Table of Contents
My Larger Education by Booker T. Washington
Chapter 6 A Commencement Oration on Cabbages
ONE of the advantages of a new people or a new race, such as, to a very large extent, the American Negroes are, consists in the fact that they are not hampered, as other peoples sometimes are, by tradition. In the matter of education, for example, Negroes in the South are not hampered by tradition, because they have never had any worth speaking of. As a race we are free, if we so choose, to adopt at once the very latest and most approved methods of education, because we are not held back by any worn out tradition; and we have few bad educational habits to be got rid of before we can start in to employ newer and better methods.
I have sometimes regarded it as a fortunate circumstance that I never studied pedagogy. If I had done so, every time I attempted to do anything in a new way I should have felt compelled to reckon with all the past, and in my case that would have taken so much time that I should never have got anywhere. As it was, I was perfectly free to go ahead and do whatever seemed necessary at the time, without reference to whether that same thing had ever been done by anyone else at any previous time or not. As an illustration of the way in which too much learning will hamper a man who finds himself in the presence of a new problem; one not in the books. I recall the fate of the young Harvard graduate who was a teacher at Tuskegee for one or two sessions several years ago. This young man had very little practical experience as a teacher, but he had made a special study of the subject of education while he was in college; largely because of his high scholarship, he was given a position as teacher of education at Tuskegee.
I am afraid that, until he arrived, we knew very little about pedagogy at Tuskegee. He proceeded to enlighten us, however. He lectured and preached to us about Comenius, Rousseau, Pestalozzi, and all the others, and what he said was very interesting. The trouble was that he made a complete failure in his own classes. But that was not all. We were trying to fit our students to go out as teachers in the rural districts. I pointed out to him that if he were going to help them to any great extent it would be necessary for him to study the conditions of the country people and to get acquainted with some of the actual problems of a small, rural Negro community. He did not seem to regard that as important, because, as he said, the principles were the same in every case and all that was necessary was to apply them.
I told him, then, that I thought we had worked out at Tuskegee a number of definite methods of dealing with the problems of these rural communities, and suggested to him that if he wanted to teach the general principles he ought to work out a theory for these methods, so that the teachers and students might understand the principles under which they were actually working. He did not seem to take this suggestion seriously. It seemed absurd to him that anyone should come down to the Black Belt of Alabama to look for anything new in the matter of education. In short, his mind was so burdened with the traditions and knowledge of other systems of education that he could not see anything in any kind of education that seemed to break with these traditions. In fact, he seemed to feel, whenever he did discover anything new or strange about the methods that we employed, that there must be something either wrong or dangerous about them.
My own early experience was, I suppose, like that of most other teachers; I picked up quite naturally those methods of teaching that were in vogue around me or that seemed to be prescribed by the textbooks. My method consisted in asking pupils to learn what was in the book, and then requiring them to recite it.
I shall long remember the time when the folly and uselessness of much of the old time method of teaching first fairly dawned upon me. I was teaching a country school near my old home in West Virginia. This school was located near a piece of land that was wet and marshy, but nevertheless beautiful in appearance. It was June and the day was hot and sultry; when the usual recess or playtime came, I was as anxious as the children were to get outside of the close and stuffy school room into the open air. That day I prolonged the playtime to more than twice the usual period.
The hour previous to recess had been employed by me in trying to get a class of children interested in what proved to be a rather stupid geography lesson. I had been asking my pupils a lot of dull and tiresome questions, getting them to define and name lakes, capes, peninsulas, islands, and so forth. Naturally the answers of the children were quite as dull and stupid as the questions.
As soon as the children were out of doors at playtime, however, they all, as if by common instinct, scampered off into the marshes. In a few seconds they were wading in the cool water, jumping about in the fragrant grass, and enjoying themselves in a way that was in striking contrast to the dull labor of the geography lesson. I soon became infected with the general fever; and in a few minutes I found myself following the children at a rapid rate and entering into the full enjoyment of the contrast between the dull, dead atmosphere of the school room and the vivid tingling sense of the living outdoors.
We had not been out of the school house and away from the old geography lesson long before one of the boys who had been among the dullest in his recitation in the school room became the leader of a sort of exploring party. Under his leadership we began to discover, as we waded along the stream, dozens of islands, capes, and peninsulas, with here and there a little lake or bay, which, as some of the pupils pointed out, would furnish a safe harbor for ships if the stream were only large enough. Soon every one of the children was busy pointing out and naming the natural divisions of land and water. And then, after a few days, we got pieces of wood and bark and let them float down the stream; we imagined them to be great ships carrying their cargoes of merchandise from one part of the world to another. We studied the way the stream wandered about in the level land, and noticed how the little sand bars and the corresponding harbors were formed by the particles of sand and earth which were rolled down by the stream. We located cities on these harbors, and tried to find water power where we might build up manufacturing centers.
