From the shimmering swirl of waters where many, many thoughts ago

the slave-ship first saw the square tower of Jamestown have flowed

down to our day three streams of thinking: one from the larger

world here and over-seas, saying, the multiplying of human wants

in culture lands calls for the world-wide co-operation of men in

satisfying them. Hence arises a new human unity, pulling the ends

of earth nearer, and all men, black, yellow, and white. The

larger humanity strives to feel in this contact of living nations

and sleeping hordes a thrill of new life in the world, crying, If

the contact of Life and Sleep be Death, shame on such Life. To be

sure, behind this thought lurks the afterthought of force and

dominion,--the making of brown men to delve when the temptation of

beads and red calico cloys.

The second thought streaming from the death-ship and the curving

river is the thought of the older South: the sincere and

passionate belief that somewhere between men and cattle God

created a tertium quid, and called it a Negro,--a clownish, simple

creature, at times even lovable within its limitations, but

straitly foreordained to walk within the Veil. To be sure, behind

the thought lurks the afterthought,--some of them with favoring

chance might become men, but in sheer self-defense we dare not let

them, and build about them walls so high, and hang between them

and the light a veil so thick, that they shall not even think of

breaking through.

And last of all there trickles down that third and darker thought,

the thought of the things themselves, the confused half-conscious

mutter of men who are black and whitened, crying Liberty, Freedom,

Opportunity--vouchsafe to us, O boastful World, the chance of

living men! To be sure, behind the thought lurks the

afterthought: suppose, after all, the World is right and we are

less than men? Suppose this mad impulse within is all wrong, some

mock mirage from the untrue?

So here we stand among thoughts of human unity, even through

conquest and slavery; the inferiority of black men, even if forced

by fraud; a shriek in the night for the freedom of men who

themselves are not yet sure of their right to demand it. This is

the tangle of thought and afterthought wherein we are called to

solve the problem of training men for life.

Behind all its curiousness, so attractive alike to sage and

dilettante, lie its dim dangers, throwing across us shadows at

once grotesque and awful. Plain it is to us that what the world

seeks through desert and wild we have within our threshold;--a

stalwart laboring force, suited to the semi-tropics; if, deaf to

the voice of the Zeitgeist, we refuse to use and develop these

men, we risk poverty and loss. If, on the other hand, seized by

the brutal afterthought, we debauch the race thus caught in our

talons, selfishly sucking their blood and brains in the future as

in the past, what shall save us from national decadence? Only

that saner selfishness which, Education teaches men, can find the

rights of all in the whirl of work.

Again, we may decry the color prejudice of the South, yet it

remains a heavy fact. Such curious kinks of the human mind exist

and must be reckoned with soberly. They cannot be laughed away,

nor always successfully stormed at, nor easily abolished by act of

legislature. And yet they cannot be encouraged by being let

alone. They must be recognized as facts, but unpleasant facts;

things that stand in the way of civilization and religion and

common decency. They can be met in but one way: by the breadth

and broadening of human reason, by catholicity of taste and

culture. And so, too, the native ambition and aspiration of men,

even though they be black, backward, and ungraceful, must not

lightly be dealt with. To stimulate wildly weak and untrained

minds is to play with mighty fires; to flout their striving idly

is to welcome a harvest of brutish crime and shameless lethargy in

our very laps. The guiding of thought and the deft coordination

of deed is at once the path of honor and humanity.

And so, in this great question of reconciling three vast and

partially contradictory streams of thought, the one panacea of

Education leaps to the lips of all; such human training as will

best use the labor of all men without enslaving or brutalizing;

such training as will give us poise to encourage the prejudices

that bulwark society, and stamp out those that in sheer barbarity

deafen us to the wail of prisoned souls within the Veil, and the

mounting fury of shackled men.

But when we have vaguely said Education will set this tangle

straight, what have we uttered but a truism? Training for life

teaches living; but what training for the profitable living

together of black men and white? Two hundred years ago our task

would have seemed easier. Then Dr. Johnson blandly assured us

that education was needed solely for the embellishments of life,

and was useless for ordinary vermin. To-day we have climbed to

heights where we would open at least the outer courts of knowledge

to all, display its treasures to many, and select the few to whom

its mystery of Truth is revealed, not wholly by truth or the

accidents of the stock market, but at least in part according to

deftness and aim, talent and character. This programme, however,

we are sorely puzzled in carrying out through that part of the

land where the blight of slavery fell hardest, and where we are

dealing with two backward peoples. To make here in human

education that ever necessary combination of the permanent and the

contingent--of the ideal and the practical in workable

equilibrium--has been there, as it ever must be in every age and

place, a matter of infinite experiment and frequent mistakes.

