Booker T. Washington - Builder of a Civilization
by Emmett J. Scott and Lyman Beecher Stowe
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In reply to a Western university professor who had asked his opinion of amalgamation as a solution of the race problem he wrote: "I have never looked upon amalgamation as offering a solution of the so-called race problem, and I know very few Negroes who favor it or even think of it, for that matter. What those whom I have heard discuss the matter do object to are laws which enable the father to escape his responsibility, or prevent him from accepting and exercising it, when he has children by colored women. I think this answers your question, but since there seems to be some misunderstanding as to how colored people feel about this subject, I might say in explanation of what I have already said: The Negroes in America are, as you know, a mixed race. If that is an advantage we have it; if it is a disadvantage, it is still ours, and for the simple reason that the product of every sort of racial mixture between the black man and any other race is always a Negro and never a white man, Indian, or any other sort of man.

"The Negro in America is defined by the census as a person who is classed as such in the community in which he or she resides. In other words, the Negro in this country is not so much of a particular color or particular racial stock as one who shares a particular condition. It is the fact that they all share in this condition which creates a cause of common sympathy and binds the members of the race together in spite of all differences."

To an embarrassing question put by the society editor of some paper Mr. Washington replied by merely telling a funny story the application of which to the impertinent inquiry was obvious. In another letter he summed up his opinion of the much-mooted question of the franchise in these two sentences: "There is no reason why every Negro who is not fitted to vote should not be disfranchised. At the same time, there is no good reason why every white man who is not fitted to vote should not also be disfranchised."

From the foregoing correspondence it will be seen that one of Booker Washington's many roles was to act as a kind of plenipotentiary and interpreter between his people and the dominant race. For this part he was peculiarly fitted by his thorough understanding of and sympathy for each race.

Theodore Roosevelt, immediately after taking the oath of office as President of the United States, in Buffalo after the death of President McKinley, wrote Mr. Washington the following note:


Executive Mansion


Buffalo, N.Y., Sept. 14, 1901.


I write you at once to say that to my deep regret my visit South must now be given up.

When are you coming North? I must see you as soon as possible. I want to talk over the question of possible appointments in the South exactly on the lines of our last conversation together.

I hope that my visit to Tuskegee is merely deferred for a short season.

Faithfully yours,


Booker T. Washington, Esq., Tuskegee, Alabama.

This deferred visit finally took place in 1905, not long after Colonel Roosevelt's triumphant election to the Presidency, when he came to Tuskegee accompanied by his secretary, William Loeb, Jr.; Federal Civil Service Commissioner, John McIlhenny; Collector of Revenue for the Birmingham District, J.O. Thompson; Judge Thomas G. Jones of Montgomery, and a fellow Rough Rider by the name of Greeneway.

In response to the above note Mr. Washington went to the White House and discussed with the President "possible future appointments in the South" along the lines agreed upon between them in a conference which they had had at a time when it had seemed possible that Mr. Roosevelt might be given the Republican Presidential nomination of 1900, that is, while Mr. Roosevelt was Governor of New York and a tentative candidate for the nomination.

Upon his return to Tuskegee after this talk with President Roosevelt, Mr. Washington found that the judgeship for the Southern District of Alabama had just become vacant through the death of the incumbent, Judge Bruce. Here was an opportunity for the President to put into practice in striking fashion the policy they had discussed—namely, to appoint to Federal posts in the Southern States the best men available and to reward and recognize conspicuous merit among Southern Democrats and Southern Negroes as well as among Southern white Republicans. Being unable at the moment to return to Washington, he sent his secretary with the following letter:

Tuskegee, Alabama, October 2, 1901.

President Theodore Roosevelt, Washington, D.C.

MY DEAR MR. PRESIDENT: I send you the following information through my secretary, Mr. Emmett J. Scott, whom you can trust implicitly.

Judge Bruce, the Judge of the Middle District of Alabama, died yesterday. There is going to be a very hard scramble for his place. I saw ex-governor T.G. Jones yesterday, as I promised, and he is willing to accept the judgeship of the Middle District of Alabama. I am more convinced now than ever that he is the proper man for the place. He has until recently been president of the Alabama State Bar Association. He is a Gold Democrat, and is a clean, pure man in every respect. He stood up in the Constitutional Convention and elsewhere for a fair election law, opposed lynching, and he has been outspoken for the education of both races. He is head and shoulders above any of the other persons who I think will apply for the position.

Yours truly,


P.S.—I do not believe in all the South you could select a better man through whom to emphasize your idea of the character of a man to hold office than you can do through ex-governor Jones.


Mr. Scott described what occurred on his delivery of this letter in the following report to his chief:

Washington, D.C., October 4, 1901.

MY DEAR MR. WASHINGTON: I called to see the President this morning. I found him all cordiality and brimming over with good will for you. That pleased me much! He had received the telegram and had made an appointment for me. He read your letter, inquired if I knew the contents, and then launched into a discussion of it. Wanted to know if Governor Jones supported Bryan in either campaign. I told him no. He wanted to know how I knew. I told him of the letter wherein he (Governor Jones) stated to you that he was without political ambition because he had opposed Bryan, etc. Well, he said he wanted to hear from you direct as to whether he had or not, and asked me to write you to find out. I am now awaiting that wire so as to call again on him. As soon as I see him again I will wire you and write you as to what he says. He is going to appoint Governor Jones. That was made apparent. While I was waiting to see him Senator Chandler with the Spanish Claims Commission called. They saw him first. I heard the talk, however, which was mostly felicitation. Incidentally, however, Senator Chandler said that the Commission was afraid it would lose one of its members because of the vacancy in Alabama, referring to Hon. W.L. Chambers, who was present and who is a member of the Commission. The President laughed heartily. Said the Senator always sprung recommendations unexpectedly, and so forth and so forth. He did not inquire as to any of the others—the applicants—seemed interested only to find out about Governor Jones.... There were many correspondents there at the door, but I told them I was passing through to Buffalo, but had stopped over to invite the President to include Tuskegee in his itinerary when he goes South again.... Will write again when I see the President again.

Yours sincerely,


As soon as he had received Dr. Washington's telegram in reply, Mr. Scott went again to the White House and wrote thus of his second call:


Washington, D.C., October 5, 1901.

MY DEAR MR. WASHINGTON: You have my telegram of to-day. I sent it as soon as I had seen the President. I had a three-hour wait to see him and it was tiresome, but I "camped with them." When admitted to the general reception room the President met me and was cordial and asked me to wait awhile, till he could dismiss two delegations, then he invited me into the office, or cabinet room, and read very carefully the telegram received from you last night—Friday night. His face was a study. He was greatly surprised to learn that the Governor voted for Bryan, and walked about considerably. At last he said, "Well, I guess I'll have to appoint him, but I am awfully sorry he voted for Bryan." He then asked me who Dr. Crum[1] is and I told him that he was a clean representative character, and that he was favorably considered by Harrison for the Charleston postmastership, etc. He did not know him and asked me what place was referred to. You had not discussed it with me, but I told him you most likely referred to the place made vacant by the death of Webster. He then called Mr. Cortelyou, Secretary, into the office and asked him if he knew Crum. He said he didn't but that he had heard of him and always favorably. The President then asked Cortelyou what place a man named B. was being considered for, and he said the place made vacant by Webster's death. He then turned to me and said that he was sorry, that he would certainly have considered the matter if he had had your word earlier. He asked me to tell you that if you wish Dr. Crum considered for any other place that he will be glad to have you communicate with him. I then asked him what I should tell you in the Governor Jones' matter, and he said: "Tell Mr. Washington without using my name that party will most likely be appointed—in fact I will appoint him—only don't make it that strong by wire." So I consider the matter closed.

The colored brethren here are scared. They don't know what to expect, and the word has passed, they say, that you are the "Warwick" so far as they are concerned. I hope to find you well in Chicago.

Sincerely yours,


[Footnote 1: This refers to a suggestion made by Mr. Washington in his telegram recommending the appointment of Dr. W.D. Crum, a colored physician, to a South Carolina vacancy, so that the President could thereby announce at the same time the appointment of a first-grade Southern white Democrat and a first-class colored man.]

