Opening Address: The International Conference on the Negro
April 17th 1912
"I need not say how glad we are to welcome each and all of you to the grounds and property of the Tuskegee Institute. We have an old saying here in this part of the world that carries with it a wealth of meaning: "make yourselves at home." That means that you are to be one of the household while you are with us and I am sure that every teacher and student and resident of Tuskegee will do their part in making each of you feel at home while you are in this part of the world.
First, it seems necessary to say a word as to what this conference is not expected to be. We did not expect to have a large gathering. We expected to have a small group of interesting and valuable people who have something to contribute toward the purposes of this conference.
In the second place, we do not intend that this conference shall be formal or complex in its nature. We hope that it will be a simple conference. I note from time to time as I have had experience with the world that there are a great many people who, if you can get them around a fireside with two or three present, exhibit a great deal of common sense, of good sense. Take these same individuals and put them into a large audience and tell them to make a speech and all their common sense and good sense seems to leave them at once. So we shall hope not to have any formality in connection with this conference. Very few speeches, but a simple direct, heart-to-heart talk concerning the conditions and concerning the problems that are nearest to the hearts of teachers.
For a number of years, we have received here at Tuskegee, letters from various parts of the world, letters from missionaries in foreign fields, letters from Governmental officials, especially in Europe, asking for some information that would put them into touch with the methods of education employed here at Tuskegee and it occurred to us after receiving a number of these communications, that it would be perhaps a wise thing and a natural development for us to ask these persons representing Missionary Organizations, representing governments that have to do with the darker races of the world to come here and spend a few days. First of all, in observing the methods that we are trying to employ at Tuskegee and then, in so far as it is possible, in informal discussion based upon their observations to see to what extent the methods here can be applied to the problems concerning the people in the countries that are populated by the darker races.
I do not mean to suggest that we have anything at Tuskegee that is very superior, or that this Conference is to be confined in any degree to a discussion of methods employed at Tuskegee. Incidentally, I hope that you will look through our plant, go through all the departments here and if you find anything which will be of value in your own communities, in your homes, why we shall count ourselves most happy to have made a small contribution toward the uplift of the people that you represent.
For a number of years, we have had on our grounds a number of students from countries outside of the United States. From year to year we have from 100 to 150 students representing foreign countries and we are anxious that these students be fitted to go back to their homes and render the highest and best service. We shall hope therefore, that during the discussion, we shall get much valuable information as to the actual needs in the countries from which these students come, so that they will be trained to some definite point of usefulness in their home communities.
For a number of years, we have had on our grounds a number of students from countries outside of the United States. From year to year we have from 100 to 150 students representing foreign countries and we are anxious that these students be fitted to go back to their homes and render the highest and best service..... We want these students to go back home after they get their education and we want them to prove of service there as a result of what they have learned.
We want these students to go back home after they get their education and we want them to prove of service there as a result of what they have learned. I am perfectly aware of the fact, as I am sure many of you are, that with all of our faults, we damn the United States a good deal. But as a rule, when a fellow once gets into this country, it is pretty hard to get him out. We hope most of you will get out. I note, however, that a good many young men and women come from Africa, and from South American countries, from Puerto Rico and Cuba and jamaica and when they first arrive, they praise their own country pretty highly, nothing like it. They stay here one month, then two months, then a year in studying at some institution and the first thing you know, they have forgotten their country and they never go back home any more.
We do not want that to be true of the men and women we train at Tuskegee and I am sure in helping us to give these students that which will serve them best and serve you best, in the communities from which they have come, you can help us immensely during these meetings.
The Tuskegee Student, July 1912
In addition to foreign students who came to Tuskegee Institute for study and training, others visited from abroad in order to observe teaching methods, which they applied when they returned to their home countries.