Before long I discovered that, quite unconsciously, we had taken up again the lessons in the school room and were studying geography after a new fashion. This time, however, we found a real joy and zest in the work, and I think both teacher and pupils learned more geography in that short period than they ever learned in the same space of time before or since.
For the first time the real difference between studying about things through the medium of books, and studying things themselves without the medium of books, was revealed to me. The children in this recess period had gained more ideas in regard to the natural divisions of the earth than they would have gained in several days by merely studying geography inside the school room. To be sure, they had not learned the names, the locations, nor the definitions of the capes, bays, and islands, but they had learned what was more important to think capes, islands, and peninsulas. From that time on they found no difficulty and were really greatly interested in recognizing the natural divisions of land and water wherever they met them.
The lesson that I learned thus early in my experience as a teacher I have never forgotten. In all my work at Tuskegee Institute I have lost no opportunity to impress upon our teachers the importance of training their students to study, analyze, and compare actual things, and to use what they have learned in the school room and in the textbook, to enable them to observe, think about, and deal with the objects and situations of actual life.
Not long ago I visited the class room of a new teacher at Tuskegee, who was conducting a class in measurements. This teacher had insisted that each member of the class should commit to memory the tables of measurement, and when I came in they were engaged in reciting, singsong, something that sounded like a sort of litany composed of feet, yards, rods, acres, gills, pints, quarts, ounces, pounds, and the rest. I looked on at this proceeding for a few minutes; then a happy thought occurred to me and I asked the teacher to let me take the class in hand. I began by asking if anyone in the class had ever measured the class room 1ll which they were sitting. There was a dumb silence. Then I asked if anyone had ever marked off an acre of actual land, had ever measured a gill of water, or had ever weighed an ounce or a pound of sugar. Not a hand was raised in reply.
Then I told the teacher that I would like to take charge of the class for a few days. Before the week was over I had seen to it that every member of the class had supplied himself with a rule or a measure of some sort. Under my direction the students measured the class room and found what it would cost to paint the walls of the room.
From the class room we went to a part of the farm where the students were engaged in planting sweet potatoes. Soon we had an acre of sweet potatoes measured off. We computed the number of bushels raised on that acre and calculated the cost and profit of raising them.
Before the week was over the whole class had been through the boarding department, where they had an opportunity to weigh actual sugar. From the steward we obtained some interesting figures as to how much sugar was used a day; then we computed how much was used by each student. We went to the farm again and weighed a live pig, and I had the class find out the selling price of pork on that particular day, not in Chicago, but in Alabama. I had them calculate the amount that, not an imaginary pig or a pig in Chicago, the pig that they had weighed would bring that day in the local market. It took some time to go through all these operations, but I think that it paid to do so. Besides, it was fun. It was fun for me, and it was a great deal more fun for the students. Incidentally the teacher got an awakening and learned a lesson that I dare say he has never forgotten.
At the present time all teachers in the academic studies are expected to make a careful study of the work carried on by the students in the industries. Nearly every day, for example, some class in mathematics goes under the charge of a teacher, into the shops or the dairy or out on the farm to get its problems in mathematics at first hand. Students are sent from the English classes to look up the history of some trade, or some single operation performed by students in the shop, and to write out an account of that trade or that operation for the benefit of the other members of the class. In such cases attention is paid not merely to the form in which the report is written, but more especially to the accuracy and clearness of the statement. The student who prepares that kind of paper is writing something in which other students have a practical interest, and if students are not accurate there are always one or more students in the class who know enough about the subject to criticize and correct the statements made. The student in this case finds himself dealing with live matters, and he naturally feels responsibility for the statements that he makes a responsibility that he would not feel if he were merely putting together facts that he had gathered from some encyclopedia or other second hand source of information.
In emphasizing the importance of studying things rather than books, I do not mean to underrate the importance of studying history, general literature, or any of the other so called cultural studies. I do think, however, that it is important that young men and young women should first of all get clear and definite ideas of things right about them, because these are the ideas by which they are going to measure and interpret things farther removed from their practical interests. To young, inexperienced minds there seems to be a kind of fatal charm about the vague, the distant, and the mysterious.
