This FSC reveals the racism implicit in Miles' otherwise benign form of
Spencerian philosophy. The blind negro conforms to Spencer's "primitive" stage
of culture which is characterized by child-like intellect, egocentrism and impulsiveness.
Spencer notes African Americans' lack of intellectual development in Principles of
One of the reasons assigned in the United States for not educating negro children along
with white children, has been that after a certain age they "do not correspondingly
advance in learning--their intellects being incapable of being cultured beyond a
particular point." And this statement, which might else be suspected of bias, agrees
with that made respecting the same race in Africa by Sir Samuel Baker, who says:--"In
childhood I believe the negro to be in advance,in intellectual quickness, of a white child
of a similar age, but the mind does not expand--it promises fruit but does not ripen. So,
too, of the Andaman children we read that they "catch up words readily and repeat
them, but seem incapable of connecting words with corresponding ideas." Even the
finest uncivilized races show us the like limitation. (368-69)
Miles, ordinarily open-minded and scientific in her observations about culture, had little firsthand contact with Chattanooga's sizeable African American population (the census of 1920 numbers approximately 19,000 blacks to 39,000 whites--a 1:2 ratio that has held steady for most of the twentieth century). She spent most of her life on Walden's Ridge, home to few African Americans; even when she moved to Chattanooga, Jim Crow laws, impacting every aspect of life from housing to transportation, effectively segregated the black population. For further discussion of Miles' racism in its social context, see Grace Toney Edwards' dissertation (206-7).