From “Superman” to Man


J. A. Rogers

Race, Equality of Intellect, & the History of Civilization

“Intellect, whether of civilized or uncivilized humanity, as you know, sir, is elastic in quality. That is, primitive man when transplanted to civilization not only becomes civilized, but sometimes excels some of those whose ancestors have had centuries of culture, and the child of civilized men when isolated among primitives becomes one himself. We would find that the differences between a people who had acquired say three or four generations of beneficient culture, and another who had been long civilized would be about the same as that between the individuals in the long civilized group. That is, the usual human differences would exist. To be accurate we would have to appraise each individual separately. Any comparison between the groups would be inexact.”

“But,” reiterated the other, sarcastically, “you have not answered my question. Do you believe the black man will ever attain the high intellectual standard of the Caucasian? Yes or no.”

“For the most authoritative answer,” responded Dixon in the calm manner of the disciplined thinker, “we must look to modern science. If you don't mind, sir, I will give you some quotations from scientists of acknowledged authority, all of your own race.”

Dixon drew out his notebook.

“Bah,” said the other savagely, “opinions! Mere opinions!”

“I asked you what you think and you are telling me what someone else says. What I want to know is, what do YOU think.”

“Each of us,” replied Dixon, evenly, “however learned, however independent, is compelled to seek the opinion of someone else on some particular subject at some time. There is the doctor and the other professionals, for instance. Now in seeking advice one usually places the most reliance on those one considers experts, is it not? This afternoon I overheard you quoting from one of Lincoln's debates with Douglas in order to prove your views.”


Dixon opened his notebook, found the desired passage, and said:

“In 1911 most of the leading sociologists and anthropologists of the world met in a Universal Races Congress in London. The opinion of that congress was that all the so‑called races of men are essentially equal. Gustav Spiller, its organizer and secretary, voiced the findings of that entire body of experts when, after a careful weighing of the question of superiority and inferiority, he said (here Dixon read from the notebook) :

“‘We are then under the necessity of concluding that an impartial investigator would be inclined to look upon the various important peoples of the world as, to all intents and purposes, essentially equal in intellect, enterprise, morality and physique.’”

Dixon found another passage and said. “Finot, whose findings ought to be regarded as more valuable than the expressions of chose who base their arguments on sentiment or on Hebrew mythology, says,— ‘All peoples may attain this distant frontier which the brains of the whites have reached.’ He also says:

“‘The conclusion, therefore, forces itself upon us, that there are no inferior and superior races, but only races and peoples living outside or within the influence of culture.

“‘The appearance of civilization and its evolution among certain white peoples and within a certain geographical latitude is only the effect of circumstances.’

“Zamenhof, the inventor of Esperanto, in his paper before the Universal Races Congress, says:

“‘Give the Africans without any mingling of rancor or oppression, a high and humane civilization, and you will find their mental level will not differ from ours. Abolish the whole of our civilization and our minds will sink to the level of an African cannibal. It is not a difference of mentality in the race, but a difference of instruction.’”

Dixon closed his note‑book and said, “The so‑called savage varieties of mankind are the equal of the civilized varieties in this:— there is latent within them the same possibilities of development. Then the more developed peoples have the germ of decay more or less actively at work within them.”

The senator had been awaiting his turn with impatience. Now drawing up his overcoat over his pajama‑clad knees, and raising his voice in indignation, he flung at Dixon, apparently forgetting all previous qualms of lowered racial pride, “That’s all nonsense. It is not true of the Negro, for while the white, red and yellow races have, or have had, civilizations of their own, the black has had none. All he has even accomplished has been when driven by the whites. Indigenous to a continent of the greatest natural resources, he has all these ages produced absolutely nothing. Geographical position has had absolutely nothing to do with it, or we would not have had Aztec civilization. Tell me, has the Negro race ever produced a Julius Caesar, a Shakespeare, a Montezuma, a Buddha, a Confucius? The Negro and all the Negroid races are inherently inferior. It is idiocy to say the Negro is the equal of the Caucasian. God Almighty made black to serve white. He placed an everlasting curse on all the sons of Ham and the black man shall forever serve the white.” His face flushed with excitement.

