Up from Slavery: An Autobiography
Two Thousand Miles For A Five-Minute Speech
Soon after the opening of our boarding department, quite a number of students who
evidently were worthy, but who were so poor that they did not have any money to pay
even the small charges at the school, began applying for admission. This class was
composed of both men and women. It was a great trial to refuse admission to these
applicants, and in 1884 we established a night-school to accommodate a few of them.
The night-school was organized on a plan similar to the one which I had helped to
establish at Hampton. At first it was composed of about a dozen students. They were
admitted to the night-school only when they had no money with which to pay any part of
their board in the regular day-school. It was further required that they must work for ten
hours during the day at some trade or industry, and study academic branches for two
hours during the evening. This was the requirement for the first one or two years of their
stay. They were to be paid something above the cost of their board, with the
understanding that all of their earnings, except a very small part, were to be reserved in
the school's treasury, to be used for paying their board in the regular day-school after they
had entered that department. The night-school, started in this manner, has grown until
there are at present four hundred and fifty-seven students enrolled in it alone.
There could hardly be a more severe test of a student's worth than this branch of the
Institute's worth. It is largely because it furnishes such a good opportunity to test the
backbone of a student that I place such high value upon our night-school. Any one who is
willing to work ten hours a day at the brick-yard, or in the laundry, through one or two
years, in order that he or she may have the privilege of studying academic branches for
two hours in the evening, has enough bottom to warrant being further educated.
After the student has left the night-school he enters the day-school, where he takes
academic branches four days in a week, and works at his trade two days. Besides this he
usually works at his trade during the three summer months. As a rule, after a student has
succeeded in going through the night-school test, he finds a way to finish the regular
course in industrial and academic training. No student, no matter how much money he
may be able to command, is permitted to go through school without doing manual labour.
In fact, the industrial work is now as popular as the academic branches. Some of the most
successful men and women who have graduated from the institution obtained their start
in the night-school.
While a great deal of stress is laid upon the industrial side of the work at Tuskegee, we do
not neglect or overlook in any degree the religious and spiritual side. The school is
strictly undenominational, but it is thoroughly Christian, and the spiritual training or the
students is not neglected. Our preaching service, prayer-meetings, Sunday-school,
Christian Endeavour Society, Young Men's Christian Association, and various
missionary organizations, testify to this.