Soothe the Savage Soul

The Autobiography of Mark Twain, recently released, contains a reminiscence, dictated by the author, of a mass public meeting on the night of January 22, 1906, held as a fundraiser on behalf of Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute on the occasion of its silver anniversary.  According to old Mark’s figures, 3,000 people filled the hall, while 2,000 more stood outside on West 57th Street in inclement winter weather, hoping to find a way in.  The occupants of the boxes made up a roster that appeared to include all the famosi, celebri, ricchi, illuminati, and glitterati of the late Gilded Age—and others.  It would be difficult to say whether this was a “liberal” gathering.  More than anything, it was a gathering of society people, loosely defined.  Joseph A. Choate chaired the meeting.  Booker Washington spoke, and so did Mr. Clemens, who delivered one of his humorous lectures, part of it denouncing tax dodgers.  Mr. Choate began his address by noting that “the illiteracy of the negroes in the South has been wiped away more than half since the war.  How has it been accomplished?  Out of the means of the Southern States.  They have done nobly.”  Choate proceeded to claim that “The maintenance of the integrity of the races, which, with the approval of both races, has formed the basis of Southern civilization,” offers Negroes opportunities...

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