Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Preface and Introduction


In a general way the reading public is fairly well acquainted with the work of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, but there is continued demand for definite information as to just what the graduates of that institution are doing with their education.

That inquiry is partly answered by this book. The scope of the Tuskegee Institute work is outlined by the chapters contained in Part I, while those of Part II evidence the fact that the graduates of the school are grappling at first-hand with the conditions that environ the masses of the Negro people.

At the school, in addition to the regular Normal School course of academic work, thirty-six industries are taught the young men and women. These are: Agriculture; Basketry; Blacksmithing; Bee-keeping; Brickmasonry; Plastering; Brick-making; Carpentry; Carriage Trimming; Cooking; Dairying; Architectural, Freehand, and Mechanical Drawing; Dressmaking; Electrical and Steam Engineering; Founding; Harness-making; Housekeeping; Horticulture; Canning; Plain Sewing; Laundering; Machinery; Mattress-making; Millinery; Nurse Training; Painting; Sawmilling; Shoemaking; Printing; Stock-raising; Tailoring; Tinning; and Wheelwrighting.

Since the founding of the institution, July 4, 1881, seven hundred and forty-six graduates have gone out from the institution, while more than six thousand others who were not able to remain and complete the academic course, and thereby secure a diploma, have been influenced for good by it.

The school has sought from the very beginning to make itself of practical value to the Negro people and to the South as well. It has taught those industries that are of the South, the occupations in which our men and women find most ready employment, and unflinchingly has refused to abandon its course; it has sought to influence its young men and women to live unselfish, sacrificing lives; to put into practise the lessons taught on every side that make for practical, helpful every-day living.

In the main those who go out from Tuskegee Institute, (1) follow the industry they have been taught, (2) teach in a public or private school or teach part of the year and farm or labor the rest, (3) follow housekeeping or other domestic service, or (4) enter a profession or the Government service, or become merchants. Among the teachers are many who instruct in farming or some industry; the professional men are largely physicians, and the professional women mostly trained nurses. Dr. Washington, the Principal of the school, makes the unqualified statement: "After diligent investigation, I can not find a dozen former students in idleness. They are in shop, field, schoolroom, home, or the church. They are busy because they have placed themselves in demand by learning to do that which the world wants done, and because they have learned the disgrace of idleness and the sweetness of labor."

No attempt has here been made to represent all of the industries; no attempt has especially been made to confine representation to those who are working at manual labor. The public, or at least a part of it, somewhat gratuitously, has reached the conclusion that Tuskegee Institute is a "servant training school," or an employment agency. That is a mistaken idea.

The object of the school is to train men and women who will go out and repeat the work done here, to teach what they have learned to others, and to leaven the whole mass of the Negro people in the South with a desire for the knowledge and profitable operation of those industries in which they have in so large a measure the right of way. Tuskegee students and graduates are never urged not to take such service, especially not to refuse in preference to idleness, but it all involves a simple, ordinary, economic principle. Capable men and women, skilled in the industrial arts, are like those of all races—they seek the most profitable employment. A blacksmith, a tailor, a brickmason, a harness-maker, or other artisan, who can find work in shops and factories, or independently, and make thirty to seventy-five dollars a month, and even more, will not, simply because he is black, leave those chances to accept service in private employment for fifteen dollars per month, and less, and board himself. No school could covenant to train servants for an indefinite tenure; it can at best only promise to train leaders who shall go among the masses and lift them up; to train men and women who shall in turn reach hundreds of others.

Those who write the following chapters represent, in the main, this class. They have written simply, with perfect frankness, have dealt with the significant things of their lives, and have demonstrated, the writer believes, that from humble origin black men and women may confidently be counted upon, with proper encouragement, to win success. The chapters are autobiographical, significantly optimistic, with just pride in what has been done, and outlining, as did "Up from Slavery"—which was commended as a proper model—experiences from childhood, the school-life of the writer, and the results achieved in the direction of putting into practise what was learned in school. Through this symposium it is hoped that the public may learn, in the best possible way, some of the finer results already accomplished by the Tuskegee Institute.

E. J. S.

Tuskegee Institute, Alabama, April 1, 1905.


By Booker T. Washington

Institutions, like individuals, are properly judged by their ideals, their methods, and their achievements in the production of men and women who are to do the world's work.

