Your letter emphasizes the tremendous difficulty of the work at the South. In most cases, and in most countries where a large section of the people are down, and are to be helped up, those attempting to do the work have before them a straight, simple problem of elevating the unfortunate people without the entanglement of racial prejudice to be grappled with. I think I do not exaggerate when I say that perhaps a third or half of the thought and energy of those engaged in the elevation of the colored people is given in the direction of trying to do the thing or not doing the thing which would enhance racial prejudice. This feature of the situation I believe very few people at the North or at the South appreciate. What is true of the Negro educator is true in a smaller degree of the white educator at the South. I am constantly trying, as best I can, to study the situation as it is right here on the ground, and I may be mistaken, but aside from the wild and demagogical talk on the part of a few I am unable to discover much or any change in the attitude of the best white people toward the best colored people. So far as my own individual experience and observation are concerned, I am treated about the same as I have always been. I was in Athens, Georgia, a few days ago, to deliver ah address before the colored people at the State Fair, and the meeting was attended by the best class of whites and the best class of colored people, who seemed to be pleased over what I said.
Mr. Blank, a Southern Congressman, just now is making a good deal of noise, but you will recall that Mr. Blank spoke just as bitterly against me before Mr. Roosevelt became President as he has since. I do not want to permit myself to be misled, but I repeat that I cannot see or feel that any great alienation has taken place between the two classes of people that you refer to.
For the sake of argument I want to grant for the moment a thing which I have never done before, even in a private letter, and which is very distasteful to me, and that is, that I am the leader of the colored people. Do you think it will ever be possible for one man to be set up as the leader of ten millions of people, meaning a population nearly twice as large as that of the Dominion of Canada and nearly equal to that of the Republic of Mexico, without the actions of that individual being carefully watched and commented upon, and what he does being exaggerated either in one direction or the other? Again, if I am the leader and therefore the mouthpiece for ten millions of colored people, is it possible for such a leader to avoid coming into contact with the representatives of the ruling classes of white people upon many occasions; and is it not to be expected that when questions that are racial and national and international in their character are to be discussed, that such a representative of the Negro race would be sought out both by individuals and by conventions? If, as you kindly suggest, I am the leader, I hardly see how such notoriety and prominence as will naturally come can be wholly or in any large degree avoided.
Judging by some of the criticisms that have appeared recently, mainly from the class of people to whom I have referred, it seems to me that some of the white people at the South are making an attempt to control my actions when I am in the North and in Europe. Heretofore, no man has been more careful to regard the feelings of the Southern people in actions and words than I have been, and this policy I shall continue to pursue, but I have never attempted to hide or to minimize the fact that when I am out of the South I do not conform to the same customs and rules that I do in the South. I say I have not attempted to hide it because everything that I have done in this respect was published four years ago in my book, "Up from Slavery," which has been read widely throughout the South, and I did not hear a word of adverse criticism passed upon what I had done. For fifteen years I have been doing at the North just what I have been doing during the past year. I have never attended a purely social function given by white people anywhere in the country. Nearly every week I receive invitations to weddings of rich people, but these I always refuse. Mrs. Washington almost never accompanies me on any occasion where there can be the least sign of purely social intercourse. Whenever I meet white people in the North at their offices, in their parlors, or at their dinner tables, or at banquets, it is with me purely a matter of business, either in the interest of our institution or in the interest of my race; no other thought ever enters my mind. For me to say now, after fifteen years of creating interest in my race and in this institution in that manner, that I must stop, would simply mean that I must cease to get money in a large measure for this institution. In meeting the people in this way I am simply doing what the head of practically every school, black and white, in the South is constantly doing. For purely social pleasure I have always found all my ambitions satisfied among my own people, and you will find that in proportion as the colored race becomes educated and prosperous, in the same proportion is this true of all colored people.
I said a minute ago that I had tried to be careful in regard to the feelings of the Southern people. It has been urged upon me time and time again to employ a number of white teachers at this institution. I have not done so and do not intend to do so, largely for the reason that they would be constantly mingling with each other at the table. For thirty years and more, in every one of our Southern States, white and colored people have sat down to the table three times a day nearly throughout the year, and I have heard very little criticism passed upon them. This kind of thing, however, at Tuskegee I have always tried to avoid so far as our regular teaching force is concerned. But I repeat, if I begin to yield in the performance of my duty when out of the South in one respect, I do not know where the end will be. It is very difficult for you, or any other person who is not in my place, to understand the difficulty and embarrassment that I am confronted with. You have no idea how many invitations of various kinds I am constantly refusing or trying to get away from because I want to avoid embarrassing situations. For example, over a year ago Mr. S—— invited me to go to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, near Lenox, to deliver an address on General Armstrong's life and work. When I reached Stockbridge an hour or so before the time of delivering the address, I found that Mr. S——, who had invited me, had also invited five or six other gentlemen to meet me at luncheon. The luncheon I knew nothing about until I reached the town. Under such circumstances I am at a loss to know how I could have avoided accepting the invitation. A few days afterward I filled a long-standing invitation to lecture at Amherst College. I reached the town a few hours before dinner and found that a number of people, including several college presidents, had been invited to meet me at dinner. Taking still another case: over a year ago I promised a colored club in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that I would be their guest at a banquet in October. The banquet was held on the third of the month, and when I reached Cambridge I found that in addition to the members of the colored club, the Mayor of the city and a number of Harvard professors, including President Eliot, had been invited; and I could go on and state case after case. Of course, if I wanted to make a martyr of myself and draw especial attention to me and to the institution, I could easily do so by simply writing whenever I receive an invitation to a dinner or banquet that I could not accept on account of the color of my skin.
Six years ago at the Peace Jubilee in Chicago, where I spoke at a meeting at which President McKinley was present, I took both luncheon and dinner in the same dining-room with President McKinley and was the guest of the same club that he was a guest of. There were Southern men present, and the fact that I was present and spoke was widely heralded throughout the South, and so far as I know not a word of adverse comment was made. For nearly fifteen years the addresses which I have been constantly making at dinners and banquets in the North have been published throughout the South, and no adverse comment has been made regarding my presence on these occasions.
Practically all of the invitations to functions that are of even a semi-social character are urged upon me by Northern people, and very often after I have refused to accept invitations pressure is brought to bear on special friends of mine in order to get me to accept. Notwithstanding all this, where I accept one invitation I refuse ten; in fact, you have no idea how many invitations to dinner I refuse while I am in the North. I not only do so for the reason that I do not care to excite undue criticism, but for the further reason that if I were to accept any large proportion of such invitations I would have little time left for my legitimate work. In many cases the invitations come from people who do not give money but simply want to secure a notoriety or satisfy curiosity.
I have stated the case as I see it, and with a view of having you think over these matters by the time that we meet.
[Signed] BOOKER T. WASHINGTON.
There were two particularly notable occasions upon which Mr. Washington unwittingly stirred the prejudices of the South. The first was when in 1901 he dined with President Roosevelt and his family at the White House; the second, when four years later he dined with Mr. John Wanamaker and his daughter at a hotel in Saratoga, New York.
The truth of his dining at the White House, of which so many imaginary versions have been given, was this: having received so many expressions of approval from all sections of the country on his appointment of ex-Governor Jones to a Federal judgeship in Alabama, which appointment was made, as described in a previous chapter, on the recommendation of Booker Washington and Grover Cleveland, President Roosevelt asked him to come to the White House and discuss with him some further appointments and other matters of mutual interest.
On arriving in Washington he went to the home of his friend, Whitefield McKinlay, a colored man with whom he usually stopped when in the Capital. The next morning he went to the White House by appointment for an interview with the President. Since they did not have time to finish their discussion, the President, in accordance with the course he had often followed with others under similar circumstances, invited Washington to come to dinner so that they might finish their discussion in the evening without loss of time.
