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Up From Slavery: An Autobiography by Booker T. Washington

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public or in private, a single bitter word against the white man
in the South. From his example in this respect I learned the
lesson that great men cultivate love, and that only little men
cherish a spirit of hatred. I learned that assistance given to
the weak makes the one who gives it strong; and that oppression
of the unfortunate makes one weak.

It is now long ago that I learned this lesson from General
Armstrong, and resolved that I would permit no man, no matter
what his colour might be, to narrow and degrade my soul by making
me hate him. With God's help, I believe that I have completely
rid myself of any ill feeling toward the Southern white man for
any wrong that he may have inflicted upon my race. I am made to
feel just as happy now when I am rendering service to Southern
white men as when the service is rendered to a member of my own
race. I pity from the bottom of my heart any individual who is so
unfortunate as to get into the habit of holding race prejudice.

The more I consider the subject, the more strongly I am convinced
that the most harmful effect of the practice to which the people
in certain sections of the South have felt themselves compelled
to resort, in order to get rid of the force of the Negroes'
ballot, is not wholly in the wrong done to the Negro, but in the
permanent injury to the morals of the white man. The wrong to the
Negro is temporary, but to the morals of the white man the injury
is permanent. I have noted time and time again that when an
individual perjures himself in order to break the force of the
black man's ballot, he soon learns to practise dishonesty in
other relations of life, not only where the Negro is concerned,
but equally so where a white man is concerned. The white man who
begins by cheating a Negro usually ends by cheating a white man.
The white man who begins to break the law by lynching a Negro
soon yields to the temptation to lynch a white man. All this, it
seems to me, makes it important that the whole Nation lend a hand
in trying to lift the burden of ignorance from the South.

Another thing that is becoming more apparent each year in the
development of education in the South is the influence of General
Armstrong's idea of education; and this not upon the blacks
alone, but upon the whites also. At the present time there is
almost no Southern state that is not putting forth efforts in the
direction of securing industrial education for its white boys and
girls, and in most cases it is easy to trace the history of these
efforts back to General Armstrong.

Soon after the opening of our humble boarding department students
began coming to us in still larger numbers. For weeks we not only
had to contend with the difficulty of providing board, with no
money, but also with that of providing sleeping accommodations.
For this purpose we rented a number of cabins near the school.
These cabins were in a dilapidated condition, and during the
winter months the students who occupied them necessarily suffered
from the cold. We charge the students eight dollars a month--all
they were able to pay--for their board. This included, besides
board, room, fuel, and washing. We also gave the students credit
on their board bills for all the work which they did for the
school which was of any value to the institution. The cost of
tuition, which was fifty dollars a year for each student, we had
to secure then, as now, wherever we could.

This small charge in cash gave us no capital with which to start
a boarding department. The weather during the second winter of
our work was very cold. We were not able to provide enough
bed-clothes to keep the students warm. In fact, for some time we
were not able to provide, except in a few cases, bedsteads and
mattresses of any kind. During the coldest nights I was so
troubled about the discomfort of the students that I could not
sleep myself. I recall that on several occasions I went in the
middle of the night to the shanties occupied by the young men,
for the purpose of confronting them. Often I found some of them
sitting huddled around a fire, with the one blanket which we had
been able to provide wrapped around them, trying in this way to
keep warm. During the whole night some of them did not attempt to
lie down. One morning, when the night previous had been unusually
cold, I asked those of the students in the chapel who thought
that they had been frostbitten during the night to raise their
hands. Three hands went up. Notwithstanding these experiences,
there was almost no complaining on the part of the students. They
knew that we were doing the best that we could for them. They
were happy in the privilege of being permitted to enjoy any kind
of opportunity that would enable them to improve their condition.
They were constantly asking what they might do to lighten the
burdens of the teachers.

I have heard it stated more than once, both in the North and in
the South, that coloured people would not obey and respect each
other when one member of the race is placed in a position of
authority over others. In regard to this general belief and these
statements, I can say that during the nineteen years of my
experience at Tuskegee I never, either by word or act, have been
treated with disrespect by any student or officer connected with
the institution. On the other hand, I am constantly embarrassed
by the many acts of thoughtful kindness. The students do not seem
to want to see me carry a large book or a satchel or any kind of
a burden through the grounds. In such cases more than one always
offers to relieve me. I almost never go out of my office when the
rain is falling that some student does not come to my side with
an umbrella and ask to be allowed to hold it over me.

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

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

On another occasion, when I was making a trip from Augusta,
Georgia, to Atlanta, being rather tired from much travel, I road
in a Pullman sleeper. When I went into the car, I found there two
ladies from Boston whom I knew well. These good ladies were
perfectly ignorant, it seems, of the customs of the South, and in
the goodness of their hearts insisted that I take a seat with
them in their section. After some hesitation I consented. I had
been there but a few minutes when one of them, without my
knowledge, ordered supper to be served for the three of us. This
embarrassed me still further. The car was full of Southern white
men, most of whom had their eyes on our party. When I found that
supper had been ordered, I tried to contrive some excuse that
would permit me to leave the section, but the ladies insisted
that I must eat with them. I finally settled back in my seat with
a sigh, and said to myself, "I am in for it now, sure."

To add further to the embarrassment of the situation, soon after
the supper was placed on the table one of the ladies remembered
that she had in her satchel a special kind of tea which she
wished served, and as she said she felt quite sure the porter did
not know how to brew it properly, she insisted upon getting up
and preparing and serving it herself. At last the meal was over;
and it seemed the longest one that I had ever eaten. When we were
through, I decided to get myself out of the embarrassing
situation and go to the smoking-room, where most of the men were
by that time, to see how the land lay. In the meantime, however,
it had become known in some way throughout the car who I was.
When I went into the smoking-room I was never more surprised in
my life than when each man, nearly every one of them a citizen of
Georgia, came up and introduced himself to me and thanked me
earnestly for the work that I was trying to do for the whole
South. This was not flattery, because each one of these
individuals knew that he had nothing to gain by trying to flatter

From the first I have sought to impress the students with the
idea that Tuskegee is not my institution, or that of the
officers, but that it is their institution, and that they have as
much interest in it as any of the trustees or instructors. I have
further sought to have them feel that I am at the institution as
their friend and adviser, and not as their overseer. It has been
my aim to have them speak with directness and frankness about
anything that concerns the life of the school. Two or three times
a year I ask the students to write me a letter criticising or
making complaints or suggestions about anything connected with
the institution. When this is not done, I have them meet me in
the chapel for a heart-to-heart talk about the conduct of the
school. There are no meetings with our students that I enjoy more
than these, and none are more helpful to me in planning for the
future. These meetings, it seems to me, enable me to get at the
very heart of all that concerns the school. Few things help an
individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let
him know that you trust him. When I have read of labour troubles
between employers and employees, I have often thought that many
strikes and similar disturbances might be avoided if the
employers would cultivate the habit of getting nearer to their
employees, of consulting and advising with them, and letting them
feel that the interests of the two are the same. Every individual
responds to confidence, and this is not more true of any race
than of the Negroes. Let them once understand that you are
unselfishly interested in them, and you can lead them to any

It was my aim from the first at Tuskegee to not only have the
buildings erected by the students themselves, but to have them
make their own furniture as far as was possible. I now marvel at
the patience of the students while sleeping upon the floor while
waiting for some kind of a bedstead to be constructed, or at
their sleeping without any kind of a mattress while waiting for
something that looked like a mattress to be made.

In the early days we had very few students who had been used to
handling carpenters' tools, and the bedsteads made by the
students then were very rough and very weak. Not unfrequently
when I went into the students' rooms in the morning I would find
at least two bedsteads lying about on the floor. The problem of
providing mattresses was a difficult one to solve. We finally
mastered this, however, by getting some cheap cloth and sewing
pieces of this together as to make large bags. These bags we
filled with the pine straw--or, as it is sometimes called, pine
needles--which we secured from the forests near by. I am glad to
say that the industry of mattress-making has grown steadily since
then, and has been improved to such an extent that at the present
time it is an important branch of the work which is taught
systematically to a number of our girls, and that the mattresses
that now come out of the mattress-shop at Tuskegee are about as
good as those bought in the average store. For some time after
the opening of the boarding department we had no chairs in the
students' bedrooms or in the dining rooms. Instead of chairs we
used stools which the students constructed by nailing together
three pieces of rough board. As a rule, the furniture in the
students' rooms during the early days of the school consisted of
a bed, some stools, and sometimes a rough table made by the
students. The plan of having the students make the furniture is
still followed, but the number of pieces in a room has been
increased, and the workmanship has so improved that little fault
can be found with the articles now. One thing that I have always
insisted upon at Tuskegee is that everywhere there should be
absolute cleanliness. Over and over again the students were
reminded in those first years--and are reminded now--that people
would excuse us for our poverty, for our lack of comforts and
conveniences, but that they would not excuse us for dirt.

