Vital Statistics


W.E.B. Du Bois


April 1, 1912

Every once in a while some social student turns his attention to the Negro problem and announces that he proposes to study it—for a few days. In such cases The Crisis is accustomed to suggest literature and other matter with the idea, not of influencing the student’s conclusions, but of impressing the size of the undertaking to which he so lightly turns. In some cases this does good. In the case of Mr. Charles Stelzle it did no good. Mr. Stelzle, who is “Executive Secretary of the Home Missions Council,” announced his intention last year of looking black men over. This year, in the midst of a busy life, he has thrown off an essay which has been published from New York to California, in which he calmly announces “that the death rate among Negroes is increasing, whereas it is decreasing among whites.” This extraordinary statement has been strewn over the United States and it is a flat and glaring falsehood.

In the Census of 1890, Vital and Social Statistics (Part I, page 30), and in the Census of 1900, Vol. III (Vital Statistics, part I, page 69), there are the following figures for colored people:

1890 1900
Death rates in registration area 32.40 30.2
Death rates in registration cities 33.68 31.1
Death rates in registration States 29.50 26.2

Here is the clearest sort of proof that the Negro death rate is declining steadily.

If Mr. Stelzle had had time to go a bit further he would have found the following figures in the Census Mortality Statistics of 1908 (page 26).

Death rates of Negroes in selected registration cities:

1901–05 28.4
1908– 26.2

In other words, because a busy man was too careless to find out what he was talking about, a miserable falsehood is spread fro m ocean to ocean.


For attribution, please cite this work as:
Du Bois, W.E.B. 1912. “Vital Statistics.” The Crisis 4 (6): 291.