The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study

By W. E. B. Du Bois | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX.
THE OCCUPATIONS OF NEGROES.

21. The Question of Earning a Living. --For a group of freedmen the question of economic survival is the most pressing of all questions; the problem as to how, under the circumstances of modern life, any group of people can earn a decent living, so as to maintain their standard of life, is not always easy to answer. But when the question is complicated by the fact that the group has a low degree of efficiency on account of previous training; is in competition with well-trained, eager and often ruthless competitors; is more or less handicapped by a somewhat indefinite but existent and wide-reaching discrimination; and, finally, is seeking not merely to maintain a standard of living but steadily to raise it to a higher plane--such a situation presents baffling problems to the sociologist and philanthropist.

And yet this is the situation of the Negro in Philadelphia; he is trying to better his condition; is seeking to rise; for this end his first need is work of a character to engage his best talents, and remunerative enough for him to support a home and train up his children well. The competition in a large city is fierce, and it is difficult for any poor people to succeed. The Negro, however, has two, especial difficulties: his training as a slave and freedman has not been such as make the average of the race as efficient and reliable workmen as the average native American or as many foreign immigrants. The Negro is, as a rule, willing, honest and good-natured; but he is also, as a rule, careless, unreliable and unsteady. This is without doubt to be expected in a people who for generations have

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