Domestic Service


Domestic Service


Domestic Work, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Race Relations, African American women


This newspaper article describes how interactions between Black domestic workers and their White employers define the White perception of the Black race. The article implores the population of domestic workers to uphold a higher standard of service, which could not only lead to better pay individually, but also promote respect for the entire race.


Philadelphia Tribune


Philadelphia Tribune


WCU, HIS 601/HON 452 Great Migration and Digital Storytelling, Fall 2014


May 17, 1924


Kristen Waltz, Erica Knorr


Used by permission of the Philadelphia Tribune Company, Inc. All rights reserved. The Philadelphia Tribune, with 130 years of continuous publication, is the oldest newspaper in the United States serving the African-American community.






Cooks, maids, butlers and other domestic servants come in direct contact with the dominant group to a larger degree than any other class of Negroes. From this group of colored citizens the white race obtain their views of the Negro. The caste system in America makes this true. Regardless of how we feel about the injustice of it, it is true. If our domestic class is intelligent, clean and thrifty it willl aid us in solving our problem. If they are dumb and unclean they do infinite harm to the progress of the race.
Because of the economic condition of the race it is necessary in the majority of instances for the women of the family to supplement the earnings of the men by going out in service. It is a terrible condition. It would be better for us if we were able to keep our women home. But at the present time we are unable to do so. On the other hand the job often depends upon what the person makes out of it. There are thousands of well trained domestic servants who are valuable assets to those for whom they work. They maintain their sefl-respect and are of great value to their race. The world's work must be done. There is nothing ignoble about work. There is nothing wrong with domestic service if it is kept on a high plane. It can be brought up to a higher standard.
It would seem therefore, since such a large population of our group must engage in this kind of work, that the proper thing for us to do, both for the good of the individual worker and of the race, is to bring it up to a higher standard. We can make the positions dignified by efficient work. If those, who because of circumstances must work out in service, are well trained in their occupation they can demand better pay and a larger amount of respect. To this end it would seem fitting to instruct them in the fine art of their work. They should understand that upon their shouldners rest a large responsibility. They can hinder or help our progress. The better trained they are the greater can they assist in promoting respect for their race.

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Philadelphia Tribune, “Domestic Service,” Goin' North, accessed June 17, 2024,