In response to this oral invitation he went to the White House at the appointed time, dined with the President and his family and two other guests, and after dinner discussed with the President chiefly the character of individual colored office holders or applicants for office and, as says Colonel Roosevelt, "the desirability in specific cases, notably in all offices having to do with the administration of justice, of getting high-minded and fearless white men into office—men whom we could be sure would affirmatively protect the law-abiding Negro's right to life, liberty, and property just exactly as they protected the rights of law-abiding white men." Also they discussed the public service of the South so far as the representatives of the Federal Administration were concerned—the subject upon which President Roosevelt had wished to consult him. The next day the bare fact that he had dined with the President was obscurely announced by the Washington papers as a routine item of White House news. Some days later, however, an enterprising correspondent for a Southern paper lifted this unpretentious item from oblivion and sent it to his paper to be blazoned forth in a front-page headline. For days and weeks thereafter the Southern press fairly shrieked with the news of this quiet dinner. The very papers which had most loudly praised the President for his appointment of a Southern Democrat to a Federal judgeship now execrated him for inviting to dine with him the man upon whose recommendation he had made this appointment.
Mr. Washington was also roundly abused for his "presumption" in daring to dine at the White House. This was a little illogical in view of the well-known fact that an invitation to the White House is a summons rather than an invitation in the ordinary sense. Neither President Roosevelt nor Mr. Washington issued any statements by way of explanation or apology. While it was, of course, farthest from the wishes of either to offend the sensibilities of the South, neither one—the many statements to the contrary, notwithstanding—ever indicated subsequently any regret or admitted that the incident was a mistake.
During the furore over this incident both the President and Mr. Washington received many threats against their lives. The President had the Secret Service to protect him, while Mr. Washington had no such reliance. His co-workers surrounded him with such precautions as they could, and his secretary accumulated during this period enough threatening letters to fill a desk drawer. It was not discovered until some years after that one of these threats had been followed by the visit to Tuskegee of a hired assassin. A strange Negro was hurt in jumping off the train before it reached the Tuskegee Institute station. There being no hospital for Negroes in the town of Tuskegee he was taken to the hospital of the Institute, where he was cared for and nursed for several weeks before he was able to leave. Mr. Washington was absent in the North during all of this time. Many months later this Negro confessed that he had come to Tuskegee in the pay of a group of white men in Louisiana for the purpose of assassinating Booker Washington. He said that he became so ashamed of himself while being cared for by the doctors and nurses employed by the very man he had come to murder that he left as soon as he was able to do so instead of waiting to carry out his purpose on the return of his victim, as he had originally planned to do.
Booker Washington, with all his philosophy and capacity for rising above the personal, was probably more deeply pained by this affair than any other in his whole career. His pain was, however, almost solely on Mr. Roosevelt's account. He felt keenly hurt and chagrined that Mr. Roosevelt, whom he so intensely admired, and who was doing so much, not only for his own race but for the whole South as he believed, should suffer all this abuse and even vilification on his account. President Roosevelt evidently realized something of how he felt, for in a letter to him written at this time he added this postscript: "By the way, don't worry about me; it will all come right in time, and if I have helped by ever so little 'the ascent of man' I am more than satisfied."
Probably no single public event ever gave Booker Washington greater pleasure than Colonel Roosevelt's triumphant election to the Presidency in 1904. The day after the election he wrote the President the following letter:
Tuskegee Institute, Alabama, November 10, 1904.
MY DEAR MR. PRESIDENT: I cannot find words in which to express my feeling regarding the tremendous outcome of Tuesday's election. I know that you feel the sacred and almost divine confidence imposed. In my opinion, no human being in America since Washington, perhaps, has been so honored and vindicated. The result shows that the great heart of the American people beats true and is in the direction of fair play for all, regardless of race or color. Nothing has ever occurred which has given me more faith in all races or shows more plainly that they will respond to high ideals when properly appealed to.
I know that you will not misunderstand me when I say I share somewhat the feeling of triumph and added responsibility that must animate your soul at the present time because of the personal abuse heaped upon you on account of myself. The great victory and vindication does not make me feel boastful or vainglorious, but, on the other hand, very humble, and gives me more faith in humanity and makes me more determined to work harder in the interest of all our people of both races regardless of race or color. I shall urge our people everywhere to manifest their gratitude by showing a spirit of meekness and added usefulness. The election shows to what a great height you have already lifted the character of American citizenship. Before you leave the White House I am sure that the whole South will understand you and love you.
God keep you and bless you.
Yours most sincerely,
[Signed] BOOKER T. WASHINGTON.
To President Theodore Roosevelt, White House, Washington
President Roosevelt expressed great appreciation of this letter and said that Mr. Washington had taken the election in just the way he would have wished him to take it.
About two years later Mr. Washington wrote President Roosevelt another letter which throws light upon the relations between the two men as well as upon the incongruous phases of racial prejudice:
Tuskegee Institute, Alabama, June 19, 1906.
MY DEAR MR. PRESIDENT: It will interest you to know that the Cox family, over whom such a disturbance was made in connection with the Indianola, Miss., post-office, have started a bank in that same town which direct and reliable information convinces me is in a prosperous condition. The bank has the confidence of both races. It is a curious circumstance that while objection was made to this black family being at the head of the post-office no objection is made to this black man being president of a bank in the same town.
A letter just received from a reliable banker in Mississippi contains the following sentences:
"Now, with reference to Mr. W.W. Cox, of Indianola, Miss., I beg to advise that no man of color is as highly regarded and respected by the white people of his town and county as he. It is true that he organized and is cashier of the Delta Penny Savings Bank, domiciled there. I visited Indianola during the spring of 1905 and was very much surprised to note the esteem in which he was held by the bankers and business men (white) of that place. He is a good, clean man and above the average in intelligence, and knows how to handle the typical Southern white man. In the last statement furnished by his bank to the State Auditor, his bank showed total resources of $46,000. He owns and lives in one of the best resident houses in Indianola, regardless of race, and located in a part of the town where other colored men seem to be not desired. The whites adjacent to him seem to be his friends. He has a large plantation near the town, worth $35,000 or $40,000. He is a director in Mr. Pettiford's bank at Birmingham, Ala., and I think is vice-president of the same. He also owns stock in the bank of Mound Bayou."
Yours very truly,
[Signed] BOOKER T. WASHINGTON.
To President Theodore Roosevelt, Washington, D.C.
In August, 1905, Booker Washington spoke one Sunday morning before a large audience in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. After his address Mr. John Wanamaker and his daughter were among those who came forward to greet him. They also invited him to dine with them at the United States Hotel that afternoon. Mr. Wanamaker had been particularly interested in Booker Washington and his work for many years. Mr. Washington accepted this invitation without the least thought of reawakening the clamor caused by the Roosevelt dinner. The dinner itself passed off quietly, pleasantly, and without particular event. It was not until he took up the papers at his little hotel in New York the next morning that he found that he had again stirred up a hornet's nest similar to that of four years before. The denunciation was if anything more violent; for, as many of his assailants said, he should have profited by the protests of four years before. In an editorial entitled, "Booker Washington's Saratoga Performance" a Southern newspaper said: "Since the fateful day when Booker T. Washington sat down to the dinner table in the White House with President Roosevelt he has done many things to hurt the cause of which he is regarded as the foremost man.... Leaving out of the question the lack of delicacy and self-respect manifested by Wanamaker and his family, blame must rest upon Washington, because he knows how deep and impassable is the gulf between whites and blacks in the South when the social situation is involved. He deliberately flaunts all this in the face of the Southern people among whom he is living and among whom his work has to be carried on. He could have given no harder knock to his institution than he gave when he marched into that Saratoga dinner room with a white woman and her father."