One school is better than another in proportion as its system touches the more pressing needs of the people it aims to serve, and provides the more speedily and satisfactorily the elements that bring to them honorable and enduring success in the struggle of life. Education of some kind is the first essential of the young man, or young woman, who would lay the foundation of a career. The choice of the school to which one will go and the calling he will adopt must be influenced in a very large measure by his environments, trend of ambition, natural capacity, possible opportunities in the proposed calling, and the means at his command.

In the past twenty-four years thousands of the youth of this and other lands have elected to come to the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute to secure what they deem the training that would offer them the widest range of usefulness in the activities open to the masses of the Negro people. Their hopes, fears, strength, weaknesses, struggles, and triumphs can not fail to be of absorbing interest to the great body of American people, more particularly to the student of educational theories and their attendant results.

When an institution has, like Tuskegee Institute, reached that stage in its development that its system of instruction has aroused very general discussion, and has given to the world of varied industry an army of workers, numbering not less than 6,000, there is a natural curiosity on the part of the public to learn all that is possible of such an institution, and of the personality and methods of those administering its affairs. They wish to ascertain the actual truth concerning its resources and equipment; they want figures detailing the degree of pecuniary productiveness and moral efficiency attained by those who have received the prescribed training; and they are eager to hear the whole story from the lips of both the instructors and the instructed as to how the recorded results have been accomplished.

In several volumes already published, bearing upon Tuskegee Institute and what it stands for, an endeavor has been made to present a truthful account of the Principal's early strivings and life-work; an honest attempt has been made to analyze and impress the basic principles upon which Tuskegee Institute was founded. It has been the aim to write a history of individual yearnings for the light of knowledge that would stir the inner consciousness of the humblest of the race and arouse him to the vast possibilities that lie in the wake of solid character, intelligent industry, and material acquisition. He has tried, with all earnestness, to hold up the future of the American Negro in its most attractive aspect, and to emphasize the virile philosophy that there is a positive dignity in working with the hands, when that labor is fortified by a developed brain and a consecrated heart.

Though much has been said of the spirit and purpose of this center of social and economic uplift in the famed Black Belt of the South, there is still a wide-spread demand for a more specific recital of what is being done here, by whom, under what conditions, and the concrete evidences of the benefits that are growing out of the thrift, industry, right thinking, and right living taught by our faculty.

In response to this insistent call, Mr. Emmett J. Scott, Executive Secretary of the Tuskegee Institute, presents to the public a further contribution, Tuskegee and Its People: Their Ideals and Achievements, with authentic accompanying autobiographies of a number of typical students of the school.

To this work Mr. Scott brings a peculiar fitness, unequaled by any other person who might have been chosen to perform it. He is closely knit to the Southland and her great masses by the common sympathy of nativity and the mutuality of hopes. The South has always been his home, but he has traveled so extensively and mingled so freely that he has acquired most ample breadth of vision as regards men and things.

For many years now Mr. Scott has served the school with rare fidelity and zeal, and has been to the Principal not only a loyal assistant in every phase of his manifold and frequently trying duties, but has proved a valuable personal friend and counselor in matters of the most delicate nature, exhibiting in emergencies a quality of judgment and diplomatic calmness seldom found in men of even riper maturity and more extended experience.

As I stated in one of my books published several years ago, as far as one individual can fill the place of another, Mr. Scott has acted in the Principal's stead, seeing with the Principal's eyes and hearing with the Principal's ears, counting no sacrifice too great to be made for Tuskegee's well-being. He is in perfect accord with the fundamental principles and practical policies through the persistent adherence to which Tuskegee Institute has won its conspicuous place in the educational world.

The volume here presented has been edited by Mr. Scott with the utmost care, he preferring to have the contributors understate rather than overstate the results that have come from the labors of Tuskegee and its people. It has been the Principal's pleasure and privilege to examine and critically review the manuscript after its completion, and the volume is so praiseworthy that it is given his cordial approval. The task of editing he had expected to perform has been so well done that it has only been necessary to review the manuscript after its preparation for the publishers, and to forego the strict editorial revisioning planned. The book is an accurate portrait of the Tuskegee of to-day, and reasonably forecasts the hopes for the institution of to-morrow. It tells with forceful directness and graphic precision the formative work that is being done for this generation, and supplies a fulcrum upon which there may justly rest a prophecy of greater things for the generations that are to follow.

