Organizing Women Workers. Leonora M. Barry (1887)
Upon the strength of my observation and experience I would ask of officers and members
of this Order that more consideration be given, and more thorough educational measures be
adopted on behalf of the working-women of our land, the majority of whom are entirely
ignorant of the economic and industrial question which is to them of such vital importance;
and they must ever remain so while the selfishness of their brothers in toil is carried to such
an extent as I find it to be among those who have sworn to demand equal pay for equal
work. Thus far in the history of our Order that part of our platform has been but a mockery
of the principles intended.
Men! ye whose earnings count from nine to fifteen dollars a week and upward , cease, in the
name of God and humanity, cease your demands and grievances and give us your assistance for
a time to bring some relief to the poor unfortunate, whose week’s work of eighty-four hours
brings her but $2.50 or $3 per week.
December 10 – went to Newark to investigate the matter concerning the sewing-women of
that city, which was referred to our committee at the General Assembly at Richmond.
Found, after a careful study of the matter, that in general the working-women of Newark
were very poorly paid, and the system of fines in many industries were severe and unjust.
Instance: a corset factory where a fine is imposed for eating, laughing, singing or talking
of 10cents each. If not inside the gate in the morning when the whistle stops blowing, an
employee is locked out until half past seven; then she can go to work, but is docked two
hours for waste power; and many other rules equally slavish and unjust. Other industries
closely follow these rules, while the sewing-women receive wages which are only one
remove from actual starvation. In answer to all my inquiries of employer and employed why
this state of affairs exists, the reply was, monopoly and competition . . . .
Went to Auburn, N.Y., Feb. 20. I found the working-women of this city in a
deplorable state, there being none of them organized. There were long hours, poor wages,
and the usual results consequent upon such a condition. Not among male employers alone in
this city, but women in whose heart we would expect to find a little pity and compassion for
the suffering of her own sex. To the contrary, on this occasion, however, I found one who,
for cruelty and injustice toward employees, has not an equal on the pages of labor’s history-
one who owns and conducts an establishment in which is manufactured women’s and
children’s wear. Upon accepting a position in her factory an employee is compelled to
purchase sewing machines for the proprietress, who is an agent for the S.M. Co. This must
be paid for in weekly payments of 50 cents, provided the operative makes $3. Should she
make $4 the weekly payment is 75 cents. At any time before the machine is paid for, through
a reduction of the already meager wages, or the enforcement of some petty tyrannical rule-
sickness, anger, or any cause, the operative leaves her employ, she forfeits the machine and
all the money paid upon it, and to the next applicant the machine is resold. She must also
purchase the thread for doing the work, as she is an agent for a thread company. It takes four
spools of thread at 50 cents a spool to do $5 worth of work, and when $2 is paid for thread , and
50 cents for the machine , the unfortunate victim has $2.50 wherewith to board, clothe and care
for herself generally ; and it is only experts who can make even this.
I succeeded in organizing two Local Assemblies in this city, one of woodworkers , and one
women’s Local Assembly, numbering at organization 107 members, which has grown rapidly
and is now one of the most flourishing Local Assemblies in the State. Here it was that
Sister Annie Conboy was discharged from the silk mill for having taken me through the
mill, although she had received permission from her foreman to take a friend through, yet,
when the proprietor found out I was a Knight of Labor she was discharged without a
March 1 4 was sent to Paterson [ New Jersey] to look into the condition of the women and
children employed in the Linen-thread Works of that city. There are some fourteen or fifteen
hundred persons employed in this industry, who were at that time out of employment for this
reason: Children who work at what is called doffing were receiving $2.70 per week, and asked
for an increase of 5 cents per day. They were refused, and they struck, whereupon all the other
employees were locked out. The abuse, injustice and suffering which the women of this
industry endure from the tyranny, cruelty and slave-driving propensities of the employers is
[sic] something terrible to be allowed existence in free America . In one branch of this
industry women are compelled to stand on a stone floor in water the year round, most of
the time barefoot, with a spray of water from a revolving cylinder flying constantly against the
breast; and the coldest night in winter as well as the warmest in summer those poor creatures
must go to their homes with water dripping from their underclothing along their path,
because there could not be space or a few moments allowed them wherein to change their
clothing. A constant supply of recruits is always on hand to take the places of any who
dare rebel against the ironclad authority of those in charge.
In submitting my report to the members of the Order and the public at large, I ask
only one favor, namely, a careful perusal and just criticism. I can only hope that my
labor will yet bear good fruit, and that in the near future fair consideration and
justice will be meted out to the oppressed women of our nation.
1. Compare the data given for men’s wages and women’s wages. Were women
receiving equal pay for equal work? What kinds of costs were often deducted from
2. Describe the kinds of conditions that women faced at work.
3. Why was it easy to fire women workers? What does this suggest about the
dynamics of nineteenth-century supply and demand for labor?
4. Propose a solution to the problems Barry describes. What if anything should
government, employers, workers, or others have done to create a better work
BOOKER T. WASHINGTON
“The Atlanta Compromise Speech” (1895)1
Booker T. Washington was among the last generation of black activists who had been born into slavery. He was both an educator and promoter of black entrepre- neurship, co-founding the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and the National Negro Business League. His fame skyrocketed after delivering this speech at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia, on September 18, 1895. This address on race relations, especially in commerce, was well received by the predominantly white audience. W.E.B. DuBois dubbed it “The Atlanta Compro- mise” because he thought it too deferential to whites and tolerant of segregation. __________________________________________________________________
Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Board of Directors and Citizens:
One-third of the population of the South is of the Negro race. No enterprise seeking the material, civil, or moral welfare of this section can disregard this element of our population and reach the highest success. I but convey to you, Mr. President and Directors, the sentiment of the masses of my race when I say that in no way have the value and manhood of the American Ne- gro been more fittingly and generously recognized than by the managers of this magnificent Ex- position at every stage of its progress. It is a recognition that will do more to cement the friend- ship of the two races than any occurrence since the dawn of our freedom.
