O black boy of Atlanta!
But half was spoken;
The slave's chains and the master's
Alike are broken;
The one curse of the races
Held both in tether;
They are rising -- all are rising --
The black and white together.
[On the meaning of the bar of music]
South of the North, yet north of the South, lies the City of a Hundred Hills, peering out from the shadows of the past into the promiseof the future. I have seen her in the morning, when the first flush of day hadhalf-roused her; she lay gray and still on the crimson soil of Georgia; thenthe blue smoke began to curl from her chimneys, the tinkle of bell and screamof whistle broke the silence, the rattle and roar of busy life slowly gatheredand swelled, until the seething whirl of the city seemed a strange thing in asleepy land.
Once, they say, even Atlanta slept dull and drowsy at thefoot-hills of the Alleghanies, until the iron baptism of war awakened her withits sullen waters, aroused and maddened her, and left her listening to the sea.And the sea cried to the hills and the hills answered the sea, till the cityrose like a widow and cast away her weeds, and toiled for her daily
bread; toiled steadily, toiled cunningly, -- perhaps with some bitterness, witha touch, of reclame, -- and yet with real earnestness, and real sweat.
It is a hard thing to live haunted by the ghost of anuntrue dream; to see the wide vision of empire fade into real ashes and dirt;to feel the pang of the conquered, and yet know that with all the Bad that fellon one black day, something was vanquished that deserved to live, somethingkilled that in justice had not dared to die; to know that with the Right thattriumphed, triumphed something of Wrong, something sordid and mean, somethingless than the broadest and best. All this is bitter hard; and many a man andcity and people have found in it excuse for sulking, and brooding, and listlesswaiting.
Such are not men of the sturdier make; they of Atlantaturned resolutely toward the future; and that future held aloft vistas ofpurple and gold: -- Atlanta, Queen of the cotton kingdom; Atlanta, Gateway tothe Land of the Sun; Atlanta, the new Lachesis, spinner of web and woof for theworld. So the city crowned her hundred hills with factories, and stored hershops with cunning handiwork, and stretched long iron ways to greet the busyMercury in his coming. And the Nation talked of her striving.
Perhaps Atlanta was not christened for the winged maidenof dull Boeotia; you know the tale, -- how swarthy Atalanta, tall and wild,would marry only him who out-raced her; and how the wily Hippomenes laid threeapples of gold in the way. She fled like a shadow, paused, startled over thefirst apple, but even as he stretched his hand, fled again; hovered over thesecond, then, slipping from his hot grasp, flew over river, vale, and hill; butas she lingered over the third, his arms fell round her, and looking on eachother, the blazing passion of their love profaned the sanctuary of Love, andthey were cursed. If Atlanta be not named for Atalanta, she ought to have been.
Atalanta is not the first or the last maiden whom greedof gold has led to defile the temple of Love; and not maids alone, but men inthe race of life, sink from the high and generous ideals of youth to thegambler's code of the Bourse;
and in all our Nation's striving is not the Gospel of Work befouled by theGospel of Pay? So common is this that one-half think it normal; sounquestioned, that we almost fear to question if the end of racing is not gold,if the aim of man is not rightly to be rich. And if this is the fault ofAmerica, how dire a danger lies before a new land and a new city, lest Atlanta,stooping for mere gold, shall find that gold accursed!
It was no maiden's idle whim that started this hardracing; a fearful wilderness lay about the feet of that city after the War, --feudalism, poverty, the rise of the Third Estate, serfdom, the re-birth of Lawand Order, and above and between all, the Veil of Race. How heavy a journey forweary feet! what wings must Atalanta have to flit over all this hollow andhill, through sour wood and sullen water, and by the red waste of sun-bakedclay! How fleet must Atalanta be if she will not be tempted by gold to profanethe Sanctuary!
