Sunday, May 21, 2006

12 Things the Negro Must Do For Himself

I don't know if you all have seen this before, but Nannie Helen Burroughs wrote an essay in the early 1900s that is eerily relevant to today's society. See for yourself:

12 Things the Negro Must Do For Himself


1. The Negro Must Learn To Put First Things First. The First Things Are: Education; Development of Character Traits; A Trade and Home Ownership.

2. The Negro Must Stop Expecting God and White Folk To Do For Him What He Can Do For Himself.

3. The Negro Must Keep Himself, His Children And His Home Clean And Make The Surroundings In Which He Lives Comfortable and Attractive.

4. The Negro Must Learn To Dress More Appropriately For Work And For Leisure.

5. The Negro Must Make His Religion An Everyday Practice And Not Just A Sunday-Go-To-Meeting Emotional Affair.

6. The Negro Must Highly Resolve To Wipe Out Mass Ignorance.

7. The Negro Must Stop Charging His Failures Up To His "Color" And To White People's Attitude.

8. The Negro Must Overcome His Bad Job Habits.

9. He Must Improve His Conduct In Public Places.

10. The Negro Must Learn How To Operate Business For People--Not For Negro People, Only.

11. The Average So-Called Educated Negro Will Have To Come Down Out Of The Air. He Is Too Inflated Over Nothing. He Needs An Experience Similar To The One That Ezekiel Had--(Ezekiel 3:14-19). And He Must Do What Ezekiel Did

12. The Negro Must Stop Forgetting His Friends. "Remember."

The entire essay can be read here

Isn't it fascinating? And this essay was written around 100 years ago!
And as tempted as I am, I will not take this as an opportunity to put Black folks down. If any of the above applies to you - then you are responsible for dealing with it. And, if it doesn't, it is your responsibility to help others around you to put those things behind them.

We have a long way to go, but, God willing, we will get there.

, , , , ,


Susan L. Prince said...

Great words of wisdom.

Let's change the word "Negro" to MAN (human), and maybe we could enjoy the time on this planet a little bit more.

I enjoy your blog. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Higher said...

That was both "Deep" and "Telling"
I sometimes feel like our culture (african american) suffers from "theemperorhasnoclothesitis"

We do have a long way to go...and I believe we will get there...we need more people to be willing to break ranks and not go along with those things we see that are wrong...

Thanks for doing your part =)

Anonymous said...

This essay along with others from the early 1900's are near and dear to my heart. They are the guidelines for which all people should follow, not just Negros. This essay should be re-printed (with permission) and circulated at all our public schools across the nation, so that our children will have a better understanding of how to conduct themselves.

sonya said...


Yes, I think we can all afford to do a little better - no matter what race, gender, nationality or religion.


You and these words! Hopefully we can all encourage each other to willingly break ranks, if those 'ranks' include laziness, irresponsibility and lethargy about where and who we are. We are God's children! Surely we can do better than what is all around us.


After coming across this particular piece of wisdom, I am also becoming interested in studying 20th century writers, philosophers and theologians. I can't even imagine the vast amounts of knowledge that are out there that we have either forgotten about or left behind. If you have any recommendations about where to start, let me know!

Anonymous said...

Sonya, there is a lot of information out there on early 20th century writers. There are a lot different ways you can access this information too. I would strongly suggest starting with the Library first. The library is a host to tons of books, essays, literature, etc. from early authors and essayist. These items can be found not only in books, but through periodicals, magazines, microfilm, etc. You can't get this by searching the internet, but the internet is the second choice of research. But I would start at the library.

Let me know what you come up with. And please do share...

FellowElder said...

Thanks for the post. A couple suggested readings if you're interested in AAs from the period:
Frances J. Grimke, The Afro-American Pulpit in Relation to Race Elevation (prophetic and scathing critique of black preaching and preachers that reads like he was alive today!).

Most anything you find by and about Grimke will be worth the read.

Try also Daniel A. Payne's A Treatise on Domestic Education. Payne is a contemporary of Grimke and like so many men in that era understood well the need for real responsibiility if the community is to take real advantage of freedom.

Great post. Grace and peace

Anonymous said...

12 things a Negro need to learn? I think the main thing they need to learn is they are Negro. Notice you never hear one say that he or she is a Negro American! Why? Simply put , " you cant be both" America was founded by white people in the promise of the Holy Scriptures as God gave to Jacob Israel. You cant offend a white person. Also, no Mammzer has any inheritance in the kingdom of God.

Nannie Helen Burroughs Outreach said...

Great to see all of the comments. Since 2010, I have dedicated my life to spreading the words of Nannie Helen Burroughs ( She teaches our children HOW to Think, not What to Think, advocating for Frederick Douglass' quote, "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men". Burroughs understood that the children of today will be the parents, teachers, educators, politicians and, yes, police of tomorrow.