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Title: The Story of My Life and Work
Author: Washington, Booker T.
Language: English
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                         THE STORY OF MY LIFE
                               AND WORK

                         BOOKER T. WASHINGTON


                        WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY

                          DR. J. L. M. CURRY



                              FRANK BEARD

                        W. H. FERGUSON COMPANY,

                      230-232 East Fifth Street,

                           CINCINNATI, OHIO.


        Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1900

                        BY BOOKER T. WASHINGTON

   In the office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington, D. C.

Sold only by Subscription, and not to be had in book stores. Any one desiring
                 a copy should address the Publishers

                          ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


[Illustration: DR. J. L. M. CURRY, WASHINGTON, D. C.]


I have cheerfully consented to prefix a few words introductory to this
autobiography. While I have encouraged its publication, not a sentence
has been submitted to my examination. From my intimate acquaintance with
the subject, because of my connection with the Peabody and the Slater
Education Funds, I am sure the volume has such a strong claim upon the
people that no commendation is needed.

The life of Booker T. Washington cannot be written. Incidents of birth,
parentage, schooling, early struggles, later triumphs, may be detailed
with accuracy, but the life has been so incorporated, transfused, into
such a multitude of other lives,--broadening views, exalting ideals,
molding character,--that no human being can know its deep and beneficent
influence, and no pen can describe it. Few living Americans have made a
deeper impression on public opinion, softened or removed so many
prejudices, or awakened greater hopefulness in relation to the solution
of a problem, encompassed with a thousand difficulties and perplexing
the minds of philanthropists and statesmen. His personality is unique,
his work has been exceptional, his circle of friendships has constantly
widened; his race, through his utterances and labors, has felt an upward
tendency, and he himself has been an example of what worth and energy
can accomplish and a stimulus to every one of both races, aspiring to a
better life and to doing good for others.

It has been said with truth that the race problem requires the patient
and wise co-operation of the North and the South, of the white people
and the Negroes. It is encouraging to see how one true, wise, prudent,
courageous man can contribute far more than many men to the
comprehension and settlement of questions which perplex the highest
capabilities. Great eras have often revolved around an individual; and,
so, in this country, it is singular that, contrary to what pessimists
have predicted, a colored man, born a slave, freed by the results of the
War, is accomplishing so much toward thorough pacification and good

While Mr. Washington has achieved wonders, in his own recognition as a
leader and by his thoughtful addresses, his largest work has been the
founding and the building up of the Normal and Industrial Institute, at
Tuskegee, Alabama. That institution illustrates what can be accomplished
under the supervision, control, and teaching of the colored people, and
it stands conspicuous for industrial training, for intelligent,
productive labor, for increased usefulness in agriculture and mechanics,
for self-respect and self-support, and for the purification of
home-life. A late Circular of the Trustees of Hampton Institute makes
the startling statement that “six millions of our Negroes are now living
in one-room cabins.” Under such conditions morality and progress are
impossible. If the estimate be approximately correct, it enforces the
wisdom of Mr. Washington in his earnest crusade against “the one-room
cabin”, and is an honorable tribute to the revolution wrought through
his students in the communities where they have settled. Every student
at Tuskegee, in the proportion of the impression produced by the
Principal, becomes a better husband, a better wife, a better citizen, a
better man or woman. A series of useful books on the “Great Educators”
has been published in England and the United States. While Washington
cannot, in learning and philosophy, be ranked with Herbart, Pestalozzi,
Froebel, Hopkins, Wayland, Harris, he may be truly classed among those
who have wrought grandest results on mind and character.


WASHINGTON, D. C., Nov. 16, 1899.




Author’s Reasons for Writing Autobiography--Ancestry--Mother--Author’s
Early Recollections and Impressions of Her--Father--Who He Was--When
and Where Author Was Born--A Description of the Cabin Where Born--Dress
of the Author in Early Childhood--The “Tow Shirt"--Early Services
of Author at Holding Horses and Going to the Mill--Name of Author’s
Owner--His Treatment of His Slaves--Author First Hears of the War from
the Slaves in the “Quarters"--He Assembles with His Mother at the “Big
House” and Hears Freedom to the Slaves Announced--Removal of Author’s
Family to West Virginia--Incidents of the Journey--Of Whom the Family
Consisted at That Time.



Beginning Life in West Virginia--Author Sees a Negro Reading a
Newspaper in Malden which Kindles His First Ambition--He Learns His
Letters while Working in Coal Mines and Salt Furnaces--Attends His
First School--Author Gives Himself a Surname--He Turns Forward the
Hands of the Clock to Enable Him to Get to School on Time--Author
Learns of Sunday School from an Old Man and Becomes a Regular
Attendant--Some Experiences in the Coal Mines--Author Goes to
Live with the Family of Gen. Lewis Ruffner--He Runs Away, but
Returns--Some Experiences as a Market Boy while Working for Mrs.
Ruffner--Mrs. Ruffner, Author’s Estimate of Her--Author Hears of
the Hampton Institute while Working in the Coal Mines and Resolves
to go There--Joins the Baptist Church in Malden Before Leaving for
Hampton--Still a Member of This Church.



Author Starts for Hampton in 1872--The Journey--How Made--Sleeping
Under Sidewalk in Richmond--Unloads Pig Iron from a Vessel in
Richmond and Thereby Earns Money Enough to Continue the Journey to
Hampton--Arrives at Hampton--Sees Miss Mary F. Mackie, the Lady
Principal--Undergoes a “Sweeping Examination” and is Admitted as a
Student--Author Sees Gen. Armstrong for the First Time--First and Last
Impressions of Him--Hampton Institute when Author First Entered It--His
Connection with the Debating Societies--His Destitute Condition at
Hampton--After Two Years at Hampton, Author Spends Vacation at Home in
Malden--Death of His Mother--He is Graduated at Hampton in 1875--Some
Helpful Friends at Hampton, Misses Nathalie Lord and Elizabeth
Brewer--Goes as a Waiter to Saratoga Springs.



Author Begins Teaching at Malden--Encourages His Pupils to go to
Hampton--Helps His Brother John to Enter Hampton--Enters Wayland
Seminary, Washington, D. C., and Spends a Year There--Stumps the
State of West Virginia in the Interest of the Removal of the State
Capital--Studies Law for a Short Time--Invited by Gen. Armstrong
to Deliver the Graduate’s Address--Asked to Return to Hampton by
Gen. Armstrong as a Special Student and to Take Charge of Night
School--Accepts--The “Plucky Class"--In Charge of Indian Boys at
Hampton--The Call from Tuskegee for Some One to Start a Normal
School--Gen. Armstrong Recommends the Author--Author Accepts and
Proceeds to Tuskegee.



Author’s Difficulty in Locating the Town of Tuskegee Before Starting
Thither--Description and Some Early History of Tuskegee by Maj. W. W.
Screws--Author’s Meeting with Mr. Lewis Adams, Who First Advanced the
Idea of a Normal School at Tuskegee--How Mr. Adams Secured the First
Appropriation Through Hons. A. L. Brooks and W. F. Foster--The Opening
of the Normal School, July 4, 1881--The House in which the School Was



The Necessity for a Permanent Location for the School Early Seen by
the Author--Objections of the Early Students to Manual Labor--Gen.
Marshall, Treasurer at Hampton, Lends $500 with which the Present Site
of Tuskegee Was Purchased--The Coming of Miss Olivia A. Davidson and
Her Valuable Service to the School in Its Early Struggles--The Struggle
for Money--Generosity of Both White and Colored Citizens of Tuskegee
Towards the Institute--Miss Davidson Goes to Boston in the Interest
of the School and Secures Money for the Erection of Porter Hall--More
About the Shanty in which the School Was Started and Taught for the
First Year--Author is Married to Miss Fannie N. Smith of Malden--Birth
of Daughter Portia, and the Mother’s Early Death.



The Putting the Farm in Order for the Raising of a Crop--The Students
Volunteer to Assist in Clearing the Land--Mr. Campbell Gives the School
Its First Horse--Old Buildings Put in Use--First Service in Porter
Hall, Sermon by Rev. R. C. Bedford--Knowledge of the School Spreads
and Brings Increase of Students--Hardships and Discomforts Undergone
by the Young Men During the Second Winter of the School--The Rule that
All Students Should do Some Work in Connection with Studies--Early
Objections of Parents and Students to This Rule--Objections Now Passed
Away--Early Determination of Author to Have Students do All the Work
of Putting up Buildings and Carrying on Departments--The Legislature
of Alabama Increases the Appropriation to the School from $2,000 to
$3,000--The Work of Hon. W. F. Foster in Securing This Increase--The
Letter of Rev. R. C. Bedford to Gen. Armstrong in Regard to the
Increase of Appropriation and the Work of Tuskegee--Gen. J. F. B.
Marshall, Treasurer of Hampton Institute, Visits Tuskegee and Writes
a Letter to the “Southern Workman” in Regard to the Work There--The
Celebration of the Second Anniversary of Tuskegee--The Building of
Cottages at Tuskegee--The Coming of Mr. Warren Logan to the School
and His Valuable Services Ever Since--Mr. J. H. Washington Accepts
a Position in the School--His Efficient Services as Superintendent
of Industries--The Finance Committee, the Principal’s Cabinet--The
Trustees of the Slater Fund Through Rev. R. C. Bedford, Donate $1,100
to the School--Slater Fund Annual Appropriation Now Increased to
$11,000--Gen. Armstrong Invites Author to Accompany Him and Speak
in the Interest of Tuskegee at a Series of Meetings which He (Gen.
Armstrong) Proposed to Hold in Philadelphia, New York, Boston and
Other Cities--Author Accepts and Meetings Result Largely in Favor
of Tuskegee--Miss Mary F. Mackie, Lady Principal at Hampton, Visits
Tuskegee and Writes an Encouraging Letter to a Friend--Commencement at
Tuskegee in May, 1884--Author Invited to Address National Educational
Association at Madison, Wisconsin--Author’s First Opportunity of
Presenting the Work at Tuskegee to Such a Large Audience of National
Character--Extracts from the Address--Good Impression Made by This
Address Brings Many Invitations to Speak.



Growth in Number of Students, Teachers and Officers, and Buildings
during the Early Years of This Period--Hard Work of Raising Money with
which to Meet the Increasing Demands--Some Providential Ways Whereby
the School Was Helped Out of Tight Places Financially--Financial
Assistance Rendered the School by the Citizens and Banks of
Tuskegee--First Donation from the Peabody Fund--Dr. Curry Reasons That
the School That Makes Extra Effort to Secure Funds is the School to
be Helped--Some Statistics in Regard to the Money Raised for Tuskegee
during This Period--Our Financial Embarrassment during the Fourth
Year--Gen. Armstrong Comes to Our Relief by Lending Us Nearly all the
Money He Possessed--Author’s Fourth Annual Report, Extracts--Generosity
of Gen. J. F. B. Marshall Enables Tuskegee to Start a Sawmill--The
Opening of the Night School--The Advantages it Affords Needy
Students--Full Description of the Seventh Commencement or Anniversary
of the School Indicating its Growth to that Time--Tuskegee’s
Daily Program in Force in 1886--The Death of Mrs. Olivia Davidson
Washington--An Estimate of Her Character and Worth to Tuskegee by Rev.
R. C. Bedford--Further Growth of the School in Number of Students--The
Visit of the Hon. Frederick Douglass to Tuskegee--His Views in Regard
to Industrial Education and Other Matters Affecting the Negro
Race--His Letter to Mrs. Harriett Beecher Stowe in 1853, Pleading for
an Industrial College for Negroes--Author’s Marriage to Miss Maggie
James Murray--Her Interest in and Labors Towards the Advancement of the
Work at Tuskegee.



Author Invited to Deliver Lecture at Fisk University Under Auspices of
the Fisk Lecture Bureau--Full Description of the Occasion, an Excellent
Synopsis of Lecture Published in Nashville Daily Papers--Lecture
Caused Much Newspaper Comment--Account of the Lecture by the Nashville
Daily American--Memphis Commercial Appeal, in an Editorial, Uses the
Published Accounts of This Lecture as a Basis for an Argument for More
Industrial Training for the White Race--The Editorial.



Invitation to Accompany a Committee of Atlanta Gentlemen to Washington
to Intercede for a Congressional Appropriation for the Cotton States’
Exposition--The Author Among Others Speaks before the Committee
on Appropriations--Arguments Set Forth by Him in Favor of an
Appropriation--Appropriation Granted--The Negro Building at the Atlanta
or Cotton States’ Exposition and the Success of the Negro Exhibit
under Chief Commissioner, I. Garland Penn--The Exhibit of the Tuskegee
Institute--Author Invited by the Board of Directors to Deliver an
Address at the Public Exercises on the Opening Day--He Feels the Weight
of this Responsibility--An Account of the Author’s Feelings as the Time
Drew Near for the Opening of the Exposition--He Leaves Tuskegee for
Atlanta, Accompanied by Mrs. Washington and His Daughter Portia and
the Two Boys, Baker and Davidson--Incidents of the Day before the Time
for the Opening Exercises at the Exposition--At the Exercises Author
is Introduced to the Audience by Ex-Governor Bullock, Who Presided on
that Occasion--Author’s Speech in Full--Author Invited by D. C. Gilman
of Johns Hopkins University to be one of the Judges of Awards in the
Department of Education in Atlanta--An Account of the Reception of
His Speech Written by James Creelman, Correspondent to the New York
World--Hon. Clark Howell, Editor of the Atlanta Constitution, Writes
Concerning the Speech to the New York World--Some Samples of What the
Press of the Country Had to Say in Regard to this Speech--His Letter in
Full--In a Few Hours After the Speech Author Begins Receiving Messages
of Congratulation--He Returns to Tuskegee the Next Day, at Every
Station on the Route Meeting Crowds of People Anxious to Shake Hands
with Him--Hon. Grover Cleveland, then President of the United States,
Writes Author a Letter in Regard to the Atlanta Speech--Author Receives
Many Flattering Offers from Lecture Bureaus to Deliver Lectures but
Refuses Them All--He Continues His Labors in Behalf of Tuskegee.



Author Writes an Open Letter to Senator Tillman during the Meeting of a
Constitutional Convention in South Carolina--He Sets Forth the Negro’s
Claim upon the Whites for Justice and Fair Play--He Urges the Whites to
Help and Not to Hinder the Progress of the Negroes--He Pleads for Negro
Education--The Letter in Full--Is Asked by an Atlanta Paper to Write
a Letter on the Benefits of the Atlanta Exposition of 1895--Complies
in an Interesting Letter which Outlines the Benefits of the Exposition
Alike to Negroes, Southern Whites, and to the Country Generally--This
Letter in Full--Author Continues His Campaign of Speech Making in the
North during the Winter of 1895-6--Speaks at Carnegie Hall, New York,
Appearing with Dr. T. DeWitt Talmage and Others, President Grover
Cleveland Presiding--Some Extracts from the Speech Delivered on this
Occasion--Returning to Tuskegee to be Present at the Annual Meeting
of the Tuskegee Negro Farmer’s Conference--In March, 1896, Speaks
Before the Bethel Literary Society of Washington, D. C.--Answers Some
Criticisms by Colored Newspapers of His Atlanta Speech.



Tuskegee Institute, in Connection with Hampton, Makes an Industrial
Exhibit in New York, Boston and Philadelphia--Academic Work at
Tuskegee, Its Thoroughness--The Great Surprise of the Author’s
Life--An Account of Commencement at Harvard in June, 1896--The Degree
of Master of Arts Conferred Upon Author--Takes Lunch with President
Eliot Along with Gen. Miles, Dr. Savage and Others Receiving Honorary
Degrees--Speaks at the Alumni Dinner--A Notable Address--The Address
in Full--Thos. J. Calloway’s Letter to the Colored American Concerning
this Event--Some Newspaper Comments--Speaks to a Large Audience at the
Meeting of the National Christian Endeavor Convention, Washington,
D. C.--The Following Evening Addresses the National Educational
Association at Buffalo, New York, Where 20,000 Teachers Were
Present--Some Newspaper Accounts of this Address--Visits North Carolina
in October, 1896, and Speaks to the Colored People at a Fair in
Durham--While in Durham Invited to Address Students of Trinity College,
White--Warmly Received and Heartily Cheered by Students.



The Washington Post and Other Papers Urge the Appointment of the Author
in the Cabinet of President McKinley--Some Extracts From Articles
Urging Such Appointment--In the Midst of this Discussion Author
Declares He Would Not Accept a Political Position That Would Compel
Him to Turn Aside From the Work at Tuskegee--He Speaks in Washington
in March, 1897--He Urges Negroes to Cease Depending Too Much on
Office Getting, and Give More Attention to Industrial and Business
Enterprises--Certain Criticisms of Author Answered.



Author Invited to Make an Address at the Dedication in Boston of
a Monument to Col. Robert Gould Shaw and Regiment--He Accepts and
Delivered the Address--The Speech in Full--Impressions of this Speech
as Told by the Boston Transcript and Other Papers--The Thrilling
Incident of Sergeant Carney, the Color-Bearer for the Old Fifty-Fourth
Massachusetts During the Dedicatory Exercises--The Visit of Secretary
of Agriculture, Hon. James Wilson, and Other Prominent Statesmen and
Educators at the Dedication of the Agricultural Building--Something
of the Agricultural Department at Tuskegee--An Open Letter to the
Louisiana State Constitutional Convention--In this Letter Author Pleads
that More of a Christian Spirit Should Animate the Races in their
Dealings with each Other--That Negroes be not Treated as Aliens--That
if Ballot Restrictions be Necessary, any Law Passed on the Subject
Ought to Apply Alike to Whites and Blacks--That in the Same Degree
the Ballot Box is Closed to the Negro, the Public Schools be Opened
to Him--The Letter in Full--Author’s Position Endorsed by the Leading
Democratic Papers in New Orleans--Author Delivers an Address Before the
Regents of the University of New York in June, 1898.



The Movement at Tuskegee for the Education of Cubans and Porto
Ricans--The Trustees of the John F. Slater Fund Enables Author and Mrs.
Washington to Lecture in the Cities of the South--These Lectures were
Plain Talks to the Colored People about the Financial, Physical, Mental
and Moral Needs--The Peace Celebrations in the United States after the
Spanish-American War--The Author Invited to Speak at the Chicago Peace
Jubilee--Accepts and Speaks October 16, 1898--Many Prominent People
Present, Including President McKinley, Cabinet Officers, Heroes of the
Late War, and Others--Names of Other Speakers--Author’s Speech in Full
on this Occasion--What the Chicago Times-Herald had to say in Regard
to this Speech--President McKinley Listened to this Speech and Bowed
His Appreciation--Some Criticisms in the South of Portions of this
Speech--Criticisms Replied to by Author in a Letter to the Birmingham
(Ala.) Age-Herald--Author’s Policy in Speech Making--The Need of
Greater Charity of the Races Towards Each Other.



Author’s Early Desire to Have the President of the United States
Visit Tuskegee--After Years of Work and Struggle, Author is More
than ever Determined to Secure a Visit from the President--President
McKinley’s Coming to Atlanta Gives Author Opportunity to Invite Him
to Tuskegee--For this Purpose Author goes to Washington and Sees
the President--He Goes a Second Time to Washington Accompanied by
Mr. Chas. W. Hare of Tuskegee--Dr. J. L. M. Curry, Without Author’s
Knowledge Urges the President to Visit Tuskegee Institute--During His
Second Visit to Washington Author Secures a Definite Promise from the
President to Visit Tuskegee--President McKinley in Conversation with
Author Exhibits Great Interest in the Welfare of the Negro--Other
Prominent Men with the President’s Party--Great Crowds at Tuskegee
on the Day of the President’s Visit--How the Day was Spent--The
Parade--Exercises and Speech-making in the Chapel--The President’s
Address--Extracts from Address of Secretary of the Navy, John D.
Long--Postmaster-General Smith’s Closing Remarks--White and Colored
Citizens of Tuskegee Show Great Interest in the President’s Visit--They
Assist Materially in Giving the President a Becoming Reception--The
President’s Opinion of the Visit Told in His Letter to Author--The
Letter in Full.



How the Conference Movement was Started--The First Invitations that
were Sent Out--The Financial Condition of the Negroes in the Black
Belt--The Mortgage System--The Large Number that Came to the First
Conference a Surprise to Author--Author States in His Opening Address
His Plans of Conducting the Conference--The Method of Ascertaining
the Condition of the People in the Various Communities--Things
Discussed--Others Present Besides Negro Farmers of the Black
Belt--Newspaper Representatives Present--The Declarations of the First
Conference--The Number of Conferences Already Held--The Attendance
at the Conferences--Similar Conferences in Other States--Local
Conferences--The Spirit of the Earlier Conferences as Compared with
the Later Ones--What These Conferences have Taught the People--Some
Extracts from Talks or Reports at the Conferences Made by Black Belt
Negroes--The Workers’ Conference--Of Whom Composed--The Subjects
Discussed in Workers’ Conferences.



Author Appears with Dr. W. E. B. DuBois and Paul Laurence Dunbar
Before a Representative Audience at Hollis St. Theatre, Boston--He
Speaks Before the Birmingham Lyceum, Birmingham, Ala.--Kind
Friends in Boston Arrange to Have Author and Mrs. Washington Spend
a Vacation in Europe--They Sail for Europe in May, Landing at
Antwerp--Visit the Rural Districts in Belgium and Holland and Look
Into the Dairy Systems--From Holland Back to Antwerp and thence to
Brussels--From Brussels to Paris, Remaining there Six Weeks--The Stay
in Paris--Attentions from the American Ambassador--Author Addressed
the University Club--The Stay in Paris a Restful One--From Paris to
London--The Stay in England Full of Social Functions--Author Speaks at
Essex Hall on the Race Problem--The American Ambassador, Hon. Joseph
H. Choate, Presides, and Hon. James Bryce also Speaks--Reception to
Author and Wife in Connection with this Meeting by Rev. Brooke Hereford
and Wife--Other Receptions--Editorial in the London Daily Chronicle in
Regard to Author and His Work--The Most Restful and Interesting Part
of the Vacation in England--Several Cities in England Visited--Author
Writes Letters to the American Press, and Makes a Study of Africa
While in London--In Letter Written While in London he Argues Against
American Negroes Emigrating to Africa--Some Reasons for His Position--A
Letter to the American Press on Lynching--A Strong Appeal Against this
Evil--Facts and Figures Presented Showing that Lynching Does Not Lessen
Crime, and is Not Inflicted for Any One Crime.



The Return from Europe--A Communication from W. Herman Smith, Mayor of
Charleston, West Virginia--An Invitation to Visit Charleston, Signed by
the Governor, ex-Governor, and Many of the Most Prominent Citizens--The
Invitation Accepted--The Reception at Charleston--Receptions to Author
by the Citizens of Atlanta, Montgomery and New Orleans--The Industrial
Convention at Huntsville, Ala.--Author Invited to Address that
Convention--His Address on that Occasion--The Address of ex-Governor
MacCorkle--The Influence of that Address and of the Huntsville
Convention--The Movement for an Annual Conference in Montgomery to
Afford Opportunities for Generous and Liberal Discussions of the Race
Question--Its Fitness Discussed.



How the Money for Carrying on the Work at Tuskegee Was Being
Raised during Eighteen Years--The Need of an Endowment Fund--The
Grant of 25,000 Acres of Land by Congress--The Organized Effort
to Secure Endowment Fund--The Meeting for this Purpose in Madison
Square Garden--Ex-President Grover Cleveland Interested in the
Movement--Prominent People Present at This Meeting--President
Cleveland’s Encouraging Letter Stating His Inability to be
Present--Hon. Carl Schurz Presides at This Meeting--Address of Mr.
Walter H. Page--Mr. W. H. Baldwin, Jr., Speaks--Extracts from This
Address--The Financial Condition of the Institute Stated--The Author
Speaks at This Meeting--Dr. Rainsford’s Remarks--Some Immediate Results
of This Meeting--The Gift of Mr. C. P. Huntington and Others Towards
the Endowment.



The Building Up of the Institute, the Author’s Life Work--A History
of the Institute Unavoidable in His Autobiography--The Land Owned by
the Institute--The Buildings--The Brickyard--The Present Valuation
of the Property--The Agricultural Department of the Institute--Its
Director--The Agricultural Experiment Station--Some of Prof. Carver’s
Experiments--The Home Farm--The Marshall Farm--The Mechanical
Department--A Description of the Slater-Armstrong Memorial Trades
Building--The Trades Taught--The Department of Domestic Sciences, Mrs.
Booker T. Washington Directress--What the Department Embraces--The
Nurse Training Division--Facilities for Instruction in Connection with
the School’s Hospital--The Course of Study, what it Embraces--The
Division of Music--The Course in Piano Forte--Vocal Music--Musical
Organizations at the Institute--The Band and Orchestra--The Bible
Training Department--Phelps Hall--Objects of This Department--The
Academic Department--The Course of Study--Students in This
Department--The Day School--The Night School--The Chapel of the
Institute--A Description of It.



The Nature of the Author’s Work at Tuskegee--The Discouragements Met
with in the Early Years--Author’s First Experience at Speaking to
Northern Audiences--General Armstrong’s Advice and Helpfulness--His
Interest in the Work at Tuskegee--His Last Visit to Tuskegee--His
Reception by Teachers and Students--Author’s First Public Address in
the North--Author’s Campaign of Speech-making in the South to His Own
People--His First Opportunity to Speak to a Large Audience of White
People in the South--Some Incidents and the Results of this Speech
as Told by the Christian World--Author’s Rule About Engagements of a
Public Nature--The Difficulty in the Early Years in Getting Interviews
with Prominent People--The Difficulty to Secure Opportunities to
Speak in Churches in the Beginning--Some Reasons Why This Was So--The
First Legacy Received by the School--Later Legacies--Some of Author’s
Experiences with Benefactors--Some Interesting and Lucky Experiences
of Author While Collecting Money--An Article in the “Outlook” on the
Ministry--Criticism and Censure--Bishop D. A. Payne Corroborates
Author’s Position--Credit Given T. Thomas Fortune and E. J. Scott,
Author’s Private Secretary--The Financial Policy of Tuskegee at Present
Contrasted with That of the Early Years--The System of Book-keeping at
Tuskegee--$1,000,000 Raised--How to Succeed in Any Undertaking--The
Kind of People the World Needs--Hard Work the Author’s Synonym of
“Luck” and the Price of All Success.



Booker T. Washington and Family                             Frontispiece

Hon. Frederick Douglass                                                3

Dr. J. L. M. Curry                                                     4

Mr. Washington and Two of his Distinguished Friends and
Supporters--Pres. William McKinley, Gov. J. F. Johnston               27

The House in Virginia where Booker T. Washington was born             28

Little Booker and his Mother Praying to be Delivered from
Slavery. (Original Illustration.)                                     31

Little Booker a Favorite with his Master--Is Allowed to Peep
into the Parlor of the Big House                                      33

The House in which Booker T. Washington’s Family Lived in
West Virginia, at the Time he Left for Hampton Institute              41

The Cabin in Old Virginia where Booker T. Washington
Lived when a Boy                                                      42

“This fired my ambition to learn to read as nothing had done
before.” (Original Illustration.)                                     44

“Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation.” (Original
Illustration.)                                                        46

“Booker Starting for Hampton Institute.” (Original Illustration.)     56

Booker T. Washington Rehearsing his Graduating Oration
at Hampton. (Original Illustration.)                                  60

Teachers at Tuskegee Institute--Warren Logan, Lewis
Adams, and John H. Washington                                         65

A Brilliant Trio of Colored Americans--E. J. Scott, Edgar
Webber, T. Thomas Fortune                                             66

A Group of Mr. Washington’s Warm Friends and Supporters--Rev.
R. C. Bedford, Ex-Pres. Grover Cleveland, Gov. G. W. Atkinson         83

Distinguished Americans who have Introduced Mr. Washington
on Public Occasions--Ex-Governor Bullock, Hon. Joseph
A. Choate, William Harper, Pres. of Chicago University                84

Olivia Davidson Hall at Tuskegee Institute                            91

Cassidy Industrial Hall--Erected by Students, Tuskegee Normal
and Industrial Institute                                              92

Booker T. Washington’s Residence, Tuskegee, Ala.                     113

Faculty Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute--Eighty-eight
Teachers                                                             114

Bird’s-eye View of the Grounds of the Tuskegee Normal and
Industrial Institute                                                 117

Printing-press Room--They do Their Own Printing at Tuskegee
Institute                                                            201

Paint Shop--Students at Work                                         202

President Eliot Conferring Honorary Degree upon Mr. Washington
at Harvard University, June 24, 1896. (Original Illustration.)       206

Senior Class in Psychology, Tuskegee Institute                       219

Brickmaking at the Tuskegee Brickyard                                220

A Corner in a Millinery Room, Tuskegee Normal and Industrial
Institute                                                            225

Girls at Tuskegee Learning Dairying                                  226

Mrs. Olivia Davidson Washington                                      255

Girls at Tuskegee Engaged in Floriculture                            256

Mr. Washington Making a Speech at the Chicago Peace Jubilee,
October 19, 1898. (Original Illustration.)                           262

Laundry Building at Tuskegee Institute                               273

Porter Hall--First Building Erected of Tuskegee Institute            274

Bird’s-eye View of the Grounds and Review Stand at Tuskegee,
December 16, 1898, when President McKinley and
Party Visited the Institute                                          279

Waiting for the Procession to Pass at the Time of President
McKinley’s Visit to Tuskegee                                         280

Shoe Shop, Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute                  285

Cooking at Tuskegee Institute                                        286

Young Women at Work in the Sewing Room, Tuskegee Institute           287

Girls at Tuskegee Engaged in Horticulture                            288

Mathematical Float, December 16, 1898, at Tuskegee Normal
and Industrial Institute                                             297

Student Carpenters at Work on the Trade’s Building                   298

Agricultural Building at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial
Institute                                                            307

Blacksmith Shop--Built by Students                                   308

Dressmaking at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute              309

Bee Culture at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute              310

Tuskegee Negro Conference, February 22, 1899--Negro Farmers
Coming Out of the Dining Hall                                        319

Tailoring Division, Tuskegee Institute                               320

Reception Given Booker T. Washington after his return from
Europe, by Gov. G. W. Atkinson at Charleston, W. Va.                 346

A View of the Machine Shop--Students at Work                         377

Harness Making and Carriage Dressing at Tuskegee Institute           378

The New Chapel--Built by Students                                    387

Alabama Hall, Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute               388

Float--Representing Tinning Department, Passed in Parade
on the Occasion of President McKinley’s Visit to the Tuskegee
Institute                                                            389

Bird’s-eye View of Some of the Floats at the Tuskegee Institute,
December 16, 1898                                                    390

President McKinley and Party Watching the Parade                     407

Science Hall--Erected by Students at Tuskegee Normal and
Industrial Institute                                                 408





Many requests have been made of me to write something of the story of my
life. Until recently I have never given much consideration to these
requests, for the reason that I have never thought that I had done
enough in the world to warrant anything in the way of an autobiography;
and I hope that my life work, by reason of my present age, lies more in
the future than in the past. My daughter, Portia, said to me, not long
ago: “Papa, do you know that you have never told me much about your
early life, and your children want to know more about you.” Then it came
upon me as never before that I ought to put something about my life in
writing for the sake of my family, if for no other reason.

I will not trouble those who read these lines with any lengthy
historical research concerning my ancestry, for I know nothing of my
ancestry beyond my mother. My mother was a slave on a plantation near
Hale’s Ford, in Franklin County,

     I am indebted to and beg to thank Mr. E. Webber for valuable
     assistance rendered in connection with the preparation of this


Virginia, and she was, as I now remember it, the cook for her owners as
well as for a large part of the slaves on the plantation. The first time
that I got a knowledge of the fact that my mother and I were slaves, was
by being awakened by my mother early one morning, while I was sleeping
in a bed of rags, on a clay floor of our little cabin. She was kneeling
over me, fervently praying as was her custom to do, that some day she
and her children might be free. The name of my mother was Jane. She, to
me, will always remain the noblest embodiment of womanhood with whom I
have come in contact. She was wholly ignorant, as far as books were
concerned, and, I presume, never had a book in her hands for two minutes
at a time. But the lessons in virtue and thrift which she instilled into
me during the short period of my life that she lived will never leave
me. Some people blame the Negro for not being more honest, as judged by
the Anglo-Saxon’s standard of honesty; but I can recall many times when,
after all was dark and still, in the late hours of the night, when her
children had been without sufficient food during the day, my mother
would awaken us, and we would find that she had gotten from somewhere
something in the way of eggs or chickens and had cooked them during the
night for us. These eggs and chickens were gotten without my master’s
permission or


knowledge. Perhaps, by some code of ethics, this would be classed as
stealing, but deep down in my heart I can never decide that my mother,
under such circumstances, was guilty of theft. Had she acted thus as a
free woman she would have been a thief, but not so, in my opinion, as a
slave. After our freedom no one was stricter than my mother in teaching
and observing the highest rules of integrity.

Who my father was, or is, I have never been able to learn with any
degree of certainty. I only know that he was a white man.

As nearly as I can get at the facts, I was born in the year 1858 or
1859. At the time I came into the world no careful registry of births of
people of my complexion was kept. My birth place was near Hale’s Ford,
in Franklin County, Virginia. It was about as near to Nowhere as any
locality gets to be, so far as I can learn. Hale’s Ford, I think, was a
town with one house and a postoffice, and my birth place was on a large
plantation several miles distant from it.

I remember very distinctly the appearance of the cabin in which I was
born and lived until freedom came. It was a small log cabin about 12x16
feet, and without windows. There was no floor, except a dirt one. There
was a large opening in the center of the floor, where sweet potatoes
were kept for my master’s family during


the winter. In this cabin my mother did the cooking, the greater part of
the time, for my master’s family. Our bed, or “pallet,” as we called it,
was made every night on the dirt floor. Our bed clothing consisted of a
few rags gathered here and there.

One thing I remember more vividly than any other in connection with the
days when I was a slave was my dress, or, rather, my lack of dress.

The years that the war[A] was in progress between the States were
especially trying to the slaves, so far as clothing was concerned. The
Southern white people found it extremely hard to get clothing for
themselves during that war, and, of course, the slaves underwent no
little suffering in this respect. The only garment that I remember
receiving from my owners during the war was a “tow shirt.” When I did
not wear this shirt I was positively without any garment. In Virginia,
the tow shirt was quite an institution during slavery. This shirt was
made of the refuse flax that grew in that part of Virginia, and it was a
veritable instrument of torture. It was stiff and coarse. Until it had
been worn for about six weeks it made one feel as if a thousand needle
points were pricking his flesh. I suppose I was about six years old when
I was given one of these shirts to wear. After repeated trials the
torture was more than my childish flesh could endure and I gave it up in
despair. To this day the sight of a new shirt revives the recollection
of the tortures of my first new shirt. In the midst of my despair, in
connection with this garment, my brother John, who was about two years
older than I, did me a kindness which I shall never forget. He
volunteered to wear my new shirt for me until it was “broken in.” After
he had worn it for several weeks I ventured to wear it myself, but not
without pain.

[A] The War of the Rebellion, 1860-65.

Soon after my shirt experience, when the winter had grown quite cold, I
received my first pair of shoes. These shoes had wooden bottoms, and the
tops consisted of a coarse kind of leather covering, and I have never
felt so proud since of a pair of shoes.

As soon as I was old enough I performed what, to me, was important
service, in holding the horses and riding behind the white women of the
household on their long horseback rides, which were very common in those
days. At one time, while holding the horses and assisting quite a party
of visiting ladies to mount their horses, I remember that, just before
the visitors rode away a tempting plate of ginger cakes was brought out
and handed around to the visitors. This, I think, was the first time
that I had ever seen any ginger cakes, and a very deep impression was
made upon my childish mind. I remember I said to myself that if I could
ever get to the point where I could eat ginger cakes as I saw those
ladies eating them the height of my ambition would be reached.

When I grew to be still larger and stronger the duty of going to the
mill was intrusted to me; that is, a large sack containing three or four
bushels of corn was thrown across the back of a horse and I would ride
away to the mill, which was often three or four miles distant, wait at
the mill until the corn was turned into meal, and then bring it home.
More than once, while performing this service, the corn or meal got
unevenly balanced on the back of the horse and fell off into the road,
carrying me with it. This left me in a very awkward and unfortunate
position. I, of course, was unable, with my small strength, to lift the
corn or meal upon the horse’s back, and, therefore would have to wait,
often for hours, until someone happened to be passing along the road
strong enough to replace the burden for me.

My owner’s name was Jones Burroughs, and I am quite sure he was above
the average in the treatment of his slaves. That is, except in a few
cases they were not cruelly whipped. Although I was born a slave, I was
too young to experience much of its hardships. The thing in connection
with slavery that has left the deepest impression on me was the
instance of seeing a grown man, my uncle, tied to a tree early one
morning, stripped naked and someone whipping him with a cowhide. As each
blow touched his back the cry, “Pray, master! Pray, master!” came from
his lips, and made an impression upon my boyish heart that I shall carry
with me to my grave.

When I was still quite a child, I could hear the slaves in our
“quarters” whispering in subdued tones that something unusual--the
war--was about to take place, and that it meant their freedom. These
whispered conferences continued, especially at night, until the war
actually began.

While there was not a single slave on our plantation that could read a
line, in some way we were kept informed of the progress of the war
almost as accurately as the most intelligent person. The “grapevine”
telegraph was in constant use. When Lee surrendered all of the
plantation people knew it, although all of them acted as if they were in
ignorance of the fact that anything unusual had taken place.

Early one morning, just after the close of the war, word was sent around
to the slave cabins that all the slaves must go to the “big house,” the
master’s house; and in company with my mother and a large number of
other slaves, including my sister Amanda and brother John, I went to the
“big house,” and stood by the side of my mother, and listened to the
reading of some papers and a little speech made by the one who read the
papers. This was the first public address I had ever heard, and I need
not add that it was the most effective one to which it had ever been my
privilege to listen. After the reading of the paper and the speech, my
mother leaned over and whispered, “Now, my children, we are free.” This
act was hailed with joy by all the slaves, but it threw a tremendous
responsibility upon my mother, as well as upon the other slaves. A large
portion of the former slaves hired themselves to their owners, while
others sought new employment; but, before the beginning of the new life,
most of the ex-slaves left the plantation for a few days at least, so as
to get the “hang” of the new life, and to be sure that they were free.
My mother’s husband, my step-father, had in some way wandered into West
Virginia during the war, and had secured employment in the salt furnace
near Malden, in Kanawha county. Soon after freedom was declared he
sought out my mother and sent a wagon to bring her and her children to
West Virginia. After many days of slow, tiresome traveling over the
mountains, during which we suffered much, we finally reached Malden, and
my mother and her husband were united after a long enforced separation.

The trip from Franklin county to Malden, West Virginia, was the first
one that had taken me out of the county where I was born, and, of
course, it was quite an event, especially to the children of the family,
although the parting from the old homestead was to my mother a very
serious affair. All of our household and other goods were packed into a
small wagon drawn by two horses or mules. I cannot recall how many days
it took us to make this trip, but it seems to me, as I recall it now,
that we were a least ten days. Of course we had to sleep in the wagon,
or what was more often true, on the ground. The children walked a great
portion of the distance.

One night we camped near an abandoned log cabin, and my mother decided
that, instead of cooking our frugal meal in the open air, as she had
been accustomed to do on the trip, she would build a fire in this cabin
and we should both cook and sleep in it during the night. When we had
gotten the fire well started, to the consternation of all of us, a large
and frightful looking snake came down the chimney. This, of course, did
away with all idea of our sheltering ourselves in the cabin for the
night, and we slept out in the open air, as we had done on previous

Since I have grown to manhood it has been my privilege to pass over much
of the same road traveled on this first trip to West Virginia, but my
recent journeys have been made in well-appointed steam cars. At the
time I first traveled through that part of Virginia and West Virginia
there was no railroad, and if there had been we did not have the money
to pay our passage.

At the close of the war our family consisted of my mother, step-father,
my brother John and sister Amanda. My brother John is director of the
mechanical department of the Tuskegee Institute, and my sister, now Mrs.
Amanda Johnson, lives in Malden, West Virginia. Soon after we moved to
West Virginia my mother took into our family, notwithstanding our own
poverty, a young orphan boy who has always remained a part of our
family. We gave him the name of James B. Washington. He, now grown to
manhood, holds an important position at the Tuskegee Institute.

While I have not had the privilege of returning to the old homestead in
Franklin county, Virginia, since I left there as a child immediately
after the war, I have kept in more or less correspondence with members
of the Burroughs family, and they seem to take the deepest interest in
the progress of our work at Tuskegee.





We began life in West Virginia in a little shanty, and lived in it for
several years. My step-father soon obtained work for my brother John and
myself in the salt furnaces and coal mines, and we worked alternately in
them until about the year 1871. Soon after we reached West Virginia a
school teacher, Mr. William Davis, came into the community, and the
colored people induced him to open a school. My step-father was not able
to spare me from work, so that I could attend this school, when it was
first opened, and this proved a sore disappointment to me. I remember
that soon after going to Malden, West Virginia, I saw a young colored
man among a large number of colored people, reading a newspaper, and
this fired my ambition to learn to read as nothing had done before. I
said to myself, if I could ever reach the point where I could read as
this man was doing, the acme of my ambition would be reached. Although I
could not attend the school, I remember that, in some way, my mother
secured a book for me, and although she could not read herself, she
tried in every way possible to help me to do so.


In some way, I cannot now recall how, I learned my letters while working
in the salt furnace and coal mines. As time went on, after considerable
persuasion on my part, my step-father consented to permit me to attend
the public school half of the day, provided I would get up very early in
the morning and perform as much work as possible before school time.
This permission brought me great joy. By four o’clock in the morning I
was up and at my work, which continued until nearly nine o’clock. The
first day I entered school, it seems to me, was the happiest day that I
have ever known. The first embarrassment I experienced at school was in
the matter of finding a name for myself. I had always been called
“Booker,” and had not known that one had use for more than one name.
Some of the slaves took the sirnames of their owners, but after freedom
there was a prejudice against doing this, and a large part of the
colored people gave themselves new names. When the teacher called the
roll, I noticed that he called each pupil by two names, that is a given
name and a sirname. When he came to me he asked for my full name, and I
told him to put me down as “Booker Washington,” and that name I have
borne ever since. It is not every school boy who has the privilege of
choosing his own name. In introducing me to an audience in Essex Hall,


London, during my visit to Europe, in the summer of 1899, Honorable
Joseph H. Choate, the American Ambassador, said that I was one of the
few Americans that had had the opportunity of choosing his own name, and
in exercising the rare privilege I had very naturally chosen the best
name there was in the list.

My step-father seemed to be over careful that I should continue my work
in the salt furnace until nine o’clock each day. This practice made me
late at school, and often caused me to miss my lessons. To overcome this
I resorted to a practice of which I am not now very proud, and it is one
of the few things I did as a child of which I am now ashamed. There was
a large clock in the salt furnace that kept the time for hundreds of
workmen connected with the salt furnace and coal mine. But, as I found
myself continually late at school, and after missing some of my lessons,
I yielded to the temptation to move forward the hands on the dial of the
clock so as to give enough time to permit me to get to school in time.
This went on for several days, until the manager found the time so
unreliable that the clock was locked up in a case.

It was in Malden that I first found out what a Sunday school meant. I
remember that I was playing marbles one Sunday morning in the road with
a number of other boys, and an old colored man passed by on his way to
Sunday school. He spoke a little harshly to us about playing marbles on
Sunday, and asked why we did not go to Sunday school. He explained in a
few broken though plain words what a Sunday school meant and what
benefit we would get from it by going. His words impressed me so that I
put away my marbles and followed him to Sunday school, and thereafter
was in regular attendance. I remember that, some years afterwards, I
became one of the teachers in this Sunday school and finally became its

Every barrel of salt that was packed in the mines had to be marked in
some way by the manager, and by watching the letters or the figures that
were put on the salt barrels, and by hard study in school, I soon
learned to read.

My step-father was not able, however, to permit me to continue in school
long, even for a half day at the time. I was soon taken out of school
and put to work in the coal mine. As a child I recall now the fright
which, going a long distance under the mountain into a dark and damp
coal mine, gave me. It seemed to me that the distance from the opening
of the mine to the place where I had to work was at least a mile and a
half. Although I had to leave school I did not give up my search for
knowledge. I took my book into the coal mine, and during the spare
minutes I tried to read by the light of the little lamp which hung on
my cap. Not long after I began to work in the mines my mother hired some
one to teach me at night, but often, after walking a considerable
distance for a night’s lesson, I found that my teacher knew but little
more than I did. This, however, was not the case with Mr. William Davis,
my first teacher.

After working in the coal mine for some time, my mother secured a
position for me as house boy in the family of General Lewis Ruffner. I
went to live with this family with a good many fears and doubts. General
Ruffner’s wife, Mrs. Viola Ruffner, had the reputation of being very
strict and hard to please, and most of the boys who had been employed by
her had remained only a short time with her. After remaining with Mrs.
Ruffner a while, I grew weary of her exact manner of having things done,
and, without giving her any notice, I ran away and hired myself to a
steamboat captain who was plying a boat between Malden and Cincinnati.
Mrs. Ruffner was a New England woman, with all the New England ideas
about order, cleanliness and truth. The boat captain hired me as a
waiter, but before the boat had proceeded many miles towards Cincinnati
he found that I knew too little about waiting on the table to be of any
service, so he discharged me before I had been on his boat for many
hours. In some way, however, I persuaded him to take me to Cincinnati
and return me to Malden. As soon as I returned home, I returned to Mrs.
Ruffner, acknowledged my sins, and secured my old position again. After
I had lived with Mrs. Ruffner for a while she permitted me to attend
school for a few hours in the afternoons during three months, on the
condition that I should work faithfully during the forenoon. She paid
me, or rather my step-father, six dollars per month and board for my
work. When I could not get the opportunity to attend school in the
afternoon I resorted to my old habit of having some one teach me at
night, although I had to walk a good distance after my work was done in
order to do this.

