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Booker T. Washington

“I learned the lesson that great men cultivate love, and that only little men cherish a spirit of hatred. I learned that assistance given to the weak makes the one who gives it strong; and that oppression of the unfortunate makes one weak.

It is now long ago that I learned this lesson… and resolved that I would permit no man, no matter what his color might be, to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him…

In my contact with people I find that, as a rule, it is only the little, narrow people who live for themselves, who never read good books, who do not travel, who never open up their souls in a way to permit them to come into contact with other souls—with the great outside world. No man whose vision is bounded by color can come into contact with what is highest and best in the world. In meeting men, in many places, I have found that the happiest people are those who do the most for others; the most miserable are those who do the least. I have also found that few things, if any, are capable of making one so blind and narrow as race prejudice. I often say to our students, in the course of my talks to them on Sunday evenings in the chapel, that the longer I live and the more experience I have of the world, the more I am convinced that, after all, the one thing that is most worth living for—and dying for, if need be—is the opportunity of making some one else more happy and more useful.”

Booker T. Washington

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From Booker T. Washington’s autobiography Up from Slavery. This particular excerpt is taken from chapter eleven, “Making Their Beds Before They Could Lie on Them”.

“… I would permit no man, no matter what his color might be, to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.”

I’ve just been reading about Washington’s connection to and collaboration with Julius Rosenwald, the self-man entrepreneur who led Sears, Roebuck, and Company, and whose partnership with Washington at Tuskegee is truly one of American history’s most compelling and admirable friendships.