47. Color Prejudice.--Incidentallythroughout this study the prejudice against the Negro has beenagain and again mentioned. It is time now to reduce this somewhatindefinite term to something tangible. Everybody speaks of thematter, everybody knows that it exists, but in just whatform it shows itself or how influential it is few agree. In theNegro's mind, color prejudice in Philadelphia is that widespreadfeeling of dislike for his blood, which keeps him and hischildren out of decent employment, from certain publicconveniences and amusements, from hiring houses in many sections,and in general, from being recognized as a man. Negroes regardthis prejudice as the chief cause of their present unfortunatecondition. On the other hand most white people are quiteunconscious of any such powerful and vindictive feeling; theyregard color prejudice as the easily explicable feeling thatintimate social intercourse with a lower race is not onlyundesirable but impracticable if our present standards of cultureare to be maintained; and although they are aware that somepeople feel the aversion more intensely than others, they cannotsee how such a feeling has much influence on the real situationor alters the social condition of the mass of Negroes.
As a matter of fact, color prejudice in this city is somethingbetween these two extreme views: it is not to-day responsible forall, or perhaps the greater part of the Negro problems, or of thedisabilities under which the race labors; on the other hand it isa far more powerful social force than most Philadelphiansrealize. The practical results of the attitude of most of theinhabitants of Philadelphia toward persons of Negro descent areas follows:
1. As to getting work:
No matter how well trained a Negro may be, or how fitted forwork of any kind, he cannot in the ordinary course ofcompetition hope to be much more than a menial servant.
He cannot get clerical or supervisory work to do save inexceptional cases.
He cannot teach save in a few of the remaining Negro schools.
He cannot become a mechanic except for small transient jobs,and cannot join a trades union.
A Negro woman has but three careers open to her in this city:domestic service, sewing, or married life.
2. As to keeping work:
The Negro suffers in competition more severely than white men.
Change in fashion is causing him to be replaced by whites inthe better paid positions of domestic service.
Whim and accident will cause him to lose a hard-earned placemore quickly than the same things would affect a white man.
Being few in number compared with the whites the crime orcarelessness of a few of his race is easily imputed to all, andthe reputation of the good, industrious and reliable sufferthereby.
Because Negro workmen may not often work side by side withwhite workmen, the individual black workman is rated not by hisown efficiency, but by the efficiency of a whole group of blackfellow workmen which may often be low.
Because of these difficulties which virtually increasecompetition in his case, he is forced to take lower wages for thesame work than white workmen.
3. As to entering new lines of work:
Men are used to seeing Negroes in inferior positions; when,therefore, by any chance a Negro gets in a better position, mostmen immediately conclude that he is not fitted for it, evenbefore he has a chance to show his fitness.
If, therefore, he set up a store, men will not patronize him.
If he is put into public position men will complain.
If he gain a position in the commercial world, men willquietly secure his dismissal or see that a white man succeedshim.
4. As to his expenditure:
The comparative smallness of the patronage of the Negro, andthe dislike of other customers makes it usual to increase thecharges or difficulties in certain directions in which a Negromust spend money.
He must pay more house-rent for worse houses than most whitepeople pay.
He is sometimes liable to insult or reluctant service in somerestaurants, hotels and stores, at public resorts, theatres andplaces of recreation; and at nearly all barber shops.
5. As to his children:
The Negro finds it extremely difficult to rear children insuch an atmosphere and not have them either cringing or impudent:if he impresses upon them patience with their lot, they may growup satisfied with their condition; if he inspires them withambition to rise, they may grow to despise their own people, hatethe whites and become embittered with the world.
His children are discriminated against, often in publicschools.
They are advised when seeking employment to become waiters andmaids.
They are liable to species of insult and temptation peculiarlytrying to children.
6. As to social intercourse:
In all walks of life the Negro is liable to meet someobjection to his presence or some discourteous treatment; and theties of friendship or memory seldom are strong enough to holdacross the color line.
If an invitation is issued to the public for any occasion, theNegro can never know whether he would be welcomed or not; if hegoes he is liable to have his feelings hurt and get intounpleasant altercation; if he stays away, he is blamed forindifference.
If he meet a lifelong white friend on the street, he is in adilemma; if he does not greet the friend he is put down asboorish and impolite; if he does greet the friend he is liable tobe flatly snubbed.
If by chance he is introduced to a white woman or man, heexpects to be ignored on the next meeting, and usually is.
White friends may call on him, but he is scarcely expected tocall on them, save for strictly business matters.
If he gain the affections of a white woman and marry her hemay invariably expect that slurs will be thrown on her reputationand on his, and that both his and her race will shun theircompany.1
When he dies he cannot be buried beside white corpses.
7. The result:
Any one of these things happening now and then would not beremarkable or call for especial comment; but when one group ofpeople suffer all these little differences of treatment anddiscriminations and insults continually, the result is eitherdiscouragement, or bitterness, or over-sensitiveness, orrecklessness. And a people feeling thus cannot do their best.
Presumably the first impulse of the average Philadelphianwould be emphatically to deny any such marked and blightingdiscrimination as the above against a group of citizens inthis metropolis. Every one knows that in the past color prejudicein the city was deep and passionate; living men can remember whena Negro could not sit in a street car or walk many streets inpeace. These times have passed, however, and many imagine thatactive discrimination against the Negro has passed with them.Careful inquiry will convince any such one of his error. To besure a colored man to-day can walk the streets of Philadelphiawithout personal insult; he can go to theatres, parks and someplaces of amusement without meeting rmore than stares anddiscourtesy; he can be accommodated at most hotels andrestaurants, although his treatment in some would not bepleasant. All this is a vast advance and augurs much for thefuture. And yet all that has been said of the remainingdiscrimination is but too true.
During the investigation of 1896 there was collected a numberof actual cases, which may illustrate the discriminations spokenof. So far as possible these have been sifted and only thosewhich seem undoubtedly true have been selected.2
1. As to getting work.
It is hardly necessary to dwell upon the situation of theNegro in regard to work in the higher walks of life: the whiteboy may start in the lawyer's office and work himself into alucrative practice; he may serve a physician as office boy orenter a hospital in a minor position, and have his talent alonebetween him and affluence and fame; if he is bright in school, hemay make his mark in a university, become a tutor with some timeand much inspiration for study, and eventually fill a professor'schair. All these careers are at the very outset closed to theNegro on account of his color; what lawyer would give even aminor case to a Negro assistant? or what university would appointa promising young Negro as tutor? Thus the young white man startsin life knowing that within some limits and barring accidents,talent and application will tell. The young Negro starts knowingthat on all sides his advance is made doubly difficult if notwholly shut off by his color. Let us come, however, to ordinaryoccupations which concern more nearly the mass of Negroes.Philadelphia is a great industrial and business centre, withthousands of foremen, managers and clerks--the lieutenants ofindustry who direct its progress. They are paid for thinking andfor skill to direct, and naturally such positions are covetedbecause they are well paid, well thought-of and carry someauthority. To such positions Negro boys and girls may not aspireno matter what their qualifications. Even as teachers andordinary clerks and stenographers they find almost no openings.Let us note some actual instances:
A young woman who graduated with credit from the Girls' NormalSchool in 1892, has taught in the kindergarten, acted assubstitute, and waited in vain for a permanent position. Once shewas allowed to substitute in a school with white teachers; theprincipal commended her work, but when the permanent appointmentwas made a white woman got it.
A girl who graduated from a Pennsylvania high school and froma business college sought work in the city as a stenographer andtypewriter. A prominent lawyer undertook to find her a position;he went to friends and said, "Here is a girl that doesexcellent work and is of good character; can you not give herwork?" Several immediately answered yes. "But,"said the lawyer, "I will be perfectly frank with you andtell you she is colored;" and not in the whole city could hefind a man willing to employ her. It happened, however, that thegirl was so light in complexion that few not knowing would havesuspected her descent. The lawyer therefore gave her temporarywork in his own office until she found a position outside thecity. "But," said he, "to this day I have notdared to tell my clerks that they worked beside a Negress."Another woman graduated from the high school and the PalmerCollege of Shorthand, but all over the city has met with nothingbut refusal of work.
