AUGUST 17, 1938
HYDE PARK, Tuesday—I never mentioned, the other day, one of the most delightful things which has come my way this summer. A quintet from the Tuskegee Institute had been singing across the river at Lake Mohonk and Lake Minnewaska, and they telephoned to inquire if they could come to sing for us. They arrived soon after luncheon and we all sat out on the lawn while they stood with their backs to the house and sang one Negro spiritual after another. Finally, at our request, they sang some of the more modern songs and ended with a comic number which brought forth peals of laughter.
We decided that they were the best quintet we had heard and that it was a joy to listen to people who were so beautifully trained and had such a natural gift. Afterwards, I was much interested in asking some of these young men what they were training themselves to do. Two are going into agriculture and plan to go back to their homes in the South where they will try to raise the standards on the farm so as to become successful farmers, instead of only achieving a meagre living as in the past. One plans to be a teacher and another is studying theory of music and hopes to be both a music teacher and a composer.
The South has so many potential riches, but it always seems to me that many of its advantages go for nothing because of habits and customs which have grown up and been injurious to the land and people. The people who have been forced to the lowest standards of living and have a minimum of education and the lowest cash income are the Negroes and I think it has always been felt by the South that, in some mysterious way, this is an advantage. During the past few years some question has arisen in the minds of many Southern people as to whether a backward group is ever an advantage.
Tuskegee and Hampton Institutes and many other institutions with excellent training are making it possible for this colored group to change its conditions. It is a gradual change, but no less sure and it is felt that this will benefit the economic situation in the South as a whole.
My cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Forest Henderson, and their three children drove up from Greenwich, Connecticut, for lunch today and all were able to swim before they left a little after 4:00 o'clock.
Now a real Hudson River thunderstorm is upon us. It started with a wind that blew everything off the tables which was not actually weighted down. I found Miss Irene Orndorff, who has come to replace Miss Dow, whom we saw regretfully go back to her home and her husband in Washington yesterday, gazing out of the window and saying: "This is the first storm I have seen on the Hudson River." Evidently the shades of Henry Hudson and his men arose before her eyes. She is a great reader and I am sure is familiar with the legends of the Hudson River which we were told in our youth and which explain those sudden and violent storms.