This precedent-breaking appointment of a Southern Democrat by a Republican President, made primarily on the recommendation of Booker Washington and Grover Cleveland, was acclaimed with enthusiastic approval by all Democrats everywhere, and in fact there was no dissenting voice except from the officeholding Southern Republicans who naturally resented this encroachment upon what they regarded as their patronage rights. At first appreciation was almost universal of the efforts of the Negro leader in helping a Republican President to make this far-reaching change in the Federal officeholding traditions of the South. Soon, however, some Southern newspapers began to question the wisdom of allowing a Negro to have even an advisory voice in political matters notwithstanding his advice had in this instance been so acceptable to the South. This criticism grew so insistent that Judge Jones found himself in an uncomfortable position because his appointment had been made, in large part, on the recommendation of a Negro. He tried to soften the situation by giving out a statement to the effect that his endorsement by representative white men would probably have assured his appointment even without the assistance of Booker Washington. Later, however, the Judge expressed to Mr. Scott privately, after listening with deep interest to the recital of all the incidents connected with his appointment, his appreciation of what Booker Washington had done for him.

Aside from this appointment, Booker Washington had a voice in many others, including those of Gen. R.D. Johnson as Receiver of Public Moneys at Birmingham, Colonel Thomas R. Roulhac as United States District Judge, and Judge Osceola Kyle of Alabama as United States District Attorney in the Panama Canal Zone. During the administrations of both Presidents Roosevelt and Taft hardly an office of consequence was conferred upon a Negro without first consulting Mr. Washington. He did not strive through his influence with Presidents Roosevelt and Taft to increase the number of Negro appointees, but rather to raise the personnel of Negro officeholders. During the period when his advice was most constantly sought at the White House, Charles W. Anderson was appointed Collector of Internal Revenue for the Second District of New York City; J.C. Napier of Nashville, Tenn., became Register of the Treasury; William H. Lewis of Boston was appointed successively Assistant United States District Attorney and Assistant Attorney-General of the United States; Robert H. Terrell was given a Municipal Judgeship of the District of Columbia; Whitefield McKinlay was made Collector of the Port for the Georgetown District, District of Columbia; Dr. W.D. Crum was appointed Collector of Customs for the Port of Charleston, S.C.; Ralph W. Tyler, Auditor for the Navy Department at Washington, D.C.; James A. Cobb, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in charge of the enforcement of the Pure Food Law for the District of Columbia, and Charles A. Cottrell, Collector of Internal Revenue for the District of Hawaii at Honolulu. In all these notably excellent appointments Mr. Washington had a voice.

In 1903, in commenting on a speech of Mr. Washington's in which he had emphasized the importance of quality rather than quantity in Negro appointments, President Roosevelt wrote him as follows:

MY DEAR MR. WASHINGTON: That is excellent; and you have put epigrammatically just what I am doing—that is, though I have rather reduced the quantity I have done my best to raise the quality of the Negro appointments. With high regard.

Sincerely yours,




The Tuskegee Commencement exercises dramatize education. They enable plain men and women to visualize in the concrete that vague word which means so little to them in the abstract. More properly they dramatize the identity between real education and actual life. On the platform before the audience is a miniature engine to which steam has been piped, a miniature frame house in course of construction, and a piece of brick wall in process of erection. A young man in jumpers comes onto the platform, starts the engine and blows the whistle, whereupon young men and women come hurrying from all directions, and each turns to his or her appointed task. A young carpenter completes the little house, a young mason finishes the laying of the brick wall, a young farmer leads forth a cow and milks her in full view of the audience, a sturdy blacksmith shoes a horse, and after this patient, educative animal has been shod he is turned over to a representative of the veterinary division to have his teeth filed. At the same time on the opposite side of the platform one of the girl students is having a dress fitted by one of her classmates who is a dressmaker. She at length walks proudly from the platform in her completed new gown, while the young dressmaker looks anxiously after her to make sure that it "hangs right behind." Other girls are doing washing and ironing with the drudgery removed in accordance with advanced Tuskegee methods. Still others are hard at work on hats, mats, and dresses, while boys from the tailoring department sit crosslegged working on suits and uniforms. In the background are arranged the finest specimens which scientific agriculture has produced on the farm and mechanical skill has turned out in the shops. The pumpkin, potatoes, corn, cotton, and other agricultural products predominate, because agriculture is the chief industry at Tuskegee just as it is among the Negro people of the South.

This form of commencement exercise is one of Booker Washington's contributions to education which has been widely copied by schools for whites as well as blacks. That it appeals to his own people is eloquently attested by the people themselves who come in ever-greater numbers as the commencement days recur. At three o'clock in the morning of this great day vehicles of every description, each loaded to capacity with men, women, and children, begin to roll in in an unbroken line which sometimes extends along the road for three miles. Some of the teachers at times objected to turning a large area of the Institute grounds into a hitching-post station for the horses and mules of this great multitude, but to all such objections Mr. Washington replied, "This place belongs to the people and not to us." Less than a third of these eight to nine thousand people are able to crowd into the chapel to see the actual graduation exercises, but all can see the graduation procession as it marches through the grounds to the chapel and all are shown through the shops and over the farm and through the special agricultural exhibits, and even through the offices, including that of the principal. It is significant of the respect in which the people hold the Institute, and in which they held Booker Washington, that in all these years there has never been on these occasions a single instance of drunkenness or disorderly conduct.

In his annual report to the trustees for 1914 Mr. Washington said of these commencement exercises: "One of the problems that constantly confronts us is that of making the school of real service to these people on this one day when they come in such large numbers. For many of them it is the one day in the year when they go to school, and we ought to find a way to make the day of additional value to them. I very much hope that in the near future we shall find it possible to erect some kind of a large pavilion which shall serve the purpose of letting these thousands see something of our exercises and be helped by them."

The philosophy symbolized by such graduation exercises as we have described may best be shown by quoting Mr. Washington's own words in an article entitled, "Industrial Education and the Public Schools," which was published in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science for September of the year 1913. In this article Mr. Washington says: "If I were asked what I believe to be the greatest advance which Negro education has made since emancipation I should say that it has been in two directions: first, the change which has taken place among the masses of the Negro people as to what education really is; and, second, the change that has taken place among the masses of the white people in the South toward Negro education itself.

"I can perhaps make clear what I mean by a little explanation: the Negro learned in slavery to work but he did not learn to respect labor. On the contrary, the Negro was constantly taught, directly and indirectly during slavery times, that labor was a curse. It was the curse of Canaan, he was told, that condemned the black man to be for all time the slave and servant of the white man. It was the curse of Canaan that made him for all time 'a hewer of wood and drawer of water.' The consequence of this teaching was that, when emancipation came, the Negro thought freedom must, in some way, mean freedom from labor.

"The Negro had also gained in slavery some general notions in regard to education. He observed that the people who had education for the most part belonged to the aristocracy, to the master class, while the people who had little or no education were usually of the class known as 'poor whites.' In this way education became associated in his mind with leisure, with luxury, and freedom from the drudgery of work with the hands....

"In order to make it possible to put Negro education on a sound and rational basis it has been necessary to change the opinion of the masses of the Negro people in regard to education and labor. It has been necessary to make them see that education, which did not, directly or indirectly, connect itself with the practical daily interests of daily life could hardly be called education. It has been necessary to make the masses of the Negroes see and realize the necessity and importance of applying what they learned in school to the common and ordinary things of life; to see that education, far from being a means of escaping labor, is a means of raising up and dignifying labor and thus indirectly a means of raising up and dignifying the common and ordinary man. It has been necessary to teach the masses of the people that the way to build up a race is to begin at the bottom and not at the top, to lift the man furthest down, and thus raise the whole structure of society above him. On the other hand, it has been necessary to demonstrate to the white man in the South that education does not 'spoil' the Negro, as it has been so often predicted that it would. It was necessary to make him actually see that education makes the Negro not an idler or spendthrift, but a more industrious, thrifty, law-abiding, and useful citizen than he otherwise would be."

The commencement exercises which we have described are one of the numerous means evolved by Booker Washington to guide the masses of his own people, as well as the Southern whites, to a true conception of the value and meaning of real education for the Negro.

The correlation between the work of farm, shop, and classroom, first applied by General Armstrong at Hampton, was developed on an even larger scale by his one-time student, Booker Washington. The students at Tuskegee are divided into two groups: the day students who work in the classroom half the week and the other half on the farm and in the shops, and the night students who work all day on the farm or in the shops and then attend school at night. The day school students pay a small fee in cash toward their expenses, while the night school students not only pay no fee but by good and diligent work gradually accumulate a credit at the school bank which, when it becomes sufficiently large, enables them to become day school students. In fact, the great majority of the day students have thus fought their way in from the night school. But all students of both groups thus receive in the course of a week a fairly even balance between theory and practice.