Not only this, but the opportunity here afforded will awaken among us a new era of in- dustrial progress. Ignorant and inexperienced, it is not strange that in the first years of our new life we began at the top instead of at the bottom; that a seat in Congress or the state legislature was more sought than real estate or industrial skill; that the political convention or stump speak- ing had more attractions than starting a dairy farm or truck garden.
A ship lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel. From the mast of the unfortunate vessel was seen a signal, “Water, water; we die of thirst!” The answer from the friendly vessel at once came back, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” A second time the signal, “Water, water; send us water!” ran up from the distressed vessel, and was answered, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” And a third and fourth signal for water was answered, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” The captain of the distressed vessel, at last heeding the injunction, cast down his bucket, and it came up full of fresh, sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon River. To those of my race who depend on bettering their condition in a foreign land or who underestimate the importance of cultivating friendly relations with the Southern white man, who is their next-door neighbor, I would say: “Cast down your bucket where you are”— cast it down in making friends in every manly way of the people of all races by whom we are surrounded.
Cast it down in agriculture, mechanics, in commerce, in domestic service, and in the pro- fessions. And in this connection it is well to bear in mind that whatever other sins the South may be called to bear, when it comes to business, pure and simple, it is in the South that the Negro is given a man’s chance in the commercial world, and in nothing is this Exposition more eloquent 1 From Louis R. Harlan, ed., The Booker T. Washington Papers, Vol. 3 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1974), pp. 58–7.
than in emphasizing this chance. Our greatest danger is that in the great leap from slavery to freedom we may overlook the fact that the masses of us are to live by the productions of our hands, and fail to keep in mind that we shall prosper in proportion as we learn to dignify and glo- rify common labour, and put brains and skill into the common occupations of life; shall prosper in proportion as we learn to draw the line between the superficial and the substantial, the orna- mental gewgaws of life and the useful. No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem. It is at the bottom of life we must begin, and not at the top. Nor should we permit our grievances to overshadow our opportunities.
To those of the white race who look to the incoming of those of foreign birth and strange tongue and habits for the prosperity of the South, were I permitted I would repeat what I say to my own race, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” Cast it down among the eight millions of Negroes whose habits you know, whose fidelity and love you have tested in days when to have proved treacherous meant the ruin of your firesides. Cast down your bucket among these people who have, without strikes and labour wars, tilled your fields, cleared your forests, builded your railroads and cities, and brought forth treasures from the bowels of the earth, and helped make possible this magnificent representation of the progress of the South. Casting down your bucket among my people, helping and encouraging them as you are doing on these grounds, and to edu- cation of head, hand, and heart, you will find that they will buy your surplus land, make blossom the waste places in your fields, and run your factories. While doing this, you can be sure in the future, as in the past, that you and your families will be surrounded by the most patient, faithful, law-abiding, and unresentful people that the world has seen. As we have proved our loyalty to you in the past, in nursing your children, watching by the sick-bed of your mothers and fathers, and often following them with tear-dimmed eyes to their graves, so in the future, in our humble way, we shall stand by you with a devotion that no foreigner can approach, ready to lay down our lives, if need be, in defense of yours, interlacing our industrial, commercial, civil, and reli- gious life with yours in a way that shall make the interests of both races one. In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.
There is no defense or security for any of us except in the highest intelligence and devel- opment of all. If anywhere there are efforts tending to curtail the fullest growth of the Negro, let these efforts be turned into stimulating, encouraging, and making him the most useful and intel- ligent citizen. Effort or means so invested will pay a thousand per cent interest. These efforts will be twice blessed—blessing him that gives and him that takes. There is no escape through law of man or God from the inevitable:
The laws of changeless justice bind Oppressor with oppressed; And close as sin and suffering joined We march to fate abreast … Nearly sixteen millions of hands will aid you in pulling the load upward, or they will pull
against you the load downward. We shall constitute one-third and more of the ignorance and crime of the South, or one-third [of] its intelligence and progress; we shall contribute one-third to the business and industrial prosperity of the South, or we shall prove a veritable body of death, stagnating, depressing, retarding every effort to advance the body politic.
Gentlemen of the Exposition, as we present to you our humble effort at an exhibition of our progress, you must not expect overmuch. Starting thirty years ago with ownership here and there in a few quilts and pumpkins and chickens (gathered from miscellaneous sources), remem- ber the path that has led from these to the inventions and production of agricultural implements, buggies, steam-engines, newspapers, books, statuary, carving, paintings, the management of drug
stores and banks, has not been trodden without contact with thorns and thistles. While we take pride in what we exhibit as a result of our independent efforts, we do not for a moment forget that our part in this exhibition would fall far short of your expectations but for the constant help that has come to our educational life, not only from the Southern states, but especially from Northern philanthropists, who have made their gifts a constant stream of blessing and encour- agement.
The wisest among my race understand that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremest folly, and that progress in the enjoyment of all the privileges that will come to us must be the result of severe and constant struggle rather than of artificial forcing. No race that has anything to contribute to the markets of the world is long in any degree ostracized. It is im- portant and right that all privileges of the law be ours, but it is vastly more important that we be prepared for the exercise of these privileges. The opportunity to earn a dollar in a factory just now is worth infinitely more than the opportunity to spend a dollar in an opera-house.
