|II||Paul Laurence Dunbar||41|
|III||Booker T. Washington||63|
|V||Alexander S. Pushkin||105|
|VI||Blanche Kelso Bruce||117|
|X||Toussaint L' Ouverture||167|
|X||Toussaint L' Ouverture||167|
|XVII||John Mercer Langston||269|
|Frederick Douglass||C. Thorpe||10|
|Booker T. Washington||C. Thorpe||62|
|She Told Her Hearers Thrilling Stories||Laura Wheeler||86|
|"My Children, Choose Your Duty"||Marcellus Hawkins||180|
|Crispus Attucks Spoke Against The British Soldiers||Hilda Rue Wilkinson||228|
|Paul Cuffe's Brig||C. Thorpe||248|
Incasting about for stories to read to a little friend, one day I drew from the Library "My Life and Times" by Frederick Douglass. I knew that the book was written for grown-ups and that it contained many pages, but I did not know that in it was bound up a world of inspira tion; for I had never read the book, although I had spent five years in college and university.
This story and the other stories in "Unsung Heroes", telling of the victories in spite of the hardships and struggles of Negroes whom the world has failed to sing about, have so inspired me, even after I am grown, that I pass them on to you, my little friends. May you with all of your years ahead of you be so inspired by them that you will succeed in spite of all odds, that you will
"Go on and up ! Our souls and eyes Shall follow thy continuous rise ; Our ears shall list thy story From bards who from thy root shall spring, And proudly tune their lyres to sing Of Ethiopia's glory."
unsungheroes010.jpg Frederick Douglass
THE ORATOR AND ABOLOTIONIST
TUCKAHOEis the name of a plantation on the eastern shore of Maryland. It was once known for its worn-out, flat, sandy soil; for its old, poorly-kept fields and fences, and for its stupid and ignorant people. On one side of this plantation flowed a lazy, muddy river, bringing with it, as some believed, ague and fever.
At some distance from the river bank stood rows of log cabins suggestive of a quaint village whose only streets are the trodden footpaths and whose only street lights are the moon and the stars.
The cabins all looked very much alike except one which stood off to itself. Each one of these cabins had a door but no window, a dirt floor, a fence-rail loft for a bed, and a ladder by which to reach it. And each had a clay chimney with a broad open fireplace and just a block of wood at the door for steps. In this little log-cabin village, called "the quarters" lived the slaves.
Nearly every morning, just at peep of day, the cabin doors were unfastened
and people began to stir until "the quarters" were almost like a bee-
unsungheroes012.jpg hive. Men, women, and children large enough to work were getting ready to go to the fields nearby. Some with their smoking clay or corn-cob pipes in their mouths were jumping astride the bare backs of mules or horses. Some were beginning to ride off without a sound other than that of the jingle of gear and beat of hoofs. Still others followed.
Now and then a woman hastened to the lone cabin which stood off from "the quarters", pulling by the hand a child or two, or carrying them in her arms. She tarried at this cabin, presided over by "Grandma" Betsy Bailey, just long enough to leave her little children and then hastened on to the field.
Grandma Betsy, an active old fisherwoman, fed the children just as a man feeds his pigs. After placing the mush in a little trough, she set the trough either down on the dirt floor or out in the yard. Then she waved her hand to the children, who made a rush for the trough, each with a little piece of board or an oyster shell in his hand for a spoon. Some of them, without seeming to rush, tried to eat faster than the others, but Aunt Betsy had only to cut a sharp eye at such offenders.
She never thought of trying to call any one of them name except her own
unsungheroes013.jpg ick Augustus Washington Bailey. Children on the Tuckahoe plantation were not supposed to have names or to know about their ages. Neither were they supposed to know the names of the days of the week or the months of the year, or to know anything at all about time.
Frederick thought much of Grandma Betsy's cabin, of the eating trough, of his bed in the loft by her side, and of the potato hole in front of her cabin fireplace. Little thought of his age or of any separation from his grandma ever entered his mind. Grandma Betsy, however, spent a part of each day thinking especially of his age and the time when he would be separated from her.
She had already begun to picture the circumstanes of their separation. One day she said to herself as she sat patting her foot: "Freddie is just about seven years old now. I know old Master will soon be sending some one down from the 'Great House' for him." She waited and looked and listened for days but no one came. She was beginning to wonder where old Master was, when suddenly one Friday afternoon he came down himself and gave orders for Frederick to be carried away the next day. Grandma Betsy simply curtsied, saying, "Yes sir, Master, yes sir."
On this particular afternoon she was engaged
unsungheroes014.jpg in mending her net for fishing. She finished her task at the close of the day, and early that night she climbed the ladder leading to the bed in the loft of the cabin with tears trickling down her cheeks. She lay down on her bed by the side of Frederick, but instead of going to sleep she lay there thinking, thinking, thinking. Finally the comforting words of an old plantation melody came to her mind. She began singing it to herself just above a whisper:
Over and over again she sang it until she dozed off into a light slumber. Suddenly the straws on her rail bed seemed to stick her and the hard rails seemed to push up through the rags and hurt her sides. She turned and twisted and opened her eyes, but refused to admit to herself that she was restless until again she began to sing over and over the melody:
The singing finally died away and all was quiet.
The next morning Grandma Betsy rose even earlier than usual and went about
her work Fred-
unsungheroes015.jpg erick also soon tumbled down from the loft without any thought of a bath or of changing his shirt, for, like the other slave boys, he dressed just once a week and that was Saturday night when he took his bath.
On this Saturday morning Grandma Betsy turned about more rapidly than usual and was therefore soon ready to start on her journey. With a white cloth on her head tied in turban style and the stem of her clay pipe between her teeth, she walked out, pulled and fastened the door behind her and stretched out her hand to Frederick who was sitting on the door-step. "Come, Freddie, we are going away today," said she.
He looked at her and asked, "Where are we going, Grandma?"
She simply shook her head, saying again, "Come on son."
Accustomed to obeying, he arose and grasped her hand but seemingly more relunctantly than usual. Out they went.
After a time Frederick began to stumble along as the journey lengthened, murmuring, "I am tired, Grandma."
Grandma Betsy stopped and squatted down. "Get on my shoulders, son," she
said. Freddie stepped behind her, placed his little arms around
unsungheroes016.jpg her neck and with her assistance scrambled up on her shoulders with his legs about her neck. Not another word was spoken. Grandma Betsy rose with her burden and trudged on until Freddie begged her to let him walk again so that she might rest. Finally she squatted down, and Freddie with his tired little limbs almost fell off her shoulders.
Grandma Betsy stretched out both her arms. "Whew!" she said.
Freddie looked at her then and placed his arms around her as best he could, saying tenderly, "Grandma Betsy, was I heavy? Are you tired? I am so sorry."
They continued the journey until they reached the home of Frederick's new master on a plantation twelve miles away. Immediately they went into the kitchen where there were children of all colors, besides Aunt Katie, the cook. The children asked Frederick to come out and play with them but he refused until his grandmother urged him to go. They went out behind the kitchen. Frederick stood around at first as if afraid of the other children. Then he backed up against the kitchen wall and stood there as if he thought the kitchen might run away from him. While he stood there Grandma Betsy tip-toed out unseen by him.
One of the children came up to him and said, "Fred, Fred, your grandma's gone!" Frederick ran into the house as fast as he could and looked all around for her. Not seeing her, he ran a little way down the road and called her. She did not answer. Then he fell down and began to kick and cry. His brother and two sisters who had formerly been brought there tried to pet him, and to coax him to eat some apples and pears.
"No," said he, still kicking, "I want Grandma." There he lay until nightfall, when Aunt Katie came out and told him he must come in. He went in and lay down in the corner, crying and begging to be taken back home. The trip that day, however, had made him so tired that he soon fell asleep.
The next morning he asked Aunt Katie when Grandma Betsy was coming back to get him. She rolled her eyes and cast such fiery glances at him that Frederick understood and hushed. He had thought of asking for ash-cake like that which Grandma Betsy used to make, but her look drove that out of his mind.
Aunt Katie was not long in giving Frederick to understand that he was to
drive up the cows every evening, keep the yard clean, and wait on Miss
Lucretia, his master's daughter. The very first time Frederick went on an
errand for Miss
unsungheroes018.jpg Lucretia she smiled and gave him a piece of buttered bread. He smiled, too, from ear to ear, bowed and ran off eating and wondering how she knew that he was so hungry. He always ran smiling whenever she called him. And when hunger pinched his little stomach hard, he nearly always crept under Miss Lueretia's window and tried to sing like Grandma Betsy :
He knew the next line but scarcely ever had chance to sing it before the window was open and a piece of buttered bread was handed out to him.
One evening during his first summer on this plantation the rain poured down seemingly in sheets. He could not stand under the window and try to sing and he had in some way offended Aunt Katie. She stood at the kitchen table cutting bread for the other children and occasionally brandishing the knife at Frederick, saying, "I'll starve you, sir." He sat there watching the other children eat, watching Aunt Katie and still keeping one eye on an ear of corn on the shelf by the fireplace. He did not lose his first opportunity to seize it and slip a few grains off the cob into the fire to parch.
While he sat there easing the parched grains of corn into his mouth, to his great joy in walked his own mother with a few cakes for him. She caressed him and asked him several questions. Seeing how nearly starved he was, she shook her fist at Aunt Katie and laid down the law to her. Then she tarried with her child for the last time, and even then just a short while — for she knew that she must again walk the twelve miles back to her home before the overseers came out and the horn was blown for field time.
Aunt Katie, remembering that stormy evening with Frederick's mother, said to him one day, "Come, Fred, and get a piece of bread. Dip it into this pot liquor." He curtsied first, then eagerly taking the bread, he walked up to the pot and dipped it and his hand as well into the greasy broth. For a few minutes he looked as though he would eat both bread and hand but the rattling of the dishes in his master's dining-room attracted his attention. He hesitated a moment, then smacked his greasy lips and bowed himself out of the kitchen and around to the side door of the dining-room.
Just as he reached the door of the dining-room, a big, grey cat slid in.
Frederick slid in too. Immediately they began to scramble for the crumbs
unsungheroes020.jpg under the table. As soon as these were gobbled up, Frederick rushed into the yard to get some of the bones and scraps which the maid had just thrown out for "Nep", the dog.
Clad, winter and summer, in just a tow sack shirt scarcely reaching to his knees, Frederick was as scantily clothed as he was fed. On cold winter days he often stood on the sunny side of the house or in the chimney corner to keep warm. On cold nights he crept into the kitchen closet and got into the meal bag headforemost. In addition to these hardships, he often saw his own relatives and others cruelly beaten. Burdened with such experiences, his childish heart began to long for another place to live.
One day, while he was in this unhappy frame of mind, Miss Lucretia called
him, saying that within three days he would be sent to Baltimore, to live
for a while with her brother and sister, Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Auld. "You must
go to the creek and wash all the dead skin off of your feet and knees," she
said to him. "The people in Baltimore are clean. They will laugh at you if
you look dirty. You can not put on pants unless you get all the dirt off,"
she added. Frederick made himself busy, spending most of the three days in
unsungheroes021.jpg creek, and part of the three nights jumping up to see if the boat was ready to go.
The following Saturday morning early, the boat sailed out of the Miles River for Baltimore. It was loaded with a flock of sheep for the market, and a few passengers, among whom was Frederick. After giving the old plantation a last look, as he thought, he made his way to the bow of the boat and spent the remainder of the day looking ahead. They arrived in Baltimore on Sunday morning. After Frederick had assisted in driving the sheep to the slaughter-house, one of the boat hands went with him to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Auld.
Mr. and Mrs. Auld and their little son, Thomas, met Frederick at the door and greeted him heartily. "Here is your Freddie who will take care of you, Tommy. Freddie, you must be kind to little Tommy," said Mrs. Auld. Frederick smiled and nodded his head. Thomas at once took hold of Frederick's hand and seemingly wished to hurry him into the house to see his toys.
The children played until they heard Mrs. Auld begin to read. Frederick stopped playing to listen. Thomas said, "Oh, come on, Freddie, let's play. That is just Mother reading the Bible. She reads it that way every day when Father is away."
"The Bible? What is that?" asked Frederick, looking at Thomas. Little Thomas, surprised because Frederick had never seen a Bible, ushered him into the room where his mother was reading. Thomas knew better than to interrupt his mother while she was reading, but as soon as she stopped, he told her why he had brought Frederick in. Mrs. Auld showed him the Bible, asked him a few questions and sent them both out to play.
Days passed, but not one when Mrs. Auld failed to read her Bible. Frederick became so interested in her reading that one day he went to her and asked her to teach him to read. She paused for a while as if in doubt, then she braced up and gave him a lesson. At the end of the lesson his little heart seemed so full of joy and thanks that he scarcely knew what to say or do.
Mrs. Auld, seeing the situation, said, "Run along now, Frederick. I know you are grateful. Come in at this time every day for your lesson." He made his way out and every day for several days, with beaming face, he went in for his lesson.
One day when Mr. Auld came in and saw his wife teaching the boy, he said to
her in great surprise, "My dear, are you really teaching that boy to read?
Don't you know he will learn to write? Then he will write a pass and run
away with him-
unsungheroes023.jpg self." She pleaded for Frederick, but Mr. Auld beat upon the door-facing, saying as he went out, "I will have no more of this nonsense. This must be the end of it." Mrs. Auld dismissed Frederick and seemingly repented of her mistake; but Frederick had learned his alphabet.
Soon he managed to get a Webster's spellingbook, which he always carried with him when sent on errands. After this, every time he went out, he made new friends until the very boys who at first pounced upon him at every corner, now began to help him with his spelling lessons. One day while he was on his way to the shipyard, and just after he had gotten a spelling lesson at the corner, it occurred to him that the boys might also help him to learn to write.
While he was in the shipyard, he watched the carpenters finish pieces of
timber for the different sides of the ships and mark each piece. For
instance, a piece for the larboard side was marked L and a piece for the starboard side was
marked S. He soon learned for what these
letters stood and how to make them. When he went out on the next errand, he
said to the boys, "You can't make as good an S as I can make." Such a challenge had to be met. They all dropped
down on their knees and began the contest by making letters on
unsungheroes024.jpg the pavement. Frederick watched closely and learned to make for the first time many other letters. He kept at it until he learned to make them all.
Then, thinking that he should practice on these letters and learn to make them well, he picked out a flour barrel, without letting any one know what he was doing, and carried it one night into the kitchen loft where he slept. He turned it up side down and propped himself up to it and used it as his desk. Knowing where little Tommy Auld's old copy-books were, he got one out the next day and took it to the loft. That night while the Aulds were asleep he sat in the loft and wrote between the used lines of the old copy-book.
His desire to learn led him into strange paths. One day as he trotted along on his usual errand, with the rain pelting him in the face and over the head, he thought he spied something in the gutter. He stopped suddenly and peeped further into that filthy gutter. There lay some scattered pages of the Bible. He picked them out of the rubbish, took them home and washed and dried them to read.
For days after that, when he went out, he kept his eyes on the gutters for
something else to read. Finding nothing there, he bought a box of shoe
unsungheroes025.jpg polish and a brush which he always took along on his errands. Whenever he passed any one with rusty boots or shoes on he said, "Shine, Mister, shine?" By shining boots and saving up carefully, his pennies grew and grew until he had fifty cents. With this he bought a book called the "Columbian Orator", which he read over and over again.
At the end of Frederick's seventh year in Baltimore, news came that he would be taken back to the plantation on the Eastern Shore on account of the death of his old master. This news came as a shock especially to him, Mrs. Auld and Thomas. The three of them, fearing that he might never return, wept bitterly. He was away only one month before he was sent back to Baltimore. Another change, however, soon took place which called him back again to the Eastern Shore, where he remained for two years.
He was now about sixteen years old, and had to work very hard every day and suffer such punishment that he was tired when night came. Yet he wished so much that his fellow slaves might learn to read that he interested a small class of them, which he taught three nights in every week.
He also organized a Sunday-school class of about thirty young men. This he
taught under an old oak tree in the woods until three class
unsungheroes026.jpg leaders in old master's church rushed in upon them one Sabbath and forbade their meeting. Later on, however, the class was again secretly begun with more than forty pupils, many of whom learned to read.
Frederick had been reading the "Columbian Orator" which described the cruelties and injustices of slavery. He had also been thinking of how to obtain his freedom; but the pleasant times with his Sunday-school class had delayed his taking any action in the matter. He had not given up the idea, however, for at the beginning of the year 1836 he made a vow that the year should not end without his trying to gain his freedom. He kept the vow in mind and finally told his secret to several of his companions, who agreed to share in a plan to escape.
They met often by night and every Sunday until the day set for their escape was at hand. They were hoping that no one would betray them, but just at the last minute the news leaked out. The boys were seized, dragged to town and thrown in prison, where they remained for some time.
For three years after Frederick's release from prison he worked in the fields
unsungheroes027.jpg hardships. The following three years he worked in a shipyard in Baltimore learning the calker's trade. During these last three years his mind was constantly running back to 1817, the year of his birth. Realizing how the years were passing, he was always thinking of some plan of escape. At last he hit upon what seemed to be a real one.
With arrangements all made for his escape, he arose early one September morning in 1838, put on a sailor's suit which a friend had lent him and started down to the depot just in time to take the train. He also carried what was called a sailor's protection, which had on it the American eagle. A hackman, whom he knew well, arrived at the depot with his baggage just as the train was about to pull out. Frederick grabbed his baggage, hopped on the train just like a sailor and took a seat. The train moved on slowly until it reached a certain river which had to be crossed by a ferry boat. On this boat there was a workman who insisted on knowing Frederick. He asked Frederick where he was going and when he was coming back. He persisted in asking questions until Frederick stole away to another part of the boat. After a short while he reached Wilmington, Delaware, where he took a steamboat to Philadelphia, and the train from there to New York City.
The wonderful sights of this great city seemed to make him forget almost everything except the fact that he was now a fugitive slave. A few hours after reaching New York, to his surprise he met on the street a man whom he had known in Baltimore. This man, also a fugitive, began at once to tell Frederick that there were men in New York City hired to betray fugitives and that he must therefore trust no man with his secret.
This news so disturbed Frederick, that instead of seeking a home, he spent the night among barrels on one of the New York wharves. Unable to remain longer without food or shelter, the next day he sought out on the streets a sailor who be friended him and then took him to the home of a Mr. Ruggles — an "underground railroad station" — where he was hidden for several days. During these days his sweetheart came on from Baltimore and they were married. On the day of their marriage they set out for New Bedford, Massachusetts, where Frederick as a ship's calker might possibly find work. Their money gave out on the way but a "Friend", seeing the situation, paid their fares for the remainder of the journey.
After reaching New Bedford, a room was soon secured in the home of a very
good man who liked Frederick's face. They talked of many things,
unsungheroes029.jpg among which was the wisdom of Frederick's changing his name. The man said, "I have just been reading Scott's Lady of the Lake and I suggest that you take the name Douglass, for that grand man, Douglass of Scotland."
"Douglass of Scotland? Who was he?" asked Frederick. The good man began by telling the story of the bravery in battle of Douglass of Scotland. Before he had finished his story, Frederick was eager to take the name of Douglass.
He had now a fine-sounding name — Frederick Douglass — but he had neither money nor a job. He started out seeking work at his trade but was told again and again that the calkers there would not work with him. Finally, he was forced to take whatever his hands could find to do. He sawed wood; he shoveled coal. He dug cellars; he removed rubbish from back yards. He loaded and unloaded ships and scrubbed their cabins until he secured steady work.
While he was at his work one day a young man brought him a newspaper edited
by a man whose name was William Lloyd Garrison, of whom Douglass had never
heard before. This paper, for which he immediately subscribed, was known as
"The Liberator". He read every word in the issue which the agent gave him
and waited impa-
unsungheroes030.jpg tiently for the next one to come. When it came, there was in it an article about a grand convention to be held in Nantucket. Douglass read the article to the home people. He said that he needed a vacation, which might well be taken at the time of this convention. The following issue of the paper told still more of the plans for the convention. He concluded that he must attend it.
He went to the convention without any thought of being known to any one or of taking any part whatever in the meetings. A prominent abolitionist, however, who had heard Frederick speak to his people in a little schoolhouse in New Bedford, sought him out and asked him to say a few words to the convention. When he rose to speak, he was trembling in every limb. He could hardly stand erect.
It seemed to him that he could scarcely say two words without hesitating or stammering, but he went on. As he told of his experiences as a slave, the audience was exceedingly quiet. When he had finished, the people broke into applause and excitement. William Lloyd Garrison, now known as a leading abolitionist, was the next speaker. He spoke with feeling, taking Frederick Douglass as his subject. The audience sat motionless and some people present even wept.
At the close of the meeting, another abolitionist came to Douglass and urged him to become a traveling agent for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. For two reasons, he did not wish to take such a position. In the first place, having been out of slavery just three years, he was afraid he could not speak well enough to travel in that way; and, secondly, he feared that his former master might hear of him and send for him. The abolitionist, however, unwilling to accept excuses, urged Douglass until finally he consented to travel for three months. Before many days had passed he was on the road as a lecturer against slavery.
One morning he went to Grafton, Massachusetts, and tried to get a place to hold a meeting. But he could not get a hall or even a church. Nevertheless, he was so determined to speak to the people that he went to a hotel and borrowed a dinner bell. Soon he was seen running through the streets like a madman, ringing the bell and crying out, "Frederick Douglass, recently a slave, will speak on Grafton Commons at seven o'clock tonight."
Many came out to hear what such a strange man could say and all left at the
close of that open-air meeting apparently more thoughtful
unsungheroes032.jpg than when they came. The next day ministers of the large churches in that town came to him and offered to open their doors for his meetings.
For several years he did nothing but travel and hold meetings. He attended one hundred anti-slavery conventions and spoke at every one of them. During the first three or four months of his travel he told the story of his experiences as a slave. Then he became tired of repeating the same old story and began to show by the manner in which he expressed himself that he was thinking deeply about the whole question of slavery.
"Let us have the facts. Be yourself and tell your story," said his hearers again and again, but Douglass said that he was tired of telling his personal story. He attempted to speak against the injustices heaped upon him and others, but his audiences murmured, saying, "He does not talk like a slave. He does not look or act like one; and, besides he does not tell us where he came from or how he got away; and he is educated, too."
Determined to remove doubt from their minds, Douglass wrote a narrative of
his life as a slave and had it published. Now that the story of his life was
published, friends like Wendell Phillips, fearing he might be captured and
taken back into slavery, advised that he go to Europe. He went
unsungheroes033.jpg and he spoke in all the large cities of England, Scotland and Ireland. In order that he might re turn home a free man, two women in England, "Friends" they were, started the plan of raising the money with which his freedom was purchased from his old master in Baltimore.
On his return to America, he went to Rochester, New York, and for sixteen years edited there a paper called The North Star. So much money was needed for publishing this paper that he even mortgaged his home. For twenty-five years he lived in Rochester. During those years he wrote and lectured and conducted an "underground railroad station" in that city.
Because of the disturbed conditions in his own country at this time, he went to Europe again but returned in six months on account of death in his family. Some of the disturbances which he left behind when he went away had subsided but others had risen. A President of the United States had to be elected. For a long time it seemed that no man was the choice of a majority of the people. Finally, Abraham Lincoln, who had once been a rail- splitter, was elected. Douglass worked hard to help elect Lincoln. He also took part in the terrible Civil War, which had come as a result of the country's disturbances.
As soon as the Governor of Massachusetts issued the order for the many soldiers needed, Douglass enlisted his own sons, Charles and Lewis, from New York State, and took a leading part in raising the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Negro Regiments. The first of these soon won fame and a name throughout the country because of its brave attack on Fort Wagner in the hour of trial. In that terrible battle at nightfall, the Fifty-fourth was fearfully cut to pieces, losing nearly half of its officers, among whom was its beloved commander, Colonel Shaw. Douglass, with his son Charles as a recruiting officer, worked steadily until the emancipation of the slaves and the close of the war were brought about.
He greatly rejoiced over the outcome of the war, yet a feeling of sadness
seemed to come over him. What was he to do? He felt that he had reached the
end of the noblest and best part of his life. He thought of settling on a
farm which he might buy with the few thousand dollars which he had saved
from the sale of his book, called "My Bondage and Freedom", and from the
proceeds of his lectures at home and abroad. The question, however, was soon
decided for him. To his surprise, invitations began to pour in upon
unsungheroes035.jpg him from colleges, clubs and literary societies offering him one hundred and even two hundred dollars for a single lecture.
One of the literary societies of Western Reserve College invited him to address its members on one Commencement Day. He had never been inside of a schoolhouse for the purpose of studying, therefore the thought of speaking before college professors and students gave him anxiety. He spent days in study for the occasion. Not being able to find in our libraries a certain book which he needed, he sent to England for it. Not long after his address on that Commencement Day, the thought came to Douglass that the Negro was still in need of the opportunity to vote, and thereby become a citizen. He talked about the question and finally set himself to the task of gaining this right for his people.
His first marked step in the matter was to gain for himself and ten other men
an interview with the President of the United States. The discussion on that
occasion brought the question practically before the whole American public.
The next great step in gaining the ballot for the freedmen was taken in
Philadelphia in 1866, at a great convention called the "National Loyalists'
unsungheroes036.jpg vention", which was attended by the ablest men from all sections of the country.
