41. Pauperism.--Emancipation andpauperism must ever go hand in hand; when a group ofpersons have been for generations prohibited from self-support,and self-initiative in any line, there is bound to be a largenumber of them who, when thrown upon their own resources, will befound incapable of competing in the race of life. Pennsylvaniafrom early times, when emancipation of slaves in considerablenumbers first began, has seen and feared this problem of Negropoverty. The Act of 1726 declared: "Whereas free Negroes arean idle and slothful people and often prove burdensome to theneighborhood and afford ill examples to other Negroes, thereforebe it enacted * *

* * that if any master or mistress shall discharge or set freeany Negro, he or she shall enter into recognizance withsufficient securities in the sum of 30 to indemnify the countyfor any charge or incumbrance they may bring upon the same, incase such Negro through sickness or otherwise be renderedincapable of self-support."

The Acts of 1780 and 1788 took pains to provide for Negropaupers in the county where they had legal residence, and manydecisions of the courts bear upon this point. About 1820 when thefinal results of the Act of 1780 were being felt, an act waspassed "To prevent the increase of pauperism in theCommonwealth; " it provided that if a servant was broughtinto the state over twenty-eight years of age (the age ofemancipation) his master was to be liable for his support in casehe became a pauper.1

Thus we can infer that much pauperism was prevalent among thefreedmen during these years although there are no actual figureson the subject. In 1837, 235 of the 1673 inmates of thePhiladelphia Couny Almshouse were Negroes or 14 per cent ofpaupers from 7.4 per cent of the population. These paupers wereclassed as follows: 2

Males   Females
Under 21 Years 18   Under 18 Years 33
21 to 50 " 57   18 to 40 " 59
50 to 75 " 18   40 to 60 " 17
Unknown 13   60 " and over 10
      Unknown 10
  106     129


Lunatics and defective 16 males, 31 females,
Defective from exposure 11 " 11 "
Consumption, rheumatism, etc 9 "  
Pleurisy, typhus fever, etc. 12 "  
Destitute 13 "  
Paupers 32 " 35 "
Unclassed 13 " 28 "
Women lying-in, children and orphans,   24 "
  106 males 129 females


Ten y ears later there were 196 Negro paupers in theAlmshouse, and those receiving outdoor relief were reported asfollows: 3

In the City:

Of 2562 Negro families, 320 received assistance.

In Spring Garden:

Of 202 Negro families, 3 received assistance.

In Northern Liberties.

Of 272 Negro families, 6 received assistance.

In Southwark:

Of 287 Negro families, 7 received assistance.

In West Philadelphia:

Of 73 Negro families, 2 received assistance.

In Moyamensing.

Of 866 Negro families, 104 received assistance.

Total, of 4262 Negro families, 442 received assistance, or 10per cent.


This practically covers the available statistics of the past;it shows a large amount of pauperism and yet perhaps not morethan could reasonably be expected.

To-day it is very difficult to get any definite idea of theextent of Negro poverty; there is a vast amount of almsgiving inPhiladelphia, but much of it is unsystematic and there is muchduplication of work; and, at the same time, so meagre are therecords kept that the real extent of pauperism and its causes arevery hard to study.4

The first available figures are those relating to lodgers atthe station houses--i. e.,persons without shelter whohave applied for and been given lodging: 5

1891, total lodgers 13,600, of whom 365, or 2.7 per cent were Negroes.
1892, " " 11,884, " 345, or 2.9

" " "

1893, " " 20,521, " 622, or 3.0 " " "
1894, " " 43,726, " 1247, or 2.9 " " "
1895, " " 45,788, " 2247, or 4.9 " " "
1896, " " 46,121, " 2359, or 5.0 " " "


Somewhat similar statistics are furnished by the report ofarrests by the vagrant detective for the last ten years:

1887 total arrests, 581. Negroes 55 9.5 per cent.
1888 " " 574. " 48 8.4 "
1889 " " 588. " 36 6.1 "
1890 " " 523. " 48 9.1 "
1891 " " 554. " 47 8.5 "
1892 " " 505. " 65 12.9 "
1893 " " 586. " 67 11.0 "
1894 " " 688. " 66 9.6 "
1895 " " 557. " 56 10.0 "
1896 " " 629. " 59 9.3 "