These sentiments were expressed editorially by another Southern paper: "Wanamaker is unworthy to shine the shoes of Booker Washington. He is not in Washington's class. If the truly smart set of Saratoga was shocked that Booker should have been caught in this man's company and as his guest we are not surprised. But still Booker Washington could not eat dinner with the most ordinary white man in this section. He wouldn't dare intimate that he sought such social recognition among whites here"; and in conclusion this editorial said: "The South only pities the daughter that she should have allowed herself to be used by a father whose sensibilities and ideas of the proprieties are so dulled by his asinine qualities that he could not see the harm in it."
This vituperation of Mr. Wanamaker, and the scoring him for his part in the affair even more than Washington, recalls an incident which Mr. Washington himself relates in his book entitled, "My Larger Education." When he was making a trip through Florida, a few weeks after his dinner with President Roosevelt, at a little station near Gainesville, "A white man got aboard the train," he says, "whose dress and manner indicated that he was from the class of small farmers in that part of the country. He shook hands with me very cordially, and said: 'I am mighty glad to see you. I have heard about you and I have been wanting to meet you for a long while.'
"I was naturally pleased at this cordial reception, but I was surprised when, after looking me over, he remarked: 'Say, you are a great man. You are the greatest man in this country.'
"I protested mildly, but he insisted, shaking his head and repeating, 'Yes, sir, the greatest man in this country.' Finally I asked him what he had against President Roosevelt, telling him at the same time that, in my opinion, the President of the United States was the greatest man in the country.
"'Huh! Roosevelt?' he replied, with considerable emphasis in his voice, 'I used to think that Roosevelt was a great man until he ate dinner with you. That settled him for me.'"
Mr. Washington goes on to say: "This remark of a Florida farmer is but one of the many experiences which have taught me something of the curious nature of this thing that we call prejudice—social prejudice, race prejudice, and all the rest. I have come to the conclusion that these prejudices are something that it does not pay to disturb. It is best to 'let sleeping dogs lie.' All sections of the United States, like all other parts of the world, have their own peculiar customs and prejudices. For that reason it is the part of common sense to respect them. When one goes to European countries, or into the Far West, or into India or China, he meets certain customs and certain prejudices which he is bound to respect and, to a certain extent, comply with. The same holds good regarding conditions in the North and in the South. In the South it is not the custom for colored and white people to be entertained at the same hotel; it is not the custom for black and white children to attend the same school. In most parts of the North a different custom prevails. I have never stopped to question or quarrel with the customs of the people in the part of the country in which I found myself."
And so he acted in the case of the Wanamaker dinner. He accepted Mr. Wanamaker's invitation because he was in the North and his host was a Northerner. In so doing he felt that he was not violating any generally accepted custom or universally entertained prejudice of the part of the country in which he found himself. Had the inconceivable occurred, and had a Southerner invited him to dine in the South, under conditions in all other respects identical, he would not have accepted. He would not have been willing to incur the resentment of the South even had his host been willing to defy local prejudices by inviting him. On the other hand, he felt that the attitude of those who would seek to control him in matters of social custom when he was not in the South or among Southerners was unfair and unreasonable.
An incident which occurred while he was stopping at the English Hotel in Indianapolis in 1903 furnished copy for the more or less sensational press of the country. This hotel does not as a rule accept Negroes as guests, but Mr. Washington was always a welcome visitor there just as he was at many other hotels where less-favored members of his race were excluded. He never patronized this hotel or any other for the purpose of asserting his rights, but merely to obtain the comforts and the seclusion so essential to a man who always worked up to the limits of even his great strength and usually a little beyond such limits. It is, indeed, quite possible that he might have lived longer had he been free to stop at hotels in the South instead of undergoing the constant wear and tear of being entertained in the private homes of the all-too-kind hosts of his own race. All public men and lecturers, in a large way of business, learn early in their careers that they must decline practically all proffers of private hospitality if they are to preserve their health.
On this occasion the white chambermaid assigned to care for the room he occupied refused to perform her duties so far as his room was concerned on the ground, as she stated, that she "would not clean up after a nigger." For this refusal to do her work the management discharged her. The Springfield Republican of that date thus describes what followed: "A hotel at Houston, Texas, immediately offered her a place there, which she accepted, but as matters are now going she is more likely to retire from the business as a grand lady living on an independent income. Her name is upon all tongues in the Southland, and the newspapers print long and complimentary accounts of her life and the one great deed that has made her famous. Citizens and communities vie with each other in contributing money.... Captain John W. Johnson of Sheffield, Ala., is organizing a general subscription fund from that and neighboring towns. A meeting at Houston, Texas, raised $500 for her in the name of a 'self-respecting girl.' The Houston Chronicle is conducting another popular subscription. Contributions are coming into it from all parts of Texas. Citizens of New Orleans have raised $1,000. About twoscore Southern towns and a dozen cities so far figure in the contributions. The movement extends to Indianapolis, where a gold watch has been contributed." The hysterical lauding of this "heroine" was subsequently wet blanketed by the discovery that she had cared for Mr. Washington's room for the first day or two of his stay without protest, and by the further discovery that her second or third husband had recently obtained a divorce from her.
It is only fair to add that many of the leading citizens of the South strongly deprecated the sensational magnifying of this trivial incident by a certain section of the Southern press. Mr. Washington declined to make any comment for publication during or after this petty tumult.
In spite of the three events described, and others of a like nature that might be mentioned, no Negro was ever so liked, respected, admired, and eulogized by the Southern whites as Booker Washington. The day following his great speech before the Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta in 1895 when he went out upon the streets of the city he was so besieged by white citizens from the highest to the lowest, who wanted to shake his hand and congratulate him, that he was fairly driven in self-defense to remain indoors. Not many years after that it had become a commonplace for him to be an honored guest on important public occasions throughout the South. On occasions too numerous even to note in passing he was welcomed, and introduced to great audiences, by Southern Governors, Mayors, and other high officials, as well as by eminent private citizens. Such recognition came partly as a spontaneous tribute to the great work he was doing and partly because of his constantly reiterated assurance that the Negro was not seeking either political domination over the white man or social intercourse with him. He reasoned that the more Southern whites he could convince that his people were not seeking what is known as social equality or political dominance, the less race friction there would be.
It has already been mentioned that at the opening of the first Negro agricultural fair in Albany, Georgia, in the fall of 1914, the Mayor of the city and several members of the City Council sat on the platform during the exercises and listened to his speech with most spontaneous and obvious approval. In this part of Georgia the Negroes outnumber the whites by at least six to one. The afternoon of the same day the Mayor invited Booker Washington and his party to come to the city hall and confer with himself, the other city officials, and a group of prominent private citizens on the relations between the races in that city and locality. At this conference there was a friendly, easy interchange of ideas interspersed with jokes and laughter, but all the time Mr. Washington was leading them step by step to see that by giving the Negroes proper educational opportunities they were helping themselves as well as the Negroes. Mr. Stowe, who was present at this conference, noticed to his surprise that some of the arguments advanced by Dr. Washington, which seemed to him to be almost worn-out truisms, although freshly and strongly expressed, were seized upon by his auditors as new and original ideas. When he made this observation to Mr. Washington after the meeting he said that several other Northerners had under similar circumstances made the same observation and then he added: "I only wish that it were possible for me to spend several months of each year talking with just such groups of representative Southern men. They are always responsive, eager to understand what we are driving at, and sympathetic when they do understand. The necessity for raising money has forced us to devote the bulk of our time to educating the Northern public to the needs of the situation to the neglect of our Southern white neighbors right here about us."
It was an interesting illustration of the illogical workings of race prejudice that this man to whom the city fathers from the Mayor down gave up practically their entire day—this man to whom the city hall was thrown open and at whose feet sat the leading citizens as well as the officials of the city, could not have found shelter in any hotel in town. This man whom the officials and other leading citizens delighted to honor arrived at night on a Pullman sleeping car in violation of the law of the State; and, after all possible honor had been paid him, save allowing him to enter a hotel, departed the next night by a Pullman sleeper in violation of the law!
