Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

which the long subconscious growth of the mind sometimes comes to fruitage. He said in later years that before he entered the Bureau's service, while sailing on a troop-ship to Texas, he saw as in a dream his school much as it afterward became. Twice afterward the vision came to him. Stationed at Hampton in 1866, while he was bringing order out of the chaos around him, his mind was reaching forward surely and swiftly to his larger project.

This was the germ thought: Character is to get its direction and energy in the day's work. Just as man's physical needs drive him to toil, his spiritual necessities find their best field and cultivation in the same toil. The freedmen's first need is to earn a living; then to acquire such a margin as will allow some little ease and comfort and refinement; and along with these goes the need of good habits, high aims, disciplined character. Teach the industrial lesson and the moral lesson together. Train them to work intelligently and cheerfully; teach them at the same time whatever of book knowledge best fits their need; and constantly inspire them with the spirit of service to their kind. Provide in this way for some hundreds of young men and women, who shall go out as teachers to educate and train their people along these lines.

That was the ideal,—the germ of Hampton, of Tuskegee, of the new education of the negro; the suggestion and stimulant of the new education as it is coming to be for the white.

CHAPTER XXXVII

ARMSTRONG

ARMSTRONG was a man of action, and of words only as far as they helped action. He reached the starting of his school in 1868, within two years after he was assigned to duty at Hampton. For external help he had first the countenance and support of the Freedmen's Bureau. He was in its service and pay until 1872. He had the warm and practical friendship of General Howard, who, after inviting him to take charge of the new university in Washington bearing his own name, skilfully gained for his Hampton enterprise a moderate appropriation from Congress. If the Freedmen's Bureau had accomplished nothing else, and it did accomplish much, especially in education—it would have been justified merely by giving Armstrong his opportunity. Next he turned to private benevolence. Of the various organizations, church and secular, that were devising and doing for the freedmen, perhaps the most efficient was the American Missionary Association. From its officers Armstrong won response, sympathy, contributions. He had to face the difficulties of a pioneer. There were precedents against him. Experiments somewhat similar had been tried and failed. At Mount Holyoke seminary for women, created by the genius and devotion of Mary Lyon, and at Oberlin college, where the best New England tradition had been transplanted—there had been long and earnest trial of giving the students work by which to partially pay their expenses. But it had been given up,—the women students were taxed beyond their strength; the

farmers complained that the boys were thinking of their books, and the teachers said their pupils came with half strength to their lessons. But Armstrong knew the material he was dealing with, and how different from the nervous, high-strung pupils of Oberlin and Mount Holyoke was the vigorous, sensuous material he was to mold.

He began in April, 1868, with small things,-a matron, a teacher, fifteen pupils and buildings worth $15,000. In a month there were thirty pupils. Things moved straight on,—they were moved by the assiduity, the enthusiasm, the inspiration, of Armstrong, and the answering temper which he woke in pupils, teachers, contributors, observers. Presently a special effort, an appeal to friends, solicitude, students zealously making bricks and laying them, help from General Howard—and so, in 1870, a noble building, Academic Hall, and presently again, Virginia Hall,—and the school kept growing.

Its moral success was promptly won. The subject answered to the experiment,-those dark-skinned boys and girls came eager to learn. No one had believed in them, and they had not believed in themselves, but they speedily learned self-respect and gained the respect of others. They did what was asked of them, earned most of their support, showed good workmanship and scholarship, were blameless in morals, caught the spirit of the place, and went out to carry light into the dark places. No holiday task was set them. There was a working day of twelve hours, between the class-room, the work-shop, the drill-ground and the field, with rare and brief snatches of recreation. They met the demand with a resource inherited from their ancestors' long years of patient labor. The hard toil was a moral safeguard. The African race is sensuous, and co-education might seem perilous. The danger was completely averted by the influence of labor, strenuous and constant, but

diversified and interesting. The essentials of character,industry, chastity, truth and honesty, serviceable good-will, -were the aim and result of the Hampton training; and all ran back to the homely root that man should be trained to earn intelligently and faithfully his daily bread.

The story of Hampton is a theme not for a chapter but for a volume. How its founder won favor and friendship by his tact and large-mindedness; how he established good relations with the Virginians; how the Institute became the parent of other schools; how Booker Washington was there fitted for the founding of Tuskegee and the leadership of his race; how the work was extended to the Indians; how Armstrong's spirit and example gathered and inspired a company of teachers perhaps unsurpassed,-mostly women, whose refining influence on the pupils he specially valued; how he dreamed of what he never reached, some day to give industrial education at Hampton to the whites; how a worthy successor took his place, efficient and self-effacing; how deeply the Hampton idea has permeated the education of the Southern negro, and is coming to influence white education North and South,

all this can here be recalled but by a word.

But on the personality of its leader we must for a moment linger, to note one or two of its traits. His splendid vitality overflowed at times in frolic and extravagance. He never lost the spirit of the boy. He would come into a group of his serious-minded teachers and say, “Oh! what's the good of saving souls if you can't have any fun?” and start a frolic or organize an all-day picnic. In his home he introduced puss in the corner” and “the Presbyterian wardance ” among the very elect. He delighted his children with romances. “ Like Dr. Hopkins, he believed that the class-room should be a jolly place, and used to say that no recitation was complete without at least one good laugh.

‘Laughter makes sport of work,' he said.” His teaching sometimes came in a droll story. Once there was a woodchuck.

Now, woodchucks can't climb trees. Well, this woodchuck was chased by a dog and came to a tree. He knew that if he could get up this tree the dog could not catch him. Now, woodchucks can't climb trees, but he had to, so he did.”

His devotion to his work was so whole-souled that it was joyous and seemed unconscious of cost. In the touching pages he wrote when death impended, he said, “I never gave up or sacrificed anything in my life." Yet he constantly made what most men count heavy sacrifices. His work involved frequent and laborious trips to the North to arouse interest and raise money. He did it in as gallant a fashion as he had led a charge, or as he made appeal to the students hanging reverently on his words. A glimpse of him on one of these begging tours is given by Professor Francis G. Peabody:

“I suppose that every lover of General Armstrong recalls some special incident which seems most entirely typical of the man's life and heart. For my part, I think oftenest of one of those scenes in his many begging journeys to the North. It was at a little suburban church far down a side street on a winter night in the midst of a driving storm of sleet. There was, as nearly as possible, no congregation present; a score or so of humble people, showing no sign of any means to contribute, were scattered through the empty spaces, and a dozen restless boys kicked their heels in the front pew. Then in the midst of this emptiness and hopelessness up rose the worn, gaunt soldier, as bravely and gladly as if a multitude were hanging upon his words, and his deep-sunk eyes looked out beyond the bleakness of the scene into the world of his ideals, and the cold little place was aglow with the fire that was in him, and it was

« AnteriorContinuar »