In a corner of each of the shops, in which are carried on the forty or more different trades, is a blackboard on which are worked out the actual problems which arise in the course of the work. After school hours one always finds in the shops a certain number of the teachers from the Academic Department looking up problems for their classes for the next day. A physics teacher may be found in the blacksmithing shop digging up problems about the tractive strength of wires and the expansion and contraction of metals under heat and cold. A teacher of chemistry may be found in the kitchen of the cooking school unearthing problems relating to the chemistry of food for her class the next day. If, on the other hand, you go into a classroom you will find the shop is brought into the classroom just as the classroom has been brought into the shop. For instance, in a certain English class the topic assigned for papers was "a model house" instead of "bravery" or "the increase of crime in cities," or "the landing of the Pilgrims." The boys of the class had prepared papers on the architecture and construction of a model house, while the girls' papers were devoted to its interior decoration and furnishing. One of the girls described a meal for six which she had actually prepared and the six had actually consumed. The meal cost seventy-five cents. The discussion and criticism which followed each paper had all the zest which vitally practical and near-at-hand questions always arouse.

When the Department of Superintendence of the National Educational Association met in Atlanta, Ga., in 1904, many of the delegates, after adjournment, visited the Tuskegee Institute. Among these delegates was Prof. Paul Monroe of the Department of History and Principles of Education of the Teachers' College of Columbia University. In recording his impressions of his visit, Professor Monroe says: "My interest in Tuskegee and a few similar institutions is founded on the fact that here I find illustrated the two most marked tendencies which are being formulated in the most advanced educational thought, but are being worked out slowly and with great difficulty. These tendencies are: first, the endeavor to draw the subject matter of education, or the 'stuff' of schoolroom work, directly from the life of the pupils; and second, to relate the outcome of education to life's activities, occupations, and duties of the pupil in such a way that the connection is made directly and immediately between schoolroom work and the other activities of the person being educated. This is the ideal at Tuskegee, and, to a much greater extent than in any other institution I know of, the practice; so that the institution is working along not only the lines of practical endeavor, but of the most advanced educational thought. To such an extent is this true that Tuskegee and Hampton are of quite as great interest to the student of education on account of the illumination they are giving to educational theory as they are to those interested practically in the elevation of the Negro people and in the solution of a serious social problem. May I give just one illustration of a concrete nature coming under my observation while at the school, that will indicate the difference between the work of the school and that which was typical under old conditions, or is yet typical where the newer ideas, as so well grasped by Mr. Washington, are not accepted? In a class in English composition two boys, among others, had placed their written work upon the board, one having written upon 'Honor' in the most stilted language, with various historical references which meant nothing to himself or to his classmates—the whole paragraph evidently being drawn from some outside source; the other wrote upon 'My Trade—Blacksmithing'—and told in a simple and direct way of his day's work, the nature of the general course of training, and the use he expected to make of his training when completed. No better contrast could be found between the old ideas of formal language work, dominated by books and cast into forms not understood or at least not natural to the youth, and the newer ideas of simplicity, directness, and forcefulness in presenting the account of one's own experience. Not only was this contrast an illustration of the ideal of the entire education offered at Tuskegee in opposition to that of the old, formal, 'literary' education as imposed upon the colored race, but it gave in a nutshell a concept of the new education. This one experience drawn from the life of the boy and related directly to his life's duration and circumstances was education in the truest sense; the other was not save as Mr. Washington made it so in its failure...."

Among the delegates was also Mr. A.L. Rafter, the Assistant Superintendent of Schools of Boston, who in speaking at Tuskegee said: "What Tuskegee is doing for you we are going to take on home to the North. You are doing what we are talking about." In general, these foremost educational experts of the dominant race looked to Booker Washington and Tuskegee for leadership instead of expecting him or his school to follow them.

Booker Washington not only practised at Tuskegee this close relation between school life and real life—and it is being continued now that he is gone—but preached it whenever and wherever opportunity offered. Some years ago, in addressing himself to those of his own students who expected to become teachers, he said on this subject among other things: "... colored parents depend upon seeing the results of education in ways not true of the white parent. It is important that the colored teacher on this account give special attention to bringing school life into closer touch with real life. Any education is to my mind 'high' which enables the individual to do the very best work for the people by whom he is surrounded. Any education is 'low' which does not make for character and effective service.

"The average teacher in the public schools is very likely to yield to the temptation of thinking that he is educating an individual when he is teaching him to reason out examples in arithmetic, to prove propositions in geometry, and to recite pages of history. He conceives this to be the end of education. Herein is the sad deficiency in many teachers who are not able to use history, arithmetic, and geometry as means to an end. They get the idea that the student who has mastered a certain number of pages in a textbook is educated, forgetting that textbooks are at best but tools, and in many cases ineffective tools, for the development of man....

"The average parent cannot appreciate how many examples Johnny has worked out that day, how many questions in history he has answered; but when he says, 'Mother, I cannot go back to that school until all the buttons are sewed on my coat,' the parent will at once become conscious of school influence in the home. This will be the best kind of advertisement. The button propaganda tends to make the teacher a power in the community. A few lessons in applied chemistry will not be amiss. Take grease spots, for example. The teacher who with tact can teach his pupils to keep even threadbare clothes neatly brushed and free from grease spots is extending the school influence into the home and is adding immeasurably to the self-respect of the home."[2]

[Footnote 2: From "Putting the Most Into Life," by Booker T. Washington. Thomas Y. Crowell & Co., Publishers.]

The idea that education is a matter of personal habits of cleanliness, industry, integrity, and right conduct while of course not original with Booker Washington was perhaps further developed and more effectively emphasized by him than by any other American educator. Just as Matthew Arnold insisted that religion was a matter of conduct rather than forms and dogmas so Booker Washington held that education is a matter of character and not forms. He concluded one of his Sunday night talks to his students with these words: "I want every Tuskegee student as he finds his place in the surging industrial life about him to give heed to the things which are 'honest and just and pure and of good report,' for these things make for character, which is the only thing worth fighting for...." In another of these talks he said: "A student should not be satisfied with himself until he has grown to the point where, when simply sweeping a room, he can go into the corners and crevices and remove the hidden trash which, although it should be left, would not be seen. It is not very hard to find people who will thoroughly clean a room which is going to be occupied, or wash a dish which is to be handled by strangers; but it is hard to find a person who will do a thing right when the eyes of the world are not likely to look upon what has been done. The cleaning of rooms and the washing of dishes have much to do with forming characters."[3]

[Footnote 3: "Sowing and Reaping," by Booker T. Washington. L.C. Page & Co., Boston, Publishers.]

This recalls Booker Washington's own experience when as a ragged and penniless youth he applied for admission to Hampton and was given a room to sweep by way of an entrance examination. Indeed, one of Booker Washington's greatest sources of strength as a teacher lay in the fact that his own life not only illustrated the truth of his assertions, but illustrated it in a striking and dramatic manner. His life was, in fact, an epitome of the hardships, struggles, and triumphs of the successful members of his race from the days of slavery to the present time. A great believer in the power of example he lived a life which gave him that power in its highest degree. Because of his inherent modesty and good taste he never referred to himself or his achievements as examples to be emulated, and this merely further enhanced their power.

In concluding another Sunday night talk he said: "As a race we are inclined, I fear, to make too much of the day of judgment. We have the idea that in some far-off period there is going to be a great and final day of judgment, when every individual will be called up, and all his bad deeds will be read out before him and all his good deeds made known. I believe that every day is a day of judgment, that we reap our rewards daily, and that whenever we sin we are punished by mental and physical anxiety and by a weakened character that separates us from God. Every day is, I take it, a day of judgment, and as we learn God's laws and grow into His likeness we shall find our reward in this world in a life of usefulness and honor. To do this is to have found the kingdom of God, which is the kingdom of character and righteousness and peace."[4]

[Footnote 4: From "Putting the Most Into life," by Booker T. Washington. Thomas Y. Crowell & Co., Publishers.]

To quote once more from these Sunday night talks, in another he said: "There is, then, opportunity for the colored people to enrich the material life of their adopted country by doing what their hands find to do, minor duties though they be, so well that nobody of any race can do them better. This is the aim that the Tuskegee student should keep steadily before him. If he remembers that all service, however lowly, is true service, an important step will have been taken in the solution of what we term 'the race problem.'"

