12 Things The Negro Must Do For Himself by Nannie Helen Burroughs


12 Things The Negro Must Do For Himself by Nannie Helen Burroughs
(Published in the early 1900′s)

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.”  Too true!

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 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 Learn To Dress More Appropriately For Work And For Leisure.

  • Knowing what to wear–how to wear it–when to wear it and where to wear it, are earmarks of common sense, culture and 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 intensive literacy campaign in America, as well as in Africa.  Ignorance–satisfied ignorance–is a millstone abut 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 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 quarrelling 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 habit becomes character.

10.  The Negro Must Learn How To Operate Business For People–Not For Negro People, Only.

  • To do business, he will have to remove all typical “earmarks,” business principles; 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).  And He Must Do What Ezekiel Did

  • 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 good 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 them.  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 out 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 been 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 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–“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.

R-E-M-E-M-B-E-R

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

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42 Responses to “12 Things The Negro Must Do For Himself by Nannie Helen Burroughs”

  1. The more I read our history, the more I realize that we have had solutions to our most basic problems since we first got to this country. If we all just tried to follow these rules we would probably solve 90% of the problems in the community. This woman probably knew a former slave personally and she figured it out in like 1902! What the hell are we doing in 2010!?!

  2. The article is very real and it tells the very truth about what blacks and what they are not doing & will not do.I belive that black folks in America think that once they go to school, college and get what they call a good job that everything is good and that for some reason they have made it to some great place cause now they can get car buy a house and spend a little money but if you really take a look at things we don’t own any land we can’t make any real decision in the country. We make no laws we don’t work together when we see other blacks with something the first thing we do is put them down and talk about them instead asking them how they did it or how can we do the same thing. We put down but keep doing this. White folks don’t do this. They build each other up, they help other white people so they all will do well. Stop and take a look around and ask yourself why we as black people are so behind in every thing in America. Education, jobs, housing, land, business, everything. We are dead last. Do the math, if you don’t think so and please don’t just look at a few people. Take a good look around and you will see just what I’m saying to you. Please look cause out about 50 million I dont think that all of us just don’t want anything out life. Stop talking and get yourself together and do something. Be positive. Make a change for yourself kids family and yourself.

    • Mr. Mccarthy: We as African Americans are not dead last in everything. Barack Obama is President of the United States and his wife, Michelle, is First Lady.

      Oprah Winfrey is a billionaire; African Americans are among the greatest ranks in talent/entertainment and sports. I cannot name all individuals here.

      Dr. Martin Luther King is still my idol as a human being who sacrificed his life for all Americans. Most of these Americans own homes as a result of educating themselves.

      • Very true, Ms. Smith……but these accomplshed people are still in the small minority……not the majority!!!

        Too much loud, crude behavior, too many unplanned pregnancies & “babies without fathers”, too much uncleanliness in the home & community, too much obesity, and too little desire to improve themselves still makes these “hood-rats” undesirable as friends, neighbors & employees!!! THEY HAVE NO STANDARDS!!!! Their lives are completely “OUT-OF-ORDER!!

        Their arrogance and disrespect for themselves and others knows no bounds. How digusting to see their butts, bellies and breasts exposed to the world every day!

        Try to tell them in an encouraging manner how to improve themselves and you are looked at and seen as a fool!!! BUT STILL, we must try to show them the path and lead by example………..Each one, reach one!!

        As 1 of 10 children born and raised in the segregated “Deep South” in the ’60′s by working-class black parents with little formal education, I know first hand what hard work & dedication to family can do. We owned our own home, my father worked & my mother was a “Stay-at-home” mom. All of us had the opportunity to get a higher education, whether it was college, vocational school or trade-apprenticeship. Spiritual foundation was a must!!! Family, Church & Communtiy were the foundation of our society “back in the day”……..we need to get back to that!

        GOD bless you Mom & Dad (RIP) !!! I love you & am so grateful for what you gave to us!!! Let us all “Reach out & touch somebody’s hand; make this world a better place, if we can”!!!

  3. I have had to check myself particularly regarding the educated negro part. I have found that as I get ready to graduate with a PhD in March, I have neglected many of my friends and family along the way. I will do better with this!

    I am going to post this information for my students to read as many of the points made by the author can so help young African Americans now.

    Great Information. Keep up the great articles.

  4. Robert L. Henson, Sr. Says:

    Unfortunately, in all the time that this “Guide” has been available, it has not gotten to the Negros who need it most! This information need to be preached in the Pulpits, discussed in barber shops, and posted in every home.
    Seeing how our young men and women dress in public is an indication just how far we have traveled backwards, and how badly we are failing ourselves. I will forward this to every brother and sister on my e-mail list, and post it in my home.

  5. I feel that perhaps it was on point for its day.But I believe, if a man or woman live a certain kind of life to show another group of people thay are grateful that we have lost the true meaning of freedom.To act, behave and live in away that its in keeping with your spirit and that of God I believe is the highest calling.The rest as they say will lead to disappointment ie living to please good massah,its not real never worked and never real work, massah can even please massah.

  6. Good advice for all people looking to get ahead. individually and as a culture.

  7. I feel that black men in America have a strong since of family, prosperity, love and a kindred spirit that needs nurturing from the roots. Share your mothering hopes’ for your children throughout your life, prepare yourselves through prayer and the abominition of Gods blessing will be apon you and your families by doing what God wants us to do; by studying the word, and living a clean and peaceful life. Your will never fall short of your goals, however, diverted it may seem. God has a plan for you if we stay focus on the truth, and believe in yourself(God’s Kingdom) and you shall have eternal peace.

