The Negro, by W.E.B. Du Bois, , at sacred-texts.com
We have followed the history of mankind in Africa down the valley of the Nile, past Ethiopia to Egypt; we have seen kingdoms arise along the great bend of the Niger and strive with the ancient culture at its mouth. We have seen the remnants of mankind at Land's End, the ancient culture at Punt and Zymbabwe, and followed the invading Bantu east, south, and west to their greatest center in the vast jungle of the Congo valleys.
We must now gather these threads together and ask what manner of men these were and how far and in what way they progressed on the road of human culture.
That Negro peoples were the beginners of civilization along the Ganges, the Euphrates, and the Nile seems proven. Early Babylon was founded by a Negroid race. Hammurabi's code, the most ancient known, says "Anna and Bel called me, Hammurabi the exalted prince, the worshiper of the gods; to cause justice to prevail in the land, to destroy the wicked, to prevent the strong from oppressing the weak, to go forth like the sun over the black-head race, to enlighten the land, and to further the welfare of the people." The Assyrians show a distinct Negroid strain and early Egypt was predominantly Negro. These earliest of cultures were crude and primitive, but they represented the highest attainment of mankind after tens of thousands of years in unawakened savagery.
It has often been assumed that the Negro is physically inferior to other races and markedly distinguishable from them; modern science gives no authority for such an assumption. The supposed inferiority cannot rest on color, 1 for that is "due to the combined influences of a great number of factors of environment working
through physiological processes," and "however marked the contrasts may be, there is no corresponding difference in anatomical structure discoverable." 1 So, too, difference in texture of hair is a matter of degree, not kind, and is caused by heat, moisture, exposure, and the like.
The bony skeleton presents no distinctly racial lines of variation. Prognathism "presents too many individual varieties to be taken as a distinctive character of race" 2 Difference in physical measurements does not show the Negro to be a more primitive evolutionary form. Comparative ethnology to-day affords "no support to the view which sees in the so-called lower races of mankind a transition stage from beast to man." 3
Much has been made of the supposed smaller brain of the Negro race; but this is as yet an unproved assumption, based on the uncritical measurement of less than a thousand Negro brains as compared with eleven thousand or more European brains. Even if future measurement prove the average Negro brain lighter, the vast majority of Negro brain weights fall within the same limits as the whites; and finally, "neither size nor weight of the brain seems to be of importance" as an index of mental capacity. We may, therefore, say with Ratzel, "There is only one species of man. The variations are numerous, but do not go deep." 4
To this we may add the word of the Secretary of the First Races Congress: "We are, then, under the necessity of concluding that an impartial investigator would be inclined to look upon the various important peoples of the world as to all intents and purposes essentially equal in intellect, enterprise, morality, and physique." 5
If these conclusions are true, we should expect to see in Africa the human drama play itself out much as in other lands, and such has actually been the fact. At the same time we must expect peculiarities arising from the physiography of the land--its climate, its rainfall, its deserts, and the peculiar inaccessibility of the coast,
Three principal zones of habitation appear: first, the steppes and deserts around the Sahara in the north and the Kalahari desert in the south; secondly, the grassy highlands bordering the Great Lakes
and connecting these two regions; thirdly, the forests and rivers of Central and West Africa. In the deserts are the nomads, and the Pygmies are in the forest fastnesses. Herdsmen and their cattle cover the steppes and highlands, save where the tsetse fly prevents. In the open forests and grassy highlands are the agriculturists.
Among the forest farmers the village is the center of life, while in the open steppes political life tends to spread into larger political units. Political integration is, however, hindered by an ease of internal communication almost as great as the difficulty of reaching outer worlds beyond the continent. The narrow Nile valley alone presented physical barriers formidable enough to keep back the invading barbarians of the south, and even then with difficulty. Elsewhere communication was all too easy. For a while the Congo forests fended away the restless, but this only temporarily.
On the whole Africa from the Sahara to the Cape offered no great physical barrier to the invader, and we continually have whirlwinds of invading hosts rushing now southward, now northward, from the interior to the coast and from the coast inland, and hurling their force against states, kingdoms, and cities. Some resisted for generations, some for centuries, some but a few years. It is, then, this sudden change and the fear of it that marks African culture, particularly in its political aspects, and which makes it so difficult to trace this changing past. Nevertheless beneath all change rests the strong substructure of custom, religion, industry, and art well worth the attention of students.
Starting with agriculture, we learn that "among all the great groups of the 'natural' races, the Negroes are the best and keenest tillers of the ground. A minority despise agriculture and breed cattle; many combine both occupations. Among the genuine tillers the whole life of the family is taken up in agriculture, and hence the months are by preference called after the operations which they demand. Constant clearings change forests to fields, and the ground is manured with the ashes of the burnt thicket. In the middle of the fields rise the light watch-towers, from which a watchman scares grain-eating birds and other thieves. An African cultivated landscape is incomplete without barns. The rapidity with which, when newly imported, the most various forms of cultivation spread in Africa says much for the attention which is devoted to this branch of economy. Industries, again, which may be called agricultural, like the preparation of meal from millet and other crops, also from
cassava, the fabrication of fermented drinks from grain, or the manufacture of cotton, are widely known and sedulously fostered." 1
Bücher reminds us of the deep impression made upon travelers when they sight suddenly the well-attended fields of the natives on emerging from the primeval forests. "In the more thickly populated parts of Africa these fields often stretch for many a mile, and the assiduous care of the Negro women shines in all the brighter light when we consider the insecurity of life, the constant feuds and pillages, in which no one knows whether he will in the end be able to harvest what he has sown. Livingstone gives somewhere a graphic description of the devastations wrought by slave hunts; the people were lying about slain, the dwellings were demolished; in the fields, however, the grain was ripening and there was none to harvest it." 2
Sheep, goat, and chickens are domestic animals all over Africa, and Von Franzius considers Africa the home of the house cattle and the Negro as the original tamer. Northeastern Africa especially is noted for agriculture, cattle raising, and fruit culture. In the eastern Sudan, and among the great Bantu tribes extending from the Sudan down toward the south, cattle are evidences of wealth; one tribe, for instance, having so many oxen that each village had ten or twelve thousand head. Lenz (1884), Bouet-Williaumez; (1848), Hecquard (1854), Bosman (1805), and Baker (1868) all bear witness to this, and Schweinfurth (1878) tells us of great cattle parks with two to three thousand head and of numerous agricultural and cattle-raising tribes. Von der Decken (1859-61) described the paradise of the dwellers about Kilimanjaro--the bananas, fruit, beans and peas, cattle raising with stall feed, the fertilizing of the fields, and irrigation. The Negroid Gallas have seven or eight cattle to each inhabitant. Livingstone bears witness to the busy cattle raising of the Bantus and Kaffirs. Hulub (1881) and Chapman (1868) tell of agriculture and fruit raising in South Africa. Shutt (1884) found the tribes in the southwestern basin of the Congo with sheep, swine, goats, and cattle. On this agricultural and cattle-raising economic foundation has arisen the organized industry of the artisan, the trader, and the manufacturer.