Several graduates in pharmacy have sought to get their threeyears required apprenticeship in the city and in only one casedid one succeed, although they offered to work for nothing. Oneyoung pharmacist came from Massachusetts and for weeks sought invain for work here at any price; "I wouldn't have a darky toclean out my store, much less to stand behind the counter,"answered one druggist. A colored man answered an advertisementfor a clerk in the suburbs. "What do you suppose we'd wantof a nigger?" was the plain answer. A graduate of theUniversity of Pennsylvania in mechanical engineering, wellrecommended, obtained work in the city, through an advertisement,on account of his excellent record. He worked a few hours andthen was discharged because he was found to be colored. He is nowa waiter at the University Club, where his white fellow graduatesdine.3 Another young man attended Spring GardenInstitute and studied drawing for lithography. He had goodreferences from the institute and elsewhere, butapplication at the five largest establishments in the city couldsecure him no work. A telegraph operator has hunted in vain foran opening, and two graduates of the Central High School havesunk to menial labor. "What's the use of an education?"asked one. Mr. A--has elsewhere been employed as a travelingsalesman. He applied for a position here by letter and was toldhe could have one. When they saw him they had no work forhim.
Such cases could be multiplied indefinitely. But that is notnecessary; one has but to note that, notwithstanding theacknowledged ability of many colored men, the Negro isconspicuously absent from all places of honor, trust oremolument, as well as from those of respectable grade in commerceand industry.
Even in the world of skilled labor the Negro is largelyexcluded. Many would explain the absence of Negroes from highervocations by saying that while a few may now and then be foundcompetent, the great mass are not fitted for that sort of workand are destined for some time to form a laboring class. In thematter of the trades, however, there can be raised no seriousquestion of ability; for years the Negroes filled satisfactorilythe trades of the city, and to-day in many parts of the Souththey are still prominent. And yet in Philadelphia a determinedprejudice, aided by public opinion, has succeeded nearly in drivingthem from the field:
A----, who works at a bookbinding establishment on Frontstreet, has learned to bind books and often does so for hisfriends. He is not allowed to work at the trade in the shop,however, but must remain a porter at a porter's wages.
B---- is a brushmaker; he has applied at severalestablishments, but they would not even examine his testimonials.They simply said: "We do not employ colored people."
C---- is a shoemaker; he tried to get work in some of thelarge department stores. They "had no place" for him.
D---- was a bricklayer, but experienced so much trouble ingetting work that he is now a messenger.
E---- is a painter, but has found it impossible to get workbecause he is colored.
F---- is a telegraph line man, who formerly worked inRichmond, Va. When he applied here he was told that Negroes werenot employed.
G---- is an iron puddler, who belonged to a Pittsburg union.Here he was not recognized as a uniou man and could not get workexcept as a stevedore.
H---- was a cooper, but could get no work after repeatedtrials, and is now a common laborer.
I---- is a candy-maker, but has never been able to findemployment in the city; he is always told that the white helpwill not work with him.
J---- is a carpenter; he can only secure odd jobs or workwhere only Negroes are employed.
K---- was an upholsterer, but could get no work save in thefew colored shops, which had workmen; he is now a waiter on adining car.
L---- was a first-class baker; he applied for work some timeago near Green street and was told shortly, "We don't workno niggers here."
M---- is a good typesetter; he has not been allowed to jointhe union and has been refused work at eight different places inthe city.
N---- is a printer by trade, but can only find work as aporter.
O---- is a sign-painter, but can get but little work.
P---- is a painter and gets considerable work, but never withwhite workmen.
Q---- is a good stationary engineer, but can find noemployment; is at present a waiter in a private family.
R---- was born in Jamaica; he went to England and workedfifteen years in the Sir Edward Green Economizing Works inWakefield, Yorkshire. During dull times he emigrated to America,bringing excellent references. He applied for a place as mechanicin nearly all the large iron working establishments in the city.A locomotive works assured him that his letters were allright, but that their men would not work with Negroes. At amanufactory of railway switches they told him they had no vacancyand he could call again; he called and finally was frankly toldthat they could not employ Negroes. He applied twice to a foundrycompany: they told him: "We have use for only one Negro--aporter," and refusing either further conversation or even tolook at his letters showed him out. He then applied for work on anew building; the man told him he could leave an application,then added: "To tell the truth, it's no use, for we don'temploy Negroes." Thus the man has searched for work twoyears and has not yet found a permanent position. He can onlysupport his family by odd jobs as a common laborer.
S---- is a stone-cutter; he was refused work repeatedly onaccount of color. At last he got a job during a strike and wasfound to be so good a workman that his employer refused todismiss him.
T---- was a boy, who, together with a white boy came to thecity to hunt work. The colored boy was very light in complexion,and consequently both were taken in as apprentices at a largelocomotive works; they worked there some months, but it wasfinally disclosed that the boy was colored; he was dismissed andthe white boy retained.
These all seem typical and reliable cases. There are, ofcourse, some exceptions to the general rule, but even these seemto confirm the fact that exclusion is a matter of prejudice andthoughtlessness which sometimes yields to determination and goodsense. The most notable case in point is that of the MidvaleSteel Works, where a large number of Negro workmen are regularlyemployed as mechanics and work alongside whites.4 Ifanother foreman should take charge there, or if friction shouldarise, it would be easy for all this to receive a seriousset-back, for ultimate success in such matters demands manyexperiments and a widespread public sympathy.
There are several cases where strong personal influence hassecured colored boys positions; in one cabinet-making factory, aporter who had served the firm thirty years, asked to have hisson learn the trade and work in the shop. The workmen objectedstrenuously at first, but the employer was firm and the young manhas been at work there now seven years. The S. S. White DentalCompany has a colored chemist who has worked up to his place andgives satisfaction. A jeweler allowed his colored fellow-soldierin the late war to learn the gold beaters' trade and work in hisshop. A few other cases follow:
A---- was intimately acquainted with a merchant and securedhis son a position as a typewriter in the merchant's office.
B----, a stationary engineer, came with his employer fromWashington and still works with him.
C---- , a plasterer, learned his trade with a finn in Virginiawho especially recommended him to the firm where he now works.
D---- is a boy whose mother's friend got him work ascutter in a bag and rope factory; the hands objected but thefriend's influence was strong enough to keep him there.
All these exceptions prove the rule, viz., that without strongeffort and special influence it is next to impossible for a Negroin Philadelphia to get regular employment in most of the trades,except he work as an independent workman and take small transientjobs.
The chief agency that brings about this state of affairs ispublic opinion; if they were not intrenched, and stronglyintrenched, back of an active prejudice or at least passiveacquiescence in this effort to deprive Negroes of a decentlivelihood, both trades unions and arbitrary bosses would bepowerless to do the harm they now do; where, however, a largesection of the public more or less openly applaud the stamina ofa man who refuses to work with a "Nigger," the resultsare inevitable. The object of the trades union is purelybusiness-like; it aims to restrict the labor market, just asthe manufacturer aims to raise the price of his goods. Here is achance to keep out of the market a vast number of workmen, andthe unions seize the chance save in cases where they darenot as in the case of the cigar-makers and coal-miners. Ifthey could keep out the foreign workmen in the same way theywould; but here public opinion within and without their ranksforbids hostile action. Of course, most unions do not flatlydeclare their discriminations; a few plainly put the word"white" into their constitutions; most of them do notand will say that they consider each case on its merits. Thenthey quietly blackball the Negro applicant. Others delay andtemporize and put off action until the Negro withdraws; stillothers discriminate against the Negro in initiation fees anddues, making a Negro pay $100, where the whites pay $25. On theother hand in times of strikes or other disturbances cordialinvitations to join are often sent to Negro workmen.5
At a time when women are engaged in bread-winning to a largerdegree than ever before, the field open to Negro women isunusually narrow. This is, of course, due largely to the moreintense prejudices of females on all subjects, and especially tothe fact that women who work dislike to be in any way mistakenfor menials, and they regard Negro women as menials parexcellence.
A---- , a dressmaker and seamstress of proven ability, soughtwork in the large department stores. They all commended her work,but could not employ her on account of her color.
B---- is a typewriter, but has applied at stores and officesin vain for work; "very sorry" they all say, but theycan give her no work. She has answered many advertisementswithout result.
C---- has attended the Girls, High School for two years, andhas been unable to find any work; she is washing and sewing for aliving now.
D---- is a dressmaker and milliner, and does bead work."Your work is very good," they say to her, "but ifwe hired you all of our ladies would leave."
E----, a seamstress, was given work from a store once, to doat home. It was commended as satisfactory, but they gave her nomore.
F---- had two daughters who tried to get work asstenographers, but got only one small job.
