Negro Genius—Reviewed work(s):

Negro Genius—Reviewed work(s):

The Journal of American Folklore
Volume 18, Number 71 (October-December, 1905)
pages 319-322

NEGRO GENIUS. As a dispatch from Washington, D. C., the “Evening Transcript” (Boston, Mass.) of February 18, 1905, published the following concerning the investigations of Mr. Daniel Murray: –

“Daniel Murray, for many years an assistant in the Library of Congress, is preparing a historical review of the contributions of the colored race to the literature of the world, with a complete bibliography relating to that subject. Public attention was sharply called to this question of the intellectual capacity of the Negro six years ago by Booker T. Washington and other colored men of prominence, when the United States government was preparing an exhibit for the Exposition at Paris, 1900. Mr. Washington urged that advantage be taken of the opportunity to show what the colored race had contributed to the world’s literature. The authorities consenting, Mr. Putnam, librarian of Congress, detailed Mr. Murray to make a list of all books and pamphlets written and published by authors identified with the colored race. As only four months intervened from the detail to the opening, the list was far from complete and very deficient in full historical information which has now been supplied.

“Mr. Murray’s work was practically begun about twenty-five years ago, when he commenced to gather material for such a work after reading GrĂ©goire’s ‘Inquiry concerning the Intellectual and Moral Faculties and Literature of Negroes and Mulattoes, Quadroons, etc.,’ 1810. GrĂ©goire formed in 1790, in Paris, a society called ‘Friends of the Blacks,’ designed to secure their emancipation in the French colonies. Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were members. ‘One of the aims of this society,’ said Mr. Murray, ‘was to gather evidence of capacity on the part of Negroes and mulattoes, the same being designed to reinforce the argument the society intended to present to the French convention, to induce it to grant full equality to the mulattoes, etc., in the colonies. Benjamin Banneker, a mulatto, born in Maryland, to whom credit is due for saving to the American people L’Enfant’s original plan of the city of Washington when L’Enfant broke with the commissioners and took away his plans, which he later sold to Governor Woodward for laying out the city of Detroit, was an intimate friend of Jefferson’s and was often held up as evidence that no mulatto should be a slave. Banneker exhibited mathematical knowledge, and compiled in 1792 an almanac which Jefferson sent to the Anti-Slavery Society in Paris to support his view that the mulatto was the equal of the white man. Jefferson had high regard for Banneker and formally invited him to be his guest at Monticello, and in other ways treated him as an equal.

“‘In the same spirit animating GrĂ©goire, and for the same purpose, to show to the world that the colored race, under which head I include all not white or who have a strain of African blood, is entitled to greater credit than is now accorded it by the American people, I have prosecuted my researches. I claim for the colored race whatever credit of an intellectual character a Negro, mulatto, quadroon, or octoroon has won in the world of letters, and believe a fair examination of the evidence will remove no little prejudice against African blood. It has generally been accepted by scholars that ” Phillis Wheatley’s Poems,” 1773, was the first book by a Negro to display unusual intelligence and win recognition from the Caucasian. But this is not so. Beginning with Alexander the Great and his black general, Clitus, I have patiently gathered the facts from authentic sources of every highly creditable act by a Negro, mulatto, quadroon, or octoroon in the forum of letters or the polite arts…

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