In rough approximation we may point out four varying decades of

work in Southern education since the Civil War. From the close of

the war until 1876 was the period of uncertain groping and

temporary relief. There were army schools, mission schools, and

schools of the Freedmen's Bureau in chaotic disarrangement,

seeking system and cooperation. Then followed ten years of

constructive definite effort toward the building of complete

school systems in the South. Normal schools and colleges were

founded for the freedmen, and teachers trained there to man the

public schools. There was the inevitable tendency of war to

underestimate the prejudice of the master and the ignorance of the

slave, and all seemed clear sailing out of the wreckage of the

storm. Meantime, starting in this decade yet especially

developing from 1885 to 1895, began the industrial revolution of

the South. The land saw glimpses of a new destiny and the

stirring of new ideals. The educational system striving to

complete itself saw new obstacles and a field of work ever broader

and deeper. The Negro colleges, hurriedly founded, were

inadequately equipped, illogically distributed, and of varying

efficiency and grade; the normal and high schools were doing

little more than common school work, and the common schools were

training but a third of the children who ought to be in them, and

training these too often poorly. At the same time the white

South, by reason of its sudden conversion from the slavery ideal,

by so much the more became set and strengthened in its racial

prejudice, and crystallized it into harsh law and harsher custom;

while the marvelous pushing forward of the poor white daily

threatened to take even bread and butter from the mouths of the

heavily handicapped sons of the freedmen. In the midst, then, of

the larger problem of Negro education sprang up the more practical

question of work, the inevitable economic quandary that faces a

people in the transition from slavery to freedom, and especially

those who make that change amid hate and prejudice, lawlessness

and ruthless competition.

The industrial school springing to notice in this decade, but

coming to full recognition in the decade beginning with 1895, was

the proffered answer to this combined educational and economic

crisis, and an answer of singular wisdom and timeliness. From the

very first in nearly all the schools some attention had been given

to training in handiwork, but now was this training first raised

to a dignity that brought it in direct touch with the South's

magnificent industrial development, and given an emphasis which

reminded black folk that before the Temple of Knowledge swing the

Gates of Toil.

Yet after all they are but gates, and when turning our eyes from

the temporary and the contingent in the Negro problem to the

broader question of the permanent uplifting and civilization of

black men in America, we have a right to inquire, as this

enthusiasm for material advancement mounts to its height, if after

all the industrial school is the final and sufficient answer in

the training of the Negro race; and to ask gently, but in all

sincerity, the ever recurring query of the ages, Is not life more

than meat, and the body more than raiment? And men ask this to-

day all the more eagerly because of sinister signs in recent

educational movements. The tendency is here born of slavery and

quickened to renewed life by the crazy imperialism of the day, to

regard human beings as among the material resources of a land to

be trained with an eye single to future dividends. Race

prejudices, which keep brown and black men in their "places," we

are coming to regard as useful allies with such a theory, no

matter how much they may dull the ambition and sicken the hearts

of struggling human beings. And above all, we daily hear that an

education that encourages aspiration, that sets the loftiest of

ideals and seeks as an end culture and character than bread-

winning, is the privilege of white men and the danger and delusion

of black.

Especially has criticism been directed against the former

educational efforts to aid the Negro. In the four periods I have

mentioned, we find first boundless, planless enthusiasm and

sacrifice; then the preparation of teachers for a vast public

school system; then the launching and expansion of that school

system amid increasing difficulties; and finally the training of

workmen for the new and growing industries. This development has

been sharply ridiculed as a logical anomaly and flat reversal of

nature. Soothly we have been told that first industrial and

manual training should have taught the Negro to work, then simple

schools should have taught him to read and write, and finally,

after years, high and normal schools could have completed the

system, as intelligence and wealth demanded.

