12 Things The Negro Must Do For Himself

By Nannie Helen Burroughs 

nannie helen

1. The Negro Must Learn To Put First, The First Things Are: Education; Development of Character Traits; A Trade and Home Ownership.
The Negro puts too much of his earning in clothes, in food, in show and in having what he calls “a good time.”  The Dr. Kelly Miller said, “The Negro buys what he WANTS and begs for what he needs.”

2. The Negro Must Stop Expecting God and White Folk To Do For Him What He Can Do for Himself.
It is the “ the Divine Plan” that the strong help the weak, but eve n God does not do for man what man can do for
himself. The Negro will have to do exactly what Jesus told the man (in John 5:8 to do—Carry his own load–“take
up your bed and walk”.

3. The Negro Must Keep Himself, His Children and His Home Clean And Make The Surroundings In Which He Lives Comfortable and Attractive.
He must learn to “run his community up”–not down. We can segregate by law, we integrate only by living.
Civilization is not a matter of race, it is a matter of standards. Believe it or not–some day, some race is going to
outdo the Anglo-Saxon completely. It can be the Negro race, if the Negro gets sense enough. Civilization goes up
and down that way.

4. The Negro Must Dress More Approximately For Work And For Leisure.
Knowing what to wear–how to dress it–when to wear it and where to wear it, are. Earmarks of common sense,
culture an also an index to character.

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.
The leaders of the race must teach and inspire the masses to become eager and determined to improve mentally,
morally and spiritually, and to meet the basic requirements of good citizenship. We should initiate an intense
literacy campaign in America, as well as in Africa, Ignorance–satisfied ignorance–is a millstone about the neck of
the race. It is democracy’s greatest burden. Social integration is a relationship attained as a result of the cultivation
of kindred social ideals, interests and standards. It is a blending process that requires time, understanding and
kindred purposes to achieve. Likes alone and not laws can do it.

7. The Negro Must Stop Charging His Failures Up To His “Color” And To White People’s Attitude.
The truth of the matter is that good service and conduct will make senseless race prejudice fade like mist before
the rising sun. God never intended that a man’s color shall be anything other than a badge of Distinction. It is high
time that all races were learning that fact. The Negro must first QUALIFY for whatever position he wants. Purpose,
initiative, ingenuity and industry are the keys that all men use to get what they want. The Negro will have to do the
same. He must make himself a workman who is too skilled not to be wanted, and to too DEPENDABLE not to be
on the job, according to promise or plan. He will never become a vital factor in industry until he learns to put into
his work the vitalizing force of initiative, skill and dependability. He has gone “RIGHTS” mad and “DUTY” dumb.


8. The Negro Must Overcome His Bad Job Habits.

He must make a brand new reputation for himself in the world of labor. His bad job habits are absenteeism, funerals to attend, or a little business to look after. The Negro runs an off and on business. He also has a bad reputation for conduct on the job–such as petty quarreling with other help, incessant loud talking about nothing; loafing, carelessness due to lack of job pride; insolence, gum chewing and –too often—liquor drinking. Just plain bad job habits!


9. He Must Improve His Conduct In Public Places

Taken as a whole, he is entirely too loud and too ill—mannered. There is much talk about wiping out racial
segregation and also much talk about achieving integration..Segregation is a physical arrangement by which
people are separated in various services. It is definitely up to the Negro to wipe out the apparent justification or
excuse for segregation. The only effective way to do it is to clean up and keep clean. By practice, cleanliness will
become a habit and a habit becomes character.


10. The Negro Must Learn How To Operate Business For People–Not For Negro People, Only.
To do business, he must have to remove all typical “earmarks”, businesses practices; measure up to accepted
standards and meet stimulating competition, graciously–in fact, he must learn to welcome competition.

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).
Otherwise, through indifference, as to the plight of the masses, the Negro, who thinks that he has escaped, will
lose his own soul. It will do all leaders to read Hebrew 13:3, and the first Thirty-seven Chapters of Ezekiel. A race
transformation itself through its own leaders and its sensible “common people”. A race rises on its own wings, or
is held down by its own weight. True leaders are never “things apart from the people”. They are the masses. They
simply got to the front ahead of the masses. Their only business at the front is to inspire to masses by hard work
and noble example and challenge them to “Come on!” Dante stated a fact when he said, “Show the people the light
and they will find the way!” There must arise within the Negro race a leadership that is not hunting bargains for
itself. A noble example is found in the men and women of the Negro race, who, in the early days, laid down their
lives for the people. Their invaluable contributions have not been appraised by the “latter-day leaders”. In many
cases, their names would never be recorded, among the unsung heroes of the world, but for the fact that white
friends have written them there.

“Lord, God of Hosts, be With Us Yet”.

The Negro of today does not realize that, but, for these exhibits A’s, that certainly show the innate possibilities of
members of their own race, white people would not have moved to make such princely investments in lives and
money, as they have made, for the establishment of schools and for the on-going of the race.