While living with Mrs. Ruffner I got some very valuable experience in
another direction, that of marketing and selling vegetables. Mrs.
Ruffner was very fond of raising grapes and vegetables, and, although I
was quite a boy, she entrusted me with the responsibility of selling a
large portion of these products. I became very fond of this work. I
remember that I used to go to the houses of the miners and prevail upon
them to buy these things. I think at first Mrs. Ruffner doubted whether
or not I would be honest in these transactions, but as time went on and
she found the cash from these sales constantly increasing, her
confidence grew in me, and before I left her service she willingly
trusted me with anything in her possession. I always made it a special
point to return to her at the end of each campaign as a salesman every
cent that I had received and to let her see how much vegetables or fruit
was brought back unsold.

At one time I remember that, when I passed by an acquaintance of mine
when I had a large basket of peaches for sale, he took the liberty of
walking up to me and taking one of the ripest and most tempting peaches.
Although he was a man and I was but a boy, I gave him to understand in
the most forceful manner that I would not permit it. He seemed greatly
surprised that I would not let him take one peach. He tried to explain
to me that no one would miss it and that I would be none the worse off
for his taking it. When he could not bring me to his way of thinking he
tried to frighten me by force into yielding, but I had my way, and I am
sure that this man respected me all the more for being honest with other
people’s property. I told him that if the peaches were mine I would
gladly let him have one; but under no circumstances could I consent to
let him take without a protest that which was entrusted to me by others.
It happened very often that as I would pass through the streets with a
large basket of grapes or other fruit, many of the larger boys tried by
begging and then by force to dispossess me of a portion of what had been
given me to sell, but I think there was no instance when I yielded. From
my earliest childhood I have always had it implanted in me that it never
pays to be dishonest, and that reward, at some time, in some manner, for
the performance of conscientious duty, will always come, and in this I
have never been disappointed.

In all, I must have spent about four years in the employ of Mrs.
Ruffner; and I here repeat what I have said more than once, that aside
from the training I got at the Hampton Institute under General
Armstrong, Mrs. Ruffner gave me the most valuable part of my education.
Her habit of requiring everything about her to be clean, neat and
orderly, gave me an education in these respects that has been most
valuable to me in the work that I have since tried to accomplish. At
first I thought that her idea of strict honesty and punctuality in
everything meant unkindness, but I soon learned to understand her and
she to understand me, and she has from the first time that I knew her
until this day proven one of the best friends I ever possessed.

One day, while I was at work in the coal mine, I heard some men talking
about a school in Virginia, where they said that black boys and girls
were permitted to enter, and where poor students were given an
opportunity of working for their board, if they had not money with which
to pay for it. As soon as I heard of this institution, I made up my mind
to go there. After I had lived with Mrs. Ruffner about four years I
decided to go to the Hampton Institute, in Virginia, the school of which
I had heard. I had no definite idea about where the Hampton Institute
was, or how long the journey was. Some time before starting for Hampton,
I remember, I joined the little Baptist church, in Malden, of which I am
still a member.

Of my ancestry I know almost nothing. While in slave quarters, and even
later, I heard whispered conversations among the colored people of the
tortures which the slaves, including, no doubt, my ancestors on my
mother’s side, suffered in the middle passage of the slave ship while
being conveyed from Africa to America. I have been unsuccessful in
securing information that would throw any accurate light upon the
history of my family beyond my mother. She, I remember, had a
half-brother and a half-sister. In the days of slavery, not very much
attention was given to family history and family records--that is, black
family records. My mother, I suppose, attracted the attention of a
purchaser who was afterward my owner and hers. Her addition to the
slave family attracted about as much attention as the purchase of a new
horse or cow. Of my father I know even less than of my mother. I only
know that he was a white man, but whoever he was, I never heard of his
taking the least interest in me, or providing in any way for my rearing.
But I do not find especial fault with him. He was simply another
unfortunate victim of the institution which the nation unhappily had
engrafted upon it at that time.



After my mother and brother John had secured me a few extra garments,
with what I could provide for myself, I started for Hampton about the
first of October, 1872. How long I was on this journey I have at this
time no very definite idea. Part of the way I went by railroad and part
in a stage and part on foot. I remember that, when I got as far as
Richmond, Virginia, I was completely out of money and knew not a single
person in the city. Besides, I had never been in a city before. I think
it was about nine o’clock at night that I reached Richmond. I was
hungry, tired and dirty, and had no where to go. I wandered about the
streets until about midnight, when I felt completely exhausted.

By chance I came to a street that had a plank sidewalk, and I crept
under this sidewalk and spent the night. The next morning I felt very
much rested, but was still quite hungry, as it had been some time since
I had a good meal. When I awoke, I noticed some ships not far from where
I had spent the night. I went to one of these vessels and asked the
captain to permit me to


work for him, so that I could earn some money to get some food. The
captain very kindly gave me work, which was that of helping to unload
pig iron from the vessel. In my rather weak and hungry condition I found
this very hard work, but I stuck to it, and was given enough money to
buy a little food. My work seemed to have pleased the master of the
vessel so much that he furnished me with work for several days, but I
continued to sleep under the sidewalk each night, for I was very anxious
to save enough money to pay my passage to Hampton.

After working on this vessel for some days I started again for Hampton
and arrived there in a day or two, with a surplus of fifty cents in my
pocket. I did not let any one know how forlorn my condition was. I
feared that if I did, I would be rejected as one that was altogether too
unpromising. The first person I saw after reaching the Hampton Institute
was Miss Mary F. Mackie, the Lady Principal. After she had asked me a
good many searching questions, with a good deal of doubt and hesitation
in her manner, I was assigned to a room. She remarked at the same time
that it would be decided later whether I could be admitted as a student.
I shall not soon forget the impression that the sight of a good, clean,
comfortable room and bed made upon me, for I had not slept in a bed
since I left my home in West Virginia. Within a few hours I presented
myself again before Miss Mackie to hear my fate, but she still seemed to
be undecided. Instead of telling me whether or not I could remain, I
remember, she showed me a large recitation room and told me to sweep. I
felt at once that the sweeping of that room would decide my case. I knew
I could sweep, for Mrs. Ruffner had taught me that art well. I think
that I must have swept that room over as many as three times and dusted
it the same number of times. After awhile she came into the room and
rubbed her handkerchief over the tables and benches to see if I had left
any dust, but not a particle could she find. She remarked with a smile,
“I guess we will try you as a student.” At that moment I think I was the
happiest individual that ever entered the Hampton Institute.

After I had been at the Hampton Institute a day or two I saw General
Armstrong, the Principal, and he made an impression upon me of being the
most perfect specimen of man, physically, mentally and spiritually, that
I had ever seen, and I have never had occasion to change my first
impression. In fact, as the years went by and as I came to know him
better, the feeling grew. I have never seen a man in whom I had such
confidence. It never occurred to me that it was possible for him to
fail in anything that he undertook to accomplish. I have sometimes
thought that the best part of my education at Hampton was obtained by
being permitted to look upon General Armstrong day by day. He was a man
who could not endure for a minute hypocrisy or want of truth in any one.
This moral lesson he impressed upon every one who came in contact with

After I had succeeded in passing my “sweeping examination,” I was
assigned by Miss Mackie to the position of assistant janitor. This
position, with the exception of working on the farm for awhile, I held
during the time I was a student at Hampton. I took care of four or five
class rooms; that is, I swept and dusted them and built the fires when
needed. A great portion of the time I had to rise at four o’clock in the
morning in order to do my work and find time to prepare my lessons.

Everything was very crude at Hampton when I first went there. There were
about two hundred students. There was but one substantial building,
together with some old government barracks. There were no table cloths
on the meal tables, and that which was called tea or coffee was served
to us in yellow bowls. Corn bread was our chief food. Once a week we got
a taste of white bread.


While taking the regular literary and industrial courses at Hampton,
next to my regular studies I was most fond of the debating societies, of
which there were two or three. The first subject that I debated in
public was whether or not the execution of Maj. Andre was justifiable.
After I had been at Hampton a few months I helped to organize the “After
Supper Club.” I noticed that the students usually had about twenty
minutes after tea when no special duty called them; so, about
twenty-five of us agreed to come together each evening and spend those
twenty minutes in the discussion of some important subject. These
meetings were a constant source of delight and were most valuable in
preparing us for public speaking.

While at Hampton my best friends did not know how badly off I was for
clothing during a large part of the time, but I did not fret about that.
I always had the feeling that if I could get knowledge in my head the
matter of clothing would take care of itself afterwards. At one time I
was reduced to a single ragged pair of cheap socks. These socks I had to
wash over night and put them on the next morning.

After I had remained at Hampton for two years I went back to West
Virginia to spend my four months of vacation. Soon after my return to
Malden my mother, who was never strong, died. I do not remember how old
I was at this time, but I do remember that it was during my vacation
from Hampton. I had been without work for some time and had been off
several miles looking for work. On returning home at night I was very
tired and stopped in the boiler-room of one of the engines used to pump
salt water into the salt furnace near my home. I was so tired that I
soon fell asleep. About two or three o’clock in the morning some one, my
brother John, I think, found me and told me that our mother was dead. It
has always been a source of indescribable pain to me that I was not
present when she passed away, but the lessons of truth, honor and thrift
which she implanted in me while she lived have remained with me, and I
consider them among my most precious possessions. She seemed never to
tire of planning ways for me and the other children to get an education
and to make true men and women of us, although she herself was without
education. This was the severest trial I had ever experienced, because
she always sympathized with me deeply in every effort that I made to
secure an education. My sister Amanda was too young to know how to take
care of the house, and my step-father was too poor to hire anyone.
Sometimes we had food cooked for our meals and sometimes we had not.
During the whole of the summer, after the death of my mother, I do not
think there was a time when the whole family sat down to a meal
together. By working for Mrs. Ruffner and others, and by the aid of my
brother John, I obtained money enough to return to Hampton in the fall,
and graduated in the regular course in the summer of 1875.

Aside from Gen. Armstrong, Gen. Marshall and Miss Mackie, the persons
who made the deepest impression upon me at Hampton were Miss Nathalie
Lord and Miss Elizabeth Brewer, two teachers from New England. I am
especially indebted to these two for being helped in my spiritual life
and led to love and understand the Bible. Largely by reason of their
teaching, I find that a day rarely, if ever, passes when I am at home,
that I do not read the Bible. Miss Lord was the teacher of reading, and
she kindly consented to give me many extra lessons in elocution. These
lessons I have since found most valuable to me.

Life at Hampton was a constant revelation to me; it was constantly
taking me into a new world. The matter of having meals at regular hours,
of eating on a tablecloth, using a napkin, the use of the bath-tub and
of the tooth-brush, as well as the use of sheets upon the bed, were all
new to me.

I sometimes feel that the most valuable lesson I learned at the Hampton
Institute was in the use of the bath. I learned there for the first time
some of its value, not only keeping the body healthy, but in inspiring
self-respect and promoting virtue. In all my travels in the South and
elsewhere, since leaving Hampton, I have always in some way sought my
daily bath. To get it sometimes when I have been the guest of my own
people in a single-roomed cabin has not always been easy to do, except
by slipping away to some stream in the woods. I have always tried to
teach my people that some provision for bathing should be a part of
every house.

After finishing the course at Hampton, I went to Saratoga Springs, in
New York, and was a waiter during the summer at the United States Hotel,
the same hotel at which I have several times since been a guest upon the
invitation of friends.

[Illustration: WARREN LOGAN, Treasurer.


[Illustration: EMMETT J. SCOTT, Mr. Washington’s Private Secretary.




In the fall of 1875 I returned to Malden and was elected as the teacher
in the school at Malden, the first school that I ever attended. I taught
this school for three years. The thing that I recall most pleasantly in
connection with my teaching was the fact that I induced several of my
pupils to go to Hampton and most of them have become strong and useful
men. One of them Dr. Samuel E. Courtney, is now a successful physician
in Boston and a member of the Boston Board of Education. While teaching
I insisted that each pupil should come to school clean, should have his
or her hands and face washed and hair combed and should keep the buttons
on his or her clothing.

I not only taught school in the day, but for a great portion of the time
taught night school. In addition to this I had two Sunday schools, one
at a place called Snow Hill, about two miles from Malden, in the
morning, and another in Malden in the afternoon. The average attendance
in my day school, was I think, between 80 and 90. As I had no assistant
teacher it was a very difficult task to keep all the pupils interested
and to see that they made progress in their studies. I had few
unpleasant experiences, however, in connection with my teaching. Most of
the parents, notwithstanding the fact that they and many of the children
knew me as a boy, seemed to have the greatest confidence in me and
respect for me and did everything in their power to make the work
pleasant and agreeable.

One thing that gave me a great deal of satisfaction and pleasure in
teaching this school was the conducting of a debating society which met
weekly and was largely attended both by the young and older people. It
was in this debating society and the societies of a similar character at
Hampton that I began to cultivate whatever talent I may have for public
speaking. While in Malden, our debating society would very often arrange
for debates with other similar organizations in Charleston and

Soon after I began teaching, I resolved to induce my brother John to
attend the Hampton Institute. He had been good enough to work for the
family while I was being educated, and besides had helped me in all the
ways he could, by working in the coal mines while I had been away.
Within a few months he started for Hampton and by his own efforts and my
aid he went through the institution. After both of us had gotten
through Hampton we sent our adopted brother James there, and had the
satisfaction of having him educated under Gen. Armstrong.

In 1878 I went to Wayland Seminary, in Washington, and spent a year in
study there. Rev. Dr. King was President of Wayland Seminary while I was
a student there. Notwithstanding I was there but a short time, the high
Christian character of Dr. King made a lasting impression upon me. The
deep religious spirit which pervaded the atmosphere at Wayland made an
impression upon me which I trust will always remain.

Soon after my year at Wayland had expired, I was invited by a committee
of gentlemen in Charleston, West Virginia, to stump the state of West
Virginia in the interest of having the capital of the state moved from
Wheeling, West Virginia, to Charleston. For some time there had been
quite an agitation in the state on the question of the permanent
location of the capital. A law was passed by the legislature providing
that three cities might be voted for; these were, I think, Charleston,
Parkersburg and Martinsburg. It was a three-cornered contest and great
energy was shown by each city. After about three months of campaigning
the voters declared in favor of Charleston as the permanent capital by
a large majority. I went into a large number of the counties of West
Virginia and had the satisfaction of feeling that my efforts counted for
something in winning success for Charleston, which is only five miles
from my old home, Malden.

The speaking in connection with the removal of the capital rather fired
the slumbering ambition which I had had for some time to become a
lawyer, and after this campaign was over I began in earnest to study
law, in fact read Blackstone and several elementary law books
preparatory to the profession of the law. A good deal of my reading of
the law was done under the kind direction of the Hon. Romes H. Freer, a
white man who was then a prosperous lawyer in Charleston and who has
since become a member of Congress. But notwithstanding my ambition to
become a lawyer, I always had an unexplainable feeling that I was to do
something else, and that I never would have the opportunity to practice
law. As I analyze at the present time the feeling that seemed to possess
me then, I was impressed with the idea that to confine myself to the
practice of law would be going contrary to my teaching at Hampton, and
would limit me to a much smaller sphere of usefulness than was open to
me if I followed the work of educating my people after the manner in
which I had been taught at Hampton. The course of events, however, very
soon placed me where I found an opportunity to begin my life’s work.

My work in connection with the removal of the capital had not long been
over when I received an invitation from Gen. Armstrong, very much to my
surprise, to return to Hampton and deliver the graduates’ address at the
next commencement. I chose as the subject of this address, “The Force
that Wins.” Everyone seemed greatly pleased with what I said. After the
address I was still further surprised by being asked by Gen. Armstrong
to return to the Hampton Institute and take a position, partly as a
teacher and partly as a post-graduate student. This I gladly consented
to do. Gen. Armstrong had decided to start a night class at Hampton for
students who wanted to work all day and study for two hours at night. He
asked me to organize and teach this class. At first there were only
about a half dozen students but the number soon grew to about thirty.
The night class at Hampton has since grown to the point where it now
numbers six or seven hundred. It seems to me that the teaching of this
class was almost the most satisfactory work I ever did. The students who
composed the class worked during the day for ten hours in the saw mill,
on the farm, or in the laundry. They were a most earnest set. I soon
gave them the name of the “Plucky Class.” Several of the members of this
“Plucky Class” now fill prominent and useful positions. While I was
teaching I was given lessons in advanced subjects by Dr. H. B. Frissell,
who was then chaplain, but who is now the honored and successful
successor of Gen. Armstrong, as well as by others.

About the time the night class was organized at Hampton, Indians for the
first time were permitted to enter the institution. The second year that
I worked at Hampton, in connection with other duties, I was placed in
charge of the Indian boys, who at that time numbered about seventy-five,
I think. I lived in their cottage with them and looked after all their
wants. I grew to like the Indians very much and placed great faith in
them. My daily experience with them convinced me that the main thing
that any oppressed people needed was a chance of the right kind and they
would cease to be savages.

At the end of my second year at Hampton as a teacher, in 1881, there
came a call from the little town of Tuskegee, Alabama, to Gen. Armstrong
for some one to organize and become the Principal of a Normal School,
which the people wanted to start in that town. The letter to Gen.
Armstrong was written on behalf of the colored people of the town of
Tuskegee by Mr. Geo. W. Campbell, one of the foremost white citizens of
Tuskegee. Mr. Campbell is still the president of the Board of Trustees
of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, and has from the first
been one of its warmest and most steadfast friends. When Mr. Campbell
wrote to Gen. Armstrong he had in mind the securing of a white man to
take the principalship of the school. Gen. Armstrong replied that he
knew of no suitable white man for the position, but that he could
recommend a colored man. Mr. Campbell wrote in reply that a competent
colored man would be acceptable. Gen. Armstrong asked me to give up my
work at Hampton and go to Tuskegee in answer to this call. I decided to
undertake the work, and after spending a few days at my old home in
Malden, West Virginia, I proceeded to the town of Tuskegee, Alabama.

I wish to add here that, in later years, I do not envy the white boy as
I once did. I have learned that success is to be measured, not so much
by the position that one has reached in life, as by the obstacles which
he has overcome while trying to succeed. Looked at from this standpoint,
I almost reach the conclusion that often the negro boy’s birth and
connection with an unpopular race are an advantage, so far as real life
is concerned. With few exceptions, the negro youth must work harder and
perform his tasks even better than a white youth in order to secure
recognition. But out of the hard and unusual struggle through which he
is compelled to pass, he gets a strength, a confidence that one misses
whose pathway is comparatively smooth by reason of birth and race.

From any point of view, I had rather be what I am, a member of the Negro
race, than to be able to claim membership with the most favored of any
other race. I have always been made sad when I have heard members of my
race claiming rights and privileges, or certain badges of distinction,
on the ground simply that they were members of this or that race,
regardless of their own individual worth or attainments.



Before starting for Tuskegee I found it almost impossible to find the
town on any map, and had difficulty in learning its exact location. I
reached Tuskegee about the middle of June, 1881. I found it to be a town
of some 2,000 inhabitants, about half of whom were Negroes, and located
in what is commonly called the “Black Belt,” that is, the section of the
South where the Negro race largely outnumbers the white population. The
county in which Tuskegee is located is named Macon. Of Tuskegee and
Macon County I prefer to quote the words of Maj. W. W. Screws, the
editor of the “Montgomery (Alabama) Daily Advertiser,” who visited
Tuskegee in 1898, seventeen years after the Tuskegee Institute was
founded. Maj. Screws says:

“Just at this time there is probably no place in the United States, of
similar size, so well known to the people of the country, as this lovely
little city. It has always possessed merits which brought it
conspicuously before Alabamians, for in every locality in this and many
Southern States, are noble men and women who received their educational
training here.

“Thomas S. Woodward was one of the earliest white settlers in Macon
County, and was one of the commissioners appointed to lay off the site
for the court house. He built the first house in the new town, which
they called Tuskegee, a corruption of the old Indian name, Tuskigi,
which is said by Dr. Gatschet to be a contraction of Taskialgi
(warriors). The old Indian town stood in the fork of the Coosa and was
the home, part of the time, of the famous half-breed statesman,
Alexander McGillivray. The name passed in its present form to the county
seat of the new county.

“Tuskegee was settled by men who were well to do in a material point of
view. They owned rich lands on the creeks and streams and in the prairie
section of the county. This point is on a high, dry ridge, and from time
immemorial has been noted for its healthfulness. Here came those who
wished to build homes for their families, to have congenial company and
to give their children educational advantages. They did not desire the
projectors of the Montgomery and West Point Railroad to put the town on
its route, because of the interruption it was feared would be occasioned
to the schools. From the very beginning of its existence, education has
been the main feature of Tuskegee, and through its schools and colleges
a population gathered here which has never been excelled in point of
refinement, politeness and all the gentle amenities which tend to make
life comfortable.

“The town of Tuskegee was first settled about 1830. James Dent built the
first house. The town was first laid out in 1833. Mr. G. W. Campbell
came to the county with his father from Montgomery in 1835, and at that
time perhaps 150 people were in and about what now comprises Tuskegee’s
territorial limits. There was no court house building, and court
sessions were held in a small log house with a dirt floor. When court
was not in session the building was used as a school house. The Creek
Indians were in great numbers in the neighborhood, but they were
friendly and peaceful, and in 1836 commenced to move to their far
Western home, going overland to Montgomery, where they took steamer for
New Orleans. Tuskegee is one of the model towns in the way of good

“Among the white settlers here are Dr. W. J. Gautier, and Messrs. G. W.
Campbell, J. W. Bilbro, J. O. A. Adams and W. H. Wright. They have a
perfect wealth of interesting reminiscence connected with the early days
of all East Alabama. Although they have passed the three score years,
they are hale, healthy men, engaged in business, and set a splendid
example of energy and active life to the younger generation. The firm of
Campbell & Wright has been in existence, possibly, longer than any other
in Alabama.

“The Montgomery and West Point Railroad is about five miles distant from
Tuskegee, the nearest station being Chehaw. From there to Tuskegee,
until about twenty years ago, the usual mode of conveyance for
passengers and baggage was stage coach and omnibus, while all goods were
transported by wagon. It was a tiresome, troublesome and expensive
method. This difficulty has been overcome through the Tuskegee Railroad
which now connects the two points.

“The population of Macon County before 1860, was largely heavy landed
proprietors. They suffered immensely by the results of the war from
disorganized labor, and reverses stripped them of much of their
property. The county is almost exclusively agricultural, and the average
yield year by year, of corn, cotton, peas, potatoes and other things
grown on well regulated farms, is fairly good.”

When I reached Tuskegee, I found that Mr. Lewis Adams, a colored man of
great intelligence and thrift, who was born a slave near Tuskegee, had
first started the movement to have some kind of Normal School in
Tuskegee for the education of colored youth. At the time he conceived
this idea Hon. W. F. Foster and Hon. A. L. Brooks, both white
Democrats, were members of the Alabama Legislature, and Mr. Adams so
interested them in the movement that they promised to use their
influence in the Legislature to secure an annual appropriation of $2,000
toward the expenses of a Normal School, provided one could be properly
organized and started. Messrs. Foster and Brooks were successful in
their efforts to secure the appropriation, which was limited in its use
to helping to pay teachers. A Board of three Commissioners was appointed
to control the expenditure of this $2,000. When the school was first
started this board consisted of Mr. Geo. W. Campbell, Mr. M. B. Swanson
and Mr. Lewis Adams. After the death of Mr. Swanson, Mr. C. W. Hare was
elected in his stead.

When I reached Tuskegee, the only thing that had been done toward the
starting of a school was the securing of the $2,000. There was no land,
building, or apparatus. I opened the school, however, on the 4th of
July, 1881, in an old church and a little shanty that was almost ready
to fall down from decay. On the first day there was an attendance of
thirty students, mainly those who had been engaged in teaching in the
public schools of that vicinity. I remember that, during the first
months I taught in this little shanty, it was in such a dilapidated
condition that, whenever it rained, one of the larger pupils would very
kindly cease his lessons and hold the umbrella over me while I heard the
recitations. But these little buildings, as inadequate as they were,
were most gladly furnished by the colored people, who from the first day
that I went to Tuskegee to the present time have done everything within
their power to further the interests of the school.

One curious thing that happened in connection with the students was, as
additional pupils began to come in, some of them had been attending
schools taught by some of those who came to the Tuskegee school, and, in
several cases, it happened that former pupils entered higher classes
than their former teachers.



After the school had been in session in the old church and little shanty
for several months, I began to see the necessity of having a permanent
location for the institution, where we could have the students not only
in their class rooms, but get hold of them in their home life, and teach
them how to take care of their bodies in the matter of bathing, care of
the teeth, and in general cleanliness. We also felt that we must not
only teach the students how to prepare their food but how to serve and
eat it properly. So long as we only had the students a few hours in the
class room during the day we could give attention to none of these
important matters, which our students had not had an opportunity of
learning before leaving their homes. Few of the students who came during
the first year were able to remain during the nine months’ session for
lack of money, so we felt the necessity of having industries where the
students could pay a part of their board in cash. It was rather
noticeable that, notwithstanding the poverty of most of the students who
came to us in the earlier months of the institution, most of them had
the idea of getting an education in order that they might find some
method of living without manual labor; that is, they had the feeling
that to work with the hands was not conducive to being of the highest
type of lady or gentleman. This feeling we wanted to change as fast as
possible by teaching students the dignity, beauty and civilizing power
of intelligent labor.

After a few months had passed by, I wrote Gen. J. F. B. Marshall, at
that time treasurer of the Hampton Institute, and put our condition
before him, telling him that there was an abandoned farm about a mile
from the town of Tuskegee in the market which I could secure at a very
cheap price for our institution. As I had absolutely no money with which
to make the first payment on the farm, I summoned the courage to ask
Gen. Marshall to lend me $500 with which to make the first payment. To
my surprise a letter came back in a few days enclosing a check for $500.
A contract was made for the purchase of the farm, which at that time
consisted of 100 acres. Subsequent purchases and gifts of adjacent lands
have increased the number of acres at this place to 700, and this is the
present site of the Tuskegee Institute. This has again been enlarged
from time to time by purchases and gifts of land not adjacent until at



the school owns farm lands to the number of 2,460 acres.

After the school had been in session three months, Miss Olivia A.
Davidson, a graduate of the Hampton Institute and later a graduate of
the Framingham, Mass., Normal School, was employed as an assistant

Miss Davidson was teaching among her people near Memphis, Tennessee, in
1879, when the yellow fever drove her away. She went to Hampton, entered
the senior class and graduated the following spring. She did not go to
Hampton, however, until her application to return to Memphis to help
nurse the yellow fever patients had been refused by the authorities
there. Through friends she was able to enter the Normal School at
Framingham, Massachusetts, and graduated in the summer of 1881; and,
when an assistant at Tuskegee was called for, she accepted the work. Her
enthusiasm had won the admiration of her schoolmates, and from them she
received much assistance for the school at Tuskegee in after years.

The success of the school, especially during the first half dozen years
of its existence, was due more to Miss Davidson than any one else.
During the organization of the school and in all matters of discipline
she was the one to bring order out of every difficulty. When the last
effort had apparently been exhausted and it seemed that things must
stop, she was the one to find a way out. Not only was this true at the
school, but when a campaign for money had ended unsuccessfully, she
would hie away North and money was sure to be found.

Our hardest struggle began after we had made the first payment on the
farm. We not only had to secure the money within a few months with which
to repay Gen. Marshall’s loan, but had to get the means with which to
meet future payments, and also to erect a building on the farm. Miss
Davidson went among the white and colored families in Tuskegee and told
them our plans and needs, and there were few of either race who did not
contribute either something in cash or something that could be turned
into cash at the many festivals and fairs which were held for the
purpose of raising money to help the school. In many cases the white
ladies in Tuskegee contributed chickens or cakes that were sold for the
benefit of our new enterprise. I do not believe that there was a single
Negro family or scarcely an individual in Tuskegee or its vicinity that
did not contribute something in money or in kind to the school. These
contributions were most gladly made and often at a great sacrifice.

Perhaps I might as well say right here that one of the principal things
which made it easy to start such a school as now exists near the town
of Tuskegee was the fact that Tuskegee is inhabited by some of the most
cultured and liberal white people to be found in any portion of the
South. I have been into a good many Southern towns, but I think I have
never seen one where the general average of culture and intelligence is
so high as that of the people of Tuskegee. We have in this town and its
surroundings a good example of the friendly relations that exist between
the two races when both races are enlightened and educated. Not only are
the white people above the average, but the same is true of the general
intelligence and acquirements of the colored people.

The leading colored citizen in Tuskegee is Mr. Lewis Adams, to whom the
honor should largely be given for securing the location of the Tuskegee
Normal and Industrial Institute in the town. Mr. Adams is not only an
intelligent and successful business man, but is one who combines with
his business enterprise rare common sense and discretion. In the most
trying periods of the growth of the Tuskegee Institute I have always
found Mr. Adams a man on whom I could rely for the wisest advice. He
enjoys the highest respect and confidence of the citizens of both races,
and it is largely through his power and influence that the two races
live together in harmony and peace in the town.

After we had raised all the money we could in Tuskegee for the purpose
of paying for the farm and putting up the new building, Miss Davidson
went to Boston, where she had many friends and acquaintances, and after
some months of hard work she secured enough money with which to complete
the payment on the farm and return Gen. Marshall’s loan. In addition she
secured means to complete the payment on our first building, Porter
Hall. Our first building was named after Mr. H. A. Porter, of Brooklyn,
N. Y., who was instrumental in assisting us to secure the largest gifts
for its erection.

All the while the farm was being paid for we were holding school daily
in the old church and shanty. The latter at least was well ventilated.
There was one thickness of boards above and around us, and this was full
of large cracks. Part of the windows had no sashes and were closed with
rough wooden shutters that opened upward by leather hinges. Other
windows had sashes but little glass in them. Through all these openings
the hot sun or cold wind and rain came pouring in upon us. Many a time a
storm would leave scarcely a dry spot in either of the two rooms into
which the shanty was divided to make room for separate classes. These
rooms were small, but into them large classes of thirty or forty had to
be crowded for recitations. More than once I remember that when Miss
Davidson and I were hearing recitations and the rain would begin pouring
down, one of the larger pupils would very kindly cease his lessons and
come and hold an umbrella over us so that we could hear the recitations.
I also remember that at our boarding place on several occasions when it
rained while we were eating our meals our good landlady would kindly get
an umbrella and hold it over us while we were eating.

During the summer of 1882, at the end of our first year’s work, I was
married to Miss Fannie N. Smith, of Malden, West Virginia, and we began
housekeeping in Tuskegee early in the fall. This made a home for our
teachers who had now been increased to four in number. She was also a
graduate of the Hampton Institute. After earnest and constant work in
the interest of the school, together with her housekeeping duties, she
passed away in May, 1884. One child, Portia M. Washington, was born
during our marriage. From the first she most earnestly devoted her
thought and time to the work of the school, and was completely one with
me in every interest and ambition. She passed away, however, before she
had an opportunity of seeing what the school was designed to be.

The following account of her death is taken from the Alumni Journal,
published at the time at Hampton:

“The numerous friends of Mr. B. T. Washington will be pained to learn of
the death of his beloved wife, Mrs. Fannie (Smith) Washington, class of
’82, which occurred at Tuskegee, Alabama, Sunday, May 4th.

“Her death is indeed a serious bereavement to Mr. Washington, whose
acquaintance and regard for the deceased had begun in their childhood.
Their happy union had done much to lighten the arduous duties devolving
upon him in the management of his school. To his friends he had several
times expressed the great comfort his family life was to him.

“We know that all our readers will join us in extending to him the
warmest sympathy in this sad hour.

“A bright little girl, not a year old, is left to sustain with her
father a loss which she can never know.”





Soon after securing possession of the farm we set about putting it into
a condition so that a crop of some kind might be secured from it during
the next year. At the close of school hours each afternoon, I would call
for volunteers to take their axes and go into the woods to assist in
clearing up the grounds. The students were most anxious to give their
service in this way, and very soon a large acreage was put into
condition for cultivation. We had no horse or mule with which to begin
the cultivation of the farm. Mr. George W. Campbell, however, the
president of the Board of Trustees, very kindly gave us a horse which
was well along in years. This was the first animal that the school ever
possessed. On the farm there was an old building that had formerly been
used as a stable, another that had been used as a chicken coop, and
still a third that had been used as a kitchen during ante-bellum days.
All of these three buildings or shanties were duly repaired and made to
do service as class-rooms, dormitories, etc.

We had our first services in Porter Hall on Thanksgiving Day, 1882. Rev.
R. C. Bedford, who was then pastor of the Congregational Church in
Montgomery, and who has since been one of our trustees and warmest
friends, preached the Thanksgiving sermon. This was the first
Thanksgiving service I think that was ever held in the town of Tuskegee;
and a joyous one it was to the people.

By the middle of the second year’s work the existence of the school had
begun to be advertised pretty thoroughly through the state of Alabama
and even in some of the adjoining states. This brought to us an
increasing number of students, and the problem as to what to do with
them was becoming a serious one. We put the girls who did not live in
town on the third floor of Porter Hall to sleep. The boys we scattered
around in whatever places we were able to secure. In order to secure a
dining room, kitchen and laundry, to be used by the boarding department,
our young men volunteered to dig out the basement under Porter Hall,
which was soon bricked up and made to answer its purpose very well. Old
students, however, who to-day return to Tuskegee and see the large new
dining room, kitchen, and laundry run by steam, are very much interested
in noting the change and contrast.

Sometimes during the winter of the second year of the school, we were
compelled to put large numbers of young men in shanties or huts to
sleep, where there was almost no protection from rain and cold weather.
Often during the very cold nights I have gone into the rooms of these
students at midnight to see how they were getting along, and have found
them sitting up by the fire, with blankets wrapped about them, as the
only method of keeping warm. One morning, when I asked at the opening
exercises how many had been frost-bitten during the cold weather, not
less than ten hands went up. The teachers were not surprised at this.
Still, notwithstanding these inconveniences and hardships, I think I
never heard a complaint from the lips of a single student. They always
seemed filled with gratitude for the opportunity to go to school under
any circumstances.

Very early in the history of the school we made it a rule that no
student, however well off he might be, was to be permitted to remain
unless he did some work, in addition to taking studies in the academic
department. At first quite a number of students and a large number of
parents did not like this rule; in fact, during the first three or four
years, a large proportion of the students brought either verbal or
written messages from their parents that they wanted their children
taught books, but did not want them taught work. Notwithstanding these
protests, we still stuck to our rule. As the years went on and as the
students and parents began to see and appreciate the value of our
industrial teaching, these protests grew less frequent and less strong.
It is a sufficient explanation to say in regard to this matter that it
has been ten years since a single objection has been raised by parents
or students against anyone’s taking part in our industrial work. In
fact, there is a positive enthusiasm among parents and students over our
industrial work, and we are compelled to refuse admission to hundreds
every year who wish to prepare themselves to take up industrial
pursuits. If we had the room and the means we could give industrial
training to a much larger number of students than are now receiving it.
The main burden of the letters which now come from parents is that each
wants his daughter or son taught some industry or trade in connection
with the academic branches. I also remember, during the early history of
this institution, that students coming here who had to pass through the
larger cities, or pass in the vicinity of other institutions, had the
finger of scorn pointed at them because they were going to a school
where it was understood that one had to labor. At the present time,
however, this feeling is so completely changed that there is almost no
portion of the South where there is any objection brought against
industrial education of the Negro on the part of the colored people
themselves. On the other hand, the feeling in favor of it is strong and
most enthusiastic.

Almost from the first I determined to have the students do practically
all the work of putting up the buildings and carrying on the various
departments of the institution. Many of our best friends, however,
doubted the practicability of this, but I insisted that it could be
done. I held that while the students at first might make very poor
bricks and do poor brick-masonry, the lesson of self-help would be more
valuable to them in the long run than if they were put into a building
which had been wholly the creation of the generosity of some one else.
By the end of the third year the number of students had increased from
30, with which we began, to 169; most of them, however, coming from
nearby counties and other sections of Alabama.

In February, 1883, the State Legislature of Alabama increased the state
appropriation for the school from two to three thousand dollars
annually, on recommendation of the State Superintendent of Public
Instruction, Hon. H. Clay Armstrong. The Committee on Education reported
the bill unanimously to the House and the Governor recommended its
passage. As some of the members were not acquainted with the character
of the school they raised objection to this increase at a time when, by
defalcation of the state treasurer, reported only the day before, the
state had lost a quarter of a million dollars. The Speaker of the House,
Hon. W. F. Foster, a member from Tuskegee, and an ex-Confederate
soldier, left the chair, and in an eloquent and effective speech in
praise of the work of the school at Tuskegee, urged the passage of the
bill. On conclusion of Col. Foster’s speech the bill passed by a large
majority vote. Col. Foster not only interested himself in the passage of
the first bill which gave support from the state to this institution,
but has been one of the warmest and most helpful friends from that time
until the present.

In reference to the passage of the bill for an increased appropriation
for the school, Rev. R. C. Bedford, at that time residing in Montgomery
as pastor of the Congregational Church, wrote to Gen. Armstrong as

“Gen. S. C. Armstrong, Dear Sir:--

“A short time ago I made a trip to Tuskegee, Ala., for the purpose of
visiting the State Normal School for colored people located there, four
of whose five teachers, together with the wife of the Principal, were
once pupils of yours at Hampton Institute. I attended the session of
the school for two days and was exceedingly pleased with the
enthusiastic spirit of both teachers and pupils. One of the encouraging
features of the school is the warm interest it has inspired in many of
the leading white citizens of Tuskegee. Mr. G. W. Campbell and Mr. Wm.
B. Swanson are among the oldest and most respected citizens of Macon
County. They with Mr. Lewis Adams, a prominent colored man, constitute
the State Board of Commissioners for the school. Col. Bowen, Mr. Varner,
and Col. W. F. Foster, speaker of the present Legislature, all citizens
of Tuskegee and familiar with the school, are among its warmest friends.
A short time ago, in conversation with Hon. H. Clay Armstrong, our State
Superintendent of Education, I learned that he was so much pleased with
the work of Mr. Washington and his associates as to recommend to the
Committee on Education to report a bill giving $1,000 per year
additional to the school. I was present during the debate on the bill.
So interested was Col. Foster in its passage that he left the speaker’s
chair, and upon the floor of the House, in an eloquent and effective
speech, urged that it pass. He sat down, and by a vote of 59 to 18, the
bill was passed; and it is now a law.

“With this example before us, we need have no fear as to what the
colored people can do if, like Mr. Washington and his associates, they
will take hold to win.”

In April, 1883, the school enjoyed a pleasant visit from Gen. J. F. B.
Marshall, the treasurer of Hampton Institute and the one who had been
generous enough to lend us $500 with which to make the first payment on
the farm. Gen. Marshall’s visit gave us the greatest hope and
encouragement. He wrote while at the school to the Southern Workman, a
paper published at Hampton Institute, as follows, concerning his visit:

“A few days’ rest from office duties being enjoined upon me recently, I
determined to pay a visit to the Tuskegee school, in which the faculty
and teachers of Hampton Institute naturally feel a special interest.

“The Tuskegee farm contains 140 acres and the boys are at work clearing
a field for sugar cane, which grows well here. They also raise cotton,
sweet potatoes, peaches, etc. To enable them to train the students
properly they must have them board at the school. A building is very
much needed for the accommodation of 100 young men. Mr. Washington says
that it will cost $8,000, if student labor can be made available in its
construction. For this purpose he proposes to build of brick made on the
farm, which has excellent clay. The young men are impatient to set to
work on their building.

“Tuskegee is one of the very old towns in the state, an attractive place
of about 2500 inhabitants, having several colleges and academies of high
repute for the white youth of both sexes. I was glad to find a very
strong temperance sentiment here. There were only two bars in town and
they pay a license of about $900 a year each. No better location could
have been chosen.

“The leading white citizens of the place appreciate the importance of
Mr. Washington’s work, and speak of him in high terms. He has evidently
won the esteem and confidence of all. Mr. Foster, the present speaker of
the House, in the State Legislature, lives here, and rendered valuable
aid in getting the increased appropriation of the state for Mr.
Washington, of whom he spoke to me in high praise.

“I am reminded by everything I see here of our own beginning and methods
at Hampton. I found on my arrival at the school, which is about a mile
from the village center, a handsome frame building of two stories with a
mansard roof. Though not yet finished it is occupied as a school
building and is very conveniently planned for the purpose, reminding me
of the Academic Hall at Hampton. The primary school on the Normal School
grounds bears the same relation to it as a practice school that the
Butler does to the Hampton Institute. It has 250 on the roll. They are
stored away in what was the stable, close as crayons in a Waltham box.
Let us hope they will all make their mark.

“All six teachers of the Normal and Training Schools are colored; and to
their race belongs all credit for the work accomplished here and of the
judicious use of the funds which the friends of the school, through the
efforts of Mr. Washington and Miss Davidson, have contributed.

“The experiment, thus far so successful, is one of deep interest to all
who have the welfare of the race at heart, and should not be suffered to
fail for want of means for its completion. It is vital to the success of
this school that the students should all be brought under the training
and supervision of the teachers by being boarded and lodged on the
premises. Our experience at Hampton has shown us the necessity of this.
I know of no more worthy object or one conducive to more important
results than this school enterprise, and I trust the friends of Negro
advancement and education will not suffer it to languish or be hampered
for funds. They may rest assured that these may be wisely expended and
most worthily bestowed.

“My three days’ visit to Tuskegee was eminently satisfactory and has
inspired me with new hope for the future of the race.”

The next event in the history of the school was the celebration of its
second anniversary, combined with the dedication of Porter Hall, whose
corner-stone had been laid the year before. The dedication address was
delivered by Rev. Geo. L. Chaney of Atlanta, now of Boston, one of the
Trustees of the school; and eloquent speeches were also made by Rev.
Morgan Calloway, the associate in Emory College of its president, Dr.
Atticus G. Haygood, author of “Our Brother in Black.” Rev. Mr. Owens, of
Mobile, also made an interesting address.

During the following summer a small frame cottage with four rooms was
put up to hold sixteen young men, and three board shanties near the
grounds were rented containing accommodations for about thirty-six
additional students. In September a boarding department was opened for
both sexes, and as many young men as could be provided for gladly
availed themselves of the privilege of working out about half of their
board at the school.

In 1883 Mr. Warren Logan, a graduate of the Hampton Institute, who had
received special training in book-keeping under Gen. Marshall at
Hampton, came to Tuskegee as a teacher. He had not been here long,
however, before it was clearly seen that he could serve the school
effectively in another capacity as well as a class room teacher, and he
was soon given the position of Treasurer and book-keeper in addition to
his duties as a class room teacher. Mr. Logan has now been connected
with the school 16 years, and has been its treasurer during 13 years of
this time. In addition to the position of treasurer, he fills the
position of Acting Principal in the absence of the Principal. All of
these various and delicate as well as responsible duties he has
performed with great ability and satisfaction.

Mr. J. H. Washington, my brother, came to the school from West Virginia
in 1885 and took the position of Business Agent. He was afterwards made
Superintendent of Industries and has held that position ever since. In
the meantime the school has grown, and his duties as well as those of
Mr. Logan have broadened and increased in responsibility. Both he and
Mr. Logan, during the absence of the Principal, are in a large measure
the mainstay and dependence of the institution for counsel and wise

These two men, Mr. Logan and my brother John, have been from the
beginning very important forces in the school management. As Treasurer
and Superintendent of Industries respectively their responsibilities are
heavy, and how much credit they deserve will never be fully known till
the necessity arises some day to fill their places. They, with James N.
Calloway, a graduate of Fisk University, who is the manager of Marshall
Farm, Mr. G. W. Carver, Director of the Agricultural Department, and Mr.
M. T. Driver, Business Agent, constitute the Finance Committee of the
Institute, a sort of cabinet for the Principal.

In September, 1883, a very pleasant surprise came to the workers in the
form of $1,100, secured through Rev. R. C. Bedford from the Trustees of
the Slater Fund. I might add right here that the interest of the
Trustees of the Slater Fund, now under the control of Dr. J. L. M.
Curry, Special Agent, has continued from that time until this, so that
the institution now receives $11,000 from the Slater Fund instead of
$1,100 at the beginning. With this impetus, a carpenter shop was built
and started, a windmill set up to pump water into the school building, a
sewing machine bought for the girls’ industrial room, mules and wagons
for the farm, and the farm manager’s salary was also paid for nine

All during the summer, as was true of the previous one, Miss Davidson
and myself had been earnestly presenting our cause at the North with so
much encouragement that the work on the new building, called Alabama
Hall, was vigorously pushed during the fall and winter. In February,
1884, about three years after the school was opened, $5,000 had been
secured towards the erection of Alabama Hall, which eventually cost
about $10,000.

In March, 1884, Gen. Armstrong did one of those generous things which he
was noted for all through his life. In fact, from the beginning of
Tuskegee’s life until Gen. Armstrong’s death, he seemed to take as much
interest in the work of Tuskegee as in the Hampton Institute, and I am
glad to say the same generous spirit is constantly shown by the
successor of Gen. Armstrong, Dr. Frissell. I received a letter from Gen.
Armstrong stating that he had decided to hold a number of public
meetings in such cities as Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston,
and wished me to accompany him and speak in the interest of Tuskegee.
These meetings were advertised to be in the interest of Hampton and
Tuskegee jointly, but in reality they turned out to be meetings in the
interest of Tuskegee, so generous was Gen. Armstrong in his words and
actions at these meetings. The special object aimed at in these meetings
was to secure money with which to complete Alabama Hall.