Douglass's own city, Rochester, New York, elected him to represent her. While he was marching in the long procession through the streets of Philadelphia, he saw standing on the corner of Ninth and Chestnut Streets, the daughter of Miss Lucretia Auld, under whose window he had sung as a hungry slave boy. He went to her and expressed his surprise and joy at seeing her.
"But what brought you to Philadelphia at this time?" Douglass asked.
She replied, "I heard you were to be here and I came to see you walk in the procession." She followed the procession for several blocks and joined in the applause given Frederick Douglass as he passed.
In that convention, resolutions were finally passed in favor of giving the freedmen the right to vote. Douglass was called forward to speak. The vote passed by that convention, it is said, had its influence in bringing about the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
After the convention, Douglass went to Washington, D. C., as editor of a
newspaper. It was
unsungheroes037.jpg not long before he became what is called Elector-at-Large for the State of New York. As such a representative, the Republican party of that state sent him to Washington to carry its sealed vote which went toward electing Grant as President. Douglass later received an invitation to speak at the monument of the unknown loyal dead, at Arlington, on Decoration Day.
Five years later, when he spoke at the unveiling of the Lincoln Monument in Lincoln Park, Washington, D. C., the President of the United States and his Cabinet, judges of the Supreme Court, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, and many thousands of other citizens were there to listen to him, to honor the memory of Lincoln and to show their appreciation of such a gift from the freedmen.
Douglass was appointed United States Marshal of the District of Columbia. As
Marshal he visited the criminal courts every day to see that the criminals
received justice. There were also high social duties attached to this
office. President Garfield later appointed him Recorder of Deeds of the
District of Columbia, at which post he remained for nearly five years. In
this position, he was responsible for having recorded in the public records
every transfer of property, every deed of
unsungheroes038.jpg trust and every mortgage made in the capital of the nation.
In 1886, two years after he was Recorder of Deeds, he and his wife — the second Mrs. Douglass — made a tour through England, Scotland and Ireland, where they met many great people besides the children of many of Douglass's old friends. His next and last appointment as a high public official was to the office of Minister to Hayti. President Harrison appointed him to this office. The President of Hayti also appointed him to act as commissioner for that country at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893.
Many boys and girls who have read his books admit that they have been inspired by the life he lived in traveling from the log cabin on the Eastern Shore of Maryland to the high and important offices which he held in Washington. The best one of these books is called "My Life and Times, by Frederick Douglass." After his death on February 20, 1895, at his home in Anacostia, District of Columbia, the citizens of Rochester, New York, erected a public monument to his memory.
His epitaph has been written in his own words:"Do not judge me by the heights to which I may have risen but by the depths from which I have come".
PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR
Chapter XII PAUL LAURENCE
ANelevator boy — Paul Laurence Dunbar — a black high — school graduate stood — for a few moments at the entrance to his elevator. He seemed to fix his eyes on every one entering the Callahan Building.
The Callahan Building was a large structure located in a busy section of Dayton, Ohio. Its quick elevator service in spite of its limited number of elevators was often a subject of comment. The grating of the elevator cables and the thud of the car as it stopped for passengers were constant reminders of the rapid service. Up and down, up and down, went the elevator, and ring, ring, went the bells from morning until night. As the elevator moved upward and downward with grating cables, Paul kept his ear turned as though he were listening to a song.
Apparently unnoticed, day after day he ran his elevator, stopping repeatedly
first at one floor and then another until one day a woman entered his car and
spoke to him. It was one of his former high-school teachers. After greeting him,
unsungheroes042.jpg eagerly told him that the Western Association of Writers would soon meet in Dayton. Before the short conversation was finished, she asked him to write a poem of welcome to that association and promised that she would arrange for him to recite it.
Paul's busy days seemed to come and go very rapidly. Yet when the Western Association of Writers met a few weeks later he had composed his poem of welcome for the occasion. The printed programs of the association did not contain his name. The first day of the meeting, however, after being excused from his elevator duties, clad as he was, he hurried to the hall in which the sessions were to be held. His teacher stood in the doorway waiting for him. He entered silently and made his way to the rostrum and began reciting his poem of welcome. Men and women in the audience at first straightened up to look at this swarthy lad. Then, as if suddenly struck by something in the poem, many a one turned his ear and leaned forward to listen. When Paul had finished, the entire audience broke into applause. Some even rushed forward to shake his hand.
At the close of the meeting some of the writers looked for the boy poet but he
had hurried back to his elevator. Just at the moment when they
unsungheroes043.jpg were about to give up their search for him they ran across his former high-school teacher. She, with enthusiasm exceeding theirs, told of Dunbar's graduating from high-school in 1891 with honors. She told of his composing the class-song which was sung at the commencement exercises. One of the writers interrupted to ask who the boy was and what he was doing. The teacher, speaking hurriedly as though she had something else important to tell first, said that Dunbar was once editor of their high-school paper. She also told of his writing his first poem before he was seven years old. Then proceeding to answer the writer's questions she said that Dunbar's mother was a washerwoman and that he was the elevator boy at the Callahan Building; and looking each of these writers in the face, she added :
"Dunbar always brings and carries the clothes for his mother."
Three of the men, after inquiring where the Callahan Building was, started in
search of it. They found it and soon entered the elevator. Among the first
things they saw were a Century Magazine, a lexicon, a scratch tablet and a
pencil lying on a stool. Dunbar was in the act of starting his car when one of
the men said: "No! No! Do not go up for us! We came simply to see you
unsungheroes044.jpg and to tell you how much we appreciated the poem you read this morning."
Dunbar looked at them with great embarrassment. As he began to thank them a ring of the elevator signal came from the top floor. With a modest bow and a request to be excused, he took hold of the power lever and up the elevator went and soon down it came again.
In the midst of the conversation, constantly interrupted by passengers entering the elevator, one of the visitors asked, "What wages are you getting here?"
"Four dollars a week, Sir," answered Dunbar.
"What are you doing with your money?" asked another.
Dunbar, somewhat hesitatingly said, "Well, I help my mother and then I am trying to buy a little home for her, too"
"How on earth?" Ring, ring, went bells on different floors. Up went the elevator and then down it came.
Hurrying to finish his sentence, the visitor continued," How on earth did you start to buy a home on four dollars a week? Where is your father?"
Dunbar, disturbed by so many questions and so many bells, said hurriedly,"I
bought the home through the Building and Loan Associa-
unsungheroes045.jpg tion. My father was a plasterer but he died when I was twelve years old." As another bell began to ring, the men said goodbye and went away talking about the boy and pledging each other to propose his name for membership in the Western Association of Writers.
Dunbar seemed greatly encouraged by the Western Association members. He had also received promises of help from others. One evening, after a hard day on the elevator, he hurried home, saying to his mother as he entered, "Ma, where are those papers I asked you to save for me some months ago?"
"What, those botany sheets?" she replied. Dunbar failed to answer immediately. She continued,"They are in that box under the kitchen safe" The neighbors had begun to ask Mrs. Dunbar why she was keeping all of those papers piled on the table for so long. Seeing that so many were noticing the unsightly stacks of papers, she had removed them one day from the crowded little room to the kitchen.
With a lighted lamp in his hand, Dunbar went to the kitchen and pulled out the
box. There lay his papers, some of which he had not seen for five or six years.
He pulled a chair up to the box and began sorting them. When he had finished and
unsungheroes046.jpg given the box a shove which sent it back under the safe, he made known his readiness for his supper
The next morning as he was leaving for his work he said,"Goodbye, Ma, I'm going to see about publishing a book today." He walked rapidly to the Callahan Building and immediately took charge of his elevator. As soon as his lunch hour came he hurried to a publishing house and asked to see the manager. He was out to lunch but one of his assistants was called in. After looking the manuscript through hastily he offered to publish it for one hundred and twenty-five dollars. Dunbar looked at him and shook his head. Unable to conceal his disappointment, he took up his manuscript, bade him good-day and started out.
The business manager of the firm happened to come in at this moment and saw
Dunbar starting out. He noticed the gloom and the disappointment written on the
boy's face, called him over to his desk and asked what was the trouble. Dunbar
at first, choking with something which seemed to cut off his words, simply
handed him the manuscript, repeating as best he could what the assist ant had
said about publishing it for one hundred and twenty-five dollars. The business
manager took the manuscript and read here and there a poem. He questioned the
lad at length about his
unsungheroes047.jpg work and his home. Knowing something about Dunbar's high-school record, he said, "You go back to your work; the poems will be published."
He went on with his work, scarcely waiting for the boy to thank him. Dunbar bowed, stepped away lightly and with a broad smile on his face hurried back to his elevator.
The hours seemed to drag and yet he worked away until closing time came. On leaving his elevator he went by leaps and bounds until he reached his mother's door. With his key in hand, he unlocked it and rushed in almost breathless, saying,"Oh, Ma, they are going to print my book!" As he told the story about the business manager he laughed and cried. Mrs. Dunbar laughed and cried too until far into the night.
As the days came and went, Mrs. Dunbar began to listen with unusual interest for the ringing of the door-bell. Finally, one morning as the snow fell thick and fast, there was a knock at the door. Mrs. Dunbar grabbed up her apron, wiped the soapsuds from her hands and hurried to open it. There stood a delivery man with a large package.
"For Mr. Paul Dunbar," said he. "By the way, who is this Dunbar? Is he a doctor, a lawyer, a preacher, or what?"
Mrs. Dunbar responded, saying,"Who? Paul?
unsungheroes048.jpg Why, Paul is just an elevator boy and a — a poet." The man looked at her with squinting eyes, glanced about at the front of the poor little cottage, then bade her good-day and went his way.
She made a small opening at one end of the package and peeped at the books. Before realizing what she was doing, she threw her arms around the package and knelt down with her head resting on it, offering a silent prayer. When finally she returned to her washtub, she rubbed a garment a while, then wiped away the tears which were dropping into the soapsuds. The wash seemed to hold her unusually long and yet, when she had finished it, the sun was still high in the heavens. She prepared her dinner, did her chores, then sat down to watch and wait. Finally there came a familiar step. She listened for a moment, then rose and opened the door while Dunbar was feeling for his keys. "See the books, Paul!" she said, pointing to the package. They opened up the package and stood half bent over it while Paul was reading from the little book of poems which he had named "Oak and Ivy." They took it to the dinner table, looked at it, read more from it and rejoiced together.
The next morning, as Dunbar went back to his
unsungheroes049.jpg levator, he took along some copies of "Oak and Ivy". These he ventured to show to the passengers who he thought might buy a copy. His supply was soon sold out. Greatly surprised at his first day's success, he took more copies the next day, and still more the following days for over a week. In less than two weeks' time, he walked into the office of the business manager of the publishing house, reached into his pocket and pulled out one hundred and twenty-five dollars. This he placed in the business manager's hands, adding his hearty, humble thanks. He told of his success in selling the books on the elevator and left the publishing-house to see a man who was offering him a minor position in the court-house. After serving notice on the employment manager of the Callahan Building and assisting him in securing another elevator boy, Dunbar left to take up his new duties.
Within the next few days he smiled and rejoiced as he read a review of his poems in a news paper called The Toledo Blade. A few days later he began to receive letters from people who had read this review. Still later, some of these people arranged for him to give readings of his poems.
Among those who wrote him about the review was a Dayton woman who sent a copy of
unsungheroes050.jpg and Ivy" to a Dr. Tobey of Toledo. Dr. Tobey read a few of the poems and laid the book aside. A few weeks later when he went to Dayton on some business, he discovered to his surprise that even the business men were talking about Dunbar and his poems. On his return home, he took up the book and sat down to read the poems again. He sat there reading and re-reading, occasionally stopping between poems as if he were thinking deeply. When he had finished the book he drew his check book from his pocket, made out a check to Dunbar and enclosed it in a letter asking for a number of copies of "Oak and Ivy".
When Dunbar's letter in reply, expressing his deep appreciation for the check, was received, Dr. Tobey seemed to be deeply moved. He wrote Dunbar immediately inviting him to Toledo to give a reading of his poems. The young poet read the letter to his mother and soon began to prepare for the trip. Night after night, until time to go, he practiced reading some of his poems which had not been published. Even while the train sped along to Toledo, he sat saying over and over to himself the words of some of the poems.
After the reading that night, Dr. Tobey and a Mr. Thatcher, who had also helped
Dunbar, shook his hand warmly and asked about the new poems.
unsungheroes051.jpg Upon learning that the young poet had a second book ready they at once agreed to furnish the money to publish it. Consequently, a second book of poems called "Majors and Minors" was soon published.
The day that Dr. Tobey received a copy of "Majors and Minors" he was called into a consultation which kept him at a hotel that night. He and a friend sat up reading this little book of poems until midnight. Just as they had finished and stepped up to the desk to get their keys, an other man walked up too. He was a great actor playing Monte Cristo at that time in Toledo. Dr. Tobey upon being introduced to him said, "I know you actor folks are always being bored by people wanting you to read and give opinions of poems, but I have something here that I wish you would read if you will"
The actor took the crude little copy of "Majors and Minors" and turned its pages.
Dr. Tobey asked him to read a poem entitled "When Sleep Comes Down to Soothe the
Weary Eyes". He read it at first quietly as he leaned over the counter. Then he
read it aloud. With great expression and gesture he read it a third time. He
turned to another poem and read that; then to another and another until the
clock struck one
unsungheroes052.jpg two three. He took out his watch and looked at it.
"Hello!" he said,"Three o'clock in the morning! Dr. Tobey, I thank you for giving me this opportunity. In my opinion no poet has written such verses since the days of Poe"
Dunbar soon gave up his work and went to Toledo to sell his book. One night after a very discouraging day, he walked into Dr. Tobey's office to tell him his troubles. Dr. Tobey said,"Well, my boy, how goes the battle?"
"Oh, doctor," said Dunbar, with tears streaming down his cheeks,"I never can offer to sell another book to any man."
"Paul," replied Dr. Tobey, "why don't you make up a speech?"
"Oh," answered Paul."I have tried to do that but my tongue cleaves to the roof of my mouth and I cannot say a word"
The doctor said sympathetically,"You're no good as a book-agent. While I was down town this morning I sold three of your books to three of the most prominent men in Toledo."
Dr. Tobey then advised him to send a copy of "Majors and Minors" to the actor and
author of another play which was then being presented in Toledo. Dunbar made
several attempts to pre-
unsungheroes053.jpg sent the book in person but failed in each attempt. Nevertheless, before leaving Toledo, he saw to it that the book reached the actor. After reading it, the actor wrote Dunbar a most encouraging letter. He also sent a copy of the poems to the novelist, William Dean Howells. This well-known writer in turn sent a full-page review of the poems to Harper's Monthly. He described the little book as a countrified little volume in appearance which inwardly was full of a new world. Singular it was that the article appeared in Harper's Monthly on the 27th of June, 1896, which was Dunbar's twenty-fourth birthday. After being told of the article by a friend, Dunbar went to a newsstand and purchased a copy of Harper's Monthly. As he read the article, he said he knew not whether to laugh or cry, but no doubt he did a little of each. Hundreds of letters from all parts of the world, even from Athens, Greece, began to pour into the office of the publishers. Some were ordering Dun- bar's poems, others were asking for his photo graph and still others were asking for information about him.
On the Fourth of July, Dunbar and his mother went, at Dr. Tobey's invitation, to
Toledo. When they arrived at the meeting place about sixty prominent persons
from Toledo and elsewhere
unsungheroes054.jpg sat waiting to greet them. Dr. Tobey, with his arm about Dunbar's shoulder as they walked to wards a little ante-room said,"It has all come at once, Paul. Mr. Howells has made you famous. They all want to meet you now. Those who made fun of you because of your color and your poverty are now eager to clasp your hand. This is going to be the testing day of your life. I hope you will bear good fortune and popularity as well and as bravely as you have met your disappointments and your humiliations. If so, that will indeed be a proof of your greatness"
Among the poems which Dunbar recited that day was "Ships that Pass in the Night". The audience seemed especially moved by this poem. The most prominent man in that select group said,"Of all things I ever heard, I never listened to anything so impressive."
That night, after such a triumphant day, Dun- bar, sitting alone, wrote these lines:
During these days of public attention, the poet visited some of the eastern
cities, giving readings
unsungheroes055.jpg of his works to audiences composed of people from all sections. On almost every occasion, the audience responded with loud applause and often with bursts of laughter.
The following year, when the opportunity to go to England as a reader of his poems presented it self, he took advantage of it. While he was in London, the American Ambassador arranged an entertainment for him at which he read before many of the foremost men and women of London. He was further entertained by prominent clubs and prominent people. Although he was being royally treated, he often ran away from the public gatherings in London to his lodging place to work on his first novel, "The Uncalled".
One day just as he was nearing the end of this novel, he received a letter from a friend in America asking if he would accept a place in the Library of Congress at Washington, D. C. He wrote the friend immediately thanking him for his interest and assuring him that he would be glad to accept the position if offered.
On his return to America a little later, he went at once to Washington, D. C.,
where he began his work in the Library of Congress. Among the first things he
did was to look up a home for his mother. As soon as they were settled in
unsungheroes056.jpg home, he began to use his evenings and all of his spare time in writing.
For about fifteen months, he sat at his desk nearly every evening until far into the night. One night he wrote a friend, saying, "I am working very hard these days, so if it is only for the idle that the devil runs his employment bureau, I have no need of his services." By such diligence, he soon had published a third book of poems which he called "Lyrics of Lowly Life".
Apparently great joy and a cessation of undue toil took the place of his very busy days for a while. About this time, he married a young woman who also had written some verses. Both she and he appeared to be very happy until he began to be annoyed by a stubborn, hacking cough. The dust from the library books seemed to aggravate it so that he soon resigned his position. Thinking that a change of climate would do him good, he made a tour of the South, giving readings of his poems as he went.
The cough continued to trouble him. Taking the advice of a physician, he began to
prepare to go to the Catskill Mountains. However, before he left, another volume
of poems appeared which he had named "Lyrics of the Hearthside". The new volume
of poems seemed to give him
unsungheroes057.jpg strength. He completed his preparations and set out for the mountains. While there he worked steadily writing poems and stories. Just as steadily did his cough seem to grow worse. After a while, he began to feel that Denver, Colorado, was the place for him. He consulted a physician and was not long in starting out for Denver, accompanied by Mrs. Dunbar and his mother.
The long trip seemed to tire him greatly and yet he reached Denver in safety. After a few days' rest, he did his best at strolling around looking at the mountainous country. One day, as he sat writing a friend, he said, "Well, it is something to sit down under the shadow of the Rocky Mountains even if one only goes there to die."
After securing a little house in a town near Denver, he bought an old mare, which he hitched every morning to his buggy and drove for miles. One day after a long, long ride over the beautiful hills he sat down and wrote a poem about "That OF Mare of Mine". Although he could not walk much, he worked for hours each day until he had finished a novel which he called "The Love of Landry".
After spending some months in Denver, he and Mrs. Dunbar returned to Washington,
unsungheroes058.jpg where they bought a home and apparently settled down. The home, however, was soon closed. He went first to Chicago and then to Dayton, where his mother had returned.
Although his cough was about as bad as it could be, he was working on another volume of poems which came out during the early winter months of 1903 under the title of "Lyrics of Love and Laughter".
During the seven years of his illness, he often received his friends. Sometimes he even served tea for them. Once a friend who had business in Dayton called him by telephone saying that she was coming out to see him. When she reached his home, there he was curled up on a couch for all the world like a small boy.He was writing a poem just to please her. Said he on her arrival, "Just wait a moment, I'm hunting for a rhyme." And sure enough, in just a few moments he handed her a scrap of paper on which was written:
Dunbar continued to write stories and poems almost to the day of his death, which came on the 9th day of February, 1906. His last poem he never wrote down, but simply dictated to his stenographer.
BOOKER TALIAFERRO WASHINGTON
unsungheroes062.jpg Drawn by C. Thorpe
Chapter III BOOKER TALIAFERRO
EDUCATOR, ORATOR, AUTHOR, STATESMAN
BOYHOOD AND YOUTH
EARLY one winter morning, about sixty years ago, a big rooster began flapping his wings and crowing—flap, flap, flap—cock-a- doodle-doo, cock-a-doodle-doo. Then a little rooster began cock-a-doodle-doo, cock-a-doodle-doo. Then here, there and everywhere was the sound—flap, flap, cock-a-doodle-doo—until all Franklin County, Virginia, seemed to have wings and crowing apparatus.
In the midst of this flapping and crowing, young Booker awoke, rubbed his eyes
and yawned. Then he jumped out of bed, his feet striking the earthen floor and
his teeth chattering in spite of the blazing fire before him. The wind,
whistling through the cracks in the sides and the roof of the cabin, evidently
made the dirt floor very cold to his feet. He dressed quickly, having only three
unsungheroes064.jpg to put on a—flax shirt and two wooden shoes. As the coarse shirt began to slip down over his back, it felt so much like pin points or chestnut burrs against his flesh, that he cried "Ouch, Ouch!" as he straightened out the folds of his shirt. Then he sat on the side of the bed to put on his wooden shoes. He pulled at the pieces of rough leather on the tops of them. He twisted and turned his feet until they adjusted themselves as best they could to the shape of the wooden shoes. As he started toward the fire, the sound of his shoes— blump, blump, blump—caused his mother to lookaround.
She, being the plantation cook, had been so busy getting breakfast for fifty or more planta tion hands that she had scarcely noticed Booker until now. "Good morning, son", she said, "run out to the pan and wash your face. Ma wishes you to get out some sweet potatoes."
Booker could not run very fast in his stiff shoes but he went out as quickly as
he could, carrying a gourd of water in his hand. He washed his face and soon
returned with a field hoe on his shoulder. After removing several boards from
the top of the potato hole in the middle of the dirt floor, he began to dig into
it with his hoe. First he dug out some of the loose earth and then some of the
unsungheroes065.jpg straw. He dropped down on his knees and pulled out many potatoes with his hands. After clearing a place for them on the hearth, his mother covered them over with hot ashes.
With a long, flat iron she turned the burning coals from the big skillet lids. The smell of the corn-pone and of the roasting potatoes so tantalized the cat that she slid in through the cat hole in the lower right-hand corner of the cabin wall.
Men, women and children hurried from all parts of the plantation to snatch a bite to eat at this little cabin. Many mouths were busy eating corn-bread and molasses. Here and there a crust of bread was used as a knife and fork but many just plunged their fingers into the molasses and bread.
Booker stood like the other children with his tin pan while molasses was being poured into it. He tipped the edges of the pan first this way and then that way so that the molasses might run all over the bottom of it.
Several months later things were all changed. There was no need of a plantation
cook, and so Booker's mother was getting ready to go away. One morning as some
of those same roosters flapped their wings and crowed for day, a rough little
cart rolled up to her cabin door. Booker,
unsungheroes066.jpg his brother John, and his mother hurried around, grabbed up their few bed clothes, stools and skillets and threw them into the cart. "Goodbye, goodbye", they said to their friends. And off they started to join Booker's stepfather in Maiden, West Virginia. For two weeks they traveled, sleeping in the open air and cooking their food out-of-doors over a log fire. One night they started to camp in an old empty log cabin. Just as the fire had gotten well started and their pallet on the floor was made, a large black snake fully a yard and a half long dropped down the chimney and glided across the floor. They ran out of the cabin and later removed their things from it. The next day they continued their journey.
Early one evening, as they began to drive more slowly in search of a good place to stop for the night, a rider came by with his horse in a gallop and bowed to them. Booker called out, "Mister, how far is it to Maiden?"
The man did not stop but answered, saying, "About two miles over the hill".
The little cart rolled on until it seemed that they had gone ten miles over the
hill instead of two. Finally they heard men swearing and quarreling. They saw
men fighting and drinking and
unsungheroes067.jpg gambling. Suddenly a man stepped up and greeted them, "Hello, hello, howdy, howdy". It was Booker's stepfather who had come to Maiden several years before.
"Oh, what is that, Pa?" Booker exclaimed, "over there where the light is?"
"That is only a salt furnace", he answered.
"There are plenty of them here. I have a job waiting for you in one of them". In a few days, just as he had been told, Booker was at his new job in a salt furnace.
In this part of the town, in that part and all about, people were asking each other, "Have you heard of the school that is to open in Maiden? They tell me that the teacher is already here and that old folks as well as children can go to it".
This question was asked young Booker. His eyes sparkled and his face lighted up on hearing such good news. Then he said in an undertone, "Oh, well, I can't go to school anyway for I have to work all day".
When the school began there were many happy faces, old and young. Every night
Booker inquired about the school and tried to show his mother and stepfather how
he could work and go to school too. After a great deal of talking about it, they
arranged one night for Booker to go to
unsungheroes068.jpg work at four o'clock in the morning, work until nine o'clock, then go to school and return to his work after school.
The next morning, at nine o'clock, Booker started off to school on a trot. When he reached the school-room door, panting for breath, all eyes were turned upon him, especially because he did not have on a hat. He hesitated a moment but went in just the same and took a seat.
The teacher was calling the roll. "John Jones", he called. "Present", said John Jones. "Mary Ann Roberts", he added. "Present", said Mary Ann Roberts. And on he went until he came to the end of the roll.
Then he turned to Booker and asked his name. Booker twisted and turned for a few moments and said nothing, because he knew he had no name except Booker. Suddenly he remembered hearing about a great man whose name was Washington. When the teacher asked his name again, he jumped up from his seat, and with one hand raised, said, "My name is Booker Washington". He had found a name for himself that day. That night his mother sewed two pieces of cloth together and made him a hat.
