[Home] [Book] [Expand] [Collapse] [Help]

Clear Search Expand Search

    A LOFTY STUDY.   Table of Contents     VERSE.

Mossell, N.F.
The Work of Afro-American Women



By the educational statistics of the last census there were 124 institutions for the instruction of the colored race, having an enrolment of 15,404 students, requiring 576 instructors.

The greater number of institutions devoted exclusively to Negro education are situated in the South. The larger portion of the work has been and still is carried on by denominational enterprise. Possibly the most important part of the work has been under the supervision of the American Missionary Association, the Presbyterian Board of Missions for Freedmen, and the Freedmen's Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

It is a well known fact that a few of these institutions employ colored men in their Faculties; and we have endeavored to secure information as to the actual percentage of colored persons serving as Professors in institutions, but have failed to receive a reply to our queries.

Although a number of these institutions have been

in existence from 20 to 30 years, this absence is noticeable. Unlike other educational institutions, the preference (where it is possible) is not given to their own alumni. At the time of the founding of these institutions the colored race had within its bounds few men of superior education; but with the aid of such institutions, and the opening of the doors of all the higher grade colleges of the North, East, and West, the reverse has now become true and large numbers of colored men and women are now thoroughly competent for such positions.

The continued failure of these institutions to acknowledge this fact, to employ any considerable number of colored men in the Faculties, and to seek the patronage of colored men of wealth and culture as advisers on the Board of Trustees, has led the colored alumni, and many friends of education, to feel that there is a deep-seated cause for this neglect of colored graduates; and that the explanation lies in caste prejudice. This charge, when made by the colored men, is parried with such excuses as the following:

Ist. The presence of colored men in Faculty positions would retard the work; they would be unable to secure funds from the white patrons of such institutions.

2d. That benefactors would not be so liberal if
the distribution of the funds were left to the discretion of the beneficiaries.

3d. The ambition, though laudable and legitimate, is premature.

4th. The colored people do not contribute largely to endowments and should not expect to have any voice in the control

5th. The colored man has a lack of confidence in himself and his race.

The fallacy of the first and second objections was brought forcibly to our mind by a conversation with Rev. J. C. Price, D. D., the honored and successful President of Livingston University, Salisbury, N. C.

Said Mr. Price: "In speaking to a gentleman on whom I called for aid for our work, I remarked, `I come to you at a disadvantage, being a black man,' the usual custom being for white men to make the plea for such a cause. He interrupted me by saying, `Not so; I would give you ten dollars where I would give a white man one, for I believe the colored man to be more sincerely interested in himself and his race than a white man can be for him'."

The success of Livingston College, Tuskegee Normal School, Ala., and Wilberforce University of the A. M. E. Church, successfully refute the two first-named objections.


This is from the Atlanta Defiance : Not long since $7000 were given to the Normal School at Tuskegee, Alabama. This institution is run by 17 colored officers and teachers and the donors are two whites of Boston, Mass. A few years ago no such faith as this, would have been entertained in the executive ability of the Negro. Gradually, the Negro grows in ability and in confidence of the balance of mankind.

This is worthy of note, and if the confidence here mentioned is to be measured by dollars, then North Carolina is far ahead. Livingston College at Salisbury, a school managed entirely by colored men, has received four or five times $7000 from similar sources.


A Successful Alabama School.

I came to Tuskegee, a characteristic Southern village of about 3000 inhabitants, for the sake of seeing the most successful effort of the Negro at self-education in this country. I speak here of one large school which has been under Negro control from its inception, at which everything is done neatly, thoroughly, and with intelligent despatch. That school is the Tuskegee Normal Colored School. Here you have a small Hampton, which was founded, and has always been manned by the colored race.


This Baby Hampton has come into existence mysteriously, and almost as suddenly as did Aladdin's Palace.-- Chicago Inter-Ocean .

In answer to the third objection, the colored man silently points to like institutions among the whites, of like grade, with the same number of graduates and the same number of years of growth, with their array of recruits from their own ranks, and he obstinately holds, in the face of the facts brought out by this survey, either the institutions for colored people are educationally a failure, or caste prejudice bars the doors against their colored graduates.

The fourth objection--the poverty that prevents endowments--must also fade to less brightness in the face of the substantial aid secured for Fisk University through the Jubilee Singers, and to Lincoln University and Hampton Institute through the eloquent discussions on the Negro problem, delivered from time to time by their graduates.

The last objection, that the Negro has a lack of confidence in himself and race, may appear at first sight to have some foundation, as the teachings of Slavery went far to engender a distrust in the minds of the race concerning their own abilities; but this lack of confidence has been met by ministers, lawyers, and physicians of the race, and has given way to an earnest pride in their success, and the belief that the presence

of a fair percentage of colored men in the responsible position of Professors in these institutions would have beneficial results, and constitute one of the strongest reasons the alumni have for desiring this new departure in the management of such institutions.

