Viewing page 11 of 16
It looks like you're using a mobile device. We recommend using a physical keyboard for transcription entry.
OCTOBER, 1860. DOUGLASS' MONTHLY. 347 [[line]] [[column1]] [From the Philadelphia Press.] THE COLORED PEOPLE OF PHILADELPHIA. [[line] OBSERVATIONS UPON THEIR SOCIAL CONDITION-WALKS WITH THE DEGRADED-VISITS TO THE EDUCATED AND INTELLIGENT-THEIR NUMBERS, WEALTH, HABITS, REFINEMENT, AND DIFFICULTIES. The question of the abstract right or wrong of African slavery has received so much attention during late years, that topics of more practical philanthropy have been but lightly discussed. The moral and social effects of bondage upon the negro might profitably give place to another inquiry - viz: His condition in a state of freedom. If the negro be less happy in freedom than in servitude, it will be useless to agitate the question of his emancipation. A review of the social condition of the colored population, in any one of the large Northern cities, may do something toward determining the capacity of the race for improvement. We have singled outour own city for this purpose, and in some moments stolen from more pressing reportorial duties, have made impartial observations of 'life among the lowly.' EMBARRASSING NATURE OF THE INQUIRY. What we may state is liable to be variedly misconstrued. The courteous treatment which we have received at the hands of some colored men may make the delicate revelations of our visits among them appear like ingratitude. On the other side, there are those who hear with dislike any extenuating statements of the free colored man's condition, who have no feelings of sympathy with his social struggles, and had rather find him degraded and unhappy than civilized and aspiring. For the latter class we have no scruples and little regard. We write for those who will deplore his wretchedness and encourage his advancement; for if, with faculties and a will to learn, the free negro be still degraded, the stain and the shadow of his sensuality fall upon his white neighbors. STATISTICS OF COLORED PHILADELPHIANS. Of the seventy-odd thousand free colored people of Pennsylvania probably twenty thousand reside here. We have a larger colored element than any other of the great Northern cities. The condition of our colored classes is supposed to be inferior only to those [[of?]] New Bedford, Cleveland, and some other Eastern towns. Some quarters of this city are populated to a large extent by the lower order of blacks. But a portion of the town is inhabited by an intelligent class, who have accumulated money, and are respected by their white neighbors. The free blacks of Philadelphia owned, by census of 1850,$800,000 of property, divided among 19,000 persons. By some statistics which were published a few years since, there were 4,019 families of colored people, of whom 241 were living in their own houses. Of these there were about 5,000 able bodied men over 21–of whom 1,581 were laborers, 256 mechanics, 240 mariners, 166 shopkeepers, 276 coachmen and carters, 557 waiters, 156 hair-dressers. The present colored population of the city is from 20,000 to 25,000. They own property to the amount of nearly $3,000,000 and have churches and schools valued at from $400,000 to $500,000. The great majority of negroes are poor – They seldom inherit money; many of them come to the city direct from slavery, destitute of capital wherewith to make business beginnings, and without education. It cannot be expected that men of this race – who are said, by certain statesmen, to be, in their best estate, mere animals – should struggle suddenly on to fortune. That many of them have made money and advanced themselves socially,is miraculous; for, be it said to the shame of our people, a free colored man has more powerful disadvantages with which to contend in the free States than in the slave. THE COLORED MAN'S DISADVANTAGES. Philadelphia is the only Northern city, we [[/column 1] [[column 2]] believe, in which public conveyances are forbidden to the black man. On the suburban or rural railroads, a small portion of the smoking car is partitioned off to the negro, and he has no other resort. Bundled with his wife into that foul apartment, in hearing of brutal jests, liable to insult, he must feel, if he have any feelings, the hopelessness of his degradation. The city passenger railways refuse, as a general thing, to carry colored passengers. We know of several cases where colored men, who are stockholders in certain railways, have been forbidden to ride to the railway terminus to collect the dividends upon their shares. A few days ago, we noticed a neatly-dressed mulatto woman, who took a seat with her child in a Frankford car. – Sneers and jests at once passed from passenger to passenger. Two or three delicate parties shifted their seats, so as to be removed from the proscribed woman. She sat unmoved amid these insults, for they had probably become to her ordinary occurrences. – When the conductor came to collect fares, she was refused an exchange ticket. People of her color could not pass over the city section of the road. She was politely put out of the car at Second street, to wait in the rain for the one-horse conveyances. These difficulties in traveling necessitates focalization or centralization of the colored classes. An intelligent black man lately informed us that he owned a pleasant country residence in the northern suburbs, but that he could not occupy it, as it would be impossible to ride over the railways to and from his place of business. To this centralization most of the wretchedness remarked in St. Mary's, Bedford, Baker, and similar streets, is due. The denizens of these places, being laboring men, porters, barkeepers, etc., must be near the business center. Where the railways thrown open to them, they would scatter to various remote sections, where, at equally cheap rents, cleanliness and comfort might be secured. The prejudice against blacks extends to every class, and may be remarked in pleasure and in business. At theatres and concerts, lectures and churches, the negro is restricted