He seemed very happy at school. One afternoon he and his classmates about
fifteen of them
unsungheroes069.jpg —were sitting on a long pine-log bench, rocking to and fro and singing out their spelling lesson— "b-a, k-e-r, baker; m-a, k-e-r, maker; s-h-a, k-e-r, shaker". There was a knock at the door. Everybody was silent. The door opened and in walked Booker's stepfather. He quietly explained to the teacher that he had gotten Booker a good job in the coal mines and Booker would have to stop school. The next morning Booker entered a coal mine. He hesitated a little at first about working there because of the darkness.
In this mine one day, he overheard two men talking of Hampton Institute. He crept along in the darkness of the mine, close enough to hear what they were saying. One of the men said, "Yes, they tell me that Negro boys and girls can work their way through that school". The conversation continued. Booker Washington eagerly grasped every word; and he made up his mind on the spot to go to Hampton Institute that fall.
That fall, in 1872, with a cheap little satchel of clothes across his shoulder,
he started out for Hampton Institute. The journey was long and there were no
through trains, therefore stagecoaches were used much of the way. Booker sat
back in the stage-coach as the horses trotted along, counting his little money
and wondering what he
unsungheroes070.jpg would do when it was all spent. Most of his earnings had been used by his stepfather. When there was nothing left in his pockets, he walked some and begged rides on wagons until he reached Richmond, Virginia. It was late in the night and he did not have a penny left.
He walked and begged for a place to sleep until he was tired out. Soon he spied a high, board sidewalk. After looking around and assuring himself that no one saw him, he crept under it and slept for the rest of the night. For some days he worked in Richmond and slept under the board sidewalk at night.
When he had earned enough to pay his railroad fare on to Hampton Institute, he started out again and reached there with just fifty cents in his pocket. He was tired ; he was hungry ; he was dirty; he was everything but discouraged. One of the northern teachers looked him over and was not sure apparently that he had come to the right place. While he stood anxiously waiting, he saw others freely admitted to the school.
The teacher finally turned to him, saying, "Well, come with me". He followed her
to a recitation room. She said, pointing to the room, "You may sweep that room".
He swept the room three times. He moved every piece of furniture and
unsungheroes071.jpg swept. He swept every closet and corner. He dusted everything four times. He dusted the wood-work around the walls. He dusted every table and table leg. He dusted every bench.
Then he returned to the teacher and said, "Well, I am through with that job".
She went to the door of the room, walked in and looked into every corner and closet. She took out her handkerchief and rubbed it over benches and wood-work. Unable to find one bit of dirt anywhere, she said, "I guess you will do to enter this school".
His first two nights at Hampton Institute were somewhat trying ones. Although he was thirteen years old, he had never used a sheet on his bed; and now there were two sheets on his bed. The first night he slept under both of them and the second night he slept on top of both of them. However, with the help of older boys he learned the right way. He paid his expenses that year by working as a janitor. He brought in coal. He made fires. He removed ashes. He swept and dusted class-rooms.
Summer time came and Booker Washington had nothing to do. He scratched his head
as he thought of selling his coat or of trying several other plans, none of
which, he feared, would work.
unsungheroes072.jpg A hotel job opened up to him. He took it and by working hard that summer and washing his own clothes, he saved all the money which he earned.
Several more summers and winters of hard work came and went. Finally one June morning in 1875, the Hampton teachers were busy decorating the little chapel for the commencement exercises. People began to gather. The students took their places. The choir began to sing. The graduating class marched in and at the head of the line marched a young man who was calling himself now Booker Taliaferro Washington. He had learned that his mother had named him Booker Taliaferro when he was born.
EDUCATOR: TUSKEGEE INSTITUTE
One evening just six years after Booker Washington's graduation from Hampton
Institute, he and General Samuel Chapman Armstrong, the founder and principal of
Hampton Institute, were walking to the railroad station. General Armstrong was
talking earnestly, shaking his head and making gestures now and then. He was
telling Booker Washington why he had asked him instead of any other boy to go to
unsungheroes073.jpg Alabama. Washington was listening without saying a word. Just as they reached the station, the sound, t-o-o-t, t-o-o-t, rang out up the road. Then, clang, cling, cling, chuff, che-e-e was heard.
The train stopped with a sudden jolt. Booker Washington grasped General Armstrong's hand. They shook like warm friends and bade each other goodbye. The former, with his bag in his hand, stepped upon the platform just as the bell rang and the train began to move. He glanced out of the window at the General, waved his hand and sat down.
Apparently he tried to look out of the window and forget everything but he kept thinking of what General Armstrong had said about his work —of his two years of teaching at Maiden, his night school, his debating club with one of his big, brawny boy debaters waving his hand and saying, "Most honorable judges, I have proven to you that the pen is mightier than the sword". He reached into his bag and took out a picture of the little library which he had started for the school. He looked at it a long time, then he brought forth a letter which a friend had written him the year he was studying at Wayland Seminary, Washington, D. C., and read that.
He placed his things back into his bag, stretched
unsungheroes074.jpg himself a little, yawned and fell asleep. Before the break of day he awoke and read several other letters telling of some of his experiences at Hampton Institute: for instance, his teaching the new Indian boys how to brush their teeth, how to comb and brush their hair, how to wash their hands and faces. One of the letters described Booker Washington's work in organizing the Hampton Institute night-school and teaching in it.
Just at that moment, the train gave a sudden jolt which seemed to shake him out of his deep reverie. He straightened up and began to plan what he would do when he reached Tuskegee. He traveled on for nearly two days listening to the porter call out the names of the many towns and cities as the train reached them. At last he heard the call, "Tuskegee, all out for Tuskegee!" He caught up his bag and hustled out.
He looked all around ; but seeing no one looking for him he went ahead making inquiries about the building in which he was to open his school. He looked here and there for several days but the only buildings he could find for his use were an old, dilapidated church and an old shanty with an old chicken-house nearby.
After making arrangements for the use of these
unsungheroes075.jpg old buildings and hiring an old mule and a little wagon to take him over the country, he set out and visited the country people for miles around. He ate with them in their little log cabins. He often used the one and only fork on the table and passed it on to somebody else. That person used it and passed it on to the next person. Around that fork went until everybody at the table had had a chance to use it. He often slept with a family in its one-room cabin when there were so many in that family that he had to go out of doors to undress and dress. Still he kept on visiting for several months until he had seen what the people needed, and had advertised his school. On the morning of July 4, 1881, the doors of the old dilapidated church in Tuskegee were pulled as wide open as the sagging walls would permit. An old cracked bell was rung, and in walked thirty pupils, some of whom were forty years old. Not one was less than fifteen years old. Every one worked hard and things went well until one day a hard rain came. Water streamed in upon Mr. Washington so that a pupil had to hold an umbrella over him while he heard the recitations. Six weeks of such teaching passed and then another teacher, Miss Olivia Davidson of Ohio, came to assist Mr. Washington. She taught
unsungheroes076.jpg school and gave festivals and suppers in order to raise five hundred dollars to pay for a school farm. All of the people for miles around wanted to help the school. Some brought five cents ; some brought stalks of sugar cane. Others brought quilts.
One old lady about seventy years old, clad in just clean rags, hobbled in one morning on a cane. She said, "Mr. Washington, God knows I spent the best days of my life in slavery. God knows I am ignorant and poor; but I know what you and Miss Davidson are trying to do. I know you are trying to make better men and better women of my race. I haven't any money, but I want you to take these six eggs which I've been saving up, and I want you to put these six eggs into the education of these boys and girls".
Mr. Washington and his assistant worked very hard to raise the five hundred
dollars and to get the school started well. He knew how much the farm would mean
to the school. He knew also that the students did not like clearing the land and
working the field, and so one day he planned what he called a "chopping bee".
With his ax swung across his shoulder he led the students out to the farm and
made a challenge to outchop any of them. The old ones chopped and the young ones
unsungheroes077.jpg chopped. The boys chopped and the girls chopped. All of them chopped but none outchopped their teacher, Booker Washington.
Boys and girls who look at the picture of Tuskegee Institute as it is today will probably say: "My! Can this be the school for which the old lady brought the six eggs? Can this be the school for which the 'chopping bee' was held?"
It is really that same school. Booker Washington and his assistants worked so faithfully and well that Tuskegee Institute has received not only the six eggs but hundreds of thousands of dollars. The gifts had increased so that when Tuskegee Institute was thirty-four years old it owned two thousand four hundred acres of land, with one hundred and eleven buildings on the grounds. In addition to this, Tuskegee Institute had about twenty thousand acres of land given it by the United States Government as an endowment. The number of students in thirty-four years had increased from thirty to about two thousand and the number of teachers had increased from one to two hundred.
In the early days the school had a dark base ment dining-room but now there is a
large dining-hall on the campus. In the early days the few knives and forks had
to be passed around
unsungheroes078.jpg among the students almost continuously during a meal ; but now there are sufficient knives and forks for all. Once upon a time the students used rough boxes and stools for dining-room seats but now there are dining-room chairs for all. In the early days Tuskegee Institute had no kitchen. Blazing fires were made out of doors upon which pots and skillets were set for cooking. Many a time a girl would step on a live coal, throw down the skillet lid and hop away to nurse her burn for a moment ; now there are modern kitchens at Tuskegee Institute.
Perhaps you have already begun to think that Tuskegee Institute with about one hundred large brick buildings must look like a little city. It really does. All the buildings and the grounds are lighted by the school's own electric plant. Many industries such as domestic science, carpentry and blacksmithing are taught.
The brick-making industry at Tuskegee Institute is an evidence of the fact that
Booker Washington believed in the saying, "If at first you don't succeed, try,
try again". He and his students of the early days made their first brick kiln
for burning bricks, but the kiln would not work. They made a second kiln and
that was a failure; a third brick kiln with about 25,000 bricks in it fell in
unsungheroes079.jpg the middle of the night just when the bricks were nearly ready to be taken out. This seemed like hard luck, but it appears that Booker Washington was never in all his life wholly discouraged at anything. He started a fourth brick kiln with the $15 which he secured by pawning his watch. Today 1,200,000 first-class bricks are manufactured in one season by the students of Tuskegee Institute.
Every day in the year visitors go to Tuskegee Institute from all parts of the world. They go to the shops where the boys are busy making wagons, buggies, cabinets and all sorts of things. They go to the trades building where the girls are cooking, sewing, making hats and doing laundry work. They go to the hospital, to the library, to the classrooms, to the dining-hall and other buildings. They go to the farm, to the piggery, to the dairy farm. They go to the chapel. They hear the students sing and see them march out. Now and then at chapel exercises they see a girl or a boy called out of a long line because a button is off, or shoes are not polished, or clothing is not neat and tidy.
These visitors go away saying to their friends that Booker Washington was
certainly a great man. Some go to their homes far away and start
unsungheroes080.jpg schools like Tuskegee Institute. Other visitors have been there, studied the school and gone away to do honor to Booker Washington.
ORATOR, AUTHOR, STATESMAN
In 1896 Harvard University, one of the greatest colleges in the country, honored Booker Washington. He spoke at the University and was later given the degree of Master of Arts. Five years later, another great institution, Dartmouth College, invited him there and gave him the degree of Doctor of Laws.
Wherever he spoke, people came from far and near to hear him. He spoke once in Essex Hall in London, England, and once at Bristol, England.
Just after the Spanish-American War, he was the peace-celebration speaker at the Chicago Auditorium. In the auditorium that day there were thousands of people, among whom was the President of the United States. And many thousands were on the outside trying to hear Booker Washington speak.
In the middle of his speech he said as he walked across the platform, "Nobody
should help a lazy,
unsungheroes081.jpg shiftless person". Then he smiled, opened his eyes wide and said, "Let me tell you this story: Once there were two men seeking to cross a river by means of a ferry boat. The fare across was three cents. One of the men, who seemed to be shiftless and lazy, said to the other, 'Please let me have three cents to cross the ferry; I haven't a penny'. The other man said to him, 'I am sorry not to accommodate you, boss, but the fact is that a man who hasn't three cents is just as bad off on one side of the river as he is on the other' ". The audience laughed and applauded.
He said further: "But let me tell you, my friends, everybody is not like the man who did not have three cents. Early one morning not long ago, I was out watching my chickens and pigs. A pig I think is one of the grandest of animals. Old Aunt Caroline came striding by with a basket on her head. I said to her, 'Where are you going, Aunt Caroline?' She replied, 'Lord bless you, Mr. Washington, I've already been where I was going' ". The audience laughed again.
The singing that day lifted one up and made one feel like marching and humming.
Some of the poor people present wept for joy, and at the close of the meeting
Booker Washington shook hands with many of them. He seemed to
unsungheroes082.jpg understand them and to know their needs. When he wrote his book, "Up from Slavery", much of which was written on the train, he told how poor he himself was once.
Dr. Washington traveled all over the North, East, West and South. He traveled in a special car through Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Delaware, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, parts of Alabama, Georgia, Virginia and West Virginia.
His friends began to say, "Dr. Washington looks tired. Let us send him and his wife to Europe on a vacation". They gave his school a large sum of money. Then they talked with his wife, Mrs. Margaret Murray Washington, who was a graduate of a great college called Fisk University. She had helped Dr. Washington for some years in his work and knew how tired he must be. These friends talked and urged until she agreed to go too.
All arrangements for the trip were completed. Dr. and Mrs. Washington bade
goodbye to their friends, sailed across the ocean, and for three months went
here and there through Holland, Belgium, France and England. He crossed the
ocean a second time and then a third time. On these trips kings and queens
entertained him and
unsungheroes083.jpg honored him. In his own country, presidents of the United States called him in to talk over important matters.
Following one of his trips abroad, he wrote a book called "The Man Farthest Down", in which he told many sad stories about the poor and ignorant of Europe. He wrote about the women whom he saw in Europe hitched with oxen ploughing the fields. Among his other books are: "The Future of the American Negro", "A History of the Negro" and "Working with the Hands".
He worked hard and seemed to hammer out success in everything. No one called him conceited and yet he had great confidence in himself even to the last. When the doctors in New York told him that he had but a few hours to live, he said, "Then I must start now for Tuskegee". He was a very sick man and could hardly walk when he reached the station but he refused to be carried to the train in an invalid's chair. For many hours the train sped southward before it reached Cheehaw, the junction station for Tuskegee. A smile came over his face as he drew near the school.
However, he did not live many hours after reaching home. It had been his custom
to rise early every morning, and so early in the morning
unsungheroes084.jpg on the 14th of November, 1915, Booker T. Washington, the chieftain and the servant of all peoples, rose and departed to the land of the blessed.
For the next few days, the Tuskegee Institute grounds, even as large as they are, were almost packed with people from near and far. The poor, uneducated people, black and white, from the cotton fields of Alabama were there. Statesmen, scholars, editors, professional men, business men and just men were there. His wife, his two sons and his daughter were there. Many of those who were present said that the mind of the thinking world was there, for Booker Washington was regarded as one of the greatest men that ever lived.
unsungheroes086.jpg "She told her hearers thrilling stories."
Chapter IV HARRIET TUBMAN
THE MOSES OF HER PEOPLE
Aboutone hundred years ago, people in every civilized country were talking about the underground railroad in the United States. The underground railroad was not really a railroad under the ground, but a secret way by means of which slaves escaped from their masters in the South and reached free territory. Reaching free territory sometimes meant escape from this country into Canada. Passengers, those seek ing to escape to free territory, on the under ground railroad were led by very brave and dar ing conductors. Among these conductors there was a woman whose name was Harriet Tubman.
When Harriet was born in Dorchester County, Maryland, in 1820, she was named Araminta Ross. After she grew up, she called herself Harriet. When she became a woman she was married to John Tubman and was called Harriet Tubman.
Harriet almost died with the measles when she was six years old. Soon after she
recovered from this, her master threw a heavy weight at her and
unsungheroes088.jpg injured her skull. For years she suffered from pressure on her brain which caused her to fall asleep at any time, wherever she was, whether she was seated on a rail fence or in a chair. It also caused her to stagger sometimes as she walked. No one except her African mother seemed to care for her or to pay any attention to her.
Early one morning a lady came driving up to the home of Harriet's master, who met her at the gate and inquired what he could do for her. She asked for a slave-girl to care for her baby, but offered very low wages. The master shook his head, saying, "I can not furnish you a girl for that." As the lady pleaded with him, he stood looking on the ground and knitting his brow. Suddenly he lifted his head and said, "Yes, I have just one girl whom you may take; keep your eye on her because she may not have all that is coming to her." Harriet was called, placed in a wagon and driven away to the lady's home.
The first thing the lady gave her to do was to sweep and dust the parlor. Harriet
cautiously tiptoed into this wonderfully fine room, amazed at everything she
saw. She finally began to sweep in much the same way as she had swept her
mother's cabin. As soon as she had finished sweep ing, she took the dusting
cloth and wiped off the
unsungheroes089.jpg chairs, the table and the mantel-piece. The parti cles of dust, still flying here and there over the room, soon settled on the furniture again.
About this time, Harriet's new mistress stepped in and began to look around. The dust lay on the table, the chairs and the mantel in such a thick coating that she spoke very harshly to Harriet and ordered her to do the work all over. Harriet swept and dusted just as she had done before. The dust, having no other place to go, settled again on the furniture. The mistress entered the parlor again, bringing with her this time a whip. With this she lashed Harriet with a heavy hand. Five times before breakfast that morning Harriet swept and dusted the parlor.
Just as she had gotten her third whipping, her mistress's sister, who had been awakened from her morning slumber, opened the parlor door. "Why do you whip the child, sister, for not doing what she has never been taught to do?" she asked. "Leave Harriet to me for a few minutes and you will see that she will soon learn how to sweep and dust a room."
The sister ordered Harriet to open the windows first, to sweep the room and leave it a while until the dust settled, and to return then and wipe the dust from the furniture.
Harriet looked strangely at the big window, went to it and raised it inch by inch until it was high enough to fasten by a latch. She set in again and swept, and while the dust was settling, she went out and set the table for breakfast. Then she returned and dusted the parlor.
That night she was ordered to sit up and rock the baby. The baby's cradle and Harriet's chair were placed near her mistress's bed. Occasionally Harriet's eyelids dropped and her head bobbed this way and that way. The cradle kept on rocking because her foot was on the rockers. Once in a great while, the cradle would stop and the baby would begin to cry. The mistress would pick up her whip and give Harriet a cut across the head and shoulders which would make her jump and almost knock the cradle over.
Under such treatment, Harriet became so worn and thin that the lady sent her back to her master saying that she wasn't worth a six-pence. Har riet was turned over to her mother, who nursed her until she was again strong enough to work.
She was then hired out to a man who made her plow, drive oxen, lift a barrel of
flour, and some times cut a half cord of wood a day. Soon she became ill again.
She lay on her sick-bed from Christmas until March. Day after day she prayed,
unsungheroes091.jpg saying, "Oh, Lord, convert old Master; change that man's heart and make him a Christian." When some one told her that as soon as she was able to work, she would be sent away, she changed her prayer, saying: "Lord, if you are never going to change that man's heart, kill him, Lord, and take him out of the way, so he will do no more mischief." Harriet's master finally died but she continued ill for a long time.
Even after she became stronger she still prayed at every turn. When she went to the horse-trough to wash her face and hands, she said, "Lord, wash me and make me clean." When she took the towel to wipe them, she cried, "O Lord, for Jesus' sake, wipe away all my sins". When she took up the broom to sweep, she groaned, "O Lord, whatever sin there is in my heart, sweep it out, Lord, clear and clean."
Early one morning many of the slaves in the "quarters" hurried about with a
scared look on their faces, whispering something to each other as they passed.
The news had leaked out that Harriet and two of her brothers were to be sold and
sent the next day to the far South. As soon as the news reached Harriet, she
held a hurried consultation with her brothers, telling them of the terrible
things that would befall them if they
unsungheroes092.jpg did not run away to the North. As they stood for a while looking about anxiously and ready to move on, they agreed to start for the North that night.
Harriet began to scratch her head and wonder how she might tell her friends that she was going away. She thought and thought, and finally hit upon the plan of telling them in an old familiar song. As she was passing the next cabin door she sang out :
She looked forward and backward and all around several times. No overseer was in sight. She continued to sing, casting a meaning glance at first one and then another as she passed along:
That night Harriet and her brothers spoke for a while in a whisper to their
father and kissed him
unsungheroes093.jpg good-bye. Without disturbing their dear old mother, each started out quietly in slightly different directions, but all towards the same place. Soon the three came together. The brothers be gan to say to Harriet in very low tones that they were afraid that old master would send men out for them and capture them. They stood trem bling with excitement. All at once, one of them and then the other broke away and ran towards home as fast as they could, falling now and then over a log or a stump. Harriet stood watching them as long as she could see their shadows in the starlight.
Fixing her eye ori the North Star, she turned her face in that direction and went forward. All night long she walked until the peep of day, then she lay down in the tall grass in a swamp. She lay there all day. The next night she started out again. Night after night she traveled, occasion ally stopping to beg bread. She crouched behind trees or lay concealed in a swamp during the day until she reached Philadelphia.
On her arrival in Philadelphia she stared at the people as they passed. She stood
gazing at the fine houses and the streets. She looked at her hands, believing
that they, too, looked new. After finding a place to stay, she walked out among
unsungheroes094.jpg better looking houses and began to ask from door to door if any one was needed for work. Finally a woman came to the door, opened it just a little way and peeped out as though she were afraid. As Harriet was asking for work, the lady told her to wait a moment while she ran back and pushed her frying-pan further back on the stove. She appeared again at the door, questioned Har riet and then told her to come in.
Harriet walked in and stood listening to the lady's instructions about cleaning. Then she raised the windows and began to sweep. She swept and dusted and cleaned all day. She worked hard the next day and every day until pay-day, when she received her first money. She hid it away with great care and continued her work. The following pay-days she went to the same spot and hid away every penny of her money until she felt that she had enough to go back South.
She gave up her work and traveled night after night until she was again back on
the plantation. She hid around among the slaves in their cabins. She whispered
to them thrilling stories of the free country, until even women with babies were
get ting ready to follow her back to the North. After drugging their babies with
paregoric and placing
unsungheroes095.jpg them in baskets which they carried on their arms, they set out with "Moses", as they called her, for the free country.
They forded rivers, climbed mountains, went through the swamps, threaded the forests with their feet sore and often bleeding. They traveled during the night and kept in hiding during the day. One of the men fell by the wayside. Harriet took out her pistol, and pointing it at his head, said, Dead men tell no tales; you go on or die! He arose trembling and dragged along with the party until they reached the North.
As soon as Harriet had landed this party, she began working again and making preparations to go back on her next trip. One night she went back to the plantation, secured a horse and a two- wheel cart and drove away with her aged mother and father. After placing them on the train, she traveled in the cart night after night until she made her way through Maryland to Wilmington, Delaware, where she had sent her parents.
As soon as the three of them met in Wilming ton, Harriet took her parents to a
well-known un derground railroad station. This was simply the home of a Quaker
friend. He gave them food and shelter and each a new pair of shoes. He fur
nished Harriet with money to take her parents
unsungheroes096.jpg on to Canada, and kept the horse and cart for sale. Harriet and her parents went on, making their way with difficulty, until they reached Canada.
Harriet remained in Canada for a short time only, then slipped back among the plantation cabins in Maryland. Again and again she went back nineteen times leading away in the dark ness, in all, over three hundred slaves. The slave masters of that region in Maryland, whence so many were being stolen away, after trying hard to catch Harriet, offered a reward of $40,000 for her, dead or alive. They posted such a notice in all public places.
After fifteen years of such adventure, Harriet bought a little home place near Auburn, N. Y., and settled on it with her dear old parents. Fre quently responding to a knock at the door, she arose and found that some one had brought to her a poor, old, homeless person. Without hesitating to ask many questions, she took in every one of them until she had twenty old people, for whom she worked and sought support.
William H. Seward, Governor of New York, once said to her when she went to him
for aid, "Harriet, you have worked for others long enough. If you would ever ask
anything for your
unsungheroes097.jpg self, I would gladly give it to you but I will not help you to rob yourself for others any longer."
Many years after that, Governor Seward died, and a large number of persons gathered at his funeral. Many very beautiful flowers were re ceived by his family on that sad occasion. On the day of the funeral, just before the coffin was closed, a woman as black as night stole quietly in and laid a wreath of field flowers at his feet and as quietly glided out again. Friends of the family whispered, "It's the Governor's friend, Harriet."
Harriet continued to work and take in homeless old people until the outbreak of the Civil War. At that time, Governor Andrew of Massachu setts sent for her. He asked if she would go South as a spy and a scout, and if need be, a hospital nurse for the Union soldiers. She stood thinking for a moment, then said that she would go. He bade her return home and be ready at a moment's notice. Harriet left his office and re turned to Auburn. She went about asking friends to look out for the old people in her home while she was away.
Soon after she reached home, a messenger ar rived with orders for her to report
immediately. She hastily grabbed a few necessary things, kissed
unsungheroes098.jpg her parents, saying good-bye to them and to the inmates of the home, and hurried away to join the company of soldiers on its way south. They traveled several days. As soon as they arrived, Har riet was ordered to act as a scout and a spy for the soldiers. She took charge and led them through the jungle and the swamp. She ap proached the frightened slaves, often gaining valuable information from them. She stood in the battle-line when the shots were falling like hail and the bodies of dead and wounded men were dropping like leaves in autumn.
Being called upon to nurse the soldiers in the hospitals, she extracted from roots and herbs what she called a healing substance. As she went to a sick soldier and felt his burning forehead, she often poured out a spoonful of her medicine and placed it in his mouth. After a few days of such treatment frequently a soldier smiled at her and thanked her.