The recent series of articles. "On the Negro," appearing in the N. Y. Independent , show conclusively that the Negro has confidence in himself and his race, and in their ultimate success. A gradually developed but wide-spread feeling of dissatisfaction concerning this state of affairs has been coming to the surface in the alumni meetings of the various institutions for the last five years. In the case of Lincoln, Howard, Hampton and Biddle, the discussions have become public, the feeling has run high, and in each case the local press and best thinkers of both races are on the side of the alumni.

In the late discussion at Howard University, Washington, D. C., upon the filling of a vacancy occurring in the faculty, in answer to the spirit of opposition shown, said Senator Hoar: "I think the interests of the colored race will be much promoted as its members take the place of honor, requiring capacity, in other pursuits outside of politics."

Rev. Dr. Francis Grimke, in reviewing the circumstances of that hour, exclaims: "It was a spectacle which I shall never forget; I saw Gen. Kirkpatrick, an ex-Confederate

General, an ex-slaveholder, a member of the Democratic party, pleading for the appointment of a black man as Professor of Greek, under the very shadow of the nation's capitol, while old Abolitionists were diligently seeking to propagate the damnable heresy that it was immodest and presumptuous for black men to aspire to such positions, and by their voice and vote showing that they were determined to discourage as far as possible such aspiration. An ex-confederate General, an ex-slaveholder, a member of the Democratic party, and yet the most pronounced advocate of Negro advancement, on the Trustee Board of a black institution, made up largely of Northern men and Republicans! An ex-slaveholder, and yet, with the most advanced ideas, with the clearest conception of the true policy to be pursued in the management of such institutions." The closing words of his address on that memorable occasion were these--turning to his white brethren, he said: "We must decrease in these institutions, but they must increase."

The last arraignment of this spirit of caste was at the alumni meeting of Lincoln University, held June, 1886. The matter had been broached to the faculty and trustees repeatedly. The name of a thoroughly competent member of the alumni was presented to the faculty for professor, to fill a certain vacancy. The fullest endorsement accompanied the recommendation

of the alumni, but the whole matter was treated with bitter contempt, not even receiving a reply. A member of the Board of Trustees, when approached on the subject, admitted that possibly in the far future colored men would occupy such positions at Lincoln, but for the present it was not the policy of the institution. "The faculty of Lincoln," said he, "are as one family, and the admission of a colored professor and his family would be objectionable." On one occasion a young man, a graduate of this institution, being requested to speak, at the commencement exercises, broached the subject, offering to give $700 towards the endowment of a certain chair if occupied by a colored man. The speech was resented by the faculty, and the speaker was given to understand that the trustees and not the alumni made the appointments, and that hereafter he would not be invited to speak.

This state of affairs was freely commented upon by the alumni, and has created an actual enmity between the opposing forces. The alumni have endeavored to find the actual sentiment of the local clergy, and the wealthy patrons and friends of education on the matter; the following interviews give a partial idea of the real state of feeling regarding the matter:--

Boston , June 21, 1886.

Sir :-- Referring to your note of the 17th inst., upon the question of caste in colored institutions, I can

answer in three words. I see no reason why a colored man, whose talents, requirements, and conduct entitle him to a position socially and intellectually in scientific institutions, should not be received and in the same way as if he were not colored.

Yours truly,

Benj. F. Butler.

If the equity of the well-worn balancer, cęteris paribus (all the other qualifications on a par), be admitted, expressed or understood, then colored men and women should have a preference in every colored institution. We go further, in non-essentials a slightly imperfect par should not amount to a perfect bar.

--Editor St. Joseph's Advocate, Baltimore, Md.

The following is the opinion of Geo. D. McCreary, a resident of Philadelphia, who has given largely to educational institutions;--

"My opinion is that the question of color should not enter into the management of the Lincoln or other educational institutions for colored students, and if fully qualified for the positions, no objection should be made to their becoming members of the faculties or trustees after graduation. The opposition to such a policy is indicative, either that the work of the institution is not thorough and the graduates only superficially educated, or is based on the low plane of objection on account of color, with perhaps the desire on

the part of the incumbents to keep the places for themselves by preventing competition."