In conclusion, may I repeat that nothing in thirty years has given us more hope and en- couragement, and drawn us so near to you of the white race, as this opportunity offered by the Exposition; and here bending, as it were, over the altar that represents the results of the struggles of your race and mine, both starting practically empty-handed three decades ago, I pledge that in your effort to work out the great and intricate problem which God has laid at the doors of the South, you shall have at all times the patient, sympathetic help of my race; only let this be con- stantly in mind, that, while from representations in these buildings of the product of field, of for- est, of mine, of factory, letters, and art, much good will come, yet far above and beyond material benefits will be that higher good, that, let us pray God, will come, in a blotting out of sectional differences and racial animosities and suspicions, in a determination to administer absolute jus- tice, in a willing obedience among all classes to the mandates of law. This, coupled with our ma- terial prosperity, will bring into our beloved South a new heaven and a new earth.
W.E.B. DU BOIS
EXCERPT FROM The Souls of Black Folk (1903)1
A historian and social scientist, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was the first African American to earn his Ph.D. from Harvard University. As one of the most gifted intellectuals of his time, Du Bois rejected any philosophy that suggested that blacks should not strive for greatness and settle for less than equality. In 1903, he published one of his seminal works, The Souls of Black Folk, with its third chapter taking critical aim of Booker T. Washington’s accommodationist approach. Du Bois would go on to co-found the Niagara Movement in 1905 and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909 as well as organizing several international pan-African conferences—all in an effort to attack racism. __________________________________________________________________
Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others
From birth till death enslaved; in word, in deed, unmanned! Hereditary bondsmen! Know ye not Who would be free themselves must strike the blow?
Easily the most striking thing in the history of the American Negro since 1876 is the as- cendancy of Mr. Booker T. Washington. It began at the time when war memories and ideals were rapidly passing; a day of astonishing commercial development was dawning; a sense of doubt and hesitation overtook the freedmen’s sons,—then it was that his leading began. Mr. Washington came, with a single definite programme, at the psychological moment when the na- tion was a little ashamed of having bestowed so much sentiment on Negroes, and was concen- trating its energies on Dollars. His programme of industrial education, conciliation of the South, and submission and silence as to civil and political rights, was not wholly original; the Free Ne- groes from 1830 up to wartime had striven to build industrial schools, and the American Mis- sionary Association had from the first taught various trades; and Price and others had sought a way of honorable alliance with the best of the Southerners. But Mr. Washington first indissolu- bly linked these things; he put enthusiasm, unlimited energy, and perfect faith into this pro- gramme, and changed it from a by-path into a veritable Way of Life. And the tale of the methods by which he did this is a fascinating study of human life.
It startled the nation to hear a Negro advocating such a programme after many decades of bitter complaint; it startled and won the applause of the South, it interested and won the admira- tion of the North; and after a confused murmur of protest, it silenced if it did not convert the Ne- groes themselves.
To gain the sympathy and cooperation of the various elements comprising the white South was Mr. Washington’s first task; and this, at the time Tuskegee was founded, seemed, for 1 From William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, reprinted in Nathan Huggins, ed., Du Bois: Writings (New York: Library of America, 1986), pp. 392–404.
a black man, well-nigh impossible. And yet ten years later it was done in the word spoken at At- lanta: “In all things purely social we can be as separate as the five fingers, and yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.” This “Atlanta Compromise” is by all odds the most notable thing in Mr. Washington’s career. The South interpreted it in different ways: the radicals received it as a complete surrender of the demand for civil and political equality; the conservatives, as a generously conceived working basis for mutual understanding. So both ap- proved it, and today its author is certainly the most distinguished Southerner since Jefferson Da- vis, and the one with the largest personal following.
Next to this achievement comes Mr. Washington’s work in gaining place and considera- tion in the North. Others less shrewd and tactful had formerly essayed to sit on these two stools and had fallen between them; but as Mr. Washington knew the heart of the South from birth and training, so by singular insight he intuitively grasped the spirit of the age which was dominating the North. And so thoroughly did he learn the speech and thought of triumphant commercialism, and the ideals of material prosperity that the picture of a lone black boy poring over a French grammar amid the weeds and dirt of a neglected home soon seemed to him the acme of absurdi- ties. One wonders what Socrates and St. Francis of Assisi would say to this.
And yet this very singleness of vision and thorough oneness with his age is a mark of the successful man. It is as though Nature must needs make men narrow in order to give them force. So Mr. Washington’s cult has gained unquestioning followers, his work has wonderfully pros- pered, his friends are legion, and his enemies are confounded. Today he stands as the one recog- nized spokesman of his ten million fellows, and one of the most notable figures in a nation of seventy millions. One hesitates, therefore, to criticise a life which, beginning with so little has done so much. And yet the time is come when one may speak in all sincerity and utter courtesy of the mistakes and shortcomings of Mr. Washington’s career, as well as of his triumphs, without being thought captious or envious, and without forgetting that it is easier to do ill than well in the world.
The criticism that has hitherto met Mr. Washington has not always been of this broad character. In the South especially has he had to walk warily to avoid the harshest judgments,— and naturally so, for he is dealing with the one subject of deepest sensitiveness to that section. Twice—once when at the Chicago celebration of the Spanish-American War he alluded to the color-prejudice that is “eating away the vitals of the South,” and once when he dined with Presi- dent Roosevelt—has the resulting Southern criticism been violent enough to threaten seriously his popularity. In the North the feeling has several times forced itself into words, that Mr. Wash- ington’s counsels of submission overlooked certain elements of true manhood, and that his edu- cational programme was unnecessarily narrow. Usually, however, such criticism has not found open expression, although, too, the spiritual sons of the Abolitionists have not been prepared to acknowledge that the schools founded before Tuskegee, by men of broad ideals and self- sacrificing spirit, were wholly failures or worthy of ridicule. While, then, criticism has not failed to follow Mr. Washington, yet the prevailing public opinion of the land has been but too willing to deliver the solution of a wearisome problem into his hands, and say, “If that is all you and your race ask, take it.”
