Contemplations: June 25, 1886


Christian Recorder: June 25, 1886

Mr. Editor: There are a vast amount of interviews I see going on through the country among white reporters and correspondents about the future of the negro. Every little white ass in the country has to be interviewed to tell that the negro is inferior to the white man. It is all the go South and I see the same infamous lightning has struck the North. The negro must be a mighty man when it takes the white people nearly three hundred years to find out his intellectual and moral status and reach the point of his inferiority. Well, well, well, some negro is inferior to some white man. Is he? How did they find it only? Who made the first discovery? What is the name of this great, renowned, famous, celebrated and marvelous wise fool? Who will give us the name and trace the lines of descent of such a consummate ass? But let us lay aside ridicule and come down to sober talk. It does appear that some of our white cousins will never tire trying to berate the colored man. 

Now let us grant for argument sake that the negro as a race is inferior to the buckra race (buckra means white in the Guinea language), then why resort to every species of meanness to keep him down? Let us suppose that the buckra really believes it, which I do not believe, then why will not one of them attack one of the inferiors? I have not known or heard of any instance in twenty years where one buckra man tried to attack one negro man by himself; he must always get a crowd first. They do not fear to meet a monkey or a coon, or any domestic animal, on equal terms and fair chances; it is only the inferior negro. If the negro is so inferior why did that rotten conclave in Washington, called United States Supreme Court, have to rob him of his legal rights to keep him down? But then it is not necessary to continue in this strain; every act of the buckra race towards the negro contradicts their own declarations. The logic of their conduct falsifies their expressions. I am not contending that the negro knows half as much as the buckra and is performing half the feats in the great scale of civilization and intellectual progress, but is that what they mean by inferiority? Will anyone dare to hazard his reputation for intelligence by claiming all the buckra children in the land inferiors because they are not the equals in culture as their fathers and mothers? Because they have not accomplished as much in science, philosophy, art, discovery and war? If that is their line of reaching inferiority I have no more to say; I am done with it; but, if they mean to intercept the future of the negro, and say that he is devoid of the reserve force to develop into equal intelligences, learning, oratory, statesmanship, commerce, and all that make up a great civilization. 

I am prepared to say such talk is the jargon of a madman. The real black man, as I see him, has a reserve force in store that no race under heaven has. He is strictly the child of the future. The Indian represents the past, the buckra the present and the Negro the future. History informs us that races are periodical; they revolve like a wheel, and the negro is both evolving and revolving toward future grandeur. The negro’s power of endurance and fitness to survive has been tested as possibly never before in the history of the world. Look at the ordeal of his enslavement, note his experience as a freedman, philosophize upon his introduction to freedom, see him all over the country working beside the buckra, doing as much, and more, when hard work is involved, and yet receiving from one-third to a half less in daily wages. If the negro can live under more trying circumstances, endure more and hold up and prosper under it better, I would like to know if there is not more of him. Well, in size we know, there is no more, for buckra men are as large as negro men; therefore there must be something in texture, in the fabric out of which the body is woven.

I have been attending, occasionally, a great revival which has been going on among our white friends, or I should have said our buckra friends, where from three to four thousand persons were in regular attendance. One thing particularly struck my attention, which was the order that prevailed throughout its proceedings. Now what was the secret of that order? It was the recognition of one man as the leader and manager. Ministers, eminent, learned and famous, sat there by the dozen, and when one was managing the others never opened their mouths, never injected a word, never jumped in ahead of one thing. I wish the writer could be treated in the same way sometimes when he is trying to bring sinners to God. If there is anything that is annoying, it is to be calling persons forward for prayer, or even for a collection, and to have a dozen mouths all squalling at the same time. I don’t care if they are ministers, they invariably kill the spirit, turn the meeting into a bedlam and end it in a farce. I never see or hear two, three or a half dozen preachers bellowing at the same congregation but what I think the people must regard them crazy. I do, I am sure. One man is enough to talk to any congregation at a time, or lead a meeting, or give direction, or suggest a song. Let this hint suffice, so far as I am concerned, at all events.

I also attended a quarterly meeting, where a presiding elder gave out the notice, preached, opened the doors of the church, took three persons in, invited several persons up for prayer and only called upon the poor pastor to offer one prayer, which he did with great power, I confess. This was in one of the most wealthy churches of the M. E. Church, South, and the pastor was a learned D. D., and the presiding elder was not; and worse than all, the pastor sat in the altar, while the presiding elder took charge of his pulpit. Why brother Kershaw did not walk in and pull that presiding elder out of the pulpit restore the pastor is question for future ages.

To use the blunt language of Robert Toombs, it appears that the bottom has been kicked out of hell at last. I think the gentlemen (I hesitate to call them divines) who have recently translated the Bible have done a trifling piece of work. I became disgusted with the new version of the New Testament when I discovered they had struck out the doxology of the Lord’s prayer, and left the Greek term hades, not translated. I thought then, as I do now, that they had as much right to turn that word into English as any other in the Bible. Now, here comes the Old Testament with “sheol” instead of hell, a Hebrew term not translated. Where are we now, if this new version is to be in any ecclesiastical sense recognized? One preacher will be haranguing his people here to repent and come to God, otherwise they will all be turned into sheol. Another one, across the street, will be pleading to escape the damnation of hades; and still another around the corner will be warning his people about the danger of ending their career in hell. Up to the present we have had only two places pointed out for our future existence; now we have four, heaven, sheol, hades and hell. The question arises, to which will we go? Thus confusion and endless wrangle is to be the order. The books that will be written, the discussions and arguments that will follow these non-translated terms in the future, will literally be immense; hours, days, weeks and months that ought to be devoted to prayer and work for heaven will be consumed in wild and senseless babble over these terms. Men and women by the millions will be confused and thrown in the labyrinth of doubt…….The translations have been very careful, however, not to leave the Hebrew and Greek terms for heaven untranslated; they are just as different as those implying hell and should have been left untouched if they did not intend to translate the others. It was as easy to give heaven three names as hell, for the word heaven neither occurs in the Hebrew or Greek language. What could have been their object for pretending to have such scrupulosities over hell and none about heaven? Is a solemn question. While it will have no evil effect upon scholars, it will be attended with direful results among the ignorant, or rather the illiterate, masses. Several of these would-be Smarties will be pretending that a wonderful discovery has been made, and that the doctrine of future punishment is a myth not supported by the word of God. I can predict very easily, however, what will be the career of this new translation; it will die before its translators do. It will scarcely be a bubble upon the waters of the Christian Church after a few years. The old Bible, which has been the guide of millions for hundreds of years, will go on as usual, and generations unborn will feed of her bounties. I would not be understood as not favoring a more perfect translation. My limited knowledge of both Hebrew and Greek has long since made me desire such results, but I am not satisfied with the new attempt. It is not an improvement, it is simply calculated to injure the cause of Christ by unsettling the minds of thousands who might be saved. Yet, in point of scholarship, the new translation is a rare production.

A few weeks ago I attended a meeting in one of the first churches of the land, and what should arrest my attention but a supreme judge standing up there leading the choir. I whispered to a gentleman and asked what that meant, Judge _______ beating time at the head of that choir. “Oh,” he replied, “he is the leader of it.” As this was the first instance in which I saw such a sight, I have renewed my faith in the coming millennium. Of course he was not a United States supreme judge, such Christian lightning will not strike that crowd until they pass through sheol and hades. As I see that the theory is being advanced lately that hell is a reformatory school, I suppose they mean in this wise: Sheol, primary department; hades, normal; and hell the collegiate. I can guess where the Supreme Court will graduate if this theory ever should turn out to be true.