George W. Williams.

History of the Negro Race in America From 1619 to 1880. Vol 1 Negroes as Slaves, as Soldiers, and as Citizens online

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interchangeably, there seems to be no lack of proof that the same
terms were applied frequently to a people who were not Negroes. It
should be remembered, moreover, that there were nations who were
black, and yet were not Negroes. And the only distinction amongst all
these people, who are branches of the Hamitic family, is the texture
of the hair. "But it is _equally_ certain, as we have seen, that the
term 'Cushite' is applied in Scripture to other branches of the same
family; as, for instance, to the Midianites, from whom Moses selected
his wife, and who could not have been Negroes. The term 'Cushite,'
therefore, is used in Scripture as denoting nations who were not
black, or in any respect Negroes, and also countries south of Egypt,
whose inhabitants were Negroes; and yet both races are declared to be
the descendants of Cush, the son of Ham. Even in Ezekiel's day the
interior African nations were not of one race; for he represents Cush,
Phut, Lud, and Chub, as either themselves constituting, or as being
amalgamated with, 'a mingled people' (Ezek. xxx. 5); 'that is to say,'
says Faber, 'it was a nation of Negroes who are represented as very
numerous, - _all_ the mingled people.'"[31]

The term "Ethiopia" was anciently given to all those whose color was
darkened by the sun. Herodotus, therefore, distinguishes the Eastern
Ethiopians who had straight hair, from the Western Ethiopians who had
curly or woolly hair.[32]. They are a twofold people, lying extended
in a long tract from the rising to the setting sun."[33]

The conclusion is patent. The words "Ethiopia" and "Cush" were used
always to describe a black people, or the country where such a people
lived. The term "Negro," from the Latin "_niger_" and the French
"_noir_," means black; and consequently is a modern term, with all the
original meaning of Cush and Ethiopia, with a single exception. We
called attention above to the fact that all Ethiopians were not of the
pure Negro type, but were nevertheless a branch of the original
Hamitic family from whence sprang all the dark races. The term "Negro"
is now used to designate the people, who, in addition to their dark
complexion, have curly or woolly hair. It is in this connection that
we shall use the term in this work.[34]

Africa, the home of the indigenous dark races, in a geographic and
ethnographic sense, is the most wonderful country in the world It is
thoroughly tropical. It has an area in English square miles of
11,556,600, with a population of 192,520,000 souls. It lies between
the latitudes of 38° north and 35° south; and is, strictly speaking,
an enormous peninsula, attached to Asia by the Isthmus of Suez. The
most northern point is the cape, situated a little to the west of Cabo
Blanco, and opposite Sicily, which lies in latitude 37° 20' 40" north,
longitude 9° 41' east. Its southernmost point is Cabo d'Agulhas, in
34° 49' 15" south; the distance between these two points being 4,330
geographical, or about 5,000 English miles. The westernmost point is
Cabo Verde, in longitude 17° 33' west; its easternmost, Cape
Jerdaffun, in longitude 51° 21' east, latitude 10° 25' north, the
distance between the two points being about the same as its length.
The western coasts are washed by the Atlantic, the northern by the
Mediterranean, and the eastern by the Indian Ocean. The shape of this
"dark continent" is likened to a triangle or to an Oval. It is rich in
oils, ivory, gold, and precious timber. It has beautiful lakes and
mighty rivers, that are the insoluble problems of the present times.

Of the antiquity of the Negro there can be no doubt. He is known as
thoroughly to history as any of the other families of men. He appears
at the first dawn of history, and has continued down to the present
time. The scholarly Gliddon says, that "the hieroglyphical designation
of 'KeSH,' exclusively applied to _African_ races as distinct from the
Egyptian, has been found by Lepsius as far back as the monuments of
the sixth dynasty, 3000 B.C. But the great influx of Negro and Mulatto
races into Egypt as captives dated from the twelfth dynasty; when,
about the twenty-second century, B.C., Pharaoh SESOUR-TASEN extended
his conquests up the Nile far into Nigritia. After the eighteenth
dynasty the monuments come down to the third century, A.D., without
one single instance in the Pharaonic or Ptolemaic periods that Negro
labor was ever directed to any agricultural or utilitarian
objects."[35] The Negro was found in great numbers with the Sukim,
Thut, Lubin, and other African nations, who formed the strength of the
army of the king of Egypt, Shishak, when he came against Rehoboam in
the year 971 B.C.; and in his tomb, opened in 1849, there were found
among his depicted army the exact representation of the genuine Negro
race, both in color, hair, and physiognomy. Negroes are also
represented in Egyptian paintings as connected with the military
campaigns of the eighteenth dynasty. They formed a part of the army of
Ibrahim Pacha, and were prized as gallant soldiers at Moncha and in
South Arabia.[36] And Herodotus assures us that Negroes were found in
the armies of Sesostris and Xerxes; and, at the present time, they are
no inconsiderable part of the standing army of Egypt.[37] Herodotus
states that eighteen of the Egyptian kings were Ethiopians.[38]

