FROM SLAVE TO COLLEGE PRESIDENT
The "Lives Worth Living" SERIES OF POPULAR BIOGRAPHIES. Illustrated. Crown 8vo, Cloth Extra, Gilt Edges, 3s. 6d. per Volume. #1. LEADERS OF MEN.# By H. A. PAGE, Author of "Golden Lives." Sixth Edition. #2. WISE WORDS AND LOVING DEEDS.# By E. CONDER GRAY. Eighth Edition. #3. MASTER MISSIONARIES.# By A. H. JAPP, LL.D., F.R.S.E. Sixth Edition. #4. LABOUR AND VICTORY.# By A. H. JAPP, LL.D. Third Edition. #5. HEROIC ADVENTURE.# Illustrated. Third Edition. #6. GREAT MINDS IN ART.# By WILLIAM TIREBUCK. Second Edition. #7. GOOD MEN AND TRUE.# By A. H. JAPP, LL.D. Second Edition. #8. FAMOUS MUSICAL COMPOSERS.# By LYDIA MORRIS. Second Edition. #9. OLIVER CROMWELL AND HIS TIMES.# By G. HOLDEN PIKE. With 8 Illustrations, including the Bristol Portrait as Frontispiece.
FROM SLAVE TO COLLEGE PRESIDENT
LIFE STORY OF BOOKER T. WASHINGTON
BY G. HOLDEN PIKE
Author of "Oliver Cromwell and His Times," Etc., Etc.
With Frontispiece Portrait
London T. Fisher Unwin Paternoster Square 1902
[All rights reserved.]
CAPTAIN JOHN BROWN OF HARPER'S FERRY BY JOHN NEWTON Crown 8vo, Cloth, 6s. Fully Illustrated. There are few to whom the lines, "John Brown's body lies a-mould'ring in the grave, But his soul's marching on," are not familiar, but few are now aware that they came into being as the marching song, made and used by the followers of "John Brown of Harper's Ferry," or of "Ossawatomie," after he had been executed. His was a stirring life. Having conceived the idea of becoming the liberator of the negro slaves in the Southern States of North America, he emigrated in 1855 from Ohio to Kansas, where he took an active part in the contest against the pro-slavery party. He gained, in August 1856, a victory at Ossawatomie over a superior number of Missourians who had invaded Kansas (whence the surname "Ossawatomie"). On the night of October 16, 1859, he seized the arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, at the head of a small band of followers with a view to arming the negroes and inciting an insurrection. He was captured October 18th, was tried by the Commonwealth of Virginia, and was executed at Charlestown, December 2, 1859. Mr Newton has been at pains to inform himself from every available source upon which it was possible to draw for a biography of John Brown. The result is a most exhaustive work, in which the part Brown took in the Kansas border wars, all his preparations for Harper's Ferry and what occurred there, and his trial are fully related. Practically no day between Brown's condemnation and his execution nearly a month is ignored, and many most interesting particulars are given of Brown's family. The judgments of his great countrymen, Whittier, Thoreau and Emerson, as well as that of the great romancer, Victor Hugo, are related, and interesting sketches are given of many prominent men of all parties with whom Brown came in contact.
I. WANTED: A MAN—THE MAN FOUND 1
II. THE ERA OF FREEDOM—REALISING THAT KNOWLEDGE IS POWER 16
III. OFF TO HAMPTON—WAS HE A LIKELY CANDIDATE? 32
IV. GENERAL ARMSTRONG—HIS PREDECESSORS AND COLLABORATORS—PIONEERS OF THE NEW ERA 41
V. UPS AND DOWNS—PROGRESS AS A STUDENT—BEGINNING TO TEACH 49
VI. AMERICAN INDIANS—WORK AT HAMPTON 60
VII. THE BEGINNING OF A LIFE WORK 71
VIII. SOME ACTUAL RESULTS—POSSIBLE DEVELOPMENTS 85
IX. CONTINUED PROGRESS—POPULARITY AS A SPEAKER 94
X. VISIT TO EUROPE—RETURN TO TUSKEGEE 104
FROM SLAVE TO COLLEGE PRESIDENT
WANTED: A MAN—THE MAN FOUND
Just at the most severe crisis of the war between France and Germany, over thirty years ago, a London newspaper, in describing the situation, remarked that France wanted not men, but a Man. During a whole generation which followed after the close of the gigantic and sanguinary conflict between the Northern and Southern States of the American Republic, a similar remark would have applied to the millions of slaves who, though nominally free, were drifting hither and thither, now groping in the wrong direction altogether, or missing opportunities they might have embraced, had there but been one commanding personality in their midst to give the word and lead the way. There seemed to be too many negroes, while they were still increasing with a rapidity which inspired misgiving. The race seemed to be "at sea" for want of a Man. At length the much-needed chief or leader was found in Booker T. Washington, whose distinguished work on behalf of the race at the great institution which he has founded at Tuskegee has given him a world-wide reputation. As a negro, his mission is to the men and women of his own nation.
In regard to this man with his commanding personality, the International Monthly of New York says:—"At the present time he is universally recognised as the foremost representative of his race. He is eagerly sought after as a speaker. Whatever he chooses to write immediately finds a willing publisher. Newspaper eulogy declares him to be a remarkable orator. He is often spoken of as of solid, and even brilliant, intellectual attainments. How much of all this vogue and of this unusual reputation is based upon the fact that he is a negro, and how much upon his native merit when weighed and judged without regard to any other consideration whatsoever? Has he, in fact, done that which, had he been a white man, would have given him a solid and substantial claim to the esteem that he now enjoys?"
Mr Harry T. Peck, who writes thus, ventures the opinion that the estimate of the public in regard to Booker Washington is exaggerated. "There is no evidence that his mind is in any way exceptional," he adds.... "Were he a white man, he never would be singled out for eminence.... He is not an orator; he is not a writer; he is not a thinker. He is something more than these. He is the man who comes at the psychological moment and does the thing which is wanting to be done, and which no one else has yet accomplished." This can hardly be accepted as genuine criticism. Just as we judge a tree by its fruits, so we measure capacity, and even genius, by its results. If, as is generally acknowledged to be the case, Booker Washington has practically solved that Race Problem which American politicians have hardly dared to face since the close of the Civil War, it is only fair that we accord him the distinction of possessing that original shrewdness which may even be called genius. When an idea of exceptional value is given forth, one that is all the greater on account of its simplicity, people seem to be naturally disposed to underrate the power which gave it utterance. Booker Washington may merely be following in the footsteps of Adam Smith when, instead of regarding the negro population as an evil or a grievance, he prescribes that their labour, as a source of vast wealth, be utilised for the national advancement. Viewed from any other standpoint, there can be no doubt that the rapidly-increasing negroes inspire some disquieting apprehensions as a possible source of inconvenience or of actual danger. Once get the coloured race well under control, however, and the result would be all-round satisfaction.
Thus Booker Washington is not only the man of the hour to his own people; in him the Man who has been wanted for forty years has been found. Being somewhat over forty years of age, he was born in those portentous times towards the end of the sixth decade of the last century when the political horizon of the Republic was darkening and showing symptoms of the coming Civil War. Virginia, his native State, was the most populous and wealthy of the original thirteen, which, as colonies, separated from Great Britain after the War of Independence. In the days of his childhood, before the Civil War actually broke out, his surroundings were those of the cabin standing amid the squalor of slavery. All the sad, as well as the comic, phases of life on the Southern plantations, as they then existed, are vividly remembered by Booker Washington. Of course, to the slaves themselves very much depended on the disposition of their owners, or on the character of the overseers which those planters employed. The lot of Booker Washington was what may be called an average one. It was not so bad as that of many others who were less fortunate; nor was it so good as the exceptional experience of the few who were born amid the most favourable surroundings. It was, of course, a sad childhood, unrelieved by anything like what we should in Great Britain call the comforts of life. He was a keen-witted lad; but the shrewdest of seers could not have foreseen that he would develop into the man of hope whom the negroes, after their coming emancipation, would most sorely need.
At the time of his birth, some forty-three or forty-four years ago—the exact place or time being alike unknown—the public sentiment in regard to emancipation had made great advances, and this had been effected chiefly through the diffusion of millions of copies of Mrs H. B. Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. Among those in this country who believed the descriptions in that work to be exaggerated, and that Legree was a non-existent character, we have to include Charles Dickens. At the same time, that famous novelist, in common with some others, probably clearly saw that the days of slavery were numbered. "In truth, it must be so," remarked one journalist at the time when Uncle Tom's Cabin was the most popular book both in the Old and the New World. "In truth, it must be so, for the very laws of population forbid the permanence of slavery in America. The black man thrives where the white man decays, and it is the knowledge of this very remarkable fact that in great part accounts for the dislike to the coloured population which is everywhere expressed in the United States." The social inequality of the negroes and the whites struck people then, as it does to-day in this country, as being one of the most marked features of American society. There is probably no remedy for that state of things, and it is partly through his recognising this fact, and knowing that the negroes must continue to be a race by themselves, that Booker Washington's success has been what it is.