That a system logically so complete was historically impossible,

it needs but a little thought to prove. Progress in human affairs

is more often a pull than a push, surging forward of the

exceptional man, and the lifting of his duller brethren slowly and

painfully to his vantage ground. Thus it was no accident that

gave birth to universities centuries before the common schools,

that made fair Harvard the first flower of our wilderness. So in

the South: the mass of the freedmen at the end of the war lacked

the intelligence so necessary to modern workingmen. They must

first have the common school to teach them to read, write, and

cipher. The white teachers who flocked South went to establish

such a common school system. They had no idea of founding

colleges; they themselves at first would have laughed at the idea.

But they faced, as all men since them have faced, that central

paradox of the South, the social separation of the races. Then it

was the sudden volcanic rupture of nearly all relations between

black and white, in work and government and family life. Since

then a new adjustment of relations in economic and political

affairs has grown up,--an adjustment subtle and difficult to

grasp, yet singularly ingenious, which leaves still that frightful

chasm at the color line across which men pass at their peril.

Thus, then and now, there stand in the South two separate worlds;

and separate not simply in the higher realms of social

intercourse, but also in church and school, on railway and street

car, in hotels and theatres, in streets and city sections, in

books and newspapers, in asylums and jails, in hospitals and

graveyards. There is still enough of contact for large economic

and group cooperation, but the separation is so thorough and deep,

that it absolutely precludes for the present between the races

anything like that sympathetic and effective group training and

leadership of the one by the other, such as the American Negro and

all backward peoples must have for effectual progress.

This the missionaries of '68 soon saw; and if effective industrial

and trade schools were impractical before the establishment of a

common school system, just as certainly no adequate common schools

could be founded until there were teachers to teach them.

Southern whites would not teach them; Northern whites in

sufficient numbers could not be had. If the Negro was to learn,

he must teach himself, and the most effective help that could be

given him was the establishment of schools to train Negro

teachers. This conclusion was slowly but surely reached by every

student of the situation until simultaneously, in widely separated

regions, without consultation or systematic plan, there arose a

series of institutions designed to furnish teachers for the

untaught. Above the sneers of critics at the obvious defects of

this procedure must ever stand its one crushing rejoinder: in a

single generation they put thirty thousand black teachers in the

South; they wiped out the illiteracy of the majority of the black

people of the land, and they made Tuskegee possible.

Such higher training schools tended naturally to deepen broader

development: at first they were common and grammar schools, then

some became high schools. And finally, by 1900, some thirty-four

had one year or more of studies of college grade. This

development was reached with different degrees of speed in

different institutions: Hampton is still a high school, while Fisk

University started her college in 1871, and Spelman Seminary about

1896. In all cases the aim was identical: to maintain the

standards of the lower training by giving teachers and leaders the

best practicable training; and above all to furnish the black

world with adequate standards of human culture and lofty ideals of

life. It was not enough that the teachers of teachers should be

trained in technical normal methods; they must also, so far as

possible, be broad-minded, cultured men and women, to scatter

civilization among a people whose ignorance was not simply of

letters, but of life itself.

It can thus be seen that the work of education in the South began

with higher institutions of training, which threw off as their

foliage common schools, and later industrial schools, and at the

same time strove to shoot their roots ever deeper toward college

and university training. That this was an inevitable and

necessary development, sooner or later, goes without saying; but

there has been, and still is, a question in many minds if the

natural growth was not forced, and if the higher training was not

either overdone or done with cheap and unsound methods. Among

white Southerners this feeling is widespread and positive. A

prominent Southern journal voiced this in a recent editorial:

"The experiment that has been made to give the colored students

classical training has not been satisfactory. Even though many

were able to pursue the course, most of them did so in a parrot-

like way, learning what was taught, but not seeming to appropriate

the truth and import of their instruction, and graduating without

sensible aim or valuable occupation for their future. The whole

scheme has proved a waste of time, efforts, and the money of the


While most far-minded men would recognize this as extreme and

overdrawn, still without doubt many are asking, Are there a

sufficient number of Negroes ready for college training to warrant

the undertaking? Are not too many students prematurely forced

into this work? Does it not have the effect of dissatisfying the

young Negro with his environment? And do these graduates succeed

in real life? Such natural questions cannot be evaded, nor on the

other hand must a nation naturally skeptical as to Negro ability

assume an unfavorable answer without careful inquiry and patient

openness to conviction. We must not forget that most Americans

answer all queries regarding the Negro a priori, and that the

least that human courtesy can do is to listen to evidence.

