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Up From Slavery: An Autobiography by Booker T. Washington

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Hall, people felt keenly that here was the civic justification of
the old abolition spirit of Massachusetts; in his person the
proof of her ancient and indomitable faith; in his strong through
and rich oratory, the crown and glory of the old war days of
suffering and strife. The scene was full of historic beauty and
deep significance. "Cold" Boston was alive with the fire that is
always hot in her heart for righteousness and truth. Rows and
rows of people who are seldom seen at any public function, whole
families of those who are certain to be out of town on a holiday,
crowded the place to overflowing. The city was at her birthright
fete in the persons of hundreds of her best citizens, men and
women whose names and lives stand for the virtues that make for
honourable civic pride.

Battle-music had filled the air. Ovation after ovation, applause
warm and prolonged, had greeted the officers and friends of
Colonel Shaw, the sculptor, St. Gaudens, the memorial Committee,
the Governor and his staff, and the Negro soldiers of the
Fifty-fourth Massachusetts as they came upon the platform or
entered the hall. Colonel Henry Lee, of Governor Andrew's old
staff, had made a noble, simple presentation speech for the
committee, paying tribute to Mr. John M. Forbes, in whose stead
he served. Governor Wolcott had made his short, memorable speech,
saying, "Fort Wagner marked an epoch in the history of a race,
and called it into manhood." Mayor Quincy had received the
monument for the city of Boston. The story of Colonel Shaw and
his black regiment had been told in gallant words, and then,
after the singing of

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

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

Among those on the platform was Sergeant William H. Carney, of
New Bedford, Mass., the brave coloured officer who was the
colour-bearer at Fort Wagner and held the American flag. In spite
of the fact that a large part of his regiment was killed, he
escape, and exclaimed, after the battle was over, "The old flag
never touched the ground."

This flag Sergeant Carney held in his hands as he sat on the
platform, and when I turned to address the survivors of the
coloured regiment who were present, and referred to Sergeant
Carney, he rose, as if by instinct, and raised the flag. It has
been my privilege to witness a good many satisfactory and rather
sensational demonstrations in connection with some of my public
addresses, but in dramatic effect I have never seen or
experienced anything which equalled this. For a number of minutes
the audience seemed to entirely lose control of itself.

In the general rejoicing throughout the country which followed
the close of the Spanish-American war, peace celebrations were
arranged in several of the large cities. I was asked by President
William R. Harper, of the University of Chicago, who was chairman
of the committee of invitations for the celebration to be held in
the city of Chicago, to deliver one of the addresses at the
celebration there. I accepted the invitation, and delivered two
addresses there during the Jubilee week. The first of these, and
the principal one, was given in the Auditorium, on the evening of
Sunday, October 16. This was the largest audience that I have
ever addressed, in any part of the country; and besides speaking
in the main Auditorium, I also addressed, that same evening, two
overflow audiences in other parts of the city.

It was said that there were sixteen thousand persons in the
Auditorium, and it seemed to me as if there were as many more on
the outside trying to get in. It was impossible for any one to
get near the entrance without the aid of a policeman. President
William McKinley attended this meeting, as did also the members
of his Cabinet, many foreign ministers, and a large number of
army and navy officers, many of whom had distinguished themselves
in the war which had just closed. The speakers, besides myself,
on Sunday evening, were Rabbi Emil G. Hirsch, Father Thomas P.
Hodnett, and Dr. John H. Barrows.

The Chicago Times-Herald, in describing the meeting, said of my

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

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

The part of the speech which seems to arouse the wildest and most
sensational enthusiasm was that in which I thanked the President
for his recognition of the Negro in his appointments during the
Spanish-American war. The President was sitting in a box at the
right of the stage. When I addressed him I turned toward the box,
and as I finished the sentence thanking him for his generosity,
the whole audience rose and cheered again and again, waving
handkerchiefs and hats and canes, until the President arose in
the box and bowed his acknowledgements. At that the enthusiasm
broke out again, and the demonstration was almost indescribable.

One portion of my address at Chicago seemed to have been
misunderstood by the Southern press, and some of the Southern
papers took occasion to criticise me rather strongly. These
criticisms continued for several weeks, until I finally received
a letter from the editor of the Age-Herald, published in
Birmingham, Ala., asking me if I would say just what I meant by
this part of the address. I replied to him in a letter which
seemed to satisfy my critics. In this letter I said that I had
made it a rule never to say before a Northern audience anything
that I would not say before an audience in the South. I said that
I did not think it was necessary for me to go into extended
explanations; if my seventeen years of work in the heart of the
South had not been explanation enough, I did not see how words
could explain. I said that I made the same plea that I had made
in my address at Atlanta, for the blotting out of race prejudice
in "commercial and civil relations." I said that what is termed
social recognition was a question which I never discussed, and
then I quoted from my Atlanta address what I had said there in
regard to that subject.

In meeting crowds of people at public gatherings, there is one
type of individual that I dread. I mean the crank. I have become
so accustomed to these people now that I can pick them out at a
distance when I see them elbowing their way up to me. The average
crank has a long beard, poorly cared for, a lean, narrow face,
and wears a black coat. The front of his vest and coat are slick
with grease, and his trousers bag at the knees.

In Chicago, after I had spoken at a meeting, I met one of these
fellows. They usually have some process for curing all of the
ills of the world at once. This Chicago specimen had a patent
process by which he said Indian corn could be kept through a
period of three or four years, and he felt sure that if the Negro
race in the South would, as a whole, adopt his process, it would
settle the whole race question. It mattered nothing that I tried
to convince him that our present problem was to teach the Negroes
how to produce enough corn to last them through one year. Another
Chicago crank had a scheme by which he wanted me to join him in
an effort to close up all the National banks in the country. If
that was done, he felt sure it would put the Negro on his feet.

The number of people who stand ready to consume one's time, to no
purpose, is almost countless. At one time I spoke before a large
audience in Boston in the evening. The next morning I was
awakened by having a card brought to my room, and with it a
message that some one was anxious to see me. Thinking that it
must be something very important, I dressed hastily and went
down. When I reached the hotel office I found a blank and
innocent-looking individual waiting for me, who coolly remarked:
"I heard you talk at a meeting last night. I rather liked your
talk, and so I came in this morning to hear you talk some more."

I am often asked how it is possible for me to superintend the
work at Tuskegee and at the same time be so much away from the
school. In partial answer to this I would say that I think I have
learned, in some degree at least, to disregard the old maxim
which says, "Do not get others to do that which you can do
yourself." My motto, on the other hand, is, "Do not do that which
others can do as well."

One of the most encouraging signs in connection with the Tuskegee
school is found in the fact that the organization is so thorough
that the daily work of the school is not dependent upon the
presence of any one individual. The whole executive force,
including instructors and clerks, now numbers eighty-six. This
force is so organized and subdivided that the machinery of the
school goes on day by day like clockwork. Most of our teachers
have been connected with the institutions for a number of years,
and are as much interested in it as I am. In my absence, Mr.
Warren Logan, the treasurer, who has been at the school seventeen
years, is the executive. He is efficiently supported by Mrs.
Washington, and by my faithful secretary, Mr. Emmett J. Scott,
who handles the bulk of my correspondence and keeps me in daily
touch with the life of the school, and who also keeps me informed
of whatever takes place in the South that concerns the race. I
owe more to his tact, wisdom, and hard work than I can describe.

The main executive work of the school, whether I am at Tuskegee
or not, centres in what we call the executive council. This
council meets twice a week, and is composed of the nine persons
who are at the head of the nine departments of the school. For
example: Mrs. B.K. Bruce, the Lady Principal, the widow of the
late ex-senator Bruce, is a member of the council, and represents
in it all that pertains to the life of the girls at the school.
In addition to the executive council there is a financial
committee of six, that meets every week and decides upon the
expenditures for the week. Once a month, and sometimes oftener,
there is a general meeting of all the instructors. Aside from
these there are innumerable smaller meetings, such as that of the
instructors in the Phelps Hall Bible Training School, or of the
instructors in the agricultural department.

