In the New World and Pre-Colonies alike, efforts were made by Europeans to try to advance Blacks to a European level, which was to be achieved though granting new opportunities in Black societies or instruction via missionaries. Needless to say, overall the results were very much wanting in light of the expectations of the Blacks’ patrons.
Some may claim hindsight bias or that this was to be expected, but it should be remembered this was during a time when, though on occasion challenged up to the early 20th century, racial science was fairly well accepted in regard to innate distinctions (or at least more thoroughly defended during Galton’s age). However there is a perspective that suggests that advancement is indeed possible, though it deviates from traditional projects.
Before I reveal what that might be, we must understand what went wrong with the initial civilization attempts.
Much of the efforts put into “civilizing” Blacks by Christian missionaries were based on literary schooling and the building the consciousness of a God from afar that will punish your sins in the future. For the most part however, most of the natives weren’t very compelled to change their behavior by this fear, and even with the customs Blacks did adopt, they were not applied with the same “spirit” as Europeans did.
A very peculiar and important trait of the Negroes, heretofore entirely overlooked, but repeatedly observed by Ellis, is that they do not concern themselves about any god that is exalted to a very great distance above them. Among the Negroes of the Sudan the gods that are far off are not worshiped at all while those near at hand, and ever ready to inflict immediate punishment command the most respect and obedience. The Christian God is represented as being too far away; and since the punishment which he inflicts will not be visited upon the Negroes until after their death, they do not think much of the consequences of their conduct. They have not the necessary foresight for such remote calculations.
The native religion has the merit of furnishing deities that are believed in, understood and feared, and they act so powerfully upon the Negroes that they seldom violate their own moral code. Now, it is very evident that if faith in their native religion is destroyed and another religion substituted which they do not comprehend and which they interpret to be mere conformity to ceremony and routine, their moral character will not only fail to develop to a higher plane but sink to a much lower one. And that is precisely the result of much missionary preaching.
The Negro Races: A Sociological Study, Volume 1 p. 427-428.
At first it might seem that social diffusion would render it impossible to advance Blacks, but that’s not quite the case, as we shall see below.
The reason of the success of Mohammedanism among the blacks is that it does not effect a radical modification of native institutions. The Mussulman does not, as the Christian missionary, attempt, as the first thing to antagonize old doctrines and infuse new ones, but he begins by living among the natives working and trading among them. He is unobtrusive and tolerant and thus the natives convert themselves by imitation. Whatever other objections may be raised against Mohammedanism the truth of Sevin’s statement cannot be questioned to wit that it is certainly a step towards civilization.
The Negro Races: A Sociological Study, Volume 1, p. 452.
Now for the differences in Black behavior between the two major religions, Islam and Christianity, the evidence is bountiful, with this passage possibly being one of the earliest:
“The Negroes possess some admirable qualities. They are seldom unjust, and have a greater abhorrence of injustice than any other people. Their sultan shows no mercy to anyone who is guilty of the least act of it. There is complete security in their country. Neither traveler nor inhabitant in it has anything to fear from robbers or men of violence. They do not confiscate the property of any white man who dies in their country, even if it be uncounted wealth. On the contrary, they give it into the charge of some trustworthy person among the whites, until the rightful heir takes possession of it. They are careful to observe the hours of prayer, and assiduous in attending them in congregations, and in bringing up their children to them.
On Fridays, if a man does not go early to the mosque, he cannot find a corner to pray in, on account of the crowd. It is a custom of theirs to send each man his boy [to the mosque] with his prayer-mat; the boy spreads it out for his master in a place befitting him [and remains on it] until he comes to the mosque. Their prayer-mats are made of the leaves of a tree resembling a date-palm, but without fruit.
Another of their good qualities is their habit of wearing clean white garments on Fridays. Even if a man has nothing but an old worn shirt, he washes it and cleans it, and wears it to the Friday service. Yet another is their zeal for learning the Koran by heart. They put their children in chains if they show any backwardness in memorizing it, and they are not set free until they have it by heart. I visited the qadi in his house on the day of the festival. His children were chained up, so I said to him, ‘Will you not let them loose?’ He replied, ‘I shall not do so until they learn the Koran by heart’.”
Ibn Battuta: Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354.
