When we turn to feelings, attitudes, and habits of action of Negroes, two lines of facts are before us. First, there are certain mental feelings, attitudes, and habits that have resulted in definite contributions to science, the arts, and to community life, which records show Negroes to have made. This may be termed the current of the interior Negro World. Second, there are feelings, thoughts, and action which have affected Negro individuals and groups as they have responded to the feelings, attitudes, and habits of acting of the larger white world. These are currents from the outer white world that have been bent by the mind of the Negro, according to its own genius. The first type of mental results is here indicated in the discussion of Negro contributions in humor, drama, music, literature, art and religion. The second type is treated in the other sections of the chapter. Humor and dramatic ability. It is not an accident that three of the leading American comedians of the past two decades were Negroes, - Ernest Hogan, George Walker, and Bert Williams, and that two of the leading ones to-day are F. E. Miller and Aubrey Lyles. One of the popular dramatic actors is Charles Gilpin, a Negro. The power to see the cheerful, humorous side of life has made the smiling Negro face a characteristic one. Williams said, in an article in the American Magazine on "The Comic Side of Trouble," that much of his material was drawn from the Negro life he observed daily about him. He described humor as the power of seeing oneself in a difficult or embarrassing situation and of being ready to smile with others in spite of one's own predicament; as, for example, when one slips on the ice and tumbles. These dramatic artists are examples of what may develop in the case of many other Negroes of histrionic capacity if favorable chances enable them to break through the barriers that have thwarted the aspiration of many a black artist. Ira Aldridge, an American Negro, a great Shakespearean tragedian, sought the stage in England, Germany, and Russia because he could not get a chance in the American theater. Recently a popular moving picture star whose face had become a film feature was dismissed by a well-known producing firm when it was discovered she had Negro blood. When more of such talent gets a chance, it will make a substantial contribution to America.
This characteristic humor overflows in popular Negro poetry and music and is present at almost every gathering of Negroes. As one travels in the South, this cheerfulness of heart may be seen reflected in the faces of the Negroes gathered at the railroad stations. This overflowing good feeling smiles at trouble, mocks at restrictions, and makes the Negro able to take neither himself, his race, nor the world too much as Atlas took the burden upon his shoulders. It enables him to help the world forget its sorrows.
Some may misjudge this Negro trait as a happy-go-lucky attitude. Far from it; the Negro loves his home, his family, and his friends; but he appreciates too much of the cheerful and dramatic in life to worry himself sick over its "passing show." For instance, a Negro poet sings:
We have fashioned laughter Out of tears and pain, But the moment after - Pain and tears again.