The following is an editorial comment from the Philadelphia Press , of June, 1886:--


It is difficult to see how the trustees of at least two of the colored colleges can escape "both horns" of the dilemma presented to them by Dr. N. F. Mossell at a meeting Wednesday evening of the alumni of Lincoln University. The university has been some thirty years in existence, and counts some 400 graduates; but none of these is represented in the faculty, and, as Dr. Mossell sell says, this circumstance indicates one of two things, "either that the education of the university is a failure, or that the caste prejudice forces the alumni out of these positions." Their exclusion is, at all events, anomalous. In other educational institutions it is the common practice to appoint graduates to faculty positions, whenever this may be done without detriment to the interests concerned, and there is no reason why the question should not obtain in a college for colored men as well as in one for white men.

Such, however, is the fact, and the alumni of colored colleges naturally feel very sore about it. As alumni, and particularly alumni belonging to a race which, but a generation ago, it was in some portions of this country a crime to instruct in the simplest rudiments of

education, they are supposed to take an especial pride and an honorable interest in their colleges. They share, indeed, the interest which of late years has been especially evinced by alumni of all the colleges of the country.

The graduates of Howard, Biddle, *

(*) Biddle has at this date an entire Colored faculty, who are doing good work, and Lincoln Universities have made urgent and repeated requests for representation in the faculties of those institutions. In the first named they have been measurably successful, we believe, but in neither of the others has their request met with the consideration they bespeak for it and they are convinced that the reason is that assigned by Dr. Mossell.

And if this is possible it ought to be done. For nothing can be less in accord with the principles on which the colored colleges were founded, than the fostering in the faintest degree, or the most impalpable form, of the spirit of caste, which these alumni charge upon their trustees, and which bears upon them far more cruelly than does ignorance, since it militates against their consideration as men.

"It gives me pleasure," said Rev. J. Wheaton Smith, the noted Baptist divine, "to say that complexion, whether light or dark, is not the test of manhood, and

should constitute no hindrance to either a pupil or teacher. In an institution of learning for the education of the colored race, other things being equal. I should give the preference to the darker hue. It is demanded by a ripening future, and the past crowded with un-numbered wrongs.


Said Rev. D. Baker, D. D., Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Washington Square, Philadelphia:

"I am of the decided opinion that the question of color should not enter in the least into the choice of professors or trustees in educational institutions; if a colored man is qualified, it is not unlikely that he might be on this account especially useful as an educator of his own race."

Rev. W. P. Breed, D. D., Pastor of West Spruce Street Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, said--

"On general principles the alumni of colored institutions should most undoubtedly be treated precisely as the alumni of all other institutions. The colored people are doing nobly, and they have my earnest wishes for their success and advancement."

Said Samuel Allen, of Philadelphia:--

"The Institute for Colored Youth, founded forty years ago, has been constantly under the care of the Society of Friends, by whom it was established. Having

been connected with the Institute for Colored Youth as a manager of it, and somewhat familiar with it for quite a number of years, I am persuaded that the plan pursued there is an efficient one -- of employing colored teachers in it, who have in almost every case proved themselves equal to the requirements. The instruction includes the higher branches of the knowledge of history, of mathematics and of the sciences; all of which they teach to the entire satisfaction of the managers, and, as far as I know, to all concerned."

The sentiment of the advanced and liberal thinkers of the colored race given on the subject is as follows:--

Robert Purvis, of Philadelphia, says: "We demand that the same rule be applied to us as is applied to others. We ask no favors. We believe in the doctrine of equal rights. We ask no more, we will submit to no less; and in this especial instance I believe that, where the same qualifications as to character and fitness exists, the preference should be given to colored men as long as Colored Institutions exist. A fair show should be given in all other institutions. I am in favor of our being one people and American citizens."


"I have long noticed the tendency in colored institutions, as well as others, to repress and discourage the colored man's ambition to be something more than

a subordinate, when he is qualified to occupy superior positions. It is a part of the old spirit of caste, a legacy left us by slavery, against which we have to contend. It is all the more difficult to meet because in colored institutions under white control, it usually assumes the guise of religion and a pious regard for the happiness of the object of its disparagement, These people play `Miss 'Phelia to Topsy.' They would have us among the angels in Heaven, but do not want to touch elbows with us on earth."


"The best policy is not being pursued, when colored men, qualified both by nature and acquirements, are designedly excluded from the Faculties and Trustee Boards of our colleges of learning. I think no reasonable man will deny that."


Rev. Dr. B. F. Lee, editor of the Christian Recorder , the organ of the A. M. E. Church, who was for a number of years President of the Wilberforce University, said: "I think that there is a spirit of unrest among colored people in that they are losing confidence in the management of these institutions. They feel that they have been overlooked; that white men are many times put over them as teachers when

persons of their own race could fill the position equally as well or better. The teachings of religion will never allow any one race to be its own absolute and exclusive educator, much less the educator of all races."

