I have to admit that I have never more than glanced at a few pages of Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species" in my lifetime. In general terms, I know what he said in the book, but high school biology was never my strong suit and I've never been interested enough to buy or borrow a copy of Darwin's opus in order to read his words for myself.
Perhaps that is my loss, I admit.
Charles Darwin was a prolific author, writing many books and articles all of which have been collected into one place and published online at the website The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online. Darwin was also known to view Western colonialism as spreading the benefits of its civilization, though he strongly opposed the mistreatment of native peoples. He was against slavery as well as classifying different human ethnic groups as separate species.
Imagine my surprise when I found this quote being attributed to Charles Darwin:
"Since the dawn of history the Negro has owned the continent of Africa – rich beyond the dream of poet’s fancy, crunching acres of diamonds beneath his bare black feet and yet he never picked one up from the dust until a white man showed to him its glittering light.This quote can be found reproduced in many locations, mostly on Christian Creationist websites and White nationalist forums.
His land swarmed with powerful and docile animals, yet he never dreamed a harness, cart, or sled.
A hunter by necessity, he never made an axe, spear, or arrowhead worth preserving beyond the moment of its use. He lived as an ox, content to graze for an hour.
In a land of stone and timber he never sawed a foot of lumber, carved a block, or built a house save of broken sticks and mud.
With league on league of ocean strand and miles of inland seas, for four thousand years he watched their surface ripple under the wind, heard the thunder of the surf on his beach, the howl of the storm over his head, gazed on the dim blue horizon calling him to worlds that lie beyond, and yet he never dreamed a sail.”
That creationists would spread it around is not surprising, since if Darwin could be exposed as a racist then the entire theory of evolution could then be perceived as stained because the most famous book in support of it was supposedly written by a bigot. If a bad person wrote a book in support of something you hate, then that makes your own position stronger, according to this reasoning.
White racists' use of this quote is also not surprising, but they use it for an entirely different reason. Charles Darwin is being used as a way to scientifically justify their feelings of superiority over blacks. Since Darwin is perceived as an authority figure in the field of biology and evolution, then his words can be used as evidence that even the greatest scientific minds viewed black people as inferior to whites.
But, despite the large number of places where this quote can be seen on the Internet, the actual source material is never mentioned. Charles Darwin is said to be the author of it, but the book or article where this quote first appeared is never stated for people to read the quote for themselves. After all, Darwin could have been quoting someone else and responding to it, or he could have said something before or after the statement and the quote as given is being taken out-of-context and there is also the possibility that Charles Darwin never said those words in the first place.
Having some free time, I decided to find the quote for myself. I did not have enough time to read everything that the guy ever wrote, so I attempted to Google the quote itself. White racist and creationist sites dominated the results, of course. This was not unexpected. but, no matter where I looked, I couldn't find anyone who stated which of Darwin's published works this quote first appeared in. I could find the quote easy enough, just not the source material. However, Charles Darwin wasn't the only person who is being quoted as saying these words.
One site quoted these words as having been said by the then-Governor of South Carolina to the Speaker of the State House of Representatives, circa 1865. This is a bit vague, since South Carolina had three men occupying that office just in that year.
- Andrew Gordon Magrath (December 18, 1864 to May 25, 1865) Confederate governor, deposed by the Union Army;
- Benjamin Franklin Perry (June 30, 1865 to November 29, 1865) appointed by President Andrew Johnson; and
- James Lawrence Orr (November 29, 1865 to July 6, 1868) who was the first elected Governor under the South Carolina Constitution of 1865.
Without a name to attach to the quote, finding out who said those words, when he said them and where his words are being quoted from was not getting any easier.
Then, I struck gold. Pure gold. I found the original work where the quote first appeared, the book it appeared in, the year the book was published and also the entire quote in context. Most importantly, I discovered who said (actually wrote) those words.
Here is the original quote:
"Education, sir, is the development of that which _is_. Since the dawn of history the negro has owned the continent of Africa--rich beyond the dream of poet's fancy, crunching acres of diamonds beneath his bare black feet. Yet he never picked one up from the dust until a white man showed to him its glittering light. His land swarmed with powerful and docile animals, yet he never dreamed a harness, cart, or sled. A hunter by necessity, he never made an axe, spear, or arrowhead worth preserving beyond the moment of its use. He lived as an ox, content to graze for an hour. In a land of stone and timber he never sawed a foot of lumber, carved a block, or built a house save of broken sticks and mud. With league on league of ocean strand and miles of inland seas, for four thousand years he watched their surface ripple under the wind, heard the thunder of the surf on his beach, the howl of the storm over his head, gazed on the dim blue horizon calling him to worlds that lie beyond, and yet he never dreamed a sail! He lived as his fathers lived--stole his food, worked his wife, sold his children, ate his brother, content to drink, sing, dance, and sport as the ape!
"And this creature, half child, half animal, the sport of impulse, whim, and conceit, 'pleased with a rattle, tickled with a straw,' a being who, left to his will, roams at night and sleeps in the day, whose speech knows no word of love, whose passions, once aroused, are as the fury of the tiger--they have set this thing to rule over the Southern people----"These words came from the book "The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan" written in 1905 by Thomas F. Dixon Jr. It was the second book in a trilogy, preceded by "The Leopard's Spots" in 1902 and followed by "The Traitor" in 1907. "The Clansman" served as inspiration for the 1915 silent movie which glamorized the Ku Klux Klan, "The Birth of a Nation", directed by David Llewelyn Wark "D. W." Griffith.
While Dixon opposed slavery, even though his family had owned slaves before the Civil War, he viewed blacks with contempt and strongly supported racial segregation.
If you'd like to read the quote for yourself, go to this link where it begins in the second paragraph from the top of the page.
While creationists and white racists like to spread this quote around and attribute it to Charles Darwin, they cannot provide a source from which they are quoting. But, I can and I have.
You may be wondering how it could be that a racist quote written by one man - Thomas Dixon - could be attributed to another man - Charles Darwin - and people wouldn't catch-on right away and thoroughly dismiss it as the fabrication that it is. The answer is simple: most people haven't read "On the Origin of Species" or any other book by Charles Darwin and those people who have are typically science students or scientists and Darwin's books are part of their field of study. Even so, the fact is that over 100 years have gone by since Darwin's death and so much more research has been done in the study of evolution that Darwin's books, while groundbreaking in their day are now quite antiquated.
The fact that very few people have read all of Darwin's works makes it that much easier to pull it off. How is the average person to know what Charles Darwin did or did not say? They can't, so people who either want to attack Darwin personally and professionally (creationists) or use him to justify their own racism (white nationalists) can do so quite comfortable in the knowledge that people who know better will be few and far between. An added plus for racists is that people who have read Dixon's books are even fewer in number than those who've read Darwin, so most people won't know from where the quote actually originated.
But, now I know and so do you. Pass it on.
If you'd like more information about the technological achievements of African civilizations, you can see this article on Wikipedia, History of science and technology in Africa.
Read Part 2 where I respond to people who think the quote is accurate, regardless of who said it.
12,304 PEOPLE HAVE BEEN EXPOSED TO THE TRUTH ABOUT THIS QUOTE!
as of SEPTEMBER 7, 2014