I was born in Randolph County, Ala., near the little town of Roanoke. The house in which I first saw the light—or that part of it which streamed through the cracks, for there were no windows—was a little log cabin 12 by 16 feet. I know very little of my ancestry, except that my mother was the daughter of her mother's master, born in the days of slavery, and up to 1864 herself the slave of her half-brother. She was born in the State of Georgia. My father was born in Elmore County, Ala. He never knew his father, but remembered his mother and eleven brothers. My mother was married twice before she married my father. She married first at the age of fifteen. I am the fifth of fifteen children, and my father's oldest child. Neither my father nor my mother could read or write; mother could get a little out of some pages of the Bible by spelling each word as she came to it.
My early years were spent on a farm. When only four years old I was put to such work as I could do—such as riding a deaf and blind mule, while my brother plowed him in order to make him go forward, for he cared nothing for assault from the rear. We worked for a white man for one-fourth of the crop. He furnished the stock, land, and seeds, and we did the work, although he was supposed to help. He furnished money to "run" us at fifteen to a hundred per cent, according to the time of the year. He grew wealthier; we grew, if possible, poorer. Before I was fifteen years old I instinctively felt the injustice of the scheme. When the crop was divided he got three loads of corn to our one, and somehow he always got all the cotton: never did a single bale come to us.
Those were hard times for us; for it must be remembered that this was in the days of reconstruction and the Ku-Klux-Klan, and if to this be added the fact that my father, a young and inexperienced man, had started out with a family of six on his hands, some idea of the situation may be had. I can recall having been without food many a day, and the pangs of hunger drove me almost to desperation. But mother and father would come late at night from a day of depressing toil and excruciating inward pain, the result of their inability to relieve our suffering, and pacify us for the night with such things as they had been able to get. When I awoke the next morning they were gone again on a food mission.
Hunger would sometimes nearly drive us mad. My brother and I were given a meal of pie-crusts from the white folks' table one day, and as we ate them, Old Buck, the family dog, who resembled an emaciated panther, stole one of the crusts. It was our dinner. We loved Old Buck, but we had to live first; so my brother lit on him, and a battle royal took place over that crust. Brother was losing ground, so I joined in, and, coming up from the rear, we conquered and saved the crust, but not till both of us were well scratched and bitten.
I was put to school at the age of six. Both mother and father were determined that their children should be educated. School lasted two months in the year—July and August. The schoolhouse was three miles from our house, but we walked every day, my oldest sister carrying me astride her neck when I gave out. Sometimes we had an ear of roasted green corn in our basket for dinner, or a roasted sweet potato, but more often simply persimmons, or fruit and nuts picked from our landlord's orchard and from the forest.
When cotton began to open, in the latter part of August, the landlord wanted us to stop school and pick cotton, and I can distinctly remember how my mother used to outgeneral him by slipping me off to school through the woods, following me through the swamps and dark places, with her hand on my back, shoving me on till I was well on the way, and then returning to try to do as much in the field that day as she and I together would be expected to do. When the landlord came to the quarters early to look for me, my mother would hide me behind the cook-pot and other vessels. When I was a little older I had to play my part on the farm. Mother now worked another scheme. I took turns with my brother at school and at the plow. What he learned at school on his school-day was taught to me at night, and vice versa. In this way we got a month of schooling each during the year, and got the habit of home study.
Our family was increasing rapidly, and to keep the children even roughly clothed and fed was about all that could be done under the circumstances. When the school exhibition took place and every girl was expected to have a white dress and every boy a pair of white pantaloons, my mother was often put to her trumps to get these things. Father would not trouble himself about them, as he said they were useless. But the teacher said they were necessary, and his word was law and gospel with most parents in our community. An exhibition was near at hand and three of us had no white pantaloons. Mother manipulated every scheme, but no cloth yet to make them! Finally the day arrived, but not till mother solved the problem by getting up before dawn that morning and making three pairs of white pantaloons for us out of her Sunday petticoat. Mother was of a determined disposition, and seldom failed to solve a domestic problem. We looked about as well as other people's children in that exhibition—at least we thought we did, and that was sufficient. But it must be remembered that there is just so much cloth, and no more, in a petticoat. So our suits were necessarily made tight. I had to be careful how I got around on the stage.
