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Note: This article was published in 1911, and is retained in the online edition for historical reasons only.
The term negro, derived from the Spanish and the Latin words meaning "black" (negro; niger), may be applied to a large portion of mankind, but it is more strictly confined to certain peoples and tribes of Central Africa and their descendants in various parts of the world. The Bluemback fivefold division of mankind considers the negro in the first place under Ethiopian, embracing the Kafir, Hottentot, Australian, Alforian, and Oceanic negroes. Pritchard and Latham rightly protest against the error of considering the term negro synonymous with African. There are dark-skinned people of various types throughout the tropical countries of the world. The negro properly so called is dark-skinned, with wooly hair and other characteristics, while differing in minor traits. It is a mistake to hold, as some do, that all negroes have common traits. Professor Jerome Dowd, a Southern white man, declares that "to speak of all negroes in Africa as one race having common characteristics, is as misleading and is as unscientific as if we should consider all Europeans and Americans as of one race and attribute to all of them the same traits." Observations and the records of the African continent go to show that it is not necessarily the races with the blackest skins that are lowest in the scale of civilization. The negro is originally a native of the Sudan and other parts of West and Central Africa, where there is now  a population of about 128,000,000 blacks. In the West Indies, South America, and the United States they are the descendants of Africans, though in the United States those of mixed blood, the mulattoes, and even those with a preponderance of white blood are classed as negroes.
The origin of the negro race dates from the formation of races in the twilight of human history. Like the origin of the human race in general, it is a subject for anthropologists and theologians. The ethnological aspects of the question are many and varied. The original African is said to be the Bushman, who is rather brown than black; the negro, the real black man, probably came from other regions. This, however, must have occurred at a remote period. The chief divisions of the native population of Africa are the negro, or black, the Bushman, and the Bantu, or mixed, races, generally brown in colour, who invaded South Africa, driving out the original Bushman. But centuries of slavery have so broken and intermingled the different stocks that it is difficult to find the negro without any mixture of foreign blood.
The history of the black man in America, with which this article is more especially concerned, begins with the African slave-trade. Under the compulsion and rod of the slave-master the negro became part of the population of the New World. The negro slavery of modern times followed the discovery of America. The Portuguese, who possessed a large part of the west African coast, began the employment of negroes as slaves, in which they were followed by others colonizing the new World. The first country in the New World to which negroes were extensively brought was Haiti, or Hispaniola. The aboriginal race had at first been employed in the mines there, but this kind of labour was found so fatal to them that Las Casas, Bishop of Chiapa, the celebrated protector of the Indians, although at a later period he disapproved of slavery, urged Charles V to substitute African slaves as a stronger race. Accordingly, the emperor, in 1517, authorized a large importation of negroes. Sir John Hawkins was the first Englishman who engaged in the traffic. Others of his countrymen soon followed his example on an extensive scale. England is said to have taken, between 1680 and 1700, no fewer than 300,000 slaves from Africa, and between 1700 and 1786 Jamaica alone absorbed 610,000. A Dutch ship brought from the Guinea Coast to Jamestown, Virginia, a cargo of twenty negroes in 1620; this was the beginning of slavery in the English colonies of America. An English company obtained the monopoly of supplying negro slaves to the Spanish colonies for thirty years; the contract was annulled by Spain in 1739, and England thereupon declared war on Spain. The number of slaves annually exported from Africa amounted, at the end of the eighteenth century to 74,000. Between 1680 and 1786 there were 2,130,000 negro slaves brought into the British colonies of America, including the West Indies. Altogether it is estimated that probably 12,000,000 slaves were landed in North and South America from the beginning to the end of the slave-trade. An equal number is supposed to have perished in the African slave raids and on their way to America. The slave-trade was usually attended with extreme cruelty; the ships which transported the slaves from Africa to America were overcrowded to such an extent that a large proportion died on the passage. The treatment of the slave after his arrival depended much on the character of his master; restraints, however, were imposed by law in the various settlements to protect slaves from injury.