In order that I may keep in constant touch with the life of the
institution, I have a system of reports so arranged that a record
of the school's work reaches me every day of the year, no matter
in what part of the country I am. I know by these reports even
what students are excused from school, and why they are
excused--whether for reasons of ill health or otherwise. Through
the medium of these reports I know each day what the income of
the school in money is; I know how many gallons of milk and how
many pounds of butter come from the diary; what the bill of fare
for the teachers and students is; whether a certain kind of meat
was boiled or baked, and whether certain vegetables served in the
dining room were bought from a store or procured from our own
farm. Human nature I find to be very much the same the world
over, and it is sometimes not hard to yield to the temptation to
go to a barrel of rice that has come from the store--with the
grain all prepared to go in the pot--rather than to take the time
and trouble to go to the field and dig and wash one's own sweet
potatoes, which might be prepared in a manner to take the place
of the rice.

I am often asked how, in the midst of so much work, a large part
of which is for the public, I can find time for any rest or
recreation, and what kind of recreation or sports I am fond of.
This is rather a difficult question to answer. I have a strong
feeling that every individual owes it to himself, and to the
cause which he is serving, to keep a vigorous, healthy body, with
the nerves steady and strong, prepared for great efforts and
prepared for disappointments and trying positions. As far as I
can, I make it a rule to plan for each day's work--not merely to
go through with the same routine of daily duties, but to get rid
of the routine work as early in the day as possible, and then to
enter upon some new or advance work. I make it a rule to clear my
desk every day, before leaving my office, of all correspondence
and memoranda, so that on the morrow I can begin a NEW day of
work. I make it a rule never to let my work drive me, but to so
master it, and keep it in such complete control, and to keep so
far ahead of it, that I will be the master instead of the
servant. There is a physical and mental and spiritual enjoyment
that comes from a consciousness of being the absolute master of
one's work, in all its details, that is very satisfactory and
inspiring. My experience teachers me that, if one learns to
follow this plan, he gets a freshness of body and vigour of mind
out of work that goes a long way toward keeping him strong and
healthy. I believe that when one can grow to the point where he
loves his work, this gives him a kind of strength that is most

When I begin my work in the morning, I expect to have a
successful and pleasant day of it, but at the same time I prepare
myself for unpleasant and unexpected hard places. I prepared
myself to hear that one of our school buildings is on fire, or
has burned, or that some disagreeable accident has occurred, or
that some one has abused me in a public address or printed
article, for something that I have done or omitted to do, or for
something that he had heard that I had said--probably something
that I had never thought of saying.

In nineteen years of continuous work I have taken but one
vacation. That was two years ago, when some of my friends put the
money into my hands and forced Mrs. Washington and myself to
spend three months in Europe. I have said that I believe it is
the duty of every one to keep his body in good condition. I try
to look after the little ills, with the idea that if I take care
of the little ills the big ones will not come. When I find myself
unable to sleep well, I know that something is wrong. If I find
any part of my system the least weak, and not performing its
duty, I consult a good physician. The ability to sleep well, at
any time and in any place, I find of great advantage. I have so
trained myself that I can lie down for a nap of fifteen or twenty
minutes, and get up refreshed in body and mind.

I have said that I make it a rule to finish up each day's work
before leaving it. There is, perhaps, one exception to this. When
I have an unusually difficult question to decide--one that
appeals strongly to the emotions--I find it a safe rule to sleep
over it for a night, or to wait until I have had an opportunity
to talk it over with my wife and friends.

As to my reading; the most time I get for solid reading is when I
am on the cars. Newspapers are to me a constant source of delight
and recreation. The only trouble is that I read too many of them.
Fiction I care little for. Frequently I have to almost force
myself to read a novel that is on every one's lips. The kind of
reading that I have the greatest fondness for is biography. I
like to be sure that I am reading about a real man or a real
thing. I think I do not go too far when I say that I have read
nearly every book and magazine article that has been written
about Abraham Lincoln. In literature he is my patron saint.

Out of the twelve months in a year I suppose that, on an average,
I spend six months away from Tuskegee. While my being absent from
the school so much unquestionably has its disadvantages, yet
there are at the same time some compensations. The change of work
brings a certain kind of rest. I enjoy a ride of a long distance
on the cars, when I am permitted to ride where I can be
comfortable. I get rest on the cars, except when the inevitable
individual who seems to be on every train approaches me with the
now familiar phrase: "Isn't this Booker Washington? I want to
introduce myself to you." Absence from the school enables me to
lose sight of the unimportant details of the work, and study it
in a broader and more comprehensive manner than I could do on the
grounds. This absence also brings me into contact with the best
work being done in educational lines, and into contact with the
best educators in the land.

But, after all this is said, the time when I get the most solid
rest and recreation is when I can be at Tuskegee, and, after our
evening meal is over, can sit down, as is our custom, with my
wife and Portia and Baker and Davidson, my three children, and
read a story, or each take turns in telling a story. To me there
is nothing on earth equal to that, although what is nearly equal
to it is to go with them for an hour or more, as we like to do on
Sunday afternoons, into the woods, where we can live for a while
near the heart of nature, where no one can disturb or vex us,
surrounded by pure air, the trees, the shrubbery, the flowers,
and the sweet fragrance that springs from a hundred plants,
enjoying the chirp of the crickets and the songs of the birds.
This is solid rest.

My garden, also, what little time I can be at Tuskegee, is
another source of rest and enjoyment. Somehow I like, as often as
possible, to touch nature, not something that is artificial or an
imitation, but the real thing. When I can leave my office in time
so that I can spend thirty or forty minutes in spading the
ground, in planting seeds, in digging about the plants, I feel
that I am coming into contact with something that is giving me
strength for the many duties and hard places that await me out in
the big world. I pity the man or woman who has never learned to
enjoy nature and to get strength and inspiration out of it.

Aside from the large number of fowls and animals kept by the
school, I keep individually a number of pigs and fowls of the
best grades, and in raising these I take a great deal of
pleasure. I think the pig is my favourite animal. Few things are
more satisfactory to me than a high-grade Berkshire or Poland
China pig.

Games I care little for. I have never seen a game of football. In
cards I do not know one card from another. A game of
old-fashioned marbles with my two boys, once in a while, is all I
care for in this direction. I suppose I would care for games now
if I had had any time in my youth to give to them, but that was
not possible.

Chapter XVI. Europe

In 1893 I was married to Miss Margaret James Murray, a native of
Mississippi, and a graduate of Fisk University, in Nashville,
Tenn., who had come to Tuskegee as a teacher several years
before, and at the time we were married was filling the position
of Lady Principal. Not only is Mrs. Washington completely one
with me in the work directly connected with the school, relieving
me of many burdens and perplexities, but aside from her work on
the school grounds, she carries on a mothers' meeting in the town
of Tuskegee, and a plantation work among the women, children, and
men who live in a settlement connected with a large plantation
about eight miles from Tuskegee. Both the mothers' meeting and
the plantation work are carried on, not only with a view to
helping those who are directly reached, but also for the purpose
of furnishing object-lessons in these two kinds of work that may
be followed by our students when they go out into the world for
their own life-work.

Aside from these two enterprises, Mrs. Washington is also largely
responsible for a woman's club at the school which brings
together, twice a month, the women who live on the school grounds
and those who live near, for the discussion of some important
topic. She is also the President of what is known as the
Federation of Southern Coloured Women's Clubs, and is Chairman of
the Executive Committee of the National Federation of Coloured
Women's Clubs.

Portia, the oldest of my three children, has learned dressmaking.
She has unusual ability in instrumental music. Aside from her
studies at Tuskegee, she has already begun to teach there.