I usually had different teachers every year, as one teacher seldom cared to stay at a place for more than a session. I well remember the disadvantages of this custom. One teacher would have me in a Third Reader and fractions, another in Fifth Reader and addition. When I reached the point where the teacher ordered me to get a United States History, the book-store did not have one, but sold me a biography of Martin Luther instead, which I studied for some time, thinking that I was learning something about the United States. I did not know what the United States was or was like, although I had studied geography and knew something about South America and Africa; and my teacher did not tell me. My teacher at this time was a good man, but that was all. Many of my teachers knew very little, but I thought they knew everything, and that was sufficient, for their teaching was wholesome. I remember one or two, however, whose work, under the circumstances, would be hard to match even now.
As soon as I was old enough I was hired out for wages, to help support the family. My school opportunities were now almost gone, and for this reason, together with a desire for more excitement, I began to grow restless on the farm. I grew morose. I pulled myself loose from all public functions, ceased to attend any public meetings, save regular monthly church meetings, and betook me to the woods, where I read everything I could get. It was during this time that accidentally, I may say providentially, I got hold of a book containing the life of Ignacius Sancho; and I have never read anything that has given me more inspiration. I wish every Negro boy in the land might read it. I read and worked, and helped to support the family. I had vowed that as soon as I was twenty-one I would leave for some school and there stay until I was educated. I was already a little in advance of the young people in my community, so I spent my long winter evenings teaching a little night-school to which the young people of the neighborhood came.
All my life up to this time my father had been working as a tenant. He now determined to strike out for himself—buy stock and rent land. The mule he bought soon became hopelessly lame in the back. It was a peculiar sort of illness. Once upon his feet, he could work all day without difficulty, but when he lay down at night he had to be helped up the following morning. During that entire season the first thing I heard each morning was the voice of my father, "Children, children, get up! let's go and help up the old mule." A neighbor also was called in each morning to help. Toward the end of the season the school opened. We were so anxious to enter, that we determined to help the old mule. My brother and I hitched ourselves to the plow, and sister did the plowing. Early each morning we plowed in this way, and soon finished the crop and entered the little school.
My father and some others had built a little school out of pine poles which they had cut, and hauled to the spot on their shoulders. The teacher, a married man, easily won all his pupils, but I could never forgive him for winning and finally eloping with his pretty assistant teacher.
Christmas eve, 1889, I went to bed a boy. Just after breakfast the next morning I became a man—my own man. "Sandy Claw" did not come that night, although I had hung up my stocking, and I was feeling bad about it. After breakfast my father called me out into the yard, where we seated ourselves on the protruding roots of a large oak-tree, and there he set me free.
"Son," said he, "you are nearing manhood, and you have no education; besides, if you remain with me I will not be able to help you when you are twenty-one. We've decided to make you free, if you'll make us one promise—that you will educate yourself."
By that time my mother had joined the party. I cried, I know not why, and my mother cried; even my father could not conceal his emotion. I accepted the proposal immediately, and although we usually took Christmas till New Year's day, my Christmas that year was then at an end. Manhood had dawned upon me that morning. I tried to be calm, but inwardly I was like a fish out of water.
I struck out to find work, that I might make money to go to school. One mile across the forest brought me to a man who hired me, and promised me $9.25 a month for nine months.
At the end of six months I came across the Tuskegee Student, published at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. I read every line in it. On the first page was a note: "There is an opportunity for a limited number of able-bodied young men to enter the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute and work their way through, provided application is made at once. Booker T. Washington, Principal."
