The Status of the Negro as told by a Former Slave-Holder – J.F.F. (Interview, 2/10/1896)

The Status of the Negro as told by a Former Slave-Holder – J.F.F. (Interview, 2/10/1896)

Mayon is a city of marvelously wide streets and glaring red brick buildings, and seems to drowse in the midst
of plenty. It Is, in fact, a typical southern town, not likely to Increase or diminish in a marvelous manner. “‘Tis
just about the same now as it was before the war,” remarked a handsome old gentleman to me-“only much
larger.” “Why hasn’t It more energy?” “The climate, my dear sir, the climate. It is the fashion, sir, to damn the nigger
down heah, and I say damn him, too, when he mixes in things tnat shouldn’t concern him, such as politics; but,
apart from politics, sir, the nigger is a blessing down heah. It is true he is not moral. It is true he will lie. It is equally
true that he will steal if he gets even the slightest chance-but, sir, he can stand the heat in the cotton fields and
the malaria of the rice swamps, and Georgia wouldn’t be worth a tinker’s cuss without him. I say it, sir, who have
owned niggers, and some of them still stick to me like burrs to a farmer’s breeches.” “So. then, you don’t think
the nigger, as you call him, has any political rights?” “Sir,” the old man replied, slowly, “the nigger knows nothing
either by heredity or acquirement of the science of politics. Besides, we wouldn’t stand him, sir, even if he did
know. We will protect him in his person and property so long as he behaves him-self, but no longer.” “Judging
by the number of horrible lynchings that are reported to occur in these parts,” said I, “it seems to me the nigger
does not behave himself very well, according to southern notions.” “According to any notions, you snould have
said, sir,” replied the aged party sharply. “If we didn’t hang the brutes once in a while what white woman’s honor
would be safe? Even as it is, the devil seems to possess the average tramp nigger where a white’ woman is
concerned. Yes, sir, in spite of shooting them, hanging them, and occasionally burning them, too, there are
niggers who would endure worse-the torments of hell itself-to possess a white woman. They will still keep
on committing outrages, and we will keep on lynching them until they quit.”

“Still, while most of the southern men were at the front, during the war,” said I, “the negroes remained faithful
and respected the women of the men who held them in slavery.” “Ah!” he replied, vivaciously, “that was essentially
different. They knew no better, or, I should rather have said, no worse, then. Now it is, as I have already observed,
different. We have been educating them, and they begin to know too much. This makes them impudent-especially
the mulattos, some of whom will stop short at no crime within the range of human accomplishment.” “Then you think
the mulattos are worse morally than the out and out blacks?” “A thousand fold, sir-a thousand fold. An unalloyed
nigger will do wrong occasionally, but for downright, mean crimes the mulatto is much more to be dreaded. It is
so also with the negresses.” “What are the marital conditions among the blacks?” I inquired. “Very loose, sir-very
loose. There are exceptions, of course, but, generally speaking, the marriage tie is lightly regarded by the blacks.
When the man tires of the woman, even though they have children, he abandons her and takes up with someone
else. Then the woman, after a little delay, follows suit. I am compelled to say, in justice to the negro women, that if
their men remain true they generally are faithful. To be sure there are many of them mere animals, and they will
yield to the first white man that asks them.” Still,” he continued, with a smile, “I wish to say that the negro man is
much more infatuated about a white woman than a negro woman is about a white man.” “And why?” I asked. “Well,
there are many reasons for it,” he observed. “In the first place, the negress knows that the white man will never
marry her, and that the offspring to their liason will ever be a sole care to herself. Then, again, a white man avoids
his negro mistress, and she feels the slight very keenly. The negro man, while his love lasts, is very loving, but he
is naturally a mormon. It may seem a strange assertion for me to make,” he went on, “but, don’t think one-eighth
of the little colored children in some sections know their own fathers-they are not wise children, according to the
old adage. The pickaninny always speaks of the mother, rarely or never of the father.”

Last Updated on February 7, 2021 by Bill Arp

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