It is quite remarkable to hear a writer like John P. Jeffries, who
evidently is not very friendly in his criticisms of the Negro, make
such a positive declaration as the following: -

"Every rational mind must, therefore, readily conclude that
the African race has been in existence, as a distinct
people, over four thousand two hundred years; and how long
before that period is a matter of conjecture only, there
being no reliable data upon which to predicate any reliable

It is difficult to find a writer on ethnology, ethnography, or
Egyptology, who doubts the antiquity of the Negroes as a distinct
people. Dr. John C. Nott of Mobile, Ala., a Southern man in the widest
meaning, in his "Types of Mankind," while he tries to make his book
acceptable to Southern slaveholders, strongly maintains the antiquity
of the Negro.

"Ethnological science, then, possesses not only the
authoritative testimonies of Lepsius and Birch in proof of
the existence of Negro races during the twenty-fourth
century, B.C., but, the same fact being conceded by all
living Egyptologists, we may hence infer that these
Nigritian types were contemporary with the earliest

In 1829 there was a remarkable Theban tomb opened by Mr. Wilkinson,
and in 1840 it was carefully examined by Harris and Gliddon. There is
a most wonderful collection of Negro scenes in it. Of one of these
scenes even Dr. Nott says, -

"A Negress, apparently a princess, arrives at Thebes, drawn
in a plaustrum by a pair of humped oxen, the driver and
groom being red-colored Egyptians, and, one might almost
infer, eunuchs. Following her are multitudes of Negroes and
Nubians, bringing tribute from the upper country, as well as
black slaves of both sexes and all ages, among which are
some _red_ children, whose _fathers_ were Egyptians. The
cause of her advent seems to have been to make offerings in
the tomb of a 'royal son of KeS_h_ - Amunoph,' who may have
been her husband."[41]

It is rather strange that the feelings of Dr. Nott toward the Negro
were so far mollified as to allow him to make a statement that
destroys his heretofore specious reasoning about the political and
social status of the Negro. He admits the antiquity of the Negro; but
makes a special effort to place him in a servile state at all times,
and to present him as a vanquished vassal before Ramses III. and other
Egyptian kings. He sees no change in the Negro's condition, except
that in slavery he is better fed and clothed than in his native home.
But, nevertheless, the Negress of whom he makes mention, and the
entire picture in the Theban tomb, put down the learned doctor's
argument. Here is a Negro princess with Egyptian driver and groom,
with a large army of attendants, going on a long journey to the tomb
of her royal husband!

There is little room here to question the political and social
conditions of the Negroes.[42] They either had enjoyed a long and
peaceful rule, or by their valor in offensive warfare had won
honorable place by conquest. And the fact that black slaves are
mentioned does not in any sense invalidate the historical
trustworthiness of the pictures found in this Theban tomb; for
Wilkinson says, in reference to the condition of society at this
period, -

"It is evident that both white and black slaves were
employed as servants; they attended on the guests when
invited to the house of their master; and, from their being
in the families of priests as well as of the military
chiefs, we may infer that they were purchased with money,
and that the right of possessing slaves was not confined to
those who had taken them in war. The traffic in slaves was
tolerated by the Egyptians; and it is reasonable to suppose
that many persons were engaged ... in bringing them to Egypt
for public sale, independent of those who were sent as part
of the tribute, and who were probably, at first, the
property of the monarch; nor did any difficulty occur to the
Ishmaelites in the purchase of Joseph from his brethren, nor
in his subsequent sale to Potiphar on arriving in Egypt."