The Negro vagrants arrested during the last six years werethus disposed of:

Disposal. 1891 1892 1893 1894 1895 1896
Given temporary shelter 21 27 29 39 26 32
Transported from city 3 2 5 4 2 3
Arrested for vagrancy, beggary, etc. 5 10 4 4 2 5
Arrested for vicious conduct, etc. 15 10 16 11 14 5
Sent to House of Refuge 3 14 7 2 5 0
Sent to societies and institutions 0 2 6 6 7 13


These records give a vague idea of that class of persons justhovering between pauperism and crime--tramps, loafers, defectivepersons and unfortunates--a class difficult to deal with becausemade up of diverse elements.

Turning to the true paupers, we have the record of the paupersadmitted to the Blockley Almshouse during six years:



Year Total
Negroes. Per Cent of
1891 6764 569 8.4
1892 6231 537 8.8
1893 6451 567 8.8
1894 6108 569 9.3
1895 6318 606 9.3
1896 6414 593 9.2




Year Total
Negroes. Per Cent of
1891 380 38 12.3
1892 262 38 14.5
1893 295 38 12.9
1894 304 35 11.1
1895 401 42 10.5
1896 410 51 12.4


In 1891, 4.2 per cent of the whites admitted were insane and2.3 per cent of the Negroes; in 1895, 8.3 per cent of the whitesand 8.6 per cent of the Negroes:









1891 6195 264 569 13
1892 5694 450 537 45
1893 5884 427 567 39
1894 5539 441 569 38
1895 5712 463 606 52


We have already seen that in the Seventh Ward about 9 per centof the Negroes can be classed as the "very poor,"needing public assistance in order to live. From this we mayconclude that between three and four thousand Negro families inthe city may be classed among the semi-pauper class. Thus it isplain that there is a large problem of poverty among the Negroproblems; 4 per cent of the population furnish according to theforegoing statistics at least 8 per cent of the poverty.Considering the economic difficulties of the Negro, we oughtperhaps to expect rather more than less than this. Beside thesepermanently pauperized families there is a considerable number ofpersons who from time to time must receive temporary aid, but canusually get on without it. In time of stress as during the year1893 this class is very large.

There is especial suffering and neglect among the children ofthis class of people: in the last ten years the Children's AidSociety has received the following children: 6

From 1887 to 1897



Received from judges and magistrates (so-called delinquents) 19 181
Deserted babies 7 55
Orphans 4 147
Half-orphans, including those with mothers in delicate
health and worthless fathers; also both parents
w orthless
12 448
From Blockley Almshouse 7  
From Blockley Almshouse (foundlings) 12 362
From Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children 3 45
From County Poor Boards 26 151
  110 1389


The total receptions during these ten years have been 1389, ofwhich the Negroes formed 8 per cent. This but emphasizes the factof poor family life among the lower classes which we have spokenof before.

A little better light can be thrown on the problem of povertyby a study of concrete cases; for this purpose 237 families havebeen selected. They live in the Seventh Ward and are composed ofthose families of Negroes whom the Charity Organization Society,Seventh District, has aided for at least two winters.7First, we must notice that this number nearly corresponds withthe previously estimated per cent of the "very poor."8 Arranging these families according to size, we have:

Number in Family. Families. Persons.
1 48 48
2 61 122
3 54 162
4 31 124
5 19 95
6 10 60
7 1 7
11 1 11
Unknown 9 ?
Total 234 638


The reported causes of poverty, which were in all casesverified by visitors so far as possible, were as follows:

Lack of work 115 families
Sickness, accident, or physical disability 39 "
Death of bread-winner and old age 24 "
Probable gambling, criminal shiftlessness, etc. 16 "
Desertion of bread-winner 15 "
Laziness and improvidence 10 "
Intemperate use of alcoholic liquors 8 "
Financial reverses 7 "
  234 families.


From as careful a consideration of these cases as thenecessarily meagre information of records and visitors permit, itseems fair to say that Negro poverty in the Seventh Ward was, inthese cases, caused as follows:

By sickness and misfortune 40 per cent.
By lack of steady employment 30 "
By laziness, improvidence and intemperate drink 20 "
By crime 10 "


Of course this is but a rough estimate; many of these causesindirectly influence each other: crime causes sickness andmisfortune; lack of employment causes crime; laziness causes lackof work, etc.