The Sanctuary of our fathers has, to be sure, few Gods,-- some sneer, "all too few." There is the thrifty Mercury of NewEngland, Pluto of the North, and Ceres of the West; and there, too, is thehalf-forgotten Apollo of the South, under whose aegis the maiden ran, -- and asshe ran she forgot him, even as there in Boeotia Venus was forgot. She forgotthe old ideal of the Southern gentleman, -- that new-world heir of the graceand courtliness of patrician, knight, and noble; forgot his honor with hisfoibles, his kindliness with his carelessness, and stooped to apples of gold,-- to men busier and sharper, thriftier and more unscrupulous. Golden applesare beautiful -- I remember the lawless days of boyhood, when orchards incrimson and gold tempted me over fence and field -- and, too, the merchant whohas dethroned the planter is no despicable parvenu. Work and wealth arethe mighty levers to lift this old new land; thrift and toil and saving are thehighways to new hopes and new possibilities; and yet the warning is needed lestthe wily Hippomenes tempt Atalanta to thinking that golden apples are the goalof racing, and not mere incidents by the way.
Atlanta must not lead the South to dream of materialprosperity as the touchstone of all success; already the fatal might of thisidea is beginning to spread; it is replacing the finer type of Southerner withvulgar money-getters; it is
burying the sweeter beauties of Southern life beneath pretence and ostentation.For every social ill the panacea of Wealth has been urged, -- wealth tooverthrow the remains of the slave feudalism; wealth to raise the"cracker" Third Estate; wealth to employ the black serfs, and theprospect of wealth to keep them working; wealth as the end and aim of politics,and as the legal tender for law and order; and, finally, instead of Truth,Beauty, and Goodness, wealth as the ideal of the Public School.
Not only is this true in the world which Atlantatypifies, but it is threatening to be true of a world beneath and beyond thatworld, -- the Black World beyond the Veil. Today it makes little difference toAtlanta, to the South, what the Negro thinks or dreams or wills. In thesoul-life of the land he is to-day, and naturally will long remain, unthoughtof, half forgotten; and yet when he does come to think and will and do forhimself, -- and let no man dream that day will never come, -- then the part heplays will not be one of sudden learning, but words and thoughts he has beentaught to lisp in his race-childhood. To-day the ferment of his striving towardself-realization is to the strife of the white world like a wheel within awheel: beyond the Veil are smaller but like problems of ideals, of leaders andthe led, of serfdom, of poverty, of order and subordination, and, through all,the Veil of Race. Few know of these problems, few who know notice them; and yetthere they are, awaiting student, artist, and seer, -- a field for somebodysometime to discover. Hither has the temptation of Hippomenes penetrated;already in this smaller world, which now indirectly and anon directly mustinfluence the larger for good or ill, the habit is forming of interpreting theworld in dollars. The old leaders of Negro opinion, in the little groups wherethere is a Negro social consciousness, are being replaced by new; neither theblack preacher nor the black teacher leads as he did two decades ago. Intotheir places are pushing the farmers and gardeners, the well-paid porters andartisans, the business-men, -- all those with property and money. And with allthis change, so curiously parallel to that of the Other-world, goes too thesame inevitable change in ideals. The South laments to-day the slow, steadydisappearance of a certain type of Negro,
-- the faithful, courteous slave of other days, with his incor- ruptiblehonesty and dignified humility. He is passing away just as surely as the oldtype of Southern gentleman is passing, and from not dissimilar causes, -- thesudden transformation of a fair far-off ideal of Freedom into the hard realityof bread-winning and the consequent deification of Bread.
In the Black World, the Preacher and Teacher embodiedonce the ideals of this people -- the strife for another and a juster world,the vague dream of righteousness, the mystery of knowing; but to-day the dangeris that these ideals, with their simple beauty and weird inspiration, willsuddenly sink to a question of cash and a lust for gold. Here stands this blackyoung Atalanta, girding herself for the race that must be run; and if her eyesbe still toward the hills and sky as in the days of old, then we may look fornoble running; but what if some ruthless or wily or even thoughtless Hippomeneslay golden apples before her? What if the Negro people be wooed from a strifefor righteousness, from a love of know- ing, to regard dollars as the be-alland end-all of life? What if to the Mammonism of America be added the risingMammonism of the re-born South, and the Mammonism of this South be reinforcedby the budding Mammonism of its half- wakened black millions? Whither, then, isthe new-world quest of Goodness and Beauty and Truth gone glimmering? Mustthis, and that fair flower of Freedom which, despite the jeers of latter-daystriplings, sprung from our fathers' blood, must that too degenerate into adusty quest of gold, -- into lawless lust with Hippomenes?
