W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt) Du Bois.

Economic co-operation among Negro Americans. Report of a social study made by Atlanta University under the patronage of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C. together with the proceedings of the 12th Conference for the Study of the Negro Problems, held at Atlanta University, on Tuesday, May t online

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Online LibraryW. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt) Du BoisEconomic co-operation among Negro Americans. Report of a social study made by Atlanta University under the patronage of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C. together with the proceedings of the 12th Conference for the Study of the Negro Problems, held at Atlanta University, on Tuesday, May t → online text (page 6 of 22)
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For more than a year our principal aim has been to relieve the general Gov
ernment by transferring to the civil authorities all these dependent classes
for future cure and treatment. To this end medicine and hospital stores have
been furnished as an outfit where state or municipal governments have con
sented to assume charge of destitute sick and disabled freedmen within their
borders. By means of this aid, and by patient and persistent effort on the part
of my officers, the hospitals, at one time numbering fifty-six (56), have been
reduced to two (2), and one (1) of these is about to be closed.

In addition to the sick, many others were destitute and required aid. To re
lieve this destitution without encouraging pauperism and idleness was at all
times a difficult problem

The wonder is not that so many, but that so few, have needed help; that of
the four millions of people thrown suddenly upon their own resources only
one in about two hundred has been an object of public charity ; and nearly all
who have received aid have been persons who, by reason of age, infirmity or
disease, would be objects of charity in any state at any time.

It would have been impossible to reach such satisfactory results and reduce
the issue of supplies to so small proportions had not employment been found
for a great multitude of able-bodied men and women, who, when first free,
knew not where to look for remunerative labor

They were uniformly assisted by us in finding good places and in making
reasonable bargains. To secure fairness and inspire confidence on both sides,
the system of written contracts was adopted. No compulsion was used, but
all were advised to enter into written agreements and submit them to an offi
cer of the Bureau for approval. The nature and obligations of these contracts
were carefully explained to the freedmen, and a copy filed in the office of the
agent approving it; this was for their use in case any difficulty arose between
them and their employers. The labor imposed upon my officers and agents
by this system was very great, as evinced by the fact that in a single state not
less than fifty thousand (50,000) such contracts were drawn in duplicate and
filled up with the names of all the parties. But the result has been highly
satisfactory. To the freedmen, the Bureau office in this way became a school
in which he learned the first practical business lessons of life, and from year
to year he has made rapid progress in this important branch of education.

Emancipation 41

Nor can it be doubted that much litigation and strife were prevented. It
could not be expected that such a vast and complicated machinery would work
without friction. The interests of capital and labor very often clash in all
communities. The South has not been entirely exempt from troubles of this
kind. Some employers have been dishonest and have attempted to defraud
the freedmen of just wages. Some laborers have been unfaithful and unreas
onable in their demands. But in the great majority of cases brought before
us for settlement, the trouble and misunderstanding; have arisen from vague
verbal bargains and a want of specific written contracts

In spite of all disorders that have prevailed and the misfortunes that have
fallen upon many parts of the South, a good degree of prosperity and success has
already been attained. To the oft-repeated slander that the Negroes will not
work, and are incapable of taking care of themselves, it is a sufficient answer
that their voluntary labor has produced nearly all the food that supported the
whole people, besides a large amount of rice, sugar and tobacco for export,
and two millions of bales of cotton each year, on which was paid into the
United States treasury during the years 1866 and 1867 a tax of more than forty
millions of dollars ($40,000,000). It is not claimed that this result is wholly due
to the care and oversight of this Bureau, but it is safe to say, as it has been
said repeatedly by intelligent Southern white men, that without the Bureau
or some similar agency, the material interests of the country would have
greatly suffered, and the Government would have lost a far greater amount
than has been expended in its maintenance

Of the nearly eight hundred thousand (800,000) acres of farming land and
about five thousand (5,000) pieces of town property transferred to this Bureau
by military and treasury officers, or taken up by assistant commissioners,
enough was leased to produce a revenue of nearly four hundred thousand dol
lars ($400,000). Some farms were set apart in each State as homes for the des
titute and helpless, and a portion was cultivated by freedmen prior to its

Notice the appropriations by Congress :