Prof. E. A. Bouchett, a graduate of Yale College, who is professor in the Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia, said: "The day has long gone by when an educated colored man was looked upon in this country as a curiosity. All persons of intelligence agree that the Negro is capable of undergoing the most severe mental training with credit to himself and his alma mater . The success of the graduates of colored colleges as teachers is abundantly attested, especially in the South and West; so the exclusion from the professor's chair in his own alma mater cannot be defended by alleging lack of ability or deficient capacity."


who ten years ago took a second degree at Yale College, says: "Many of my college and class-mates are now occupying the best pulpits in the land; many are tutors, professors, and principals of our best institutions for the education of youth. Now, it is claimed by our colored institutions that twenty years is not sufficient for them to develop fifty or seventy-five first class scholarly men, from among seven million people,

to occupy in equal ratios the honorable position for elevating their own race; if this be true, it must follow that there is a defect somewhere in the educational system; perhaps the present corps of instructors in these institutions are incompetent to fill the positions they occupy, or, perhaps, many are acting the role of Government officials, having a pleasant time at the people's expense.

"This is the conclusion we are driven to from their own statement.

"Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Amherst, and other white colleges, can in ten years accomplish more than those colored institutions in twenty. Something is radically wrong! But is it true that colored men have not been developed since the war sufficiently able to direct the work of educating their own race? In the present condition of things this is unthinkable.

"Grover Cleveland, the President of the United States, wishes a suitable representative of the Government at the Court of Port Au Prince, and finds the abilities of a young colored man less than twenty-six years old, and less than three years from one of our American colleges, sufficiently matured to fill the position; and again, desiring to fill another important position, the Liberian Minister, he calls upon an ex-slave, a graduate from Lincoln University, in the class of 1873.

"My college-mate, our President, is a Democrat, yet

he does not ignore the Negro's ability. In all departments of the Government colored men are placed in responsible positions, and they serve well -- very few Belknaps and Moseses. And equally true it is that colored institutions, conducted entirely by colored people, are just as efficient in their work as those conducted by the white for the colored students."

We demand educated colored teachers for all colored schools, because their color identity makes them more interested in the advancement of colored children than white teachers, and because colored pupils need the social contact of colored teachers. Our people need social as well as educational advancement; and in this respect colored teachers can exercise potent influences, which would be lost if the selfish policy of employing white teachers obtain.-- Florida News .

Large numbers of white people do not teach the Negro so much for the interest they have in him as they do for that they get. In the second place there is always a tendency in a white teacher, however much he may be interested in the work, to crust out the many and independent spirit that is essential to the full development of the mental powers.

They always keep prominent the fact that they think the Negro is their inferior, and try always to make him believe it. In his attainments they virtually say to him, thus far shalt thou come and no farther. If

he is ambitious and will go beyond the mark they made for him, they have no more use for him.-- Missionary Worker.

Nothing can be more detrimental to the future existence of these institutions than the belief and feeling among the alumni and patrons that such a state of affairs exists. The above opinions prove conclusively that the advanced feeling of the entire country is opposed to the fostering of such feeling under the guise of aid to the freedman. In an article by Charles T. Thiving, entitled "Colleges and their Graduates," in a late issue of the Independent , some forcible truths are stated which apply equally well to the matter under discussion. Says he:--

"The graduates of a college are at once its warmest friends and severest critics. The best friends of a college should naturally be found among its own graduates. Not only should a college foster the spirit of loyalty among its own graduates but these graduates may be and should be the most useful of its friends.

"In a large relation it may be added that alumni associations are of vast service. They tend to unify the best thought of some of the best men as to most important interests."

None of which can be the case if a feeling of repulsion and distrust has been aroused in the heart of the members of the alumni by a knowledge that the faculties

and trustees are fostering caste prejudice against them. It is felt by the graduates that the caste prejudice is not shared by the patrons of these institutions who give freely and lovingly of their means, trusting to their trustees and faculties to attend to the distribution of it to the best advantage of those for whom it is contributed, but that caste is developed in the faculties, who are as a rule poor men and desire to secure and hold lucrative life positions for themselves and families. The purpose to ignore the Negro socially is another factor in the problem. They see that if a colored man becomes a member of the faculty he must be treated as other members of that department are treated; to this they will not submit; hence the colored man may not occupy the position. An odd feature of this caste prejudice is the strong hold it has upon the churches. The K. of L. and G. A. R. are open to him. The State institutions all over the country are fast becoming free to all, and where the schools are separate as Virginia State Normal, Mississippi State Normal, and Alabama State Normal Schools, the positions are given to competent colored teachers; but the church, the denominational schools under its control, the Christian Associations, cling to caste prejudice and sow the seed of distrust and unbelief in the heart of the black man.

    A LOFTY STUDY.   Table of Contents     VERSE.