Project Canterbury

Mankind and the Church
Being an Attempt to Estimate the Contribution of Great Races
To the Fulness of the Church of God

Edited by H. H. Montgomery

London, New York, Bombay and Calcutta: Longmans, Green and Co., 1907.

II.The Special Influence which the African or Negro Race May Exercise on the Future Developments of Christianity
The Most Rev. E. Nuttall, D.D., Archbishop of the West Indies

Chapter I. The Negro Race

What special contribution has the Negro to make to the ultimate fulness of the life of the Church?--Will the race be permanent?--Language and race division--African peoples--Their essential oneness--Negro population in Africa--In America--In the West Indies--The slave trade--The future of the Negro race in civilized countries.

It may help to place our subject distinctively before the mind of some readers if it be stated somewhat discursively in this form:--Is there any and, if so, what part of the Divine revelation, and of man's relation as a Christian to his fellow-man and to God which the African or Negro race is specially fitted to understand and respond to, and therefore fitted to embody in character and exhibit in life and action? And is the Negro race thus capable of bringing into the Christian Church, as a Catholic, complete Christian body, features of Christian truth and life which otherwise might not find full expression therein?

It is widely accepted, either as a theory or as a fact, that various races of mankind have a peculiar aptitude for [72/73] assimilating certain truths or special forms of truth. These appeal to their nature in a way that such phases of the truth do not appeal to others. They see them in the revelation while others do not, just as the botanist sees features in flowers and vegetation that are unnoticed by other men. If this be so, it becomes probable that there are regions of truth which would be unexplored if, for example, there were no Christians but Europeans; and that such parts of the Divine revelation will be realized, and the teachings thereof will be expounded and brought to bear on the actual spiritual life of the Church, as various Asiatic or other nations come to be Christianized, and will exercise a strong influence upon Christianity generally as the Christian religion takes hold of the life of those people on a large scale.

In this theory it is assumed that every individual race has thus its own contribution to make to the fulness and perfection of the Church's knowledge and the Church's life. When all the various races of mankind have been brought under the influence of Christianity, and have given a contribution of their own life and experience back to the Church, then will the whole truth of God as revealed to man be understood and brought out in the life of the Church, as far as it is possible for this to take place amid the necessary imperfections of the present life. The Church will, so long as it exists in this world, grow in knowledge and experience; but when all the nations of mankind have been fully brought into the Church, then all the phases of truth will be understood and incorporated and manifested in their effect in the life of the Church.

The question to be dealt with in this article is, what the black African or Negro race may contribute towards this ultimate fulness of the Church's knowledge, teaching, worship, and life.

[74] Will the black race persist? Will it remain and hold its own, and increase when it comes in contact with modern civilization? Or will it decay and eventually die out?

There are various backward races in the world, or, as they are sometimes called, "child races." Some of these have no future before them: they are dying. The black people of Africa, of which the Negro race is largely representative, constitute an important section of the human family. It is the general opinion that the African people will continue to exist and will increase in numbers. Certainly on a surface view the race does not show any tendency to decrease, as some races do, in the presence of the white man and under the severe tests involved in contact with modern civilization. It is generally believed that the African can live and be happy and increase, under the conditions of civilized life; though in recent years doubts have been raised as to the correctness of this opinion.

This part of the subject probably needs enlarging upon, as it has an important bearing on the main purpose of this article. If the black African people were likely to die out under the combined processes involved in the extension of modern civilization and of Christianity, then the principal question raised in this volume would have no vital interest as regards these people, because they would be effete or extinct by the time they should, on the other supposition, be making their influence felt on Christianity generally.

1. The part of our subject on which we are now seeking information is the question--Will this race be permanent? Will it persist under modern conditions and the civilizing process? But before we shall be in a position to answer that question reliably, we need to consider this other important matter, namely--Do the various sections of the black people in Africa make up a race which is [74/75] practically homogeneous, so that what is correctly predicated of one may be predicated of all under like conditions? Are the numerous sections and tribes of the black African people simply sub-races--larger or smaller subdivisions of a people fundamentally the same, the variations in language and other characteristics having been brought about by divergent local conditions and influences operating through some thousands of years?

The variations are certainly very considerable; and the linguistic and ethnic classifications by various writers of authority vary also considerably.