Booker Taliaferro is my next oldest child. Young as he is, he has
already nearly mastered the brickmason's trade. He began working
at this trade when he was quite small, dividing his time between
this and class work; and he has developed great skill in the
trade and a fondness for it. He says that he is going to be an
architect and brickmason. One of the most satisfactory letters
that I have ever received from any one came to me from Booker
last summer. When I left home for the summer, I told him that he
must work at his trade half of each day, and that the other half
of the day he could spend as he pleased. When I had been away
from home two weeks, I received the following letter from him:

Tuskegee, Alabama.

My dear Papa: Before you left home you told me to work at my
trade half of each day. I like my work so much that I want to
work at my trade all day. Besides, I want to earn all the money I
can, so that when I go to another school I shall have money to
pay my expenses.

Your son,


My youngest child, Earnest Davidson Washington, says that he is
going to be a physician. In addition to going to school, where he
studies books and has manual training, he regularly spends a
portion of his time in the office of our resident physician, and
has already learned to do many of the studies which pertain to a
doctor's office.

The thing in my life which brings me the keenest regret is that
my work in connection with public affairs keeps me for so much of
the time away from my family, where, of all places in the world,
I delight to be. I always envy the individual whose life-work is
so laid that he can spend his evenings at home. I have sometimes
thought that people who have this rare privilege do not
appreciate it as they should. It is such a rest and relief to get
away from crowds of people, and handshaking, and travelling, to
get home, even if it be for but a very brief while.

Another thing at Tuskegee out of which I get a great deal of
pleasure and satisfaction is in the meeting with our students,
and teachers, and their families, in the chapel for devotional
exercises every evening at half-past eight, the last thing before
retiring for the night. It is an inspiring sight when one stands
on the platform there and sees before him eleven or twelve
hundred earnest young men and women; and one cannot but feel that
it is a privilege to help to guide them to a higher and more
useful life.

In the spring of 1899 there came to me what I might describe as
almost the greatest surprise of my life. Some good ladies in
Boston arranged a public meeting in the interests of Tuskegee, to
be held in the Hollis Street Theatre. This meeting was attended
by large numbers of the best people of Boston, of both races.
Bishop Lawrence presided. In addition to an address made by
myself, Mr. Paul Lawrence Dunbar read from his poems, and Dr.
W.E.B. Du Bois read an original sketch.

Some of those who attended this meeting noticed that I seemed
unusually tired, and some little time after the close of the
meeting, one of the ladies who had been interested in it asked me
in a casual way if I had ever been to Europe. I replied that I
never had. She asked me if I had ever thought of going, and I
told her no; that it was something entirely beyond me. This
conversation soon passed out of my mind, but a few days afterward
I was informed that some friends in Boston, including Mr. Francis
J. Garrison, had raised a sum of money sufficient to pay all the
expenses of Mrs. Washington and myself during a three or four
months' trip to Europe. It was added with emphasis that we MUST
go. A year previous to this Mr. Garrison had attempted to get me
to promise to go to Europe for a summer's rest, with the
understanding that he would be responsible for raising the money
among his friends for the expenses of the trip. At that time such
a journey seemed so entirely foreign to anything that I should
ever be able to undertake that I did confess I did not give the
matter very serious attention; but later Mr. Garrison joined his
efforts to those of the ladies whom I have mentioned, and when
their plans were made known to me Mr. Garrison not only had the
route mapped out, but had, I believe, selected the steamer upon
which we were to sail.

The whole thing was so sudden and so unexpected that I was
completely taken off my feet. I had been at work steadily for
eighteen years in connection with Tuskegee, and I had never
thought of anything else but ending my life in that way. Each day
the school seemed to depend upon me more largely for its daily
expenses, and I told these Boston friends that, while I thanked
them sincerely for their thoughtfulness and generosity, I could
not go to Europe, for the reason that the school could not live
financially while I was absent. They then informed me that Mr.
Henry L. Higginson, and some other good friends who I know do not
want their names made public, were then raising a sum of money
which would be sufficient to keep the school in operation while I
was away. At this point I was compelled to surrender. Every
avenue of escape had been closed.

Deep down in my heart the whole thing seemed more like a dream
than like reality, and for a long time it was difficult for me to
make myself believe that I was actually going to Europe. I had
been born and largely reared in the lowest depths of slavery,
ignorance, and poverty. In my childhood I had suffered for want
of a place to sleep, for lack of food, clothing, and shelter. I
had not had the privilege of sitting down to a dining-table until
I was quite well grown. Luxuries had always seemed to me to be
something meant for white people, not for my race. I had always
regarded Europe, and London, and Paris, much as I regarded
heaven. And now could it be that I was actually going to Europe?
Such thoughts as these were constantly with me.

Two other thoughts troubled me a good deal. I feared that people
who heard that Mrs. Washington and I were going to Europe might
not know all the circumstances, and might get the idea that we
had become, as some might say, "stuck up," and were trying to
"show off." I recalled that from my youth I had heard it said
that too often, when people of my race reached any degree of
success, they were inclined to unduly exalt themselves; to try
and ape the wealthy, and in so doing to lose their heads. The
fear that people might think this of us haunted me a good deal.
Then, too, I could not see how my conscience would permit me to
spare the time from my work and be happy. It seemed mean and
selfish in me to be taking a vacation while others were at work,
and while there was so much that needed to be done. From the time
I could remember, I had always been at work, and I did not see
how I could spend three or four months in doing nothing. The fact
was that I did not know how to take a vacation.

Mrs. Washington had much the same difficulty in getting away, but
she was anxious to go because she thought that I needed the rest.
There were many important National questions bearing upon the
life of the race which were being agitated at that time, and this
made it all the harder for us to decide to go. We finally gave
our Boston friends our promise that we would go, and then they
insisted that the date of our departure be set as soon as
possible. So we decided upon May 10. My good friend Mr. Garrison
kindly took charge of all the details necessary for the success
of the trip, and he, as well as other friends, gave us a great
number of letters of introduction to people in France and
England, and made other arrangements for our comfort and
convenience abroad. Good-bys were said at Tuskegee, and we were
in New York May 9, ready to sail the next day. Our daughter
Portia, who was then studying in South Framingham, Mass., came to
New York to see us off. Mr. Scott, my secretary, came with me to
New York, in order that I might clear up the last bit of business
before I left. Other friends also came to New York to see us off.
Just before we went on board the steamer another pleasant
surprise came to us in the form of a letter from two generous
ladies, stating that they had decided to give us the money with
which to erect a new building to be used in properly housing all
our industries for girls at Tuskegee.

We were to sail on the Friesland, of the Red Star Line, and a
beautiful vessel she was. We went on board just before noon, the
hour of sailing. I had never before been on board a large ocean
steamer, and the feeling which took possession of me when I found
myself there is rather hard to describe. It was a feeling, I
think, of awe mingled with delight. We were agreeably surprised
to find that the captain, as well as several of the other
officers, not only knew who we were, but was expecting us and
gave us a pleasant greeting. There were several passengers whom
we knew, including Senator Sewell, of New Jersey, and Edward
Marshall, the newspaper correspondent. I had just a little fear
that we would not be treated civilly by some of the passengers.
This fear was based upon what I had heard other people of my
race, who had crossed the ocean, say about unpleasant experiences
in crossing the ocean in American vessels. But in our case, from
the captain down to the most humble servant, we were treated with
the greatest kindness. Nor was this kindness confined to those
who were connected with the steamer; it was shown by all the
passengers also. There were not a few Southern men and women on
board, and they were as cordial as those from other parts of the

As soon as the last good-bys were said, and the steamer had cut
loose from the wharf, the load of care, anxiety, and
responsibility which I had carried for eighteen years began to
lift itself from my shoulders at the rate, it seemed to me, of a
pound a minute. It was the first time in all those years that I
had felt, even in a measure, free from care; and my feeling of
relief it is hard to describe on paper. Added to this was the
delightful anticipation of being in Europe soon. It all seemed
more like a dream than like a reality.