For the year ending July 1, 1867 $ (5,940,450 (X)

For the year ending July 1, 1868 3,936,300.00

For the relief of the destitute citizens in District of Co
lumbia 40,000. 00

For relief of the destitute freedmen in the same 15,000.00

For expenses of paying bounties in 1869 214,000 00

For expenses for famine in Southern states and trans
portation 1,865,645.40

For support of hospitals 50,000.00

Making a total, received from all sources, of $12,961,395 40

Our expenditures from the beginning (including assumed accounts of the
"Department of Negro Affairs"), from January 1, 1865, to August 31, 1869, have
been eleven million two hundred and forty-nine thousand and twenty-eight
dollars and ten cents ($11,249,028.10). In addition to this cash expenditure the
subsistence, medical supplies, quartermaster stores, issued to the refugees and
freedmen prior to July 1, 1866, were furnished by the commissionary, medical
and quartermaster s department, and accounted for in the current expenses of
those departments; they were not charged to nor paid for by my officers-
They amounted to two million three hundred and thirty thousand seven hun
dred and eighty-eight dollars and seventy-two cents ($2,330,788.72) in original
cost ; but a large portion of these stores being damaged and condemned as unrit
for issue to troops, their real value to the Government was probably less than

42 Economic Cooperation Among Negro Americans

one million of dollars ($1,000,000). Adding their original cost to the amount
expended from appropriations and other sources, the total expenses of our
Government for refugees and freedmen to August 31, 1869, have been thirteen
millions five hundred and seventy-nine thousand eight hundred and sixteen
dollars and eighty-two cents ($13,579,816.82). And deducting fifty thousand dol
lars ($50,000) set apart as a special relief fund for all classes of destitute people
in the Southern states, the real cost has been thirteen millions twenty-nine
thousand eight hundred and sixteen dollars and eighty-two cents ($13,-
029,8 16.82). *

That the economic co-operation of the freedrnen under outside lead
ership made the Freedmen s Bureau thus possible goes without saying.
Not only that, but there is much testimony as to independent co-opera
tion on their part:

In a few instances freedmen have combined their means and purchased
farms already under cultivation. They have everywhere manifested a great
desire to become landowners, a desire in the highest degree laudable and
hopeful for their future civilization.

The Negroes were also showing their capacity to organize labor and apply
capital to it. Harry, to whom I referred in my second report as "my faithful
guide and attendant, who had done for me more service than any white man
could render," with funds of his own and some borrowed money, bought at
the recent tax sales a small farm of three hundred and thirteen acres for
three hundred and five dollars. He was to plant sixteen and a half acres of
cotton, twelve and a half of corn, one and a half of potatoes. I rode through
his farm on the tenth of April, my last day in the territory, and one-third of
his crop was then in Harry lives in the house of the former over
seer, and delights, though not boastingly, in his position as a landed proprie
tor. He has promised to write me, or rather to dictate a letter, giving an ac
count of the progress of his crop. He has had much charge of Government
property, and when Captain Hooper and General Saxton s staff was coining
North last autumn, Harry proposed to accompany him ; but at last, of hi.s
own accord, gave up the project, saying, " It ll not do for all two to leave to

Another caseof capacity for organization should be noted. The Government
is building twenty-one houses for the Kdisto people, eighteen feet by fourteen,
with two rooms, each provided with a sw T inging-board window, and the roof
projecting a little as a protection from rain. The journeymen carpenters are
seventeen colored men who have fifty cents per day without rations, working
ten hours. They are under the direction of Frank Barnwell, a freedman, who
receives twenty dollars a month. Rarely have I talked with a more intelli
gent contractor. It was my great regret that I had not time to visit the village
of improved houses near the Hilton Head camp, which General Mitchell had
extemporized, and to which he gave so much of the noble enthusiasm of his
last days.

Next as to the development of manhood. This has been shown in the first
place, in the prevalent disposition to acquire land. It did not appear upon our
first introduction to these people, and they did not seem to understand us
when we used to tell them that we wanted them to own land. But it is now
an active desire. At the recent tax sales, six out of forty-seven plantations
sold were bought by them, comprising two thousand five hundred and ninety -

* Howard, Vol. 2, 361-7, 371-2.

