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[Review of The Marrow of Tradition]

It has been my custom to give in The Freeman, from time to time, in an impersonal way, brief reading notices of some books as are sent to me from the various publishing houses throughout the United States. But just at this time, when we are beginning a new year, I wish to depart from my usual manner of presenting these notices, and to speak, as it were, face to face with my readers. The reader well remembers that a few years ago when he wanted a book that was worth reading, he would seek some book written by those who had no faith in our ability to understand its contents or to appreciate its real worth; but now we have books written by members of our own race that are as strong in their presentation of vital truths and look as attractive in cover design and are published by firms with as good a reputation as those written by our former masters. You, dear reader, may not see in this great advancement the possibilities of the future; but you must see, if you have the kind of optics with which other people are endowed, that there is no essential difference between the ability to learn on the part of the Negro as compared with the white man, and especially when each has the same teacher. There are three strong books on the market this year written by Negroes and about Negroes. "Up From Slavery," by Booker T. Washington, published by Doubleday, Page & Company, of New York, is the first in importance; because it is the history of a most remarkable life–a life that is as serious and vital as any other in this generation. Over fifteen thousand copies of this autobiography have been sold, and it is all because of the fact that the man who wrote the book is worthy of the study of other men. This work will stand the test of time; it is of intense human interest; it demonstrates the capacity of the Negro to learn, to work, to become great.–The next book in importance is "The Marrow of Tradition," by Charles W. Chesnutt, published by Houghton, Mifflin & Company, of Boston. This book gives, in a most fascinating manner, every phase of the Negro problem. It tells the story of his struggles in a way that no other author has ever revealed it. It gives the white man's view quite as freely as it gives the Negro's views on all important questions effecting the destiny of the entire race–The third book of which I would speak in this connection bears the unique title "Candle-Lightin' Time" and this is Paul Lawrence Dunbar's most beautiful work. It is a perfect gem. The photographs from which the illustrations are made were furnished by the Hampton Institute Camera Club, while the decorations are from the very artistic drawings of Margaret Armstrong. There is real music in these poems. As a first-class gift book, this ranks among the very best. If our readers would present their friends with gifts of permanent value, these are the books that will meet every demand. Have we not reason to rejoice that our race is now able to write such books?–But there are other good books of course that are of great value to us, and we should read them. I have just received "Abraham Lincoln and the Men of His Time," by Robert H. Browne. This work should appeal to our readers too; as a work of real importance, it takes rank among the best. The story of Lincoln's career, like that of every truly great man, will bear telling over and over again. There is always some new element of greatness to be discovered in study and contemplation of such a life. In the telling of his story, Dr. Browne has indicated a sincerity of purpose that is complimentary to his broad mind and profound scholarship. He has spared no pains to make the work complete. He gives every fact concerning this very remarkable character that can be of importance. His narrative is as smooth and sparkling as a crystal stream. From the West pioneer home, amid rugged surroundings, and associated with a strong, vigorous, healthy, earnest, brave and hard working people,–a people characterized for their simplicity and common sense–through all the stern, heroic days of early boyhood, the honest achievements of manhood, the successful fights for justice, for truth; introducing us by the way to the industrious and sturdy men who were the hero's contemporaries; up and on, the author takes us, until we find the great emancipator occupying the loftiest place in the gift of the nation. And after telling the painful truth of his awful assassination at the hands of one whose black deed could have no adequate punishment, he closes with that eloquent utterance at Gettysburg when the fame of Abraham Lincoln was fixed forever.–And then we have "American Boy's Life of William McKinley," by Edward Stratemeyer. This book is published by Lee & Shepard, Boston. This life is one of inspiration. It is here written in a simple style, and the boys of America afforded a shining example of what honesty, perseverance, intelligent industry, and strict attention to duty can accomplish. This book out[sic] to be read by our boys; for they need just such lessons as it teaches. All of the books above mentioned are of special interest to our readers and it would be a source of gratification to the writer if they would buy them and use them for the good service they will render.