Mr. Garrison had thoughtfully arranged to have us have one of the
most comfortable rooms on the ship. The second or third day out I
began to sleep, and I think that I slept at the rate of fifteen
hours a day during the remainder of the ten days' passage. Then
it was that I began to understand how tired I really was. These
long sleeps I kept up for a month after we landed on the other
side. It was such an unusual feeling to wake up in the morning
and realize that I had no engagements; did not have to take a
train at a certain hour; did not have an appointment to meet some
one, or to make an address, at a certain hour. How different all
this was from the experiences that I have been through when
travelling, when I have sometimes slept in three different beds
in a single night!

When Sunday came, the captain invited me to conduct the religious
services, but, not being a minister, I declined. The passengers,
however, began making requests that I deliver an address to them
in the dining-saloon some time during the voyage, and this I
consented to do. Senator Sewell presided at this meeting. After
ten days of delightful weather, during which I was not seasick
for a day, we landed at the interesting old city of Antwerp, in

The next day after we landed happened to be one of those
numberless holidays which the people of those countries are in
the habit of observing. It was a bright, beautiful day. Our room
in the hotel faced the main public square, and the sights
there--the people coming in from the country with all kinds of
beautiful flowers to sell, the women coming in with their dogs
drawing large, brightly polished cans filled with milk, the
people streaming into the cathedral--filled me with a sense of
newness that I had never before experienced.

After spending some time in Antwerp, we were invited to go with a
part of a half-dozen persons on a trip through Holland. This
party included Edward Marshall and some American artists who had
come over on the same steamer with us. We accepted the
invitation, and enjoyed the trip greatly. I think it was all the
more interesting and instructive because we went for most of the
way on one of the slow, old-fashioned canal-boats. This gave us
an opportunity of seeing and studying the real life of the people
in the country districts. We went in this way as far as
Rotterdam, and later went to The Hague, where the Peace
Conference was then in session, and where we were kindly received
by the American representatives.

The thing that impressed itself most on me in Holland was the
thoroughness of the agriculture and the excellence of the
Holstein cattle. I never knew, before visiting Holland, how much
it was possible for people to get out of a small plot of ground.
It seemed to me that absolutely no land was wasted. It was worth
a trip to Holland, too, just to get a sight of three or four
hundred fine Holstein cows grazing in one of those intensely
green fields.

From Holland we went to Belgium, and made a hasty trip through
that country, stopping at Brussels, where we visited the
battlefield of Waterloo. From Belgium we went direct to Paris,
where we found that Mr. Theodore Stanton, the son of Mrs.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, had kindly provided accommodations for
us. We had barely got settled in Paris before an invitation came
to me from the University Club of Paris to be its guest at a
banquet which was soon to be given. The other guests were
ex-President Benjamin Harrison and Archbishop Ireland, who were
in Paris at the time. The American Ambassador, General Horace
Porter, presided at the banquet. My address on this occasion
seemed to give satisfaction to those who heard it. General
Harrison kindly devoted a large portion of his remarks at dinner
to myself and to the influence of the work at Tuskegee on the
American race question. After my address at this banquet other
invitations came to me, but I declined the most of them, knowing
that if I accepted them all, the object of my visit would be
defeated. I did, however, consent to deliver an address in the
American chapel the following Sunday morning, and at this meeting
General Harrison, General Porter, and other distinguished
Americans were present.

Later we received a formal call from the American Ambassador, and
were invited to attend a reception at his residence. At this
reception we met many Americans, among them Justices Fuller and
Harlan, of the United States Supreme Court. During our entire
stay of a month in Paris, both the American Ambassador and his
wife, as well as several other Americans, were very kind to us.

While in Paris we saw a good deal of the now famous American
Negro painter, Mr. Henry O. Tanner, whom we had formerly known in
America. It was very satisfactory to find how well known Mr.
Tanner was in the field of art, and to note the high standing
which all classes accorded to him. When we told some Americans
that we were going to the Luxembourg Palace to see a painting by
an American Negro, it was hard to convince them that a Negro had
been thus honoured. I do not believe that they were really
convinced of the fact until they saw the picture for themselves.
My acquaintance with Mr. Tanner reenforced in my mind the truth
which I am constantly trying to impress upon our students at
Tuskegee--and on our people throughout the country, as far as I
can reach them with my voice--that any man, regardless of colour,
will be recognized and rewarded just in proportion as he learns
to do something well--learns to do it better than some one
else--however humble the thing may be. As I have said, I believe
that my race will succeed in proportion as it learns to do a
common thing in an uncommon manner; learns to do a thing so
thoroughly that no one can improve upon what it has done; learns
to make its services of indispensable value. This was the spirit
that inspired me in my first effort at Hampton, when I was given
the opportunity to sweep and dust that schoolroom. In a degree I
felt that my whole future life depended upon the thoroughness
with which I cleaned that room, and I was determined to do it so
well that no one could find any fault with the job. Few people
ever stopped, I found, when looking at his pictures, to inquire
whether Mr. Tanner was a Negro painter, a French painter, or a
German painter. They simply knew that he was able to produce
something which the world wanted--a great painting--and the
matter of his colour did not enter into their minds. When a Negro
girl learns to cook, to wash dishes, to sew, or write a book, or
a Negro boy learns to groom horses, or to grow sweet potatoes, or
to produce butter, or to build a house, or to be able to practise
medicine, as well or better than some one else, they will be
rewarded regardless of race or colour. In the long run, the world
is going to have the best, and any difference in race, religion,
or previous history will not long keep the world from what it

I think that the whole future of my race hinges on the question
as to whether or not it can make itself of such indispensible
value that the people in the town and the state where we reside
will feel that our presence is necessary to the happiness and
well-being of the community. No man who continues to add
something to the material, intellectual, and moral well-being of
the place in which he lives is long left without proper reward.
This is a great human law which cannot be permanently nullified.

The love of pleasure and excitement which seems in a large
measure to possess the French people impressed itself upon me. I
think they are more noted in this respect than is true of the
people of my own race. In point of morality and moral earnestness
I do not believe that the French are ahead of my own race in
America. Severe competition and the great stress of life have led
them to learn to do things more thoroughly and to exercise
greater economy; but time, I think, will bring my race to the
same point. In the matter of truth and high honour I do not
believe that the average Frenchman is ahead of the American
Negro; while so far as mercy and kindness to dumb animals go, I
believe that my race is far ahead. In fact, when I left France, I
had more faith in the future of the black man in America than I
had ever possessed.

From Paris we went to London, and reached there early in July,
just about the height of the London social season. Parliament was
in session, and there was a great deal of gaiety. Mr. Garrison
and other friends had provided us with a large number of letters
of introduction, and they had also sent letters to other persons
in different parts of the United Kingdom, apprising these people
of our coming. Very soon after reaching London we were flooded
with invitations to attend all manner of social functions, and a
great many invitations came to me asking that I deliver public
addresses. The most of these invitations I declined, for the
reason that I wanted to rest. Neither were we able to accept more
than a small proportion of the other invitations. The Rev. Dr.
Brooke Herford and Mrs. Herford, whom I had known in Boston,
consulted with the American Ambassador, the Hon. Joseph Choate,
and arranged for me to speak at a public meeting to be held in
Essex Hall. Mr. Choate kindly consented to preside. The meeting
was largely attended. There were many distinguished persons
present, among them several members of Parliament, including Mr.
James Bryce, who spoke at the meeting. What the American
Ambassador said in introducing me, as well as a synopsis of what
I said, was widely published in England and in the American
papers at the time. Dr. and Mrs. Herford gave Mrs. Washington and
myself a reception, at which we had the privilege of meeting some
of the best people in England. Throughout our stay in London
Ambassador Choate was most kind and attentive to us. At the
Ambassador's reception I met, for the first time, Mark Twain.