I quote from an address made at one of these meetings by myself: “Our
young men have already made two kilns of bricks and will make all
required for the needed building, Alabama Hall. From the first we have
carried out the plan at Tuskegee of asking help for nothing that we
could do for ourselves. Nothing has been bought that the students can
produce. The boys have done the painting, made the bricks, the chairs,
tables and desks, have built a stable and are now moving the carpenter
shop. The girls do the entire housekeeping, including the washing,
ironing and mending of the boys’ clothing. Besides, they make garments
to sell, and give some attention to flower gardening.”

In due time, however, by hard work, the remainder of the money, $10,000
in all, necessary to complete Alabama Hall, was secured in the North,
and not a little was gotten from friends in and about Tuskegee,
especially through the holding of festivals, etc.

In April, 1884, we received a visit from the Lady Principal, Miss Mary
F. Mackie, of the Hampton Institute, who was the first one to receive me
when I went to Hampton as a student. I will say here that, from the
visit of Gen. Marshall up to the present time, we have received constant
visits and encouragement from the officers and teachers of the Hampton
Institute. Miss Mackie, writing to a friend at Hampton, said:

“The wish constantly on my lips or in my heart, since I reached here
last evening, is that you could see this school. I am sure you would
feel, as I do, that the dial of time must have turned back twelve years
in its course. In many respects it is more like the Hampton I first knew
than the one of today is; I was particularly struck with the plantation
melodies which Mr. Washington called for at the close of the evening
prayers; there is more of the real wail in their music than I ever heard
elsewhere. The teachers here laugh over their exact imitation of the
alma mater; even the night school feature has sprouted; to be sure it
only numbers two students, but it is on the same plan as ours. Do you
know that Mr.---- has lately given them 440 acres of land, making their
farm now 580 acres?”

The June number of the Southern Letter, a little paper published by the
Institute, contained the following account of commencement, which took
place May 29, 1884: “Many visitors were present, white and colored. The
great interest was in the development of the department of industrial
training, which now includes the farm, the Slater carpenter shop and
blacksmith shop, the printing office, the girls’ industrial room, and
the brick yard, where the students were making brick for Alabama Hall.
The morning exercises, were, as usual, inspection, recitations and
review of the current news, and the speaker of the afternoon was Prof.
R. T. Greener, of Washington, who delivered a very practical and
eloquent address. Reporters were present from Montgomery and Tuskegee.”

In the spring of 1884 I was very pleasantly surprised to receive an
invitation from the President of the National Educational Association,
Hon. Thos. W. Bicknall, of Boston, asking me to deliver an address
before that body at its next meeting during the summer. The Association
assembled at Madison, Wisconsin, and I think I am safe in saying that
there were at least five thousand teachers present, representing every
portion of the United States. This was the first opportunity I had had
of presenting the work of the school to any large audience, especially
of a national character. It was rather late in the evening before my
time to speak came. Several speakers had preceded me, and one especially
had proven himself to be rather tedious and tiresome by his long and
rather unprepared address, but this did not discourage me. I determined
to make the best address that I possibly could, although I was beset by
fear and trembling. The many kind words, however, which I received after
my address assured me that in some measure my effort had not been a
failure. Among other things I said:

“I repeat that any work looking toward the permanent improvement of the
Negro in the South, must have for one of its aims the fitting of him to
live friendly and peaceably with his white neighbors, both socially and
politically. In spite of all talk of exodus the Negro’s home is
permanently in the South, for coming to the bread and meat side of the
question the white man needs the Negro and the Negro needs the white
man. His home being permanently in the South, it is our duty to help him
prepare himself to live there, an independent, educated citizen. In
order that there may be the broadest development of the colored man and
that he may have an unbounded field in which to labor, the two races
South must be brought to have faith in each other. The teachings of the
Negro, in various ways, for the last twenty years, have tended too much
to array him against his white brother rather than to put the races in
co-operation with each other. Thus Massachusetts supports the Republican
party because the Republican party supports Massachusetts with a
protective tariff; but the Negro supports the Republican party simply
because Massachusetts does. When the colored man is educated up to the
point of seeing that Alabama and Massachusetts are a long way apart and
the conditions of life in them very different, and that if free trade
enables my white brother across the street to buy his plows at a cheaper
rate it will enable me to do the same thing, he will act in a different
way. More than once I have noticed that when the whites were in favor
of prohibition, the blacks, led even by sober, upright ministers, voted
against prohibition, simply because the whites were in favor of it, and
for this reason the blacks said that they knew it was a ‘democratic
trick.’ If the whites vote to lay a tax to build a school house it is a
signal for the blacks to oppose the measure, simply because the whites
favor it. I venture the assertion that the sooner the colored man,
South, learns that one political party is not composed altogether of
angels and the other altogether of devils, and that all his enemies do
not live in his own town or neighborhood and all his friends in some
other distant section of the country, the sooner will his educational
advantages be enhanced many fold. But matters are gradually changing in
this respect. The black man is beginning to find out that there are
those even among the Southern whites who desire his elevation. The
Negro’s new faith in the white man is being reciprocated in proportion
as the Negro is rightly educated. The white brother is beginning to
learn by degrees that all Negroes are not liars and chicken thieves.

“Now in regard to what I have said about the relations of the two races,
there should be no unmanly cowering or stooping to satisfy unreasonable
whims of Southern white men; but it is charity and wisdom to keep in
mind the two hundred years of schooling in prejudice against the Negro
which the ex-slaveholders are called on to conquer. A certain class of
whites object to the general education of the colored man on the ground
that when he is educated he ceased to do manual labor, and there is no
avoiding the fact that much aid is withheld from Negro education in the
South by the states on these grounds. Just here the great mission of
Industrial Education, coupled with the mental, comes in. It kills two
birds with one stone, viz., it secures the co-operation of the whites
and does the best possible thing for the black man.”

After this address I began receiving invitations from a good many
portions of the country to deliver addresses on the subject of educating
the Negro. At the present time these applications have increased to such
an extent, and they come in such large numbers, that, if I were to try
to answer even one-third of the calls that come to me from all parts of
the United States as well as other countries, to speak, I would scarcely
spend a single day at Tuskegee.





From 1884 to 1894, while comparatively little was heard of the school in
the public press, yet that was a period of constant and solid growth. In
1884 the enrollment was 169. In 1894 the enrollment had increased to
712, and 54 officers and teachers were employed. Besides the growth in
the number of students and instructors, there had also been quite an
increase in the number of buildings, and in every way the students were
made more comfortable in their surroundings. By 1893 we had upon the
school grounds 30 buildings of various kinds and sizes, practically all
built by the labor of the students.

Between 1884 and 1894, I think, the hardest work was done in securing
money. Regularly, during this period, we were compelled, on account of
lack of accommodations, to refuse many students, but very often they
would come to us under such circumstances that, though lacking in
accommodations, we could not have the heart to turn them away,
especially after they had traveled long distances, as was true in many
cases. Students seemed willing to put up with almost any kind of
accommodations if they were given a chance to secure an education.

During this period either Miss Davidson or myself, or sometimes both of
us, spent a great deal of time in the North getting funds with which to
meet our ever increasing demands. This, of course, was the hardest and
most trying part of the work. Beginning early in the morning the day was
spent in seeing individuals at their homes or in their offices; and, in
the evening and sometimes during the day, too, addresses were delivered
before churches, Sunday Schools, or other organizations. On many
occasions I have spoken as many as five times at different churches on
the same Sabbath.

The large increase in the number of students tempted us often to put up
buildings for which we had no money. In the early days of the
institution by far the larger proportion of the buildings were begun on
faith. I remember at one time we began a building which cost in the end
about $8,000, and we had only $200 in cash with which to pay for it;
nevertheless the building was completed after a hard struggle and is now
in constant use.

I remember at one time we were very much in need of money with which to
meet pressing obligations. I borrowed $400 from a friend with the
understanding that the money


must be returned within thirty days. On the morning of the day that the
thirty days expired we were without the $400 with which to repay the
loan and were of course very much depressed in consequence. The mail,
however, came in at about eleven o’clock and brought a check from a
friend for exactly $400. I could give a number of other such instances
illustrating how we were relieved from embarrassing circumstances in
ways that have always seemed to me to have been providential. Although
the institution has had occasion many times to give promissory notes in
order to meet its obligations, there has never been a single instance
when any of its notes have gone to protest, and its credit and general
financial standing have always been good with the commercial world. I
have felt deeply obligated to the white and colored citizens of Tuskegee
for their kindness in helping the school financially when it did not
have money to meet its obligations. We have never applied to an
individual or to either of the banks in Tuskegee for aid that we did not
get it when the banks or individuals were able to aid us. The banks have
been more than kind, often seemingly inconveniencing themselves in order
to be of service to our institution. In the earlier days of the
institution, when we had little in the way of income, on several
occasions I have started to the depot, when I had to make a journey
away from Tuskegee, with no money in my pocket, but felt perfectly sure
of meeting a friend in the town of Tuskegee from whom I could get money,
and I have never been disappointed in this respect.

In 1883 we received our first donation of $500 from the Peabody Fund
through Dr. J. L. M. Curry, the General Agent. At that time Dr. Curry
formed his first acquaintance with Tuskegee; and, as I have stated
elsewhere, from then until now he has been one of our warmest and most
helpful friends. The amount received from the Peabody Fund has since
been increased until it now amounts to twelve or fifteen hundred dollars
each year.

In connection with this appropriation from the Peabody Fund it may be
interesting to relate a conversation which took place between Dr. Curry
and one of the State officers at Montgomery, Alabama. The State officer
in question was telling Dr. Curry that there were several other schools
in the state that needed help more than Tuskegee did; and that, because
Tuskegee, through the efforts of its teachers, was receiving money from
the North and elsewhere which other schools were not getting, he thought
we were not entitled to help from the Peabody Fund. Dr. Curry promptly
replied that because we were making an extra effort to get funds which
other schools were not getting was the strongest reason why we should
be helped; in other words, he told the officer plainly that we were
trying to help ourselves and for that reason he wanted us helped from
the Peabody Fund.

Through the constant efforts in the North and South of myself and Miss
Davidson, the financial report for the first two years of the school
showed that the receipts amounted to $11,679.69. The rapid increase in
the growth of the school and in the confidence of the people may be
shown by the fact that, during the third year of the existence of the
school, the receipts nearly doubled themselves as compared with the
second year; we received the third year the sum of $10,482.78, which was
nearly as much as we received during the two previous years. By far the
larger proportion of this amount came in small sums; very often amounts
came from individuals that were as small as 50 cents. One of the things
that constantly touched and encouraged us during the early years of the
school was the deep interest manifested in its success by the old and
ignorant colored people in and near the town of Tuskegee. They never
seemed to tire in their interest and efforts. They were constantly
trying to do something to help forward the institution. Whenever they
had a few chickens or eggs, for example, to spare, they would bring
them in and make a present of them to the school.

The income of the institution for the fifth year amounted to $20,162.13;
for the ninth year, $30,326; for the eleventh year, $61,023.28; for the
fourteenth year, $79,836.50.

At the end of the third year we were able to report that the school
owned property unencumbered by debt that was valued at $30,000. During
the third year Alabama Hall, to which I have already referred, was
completed at a cost of $10,000.

The report for the fourth year of the school’s history shows that we
received from all sources $11,146.07. During that year we got into a
very tight place financially and hardly knew which way to turn for
relief. In the midst of our perplexity, I went to Gen. Armstrong and he
very kindly loaned the school money to help it out of its embarrassment,
although I afterwards learned that it was nearly all of the money that
he possessed in cash.

In my fourth annual report to the Trustees I used the following words:
“Greater attention has been given to the industrial department this year
than ever before. Three things are accomplished by the industrial
system: (1) The student is enabled to pay a part of his expenses of
board, books, etc., in labor; (2) He learns how to work; (3) He is
taught the dignity of labor. In all the industrial branches the students
do the actual work under the direction of competent instructors.” I have
not had occasion to change in any great degree the foregoing sentences
as representing the purpose for which Tuskegee stands.

During the fifth year of our work we were able also to add a saw mill,
through the generosity of Gen. J. F. B. Marshall, to whom I have already
referred. The addition of this saw mill enabled us to saw a large part
of the lumber used by the institution.

In order to give many worthy students an opportunity to secure an
education by working at some trade or industry during the day and
studying at night, we opened in the fall of 1883 our first night school.
The night school was opened with one teacher and one student. From this
small beginning the night school has increased, until at this writing
there are four hundred and fifty students. By working in the day and
going to school at night, the night students earn money with which to
pay their expenses the next year in day school, and if they bring a good
supply of clothing they can earn enough, together with what they earn
during vacation, to keep them in school two or three years after they
enter day school.

I cannot better indicate the constant growth of the school than by
giving a description of our seventh anniversary, which took place May
31, 1888. There were more than 2,000 people present, in spite of rain
that came in showers. During the morning, from 9:30 to 12, the regular
work of the entire school was carried on in the various departments,
which were open for inspection. In addition to the regular work,
products of the shops and farm were exhibited. The course of study then
extended over four years, with two preparatory classes. It included the
English branches for the literary part, with instruction in one or more
of the following industries throughout: Blacksmithing, carpentry,
brick-masonry, brick making, plastering, farming, stock, poultry and
bee-raising, saw-milling, wheelwrighting, printing, mattress and cabinet
making, sewing, cutting and fitting, washing and ironing, cooking, and
general housekeeping. From these various departments the following
articles were exhibited: At the blacksmith and wheelwright shop were
seen two one-horse wagons, plow stock, small tools, express wagon body,
wheelbarrow, spring wagon seat and various other articles. In the
carpenter shop there were wardrobes, a center and a leaf table, wash
stands, book cases, bedsteads, wash boards, picture frames, chairs,
paneling, moulding, laths, etc. In the printing office there was an
exhibit of the general work of the office,--such as blanks, checks,
catalogues, promissory notes, diploma blanks, minutes of associations
and conventions, annual reports, bill and letter heads, envelopes,
circulars, handbills, invitations, business cards, certificates, etc.,
with samples of the two monthly papers which were then printed at the
institution, the “Southern Letter” and “The Gleaner.” From the farm and
poultry yard, there were vegetables, hogs, cattle, chickens, turkeys,
guineas, geese, a peacock, eggs, bees and honey. Mattress and chair
making were features that had been added to the industries that year and
were especially satisfactory. The mattresses exhibited compared
favorably with those made anywhere. In the laundry there was a
tastefully arranged exhibit of laundried bedding, dresses, collars and
cuffs, shirts, ladies’ and gentlemen’s underwear, table linen and
towels. The sewing room showed samples of all kinds of ladies’,
gentlemen’s and children’s clothing, with laces, mats, tidies, etc. At
the brickyard there was a kiln of 120,000 bricks ready for burning.
About the saw mill there were stacks of its products. The cooking class
had a tempting display of its work in cakes, jellies, bread, yeast,
meats and a roast pig.

Among the first things seen by a visitor coming to the school from any
direction was a large new brick building--Armstrong Hall. This building
was almost entirely the product of student labor, under the supervision
of Mr. Brown, instructor in carpentry at that time, who also planned the
building. The school then had three large and comfortable buildings.
Porter Hall contained recitation rooms, offices, library and reading
room, chapel and dormitories for boys, with the school laundry in the
basement. Alabama Hall, with a large frame annex built that year, was
used for girls’ dormitories, and contained, in addition, teachers’ and
students’ parlors and dining rooms and kitchen. Armstrong Hall contained
young men’s dormitories, reading and sitting rooms, bath room, printing
office and two recitation rooms. In addition, there were several
cottages on the grounds, while a new one and a large barn, the latter to
cost, perhaps $2,000, were in process of erection.

In the early years of the school, the anniversary exercises were held in
the school chapel, which was the small chapel in Porter Hall, but from
year to year the influx of patrons and friends from far and near had so
increased that the chapel would no longer hold a fifth of them. That
year the vast audience of 2,000, including the 400 students, was
assembled in a rude pavilion built of rough timber and partly covered by
the wide spreading branches of some mulberry trees. Here, after
partaking of a substantial dinner furnished by the school and friends,
students and visitors assembled. A long procession was formed of
students, teachers and graduates, which marched from Alabama Hall to the
pavilion to music furnished by the school band, and there the exercises
of the seventh anniversary were held.

There were ten members of the graduating class of that year as follows:
Andrew J. Wilborn, Valedictorian, Tuskegee, Ala.; Letitia B. Adams,
Tuskegee, Ala.; Caroline Smith, Tuskegee, Ala.; Shadrach R. Marshall,
Talbotton, Ga.; Philip P. Wright, LaFayette, Ala.; William H. Clark,
Brunswick, Ga.; Eugenia Lyman, Opelika, Ala.; Sarah L. Hunt,
Salutatorian, Sparta, Ga.; George W. Lovejoy, Olustee Creek, Ala.;
Nicholas E. Abercrombie, Montgomery, Ala.

The total enrollment for the year was 400. The school farm then
contained 540 acres of farm and timber land. The saw mill had furnished
most of the lumber for the buildings and other carpenter work done that
year, and for that purpose saw logs had been cut from the school land.
The school property was then worth about $80,000. The income for the
year had been $26,755.73. This amount about covered the expenses.
Including the ten mentioned above, the school then had forty-two
graduates. During the year previous all the graduates had been engaged
in teaching for some part of the year. All the members of that year’s
class were Christians. They went out as teachers of various kinds in the
state of Alabama. The young women had a knowledge of washing, ironing,
cooking, sewing and general housekeeping in addition to their
intellectual attainments. One of the six young men was a shoemaker, one
a carpenter, one had considerable knowledge of the printer’s trade and
one was an excellent plasterer. The annual address at that commencement
was delivered by Hon. John R. Lynch, of Mississippi, and for eloquence,
practical thought and helpful information could hardly have been
surpassed. There was a number of Tuskegee’s best white citizens present,
while the colored citizens came out en masse to witness the exercises
that launched into life three youths from their own town. Montgomery was
represented by one of her military companies, the “Capital City Guards,”
and 124 of her best citizens, for whose accommodation special trains
were sent out.

In order to emphasize the fact that people at Tuskegee during its early
history were not idle, I give the daily program which was in effect in
January, 1886: 5 a. m., rising bell; 5:50 a. m., warning breakfast bell;
6 a. m., breakfast bell; 6:20 a. m., breakfast over; 6:20 to 6:50 a. m.,
rooms are cleaned; 6:50, work bell; 7:30, morning study hour; 8:20,
morning school bell; 8:25, inspection of young men’s toilet in ranks;
8:40, devotional exercises in chapel; 8:55, “5 minutes” with the daily
news; 9 a. m., class work begins; 12, class work closes; 12:15 p. m.,
dinner; 1 p. m., work bell; 1:30 p. m., class work begins; 3:30 p. m.,
class work ends; 5:30 p. m., bell to “knock off” work; 6 p. m., supper;
7:10 p. m., evening prayers; 7:30 p. m., evening study hours; 8:45 p.m.,
evening study hour closes; 9:20 p. m., warning retiring bell; 9:30 p.
m., retiring bell.

Although the period of the school’s history about which I have written
in this chapter was one of constant and substantial growth, it
nevertheless was during this period that the school sustained a great
loss, as well as I a great personal bereavement, in the death of my
beloved and faithful wife, Olivia Davidson Washington. In May, 1889,
after four years of married life, she succumbed to the overtaxing duties
of mother and assistant principal of the school and passed away. Her
remains were laid to rest amid the tears of teachers and students. “Her
words of caution, advice, sympathy and encouragement were given with a
judgment that rarely made an error. Her life was so full of deeds,
lessons and suggestions that she will live on to bless and help the
institution which she helped found as long as it is a seat of

Two wide-awake boys, Baker Taliaferro and Ernest Davidson, were born to
us, who were then too young to know their loss. They are now 12 and 10
years of age respectively; and they, with my daughter Portia, are a
source of much comfort and joy to me at present.

Miss Davidson came to the school almost from the very beginning, she
being the next person to come after myself. I have spoken in other
places of the great assistance she was in helping to build up the school
in its early days. As an estimate of her worth and character, I beg to
quote the words of the Rev. R. C. Bedford, a friend who knew her worth
and her great help to me and to Tuskegee. Commenting upon her death Mr.
Bedford said:

“Olivia Davidson was born in Virginia, June 11, 1854. When only a little
child she went with her parents to Ohio, where she grew up and received
the education afforded by the common schools of that state. At an early
age she went to Mississippi and there spent five years as a teacher on
the large plantations. In 1878 she came north to her native state, and,
that she might more thoroughly fit herself for the work of a teacher,
she entered the Hampton Institute, from which, in one year, she
graduated with great honor. Her friend, Mrs. Hemenway, of Boston,
greatly desiring that she should prosecute her studies still further,
at her request, she entered the Framingham, (Mass.) Normal School, from
which she graduated in two years. In August following her graduation she
came to Tuskegee, Ala., to act as assistant to Prof. Washington, in the
State Normal School of which he had been made principal in the July
previous. From the very first it became evident that she had found her
field of labor for life. Everything tended to inspire her to this end.
The people were poor; they were numerous; they were anxious, and aside
from an act of the Legislature establishing a school, it had, literally,
to be created. The story of her success has often been told and in this
brief tribute cannot be repeated.

“August 11, 1885, Miss Davidson was married to Prof. B. T. Washington,
and although she at once took upon herself the cares of a very busy home
life, she still retained a most important relation to the school, which
no amount of warning from her friends could persuade her to drop. Her
marriage with Mr. Washington proved a most happy one, and rarely has it
been the lot of two individuals to be so thoroughly united in their life
work. The coming of little Baker into the home was an occasion of great
rejoicing, and the birth of another son just a few months before his
mother’s death only served to double the joy.

“It was my privilege to meet Mrs. Washington at Tuskegee when the
school had been in operation but little more than a year and, as one of
the trustees of the school, I have had an intimate knowledge of her work
ever since. It would require more than human pen to tell how deep was
her love for the school and how thoroughly her life was consecrated to
it. Every grain of sand on all those beautiful grounds and every beam
and brick in the walls must have felt the inspiration of her love. No
more touching story could be told than that of her earnest efforts to
raise money from the people about Tuskegee and of her toilsome walks in
Boston, as from house to house, and with an eloquence that was rarely
refused, she sought funds to provide shelter for the hundreds of
students that were flocking to the school. Her character made her
especially adapted to all parts of the work in which she was engaged,
and the stamp of her influence on the higher life of the school no time
can ever efface. Among a people who make much show of religion, but
often with too little of its spirit, hers was religion indeed, but with
so little of show as sometimes to make her life a mystery to those who
did not really know her. The blind and the poor, and above all the aged,
can tell of her religion as they recall the happy Thanksgiving and
Christmas times when they have sat at her table and her own hands have
ministered to their wants, and when in sickness she has visited them
and relieved their sufferings. No woman ever had a truer husband or more
devoted friends; and the memory of their kindness will rest, as a
precious legacy, upon the school and upon all who loved her as long as
time shall last.”

While speaking of the financial growth of the school I must not neglect
to indicate the growth at the same time in students. As I have stated,
the school opened with one teacher and 30 students. By the end of the
first year we had three teachers, including Miss Davidson, Mr. John
Caldwell and myself. For the third session there were 169 students and
10 teachers. For the fifth year there were 279 students and 18 teachers.
For the eighth year there were 399 students and 25 teachers. For the
tenth year there were 730 students and 30 teachers. For the fourteenth
year, ending in June, 1895, there were 1,013 students and 63 teachers.

In the spring of 1892, at our annual commencement, we had the pleasure
and the honor of a visit from Hon. Frederick Douglass, who delivered the
annual address to the graduating class of that year. This was Mr.
Douglass’ first visit to the far South, and there was a large crowd of
people from far and near to listen to the words of that grand old man.
The speech was fully up to the high standard of excellence, eloquence
and wisdom for which that venerable gentleman was noted.

Mr. Douglass had the same idea concerning the importance and value of
industrial education that I have tried to emphasize. He also held the
same views as I do in regard to the emigration of the Negro to Africa,
and was opposed to the scheme of diffusion and dissemination of the
Negro throughout the North and Northwest, believing as I do that the
Southern section of the country where the Negro now resides is the best
place for him. In fact, the more I have studied the life of Mr. Douglass
the more I have been surprised to find his far-reaching and generous
grasp of the whole condition and needs of the Negro race. Years before
Hampton or Tuskegee undertook industrial education, in reply to a
request for advice by Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe as to how she could
best use a certain sum of money which had been or was about to be placed
in her hands, Mr. Douglass wrote her in part as follows:

ROCHESTER, March 8, 1853.


     You kindly informed me when at your house a fortnight ago, that you
     designed to do something which should permanently contribute to the
     improvement and elevation of the free colored people in the United
     States. You especially expressed an interest in such of this class
     as had become free by their own exertions, and desired most of all
     to be of service to them. In what manner and by what means you can
     assist this class most successfully, is the subject upon which you
     have done me the honor to ask my opinion.

     ...I assert, then, that _poverty_, _ignorance_, and _degradation_
     are the combined evils; or in other words, these constitute the
     social disease of the free colored people in the United States.

     To deliver them from this triple malady is to improve and elevate
     them, by which I mean simply to put them on an equal footing with
     their white fellow-countrymen in the sacred right to “_Life_,
     _Liberty_ and the pursuit of happiness.” I am for no fancied or
     artificial elevation, but only ask fair play. How shall this be
     obtained? I answer, first, not by establishing for our use high
     schools and colleges. Such institutions are, in my judgment, beyond
     our immediate occasions and are not adapted to our present most
     pressing wants. High schools and colleges are excellent
     institutions, and will in due season be greatly subservient to our
     progress; but they are the result, as well as they are the demand,
     of a point of progress which we as a people have not yet attained.
     Accustomed as we have been to the rougher and harder modes of
     living, and of gaining a livelihood, we cannot and we ought not to
     hope that in a single leap from our low condition we can reach that
     of _Ministers_, _Lawyers_, _Doctors_, _Editors_, _Merchants_, etc.
     These will doubtless be attained by us; but this will only be when
     we have patiently and laboriously, and I may add, successfully,
     mastered and passed through the intermediate gradations of
     agriculture and the mechanic arts. Besides, there are (and perhaps
     there is a better reason for my views of the case) numerous
     institutions of learning in this country, already thrown open to
     colored youth. To my thinking, there are quite as many facilities
     now afforded to the colored people as they can spare the time, from
     the sterner duties of life, to judiciously appropriate. In their
     present condition of poverty they cannot spare their sons and
     daughters two or three years at boarding-schools or colleges, to
     say nothing of finding the means to sustain them while at such
     institutions. I take it, therefore, that we are well provided for
     in this respect; and that it may be fairly inferred from the fact,
     that the facilities for our education, so far as schools and
     colleges in the Free States are concerned, will increase quite in
     proportion with our future wants. Colleges have been opened to
     colored youth in this country during the last dozen years. Yet few,
     comparatively, have acquired a classical education; and even this
     few have found themselves educated far above a living condition,
     there being no methods by which they could turn their learning to
     account. Several of this latter class have entered the ministry;
     but you need not be told that an educated people is needed to
     sustain an educated ministry. There must be a certain amount of
     cultivation among the people, to sustain such a ministry. At
     present we have not that cultivation amongst us; and, therefore, we
     value in the preacher strong lungs rather than high learning. I do
     not say that educated ministers are not needed amongst us, far from
     it. I wish there were more of them; but to increase their number
     is _not_ the largest benefit you can bestow upon us.

     We have two or three colored lawyers in this country; and I rejoice
     in the fact; for it affords very gratifying evidence of our
     progress. Yet it must be confessed that, in point of success, our
     lawyers are as great failures as our ministers. White people will
     not employ them to the obvious embarrassment of their causes; the
     blacks, taking their cue from the whites, have not sufficient
     confidence in their abilities to employ them. Hence educated
     colored men, among the colored people, are at a very great
     discount. It would seem that education and emigration go together
     with us, for as soon as a man rises amongst us, capable, by his
     genius and learning, to do us great service, just so soon he finds
     that he can serve himself better by going elsewhere. In proof of
     this, I might instance the Russwurms, the Garnets, the Wards, the
     Crummells, and others, all men of superior ability and attainments,
     and capable of removing mountains of prejudice against their race,
     by their simple presence in the country; but these gentlemen,
     finding themselves embarrassed here by the peculiar disadvantages
     to which I have referred, disadvantages in part growing out of
     their education, being repelled by ignorance on one hand, and
     prejudice on the other, and having no taste to continue a contest
     against such odds, have sought more congenial climes, where they
     can live more peaceable and quiet lives. I regret their election,
     but I cannot blame them; for with an equal amount of education and
     the hard lot which was theirs, I might follow their example.

     There is little reason to hope that any considerable number of the
     free colored people will ever be induced to leave this country,
     even if such a thing were desirable. The black man (unlike the
     Indian) loves civilization. He does not make very great progress in
     civilization himself, but he likes to be in the midst of it, and
     prefers to share its most galling evils, to encountering barbarism.
     Then the love of country, the dread of isolation, the lack of
     adventurous spirit, and the thought of seeming to desert their
     “brethren in bonds,” are a powerful check upon all schemes of
     colonization, which look to the removal of the colored people,
     without the slaves. The truth is, dear madam, we are here, and here
     we are likely to remain. Individuals emigrate--nations never. We
     have grown up with this republic, and see nothing in her character,
     or even in the character of the American people, as yet, which
     compels the belief that we must leave the United States. If, then,
     we are to remain here, the question for the wise and good is
     precisely that which you have submitted to me--namely: What can be
     done to improve the condition of the free people of color in the
     United States? The plan which I humbly submit in answer to this
     inquiry (and the hope that it may find favor with you, and with the
     many friends of humanity who honor, love and co-operate with you)
     is the establishment in Rochester, N. Y., or in some other part of
     the United States equally favorable to such an enterprise, of an
     INDUSTRIAL COLLEGE in which shall be taught several important
     branches of the mechanic arts. This college shall be open to
     colored youth. I shall pass over the details of such an institution
     as I propose.... Never having had a day’s schooling in my life, I
     may not be expected to map out the details of a plan so
     comprehensive as that involved in the idea of a college. I repeat,
     then, that I leave the organization and administration of the
     institution to the superior wisdom of yourself and the friends who
     second your noble efforts. The argument in favor of an Industrial
     College (a college to be conducted by the best men, and the best
     workmen which the mechanic arts can afford; a college where colored
     youth can be instructed to use their hands, as well as their heads;
     where they can be put in possession of the means of getting a
     living wherever their lot in after life may be cast among civilized
     or uncivilized men; whether they choose to stay here, or prefer to
     return to the land of their fathers) is briefly this: Prejudice
     against the free colored people in the United States has shown
     itself nowhere so invincible as among mechanics. The farmer and the
     professional man cherish no feeling so bitter as that cherished by
     these. The latter would starve us out of the country entirely. At
     this moment I can more easily get my son into a lawyer’s office to
     study law than I can in a blacksmith’s shop to blow the bellows and
     to wield the sledge-hammer. Denied the means of learning useful
     trades, we are pressed into the narrowest limits to obtain a
     livelihood. In times past we have been the hewers of wood and
     drawers of water for American society, and we once enjoyed a
     monopoly in menial employments, but this is so no longer. Even
     these employments are rapidly passing away out of our hands. The
     fact is, (every day begins with the lesson, and ends with the
     lesson) that colored men must learn trades; must find new
     employments; new modes of usefulness to society, or that they must
     decay under the pressing wants to which their condition is rapidly
     bringing them.

     We must become mechanics; we must build as well as live in houses;
     we must make as well as use furniture; we must construct bridges as
     well as pass over them; before we can properly live or be respected
     by our fellow-men. We need mechanics as well as ministers. We need
     workers in iron, clay, and leather. We have orators, authors, and
     other professional men, but these reach only a certain class, and
     get respect for our race in certain select circles. To live here as
     we ought we must fasten ourselves to our countrymen through their
     every-day, cardinal wants. We must not only be able to black boots,
     but to make them. At present we are in the Northern states, unknown
     as mechanics. We give no proof of genius or skill at the county,
     state or national fairs. We are unknown at any of the great
     exhibitions of the industry of our fellow citizens, and being
     unknown, we are unconsidered.

     Wishing you, dear madam, renewed health, a pleasant passage and
     safe return to your native land, I am, most truly, your gratified


In October, 1893, I was married to Miss Maggie James Murray, who is a
graduate of Fisk University, and who came to Tuskegee in 1889 as a
teacher. She has proven in every way herself to be equally interested in
the advancement of Tuskegee as myself, and fully bears her share of the
responsibilities and labor, giving especial attention to the development
of the girls and to work among the women through her mothers’ meetings
in various parts of Alabama and elsewhere.



In the spring of 1895 I was rather pleasantly surprised by receiving an
invitation from the Fisk University Lecture Bureau, in Nashville,
Tennessee, to deliver a lecture before this Bureau. Mr. Edgar Webber was
the president and presided at the meeting when I spoke. This was among
the first addresses which I had delivered in the South that was fully
reported by the Southern press. A full description of the meeting was
given by the Nashville Daily American and the Nashville Banner, and
papers throughout many portions of the South contained editorials based
upon this address. It was also my first opportunity to speak before any
large number of educated and representative colored people, and I
accepted the invitation very reluctantly and went to Nashville with a
good deal of fear and trembling, but my effort seemed to have met with
the hearty approval of the greater portion of the audience.

As the address delivered at Fisk University on this occasion constitutes
in a large measure the basis for many of my other addresses and much of
the work I have tried to do, I give in full what the Nashville American

“An intelligent and appreciative audience composed of prominent colored
citizens, students and quite a large number of white people, crowded the
beautiful and commodious Fisk memorial chapel last night to hear Prof.
Booker T. Washington lecture on ‘Industrial Education.’ The lecture was
the first given under the auspices of the Student’s Lecture Bureau of
Fisk University, and was in every way a complete success. Mr. Washington
is a powerful and convincing speaker. His simplicity and utter
unselfishness, both in speech and action are impressive. He speaks to
the point. He does not waste words in painting beautiful pictures, but
deals mostly with plain facts. Nevertheless, he is witty and caused his
audience last night to laugh and applaud repeatedly the jokes and
striking points of his address.

“Booker T. Washington is doing a great work for his race and the South.
He has the right views.

“Prof. Washington was introduced by Edgar Webber, President of the
Lecture Bureau, and among other things he said:

“‘I am exceedingly anxious that every young man and woman should keep a
hopeful and cheerfull spirit as to the future. Despite all of our
disadvantages and hardships, ever since our forefathers set foot upon
the American soil as slaves, our pathway has been marked by progress.
Think of it: We went into slavery pagans; we came out Christians. We
went into slavery pieces of property; we came out American citizens. We
went into slavery without a language; we came out speaking the proud
Anglo-Saxon tongue. We went into slavery with slave chains clanking
about our wrists; we came out with the American ballot in our hands.

“‘I believe that we are to reach our highest development largely along
the lines of scientific and industrial education. For the last fifty
years education has tended in one direction, the cementing of mind to

“The speaker then said most people had the idea that industrial
education was opposed to literary training, opposed to the highest
development. He wanted to correct this error. He would choose the
college graduate as the subject to receive industrial education. The
more mind the subject had, the more satisfactory would be the results in
industrial education. It requires as strong a mind to build a Corliss
engine as it did to write a Greek grammar. Without industrial education,
the speaker feared they would be in danger of getting too many ‘smart
men’ scattered through the South. A young colored man in a certain town
had been pointed out to him as being exceedingly smart and he had heard
of him as being very accomplished before. Upon inquiry, however, he
learned the young man applied his knowledge and training to no earthly
good. He was just a smart man, that was all.’

“Continuing, the speaker said: ‘As a race there are two things we must
learn to do--one is to put brains into the common occupations of life,
and the other is to dignify common labor. If we do not we cannot hold
our own as a race. Ninety per cent. of any race on the globe earns its
living at the common occupations of life, and the Negro can be no
exception to this rule.’

“Prof. Washington then illustrated the importance of this by citing the
fact that while twenty years ago every large and paying barber shop over
the country was in the hands of black men, today in all the large cities
you cannot find a single large or first class barber shop operated by
colored men. The black men had had a monopoly of that industry, but had
gone on from day to day in the same old monotonous way without improving
anything about the industry. As a result the white man has taken it up,
put brains into it, watched all the fine points, improved and progressed
until his shop today was not known as a barber shop, but as a tonsorial
parlor, and he was no longer called a barber but a tonsorial artist.
Just so the old Negro man with his bucket of whitewash and his long
pole and brush had given way to the white man, who had applied his
knowledge of chemistry to mixing materials, his knowledge of physics to
the blending of colors, and his knowledge of geometry to figuring and
decorating the ceiling. But the white man was not called a whitewasher;
he was called a house decorater. He had put brains into his work, had
given dignity to it, and the old colored man with the long pole and
bucket was a thing of the past. The old Negro woman and her wash tub
were fast being supplanted by the white man with his steam laundry,
washing over a hundred shirts an hour. The many colored men who had
formerly earned a living by cutting the grass in the front yards and
keeping the flower beds in trim were no competitors for the white man,
who, bringing his knowledge of surveying and terracing and plotting
land, and his knowledge of botany and blending colors into active play,
had dignified and promoted the work. He was not called a grass cutter or
a yard cleaner, but a florist or a landscape gardener. The old black
‘mammy’ could never again enter the sick-room, where she was once known
as a peerless nurse. She had given place to the tidy little white woman,
with her neat white cap and apron, her knowledge of physiology,
bandaging, principles of diseases and the administration of medicine,
who had dignified, beautified and glorified the art of nursing and had
turned it into a profession. Just so, too, the black cook was going out
of date under the influence of the superior knowledge and art of cookery
possessed by white ‘chefs,’ who were educated men and commanded large

“‘Now,’ said the speaker, ‘what are we going to do? Are we going to put
brains into these common occupations? Are we going to apply the
knowledge we gain at school? Are we going to keep up with the world, or
are we going to let these occupations, which mean our very life blood,
slip from us? Education in itself is worthless; it is only as it is used
that it is of value. A man might as well fill his head with so much
cheap soup as with learning unless he is going to use his knowledge.’

“Prof. Washington said that he had been told that the young colored man
is cramped, and that after he gets his education there were few chances
to use it. He had little patience with such argument. The idea had been
too prevalent that the educated colored man must either teach, preach,
be a clerk or follow some profession. The educated colored man must,
more and more, go to the farms, into the trades, start brickyards,
saw-mills, factories, open coal mines; in short, apply their education
to conquering the forces of nature.

“One trouble with the average Negro, said the speaker, was he was always
hungry, and it was impossible to make progress along educational, moral
or religious lines while in that condition. It was a hard matter to make
a Christian out of a hungry man. It had often been contended that the
Negro needed no industrial education, because he already knew too well
how to work. There never was a greater mistake, and the speaker
compared, as an illustration, the white man with his up-to-date
cultivator to the ‘one gallused’ Negro with his old plow, patched
harness and stiff-jointed mule.

“The speaker was inclined to fear that the Negro race lay too much
stress on their grievances and not enough on their opportunities. While
many wrongs had been perpetrated on them in the South, still it was
recognized by all intelligent colored people that the black man has far
better opportunity to rise in his business in the South than in the
North. While he might not be permitted to ride in the first-class car in
the South, he was not allowed to help build that first-class car in the
North. He could sooner conquer Southern prejudice than Northern
competition. The speaker found that when it came to business, pure and
simple, the black man in the South was put on the same footing with the
white man, and here, said he, was the Negro’s great opportunity. The
black man could always find a purchaser for his wares among the whites.

“Prof. Washington concluded with an appeal to his race to use the
opportunities that are right about them and thus grow independent.

“He has made a lasting impression on the minds of all who heard him. If
he continues his wonderful career he will be classed with Douglass as a
benefactor to the Negro race.”

The Memphis Commercial-Appeal a few days after this address was
delivered contained an editorial concerning it. I quote that in full
because it is among the first editorials from a Southern newspaper
concerning my addresses and the work at Tuskegee, and also because it
shows that the efforts put forth at Tuskegee in behalf of industrial
education for the Negro have had the effect of awakening not only the
Negroes but even the Southern whites to the necessity of more education
of this kind. The editorial is as follows:

“Prof. Booker T. Washington, a short time since, delivered an address
before the students of Fisk University, in which he advocated industrial
education for the Negro race. The address has received considerable
attention and evoked many favorable comments, and the theme is one
worthy of far more consideration than it has ever received in the
South. Our interest in the matter, however, does not particularly
concern its application to the Negro. We are chiefly interested for the
Southern whites and the South itself. The South is just about to enter
an era of industrial development that will be almost without parallel.
Its progress will be all the more rapid because of the long delay that
has allowed other fields to be exhausted before the vast wealth of our
natural resources began to be developed. The one great drawback to the
development of the south has been the lack of skilled and educated
labor, and in the great industrial awakening that is upon us the skill
to manage and operate our mills and factories and convert our abundant
crude material into finished products, must come from the North, unless
something is done to educate our own people in the industrial arts. The
opening of the eyes of the world to the vast natural wealth of the South
will then simply mean that strangers will come in and dispossess our own
people of their vintage and turn to their own account the opportunities
we have never learned to employ. We must awake to the fact that we are
face to face with a new civilization. The old order changeth giving
place to the new. We must adjust ourselves to the changed conditions, or
be left behind in the march of progress. We must catch the spirit of
modern progress and achievement or be rooted out by those that have.
The great men of this generation are not statesmen, lawyers, orators or
poets. The richest rewards of intellectual effort go to those who know
how to bring the forces of nature to aid the processes of production; in
the natural era that is now upon us this will be especially true of the
South. The men who have the capacity for taking active and effective
part in the development of our resources, for the management of mills
and factories, for contributing skilled labor to the fashioning of crude
material into finished product, these are the men who will reap the
mighty harvest and the men who will possess and rule our country. The
same is true of the farm as well as the factory. The crude and unskilled
methods of Southern agriculture must give way to more scientific
tillage. If our own farmers cannot learn the lesson they must be
displaced by those that know it.

“All the Southern States are doing much in the way of educating the
people; but without disparaging the value of the learning obtained in
our schools, how much of it goes to prepare the young for grappling with
the conditions that surround them or will help to make them masters or
successful workers in the great field of modern progress? Look at the
vast wealth of undeveloped resources that encompasses almost every
Southern community. Look at the fertile fields or the worn lands still
in bondage to ignorant labor and an ante-bellum agricultural system.
Will a knowledge of grammar or of Greek convert our coal, our iron and
our timber into wealth, or make our fields bountiful with the harvest?
The plain truth is that much of the learning obtained in our schools is
wasted erudition. The young are not only not educated with reference to
the conditions of the age, but their minds are carefully and
systematically trained in other directions. They see no triumphs of
intellect except in politics or the ‘learned professions.’ Their
imaginations are inflamed by stories of how men from humble beginnings
became great statesmen, great orators and great lawyers. The result is
that thousands miserably fail because their little book learning has
diverted them from occupations in which they might have achieved
honorable success and even distinction. These men who might have become
machinists become pettifogging lawyers, quack doctors or small-bore
politicians. Industrial education is the great need of the South,
because industrial skill and educated labor are to be the factors of its
future progress, and these are to reap the richest rewards it will have
to bestow. If our own children cannot be prepared to take their part in
the great work, strangers will reap and enjoy the harvest.”

I wish to add here that there are few instances of a member of my race
betraying a specific trust. One of the best illustrations of this which
I know of, is in the case of an ex-slave from Virginia, whom I met not
long ago in a little town in the state of Ohio. I found that this man
had made a contract with his master, two or three years previous to the
Emancipation Proclamation, to the effect that the slave was to buy
himself, by paying so much per year for his body; and while he was
paying for himself, he was to be permitted to labor where and for whom
he pleased. Finding that he could secure better wages in Ohio, he went
there. When freedom came, he was still in debt to his master some three
hundred dollars. Notwithstanding that the Emancipation Proclamation
freed him from any obligation to his master, this black man walked the
greater portion of the distance back to where his old master lived in
Virginia, and placed the last dollar, with interest, in his hands. In
talking to me about this, the man told me that he knew he did not have
to pay the debt, but he had given his word to his master, and his word
he had never broken. He felt that he could not enjoy his freedom till he
had fulfilled his promise.



So much has been said and written concerning the address which I
delivered at the opening of the Atlanta Exposition in September, 1895,
that it may not be out of place for me to explain in some detail how and
why I received the invitation to deliver this address.

