The autobiography of Booker T. Washing titled Up From Slavery is a rich narrative of the man's life from slavery to one of the founders of the Tuskegee Institute. The book takes us through one of the most dynamic periods in this country's history, especially African Americans . I am very interested in the period following the Civil War and especially in the transformation of African Americans from slaves to freemen. Up From Slavery provides a great deal of information on this time period and helped me to better understand the transition. Up From Slavery provided a narrative on Washington's life, as well as his views on education and integration of African Americans. All though this book was written in the first year of this century I believe Washington's views are still valid today. America can probably still learn from them.
Booker T. Washington was born into slavery in either 1858 or 1859. Birth Records were usually not available to slaves. Booker, his brother and his mother moved to Malden West Virginia after the Civil War. They went to live with his stepfather , whom they had only seen a few times before. When they arrived in Malden, Washington was no more then nine years old. However, he went to work with his stepfather in the salt mine business feeding the furnaces . His education started with a Webster 's old "Blue-Black" spelling book that his mother had provided him. She hoped it would help him to learn to read. When Washington started working with his stepfather in the salt mines , he had to work from dawn to 9:00 PM, receiving very few breaks during the day. During his breaks he would study his spelling book, teaching himself to read. While working with his stepfather, a local school opened up for black people. But because of Booker's value to his family in the mines, he continued to work there at the request of his parents.
Eventually, he talked his stepfather into letting him attend school a few hours during the day. Booker, however, ran into another problem. His stepfather wanted him to work until 9:00 AM and the young Booker found it difficult to reach school in time. He therefore did something that he was not proud of later in life. Washington learned to change the clock every morning from half past eight to nine so he could arrive at school on time. The supervisor realized someone was changing the clock and locked it to deny access to all but himself. This is an example of the length to which the young Booker went to have a chance to learn. Booker learned at an early age the importance of doing things for himself.
Another story from the book shows what helped to build Booker's character. While at school he noticed that all of the people were wearing caps. When he confronted his mother about this she explained they could not afford to buy him a store bought cap. But she told him that she would work something out. Washington's mother took two old pieces of cloth and sewed them together to make him a cap. For the rest of his life, he would remember that cap as an important lesson in his life. Washington states:
The lesson that my mother taught me in this has always remained with me, and I have tried as best I could to teach it to others. I have always felt proud, whenever I think of the incident, that my mother had the strength of character enough not to be led into the temptation of seeming to be that of which she is not-of trying to impress my schoolmates and others with the fact that she was able to buy me a "store hat" when she was not.
Later, the young Washington took a job at the home of a Mrs. Ruffiner as a house servant. Many boys before him, in the same job, lasted had only a few weeks because of her demands. Ruffiner was very strict and expected the best out of the boys that worked for her. She demanded that they be clean and well behaved. This stayed with Booker for the rest of his life. He notes, "Even to this day I never seen bits of paper scattered around the house or in the street that I do not want to pick them