As is shown by these quotations Booker Washington used these Sunday night talks to crystalize, interpret, and summarize the meaning and significance of the kind of education which Tuskegee gives. He, the supreme head of the institution, reserved to himself this supremely important task. The heads of the manifold trades are naturally and properly concerned primarily with turning raw boys and girls into good workmen and workwomen. The academic teachers in the school are similarly interested in helping them as students to secure a mastery of their several subjects. The military commandants are concerned with their ability to drill, march, carry themselves properly, and take proper care of their persons and rooms. The physician is interested in their physical health and the chaplain in their religious training. Important as are all these phases of Tuskegee's training and closely as he watched each Mr. Washington realized that they might all be well done and yet Tuskegee fail in its supreme purpose: namely, the making of manly men and womanly women out of raw boys and girls. As he said in one of the passages quoted, "character is the only thing worth fighting for." Now, while the forming of character is the aim, and in some appreciable degree the achievement, of every worth-while educational institution, it is to a peculiar degree the aim and the achievement of Tuskegee. The ten million Negroes in the United States need trained leaders of their own race more than they need anything else. Whatever else they should or should not have these leaders must have character. Since Tuskegee is the largest of the educational institutions for Negroes, with the man at its head who was commonly recognized as the leader of leaders in his race, naturally the heaviest responsibility in the training of these leaders fell, and will continue to fall, upon Tuskegee. Consequently the task at Tuskegee is not so much to educate so many thousands of young men and women as to train as many leaders for the Negro people as can possibly be done and done well within a given space of time. These Tuskegee graduates lead by the power of example and not by agitation. One runs a farm and achieves so much more success than his neighbors, through his better methods, that they gradually adopt these methods and with his help apply them to their own conditions. Another teaches a country school and does it so much better than the average country school teacher that his or her school comes to be regarded as a model to be emulated by the other schools of the locality. When a Tuskegee girl marries and settles in a community she keeps her house so much cleaner and in every way more attractive than the rank and file of her neighbors that gradually her house and her methods of housekeeping become the standard for the neighborhood. There is, however, nothing of the "holier than thou" or the complaisant about the true Tuskegee graduate and neither is there anything monopolistic. They have had the idea of service thoroughly drilled into their consciousness—the idea that their advantages of education are, as it were, a trust which they are to administer for the benefit of those who have not had such advantages.

Now such leaders as these must not only be provided if the so-called race problem is to be solved, but they must be provided speedily. In every community in which the black people are ignorant and vicious and without trained leaders among themselves they are likely at any time to come into conflict with the dominant race, and every such conflict engenders bitterness on both sides and makes just so much more difficult the final solution of the race problem. This is why Booker Washington labored so incessantly to increase the quantity of Tuskegee's output as well as to maintain the quality. He brought Tuskegee to the point where it reached through all its courses including its summer courses, short courses, and extension courses, more than 4,000 people in a single year, not counting the well-nigh innumerable hosts he counseled with on his State educational tours. In short, Booker Washington's task at Tuskegee was not only to turn out good leaders for his people, but to turn them out wholesale and as fast as possible. He was, as it were, running a race with the powers of ignorance, poverty, and vice. This in part accounted for the sense of terrific pressure which one felt at Tuskegee, particularly when he was present and personally driving forward his great educational machine. This also may have accounted for the seeming lack of finesse in small matters which occasionally annoyed critical visitors who did not understand that the great institution was racing under the spur of its indomitable master, and that just as in any race all but essentials must be thrown aside.

Long before the University of Wisconsin had, through its extension courses, extended its opportunities in greater or less degree to the citizens of the entire State, Booker Washington, through similar means, had extended the advantages of Tuskegee throughout Macon County in particular and the State of Alabama and neighboring States in general.

The extension work of Tuskegee began in a small way over twenty years ago. It preceded even the work of the demonstration agents of the United States Department of Agriculture. There was first only one man who in his spare time went out among the farming people and tried to arouse enthusiasm for better methods of farming, better schools, and better homes. He was followed by a committee of three members of the Tuskegee faculty, which committee still directs the work. One of the first efforts of this committee was to get the farmers to adopt deep plowing. There was not a two-horse plow to be found. There was a strong prejudice against deep plowing which was thus expressed by a Negro preacher farmer whom one of the committee tried to persuade: "We don't want deep plowing. You're fixin' for us to have no soil. If we plow deep it will all wash away and in a year or two we will have to clear new ground." Not long after this a member of the committee with a two-horse plow was practising what he had been preaching when a white planter who was passing stopped and said: "See here, its none of my business of course, but you're new here and I don't want to see you fail. But if you plow your land deep like that you'll ruin it sure. I know. I've been here."

After a time, however, the committee persuaded a few colored farmers to try deep plowing on a small scale as an experiment. One of the first of these was a poor man who had had the hardest kind of a struggle scraping a scant existence out of the soil for himself and his large family. He was desperate and agreed to try the new method. He got results the first year, moved on to better land and followed instructions. In a few years he bought 500 acres of land, gave each of his four sons 100 acres, and kept 100 acres for himself. Since then father and sons alike have been prosperous and contented and have added to their holdings.

In short, these Negro farmers were no more eager to be reformed and improved in their methods than are any normal people. There is a shallow popular sentiment that unless people are eager for enlightenment and gratefully receive what is offered them they should be left unenlightened. Booker Washington never shared this sentiment. His agent reported that in response to their appeals for the raising of a better grade of cattle, hogs, and fowl the farmers replied that the stock they had was good enough. One of their favorite comments was, "When you eat an egg what difference does it make to you whether that egg was laid by a full-blooded fowl or a mongrel?" Instead of being discouraged or disgusted by this attitude on the part of the people he merely regarded it as what was to be expected and set about devising means to overcome it. As always he placed his chief reliance upon the persuasive eloquence of the concrete. He decided to send blooded stock and properly raised products around among the farmers so that they might compare them with their inferior stock and products and see the difference with their own eyes. This plan was later carried out through the Jesup Wagon contributed by the late Morris K. Jesup of New York. This wagon was a peripatetic farmers' school. It took a concentrated essence of Tuskegees' agricultural department to the farmers who could not or would not come to Tuskegee.

The wagon was drawn by a well-bred and well-fed mule. A good breed of cow was tied behind. Several chickens of good breeds, well-developed ears of corn, stalks of cotton, bundles of oats and seeds, and garden products, which ought at the time to be growing in the locality, together with a proper plow, for deep plowing, were loaded upon the wagon. The driver would pull up before a farmhouse, deliver his message, and point out the strong points of his wagonload and would finally request a strip of ground for cultivation. This request granted he would harness the mule to the plow, break the ground deep, make his rows, plant his seeds, and move on to the next locality. With a carefully planned follow-up system he would return to each such plot for cultivation and harvest, and, most important of all, to demonstrate the truths he had sought to impress upon the people by word of mouth. Where the first driver sent out was a general farmer, the second would be, let us say, a dairyman, the third a truck gardener, and finally a poultry raiser would go; usually a woman, since in the South women, for the most part, handle this phase of farming. These agents also distribute pamphlets prepared by the Agricultural Research Department of Tuskegee on such subjects as school gardening, twenty-one ways to cook cowpeas, improvement of rural schools, how to fight insect pests, cotton growing, etc. The constant emphasis upon practice by no means entails any neglect of theory.

Besides this work there is each January for two weeks at Tuskegee the regular Farmers' Short Course. Many of the country schools adjourn for this period so that both teachers and pupils may attend. In this course not only teachers and pupils, but fathers and mothers, sons and daughters sit side by side in the classrooms receiving instruction in stock raising, canning, poultry raising, and farming in all its branches. There are special courses for the women and girls in the care of children and in housekeeping. The following breezy announcement is taken from the prospectus of this course for the year 1914:

"A creation of the farmer, by the farmers and for the farmer."

"It meets the crying needs of thousands of our boys and girls, fathers and mothers.

"It's free to all—no examination nor entrance fee is required.

"It started 7 years ago with 11 students; the second year we had 17, the third year we had 70, the fourth year we had 490, and last year we had nearly 2,000. It is the only thing of its kind for the betterment of the colored farmers. It lasts for only 12 days. It comes at a time when you would be celebrating Christmas.[5] In previous years the farmers have walked from 3 to 6 miles to attend; many have come on horseback, in wagons, and in buggies. You who live so that you cannot come in daily can secure board near the school for $2.50 per week. We expect 2,000 to 2,500 to enter this year."

[Footnote 5: There is a custom among the colored people, inherited from the days of slavery, which is fortunately now drying out, to celebrate Christmas for a period of a week or ten days by stopping work and giving themselves over to a round of sprees.]

And then as a further stimulus to attend there comes:

"Prizes will be given as follows:

"A prize of $5 will be given to the person who makes the greatest progress on all subjects taught.

"A prize of $2 will be given to the person who is the best judge of livestock.

"A prize of $1 will be given to the person who shows the best knowledge of the use and application of manures and fertilizers. And so on through a further list of one-dollar prizes for all the major activities of the Course."

It will be noted that there is nothing stilted or academic about this announcement.