In the early days of freedom, when education was a new thing, the boy who went away to school had a very natural human ambition to be able to come back home in order to delight and astonish the old folks with the new and strange things that he had learned. If he could speak a few words in some strange tongue that his parents had never heard before, or read a few sentences out of a book with strange and mysterious characters, he was able to make them very proud and happy. There was a constant temptation therefore for schools and teachers to keep everything connected with education in a sort of twilight realm of the mysterious and supernatural. Quite unconsciously they created in the minds of their pupils the impression that a boy or a girl who had passed through certain educational forms and ceremonies had been initiated into some sort of secret knowledge that was inaccessible to the rest of the world. Connected with this was the notion that because a man had passed through these educational forms and ceremonies he had somehow become a sort of superior being set apart from the rest of the world; a member of the "Talented Tenth" or some other ill defined and exclusive caste.
Nothing, in my opinion, could be more fatal to the success of a student or to the cause of education than the general acceptance of any such ideas. In the long run it will be found that neither black people nor white people want such an education for their children, and they will not support schools that give it.
My experience has taught me that the surest way to success in education, and in any other line for that matter, is to stick close to the common and familiar things; things that concern the greater part of the people the greater part of the time.
I want to see education as common as grass, and as free for all as sunshine and rain.
The way to open opportunities of education for every one, however, is to teach things that every one needs to know. I venture to say that anything in any school, taught with the object of fitting students to produce and serve food, for example, will win approval and popularity for the school. The reason is simple: every human being is interested, several times a day, in the subject of food; and a large part of the world is interested, either directly or indirectly, in its production and sale.
Not long ago I attended the closing exercises of a high school in a community composed mainly of people in the humble walks of life. The general theme of the graduating addresses was "An Imaginary Trip to Europe." Of course the audience was bored, and I was not surprised that a number of people went to sleep. As a matter of fact, I do not think that the parents of a single student who delivered one of these addresses had ever been to Europe or will have an opportunity to go at any time in the near future. The thing did not touch a common chord. It was too far removed from all the practical, human interests of which they had any experience. The average family in America is not ordinarily engaged in traveling through Europe for any large part of the time. Besides that, none of the members of this graduating class had ever been to Europe; consequently they were not writing about something of which they had any real knowledge.
Some years ago, in an effort to bring our rhetorical and commencement exercises into a little closer touch with real things, we tried the experiment at Tuskegee of having students write papers on some subject of which they had first hand knowledge. As a matter of fact, I believe that Tuskegee was the first institution that attempted to reform its commencement exercises in this particular direction. Ordinarily, at the closing exercises of a high school, graduates are expected to stand up on the platform and, out of all their inexperience, instruct their elders how to succeed in life. We were fortunate at Tuskegee, in the thirty seven industries carried on there and in the thousand acres of land that are cultivated, to be able to give our students, in addition to their general education, a pretty good knowledge of some one of the familiar trades or vocations. They have, therefore, something to talk about in their essays in which all of the audience are interested and with which all are more or less familiar.
Instead of having a boy or girl read a paper on some subject like "Beyond the Alps Lies Italy," we have them explain and demonstrate to the audience how to build a roof, or the proper way to make cheese, or how to hatch chickens with an incubator. Perhaps one of the graduates in the nurses' training school will show how to lend "first aid to the injured." If a girl is taking the course in dairying, she will not only describe what she has learned but will go through, on the platform, the various methods of operating a modern dairy.
Instead of letting a boy tell why one ought to do right, we ask him to tell what he has learned about the feeding of pigs, about their diseases, and the care of them when they are sick. In such a case the student will have the pig on the platform, in order to illustrate the methods of caring for it, and demonstrate to the audience the points that he is trying to make.
One of our students, in his commencement oration last May, gave a description of how he planted and raised an acre of cabbages. Piled high upon the platform by his side were some of the largest and finest cabbages that I have ever seen. He told how and where he had obtained the seed; he described his method of preparing and enriching the soil, of working the land, and harvesting the crop; and he summed up by giving the cost of the whole operation. In the course of his account of this comparatively simple operation, this student had made use of much that he had learned in composition, grammar, mathematics, chemistry, and agriculture. He had not merely woven into his narrative all these various elements that I have referred to, but he had given the audience (which was made up largely of colored farmers from the surrounding country) some useful and practical information in regard to a subject which they understood and were interested in.
