An important move; or what to do about shiftless negroes.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 March 1919.

A gathering of men at the Colored Odd Fellows Hall. The topic at hand? How to “make the negro more efficient and helpful, more energetic, more responsible and in any every way a better citizen.” The means? A temporary organization headed by Camillus L. Darden and Dr. William H. Phillips. R. McCants Andrews, Howard ’15, newly graduated from Harvard Law School and soon to be counsel for North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, was the principal speaker, holding the audience spellbound as he “discussed the shiftless ones, those who desire to get off on Saturday it matters not how badly he is needed, or how it will break up the oorganization, he talked about those who roam around with no settled abiding place, and of the crap shooter and general loafer and vagrant.” The Negro is a great imitator, he intimated, and “if the white man could get him to imitate work he would go to that and stick to it.” And the South was the place for him to do it.

The white businessmen in the audience chimed in. F.M. Miller, superintendent of Farmer’s Cotton Oil Company. There were “great possibilities in the development of the Negro,” he opined, “if they were handled in the right way an taught to understand the responsibilities of life.” He then supplied “some personal reminiscences to prove this.” Publisher John D. Gold answered the call for a remark. He confessed that he had long wondered if there a way “to make the shiftless colored man who shot craps and loafed ” much of the week “a better man and citizen.” The organization, he thought, would be useful in reaching these unreliable folk when they were young. After all, “he believed in his colored folks.”

“Dr. Sam Vick” stepped forward. If he was struggling to contain a reaction to the guests’ words, his own comments offer no hint. Instead — according to the Times reporter, at least — he echoed the general sentiments. “The colored man should be taught the value of a dollar, how it came and what it would bring” and should be “systematically trained” to eliminate his troubles. Episcopal priest Rev. Robert Perry, Dr. Frank S. Hargrave, Dr. William Mitchner and others offered their own hear-hears.

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