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Tanner was an African American painter, whose work was being displayed and honored in France. The author spends an innense amount of time discussing this because it would have been unheard of here in the states. Washington used Tanner as an example for his students; he wanted them to understand that they could do anything they wanted and be honored for it, if they learned to do it well.
"When we told some Americans that we were going to the Luxembourg Palace to see a painting by an American Negro, it was hard to convince them that a Negro had been thus honoured. I do not believe that they were really convinced of the fact until they saw the picture for themselves. My acquaintance with Mr. Tanner reenforced in my mind the truth which I am constantly trying to impress upon our students at Tuskegee—and on our people
throughout the country, as far as I can reach them with my voice—that any man, regardless of colour, will be recognized and rewarded just in proportion as he learns to do something well—learns to do it better than some one
else—however humble the thing may be. As I have said, I believe that my race will succeed in proportion as it learns to do a common thing in an uncommon manner; learns to do a thing so thoroughly that no one can improve upon
what it has done; learns to make its services of indispensable value."
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