Dixon was apparently unmoved. He responded with courtesy, his well‑modulated voice and even tones in sharp contrast to the bluster and hysteria of the other. “The belief that the history of the Negro began with his slavery in the New World, while popular, is highly erroneous. The black man, like the Aztec, was civilized when the dominant branches of the Caucasian variety were savages. You will remember sir, that Herodotus, the Father of History, an eye­witness, distinctly mentions the black skins, and woolly hair of the Egyptians of his day. In Book II, Chapter 104, of his history he says:

“‘I believe the Colchians are a colony of Egyptians, because like they have black skin and woolly hair.’

“Aristotle in his ‘Physiognomy,’ Chapter VI, distinctly mentions the Ethiopians as having woolly hair and the Egyptians as being black­-skinned. Count M. C. de Volney, author of ‘The Ruins of Empire,’ says:

“‘The ancient Egyptians were real Negroes of same species as the other present natives of Africa.’

“A glance at the Sphinx or at any of the ancient Egyptian statues in the British Museum will confirm these statements. When I saw the statue of Amenemphet III, I was immediately struck by the facial resemblance to Jack Johnson. I have seen Negroes here and in Africa, who bore a striking resemblance to Seti the Great. The latter was worshipped as the god, Amen, on whose name good white Christians still call. By the light of modem research it does appear as if white‑skinned humanity got its civilization from the black-skinned variety, and even its origin. Volney says:

“‘To the race of Negroes . . . the object of our extreme contempt . . . we owe our arts, sciences and even the very use of speech !’

“And with reference to the production of great men by the Negro . . .”

The senator had been fidgeting in his chair. He interrupted testily, “But what about the Negro’s low, debased position in the scale of civilization? Look at the millions of Negroes in Africa little better than gorillas! They are still selling their own flesh and blood, eating human flesh and carrying on their horrible voodoo! All of the white race is civilized and all the other races, to some extent. Consider the traditions of the white man and all it means! Look at the vast incomprehensible achievements of the white man,— the railroads, the busy cities, the magnificent edifices, the wireless telegraph, the radio, the ships of the air;—yes, consider all the marvels of science! What has the white man not done? He has weighed the atom and the star with perfect accuracy. He has probed the uttermost recesses of infinity and fathomed the darkest mysteries of the ocean; he has challenged the lightning for speed and equalled it; he has competed with the eagle in the air, and outstripped him; he has rivalled the fish in his native element. In fact, there is not one single opposing force in Nature that he has not bent to his adamant will. He has excelled even the excellence of Nature. Consider, too, the philosophies, the religions, the ennobling works of art and of literature. Has the Negro anything to compare? Has he anything at all to boast of? Nothing! And yet in the face of all of these overwhelming facts, things patent to even the most ignorant, you tell me the Negro is the equal of the breed of supermen—wondermen—I represent? Really this childlike credulity of yours reaches the acme of absurdity. More than ever do I perceive a Negro is incapable of reasoning.”

He caught for breath as he lolled back in the chair, and a smile of supreme satisfaction lit his features.

Dixon, who had been listening patiently, was seemingly unaffected. He responded composedly:— “The white man's civilization is only a continuation of that which was passed on to him by the Negro, who has simply retrogressed. ‘Civilizations,’ as Spiller has pointed out, ‘are meteoric, bursting out of obscurity only to plunge back again.’ Macedonia, for example! In our own day we have seen the decline of Aztec and Inca civilizations. Of the early history of man we know nothing definite. Prior even to paleolithic man there might have been civilizations excelling our own. In the heart of Africa, explorers may yet unearth marks of some extinct Negro civilization in a manner similar to the case of Assyria forgotten for two thousand years, and finally discovered by accident under forty feet of earth. For instance, the Chicago Evening Post of Oct. 11, 1916, speaking editorially of the discoveries made at Nepata by Dr. Reisner of Harvard, says— “To his amazement he found even greater treasures of the Ethiopian past. Fragment after fragment was unearthed until at least he had reconstructed effigies of no less than eleven monarchs of the forgotten Negro empire.” Since then the tombs of fourteen other kings and fifty‑five queens have been unearthed by the Reisner expedition. Among them is that of King Tirkaqua, mentioned in the book of Isaiah. An account of this appeared in the New York Times, November 27, 1921. Again, great Negro civilizations like that of Timbuctoo flourished even in the Middle Ages. Then there have been such purely Negro civilizations as that of Uganda and Songhay, which were of high rank. Boas says in his ‘Mind of Primitive Man’ (here Dixon took out his notebook): ‘A survey of African tribes exhibits to our view cultural achievements of no mean order. All the different kinds of activities that we consider desirable in the citizens of our country may be found in aboriginal Africa.’”

