The Hegira of Colored People.
January 17, 1870
"Colored people" are heading south because their anatomy is supposedly better suited for more tropical climates. Virginia is going to become a "better" state for being whiter.
Four years since we held the opinion, entertained by many others, that the colored people would naturally tend southwardly, and that in the course of not a very long time Virginia would be all white. The black man is a tropical animal. In the tropics he was placed by the Creator and endued with certain natural peculiarities that fitted him for tropical life, in which he flourishes where other varieties of the human race sicken, and waste away, and die. Reasonably, the qualities which fit him for tropical latitudes unfit him for those that are colder. Even this temperate line is not so well adapted to his nature and comfort as the Gulf States; nor, again, are even they so genial for him as a line further south. The African, for this reason, under his natural instincts, has by degrees wended his way from Vermont and Massachusetts (strange to tell, once slave States), and from New York and Pennsylvania, to the States south of them. And for years before the war there was a constant drain upon the black population of Maryland and Virginia to supply the demand for labor of the cotton States. Such was the volume of the current of black emigration to the States on the northern shore of the Gulf, and still further south to Texas, that the close observer was even then admonished of a future to the States of the temperate latitude that could hardly be avoided. From these indications we may clearly infer that the African in this country is in time to be restored to the tropical line, where Providence originally placed him. To even those who entertained this opinion, however, the recent rapid emigration of the colored people of this State to the Gulf region has been surprising. Advertisements for from one to five thousand, to be steadily employed at wages higher than can possibly be paid here for tilling of the soil, have appeared in rapid succession, and the trains for the South have been daily filled with blacks. The number carried away during the fall and winter up to this time is very large. Perhaps it is beyond the number that would likely be removed by the natural tendency which we have described. And it may be explained by the fact that several railroads are in progress of construction in the South, and that some of the agents advertising for hands are engaging them to work on these roads. We have no unkind feelings towards the blacks. They have exhibited the rarest example of gentleness and fidelity amidst the convulsions of a revolution--and a revolution involving their own freedom-to be found in history. It is an enduring proof of the civilization to which they were elevated under the institution of slavery in the South. Under no condition has the African ever reached so high a scale of enlightenment and tractability. We award heartily this meed of praise to him. But we are speaking of overruling destinies which are not affected by sentiment. The effect of the departure of the colored race from Virginia cannot but be beneficial in increasing the power and consideration of the State. It will be succeeded-and probably at least as rapidly as it departs--by white immigration, and that will give to the State a superior kind of industry and mechanical skill. The labor that will take the place of that of the blacks will be far more intelligent, and the laborers will be more thrifty, and by their rapid accumulations-the acquisition of land and the consequent improvement of them-greatly increase the common wealth. The contrast between the thrift and general improvement of the country under the sagacious and provident industry of the white man and the very best condition that may be secured under that of the black man must be very great, and the general advantages to the State of the former over the latter can hardly be exaggerated. The exchange of the labor we have for that we look for cannot be too much hastened. But the most grave light in which we can regard this subject is one which we have more than once alluded to, and that is the importance of confiding the labor of the land to the best type of man. In submitting to the Divine fiat which dooms man to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow he finds the chief source of his health, strength, and that contentment and virtue which complete happiness. As with the individual so with the State; labor is its order and strength-the source of the continual replenishment of its vital energies. All departments, industrial and professional, depend upon it for their maintenance in energy and vigor. Now, what a misfortune is it for any State that its labor should be left to an inferior race. It cannot enjoy in the highest degree the force and consistency indispensable to endurance. We can no more expect this than we can hope to prolong the life of a man by infusing diseased blood into his veins. Now the prospect is that Virginia will, in a term of years, be all white; that she will be in the highest condition of social energy and political power; that her labor and mechanical skill will be of the most capable and intelligent kind; that her incomparable advantages of climate, soil, motive power, and mineral riches, will be brought to the highest state of usefulness; and that she will become, perhaps, the most flourishing State in the Union.
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“The Hegira of Colored People.,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed May 18, 2022, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/1569.