Meanwhile, what kind of existence was the everyday life on a plantation "down South" in the days of Booker Washington's childhood? By way of reply, take this vivid word-picture from Mr Casey's Two Years on the Farm of Uncle Sam, which was published in the decade of our hero's birth:—
"The slaves are all that I had imagined, coming up to the dark outline of fancy with a terrible precision. We put in to wood at one of these places, and for the first time I saw these hewers of wood and drawers of water. A party of us went on shore to shoot; some distance in the wood we found two men, three women and two boys; there were twenty in all on this farm. The women were dressed in a rough, shapeless, coarse garment, buttoned at the back, with a sort of trousers of the same material, rough shoes and stockings, the upper garment reaching nearly to the ankle; a kind of cloth, like a dirty towel, was wound round the head. One of the women drove an ox-team; she had a large and powerful whip, with which, and a surprising strength, she belaboured and tugged the unwieldy team with great dexterity. The other woman had five children, and assisted in loading the wood; the younger, about sixteen years of age, had one child, and appeared to do nothing. The women, it seemed to me, worked harder than the men. I observed the almost complete absence of memory in the elder woman; she could not remember where she had left the link-chain or goad-whip, though but a few minutes out of her hand. I must confess that, looking on that labour-crooked group, I felt a dislike, strong and definite, to that system which takes away even the hope of improvement, crushing down the principle of self-esteem in the man, until it reaches the passive and unambitious existence of the oxen which he drives. And looking on those women, negroes though they were, so unnaturally masculine, so completely unsexed, so far removed from all those attributes with which the name of woman is associated, I felt that no reason based on an asserted right, no fiction of argument, could stand in my judgment but as dust in the balance when the question is whether a human being—no matter of what colour, whether an Indian or an African sun may have burned upon him—should possess the liberty or right of securing his own happiness to the extent of his ability. Then their state, their look, bodies, mind and manner were so many self-evident arguments against the system, which no representations, however plausible, could refute; and all that I had listened to from Southerners on the voyage disappeared like gossamer in the tempest before the mute, living picture of wretchedness presented by that group."
Brought up amid such surroundings, one would not know much about his ancestry, if anything at all. A great planter gave no more heed to the pedigree of his slaves than he did to that of his cattle; all alike were bought and sold in the open market, and neither one nor the other had any rights or privileges apart from the will of their owners. The cabin of the slave family was, in a very literal sense, what its name implied—a cabin and nothing more. The household was not supposed to need more than one room; the furniture was, of course, as rude as the hovel itself, and, though the apartment would be well ventilated, glass windows were not considered necessary. A pallet on the earthern floor was the only sleeping accommodation. It was one-room life under one of its worst phases; and, in addition to other drawbacks, the inmates suffered from cold and draughts in winter and from heat in summer. It is almost needless to say that under such conditions and amid such surroundings a lad like Booker Washington fared neither better nor worse than tens of thousands of his fellows; his earliest days were not cheered by any of the sunshine of childhood. As a rule, the children of the slave-cabin knew nothing of those ordinary sports and pastimes which relieve and give variety to the early days of the young under happier circumstances. Of course, he was not more than a child when slavery came to an end, but in the case of such a child slave, at a very early age indeed, his possible service was found to be commercially too valuable to be altogether dispensed with. He could do duty as a messenger or as a porter between the great house—a sumptuous palace in comparison with the slave-cabins—and the fields where his elders were at work. With a horse he could also go on more distant errands, some of which, along lonely roads, were not unattended with danger. Thus the dense, dark woods through which he might have to pass, when taking corn to be ground at a distant mill, would be haunted by imaginary spectres; and, besides, there were said to be deserters from the Confederate Army hidden in those recesses who, by way of sport, would relieve any negro lad of his ears if they chanced to meet with him. Such were the last repellent phases of that phase of that now obsolete world of slavery in Old Virginia as Booker Washington remembers them.
In our common, everyday talk we are accustomed to say that the darkest hour of night precedes the dawn of day. It was so in this instance. The time of Booker Washington's birth, and for some years after, was apparently the darkest period in the history of the slaves of the Southern States. For long the negroes of the plantations not only grew up quite illiterate—it was a punishable offence for them to make any endeavour to learn to read, or for anyone to attempt to teach them. Not very long before the Fugitive Slave Law had found a place in the Statute Book of the Republic, and this Act made it illegal for any fugitive slave to find either shelter or aid in any State of the Union. Then, just about the same time, the American Chief-Justice had, in his official capacity, declared that nowhere in any one of the States had a slave any rights of citizenship. In a word, the slaves on a plantation were simply on a level, in a legal sense, with the cattle they tended or used in their everyday work. For example, the mere children had no regular meal times in the conventional sense as we understand things; and there was little or nothing of what we should recognise as family life. Thus when, after the era of emancipation, Booker Washington came to the experience of sleeping in an ordinary bed and sitting down at table to partake of a family meal, both were a revelation of civilised existence which were quite new to him.
In a sense the very denial to the slave population of their educational rights would seem to have had something like the effect of sharpening their wits, until they became not only interested in what was happening around them, but the shrewdest observers of the signs of the times. Like other boys of his race, Booker Washington ran wild when he was not engaged in his customary errands, and without so much as learning even the English alphabet. But this compulsory ignorance seems to have intensified that ardent desire for knowledge which was part of his nature. Among his errands he might have to go to a schoolhouse where companies of happy young people were engaged over their books, and he was naturally much affected by what he saw and heard. Why was not he privileged in a similar way? Tens of thousands of negro boys may have asked themselves that same question in the generations that preceded him, and in every instance the answer would be the same—schools are forbidden to the slave. The coloured population was fast increasing, and the planters believed that the public safety could only be guaranteed by compelling them to remain illiterate.
In point of fact, however, the slaves on the plantations were not as ignorant as their too sanguine owners supposed them to be. In a secret way one here and there may even have learned to read; and, in regard to what was going on in the outside world, they were oftentimes hardly less well informed than their masters and mistresses. As Booker Washington remembers it, the time of his childhood was a wonderful era of transition. None more fully realised than the slaves themselves that the bone of contention which occasioned the Civil War was the question of slavery. Thus, to them, the period of conflict was a time of wild, but still subdued, excitement, for fear their sentiments should be detected and be followed by pains and penalties. The traffic on "the underground railroad" was probably for the time suspended; but what was called "the grapevine telegraph" was in full operation, and on every plantation and in every planter's palatial mansion the slaves looked for its messages with that ardent interest which cannot be described. They could not read newspapers, and would have been forbidden to do so had they been able, but whenever a messenger was sent to a neighbouring town he took care to linger about the post-office, or elsewhere where persons conversed on the current news, and everything that entered the coloured messenger's sharpened ears soon became generally known to every soul on the plantation. There were masters who professed to believe that their people would fight for them; but in secret nocturnal meetings these slaves congratulated one another on every Northern victory, while they prayed with pathetic ardour for the success of Lincoln and his armies.
At the same time, when they were tolerably well used by their owners, there was a good deal of sympathy binding together the coloured race and the white people. Booker Washington does not think that his race have ever betrayed any trust that has been reposed in them. Being born into slavery, they grew up without being acquainted with any other condition of life, so that it must have appeared quite natural to them for the dominant whites to live in the great house and for themselves, who were merely niggers, to herd in the cabins. But while they never undervalued freedom, and, personally, ardently longed for it, there were certain things which exercised influence over them of a softening kind, despite the master grievance of hard bondage and its occasional cruel hardships. For example, Booker Washington, at a very early age, undertook such service as he could perform in his master's house; and it was not only a possibility, it frequently happened, that a young servant, whether a lad or a girl, became a favourite with the members of the family. The younger white people would sometimes favour or protect a slave when he got into trouble, and thus something like genuine affection would be kindled in the hearts of the subject race. What animated conversations respecting the two great armies in the field such a boy as Booker Washington would hear at his master's table while he was engaged in keeping the room as clear as possible of flies! This was another way of getting the current news by those who did not form any part even of the fringe of the newspaper constituency. Then, of course, there was the constant occurrence of the usual casualties of war. Bitter sorrow and mourning, like angels of darkness, would steal into the luxurious homes of the planters when the master himself, or a son of the household, was returned invalided or so sorely wounded as to be maimed for life. It was still worse when, as it actually happened, one or another of these chief people of the Southern Confederacy was killed. There was then the anguish of mourning in the household akin to that which afflicted the people of Egypt when the first-born of each family was slain. In many cases, whether the fallen or the wounded might belong to the older or the younger generation, the slaves themselves were touched by the affliction of the family, because they never forgot the good deeds of those who had befriended them. It seems to be the belief of Booker Washington that, in any case, if, as trusted servants, they had been left in charge of a house by night or day, they would never have surrendered to the enemies of their owners, even though the invaders might have been men of the Northern battalions who were practically fighting for the freedom of the oppressed race. Still, it is thought with good reason that both the white and the coloured races were losers by slavery. As was inevitable, it turned out that one race cannot oppress another without being affected for the worse. Over the best of the plantations there seemed to hover a shadow, as though something were wanting to make the prosperity complete, when wealth was amassed by doubtful means. Instead of being a pleasure and honourable, labour was looked upon as something which had degradation associated with it. The planters and their families held aloof from it because it was the badge of slavery. The slaves themselves disliked it because it belonged to their condition of bondage.