We were the guests several times of Mrs. T. Fisher Unwin, the
daughter of the English statesman, Richard Cobden. It seemed as
if both Mr. and Mrs. Unwin could not do enough for our comfort
and happiness. Later, for nearly a week, we were the guests of
the daughter of John Bright, now Mrs. Clark, of Street, England.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Clark, with their daughter, visited us at
Tuskegee the next year. In Birmingham, England, we were the
guests for several days of Mr. Joseph Sturge, whose father was a
great abolitionist and friend of Whittier and Garrison. It was a
great privilege to meet throughout England those who had known
and honoured the late William Lloyd Garrison, the Hon. Frederick
Douglass, and other abolitionists. The English abolitionists with
whom we came in contact never seemed to tire of talking about
these two Americans. Before going to England I had had no proper
conception of the deep interest displayed by the abolitionists of
England in the cause of freedom, nor did I realize the amount of
substantial help given by them.

In Bristol, England, both Mrs. Washington and I spoke at the
Women's Liberal Club. I was also the principal speaker at the
Commencement exercises of the Royal College for the Blind. These
exercises were held in the Crystal Palace, and the presiding
officer was the late Duke of Westminster, who was said to be, I
believe, the richest man in England, if not in the world. The
Duke, as well as his wife and their daughter, seemed to be
pleased with what I said, and thanked me heartily. Through the
kindness of Lady Aberdeen, my wife and I were enabled to go with
a party of those who were attending the International Congress of
Women, then in session in London, to see Queen Victoria, at
Windsor Castle, where, afterward, we were all the guests of her
Majesty at tea. In our party was Miss Susan B. Anthony, and I was
deeply impressed with the fact that one did not often get an
opportunity to see, during the same hour, two women so remarkable
in different ways as Susan B. Anthony and Queen Victoria.

In the House of Commons, which we visited several times, we met
Sir Henry M. Stanley. I talked with him about Africa and its
relation to the American Negro, and after my interview with him I
became more convinced than ever that there was no hope of the
American Negro's improving his condition by emigrating to Africa.

On various occasions Mrs. Washington and I were the guests of
Englishmen in their country homes, where, I think, one sees the
Englishman at his best. In one thing, at least, I feel sure that
the English are ahead of Americans, and that is, that they have
learned how to get more out of life. The home life of the English
seems to me to be about as perfect as anything can be. Everything
moves like clockwork. I was impressed, too, with the deference
that the servants show to their "masters" and
"mistresses,"--terms which I suppose would not be tolerated in
America. The English servant expects, as a rule, to be nothing
but a servant, and so he perfects himself in the art to a degree
that no class of servants in America has yet reached. In our
country the servant expects to become, in a few years, a "master"
himself. Which system is preferable? I will not venture an

Another thing that impressed itself upon me throughout England
was the high regard that all classes have for law and order, and
the ease and thoroughness with which everything is done. The
Englishmen, I found, took plenty of time for eating, as for
everything else. I am not sure if, in the long run, they do not
accomplish as much or more than rushing, nervous Americans do.

My visit to England gave me a higher regard for the nobility than
I had had. I had no idea that they were so generally loved and
respected by the classes, nor that I any correct conception of
how much time and money they spent in works of philanthropy, and
how much real heart they put into this work. My impression had
been that they merely spent money freely and had a "good time."

It was hard for me to get accustomed to speaking to English
audiences. The average Englishman is so serious, and is so
tremendously in earnest about everything, that when I told a
story that would have made an American audience roar with
laughter, the Englishmen simply looked me straight in the face
without even cracking a smile.

When the Englishman takes you into his heart and friendship, he
binds you there as with cords of steel, and I do not believe that
there are many other friendships that are so lasting or so
satisfactory. Perhaps I can illustrate this point in no better
way than by relating the following incident. Mrs. Washington and
I were invited to attend a reception given by the Duke and
Duchess of Sutherland, at Stafford House--said to be the finest
house in London; I may add that I believe the Duchess of
Sutherland is said to be the most beautiful woman in England.
There must have been at least three hundred persons at this
reception. Twice during the evening the Duchess sought us out for
a conversation, and she asked me to write her when we got home,
and tell her more about the work at Tuskegee. This I did. When
Christmas came we were surprised and delighted to receive her
photograph with her autograph on it. The correspondence has
continued, and we now feel that in the Duchess of Sutherland we
have one of our warmest friends.

After three months in Europe we sailed from Southampton in the
steamship St. Louis. On this steamer there was a fine library
that had been presented to the ship by the citizens of St. Louis,
Mo. In this library I found a life of Frederick Douglass, which I
began reading. I became especially interested in Mr. Douglass's
description of the way he was treated on shipboard during his
first or second visit to England. In this description he told how
he was not permitted to enter the cabin, but had to confine
himself to the deck of the ship. A few minutes after I had
finished reading this description I was waited on by a committee
of ladies and gentlemen with the request that I deliver an
address at a concert which was to begin the following evening.
And yet there are people who are bold enough to say that race
feeling in America is not growing less intense! At this concert
the Hon. Benjamin B. Odell, Jr., the present governor of New
York, presided. I was never given a more cordial hearing
anywhere. A large proportion of the passengers with Southern
people. After the concert some of the passengers proposed that a
subscription be raised to help the work at Tuskegee, and the
money to support several scholarships was the result.

While we were in Paris I was very pleasantly surprised to receive
the following invitation from the citizens of West Virginia and
of the city near which I had spent my boyhood days:--

Charleston, W. Va., May 16, 1899.

Professor Booker T. Washington, Paris, France:

Dear Sir: Many of the best citizens of West Virginia have united
in liberal expressions of admiration and praise of your worth and
work, and desire that on your return from Europe you should
favour them with your presence and with the inspiration of your
words. We must sincerely indorse this move, and on behalf of the
citizens of Charleston extend to your our most cordial invitation
to have you come to us, that we may honour you who have done so
much by your life and work to honour us.

We are,

Very truly yours,

The Common Council of the City of Charleston,

By W. Herman Smith, Mayor.

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

Professor Booker T. Washington, Paris, France:

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

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

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

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

Yours very respectfully,

The Charleston Daily Gazette, The Daily Mail-Tribune; G.W.
Atkinson, Governor; E.L. Boggs, Secretary to Governor; Wm. M.O.
Dawson, Secretary of State; L.M. La Follette, Auditor; J.R.
Trotter, Superintendent of Schools; E.W. Wilson, ex-Governor;
W.A. MacCorkle, ex-Governor; John Q. Dickinson, President Kanawha
Valley Bank; L. Prichard, President Charleston National Bank;
Geo. S. Couch, President Kanawha National Bank; Ed. Reid, Cashier
Kanawha National Bank; Geo. S. Laidley, Superintended City
Schools; L.E. McWhorter, President Board of Education; Chas. K.
Payne, wholesale merchant; and many others.

This invitation, coming as it did from the City Council, the
state officers, and all the substantial citizens of both races of
the community where I had spent my boyhood, and from which I had
gone a few years before, unknown, in poverty and ignorance, in
quest of an education, not only surprised me, but almost unmanned
me. I could not understand what I had done to deserve it all.

I accepted the invitation, and at the appointed day was met at
the railway station at Charleston by a committee headed by
ex-Governor W.A. MacCorkle, and composed of men of both races.
The public reception was held in the Opera-House at Charleston.
The Governor of the state, the Hon. George W. Atkinson, presided,
and an address of welcome was made by ex-Governor MacCorkle. A
prominent part in the reception was taken by the coloured
citizens. The Opera-House was filled with citizens of both races,
and among the white people were many for whom I had worked when I
was a boy. The next day Governor and Mrs. Atkinson gave me a
public reception at the State House, which was attended by all

Not long after this the coloured people in Atlanta, Georgia, gave
me a reception at which the Governor of the state presided, and a
similar reception was given me in New Orleans, which was presided
over by the Mayor of the city. Invitations came from many other
places which I was not able to accept.

