from such wanderings is not apt to improve young persons greatly, and the custom has undoubtedly helped to swell the numbers of a large migratory criminal class who are often looked upon as the product of particular cities, when, as a matter of fact, they are the offscourings of country districts, sharpened and prepared for crime by the slums of many cities through which they have passed. Besides these, there is the large and well-intentioned class who are seeking to better their lot and are attracted by the larger life of the city.

Much light, therefore, will be thrown on the question of migration if we take the Negro immigrants as a class and inquire how long they have lived in the city; we can separate the immigrants into four classes, corresponding to the waves of immigration: first, the ante-bellum immigrants, resident thirty-five years or more; second, the refugees of war time and the period following, resident twenty-one to thirty-four years; third, the laborers and sightseers of the time of the Centennial, resident ten to twenty years; fourth, the recent immigration, which may be divided into those resident from five to nine years, from one to four years, and those who have been in the city less than a year. Of 5337 immigrants,3 the following classes may be made:

 

Arrived since
December 1.
Resident Number Per cent Per cent
  Years        

1895

Under 1

293

5.5

28.7

53.2

1892

1 to 4

1,242

23.2

1887

5 to 9

1,308

24.5

45.9

1875

10 to 20

1,143

21.4

46.8

1862

21 to 34

1,040

19.4

25.4

Before 1860

35 and over

311

6.0

Before 1896

 

5,337

100

100

100

 

Thus we see that the majority of the present immigrants arrived since 1887, and nearly 30 per cent since 1892. Carrying out the division by age periods, we have:

Age.
Years Resident.

0-9 10-20 21-30 31-40 Over 40 Unknown

Under 1 year

40

56

113

60

22

3

1 to 4 years

77

181

648

239

94

3

5 to 9 years

48

139

603

355

157

6

10 to 20 years

0

103

343

449

238

10

21 to 34 years

0

0

107

334

595

4

35 years and over

0

0

0

17

294

0

Total

165

479

1,814

1,454

1,400

26

 

This table simply confirms the testimony of others as to the recent immigration of young people. Without doubt these statistics of immigration considerably understate the truth; strong social considerations lead many Negroes to give their birthplace as Philadelphia when, as a matter of fact, it may be elsewhere. We may then safely conclude that less than a third of the Negroes in the city were born here, and of the others less than a quarter have been resident twenty years or more. So that half the Negro population can not in any sense be said to be a product of the city, but rather represents raw material, whose transformation forms a pressing series of social problems. Of course, not all immigrants are undesirable material, nor are the native Negroes all creditable to the city; on the contrary, many of the best specimens of Negroes both past and present were not born in the city,4 while some of the most baffling problems arise as to the young people of native families. Nevertheless, as a whole, it is true that the average of culture and wealth and social efficiency is far lower among immigrants than natives, and that this gives rise to the gravest of the Negro problems.

18. The City.--The available figures for the past are not many nor altogether reliable, yet it seems probable that the per cent of immigrants to-day is as large as at any previous time and perhaps larger. In 1848, 57.3 per cent of 15, 532 Negroes were natives of the State, aud the remaining 42.7 per cent immigrants. In 1890 we have only figures for the whole State, which show that 45 per cent of the Negroes were immigrants mainly from Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, North Carolina, etc.5 For Philadelphia the percentage would probably be higher.

The new immigrants usually settle in pretty well-defined localities in or near the slums, and thus get the worst possible introduction to city life. In 1848, five thousand of the 6600 immigrants lived in the narrow and filthy alleys of the city and Moyamensing. To-day they are to be found partly in the slums and partly in those small streets with old houses, where there is a dangerous intermingling of good and bad elements fatal to growing children and unwholesome for adults. Such streets may be found in the Seventh Ward, between Tenth and Juniper streets, in parts of the Third and Fourth wards and in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth wards. This mingling swells the apparent size of many slum districts, and at the same time screens the real criminals. Investigators are often surprised in the worst districts to see red-handed criminals and good-hearted, hard-working, honest people living side by side in apparent harmony. Even when the new immigrants seek better districts, their low standard of living and careless appearance make them unwelcome to the better class of blacks and to the great mass of whites. Thus they find themselves hemmed in between the slums and the decent sections, and they easily drift into the happy-go-lucky life of the lowest classes and rear young criminals for our jails. On the whole, then, the sociological effect of the immigration of Negroes is the same as that of illiterate foreigners to this country, save that in this case the brunt of the burden of illiteracy, laziness and inefficiency has been, by reason of peculiar social conditions, put largely upon the shoulders of a group which is least prepared to bear it.

ENDNOTES:

1 The chief sonrce of error in the returns as to birthplace are the answers of those who do not desire to report their birthplace as in the South. Naturally there is considerable social distinction between recently arrived Southerners and old Philadelphians; consequently the tendency is to give a Northern birthplace. For this reason it is probable that even a smaller number than the few reported were really born in the city.

2 Compare "The Negroes of Farmville: A Social Study," in Bulletin of U. S. Labor Bureau, January, 1898.

3 In the case of lodgers not at home and sometimes of members of families answers could not be obtained to this question. There were in all 862 persons born outside the city from whom answers were not obtained.

4 Absalom Jones, Dorsey, Minton, Henry Jones and Augustin vere none of them natives of Philadelphia.

 

5 Chinese, Japanese and Indians are included in these tables. The exact figures are:

Negro population of Pennsylvania

107,626

Of these, born in Pennsylvania

58,681

Virginia

19,873

Maryland

12,202

Delaware

4,851

New Jersey

1,786

New York

891

North Carolina

1,362

District Columbia

1,131

Unknown

1,804

 

From W.E.B. DuBois, The Philadelphia Negro. New York: Lippincott, 1899, Chapter VII, pp. 73-82.


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