Several typical families will illustrate the varyingconditions encountered:

No.1.--South Eighteenth street. Four in the family; husbandintemperate drinker; wife decent, but out of work.

No. 2.--South Tenth street. Five in the family; widow andchildren out of work, and had sold the bed to pay for expense ofa sick child.

No. 3.--Dean street. A woman paralyzed; partially supported bya colored church.

No. 4.--Carver street. Worthy woman deserted by her husbandfive years ago; helped with coal, but is paying the CharityOrganization Society back again.

No. 5.--Hampton street. Three in family; living in three roomswith three other families. "No push, and improvident."

No. 6.--Stockton street. The woman has just had an operationperformed in the hospital, and cannot work yet.

No. 7.--Addison street. Three in family; left their work inVirginia through the misrepresentations of an Arch streetemployment bureau; out of work.

No. 8.--Richard street. Laborer injured by falling of aderrick; five in the family. His fellow workmen have contributedto his support, but the employers have given nothing.

No. 9.--Lombard street. Five in family; wife white; living inone room; hard cases; rum and lies; pretended one child was deadin order to get aid.

No. 10.--Carver street. Woman and demented son; she was foundvery drunk on the street; plays policy.

No. 11.--Lombard street. Worthy woman sick with a tumor; giventemporary aid.

No. 12.--Ohio street. Woman and two children deserted by herhusband; helped to pay her rent.

No. 13.--Rodman street. A widow and child; out of work. "Onevery little room, clean and orderly."

No. 14.--Fothergill street. Two in the family; the man sick,half-crazy and lazy; "going to convert Africa and didn'twant to cook;" given temporary help.

No. 15.--Lombard street. An improvident young couple out ofwork; living in one untidy room, with nothing to pay rent.

No. 16.--Lombard street. A poor widow of a wealthy caterer;cheated out of her property; has since died.

No. 17.--Ivy street. A family of four; husband was astevedore, but is sick with asthma, and wife out of work; decent,but improvident.

No. 18.--Naudain street. Family of three; the man, who isdecent, has broken his leg; the wife plays policy.

No. 19.--South Juniper street. Woman and two children;deserted by her husband, and in the last stages of consumption.

No. 20.--Radcliffe street. Family of three; borrowed ofCharity Organization Society $1.00 to pay rent, and repaid it inthree weeks.

No. 21.--Lombard street. "A genteel American white womanmarried to a colored man; he is at present in the South lookingfor employment; have one child;" both are respectable.

No. 22.--Fothergill street. Wife deserted him and twochildren, and ran off with a man; he is out of work; asked aid tosend his children to friends.

No. 23.--Carver street. Man of twenty-three came from Virginiafor work; was run over by cars at Forty-fifth street andBaltimore avenue, and lost both legs and right arm; is dependenton colored friends and wants something to do.

No. 24.--Helmuth street. Family of three; man out of work allwinter, and wife with two and one- half days' work a week;respectable.

No. 25--_Richard street. Widow, niece and baby; the niecebetrayed and deserted. They ask for work.

42. The Drink Habit.--The intemperateuse of intoxicating liquors is not one of the Negro's specialoffences; nevertheless there is considerable drinking and the useof beer is on the increase. The Philadelphia liquor saloons areconducted under an unusually well-administered system, and arenot to so great an extent centres of brawling and loafing as inother cities; no amusements, as pool and billiards, are allowedin rooms where liquor is sold. This is not an unmixed good forthe result is that much of the drinking is thus driven intohomes, clubs and "speakeasies." The increase of beer-drinking among all classes, black and white, is noticeable; thebeer wagons deliver large numbers of bottles at privateresidences, and much is carried from the saloons in buckets.

An attempt was made in 1897 to count the frequenters ofcertain saloons in the Seventh Ward during the hours from 8 to 10 on a Saturdaynight. It was impracticable to make this count simultaneously orto cover the whole ward, but eight or ten were watched eachnight.9 The results are a rough measurement ofthe drinking habits in this ward.