Chapter XVII. Last Words

Before going to Europe some events came into my life which were
great surprises to me. In fact, my whole life has largely been
one of surprises. I believe that any man's life will be filled
with constant, unexpected encouragements of this kind if he makes
up his mind to do his level best each day of his life--that is,
tries to make each day reach as nearly as possible the high-water
mark of pure, unselfish, useful living. I pity the man, black or
white, who has never experienced the joy and satisfaction that
come to one by reason of an effort to assist in making some one
else more useful and more happy.

Six months before he died, and nearly a year after he had been
stricken with paralysis, General Armstrong expressed a wish to
visit Tuskegee again before he passed away. Notwithstanding the
fact that he had lost the use of his limbs to such an extent that
he was practically helpless, his wish was gratified, and he was
brought to Tuskegee. The owners of the Tuskegee Railroad, white
men living in the town, offered to run a special train, without
cost, out of the main station--Chehaw, five miles away--to meet
him. He arrived on the school grounds about nine o'clock in the
evening. Some one had suggested that we give the General a
"pine-knot torchlight reception." This plan was carried out, and
the moment that his carriage entered the school grounds he began
passing between two lines of lighted and waving "fat pine" wood
knots held by over a thousand students and teachers. The whole
thing was so novel and surprising that the General was completely
overcome with happiness. He remained a guest in my home for
nearly two months, and, although almost wholly without the use of
voice or limb, he spent nearly every hour in devising ways and
means to help the South. Time and time again he said to me,
during this visit, that it was not only the duty of the country
to assist in elevating the Negro of the South, but the poor white
man as well. At the end of his visit I resolved anew to devote
myself more earnestly than ever to the cause which was so near
his heart. I said that if a man in his condition was willing to
think, work, and act, I should not be wanting in furthering in
every possible way the wish of his heart.

The death of General Armstrong, a few weeks later, gave me the
privilege of getting acquainted with one of the finest, most
unselfish, and most attractive men that I have ever come in
contact with. I refer to the Rev. Dr. Hollis B. Frissell, now the
Principal of the Hampton Institute, and General Armstrong's
successor. Under the clear, strong, and almost perfect leadership
of Dr. Frissell, Hampton has had a career of prosperity and
usefulness that is all that the General could have wished for. It
seems to be the constant effort of Dr. Frissell to hide his own
great personality behind that of General Armstrong--to make
himself of "no reputation" for the sake of the cause.

More than once I have been asked what was the greatest surprise
that ever came to me. I have little hesitation in answering that
question. It was the following letter, which came to me one
Sunday morning when I was sitting on the veranda of my home at
Tuskegee, surrounded by my wife and three children:--

Harvard University, Cambridge, May 28, 1896.

President Booker T. Washington,

My Dear Sir: Harvard University desired to confer on you at the
approaching Commencement an honorary degree; but it is our custom
to confer degrees only on gentlemen who are present. Our
Commencement occurs this year on June 24, and your presence would
be desirable from about noon till about five o'clock in the
afternoon. Would it be possible for you to be in Cambridge on
that day?

Believe me, with great regard,

Very truly yours,

Charles W. Eliot.

This was a recognition that had never in the slightest manner
entered into my mind, and it was hard for me to realize that I
was to be honoured by a degree from the oldest and most renowned
university in America. As I sat upon my veranda, with this letter
in my hand, tears came into my eyes. My whole former life--my
life as a slave on the plantation, my work in the coal-mine, the
times when I was without food and clothing, when I made my bed
under a sidewalk, my struggles for an education, the trying days
I had had at Tuskegee, days when I did not know where to turn for
a dollar to continue the work there, the ostracism and sometimes
oppression of my race,--all this passed before me and nearly
overcame me.

I had never sought or cared for what the world calls fame. I have
always looked upon fame as something to be used in accomplishing
good. I have often said to my friends that if I can use whatever
prominence may have come to me as an instrument with which to do
good, I am content to have it. I care for it only as a means to
be used for doing good, just as wealth may be used. The more I
come into contact with wealthy people, the more I believe that
they are growing in the direction of looking upon their money
simply as an instrument which God has placed in their hand for
doing good with. I never go to the office of Mr. John D.
Rockefeller, who more than once has been generous to Tuskegee,
without being reminded of this. The close, careful, and minute
investigation that he always makes in order to be sure that every
dollar that he gives will do the most good--an investigation that
is just as searching as if he were investing money in a business
enterprise--convinces me that the growth in this direction is
most encouraging.

At nine o'clock, on the morning of June 24, I met President
Eliot, the Board of Overseers of Harvard University, and the
other guests, at the designated place on the university grounds,
for the purpose of being escorted to Sanders Theatre, where the
Commencement exercises were to be held and degrees conferred.
Among others invited to be present for the purpose of receiving a
degree at this time were General Nelson A. Miles, Dr. Bell, the
inventor of the Bell telephone, Bishop Vincent, and the Rev.
Minot J. Savage. We were placed in line immediately behind the
President and the Board of Overseers, and directly afterward the
Governor of Massachusetts, escorted by the Lancers, arrived and
took his place in the line of march by the side of President
Eliot. In the line there were also various other officers and
professors, clad in cap and gown. In this order we marched to
Sanders Theatre, where, after the usual Commencement exercises,
came the conferring of the honorary degrees. This, it seems, is
always considered the most interesting feature at Harvard. It is
not known, until the individuals appear, upon whom the honorary
degrees are to be conferred, and those receiving these honours
are cheered by the students and others in proportion to their
popularity. During the conferring of the degrees excitement and
enthusiasm are at the highest pitch.

When my name was called, I rose, and President Eliot, in
beautiful and strong English, conferred upon me the degree of
Master of Arts. After these exercises were over, those who had
received honorary degrees were invited to lunch with the
President. After the lunch we were formed in line again, and were
escorted by the Marshal of the day, who that year happened to be
Bishop William Lawrence, through the grounds, where, at different
points, those who had been honoured were called by name and
received the Harvard yell. This march ended at Memorial Hall,
where the alumni dinner was served. To see over a thousand strong
men, representing all that is best in State, Church, business,
and education, with the glow and enthusiasm of college loyalty
and college pride,--which has, I think, a peculiar Harvard
flavour,--is a sight that does not easily fade from memory.

Among the speakers after dinner were President Eliot, Governor
Roger Wolcott, General Miles, Dr. Minot J. Savage, the Hon. Henry
Cabot Lodge, and myself. When I was called upon, I said, among
other things:--

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

* * * * * * *

If my life in the past has meant anything in the lifting up of my
people and the bringing about of better relations between your
race and mine, I assure you from this day it will mean doubly
more. In the economy of God there is but one standard by which an
individual can succeed--there is but one for a race. This
country demands that every race shall measure itself by the
American standard. By it a race must rise or fall, succeed or
fail, and in the last analysis mere sentiment counts for little.

During the next half-century and more, my race must continue
passing through the severe American crucible. We are to be tested
in our patience, our forbearance, our perseverance, our power to
endure wrong, to withstand temptations, to economize, to acquire
and use skill; in our ability to compete, to succeed in commerce,
to disregard the superficial for the real, the appearance for the
substance, to be great and yet small, learned and yet simple,
high and yet the servant of all.

As this was the first time that a New England university had
conferred an honorary degree upon a Negro, it was the occasion of
much newspaper comment throughout the country. A correspondent of
a New York Paper said:--

When the name of Booker T. Washington was called, and he arose to
acknowledge and accept, there was such an outburst of applause as
greeted no other name except that of the popular soldier patriot,
General Miles. The applause was not studied and stiff,
sympathetic and condoling; it was enthusiasm and admiration.
Every part of the audience from pit to gallery joined in, and a
glow covered the cheeks of those around me, proving sincere
appreciation of the rising struggle of an ex-slave and the work
he has accomplished for his race.

