A YOUNG NEGRO SPEAKS
To the Editor of the Atlantic: —
We young Afro-Americans are proud of our race. We show this daily. How? Listen and I shall tell.
During my high-school days I was once kicked out of school because I objected to spelling ‘Negro’ with a small n. I said then, and still do, whether speaking of one or the race, that it deserves a capital. I also objected to the absence of all Negro art, such as Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poems, from our literature class.
I think a Negro who is ashamed of our wonderful folk songs is a product of our school system. Our schools do not teach us to respect all races. They do not tell us the Negro in Africa, especially in West Africa, had a well-developed civilization. Our schools merely tell our children Negroes were slaves; that Negroes came from Africa.
The very young Negro fears his greatest heritage, the Negro folk songs; he fears the white children will look upon him, as they often do, as a slave child. When our schools begin to teach that America is made up of many races, when we begin to teach that each race has contributed its share to this great whole, the United States of America, we shall have no more little Negroes hiding their faces in songbooks because they are ashamed. The Negro is accused of being dissatisfied with being a servant. I’m glad. If the Negro can see no other future for himself than to be a servant, he, as a race, is worthless. The Negro race needs all sorts. We need doctors, lawyers, teachers, and every professional and skilled workman any race has.
I do not mean a person should neglect what he has. If you are employed as a street cleaner, then clean the street the best it’s ever been cleaned. Perhaps you want to be a teacher, but are a ditchdigger. Dig the ditch the best you can. Do your best no matter what you do. Keep your objective in sight. Some day, if you choose to, you will be a good teacher.
During my high-school days (class of ‘37), I was employed by the NYA. I scrubbed floors, swept rooms, and so forth. Always I tried to do my best. One day I was very much honored. I was taken from the job I was doing and was set to sweeping a particular teacher’s room. She thought I did my best.
I don’t want to sweep floors all my life. I want to teach. Some day I’ll teach. I shall be a good teacher because I will do my best.
I graduated from high school. I couldn’t go to college. I went to work on the NYA. I painted benches, mowed lawns, washed windows; I did my best. My supervisors sent in good accounts of me. I was suffering from an acid-fast infection. I went to one of the best hospitals in the East. Next week I shall go back for more treatment. One of the best doctors in the world will attend me. I did my best while in the hospital.
I found the nursing staff short-handed. I carried trays, linen, and did all I could. I didn’t have to. I wanted to. I was much surprised to find the nurses and doctors thought I was unusual. They told others. Others told me.
I cite these experiences to show we young Afro-Americans are the same as others. We will, for the most part, do our best. Some of us, it is unfortunately true, will do sloppy work.
The young American Negro says: ‘I’m working as a street cleaner now; some day I’ll be an actor, writer, or bookkeeper.’ ‘I’m going to be the best cook ever.’ ‘I’ve got a good boss; he wants his work done right; I’ll do it right.’ ‘He’s black, but he’s got brains. Bet he’ll amount to something some day.’ Ability — that is what counts these days.
The most courteous youth in our high school was a black boy. He would help the teachers with their books, coats, pick paper off the floor, say ‘Excuse me’ if he passed in front of them, and do many kind and courteous things. He wasn’t brilliant. He was, I believe, a true gentleman. It takes a gentleman to stand the jeers of your fellow students when you are trying to be courteous.
I’ve been in a room where he offered to pick up some bits of paper the teacher had started to pick up. The whole room gave one great ‘Boo.’ He picked up the paper. Of six hundred pupils, he was considered, by many, one of the politest in the school.
The young American Negro knows only the fittest survive. If the Jews are better servants they will be America’s servants. However, we find Jews in all the professions — doctors, lawyers, bankers, and so forth. We young American Negroes know the Jew is great because he is continually being persecuted. The harder a thing is to get, the more desirable it is.
We American Negroes desire a place in America’s life as other races have. We desire to be playwrights, doctors, actors, bankers, and to fill whatever position we feel best suited for. We know the way is hard. We glory in getting ahead. We shall succeed. We are young America. Black, it’s true, but Americans nevertheless.