Work their way through! I had never heard of such a thing before. Neither had I heard of Tuskegee. I sent in my application. I did not know how to address a letter, and so only put "Booker T. Washington" on the envelope. Somehow he received it and gave me permission to come.
There ensued a general scramble to get ready to go by the opening of school. I broke off relations with my employer by compromising for a suit of clothes and $8 in money. My chum, a man of about forty years of age, seeing the struggle I was making to get off, offered to help me, or rather to show me how to get the money easily by stealing a few chickens and selling them. It was a tempting bait, but against all the previous teachings of my mother. He argued, and my mother, who was not there, also argued within me. I could not consent. My friend pitied me and offered to do the job himself.
To get a supply of clothes to take to Tuskegee was the question. Up to that time I had never worn an undershirt, or a pair of drawers, or a stiff-bosom shirt, or a stiff collar. All these I had not only to get, but had to learn to wear them. My shirts and collars were bought second-hand from a white neighbor and were all too large by three numbers.
The last day of September, 1890, I left for Tuskegee. When I reached there, although I was a young man, I could not tell what county I lived in, in answer to Mr. Washington's question. I was admitted, after some hesitancy on the part of Principal Washington, and sent to the farm to work for one year in the daytime and to attend school at night.
I was dazed at the splendor of Tuskegee. There was Armstrong Hall, the most imposing brick structure I had ever seen. Then came Alabama Hall, where the girls lived. How wonderful! I could hardly believe that I was not dreaming, and I was almost afraid I should awake. When I went to bed that night I got between two sheets—something I had not been accustomed to do. About twelve o'clock an officer came in, threw the cover off me, and asked some questions about nightshirts, comb and brush, and tooth-brush, with all of which I was but meagerly acquainted. He made me get up, pull off my socks, necktie, collar, and shirt, and told me I would rest better without them. I didn't believe him, but I obeyed.
The next morning I saw more activity among Negroes than I had ever seen before in my life. Not only was everybody at work, but every soul seemed to be in earnest. I heard the ringing of the anvil, the click of machinery, the music of the carpenters' hammers. Before my eyes was a pair of big fat mules drawing a piece of new and improved farm machinery, which literally gutted the earth as the mules moved. Here was a herd of cattle, there a herd of swine; here thumped the mighty steam-engine that propelled the machine which delivered up its many thousand of brick daily; there was another machine, equally powerful, turning out thousands of feet of pine lumber every day. Then there were the class-rooms, with their dignified teachers and worthy-looking young men and women. Amid it all moved that wonderful figure, Booker T. Washington.
I began at once a new existence. I made a vow that I would educate myself there, or I would die and be buried in the school cemetery. When Mr. Washington stood at the altar in the first service which I attended and uttered a fervent prayer asking for guidance, and for spiritual and financial strength to carry on that great work, I felt that the Lord would surely answer his prayer. Since then I have traveled practically all over this country, and in one foreign country, without once seeing anything that made so deep an impression on me.
Simultaneously with this opportunity for self-education came many real hardships—to say nothing of imaginary hardships—which nearly resulted disastrously to my health. I was poorly clad for the extraordinary winter then setting in. I had only one undershirt and one pair of drawers. I could not, of course, put these articles in the laundry, and therefore had to pull them off on Saturday nights, wash them, and get them dry enough to wear by breakfast on Sunday morning. It followed that many Sunday mornings found me sitting at the table wearing damp underwear. I could do no better, without leaving school, and this I was determined not to do. I was earnest in my work, and was promoted from a common laborer to be a hostler in charge of all boys dealing with horses, and then to the much-sought position of special assistant to the farm manager.
I was beginning to see the mistakes of my former life, the time I had lost, and now applied myself diligently. I carried a book with me everywhere I went, and not a second of time would I lose. While driving my mules with a load of wood, I would read until I reached the place of unloading. Mr. Washington took note of this, and upon one occasion, while admonishing the students to make good use of their time, said: "There is a young man on the grounds who will be heard from some day because of his intense application to study and diligence in his work." I listened. I knew he was speaking of me, and the fact that I was to be "heard from" later made me double my resolutions.
