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Old 24 January 2008, 07:22 PM
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Icon13 Excised passage from Albert Schweitzer's "African Notebook"

Comment: Albert Schweitzer published his "African Notebook" in 1939. Did
it contain the following passage, excised from subsequent editions?

"I have given my life to try to alleviate the sufferings of Africa. There
is something that all white men who have lived here like I must learn and
know: that these individuals are a sub-race. They have neither the
intellectual, mental, or emotional abilities to equate or to share equally
with white men in any function of our civilization. I have given my life
to try to bring them the advantages which our civilization must offer, but
I have become well aware that we must retain this status: the superior and
they the inferior. For whenever a white man seeks to live among them as
their equals they will either destroy him or devour him. And they will
destroy all of his work. Let white men from anywhere in the world, who
would come to Africa, remember that you must continually retain this
status; you the master and they the inferior like children that you would
help or teach. Never fraternize with them as equals. Never accept them as
your social equals or they will devour you. They will destroy you."
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  #2  
Old 25 January 2008, 11:58 PM
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Never heard of this! I wonder where you got this deleted portion of the notebook.


B. A. Rainey
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  #3  
Old 26 January 2008, 08:34 PM
Majorsam Majorsam is offline
 
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I found the passage very much out of character for Dr. S, so I took a trip to UCLA where, to my pleasent surprise, I found a copy of the 1939 edition of the cited book, as well as a later edition. Sadly, they were in different buildings and as I haven't library card I didn't have an opportunity to take them out & compare them.

I "sped read" both, looking for the quoted passage as well as possible passages that were similar in tone. I found none in either version that was available, although I did find many little anecdotes which were amusing. So, on the face of it, the OP doesn't seem to have much merit. However, I concede that the 1939 edition was in English, and the library had no copies of the original German (and, I confess, my German is remarkably rusty & finding the passage would have been a chore) so it is possible that it was contained in the original German edition, but not translated to the first English edition...but I admit I don't hold that as very likely.

It seems remarkably unlikely that the good Doctor would write these things circa 1938 when he had been so long an advocate of decolonization & helping Africans. The Notebook is peppered with anecdotes of both the buffoonery and nobility of the Africans, and I found it remarkably fair if ever so slightly patronizing from time to time.

But here's an excerpt from the book that I thought is a good characterization of the Doctor in the book. Mind you, this is about the closest thing I found to the OP passage:

>>...when long-resident natives of the district expressed discontent at being ruled by white men, I answer that they without white man they would no longer be in existance.<<

>>In general...manifold and heavy as is the guilt of the white people all over the world in the matter of colonization, yet may claim on their own behalf that the races they have subjected they have in so far brought peace that they have put an end to the senseless wars which contstantly raged among them.<<
(Notebook, p. 18, Henry Holt & Co. New York, 1939 Trans. by Mrs. CEB Russell)

However the above paragraph is fairly alone in the book in its justification of white intrusion into Africa. In other parts he decries the colonization and speaks very highly of the Africans. In one telling quote, a European businessman notes that his business would be much harder if the Africans didn't have such good character.

So, pending anyone who has access to the German 1939 version of this book or takes a more careful read than I was able to with my limited time, I'd say it's a laod of baloney.

Very best regards;

Sam

PS: If there are mistakes in the above quotes, please accept my humble apologies. Couldn't use the photocopier so had to take notes and my handwriting is abominable.

Last edited by Majorsam; 26 January 2008 at 08:36 PM. Reason: Clarification
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Old 28 January 2008, 09:24 PM
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Wow, Sam, that is some serious research to check on a Snopes posting (I mean, for anyone besides David or Barbara). I enjoyed reading your findings very much. Your analysis is comparable to the fine articles Barbara writes in answering ULs. Thanks for your trouble.

Okay, you probably enjoyed it - I know, as I've been doing a lot of research lately about Tarascan Indian history and language - but still, thanks!
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Old 29 January 2008, 12:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by surfcitydogdad View Post
Wow, Sam, that is some serious research to check on a Snopes posting (I mean, for anyone besides David or Barbara). I enjoyed reading your findings very much. Your analysis is comparable to the fine articles Barbara writes in answering ULs. Thanks for your trouble.

