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The Massachusetts Review, Inc.

A Negro Student at Harvard at the End of the 19th Century


Author(s): W. E. B. DuBois
Source: The Massachusetts Review, Vol. 1, No. 3 (Spring, 1960), pp. 439-458
Published by: The Massachusetts Review, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25086526
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E. B. DuBois

W.

A Negro
Student at Harvard
at the End of the
19th Century
university
Harvard

learning.

in

It was

1888

238 years

was

old

a great
institution
of
and on its governing
board

were Alexander Agassiz, Phillips Brooks, Henry Cabot Lodge


and Charles Francis Adams; and a John Quincy Adams, but
not

the

training

its teachers

Among
James

Russell

William

Charles

ex-President.
and a scholar

by broad study
emeriti were Oliver

Lowell.

Among

a
Eliot,
by
gentleman
and travel, was president.
Wendell

the active

Holmes

teachers

were

and
Francis

Child, Charles Eliot Norton, Justin Winsor and John Trow


bridge; Frank Taussig, Nathaniel Shaler, George Palmer, Wil
liam James, Francis Peabody, Josiah Royce, Barrett Wendell,
Edward Channing and Albert Bushnell Hart. In 1890 arrived
a young
American

if ever, has any


Santayana.
Seldom,
George
a
had such
of great men
and fine
University
galaxy
teachers as Harvard
in the decade between
1885 and 1895.
the Harvard
To make my own attitude
toward
of that day
must
went
as a
I
to
it
be
that
remembered
Harvard
clear,
instructor,

not simply by birth, but recognizing


as a member
Negro,
myself
a
caste whose
of
I accepted.
situation
I was
But
segregated
to work
determined
from within
that caste to find my way out.

The Harvard of which most white students conceived I knew


little. I had not even heard of Phi Beta Kappa, and of such
important social organizations as the Hasty Pudding Club, I
knew

nothing.

I was

inHarvard

as marks

except
marks,
courses.
out "snap"
meaning

would
I was

of the universe.

We

for education

and not

for high
not pick
of the
grasp
no
chemical
instance,

insure my staying.
to enlarge my
there
had had,

439

for

I did

Review

The Massachusetts
our

at Fisk;

laboratory

courses

mathematics

of the bases

of knowledge,
I chose,
therefore,
was on sabbatical

nings.
Palmer

follower

of James

was developing his pragmatic philosophy.


Fortunately I did not fall into the mistake
as

Harvard

the

rather

beginning
I did not find

training.
better known,
and lived
knowledge
college
teachers

limited.

to get hold

and begin
and explore
foundations
course
in ethics,
but since
Palmer's
that year, William
James
replaced

a devoted

I became

and

him,

were

I wanted

Above all I wanted to study philosophy!

than

the

teachers

better

at the

he

time

of regarding

of my
continuing
at Harvard,
but

for gaining
facilities
who had had wider
in a broader
for
atmosphere
approaching

truth.
as my life career, with
to pursue philosophy
teaching
at Harvard
I studied
from the
this program
for support. With
course
I took a varied
fall of 1888 to 1890, as undergraduate.
I hoped

in chemistry,
geology,
tion here was the type
of the courses. William

social

science

of teacher

salva
and philosophy.
My
rather than the content

I met

of
James guided me out of the sterilities
to
from
scholastic
realist
Peabody's
pragmatism;
philosophy
a religious
to Albert
Bush
social reform with
tinge I turned

nell

to study
with
Taussig,

Hart

from
Ricardo
ology.

school,
Meantime

cidentally
been
refuted.
When
ing was

I approached
Karl Marx
as one whose

and

dream

with
and
research;
history
documentary
British
economics
his reactionary
of the

was

Socialism

or as a

of philanthropy
I arrived at Harvard,
of first

importance.

what
was
doubtful

was

to become

later

but

mentioned,
theories

dismissed

in

only

long
as unimportant,
of hotheads.

since

and

lodg
a room

will-o-wisp
the question

Naturally,

soci

had

of board

I could

not afford

as

in the college yard in the old and venerable buildings which


housed

most

of

the well-to-do

students

under

the magnificent

elms. Neither did I think of looking for lodgings among white


families,

where

numbers

of the ordinary

students

to find a colored home, and finally at 20 Flagg

lived.

I tried

Street I came

a
the neat home of a colored woman
from Nova
upon
Scotia,
descendant
of those black Jamaican Maroons
whom
Britain
had

440

A Negro

Student atHarvard

them peace
after solemnly
if they would
deported
promising
sum I rented the second storey
surrender. For a very reasonable
front room and for four years
this was my home.
I wrote
of
"My room is, for a college man's
abode,
It is quite pleasantly
indeed.
situated?second
ordinary
... As
a bay window
and one other window.
front, with

this abode
very
floor,
you

enter

at the time:

will

you

perceive

the

bed

in the

small and decorated with floral designs


a botanist....