In September, 1891, I had to my credit in the treasury of the institution $100, and I was now ready to enter the day-school, to measure arms with the more fortunate students. But, alas! sickness overtook me, and when I emerged from the hospital, after about two months' sickness, my doctor's bill was exactly $100. My accumulated credit went to pay it.
This was the penalty for making the transit from a lower to a higher civilization. When I went without undergarments at home, my health was saved because of uniformity of habit. Now it was injured because I could wear them this week, but might not be able to do so the next—irregularity of habit. Then, too, Tuskegee gave me such living-rooms as I had never lived in, or hoped to. I had lived in log houses, which are self-ventilating. Now I had either overventilated or failed to ventilate my room. It is a difficult matter to make the transit from a lower to a higher civilization. There are many obstacles, and many have fallen by the way.
I went home to recuperate, but returned to Tuskegee in a few weeks, and as I had no money I was again permitted to enter the night-school and work during the day. This time I took up the printers' trade. Here I broke over the conventional rule of acting "devil" six months, and began setting type after one month in the office. In six months I was one of the school's regular compositors; and in one term I had sufficient credit with the treasurer to enter the day-school.
But I was not yet to enter. A letter came from my father, saying, "If you wish to see me again alive, I think it would be well to come at once." I went. My father died a few days after I got home, June 27, 1893.
All hope of future schooling seemed now at an end. My only concern was to do the best I could with the exceedingly heavy load now left on my hands. I pulled off my school-clothes, went to the field, and finished the crop father had left. There was a heavy debt, and I began to teach school to pay this debt. Of course I knew very little, but I taught what I knew—and, I suppose, some things I didn't know.
I think even now that I did the people some good. I had not learned much at Tuskegee in books, but I had learned much from Mr. Washington's Sunday evening talks in the chapel. I had listened carefully to him and had treasured up in my heart what he had said from time to time. Now I was teaching it to others. I felt I was to this little community what Mr. Washington was to Tuskegee. So I made the people whitewash their fences and fix up their houses and premises generally. They were very poor, and when the school closed they could not pay me. I told them I would take corn, peas, potatoes, sirup, pork, shucks, cotton-seed—in fact, anything with which they wished to pay me.
Wagons were secured and loaded, and for several days all sorts of provisions were hauled to my mother's house and stored away for winter. I went to the house of one good widow, who said:
"'Fesser, I ain't got nothin' to pay you wid but dis 'ere house-cat, and he's a good'n. I owes you twenty-five cents, and I wants to pay it. You done my little gal good—more'n any teacher ever did. She ain't stop' washin' her face yit when she gits up in de mornin'."
"Very well," I said, "I'll take the cat with thanks and call the debt square."
Another said: "'Fesser, I heard you was coming, and I hid all my meat in de smoke-house, and says: 'I'll tell him I ain't got none;' but when I seed you coming I tole de chillen to go open de smoke-house. Anybody who do my chillens as much good as you, can get every bit de meat I got." From that woman I got fifty pounds of meat.
Another good woman wanted me to take her only pair of scissors, and when I refused to do so, she put them into my coat-pocket, saying the man who taught her child so much must be paid.
For three years I taught school with one personal object in view—the support of my mother and her family. Mother was not satisfied with this; she wanted me educated. Finally she married again, for no higher reason than to permit me, and the other children growing up, to go to school. My hope for an education was again renewed, and I went back to Tuskegee.
Nearly everybody had forgotten that I had ever been there. Notwithstanding I had been out nearly three terms, I had kept pace with my class, making one class each year, the same as if I had been in school. Upon a very critical examination, in which I averaged ninety-three for all subjects, I entered the B Middle class in the day-school.