The advocates of the higher education of the Negro would be the

last to deny the incompleteness and glaring defects of the present

system: too many institutions have attempted to do college work,

the work in some cases has not been thoroughly done, and quantity

rather than quality has sometimes been sought. But all this can

be said of higher education throughout the land: it is the almost

inevitable incident of educational growth, and leaves the deeper

question of the legitimate demand for the higher training of

Negroes untouched. And this latter question can be settled in but

one way--by a first-hand study of the facts. If we leave out of

view all institutions which have not actually graduated students

from a course higher than that of a New England high school, even

though they be called colleges; if then we take the thirty-four

remaining institutions, we may clear up many misapprehensions by

asking searchingly, What kind of institutions are they, what do

they teach, and what sort of men do they graduate?

And first we may say that this type of college, including Atlanta,

Fisk and Howard, Wilberforce and Lincoln, Biddle, Shaw, and the

rest, is peculiar, almost unique. Through the shining trees that

whisper before me as I write, I catch glimpses of a boulder of New

England granite, covering a grave, which graduates of Atlanta

University have placed there:--









This was the gift of New England to the freed Negro: not alms, but

a friend; not cash, but character. It was not and is not money

these seething millions want, but love and sympathy, the pulse of

hearts beating with red blood; a gift which to-day only their own

kindred and race can bring to the masses, but which once saintly

souls brought to their favored children in the crusade of the

sixties, that finest thing in American history, and one of the few

things untainted by sordid greed and cheap vainglory. The

teachers in these institutions came not to keep the Negroes in

their place, but to raise them out of their places where the filth

of slavery had wallowed them. The colleges they founded were

social settlements; homes where the best of the sons of the

freedmen came in close and sympathetic touch with the best

traditions of New England. They lived and ate together, studies

and worked, hoped and harkened in the dawning light. In actual

formal content their curriculum was doubtless old-fashioned, but

in educational power it was supreme, for it was the contact of

living souls.

From such schools about two thousand Negroes have gone forth with

the bachelor's degree. The number in itself is enough to put at

rest the argument that too large a proportion of Negroes are

receiving higher training. If the ratio to population of all

Negro students throughout the land, in both college and secondary

training, be counted, Commissioner Harris assures us "it must be

increased to five times its present average" to equal the average

of the land.

Fifty years ago the ability of Negro students in any appreciable

numbers to master a modern college course would have been

difficult to prove. To-day it is proved by the fact that four

hundred Negroes, many of whom have been reported as brilliant

students, have received the bachelor's degree from Harvard, Yale,

Oberlin, and seventy other leading colleges. Here we have, then,

nearly twenty-five hundred Negro graduates, of whom the crucial

query must be made. How far did their training fit them for life?

It is of course extremely difficult to collect satisfactory data

on such a point,--difficult to reach the men, to get trustworthy

testimony, and to gauge that testimony by any generally acceptable

criterion of success. In 1900, the Conference at Atlanta

University undertook to study these graduates, and published the

results. First they sought to know what these graduates were

doing, and succeeded in getting answers from nearly two thirds of

the living. The direct testimony was in almost all cases

corroborated by the reports of the colleges where they graduated,

so that in the main the reports were worthy of credence. Fifty-

three per cent of these graduates were teachers,--presidents of

institutions, heads of normal schools, principals of city school

systems, and the like. Seventeen per cent were clergymen; another

seventeen per cent were in the professions, chiefly as physicians.

Over six per cent were merchants, farmers, and artisans, and four

per cent were in the government civil service. Granting even that

a considerable proportion of the third unheard from are

unsuccessful, this is a record of usefulness. Personally I know

many hundreds of these graduates and have corresponded with more

than a thousand; through others I have followed carefully the

life-work of scores; I have taught some of them and some of the

pupils whom they have taught, lived in homes which they have

builded, and looked at life through their eyes. Comparing them as

a class with my fellow students in New England and in Europe, I

cannot hesitate in saying that nowhere have I met men and women

with a broader spirit of helpfulness, with deeper devotion to

their life-work, or with more consecrated determination to succeed

in the face of bitter difficulties than among Negro college-bred

men. They have, to be sure, their proportion of ne'er-do-weels,

their pedants and lettered fools, but they have a surprisingly

small proportion of them; they have not that culture of manner

which we instinctively associate with university men, forgetting

that in reality it is the heritage from cultured homes, and that

no people a generation removed from slavery can escape a certain

unpleasant rawness and gaucherie, despite the best of training.

