“We have reached a period when educated Negroes should give more attention to the history of their race; should devote more time to finding out the true history of the race, and in collecting in some museum the relics that mark its progress. It is true of all races of culture and refinement and civilisation that they have gathered in some place the relics which mark the progress of their civilisation, which show how they lived from period to period. We should have so much pride that we would spend more time in looking into the history of the race, more effort and money in perpetuating in some durable form its achievements, so that from year to year, instead of looking back with regret, we can point to our children the rough path through which we grew strong and great.” – Booker T. Washington, (1899) Future of the American Negro
Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson
John Lukacs suggests the following about the potential of the past coming to bear upon the future: “I saw the future and it was the past.” And Booker T. Washington, founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University offers a similar advisement in his little-known work, The Future of the American Negro published in 1899. Now, the mere assembling of the “relics” of any people group’s history alone is not a sole predictor of its future. For it greatly depends upon what is being assembled as one paraphrased African proverb offers: “The hunter will always be the hero until the lion has his own historian.” And Mr. Washington recommends the assembling of those “relics [in particular], which mark the progress of their civilization” and “achievements” placed “in some durable form.” (Here again, what one consistently reads, one will consistently become.) If one consistently reads a narrative or documentable history of a people characterized by its clear and documentable successes as opposed to failures documented for varying purposes, such histories will serve to shape not only the psyche of a single people group but also the psyche of all people groups who have a special relationship or closeness to this same group. Such is the history of Tuskegee (Institute) University, where reading the narratives of the men and women (including students, supporters, community members, faculty, staff and administrators) provide a documentable, inspiring and motivating “tradition” (past) that can translate into a documentable, inspiring and motivating “trajectory” (future).