Talking Book

The Bitter Root


Reason, says dear Mr. Howells, can save the Negro writer from bitterness. I don’t intend to be bitter – nor do I think I was. If the tea tastes too strong, as they say, it’s only because it has so long been steeped in the boiling injustice of the present condition of the American Negro. Washington wrote: “I know that that some writers draw alarmist pictures, but I look forward to the future with hope, and confidence.” – Well, I think we all look forward to the future with hope, though the degree of confidence varies so far as the immediate future is concerned.

I have always believed that the Negro in the South will never get his rights until there is a party, perhaps a majority, of Southern white people friendly to his aspirations. If we can encourage the growth of such a feeling in the South, we will have done good work even if we fall short in certain respects. But of course I have not failed to observe that those best qualified to speak, and whose utterances would carry the  most weight, have not been in a position to express themselves fully.

I appreciate the difficulty of their situation. And so far as the mere matter of speech is concerned, discretion on the part of the people who live and work in the South is imperative. However: I don’t blame anyone for becoming angry or impatient about the situation in this country. The only way for colored people to keep calm about it is to not think about it. But there is a certain conservatism in discussion, and a certain philosophical point of view which I think quite as effective as hysterical declamation. But we need both – some to fan the flame and some to furnish the fuel.

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