Immediately following this Farmers' Short Course comes the Annual Farmers' Conference which holds its session in January of each year. To enforce the lessons in canning, stock raising, gardening, and all the other branches of farming, exhibits of the best products in each activity are displayed before the audience of farmers and their families, who number in all about 2,000. These exhibits are made and explained by the farmers themselves. The man, woman, or child who has produced the exhibit comes to the platform and explains in his or her own way just how it was done. In these explanations much human nature is thrown in. An amazingly energetic and capable woman had explained at one of these gatherings how she had paid off the mortgage on their farm by the proceeds from her eggs, her kitchen garden, and her preserving in her spare moments when she was not helping her husband in the cotton field, washing and dressing her six children, or cooking, mending, washing, and scrubbing for the household.

In conclusion she said:

"Now my ole man he's an' old-fashion farmer an' he don' kere fur dese modern notions, an' so I don't git no help from him, an' that makes it hard for me 'cause it ain't nat'ral for der woman to lead. If I could only git him to move I'd be happier jest ter foller him." While these explanations are going on the farmers in the audience are naturally saying to themselves over and over again, "I could do that!" or "Why couldn't I do that?"

One of Mr. Washington's chief aims was to increase the wants of his people and at the same time increase their ability to satisfy them. In other words, he believed in fermenting in their minds what might be termed an effective discontent with their circumstances. With this purpose in view he addressed to them at these conferences such questions as the following:

"What kind of house do you live in?"

"Do you own that house?"

"What kind of schoolhouse have you?"

"Do you send your children to school regularly?"

"How many months does your school run?"

"Do you keep your teacher in the community?"

"What kind of church have you?"

"Where does your pastor live?"

"Are your church, school, and home fences whitewashed?"

The farmers who were asked these questions would make an inward resolve that they would do what they could to put themselves in a position to answer the same questions more satisfactorily another year.

Another feature of the work of Tuskegee beyond its own borders is that of the Rural School Extension Department. Mr. Julius Rosenwald of Chicago, one of the trustees of Tuskegee, has offered, through this department, during a stated period of time, to add $300 to every $300 the Negroes in rural communities of the South raise for the building of a new and modern schoolhouse. Under this plan ninety-two modern rural school buildings have already been constructed. At the close of the time set Mr. Rosenwald will probably renew his offer for a further period. The social by-products of this campaign, in teaching the Negroes of these communities how to disregard their denominational and other feuds in working together for a high civic purpose of common advantage to all, and the friendly interest in Negro education awakened among their white neighbors, have been almost if not quite as important as the new schools themselves.

There is also at Tuskegee a summer school for teachers in which last year were registered 437 teachers from fifteen Southern and several other States. Most of these teachers elect such practical subjects as canning, basket-making, broom-making, shuck and pine needlework or some form of manual training, as well as the teacher-training courses. One of these students, who was the supervisor of the Negro schools of an entire county, when she returned from her summer school work proceeded to vivify her dead schools by introducing the making of wash-boards, trash baskets, baskets made of weeping-willow, and pine needle work in its various forms. The registration soared at once, the indifferent Negro parents became interested, and before long the parents of white children complained to the county superintendent that the colored children were being taught more than their children.

There is at the present time being developed at Tuskegee a unique experiment in the nature of what might be called a post-graduate school in real life for the graduates of the agricultural department. This consists in providing such graduates, who have no property of their own, with a forty-acre farm, on an 1,800-acre tract about nine miles from Tuskegee, known as Baldwin Farms, after the late Wm. H. Baldwin, Jr., who was one of the ablest and most devoted supporters and advisers of Booker Washington and Tuskegee. The land is held by the Tuskegee Farm and Improvement Company which is conducted on a business and not a charitable basis. The company sells the farms at an average price of $15 an acre, and purchasers who move directly on to the land are given ten years in which to pay for it, with the first payment at the end of the first year. If there is no house on the land the company will put up a $300 house so planned as to permit the addition of rooms and improvements as rapidly as the purchaser is able to pay for them; the cost to be added to the initial cost of the land. When the graduate lacks the money and equipment necessary to plant, raise, and harvest crops, for this, too, the company will advance a reasonable sum, taking as security a mortgage on crops and equipment until the loan has been paid off. This mortgage bears interest at 8 per cent. while the interest on the mortgage on the land is not more than 6 per cent. Through cooperative effort within this colony it is proposed to develop such organizations as cooperative dairy, fruit growing, poultry, and livestock associations and thus make it possible for the members of the colony to make not only a comfortable living but to lay by something. They will, of course, have also the great advantage of the advice and guidance of the experts of the Institute. Formerly the penniless Negro youth, who graduated even most creditably from the agricultural department of Tuskegee, had before him nothing better than a greater or less number of years of monotonous drudgery as a mere farm or plantation laborer. Now, he may at once take up his own farm at Baldwin and begin immediately to apply all he has learned in carving out his own fortune and future. Thus did Booker Washington plan to carry the benefits of classroom instruction directly into the actual life problems of these graduates as well as to bring the problems of actual life into the classroom.

However much Mr. Washington may have seemed to eliminate non-essentials in the pressure and haste of his wholesale educational task he never neglected essentials, but among essentials he included matters which might on the surface appear to be small and trifling. For instance, he insisted upon good table manners, and no boy or girl could spend any considerable time at Tuskegee without acquiring such manners. Instead of a trivial detail he regarded good table manners as an essential to self-respect and hence to the development of character. In short, he was engaged not so much in conducting a school as educating a race.



Booker Washington was occasionally accused both by agitators in his own race and by a certain type of Northern white men who pose as the special champions of the "downtrodden" black man as encouraging a policy of submission to injustice on the part of his people. He was, for example, charged with tame acquiescence in the practical disfranchisement of the Negro in a number of the Southern States. As a matter of fact, when these disfranchising measures were under consideration and before they were enacted, he in each case earnestly pleaded with the legislators that whatever restrictions in the use of the ballot they put upon the statute books should be applied with absolute impartiality to both races. This he urged in fairness to the white man as well as the black man.

In an article entitled, "Is the Negro Having a Fair Chance?" published in the Century Magazine five years ago, Booker Washington said in illustrating the evil consequences of discrimination in the application of ballot regulations: "In a certain county of Virginia, where the county board had charge of registering those who were to be voters, a colored man, a graduate of Harvard University, who had long been a resident of the county, a quiet, unassuming man, went before the board to register. He was refused on the ground that he was not intelligent enough to vote. Before this colored man left the room a white man came in who was so intoxicated that he could scarcely tell where he lived. This white man was registered, and by a board of intelligent white men who had taken an oath to deal justly in administering the law.

"Will any one say that there is wisdom or statesmanship in such a policy as that? In my opinion it is a fatal mistake to teach the young black man and the young white man that the dominance of the white race in the South rests upon any other basis than absolute justice to the weaker man. It is a mistake to cultivate in the mind of any individual or group of individuals the feeling and belief that their happiness rests upon the misery of some one else, or that their intelligence is measured by the ignorance of some one else; or their wealth by the poverty of some one else. I do not advocate that the Negro make politics or the holding of office an important thing in his life. I do urge, in the interest of fair play for everybody, that a Negro who prepares himself in property, in intelligence, and in character to cast a ballot, and desires to do so, should have the opportunity."

While Booker Washington did not believe that political activities should play an important part among the Negroes as a whole he did believe that the exceptional Negro who was particularly qualified for holding public office should be given the opportunity just as he believed in the higher academic education for the relatively small minority capable of profiting by such an education.

In concluding a letter in which he asks Booker Washington to recommend a member of his race for a Federal office in Vicksburg, Miss., President Roosevelt said: "The question of the political importance of the colored man is really of no consequence. I do not care to consider it, and you must not consider it. Give me the very best colored man that you know of for the place, upon whose integrity and capacity we can surely rely."

The man, T.V. McAlister, whom Mr. Washington "gave" the President for this office was of such character and reputation that the white citizens of Vicksburg actually welcomed his appointment. Certainly neither Vicksburg nor any other portion of Mississippi can be accused of over-enthusiasm for conferring civil and political privileges upon Negroes.

Booker Washington's habit of never losing an opportunity to advance constructively the interests of his people is well illustrated by the following letter to President Roosevelt:


March 20, 1904.

MY DEAR MR. PRESIDENT: It has occurred to me that there are a number of ways in which the colored people of the United States' could be of service in digging the Panama Canal, and personally I should be glad to do anything in my power in getting them interested if deemed practicable.

First: I think they can stand the climate better or as well as any other people from the United States.

Second: I have thought that a reasonably satisfactory number of them might be useful as common, or skilled, laborers.

