- Truth versus Hypocrisy
[Negro, vol. 1, no. 2, Aug. 1886, pp. 37–40]
It was Commencement Day at the Ainsworth Normal and Agricultural Institute. For several hours, crowds of curious visitors had been going the rounds of the several departments, listening to the class recitations of well-trained negro and Indian students, and examining specimens of their handiwork. Finally, the long day came to an end. Addresses were delivered, diplomas presented. Then the long line of visitors filed through the arched gateway; and the Principal shed the usual number of tears, as he took final leave of his graduating class.
When the students had gathered for a Commencement hop, a young colored girl descended the steps of a large brick building, walked rapidly across the lawn, and knocked at the door of a pretty cottage. The parlor window shutters were immediately opened, and the odor of a Havana cigar was wafted to her nostrils.
“Have I disturbed you, Gen. Manning?” inquired the girl of a tall man who opened the door.
“Not exactly,—I mean, not at all. Is it Clara Morris? Come in. I’ve been waiting for you.”
“I will sit on the veranda, General, if you have no objection.”
“Certainly not. I prefer it myself, when I have company.”
Clara gazed a moment at the reflection of the moon in the body of water which separates the school grounds from the dingy little town of Ainsworth. How fair and beautiful it looked! “Can we not make our souls,” she thought, “as pure and white?”
Turning her dark eyes full upon the face of her companion, she asked,—
“Aren’t you glad that I am not a young man, General?”
“I don’t understand you, Clara.”
“Our Principal does not use tobacco in any form, and teaches his students to abhor the filthy weed,” said the girl, with a smile.
The Principal’s face flushed. “You are a strange girl. I believe, however, that you are woman enough to keep a secret. Now let me tell you why I sent for you. You are aware that it is our custom to have one of the graduates assist for one year in the training school. As you are the best teacher in the class, we would like to employ you; but Miss Hill has informed me that you do not wish to remain.”
“I thank you for the compliment, but nothing could induce me to teach here. I have little affection for my Alma Mater.” [End Page 284]
Gen. Manning started as one who receives a severe blow. Never before had one of his students been guilty of such base ingratitude.
“It may seem unkind to speak so plainly,” continued Clara. “Still, I must be candid with you. The rudeness of the Virginian ex-slaveholder is not so distasteful to me as is the mock civility of you and your white teachers.”
“Why, Clara, Clara!” exclaimed the Principal, in a tone of distress. “What on earth are you talking about? Look around you, girl! See what we have done for you! Have we not sacrificed everything for you and your people? Think of the comfortable homes which we have left, and the years spent by us in toiling to elevate your race!”
“For your years of toil, you have been well paid; and your Northern homes are no better than these. The school has been, in some respects, a blessing to my people; and I thank the Northern friends whose money has made it what it is.”
“You give no thanks, then, to your teachers? Foolish, ungrateful girl! Could money, alone, accomplish what has been done here?”
“Your question requires no answer, General. You have, indeed, labored; but were you actuated by unselfish motives? In building up Ainsworth, have you not raised Gen. Manning from obscurity? Are not his interests identical with those of the school? Look into your heart, and tell me if your love for my race is greater than that of the Southerners in yonder town, who do not stoop to conceal their aversion and disdain.”
“No more of that, Clara Morris! I am not accustomed to such insolence!” Although the General...