EVILS I HAVE TRIED TO
From the beginning of my work I knew there was a wealth of motherhood in the black women's hearts, but I feared the fathers lacked a love for the children and their mothers. Many fathers entirely deserted their homes, leaving the burden all upon the mothers, but it was a rare thing that a mother thus left her children. Even when the father did not go off with another woman, he often failed to provide for his family. I am glad God let me live to see that the black man has the same father's love that exists in the hearts of other races, but alas! his slave training crushed out this father's care and love, because the master took from the husband and father all the responsibility of providing for wife and child; but the mother, of course, had the care of the baby, at least until it was able to work. I found the colored people always spoke of mother, but rarely of father.
I'm a little afraid that in all races fathers too often shirk their part in the training of their children, though they may provide for their temporal wants. During the last five years there has been a great improvement in the homes of my fireside pupils; since we changed "mothers' pledge" to "parents' pledge." The wife often writes with delight of the help the father is in reading to the children and consulting with her about their general management. Oh, I know so many beautiful homes where love and intelligence rule the household, and the children are being trained for God's glory and usefulness in the world?trained by the united love and care of father and mother.
But much yet remains to be done. Our young men should be taught that to marry includes providing a home for his wife, giving her time to keep that home in good order, and make it a true home for himself and children. To prove this reform I give you the following resolutions:
At three large associations in the state of Arkansas we have talked earnestly and prayerfully about the subject of home religion, and the pastors and delegates all agreed to be more thoughtful and try harder to make home what it should be. They not only promised this for themselves but they promised to teach the same lesson to all the husbands and fathers under their influence, but we all agreed that the wife and mother had the power in her hands to make home happy and intelligent, much more than the father had. This was the entering wedge that led to the changing of our pledge from "Mothers" to "Parents."
I will give you a part of resolutions that were discussed and unanimously adopted at three associations, one state convention, and at some smaller meetings in 1893. I give it to you so that you can see that many, yes, a large number of the husbands and fathers, are anxious and willing to do their part toward making home happy and intelligent.
RESOLUTION ON FIRESIDE SCHOOLS AND
"First. That we will take more time and thought in helping wife and mother to become intelligent and also in helping her to overcome the daily temptations that surround her. To this end we will provide her with the books and papers necessary to join the Fireside School, and we will encourage and help her to fulfill the duties required by that school.
"Second. That if possible we will provide our homes with the proper cooking and other household utensils and furniture, so as to make the housework easier for mother?have the wood and water in a convenient place, etc. When there are many children in the family, or much work to do, we will help her all we can when we are at home, and we will stay at home as much as our daily labor will allow us.
"Third. That we will make our homes as comfortable and attractive as possible for the sake of our dear children. We think it better to spend less money in dressing them in a fashionable way, which will only lead them to go away from home, and instead spend more money for books, papers, music, and such things as should induce a good child to stay at home.
"Fourth. That we believe it is the husband's duty to provide food, raiment, and whatever is needed for the home, and that it is the wife's duty to prepare it for use, cook the food, make the garments, etc., and also to keep the home neat and attractive for husband and children. This she cannot do if she must spend her time in earning their daily bread."
I, also, thus exhorted the wives: "Dear sisters, I want you to read these resolutions a great many times, and thank God for them, and then try to do your part. Do not sit down in a sulky way and say, I know the men are not going to do what they say. They will talk nice at the meeting, but when they come home they will let the wife carry the heaviest part of the burden?I know them,' and then shrug your shoulders and look as if you did not believe one word they said. Now, dear sisters, if you behave in that manner you will spoil the whole thing. Only believe the husbands mean what they say, and help them carry out their good resolutions. Be pleasant and hopeful. Do not make trouble for yourself by expecting it, but look for brighter days."
LACK OF PROMPTNESS.
I have wasted years of my life waiting upon tardy people at church, or at some other appointment. They did not seem to know that breaking a promise was telling a lie, unless some accident prevented their keeping the promise. This lack of promptness was seen in the household affairs. Unless compelled to rise at the proper hour they were tardy; women and men would carelessly gossip instead of doing the work at the proper time and keeping the house in order. They worked when they felt like it, instead of being governed by the principle of right, and this matter of feeling was often transferred to their religion and became the frequent cause of back-sliding. You must not understand that every one belonging to the race acted thus, but certainly it was true of the majority. Along this line I am glad to report great improvements. More of them are careful about promising and keeping their promises, more homes are kept in order, regular seasons for prayer and Bible study are observed, even when they do not feel like it. A woman said one day, "Some mornings I don't want to get up, but my children will starve if I don't, so I get breakfast for the body when I don't feel like it. And then I feed the soul for the same reason, with my Bible lesson and prayer." How many of my white mothers are as wise?
SACRIFICING THE SPIRITUAL TO THE MATERIAL.
At the associations I attended, ten minutes were often allowed for each pastor to report the condition of his church. I had my pencil and took notes. In one association five of them had built church houses, but reported few or no converts, and a very cold condition of the members spiritually. This set me to thinking. If building church edifices is taught in the New Testament then it should be a means of grace to draw each member nearer to Christ. I'll see what the word says on this subject. Well, do you know what I found? I found that there is no reference to the building of church houses; Christians worshipped in private homes. Strange that what now costs Christians millions of dollars should have no place in the New Testament record.