Another thing that has been insisted upon at the school is the
use of the tooth-brush. "The gospel of the tooth-brush," as
General Armstrong used to call it, is part of our creed at
Tuskegee. No student is permitted to retain who does not keep and
use a tooth-brush. Several times, in recent years, students have
come to us who brought with them almost no other article except a
tooth-brush. They had heard from the lips of other students about
our insisting upon the use of this, and so, to make a good
impression, they brought at least a tooth-brush with them. I
remember that one morning, not long ago, I went with the lady
principal on her usual morning tour of inspection of the girls'
rooms. We found one room that contained three girls who had
recently arrived at the school. When I asked them if they had
tooth-brushes, one of the girls replied, pointing to a brush:
"Yes, sir. That is our brush. We bought it together, yesterday."
It did not take them long to learn a different lesson.

It has been interesting to note the effect that the use of the
tooth-brush has had in bringing about a higher degree of
civilization among the students. With few exceptions, I have
noticed that, if we can get a student to the point where, when
the first or second tooth-brush disappears, he of his own motion
buys another, I have not been disappointed in the future of that
individual. Absolute cleanliness of the body has been insisted
upon from the first. The students have been taught to bathe as
regularly as to take their meals. This lesson we began teaching
before we had anything in the shape of a bath-house. Most of the
students came from plantation districts, and often we had to
teach them how to sleep at night; that is, whether between the
two sheets--after we got to the point where we could provide them
two sheets--or under both of them. Naturally I found it difficult
to teach them to sleep between two sheets when we were able to
supply but one. The importance of the use of the night-gown
received the same attention.

For a long time one of the most difficult tasks was to teach the
students that all the buttons were to be kept on their clothes,
and that there must be no torn places or grease-spots. This
lesson, I am pleased to be able to say, has been so thoroughly
learned and so faithfully handed down from year to year by one
set of students to another that often at the present time, when
the students march out of the chapel in the evening and their
dress is inspected, as it is every night, not one button is found
to be missing.

Chapter XII. Raising Money

When we opened our boarding department, we provided rooms in the
attic of Porter Hall, our first building, for a number of girls.
But the number of students, of both sexes, continued to increase.
We could find rooms outside the school grounds for many of the
young men, but the girls we did not care to expose in this way.
Very soon the problem of providing more rooms for the girls, as
well as a larger boarding department for all the students, grew
serious. As a result, we finally decided to undertake the
construction of a still larger building--a building that would
contain rooms for the girls and boarding accommodations for all.

After having had a preliminary sketch of the needed building
made, we found that it would cost about ten thousand dollars. We
had no money whatever with which to begin; still we decided to
give the needed building a name. We knew we could name it, even
though we were in doubt about our ability to secure the means for
its construction. We decided to call the proposed building
Alabama Hall, in honour of the state in which we were labouring.
Again Miss Davidson began making efforts to enlist the interest
and help of the coloured and white people in and near Tuskegee.
They responded willingly, in proportion to their means. The
students, as in the case of our first building, Porter Hall,
began digging out the dirt in order to allow the laying of the

When we seemed at the end of our resources, so far as securing
money was concerned, something occurred which showed the
greatness of General Armstrong--something which proved how far he
was above the ordinary individual. When we were in the midst of
great anxiety as to where and how we were to get funds for the
new building, I received a telegram from General Armstrong asking
me if I could spend a month travelling with him through the
North, and asking me, if I could do so, to come to Hampton at
once. Of course I accepted General Armstrong's invitation, and
went to Hampton immediately. On arriving there I found that the
General had decided to take a quartette of singers through the
North, and hold meetings for a month in important cities, at
which meetings he and I were to speak. Imagine my surprise when
the General told me, further, that these meetings were to be
held, not in the interests of Hampton, but in the interests of
Tuskegee, and that the Hampton Institute was to be responsible
for all the expenses.

Although he never told me so in so many words, I found that
General Armstrong took this method of introducing me to the
people of the North, as well as for the sake of securing some
immediate funds to be used in the erection of Alabama Hall. A
weak and narrow man would have reasoned that all the money which
came to Tuskegee in this way would be just so much taken from the
Hampton Institute; but none of these selfish or short-sighted
feelings ever entered the breast of General Armstrong. He was too
big to be little, too good to be mean. He knew that the people in
the North who gave money gave it for the purpose of helping the
whole cause of Negro civilization, and not merely for the
advancement of any one school. The General knew, too, that the
way to strengthen Hampton was to make it a centre of unselfish
power in the working out of the whole Southern problem.

In regard to the addresses which I was to make in the North, I
recall just one piece of advice which the General gave me. He
said: "Give them an idea for every word." I think it would be
hard to improve upon this advice; and it might be made to apply
to all public speaking. From that time to the present I have
always tried to keep his advice in mind.

Meetings were held in New York, Brooklyn, Boston, Philadelphia,
and other large cities, and at all of these meetings General
Armstrong pleased, together with myself, for help, not for
Hampton, but for Tuskegee. At these meetings an especial effort
was made to secure help for the building of Alabama Hall, as well
as to introduce the school to the attention of the general
public. In both these respects the meetings proved successful.

After that kindly introduction I began going North alone to
secure funds. During the last fifteen years I have been compelled
to spend a large proportion of my time away from the school, in
an effort to secure money to provide for the growing needs of the
institution. In my efforts to get funds I have had some
experiences that may be of interest to my readers. Time and time
again I have been asked, by people who are trying to secure money
for philanthropic purposes, what rule or rules I followed to
secure the interest and help of people who were able to
contribute money to worthy objects. As far as the science of what
is called begging can be reduced to rules, I would say that I
have had but two rules. First, always to do my whole duty
regarding making our work known to individuals and organizations;
and, second, not to worry about the results. This second rule has
been the hardest for me to live up to. When bills are on the eve
of falling due, with not a dollar in hand with which to meet
them, it is pretty difficult to learn not to worry, although I
think I am learning more and more each year that all worry simply
consumes, and to no purpose, just so much physical and mental
strength that might otherwise be given to effective work. After
considerable experience in coming into contact with wealthy and
noted men, I have observed that those who have accomplished the
greatest results are those who "keep under the body"; are those
who never grow excited or lose self-control, but are always calm,
self-possessed, patient, and polite. I think that President
William McKinley is the best example of a man of this class that
I have ever seen.

In order to be successful in any kind of undertaking, I think the
main thing is for one to grow to the point where he completely
forgets himself; that is, to lose himself in a great cause. In
proportion as one loses himself in the way, in the same degree
does he get the highest happiness out of his work.

My experience in getting money for Tuskegee has taught me to have
no patience with those people who are always condemning the rich
because they are rich, and because they do not give more to
objects of charity. In the first place, those who are guilty of
such sweeping criticisms do not know how many people would be
made poor, and how much suffering would result, if wealthy people
were to part all at once with any large proportion of their
wealth in a way to disorganize and cripple great business
enterprises. Then very few persons have any idea of the large
number of applications for help that rich people are constantly
being flooded with. I know wealthy people who receive as much as
twenty calls a day for help. More than once when I have gone into
the offices of rich men, I have found half a dozen persons
waiting to see them, and all come for the same purpose, that of
securing money. And all these calls in person, to say nothing of
the applications received through the mails. Very few people have
any idea of the amount of money given away by persons who never
permit their names to be known. I have often heard persons
condemned for not giving away money, who, to my own knowledge,
were giving away thousands of dollars every year so quietly that
the world knew nothing about it.

As an example of this, there are two ladies in New York, whose
names rarely appear in print, but who, in a quiet way, have given
us the means with which to erect three large and important
buildings during the last eight years. Besides the gift of these
buildings, they have made other generous donations to the school.
And they not only help Tuskegee, but they are constantly seeking
opportunities to help other worthy causes.

Although it has been my privilege to be the medium through which
a good many hundred thousand dollars have been received for the
work at Tuskegee, I have always avoided what the world calls
"begging." I often tell people that I have never "begged" any
money, and that I am not a "beggar." My experience and
observation have convinced me that persistent asking outright for
money from the rich does not, as a rule, secure help. I have
usually proceeded on the principle that persons who possess sense
enough to earn money have sense enough to know how to give it
away, and that the mere making known of the facts regarding
Tuskegee, and especially the facts regarding the work of the
graduates, has been more effective than outright begging. I think
that the presentation of facts, on a high, dignified plane, is
all the begging that most rich people care for.

While the work of going from door to door and from office to
office is hard, disagreeable, and costly in bodily strength, yet
it has some compensations. Such work gives one a rare opportunity
to study human nature. It also has its compensations in giving
one an opportunity to meet some of the best people in the
world--to be more correct, I think I should say the best people
in the world. When one takes a broad survey of the country, he
will find that the most useful and influential people in it are
those who take the deepest interest in institutions that exist
for the purpose of making the world better.

At one time, when I was in Boston, I called at the door of a
rather wealthy lady, and was admitted to the vestibule and sent
up my card. While I was waiting for an answer, her husband came
in, and asked me in the most abrupt manner what I wanted. When I
tried to explain the object of my call, he became still more
ungentlemanly in his words and manner, and finally grew so
excited that I left the house without waiting for a reply from
the lady. A few blocks from that house I called to see a
gentleman who received me in the most cordial manner. He wrote me
his check for a generous sum, and then, before I had had an
opportunity to thank him, said: "I am so grateful to you, Mr.
Washington, for giving me the opportunity to help a good cause.
It is a privilege to have a share in it. We in Boston are
constantly indebted to you for doing our work." My experience in
securing money convinces me that the first type of man is growing
more rare all the time, and that the latter type is increasing;
that is, that, more and more, rich people are coming to regard
men and women who apply to them for help for worthy objects, not
as beggars, but as agents for doing their work.

