A Pure Motherhood:
The Basis of Racial Integrity
c. August 6-11, 1902 — The Negro People’s Christian and Educational Congress, Atlanta GA
This great and unique Congress has rightly discerned the signs of the times inasmuch as it has given due recognition to the women of the race. For, in the discussion of these problems affecting the highest and purest development of our people, the relation of woman. to that development cannot be ignored. Woman has come up through the ages representing the highest form of beauty and honor. With increasing christian enlightenment, her worth and position to society have gained respect and reverence, until, in the light of advanced civilization, she stands a potential factor in the world of progress. The proscriptions of the past are fast disappearing as man realizes that upon woman rests those responsibilities so essential to the perpetuity and highest attainments of the human race. And she is steadily and rapidly advancing to her rightful place in society as man’s helper and co-worker.
We have seen in abundance the fruits of her devotion to the church. We have witnessed her as a leader in social and moral reforms. Her integrity and faithfulness in position of honor and trust in the business world have been attained, but it is in the uplifting and purifying of the home that her greatest work has been wrought, and there rests her greatest responsibility to God and the human race. Indeed, the salvation of the human race absolutely depends upon its womanhood. To woman is given the sacred and divine trust of developing the germ of life — it is her peculiar function to sustain, nourish, train and educate the future man.
Upon the Negro woman rests a burden of responsibility peculiar in its demands. It is not similar to that borne by any other woman of another time and clime. Questions of morals among inferior and superior races ‘have settled themselves largely by amalgamation. The Briton, Saxon and Norman mixed their blood to give us the proud Anglo-Saxon. This was accomplished through honorable wedlock, but the Negro woman must tear herself away from the sensual desires-of the men of another race who seek only to debase her. In this effort she stands not only almost alone and unprotected, but at the same time she must also wage a warfare against a pestilence of vice within her own race. What shall we say of the hundreds of mothers of the race who are, by example and by precept, leading a host of children that shall one day as men and women give to the race its strength and character? We must not be misled by the assumption that the colored woman is wholly depraved: This noble band of christian mothers with their beautiful christian spirits is not to be forgotten or discounted in the uplifting of our people. Thousands of intelligent christian homes dot this country and tell a story of womanly virtue and integrity that cannot fail to win the approval of God and the commendation of all who can rightly appreciate the prodigious change that has been wrought in the light of freedom.
There is another evil of less importance than the one already mentioned. As a general rule, the highest and most blessed duty of the family is totally disregarded. Not only are the children of unmarried mothers the creatures of chance, coming into the world undesired and unloved, but the same is sometimes true of the children of many of our married mothers. A child has a right to the inheritance of the very best of body and soul its parents can bestow. If these are not granted, the child is defrauded of its birth-right. There is no sin without its penalty, and for the violation of the most sacred oflice of the marital relation, the parents, the child and society all trust inevitably suffer. If the intelligent mothers of the race, who are trying to attune harmoniously all the powers of body and mind, thus giving a higher and purer life, would concentrate their efforts at this peculiar point, we would soon diminish the number of poorly born, poorly bred and deformed children that we need only look out on the streets to see.
Source: The United Negro: His Problems and His Progress, Containing the Addresses and Proceedings The Negro Young People’s Christian and Educational Congress Held August 6-11, 1902, ed. I. Garland Penn (Atlanta: D.E. Luther Publishing Co.) 1902, pp. 433-435.