This constant "law-breaker" was welcomed and introduced to audiences by Governor Blanchard of Louisiana at Shreveport, La.; by Governor Candler at Atlanta, Ga.; by Governor Donaghey at Little Rock, Ark.; by Governor McCorkle of West Virginia, and successively by Governors Jelks and O'Neil of his own State of Alabama. Still other Southern Governors spoke from the same platform with him at congresses, conventions, and meetings of various descriptions.
Next to South Carolina and Georgia, perhaps no State in the Union has shown as much hostility to the progress of the Negro as Mississippi. In 1908, in response to the urgent appeals of Charles Banks, the Negro banker and dominating force of the Negro town of Mound Bayou, Mr. Washington agreed to make a tour through Mississippi such as he had made three years before through Arkansas and what were then Oklahoma and Indian Territories. At Jackson, Miss., the management of the State Fair Association offered the local committee of Negroes the great Liberal Arts Building for Mr. Washington's address. In the audience were not less than five thousand persons, among them several hundred white citizens. Among the whites who sat on the platform were Governor Noel, Lieutenant-Governor Manship, Bishop Charles B. Galloway of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, Mr. Milsaps, the richest citizen of the State; the postmaster of Jackson, the United States Marshal, Hon. Edgar S. Wilson, and a considerable number of other prominent white citizens.
At Natchez, a few nights later, the audience literally filled every available space in the Grand Opera House and overflowed into the adjoining streets. This audience was in many respects the most remarkable that the city had ever seen. The entire orchestra was given over to the white citizens of Natchez and Adams County, and still there was not room to accommodate them, for they were packed in the rear and stood three and four deep in the aisles. The colored people were crowded into the balcony and the galleries. When Booker Washington arose to speak, he was greeted by a perfect whirlwind of applause and cheering. He was visibly affected by the reception given him by whites as well as blacks.
When he finished speaking a large delegation headed by the Mayor of the city made their way to the platform, welcomed him to the city, thanked him for his address, and stated that his influence for good in the city and county could not be estimated.
Mr. J.T. Harahan, of the Illinois Central Railroad, provided the Pullman tourist car in which Mr. Washington and his party toured the State. It was estimated that from sixty to eighty thousand people saw and heard him during his seven days' trip. On the conclusion of the tour one paper said, "No more popular man ever came into the State, white or black, and no man ever spoke to larger audiences than he did. He is the only speaker who ever filled the Jackson, Miss., Coliseum."
Only six months before his death Booker Washington made a similar tour through Louisiana. Louisiana has always been reputed to be in the same category as Mississippi in opposing Negro progress. To some of his audiences Mr. Washington said that he and his party of twenty-five colored men had felt before they started very much like the little girl who was about to go on a trip to Louisiana with her parents. The night before they started she said her prayer as usual:
"Now I lay me down to sleep I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take."
With a deep sigh she then added, "Good-bye, Lord, for two weeks. We are going down to Louisiana."
In introducing Mr. Washington to a great audience in New Orleans, made up of both races, Mayor Berhman said, turning to Booker Washington:
"The work you are doing for the uplift of your people means untold good to the great State of Louisiana and to the whole country. Nowhere has your race greater opportunities than in Louisiana. If the people of the Negro race will follow your teachings, they will help materially to bring about a condition that will mean much for Louisiana, the South, and the nation."
At Shreveport former Governor N.C. Blanchard, in introducing Dr. Washington to an audience of over 10,000 white and colored citizens, said: "I am glad to see this goodly attendance of white people, representative white people at that, for his Honor, the Mayor, is here, and with him are members and officials of the city government and other prominent citizens of our community. They are here to give encouragement to Mr. Washington, to hold up his hands, for they know that he is leading his people along right lines—lines tending to promote better feeling and better understanding between the two races....
"Our country needs to have white and black people, sober, honest, frugal, and thrifty. Booker T. Washington stands for these things. He advises and counsels and leads toward these goals. Hear him and heed his words."
At the invitation of Superintendent Gwinn the colored school children of New Orleans were given a half-holiday to hear Dr. Washington. He addressed them in an arena seating more than five thousand people, which was given for the occasion by its white owner.
To one of these Louisiana audiences Mr. Washington said: "Both races in the South suffer at the hands of public opinion by reason of the fact that the outside world hears of our difficulties, of crimes, mobs, and lynchings, but it does not hear of or know about the evidences of racial friendship and good-will which exist in the majority of communities in Louisiana and other Southern States where black and white people live together in such large numbers. Lynchings are widely reported by telegraph. The quiet, effective work of devoted white people in the South for Negro uplift is not generally or widely reported. The best white citizenship must take charge of the mob and not have the mob take charge of civilization. There is enough wisdom, patience, forbearance, and common sense in the South for white people and black people to live together in peace for all time."
In short, Booker Washington met race prejudice just as he did all other difficulties, as an obstacle to be surmounted rather than as an injustice to be railed at and denounced regardless of the consequences.
GETTING CLOSE TO THE PEOPLE
One secret of Booker Washington's leadership was that he always had his ear to the ground and his feet on the ground. Some one has said that "a practical idealist is a man who keeps his feet on the ground even though his head is in the clouds." Booker Washington was that kind of an idealist. He kept in constant and intimate touch with the masses of his people, particularly with those on the soil. Like the giant in the fable who doubled his strength every time he touched the ground, Booker Washington seemed to renew his strength every time he came in contact with the plain people of his race, particularly the farmers. No matter how pressed and driven by multifarious affairs, he could always find time for a rambling talk, apparently quite at random, with an old, uneducated, ante-bellum black farmer. Sometimes he would halt the entire business of a national convention in order to hear the comment of some simple but shrewd old character. He had a profound respect for the wisdom of simple people who lived at close grips with the realities of life.
At the 1914 meeting of the National Negro Business League at Muskogee, Okla., a Mr. Jake ——, who had started as an ignorant orphan boy, delighted Mr. Washington's heart when he testified: "When I first started out I lived in a chicken house, 12 x 14 feet; now I own a ten-room residence, comfortably furnished, and in a settlement where we have a good school, a good church, and plenty of amusement, including ten children."
After the laughter and applause had subsided Mr. Washington asked: "Do you think there is the same kind of an opening out here in Oklahoma for other and younger men of our race to do as you have done and to succeed equally as well?"
To which Mr. Jake replied: "... I think I have succeeded with little or no education, and it stands to reason that some of the graduates from these industrial and agricultural schools ought to be able to do better than I have done."
Which was, of course, just the answer Mr. Washington hoped he would make.
Mr. Washington's instinct for keeping close to the plain people was perhaps best illustrated by his tours through the far Southern States for the improvement of the living conditions of his people, the tours to which allusion has several times been made. His insistence upon cleanliness, neatness, and paint became so well known that his approach to a community frequently caused frantic cleaning up of yards, mending of gates, and painting of houses. These sudden converts to paint sometimes found out from which side the great man was to approach their house and painted only that side and the front.
When he spoke to his people on these trips he had the faculty of becoming one of them. He described their daily lives in their own language. He told them how much land they owned, how much of it was mortgaged, how much and what they raised, and in fact every vital economic and social fact about their lives and the conditions about them. He praised them for what was creditable, censured and bantered them for what was bad, and told them what conditions should be and how they could make them so.
He made these tours through Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and portions of Alabama and Georgia.
Besides these State tours he would, whenever he could take the time, shoot out into the country surrounding Tuskegee Institute to encourage and promote the efforts of his neighbors of his own race. In July, 1911, accompanied by some guests and members of his faculty, he made such a visit to Mt. Olive, a village on the east of Tuskegee. The party was first taken to the village church where they found a teeming congregation to greet them. Here Mr. Washington was introduced by the principal of the "Washington School" who said that since Mr. Washington's visit eighteen months ago the colored people had purchased forty-one lots, built several new houses, whitewashed or painted the old ones, and increased their gardens to such an extent that few, if any, had still to buy their vegetables.