On

the

left

hand

is a bureau

of doubtful accuracy. In front of the bay window


three

corner,

opposite

calculated to puzzle
with

a mirror

is a stand with

of books,
and on the left of the bureau
is an
bookcase made
of unpainted
boards
and uprights,
most
I am growing
of my
of which
library
quite

shelves

improvised

containing
near the door,
the heat register,
is a mantle
with
proud. Over
a
a
of
Paris
and
the
and
usual
array
plaster
calendar,
pug-dog
are a few quite
of odds and ends. . . .On
the wall
ordinary
am
In
this
I
den
pictures.
quite content."
commonplace

Following

the attitudes which I had adopted in the South,

I sought no
nor
fellow
among my white
friendships
students,
even
course
Of
I
wanted
I
but
could
acquaintanceships.
friends,
not seek them. My
class was
stu
three hundred
large?some
a
I
dents.
doubt if I knew
dozen of them. I did not seek them, and
not
me. I made
no attempt
did
seek
to contribute
they
naturally
to the college
were
not
since
the
editors
in
interested
periodicals
interests.
But I did have a good
voice
and
my major
singing
so I entered
loved music,
the competition
for the Glee
Club.
I ought
to have known
that Harvard
could not afford to have
a
on its Glee Club
about the country. Quite
Negro
travelling
was
I
naturally
rejected.
I was happy
at Harvard,
but for unusual
reasons. One
of
these was my acceptance
of racial segregation.
I gone from
Had

Great Barrington high school directly


have

sought

disappointed

companionship
and embittered

with

to Harvard,

fellows
my white
of social
by a discovery

I would
and

been

limitations

towhich I had not been used. But I came by way of Fisk and the
South

I had accepted
color caste and embraced
eagerly
the companionship
of those of my own color. This was of course
and there

441

Review

The Massachusetts
in mass
no final solution.
Eventually,
were going
to break down
we Negroes
but at present we were banded
together

led by culture,
assault,
of race;
the boundaries
a
and
in
great crusade,

happily so. Indeed, I suspect that the prospect of ultimate full


distinc
and annoying
reservations
without
intercourse,
own
consort
and to
to
me
with
all too willing
my
tions, made
as far as was
that outer, whiter
and forget
disdain
possible
world.
human

In general,
and
teachers

of Harvard
nothing
the
of
freedom
laboratory

the

such contacts

only

white

with

and

outside its social life. I sought

and willingly

quite voluntarily

of
tutelage
was
I
library.

the

but

I asked

as lay directly

teachers

in the line

of my work. I joined certain clubs, like the Philosophical


a member

I was

of the Foxcroft

Club;

it was cheap.
club because
dining
me
at
at their homes
teachers had

or two other
James and one
to various
I escorted
colored girls
and reception.
meal
gather
ones
as
as
to
I
could
find
the
and
vesper
exercises,
pretty
ings,
social functions.
and later to the class day and commencement
we

Naturally
friends.

attention

attracted

the
Sometimes
a
woman
white
reception

the Crimson

and
of

shadow
seemed

insult

fell,

determined

noted
as when

to mistake

my girl
at one
me

for

a waiter.

I was

In general,
self-sufficient
ble
tive

encased

in a completely
and ignoring
just

colored world,
as far as possi
was self-protec

and provincial,
it. This
which
conditioned
an
with
coloration,
inferiority
perhaps
complex,

the white

world

but with

belief in the ability and future of black folk.


My
colored

students
folk

the colored

were
drawn
companions
and neighboring
of Harvard
and surrounding
of Boston

and

friends

mainly

from

institutions,
towns. With

the
and
them

were
them many
I led a happy and inspiring
life. There
among
or
and well-to-do
educated
many
young
folk,
people
studying
women.
to
met
We
and
young
study, many
charming
planning
a new world.
and argued,
and planned
I was not arrogant;
I was
whites
simply

ate, danced
Towards

and

sequious,
student who

to a white
did

not

Harvard
seek

student

recognition

442

was

not

ob

day a Negro
to be more
trying

of my

Student atHarvard

A Negro

a Negro.
man
same Harvard
had much
The
the same
toward Jews and Irishmen.
at Harvard
I was, however,
in
among Negroes
exceptional
race segregation.
most
for
the
my ideas on voluntary
They
part
saw salvation
at the earliest moment
and on
only in integration
almost
I was firm in my
criticism
any terms in white
culture;
than

attitude

of white folk and inmy dream of a self-sufficient Negro


even

culture

in America.

This

cutting of myself

cut off, did

not mean

off from my white fellows, or being


or resentment.

unhappiness

I was

in my

early manhood, unusually full of high spirits and humor. I


thoroughly enjoyed life. I was conscious of understanding and
power, and conceited enough still to imagine, as in high school,
that

they who

did

not know

me

were

the losers, not I. On the


think that my white
found me
classmates
hand,
not well-dressed
I was
but
personally
objectionable.
clean,
as
or
more
clothed.
Manners
I
less
decently
super
regarded
a certain brusquerie.
fluous and deliberately
cultivated
Personal
other

I do not

adornment

I regarded

as pleasant

but not

I was

important.

in

Harvard, but not of it, and realized all the irony of my singing
"Fair Harvard." I sang it because I liked the music, and not
from any pride in the pilgrims.
With my colored friends I carried on lively social inter
one which
but necessarily
involved
of
little expenditure
I called
at their homes
and ate at their
tables. We
at private parties. We went on excursions
down
the Bay.
a
with
sur
of
colored
students
from
Once,
group
gathered
we
The Birds
in a
gave Aristophanes'
institutions,
rounding
Boston
was good,
colored
church. The
rendition
but not out
not
the
colored
but
quite
standing,
by
appreciated
audience,
course,

money.
danced

well worth doing. Even


I was proud of it.
Thus

the group
and upper
in themselves

workers
skin

and

current

history
that like many

though it worked me near to death,

of professional
servants, whose
or in their

white
collar
men,
students,
common
was
bond
color of

fathers,
together
of discrimination,

experience
tens of thousands

of

443

like units

with

a common

formed
across

a unit

the nation

Review

The Massachusetts

to have a common
culture
pattern which
getting
a colored
so that increasingly
made
them an interlocking
mass,
more
a
was
to
in
in Chi
Boston
colored
person
person
neighbor
a
across
to
street.
than
white
the
cago
person
had

or were

Mrs.