Third: That in the Health Department our well-trained nurses and physicians might be found helpful.

Fourth: If the United States should assume any responsibility as to education, that many efficient colored teachers from our industrial schools, and colleges, might prove of great benefit. And, then, besides the presence of these educated persons would, in my opinion, both by character and example, aid in influencing the morality of the darker-skinned people to be employed at the Isthmus. I believe that these educated colored people could get closer to the masses than white men.

Yours truly,


To President Theodore Roosevelt, Washington, D.C.

Nothing came of this suggestion except an acknowledgment and an assurance that the matter would be considered. About two years ago, however, when Doctor Washington and Surgeon-General Gorgas met on a train the Surgeon-General said to Mr. Washington: "The biggest man at the canal was the Negro," and he added that when they came to the dedication of the canal at its formal opening some Negro should have a place on the program.

In recent years a certain section of the Republicans in the far Southern States have tried to free themselves of the reputation of being "nigger lovers" by vying with their Democratic rivals in seeking to deprive Negroes of civic and political rights. Republicans of this particular stripe are known colloquially as the "Lily Whites." In this connection the following correspondence is of interest.



White House, Washington, March 21, 1904.

DEAR MR. WASHINGTON: By direction of the President I send you herewith for your private information a copy of letter from the President to Mr. ——, dated February 24, 1904. Please return it to me when you have read it.

Yours very truly,

WM. LOEB, JR., Secretary to the President.

Principal Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, Tuskegee, Alabama.

This was the letter enclosed:



White House, Washington, February 24, 1904.

MY DEAR MR. ——: I take it for granted that there is no intention of making the Louisiana delegation all white. I think it would be a mistake for my friends to take any such attitude in any state where there is a considerable Negro population. I think it is a great mistake from the standpoint of the whites; and in an organization composed of men whom I have especially favored it would put me in a false light. As you know, I feel as strongly as any one can that there must be nothing like "Negro domination." On the other hand, I feel equally strongly that the Republicans must consistently favor those comparatively few colored people who by character and intelligence show themselves entitled to such favor. To put a premium upon the possession of such qualities among the blacks is not only to benefit them, but to benefit the whites among whom they live. I very earnestly hope that the Louisiana Republicans whom I have so consistently favored will not by any action of theirs tend to put me in a false position in such a matter as this. With your entire approval, I have appointed one or two colored men entitled by character and standing to go to the National Convention.

Sincerely yours,


In the year 1898 the success of the suffrage amendments in South Carolina and Mississippi in excluding from the franchise more than nine-tenths of their Negro inhabitants inspired an agitation in Louisiana to cut off the Negro vote by similar means, and this agitation came to a head in the Constitutional Convention of that year. Mr. Washington, assisted by T. Thomas Fortune, the well-known Negro editor, and Mr. Scott, his secretary, prepared an open letter addressed to this convention which was taken to the convention by Mr. Scott and placed in the hands of the suffrage committee as well as the editors of the New Orleans Times-Democrat and the Picayune, the leading daily papers of the State. Extracts from the letter were sent out by the local representative of the Associated Press and widely published throughout the country. These New Orleans editors expressed to Mr. Scott their approval of the letter and their substantial agreement with its main features, and promised to publish it in full, which they not only did, but accompanied it by editorial reviews. This letter stated in part:

"The Negro agrees with you that it is necessary to the salvation of the South that restriction be put upon the ballot.... 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.... 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 educational 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."

Later in the same appeal he said: "I beg of you, further, that in the degree that you close the ballot-box against the ignorant, that you open the schoolhouse.... 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 your citizens interest in the State, and hope and ambition to become intelligent producers and taxpayers—to become useful and virtuous citizens. Any other course will tie the white citizens of Louisiana to a body of death."

The New Orleans Times-Democrat, in its editorial accompanying the publication of this letter, said: "We have seen the corrupting influence in our politics and our elections of making fraud an element of our suffrage system. We are certainly not going to get away from fraud by encouraging it, or making it a part of the suffrage system we place in our new constitution." The same editorial further states that impartiality in the use of the ballot can be given Negro and white man not only "with the utmost safety," but "it would have a beneficial effect upon the politics of the State." In fact, the press of both North and South, both of the whites and the blacks, published this letter with practically unanimous editorial endorsement, but in spite of all this the leaders of the convention remained obdurate, the immediate object was lost, and Louisiana followed the example of Mississippi and South Carolina. No one realized, however, better than Booker Washington that the effort was by no means in vain. Owing to the general awakening of intelligent public opinion the convention leaders were forced into the position of driving through the discriminatory amendment not only in the face of the condemnation of the better element throughout the country but even with the disapproval of the better and leading citizens of their own State.

Shortly afterward members of the Georgia Legislature, seeking political preferment for themselves through the familiar means of anti-Negro agitation, introduced a bill which aimed to discriminate against the Negroes of Georgia by legislative enactment just as the Negroes of Louisiana had been discriminated against by a constitutional amendment. This time Mr. Washington went personally to Atlanta and appealed directly to a number of the members of the Legislature and to the editors of the leading papers in opposition to this bill. In an interview published in the Atlanta Constitution at the time he said:

"I cannot think that there is any large number of white people in the South who are so ignorant or so poor that they cannot get education and property enough to enable them to stand the test by the side of the Negro in these respects. I do not believe that these white people want it continually advertised to the world that some special law must be passed by which they will seem to be given an unfair advantage over the Negro by reason of their ignorance or their poverty. It is unfair to blame the Negro for not preparing himself for citizenship by acquiring intelligence, and then when he does get education and property, to pass a law that can be so operated as to prevent him from being a citizen, even though he may be a large taxpayer. The Southern white people have reached the point where they can afford to be just and generous; where there will be nothing to hide and nothing to explain. It is an easy matter, requiring little thought, generosity or statesmanship to push a weak man down when he is struggling to get up. Any one can do that. Greatness, generosity, statesmanship are shown in stimulating, encouraging every individual in the body politic to make of himself the most useful, intelligent, and patriotic citizen possible. Take from the Negro all incentive to make himself and his children useful property-holding citizens, and can any one blame him for becoming a beast capable of committing any crime?"

This time the immediate object was attained. The Atlanta Constitution and other leading Georgia papers indorsed Booker Washington's appeal and the Legislature voted down its anti-Negro members. Be it said to the credit of the Georgia Legislature that it has resisted several similar attempts to discriminate against the Negro citizens of the State, and it was not till 1908, ten years after the Louisiana law was passed, that Georgia finally passed a law disfranchising Negro voters.

Booker Washington has been accused of not protesting against the lynching of Negroes. In the article published in the Century Magazine in 1912, from which we have previously quoted, he said on this subject: "When he was Governor of Alabama, I heard Governor Jelks say in a public speech that he knew of five cases during his administration of innocent colored people having been lynched. If that many innocent people were known to the governor to have been lynched, it is safe to say that there were other innocent persons lynched whom the governor did not know about. What is true of Alabama in this respect is true of other states. In short, it is safe to say that a large proportion of the colored persons lynched are innocent.... Not a few cases have occurred where white people have blackened their faces and committed a crime, knowing that some Negro would be suspected and mobbed for it. In other cases it is known that where Negroes have committed crimes, innocent men have been lynched and the guilty ones have escaped and gone on committing more crimes.

"Within the last twelve months there have been seventy-one cases of lynching, nearly all of colored people. Only seventeen were charged with the crime of rape. Perhaps they are wrong to do so, but colored people do not feel that innocence offers them security against lynching. They do feel, however, that the lynching habit tends to give greater security to the criminal, white or black."

Mr. Washington often pointed out how the lynching of blacks leads inevitably to the lynching of whites and how the lynching of guilty persons of either race inevitably leads to the lynching of innocent persons of both races.

Let it not be supposed that Booker Washington confined his condemnation of lynching to the comparatively safe cover of the pages of an eminently respectable Northern magazine. Some years ago when he was on a speaking trip in the State of Florida two depraved Negroes in Jacksonville committed an atrocious murder. The crime aroused such intense race feeling that Mr. Washington's friends foresaw the likelihood of a lynching and, fearing for his safety, urged him to cancel his engagements in Jacksonville, where he was due to speak before white as well as black audiences within a few days. This he refused to do and insisted that because there was special racial friction it was especially necessary that he should keep his engagements in the city. While he was driving to the hall where he was to address a white audience the automobile of one of his Negro escorts was stopped by a crowd of excited white men who angrily demanded that Booker Washington be handed over to them. When they found he was not in the car they allowed it to pass on without molesting the Negro occupant, who enjoyed to an unusual degree the confidence and respect of both races in the city. What they would have done had they found Booker Washington one may only conjecture. At about the same time the Negro murderers were captured. The howls of the infuriated mob on its way to the jail to lynch the accused murderers could be heard in the distance from the hall where Mr. Washington spoke. Without referring in any way to the event which was taking place at the time Mr. Washington, to the alarm of his friends, launched into a fervid denunciation of lynching and ended with an earnest and eloquent appeal for better feeling between the races. Instead of his words breaking up the meeting in a storm of anger and rioting, this audience composed of Southern whites and colored people vigorously applauded his sentiments. Undoubtedly they were applauding not so much the views expressed as the courage shown in expressing them at that place and under those circumstances.