Emancipation 43

five acres, sold for twenty-one hundred and forty-five dollars. In other cases
the Negroes had authorized the superintendent to bid for them, but the land
was reserved by the United States. One of the purchases was that made by
Harry, noted above. The other five were made by the Negroes on the planta
tions combining the funds they had saved from the sale of their pigs, chickens
and eggs, and from the payments made to them for work, they then dividing
off the tract peaceably among themselves. On one of these, where Kit, before
mentioned, is the leading spirit, there are twenty-three field hands. They
have planted and are cultivating sixty-three acres of cotton, fifty of corn, six
of potatoes, with as many more to be planted, four and a half of cowpeas,
three of peanuts, and one and a half of rice. These facts are most significant.
The instinct for land to have one spot on earth where a man may stand and
whence no human can of right drive him is one of the most conservative
elements of our nature ; and a people who have it in any fair degree will never
be nomads or vagabonds.*

Some relief and compensation were given by the act of Congress approved
June 21, 1866, which opened for entry, by colored and white men without dis
tinction, all the public lands in the states of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana,
Arkansas and Florida. Information was published through my officers and
agents respecting the location and value of these lands, and the mode of pro
cedure in order to obtain possession of them. Surveys were made and some
assistance granted in transporting families to their new homes. Want of
teams and farming implements, as well as opposition from their white neigh
bors, prevented many from taking the benefit of this homestead act; but
about four thousand families have faced and overcome these obstacles, have
acquired homes of their own and commenced work with energy, building
houses and planting. In a few instances freedmen have combined their means
and purchased farms already under cultivation. They have everywhere
manifested a great desire to become landowners, a desire in the highest degree
laudable and hopeful for their future civilization. Next to a proper religious
and intellectual training, the one thing needful to the freedmen is land and a
home. Without that a high degree of civilization and moral culture is
scarcely possible. So long as he is merely one of a herd working for hire, and
living on another s domain, he must be dependent and destitute of manly in
dividuality and self-reliance. f

South Carolina appropriated last year $200,000 to buy land in the upper part
of the state which has been sold to freedmen for homesteads. Upwards of
40,000 acres of this land have been actually sold during the year to poor men
of all colors. The Governor says he intends this year to recommend for the
same purpose an appropriation of ,$40,000

The freedmen are very eager for land. The savings they have placed in our
banks, and the profits of cotton this year, are enabling them to make large
purchases. In Orangeburg county, South Carolina, hundreds of colored men
have bought lands and are building and settling upon them. In a single day,
in our Charleston Savings Bank, I took the record of seventeen freedmen who
were drawing their money to pay for farms they had been buying, generally
forty or fifty acres each, paying about $10 per acre. I met at a cotton mer
chant s in that city, ten freedmen who had clubbed together with the proceeds
of their crop and bought a whole sea island plantation of seven hundred acres.
The merchant was that day procuring their deed. He told me that the entire

Freedmen at Port Royal, pp. iJOi)-10.

-t Report of Brevet Major General O. O. Howard, October 20, I860, p. 10.

44 Economic Co-operation Among Negro Americans

purchase price was paid in cash from the balance due them on the crop of the
season. Here, then, besides supporting their families with provisions raised,
these men had each, by the profits of a single year bought a farm of seventy
acres. What northern laborer could do better ?

I found on the islands other clubs forming to do the same thing, arid this in
a season when the caterpillar had destroyed one-half their cotton. A leading
ootton broker in Charleston told me that he thought nearly half the cotton on
the islands belonged to the colored men. He had himself already 126 consign
ments for them, and the amount of his sales on their account had reached
over $30,000. As I learned, the average of the freedmen s crop, or share of
crop, of Sea Island cotton is from three to six hundred pounds

Just out of the city is a settlement of about one hundred families something
like the Barry farm at Washington where small homesteads have been pur
chased and are being paid for; average value of each from $100 to $500. These
families are joyously cultivating their own gardens and provision grounds,
also finding work in the city. The Bureau has erected for them a convenient
house, now used for a school and chapel.

