Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Birth of an Institution

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Birth of an Institution

Article excerpt

Dear Friends:

I arrived here four weeks ago. Instead of finding my work in a low marshy country as I expected, I find Tuskegee a beautiful town, with a high and healthy location. It is a town such as one rarely sees in the South. Its quiet shady streets and tasteful and rich dwellings remind one of a New England village. After my arrival I had one week in which to prepare for the opening of the Normal School. I utilized this time in seeing the teachers and others who wished to enter the school, and in getting a general idea of my work and the people. Sunday, I spoke in both churches to the people about the school, and told all who wished to enter to come and see me at my boarding place during the week. About thirty persons called and had their names enrolled, others called whose names, for various reasons, I could not enroll. With the young people many of the parents came. I was particularly impressed with the desire of the parents to educate their children, whatever might be the sacrifice.

On Friday I rode about fourteen miles into the country to visit the closing exercises of one of the teachers. From this trip I got some idea of the people in the country. Never was I more surprised and moved than when I saw at one house, two boys thirteen or fourteen years old, perfectly nude. They seemed not to mind their condition in the least. Passing on from house to house, I saw many other children five or six years old in the same condition. It was very seldom that I saw children anything like decently dressed. If they wore clothing it was only one garment, and that so black and greasy that it did not resemble cloth. As a rule, the colored people all through this section are very poor and ignorant, but the one encouraging thing about it is that they see their weakness and are desirous of improving. The teachers in this part of Alabama have had few advantages, many of them having never attended school themselves. They know nothing of the improved methods of teaching. They hail, with gladness, the Normal School, and most of them will be among its students. If there is any place in the world where a good Normal School is needed, it is right here. What an influence for good, first on the teachers, and from them on the children and parents! …

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