The Myth of the Negro Past

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This work represents the documentation of a hypothesis, developed in the course of two decades of research. That the scientific study of the Negro and attempts to meliorate the interracial situation in the United States have been handicapped by a failure to consider adequately certain functioning aspects of Negro life has become increasingly apparent as this investigation has gone on. Problems in Negro research attacked without an assessment of historic depth, and a willingness to regard the historical past of an entire people as the equivalent of its written history can clearly be seen to have made for confusion and error in interpretation, and misdirected judgment in evaluating practical ends. The approach in the ensuing pages, though oriented toward the study of the Negro in the United States, takes into full account the West African, South American, and West Indian data, lacking which, I am convinced, true perspective on the values of Negro life in this country cannot be had, either by the student treating of the larger problems of cultural change or by the practical man seeking to lessen racial tensions. While it has been necessary to throw into relief the neglect by others of such background materials in favour of nonhistorical statistical analyses and ad hoc remedies, this is riot because a full knowledge of existing conditions is held unimportant or that the urgent problems to be faced by Negroes and whites alike are unrecognized. On the contrary, this study has attempted to show that present-day situations are more complex in their underlying causes than has been grasped and that, whether in analyzing intellectual or practical problems, every consideration calls for insight into the influence of pre-American patterns.