In the city of Boston I have rarely called upon an individual for
funds that I have not been thanked for calling, usually before I
could get an opportunity to thank the donor for the money. In
that city the donors seem to feel, in a large degree, that an
honour is being conferred upon them in their being permitted to
give. Nowhere else have I met with, in so large a measure, this
fine and Christlike spirit as in the city of Boston, although
there are many notable instances of it outside that city. I
repeat my belief that the world is growing in the direction of
giving. I repeat that the main rule by which I have been guided
in collecting money is to do my full duty in regard to giving
people who have money an opportunity for help.

In the early years of the Tuskegee school I walked the streets or
travelled country roads in the North for days and days without
receiving a dollar. Often as it happened, when during the week I
had been disappointed in not getting a cent from the very
individuals from whom I most expected help, and when I was almost
broken down and discouraged, that generous help has come from
some one who I had had little idea would give at all.

I recall that on one occasion I obtained information that led me
to believe that a gentleman who lived about two miles out in the
country from Stamford, Conn., might become interest in our
efforts at Tuskegee if our conditions and needs were presented to
him. On an unusually cold and stormy day I walked the two miles
to see him. After some difficulty I succeeded in securing an
interview with him. He listened with some degree of interest to
what I had to say, but did not give me anything. I could not help
having the feeling that, in a measure, the three hours that I had
spent in seeing him had been thrown away. Still, I had followed
my usual rule of doing my duty. If I had not seen him, I should
have felt unhappy over neglect of duty.

Two years after this visit a letter came to Tuskegee from this
man, which read like this: "Enclosed I send you a New York draft
for ten thousand dollars, to be used in furtherance of your work.
I had placed this sum in my will for your school, but deem it
wiser to give it to you while I live. I recall with pleasure your
visit to me two years ago."

I can hardly imagine any occurrence which could have given me
more genuine satisfaction than the receipt of this draft. It was
by far the largest single donation which up to that time the
school had ever received. It came at a time when an unusually
long period had passed since we had received any money. We were
in great distress because of lack of funds, and the nervous
strain was tremendous. It is difficult for me to think of any
situation that is more trying on the nerves than that of
conducting a large institution, with heavy obligations to meet,
without knowing where the money is to come from to meet these
obligations from month to month.

In our case I felt a double responsibility, and this made the
anxiety all the more intense. If the institution had been
officered by white persons, and had failed, it would have injured
the cause of Negro education; but I knew that the failure of our
institution, officered by Negroes, would not only mean the loss
of a school, but would cause people, in a large degree, to lose
faith in the ability of the entire race. The receipt of this
draft for ten thousand dollars, under all these circumstances,
partially lifted a burden that had been pressing down upon me for

From the beginning of our work to the present I have always had
the feeling, and lose no opportunity to impress our teachers with
the same idea, that the school will always be supported in
proportion as the inside of the institution is kept clean and
pure and wholesome.

The first time I ever saw the late Collis P. Huntington, the
great railroad man, he gave me two dollars for our school. The
last time I saw him, which was a few months before he died, he
gave me fifty thousand dollars toward our endowment fund. Between
these two gifts there were others of generous proportions which
came every year from both Mr. and Mrs. Huntington.

Some people may say that it was Tuskegee's good luck that brought
to us this gift of fifty thousand dollars. No, it was not luck.
It was hard work. Nothing ever comes to me, that is worth having,
except as the result of hard work. When Mr. Huntington gave me
the first two dollars, I did not blame him for not giving me
more, but made up my mind that I was going to convince him by
tangible results that we were worthy of larger gifts. For a dozen
years I made a strong effort to convince Mr. Huntington of the
value of our work. I noted that just in proportion as the
usefulness of the school grew, his donations increased. Never did
I meet an individual who took a more kindly and sympathetic
interest in our school than did Mr. Huntington. He not only gave
money to us, but took time in which to advise me, as a father
would a son, about the general conduct of the school.

More than once I have found myself in some pretty tight places
while collecting money in the North. The following incident I
have never related but once before, for the reason that I feared
that people would not believe it. One morning I found myself in
Providence, Rhode Island, without a cent of money with which to
buy breakfast. In crossing the street to see a lady from whom I
hoped to get some money, I found a bright new twenty-five-cent
piece in the middle of the street track. I not only had this
twenty-five cents for my breakfast, but within a few minutes I
had a donation from the lady on whom I had started to call.

At one of our Commencements I was bold enough to invite the Rev.
E. Winchester Donald, D.D., rector of Trinity Church, Boston, to
preach the Commencement sermon. As we then had no room large
enough to accommodate all who would be present, the place of
meeting was under a large improvised arbour, built partly of
brush and partly of rough boards. Soon after Dr. Donald had begun
speaking, the rain came down in torrents, and he had to stop,
while someone held an umbrella over him.

The boldness of what I had done never dawned upon me until I saw
the picture made by the rector of Trinity Church standing before
that large audience under an old umbrella, waiting for the rain
to cease so that he could go on with his address.

It was not very long before the rain ceased and Dr. Donald
finished his sermon; and an excellent sermon it was, too, in
spite of the weather. After he had gone to his room, and had
gotten the wet threads of his clothes dry, Dr. Donald ventured
the remark that a large chapel at Tuskegee would not be out of
place. The next day a letter came from two ladies who were then
travelling in Italy, saying that they had decided to give us the
money for such a chapel as we needed.

A short time ago we received twenty thousand dollars from Mr.
Andrew Carnegie, to be used for the purpose of erecting a new
library building. Our first library and reading-room were in a
corner of a shanty, and the whole thing occupied a space about
five by twelve feet. It required ten years of work before I was
able to secure Mr. Carnegie's interest and help. The first time I
saw him, ten years ago, he seemed to take but little interest in
our school, but I was determined to show him that we were worthy
of his help. After ten years of hard work I wrote him a letter
reading as follows:

December 15, 1900.

Mr. Andrew Carnegie, 5 W. Fifty-first St., New York.

Dear Sir: Complying with the request which you made of me when I
saw you at your residence a few days ago, I now submit in writing
an appeal for a library building for our institution.

We have 1100 students, 86 officers and instructors, together with
their families, and about 200 coloured people living near the
school, all of whom would make use of the library building.

We have over 12,000 books, periodicals, etc., gifts from our
friends, but we have no suitable place for them, and we have no
suitable reading-room.

Our graduates go to work in every section of the South, and
whatever knowledge might be obtained in the library would serve
to assist in the elevation of the whole Negro race.

Such a building as we need could be erected for about $20,000.
All of the work for the building, such as brickmaking,
brick-masonry, carpentry, blacksmithing, etc., would be done by
the students. The money which you would give would not only
supply the building, but the erection of the building would give
a large
number of students an opportunity to learn the building trades,
and the students would use the money paid to them to keep
themselves in school. I do not believe that a similar amount of
money often could be made go so far in uplifting a whole race.

If you wish further information, I shall be glad to furnish it.

Yours truly,

Booker T. Washington, Principal.

The next mail brought back the following reply: "I will be very
glad to pay the bills for the library building as they are
incurred, to the extent of twenty thousand dollars, and I am glad
of this opportunity to show the interest I have in your noble

I have found that strict business methods go a long way in
securing the interest of rich people. It has been my constant aim
at Tuskegee to carry out, in our financial and other operations,
such business methods as would be approved of by any New York
banking house.

I have spoken of several large gifts to the school; but by far
the greater proportion of the money that has built up the
institution has come in the form of small donations from persons
of moderate means. It is upon these small gifts, which carry with
them the interest of hundreds of donors, that any philanthropic
work must depend largely for its support. In my efforts to get
money I have often been surprised at the patience and deep
interest of the ministers, who are besieged on every hand and at
all hours of the day for help. If no other consideration had
convinced me of the value of the Christian life, the Christlike
work which the Church of all denominations in America has done
during the last thirty-five years for the elevation of the black
man would have made me a Christian. In a large degree it has been
the pennies, the nickels, and the dimes which have come from the
Sunday-schools, the Christian Endeavour societies, and the
missionary societies, as well as from the church proper, that
have helped to elevate the Negro at so rapid a rate.

This speaking of small gifts reminds me to say that very few
Tuskegee graduates fail to send us an annual contribution. These
contributions range from twenty-five cents up to ten dollars.

Soon after beginning our third year's work we were surprised to
receive money from three special sources, and up to the present
time we have continued to receive help from them. First, the
State Legislature of Alabama increased its annual appropriation
from two thousand dollars to three thousand dollars; I might add
that still later it increased this sum to four thousand five
hundred dollars a year. The effort to secure this increase was
led by the Hon. M.F. Foster, the member of the Legislature from
Tuskegee. Second, we received one thousand dollars from the John
F. Slater Fund. Our work seemed to please the trustees of this
fund, as they soon began increasing their annual grant. This has
been added to from time to time until at present we receive
eleven thousand dollars annually from the Fund. The other help to
which I have referred came in the shape of an allowance from the
Peabody Fund. This was at first five hundred dollars, but it has
since been increased to fifteen hundred dollars.