(1) The question of language demands consideration in its bearing on the question of race division. The careful statements in Dr. Cust's book, "The Modern Languages of Africa," show what that writer accepts as a reliable presentation of a complicated series of facts. So far as they concern the present article, these facts may be stated as follows:--The population in Northern Africa has a large infusion of Semitic blood, or is otherwise distinct from the Negro. There is first the Semitic group, which has 10 languages and 8 dialects; and this group comprises the Northern and Ethiopic sub-groups. There is next the Hamitic group, which has 29 languages and 27 dialects, and embraces the Egyptian, Libyan, and Ethiopic sub-groups. Then there is the Nubah-Fulah group, which has 17 languages and 7 dialects. The people speaking the three groups of languages just mentioned maybe considered to be so definitely distinct from the Negro proper as to be excluded from further consideration in this article; and no account is taken of the inhabitants of Madagascar, for they are reckoned as belonging to the Malayo-Polynesian family.

(2) As regards the location of those black African peoples--limited, as aforesaid--whose history we are now to consider in some detail, they may roughly be said to [75/76] inhabit the whole of Africa, below a line drawn diagonally from 15 degrees north on the West Coast of Africa to 10 degrees north on the East Coast of Africa, and including all the country to the south except where white men have settled. Taking this line as the northern boundary, the subdivisions may be stated as follows:--The negroes proper occupy a central zone stretching from the Atlantic to the Egyptian Soudan; the Bantus occupy nearly the whole of the south, from the neighbourhood of the Equator to the Cape; and the domain of the Hottentots is the extreme south and south-west corner. But it is clear that this was not the original distribution of these various sections. As regards the languages of these people, the Negro group proper has 195 languages and 49 dialects: these include the Atlantic, Niger, Central, and Nile sub-groups. The Bantu group has 168 languages and 55 dialects, included in the Southern, Eastern, and Western sub-groups; and the Hottentot-Bushman group has 19 languages and 6 dialects. This enumeration gives a total of 438 languages and 152 dialects for the African people of the Negro family.

(3) Some writers are strongly of opinion that language is the best basis for the classification of races, and that distributions relying principally upon outward appearances, such as complexion, texture of the hair, shape of the cranium, or on mental qualities, do not supply sufficient data for a systematic grouping of the African or other races. But even these writers admit that language alone is not sufficient for the purpose, for modern science has abundantly shown that speech and race are not convertible terms; and Keane admits that "for one large section of the African family the linguistic element fails altogether."

(4) In Dr. Livingstone's accounts of his African journeys we have the views of that great missionary and [76/77] explorer on some of the points we are now considering. He was a careful observer, and his observation extended over a wide area. According to him, the people who inhabit the central regions of Africa vary in colour considerably, from black to bronze, and occasionally to a still lighter hue. Evidence shows that heat alone does not cause blackness, but that heat and moisture combined deepen the colour. Those peoples who have continued for ages in a hot, humid district are deep black; but others, who can be clearly proved to be of the same original stock, but have lived long under different climatic conditions, are so much lighter in colour that they might be taken for a distinct people. Taking another point of view, the people near both east and west coasts are very dark; then inland, about three hundred miles from each coast, they are of a lighter colour. In estimating the closer or more remote connections between the various divisions of the race, it must be remembered that probably migrations have chiefly been from north to south. The "dialects spoken in the extreme south, whether Hottentot or Kaffir, bear a close affinity to those of the tribes living on their northern borders," and they are at once recognized to be cognate. If extreme points be taken, the recognition is more difficult; but examination of the roots of words arranged in the geographical order of dialects shows that they merge into each other.

(5) There are numerous variations of form and features among the people of Africa which may easily be mistaken as evidences of fundamental racial differences; but a minute comparison of the facts all over the continent shows that characteristic negro peculiarities are present everywhere, but all these characteristics are seldom present in one individual. The evidence, as a whole, shows the essential oneness of these African peoples; though the different conditions under which they have [77/78] lived through many ages have introduced great varieties in speech, physical conformation, appearance, and character.

There is a multitude of tribes, and nearly every one has its own special dialect. In grammar these dialects are cognate, and in some the vocabularies vary very slightly, while in others they are distinctly different; and it often happens that those tribes which live in close proximity have more difficulty in understanding each other's language than the language of other tribes a thousand miles away. This may no doubt be accounted for by the fact that the various migrations have not been on any uniform plan, and have not taken direct courses. They have been like the windings of a river, with currents sometimes swift and sometimes slow; in some places there have been back currents, and elsewhere there has been a slow movement amounting almost to stagnation; but with all this there are manifold evidences of the family connection of all the tribes and sections of the race which we are now considering--in language, in tribal organization, in family customs, in judicial rules and regulations, in marriage ceremonies and funeral rites, and religious beliefs and practices. Keane agrees with Livingstone in the opinion that the specialized negro type, as depicted on the Egyptian monuments some thousands of years ago, has everywhere been manifested with striking uniformity, notwithstanding some considerable differences.