A somewhat similar experience occurred on a recent speaking tour which he and a party were making through the State of Louisiana. He was accompanied by a company of Negro leaders, including Major Moton of Hampton, who has since become his successor as Principal of Tuskegee Institute. They were in a portion of the State notorious for its lynchings of Negroes. No one who has ever seen Major Moton, or knows anything about him, would think of accusing him of timidity or cowardice. But when they went before a white audience in this particular district he urged Mr. Washington as a matter of common prudence to "soft pedal" what he had to say about lynching. Just as in Jacksonville Mr. Washington did just the opposite, and made his denunciation particularly emphatic, and just as in Jacksonville there was the same applause and apparent approval of his views.

Booker Washington also protested that in the matter of public education his people are not given a square deal in parts of the South, particularly in the country districts. He continually emphasized the relation between education and crime. Other things being equal the more and the better the education provided the less the number and seriousness of the crimes committed. Also he pointed out that the neglect of Negro school facilities injures the white citizens almost if not quite as much as the Negroes themselves. And conversely that good school facilities for the colored children benefit the whites almost as much as the Negroes. He also insisted that quite aside from all moral and ethical considerations Negro education pays in dollars and cents. As illustrating the relation between Negro education and crime or rather lack of Negro education and crime he related this incident in an article entitled, "Black and White in the South" published in the Outlook of March 14, 1914: "A few weeks ago three of the most prominent white men in Mississippi were shot and killed by two colored boys. Investigation brought to light that the two boys were rough and crude, that they had never been to school, hence that they were densely ignorant. While no one had taught these boys the use of books, some one had taught them, as mere children, the use of cocaine and whiskey. In a mad fit, when their minds and bodies were filled with cheap whiskey and cocaine, these two ignorant boys created a 'reign of murder,' in the course of which three white men, four colored men, and one colored woman met death. As soon as the shooting was over a crazed mob shot the two boys full of bullet-holes and then burned their bodies in the public streets.

"Now this is the kind of thing, more or less varied in form, that takes place too often in our country. Why? The answer is simple: it is dense ignorance on the part of the Negro and indifference arising out of a lack of knowledge of conditions on the part of the white people."

He then pointed out that the last enumeration in Mississippi, where this crime was committed, indicated that 64 per cent. of the colored children had had no schooling during the past year. That in Charleston County, South Carolina, another backward State in Negro education, there was expended on the public education of each white child $20.2; for the colored child $3.12; in Abbeville County $11.17 for the white, 69 cents for the colored child. This 69 cents per capita expense was incurred by maintaining a one-room school for two and one-half months, with a teacher paid at the rate of $15 a month. In another county the Negro school was in session but one month out of the twelve. Throughout the State, outside the cities and large towns, the school term for the colored children is from two to four months. Thus 200,000 colored children in South Carolina are given only three or four months of schooling a year. "Under these conditions it would require twenty-eight years for a child to complete the eight grades of the public school.... But South Carolina is by no means the only State that has these breeding spots for ignorance, crime, and filth which the nation will sooner or later have to reckon with."

In the article in the Century Magazine from which quotations have already been made Mr. Washington cites this statement made by W.N. Sheats, former Superintendent of Education for the State of Florida, in explanation of an analysis of the sources of the school fund of the State: "A glance at the foregoing statistics indicates that the section of the State designated as 'Middle Florida' is considerably behind all the rest in all stages of educational progress. The usual plea is that this is due to the intolerable burden of Negro education, and a general discouragement and inactivity is ascribed to this cause. The following figures are given to show that the education of the Negroes of Middle Florida does not cost the white people of that section one cent. Without discussing the American principle that it is the duty of all property to educate every citizen as a means of protection to the State, and with no reference to what taxes that citizen may pay, it is the purpose of this paragraph to show that the backwardness of education of the white people is in no degree due to the presence of the Negro, but that the presence of the Negro has been actually contributing to the sustenance of the white schools."

Mr. Sheats then shows that the cost of the Negro schools was $19,467, while the Negroes contributed to the school fund in direct taxes, together with their proper proportion of the indirect taxes, $23,984. He concludes: "If this is a fair calculation the schools for the Negroes are not only no burden on the white citizens, but $4,525 for Negro schools contributed from other sources was in some way diverted to the white schools."

Mr. Charles L. Coon, Superintendent of Schools at Wilson, N.C., is quoted as demonstrating that had there been expended upon the Negro schools the Negro's proportionate share of the receipts from indirect taxes, as well as the direct taxes paid by them, $18,077 more in a given year would have been expended on colored schools in Virginia, $26,539 more in North Carolina, and $141,682 more in Georgia. These figures would seem to show that in these States at least the Negro schools are not only no burden upon the white taxpayers but that the colored people do not get back in school facilities the equivalent of all they themselves contribute in taxes.

In the matter of passenger transportation facilities Booker Washington protested that injustice is done his people by most of the railroads of the South, not in providing separate accommodations for blacks and whites, but in furnishing the Negroes with inferior accommodations while charging them the same rates. This injustice causes, he believes, more resentment and bitterness among his people than all the other injustices to which they are subjected combined. The Negro or "Jim Crow" compartment is usually half of the baggage car which is usually inadequate for the traffic, badly lighted, badly ventilated, and dirty. The newsdealer of the train uses this coach and increases the congestion by spreading his wares over several seats. White men frequently enter this compartment to buy papers and almost always smoke in it, thus requiring the colored women to ride in what is virtually a smoker. Aside from these matters the Negroes rarely have through cars and no sleeping, parlor, or buffet cars, and frequently no means of securing food on long journeys since many if not most of the station restaurants refuse to serve them.

In the Century article Mr. Washington thus quoted the experience of a sensible and conservative Negro friend of his from Austin, Texas—a man of education and good reputation among both races in his native city: "At one time," he said, in describing some of his travelling experiences, "I got off at a station almost starved. I begged the keeper of the restaurant to sell me a lunch in a paper and hand it out of the window. He refused, and I had to travel a hundred miles farther before I could get a sandwich. At another time I went to a station to purchase my ticket. I was there thirty minutes before the ticket office was opened. When it did finally open I at once appeared at the window. While the ticket agent served the white people at one window, I remained waiting at the other until the train pulled out. I was compelled to jump aboard the train without my ticket and wire back to get my trunk expressed. Considering the temper of the people, the separate coach law may be the wisest plan for the South, but the statement that the two races have equal accommodations is all bosh. I pay the same money, but I cannot have a chair or a lavatory, and rarely a through car. I must crawl out at all times of night, and in all kinds of weather, in order to catch another dirty 'Jim Crow' coach to make my connections. I do not ask to ride with white people. I do ask for equal accommodations for the same money."

Booker Washington was of course obliged to travel in the South almost constantly and to a great extent at night. He nearly always travelled on a Pullman car, and so when not an interstate passenger usually "violated" the law of whatever State he happened to be passing through. The conductors, brakemen, and other trainmen, as a rule, treated him with great respect and consideration and oftentimes offered him a compartment in place of the berth which he had purchased.

Pullman cars in the South are not as a rule open to members of the Negro race. It is only under more or less unusual conditions that a black man is able to secure Pullman accommodations. Dr. Washington, however, was generally treated with marked consideration whenever he applied for Pullman car reservations. He was sometimes criticised, not only by members of his own race, but by the unthinking of the white race who accused him of thus seeking "social equality" with the white passengers.

The work he was compelled to do, however, in constantly travelling from place to place, and dictating letters while travelling, made it necessary that he conserve his strength as much as possible. He never believed that he was defying Southern traditions in seeking the comfort essential to his work.

