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I can say it no better than Helen Burroughs. Born in 1879, she wrote a pamphlet in the early 1900’s that says it all.

The 12 Things the Negro Must Do for Himself

1. The Negro Must Learn to Put First Things 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 “Divine Plan” that the strong shall help the weak, but even God does not do for man what he can do for himself….

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..

4. The Negro Must Learn to Dress More Appropriately for Work and for Leisure:

Knowing what to wear, how to wear it, when and where to wear it, are earmarks of common sense, culture and also an index to character.

5. The Negro Must Make His Religion and Everyday Practice and Not Just 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…. 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….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 to skilled not to be wanted, and too Dependable not to be on the job, according to promise of plan…..

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 …… 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, lack of job pride, insolence, gum chewing and-to 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…..

10. The Negro must learn How to Operate Business for People- Not for Negro People, Only.

11. The Average So-Called Educated Negro Will Have to Come Down out of The Air. He Is To Inflated Over Nothing. He Needs an Experience Similar to the One That Ezekiel had-(Ezekiel 3:14-19). And He Must Do What Ezekiel Did:

Otherwise, through indifference, as to the plight of the masses, the Negro, who thinks that he had escaped, will lose his own soul….. A race rises on it’s on wings, or is held down by it’s own weight. True leaders are never “things apart from the people.” They are the masses. They simply got to the front ahead of them. Their only business at the front is to inspire the masses by hard work and noble example and challenge them to “Come On!”…….There must arise within the Negro a leadership that is not our hunting bargains for itself…..

12. The Negro Must Stop Forgetting His Friends. “Remember”:

The American Negro has had and still has friends-in the North and in the South. These friends not only pray, speak, write, influence others, but make unbelievable, unpublished sacrifices and contributions for the advancement of the race-for their brothers in bonds. The noblest thing that the Negro can do is to so 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…. Get to work! That’s the answer to everything that hurts us. We talk woo much about nothing instead of redeeming the time by working.


In spite of race prejudice, America is brim full of opportunities. Go After Them!

Yes this was written over a hundred years ago. And Today it becomes my mission statement.