Among his own people, however, Mr. Washington has encountered the strongest and most lasting opposition, amounting at times to bitterness, and even today continuing strong and insistent even though largely silenced in outward expression by the public opinion of the nation. Some of this opposition is, of course, mere envy; the disappointment of displaced demagogues and the spite of narrow minds. But aside from this, there is among educated and thoughtful col-
ored men in all parts of the land a feeling of deep regret, sorrow, and apprehension at the wide currency and ascendancy which some of Mr. Washington’s theories have gained. These same men admire his sincerity of purpose, and are willing to forgive much to honest endeavor which is doing something worth the doing. They cooperate with Mr. Washington as far as they conscien- tiously can; and, indeed, it is no ordinary tribute to this man’s tact and power that, steering as he must between so many diverse interests and opinions, he so largely retains the respect of all.
But the hushing of the criticism of honest opponents is a dangerous thing. It leads some of the best of the critics to unfortunate silence and paralysis of effort, and others to burst into speech so passionately and intemperately as to lose listeners. Honest and earnest criticism from those whose interests are most nearly touched,—criticism of writers by readers, of government by those governed, of leaders by those led,—this is the soul of democracy and the safeguard of modern society. If the best of the American Negroes receive by outer pressure a leader whom they had not recognized before, manifestly there is here a certain palpable gain. Yet there is also irreparable loss,—a loss of that peculiarly valuable education which a group receives when by search and criticism it finds and commissions its own leaders. The way in which this is done is at once the most elementary and the nicest problem of social growth. History is but the record of such group-leadership; and yet how infinitely changeful is its type and character! And of all types and kinds, what can be more instructive than the leadership of a group within a group?— that curious double movement where real progress may be negative and actual advance be rela- tive retrogression. All this is the social student’s inspiration and despair.
Now in the past the American Negro has had instructive experience in the choosing of group leaders, founding thus a peculiar dynasty which in the light of present conditions is worth while studying. When sticks and stones and beasts form the sole environment of a people, their attitude is largely one of determined opposition to and conquest of natural forces. But when to earth and brute is added an environment of men and ideas, then the attitude of the imprisoned group may take three main forms,—a feeling of revolt and revenge; an attempt to adjust all thought and action to the will of the greater group; or, finally, a determined effort at self- realization and self-development despite environing opinion. The influence of all of these atti- tudes at various times can be traced in the history of the American Negro, and in the evolution of his successive leaders.
Before 1750, while the fire of African freedom still burned in the veins of the slaves, there was in all leadership or attempted leadership but the one motive of revolt and revenge,— typified in the terrible Maroons, the Danish blacks, and Cato of Stono, and veiling all the Ameri- cas in fear of insurrection. The liberalizing tendencies of the latter half of the eighteenth century brought, along with kindlier relations between black and white, thoughts of ultimate adjustment and assimilation. Such aspiration was especially voiced in the earnest songs of Phyllis, in the martyrdom of Attucks, the fighting of Salem and Poor, the intellectual accomplishments of Banneker and Derham, and the political demands of the Cuffes.
Stern financial and social stress after the war cooled much of the previous humanitarian ardor. The disappointment and impatience of the Negroes at the persistence of slavery and serf- dom voiced itself in two movements. The slaves in the South, aroused undoubtedly by vague rumors of the Haitian revolt, made three fierce attempts at insurrection,—in 1800 under Gabriel in Virginia, in 1822 under Vesey in Carolina, and in 1831 again in Virginia under the terrible Nat Turner. In the Free States, on the other hand, a new and curious attempt at self-development was made. In Philadelphia and New York color-prescription led to a withdrawal of Negro communi- cants from white churches and the formation of a peculiar socio-religious institution among the
Negroes known as the African Church,—an organization still living and controlling in its various branches over a million of men.
Walker’s wild appeal against the trend of the times showed how the world was changing after the coming of the cotton-gin. By 1830 slavery seemed hopelessly fastened on the South, and the slaves thoroughly cowed into submission. The free Negroes of the North, inspired by the mulatto immigrants from the West Indies, began to change the basis of their demands; they rec- ognized the slavery of slaves, but insisted that they themselves were freemen, and sought assimi- lation and amalgamation with the nation on the same terms with other men. Thus, Forten and Purvis of Philadelphia, Shad of Wilmington, Du Bois of New Haven, Barbadoes of Boston, and others, strove singly and together as men, they said, not as slaves; as “people of color,” not as “Negroes.” The trend of the times, however, refused them recognition save in individual and ex- ceptional cases, considered them as one with all the despised blacks, and they soon found them- selves striving to keep even the rights they formerly had of voting and working and moving as freemen. Schemers of migration and colonization arose among them; but these they refused to entertain, and they eventually turned to the Abolition movement as a final refuge.
Here, led by Remond, Nell, Wells-Brown, and Douglass, a new period of self-assertion and self-development dawned. To be sure, ultimate freedom and assimilation was the ideal be- fore the leaders, but the assertion of the manhood rights of the Negro by himself was the main reliance, and John Brown’s raid was the extreme of its logic. After the war and emancipation, the great form of Frederick Douglass, the greatest of American Negro leaders, still led the host. Self- assertion, especially in political lines, was the main programme, and behind Douglass came El- liot, Bruce, and Langston, and the Reconstruction politicians, and, less conspicuous but of great- er social significance Alexander Crummell and Bishop Daniel Payne.