Ruffin

of Charles

Birdie

were

widow

of the first

colored

and her daughter

Street, Boston,
to

hostesses

often

judge

was

She
group.
inMassachusetts,

colored

this

appointed

an

aristocratic lady, with olive skin and high piled masses of white
a Boston

Ruffin
ingratiat
lady said to Mrs.
Mrs.
in
race."
interested
been
your
ingly:
always
Ruffin flared: "Which
race?" She began a national
organization
a type of small
the Courant,
of colored women
and published
over the nation.
colored weekly
paper which was then spreading
hair. Once
"I

white

have

In this I published many of my Harvard

daily themes.

the young
in this close group
there grew up among
Naturally
I
in
outgrowing
marriages.
myself,
ending
people
friendships
the youthful
serious dreams
of love
of Fisk,
attractions
began
and marriage.
There
were,
however,
me back and there were
curious

hold

still my
study
reasons.
other

that two of the girls whom


it happened
stance,
to me
liked had what was
then the insuperable

to

plans
For

in

I particularly

of
handicap
to
had
like
while
black
whites,
ancestry
they
enough
looking
in America.
I could not let the world
make
them "Negroes"
a white wife. Yet
even
that I had married
these girls
imagine
were
went
to
and
Vassar
One
Col
intelligent
companionable.
to Negroes.
then refused
entrance
Years
later when
lege, which
I went
I remember
there to lecture
with
disagreeing
violently
a teacher who
not
to
the
have
"deceived"
thought
girl ought

the college by graduating before it knew of her Negro


Another

of mine

favorite

was

Deenie

descent!

She was

Pindell.

a fine

forthright woman, blonde, blue-eyed and fragile. In the end I


had no chance
Trotter

was

tered Harvard
thick-set,
yellow,
and strait-laced

to choose

Monroe
her, for she married
son of a well-to-do
colored
father

the

Trotter.
and

in my

first year in the Graduate


School.
was
with
dark hair. He
close-cut

and

an

influential

member

of

his

He

stubborn
class. He

organized the first Total Abstinence Club in the Yard.

444

en
was

I came

Student atHarvard

A Negro
to know
ored

him

and
took

students

and Lewis

graduate
afterward

Lewis
came the celebrated
He
on

married

in the class with


center

Bessie

the beautiful

that Amherst

Forbes,

trip.

later joined with Trotter


to attack

paper

Negro

rush

of

other

and

to see our friends


Calvin

the Harvard

entered

he

when

the company
joined
in a trip to Amherst

Coolidge.
Law
School

the Harvard

and

be

team.

football

Baker, who had been with us


a brilliant,
dark man,
cynical

in publishing the Guardian,

Booker

col

Forbes

T. Washington

openly.

ington's friends retorted by sending Trotter

the first
Wash

to jail when he

on his
to heckle Washington
in a public Boston meeting
nor
was
to
not present
I
views.
this occurrence,
political
privy
to
but the unfairness
of the jail sentence
led me
eventually
which
the
NAACP.
became
form the Niagara
later
movement,

dared

Thus

I lived near to life, love and tragedy; and when I met

I became doubly
interested.
She was a tall, im
Cuney,
with gold-bronze
eyes and coils
skin, brilliant
perious brunette
at Galves
of black hair, daughter
of the Collector
of Customs
a skilled
come
was
to
and
music
She
Texas.
had
ton,
study
of Music
When
the New
England
performer.
Conservatory

Maud

to "jim-crow"

tried

we were
Thus

engaged.
it is clear

campus I consciously
known
themselves
long friends. Most
nor name.
Among
Robert
Hapgood,
Homer
I knew

Folks,
none
that

doubt
"grind"

with

Only

once

how

in the general

students

rushed

in love with her, and

social

intercourse

on

the

missed

Some white
students made
nothing.
to me and a few, a very
life
few, became
of my
I knew neither
classmates
by sight
them many made
their mark
in life: Norman
Herrick,

Herbert

Croly,
Brown

George

Dorsey,
and others.

Hand,
James
Scott,
For
the most
intimately.
part I do not
a
voted
somewhat
selfish
and self-centered

Augustus
of these

I was

we

in the dormitory,

her

to her defense and we won. I fell deeply

a
and a sharp tongue.
chip on my shoulder
or twice did I come to the surface of
college

life.

First I found by careful calculation that I needed the cash of


one

of

the Boylston
to piece out my
in oratory
prizes
year's
a
I
it
second
oratorical
expenses.
got
through winning
prize. The

445

Review

The Massachusetts
occasion
Clement
With
outside

was

black student,
by the fact that another
same
contest.
at
the
first
got
Morgan,
prize
the increase at Harvard
of students who had grown
up
there arose at this time a certain resent
New England,
noteworthy

at the way

ment

New

England
affairs. The

students

college
conducting
ment day was always a Saltonstall,
some such New
family.
England
teams were
heads of other athletic

were

class marshal

and
dominating
on commence

or from
a Lowell,
a Cabot,
crew and most
of the
The

lim
from similarly
selected
com
class poet, class orator, and other
social groups. The
were
of family
mencement
selected
because
officials
invariably
so
of the
not
when
the
officials
that
for merit.
It
and
happened
a
in early spring,
class of 1890 were being selected
plot ripened.
was
not
interested.
it
and
I
knew
of
nothing
greatly
Personally,
ited