While the Pygmies, still living in the age of wood, make no iron or stone implements, they seem to know how to make bark cloth
and fiber baskets and simple outfits for hunting and fishing. Among the Bushmen the art of making weapons and working in hides is quite common. The Hottentots are further advanced in the industrial arts, being well versed in the manufacture of clothing, weapons, and utensils. In the dressing of skins and furs, as well as in the plaiting of cords and the weaving of mats, we find evidences of their workmanship. In addition they are good workers in iron and copper, using the sheepskin bellows for this purpose. The Ashantis of the Gold Coast know how to make "cotton fabrics, turn and glaze earthenware, forge iron, fabricate instruments and arms, embroider rugs and carpets, and set gold and precious stones." 1 Among the people of the banana zone we find rough basket work, coarse pottery, grass cloth, and spoons made of wood and ivory, The people of the millet zone, because of uncertain agricultural resources, quite generally turn to manufacturing. Charcoal is prepared by the smiths, iron is smelted, and numerous implements are manufactured. Among them we find axes, hatchets, hoes, knives, nails, scythes, and other hardware. Cloaks, shoes, sandals, shields, and water and oil vessels are made from leather which the natives have dressed. Soap is manufactured in the Bautschi district, glass is made, formed, and colored by the people of Nupeland, and in almost every city cotton is spun and woven and dyed. Barth tells us that the weaving of cotton was known in the Sudan as early as the eleventh century. There is also extensive manufacture of wooden ware, tools, implements, and utensils.
In describing particular tribes, Baker and Felkin tell of smiths of wonderful adroitness, goatskins prepared better than a European tanner could do, drinking cups and kegs of remarkable symmetry, and polished clay floors. Schweinfurth says, "The arrow and the spear heads are of the finest and most artistic work; their bristlelike barbs and points are baffling when one knows how few tools these smiths have." Excellent wood carving is found among the Bongo, Ovambo, and Makololo. Pottery and basketry and careful hut building distinguish many tribes. Cameron (1877) tells of villages so clean, with huts so artistic, that, save in book knowledge, the people occupied no low plane of civilization. The Mangbettu work both iron and copper. "The masterpieces of the Monbutto [Mangbettu] smiths are the fine chains worn as ornaments, and which in perfection
of form and fineness compare well with our best steel chains." Shubotz in 1911 called the Mangbettu "a highly cultivated people" in architecture and handicraft. Barth found copper exported from Central Africa in competition with European copper at Kano.
Nor is the iron industry confined to the Sudan. About the Great Lakes and other parts of Central Africa it is widely distributed. Thornton says, "This iron industry proves that the East Africans stand by no means on so low a plane of culture as many travelers would have us think. It is unnecessary to be reminded what a people without instruction, and with the rudest tools to do such skilled work, could do if furnished with steel tools." Arrows made east of Lake Nyanza were found to be nearly as good as the best Swedish iron in Birmingham. From Egypt to the Cape, Livingstone assures us that the mortar and pestle, the long-handled axe, the goatskin bellows, etc., have the same form, size, etc., pointing to a migration southwestward. Holub (1879), on the Zambesi, found fine workers in iron and bronze. The Bantu huts contain spoons, wooden dishes, milk pails, calabashes, handmills, and axes.
Kaffirs and Zulus, in the extreme south, are good smiths, and the latter melt copper and tin together and draw wire from it, according to Kranz (1880). West of the Great Lakes, Stanley (1878) found wonderful examples of smith work: figures worked out of brass and much work in copper. Cameron (1878) saw vases made near Lake Tanganyika which reminded him of the amphoræ in the Villa of Diomedes, Pompeii. Horn (1882) praises tribes here for iron and copper work. Livingstone (1871) passed thirty smelting houses in one journey, and Cameron came across bellows with valves, and tribes who used knives in eating. He found tribes which no Europeans had ever visited, who made ingots of copper in the form of the St. Andrew's cross, which circulated even to the coast. In the southern Congo basin iron and copper are worked; also wood and ivory carving and pottery making are pursued. In equatorial West Africa, Lenz and Du Chaillu (1861) found iron workers with charcoal, and also carvers of bone and ivory. Near Cape Lopez, Hübbe-Schleiden found tribes making ivory needles inlaid with ebony, while the arms and dishes of the Osaka are found among many tribes even as far as the Atlantic Ocean. Wilson (1856) found natives in West Africa who could repair American watches.
