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Ch. 5: Hampton Institute's Relation To Tuskegee

By Robert R. Moton

In his eloquent address in May, 1903, at the memorial services of General Samuel Chapman Armstrong, Founder, and for twenty-five years Principal, of Hampton Institute, Dr. Booker T. Washington said: "A few nights ago, while I was driving through the woods in Alabama, I discerned in the distance a large, bright fire. Driving to it, I soon found out that by the glow of this fire several busy hands were building a nice frame cottage, to replace a log cabin that had been the abode of the family for a quarter of a century. That fire was lighted by General Armstrong years ago. What does it matter that it was twenty-five years passing through Hampton to Tuskegee and through the Tuskegee Conference to that lonely spot in those lonely woods! It was doing its work very effectually all the same, and will continue to do it through the years to come."

The relations existing between Tuskegee Institute and Hampton Institute are much like those existing between a son and the father who has watched the growth and development of his child through the formative transition periods of his youth, and looks with pride upon him as he stands forth in the full bloom of manhood, enumerating successes already achieved, with large promise of greater and more far-reaching achievements for the immediate future. The child never reaches the point where he does not seek the approval and blessing of the parent, or where he refuses to accept advice and assistance if needed.

In the early days of Tuskegee Mr. Washington turned naturally and properly to Hampton for anything that was needed, as he so beautifully and repeatedly testifies in his autobiography, Up from Slavery. For a long time the men and women who helped him were from Hampton, more than fifty such having been there.

While there is a large number of Hampton graduates in the Industrial Departments of Tuskegee, the teaching force, especially in the Academic Department, represents a dozen or more of the best colleges and universities in this country. The same may be said of Hampton.

Up to about eight or ten years ago we at Hampton spoke of Tuskegee as a small Hampton, but "small" no longer describes Tuskegee, and I doubt seriously if large Hampton would be altogether proper.

While Tuskegee was founded on the Hampton plan, and has consistently followed that plan as far as possible, and while these two great "Industrial Universities" are very much alike in spirit and purpose, they are, on the other hand, very dissimilar in external appearance as well as in internal conduct. Each sends out into the benighted districts of the South, and Hampton also into the Indian country of the West, hundreds of men and women who are living influences of civilization and Christianity in their deepest and most far-reaching sense, adding much to the solution of the perplexing questions with which the nation has to deal.

The conditions surrounding the two schools have necessitated certain differences in their evolution. The personnel of the two institutions is different. Hampton has always been governed and controlled by white people, and its teachers have come from the best families of the North. Tuskegee was founded by a Negro, and its teachers and officers have come from the best types of the American Negro and from the best schools opened to them. Hampton deals with a different class of student material, including the Indian, who is almost as different in traits and characteristics from the Negro as he is in feature and origin. These are, in a sense, external differences which must of necessity affect the character and internal machinery of the two institutions.

This is no reflection upon either school, for each is unique and complete in its way, and any marked ethnic change in the management of either would be unfortunate. Hampton is a magnificent illustration of Anglo-Saxon ideas in modern education. Tuskegee, on the other hand, is the best demonstration of Negro achievement along distinctly altruistic lines. In its successful work for the elevation and civilization of the children of the freedmen, it is also the most convincing evidence of the Negroes' ability to work together with mutual regard and mutual helpfulness. When Tuskegee was started there was a serious question as to whether Negroes could in any large measure combine for business or educational purposes. The only cooperative institutions that had been successful among them were the Church and, perhaps, the secret societies.

In material development, in the rapid and steadily improving accession of student material, in enlarging powers for greater usefulness, in influence upon the educational methods of the country and the civilized world, and in the sympathy and respect it has gained for the Negro through the writings and speeches of its Founder and Principal, the Tuskegee Institute has without doubt passed beyond the expectations of those who were most sanguine about its future.

The Tuskegee torch, from the Hampton fire started so many years ago by General Armstrong, has spread and is spreading light to thousands of homes and communities throughout the South, and is the greatest pride and glory of Hampton Institute, and a constant source of inspiration and encouragement to the devoted men and women who have always made Hampton's work possible.

At the conclusion of an address in a Northern city in the interest of Hampton, in which I had quoted Dr. Curry's saying that, "if Hampton had done nothing more than to give us Booker Washington, its history would be immortality," a New England lady of apparently good circumstances and well informed, in the kindness of her heart, took me to task for distorting my facts in saying that Tuskegee had grown out of Hampton. She was sure that it was just the other way—that Hampton was an offshoot of Tuskegee. She certainly could not have paid a higher tribute to Hampton, and likewise to Tuskegee.

For the past few years Mr. Washington's deserved popularity and prominence have brought Tuskegee conspicuously and constantly before the public. This has in no sense been a disadvantage to Hampton, but has been a distinct gain in enabling Hampton to point to the foremost man of the Negro race, and to the largest and most interesting and in many ways the best-managed institution of the race, as the best and most conspicuous product of the peculiar kind of education for which Hampton stands.

