[To Booker T. Washington, From George Washington Carver]
My dear Mr. Washington, Your letter received and read with great care. Your letter encourages me greatly. I am determined to raise chickens regardless of difficulties, I mean just that. I only sent you the report for your information, and not as a complaint. I thought you would be glad, or rather that it was my duty to keep you posted in detail. I want you to know that I am not sitting down permitting such a condition to exist without trying to remedy it. I fully appreciate the fact that we have a fine plant here for which I am extremely grateful. And without taking more of your time, will say in closing that you shall have chickens.– Very Truly G.W. Carver, May 4, 1909
It is quite difficult for us to fully comprehend both the far-reaching “breadth” and richly textured “depth” contained in the personal correspondence between not only two of the great personages in the intellectual and educational history of Tuskegee (Institute) University but two of the great personages in all of African American, American and global intellectual and educational history-Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver. Mr. Carver’s response above was in reply to Mr. Washington’s letter of May 2, 1909 wherein the founding principal and president of Tuskegee University expressed the following: “I have received your letter bearing upon the poultry yard, also your report of the analysis of the eggs… I think if everybody will simply stop thinking and talking about difficulties and what prevents success and go to talking about working in the direction of getting chickens and at the same time be determined to get them regardless of difficulties that you will succeed.” George Washington Carver, a man of similar “integrity” and “knowledge”-the first and second greatest 9-letter words-would in no wise permit anyone, including Booker T. Washington, to interpret his “report” as mere “complaint.” To the contrary, he disabused Mr. Washington of any inclination that he was simply “sitting down permitting such a condition to exist without trying to remedy it.” Serving as both a professor and steward of the university’s resources, Mr. Carver remarked that the intent of his report was to provide the president with “information.” (What one may view as the “paralysis of analysis,” another may view as “climbing the speculative ladder [before] leaping out into the darkness of faith.”) All the same, Mr. Carver goes on to state in the most exacting fashion: “I am determined to raise chickens regardless of difficulties, I mean just that.” And herein lies the sum whole of the matter concerning the “raising of chickens” for both President Washington and Professor Carver: They both wanted results without regard to difficulties. For both men, whose records of accomplishment would be difficult-not impossible-to surpass, “success” and “results” were the chief assets in the late 19th and early 20th Century. (And it remains so here in the 21st Century.) These men operated according to their functions-not their feelings. Their foremost priority was to develop the fiscal, intellectual and knowledge-based educational prowess at Tuskegee University that would come to be recognized both nationally and internationally as the “Tuskegee Machine.” In this, the centennial year since the passing of Booker T. Washington (1915-2015), we reflect upon both the words and works of these Tuskegee luminaries as they remind us of what made Tuskegee (Institute) University great. A mission and a vision, a “tradition” and a “trajectory,” led by one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known, Booker Taliaferro Washington.