Then came the Revolution of 1876, the suppression of the Negro votes, the changing and shifting of ideals, and the seeking of new lights in the great night. Douglass, in his old age, still bravely stood for the ideals of his early manhood,—ultimate assimilation through self-assertion, and no other terms. For a time Price arose as a new leader, destined, it seemed, not to give up, but to re-state the old ideals in a form less repugnant to the white South. But he passed away in his prime. Then came the new leader. Nearly all the former ones had become leaders by the si- lent suffrage of their fellows, had sought to lead their own people alone, and were usually, save Douglass, little known outside their race. But Booker T. Washington arose as essentially the leader not of one race but of two,—a compromiser between the South, the North, and the Negro. Naturally the Negroes resented, at first bitterly, signs of compromise which surrendered their civil and political rights, even though this was to be exchanged for larger chances of economic development. The rich and dominating North, however, was not only weary of the race problem, hut was investing largely in Southern enterprises, and welcomed any method of peaceful cooper- ation. Thus, by national opinion, the Negroes began to recognize Mr. Washington’s leadership; and the voice of criticism was hushed.
Mr. Washington represents in Negro thought the old attitude of adjustment and submis- sion; but adjustment at such a peculiar time as to make his programme unique. This is an age of unusual economic development, and Mr. Washington’s programme naturally takes an economic cast, becoming a gospel of Work and Money to such an extent as apparently almost completely to overshadow the higher aims of life. Moreover, this is an age when the more advanced races are coming in closer contact with the less developed races, and the race-feeling is therefore in- tensified; and Mr. Washington’s programme practically accepts the alleged inferiority of the Ne- gro races. Again, in our own land, the reaction from the sentiment of war time has given impetus
to race-prejudice against Negroes, and Mr. Washington withdraws many of the high demands of Negroes as men and American citizens. In other periods of intensified prejudice all the Negro’s tendency to self-assertion has been called forth; at this period a policy of submission is advocat- ed. In the history of nearly all other races and peoples the doctrine preached at such crises has been that manly self-respect is worth more than lands and houses, and that a people who volun- tarily surrender such respect, or cease striving for it, are not worth civilizing.
In answer to this, it has been claimed that the Negro can survive only through submis- sion. Mr. Washington distinctly asks that black people give up, at least for the present, three things,—
First, political power, Second, insistence on civil rights, Third, higher education of Negro youth, —and concentrate all their energies on industrial education, the accumulation of wealth,
and the conciliation of the South. This policy has been courageously and insistently advocated for over fifteen years, and has been triumphant for perhaps ten years. As a result of this tender of the palm-branch, what has been the return? In these years there have occurred: 1. The disfranchisement of the Negro.
2. The legal creation of a distinct status of civil inferiority for the Negro. 3. The steady withdrawal of aid from institutions for the higher training of the Negro. These movements are not, to be sure, direct results of Mr. Washington’s teachings; but
his propaganda has, without a shadow of doubt, helped their speedier accomplishment. The ques- tion then comes: Is it possible, and probable, that nine millions of men can make effective pro- gress in economic lines if they are deprived of political rights, made a servile caste, and allowed only the most meagre chance for developing their exceptional men? If history and reason give any distinct answer to these questions, it is an emphatic No. And Mr. Washington thus faces the triple paradox of his career:
1. He is striving nobly to make Negro artisans business men and property-owners; but it is utterly impossible, under modern competitive methods, for workingmen and property-owners to defend their rights and exist without the right of suffrage.
2. He insists on thrift and self-respect, but at the same time counsels a silent submission to civic inferiority such as is bound to sap the manhood of any race in the long run.
3. He advocates common-school and industrial training, and depreciates institutions of higher learning; but neither the Negro common-schools, nor Tuskegee itself, could remain open a day were it not for teachers trained in Negro colleges, or trained by their graduates.
This triple paradox in Mr. Washington’s position is the object of criticism by two classes of colored Americans. One class is spiritually descended from Toussaint the Savior, through Ga- briel, Vesey, and Turner, and they represent the attitude of revolt and revenge; they hate the white South blindly and distrust the white race generally, and so far as they agree on definite ac- tion, think that the Negro’s only hope lies in emigration beyond the borders of the United States. And yet, by the irony of fate, nothing has more effectually made this programme seem hopeless than the recent course of the United States toward weaker and darker peoples in the West Indies, Hawaii, and the Philippines,—for where in the world may we go and be safe from lying and brute Force?
The other class of Negroes who cannot agree with Mr. Washington has hitherto said little aloud. They deprecate the sight of scattered counsels, of internal disagreement; and especially they dislike making their just criticism of a useful and earnest man an excuse for a general dis-
charge of venom from small-minded opponents. Nevertheless, the questions involved are so fun- damental and serious that it is difficult to see how men like the Grimkés, Kelly Miller, J.W.E. Bowen, and other representatives of this group, can much longer be silent. Such men feel in con- science bound to ask of this nation three things.
1. The right to vote. 2. Civic equality. 3. The education of youth according to ability. They acknowledge Mr. Washington’s invaluable service in counselling patience and
courtesy in such demands; they do not ask that ignorant black men vote when ignorant whites are debarred, or that any reasonable restrictions in the suffrage should not be applied; they know that the low social level or the mass of the race is responsible for much discrimination against it, but they also know, and the nation knows, that relentless color-prejudice is more often a cause than a result of the Negro’s degradation; they seek the abatement of this relic or barbarism, and not its systematic encouragement and pampering by all agencies of social power from the Associated Press to the Church of Christ. They advocate, with Mr. Washington, a broad system of Negro common schools supplemented by thorough industrial training; but they are surprised that a man of Mr. Washington’s insight cannot see that no such educational system ever has rested or can rest on any other basis than that of the well-equipped college and university, and they insist that there is a demand for a few such institutions throughout the South to train the best of the Negro youth as teachers, professional men, and leaders.