Gold Coast Negroes make gold rings and chains, forming the metal into all kinds of forms. Soyaux says, "The works in relief
which natives of Lower Guinea carve with their own knives out of ivory and hippopotamus teeth are really entitled to be called works of art, and many wooden figures of fetishes in the Ethnographical Museum of Berlin show some understanding of the proportions of the human body." Great Bassam is called by Hecquard the "Fatherland of Smiths." The Mandingo in the northwest are remarkable workers in iron, silver, and gold, we are told by Mungo Park (1800), while there is a mass of testimony as to the work in the north-west of Africa in gold, tin, weaving, and dyeing. Caille found the Negroes in Bambana manufacturing gunpowder (1824-18), and the Hausa make soap; so, too, Negroes in Uganda and other parts have made guns after seeing European models.
So marked has been the work of Negro artisans and traders in the manufacture and exchange of iron implements that a growing number of archeologists are disposed to-day to consider the Negro as the originator of the art of smelting iron. Gabriel de Mortillet (1883) declared Negroes the only iron users among primitive people. Some would, therefore, argue that the Negro learned it from other folk, but Andree declares that the Negro developed his own "Iron Kingdom." Schweinfurth, Von Luschan, Boaz, and others incline to the belief that the Negroes invented the smelting of iron and passed it on to the Egyptians and to modern Europe.
Boaz says, "It seems likely that at a time when the European was still satisfied with rude stone tools, the African had invented or adopted the art of smelting iron. Consider for a moment what this invention has meant for the advance of the human race. As long as the hammer, knife, saw, drill, the spade, and the hoe had to be chipped out of stone, or had to be made of shell or hard wood, effective industrial work was not impossible, but difficult. A great progress was made when copper found in large nuggets was hammered out into tools and later on shaped by melting, and when bronze was introduced; but the true advancement of industrial life did not begin until the hard iron was discovered. It seems not unlikely that the people who made the marvelous discovery of reducing iron ores by smelting were the African Negroes. Neither ancient Europe, nor ancient western Asia, nor ancient China knew the iron, and everything points to its introduction from Africa. At the time of the great African discoveries toward the end of the past century, the trade of the blacksmith was found all over Africa, from north to south and from east to west. With his simple bellows and a charcoal
fire he reduced the ore that is found in many parts of the continent and forged implements of great usefulness and beauty." 1
Torday has argued recently, "I feel convinced by certain arguments that seem to prove to my satisfaction that we are indebted to the Negro for the very keystone of our modern civilization and that we owe him the discovery of iron. That iron could be discovered by accident in Africa seems beyond doubt: if this is so in other parts of the world, I am not competent to say. I will only remind you that Schweinfurth and Petherick record the fact that in the northern part of East Africa smelting furnaces are worked without artificial air current and, on the other hand, Stuhlmann and Kollmann found near Victoria Nyanza that the natives simply mixed powdered ore with charcoal and by introduction of air currents obtained the metal. These simple processes make it simple that iron should have been discovered in East or Central Africa. No bronze implements have ever been found in black Africa; had the Africans received iron from the Egyptians, bronze would have preceded this metal and all traces of it would not have disappeared. Black Africa was for a long time an exporter of iron, and even in the twelfth century exports to India and Java are recorded by Idrisi.
It is difficult to imagine that Egypt should have obtained it from Europe where the oldest find (in Hallstadt) cannot be of an earlier period than 800 B.C., or from Asia, where iron is not known before 1000 B.C., and where, in the times of Ashur Nazir Pal, it was still used concurrently with bronze, while iron beads have been only recently discovered by Messrs. G. A. Wainwright and Bushe Fox in a predynastic grave, and where a piece of this metal, possibly a tool, was found in the masonry of the great pyramid." 2
The Negro is a born trader. Lenz says, "our sharpest European merchants, even Jews and Armenians, can learn much of the cunning and trade of the Negroes." We know that the trade between Central Africa and Egypt was in the hands of Negroes for thousands of years, and in early days the cities of the Sudan and North Africa grew rich through Negro trade.
Leo Africanus, writing of Timbuktu in the sixteenth century, said, "It is a wonder to see what plentie of Merchandize is daily brought hither and bow costly and sumptuous all things be. . . .
[paragraph continues] Here are many shops of artificers and merchants and especially of such as weave linnen and cloth."
Long before cotton weaving was a British industry, West Africa and the Sudan were supplying a large part of the world with cotton cloth. Even to-day cities like Kuka on the west shore of Lake Chad and Sokota are manufacturing centers where cotton is spun and woven, skins tanned, implements and iron ornaments made.
"Travelers," says Bücher, "have often observed this tribal or local development of industrial technique. 'The native villages,' relates a Belgian observer of the Lower Congo, 'are often situated in groups. Their activities are based upon reciprocality, and they are to a certain extent the complements of one another. Each group has its more or less strongly defined specialty. One carries on fishing; another produces palm wine; a third devotes itself to trade and is broker for the others, supplying the community with all products from outside; another has reserved to itself work in iron and copper, making weapons for war and hunting, various utensils, etc. None may, however, pass beyond the sphere of its own specialty without exposing itself to the risk of being universally proscribed.'"