The effort to secure help from the Slater and Peabody Funds
brought me into contact with two rare men--men who have had much
to do in shaping the policy for the education of the Negro. I
refer to the Hon. J.L.M. Curry, of Washington, who is the general
agent for these two funds, and Mr. Morris K. Jessup, of New York.
Dr. Curry is a native of the South, an ex-Confederate soldier,
yet I do not believe there is any man in the country who is more
deeply interest in the highest welfare of the Negro than Dr.
Curry, or one who is more free from race prejudice. He enjoys the
unique distinction of possessing to an equal degree of confidence
of the black man and the Southern white man. I shall never forget
the first time I met him. It was in Richmond, Va., where he was
then living. I had heard much about him. When I first went into
his presence, trembling because of my youth and inexperience, he
took me by the hand so cordially, and spoke such encouraging
words, and gave me such helpful advice regarding the proper
course to pursue, that I came to know him then, as I have known
him ever since, as a high example of one who is constantly and
unselfishly at work for the betterment of humanity.

Mr. Morris K. Jessup, the treasurer of the Slater Fund, I refer
to because I know of no man of wealth and large and complication
business responsibilities who gives not only money but his time
and thought to the subject of the proper method of elevating the
Negro to the extent that is true of Mr. Jessup. It is very
largely through this effort and influence that during the last
few years the subject of industrial education has assumed the
importance that it has, and been placed on its present footing.

Chapter XIII. Two Thousand Miles For A Five-Minute Speech

Soon after the opening of our boarding department, quite a number
of students who evidently were worthy, but who were so poor that
they did not have any money to pay even the small charges at the
school, began applying for admission. This class was composed of
both men and women. It was a great trial to refuse admission to
these applicants, and in 1884 we established a night-school to
accommodate a few of them.

The night-school was organized on a plan similar to the one which
I had helped to establish at Hampton. At first it was composed of
about a dozen students. They were admitted to the night-school
only when they had no money with which to pay any part of their
board in the regular day-school. It was further required that
they must work for ten hours during the day at some trade or
industry, and study academic branches for two hours during the
evening. This was the requirement for the first one or two years
of their stay. They were to be paid something above the cost of
their board, with the understanding that all of their earnings,
except a very small part, were to be reserved in the school's
treasury, to be used for paying their board in the regular
day-school after they had entered that department. The
night-school, started in this manner, has grown until there are
at present four hundred and fifty-seven students enrolled in it

There could hardly be a more severe test of a student's worth
than this branch of the Institute's worth. It is largely because
it furnishes such a good opportunity to test the backbone of a
student that I place such high value upon our night-school. Any
one who is willing to work ten hours a day at the brick-yard, or
in the laundry, through one or two years, in order that he or she
may have the privilege of studying academic branches for two
hours in the evening, has enough bottom to warrant being further

After the student has left the night-school he enters the
day-school, where he takes academic branches four days in a week,
and works at his trade two days. Besides this he usually works at
his trade during the three summer months. As a rule, after a
student has succeeded in going through the night-school test, he
finds a way to finish the regular course in industrial and
academic training. No student, no matter how much money he may be
able to command, is permitted to go through school without doing
manual labour. In fact, the industrial work is now as popular as
the academic branches. Some of the most successful men and women
who have graduated from the institution obtained their start in
the night-school.

While a great deal of stress is laid upon the industrial side of
the work at Tuskegee, we do not neglect or overlook in any degree
the religious and spiritual side. The school is strictly
undenominational, but it is thoroughly Christian, and the
spiritual training or the students is not neglected. Our
preaching service, prayer-meetings, Sunday-school, Christian
Endeavour Society, Young Men's Christian Association, and various
missionary organizations, testify to this.

In 1885, Miss Olivia Davidson, to whom I have already referred as
being largely responsible for the success of the school during
its early history, and I were married. During our married life
she continued to divide her time and strength between our home
and the work for the school. She not only continued to work in
the school at Tuskegee, but also kept up her habit of going North
to secure funds. In 1889 she died, after four years of happy
married life and eight years of hard and happy work for the
school. She literally wore herself out in her never ceasing
efforts in behalf of the work that she so dearly loved. During
our married life there were born to us two bright, beautiful
boys, Booker Taliaferro and Ernest Davidson. The older of these,
Booker, has already mastered the brick-maker's trade at Tuskegee.

I have often been asked how I began the practice of public
speaking. In answer I would say that I never planned to give any
large part of my life to speaking in public. I have always had
more of an ambition to DO things than merely to talk ABOUT doing
them. It seems that when I went North with General Armstrong to
speak at the series of public meetings to which I have referred,
the President of the National Educational Association, the Hon.
Thomas W. Bicknell, was present at one of those meetings and
heard me speak. A few days afterward he sent me an invitation to
deliver an address at the next meeting of the Educational
Association. This meeting was to be held in Madison, Wis. I
accepted the invitation. This was, in a sense, the beginning of
my public-speaking career.

On the evening that I spoke before the Association there must
have been not far from four thousand persons present. Without my
knowing it, there were a large number of people present from
Alabama, and some from the town of Tuskegee. These white people
afterward frankly told me that they went to this meeting
expecting to hear the South roundly abused, but were pleasantly
surprised to find that there was no word of abuse in my address.
On the contrary, the South was given credit for all the
praiseworthy things that it had done. A white lady who was
teacher in a college in Tuskegee wrote back to the local paper
that she was gratified, as well as surprised, to note the credit
which I gave the white people of Tuskegee for their help in
getting the school started. This address at Madison was the first
that I had delivered that in any large measure dealt with the
general problem of the races. Those who heard it seemed to be
pleased with what I said and with the general position that I

When I first came to Tuskegee, I determined that I would make it
my home, that I would take as much pride in the right actions of
the people of the town as any white man could do, and that I
would, at the same time, deplore the wrong-doing of the people as
much as any white man. I determined never to say anything in a
public address in the North that I would not be willing to say in
the South. I early learned that it is a hard matter to convert an
individual by abusing him, and that this is more often
accomplished by giving credit for all the praiseworthy actions
performed than by calling attention alone to all the evil done.

While pursuing this policy I have not failed, at the proper time
and in the proper manner, to call attention, in no uncertain
terms, to the wrongs which any part of the South has been guilty
of. I have found that there is a large element in the South that
is quick to respond to straightforward, honest criticism of any
wrong policy. As a rule, the place to criticise the South, when
criticism is necessary, is in the South--not in Boston. A Boston
man who came to Alabama to criticise Boston would not effect so
much good, I think, as one who had his word of criticism to say
in Boston.

In this address at Madison I took the ground that the policy to
be pursued with references to the races was, by every honourable
means, to bring them together and to encourage the cultivation of
friendly relations, instead of doing that which would embitter. I
further contended that, in relation to his vote, the Negro should
more and more consider the interests of the community in which he
lived, rather than seek alone to please some one who lived a
thousand miles away from him and from his interests.

In this address I said that the whole future of the Negro rested
largely upon the question as to whether or not he should make
himself, through his skill, intelligence, and character, of such
undeniable value to the community in which he lived that the
community could not dispense with his presence. I said that any
individual who learned to do something better than anybody
else--learned to do a common thing in an uncommon manner--had
solved his problem, regardless of the colour of his skin, and
that in proportion as the Negro learned to produce what other
people wanted and must have, in the same proportion would he be

I spoke of an instance where one of our graduates had produced
two hundred and sixty-six bushels of sweet potatoes from an acre
of ground, in a community where the average production had been
only forty-nine bushels to the acre. He had been able to do this
by reason of his knowledge of the chemistry of the soil and by
his knowledge of improved methods of agriculture. The white
farmers in the neighbourhood respected him, and came to him for
ideas regarding the raising of sweet potatoes. These white
farmers honoured and respected him because he, by his skill and
knowledge, had added something to the wealth and the comfort of
the community in which he lived. I explained that my theory of
education for the Negro would not, for example, confine him for
all time to farm life--to the production of the best and the most
sweet potatoes--but that, if he succeeded in this line of
industry, he could lay the foundations upon which his children
and grand-children could grow to higher and more important things
in life.

Such, in brief, were some of the views I advocated in this first
address dealing with the broad question of the relations of the
two races, and since that time I have not found any reason for
changing my views on any important point.

In my early life I used to cherish a feeling of ill will toward
any one who spoke in bitter terms against the Negro, or who
advocated measures that tended to oppress the black man or take
from him opportunities for growth in the most complete manner.
Now, whenever I hear any one advocating measures that are meant
to curtail the development of another, I pity the individual who
would do this. I know that the one who makes this mistake does so
because of his own lack of opportunity for the highest kind of
growth. I pity him because I know that he is trying to stop the
progress of the world, and because I know that in time the
development and the ceaseless advance of humanity will make him
ashamed of his weak and narrow position. One might as well try to
stop the progress of a mighty railroad train by throwing his body
across the track, as to try to stop the growth of the world in
the direction of giving mankind more intelligence, more culture,
more skill, more liberty, and in the direction of extending more
sympathy and more brotherly kindness.