This group of men honor Mr. Washington for his attitude of conciliation toward the white South; they accept the “Atlanta Compromise” in its broadest interpretation; they recognize, with him, many signs of promise, many men of high purpose and fair judgment, in this section; they know that no easy task has been laid upon a region already tottering under heavy burdens. But, nevertheless, they insist that the way to truth and right lies in straightforward honesty, not in in- discriminate flattery; in praising those of the South who do well and criticising uncompromising- ly those who do ill; in taking advantage of the opportunities at hand and urging their fellows to do the same, but at the same time in remembering that only a firm adherence to their higher ide- als and aspirations will ever keep those ideals within the realm of possibility. They do not expect that the free right to vote, to enjoy civic rights, and to be educated, will come in a moment; they do not expect to see the bias and prejudices of years disappear at the blast of a trumpet; but they are absolutely certain that the way for a people to gain their reasonable rights is not by voluntari- ly throwing them away and insisting that they do not want them; that the way for a people to gain respect is not by continually belittling and ridiculing themselves; that, on the contrary, Negroes must insist continually, in season and out of season, that voting is necessary to modern manhood, that color discrimination is barbarism, and that black boys need education as well as white boys.
In failing thus to state plainly and unequivocally the legitimate demands of their people, even at the cost of opposing an honored leader, the thinking classes of American Negroes would shirk a heavy responsibility,—a responsibility to themselves, a responsibility to the struggling masses, a responsibility to the darker races of men whose future depends so largely on this American experiment, but especially a responsibility to this nation,—this common Fatherland. It is wrong to encourage a man or a people in evil-doing; it is wrong to aid and abet a national crime simply because it is unpopular not to do so. The growing spirit of kindliness and reconcili- ation between the North and South after the frightful difference of a generation ago ought to be a source of deep congratulation to all, and especially to those whose mistreatment caused the war; but if that reconciliation is to be marked by the industrial slavery and civic death of those same
black men, with permanent legislation into a position of inferiority, then those black men, if they are really men, are called upon by every consideration of patriotism and loyalty to oppose such a course by all civilized methods, even though such opposition involves disagreement with Mr. Booker T. Washington. We have no right to sit silently by while the inevitable seeds are sown for a harvest of disaster to our children, black and white.
First, it is the duty of black men to judge the South discriminatingly. The present genera- tion of Southerners are not responsible for the past, and they should not be blindly hated or blamed for it. Furthermore, to no class is the indiscriminate endorsement of the recent course of the South toward Negroes more nauseating than to the best thought of the South. The South is not “solid”; it is a land in the ferment of social change, wherein forces of all kinds are fighting for supremacy; and to praise the ill the South is today perpetrating is just as wrong as to condemn the good. Discriminating and broad-minded criticism is what the South needs,—needs it for the sake of her own white sons and daughters, and for the insurance of robust, healthy mental and moral development.
Today even the attitude of the Southern whites toward the blacks is not, as so many as- sume, in all cases the same; the ignorant Southerner hates the Negro, the workingmen fear his competition, the money-makers wish to use him as a laborer, some of the educated see a menace in his upward development, while others—usually the sons of the masters—wish to help him to rise. National opinion has enabled this last class to maintain the Negro common schools, and to protect the Negro partially in property, life, and limb. Through the pressure of the money- makers, the Negro is in danger of being reduced to semi-slavery, especially in the country dis- tricts; the workingmen, and those of the educated who fear the Negro, have united to disfranchise him, and some have urged his deportation; while the passions of the ignorant are easily aroused to lynch and abuse any black man. To praise this intricate whirl of thought and prejudice is non- sense; to inveigh indiscriminately against “the South” is unjust; but to use the same breath in praising Governor Aycock, exposing Senator Morgan, arguing with Mr. Thomas Nelson Page, and denouncing Senator Ben Tillman, is not only sane, but the imperative duty of thinking black men.
It would be unjust to Mr. Washington not to acknowledge that in several instances he has opposed movements in the South which were unjust to the Negro; he sent memorials to the Loui- siana and Alabama constitutional conventions, he has spoken against lynching, and in other ways has openly or silently set his influence against sinister schemes and unfortunate happenings. Notwithstanding this, it is equally true to assert that on the whole the distinct impression left by Mr. Washington’s propaganda is, first, that the South is justified in its present attitude toward the Negro because of the Negro’s degradation; secondly, that the prime cause of the Negro’s failure to rise more quickly is his wrong education in the past; and, thirdly, that his future rise depends primarily on his own efforts. Each of these propositions is a dangerous half-truth. The supple- mentary truths must never be lost sight of: first, slavery and race-prejudice are potent if not suffi- cient causes of the Negro’s position; second, industrial and common-school training were neces- sarily slow in planting because they had to await the black teachers trained by higher institu- tions,—it being extremely doubtful if any essentially different development was possible, and certainly a Tuskegee was unthinkable before 1880; and, third, while it is a great truth to say that the Negro must strive and strive mightily to help himself, it is equally true that unless his striving be not simply seconded, but rather aroused and encouraged, by the initiative of the richer and wiser environing group, he cannot hope for great success.
In his failure to realize and impress this last point, Mr. Washington is especially to be criticised. His doctrine has tended to make the whites, North and South, shift the burden of the Negro problem to the Negro’s shoulders and stand aside as critical and rather pessimistic specta- tors; when in fact the burden belongs to the nation, and the hands of none of us are clean if we bend not our energies to righting these great wrongs.
The South ought to be led, by candid and honest criticism, to assert her better self and do her full duty to the race she has cruelly wronged and is still wronging. The North—her co- partner in guilt—cannot salve her conscience by plastering it with gold. We cannot settle this problem by diplomacy and suaveness, by “policy” alone. If worse comes to worst, can the moral fibre of this country survive the slow throttling and murder of nine millions of men?