Our elders failed. We won’t.
LEWIS W. WARE
MY KINGDOM FOR A HORSE
To the Editor of the Atlantic: —
I bought my first race horse in 1932. I remember wishing I could train her myself.
But in those days the race track was no place for a woman. Tsk! Women who wanted to hang around race tracks in the early morning hours were certainly not ladies!
Why, for hundreds of years — in fact, ever since the first horse race — no woman had ever set foot on the ground around the barns. Not in the morning, anyway. Sometimes in the afternoon, if she were very unconventional, she would feed a lump of sugar to her horses, but she was always well chaperoned by brothers, uncles, and trainers.
Racing was an old established institution. It had no intention of changing just because a few pesky women thought it would be more fun to train their horses themselves. And in spite of the changes of the last twenty years, during which time the self-satisfied male has gradually been made to realize that women are human beings, he still considered the race track his stronghold. That was one place which no woman would ever invade!
But we gals persisted! Every morning we arrived at our stables, much to the annoyance of all the men in general, and our trainers in particular. And carefully we observed their methods and studied the training routine. They couldn’t deny us the right of looking at our property, much as they would have liked to.
Finally, after a terrific battle, we won our point. The impossible came to pass. In 1934 a woman horse trainer came into existence. Now there are about ten women training horses in various parts of the country.
Perhaps you wonder what a lady horse trainer does? I have raced horses for a living ever since the spring of 1935, when I received my first trainer’s license at Washington Park in Chicago. And I can assure you that a lady trainer’s life is no different from that of a gentleman trainer.
I am out at the race track every morning, rain or shine, at six o’clock — earlier in the summer. Whether I walk, gallop, or breeze my horses depends upon the condition book. This is a little book known on the race track as the horseman’s Bible, which carries the races and conditions for a period of ten days.
Right after a horse runs I always walk him for a few days, then I gallop him, and then work him, thus bringing him gradually up to his next race. But when I say ‘I’ I do not mean, as so many people think, that I actually get on the horses and gallop them myself. There are exercise boys who do that, just as there are grooms who take care of the horses, blacksmiths who shoe them, and jockeys who ride them in their races. My job is directing the work, and paying the bills. Of course I collect the purses when there are any to collect. And when they are fewer and farther between than I think they should be, I devote many hours to worry.
Then I watch the general health of the horses. I see that they are eating well, for a horse that doesn’t eat can’t run. I look after their legs, and prescribe remedies the minute I detect any signs of unsoundness. And when I enter a horse in a race I select the best available jockey to ride him.
Also, a good part of my time is spent traveling. That’s one thing about being a horse trainer —you certainly see the country. I’m North in the summer, South in the winter. In fact, I move on an average of once a month, except for a four months’ stay at the winter races. And where I want to race is entirely a matter of my own choice. I had my first view of the nation’s Capital while racing at Bowie, and I spent my first winter under Miami’s tropical sun while racing at Hialeah.
If it’s possible to like and dislike one thing at the same time, in the horse business it’s the overwhelming element of luck. When you’re in a lucky streak — and don’t let anyone tell you that 75 per cent of the horse business isn’t luck, the other 25 being common sense — it seems as if you could do nothing wrong. But when you’re unlucky — oh, my!
Of course, it’s fun never knowing what’s going to happen next, but sometimes it’s very discouraging, too. It makes you feel like a helpless cork buffeted back and forth by tides over which you have no control. However, in defense of this you develop a psychology of hope. For you never know when the tide is going to turn, and when it does you’re sitting on top of the world. And I might mention that the optimistic view of this attitude of hope is the byword of the whole race track.
But for someone like me who is fond of animals and the out-of-doors, and who likes to be on the move all the time, horse training is a very pleasant method of earning a living. And I’m glad that I live in a day and age where I am able to pursue my unorthodox tastes.