G---- is a graduate of the Girls, High School, with excellentrecord; both teachers and influential friends have been seekingwork for her but have not been able to find ally.
H---- a girl, applied at seven stores for some work notmenial; they had none.
I---- started at the Schuylkill, on Market street, and appliedat almost every store nearly to the Delaware for work; she wasonly offered scrubbing.6
2. So much for the difficulty of getting work. In addition tothis the Negro is meeting difficulties in keeping the work hehas, or at least the better part of it. Outside of alldissatisfaction with Negro work there are whims and fashions thataffect his economic position; to-day general European travel hasmade the trained English servant popular and consequentlywell-shaven white men-servants, whether English or not, find iteasy to replace Negro butlers and coachmen at higher wages.Again, though a man ordinarily does not dismiss all his whitemill-hands because some turn out badly, yet it repeatedly happensthat men dismiss all their colored servants and condemn theirrace because one or two in their employ have provenuntrustworthy. Finally, the antipathies of lower classes are sogreat that it is often impracticable to mix races among theservants. A young colored girl went to work temporarily inGermantown; "I should like so much to keep youpermanently," said the mistress, "but all my otherservants are white." She was discharged. Usually nowadvertisements for help state whether white or Negro servants arewanted, and the Negro who applies at the wrong place must not besurprised to have the door slammed in his face.
The difficulties encountered by the Negro on account ofsweeping conclusions made about him are manifold; a largebuilding, for instance, has several poorly paid Negro janitors,without facilities for their work or guidance in its prosecution.Finally the building is thoroughly overhauled or rebuilt,elevators and electricity installed and a well paid set of whiteuniformed janitors put to work under a responsible salariedchief. Immediately the public concludes that the improvement inthe service is due to the change of color. In some cases, ofcourse, the change is due to a widening of the field of choice inselecting servants; for assuredly one cannot expect that onetwenty-fifth of the population can furnish as many good workmenor as uniformly good ones as the other twenty-four twenty-fifths.One actual case illustrates this tendency to exclude the Negrowithout proper consideration from even menial employment:
A great church which has a number of members among the mostrespectable Negro families in the city has recently erected alarge new building for its offices, etc., in the city. As thebuilding was nearing completion a colored clergyman of that sectwas surprised to hear that no Negroes were to be employed in thebuilding; he thought that a peculiar stand for a Christian churchto take and so he went to the manager of the building; themanager blandly assured him that the rumor was true; and thatthere was not the shadow of a chance for a Negro to getemployment under him, except one woman to clean the water-closet.The reason for this, he said, was that the janitors and help wereall to be uniformed and the whites would not wear uniforms withNegroes. The clergyman thereupon went to a prominent rnember ofthe church who was serving on the building committee; he deniedthat the committee had made any such decision, but sent him toanother member of the committee; this member said the same thingand referred to the third, a blunt business man. The business mansaid: "That building is called the --------- Church House,but it is more than that, it is a business enterprise, to be runon business principles. We hired a man to run it so as to get themost out of it. We found such a man in the present manager, andput all power in his hands." He acknowledged then, thatwhile the committee had made no decision, the question of hiringNegroes had come up and it was left solely to the manager'sdecision. The manager thought most Negroes were dishonest anduntrustworthy, etc. And thus the Christian church joins handswith trades unions and a large public opinion to force Negroesinto idleness and crime.
Sometimes Negroes, by special influence, as has been pointedout before, secure good positions; then there are other caseswhere colored men have by sheer merit and pluck securedpositions. In all these cases, however, they are liable to losetheir places through no fault of their own and primarily onaccount of their Negro blood. It may be that at first their Negrodescent is not known, or other causes may operate; in all casesthe Negro's tenure of office is insecure:
A---- worked in a large tailor's establishment on Thirdstreet for three weeks. His work was acceptable. Then it becameknown he was colored and he was discharged as the other tailorsrefused to work with him.
B---- , a pressman, was employed on Twelfth street, but a weeklater was discharged when they knew he was colored; hethen worked as a door-boy for five years, and finally got anotherjob in a Jewish shop as pressman.
C----was nine years a painter in Stewart's Furniture Factory,until Stewart failed four years ago. Has applied repeatedly, butcould get no work on account of color. He now works as a nightwatchman on the streets for the city.
D---- was a stationary engineer; his employer died, and he hasnever been able to find another.
E---- was light in complexion and got a job as driver; he"kept his cap on," but when they found he wascolored they discharged him.
F---- was one of many colored laborers at an ink factory. Theheads of the firm died, and now whenever a Negroleaves a white man is put in his place.
G---- worked for a long time as a typesetter on Taggart's Times;when the paper changed hands he was discharged and has neverbeen able to get another job; he is now a janitor.
H---- was a brickmason, but his employers finally refused tolet him lay brick longer as his fellow workmen were all white; heis now a waiter.
L---- learned the trade of range-setting from his employer;the employer then refused him work and he went into business forhimself; he has taught four apprentices.
M---- is a woman whose husband was janitor for a firm twentyyears; when they moved to the new Betz Building they dischargedhim as all the janitors there were white; after his death theycould find no work for his boy.
N---- was a porter in a book store and rose to be headpostmaster of a sub-station in Philadelphia which handles$250,000, it is said, a year; he was also at the head of a veryefficient Bureau of Information in a large department store.Recently attempts have been made to displace him for no specifiedfault but because "we want his place for another [white]man."
O---- is a well-known instance; an observer in 1898 wrote:"If any Philadelphian who is anxious to study the matterwith his own eyes, will walk along South Eleventh street, fromChestnut down, and will note the most tasteful and enterprisingstationery and periodical store along the way, it will pay him toenter it. On entering he will, according to his way of thinking,be pleased or grieved to see that it is conducted by Negroes. Ifthe proprietor happens to be in he may know that thiskeen-looking pleasant young man was once assistant businessmanager of a large white religious newspaper in the city. Achange of management led to his dismissal. No fault wasfound, his work was commended, but a white man was put into hisplace, and profuse apologies made.
"The clerk behind the counter is his sister; a neatlady-like woman, educated, and trained in stenography andtypewriting. She could not find in the city of Philadelphia, anyone who had the slightest use for such a colored woman.
"The result of this situation is this little store, whichis remarkably successful. The proprietor owns the stock, thestore and the building. This is one tale of its sort with apleasant ending. Other tales are far less pleasing."
Much discouragement results from the persistent refusal topromote colored employee. The humblest white employe knows thatthe better he does his work the more chancethere is for him to rise in the business. The black employe knowsthat the better he does his work the longer he may do it; hecannot often hope for promotion. This makes much of the criticismaimed against Negroes, because some of them want to refuse meniallabor, lose something of its point. If the better class ofNegro boys could look on such labor as a stepping-stone tosomething higher it would be different; if they must view it as alifework we cannot wonder at their hesitation:
A---- has been a porter at a great locomotive works for tenyears. He is a carpenter by trade and has picked up considerableknowledge of machinery; he was formerly allowed to work a littleas a machinist; now that is stopped and he has never beenpromoted and probably never will be.
B---- has worked in a shop eight years and never been promotedfrom his porter's position, although he is a capable man.
C---- is a porter; he has been in a hardware store six years;he is bright and has repeatedly been promised advancement but hasnever got it.
D---- was for seven years in a gang of porters in a departmentstore, and part of the time acted as foreman. He had a white boyunder him who disliked him; eventually the boy was promoted buthe remained a porter. Finally the boy became his boss anddischarged him.
E----, a woman, worked long in a family of lawyers; a whitelad went into their office as office-boy and came to be a memberof the firm; she had a smart, ambitious son and asked for anysort of office work for him--anything in which he could hope forpromotion. "Why don't you make him a waiter ?" theyasked.
F---- has for twenty-one years driven for a lumber firm;speaks German and is very useful to them, but they have neverpromoted him.
G---- was a porter; he begged for a chance to work up;offering to do clerical work for nothing, but was refused. Whitecompanions were repeatedly promoted over his head. He has been aporter seventeen years.
H---- was a servant in the family of one of the members of alarge dry goods firm; he was so capable that the employer senthim down to the store for a place which the manager veryreluctantly gave him. He rose to be registering clerk in thedelivering department where he worked fourteen years and his workwas commended. Recently without notice or complaint he waschanged to run an elevator at the same wages. He thinks thatpressure from other members of the firm made him lose his work.