In the spring of 1895 I received a telegram at Tuskegee from prominent
citizens in Atlanta asking me to accompany a committee composed of
Atlanta people,--all white, I think, except Bishop Gaines and Bishop
Grant,--to Washington to appear before the Committee on Appropriations
for the purpose of inducing Congress to make an appropriation to help
forward the Exposition which the citizens of Atlanta were at that time
planning to hold. I accepted this invitation and went to Washington with
the committee. A number of the white people in the delegation spoke,
among them the Mayor and other officials of Atlanta, and then Bishop
Gaines and Bishop Grant were called upon. My name was last, I think, on
the list of speakers. I had never before appeared before such a
committee or made any address in the capitol of the Nation, and I had
many misgivings as to what I should say and the impression I would make.
While I cannot recall my speech, I remember that I tried to impress upon
the Committee with all the earnestness and plainness of language that I
could that if Congress wanted to help the South do something that would
rid it of the race problem and make friends between the two races it
should in every way encourage the material and intellectual growth of
both races, and that the Atlanta Exposition would present an opportunity
for both races to show what they had done in the way of development
since freedom, and would at the same time prove a great encouragement to
both races to make still greater progress. I tried to emphasize the fact
that political agitation alone would not save the Negro, that back of
politics he must have industry, thrift, intelligence and property; that
no race without these elements of strength could permanently succeed and
gain the respect of its fellow citizens, and that the time had now come
when Congress had an opportunity to do something for the Negro and the
South that would prove of real and lasting benefit, and that I should be
greatly disappointed if it did not take advantage of the opportunity. I
spoke for fifteen or twenty minutes and was very much surprised at the
close of my address to receive the hearty congratulations and thanks of
all the members of the Atlanta delegation, as well as the members of the
Committee on Appropriations. I will not prolong the story, except to add
that the Committee did pass the resolution unanimously, agreeing to
report a bill to Congress in the interest of the Atlanta Exposition. Our
work, however, did not end with making these addresses before the
Committee. We remained in Washington several days. The Atlanta committee
had meetings every day and the colored members were invited to these,
and were given a free opportunity to express their views. Certain
members of Congress were parceled out to each member of the Atlanta
committee to see, and we spent some time in convincing as many
individual members of Congress as possible of the justness of Atlanta’s
claim. We called in a body upon Speaker Thomas B. Reed. This was the
first time I had ever had the pleasure of shaking hands with this great
American; since then I have come to know him well and am greatly
indebted to him for many kindnesses. After we had spent some time in
Washington in hard effort in the interest of the bill, it was called up
in Congress and was passed with very little opposition. From the moment
that the bill passed Congress the success of the Atlanta Exposition was

Soon after we made this trip to Washington, the directors of the Atlanta
Exposition decided that it was the proper thing to give the colored
people of the country every opportunity possible to show, by a separate
exhibit, to what progress they had attained since their freedom. To this
end the directors decided to erect a large and commodious building to be
known as the Negro Building. This building in size, architectural beauty
and general finish was fully equal to the other buildings on the
grounds. It was entirely constructed by colored labor and was filled
with the products of Negro skill, brains, and handicraft.

After it was decided to have a separate Negro exhibit it became quite a
question as to the best manner of securing a representative and large
exhibit from the race. I, in connection with prominent colored citizens
of Georgia, was consulted on a good many occasions by the directors of
the exposition. It was finally decided to appoint a Negro commissioner
to represent each Southern State, who should have charge of collecting
and installing the exhibit from his state. After these state
commissioners were appointed, a meeting of them was called in Atlanta
for the purpose of organization and forming plans to further the Negro
exhibit. At the joint meeting of these State Commissioners, it was
decided that a Chief Commissioner to have the general supervision of
all the exhibits should be selected. A good many people insisted that I
should accept the position of Chief Commissioner. I declined to permit
my name to be used for this purpose, because my duties at Tuskegee would
not permit me to give the time and thought to it that the position
demanded. I did, however, accept the position of Commissioner for the
State of Alabama. After a good deal of discussion and some disagreement,
Mr. I. Garland Penn, of Lynchburg, Virginia, was selected by the
Commissioners and this choice was made unanimous. The success of the
Negro exhibit was in a very large measure due to the energy and fidelity
of Mr. Penn. No one who voted for him, I think, ever had reason to
regret doing so. Most of the states, especially the Southern States,
including the District of Columbia, had very creditable
exhibits--exhibits that in many cases surprised not only the Negro race
but the white people. I think the class of people who were most
surprised when they went into the Negro Building were some of the
Southern white people who, while they had known the Negro as a field
hand, as a servant, and seen him on the streets, had not been in any
large degree into his homes and school-houses. At this Exposition, they
had, I believe, the first general opportunity to see for themselves the
real progress that the Negro was making in the most vital things of
life, and it was very interesting as well as satisfactory to hear their
constant exclamations of surprise and gratification as they walked
through the Negro Building.

The Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute made a special effort to
prepare a large and creditable exhibit, and in this the institution was
most successful. The Tuskegee exhibit consisted of all forms of
agricultural products, various articles made in the shops, such as
two-horse wagons, one-horse wagons, single and double carriages,
harness, shoes, tinware, products from the sewing rooms, laundry,
printing office, and academic work, in fact all of the twenty-six
industries in operation at Tuskegee were well and creditably
represented. With the exception of the exhibit from the Hampton
Institute, Hampton, Va., Tuskegee had the largest exhibit in the Negro

As the day for the opening of the Exposition began to draw near the
Board of Directors began to prepare their programme for the opening day.
A great many suggestions were made as to the kind of exercises that
should be held on that day and as to the names of the speakers to take
part. As the discussion went on from day to day, Mr. I. Garland Penn was
bold enough to suggest to the Commissioners that, as the Negroes were
taking such a prominent part in trying to make the Exposition a
success, it was due them that they should have some representation on
the programme on the opening day. This suggestion by Mr. Penn was
discussed for several days by the Board of Directors, none, however,
seeming to have any great objection to it,--the only objection being
that they feared it might bring upon the Exposition hurtful criticism.
The Board, however, finally voted to ask some Negro to deliver an
address at the opening of the Exposition. Several names were suggested,
but in some manner, largely I think due to Mr. Penn, my name was
selected by the Board, and in due time I received an official
communication from the President of the Exposition inviting me to
deliver this address. It was the middle of August when I received this
invitation. The Exposition was to open on the 18th of September. The
papers throughout the country began at once discussing the action of the
Board of Directors in inviting a Negro to speak, most of the newspaper
comments, however, being favorable.

The delicacy and responsibility of my position in this matter can be
appreciated when it is known that this was the first time in the history
of the South that a Negro had been invited to take part on a programme
with white Southern people on any important and national occasion. Our
race should not neglect to give due credit to the courage that these
Atlanta men displayed in extending this invitation; but the directors
had told the Negroes from the beginning that they would give them
fullest and freest opportunity to represent themselves in a creditable
manner at every stage of the progress of the Exposition, and from the
first day to the last this promise was kept.

The invitation to deliver this address came at a time when I am very
busy every year preparing for the opening of the new school year at
Tuskegee, and this made it rather difficult for me to find time in which
to concentrate my thoughts upon the proper preparation of an important
address, but the great responsibility which had been entrusted to me
weighed very heavily on me from day to day. I knew that what I said
would be listened to by Southern white people, by people of my own race
and by Northern white people. I was determined from the first not to say
anything that would give undue offense to the South and thus prevent it
from thus honoring another Negro in the future. And at the same time I
was equally determined to be true to the North and to the interests of
my own race. As the 18th of September drew nearer the heavier my heart
became and the more I felt that my address would prove a disappointment
and a failure. I prepared myself, however, as best I could. After
preparing the address I went through it carefully, as I usually do with
important utterances, with Mrs. Washington, and she approved of what I
intended to say. On the 16th of September, the day before I started for
Atlanta, as several of the teachers had expressed a desire to hear my
address, I consented to read it to them in a body. When I had done so
and heard their criticisms I felt more encouraged, as most of them
seemed to be very much pleased with it.

On the morning of September 17, 1895, together with Mrs. Washington,
Portia, Baker and Davidson, my children, I started for Atlanta. On the
way to the depot from the school, in passing through Tuskegee, I
happened to meet a white farmer who lived some distance in the country,
and he in a rather joking manner said to me, “Washington, you have
spoken with success before Northern white audiences, and before Negroes
in the South, but in Atlanta you will have to speak before Northern
white people, Southern white people and Negroes altogether. I fear they
have got you into a pretty tight place.” This farmer diagnosed the
situation most accurately, but his words did not add to my comfort at
that time. On the way to Atlanta I was constantly surprised by having
both colored and white people come to the cars, stare at me and point me
out and discuss in my hearing what was to take place the next day. In
Atlanta we were met by a committee of colored citizens. The first thing
I heard when I stepped from the cars in Atlanta was this remark by an
old colored man near by: “That’s the man that’s gwine to make that big
speech out at the Exposition to-morrow.” We were taken to our boarding
place by the committee and remained there until the next morning.
Atlanta was literally packed at that time with people from all parts of
the country, including many military and other organizations. The
afternoon papers contained in large head lines a forecast of the next
day’s proceedings. All of this tended to add to the burden that was
pressing heavily upon me.

On the morning of the day that the Exposition opened, a committee of
colored citizens called at my boarding place to escort me to the point
where I was to take my place in the procession, which was to march to
the Exposition grounds. In this same procession was Bishop W. J. Gaines,
Rev. H. H. Proctor and other prominent colored citizens of Atlanta. What
also added to the interest of this procession was the appearance of
several colored military organizations which marched in the same
procession with the white organizations. It was very noticeable that in
the arrangement of the line of march the white officers who had control
of the procession seemed to go out of their way to see that all of the
colored people in the procession were properly placed and properly
treated. The march through the streets out to the Exposition grounds
occupied two or three hours, and, as the sun was shining disagreeably
hot, when I got to the Exposition I felt rather fagged out, and very
much feared that my address was going to prove a complete failure.

As I now recall, the only colored persons who had seats on the platform
were Mr. I. Garland Penn, the Negro Commissioner, and myself, though of
course there were hundreds of colored people in the audience. When I
took my place on the platform the colored portion of the audience
cheered vigorously, and there were faint cheers from some of the white
people. Ex-Governor Bullock, of Atlanta, presided at the opening
exercises. The audience room, which was very large and well suited for
public speaking, was packed with humanity from bottom to top, and
thousands were on the outside who could not get in.

A white gentleman who resides in the North and is one of my best
friends, happened to be in Atlanta on the day that the Exposition
opened. He was so nervous about the kind of reception I would receive at
the hands of the audience and the effect my speech would produce that he
could not bear to go into the building, but walked around the building
on the outside until the exercises were over.

Gilmore’s famous band played several stirring and patriotic airs, after
which Gov. Bullock arose and delivered a short opening address and then
the speaking occurred in the following order:

Opening address, Hon. Chas. A. Collier, President International Cotton
States Exposition Company; address on behalf of the Woman’s Department,
Mrs. Joseph Thompson, President; address tendering Negro exhibit, Booker
T. Washington; address on behalf of the State, His Excellency, Governor
Atkinson; address on behalf of the city, Hon. Porter King; oration of
the day, Judge Emory Speer.

After his introduction, when I arose to speak, there was considerable
cheering in the audience, especially from the section of the room
occupied by my own people. The sun was shining brightly in my face and I
had to move about a good deal on the platform so as to reach a position
that would enable me to escape the rays of the sun. I think the thing at
the present time that I am most conscious of is that I saw thousands of
eyes looking intently into my face. From the moment I was introduced
until the end of my address I seemed to have entirely forgotten myself.
The following is the address which I delivered:

“_Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Board of
Directors and Citizens:_

“One third of the population of the South is of the Negro race. No
enterprise seeking the material, civil, or moral welfare of this section
can disregard this element of our population and reach the highest
success. I but convey to you, Mr. President and Directors, the sentiment
of the masses of my race when I say that in no way have the value and
manhood of the American Negro been more fittingly and generously
recognized than by the managers of this magnificent Exposition at every
stage of its progress. It is a recognition that will do more to cement
the friendship of the two races than any occurrence since the dawn of
our freedom.

“Not only this, but the opportunity here afforded will awaken among us a
new era of industrial progress. Ignorant and inexperienced, it is not
strange that in the first years of our new life we began at the top
instead of at the bottom; that a seat in Congress or the State
Legislature was more sought than real estate or industrial skill; that
the political convention or stump speaking had more attractions than
starting a dairy farm or truck garden.

“A ship lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel.
From the mast of the unfortunate vessel was seen a signal: ‘Water,
water; we die of thirst!’ The answer from the friendly vessel at once
came back: ‘Cast down your bucket where you are.’ A second time the
signal, ‘Water, water; send us water!’ ran up from the distressed
vessel, and was answered: ‘Cast down your bucket where you are.’ And a
third and fourth signal for water was answered: ‘Cast down your bucket
where you are.’ The captain of the distressed vessel, at last heeding
the injunction, cast down his bucket, and it came up full of fresh,
sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon River. To those of my race
who depend on bettering their condition in a foreign land, or who
underestimate the importance of cultivating friendly relations with the
Southern white man, who is their next door neighbor, I would say: ‘Cast
down your bucket where you are’--cast it down in making friends in every
manly way of the people of all races by whom we are surrounded.

“Cast it down in agriculture, mechanics, in commerce, in domestic
service, and in the professions. And in this connection it is well to
bear in mind that whatever other sins the South may be called to bear,
when it comes to business, pure and simple, it is in the South that the
Negro is given a man’s chance in the commercial world, and in nothing is
this Exposition more eloquent than in emphasizing this chance. Our
greatest danger is, that in the great leap from slavery to freedom we
may overlook the fact that the masses of us are to live by the
productions of our hands, and fail to keep in mind that we shall prosper
in proportion as we learn to dignify and glorify common labor, and put
brains and skill into the common occupations of life; shall prosper in
proportion as we learn to draw the line between the superficial and the
substantial, the ornamental gewgaws of life and the useful. No race can
prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field
as in writing a poem. It is at the bottom of life we must begin, and not
at the top. Nor should we permit our grievances to overshadow our

“To those of the white race who look to the incoming of those of foreign
birth and strange tongue and habits for the prosperity of the South,
were I permitted I would repeat what I say to my own race, ‘Cast down
your bucket where you are.’ Cast it down among the 8,000,000 Negroes
whose habits you know, whose fidelity and love you have tested in days
when to have proved treacherous meant the ruin of your firesides. Cast
down your bucket among these people who have, without strikes and labor
wars, tilled your fields, cleared your forests, builded your railroads
and cities, and brought forth treasures from the bowels of the earth,
and helped make possible this magnificent representation of the progress
of the South. Casting down your bucket among my people, helping and
encouraging them as you are doing on these grounds, and, with education
of head, hand and heart, you will find that they will buy your surplus
land, make blossom the waste places in your fields, and run your
factories. While doing this, you can be sure in the future, as in the
past, that you and your families will be surrounded by the most patient,
faithful, law-abiding, and unresentful people that the world has seen.
As we have proved our loyalty to you in the past, in nursing your
children, watching by the sick bed of your mothers and fathers, and
often following them with tear-dimmed eyes to their graves, so in the
future, in our humble way, we shall stand by you with a devotion that no
foreigner can approach, ready to lay down our lives, if need be, in
defense of yours, interlacing our industrial, commercial, civil, and
religious life with yours in a way that shall make the interests of both
races one. In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as
the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual

“There is no defense or security for any of us except in the highest
intelligence and development of all. If anywhere there are efforts
tending to curtail the fullest growth of the Negro, let these efforts be
turned into stimulating, encouraging, and making him the most useful and
intelligent citizen. Effort or means so invested will pay a thousand per
cent interest. These efforts will be twice blessed--‘blessing him that
gives and him that takes.’

“There is no escape through law of man or God from the inevitable:

    ‘The laws of changeless justice bind
       Oppressor with oppressed;
     And close as sin and suffering joined
       We march to fate abreast.’

“Nearly sixteen millions of hands will aid you in pulling the load
upwards, or they will pull against you the load downwards. We shall
constitute one-third and more of the ignorance and crime of the South,
or one-third its intelligence and progress; we shall contribute
one-third to the business and industrial prosperity of the South, or we
shall prove a veritable body of death, stagnating, depressing, retarding
every effort to advance the body politic.

“Gentlemen of the Exposition, as we present to you our humble effort at
an exhibition of our progress, you must not expect overmuch. Starting
thirty years ago with ownership here and there in a few quilts and
pumpkins and chickens (gathered from miscellaneous sources), remember
the path that has led from these to the invention and production of
agricultural implements, buggies, steam engines, newspapers, books,
statuary, carving, paintings, the management of drug stores and banks,
has not been trodden without contact with thorns and thistles. While we
take pride in what we exhibit as a result of our independent efforts, we
do not for a moment forget that our part in this exhibition would fall
far short of your expectations but for the constant help that has come
to our educational life, not only from the Southern States, but
especially from Northern philanthropists, who have made their gifts a
constant stream of blessing and encouragement.

“The wisest among my race understand that the agitation of questions of
social equality is the extremest folly, and that progress in the
enjoyment of all the privileges that will come to us must be the result
of severe and constant struggle rather than of artificial forcing. No
race that has anything to contribute to the markets of the world is long
in any degree ostracized. It is important and right that all privileges
of the law be ours, but it is vastly more important that we be prepared
for the exercise of those privileges. The opportunity to earn a dollar
in a factory just now is worth infinitely more than the opportunity to
spend a dollar in an opera house.

“In conclusion, may I repeat that nothing in thirty years has given us
more hope and encouragement, and drawn us so near to you of the white
race, as this opportunity offered by the Exposition; and here bending,
as it were, over the altar that represents the results of the struggles
of your race and mine, both starting practically empty-handed three
decades ago, I pledge that, in your effort to work out the great and
intricate problem which God has laid at the doors of the South, you
shall have at all times the patient, sympathetic help of my race; only
let this be constantly in mind that, while from representations in these
buildings of the product of field, of forest, of mine, of factory,
letters, and art, much good will come, yet far above and beyond material
benefits will be that higher good, that let us pray God will come, in a
blotting out of sectional differences and racial animosities and
suspicions, in a determination to administer absolute justice, in a
willing obedience among all classes to the mandates of law. This,
coupled with our material prosperity, will bring into our beloved South
a new heaven and a new earth.”

Some days after my speech in Atlanta at the opening of the Exposition I
received the following letter from Dr. Gilman, President of Johns
Hopkins University, who was chairman of the committee of jurors in
connection with the Exposition:


“BALTIMORE, Sept. 30, 1895.

     “_President’s Office_.


     “Would it be agreeable to you to be one of the Judges of Award in
     the Department of Education at Atlanta? If so, I shall be glad to
     place your name upon the list.

Yours very truly,

“A line by telegraph will be welcomed.”

I was more surprised to receive this invitation to act on the board of
jurors than to receive the invitation to speak at the opening of the
Exposition, for it became a part of my duty as one of the jurors not
only to pass on the exhibits from Negro schools but those from the white
schools as well throughout the country. I accepted this position and
spent a month in Atlanta in connection with my duties as one of the
jurors. The board was a large one, consisting in all of sixty members,
including such well known persons as the following: Dr. D. C. Gilman, of
Johns Hopkins University; Dr. I. S. Hopkins, secretary of the jury and
president of the Georgia School of Technology; General Henry Abbott,
United States engineer; President C. K. Adams, president of the
University of Wisconsin; Chancellor of the University of St. Louis;
President Charles W. Dabney, of the University of Virginia; Miss Grace
Dodge, of New York; Dr. Charles Mohr, an expert in forestry, of Mobile;
Mr. Gofford Pinchot, Biltmore, N. C.; Professor Ira Remsen, editor of
the American Journal of Chemistry; Professor Eugene A. Smith, state
geologist of Alabama; Professor C. P. Vanderford, of the Univerity of
Tennessee, and others equally prominent.

When the section of jurors on education met for organization Mr. Thomas
Nelson Page, the Southern author, who was a member of the board, made a
motion that I be made secretary of the section on education. This motion
was carried without a dissenting vote. Nearly half of the board of
jurors were Southern men. We were quite intimately associated together
for a month, and during this time our association was most pleasant and
cordial in every respect. In performing my duty in connection with the
inspection of the exhibits from the various white institutions, in each
instance I was treated with the greatest respect. At the close of our
labors a large photograph of the group of jurors was taken. We parted
from each other with the greatest regret.

In making up their awards the board of jurors awarded but three gold
medals to institutions of learning, and the Tuskegee school got one of
the three. As I was a member of the board I insisted that Tuskegee
should not be permitted to compete for a medal, but I was overruled in
this, and the medal given, regardless of my protests. The exhibit which
the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute made, except that from the
Hampton Institute, was the largest and most comprehensive in the Negro

Without referring to the many newspaper comments, it will be wisest to
let the newspaper war correspondent, who was at that time in Atlanta as
a representative of the New York World, relate the impression my speech
seemed to make. He wrote the following for the World:

“Mrs. Thompson, head of the Women’s Department, had scarcely taken her
seat, when all eyes were turned on a tall, tawny Negro sitting in the
front row on the platform. It was Prof. Booker T. Washington, president
of the Tuskegee (Ala.) Normal and Industrial Institute, who must rank
from this time forth as the foremost man of his race in America.
Gilmore’s band played the ‘Star Spangled Banner,’ and the audience
cheered. The tune was changed to ‘Dixie,’ and the audience roared with
shrill ki-yi’s. Again the music changed to ‘Yankee Doodle,’ and the
clamor lessened.

“All this time the eyes of thousands looked straight at the Negro
orator. A strange thing was to happen. A black man was to speak for his
people with none to interrupt him. As Prof. Washington strode toward the
edge of the stage, the low, descending sun shot fiery rays through the
window into his face. A great shout greeted him. He turned his head to
avoid the blinding light, and moved about the platform for relief. Then
he turned his powerful countenance to the sun, without a blink of the
eyelids, and began to talk.

“There was a remarkable figure, tall, bony, straight as a Sioux chief,
high forehead, straight nose, heavy jaws, and strong, determined mouth,
with big white teeth, piercing eyes, and a determined manner. The sinews
stood out on his bronzed neck, and his muscular right arm swung high in
the air, with a lead pencil grasped in the clenched brown fist. His big
feet were planted squarely, with the heels together and the toes turned
out. His voice rang out clear and true, and he paused impressively as he
made each point. Within ten minutes the multitude was in an uproar of
enthusiasm, handkerchiefs waved, canes flourished, hats tossed in the
air. The fairest women in Georgia stood up and cheered. It was as if the
orator had bewitched them.

“And when he held his dusky hand high above his head, with his fingers
stretched wide apart, and said to the white people of the South on
behalf of his race, ‘In all things that are purely social we can be as
separate as the fingers; yet one as the hand in all things essential to
social progress,’ the great wave of sound dashed itself against the
walls, and the whole audience was on its feet in a delirium of applause,
and I thought at that moment of the night when Henry Grady stood among
the curling wreaths of tobacco smoke in Delmonico’s banquet hall and
said, ‘I am a Cavalier among Roundheads.’

“I have heard the great orators of many countries, but not even
Gladstone himself could have pleaded a cause with more consummate power
than this angular Negro standing in a nimbus of sunshine, surrounded by
the men who once fought to keep his race in bondage. The roar might
swell ever so high, but the expression of his face never changed.

“A ragged, ebony giant, squatted on the floor in one of the aisles,
watched the orator with burning eyes and tremulous face until the
supreme outburst of applause came, then the tears ran down his face.
Most of the Negroes in the audience were crying, perhaps without
knowing just why.

“At the close of the speech Gov. Bullock rushed across the platform and
seized the orator’s hand. Another shout greeted this demonstration, and
for a few moments the two men stood facing each other, hand in hand.”

The papers all over the United States the next day after the speech, and
for months afterwards, were filled with the most complimentary accounts
of and comments upon this speech. I will quote also a letter written by
the Hon. Clark Howell to the New York World and an editorial from the
Boston Transcript, also two articles from colored papers, as fair
samples of the expressions that were made throughout the country. The
letter of Mr. Howell was as follows:

ATLANTA, GA., September 19.

“_To the Editor of the World_:

“I do not exaggerate when I say that Prof. Booker T. Washington’s
address yesterday was one of the most notable speeches, both as to
character and the warmth of its reception, ever delivered to a Southern
audience. It was an epoch-making talk, and marks distinctly a turning
point in the progress of the Negro race, and its effect in bringing
about a perfect understanding between whites and blacks of the South
will be the immediate. The address was a revelation. It was the first
time that a Negro orator had appeared on a similar occasion before a
Southern audience.

“The propriety of inviting a representative of the Negro race to
participate in the opening exercises was fully discussed a month ago,
when the opening program was being arranged. Some opposition was
manifested on account of the fear that public sentiment was not prepared
for such an advanced step. The invitation, however, was extended by a
vote of the Board of Directors, and the cordial greeting which the
audience gave Washington’s address shows that the board made no mistake.
There was not a line in the address which would have been changed by the
most sensitive of those who thought the invitation to be imprudent. The
whole speech is a platform on which the whites and the blacks can stand
with full justice to each race.

“The speech is a full vindication from the mouth of a representative
Negro of the doctrine so eloquently advanced by Grady and those who have
agreed with him that it is to the South that the Negro must turn for his
best friend, and that his welfare is so closely identified with the
progress of the white people of the South that each race is mutually
dependent upon the other, and that the so-called ‘race problem’ must be
solved in the development of the natural relations growing out of the
association between the whites and blacks of the South.

“The question of social equality is eliminated as a factor in the
development of the problem, and the situation is aptly expressed by
Washington in the statement that ‘in all things that are purely social
we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things
essential to mutual progress.’

“The speech will do good, and the unanimous approval with which it has
been received demonstrates the fact that it has already done good.

Editor of the ‘Constitution.’”

The Boston Transcript’s editorial was as follows:

“The speech of Mr. Washington at the Atlanta Exposition this week seems
to have dwarfed all the other proceedings and the exhibition itself. The
crowd that listened to it were carried away with enthusiasm, and the
sensation it has caused in the press has rarely been equaled. The
Southern papers themselves pronounce it epoch-making, and call it the
beginning of the end of the war between the races. All this is no great
surprise to those who have kept themselves informed upon the development
of industrial and other education for Negroes in the Negro-populated
districts of the country. Intelligent and sympathetic observers have
long been aware that it was through the silent and serious and steady
work of the school for the Negroes that the solution of the race problem
was coming, and not through the passions of politics, stirred and kept
hot by tricky professional party managers for use in presidential
elections. Mr. Washington is no different from what he has been: he is
saying no more than he and his backers have been saying for years. But
he is a great revelation to those who have hitherto regarded the Negro
question as one simply calling for slang-whanging partisan and sectional
abuse instead of philosophy, patience and study.”

The editor of the Texas Freeman wrote as follows:

“The address made by Booker T. Washington, Principal of the Tuskegee
Normal and Industrial Institute, at the formal opening of the Cotton
States and International Exposition, stamps him as a most worthy
representative of a large part of the country’s citizenship. Without
resort to hyperbolic exaggeration, it is but simple justice to call the
address great. It was great. Great, in that it exhibited the speaker’s
qualities of head and heart; great, that he could and did
discriminatingly recognize conditions as they affected his people, and
greater still in the absolute modesty, self-respect and dignity with
which he presented a platform upon which Clark Howell, of the Atlanta
Constitution, says, ‘both races, blacks and whites, can stand with full
justice to each.’ No better selection, among the whole number of the
race’s most prominent men, could have been made than Prof. Washington.”

The Richmond Planet delivered itself as follows:

“The speech of Prof. Booker T. Washington at the opening of the Atlanta
Exposition was a magnificent effort and places him in the forefront of
the representatives of our race in this country. Calm, dispassionate,
logical, winning, it captivated the vast assemblage who heard it and
caused a re-echoing sound of approval on the part of those who caught
the rounded sentences and rhetorical periods as they were flashed over
the wires.

“Reserved in his manner, earnest in the delivery, realizing fully the
heavy responsibility resting upon him, he performed that duty with an
ease that was magnetic and grace that was divine.”

As soon as I had finished my address, the first thing that I remember is
that Gov. Bullock rushed across the stage and took me by the hand.
Others sitting on the platform did the same thing. Following my address
came a brilliant and eloquent speech from Judge Emory Speer. At the
close of his address the President of the United States, Hon. Grover
Cleveland, touched a button in Washington, which started the machinery
and the Exposition was declared open. By the time the exercises in the
Auditorium were finished it was quite late in the afternoon and, in
fact, dark. A large number of people, both Northern and Southern,
together with numbers of colored people, congratulated me most heartily
on my address; in fact, I found it quite difficult to get out of the
building or away from the Exposition grounds. As soon as possible I left
the Exposition and went to my boarding place.

After the opening exercises a reception was tendered me by some of the
colored citizens of Atlanta. I did not in any large measure appreciate
the excitement and deep impression that my address seemed to create
until the next morning about ten o’clock when I went to the city on some
errand. As soon as I entered the business portion of Atlanta I was
surprised to find myself pointed out, and I was very soon surrounded by
a crowd of people who were bent on shaking my hand and congratulating
me; in fact, this was kept up on every street where I went, until I
found it impossible to move with any degree of comfort about the
streets, and so I returned to my boarding place. In a few hours I began
receiving telegrams and letters from all parts of the country.

One thing I always thought was rather strange in connection with this
address and that is that no officer connected with the Exposition ever
asked me what ground I was going to cover in my speech, or ever
suggested that I should be careful not to say anything which would harm
the relations between the races and thus cripple the success of the
Exposition. It would, of course, have been very easy for me to have
uttered a single sentence which would have thrown a wet blanket over the
prospects of the Exposition and especially the harmonious relations of
the races.

The next morning I took the train for Tuskegee. At the depot in Atlanta
and at every station between Atlanta and Tuskegee I found a crowd of
people anxious to shake hands with me and who were pointed out to me
making remarks about my address.

Some days after I returned to Tuskegee, I sent the President of the
United States, Hon. Grover Cleveland, a copy of the address I delivered
at Atlanta, and was very much surprised as well as gratified to receive
from him a letter which I here insert:

BUZZARD’S BAY, Mass., Oct. 6, 1895.


     MY DEAR SIR:--I thank you for sending me a copy of your address
     delivered at the Atlanta Exposition.

     I thank you with much enthusiasm for making the address. I have
     read it with intense interest, and I think the Exposition would be
     fully justified if it did not do more than furnish the opportunity
     for its delivery. Your words cannot fail to delight and encourage
     all who wish well for your race; and if our colored fellow citizens
     do not from your utterances gather new hope and form new
     determinations to gain every valuable advantage offered them by
     their citizenship, it will be strange indeed. Yours very truly,


All of it was written with his own hand. From that time until the
present, Mr. Cleveland has taken the deepest interest in Tuskegee and
has been among my warmest and most helpful friends.

After I returned to Tuskegee I continued to be deluged with letters of
congratulation and endorsement of my position. I received all kinds of
propositions from lecture bureaus, editors of magazines, etc., to take
the lecture platform and write articles. One lecture bureau went as far
as to offer me $50,000, or $200 a night, if I would place my services at
its disposition for a given period of time. To all these communications
I replied that my life work was at Tuskegee, and that wherever I should
speak it must be in the interest of my race and the institution at
Tuskegee, and that I could not accept any engagements that would seem to
place a mere commercial value on my addresses. From that time until the
present I have continued to receive liberal offers from lecture bureaus
for my services. Only a few weeks ago the following letter came to me,
but I have continued to refuse, as I expect to do in the future, to
become a professional lecturer at any price:

CHICAGO, Ill., November 29, 1897.


     MY DEAR SIR:--“If you will give us exclusive control of your
     lecture business for next summer and winter, season of 1898-99, I
     am confident I can make you more money than you have made this
     season on the platform. Would you consider an offer of say ten
     thousand dollars and all expenses for one hundred nights. Please
     let me hear from you and oblige, Yours very truly,


Soon after receiving the letter quoted above, I received a proposition
from a lecture bureau in Boston offering me at the rate of $200 per
night for my lectures for as long a time as I would give them my
services at this rate, but I declined. Although I refused to become a
professional lecturer for personal gain, I did not keep silent, but
continued to work and speak in behalf of Tuskegee.

In the fall of 1895 I continued addressing large audiences in the states
of Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and in the Western states.
During my trip to the West I addressed the Hamilton Club and was its
guest while in the city of Chicago. The Hamilton Club is one of the
largest and most influential political organizations of Republican faith
in the West. While in Chicago for the purpose of addressing the Hamilton
Club I was invited by Dr. Harper, the president of the University of
Chicago, to deliver an address before the students of the University,
which I did and was treated with great consideration and kindness by all
of the officers of the University.



While the Atlanta Exposition was in progress, the State Constitutional
Convention of South Carolina was in session, having been convened for
the specific purpose of passing a law that would result in
disfranchising the greater proportion of the Negro voters. While this
Convention was in session, I addressed an open letter to Senator Benj.
Tillman of South Carolina, which read as follows:

“I am no politician. I never made a political speech, and do not know as
I ever shall make one, so it is not on a political subject that I
address you. I was born a slave; you a free man. I am but an humble
member of an unfortunate race; you are a member of the greatest
legislative body on earth, and of the great intelligent Caucasian race.
The difference between us is great, yet I do not believe you will scorn
the appeal I make to you in behalf of the 650,000 of my race in your
State, who are to-day suppliants at your feet, and whose destiny and
progress for the next century you hold largely in your hands. I have
been told that you are brave and generous, and one too great to harm
the weak and dependent; that you represent the chivalry of the South,
which has claimed no higher praise than that of being the protectors of
the defenseless. I address you because I believe that you and those
associated with you in convention, have been misunderstood in the
following dispatch to a number of papers:

“‘An appalling fact that may not be obvious at a first glance, is that
the course proposed means the end of Negro education and Negro progress
in South Carolina. This is openly admitted by Senator Tillman and his

“It has been said that the truest test of the civilization of a race is
the desire of the race to assist the unfortunate. Judged by this
standard, the Southern States as a whole have reason to feel proud of
what they have done in helping in the education of the Negro.

“I cannot believe that on the eve of the twentieth century, when there
is more enlightenment, more generosity, more progress, more
self-sacrifice, more love for humanity than ever existed in any other
stage of the world’s history, when our memories are pregnant with the
scenes that took place at Chattanooga and Missionary Ridge but a few
days ago, where brave men who wore the blue and gray clasped forgiving
hands and pledged that henceforth the interests of one should be the
interests of all--while the hearts of the whole South are centered upon
the great city of Atlanta, where Southern people are demonstrating to
the world in a practical way that it is the policy of the South to help
and not to hinder the Negro--in the midst of all these evidences of good
feeling among all races and all sections of the country, I cannot
believe that you and your fellow members are engaged in constructing
laws that will keep 650,000 of my weak, dependent and unfortunate race
in ignorance, poverty and crime.

“You, honored Senator, are a student of history. Has there ever been a
race that was helped by ignorance? Has there ever been a race that was
harmed by Christian intelligence? It is agreed by some that the Negro
schools should be practically closed because he cannot bear his
proportion of this burden of taxation. Can an ignorant man produce
taxable property faster than an intelligent man? Will capital and
immigration be attracted to a State where three out of four are ignorant
and where property and crime abound?

“Within a dozen years, the white people of South Carolina have helped in
the education of hundreds of colored boys and girls at Clafflin
University and smaller schools. Have these educated men and women
hindered the State or hurt its reputation? It warms my heart as I read
the messages of the Governors of Alabama, Georgia and other Southern
States, and note their broad and statesman-like appeals for the
education of all the people, none being so black or miserable as not to
be reached by the beneficent hand of the State.

“Honored Sir, do not misunderstand me; I am not so selfish as to make
this appeal to you in the interest of my race alone, for, thank God, a
white man is as near to my heart as a black man; but I appeal to you in
the interest of humanity. ‘Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also
reap.’ It is my belief that were it the purpose of your convention, as
reported, to practically close Negro school-houses by limiting the
support of these schools to the paltry tax that the Negro is able to pay
out of his ignorance and poverty after but thirty years of freedom, his
school-houses would not close. Let the world know it, and there would be
such an inflowing of money from the pockets of the charitable from all
sections of our country and other countries, as would keep the light of
the school-houses burning on every hill and in every valley in South
Carolina. I believe, Senator Tillman, that you are too great and
magnanimous to permit this. I believe the people of South Carolina
prefer to have a large part in the education of their own citizens;
prefer to have them educated to feel grateful to South Carolina for the
larger part of their education rather than to outside parties wholly.
This question I leave with you. The black yeomanry of your State will be
educated. Shall South Carolina do it, or shall it be left to others?
Here in my humble home, in the heart of the South, I beg to say that I
know something of the great burden the Southern people are carrying and
sympathize with them, and I feel that I know the Southern people, and am
convinced that the best white people in South Carolina and the South are
determined to help lift up the Negro.

“In addressing you this simple message, I am actuated by no motive save
a desire that your State, in attempting to escape a burden, shall not
add one that will be ten fold more grievous, and that we all shall so
act in the spirit of Him who when on earth went about doing good, that
we shall have in every part of our beloved South, a contented,
intelligent and prosperous people.”

Soon after the Exposition, in reply to a request from the editor, I
addressed the following letter to the Atlanta Journal on the benefits of
the Exposition:

“Without doubt the Atlanta Exposition has helped the cause of the Negro.
Before the event there was much honest difference of opinion among
members of the race as to the advisability of our taking any part
whatever. Many of the objectors earnestly advocated by word of mouth and
through the press the policy of ‘hands off;’ others as much opposed
participation, yet kept silent, and, so far as public expression was
concerned, maintained a neutral position. From the one class no help was
received by those trying to collect an exhibit; from the other, direct
opposition was encountered. By reason of these disadvantages, the Negro
exhibit, while highly creditable under the circumstances, was not by any
means what it would have been had there been unanimity of purpose and
concentrated action. There is, however, little difference of opinion,
either within the race or outside of it, as to the good resulting from
the Negro’s part in the Exposition. Many, who for various reasons did
not sanction a Negro exhibit, are inclined now to favor our embracing,
as they are offered, these opportunities for showing off what we are
capable along the various lines of activity. Others, still holding to
what they consider the logic of their position, yet concede and rejoice
in the good accomplished.

“In the first instance, this Exposition has given the colored people an
insight into their ability to accomplish something by united effort.
There are two points to consider in this statement; that the colored
people have been helped to a fuller knowledge of their capabilities,
and that they have been taught a practical lesson in the value of
co-operation. Neither of these points can be too much emphasized.
Without self-confidence, self-respect, a certain amount of
self-assurance of the proper kind, nothing can be achieved, either by an
individual or by a race. We must believe in ourselves, if we would have
people believe in us. If we wonder, ‘Can any good thing come out of
Nazareth?’ what must we expect of others?

“Of but little less importance is the expressive example afforded of the
power of co-operation. Mutual distrust, disinclination to unite forces,
and inability to carry on concentrated action, belong to the dark days
and are the badges of inferiority. We shall rise largely in proportion
as we learn to join hands and to further mutual interests by joint
action. The very effort to do something, to make something, in
connection with the Exposition, regardless of intrinsic value of the
thing produced or achieved, has been helpful and developing in its
tendencies. We learn by doing and ‘rise on stepping stones of our dead
selves to higher things.’

“The Exposition has given also thousands of white people, North and
South, opportunities to see some of the best results of the Negro’s
advancement. It is a fact that has been always recognized and deplored
by the better element of the colored people, that most white people see
and know only the worse phase of Negro character. They live side by side
with the brother in black and yet have no acquaintance with him beyond
the slight knowledge gained of those serving them in menial capacities.
So, perhaps, the entire race is judged by a few individuals who have had
little or no opportunities for advancement along any of the lines that
make for a higher civilization. The homes of culture, the work of the
school, the progress in the industries, in the arts, in all things that
tend to prove the Negro a man among men, have been as a sealed book to
the vast majority of the white people in all sections of our country,
and the adverse judgments that have been formed as to the Negro’s worth
and ability may be attributed more to an unfortunate ignorance and
blindness on the subject than to any intention or desire to be unjust.
Of no class of people, probably, is this truer than of the class
commonly known as the ‘poor whites’ of the South. It was both
interesting and amusing to view their surprise as they entered the Negro
building at Atlanta, and to listen to the exclamations of astonishment
which escaped them as they walked around and observed the exhibits.
‘What, this the work of niggers!’ Race prejudice received a heavy blow
at Atlanta. The white man left with increased respect for the Negro, and
he will show it in his future dealings with the members of the race.
The Negro in turn, appreciative of the recognition accorded him, will
entertain more cordial feelings toward those showing him such
consideration. The Exposition brought the Negro prominently before the
country. The attention of the press was drawn to him. Leading scientists
and educators sat in judgment on the products of his brain and skill,
ranged side by side with those of his white competitors for honors. His
position as a part of the body politic was emphasized as never before.
The impression his exhibit made was not such as to render him, in the
eyes of the country, less desirable as a citizen than he had seemed
before. On the contrary, his capabilities in various directions have
been strikingly exemplified and it has been demonstrated that he can
measure up to the full stature of a man.

“As might have been anticipated, the showing made by the school was the
most creditable. The friends and advancers of Negro education must have
felt that their bounty has not been misplaced. Especially must the great
heart of the generous North have glowed with gratification. It is an
interesting fact that out of the four highest awards, that of the gold
medal made to educational institutions, two went to colored
schools--Hampton and Tuskegee.

“In speaking of the helpful prominence which the Exposition gave to the
Negro’s cause, we must not omit the influence of the Negro congresses.
The very presence in Atlanta of so many well-dressed, well-behaved,
intelligent men and women of African descent, speaks loudly in our
behalf. Besides, many wise words were uttered in the several addresses
delivered and in the discussions which followed, and in all modesty, we
think that we may claim that these black men and women made less
perplexing some of the perplexing questions which confront us as a

“Not less important among the happy results of the exposition is that
the Southern white people and the Negro have learned that they can unite
successfully in business enterprises. They have been shown that because
men differ on some points and are not as one in all the affairs of life,
they need not stand entirely aloof from one another. They may meet upon
the level ground of a common interest and work together towards the
accomplishment of a mutual aim without loss of dignity or self-respect
to either.

“The exposition has encouraged the Negroes to become, more than ever
before, producers. They have been helped to realize, as they may not
have realized before, that no kind of toil is to be despised, that in
every branch of industry the highest degree of proficiency should be
sought, that every product of labor is valuable in proportion as it
approaches the perfect ideal which should animate the mind of every
worker. Agriculture, the trades, education, the arts, have all received
an impetus which will be seen in the more rapid advancement of the
future. Above all, we are encouraged now by the certainty that
recognition will come as is deserved. It is not too much to say that the
recognition which the Negro received at Atlanta was the natural result
of the development he has made during these thirty years of effort.
Further opportunities will present themselves. Already other expositions
are projected whose plans include a prominent part to be taken by the

“‘All things come to him who waits,’ but the Negro must understand that
he must work and wait; not idly rest upon his oars. We must not only be
prepared to make a good showing when the opportunity comes for us to let
the world see what in us lies, but each opportunity must find us better
prepared. With the New South the New Negro must arise and modestly,
manfully, courageously, take his place in the march of progress. The old
order of things has truly passed away, and side by side, white men and
black men must determine to work out their destiny to a successful

During the Fall and Winter of 1895-96 I addressed several audiences in
various parts of the country, notably New York, Massachusetts and
Pennsylvania. At the meeting in New York, which was held in Broadway
Tabernacle, Hon. Joseph H. Choate presided. I also addressed during the
Winter of 1896 the Hamilton Club of Brooklyn, New York. The most
important meeting which I attended, however, after the Atlanta
Exposition, was a large meeting held in Carnegie Hall, New York, in the
interest of the Presbyterian Mission. This meeting was held under the
auspices of the Presbyterian Church. The meeting was of national
importance in its character, and the entire Presbyterian Church
throughout the country was interested in it. The President of the United
States, Hon. Grover Cleveland, was the presiding officer. The speakers
included, besides the President, Rev. T. DeWitt Talmage, D. D.; Rev.
Sheldon Jackson, D. D., and myself. The hall was packed from bottom to
top with the best and most influential people in New York and vicinity,
and much good seems to have resulted from the meeting. The following are
some of the extracts from my speech delivered on that occasion:

“My word to you to-night will be based upon a humble effort during the
last fourteen years to better the condition of my people in the ‘black
belt’ of the South.

“What are some of the conditions in the South that need your urgent help
and attention?” Eighty-five per cent. of my people in the Gulf States
are on the plantations in the country districts, where a large majority
are still in ignorance, without habits of thrift and economy; are in
debt, mortgaging their crops to secure food; paying, or attempting to
pay, a rate of interest that ranges between twenty and forty per cent.;
living in one-room cabins on rented land, where schools are in session
in these country districts from three to four months in the year, taught
in places, as a rule, that have little resemblance to school houses.

“Each colored child in these States has spent on him this year, for
education, about 70 cents, while each child in Massachusetts has spent
on him this year, for education, between $18 and $20.

“What state of morality or practical Christianity you may expect when as
many as six, eight, and even ten, cook, eat and sleep, get sick and die
in one room, I need not explain. But what is the remedy for this
condition? It is not practical nor desirable that the North attempt to
educate, directly, all the colored people in the South, but the North
can and should help the South educate the strong Christian leaders who
will go among our people and show them how to lift themselves up. That
is the great problem before us. Can this be done? If in the providence
of God the Negro got any good out of slavery, he got the habit of work.
Whether the call for labor comes from the cotton fields of Mississippi,
the rice swamps of the Carolinas, or the sugar bottoms of Louisiana, the
Negro answers the call. Yes, toil is the badge of all his tribe, but the
trouble centers here: By reason of his ignorance and want of training he
does not know how to utilize the results of his labor. My people do not
need charity, neither do they ask that charity be scattered among them.
Very seldom in any part of this country do you see a black hand reached
out for charity; but they do ask that through Lincoln and Biddle and
Scotia and Hampton and Tuskegee, you send them leaders to guide and
stimulate them till they are able to walk.”

I also gave it as my opinion that the American Church has never yet
comprehended its duty to the millions of poor whites in the South. I
said: “When you help the poor whites, you help the Negro. So long as the
poor whites are ignorant, so long there will be crime against the Negro
and civilization.”

During the same year I delivered addresses in several Western cities,
including Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Milwaukee, etc.