But
tions

in Boston
was

and

of

in the Harvard

tremendous

clique selected Clement


and indeed the whole

significance,
as class

Morgan

the result

of the elec

for

this conspiratorial
orator. New
England

country reverberated.
a black man. He
had been working

was

Morgan

Yard

in a barber

shop in St. Louis at the time when he ought to have been in


school. With
whom

he

the encouragement
and help of a colored
teacher,
the
and entered
he came to Boston
later married,

he finally
entered Har
the
in
orthodox
way and was well
vard,
was
He
his
classmates.
with
received,
fairly well
acquainted
was
a
his color. He
person and
unassuming
pleasant
considering
on the
one of the best speakers
enunciated
of clearly
English

Latin

This

School.

he entered

meant

that when

as freshman

campus. In his junior year he had earned the first Boylston


I won
second prize.
in the same contest where
prize for oratory
class orator, and yet this
for him to become
It was, then, logical
were
There
was against all the traditions
editorials
of America.

in the leading newspapers, and the South especially raged and


at the

sneered
replace

Boston

Morgan's
in several
the

class

audience

society
success was

of "black

washerwomen"

at the next Harvard

who

would

commencement.

and that year and the next


contagious,
became
colored
students
Northern
colleges
leading
as
I
shall relate
orators. Ex-President
later,
Hayes,

446

Student atHarvard

A Negro

as I have said, I had nothing to do

sneered at this fact.While,

at the election
which
the plot, and was not even present
at
chose Morgan,
I was greatly
this
of the
breaking
pleased
a
sum
color line. Morgan
and I became
fast friends and spent
mer giving
our col
to defray
Shore
the North
along
readings
costs.
lege
with

of this day was

Harvard

a great

and a young American Negro


of work

rather

different

those

dents. I burned no midnight


and had my day
spent a great deal of time

with

of most

out
parceled
in the library

the

of

oil. I did my

stu

other

studying

in the

to the minute.

almost

and did my

assignments

thoroughness and with prevision of the kind of work

wanted
of

man

and I realized it. I formed habits

from

daytime

for a young

opportunity

the

to do

later. From

teachers

whole

at Harvard

to receive
student,
were not of paramount
importance,
way knew what he wanted.
in the

had

social

were

sciences

no

most

with

relations

They
to whom

a serious

glad
lar activities

a general
Harvard

the beginning
my
were
pleasant.

on

the

extracurricu
and one who

in

leadership

of

such

thought and breadth of learning as in philosophy,

literature

and physical
science. She was then groping
and is still groping
toward a scientific
treatment
of human
action. She was
facing
at the end of the century
a tremendous
era. In the
economic
United
trans
finance was
in monopolizing
States,
succeeding
raw
and
materials
like sugar, coal and oil. The power
portation
of the trust and combine was so great that the Sherman Act was
passed

in 1890. On

manufacturers,
to the indefensible

the tariff, at the demand


of
hand,
to rise in height
from the McKinley
that domination
easier.
tariff, making

the other

continued
Wilson

The understanding between the Industrial North and the New


South was being perfected and, beginning in 1890, a series of
states that was
laws was enacted by the Southern
disfranchising
in the next sixteen years to make
destined
by Southern
voting

Negroes practically impossible. A financial crisis shook the land


in 1893 and popular discontent showed itself in the Populist
movement
den

and Coxey's

of taxation

began

Army. The whole


to be discussed.

447

question

of the bur

The Massachusetts
These

we

things

understanding
free trade and against
Ricardo
and wasted

some

with

discussed

at Harvard.

Review
clearness
and factual
was
toward English

The

tendency
tariff policy. We
reverenced
on
I re
hours
the
long
"Wages-fund."
course
econom
Ricardean
dying
supporting

member

the American

Taussig's
came from what
ics.Wages
employers
their own reward.
they had subtracted
was
too small
to attract
the employer,
worker

had

for

left

after

labor

that

this profit
Suppose
the poor
what would
were viewed
and monopolies

trusts
starve! The
as
enemies
of democracies,
but at the same
frankly
dangerous
were
time as inevitable methods
of industry. We
strong for the
standard
other
fearful
On
the
the
and
of
silver.
hand,
gold
do but

attitude
ous

of Harvard

and

condemnatory.
and the railway

Chicago

labor was

toward

Strikes
strikes

on the whole

of

1886,

of

like

that

the

the

contemptu
anarchists

terrible

in

Home

stead strike of 1892 and Coxey's Army of 1894 were pictured


as ignorant
evitable.

lawlessness,

was mentioned

Karl Marx
his

theses

had

against

lurching

been

conditions

in

largely

to point out how thoroughly


the theory
itself
almost
notice.
but
tolerant
given

only

of
was

disproven;

nothing was said. Henry


George
The
anarchists
the Nihilists
of Spain,
these were

miners?all
nomic
vard

viewed
as
but
development
sporadic
was
the child of its era. The
of the

flowering
were yielding
make Harvard
and

not

freedom

nineteenth

and

centuries

eighteenth
early
to the deadening
economic
pressure which would
This
rich but reactionary.
of wealth
defender

half
already
to
finally
replace
The
warmonger.

son easily

intellectual

and

late

capital,

willing
nervous

the British
of Russia,
as part of political
and eco
evil. This was natural. Har

ashamed
an Eliot

with

was

and Phillips,
a manufacturer

and

that mobbed

Garri

social

Sacco

electrocuted

of Sumner

community
and Vanzetti.

