Educational Work in Alabama

Review of Reviews

There is one place in the hill country of Nothern Alabama where the last census-taker must have received something of a shock. Instead of a one-room log cabin he found, at a place called Kowaliga, a well-constructed frame building of three stories, with several neat white outbuildings, all plainly devoted to the teaching of the young. But his surprise must have been still greater when he discovered that this was a school for colored children. Not only did he find in this little colony between one hundred and fifty and two hundred children under the instruction of six teachers, nearly all college graduates, but he was informed that the school undertakes to board a dozen pupils of each sex, that they may come directly under the influence of the teachers, and that the girls may be trained in housework and the rudiments of domestic science, and that the institution not only aims to give its pupils a good common-school education, but to train them to use their hands in the workshop and in the fields, for which purpose it gives limited instruction in manual training and plenty of experience in tilling the land.

"Doubtless a branch of Tuskegee," the reader will say. Yes and no. That Mr. Booker T. Washington's influence has penetrated to Kowaliga goes without saying. Wherever there are intelligent negroes there will be found some knowledge of Mr. Washington's teachings and ideals. Mr. Washington, too, was for some time trustee of the Kowaliga Institute, as this struggling school is called. But it owes its inception and development to a father and his son. The former is John J. Benson, born a slave, who by his own efforts has come "up from slavery" until he is to-day the most influential colored man in his county, and one who has the respect and confidence of his county, and one who had the respect and confidence of his white neighbors. He has not only acquired by ceaseless industry the acres which he helped to till for his old master when in bondage, but has added to them, has built himself an excellent house and a sawmill, and has become known throughout his county as the foremost of his race. It is but natural that a man of this type should give his children the best possible education he could afford. But he has done more than that,—he has instilled into his children an intense desire to better the conditions of their race in the country round about their home. To William E. Benson, his son, who is guided by this fine altruistic spirit, is largely due the existence of the Kowaliga Institute. In its growth he finds abundant reward for his unselfish labors.

Proof through Practical Application
January 15, 1903

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