The address which I delivered at Madison, before the National
Educational Association, gave me a rather wide introduction in
the North, and soon after that opportunities began offering
themselves for me to address audiences there.

I was anxious, however, that the way might also be opened for me
to speak directly to a representative Southern white audience. A
partial opportunity of this kind, one that seemed to me might
serve as an entering wedge, presented itself in 1893, when the
international meeting of Christian Workers was held at Atlanta,
Ga. When this invitation came to me, I had engagements in Boston
that seemed to make it impossible for me to speak in Atlanta.
Still, after looking over my list of dates and places carefully,
I found that I could take a train from Boston that would get me
into Atlanta about thirty minutes before my address was to be
delivered, and that I could remain in that city before taking
another train for Boston. My invitation to speak in Atlanta
stipulated that I was to confine my address to five minutes. The
question, then, was whether or not I could put enough into a
five-minute address to make it worth while for me to make such a

I knew that the audience would be largely composed of the most
influential class of white men and women, and that it would be a
rare opportunity for me to let them know what we were trying to
do at Tuskegee, as well as to speak to them about the relations
of the races. So I decided to make the trip. I spoke for five
minutes to an audience of two thousand people, composed mostly of
Southern and Northern whites. What I said seemed to be received
with favour and enthusiasm. The Atlanta papers of the next day
commented in friendly terms on my address, and a good deal was
said about it in different parts of the country. I felt that I
had in some degree accomplished my object--that of getting a
hearing from the dominant class of the South.

The demands made upon me for public addresses continued to
increase, coming in about equal numbers from my own people and
from Northern whites. I gave as much time to these addresses as I
could spare from the immediate work at Tuskegee. Most of the
addresses in the North were made for the direct purpose of
getting funds with which to support the school. Those delivered
before the coloured people had for their main object the
impressing upon them the importance of industrial and technical
education in addition to academic and religious training.

I now come to that one of the incidents in my life which seems to
have excited the greatest amount of interest, and which perhaps
went further than anything else in giving me a reputation that in
a sense might be called National. I refer to the address which I
delivered at the opening of the Atlanta Cotton states and
International Exposition, at Atlanta, Ga., September 18, 1895.

So much has been said and written about this incident, and so
many questions have been asked me concerning the address, that
perhaps I may be excused for taking up the matter with some
detail. The five-minute address in Atlanta, which I came from
Boston to deliver, was possibly the prime cause for an
opportunity being given me to make the second address there. In
the spring of 1895 I received a telegram from prominent citizens
in Atlanta asking me to accompany a committee from that city to
Washington for the purpose of appearing before a committee of
Congress in the interest of securing Government help for the
Exposition. The committee was composed of about twenty-five of
the most prominent and most influential white men of Georgia. All
the members of this committee were white men except Bishop Grant,
Bishop Gaines, and myself. The Mayor and several other city and
state officials spoke before the committee. They were followed by
the two coloured bishops. My name was the last on the list of
speakers. I had never before appeared before such a committee,
nor had I ever delivered any address in the capital of the
Nation. I had many misgivings as to what I ought to say, and as
to the impression that my address would make. While I cannot
recall in detail what I said, I remember that I tried to impress
upon the committee, with all the earnestness and plainness of any
language that I could command, that if Congress wanted to do
something which would assist in ridding the South of the race
question and making friends between the two races, it should, in
every proper way, encourage the material and intellectual growth
of both races. I said that the Atlanta Exposition would present
an opportunity for both races to show what advance they had made
since freedom, and would at the same time afford encouragement to
them to make still greater progress.

I tried to emphasize the fact that while the Negro should not be
deprived by unfair means of the franchise, political agitation
alone would not save him, and that back of the ballot he must
have property, industry, skill, economy, intelligence, and
character, and that no race without these elements could
permanently succeed. I said that in granting the appropriation
Congress could do something that would prove to be of real and
lasting value to both races, and that it was the first great
opportunity of the kind that had been presented since the close
of the Civil War.

I spoke for fifteen or twenty minutes, and was surprised at the
close of my address to receive the hearty congratulations of the
Georgia committee and of the members of Congress who were
present. The Committee was unanimous in making a favourable
report, and in a few days the bill passed Congress. With the
passing of this bill the success of the Atlanta Exposition was

Soon after this trip to Washington the directors of the
Exposition decided that it would be a fitting recognition of the
coloured race to erect a large and attractive building which
should be devoted wholly to showing the progress of the Negro
since freedom. It was further decided to have the building
designed and erected wholly by Negro mechanics. This plan was
carried out. In design, beauty, and general finish the Negro
Building was equal to the others on the grounds.

After it was decided to have a separate Negro exhibit, the
question arose as to who should take care of it. The officials of
the Exposition were anxious that I should assume this
responsibility, but I declined to do so, on the plea that the
work at Tuskegee at that time demanded my time and strength.
Largely at my suggestion, Mr. I. Garland Penn, of Lynchburg, Va.,
was selected to be at the head of the Negro department. I gave
him all the aid that I could. The Negro exhibit, as a whole, was
large and creditable. The two exhibits in this department which
attracted the greatest amount of attention were those from the
Hampton Institute and the Tuskegee Institute. The people who
seemed to be the most surprised, as well as pleased, at what they
saw in the Negro Building were the Southern white people.

As the day for the opening of the Exposition drew near, the Board
of Directors began preparing the programme for the opening
exercises. In the discussion from day to day of the various
features of this programme, the question came up as to the
advisability of putting a member of the Negro race on for one of
the opening addresses, since the Negroes had been asked to take
such a prominent part in the Exposition. It was argued, further,
that such recognition would mark the good feeling prevailing
between the two races. Of course there were those who were
opposed to any such recognition of the rights of the Negro, but
the Board of Directors, composed of men who represented the best
and most progressive element in the South, had their way, and
voted to invite a black man to speak on the opening day. The next
thing was to decide upon the person who was thus to represent the
Negro race. After the question had been canvassed for several
days, the directors voted unanimously to ask me to deliver one of
the opening-day addresses, and in a few days after that I
received the official invitation.

The receiving of this invitation brought to me a sense of
responsibility that it would be hard for any one not placed in my
position to appreciate. What were my feelings when this
invitation came to me? I remembered that I had been a slave; that
my early years had been spent in the lowest depths of poverty and
ignorance, and that I had had little opportunity to prepare me
for such a responsibility as this. It was only a few years before
that time that any white man in the audience might have claimed
me as his slave; and it was easily possible that some of my
former owners might be present to hear me speak.

I knew, too, that this was the first time in the entire history
of the Negro that a member of my race had been asked to speak
from the same platform with white Southern men and women on any
important National occasion. I was asked now to speak to an
audience composed of the wealth and culture of the white South,
the representatives of my former masters. I knew, too, that while
the greater part of my audience would be composed of Southern
people, yet there would be present a large number of Northern
whites, as well as a great many men and women of my own race.

I was determined to say nothing that I did not feel from the
bottom of my heart to be true and right. When the invitation came
to me, there was not one word of intimation as to what I should
say or as to what I should omit. In this I felt that the Board of
Directors had paid a tribute to me. They knew that by one
sentence I could have blasted, in a large degree, the success of
the Exposition. I was also painfully conscious of the fact that,
while I must be true to my own race in my utterances, I had it in
my power to make such an ill-timed address as would result in
preventing any similar invitation being extended to a black man
again for years to come. I was equally determined to be true to
the North, as well as to the best element of the white South, in
what I had to say.

The papers, North and South, had taken up the discussion of my
coming speech, and as the time for it drew near this discussion
became more and more widespread. Not a few of the Southern white
papers were unfriendly to the idea of my speaking. From my own
race I received many suggestions as to what I ought to say. I
prepared myself as best I could for the address, but as the
eighteenth of September drew nearer, the heavier my heart became,
and the more I feared that my effort would prove a failure and a

The invitation had come at a time when I was very busy with my
school work, as it was the beginning of our school year. After
preparing my address, I went through it, as I usually do with
those utterances which I consider particularly important, with
Mrs. Washington, and she approved of what I intended to say. On
the sixteenth of September, the day before I was to start for
Atlanta, so many of the Tuskegee teachers expressed a desire to
hear my address that I consented to read it to them in a body.
When I had done so, and had heard their criticisms and comments,
I felt somewhat relieved, since they seemed to think well of what
I had to say.

On the morning of September 17, together with Mrs. Washington and
my three children, I started for Atlanta. I felt a good deal as I
suppose a man feels when he is on his way to the gallows. In
passing through the town of Tuskegee I met a white farmer who
lived some distance out in the country. In a jesting manner this
man said: "Washington, you have spoken before the Northern white
people, the Negroes in the South, and to us country white people
in the South; but Atlanta, to-morrow, you will have before you
the Northern whites, the Southern whites, and the Negroes all
together. I am afraid that you have got yourself in a tight
place." This farmer diagnosed the situation correctly, but his
frank words did not add anything to my comfort.