From the Loango Coast, Bastian tells of a great number of centers for special products of domestic industry. "Loango excels in mats and fishing baskets, while the carving of elephants' tusks is specially followed in Chilungo. The so-called Mafooka hats with raised patterns are drawn chiefly from the bordering country of Kakongo and Mayyume. In Bakunya are made potter's wares, which are in great demand; in Basanza, excellent swords; in Basundi, especially beautiful ornamented copper rings; on the Congo, clever wood and tablet carvings; in Loango, ornamented clothes and intricately designed mats; in Mayumbe, clothing of finely woven mat-work; in Kakongo, embroidered bats and also burnt clay pitchers; and among the Bayakas and Mantetjes, stuffs of woven grass." 1
A native Negro student tells of the development of trade among the Ashanti. "It was a part of the state system of Ashanti to encourage trade. The king once in every forty days, at the Adai custom, distributed among a number of chiefs various sums of gold dust with a charge to turn the same to good account. These chiefs then sent down to the coast caravans of tradesmen, some of whom would be their slaves, sometimes some two or three hundred strong,
to barter ivory for European goods, or buy such goods with gold dust, which the king obtained from the royal alluvial workings. Down to 1873 a constant stream of Ashanti traders might be seen daily wending their way to the merchants of the coast and back again, yielding more certain wealth and prosperity to the merchants of the Gold Coast and Great Britain than may be expected for some time yet to come from the mining industry and railway development put together. The trade chiefs would, in due time, render a faithful account to the king's stewards, being allowed to retain a fair portion of the profit. In the king's household, too, be would have special men who directly traded for him. Important chiefs carried on the same system of trading with the coast as did the king. Thus every member of the state, from the king downward, took an active interest in the promotion of trade and in the keeping open of trade routes into the interior." 1
The trade thus encouraged and carried on in various parts of West Africa reached wide areas. From the Fish River to Kuka, and from Lagos to Zanzibar, the markets have become great centers of trade, the leading implement to civilization. Permanent markets are found in places like Ujiji and Nyangwe, where everything can be bought and sold from earthenware to wives; from the one to three thousand traders flocked here.
"How like is the market traffic, with all its uproar and sound of human voices, to one of our own markets! There is the same rivalry in praising the goods, the violent, brisk movements, the expressive gesture, the inquiring, searching glance, the changing looks of depreciation or triumph, of apprehension, delight, approbation. So says Stanley. Trade customs are not everywhere alike. If when negotiating with the Bangalas of Angola you do not quickly give them what they want, they go away and do not come back. Then perhaps they try to get possession of the coveted object by means of theft. It is otherwise with the Songos and Kiokos, who let you deal with them in the usual way. To buy even a small article you must go to the market; people avoid trading anywhere else. If a man says to another; 'Sell me this hen' or 'that fruit,' the answer as a rule will be, 'Come to the market place.' The crowd gives confidence to individuals, and the inviolability of the visitor to the market, and of the market itself, looks like an idea of justice consecrated by long
practice. Does not this remind us of the old Germanic 'market Place'?" 1
Turning now to Negro family and social life we find, as among all primitive peoples, polygamy and marriage by actual or simulated purchase. Out of the family develops the typical African village organization, which is thus described in Ashanti by a native Gold Coast writer: "The headman, as his name implies, is the head of a village community, a ward in a township, or of a family. His position is important, inasmuch as he has directly to deal with the composite elements of the general bulk of the people.
"It is the duty of the head of a family to bring up the members thereof in the way they should go; and by 'family' you must understand the entire lineal descendants of a materfamilias, if I may coin a convenient phrase. It is expected of him by the state to bring up his charge in the knowledge of matters political and traditional. It is his work to train up his wards in the ways of loyalty and obedience to the powers that be. He is held responsible for the freaks of recalcitrant members of his family, and he is looked to to keep them within bounds and to insist upon conformity of their party with the customs, laws, and traditional observances of the community. In early times he could send off to exile by sale a troublesome relative who would not observe the laws of the community.
"It is a difficult task that he is set to, but in this matter he has all-powerful helpers in the female members of the family, who will be either the aunts, or the sisters, or the cousins, or the nieces of the headman; and as their interests are identical with his in every particular, the good women spontaneously train up their children to implicit obedience to the headman, whose rule in the family thus becomes a simple and an easy matter. 'The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.' What a power for good in the native state system would the mothers of the Gold Coast and Ashanti become by judicious training upon native lines!
"The headman is par excellence the judge of his family or ward. Not only is he called upon to settle domestic squabbles, but frequently he sits judge over more serious matters arising between one member of the ward and another; and where he is a man of ability and influence, men from other wards bring him their disputes to settle. When he so settles disputes, he is entitled to a hearing fee,
which, however, is not so much as would be payable in the regular court of the king or chief.
"The headman is naturally an important member of his company and often is a captain thereof. When he combines the two offices of headman and captain, he renders to the community a very important service. For in times of war, where the members of the ward would not serve cordially under a stranger, they would in all cases face any danger with their own kinsman as their leader. The headman is always succeeded by his uterine brother, cousin, or nephew--the line of succession, that is to say, following the customary law." 1
We may contrast this picture with the more warlike Bantus of Southeast Africa. Each tribe lived by itself in a town with from five to fifteen thousand inhabitants, surrounded by gardens of millet, beans, and watermelon. Beyond these roamed their cattle, sheep, and goats. Their religion was ancestor worship with sacrifice to spirits and the dead, and some of the tribes made mummies of the corpses and clothed them for burial. They wove cloth of cotton and bark, they carved wood and built walls of unhewn stone. They had a standing military organization, and the tribes had their various totems, so that they were known as the Men of Iron, the Men of the Sun, the Men of the Serpents, Sons of the Com Cleaners, and the like. Their system of common law was well conceived and there were organized tribunals of justice. In difficult cases precedents were sought and learned antiquaries consulted, At the age of fifteen or sixteen the boys were circumcised and formed into guilds. The land was owned by the tribe and apportioned to the chief by each family, and the main wealth of the tribe was in its cattle.
In general, among the African clans the idea of private property was but imperfectly developed and never included land. The main mass of visible wealth belonged to the family and clan rather than to the individual; only in the matter of weapons and ornaments was exclusive private ownership generally recognized.
The government, vested in fathers and chiefs, varied in different tribes from absolute despotisms to limited monarchies, almost republican. Viewing the Basuto National Assembly in South Africa, Lord Bryce recently wrote, "The resemblance to the primary assemblies of the early peoples of Europe is close enough to add another
to the arguments which discredit the theory that there is any such thing as an Aryan type of institutions." 1
While women are sold into marriage throughout Africa, nevertheless their status is far removed from slavery. In the first place the tracing of relationships through the female line, which is all but universal in Africa, gives the mother great influence. Parental affection is very strong, and throughout Negro Africa the mother is the most influential councilor, even in cases of tyrants like Chaka or Mutesa.