As it has been shown, slavery reached its darkest phase in the years which immediately preceded the era of emancipation, during Booker Washington's childhood. Many telling illustrations might be given to show that this was actually the fact. I am personally well acquainted with an ex-slave, who is also a native of Virginia, who vividly remembers those days. At the time of his birth his mother was hardly more than sixteen years of age; but, notwithstanding, this girl had already tasted enough of the anguish and bitterness of slavery which might more than have sufficed for a long lifetime. She was so roughly treated by her owner that for some little time preceding her child's birth she remained concealed in a neighbouring wood, where the only diet procurable was berries or wild fruit. In this case the painful anomaly was that the slave-girl's husband was a free man who, loving his wife and child, made strenuous efforts to purchase them, but did so quite unsuccessfully. The master even moved away to another place, where the mother did the work of a domestic servant, and during this time her son experienced something of the gaiety of childhood while playing in the yard with coloured juveniles of his own age, who, like himself, were as young cattle in a pen growing up for a sad destiny.
In those days, as Booker Washington himself would be aware, slave-mothers would at times speak to their children of Georgia, or going "down South," in order to inspire terror. Going to Georgia meant to pass on into a land without hope, of darkness and death. Occasionally a hard-featured stranger would appear on the scene, and, while leaning on the fence with folded arms, he would watch the boys at play in the yard with the interested glances of a trader. Then, as must have appeared mysteriously to the boys themselves, after the stranger had gone away, one or another of the boys would be missing. Then it would be whispered, as though some horror had overtaken them, the missing boy had been taken "down South"—into Georgia.
Booker Washington is certainly one of the most extraordinary examples on record of the successful pursuit of knowledge under difficulties; but there have been many striking examples among slaves of lads showing this mettle. My ex-slave friend, to whom reference has been made, is certainly to be reckoned as one of these. It is probable that his mother may have passed as a woman of education, seeing that she knew the English alphabet and was able to count a hundred. Be this as it may, however, like a genuine Christian mother, she determined that, in spite of planters and their laws, her child should learn whatever she could teach him. In due course the boy himself showed a flaming desire to learn. By dint of remarkable diligence and perseverance, he got ahead of his mother in knowledge. If learning was carried on in secret, there had rarely been found a more ardent pupil. Without inconvenient questions being asked, he succeeded in purchasing a copy-book and spelling primer, which were well used on all possible occasions. He actually went through the whole of the Bible when he could not master more than one in eight of the words. This man afterwards enjoyed the benefit of a college education in England, so that his case is worthy of being mentioned as being similar to that of Booker Washington. Both instances alike show that negroes may not only have good intellectual endowments, but may also succeed in high aims by dint of unflagging energy and perseverance.
At length the era of freedom came; and although at that time Booker Washington was still too young to realise what all the excitement and commotion portended, those who looked upon him saw the child who would develop into a benefactor of his race and the most distinguished negro of his time. The Man who was wanted was found.
THE ERA OF FREEDOM—REALISING THAT KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
The great, long-looked-for and ardently-prayed-for day of freedom had come at last, and probably one of the things which Booker Washington remembers is the kiss which his mother gave him after listening to the reading of President Lincoln's Proclamation, and to which the Southern leaders were compelled to yield when the pressure of the Northern army became too great to be longer resisted. In common justice to the Southern planters, we have to remember that the crisis may have meant little if anything short of actual ruin. The human chattels, as slaves were often called, were not seldom very valuable bargains in the open market. A sum of 3000 dollars in gold was once offered for the ex-slave friend to whom reference has been made, and was at once refused by his owner. It can well be believed that one who has developed such a gift for organisation as Booker Washington would have commanded a much higher figure, although such prices were, of course, far in advance of the average.
It might also be said that the planters were not responsible for slavery having become an institution of the Republic, and that they had to do with things as they found them. But while this may be true, it has also to be admitted that the Southern States retained that institution longer than their neighbours. At the end of the century in which the Republic secured its independence there were under 900,000 slaves in the whole of the United States; but the total was nearly 4,000,000 in the year of emancipation. The Northern States had already liberated their slaves in a gradual way about a quarter of a century before that crisis. For generations slavery had been denounced as a wrong, amounting to a great evil, by a number of chief men among the Republican leaders, such as Franklin and Washington, Madison and Jefferson, and others. These men were sufficiently outspoken to regard the thing as being quite out of keeping with the principles of the Declaration of Independence. Nevertheless, differences of opinion over this matter not only led to violent controversy but to religious division, the most notable split being that of the Episcopal Methodist Church, which henceforth had its Northern and Southern sections, the latter being founded on a pro-slavery basis.
Young as he was when the great revolution of complete abolition in the Southern States was brought about, Booker Washington was still able to show a child's keenest interest in what was taking place. It was as if the sun had risen on new times altogether; the very winds seemed to blow more cheerfully; the sky above seemed to be bright with promise with better things to come than mere niggers had ever known before; it was as though the Golden Age itself had dawned. The sharp-witted little son of the slave-girl could heartily enter into his mother's joy, but he could not take in the meaning of the things that were happening as he has been able to understand them since. Such a child was naturally affected by the growing boldness and enthusiasm of his elders, who for some time before the final catastrophe clearly anticipated what the end would be. When they gathered at their nocturnal meetings there was unwonted light in their eyes; a spirit of hope and cheerfulness such as they had never known before gave new life to their hymns, which had too often been sad or weird; their feelings became irrepressible. There were signs and tokens of various kinds which the working slaves well understood, whatever this child of a slave-mother may have made of them. There was something in the air which told that something uncommon was coming—"a sound of going in the tops of the mulberry trees," as it were, which betokened that the great day of freedom had come. Straggling soldiers, who had broken away from the Confederate Army, had a doleful story to tell of disaster and collapse. Then, besides, the inmates of the great house were thinking of how best they could secure their valuables if the invaders actually came. Then, on the first Sunday of April 1865, the catastrophe may be said to have really come. On that day vast quantities of stores were burned at Richmond; during the night many a slave-owner stole away, and in the early morning numbers who had been slaves found themselves no longer in bondage when they greeted the regiments of the Northern Army.
Booker Washington testifies to the wild excess of joy with which the slaves on all the plantations accepted the freedom which had come to them in this remarkable, but no doubt providential, way. For the moment they took no account of the future; they were altogether intoxicated while trying to estimate the reality of that new condition in which they found themselves—that inestimable blessing about which their forefathers had prayed through long and weary generations. The thing seemed to be too good to be true, and yet it was actually with them—it was their own blissful possession!
Then, as was inevitable, human nature being what it is, there came a somewhat strong reaction to this outburst of feeling and irrepressible excitement. What about the future? Practically, a whole nation of something like 4,000,000 persons had suddenly been set free, severed from their employment and their masters, who in their way had looked after them. Those masters had been sorely reduced by the war; many members of the great houses had been killed or wounded. What was to become of those millions of coloured people who had never come in contact with the outer world, who, with a few exceptions, were quite illiterate and knew nothing of the outside world? No wonder that a certain amount of gloom and misgiving soon took the place of that exuberance of joy which the sense of freedom had at first inspired. The crisis was sufficiently serious for those who were young and strong, but what was to become of the aged or those who were worn out in the hard service of the plantations?
Probably the gloom which now overtook so many of the coloured people was as exaggerated as their wild ideas about their good fortune when freedom first came to them. These coloured folk were apt to run into extremes. Booker Washington well remembers them in both moods; and he also can call to mind how they came to see that, after all, liberty was an inheritance of sterling worth when it was fairly estimated. One advantage of the new-found freedom consisted in possessing the right to choose a respectable surname; and another gain was the right, if they felt so disposed, to leave the old haunts and, in some measure, to look round the outside world. Otherwise, they could hardly tell how it might feel to be free. As is the case with agricultural labourers in general, these poor coloured slave folk, with whom Booker Washington was acquainted, had never been far afield from the place of their birth, and, having seen so little of the world, they found that the world was a wide place and, in some respects, different from what they had expected. Of course, a large number were glad to return to the plantations and to agree with their old employers to work as labourers. In choosing their new names, the ex-slaves showed some good taste as well as ambition. Having the patronymic list of presidents, statesmen, soldiers and others to select from, they bedecked themselves in becoming style, not forgetting a middle and, apparently, an initial letter, which usually did not represent a name at all, but, as showing the American manner, was still indispensable. Even in the case of the distinguished negro, an account of whose life and work is given in this volume, he had no such name as Booker T. Washington while he remained in a state of slavery; he chose it for himself after he became free, and all must admit that he made a good selection.
Mrs Washington—as by courtesy she may be called—did not return to the fields after gaining her freedom, as was the case with so many of her old companions. Circumstances led to her removal to Malden, in West Virginia, and which is also in the suburbs of Charleston. Still being quite a young lad, Booker Washington accompanied his mother, as did also his brother John, the object being to join their mother's husband—the man being only their stepfather—who was then employed in the salt industry.