There are in the ward 52saloons of which 26 werewatched in districts mostly inhabited by Negroes. In these twohours the following record was made:

Persons entering the saloons:
Negroes--male, 1373;female, 213.Whites--male, 1445;female, 139.
Of those entering, the following are known to havecarried liquor away:
Negroes--male, 238;female, 125.Whites--male, 275;female, 81.

3170 persons entered half the saloons ofthe Seventh Ward in the hours from 8 to 10 of one Saturday night in December, 1897;of these, 1586 were Negroes, and 1584 werewhites; 2818 were males, and 352 werefemales.10 Of those entering these saloons at thistime a part carried away liquor--mostly beer in tin buckets; ofthose thus visibly carrying away liquor there were in all 719;of these 363 wereNegroes, and 356 were whites; 513 were males, and 206 werefemales.

The observers stationed near these saloons saw, in the twohours they were there, 79 drunken persons.

The general character of the saloons and their frequenters canbest be learned from a few typical reports. The numbers given arethe official license numbers:

No. 516. Persons enteringsaloon:
Men--white, 40; Negro, 68. Women--white, 12; Negro, 12.
Persons carrying liquor away:
Men--white, 8;Negro, 16. Women--white,1; Negro, 3.Drunken persons seen, 12.

General character of saloon and frequenters:--"A smallcorner saloon, kept by a white man. The saloon appears to be arespectable one and has three entrances: one on Thirteenth streetand the two on a small court. The majority of the colored patronsare poor people and of the working class. The white patrons are,for the greater part, of the better class. Among the latter veryfew were intoxicated."


No. 488. Personsentering:
Men--white, 24; Negro,102. Women--white,2;Negro, 3.
Carrying liquor away, 12;drunken persons seen, 8.

General character:--"The saloon was none too orderly;policemen remained near all the time; the Negro men entering wereas a rule well dressed--perhaps one-third were laborers; thewhite men were well dressed but suspicious lookingcharacters."


No. 515. Persons entering:
Men--white, 81; Negro, 59.Women--white, 4; Negro,10.
Persons carrying liquor away:
Men--white, 15 (one aboy of 12 or14 years ofage); Negro, 11. Women--white,4; Negro, 8.
Drunken persons seen, 2 (to one nothing was sold).

General character of saloon and frequenters:--"There weretwo Negro men and seven white men in saloon when the count wasstarted. The place has three doors but all are easily observed.Trade is largely in distilled liquors, and a great deal is soldin bottles--a 'barrel shop.' "


No. 527. Personsentering saloon:

  8 to 9 P.M. 9 TO 10 P.M. Total
Men, White 49 54 104
" , Negro 29 37 68
Women, White 3 3 6
" , Negro 5 2 7
  88 97 185
Persons carrying liquor away:
Men, White 6 11 17
" , Negro 4 9 13
Women, White 0 1 1
" , Negro 4 0 4
Boys, " 1 0 1
  15 21 36


Drunken persons seen, none.

General character of saloon and frequenters:--"Quiet,orderly crowd--quick trade--no loafing. Three boys were amongthose entering."


No. 484. Persons entering saloon: Men--white, 70; Negro, 32.Women--white, 10; Negro, 1.
Persons carrying liquor away:
Men--white, 10; Negro, 12. Women--white, 4; Negro, 0.
Drunken persons seen, 11, six of whom were white and five black."I cannot say that the saloon was responsible for all ofthem, but they were all in or about it."

This saloon is in the worst slum section of the ward and is ofbad character. Frequenters were a mixed lot, "fast, tough,criminal and besotted."


No. 487. Persons entering:
Men--white, 79; Negro, 129. Women--white, 13; Negro, 34.
Persons carrying liquor away:
Men--white, 15; Negro, 25. Women--white, 5; Negro, 8.

