Improvement of the Negro in Slavery
"But are they not improving?" said I;
"that is a point in which I am much interested, and I should be glad to
know what is your observation? Have they not, as a race, improved during the
last hundred years, do you not think?"
"Oh, yes indeed, very greatly. During my time - I can remember how they were forty years ago - they have improved two thousand per cent.! Don't you think so?" he asked another gentleman. "Yes; certainly."
"And you may find them now, on the isolated old plantations in the back country, just as I recollect them when I was a boy, stupid and moping, and with no more intelligence than when they first came from Africa. But all about where the country is much settled their condition is vastly ameliorated. They are treated much better, they are fed better, and they have much greater educational privileges."
EDUCATIONAL PRIVILEGES"Educational privileges?" I asked, in surprise.
"I mean by preaching and religious instruction. They have the Bible read to them a great deal, and there is preaching for them all over the country. They have preachers of their own; right smart ones they are, too, some of them."
"Do they?" said I. "I thought that was not allowed by law."
"Well, it is not - that is, they are not allowed to have meetings without some white man, is present. They must not preach unless a white man hears what they say. However, they do. On my plantation, they always have a meeting on Sundays, and I have sometimes, when I have been there, told my overseer, - 'You must go up there to the meeting, you know the law requires it;' and he would start as if he was going, but would just look in and go by; he wasn't going to wait for them."
A DISTINGUISHED DIVINEHe then spoke of a minister, whom he owned, and described him as a very intelligent man. He knew almost the whole of the Bible by heart. He was a fine-looking man - a fine head and a very large frame. He had been a sailor, and had been in New Orleans and New York, and many foreign ports. "He could have left me at any time for twenty years, if he had wished to," he said. "I asked him once how he would like to live in New York? Oh, he did not like New York at all! niggers were not treated well there - there was more distinction made between them and white folks than there was here. `Oh, dey ain't no place in de worl like Ole Virginny for niggers, massa,' says he."
Another gentleman gave similar testimony.