The majority of Negro children in America to-day live in houses either on plantation or farm, in town or in the city, that are grossly deficient in ordinary sanitary conveniences. Many of these homes are one or two-room shanties or crowded tenements where the most intimate acts of life cannot have the privacy which modesty demands. Before the tender years of the early teens are past, more of these children than any others in country, town, and city are loaded with toil. In cities they are largely deprived of places to stretch their bodies in play, and in the South there are inadequate schools in which to develop their minds and spirits. Mother and father, when the latter has not been snatched away by injustice or exploitation or has not decamped, usually go out to work in the gray hours of the morning and return in the dim darkness, after a long, laborious day. The little children are frequently locked indoors with food and water within reach like dumb animals, and older children, if not at work, are free to roam the streets or countryside until parents come home.
Influence of race relations on white and Negro homes. The home is probably the greatest avenue of pleasurable daily contacts between the races. In thousands of white homes to-day the touch of Negro servants influences feelings and attitudes of white people more than many realize. After long experience in placement of Negro servants in thousands of white homes, and observation of conditions in small towns and cities, Mrs. Haynes says:1 "The white woman who employs the Negro woman in her home to-day usually asks how much work she can get out of her and how cheaply, while the Negro woman usually figures how little she can give in return. The personal interest of each in the other as cooperators in the greatest of enterprises, the home, seems to be a diminishing part of their bargain, quickly made and easily broken".
Few white women know that there are many Negro residences not far from their own, where women of education and refinement hold sway by all the intangible forces that flow out from the hearthside to uphold civilization. Whether white women recognize it or not, these women and these homes play an indispensable part in making life livable and lovable in their communities and in the nation. Furthermore, white people cannot neglect their relation to these homes if racial peace is to reign. More than seventy-five out of every one hundred Negro homes are supported by workers practically all of whom have white employers. How many white employers concern themselves about the homes of their Negro employees? How many white men who think and speak about protecting, even with lynch law, their own homes and women ever give serious consideration to the inroads made by white men upon Negro homes and the pressure put upon defenseless Negro women and girls? The mulatto asks an answer to this question. How many white housewives know the surroundings or see the inside of the homes of their faithful servants upon whose health and skill the comfort of their own families depends?
1 Unpublished manuscript; see also Haynes, Elizabeth Ross, "Three Million of Negro Women at Work," Southern Workman, February, 1921.