Booker T. Washinton's Visit to Cornell
While he was a student, Booker T. Washington came to Cornell to speak. Frank Armstrong gave a short speech introducing Washington, who was so impressed by his speaking ability that he invited him to work for him outside of Cornell. This is an article describing Booker T. Washington's visit and lecture.
Click the button below or the image to read the full text.
Booker T. Washington Lectures.
Seldom has a lecturer at Cornell been greeted with so large an audience as met Booker T. Washington last night. Seldom has an audience been more attentive or more appreciative than was the one last ·night. From the beginning to the end there was the closest attention, and often the speaker was interrupted by hearty applause. The lecture revealed the fact that Prof. Washington was thoroughly acquainted with the conditions that obtain among his race, and that be bas a solution of the "Negro Problem in the South," that appeals to those of both north and south, as both feasible and effective. Earnestness and directness were the prominent characteristics of the lecture, while the humor which was interspersed "brought down the house."
Mr. F. J. Armstrong, of the senior class, introduced Prof. Washington in the following words:
"Ladies and Gentlemen: Owing to the fact that Pres. King is out of town, the great honor of introducing the speaker of the evening has been graciously conferred upon me. You can easily believe that it affords me great pleasure to introduce to you tonight a man whose thrift, economy, and push have won for him a place second to none among the educators of the United States; a man whose love for humanity, and whose untiring efforts for the amelioration of our race in the South Land, are rapidly narrowing the supposedly impassable gulf between the white and black populations of our country. Set free, thrown upon his own responsibility, without home, money or friends, already in a state of forced immorality and vice, with no ambition for, or possible means of attainment of the noble, the good and the true, what could be expected to be the outgrowth of the negro's condition but crime, lawlessness and hatred for those who were truly responsible for his state? Christian education is the only means of improving the negro's condition and we have with us tonight, one who has conceived the right method of procedure, and one whose tireless energy is slowly but surely solving this great problem. I take great pleasure in introducing to you tonight the orator, educator, the "Moses of Our Race,"-Booker T. Washington. " Prof. Washington was greeted with the most hearty and prolonged applause. We are sorry that space forbids us giving a .more extended account of the lecture. We can do no more than mention some of the thoughts suggested.
After speaking of his disappointment in not being able to lecture at Cornell last year as he had planned , he said: "I am glad to speak to you tonight on this question which has engaged the prayers and attention of this land." He then spoke of a number of solutions to this problem that had been suggested and showed their impracticability. Emigration to Liberia will not solve the problem. Setting aside of a territory for the negro will not solve the problem. The fact that the black race is mixing with the white will not solve the problem. The way to solve this problem is God's way. The negro must be treated as a Christian gentleman.
Here Prof. Washington, in a unique way, called attention to the fact that the negro is the only race who has ever had a very pressing invitation to come to America. His race was so important to the welfare of the people of the United States that he had to be sent for. They would now oblige us by staying.
The lecturer then spoke of his own history. Born a slave in 1858 or 1859, he was freed at the close of the war. He went into West Virginia where he supported his mother and himself by working in a coal mine, and while engaged here he heard of the Hampton Institute where a negro might work for an education. He determined to go. He then spoke of the incidents of his journey to the Hampton -institute, his admission, and his promise that if God would permit him to finish his course at Hampton Institute, he would go into the Black Belt where the race problem exists in all its terribleness and teach his race thrift and industry, as he had been taught.
In 1881 he entered the Black Belt of Alabama and founded a school at Tuskegee with himself as the only teacher and with 30 students. the growth of the institution has been remarkable. It now owns a large farm of 3, 300 acres with 42 buildings, counting large and small. The average number of students now in attendance is 1,000, while 81 instructors and teachers are employed. There are 27 industrial divisions, each under the direction of a competent instructor. The work the Tuskegee institution is accomplishing is wonderful. The Tuskegee education teaches the young men and women not only to "read and write the English language correctly" but live more useful and happy lives. They are skilled in the industries so that they can compete with the white laborer. Versed in books and in knowledge of some industry the Tuskegee graduate goes into a community of his own race and teaches his brothers the lessons of thrift and industry. 'rhe effect of this is remarkable. ·whenever a graduate of this institution enters a community the whole neighborhood feels his influence. There is at once a marked improvement in the conditions that obtain. The object at Tuskegee is not to teach the negro how to work, but to teach him how to utilize nature so that it will not be necessary for him to work.
Prof. Washington spoke of the lessons of industry which his race learned while in slavery, of the lack of prejudice against the negro in business in the south, and many interesting questions which space forbids mentioning.
Mr. Washington said in his conclusion, (not quoting verbatim): My friends, and I appeal especially to the large number of young ladies and gentleman I see in this audience, this problem in the southern portion of our land involves 10,000,000 of my race and 60,000,000 of yours. When we are strong you are strong, when our race is degraded in the south, it is a disgrace as well to your race. There is no power that can separate our destiny. There is a great work for us to do, but we are not discouraged. Our race is a long suffering one. Our race has made a wonderful transformation in the 1'tst 300 years. We began a~ slaves and as pagans without a language, we came out as Christians, speaking the proud Anglo Saxon and with the American ballot in our hands. I ask you in all seriousness if a race making such a transformation is not worthy of your respect, and worthy of a place in your republic.