  8. I disagree wholeheartedly with what was written by Ms. Burroughs. Like so many blacks today,she was so obsessed with impressing white people that she seems to overlook the fact that blacks were less than 50 years out of slavery at this particular time in history. Blacks in America had perservered through one of the most brutal and barbaric institutions ever known to mankind, yet she chides negros about character. How many Negros were lynched on the very day that this 12 things the negro must do for himself was published. To place the entire blame of the conditions of blacks, particularly in that era, exclusively on blacks is akin to blaming the robbery victim for percipatating the act of robbery by having money on his person. Ms.Burroughs, like many of my contemporaries, was afflicted with the slave mentality and miseducation. Thank God for women like Ida B. Wells-Barnett, who unlike Nannie Burroughs; tried to stop whites from lynching blacks during this time period, not impress them.

  9. Please be prepared to vote this November 2012. Support President Obama who has endured three years of criticism while he has worked diligently to improve our country. Do not forget he has made America safer by removing Osama Bin Laden on his watch.

    He has the task of facing Congress who has stated that they want President Obama to be a one-term president while Congress does nothing. Fine, Congress do nothing; get out of the way of progress President Obama. It took the Republicans to turn our nation upside down. Support and vote for President Obama!!!! Volunteer, offer political donations. Help our President to become a two-term President.

    The republicans are messing with voting rights of Americans who voted for years. Make sure that voters are able to continue to vote as long as they live without needing a “pass” to exercise their Constitutional Rights. We can only learn to do anything when we get involved and learn how . . . Peace and Love

    Support our President Obama in preserving our history!

  10. winfred l robinnson Says:

    i heard about this in class…it’s nothing like actually reading it for yourself and living it. Great information, foreseen many years ago.
    i am a changed person.

  11. Former Nigga Says:

    Who is a man to define his own kind w/o true understanding?? Who is a man to take the beatings and rapings of his own kind as a lesson to future generations? Who is a man that took the word of and gave honor and praise to the very hands that held whips and chains? Who is a man to disbelieve in the truths of his own soul and take on the system of the very devil that enslaved him? A dark-skinned white devil coward bastard fool.

  12. Priestess of purity Says:

    The truth really does set you free! I am really puzzled why you would see a drunkard on the street and tell him here’s another bottle…why do African Americans refuse to see what will allow them to rise to another level of consciousness while here on earth. These words, bill cosby’s words are not meant to pander to the white man but instead to set us free! Just as Jesus Christ, our Lord, told us what we needed to do to enter the Kingdom of Heaven it was done out of love. Real love is not meant to smooth over faults but instead point out our limitations and encourage us to grow.

  13. Hello, this weekend is good for me, as this occasion i am reading this fantastic educational piece of writing here at my residence.

  14. A lot of people want to be happy and well-off yet don’t want to work for it. I was never that far down. I haven’t spent my life blaming others for my problems.

  15. Thank you Nanny!

  16. This page certainly has all the information I
    needed about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

  17. Thanks for finally talking about >12 Things The Negro Must Do For Himself
    by Nannie Helen Burroughs Black Men In America <Loved it!

    • Amen! The basic principles Ms. Burroughs mentioned would help in creating & maintaining a better community!!! Bring back dignity & respect to our people!!!

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  20. These words are stinging, yet stirring… moreover they are as timeless and useful today as they were when composed in the 1900′s.

    I for one shall continue to lead myself, wife and son first by example and then as the guide on the side to enable them to be their own sage upon their individual stage, while cheerleading their achievements, and comforting their ailment.

    Finally, I shall do my part via the following directive of “each one, reach one to teach one” so that no one will be left out, or behind by using this protocol, so that you, me, us and we are our own pros to call.

  21. Very good post! We will be linking to this great content on our website.
    Keep up the great writing.

  22. This is so silly and stupid… I don’t see any other race talking about impressing another race. How about this…focus on learning about your own race and knowing your history. Stop talking about what we aren’t doing and focus on what we have accomplished and we have accomplished a lot..and move on to accomplishing so much more. Wow those Jim Crow laws and brainwashing that they put into place now and during slavery I see is still in full effect…. smh

    • Too much loud, crude behavior, too many unplanned pregnancies & “babies without fathers”, too much uncleanliness in the home & community, too much obesity, and too little desire to improve themselves still makes these “hood-rats” undesirable as friends, neighbors & employees!!! THEY HAVE NO STANDARDS!!!! Their lives are completely “OUT-OF-ORDER!!

      Their arrogance and disrespect for themselves and others knows no bounds. How digusting to see their butts, bellies and breasts exposed to the world every day!

      Try to tell them in an encouraging manner how to improve themselves and you are looked at and seen as a fool!!! BUT STILL, we must try to show them the path and lead by example………..Each one, reach one!!

      As 1 of 10 children born and raised in the segregated “Deep South” in the ’60′s by working-class black parents with little formal education, I know first hand what hard work & dedication to family can do. We owned our own home, my father worked & my mother was a “Stay-at-home” mom. All of us had the opportunity to get a higher education, whether it was college, vocational school or trade-apprenticeship. Spiritual foundation was a must!!! Family, Church & Communtiy were the foundation of our society “back in the day”……..we need to get back to that!

      GOD bless you Mom & Dad (RIP) !!! I love you & am so grateful for what you gave to us!!! Let us all “Reach out & touch somebody’s hand; make this world a better place, if we can”!!!

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  29. Nannie Helen Burroughs was right for her time period, and she is right today. She made so many excellent points I won’t elaborate on any of them. It would take too long. She has my full respect and admiration. Some of the comments herein from those arrogantly “enlightened” black people are depressing.

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