I wish that anyone who does not believe it possible to make a subject like cabbages interesting in a commencement oration could have heard the hearty cheers which greeted the speaker when, at the close of his speech, he held up one of the largest cabbages on the platform for the audience to look at and admire. As a matter of fact, there is just as much that is interesting, strange, mysterious, and wonderful; just as much to be learned that is edifying, broadening, and refining in a cabbage as there is in a page of Latin. There is, however, this distinction: it will make very little difference to the world whether one Negro boy, more or less, learns to construe a page of Latin. On the other hand, as soon as one Negro boy has been taught to apply thought and study and ideas to the growing of cabbages, he has started a process which, if it goes on and continues, will eventually transform the whole face of things as they exist in the South today.
I have spoken hitherto about industrial education as a means of connecting education with life. The mere fact that a boy has learned in school to handle a plane or that he has learned something about the chemistry of the soil does not of itself insure that he has gained any new and vital grip upon the life about him. He must at the same time learn to use the knowledge and the training that he has received to change and improve the conditions about him.
In my travels I have come across some very interesting and amusing examples of the failures of teachers to connect their teaching with real things, even when they had a chance right at hand to do so. I recall visiting, not long since, a somewhat noted school which has a department for industrial or hand training, concerning which the officers of the school had talked a great deal. Almost directly in front of the building used for the so called industrial training, I noticed a large brick building in process of erection. In the construction of this building every principle of mechanics taught in the manual training department of this institution was being put into actual use. Notwithstanding this fact, I learned upon inquiry that the teacher had made no attempt to connect what was taught in the manual training department with the work on the brick building across the way. The students had no opportunity to work on this building; they had not visited it with their teacher; they had made no attempt to study the actual problems that had arisen in the course of its construction. As far as they were concerned, there was no relation whatever between the subjects discussed in the class room or the operations carried on in the school shops and the work that was going on outside. All that they were getting in the school was, as far as I was able to learn, just as formal in its character, just as much an educational ceremony, as if they were engaged in diagramming a sentence in English or reciting the parts of a Latin verb.
My experience in the little country school in West Virginia first taught me that it was possible to take teaching outside of the textbook and deal with real things. I have learned from later experience that it is just as important to carry education outside of the school building and take it into the fields, into the homes, and into the daily life of the people surrounding the school.
One of the most important activities of our school at Tuskegee is what we call our Extension Work, in which nearly all the departments of the Institute cooperate. In fact, at the present time more attention, energy, and effort are directed to this work outside the school grounds than to any other branch of work in which the school is engaged.
It would be impossible to describe here all the ramifications or all the various forms which this extension work has taken in recent years. The thing that I wish to emphasize, however, is that we are seeking in this work less to teach (according to the old fashioned notion of teaching) than to improve conditions. We are trying to improve the methods of farming in the country surrounding the school, to change and improve the home life of the farming population, and to establish a model school system not only for Macon but for several other counties in the state.
Perhaps I can best illustrate what I mean when I say that education should connect itself with life, by describing a type of rural school which we have worked out and are seeking to establish in Macon County. There are several schools in our county which might be called, in a certain sense, model country schools. There are nearly fifty communities in which, during the last four or five years, new school buildings have been erected and the school terms lengthened to eight and nine months, largely with funds collected from the Negro farmers under the direction and inspiration of the Tuskegee Institute.
The school that I have in mind is known as the "Rising Star." That is the name that the colored people gave to their church, and that is now the name which has become attached to the little farming community surrounding it. The "Rising Star" community is composed of some score or more of hard working, thrifty, successful Negro farmers; the larger number of whom own their land. There is no wealth in this community; neither is there much, if any, actual want. When I first made the acquaintance of "Rising Star," soon after beginning my work in Alabama, the church which gave the neighborhood its name was an old, dilapidated building, located in a worn out field. It was about the worst looking building that I had ever seen, up to that time, in which to carry on the work of saving men's souls. The condition of the farmhouses, the farms, and the school was in keeping with the condition of the church. This was true also of the minister. He was run down and dilapidated. I used frequently to go Sunday afternoons to hear him preach. His sermons usually held on for about an hour and a half. I remember that I used to study them carefully from week to week in the hope that I might hear him utter, at some time or other, a single sentence that seemed to me to have any practical value to any man, woman, or child in his congregation. I was always disappointed, however. Almost without exception, his sermons related to something that is supposed to have taken place two or three thousand years ago, or else they were made up of a vivid description of the horrors of hell and of the glories of heaven.