Once in a while there are exceptions to this rule. ThePennsylvania Railroad has promoted one bright and persistentporter to a clerkship, which he has held for years. He had,however, spent his life hunting chances for promotion and hadbeen told "You have ability enough, George, if you were notcolored ------."
There is much discrimination against Negroes in wages.7
The Negroes have fewer chances for work, have been used to lowwages, and consequently the first thought that occurs to theaverage employer is to give a Negro less than he wouldoffer a white man for the same work. This is not universal, butit is widespread. In domestic service of the ordinary sort thereis no difference, because the wages are a matter ofcustom. When it comes to waiters, butlers and coachmen, however,there is considerable difference made; while white coachmenreceive from $50-$75, the Negroes do not getusually more than $30-$60. Negro hotel waiters get from$18-$20, while whites receive $20-$30. Naturallywhen a hotel manager replaces $20 men with $30 men he may expect,outside any question of color, better service.
In ordinary work the competition forces down the wages outsidemere race reasons, though the Negro is the greatest sufferer;this is especially the case in laundry work. "I've countedas high as seven dozen pieces in that washing," said a wearyblack woman," and she pays me only $1.25 a week forit." Persons who throw away $5 a week on gew-gaws will oftenhaggle over twenty-five cents with a washerwoman. There are,however, notable exceptions to these cases, where good wages arepaid to persons who have long worked for the same family.
Very often if a Negro is given a chance to work at a trade hiswages are cut down for the privilege. This gives the workingman'sprejudice additional intensity:
A---- got a job formerly held by a white porter; the wageswere reduced from $12 to $8.
B---- worked for a firm as china packer, and they said he wasthe best packer they had. He, however, received but $6 a weekwhile the white packers received $12.
C---- has been porter and assistant shipping clerk in an Archstreet store for five years. He receives $6 a week and whites get$8 for the same work.
D---- is a stationary engineer; he learned his trade with thisfirm and has been with them ten years. Formerly he received $9 aweek, now $10.50; whites get $12 for the same work.
E----is a stationary engineer and has been in his place threeyears. He receives but $9 a week.
F---- works with several other Negroes with a firm ofelectrical engineers. The white laborers receive $2 a day:"We've got to be glad to get $1.75."
G----was a carpenter, but could get neither sufficient worknor satisfactory wages. For a job on which he received $15 aweek, his white successor got $18.
H---- , a cementer, receives $1.75 a day; white workmen get$2-$3. He has been promised more next fall.
I----, a plasterer, has worked for one boss twenty-sevenyears. Regular plasterers get $4 or more a day; he does the samework, but cannot join the union and is paid as a laborer--$2.50 aday.
J---- works as a porter in a department store; is married, andreceives $8 a week. "They pay the same to white unmarriedshop girls, who stand a chance to be promoted."
3. If a Negro enters some line of employment in which peopleare not used to seeing him, he suffers from an assumption that heis unfit for the work. It is reported that a Chestnut street firmonce took a Negro shop girl, but the protests of their customerswere such that they had to dismiss her. A great many merchantshesitate to advance Negroes lest they should lose custom. Negromerchants who have attempted to start business in the city atfirst encounter much difficulty from this prejudice:
A---- has a bakery; white people sormetimes enter and findingNegroes in charge abruptly leave.
B---- is a baker and had a shop some years on Vine street, butprejudice against him barred him from gaining much custom.
C---- is a successful expressman with a large business; he issometimes told by persons that they prefer to patronize whiteexpressmen.
D---- is a woman and keeps a hair store on South street.Customers sometimes enter, look at her, and leave.
E---- is a music teacher on Lombard street. Several whitepeople have entered and seeing him, said: "Oh! I thought youwere white--excuse me! " or "I'll call again!"
Even among the colored people themselves some prejudice ofthis sort is met. Once a Negro physician could not get thepatronage of Negroes because they were not used to theinnovation. Now they have a large part of the Negro patronage.The Negro merchant, however, still lacks the full confidence ofhis own people though this is slowly growing. It is one of theparadoxes of this question to see a people so discriminatedagainst sometimes add to their misfortunes by discriminatingagainst themselves. They themselves, however, are beginning torecognize this.
4. The chief discrimination against Negroes in expenditure isin the matter of rents. There can be no reasonable doubt butthat Negroes pay excessive rents:
A----paid $13 a month where the preceding white family hadpaid $1O.
B----paid $I6; "heard that former white family paid$12."
C----paid $25; "heard that former white family paid$20."
D---- paid $12; neighbors say that former white familypaid $9.
E---- paid $25, instead of $18.
F---- paid $12, instead of $1O.
G----, the Negro inhabitants of the whole street pay $12 to$14 and the whites $9 and $10. The houses are all alike.
H ----, whites on this street pay $15-$18; Negroes pay$18-$21.
Not only is there this pretty general discrimination in rent,but agents and owners will not usually repair the housesof the blacks willingly or improve them. In addition to thisagents and owners in many sections utterly refuse to rent toNegroes on any terms. Both these sorts of discrimination areeasily defended from a merely business point of view; publicopinion in the city is such that the presence of even arespectable colored family in a block will affect its value forrenting or sale; increased rent to Negroes is therefore a sort ofinsurance, and refusal to rent a device for money-getting. Theindefensible cruelty lies with those classes who refuse torecognize the right of respectable Negro citizens to respectablehouses. Real estate agents also increase prejudice by refusing todiscriminate between different classes of Negroes. A quiet Negrofamily moves into a street. The agent finds no great objection,and allows the next empty house to go to any Negro who applies.This family may disgrace and scandalize the neighborhood and makeit harder for decent families to find homes.8
In the last fifteen years, however, public opinion has sogreatly changed in this matter that we may expect much in thefuture. To-day the Negro population is more widely scattered overthe city than ever before. At the same time it remains true thatas a rule they must occupy the worst houses of the districtswhere they live. The advance made has been a battle for thebetter class of Negroes. An ex-Minister to Hayti moved to thenorthwestern part of the city and his white neighbors insultedhim, barricaded their steps against him, and tried in every wayto make him move; to-day he is honored and respected in the wholeneighborhood. Many such cases have occurred; in others the resultwas different. An estimable young Negro, just married, moved withhis bride into a little street. The neighborhood rose in arms andbesieged the tenant and the landlord so relentlessly that thelandlord leased the house and compelled the young couple to movewithin a month. One of the bishops of the A. M. E. Churchrecently moved into the newly purchased Episcopal residence onBelmont avenue, and his neighbors have barricaded their porchesagainst his view.
5. The chief discrimination against Negro children is in thematter of educational facilities. Prejudice here works tocompel colored children to attend certain schools where mostNegro children go, or to keep them out of private andhigher schools.
A---- tried to get her little girl into the kindergartennearest to her, at Fifteenth and Locust. The teachers wanted herto send it down across Broad to the kinder-garten chieflyattended by colored children and much further away from its home.This journey was dangerous for the child, but the teachersrefused to receive it for six months, until the authorities wereappealed to.
In transfers from schools Negroes have difficulty in gettingconvenient accommodations; only within comparatively few yearshave Negroes been allowed to complete the course at the High andNormal Schools without difficulty. Earlier than that theUniversity of Pennsylvania refused to let Negroes sit in theAuditorium and listen to lectures, much less to be students.Within two or three years a Negro student had to fight his waythrough a city dental school with his fists, and was treated withevery indignity. Several times Negroes have been asked to leaveschools of stenography, etc., on account of their fellowstudents. In 1893 a colored woman applied at Temple College, achurch institution, for admission and was refused and advised togo elsewhere. The college then offered scholarships to churches,but would not admit applicants from colored churches. Two yearslater the same woman applied again. The faculty declared thatthey did not object, but that the students would; she persistedand was finally admitted with evident reluctance.
It goes without saying that most private schools, musicschools, etc., will not admit Negroes and in some cases haveinsulted applicants.
Such is the tangible form of Negro prejudice in Philadelphia.Possibly some of the particulur cases cited can be proven to havehad extenuating circumstances unknown to the investigator; at thesame time many not cited would be just as much in point. At anyrate no one who has with any diligence studied the situation ofthe Negro in the city can long doubt but that his opportunitiesare limited and his ambition circumscribed about as has beenshown. There are of course numerous exceptions, but the mass ofthe Negroes have been so often refused openings and discouragedin efforts to better their condition that many of them say, asone said, "I never apply--I know it is useless." Besidethese tangible and measurable forms there are deeper and lesseasily described results of the attitude of the white populationtoward the Negroes: a certain manifestation of a real or assumedaversion, a spirit of ridicule or patronage, a vindictive hatredin some, absolute indifference in others; all this of course doesnot make much difference to the mass of the race, but it deeplywounds the better classes, the very classes who are attaining tothat to which we wish the mass to attain. Notwithstanding allthis, most Negroes would patiently await the effect of time andcommonsense on such prejudice did it not to-day touch them inmatters of life and death; threaten their homes, their food,their children, their hopes. And the result of this is bound tobe increased crime, inefficiency and bitterness.
