The practicability of transporting the negro back to Africa (1891)

A letter to the editor of Science. Compare to Hrdlicka's proposal. Robert Wilson Shufeldt was among other things the curator of the Army Medical Museum (continue reading).

[Shufeldt RW. The Practicability of transporting the Negro back to Africa. Science. 1891 Jan 23;17(416):48.]

The Practicability of transporting the Negro back to Africa.

A LITTLE more than a year ago there appeared in the columns of The Open Court of Chicago some very excellent articles upon the question as to the methods we should adopt in handling our African population in the future. There were two sides taken in the premises,-- those in favor of making the attempt to assimilate this mighty host of millions of negroes we now have in our midst; and those in favor of sending him back to the laud of his ancestors. In the opinion of the present writer, the most able of all these axticles came from the pen of Professor Cope, and in the main we completely coincide with the views that that far-seeing thinker puts forth.

Professor Cope's reasons for returning the African to Africa are most cogent indeed, and are stated in a philosophic and masterly manner. He lifts himself far above the state of the case as seen by the short-sighted party politician, or the sentimental hopes of the idealist or philanthropist, and, calling history and science to his aid, shows most conclusively that we incur a great danger in quietly submitting to the continued presence of this race of people among us. It is not my object bere to enlarge upon his ably stated argument, for he has shown with marked precision and strength the dangers of hybridization of the white and black races in this country, and the constantly disturbing element the negro is in our national organization. By far the greatest danger, however, comes from the mixture of the two races; and that such is now going on one has to but study the population of a city like Washington to appreciate.

It is to be most devoutly hoped that in the very near future the pressing necessity of taking early action in this matter will be fully recognized; and, when such comes to be the case, the practical question will surely arise as to the best ways and means of accomplishing the transfer. Little has been written upon this point as yet, though we all know that the proper exercise of ability, of energy, and the use of sufficient money, will effect it. It seems to me that the first steps that should be taken are those of an organization of an extensive American expedition to Africa, to primarily report upon the best available areas for colonization, taking conditions of climate and for future improvement into consideration. Such an expedition would havie many decided advantages; for, in addition to making a well-organized initial move for the removal of the negro to his proper home, it would give America an opportunity to reap the national benefits that flow from such exrploration,--credit of a nature that we now stand greatly in need of, as our last African expedition was practically a puerile failure. Finally, it would give scientific employment to several of the huge and expensive battle-ships we are now constructing, and for which there is no other especial employment in these days of peace, beyond an exhibition of power.

The next step should be in the direction of constructing a sufficient number of comfortable aud commodious steamers by means of which the transfer could be made; and upon their completion, the necessary national legislation should be promptly enacted that wvould efficiently result in the removal of every negro in this country to those parts of the African continent selected for them. The settlement for such personal properties as the comparatively few negroes could justly lay claim to in the United States could be easily settled. It would not create a circumstance aside similar financial problemas that we have most promptly and satisfactorily solved in formner times.

We do not need the negro vote; we do not need his labor; and, least of all, do we need the injection of his lowly blood into our veins. On the other hand, "Darkest Africa" can well stand, and with the greatest benefit, the introduction into her fertile valleys and upon her fair hillsides, of the very material she most requires to inaugurate her development; that is, several millions of the descendants of her people, which, for a century and a balf, have enjoyed the tuition of the most highly civilized race upon the face of the globe.

Takoma, D.C., Jan. 2.

[About Shufeldt:
He was the son of Admiral Robert Wilson and Sarah H. (Abercrombie) Shufeldt and was born December 1, 1850, in New York. He attended severals choolsin the United Statesa nd in Havana, Cuba, and in the Civil War, in 1864-65, he saw service as captain's clerk and signal officer with the rank of midshipmana boardt he U.S. Gunboat' Proteus,'c ommandedb y his father. In 1872 he entered the medical school of Cornell University and in 1876 received his degree in Washington, D.C., from Columbian, now George Washington, University. In the same year he received an appointment as Lieutenant in the Medical Department of the Army and was ordered to Fort MeHenry, Baltimore,M d., as assistants urgeonl;a ter he serveda s surgeon on the frontier in the campaign against the Sioux Indians.

In 1882 Shufeldt was made a curator in the Army Medical Museum and afterward served as an honorary curator in the Smithsonian Institution. He was retired for disability from the army in 1891 with the rank of Captain and promoted to Major in 1904. At the time of his retirement he was serving as post surgeon at Fort Wingate, New Mexico. During the World War he wasr estoredto the actlyel ist, placedo n duty at the Army MedlealM useum, and finally retired January 9, 1919.

Shufeldtb eganh isl iterary aetivlty whenh e wass till a practicings urgeon. He had a rich zoologicaal nd botanicalc ollection,t he former forming the basiso f his first publicationso n the osteologya nd systematicso f the different speciesa nd families of birds. Shufeldt was married three times, in 1876, 1895, and 1898. His first wife was Catherine Babcock, his second Florence Audubon, grand-daughter of J. J. Audubon, and his third a Norwegian lady, Alfhild Dagny Lowum.

Prior to 1913 Shufeldt published more than 1100 articles, books, short notes and papers, many of his studies appearing in popular reviews of natural history.• [. . .]

His popularw orkso n oSlogym, useologya nd medicinea re very numerous; he also contributedt o mammalogicala nd herpetologicalli terature by anatomicald escriptionos f Helodermas uspecturnA,m ia calvaa nd a monographo f the Procniatidae. His most important anthropologicawl ork bears the title 'America's Greatest Problem: The Negro.'


Chris said...

My. And Shufeldt fought on the Union side during the CW.

I've got at least three ancestors who were Union infantry in the war. I often wonder what they would have thought of their efforts had they been allowed to see how the U.S. would end up a century later.

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