By a Massachusetts Teacher
Among many things that interested me in Philadelphia was a visit of three hours time to an institute for colored people, of which I had never heard till about a fortnight ago, when I attended its exhibition in National Hall. This institute has been in existence about ten years. It was founded by two Quakers, who left money in their wills to form a school in which colored children and youth should be thoroughly educated from the primary up to the collegiate department. It has an excellent building, three stories high, with large halls for schoolrooms. The primary departments are on the first floor; the academic on the second; and in the third story are recitation-rooms, with blackboards all round.
The exhibition was in the second largest hall in the city. Next year it is to be in the great Opera House. Every one of its present teachers is colored. The principal is a Mr. Bassett, who was educated in the Normal School of Connecticut. He is a broad-faced, very dark mulatto, in whom the negro nearly puts out all trace of the white. Nothing can be more modest and unassuming than his manners were at the exhibition. We had a Latin salutatory, a Greek oration, and several fine English essays and poems, by both males and females, of ages from twelve to twenty years. The exercises showed wit, humor, pathos, admirable thought and eloquence, and were well delivered. The primary classes recited simultaneously, first a poem, and then a psalm, making a really beautiful exercise.
Nothing could have been more creditable than all the performances, and they received rounds of applause from an audience of two thousand people, all of whom went in by ticket. In the two days before these performances there had been most searching examinations before the trustees and some of the best educated gentlemen of the city. And on the third day before, there had been a meeting of the alumni of the institute, on which occasion there were orations and poems. I understand that these were quite a marvel, and sufficient, as Mr. Turner said, to set at rest any doubt as to the equality of the negro to the white; for pure negroes did as well as any whites do on similar occasions. I was unable to attend the meeting of the alumni, but I was desirous to see the school in undress; so, after a week’s vacation, I went to Mr. Bassett’s.