I also noted that money was collected from saint and sinner alike, and by means of fairs and suppers, and more than half of the Sabbath was used for collecting money.
Another note registered the fact that pastors had charge of the financial work because no one else had time or else were not qualified. Turning again to the Bible I find that God had explicitly told the pastor that his duty was prayer and the ministry of the word. Acts 6:4. The New Testament pastors would not leave this work, even to look after the poor, but deacons were appointed for that purpose. Now, alas, all over the land big steeple houses grind the money out of the poor washerwoman's hands, and the pastor has given up feeding the flock in order to direct this work. In Louisiana the edifice was not very expensive, and yet it was beyond their means. I tried to show the pastors their mistake.
BENEVOLENT AND SECRET SOCIETIES.
When I came to New Orleans in 1873, only eight years after the war, I found the benevolent organizations independent of the church were numerous. They grew out of the fact that the people were poor. The church did not or could not care for them in time of sickness nor see that they were buried decently. Now that they were free they wanted to be buried like white people. I tried to show them that this was the work of the church and that the money should be placed in that treasury and used as the early church did. Acts 6. But they said the church would not take the responsibility. The result was that saints and sinners joined in the movement, and soon these societies grew to be very popular. Even Christians would say, "Yes, I must go to my society meeting and pay my dues. I can't neglect that to attend the prayer meeting, for who will care for me when I am sick." Sometimes these meetings were held on Sunday. You can easily see that these societies helped drain the church of its money and led Christians to look to the world for help rather than direct to God, and thus lessened their respect for the church. Many could not see that the money they gave the church did the members any good. They did not give as cheerfully as they had formerly done. I taught them to save their money and to be industrious and then they would be able to care for themselves in time of trouble. I saw that the indolent became more indolent and lazy because they would say, "The society will take care of me." It was very difficult for these people to save their money. It was often stolen and we had no savings banks in those days. We needed them. The failure of the Freedman's Bank, of which my readers know, discouraged many. Indeed there was much to discourage and hinder the progress of the poor black man in those early days, and there is almost as much to-day. Slavery gave him so little knowledge of business.
The secret societies followed the benevolent. Indeed in many places they went before. Soon they had the right of way and the church was left in the rear, in the opinion of a large number. In 1880 some one whom we sent out to collect facts said we had forty different organizations among the colored people of Louisiana. The women often had their societies separate from the men. My judgment, based upon observation, take it all in all, is that even those benevolent organizations did far more evil than good. The secret societies were always a curse. They caused much domestic unhappiness along with other evils. It is true that the churches were not up to the standard but the best people were in them. Now through the sinner officers in the societies bad men have the power to place the societies in place of the church, to magnify them and belittle the church, charging it with not caring for them when sick, forgetting or covering up the truth, that their money and influence have been given to the societies instead of to their churches. The child of God will always find that these societies lessen his trust in his heavenly Father and lead him to love the things of the world. Phil. 4:19 is true for those who follow Jesus.
Intemperance was a terrible sin in Louisiana. The colored people had not learned to control themselves and they were subject to great temptations. Saloons and groceries worked together. You could not buy a piece of bread without a whiskey bottle staring you in the face. While in the grocery on a plantation one day, I noticed that the owner gave a colored man a drink of whiskey. I asked, "Do you give the people liquor?" "O, yes, we are very generous. We often give them two or three drams for nothing." "Do all the stores do the same?" "Yes, all that I know," was his reply. "Two or three drams would make them half drunk," said I. He laughed, but I told him how wicked it was, from a Bible standpoint. In business he said it was right, and I left him.
I remember staying in a poor cabin one night where lived a good mother with five children. The husband was good when not under the influence of liquor. He had just received seven dollars of his wages. His wife begged for the money, but he would not give it to her. He bought a dollar's worth of groceries and left. We had supper and waited in vain for the husband. He came home after 12 o'clock quite drunk and money all gone. Our temperance work accomplished a great reform. Even the children were very faithful in keeping their pledges. For example, a little boy in Monroe, La., about eight years old signed the pledge. He was sick with measles. The doctor said give him some whiskey today. The child was very sick, he had not spoken all day, but now he caught his mother's hand and pulled her down, whispering, "I'm temperance; I can't take the whiskey." The doctor and mother coaxed and threatened, telling him he would die if he did not take the whiskey, but the child was firm. The next day the measles came out and he got well more quickly than those who took the toddy. Some of the children induced their neighbors to sign the pledge, and even had courage to reprove preachers. Alex. Brown, of Thibodeaux, La., when only six years old signed the pledge for me, and was a great help to the cause, talking temperance to preachers. This boy is now a teacher in Leland University. The pastor of his father's church slept behind his pulpit from the effects of liquor while I gave a Bible lesson in the church. Poor man, I expect his mother gave him whiskey toddy the day he was born, by order of the doctor, who also gave the mother a dram each day, and thus the child acquired a thirst for liquor with his mother's milk. Then I ask the question "Who is to blame?" I fear some doctors, together with that grocery man of whom I speak, will have a hard time at the judgment seat when the secrets of all hearts will be revealed.
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