Ridgely Torrence Papers

Box 3, Folder 4: “Working Notes on John Hope”

Mrs. Georgia Swift King

‘I’m required to prove…’

John hope was making a speech one time in Atlanta and he said (in effect):

‘When I was a small boy and Miss Georgia – over there – was my teacher, the school superintendent came to visit the class. Miss Georgia sent me to the blackboard to multiply 12 x 12 and I had to say, ‘I’m required to prove that 12 x 12 is – 144.’ Ever since those school days, my whole life, I’ve been saying to myself, I’m required to prove… I’m required to prove…”

Mrs. King’s Life

She was born in Athens, Georgia, about 1854. Her mother was a fashionable seamstress. Her father (apparently) was a white man.

Her father sent her to school at Atlanta University while she was still quite a young girl, shortly after the Civil War. (She said she was twelve when she first went to Atlanta).

After she graduated at Atlanta, she went home to Athens and some time later the Reverend WJ White, meeting her there, suggested that she come to Augusta where teachers were needed in colored schools. (According to Mrs. Williams, Rev. White’s daughter, he founded the colored public schools in Augusta).

Georgia Swift came to Augusta the year Mrs. Harrald was born. At first she taught in a bad slum district. The children were dirty and neglected and the first thing she tried to teach them was to wash. ‘Now wash your little faces and keep your little hands clean.’ The School Superintendent, a white man, came and watched her through the window and presently he transferred her to the Fourth Ward School where the ‘rusticrats went. It was a wooden building down by the river. It had four rooms, each with about forty children in it. Here she taught John Hope.

Mrs. King taught school down to 1881 when she got married and moved away from Augusta.

After she was married, she campaigned from Frances Willard – “The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union” – in every county in Georgia. Her husband disliked her activities and tried to stop her.

Mr. King was a bridge-builder. He apparently lived down to a few years ago. Mrs. King said, “My husband was a mean man.”


Mrs. King did not remember the name Butts in connection with the Hopes. But sh remembered there in Butts in Augusta because “We used to say to them, ‘You can butt but –‘”

John Hope

When Mrs. King was asked whether John Hope was bright (i.e. clever), she answered, “Yes, he was very fair. You couldn’t tell any of the Hopes from white people.”


Contrast between his aunt and his teacher (from a Sunday afternoon talk at Spelman, c. 1900)

“I was taught at home not to lie and steal; my aunt who had supervision over me in my tender years taught me that if I did not do thus and so the Lord would not love me. And I remember to this day the religious and superstitious awe which overhung and almost beclouded my childish joys. But from the time I was nine years old until I became elevent I was taught by a woman who had a peculiar facility for making pupils efficient in arithmetic and instilling the principles of a true gentleman. Not that I am never guilty of a breach in mathematics or true gentility. Not that. But I wonder how much poorer I should be now in each, if I had not come under the benign influence of that accurate teacher and godly woman. From her school (and it was a public school, not a private school, for pampered infants) from her school have come good women and true men. And ever since I knew that teacher I have writhed in spirit when guilty of absolute falsehood or weak-kneed truth. Temperance, and moral courage in the face of temptation and danger were taught me in those young years, taught me so simply that I could grasp the teaching; and to that woman today I offer, in your presence, my profoundest gratitude for any partial success I may have in my struggle for sobriety and moral courage. Under her, boys became not less brave but more gentle. Under her instruction I learned to raise my hat to women and was made to feel and know why deference was due your sex. Under her I learned that pupils were required to keep quiet because anything less than that was an infringement on the rights of every pupil, who, like myself, occupied half a desk in that room. God give us more such teachers and prolong their lives!”

[This must have been Georgia Swift – Mrs. King. She taught the Fourth Ward School from 1877 to 1881. She speaks in her interview of teaching John arithmetic. Also she speaks of teaching the children manners. She was also an advocate of temperance, going on speaking tours for the WCTU. – Torrence]