2. Having in view the divergences of various authorities, the best estimate which I can form of the black African population belonging to the Negro family, as already classified according to the language and race divisions, indicates how large is the preponderance of the Negro section proper in the regions I have specified as the home of the Negro race. It may be approximately stated that the African negroes proper number 150,000,000, and the Bantus 50,000,000, and perhaps the Hottentots in [78/79] the south-west number 500,000. But it must always be remembered that this enumeration can claim to be only conjecture. There are no available data on which to form a correct estimate of the actual population of Africa. Notwithstanding the abolition of the slave trade, with its accompanying barbarities, involving much destruction of human life, tribal wars still continue in Africa to keep down population, and to interfere with any calculation which our growing knowledge of many parts of Africa might otherwise render it possible to make as to the progress of the general population. One result of the parcelling out of Africa into spheres of influence of European nations, or territories directly under their government, will be the stoppage of the inhuman loss of life through local quarrels and small tribal wars, and the establishment of general governments over wide areas, in which human life as well as commerce will be protected. The science of Europe will help to keep in check special and ordinary forms of disease, and also more reliable estimates as to the number and growth of the population will become possible. For the purposes of this article, however, the rough estimate of 200,000,000, already stated, may be taken as the number of Negro people in Africa. In the United States of America there are about 9,000,000 coloured people, who are the descendants of the negro slaves formerly imported from West Africa. In the British West Indies and Guiana there are about 1,750,000; and in the other West Indian islands and Central America about 2,250,000 more. It must, however, be borne in mind as a fact which has an important bearing on this discussion, that probably not less than one-sixth of those classed indifferently as negroes or coloured people in the United States returns are, properly speaking, coloured persons, with a larger or smaller infusion of Caucasian blood; and this is [79/80] the case in the West Indies. These estimates may be summarized as follows: in Africa, 200,000,000; in the United States, 9,000,000; in the West Indies and Central America, 4,000,000. Total, 213,000,000. If we leave out of this total estimate those persons living in America and the West Indies and parts of Africa who have a large infusion of Caucasian blood, the black people of the Negro race in Africa and various parts of the Western hemisphere may be put down at 210,000,000. This is a large mass of human beings.

3. The following tables give as full and correct a statement of the growth of the black population in the United States and the West Indies as it has been found possible to arrive at.

The growth of the negro population in America, according to the United States census, is as follows:--

Year. Negro population.

1830......... 2,328,642
1840......... 2,873,648
1850......... 3,638,808
1860......... 4,441,830
1870......... 4,880,009
1880......... 6,580,793
1890......... 7,488,788
1900......... 8,840,789

All through the West Indies the growth has probably been similar. As regards the countries and islands not under British rule approximate detailed figures are not available. It has not even been found possible to get comparative statements of all the British West Indies generally. But the following statistical facts for Jamaica may be taken as a fair sample of the general results throughout the British West Indies:--

There has been no census since 1891. The total to [80/81] March 31, 1905, here given, is based on the registered births and deaths. The divisions in 1905 into the sections, white, coloured, black, and East Indians, is probably correct in view of all available facts.

 Year White Coloured Black East Indians
and Chinese.
1861  13,816  81,074  346,374    441,264
 1871  13,101  100,346  392,707    506,154
 1881  14,432  109,946  444,186  12,240  580,804
 1891  14,692  121,955  488,624  14,220  639,491
 1905  15,000  150,000  628,568  12,122  805,690

