Page images

THE coloured RACE.

The first drive up Broadway, or turn in the Fifth Avenue, would impress the new-comer with the idea that New York is of German origin, but for the restless bustle that pervades it, and the dark coachmen mounted on the front of the carriages, and the youths seated beside them, who from their age and complexion may be their sons. When he penetrates a little further, and sees the domestic economy, he will find black cooks as well as waiters; and when he perambulates the city, he will find some streets that seem entirely inhabited by blacks, and in their vicinity a church or two of various persua. sions, whose flocks and whose ministers are of the same complexion. They are generally reported to be honest, thoughtless, light-hearted, improvident people. Some of them seem very poor and desolate, especially in cold weather, which shrinks and withers them up ; but in sunshine they expand, and are much more lively. They are by no means disposed to beg, or to make the most of their necessities. A gentleman connected with the “ Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor," who takes charge of a district for the purpose of investigating the cases, and distributing the alms of the benevolent during winter, says his experience is, that the coloured people, men and women, withdraw their claim as soon as they find employment by which they can live, while the Irish will hang on, and shew plausible cause why they ought to be aided, as long as a dollar is left in the bag.

They are capable of being very industrious and useful in the community, and some of them possess both energy and mental vigour. Yet they evidently belong to a warmer clime, where prolonged or hard exertion is not necessary to supply the wants of nature; and one grieves to observe the half-developed, half-alive state they often drop into, as if chilled, when nothing occurs to arouse them.

They are not zealous to use all the means of education within their reach, yet in the “ Coloured Orphan Home” are to be seen children as acute and lively as in any of the white orphan houses or common schools. Those who have enjoyed longer and closer means of observation can say whether the gradual dying away of this acuteness and liveliness, when they grow up, arises from constitutional causes, or from a growing conception, as they advance in life, of their depressed condition.

In the free states the coloured children have access to the common schools, but, if I may judge

from my limited means of observation, they do not
very commonly use the privilege. States that sup-
port common schools pay equally for black and
white children. Nevertheless, in these states you
will find here and there a side school, the result of
private benevolence, where the children and their
teacher cannot offend each other's prejudices, as all
are dark.
It is too painful to look on a people who have the
material in them that might do well, driven back to
inertness and despondency by the ceaseless encounter
of depressing obstacles. Is it true, that white chil-
dren, in virtue of a complexion, in the possession of
which they have no merit, insult and injure children
of another shade of colour, for which they ought to
have no disgrace? I fear it. In Albany I saw a
big white boy deliberately kick a little black one
who was passing along as inoffensively as myself.
The poor child did not attempt to retaliate or to
complain—he only fled. Is this a method in which
to rear free, and generous, and just citizens?
The day and the scene were lovely as I sat on
the dock at Poughkeepsie, waiting for the steamer,
yet a brief exhibition of what appeared too common
to draw the attention of others filled me with in-
dignation and grief. A pleasant-looking coloured
youth, dressed neatly in clean summer clothing,
leaned over the rail, looking down upon the water.
Suddenly a dirty, ragged, vulgar fellow, perhaps
jealous that a black man should look so much more

-respectable than himself, came up and tried to fasten a quarrel on him, which the dark man meekly evaded. The fellow struck him, and when still the injured dark man kept the peace, and turned his face to the water, the fellow kicked him and went away triumphing. No one laughed with him, as I was pleased to observe; but no one said, “Why do you insult this inoffensive man?” He saw there was none to take his part. Had I been a man, I think the insolent fellow would have got a washing in the Hudson. It would have been an honour to have been carried before a magistrate for such a trespass. O Americal country of freemen, beware of laying up a store of such injuries! The God of the black man and the white is a God of judgment, and does not forget your good deeds and your evil. Could you but be warned before you make your responsibilities deeper and darker! Churches for the coloured people are built by voluntary contribution in the same manner as those for the white, and often the chief part of the money is contributed by white people. Many of the pastors are dark, and, generally speaking, though they be pious, they are not intelligent or much instructed. The majority of them are Methodists—their habit of addressing the passions more than the understanding, suiting better the temperament and degree of knowledge of their flocks. These, along with Baptists, comprise almost all of the coloured professors of religion. The morals of even the best coloured people are said to be of a low grade, and pastors find it far easier to take care of white than of coloured sheep. These poor people feel that they live by sufferance only—their humility is quite touching in reference to white persons—and their position is so calculated to debilitate the mind, to teach them submission and dependence, rather than anything like forethought and providence, that it is not surprising to see them continue under the cloud, and rarely break out from it. It is the humour of some to indulge and spoil them, allowing in them familiarity which they would not permit in a white, while others trample on them, reproach them for being “niggers,” &c. In either case they are not treated fairly. It is curious to observe them if encouraged, kindly gossiping creatures as they are—old cooks and “aunties” who have held all manner of domestic offices, never lose their claim on the family. They will call in if they fancy the lady wants her hair dressed, or if her present cook does not, perhaps, understand making the preserves so well as “Aunt Suky” does—or if they hear you have company, and will be the better of a hand to help with the ice and lemonade—and you will find an “aunt” occasionally in the lady's chamber with her little basket, and her pleasant sociable smile as if she knows all about it, and her soft voice, and her quaint talk. Their voices are all pleasing, and a fine musical ear seems their unfailing attribute. If a street minstrel is afloat, you

« PreviousContinue »