It was not until I was long out of college and had finished
my first studies of economics and politics that I realized the
fundamental
all
were

his

other

influence
efforts.

conventional,

man's

efforts

to earn
we

The

politics which
when
it came
especially

448

a living
studied

had

upon
in college
to describing
and

A Negro

at Harvard

Student

in
The Queen's
the current scene in Europe.
Jubilee
our
was
at
set
the
think
I
of
still
while
pattern
Fisk,
1887,
June,
atWindsor
became a magnificent
little old woman
sym
ing. The
elucidating

bol of Empire. Here was England with her flag draped around
the world,
ruling more
colored
of the
peoples
to
civilization
assumed,
the traveling

ley,

folk

black
and

reporter,

the

leading

as we

and,
1885, Stan
and symbol

baptism,
In
self-rule.
became a hero

eventual

American

and

than white

to Christian

earth

of white world leadership in Africa. The wild, fierce fight of


theMahdi and the driving of the English out of the Sudan for
years did not
of the martyrdom

thirteen
only

Chinese

booter,
After

reveal

the drunken

of

to me.

truth

inner

their

I heard
and

Bible-reader

free

Gordon.

the Congo Free State was established,


the Berlin
Con
an
act
was
to
of
civilization
ference
1885
be
against
reported
the slave
and liquor.
and
Germans
trade
French,
English
of

pushed on in Africa, but I did not question the interpretation


which

this

pictured

nevolent

as the advance

and

civilization

I read

of barbarians.

tutelage

of

of

the be

confirmation

the

of

the Triple Alliance in 1891. Later I saw the celebration of the


renewed Triple Alliance on the Tempelhofer Feld, with the
new young Emperor Wilhelm
of Bismarck,
led the splendid
I left Germany,

Nicholas

fresh

II, who,

pageantry;
II became Czar

his dismissal

from

the year
and, finally,
of all the Russias.
In

all this I had not yet linked the political development

of Europe

the race problem


in America.
a guest
I was repeatedly
in the home of William
he
James;
was my friend and guide
as a member
to clear thinking;
of the
with

I remem

Philosophical Club I talked with Royce and Palmer;


once
ber vividly
tion. We
ceased
across

clothed;
Royce

an

extraordinary
a big red-thatched

put my

Royce
for a moment

standing
conversation

the room. Professor

was

He

beside Mrs.

thoughts

Royce

was

sight:
head
into words:

at a small
and

both

recep
glanced

opposite
talking excitedly.
little
body,
indifferently

a
and

blazing

blue

"Funny-looking

eyes. Mrs.
isn't
man,

he?" I nearly fainted! Yet I knew how she worshipped him.


I sat in an upper

room

and read Kant's

449

Critique

with

Santa

The Massachusetts

Review

to sitting be
who
invited a Southerner,
yana; Shaler
objected
to leave his class; he said he wasn't
side me,
doing very well,
was after
one of Hart's
I became
favorite
anyway.
pupils and
wards
guided
on my work
It was
well.

course and started


by him through my graduate
courses
in Germany.
Most
of my
of study went
at
in English
that I came nearest my Waterloo

at Harvard
I had unwittingly
in the midst
arrived
of
A
about poor English
students.
controversy
among
number
of fastidious
scholars
like Barrett Wendell,
the great
had come to the campus about this
pundit of Harvard
English,
over
New
sensitive
itself was getting
time; moreover,
England

Harvard.
a violent

western

slang and
Freshmen

grammar.
courses

at

drawls

this

time

and
could

of
general
ignorance
all their
elect nearly

that was
English;
compulsory,
But
and
examinations.
tough

except

themes,

southern

theses,

with
I was

daily
at the

content
in my
the
when
intellectual
development
was
to me of prime
than the form of my writing
im
Words
in
mind
and
and
ideas
my
portance.
surged
spilled
out with
taste
in grammar,
in
of exact
accuracy
disregard
or restraint
I knew
word
in style.
and
the Negro
problem
point
rather

this was

more

to me

I knew
than literary
form.
a
but
wide
grammar
pretty
fairly
vocabulary;
I was bitter, angry and intemperate
in my first thesis. Naturally
in the way
in
instructors
had no idea of nor interest
my English
which

important
and
well,

Southern

raw flesh.

attacks

Tillman

was

I had

on the Negro
like
raging

scratching me on the
and
in the Senate,
of rich and well-dressed
women,

those
clubs, especially
and
his services eagerly

literary
engaged

were

a beast

listened

avidly.

Senator

Mor

gan of Alabama had just published a scathing attack on "nig


gers"

in a leading

magazine,

when

my

first Harvard

due. I let go at him with no holds barred. My


effort

thesis was

long and blazing

came back marked

It was
countered

"E"?not
passed!
career that I had en
in my
scholastic
such a failure.
I was aghast,
but I was not a fool. I

the first

time

did not doubt but that my instructors were fair in judging my


English technically even if they did not understand the Negro
problem. I went to work at my English and by the end of that
450

Student atHarvard

A Negro

that while
raised it to a "C." I realized
style is subor
can be composed
to content,
and that no real literature
solid
nevertheless
and fastidious
phrases,
simply of meticulous
a
than
further
content with
poor
message
style carries
literary
the best course on the
I elected
and muddled
grammar
syntax.
12.
campus for English
composition?English
term had

dinate

I have

always
indeed

not

future,

a theme

Wendell.

I have

stances,
my

me

before

to Barrett

1890

I submitted

which

on October

3,

I wrote:

circum
by my
"Spurred
to systematically
been given
planning
mistakes
and
without
many
frequent
a

to have been
I now conceive
but always with what
the
fact that to live
of
early and deep appreciation

alterations,
strangely

a serious thing. I determined while


lege?partly

men

other

because

that such discipline would


but
foolishly
perhaps,
the world,
and I have

is

in high school to go to col

did,

partly

best fit me

I foresaw

because

for life._I

believe,

to say to
something
12 in order to say it well."

