Right after dinner J. W. stepped outside and
sauntered down the street. He hadn't gone far when he met a young
colored man. "Can you tell me where Wiley College is?" said
" I surely can," replied the young chap.
"I just came from there myself. Just keep right on down this
street and turn to the left when you go up the next rise. It's just on
the edge of town. It will take you ten or fifteen minutes to walk out
" Are you a student there?" J. W. asked.
Yes, I am in the College
Department," said the young man, "but I work several hours
each day down here in the drug store."
" Do many of the students do outside work?" inquired
J. W. "
A good many of the boys, but not many of the
girls," answered the Negro. "The people here are good about
giving us work. We have students in stores, in banks, in barber shops,
and in private homes where they do the outside work around the house,
and sometimes the cooking too. The college won't let the girls go out
that way though, except in a few special cases. A few work near the
campus, and some do work for the college."
" Thank you for your information," said
J. W. "I am a stranger here, and I want to get a glimpse of your
J. W. followed the instructions given as well as he
could, but he began to think that it wasn't going to be quite as easy
to locate Wiley College as his guide had intimated. He did very soon
come, however, to an entrance opening on a wide driveway, flanked on
either side by imposing brick and stone pillars mounted with what
appeared to be large electric globes. An automobile was coming down
the driveway. When it had passed, J. W. stepped inside the gates to
discover what sort of a private estate or public institution he had
come upon. The place was admirably kept, the drives were shaded, many
trees were scattered about the grounds, and there were numerous
buildings of various sorts. "I don't know what this place
is," said J. W. to himself, "but I'm going to find
With this observation he walked up the driveway
toward what appeared to be the central building of the group. It was a
fine brick structure, apparently new, and with its many windows J. W.
thought that it might serve for almost any purpose from library to
tuberculosis sanitarium. Just then his eye caught the letters at the
topóW-I-L-E-Y. So this was Wiley! He had made a poor guess; but you
must admit it wasn't what J. W. had every reason to expect in a
college for Negroes.
He entered the building, and on a door at the right
he read, "President's Office." " I guess this is where
I had better stop and get my bearings," thought J. W. as he
quietly opened the door and stepped inside.
Within sat a young woman, busily engaged at a
typewriter. She turned as J. W. entered, and he inquired, " Is
the president in ?" "
He is out of the city to-day," said the young
woman, "but the dean is here. Would you like to speak to
Of course J. W. would be pleased to speak to the
dean, or to anybody else in a place like this, and so he was ushered
into the dean's office. At first he thought the dean must be occupied
elsewhere, as there was no one but a young colored man in the room.
"Is the dean in?" asked J. W. hesitatingly. "
He is," said the young man, smiling.
"What can I do for you ?" "
I wasn't sure that you were the dean," said J.
W. " I am a Methodist layman, and every year, I suppose, I make a
contribution to the work of our Board of Education for Negroes. I
understand that this is one of the nineteen schools under the auspices
of the Board, and, as I chanced to be in town on other business, I
thought that I would take the opportunity of coming out to get a
glimpse of what you are doing."
" We certainly are delighted to have you come," said the
dean. "I am sorry our president is away. He will be disappointed
at missing a visitor from the North. He is a remarkable man, and has
given the best of his life to the building up of this school. He is
himself a graduate of Rust College, in Mississippi, another one of the
schools under the Board of Education for Negroes. In his absence let
me have the pleasure of showing you through the buildings and around
the grounds. We can get into some of the classes, too, if you would
like to see them. This building serves as our main recitation hall,
and you will find that we are quite proud of it. We might begin in the
basement, and visit each floor in order.
" At present," he continued, as they went
downstairs, " we are conducting our classes in domestic science
and domestic art down here." With this he opened a door, and J.
W. stepped into a large, well-lighted, steam-heated room. A group of
some twenty girls, their dresses protected by neat aprons, were
handling shining utensils, evidently engaged in the fascinating
occupation of preparing something for the oven. "Is this a part
of your regular work?" inquired J. W.
" Yes, for the girls," replied his guide.