So we find that slavery was not, at this time, confined to any
particular race of people. This Negro princess was as liable to
purchase white as black slaves; and doubtless some were taken in
successful wars with other nations, while others were purchased as

But we have further evidence to offer in favor of the antiquity of the
Negro. In Japan, and in many other parts of the East, there are to be
found stupendous and magnificent temples, that are hoary with age. It
is almost impossible to determine the antiquity of some of them, in
which the idols are exact representations of woolly-haired Negroes,
although the inhabitants of those countries to-day have straight hair.
Among the Japanese, black is considered a color of good omen. In the
temples of Siam we find the idols fashioned like unto Negroes.[43]
Osiris, one of the principal deities of the Egyptians, is frequently
represented as black.[44] Bubastis, also, the Diana of Greece, and a
member of the great Egyptian Triad, is now on exhibition in the
British Museum, sculptured in black basalt silting figure.[45] Among
the Hindus, Kali, the consort of Siva, one of their great Triad;
Crishna, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu; and Vishnu also himself,
the second of the Trimerti or Hindu Triad, are represented of a black
color.[46] Dr. Morton says, -

"The Sphinx may have been the shrine of the Negro population
of Egypt, who, as a people, were unquestionably under our
average size. Three million Buddhists in Asia represent
their chief deity, Buddha, with Negro features and hair.
There are two other images of Buddha, one at Ceylon and the
other at Calanee, of which Lieut. Mahoney says, 'Both these
statues agree in having crisped hair and long, pendent

And the learned and indefatigable Hamilton Smith says, -

"In the plains of India are Nagpoor, and a ruined city
without name at the gates of Benares (perhaps the real Kasi
of tradition), once adorned with statues of a woolly-haired

Now, these substantial and indisputable traces of the march of the
Negro races through Japan and Asia lead us to conclude that the Negro
race antedates all profane history. And while the great body of the
Negro races have been located geographically in Africa, they have
been, in no small sense, a cosmopolitan people. Their wanderings may
be traced from the rising to the setting sun.

"The remains of architecture and sculpture in India seem to
prove an early connection between that country and
Africa.... The Pyramids of Egypt, the colossal statues
described by Pausanias and others, the Sphinx, and the
Hermes Canis, which last bears a strong resemblance to the
Varaha Avatar, indicate the style of the same indefatigable
workmen who formed the vast excavations of Canarah, the
various temples and images of Buddha, and the idols which
are continually dug up at Gaya or in its vicinity. These and
other indubitable facts may induce no ill-grounded opinion,
that Ethiopia and Hindustan were peopled or colonized by the
same extraordinary race; in confirmation of which it may be
added, that the mountaineers of Bengal and Benhar can hardly
be distinguished in some of their features, particularly in
their lips and noses, from the modern Abyssinians."[49]

There is little room for speculation here to the candid searcher after
truth. The evidence accumulates as we pursue our investigations.
Monuments and temples, sepulchred stones and pyramids, rise up to
declare the antiquity of the Negro races. Hamilton Smith, after
careful and critical investigation, reaches the conclusion, that the
Negro type of man was the most ancient, and the indigenous race of
Asia, as far north as the lower range of the Himalaya Mountains, and
presents at length many curious facts which cannot, he believes, be
otherwise explained.

"In this view, the first migrations of the Negro stock,
coasting westward by catamarans, or in wretched canoes, and
skirting South-western Asia, may synchronize with the
earliest appearance of the Negro tribes of Eastern Africa,
and just precede the more mixed races, which, like the
Ethiopians of Asia, passed the Red Sea at the Straits of
Bab-el-Mandeb, ascended the Nile, or crossed that river to
the west."[50]

Taking the whole southern portion of Asia westward to Arabia, this
conjecture - which likewise was a conclusion drawn, after patient
research, by the late Sir T. Stanford Raffles - accounts, more
satisfactorily than any other, for the Oriental habits, ideas,
traditions, and words which can be traced among several of the present
African tribes and in the South-Sea Islands. Traces of this black race
are still found along the Himalaya range from the Indus to Indo-China,
and the Malay peninsula, and in a mixed form all through the southern
states to Ceylon.[51]

But it is unnecessary to multiply evidence in proof of the antiquity
of the Negro. His presence in this world was coetaneous with the other
families of mankind: here he has toiled with a varied fortune; and
here under God - _his_ God - he will, in the process of time, work out
all the sublime problems connected with his future as a man and a

