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Up from Slavery: An Autobiography
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When we opened our boarding department, we provided rooms in the attic of Porter Hall,
our first building, for a number of girls. But the number of students, of both sexes,
continued to increase. We could find rooms outside the school grounds for many of the
young men, but the girls we did not care to expose in this way. Very soon the problem of
providing more rooms for the girls, as well as a larger boarding department for all the
students, grew serious. As a result, we finally decided to undertake the construction of a
still larger building--a building that would contain rooms for the girls and boarding
accommodations for all.
After having had a preliminary sketch of the needed building made, we found that it
would cost about ten thousand dollars. We had no money whatever with which to begin;
still we decided to give the needed building a name. We knew we could name it, even
though we were in doubt about our ability to secure the means for its construction. We
decided to call the proposed building Alabama Hall, in honour of the state in which we
were labouring. Again Miss Davidson began making efforts to enlist the interest and help
of the coloured and white people in and near Tuskegee. They responded willingly, in
proportion to their means. The students, as in the case of our first building, Porter Hall,
began digging out the dirt in order to allow the laying of the foundations.
When we seemed at the end of our resources, so far as securing money was concerned,
something occurred which showed the greatness of General Armstrong--something which
proved how far he was above the ordinary individual. When we were in the midst of great
anxiety as to where and how we were to get funds for the new building, I received a
telegram from General Armstrong asking me if I could spend a month travelling with him
through the North, and asking me, if I could do so, to come to Hampton at once. Of
course I accepted General Armstrong's invitation, and went to Hampton immediately. On
arriving there I found that the General had decided to take a quartette of singers through
the North, and hold meetings for a month in important cities, at which meetings he and I
were to speak. Imagine my surprise when the General told me, further, that these
meetings were to be held, not in the interests of Hampton, but in the interests of
Tuskegee, and that the Hampton Institute was to be responsible for all the expenses.
Although he never told me so in so many words, I found that General Armstrong took
this method of introducing me to the people of the North, as well as for the sake of
securing some immediate funds to be used in the erection of Alabama Hall. A weak and
narrow man would have reasoned that all the money which came to Tuskegee in this way
would be just so much taken from the Hampton Institute; but none of these selfish or
short-sighted feelings ever entered the breast of General Armstrong. He was too big to be
little, too good to be mean. He knew that the people in the North who gave money gave it
for the purpose of helping the whole cause of Negro civilization, and not merely for the
advancement of any one school. The General knew, too, that the way to strengthen
Hampton was to make it a centre of unselfish power in the working out of the whole