Summary – Chapter Nine, ‘Anxious Days and Sleepless Nights’, and Chapter Ten, ‘A Harder Task Than Making Bricks Without Straws’
Within 3 months enough money was raised to pay back the money borrowed from General Marshall. In another 2 months they had raised the rest of the cash and so received the deed for 100 acres of land.
The next effort required was to increase the cultivation of the land. This would provide food and also work for those students who could not afford to board for a full week.
After this, and as the school was always growing, they needed a large substantial building. A local Southern white man who operated a saw mill offered them the required lumber and asked only for Washington’s word that he would be paid when they had the money. Miss Davidson helped raise more money and went North to do this.
The cornerstone of the new building was laid 16 years after the end of slavery, ‘in that part of our country that was most devoted to slavery’. Washington considers how remarkable it is that only 16 years ago, ‘no Negro could be taught from books without the teacher receiving the condemnation of the law or of public sentiment’.
During his first years at Tuskegee, he had many sleepless nights as he knew they were trying an experiment and knew ‘the presumption was against us’ and people would be surprised if they succeeded (in African Americans building and controlling the affairs of a large educational institution).
In the summer of 1882, he married Fannie N. Smith. She was also a graduate of the Hampton Institute and one child, called Portia M. Washington, was born to them. Fannie died in 1884.
In Chapter Ten, he explains that his plan was to have the students erect the buildings and learn not just the utility of labor, but also the beauty and dignity of it too and to learn to love work for its own sake.
He describes the problems involved in making bricks and how this required the construction of a kiln (which they failed at 3 times). The 4th attempt was successful and they went on to sell bricks in the local community too. This in turn helped to enhance the pleasant relations with local white people. The same principle of industrial education was also used in the building of wagons, carts and buggies for the school and local people.
The narrative cuts to Thanksgiving and how he asked Rev. Robert C. Bedford to preach the sermon. He was a white pastor, and this was the first Thanksgiving they held there. He was later made a trustee of the school and has been connected to it for 18 years. Warren Logan has been the Treasurer for 17 years and came from Hampton. He too has played a significant role in helping the school.
Analysis - Chapter Nine, ‘Anxious Days and Sleepless Nights’, and Chapter Ten, ‘A Harder Task Than Making Bricks Without Straws’
The ethos of taking pride in one’s work is seen to have been a mainstay in the success of Tuskegee. The story of how the kiln needed to be re-built several times reinforces this and the overriding moral concern of persevering until one has achieved one’s goals.
As Washington also points out, the school’s viability is all the more poignant and remarkable given that it began life only 16 years after the end of slavery. This was managed by fundraising and dedication, and also by the input of the students who would have had no education to speak of when slavery was in place.