Financially I was very little better off than when I left, but I had learned how to manipulate things in such a way as to make it possible to remain in school. I knew a trade at which I could easily make a dollar a day in credit, and I could teach during the vacation. Things went smoothly for one year. Then my brother came, and I had to support him in part. Just about the time I was getting myself adjusted to this, my sister came. I knew I should have to support her almost wholly, so I felt like giving up under such a triple burden; but I held on. I had to deny myself many of the pleasures of school life in order to make two ends meet. I had to wear two pairs of pantaloons and one pair of drawers; and I remember one Sunday, while the school was enjoying a good sermon by a great bishop, I was in the shop melting some glue, with which I glued patches on my only pair of pantaloons, which had reached a condition where thread would no longer hold the patches on. I will not tell what happened when the patches had been on for a few days.
But amid all these conflicting affairs of my school-days ran an immense amount of pleasure, more than I had ever known before. I was gradually coming to see things as they are in the affairs of men. I thought then, and I still think, that no sacrifice was too great when there was such a golden opportunity. To sit and listen to one Sunday evening talk by Principal Washington was worth all the trouble one had to undergo for a year.
Two years before I graduated I began to inquire what I was made for—what calling should I follow? It was hard to decide. Mr. Washington's teaching had impressed me that I should do something to help those less fortunate than myself, and that in the very darkest place I could find. My father had called me to his death-bed and said to me: "Son, I want you to become a teacher of your people. I have done what I could in that direction. The people need your services." I recalled how in his last moments I had promised him I would carry out his wishes. There was nothing else left for me to do but to go into those dark places. But there was the rub; and every Sunday evening Mr. Washington thundered that same theme: "Go into the darkest places, the places where you are most needed, and there give your life with little thought of self." I knew about those dark places. I had been born in one of them. I had been spending my vacations teaching in them.
Once, while teaching in the State of Georgia, I boarded with a family where there were fifteen besides myself, all sleeping, eating, and cooking in the same room. There were three young women in the family. When bedtime came I had to go out of doors and amuse myself with the stars till all the women were in bed; then they would extinguish the hearth-light by putting some ashes on it and let me come in and go to bed. I had to keep my head under the cover the next morning while they got up and dressed. I used to sleep with my nose near a crack in the wall in order to get fresh air. One little girl in the family, while saying her prayers one night, begged the Lord to let the angels come down and stay with them that night. Her little brother promptly interrupted her by saying that she ought to have sense enough to know that there was no room in that bed for angels, as there were already five persons in it. I was used to the country and its worst conditions. I prayed over the matter till finally I gave myself, heart and mind, to whatever place should call me.
During my last year at Tuskegee I was made a substitute salaried teacher in the night-school. My financial burdens were now lifted and my school life became one great pleasure. Toward the end of my Senior year I decided to try for the Trinity Prize of $25 for the best original oration. I remembered what Mr. Washington had so often said: that a man usually gets out of a thing what he puts into it. I determined to put $100 worth of effort into this contest. I was awarded the prize.
A place was offered to me at Tuskegee as academic teacher, but I declined it. I had settled in my mind that I would go to the State of Mississippi, which I had found by two years of investigation was the place where my services were most needed. I could not go to Mississippi at once. I had not money to pay my way, so I accepted a position with my friend, William J. Edwards, at his school in Snow Hill, Ala., where I worked for four years, never losing sight of my Mississippi object. While at Snow Hill I married Miss Mary Ella Patterson, a Tuskegee graduate of the Class of '95. We put our earnings together and built us a comfortable little home. One child, William Sidney, was born to us, but lived only six months.
It took me just two years to convince my wife that there was any wisdom or judgment in leaving our little home and going to Mississippi, where neither of us was known. But finally she gave herself, soul and body, to my way of thinking.