“Judging by the conduct of those Negroes who were the most regular attendants at the Methodist chapel, I am unwillingly driven to the belief that the Methodist missions have done little for the cause of true religion, and have rather helped to foster dangerous delusion. The Methodists I fear have done harm for they have diffused a general feeling among the Negro population that abstaining from dancing, from drinking (a vice by the way which Negroes are rarely prone to), and a certain phraseology, which is mere form on their part, is Christianity.
Now it would be much better if the Negroes were taught that lying, stealing, cruelty to each other, or the brute creation, slander, and disobedience were sins in the sight of God, rather than level their anathemas against dancing-the favorite, and let me say, the innocent, recreation of the negroes; unless when it trenches as it sometimes does upon the sacredness of the Sabbath.
Domestic Manners and Social Condition of the Population of the West Indies , by Mrs. Carmichael.
However, it must be acknowledged that Islam is, well, Islam. This was noted by G. T. Basden:
….Or again compare the statements of another student many years experience in Northern Nigeria who says in his notes upon the Nupe kingdom and the effects its adoption of Islam.
Mohammedanism has introduced no new manufactures, has drenched the country with blood, has destroyed numberless towns and villages, and has as far as one can learn, distinctly lowered the morals of the people. True it has introduced a better idea of justice by creating the office judge as distinct from that of a king, and we must also place to the credit of Islam the beginnings of the idea of education.
It is also a distinct gain to the people that they have been taught the idea of a life beyond the grave, and of rewards and punishments after this life is over. On the other side must be placed the degradation of womanhood that has followed the introduction of Islam. The average pagan Negro has his own ideas as to the of women, but there is nothing to prevent woman from rising by her industry or ability to high positions. But Mohammedanism changes all this and has a distinctly lower position in a Mohammedan than she occupies among pagans.
Among the Ibos of Nigeria by George Thomas Basden
Something that I think will challenge many peoples’ views of Blacks is the idea that Blacks are not monolithic in behavior. Indeed, with actual slaves who were imported to the West, different tribes were noted to have different attributes.
Of character among the Negro tribes.
The Eboe is crafty artful disputative driving a bargain and suspicious of over reached by those with whom he deals, but withal patient industrious saving tractable. The Coromantee is on the fierce violent and revengeful injury and provocation but hardy laborious and manageable under mild and just treatment. This tribe has generally been at head of all insurrections and was the parent stock of the Maroons. The Congo, Papaw, Chamba, Mandingo &c are of more mild and peaceable disposition than Coromantee, but less industrious and than the Eboe.
The Literary Gazette and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences p. 551
But we still have to deal with the problem of the consistency of some of these descriptions, in part due to regions being confused with or substituted for tribal names. Thus “Eboe” can refer to either Biafran slaves, people from anywhere in SE Nigeria, or a tribe of slaves from the Bight of Benin. Another factor in this confusion was variation within tribes, even with the Mandingo, which was a more consistent tribal name.
As for the rest, virtues vary according to the districts occupy. In Bambuk they are warlike, the Upper Senegal they are more peaceful, but deceiving and thievish, on the Manza and Gambia they are swaggering foul.
The Standard Natural History, Volume 6 edited by John Sterling Kingsley and Elliott Coues p.329
In order, these would correspond to East Senegal/ Mali, North Senegal, and the coastal regions/ Gambia. This makes sense because the desert is harsh and would support violent nomadic lifestyles. This shows that how interior of Senegal, being a more even woodland/ savannah area, and the Gambia being part savannah and swamp-like, would affect natural selection in these groups.
A second factor could be Eurasian ancestry, but that’s most relevant to pastoralists – Chadic expansionists like the Fulani, who average 8-15% Eurasian (varies by region). The Wolof and similar tribes have been found to have only 2-3% Eurasian admixture, possibly derived from the Bafour people, who were described as “Fulani-like.” Razib Khan found that in the Mandinka, the Eurasian intervals were between 0-5%.
Other genetic sources in US Blacks could be from Southeast Bantu, Cushitic, Semitic, and South Asian components, and though each varies by tribe, none of these groups are very significant in African-Americans as a whole. One exception was the Mota Study, but its results were dubious due to errors in calculating the spread.
This post addresses the study’s inconsistencies as well as other admixture results.
