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Hampton Negro Conference. Number III. July 1899.

1899VA-State-Hampton_Proceedings (69).pdf

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Shall we have it? The black novelist is like the white novelist, in too many instances swayed by the almighty dollar; in too many instances willing to pander to low tastes and cater to public sentiment for what he can get out of it. Like Esau he is ready to sell his birthright for a mess of pottage.

Let the Negro writer of fiction make of his pen and brain all-compelling forces to treat of that which he well knows, best knows, and give it to the world with all the imaginative power possible, with all the magic touch of an artist. Let him portray the Negro's loves and hates, his hopes and fears, his ambitions, his whole life, in such a way that the world will weep and laugh over the pages, finding the touch that makes all nature kin, forgetting completly that hero and heroine are God's bronze images, but knowing only that they are men and women with joys and sorrows that belong alike to the whole human family. Such is the novelist that the race desires. Who is he that will do it? Who is he that can do it?


The interest aroused by Prof. Scarborough's paper was broadened and deepened during the discussion that followed. The relation of the Negro to the drama first engaged the attention of the conference. Formerly it was said, all the colored characters introduced on the stage were of the lowest type, but it was generally conceded that there had been an improvement in this respect. Some of the best vaudeville shows now are those gotten up by Negroes, and some actors of the race have good places in white companies. This was considered encouraging, as was also the fact that, while only a few years ago, but one or two Negro troupes were allowed in the best theatres, at present four or five are permitted to use them every season. The fair success of "Clorinda," and "The Cannibal King," compositions by Will N. Cook, was spoken of as a hopeful sign of future development in the line of the drama.

There was a rather general feeling that the Negro was thought incapable of anything better than "rag-time" music, and the so-called "coon songs;" and it was also said that entertainments which included cake walks, and plenty of "rag-time" songs would draw larger audiences than those of a more "respectable" character. Several speakers referred to the coon songs

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