Last week I stumbled upon some very apropos musings written by Samuel L. Conwell on this exact day, 120 years ago. As an instructor, and as the secretary to President William C. Jason, Mr. Conwell was central to the early development and survival of this university. In the passage from January 15, 1898, transcribed below, Mr. Conwell describes his viewpoints about the economic disparities between races which he believed were compounded by educational disparity.
“January 15, 1898, Business side of life needs to be cultivated more and more among our people. If we would but improve in finance, as we ought. It is marvelous how we loose because we are in want of such training, and it is wonderful the progress other races are making because of their knowledge of business. And indeed by degrees we are gaining daily in the new vocation of our existence. We need to save money thus to be able to act when opportunity presents itself. Many of us would be in business had we the capital and many more of us would have capital if we had been taught and practiced economy. To know how and when to spend a dollar is one of the secrets of success. It takes years for a people to learn all these things and apply them as we should. Careful management of what we have and an industrious habits - which enable us to get more will eventually bring us to the place we may live in what is called 'easy circumstances'. So may we be prompted by the proper and honest motives to improve our opportunities in this important task. Yours truly, S. L. Conwell"I wish that I could go back in time to be a fly on the wall in the lives of people like Mr. Conwell and President Jason. What must they have experienced as highly intelligent men living in the time between the civil war and the civil rights movement? Did they feel blessed as compared to their black peers, or did they feel trapped by the conventions of society? Both? How much more might they have accomplished if they lived in a fairer world? I also wish that I could know what Mr. Conwell meant by "easy circumstances." To what does he refer? A life of leisure? Material possessions? Fair treatment by white society?
Whatever the case, I am sure that Mr. Conwell would be proud of what this institution has become and the standing it has attained as a business entity. I believe he would take pleasure in knowing that its students are multinational and competitive in their chosen fields. He would also appreciate the diversity of subjects and vocations taught here, not the least of which being business and economics.
I hope that in the progress of time, Delaware State University, and our nation in general, will continue to strive for equality, success, and greater opportunity for all its people. Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
|Book of handwritten college notes and musings by Samuel L. Conwell recorded between 1896 and 1900|