I have

that
sincerely,
taken English

liked that last sentence. Out of fifty essays, he

Barrett Wendell

to read to the class.


picked
was
Commencement
approaching,
on one of the
at midnight
myself
this out

used

out

to roll

from

Boston

when,

one

I found
day,
streetcars
that

swaggering
to Cambridge.
its way

on

It was

in the spring of 1890, and quite accidentally I was sitting by a


with me
in June. As I dimly
would
graduate
a
was
he
young man;
remember,
well-dressed,
nice-looking
manner.
was
almost dapper,
in
he
rich or at
Probably
charming
an exclusive
to
and doubtless
least well-to-do,
frater
belonged
not
me.
even
did
that
I
interest
Indeed
have
nity, although
who

classmate

forgotten
was his

his name.
rather

But

regretful

one

I shall

thing
admission

never

(which

and

forget

slipped

out

that

as we

that he had no idea as to what his life work would

gossiped)

as he added,

be, because,

"There's

nothing

in which

I am par

ticularly interested!"
I was more
any human

was

than astonished?I

being

of the mature

age

almost

outraged
of twenty-one
who

to meet
did

not

have his life all planned before him, at least in general outline,
and who

was

not

supremely,

if not

451

desperately,

interested

in

Review

The Massachusetts

to do.
he planned
from Har
In June
1890, I received my bachelor's
degree
one
was
I
of the five graduating
vard cum laude in philosophy.
to speak at commencement.
students
selected
My
subject was

what

I chose itwith the deliberate intent of facing

"Jefferson Davis."
Harvard

the nation

and

a discussion

with

of
of the president
effort
made
my
Naturally,

in the person

trated

of America.
other

among

things:

of

slavery
the Confederate

to consider

"I wish

the

idea

the

of

not

the man,

but

naturally
advanced
national
finally,

the cool logic


history,
brave and generous
man,
civilization
by murdering

coupled

of

said,
the

its foundation is

the Club.

with

the

the logic of

it is this idea that has made

even modern

States

sensation.

man?Individualism

strong

illus

type of civilization which his life represented:


rule of might?and

as

of a

It made

one who

Davis,
Jefferson
then a hero
Indians;
the Mexican
called by courtesy
War;
disgrace,
as the crowning
the
champion
absurdity,
peculiar

of a
and
of a

people fighting to be free in order that another people should


not be free. Whenever

this
it has

the individual

realm,
and philosophy

in the policy

for a moment

idea has

an even more

found

The

of the State.

from
escaped
secure foothold
and
strong man

his mighty Right Arm has become the Strong Nation with

its

Davis
under whatever
armies. However,
may
guise a Jefferson
a
as
race, or as
appear as man,
nation, his life can only logically
mean
at the expense
of
this: the advance
of a part of the world
sense of the I, and the consequent
the overwhelming
the whole;
of

forgetting
civilization

the Thou.

has

always

It has
been

thus

happened
by

handicapped

that

advance

in
na

shortsighted

tional selfishness. The vital principle of division of labor has


stifled

been

not

only

so as
in civilization;
for a new race to introduce

in industry,

but

to render
a new
that

it well-nigh
impossible
idea into the world
except by means
a nation
is in the way
of civilization

culture
and a system
of human
terms,
rise of one race on the ruins of another
this

also

is the

sented:

type

of

it represents

civilization
a field

452

say
in

is the
principle
is a farce and a lie. Yet

whose

Davis
Jefferson
and
stalwart manhood

which
for

of the cudgel. To
is a contradiction

repre
heroic

Student atHarvard

A Negro

and at the same time for moral


and re
obtuseness
character,
fined brutality.
These
contradictions
of
character
al
striking
a
arise
when
become
that the
convinced
ways
seemingly
people
not
the
of
is
world
but
Teutonic
civilization."
civilization,
object
wrote
A Harvard
to Kate Fieldys Washington,
then
professor
a leading
com
"Du
orator
the
colored
of
the
Bois,
periodical:
a ten-strike.
mencement
It is agreed
stage, made
upon by all
seen
was
I
the people
have
that he
the star of the occasion. His
was

on

and you would


have been sur
Davis,'
man
so
him
deal
with
Such
prised
generously.
as
a
a
a
'keen
and
phrases
'great man,'
thinker,'
'strong leader,'
others akin occurred
in the address. One
of the trustees
of the
me
was
told
that
the
considered
paper
University
yesterday
paper

'Jefferson
a colored

to hear

in every way. Du
and doubtless
Massachusetts,

Bois

masterly

is from

Great

some white

has

Barrington,
in his veins.

blood

too, has been in my classes the past year. If he did not head
He,
near the head,
the class, he came pretty
for he is an excellent
scholar in every way, and altogether
the best black man
that has
come to Cambridge."

Bishop Potter
at the

"When

saw a young

of New York wrote


last

colored

commencement
man

I said
eloquent
address,
race can do if they have
resolute

in the Boston Herald:

of Harvard

appear
to myself:
a clear

...

and heard

University,
his brilliant

I
and

an historic
is what
'Here
a
and a
field,
high purpose,

will.'"

I had now received more


than most young
education
Already
white men, having
been almost
in
school from the
continuously
to
six
of
I
not
But
did
I felt
feel
age
twenty-two.
yet
prepared.
that to cope with
the new and extraordinary
situations
then

developing
further

in the United

and

in knowledge

training

I revelled
Royce

States and the world I needed to go

that as a matter

of fact

of social

I had

just well

in the keen analysis of William

and young

George

begun

my

conditions.

Santayana.