Nor far from the church, in another old field, there was a little broken down, unsightly building which had never been touched by paint or whitewash. This was the school. The teacher went with the minister. He had about fifty or sixty children in his school, but the things that he taught them had no more relation to the life of that community than the preacher's sermons had. The weakness and poverty of this little Negro settlement gave me, however, the chance that I wanted. I determined to try there the experiment of building up a model school, one that should actually seek to articulate school life into every day life. I cannot give here a detailed history of this experiment, but I will briefly describe conditions as they exist today.
In place of the old building to which I have referred, there is now a comfortable five room house, resembling in style and general appearance the cottages of the more prosperous farmers of the neighborhood. In this building, surrounded by its garden, with its stable and outbuildings adjoining, the teachers (a man and his wife) live and teach school. All of the rooms, as well as the garden and the stable, are used at different times in the day for teaching pupils the ordinary household duties of a farmer and his wife in that part of the country. Here the children learn to make the beds and to clean, dust, and arrange the sitting room. At noon they go into the kitchen, where they are taught to cook, and into the dining room, where they are taught to lay the table and serve a farmer's meal. The flowers in the front yard are cared for by the children of the school. The vegetables in the garden are those which have been found best adapted to the soil and the needs of the community, and all are planted and cared for by the teachers and students. There is a cow in the barn, and near by are pigs and poultry. The children are taught how to keep the cow house, the pig sty, and the poultry house clean and attractive.
The usual academic studies of a public school are taught in the sitting room. There is, however, this difference: the lessons in arithmetic consist for the most part of problems that have to do with the work that is going on at the time in the house, the garden, or on the farms in the surrounding community. As far as possible, all the English composition work is based on matters connected with the daily life of the community. In addition to the ordinary reading book, pupils in this school spend some time every week reading a little local agricultural newspaper which is published at Tuskegee Institute in the interest of the farmers and schools in the surrounding country.
It is interesting to observe the effect of this teaching on the fathers and mothers of the children who attend this school As soon as fathers discovered that their boys were learning in school to tell how much their pigs, cotton, and corn were worth, the fathers (who had been more or less disappointed with the results of the previous education) felt that the school was really worth something after all. When the girls began to ask their mothers to let them take their dresses to school so that they might learn to patch and mend them, these mothers began to get an entirely new idea of what school meant. Later, when these girls were taught to make simple garments in the school room, their mothers became still more interested. They began to attend the mothers' meetings, and before long there was a genuine enthusiasm in that community; not only for the school and its teachers, but for the household improvement that they taught. The teachers used their influence with the pupils first of all to start a crusade of whitewashing and general cleaning up. Houses that had never known a coat of white wash began to assume a neat and attractive appearance. Better than all else, under the inspiration of this school and of the other schools like it, the whole spirit of this community and the others throughout the county improved.
In a short time a little revolution has taken place in the material, educational, moral, and religious life of "Rising Star." The influence of the school has extended to the minister and to the church. At the present time the sermons that are preached in the church have a vital connection with the moral life of the community. I shall not soon forget one of my recent visits to the church. The minister chose for his text: "The earth is full of Thy riches," and, to illustrate his sermon, he placed on the platform beside the pulpit two bushels of prize corn which he himself had grown on his farm. When he came to expound his text he pointed with pride to his little agricultural exhibit as an indication of the real significance of this sentence from the Bible, which had never before had any definite meaning for him.
Education, such as I have attempted to describe, touches the life of the white man as well as that of the black man. By encouraging Negro farmers to buy land and improve their methods of agriculture, it has multiplied the number of small landowners and increased the tax value of the land. Recent investigations show that the number of Negro landowners in Macon County has grown more in the last five or six years than in the whole previous period since the abolition of slavery. Land that was selling for two and three dollars an acre five years ago is now worth fifteen and twenty dollars an acre. In many parts of the county large plantations have been broken up and sold in small tracts to Negro farmers. At the last annual meeting of the Colored State Teachers' Association, at Birmingham, one teacher from Macon County reported that during the previous year she had organized a club among the farmers through which six hundred acres of land had been purchased in her community.
The struggles of the Negro farmer to lengthen the school term, and the competition among different local communities in the county in the work of building and equipping school buildings, has had the effect of leading the colored people to think about all kinds of matters that concern the welfare of their local communities. For example, Law and Order Leagues have been organized throughout Macon County to assist in enforcing the prohibition law. I do not believe that there is a county in the state where these laws are better enforced than they are in our county at the present time. At the last sitting of the grand jury, only seventeen indictments for all classes of offences were returned. The next session of the criminal court will have, I am told, the smallest docket in its history. I am convinced that there is not a county in that state with so large a Negro population that has so small a number of criminals.