"No mother can love more tenderly or be more deeply beloved than the Negro mother. Robin tells of a slave in Martinique who, with his savings, freed his mother instead of himself. 'Everywhere in Africa,' writes Mungo Park, 'I have noticed that no greater affront can be offered a Negro than insulting his mother. 'Strike me,' cried a Mandingo to his enemy, 'but revile not my mother!' . . . The Herero swears 'By my mother's tears!' . . The Angola Negroes have a saying, 'As a mist lingers on the swamps, so lingers the love of father and mother.'" 2
Black queens have often ruled African tribes. Among the Ba-Lolo, we are told, women take part in public assemblies where all-important questions are discussed. The system of educating children among such tribes as the Yoruba is worthy of emulation by many more civilized peoples.
Close knit with the family and social organization comes the religious life of the Negro. The religion of Africa is the universal animism or fetishism of primitive peoples, rising to polytheism and approaching monotheism chiefly, but not wholly, as a result of Christian and Islamic missions. Of fetishism there is much misapprehension. It is not mere senseless degradation. It is a philosophy of life. Among primitive Negroes there can be, as Miss Kingsley reminds us, no such divorce of religion from practical life as is common in civilized lands. Religion is life, and fetish an expression of the practical recognition of dominant forces in which the Negro lives. To him all the world is spirit. Miss Kingsley says, "If you want, for example, to understand the position of man in nature according to fetish, there is, as far as I know, no clearer statement of it made than is made by Goethe in his superb 'Prometheus.'" 3
[paragraph continues] Fetish is a severely logical way of accounting for the world in terms of good and malignant spirits.
"It is this power of being able logically to account for everything that is, I believe, at the back of the tremendous permanency of fetish in Africa, and the cause of many of the relapses into it by Africans converted to other religions; it is also the explanation of the fact that white men who live in the districts where death and danger are everyday affairs, under a grim pall of boredom, are liable to believe in fetish, though ashamed of so doing. For the African, whose mind has been soaked in fetish during his early and most impressionable years, the voice of fetish is almost irresistible when affliction comes to him." 1
Ellis tells us of the spirit belief of the Ewe people, who believe that men and all nature have the indwelling "Kra," which is immortal; that the man himself after death may exist as a ghost, which is often conceived of as departed from the "Kra," a shadowy continuing of the man. Bryce, speaking of the Kaffirs of South Africa, says, "To the Kaffirs, as to the most savage races, the world was full of spirits--spirits of the rivers, the mountains, and the woods. Most important were the ghosts of the dead, who had power to injure or help the living, and who were, therefore, propitiated by offerings at stated periods, as well as on occasions when their aid was especially desired. This kind of worship, the worship once most generally diffused throughout the world, and which held its ground among the Greeks and Italians in the most flourishing period of ancient civilization, as it does in China and Japan to-day, was, and is, virtually the religion of the Kaffirs." 2
African religion does not, however, stop with fetish, but, as in the case of other peoples, tends toward polytheism and monotheism. Among the Yoruba, for instance, Frobenius shows that religion and city-state go hand in hand.
"The first experienced glance will here detect the fact that this nation originally possessed a clear and definite organization so duly ordered and so logical that we but seldom meet with its like among all the peoples of the earth. And the basic idea of every clan's progeniture is a powerful God; the legitimate order in which the descendants of a particular clan unite in marriage to found new
families, the essential origin of every new-born babe's descent in the founder of its race and its consideration as a part of the God in Chief; the security with which the newly wedded wife not only may, but should, minister to her own God in an unfamiliar home." 1
The Yoruba have a legend of a dying divinity. "This people . . . give evidence of a generalized system; a theocratic scheme, a well-conceived perceptible organization, reared in rhythmically proportioned manner."
Miss Kingsley says, "The African has a great Over God." 2 Nassau, the missionary, declares, "After more than forty years' residence among these tribes, fluently using their language, conversant with their customs, dwelling intimately in their huts, associating with them in the various relations of teacher, pastor, friend, master, fellow-traveler, and guest, and in my special office as missionary, searching after their religious thought (and therefore being allowed a deeper entrance into the arcana of their soul than would be accorded to a passing explorer), I am able unhesitatingly to say that among all the multitude of degraded ones with whom I have met, I have seen or heard of none whose religious thought was only a superstition.
"Standing in the village street, surrounded by a company whom their chief has courteously summoned at my request, when I say to him, 'I have come to speak to your people,' I do not need to begin by telling them that there is a God. Looking on that motley assemblage of villagers,--the bold, gaunt cannibal with his armament of gun, spear, and dagger; the artisan with rude adze in hand, or hands soiled at the antique bellows of the village smithy; women who have hasted from their kitchen fire with hands white with the manioc dough or still grasping the partly scaled fish; and children checked in their play with tiny bow and arrow or startled from their dusty street pursuit of dog or goat,--I have yet to be asked, 'Who is God?'" 3
The basis of Egyptian religion was "of a purely Nigritian character," 4 and in its developed form Sudanese tribal gods were invoked and venerated by the priests. In Upper Egypt, near the confines of Ethiopia, paintings repeatedly represent black priests conferring on
red Egyptian priests the instruments and symbols of priesthood. In the Sudan to-day Frobenius distinguishes four principal religions: first, earthly ancestor worship; next, the social cosmogony of the Atlantic races; third, the religion of the Bori, and fourth, Islam. The Bori religion spreads from Nubia as far as the Hausa, and from Lake Chad in the Niger as far as the Yoruba. It is the religion of possession and has been connected by some with Asiatic influences.