Mr. Washington opened his talk by saying: "It is an inspiration simply to drive through and see your pleasant houses surrounded by flowers and gardens and all that goes to make life happy." He then appealed to the women to make their homes as attractive on the inside as the gardens had made them on the outside. He told them the best receipt for keeping the men and the children at home and out of mischief was to make the homes so attractive that they would not want to go away. Then, as always, before he closed he put in his warnings and injunctions to the derelict: "Paint your houses; if you can't paint them, whitewash them. Put the men to work in their spare hours repairing fences, gates, and windows. Get together in your church, as you have in your school-work, settle on a pastor and get him to live in your community. Pay him in order that he may live here and become a part of your community."
On another such trip through the southwestern part of Macon County, the county in which Tuskegee is located, he was once accompanied by Judge Robert H. Terrell, the Negro Judge of the District of Columbia; the Hon. Whitefield McKinlay, the Negro Collector of Customs for the District of Columbia; George L. Knox, owner and editor of the Indianapolis Freeman, a Negro newspaper; W.T.B. Williams, agent for the Anna T. Jeanes Fund and the Slater Board; Dr. Thomas Jesse Jones of the United States Census Bureau, and Lord Eustace Percy, one of the Secretaries of the British Embassy at Washington.
One can well imagine with what pride the simple black farmers of Macon County displayed their products and their live stock to these distinguished representatives of both races headed by their own great neighbor and leader. At Mt. Andrew, one of the communities visited, the Farmers' Improvement Club had prepared an exhibit consisting of the best specimens of vegetables, fruits, and meats raised in the community. A report stated that the Negro people of the town owned over two hundred head of live stock and had over thirty houses which were either whitewashed or painted. When called upon for remarks, Mr. Washington expressed himself as greatly encouraged by what he had seen and said in conclusion, "Here in Macon County you have good land that will grow abundant crops. You have also a good citizenship, and hence there is every opportunity for you to make your community a heaven upon earth."
Booker Washington was always emphasizing the necessity of better conditions right here and now instead of in a distant future or in heaven. He was constantly combating the tendency in his people—a tendency common to all people but naturally particularly strong in those having a heritage of slavery—to substitute the anticipated bliss of a future life for effective efforts to improve the conditions of this present life. He was always telling them to put their energies into societies for the preservation of health and improvement of living conditions, instead of into the too numerous and popular sick benefit and death benefit organizations.
At the next stop of the party Mr. Washington was introduced to the assembled townspeople by a graduate of Tuskegee Institute, who was one of their leading citizens and most successful farmers. In this talk he urged the people to get more land and keep it and to grow something besides cotton. He said they should not lean upon others and should not go to town on Saturdays to "draw upon" the merchants, but should stay at home and "draw every day from their own soil corn, peas, beans, and hogs." He urged the men to give their wives more time to work around the house and to raise vegetables. (This, of course, instead of requiring them to work in the fields with the men as is so common.) He urged especially that they take their wives into their confidence and make them their partners as well as their companions. He assured them that if they took their wives into partnership they would accumulate more and get along better in every way.
There was no advice given by him more constantly or insistently in speaking to the plain people of his race, whether in country or city, than this injunction to the men to take their wives into their confidence and make them their partners. He recognized that the home was the basis of all progress and civilization for his race, as well as all other races, and that the wife and mother is primarily the conservator of the home.
One of the stops of the trip was at a little hamlet called Damascus. Here, in characteristic fashion, he told the people how much richer they were in soil and all natural advantages than were the inhabitants of the original Damascus in the Holy Land. He then argued that having these great natural advantages, much was to be expected of them, etc. Like all great preachers, teachers, and leaders of men he seized upon the names, incidents, and conditions immediately about him and from them drew lessons of fundamental import and universal application.
The efforts of the Negro farmers on these trips to get a word of approval from their great leader were often pathetic. One old man had a good breed of pigs of which he was particularly proud. He contrived to be found feeding them beside the road just as the great man and his party were passing. The simple ruse succeeded. Mr. Washington and his companions stopped and every one admired the proud and excited old man's pigs. And then after the pigs had been duly admired, he led them to a rough plank table upon which he had displayed in tremulous anticipation of this dramatic moment a huge pumpkin, some perfectly developed ears of corn, and a lusty cabbage. After these objects had also been admired the old man decoyed the party into the little whitewashed cottage where his wife had her hour of triumph in displaying her jars of preserves, pickles, cans of vegetables, dried fruits, and syrup together with quilts and other needlework all carefully arranged for this hoped-for inspection.
The basic teaching of all these tours was: "Make your own little heaven right here and now. Do it by putting business methods into your farming, by growing things in your garden the year around, by building and keeping attractive and comfortable homes for your children so they will stay at home and not go to the cities, by keeping your bodies and your surroundings clean, by staying in one place, by getting a good teacher and a good preacher, by building a good school and church, by letting your wife be your partner in all you do, by keeping out of debt, by cultivating friendly relations with your neighbors both white and black."
Mr. Washington was constantly bringing up in the Tuskegee faculty meetings cases of distress among the colored people of the county, which he had personally discovered while off hunting or riding, and planning ways and means to relieve them. Apparently it never occurred to him that technically, at least, the fate of these poor persons was not his affair nor that of his school. At one such meeting he told of having come upon while hunting a tumbledown cabin in the woods, within it a half-paralyzed old Negro obviously unable to care for his simple wants. Mr. Washington had stopped, built a fire in his stove, and otherwise made him comfortable temporarily, but some provision for the old man's care must be made at once. One of the teachers knew about the old man and stated that he had such an ugly temper that he had driven off his wife, son, and daughter who had until recently lived with him and taken care of him. The young teacher seemed to feel that the old man had brought his troubles upon his own head and so deserved little sympathy. Mr. Washington would not for a moment agree to this. He replied that if the old fellow was so unfortunate as to have a bad temper as well as his physical infirmities that was no reason why he should be allowed to suffer privation. He delegated one of the teachers to look up the old man's family at once and see if they could be prevailed upon to support him and to report at the next meeting what had been arranged. In the meantime he would send some one out to the cabin daily to take him food and attend to his wants.
At another faculty meeting he brought up the plight of an old woman who was about to be evicted from her little shack on the outskirts of the town because of her inability to pay the nominal rent which she was charged. He arranged to have her rent paid out of a sum of money which he always had included in the school budget for the relief of such cases. In such ways he was constantly impressing upon his associates the idea that was ever a mainspring of his own life—namely, that it was always and everywhere the duty of the more fortunate to help the less fortunate.
While he was sometimes severe with his more prosperous and better educated associates he was always considerate and thoughtful of the ignorant, the old, and the weak. He was never too busy to delight the heart of a white-haired old man who had been the original cook of the school by listening to his stories about the early days, or to discuss with another old man his experiences in the Civil War. He would never betray the least impatience in listening to these old men tell him the same story for the five hundredth time. Although the real usefulness of both these old fellows had long passed he never showed them by word or deed that he did not regard them as useful and valuable members of his staff.
Another old character to whom he invariably showed kindness and patience was a crack-brained old itinerant preacher who kept up an endless stream of unintelligible pious jargon. This old fellow would harangue the air for hours at a time right outside the Principal's busy office, but he would never allow him to be stopped or sent away and always sent or gave him a small contribution at the conclusion of his tirades, if indeed they could be said to have any conclusion.
Booker Washington had a weakness for the picturesque ne'er-do-wells of his race. One such old fellow, who lived near Tuskegee and who had always displayed great ingenuity in extracting money from him, one day, when he was driving down the main street of Tuskegee behind a pair of fast and spirited horses, rushed out into the street and stopped him as though he had a matter of the greatest urgency to impart to him. When Mr. Washington had with difficulty reined in his horses and asked him what he wanted the old man said breathlessly, "I'se got a tirkey for yo' Thanksgivin'!"