The way was now clear for me to make the start. Just before I left for Mississippi, one of my old teachers from Tuskegee visited me. He inquired about my going to Mississippi, and when I explained the scheme to him, he said jestingly, "You know there is no God in Mississippi." I simply replied that then I would take "the one that Alabama had" with me.
I could not take my wife, for she was under the care of a physician at that time. I decided to leave nearly all my ready cash with her. I did not take quite enough for my railroad fare, for I had expected to sell my wife's bicycle when I reached Selma, the nearest town, and thus secure enough money to finish my trip. But when I got to Selma the wheel would not sell, so I boarded the train without money enough to reach Utica, the place in Mississippi to which I was bound.
I had not got far into the State of Mississippi when my purse was empty. I stopped off at a little town, late at night, where there were no boarding-houses, and no one would admit me to a private house to sleep. I wandered about until I came upon an old guano-house, and crawled into this and slept until the break of day. Then I crawled out, pulled myself together, jumped astride my bicycle, and made my way toward Utica, through a wild and unfrequented part of Mississippi. But before I could reach Utica my wheel broke down, whereupon I put it upon my shoulder, rolled up my trousers, and continued the journey to Utica. I soon met a young man who relieved me of my burden by trading me his brass watch for the wheel and giving me $2 to boot.
I had previously got myself elected principal of the little county school, which, if I could pass the State examination, would pay me a little salary, which would be a great help to me while I worked up the Industrial and Normal School which I had come to build. Much depended on my ability to pass the examination. Tuskegee's reputation was at stake—my own reputation was at stake; for, if I failed, the people would certainly lose confidence in me, and make it impossible for me to accomplish my purpose.
I was out of money, and this was the only way I could see to get any for a long time. If I failed, my wife—who was still in Alabama, and who believed in my ability to do anything—would perhaps lose respect for me, and, most of all, the failure to pass the examination might upset all my plans and blast all my hopes. I confess I went to that examination with a sort of anxious determination. I did not, however, find it half so difficult as I had expected. I soon succeeded in obtaining the necessary license to teach in the public schools of the State.
The little schoolhouse where the school had been heretofore was so much out of repair that we could not risk having pupils under its roof. I had hoped to open in the church, but the good deacons would not permit this. So the few pupils who came the first day were gathered together under an oak-tree, and there were taught. After some time a temporary cabin was fixed up, and in this we taught the entire winter. The cabin was practically no protection against the rain, and less against the winter winds. The wind literally came through from all directions—from the sides, ends, above, and beneath.
We soon had the floor stopped up with clay. This brought about another disadvantage: when it began to rain through the roof, the water would collect on the floor until it was two or three inches deep. Two young women were helping me to teach. They often amused me by trying to maintain their dignity and keep out of the water at the same time. They would stand upon stools and fire questions at their pupils, who were standing in the water below while answering them. On such days as this I usually wore my overcoat and rubber shoes. I would then stand in the water and teach with as much indifference as possible. We bored holes in the floor to let the water out, but it usually came through the roof faster than it could escape. There was much suffering at this time on the part of both teachers and students, but it was all a joy and pleasure to me, for I felt that I had found my life-work.
I was a stranger to the people, and they had very little confidence in me. Some of them questioned my motives in every direction. At the first meeting of the patrons for the purpose of raising money, seventy-five cents were collected and were turned over to me to hold. In a couple of days some one demanded that the collection be taken out of my hands. I quietly turned it over to them. Then they got up a scramble as to which one should hold it. They settled the quarrel by selecting a white man in the town of Utica, in whom all of them had confidence. I then went out canvassing and got $10, which I promptly turned over. Immediately they wanted to turn it back to me to hold, together with what the white man had. They never again questioned my sincerity.
My wife, who was still in Alabama, kept writing me to let her join me. Explanations would do no good. She laid aside all the comforts of home life and came to live in a hovel. We rented a little room, bought a skillet and a frying-pan, a bed and two chairs, and set up housekeeping. I did the cooking, for my wife was a city girl and did not know how to cook on the open fireplace. We never contrasted our condition in Mississippi with that in Alabama; we simply made the best of what we had.