But

it was

James, Josiah
James

with

his

pragmatism and Albert Bushnell Hart with his research


method who turned me back from the lovely but sterile land of
philosophic

speculation

to the

social

453

sciences

as

the

field

for

The Massachusetts

Review

gathering and interpreting that body of fact which would apply


to my

As

for the Negro.

program

I had

undergraduate,

talked

James about teaching philosophy, my

frankly with William

but not by any means


be
me,
discouraged
me
in his classes. He used to give
"A's" and
even "A-plus,"
is "not much
but as he said candidly,
there
a living
as a
was
chance of anyone
He
earning
philosopher."

major
cause

subject. He
of my record

repeating just what Chase of Fisk had said a few years previ
ously.
I knew
ing a living

sole chance of earn


my
by this time that practically
was
to
with
combined
teach, and after my
study

work with Hart

inUnited

States history I conceived the idea of

to an historical
interpretation
I was trying to take my first

of race rela
philosophy
applying
tions. In other words,
steps toward
as
human
action.
It
without
the
science
of
goes
saying
sociology
or
at Harvard
that no such field of study was then recognized
came to be recognized
for twenty years after. But I began with
some research
at the suggestion
in Negro
and finally
of
history
to
slave
trade
as
to
the
Then
question
in the graduate
school. I had no

I chose
the suppression
Hart,
as my doctor's
America
thesis.
I could continue
whether
study

of

the African
came

resources inwealth or friends. I applied for a fellowship


graduate

school

of Harvard,
for a year

was

Henry
appointed
later the appointment

and

in the

Bromfield
was
re

Rogers

fellow

newed;

so that from 1890 to 1892 I was a fellow inHarvard

University,

studying

history

and

science

political

and

what

would have been sociology ifHarvard had yet recognized such


a field.
I finished the first draft of my thesis and delivered an outline
of

it at the

seminars

spring.

I was

of American

history

and

political

7, 1891. I received my master's degree

omy December

thereupon

elected

to

the American

econ

in the

Historical

at their meeting in
Society and asked to speak inWashington
New
1892.
The
York
December,
Independent noted this
among

the "three

best papers

presented,"

and

continued:

The article upon the "enforcement


of the Slave Laws" was written
and read by a black man. It was thrilling when one could, for a moment,
turn his thoughts from listening to think that scarcely thirty years have

454

Student atHarvard

A Negro
the war

since
elapsed
men
white

listening

of

and

race,

The

the

voice,

here

was

an

audience
a

to

moreover,

man?listening,

the en

had not prevented


the manner

diction,

of

of

careful,

the

speaker

faultless. As one looked at him, one could not help saying, "Let us

were
not

race.

his

his

freed

a black

history of the laws which

cool, philosophical
slavement

that
to

the

about

worry

future

of

our

in

country

the

matter

of

race

distinctions."

I had begun with a bibliography of Nat Turner


a

with

of the suppression
of the African
history
to
neither
would
be
need
done again,
America;

day. Thus

slave

to

trade

at least

in my

inmy quest for basic knowledge with which to help

the American

guide

and ended

I came

Negro,

to the study

of sociology,

by

way of philosophy and history rather than by physics and biol


ogy.

After

history.
threshold

On

orientation

between

and

I chose
economics,
on the
then
hand, psychology,
hovering
soon took a new
of experiment
under Muensterberg,
I could understand
which
from the beginning.
hesitating
the other

history

I had made up my mind

Already

that what

I needed was

were
at
training
the top of their reputation.
American
scholar who wanted
Any
went
to Germany
for study. The
faculties
of Johns
preferment
new
were
and
the
of
to
Hopkins
University
Chicago
beginning
in Europe.

further

be filled
Frank

with
had

universities
universities

The

German

Ph.D.'s,
had
taught,

long
did not
made

no

recognize

German

universities

and even Harvard,

where

imported Muensterberg.
American
and
degrees
effort to encourage American

Kuno
British
French

special
to study

grad
in Germany.
I was determined
on my part to become
that any failure
a recognized
American
scholar must not be based on lack of modern
training.

uates.

I wanted

then

I was confident. So far I had met no failure. I willed and lo!


I was

beneath

walking

the

elms

of Harvard?the

name

of

the

of my
wildest
I
visions!
allurement,
youngest,
college
needed money;
and prizes
fell into my
scholarships
lap?not
or strove for, but all I needed
all I wanted
to keep me in school.
Commencement
came, and standing before governor,
president,
and grave gowned men,
I told them certain truths, waving
my

arms and breathing fast! They


seemed

to many

applauded with what may have

as uncalled-for

fervor,

455

but

I walked

home

on

The Massachusetts
pink clouds of glory!
announced
no more

my

plan

fellowships

Review

I asked for a fellowship


in Germany,

of studying
for me. A

friend,

and got it. I

but Harvard

had

told me

of the

however,

Slater Fund and that the Board was looking for colored men
worth

educating.

to me.
of modest
I rushed
hesitation
occurred
thought
at the chance. It was one of those tricks of fortune which
always
seem partly due to chance.
In 1882,
the Slater Fund
for the
No

of Negroes
had been
headed
ex-President
by

education
1890 was

established
R.

and

the

board

in

Ex-President

B. Hayes.

went down
to Johns Hopkins
admitted
which
Hayes
University,
a
no Negro
a
and
in
told
frank
talk
students,
"darkey"
joke
the
about the plans of
fund. The Boston Herald
of November
him as saying:
"If there is any young
colored
2, 1890 quoted
man

whom we find to have a talent for art or lit


or any special aptitude
to give
for study, we are willing
him money
from the educational
funds to send him to Europe
or
him
education."
He
advanced
that so far they
added
give
to me a nasty
had been able to find only "orators."
seemed
This
in the South

erature

fling at my
class orator

black classmate, Morgan,


a few months
earlier.

who

had

been Harvard

was brought
at a card
to my attention
statement
Hayes
me
one
not
and
it
made
angry but
party
only
evening;
good
a scholar
me
to
ex-President
and
ask
for
write
Hayes
inspired
a
I
the
that
received
quo
newspaper
ship.
pleasant
reply saying
in
that his board had some such program
tation was
incorrect;
The

the past

but

had

sponded
referring
me, and intimating
fair nor honest. He
he was
that

no present
for such scholarships.
plans
him to my
teachers
and to others who

change of plan did not seem to me


wrote
mood
and said that
again in apologetic
that
the plan had been given
he
up,
recognized
that his

sorry
I was a candidate

attention.

