The Newer South


W.E.B. Du Bois


February 1, 1926

The New South of Henry Grady had nothing new for the Negro. And since that time thoughtful Negroes have received professions of friendship on the part of the white South with much salt. Nor can they be blamed for this: lynching, “Jim-Crow” cars, poor schools, segregation and insult form a difficult atmosphere in which to breathe the air of freedom, friendship and hope. But there can be no doubt but that the white South is changing; there is nothing revolutionary as yet, but leaven is working. Today as never before since 1863 there can be found in the white South a few intelligent and determined people who are willing to recognize black men as men—not as Super-men nor as morons, but as men. This group is not large; in no community is it in majority; only here and there is it self-conscious and vocal. But it exists and it is slowly growing in numbers and courage.

May we note a few evidences? Most of the circular matter sent out from the Atlanta headquarters of the Inter-racial movement is pure pro-Southern propaganda; but not all of it. Recently a resumé of Negro progress by Robert B. Eleazer was issued which was complete, sympathetic and beyond criticism. A Negro, Silas Parmore, extradited from New Jersey to Georgia over our protest, was tried and acquitted; and not only this but the Governor Walker, of Georgia, boasted of the fact. Mississippi is the nadir of the South; she murders, disfranchises and enslaves her labor; she has neither literature, science nor art; no actor, singer or lecturer of note thinks of stopping there; only 90 of the 2 million residents of the state are in “Who’s Who” and 26 of these because of positions they were elected to; the state has lynched and burned alive over 530 human beings in the last generation. Yet Mississippi this year for the first time in her history has issued a protest against lynching signed > by Governor H. L. Whitfield, Speaker Thomas L. Bailey, of the House of Representatives, President J. N. Flowers, of the State Bar Association, a number of judges of the Supreme Court, members of Congress, prominent lawyers, educators, churchmen, and club women. Prominent place is given also to the recent anti-lynching statement made by the Mississippi Woman’s Committee on Interracial Cooperation, which has since been affirmed by hundreds of Mississippi women at meetings throughout the State. >  
> An important section of the pamphlet is given to suggestions for the prevention of lynching, Sheriffs are urged to announce in advance that they expect to do their duty in every case, even at the risk of their own lives; to employ as deputies only those persons who agree to go to the same length in upholding the law; to ascertain the names of men who are opposed to mob violence and to swear these in as special deputies at the first sign of trouble; to remove to the jails of other counties prisoners threatened with mob violence; and to call upon the Governor to order out the National Guard if needed; >  
> The popular fallacy regarding the ‘usual cause’ of lynchings is also mercilessly exposed. Photographs of a recent lynching are shown and ‘respectfully referred to the next Grand Jury’. >  
> State officials, members of the Bar Association, and other prominent people are distributing the pamphlet widely and are offering medals in each congressional district for the best essays on the subject by high school students.

In Kentucky the Inter-racial movement has ceased to be simply a method of stopping agitation by encouraging “white folk’s nigger” and seems to be trying really to attack certain pressing problems of race contact; North Carolina is resolutely facing the problem of Negro education and has established a class A college. Roland Hayes has been heard by mixed audiences in Richmond, Louisville and Atlanta. A colored girl elected to represent the South in a national student organization was not displaced when the fact of her race was known.

But all those symptoms are of but passing significance except as they indicate these fundamental changes:

First, the definite breaking up of the effort of the South to present morally and socially a solid front to the world. The South is beginning to realize that the fight for righteousness in its borders as elsewhere in the world cannot conceal itself behind the apparent absolute agreement of all southern whites on the Negro problems. Until the Better South is willing openly and flatly to take a stand and to fight the Bourbon race reactionaries, they will find themselves circumvented and represented by the Worst South. There are signs that a few Southerners, and especially the younger men and women, are realizing this and are prepared to pay the heavy price.

Secondly, just as the South has hitherto heard with sympathetic and even exaggerated patience and respect the demands of extreme white Southern Negro haters, so too they must be willing now to listen to Negro “radicals.” To read out of the congregation of decent, reasonable and law-abiding people those black folk who demand the ballot, equal education, the abolition of “Jim Crow” legislation, the abrogation of laws and customs which protect and encourage bastardy and prostitution, and right of social equals to social equality with those who wish it—to lynch such men morally is a coward’s trick and a scoundrel’s subterfuge and there are southern white men today who realize this as never before. To such men and to such women in the dawn of the nineteen hundred and twenty-sixth year of the Prince of Peace, our hand and heart, comrades.


For attribution, please cite this work as:
Du Bois, W.E.B. 1926. “The Newer South.” The Crisis 31 (4): 163–65.