Upon one occasion Dr. Washington went to Houston, Texas, and was invited by the Secretary of the Cotton Exchange, in the name of the Exchange, to speak to the members of the leading business organizations of Houston, upon the floor of the Cotton Exchange Bank. He was introduced by the secretary, who desired to give Dr. Washington the opportunity to put before representative Southern white men the thoughts and ideas of a representative colored man as to how the two races might live together in the South on terms of mutual helpfulness. Such was the impression he made upon the whites that when Dr. Washington's secretary applied for Pullman accommodations for him, returning East, they were not only ungrudgingly but even eagerly granted. In those days it was unheard of for a colored man to travel as a passenger in a Pullman car in Texas.

The injustices mentioned and all others connected with railway passenger service for Negroes Booker Washington sought in characteristic fashion to mitigate by instituting, through the agency of the National Negro Business League, what are known as Railroad Days. On these days each year colored patrons of railroads lay before the responsible officials the respects in which they believe they are unfairly treated and request certain definite changes. Although started only a few years ago these Railroad Days have already accomplished a number of the improvements desired in various localities.

As an aid to the committees appointed in the various communities Mr. Washington sent out a letter addressed to these committees which was published in the Negro papers. This letter advised that all protests on Railroad Days give: first, "a statement of present conditions," second, "a statement of conditions desired." There followed a sample detailed statement of the present conditions about which there is usually cause for complaint accompanied by a similar statement of the conditions desired.

It was then suggested that these specific recommendations be followed by these general requests:

"1. The same class and quality of accommodations for colored passengers as are provided for the most favored class of travellers.

"2. Such regulations as will protect colored passengers from the rudeness and insults of employees of the railroad.

"3. Some definite authority to whom these matters may be referred, where friction arises, and who will, in good faith, investigate and adjust them."

The letter concluded with this advice:

"All those who are going to act on the suggestions to make a united effort to bring about better railroad and other travelling facilities should not omit to remind our people that they have a duty to perform as well as the railroads.

"First, our people should try to keep themselves clean and presentable when travelling, and they should do their duty in trying to keep waiting-rooms and railroad coaches clean.

"Second, it should be borne in mind that little or nothing will be accomplished by merely talking about white people who are in charge of railroads, etc. The only way to get any results is to go to the people and talk to them and not about them."

Compare this definite, reasonable, and effective form of protest with the bitter, vague, and futile outcry against the "Jim Crow" car which is frequently heard.

Booker Washington sent a marked copy of the Century Magazine containing the article, "Is the Negro Having a Fair Chance?" to the head of every railroad in the South calling attention to the portion relating to unfair treatment in passenger service for his people. In response he received letters which in almost every case were friendly and in many cases showed an active desire to cooperate in the improvement of the conditions complained of. Mr. Washington published extracts from these letters in the Negro press prior to his Railroad Day proposal in order to show that the railroad officials were for the most part at least willing to give a respectful hearing to the complaints of their Negro patrons if properly approached. President Stevens of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Company wrote that he had had one hundred copies of the article distributed among the officials and employees of his road. Mr. J.M. Parker, Receiver and General Manager of the Arkansas, Louisiana & Gulf Railway Company, wrote: "I have your favor with enclosure.... I shall take pleasure in reading this article, and from glancing through it I am inclined to think that the statement that the Negro is not getting a square deal in the way of transportation facilities is well founded." Mr. William J. Black, Passenger Traffic Manager of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway System, wrote in part: "You will, no doubt, be pleased to learn that the Santa Fe has already provided equipment for colored travel in conformity with the plan outlined in your article." From all or most of the Southern railways came letters of the general tenor of those quoted, and thus was the way prepared for the successful inauguration of the Railroad Days.

Constantly as he labored for the rights of his people he never sought to obtain for them any special privileges. Unlike most leaders of groups, classes, or races of people he never sought any exclusive or special advantages for his followers. He did not want the Negro to receive any favors by reason of his race any more than he wanted him to be discriminated against on that account. He wanted all human beings, Negroes among the rest, to receive their deserts as individuals regardless of their race, color, religion, sex, or any other consideration which has nothing to do with the individual's merits. One of his favorite figures was that "one cannot hold another in a ditch without himself staying in the ditch." There is not a single right for which he contended for his people which if won would not directly or indirectly benefit all other people. Were they in all the States admitted to the franchise on equal terms with white citizens what Mr. Washington termed the "encouragement of vice and ignorance among white citizens" would cease.

Were the lynching of Negroes stopped the lynching of white men would also cease. Both the innocent black man and the innocent white man would feel a greater sense of security while the guilty black man as well as the guilty white man would be less secure. Were the Negroes given their full share of public education the whites would gain not only more reliable and intelligent Negro labor, but would be largely freed so far as Negroes are concerned from the menace of the crimes of violence which are committed almost exclusively by ignorant persons. Finally, were Negro travellers given equal accommodations and treatment for equal rates on all the Southern railways the volume of Negro travel would more rapidly increase, thus increasing the prosperity of the railways and their shareholders which would in turn promote the prosperity of the entire South.

True to his policy of always placing the emphasis upon those things which are encouraging instead of upon those things which are discouraging, Mr. Washington concluded the already much-quoted article, "Is the Negro Having a Fair Chance?" with these observations: "Notwithstanding all the defects in our system of dealing with him, the Negro in this country owns more property, lives in better houses, is in a larger measure encouraged in business, wears better clothes, eats better food, has more schoolhouses and churches, and more teachers and ministers, than any similar group of Negroes anywhere in the world."



Although intensely human and consumingly interested in humanity—both in the mass and as individuals, whether of his own race or any other—Booker Washington thought and acted to an uncommon degree on the impersonal plane. This characteristic was perhaps most strikingly illustrated in his attitude toward race prejudice. When, many years ago, he had charge of the Indian students at Hampton, and had occasion to travel with them, he found they were free to occupy in the hotels any rooms they could pay for, whereas he must either go without or take a room in the servants' quarters. He regarded these experiences as interesting illustrations of the illogical nature of race prejudice. The occupants of these hotels did not resent mingling with members of a backward race whose skin happened to be red, but they did object to mingling on the same terms with members of another backward race whose skin happened to be black. It apparently never entered his head to regard this discrimination with bitterness or as a personal rebuff. One could not, however, make a greater mistake than to assume from this impersonal attitude that he condoned race prejudice, or in any sense stood as an apologist for it. To dispel any such idea one has only to recall his speech at the Peace Jubilee in Chicago after the Spanish War, from which we have already quoted, and in which he characterized racial prejudice as "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."

Very early in his career Washington worked out for himself a perfectly definite line of conduct in the matter of social mingling with white people. In the South he scrupulously observed the local customs and avoided offending the prejudices of the Southerners in so far as was possible without unduly handicapping his work. For instance, in his constant travelling throughout the South he not only violated their customs, but oftentimes their laws, in using sleeping cars, but this he was obliged to do because he could spare neither the time to travel by day nor the strength and energy to sit up all night. This particular Southern prejudice and the laws predicated upon it he was hence forced to violate, but he did so as a physical necessity to the accomplishment of his work and not in any sense as a defiance of custom or law. While in the South he observed Southern customs and bowed to Southern prejudices, but he declined to be bound by such customs, laws, and prejudices when in other parts of this country or the world. Except in the South he allowed himself whatever degree of social intercourse with the whites seemed best calculated to accomplish his immediate object and his ultimate aims. He never accepted purely social invitations from white persons. He always claimed that he could best satisfy his social desires among his own people. He believed that the question of so-called "social equality" between the races was too academic and meaningless to be worthy of serious discussion.

Probably he never made a more well-considered or illuminating statement of his personal attitude toward social intercourse with the dominant race than in a letter to the late Edgar Gardiner Murphy, a Southerner "of light and leading," author of "The Present South," "The Basis of Ascendancy," and other notable books on the relations between the races. Mr. Murphy, as a Southerner, became alarmed at the attacks upon Booker Washington by certain Southern newspapers and public men because of his appearance at so-called social functions in the North. Mr. Murphy, rightly regarding the retention of the favorable opinion of representative Southern whites as essential to the success of Washington's work, very naturally feared any course of action which seemed to threaten the continuance of that favorable opinion. In response to a letter in which Mr. Murphy expressed these fears and asked for an opportunity to discuss the situation with him Mr. Washington replied as follows:


MY DEAR SIR: I have received your kind letter, for which I thank you very much. I was very much disappointed that I did not have an opportunity of meeting you, as I had planned the other day, so as not to be so hurried in talking with you as I usually am. I shall be very glad, however, the very first time I can find another spare hour when in New York (Mr. Murphy was then living in New York City) to have you talk with me fully and frankly about the matters that are in your mind.

However we may differ in our view regarding certain matters, there is no man in the country whose frankness, earnestness, and sincere disinterestedness I respect more than yours, and whatever you say always has great weight with me.

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