The black men of America have a duty to perform, a duty stern and delicate,—a forward movement to oppose a part of the work of their greatest leader. So far as Mr. Washington preaches Thrift, Patience, and Industrial Training for the masses, we must hold up his hands and strive with him, rejoicing in his honors and glorying in the strength of this Joshua called of God and of man to lead the headless host. But so far as Mr. Washington apologizes for injustice, North or South, does not rightly value the privilege and duty of voting, belittles the emasculating effects of caste distinctions, and opposes the higher training and ambition of our brighter minds,—so far as he, the South, or the Nation, does this,—we must unceasingly and firmly op- pose them. By every civilized and peaceful method we must strive for the rights which the world accords to men, clinging unwaveringly to those great words which the sons of the Fathers would fain forget: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creater with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
From: THE HISTORY OF THE STANDARD OIL COMPANY Published by McClure, Phillips and Co., 1904
Ida Tarbell was a groundbreaking journalist, one of the best known of the so-called “muckrakers,” who exposed deep
problems in American society. Working in a field that was dominated by men, she was a true pioneer, not only for
women journalist, but for journalism in general. Early in her life she lived in western Pennsylvania, where her father
was in the oil business. She discovered that her father was driven out of the business by the activities of the South
Improvement Company, in which John D. Rockefeller was heavily involved. When she first started writing a series on
Standard Oil for McClure’s magazine, she did not set out to write a harsh criticism. Tarbell, however, was a diligent
researcher, and the deeper she dug into the documents surrounding Standard Oil, the more she began to realize that
his enterprise was wildly destructive. She portrayed Rockefeller as an unethical monopolist who was out for all the
money he could earn with his company, regardless of the cost to others. Below is a portion of her work, which was eventually adapted from the McClure’s articles into a full-length book.
Tarbell’s devastating work provides a vivid account of the rough-and-tumble nature of business around the turn of the
century. This excerpt highlights struggles involving John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company, independent oil men,
and railroads. Note in particular that during the late 19th century, government at all levels, rather than being an
instrument to control big business, was instead used by big businesses as a tool with which to bludgeon their
opponents. It is worth noting that Standard Oil, not feeling they were doing anything wrong, opened their records to
Tarbell’s investigation, a decision they no doubt came to regret. The Company was broken up in 1911, though its descendants are alive and well today as the Exxon Corporation.
With Congress in such a temper the oil men felt that there might be some hope of securing the regulation of interstate commerce they had asked for in 1872. The agitation resulted in the presentation in the House of Representatives of the first Interstate Commerce Bill which promised to be effective. The bill was presented by James H. Hopkins of Pittsburgh. In aid of his bill a House investigation was asked. It was soon evident that the Standard was an enemy of this investigation. Now what Mr. Hopkins wanted was to compel the railroads to present their contracts with the Standard Oil Company. The Committee summoned the proper
railroad officers and the treasurer of the Standard Oil Company. Of the railroad men, only one appeared, and he refused to answer the questions asked or to furnish the documents demanded. The Standard treasurer refused also to furnish the committee with information. The two principal witnesses of the oil men were E. G. Patterson of Titusville and Frank Rockefeller of Cleveland, a brother of John D. Rockefeller. Mr. Patterson sketched the history of the oil business since the South Improvement Company identified the Standard Oil Company with that organization, and framed the specific complaint of the oil men, as follows: “The
railroad companies have combined with an organization of individuals known as the Standard Ring; they give to that party the sole and entire control of all the petroleum refining interest and petroleum shipping interest in the United States, and consequently place the whole producing interest entirely at their mercy. If they succeed they place the price of refined oil as high as they please. It is simply optional with them how much to give us for what we produce.”
Frank Rockefeller gave a pretty complete story of the trials of an independent refiner. He declared that at the moment, his concern, the Pioneer Oil Company, was unable to get the same rates as the Standard; the freight agent frankly told him that unless he could give the road the same amount of oil to transport that the Standard did, he could not give the rate the Standard enjoyed. Mr. Rockefeller said that in his belief there was a pooling arrangement between the railroads and the Standard and that the rebate
given was “divided up between the Standard Oil Company and the railroad officials.” He repeatedly declared to the committee that he did not know this to be a positive fact, that he had no proof, but that he believed such was the truth. …
Of course after this controversy the railroads were more obdurate than ever. The railroad men were active in securing the suppression of the investigations, and they soon succeeded not only in doing that but in pigeon-holing for the time Mr. Hopkins’s Interstate Commerce Bill.
The oil men began to seek an independent outlet to the sea. The first project to attract attention was the Columbia Conduit Pipe Line, begun by Dr. David Hostetter of Pittsburgh. He had conceived the idea of piping it to Pittsburgh, where he could make a connection with the Baltimore and Ohio road, which up to this time had refused to go into the oil pool. Now at that time the right of eminent domain for pipes had been granted in but eight counties of Western Pennsylvania. Allegheny County, in which Pittsburgh is located, was not included in the eight, a restriction which the oil men attributed rightly, no doubt, to the influence of the Pennsylvania Railroad in the State Legislature. That road could hardly have been expected to allow the pipes to go to Pittsburgh and connect with a rival road if it could help it.
Dr. Hostetter succeeded in buying a right-of-way through the county, however, and laid his pipes within a few miles of the city to a
point where he had to pass under a branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The spot chosen was the bed of a stream over which the railroad passed by a bridge. Dr. Hostetter claimed he had bought the bed of the run and that the railroad owned simply the right to span the run. He put down his pipes, and the railroad sent a force of armed men to the spot, tore up the pipes, fortified their position and prepared to hold the fort. The oil men came down in a body, and, seizing an opportune moment, got possession of the disputed point. The railroad had thirty of them arrested for riot, but was not able to get them committed; it did succeed, however, in preventing the relaying of the pipes, and a long litigation over Dr. Hostetter’s right to pass under the road ensued.