Early in the seventeenth century Cartagena, in Colombia, was a noted slave market. This was the field of labour of St. Peter Claver, of the Society of Jesus, the apostle of the negroes. As many as twelve thousand slaves were landed annually at Cartagena. They were usually in a wretched condition, and the saint sought to alleviate their hardships and sufferings. In time a strong Christian sentiment asserted itself against the traffic. In Catholic times in Europe and the East, under the benign influence of the Catholic Church, the nations gradually emancipated the slaves. From the beginning of the Africa slave-trade the popes, from Pius II, in the fifteenth century, to Leo XIII, in the nineteenth, issued encyclicals and directed anathemas against the barbarous and inhuman treatment of human beings in slavery. The traffic and its cruelties were condemned by the Holy See before the discovery of America. In America the Friends, or Quakers, of Pennsylvania, in 1776, required their members holding slaves to emancipate them. Abolition societies were formed to discourage and oppose the slave-trade. On a great increase in the traffic, action was taken by the British Government and further importation of slaves into the colonies was prohibited in 1805. The United States prohibited the importation of slaves from Africa in 1808, though to some extent slaves continued to be brought into the country secretly and unlawfully up to the emancipation of the slaves during the Civil War. The importation of slaves was likewise forbidden in the South American republics. Eventually, all the states of Europe passed laws or entered into treaties prohibiting the traffic.
The next thing was the total abolition of slavery and the emancipation of slaves. This was brought about in the British colonies in 1834. The French emancipated their negroes in 1848. In Haiti slavery ceased as far back as 1791; its abolition was one of the results of the negro insurrection of that year. Many of the Spanish-American states abolished slavery on declaring their independence; the others have since that time abolished the institution. Brazil passed a law of gradual emancipation in 1871. Pope Leo XIII, in 1888, wrote to the bishops of Brazil setting forth the position of the Church on slavery: he condemned the cruelties of the slave-trade and commended the abolition of slavery. In the United States slavery was firmly established at the time of the Declaration of Independence and was recognized by the Constitution, ratified in 1788. There were then several hundred thousand slaves in the republic. Slavery declined in the Northern states, but not in the South, where negro labour was required for the cultivation of sugar and cotton. The diversity of feeling and interest between the North and South on the question of slavery brought about the Civil War. Negro slavery was then brought to an end in the United States when, in the interest of the Union and as a military measure, President Lincoln issued his Proclamation of Emancipation (1 January, 1863).
Since acquiring freedom the negro has increased in numbers and advanced in a material way. Discrimination, prejudice, and fierce criticism have spurred on the more ambitious and more respectable class among them to acquire education and property. In less than forty years of freedom, up to the year 1900, the number of blacks that could read and write rose from 5 to 55 percent. The rate of increase of the negro population is estimated by the United States Census authorities to be about 15 percent for the ten years preceding the Census of 1900. The Census Reports for 1900 give 8,833,994 negroes for the Continental United States. There are also 363,742 persons of pure or mixed negro blood under United States jurisdiction in Porto Rico. The Census statistics for 1910 in relation to the various races are not as yet available, but by using the normal percentage of increase, we may estimate the approximate figures for that year, placing the present negro population of the Continental United States at 10,158,092. The census of mulattoes or those of mixed blood of varying degree was taken in the years 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1890. While this enumeration is acknowledged to be very subject to error, some general results have been obtained. The indications are that from 11 to 16 percent of those classed as negroes have some degree of white blood. The figures warrant the belief that between one-sixth and one-ninth of the negro population of the Continental United States have been regarded by four groups of enumerators as bearing evidence of an admixture of white blood. In the South negroes form about one-third of the population. In 1900 three-tenths of the entire negro population of the country were living in the adjoining states of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. These, together with the adjacent Atlantic-Coast states (Virginia, North, and South Carolina) and the Gulf states (Louisiana and Texas), had then each over half a million negroes. In 1900 the negro population was distributed by states as follows:
South Carolina 782,321
North Carolina 624,469
New York 99,232
District of Columbia 86,702
New Jersey 69,844
The remaining states had less than 50,000 each, making up the total of 8,833,994.
The Census Reports show that negro agricultural labourers, farmers, planters, and overseers, unclassified labourers, servants, waiters, launderers, and laundresses constituted 83.6 percent, or about five-sixths, of the negroes in all wage-earning occupations in the Continental United States. The same documents also show that 27 occupations included 95.4 percent, or over nineteen-twentieths, of all negroes in wage-earning occupations. More than three-fourths (77.3 per cent) of the negroes live in the country. In 1900 there were in the United State 746,717 farms operated by negroes. These farms covered 38,233,933 acres, valued at $499,943,734. Of the 746,717 farms operated by negroes 21 percent were owned entirely, and an additional 4.2 percent owned in part, by the farmers operating them; in other words, forty years after emancipation 25.2 percent, or about one-fourth, of all negro farmers had become land owners. The value of all taxable property now owned by the coloured people in the United States is estimated at $550,000,000.