With all their larger vision and deeper sensibility, these men

have usually been conservative, careful leaders. They have seldom

been agitators, have withstood the temptation to head the mob, and

have worked steadily and faithfully in a thousand communities in

the South. As teachers they have given the South a commendable

system of city schools and large numbers of private normal schools

and academies. Colored college-bred men have worked side by side

with white college graduates at Hampton; almost from the beginning

the backbone of Tuskegee's teaching force has been formed of

graduates from Fisk and Atlanta. And to-day the institute is

filled with college graduates, from the energetic wife of the

principal down to the teacher of agriculture, including nearly

half of the executive council and a majority of the heads of

departments. In the professions, college men are slowly but

surely leavening the Negro church, are healing and preventing the

devastations of disease, and beginning to furnish legal protection

for the liberty and property of the toiling masses. All this is

needful work. Who would do it if Negroes did not? How could

Negroes do it if they were not trained carefully for it? If white

people need colleges to furnish teachers, ministers, lawyers, and

doctors, do black people need nothing of the sort?

If it be true that there are an appreciable number of Negro youth

in the land capable by character and talent to receive that higher

training, the end of which is culture, and if the two and a half

thousand who have had something of this training in the past have

in the main proved themselves useful to their race and generation,

the question then comes, What place in the future development of

the South might the Negro college and college-bred man to occupy?

That the present social separation and acute race sensitiveness

must eventually yield to the influences of culture as the South

grows civilized is clear. But such transformation calls for

singular wisdom and patience. If, while the healing of this vast

sore is progressing, the races are to live for many years side by

side, united in economic effort, obeying a common government,

sensitive to mutual thought and feeling, yet subtly and silently

separate in many matters of deeper human intimacy--if this unusual

and dangerous development is to progress amid peace and order,

mutual respect and growing intelligence, it will call for social

surgery at once the delicatest and nicest in modern history. It

will demand broad-minded, upright men both white and black, and in

its final accomplishment American civilization will triumph. So

far as white men are concerned, this fact is to-day being

recognized in the South, and a happy renaissance of university

education seems imminent. But the very voices that cry Hail! to

this good work are, strange to relate, largely silent or

antagonistic to the higher education of the Negro.

Strange to relate! for this is certain, no secure civilization can

be built in the South with the Negro as an ignorant, turbulent

proletariat. Suppose we seek to remedy this by making them

laborers and nothing more: they are not fools, they have tasted of

the Tree of Life, and they will not cease to think, will not cease

attempting to read the riddle of the world. By taking away their

best equipped teachers and leaders, by slamming the door of

opportunity in the faces of their bolder and brighter minds, will

you make them satisfied with their lot? or will you not rather

transfer their leading from the hands of men taught to think to

the hands of untrained demagogues? We ought not to forget that

despite the pressure of poverty, and despite the active

discouragement and even ridicule of friends, the demand for higher

training steadily increases among Negro youth: there were, in the

years from 1875 to 1880, twenty-two Negro graduates from Northern

colleges; from 1885 to 1895 there were forty-three, and from 1895

to 1900, nearly 100 graduates. From Southern Negro colleges there

were, in the same three periods, 143, 413, and over 500 graduates.

Here, then, is the plain thirst for training; by refusing to give

this Talented Tenth the key to knowledge can any sane man imagine

that they will lightly lay aside their yearning and contentedly

become hewers of wood and drawers of water?

