Daughter of the Revolution: The Major Nonfiction Works of Pauline E. Hopkins

By Pauline E. Hopkins; Ira Dworkin | Go to book overview

Heroes and Heroines in Black 1:
Neil Johnson, America Woodfolk,
Robert Smalls, et al.

Pauline E. Hopkins

We propose in this article to touch upon the noble trait of heroism, in the Negro race, which is defined as gallantry, valor, courage.

The heroic in human affairs is a large topic, deserving of the extended treatment given it by the best thought of all ages. In the literature of heroism we first find Plutarch, to whom we owe the Brasidas, the Dion, the Epaminondas, the Scipio of old. Wordsworth's “Laodamia” and Scott's works have a noble, martial strain of heroic virtue; Robert Burns sings also a song or two. Simon Ockley's History of the Saracens tells over the glories of individual courage, while the cool, philosophical reasonings of Carlyle, Emerson, Channing and Thoreau give forth a generous meed of praise and enthusiasm for manly valor.

The heroic spirit in man, we therefore deduce, is the foundation of universal history, history itself being but an account of the deeds of men who have been the models and patterns for the great mass of humanity in past centuries even from the beginning of the world. A man may be in obscurity today,—poor, ignorant, unknown; lo, on the morrow, he may, by one unselfish act, beautiful and sublime, become one of the great men sent into the world as an instrument to accomplish the will of the Father. Such is heroism: a military attribute of the soul; a fine contempt for safety or ease; a mind of such chivalric mold that thoughts of danger cause no disturbance; the highest degree of natural enthusiasm which the world profoundly venerates.

Being then a quality that is God implanted and an attribute of Infinity, it is a most desirable possession. If cultivated, it instills a wild courage, a “stoicism of the blood” that brings to any race undying fame. As a race, we need the stimulus of books and tales of this “cathartic virtue” more than any other literature we can mention.31

How strange a thing it is to see a great powerful and prosperous nation, generally fair and impartial to the helpless of other lands and willing to lend them aid and comfort, and boasting of this national trait as of a great and

31. Hopkins's introduction to this essay, including the literature references in the second paragraph, are
taken from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Heroism,” in Essays: First and Second Series (1841–1844; Making of
America, 2005), 1:233–235.

-285-

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