There was not a single Negro slave owner who did not know dozens of Negroes just as capable of learning and efficiency as the mass of poor white people around and about, and some quite as capable as the average slaveholder. They had continually, in the course of the history of slavery, recognized such men.
The use of slave women as day workers naturally broke up or made impossible the normal Negro home, and this and the slave code led to a development of which the South was really ashamed and which it often denied, and yet perfectly evident: the raising of slaves in the Border slave states for systematic sale on the commercialized cotton plantations.
From the day of its birth, the anomaly of slavery plagued a nation which asserted the equality of all men, and sought to derive powers of government from the consent of the governed. Within sound of the voices of those who said this lived more than half a million black slaves, forming nearly one-fifth of the population of a new nation.
Strange, is it not, my brothers, how often in America those great watchwords of human energy - 'Be strong!' 'Know thyself!' 'Hitch your wagon to a star!' - how often these die away into dim whispers when we face these seething millions of black men? And yet do they not belong to them? Are they not their heritage as well as yours?
After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world, - a world which yields him no self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world.
St. Louis sprawls where mighty rivers meet - as broad as Philadelphia, but three stories high instead of two, with wider streets and dirtier atmosphere, over the dull-brown of wide, calm rivers. The city overflows into the valleys of Illinois and lies there, writhing under its grimy cloud.
School houses do not teach themselves - piles of brick and mortar and machinery do not send out men. It is the trained, living human soul, cultivated and strengthened by long study and thought, that breathes the real breath of life into boys and girls and makes them human, whether they be black or white, Greek, Russian or American.
Like Nemesis of Greek tragedy, the central problem of America after the Civil War, as before, was the black man: those four million souls whom the nation had used and degraded, and on whom the South had built an oligarchy similar to the colonial imperialism of today, erected on cheap colored labor and raising raw material for manufacture.
If the leading Negro classes cannot assume and bear the uplift of their own proletariat, they are doomed for all time. It is not a case of ethics; it is a plain case of necessity. The method by which this may be done is, first, for the American Negro to achieve a new economic solidarity.
I believe in the Prince of Peace. I believe that War is Murder. I believe that armies and navies are at bottom the tinsel and braggadocio of oppression and wrong, and I believe that the wicked conquest of weaker and darker nations by nations whiter and stronger but foreshadows the death of that strength.
All men cannot go to college, but some men must; every isolated group or nation must have its yeast, must have, for the talented few, centers of training where men are not so mystified and befuddled by the hard and necessary toil of earning a living as to have no aims higher than their bellies and no God greater than Gold.
Before and after emancipation, the Negro, in self-defense, was propelled toward the white employer. The endowments of wealthy white men have developed great institutions of learning for the Negro, but the freedom of action on the part of these same universities has been curtailed in proportion as they are indebted to white philanthropies.
For the Negro, Andrew Johnson did less than nothing when once he realized that the chief beneficiary of labor and economic reform in the South would be freedmen. His inability to picture Negroes as men made him oppose efforts to give them land; oppose national efforts to educate them; and above all things, oppose their rights to vote.
All art is propaganda, and ever must be, despite the wailing of the purists. I stand in utter shamelessness and say that whatever art I have for writing has been used always for propaganda for gaining the right of black folk to love and enjoy. I do not care a damn for any art that is not used for propaganda.