She often bathed the wounds of soldiers from early morning until late at night.
She nursed many with smallpox. Occasionally, after a long day's toil, she went
to her little cabin and made fifty pies, several pans of ginger-bread and two
casks of root-beer. One of the men went through the camps selling these things
for her. Almost
unsungheroes099.jpg as soon as she obtained the money from the sale of them she mailed it on to her old parents for the support of their home.
Once while Harriet was on this trip she went with some gunboats up the Combahee River. The frightened slaves along the way left their work and took to the woods. Some of those who fled peeped out from behind trees at the gunboats and ran away like deer when they heard the sound of the steam whistle. One old man said, "Well, Master said the Yankees had horns and tails but I never believed it till now". Eight hundred of these people were taken on board the gunboats to be carried to Beaufort, S. C. Some of them be fore going aboard grabbed from the fire and placed on their heads pails of smoking rice. Others had on their backs a bag with a pig in it; and some carried two pigs in their bags.
Soon after this trip Harriet returned to her little home place, which was about
to be sold to pay off a mortgage. A friend, the daughter of a professor of
Auburn Theological Seminary, hearing of Harriet's trouble, came to see her.
Harriet greeted her friend as usual and invited her to sit down; she too sat
down and began to tell about the war. Her friend listened for a long, long time
but finally interrupted her to ask about
unsungheroes100.jpg the home and the mortgage. Harriet, concealing nothing from her, told her the exact conditions of the mortgage.
The friend suggested the idea of having her life story written as a means of getting money to pay off the mortgage. Harriet nodded her head in full agreement with what her friend was proposing and asked if she would write the story. The friend counted aloud the days before the mortgage had to be paid off and, realizing that they were not many, set herself at once to the task of writing the story of Harriet's life.
Harriet sat with her friend day after day, each time telling of some incident in her life which she had not told before. The story was finally finished and published, and from the proceeds of it the mortgage was paid off.
Harriet worked hard, saying all the time that she wished to free the home of debt so that she might give it to her race to be used as an Old Folks' Home. When the property was almost free of debt and there were twenty aged women in the home, she went among them with a smile dividing the little she had, until she was stricken with pneumonia and died.
Following her death, the Harriet Tubman Club
unsungheroes101.jpg of New York City, together with the whole Empire State Federation of Negro Women's Clubs, erected to her memory a handsome monument. This monument is in the form of a shaft. One of the principal designs on this shaft is in the form of three oak logs out of which flowers are growing.
The citizens of Auburn held a memorial meet ing for her at the Auditorium Theatre. Booker T. Washington, the mayor and the ex-mayor of Auburn were the speakers on that occasion. The lower floor of the theatre was filled and every box was occupied. In one box sat a group of Civil War veterans and in another sat the leading so ciety women of Auburn. On the stage sat the Auburn Festival Chorus and Orchestra and the guests.
In the presence of this audience, Harriet Tub- man's grand-niece unveiled a large bronze tablet the gift of the citizens of Auburn to the memory of Harriet Tubman. In accepting this tablet, the mayor of the city said, "In recognition of Harriet Tubman's unselfish devotion to the cause of hu manity, the city of Auburn accepts this tablet dedicated to her memory."
ALEXANDER SERGYEYEVICH PUSHKING
ONCEupon a time there lived in Moscow, Russia, a little boy whose name was Alexander Pushkin. Sometimes people would look at him and whisper, "Is he not homely? He is just like his great-grandfather. His great grandfather, Abram Hannibal, an African, was captured on the shores of Africa and brought to Constantinople as a slave. Abram Hannibal's son, Hannibal, who was Pushkin's grandfather, was a distinguished Russian general during the reign of Katherine II."
Pushkin's mother often looked at him as he sat in a sort of stupor and pitied him. His father would come into the house, kiss the other children, and pay no attention to him. His grandmother and his nurse often wondered why he would not run and play like the other children. Sometimes his nurse would take him by the hand and spin around the room while she sang to him.
One day after such a spin, his grandmother called out, speaking in no uncertain
unsungheroes106.jpg Alexander, come here!" As he approached her in a sleepy fashion, she said, "Not awake yet! Oh, if I could be a bear just for a moment, I'd make you run Boo!" she added, as she jumped at him. He laughed and tore around the room like a little pony. She looked on in great surprise.
He ran and ran until he was all tired out, then he rushed up to her, grabbed her about the waist, saying,"Tell me about the three hundred and fifty big lobsters again, please, grandmother.
"Sit down then. If you will listen now, I may tell you about many other things which I have seen in Russia," she said.
She began,"In St. Petersburg, which is the capital of Russia, there is a large palace called the Winter Palace. This palace is the largest building in Europe. In it there are large rooms called state rooms. The walls of these rooms are covered with gold plates and dishes. There are also five hundred other rooms. The ballroom holds five thousand guests, allowing a place for the musicians and space for dancing. Sometimes great suppers are prepared for the balls."
At one of these balls, once upon a time, the waiters brought in three hundred and
fifty dishes of chicken, each dish containing three chickens with salad and
jelly; three hundred and fifty large
unsungheroes107.jpg lobsters, with mayonnaise sauce; three hundred and fifty tongues ; three hundred and fifty dishes of cold meats; three hundred and fifty dishes of ices ; three hundred and fifty dishes of creams and jellies; several hundred gallons of soup of different kinds, and two thousand bundles of asparagus boiled for the salads. In addition to this, they brought in cakes, biscuits, fruit and wine.
"Whew! The people must have burst after eating all of that!" exclaimed Alexander.
"Listen, now," continued his grandmother, "Then there is in this palace one room with eight pairs of doors made of tortoise-shell, trimmed with gold. There is also a picture-gallery containing some of the finest works of art. There is a museum in which all sorts of relics are found even the stuffed horse and dogs of Peter the Great. Here and there among the state rooms there are winter gardens. And in one of these gardens, there are hundreds of canary birds flitting among the palms and over the fountains of gold-fish. There are writing tables and presses which on being opened play beautiful tunes."
"Can anybody open these tables, grandmother?" Alexander asked.
"No," she said, "only by special permission can people enter the palace."
"Is all of this really true, grandmother?" Alexander asked again.
"Yes, indeed," his grandmother said.
They sat for a few moments without saying a word. Alexander nestled closer to his grand mother and kissed her on the cheek. She smiled and, shuddering a bit, said: "But oh, the poor people of Russia ! They live in two-room cabins. In one of these cabins sometimes as many as eleven older people and twenty-five children live. They actually knock each other down many times in moving about the cabin. One of the rooms usually has in it a stove, a table, a wooden bench, two chairs, and a lamp, if the family is not too poor to have it. The other room often has in it no furniture at all. The father and mother and as many of the children as can be fitted on top of the stove, sleep there. The others use pillows and lie on the floor in their clothing." She stopped talking, listened for a moment, then said,"I hear the nurse coming. I must go now."
She rose. Alexander caught her by the hands. She said, "Next time, grandmother will tell you more. She will tell you about a great big bell which weighs nearly four thousand pounds. At least forty men can stand under it. Let me go."
His grandmother hurried out, found the nurse and told her how wide-awake Alexander seemed. The nurse gleefully took out a little book and wrote: "Alexander wakes up in the year 1807, when he is eight years old." She went for him and took him for a walk. Much of the time, he ran ahead of her, playing and calling back to her.
From this time on, he read books, among which was his uncle's book of poems. At the age of ten he began to write poems and little plays himself. His father, deeply interested in him now, sent him at the age of twelve to a very expensive school which only the sons of the nobility could attend.
From this time on, he read books, among which was his uncle's book of poems. At the age of ten he began to write poems and little plays himself. His father, deeply interested in him now, sent him at the age of twelve to a very expensive school which only the sons of the nobility could attend.
Young Pushkin began at once to criticise the school and the teachers. He read in the library and wrote poems the greater part of each day. His first poems were published when he was fifteen years old. Soon after this, he began to edit the school paper and further neglect his studies. During his six years in this school, his reports were entirely unsatisfactory to his parents.
On leaving school, he became a clerk for the Russian Government. He mingled in
the gayest society and soon offended the government by writing a poem called
"Ode to Liberty". He
unsungheroes110.jpg was immediately hurried far away to Southern Russia. One day, on his way to a neighboring town in Southern Russia, he met a band of gypsies whom he joined, and with whom he traveled for a while.
Pushkin soon offended some one in Southern Russia, and had to be sent to his father's estate, in a still more remote part of the country. His father did not even permit him to associate with the other children. However, he spent his time during these two years in this far-away section writing poetry.
After returning to St. Petersburg, he went to a ball one evening, and there met a young girl fifteen years old, with whom he danced. They began to correspond, and three years later were married. Pushkin was then receiving a salary of $2,550 a year. He and his wife entertained lavishly and wore the best of clothing; therefore he had to borrow a great deal of money. His anxiety about money seemed to haunt him to the extent that all inclination to write poetry fled.
He and his brother-in-law engaged in many quarrels. Pushkin finally challenged
him to a duel, His brother-in-law accepted. On the eighth of February, 1837,
they met face to face, each with a sharp weapon in his hand. Each made a thrust
at the other. The brother-in-law jumped
unsungheroes111.jpg aside, warding off the blow, but Pushkin fell writhing, with the blood streaming from his wound. Two days later he died in St. Petersburg.
After his death the Czar of Russia furnished $76,500 to publish his works and to pay off his debts. A great celebration was held at Moscow in 1880 in memory of him. It was said to be the greatest event in Russian literary history. During this celebration, a statue of Pushkin, the great national poet of Russia, was erected at Moscow.
His greatest poem bears the title "Eugenie Onyegin" and his greatest drama is "Boris Godunoff".
BLANCHE KELSO BRUCE
BLANCHE KELSO BRUCE
Senator—Register of the U.S Treasury
ON the first day of March, in the year 1841, a little slave boy started out from Farmville, Virginia, on a journey. The strange thing about it was, he did not know where he was going or how long the journey would take. However, he started out and traveled west and south and east and north for fifty-seven long years.
After his first few years of experience on the road, he reached Brunswick, Missouri. The man ager of a little printing office in the town offered him a job which attracted him. He accepted it and remained in Brunswick some years, assisting on a printing-press as a "printer's devil".
At the noon hour, one day, he sat with his head buried in a newspaper. Some one
said, as he slapped Bruce on the back, "Hello, Branch, what are you doing way
out here?" Bruce seemed greatly surprised to hear some one call him Branch, for
he had long ago changed his name to Blanche. He raised his head and looked all
around but did not see any one, and so he went
unsungheroes118.jpg on with his reading. After a short time, "flap" went a sound. Something had slapped him on the back of his neck.
He jumped up and looked around but still did not see any one. Then he said in a loud voice, "Who are you, anyhow? Stop slapping me". And with that, he sat down again.
A little shrill voice answered, "Yes, you are out here working on a printing-press. I've been fol lowing you. You came all the way from Virginia. What do you know about a printing-press? In the early days no one at all could do any printing in your state, because the state did not allow it".
Blanche Bruce scowled and frowned and looked all around but did not see any one. And so he shouted out, "Oh hush ! I've been reading all about printing. In the early days none of the American colonies encouraged printing. Some of the print ers were even arrested for printing. For thirty years Cambridge, Massachusetts, was the only place in America where printing was done, and that was controlled by the Government. Now, you shut up!" After that, he arose and went in to begin his work.
For years, Bruce says, he heard no more of the little voice, but he could not
forget that experi ence. In spite of it, he worked in Brunswick until
unsungheroes119.jpg he decided to move on to Lawrence, Kansas. By this time, of course, he had grown a great deal in height and size. His love for books had not waned, and his experience in the Civil War had taught him a great deal.
Seeing that the few Negro children in Law rence were ignorant, he opened a school for them, but finding later that there were more children in Hannibal, Missouri, who needed a school, he went there and began teaching.
Bruce kept on thinking and moving until one day, in the year 1866, he found himself at Oberlin, Ohio, sawing wood. "Whew! I am so tired, I believe I'll sit down on this log and rest a while", he said to himself, as he wiped the perspiration from his forehead with his hand. No sooner had he sat down, than "flap" went something across his back. He jumped up, looked all around and said to himself, "That's strange!"
"Yes, it is strange", said a little shrill voice, "but I've been following you all the time. I hear you are out here sawing wood to keep yourself in Oberlin College. Just keep at it".
Bruce seemed really disturbed now, for this voice sounded exactly like that one
in Brunswick, Missouri, years before. Said he in a gruff voice, "I don't know
what you are, but get on away or
unsungheroes120.jpg I'll saw you". He finished his sawing that day and sawed many more days before the end of the college year.
In company with other students who were go ing to their homes for the summer, he left Oberlin College bound for some place, he really did not know where. By some means he continued to travel, and finally found himself working on a big vessel which ran between Council Bluffs, Iowa, and St. Louis, Missouri. One day, after his vessel was anchored at St. Louis, he secured a news paper and sat down to his old trade. He read and read and finally came across an article which told how badly Mississippi was needing educated men. Many of her men had been killed in the war, and until more food was raised there was really little left for the people to eat. Bruce read some parts of the article a second time, and while he sat there, decided to start for Mississippi as soon as he could.
The way soon opened, and after some days of travel, he found himself in
Mississippi. Mississippi seemed to need him badly. Very soon, the mili tary
Governor-General of that State appointed him to take charge of the election in a
whole county. The name of that county was Tallahatchie. He traveled over it from
town to town, mak
unsungheroes121.jpg ing speeches and influencing men, until after the election. Within a year, he met the Mississippi Legislature at Jackson and was elected as Sergeant- at-arms in the Senate. In this position, he assisted in many ways the one who presided over the Senate. If any one in the Senate was disor derly, he arrested him.
Bruce kept on traveling until the Governor of Mississippi noticed him and appointed him as Tax Assessor of Bolivar County He had to determine how much taxes the people in that county should pay. He afterwards stepped into the position of Sheriff and Tax Collector, and then Superintend ent of Schools of that county. Before leaving Bolivar County, he bought a plantation.
Blanche Kelso Bruce had been traveling for over thirty years now. The greatest milestone in his journey, he said to a friend one day, was now in sight. The State of Mississippi had elected him to represent her in the United States Senate at Washington, D. C. He knew little about the cus toms in the Senate, but one day he found himself sitting in the Senate Chamber ready to receive what was called his induction into office.
Something within him, which sounded just as plainly as the shrill voice at
Oberlin had sounded, seemed to say, "You will have no one to escort
unsungheroes122.jpg you up the aisle like the other new senators have ; but you have traveled all the way from Farmville, Virginia, as a slave, to Washington, D. C., as a senator, so go right ahead".
Senator Bruce straightened up and said to him self, "Ah! I guess that's the something within me that has been following me all these years. It's my turn to go up now, and I am going".
When he had gotten about half way up the aisle, a tall gentleman touched him on the arm. He stood for a moment as if he were dreaming or as if he were listening to the shrill voice again. But no, this was a real man who said to him, "Excuse me, Mr. Bruce, I did not until this moment see that you were without an escort. Permit me. My name is Conkling". He linked his arm in that of Senator Bruce and they marched up to the desk and back to their seats together.
It was this man, Senator Roscoe Conkling of New York, who assisted Senator Bruce
in gain ing the chairmanship of one committee in the Senate and in securing a
place on other commit tees. A few years later, when a son was born to Senator
and Mrs. Bruce, he was named Roscoe Conkling Bruce, in honor of the Senator.
Although, as he had said, the greatest mile stone in his journey had been
reached, and he had
unsungheroes123.jpg served in the Senate for six years, the journey was not yet completed. He went on and became Reg ister of the United States Treasury.
One morning, as he sat in his office looking at a five-dollar bill, some one seemed to shake him. He looked up but there was nobody in the room but him. He said that he thought he had simply made a mistake, but soon something within that sounded just like the little shrill voice of bygone days seemed to say, "You've been a pretty good traveler. Here you are again. I hear that not a single paper dollar can be issued unless the name *B. K. Bruce, Register of the Treasury', is stamped in the lower left-hand corner of it".
Mr. Bruce now leaned back and laughed out right, "Ha! ha! ha!" He seemed to realize that all these years no voice outside of his inner self had been talking to him.
He served in the position of Register of the Treasury for four years, then retired to private life as a platform lecturer. Later, he entered up on his duties as Recorder of Deeds of the District of Columbia and as a trustee of the Washington Public Schools. The end of his long fifty-sevenyear journey, which came March 17, 1898, found him as Register of the United States Treasury for a second time.
INone of the poorer quarters of London, England, a curly—headed boy was seen one day playing marbles with one hand and holding a little violin in the other. Passers—by stopped to get a closer picture of the little marble—player with the violin until there was quite an audience surrounding him and the other boys at their play.
Many of the people in the houses in that block, attracted by the crowd, either came to their doors or looked out of their windows. Among those attracted to their windows was the conductor of a theatre orchestra, who was giving a music lesson in a nearby house. He spied the little curly—headed boy with the violin, ran out and coaxed him into the house.
After talking to the boy a few minutes, the orchestra conductor took the little
violin and played a short, beautiful tune. The boy in turn agreed to play. The
man set up before the child a simple violin selection and asked if he could play
it. Without saying a word the little fellow
unsungheroes128.jpg looked at the sheet of music, lifted his little violin to his shoulder and began to play in perfect time and tune. The orchestra conductor stood looking on in surprise. When that selection was finished, he immediately set up another. This, too, the boy played with the same ease.
After he had played several pieces in this manner, the orchestra conductor with his arms about him asked his name.
"Samuel Coleridge—Taylor is my name", replied he. The orchestra conductor next asked the boy who his parents were and where he lived. Little Coleridge—Taylor quickly answered the question and began to pull away from his new friend. The orchestra conductor, feeling that the boy wished to get back to his fellow marble—players, patted him on the back, assured him that he would come to see him soon and let him go.
Little Coleridge—Taylor ran every step of the way until he reached the place where he had been playing marbles with the boys. He looked all around, but, seeing no one, set out for home. As soon as he reached home, he began to tell his mother about the man who played his little violin.
The orchestra conductor spoke to each of his students that day about the
curly—headed boy with the violin. Even in the middle of a lesson, he
unsungheroes129.jpg stopped occasionally to speak about the boy. As soon as his day's work was done, he set out making his way to the street and the number of the house which Coleridge—Taylor had given him. He kept on looking up at the numbers on the houses until he reached the right one. He stepped up and rang the door—bell. Happily little Coleridge—Taylor came to the door; he at once recognized his new friend and invited him in. His mother, hearing a strange voice, came into the room, too.
Coleridge—Taylor said, "This is the gentleman who played my violin, mother".
The orchestra conductor bowed to her, introduced himself and offered an apology for enter ing her home. Little Coleridge—Taylor joined with his mother in assuring the gentleman that that was all right. The orchestra conductor thanked them both, and began to tell of the musi cal gifts of the child and how he should be educated.
For a long time the mother sat quietly listening. Finally she said, calling the orchestra con ductor by his name, "Mr. Beckwith, you do not understand. My boy's father, Dr. Daniel Hughes Taylor, left us alone when the boy was one year old, and my present husband is just a working man". All was quiet for a few minutes.
Presently Mr. Beckwith said sympathetically, "Please tell me where the boy's father is".
The sturdy young English mother, bracing herself up in her chair, said falteringly, "My boy's father came from his native country, Sierra Leone, Africa, to London. He entered University College and was graduated as a medical student. His college career was so brilliant that he became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons. He was also connected with the Royal College of Physicians. As an assistant to another physician, he practiced for a while in London and did well.
"Unfortunately for him, his partner moved away and the patients refused to continue with my husband because he was an African. He became discouraged and returned to his native country. My boy and I lived for five years with some of my friends in their three—room apartment. It was my friend's husband who gave Samuel the little violin a few months ago on his fifth birthday."
Mr. Beckwith sat quietly listening to every word. Once or twice he took out his
handkerchief and wiped his eyes. When the young mother had finished her touching
story, he assured her of his deep interest and arose to go. However, before
leaving, he asked if she would let the boy come
unsungheroes131.jpg to him for a violin lesson the next day. She consented and Mr. Beckwith, without further word, bade her and little Samuel good—night.
The next day at the appointed hour, little Samuel and his mother found Mr. Beckwith's studio. Seeing the sign on the door "Walk In" they walked in and took their seats. The entire surroundings the beautiful room, the piano, the violins, the cabinet with its many pieces of music, held their attention.
In the midst of this, Mr. Beckwith entered and bowed to them. He immediately called Coleridge—Taylor forth and began to give him a lesson. The little fellow took hold of his violin, at first a bit timidly, but with encouragement and assurance from his teacher he gradually played as though he had forgotten everything but the music before him. When his lesson was over he left the studio with beaming face but returned again and again for his lessons.
When the child was six, Mr. Beckwith arranged for him to appear in a recital given by his students. Standing on a couple of boxes which raised him above the ferns on the platform, little Samuel drew forth much applause from the audience by his performance.
He continued to study and take lessons of
unsungheroes132.jpg Beckwith. Finally, Mr. Beckwith succeeded in getting him into the Old British School, which was partly kept up by subscriptions from friends. The headmaster of the school, as the principal was called, welcomed the boy and soon began to pay attention to him and talk about his unusual ability. His schoolmates soon began to call him "Coaly". Sometimes a boy sitting behind "Coaly" would run his fingers through "Coaly's" silken mop of thick, black hair. Such attentions always made "Coaly" smile.
The headmaster and other masters, as the teachers were called, encouraged him to work hard on his music. His classmaster, fond of singing himself, created enthusiasm for the weekly singing lessons, during which Coleridge—Taylor stood on a table in front of the class and led with his violin.
At the request of this teacher, Coleridge—Taylor sat up one night, when he was only nine years old, and wrote an original tune for the hymn, "God Save the Queen". The next day, standing on a table in front of his class, he played the tune and sang it with his sweet treble voice until his classmates learned to sing it too. He often sang for visitors without seeming to think that he had done any more than the other boys.
The time of the year soon came around when the headmaster began to make his annual visit to friends for funds for the school. As usual, he called upon the choirmaster of St. George's Presbyterian Church, who was always on the lookout for boys with good voices. After greeting him heartily and chatting with him a while, the choir master asked if there were any good voices in the school.
The headmaster hesitated a moment and then said, "I have a little boy in my classes who takes to music as a fish takes to water, but he is a colored boy".
The choirmaster replied, saying, "Well, I am much more concerned about his voice than about his color; send him over to see me".
The next day Coleridge—Taylor went to see the choirmaster. He seemed to hesitate and to shrink away when the choirmaster called him up to sing. However, as soon as he sang, the choirmaster entered his name for the next vacancy in the choir.
Just after Coleridge—Taylor left the choir master's home, the thought of
offering prizes to the Old British School for a singing contest suddenly dawned
upon the choirmaster. He thought the matter over carefully and laid it before
the headmaster of the school, who in turn presented
unsungheroes134.jpg it to the school. Twenty boys, among whom was Coleridge—Taylor, at once offered to enter the contest. A song called "Cherry Ripe" was selected. For several weeks "Cherry Ripe" was practiced and talked about as the only school topic.
The afternoon set for the contest finally came. All the boys assembled in the chapel, with the twenty boys in the contest occupying the front seats. While everyone sat anxiously waiting for the singing to begin, the headmaster rose, stated the meaning of the occasion and called forth the first singer. A lad with confident air arose, walked to the platform and sang as though he thought he were a nightingale. Then another and another came forward until all had sung except one little bushy—headed, brown—skinned boy. All eyes were now fixed upon him as he made his way to the plat form with his usual shyness. He found his place and began to pour forth such sweet, true, mellow tones that all began to whisper softly, "Coaly has it. Coaly has it". The song was finished in the midst of uproarious applause. The judges went out quietly and soon returned with the verdict unanimously in favor of "Coaly".
Very soon after Coleridge—Taylor had won the prize this choirmaster,
Colonel Herbert A. Walters by name, took him under his care and looked
unsungheroes135.jpg after him until he became a man. Finding him quick, eager and with a wonderful ear for music, Colonel Walters, in addition to teaching him some simple theory of music, gave him voice production and solo singing. He soon placed him in St. George's choir as solo boy. Coleridge—Taylor appeared in many of St. George's concerts and later in those of another church as a singer and as a violinist.
During all these years, he had continued his violin lessons with Mr. Beckwith. When he was only twelve years old he was frequently sought out by music lovers and musicians to play for them on many important occasions. Now that he was solo boy in the choir it seemed that he had found a position for the remainder of his life, but all of a sudden, however, at the age of fifteen, his treble voice broke, making it impossible for him to continue as a solo boy.
He remained as a member of the choir for ten years longer. Since he could not
continue as vocal soloist, Colonel Walters set out to secure for him a start in
the larger musical world. A London firm of piano makers, wishing to help Colonel
Walters and the boy, offered to apprentice him to the piano—tuning trade.
Colonel Walters thanked them very graciously but went away
unsungheroes136.jpg saying that piano—tuning for such a musical genius would be even worse than using a fine razor to chop firewood.
The colonel, although he was not a wealthy man, finally offered Coleridge—Taylor a higher musical education. Both Coleridge-Taylor and his mother thanked him enthusiastically. The colonel, after visiting and comparing all the musical colleges in London, chose for his brown boy student the Royal College of Music. Coleridge—Taylor was enrolled as a student in that college and began his study at the Christmas term of 1890. He was seemingly even more shy than usual; however, he began to study the violin, the piano and harmony. Before a great while, each of his teachers in these subjects began to speak with enthusiasm about his success. Coleridge—Taylor, however, was really more interested in writing music than in anything else.