Okay, you probably enjoyed it - I know, as I've been doing a lot of research lately about Tarascan Indian history and language - but still, thanks!
I Totally agree with you, SCDD. It's one thing to use your Google-fu, sitting at home in your PJs, but Majorsam took the time to do some serious research to defend the Good Doctor. You deserve a 21-Snopes salute! Well done!
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Old 31 January 2008, 04:38 AM
Majorsam Majorsam is offline
 
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Aw, shucks, you're making me blush.

Many thanks, but surfdog hit the nail on the head. I enjoy tracking these rumors down, and I admire Snopes for taking the time to do the work to find truth. Besides, this really isn't that tough...find the book, read it, report. It isn't like I cured cancer.

That's next week. :P

Sam
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  #7  
Old 03 February 2008, 06:45 PM
Taken
 
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I swear the wikipedia page on Albert Schweitzer once mentioned this quote (without reproducing it) and stated that it was falsely attributed to him. The current page does not do so, but states:

Chinua Achebe has quoted Schweitzer as saying "The African is indeed my brother but my junior brother," which Achebe criticized him for, though Achebe seems to acknowledge that Schweitzer's use of the word "brother" at all was, for a European of the early 20th century, an unusual expression of human solidarity between whites and blacks. Later in his life, Schweitzer was quoted as saying "The time for speaking of older and younger brothers has passed."

So it would seem very odd if he also said the things mentioned above. People who feel like that don’t usually end up doing missionary work in Africa.

Taken

(so how’s my first post)
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Old 06 February 2008, 04:04 AM
Majorsam Majorsam is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Taken View Post
(so how’s my first post)

Excellent. Welcome to the boards!
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  #9  
Old 07 February 2008, 05:21 PM
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Taken: Maybe you're thinking of Wikiquote. There, you'll find the quotation in question with this note:

Quote:
As quoted at "FAQ about the life and thoughts of Albert Schweitzer", which also includes a "Note on translation: Some of the most troubling and even offensive passages in Schweitzer's writings as they have appeared in English reflect problems or even frank errors in translation, rather than Schweitzer's own thoughts." The text has also been cited as something "said shortly before his death" when in fact it dates from writings very early in his career in Africa, and expresses ideas that he later repudiated.
That was added by User:Kalki, who's an administrator on Wikiquote.

Kalki's source was Schweitzer.org (the website of an association dedicated to Albert Schweitzer, which has contact info on the page on which it solicits donations) which has a FAQ in which they address this quotation:

http://www.schweitzer.org/english/di...faq.htm#racist

Here, it's attributed to "his 1961 book, From My African Notebook." (Amazon.com has a book whose publishing date is 1951. Presumably the '61 and '51 books are reprints. There's also a 1992 book called My African Notebook by Willem Boshoff.)

I confess I only skimmed the response, as it seems to ramble, but the FAQ entry doesn't seem to actually directly address the quotation. The closest it comes is the note quoted on Wikiquote:

Quote:
Note on translation: Some of the most troubling and even offensive passages in Schweitzer's writings as they have appeared in English reflect problems or even frank errors in translation, rather than Schweitzer's own thoughts. Perhaps the most extreme in this regard are references by Dr. Schweitzer to Africans as "savages". In fact, although Schweitzer used several different German words to refer to his African neighbors, none of those would be translated as "savage" today, but rather as "black" or "native" or "primitive". The translation by Mrs. C.E.B. Russell of this book into English was published in 1939, and her use of the word "savage" is as mistaken and regrettable as it is offensive.
Aside from that, the gist of the response to the question seems to basically be "He was a great guy, a really REALLY great guy, but he wasn't perfect. Like Jesus, who was imperfect in that he thought the end of the world was imminent. They were both the products of their times. Come on, nobody's perfect." Odd.

So it seems like he actually did write that. I'd like to see the original, though. There's a copy of the German version on Abebooks for 2.50 plus shipping, but there's no info on when that particular copy was printed.

Collected via Google-Fu.

Last edited by Mr. Billion; 07 February 2008 at 05:38 PM.
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