The hundred hills of Atlanta are not all crowned withfactories. On one, toward the west, the setting sun throws three buildings inbold relief against the sky. The beauty of the group lies in its simple unity:-- a broad lawn of green rising from the red street and mingled roses andpeaches; north and south, two plain and stately halls; and in the midst, halfhidden in ivy, a larger building, boldly graceful, sparingly decorated, andwith one low spire. It is a restful group, -- one never looks for more; it isall here, all intelligible. There I live, and there I hear from day to day thelow hum of restful life. In winter's twilight, when the red sun glows, I
can see the dark figures pass between the halls to the music of the night-bell.In the morning, when the sun is golden, the clang of the day-bell brings thehurry and laughter of three hundred young hearts from hall and street, and fromthe busy city below, -- children all dark and heavy-haired, -- to join theirclear young voices in the music of the morning sacrifice. In a half-dozenclass-rooms they gather then, -- here to follow the love-song of Dido, here tolisten to the tale of Troy divine; there to wander among the stars, there towander among men and nations, -- and elsewhere other well-worn ways of knowingthis queer world. Nothing new, no time-saving devices, -- simply oldtime-glorified methods of delving for Truth, and searching out the hiddenbeauties of life, and learning the good of living. The riddle of existence isthe college curriculum that was laid before the Pharaohs, that was taught inthe groves by Plato, that formed the trivium and quadrivium, andis to-day laid before the freedmen's sons by Atlanta University. And thiscourse of study will not change; its methods will grow more deft and effectual,its content richer by toil of scholar and sight of seer; but the true collegewill ever have one goal, -- not to earn meat, but to know the end and aim ofthat life which meat nourishes.
The vision of life that rises before these dark eyes hasin it nothing mean or selfish. Not at Oxford or at Leipsic, not at Yale orColumbia, is there an air of higher resolve or more unfettered striving; thedetermination to realize for men, both black and white, the broadestpossibilities of life, to seek the better and the best, to spread with theirown hands the Gospel of Sacrifice, -- all this is the burden of their talk anddream. Here, amid a wide desert of caste and proscription, amid theheart-hurting slights and jars and vagaries of a deep race- dislike, lies thisgreen oasis, where hot anger cools, and the bitterness of disappointment issweetened by the springs and breezes of Parnassus; and here men may lie andlisten, and learn of a future fuller than the past, and hear the voice of Time:
"Entbehren sollst du, sollst entbehren."
They made their mistakes, those who planted Fisk andHoward and Atlanta before the smoke of battle had lifted; they made theirmistakes, but those mistakes were not the things at which we lately laughedsomewhat uproariously. They were right when they sought to found a neweducational system upon the University: where, forsooth, shall we groundknowledge save on the broadest and deepest knowledge? The roots of the tree,rather than the leaves, are the sources of its life; and from the dawn ofhistory, from Academus to Cambridge, the culture of the University has been thebroad foundation- stone on which is built the kindergarten's A B C.
But these builders did make a mistake in minimizing thegravity of the problem before them; in thinking it a matter of years anddecades; in therefore building quickly and laying their foundation carelessly,and lowering the standard of know- ing, until they had scattered haphazardthrough the South some dozen poorly equipped high schools and miscalled themuniversities. They forgot, too, just as their successors are forgetting, therule of inequality: -- that of the million black youth, some were fitted toknow and some to dig; that some had the talent and capacity of university men,and some the talent and capacity of blacksmiths; and that true training meantneither that all should be college men nor all artisans, but that the oneshould be made a missionary of culture to an untaught people, and the other afree workman among serfs. And to seek to make the blacksmith a scholar isalmost as silly as the more modern scheme of making the scholar a blacksmith;almost, but not quite.