Silently and almost imperceptibly, the work of education has gone on from year to year, slowly changing conditions not only in Macon County, but, to a greater or less extent, in other parts of Alabama and of the South. Education of the kind that I have described has helped to diminish the cost of production on the farm and, at the same time, has steadily increased the wants of the farmers. In other words, it has enabled the Negro farmer to earn more money, and at the same time has given him a reason for doing so.
Farmers have learned to plant gardens, to keep hogs and chickens, and, as far as possible, to raise their own food and fodder. This has led them to increase and sometimes double the annual amount of their labor. Under former conditions, the Negro farmer did not work more than one hundred and fifty days in the year. Merely to plant and harvest the cotton crop, he did not need to do so.
In learning to raise his own provisions, the Negro farmer is no longer dependent to the same extent that he formerly was upon the landlord or the storekeeper. Under the old system the Negro farmer obtained his provisions (or "advances" as they are called) from the storekeeper on credit. In order to carry him through the year until the cotton crop was harvested, the storekeeper borrowed from the local banker. The local banker borrowed, in turn, from the bankers in the city, who, perhaps, obtained a portion of their money from the large money centers of the North. Every time this money passed from one hand to the other, the man who loaned collected toll from the man who borrowed. At the bottom, where the system connected up with the Negro farmer, the planter or storekeeper added something to the costs which had already accumulated-as a sort of insurance, and to pay the expenses of looking after his tenant and seeing that he did his work properly, All this sum, of course, was finally paid by the man on the soil.
The farmer, who has become independent enough to raise his own provisions, or a large portion of them, does not need the supervision of his landlord in his farming operations. At the present time the majority of the Negro farmers in Macon County get their money directly from the bank and pays cash for their provisions. A number have money on deposit in the local banks. The bankers' capital and deposits have increased so that they are not so dependent as they once were upon foreign capital to aid them in carrying on the farming operations in the county.
I do not mean to say that all this has been affected as a direct result of education; I merely wish to point out how intimately the kind of education that we are trying to introduce does, in fact, touch all the fundamental interests of the community.
Naturally the influences that I have referred to do not end with the effects that I have already described. The results obtained have had a reflex influence upon the schools themselves. From the very beginning of my work at Tuskegee I saw that our problem was a double one. We had at first to work out a kind of education which would meet the needs of the masses of the colored people. We had, in the second place, to convince the white people that education could be made of real value to the Negro.
There are many sincere and honest men in the South today who do not believe that education has done or will do the race any good. In my opinion, Negro education will never be an entire success in the South until it gets the sympathy and support of these men. Arguments will not go far toward convincing men like these. It is necessary to show them results.
The people in Macon County are not exceptional in this respect. Until a few years ago I think that I should have described the attitude of a majority of the white people in that county as indifferent. Today I believe that I am safe in saying that nine tenths of the people of Macon County believe in Negro education.
Let me speak of some of the ways in which this attitude of the white people has manifested itself. In the first place, when a school house is to be built or some improvements to be made in the community where the white man lives, he contributes money toward it. One white man in Macon County recently gave $100 toward the erection of such a school. A number of white planters, who a few years ago were indifferent on the subject of Negro education, give annual prizes to the colored people on their plantations. I know one planter who gives an annual prize to the Negro farmer who raises the largest number of bushels of corn on an acre of land. He gives another prize to the colored family which keeps its children in the public school the greatest number of days during the year. He gives another prize to the woman who keeps her front yard in the best condition.
One of the white bankers in Macon County has established an annual prize to be given to the Negro farmer who raises the best oats on a given plot of land. The editor of the county paper gives an annual prize to the school in the county that has the best spelling class, the contest to take place at the annual Macon County Colored Farmers' Fair. At these fairs exhibitions are made of vegetables and grain raised by the children on the school farms. There are also exhibitions of cooking and sewing done by the children in the public schools of the county. Many of the white merchants and white farmers offer prizes for the best exhibition of agricultural products at this fair.
Gradually, as I have said, improved methods of educating the Negro are extending the same influences throughout the state of Alabama and the South. In fact, wherever a school is actually teaching boys and girls to do something that the community wants, it is seldom that that school fails to enlist the interest and cooperation of all the people in that community, whether they be black or white. This is, as definitely as I can express it, my own experience of the way in which educators can and do solve the race problem.