Notwithstanding that all were now free, the temporal prosperity of the family so far showed no improvement. Amid the huts and furnaces of the salt-producing little town there was even less comfort, and far more repulsive squalor, than there had been on the plantation among fellow-slaves. Being a mixture of coloured and white people, the main part were a degraded set; so that, after all the toil and rough adventure of some weeks of travelling, the wonder is that the future benefactor of his race was not utterly demoralised amid his new surroundings. Perhaps it turned out to his advantage that he had to work hard through very long days.
Ever since the time that he began to think about anything, Booker Washington had been inspired by a very strong desire to learn to read. He resolved that, come what might, he would, if possible, so far distinguish himself as to become competent to read the periodicals and newspapers of the day. This was a very praiseworthy resolution to make, but to ordinary persons how utterly impossible of attainment it must have seemed when all things were against them. By a roundabout way he so far advanced as to be able to understand what certain figures on a salt-barrel meant; but he had not even a primer or spelling-book until, on being earnestly requested to do so, his mother was successful in her strenuous endeavours to obtain one. In the whole circle of his coloured acquaintance the ex-slave child knew of no individual who could read, his mother being no exception. This fact, however, seems to have the effect of bringing out in bolder outline the sterling traits of this negro woman's character. She was evidently uncommonly shrewd in worldly matters, and, instead of advising her child not to attempt what might well have seemed to be impossibilities, she showed that wholesome ambition for the boy's future which proved her to be of a superior nature, while she was a genuine, loving mother. We may be sure that Booker Washington inherited his gifts and indomitable perseverance from his mother. A long line of distinguished men have borne similar testimony. Men who have lived and laboured for the benefit of others have been, in very many instances, what their mothers made them.
Having obtained his spelling-book, Booker Washington commenced his education without a teacher, the consequence being that he was occupied for some weeks in overcoming the difficulties of the alphabet, which, under the most favourable conditions, would have detained him but a few hours. In due course he made more rapid progress under the teaching of a negro boy who had the rare distinction of being able to read a printed page; and, as was quite natural, such an example of literary attainments in youth was no less envied than admired.
Then something else occurred which cannot fail to strike us as being almost a phenomenon—at all events, a thing altogether extraordinary under the circumstances. What, through the vista of a third of a century, looks like a perfect furore for education took complete possession of the ex-slaves, and, what made this the more singular, the burning desire for school teaching extended to aspirants of all ages. Before philanthropists came forward to help them the coloured people were found to have their own appointed tutor, and care was taken that he should fare well. Thus, in the case of Booker Washington, the first comparatively competent teacher with whom he came in contact was a quondam soldier who had served in the war. Surely no tutor ever had more enthusiastic pupils; and whether the age of the learner was seven or seventy-five, it seemed to make no difference in damping their enthusiasm. Indeed, it may be seriously questioned whether any other race of people would ever have rivalled this extraordinary ardour in learning to read. And circumstances made it necessary that even the Sunday schools, in common with the day schools, should, first of all, give the most elementary of teaching. What a contrast such a state of things presents to anything of the kind with which we are familiar in connection with any other country! How many there are who remain illiterate, or semi-illiterate, in spite of the schools which are provided and admirably equipped under any national system of education! In their darkest days of ignorance and bondage the negro slaves showed the most lively desire for education. In what measure is that true of any other race? We know that through a long succession of centuries our own peasantry remained, for the most part, quite illiterate, all the while showing a kind of sullen content or stolid indifference. That negroes should show other characteristics should inspire the encouragement coming from the hope that they are destined for better things than have usually entered into the calculations of American politicians. It is because Booker Washington so thoroughly well understands his race that he can harbour such bright hopes of their future, provided that common-sense means are used to train and educate them, so as to give them an opportunity of making the best possible use of their capacities. He is quite an ingenuous man, who says just what he thinks, and who would never think of aiming at the impracticable. What may at first have seemed to be quite a Utopian enterprise to quidnuncs in American social and political circles is to him a very ordinary business. He has solved what has been to others a dark problem, because he has failed to see that there was any problem which needed solution. He sees in the labour of the millions of negroes who people the Southern States a source of vast national wealth. Only turn this to good account and the whole country will be benefited and enriched, while the descendants of the ex-slaves themselves will remain contented and good citizens. To carry out this idea is certainly one of the greatest of enterprises to which social reformers in the New World have ever set their hand.
When a school was established and a supposed competent tutor was appointed, Booker Washington did not find that his course had ceased to be a pursuit of knowledge under difficulties. His mother and stepmother were so poor that it was not thought that his services at the salt works could be altogether dispensed with in order that he might attend school. Then a kind of compromise was made, and without the work being entirely suspended, he was allowed to pass some portion of each day at the school. Having thus risen to this respectable standing, he found it desirable to wear a cap which his mother made for him; for it would seem that a Virginian planter no more thought of providing such head-dress for boy slaves than he would of clothing his colts or calves. It was then, moreover, that he gave himself the name which he has ever since retained and honoured. He had been called Booker as a child-slave; for some reason his mother had added Taliaferro, but the final Washington was a becoming euphonism of his own.
With so much manual labour to be done, the difficulties in the way of education were continually becoming intensified. Soon it became impossible to continue in attendance at the day school, and he had to be content with attending an evening class after completing the day's toil. Under the most favourable circumstances this was exhausting; and his experience proved still more trying when he was removed from the salt works to serve in a coal mine, which supplied the furnaces with fuel. Booker Washington has very vivid recollections of the horrors and even constant dangers attending such subterranean work. The darkness alone was almost such as might be felt; and the mishaps, through taking a wrong path, through falling coal, or a candle getting extinguished, were ever threatening those engaged in the works. It was in such an atmosphere and amid such surroundings, however, that the dawn of a new era sent its beams across his chequered pathway. It was there that he heard for the first time of the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, which was destined to shape for him his life-course. The institution in question is near to the small town and bathing resort of Hampton, in Virginia, and the channel, commanded by Fortress Monroe, was the scene of some lively naval fights during the Civil War. The institution was founded in 1868 by General S. C. Armstrong, and two years later was incorporated by the State of Virginia. Its object is stated to be "to train young men and women of the negro and Indian races to become teachers among their own people." Booker Washington happened to overhear two men in the coal mine conversing together about this school, and he resolved to find out everything possible about it. The revelation had for him something more than passing interest; strange new hopes had been kindled in his soul. If he had asked, Who was Samuel Chapman Armstrong? he might have learned that he was an officer who had served in the Civil War, and that he was born in the Hawaiian Islands in 1839. The General was a genuine, warm-hearted friend of the coloured races, and as he became to Booker Washington an exemplar, or even something like an apostle, who did more than any other human teacher to mark out his pathway of life, some reference may be made to the pressing needs of the freed negroes in the years which immediately followed the close of the Civil War. There are now some ten million coloured people in the Southern States, but at the time in question there were less than half of this number. Nevertheless, the crisis was sufficiently serious to be even alarming. Thus a contemporary writer says:—
"Such sudden emancipation, on so vast a scale, is unequalled in the annals of history. The nearest parallel to it is the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. A nation, numbering about two millions, was then suddenly emancipated. But as for their sustenance and preservation a succession of miracles took place, it is not necessary for our present purpose to pursue the parallel. No instance in secular history equals the present position of the freed negroes of North America. The crisis has come in a manner and at a time that could hardly have been anticipated by the wisest forecaster of political events."
Great as was the need for earnest effort after hostilities ceased, however, the want and suffering had been far more acute in days that had gone before. The contemporary writer just quoted adds:—
"From the very beginning of the war hundreds have suddenly poured in, as at an hour's notice, upon the cities of the Northern States. One of the camps was inundated by a thousand of these naked and starving fugitives in a single day, and this whilst the snow was coldly and silently covering the surrounding landscape. After the Federals had gained possession of Memphis, there speedily turned into it a long train of negroes, so miserably destitute that, having nothing whatever with them of food or clothing but the rags of two or three years' wear, and only the clouds and the trees to shelter them, these human multitudes were far worse off than the comfortably-kennelled dogs of their white brethren. When General Sherman passed through Georgia, he was asked how many negroes had followed his army. The reply was, 'Ten miles of them.'"
Charitable and Christian people were moved to do what lay in their power not only to relieve present sufferings, but to enable the coloured folk to make a new start in the world. Associations were formed, money was collected, even the Government took care that rations should be distributed. The result was that the outlook soon showed signs of improvement. At one time Levi Coffin of Cincinnati reported that there were thirty-five camps in the Mississippi Valley which contained about 650,000 coloured fugitives, but these camps soon became self-supporting. The more acute want and suffering were soon relieved, but it soon became more and more apparent that service of a more permanent kind would have to be undertaken if the coloured people were to be raised from the low condition into which slavery had reduced them. People of the shrewder sort clearly saw that great results might be expected from education and industrial training. Although the prevailing ignorance was of the densest kind, all were most anxious to learn. Wherever a camp appeared it was certain that schools would speedily follow; and in what must have appeared an incredibly short space of time no less than 250 schools were established in that Mississippi Valley alone. The contemporary anonymous writer in the Leisure Hour who has already been quoted, and who appears to have been thoroughly well acquainted with the negroes' characteristics and condition in their transition state, adds this word-picture of the general outlook at the time to which reference is being made:—
"They are most anxious to be taught, and most docile under direction. Their ignorance previously was universal and extreme. It is no wonder that their religious camp-meetings had become associated with the most grotesque ideas and narrations. It is no wonder that their phraseology was a caricature of civilised language. For how could they be expected to manifest intelligence without any education? So deplorably destitute of instruction were they that very few even of their preachers could read the simplest words. Old men amongst them who had preached the Gospel to their black congregations for upwards of forty years, were found totally ignorant of the alphabet, and, of course, had never read a verse of Scripture. How could the Sermons, the prayers and the religious ideas of such 'pastors' be other than grievously deficient?"