Statistical summaries which are available from 16 former slave states give for 1908-9 in the common schools for coloured children an average daily attendance of 1,116,811. In these schools are employed 30,334 coloured teachers. There are 141 public high school for the coloured race with 10,935 pupils and 473 teachers. The governmental education report for 1910 also gives statistics of 189 secondary and higher schools, colleges, industrial schools, etc., for coloured students (excluding public high schools). These schools are usually under the control of various religious denominations. Some are controlled by private corporations and are classed non-sectarian. The list is admitted to be incomplete. Only two Catholic schools are given in the list, namely, St. Joseph's Industrial School, Clayton, Delaware, and St. Francis's Academy, Baltimore, Maryland. There are, besides these, two other Catholic boarding schools for coloured boys, one at Rock Castle, Virginia, the other at Montgomery, Alabama, besides the Van de Vyer College, at Richmond, Virginia, and others. There are also several Catholic boarding schools for coloured girls where academic and industrial branches are taught. The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament have institutes at Rock Castle, Virginia, Nashville, Tenn., and Cornwells, Pennsylvania. The coloured Oblate Sisters, of Baltimore, and the Holy Family Sisters, of New Orleans, have each several boarding institutions. The Catholic day schools for coloured children number about one hundred. No education is given in the South except in separate schools.
Many of the schools described in the Government report of non- public high schools are termed normal and industrial schools and institutes. Others are termed missionary colleges. They are supported largely by the religious denominations of the North. Considerable income is also derived from tuition fees and private subscriptions. Generous allotments are also received by the non- Catholic institutes from educational funds established for freedmen by Northern philanthropists, such as the Peabody Fund, the John F. Slater Fund of New York. The John F. Slater Fund alone disbursed $72,950 (about £14,590) to various coloured institutes throughout the South in 1909-10. The so-called non-sectarian colleges receive also state and municipal aid. In 1868 Samuel Chapman Armstrong, a celebrated friend of the negro, founded Hampton Institute of Virginia for the education of negroes and Indians. At the present writing (1911) Hampton Normal and Industrial Institute has 1374 students, male and female, with 112 white and coloured teachers. Hampton has been the inspiration of an extensive system of similar educational and industrial institutes for the coloured race throughout the South. The most noted offspring of Hampton is Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, Tuskegee, Alabama, which now has 1698 students, 1137 of them male, and 561 female. There are 185 instructors, all coloured. The property of the institute is valued at $1,278,635 (£255,727). It has a large endowment, which is being increased. The total income of the school for 1909- 10 was $258,940.
The negro has a religious nature. His docile, cheerful, and emotional disposition is much influenced by his immediate environment, whether those surroundings be good or evil. Catholic faith and discipline are known to have a wholesome effect on the race. Observing men and judges of courts have remarked on the law-abiding spirit existing in Catholic coloured communities. Some elements of the white man's civilization do not always tend to elevate the morality of the negro. The negro is naturally gregarious, and the dissipations and conditions of city life in many instances corrupt the native simplicity of the younger generation to the sorrow of their more conservative elders. (For a view of religion in these later times among the blacks in the native African home of the race, see AFRICA.) Contrary to a prevalent opinion, the negro, when well grounded in the Catholic faith, is tenacious of it.