During his first year in the college, he wrote some anthems which so attracted
the attention of Colonel Walters that he brought them to the notice of the
professors. While Coleridge—Taylor was under the instruction of one of the
greatest of the college professors in his second year, he wrote four other
anthems. These anthems so interested all of the professors of the college that
unsungheroes137.jpg they began to speak freely of him as a genius and a composer.
For a long time, it had been the custom of the Royal College to offer nine scholarships to students winning in a certain musical contest. Coleridge—Taylor entered this contest during his third year in the college and won the scholarship for the best piece of music written. He composed so many pieces each year that when he was twenty years old the Royal College permitted him to give a concert at which he used practically his compositions only.
Two years later, he appeared on the program of a students' concert as a composer. At the conclusion of his number, he ran upstairs and hid in the organ room. The applause, however, was so great that his professor, who had also been intensely interested, found him and almost had to drag him down.
From this time apparently the eyes of musical critics were focused on the young musician. Sometimes he would leave public gatherings and seek his mother's kitchen. There he would sit and sing over to her this or that tune which he had composed.
During his fourth year in college, he won another prize for musical composition.
unsungheroes138.jpg this, there were few college concert programs in London which did not contain a musical number bearing Coleridge—Taylor's name. He took up the study of the pipe-organ and continued it for two terms but dropped it, saying, "The organ is far too mechanical and soulless for me".
Shortly after Coleridge—Taylor had completed his six years in the Royal College, he sat one afternoon in his humble home on a dingy street in London, composing a difficult piece of music. Near his doorway, an organ—grinder began to fill the air with his mechanical tunes. Coleridge—Taylor, greatly disturbed, threw down his pen, rushed out and bade the organ—grinder go away. A neighbor also hurried out, asking as she shook her fist at Coleridge—Taylor and ran towards the organ—grinder, "Why are you sending this man away?"
Coleridge—Taylor replied, "I am a composer of music, and I am engaged on a long com position. The grinding noise of that organ is serious for me".
"Well", said she, "my children like the organ as much as you dislike it. We have
as much right to have it as you have to send the man
unsungheroes139.jpg away. As for your piano, it is a good thing that it is interrupted, for there is too much of it for us". At that juncture a policeman came upon the scene, and the organ—grinder moved on.
Coleridge—Taylor began to inquire about his neighbor's children. He was told that she had tipped the organ—grinder to come and play outside of her house for the amusement of a sick child. When the organ—grinder came the next day, Coleridge—Taylor went out and talked with him about the time of his appearance there each day so that he might plan to avoid composing music at that time. Although his evening practice had seemingly become a real part of his life, for a long time he refrained from touching his piano during the night hours because of the sick child.
Disturbed by all sorts of noises in that street, he and his mother's family moved to more quiet quarters. These new surroundings seemed to in spire him so that he was able to give evening violin lessons at the conservatory of music, conduct a small orchestral class and compose the music for "Hiawatha's Wedding Feast" during the same year.
Early in the next year, Coleridge—Taylor received from the oldest of the
great English musical societies a commission, or a special invitation,
unsungheroes140.jpg to write a selection for its Annual Festival. Overjoyed because of this invitation, he set to work at once and composed a piece called "Ballade in A Minor". Soon he began his rehearsals with the orchestra and chorus which were to render it. He conducted these rehearsals until the very night of the concert, September 12, 1898.
That night people from all parts of London poured into the hall until it was crowded. The hour for the concert was at hand. The orchestra and the chorus were in their places. The orchestra conductor, Samuel Coleridge—Taylor, a light brown—skinned, quick—moving, polished young man, with bright eyes and a large head covered with rather long, thick, silken hair, entered. The audience, not knowing what he looked like, paused for a moment, then broke into a storm of applause.
He bowed, took up his baton and gave the signal. The orchestra and then the
chorus began. The first strains of the music seemed to charm the people. Each
part followed with increasing interest. At the close of the performance, the
audience again broke forth with thunderous applause. Three times
Coleridge—Taylor was compelled to come forward to acknowledge the
appreciation of the audience. Many people crowded around him
unsungheroes141.jpg and congratulated him and invited him out to social affairs. The next day the London papers were all praising Coleridge—Taylor both as a composer and as an orchestra conductor.
As soon as this event was over, he again turned his attention to Longfellow's "Hiawatha". He says that he committed the whole poem to memory and lived with the words until they became a part of him. Just two months after he conducted the "Ballade in A Minor", "Hiawatha's Wedding Feast", his next composition, was sung by the choir and orchestra of his own college The Royal College of Music.
On the evening of this concert, Royal College Hall buzzed with a crowded, expectant audience. Every seat was occupied. People were sitting on the steps of the platform and standing in the aisles. When everything was in readiness for the concert to begin, Sir Charles Stanford, a Professor in the Royal College of Music, took up the baton. The trumpets gave out the simple, charming opening subject of the "Wedding Feast". The audience sat as if in a trance. Interest grew and grew as the words of Chibiabos, the friend of Hiawatha and the sweetest of all singers, were sung:
When the last strains of the orchestra died away, the applause of the audience was loud and long. Coleridge—Taylor was called forth in the midst of the demonstration. He soon disappeared, only to be called back again and again. As the people departed from the concert, they saw Coleridge—Taylor, greatly embarrassed because of his great success, dodging into doorways to get out of their sight. The next morning, he seemed to be even more embarrassed as he glanced at the newspapers and saw in large headlines his name mentioned as a great musician.
One evening, long before this concert, every light in the home of the
Walmisley’s, a well—to—do English family, burned with unusual
brightness. Vases and bowls of beautiful flowers scented the atmosphere. Mr. and
Mrs. Walmisley, assisted by their attractive and accomplished daughter Jessie,
stood in their large parlors receiving their
unsungheroes143.jpg guests, among whom was Coleridge—Taylor. In the midst of the festivities, it was announced that Coleridge—Taylor would play a violin selection. He came forth and began to play to the piano accompaniment of Miss Jessie Walmisley, who was also a student at the Royal College of Music. The hush of silence which always possessed audiences when Coleridge—Taylor played his violin, at once stole over this happy group of cultured people. When he had finished, his hearers called him back several times. As the guests departed from the Walmisley home that evening, they were all talking about their charming hostess and the genius of the young violinist.
Some months later, Miss Walmisley's professors required her to practice some violin and piano duets as vacation exercises. In her search for someone with whom to practice, she thought of the talented young Negro whom she had accompanied at her mother's party. She wrote to the College for his address but through mistake, the address of another player by the name of Coleridge was sent to her. She went in search of him. Although disappointed at meeting the wrong per son, she continued her inquiry and search until she found the home of Coleridge—Taylor.
Two minutes later Coleridge—Taylor himself came to the door smiling and shaking his head, saying, "Can't do it now, can't possibly do it now. I am writing a quartet".
She replied as she started off, "I am sorry to have troubled you".
He stood looking at her and rather suddenly said, "Wait a moment".
"I could not think of bothering you now", she replied.
Coleridge—Taylor ran out and insisted that she come in. While she waited, he hurried back to his room and wrote down some notes. Soon he came forward again with a smile, saying, "I can give you an hour".
They practiced just one hour. After thanking him many times, Miss Walmisley started to go, but suddenly hesitated to ask if he could possibly help her again. He consented, and at the close of each practice he kept on promising a little more time. Perhaps before they fully realized it, two years had passed and they had become fast musical friends. She joined his orchestral class and assisted him greatly.
Their friendship, both realized, had steadily ripened. Miss Walmisley seemed puzzled to know whether she should permit herself to love Coleridge—Taylor. She ceased for a time to meet him or to have anything at all to do with his class. During this period of freedom from his company, she realized that she really loved him, and she made up her mind to stand by him. They soon became engaged.
After this, whenever it was convenient and fitting, Miss Walmisley would read through proofs of his compositions and sing his new songs for him. One day while they were attending a concert in a town near London, the usher announced to their surprise and embarrassment, their engagement.
During these days, Coleridge—Taylor was com posing almost without stopping
except for his meals and a long walk with Miss Walmisley each day. With
invitations to write for great occasions pouring in upon him, he composed "The
Death of Minnehaha", "The Song of Hiawatha" and other numbers. The theme of "The
Song of Hiawatha" Coleridge—Taylor says he took from a plantation melody,
"Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen", which he had recently heard sung by the
famous Fisk Jubilee Singers. It was through these sing—
unsungheroes146.jpg ers, says he, that he first learned to appreciate the beautiful Negro folk songs.
Now that Coleridge—Taylor, at the age of twenty—four, felt sure of his ability to support a family, he and Miss Walmisley planned a quiet wedding in a little church in Croydon. In their attempt to keep the matter a secret, they ordered an old rickety, weather—beaten carriage to wait outside of the church to take them away after the wedding. To their surprise, the news of the wedding had leaked out and when they entered the church, there sat a church full of friends waiting for the ceremony. Immediately following the ceremony Coleridge—Taylor and his bride left the town for two weeks.
During that time Coleridge—Taylor continued his work on "Hiawatha's Departure", which was afterwards given by a famous choir and orchestra of a thousand members, with the composer as the conductor.
Coleridge—Taylor soon became a professor in the University of London. He
was spoken of as one of the three greatest British orchestra conductors of his
time. During the thirteen years of his happy married life, he was busy composing
music, teaching and conducting orchestras. It
unsungheroes147.jpg was during these years that his two children Gwendolen and Hiawatha were born.
He traveled England from end to end and visited America four times. On his third visit to America, he wrote the first sketches of "A Tale of Old Japan", which came next in popularity to "Hiawatha".
The greater part of 1912 was gloomy, and the sun failed to shine in England. Coleridge—Taylor seemed sad because of this, but he worked hard and so completely finished up all of his compositions that he said to his wife, "I have never felt so free of work in my life". He planned to go to the seashore but his son Hiawatha contracted influenza in a severe storm, and so he remained at home and amused himself by taking long walks.
One morning he said, "I have had a lovely dream". "What, another lovely dream? What is it this time?" said Mrs. Coleridge—Taylor.
He answered, "Oh, I dreamt I saw Hurlstone in Heaven. [Hurlstone was a friend who had recently died.] I was just entering. We didn't speak but we embraced each other. That means I am going to die". Mrs. Coleridge—Taylor, insisting that it was only a dream, tried in vain to cheer him.
One August morning of this gloomy year, Gwendolen and he went out and bought some yellow chrysanthemums for Mrs. Coleridge—Taylor. On their return Coleridge—Taylor gave them to his wife and bade her good—bye. He left to go to a moving—picture show but became suddenly ill, and fell at the station where he bought his ticket. With difficulty he reached home. For several days, he did not seem to be dangerously ill, but acute pneumonia soon developed. He became steadily worse. On Sunday of that week, September 1st, he was propped up in bed with a pillow. He seemed to imagine an orchestra before him and an audience behind him. He conducted a performance, beat time with both arms and smiled his approval here and there. That smile never left his face. Still smiling and conducting, he sank back on his pillow and passed away.
The funeral services were held at St. Michael's Church, Croydon, England,
September 5, 1912. People came from all parts of England. Many were in the
church long before the services began. Mr. H. L. Balfour, organist of the Royal
Choral Society, played during this period of waiting, se lections from
Coleridge-Taylor's works. Among them was a selection from "Hiawatha's Wedding
Feast" "Chibiabos, the sweetest of all singers,
unsungheroes149.jpg the best of all musicians". The beautiful slow movement from Coleridge—Taylor's violin Concerto in G Minor, which was not then published, was played also. The services closed with his funeral march from "The Death of Minnehaha".
The inscription on the headstone which marks his grave reads as follows:
In Memory of
who died on
September 1, 1912
at the age of 37
Bequeathing to the World
A Heritage of an undying Beauty.
His Music Lives.
It was his own, and drawn from vital fountains.
It pulsed with his own life,
But now it is his immortality.
He lives while music lives.
Too young to die—
His great simplicity, his happy courage
In an alien world,
His gentleness made all that knew him love him.
ASTRONOMER AND SURVEYOR
ONE winter evening long ago, everything in Baltimore County, Maryland, was covered with deep snow. Icicles nearly a foot long hung from the roofs of the rough log cabins. The trees of the thick forest which extended for miles around stood like silent ghosts in the stillness, for no one in all that wooded country stirred out on such an evening.
Far away from the other cabins stood the Banneker cabin. Little Benjamin Banneker was busy before a glowing wood fire roasting big, fat chestnuts in the hot embers. His grandmother sat in the corner in a quaint split-bottom, white-oak chair, knitting and telling him about her native country, England.
She said, "When I was in England, milking the cows on a cattle farm was a part of my daily duties. One day I was accused of stealing a pail of milk which had in fact been kicked over by the cow. Instead of meting out a more severe punishment, the officers of the law sentenced me to be shipped to America. Being unable to pay for my passage, I was sold, upon my arrival in America, to a tobacco planter on the Patapsco River to serve a period of seven years to pay the cost of my passage".
Silence reigned for a few moments, then she continued, "I worked out my period of service, then bought a part of the farm on which I had worked. I also bought two African slaves from a ship in the Chesapeake Bay. One of the slaves, your grandfather, the son of an African king, had been stolen from the coast of Africa".
Little Benjamin then asked, pointing to his grandfather, who was sitting on the other side of the hearth, "Was grandfather that man, grandmother?"
"Yes", she said. She continued her story, ending with a beautiful description of the River Thames, the Tower of London, and Westminster Abbey.
All was still for a while, except for the occasional moving of Benjamin and the bursting of chestnuts. Benjamin's grandfather, who was sitting with his eyes closed, now broke the silence. Said he, "Benjamin, what are you going to be when you are a man, a chestnut roaster?"
"I am going to be—I am going to be—what is it, grandmother? You know you told me a story about the man who knew all the stars", said Benjamin.
"An astronomer", replied his grandmother.
"That's it, I am going to be an astronomer", answered Benjamin.
"You have changed in the last day or two, then", said his grandfather. "The day your grandmother told you about the man who could figure so well with his head, you said you would be that".
"That man was a born mathematician", suggested his grandmother.
Benjamin began to blink his eyelids rapidly and to twist and turn for an answer. Soon his mouth flew open saying, "Well, I'll be both, I'll be both!"
His grandmother interrupted by saying, "I wonder what has become of my little inventor? Benjamin, you remember what you said when I told you the story about that inventor".
Benjamin gave that look which always said, "Well, I am caught"; but soon he recovered and with this reply, "I can tell you what I am going to do, I am going to school first to learn to figure. And then while I am farming a little for my living I can stay up at night and watch the stars. And in the afternoon I can study and invent things until I am tired, and then I can go out and watch my bees".
"When are you going to sleep, my boy?" asked his grandmother.
"In the morning", said he.
"And you are going to have a farm and bees, too?" she asked.
"Yes, grandmother", said Benjamin, "we might just as well have something while we are here. Father says that he will never take mother and me to his native country—Africa—to live. Grandmother, did you and grandfather have any children besides mother?"
"Yes, there were three other children", replied his grandmother.
"When father and mother were married", said Benjamin, "mother didn't change her
name at all from Mary Banneker as the ladies do now, but father changed his name
to Robert Banneker.
unsungheroes157.jpg I am glad of it, for you see you are Banneker, grandfather is Banneker, I am Banneker and all of lis are Bannekers now".
"My boy", interrupted his grandfather, "I am waiting to hear how you are going to buy a farm."
"Oh, grandfather", said Benjamin as he arose, "you remember that mother and father gave Mr. Gist seven thousand pounds of tobacco and Mr. Gist gave them one hundred acres of land here in Baltimore County. Grandfather, don't you think father will give me some of this land? He cannot use it all."
"Yes, when you are older, Benjamin. But you must go to school and learn to read first", answered his grandfather.
"Yes but—ouch, that coal is hot!" cried Benjamin as he shook his hand, danced about the floor and buried his fingers in a pillow. That time he had picked up a hot coal instead of a chestnut. Some time after his fingers were "doctored" and he was apparently snug in bed for the night, he shook his hands and cried out for his grandmother.
Benjamin rose the next morning, and after breakfast, began again to roast
chestnuts. Morning after morning he roasted chestnuts until the snow had all
cleared away. Then he entered a pay
unsungheroes158.jpg school and soon learned to read, write and do some arithmetic. After some months had passed he began to borrow books and to study by himself.
FARMER AND MATHEMATICIAN
When Benjamin was about twenty-seven, his father died. As he had prophesied when he was a boy, his father's farm bought with the tobacco, became his. On this farm was Banneker's house —a log cabin about half a mile from the Patapsco River. In his doorway he often stood looking at the near and distant beautiful hills along the banks of this river. What he said about his bees when he was a boy came true also. These he kept in his orchard; and in the midst of this or chard a spring which never failed, babbled beneath a large golden willow tree. His beautiful garden and his well-kept grounds seemed to give him pleasure.
Banneker never married, but lived alone in retirement after the death of his
mother. He cooked his own food and washed his own clothes. All who knew him, and
especially those who saw that he was a genius, spoke well of him. He always
greeted his visitors cheerfully, and he
unsungheroes159.jpg kept a book in which was written the name of every person by whose visit he felt greatly honored.
Some one who knew him well says that he was a brave-looking, pleasant man with something very noble in his face. He was large and some what stout. In his old age he wore a broadbrimmed hat which covered his thick suit of white hair. He always wore a superfine, drab broad cloth coat with a straight collar and long waist coat. His manners, some one says, were those of a perfect gentleman—kind, generous, hospitable, dignified, pleasing, very modest and unassuming.
He worked on his farm for his living, but found time to study all the books which he could borrow. He studied the Bible, history, biography, travels, romance, and other books, but his greatest interest was in mathematics. Like many other scholars of his day, he often amused himself during his leisure by solving hard problems. Scholars from many parts of the country often sent him difficult problems. It is said that he solved every one sent to him and he often sent in return an original question in rhyme. For example, he sent the following question to Mr. George Ellicott, which was solved by a scholar of Alexandria:
A Cooper and Vintner sat down for a talk, Both being so groggy, that neither could walk. Says Cooper to Vintner, "I'm the first of my trade; There's no kind of vessel but what I have made. And of any shape, Sir—just what you will; And of any size, Sir—from a ton to a gill!" "Then", says the Vintner, "you're the man for me— Make me a vessel, if we can agree. The top and the bottom diameter define, To bear that proportion as fifteen to nine ; Thirty-five inches are just what I crave, No more and no less, in the depth will I have. Just thirty-nine gallons this vessel must hold, Then I will reward you with silver and gold. Give me your promise, my honest old friend?" "I'll make it to-morrow, that you may depend!"
So the next day the Cooper his work to discharge, Soon made the new vessel, but made it too large ; He took out some staves, which made it too small, And then cursed the vessel, the Vintner and all. He beat on his breast, "By the Powers!" He swore he never would work at his trade any more! Now, my worthy friend, find out, if you can, The vessel'sdimensions and comfort the man.
INVENTOR AND ASTRONOMER
When Banneker was about thirty-eight years old he sat day after day working
on a clock. Finally he finished it with his imperfect tools and with only a
borrowed watch for a model. He had never seen a clock for there was not one,
it is said, within fifty miles of him. An article published in
unsungheroes161.jpg London, England, in 1864, says that Banneker's clock was probably the first clock every part of which was made in America. For many hours and days he turned and adjusted the hands of his clock until they moved smoothly and the clock struck on the hour.
Time passed, and after some years Mr. George Ellicott's family—Quakers from Pennsylvania they were—began to build flour-mills, a store and a post-office in a valley adjoining Banneker's farm. Banneker was now fifty-five years old, and had won the reputation of knowing more than any other person in that county. Mr. Ellicott opened his library to him. He gave him a book which told of the stars. He gave him tables about the moon. He urged him to work out problems for almanacs.
Early every evening Banneker wrapped himself in a big cloak, stretched out upon the ground and lay there all night looking at the stars and planets. At sunrise he rose and went to his house. He slept and rested all the morning and worked in the afternoon. His neighbors peeped through the cracks of his house one morning and saw him resting.
They began at once to call him a lazy fellow who would come to no good end.
In spite of this, he compiled an almanac. His first almanac was published
for the year 1792.
unsungheroes162.jpg It so interested one of the great men of the country that he wrote to two almanac publishers of Baltimore about it. These publishers gladly published Banneker's almanac. They said that it was the work of a genius, and that it met the hearty approval of distinguished astronomers. Banneker wrote Thomas Jefferson, then Secretary of State, on behalf of his people, and sent him one of his almanacs. Mr. Jefferson replied :
Philadelphia, August 30, 1791.
Sir—I thank you sincerely for your letter of the 19th inst. and for the almanac it contained. Nobody wishes more than I do to see such proofs as you exhibit, that nature has given to your race talents equal to those of the other races of men. I am with great esteem, Sir, Your most obedient servant, THOS. JEFFERSON
This strange man, Benjamin Banneker, never went away from home any distance until he was fifty-seven years old. Then he was asked by the commissioners, appointed to run the boundary lines of the District of Columbia, to go with them. He accompanied them.
Later, The Evening Star a Washington daily
paper, said, "Major L'Enfant, the
unsungheroes163.jpg engineer, bossed the job while Benjamin Banneker did the work". 1 On Banneker's return home from Washington he told his friends that during that trip he had not touched strong drink, his one temptation. "For", said he, "I feared to trust myself even with wine, lest it should steal away the little sense I had." In those days wines and liquors were upon the tables of the best families.
Perhaps no one alive today knows the exact day of Banneker's death. In the fall, probably of 1804, on a beautiful day, he walked out on the hills apparently seeking the sunlight as a tonic. While walking, he met a neighbor to whom he told his condition. He and his neighbor walked along slowly to his house. He lay down at once upon his couch, became speechless and died. During a previous illness he had asked that all his papers, almanacs, and the like, be given at his death to Mr. Ellicott. Just two days after his death and while he was being buried, his house burned to the ground. It burned so rapidly that the clock and all his papers were destroyed. A feather bed on which he had slept for many years was removed at his death. The sister to whom he gave it opened it some years later and in it was found a purse of money.
Benjamin Banneker was well known on two continents. An article written about him in 1864 by a member of the London Emancipation Society says, "Though no monument marks the spot where he was born and lived a true and high life and was buried, yet history must record that the most original scientific intellect which the South has yet produced was that of the African, Benjamin Banneker".
FIRST POETESS or HER RACE ON
IN 1753 a baby girl was born on the Western Coast of Africa. Her mother did not sit for hours making beautiful little dresses and doing embroidery for her, for that is not the custom in Africa. Babies do not need many clothes in that warm country. There little children, and grown people too, run around with just a piece of cloth tied about their waists.
The child was not robust, but she grew and grew until she soon became her mother's companion. Her mother, believing that a Great Spirit lives in the sun, went out of her little thatched—roof house every morning and prostrated herself to pour out water before the rising sun. The child often watched the water as it streamed down, and sometimes she jumped and clapped her little hands with glee.
One bright morning, after this religious ceremony was performed and
breakfast was over, the girl ran out to play with the other children.
She was shedding her front teeth, but she was not
unsungheroes168.jpg large for her age and she was none too strong. While she and her playmates were having a happy time, suddenly one of the older children ex claimed, "Hoi! hoi!" Every child looked up and took to its heels. There were strange—looking men hurrying towards them. The children ran and screamed. Our little girl stumbled and fell, and the man, pursuing her, grabbed her. She kicked and yelled but he held her fast. Her best friend ran behind a big tree, but she, too, was caught. They both kicked and yelled, but they were taken on board an American vessel. Other children who were caught were also brought to the shore kicking and crying.
When there were almost enough of them for a boat—load, the vessel
sailed away. They were on the water for many days. The voyage was long
and the sea was rough. The waters lashed the sides of the vessel as it
rocked to and fro. Some of the children fell to the floor with spells of
vomiting. Many a night everything for a time was in complete darkness
and everybody was afraid. The little vessel, however, tugged away for
days and nights until it sighted lights flickering in the Boston Harbor.
All the voyagers, tired and hungry and lonely, rejoiced to be nearing
even an unknown land. Soon the boat pulled into the harbor, and
unsungheroes169.jpg although no comforts had been provided for them for the night, weariness of body so overcame loneliness of heart that all of them soon fell asleep.
The news had gone abroad in Boston that a shipload of Africans was approaching. The next morning many Bostonians hurried to the harbor to see the Africans. Among the number of spectators there was a Mrs. John Wheatley, the wife of a tailor. She walked around and looked many of the African girls over from head to foot. Finally she handed the shipmaster money and took our girl away with her to her home.
She and her daughter were busy for a while heating kettles of water, getting out clothing and sewing on a button here and there, preparatory to giving her a good hot bath. When the child was called in she gazed at this strange—looking object which Mrs. Wheatley called a tub. She looked at the soap and felt it. She stretched her eyes as she looked upon the nice white clothes on the chair. She seemed just a little afraid and yet she did as Mrs. Wheatley told her and soon had her bath.
After she was dressed, she met another big surprise. She was taken into
a dining—room, where the table was all spread with white linen.
There were strange-looking things to eat. She began
unsungheroes170.jpg eating, but said that the food did not taste like the food in Africa. She picked over this and picked over that, but nothing tasted just right. Nevertheless she smiled, and it appeared that she was not very hungry. Mrs. Wheatley watched her closely as she came in touch with all of these strange new things and assured her that in a few days everything would not seem so queer. The girl adopted the customs of the family and they named her Phillis Wheatley.