A Tuskegee book, whatever its primary motive, is invariably expected to deal broadly with the entire problem of the Negro and his relationships of every kind. It must be more than a mere flesh-and-blood narrative, descriptive of the material progress of the men and women the Institute has produced and is producing. It must be a book free from ostentatious pretension, breathing the atmosphere of the life of the earnest people it describes. It must, of course, exhibit not only the achievements, but also the ideals, the possibilities of the Tuskegee trained man and woman. This, I feel, is adequately done in this volume.

Tuskegee and Its People possesses ideals in thought, morals, and action—and they are lofty. In these respects the symposium will not prove a disappointment. This instinct for the ideal, however, lies not in idly sighing for it, but is born of an abiding belief that worth is intrinsic, and that applied common sense, practical knowledge, constancy of effort, and mechanical skill will make a place for the patient striver far more secure than the artificial niche into which some one may thrust him. The masses who are most helpfully reached by the Tuskegee Institute are coming to realize that education in its truest sense is no longer to be regarded as an emotional impulse, a fetish made up of loosely joined information, to be worshiped for its mere possession, but as a practical means to a definite end. They are being taught that mind-training is the logical helpmeet of hand-training, and that both, supplemented and sweetened by heart-training, make the high-souled, useful, productive, patriotic, law-loving, public-spirited citizen, of whom any nation might well be proud. The outcome of such education will be that, instead of the downtrodden child of ignorance, shiftlessness, and moral weakness, we shall generate the thoroughly rounded man of prudence, foresight, responsibility, and financial independence. He will cease to be the gullible victim of the sharper who plays upon vanity, credulity, and superstition, and learn to value only that which is real and substantial. It is of the highest importance to the Negro, who must make his way amid disadvantages and embarrassments of the severest character, that he be made aware of the vast difference between working and being worked. In carrying this inspiring message and impressing these fundamental truths, the new Tuskegee book renders a splendid service.

Industrial training will be more potent for good to the race when its relation to the other phases of essential education is more clearly understood. There is afloat no end of discussion as to what is the "proper kind of education for the Negro," and much of it is hurtful to the cause it is designed to promote. The danger, at present, that most seriously threatens the success of industrial training, is the ill-advised insistence in certain quarters that this form of education should be offered to the exclusion of all other branches of knowledge. If the idea becomes fixed in the minds of the people that industrial education means class education, that it should be offered the Negro because he is a Negro, and that the Negro should be confined to this sort of education, then I fear serious injury will be done the cause of hand-training. It should be understood rather that at such institutions as Hampton Institute and Tuskegee Institute, industrial education is not emphasized because colored people are to receive it, but because the ripest educational thought of the world approves it; because the undeveloped material resources of the South make it peculiarly important for both races; and because it should be given in a large measure to any race, regardless of color, which is in the same stage of development as the Negro.

On the other hand, no one understanding the real needs of the race would advocate that industrial education should be given to every Negro to the exclusion of the professions and other branches of learning. It is evident that a race so largely segregated as the Negro is, must have an increasing number of its own professional men and women. There is, then, a place and an increasing need for the Negro college as well as for the industrial institute, and the two classes of schools should, and as a matter of fact do, cooperate in the common purpose of elevating the masses. There is nothing in hand-training to suggest that it is a class-training. The best educational authorities in the world are indorsing it as an essential feature in the education of both races, and especially so when a very large proportion of the people in question are compelled by dint of circumstances to earn their living in manufactures and agricultural and mechanical pursuits in general. It so happens that the bulk of our people are permanently to remain in the South, and conditions beyond their control have attached them to the soil; for a long time the status of the majority of them is likely to be that of laborers. To make hard conditions easier, to raise common labor from drudgery to dignity, and to adopt systems of training that will meet the needs of the greatest number and prepare them for the better things that intelligent effort will surely bring, form a task to which the wisest of the race are addressing themselves with an eager enthusiasm which refuses to be chilled by adverse criticism.

Tuskegee emphasizes industrial training for the Negro, not with the thought that the Negro should be confined to industrialism, the plow, or the hoe, but because the undeveloped material resources of the South offer at this time a field peculiarly advantageous to the worker skilled in agriculture and the industries, and here are found the Negro's most inviting opportunities for taking on the rudimentary elements that ultimately make for a permanently progressive civilization.