A Boston paper said, editorially:--

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

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

Another Boston paper said:--

It is Harvard which, first among New England colleges, confers an
honorary degree upon a black man. No one who has followed the
history of Tuskegee and its work can fail to admire the courage,
persistence, and splendid common sense of Booker T. Washington.

Well may Harvard honour the ex-slave, the value of whose
services, alike to his race and country, only the future can

The correspondent of the New York Times wrote:--

All the speeches were enthusiastically received, but the coloured
man carried off the oratorical honours, and the applause which
broke out when he had finished was vociferous and long-continued.

Soon after I began work at Tuskegee I formed a resolution, in the
secret of my heart, that I would try to build up a school that
would be of so much service to the country that the President of
the United States would one day come to see it. This was, I
confess, rather a bold resolution, and for a number of years I
kept it hidden in my own thoughts, not daring to share it with
any one.

In November, 1897, I made the first move in this direction, and
that was in securing a visit from a member of President
McKinley's Cabinet, the Hon. James Wilson, Secretary of
Agriculture. He came to deliver an address at the formal opening
of the Slater-Armstrong Agricultural Building, our first large
building to be used for the purpose of giving training to our
students in agriculture and kindred branches.

In the fall of 1898 I heard that President McKinley was likely to
visit Atlanta, Georgia, for the purpose of taking part in the
Peace Jubilee exercises to be held there to commemorate the
successful close of the Spanish-American war. At this time I had
been hard at work, together with our teachers, for eighteen
years, trying to build up a school that we thought would be of
service to the Nation, and I determined to make a direct effort
to secure a visit from the President and his Cabinet. I went to
Washington, and I was not long in the city before I found my way
to the White House. When I got there I found the waiting rooms
full of people, and my heart began to sink, for I feared there
would not be much chance of my seeing the President that day, if
at all. But, at any rate, I got an opportunity to see Mr. J.
Addison Porter, the secretary to the President, and explained to
him my mission. Mr. Porter kindly sent my card directly to the
President, and in a few minutes word came from Mr. McKinley that
he would see me.

How any man can see so many people of all kinds, with all kinds
of errands, and do so much hard work, and still keep himself
calm, patient, and fresh for each visitor in the way that
President McKinley does, I cannot understand. When I saw the
President he kindly thanked me for the work which we were doing
at Tuskegee for the interests of the country. I then told him,
briefly, the object of my visit. I impressed upon him the fact
that a visit from the Chief Executive of the Nation would not
only encourage our students and teachers, but would help the
entire race. He seemed interested, but did not make a promise to
go to Tuskegee, for the reason that his plans about going to
Atlanta were not then fully made; but he asked me to call the
matter to his attention a few weeks later.

By the middle of the following month the President had definitely
decided to attend the Peace Jubilee at Atlanta. I went to
Washington again and saw him, with a view of getting him to
extend his trip to Tuskegee. On this second visit Mr. Charles W.
Hare, a prominent white citizen of Tuskegee, kindly volunteered
to accompany me, to reenforce my invitation with one from the
white people of Tuskegee and the vicinity.

Just previous to my going to Washington the second time, the
country had been excited, and the coloured people greatly
depressed, because of several severe race riots which had
occurred at different points in the South. As soon as I saw the
President, I perceived that his heart was greatly burdened by
reason of these race disturbances. Although there were many
people waiting to see him, he detained me for some time,
discussing the condition and prospects of the race. He remarked
several times that he was determined to show his interest and
faith in the race, not merely in words, but by acts. When I told
him that I thought that at that time scarcely anything would go
father in giving hope and encouragement to the race than the fact
that the President of the Nation would be willing to travel one
hundred and forty miles out of his way to spend a day at a Negro
institution, he seemed deeply impressed.

While I was with the President, a white citizen of Atlanta, a
Democrat and an ex-slaveholder, came into the room, and the
President asked his opinion as to the wisdom of his going to
Tuskegee. Without hesitation the Atlanta man replied that it was
the proper thing for him to do. This opinion was reenforced by
that friend of the race, Dr. J.L.M. Curry. The President promised
that he would visit our school on the 16th of December.

When it became known that the President was going to visit our
school, the white citizens of the town of Tuskegee--a mile
distant from the school--were as much pleased as were our
students and teachers. The white people of this town, including
both men and women, began arranging to decorate the town, and to
form themselves into committees for the purpose of cooperating
with the officers of our school in order that the distinguished
visitor might have a fitting reception. I think I never realized
before this how much the white people of Tuskegee and vicinity
thought of our institution. During the days when we were
preparing for the President's reception, dozens of these people
came to me and said that, while they did not want to push
themselves into prominence, if there was anything they could do
to help, or to relieve me personally, I had but to intimate it
and they would be only too glad to assist. In fact, the thing
that touched me almost as deeply as the visit of the President
itself was the deep pride which all classes of citizens in
Alabama seemed to take in our work.

The morning of December 16th brought to the little city of
Tuskegee such a crowd as it had never seen before. With the
President came Mrs. McKinley and all of the Cabinet officers but
one; and most of them brought their wives or some members of
their families. Several prominent generals came, including
General Shafter and General Joseph Wheeler, who were recently
returned from the Spanish-American war. There was also a host of
newspaper correspondents. The Alabama Legislature was in session
in Montgomery at this time. This body passed a resolution to
adjourn for the purpose of visited Tuskegee. Just before the
arrival of the President's party the Legislature arrived, headed
by the governor and other state officials.

The citizens of Tuskegee had decorated the town from the station
to the school in a generous manner. In order to economize in the
matter of time, we arranged to have the whole school pass in
review before the President. Each student carried a stalk of
sugar-cane with some open bolls of cotton fastened to the end of
it. Following the students the work of all departments of the
school passed in review, displayed on "floats" drawn by horses,
mules, and oxen. On these floats we tried to exhibit not only the
present work of the school, but to show the contrasts between the
old methods of doing things and the new. As an example, we showed
the old method of dairying in contrast with the improved methods,
the old methods of tilling the soil in contrast with the new, the
old methods of cooking and housekeeping in contrast with the new.
These floats consumed an hour and a half of time in passing.

In his address in our large, new chapel, which the students had
recently completed, the President said, among other things:--

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

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

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

The Hon. John D. Long, the Secretary of the Navy, said in part:--

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

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

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

Postmaster General Smith closed the address which he made with
these words:--

We have witnessed many spectacles within the last few days. We
have seen the magnificent grandeur and the magnificent
achievements of one of the great metropolitan cities of the
South. We have seen heroes of the war pass by in procession. We
have seen floral parades. But I am sure my colleagues will agree
with me in saying that we have witnessed no spectacle more
impressive and more encouraging, more inspiring for our future,
than that which we have witnessed here this morning.

Some days after the President returned to Washington I received
the letter which follows:--

Executive Mansion, Washington, Dec. 23, 1899.

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

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

Very sincerely yours,

John Addison Porter,

Secretary to the President.

To President Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee Normal and Industrial
Institute, Tuskegee, Ala.

Twenty years have now passed since I made the first humble effort
at Tuskegee, in a broken-down shanty and an old hen-house,
without owning a dollar's worth of property, and with but one
teacher and thirty students. At the present time the institution
owns twenty-three hundred acres of land, one thousand of which
are under cultivation each year, entirely by student labour.
There are now upon the grounds, counting large and small,
sixty-six buildings; and all except four of these have been
almost wholly erected by the labour of our students. While the
students are at work upon the land and in erecting buildings,
they are taught, by competent instructors, the latest methods of
agriculture and the trades connected with building.

There are in constant operation at the school, in connection with
thorough academic and religious training, thirty industrial
departments. All of these teach industries at which our men and
women can find immediate employment as soon as they leave the
institution. The only difficulty now is that the demand for our
graduates from both white and black people in the South is so
great that we cannot supply more than one-half the persons for
whom applications come to us. Neither have we the buildings nor
the money for current expenses to enable us to admit to the
school more than one-half the young men and women who apply to us
for admission.

