Up from Slavery: An Autobiography HTML version

Making Their Beds Before They Could Lie On Them
A little later in the history of the school we had a visit from General J.F.B. Marshall, the
Treasurer of the Hampton Institute, who had had faith enough to lend us the first two
hundred and fifty dollars with which to make a payment down on the farm. He remained
with us a week, and made a careful inspection of everything. He seemed well pleased
with our progress, and wrote back interesting and encouraging reports to Hampton. A
little later Miss Mary F. Mackie, the teacher who had given me the "sweeping"
examination when I entered Hampton, came to see us, and still later General Armstrong
himself came.
At the time of the visits of these Hampton friends the number of teachers at Tuskegee had
increase considerably, and the most of the new teachers were graduates of the Hampton
Institute. We gave our Hampton friends, especially General Armstrong, a cordial
welcome. They were all surprised and pleased at the rapid progress that the school had
made within so short a time. The coloured people from miles around came to the school
to get a look at General Armstrong, about whom they had heard so much. The General
was not only welcomed by the members of my own race, but by the Southern white
people as well.
This first visit which General Armstrong made to Tuskegee gave me an opportunity to
get an insight into his character such as I had not before had. I refer to his interest in the
Southern white people. Before this I had had the thought that General Armstrong, having
fought the Southern white man, rather cherished a feeling of bitterness toward the white
South, and was interested in helping only the coloured man there. But this visit convinced
me that I did not know the greatness and the generosity of the man. I soon learned, by his
visits to the Southern white people, and from his conversations with them, that he was as
anxious about the prosperity and the happiness of the white race as the black. He
cherished no bitterness against the South, and was happy when an opportunity offered for
manifesting his sympathy. In all my acquaintance with General Armstrong I never heard
him speak, in public or in private, a single bitter word against the white man in the South.
From his example in this respect I learned the lesson that great men cultivate love, and
that only little men cherish a spirit of hatred. I learned that assistance given to the weak
makes the one who gives it strong; and that oppression of the unfortunate makes one
It is now long ago that I learned this lesson from General Armstrong, and resolved that I
would permit no man, no matter what his colour might be, to narrow and degrade my soul
by making me hate him. With God's help, I believe that I have completely rid myself of
any ill feeling toward the Southern white man for any wrong that he may have inflicted
upon my race. I am made to feel just as happy now when I am rendering service to
Southern white men as when the service is rendered to a member of my own race. I pity
from the bottom of my heart any individual who is so unfortunate as to get into the habit
of holding race prejudice.