When the depressed conditions under which these coloured people had previously lived were duly taken into account, the most wonderful thing of all was seen in the rapid strides they made in the betterment of their temporal condition or outward surroundings. The days no longer passed in dull or even painful monotony. Labour, which had hitherto been to them hard bondage, not easy to bear, had become a privilege and a pleasure. Having survived the too exaggerated notions of what the new era might mean for them, and the inevitable reaction of disappointment which followed, they could now take stock of life and realise that they had been enormous gainers by at last coming into that inheritance for which their forefathers had so earnestly longed and prayed. The responsibilities, and even the commonplace things associated with freedom, were intensely prized. In contrast with the loose and demoralising customs which had been characteristic of slave-worked plantations, marriage became a bond not to be dissolved. Now that they were becoming able to read it for themselves, the Bible became a prized book, which the negroes regarded as being peculiarly their own. So far from disappointing those who sought to aid them, now that their ex-owners, the planters, were so greatly impoverished, or even ruined, the negroes surprised their friends by the readiness with which they adapted themselves to their new life. The way in which habits of industry and economy were formed struck observers with peculiar force, as being an exceedingly hopeful sign. Nor did the freer air, which they now breathed, in any measure weaken those Christian ties which had held them together in their days of bondage. Their religious meetings were well maintained, but of course under happier conditions. The sad or even strangely weird songs which had been sung by night with bated breath, as it were, in the slave-cabins could now be superseded by more cheerful hymns. The former had been the natural expression of bond-slaves, to whom life on earth was without hope; at last they were able to sing the triumphant note of freemen. He was a very representative member of the negro race who at that time remarked to a friend, "I'se afeard I'll work myself to death now. I'se so glad to work for myself and the family that I can't stop nohow." Even in the United States, where towns and large communities have often risen rapidly in what had but just before been the wilderness, this new reformation, which the negroes now proved themselves to be capable of keeping pace with, must have struck many observers as a phenomenon for which they had hardly been prepared. Schoolhouses and churches, as well as cottages, which were a grateful contrast to the squalid cabins of the plantations, were in many instances supplemented by savings banks. At the same time a disposition towards self-reliance showed itself, which led the main body, whenever possible, to keep aloof from the alms-houses, in which pauper poor were sheltered, by working hard and bravely to support themselves and their households.
While this transition age was in progress, Booker Washington was growing up apace. He had been fortunate enough to sever his connection with the Malden salt-furnaces and their squalid and immoral surroundings, and, what was still better, he had escaped from the coal mine never to return, and had found more genial employment in the household of a military officer and his wife. He now worked more ardently than ever towards the Hampton Institute.
OFF TO HAMPTON—WAS HE A LIKELY CANDIDATE?
Those who read the American newspapers will be aware that there is great diversity of opinion in regard to the manner in which the education of the coloured people should be conducted. Those who have grown up amid the traditions of the Southern States, where, under the old order of things, the education of slaves was a legal offence, do not readily favour that higher training of negroes to which, in Great Britain, no one would ever think of offering any objection. The feeling referred to prevails in the Northern States as well as in the Southern; and more or less throughout the Republic it is strongly held that, whether educated or uneducated, the coloured race are socially on a lower plane and can never associate on terms of equality with white people. The readiness with which he has acknowledged this fact, while acting accordingly, has in no small measure contributed to Booker Washington's success and popularity. He has undoubtedly stimulated the interest which is now shown in efficient negro training, as is self-evident from the newspaper and magazine articles which from time to time appear upon the subject. Thus, in course of an article on "The Function of the Negro College," in the Dial of Chicago, Mr Kelly Miller, of Howard University, Washington, remarks:—
"The groundwork of education cannot be modified to meet the variant demands of race or colour, previous conditions or present needs. The general processes of discipline and culture must form a fixed and unalterable part of any adequate educational programme. On the other hand, there is quite a wide latitude of accommodation for special needs and social circumstances in what might be called the practical aspect of education. There has recently sprung up a class of educational philosophers who would restrict the term practical education to those forms of knowledge or formulas of information which can be converted into cash equivalent on demand. The truth is, that all knowledge which enables the recipient to do with added efficiency the work which falls to his lot in this world, whether that work be tilling the soil or plying a handicraft, healing the sick or enlightening the ignorant, uplifting the lowly or administering spiritual solace, is 'practical' in the highest and best significance of that term.... Traditional branches of study have lost much of their talismanic value. The so-called higher education is no longer confined to the classic tongues of two famous far-off peoples. The pedagogical watchword is method rather than subject-matter. The higher method of inquiry and investigation can be applied to the growing roots of living plants as well as to the dry stems of a dead language. The problems growing out of the population of Alabama or Florida are as intricate in their relation, and as far-reaching in their consequence, and, withal, as important a subject for study, as any ever involved in the European peninsulas."
It seems to be generally held by such writers and their readers that the mission of negroes who have received a good college training is to be teachers and leaders to the more commonplace members of their own race, and it is thought that a proportion of one in two hundred needs to have the knowledge which will enable him to lead, and so benefit his fellows. There must be tact, however; the negro student must have his craft well ballasted or he may lose self-control, which may possibly lead to somewhat comical results. Thus, Mr Miller tells of "A circular issued by a young man, scarcely thirty years of age, the sum-total of whose knowledge would be scarcely equal to that of a Yale sophomore, who advertises himself as Rev. ——, A.M., B.D., Ph.D., D.D. It is more than likely that the majority of the congregation of this over-bedecked preacher can neither read nor write. What these humble people need is sound knowledge and simple sense.... The negro race is characterised by boisterousness of manners and extravagant forms of taste. As if to correct such deficiencies, their higher education hitherto has been largely concerned with Greek and Latin literature, the norms of modern culture. The advanced negro student became acquainted with Homer and Virgil before he had Shakespeare and Milton. It is just here that our educational critics are apt to become excited. The spectacle of a negro wearing eyeglasses, and declaiming in classic phrases about 'the walls of lofty Rome,' and 'the wrath of Achilles,' upsets their critical balance and composure. We have so often listened to the grotesque incongruity of a Greek chorus and a greasy cabin, and the relative value of a piano and a patch of potatoes, that if we did not join in the smile in order to encourage the humour, we should do so out of sheer weariness."
Their utterances show in what light the college training of negroes is regarded by ordinary citizens of the United States; and it may be noted that Mr Kelly Miller, the writer, hails from Howard University, which is intended chiefly for coloured students. As slavery only disappeared a generation ago, it can hardly be expected that such a matter can be discussed without some show of extravagance or of exaggeration appearing. We even find a well-known Doctor of Divinity venturing the opinion, in an influential weekly journal, that the education of one white student is worth more to the negroes than the education of ten blacks. All tends to clear the air, however; and what is done at Howard and Atlanta Universities and elsewhere, in the way of providing education for coloured youths, shows that advances are being made, and that better times are coming.
We left Booker Washington still looking forward with confidence to being admitted as a student at Hampton College and Industrial Institute. The resolution thus taken was the more extraordinary because the negro aspirant was still a mere boy, practically without means for such an ambitious enterprise, while he had no friends who could assist him in any adequate manner. He was also quite unused to travelling, and was so unacquainted with the map of his native State that he could not have pointed out the direction in which the town of Hampton lay. In point of fact, a cross-country journey would have to be taken, representing a distance about corresponding with that between London and Aberdeen. Under such unfavourable conditions even his hitherto heroic mother, whose strength seemed now to be declining, hardly thought that the thing could successfully be carried out. On the other hand, others rather encouraged the lad, at least to make the endeavour. Then, for some considerable time before the start was made, the outlook at Malden, so far as Booker Washington was himself personally concerned, had considerably improved. Instead of having to continue at the rough, or even dangerous, labour in which he had been compelled to engage, he obtained a situation in the household of a military officer, whose wife had gained the reputation of being a domestic martinet, the family otherwise being one of the chief in the town. The sequel proved, however, that common report is oftentimes not to be trusted; for while the ex-slave boy made an excellent house-servant, the discipline he underwent in the officer's house was just such as he needed, and could not fail to be beneficial to him.