At first there was difficulty in securing land for a location, and many of the patrons began to feel that nothing would be accomplished. To offset this idea I purchased lumber for a building, had it put in the churchyard, and cut up ready for framing. The enthusiasm had to be kept up. Land was soon bought and the building started. Everybody felt now that something was going to be done. At the end of the first year's work I was able to make to the trustees a creditable report, from which the following is taken:
As soon as we secured a cabin to teach in, the young people came in great numbers. We soon had an attendance of 200. One teacher after another was employed to assist, until seven teachers were daily at work. After three months in our temporary quarters conditions were very trying. There was no money to pay teachers or to meet the grocery bills for teachers' board. The winter was well on, and the structure in which we were located was little protection against it. The rain easily came through the roof, and water was often two inches deep on certain parts of the floor. Several teachers and students were suffering with pneumonia or kindred disorders, as a result of all this exposure. I confess that during this dark period only a carefully planned system and much determination prevented despair.
During all this time I was trying to secure the interest of the people. I went from door to door, explaining our efforts; then I made a tour of the churches; after riding or walking five or ten miles at night I would return, and then teach the next day. After a protracted struggle of this kind, and after visiting almost everybody for many miles, I found that I had secured about $600. This greatly relieved us. Forty acres of land were purchased, and a part of the lumber for a good, comfortable building was put upon the grounds. Some of our trustees in New York city and Boston now came to our assistance, and with this, and contributions from a few other friends, we were able to get through the year. Although it was a great struggle, I found in it some pleasure. To know that you were doing the work that the world needs, and must have done, is a pleasure even under trying difficulties.
Starting last October without a cent, in the open air, we have succeeded in establishing a regularly organized institution incorporated under the laws of the State of Mississippi, with 225 students and seven teachers, and with property valued at $4,000. Forty acres of good farm-land about a mile from town have been secured. A model crop is now growing on this farm. We have erected a building—a two-story frame—at a cost of something over $2,000.
I hope you will not get, from what I have said, an idea that I am measuring the success of my efforts by material advancement. I am not. There are forces which our labors have set to work here, the results of which can not be measured in facts and figures. One year ago religious services were held once a month, at which time the day was spent in singing, praying, and shouting. The way some of the people lived for the next twenty-nine days would shock a sensitive individual to read about it. Young people would gamble with the dice, etc., in a most despicable way, within a short distance of the church, during services; others would discharge revolvers at the church door during services; ignorance, superstition, vice, and immorality were everywhere present, notwithstanding the handful of determined Christian men and women who were trying to overcome these evil tendencies. I do not maintain that these evils have been crushed out. They have not. But what I do maintain is that the general current has been checked. The revolution is on; and if we continue the work here, as we surely will, these evil tendencies will soon be crushed out.
During this year the people themselves furnished $1,000 toward the support of the school. They have never before spent a tenth as much for education. The second year eleven teachers were employed and 400 students were admitted. The cost of operations was $10,000, all of which was raised during the year. We are now entering into our third term. Fifteen teachers have been employed, and the expenses of operation will be about $15,000, all of which I must raise by direct effort. Our property, all deeded to a board of trustees, is valued at $10,000.
I can not feel that I have accomplished much here in Mississippi, because I see all around me so much to be done—so much that I can not touch because of lack of means. But, being in the work to stay, I may, in the end, contribute my share to the betterment of man. If I have suffered much to build up this work, I can not feel that it is a sacrifice. It is a colossal opportunity. The greater the sacrifice, the more extensive the opportunity. Whatever may have been accomplished already is certainly due more to my wife's superior judgment than to my own activity. Whatever I have been able to do myself here in Mississippi for my people has been due, first, to the teachings of my mother, and, second, to the all-important life-example and matchless teachings of Booker T. Washington.
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