"How much does it weigh?" inquired Mr. Washington.
"Twelve to fifteen poun'."
After thanking the old man warmly, Mr. Washington started to drive on when the old fellow added, "I jest wants to borrow a dollar for to fatten yo' turkey for you!"
With a laugh Mr. Washington handed the old man the dollar and drove on. He never could be made to feel that by these spontaneous generosities he was encouraging thriftlessness and mendicancy. He was incorrigible in his unscientific open-handedness with the poor, begging older members of his race.
At the time of the Tuskegee teachers' annual picnic, usually held in May, many of these old colored people would attend uninvited and armed with huge empty baskets. Mr. Washington always greeted them like honored guests and allowed them to carry off provisions enough to feed large families for days. He would also introduce them to the officers and teachers of the school and to any invited guests who might be present.
Old man Harry Varner was the night watchman of the school in its early days and a man upon whom Mr. Washington very much depended. He lived in a cabin opposite the school grounds. After hearing many talks about the importance of living in a real house instead of a one or two room cabin, old Uncle Harry finally decided that he must have a real house. Accordingly he came to his employer, told him his feeling in the matter, and laid before him his meagre savings, which he had determined to spend for a real house. Mr. Washington went with him to select the lot and added enough out of his own pocket to the scant savings to enable the old man to buy a cow and a pig and a garden plot as well as the house. From then on for weeks he and old Uncle Harry would have long and mysterious conferences over the planning of that little four-room cottage. It is doubtful if Dr. Washington ever devoted more time or thought to planning any of the great buildings of the Institute. No potentate was ever half as proud of his palace as Uncle Harry of his four-room cottage when it was finally finished and painted and stood forth in all its glory to be admired of all men. And Booker Washington was scarcely less proud of it than Uncle Harry.
With Uncle Harry Varner, Old Man Brannum, the original cook of the school to whom reference has already been made, and Lewis Adams of the town of Tuskegee, whom Mr. Washington mentions in "Up from Slavery" as one of his chief advisers, all unlettered-before-the-war Negroes, his relationship was always particularly intimate. These three old men enjoyed the confidence of the white people of the town of Tuskegee to an unusual extent and often acted as ambassadors of good-will between the head of the school and his white neighbors when from time to time the latter showed a disposition to look askance at the rapidly growing institution on the hill beyond the town.
Another intimate friend of Mr. Washington's was Charles L. Diggs, known affectionately on the school grounds as "Old Man Diggs." The old man had been body servant to a Union officer in the Civil War and after the war had been carried to Boston, where he became the butler in a fashionable Back Bay family. When Mr. Washington first visited Boston, as an humble and obscure young Negro school teacher pleading for his struggling school, he met Diggs, and Diggs succeeded in interesting his employers in the sincere and earnest young Negro teacher. When years afterward the Institute had grown to the dignity of needing stewards, Mr. Washington employed his old friend as steward of the Teachers' Home. In all the years thereafter hardly a day passed when Mr. Washington was at the school without his having some kind of powwow with Old Man Diggs regarding some matter affecting the interests of the school.
To the despair of his family Booker Washington seemed to go out of his way to find forlorn old people whom he could befriend. He sent provisions weekly to an humble old black couple from whom he had bought a tract of land for the school. He did the same for old Aunt Harriet and her deaf, dumb, and lame son, except that to them he provided fuel as well. On any particularly cold day he would send one or more students over to Aunt Harriet's to find out if she and her poor helpless son were comfortable. Also every Sunday afternoon, to the joy of this pathetic couple, a particularly appetizing Sunday dinner unfailingly made its appearance. And these were only a few of the pensioners and semi-pensioners whom Booker Washington accumulated as he went about his kindly way.
One means of keeping in touch with the masses of his people which he never neglected was through attending the annual National Negro Baptist Conventions. At these great gatherings he came in touch with the religious leaders of two million Negroes. Notwithstanding the fact that he practically collapsed at the annual meeting of the National Negro Business League held in Boston in August, 1915, and had to be nursed for some weeks following before he was even strong enough to return to Tuskegee, he insisted in spite of the admonitions of physicians and the pleadings of friends, family, and colleagues, in keeping his engagement to speak before this great convention in Chicago in September. To all protests he replied, "It would do me more harm to stay away than to go." With these words, and rallying the rapidly waning dregs of his once great strength he went and made an address which ranks with the most powerful he ever delivered to his people. A threatened split in the Baptist denomination in part accounted for his insistence upon attending this convention. In this address, delivered only two months before he died of sheer exhaustion, and the last he made before any great body of his own people, he said in part:
"My only excuse for accepting your invitation to appear before you in these annual gatherings is that I am deeply interested in all that this National Baptist Convention stands for. It is in my opinion the largest and most representative body of colored people anywhere in the world.... I believe most profoundly in the work of this convention because it represents the common masses of all our people, those who are the foundation of our success as a race. I believe in you because you do not pretend to represent the classes but the masses of our people. I am here, too, because the Baptist Church among our people throughout the country is affording them an opportunity to get lessons in self-government in a degree that is true of few other organizations.
"You who control this great convention have before you a great opportunity and along with this opportunity a tremendous responsibility. It is given to you, as to all men, to pursue one of two courses, and that is, to be big leaders or little leaders. You can construct or you can destroy. The time is now at hand when in each individual church organization and each district association and each State convention and in this great national convention, the little man must give way and let the big, broad, generous man take his place. Nothing is ever gained in business, in education, or in religious work by being little, narrow, or jealous in our sympathies and activities."
Two days later, after he had left the convention and returned home, Mr. Washington received word that the convention had split, contending leaders holding out for what they termed principles. Immediately on the receipt of this report he dispatched the following telegram to the leaders of the two opposing factions:
I earnestly beg and urge that each convention remain in session until all differences are composed. In the event this cannot be done I hope each convention will empower a small committee or authorize some one to appoint committees that may have power in settling present difficulties so that next year there may be but one convention. It is easier now to bring about reconciliation than it will be later. It will be a calamity to the Baptist Church and to our race for the present split to continue. It will soon spread to all the Baptist churches in all the States. I would urge that each side manifest a broad liberal spirit and be willing to sacrifice something for the good of the cause. Millions of our humble people throughout the country are depending upon our leaders to settle their difficulties in a Christian spirit and they should not be disappointed. If I may be used at any time in any way my services are at your command. Have sent a similar telegram to Dr. ——.
[Signed] BOOKER T. WASHINGTON.
Unhappily he did not have the satisfaction of bringing the two factions together before he died, but until the last he continued his efforts in this direction.
Largely because of his intimate knowledge of the plain people Booker Washington appealed to the great of the earth. In his books, "Up from Slavery," "The Story of My Life and Work," and "My Larger Education," he tells of taking tea with Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle, of his association with Presidents McKinley, Roosevelt, and Taft, of his introduction to Prince Henry of Prussia, of his dining with the King and Queen of Denmark, and of his long friendships with William H. Baldwin, Jr., Robert C. Ogden, Henry H. Rogers, John D. Rockefeller, and Andrew Carnegie. He was of value and interest to such people largely because of his closeness to his own people. His power to interest such people was largely because he was so close to the rank and file of his own people.
After the death of Henry H. Rogers, Mr. Washington said of him in an interview published at the time in the New York Evening Post: "The more experiences I have of the world, the more I am convinced that the only proper and the only safe way to judge any one is at first hand and by your actual experience. It seems to me that, outside of the immediate members of my family, I knew the late Henry H. Rogers during the last fifteen years as well as I could know any one. Of all the men that I have ever known intimately, no matter what their station in life, Mr. Rogers always impressed me as being among the kindest and gentlest. That was the impression he made upon me the first time I ever met him, and during the fifteen years that I knew him that impression was deepened every time I met him." (And this was Booker Washington's impression of the second greatest figure in the building up of the huge, world-powerful corporation whose methods during its period of rapid expansion had at that time been only recently described in McClure's Magazine by Ida M. Tarbell.) "I am sure that the members of his family will forgive me for telling, now that he has laid down his great work and gone to rest, some things about him which I feel that the public should know but which he always forbade me to mention while he lived.