There are various opinions rife as to the cause of color and texture
of hair in the Negro. The generally accepted theory years ago was,
that the curse of Cain rested upon this race; while others saw in the
dark skin of the Negro the curse of Noah pronounced against Canaan.
These two explanations were comforting to that class who claimed that
they had a right to buy and sell the Negro; and of whom the Saviour
said, "For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay
them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with
one of their fingers."[52] But science has, of later years, attempted
a solution of this problem. Peter Barrère, in his treatise on the
subject, takes the ground that the bile in the human system has much
to do with the color of the skin.[53] This theory, however, has drawn
the fire of a number of European scholars, who have combated it with
more zeal than skill. It is said that the spinal and brain matter are
of a dark, ashy color; and by careful examination it is proven that
the blood of Ethiopians is black. These facts would seem to clothe
this theory with at least a shadow of plausibility. But the opinion of
Aristotle, Strabo, Alexander, and Blumenbach is, that the climate,
temperature, and mode of life, have more to do with giving color than
any thing else. This is certainly true among animals and plants. There
are many instances on record where dogs and wolves, etc., have turned
white in winter, and then assumed a different color in the spring. If
you start at the north and move south, you will find, at first, that
the flowers are very white and delicate; but, as you move toward the
tropics, they begin to take on deeper and richer hues until they run
into almost endless varieties. Guyot argues on the other side of the
question to account for the intellectual diversity of the races of

"While all the types of animals and of plants go on
decreasing in perfection, from the equatorial to the polar
regions, in proportion to the temperatures, man presents to
our view his purest, his most perfect type, at the very
centre of the temperate continents, - at the centre of Asia,
Europe, in the regions of Iran, of Armenia, and of the
Caucasus; and, departing from this geographical centre in
the three grand directions of the lands, the types gradually
lose the beauty of their forms, in proportion to their
distance, even to the extreme points of the southern
continents, where we find the most deformed and degenerate
races, and the lowest in the scale of humanity."[54]

The learned professor seeks to carry out his famous geographical
argument, and, with great skill and labor, weaves his theory of the
influence of climate upon the brain and character of man. But while no
scholar would presume to combat the theory that plants take on the
most gorgeous hues as one nears the equator, and that the races of
mankind take on a darker color in their march toward the equator,
certainly no student of Oriental history will assent to the
unsupported doctrine, that the intensity of the climate of tropical
countries affects the intellectual status of races. If any one be so
prejudiced as to doubt this, let him turn to "Asiatic Researches," and
learn that the dark races have made some of the most invaluable
contributions to science, literature, civil-engineering, art, and
architecture that the world has yet known. Here we find the cradle of
civilization, ancient and remote.

Even changes and differences in color are to be noted in almost every

"As we go westward we observe the light color predominating
over the dark; and then, again, when we come within the
influence of damp from the sea-air, we find the shade
deepened into the general blackness of the coast

The artisan and farm-laborer may become exceedingly dark from
exposure, and the sailor is frequently so affected by the weather that
it is next to impossible to tell his nationality.

"It is well known that the Biscayan women are a shining
white, the inhabitants of Granada on the contrary dark, to
such an extent, that, in this region, the pictures of the
blessed Virgin and other saints are painted of the same

The same writer calls attention to the fact, that the people on the
Cordilleras, who live under the mountains towards the west, and are,
therefore, exposed to the Pacific Ocean, are quite, or nearly, as fair
in complexion as the Europeans; whereas, on the contrary, the
inhabitants of the opposite side, exposed to the burning sun and
scorching winds, are copper-colored. Of this theory of climateric
influence we shall say more farther on.

It is held by some eminent physicians in Europe and America, that the
color of the skin depends upon substances external to the _cutis
vera_. Outside of the _cutis_ are certain layers of a substance
various in consistence, and scarcely perceptible: here is the home and
seat of color; and these may be regarded as secretions from the
vessels of the _cutis_. The dark color of the Negro principally
depends on the substance interposed between the true skin and the
scarf-skin. This substance presents different appearances: and it is
described sometimes as a sort of organized network or reticular
tissue; at others, as a mere mucous or slimy layer; and it is odd that
these somewhat incompatible ideas are both conveyed by the term
_reticulum mucosum_ given to the intermediate portion of the skin by
its orignal discoverer, Malpighi. There is, no doubt, something
plausible in all the theories advanced as to the color and hair of the
Negro; but it is verily all speculation. One theory is about as
valuable as another.

