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Mrs. Warren Logan on Southern African American Urban Mortality - 1902

From Jone Johnson Lewis,
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Essay by Mrs. Warren Logan 1902

This essay is reprinted from Twentieth Century Negro Literature, edited by D. W. Culp (Dr. Daniel Wallace Culp), published 1902.  The biographical sketch of Mrs. Warren Logan (Adella Hunt Logan) is presumably written by Culp.  Related articles on this site include:


What Are the Causes of the Great Mortality Among the Negroes of the Cities of the South, and How Is That Mortality to Be Lessened?

BY Mrs. Warren Logan [Adella Hunt Logan].

Mrs. Warren Logan, whose maiden name was Adella Hunt, was born in a Georgia village after the close of the Civil War. When asked for this sketch, she said: "There is little to tell, as my busy life has been without romantic event. I was not born a slave, nor in a log cabin. To tell the truth, I got my education by no greater hardship than hard work, which I regard as exceedingly healthful."

It is known that she has an inheritance of blood, tradition and history of which any American woman might be proud.

Her early education was of a private nature. In 1881 she was graduated from Atlanta University as a bright member of one of its brightest classes.

Two years of teaching in an American Missionary School in a South Georgia town, where she was also a city missionary, prepared her for more advanced work, which opened to her at Tuskegee, Ala.

In 1883 Miss Hunt joined Mr. Washington, Olivia Davidson, Warren Logan and the handful of teachers who were the originators of the now famous Industrial School.

From the first she fitted into the activities and spirit of the school and became Miss Davidson's right hand helper. She succeeded to the position of Lady Principal when Miss Davidson became Mrs. Booker T. Washington. In this position Miss Hunt emphasized the academic side of the school and also urged the physical development of the girls. Her own line of teaching was the normal training of student teachers. Her services were constantly in demand for Peabody and other teachers' institutes in Georgia and Alabama.

In 1888 Miss Hunt was married to Warren Logan, treasurer of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. Since that time she has ordered her household, written a little, read much, completed the Chautauqua Course, and kept abreast with the times. While she has given her best thought to her husband and children, she has kept in touch with the school and has lent a hand to the Woman's Club.


In these days of specialists among physicians and of specialists among students of social science it seems rather presumptuous for a teacher to attempt any formal discussion of causes and remedies for the high death rate among Negroes in the cities of the South. A few suggestions, however, may serve to draw more attention to this vital subject.

The sections of the cities inhabited by Negroes are generally the most unsanitary. The house in which the average Negro family lives is poorly built and too small. Frequently old houses are set aside as too far gone for any except Negro tenants. In many instances these dilapidated houses contain germs of disease which it is practically impossible for the young and the feeble to withstand. The food, fuel, clothing and general comforts of a family thus housed are insufficient. Food plays too large a part in the havoc made by death among Negroes. In many instances, there is great intemperance in both eating and drinking. With another large class there is actual scarcity of food and that, too, often of poor quality. Add to this, irregularity of meals and poor cooking and one can not wonder at the low state of health nor even at the excessive mortality.

One of the most serious phases of ignorance is criminal carelessness in regard to nutrition. Cooking is that part of household work which almost every woman undertakes and very few understand, and herein lies the foundation of disease.

The long death-roll among Negroes contains an excessive number of infants. Careful investigation shows that this slaughter of innocents is due in large measure to improper feeding. Some mothers must be away from their babies earning bread and shelter. Others leave their little ones for less worthy and less honorable purposes. Others neglect their offspring because they have a fancied or cultivated dislike of children. It is a sad day for a people when happy motherhood declines. Man has devised successful substitutes for natural food for babies, but these should be used only when the best good of all concerned can be subserved thereby. Nature's ways are wisest and best, and parents must try to walk in those ways if they would have their children have life and have it abundantly.

Far be it from us here to attempt a technical discussion of tuberculosis, but in plain simple language, let us cite a few facts in regard to lung diseases among Negroes.