The function of the university is not simply to teachbread- winning, or to furnish teachers for the public schools or to be a centreof polite society; it is, above all, to be the organ of that fine adjustmentbetween real life and the growing knowl- edge of life, an adjustment whichforms the secret of civilization. Such an institution the South of to-daysorely needs. She has religion, earnest, bigoted: -- religion that on bothsides the Veil often omits the sixth, seventh, and eighth commandments, butsubstitutes a dozen supplementary ones. She has, as Atlanta shows, growingthrift and love of toil; but she lacks that broad knowledge of what the worldknows and knew of human living and doing, which she may apply to the
thousand problems of real life to-day confronting her. The need of the South isknowledge and culture, -- not in dainty limited quantity, as before the war,but in broad busy abundance in the world of work; and until she has this, notall the Apples of Hesperides, be they golden and bejewelled, can save her fromthe curse of the Boeotian lovers.
The Wings of Atalanta are the coming universities of theSouth. They alone can bear the maiden past the temptation of golden fruit. Theywill not guide her flying feet away from the cotton and gold; for -- ah,thoughtful Hippomenes! -- do not the apples lie in the very Way of Life? Butthey will guide her over and beyond them, and leave her kneeling in theSanctuary of Truth and Freedom and broad Humanity, virgin and undefiled. Sadlydid the Old South err in human education, despising the education of themasses, and niggardly in the support of colleges. Her ancient universityfoundations dwindled and withered under the foul breath of slavery; and evensince the war they have fought a failing fight for life in the tainted air ofsocial unrest and commercial selfishness, stunted by the death of criticism,and starving for lack of broadly cultured men. And if this is the white South'sneed and danger, how much heavier the danger and need of the freedmen's sons!how pressing here the need of broad ideals and true culture, the conservationof soul from sordid aims and petty passions! Let us build the Southernuniversity -- William and Mary, Trinity, Georgia, Texas, Tulane, Vanderbilt,and the others -- fit to live; let us build, too, the Negro universities: --Fisk, whose foundation was ever broad; Howard, at the heart of the Nation;Atlanta at Atlanta, whose ideal of scholarship has been held above thetemptation of numbers. Why not here, and perhaps elsewhere, plant deeply andfor all time centres of learning and living, colleges that yearly would sendinto the life of the South a few white men and a few black men of broadculture, catholic tolerance, and trained ability, joining their hands to otherhands, and giving to this squabble of the Races a decent and dignified peace?
Patience, Humility, Manners, and Taste, common schoolsand kindergartens, industrial and technical schools, literature and tolerance,-- all these spring from knowledge and culture,
the children of the university. So must men and nations build, not otherwise,not upside down.
Teach workers to work, -- a wise saying; wise whenapplied to German boys and American girls; wiser when said of Negro boys, forthey have less knowledge of working and none to teach them. Teach thinkers tothink, -- a needed knowledge in a day of loose and careless logic; and theywhose lot is gravest must have the carefulest training to think aright. Ifthese things are so, how foolish to ask what is the best education for one orseven or sixty million souls! shall we teach them trades, or train them inliberal arts? Neither and both: teach the workers to work and the thinkers tothink; make carpenters of carpenters, and philosophers of philoso- phers, andfops of fools. Nor can we pause here. We are training not isolated men but aliving group of men, -- nay, a group within a group. And the final product ofour training must be neither a psychologist nor a brickmason, but a man. And tomake men, we must have ideals, broad, pure, and inspiring ends of living, --not sordid money-getting, not apples of gold. The worker must work for theglory of his handiwork, not simply for pay; the thinker must think for truth,not for fame. And all this is gained only by human strife and longing; byceaseless training and education; by founding Right on righteousness and Truthon the unham- pered search for Truth; by founding the common school on theuniversity, and the industrial school on the common school; and weaving thus asystem, not a distortion, and bringing a birth, not an abortion.
When night falls on the City of a Hundred Hills, a windgathers itself from the seas and comes murmuring westward. And at its bidding,the smoke of the drowsy factories sweeps down upon the mighty city and coversit like a pall, while yonder at the University the stars twinkle above StoneHall. And they say that yon gray mist is the tunic of Atalanta pausing over hergolden apples. Fly, my maiden, fly, for yonder comes Hippomenes!