A Remarkable Letter
Christian Recorder: February 14, 1889
In your issue of the 6th instant, I find an elaborate article entitled “The Negro Problem,” which article essays to solve in part this grave question about which so much has of late been said and written. The Negro question is no problem to me, nor has it been for years, nor will it be to anyone who examines it in the light of history and providence.
There is a God that runs this universe; nor are nations and people any exception. True, an infinite number of laws may harness up the mighty machinery, and serve as so many potencies in its mysterious and marvelous revolutions; but there is a God in the background nevertheless, and the rules in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. Slavery was a providential institution, not a divine institution; for had it been, it would have been as eternal as an attribute belonging to the Godhead. One is temporary and contingent, the other immutable and eternal. God was not asleep or oblivious to passing events. When the Negro was being captured, and brought to this country and subjected to a state of unrequired servitude, He knew the horrors of their past and present condition and foresaw the grand sequel which awaited the termination of their slave ordeal. God knew that the slave regime, although exceedingly pyrotechnical at times, was the most rapid transit from barbarism to Christian civilization for the Negro. Negro as I am, and being thoroughly acquainted with the characteristics of my race, I am frank to make this declaration, odd as it may seem to many. But what is to be the sequence of this thralldom, with all of its ills and evils, culminating in war, bloodshed, political bitterness, sectional strife, and the expenditures of money by the billions and race legislation?
The reason, the philosophy of history, the indications of Christianity, the signs of Providence, the gist of the Lord’s Prayer, and the scope of the atonement, all answer the question. They solve the Negro problem by proclaiming the betterment of the world in general, the redemption of Africa, and the addition of infinite resources to commerce, business and wealth. Men talk about evolution, but here is to be the evolution in its fullest grandeur. God intends that his degraded race, which has been dwarfed through ages of heathenism, shall imbibe your civilization with its religion, and when sufficiently sobered through generations of self-possession, return to Africa and bring its millions to Christ and heaven.
All will not return to the land of their ancestry. All the children of Israel did not leave Egypt---tens of thousands remained. But millions of the Negro race will return as soon as we are fit for self-government—I mean as soon as we are able to plant and manage civilized nations. God will never let the Negro leave this country until he can do as the Israelites could when they left Egypt. You will remember they could work in all kinds of metals, wood, fine fabrics, textures, and manufacture anything they needed. Nor will the Negro ever leave this country till he can manipulate every form of civilized trade, art, mechanism, civil government, churches, and whatever tends to form the bulwark civilized people. So there is but one solution of the Negro problem: Let the people, as God intends, help the Negro to general enlightenment and he will seek the land of his fathers as the heart [sic] seeketh the water-brook.
If the rich men of this country would only open their eyes and see what agencies they have in the Negro and would utilize him as they might, what untold wealth would pour into this nation! Africa is the richest continent under the canopy of heaven. Her natural resources are incalculable. England and other European countries keep 240 ships hugging her coasts the year round, pouring her wealth into their coffers; and this country could double the number by utilizing the Negro if it could just look beyond its prejudices and adjust itself to its possibilities. A line of steamers between Charleston, Savannah, New Orleans, or Wilmington, and Africa could, in a few years, be made to flood the South with unnumbered millions. The Negro as an agent might be made a thousand-fold more valuable to the South than he was as a slave, and at the same time more valuable to himself as a freeman. If England can keep her steamer lines running all the time, burdened with gold dust, ivory, coffee, cam-wood, palm oil and a thousand other things which bring wealth and give business to the world, why cannot this country, with millions of men at its disposal, adapted to the climate of Africa, and as faithful to their trust as any race in the world, do as much or more? If the Negro is a burden, a problem, a menace, and a source of vexation to our white friends, let them open up a highway to the land of his ancestry by a line of steamers, cheap transportation, and a little business thrown in, and the dark Negro problem will solve itself in few years. The white man brought him here and the white man must provide for his return.
The Negro problem will never be solved by abuse, vilification, magnifying his faults, cold-shouldering him, elbowing him to the right or left, commenting on his inferiority, or any species of proscription—that will only prolong the solution of the Negro problem. Let the man see and recognize the hand of God in the institution of slavery, and dispose of its remains as God directs, and endless blessings flow alike to white and black. The Christianized Negro will be a blessing to the millions of Africa, and the wealth of that giant continent will be a blessing to the white man. Slavery has been a dark providence, humanly speaking, but behind it, God hides a smiling face, if men will only see their duty and adjust themselves to it.