The oft repeated statement that the Negro slave did not have consumption, cannot be verified, for lack of authentic records on the subject. The Negro free, however, is dying of consumption and kindred diseases in appallingly large numbers.

Many theories in regard to consumption have been exploded, but it is acknowledged by all, to be an infectious disease. As such, ignorant people do not understand how to escape it; indeed, until anti-spitting laws are more universal and more rigidly enforced, every one may be exposed to these deadly germs. They respect neither race lines nor intellectual grades. The Negro, however, seems to be peculiarly susceptible to this class of ailments. 1. Because of comparatively small lung capacity. 2. Because of general low nutrition. 3. Because of lack of bath rooms and their proper use. 4. Immorality. 5. General indifference to the incipient stages of the disease. Colds and coughs are passed by as matters of course with little or nothing done to prevent or cure them.

The physical life and death of man has a much more intimate connection with his moral life than is at first thought apparent. Too many children are robbed by Sin of a child's first right, viz.: the right to be well born. If parents have lived lives of shame and thereby weakened their bodies, the effects of this will be a sad legacy of weakness in the persons of their children. Men and women given to social impurity will hardly escape the notice of those about them. Their characters are imitated and shame and weakness, physical as well as moral, multiplied. "Sin conceived and brought forth Death."

Among people of low intellectual development and low moral standards, family love is below normal. With this defective class, there is much indifference to the life and death of their dependent relatives. The young and the aged are shamefully neglected. It is sufficient to be bereaved—better, the relieved, to say: "The Lord's Will be done." Remedies for these sad and unfortunate conditions are much more easily suggested than applied.

Better environment, greater comfort in the homes, come only as a return for money. Money will come as a return for labor. Money will come to those who earnestly desire it, because they will work for it. They will do whatsoever their hands find to do, accepting the pay such labor brings, but fitting and aspiring for something better. There is usually plenty of work for all honest, industrious Negroes in Southern cities.

Even money may not cause the old shanty to give place to a good house nor raise the standard of general comfort very materially, except as the demands of the family are enlarged as a result of education. No one factor will have such weight in the decrease of suffering and the reduction of the high death rate as enlightenment of mind.

The system of education in vogue in Southern cities will work slowly because up to the beginning of the twentieth century, school attendance has not been made compulsory. There are no truant schools, no reform schools. Idleness tends to vice. Idleness and vice are in no way conducive to health and longevity.

Many Negroes do not want education for themselves nor for their children. These people swell the death lists in Southern cities' health offices to such distressingly large numbers. They are often cared for and buried by funds from the city treasury. Would it not pay to try compulsory education? To try teaching them to help themselves, to save themselves?

To say that the home life of the masses must be improved is but another way of saying they must be educated.

Among the most potent forces in the uplift of a people are the school, the press, the courts and the church.

Under a system of compulsory education, the Negro would much sooner learn to observe the laws of health and thus to extend his life.

When newspapers in Southern cities are fairer in their attitude toward the black citizen, he will become a better citizen. It will increase his respect for others and greatly increase his self respect. He will then make more effort to live and to live well, because his life will seem more worth living.

Every state included under the "Land of the free and the home of the brave" should strive to make its criminal laws reformative rather than revengeful. A very considerable number of Southern Negroes come to their life's end in the prisons, which in no Southern state are all that prisons should be. From a health standpoint, most of them are all that prisons should not be.

It pays the municipality better to educate and reform its citizens than to convict and execute them.

A cultivated, spiritual ministry will emphasize the best teaching of the schools.

An active church will sustain a fair press; will uphold law and order; will supplement the work of the good doctor and in various ways try to reduce the number of funerals among the Negro population in Southern cities.


This essay is reprinted from Twentieth Century Negro Literature, edited by D. W. Culp (Dr. Daniel Wallace Culp), published 1902.  The biographical sketch of Mrs. Warren Logan is presumably written by Culp.  Related articles on this site include:

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