No. The dangerously clear logic of the Negro's position will more

and more loudly assert itself in that day when increasing wealth

and more intricate social organization preclude the South from

being, as it so largely is, simply an armed camp for intimidating

black folk. Such waste of energy cannot be spared if the South is

to catch up with civilization. And as the black third of the land

grows in thrift and skill, unless skillfully guided in its larger

philosophy, it must more and more brood over the red past and the

creeping, crooked present, until it grasps a gospel of revolt and

revenge and throws its new-found energies athwart the current of

advance. Even to-day the masses of the Negroes see all too

clearly the anomalies of their position and the moral crookedness

of yours. You may marshal strong indictments against them, but

their counter-cries, lacking though they be in formal logic, have

burning truths within them which you may not wholly ignore, O

Southern Gentlemen! If you deplore their presence here, they ask,

Who brought us? When you shriek, Deliver us from the vision of

intermarriage, they answer, that legal marriage is infinitely

better than systematic concubinage and prostitution. And if in

just fury you accuse their vagabonds of violating women, they also

in fury quite as just may wail: the rape which your gentlemen have

done against helpless black women in defiance of your own laws is

written on the foreheads of two millions of mulattoes, and written

in ineffaceable blood. And finally, when you fasten crime upon

this race as its peculiar trait, they answer that slavery was the

arch-crime, and lynching and lawlessness its twin abortion; that

color and race are not crimes, and yet they it is which in this

land receive most unceasing condemnation, North, East, South, and


I will not say such arguments are wholly justified--I will not

insist that there is no other side to the shield; but I do say

that of the nine millions of Negroes in this nation, there is

scarcely one out of the cradle to whom these arguments do not

daily present themselves in the guise of terrible truth. I insist

that the question of the future is how best to keep these millions

from brooding over the wrongs of the past and the difficulties of

the present, so that all their energies may be bent toward a

cheerful striving and cooperation with their white neighbors

toward a larger, juster, and fuller future. That one wise method

of doing this lies in the closer knitting of the Negro to the

great industrial possibilities of the South is a great truth. And

this the common schools and the manual training and trade schools

are working to accomplish. But these alone are not enough. The

foundations of knowledge in this race, as in others, must be sunk

deep in the college and university if we would build a solid,

permanent structure. Internal problems of social advance must

inevitably come,--problems of work and wages, of families and

homes, of morals and the true valuing of the things of life; and

all these and other inevitable problems of civilization the Negro

must meet and solve largely for himself, by reason of his

isolation; and can there be any possible solution other than by

study and thought and an appeal to the rich experience of the

past? Is there not, with such a group and in such a crisis,

infinitely more danger to be apprehended from half-trained minds

and shallow thinking than from over-education and over-refinement?

Surely we have wit enough to found a Negro college so manned and

equipped as to steer successfully between the dilettante and the

fool. We shall hardly induce black men to believe that if their

bellies be full it matters little about their brains. They

already dimly perceive that the paths of peace winding between

honest toil and dignified manhood call for the guidance of skilled

thinkers, the loving, reverent comradeship between the black lowly

and black men emancipated by training and culture.

The function of the Negro college then is clear: it must maintain

the standards of popular education, it must seek the social

regeneration of the Negro, and it must help in the solution of

problems of race contact and cooperation. And finally, beyond all

this, it must develop men. Above our modern socialism, and out of

the worship of the mass, must persist and evolve that higher

individualism which the centres of culture protect; there must

come a loftier respect for the sovereign human soul that seeks to

know itself and the world about it; that seeks a freedom for

expansion and self-development; that will love and hate and labor

in its own way, untrammeled alike by old and new. Such souls

aforetime have inspired and guided worlds, and if we be not wholly

bewitched by our Rhine-gold, they shall again. Herein the longing

of black men must have respect: the rich and bitter depth of their

experience, the unknown treasures of their inner life, the strange

rendings of nature they have seen, may give the world new points

of view and make their loving, living, and doing precious to all

human hearts. And to themselves in these the days that try their

souls the chance to soar in the dim blue air above the smoke is to

their finer spirits boon and guerdon for what they lose on earth

by being black.

I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not. Across the color line I

move arm in arm with Balzac and Dumas, where smiling men and

welcoming women glide in gilded halls. From out the caves of

Evening that swing between the strong-limbed earth and the tracery

of the stars, I summon Aristotle and Aurelius and what soul I

will, and they come all graciously with no scorn nor

condescension. So, wed with Truth, I dwell above the Veil. Is

this the life you grudge us, O knightly America? Is this the life

you long to change into the dull red hideousness of Georgia? Are

you so afraid lest peering from this high Pisgah, between

Philistine and Amalekite, we sight the Promised Land?