Nine hundred years before Christ the poet Homer, speaking of the death
of Memnon, killed at the siege of Troy, says, "He was received by his
Ethiopians." This is the first use of the word Ethiopia in the Greek;
and it is derived from the roots [Greek: aithô], "to burn," and
[Greek: ôps], "face." It is safe to assume, that, when God dispersed
the sons of Noah, he fixed the "bounds of their habitation," and,
that, from the earth and sky the various races have secured their
civilization. He sent the different nations into separate parts of the
earth. He gave to each its racial peculiarities, and adaptability for
the climate into which it went. He gave color, language, and
civilization; and, when by wisdom we fail to interpret his inscrutable
ways, it is pleasant to know that "he worketh all things after the
counsel of his own mind."


[27] Edward W. Blyden, LL.D., of Liberia, says, "Supposing that this
term was originally used as a phrase of contempt, is it not with us to
elevate it? How often has it not happened that names originally given
in reproach have been afterwards adopted as a title of honor by those
against whom it was used? - Methodists, Quakers, etc. But as a proof
that no unfavorable signification attached to the word when first
employed, I may mention, that, long before the slave-trade began,
travellers found the blacks on the coast of Africa preferring to be
called Negroes" (see Purchas' Pilgrimage ...). And in all the
pre-slavetrade literature the word was spelled with a capital _N_. It
was the slavery of the blacks which afterwards degraded the term. To
say that the name was invented to degrade the race, some of whose
members were reduced to slavery, is to be guilty of what in grammar is
called a _hysteron proteron_. The disgrace became attached to the name
in consequence of slavery; and what we propose to do is, now that
slavery is abolished, to restore it to its original place and
legitimate use, and therefore to restore the capital _N_."

[28] Prichard, vol. ii. p. 44.

[29] Josephus, Antiq., lib. 2, chap. 6.

[30] Poole.

[31] Smyth's Unity Human Races, chap. II, p. 41.

[32] Herodotus, vii., 69, 70. Ancient Univ. Hist., vol. xviii. pp.
254, 255.

[33] Strabo, vol. I. p. 60.

[34] It is not wise, to say the least, for intelligent Negroes in
America to seek to drop the word "Negro." It is a good, strong, and
healthy word, and ought to live. It should be covered with glory: let
Negroes do it.

[35] Journal of Ethnology, No. 7, p. 310.

[36] Pickering's Races of Men, pp. 185-89.

[37] Burckhardt's Travels, p. 341.

[38] Euterpe, lib. 6.

[39] Jeffries's Nat. Hist. of Human Race, p. 315.

[40] Types of Mankind, p. 259.

[41] Types of Mankind, p. 262.

[42] Even in Africa it is found that Negroes possess great culture.
Speaking of Sego, the capital of Bambara, Mr. Park says: "The view of
this extensive city, the numerous, canoes upon the river, the crowded
population, and the cultivated state of the surrounding country,
formed altogether a prospect of civilization and magnificence which I
little expected to find in the bosom of Africa." See Park's Travels,
chap. ii.

Mr. Park also adds, that the population of this city, Sego, is about
thirty thousand. It had mosques, and even ferries were busy conveying
men and horses over the Niger.

[43] See Ambassades Mémorables de la Companie des Indes orientales des
Provinces Unies vers les Empereurs du Japan, Amst., 1680; and

[44] Wilkinson's Egypt, vol. iii. p. 340.

[45] Coleman's Mythology of the Hindus, p. 91. Dr. William Jones, vol.
iii., p. 377.

[46] Asiatic Researches, vol. vi. pp. 436-448.

[47] Heber's Narrative, vol. i. p. 254.

[48] Nat. Hist. of the Human Species, pp. 209, 214, 217.

[49] Asiatic Researches, vol. i. p 427. Also Sir William Jones, vol.
iii. 3d disc.

[50] Nat. Hist. Human Species, p. 126.

Online LibraryGeorge W. WilliamsHistory of the Negro Race in America From 1619 to 1880. Vol 1 Negroes as Slaves, as Soldiers, and as Citizens → online text (page 4 of 57)