Every day as Mrs. Wheatley's daughter sat reading or writing letters,
Phillis stood looking at her in wonder. Miss Wheatley seemed to write
with so much ease that one day Phillis went out with a piece of charcoal
in her hand and began to try to write on the side of a wall. Miss
Wheatley, who was seated at a window, watched her for a long time, then
called her in and showed her how to make some letters. Phillis busied
herself for the remainder of the day making letters and keeping Miss
Wheatley busy showing her how to make new ones. That night she scarcely
wished to leave her writing to go to bed, but Miss Wheatley persuaded
her by promising to give her a lesson every day. They set the lesson
hour and Phillis went to bed smiling and shaking with joy. Just at the
right time every day she walked into Miss Wheat—
unsungheroes171.jpg ley's room for her lesson. When her lessons were over and she was not busy with her work, she was p'oring over her books. In less than a year and a half she could easily read the most difficult parts of the Bible without making a mistake. In four years people in different parts of the country began to hear of her and write to her and even furnish her with books. To the surprise of the Wheatleys, she was soon studying and reading the Latin language without any one to help her.
At the age of fourteen, Phillis began to write poetry. Often when some great person of whom she knew died, she would write a poem to commemorate his death. Sometimes she awoke during the night and composed verses but could not recall all of them the next morning. As soon as Mrs. Wheatley discovered this, she began leaving a light and writing materials on the table at Phillis's bedside every night. In cold weather, she always left a fire burning on the hearth in Phillis's room.
For six years Phillis was busy writing poetry and letters and studying
and receiving visitors. Many people in England corresponded with her.
The educated people of Boston were often seen making their way to the
Wheatley home. They talked with Phillis and questioned her, and often
unsungheroes172.jpg asked her to read some of her poetry. When she in turn went to their homes they took great pride in showing her off as a wonder. Those who talked with her marveled at her knowing so much about English poetry, astronomy, ancient history and the Bible.
She continued to write and study. In her nineteenth year she became so thin and pale that the family doctor advised Mrs. Wheatley to give her a sea voyage. Accordingly, the following summer, Phillis set out for London with Mrs. Wheatley's son, who was going there on business. On her arrival in London, after days of travel, some of her friends with whom she had corresponded, met her and welcomed her. As she visited the different ones, she went to dinner parties and theatre parties given in her honor.
When articles about her poetry began to appear in many of the leading London papers, her friends advised her to have all of her poems published. She considered the matter and went with some of them to see a publisher. After reviewing the poems, the publisher accepted them and published them, in 1773, under the title, "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, by Phillis Wheatley".
As soon as copies of the poems reached America
unsungheroes173.jpg and were read, many people expressed doubt about the author being an African girl. The Governor of Massachusetts and seventeen other Bostonians, upon hearing this report, wrote a letter assuring people everywhere that these poems were written by Phillis Wheatley.
Phillis Wheatley's London friends were making plans to present her to their king, George III, who was expected in London within a few days, but word reached her that Mrs. Wheatley was quite ill and wished to see her at once. Her passage was secured for her while she packed her trunk. As fortune would have it, a vessel was sailing that day for Boston. She bade her friends good—bye and put out to sea. The vessel moved slowly, but after days of travel it landed at Boston. She was met at the dock and hurried to the Wheatley home. Mrs. Wheatley caressed her again and again, and lay looking at her for days. For two months Phillis waited upon Mrs. Wheatley and sat by her bedside night after night until she died. Four years later another shock came to the family Mr. Wheatley died. Seven months after his death his daughter passed away, leaving Phillis alone.
Phillis lived a short while with a friend of the Wheatleys and then
rented a room and lived
unsungheroes174.jpg alone. She lived in this way until she began to taste the bitterness of Revolutionary War times. At that time one goose sold for forty dollars and one—fourth of a lamb sold for fifty dollars.
One evening during these hard times she met a handsome man by the name of Peters, who wore a wig and carried a cane. He also kept a grocery store, practiced law and wrote poetry. He began at once to pay court to Phillis. Later he called on her, often took her out for a stroll or to a party until they were married several weeks later.
After the wedding day, Phillis began her daily round of sweeping and cleaning, cooking and washing and ironing. As the years came and went, three children came into their lives. Mr. Peters failed in business and then left to Phillis the support of herself and the children. She secured a job in a cheap boarding—house, where she worked every day from early morning until late at night. She became ill from overwork.
During the first summer of her illness two of her children died. The following winter, cold and snowy, some charitable organization placed in her back yard a load of wood. Although the wood lay there, Peters often went out, leaving Phillis lying on her poor bed without a spark of fire on the hearth. She lay there for weeks.
Friends and distant relatives of the Wheatleys often inquired about Phillis, but no one seemed to know where she was. Finally one December afternoon, in 1784, as a grand—niece of Mrs.Wheatley chanced to be walking up Court Street in Boston she met a funeral. Upon inquiry she learned that it was the funeral of Phillis Wheatley.
AN HYMN TO THE MORNING
AN HYMN TO THE EVENING
unsungheroes180.jpg [illustration - "My children, choose your duty." ]
Chapter X Toussaint
Commander-In-Cheif Of An
Manyyears ago a keen-faced little boy with protruding lips, Toussaint by name, was busy, day by day, tending a great herd of cattle on the Island of Hayti in the West Indies. He started out early every morning, cracking his whip as loudly as he could and getting his cows in line. Often he ran upon one, gave her a cut and called out, "Gee, there, Sally; ha, ha, get in line there, Buck! Come on now! Get up, I say!"
That great herd of cattle marched out at his bidding and began to graze in the deep valleys or on the high mountains. Even the most unruly ones ate around and around in the high grass. All of them ate and ate, and many lay down about noon and chewed their cuds. Toussaint kept his eye on them and at the same time busied himself with other things.
One day he climbed an orange tree, sat in the fork of it and ate oranges
until his stomach looked like a little stuffed pouch. Another day he sat
unsungheroes182.jpg lazily under a banana tree, reached up and pulled bananas and ate and ate, and pulled more and ate until he almost fell asleep. Still another day, he hammered away on a hard coconut shell trying to burst it with his fist. Later, he joined the na tives for a few minutes as they washed gold from the sands of a stream of water.
While many of the cows were resting from the heat one day, Toussaint ran across to the two great hills of pure salt. "Oh, isn't that beautiful," he said in French. "And do we really eat that salt in our food? And is one of those salt hills two miles long? Well, there must be enough salt there to salt down everything and everybody on the island. I guess we'll be salting down the trees next," he added. The next day at noon he ran away to the blue copper mines and the sulphur mines and gathered a handful of flowers along the way.
As the time passed, he settled down to get out his reading, arithmetic, geometry and Latin. Toussaint's teacher, who was an older slave, had in some way learned quite a little of these subjects and was teaching him secretly at night.
Years passed, and Toussaint continued to tend the cattle as though
nothing terrible would ever happen to him. Cattle-tending days finally
unsungheroes183.jpg and he was promoted to the position of coachman and horse doctor.
Some of the boys eyed him jealously as his carriage dashed by them. They said, "Eh, Mr. Horse Doctor! Drenching old horses, ha, ha!" Toussaint reared back and held the lines tightly with his arms outstretched. With his horses all sleek and his carriage polished like a looking- glass, he sat back like the grandson of an African king, as he was, and drove with a steady hand.
Apparently happy now in his new position, he married an African young woman whose parents, like his own, had been brought from Africa to Hayti many years before. Many other Africans had been brought over as slaves to this island to work the land because the natives of Hayti had died out. There were also on the island French men, Spaniards and free Negroes.
Trouble arose among these people and war broke out. For days fires raged,
houses were burned and thousands of people fell dead and mortally
wounded by bullets. Toussaint looked on, but took no part in the war at
first. When his master's home was about to be burned to the ground he
broke into it, rescued very valuable articles for his master, and helped
his master's family to escape from the island. Then he became
unsungheroes184.jpg a free man, joined the army of slaves and soon rose to the rank of colonel. His army joined with the Spaniards, but when the French gave freedom to all the slaves, his army joined the French and drove the Spaniards from the island.
Before the close of the war, the French made Toussaint brigadier-general. As brigadier-gen eral he made charts of the island and studied them so closely that he knew the course of every stream and the location of every hill.
He fought the Spanish so hard that one after another of their towns fell into the hands of the French. One day a French soldier exclaimed, "Cet homme fait ouverture partout" (this man makes an opening everywhere) . This saying was passed along by the soldiers, and ever after this Toussaint was called "Toussaint L' Ouverture" (Toussaint, the opening). 'Tis true he had been in battles and made openings, but nothing terrible had happened to him yet.
For a long time the French general seemed to have very little confidence
in Toussaint, but once this general was thrown into prison on the
island. Toussaint marched at the head of an army of 10,000 men, had him
released and restored him to his office. For this act Toussaint was ap
pointed lieutenant-governor of the island. Later
unsungheroes185.jpg on he became commander-m-chief of the French army in Santo Domingo. This was the most im portant position on the island where Toussaint had been a slave for nearly fifty years. Every where people gladly co-operated with him in his administration.
Now that things were going well, he sent his two sons to Paris to be educated. The French rulers publicly praised him and called him the de liverer of Santo Domingo. The French Govern ment presented him with a richly embroidered dress and a suit of superb armor.
Finally Toussaint became president of Hayti for life. It is said that his generals were as obe dient to him as children. His soldiers looked upon him as a wonder, and the people generally wor shipped him as their deliverer. English officers who fought against him said that he never broke his word.
He was plain in his dress and in all his manners. His dinner often consisted of cakes, fruit and a glass of water. He often jumped on his horse and rode one hundred and fifty miles without rest. Then he would rest for two hours and start out again.
During the last two years of Toussaint's life, a terrible thing happened
to him. Napoleon Bona-
unsungheroes186.jpg parte, the ruler of France, because of jealousy, it is said, sent against Toussaint twenty-six war ships and a number of transports. On board these vessels there were twenty-five thousand French soldiers. When Toussaint looked out upon the ocean and caught a glimpse of this great fleet, he said in his native tongue, "All France is coming to Santo Domingo". The soldiers landed and be gan to slaughter the natives.
Toussaint's two sons, whom he had not seen for several years, were on one of the ships. When they saw their father they ran to meet him. Toussaint could not speak, but he and his sons threw them selves into each other's arms and wept bitterly. The French general, it is said, saw that he could not use these boys to play a trick on their father and thus make him yield to the French. He then said that the boys must be taken back to France. Toussaint stood before his sons with folded arms, saying in the French language, "My children, choose your duty; whatever it be, I shall always love and bless you."
One of the boys said, "I am done with France. I shall fight by your side,
Father." The other boy left his father and returned to France. The cruel
war continued. Toussaint and his generals with a small body of troops
fortified themselves in a
unsungheroes187.jpg mountainous retreat. The French soldiers tried hard for a long time to dislodge them but they could not. Finally Toussaint sent two of his pris oners with a letter to the French General saying that he would make peace.
A few days later, when Toussaint came forth to greet the French general, guns were fired in Tous- saint's honor and all heads were bowed as he passed by. Three hundred horsemen with their sabres drawn followed Toussaint to protect him. He and the French General agreed on a plan, but Napoleon Bonaparte declared that Toussaint must be sent as a prisoner to France.
It was difficult to take him as a prisoner and so a trick was played on him. At the giving of a signal, French soldiers sprang upon his guards and disarmed them. Then they bade Toussaint give up his sword. He yielded it in silence and was taken to his own home. A band of French soldiers came during the night and forced him and his wife to go aboard a French vessel.
On their way to France Toussaint's cabin door was guarded by soldiers.
His wrists were chained together. He was not even permitted to talk with
his wife. When his vessel landed at Brest, France, a detachment of
soldiers took him to Paris and placed him in prison. Winter soon came on
unsungheroes188.jpg he was taken to an old castle away up in the Jura Mountains. In this old castle there was a cold, wet dungeon partly under ground. He was plunged into this and there he remained for ten months, neglected, humiliated and starved. On the 27th of April, 1803, he was found dead in his dungeon.
JOSIAH HENSON, or "Si" as he was called, tried at the age of fifteen to out-hoe, out-reap, out-husk, out-dance every other boy on his master's plantation in Charles County, Maryland. Boys would sometimes stand around and look at "Si" and talk about the wonderful things he could do and the great stories they had heard about him. One special story they liked to tell.
The story was this: As a child "Si" was such a sickly little fellow his master offered to sell him cheaply to the man who owned his mother. His mother's master hesitated to buy him, saying, "I am afraid the little devil might die. I do not wish to buy a dead brat". Nevertheless, he finally agreed to shoe some horses for Si's master and thus pay a small sum for Si.
Occasionally after some boy was through telling this stock tale, which
always produced a laugh, other boys would begin to guess why Si was so
great. One said one day, "I guess it's that meat
unsungheroes192.jpg Si eats at Christmas time. He certainly doesn't get much at any other time".
"No", said another, who slept in the cabin with Si, "Si sleeps more soundly than any one of us in the cabin, and there are twelve of us who sleep in that one room, counting the women and girls. Give me a board and let me show you how Si stretches out on his plank. Now give me some straw to go under my head. How I wish there were a big fire on a hearth to toast my feet before, like Si does as he sleeps!"
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed the boys as the young fellow stretched out on the board like Si.
A third boy then said, "Well, Si was named for two great men his master, Dr. Josiah, and Dr. Josiah's uncle, Mr. Henson, who was an army officer". Other boys gave still other reasons for Si's greatness. However, the one thing upon which all were agreed was that Si could out-hoe, out-reap, out-husk, out-dance, out-everything every other boy on his master's plantation in Charles County, Maryland.
Si seemed to grow steadily in favor with his master and the older slaves
as well as with the boys. One day he went to his master and reported
that the overseer was stealing things at a certain time every day. His
master sent him out to watch
unsungheroes193.jpg for the overseer. Just as the overseer came around for his booty, Si ran for his master. His master ran out and caught the overseer in the act of stealing and dismissed him at once.
Josiah, as his master called him, was then promoted to the position of superintendent of the farm, but without pay. He led the slaves. He hoed and plowed early and late. Men and women worked harder and far more cheerfully than usual. The crops were nearly doubled. Josiah often rose from his plank at midnight, hitched the mules to a loaded wagon and drove through mud and rain to the Georgetown or the Washington, D. C., market to sell the produce.
One day as he was selling at McKenny's bakery in Georgetown, he asked Mr. McKenny about a sermon which he had recently heard Mr. Mc Kenny preach. After telling Mr. McKenny that that was the first sermon he had ever heard, he asked how men learned to preach.
Mr. McKenny told him a little about God and the Bible. He went further, saying, "My young man, you must be about nineteen or twenty years old now. You have a good mind. You must learn to preach to your people". This thought seemed to linger with Josiah as he made his way back home that evening hungry and tired.
His master, he learned, had been away at the tavern nearly all day. He ate his supper, called for his master's saddle horse, which he led to the tavern. As his master's body-servant, he alighted and went in. Just as he reached the door he saw his master cornered and a dozen men striking at him with their fists, chairs, crockery and whatever was at hand.
The moment Josiah's master saw him he shouted, "That's it, Josiah! Pitch in! Show me fair play!" Josiah pitched in. He knocked down and shoved and tripped up the fighters, sustaining many bruises on his own head and shoulders. Finally he was able to drag his master out and pack him into a wagon like a bag of corn and drive home. In the scuffle the overseer of Josiah's master's brother got a fall which he attributed to Josiah's roughness.
One week later Josiah's master sent him to a place a few miles away to
mail some letters. He took a short cut through a lane which was bounded
on either side by a high rail fence and shut in at each end by a large
gate. As he passed through the line, he saw the overseer who had fallen
that night and three slaves in an adjoining field. On his return, the
overseer was seated on the fence. Just as Josiah approached, the
unsungheroes195.jpg from the fence. Two of the slaves sprang from the bushes in front of Josiah and the other slave leaped over the fence behind him. After listening to several commands to light at once, Josiah slipped off his horse. Orders were given him to remove his shirt, but he shook his head. Just then the men struck at him so violently that his horse broke away and ran home. Josiah, in warding off the blow, got into a corner. The overseer ordered the slaves to seize him, but they, knowing Josiah's reputation, hesitated to run upon him. The two slaves that finally ventured upon Josiah were so completely knocked out that the overseer began to fight like a madman. As he struck at Josiah with a piece of fence rail, Josiah lifted his arms to ward off the blow. The bones in Josiah's arms and shoulders cracked like pipe-stems, and he fell headlong to the ground.
When Josiah finally made his way home, his master, already anxious because of the return of the riderless horse, examined him and went in search of the overseer, whom he gave a severe flogging.
With the belief so well fixed that a slave would get well anyhow, no
medical aid was provided for Josiah except what came at the hands of his
master's sister, Miss Patty. Miss Patty flinched at
unsungheroes196.jpg no responsibility, from wrenching out teeth to setting bones. She splinted Josiah's arms and bound up his back as well as she could.
Five months later, Josiah began to plow, to take up his duties as superintendent, and to make his usual trips to the markets. In about a year, al though he was never able after that eventful day to raise his hands to his head, he married a rather efficient, pious girl who, as the years rolled on, bore him twelve children.
Josiah kept the slaves cheerful and busy. He furnished his master with abundance of money, which his master used freely on an eighteen-year- old girl whom he soon married.
The young mistress, in her attempt to save everything, failed to provide her younger brother, then living with her, with enough to eat. The boy went to Josiah with tears in his eyes and asked for food. Josiah shared his own provisions with him. However, in spite of the young mistress's frugality, her husband's good times involved him in debt and in lawsuits with his brother-in-law and others, and finally in ruin. He went to Josiah's cabin one cold night in January. As he sat by the fire warming himself, he began to groan and wring his hands.
Finally pulling himself together, he said, "Oh, Josiah! I'm ruined, ruined, ruined!"
"How, master?" asked Josiah in excitement.
The master replied, "The courts have ruled against me, and in less than two weeks every slave I have will be put up and sold. There is only one way I can save anything. You can help me. Won't you, Josiah?"
"Yes", replied Josiah.
His master then said, "I want you to run away, Josiah, to my brother in Kentucky, and take all of my slaves with you". Josiah hesitated, saying that he did not know how to get to Kentucky. His master prevailed upon him until he promised to leave the following night for Kentucky.
The next morning Josiah set about making preparations for his journey.
When evening came on he counted all of the slaves eighteen in number,
besides himself, his two children and his wife, He loaded a one-horse
wagon with oats, meal, bacon and children, and set out about eleven
o'clock for Kentucky, nearly a thousand miles away. The men trudged all
the way in the cold. Occasionally the women rested by getting a ride on
the wagon. After about two months and a half
unsungheroes198.jpg of wonderful experiences on the road, Josiah and the other slaves reached Davis County, Kentucky.
In that county Josiah's master's brother owned a large plantation and about one hundred slaves. Josiah became superintendent of that plantation after several months' stay there. He made him self about as content as he could under the circumstances. He occasionally attended preaching services and camp meetings. At the end of his three years' stay in Kentucky, a Quarterly Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church admitted him as a minister. About this time Josiah's master sent an agent to Kentucky to sell all his slaves except Josiah and his family, who were to return to Maryland.
Directed by a Methodist minister, Josiah preached his way back through
Ohio to Maryland, arriving with two hundred and seventy-five dollars, a
horse and his first suit of clothes. His master greeted him, commented
upon his fine clothes and sent him out to feed his horse. Josiah put his
horse in the stable and went to the kitchen, where he was to sleep. He
could not sleep for planning how to get his master to accept money for
his free dom. His master was not easily persuaded. Nevertheless, he
accepted three hundred and fifty dollars in cash as part payment for
unsungheroes199.jpg freedom. Josiah set out again for Kentucky. Days passed before he was again back in his Ken tucky cabin with his family. He became angry as soon as he heard how much more he had to pay before he could be free, and yet he went about his work as usual.
A year passed. One day Josiah's master told him that his son Amos was going to New Orleans with a flat-boat load of beef cattle, pigs, poultry, corn and whiskey. He said further that Josiah was to go with his son. Josiah's countenance fell. He said he feared he would never return. When he was ready to go, his wife and children walked to the landing with him, where he bade them good-bye.
Young master Amos, Josiah and three other men were the only persons on the boat. Each one except Josiah took his turn at the helm, usually under the direction of the captain. Josiah took three turns to each of the other men's one. He managed the boat so well that when the captain was struck totally blind on the trip, all depended upon him for reaching New Orleans in safety. However, he did not know the river well enough to travel by night; therefore the boat had to lay by when night came on.
One dark, stormy night, when they were within
unsungheroes200.jpg a few days' sail of New Orleans, Josiah sat knit ting his brow and beating his breast in apparently hopeless despair. Suddenly he rose, saying, "I will kill the four men on the boat, take all the money, scuttle the boat and escape to the North". He walked alone on deck, while the other men were all asleep. Finally he went down, got an ax, and entered his young master's cabin where he lay fast asleep. Josiah raised the ax and was about to strike, but hesitated, saying, "What, commit murder, and I a Christian?" His arm dropped, the ax fell to the floor. Then he said to himself, "Ah, I am glad the thought took hold of me. Evil deeds cannot be hidden. 'Murder will out.' I must not lose all the fruits of my effort at improving myself. I must not lose my character". He shrank back and fell upon his knees.
Soon after they arrived in New Orleans, the cargo was all sold and the men were discharged. Josiah was to be sold the next day and Master Amos was to take passage back on a steamboat at six o'clock that evening.
Josiah could not sleep that night. Just a short while before daylight,
Master Amos called him, saying, "My stomach is out of order". Josiah
arose and went to him. His illness was so violent that Josiah saw at
once that he had the river fever.
unsungheroes201.jpg By eight o'clock that morning he was helpless. He begged Josiah to stick to him until he reached home again. Josiah sold the flat-boat, placed his young master and the trunk containing the money for the cargo on the steamer and was off for Ken tucky by twelve o'clock that day. As he sat by his master, bathing his fevered head, he could not help feeling that God had opened the way for his return to his family in Kentucky.
During the days that Josiah was preaching his way through Ohio, he had heard much about fugitive slaves. He had also met several men who were engaged in assisting fugitives to escape. All of this now came back to him very vividly.
He thought and thought, and then spoke to his wife about running away to the North. Struck with fear, she attempted to show him the dangers in their way. After pleading with her for several days, he told her one night that he was going to take the children and go. She, too, then agreed to go. Josiah wondered now how he could carry his younger children one of whom was three years and the other only two. He placed them in a tow-sack which his wife had made, lifted it gently across his shoulder and practiced carrying them on his back. This he did for several nights.
Finally the evening in September agreed upon
unsungheroes202.jpg for their start came around. Everything was ready for the venture with one exception Josiah had not obtained his master's permission to let little Tom, the eldest child, come home to see his mother. About sundown, he went up to the great house to report his work. After talking with his master for a time he started off as usual. Suddenly he turned carelessly back, saying, "Oh, Master Amos, I almost forgot. Tom's mother wishes to know if you will let him come down a few days ; she would like to mend his clothes and fix him up a little".
"Yes, boy, yes, he can go", said Master Amos.
"Thank you, Master Amos, good night", said Josiah.
"Good night, Josiah", said he.
"The Lord bless you, Master Amos", added Josiah, as he and Tom struck a
trot for home. Everybody at home was ready to start. The babies were
even sitting in the sack. Soon they were all at the ferry. About nine
o'clock on that moonless night, Josiah and his family were set across
the river in a little skiff rowed by a fellow slave. They walked and
walked until they were within two days of reaching Cincinnati, when
their food gave out and they were nearly exhausted. Josiah ventured out
to beg something for his children to eat. Finally a good woman filled a
plate with salty
unsungheroes203.jpg venison and bread and gave it to him, saying, "God bless you".
The children ate and then cried for water. Josiah went in search of water and found a little. Seeing that his old hat leaked too badly to hold water, he pulled off both his shoes, rinsed them out and filled them with water, which he took to his thirsty children, who drank and drank until both shoes were drained.
Refreshed with food and water, they arose and continued their journey. After several weeks' travel they reached Sandusky, Ohio, where they secured passage to Buffalo, New York, with a Scotch captain. The Scotch captain, on reaching the end of his trip, paid their passage money on the ferry-boat across to Canada and gave Josiah one dollar besides. On the twenty-eighth of October, 1830, they arrived in Canada.
Josiah Henson began to work for a man with whom he remained three years. This man gave Tom, Henson's twelve-year-old son, two quarters' schooling. Tom soon learned to read well, and he read a great deal to his father from the Bible on Sunday mornings when his father was to preach.
When he had finished, he turned to his father and said, "Father, who was David? He writes prettily, doesn't he?" And then Tom asked again, "Father, who was David?"
Henson said he was utterly unable to answer Tom's question, for he had never before heard of David, but he tried to conceal his embarrassment by saying, "David was a man of God, my son".
"I suppose so", said Tom, "but I want to know something more about him. Where did he live? What did he do?"
Finally Henson said frankly, "I do not know, Tom".
Tom exclaimed, "Why, Father, can't you read ?"
"I cannot", said Henson.
"Why not?" said Tom.
"Because I never had an opportunity to learn, nor anybody to teach me", replied Henson.
"Well, you can learn now, Father", said Tom.
"No, my son", answered Henson. "I am too old and have not time enough. I must work all day or you would not have enough to eat."