From without have come two great religious influences, Islam and Christianity. Islam came by conquest, trade, and proselytism. As a conqueror it reached Egypt in the seventh century and had by the end of the fourteenth century firm footing in the Egyptian Sudan. It overran the central Sudan by the close of the seventeenth century, and at the beginning of the nineteenth century had swept over Senegambia and the whole valley of the Niger down to the Gulf of Guinea. On the east Islam approached as a trader in the eighth century; it spread into Somaliland and overran Nubia in the fourteenth century. To-day Islam dominates Africa north of ten degrees north latitude and is strong between five and ten degrees north latitude. In the east it reaches below the Victoria Nyanza.
Christianity early entered Africa; indeed, as Mommsen say It was through Africa that Christianity became the, religion of the world. Tertullian and Cyprian were from Carthage, Arnobius from Sicca Veneria, Lactantius, and probably in like manner Minucius Felix, in spite of their Latin names, were natives of Africa, and not less so Augustine. In Africa the Church found its most zealous confessors of the faith and its most gifted defenders." 1
The Africa referred to here, however, was not Negroland, but Africa above the desert, where Negro blood was represented in the ancient Mediterranean race and by intercourse across the desert. On the other hand Christianity was early represented in the valley of the Nile under "the most holy pope and patriarch of the great city of Alexandria and of all of the land of Egypt, of Jerusalem, the holy city, of Nubia, Abyssinia, and Pentapolis, and all the preaching of St. Mark." This patriarchate had a hundred bishoprics in the fourth century and included thousands of black Christians. Through it the Cross preceded the Crescent in some of the remotest parts of black Africa.
All these beginnings were gradually overthrown by Islam except among the Copts in Egypt, and in Abyssinia. The Portuguese in the
sixteenth century began to replant the Christian religion and for a while had great success, both on the east and west coasts. Roman Catholic enterprise halted in the eighteenth century and the Protestants began. To-day the west coast is studded with English and German missions, South Africa is largely Christian through French and English influence, and the region about the Great Lakes is becoming christianized. The Roman Catholics have lately increased their activities, and above all the Negroes of America have entered with their own churches and with the curiously significant "Ethiopian" movement.
Coming now to other spiritual aspects of African culture, we can speak at present only in a fragmentary way. Roughly speaking, Africa can be divided into two language zones: north of the fifth degree of north latitude is the zone of diversity, with at least a hundred groups of widely divergent languages; south of the line there is one minor language (Bushman-Hottentot), spoken by less than fifty thousand people, and elsewhere the predominant Bantu tongue with its various dialects, spoken by at least fifty million. The Bantu tongue, which thus rules all Central, West, and South Africa, is an agglutinative tongue which makes especial use of prefixes. The hundreds of Negro tongues or dialects in the north represent most probably the result of war and migration and the breaking up of ancient centers of culture. In Abyssinia and the great horn of East Africa the influence of Semitic tongues is noted. Despite much effort on the part of students, it has been impossible to show any Asiatic origin for the Egyptian language. As Sergi maintains, "everything favors an African origin." 1 The most brilliant suggestion of modern days links together the Egyptian of North Africa and the Hottentot and Bushmen tongues of South Africa.
Language was reduced to writing among the Egyptians and Ethiopians and to some extent elsewhere in Africa. Over 100 manuscripts of Ethiopian and Ethiopic-Arabian literature are extant, including a version of the Bible and historical chronicles. The Arabic was used as the written tongue of the Sudan, and Negroland has given us in this tongue many chronicles and other works of black authors. The greatest of these, the Epic of the Sudan (Tarikh-es-Soudan), deserves to be placed among the classics of all literature. In other parts of Africa there was no written language, but there was, on the
other hand, an unusual perfection of oral tradition through bards, and extraordinary efficiency in telegraphy by drum and horn.
The folklore and proverbs of the African tribes are exceedingly rich, Some of these have been made familiar to English writers through the work of "Uncle Remus." Others have been collected by Johnston, Ellis, and Theal.
A black bard of our own day has described the onslaught of the Matabili in poetry of singular force and beauty:
There can be no doubt of the Negro's deep and delicate sense of beauty in form, color, and sound. Soyaux says of African industry, "Whoever denies to them independent invention and individual taste in their work either shuts his eyes intentionally before perfectly evident facts, or lack of knowledge renders him an incompetent judge." 2 M. Rutot had lately told us bow the Negro race brought art and sculpture to pre-historic Europe. The bones of the European Negroids are almost without exception found in company with drawings and sculpture in high and low relief; some of their sculptures, like the Wellendorff "Venus," are unusually well finished for primitive man. So, too, the painting and carving of the Bushmen and their forerunners in South Africa has drawn the admiration of students. The Negro has been prolific in the invention of musical instruments and has given a new and original music to the western world.
Schweinfurth, who has preserved for us much of the industrial art
of the Negroes, speaks of their delight in the production of works of art for the embellishment and convenience of life. Frobenius expressed his astonishment at the originality of the African in the Yoruba temple which he visited. "The lofty veranda was divided from the passageway by fantastically carved and colored pillars. On the pillars were sculptured knights, men climbing trees, women, gods, and mythical beings. The dark chamber lying beyond showed a splendid red room with stone hatchets, wooden figures, cowry beads, and jars. The whole picture, the columns carved in colors in front of the colored altar, the old man sitting in the circle of those who reverenced him, the open scaffolding of ninety rafters, made a magnificent impression." 1
The Germans have found, in Kamarun, towns built, castellated, and fortified in a manner that reminds one of the prehistoric cities of Crete. The buildings and fortifications of Zymbabwe have already been described and something has been said of the art of Benin, with its brass and bronze and ivory. All the work of Benin in bronze and brass was executed by casting, and by methods so complicated that it would be no easy task for a modern European craftsman to imitate them.
