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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Hampton Negro Conference. Number III. July 1899.
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and rag time music as natural expressions of a certain stage of civilization. "When real," said one, "they have a certain quality that appeals to the human race without distinction of color. We do not need to be ashamed of them: they are evanescent and will pass. From "rag-time" we shall grow into something higher; we must pass from the known to the unknown." There was a very strong expression of disapproval of the practice of waiters in large hotels to cater to the entertainment of white people, by making themselves ridiculous. This was characterized as degrading, and students going out to work at hotels for the summer were urged to discourage it, "for they have their own self-respect and that of their race to maintain."
It was, however, plainly the sentiment of the conference that the beautiful plantation melodies should be preserved. Rev. Mr. Lyon of Baltimore said, "We should give most attention to those things that belong to us as a race, and not try to imitate the work of white men, however good it may be. The plantation songs are our own; they belong to our very life; they were born out of our own sufferings, and the plaintive melodies as well as the words express deep things. Never, never let them go, but hunt them out and preserve them with care." Dr. Frissell, in speaking on this subject, referred to the fact that most of the buildings of Hampton Institute have been "sung up" by the students on their campaigns in the North. "There is a great future," said he, "for the race that produced the plantation melodies. What can any people want better than a song-lore that has had power to move the hearts of men and women all over the world? Walter Damrosch, who is himself a great master of music, and knows the elements that make it divine, has distinguished these melodies by his commendation.
This idea that whatever is characteristic of the race should be carefully cherished, was emphasized also in connection with literature. Many felt that the Negro is seriously handicapped by his poverty and consequent lack of leisure for study, as well as by this want of influence in literary circles; but it was also acknowledged that anyone having real merit would find recognition. "What we need," said Miss Laney, "are authors who are able to write what will be read long after they have left the stage of life. Let some one do for us what Ian Maclaren has done for the Scotch in the "Bonnie Brier Bush." There is plenty of material for beautiful short stories in the country districts of the South. I wish we had Negro writers who would go down to the sea islands of Georgia and South Carolina, where are to be found the last ship loads of Negroes brought from Africa—the
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