"The first time I ever met Mr. Rogers was in this manner: about fifteen years ago a large meeting was held in Madison Square Garden concert hall, to obtain funds for the Tuskegee Institute. Mr. Rogers attended the meeting, but came so late that, as the auditorium was crowded, he could not get a seat. He stood in the back part of the hall, however, and listened to the speaking.
"The next morning I received a telegram from him asking me to call at his office. When I entered he remarked that he had been present at the meeting the night previous, and expected the 'hat to be passed,' but as that was not done he wanted to 'chip in' something. Thereupon he handed me ten one-thousand-dollar bills for the Tuskegee Institute. In doing this he imposed only one condition, that the gift should be mentioned to no one. Later on, however, when I told him that I did not care to take so large a sum of money without some one knowing it, he consented that I tell one or two of our Trustees about the source of the gift. I cannot now recall the number of times that he has helped us, but in doing so he always insisted that his name be never used. He seemed to enjoy making gifts in currency."
In an article published in McClure's Magazine in May, 1902, Rear-Admiral Robley D. Evans thus describes the occasion on which he presented Booker Washington to Prince Henry of Prussia: "The first request made by Prince Henry, after being received in New York, was that I should arrange to give him some of the old Southern melodies, if possible, sung by Negroes; that he was passionately fond of them, and had been all his life—not the ragtime songs, but the old Negro melodies. Several times during his trip I endeavored to carry out his wishes, with more or less success; but finally, at the Waldorf-Astoria, the Hampton singers presented themselves in one of the reception rooms and gave him a recital of Indian and Negro melodies. He was charmed. And while I was talking to him, just after a Sioux Indian had sung a lullaby, he suddenly turned and said: 'Isn't that Booker T. Washington over there?' I recognized Washington and replied that it was, and he said: 'Evans, would you mind presenting him to me? I know how some of your people feel about Washington, but I have always had great sympathy with the African race, and I want to meet the man I regard as the leader of that race.' So I went at once to Washington and told him that the Prince wished him to be presented, and took him, myself, and presented him to the Prince. Booker Washington sat down and talked with him for fully ten minutes, and it was a most interesting conversation, one of the most interesting I ever heard in my life. The ease with which Washington conducted himself was very striking, and I only accounted for it afterward when I remembered that he had dined with the Queen of England two or three times, so that this was not a new thing for him. Indeed, Booker Washington's manner was easier than that of almost any other man I saw meet the Prince in this country. The Prince afterward referred to President Roosevelt's action in regard to Booker Washington, and applauded it very highly."
In 1911 Mr. Washington visited Denmark with the particular purpose of observing the world-famed agricultural methods of that country. While in Copenhagen he was presented to the King and Queen. This experience he described on his return to this country in an article published in the New York Age, the well-known Negro paper, in December of the same year. The portion of the article describing his meeting with the King and Queen reads as follows:
"Soon after I entered, the Chamberlain went in and presently returned to tell me the King would be ready to see me in about five minutes. At the end of the five minutes exactly the door was opened and I found myself in the King's chamber. I had expected to see a gorgeously fitted apartment, something to compare with what I had seen elsewhere in the palace. Imagine my surprise when I found practically nothing in the room except the King, himself. There was not a chair, a sofa, or, so far as I can recall, a single thing in the way of furniture—nothing except the King and his sword. I was surprised again, considering the formality by which he was surrounded, by the familiar and kindly manner in which the King received me, and by his excellent English. Both of us remained standing during the whole interview, which must have lasted twenty minutes. I say we remained standing, because, even had etiquette permitted it we could not have done anything else because there was nothing in the room for either of us to sit upon.
"I had been warned by the American Minister and Mr. Cavling, however, as to what might be the result of this interview. Among other things in regard to which I had been carefully instructed by the American Minister was I must never turn my back upon the King, that I must not lead off in any conversation, that I must let the King suggest the subjects to be discussed, and not take the initiative in raising any question for discussion. I tried to follow Minister Egan's instructions in this regard as well as I could, but I fear I was not wholly successful.
"I had not been talking with the King many minutes before I found that he was perfectly familiar with the work of the Tuskegee school, that he had read much that I had written, and was well acquainted with all that I was trying to do for the Negroes in the South. He referred to the fact that Denmark was interested in the colored people in their own colony in the Danish West Indies, and that both he and the Queen were anxious that something be done for the colored people in the Danish possessions similar to what we were doing at Tuskegee. He added that he hoped at some time I would find it possible to visit the Danish West Indian Islands.
"As I have said, I had been warned as to what might be the result of this visit to the King and that I had best be careful how I made my plans for the evening. As the interview was closing, the King took me by the hand and said, 'The Queen would be pleased to have you dine at the palace to-night,' at the same time naming the hour.
"The Minister had told me that this was his way of commanding persons to dine, and that an invitation given must be obeyed. Of course I was delighted to accept the invitation, though I feared it would wreck my plans for seeing the country people. The King was so kind and put me so at my ease in his presence that I fear I forgot Minister Eagan's warning not to turn my back upon him, and I must confess that I got out of the room in about the same way I usually go out of the room when I have had an audience with President Taft.
"Leaving the King and the palace, I found out on the street quite a group of newspaper people, most of them representing American papers, who were very anxious to know, in the usual American fashion, just what took place during the interview, how long I was with the King, what we talked about, and what not. They were especially anxious to know if I had been invited to the palace for dinner."
And further on he thus describes the dinner:
"The dinner was not at the palace where I was received in the morning, but at the summer palace several miles out of Copenhagen. When I reached the hotel from the country it soon dawned upon me that I was in great danger of being late. To keep a King and Queen and their guests waiting on one for dinner would of course be an outrageous offense. I dressed as hastily as I was able, but just as I was putting on the finishing touches to my costume my white tie bursted. I was in a predicament from which for a moment I saw no means of rescuing myself. I did not have time to get another tie, and of course I could not wear the black one. As well as I could, however, I put the white tie about my neck, fastened it with a pin, and earnestly prayed that it might remain in decent position until the dinner was over. Nevertheless, I trembled all through the dinner for fear that my tie might go back on me.
"I succeeded in reaching the summer palace about ten minutes before the time to go into the dining-room. Here again I was met by the King's Chamberlain by whom I was conveyed through a series of rooms and, finally, into the presence of the King, who, after some conversation, led me where the Queen was standing and presented me to her. The Queen received me graciously and even cordially. She spoke English perfectly, and seemed perfectly familiar with my work. I had, however, a sneaking idea that Minister Egan was responsible for a good deal of the familiarity which both the King and Queen seemed to exhibit regarding Tuskegee.
"As I entered the reception-room there were about twenty or twenty-five people who were to be entertained at dinner. I will not attempt to describe the elegance, not to say splendor, of everything in connection with the dinner. As I ate food for the first time in my life out of gold dishes, I could not but recall the time when as a slave boy I ate my syrup from a tin plate.
"I think I got through the dinner pretty well by following my usual custom, namely, of watching other people to see just what they did and what they did not do. There was one place, however, where I confess I made a failure. It is customary at the King's table, as is true at other functions in many portions of Europe, I understand, to drink a silent toast to the King. This was so new and strange to me that I decided that, since I did not understand the custom, the best thing was to frankly confess my ignorance. I reassured myself with the reflection that people will easier pardon ignorance than pretense.