Immediately after my address in Carnegie



Hall, on the evening of March 3, I took the train in order to be present
at the meeting of the Negro Conference which occurred on March 5, and
arrived in Tuskegee just in time to take part in the discussion of this

Soon after my address at the opening of the Atlanta Exposition there
began to appear adverse criticisms in some of the colored papers
regarding the position I had taken in my address. Some of these colored
papers felt that I had been entirely too liberal towards the South. I
gave no special attention to these criticisms, but in March, 1896, I
accepted an invitation to speak before the Bethel Literary Association
in Washington. This, I think, is by far the most cultured Literary
organization in existence among our people, and Washington city had been
the center of a good part of the criticisms on my Atlanta speech, so I
felt that that city would be a good place in which to make my position
more clearly understood and to emphasize my views. On the evening that I
spoke in Washington, the meeting was held in the Auditorium of the
Metropolitan Church, and I hardly need say that the building was full to
such an extent that many were unable to find seats. In my address before
the Literary Society I took very much the same position I had taken in
my address at Atlanta, but of course went more into detail. After my
speech, those who heard me seemed to be entirely satisfied with my
position, and the newspapers which had been criticising me, in a large
measure, ceased to do so.



One of the most helpful things accomplished during the year 1896 was an
exhibit of the industrial products of the Tuskegee Institute made in New
York City, Boston and Philadelphia, in connection with a similar exhibit
from the Hampton Institute. The Armstrong Association in New York City
was instrumental in bringing about this exhibit. A large number of
people who had no idea of the extent of our industrial work had an
opportunity at these exhibits to see for themselves just what was being
done by Hampton and Tuskegee. Our industrial exhibit included wagons,
carriages and wearing apparel of all kinds, manufactured by the
students. The exhibit, however, was not confined to industrial products,
but a thorough exhibit of academic work was also made.

Some people have an idea that because industrial education is emphasized
at Tuskegee and Hampton very little attention is given to the academic
training. This is an error. A close examination will prove that both at
Hampton and Tuskegee the academic training is very thorough and
far-reaching; in fact, I for some


time have been conscious of the fact that if we had only called this
institution “University” or “College” and had given the same course of
training that we now give, we would have met with no criticism on
account of not giving more academic training. We are thoroughly imbued
with the idea that a little training thoroughly given goes farther than
to attempt to cover a great deal of ground poorly. Education after all
is only valuable in giving mental grasp and culture.

Several times I have been asked what was the most surprising incident in
my life. I have no hesitation in saying that it was the following letter
from Harvard University, asking me to be present at the commencement at
Harvard in June, 1896, for the purpose of having an honorary degree
conferred upon me.


“CAMBRIDGE, May 28, 1896.

     “MY DEAR SIR: Harvard University desires to confer on you at the
     approaching commencement an honorary degree; but it is our custom
     to confer degrees only on gentlemen who are present. Our
     commencement occurs this year on June 24th, and your presence would
     be desirable from about noon till about five o’clock in the
     afternoon. Would it be possible for you to be in Cambridge on that

“Believe me, with great regard,
“Very truly yours,


Up to the time of receiving this letter I had not the faintest idea that
any college, much less the oldest and highest educational institution in
the country, was about to or would ever confer upon me any honorary
degree. It took me, of course, greatly by surprise.

Commencement day at Harvard, June 24, 1896, was a memorable one,
certainly one that I shall never forget. At the appointed hour I met
President Eliot and the overseers of the College at the designated place
on the grounds for the purpose of being escorted in company with others
to Sander’s Theatre, where the commencement exercises were to take place
and the degrees to be conferred. In addition to the degree to be
conferred on me, among others Major-Gen. Nelson A. Miles, the Commander
of the United States Army, Dr. Bell, the inventor of the Bell telephone
system, Dr. M. J. Savage of Boston, and others, were invited to be
present at commencement for the purpose of receiving degrees. We were
assigned places in the line of march immediately behind the President
and Overseers. As soon as we were placed in the line the Governor of
Massachusetts, escorted by the Lancers, arrived, and was assigned to the
head of the line of march by the side of President Eliot. In this order,
accompanied by the various officers clad in caps and gowns, we marched
to Sander’s Theatre. After the usual commencement exercises the time for
the conferring of honorary degrees came. This at Harvard is always the
most interesting and exciting feature of commencement, owing largely to
the fact that no one knows until commencement day on whom honorary
degrees are to be conferred, and as each name is called for an honorary
degree the expectation rises to the highest pitch and the individuals
receive cheers and applause in proportion as they are popular at the
college. When it came my turn I arose and President Eliot conferred
upon me the degree of Master of Arts in appropriate language. The whole
ceremony for the first time at Harvard was performed in English.

At the close of the commencement exercises I was invited with Gen. Miles
and others receiving honorary degrees to lunch with President Eliot.
After the lunch at the residence of the President we were formed into
line again and were escorted under the guidance of the Marshal of the
Day, who in this case happened to be Bishop Lawrence of Massachusetts,
through the grounds, in which at different points we were met and
cheered by the students, each individual who had received an honorary
degree receiving the Harvard yell. The most interesting feature of that
day was the Alumni Dinner, which occurred at the close of our march
through the grounds. This dinner was served in Memorial Hall, and, I
think, was attended by at least a thousand graduates of Harvard from all
sections of the country, many of them eminent in affairs of state,
religion and the field of letters. Among the speakers at the Alumni
Dinner were Governor Roger A. Wolcott, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Gen.
Nelson A. Miles, Dr. Savage and others. When I was called upon to speak
at the Alumni Dinner I delivered the following address:

“_Mr. President and Gentlemen:_--

“It would in some measure relieve my embarrassment if I could, even in a
slight degree, feel myself worthy of the great honor which you do me
to-day. Why you have called me from the Black Belt of the South, from
among my humble people, to share in the honors of this occasion, is not
for me to explain; and yet it may not be inappropriate for me to suggest
that it seems to me that one of the most vital questions that touch our
American life, is how to bring the strong, wealthy and learned into
helpful touch with the poorest, most ignorant and humblest, and at the
same time make the one appreciate the vitalizing, strengthening
influence of the other. How shall we make the mansions on yon Beacon
street feel and see the need of the spirits in the lowliest cabin in
Alabama cotton fields or Louisiana sugar bottoms? This problem Harvard
University is solving, not by bringing itself down, but by bringing the
masses up.

“If through me, an humble representative, seven millions of my people in
the South might be permitted to send a message to Harvard--Harvard that
offered up on death’s altar young Shaw, and Russell, and Lowell, and
scores of others, that we might have a free and united country--that
message would be, ‘Tell them that the sacrifice was not in vain. Tell
them that by habits of thrift and economy, by way of the industrial
school and college, we are coming. We are crawling up, working up, yea,
bursting up. Often through oppression, unjust discrimination and
prejudice, but through them all we are coming up, and with proper
habits, intelligence and property, there is no power on earth that can
permanently stay our progress.’

“If my life in the past has meant anything in the lifting up of my
people and the bringing about of better relations between your race and
mine, I assure you from this day it will mean doubly more. In the
economy of God there is but one standard by which an individual can
succeed--there is but one for a race. This country demands that every
race shall measure itself by the American standard. By it a race must
rise or fall, succeed or fail, and in the last analysis mere sentiment
counts for little. During the next half century and more, my race must
continue passing through the severe American crucible. We are to be
tested in our patience, our forbearance, our perseverence, our power to
endure wrong, to withstand temptations, to economize, to acquire and use
skill; in our ability to compete, to succeed in commerce, to disregard
the superficial for the real, the appearance for the substance, to be
great and yet small, learned and yet simple, high and yet the servant of
all. This, this is the passport to all that is best in the life of our
republic, and the Negro must possess it, or be debarred.

“While we are thus being tested, I beg of you to remember that wherever
our life touches yours, we help or hinder. Wherever your life touches
ours, you make us stronger or weaker. No member of your race in any part
of our country can harm the meanest member of mine without the proudest
and bluest blood in Massachusetts being degraded. When Mississippi
commits crime, New England commits crime, and in so much, lowers the
standard of your civilization. There is no escape--man drags man down,
or man lifts man up.

“In working out our destiny, while the main burden and center of
activity must be with us, we shall need, in a large measure in the years
that are to come as we have in the past, the help, the encouragement,
the guidance that the strong can give the weak. Thus helped, we of both
races in the South, soon shall throw off the shackles of racial and
sectional prejudice and rise, as Harvard University has risen and as we
all should rise, above the clouds of ignorance, narrowness and
selfishness, into that atmosphere, that pure sunshine, where it will be
our highest ambition to serve man, our brother, regardless of race or
previous condition.”

As this was the first time that an honorary degree had ever been
conferred upon a Negro by any university in New England, of course it
occasioned a great deal of newspaper comment throughout the country. I
think I shall not speak further of the occurrence, but will insert a few
newspaper clippings that will tell the story perhaps better than I feel
like doing it.

Mr. Thos. J. Calloway, who was present on this occasion, wrote as
follows to the Colored American:

“First in the history of America a leading American university confers
an honorary degree upon a colored man. Harvard has been always to the
front in ideas of liberty, freedom and equality. When other colleges of
the North are accepting the Negro as a tolerance, Harvard has been
awarding him honors, as in the case of Clement G. Morgan of recent date.
Her present action, therefore, in placing an honorary crown upon the
worthy head of Mr. Washington is but a step further in her magnanimity
in recognizing merit under whatever color of skin.

“The mere announcement of this event is a great testimony to the
standing of Mr. Washington, but to any black person who, as I did, saw
and heard the enthusiasm and applause with which the audience cheered
the announcement by President Eliot, the degree itself was
insignificant. The Boston Lancers had conducted Gov. Wolcott to
Cambridge, and 500 Harvard graduates had double filed the march to
Sander’s Theatre. It was a great day. Latin orations, disquisitions,
dissertations and essays in English were delivered by selected
graduates, clad in stately and classic cap and gown. Bishops, generals,
commodores, statesmen, authors, poets, explorers, millionaires and noted
men of every calling, sat as earnest listeners. President Eliot had
issued 500 diplomas by handing them to representatives of the graduates
in bundles of twenty to twenty-five. Then came the awarding of honorary
degrees. Thirteen were issued, Bishop Vincent and General Nelson A.
Miles, commander of the United States Army, being among the recipients.
When the name of Booker T. Washington was called, and he arose to
acknowledge and accept, there was such an outburst of applause as
greeted no other name except that of the popular soldier patriot,
General Miles. The applause was not studied and stiff, sympathetic and
condoling; it was enthusiasm and admiration. Every part of the audience
from pit to gallery joined in, and a glow covered the cheeks of those
around me, proving that sincere appreciation of the rising struggle of
an ex-slave and the work he has accomplished for his race.

“But the event of the day was the Alumni Dinner, when speeches formed
the most enjoyable bill of fare. Two hundred Harvard alumni and their
invited guests partook of their annual dinner. Four or five speeches
were made, among them one from Mr. Washington.

“At the close of the speaking, notwithstanding Senator Henry Cabot
Lodge, Dr. Minot J. Savage and others had spoken, President Eliot warmly
grasped Mr. Washington by the hand and told him that his was the best
speech of the day.”

Anent the conferring of the degree and the toast, the papers were
unusual in favorable comment. Says the Boston Post:

“In conferring the honorary degree of Master of Arts upon the principal
of Tuskegee Institute, Harvard University has honored itself as well as
the object of this distinction. The work which Prof. Booker T.
Washington has accomplished for the education, good citizenship and
popular enlightenment in his chosen field of labor in the South,
entitles him to rank with our national benefactors. The university which
can claim him on its list of sons, whether in regular course or _honoris
causa_, may be proud.

“It has been mentioned that Mr. Washington is the first of his race to
receive an honorary degree from a New England University. This, in
itself, is a distinction. But the degree was not conferred because Mr.
Washington is a colored man, or because he was born in slavery, but
because he has shown, by his work for the elevation of the people of
the Black Belt of the South, a genius and a broad humanity which count
for greatness in any man, whether his skin be white or black.”

The Boston Globe said: “It is Harvard which, first among New England
colleges, confers an honorary degree upon a black man. No one who has
followed the history of Tuskegee and its work, can fail to admire the
courage, persistence and splendid common sense of Booker T. Washington.
Well may Harvard honor the ex-slave, the value of whose services, alike
to his race and country, only the future can estimate.”

The correspondent of the New York Times wrote: “All the speeches were
enthusiastically received, but the colored man carried off the
oratorical honors, and the applause which broke out when he had
finished, was vociferous and long continued.”

In July of the same year I delivered one of the addresses before the
National Christian Endeavor Convention which met in Washington. This
meeting of the Christian Endeavor Society was attended by thousands of
people from all sections of the country and some from foreign countries.
I remember that in order to be present in time to speak at this meeting,
I had to make a long and tiresome trip from Spirit Lake, Iowa, to
Washington, and reached Washington rather late in the evening. In fact,
when I got to the church where I was to speak, I found President F. E.
Clark and the audience rather nervous about my appearance. I found it a
difficult matter to get into the room, owing to the fact that every seat
was taken and the aisles were full and the people on the outside of the
church were clamoring for entrance. My address was finished about 10
o’clock that evening. At 11 o’clock I took a train for Buffalo, New
York, where I was to speak the next night before the National
Educational Association, where 20,000 teachers were present. As I now
recall the incident, I think these two meetings caused me perhaps as
great mental strain and anxiety as I have ever experienced. I had to
prepare special and set addresses for each meeting, and coming, as they
did, so near together, any one who has had experience in public speaking
can easily imagine the difficulty with which I had to contend. I will
give one or two short newspaper extracts that may convey an idea of the
effect of these two addresses.

The Buffalo Express gave expression in part as follows:

“It was a great close. It began with music and it ended with music. Not
a false note was struck. Every tone rang true, and when the gavel rose
for the final fall, the audience rose with it, and with one mighty voice
sang ‘America.’ All credit is due to Booker T. Washington for the keying
up of the spirit that dominated the vast audience. His address was
magnificent. There was nothing of speculation, nothing of theory,
nothing of supposition in his speech. It was a truthful, convincing
statement of the condition of the Negro and the remedy for his wrongs.
It teemed with humor and was arrayed in a splendid cloak of eloquence.
The audience was larger than at any of the other sessions. An overflow
meeting was held in Concert Hall, at which the addresses of the closing
session were repeated. The overflow meeting overflowed, and over 2,000
people were turned away. A thousand lingered outside until the
convention ended.”

On July 12th the Buffalo Courier contained the following:

“Booker T. Washington, the foremost educator among the colored people of
the world, was a very busy man from the time he arrived in the city the
other night from the West, and registered at the Iroquois. He had hardly
removed the stains of travel when it was time to partake of supper. Then
he held a public levee in the parlors of the Iroquois until 8 o’clock.
During that time he was greeted by over 200 eminent teachers and
educators from all parts of the



United States. Shortly after 8 o’clock, he was driven in a carriage to
Music Hall, and in one hour and a half he made two ringing addresses, to
as many as 5,000 people, on Negro education. Then Mr. Washington was
taken in charge by a delegation of colored citizens, headed by the Rev.
Mr. Watkins, and hustled off to a small, informal reception, arranged in
honor of the visitor, by the people of his race.”

Both in Washington at the Christian Endeavor meeting and in Buffalo at
the National Educational Association meeting I was surprised as well as
gratified at the large number of Southern gentlemen and ladies belonging
to the white race who pressed forward to shake my hand at the close of
these addresses. I have rarely spoken anywhere in the North that a
number of Southern white people did not come forward and most earnestly
thank me for my position and words.

A Southern man writing to the Charleston News and Courier concerning my
address at Buffalo expressed himself as follows:

“Notwithstanding the fact that the gentlemen speaking were of great
ability, the audience showed signs of impatience; they wanted Mr.
Washington, and no one else would do. At last he came. He is quiet
looking, a little nervous but determined. His face indicates that he
has above all qualities, patience and self-control. His address to the
second audience was very much the same as that delivered before the
first. He was a little freer; told several amusing instances and from
the start carried the crowd as no one else has done during this

It has been my privilege to be invited to address the national gathering
of both the Christian Endeavor Society and the National Educational
Association at almost every session that these organizations have held,
and I have been very glad to accept the invitation as often as I could
find time to do so.

The following September I delivered the opening address before the
Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences in Brooklyn, N. Y., and in
October of the same year while in Durham, N. C., for the purpose of
speaking at the Agricultural and Mechanical Fair held at that place by
the colored people, I was invited by the President of Trinity College,
located in Durham, to deliver an address before the students of that
college. This was the first time that I had ever received an invitation
to address a white college in the South. I accepted the invitation and
was treated with every possible courtesy both by the officers and
students of the college. After my address, as I was preparing to leave
the grounds in company with a number of colored friends who had been
kind enough to call with me, the students assembled in the front yard
and gave me their usual college yell in a hearty manner.

I have often wondered if there is a white institution in this country
whose students would have welcomed the incoming of more than a hundred
companions of another race in the cordial way that the black students at
Hampton welcomed the red ones. How often have I wanted to say to white
students that they lift themselves up in proportion as they help to lift
others, and that the more unfortunate the race and the lower in the
scale of civilization, the more does one raise one’s self by giving the

This reminds me of a conversation which I once had with the Hon.
Frederick Douglass. At one time Mr. Douglass was traveling in the state
of Pennsylvania, and was forced, on account of his color, to ride in the
baggage-car, in spite of the fact that he had paid the same fare as the
other passengers. When some of the white passengers went to the
baggage-car to console Mr. Douglass, and one of them said to him, “I am
sorry, Mr. Douglass, that you have been degraded in this manner,” Mr.
Douglass straightened himself up on the box upon which he was sitting,
and replied: “They cannot degrade Frederick Douglass. The soul that is
within me no man can degrade. I am not the one that is being degraded on
account of this treatment, but those who are inflicting it upon me.”

My experience has been, that the time to test a true gentleman is to
observe him when he is in contact with individuals of a race that is
less fortunate than his own. This is illustrated in no better way than
by observing the conduct of the old-school type of Southern gentleman
when he is in contact with his former slaves or their descendants.

An example of what I mean is shown in a story told of George Washington,
who, meeting a colored man in the road once, who politely lifted his
hat, lifted his own in return. Some of his white friends who saw the
incident, criticised Washington for his action. In reply to their
criticism, George Washington said: “Do you suppose that I am going to
permit a poor, ignorant colored man to be more polite than I am?”





Soon after the election of Major McKinley to the office of President in
1896, the Washington Post, to the surprise of nearly everybody, came out
with a strong editorial urging the President-Elect to give me a place in
his cabinet. The name of the late Hon. B. K. Bruce was also suggested in
the same connection. This editorial created quite a journalistic
discussion which extended to all parts of the country. I give a few
extracts from newspapers that may indicate the character of this

The Washington Post, which, I think was the first paper to discuss the
propriety of my selection as a cabinet officer, opened the discussion
with the following article:

“There is one problem which Mr. McKinley, if he be a just and grateful
man--as we think he is--will have to consider, and consider very
seriously. We have in mind the problem of what the Republican party
proposes to do by way of recognizing its obligations to the colored
voter. That party has owed much to the loyal and unselfish devotion of
the race in times gone by, but never so much as in the campaign which
it has conducted to a triumphant conclusion. What, now, will Mr.
McKinley do to testify his gratitude?

“At every stage of his personal fight Mr. McKinley has been indebted to
the Negro. It was the Negro contingent at St. Louis that made his
nomination certain. It was the Negro’s firm stand for gold that forced
the sound money issue upon the convention. It was the Negro’s vote in
such States as Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Delaware and
Indiana that made his victory possible. We all know now that McKinley
would have had next to no chance at all had not the St. Louis convention
declared emphatically and unequivocally for the gold standard. As
between a simple declaration for tariff revision on the one hand and for
free silver coinage without tariff disturbances on the other, the great
Eastern and Middle States would have had but a languid choice. It was
the solid sound money front presented by the colored delegates that
compelled the adoption of the gold clause in the platform, and furnished
Mr. McKinley with the issue upon which he rallied to his banner the
merchants, the manufacturers, and the moneyed corporations throughout
the land. Mr. McKinley could not have been elected but by the course
pursued by the Negroes before, during, and after the assembling of the
St. Louis convention. Now, in what fashion does he intend to recognize
and reward their service?

“It seems to us that at least one cabinet position should be given to
the race. Let us say the portfolio of Agriculture, for example. There
are many colored men of notable attainments, of large experience in
public life, and of the highest personal character, eminently qualified
to discharge the duties of this office with credit to the administration
and honor to themselves. We might name such men as Hon. B. K. Bruce and
Prof. Booker T. Washington. Mr. Bruce has been a Senator of the United
States, and it may be truly said of him that in that capacity he won the
respect and esteem of all his colleagues and served his country with
distinction. He also served a term as Register of the Treasury and
another as Recorder of Deeds under the District government, always with
notable ability. Prof. Washington is universally recognized as one of
the foremost educators in the country. The institute over which he
presides, at Tuskegee, Ala., has become conspicuous under his
management, and is to-day ranked with the most useful and admirable of
our seats of learning. The appointment of either of these gentlemen to
the control of one of the executive departments would be a graceful
acknowledgment of the obligations which the Republican party has
incurred, and which we should think it would be anxious to discharge.
We do not limit Mr. McKinley to these two. There are many other colored
men abundantly fitted for a Cabinet position. It happens simply that
ex-Senator Bruce and Prof. Washington occurred to us first in running
over the list of eligibles.

“Returning to the abstract proposition, however, it is clear to us that
Mr. McKinley owes his election, first to the fidelity and wise foresight
of the colored delegates at St. Louis, and secondly to the loyal support
of the colored voters in half a dozen states necessary to his election,
which could not possibly have been carried for him without their aid. He
is under obligations, which, as a man of feeling, he cannot well ignore
and which he could most felicitously acknowledge by asking some truly
representative Negro to enter his official family.”

The Canton (Ohio) Repository, after discussing in a long article a
number of men, white and black, suitable for cabinet material, concluded
as follows:

“Another able man is Prof. Booker T. Washington, the head of the
Tuskegee Normal School, of Alabama. Mr. Washington has been spoken of
for Secretary of Agriculture under the new administration, and is one of
the foremost leaders of the colored race in this country and a pioneer
in the industrial and educational development of his people. He is one
of the younger leaders of the colored people and fully understands their
needs and hopes. His address at the opening of the Atlanta Exposition
has been favorably commented upon by all classes of people. He is the
originator of the Normal college and is doing a great work in the

There were other articles of similar character in other papers at the
time, and still others of course that opposed vigorously the idea of
placing a Negro in the Cabinet of the President of the United States.

In a speech delivered to the colored citizens of Boston, Mass., soon
after this discussion began, I openly declared that under no
circumstances would I accept a political appointment that would result
in my turning aside from the work which I had begun at Tuskegee.

In the spring of 1897 I was invited by Dr. Francis J. Grimke, pastor of
the 15th St. Presbyterian Church, Washington, D. C., to deliver an
address in his church. My subject on this occasion was “The Things in
Hand.” It was just after President McKinley had been inaugurated as
President. Washington was full of people from all over the country and
among them not a few colored people seeking office. At this meeting I
urged as strongly as I could that the colored people should cease
depending so much on office, and give more attention to industrial or
business enterprises. This created a wide discussion among the colored
people, especially among those who were in Washington seeking office. I
have always held that the Negro has the same right to aspire to
political or appointive offices as the white man has, but in our present
condition we will be more sure of laying a foundation that will result
in permanent political recognition in the future by giving attention at
the present time in a very large measure to education, business and
industry, than merely by seeking political office. I favor that the
Negro give up no right guaranteed to him by the Constitution of the
United States, but I am also convinced that the way for him to secure
the opportunity to exercise his rights guaranteed to him by the
Constitution is to make himself the most useful and independent citizen
in his community.

In certain quarters, for a number of years, a certain element of our
people have opposed my plan for the elevation of the Negroes, on the
ground that they have felt that I was not in favor of the Negro
receiving a college education. This is an error. I do not oppose college
education for our people, but I do urge that a larger percentage of our
young men and women, whether educated in college or not, give the
strength of their education in the direction of commercial or
industrial development, just the same as the white man does. I have
tried to show my approval of college education by giving as many college
men as possible employment, and have on our pay roll at Tuskegee,
constantly, from fifteen to twenty men and women who have been educated
at the leading colleges throughout the country. The best way to approve
of college education is to give those educated at college something to
do. The great need for the next fifty or one hundred years among our
people will be the sending out among them of men and women thoroughly
equipped with academic and religious training, together with industrial
or hand training, so that they can lead the masses to a betterment of
their present industrial and material condition. The young white man who
graduates at college, in nine cases out of ten, finds a business waiting
for him that he can enter into as soon as he gets his college diploma.
This business has been created by his father, grandfather or
great-grandfather years before, but the black boy graduating from
college finds no business waiting for him; he must start a business for
himself; therefore, it is important, in our present condition, that the
Negro be so educated along technical and industrial lines that he can
found a business for himself. In the matter of technical or industrial
education the blacks are not keeping up with the whites. Every state
has technical schools for white boys and girls, and we can not expect to
retain our hold on the industries of the South, unless we give special
attention to preparing ourselves for doing the best work. In too many
cases the Negro carpenter, the Negro blacksmith, the Negro contractor,
and laundry woman are being replaced by white people who have come into
the South from the North. We can only retain our hold upon the
industries of the South by putting into the field men and women of the
highest intelligence and skill. We must learn to do the tasks about our
door in a thorough manner; to do a common thing in an uncommon manner;
to be sure that nobody else can improve on our work.



In the spring of 1897 I received a letter from Hon. Edward Atkinson, of
Boston, inviting me to deliver an address at the dedication of the
Robert Gould Shaw monument in Boston. I take it for granted that my
readers already know all about the history and achievements of Robert
Gould Shaw. The monument dedicated to his memory stands on the historic
Boston Commons, facing Beacon Street, and is said to be the most perfect
piece of art of the kind in this country.

The meeting in connection with the dedicatory exercises was held in
Music Hall, Boston, which was packed from bottom to top with perhaps one
of the most distinguished audiences that has ever assembled in Boston.
In fact, there was a larger number of the old anti-slavery element
present than will perhaps ever assemble again in this country. Hon.
Roger Wolcott, Governor of Massachusetts, was the presiding officer. On
the platform were the Mayor of Boston, the Lieutenant Governor, members
of the Governor’s Council and of the city government of Boston, besides
hundreds of other distinguished persons.

As to the impression made by this address I shall let an editorial which
appeared in the Boston Transcript the next day, together with a few
other newspaper accounts, tell the story.

I spoke as follows:--

“Mr. Chairman and fellow citizens:--

“In this presence, and on this sacred and memorable day, in the deeds
and death of our hero, we recall the old, old story, ever old, yet ever
new, that when it was the will of the Father to lift humanity out of
wretchedness and bondage, the precious task was delegated to him who
among ten thousand was altogether lovely, and was willing to make
himself of no reputation that he might save and lift up others.

“If that heart could throb and those lips could speak, what would be the
sentiment and words that Robert Gould Shaw would have us feel and speak
at this hour? He would not have us to dwell long on the mistakes, the
injustice, the criticisms of the days--

    ‘Of storm and cloud, of doubt and fears,
      Across the eternal sky must lower;
      Before the glorious noon appears.’

“He would have us bind up with his own undying fame and memory and
retain by the side of his monument, the name of John A. Andrew, who,
with prophetic vision and strong arm, helped to make the existence of
the 54th regiment possible; and that of George L. Stearns, who, with
hidden generosity and a great, sweet heart, helped to turn the darkest
hour into day, and in doing so freely gave service, fortune and life
itself to the cause which this day commemorates. Nor would he have us
forget those brother officers, living and dead, who, by their baptism in
blood and fire, in defense of Union and freedom, gave us an example of
the highest and purest patriotism.

“To you who fought so valiantly in the ranks, the scarred and scattered
remnant of the 54th regiment, who with empty sleeve and wanting leg,
have honored this occasion with your presence, to you your commander is
not dead. Though Boston erected no monument and history recorded no
story, in you and the loyal race you represent, Robert Gould Shaw would
have a monument which time could not wear away.

“But an occasion like this is too great, too sacred, for mere individual
eulogy. The individual is the instrument, national virtue the end. That
which was 300 years being woven into the warp and woof of our democratic
institutions could not be effaced by a single battle, as magnificent as
was that battle; that which for three centuries had bound master and
slave, yea, North and South, to a body of death, could not be blotted
out by four years of war, could not be atoned for by shot and sword, nor
by blood and tears.

“Not many days ago, in the heart of the South, in a large gathering of
the people of my race, there were heard from many lips praises and
thanksgiving to God for his goodness in setting them free from physical
slavery. In the midst of that assembly a Southern white man arose, with
gray hair and trembling hands, the former owner of many slaves, and from
his quivering lips there came the words: “My friends, you forget in your
rejoicing that in setting you free, God was also good to me and my race
in setting us free.” But there is a higher and deeper sense in which
both races must be free than that represented by the bill of sale. The
black man who cannot let love and sympathy go out to the white man is
but half free. The white man who would close the shop or factory against
a black man seeking an opportunity to earn an honest living is but half
free. The white man who retards his own development by opposing a black
man is but half free. The full measure of the fruit of Fort Wagner and
all that this monument stands for will not be realized until every man
covered with a black skin shall by patient and natural effort, grow to
that height in industry, property, intelligence and moral
responsibility, where no man in all our land will be tempted to degrade
himself by withholding from his black brother any opportunity which he
himself would possess.

“Until that time comes this monument will stand for effort, not victory
complete. What these heroic souls of the 54th regiment began we must
complete. It must be completed not in malice, not in narrowness; nor
artificial progress, nor in efforts at mere temporary political gain,
nor in abuse of another section or race. Standing as I do to-day in the
home of Garrison and Phillips and Sumner, my heart goes out to those who
wore the gray as well as to those clothed in the blue; to those who
returned defeated, to destitute homes, to face blasted hopes and a
shattered political and industrial system. To them there can be no
prouder reward for defeat than by a supreme effort to place the Negro on
that footing where he will add material, intellectual and civil strength
to every department of the State.

“This work must be completed in the public school, industrial school and
college. The most of it must be completed in the effort of the Negro
himself, in his effort to withstand temptation, to economize, to
exercise thrift, to disregard the superficial for the real, the shadow
for the substance, to be great and yet small, in his effort to be
patient in the laying of a firm foundation, to grow so strong in skill
and knowledge that he shall place his service in demand by reason of
his intrinsic and superior worth. All this makes the key that unlocks
every door of opportunity, and all others fail. In this battle of peace
the rich and poor, the black and white may have a part.

“What lessons has this occasion for the future? What of hope, what of
encouragement, what of caution? ‘Watchman, tell us of the night; what
the signs of promise are.’ If through me, an humble representative,
nearly ten millions of my people might be permitted to send a message to
Massachusetts, to the survivors of the 54th regiment, to the committee
whose untiring energy has made this memorial possible, to the family who
gave their only boy that we might have life more abundantly, that
message would be, ‘Tell them that the sacrifice was not in vain, that up
from the depth of ignorance and poverty we are coming, and if we come
through oppression out of the struggle, we are gaining strength. By the
way of the school, the well cultivated field, the skilled hand, the
Christian home, we are coming up; that we propose to invite all who will
to step up and occupy this position with us. Tell them that we are
learning that standing ground for a race, as for an individual, must be
laid in intelligence, industry, thrift and property, not as an end, but
as a means to the highest privileges; that we are learning that neither
the conqueror’s bullet nor the fiat of law could make an ignorant voter
an intelligent voter, could make a dependent man an independent man,
could give one citizen respect for another, a bank account, nor a foot
of land, nor an enlightened fireside. Tell them that as grateful as we
are to artist and patriotism for placing the figures of Shaw and his
comrades in physical form of beauty and magnificence, that after all,
the real monument, the greater monument, is being slowly but safely
builded among the lowly in the South, in the struggles and sacrifices of
a race to justify all that has been done and suffered for it.’

“One of the wishes that lay nearest Colonel Shaw’s heart was, that his
black troops might be permitted to fight by the side of the white
soldiers. Have we not lived to see that wish realized, and will it not
be more so in the future? Not at Wagner, not with rifle and bayonet, but
on the field of peace, in the battle of industry, in the struggle for
good government, in the lifting up of the lowest to the fullest
opportunities. In this we shall fight by the side of the white man,
North and South. And if this be true, as under God’s guidance it will,
that old flag, that emblem of progress and security, which brave
Sergeant Carney never permitted to fall upon the ground, will still be
borne aloft by Southern soldier and Northern soldier, and, in a more
potent and higher sense, we shall all realize that--

    ‘The slave’s chain and the master’s alike broken;
     The one curse of the race held both in tether;
     They are rising, all are rising--
     The black and the white together.’”

From the Boston Evening Transcript of June 1st, the following is taken:

“The core and kernel of yesterday’s great noon meeting in honor of the
Brotherhood of Man in Music Hall, was the superb address of the Negro
President of Tuskegee. Booker T. Washington received his Harvard A. M.
last June, the first of his race, said Governor Wolcott, to receive an
honorary degree from the oldest university in this country, and this for
the wise leadership of his people. And when Mr. Washington rose up in
the flag-filled, enthusiasm-warmed, patriotic and glowing atmosphere of
Music Hall, people felt keenly that here was the civic justification of
the old abolition spirit of Massachusetts, in his person the proof of
her ancient and indomitable faith; in his strong thought and rich
oratory, the crown and glory of the old war days of suffering and
strife. The scene was full of historic beauty and a deep significance.
‘Cold’ Boston was alive with the fire that is always hot in her heart
for righteousness and truth. Rows and rows of people who are seldom seen
at any public function, whole families of those who are certain to be
out of town on a holiday, crowded the place to overflowing. The city was
at her birthright fete in the persons of hundreds of her best citizens,
men and women whose lives and names stand for the virtues that make for
honorable civic pride.

“Battle music had filled the air. Ovation after ovation, applause warm
and prolonged had greeted the officers and friends of Colonel Shaw, the
sculptor, St. Gaudens, the memorial committee, the Governor and his
staff, and the Negro soldiers of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts as they
came upon the platform or entered the hall. Chief Marshal Appleton and
Mr. Chaplain Hall had performed their duties. Colonel Henry Lee, of
Governor Andrew’s old staff, had made the noble, simple presentation
speech for the committee, paying tribute to the chairman, Mr. John M.
Forbes, in whose stead he served. Governor Wolcott had made his short
memorable speech, saying, ‘Fort Wagner marked an epoch in history of a
race and called it into manhood.’ Mayor Quincy had received the monument
for the city of Boston in eloquent words. Professor James, brother of
Adjutant James, who fell at Fort Wagner, wounded but not killed, had
told the story of Colonel Shaw and his black regiment in gallant words.
He got at the soul of the day’s meaning when he said that the
battle-instinct is strong enough in the race, bred in our bone and
blood, but what is needed is ‘that lonely kind of valor, civic courage
we call it in time of peace;’ which blesses a nation with a continued
saying, and whose ‘inner mystery’ the precious virtue of civil genius is
preserved in perfect good temper and in power of righteous wrath. And
then after the singing of

    ‘Mine eyes have seen the glory,
     Of the coming of the Lord,’

Booker Washington arose. It was, of course, just the moment for him. The
multitude, shaken out of its usual Symphony concert calm, quivered with
an excitement that was not suppressed. A dozen times it had sprung to
its feet to cheer and wave and hurrah, as one person. When this man of
culture and voice and power, as well as dark skin, began with the
biblical poetic touch in his first words, and quickly uttered the names
of Andrew and of Stearns, feeling began to mount. You could see tears
glisten in the eyes of the soldiers and civilians on the platform. When
the orator turned to the colored soldiers on the platform, to the color
bearer of Fort Wagner, who smiling bore still the flag he never lowered,
even when wounded, and said: ‘To you, to the scarred and scattered
remnants of the Fifty-fourth, who, with empty sleeve and wanting leg,
have honored this occasion with your presence, to you, your commander is
not dead. Though Boston erected no monument, and history recorded no
story, in you and the loyal race you represent, Robert Gould Shaw would
have a monument which time could not wear away,’ then came the climax of
the emotion of the day and the hour. It was Roger Wolcott as well as the
Governor of Massachusetts, the individual representative of the people’s
sympathy, as well as the chief magistrate, who had sprung first to his
feet and cried, ‘Three cheers to Booker T. Washington.’”

One incident, however, I note that the newspapers do not describe fully.
Most of my readers will perhaps know that Sergeant William H. Carney, of
New Bedford, Mass., was the brave colored officer who at the battle of
Fort Wagner, was the color bearer and held on to the American flag.
Notwithstanding the fact that a large proportion of his regiment was
slain, he escaped in some miraculous manner and exclaimed, after the
battle was over, “The old flag never touched the ground.”

Before I made this address I had never met Sergeant Carney. Sergeant
Carney, however, together with a remnant of the Fifty-fourth
Massachusetts Regiment, was present on a front seat, and he held in his
hand the same flag which he had held on to safely during the battle of
Fort Wagner. When I turned to address the colored regiment and referred
to Sergeant Carney, he rose as if by instinct with the flag in his
hands. It has been my privilege to witness a good many satisfactory and
rather sensational demonstrations in connection with several of my
public addresses, but in dramatic effect I have never seen nor
experienced anything that equaled the impression made on the audience
when Sergeant Carney arose. For a good many minutes the audience seemed
to entirely lose control of itself and patriotic feeling was at a high

In November, 1897, the Tuskegee Institute received its first recognition
from a member of the President’s cabinet, in the way of a visit from
Hon. James A. Wilson, Secretary of Agriculture. A year previous to the
visit of Secretary Wilson, I began making efforts, in connection with
friends of the institution, to raise money enough to erect a building to
be devoted wholly to the teaching of agriculture, horticulture,
dairying, fruit-gardening, market gardening, etc. About $10,000 was
secured for the erection of this building. Secretary Wilson, whom I had
met in the West some months before, promised me that he would try to be
present at the formal opening of this building, and he kept his promise.
Secretary Wilson was accompanied from Washington by Dr. J. L. M. Curry,
the agent of the John F. Slater Fund, and was met at Tuskegee by Gov.
Joseph F. Johnston and a large crowd of colored and white citizens. In
addition to the persons named there were present, Ex-Gov. Northern, of
Georgia, and the State Superintendent of Education of Georgia, Major
Glenn. The occasion was widely published throughout the country and did
much to place the work of the school prominently before the people. The
opening of this building marked the beginning of a new era in the
history of the Tuskegee Institute as since that time we have emphasized
the teaching of agriculture to our students. During the earlier years of
the school we found it difficult to get students to take much interest
in our farm work. They wanted to go into the mechanical trades instead.

After the opening of this agricultural building and the securing of Mr.
Geo. W. Carver, a thoroughly educated man in all matters pertaining to
agriculture, the Agricultural Department has been put upon such a high
plane that the students no longer look upon agriculture as a drudgery,
and many of our best students are anxious to enter the Agricultural
Department. We have demands from all parts of the South for men who have
finished our courses in agriculture, dairying, etc., in fact, the
demands are far greater than we can supply. I often wonder why it is,
there being such excellent openings in these directions, that so few of
our young men are willing to prepare themselves for these valuable and
responsible positions.

I shall not occupy much more of the reader’s time in detailing accounts
of my various speechmaking tours; were I to do so, a good part of this
volume would be occupied in a description of them. Nearly one-half of my
time is spent away from Tuskegee addressing audiences of various kinds
in different parts of the country; sometimes in the South, other times
in the Middle or Eastern States, and going as far West in many cases as
Denver and Omaha. There is never a day that I do not receive a number of
invitations urging me to go to some section of the country to make an
address. When I am away from Tuskegee the portion of the time that is
not spent in making addresses in behalf of Tuskegee is spent in seeing
individuals. The latter work I consider very important and far-reaching.

During the winter of 1898 a State Constitutional Convention assembled in
New Orleans, La., for the purpose of passing a law which would result in
disfranchising a large proportion of the Negro voters. Some portion of
the Convention were very anxious to pass a law that would result in the
disfranchising of the Negro voters without disfranchising any portion of
the white voters. The passing of any such law seemed to me so
manifestly unjust that I addressed an open letter to the Convention,
which read as follows:

“_To the Louisiana State Constitutional Convention:_

“In addressing you this letter I know that I am running the risk of
appearing to meddle with something that does not concern me. But since I
know that nothing but love for our beautiful southland, which I hold as
near my heart as any of you can, and a sincere love for every black man
and white man within her borders, is the only thing actuating me to
write, I am willing to be misjudged, if need be, if I can accomplish a
little good.

“But I do not believe that you, gentlemen of the Convention, will
misinterpret my motives. What I say will, I believe, be considered in
the same earnest spirit in which I write.

“I am no politician; on the other hand, I have always advised my race to
give attention to acquiring property, intelligence and character, as the
necessary bases of good citizenship, rather than to mere political
agitation. But the question upon which I write is out of the region of
ordinary politics; it affects the civilization of two races, not for
to-day alone, but for a very long time to come; it is up in the region
of duty of man to man, of Christian to Christian.

“Since the war, no State has had such an opportunity to settle for all
time the race question, so far as it concerns politics, as is now given
in Louisiana. Will your Convention set an example to the world in this
respect? Will Louisiana take such high and just ground in respect to the
Negro that no one can doubt that the South is as good a friend to the
Negro as he possesses elsewhere? In all this, gentlemen of the
Convention, I am not pleading for the Negro alone, but for the morals,
the higher life of the white man as well. For the more I study this
question, the more I am convinced that it is not so much a question as
to what the white man will do with the Negro, as to what the Negro will
do with the white man’s civilization.

“The Negro agrees with you that it is necessary to the salvation of the
South that restriction be put upon the ballot. I know that you have two
serious problems before you; ignorant and corrupt government on the one
hand, and on the other a way to restrict the ballot so that control will
be in the hands of the intelligent, without regard to race. With the
sincerest sympathy with you in your efforts to find a way out of the
difficulty, I want to suggest that no State in the South can make a law
that will provide an opportunity or temptation for an ignorant white man
to vote, and withhold the same opportunity from an ignorant colored
man, without injuring both men. No State can make a law that can thus be
executed, without dwarfing for all time the morals of the white man in
the South. Any law controlling the ballot, that is not absolutely just
and fair to both races, will work more permanent injury to the whites
than to the blacks.

“The Negro does not object to an education or property test, but let the
law be so clear that no one clothed with State authority will be tempted
to perjure and degrade himself, by putting one interpretation upon it
for the white man and another for the black man. Study the history of
the South, and you will find that where there has been the most
dishonesty in the matter of voting, there you will find to-day the
lowest moral condition of both races. First, there was the temptation to
act wrongly with the Negro’s ballot. From this it was an easy step to
dishonesty with the white man’s ballot, to the carrying of concealed
weapons, to the murder of a Negro, and then to the murder of a white man
and then to lynching. I entreat you not to pass such a law as will prove
an eternal millstone about the neck of your children.

“No man can have respect for government and officers of the law when he
knows, deep down in his heart, that the exercise of the franchise is
tainted with fraud.

“The road that the South has been compelled to travel during the last
thirty years has been strewn with thorns and thistles. It has been as
one groping through the long darkness into the light. The time is not
very far distant when the world will begin to appreciate the real
character of the burden that was imposed upon the South when 4,500,000
ex-slaves, ignorant and impoverished, were given the franchise. No
people had before been given such a problem to solve. History had blazed
no path through the wilderness that could be followed. For thirty years
we have wandered in the wilderness. We are beginning to get out. But
there is but one road out, and all makeshifts, expedients, ‘profit and
loss calculations,’ but lead into the swamps, quicksands, quagmires and
jungles. There is a highway that will lead both races out into the pure,
beautiful sunshine, where there will be nothing to hide and nothing to
explain, where both races can grow strong and true and useful in every
fibre of their being. I believe that your convention will find this
highway; that it will enact a fundamental law which will be absolutely
just and fair to white and black alike.

“I beg of you, further, that in the degree that you close the ballot box
against the ignorant, that you open the school house. More than one-half
of the people of your State are Negroes. No State can long prosper when
a large percentage of its citizenship is in ignorance and poverty, and
has no interest in government. I beg of you that you do not treat us as
an alien people. We are not aliens. You know us; you know that we have
cleared your forests, tilled your fields, nursed your children and
protected your families. There is an attachment between us that few
understand. While I do not presume to advise you, yet it is in my heart
to say that if your convention would do something that would prevent,
for all time, strained relations between the two races, and would
permanently settle the matter of political relations in one State in the
South, at least, let the very best educational opportunities be provided
for both races; and add to this the enactment of an election law that
shall be incapable of unjust discrimination, at the same time providing
that in proportion as the ignorant secure education, property and
character, they will be given the right of citizenship. Any other course
will take from one-half of your citizens interest in the State, and hope
and ambition to become intelligent producers and tax-payers--to become
useful and virtuous citizens. Any other course will tie the white
citizens of Louisiana to a body of death.

“The Negroes are not unmindful of the fact that the white people of your
State pay the greater portion of the school taxes, and that the poverty
of the State prevents it from doing all that it desires for public
education; yet, I believe you will agree with me, that ignorance is more
costly to the State than education; that it will cost Louisiana more not
to educate the Negroes than it will to educate them. In connection with
a generous provision for public schools, I believe that nothing will so
help my own people in your State as provision at some institution for
the highest academic and normal training in connection with thorough
training in agriculture, mechanics and domestic economy. The fact is,
that 90 per cent. of our people depend upon the common occupations for
their living, and outside of the cities, 85 per cent. depend upon
agriculture for support. Notwithstanding this, our people have been
educated since the war in everything else but the very things that most
of them live by. First-class training in agriculture, horticulture,
dairying, stock raising, the mechanical arts and domestic economy, will
make us intelligent producers, and not only help us to contribute our
proportion as taxpayers, but will result in retaining much money in the
State that now goes out for that which can be produced in the State. An
institution that will give this training of the hand, along with the
highest mental culture, will soon convince our people that their
salvation is in



the ownership of property, industrial and business development, rather
than mere political agitation.