While Tuskegee is, perhaps, in many respects, better known than Hampton, its antecedent, Hampton, is without doubt much better known and more highly thought of because of the existence of Tuskegee.

Tuskegee in its present state of development would be one of the marvels of the age, even if the personality of its Principal were left out of consideration.

Two thousand Negroes who are scarcely a generation removed from bondage, being trained, disciplined, controlled by 200 or more of the same racial type; 2,000 Negroes being educated, morally, industrially, intellectually; an industrial university with 100 large buildings well equipped and beautifully laid-off grounds, with a hum and bustle of industry, scientifically and practically conducted by a race considered as representing the lowest ethnic type, upsetting the theories of many well-meaning people who believe the Negroes incapable of maintaining themselves in this civilization, incapable of uniting in any successful endeavor without being under the direct personal control of the dominant Aryan—this is one of the greatest achievements of the race during its years of freedom.

Hampton, though a dozen years older, the pioneer in industrial education, equally well equipped, quite as well conducted, doing as great a work in the elevation of the races it represents, and holding just as important a place in the scheme of modern education, is not so interesting or so wonderful, because its conception and execution are the product of Aryan thought and Aryan ingenuity. New ideas, new discoveries, new inventions and organizations, new methods and new institutions, have been conspicuous among the white race for a thousand years. General Armstrong's wisdom and foresight were truly wonderful, as indeed are also those of his worthy successor, Dr. H. B. Frissell, under whose direction the school's influence and usefulness have steadily increased, and along lines that General Armstrong would approve; but had Hampton been founded and brought to its present state of proficiency by a Negro, and its dominating force been of the African race, it would be a more wonderful and interesting institution. In other words, the white race has long since passed its experimental period. It now is the standard of measurement for all other races. The Negro's achievements, then, are considered largely with reference to the impression which they make upon the race of whose civilization and government he is a part.


Tuskegee, therefore, stands out more prominently than Hampton as an exponent of industrial education, and has been more severely questioned because of the imagined disloyalty in a Negro's aggressive attitude for this particular kind of education for his race. There are people of both races who, while they do not on the whole oppose Hampton and Tuskegee in their educational methods, are honestly afraid that, because of the growing importance and influence of these two schools and others of a similar kind, the idea will be thoroughly established that the Negro needs only and is capable only of the narrowest sort of industrial training—such as is represented by the "rule-of-thumb carpenter" and the "one-suspender mule-driver," who work by rule and rote rather than by principle and method, not in the slightest degree comprehending the science underlying the work in which they are engaged, whose mathematical knowledge is bounded by "the distance between two corn or cotton rows."

To fix such an idea in the minds of the people of this country—which is not likely to be done—would, no doubt, be disastrous to us for generations to come, and make it much more easy than it is now to deprive the Negro of the civil and political rights which are guaranteed by the Constitution. It would, without question, defeat the objects for which Hampton and Tuskegee have persistently stood, and for which they have ever worked and are still very successfully working.

No one familiar with the curricula of these two schools would for a moment raise such a question. General Armstrong saw, as few people did, the moral and intellectual value of industrial training aside from its merely economic importance. He founded a school on an entirely different basis from any that had been known before—the basis of character-building through practical education, industrial training, and self-help.

During the thirty-six years of its history, Hampton has sent into the world about 1,200 graduates and 5,000 undergraduates, many of whom have taken with them the spark that has started many other Hamptons, large and small, among the Negroes of the South and the Indians of the West. Hampton's success, and indeed the success of any institution, depends not so much upon the scholastic attainments of its pupils as upon the work that those who have received its instruction accomplish. Hampton glories, and justly, in the loyalty of its graduates and in the faithfulness with which they have inculcated and exemplified the traditions and principles for which it stands. Hampton glories in Tuskegee, because Tuskegee has started in so many communities the spark of true life and real civilization; in the impetus and inspiration it has given, so beautiful and so perfect a consummation of the prophetic vision of Hampton's founder.

Can the relations between the two institutions be better stated than in the words of their two founders? After a visit to Tuskegee, General Armstrong said: "The Tuskegee school is a wonderful work and Mr. Washington is a remarkable man. He has carried out the idea of training the head, hand, and heart in a wonderfully complete and perfect way. This school is very much like the one at Hampton, and any one can recognize the similarity, but he has made many improvements. It is not merely an imitation. It is the Hampton Idea adapted and worked into a most sensible and efficient application to the needs of the Alabama Negroes." In the same memorial address at General Armstrong's funeral from which I quoted at the beginning of this paper, Mr. Washington said, "The rose I place on his grave is his work at Tuskegee."

Hampton and Tuskegee, striving along common lines for common ends, intimate in relationship, interdependent, each frankly criticizing and freely advising, each profiting by the failures of the other, each benefiting by the successes of the other, are both working as best they may toward that "far-off divine event to which the whole creation moves."

Booker T. Washington