It would, of course, be idle to assert that most of the Negrocrime was caused by prejudice; the violent economic and socialchanges which the last fifty years have brought to the AmericanNegro, the sad social history that preceded these changes,have all contributed to unsettle morals and pervert talents.Nevertheless it is certain that Negro prejudice in cities likePhiladelphia has been a vast factor m aiding and abetting allother causes which impel a half-developed race to recklessnessand excess. Certainly a great amount of crime can be withoutdoubt traced to the discrimination against Negro boys andgirls in the matter of employment. Or to put it differently,Negro prejudice costs the city something.
The connection of crime and prejudice is, on the other hand,neither simple nor direct. The boy who is refused promotion inhis job as porter does not go out and snatch somebody'spocketbook. Conversely the loafers at Twelfth and Kater streets,and the thugs in the county prison are not usually graduates ofhigh schools who have been refused work. The connectionsare much more subtle and dangerous; it is the atmosphere ofrebellion and discontent that unrewarded merit andreasonable but unsatisfied ambition make. The social environmentof excuse, listless despatr, careless indulgence and lack ofinspiration to work is the growing force that turns black boysand girls into gamblers, prostitutes and rascals. And this socialenvironment has been built up slowly out of thedisappointments of deserving men and the sloth of the unawakened.How long can a city say to a part of its citizens, "It isuseless to work; it is fruitless to deserve well of men;education will gain you nothing but disappointment andhumiliation?" How long can a city teach its black childrenthat the road to success is to have a white face? How long can acity do this and escape the inevitable penalty ?
For thirty years and more Philadelphia has said to its blackchildren: "Honesty, efficiency and talent have little to dowith your success; if you work hard spend little and are good youmay earn your bread and butter at those sorts of work which wefrankly confess we despise; if you are dishonest and lazy, theState will furnish your bread free." Thus the class ofNegroes which the prejudices of the city have distinctlyencouraged is that of the criminal, the lazy and the shiftless;for them the city teems with institutions and charities; for themthere is succor and sympathy; for them Philadelphians arethinking and planning; but for the educated and industrious youngcolored man who wants work and not platitudes, wages and notalms, just rewards and not sermons--for such colored menPhiladelphia apparently has no use.
What then do such men do? What becomes of the graduates of themany schools of tee city? The answer is simple: most of those whoamount to anything leave the city, the others take what they canget for a livelihood. Let us for a moment glance at thestatistics of three colored schools:9
1. The 0. V. Catto Primary School.
2. The Robert Vaux Grammar School.
3. The Institute for Colored Youth.
There attended the Catto school, 1867-97, 5915 pupils. Ofthese there were promoted from the full course, 653. 129 of thelatter are known to be in positions of higher grade; or takingout 93 who are still in school, there remain 36 as follows: 18teachers, 10 clerks, 2 physicians, 2 engravers, 2 printers, 1lawyer and 1 mechanic.
The other 524 are for the most part in service, laborers andhousewives. Of the 36 more successful ones fully half are at workoutside of the city.
Of the Vaux school therewere, 1877-89, 76 graduates. Of thesethere are 16 unaccounted for; the rest are:
From one-half to two-thirds of these have been compelled toleave the city in order to find work; one, the artist, Tanner,whom France recently honored, could not in his native landmuch less in his native city find room for his talents. He taughtschool in Georgia in order to earn money enough to goabroad.
The Institute of Colored Youth has had 340 graduates, 1856-97; 57 of these are dead. Of the 283 remaining 91 are unaccountedfor. The rest are:
|Nurses||2||Teacher of cooking||1|
Here, again, nearly three-fourths of the graduates who haveamounted to anything have had to leave the city for work. Thecivil engineer, for instance, tried in vain to get workhere and finally had to go to New Jersey to teach.
There have beeu 9, possibly 11, colored graduates of theCentral High School. These are engaged as follows:
|Clerks in service of city||2||Butler||1|
|Caterer||1||Unknown||3 or 5|
It is high time that the best conscience of Philadelphiaawakened to her duty; her Negro citizens are here to remain;they can be made good citizens or burdens to the community; if wewant them to be sources of wealth and power and not ofpoverty and weakness then they must be given employment accordingto their ability and encouraged to train that ability andincrease their talents by the hope of reasonable reward. Toeducate boys and girls and then refuse them work is to trainloafers and rogues.10
From another point of view it could be argued with muchcogency that the cause of economic stress, and consequently ofcrime, was the recent inconsiderate rush of Negroes into cities;and that the unpleasant results of this migration, whiledeplorable, will nevertheless serve to check the movement ofNegroes to cities and keep them in the country where their chancefor economic development is widest. This argument loses much ofits point from the fact that it is the better class of educatedPhiladelphia-born Negroes who have the most difficulty inobtaining employment. The new immigrant fresh from the South ismuch more apt to obtain work suitable for him than the black boyborn here and trained in efficiency. Nevertheless it isundoubtedly true that the recent migration has both directly andindirectly increased crime and competition. How is this movementto be checked? Much can be done by correcting misrepresentationsas to the opportunities of city life made by designing employmentbureaus aud thoughtless persons; a more strict surveillance ofcriminals might prevent the influx of undesirable elements. Suchefforts, however, would not touch the main stream of immigration.Back of that stream is the world-wide desire to rise in theworld, to escape the choking narrowness of the plantation, andthe lawless repression of the village, in the South. It is asearch for better opportunities of living, and as such it must bediscouraged and repressed with great care and delicacy, if atall. The real movement of reform is the raising of economicstandards and increase of economic opportunity in the South. Mereland and climate without law and order, capital and skill, willnot develop a country. When Negroes in the South have alarger opportunity to work, accumulate property, be protected inlife and limb, and encourage pride and self-respect intheir children, there will be a diminution in the stream ofimmigrants to Northern cities. At the same time if those citiespractice industrial exclusion against these immigrants to such anextent that they are forced to become paupers, loafers andcriminals, they can scarcely complain of conditions in the South.Northern cities should not, of course, seek to encourage andinvite a poor quality of labor, with low standards of lifeand morals. The standards of wages and respectability should bekept up; but when a man reaches those standards in skill,efficiency and decency no question of color should, in acivilized community, debar him from an equal chance with hispeers in earning a living.
48. Benevolence.11--In theattitude of Philadelphia toward the Negro may be traced the samecontradictions so often apparent in social phenomena; prejudiceand apparent dislike conjoined with widespread and deep sympathy;there can, for instance, be no doubt of the sincerity of theefforts put forth by Philadelphians to help the Negroes. Much ofit is unsystematic and ill-directed and yet it has behind it abroad charity and a desire to relieve suffering and distress. Thesame Philadelphian who would not let a Negro work in his store ormill will contribute handsomely to relieve Negroes in poverty anddistress. There are in the city the following charitiesexclusively designed for Negroes:
Home for Aged and Infirm Colored Persons, Belmont and Girardavenues.12
Home for Destitute Colored Children, Berks street and OldLancaster road.
St. Mary Day Nursery, 1627 Lombard street.
The Association for the Care of Colored Orphans, Forty fourthand Wallace streets.
Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital and Training School, 1512Lombard street.13
Magdalen Convent House of the Good Shepherd (Roman Catholic),Penn and Chew streets, Germantown.
St. Mary's Mission for Colored People, 1623-29 Lombard street.
Raspberry Street School, 229 Raspberry street.
The Star Kitchen, and allied enterprises, Seventh and Lombardstreets.
Colored Industrial School, Twentieth street, below Walnut.
Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, for Indians and ColoredPeople, Cornwell's Station, Pa.
Men's Guild House, 1628 Lombard street.
House of St. Michael and All Angels, 613 North Forty-thirdstreet.
