Viewing page 7 of 27

116                  THE CRISIS

CENSORSHIP   

By the Late Inez Milholland

When there is a question of good and bad involved, I am most distinctly opposed to suppressing the bad as a means of establishing the good. I would let them flourish side by side, certain that the really good would, in the end, prevail and outlive the bad, and certain likewise that, given freedom of reflection, all people would eventually repudiate the bad in favor of the good. Why? Because that would be in accord with the fundamental instinct of self-preservation since what is good for the individual organism is good for the race, and the good of the race is the sum total of all morality that we know anything about.

Let evil flourish unsuppressed by all means. If it is really evil it will kill itself by the very poison it distils. The best that we can do is to put up a danger sign for those who are inclined in its direction, warning them of its harmful properties. If we hide the thing away people are apt to come upon it unaware of its power for injury and it may kill.

To suppress evil is to drive it underground, not to exterminate it. Incidentally, underground is about the only place where it can take root and flourish. "But," protest those who are for suppressing the "Birth of a Nation," do you mean to say that you would permit a falsification and perjury of this kind to continue?" Yes, I would--that and much more noxious things than that, and I would permit anything that anyone chose to produce. "But, Heavens! on what theory?" This: (1) That it is difficult, if not impossible, to counteract the effect of a secretly acquired evil, whether it be a disease, an idea, or a poison: whereas the evil that is known is more easy to combat. (2) That nothing so reinforces an evil thing (or a good thing either for that matter) like any attempt to suppress it. (3) That it is a supreme right of every individual to judge for himself and not to have the judgment of any group or any individual thrust upon him, no matter how wise or good that group or individual may be. (4) That only by such independence of judgment may judgment be trained and developed and the training of individuals in judgment and everything else is, I take it, what we are here for.  (5) That such training of individuals to make use of their own independent processes is worth ten thousand times more than any spoon-fed system of seemly conduct that it is possible to conceive.

[[image]]
THE LATE INEZ MILHOLLAND

But to "let evil flourish" by no means ends the responsibility of the lover of individual liberty. He must proceed to set up fine standards, worthy standards with which to contrast the evil, so that the public may have the opportunities for comparison and selection.  Without such opportunities they inevitably absorb the only thing at hand, which happens to be evil. Your liberty lover must take pains, too, to point out the falsities and dangers of the evil thing, and its consequences. All that education is able to give in the way of protection from evil he must give. The only instrument he may not touch is the instrument of the lazy man--suppression.

In the case of "The Birth of a Nation," the thing for those of us to do who consider it a libel and a forgery, is to say so, and to publish all the facts in our possession.  

I protest against "The Birth of a Nation" as vigorously as my neighbor. I find it historically false, untrue to life, bad art, melodramatic, and meretricious, caddish, dull, and exaggerated, but I would not suppress 


MAMMY   117

it for all that, just because it does not happen to suit my taste or morals. I would try, rather, to extend my taste and morals to as many people as possible in the hope that next year a production of this sort will be aesthetically and ethically impossible to a more dramatically educated public. Melodrama on the stage has vanished. Why not melodrama in the movies? False as it is to history, life, and drama the film cannot do much harm; not half as much as any attempt to suppress it would do to liberty and freedom of thought. The Negroes need not be disturbed except by the snobbish attempt to picture them as ignoble in every capacity except that of servant.

On the other hand and as a final argument in favor of non-suppression, a discussion of the Negro problem has been precipitated which has done untold good as all discussions do. Points of view have been crystallized, prejudices cleared away and the issues between the Negro's friends and his enemies made clear. Those who have faith in the Negro race and its capacities know better the reasons for their faith; while the belittlers of the Negro have had a stamp given to their opposition which shows its true colors. We all know now where we are at, at heart.

From the friction engendered, from the clash of view point more light will come - an infinitely better thing than any negative and apathetic attitude could produce.

MAMMY
[[italicized]] A Story [[/italicized]]
[[image]] By ADELINE F. RIES [[image]]
MAMMY'S heart felt heavy indeed when (the time was not two years past) marriage had borne Shiela, her "white baby," away from the Governor's plantation to the coast. But as the months passed, the old colored nurse became accustomed to the change, until hte great joy brought by the news that Shiela had a son, made her reconciliation complete. Besides, had there not always been Lucy, Mammy's own "black baby," to comfort her?
Yes, up to that day there had always been Lucy; but on that very day the Negress had been sold-sold like common household ware!-and (the irony or it chilled poor Mammy's leaden heart)-she had been sold to Shiela as nurse to the baby whose birth, but four days earlier had caused Mammy so much rejoicing. The poor slave could not believe that it was true, and as she buried her head deeper into the pillows, she prayed that she might wake to find it all a dream. 

But a reality it proved and a reality which she dared not attempt to change. For despite the Governor's customary kindness, she knew from experience, that any interference on her part would but result in serious flogging. One morning each week she would go to his study and he would tell her the news from the coast and then with a kindly smile dismiss her.

So for about a year, Mammy feasted her hungering soul with these meagre scraps of news, until one morning, contrary to his wont, the Governor rose as she entered the room, and he bade her sit in a chair close to his own. Placing one of his white hands over her knotted brown ones, he read aloud the letter he held in his other hand: "Dear Father:-

"I can hardly write the sad news and can, therefore, fully appreciate how difficult it will be for you to deliver it verbally. Lucy was found lying on the nursery floor yesterday, dead. The physician whom I immediately summoned pronounced her death a case of heart-failure. Break it gently to my dear old mammy, father, and tell her too, that the coach, should she wish to come here before the burial, is at her disposal. "Your daughter,

"SHIELA."

While he read, the Governor unconsciously nerved himself to a violent outburst of grief, but none came. Instead, as he finished, Mammy rose, curtsied, and made as it to withdraw. At the door she turned back and requested the coach, "if it weren't asking too much," and then left the room. She did not return to her cabin; simply stood at the edge of the road until the coach with its horses and driver drew up, and then she entered. From that time and until
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 transcribe@si.edu.