27 JANUARY 1939, Page 28

THE BLACK GHETTO " THE American Negro problem is and

must be the centre of the Negro American university . . . You are teaching American Negroes in 1933, and they are the subjects of a caste system . . . and their life problem is primarily this problem of caste." So spoke W. E. B. DuBois, the most eminent American- Negro of the older generation and President Gallagher, although not an uncritical admirer of Dr. DuBois, at least goes along the road as far with him as admission of the caste structure of American society takes him. And that is a long way, for the educator of American Negroes, whether he be coloured like Dr. DuBois or white like President Gallagher, has to face all the problems of the modern college, what it stands for, if it stands for anything, and the additional problems of the Negro college, not only what it does and should stand for, but what it will be allowed to stand for. For, in the South, the mass of opinion shares the view of the hero of a detective story pub- lished here this autumn that it is rare to find a Negro who is both intelligent and knows his place. The Negro college rulers must decide in what degree they are to meet the demands of Ham Thompkins and of Dallas, not to speak of the more severe demands of Senator Bilbo and Senator " Cotton Ed " Smith and their constituents in Mississippi and South Carolina.

President Gallagher's answer is wise and elastic. Spiritual and legal successor of the Yankee schoolmasters and school- marms who came into the conquered South to take advantage of the fact that the mighty had been put down from their seat, to exalt the humble, he is aware that an attempt to transfer the whole ethos and method of a New England college to the South and to its depressed classes was a heroic folly. In his modem " functional " college there are necessary preliminaries before curricula can be developed, " the necessity for including in the curriculum the problems of minority group strategy as seen in world perspective; and the necessity for nurturing in the individual the inner resources for personal victory in the face of temporary defeat." It is in his discussion of these problems of social strategy that President Gallagher's book is most valuable, although his views on general educational problems in American society are of great interest. Race prejudice, as he points out, not merely imposes grave disabilities on the Negro in the Deep South, but not content with handi- capping him in almost every fashion, keeps out of the South a dreadfully high proportion of the small class of Negroes who succeed in jumping the high hurdles set before the talented members of the "inferior race." The Negro doctor, lawyer, writer or businessman goes North and the depressed millions have no other leaders than their numerous and ill-trained clergy. So a Negro college may only be training leaders for the com- paratively fortunate Northern Negroes, leaving the mass of the race quasi-serfs tied to the fortunes of the decaying cotton economy. Yet it is very hard to blame the aspiring Negro who, if he stays behind, is doomed to be a member of a despised caste, to suffer real economic and social disabilities, if not the last dangers of hanging and burning which threaten the rural Negro when his white neighbours take out their resentment of their own bad situation in lynching, nominally in defence of Southern womanhood, more probably as President Gallagher plausibly argues (as far as correlation proves much) in resent- ment of low cotton prices.

Intelligent whites in the South, and out of it, may resent a system that not only forces them to treat educated Negroes, a judge, a congressman, a world-famous singer or a distinguished scholar as inferiors, but forces them, in the South, to pretend that the whiteness of the characters of Tobacco Road makes them the equals of all other whites, as well as the superiors of all blacks. Yet they can only indirectly mitigate the effects of the caste system, as generous Germans may try to mitigate the effects of the Aryan system in the world where Herr Streicher rules or generous South Africans the effects of the system blessed by Generals Smuts and Hertzog. The educated Negro, in the South, has to have some heroic virtues as well as special talents and knowledge. To combine all these qualities in one " educated man " is the task of the Negro college. It is a task of extraordinary difficulty, for it should not involve the acceptance as a permanent ideal of segregation, if only for the reason that whatever the preachers of the doctrine of " separate but equal " may say, to be separate is to be unequal. The problem, it should be remembered, is not only American. As President Gallagher reminds us, America, especially the South, took over many of its habits of thought from a pro- foundly inegalitarian society, England, and the South, in its romantic Margaret Mitchell moods, still hankers after a squire and peasant relation between white and black. We have our apologists for race prejudice in such eminent strayed scientists as Sir Arthur Keith and we have a vast coloured empire, into whose foundations the ants bred by racial bad manners are constantly eating. We have a lot to learn from America, not only negatively but positively, for in this dark picture there are many grey spots, something to be thankful for in a world seemingly growing madder every day.