Of the Coming of John, W. E. B. Du Bois, 1903
1. Down in Altamaha, after seven long years, all the world knew John was coming. The homes were
2. scrubbed and scoured, — above all, one; the gardens and yards had an unwonted trimness, and
3. Jennie bought a new gingham. With some finesse and negotiation, all the dark Methodists and
4. Presbyterians were induced to join in a monster welcome at the Baptist Church; and as the day
5. drew near, warm discussions arose on every corner as to the exact extent and nature of John’s
7. It was noontide on a gray and cloudy day when he came. The black town flocked to the depot,
8. with a little of the white at the edges, — a happy throng, with “Good-mawnings” and “Howdys”
9. and laughing and joking and jostling. Mother sat in the window watching; but sister Jennie
10. stood on the platform, nervously fingering her dress, — tall and lithe, with soft brown skin
11. and loving eyes peering from out a tangled wilderness of hair.
12. John rose gloomily as the train stopped, for he was thinking of the “Jim Crow” car; he stepped
13. to the platform, and paused: a little dingy station, a black crowd gaudy and dirty, a half-mile of
14. dilapidated shanties along a straggling ditch of mud. An overwhelming sense of the sordidness
15. and narrowness of it all seized him; he looked in vain for his mother, kissed coldly the tall, strange
16. girl who called him brother, spoke a short, dry word here and there; then, lingering neither for
17. hand-shaking nor gossip, raising his hat merely to the last eager old aunty, to her open-mouthed
19. The meeting of welcome at the Baptist Church was a failure. Rain spoiled the barbecues, and
20. thunder turned the milk in the ice-cream. When the speaking came at night, the house was
21. crowded to overflowing. The three preachers had especially prepared themselves, but somehow
22. John’s manner seemed to throw a blanket over everything, — he seemed so cold and preoccupied,
23. and had so strange an air of restraint [...]
24. The people moved uneasily in their seats as John rose to reply. He spoke slowly and methodically.
25. The age, he said, demanded new ideas; we were far different from those men of the seventeenth
26. and eighteenth centuries, — with broader ideas of human brotherhood and destiny. Then he
27. spoke of the rise of charity and popular education, and particularly of the spread of wealth and
28. work. The question was, then, he added reflectively, looking at the low discolored ceiling, what
29. part the Negroes of this land would take in the striving of the new century. He sketched in vague
30. outline the new Industrial School that might rise among these pines, he spoke in detail of the
31. charitable and philanthropic work that might be organized, of money that might be saved for
32. banks and businesses. Finally he urged unity, and deprecated especially religious and
33. denominational bickering.
34. “To-day,” he said, with a smile, “the world cares little whether a man be Baptist or Methodist, or
35. indeed a churchman at all, so long as he is good and true. What difference does it make whether
36. a man be baptized in river or wash-bowl, or not at all? Let’s leave all that littleness, and look higher.”
37. Then, thinking of nothing else, he slowly sat down.
38. A painful hush seized that crowded mass. Little had they understood of what he said, for he
39. spoke an unknown tongue, save the last word about baptism; that they knew, and they sat
40. very still while the clock ticked.
41. He arose silently, and passed out into the night. Down toward the sea he went, in the fitful
42. starlight, half-conscious of the girl who followed timidly after him. When at last he stood upon
43. the bluff, he turned to his little sister and looked upon her sorrowfully, remembering with sudden
44. pain how little thought he had given her. He put his arm about her and let her passion of tears
45. spend itself on his shoulder. Long they stood together, peering over the gray unresting water.
46. “John,” she said, “does it make every one — unhappy when they study and learn lots of things?”
47. He paused and smiled. “I am afraid it does,” he said.
48. “And, John, are you glad you studied?”
49. “Yes,” came the answer, slowly but positively.
50. She watched the flickering lights upon the sea, and said thoughtfully, “I wish I was unhappy,
51. — and, — and,” Putting both arms about his neck, “I think I am, a little, John."
Du Bois, W. E. B. "Chapter 13 - Of the Coming of John." The Souls of Black Folk. Chicago: A. C. McClurg, 1903. N. pag. Etc.usf.edu. Lit2Go. Web. 4 May 2016.
Which of the following is true of John's speech in lines 24-36?