Having resolved to resign a situation which he valued, and which, most probably, his mother would have been well content for him to retain, the would-be student prepared to start, being unhampered by anything in the way of luggage beyond a bundle that could easily be carried in one hand. The journey alone was a very formidable undertaking, much more so at that time than would be the case to-day. As might have been expected, the ambitious youth soon made the painful discovery that he was very inadequately equipped for his journey. The difficulties of the way were also greatly increased by the fact that he belonged to a proscribed race. The distance was so great that money was wanted for food and for travelling fares; but the scant available supply very speedily ran out. Of course, there were roadside houses of rest and of refreshment into which negroes could not gain admittance, even though he might carry a good supply of cash. He soon found out that a boy of colour could not hope to find lodging in an hotel intended for white people; and on reaching Richmond, footsore and famished with hunger, he was so utterly impecunious that, for some nights in succession, after earning a little by day, he had to repeat the experience of "sleeping out." The wonder is that, in the case of so young a boy, all of this suffering did not damp his ardour and discourage his still persevering. So far as can be discovered, however, he never did lose his hold of the anchor of hope. Is it not a singular and a suggestive thing that quite a number of well-known men, who afterwards won literary fame or distinguished commercial success, were correspondingly adventurous in having to "sleep out," or to walk the streets through the livelong night in order to keep themselves warm, because they lacked the money wherewith to pay for a bed? Dr Johnson went through this experience before he became the literary autocrat of the eighteenth century. So also did John Cassell when he came to London, with only a few pence in his pocket, not so very long before the founding of that printing and publishing house, still named after him, which ranks as one of the greatest establishments of the kind in the British Isles.
No youthful aspirant thirsting for an education ever completed a more toilsome, and even painful, journey in order to reach the college he desired to enter than Booker Washington, when he actually got over the five hundred miles between Malden and Hampton. It is still more remarkable that, although he was undoubtedly one of the most daring and doggedly persevering youths that could have been found among the coloured people, he was still not a solitary example of a negro boy literally making stepping-stones of difficulties. There were other black youngsters who were quite as determined, and their efforts were also destined to be crowned with success.
Still, our wonder is increased when we remember that this journey, with its formidable difficulties, was boldly hazarded without there being any certainty of his being received as a student in the institution. No one in the house even knew that he was on the road and was about to present himself as a candidate for admission. When at length he arrived and confronted the chief matron, a less shrewd and sympathetic person than she was would hardly have been impressed in Booker Washington's favour. Footsore, travel-stained, hungry, with not more than two shillings in his pocket, he was, in point of fact, so completely, though unintentionally, disguised, that an ordinary observer would have had difficulty in deciding what he was. He might have been one of that class, who abound in the United States, who prefer a wandering vagabond life to honest work, and who thus thought that a brief acquaintance with the college might add to the diversity or excitement of life. But, happily, there is something in the human eye which surely betokens character. Cheats and impostors of all kinds cannot control their eyes. It would seem that the chief matron thought that there might be something in the adventurous applicant. At all events she decided that he might be tested, and, as the training included the teaching of various industries, what more effective test could be applied than the "doing up" of a room. The work was so perfectly done that Booker Washington was found to have something in him.
We may naturally infer that this aspiring negro lad now began fully to reap the benefit of having been for many months subjected to the uncompromising discipline of the domestic martinet—the general's wife—at Malden. If it had not been for this preliminary household education we can hardly suppose that he would, even imperfectly, have understood how to do certain things which were now done well, the knowledge thus acquired being of the greatest possible value to one who had to make a favourable impression on those from whom he was hoping to obtain an education. He was admitted into the institution as a student; but as there were still certain expenses for board and teaching to be met, difficulties looming in the future were not as yet altogether overcome. It was quite impossible for him to find any money at all for current expenses unless it was first earned, all of his family connections being too poor to send even the smallest contribution. The most ready way out of such difficulties was for the student to give his labour during certain hours of each day in return for his board. He was such an efficient house-servant that such an arrangement promised to be of advantage to both sides. He was appointed to the position of what we should call handy-man in the institution—doorkeeper, porter, room-cleaner, man-of-all-work. The burden of labour, in addition to onerous class-work, which all this involved through each successively long working day, was, of course, formidable; but such things were now made light of because the goal, so long looked forward to when seen from afar, had been reached at last. The ex-slave boy not only breathed the air of freedom, he was getting an education which was best adapted to his needs and future plans. General Armstrong, the founder of such a school-paradise, was naturally looked upon as an ideal man. Until the good General died in middle age, Booker Washington never lowered his estimate of this distinguished benefactor of the coloured race; and, if questioned at the present time concerning his late friend, the master of the Tuskegee institution would probably not hesitate to say that the General was worthy of being compared with Greatheart in the Pilgrim's Progress.
During those early days at Hampton there were, at times, hardships to be borne, but even these seem to have had a bracing effect. The number of students became so great that those who had to be lodged in tents might occasionally suffer from the weather. Notwithstanding, coloured students made light of privations which might reasonably have damped the ardour of others.
GENERAL ARMSTRONG—HIS PREDECESSORS AND COLLABORATORS—PIONEERS OF THE NEW ERA
When in 1868, some years after the close of the Civil War, General Armstrong proceeded to give practical expression to his idea of founding a normal and industrial institute for the coloured races, which are found within the boundaries of the great American Republic, the new era of education for such peoples, which had been made possible by the emancipation of the slaves in the Southern States, was fast coming on. Of course, General Armstrong was not the original pioneer in such service; but it may probably come to pass that he will be the best remembered on account of his having trained such a distinguished pupil as Booker Washington. But for years prior to his making the acquaintance of this Virginian boy, the work carried on by the General must have won for him some considerable amount of popularity; otherwise, what was being done would hardly have become a matter of conversation between miners in a coal-mine. Had that talk not taken place, the institution at Tuskegee might possibly not have been quite what it is to-day.
What has been effected, and what is still being done, is seen to be all very wonderful when it is compared with the state of things, as well as the kind of popular sentiment which formerly existed, not only in the South, but even in the Northern States. There was a time when public prejudice made it impossible, or almost impossible, to educate coloured pupils at all whether they were free or otherwise. Such far-reaching institutions as General Armstrong founded at Hampton, and, still more notably, the one which his pupil and disciple has planted and built up with a masterly hand at Tuskegee, are nothing less than signs of the times, which indicate to the American people, and to the world, that a mighty revolution has taken place, and is still working out its beneficent purposes.
Some time ago an article in Scribner's Magazine revived the memories which cluster around the name of Prudence Crandall, of Windham County, Connecticut. Who was this woman? In a volume of autobiographical recollections and reminiscences published in 1887, Laura S. Haviland thus answers this question:—
"She opened a school in Canterbury Green for girls, and was patronised by the best families, not only of that town, but of other counties and states. Among those who sought advantages of her school was a coloured girl. But Prudence was too thorough a Quaker to regard the request of bitter prejudice on the part of her other patrons to dismiss her coloured pupil. But she did not wait for them to execute their threat to withdraw their children. She sent them home. Then she advertised her school as a boarding-school for young ladies of colour. The people felt insulted, and held indignation meetings and appointed committees to remonstrate with her. But she stood to her principles regardless of their remonstrance. The excitement in that town ran high. A town meeting was called to devise means to remove the nuisance.... Miss Crandall opened her school against the protest of an indignant populace. Another town meeting was called at which it was resolved, 'That the establishment of a rendezvous, falsely denominated a school, was designed by its projectors as the theatre to promulgate their disgusting theory of amalgamation, and their pernicious sentiments of subverting the Union. These pupils were to have been congregated here from all quarters under the false pretence of educating them, but really to scatter firebrands, arrows and death among brethren of our own blood.'"
In the darkest days the above would appear to reflect the popular sentiment in regard to negro education even in the Northern States, although there were still thousands of persons to be found who had no manner of sympathy with such views. Neither the teacher nor her coloured pupils were allowed to attend the ordinary religious service at the Congregational Church; her parents were forbidden to visit Miss Crandall; she was threatened with arrest as a criminal; her windows and doors were destroyed with crowbars, and the house was set on fire. The school had to be given up; but the example of the heroic teacher had not been in vain. As Laura Haviland remarks, "her name became a household word in thousands of Northern homes." A similar revolution for the better will surely be brought about in the Southern States also, and is even now in progress. We can hardly doubt that after some further progress has been made there will be nothing within their power that the good old families of the South will not do for the negroes when they find that the coloured race is amenable to civilising influences, and that commercially they will well repay for all the money and trouble that may be expended upon them. At the outset of this reformation this must have been the hope of General Armstrong; and it would seem to be that of Booker Washington at Tuskegee to-day.
In some instances the pioneer teachers had to carry on their service amid the lowest depths of squalor and wretchedness, even more repellent than ragged-school work in the worst quarters of a great town. Thus, Mrs Haviland, in her autobiography, tells how Dr Emily P. Newcomb, who was said to come of a family of educators, bravely founded a station at Kansas City, and herself superintended the work:—
"At this point there is massed a large population of exceedingly ignorant, destitute and superstitious people of every colour and condition—men, women and children—crowded together in rickety hovels, where stagnant water stood the year round, the very air impregnated with the heavy sickening odour of the packing-houses. No tongue or pen can describe the wretchedness that existed in that locality, known and appropriately designated as Hell's Half Acre, which embraced a large area on either side of the State line. At that time no mission work had been attempted or suggested for the elevation of this seething mass by either Church or State."