Further in the interior the freedmeii are buying or renting land and raising
their own crops. A community of such families, about thirty miles out (in
South Carolina), came in, a few days since, to market their crops for the sea
son. They had chartered a railroad car for $140 the round trip, and loading it
with cotton, corn, etc., exchanged the same for cloth ing, furniture, implements
of husbandry and supplies for putting in their next crop. They came to us on
returning and begged very hard that a teacher might be sent to their settle
ment, promising to pay all expenses. These are the indications of the drift of
these people towards independent home life and profitable labor. Although
the savings bank here is one of the most recently established, it has had de
posited over $60,000, of which $31,000 is still to their credit,

I find the following history of the Freedmen s labor:

The first year they worked for bare subsistence; second year they bought
stock mules, implements, etc.; third year many rented lands; and now, the
fourth year, large numbers are prepared to buy. This is the record of the
most industrious, others are following at a slower pace. In this process diffi
culties have been encountered low r wages, fraud, ill treatment, etc., some be
coming discouraged, but the majority are determined to rise. As illustrations :
Several freedmen in Houston county have bought from 100 to 600 acres of land
each. One man is now planting for fifty bales of cotton. A colored company
(called Peter Walker s) own 1,500 acres. Two brothers (Warren) saved in the
bank $600 and with it obtained a title to 1,500 acres, having credit for the bal
ance, and both are now building houses and preparing to make a crop which
they expect will clear off their whole debt. In Americus fully one hundred
houses and lots belong to the colored people.*

Last spring 160 Negroes banded together, chose one of the smartest of their
number as superintendent and commenced work. Now they show you with
pride 250 acres of rice, 250 acres of corn, nearly the same amount of peas (beans
we should call them), besides many acres of smaller crops. This joint stock
company is working not only with energy but with perfect harmony.

Thus it was that the Negro emerged to a semblance of economic free
dom only to be met by the Black Codes and political revolution.
We will now turn back to the alternate way in which both the slave

* J. \V. Alford: Letters from the South, etc., pp. 5, 9, 10, 15 and 19.

Migration 45

and the freedman sought a broader chance to live and develop, namely,

Section 8. Migration

As early as 1788 the Negro Union of Newport, R. I., wrote to the free
African Society of Philadelphia proposing a general exodus of Negroes
to Africa. To this the Free African Society soberly replied : "With
regard to the immigration to Africa you mention, we have at present
but little to communicate on that head, apprehending every pious man
is a good citizen of the whole world. 1 But the desire to better their
condition by going to some other country had taken root among the
best New England Negroes. The Cuffes, for instance, John and Paul,
petitioned for the right to vote in 1780, and in 1815 we find that Paul
Cuffe, the younger, who was a merchant between America and Africa,
had started to take a colony to Africa. Thus an early attempt at African
colonization by a band of New England Negroes started the year before
the American Colonization Society was organized:

It was conducted by Paul Cuffe, who was born in New Bedford, Mass., of an
African father and an Indian mother. He had risen from abject poverty to
wealth and respectability, and was largely engaged in navigation. He be
lieved that only in Africa could his people find civil and religious liberty. At
a cost to himself of four thousand dollars, and in his own vessel, he took out
from Boston a colony of thirty-eight persons,* which landed at Sierra Leone,
and might have resulted in something permanent and valuable but for the
death of Cuffe in the following year, and the exclusion of American vessels
from British colonies. The next year the Colonization Society began its work.
The first important movement of the Colonization Society was to send out, on
borrowed money, Samuel J. Mills and Ebenezer Burgess to select a suitable
site for a colony. They sailed November 16, 1817, and arrived the 22d of the
following March. They passed down the coast some one hundred and twenty
miles to the island Sherbro, at the mouth of a river of the same name. Here
they found a small but prosperous colony under the direction of John Kizzel,
who had built a church on the island and was preaching to the people. Kizzel
had been carried from Africa when a child and sold as a slave in South Caro
lina, but had joined the British during the Revolutionary war, and at its close
had sailed from Nova Scotia with a company of colored people to reside in

The first ten years witnessed the struggles of a noble band of colored people,
who sought a new home on the edge of a continent given over to the idolatry
of the heathen. The funds of the Society were not as large as the nature and
scope of the work demanded. Emigrants went slowly, not averaging more
than 170 per annum only 1,232 in ten years: but the average from the first of
January, 1848, to the last of December, 1852, was 540 yearly ; and, in the single
year of 1853, 782 emigrants arrived at Monrovia. In 1855 the population of
Monrovia and Cape Palmas had reached about 8,000.