4. In this article no attempt is made to distinguish between the various sections or sub-sections of the Negro and Bantu peoples. How long they have been separated into sections which have distinct characteristics, and how real the distinctions may be, is not here discussed. It may perhaps be assumed (though not without the qualifications hereafter to be considered) that there are various sections or sub-sections of these African black people who possess stronger qualities and finer developments than those West African negroes who have been brought into contact with civilizing and Christianizing influences either in Africa, America, of the West Indies--that, in fact, the stronger tribes from the interior have constantly been pushing the weaker tribes towards the coast; that the slave trade was originally largely concerned with these weaker tribes; and that, therefore, any mental, physical, and moral development which has been attained by the tribes of negroes already brought under Christian influences is such as is well within the reach of stronger specimens of the race. I think it is also true that the fundamental race qualities are sufficiently maintained and exhibited in the American, and particularly the West Indian, negro, to make it safe to accept him as a suitable [81/82] specimen of the race for the purposes of the study which this article is pursuing. It has already been intimated that the negroes of the Southern States of America and the West Indies were originally brought from West Africa; that the more vigorous sections of the race, coming from the north and east, had constantly pressed the less robust and unorganized sections towards the sea-coast, and taken their lands; and that it seems certain that those tribes of negroes nearest the West African coast, from which the kidnapped slaves were chiefly taken, should be classed as among the weaker sections of the black people. But the following facts need to be considered in this connection, for they go a long way towards proving that the negroes brought to America and the West Indies, though drawn from the weaker sections of African black people, must have been far above the average of their own sections, and probably quite equal to the average negro in the stronger sections of the race.

Let us recollect the processes involved before they were landed in the countries of the West. There was first the raid by the African slave-hunters on some inland village or town. These hunters were warlike tribes of Africans who had none of the gentler feelings of humanity. Their operations involved much havoc, desolation of homes, and destruction of human life. When by stratagem and force they had captured the population of a village or district, they first sorted their captives, and fixed in chain-gangs those men and women and younger folks whose physical condition indicated the possibility of their being able to travel to the coast; and they then usually killed off the rest, that there might be none left to raise a hue and cry, and collect a party of rescuers to follow the slave-gang. This was the first process of selection. Then the journey to the coast would occupy several days at [82/83] least; sometimes, when the raid had been far inland, it would occupy many weeks. The food supply to the captives was always meagre at the best, and under the strain of the wrench from the home village, the long journey, and the poor food, the weaker ones fell out of the ranks, and were either killed or left to perish. This was the second process of selection. At the coast the slaves were sold by the slave-hunters to the captains of the slave-ships, who rejected such as appeared incapable of standing the long voyage. That was the third process of selection. Then came the sea voyage of six or eight weeks in a slave-ship to Charleston, U.S.A.; or Kingston, Jamaica; or Bridgetown, Barbados. There were probably cases in which the slaves on board ship were fairly well provided for in a rough way as regards accommodation and food, and in which there was an absence of violence beyond what appeared necessary to keep them in order. But even under these relatively favourable conditions, such a change did this voyage involve from the free life of the African savage in his native home, besides the addition of an overshadowing terror of the sea and its uncertain experiences, and of the unknown and dreaded future, that many died on the passage. But in other cases there were added many woes to those terrors of the middle passage which were inevitable. There was the clanking of chains, the wild and deep groans of men, the weeping and wailing of women and children, the floggings, the cries of despair from the dying, and the casting of the dead into the sea; and to such horrors were superadded those which resulted from the crowding of these ill-fated creatures of all ages and of both sexes into the dark and filthy holds of these slave-ships, and all the bodily and mental agonies induced by these conditions. When the slaves were landed they were always a reduced number, often a greatly reduced [83/84] number, compared with those which had been embarked. Those who had survived the inevitable trials, and the added horrors of the sea voyage had passed another severe physical and mental test, which furnished the fourth process of selection. And after a week or two in which to rest, to be fed up, and made fit for the market, the newly imported African slave stood to be sold in the Charleston or the Kingston slave-market, a good average specimen of the strongest people of Africa.

I think it may be inferred from the important facts thus briefly summarized that these former kidnapped slaves may be taken as good average representatives of the raw material of the race. If so, it is .also a fair inference that what has been made of them and their descendants, as to character and capacity, under the influence of some civilization and Christian teaching, may be taken as a specimen of what may be realized hereafter when other sections of the race are brought under like influences.

5. Taking the American and West Indian original slave population as furnishing good average specimens of the African Negro race, we are able to proceed to discuss the important question, Will the African Negro people persist as a race, maintain their ground, and increase in numbers in the face of civilization? Or will they dwindle and die?