Disgusted with this turn of affairs Dr. Hostetter leased the line to three young Independent oil men. Resourceful and determined, they built tank wagons into which the oil from the pipe was run and was carted across the tracks on the public highway, turned into storage tanks and again re-piped and pumped to Pittsburgh. They were soon doing a good business. The fight to get the Columbia
Conduit Line into Pittsburgh aroused again the agitation in favor of a free pipe-line bill, and early in 1875 bills were presented in both the Senate and House of the state, and bitter and long fights over them followed. It was charged that the bills were in the interest of Dr. Hostetter. “He wants to transport his other products cheaply,” sneered one opponent! Many petitions for the bill were circulated, but there were even stronger remonstrances, and the source of some of them was suspicious enough; for instance, that of the “Pittsburgh refiners representing about one-third of the refining capacity of the Pennsylvania district and nearly one third of the entire capacity now in business.” As the Pittsburgh refiners were nearly all either owned or leased by the Standard concern, and the few independents had no hope save in a free pipe-line, there seems to be no doubt about the origin of that remonstrance.
Although the bills were strongly supported, they were defeated, and the Columbia Conduit Line continued to “break bulk” and cart its oil over the railroad track.
Another route was arranged which for a time promised success. This was to bring crude oil by barges to Pittsburgh, then to carry the refined down the Ohio River to Huntington and thence by the Richmond and Chesapeake road to Richmond. This scheme, started in February, was well under way by May, and “On to Richmond!” was the cry of the independents. Everything possible was done to make this attempt fail. An effort was even made to prevent the barges which came down the Allegheny River from unloading, and this actually succeeded for some time. There seemed to be always some hitch in each one of the channels which the independents tried, some point at which they could be so harassed that the chance of a living freight rate which they had seen was destroyed.
Sometime in April, 1876, the most ambitious project of all was announced—a seaboard pipe-line to be run from the Oil Regions to Baltimore. Up to this time the pipe lines had been used merely to gather the oil and carry it to the railroads. The longest single line
in operation was the Columbia Conduit, thirty miles long. The idea of pumping oil over the mountains to the sea was regarded generally as chimerical. To a trained civil engineer it did not, however, present any insuperable obstacles, and in the winter of 1875 [an engineer, General Herman Haupt, was engaged to oversee the project.]
It was not long before the scheme began to attract serious attention. The Eastern papers in particular took it up. The references to it were, as a whole, favorable. It was regarded everywhere as a remarkable undertaking: “Worthy,” the New York Graphic said, “to be coupled with the Brooklyn Bridge, the blowing up of Hell Gate, and the tunneling of the Hudson River.” It was a tremendous undertaking, for the line would be, when finished, at least 500 miles long, and it would be worked by thirty or more tremendous pumps. On July 25 a meeting was held presenting publicly the reports of General Haupt. The authority and seriousness of the
scheme as set forth at this meeting alarmed the railroads. If this seaboard line went through, it was farewell to the railroad- Standard combination. Oil could be shipped to the seaboard by it at a cost of 16-2/3 cents a barrel. All of the interests, little and big, which believed that they would be injured by the success of the line, began an attack.
[The first attacks, directed at General Haupt, who vigorously defended himself in the press, had no merit.]
Under the direction of the Pennsylvania Railroad, it was believed, the Philadelphia papers began to attack the plan. Their claim was that the charters under which the Pennsylvania Transportation Company expected to operate would not allow them to lay such a pipe-line. The opposition became such that the New York papers began to take notice of it. The Derrick on September 16, 1876, copies an article from the New York Bulletin in which it is said that the railroads and the Standard Oil Company, “now stand in gladiatorial array, with shields poised and sword ready to deal the cut.”
An opposition began to arise, too, from farmers through whose property an attempt was being made to obtain right of way. In several counties the farmers complained to the secretary of internal affairs, saying that the company had no business to take their property for a pipe-line. One of the common complaints of the farmers’ newspapers was that leakage from the pipes would spoil the springs of water, curdle milk, and burn down barns. The matter assumed such proportions that the secretary referred it to the attorney general for a hearing.
In the meantime the Pennsylvania Transportation Company made the most strenuous efforts to secure the right of way. A large
number of men were sent out to talk over the farmers into signing the leases. Hand bills were distributed with an appeal to be generous and to free the oil business from a monopoly that was crushing it. These same circulars told the farmers that a monopoly
had hired agents all along the route misrepresenting the facts about their intentions. Mr. Harley, under the excitement of the enterprise and the opposition it aroused, became a public figure, and in October the New York Graphic gave a long interview with him. In this interview Mr. Harley claimed that the pipe-line scheme was gotten up to escape the Standard Oil monopoly. Litigation, he declared, was all his scheme had to fear. “John D. Rockefeller, president of the Standard monopoly,” he said, “is working against us in the country newspapers, prejudicing the farmers and raising issues in the courts, and seeking also to embroil us with other carrying lines.”
It was not long, however, before something more serious than the farmers and their complaints got in the way of the Pennsylvania
Transportation Company. This was a rumor that the company was financially embarrassed. Their certificates were refused on the market, and in November a receiver was appointed. Different members of the company were arrested for fraud, among them two or three of the best known men in the Oil Regions. The rumors proved only too true. The company had been grossly mismanaged, and the verification of the charges against it put an end to this first scheme for a seaboard pipe-line.
- Leonora Barry Organizing Women Workers(1)
- Washington Atlanta Compromise
- Du Bois The Souls of Black Folk
- Ida Tarbell