Now, it does beg the question of why aren’t the personality disparities as evident as they were in the past? Well, one factor could be that even in the Carolinas and Georgia where Senegambian slaves were preferred, the highest single ethnicity by DNA is West Central Nigerian, at least maternally. And overall, West Central DNA also dominates.
That’s not automatically bad in terms of genetic attributes, though this means that the best groups work with would be the Mandingos of the Upper Senegal or the Kru of Coastal Liberia, though inland they were more disposed to violence, hence the recent coup de etat).
One notion we should dismiss would be Blacks becoming in any sense “White” outside of contributions due to White admixture. This wouldn’t be likely even with the best “stock” such as the Krus. Regarding the Krus, you can look them up in any book, and they were held among most industrious, intelligent, and moral Blacks, who also lacked any significant non-Black admixture, if their features are to speak for them.
The flat nose, the high cheekbones, the yellow eyes, the chalky teeth pointed like the shark’s, the Erotruded like that of a dog monkey combine to form an unusual amount of ugliness.
Their features are distinctly African without a mixture of Arab; the conjunctiva is brown yellow or tarnished a Hamitic peculiarity, and some paint white goggle-like ovals round the orbits, producing the effect of a loop. This is sometimes done for sickness, and individuals are rubbed over with various light and dark colored powders. The skin is very dark, often lamp black others are of a deep rich brown or bronze tint, but a light complexioned man is generally called Tom Coffee.
The back of the cranium is often remarkably flat, and I have seen many heads of the pyramidal shape rising narrow and ported high to the apex.
The Uncivilized Races of Men in All Countries of the World, Volume 1, p. 545
In other words, a flat nose, prognathism, and dark skin. However, what should be noted here is that their heads were flatter than the average as opposed to the more typical elongation of the skull. Brachycephalic heads are indicative of Guineanid Blacks, better known as “Paleo-Negroids”.
But back to the tribe. They’ve been noted to succeed fairly well in adopting European customs, that is until they rejoined others from their homeland.
Very interesting is the fact that these Kroo negroes who, at a distance from their home, seem fully capable of civilization, sink back into their former barbarism on their return to their native land. While they readily acquire foreign languages, and at times give proof of a real attachment and devotion to Europeans in foreign countries on returning home. They take the greatest pains to forget their acquirements as soon as possible, and woe to the European that ventures into their country. However well they may have been treated, they nearly always, after a few years, quit the service of the whites in order to return to their barbarous condition in their native place. So little attraction has our much vaunted civilization for these children of nature!
Africa by Keith Johnston p. 131
With that said though, as a culture, the Krus were comparatively advanced among SSA populations. They partook in some savage practices related to paganism, though they weren’t the typical image of crude savagery, hence the term barbarism. In a true anthropological sense, it’s used to describe societies that bear semblance to fully developed civilization but have the cruder or more primitives aspects accentuated.
What I’m getting at is that, unless in the unlikely event that Whites want groups of Black living next to them so the Whites can influence them, preparations should be made by blacks to generate an culture of reasonably adaptable standards that will at the same time gradually select for preferred skills to improve the society.
Education, for example, should at least partially focus on life skills in morale similar to the religious teachings of Malian Blacks described by Battuta.
From what my father told me, Black education prior to the scholastic focus of integrated schools taught “life” to Black students. Cultural norms and trades were focused on more than actual “book learning”.
In addition, policies that enforce “compulsion” should be laid out. Commenter Sam describes how crucial this is here.
In order to get Blacks to improve their station in life, a focus should be on active practitioners of Christianity, as they already lead a lifestyle that has led to positive results.
Regionally speaking, Blacks in the South seem to have less animosity and to be more developed in a positive sense. That’s not saying that Black pathology doesn’t exist there, but rather that the South has a stronger Black Christian culture than other regions, which is aided by the less crowded rural setting. The murder and incarceration rates in the South as compared to other areas seem to reflect this improved culture. What is interesting about this is that relative to the rest of the country, not only does the region contain more Blacks, but also the Blacks there are significantly blacker than elsewhere as well.
So if such a a better Black culture and social organization could be developed, it along with a selection against individuals less prone to compulsion may improve the standard of Black living by tackling the roots of Black pathologies from a sociological perspective.