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1910 Twelve Things The Negro Must Do For Himself
Original booklet reprint, circa 1910 | Topics #Equality and #EducationEquity
Core values topics - #Equalit and #EducationEquity.
The America Transformation Project uses vintage items collected over the last twenty years to drive conversation, return to fact-based history, and build the audience for social transformation.
The 12 Things The Negro Must Do for Himself and 12 Things White People Must Stop Doing for the Negro, circa 1910, were created by Nannie Helen Burroughs, an educator, orator, religious leader, civil rights activist, feminist, and businesswoman.
Original copies of 12 Things are impossible to find. I found an original copy in a box with other collectibles back in 2004.
It's a fascinating historical artifact. Nannie Helen Burroughs was a prominent figure in American history, contributing significantly to education, civil rights, and feminism.
Take the journey back to 1910 and read what Nannie had to say about race in America.
This original copy from 1910 is quite a rare find. Burroughs was known for her advocacy of self-help and empowerment within the African-American community. The booklet reflects her perspective on the roles and responsibilities of both black individuals and white people in addressing the challenges faced by African Americans during that time.
It’s important to gain insights into the prevailing attitudes and sentiments about race relations in America in 1910. Racial segregation and Jim Crow were the historical contexts that marked the period. (The question we should ask is—how much has changed?)
If you have specific questions or if there's something specific you'd like to discuss about the content of the booklet or Nannie Helen Burroughs' contributions, feel free to share and let our historians provide information and context.
This piece of history is included in the ‘History in Pieces’ puzzle series. It’s also up for auction as part of the American Transformation awareness and community-building process.
12 Things White People Must Stop Doing for the Negro
Stop penalizing Negroes for not being white. Color is not character. It is only a badge of distinction.
Stop making social excursions into the Negro race, depositing white offspring, and then crying out against social equality.
Stop fighting integration in public education in the daytime, and practicing social equality anytime they want to.
Stop teaching basic untruths about race.
Stop trying to disprove the Biblical and scientific fact that “God hath made of one blood all races of men to dwell on the face of the earth”.
Stop misinterpreting Genesis 9:19‐27. The Bible does not say that God cursed Ham. It says that “Noah cursed his son, Ham”. God did not even appear on the scene while Noah was drunk. Noah did the same kind of “running off at the mouth” that drunks usually do. Noah’s cursing and assigning his son to everlasting servitude was about as effective as would be the cursing and assignment to servitude, of any son by any father, today. God has never cursed any race. Man must STOP cursing and destroying any race under the pretext that he is only helping God carry out His plan and purpose.
Stop making unjust discriminatory laws, molding social sentiment against respect for human personality, building up customs, continuing outmoded attitudes in an effort to prove that the Negro is inferior. In any race, only those are inferior who does inferior things.
Stop putting all kinds of barriers in the way of the progress of the Negro race, and then declaring that America’s high purpose is to build “one nation indivisible, with LIBERTY and JUSTICE for ALL”.
Stop making laws to protect the legal and civil rights of all citizens and when the rights of the Negro are involved, allow white citizens to put themselves above the law and not only deny Negroes their legal rights but persecute and lynch them. Such acts express vicious race prejudice. Out of such acts and attitudes, America can never build a Christian democracy.
Stop using Negroes as political mudsills and stepping stones, to get whites in power, politically, and then deny Negroes full citizenship rights and equal opportunities, through education and employment, to secure their own rightful place in the labor world and enjoy full citizenship rights, responsibilities, rewards, and privileges.
Stop teaching race prejudice to children in order to perpetuate contempt for people who are not white and thus make segregation a permanent institution in a democracy.
Stop calling this land “Christian” and the government thereof a democracy. The fact is brotherhood and fellowship are not the practice in many American churches. In the majority of them, Negroes are only welcome or tolerated on specially arranged occasions, and this arrangement is not for long nor frequent. Most white Christian churches and organizations export their religion through missionaries. They do keep a spurious brand for home consumption. Americanism and the attitudes of most whites are intended to “keep the Negro in his place” – give him an inferior complex and do injury to his mind, spirit, and soul, and thus make him a second-class citizen.
The only hope and the redeeming factor in race relations in America are that there is and always has been an appreciable number of whites – and thank God, the number is increasing, in the North and in the South, who have been just, kind and generous.
Many white people are embarrassed, hurt, and often articulate in expressing themselves and are active against injustice. But compared with the total population that is active and articulate against justice to the Negro, this fair-minded number is small.
America could practice the teachings of Jesus Christ in human relations and brotherhood; justice and goodwill could be applied in education, labor, civil rights, and religion without making the white race any blacker or the black race any whiter.
12 Things the Negro Must Do for Himself
The Negro must learn to put first things first. The First Things Are Education; Development of Character Traits; A Trade and Home Ownership.
The Negro puts too much of his earning in clothes, in food, in a show, and in having what he calls “a good time.” Dr. Kelly Miller said, “The Negro buys what he wants and begs for what he needs.”
The Negro must stop expecting God and white folk to do for him, what he can do for himself.
It is the “Divine Plan” that the strong shall help the weak, but even God does not do for man what man can do for himself. The Negro will have to do exactly what Jesus told the man (in John 5:8) to do–Carry his own load–“Take up your bed and walk.”
The Negro must keep himself, his children, and his home clean and make the surroundings in which he lives comfortable and attractive.