The Colonization Society found many eminent Negroes to help them and
Liberia was in its very foundation an example of Negro co-operation. One was
Lott Carey, who was born a slave in Virginia, about 1780. His father was a
Baptist. In 1804 Lott removed to Richmond, where he worked in a to-

*Arnett s Budgett, 1885-6, pp. 164-5.

46 Economic Co-operation Among Negro Americans

bacco factory and from all accounts was very profligate and wicked. In
1807, being converted, he joined the first Baptist Church, learned to read, made
rapid advancement as a scholar, and was shortly afterwards licensed to

After purchasing his family, in 1813, he organized, in 1815, the African Mis
sionary Society, the first missionary society in the county, and within five
years raised $700 for African missions.

ThatLott Carey was evidently a man of superior intellect and force of char
acter is to be evidenced from the fact that his reading took a wide range
from political economy, in Adam Smith s Wealth of Nations, to the voyage of
Captain Cook.

That he was a worker as well as a preacher is true, for when he decided to
go to Africa his employers offered to raise his salary from $800 to $1,000 a year.
Remember that this was over eighty years ago. Carey was not seduced by
such a flattering offer, for he was determined. His last sermon in the old First
Baptist Church in Richmond must have been exceedingly powerful, for it was
compared by an eye witness, a resident of another state, to the burning, elo
quent appeals of George Whitefield. Fancy him as he stands there in that
historic building ringing the changes on the word "freely," depicting the
willingness with which he was ready to give up his life for service in Africa.

He, as you may readily know, was the leader of the pioneer colony to Libe
ria, where he arrived even before the agent of the Colonization Society. In
his new home his abilities were recognized, for he was made vice governor
and became governor, in fact, while Governor Ashmun was absent from the
colony in this country. Carey did not allow his position to betray the cause
of his people, for he did not hesitate to expose the duplicity of the Coloniza
tion Society and even to defy their authority, it would seem, in the interests
of the people.

While casting cartridges to defend the colonists against the natives in 1828,
the accidental upsetting of a candle caused an explosion that resulted in his

Carey is described as a typical Negro, six feet in height, of massive and erect
frame, with the sinews of a Titan. He had a square face, keen eyes and a
grave countenance. His movements were measured; in short, he had all the
bearings and dignity of a prince of the blood. *

The first Negro college graduate also went to Liberia:
John Brown Russwurm was born in 1799 at Port Antonio in the island of
Jamaica of a Creole mother. When 8 years old he was put at school in Quebec.
His father meanwhile came to the United States and married in the District
of Maine. Mrs. Russwurm, true wife that she was, on learning the relation
ship, insisted that John Brown (as hitherto he had been called) should be sent
for and should thenceforth be one of the family. Through his own exertions,
with some help from others, he was at length enabled to enter college and to
complete the usual course. It should be remembered, to the credit of his fel
low students in Brunswick, that peculiar as his position was among them,
they were careful to avoid everything that might tend to make that position
unpleasant. From college he w r ent to New York and edited an abolition pa
per. This did not last long. He soon became interested in the colonization
cause, and engaged in the service of the society. In 1829 he went to x\frica as
superintendent of public schools in Liberia, and engaged in mercantile pur
suits in Monrovia. From 1830 to 1834 he acted as colonial secretary, superin-

* Cromwell, in The Negro Church.

Migration 47

tending at the same time and editing with decided ability the Liberia Herald.
In 1836 he was appointed Governor of the Maryland Colony at Cape Palmas,
and so continued until his death in 1851. With what fidelity and ability he
discharged the duties of this responsible post may be gathered from the fol
lowing remarks of Mr. Latrobe, at the time the president of the Maryland
Colonization Society. He was addressing the Board of Managers: "None

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Online LibraryW. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt) Du BoisEconomic co-operation among Negro Americans. Report of a social study made by Atlanta University under the patronage of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C. together with the proceedings of the 12th Conference for the Study of the Negro Problems, held at Atlanta University, on Tuesday, May t → online text (page 6 of 22)