The Industrial Exchange Training School and Dormitory, 756South Twelfth street.13
Fifty-nine of the charities mentioned in the civic Club Digestdiscriminate against colored persons. Fifty-one societies professto make no discrimination; in the case of the larger and betterknown societies this is true, as, for instance, the HomeMissionary Society, the Union Benevolent Association, theProtestant Episcopal City Mission, the Charity OrganizationSociety, the Children's Aid Society, the Society to PreventCruelty to Children, etc. Others, however, exercise a silentpolicy against Negroes. The Country Week Association, forinstance, would rather Negroes should not apply, although itsends a few away each summer. Colored applicants at the buildingof the Young Woman's Christian Association are not very welcome.So with many other societies and institutions. This veileddiscrimination is very unjust, for it makes it seem as though theNegro had more help than he does. On the other hand betweendonors, prejudiced persons, friends of the Negro, and thebeneficiaries, the managers of many of these enterprises find itby far the easiest method silently to draw the color line.
Fifty-seven other charities make no explicit statement as towhether they discriminate or not. To sum up then:
|Charitable agencies||exclusively for Negroes||14|
|" "||" Whites||59|
|" "||which profess not to discriminate, |
but in some cases do
|" "||which make no statements, |
but usually discriminate
On the whole it is fair to say that about one half of thecharities of Philadelphia, so far as mere numbers are concerned,are open to Negroes. In the different kinds of charity, however,some disproportion is noticeable. Of direct almsgiving, the mostquestionable and least organized sort of charity, the Negroesreceive probably far more than their just proportion, as a studyof the work of the great distributing societies clearly shows. Onthe other hand, protective, rescue and reformatory work is notapplied to any great extent among them. Consequently, whileactual poverty and distress among Negroes is quickly relieved,there are only a few agencies to prevent the better classes fromsinking or to reclaim the fallen or to protect the helpless andthe children. Even the agencies of this sort open to the Negroesare not always taken advantage of, partly through ignorance andcarelessness, partly because they fear discrimination or becausethey are apt to be treated the same whether they be fromAddison street or Middle alley.
Much of the benevolence of the whites has been checked becausethe classes on whom it has been showered have notappreciated it, and because there has been no careful attempt todiscriminate between different sorts of Negroes. After all, theneed of the Negro, as of so many unfortunate classes, is"not alms but a friend."
There are a few homes, asylums, nurseries, hospitals and thelike for work among Negroes, which are doing excellent work anddeserve commendation. It is to be hoped that this sort of workwill receive needed encouragement.
49. The Intermarriage of the Races.--Foryears much has been said on the destiny of the Negro with regardto intermarriage with the whites. To many this seems thedifficulty that differentiates the Negro question from all othersocial questions which we face, and makes it seemingly insoluble;the questions of ignorance, crime and immorality, these argue,may safely be left to the influence of time and education; butwill time and training ever change the obvious fact that thewhite people of the country do not wish to mingle socially withthe Negroes or to join blood in legal wedlock with them? Thisproblem is, it must be acknowledged, difficult. Its difficultyarises, however, rather from an ignorance of surrounding factsthan from the theoretic argument. Theory in such case is oflittle value; the white people as members of the races nowdominant in the world naturally boast of their blood andaccomplishments, and recoil from an alliance with a people whichis to-day represented by a host of untrained and uncouthex-slaves. On the other hand, whatever his practice be, the Negroas a free Armerican citizen must just as strenuously maintainthat marriage is a private contract, and that given two personsof proper age and economic ability who agree to enter into thatrelation, it does not concern any one but themselves as towhether one of them be white, black or red. It is thus thattheoretical argument comes to an unpleasant stand-still, and itsfurther pursuit really settles nothing, nay, ratherunsettles much, by bringing men's thoughts to a question that is,at present at least, of little practical importance. For inpractice the matter works itself out: the average white persondoes not marry a Negro; and the average Negro, despite histheory, himself marries one of his race, and frowns darkly on hisfellows unless they do likewise. In those very circles of Negroeswho have a large infusion of white blood, where the freedom ofmarriage is most strenuously advocated, white wives have alwaysbeen treated with a disdain bordering on insult, and whitehusbands never received on any terms of social recognition.
Notwithstanding theory and the practice of whites and Negroesin general, it is nevertheless manifest that the white and blackraces have mingled their blood in this country to a vast extent.Such facts puzzle the foreigner and are destined to puzzlethe future historian. A serious student of the subject gravelydeclares in one chapter that the races are separate and distinctand becoming more so, and in another that by reason of theintermingling of white blood the "original type of theAfrican has almost completely disappeared;" 14here we have reflected the prevailing confusion in the popularmind. Race amalgamation is a fact, not a theory; it took place,however, largely under the institution of slavery and for themost part, though not wholly, outside the bonds of legalmarriage. With the abolition of slavery now, and theestablishment of a self-protecting Negro home the question is,what have been the tendencies and the actual facts with regard tothe intermarriage of races? This is the only question with whichstudents have to do, and this singularly enough has been the onewhich they, with curious unanimity, have neglected. We do notknow the facts with regard to the mingling of white and blackblood in the past save in a most general and unsatisfactory way;we do not know the facts for to-day at all. And yet, of course,without this knowledge all philosophy of the situation is vain;only long observation of the course of intermarriage can furnishus that broad knowledge of facts which can serve as a basis forrace theories and final conclusions.15
The first legal obstacle to the intermarriage of whites andblacks in Pennsylvania was the Act of 1726, which forbade suchunions in terms that would seem to indicate that a few suchmarriages had taken place. Mulattoes early appeared in the State,and especially in Philadelphia, some being from the South andsome from up the State. Sailors from this port in some casesbrought back English, Scotch and Irish wives, and mixed familiesimmigrated here at the time of the Haytian revolt. Between 1820and 1860 many natural children were sent from the South and in afew cases their parents followed and were legally married here.Descendants of such children in many cases forsook the mother'srace; one became principal of a city school, one a prominentsister in a Catholic church, one a bishop, and one or twoofficers in the Confederate army.16 Some marriageswith Quakers took place, one especially in 1825, when a Quakeressmarried a Negro, created much comment. Descendants of this couplestill survive. Since the War the number of local marriages hasconsiderably increased.
In this work there was originally no intention of treating thesubject of intermarriage, for it was thought that the data wouldbe too insignificant to be enlightening. When, however, in oneward of the city thirty-three cases of mixed marriages werefound, and it was known that there were others in that ward, andprobably a similar proportion in many other wards, it was thoughtthat a study of these thirty-three families might be of interestand be a small contribution of fact to a subject where facts arenot easily accessible.
The size of these families varies, of course, with thequestion as to what one considers a family; if we take the"census family," or all those living together undercircumstances of family life in one home, the average size of thethirty-three families of the Seventh Ward in which there wereintermarried whites was 3.5. If we take simply the father, motherand children, the average size was 2.9. There were ninety-sevenparents and children in these families, and twenty otherrelatives living with them, making 117 individuals in thefamilies. Tabulated they are as follows:
|Number of |
Persons in the
|Number of Persons in the Census Family|| |
|Two||11||4||1||1||. .||. .||17||34|
|Three||. .||5||. .||. .||. .||1||6||18|
|Four||. .||. .||6||. .||. .||. .||6||24|
|Five||. .||. .||. .||2||1||. .||3||15|
|Six||. .||. .||. .||. .||1||. .||1||6|
|Total Census |
|Total Individuals |
Of the intermarried whites there are four husbands andtwenty-nine wives. Let us first consider the families having thefour white husbands:
|No. 1||No. 2||No. 3||No. 4|
|No. of years |
|Reads and |
|Occupation||Street car driver, |
|Motorman on |
|No. of Children |
by this Marriage
|No. 1||No. 2||No. 3||No. 4|
|No. of years |
|Reads and |
|Occupation||Housewife and |
|No. of Children |
by this Marriage
The third family may be simply a case of cohabitation, and notenough is known of the fourth to make any judgment. The secondfamily lives in a comfortable home and appears contented. Thefirst family is poor and the man lazy and good-natured.
The twenty-nine white wives were of the following ages:
|15 to 19||1||40 to 49||3|
|20 to 24||7||50 and over||1|
|25 to 29||8||Unknown||1|
|30 to 39||8|
They were born as follows:
By rearranging this table we have for the known cases:
|" "||the United States||11|
|" "||" North||8|
|" "||" South||3|
|" "||foreign lands||15|
Those not born in Philadelphia have resided there as follows:
|Less than 1 year||1|
|One to three years||1|
|Five to ten years||3|
|Over ten years||8|
|Born in Philadelphia||6|
These wives are occupied as follows:
|" and day's work||3|
|No occupation or unknown||3|
Only one of these women was reported as illiterate, and in thecase of three no return was made as to illiteracy.