He must learn to “run his community up”–not down. We can segregate by law, we integrate only by living. Civilization is not a matter of race, it is a matter of standards. Believe it or not–someday, some race is going to outdo the Anglo-Saxons, completely. It can be the Negro race if the Negro gets sense enough. Civilization goes up and down that way.
The Negro must learn to dress more appropriately for work and for leisure.
Knowing what to wear–how to wear it–when to wear it and where to wear it, are earmarks of common sense, culture, and also an index to character.
The negro must make his religion an everyday practice and not just a Sunday-go-to-meeting and emotional affair.
The Negro must highly resolve to wipe out mass ignorance.
The leaders of the race must teach and inspire the masses to become eager and determined to improve mentally, morally and spiritually, and to meet the basic requirements of good citizenship.
We should initiate an intensive literacy campaign in America, as well as in Africa. Ignorance–satisfied ignorance–is a millstone about the neck of the race. It is democracy’s greatest burden.
Social integration is a relationship attained as a result of the cultivation of kindred social ideals, interests, and standards.
The Negro must stop charging his failures up to his “color” and to white people’s attitude.
The truth of the matter is that good service and conduct will make senseless race prejudice fade like mist before the rising sun.
God never intended that a man’s color shall be anything other than a badge of distinction. It is high time that all races were learning that fact. The Negro must first QUALIFY for whatever position he wants. Purpose, initiative, ingenuity, and industry are the keys that all men use to get what they want. The Negro will have to do the same. He must make himself a workman who is too skilled not to be wanted, and too DEPENDABLE not to be on the job, according to promise or plan. He will never become a vital factor in industry until he learns to put into his work the vitalizing force of initiative, skill, and dependability. He has gone “RIGHTS” mad and “DUTY” dumb.
The Negro must overcome his bad job habits.
He must make a brand new reputation for himself in the world of labor. His bad job habits are absenteeism, funerals to attend, or a little business to look after. The Negro runs an off-and-on business. He also has a bad reputation for conduct on the job–such as petty quarreling with other help, incessant loud talking about nothing; loafing, carelessness, due to lack of job pride; insolence, gum chewing, and–too often–liquor drinking. Just plain bad job habits!
Taken as a whole, he is entirely too loud and too ill-mannered. There is much talk about wiping out racial segregation and also much talk about achieving integration. Segregation is a physical arrangement by which people are separated in various services.
It is definitely up to the Negro to wipe out the apparent justification or excuse for segregation. The only effective way to do it is to clean up and keep clean. By practice, cleanliness will become a habit and habit will become the character.
The Negro must learn how to operate a business for people–not for negro people, only.
To do business, he will have to remove all typical “earmarks,” business principles; measure up to accepted standards, and meet stimulating competition, graciously–in fact, he must learn to welcome competition.
The average so-called educated Negro will have to come down out of the air. He is too inflated over nothing. He needs an experience similar to the one that Ezekiel had (Ezekiel 3:14-19). And he must do what Ezekiel did
Otherwise, through indifference, as to the plight of the masses, the Negro, who thinks that he has escaped, will lose his own soul. It will do all leaders good to read Hebrew 13:3, and the first Thirty-seven Chapters of Ezekiel.
A race transformation itself through its own leaders and its sensible “common people.” A race rises on its own wings or is held down by its own weight. True leaders are never “things apart from the people.” They are the masses. They simply got to the front ahead of them. Their only business at the front is to inspire to masses by hard work and noble example and challenge them to “Come on!” Dante stated a fact when he said, “Show the people the light and they will find the way!”
There must arise within the Negro race a leadership that is not out hunting bargains for itself. A noble example is found in the men and women of the Negro race, who, in the early days, laid down their lives for the people. Their invaluable contributions have not been appraised by the “latter-day leaders.” In many cases, their names would never be recorded, among the unsung heroes of the world, but for the fact that white friends have written them there.
“Lord, God of Hosts, Be with us yet.”
The Negro of today does not realize that, but, for these exhibits A’s, that certainly show the innate possibilities of members of their own race, white people would not have been moved to make such princely investments in lives and money, as they have made, for the establishment of schools and for the on-going of the race.
The Negro Must Stop Forgetting His Friends. “Remember.”
Read Deuteronomy 24:18. Deuteronomy rings the big bell of gratitude. Why? Because an ingrate is an abomination in the sight of God. God is constantly telling us that “I the Lord thy God delivered you”–through human instrumentalities.
The American Negro has had and still has friends–in the North and in the South. These friends not only pray, speak, write, influence others, but make unbelievable, unpublished sacrifices and contributions for the advancement of the race–for their brothers in bonds.
The noblest thing that the Negro can do is to so live and labor that these benefactors will not have given in vain. The Negro must make his heart warm with gratitude, his lips sweet with thanks and his heart and mind resolute with purpose to justify the sacrifices and stand on his feet and go forward–“God is no respecter of persons. In every nation, he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is” sure to win out. Get to work! That’s the answer to everything that hurts us. We talk too much about nothing instead of redeeming the time by working.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nannie Helen Burroughs was born in Orange, Virginia on May 2, 1879. She attended school in Washington, D.C., and then moved to Kentucky where she attended Eckstein-Norton University and eventually received an honorary M.A. degree in 1907.
Burroughs opened the National Training School in 1908. During the first 40 years of the 20th century, young African-American women were being prepared by the National Training School to "uplift the race" and obtain a livelihood. The emphasis of the school was "the three B's: the Bible, the bath, and the broom".