"You see, the Woman's Home Missionary Society cooperates in this,
and in the work in domestic art. That society supplies the teachers,
and, in this case, we supply the rooms. In some of the schools the
classes of this sort are conducted in 'Homes,' which are maintained by
the society. We have one such 'Home' here too. It is just across from
the campus. The girls there get special training in the art of
housekeeping and in home- making."
Across the hall J. W. had a chance to see the
classes in millinery and dressmaking, and then from room to room they
went throughout the entire building. Many were engaged in recitations;
one class was at work in an excellent chemical laboratory, and another
in the physics laboratory; there was a moderate-sized assembly hall
fitted with stationary chairs, and everywhere the rooms were neat,
clean and unmarred.
As J. W. progressed his amazement grew. "This
certainly is a remarkable building!" he ejaculated. "I
haven't been long out of college, but this is a better building than
we had to study in when I was in school."
" Would you like to visit one of the
classes?" said the dean.
J. W. remembered, with a little shrinking from such
an ordeal, the occasional visitors who dropped into classes at
Cartwright. But he was honestly interested. So he said, "I
believe I would."
The class was studying sociology and a rather
heated debate was on, over the eternal question whether environment or
heredity was the more important factor in influencing an individual's
prospects. The teacher acted as a good-natured referee, and made his
contribution from time to time to the discussion. All this reminded J.
W. how short had been the time since his own college days. The teacher
handed him a textbook and, to his surprise, he found that it was the
identical textbook he himself had used so recently. Just why he should
have been surprised he could not quite know. Certainly, sociology is
sociology, regardless of the complexion of the students. And yet, if
he had not expected something different, at least he had not expected
something quite so familiar.
Leaving the sociology class, there followed an
excursion around the grounds and a look at some of the other
buildings. They saw several brick dormitories, one of them so large as
to call forth an exclamation of surprise from J. W.
" Yes, that's a pretty large dormitory,"
said the dean, " but it's filled, as are all the others. It's one
of the largest buildings around this part of the country. Probably, if
it was being built now, it wouldn't be made quite so tall; they spread
buildings out now more than they used to. We couldn't well get along
without that building, though."
" And what's this?" said J. W., as they
passed a long, low, neat building, evidently new.
" That?" said the guide. "That's our
refectory. " We've had it only about a year. We used to be
obliged to do our cooking in the basement of the dormitories, and to
eat down there too. It kept the whole building smelling of food all
the time, and it wasn't a very good place to eat, anyway. Now we feed
all of the students in here at one time. We have space for six hundred
at the tables. We have a large, well- equipped kitchen, and the
arrangement is very much better in every way. Some of the pupils help
at meal time, and they pay for their board that way."
"And here's an athletic field, too, I
see," said J. W., "with bleachers and everything."
"Yes, we make a good deal of athletics,"
said the dean. "The boys will soon be out here playing baseball
now. We have football and basketball too."
As they walked back across the campus the dean
pointed out a number of comfortable homes near the school grounds,
where former graduates were living, and he briefly told J. W. of some
of their successes in the field of business and elsewhere.
" Who lives in this house ?" said J. W. as they
passed a beautiful white house on the campus.
" That's the president's home," said the dean.
" And what's this?" exclaimed J. W., as they suddenly
came upon what was in its outer aspect the most beautiful building
they had yet seen.
" I've been saving this to the last on purpose," said
the dean. "This is our Carnegie Library. Ours is one of the
relatively few Negro schools to which Andrew Carnegie saw fit to give
a library. At present we are using the upper floor as a chapel. Our
chapel burned some time ago, and we very much need another. The upper
floor of this building is the only place we have that is big enough to
hold all our pupils. We are getting along quite well that way, as a
temporary measure, but we must have a new chapel as soon as
When they were back once more in the dean's office J. W. said:
"The school is wonderful, in its way. But I am even more
interested in folks. I wish you would tell me about yourself."
" I am afraid there isn't much of interest to tell,"
said the dean. "I was born almost within stone's throw of this
campus. My father was a Methodist minister, and so, of course, we
moved around more or less. I got most of my education right here in
Marshall. I graduated from the college here a few years ago and then
studied at Harvard University, specializing in education. For two
years I acted as a sort of assistant to the president here, and when
the dean was elected president of another school, I was made dean.
Some people told the president that I was too young for so much
responsibility, but he seemed to think I was the man for the job. I
certainly enjoy it. This is a great school, but the president and I
have some ideas for making it even better than it is now."