Tom said, "Then you might do it at night".
Henson thought a moment and, looking at his bright-eyed boy, said, "But
still there's no-
unsungheroes205.jpg body to teach me. I can't afford to pay anybody for it, and of course, no one can do it for nothing".
'Tom approached his father, saying, "Why Father, I'll teach you; and then you'll know so much more you can talk better and preach better". After wrestling with the matter a short time, Henson agreed that Tom was right. They began and continued through the winter to study together every evening by the light of a pine-knot or some hickory bark, until the coming of spring, when Henson had learned to read a little.
Now, at the age of fifty years, he was having some very new experiences. In line with his thought of establishing a school to help his people, he went to a Boston friend for aid, who in turn went to England and raised $15,000 for the school. With this money two hundred acres of land were bought at Dawn, Canada, on which, covered as it was with black walnut timber, a schoolhouse was built and opened to the public. Later a saw mill was built on this tract of land and set to running. The school and the sawmill prospered for a while, but soon both were in need of funds.
Henson had four black walnut boards so highly polished that they shone
like mirrors. These he took to London, England, and exhibited at the
World's Industrial Exhibition. For this exhibit
unsungheroes206.jpg he was awarded a bronze medal and a life-size picture of the Queen and royal family.
This was neither Henson's first nor his last trip to that country. After some years of trouble and sorrow and loss, he returned to England, just after the news had gone abroad that he was the original "Uncle Tom" of Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin". This time many honors were heaped upon him. He even visited Windsor Castle and was presented to Queen Victoria, who presented him with a photograph of her self on an easel frame of gold.
On his return to the United States in 1878, he was received at the White House in Washington, D. C., by President Hayes. Before returning to Canada to spend the last three years of his life, he visited the old home place in Charles County, Maryland, where his former mistress, for whom he had worked fifty years before, and who was now poor and decrepit, wept for joy at the sight of him.
Chapter XII SOJOURNER TRUTH
AMONG Isabella's earliest recollections was a picture of her father and mother sitting night after night in their damp cellar, lighted by a blazing pine-knot, talking over their experiences of bygone days. Occasionally they would refer to one snowy morning when an old-fashioned sleigh drove up to their door and took away their un suspecting little boy, Michael, and their little girl, Nancy, locked in the sleigh-box.
Whenever this story was mentioned, Isabella seemed to fall into a deep study. However, she was left to remain in Ulster County, New York, her birthplace, until her mother and father died. She was then sold to a man whose wife scolded and frowned at her creeping gait, her dull under standing and slovenly ways. In spite of his wife's impatience, the man insisted that Isabella could do as much work as half a dozen common people and do it well.
Isabella, therefore, fond of trying to please her
unsungheroes210.jpg 210] UNSUNG HEROES new master, often worked several nights in succession, taking only short naps as she sat in her chair. Some nights, fearing that if she sat down she would sleep too long, she took only cat-naps while she rested against the kitchen wall.
One morning the potatoes which Isabella had cooked for breakfast seemed unusually dingy and dirty. "Look!" said Isabella's mistress to her husband, "a fine specimen of Bell's work! It is the way all her work is done!" Isabella's master scolded her and bade her be more careful in the future. The two white servant-girls in the family also abused Isabella for preparing such food.
Isabella moped around apparently wondering why the potatoes looked so dingy and dirty. As she stood wondering how to avoid this the next time, Gertrude, her mistress's little daughter, stole quietly up behind her. Said she, catching Isabella by the arm, "Bell, if you will wake me early tomorrow morning, I will get up and attend to your potatoes while you go out to milk the cows. Then Father and Mother and all of them will not be scolding you". Isabella bowed, thanked her and promised to wake her early; then off Ger trude ran.
The next morning, just as the potatoes began
unsungheroes211.jpg to boil and milking time came, little Gertrude walked into the kitchen and seated herself in the Corner by the fire. She opened her little sewing basket and busied herself with making something for her doll. As she sat there, one of the maids came in with the broom in her hand and ordered her out, but Gertrude refused to go. The maid began to sweep hurriedly. When she reached the fireplace, she pretended to be in such a hurry, she caught up a handful of ashes and quickly dashed them into the potatoes. Gertrude ran out of the kitchen, saying, "Oh, Poppee! oh, Poppee! the girl has been putting ashes into Bell's potatoes! I saw her do it! Look at those that fell on the outside of the kettle!" She ran about the house and yard telling her story to every one. Her father listened to her story, called the maid in and, brandishing his fist at her, gave her orders to let Bell alone.
For many years, Isabella tried harder each year to please her master.
Even after she had married and become the mother of five children, she
obeyed him to such an extent that she would not steal even a crust of
bread for her hungry children. When her household duties were done, she
went to the field to work. After placing her baby child in a basket, she
tied a rope to each handle and suspended the basket to the branches of a
unsungheroes212.jpg She then set one of the larger children to swing the basket "in order to make the baby happy and keep the snakes away", she said.
Isabella's master promised that if she would continue to be faithful he would set her free one year before all the slaves in New York State were to be free. As the time drew near, her master claimed that because of her sore hand that year, she had been of less value and would therefore have to remain longer. However, Isabella decided to remain only until she had spun all his wool.
One fine morning, a little before daybreak, she stepped away from the rear of her master's house with her baby boy on one arm and her clothes and provisions tied in a cotton handkerchief on the other. Fortunately, she landed in the home of a man who made no practice of buying and selling people. Nevertheless, he gave Isabella's master, who came in search of her, twenty- five dollars for her freedom.
Just before Isabella left her master, he had sold her five-year-old boy
to a man who was on his way to England. The man, finding the boy too
small for his services, sent him back to his brother, who in turn sold
the boy to his brother-in- law in another state. When Isabella heard
that her boy had been sold and sent away, she started
unsungheroes213.jpg out to find the guilty party and, if possible, to make him return her boy.
She went to her former mistress and others concerned in the sale, saying, "I'll have my child again". Finally she went to her former master, who told her to go to the Quakers and they would assist her. Straightway she went to the home of a Quaker family. They welcomed her and placed her in a room where there was a high, clean, white bed. In all of her twenty-seven years she had never slept in a bed. She sat for a long time looking at the bed and getting ready to crawl under it. However, she finally crawled gently up into the bed and soon fell asleep. The next morning, her Quaker friends took her nearly to town and gave her directions for reaching the court-house, where she made complaint to the grand jury.
On reaching the court-house, she entered. Thinking that the first
fine-looking man she saw was the grand jury, she began to complain to
him about her boy. He listened for a few moments and then told her that
there was no grand jury there ; she must go upstairs. When she had made
her way upstairs through the crowd, she again went to the
grandest-looking man she saw. Immediately she began to tell him that she
came to make her complaint to the grand jury. Greatly
unsungheroes214.jpg amused, he asked what her complaint was. As soon as she began in her impressive way to tell her story, he said, pointing to a certain door. "This is no place to enter a complaint—go in there".
She went in, and finding the grand jurors sit ting; began to tell her story. One of the jurors asked if she could swear that was her be
"Yes", Ac answered, "I swear it's my son."
"Stop, stop!" said the lawyer, "you must swear by this Bible." Taking the Bible, she placed it to her lips and began to swear it was her child. The clerks in the office burst into an uproar of laughter. None of this seemed to disturb Isabella. After understanding that she was simply to make a pledge of her truthfulness with her hand upon the Bible, she did so and hurried away. With a piece of paper, called a writ, in her hand for the arrest of the man who had sent her boy away, she trotted to the constable eight miles off. Although the constable by mistake served the writ on the wrong brother, it had its effect. The brother who had sold the boy went in hiding until he could dip away to get the boy.
The distance was great and travel in those days was slow. Autumn days
came and went and then winter, and finally spring came before the man
arrived with the boy. During all these months
unsungheroes215.jpg Isabella kept going about seeing this friend and that one, until she said she was afraid that she had worried all of her friends, even God himself. nearly to death.
The news finally reached her that her boy had come, but that he denied having any mother. When she reached the place where her boy Peter was, he cried aloud against this tall, dark, bony woman with a white turban on her head. He knelt down and begged with tears not to be taken from his kind master. When some one asked him about the bad scar on his forehead, he said, "Master's horse hove me there". And then some one else asked about the scar on his cheek. He said. "That was done by running against Master's carriage". As he answered both of these questions, he looked wistfully at his master, as much as to say, "If they are falsehoods, you bade me say them : may they be satisfactory to you, at least".
Kind words and candies at last quieted Peter and he said, looking at his mother. "Well, you do look like my mother used to look". They embraced each oilier and went their way.
After Isabella and Peter had been free one year they went to New York
City to live. Peter was growing tall and rather nice-looking, in spite
of his hard life. He often attracted
unsungheroes216.jpg attention by his winsome way; but tempted by the gay life of New York City, he was soon drawn into a circle of boys whose sole object was to have a good time. He began to conceal from his mother those things of which he thought she would not approve. For example, for two years he was known among his worthless companions as Peter Williams, without his mother's knowledge of his new name. However, a friend of Isabella's, much pleased with Peter's appearance and bright mind, said that Peter should have an education if any one else should. Believing this, she paid ten dollars as tuition for him to enter a navigation school. Instead of at tending school, Peter went irregularly, making some reasonable excuse each time to his teacher for not being able to attend school that day. Isabella and her friend, believing that Peter was doing well in school, secured for him a part-time job as coachman. Peter soon sold the livery and other things belonging to his employer.
He became involved in one difficulty after an other, but each time
Isabella managed to get him out. Each time she tried to reason with
Peter. He would always confess, saying that he never intended to do
wrong, but had been led along little by little until before he knew it,
he was in serious
unsungheroes217.jpg trouble. At last, seeing no improvement in her son, Isabella made up her mind to let him go un assisted in his difficulties. Finally, he fell into the hands of the police, who sent for Mr. Peter Williams, a barber. Mr. Williams's interest was so aroused by the boy's having his name, that he paid the fine on Peter's promise to leave New York City on a vessel sailing within a week.
Mr. Williams seemed surprised to find that the boy had such a mother as Isabella. Isabella said that she was afraid lest her son would deceive Mr. Williams and be missing when the vessel sailed. However, Peter sailed ; though for over a month Isabella lived in fear of seeing him emerge from some by-street in New York City. More than a year had passed when Isabella received the following letter:My dear and beloved Mother:
I take this opportunity to write to you and inform you that I am well, and in hopes of finding you the same. I got on board the same unlucky ship "Done of Nantucket". I am sorry to say that I have been punished once severely by shoving my head in the fire for other folks. We have had bad luck, but in hopes of having better. We have about 230 on board, but in hopes, if we do have good luck, that my parents will receive me with thanks.
I would like to know how my sisters are. Do my cousins live in New
York yet? Have you received my letter? If not, inquire of Mr. Peirce
Whitings. I wish you would write me an answer as soon as possible. I
am your only
unsungheroes218.jpg son, that is so far from home, in the wide, briny ocean. I have seen more of the world than I ever expected, and if I ever return home safe, I will tell you all my troubles and hardships. Mother, I hope you do not forget me, your dear and only son. I should like to know how Sophia and Betsy and Hannah are. I hope you all will forgive me for all that I have done.
Isabella's last annual letter from Peter said that if he did not do well,
she need not expect him home in five years. During the five years of
expectant waiting, Isabella joined Zion's Church, in Church Street, New
York City, where she worshiped for some time. One Sunday morning, after
services, a tall, well-dressed woman came up and made herself known to
Isabella as her sister Sophia who had just moved to New York City. She
also brought to meet Isabella her brother Michael, whom Isabella had
never seen. The brother Michael told Isabella that her sister Nancy, who
had been for many years a member of Zion Church, had just passed away.
As he de scribed his sister Nancy's features, her manner, her dress, and
named her class leader, Isabella stood shaking as though she would fall
to the floor. She caught hold of the back of a bench, ex claiming, "I
knelt at the altar with her. I took the Lord's Supper with her. I shook
unsungheroes219.jpg her! Was that my sister who was taken away one snowy morning in the sleigh? Are you my brother Michael who was taken away in the sleigh- box?" The three of them stood there mingling their tears each with the other.
While Isabella was a member of Zion Church she often visited the pavement meetings of a band of religious fanatics. These fanatics were in the habit of fasting every Friday and sometimes as long as two nights and three days, refusing even a cup of cold water. Isabella asked one of the leaders why he fasted. He said that fasting gave him great light on the things of God. "Well", said Isabella, "if fasting will give light inwardly and spiritually, I need it as much as anybody, and I'll fast too". She further said, "If such a good man as that needs to fast two nights and three days, then I certainly ought to fast more. I will fast three nights and three days".
She fasted three nights and three days, not drinking even so much as a
drop of water. The fourth morning when she arose and tried to stand, she
fell to the floor. Feeling very empty and light, she crawled to the
pantry, but fearing, as she says, that she might now offend God by
eating too much, she compelled herself to eat dry bread and drink water.
Before she felt strong enough to
unsungheroes220.jpg walk she had eaten a six-penny loaf of bread. She says that she did get light, but it was all in her body and none in her mind.
During Isabella's first years in New York City, she was always trying to place a little money from time to time in the savings bank for the rainy day. Influenced by her fanatic friends, she drew her money from the savings bank and placed it in their common treasury, or kingdom, as they called it, not even asking about interest or taking account of what she had put in. In later years Isabella often said in her witty way, "The only thing I recovered from the wreck of that common kingdom was a few pieces of old furniture".
With all of her savings gone, she started anew, working early and late, to lay aside enough to buy a home for herself in her advanced age. If the people in the home where she worked gave her fifty cents to hire a poor man to clean away the snow, she arose early, performed the task herself and pocketed the money. She began to feel that she, too, was robbing the poor in her selfish grasping.
She talked much about this. It seemed to prey on her mind. Finally she
decided to leave New York City and travel east and lecture. With the
secret locked in her own bosom, she made ready
unsungheroes221.jpg for leaving by placing a few articles of clothing in a pillow-case. About an hour before starting but, she went to the woman at whose house she was staying and said, "My name is no longer Isabella, but 'Sojourner'. I am going east. The spirit calls me there, and I must go".
On the morning of June 1, 1843, Sojourner, now forty-three years old, set out from New York City with her pillow-case in one hand, a little basket of provisions in the other and two York shillings in her purse. As she crossed over to Brooklyn, she says she thought of Lot's wife, and, wishing to avoid her fate, was determined not to look back until New York City was far in the distance. When night came on she sought for a lodging place wherever she could find one.
It was her plan, as she explained, when she be came weary of travel and
needed rest, to stop at some home for a few days. The very first time
she felt the need of rest badly, as she walked along the road, a man
addressed her, asking if she were looking for work. "Sir", she said in
her queenly way, "that's not the object of my travels, but if you need
me I can help you out for a few days". She went in and worked so
faithfully that the man offered her at the time of her departure what
seemed to her a large sum of money. Refusing all
unsungheroes222.jpg except two or three York shillings which she considered sufficient to take her on her mission, she went her way.
After she had traveled far out on Long Island, one evening, in her search for a night's lodging, she met two Indians who took her for an acquaintance. They asked if she were alone. Not knowing anything at all about them, she replied, "No, not exactly", and kept going.
In her search for lodging places, Sojourner Truth occasionally went into dance-halls and hovels of the lowest kind. Nevertheless, she traveled on foot lecturing in many New York and Connecticut towns. Then led, as she claimed, by the spirit, she continued her journey to Northampton, Massachusetts.
One night, while she was living at Northampton, she attended a
camp-meeting which was being held in the open air. Those attending the
meeting slept in tents. A company of boys present said they were going
to set fire to all the tents. Those in charge of the meeting sent for
the sheriff to arrest the ring-leaders. Sojourner Truth rushed to hide
in one corner of a tent. She said, "Shall I run away and hide from the
devil? Me a servant of the Living God? Have I not faith enough to go out
and quell that mob when I know it is writ-
unsungheroes223.jpg ten one shall chase a thousand and two put ten thousand to flight?" She walked out from her hiding-place, under the moonlight, to the top of a small rise of ground and began to sing:
The boys with their sticks and clubs made a rush towards her and crowded around her. She stopped singing and after a few minutes asked in a gentle but firm tone, "Why do you come about me with clubs and sticks? I am not doing harm to any one".
Many of them said, "We are not going to hurt you, old woman. We came to hear you sing".
"Sing to us", another cried.
"Tell us your experience", said another.
"You stand and smoke so near me, I can't sing or talk", she answered. They immediately removed their cigarettes and cigars. At their suggestion and with their help, she climbed upon a wagon nearby and spoke and sang for nearly an hour. Upon asking the third time if they would go away and act like men, all yelled out, "Yes, yes!"
She traveled a great deal, holding many meetings for the sake of the
freedom of her people.
unsungheroes224.jpg Imagine this big, bony, black woman, six feet tall, walking along the highway or riding along with a small clay pipe in her mouth from which rolled columns of smoke. One evening she was riding in the State of Iowa on a railroad train. A man sitting in a seat just behind her saw her smoking and said to her, "Do you believe in the Bible?"
"I do", she replied.
"Well, then", said he, "what can be more filthy than the breath of a smoker? Doesn't the Bible say no unclean thing shall enter the kingdom of heaven?"
"Yes, child", she answered, "but when I go to heaven I expect to leave my breath behind me".
Even before the Civil War, she held meetings in many states. At the close of a meeting in Ohio one evening, a man came up to her and said, "Old woman, do you think that your talk about slavery does any good? Do you suppose people care what you say? I don't care any more for your talk than I do for the bite of a flea".
"Perhaps not", she answered, "but the Lord willing, I'll keep you a-scratching." Once when she was out on a speaking tour she met a man who asked, "What business are you following now?"
She quickly replied, "Years ago when I lived in New York City my occupation was scouring brass door-knobs, but now I go about scouring copper-heads".
She could neither read nor write. She seemed to know, however, something about many of the big subjects of the day, such as "Suffrage", "Temperance" and "Abolition". She even attended the first big woman's suffrage convention, held in Ohio. This convention was held in a church. Sojourner Truth marched in like a queen and sat on the pulpit steps. In those days men thought women should not vote. The men and even the boys were laughing at the women and teasing them for holding such a meeting.
Old "Sojourner Truth" rose and walked out in front of the speakers' table. She took off her sun- bonnet and laid it at her feet. Many of the women said, "Don't let that old woman speak. She will do us harm".
But the presiding officer rapped on the table for order and "Sojourner
Truth" began by saying, "Well, children, where there is so much racket
there must be something out of kilter". She had something sharp to say
in reply to every minister who had spoken. One minister had said that
women should not vote because Eve had acted
unsungheroes226.jpg so badly. To him she said, "If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down, all alone, these together [glancing around over all the women] ought to be able to turn it right side up again".
She took her seat in the midst of great applause. Many women rushed to her, shook her hand and said, "You have saved the day".
One day while Lincoln was President of the United States, Sojourner, old and bent, walked into the marble room of the Senate Chamber. It was an hour not soon to be forgotten. Senators rose and shook her hand. They asked her to speak. As she spoke, some sat with tears in their eyes. When she had finished they shook her hand again, gave her a purse and bade her good-bye. A Washington Sunday paper had a long article about Sojourner Truth's speaking to the United States Senators. This article said: "Sojourner Truth has had a marvelously strange life. The leaven of love must be working in the hearts of all people".
In her old age and suffering, Sojourner Truth was supported by a friend. The end came at Battle Creek, Michigan, November 26, 1883.
unsungheroes228.jpg [illustration - Crispus Attucks ]
CRISPUS ATTUCKSwas born many years ago, at some place, but nobody in the world seems to know just where. And no one seems to know anything at all about him, or about his people, except that he was a sailor. He received public notice just twice in his lifetime. The first time it was through an advertisement in a Boston newspaper, which came out on the second of October, 1750. The advertisement read:
Ran away from his master, William Brown of Framingham, on the 30th of September, last, a Molatto-Fellow, about twenty-seven years of age, named Crispus, 6 feet 2 inches high, short curl'd hair, his knees nearer together than common; had on a light color'd Bearskin Coat, plain brown Fustain Jacket, or brown all-wool one, new Buck skin Breeches, blue yarn stockings, and a checked woolen shirt.
Whoever shall take up said Runaway, and convey him to his above said Master, shall have ten pounds, Old Tenor Reward, and all necessary charges paid.
The name of Crispus Attucks appeared in the Boston papers just once more,
and that was
unsungheroes230.jpg twenty years later, at the time of the Boston Massacre. In those days Crispus Attucks knew nothing about the United States, and nobody else did, for there were no United States. There were only the American colonies of Great Britain.
Because Great Britain knew that these colonies were angry with her, she sent several regiments of soldiers over to Boston, Massachusetts. These soldiers were to make the colonies obey England. Every one in Boston seemed to be speaking against these British soldiers.
Finally a group of men led by Crispus Attucks began to pelt them with missiles and chunks of ice, and to dare them to fire their guns, but the British soldiers fired. Shells from their guns struck Crispus Attucks and three other men. Crispus Attucks and one of the men, by the name of Caldwell, fell dead. The other two were mortally wounded.
The whole city of Boston was in an uproar. Bells were ringing everywhere,
and people were running here and there as if they were crazy. In the
midst of all of this excitement, the bodies of Crispus Attucks and
Caldwell were taken into Faneuil Hall. It is said that their faces were
looked upon by the largest gathering of people
unsungheroes231.jpg ever assembled there. One of the men who fell was buried from his mother's home. Another was 'buried from his brother's home, but Attucks and Caldwell, being strangers in the city, were buried from Faneuil Hall.
The four hearses bearing the bodies of the dead men met in King Street. From there the funeral procession moved in columns six deep. There was an extended line of carriages containing the first citizens of Boston. The four bodies were buried in one grave, and over the grave was placed a stone with this inscription:
Crispus Attucks is sometimes called a madcap, because he led the Boston Massacre charge, which was the beginning of the Revolutionary War. He had apparently been around Boston for some years and had listened to the fiery speeches of some of the orators of that day.
A memorial shaft was later erected on Boston Common to the memory of these men, and a memorial tablet was placed on State Street in Boston.
Chapter XIV ALEXANDRE
ALEXANDRE DUMAS was the son of a French general. Once Alexandre went to Paris with his father to see a friend, and while talking with this friend, the general said, pointing to Alexandre, "After I am dead, I want you to help my boy".
His friend replied, "Oh, you will outlive me". The general, however, did not live long after this. He died when Alexandre was only four years old. Then this rosy-cheeked, curly-headed boy had no one to help him but his poor mother, whom he kept busy. One moment he was pointing to letters here and there and asking about them; the next moment, he was begging for a story; and the next moment, he was into something else. It was not long before this busy boy was putting words together and beginning to read, but his mother was so poor that he could not go to school until he was ten years old.
The first day he went to school, he wore a suit of clothes which his
mother had made out of a riding coat once worn by his father. His
unsungheroes238.jpg mates hustled him around and even squirted water on him until his new suit was all wet. He sat down and cried bitterly. Suddenly, the teacher appeared on the scene. All the pupils gathered around the weeping boy in seeming real surprise, saying, "Why is he crying; what is the matter with him?"
The teacher made his way to the boy, bent down over him, and asked, "What is the trouble, Alexandre?" Alexandre looked up and was about to open his mouth, when he saw all the children behind the teacher shaking their fists and their heads at him.
The teacher suddenly turned around. All the pupils were smiling. "Tell me what it is all about", said the teacher.
"We can't make out", said the pupils, "he has been crying that way ever since he came." Alex andre then blurted out the whole story and showed the teacher his wet clothes.
"Very well", said the teacher, "I shall whip every one of you, and you shall have no recess today. March into the room."
In the meantime the pupils cast fierce glances at Alexandre and called
him a spy. Time passed rapidly, and soon school was dismissed. All left
hurriedly, as it seemed, for their homes, but just
unsungheroes239.jpg around the corner, the fighting gang waited for Alexandre. The ringleader laid off his coat and walked up to him with his fists clenched. Alex andre drew back and gave him a staggering blow which knocked him flat to the ground. The others in the gang rolled up their sleeves and strutted about, saying in French what they would do.
This happened in France more than one hun dred years ago, for Alexandre Dumas was born on the 24th of July, 1802. His native town was Cotterets, forty miles from Paris, and twenty- one miles from Chateau-Thierry.
After his father died, he often went hungry and shabbily clad, until he was old enough to work. One day he walked and walked, looking for a job, but nothing seemed to turn up. Now that it was about time for offices to close, he started home, but decided to try one more place. He walked into a nice-looking office and asked for work. The head man said, "Do you know how to fold letters?"
Dumas hesitated a moment and replied, "I can learn, sir, pretty quickly".
The man then asked, "Do you know how to get to your work on time?"
"Yes, sir!" said Dumas.
"Then you may come in tomorrow morning", said the man.
Dumas hurried home. He rushed into the house and called his mother. His cheeks and his lips were flushed like a red rose. He said, "Mother, I am so happy. I have an office job. Now I can help you, Mother". The evening passed joyously, and the next morning he walked briskly to his work.
All day long he was busy at the office, dusting the furniture, folding letters, sealing and mailing them, running errands and taking care of visitors who came to the office. When evening came, he was very tired, but not too tired to read and study a little.
Some of the boys in the office tried to tease him about studying so much, nevertheless he kept on working and studying. In a few months, he be gan to tease them because he had been promoted to a better job as clerk and they remained in their same positions. He seemed very happy and kept on reading and studying at night.