The senator did not reply. His eyes, narrowed to slits, were peering at Dixon piercingly. The latter, returning his gaze, continued undaunted, “Spiller also says— ‘The status of a race at any particular moment of time offers no index to its capacities.’ How true has this been of Britons, Picts and Scots, and Huns. Nineteen hundred years ago England was inhabited by savages, who stained themselves with woad, offered human sacrifices and even practiced cannibalism. Nor is culture a guarantee against decay or Greece would not have decayed. You may be sure the Roman had the same contempt for the savages of the North, who finally conquered him and almost obliterated his civilization, as have the self‑styled superior peoples of today for the less developed ones. But these undeveloped peoples should not be despised. Nature, it certainly appears, does not intend to have the whole world civilized at the same time. Even as a thrifty housewife retains a balance in the bank to meet emergencies, so Nature retains these undeveloped varieties as a serve fund to pay the toll which civilization always exacts. Finot says that many biologists regard the Caucasian as having arrived at the limit of his evolution, and that he can go no higher without danger to his overdeveloped brain. Underdeveloped peoples, like undeveloped resources, sir, are simply Nature's bank account.”

The senator readjusted his slippers and went over to the water cooler for a drink. He did not like to argue in this vein. Dixon’s quiet assurance and well‑bred air, too, surprised him, and made him unconsciously admit to himself that here was a Negro different from his concept of that race, and not much different from himself after all. Yet his racial pride would not permit him to be outwitted by one be regarded as an inferior in spite of that ‘inferior’s’ apparent intelligence. He would try the tactics best known to him,— the same that he had more than once used successfully with Negroes. He would outface his opponent, awe him, as it were, by his racial prestige. With this determination he returned to his seat and seated himself. [. . . .]

SOURCE: Rogers, []oel A[ugustus]. From “Superman” to Man, 5th ed., revised (St. Petersburg, FL: Helga M. Rogers, 1968), pp. 16-21. (From conversation of the first day.)

[Note: Lacking an approximate correlate in the index, I created a title for this extract.— RD]

Index to From “Superman” to Man by J. A. Rogers

Religion and the Negro
by J. A. Rogers

International Language” (Universal Races Congress, 1911) by L. L. Zamenhof

Gentoj kaj Lingvo Internacia (1911) de L. L. Zamenhof

"A Hymn to the Peoples" by W. E. B. Du Bois

First Universal Races Congress, London, July 26-29, 1911: Selected Bibliography

Black Studies, Music, America vs Europe Study Guide

L. L. Zamenhof & the Cultural, Religious, Professional & Political Context of 19th-20th Century Eastern European Jewish Intellectuals:
Selected Bibliography

Atheism / Freethought / Humanism / Ethical Culture / Rationalism / Agnosticism / Skepticism / Unbelief / Secularism / Church-State Separation Web Links


"Joel Augustus Rogers: Negro Historian in History, Time, and Space" by Malik Simba

Universal Races Congress @ Ĝirafo

Joel Augustus Rogers @ Reason & Society

Home Page | Site Map | What's New | Coming Attractions | Book News
Bibliography | Mini-Bibliographies | Study Guides | Special Sections
My Writings | Other Authors' Texts | Philosophical Quotations
Blogs | Images & Sounds | External Links

CONTACT Ralph Dumain

Uploaded 11 February 2011

Site ©1999-2011 Ralph Dumain