In the course of the journey from Tuskegee to Atlanta both
coloured and white people came to the train to point me out, and
discussed with perfect freedom, in my hearings, what was going to
take place the next day. We were met by a committee in Atlanta.
Almost the first thing that I heard when I got off the train in
that city was an expression something like this, from an old
coloured man near by: "Dat's de man of my race what's gwine to
make a speech at de Exposition to-morrow. I'se sho' gwine to hear

Atlanta was literally packed, at the time, with people from all
parts of the country, and with representatives of foreign
governments, as well as with military and civic organizations.
The afternoon papers had forecasts of the next day's proceedings
in flaring headlines. All this tended to add to my burden. I did
not sleep much that night. The next morning, before day, I went
carefully over what I planned to say. I also kneeled down and
asked God's blessing upon my effort. Right here, perhaps, I ought
to add that I make it a rule never to go before an audience, on
any occasion, without asking the blessing of God upon what I want
to say.

I always make it a rule to make especial preparation for each
separate address. No two audiences are exactly alike. It is my
aim to reach and talk to the heart of each individual audience,
taking it into my confidence very much as I would a person. When
I am speaking to an audience, I care little for how what I am
saying is going to sound in the newspapers, or to another
audience, or to an individual. At the time, the audience before
me absorbs all my sympathy, thought, and energy.

Early in the morning a committee called to escort me to my place
in the procession which was to march to the Exposition grounds.
In this procession were prominent coloured citizens in carriages,
as well as several Negro military organizations. I noted that the
Exposition officials seemed to go out of their way to see that
all of the coloured people in the procession were properly placed
and properly treated. The procession was about three hours in
reaching the Exposition grounds, and during all of this time the
sun was shining down upon us disagreeably hot. When we reached
the grounds, the heat, together with my nervous anxiety, made me
feel as if I were about ready to collapse, and to feel that my
address was not going to be a success. When I entered the
audience-room, I found it packed with humanity from bottom to
top, and there were thousands outside who could not get in.

The room was very large, and well suited to public speaking. When
I entered the room, there were vigorous cheers from the coloured
portion of the audience, and faint cheers from some of the white
people. I had been told, while I had been in Atlanta, that while
many white people were going to be present to hear me speak,
simply out of curiosity, and that others who would be present
would be in full sympathy with me, there was a still larger
element of the audience which would consist of those who were
going to be present for the purpose of hearing me make a fool of
myself, or, at least, of hearing me say some foolish thing so
that they could say to the officials who had invited me to speak,
"I told you so!"

One of the trustees of the Tuskegee Institute, as well as my
personal friend, Mr. William H. Baldwin, Jr. was at the time
General Manager of the Southern Railroad, and happened to be in
Atlanta on that day. He was so nervous about the kind of
reception that I would have, and the effect that my speech would
produce, that he could not persuade himself to go into the
building, but walked back and forth in the grounds outside until
the opening exercises were over.

Chapter XIV. The Atlanta Exposition Address

The Atlanta Exposition, at which I had been asked to make an
address as a representative of the Negro race, as stated in the
last chapter, was opened with a short address from Governor
Bullock. After other interesting exercises, including an
invocation from Bishop Nelson, of Georgia, a dedicatory ode by
Albert Howell, Jr., and addresses by the President of the
Exposition and Mrs. Joseph Thompson, the President of the Woman's
Board, Governor Bullock introduce me with the words, "We have
with us to-day a representative of Negro enterprise and Negro

When I arose to speak, there was considerable cheering,
especially from the coloured people. As I remember it now, the
thing that was uppermost in my mind was the desire to say
something that would cement the friendship of the races and bring
about hearty cooperation between them. So far as my outward
surroundings were concerned, the only thing that I recall
distinctly now is that when I got up, I saw thousands of eyes
looking intently into my face. The following is the address which
I delivered:--

Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Board of Directors and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first thing that I remember, after I had finished speaking,
was that Governor Bullock rushed across the platform and took me
by the hand, and that others did the same. I received so many and
such hearty congratulations that I found it difficult to get out
of the building. I did not appreciate to any degree, however, the
impression which my address seemed to have made, until the next
morning, when I went into the business part of the city. As soon
as I was recognized, I was surprised to find myself pointed out
and surrounded by a crowd of men who wished to shake hands with
me. This was kept up on every street on to which I went, to an
extent which embarrassed me so much that I went back to my
boarding-place. The next morning I returned to Tuskegee. At the
station in Atlanta, and at almost all of the stations at which
the train stopped between that city and Tuskegee, I found a crowd
of people anxious to shake hands with me.

The papers in all parts of the United States published the
address in full, and for months afterward there were
complimentary editorial references to it. Mr. Clark Howell, the
editor of the Atlanta Constitution, telegraphed to a New York
paper, among other words, the following, "I do not exaggerate
when I say that Professor Booker T. Washington's address
yesterday was one of the most notable speeches, both as to
character and as to the warmth of its reception, ever delivered
to a Southern audience. The address was a revelation. The whole
speech is a platform upon which blacks and whites can stand with
full justice to each other."

The Boston Transcript said editorially: "The speech of Booker T.
Washington at the Atlanta Exposition, this week, seems to have
dwarfed all the other proceedings and the Exposition itself. The
sensation that it has caused in the press has never been

I very soon began receiving all kinds of propositions from
lecture bureaus, and editors of magazines and papers, to take the
lecture platform, and to write articles. One lecture bureau
offered me fifty thousand dollars, or two hundred dollars a night
and expenses, if I would place my services at its disposal for a
given period. To all these communications I replied that my
life-work was at Tuskegee; and that whenever I spoke it must be
in the interests of Tuskegee school and my race, and that I would
enter into no arrangements that seemed to place a mere commercial
value upon my services.

Some days after its delivery I sent a copy of my address to the
President of the United States, the Hon. Grover Cleveland. I
received from him the following autograph reply:--

Gray Gables, Buzzard's Bay, Mass.,

October 6, 1895.

Booker T. Washington, Esq.:

My Dear Sir: I thank you for sending me a copy of your address
delivered at the Atlanta Exposition.

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

Yours very truly,

Grover Cleveland.

Later I met Mr. Cleveland, for the first time, when, as
President, he visited the Atlanta Exposition. At the request of
myself and others he consented to spend an hour in the Negro
Building, for the purpose of inspecting the Negro exhibit and of
giving the coloured people in attendance an opportunity to shake
hands with him. As soon as I met Mr. Cleveland I became impressed
with his simplicity, greatness, and rugged honesty. I have met
him many times since then, both at public functions and at his
private residence in Princeton, and the more I see of him the
more I admire him. When he visited the Negro Building in Atlanta
he seemed to give himself up wholly, for that hour, to the
coloured people. He seemed to be as careful to shake hands with
some old coloured "auntie" clad partially in rags, and to take as
much pleasure in doing so, as if he were greeting some
millionaire. Many of the coloured people took advantage of the
occasion to get him to write his name in a book or on a slip of
paper. He was as careful and patient in doing this as if he were
putting his signature to some great state document.

Mr. Cleveland has not only shown his friendship for me in many
personal ways, but has always consented to do anything I have
asked of him for our school. This he has done, whether it was to
make a personal donation or to use his influence in securing the
donations of others. Judging from my personal acquaintance with
Mr. Cleveland, I do not believe that he is conscious of
possessing any colour prejudice. He is too great for that. In my
contact with people I find that, as a rule, it is only the
little, narrow people who live for themselves, who never read
good books, who do not travel, who never open up their souls in a
way to permit them to come into contact with other souls--with
the great outside world. No man whose vision is bounded by colour
can come into contact with what is highest and best in the world.
In meeting men, in many places, I have found that the happiest
people are those who do the most for others; the most miserable
are those who do the least. I have also found that few things, if
any, are capable of making one so blind and narrow as race
prejudice. I often say to our students, in the course of my talks
to them on Sunday evenings in the chapel, that the longer I live
and the more experience I have of the world, the more I am
convinced that, after all, the one thing that is most worth
living for--and dying for, if need be--is the opportunity of
making some one else more happy and more useful.

The coloured people and the coloured newspapers at first seemed
to be greatly pleased with the character of my Atlanta address,
as well as with its reception. But after the first burst of
enthusiasm began to die away, and the coloured people began
reading the speech in cold type, some of them seemed to feel that
they had been hypnotized. They seemed to feel that I had been too
liberal in my remarks toward the Southern whites, and that I had
not spoken out strongly enough for what they termed the "rights"
of my race. For a while there was a reaction, so far as a certain
element of my own race was concerned, but later these reactionary
ones seemed to have been won over to my way of believing and

While speaking of changes in public sentiment, I recall that
about ten years after the school at Tuskegee was established, I
had an experience that I shall never forget. Dr. Lyman Abbott,
then the pastor of Plymouth Church, and also editor of the
Outlook (then the Christian Union), asked me to write a letter
for his paper giving my opinion of the exact condition, mental
and moral, of the coloured ministers in the South, as based upon
my observations. I wrote the letter, giving the exact facts as I
conceived them to be. The picture painted was a rather black
one--or, since I am black, shall I say "white"? It could not be
otherwise with a race but a few years out of slavery, a race
which had not had time or opportunity to produce a competent

What I said soon reached every Negro minister in the country, I
think, and the letters of condemnation which I received from them
were not few. I think that for a year after the publication of
this article every association and every conference or religious
body of any kind, of my race, that met, did not fail before
adjourning to pass a resolution condemning me, or calling upon me
to retract or modify what I had said. Many of these organizations
went so far in their resolutions as to advise parents to cease
sending their children to Tuskegee. One association even
appointed a "missionary" whose duty it was to warn the people
against sending their children to Tuskegee. This missionary had a
son in the school, and I noticed that, whatever the "missionary"
might have said or done with regard to others, he was careful not
to take his son away from the institution. Many of the coloured
papers, especially those that were the organs of religious
bodies, joined in the general chorus of condemnation or demands
for retraction.

