Viscount Bryce is reported to have said that the American Negro in the first thirty years of his liberation made greater advance than was ever made by the Anglo-Saxon in a similar period. Twice thirty years have now passed, producing rapid changes in Negro life. It is fitting to inquire into the signs of that progress. The progress of a people cannot be set down in figures. We may reckon their wealth, but we cannot measure the struggles that secured their possessions. As one counts their schoolhouses and the children who go into them, as one works out the percentages of illiteracy and considers their alertness in learning to read, to write, and to figure, he may remember that these are only a part of their struggles upward from the dark caverns of ignorance. Counting the offices they hold, the votes they cast, and the participation they take in civic affairs is a very meager means of reckoning their progress in the habits of self-government. It is also impossible to picture the development from slave cabins to homes and families of culture and refinement.

These are positive signs, however, of the onward march of a people struggling up from serfdom towards freedom, from ignorance towards intelligence, from poverty towards competence, and from degradation towards the place where one of the world's great statesmen acknowledges that the rapidity of their progress has outstripped that of his own people. The circumstances have, of course, been unique. Negroes have lived among most aggressive and progressive neighbors. The strongest political power was thrown into the scales to raise them from the status of slaves to that of legal freedmen. As Negroes had been the main labor dependence of the South, when slave labor was no longer legal, their labor was then in demand on a wage basis. It is true that the wages were often meager, and the conditions of life on the plantation were sometimes little removed from previous conditions. It cannot be denied, furthermore, that the freedmen were shut out from many of the higher avenues of employment and that discriminations of many kinds were practiced against them. But ere the smoke of the Civil War had cleared away, missionary teachers, evangels they were, opened schoolhouses and set before the freedmen, not only the rudiments of knowledge, but examples of clean living, high thinking, and brotherly cooperation. There is no brighter page in the history of Christian missions than the work and devotion of these teachers.

But no matter what the surroundings were or what encouragement they have had, unless there had been inherent in the Negro people large capacities, unbounded aspirations and a willingness to work, there never would have been such progress in sixty years. Starting as they did with meager resources in wealth and in intelligence, they entered the paths of freedom with their faces set toward the rising sun of progress and their hearts singing hopeful songs of reward. To paraphrase what Frederick Douglass once said of himself, Negroes should be considered, not by the heights they have reached, but by the depths from which they have come.