The Negro by W.E.B. Du Bois


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Page 3

The mulatto (using the term loosely to indicate either an intermediate
type between white and black or a mingling of the two) is as typically
African as the black man and cannot logically be included in the "white"
race, especially when American usage includes the mulatto in the Negro

It is reasonable, according to fact and historic usage, to include under
the word "Negro" the darker peoples of Africa characterized by a brown
skin, curled or "frizzled" hair, full and sometimes everted lips, a
tendency to a development of the maxillary parts of the face, and a
dolichocephalic head. This type is not fixed or definite. The color varies
widely; it is never black or bluish, as some say, and it becomes often
light brown or yellow. The hair varies from curly to a wool-like mass, and
the facial angle and cranial form show wide variation.

It is as impossible in Africa as elsewhere to fix with any certainty the
limits of racial variation due to climate and the variation due to
intermingling. In the past, when scientists assumed one unvarying Negro
type, every variation from that type was interpreted as meaning mixture of
blood. To-day we recognize a broader normal African type which, as
Palgrave says, may best be studied "among the statues of the Egyptian
rooms of the British Museum; the larger gentle eye, the full but not
over-protruding lips, the rounded contour, and the good-natured, easy,
sensuous expression. This is the genuine African model." To this race
Africa in the main and parts of Asia have belonged since prehistoric

The color of this variety of man, as the color of other varieties, is due
to climate. Conditions of heat, cold, and moisture, working for thousands
of years through the skin and other organs, have given men their
differences of color. This color pigment is a protection against sunlight
and consequently varies with the intensity of the sunlight. Thus in Africa
we find the blackest men in the fierce sunlight of the desert, red pygmies
in the forest, and yellow Bushmen on the cooler southern plateau.

Next to the color, the hair is the most distinguishing characteristic of
the Negro, but the two characteristics do not vary with each other. Some
of the blackest of the Negroes have curly rather than woolly hair, while
the crispest, most closely curled hair is found among the yellow
Hottentots and Bushmen. The difference between the hair of the lighter and
darker races is a difference of degree, not of kind, and can be easily
measured. If the hair follicles of a China-man, a European, and a Negro
are cut across transversely, it will be found that the diameter of the
first is 100 by 77 to 85, the second 100 by 62 to 72, while that of the
Negro is 100 by 40 to 60. This elliptical form of the Negro's hair causes
it to curl more or less tightly.

There have been repeated efforts to discover, by measurements of various
kinds, further and more decisive differences which would serve as really
scientific determinants of race. Gradually these efforts have been given
up. To-day we realize that there are no hard and fast racial types among
men. Race is a dynamic and not a static conception, and the typical races
are continually changing and developing, amalgamating and differentiating.
In this little book, then, we are studying the history of the darker part
of the human family, which is separated from the rest of mankind by no
absolute physical line, but which nevertheless forms, as a mass, a social
group distinct in history, appearance, and to some extent in spiritual

We cannot study Africa without, however, noting some of the other races
concerned in its history, particularly the Asiatic Semites. The
intercourse of Africa with Arabia and other parts of Asia has been so
close and long-continued that it is impossible to-day to disentangle the
blood relationships. Negro blood certainly appears in strong strain among
the Semites, and the obvious mulatto groups in Africa, arising from
ancient and modern mingling of Semite and Negro, has given rise to the
term "Hamite," under cover of which millions of Negroids have been
characteristically transferred to the "white" race by some eager

The earliest Semites came to Africa across the Red Sea. The Phoenicians
came along the northern coasts a thousand years before Christ and began
settlements which culminated in Carthage and extended down the Atlantic
shores of North Africa nearly to the Gulf of Guinea.

From the earliest times the Greeks have been in contact with Africa as
visitors, traders, and colonists, and the Persian influence came with
Cambyses and others. Roman Africa was bounded by the desert, but at times
came into contact with the blacks across the Sahara and in the valley of
the Nile. After the breaking up of the Roman Empire the Greek and Latin
Christians filtered through Africa, followed finally by a Germanic
invasion in 429 A.D.

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