One afternoon while he was reading, he saw the following advertisement, "Shakespeare's Ham let" ! At once he was interested, for he had read about the writer Shakespeare and had read the play called "Hamlet".
"I must see this play; but it is given out of town", he said as he read
further. However, he
unsungheroes241.jpg repeated, "I must see this play". He hurriedly put on the best clothes he had, reached the station, boarded the train, and in forty minutes was in the little town where the play was being given. He made his way to the theatre at once and fol lowed every movement of the actors.
He said at the close of the performance, "I must see a play now in a larger theatre in Paris".
This determination to go to a Paris theatre con tinued, until one afternoon he dressed in his long coat, which touched his heels, brushed his hair, which was ridiculously long, and set out for Paris. Just as he entered the theatre, some one cried out, "Oh, what a head!"
People began to laugh at him. Soon an usher came up. "Tickets", said he. Alexandre handed him his ticket. He took it, looked at it and looked at Alexandre; then he shook his head. Alexandre stood there, in spite of the fact that the usher kept saying, "Your ticket is no good. Your ticket is no good". Angry be cause he had been deceived in buying his ticket, Alexandre Dumas stood there until the ushers came and put him out.
In spite of his first night at a Paris theatre, Alexandre Dumas seemed
enthusiastic about the theatre. He spent all of his spare time in
unsungheroes242.jpg plays, which no publisher would publish. One publisher said to him, "Get yourself a name and then I'll publish your books".
Nevertheless, he often visited the theatre and kept on studying and writing. Finally, he finished a play which he named "Christine". One day, although he was just a boy clerk in an office, he had the boldness to say, " 'Christine' will be played in the finest theatre in Paris".
Soon after "Christine" was finished, the great theatre of Paris accepted it. On the evening that the first performance of it was given, Alexandre Dumas sat in this fine Paris theatre with a cheap suit of clothes on, while all around him sat the great actors of France in their finery and splen dor. The curtain rose on the beautiful scenery. The actors came forward, talking, making ges tures and performing. The audience seemed pleased with every act and applauded loudly.
When the performance was all over and the curtain had fallen, Dumas ran home to tell his mother of this wonderful evening. He ran so fast that he lost the only copy of his play. However, the play was all in his head and so he sat up that night and wrote it out again.
He set to work, and in two months, wrote an other play, which he called
"Henri III". Just as
unsungheroes243.jpg he was about finishing this play, the head man in his office said to him one day, "Dumas, you must either give all of your time to your office work or lose your job. I can't have any theatre man around".
He held his job, however, and finished the play. "Henri III" was very popular. On the evening when a performance of it was given, the gallery of the theatre was filled with princes and nobles. The boxes were filled with ladies glittering with diamonds. All the writers of Paris were out. Every seat in the theatre was taken a week before the play was given.
While the play was being presented, Dumas hurried away between the acts to see his mother, who was very ill. The next day, every one in Paris was talking about this brilliant young writer. The rich people of Paris sent so many beautiful flowers to his sick mother that they almost filled the little room where she lay. By two o'clock that afternoon, the first copy of this play, called the manuscript, had been sold for $1,164. Each per formance of the play brought him $1,212.50. In later years, he even had a grand theatre of his own built for his plays.
In addition to his plays, Dumas wrote stories. One day he sat down and
wrote a story very
unsungheroes244.jpg quickly. "Ah," he said, "I am going to keep at this." He kept at it until he wrote the two great stories called "The Count of Monte Cristo" and "The Three Musketeers". He also wrote many stories about his grandmother, who was a native African woman. In one year, it is said he pub lished about forty books.
Once he promised to write so many books for a certain company that the company began to look into the matter, and discovered that Dumas was hiring young writers to write stories, which he edited and changed to suit his own style. Dumas was arrested and tried. The judge said, "Alex- andre Dumas is paying these writers for their works and is thus helping them. He is so chang ing their writings
that they sound like his own. He is not guilty of any offense". Many young writers, apparently fond of him, spoke in his de fense. His door was hardly free for a moment from strangers, who were coming and going, ask ing his opinion on their writings. It is said that he was just about as extravagant as he was famous. He wore handsome and even gaudy clothes, kept fine horses, and gave many dinner parties. After some years all this was changed. He lost control of his great theatre and was sunk in debt.
Years passed and little was heard of his plays ; but later they were revived. On the same night, three years before his death, four of his plays were being given in four of the largest theatres in Paris. Again people in the theatres were crying out, "Long live Dumas!"
Even in his old age, he worked almost without stopping. While he was in the home of his son in Puys, France, his brain and his limbs became so paralyzed that he died on the fifth of December, 1870. Two years after his death, the name of the street in Paris on which his house stood was changed to "Rue Alexandre Dumas", or Alex ander Dumas Street, in memory of him.
Thirteen years after his death, the French people erected in Paris a monument to his mem ory. He is represented sitting with a book in his left hand and a pen in his right; in front of the pedestal there are three figures a young woman represented as reading, and two men, one of them in workman's garb; the idea being to show how popular he was among all classes. At the back of the pedestal, there is a fine figure of one dressed as a musketeer or soldier.
The citizens of his native town Cotterets also erected to his memory a monument on Alexander Dumas Street.
unsungheroes248.jpg [illustration - Paul Cuffé's Brig. ]
THECuffé home at Westport, Massachusetts, was always ringing with laughter and merriment. Somebody in that family of four sturdy boys, six girls, mother and father, was ever ready with a snappy joke, or a ghostly yarn which sometimes made even the old folks afraid to go to bed.
One night the family was seated around the hearth. Father Cuffé began to
tell what he called a true story about his native country. He rose and
pictured a great boa-constrictor gliding into his African home and
swallowing a little boy. As he represented the great open mouth of that
huge snake with the boy slipping down its throat, one of the girls
jumped and looked behind her. The boys laughed very heartily and pointed
their fingers at her, saying, "You thought that boa-con strictor had
you!" Mrs. Cuffé, who was of Indian descent, attracted the family's
attention just at
unsungheroes250.jpg that point by springing forth suddenly with a war-whoop and dance.
As soon as this came to an end, Paul Cuffé, the youngest of the boys, began telling one of his whale stories. He, too, arose and described his boat as it rocked to and fro on a stormy sea. He pictured his men tugging at a great whale, which suddenly pulled one of them overboard. Just then one of Paul's brothers gave a quick jerk on Paul's coat-tail. Paul leaped forward, looked back and landed flat on the floor. His sisters and brothers laughed and laughed until some of them said their sides ached.
Such evenings in the Cuffé farmhouse at Westport were common until Father Cuffé died. Paul was then fourteen years old. For two years, he and his brothers worked their poor farm of one hundred acres and thus supported their mother and sisters as best they could.
Every day spent in the field seemed harder and harder to Paul. He had
made up his mind, he said, to try his fortune on the sea, but dreaded to
tell his mother. One morning he lingered around until there was no one
in the house but him and his mother. "Mother", he said, "I am big for my
age, and if I can get a job on a schooner, I can
unsungheroes251.jpg earn a man's wages. I can make it on the sea better than on the land."
His mother held up both hands, saying, "Paul, my dear boy, can't you find something else to do? Sailors are such rough men. They drink, they swear, they are reckless".
"Mother", said he, "I have always longed to be a sailor. Give me your consent." For several days there was no laughter in the Cuffé home. Paul's mother said she feared he would be swallowed up by the angry waves or by a whale.
During these days, Paul was as busy as he could be trying to get a job on a schooner. Finally, he succeeded in hiring out as a common hand on a vessel leaving on a whaling expedition for the Bay of Mexico. His mother was sure now that Paul would never return alive, so she gave him a small Bible and her blessing. He kissed her good bye, pressed her hand and assured her that he would remain a good boy.
By nine o'clock the next morning, everything was in readiness for the start. The wind was favor able. The skipper was on board. Every sailor was busy making sail or getting up the heavy anchor. At length the schooner glided away from the shore.
For a time, Paul and the rest of the hands
unsungheroes252.jpg were busy coiling lines, stowing away odds and ends and making the vessel comfortable. As soon as Paul had a few spare moments he filled a small keg with fresh water and put several dozen shipbiscuits into a box, around which he wrapped an old oilskin jacket. One of the boys on board laughed at him and said in loud tones, "Are you afraid of being lost in a fog? Boy, your mamma's apron strings are many miles away. You should have been tied to them instead of being on a boat."
One of Paul's friends started to answer back, but Paul said, "Let him alone. It will make him feel worse not to be noticed at all".
The schooner tugged away until the end of the journey was finally
reached. The trip was exciting to say the least; and their return trip
was equally exciting. They had been gone for some weeks. In those days
vessels traveled only about seven knots an hour. Paul had just a few
hours at home with his mother before setting out on a trip to the West
Indies. At the end of this trip, he seemed to feel that he was a
full-fledged sailor. It had taken him only two weeks to get sufficient
experience in navigation to command a vessel. He went out on a third
voyage, but the Revolutionary War broke out. His ship was run down and
unsungheroes253.jpg tured by a British ship, and he was held as a prisoner for three months.
After his release, Cuffé had to give up the sea for two years. He visited the Island of Cuttyhunk, near New Bedford, where he was born. Then he returned to his home at Westport, worked on the farm and gave much of his time to the betterment of his people. He was not yet twenty years old, but he and his brother drew up a petition and presented it to the Massachusetts Legislature. This petition asked that all free people of Massachusetts be given the full rights of citizens. The Massachusetts Legislature care fully considered this respectful petition. Soon afterward it passed an act granting to all free people, irrespective of color, the full privileges of citizens.
Cuffé was busy these two years and yet his old longing for business and for the sea, he said, kept stealing over him. He laid before his brother, David, a plan for trading with the people of Connecticut. His brother agreed to the plan. They built an open boat and put out to sea, but his brother's fears so increased that he resolved to turn back. Paul finally submitted and returned home.
He worked a while for more materials and
unsungheroes254.jpg again put out to sea, but soon lost all he had. He went home and set himself to the task of making a boat from keel to gunwale. It was without a deck, but Paul had been on whaling expeditions and was thereby skilled in its management. He launched his boat into the ocean. As he was steering for Cuttyhunk, one of the Elizabeth Islands, to consult his brother about future plans, he was discovered by pirates, who chased his vessel, ran it down and captured both it and him.
He went home again and applied to his brother David for materials to build another boat. When the boat was finished, through his credit (on his respectability), he purchased a cargo and set out for Nantucket. On this voyage, he was again chased by pirates, but he escaped them as night came on. However, his boat struck upon a rock and was so injured that he had to return home for repairs. As soon as the repairs were made, he set out again for Nantucket and arrived in safety. On his return trip, however, he fell into the hands of pirates and was robbed of all he had except his boat. He made his way home, secured a small cargo and again directed his course towards Nantucket, where he sold his cargo to advantage.
On his return to his home this time, he secured a small covered boat of
about twelve tons, hired
unsungheroes255.jpg some one to assist him, and made advantageous voyages to different parts of Connecticut.
He now became attached to a young woman— a descendant of his mother's tribe—whom he married. After his marriage he worked on a farm for a short while, then removed his family to a small house on the Westport River. He procured a boat of eighteen tons in which he sailed to the banks of St. George, obtained a valuable cargo of codfish and landed at home safely.
Cuffé soon entered partnership with his brother-in-law and built a vessel of twenty-five tons, in which they made voyages to Newfound land and Belle Isle, securing profits enough to build a vessel of forty-two tons.
After the death of Cuffé's father he learned to read, write and do some arithmetic and yet he often said, "I would have made fewer mistakes and a great deal more money had I been an educated man." He called the people of his neighborhood together and spoke to them on the need of a schoolhouse and a teacher for their children. No two of the parents seemed to agree on anything. They talked and discussed and separated, each going to his own home. Paul Cuffé took the matter into his own hands, erected a schoolhouse on his own land and opened it to the public.
With this task completed, he set out to the Straits of Belle Isle on a whaling expedition, with two boats and ten men. Although he was ill prepared for the business, he and his crew killed six whales; two of which died at Paul's own hands. In due season he returned home heavily laden with bone and oil.
After selling his cargo, he bought iron and other materials, built a schooner of sixty-nine tons and launched it, in 1795, under the name of "The Ranger". He sold his two boats and placed on board "The Ranger", which was manned by a black crew, a cargo valued at two thousand dollars, and sailed for Norfolk, Virginia. This trip and similar ones brought him handsome returns.
With some of this money he bought a farm and placed it under the management of his brother-in-law. He also took one-half share in building and fitting out a large vessel, and three-fourths' share in building and fitting out still a larger one. One of these vessels, of one hundred and sixty-two tons burden, was commanded by Paul Cuffé's nephew. The other one, "The Alpha" by name, of two hundred and sixty-eight tons, was commanded by Paul Cuffé himself, with seven other Negroes making up the crew.
In 1811, Paul Cuffé and his crew, in command
unsungheroes257.jpg of "The Alpha" sailed for Sierra Leone, Africa. After many days of travel and stormy sea, they arrived in Sierra Leone. Cuffé, attended by several natives, made his way to the governor's office, where he remained for a long conversation and visit with the Governor.
Following this, he entered into many of the natives' experiences. He put
on armor and went elephant-hunting with them. Once he joined a party on
a leopard hunt. One of the party said in his native tongue, "These
leopards go about in pairs, and sometimes raid farms and carry off young
children and chickens after dark. They step rather softly, steal upon
one and attack him in the back". When the party reached a certain spot,
every one stopped. Some of them proceeded to drive down two posts.
Others loaded a longrange gun heavily and fastened it to these posts
with the butt end resting on the posts and the muzzle about two feet
from them. Then they placed a big piece of meat around the muzzle of the
gun and drew a strong string round one of the posts connecting the meat
to the trigger. All was in readiness now for Mr. Leopard; and so the
party left the spot. After a long wait a leopard came walking softly by
and sniffing around. He walked up to the meat to take a bite. "Pow",
unsungheroes258.jpg went the rifle. The leopard fell dead. Paul Cuffé and his party came out from their hiding place, and stood around looking at the beast.
Cuffé seemed very busy, even on such trips, studying the needs of natives and planning how the people in London might help them. One morning a monkey party came to take him along. He could not resist the invitation. Every one in the party had a sword or a stick. Several monkeys were caught that day and brought in tied hand and foot and hung on poles. The suckling ones were carried clinging underneath their mothers' bodies. Cuffé continued to study the natives and finally recommended to the Governor that they form ''The Friendly Society of Sierra Leone" as a help to the people.
After this was done, he went to England on two trips. Then he returned to the United States in order to get teachers to take back with him, but the War of 1812 broke out, and his plans were delayed. For several years he had to remain in the United States. All this time, however, he was arranging to take teachers to Sierra Leone.
Toward the end of the year 1815, he sailed with thirty-eight teachers for
Sierra Leone. For fiftyfive days they were tossed and driven on the
ocean. Even African soil, they said, was a welcome sight
unsungheroes259.jpg to them. They finally reached their destination safely. Cuffé bore the entire expense of the trip.
He remained in Sierra Leone two months, during which time he wrote a very touching letter to the natives. It is said that his departure from them was like that of a father taking leave of his children.
Cuffé returned to his own country, where he became ill early in 1817. From then until the day of his death, on the seventh of the following September, he was busy writing letters and making friends for the natives of Sierra Leone. Some one has said that he devoted even the thoughts of his dying pillow to the interests of the African people.
JOHN MERCER LANGSTONwas a frail child, only four years old, when his father and mother died. According to the will of his father, Captain Quarrels, he and his two brothers were to have all of their father's land, lying on Hickory Creek in Louisa County, Virginia. They were to have all of his stock of horses, cattle, sheep and bees, together with household and kitchen furni ture and plantation utensils. They were also to have all of his money, in cash or in the form of debts due or bank stocks. Provision was made in Captain Quarrels's will for selling his property and dividing the money among John Mercer and his other boys, should they leave Louisa County.
The time came when this provision in the will was to be carried out. John Mercer and his brothers, with their attendants, remained in Louisa County two months after their father's death, get ting ready to start for Ohio.
During this period of preparation, they secured
unsungheroes270.jpg the proper papers to take on such a journey. They and their attendants obtained a carry-all —a light wagon with horses and harness and set out early one October morning, in 1834, to what was then known as a far-away state—Ohio. The road over which they traveled was mountainous and frequently broken by small swollen streams which they had to ford, and rivers which they had to cross by means of crude ferries. However, there seemed to be no cause for anxiety except for little, frail John Mercer.
They continued their journey for one week, traveling by day and pitching their tents at night. One evening while some one was unhitching the horses, and two of them were pitching the tent, and John Mercer and the rest of them were bring ing water from a nearby stream, a man on horse back with saddle bags came down the highway. The older Langston boys, recognizing him as their half-brother, whom their father had sent to Ohio long before his death, ran to meet him. Little John Mercer, whom he had never seen before, he took up in his arms, caressed him and looked at him, saying, "My! but you are like my dear mother, Lucy Langston! You have in a marked degree her Indian family likeness!" All of the boys made their way to the tent. The night passed.
The next day as the party proceeded on its journey, the half-brother shortened the stirrup leathers of his saddle to fit John Mercer's legs, and put him in his saddle. John Mercer took hold of the bridle reins timidly, but soon began to knock his little legs against the sides of the horse, saying, "Get up, sir". At length, he seemed weary and was again taken into the battered carry-all. They traveled on for two weeks longer, until they reached Chillicothe, Ohio.
John Mercer was taken to the home of Colonel Gooch, who once on a visit to Captain Quarrels, had promised that when John Mercer came to Ohio he would care for him and educate him. John Mercer was given a hot bath, his clothing was changed, and a chair was placed at the table for him by the side of Mrs. Gooch. He ate heart ily, romped and played, and grew rapidly under the kind treatment of the Gooch family. Soon he was known to the neighbors as "Johnnie Gooch".
Four years for him in the Gooch home passed. One beautiful Monday
morning, in 1837, he, with his little new dinner-pail in one hand, and
his book in the other, accompanied by Mr. Gooch, started out to school.
Clad in his neat dress of round about and pants of Kentucky blue jeans,
unsungheroes272.jpg Mr. Gooch trudged along until they reached the schoolhouse.
John Mercer was soon assigned to his class and his seat. As he sat upon the high seat without a back, he almost toppled over backwards. Then, apparently afraid of falling backwards, he leaned so far forward that he fell over on his nose. He twisted and turned on the tiresome seat for several days, then told his teacher that he was needed at home at two o'clock every day to drive up the cows. For one week he went home every day at two o'clock. Mr. Gooch asked the reason for John Mercer's early arrival home every day, and in formed the teacher that John Mercer's whole business was to attend school.
Many agents were in Chillicothe at this time telling of the rich farm land in Missouri that could be bought very cheaply. The Gooch family was among the old residents who were selling out and preparing to leave for Missouri. They chartered a canal-boat and a steamboat for moving their things, and planned for a wagon and team to take the family across the country. Mr. Gooch called John Mercer in and asked if he wished to go with them. John Mercer replied, "I do, Colonel Gooch".
"Then you shall go", said the colonel.
When everything was in readiness, the family set out one night on their journey. The next morning, John Mercer spied two objects in the distance coming towards them. As they approached, he saw that they were two men, and one of them was his half-brother. The other gentle man made himself known at once as the sheriff, who had come to arrest Colonel Gooch for kid napping John Mercer. Colonel Gooch, obeying orders, saddled his horse, took John Mercer up behind him and rode with the men back to Chillicothe. The court ruled that John Mercer should be left there.
Upon the advice of some one, he returned to the old Gooch home and farm, which were now in the hands of another. The first question the man asked was, "What, sir, can you do?" John Mercer promptly answered, "I can't do anything".
The farmer then asked, "How do you expect to live? Get the horse and cart out and haul those bricks up from the distant field". John Mercer started forth to try to hitch the horse to the cart and to haul the bricks.
The third day, the farmer said, "You are doing well, and if you continue,
you will make a good driver". The boy not only hauled bricks, but he
unsungheroes274.jpg plowed and hoed and became strong and healthy.
On leaving the farmer, he went to Cincinnati, Ohio, and secured work for afternoons and Saturdays, in a barber shop. Thus was he soon able to enter school .in that city. One day as he sat with his class, studying his lesson, a man appeared at the door and asked for him. His teacher said, "John Mercer may go to the door. Some one wishes to see him". He arose and walked forth. At the sight of Colonel Gooch, who had sought him in Chillicothe and had come on to Cincinnati, he leaped out of the door and grasped his hand. They talked for a long, long time. Mr. Gooch kissed him good-bye, and John Mercer promised to join him in Missouri later on.
John Mercer's two years' stay in Cincinnati was interrupted by a call to Chillicothe, on business connected with his father's estate. While he was on this trip, he met an Oberlin College student who was teaching in Chillicothe, and who agreed to give him lessons. He studied under this teacher until his brothers agreed to send him to Oberlin College.
On Thursday morning, March 1, 1844, he and his teacher left Chillicothe
for Oberlin. When they arrived the following Sunday morning, they saw
hundreds of college students making their
unsungheroes275.jpg way through the muddy streets to early prayer service and Sunday School. Lodging for the 'night was secured in the only hotel then in Oberlin. The next day John Mercer registered and was taken to the home in which he was to live.
Seeing how busy every one about the college was, he secured his books and settled down to hard study. Before many weeks had passed, he was in vited to join two college clubs—"The Young Men's Lyceum" and "The Union Society". Because of having friends in "the Union Society", he joined it, and was immediately called upon to take part in a debate.
On the evening of the debate, a very capable young man came forward as
the first speaker. When he had finished, another young man was called
forth. He, too, presented his side of the question in a convincing
manner. John Mercer Langston was called upon as the third speaker. He
came forward, took his place on the platform and said, "Mr.
President—Mr. President". He stood there unable to say another
word. Finally he rushed to his seat and began to cry. He wiped away the
copious tears until his handkerchief, his cap and his coat sleeve were
soaking wet. Then he hurried to his room, threw himself on the bed and
cried until his pillow was wet through. The next
unsungheroes276.jpg morning, he arose with his face and eyes all swollen. As he stood before his little mirror, he held up his hands to God, with the vow that he would never fail again in making a speech. When friends sympathized with him, he said, "I thank you, but never mind".
After leaving breakfast, as John Mercer walked up the street, he met a friend who said he was called home. Immediately he asked John Mercer to take his place in the Society debate the next Thursday evening. He agreed at once and began to get ready for the debate. Thursday evening came; the hall was full of young men. When John Mercer was called forth, he took his place, addressed the presiding officer and spoke his ten minutes amid applause. Some young man called out, "Mr. President, I move by common consent that Langston be given ten minutes more". The motion was carried and Langston spoke ten minutes more, interrupted by frequent applause.
He remained in college to the end of the fall term, and returned to
Chillicothe. No sooner had he arrived, than a committee called upon him
to get him to teach school. Hicks Settlement, eight miles in the
country, needed a teacher. The com mittee offered him ten dollars a
unsungheroes277.jpg "board around". He accepted the position, al though he was not quite sixteen years old. When he reached the schoolhouse the first morning, he says that he was more greatly surprised perhaps than any one else, because he was smaller than any of the pupils except one.
"Boarding around" had its surprises, too. Every week he stayed with a different family, and each family tried to outdo the preceding ones in furnishing him good things to eat. Sometimes he just had to eat and eat until he felt like a stuffed goose. Finally he made arrangements with a man to give him and his son lessons and thereby obtain from them board and lodging for himself and his horse. At the end of every month, the school committee waited upon him and counted out to him his ten dollars in five and ten-cent pieces.
When Langston's three months at Hicks Set tlement were up, he sat down with his bag of fiveand ten-cent pieces and counted out the thirty dollars. Before many days had passed, he was on his way back to Oberlin College.
He entered and worked hard for four years, graduating at the age of
twenty as a Bachelor of Arts—"B.A." He continued his studies at
Ober lin and received his Master's degree—"M.A."
unsungheroes278.jpg Three years later, he was graduated from the Oberlin Theological Seminary as a Bachelor of Divinity—"B.D." He remained in Oberlin and studied law under a prominent judge. When he had finished this course, he passed his examina tions and under great odds was admitted to the bar in Ohio, where he practiced for a time and won notable cases.
He often said, in later years, that around Ober lin College centered many happy memories. He courted and married an Oberlin College girl by the name of Miss Wall. He settled in Oberlin and practiced law there until the bloody Civil War.
At that time, the United States was calling to her aid the ablest men she could find. John Mercer Langston was among those called. He responded immediately and began to travel over the West and the North getting men for the army. He secured them for three regiments—the Fiftyfourth and Fifty-fifth Massachusetts and the Fifth United States of Ohio. After the war he continued to travel for the Government for two years and a half, helping the people organize schools for their children.
When that work was finished, Howard Univer sity called him to organize
her Law Department.
unsungheroes279.jpg For seven years he taught in that Department, and served for a time as Acting President of the 'University. He was admitted to practice law before the Supreme Court of the United States. And the President of the United States appointed him a member of the Board of Health of the Dis trict of Columbia.
Later on, another President appointed him Minister to Hayti, at a salary of $7,500 a year. After serving on that island for seven years, he returned to the United States and soon afterward was elected President of the Virginia State Col lege at Petersburg. The state of Virginia claimed him as her own son. She honored him as a scholar ly man. She elected him to the United States House of Representatives, in which he took his seat in 1890.
His last years were spent with his family at his home on College Street, Washington, District of Columbia. Before his death, November 15, 1897, he published a book of addresses called "Freedom and Citizenship".