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Galesburg, IL 61401

Path: Library home > Special Collections & Archives > Exhibits > Blacks in Galesburg > Booker T. Washington in Galesburg

Booker T. Washington in Galesburg

Booker T. Washington

Image of Booker T. Washington
from Images of American Political History at The College of New Jersey

Booker T. Washington came to Galesburg in early 1900, speaking to a full house at the African Medothist church. The Galesburg newspaper ran the story on February 1, 1900. See below for a transcription of the article.

Register-Mail article


The Prophet of the Colored Race in American Speaks

He Reaches Galesburg Wednesday Afternoon
And Is Well Entertained Something
Of His Efforts to Save.

   When the St. Louis train came Wednesday a colored man whose skin is not many degrees from being white, of medium stature, concealed in a large ulster and with a little white, soft hat perched on the back of his head in a careless way, stepped from the platform. He first deposited something like two grips, a dress suit case and a leather box on the platform and extended his hand to a few friends.
   It was Booker T. Washington, the man who has brought to the negro race in its clearest perception the gospel of labor. His every action shows it. Business is written on his face; business stands out first in the quick movement, and business stamps his attitude as he takes hold of the aforesaid grips and marches off with them down the station platform -- "The Man with the Hoe", although he has laid it down for a short time, to tell about his work and to solicit sympathy in his cause.

It Was There.

   When an Evening Mail reporter had the pleasure of the hand-grasp such as Mr. Washington knows how to give, and asked for some information regarding the school of Tuskegee, and by the way, "G" is pronounced hard as in "gay" – Mr. Washington, with a characteristic business air, dived to the bottom of his coat pocket and handed out a report. "You'll find all there is in there. Good bye." And he was gone with his friend. Rev. Horace Graves, at whose home he was entertained.
   That report is "all," but it is a revelation. In the year 1881 Booker T. Washington, born in slavery and emancipated by the act of president Lincoln, educated after he had served in a coalmine and had made money enough to support his mother for a time while he was securing his education, followed out a preconceived plan and established the Tuskegee institute. The school was called to order in a shanty, and there was one teacher and thirty scholars.

A Wonderful School.

   Last year there were 1,164 students from twenty-three states and territories, and from Jamaica, Cuba, Porto Rico, Africa and England. In all departments, religious, academic and industrial, eighty-eight officers and teachers were employed. No students are admitted before they are 14 years of age. The property owned by the institution amounts to $300, 000, consisting of over 2,000 acres of land and forty-two buildings. The buildings were all erected by the students. Three hundred and fifty pupils have finished the course, and are now scattered throughout the south. About 3,000 students who have taken a partial course are doing well.
   In the school there is instruction in twenty-six industries, and a Bible hall is also conducted. As an example of the amount of work done during the year ending last May, 1,000 bricks have been made by the students, over 300,000 garments have gone through the laundry, and over 70 cows have been milked daily in the dairying division. The cash receipts for the year were $104, 636, 50, and $62,000 was used for current expenses. An endowment fund nearly $70,000 exists, and is being added to yearly. Several prominent New York financiers are interested in the school and are on the board of trustees.
   The work at Tuskegee is illustrative of the man who is its principal. Business is found upon every side. A boy or girl goes to the school to get a training that will fit him or her for making the most of life.
   In this way Booker T. Washington is leading his race. He is pronounced one of the greatest benefactors that mankind has ever known, and he does it in that quiet, businesslike, go-ahead manner which never fails to win admiration.
   Mr. Washington left last night for Omaha and Denver.

Speaks At the Church.

   At the African Methodist church last Wednesday a reception was held for Mr. Washington. The church was filled with people, and the distinguished guest addressed a few remarks to them. He spoke particularly of the necessity of the young people to work hard and do right and live as they should. His remarks were cheered. The audience then had the opportunity of shaking hands with Mr. Washington.
   The principal of the Tuskegee institute spoke very nicely of Miss Daisy Walker of Galesburg, who is the teacher in the institute. He referred to the very efficient work she has done there and said he was glad to meet her relatives and acquaintances of Galesburg.


How the Industrial Education Plan Is Being
Worked Out in the Black Belt –
Sketch of His Life.

   Central church was filled Wednesday with a splendid audience to hear the lecture on "Solving the Negro Problem" by Booker T. Washington, the famous latter-day emancipator of the negroes of the south. On the platform sat Dr. C. A. Vincent [pastor of the Central Congregation Church], Rev. Horace Graves of the colored Methodist church and between them the speaker of the evening. The setting was plain, but the power of the man was enough to [illegible] the interest and no one who listened was disappointed with the colored orator.
   Dr. Vincent introduced Mr. Washington, and referred briefly to the connection Galesburg and the old First church had had with the negro problem of '60. He was pleased that the circumstances had placed the lecturer on the spot where once stood one of the garret stations of the old underground railroad.
   Prof. Washington responded briefly to the words of Dr. Vincent, then began his lecture. He spoke eloquently carrying his audience with him throughout. In part he spoke as follows:

Thanks for Galesburg.