For bravery in her work and devotion, we find Emily Newcomb, M.D., compared to a general on the battlefield. From such a woman's working experience, as well as from that of others who were like-minded, we can in some measure estimate the magnitude of the work which required to be done. The suddenness of their emancipation, and the consequent disorganisation of their social life, could not but involve a good deal of suffering. In regard to the general condition of the coloured people at the time in question, Mr F. J. Loudin says: "They were homeless, penniless, ignorant, improvident—unprepared in every way for the dangers as well as the duties of freedom. Self-reliance they had never had the opportunity to learn, and, suddenly left to shift for themselves, they were at the mercy of the knaves who were everywhere so ready to cheat them out of their honest earnings." They were a people who were too often despised on the one hand, and yet as often showing extraordinary traits of character on the other. There were gems of the first water among them; and now and then an individual, showing in one person the best attributes of both races, came to the front. It became more and more evident that the chief kind of aid which these people wanted was being taught how to help themselves. One of the mettle of Booker Washington could push his way upward, braving and overcoming obstacles and difficulties such as might well have cowed a youth who possessed the courage and perseverance of a dozen men; but he was one of a thousand, one who was destined to become a pioneer who would make the way plainer and easier for those who followed after. However low down they might be, the coloured race showed no disposition to remain where they were; all along the line were seen signs of advancement. As regarded the proportion who attended religious worship, and who were Church communicants, the negroes compared favourably with the whites. Persons who carefully took notice of the different phases of the new reformation in progress were often having some new surprise. Thus, the manner in which the funds were raised for the building and endowment of Fisk University seems almost to belong to the region of romance, as is proved from this opening passage in the popular volume which contains the narrative:—
"The story of the Jubilee Singers seems almost as little like a chapter from real life as the legend of the daring Argonauts who sailed with Jason on that famous voyage after the Golden Fleece. It is the story of a little company of emancipated slaves who set out to secure, by their singing, the fabulous sum of twenty thousand dollars for the impoverished and unknown school in which they were students. The world was as unfamiliar to these untravelled free people as were the countries through which the Argonauts had to pass; the social prejudices that confronted them were as terrible to meet as fire-breathing bulls or the warriors that sprang from the land sown with dragons' teeth; and no seas were ever more tempestuous than the stormy experiences that for a time tested their faith and courage. They were at times without the money to buy needed clothing. Yet in less than three years they returned, bringing back with them nearly one hundred thousand dollars. They had been turned away from hotels and driven out of railway waiting-rooms because of their colour. But they had been received with honour by the President of the United States; they had sung their slave-songs before the Queen of Great Britain, and they had gathered, as invited guests, about the breakfast-table of her Prime Minister. Their success was as remarkable as their mission was unique."
The University for coloured students, on behalf of which these efforts were made, is situated at Nashville, a town which, on account of the number and quality of its educational institutions, has come to be called the Athens of the South. Its first students consisted of those who had actually been slaves; and the earnestness of most of the students had to bear the test of having to earn their own livelihood while receiving their education. Outside aid was given in the hope that an endowment would be provided. The college, including its Jubilee Hall and Livingstone Hall, occupies a healthy site, and has grounds of twenty-five acres. The negroes are in a minority at Nashville; but it is there that one may profitably study their characteristic traits and capacities, and thus form some tolerably correct estimate of what the vast national gain would be if the entire coloured race were raised by adequate education and industrial training.
In aiming at what he does in founding and carrying on his great institution at Tuskegee, is Booker Washington warranted by the past successes of those who have worked to raise and train negroes for the best service of which they are capable, in harbouring the sanguine anticipations he does for more perfect achievements in the future? As he is happily only one, though the chief, worker among many, it will be necessary, while proceeding with our story, to give convincing testimony from outsiders concerning the reasonableness and practicableness of his aims and hopes. In giving some interesting and striking illustrations by way of proof that he is no visionary, but a cool-headed, hard-working calculator who well knows that the capital he is working with will yield a high percentage, we may have to tell of what is in progress in Nashville itself.
UPS AND DOWNS—PROGRESS AS A STUDENT—BEGINNING TO TEACH
Probably one reason why youths who are educated in such a school as the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute so commonly turn out to be of use to themselves and to others in the world is, that only young people of mettle and perseverance would endure the labour and hardship which form part of the discipline. What was done for the students was not altogether gratuitous; they were supposed either to have means or to be able to earn money, and to be too hard driven to be able to pay the merest trifle may often have been an experience which might have damped the ardour of any save enthusiasts of the most dogged perseverance. Among the large company of poor students, it would almost seem that Booker Washington was the poorest. Do what he would, he could not help small arrears of college dues accumulating; and when vacation time came round, he might be the only one of the household who could not afford to rejoin his friends at home. Instead of thinking of doing this, there was pressing necessity for finding work in the town which would bring in supplies towards paying off old scores, and which would help him to tide over the next term. Education under such conditions would have a deadening effect, or it would prove a discipline of the most bracing kind, fostering habits of independence and self-reliance. To Booker Washington it was of the latter kind. He formed good habits; he was a ready learner; he was thankful for any advice which those above him could impart. Reverence for Scripture is a very characteristic trait of the negro race; and the habit of reading daily a portion of the Bible which was formed at Hampton has never since been given up. While making progress at ordinary school or college work, he also added to his knowledge of certain outdoor industries, which was a valuable acquisition to be turned to account in future days. Then, the enlargement of his knowledge of human nature was likely to be of no small advantage to him. He may not have known before that the desire for education was so general among his own people, nor that the capacity for turning it to good account was so self-evident. He learned still further, that white men and women of social standing and high culture were willing to make personal self-sacrifices on behalf of the coloured race by becoming their teachers and their helpers. From such persons of culture and refinement he even learned the dignity of labour. He learned from their everyday example that education did not merely mean settling down into a more genteel life, but meant larger responsibilities and harder work. In other words, he came to see that the sharpening of the mental faculties was to ensure the hands working more efficiently, while it might be necessary to spend strength and talent for the benefit of others.
The all-round work at the Institute continued as it had begun. As regarded the general studies, every hour was turned to full account. The housework expected of the janitor was never either neglected or half done; and when each vacation time came round outside service had to be procured. During all this time both his mother and his brother stood by him, and not only gave him their sympathy, but all the help that was possible. At the present moment that brother, as well as a friend, who as a child was adopted by the family, are valued assistants in the Tuskegee Institution.
As the college course came to an end, and Booker Washington returned to his old haunts with their memories of coal mining and salt production, he was now a man of education to be looked up to and respected; and as the coloured people were ambitious of having a school established with a competent master, a fully-equipped graduate from Hampton Institute was no small acquisition. When the school was established the classes were soon crowded by those who, on account of their anxiety to improve, deserved to be distinguished as the most diligent and persevering of learners. There were a host of others also who, through having to attend to their daily labour were unable to attend school by day, were still not content to remain uninstructed in such good times as had dawned upon them. For these evening classes were provided, so that the tutor's time was occupied from early morning until late at night.
While at Malden he saw something of the doings of the members of the somewhat mysterious Ku-Klux Klan, which in the Cyclopaedia of Names is thus described:—"A former secret organisation in the Southern United States, of which the object was to intimidate the negroes, carpet-baggers and 'scalawags,' and to prevent them from political action. It arose probably in 1867; was guilty of numerous outrages; and was suppressed in consequence of an Act of Congress—the Force Bill—passed in 1871." Street fights occurred, and the progress made since that day is seen in the fact that even the best part of the Southern public sentiment would not now tolerate the existence of such an association.
Had the policy of the Ku-Klux Klan been continued, and had public sympathy been accorded to its warfare, the cause of the negroes must have gone down until the race became a very genuine danger to the Government. The change in public opinion in the South is not only one of the most cheering signs of the times, but many of Booker Washington's most earnest sympathisers and helpers are actually found in the former slave States. In the Southern Letter for May 1901, a little monthly newspaper which the founder of the Tuskegee Institution issues from his headquarters, a Southern lady of position, who was formerly a slave-owner, writes:—
"God speed you in your noble work! Whenever I hear it said, 'The Caucasian blood in Booker Washington is the cause of his success and perseverance,' I answer, 'It is Principle.' I am a Southern white woman, once a slave-owner, educated to think it right, and to believe that coloured people could not provide for themselves, but would return to cannibalism if brought from under their masters, and so I thought it would be an awful thing for both races if they should be emancipated. I have long ago seen the folly of such opinions, and have seen that slavery was a horrible thing, and no one is more rejoiced than I am to see the progress and prosperity and enlightenment of the coloured people. Though a stranger in person, I am your true friend."
