After a few months had passed, I wrote Gen. J. F. B. Marshall, at that time treasurer of the Hampton Institute, and put our condition before him, telling him that there was an abandoned farm about a mile from the town of Tuskegee in the market which I could secure at a very cheap price for our institution. As I had absolutely no money with which to make the first payment on the farm, I summoned the courage to ask Gen. Marshall to lend me $500 with which to make the first payment. To my surprise a letter came back in a few days enclosing a check for $500. A contract was made for the purchase of the farm, which at that time consisted of 100 acres. Subsequent purchases and gifts of adjacent lands have increased the number of acres at this place to 700, and this is the present site of the Tuskegee Institute. . .Full Story»
When I reached Tuskegee, the only thing that had been done toward the starting of a school was the securing of the $2,000. There was no land, building, or apparatus. I opened the school, however, on the 4th of July, 1881, in an old church and a little shanty that was almost ready to fall down from decay. On the first day there was an attendance of thirty students, mainly those who had been engaged in teaching in the Public schools of that vicinity. . .
This reminds me of a conversation which I once had with the Hon. Frederick Douglass. At one time Mr. Douglass was traveling in the state of Pennsylvania, and was forced, on account of his color, to ride in the baggage-car, in spite of the fact that he had paid the same fare as the other passengers. When some of the white passengers went to the baggage car to console Mr. Douglass, and one of them said to him, “I am sorry, Mr. Douglass, that you have been degraded in this manner,” Mr. Douglass straightened himself up on the box upon which he was sitting, and replied: “They cannot degrade Frederick Douglass. The soul that is within me no man can degrade. I am not the one that is being degraded on account of this treatment, but those who are inflicting it upon me.”
While at Hampton my best friends did not know how badly off I was for clothing during a large part of the time, but I did not fret about that. I always had the feeling that if I could get knowledge in my head, the matter of clothing would take care of itself afterwards. At one time I was reduced to a single ragged pair of cheap socks. These socks I had to wash over night and put them on the next morning. . .