Perhaps no race has shown in its earlier development a more magnificent art impulse than the Negro, and the student must not forget how far Negro genius entered into the art in the valley of the Nile from Meroe and Nepata down to the great temples of Egypt.
Frobenius has recently directed the world's attention to art in West Africa. Quartz and granite he found treated with great dexterity. But more magnificent than the stone monument is the proof that at some remote era glass was made and molded in Yorubaland and that the people here were brilliant in the production of terracotta images. The great mass of potsherds, lumps of glass, heaps of slag, etc., "proves, at all events, that the glass industry flourished in this locality in ages past. It is plain that the glass beads found to have been so very common in Africa were not only not imported, but were actually manufactured in great quantities at home."
The terra-cotta pieces are "remains of another ancient and fine type of art" and were "eloquent of a symmetry, a vitality, a delicacy of form, and practically a reminiscence of the ancient Greeks," The antique bronze head Frobenius describes as "a head of marvelous
beauty, wonderfully cast," and "almost equal in beauty and, at least, no less noble in form, and as ancient as the terra-cotta heads." 1
In a park of monuments Frobenius saw the celebrated forge and hammer: a mighty mass of iron, like a falling drop in shape, and a block of quartz fashioned like a drum. Frobenius thinks these were relics dating from past ages of culture, when the manipulation of quartz and granite was thoroughly understood and when iron manipulation gave evidence of a skill not met with to-day.
Even when we contemplate such revolting survivals of savagery as cannibalism we cannot jump too quickly at conclusions. Cannibalism is spread over many parts of Negro Africa, yet the very tribes who practice cannibalism show often other traits of industry and power. "These cannibal Bassonga were, according to the types we met with, one of those rare nations of the African interior which can be classed with the most esthetic and skilled, most discreet and intelligent of all those generally known to us as the so-called natural races. Before the Arabic and European invasion they did not dwell in 'hamlets,' but in towns with twenty or thirty thousand inhabitants, in towns whose highways were shaded by avenues of splendid palms planted at regular intervals and laid out with the symmetry of colonnades. Their pottery would be fertile in suggestion to every art craftsman in Europe. Their weapons of iron were so perfectly fashioned that no industrial art from abroad could improve upon their workmanship. The iron blades were cunningly ornamented with damascened copper, and the hilts artistically inlaid with the same metal. Moreover, they were most industrious and capable husbandmen, whose careful tillage of the suburbs made them able competitors of any gardener in Europe. Their sexual and parental relations evidenced an amount of tact and delicacy of feelings unsurpassed among ourselves, either in the simplicity of the country or the refinements of the town. Originally their political and municipal system was organized on the lines of a representative republic. True, it is on record that these well-governed towns often waged an internecine warfare; but in spite of this it had been their invariable custom from time immemorial, even in times of strife, to keep the trade routes open and to allow their own and foreign merchants to go their ways unharmed. And the commerce of these nations ebbed and flowed along a road of unknown age, running from Itimbiri to Batubenge, about six hundred miles in length. This highway was
destroyed by the 'Missionaries of civilization' from Arabia only toward the close of the eighteenth century. But even in my own time there were still smiths who knew the names of places along that wonderful trade route driven through the heart of the 'impenetrable forests of the Congo.' For every scrap of imported iron was carried over it." 1
In disposition the Negro is among the most lovable of men. Practically all the great travelers who have spent any considerable time in Africa testify to this and pay deep tribute to the kindness with which they were received. One has but to remember the classic story of Mungo Park, the strong expressions of Livingstone, the words of Stanley and hundreds of others to realize this.
Ceremony and courtesy mark Negro life. Livingstone again and again reminds us of "true African dignity." "When Ilifian men or women salute each other, be it with a plain and easy curtsey (which is here the simplest form adopted), or kneeling down, or throwing oneself upon the ground, or kissing the dust with one's forehead, no matter which, there is yet a deliberateness, a majesty, a dignity, a devoted earnestness in the manner of its doing, which brings to light with every gesture, with every fold of clothing, the deep significance and essential import of every single action. Everyone may, without too greatly straining his attention, notice the very striking precision and weight with which the upper and lower native classes observe these niceties of intercourse." 2
All this does not mean that the African Negro is not human with the all-too-well-known foibles of humanity. Primitive life among them is, after all, as bare and cruel as among primitive Germans or Chinese, but it is not more so, and the more we study the Negro the more we realize that we are dealing with a normal human stock which under reasonable conditions has developed and will develop in the same lines as other men. Why is it, then, that so much of misinformation and contempt is widespread concerning Africa and its people, not simply among the unthinking mass, but among men of education and knowledge?
One reason lies undoubtedly in the connotation of the term "Negro." In North America a Negro may be seven-eights white, since the term refers to any person of Negro descent. If we use the term in the same sense concerning the inhabitants of the rest of
world, we may say truthfully that Negroes have been among the leaders of civilization in every age of the world's history from ancient Babylon to modern America; that they have contributed wonderful gifts in art, industry, political organization, and religion, and that they are doing the same to-day in all parts of the world.
In sharp contrast to this usage the term "Negro" in Africa has been more and more restricted until some scientists, late in the last century, declared that the great mass of the black and brown people of Africa were not Negroes at all, and that the "real" Negro dwells in a small space between the Niger and the Senegal. Ratzel says, "If we ask what justifies so narrow a limitation, we find that the hideous Negro type, which the fancy of observers once saw all over Africa, but which, as Livingstone says, is really to be seen only as a sign in front of tobacco shops, has on closer inspection evaporated from all parts of Africa, to settle no one knows how in just this region. If we understand that an extreme case may have been taken for the genuine and pure form, even so we do not comprehend the ground of its geographical limitation and location; for wherever dark, woolly-haired men dwell, this ugly type also crops up. We are here in the presence of a refinement of science which to an unprejudiced eye will hardly hold water." 1
In this restricted sense the Negro has no history, culture, or ability, for the simple fact that such human beings as have history and evidence culture and ability are not Negroes! Between these two extreme definitions, with unconscious adroitness, the most extraordinary and contradictory conclusions have been reached.