During the twelve years which followed the close of the Civil War, the Southern States were in a condition of unrest, which was natural, however, and was such as might have been expected after such a crisis as that which had shaken and threatened the very existence of the Republic. Considering what the relationship between the whites and the blacks had been, and what kind of traditional views the former had been trained to receive concerning the inferiority of the coloured race, we cannot wonder that the planters, and those who were with them, should have been appalled at the outlook. The situation became more anomalous, or even dangerous, through the mistakes of the Northern politicians, quite as much as through any want of charity, whether real or imaginary, on the part of the Southern statesmen. There were wounds to be healed on both sides, and there was too much of a disposition to maintain the vindictive war spirit after the war was over. Those who aimed at reconstruction certainly endangered their cause when they suddenly gave to the negroes greater political privileges than they understood, or would be able to use with any advantage to themselves. It would seem that some ludicrous instances occurred of even the lower kind of negroes being installed in important State offices. The result of this and many more indiscretions was naturally to foment feelings of great bitterness on both sides. If many in the North were disposed to make the emancipated slaves a bone of contention—a means of punishing the States which had wished to secede and to found a Commonwealth of their own—they missed their mark and involved the coloured race in much additional suffering which they might well have been spared. If we look through such a record as the autobiography of Laura Haviland, we find mention made of a number of atrocities belonging to this unsettled period of the kind which, under the circumstances, were pretty sure to happen. In a sense, Southern society was in a condition of that kind of chaos which has often marked similar transition periods. Never before were leaders more urgently needed who would work for peace and advancement by showing those, whose interests were supposed to be at variance, that their cause was one. Who could have prophesied at that time that the coloured people were destined to find some of their best friends among the whites of the south?
It has also to be confessed, that the outlook among the emancipated people themselves was such as might be expected to inspire misgiving, or even some alarm. They neither comprehended the situation nor could they properly understand what was the true aim of education. Booker Washington himself had been so thoroughly well trained in the best school that then existed, that of General Armstrong at the Hampton Institute, that he saw at a glance the kind of obstacles which threatened to bring disaster to his race by hindering their progress. In large measure the squalor and superstition which naturally come of generations of the darkest ignorance prevailed. It was seen that the training which was imperatively needed would have to be mainly industrial, while there must be no aspiration for equality with the whites by attempting to come into competition with them in the common avocations of everyday life. This was actually happening, however, so that while he studied for a time at Washington, the future founder of the great institute at Tuskegee saw that there were breakers ahead unless certain errors could be corrected. The negroes became too much disposed to look to the Government to make full provision for them, especially when they attained to the distinction of being able to read and write. Many would indulge in extravagant habits in order to make it appear that they were better off than they really were. Then there were an extraordinary number who aspired to the rare distinction of shining as divines and as admired preachers of the Gospel. Young men sought to become instructors of others before they had any ballast of character of their own. It was a time of danger and of the threatened loss of great opportunities, making it all the more remarkable that, in the way of social, educational and industrial progress, the negroes are where they are to-day. In those days of uncertainty the prophets of evil made their voices heard. As Booker Washington recently remarked in the International Monthly: "There were not a few who predicted that, as soon as the negro became a free man, he would not only cease to support himself and others, but he would become a tax upon the community." Persons who held notions of this kind doubtless supposed that negroes had some physical kinship with the native American Indians, who have never shown any disposition to take to field labour; and while they involve the Government in no small annual expense, their tribes are gradually dying out. The negroes, on the contrary, are fast multiplying, and their value as field labourers, and as workers in other departments of service, is a grateful contrast to the general incapacity of the Indians. In the article just referred to, Booker Washington is able to bear this high testimony to the general worth of his own people:—
"Few people in any part of our country have ever seen a black hand reached out from a street corner asking for charity. In our Northern communities a large amount of money is spent by individuals and municipalities in caring for the sick, the poor, and other classes of unfortunates. In the South, with very few exceptions, the negro takes care of himself, and of the unfortunate members of his race. This is usually done by a combination of individual members of the race, or through the churches or fraternal organisations. Not only is this true, but I want to make a story illustrate the condition that prevails in some parts of the South. The white people in a certain Black Belt county in the South had been holding a convention, the object of which was to encourage white people to emigrate into the county. After the adjournment of the convention an old coloured man met the president of the meeting on the street and asked the object of the convention. When told, the old coloured man replied, ''Fore God, Boss, don't you know that we niggers have just as many white people in this county as we can support?'"
The more we become acquainted with the general character and capacity of the negro, the more are we likely to become convinced that, instead of these people being any drawback to life in the South, those States, so favoured by Nature, could not do without them. It is true that a number of white persons in the States chiefly concerned have boldly testified that the coloured race have proved the best labourers which the country has ever had for its peculiar needs, and better than are likely to be forthcoming in the future. This fact is now being recognised by those whose interests are chiefly affected. Thus we even find it stated, "The greatest excitement and anxiety has been recently created among the white people in two counties in Georgia, because of the fact that a large proportion of the coloured people decided to leave. No stone has been left unturned to induce the coloured people to remain in the country and prevent financial ruin to many white farmers." The 8,900,000 bales of cotton grown in 1899, under free labour, is nearly fourfold greater than was produced in 1850 by slave labour.
During the transition or reconstruction time, especially during the period when he was completing his college training at Washington, Booker Washington was a keen observer of his own people, the result being that he probably understands their needs, idiosyncrasies and tendencies better than any other living authority. He also eagerly reads what others who are not members of his own race say upon the subject. What he considers the most valuable testimony under this head appeared about two years ago in an article in Appleton's Popular Science Monthly, written by Professor N. S. Shaler of Harvard University, and Dean of the Scientific School. Take this passage:—
"The negroes who came to North America had to undergo as complete a transition as ever fell to the lot of man, without the least chance to undergo an acclimatising process. They were brought from the hottest part of the earth to the region where the winter's cold is almost of arctic severity; from an exceedingly humid to a very dry air. They came to service under alien taskmasters, strange to them in speech and in purpose. They had to betake themselves to unaccustomed food, and to clothing such as they had never worn before. Rarely could one of the creatures find about him a familiar face of friend, parent or child, or an object that recalled his past life to him. It was an appalling change. Only those who know how the negro cleaves to all the dear, familiar things of life, how fond he is of life and friendliness, can conceive the physical and mental shock that this introduction to new conditions meant to them. To people of our own race it would have meant death. But these wonderful folk appear to have withstood the trials of their deportation in a marvellous way. They showed no particular liability to disease. Their longevity or period of usefulness was not diminished, or their fecundity obviously impaired. So far as I have been able to learn, nostalgia was not a source of mortality, as it would have been with any Aryan population. The price they brought in the market and the satisfaction of their purchasers with their qualities show that they were from the first almost ideal labourers."
When Booker Washington took up his residence in the town which the first President of the United States called the Federal City, but which was destined to take the name of that great patriot himself, a large number of negroes were found there. As a town, Washington has made wonderful strides since the close of the Civil War. The schools or colleges for coloured students, which are provided, of course have attraction for negroes, while other characteristics of the city also have strong fascination for such susceptible folk. If we may say so, in connection with a Republic, Washington is the seat of the Court and of the Legislature. The population may be a quarter of a million or more; but though not a very large town, it has recently developed into a beautiful place, fine buildings of wide thoroughfares and charming recreation grounds. Booker Washington seems to have discovered that such a place failed to exercise the best of influence on negro students. It is not in any sense an industrial centre; the people are for the most part Government officials, professional people, and persons of means who settle there because the surroundings and society are congenial. The temptation to coloured students was to assume too lofty airs, to despise any occupation other than a profession, and to think that the President and his Government were bound to find openings for them.
AMERICAN INDIANS—WORK AT HAMPTON
Just about the time that he completed his education at the capital city, Booker Washington seems to have been tempted in a strange and unexpected way to give his life and energy to public speaking and politics. He took part in the agitation as a representative of a committee—which resulted in Charleston taking the place of Wheeling as capital of West Virginia. By effective platform work he no doubt was a chief agent in bringing about this change. Thus early, although he was hardly more than a youth himself, the future Professor of Tuskegee seems to have seen in what direction lay his pathway of life. Rightly guided, and taught to turn their energies and gifts to the best account, the negroes are a very capable race; but it was being proved on every hand that when left to go their own way without check or control they were liable to be captivated by very high-flown notions. As legislators, poets, jurists, artists and musicians their services were not pressingly in request; but in the world of a hundred industries there were magnificent openings for all who were adequately trained. It was fortunate both for himself and his own people that Booker Washington saw his opportunity and determined not to be diverted from it by any considerations of self-interest.
Under these conditions it was something like a special providence when he received an urgent message from General Armstrong asking him to revisit Hampton to address the students. It had become a custom for some one of the graduates who had passed through the institution to undertake this duty periodically, and the request was understood to be one of the greatest of compliments. The request was, of course, gladly complied with; and a revisit to the Institute showed that, under General Armstrong's capable and sympathetic control, the all-round educational work, and especially the industrial training, which was ever considered to be of first importance, had made great progress. The General had a quick eye to see where improvement could be introduced, and his energy never flagged. Until that time the negro race had not had such a friend, one who had a genius for seeing in what direction the coloured people would find that their best interests lay. Thus early he also probably saw that in his quondam pupil, Booker Washington, he had a comrade who was in every way fitted to extend the great enterprise. Certain students who had been prepared by this coloured tutor before being sent on to Hampton, had done exceedingly well, and this suggested that operations should be carried on in other directions.