|The other, the University, has the power
of the keys, which is the power of opening, and you know that many an old rusty lock still
waits the application of the keys. Look around and you will see ten millions of people
locked out--standing on the outside of things. See not only this patient race itself
barred out, but also schoolhouses, high schools, colleges, and universities locked up lest
they break in. See even the resources of learning padlocked as against the Negro, lest,
attaining the blessings of culture, he, being solitary, lose himself in imagination in the
witchery of the Midsummer Night's Dream, or from time to time abandon his cares and go to
the land of the Lotos, where it is always afternoon.
Sirs, you do well to give some one the power of the keys to go up and down and unlock, and unlock, and unlock until he shall have unlocked every fountain from which learning flows, and every closet, to the very last where it is hidden. For men utterly err when they think they can throw wide two or three doors in the halls of learning and leave the rest closed as against any human being. Let anyone but sit for a time in the very lowest room of this feast, and, be it sooner or be it later, openly or surreptitiously, as a son of the house or a thief in the night, unless you unlock the higher rooms he will break their locks and rifle them of their treasures.
There have been only two logical positions as to the relation of the Negro and learning. One was that which prevailed so long in so many States and which made it unlawful to teach him even the alphabet. If that was what was wanted it was a good law and could be executed. But if not, and the schoolmaster be allowed to teach him the alphabet, you can not stop a man at any line you may draw until he shall have reached, if he have the ability, the content of human knowledge. If you do not want him to go to the limit, forbid him the alphabet. Give him the alphabet, and those twenty-six magic characters will unite and reunite in more and more complicated combinations until from them shall have proceeded the whole of human knowledge.