MARCH 31, 1941
MOBILE, Ala., Sunday—Friday morning we all sat solemnly around a table and discussed business of which I knew little, for this was my first meeting with the Rosenwald Fund Trustees. After a delicious lunch at Dorothy Hall, the Tuskegee guest house, my real education for the day began.
Incidentally, I would like to say a word about this guest house at Tuskegee Institute. It was arranged years ago by the college to receive its white guests and is a most comfortable and homelike place. The students in the home economics and commercial dietetics course cook and serve the food, and better food and service I have never seen.
Flowers are charmingly arranged and, as I came up the stairs, I looked straight at a very good photograph of my uncle, Theodore Roosevelt. His picture looked down at me also from the wall at the trustees meeting, so that I felt that the family has had some connection here over a fairly long period of years.
Now let me tell you about our afternoon. The first thing I noticed is that the land about us is badly eroded. Neither white nor colored farmers can make a living on this land as it is. None of them can afford to put in the capital which will be needed to bring it back, and at the same time keep their families from starvation.
Even the good farmer barely makes a meagre existence. That, I think, explains the fact that, without assistance from outside, the schools are at such a level that one wonders whether it is possible for the children to learn anything at all. We were, of course, visiting Negro schools, and it is fair to suppose that white schools would be better. Even one hundred percent better than those we saw, however, would hardly satisfy you if you believed education was necessary for participation in our democratic form of government.
Three of the schools we visited have some help from Tuskegee Institute. One very important way of cooperating with the rural schools is to send out interns for three months to live in a given neighborhood and to help with the teaching in the schools while they are taking their last year of training as teachers at Tuskegee. Only one school which we visited yesterday includes two years of high school. Most of them have only six grades. A school which received no help, was taught by one woman who tried to give a rounded program to youngsters in all six grades.
The effort to provide a hot lunch interested me. In one school, the teachers live in the school and, therefore, are able to cook and serve lunch on the premises. In other schools, the food is cooked in the homes and brought to the schools and warmed up on the stoves which heat the schools these chilly days. Alabama has taken some forward steps—she provides free school books and her teachers receive slightly higher salaries than teachers receive in some of the neighboring states.