Let it therefore be said, once for all, that racial inferiority is not the cause of anti-Negro prejudice. Boaz, the anthropologist, says, "An unbiased estimate of the anthropological evidence so far brought forward does not permit us to countenance the belief in a racial inferiority which would unfit an individual of the Negro race to take his part in modern civilization. We do not know of any demand made on the human body or mind in modern life that anatomical or ethnological evidence would prove to be beyond the powers of the Negro." 2
'We have every reason to suppose that all races are capable, under proper guidance, of being fitted into the complex scheme of our modern civilization, and the policy of artificially excluding them
from its benefits is as unjustifiable scientifically as it is ethically abhorrent." 1 What is, then, this so-called "instinctive" modern prejudice against black folk?
Lord Bryce says of the intermingling of blacks and whites in South America, "The ease with which the Spaniards have intermingled by marriage with the Indian tribes--and the Portuguese have done the like, not only with the Indians, but with the more physically dissimilar Negroes--shows that race repugnance is no such constant and permanent factor in human affairs as members of the Teutonic peoples are apt to assume. Instead of being, as we Teutons suppose, the rule in the matter, we are rather the exception, for in the ancient world there seems to have been little race repulsion."
In nearly every age and land men of Negro descent have distinguished themselves. In literature there is Terence in Rome, Nosseyeb and Antar in Arabia, Es-Sa’di in the Sudan, Pushkin in Russia, Dumas in France, Al Kanemi in Spain, Heredia in the West Indies, and Dunbar in the United States, not to mention the alleged Negro strain in Æsop and Robert Browning. As rulers and warriors we remember such Negroes as Queen Nefertari and Amenhotep III among many others in Egypt; Candace and Ergamenes in Ethiopia; Mansa Musa, Sonni Ali, and Mohammed Askai in the Sudan; Diaz in Brazil, Toussaint L’Ouverture in Hayti, Hannivalov in Russia, Sakanouye Tamuramaro in Japan, the elder Dumas in France, Cazembe and Chaka among the Bantu, and Menelik, of Abyssinia; the numberless black leaders of India, and the mulatto strain of Alexander Hamilton. In music and art we recall Bridgewater, the friend of Beethoven, and the unexplained complexion of Beethoven's own father; Coleridge-Taylor in England, Tanner in America, Gomez in Spain; Ira Aldridge, the actor, and Johnson, Cook, and Burleigh, who are making the new American syncopated music. In the Church we know that Negro blood coursed in the veins of many of the Catholic African fathers, if not in certain of the popes; and there were in modern days Benoit of Palermo, St. Benedict, Bishop Crowther, the Mahdi who drove England from the Sudan, and Americans like Allen, Lot Carey, and Alexander Crummell. In science, discovery, and invention the Negroes claim Lislet Geoffroy o f the French Academy, Latino and Amo, well known in European
university circles; and in America the explorers Dorantes and Henson; Banneker, the almanac maker; Wood, the telephone improver; McCoy, inventor of modern lubrication; Matseliger, who revolutionized shoemaking. Here are names representing all degrees of genius and talent from the mediocre to the highest, but they are strong human testimony to the ability of this race.
We must, then, look for the origin of modern color prejudice not to physical or cultural causes, but to historic facts. And we shall find the answer in modern Negro slavery and the slave trade.
62:1 "Some authors write that the Ethiopians paint the devil white, in disdain of our complexions."--Ludolf: History of Ethiopia, p. 72.
63:1 Ripley: Races of Europe, pp. 58, 62.
63:2 Denniker: Races of Men, p. 63.
63:3 G. Finot: Race Prejudice. F. Herz: Moderne Rassentheorien.
63:4 Ratzel: quoted in Spiller: Inter-Racial Problems, p. 31.
63:5 Spiller: Inter-Racial Problems, p. 35.
65:1 Ratzel: History of Mankind, II, 380 ff.
65:2 Industrial Evolution, p. 47.
66:1 These and other references in this chapter are from Schneider: Culturfähigkeit des Negers.
69:1 Atlanta University Leaflet, No. 19.
69:2 Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, XLIII, 414, 415. Cf. also The Crisis, Vol. IX, p. 234.
70:1 Bücher: Industrial Revolution (tr. by Wickett), pp. 57-58.
71:1 Hayford: Native Institutions, pp. 95-96.
72:1 Ratzel, II, 376.
73:1 Hayford: Native Institutions, pp. 76 ff.
74:1 Impressions of South Africa, 3d ed., p. 352.
74:2 William Schneider.
74:3 West African Studies, Chap. V.
75:1 Op. cit.
75:2 Impressions of South Africa.
76:1 Frobenius: Voice of Africa, Vol. I.
76:2 West African Studies, p. 107.
76:3 Nassau: Fetishism in West Africa, p. 36.
76:4 Encyclopædia Britannica, 9th ed., XX, 362.
77:1 The African Provinces, II, 345.
78:1 Mediterranean Race, p. 10.
79:1 Stowe: Native Races, etc., pp. 553-554.
79:2 Quoted in Schneider.
80:1 Frobenius: Voice of Africa, Vol. I, Chap. XIV.
81:1 Frobenius: Voice of Africa, Vol. I.
82:1 Frobenius: Voice of Africa, I, 14-15.
82:2 Frobenius: Voice of Africa, I, 272.
83:1 Ratzel: History of Mankind, II, 313.
83:2 Atlanta University Publications, No. 11.
84:1 Robert Lowie in the New Review, Sept., 1914.