Letters from Robert L. Smith to Booker T. Washington

From Robert Lloyd Smith
Oakland, Texas, Jan. 1899

Dear Friend,
Yours of 18 ult. came to me to day. I wrote you a long time ahead in order that you might arrange your affairs so as to give us the inspiration of your presence and the good of your advice at our next annual convocation and fair which will be held the 2nd Wednesday in Oct 1899. The executive committee of our organization authorized me to communicate with you and as we are all your children and followers, we thought you would honor us with your presence and give us your benediction. Our movement has grown so much and our annual gatherings are getting to be such events that we long to enlarge its sphere so that every body that will may come, hear and learn. Acting upon the plans and in the lines promulgated at the last Tuskegee Conference we decided at our annual convocation to have a fair and we want you to come and see what we are doing and to tell us how to do better. In one of the Dec. issues of the [Tuskegee]Student I saw your plan how to lengthen the school term by planting and gathering a crop for the teacher. I laid this before the body and we were unanimous in resolving to put this in operation. I think we're going to win. We are all united and determined to succeed and I believe and feel that God Almighty is with us as he is with you. We are after the mudsillers. We want to teach the common people-those who never went a day to school in their lives industry economy thrift perseverance self control and develop higher ideas of home and its functions.

I have had a straight out struggle this year. I've had to fight every inch of my way in everything but thank God I am still on gaining ground and am enabled by his help to say "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us." Now then we must have you. Our folks here will defray the expense unless it's more than they can raise. But I must have you and it is absolutely necessary that you be with us and we have the faith that takes no denial. I think honestly if you'll come you'll be in better heart for your own special work.

Regards to Mrs. W. Mr. & Mrs. Scott and other friends.
R. L. Smith

Editor's note: This letter was written on stationery of the Farmers' Improvement Society of Texas, R. L. Smith, president. The letterhead features the following description: "WHAT WE ARE FIGHTING FOR: The Abolition of the Credit System. Better Methods of Farming. Cooperation. Proper Care of the Sick and Dead. Improvement and Beautifying of our Homes." In the letter, Smith is referring to an article in the December 1, 1898, issue of the Tuskegee Student, titled "How to Build Up a Good School in the South." On January 19, Smith again wrote to Washington: "Each visit I have made [to Tuskegee] has been worth thousands of dollars to the people of Texas and I have often wished that I could inspire them as you all inspire me." He said that his Farmers' Improvement Society was organizing black women to raise poultry for market and wanted to expand the operation to include other livestock such as hogs and cattle.

From Robert Lloyd Smith
Columbus, Colorado Co., Texas, Oct 12, 189[9]

Dear Friend,
Bishop Grant leaves us this PM after delivering an inspiring address to a very large audience yesterday and another last night and reviewing the parade & display (agricultural) to day. We have much success. We have captured the whites especially the white women of this town by our magnificent exhibition which is the best ever given by the race in the state. The lecture of the bishop against emigration to Africa was superb. He will stop over in Atlanta as he goes through and hit Bishop Turner's African emigration scheme a whack. He will kill it wherever he speaks. Call or invite him to Tuskegee. I would like to have in detail the plans especially the time I am to go North with you. Have arranged to run my school while gone. The people are crazy to see you. Prof. Carver never came much to my disappointment.

R L Smith
Newspapers will be sent.

Editor's note: Abram L. Grant (1848-1911), a bishop of the A.M.E. Church, was born in slavery in Lake City, Fla. He worked his way through Cookman Institute by clerking in a Jacksonville, Fla., grocery store. In the 1870s he served briefly as inspector of customs in Jacksonville and as a county commissioner in Duval County. In 1878 he moved to Texas, where he became vice-president of Paul Quinn College at Waco. Grant was elected bishop in 1888 and served in the South and West until 1900, when he was transferred to the Midwest. From 1904 to 1911 he was bishop for Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, and California, residing in Kansas City, Kan. He was a founder of Payne Theological Seminary in 1891, and also was a trustee of Wilberforce University. Grant had an amicable relationship with Booker T. Washington and generally supported the Tuskegean's approach to race problems. In 1908 he campaigned for the Republicans at Washington's request.

From Emmett Jay Scott
Tuskegee Institute, Alabama. April 21, 1905

Dear Mr. Washington:
As I tried to indicate to you a day or two ago, a large number of my friends have written from Texas to the effect that Ferguson is the only man whom Lyon, the State National Committeeman, is disposed to assist in any way, and in assisting him he is only disposed to send him out of the country on a diplomatic mission. Ferguson and all of his friends say that the only thing that has kept him out of a Presidential appointment has been the Tuskegee influence; this he has acknowledged on numerous occasions. I believe that it is the old game of the white bosses to claim to Ferguson that he cannot be appointed in the state because this influence is against him, and then since he refuses to take a diplomatic position leave the Negroes high and dry without any appointment. Mr. [Robert Lloyd] Smith seems not to make any headway with the machine, and so I am disposed to ask if it will at all be possible for you to in any way help the Negroes of the state to getting a Presidential appointment in view of the present aspect of things. I very much dislike to see them relegated to the rear, and even if I have no love for Ferguson I should like to see him rammed down the throats of the Lily white bosses since I appreciate so well what their real position is. I should like to have a moment to go over the matter with you before leaving if you are disposed to consider the matter. I hand you herewith a clipping from the Victoria Guide, of which Mr. Baughman, whom you met, is the editor.

Yours truly,
Emmett J. Scott

Editor's note: Cecil Lyons, a former Rough Rider, was the leader of the lily-white faction in Texas. The undated, enclosed clipping endorsed Charles M. Ferguson for another federal position after he had been offered and had refused a consulship. Theodore Baughman published the Texas Guide, a black newspaper in Victoria, Tex., from 1895 to 1910. Later he was editor of two newspapers in Tulsa, Okla., the Oklahoma Sun (1922-24) and the Oklahoma Eagle.