To Save My Race from Abuse: The Life of Samuel Robert Cassius

By Edward J. Robinson | Go to book overview

7
“The Booker T. Washington
of Oklahoma”: Samuel Robert Cassius and the Tohee Industrial School

And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk
of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by
the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

—Deuteronomy 6:7

From 1895 to 1915, Booker T. Washington was unquestionably the most influential black man in the United States. His influence spilled over into the Stone-Campbell Movement. In 1897 Washington addressed a Disciples of Christ convention in Indianapolis, Indiana, where the Christian Evangelist called Washington’s talk “one of the most remarkable speeches, in its point, power and pathos, to which we have ever listened.” Whites in the Restoration Movement learned Washington’s story, and they admired his meteoric rise from poverty to prominence. “In simple manner,” the paper continued, “he recited his early history of poverty and want, his thirst for knowledge, his efforts in getting to the school in Hampton, Va., and the work which he undertook [after his course of study at Hampton] at Tuskegee, Ala., in the midst of the ‘black belt,’ and has carried forward with such remarkable success. Mr. Washington seems to be a philosopher, an orator, a teacher, a prophet, and a practical philanthropist, all in one.”1

Caucasian members of Churches of Christ venerated Washington partly because he rose from a slave in Virginia to a reputable educator in Alabama, but mainly because he refused to insist on social equality. Historian Joel Williamson has aptly assessed the reason for Washington’s widespread appeal to whites in America. “[B]y giving up demands for integration in public places and universal male suffrage, he seemed also to surrender any claim to the ‘social equality’ that so thoroughly frightened whites.” The Christian Evangelist lauded Washington for urging fellow blacks to commit themselves to “industrial and agricultural education” and for demanding that fellow blacks stay out of politics because of its “demoralizing influ-

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