Fourteen of these wives had no children by this marriage; 6had 1 child, 6 had 2 children, 3 had 3 children; making 27children in all. Of the 14 having no children 5 were women undertwenty-five recently married; 2 were women over forty andprobably past child-bearing. Several of the remaining 7 were, inall probability, lewd.
Of the colored husbands of these white wives we have thefollowing statistics:
|Age--||20 to 24||2||50 and over||1|
|25 to 29||5||Unknown||2|
|30 to 39||12|
|40 to 49||7||Total||29|
|District of Columbia||3||New York||1|
|Illiteracy--||Can read and write||23|
|Occupation's--||Baker and Merchant||1|
|Helper and Engineer||1||Unknown||1|
The social grade of thirty-two of these families is thought tobe as follows:
First grade, four families. These all live well and arecomfortable; the wife stays at home and the children at school.Everything indicates comfort and contentment.
Second grade, fifteen families. These are ordinaryworking-class families; the wife in some cases helps as abreadwinner; none of them are in poverty, many are young couplesjust starting in married life. All are decent and respectable.
Third grade, six families. These are poor families of lowgrade, but not immoral; some are lazy, some unfortunate.
Fourth grade, seven families. Many of these are cases ofpermanent cohabitation and the women for the most part are orwere prostitutes. They live in the slums mostly, and in somecases have lived together many years. None of them have children,or at least have none living with them at present .
Let us now glance a moment at the 31 children of these mixedmarriages: 27 born of white mothers by Negro husbands, and 4 ofNegro mothers by white husbands:
|Under 1 year||0||3||3|
Of school age, 5-20. . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Number in school . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Number over 10 who are illiterate. . . . 0
At work, 1, as porter.
The homes occupied by these families and the rents paidmonthly are:
|Number of Rooms||$5 and |
|$6-10||$11-15||$16-20||Over $20||Total |
|8 or more||--||--||--||--||3||3|
One family owns real estate (building lots).
One family belongs to a buildillg and loan association.
The data here presented constitute too narrow a basis for manygeneral conclusions even for a single city. Of the 2441 familiesin the ward these families represent 1.35 per cent. There are twoor more other cases in the Seventh Ward not catalogued. If thispercentage holds good in the remaining parts of the city therewould be about one hundred and fifty such marriages in the city;there are no data on this point.
It is often said that only the worst Negroes and lowest whitesintermarry. This is certainly untrue in Philadelphia; to be surearmong the lowest classes there is a large number of temporaryunions and much cohabitation. In the case of the Seventh Wardseveral of such cases were not noticed at all in the above recordas they savor more of prostitution than of marriage. On the otherhand it is an error certainly in this ward to regard marriages ofthis sort as confined principally to the lower classes; on thecontrary they take place most frequently in the laboring classes,and especially among servants, where there is the most contactbetween the races. Among the best class of Negroes and whitessuch marriages seldom occur although one notable case occurred in1897 in Philadelphia, where there could be no question of thegood social standing of the parties.
As to the tendencies of the present, and the general result ofsuch marriages there are no reliable data. That more separationsoccur in such marriages than in others is very probable.It is certainly a strain on affections to have to endurenot simply the social ostracism of the whites but of theblacks also. Undoubtedly this latter acts as a more practicaldeterrent than the first. For, while a Negro expects to beostracized by the whites, and his white wife agrees to it by hermarriage vow, neither of them are quite prepared for the coldreception they invariably meet with among the Negroes. This isthe consideration that makes the sacrifice in such marriagesgreat, and makes it perfectly proper to give the aphoristicmarriage advice of Punch to those contemplating such alliances.Nevertheless one must candidly acknowledge that there arerespectable people who are thus married and are apparentlycontented and as happy as the average of mankind. It isdifficult to see whose concern their choice is but their own, orwhy the world should see fit to insult or slander them.
1 Cf. Section 49.
2 One of the questions on the schedule was:"Have you had any difficulty in getting work?" another:"Have you had any difficulty in renting houses?" Mostof the answers were vague or general. Those that were definiteand apparently reliable were, so far as possible, inquired intofurther, compared with other testimony and then used as materialfor working out a list of discriminations; single and isolatedcases without corroboration were never taken. I believe thosehere presented are reliable, although naturally I may have beendeceived in some stories. Of the general truth of the statement Iam thoroughly convinced.
3 And is, of course, pointed out by some astypifying the educated Negro's success in life.
4 Cf. Section 23.
5 Two newspaper clippings wili illustrate theattitude of the workmen; the first relates to the Chineseapprentices taken into the Baldwin Locomotive Works:
The annonncement that the Baldwins had taken five Chineseapprentices made quite a stir among labor leaders. Some of themworked themselves into quite a fever of indignation. Charles P.Patrick, grand organizer of the Boilermakers' Union, was quiteoutspoken on the subject.
He said: "All this plan of putting Chinamen in to learntrades sounds nice and charitable to the Christian League, buthow does it sound to the ears of American mechanics who arewalking the streets in search of employment? I have traveled allover this country and Mexico, and I have never before seenChinamen given places over the heads of Americans. In the Westand in Mexico, Chinese labor is plentiful, but the Chinamen aregiven only menial positions. They are servants, helpers in themines and laborers. I never before heard of a Chinaman beinggiven a place as an apprentice in a shop.
"Our government excludes Chinese labor from this country,yet here is the Christian League seeking to put forbiddenimmigrants in a position where they, with their peculiarly cheap,even beggarly style of living, can compete with American labor. Ihave only been in this city for a few days, but I venture to sayI have seen more beggars and men out of work around Eighth andMarket streets than I have seen in the whole City ofMexico."
Missionary Frederic Poole disposed of this argument in a fewwords. He said: "It is not my idea, nor the idea of Mr.Converse, that these men should at any time compete with Americanworkingmen. It is not the wish of the men themselves. Mr.Converse would not have given them employment had any such thingbeen intended.
"To-day China is building a vast railroad to Pekin thatwill open up all the wealthy and fertile region of Central China.The enterprise is under the direction of the government. It willbe in operation in about four years. Men of intelligence will beneeded for engineers, and there my five proteges will find theirlife work. It is not unlikely that the Chinese Government willsend for them before their apprenticeship is over."
John H. Converse was rather interested when he learned ofobjections to his Chinese apprentices. "We might haveexpected such objections from professional agitators," hesaid, "but I do not think you will learn of any among ouremployee."
Continuing, he said: "The Baldwin Locomotive Works is nowconstructing eight locomotives for the Chinese Government, whichwill be the first to run over the great new railroad being builtfrom Pekin to Tien-Tsin. American workingmen would be very narrowindeed if they cannot see that it is to their own immediateadvantage that Chinese mechanics fit to look after Americanlocomotives shall be trained at once, for the time is coming whenthousands of American workingmen may be kept busy from theextension of railroad building in China.
"These five boys are Philadelphians. They were notbrought here, and every broad-minded mechanic will believe thattheir apprenticeship in our shops, should they, as they probablywill, return to China, must mean something for the Americanlocomotive. They are the first to be admitted to a locomotiveworks in this country, and the news will in all likelihood createa more friendly feeling in the railroad department of the ChineseGovernment for American products."
Mr. Converse said that his firm had no thought of extendingthe privilege beyond the present number of Chineseapprentices.--Philadelphia Public Ledger, January 5, 1897.
No Negro apprentices have ever been admitted.
The other clipping is a report of the discussion in the annualmeeting of the Federation of Labor:
The Negro question occupied the major portion of the session,and a heated discussion was brought on by a resolution by HenryLloyd, reaffirming the declarations of the Federation that alllabor, without regard to color, is welcome to itsranks--denouncing as untrue in fact the reportedstatements of Booker T. Washington that the trades unions wereplacing obstacles in the way of the material advancement of theNegro, and appealing to the records of the Federation Conventionsas complete answers to such false assertions.
This resolution caused much spirited discussion. DelegateJones, of Augusta, Ga., spoke, claiming that the white laborercould not compete with the Negro laborer, though organizationwould improve conditions materially. President Gompers took partin the discussion, explaining that the movement was not againstthe Negro laborer, but against the cheap laborer, and that thetextile workers of the East had been compelled to contribute mostof their means to teach laborers in the South the benefits oforganization.