In the United States the negroes and their descendants naturally adopted more or less the religion of their masters or former owners. Thus it comes that, outside of Maryland and the Gulf Coast, in a large section of the South comprising former slave states and colonized by English Protestants, the negroes who claim affiliation to any Church are for the most part Baptists and Methodists. Catholics and the Catholic faith were entirely unknown to the negroes in those states. In colonial times the religion of Catholics and the religion of negroes were regarded with equal disfavor, the latter being considered non-Christian. Under the law of Virginia as it was in 1705, Catholics, Indians, and negro slaves were denied the right to appear "as witnesses in any case whatsoever, not being Christians". The negro Methodists comprise those who are in a manner affiliated to the white Methodists, as also those who form independent bodies having no connection with the white bodies. The three more important organizations of coloured Methodists are the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and the Coloured Methodist Episcopal Church. These bodies claim together 869,710 members. With other African Methodists the total number of coloured Methodists is probably nearly 1,500,000, with 13,000 churches. The greater number of coloured Protestants are Baptists. After the manner of the Baptist sect, the Baptist congregations are independent of each other. However, according to statistics given for 1908, there are eighty-nine state organizations and six hundred district associations with 18,307 organized negro Baptist churches and 17,088 ordained preachers in the United States. The entire number of coloured Baptists is given as 2,330,535. The number of negroes adhering to other Protestant sects is comparatively insignificant. Taken together there are probably about 4,000,000 negroes who profess Protestantism in the United States. There are probably about 200,000 coloured Catholics, which leaves over 5,000,000 who profess no Christianity. Remembering that some of the Baptist sects do not baptize young children, we may conclude that there are over 6,000,000 negroes in the United States unbaptized. On the other hand, the vast majority of those who claim adherence to some Protestant denomination have no definite notions of Christian doctrine and have equally vague ideas about Christian morality. This state of things may be largely attributed to the lack of definite religious training in youth. The negroes of the West India Islands and of South America have for the most part the religion of the original conquerors and settlers of those regions, and the matter is treated under the respective proper titles.
As before stated, the Catholic negroes of the United States lived chiefly in those Southern states originally settled in part by Catholics. Among these are Maryland and the states on the Gulf of Mexico, namely, Florida, Mississippi, and especially Louisiana, where the larger number dwell. The bishops of the Catholic Church in times past, made zealous endeavours to spread the elevating influence of the Catholic Faith among the coloured people of this country. The two later councils of Baltimore, in burning words, urge work among the coloured race. The Second Plenary Council implores priests "as far as they can to consecrate their thoughts, their time and themselves, wholly and entirely, if possible, to the service of the coloured people". The want of men and means has much hampered the work. At one time it was reported that many thousands had lost the Faith for want of priests to care for them. It is said that in one portion of Louisiana alone as many as 30,000 strayed away. But strenuous efforts are now being made to reclaim them. The supply of priests devoted to the interests and salvation of the negro race is recognized as a serious problem, as there seems to be hardly a sufficient number of vocations among white youth. Some time before his death, Pope Leo XIII issued a letter urging a native clergy. Pope Pius X has also encouraged missionary work among the negroes.
It is almost impossible to obtain the exact number of Catholic negroes in the United States. While a great number live in coloured parishes and have their own churches, to the number of about sixty, many others are mingled among whites in widely separate parishes, where no report is ever made of the colour of the members. However, a conservative estimate gives 225,000 as the approximate number in the Continental United States. There are about ninety-five priests labouring exclusively among coloured people. Of these the Fathers of the Society of St. Joseph, about fifty in number, labour in twelve Southern dioceses and have their mother-house at Baltimore, Maryland. The remainder are twenty-eight diocesan priests in various dioceses and priests of the Society of African Missions, in the Diocese of Savannah; of the Society of the Divine Word, in the Dioceses of Natchez and Little Rock; of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost, in Pennsylvania and Virginia. There are five priests in the country who are coloured men. Some white sisterhoods are assisting the good work for the race, teaching 11,000 children in the parish and mission schools. Besides these, there are two communities of coloured sisters. One of these is the Oblate Sisters of Providence. The Sisters of the Holy Family, another order of coloured women, now has 116 sisters, who have charge of seventeen schools and asylums situated in the Archdiocese of New Orleans and in the Dioceses of Galveston and Little Rock. They also conduct a Government school with 295 pupils in British Honduras.
A commission established by the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore for the Catholic missions among the coloured people and Indians, consisting of three archbishops, distributes the funds collected for this purpose annually throughout the United States; and a special "Catholic Board for Mission Work among the Coloured People", incorporated by the hierarchy in 1907, fosters a missionary spirit among Catholics in favour of the coloured people and labours also to provide funds for this object. (See CONFRATERNITY OF PRIESTS: The United States.)
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APA citation. (1911). Negro Race. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12627a.htm
MLA citation. "Negro Race." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12627a.htm>.
Transcription. Dedicated to Fostering Respect for the Struggles & Beauty in the Lives of Black People.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
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