booker t. washington portrait

From: "American Spectator"

To: Timothy Thomas Fortune
Editor, New York Age
Tuskegee, Jan 31, 1907

Dear Mr. Fortune

I send the enclosed over the name of "American Spectator" so as to absolve you from responsibility therefore. I shall hope from time to time to contribute other articles over this same nom de plume.

Yours truly, Booker T. Washington


NY Age—If one wants to be made to feel real sick and disconsolate he needs but to share the experience of sitting in an Afro-American meeting and hear two or three Negro Speakers speak for two or three hours decrying the ills of the Negro race.

The chances are nine out of ten, that during the entire three hours that he may listen to these speeches, not one of the speakers will relate a single fact in connection with the race that everyone in the audience was not previously acquainted with; not only that, the chances are that most of these in the audience will have experienced the very injustice and wrongs which the speakers are describing. Most of the audience could describe better the evils under which the race lives than the speakers themselves.

If any one thing in life is certain, it seems to the "American Spectator" it is the sheerest waste of time for so many of our people to spend so much of their valuable hours in listening to these descriptions. No one goes away from such a meeting inspired, no one goes away knowing a single thing that he did not know before. If these speakers would point out some practical method of remedying conditions, it would be quite a different thing, but they confirm themselves in most cases to an attempt, and they are usually successful, to work on the emotions of the audience which is wrought up to a high pitch of fervor and enthusiasm through a description of wrong, but as soon as the meeting is over, everyone grows conscious of the fact that not a single new thing has been heard for the audience, that the speaker has taught no lesson, that the people who have heard him are not any more prepared to fight life's battles that they were before, in fact, not as well prepared because in many cases they go away completely discouraged.

The race should not fail to recognize the wrongs under which it suffers, but it should devote more of its time and energy to finding ways to make progress

The time has come in the opinion of the "American Spectator," when much of this policy should be changed. The race should not fail to recognize the wrongs under which it suffers, but it should devote more of its time and energy to finding ways to make progress in the commercial, educational, moral and religious world just as other races are doing despite the wrongs under which they live. An old colored man down in Mississippi a few days ago paid an admission fee of twenty-five cents [circa] to hear a lecture delivered by a very prominent individual of our race. After he had listened for an hour and a half to a description of theses under which the Afro-Americans in Mississippi and elsewhere were living, the old man expressed himself in this way, that if he had known the speaker had come there for the purpose of telling about the wrongs of the race, he could have delivered a much better lecture on that subject than was true of the learned gentleman on the platform, and so it is throughout the country.

Our people are fast getting to the point where they are tired and sick of the eternal calling of the attention of the country to their sickness and wrongs.

There are not a few members of our race who try to make their living by going about through the country reminding the race of the wrongs under which it suffers. In some places the race makes no effort to go forward in the direction that other races are making progress because it has gotten into the habit of crying and can do nothing else.

American Spectator
New York City

Note: T. Thomas Fortune, close friend of BTW, was editor of the New York Age, a Black newspaper that featured Dr. Washington's articles regularly. Mr. Fortune also served on the executive board of the National Negro Business League.