He also made the point that the capitalist would profit by thefailure of the Negro laborers to organize, thus making the Negroan impediment to labor movements.
C. P. Frahey, a Nashville delegate, insisted that the Negrowas not the equal of the white man socially or industrially. Hegrew warm in speaking of President Gompers' remarks regarding theNegro in the labor movement, and stated that the President hadnot revoked the commission of a National Organizer who hadpatronized a non-union white barber shop in preference to a unionNegro barber shop.
The organizer had simply been allowed to resign and nopublicity had been given the matter. In answer to a questiondesiring the name of the party, Frahey stated it was JesseJohnson, president of the pressmen.
James O'Connell and P. J. McGuire spoke for the resolution.The latter insisted that Booker T. Washington was attempting toput the Negro before the public as the victim of gross injustice,and himself as the Moses of the race. M. D. Rathford insistedthat drawing the color line would be a blow to the miners'organization.
W. D. Mahon charged that Jones was not a representative ofSouthern trades unionism, having just joined the ranks. Jonesthen, in his own defence declared he did not oppose the Negro,but did contend that the Negro laborer was lower than the white,citing an Atlanta case, where whites and blacks had been jointlyemployed and the whites struck.
He wanted to know if there had been any efforts made in theEast to organize Chinese who came in conflict with the unionlabor. President Gompers then ruled that the discussion mustcease.
The resolution which had caused the heated debate was adopted,and the delegates went into executive session.--Public Ledger,December 17, 1897.
6 From the facts tabulated, it appears thatone-twentieth of the colored domestic servants of Philadelphiahave trades, while in addition to this one-tenth have had somehigher school training and are presumably fitted to be somethingmore than ordinary domestics. Why then do they not enterthese fields instead of drifting into or deliberately choosingdomestic service as a means of livelihood? The answer is simple.In a majority of cases the reason why they do not enter otherfields is because they are colored not because they areincompetent. Many instances might be cited in proof of this, wereproof needed. The following cases are only some of those thatwere personally encountered by the investigator in one ward ofone city.
One very fair young girl, apparently a white girl, wasemployed as a clerk in one of the large department stores forover two years, so that there was no question of her competencyas a clerk. At the end of this time it was discovered that shehad colored blood and she was promptly discharged. One youngwoman who had been a teacher and is now a school janitress,teaching occasionally when extra help is needed, states that shehad received an appointment as typewriter in a certainPhiladelphia office, on the strength of her letter of applicationand when she appeared and was seen to be a colored girl, theposition was refused her. She said that her brother--whom peopleusually take to be a white man--after serving in the barbershopof a certain hotel for more than ten years, was summarilydischarged when it was learned that he was of Negro birth. Onewoman, who was a seamstress and dressmaker, stated that she hadon several occasions gotten work from a certain church home whenshe wore a heavy veil, on making her application at the office,but that on the first occasion when she wore no veil herapplication was refused and had been every time since. Of coursemany of the men in domestic service have had similar experiences.Ten men out of one hundred aud fifty-six had trades, but none ofthem were members of the trades unions.
Mr. McGuire, vice-president of the Federation of Labor, statedto the present investigator that the Federation claims thatcolored men may be members of any trade union represented in theFederation. But what this profession amounts to may be judgedfrom Mr. McGuire's further statement, quoted verbatim: "Amajority are willing to have them admitted, but a strong minoritywill oppose it. Not a word will be said against it in discussion,but quietly at the ballot they will rule them out."
How this profession of admission, which amounts to practicalexclusion, looks from the workingman's point of view is shown inthe experience of a first-rate colored carpenter and builder inthe Seventh Ward who was induced to apply for admission to theCarpenters' Union. He asked an officer of the AmalgamatedAssociation of Carpenters and Joiners, one of the alliedsocieties of the American Federation of Labor, if it wouldbe of any use for him to apply to the Union for membership."If you know your trade and are a carpenter in good andregular standing, I see no reason why you should notbecome a member," said the officer. "So he sent me tothe present secretary of the association, and when I put thequestion to him, he said, 'Well, he didn't know whether I couldjoin or not, because they had never had a colored manin the Union, but he would report it to the association here[Philadelphia] and would write to headquarters in New York to seeif it would be admissible to enter a colored man.' He put it onthe ground of my color, you see." This application was madein December, 1896. The applicant was told that the matter wouldbe acted on in the Union on a certain night in January, 1897, andevery attempt was made to send a man to report that particularmeeting, but without success. What occurred is not hard toguess, however, since the colored carpenter whose case wasthen considered has received no word from the Union fromthat day to this. He has called at the secretary's officethree or four times and left word that he would like to hear whataction was taken regarding his application for admission to theUnion, but December 1, 1897, he had received no answer to hisapplication made in December, 1896.
The effect of this is well illustrated by the case of a youngcolored "waiter man" on Pine street, whose case may betaken as typical. He had studied three years at Hampton, where hehad learned in that time the stone-cutter's trade. He couldpractice this in Georgia, he said, but in the South stone-cuttersget only $2.00 a day as compared with $3.50, sometimes $4.00 aday, in the North. So he came North with the promise of a job ofstone-cutting for a new block of buildings to be erected by aPhiladelphian he had met in Georgia. He received $3.50 a day, butwhen the block was done he could get no other job atstone-cutting and so went into domestic service, where he isreceiving $6.25 a week instead of the$21.00 a week he should bereceiving as a stone-cutter.
The effect on domestic service is to swell its alreadyover-full ranks with discontented young men and women whom onewould naturally expect to find rendering half-hearted servicebecause they consider their domestic work only a temporarymakeshift employment. One sometimes hears it said that "ourwaiter has graduated from such and such a school, but we noticethat he is not even a very good waiter." Such comments giverise to the speculation as to the success in ditch digging whichwould be likely to attend upon the labors of college professors,or indeed, how many of the young white men who have graduatedfrom college and from law schools would show themselves excellentwaiters, particularly if they took up the work simply as atemporary expedient. A "match" between Yale andHampton, where mental activities must be confined to the walls ofthe butler's pantry, and where there were to be no"fumbles" with soup plates, might bring out interestingand suggestive points.
7 In the case of the Colored people, the number ofmother wage earners more than doubles tbe number of widows. Thisis due to the small average wage of the Colored hushand--thesmallest among the twenty-seven nationalities. The laundress isthe economic supplement of the porter. . . . It is not becausethe Colored husband of this district neglects his responsibilityas a wage-winner that so many Colored women are forcedinto supplemental toil, for 98.7 per cent of the Colored husbandsare wage-earners, and only 92.2 per cent of the American, 90.3per cent of the Irish, 96 per cent of the German, 93.7 per centof the Italian, 93.1 per cent of the French. The Danes, 80 percent; Canadians, 81.8 per cent; Russians, 85.7 per cent, andHungarians, 88.8 per cent, have the smallest percentages. Of themore largely represented nationalities, the French most nearlyapproach the Colored people in the percentage of their wives whoare wage-earners; but while the French percentage is 21.6per cent, the Colored people's percentage is 53.6 per cent."Dr. W. Laidlaw in the "Report of a Sociological Canvass ofthe Nineteenth Assembly District," a slum section of NewYork City, in 1897.
8 Undoubtedly certain classes of Negroes bring muchdeserved criticism on themselves by irregular payment or defaultof rent, and by the poor care they take of property. They mustnot, however, be confounded with the better classes who make goodcustomers; this is again a place for careful discrimination.
9 Kindly furnished by the principals of theseschools.
10 Cf. on this point the interesting article ofJohn Stevens Durham in the Atlantic Monthly, 1898.
11 No attempt has been made here to make anyintensive study of the efforts to help Negroes, which arewidespread and commendable, they need, however, a study whichwould extend the scope of this inquiry too far.
12 Founded, and supported in part, by Negroes. Cf.Chap. XII.
13 Founded, and supported in part, by Negroes. Cf.Chap. XII.
14 Hoffman's "Race Traits andTendencies," etc., pp. 1 and 177.
15 Hoffman has the results of some intermarriagesrecorded, but they are chiefly reports of criminals in thenewspapers, and thus manifestly unfair for generalization.
16 From a personal letter of a life longPhiladelphian, whose name I am not at liberty to quote.
From W.E.B. DuBois, The PhiladelphiaNegro. New York: Lippincott, 1899, Chapter XVI, pp. 322-367.
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