Page:Boys Life of Booker T. Washington.djvu/96

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

80

BOOKER T. WASHINGTON

the platform for relief. Then he turned his wonderful countenance to the sun without a blink of the eyelids, and began to talk.

"There was a remarkable figure; tall, bony, straight as a Sioux chief, high forehead, straight nose, heavy jaws, and strong, determined mouth, with big white teeth, piercing eyes, and a commanding manner. The sinews stood out on his bronzed neck, and his muscular right arm swung high in the air, with a lead pencil grasped in the clinched brown fist. His big feet were planted squarely, with the heels together and the toes turned out. His voice rang out clear and true, and he paused impressively as he made each point. Within ten minutes the multitude was in an uproar of enthusiasm—handkerchiefs were waved, canes were flourished, hats were tossed in the air. The fairest women of Georgia stood up and cheered. It was as if the orator had bewitched them.

"And when he held his dusky hand high above his head, with the fingers stretched wide apart, and said to the white people of the South, on behalf of his race, 'In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress,' the great wave of sound dashed itself against the walls, and the whole audience was on its feet in a delirium of applause.

"I have heard the great orators of many countries, but not even Gladstone himself could have pleaded a cause with more consummate power than did this angular negro, standing in a nimbus of sunshine, surrounded by the men who once fought to keep his race in bondage. The roar might swell ever so high, but the expression of his earnest face never changed.

"A ragged, ebony giant, squatted on the floor in one of the aisles, watched the orator with burning eyes and tremulous face until the supreme burst of applause came, and then