Let us first briefly look at the facts as presented in America, for there the contact of the race with civilization has included millions of individuals. The tables available at first sight show a steady increase, from 2,873,648 in 1840 to 4,880,009 in 1870, and to 8,840,789 in 1900. Looking more into detail, many facts go to show that the negroes in the Southern States have not since slavery was abolished been increasing in as great proportion as the whites; and that diseases resulting from overcrowding [84/85] under unhealthy social conditions, in towns and some large populous country areas, are increasing. There is also to be taken into account the fact which has been little noticed in discussions on this subject that, though the slave trade was abolished in 1807 by the British Parliament and by the American Legislature, and while the abolition became effective as regards the British West Indies soon after the British Abolition Law was passed, there was up to a late date a continuous and large illicit trade in slaves between Africa and the Southern States of America. The importation of negroes from the Guinea Coast did not cease until after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1864. The Act of 1807, forbidding the trans-Atlantic slave trade, came near being a dead letter. In 1836, the consul at Havana reported that whole cargoes of slaves fresh from Africa were being daily shipped to Texas, and many of these found their way into the United States. Later, this trade increased in volume, and thousands of raw Africans were smuggled into the country every year through various channels. The efforts to stop the contraband trade were utterly inadequate. It is a matter of common knowledge in the South, that up to the time of the War of Secession negroes were frequently met who could not speak English. These facts prove that the increase in the black population of the Southern States up to 1860 was not due solely to natural causes, but was partly the result of fresh importations from Africa.

Another point needing consideration is this. It may be questioned whether the conditions of life of the freed negroes in the Southern States have on the whole been as favourable to the physical maintenance and development of the race as during slavery. This is not to question the wisdom of the abolition of slavery. Slavery at the best is a bad condition of life both for the enslaved and [85/86] for the owner. Freedom is the birthright of man, and the necessary condition of all substantial, mental, moral, and social advancement. Many of the white people of the South were strongly in favour of the gradual abolition of slavery, realizing as they did the unwisdom of seeking to build up a national prosperity with such an institution as its base. There were special features of cruelty incident to American slavery, which under bad owners made themselves terribly felt, and which distressed the minds and hearts of the more thoughtful and humane of the planters. One such feature was the selling away from the plantations on which they had been reared, and away from friends and kindred, from mother or from child never more to meet again in this world, of large numbers of slaves, just as cattle would be sold from a farm when the owner thought fit so to dispose of them. It is said that Abraham Lincoln, when a young man on a visit to New Orleans in 1831, witnessed a slave auction. He saw a beautiful slave girl sold, after her various qualities and points had been described and exhibited as if she had been a horse. Lincoln walked away from the sad scene with strong feelings of hatred of the slave system roused in his heart which never left him. He said to John Hank, who was with him, "If I ever get a chance to hit that institution, I'll hit it hard, John." And he did.

Even in the case of the multitude of slaves living under and working for humane owners, there was the sad fact that the words home and family could have no real meaning for them; and the moral incentives to development arising out of family ties and responsibilities legally assured were wanting. There was no legal marriage, and even in the case of those under the best masters and mistresses, there was always the possibility of financial failure or difficulty to the owner, and behind [86/87] that there loomed for the slave the terrible shadow of the auction-block.

But it still remains a question whether on the whole, and leaving out individual instances of special cruelty and the effect on sections of slaves, where the management and conditions were coarse and bad, the system of steady work, regular food, clothing, and rest did not, in a period of transition from African savagery to modern civilization, safeguard and develop the physical life of the negro, and serve, in the providence of God, as a stepping-stone to free conditions.

6. The point of deep interest to all who care for the future of these people is, whether the signs of physical deterioration under present conditions are only the inevitable concomitants of another transition period--a deterioration which will be arrested and overcome as the better elements in the race become adapted to free conditions. This is the hopeful view which I am disposed to take, and in which I am strengthened by West Indian experiences. The West Indian vital statistics quoted in this article show a steady progress of the black people in numbers, both since the abolition of the slave trade in 1807 and since the abolition of slavery itself was completed in 1838. The increase in numbers has been entirely due to natural causes, in the face of a considerable emigration to other countries. There is nothing to show that the average black man in these countries possesses less physical stamina than his forefathers. And while there has been an increase of civilized conditions, and many have acquired property and become in every way respectable, and often influential, members of the community, there is no evidence that these members of the race, more advanced than others in education and the use of the conveniences and comforts of civilized life, have incurred any physical deterioration.

[88] I think it has in the foregoing paragraphs been sufficiently established that the Negro people are one race; that they probably number more than 200 millions of people; and that they will not die out, but increase under the influences of civilization.

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