“The highest test of civilization of any race is in its willingness to
extend a helping hand to the less fortunate. A race, like an individual,
lifts itself up by lifting others up. Surely no people ever had a
greater chance to exhibit the highest Christian fortitude and
magnanimity than is now presented to the people of Louisiana. It
requires little wisdom or statesmanship to repress, to crush out, to
retard the hopes and aspirations of a people, but the highest and most
profound statesmanship is shown in guiding and stimulating a people so
that every fibre in the body, mind and soul shall be made to contribute
in the highest degree to the usefulness and nobility of the State. It is
along this line that I pray God the thoughts and activities of your
Convention be guided.”

This letter was sent out through the Associated Press widely through the
country. The leading papers of New Orleans as well as many parts of the
South indorsed my position editorially. The law that was finally passed
by the Convention, while not as bad as when first presented to the
Convention, was not by any means the law that should have been enacted.
In June of the same year I delivered the annual address before the
Regents of the University of New York, at Albany, and was the guest
while in that city of the Hon. Mr. McElroy, brother-in-law to the late
President Chester A. Arthur. It was the original plan to have this
address in the Senate Chamber, but the audience was so large that the
plan was changed, and the meeting was held in one of the large churches
in the city.



Immediately after the close of the Spanish-American war the Tuskegee
Institute started a movement to bring a number of Cuban and Porto Rican
students to Tuskegee, for the purpose of receiving training. The idea
was pretty generally endorsed, and within a reasonably short time enough
funds were donated by individuals throughout the country to provide for
the education of ten students from Cuba and Porto Rico. These students
are now at Tuskegee taking the regular courses of training and are
making a creditable record. It is the plan to have them return to their
island homes and give their people the benefit of their education.

Perhaps no single agency has been more potent during the last ten years
in assisting the Negro to better his condition than the John F. Slater
Fund, to which I have already referred. The trustees of this fund are
among the most successful and generous business men in the country, and
they are using the fund very largely as a means of pointing the proper
direction of the education of the Negro. During 1898 the Slater Fund
trustees made an appropriation which was to be used in enabling Mrs.
Washington and myself to go into all of the Southern cities and deliver
lectures to our people, especially in the large cities, speaking to them
plainly about their present material, financial, physical, educational
and moral needs, and trying to point out a way by which they could
improve. We spent a portion of the summer of 1898 in going into cities
in North and South Carolina. Meetings were held in Greensboro,
Wilmington, Columbia and Charleston, and everywhere we spoke the houses
were packed full. We spoke four or five times in Charleston, and the
audience rooms were crowded at every meeting with representatives of
both races. We have the satisfaction of feeling that these meetings
accomplished a great deal of good, and everywhere we were overwhelmed
with thanks from the people for our words. The newspapers gave us all
the space we desired and helped not only through their news columns, but
were generous in their editorial mention.

When the Spanish-American war closed there was great rejoicing
throughout the country and many cities vied with each other in their
effort to celebrate the return of peace on a scale that would command
the attention of the whole country. The city of Chicago, however, seemed
to have been the most successful in these celebrations. Chicago was
fortunate in securing the President of the United States, together with
nearly all the members of his cabinet and various foreign ministers and
other important officials. This gave the celebration in Chicago a
national importance such as attached to the celebration of no other city
which held one.

I was asked by President William R. Harper, of the University of
Chicago, chairman of the committee on invitations, to deliver one of the
addresses in Chicago. I accepted the invitation and delivered, in fact,
two addresses during the Jubilee week in Chicago. The principal address
which I delivered on this occasion was on Sunday evening, October 16.
The meeting was held in the Chicago Auditorium, and was the largest
audience that I have ever addressed in any part of the country. Besides
speaking in the main auditorium, I addressed, on the same evening, two
overflow audiences held in different portions of the city. It is said
there were 16,000 people in the Auditorium, and it seems to me there
were at least 16,000 on the outside trying to get into the building. In
fact, without the aid of a policeman, it was impossible for any one to
get anywhere near the entrance. The meeting was attended by President
William McKinley, the members of his cabinet, foreign ministers and a
large number


of army and navy officers, many of whom had distinguished themselves
during the Spanish-American war. The speakers, besides myself, on Sunday
evening, were, Rabbi Emil G. Hirsch, Father Thomas P. Hodnett and Dr.
John H. Barrows.

The speech which I delivered on Sunday evening was as follows:

“_Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen:_

“On an important occasion in the life of the Master, when it fell to Him
to pronounce judgment on two courses of action, these memorable words
fell from his lips: ‘And Mary hath chosen the better part.’ This was the
supreme test in the case of an individual. It is the highest test in the
case of a race or nation. Let us apply the test to the American Negro.

“In the life of our Republic, when he has had the opportunity to choose,
has it been the better or worse part? When in the childhood of this
nation the Negro was asked to submit to slavery or choose death and
extinction, as did the aborigines, he chose the better part, that which
perpetuated the race.

“When in 1776 the Negro was asked to decide between British oppression
and American independence, we find him choosing the better part and
Crispus Attucks, a Negro, was the first to shed his blood on State
street, Boston, that the white American might enjoy liberty forever,
though his race remained in slavery.

“When in 1814 at New Orleans, the test of patriotism came again, we find
the Negro choosing the better part, and Gen. Andrew Jackson himself
testifying that no heart was more loyal and no arm more strong and
useful in defense of righteousness.

“When the long and memorable struggle came between union and separation,
when he knew that victory on one hand meant freedom, and defeat on the
other his continued enslavement, with a full knowledge of the portentous
meaning of it all, when the suggestion and temptation came to burn the
home and massacre wife and children during the absence of the master in
battle, and thus insure his liberty, we find him choosing the better
part, and for four long years protecting and supporting the helpless,
defenceless ones entrusted to his care.

“When in 1863 the cause of the union seemed to quiver in the balance,
and there was doubt and distrust, the Negro was asked to come to the
rescue in arms, and the valor displayed at Fort Wagner and Port Hudson
and Fort Pillow testifies most eloquently again that the Negro chose the
better part.

“When a few months ago the safety and honor of the republic were
threatened by a foreign foe, when the wail and anguish of the oppressed
from a distant isle reached his ears, we find the Negro forgetting his
own wrongs, forgetting the laws and customs that discriminated against
him in his own country, again choosing the better part--the part of
honor and humanity. And if you would know how he deported himself in the
field at Santiago, apply for an answer to Shafter and Roosevelt and
Wheeler. Let them tell how the Negro faced death and laid down his life
in defense of honor and humanity, and when you have gotten the full
story of the heroic conduct of the Negro in the Spanish-American
war--heard it from the lips of Northern soldiers, and Southern soldiers,
from ex-abolitionists and ex-masters--then decide within yourselves
whether a race that is thus willing to die for its country should not be
given the highest opportunity to live for its country.

“In the midst of all the complaints of suffering in the camp and field,
suffering from fever and hunger, where is the official or citizen that
has heard a word of complaint from the lips of a black soldier? The only
request that has come from the Negro soldier has been that he might be
permitted to replace the white soldier when heat and malaria began to
decimate the ranks of the white regiment, and to occupy at the same
time the post of greatest danger.

“This country has been most fortunate in her victories. She has twice
measured arms with England and has won. She has met the spirit of
rebellion within her borders and was victorious. She has met the proud
Spaniard and he lays prostrate at her feet. All this is well, it is
magnificent. But there remains one other victory for Americans to win--a
victory as far-reaching and important as any that has occupied our army
and navy. We have succeeded in every conflict, except the effort to
conquer ourselves in the blotting out of racial prejudices. We can
celebrate the era of peace in no more effectual way than by a firm
resolve on the part of the Northern men and Southern men, black men and
white men, that the trenches that we together dug around Santiago shall
be the eternal burial place of all that which separates us in our
business and civil relations. Let us be as generous in peace as we have
been brave in battle. Until we thus conquer ourselves, I make no empty
statement when I say that we shall have a cancer gnawing at the heart of
the republic that shall one day prove as dangerous as an attack from an
army without or within.

“In this presence and on this auspicious occasion, I want to present the
deep gratitude of nearly ten millions of my people to our wise, patient
and brave Chief Executive for the generous manner in which my race has
been recognized during this conflict. A recognition that has done more
to blot out sectional and racial lines than any event since the dawn of
our freedom.

“I know how vain and impotent is all abstract talk on this subject. In
your efforts to ‘rise on stepping stones of your dead selves,’ we of the
black race shall not leave you unaided. We shall make the task easier
for you by acquiring property, habits of thrift, economy, intelligence
and character, by each making himself of individual worth in his own
community. We shall aid you in this as we did a few days ago at El Caney
and Santiago, when we helped you to hasten the peace we here celebrate.
You know us; you are not afraid of us. When the crucial test comes, you
are not ashamed of us. We have never betrayed or deceived you. You know
that as it has been, so it will be. Whether in war or in peace, whether
in slavery or in freedom, we have always been loyal to the Stars and

I shall not attempt to burden the reader with newspaper comments on this
address, but shall content myself with giving a description that
appeared at the time in the Chicago Times Herald.

“Booker T. Washington’s address at the Jubilee Thanksgiving services at
the Auditorium contained one of the most eloquent tributes ever paid to
the loyalty and valor of the colored race, and at the same time, was one
of the most powerful appeals for justice to a race which has always
chosen the better part.

“The speaker, who is the recognized leader of the colored race, reviewed
the history of his people from the childhood of the nation to the
present day. He pictured the Negro choosing slavery rather than
extinction; recalled Crispus Attucks, shedding his blood at the
beginning of the American revolution that white Americans might be free,
while black Americans remained in slavery; rehearsed the conduct of the
Negroes with Jackson at New Orleans; drew a vivid and pathetic picture
of the Southern slaves protecting and supporting the families of their
masters while the latter were fighting to perpetuate black slavery;
recounted the bravery of colored troops at Port Hudson and Forts Wagner
and Pillow, and praised the heroism of the black regiments that stormed
El Caney and Santiago to give freedom to the enslaved people of Cuba,
forgetting for the time being the unjust discrimination that law and
custom make against them in their own country.

“In all of these things the speaker declared that his race had chosen
the better part. And then he made his eloquent appeal to the
consciences of white Americans: ‘When you have gotten the full story of
the heroic conduct of the Negro in the Spanish-American war, heard it
from the lips of Northern soldier and Southern soldier, from
ex-abolitionists and ex-masters, then decide within yourselves whether a
race that is thus willing to die for its country, should not be given
the highest opportunity to live for its country.’

“When Americans conquer race prejudice, the speaker declared, they will
have won a victory greater than can be obtained through the achievements
of arms. He likened the effect of race discrimination, especially in the
Southern States, to a cancer gnawing at the heart of the republic, ‘as
dangerous as an attack from an army within or without.’

“This is not a threat, but a warning, and one to which the white race
should give heed. The only solution of the ‘Negro problem’ which will
remove all menace to the tranquillity and interest of the country, is a
universal recognition of the Negro’s civil rights. When law and custom
cease to degrade him and place obstacles in the way of his advancement;
when we cease by unjust discrimination to fill his heart with despair
and hatred, but instead, give him hope and aid in his efforts to fully
emancipate himself, he will solve the problem now fraught with vexation
and danger.

“The race is fortunate in having a Booker T. Washington and other
comparatively great men as living evidence of what education and the
development of natural faculties have accomplished for the colored man,
as well as what can be accomplished in the future.

“Only through the defeat of race prejudice can the colored man hope to
acquire his full proportions as a citizen. And in conquering race
prejudice, the white race will achieve a greater victory than both races
won in the late war. They will be choosing the better part.”

The portion of the speech which seemed to raise the wildest and most
sensational enthusiasm was the part where I thanked the President for
his recognition of the Negro in his appointments during the
Spanish-American war. The President occupied a seat in a box to the
right of the platform. When I addressed the President I turned toward
him, and as I closed the sentence thanking him for his generosity the
whole audience arose and cheered for some time. The cheering continued
with waving of hats, handkerchieves and canes until the President
himself arose in his box and bowed to me two or three times. This
kindled anew the enthusiasm and the demonstration was almost beyond

I shall not go into all the details relating to the attention which was
shown me during this three days’ visit to Chicago. I would say that from
the Mayor of the city down every official connected with the Peace
Jubilee seemed to give me the greatest attention and completely put me
at my ease on every occasion. I was given a position on the President’s
stand during the review of the parade and dined twice with the
President’s party.

My address was reported in all portions of the country through the
associated press dispatches. One portion of it seemed to have been
misunderstood, however, by the Southern press and some of the Southern
newspapers took exception to some things that I said and criticised me
rather strongly for what seemed to them a reflection upon the South.
These criticisms continued for several weeks, when I received a letter
from the editor of the Age-Herald, published in Birmingham, Alabama,
asking me if I would say just what I meant to say in my address, and I
replied in the following letter, which seemed to put an end to all
criticism on the part of the Southern press and to satisfy the South:

“_To the Editor of the ‘Age-Herald:’_

“Replying to your communication of recent date regarding my Chicago
speech, I would say that I have made no change whatever in my attitude
towards the South or in my idea of the elevation of the colored man. I
have always made it a rule to say nothing before a Northern audience
that I would not say before a Southern audience. I do not think it
necessary to go into any extended explanation of what my position is,
for if my seventeen years of work here in the heart of the South is not
a sufficient explanation I do not see how mere words can explain. Each
year more and more confirms me in the wisdom of what I have advocated
and tried to do.

“In Chicago, at the Peace Jubilee, in discussing the relations of the
races, I made practically the same plea that I did in Nashville this
summer at the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor, where I
spoke almost wholly to a Southern white audience. In Chicago I made the
same plea that I did in a portion of my address at the opening of the
Atlanta Exposition, for the blotting out of race prejudice in
‘commercial and civil relations.’ What is termed social recognition is a
question I never discuss. As I said in my Atlanta address, ‘The wisest
among my race understand that the agitations of questions of social
equality is the extremest folly, and that progress in the enjoyment of
all the privileges that will come to us must be the result of severe and
constant struggle rather than of artificial forcing.’



God knows that both--we, of the black race and the white race--have
enough problems pressing upon us for solution without obtruding a social
question, out of which nothing but harm would come.

“In my addresses I very seldom refer to the question of prejudice,
because I realize that it is something to be lived down, not talked
down, but at that great meeting which marked, in a large measure, the
end of all sectional feeling, I thought it an opportune time to ask for
the blotting out of racial prejudice as far as possible in ‘business and
civil relations.’

“In a portion of my address which was not sent out by the Associated
Press, I made the request that the Negro be given every opportunity in
proportion as he makes himself worthy. At Chicago I did not refer wholly
to the South or to the Southern white people. All who are acquainted
with the subject will agree that prejudice exists in the North as well
as in the South. I naturally laid emphasis upon the South because, as we
all know, that, owing to the large proportion of blacks to whites in the
South, it is in the South mainly that the problem is to be worked out.
Whenever I discuss the question of race prejudice I never do so solely
in the interest of the Negro; I always take higher ground. If a black
man hates a white man it narrows and degrades his soul. If a white man
hates a black man it narrows and degrades his soul.

“Both races will grow stronger in morals and prosper in business just in
proportion as in every manly way they cultivate the confidence and
friendship of each other. Outbreaks of race feelings and strained
relations not only injure business, but retard the moral and religious
growth of both races, and it is the duty among the intelligent of both
races to cultivate patience and moderation.

“Each day convinces me that the salvation of the Negro in this country
will be in his cultivation of habits of thrift, economy, honesty, the
acquiring of education, Christian character, property and industrial

I have always made it a rule never to say anything in an address in the
North that I would not say in the South. I have no sympathy with any
policy which would leave one to suppose that he can help matters in the
South by merely abusing the Southern white man. What the South wants is
help and not abuse. Of course, when individuals, communities or states
in the South do a wrong thing they should be criticised, but it should
be done in a dignified, generous manner. Mere abuse of a man because he
is white or because he is black amounts to nothing and ends in harm. I
have said more than once, and I here repeat it, that I can sympathize as
much with a white man as with a black man; I can sympathize as much
with a Southern white man as with a Northern white man. I do not propose
that my nature shall be lowered by my yielding to the temptation to hate
a man because he is white or because he happens to live in the South.
The Negro who hates a white man is usually little and narrow. The white
man who hates a Negro is usually little and narrow. Both races will grow
strong, useful and generous in proportion as they learn to love each
other instead of hating each other. The Negro race, of all races in the
world, should be the last to cultivate the habit of hating an individual
on account of his race. He will gain more by being generous than by
being narrow. If I can do anything to assist a member of the white race
I feel just as happy as if I had done something to assist a member of
the Negro race. I think I have learned that the best way to lift one’s
self up is to help some one else.

While writing upon this subject, it is a pleasure for me to add that in
all my contact with the white people of the South, I have never received
a single personal insult. The white people in and near Tuskegee, to an
especial degree, seem to count it a privilege to show me all the respect
within their power, and often go out of their way to do this.

Not very long ago, I was making a journey between Dallas, Texas, and
Houston. In some way it became known in advance that I was on the train.
At nearly every station at which the train stopped, numbers of white
people, including in most cases the officials of the town, came aboard
and introduced themselves and thanked me heartily for the work that I
was trying to do for the South.

On another occasion, in Georgia, I found in a Pullman two ladies from
Boston whom I knew well. These ladies being ignorant of the customs of
the South, insisted that I take a seat with them in their section. After
some hesitation I consented. One of them, without my knowledge, ordered
supper to be served to the three of us. When I found that supper had
been ordered, I tried to excuse myself, but the ladies insisted that I
must eat with them. I finally settled back in my seat with a sigh, and
said to myself: “I am in for it now, sure.”

At last the meal being over, I went into the smoking-room, where most of
the men by that time were. In the meantime, however, it had become known
in some way throughout the car who I was. When I went into the
smoking-room nearly every man came up and introduced himself to me and
thanked me earnestly for the work that I was trying to do for the whole


Phelps Hall. Press Platform. Pres. McKinley. Mr. Washington’s Cottage.

Reviewing Platform.



Gov. Johnson, Pres. McKinley, Principal Washington.
In Reviewing Stand.




Soon after starting the Tuskegee Institute I earnestly desired to have
the President of the United States visit it. The chance of securing such
a visit seemed to be so unattainable that I dared not mention it to my
nearest friend; still, I resolved that such a visit should be made. The
more I thought of it, the more I became convinced that there was but one
way to secure the attention and the interest of the President of the
United States, and that was by making the institution so useful to the
country that the attention of the President would necessarily be
attracted to it. From the first day that the school was opened, I tried
to impress upon teachers and students the fact that by reason of our
former condition of servitude, and prejudice against our color, we must
try to perform every duty entrusted to us, not only as well, but better
than any one else, so as to receive proper consideration. To-day this is
the spirit which pervades the entire school. We strive to have our
students understand that no possible prejudice can explain away the
influence of a Negro living in a nicely painted house, with well-kept
flower yards, gardens, farm, poultry and live stock and who is at the
same time a large tax-payer in his county.

After nearly eighteen years of work and struggle, I was more than ever
determined to secure a visit from the highest official of my country,
not only that he and the members of his cabinet might see what ex-slaves
had accomplished in the way of building an institution of learning, but
also for the sake of the encouragement that such a recognition from the
Nation’s Chief Executive would give the whole Negro race in America.

In October, 1898, I saw it mentioned in several newspapers that
President McKinley was likely to visit the Atlanta Peace Jubilee, in
December. I went at once to Washington, and was not there a great while
before I found my way to the White House. There was quite a crowd of
people in the various reception rooms, many of whom had been waiting
some time for an audience with the President. The size of the crowd
somewhat discouraged me, and I concluded that my chances of seeing the
President were very slim. I at once sought the Secretary to the
President, Mr. J. Addison Porter, and very frankly told him my errand.
Mr. Porter kindly sent my card in to the President, and, in a few
minutes, Mr. McKinley permitted me to see him. After a most interesting
conversation, regarding the condition of the colored people in the
South, in which he manifested his interest in their development, the
President told me that, in case he saw his way clear to go to Atlanta,
in December, he would try hard to go to Tuskegee, which is a hundred and
forty miles beyond Atlanta. At that time he did not make his promise
final, but asked me to see him later.

By the middle of the following month, the President had definitely
promised to attend the Peace Jubilee at Atlanta, Ga., December 14 and
15. I went again to see the President. This time Mr. Charles W. Hare, a
white citizen of Tuskegee, accompanied me, and assisted in showing the
President the importance of making such a visit. While the question was
being discussed with cabinet officers, one of the oldest and most
influential white citizens of Atlanta, one who had been a large
slave-holder and who is now an active Democrat, stepped into the room.
The President asked this gentleman’s opinion of the wisdom of his making
this visit, and as to his going one hundred and forty miles out of the
way to visit such an institution. This Atlanta citizen replied that it
was the thing to do. The reply was made without hesitation. Between my
two visits, that active and most constant friend of the Negro race, Dr.
J. L. M. Curry, agent of the Peabody and Slater Funds, hearing of my
desire to have a visit from the President, made a personal call upon Mr.
McKinley without my knowledge, and urged him to make the visit. I will
not prolong the story, except to add that before the day of my last
visit was over, the President definitely decided to spend the greater
part of the day of December 16 in visiting the Tuskegee Institute. In
connection with this visit I had to call upon the President three or
four times at the White House, and at all times I found him kind,
patient and most cordial, apparently forgetful of the differences in our
history. The time of my last visit was but a few days after the election
riots of that year in North and South Carolina, when the colored people
throughout the country were feeling gloomy and discouraged. I observed
by the tenor of the President’s remarks that he felt keenly and
seriously for the race. Notwithstanding a large number of people were
waiting to see him, he detained me some twenty minutes, discussing the
condition and needs of my race in the South. When I told him that I
thought a visit from the President of the United States at that time to
a Negro institution would do more than almost anything else to encourage
the race and show to the world in what esteem he held the race, he
replied that he was determined to show





his interest in us by acts rather than by mere words, and that if I
thought his visit to Tuskegee would permanently help the race and the
institution he would most gladly give up one day of his administration
to visit Tuskegee.

The morning of December 16 came, and at eight o’clock the President,
Mrs. McKinley, with members of his cabinet, their families, besides
distinguished generals, including General Shafter, General Joseph
Wheeler, General Lawton and others, arrived on special trains from
Atlanta. Invitations had been extended to Gov. Joseph F. Johnston, of
Alabama, and his staff. These were also present. The Alabama Legislature
was also invited, and it adjourned and came to Tuskegee in a body. In
all more than six thousand visitors came. The morning was spent in an
inspection of the grounds and in witnessing a parade of all the work of
the school, religious, academic and industrial, represented on floats.
This over, we went to the large chapel, where the President, members of
his cabinet, the Governor, and others spoke. A few extracts from the
addresses of the President, Secretary of the Navy Long and Postmaster
General Smith, in commendation of Tuskegee’s work, may be of interest.
The President said:

“Teachers and Pupils of Tuskegee: To meet you under such pleasant
auspices and to have the opportunity of a personal observation of your
work is indeed most gratifying. The Tuskegee Normal and Industrial
Institute is ideal in its conception, and has already a large and
growing reputation in the country and is not unknown abroad. I
congratulate all who are associated in this undertaking for the good
work which it is doing in the education of its students to lead lives of
honor and usefulness, thus exalting the race for which it was

“Nowhere, I think, could a more delightful location have been chosen for
this unique educational experiment, which has attracted the attention
and won the support even of conservative philanthropists in all sections
of the country.

“To speak of Tuskegee without paying special tribute to Booker T.
Washington’s genius and perseverance would be impossible. The inception
of this noble enterprise was his, and he deserves high credit for it.
His was the enthusiasm and enterprise which made its steady progress
possible and established in the institution its present high standard of
accomplishment. He has won a worthy reputation as one of the great
leaders of his race, widely known and much respected at home and abroad
as an accomplished educator, a great orator and a true philanthropist.

“What steady and gratifying advances have been made here during the past
fifteen years a personal inspection of the material equipment
strikingly proves. The fundamental plan of the original undertaking has
been steadily followed; but new features have been added; gaps in the
course of instruction have been filled in; the patronage and resources
have been largely increased until even the legislative department of the
State of Alabama recognized the worth of the work and of the great
opportunities here afforded. From one small frame house the institution
has grown until it includes the fine group of dormitories, recitation
rooms, lecture halls and work shops which have so surprised and
delighted us to-day. A thousand students, I am told, are here cared for
by nearly a hundred teachers, altogether forming with the preparatory
department a symmetrical scholastic community which has been well called
a model for the industrial colored schools of the South. Certain it is
that a pupil bent on fitting himself or herself for mechanical work can
have the widest choice of useful and domestic occupations.

“One thing I like about this institution is that its policy has been
generous and progressive; it has not been so self-centered or interested
in its own pursuits and ambitions as to ignore what is going on in the
rest of the country or make it difficult for outsiders to share the
local advantages. I allude especially to the spirit in which the annual
conferences have been held by leading colored citizens and educators,
with the intention of improving the condition of their less fortunate
brothers and sisters. Here, we can see, is an immense field and one
which cannot too soon or too carefully be utilized. The conferences have
grown in popularity, and are well calculated not only to encourage
colored men and colored women in their individual efforts, but to
cultivate and promote an amicable relationship between the two races--a
problem whose solution was never more needed than at the present time.
Patience, moderation, self-control, knowledge, character, will surely
win you victories and realize the best aspirations of your people. An
evidence of the soundness of the purpose of this institution is that
those in charge of its management evidently do not believe in attempting
the unattainable, and their instruction in self-reliance and practical
industry is most valuable.

“In the day and night schools many branches can be taught at a small
expense, which will give the man and the woman who have mastered them
immediate employment and secure their success afterwards, provided they
abide by the principles of industry, morality and religion here
inculcated. In common with the Hampton Institute, in Virginia, the
Tuskegee Institute has been and is to-day of inestimable value in sowing
the seeds of good citizenship. Institutions of their standing and
worthy patronage form a steadier and more powerful agency for the good
of all concerned than any yet proposed or suggested. The practical is
here associated with the academic, which encourages both learning and
industry. Here you learn to master yourselves, find the best adaptation
of your faculties, with advantages for advanced learning to meet the
high duties of life. No country, epoch or race has a monopoly upon
knowledge. Some have easier but not necessarily better opportunities for
self-development. What a few can obtain free most have to pay for,
perhaps by hard physical labor, mental struggle and self-denial. But in
this great country all can have the opportunity for bettering
themselves, provided they exercise intelligence and perseverance, and
their motives and conduct are worthy. Nowhere are such facilities for
universal education found as in the United States. They are accessible
to every boy and girl, white and black.

“Integrity and industry are the best possessions which any man can have,
and every man can have them. Nobody can give them to him or take them
from him. He cannot acquire them by inheritance; he cannot buy them or
beg them or borrow them. They belong to the individual and are his
unquestioned property. He alone can part with them. They are a good
thing to have and keep. They make happy homes; they achieve success in
every walk of life; they have won the greatest triumphs for mankind. No
man who has them ever gets into the police court or before the grand
jury or in the workhouse or the chain gang. They give one moral and
material power. They will bring you a comfortable living, make you
respect yourself and command the respect of your fellows. They are
indispensable to success. They are invincible. The merchant requires the
clerk whom he employs to have them. The railroad corporation inquires
whether the man seeking employment possesses them. Every avenue of human
endeavor welcomes them. They are the only keys to open with certainty
the door of opportunity to struggling manhood. Employment waits on them;
capital requires them. Citizenship is not good without them. If you do
not already have them, get them.

“To the pupils here assembled I extend my especial congratulations that
the facilities for advancing afforded to them are so numerous and so
inviting. Those who are here for the time being have the reputation of
the institution in charge and should, therefore, be all the more careful
to guard it worthily. Others who have gone before you have made great
sacrifices to reach the present results. What you do will affect not
only those who come after you here, but many men and women whom you may
never meet. The results of your training and work here will eventually
be felt, either directly or indirectly, in nearly every part of the

“Most of you are young, and youth is the time best fitted for
development both of the body and mind. Whatever you do, do with all your
might, with will and purpose, not of the selfish kind, but looking to
benefit your race and your country. In comparing the past with the
present you should be especially grateful that it has been your good
fortune to come within the influences of such an institution as that of
Tuskegee and that you are under the guidance of such a strong leader. I
thank him most cordially for the pleasure of visiting this institution,
and I bring to all here associated my good will and the best wishes of
your countrymen, wishing you the realization of success in whatever
undertakings that may hereafter engage you.”

Secretary Long said:

“_Mr. President and Students:_

“I cannot make a speech to you to-day. My heart is too full, full of
hope, admiration and pride for my countrymen of both sections and both
colors. I am filled with gratitude and admiration for your work, and
from this time forward, I shall have absolute confidence in your
progress and in the solution of the problem in which you are engaged.

“The problem, I say, has been solved. A picture has been presented
to-day which should be put upon canvas with the pictures of Washington
and Lincoln, and transmitted to future time and generations; a picture
which the press of the country should spread broadcast over the land, a
most dramatic picture, and that picture is this: The President of the
United States standing on this platform; on one side, the Governor of
Alabama, on the other, completing the trinity, a representative of a
race only a few years ago in bondage, the colored president of the
Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute.

“God bless the President under whose majesty such a scene as that is
presented to the American people. God bless the State of Alabama which
is showing that it can deal with this problem for itself. God bless the
orator, philanthropist and disciple of the Great Master,--who if he were
on earth would be doing the same work,--Booker T. Washington.”

Postmaster General Smith closed as follows:

“We have witnessed many spectacles within the last few days. We have
seen the magnificent grandeur and the magnificent achievements of one of
the great metropolitan cities of the South. We have seen heroes of the
war pass by in procession.



We have seen floral parades. But I am sure my colleagues will agree with
me in saying that we have witnessed no spectacle more impressive and
more encouraging, more inspiring for our future than that which we have
witnessed here this morning.

“I have thought as I sat here this morning of two men, two great men,
two great educators. One of them was the founder and creator of the
Hampton Institute, in Virginia, and the other is the real creator and
founder and pre-eminent head of this great industrial institution of the
South. General Armstrong did a work which cannot be measured by the
breadth of his philanthropy, the greatness of his unselfishness and the
extent of his power in educating a people. We have for years mourned his
lamented death. His memory will be preserved among that of the great
benefactors of our people and our government. In the future, though long
may that time be distant so far as relates to the head of this
institution, in the distant future, we shall be ready to erect in the
capitol of the nation, among the heroes of our country, among those who
have contributed to its upbuilding and to its salvation, we shall be
ready to erect a monument to these two great philanthropists and leaders
of this people, General Armstrong and Booker T. Washington.”

I cannot close this chapter without adding a reference to the great
pleasure and satisfaction given by the part the white and colored
citizens of the town of Tuskegee took in this recognition of the school.
A few years before this I had gone to Tuskegee unknown and entirely
without means, but no white people, in any part of America, could have
acted more cordially and co-operated more heartily with our school than
did the white people of Tuskegee upon this occasion. They organized
various committees, composed of both men and women, to help us in giving
the President the proper reception. The town, from one end to the other,
was decorated with the National colors, to say nothing of many beautiful
arches and other forms of decorations. One of the many newspaper
correspondents who accompanied the President remarked to me that he had
never seen in any town of the size such generous and appropriate

What the President and his party thought of this visit to the Tuskegee
Normal and Industrial Institute can be best told by the following
letter, received from the Secretary to the President:


WASHINGTON, Dec. 23, 1899.

“DEAR SIR:--By this mail I take pleasure in sending you engrossed copies
of the souvenir of the visit of the President to your institution.
These sheets bear the autographs of the President and the members of the
Cabinet who accompanied him on the trip. Let me take this opportunity of
congratulating you most heartily and sincerely upon the great success of
the exercises provided for and entertainment furnished us under your
auspices during our visit to Tuskegee. Every feature of the program was
perfectly executed and was viewed or participated in with the heartiest
satisfaction by every visitor present. The unique exhibition which you
gave of your pupils engaged in their industrial vocations was not only
artistic but thoroughly impressive. The tribute paid by the President
and his Cabinet to your work was none too high and forms a most
encouraging augury, I think, for the future prosperity of your
institution. I cannot close without assuring you that the modesty shown
by yourself in the exercises was most favorably commented upon by all
the members of our party.

“With best wishes for the continued advance of your most useful and
patriotic undertaking, kind personal regards, and the compliments of the
season, believe me, always,

Very sincerely yours,
Secretary to the President.”

Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute,
Tuskegee, Ala.”

The impression which this visit of the President, Members of his
Cabinet, and other distinguished visitors made upon the teachers and
students of the Tuskegee Institute, cannot be overestimated. It inspired
the teachers and students with new life and hope, not only in the work
of the present, but in that of the future. It did more. It inspired the
older members of the community, black and white, with new and higher
purposes in the hard battle of life. It made us all feel, as we had
never felt before, that we were in a higher and nobler sense citizens of
the great Republic, and that the President of the United States was our
President, “in soberness and truth,” as much as he was of the people of
larger and more pretentious communities than ours.



Tuesday, February 23, 1892, was a day memorable in the lives and
fortunes of the great bulk of the Negro population in the “Black Belt”
of the South. It was a strange and altogether new movement in which the
Negro was called upon to participate.

From the time I first began working at Tuskegee I began to study closely
not only the young people but the condition, the weak points and the
strong points, of the older people. I was very often surprised to see
how much common sense and wisdom these older people possessed,
notwithstanding they were wholly ignorant as far as the letter of the
book was concerned.

About the first of January, 1892, I sent out invitations to about 75 of
the common, hard-working farmers, as well as to mechanics, ministers and
teachers, asking them to assemble at Tuskegee on the 23d of February and
spend the day in talking over their present condition, their helps and
their hindrances, and to see if it were possible to suggest any means by
which the rank and file of the people might be able to benefit
themselves. I quote a portion of the printed invitation which was sent
out to those invited to attend the Conference:

“In the Conference, two ends will be kept in view: First, to find out
the actual industrial, moral and educational condition of the masses.
Second, to get as much light as possible on what is the most effective
way for the young men and women whom the Tuskegee Institute, and other
institutions, are educating to use their education in helping the masses
of the colored people to lift themselves up.

“In this connection, it may be said in general, that a very large
majority of the colored people in the Black Belt, cotton district, are
in debt for supplies secured through the ‘mortgage system,’ rent the
land on which they live and dwell in one-room log cabins. The schools
are in session in the country districts not often longer than three
months and are taught in most cases in churches or log cabins with
almost no apparatus or school furniture.

“The poverty and ignorance of the Negro, which show themselves by his
being compelled to ‘mortgage his crop,’ go in debt for the food and
clothes on which to live from day to day, are not only a terrible
drawback to the Negro himself but a severe drain on the resources of the
white man. Say what we will, the fact remains, that in the presence of
the poverty and ignorance of the millions of Negroes in the Black Belt
the material, moral and educational interests of both races are making
but slow headway.”

In answer to this invitation we were surprised to find that nearly 400
men and women of all kinds and conditions came. In my opening address I
impressed upon them the fact that we wanted to spend the first part of
the day in having them state plainly and simply just what their
conditions were. I told them that we wanted no exaggeration and did not
want any cut and dried or prepared speeches, we simply wanted each
person to speak in a plain, simple manner, very much as he would if he
were about his own fireside speaking to the members of his own family. I
also insisted that we confine our discussion to such matters as we
ourselves could remedy rather than in spending the time in complaining
or fault-finding about those things which we could not directly reach.
At the first meeting of this Negro Conference we also adopted the plan
of having these common people speak themselves and refused to allow
people who were far above them in education and surroundings to take up
the time in merely giving advice to these representatives of the masses.

Very early in the history of these Conferences I found that it meant a
great deal more to the people to have one individual who had succeeded
in getting out of debt, ceasing to mortgage his crop and who had bought
a home and who was living well, occupy the time in telling the remainder
of his fellows how he had succeeded than in having some one who was
entirely out of the atmosphere of the average farmer occupy the time in
merely lecturing to them.

In the morning of the first day of the Conference we had as many
representatives from various parts as we had time in which to tell of
the industrial condition existing in their immediate community. We did
not let them generalize or tell what they thought ought to be or was
existing in somebody’s else community, we held each person down to a
statement of the facts regarding his own individual community. For
example, we had them state what proportion of the people in their
community owned land, what proportion lived in one-room cabins, how many
were in debt and the number that mortgaged their crops, and what rate of
interest they were paying on their indebtedness. Under this head we also
discussed the number of acres of land that each individual was
cultivating and whether or not the crop was diversified or merely
confined to the growing of cotton. We also got hold of facts from the
representatives of these people concerning their educational progress;
that is, we had them state whether or not a school-house existed, what
kind of teacher





they had and what proportion of the children were attending school. We
did not stop with these matters; we took up the moral and religious
condition of the communities, had them state to what extent, for
example, people had been sent to jail from their communities; how many
were habitual drinkers; what kind of minister they had; whether or not
he was able to lead the people in morality as well as in spiritual

After we had got hold of facts which enabled us to judge of the actual
state of affairs existing, we spent the afternoon of the first day in
hearing from the lips of these same people in what way, in their
opinion, the present condition of things could be improved, and it was
most interesting as well as surprising to see how clearly these people
saw into their present condition, and how intelligently they discussed
their weak points as well their strong points. It was generally agreed
that the mortgage system, the habit of buying on credit and paying large
rates of interest, was at the bottom of much of the evil existing among
the people, and the fact that so large a proportion of them live on
rented land also had much to do with keeping them down. The condition of
the schools was discussed with equal frankness and means were suggested
for prolonging the school term and building school-houses. Almost
without exception they agreed that the fact that so large a proportion
of the people live in one-room cabins, where there was almost no
opportunity for privacy or separation of the sexes, was largely
responsible for the moral condition of many communities.

When I asked how many in the audience owned their homes only
twenty-three hands went up.

Aside from the colored people who were present at the Conference who
reside in the “Black Belt,” there were many prominent white and colored
men from various parts of the country, especially representatives of the
various religious organizations engaged in educational work in the
South, and officers and teachers from several of the larger institutions
working in the South. There were correspondents present representing
such papers as the New York Independent, Evening Post, New York Weekly
Witness, New York Tribune, Christian Union, Boston Evening Transcript,
Christian Register, The Congregationalist, Chicago Inter-Ocean, Chicago
Advance, and many others.

At the conclusion of the first Conference the following set of
declarations was adopted as showing the concensus of opinion of those
composing the Conference:

“We, some of the representatives of the colored people, living in the
Black Belt, the heart of the South, thinking it might prove of interest
and value to our friends throughout the country, as well as beneficial
to ourselves, have met together in Conference to present facts and
express opinions as to our Industrial, Moral and Educational condition,
and to exchange views as to how our own efforts and the kindly
helpfulness of our friends may best contribute to our elevation.

“First. Set at liberty with no inheritance but our bodies, without
training in self-dependence, and thrown at once into commercial, civil
and political relations with our former owners, we consider it a matter
of great thankfulness that our condition is as good as it is, and that
so large a degree of harmony exists between us and our white neighbors.

“Second. Industrially considered, most of our people are dependent upon
agriculture. The majority of them live on rented lands, mortgage their
crops for the food on which to live from year to year, and usually at
the beginning of each year are more or less in debt for the supplies of
the previous year.

“Third. Not only is our own material progress hindered by the mortgage
system, but also that of our white friends. It is a system that tempts
us to buy much that we would do without if cash was required and it
tends to lead those who advance the provisions and lend the money, to
extravagant prices and ruinous rates of interest.

“Fourth. In a moral and religious sense, while we admit there is much
laxness in morals and superstition in religion, yet we feel that much
progress has been made, that there is a growing public sentiment in
favor of purity, and that the people are fast coming to make their
religion less of superstition and emotion and more of a matter of daily

“Fifth. As to our educational condition, it is to be noted that our
country schools are in session on an average only three and a half
months each year; the Gulf States are as yet unable to provide
school-houses and as a result the schools are held almost out of doors
or at best in such rude quarters as the poverty of the people is able to
provide; the teachers are poorly paid and often very poorly fitted for
their work, as a result of which both parents and pupils take but little
interest in the schools, often but few children attending, and these
with great irregularity.

“Sixth. That in view of our general condition, we would suggest the
following remedies: (1) That as far as possible we aim to raise at home
our own meat and bread; (2) that as fast as possible we buy land, even
though a very few acres at a time; (3) that a larger number of our young
people be taught trades, and that they be urged to prepare themselves to
enter as largely as possible all the various avocations of life; (4)
that we especially try to broaden the field of labor for our women; (5)
that we make every sacrifice and practice every form of economy that we
may purchase land and free ourselves from our burdensome habit of living
in debt; (6) that we urge our ministers and teachers to give more
attention to the material condition and home life of the people; (7)
that we urge that our people do not depend entirely upon the State to
provide school-houses and lengthen the time of the schools, but that
they take hold of the matter themselves where the State leaves off, and
by supplementing the public funds from their own pockets and by building
school-houses, bring about the desired results; (8) that we urge patrons
to give earnest attention to the mental and moral fitness of those who
teach their schools; (9) that we urge the doing away with all sectarian
prejudice in the management of the schools.

“Seventh. As the judgment of this Conference we would further declare:
That we put on record our deep sense of gratitude to the good people of
all sections for their assistance and that we are glad to recognize a
growing interest on the part of the best white people of the South in
the education of the Negro.

“Eighth. That we appreciate the spirit of friendliness and fairness
shown us by the Southern white people in matters of business in all
lines of material development.

“Ninth. That we believe our generous friends of the country can best aid
in our elevation by continuing to give their help where it will result
in producing strong Christian leaders who will live among the masses as
object lessons, showing them how to direct their own efforts towards the
general uplifting of the people.

“Tenth. That we believe we can become prosperous, intelligent and
independent where we are, and discourage any efforts at wholesale
emigration, recognizing that our home is to be in the South, and we urge
that all strive in every way to cultivate the good feeling and
friendship of those about us in all that relates to our mutual

At the present writing eight of these Conferences have been held. I
shall not occupy space in describing in detail each one of these annual
Conferences except to say that each Conference has grown in numbers,
interest and value to the people. Very often as many as two thousand
representatives assemble at these meetings, which are usually held in
the latter part of February. Representatives now come from not only most
all parts of Alabama but from practically all of the Southern States.
Similar Conferences have also been organized in other states, notably
Texas, South Carolina and North Carolina. Aside from these state
Conferences, local Conferences which meet as a rule monthly and bring
together the people in each community or county are now in existence in
many parts of the South, and the people find these meetings a great
means of helping themselves forward. One of our teachers at the present
time gives the greater part of the year to the work of organizing and
stimulating these local Conferences in various parts of the South. The
people look forward eagerly each year to the assembling of the large or
central Negro Conference at Tuskegee and they are always anxious to give
their reports. The spirit of hopefulness and encouragement which now
characterizes these Conferences, as compared with the rather depressed
and hopeless feeling existing when the first Conference met, is most
interesting. Many communities in the Conference held in recent years
have been able to report that the people are ceasing to mortgage their
crops, are buying land, building houses with two or three rooms, and
their school terms in many cases have been extended from three to six
and eight months, and that the moral atmosphere of the community has
been cleansed and improved. These Conferences have served to make the
people aware of their own inherent strength; to let them feel and
understand how much they can do toward improving their own condition
when once they make up their minds to make the effort, and the results
from every point of view are most gratifying.

In order to show something of the spirit and interest that characterizes
these Conferences I give verbatim extracts from a few addresses
delivered at a recent Conference by some of these Black Belt Negroes.
“This Conference is doing untold good,” said a very intelligent farmer
and preacher of about fifty years of age who has attended all the
Conferences. “Since I went back home from the first one and told the
people about it they have gone to work and bought over two thousand
acres of land. Much of it has already been paid for. I thank God on my
knees for these Conferences. They are giving us homes.” Another man who
could not come himself to a recent Conference sent a letter saying that
seven of his neighbors had bought themselves homes. One woman reported
that she had raised four hundred pounds of pork and had also raised corn
enough to enable her to live without mortgaging her crop. Over one
hundred in all reported that they had paid for homes. Another man said,
“We are not what we ought to be, we are sadly lacking but we are one
hundred per cent. better than we were twenty years ago and we are going
to be better than we are.” Another remarked with a great deal of
emphasis, “It makes a man more truthful when he owns land, and I know
when he gives his word



he cannot run away. To own property is to own character.” Another farmer
from Macon County said: “The nigger race ain’t such a bugaboo as you
think. The trouble with our people is we don’t understand ourselves; we
don’t have self-reliance and self-government. Eight years ago I didn’t
have even a meat skin, now I have got eighty acres of land and five
mules, all paid for. You must be a man. Say sink or swim, I’m coming on
top; if you don’t you won’t amount to anything. Some of our race is so
shiftless that if their own mother should rise from the grave after
twenty years, and come into the house and say, ‘Son, give me a cup of
coffee, I’ve been walking all night,’ he couldn’t do it. You make a
mortgage and then you get everything you want, not everything you need.
I had a start once before, and I got a couple of old horses and a buggy
and I rid around too much and I got down. Then I promised the Lord if he
would forgive me and help me to start again I would do better. Now I
work from Monday to Saturday. A heap of our people don’t like that part
of the Bible which says ‘six days thou shalt work.’ When a colored man
dies the merchant makes more than on any other day, because you have all
got to dress up, hire buggies, and ride around and go to the funeral. I
don’t want anybody’s foot on my neck. I don’t go and say, ‘Mas’r Joe,
please sir, I wants a little flour or I wants a little coffee for my
old lady,’ but when I want anything I just go and get it. You must not
sit down and trust God; if you do you’ll starve. Get up and go to work
and trust God and you’ll get rich.”