The Tuskegee Idea is that correct education begins at the bottom, and expands naturally as the necessities of the people expand. As the race grows in knowledge, experience, culture, taste, and wealth, its wants are bound to become more and more diverse; and to satisfy these wants there will be gradually developed within our own ranks—as has already been true of the whites—a constantly increasing variety of professional and business men and women. Their places in the economic world will be assured and their prosperity guaranteed in proportion to the merit displayed by them in their several callings, for about them will have been established the solid bulwark of an industrial mass to which they may safely look for support. The esthetic demands will be met as the capacity of the race to procure them is enlarged through the processes of sane intellectual advancement. In this cumulative way there will be erected by the Negro, and for the Negro, a complete and indestructible civilization that will be respected by all whose respect is worth the having. There should be no limit placed upon the development of any individual because of color, and let it be understood that no one kind of training can safely be prescribed for any entire race. Care should be taken that racial education be not one-sided for lack of adaptation to personal fitness, nor unwieldy through sheer top-heaviness. Education, to fulfil its mission for any people anywhere, should be symmetrical and sensible.

A mastery of the industries taught at Tuskegee presupposes and requires no small degree of academic study, for competency in agriculture calls for considerable knowledge of chemistry, and no mechanical pursuit can be followed satisfactorily without some acquaintance with the "three R's." Likewise, the individual of liberal academic or college preparation possesses a stronger equipment for constructive work who has trained his hands to supplement his brain.

After all, the final test of the value of any system of education is found in the record of its actual achievements. In Tuskegee and Its People heads of the several departments have not only given a succinct account of the history, resources, and current labors of the school, but deal most happily with the governing ideals behind the institution, and vindicate its claim to the approval of the world's thinkers and moving forces. Besides treating rather elaborately the structural efficiency of the work of the teachers, the editor has not neglected to emphasize the spiritual and ethical virtues that spread over a wider range of influence here and among our people throughout the Southland than those familiar with the purely academic phases have adequately understood.

Tuskegee's germ principle is to be found in its unboasted ideals, in the things that of necessity can not be listed in catalogue or report, rather than in its buildings, shops, farms, and what not. The school dwells upon the saving power of land, and learning, and skill, and a bank-account—not as finalities in themselves, but as tangible witnesses to the Negro's capacity to compete with others.

Perhaps the newest and most refreshing feature of the book is its vivid pen-portraits of the young men and women who have gone out of Tuskegee carrying into diversified lives the principles and precepts imbibed from their parent school. The pictures are drawn by the originals themselves, and they illustrate by honorable achievement the wholesome and evangelizing influence of Tuskegee's preachments, and the far-reaching effect of placing before them as teachers the highest example of what the Negro of morals and manners may become. They tell their story at first-hand, modestly and sincerely, and the foundations of inspiring lives, laid in the Christian virtues and conscientious service of their fellow men, foster a firm belief that the school is doing a work that will live.

These types of Tuskegee's graduates, picked out at random from hundreds of equal scholarship and ability, represent distinctive channels of activity, including the president of a leading college, principals and teachers of thriving schools, a lawyer, a tinner, a school treasurer, farmers, cotton-growers, master builders and contractors, a dairyman, and a blacksmith. No element contributing to the racial uplift is overlooked. The scenes of their labors are scattered over a vast area, showing convincingly the diffusive character as well as the rich harvest garnered through the Tuskegee Idea. These rough-hewn sketches of a sturdy pioneer band in staking out a larger life and a wider horizon for later generations are worthy of the most careful perusal.

The immeasurable advancement of the Negro, manifested in character, courage, and cash, vitalized by valiant service to the republic in education, commerce, and religion, and crowned by an enlightened, vigorously efficient, sensibly ambitious, and law-abiding citizenship, is "confirmation strong as proofs of Holy Writ" that the gospel of industry, as exemplified by Tuskegee and its helpers, has exerted a leavening influence upon civilization wherever it has been brought within the reach of those who are struggling toward the heights. Under this new dispensation of mind, morals, and muscle, with the best whites and best blacks in sympathetic cooperation, and justice meaning the same to the weak as to the strong, the South will no longer be vexed by a "race problem." Peace and prosperity for all will come with the strength to rise above the baser self. Civic righteousness is the South's speediest thoroughfare to economic greatness.

A book that opens the inner chambers of a people's heart, and sheds a light that may guide the footsteps of both races along the upward way, should meet with a hearty welcome at the hands of all lovers of mankind.

Booker T. Washington