Our Journalistic and Literary Folks.
The Marrow of Tradition. By Charles W. Chestnutt. Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston, Mass. 329 pages. Price $1.50.
Major Carteret, one of Mr. Chestnutt's characters, says: "The Negro is capable of certain doglike fidelity, a certain personal devotion which is admirable in itself, and fits him eminently for a servile career.["] Captain McBane, another one of his characters, a most vulgar and brutal man, says: "The Negro will call any man master for a quarter, or God for half a dollar; for a dollar he'll grovel at your feet, and for a cast-off coat you can buy an option on his immortal soul." Both of these sentiments prevail largely in the South, notwithstanding the fact that very few Negroes of the self-respecting class, North or South, wear cast-off coats, nor could be induced to do so even for pay; nor for pay would any call a man of the class to which McBane belongs anything more than a brute of the lowest order. Jerry, the harmless, old-time Negro, mistook the discussion of "Negro domination" for "Negro damnation" and delivers himself in the following manner: "I'm sho' dere ain' no nigger I knows w'at wants damnation, do' dere's lots of 'em w'at deserves it; but ef dat one-eyed Cap'n McBane got anything ter do wid it, w'atever it is, it don' mean no good fer de nigger-damnation'd be better fer 'em dan dat Cap'n McBane." Mr. Karl Stephen Herrman, editor of "The Literary Review," of Boston, Mass., said last May a year ago, "The Negro is not a human being at all. Not one in ten thousand of him can lay claim to an iota of the intelligence, constancy, courtesy, or courage displayed by the average dog. He will call no man 'Massa' unless he has been tipped a quarter. He will call you God for fifty cents; and grovel at your feet for a dollar." It will be seen that this sentiment expressed by Mr. Chestnutt's Captain McBane; indeed, this sentiment prevails in the North as well as in the South; for if the editor of the "Philadelphia Record["] will speak plainly, he would say the same thing that McBane said and Mr. Herrman said. This sentiment is deep rooted in the minds of Southern white men. There can hardly be found a half-dozen who are free from it. But Mr. Chestnutt carries his story far enough to show that in point of fact this is not true for the Negro. There is, of course, a few of the type to which Aunt Jane and old Jerry belong; but they are fast dying out and men and women of talent, education and culture, are taking their places; and these demonstrate that with the same opportunities and advantages, there is no real difference between the white man and the Negro, as regards the possibilities of attainment along educational lines. Few authors have dealt with the Negro problem in such a fearless manner, and none have taken the pains to present all sides of the questions involved and in terms so emphatic.
----- Alexander, Charles, Rev. of The Marrow of Tradition in "Our Journalist and Literary Folks," The Freeman [Indianapolis] 28 Dec. 1901: [2.]