During the whole time of the excitement, and through all the
criticism, I did not utter a word of explanation of retraction. I
knew that I was right, and that time and the sober second thought
of the people would vindicate me. It was not long before the
bishops and other church leaders began to make careful
investigation of the conditions of the ministry, and they found
out that I was right. In fact, the oldest and most influential
bishop in one branch of the Methodist Church said that my words
were far too mild. Very soon public sentiment began making itself
felt, in demanding a purifying of the ministry. While this is not
yet complete by any means, I think I may say, without egotism,
and I have been told by many of our most influential ministers,
that my words had much to do with starting a demand for the
placing of a higher type of men in the pulpit. I have had the
satisfaction of having many who once condemned me thank me
heartily for my frank words.

The change of the attitude of the Negro ministry, so far as
regards myself, is so complete that at the present time I have no
warmer friends among any class than I have among the clergymen.
The improvement in the character and life of the Negro ministers
is one of the most gratifying evidences of the progress of the
race. My experience with them, as well as other events in my
life, convince me that the thing to do, when one feels sure that
he has said or done the right thing, and is condemned, is to
stand still and keep quiet. If he is right, time will show it.

In the midst of the discussion which was going on concerning my
Atlanta speech, I received the letter which I give below, from
Dr. Gilman, the President of Johns Hopkins University, who had
been made chairman of the judges of award in connection with the
Atlanta Exposition:--

Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore,

President's Office, September 30, 1895.

Dear Mr. Washington: Would it be agreeable to you to be one of
the Judges of Award in the Department of Education at Atlanta? If
so, I shall be glad to place your name upon the list. A line by
telegraph will be welcomed.

Yours very truly,

D.C. Gilman

I think I was even more surprised to receive this invitation than
I had been to receive the invitation to speak at the opening of
the Exposition. It was to be a part of my duty, as one of the
jurors, to pass not only upon the exhibits of the coloured
schools, but also upon those of the white schools. I accepted the
position, and spent a month in Atlanta in performance of the
duties which it entailed. The board of jurors was a large one,
containing in all of sixty members. It was about equally divided
between Southern white people and Northern white people. Among
them were college presidents, leading scientists and men of
letters, and specialists in many subjects. When the group of
jurors to which I was assigned met for organization, Mr. Thomas
Nelson Page, who was one of the number, moved that I be made
secretary of that division, and the motion was unanimously
adopted. Nearly half of our division were Southern people. In
performing my duties in the inspection of the exhibits of white
schools I was in every case treated with respect, and at the
close of our labours I parted from my associates with regret.

I am often asked to express myself more freely than I do upon the
political condition and the political future of my race. These
recollections of my experience in Atlanta give me the opportunity
to do so briefly. My own belief is, although I have never before
said so in so many words, that the time will come when the Negro
in the South will be accorded all the political rights which his
ability, character, and material possessions entitle him to. I
think, though, that the opportunity to freely exercise such
political rights will not come in any large degree through
outside or artificial forcing, but will be accorded to the Negro
by the Southern white people themselves, and that they will
protect him in the exercise of those rights. Just as soon as the
South gets over the old feeling that it is being forced by
"foreigners," or "aliens," to do something which it does not want
to do, I believe that the change in the direction that I have
indicated is going to begin. In fact, there are indications that
it is already beginning in a slight degree.

Let me illustrate my meaning. Suppose that some months before the
opening of the Atlanta Exposition there had been a general demand
from the press and public platform outside the South that a Negro
be given a place on the opening programme, and that a Negro be
placed upon the board of jurors of award. Would any such
recognition of the race have taken place? I do not think so. The
Atlanta officials went as far as they did because they felt it to
be a pleasure, as well as a duty, to reward what they considered
merit in the Negro race. Say what we will, there is something in
human nature which we cannot blot out, which makes one man, in
the end, recognize and reward merit in another, regardless of
colour or race.

I believe it is the duty of the Negro--as the greater part of the
race is already doing--to deport himself modestly in regard to
political claims, depending upon the slow but sure influences
that proceed from the possession of property, intelligence, and
high character for the full recognition of his political rights.
I think that the according of the full exercise of political
rights is going to be a matter of natural, slow growth, not an
over-night, gourd-vine affair. I do not believe that the Negro
should cease voting, for a man cannot learn the exercise of
self-government by ceasing to vote, any more than a boy can learn
to swim by keeping out of the water, but I do believe that in his
voting he should more and more be influenced by those of
intelligence and character who are his next-door neighbours.

I know coloured men who, through the encouragement, help, and
advice of Southern white people, have accumulated thousands of
dollars' worth of property, but who, at the same time, would
never think of going to those same persons for advice concerning
the casting of their ballots. This, it seems to me, is unwise and
unreasonable, and should cease. In saying this I do not mean that
the Negro should truckle, or not vote from principle, for the
instant he ceases to vote from principle he loses the confidence
and respect of the Southern white man even.

I do not believe that any state should make a law that permits an
ignorant and poverty-stricken white man to vote, and prevents a
black man in the same condition from voting. Such a law is not
only unjust, but it will react, as all unjust laws do, in time;
for the effect of such a law is to encourage the Negro to secure
education and property, and at the same time it encourages the
white man to remain in ignorance and poverty. I believe that in
time, through the operation of intelligence and friendly race
relations, all cheating at the ballot-box in the South will
cease. It will become apparent that the white man who begins by
cheating a Negro out of his ballot soon learns to cheat a white
man out of his, and that the man who does this ends his career of
dishonesty by the theft of property or by some equally serious
crime. In my opinion, the time will come when the South will
encourage all of its citizens to vote. It will see that it pays
better, from every standpoint, to have healthy, vigorous life
than to have that political stagnation which always results when
one-half of the population has no share and no interest in the

As a rule, I believe in universal, free suffrage, but I believe
that in the South we are confronted with peculiar conditions that
justify the protection of the ballot in many of the states, for a
while at least, either by an education test, a property test, or
by both combined; but whatever tests are required, they should be
made to apply with equal and exact justice to both races.

Chapter XV. The Secret Of Success In Public Speaking

As to how my address at Atlanta was received by the audience in
the Exposition building, I think I prefer to let Mr. James
Creelman, the noted war correspondent, tell. Mr. Creelman was
present, and telegraphed the following account to the New York

Atlanta, September 18.

While President Cleveland was waiting at Gray Gables to-day, to
send the electric spark that started the machinery of the Atlanta
Exposition, a Negro Moses stood before a great audience of white
people and delivered an oration that marks a new epoch in the
history of the South; and a body of Negro troops marched in a
procession with the citizen soldiery of Georgia and Louisiana.
The whole city is thrilling to-night with a realization of the
extraordinary significance of these two unprecedented events.
Nothing has happened since Henry Grady's immortal speech before
the New England society in New York that indicates so profoundly
the spirit of the New South, except, perhaps, the opening of the
Exposition itself.

When Professor Booker T. Washington, Principal of an industrial
school for coloured people in Tuskegee, Ala. stood on the
platform of the Auditorium, with the sun shining over the heads
of his auditors into his eyes, and with his whole face lit up
with the fire of prophecy, Clark Howell, the successor of Henry
Grady, said to me, "That man's speech is the beginning of a moral
revolution in America."

It is the first time that a Negro has made a speech in the South
on any important occasion before an audience composed of white
men and women. It electrified the audience, and the response was
as if it had come from the throat of a whirlwind.

Mrs. Thompson had hardly taken her seat when all eyes were turned
on a tall tawny Negro sitting in the front row of the platform.
It was Professor Booker T. Washington, President of the Tuskegee
(Alabama) Normal and Industrial Institute, who must rank from
this time forth as the foremost man of his race in America.
Gilmore's Band played the "Star-Spangled Banner," and the
audience cheered. The tune changed to "Dixie" and the audience
roared with shrill "hi-yis." Again the music changed, this time
to "Yankee Doodle," and the clamour lessened.

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

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

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

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

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

At the close of the speech Governor Bullock rushed across the
stage and seized the orator's hand. Another shout greeted this
demonstration, and for a few minutes the two men stood facing
each other, hand in hand.

So far as I could spare the time from the immediate work at
Tuskegee, after my Atlanta address, I accepted some of the
invitations to speak in public which came to me, especially those
that would take me into territory where I thought it would pay to
plead the cause of my race, but I always did this with the
understanding that I was to be free to talk about my life-work
and the needs of my people. I also had it understood that I was
not to speak in the capacity of a professional lecturer, or for
mere commercial gain.