In our industrial teaching we keep three things in mind: first,
that the student shall be so educated that he shall be enabled to
meet conditions as they exist now, in the part of the South where
he lives--in a word, to be able to do the thing which the world
wants done; second, that every student who graduates from the
school shall have enough skill, coupled with intelligence and
moral character, to enable him to make a living for himself and
others; third, to send every graduate out feeling and knowing
that labour is dignified and beautiful--to make each one love
labour instead of trying to escape it. In addition to the
agricultural training which we give to young men, and the
training given to our girls in all the usual domestic
employments, we now train a number of girls in agriculture each
year. These girls are taught gardening, fruit-growing, dairying,
bee-culture, and poultry-raising.

While the institution is in no sense denominational, we have a
department known as the Phelps Hall Bible Training School, in
which a number of students are prepared for the ministry and
other forms of Christian work, especially work in the country
districts. What is equally important, each one of the students
works . . . each day at some industry, in order to get skill and
the love of work, so that when he goes out from the institution
he is prepared to set the people with whom he goes to labour a
proper example in the matter of industry.

The value of our property is now over $700,000. If we add to this
our endowment fund, which at present is $1,000,000, the value of
the total property is now $1,700,000. Aside from the need for
more buildings and for money for current expenses, the endowment
fund should be increased to at least $3,000,000. The annual
current expenses are now about $150,000. The greater part of this
I collect each year by going from door to door and from house to
house. All of our property is free from mortgage, and is deeded
to an undenominational board of trustees who have the control of
the institution.

From thirty students the number has grown to fourteen hundred,
coming from twenty-seven states and territories, from Africa,
Cuba, Porto Rico, Jamaica, and other foreign countries. In our
departments there are one hundred and ten officers and
instructors; and if we add the families of our instructors, we
have a constant population upon our grounds of not far from
seventeen hundred people.

I have often been asked how we keep so large a body of people
together, and at the same time keep them out of mischief. There
are two answers: that the men and women who come to us for an
education are in earnest; and that everybody is kept busy. The
following outline of our daily work will testify to this:--

5 a.m., rising bell; 5.50 a.m., warning breakfast bell; 6 a.m.,
breakfast bell; 6.20 a.m., breakfast over; 6.20 to 6.50 a.m.,
rooms are cleaned; 6.50, work bell; 7.30, morning study hours;
8.20, morning school bell; 8.25, inspection of young men's toilet
in ranks; 8.40, devotional exercises in chapel; 8.55, "five
minutes with the daily news;" 9 a.m., class work begins; 12,
class work closes; 12.15 p.m., dinner; 1 p.m., work bell; 1.30
p.m., class work begins; 3.30 p.m., class work ends; 5.30 p.m.,
bell to "knock off" work; 6 p.m., supper; 7.10 p.m., evening
prayers; 7.30 p.m., evening study hours; 8.45 p.m., evening study
hour closes; 9.20 p.m., warning retiring bell; 9.30 p.m.,
retiring bell.

We try to keep constantly in mind the fact that the worth of the
school is to be judged by its graduates. Counting those who have
finished the full course, together with those who have taken
enough training to enable them to do reasonably good work, we can
safely say that at least six thousand men and women from Tuskegee
are now at work in different parts of the South; men and women
who, by their own example or by direct efforts, are showing the
masses of our race now to improve their material, educational,
and moral and religious life. What is equally important, they are
exhibiting a degree of common sense and self-control which is
causing better relations to exist between the races, and is
causing the Southern white man to learn to believe in the value
of educating the men and women of my race. Aside from this, there
is the influence that is constantly being exerted through the
mothers' meeting and the plantation work conducted by Mrs.

Wherever our graduates go, the changes which soon begin to appear
in the buying of land, improving homes, saving money, in
education, and in high moral characters are remarkable. Whole
communities are fast being revolutionized through the
instrumentality of these men and women.

Ten years ago I organized at Tuskegee the first Negro Conference.
This is an annual gathering which now brings to the school eight
or nine hundred representative men and women of the race, who
come to spend a day in finding out what the actual industrial,
mental, and moral conditions of the people are, and in forming
plans for improvement. Out from this central Negro Conference at
Tuskegee have grown numerous state an local conferences which are
doing the same kind of work. As a result of the influence of
these gatherings, one delegate reported at the last annual
meeting that ten families in his community had bought and paid
for homes. On the day following the annual Negro Conference,
there is the "Workers' Conference." This is composed of officers
and teachers who are engaged in educational work in the larger
institutions in the South. The Negro Conference furnishes a rare
opportunity for these workers to study the real condition of the
rank and file of the people.

In the summer of 1900, with the assistance of such prominent
coloured men as Mr. T. Thomas Fortune, who has always upheld my
hands in every effort, I organized the National Negro Business
League, which held its first meeting in Boston, and brought
together for the first time a large number of the coloured men
who are engaged in various lines of trade or business in
different parts of the United States. Thirty states were
represented at our first meeting. Out of this national meeting
grew state and local business leagues.

In addition to looking after the executive side of the work at
Tuskegee, and raising the greater part of the money for the
support of the school, I cannot seem to escape the duty of
answering at least a part of the calls which come to me unsought
to address Southern white audiences and audiences of my own race,
as well as frequent gatherings in the North. As to how much of my
time is spent in this way, the following clipping from a Buffalo
(N.Y.) paper will tell. This has reference to an occasion when I
spoke before the National Educational Association in that city.

Booker T. Washington, the foremost educator among the coloured
people of the world, was a very busy man from the time he arrived
in the city the other night from the West and registered at the
Iroquois. He had hardly removed the stains of travel when it was
time to partake of supper. Then he held a public levee in the
parlours of the Iroquois until eight o'clock. During that time he
was greeted by over two hundred eminent teachers and educators
from all parts of the United States. Shortly after eight o'clock
he was driven in a carriage to Music Hall, and in one hour and a
half he made two ringing addresses, to as many as five thousand
people, on Negro education. Then Mr. Washington was taken in
charge by a delegation of coloured citizens, headed by the Rev.
Mr. Watkins, and hustled off to a small informal reception,
arranged in honour of the visitor by the people of his race.

Nor can I, in addition to making these addresses, escape the duty
of calling the attention of the South and of the country in
general, through the medium of the press, to matters that pertain
to the interests of both races. This, for example, I have done in
regard to the evil habit of lynching. When the Louisiana State
Constitutional Convention was in session, I wrote an open letter
to that body pleading for justice for the race. In all such
efforts I have received warm and hearty support from the Southern
newspapers, as well as from those in all other parts of the

Despite superficial and temporary signs which might lead one to
entertain a contrary opinion, there was never a time when I felt
more hopeful for the race than I do at the present. The great
human law that in the end recognizes and rewards merit is
everlasting and universal. The outside world does not know,
neither can it appreciate, the struggle that is constantly going
on in the hearts of both the Southern white people and their
former slaves to free themselves from racial prejudice; and while
both races are thus struggling they should have the sympathy, the
support, and the forbearance of the rest of the world.

As I write the closing words of this autobiography I find
myself--not by design--in the city of Richmond, Virginia: the
city which only a few decades ago was the capital of the Southern
Confederacy, and where, about twenty-five years ago, because of
my poverty I slept night after night under a sidewalk.

This time I am in Richmond as the guest of the coloured people of
the city; and came at their request to deliver an address last
night to both races in the Academy of Music, the largest and
finest audience room in the city. This was the first time that
the coloured people had ever been permitted to use this hall. The
day before I came, the City Council passed a vote to attend the
meeting in a body to hear me speak. The state Legislature,
including the House of Delegates and the Senate, also passed a
unaminous vote to attend in a body. In the presence of hundreds
of coloured people, many distinguished white citizens, the City
Council, the state Legislature, and state officials, I delivered
my message, which was one of hope and cheer; and from the bottom
of my heart I thanked both races for this welcome back to the
state that gave me birth.

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