" I don't mind telling you," said J. W.,
"that the last few hours to me have been full of surprises. I
didn't expect to find any such school as this down here. Are the other
schools of the Board of Education for Negroes anything like this
" Well, I have visited only a few of
them," said the dean. "Of course we like to think of our
school as the best one of the lot. Three of the schools on the Board's
list are professional schools, and different on that account. Then
there are several which do not give any college work. Clark University
at Atlanta, Georgia, is supposed to be one of the leading schools. It
has a large campus and a wonderful new school building made possible
by the Centenary. Morgan College has recently been moved to a
beautiful new campus just outside of the city of Baltimore, and I
understand that Bennett College in North Carolina is being practically
remade. Claflin College too, in South Carolina, has had a wonderful
development. Then there's Rust College at Holly Springs, Mississippi,
and Samuel Huston College down here at Austin, Texas. They've all done
fine work. It's hard to make comparisons between them. They say that
Haven Institute at Meridian, Mississippi, has one of the finest
campuses now. They got a chance to purchase the entire outfit of a
white girls' college at a very modest price. They have a big farm,
some large and beautiful buildings, and, I am told, nearly forty
pianos. They are making quite a specialty of music, and also of their
Business Department. They have a swimming pool, running water in every
dormitory room, and some other unique features.
" In one respect, however," the dean
continued, "we excel all the schools, I believe."
" What's that?" asked J. W.
" I think we have the largest College
Department of any of the schools. This year we have one hundred and
twenty-five in that department."
" How do you account for that?" said J.
W. "Is it because Texas is such a big State?"
" Well, Texas is a big State, all right,"
laughed the dean, "as big as all the Atlantic States from Maine
to Virginia inclusive. And we get a good many students from other
States too. But the size of Texas doesn't account for our College
Department. It's partly because we have quite a number of high schools
for Negroes in this part of the country. You know in some Southern
States there are almost no public high schools for colored pupils at
all. That makes it hard for colleges to do regular college work.
There's no way for them to get prepared pupils."
" What are your departments besides your
College Department ?" asked J. W.
" In addition to our College of Arts and
Sciences we have a Preparatory School, a Normal School, a Grammar
School, a Commercial School, and a Music School. We also give a
special pre-medical course for those who are planning to study
" It seems to me that you're doing pretty well
here now," said J. W., "but I suppose you have what the
Centenary people call 'unmet needs.' What do you need most at
" I'm not sure what the president would
say," answered the dean, "but I would say, as I think he
would too, endowment. We desperately need endowment. We've got a
pretty good equipment, and a fine student body, and this school can
become a great and permanent power if its future can be insured by
endowment. At present we live from hand to mouth, and it's a rather
precarious existence. " By the way," he continued,
"there is one thing I forgot to mention. We now have our school
year divided into four quarters, so that the school is in operation
practically the year around. Pupils are admitted at the beginning of
any quarter. You see the summer is a pretty good time for school down
here in this cotton country. After the crop is 'laid by' there isn't
so much to do while it's growing. Then every summer we have a summer
school for public-school teachers here. During those weeks we have two
fully organized schools in operation at the same time. Every spring,
too, the Board of Home Missions and Church Extension holds a school
for colored rural pastors here. Oh, we keep busy enough."
" I'm so interested in what you have been
saying that I could listen for a long time," said J. W.,
"but I must be going. I have already taken up 'most all of your
" It's been a pleasure for me," said the
dean. "If you ever chance to be in town again, be sure to come
out and see us. The next time the president will probably be here, and
out of his long experience he can tell you many things which I do not
The evening train which J. W. at first had intended
to take had left long before he returned to his hotel, but that was a
matter of minor concern. He would lose no time thereby. It merely
meant getting up early the next morning. He felt, however, that his
intellectual stature had increased about an inch that afternoon, and
he could afford to get up early for a good many mornings rather than
to have missed the opportunity which he had just enjoyed. He had
something to take home to Pastor Drury, and he imagined that he had
learned a few facts with which even that good man, usually so well
informed, was unfamiliar.
Sketch from J.W. Thinks Black by Jay Samuel Stowell - 1922 -