Paternalism and Pessimism
The whites are each of them fond of particular individuals among the blacks, but despise the race as a whole.
-- Belton O'Neall Townsend, 1877
I would rather be an imp in hades than a Negro in South Carolina.
-- Walter Hines Page, 1899
Bella, an elderly black woman, knocked on the door of her former master, Daniel Elliott Huger Smith, years after emancipation, when she and her husband, Nat, had left the Smith family. Nat had recently been killed by a train, and Bella needed justice from the white world. "' Mass, Judge,'" she implored in her rich Gullah tongue, "'enty yo' gwine mek de railroad pay me for Nat?'" When Smith recommended that she go to his lawyer friend to seek compensation through the courts, she made her expectations clear: "'Mass Judge, I ain' want no lawyer; I ain' want no co't I want [you] of' mek de railroad pay me of' Nat!"' Smith reassumed his traditional obligations, arranged for Bella's legal help, and explained to his lawyer that "she and hers had been slaves of ours. . . and that we owed her good feeling, in spite of the interference of the United States Government." Bella won her compensation from the railroad, and the lawyer "made her no charge for his kindness." This, Smith mused, "acknowledged fully the force of her plea that she had 'b'long to de family.'"1
If Atlanta and Nashville displayed the new order of race relations -- with its competition, legal segregation, sporadic violence, and yet with its avowed commitment to black uplift and regional progress -- Charleston demonstrated the persistence of a more traditional strain of white paternalism, which complemented the city's less sanguine accommodation to the New South. While the proponents of the new order advocated the improved social welfare of blacks as a prerequisite to regional progress, the more pessimistic view from Charleston focused on the burden blacks imposed on future progress. The same behaviors and attitudes also appeared, in less articulated form, in Mobile, but Charleston provides the clearest model of traditional white paternalism as it persisted in the New South. In the older seaports, a long history of urban slavery, suddenly disrupted by emancipation, was followed by a period