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Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Small Play on Booker T Washington

(From Up From Slavery: an autobiography)

Scene 1 
Characters: BTW + Olivia Davidson 
(Setting: office in school; od has just joined the school as a teacher)
Btw (b): I hope you are not too tired from the journey, ma'am?
Od (o): Not at all! I'm used to travel; before coming here to Tuskegee, I spent quite some time around the South of our country!
B. I'm honoured by your decision to join our small institution. O. Not at all! The privilege is mine, Mr Washington. If we can teach our fellow men and women to utilise our new-found freedom, it would mean the world to our future generations!

B. We are on the same page, Ms Davidson.

O. Shall we have a look at the school, then?

 B. Why, certainly! Allow me to show you the way.

(Outside the school) B. This is it, I'm afraid. This little old shanty and that abandoned church are the only roofed buildings the townspeople have generously lent to us to hold classes. 

O. Well, we must put them to good use!

B. I agree. The coloured youth around these parts want education so that they may use their wits instead of hands, and the number of such youth is only increasing. 

O. Indeed! In fact, the old and the young alike are desirous of better lives, and they know that education will help them more than anything else.

(3 months later; btw and oad are discussing the progress that has been made)
Good morning, Miss Davidson!
Good morning Mr Washington; how was your outing in the woods today?
Well, in the beginning, it was hard to explain to the young men that the planting of a crop would go a long way, but they see that's pertinent now. 
Yes, I am sure they failed to see the reason for you asking them to cut away the undergrowth.
We are almost halfway through what I deem to be enough ; approximately 20 equals should suffice. 
My goodness, it sure must be hard work out in the sun.
No problem exists that cannot be solved through a united effort. 
Yes, and you leading the way with an axe made such an imposing figure that it surely inspired a lot of them.
Now that we are settled in a new location, I must find a way to pay the remaining $250 to our landlord. The money that General Marshall lent to me went a long way in securing this location for our school.
Kindly thank him for me the next time you write to him, won't you?
Certainly, Miss Davidson. How are your suppers coming along?
I am glad to say that even the white folks are contributing handsomely.
That is great to hear.
And even our fellow people are making as much of an effort as they can.
I appreciate their good wishes with all my heart; it touches me to see their dedication to a noble cause. Just the other day, a septuagenarian lady came to see me and donated half a dozen eggs towards the education of the young boys and girls.
We shall ensure that such touching contributions have the best effect on our students.

Final scene
Interview with Mr Booker T Washington name
Name of interview on
Date of interview date of interview

Mr Washington you have called the art of raising money for the education system begging. Would you care to elaborate on that?

As far as raising money for philanthropic purposes is concerned I have reduced the science of begging to two rules.
First always to do my whole duty regarding making our work known to individuals and organisations. Second, not to worry about the results.

Interviewer:and which of the two do you find more hard to follow?

Strange though it may seem it is the second. But over the years I have learnt that worrying does not lead to anything productive. The energy that is wasted worrying uselessly would rather be better used if put to productive work. 

Interviewer: is it just your experience what have you seen this trait in other men as well?

Indeed, President William McKinley comes to mind when I think of people who double quotes keep under the body double quotes close. 

Interviewer: do you feel that rich people give money to make themselves feel better about being rich?

No, in fact, many anonymous donors have done so much for Tuskegee that I would not know how to thank them even if they would allow their names to be known.

Interview on: What do you think is the one thing that rich people cared for when considering philanthropy?

My experience has taught me that the presentation of facts on a high, dignified plane is all it takes for rich people to decide whether they would like to contribute or not. 

Interviewer: do you feel that the prospects of running education for the coloured people by asking for money from rich white people are good?

Let me tell you that at one time the grant of the hefty sum of $10,000 from a white benefactor had saved us from dire straits. 

Interviewer: you are known to have a good friendship with Mr Huntington. Would you care to elaborate on that?

I must say that the large part of Mr and Mrs Huntington has been a blessing for Tuskegee. From the first time that I met him to the last Mr Huntington was a source of inspiration. The initial sum of two dollars had grown to $50,000 and may I say that there are so many of our people who have benefited from their charity.

Question: and how about the Scottish steel tycoon, Mr Andrew Carnegie?

It is only through his kindness that we have managed the library building and reading room. On December 15, 1900, I wrote to him in New York......wrote to him in New York and the very next mail brought back his positive response, promising a princely sum of $20,000.

Question: any last insights that you would like to share with our readers ?

I would like to stress that the greatest proportion of money that has helped in our cause has come in the form of small donations from hundreds and perhaps thousands of donors. Thank you for helping in spreading the word about a noble cause.


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