to a remote gallery. In mechanical pursuits, if a colored apprentice or journeyman be employed, there is an immediate rebellion upon the part of the white laborers. It has been to us a matter of wonder how the black man masters any trade, studies for any profession, or learns anything of the arts. In only the dull, manual labors, has he a show of equitable competition. He is a hotel-waiter, a vender of peanuts and cakes, or a mere beast of burden. THE COLORED MAN'S ADVOCATES IN PHILADELPHIA. Those negroes of this city who pursue what may be called the higher mechanical branches, acquire the knowledge chiefly in the North and East. The principle of the colored academy of this city is from New Haven; most of the colored teachers are from Boston, and Providence and New York. – There are several bona-fide negro physicians in Southern Philadelphia. Some of these, we are told, managed to acquire odds and ends of medical science in our own medical colleges, but they perfect themselves in the East. Their clergymen are, as a class, conversant with theological differences, and some of them acute reasoners. There is not a colored lawyer in this city, that we have heard of. – There are two large African literary societies, one of them named after Benjamin Bannaker, and more than twenty beneficial organizations. They have fine Masonic, Odd Fellow, and Temperance Halls, lodges of every kind, several excellent private schools, and some half dozen public libraries. As caterers, the colored men are remarkably successful. We know of several who keep central saloons, fitted up in gorgeous style. One individual has a fine hotel at Florence Heights, and fine dining rooms in this city. A number are the owners of carriages and a span of blooded horses. The females are milliners, dressmakers, etc. They [[/column 2]] [[column 3]] frequently exhibit great tact in their respective trades. Those who look lightly upon the negro as of no practical value to Philadelphia society, are unwise, for he fulfills functions distasteful to most whites, and in certain departments, laborers with an aptness that whites could not supply. MUSICAL AFRICANS. The genius for music with which the negro seems endowed, and which breaks forth in rude ditties and melodies where he is rude and untaught, finds higher development in the Northern cities. Some colored vocalists and musicians of this city exhibit talent of a high order. There are numbers of Anglo-African musical societies, and among the more intelligent classes evenings are passed about the piano. Some of the musicians are adepts upon the guitar. Few of our readers have not some recollection of the famed 'Black Swan,' who gave concert some years ago and all the Northern and Western cities, accompanied by the colored 'Mario.' She is a resident of Philadelphia, and has amassed a handsome competence by her exhibitions. Elizabeth Greenfield was originally a slave in one of the Southwestern States. She was purchased or manumitted at an early age, where she at once exhibited much vocal capacity and flexibility. For some time she tutored herself, mastered the elements of music, and, attracting some attention from benevolent parties, was assisted in the prosecution of her studies. She has never been farther South than Baltimore, although she once received an offer of $1,200 first series of concerts in Charleston, S. C., which she declined. 'Mario,' her associate, keeps a clothing store in Second street, in this city. Both were highly commended on their travels. THE NEGRO IN CHURCH. About twenty African religious organizations and churches exist in this city. The Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian elements are most numerous. Each of these denominations has from three to ten churches. There is also one Episcopalian church, and, we believe, one Universalist. There are some three hundred colored Catholics in the city. They attend the churches of the whites. There are also a number of Freethinkers, of Millerites, of Spiritualists, and a great number of Friends. We have been favored with copies of sermons by several clergyman. They are not destitute of rational parts, although appealing generally to the feelings of the auditors. We are assured that of late years the colored congregations have grown less boisterous than of yore; their zeal, or fanaticism, or whatever it may be called, having been modified and subdued. The vicinities of Sixth and Lombard streets present, on Sunday mornings, very animated appearances. Folk of all shades of color saunter down the streets; beautiful quad room girls, perfumed, fashionably-dressed, dandy beaux, staid colored gentlemen, etc. GENERAL CONDITION. As a general thing, the negroes of this city are poor. Most of them, however, are economical, and their wealth probably doubles every year. One negro citizen has real and personal estate valued at $300,000; most of that he inherited. the moral character of the negro element varies with the varied social conditions of its several components. We hear of a few colored pickpockets, although there are many noted colored burglars. In our walks among them we have found a degree of taste, talent and industry surpassing our most sanguine expectations. We make public below some details of our visits among the colored people of the city. VISITS TO THE COLORED UPPER-TENDOM. Placing ourselves under the patronage of a well-known colored gentlemen, we were invited to pass an evening and sundry calls among his people. The night was set apart for this delicate task, and at an early hour we paused before the door of a cleanly dwelling, in South street near Eighth. A silver plate
Please note that the language and terminology used in this collection reflects the context and culture of the time of its creation, and may include culturally sensitive information. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution, but is available in its original form to facilitate research. For questions or comments regarding sensitive content, access, and use related to this collection, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.