On the Sunday night following his arrival the students all assembled in the general assembly room of the recitation building, which room, in the absence of a chapel, was used as the place for religious worship. The president of the school, a venerable white minister from the North, had charge of the service that evening. He did not on this occasion preach a sermon, but devoted the hour to discoursing upon the philanthropic work done by the white people of the North for the freedmen of the South.
A map of the United States was hanging on the wall, facing the assembled school. On this map there were black dots indicating all places where a school of learning had been planted for the colored people by their white friends of the North. Belton sat closely scrutinizing the map. His eyes swept from one end to the other. Persons were allowed to ask any questions desired, and Belton was very inquisitive.
When the hour of the lecture was over he was deeply impressed with three thoughts: First, his heart went out in love to those who had given so freely of their means and to those who had dedicated their lives to the work of uplifting his people.
Secondly, he saw an immense army of young men and women being trained in the very best manner in every section of the South, to go forth to grapple with the great problems before them. He felt proud of being a member of so promising an army, and felt that they were to determine the future of the race. In fact, this thought was reiterated time and again by the president.
Thirdly, Belton was impressed that it was the duty of those receiving such great blessings to accomplish achievements worthy of the care bestowed. He felt that the eyes of the North and of the civilized world were upon them to see the fruits of the great labor and money spent upon them.
Before he retired to rest that night, he besought God to enable him and his people, as a mark of appreciation of what had been done for the race, to rise to the full measure of just expectation and prove worthy of all the care bestowed. He went through school, therefore, as though the eyes of the world were looking at the race enquiringly; the eyes of the North expectantly; and the eyes of God lovingly,—three grand incentives to his soul.
When these schools were first projected, the White South that then was, fought them with every weapon at its command. Ridicule, villification, ostracism, violence, arson, murder were all employed to hinder the progress of the work. Outsiders looked on and thought it strange that they should do this. But, just as a snake, though a venomous animal, by instinct knows its enemy and fights for its life with desperation, just so the Old South instinctively foresaw danger to its social fabric as then constituted, and therefore despised and fought the agencies that were training and inspiring the future leaders of the Negro race in such a manner as to render a conflict inevitable and of doubtful termination.