12. The Negro Must Stop Forgetting His Friends, “Remember”.
Read Deuteronomy 24:18,Deuteronomy rings the big bell of gratitude. Why? Because an ingrate is an abomination
in the sight of God. God is constantly telling us that “I the Lord thy God delivered you”—through human
instrumentalities The American Negro has had and still has friends—in the North and the South. These friends
contributions for the advancement of the race–for their brothers in bonds. The noblest thing that the Negro can
do is to live and labor that these benefactors will not have given in vain. The Negro must make his heart warm with
gratitude, his lips sweet with thanks and his heart and mind resolute with purpose to justify the sacrifices and stand
on his feet and go forward–“God is no respector of persons. In every nation, he that feareth Him and worketh
righteousness is” sure to win out. Get to work! That’s the answer to everything that hurts us. We talk too much
about nothing instead of redeeming the time by working.


In spite of race prejudice, America is brim full of opportunities, Go after them!

An excellent 12-step plan if there ever was one!


The Real Truth About Blacks And Gun Violence


DeWayne Wickham recently penned a piece lamenting the number of black children killed as the result of gun violence.  During his reflection, he set the foundation for the need for more gun control by acknowledging the deaths of both Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager killed by George Zimmerman, and Hadiya Pendleton, an innocent victim who was recently killed in a case of mistaken identity by gang members on the South Side of Chicago.

Though Wickham’s point that gun violence among black children being pandemic is well taken, he neglected to properly label the reasons for such violence.  He also doesn’t go far enough in detailing who’s responsible for this pandemic. Mr. Wickham did make mention of it, but almost in passing- that the overwhelming majority of the deaths of the black victims come at the hands of other blacks. That’s the first issue.

The death of Martin, though sad and unfortunate- especially for his family- does little to advance the case for increasing gun laws to reduce violence.  Martin was as much a victim of his bad judgment, and the profile set by the previous eight burglars, as he was of Zimmerman’s gun.

The Pendleton case, however, may provide cause.

When citing FBI statistics regarding the number of black deaths, Wickham didn’t note that the majority of those deaths came at the hands of other blacks.  Using the same FBI statistics cited by Wickham, of the 2,938 murder offenders (up to the age of 22) in 2011, 1803 were black.

The total number of black murders regardless of age in 2011 was 2695. Of that number, 2447 were committed by blacks.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, of all homicides committed between 1980 and 2008, 47.4 percent of the victims were black while 52.5 percent of all offenders were black. Of all felony murders during the same time period, blacks accounted for 44.1 percent of those murdered while accounting for 59.9 percent of the offenders.  Blacks accounted for 56.9 percent of all gun homicides.

Any serious mention of protecting black children from violent crime has to include a sincere effort in assigning blame to the causes of crime, along with effective methods to reduce it.  Wickham uses a false argument to justify his blame for violent crime by condemning “those who want more prisons, not better schools…” He also blames Congress for kowtowing to the NRA.

This undermines his concern for black youth by appearing disingenuous. Who, specifically, wants more prisons and not better schools?  What specifically does the NRA have to do with black gang members on Chicago’s South Side who shot Pendleton with their illegally-obtained guns?

I don’t doubt Mr. Wickham’s sincerity regarding black youth.  But if the obligation to confront this problem belongs to “all of us” as he claims, then it’s our responsibility to point the finger directly at who and what is responsible.

First, some of the cities with the harshest gun laws also have the highest rates of black-on-black gun violence.  This is no coincidence.

Second, Wickham is right: America’s children need to be protected from gun violence, but not necessarily with more gun laws.  Restrictive gun laws punish only those who follow the law, not those who don’t.  This is precisely why we call lawbreakers criminals.  No matter how many (more) laws are created with the intention of reducing gun violence, criminals by definition will disregard these laws, knowing that their potential victims will be increasingly defenseless.

We should consistently and effectively prosecute lawbreakers with stiffer prison sentences, not constrain the law-abiding.

Third, and most importantly, Wickham makes absolutely no mention of the fact that the disproportionate numbers of gun violence that victimizes blacks, committed by other blacks, are from fatherless households.  That’s the second and most crucial issue.

Seventy percent of black children are born out of wedlock, and roughly 60 percent live in homes without fathers.  This sad reality should motivate state and federal governments as well as local communities- especially churches and other religious organizations- to encourage blacks to get and stay married. Children from households where a mother and father are present are less likely to engage in violent behavior, including gangs.

A number of social pathologies have been attributed to those who come from fatherless homes, including juvenile delinquency, youths in prison, youth drug use, high school dropouts, behavioral issues, and trouble dealing with authority.  Nowhere is this more prevalent than among black children.

Mr. Wickham and I agree that gun violence is a detriment to black youth; we simply disagree with whom and what receives blame.  If we want to reduce gun violence, especially in the inner cities, we have to change and redeem the cultural values that foster it.  This begins with recreating and redeeming the black family.