Then Father Mitchell, who is a colored minister, said: “Now, keep quiet;
we’s gettin’ along slowly. I wish our neighborhood was like dat
brother’s as jest spoke. You give me a good lick for a young man, Mr.
President; but, sir, if we had twenty men like you we’d get happy ’fore
we enter heaven. We make a heap of corn and potatoes.” “How about
morals?” asked some one. “Well, now, I’ll tell you about dat. I’d thank
my Redeemer to send me some morals down to my neighborhood. I am putting
up a big Baptist Church down on the Sam road, an’ I hope I’ll be able to
do my people some good.”

At the time of the organization of the Annual Negro Farmers’ Conference,
it was decided to make a special effort to secure the attendance of the
representatives of the various educational, religious and philanthropic
institutions in the South for the elevation of the Negro. This attempt
was quite successful, so much so that in addition to the regular
delegates at the Negro Conference quite a large number of educators and
others began assembling to witness the proceedings of the Negro
Conference. During the session of the Conference it was determined to
organize what is known as the “Worker’s Conference,” composed of
educators, etc., interested in the elevation of the Negro. It was
decided to ask the members of the Worker’s Conference to be present and
witness the proceedings of the regular Negro Conference in order that
they might get information at first hand as to the condition and needs
of the colored people. The following day the Worker’s Conference was
called and based its proceedings in a large measure upon the lessons
learned the previous day at the Farmers’ Conference. The Worker’s
Conference has now been in existence many years and is a very important
and far-reaching institution; in fact, it is the only organization that
brings together annually the various officers and teachers connected
with the large religious and educational enterprises in the South. We
have had regularly present at the Worker’s Conference representatives
from such institutions as the Hampton Institute, Atlanta University,
Clark University, Atlanta Baptist College, Gammon Theological Seminary,
Spelman Seminary, Morris Brown College, Fisk University, Central
Tennessee College, Straight University, Talladega College, Tougaloo
University, Lincoln University, Selma University, and many others which
I have not space to mention; in fact, I think every educational
institution of any importance for the Negro has been represented at one
or more of these Worker’s Conferences. Besides these, we often have
present the secretaries of the various religious organizations doing
work in the South.

The subjects discussed in these Worker’s Conferences are of a wide
range. At the last Conference the time was occupied in a discussion of
how the various educational institutions in the South could serve to
bring about more satisfactory relations between the two races in the
South. The discussion was free, open and most helpful. In fact, it is
well understood that in all of these gatherings at Tuskegee there is the
utmost frankness and liberality allowed as to opinion and discussion.
The Worker’s Conferences are growing in numbers and interest and have
now become a permanent part of the educational machinery of the South.



In the spring of 1899 a rather notable meeting was held in Boston, in
the afternoon, at the Hollis Street Theatre. This meeting was gotten up
in the interest of the Tuskegee Institute, by friends of the
institution, in Boston for the purpose of raising money for the school.
It was presided over by Bishop Lawrence, bishop of Massachusetts. I
invited to speak with me at this meeting Dr. W. E. B. DuBois and Mr.
Paul Laurence Dunbar. Dr. DuBois read an original story and Mr. Dunbar
recited from his own poems. The theatre was filled with representatives
of the most cultured and wealthy men and women in Boston, and was said
to be the most successful meeting of the kind that had been held for a
good while. An admission was charged at the door and a generous sum was
raised for the school. This was the first time that Mr. Dunbar had
appeared in Boston and his readings produced a most favorable effect.
The same was true of Dr. DuBois.

During this same year I received an invitation which surprised me
somewhat. It was an invitation from the secretary of the Birmingham,
Alabama, Lyceum, a white literary organization, composed of the best
and most cultured people in the city of Birmingham, Alabama, inviting me
to address the Lyceum. I accepted this invitation to deliver an address
before the organization on the 30th of March. There was some adverse
criticism and some protests through the newspapers, and otherwise, on
the part of a certain element of white people in Birmingham; in fact,
some effort was made to prevent white ladies from attending, but I was
surprised and gratified when I appeared before the audience to find the
room filled with representatives of the best ladies and gentlemen of
Birmingham, and I have never spoken before any organization where my
words were more heartily and more kindly received than was true on this
occasion. I give one or two short extracts from Birmingham newspapers
which indicate how my address was received. This was the first time that
I had ever received an invitation to address a white literary
organization in the South, although during the winter of the same year I
had delivered an address before the National Farmer’s Association, which
met at Fort Worth, Texas.

Immediately after the public meeting held in Boston in the Hollis Street
Theatre, some friends of mine in Boston noted that I seemed to be rather
worn out as a result of nearly eighteen years of continuous work,
without any vacation during the winter or summer. Without our
knowledge, they quietly started a movement to raise a certain sum of
money to be used in sending Mrs. Washington and myself to Europe, where
we could rest for two or three months. This plan was a very great
surprise to us, and it seemed difficult for us to make up our minds to
leave the school for so long a time, but these friends insisted that we
owed it to the work and to ourselves to take the vacation. The result
was that we sailed for Europe on the 10th of May and remained abroad
until the 5th of August. We had a very pleasant and delightful trip
across the ocean and made many friends on the voyage. I was called upon
to speak on the steamer going and had a large and interesting audience.
After a voyage of ten days we landed at Antwerp, Belgium, and remained
there a short while. We then took a trip through the country in company
with some New York friends, whose acquaintance we made on the voyage. In
Holland we traveled on the canal boats, which gave us an opportunity of
seeing the inner life of the country people, and also the agricultural
life of the people.

I was especially anxious to study the agricultural and dairy systems,
with a view to utilizing the information in our work at Tuskegee. The
thorough cultivation of the soil, for which this country is noted, made
a deep impression upon me. There are few other countries, if any in the
world, where the soil is so thoroughly cultivated as in Holland. The
dairy interests there present an interesting and valuable field for
study. While in Holland we visited The Hague, where the International
Peace Congress was in session, and were shown many courtesies by the
American members of the Peace Conference. After remaining for some time
in Holland we returned to Antwerp and spent some time there, and
afterwards proceeded to Brussels, where we had a pleasant stay. From
Brussels we went to Paris, where we remained nearly six weeks. In Paris
we received much kind attention from General Horace Porter, the American
Ambassador, and his wife, as well as from other American and French
people. Soon after reaching Paris I received an invitation to deliver an
address before the American University Club, an organization composed
mainly of American college men residing in Paris. The American
Ambassador, Gen. Horace Porter, presided at this meeting, and in
addition to myself the speakers were Ex-president Benjamin Harrison and
Archbishop Ireland. I was also invited to deliver an address the
following Sunday in the American chapel, which I did. Mrs. Washington
and I attended a reception given by the American Ambassador, where we
met many prominent people.

I went to Europe mainly for the purpose of securing complete rest, and
notwithstanding the many engagements which constantly pressed themselves
upon me, I succeeded in getting a great deal of needed strength,
especially was this true in Paris. From Paris we went to London and
arrived there just in the midst of the social season. We had many
letters of introduction from friends in America to influential people in
England, and our stay in England was occupied mainly in a continual
round of social engagements.

Soon after reaching London, friends insisted that I should deliver an
address to the public on the race problem in the South. The American
Ambassador, Hon. Joseph H. Choate, was especially anxious that I consent
to do this. A meeting was arranged to take place in Essex Hall. In
connection with this meeting Rev. Brooke Herford, D. D., whom I had
formerly known in Boston, gave Mrs. Washington and myself a reception.
The meeting was largely attended, and Mr. Choate, the American
Ambassador, presided. The substance of what Mr. Choate and myself said
at this meeting was widely circulated in England and telegraphed to the
American press. This meeting was attended by such well-known people as
Hon. James Bryce, who also spoke, and many high officials and members of
titled families in England. After this meeting I received many
invitations to speak at other gatherings, but as far as possible excused
myself from doing so, in order that I might secure the rest for which I
went to Europe. I did, however, consent to speak at a meeting at the
Crystal Palace, which was presided over by the Duke of Westminster, said
to be the richest man in the world. This meeting was also largely
attended. We attended, among many other social functions, receptions
given by the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland, by Mr. and Mrs. T. Fischer
Unwin, Mrs. Unwin being the daughter of the late Richard Cobden. Lady
Henry Somerset was very kind in her attention to us.

While in London the following editorial appeared in the Daily Chronicle:

“The presence in London of Mr. Booker T. Washington, at whose address
the other evening the American Ambassador presided, calls for a generous
recognition of the remarkable work being done in the United States for
the Negro by this gifted member of the Negro race. What Frederick
Douglass was to an older generation that Mr. Washington is to the
present. At the recent visit of President McKinley to the South, Mr.
Washington occupied a place of honor alongside the President, and was
almost as heartily acclaimed. When one recalls the tremendous ‘color’
feeling in America, such a fact is exceedingly striking. The great work
which Mr. Washington has done has been an educational work. Orator as he
is, it is not so much his power of speech as the building up of the
remarkable industrial institute at Tuskegee, in Alabama, which has given
this Negro leader his deserved fame. The Civil War left the Negro
legally and nominally free, and the legislation after the war was over
made him legally and nominally a citizen. But we know that the Negro has
been in fact in a very different position from that which he occupied on
paper. He has been insulted by degrading legislation, he has been in
many states virtually deprived of his vote, and in not a few cases an
election dispute has afforded the dominant white man an excuse for
slaughter of the blacks. The Negro has retaliated in his barbarous way.
Though religious in the most emotional form, he is often non-moral, and
there can be no doubt that he has committed many grave offenses against
social order.

“Mr. Washington, though an enthusiastic advocate of the claims of his
race, is by no means blind to the faults which render so many Negroes
almost unfit for American citizenship. He saw long ago, what so many
American politicians who gave the suffrage to the colored population did
not see--that the most important service which could be rendered to the
blacks was to make useful artisans and workmen of them. As a result of
his meditation on the condition of the colored people, Mr. Washington
founded the Tuskegee Institute in the Black Belt of Alabama, stumped the
Union for funds, interested in his great undertaking all the best minds
of the Northern States, and has had the satisfaction of seeing this
institution grow to its present status of the largest and most important
training centre of the black race in the world. Here, where both sexes
are welcomed on terms of equality, the Negro is taken in hand, given the
rudiments of education, taught a useful trade, taught also, if he proves
capable, the higher branches of modern culture, subjected to high
intellectual and ethical influences, and made a man of in the true sense
of the word. No better work is being done in America at the present hour
than in this remarkable institution in Alabama.

“That the American conscience is being roused to its duty to the Negroes
is evident from the recent important conference at which two leading
speakers were an ex-Governor of Georgia and a Bishop of the Episcopal
Church. The horrible burnings and improvised hangings by white mobs, who
took the law into their hands, have awakened the people of the North,
and it is very properly asked whether those who permit such brutalities
in their own borders are fit to assume control of black and yellow
races in the Pacific. Ex-Governor Northen, of Georgia, took the North to
task for having been more responsible for the spread of slavery than the
South, and he defended, but without much success, the Southern whites
against the attacks made on them. The Bishop, it is gratifying to find,
took the strong ground of the Declaration of Independence, and asserted
the equal right of black and white to the common rights which the law
and the Constitution allow. But the important principle which emerges
clearly from the long discussion that took place at this conference is
that a _laissez faire_ policy is impossible in the case of the Negro.
You cannot ‘emancipate’ him alone. He must be educated, his character
must be formed, he must be made a useful and self-reliant being. This is
precisely what is being done at the Tuskegee Institute, and therefore,
its founder is solving, as far as one man can, one of the chief American
problems of the time. And what a problem! The practical humanising and
elevation from barbarism of dusky millions on whose own future the
future of the United States largely depends.”

Perhaps the most interesting and restful part of our visit to England
was the time that we spent as the guest of various English people in
their country homes. In order for one to appreciate what English life
really is he should have an opportunity to get into the daily life of an
English gentleman in his country residence.

We visited Bristol, where we were given a reception by the Women’s
Liberty Club, and also Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham. In
Birmingham we spent several days as the guests of Mr. Joseph Sturge, who
kindly gave us a reception, at which we met many of the prominent
citizens of Birmingham. Of course we visited a great many places of
historical interest and had an opportunity of looking into the methods
of education in England. We were specially interested in the work of the
large polytechnic institutes and the agricultural colleges, from which
we got a great deal of valuable information.

While in Europe I wrote a series of letters for the American Negro
press, which was widely published and commented upon.

During our stay in London I took special pains to inquire into the
opportunities for our people to better their condition by emigrating to
Africa, and convinced myself that there was little, if any, hope of our
people being able to better their condition by returning to Africa,
largely because Africa is almost completely divided up among various
European nations, leaving almost no hope for self-government in any part
of Africa, except in the little republic of Liberia, which is notably
unhealthy and undesirable from almost every point of view. I found out
that in many cases the Negroes are treated by Europeans in Africa almost
as badly as they have ever been treated in the South. The letter which I
wrote from London on this subject was very widely copied and commented
upon by the American press.

While I was in Europe cases of lynching of our people were especially
frequent in the South and in order to assist in checking this injustice
perpetrated upon the race, I addressed the following letter to the
Southern people, which was widely published throughout the country and
seemed to do much good. It was heartily commented upon editorially in
the Southern press:

“Several times during the last few months, while our country has been
shocked because of the lynching of Negro citizens in several states, I
was asked by many, and was tempted to say something upon the subject
through the press. At the time of these lynchings I kept silent, because
I did not believe that the public mind was in a condition to listen to a
discussion of the subject in the calm judicial manner that it would be
later, when there should be no undue feeling or excitement. In the
discussion of this or any other matter, little good is accomplished
unless we are perfectly frank. There is no white man of the South who
has more sincere love for it than I have, and nothing could tempt me to
write or speak that which I did not think was for the permanent good of
all the people of the South. Whenever adverse criticism is made upon the
South I feel it as keenly as any member of the white race can feel it.
It is, therefore, my interest in everything which appertains to the
South that prompts me to write as I do now. While it is true that there
are cases of lynchings and outrage in the Northern and Western States,
candor compels us to admit that by far the most of the cases of
lynchings take place in our Southern States, and that most of the
persons lynched are Negroes.

“With all the earnestness of my heart, I want to appeal, not to the
President of the United States, Mr. McKinley; not to the people of New
York nor of the New England States, but to the citizens of our Southern
States, to assist in creating a public sentiment such as will make human
life here just as safe and sacred as it is anywhere else in the world.

“For a number of years the South has appealed to the North and to
Federal authorities, through the public press, from the public platform,
and most eloquently through the late Henry W. Grady, to leave the whole
matter of the rights and protection of the Negro to the South, declaring
that it would see to it that the Negro would be made secure in his
citizenship. During the last half dozen years the whole country, from
the President down, has been inclined more than ever to pursue this
policy, leaving the whole matter of the destiny of the Negro to the
Negro himself and to the Southern white people among whom the great bulk
of the Negroes live.

“By the present policy of non-interference, on the part of the North and
the Federal Government, the South is given a sacred trust. How will she
execute this trust? The world is waiting and watching to see. The
question must be answered largely by the protection the South gives to
the life of the Negro and the provisions that are made for the
development of the Negro in the organic laws of the state. I fear that
but few people in the South realize to what extent the habit of
lynching, or the taking of life without due process of law, has taken
hold of us, and to what extent it is hurting us, not only in the eyes of
the world, but in our own moral and material growth.

“Lynching was instituted some years ago, with the idea of punishing and
checking outrage upon women. Let us examine the cold facts and see where
it has already led us, and where it is likely further to carry us, if we
do not rid ourselves of the habit. Many good people in the South, and
also out of the South, have gotten the idea that lynching is resorted
to for one crime only. I have the facts from an authoritative source.
During last year 127 persons were lynched in the United States. Of this
number, 118 were executed in the South and 9 in the North and West. Of
the total number lynched, 102 were Negroes, 23 were whites and 2,
Indians. Now, let everyone interested in the South, his country and the
cause of humanity, note this fact-that only 24 of the entire number were
charged in any way with the crime of rape; that is, 24 out of 127 cases
of lynching. Sixty-one of the remaining cases were for murder, 13 being
for suspected murder, 6 for theft, etc. During one week last spring,
when I kept a careful record, 13 Negroes were lynched in three of our
Southern States and not one was even charged with rape. All of these 13
were accused of murder or house-burning, but in neither case were the
men allowed to go before a court so that their innocence or guilt might
be proven.

“When we get to the point where four-fifths of the people lynched in our
country in one year are for some crime other than rape, we can no longer
plead and explain that we lynch for one crime alone.

“Let us take another year, that of 1892, for example. During this year
(1892) 241 persons were lynched in the whole United States, 36 of this
number were lynched in Northern and Western States, and 205 in our
Southern States. Of the 241 lynched in the whole country, 160 were
Negroes and five of these were women. The facts show that out of the 241
lynched in the entire country in 1892, but 57 were even charged with
rape, even attempted rape, leaving in that year alone 184 persons who
were lynched for other causes than that of rape.

“If it were necessary, I could produce figures for other years. Within a
period of six years about 900 persons have been lynched in our Southern
States. This is but a few hundred short of the total number of soldiers
who lost their lives in Cuba during the Spanish-American war. If we
could realize still more fully how far this unfortunate habit is leading
us on, note the classes of crime, during a few months, which the local
papers and Associated Press say that lynching has been inflicted
for--they include ‘murder,’ ‘rioting,’ ‘incendiarism,’ ‘robbery,’
‘larceny,’ ‘self-defense,’ ‘insulting women,’ ‘alleged stock poisoning,’
‘malpractice,’ ‘alleged barn-burning,’ ‘suspected robbery,’ ‘race
prejudice,’ ‘attempted murder,’ ‘horse stealing,’ and ‘mistaken
identity,’ etc.

“The practice has grown until we are now at the point where not only
blacks are lynched in the South, but white men as well. Not only this
but within the last six years, at least a half dozen colored women have
been lynched. And there are a few cases where Negroes have lynched
members of their own race. What is to be the end of this? Besides this,
every lynching drives hundreds of Negroes from the farming districts of
the South, where their services are of great value to the country, into
the already over-crowded cities.

“I know that some will argue that the crime of lynching Negroes is not
confined to the South. This is true, and no one can excuse such a crime
as the shooting of innocent black men in Illinois, who were guilty of no
crime except that of seeking labor, but my words just now are to the
South, where my home is and a part of which I am. Let other sections act
as they will; I want to see our beautiful Southland free from this
terrible evil of lynching. Lynching does not stop crime. In the
immediate section of the South where a colored man recently committed
the most terrible crime ever charged against a member of his race, but a
few weeks previous to this, five colored men had been lynched for
supposed incendiarism. If lynching was a cure for crime, surely the
lynching of five would have prevented another Negro from committing a
most heinous crime a few weeks later.

“We might as well face the facts bravely and wisely. Since the beginning
of the world crime has been committed in all civilized and uncivilized
countries, and a certain amount of crime will always be committed, both
in the North and in the South, but I believe that the crime of rape can
be stopped. In proportion to the numbers and intelligence of the
population of the South, there exists little more crime than in several
other sections of the country, but because of the lynching habit we are
constantly advertising ourselves to the world as a lawless people. We
cannot disregard the teachings of the civilized world for eighteen
hundred years, that the only way to punish crime is by law. When we
leave this dictum chaos begins.

“I am not pleading for the Negro alone. Lynching injures, hardens and
blunts the moral sensibilities of the young and tender manhood of the
South. Never shall I forget the remark by a little nine-year-old white
boy, with blue eyes and flaxen hair. The little fellow said to his
mother after he had returned from a lynching: ‘I have seen a man hanged;
now I wish I could see one burned.’ Rather than hear such a remark from
one of my little boys, I would prefer seeing him laid in his grave. This
is not all; every community guilty of lynching, says in so many words to
the governor, to the legislature, to the sheriff, to the jury, and to
the judge, I have no faith in you and no respect for you. We have no
respect for the law which we helped to make.

“In the South, at the present time, there is less excuse for not
permitting the law to take its course, where a Negro is to be tried,
than anywhere else in the world, for almost without exception the
governors, the sheriffs, the judges, the juries and the lawyers are all
white men, and they can be trusted, as a rule, to do their duty;
otherwise it is needless to tax the people to support these officers. If
our present laws are not sufficient to properly punish crime, let the
laws be changed, but that the punishment may be by lawfully constituted
authority is the plea I make. The history of the world proves that where
law is most strictly enforced is the least crime; where people take the
administration of the law into their own hands is the most crime.

“But there is another side. The white man in the South has not only a
serious duty and responsibility, but the Negro has a duty and
responsibility in this matter. In speaking of my own people I want to be
equally frank, but I speak with the greatest kindness. There is too much
crime among us. The figures for a given period show that in the United
States 30 per cent. of the crime committed is by Negroes, while we
constitute only about 12 per cent. of the entire population. This
proportion holds good, not only in the South, but also in the Northern
States and cities.

“No race that is so largely ignorant and so lately out of slavery could,
perhaps, show a better record, but we must face these plain facts. He is
most kind to the Negro who tells him of his faults as well as of his
virtues. A large amount of the crime among us grows out of the idleness
of our young men and women. It is for this reason that I have tried to
insist upon some industry being taught in connection with their course
of literary training. The time has come when every parent, every teacher
and minister of the gospel, should teach with unusual emphasis morality
and obedience to the law. At the fireside, in the school room, in the
Sunday-school, from the pulpit and the Negro press, there should be such
a sentiment created regarding the committing of crime against women,
that no such crime shall be charged against any member of the race. Let
it be understood for all time that no one guilty of rape can find
sympathy or shelter with us, and that none will be more active in
bringing to justice, through the proper authorities, those guilty of
crime. Let the criminal and vicious element of the race have at all
times our most severe condemnation. Let a strict line be drawn between
the virtuous and the criminal. I condemn with all the indignation of my
soul the beast in human form guilty of assaulting a woman. Let us all
be alike in this particular.

“We should not as a race become discouraged. We are making progress. No
race has ever gotten upon its feet without discouragements and

“I should be a great hypocrite and a coward if I did not add that which
my daily experience teaches me is true, viz.: that the Negro has among
many of the Southern whites as good friends as he has anywhere in the
world. These friends have not forsaken us. They will not do so; neither
will our friends in the North. If we make ourselves intelligent,
industrious, economical and virtuous, of value to the community in which
we live, we can and will work out our own salvation right here in the
South. In every community, by means of organized effort, we should seek
in a manly and honorable way the confidence, the co-operation, the
sympathy of the best white people in the South and in our respective
communities. With the best white people and the best black people
standing together, in favor of law and order and justice, I believe that
the safety and happiness of both races will be made secure.”



Early in August we sailed for America from Southampton, and had a very
pleasant voyage on the magnificent ocean Steamer “St. Louis.” On the
voyage I was called upon to speak again to the passengers, and made many
friends for our cause.

While in Europe I received the following invitation:

“CHARLESTON, W. VA., May 16, 1899.


“Tuskegee Institute, Tuskegee, Alabama.

“_Dear Sir:_--Many of the best citizens of West Virginia have united in
liberal expressions of admiration and praise of your worth and work, and
desire that on your return from Europe, you should favor them with your
presence and with the inspiration of your words. We most sincerely
endorse this move and on behalf of the citizens of Charleston extend to
you our most cordial invitation to have you come to us, that


we may honor you who have done so much by your life and work to honor

“We are, very truly yours,
“The Common Council of the City of Charleston,

This invitation from the City Council of Charleston was accompanied by
the following:


“Principal, Tuskegee Institute.

“_Dear Sir:_--We the citizens of Charleston and West Virginia, desire to
express our pride in you and the splendid career you have thus far
accomplished, and ask that we be permitted to show our pride and
interest in a substantial way.

“Your recent visit to your old home in our midst awoke within us the
keenest regret that we were not permitted to hear you and render some
substantial aid to your work, before you left for Europe.

“In view of the foregoing, we earnestly invite you to share the
hospitality of our city upon your return from Europe and give us the
opportunity to hear you and put ourselves in touch with your work in a
way that will be most gratifying to yourself, and that we may receive
the inspiration of your words and presence.

“An early reply to this invitation, with an indication of the time you
may reach our city will greatly oblige,

“Yours very respectfully,

“The Charleston Daily Gazette, The Daily Mail-Tribune, G. W. Atkinson,
Governor; E. L. Boggs, Secretary to Governor; Wm. M. O. Dawson,
Secretary of State; L. M. LaFollette, Auditor; J. R. Trotter,
Superintendent of Schools; E. W. Wilson, ex-Governor; W. A. MacCorkle,
ex-Governor; John Q. Dickinson, President Kanawha Valley Bank; L.
Prichard, President Charleston National Bank; Geo. S. Couch, President
Kanawha National Bank; Ed. Reid, Cashier Kanawha National Bank; Geo. S.
Laidley, Superintendent City Schools; L. E. McWhorter, President Board
of Education; Chas. K. Payne, wholesale merchant; C. C. Lewis, Jr.,
wholesale merchant; R. G. Hubbard, wholesale merchant; Dan. D. Brawley,
City Sergeant; Grant P. Hall, Clerk of Circuit Court; O. A. Petty,
Postmaster; R. Douglas Roller, Rector St. John’s Episcopal Church; M. M.
Williamson, Cashier Citizen’s National Bank; J. N. Carnes, Assistant
Cashier Citizen’s National Bank; J. A. Schwabe & Co., merchants; J. A.
DeGruyter, ex-Mayor; A. H. Boyd, M. D.; E. W. Staunton, Clerk Kanawha
County Court; M. F. Compton, Pastor State St. M. E. Church; T. C.
Johnson, Pastor Charleston Baptist Church; Coyle & Richardson,
merchants; J. H. Gaines, United States District Attorney; Sterrett
Brothers, merchants; N. S. Burlew, merchant; Joel H. Ruffner, merchant;
M. P. Ruffner, merchant; E. G. Pierson, senator; B. R. Winkler, member
City Council; Flournoy, Price & Smith, lawyers; Abney, Barnes & Co.,
wholesale merchants; Sam D. Littlepage, member of City Council; D. W.
Shaw, Pastor Simpson M. E. Church; J. McHenry Jones, President West
Virginia Colored Institute; Jas. M. Canty, J. C. Gilmer, Byrd
Prillerman, S. W. Starks, J. M. Hazelwood, Phil. Waters, C. W. Hall,
Judge Criminal Court; C. W. Boyd, Principal Garnet School; B. S. Morgan,
member of City Council.”

This invitation to accept a reception from the citizens of Charleston,
W. Va., where I had spent my boyhood days, was a very satisfactory
surprise. When I left Charleston, and when I left Malden, which is very
near Charleston, I was quite a boy and had not been able to spend any
great length of time there since I had first left to enter the Hampton

I accepted the invitation for the Charleston reception, and when I
reached Charleston was met by a committee of citizens headed by ex-Gov.
W. A. MacCorkle. The meeting in connection with this reception was held
in the opera house, and was presided over by Gov. George W. Atkinson.
It was very largely attended by white and colored citizens from that
vicinity, a large number of whom had known me in my boyhood days. I must
refrain from giving any detailed account of all the kind and
complimentary things they were kind enough to say about me at this
meeting. I spent several days in Charleston, visiting the scenes of my
early boyhood, and my sister in Malden, and many of the older citizens
who remembered me.

After this reception in Charleston I was invited to go to Atlanta, Ga.,
by the white and colored citizens, to receive a reception there. The
meeting in Atlanta was presided over also by the Governor of the State,
and was largely attended.

Receptions by the citizens of Montgomery and New Orleans soon followed.
Invitations to attend receptions in other states came to me, but I was
not able to accept them all.

In the fall of 1899 a meeting was held at Huntsville, Ala., the spirit
of which has since been taken up by other Southern cities, which
promises to prove of lasting benefit in settling the race problem in the
South. In October a meeting was called at Huntsville, which had for its
object the discussion of all matters relating to the upbuilding of the
South. It was well attended by representatives from nearly every
Southern State, and was a strong body of men. Among the other subjects
discussed was the Negro problem in its relation to the industrial
progress of the South.

In connection with others, I was invited to deliver an address. The
audience was composed mainly of Southern white men, but in it was a
large number of Southern white women, together with quite an attendance
of colored men and women. The address which I delivered on that occasion
attracted a great deal of attention throughout the country, and for that
reason I have taken the liberty of giving it in full:

“In all discussion and legislation bearing upon the presence of the
Negro in America, it should be borne in mind that we are dealing with a
people who were forced to come here without their consent and in the
face of a most earnest protest. This gives the Negro a claim upon your
sympathy and generosity that no other race can possess. Besides, though
forced from his native land into residence in a country that was not of
his choosing, he has earned his right to the title of American citizen
by obedience to the law, by patriotism and fidelity, and by the millions
which his brawny arms and willing hands have added to the wealth of this

“In saying what I have to-day, although a Negro and an ex-slave myself,
there is no white man whose heart is more wrapped up in every interest
of the South and loves it more dearly than is true of myself. She can
have no sorrow that I do not share; she can have no prosperity that I do
not rejoice in. She can commit no error that I do not deplore. She can
take no step forward that I do not approve.

“Different in race, in color, in history, we can teach the world that,
although thus differing, it is possible for us to dwell side by side in
love, in peace, and in material prosperity. We can be one, as I believe
we will be in a larger degree in the future, in sympathy, purpose,
forbearance and mutual helpfulness. Let him who would embitter, who
would bring strife between your race and mine be accursed in his basket
and in his store, accursed in the fruit of his body and the fruit of his
land. No man can plan the degradation of another race without being
himself degraded. The highest test of the civilization of any race is
its willingness to extend a helping hand to the less fortunate.

“The South extends a protecting arm and a welcome voice to the
foreigner, all nationalities, languages and conditions, but in this I
pray that you will not forget the black man at your door, whose habits
you know, whose fidelity you have tested. You may make of others larger
gatherers of wealth, but you cannot make of them more law-abiding,
useful and God-fearing people than the Negro who has been by your side
for three centuries, and whose toil in forest, field and mine has
helped to make the South the land of promise and glorious possibility.

“Before we can make much progress we must decide whether or not the
Negro is to be a permanent part of the South. With the light that is
before us, I have no hesitation in declaring that the great bulk of the
Negro population will reside among you. Any hesitation or doubting as to
the permanent residence of the race will work infinite harm to the
industrial and economic interests of both races. Here, in His wisdom,
Providence has placed the Negro. Here he will remain. Here he came
without a language; here he found the Anglo-Saxon tongue. Here he came
in paganism; here he found the religion of Christ. Here he came in
barbarism; here he found civilization. Here he came with untrained
hands; here he found industry. If these centuries of contact with the
American has done this, can you not trust to the wise Creator, aided by
the efforts of the Negro himself, and your guidance, to do the
remainder? At this point, are you willing to cease your efforts and turn
the work over to others for completion? Your duty to the Negro will not
be fulfilled until you have made of him the highest type of American
citizen, in intelligence, usefulness and morality.

“The South has within itself the forces that are to solve this
tremendous problem. You have the climate, the soil and the material
wealth. You have the labor to be performed that will occupy many times
our present Negro population. While the calls come daily from South
Africa, from the Hawaiian Islands, from the North and the West for the
strong and willing arm of the Negro in the field of industry, you, at
your very door, have that which others are energetically seeking. Not
only are you in possession of that which others are seeking, but more
important than all, custom and contact have so knit the two races
together that the black man finds in these Southern States an open
sesame in labor, industry and business that is not surpassed anywhere.
It is here alone, by reason of the presence of the Negro, that capital
is free from tyranny and despotism that prevents you from employing whom
you please and for that wage that is mutually agreeable and profitable.
It is here that form of slavery which prevents a man from selling his
labor to whom he pleases on account of his color is almost unknown. We
have had slavery, now dead, that forced an individual to labor without a
recompense, but none that compelled a man to remain in idleness while
his family starved.

“The Negro in all parts of the country is beginning to appreciate the
advantage which the South affords for earning a living, for commercial
development, and in proportion as this is true, it will constitute the
basis for the settlement of other difficulties. The colored man is
beginning to learn that the bed rock upon which every individual rests
his chances for success in life is securing in every manly way--never at
the sacrifice of principle--the friendship, the confidence, the respect
of his next-door neighbor in the little community in which he lives.
Almost the whole problem of the Negro in the South rests itself upon the
question as to whether he makes himself of such indispensable service to
his neighbor, to the community, that no one can fill his place better in
the body politic. There is no other safe course for the Negro to pursue.
If the black man in the South has a friend in his white neighbor, and a
still larger number of friends in his own community, he has a protection
and a guarantee of his rights that will be more potent and more lasting
than any Federal Congress or any outside power can confer. While the
Negro is grateful for the opportunities which he enjoys in the business
of the South, you should remember that you are in debt to the black man
for furnishing you with labor that is almost a stranger to strikes,
lock-outs and labor wars; labor that is law-abiding, peaceful,
teachable; labor that is one with you in language, sympathy, religion
and patriotism; labor that has never been tempted to follow the red flag
of anarchy, but always the safe flag of his country and the spotless
banner of the cross.

“But if the South is to go forward and not stand still, if she is to
reach the highest reward from her wonderful resources and keep abreast
of the progress of the world, she must reach that point, without
needless delay, where she will not be continually advertising to the
world that she has a race question to settle. We must reach that point
where, at every election, from the choice of a magistrate to that of a
governor, the decision will not hinge upon a discussion or a revival of
the race question. We must arrive at that period where the great
fundamental question of good roads, education of farmers, agricultural
and mineral development, manufacturing and industrial and public school
education will be, in a large degree, the absorbing topics in our
political campaign. But that we may get this question from among us, the
white man has a duty to perform, the black man has a duty. No question
is ever permanently settled until it is settled in the principles of the
highest justice. Capital and lawlessness will not dwell together. The
white man who learns to disregard law when a Negro is concerned will
soon disregard it when a white man is concerned.

“In the evolution of the South it seems to me that we have reached that
period where private philanthropy and the Christian church of the white
South should, in a large degree, share directly in the elevation of the
Negro. In saying this I am not unmindful of or ungrateful for what has
already been done by individuals and through public schools. When we
consider the past, the wonder is that so much has been done by our
brothers in white. All great reforms and improvements rest, in a large
measure, upon the church for success. You acknowledge that Christianity
and education make a man more valuable as a citizen, make him more
industrious, make him earn more, make him more upright. In this respect
let me see how the three largest white denominations in the South regard
the Negro.

“To elevate the ignorant and degraded in Africa, China, Japan, India,
etc., these three denominations in the South give annually about
$544,000, but to elevate the ignorant, the degraded at your doors, to
protect your families, to lessen your taxes, to increase their earning
power; in a word, to Christianize and elevate the people at your very
side, upon whom, in a large measure, your safety and property depend,
these same denominations give $21,000--$21,000 for the benighted at your
doors, $544,000 for the benighted abroad. That thirty-five years after
slavery and a fratricidal war the master should give even $21,000
through the medium of the church for the elevation of his former slave
means much. Nor would I have one dollar less go to the foreign fields,
but I would plead with all the earnestness of my soul that the Christian
South give increased attention to the 8,000,000 of Negroes by whom it is
surrounded. All this has a most vital and direct relation to the work of
this Industrial convention. Every dollar that goes into the education of
the Negro is an interest-bearing dollar.

“For years all acknowledge that the South has suffered from the low
price of cotton because of over-production. The economic history of the
world teaches that an ignorant farming class means a single crop, and
that a single crop means, too often, low prices from over-production or
famine from under-production. The Negro constitutes the principal
farming class of the South. So long as the Negro is ignorant in head,
unskilled in hand, unacquainted with labor-saving machinery, so long
will he confine himself to a single crop, and over-production of cotton
will result. So long as this is true, you will be bound in economic
fetters; you will be hugging the bear, while crying for some one to help
you let go. Every man, black and white, in the South, with his crop
mortgaged, in debt at the end of the year, buying his meat from Iowa,
his corn from Illinois, his shoes from New York, his clothing from
Pennsylvania, his wagon from Indiana, his plow from Massachusetts, his
mule from Missouri, and his coffin from Ohio, everyone who is thus
situated, is a citizen who is not producing the highest results for his
state. It is argued that the South is too poor to educate such an
individual so as to make him an intelligent producer. I reply that the
South is too poor not to educate such an individual.

“Ignorance is many fold more costly to tax-payers than intelligence.
Every black youth that is given this training of hand and strength of
mind, so that he is able to grasp the full meaning and responsibility of
life, so that he can go into some forest and turn the raw material into
wagons and buggies, becomes a citizen who is able to add to the wealth
of the state and to bear his share of the expenses of educational
government. Do you suggest that this cannot be done? I answer that it is
being done every day at Tuskegee, and should be duplicated in a hundred
places in every Southern state. This I take to be the white man’s burden
just now--no, no, not his burden, but his privilege, his opportunity, to
give the black man sight, to give him strength, skill of hand, light of
mind and honesty of heart. Do this, my white friends, and I will paint
you a picture that shall represent the future, partly as the outcome of
this Industrial Convention, and will represent the land where your race
and mine dwell:

“Fourteen slaves brought into the South a few centuries ago, in
ignorance, superstition and weakness, are now a free people, multiplied
into 8,000,000. They are surrounded, protected, encouraged, educated in
hand, heart and head, given the full protection of the law, the highest
justice meted out to them through courts and legislative enactment, they
are stimulated and not oppressed, made citizens, and not aliens, made to
understand by word and act that in proportion as they show themselves
worthy to bear responsibilities, the greater opportunities will be given
them. I see them loving you, trusting you, adding to the wealth, the
intelligence, the renown of each Southern commonwealth. In turn, I see
you confiding in them, ennobling them, beckoning them on to the highest
success, and we have all been made to appreciate in full that,

    ‘The slave’s chain and the master’s alike are broken,
        The one curse of the race held both in tether;
     They are rising, all are rising,
        The black and white together.’”

The most encouraging thing that happened in connection with this
convention was an address delivered by ex-Governor MacCorkle, of West
Virginia, in which he took the position that the time had come when the
Southern States must face the race problem bravely and honestly; that
the South could not any longer afford to get rid of the Negro’s ballot
by questionable methods, and that the Southern States ought to pass a
law which would require an educational or property test, or both, for
voting, and that this law ought to be made to apply alike to both races
honestly and fairly, and that there should be no evasion permitted or

Governor MacCorkle is a Southern man, a democrat, and the words which he
spoke on this occasion received the most hearty cheering, and the
convention on the next day passed a resolution without a dissenting vote
recommending Governor MacCorkle’s suggestion in the settlement of the
franchise question in the Southern States. The influence of this
convention was most beneficial on the minds of the Southern white
people, and gave encouragement to the Negro and to his friends
throughout the country.

As I write this chapter a conference is being arranged for by the
leading white citizens of Montgomery, Ala., which is to take place there
during the month of May of each year. The object of this conference is
to afford an opportunity for free and generous discussion of the race
problem from every point of view. This movement, organized as it has
been at the seat of the Confederate government, is most remarkable. It
seems fitting that Montgomery should be the place where from year to
year the best thought of the nation can assemble and assist in working
out our national problem.

In closing this chapter I simply wish to add that I see no reason why
the race should not feel encouraged. Every individual or race that has
succeeded has done so only by paying the price which success demands. We
cannot expect to get something for nothing. We shall continue to prosper
in proportion as each individual proves his usefulness in the community,
as each individual makes himself such a pillar in property and character
that his community will feel that he cannot be spared.



Having, through nearly twenty years of incessant toil, succeeded in
securing for Tuskegee the annual expenses for running the school and the
money with which to purchase its present plant and equipment, valued at
about $300,000, it has been for several years clearly seen by the
trustees and myself that the thing needed to secure Tuskegee in the
future was a permanent endowment fund. Not only is an endowment fund
necessary as an assurance that the work of Tuskegee shall go on in the
future, but it is necessary in order to relieve the Principal of the
hard work of remaining in the North the greater portion of his time
begging and speaking in order to raise the amount annually necessary to
carry on the work. An endowment fund, the interest from which would be
sufficient to meet, partially, the current expenses of the institution,
would enable the Principal to devote his time to the executive work of
the school, and this would obviously lead to greater perfection in the
work there, both in the academic and industrial branches. Improved
methods and facilities would redound to the benefit of each person
educated at the institution. Various appeals, for the last year or two,
have been made to the friends of Tuskegee for an endowment fund, and
within the past year we have received by gifts and bequests $38,848.93
for this purpose. The United States Congress, in the winter of 1899,
donated to Tuskegee 25,000 acres of land out of the public domain of
Alabama, the proceeds of this grant to be added to the endowment fund.

No organized effort, however, was made to interest the friends of
Tuskegee in the matter of raising a permanent endowment until the fall
of 1899. It was then thought by the trustees and myself that the time
was ripe for putting forth specific effort in this direction.
Accordingly, it was decided to hold a public meeting in December, 1899,
in the city of New York, at which the work of Tuskegee might be set
forth by capable speakers, and the good the school was accomplishing,
not only among the Negroes of the “black belt” but for the whole
country, might be brought forcibly to the ears of the public. This
meeting was held in the concert hall of Madison Square Garden, in the
City of New York, on the evening of December 4, 1899. I take pleasure in
giving a description of this meeting and in mentioning some of its
immediate results, because it proved to be a magnificent tribute to the
cause for which Tuskegee stands.

Ex-President Grover Cleveland had very kindly consented to be present
and to preside at this meeting. The beautiful concert hall, which holds
about 2,000 people, was packed that night so that it was difficult to
procure even standing room. Many prominent people occupied seats upon
the platform and in the boxes. Among the former I might mention Mr.
Morris K. Jesup, Mr. Wm. E. Dodge, Mr. Alexander Orr, Mr. Robert C.
Ogden, Mr. George Foster Peabody, Rev. Dr. C. H. Parkhurst, Rev. Dr. D.
H. Greer, Mr. Charles E. Bigelow, Mr. Arthur Curtiss James, Mr. John A.
Stewart, Mr. A. S. Frissell, Mr. George McAneny, Mr. Horace White, Hon.
John M. Barrett, Mr. Walter H. Page, Hon. Seth Low, Hon. E. M. Shepard,
Hon. Levi P. Morton, Dr. N. M. Butler, Mr. J. G. Phelps Stokes, Mr. John
E. Parsons, Hon. Carl Schurz, Rev. P. B. Tompkins, Mr. Samuel P. Avery,
Mr. R. F. Cutting, Mr. J. S. Kennedy, Mr. C. P. Huntington, Mr. C. S.
Smith, Mr. R. W. Gilder, Chancellor H. K. McCracken, Mr. William G. Low,
Mr. W. P. Ware, Prof. Chas. Sprague Smith, Mr. Wm. Jay Schieffelin, Mr.
Charles Lanier, Mr. J. Hampden Robb, Mr. Dorman B. Eaton, Mr. Horace E.
Deming, Mr. Joseph Lorocque, Mr. J. Kennedy Todd, Mr. LeGrand B. Cannon,
Mr. Charles S. Fairchild, Mr. August Belmont, Mr. Jacob H. Schiff, Mr.
Gustav Schwab, Mr. James C. Carter, Mr. John L. Cadwallader, Mr.
Cleveland H. Dodge, Rev. Dr. H. Heber Newton, Mr. Edward Hewitt, Dr.
Hamilton W. Mabie, Mr. Wheeler H. Peckham, Mr. Everett P. Wheeler, Mr.
I. Fredk. Kernochan, Col. Wm. Jay, Mr. Chas. C. Beaman, Rev. Dr. Wm. R.
Huntington, Rev. Dr. Morgan Dix, Rev. Dr. Lyman Abbott, Mr. Wm. Dean
Howells, Gen. Wagner Swayne, Hon. W. L. Strong, Mr. Charles H. Marshall,
Mr. Henry Holt, Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan. Among those who occupied boxes
were Mr. Robert C. Ogden, Mr. and Mrs. W. E. Dodge, Mrs. C. R. Lowell,
Mr. Henry Villard, Mr. C. D. Smith, Miss Putnam, Mr. George Foster
Peabody, Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Mrs. Fredk. Billings, Miss
Olivia Stokes, Mrs. C. A. Runkle, Miss Matilda W. Bruce, Miss Mary
Parsons, Mr. W. H. Baldwin, Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Morris K. Jesup, Mr. and
Mrs. Theodore K. Gibbs, Mrs. W. H. Harkness, Mrs. C. B. Hackley, Miss
Bryce, Mrs. F. C. Barlow, Mr. and Mrs. A. T. White, Mr. and Mrs. C. M.
Pratt, Mr. C. E. Bigelow.

The day before the meeting was to be held Mr. Cleveland found himself
confined to his house by illness, and wrote me his inability to be
present. The letter proved to be almost, if not quite, as great an
encouragement to the object of the meeting as Mr. Cleveland’s presence
would have been. The letter was read at the meeting, and I think the
reader will not complain if I quote it here. It is as follows:

PRINCETON, N. J., Dec. 3, 1899.


“My inability to attend the meeting to-morrow evening, in the interest
of Tuskegee Institute, is a very great disappointment to me. If my
participation could have, in the slightest degree, aided the cause you
represent, or in the least encouraged you in your noble efforts, I would
have felt that my highest duty was in close company with my greatest
personal gratification.

“It has frequently occurred to me that in the present condition of our
free Negro population in the South, and the incidents often surrounding
them, we cannot absolutely calculate that the future of our nation will
always be free from dangers and convulsions, perhaps not less lamentable
than those which resulted from the enslaved Negros, less than forty
years ago. Then the cause of trouble was the injustice of the
enslavement of four millions; but now we have to deal with eight
millions, who, though free, and invested with all the rights of
citizenship, still constitute, in the body politic, a mass largely
affected with ignorance, slothfulness and a resulting lack of
appreciation of the obligations of that citizenship.

“I am so certain that these conditions cannot be neglected, and so
convinced that the mission marked out by the Tuskegee Institute presents
the best hope of their amelioration, and that every consideration makes
immediate action important, whether based upon Christian benevolence, a
love of country, or selfish material interests, that I am profoundly
impressed with the necessity of such prompt aid to your efforts as will
best insure their success.

