11 months ago


Written words live

Written words live beyond their writers. Many of our elders are long gone and sometimes all that we have to remember them by are their words. A person’s handwriting says a lot about them. For this reason, being able to see, hear and read things expressed by people in their own words in their own way is a privilege. In A Vision of Education: Selected Writings of Edgar A. Long 42 , editor Anna Fariello used Edgar’s handwriting throughout the book. Doing so helps to add visual interest, provides content straight from the source, and uncovers another layer in an historical account of Christiansburg Institute’s longest serving principal. Overall, the collection is a well-thought and organized grouping of autobiographical content mixed with insightful editorial content. The way Anna Fariello brings together his content sheds light on the time period in which he lived from another perspective. During his tenure, Edgar A. Long, demonstrated versatility and artistry through his writings. He provides a glimpse into what it was like living as a Black man in Southwest Virginia shortly after the Civil War and into the 1900’s. Edgar wrote reports, newsletters, sermons, speeches, and poetry with a particular creative flair demonstrating how words can serve as art. Even as a student at Tuskegee Institute, Booker T. Washington commented on Edgar’s published work. Although he didn’t have any formal creative writing training, Edgar attributed his poetic talent to his father “…who though unlettered had a gift for narrating incidents and experiences from his own life that was something wonderful.” 43 “Build the ladder by which we rise from the lowly earth to the vaulted skies; glad of the opportunity to pour into the foundation of the structure of our racial ladder because it gives us hope to believe that by it we shall rise to better things.” Edgar A. Long Quote from the President’s Annual Report/ Negro Teachers’ & School Improvement League of Virginia 44 THE TIGER & THE TORCH Page | 41

EDGAR A. LONG’S “WHAT I CAN DO” POEM I can not be the fountain, whence The rippling waters flow: But I can be the river bed To guide them as they go. I can not be a twinkling star To ‘luminate the night; But I can be a mirror’d lake Reflecting back its light. I can not be a master hand That strikes the notes of praise; But I can be the instrument On which the Master plays. Not unto me the power given To wield the poet’s wand; But I’m content since ‘tis for me To read and understand. The river bed, the mirror’d lake, The instrument, and I, Each has a special work to do As fleeting years go by. Then let me, Lord, my task perform Nor murmer at my fate. “They also serve,” hath well been said, “Who only stand and wait.” Edgar A. Long, “What I Can Do” The Freedman’s Friend III, no7 (1907): 110, Friends Historical Library/Swarthmore College Published in A Vision of Education: Selected Writings of Edgar A. Long 45 THE TIGER & THE TORCH Page | 42

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