In my efforts on the public platform I never have been able to
understand why people come to hear me speak. This question I
never can rid myself of. Time and time again, as I have stood in
the street in front of a building and have seen men and women
passing in large numbers into the audience room where I was to
speak, I have felt ashamed that I should be the cause of
people--as it seemed to me--wasting a valuable hour of their
time. Some years ago I was to deliver an address before a
literary society in Madison, Wis. An hour before the time set for
me to speak, a fierce snow-storm began, and continued for several
hours. I made up my mind that there would be no audience, and
that I should not have to speak, but, as a matter of duty, I went
to the church, and found it packed with people. The surprise gave
me a shock that I did not recover from during the whole evening.

People often ask me if I feel nervous before speaking, or else
they suggest that, since I speak often, they suppose that I get
used to it. In answer to this question I have to say that I
always suffer intensely from nervousness before speaking. More
than once, just before I was to make an important address, this
nervous strain has been so great that I have resolved never again
to speak in public. I not only feel nervous before speaking, but
after I have finished I usually feel a sense of regret, because
it seems to me as if I had left out of my address the main thing
and the best thing that I had meant to say.

There is a great compensation, though, for this preliminary
nervous suffering, that comes to me after I have been speaking
for about ten minutes, and have come to feel that I have really
mastered my audience, and that we have gotten into full and
complete sympathy with each other. It seems to me that there is
rarely such a combination of mental and physical delight in any
effort as that which comes to a public speaker when he feels that
he has a great audience completely within his control. There is a
thread of sympathy and oneness that connects a public speaker
with his audience, that is just as strong as though it was
something tangible and visible. If in an audience of a thousand
people there is one person who is not in sympathy with my views,
or is inclined to be doubtful, cold, or critical, I can pick him
out. When I have found him I usually go straight at him, and it
is a great satisfaction to watch the process of his thawing out.
I find that the most effective medicine for such individuals is
administered at first in the form of a story, although I never
tell an anecdote simply for the sake of telling one. That kind of
thing, I think, is empty and hollow, and an audience soon finds
it out.

I believe that one always does himself and his audience an
injustice when he speaks merely for the sake of speaking. I do
not believe that one should speak unless, deep down in his heart,
he feels convinced that he has a message to deliver. When one
feels, from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head, that
he has something to say that is going to help some individual or
some cause, then let him say it; and in delivering his message I
do not believe that many of the artificial rules of elocution
can, under such circumstances, help him very much. Although there
are certain things, such as pauses, breathing, and pitch of
voice, that are very important, none of these can take the place
of soul in an address. When I have an address to deliver, I like
to forget all about the rules for the proper use of the English
language, and all about rhetoric and that sort of thing, and I
like to make the audience forget all about these things, too.

Nothing tends to throw me off my balance so quickly, when I am
speaking, as to have some one leave the room. To prevent this, I
make up my mind, as a rule, that I will try to make my address so
interesting, will try to state so many interesting facts one
after another, that no one can leave. The average audience, I
have come to believe, wants facts rather than generalities or
sermonizing. Most people, I think, are able to draw proper
conclusions if they are given the facts in an interesting form on
which to base them.

As to the kind of audience that I like best to talk to, I would
put at the top of the list an organization of strong, wide-awake,
business men, such, for example, as is found in Boston, New York,
Chicago, and Buffalo. I have found no other audience so quick to
see a point, and so responsive. Within the last few years I have
had the privilege of speaking before most of the leading
organizations of this kind in the large cities of the United
States. The best time to get hold of an organization of business
men is after a good dinner, although I think that one of the
worst instruments of torture that was ever invented is the custom
which makes it necessary for a speaker to sit through a
fourteen-course dinner, every minute of the time feeling sure
that his speech is going to prove a dismal failure and

I rarely take part in one of these long dinners that I do not
wish that I could put myself back in the little cabin where I was
a slave boy, and again go through the experience there--one that
I shall never forget--of getting molasses to eat once a week from
the "big house." Our usual diet on the plantation was corn bread
and pork, but on Sunday morning my mother was permitted to bring
down a little molasses from the "big house" for her three
children, and when it was received how I did wish that every day
was Sunday! I would get my tin plate and hold it up for the sweet
morsel, but I would always shut my eyes while the molasses was
being poured out into the plate, with the hope that when I opened
them I would be surprised to see how much I had got. When I
opened my eyes I would tip the plate in one direction and
another, so as to make the molasses spread all over it, in the
full belief that there would be more of it and that it would last
longer if spread out in this way. So strong are my childish
impressions of those Sunday morning feasts that it would be
pretty hard for any one to convince me that there is not more
molasses on a plate when it is spread all over the plate than
when it occupies a little corner--if there is a corner in a
plate. At any rate, I have never believed in "cornering" syrup.
My share of the syrup was usually about two tablespoonfuls, and
those two spoonfuls of molasses were much more enjoyable to me
than is a fourteen-course dinner after which I am to speak.

Next to a company of business men, I prefer to speak to an
audience of Southern people, of either race, together or taken
separately. Their enthusiasm and responsiveness are a constant
delight. The "amens" and "dat's de truf" that come spontaneously
from the coloured individuals are calculated to spur any speaker
on to his best efforts. I think that next in order of preference
I would place a college audience. It has been my privilege to
deliver addresses at many of our leading colleges including
Harvard, Yale, Williams, Amherst, Fisk University, the University
of Pennsylvania, Wellesley, the University of Michigan, Trinity
College in North Carolina, and many others.

It has been a matter of deep interest to me to note the number of
people who have come to shake hands with me after an address, who
say that this is the first time they have ever called a Negro

When speaking directly in the interests of the Tuskegee
Institute, I usually arrange, some time in advance, a series of
meetings in important centres. This takes me before churches,
Sunday-schools, Christian Endeavour Societies, and men's and
women's clubs. When doing this I sometimes speak before as many
as four organizations in a single day.

Three years ago, at the suggestion of Mr. Morris K. Jessup, of
New York, and Dr. J.L.M. Curry, the general agent of the fund,
the trustees of the John F. Slater Fund voted a sum of money to
be used in paying the expenses of Mrs. Washington and myself
while holding a series of meetings among the coloured people in
the large centres of Negro population, especially in the large
cities of the ex-slaveholding states. Each year during the last
three years we have devoted some weeks to this work. The plan
that we have followed has been for me to speak in the morning to
the ministers, teachers, and professional men. In the afternoon
Mrs. Washington would speak to the women alone, and in the
evening I spoke to a large mass-meeting. In almost every case the
meetings have been attended not only by the coloured people in
large numbers, but by the white people. In Chattanooga, Tenn.,
for example, there was present at the mass-meeting an audience of
not less than three thousand persons, and I was informed that
eight hundred of these were white. I have done no work that I
really enjoyed more than this, or that I think has accomplished
more good.

These meetings have given Mrs. Washington and myself an
opportunity to get first-hand, accurate information as to the
real condition of the race, by seeing the people in their homes,
their churches, their Sunday-schools, and their places of work,
as well as in the prisons and dens of crime. These meetings also
gave us an opportunity to see the relations that exist between
the races. I never feel so hopeful about the race as I do after
being engaged in a series of these meetings. I know that on such
occasions there is much that comes to the surface that is
superficial and deceptive, but I have had experience enough not
to be deceived by mere signs and fleeting enthusiasms. I have
taken pains to go to the bottom of things and get facts, in a
cold, business-like manner.

I have seen the statement made lately, by one who claims to know
what he is talking about, that, taking the whole Negro race into
account, ninety per cent of the Negro women are not virtuous.
There never was a baser falsehood uttered concerning a race, or a
statement made that was less capable of being proved by actual

No one can come into contact with the race for twenty years, as I
have done in the heart of the South, without being convinced that
the race is constantly making slow but sure progress materially,
educationally, and morally. One might take up the life of the
worst element in New York City, for example, and prove almost
anything he wanted to prove concerning the white man, but all
will agree that this is not a fair test.

Early in the year 1897 I received a letter inviting me to deliver
an address at the dedication of the Robert Gould Shaw monument in
Boston. I accepted the invitation. It is not necessary for me, I
am sure, to explain who Robert Gould Shaw was, and what he did.
The monument to his memory stands near the head of the Boston
Common, facing the State House. It is counted to be the most
perfect piece of art of the kind to be found in the country.

The exercises connected with the dedication were held in Music
Hall, in Boston, and the great hall was packed from top to bottom
with one of the most distinguished audiences that ever assembled
in the city. Among those present were more persons representing
the famous old anti-slavery element that it is likely will ever
be brought together in the country again. The late Hon. Roger
Wolcott, then Governor of Massachusetts, was the presiding
officer, and on the platform with him were many other officials
and hundreds of distinguished men. A report of the meeting which
appeared in the Boston Transcript will describe it better than
any words of mine could do:--

The core and kernel of yesterday's great noon meeting, in honour
of the Brotherhood of Man, in Music Hall, was the superb address
of the Negro President of Tuskegee. "Booker T. Washington
received his Harvard A.M. last June, the first of his race," said
Governor Wolcott, "to receive an honorary degree from the oldest
university in the land, and this for the wise leadership of his
people." When Mr. Washington rose in the flag-filled,
enthusiasm-warmed, patriotic, and glowing atmosphere of Music

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