"No drunken men seen. Frequented by a sharp class ofcriminals and loafers. Near the notorious 'Middle Alley.' "


No. 525.
Total Negroes entering, 14; total whites entering, 13.
"No loafers about the front of the saloon. Streets welllighted and neighborhood quiet, according to the policeman. Therewas a barber shop next door and a saloon on the corner ten doorsbelow. Very few drunken people were seen. Trade was mostbrisk between eight and nine o'clock. In two hours one more Negrothan white entered. Two more Negroes, men, than whites carriedaway liquor. One white man, a German, returned three times forbeer in a kettle. Two Negro women carried beer away in kettles;one white woman (Irish) made two trips. All women entered by sidedoor. The saloon is under a residence, three stories, corner ofWaverly and Eleventh streets. Waverly street has a Negropopulation which fairly swarms--good position for Negro trade.Proprietor and assistant were both Irish. The interior of thesaloon was finished in white pine stained to imitate cherry.Extremely plain. Barkeeper said, 'A warm night, but we are doingvery well.' One beggar came in, a colored 'Auntie;' she wantedbread, not gin. Negroes were well dressed, as a rule, manysmoking. The majority of frequenters by their bustling air anddirectness with which they found the place, showed longacquaintance with the neighborhood; especially this corner."


No. 500. Persons entering saloon:
Men--white, 40; Negro, 73. Women--white 4; Negro, 6.
Persons carrying liquor away:
Men--white, 6; Negro, 23. Negro, 4.
Drunken persons seen, 1.

General character of saloon and frequenters:--" Fourstory building, plain and neat; three entrances; iron awning;electric and Welsbach lights. Negroes generally tidy and appearto be pretty well-to-do. Whites not so tidy as Negroes andgenerally mechanics. Almost all smoke cigars. Liquor carried awayopenly in pitchers and kettles. Three of the white women,carrying away liquor, looked like Irish servant girls. Some ofthe Negroes carried bundles of laundry and groceries withthem."

Few general conclusions can be drawn from this data. Thesaloon is evidently not so much a moral as an economic problemamong Negroes; if the 1586 Negroes who went into the saloonswithin two hours Saturday night spent five cents apiece, which isa low estimate, they spent $79.30. If, as is probable, at least$100 was spent that Saturday evening throughout the ward, then ina year we would not be wrong in concluding their Saturday night'sexpenditure was at least $5000, and their total expenditure couldscarcely be less than $10,000, and it may reach $20,000--a largesum for a poor people to spend in liquor.

43. The Causes of Crime and Poverty.--Astudy of statistics seems to show that the crime and pauperism ofthe Negroes exceeds that of the whites; that in the main,nevertheless, it follows in its rise and fall the fluctuationsshown in the records of the whites, i. e., ifcrime increases among the whites it increases among Negroes, and viceversa, with this peculiarity, that among the Negroesthe change is always exaggerated--the increase greater, thedecrease more marked in nearly all cases. This is what we wouldnaturally expect: we have here the record of a low social class,and as the condition of a lower class is by its very definitionworse than that of a higher, so the situation of the Negroes isworse as respects crime and poverty than that of the mass ofwhites. Moreover, any change in social conditions is bound toaffect the poor and unfortunate more than the rich andprosperous. We have in all probability an example of this in theincrease of crime since 1890; we have had a period of financialstress and industrial depression; the ones who have felt thismost are the poor, the unskilled laborers, the inefficient andunfortunate, and those with small social and economic advantages:the Negroes are in this class, and the result has been anincrease in Negro crime and pauperism; there has also been anincrease in the crime of the whites, though less rapid by reasonof their richer and more fortunate upper classes.

So far, then, we have no phenomena which are new orexceptional, or which present more than the ordinary socialproblems of crime and poverty--although these, to be sure, aredifficult enough. Beyond these, however, there are problems whichcan rightly be called Negro problems: they arise from thepeculiar history and condition of the American Negro. The firstpeculiarity is, of course, the slavery and emancipation of theNegroes. That their emancipation has raised them economically andmorally is proven by the increase of wealth and co-operation, andthe decrease of poverty and crime between the period before thewar and the period since; nevertheless, this was manifestly nosimple process: the first effect of emancipation was that of anysudden social revolution: a strain upon the strength andresources of the Negro, moral, economic and physical, which drovemany to the wall. For this reason the rise of the Negro in thiscity is a series of rushes and backslidings rather than acontinuous growth. The second great peculiarity of the situationof the Negroes is the fact of immigration; the great numbers ofraw recruits who have from time to time precipitatedthemselves upon the Negroes of the city and shared their smallindustrial opportunities, have made reputations which, whethergood or bad, all their race must share; and finally whether theyfailed or succeeded in the strong competition, they themselvesmust soon prepare to face a new immigration.

