The Simple Way (1913)

The Simple Way (1913)

Some ways of life are so simple. There was, for instance, a few years ago, a solution of the Negro problem so ridiculously simple that those who did not receive it as gospel were hooted if not stoned. The gist was this:

  • The Negro must work out his own salvation.

  • The Negro must make himself useful to his neighbors.

  • The Negro must not complain.

  • Duties must be taught Negroes — never mind their rights.

  • Negroes must let politics alone.

  • Money talks — let the Negro get a $5,000 brick house and his individual problem is solved.

  • Etc., etc.

All this the Negro has done. He has striven to solve his problems unaided. He is so useful to his neighbors that the problem of to-morrow will be the Southern millionaire waxed fat on the starvation wages of black peons.

The mass of Negroes has been so ground down and oppressed that they do not know what complaint is. If they did, segregation, the “Jim Crow” car and disfranchisement would disappear to-morrow. We have shivered in the storm like dumb driven cattle and forgotten our rights before we learned them. We have “let politics alone” so effectually that we practically have no voice in our own government, and we have accumulated brick houses so fast that from Boston to Galveston white nerves are being strained to drive us out of them.

We are therefore listening to those eminent and distinguished solvers of the Negro problem, white and black, who, with hat in hand, have in the last twenty years been lulling this nation to sleep and also feathering their own nests; we are listening for further advice and direction along the simple way.

Citation: Du Bois, W.E.B. 1913. “The Simple Way.” The Crisis. 7(1):337–338.