   "I assure you the colored people of the south appreciate the opportunities the people of Galesburg gave us in the dark days when we could not help ourselves."
   "The people who thought that the negro problem was solving itself, when 600 negroes left Savanna, Ga., some years ago, for Liberia, forgot that before breakfast that same morning some 600 negro babies were born in the great black belt. We cannot wall them up, because that would keep the white man out, and this he will not allow. You cannot absorb us. For one per cent of negro blood weighs against 99 percent of white blood when we come to distinguish between the races.
   "I was born a slave in Virginia in 1858 or '59. My first recollection of life was in a small log cabin of one room, without a floor, bare and cheerless. I was there when the war broke out. I went to West Virginia after the war, to work in the coal mines, support my mother. I there heard of an institution in the south where I could gain an education by laboring for my support. After walking a great portion of the way, I found myself in Richmond without money or friends, and crept under a sidewalk to sleep the first night I spent in that southern city. I worked for several days until I had funds enough to go to Hampton institute. At Hampton I found the advantages to remain there and worked for my education, and I vowed that if god allowed me to live I should go to the black belt someday to teach the poor blacks what I had there learned.

In the Black Belt

   "In 1881 I started for the black belt, where the negroes outnumber the whites six or more to one. I speak not only in the interests of the black, but for the advancement of the thousands of white who are as badly situated.
   "In 1881, at Tuskegee, with one teacher and thirty students in a little leaky building, we commenced our work, and have continued till today we have over 1,000 students, eighty-one instructors. We own a 2,300-acre farm. We have in operation twenty-seven industries. In treating the negro problem we must remember that we are dealing with a race that had no incentive for work in its own country".
   "At Tuskegee we have studied the actual conditions of these people. In connection with training we claim that by furnishing the students with labor we can give them an opportunity to get an education and learn a useful trade at the same time. We teach them something of the nature of the land, trees, vegetables, dairying and kindred subjects.

Teach Practical Trades

   "At the head of each one of our 27 departments we have a competent instructor, and teach not only brick masonry, but give them a knowledge of how to become leaders. We are dispelling the old idea that labor of the hand is disgraceful. We teach them self-reliance. In the south our salvation is to be worked out with the trowel, the shovel, the hammer and the ax. American slavery was a curse upon the black man and the white man. But out of it there came the advantage of bringing the two races together. During the slavery days it paid to teach a negro some trade, and at the close of the war we had possession of every trade in the south. We gradually stopped work after the war, the education of the black was neglected, and white men began to take our places, robbing us of our positions, and the only way we can recover now is to educate them in industrial lines. We had a monopoly of the barber business and the white wash business, but we were not taught to dignify them, and the white man used his knowledge of physics, mathematics and chemistry and took these occupations away from us.
   "The best protection you can give the negro is to make him useful - teach him to do a common thing in an uncommon way. Give him an education, and you fortify him from decay.
   "My work is to teach the negro boy of the south to complete on equal grounds with the white. We must put brains and skills in all the people about us. In many of the southern counties you will find negroes with mortgages on crops that they cannot pay. Fifteen dollars per capita is spent on the education of the whites and 81 cents on the black.
   "If our people got any good out of slavery it was the habit to work. The rank and the file of them labor daily. The cursed mortgage system, whisky and snuff, are keeping them poor.
   "One of our young men went out into a little town, taught then how to perform agriculture, to buy and sell. He taught the little school and built a new building in which he kept the one. I don’t know of a single case of a man who has been educated in our schools who is in the penitentiary, contrary to the report.

Are Not Independent

   "These poor people do not know how to do anything for themselves. Slavery destroyed the idea of independence. You can't expect the 250 years of slavery influence to be driven out in thirty years from these poor ignorants. As a race we are rather emotional. Two-thirds of the sermons of these blacks are the most imaginary heavens possible, reached with golden slippers, while on earth they are content to go barefoot. The way to teach them the most of Jesus is to teach them to mix thrift and work with their Bible.
   "The result of this training on the relation of whites and blacks in the south, I believe, will be to strengthen both races, to prevent the dragging down of the blacks. There is an absence of prejudice in the south in business lines. When a negro does equally well he is patronized with the white man.

Earned their respect

   "When I went to Tuskegee, white people would not speak to me. But soon we began to manufacture articles that those people wanted, and they come to us for those things which they need. We are making the whites dependant on the blacks. Let us put an educated negro in every town in the south, and we can solve the questions. We must continue to wait till by the work of our hands and our knowledge we can appeal to the whites.
   "The problem in the south affects both races. No man can despoil us without hurting some of you. If others would push us down, we can push them up; if they hate us, we can love them.
   "The negro, the most devout of all men, has prayed in midnight walls for [________ment]. If race is capable of making such advancement as we have in the past years with our few advantages, is it not worth saving and making that race a part of our country?"
   The speaker was frequently applauded, and his address left a profound impressing on all who heard it.