Here then we have two great causes for the present conditionof the Negro: Slavery and emancipation with their attendantphenomena of ignorance, lack of discipline, and moral weakness;immigration with its increased competition and moral influence.To this must be added a third as great--possibly greater ininfluence than the other two, namely the environment in which aNegro finds himself--the world of custom and thought in which hemust live and work, the physical surrounding of house and homeand ward, the moral encouragements and discouragements which heencounters. We dimly seek to define this social environmentpartially when we talk of color prejudice--but this is but avague characterization; what we want to study is not a vaguethought or feeling but its concrete manifestations. We knowpretty well what the surroundings are of a young white lad, or aforeign immigrant who comes to this great city to join in itsorganic life. We know what influences and limitations surroundhim, to what he may attain, what his companionships are, what hisencouragements are, what his drawbacks.

This we must know in regard to the Negro if we would study hissocial condition. His strange social environment must haveimmense effect on his thought and life, his work and crime, hiswealth and pauperism. That this environment differs and differsbroadly from the environment of his fellows, we all know, but wedo not know just how it differs. The real foundation of thedifference is the wide-spread feeling all over the land, inPhiladelphia as well as in Boston and New Orleans, that the Negrois something less than an American and ought not to be much morethan what he is. Argue as we may for or against this idea, wemust as students recognize its presence and its vast effects.

At the Eastern Penitentiary where they seek so far as possibleto attribute to definite causes the criminal record of eachprisoner, the vast influence of environment is shown. Thisestimate is naturally liable to error, but the peculiar system ofthis institution and the long service and wide experience of thewarden and his subordinates gives it a peculiar and unusualvalue. Of the 541 Negro prisoners previously studied 191 werecatalogued as criminals by reason of "natural and inherentdepravity." The others were divided as follows:

Crimes due to

(a) Defects of the law:    
Laxity in administration 33  
Unsuitable laws for minor offences 48  
Inefficient police 22  
License given to the young 16  
Inefficient laws in regard to saloons 11  
Poor institutions and lack of institutions 12  
(b) Immediate environment:    
Association 53  
Amusements 16  
Home and family influences 25  
(c) Lack of training, lack of opportunity,
lack of desire to work
(d) General environment 6  
(e) Disease 16  
(f) Moral weakness and unknown 36  


This rough judgment of men who have come into daily contactwith five hundred Negro criminals but emphasizes the fact alludedto; the immense influence of his peculiar environment on theblack Philadelphian; the influence of homes badly situated andbadly managed, with parents untrained for their responsibilities;the influence of social surroundings which by poor laws andinefficient administration leave the bad to be made worse; theinfluence of economic exclusion which admits Negroes only tothose parts of the economic world where it is hardest to retainambition and self-respect; and finally that indefinable but realand mighty moral influence that causes men to have a real senseof manhood or leads them to lose aspiration and self-respect.

For the last ten or fifteen years young Negroes have beenpouring into this city at the rate of a thousand a year; thequestion is then what homes they find or make, what neighborsthey have, how they amuse themselves, and what work they engagein? Again, into what sort of homes are the hundreds of Negrobabies of each year born? Under what social influences do theycome, what is the tendency of tlreir training, and what places inlife can they fill? To answer all these questions is to go fartoward finding the real causes of crime and pauperism among thisrace; the next two chapters, therefore, take up the question ofenvironment.



1 See Appendix B for these various laws.

2 "Condition," etc., 1838.

3 "Condition," etc., 1848.

4 Cf. The " Civic Club Digest " forgeneral information.

5 From reports of police department. Many otherofficial reports might be added to these, but they areeasily accessible.

6 From the Society records, by courtesy of theofficers.

7 From the C. O. S. records, Seventh District, bycourtesy of Miss Burke.

8 This coincidence in figures was entirelyunnoticed until both had been worked out by independent methods.

9 I am indebted to Dr. S. M. Lindsay and thestudents of the Wharton School for the carrying out of this plan.

10 No comparison of the number of Negroes andwhites for the ward can be made, because many of the saloonsomitted are frequented by whites principally.



From W.E.B. DuBois, The PhiladelphiaNegro. New York: Lippincott, 1899, Chapter XIV, pp. 269-286.

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