I re
knew

I then

who

sat down

might
and wrote

otherwise
Mr.

have

Hayes

this

been

given
letter:

May 25, 1891


favor of the 2nd. is at hand. I thank you for your kind wishes.
You will pardon me if I add a few words of explanation as to my applica
an
is as I expected it would be. The
tion. The outcome of the matter
Your

456

Student atHarvard

A Negro

to give
that any agency of the American people was willing
nouncement
a thoroughly liberal education and that it had been looking in
a Negro
for men

vain

was

pulse

to

was

educate

to

say

clipping was handed me

newspaper

to make

some

in

the

way

public

rather

least

in a company

first im

statement

categorical

the

When

startling.

of friends, my

denying

that such an offer had ever been made known to colored students. I saw
this would be injudicious and fruitless, and I therefore determined on the
I did so and have been refused along with a
plan of applying myself.
of

"number

cases"

mine.

beside

As to my case, I personally care little. I am perfectly capable of fight


ing alone for an education if the trustees do not see fit to help me. On
the other hand the injury you have?unwittingly
I trust?done
the race
I

are

and
represent,
a number

before

authority
the

of

not

for

opportunity

men

looked

couldn't

advancement.

That

or wouldn't
statement

upon

you

as

an

that the Negroes


a most

embrace
went

went

You

irreparable.

who

and told them in substance

either

States

is almost

of,

observant

keenly

in the matter,

United

ashamed

all

over

of

liberal

the

country.

now

finally you receive three or four applications for the fulfill


of that offer, the offer is suddenly withdrawn,
while the impres
sion still remains.
If the offer was an experiment, you ought to have had at least one
case before withdrawing
it; if you have given aid before (and I mean

When
ment

here

toward liberal education?not


toward training plowmen)
then
statement
at
was
the
From
above
I
facts
your
Johns Hopkins
partial.
think

you

competent
we

But

owe

an

men
can't

apology
for every

educate

to

the Negro

European
on

ourselves

people.
scholarship
and

nothing

We

are
furnished

we

can't

ready
us
have

to

furnish

off

paper.

the moral

courage to try, if in the midst of our work our friends turn public senti
ment against us by making
statements which
injure us and which they
cannot

stand

by.

That you have been looking for men to liberally educate in the past
may be so, but it is certainly strange so few have heard it. It was never
mentioned during my three years stay at Fisk
President Price
University.
a
of Livingstone,
me that he
has
told
[then
leading Negro
spokesman]
never heard of it, and students from various other Southern schools have
fact is that when
expressed great surprise at the offer. The
come
to
to
while
in
the
ing
Harvard,
yet
South, I wrote
a
G.
leader
of
Southern white
good, [Atticus
Haygood,

I was want
to Dr. Hay
liberals], for a
loan merely, and he never even answered my letter. I find men
willing
to help me thro' cheap
theological schools, I find men willing to help me

457

The Massachusetts

Review

use my hands before I have got my brains in working order, I have an


to
abundance of good wishes on hand, but I never found a man willing
me get a Harvard Ph.D.
help
was stirred. He
to take up the matter
the
Hayes
promised
next year with
the board. Thereupon,
the next year I proceeded
to write
the board: "At the close of the last academic
year at
was
re
the
and
I
of
Master
of
received
Arts,
Harvard,
degree
to my fellowship
I have spent
for the year
1891-92.
appointed
on the
most of the year in the preparation
thesis
doctor's
of my
a pre
in America.
I prepared
of the Slave Trade
Suppression
the American
paper on this subject and read it before
liminary
at its annual meeting
atWashington
dur
Historical
Association
to finish my education,
ing the Christmas
holidays....
Properly
in a European
for at least a year is, in
careful training
university
of my professors,
and the minds
my mind
absolutely
indispen
I thereupon
asked respectfully
"aid to study at least a
sable."

ticable,

"that

pose."

I did

the direction

of the graduate
of
department
was
not
and
if
this
prac
reputable
auspices"
sum for this pur
the board loan me a sufficient
an
not of course believe
that this would
get me

year abroad under


or other
Harvard

appointment, but I did think that possibly through the influence


of people who thus came to know about my work,
I might
to get to Europe.
how borrow or beg enough
I rained recommendations
The Slater
upon Mr. Hayes.

Board surrendered, and I was given a fellowship

ex-President

emerging
walking
in a shop window.
which was
dollars,

possibly
however,
loan with
and

in the old Astor


Hayes
House,
on air. I saw an
delectable
especially
I went
in and asked about
it. It cost

about

four

times

as much

for a shirt inmy life; but I bought it.

458

Fund

of $750 to

the promise
that it might
study a year abroad, with
for a second year. To
be renewed
salve their souls,
this grant was made
half as gift and half as repayable
to New York
I
interest.
remember
5%
rushing down
ing with

some

as I had

ever

talk
and
shirt
three
paid

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