Baltimore Evening Sun (26 October 1911): 6.
Only 1,304 days more! Courage, Camille! The worst is yet to come!
Long, long ago I called attention to a leaflet issued by the Merchants and Manufacturers’ Association, that sanhedrin of sopbists, in which the claim was made that Baltimore’s death rate was “about 16 in the thousand.” Amazed by this ridiculous allegation, I offered a can of sardines to anyone who would furnish proofs that the rate was actually less than 18. Now the assoclation answers, in its official organ, by quoting the following figures from the report of the Health Department for 1910:
Death rate 1909.1910.
Whole population.......................................... 16.93 17.41
White population........................................... 15.03 15.60
Colored population........................................ 27.00 26.90
Alas, messeurs, I am still unconvinced—and for a very good reason. You will discover that reason if you will glance at page 11 of the Health Department’s last annual report. There, in plain English, appears the surprising news that the death rate for 1910 was calculated upon an “estimated” population basis of 589,000. When this report was compiled, let it be remembered, the results of the Federal census had been announced. It was well known to every sane man in Baltimore that the population of the city was not 589,000, nor anything near 589,000. And yet that grotesquely false basis was deliberately used in calculating the death rate!
But what was the actual population of Baltimore in 1910—for we must determine it if we are to get at the real death rate? The Federal census, taken on June 1, gave us 558,485. Let us assume that the ensuing protestations were justified, that the Federal nose-counters really missed a considerable number of beaks. But just how many? In November, 1910, nearly six months later, the police took a hack at the job. They worked under a considerable pressure of public opinion; they knew that they were expected to count every last nose. And with what result? On November 26 came their report . It showed a population of 566,025—or just 7,540 more than the Federal enumerators had found. On November 30 they appear to have made a sort of supplementary report. It showed a further increase of 7,072—or 14,612 in all. Add 14,612 to 558,485 and you get 573,097–still 15,903 short of 589,000, despite all that constabulary sweating.
But let us assume that 573,097 was the actual population of Baltimore on November 30. Let us go further and assume that it was the actual population on July 1, and in consequence the mean population for the whole of 1910. What death rate does it give us? The total number of deaths reported during 1910 was 10,753. Divide 10,753 by 573,097 and you get a death rate of 18.76 a thousand of population—or just .76 above the minimum I set!
But is it fair to take even 573,097 as a basis, to say nothing of 589,000? I rather think not. If the population of Baltimore was 573,097 on November 30, it was certainly less in the middle of the year. To brief, there was an appreciable growth during the intervening five months. And we must try to find out the population in the middle of the year, if we are to be accurate, for it was identical with the mean population for the whole year, and annual death rates must be calculated upon the basis of mean populations. What was it?
Let us go to the Federal figures. In 1900 they gove us a population of 508,957 and in 1910 a population of 568,485. The increase in 10 years was, roughly speaking, 50,000, or 5,000 a year. If there was an undercount in 1910, there was probably a similar undercount in 1900–so the increase shown may be accepted as reasonably accurate. Five thousand a year means 2,083 in five months. Subtract 2,083 from 573,097 and we get 571,014—probably as near as we shall ever come to the true population of Baltimore on July 1, 1910. Now divide 571,014 into 10,753, and we got a death rate of 18.83. Certainly 18.93 is not “about 16 in the thousand”!
Go to 1909 and we find again that the rate was above 18. The total deaths during that year were 10,376, and upon an “estimated” population basis of 581,000 the death rate worked out to 16.93. But the actual population of Baltimore in 1909 was obviously not 581,000. Assuming that our figures for 1910, as given above, are correct—and if they contain any error it is in favor of the boomers—and subtracting from them the 5,000 which represents the gain between July 1, 1909, and July 1, 1910, we get 565,597. Divide this into 10,376 and the result is 18.23. Still a good deal more than “about 16.”
And the death rate in 1909 touched low-water mark. I quote from the Health Department’s report for that year (page 9):
The total number of deaths * * * is less than for the last three years, and consequently there is a proportionately lessened death rate. * * * A few years ago our death rate was never below 19 per 1,000 of population.
The statistician of the Merchants and Manufacturs’ Association, after disposing of me with the fake figures of the Health Department, proceeds to the usual platitude about our enormous negro population. Undoubtedly it is the negro population that keeps our death rate high, but the fact must not be overlooked that the black Baltimorean is just as much a Baltimorean as his white brother. The thing for us to do is not to blame him in one breath for our high death rate and deny in the next breath that our death rate is high, but to devise some intelligent plan for combating the diseases which beset him.
Down in Panama there are even more negroes than in Baltimore—and yet the death rate in Panama is considerably less than Baltimore’s. The climate, of course, is on the side of the colored brother there; he can stand the heat of a tropical summer far better than he can stand the cold of a Baltimore winter. But is the climate solely responsible for the difference? I think not. Time was when the death rate in Panama, instead of being lower than Baltimore’s, was actually three times as high. It is decent housing that has worked the change. The Canal Zone negro must be clean in his house. He is not allowed to live in a wallow.
But who ever heard of a plan for the decent housing of negroes in Baltimore? Most of them live in filthy hovels, crowded together in winter, breeding diseases in themselves and constantly communicating those diseases to the rest of us. The persons who govern us have never thought to look to this matter. When the darky tries to move out of his sty and into a human habitation a policeman now stops him. The law practically insists that he keep on incubating typhoid and tuberculosis–that he keep these infections alive and virulent for the delight and benefit of the whole town.