“I cannot believe that your appeal to the good people of our country
will be unsuccessful. Such disinterested devotion as you have exhibited,
and the results already accomplished by your unselfish work, ought to be
sufficient guarantee of the far-reaching and beneficent results that
must follow such a manifestation of Christian charity and good
citizenship, as would be apparent in a cordial and effective support of
your endeavor.

“I need not say how gratified I am to be able to indicate to you that
such support is forthcoming. It will be seen by the letters which I
enclose, that already an offer has been made through me, by a benevolent
lady in a Western city, to contribute twenty-five thousand dollars
toward the Endowment Fund, upon condition that other subscriptions to
this fund aggregate the amount required. With so good a beginning I
cannot believe it possible that there will be a failure in securing the
endowment which Tuskegee so much needs.

“Yours very truly,


In the absence of Mr. Cleveland, the Hon. Carl Schurz consented to
preside at the meeting; and, as might be expected of one so ripe in
experiences, he proved to be all that could be desired of a presiding
officer. His short speech on taking the chair showed a hearty sympathy
with the work that is being done at Hampton and Tuskegee. Mr. Schurz is
a well-known German-American, who has been a general in the war of the
Rebellion, a Senator in Congress and a member of the Cabinet of
President Hayes. He has been for years a foremost worker in the Civil
Service Reform movement. He is a writer of ability and a man who needs
no introduction in the United States.

The Tuskegee Male Quartette was present and rendered plantation
melodies, to the great delight of the audience.

The first speaker of the evening was Mr. Walter H. Page, a native of
North Carolina, but for many years the Editor of the Atlantic Monthly,
in Boston. The effort of Mr. Page was truly wonderful. He is a native
Southerner, who has studied the Negro question for more than twenty
years, from every point of view, as he alleged. He was well prepared to
speak, and with irresistible logic and unusual eloquence, pointed out
the benefits of the Tuskegee plan for the solution of the race problem.
He claimed it to be the only solution that had been discovered. He
pointed out how hopeless was the condition of the race, unless the
problem was solved by industrial and moral training, and how hopeful
would be its condition if the problem were settled in this way.

At the conclusion of Mr. Page’s address, Mr. William H. Baldwin, Jr.,
one of our Trustees, and a member of the Committee on the Investment of
the Endowment Fund, spoke in behalf of the Trustees as follows:

“It is my privilege to speak to you as a Trustee of Tuskegee Institute
on the subject of its finances. The generous friends who have made
Tuskegee possible should know its exact business condition. It has been
a hard but beneficial struggle for Mr. Washington to raise the funds
necessary to pay the current expenses of the Institution, to acquire the
2,267 acres of land, and to erect the 42 buildings now comprising the

“During the 18 years of development, there have been imperative demands
from time to time for buildings for which no specific funds were
available. The rapid growth of the work, the constantly increasing
number of students, with applications for admission far beyond the
capacity of the buildings, put a burden on the Trustees which compelled
them in their positions as Trustees, to advance some of the unrestricted
contributions for the construction of buildings to protect the general
welfare of the Institution.

“During this period, enough money has been collected to pay the current
expenses, and to accumulate $300,000 in plant and equipment, and an
endowment fund of $62,253.39.

“No mortgage has ever been placed upon the property, and the Trustees
desire to pay any and all indebtedness without mortgaging the property,
and without using other resources which should be used for endowment, or
for increased plant.

“The grant of 25,000 acres of land from the United States Government in
1897, is valued at a minimum of $100,000, and that land, together with
unrestricted legacies to be received, are obviously full security for
the advances made by the Trustees. But these resources should be kept
for permanent uses, and to care for the constantly increasing demands of
the School.

“The income for the fiscal year ending May 31, 1899, amounted to
$110,161.59. The current expenses for running the Institution were
$64,386.70, showing very economical administration for the care of
nearly 1,200 people. The balance of income was used in the construction
and completion of buildings, and in reducing a part of the indebtedness.
The Endowment Fund received $38,848.93 last year.

“In order that the accounts of the School should be kept on a strictly
business basis, the Trustees, in 1897, appointed an Auditor, a Certified
Public Accountant of New York, to direct and supervise all the accounts.
The Trustees are in position to assure you that any contributions made,
are properly and rigidly accounted for; and furthermore, that all
expenditures are made with great economy and wise discretion.

“In short, Tuskegee has a good business organization, and warrants the
entire confidence of its friends. Its Endowment Fund will be strictly
preserved. Special contributions for buildings or other specific
purposes, will be kept separate for their particular uses, and the
contributions for current expenses will be expended economically and

“Though the School is still in need of simple buildings for dormitories,
classrooms and shops, the Trustees determined in 1898 that a point of
development had been reached when the Institute should not go into debt
for any new buildings, and that in future no buildings should be erected
until all the necessary funds are guaranteed for the purpose.

“There are two interests to be served by the upbuilding and
strengthening of Tuskegee--the whole Negro race, and the country as a
whole. The industrial education of the Negro--the education from the
foundation up, as practiced at Tuskegee, is of vast business importance
to all of us. The difference between ten million ignorant Blacks and ten
million reasonably educated industrial workers, means more than
sympathy, more than sentiment, more than our duty--it means wealth to
the community.

“There is no longer the old problem of what to do with the Negro. That
question has been settled. The problem now is one of co-operation and
help and work.

“Booker Washington represents the evolution of this problem. His
untiring devotion to the cause of the Blacks, his modesty, integrity,
ability, in short, his greatness in dealing with this question, has
brought about such a complete change in the understanding of the problem
within the last few years that we can hardly repay the debt.

“Can we stand by and see a man who has such power to lead and educate
his people, begging from door to door for the funds necessary to carry
on his work? Is it not our duty to raise such a fund as will enable him
to spend most of his time in the South, where he is needed, and where he
can serve his people, and all of us, as no other man can do?

“Now is the time and the opportunity to show our recognition of the
wonderful service he has done his people and his country, and to make
the opportunity for him to be free to work to the best advantage. He
asks an Endowment Fund of $500,000--a very modest request. Now that the
White and the Negro of both the North and the South, and the authorities
of the State of Alabama, and the President and Congress of the United
States, have all agreed that Tuskegee and Booker Washington show the
true way, we feel confident that there will be a quick response to the
appeal to place Tuskegee on a firm financial standing.

“The friends of Tuskegee, in the past, have contributed generously to
work out a problem. The problem is now solved--and it should be a
privilege to us all to aid in this work, with the full knowledge that
every dollar expended by Tuskegee will aid the Negro race in the only
effective way, and that our whole country will profit by the

At the conclusion of Mr. Baldwin’s address I was introduced to the
audience by the Presiding Officer. In my speech I told the audience,
among other things, that the White people North and South, and the
Negroes as well, had practically agreed that the methods of Tuskegee and
Hampton offered the best solution of the perplexing Negro problem that
had been put forth. In other words, that the whole country had agreed
upon this solution of so important an economic, political and social
problem. It was the duty, therefore, of those who could to supply the
means for an effective solution in this way. I will not burden the
reader with extracts from that speech.

After I had concluded, Rev. Dr. W. S. Rainsford, Rector of St. George’s
Church, New York, made a few extemporaneous remarks, which were regarded
as a strong appeal in behalf of the purpose of the meeting. I only wish
I could lay before the reader the remarks of this gentleman in full. He
said, among other things, that Tuskegee was doing a work for
humanity--not only for the “Black Belt,” but for the whole country.
Pointing to me, he said, “It is our duty to do for that man, engaged in
that noble work, what we failed to do for General Armstrong. We allowed
General Armstrong to go around begging, begging from door to door, to
carry on the work at Hampton, until it killed him. It is our duty to
save Mr. Washington from an untimely death, brought on in this way. It
is our duty to save him for useful service by endowing Tuskegee.”

As may be partly gleaned from Mr. Cleveland’s letter, the results of
this meeting began to be felt immediately.

A few days after the lady in the West, mentioned in Mr. Cleveland’s
letter, gave notice that she would give us $25,000 on condition that the
whole amount sought for was raised, we were very pleasantly surprised to
receive her check for the $25,000, she having decided to remove the
condition. Counting this $25,000 with the $50,000 given by Mr.
Huntington and $10,000 by Mr. John D. Rockefeller, the result of the
meeting was $85,000; Mr. Rockefeller’s $10,000, however, being given for
current expenses. Adding what was received as a result of this meeting
to our previous Endowment Fund, we have now in the hands of our
Endowment Committee about $150,000 from which the school is receiving





The reader has doubtless noted that much space has been occupied in this
volume in detailing the history of the Tuskegee Institute, and to the
casual reader this may have appeared out of place in an autobiography.
When it is borne in mind, however, that the whole of my time, thought
and energy, for the past eighteen years, have been devoted to the
building up of this Institute, it will be conceded that in any
autobiography of mine, a history of the Tuskegee Institute is
unavoidable and necessary. When the history of Tuskegee Institute, since
its founding until now, shall be completely written, you will have also
a history of my life for the same space of time. It shall be my purpose
in this chapter, therefore, to give some definite idea of the extent to
which the Institute has grown, and also to describe with some degree of
accuracy the work that is being accomplished there in its various
departments, viz: Agricultural, mechanical, domestic science, nurse
training, musical, Bible training, and academical departments.

As has been said many times before, the school began in 1881 with only
the State appropriation of $2,000 per annum, specifically for the
payment of teachers’ salaries and for no other purpose. The method by
which we have succeeded in securing the 2,267 acres of land which the
school now owns has heretofore been described. These 2,267 acres of land
are mainly comprised in two tracts. The tract that forms the site of the
Institute is composed of 835 acres, and is known as the “home farm.” The
other large tract, which is about four miles southeast of the Institute,
composed of 800 acres, is known as “Marshall farm.”

Upon the home farm is located the 42 buildings, counting large and
small, which make up the Tuskegee Institute. Of these 42 buildings,
Alabama, Davidson, Huntington, Cassidy and Science, Halls, the
Agricultural Trades and Laundry Buildings, and the Chapel are built of
brick. There are also two large frame halls--Porter Hall, which was the
first building built of the Tuskegee group, and Phelps Hall, a
commodious and well appointed structure dedicated to the Bible Training
department. The other buildings are smaller frame buildings and various
cottages used for commissary, store rooms, recitation rooms, dormitories
and teachers’ residences. There are also the Shop and Saw Mill, with
Engine Rooms and Dynamo in conjunction. The brickyard, where all the
bricks that have been used in building our brick buildings were made, is
also situated near the school. Last year alone the brickyard made
1,500,000 bricks. It is equipped with excellent and improved machinery
for brickmaking, and is under the immediate supervision of Mr. William
Gregory, a graduate of Tuskegee. The total valuation of the property,
including the yards and all buildings, the home and the Marshall farms
is placed at $300,000. This does not include the endowment fund.

The Agricultural Department of the school has at its head Prof. G. W.
Carver, a graduate of the Iowa State University, and a man of experience
as a scientific farmer and a scientist of no mean acquirements. He has 8
assistants who help in looking after the divisions of dairying,
stockraising, horticulture and truck farming embraced in this
department. The State of Alabama appropriates annually the sum of $1,500
for the maintenance of an agricultural experiment station in connection
with our agricultural department. Some of the experiments of Prof.
Carver have attracted much attention, and it is recognized that his
conduct of the station is doing much to show what improvements upon the
old methods of farming may be wrought by scientific agriculture. This
department is well housed in a beautiful brick building, containing a
well equipped chemical laboratory, erected at a cost of $10,000, adapted
to the purposes of agricultural experiment, and other apparatus
necessary for the dairy and other divisions.

It is through the direction of the Agricultural department that the vast
amount of farm and garden products, used by the 1,200 people
constituting the population of the school when in session, is grown.
About 135 acres of the home farm are devoted to the raising of
vegetables, strawberries, grapes, and other fruits. The Marshall farm,
with 350 acres in cultivation, is utilized for the growing of corn,
sugar cane (from which syrup is made), potatoes, grain, hay and other
farm products.

Mr. J. N. Calloway is the manager of the Marshall farm. It is worked by
student labor, keeping from thirty to forty-five boys on it constantly.
There is also a night school upon this farm, for the accommodation of
students who work there, which is a branch of the main night school at
the Institute. At present the farm night school requires the services of
two teachers.

The Marshall farm not only produces a large amount of the farm products
that are used by the school and its 800 head of live stock, counting
horses, mules, cows, oxen, sheep and hogs, but also furnishes
opportunity for students to learn the art and science of farming, at
the same time attending night school and making something above expenses
to be used when the student enters day school.

A large portion of the Marshall farm, about 400 acres, is utilized as
pasture for the dry cows and beef cattle. Everything grown upon the farm
is sold to the school at market prices. The expenses of running the farm
are also accurately kept. At the end of the year a balance is struck.
Last year the Marshall farm come out over $500 ahead, including in the
expense account the salary of the manager.

The mechanical department of the institution is now housed in the well
equipped trades building, recently completed at a cost of $36,000. It is
known as the Slater-Armstrong Memorial Trades Building. It was dedicated
and formally opened on Wednesday, January 10, 1900, and is the largest
building on the Tuskegee Institute grounds, and stands between the
Agricultural Building and the new chapel. The shape is that of a double
Greek cross, having an open court 85x112 feet in the center. When
completed, it will measure 283x300 feet, the main or central portion
being two stories high, the wings one story. This measurement does not
include a room for the sawmill, which is to come at the extreme rear
end. Owing to the fact that sufficient money has not yet been obtained,
the rear portion of the building, consisting of seven rooms, has not
been completed. It is built entirely of brick, and contains twenty-seven
rooms. In round numbers, it took ten hundred thousand bricks to
construct the building thus far, and every one of these bricks was made
by students under the instructor in brickmaking, and laid in the wall by
students under the instructor of bricklaying. The plans and
specifications of the building were drawn by Mr. R. R. Taylor, formerly
in charge of the architectural and mechanical drawing department of the
Institute. The general oversight of both the planning and construction
was, of course, exercised by Mr. J. H. Washington, Director of

The interior arrangements of the building are splendidly suited to the
teaching of the trades. The rooms, while varying in size from 37x42, the
smallest, to 37x85, the largest, will average 37x55, the ceiling being
13 feet high. On the first floor there are the Director’s office,
reading room, exhibit room, wheelwright shop, blacksmith shop, tin shop,
printing office, carpenter shop, repair shop, woodworking machine room,
ironworking machine room, foundry, brickmaking and plastering rooms,
general stock and supply room, and a boiler and engine room. The second
floor contains the mechanical drawing room, harness shop, paint shop,
tailor shop, shoe shop, and electrical laboratory, and a room for
carriage trimming and upholstering. Each shop has a cloak and tool room
connected with it. Better lighted rooms could scarcely be found in any
building. Each shop receives light from two sides and end. The office,
reading room, and exhibit room are finished with wainscoting to window
sills, and plastered from there up and overhead. In the drawing rooms
the walls are plastered, but overhead the ceiling of this room is of
yellow pine, panelled so as to show design. This ceiling is painted
white. The other rooms are not plastered or sealed, but have what is
called a yellow ochre finish on the walls. The machinery in the building
is run by a 125-horse power engine and 75-horse power boiler, both
donated by Mr. C. P. Huntington, of New York.

Each division is well supplied with all of the tools, appliances and
machinery necessary to its successful working and to the accurate
teaching of the trades. The director of this large and important
department is Mr. J. H. Washington, who has under him twenty-two
instructors for the various divisions.

The department for the teaching of the Domestic Sciences has for its
directress Mrs. Booker T. Washington. This department embraces
laundering, cooking, dressmaking, plain sewing, millinery and mattress
making. It is at present housed in several small frame buildings, except
the laundry, which is located in a brick building. Friends have already
given money for the erection and equipment of a building for this
department. The foundation of this building has already been laid and
within a year we hope to have the divisions of this department
permanently located in it. Not only are the trades above named taught in
this department, but the young women, under the motherly direction of
Mrs. Booker T. Washington, are taught the duties of systematic and
orderly housekeeping and duties pertaining thereto.

The nurse training department is run in connection with the school
hospital and has for its instructors our resident physician and a
competent trained nurse. It has not constituted a separate department,
but has formed one of the divisions under the Director of the Mechanical
Department. The increasing demand for trained nurses in the South has
necessitated the establishment of a regular Training School for Nurses
in connection with the school hospital.

A complete course of three years has been adopted of practical and
theoretical work in the wards of the hospital; two years of which
consist of daily work and instruction in the hospital, and the third
year of lectures and bedside instructions,



16, 1898.]


while one or two days of each week are devoted to hospital work. There
are special provisions for those who apply for this department only. The
school is open also to those who do not wish to follow the work as a
profession, but desire to know how to intelligently care for the sick.

The division of music is under the supervision of the Director of the
Academic Department, and like the nurse training department, it has not
constituted an independent department. While the study of music has
always been encouraged at Tuskegee, and considerable work has been done,
we have been able only within the last few years to furnish a systematic
and thorough course of study. The course in pianoforte embraces four
years. The institution owns eight pianos, two cabinet organs and a
library of music. Vocal music is taught to the classes in the academic
department throughout the entire course.

Tuskegee students are famous for their fine singing of plantation
melodies, and it is the object of the Institute to make these old,
sweet, slave songs a source of pride and pleasure to the students.

There are at Tuskegee the following musical organizations: A choir,
consisting of seventy-five voices; a choral society, consisting of one
hundred and fifty voices, organized for the study of music from the
masters; glee club, consisting of forty male voices; glee club,
consisting of twenty female voices; male quartette, whose work is to
travel in the North. The institution maintains a splendid brass band of
thirty pieces, which is instructed by a competent director, employed by
the school. Any student, possessing knowledge of wind instruments, will
be given a chance to enter the band; but this knowledge is not essential
to membership. The band plays every school day morning for inspection
and drill.

One of the most important branches of the Music Department is the
Orchestra, which consists of fourteen pieces. The same rule regarding
membership in the band holds good for the Orchestra. The Orchestra plays
every week night at evening devotions. Many students who have played in
the Orchestra have developed into competent musicians. The director of
the band has charge of the Orchestra. All students belonging to the
Orchestra are subject to certain rules governing this organization.

The Bible Training Department was established in 1893. The desire for
increased opportunities for those who wish to fit themselves for the
ministry, or other forms of Christian work in the South, had been long
felt. To meet this need, a generous lady in New York erected at Tuskegee
a building called Phelps Hall, a picture of which is herewith given,
containing a chapel, library, reading room, office, three recitation
rooms and forty sleeping rooms, to be used as a Bible School. The donor
of this building furnished each room in the most comfortable and
convenient manner, making it one of the most beautiful and desirable
buildings on the school grounds. The instruction is wholly
undenominational. It is the aim of this new department to help all
denominations, and not to antagonize any. The Bible School is not in
opposition to any other theological work now being done, but it is
simply a means of helping. The faculty is composed of some of the
strongest men in the country. Rev. Edgar J. Penney is in charge of the
work, assisted by Rev. B. H. Peterson. Rt. Rev. B. T. Tanner, Rev. C. O.
Boothe, D. D., and Rt. Rev. George W. Clinton have been engaged to give
a regular course of lectures during each term.

The members of the Bible School are required to do mission work on the
Sabbath in the neighboring churches--preaching and teaching in the
Sunday Schools whenever their services are needed--and to make weekly
reports in writing of the work done.

It is not necessary to have a special call to the ministry to enter the
Bible School at Tuskegee. Many who desire to do only missionary work or
become intelligent teachers of the Bible in the Sunday Schools, will be
greatly benefited and helped; indeed, quite a few of those who are now
members of this department are fitting themselves for this kind of work.

The demand for an educated ministry is growing throughout the South, and
those who expect to preach must prepare themselves for the work.

This department was established for the express purpose of giving
colored men and women a knowledge of the English Bible; implanting in
their hearts a noble ambition to go out into the dark and benighted
districts of the South and give their lives for the elevation and
Christianizing of the South. Last year eighty-three students attended
this department. This was the largest attendance since the department
was founded.

Last, but not least, I mention the Academic Department, which offers a
thorough course of instruction, nearly, if not quite, equal to the high
school courses of the Northern and Western States. No language, however,
except English, is taught. It is our aim to correlate the work of the
Academic Department with the Industrial Departments, and it is the
policy of the school not to give any student a diploma of graduation who
has not completed the course in at least one division of one or another
of the industrial departments.

Last year, of the 1,164 students who attended the Institute, except a
part of those in the Bible Training School, all were taking studies in
this department, either in the night or day school, they being about
equally divided between the night and the day school.

The night school course is so arranged that a student is enabled to do
just half the amount of work in night school as in day school. A student
in night school will therefore cover a year’s work, as laid out for day
school students, in two years.

Last year there were 77 graduates from all of the departments.

I cannot close this chapter without making some special reference to the
chapel at Tuskegee, which is regarded as the architectural gem of the
Tuskegee group. It was planned by Mr. R. R. Taylor, who was then our
teacher in architecture and mechanical drawing. The work of
construction, even to the making of the bricks, was done wholly by
students. The cost of erection of the building was valued at $30,000.00.

The following is a description of the building, a cut of which is also
given in this volume: The plan of the chapel is that of a Greek cross,
the main axis extending from northeast to southwest. The extreme
dimensions from northeast to southwest, extending through nave and
choir, is 154 feet 6 inches. The dimensions from northwest to
southeast, through transepts, is 106 feet. The roof is of the hammer
beam construction. The clear span of the main trusses is 63 feet, which
is the width of the nave and transept. The angle trusses have a clear
span of 87 feet, projections from the walls under trusses slightly
decreasing the span. The gallery on back is 30 feet wide, extending over
girls’ cloak room and 12 feet into main auditorium.

In the rear are choir room, study for minister, and two small
vestibules, one on either side of chapel, giving entrance to choir room,
study and main auditorium. A large basement is provided and in this the
steam heating plant is located. At the northeast end of the auditorium
is the pulpit platform, which is large enough to seat the entire faculty
of eighty-eight members. This platform is 2 feet 6 inches above the main
floor. Immediately behind this and elevated 3 feet above it, is the
choir stand, with seating capacity for 150 persons. The chapel is
sufficiently supplied with windows to give abundant light and
ventilation, a very pretty effect being secured by the use of delicately
tinted colored glass.

The woodwork is all of yellow pine and hard oil finish, except the floor
which is of oak. The seating capacity of the auditorium is 2,400. One
million two hundred thousand bricks were used in the construction, all
made and laid by students. All the mouldings, casings and caps used
were made by students. The floor is bowled. The height of the walls from
top of floor is 24 feet 6 inches; from floor line to highest point of
ceiling, 48 feet 6 inches. The height of tower from line of ground to
top of cross which terminates it, is 105 feet. The electric lighting is
from three main chandeliers, with thirty lights each, ten of two lights
each, twelve of one light each, and from a reflecting disc of forty
lights over the choir stand.

Gradually, by patience and hard work, we have brought order out of
chaos, just as will be true of any problem if we stick to it with
patience and wisdom and earnest effort.

As I look back now over our struggle, I am glad that we had it. I am
glad that we endured all those discomforts and inconveniences. I am glad
that our students had to dig out the place for their kitchen and
dining-room. I am glad that our first boarding place was in that dismal,
ill-lighted, and damp basement. Had we started in a fine, attractive,
convenient room, I fear we would have “lost our heads” and become “stuck
up.” It means a great deal, I think, to build on a foundation which one
has made for himself.

When our students return to Tuskegee now, as they often do, and go into
our large, beautiful, well ventilated, and well lighted dining-room and
see tempting, well-cooked food--largely grown by the students
themselves--and see tables, neat tablecloths and napkins, and vases of
flowers upon the tables, and hear singing birds, and note that each meal
is served exactly upon the minute, with no disorder and with almost no
complaint coming from the hundreds that now fill our dining-room, they,
too, often say to me that they are glad that we started as we did, and
built ourselves up, year by year, by a slow and natural process of



My work at Tuskegee has always been of a three fold nature. First, the
executive work of the institution proper; second, the securing of money
with which to carry on the institution; and, third, the education
through the public press and through public addresses of the white
people North and South as to the condition and needs of the race. On the
grounds, in addition to the ordinary task involved in educating and
disciplining over a thousand students, is added the responsibility of
training them in parental directions, involving systematic regulations
for bathing, eating, sleeping, the use of the tooth brush and care of
health. In performing these duties, especially in collecting money in
the early years, I have often met with many discouragements, but I early
resolved to let nothing cause me to despair completely.

The first time I went North to secure money for the Tuskegee Institute I
remember that on my way I called to see one of the secretaries of an
organization which for years had been deeply interested in the education
of our people in the South. I supposed, of course, that I should
receive a most cordial and encouraging reception at his hands. To my
surprise he received me most coldly and proceeded to tell me in the most
discouraging tones possible that I had made a mistake by coming North to
secure aid for our school, and he advised me to take the first train
South. He said that I could not possibly succeed in securing any funds
for Tuskegee. In fact, he told me very frankly that I would not secure
enough money to pay my traveling expenses. I confess that this bucket of
cold water thrown upon me at a time when I needed encouraging and
sympathetic words more than anything else, rather tended to take the
heart out of me, but I determined not to give up, but to keep pressing
forward, until I had thoroughly demonstrated whether or not it was
possible for me to secure funds in the North. I will not prolong this
story except to say that within a period of four years after I was so
coldly received by this secretary, he introduced me where I was to speak
at a large public meeting in New York City in the interest of Tuskegee;
and, in introducing me to the large audience, he used the most
flattering language and praised me without stint for the successful work
that I was engaged in doing. I do not know whether he remembered, while
he was introducing me, that I was the young man he had discouraged only
four years before.

I shall never forget my first experience in speaking before a Northern
audience. Before I went North Gen. Armstrong had talked to me a good
deal about what to say and how to say it. I shall always remember one of
his injunctions, which was, “Give them an idea for every word.” When I
first went into the North to get money I began work in one or two of the
small towns in the Western part of Massachusetts. As I remember it, the
first town that I reached was Northampton. As I expected to remain in
the town several days, my first effort was to find a colored family with
whom I could board, but as very few colored families lived in that town
I found this not an easy job. It did not once occur to me that I could
find accommodation at any of the hotels in Northampton.

As an indication of Gen. Armstrong’s deep interest and helpful influence
in the establishment and progress of this institution, I insert a letter
of recommendation he gave me to be used among people in the North. These
letters were always given most freely and the General was constantly in
search of opportunities to serve the school:

“HAMPTON, VA., Oct. 26, 1891.

     “This is to introduce Mr. Booker T. Washington, the head of the
     Tuskegee, Alabama, Colored Normal and Industrial School.

     “It is a noble, notable work; the best product of Negro enterprise
     of the century. I make this statement advisedly. I beg a hearing
     for Mr. Washington, he is a true ‘Moses.’

     “As much as any man in the land, he is securing to the whole
     country the moral results which the Civil War meant to produce.

     “Tuskegee is the bright spot in the Black Belt of the South. It is
     a proof that the Negro can raise the Negro.


On the day before Gen. Armstrong was stricken with the paralysis which
finally resulted in his death, I remember that I met him on Beacon
Street, in Boston, and told him that some ladies in New York were
discussing the matter of giving us a new building, but seemed somewhat
undecided as to the wisdom of doing so. I was talking to the General
about interceding in order to get these friends to decide to furnish the
building. He seemed greatly interested in the matter and promised to
either see or communicate with these New York ladies. Before we finished
our conversation, however, we were interrupted by some one and we did
not finish the talk about the building. The next day Gen. Armstrong was
stricken with paralysis, and no one was permitted to see him for several
days. After several days had passed by, the doctors seemed to be
convinced that he could not live but for a few hours, and I, in company
with several other persons, was allowed to see him in his room at the
Parker House. To my surprise, the minute I entered the room, he took up
the thread of our conversation concerning the building where it was
broken off several days previously on Beacon Street, and began at once
advising how to secure the building. The General did not recover from
this stroke of paralysis, but lived about eight months after it. In
January, 1893, that is, about four months before he died, he came to
Tuskegee, or rather was brought to Tuskegee, because he was too weak to
travel alone, and remained a guest at my home for three weeks. During
these weeks he suffered intensely at times, but was always in good
spirits and cheerful. His heart was so wrapped up in the elevation of
the Negro that it seemed impossible to induce him to take any rest. Most
of the time when he was not asleep he was planning or advising
concerning the interest of the black man, and spent much time in writing
articles for newspapers and to friends in the North. He was present
during the session of our Negro Conference in February, 1893, and it
was a memorable sight to see him carried by the strong arms of four
students up the stairs of the chapel and to the presence of the
Conference. The impression that the sight of Gen. Armstrong made upon
the members of the Conference is almost indescribable. All felt as
though he was their most strong and helpful friend, and they had a
confidence in him that they had in no other being on earth. It was at
this Conference that Gen. Armstrong made his first attempt to speak in
public after he was stricken with paralysis, and his success in being
heard and understood was so encouraging that he spoke to audiences on
several other occasions.

I must not neglect to mention the manner in which Gen. Armstrong and Mr.
Howe, the farm manager at Hampton, were received at the school on the
occasion of this visit, for this was the second visit that the General
had made to the school. Both students and teachers were most anxious to
do him all the honor possible, and for several weeks previous to his
coming we were quite busily engaged in devising some plan to receive the
General in a proper manner. At last it was decided to ask the
authorities of the Tuskegee Railroad to run a special train from
Tuskegee to Chehaw to meet the General. This request the railroad
authorities very kindly granted. He arrived upon the school grounds at
about nine o’clock at night. Each student and teacher had supplied
himself with a long piece of light wood, or “litted,” as the colored
people are in the habit of calling it. A long line was formed, and when
he came upon the school grounds, the General was driven between two rows
of students, each one holding one of these lighted torches. The effect
was most interesting and gratifying. I think I never saw anything done
for the General which seemed to make him so happy and give him such
satisfaction as this reception.

The first public address that I delivered in the North was in Chicopee,
a town not far from Springfield. I spoke in the Congregational Church in
the morning, but was careful to commit my entire address to memory. I
was a little embarrassed after the morning meeting was over when several
of the members of the congregation, in congratulating me over my
success, stated that they had enjoyed my morning address so much that
they had planned to go to Chicopee Falls, an adjoining town, to hear me
speak in the evening. As I had only the one address to deliver one can
easily see that I was in rather an embarrassing position.

While the greater portion of my speaking has been before Northern white
audiences, I also improved every opportunity to speak to my own people,
both in the North and in the South. In fact, during the earlier years of
the institution I carried on a regular campaign of speaking among the
colored people in the South, going to their churches, Sunday-schools,
associations, institutes, camp-meetings, conferences, etc. They did not,
as I have stated, take kindly to the idea of industrial education at
first, and it was largely by reason of my efforts in these public
meetings that I succeeded in converting them to the idea of favoring
industrial education. At one time I hired a team and took one of the
older students with me, and we drove for many miles, stopping at the
homes of individuals and at churches to explain to them the work of the

The first opportunity I had to speak to a Southern white audience was on
the occasion of the gathering of the Christian Worker’s Convention,
which was held in Atlanta, in 1893. It seems that it was largely because
of the impression that I made upon this audience in Atlanta that the
authorities of the Atlanta Exposition were led to extend me an
invitation to deliver an address at the opening of that exposition. I
shall let an account given in the Christian World, published in New
Haven, Conn., take the place of my own words in regard to this address
before the Christian Worker’s Convention:

“Booker T. Washington, principal of the


Principal Washington. Gov. Johnson. Pres. McKinley.



Tuskegee, Ala., Normal and Industrial Institute, was given a place on
the program at the Convention of Christian Workers held at Atlanta, Ga.,
in 1893, for a five minutes report of progress, the time being thus
brief on account of the fact that a full report with questions and
answers covering three-quarters of an hour had been given at the
Convention the year previous, held in Tremont Temple, Boston. When he
made the engagement he doubtless expected to be either at Tuskegee,
which is not far from Atlanta, or spending the Convention days with
other Christian Workers in Atlanta. It came about, however, that he
found it necessary to make engagements in the North immediately before
and after the date on which he was announced to speak at Atlanta. To
keep his Atlanta engagement it was necessary that he should leave Boston
for that city, reaching there on the last train arriving before he was
announced to speak, and to return North on the first train leaving
Atlanta after his brief address. It was a great sacrifice for a five
minutes’ address. Mr. Washington said simply that it was his duty to
keep his appointment. It does not appear that the fact that he would be
compelled to travel about 500 miles for every minute of his address, had
much weight or even consideration. To do his duty was not small or
unimportant. The results of this address were great, great beyond all
human thought. Mr. Washington has since stated that he had never before
made an address to the white people of the South. His audience of over
2,000 leading Christian people, ministers, business men, legislators,
law makers, judges, officials, representatives of the press, from
Atlanta, from Georgia and from other states of the South, were charmed
by his personality and the passionate earnestness with which he set
forth the magnificent scheme of Christian effort at Tuskegee, and
pleaded for the upbuilding of his race under Southern skies. This
representative audience saw before them a representative of his race
such as they had not been wont to see. His address was flashed over the
wires by sympathetic press agents through the South, and he probably
never before spoke to a larger and more influential audience. But in the
providence of God there were still greater results.”

I have always made it a rule to keep engagements of a public nature when
I have once made a promise to do so. On one occasion I had an
appointment to speak in a small country church not far from Boston. Just
before night a severe snow storm came up, and although I knew this storm
would keep every one from the meeting, I made it a point to be present.
When I got to the church there was no one present except the sexton.
The minister himself did not come, and when I saw him later he was
surprised to find that I had been at the church on the night appointed,
and told me he felt sure I would not be present on account of the storm.

In the earlier days of the institution, of course, it was a difficult
task to secure interviews with persons of prominence and wealth in the
North, but Gen. Armstrong’s recommendations, which he was always willing
to give, in most cases served to secure me a hearing. It was equally
difficult in our early history to secure opportunities from ministers
and others to speak before their congregations. Such calls on ministers
were, of course, very numerous, and one can hardly blame them for
shutting out those with whom they were not well acquainted. I have been
often surprised to note the number of irresponsible and unworthy colored
men and women who spend their time in the North attempting to secure
money for institutions that in many cases have no existence; or when
they exist at all, are in such a feeble and unorganized condition as in
no way to have a claim upon the generosity of the public. Many of these
schools, of course, within a radius of a mile or two, do reasonably good
work, but I am quite sure the time has come when the North should
confine its gifts wholly to the larger and well organized institutions
which are able to train teachers or industrial leaders who will go out
and show these local communities how to build up schools for themselves.
Three or four hundred dollars given to one local community may serve to
help it for a time, but there are a hundred thousand other communities
that need help just as much; scattering a few hundred dollars here and
there among local communities amounts to little in putting the people
upon their feet, but putting it into a teacher who will show the
community how to help itself means much in the way of the solution of
our problem.

The constant work of appealing to individuals, speaking before churches,
Sunday-schools, etc., gradually served to make the institution known in
most parts of the country. This was true to such an extent that in 1883
we received our first legacy of $500 through the will of Mr. Frederick
Marquand of Southport, Conn. This was a most pleasant and gratifying
surprise to us, as we had no thought of any one’s remembering us in this
way. Since then, however, hardly a year has passed that we have not been
remembered by a legacy. The largest sum that we have received in this
manner has been $30,000 through the will of Mr. Edward Austin, of
Boston. Mr. Austin’s case is another one which shows, as I have already
mentioned, that one should try to cultivate the habit of doing his duty
to the full extent each day and not worry over results.

I remember that the first time I saw Mr. Austin was about the year 1885
when the late Dr. W. I. Bowditch, of Boston, gave me a letter to him. At
that time Mr. Austin gave me his check for $50, but gave nothing between
1885 and 1896 and seemed to take little interest in the school, in fact
I had supposed that he had forgotten all about us. I tried on several
occasions to get another audience with him but did not succeed. In 1896,
while in Boston, I was very much surprised to receive an invitation from
Mr. Austin to call at his home. He was then very feeble, being over
ninety years of age, but he told me that he had remembered us in his
will, and that as it would not be possible for him to live much longer,
we would likely come into possession of the money within a reasonably
short time, which proved to be true.

On another occasion, I walked a long distance out into the country
during a cold winter day, to see a gentleman who lived near Stamford,
Conn. (More than once, I was rather inclined to blame myself for
exposing my body to the cold on what might prove a fruitless journey.)
When I arrived at the gentleman’s house rather late in the evening, he
gave me, after considerable hesitation, a small check, but did not seem
to take a great deal of interest in the school. The following year,
however, I succeeded in obtaining from him a check for a somewhat larger
amount. His interest, however, continued to grow from year to year, so
that in 1891 he surprised us all by sending a check for $10,000. Up to
that time this was the largest single gift in cash that the institution
had ever received, and my readers can well imagine that the receipt of
this large sum caused a day of general rejoicing on the grounds at

I have referred already to the gift of $400 from a friend who helped us
when we were in an embarrassing position. I might add that the following
year this same friend sent us a check for $3,000, and since that time
she and her sister have given regularly to us $3,000 each year. These
two friends have done as much, if not more, to keep the institution on a
firm footing than any one else that I know of.

I have had, in my eighteen years of experience in collecting money for
the Tuskegee Institute, some very interesting episodes. On the whole,
collecting money is hard, disagreeable, wearing work, but there are some
compensations that come from it. In the first place, it brings one into
contact with some of the best people in the world, as well as some of
the meanest and most narrow ones. Very often, when I have been in the
North seeking money, I have found myself completely without cash. I
remember one time while in Providence, R. I., that when I had spent all
the money I had and was still without breakfast, in crossing the streets
I found twenty-five cents near the sidewalk. With this I bought my
breakfast, and with the added strength and courage which that breakfast
gave me, I went in quest of donations for Tuskegee, and was soon
rewarded by several large gifts.

As an example of the way in which I have used my time from year to year,
there have been many occasions when I have slept in three different beds
in one night, while traveling through different portions of the country.
I give here a portion of a schedule which I followed on a recent lecture
tour in the West. This will enable my readers to judge whether or not to
speak from night to night is the easy job that many people take it to

I spoke at Mt. Vernon, Iowa, January 19, 1900, 8 P.M., then took the 11
o’clock train for Cedar Rapids, where I arrived in about twenty-five
minutes. Laid over in Cedar Rapids until 3:15 o’clock, A.M., then took
the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern railway for Columbus Junction,
where I arrived about 5 o’clock in the morning, remaining in Columbus
Junction until about 8 o’clock, when I took the Chicago, Rock Island &
Pacific railway for Centerville, Iowa where I arrived at 12:37, January
20, much fatigued and worn out from the long journey over three
different railroads. At 8 o’clock I again spoke, and at 12:18 A.M. again
took the train for Chicago, where I was billed to speak twice the same
day, and on the following morning I took the train for a long journey
westward, finally ending in Denver, and in returning stopped off at
Omaha and other places, and I then discovered that another month had

During 1892 I was asked by Rev. Lyman Abbott, D. D., editor of the
Outlook, to write an article for his paper which would let the country
know the exact condition and needs of the Negro ministry in the South.
In this article I told as fully and frankly as I could just what the
condition of the ministry was mentally, morally and religiously. A very
large proportion of the colored ministers throughout the country became
greatly incensed at what I said, feeling that I had injured the Negro
ministry very materially by my plain language. For almost a year after
this article was written scarcely a Negro conference or association
assembled in any part of the country that did not proceed to pass
resolutions condemning me and the article which I had written. This went
on for some time but I was determined not to in any way yield the
position which I had taken, for the reason that I knew that I was right
and had spoken the truth. At the time when the discussion and
condemnation of myself were at the highest pitch, the late Bishop D. A.
Payne, of the A. M. E. Church, wrote a letter endorsing all the
statements which I had made, and adding on his own account that I had
not told the whole truth. This of course added fresh fuel to the flames
and the Bishop for several months came in for his share of the

At the present time, after the lapse of eight years, I feel that the
institution at Tuskegee and myself personally have no warmer friends
than we have in the Negro ministers. Almost without exception at the
present time they acknowledge that the article which I wrote has done
the whole body of ministers a great deal of good; that bishops and other
church officers were made to realize the importance of not only
purifying the ministry as far as possible but demanding a higher
standard in the pulpit so far as mental education was concerned. I
scarcely ever go anywhere without receiving the thanks of ministers for
my plain talk. They feel that they are greatly indebted to me for much
of the improvement that has taken place within recent years. Of course
when it is considered that at the time I wrote this article a very small
proportion of the colored ministers had had an opportunity to secure
systematic training that would give them mental strength, moral and
religious stamina, it could not have been expected that any large
proportion would have been fitted in the highest degree for the office
of ministers. The improvement at the present time is constantly going
on, and within a few years I believe that the Negro church is going to
be quite a different thing from what it has had the reputation of being
in the past.

At all times during the discussion and condemnation of myself there was
not wanting strong and prominent people in different parts of the
country among our own race who stood valiantly and bravely by the
position which I had taken. Among them, as leader, was Mr. T. Thomas
Fortune, the editor of the New York Age. Mr. Fortune in this matter, as
in all other matters where he has considered my position the correct
one, has defended and supported me without regard to his personal
popularity or unpopularity. While he and I differ and have differed on
many important public questions, we have never allowed our differences
to mar our personal friendship. In all matters pertaining to the welfare
of our race in the South I have always consulted him most freely and
frankly. For example, in the preparation of the open letter to the
Louisiana State Constitutional Convention, Mr. Fortune and myself sat
up nearly one whole night at Tuskegee preparing this letter. I have
seldom ever given any public utterances to the country that have not had
his criticism and approval. His help and friendship to me in many
directions have been most potent in enabling me to accomplish whatever I
have been able to do.

In the same class with Mr. Fortune I would put my private secretary, Mr.
Emmet J. Scott, who, for a number of years, has been in the closest and
most helpful relations to me in all my work. Without his constant and
painstaking care it would be impossible for me to perform even a very
small part of the labor that I now do. Mr. Scott understands so
thoroughly my motives, plans and ambitions that he puts himself into my
own position as nearly as it is possible for one individual to put
himself into the place of another, and in this way makes himself
invaluable not only to me personally but to the institution. Such a man
as Mr. Scott I have found exceedingly rare, only once or twice in a
lifetime are such people discovered.

There is only one way for an individual to collect money for a worthy
institution, as there is only one way for him to succeed in any line of
work, and that is to make up his mind to do his duty to the fullest
extent and let results take care of themselves.

In the earlier years of the institution I called to see a rich gentleman
in New York, who did not even ask me to take a seat, but in a gruff and
cold manner handed me two dollars, as if to say, I give you this to get
rid of you. Since that time this same individual has given to Tuskegee
as much as ten thousand dollars in cash, at one time. In other cases,
where I found it impossible to secure an audience, in the early days of
this work, I have since been sent for by these same individuals and
asked to accept money for the institution. In many cases I have gone to
individuals and presented our cause only to receive an insult or the
coldest and most discouraging reception. Perhaps the next individual on
whom I called would politely and earnestly thank me for calling and
giving him an opportunity to make a gift to Tuskegee.

During the early struggles of our work, in many instances, I went to
ministers in the North to secure opportunity to speak in their churches,
but received “No” for my answer. Often where I have received such
answers, I have since received letters from these same ministers urging
that I would deliver lectures in their churches and naming large sums of
money as compensation for my lectures.

The institution has now reached a point where it conducts all of its
affairs on a more strictly cash basis than in its earlier years; in
fact, the general policy of the school at present is to undertake no
enterprise in the way of improvements until it has the money in hand for
such improvements. This policy could not be carried out very well in the
early years of the school, when we were so hard pressed for buildings.
One thing which I have always thought has helped us a great deal is that
we have always made it a point to have the strictest and most approved
system of book-keeping in connection with all of our financial
transactions. Our books have been at all times open to the inspection of
the public. In accounting for our income and expenditures Mr. Logan, our
Treasurer, from the first has been of the highest service to the
institution. We have never allowed any carelessness in the matter of

I have been often asked by young men how they can succeed in this or
that direction. My advice to them is to make up their minds carefully,
in the first place, as to what they want to do and then persistently
devote themselves to accomplishing that end, letting nothing discourage
them. If I may be allowed a little pardonable pride in connection with
this statement, I would add, to show how mistaken that Secretary was who
attempted to discourage me by telling me that I would not secure enough
funds to pay my traveling expenses, that since the institution at
Tuskegee was started I have collected myself, or been instrumental in
causing others to help me secure, all told, fully $1,000,000 for the
permanent plant endowment and the annual expenses of Tuskegee. Were I to
attempt to give an account of all the ways and means by which
individuals have tried to discourage me since I began at Tuskegee this
little book would contain little else than this. I have always found it
easy to find people who could tell me how a thing could _not_ be
accomplished, but very hard to find those who could tell me how a thing
could be accomplished. In my opinion the world is much more interested
in finding people who know how to accomplish something than those who
merely explain why it is impossible to accomplish certain results.

I have been asked many times how I have succeeded in this thing or in
that thing. In most every case I have replied that it has required
constant, hard, conscientious work. I consider that there is no
permanent success possible without hard and severe effort, coupled with
the highest and most praiseworthy aims. Luck, as I have experienced it,
is only another name for hard work. Almost any individual can succeed in
any legitimate enterprise that he sets his heart upon if he is willing
to pay the price, but the price, in most cases, is being willing to toil
when others are resting, being willing to work while others are
sleeping, being willing to put forth the severest effort when there is
no one to see or applaud. It is comparatively easy to find people who
are willing to work when the world is looking on and ready to give
applause, but very hard to find those who are willing to work in the
corner or at midnight when there is no watchful eye or anyone to give

I end this volume as I began, with an apology for writing it. It is
always highly distasteful to me to speak about myself and in writing
what I have, I have attempted in a small degree, at least, to subdue my
own personal feeling with a view of giving the public as much
information as possible, and I hope that some permanent good will result
from my effort.

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