"At a certain point during the dinner each guest is expected, it seems, to get the eye of the King and then rise and drink to the health of the King. When he rises he makes a bow to the King and the King returns the bow. Nothing is said by either the King or the guest. I think practically all the invited guests except myself went through this performance. It seemed to me a very fitting way of expressing respect for the King, as the head of a nation and as a man, and now that I know something about it, I think if I had another chance I could do myself credit in that regard.
"During the dinner I had the privilege of meeting a very interesting old gentleman, now some eighty years of age, the uncle of the King, Prince ——, who spoke good English. I had a very interesting conversation with him, and since returning to America I have had some correspondence with him.
"As I have already said, the Queen Mother of England was at this time in Copenhagen, and as I afterward learned, her sister, the Queen Mother of Russia, was also there. As both of these were in mourning on account of the recent death of King Edward, they did not appear at this dinner. I was reminded of their presence, however, when as I was leaving the King's palace after my interview in the morning, one of the marshals presented me with two autograph books, with the request that I inscribe my name in them. One of the books, as I afterward learned, belonged to the Queen Mother of England; the other belonged to the Queen Mother of Russia."
A mere catalogue of the principal organizations which Booker T. Washington founded for the purpose of helping his people to help themselves tells a story of constructive achievement more impressive than any amount of abstract eulogy.
The following is a list of such organizations given in chronological order with a few words of description for the purpose of identifying each:
In 1884 he founded the Teachers' Institute, consisting of summer courses, conferences, and exhibits having as their main purpose the extension of the advantages of Tuskegee Institute to the country school teachers of the surrounding country. The work of this Institute is described in the chapter: "Washington, the Educator."
In 1891 he established the Annual Tuskegee Negro Conference. He decided that the school should not only help directly its own students, but should reach out and help the students' parents and the older people generally in the country districts of the State. He started by inviting the farmers and their wives in the immediate locality to spend a day at the school for the frank discussion of their material and spiritual condition to the end that the school might learn how it could best help them to help themselves. From this simple beginning the Conference has grown until it now consists of delegates from every Southern State, besides hundreds of teachers and principals of Negro schools, Northern men and women, publicists and philanthropists, newspaper and magazine writers, Southern white men and Southern white women, all interested in helping the simple black folk in their strivings to "quit libin' in de ashes," as one of them fervently expressed it. At one of these conferences an old preacher from a country district concluded an earnest prayer for the deliverance of his people from the bondage of ignorance with this startling sentence: "And now, O Lord, put dy foot down in our hearts and lif' us up!"
The year following Mr. Washington established a hospital in Greenwood village, the hamlet adjoining the Institute grounds where live most of the teachers, officers, and employees. It was at first hardly more than a dispensary, but when the Institute acquired a Resident Physician two small buildings were set aside as hospitals for men and women, respectively. Later a five-thousand-dollar building was given which served as the hospital until, in 1913, Mrs. Elizabeth A. Mason, of Boston, presented Tuskegee with a fifty-thousand-dollar splendidly equipped modern hospital, in memory of her grandfather, John A. Andrew, the War Governor of Massachusetts. While these hospitals, from the first humble dispensary to the fine hospital of to-day, were of course primarily for the Institute they were in true Tuskegee fashion thrown open to all who needed them. And since the town of Tuskegee has no hospital they have always been freely used by outside colored people. Mr. Washington, himself, on his riding and hunting trips would from time to time find sick people whom he would have brought to the hospital for care.
The next year, 1893, he started the Minister's Night School. This is conducted by the Phelps Hall Bible Training School of the Institute. Here country ministers with large families and small means are given night courses in all the subjects likely to be of service to them from "Biblical criticism" to the "planting and cultivating of crops."
The year following Mrs. Washington began the Tuskegee Town Mothers' Meetings. Both she and Mr. Washington had long been distressed at seeing the women and young girls loafing about the streets of the town of Tuskegee when they came to town with their husbands and fathers on Saturday afternoons. Now, instead of loafing about the streets these women attend the Mothers' Meetings where Mrs. Washington and the various women teachers give them practical talks on all manner of housekeeping and family-raising problems from the making of preserves to proper parental care.
In 1895 the Building and Loan Association was established. The Institute's chief accountant is its president, and the Institute's treasurer its secretary and treasurer. This Association has enabled many scores of people to secure their own homes who without its aid could not have done so.
The next year the Town Night School was started. This school has as its purpose giving instruction to the boys and girls who have positions in the town which make it impossible for them to attend the Institute, and to the servants in the white families. This school has become one of the best and strongest forces in the life of the community. As an outgrowth of it came later the Town Library and Reading Room, for which Mr. Washington personally provided the room. There is now in this school a cooking class for girls and several industrial classes for boys. At the same time Mr. Washington established a Farmers' Institute which is described in the chapter "Washington and the Negro Farmer."
In 1898 he started a County Fair to spur the ambition of the Negro farmers of the county. This Negro County Fair under his guidance grew and flourished from year to year. The whites maintained a separate County Fair. Finally the two fairs were combined, and now one of the most flourishing County Fairs in all the South is conducted, both races supporting it by making exhibits, and sharing in the success and profits of the enterprise, as well as in its general management.
In 1900 he organized the National Negro Business League, as described in the chapter, "Washington and the Negro Business Man."
Two years later he established the Greenwood Village Improvement Association for the little community which has grown up around the school. Taxes are collected from the property holders as well as the renters for the upkeep of the roads, bridges, and fences, and a park in the centre of the village, which was introduced in emulation of the typical New England village. Just as in New England, also, this central park, or "green," is surrounded by a number of churches. An elective Board of Control presides over this village, settles disputes, and keeps the community in good repair morally and spiritually, as well as physically. On the Monday immediately following the close of a regular school term a town meeting is held at which reports are read and discussed covering every phase of the life of the community. Mr. Washington particularly enjoyed presiding at these meetings because they demonstrated what the people of his race could accomplish under a favorable and stimulating environment. He always contrived to have the meetings followed by simple refreshments and a social hour.
In 1904 he started the Rural School Improvement Campaign and the Farmers' Short Course at the Institute, both of which are described in the chapter, "Washington, the Educator." In the same year he started a systematic effort to improve the conditions in the jails and the chain gangs and for the rehabilitation of released prisoners.
The next year he founded a weekly farm paper, a circulating library, and a Ministers' Institute. The year after, 1906, the Jesup Agricultural Wagon—the agricultural school on wheels, which is described in the chapter, "Washington, the Educator"—was started. In 1907 the farmers' cooperative demonstration work, which has also been mentioned, was inaugurated. In 1910 the rural improvement speaking tours began. And finally, in 1914, he established "Baldwin Farms," the farming community for the graduates of the agricultural department of Tuskegee, which also has been previously described.
These, then, are some of the tangible means which Booker Washington developed during a period of thirty years for keeping in touch with his people and for keeping his people in touch with one another and with all the things which go to make up wholesome and useful living.
BOOKER WASHINGTON AND THE NEGRO FARMER
Booker T. Washington was a great believer in the experience meeting, and the Tuskegee Negro Conference, which he started in 1891, is nothing more nor less than an agricultural experience meeting. He placed his faith in the persuasive power of example—in the contagion of successful achievement. He once said: "One farm bought, one house built, one home sweetly and intelligently kept, one man who is the largest taxpayer or has the largest bank account, one school or church maintained, one factory running successfully, one truck garden profitably cultivated, one patient cured by a Negro doctor, one sermon well preached, one office well filled, one life cleanly lived—these will tell more in our favor than all the abstract eloquence that can be summoned to plead our cause. Our pathway must be up through the soil, up through swamps, up through forests, up through the streams, the rocks, up through commerce, education, and religion."
Nothing delighted Mr. Washington more than the successful Negro farmers who had started in life without money, friends, influence, or education—with literally nothing but their hands. At one of the Tuskegee conferences not many years ago his keen eyes spotted such a man in the audience and he called to him in his straight from the shoulder manner: "Get up and tell us what you have been doing as a farmer."