Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery (1901) Ending Explained – What does Washington do in Tuskegee?

Up From Slavery is an autobiographical novel by Booker T. Washington, an educator who is credited with unlocking black and marginalized communities’ imagination through education.

The novel chronicles every major event of Washington’s life from his birth into slavery to the signing of the emancipation law, and his consequent rise through the social ladder. The text is a testament to the strength of perseverance and education. So, let’s dive into the extraordinary experiences of Washington and learn about life.

What was Booker T. Washington’s childhood like?

Booker T. Washington was born into slavery in Hale’s Ford, Virginia. In the initial nine years of his life, Washington worked as a slave on the Burroughs farm. His mother, an enslaved African-American woman, hardly made enough to make ends meet. Following Emancipation, Washington joined his stepfather at a salt furnace. The first few years out of slavery proved to be difficult, but Washington tried to make the most of his newly-found freedom through education.

His education started after he got a spelling book from his mother. Later, he joined the class of a man who taught underprivileged kids in Virginia. Word spread across Virginia about the Hampton Institute, a new school for black students, and Washington made up his mind to get into it.

How did Booker T. Washington get to Hampton?

Washinton worked harder to raise money to go to Hampton. He began working as a servant for Mrs. Ruffner, the wife of the owner of the salt furnace.

On his way to Hampton, Washington would sleep on sidewalks empty-bellied. He hitchhiked his way to Richmond where he found work in a shipping company to raise extra money. Washington finally reached Hampton where he was judged based on his poor appearance.

How was Booker T. Washington selected at Hampton Institute?

Upon Washington’s request, the headmaster of the Institute decided to give him an opportunity. He asked Washington to sweep one of the rooms, and if his work was good, he’d be offered a position as a janitor. Washington thoroughly cleaned the room. Impressed, the headmaster allowed Washington to stay at the Hampton Institute.

Washington developed academically very quickly besides learning invaluable life lessons such as humility and selflessness. Washington came to idolize the founder of the Hampton Institute, General Samuel C. Armstrong. Armstrong also admired Washington’s resilience, honesty, and zeal to fly.

After around two years at Hampton Institute, Washington returned home for the first time. Sadly his mother passed away during the visit. Distraught, Washington considered dropping out of the Institute and staying back in Malden. However, He soon changed his mind and returned to Hampton and graduated with flying colours.

What happens after Booker T. Washington graduates?

Post-graduation, Booker T. Washington returned to Malden where he opened his own school focused on the inclusive development of minority students. He also started a night school and societies for the development of the black community.

He joined Wayland Seminary in Washington D.C. for higher studies. Right after his studies, he returned to Hampton Institute as a teacher. His popularity skyrocketed among black and native American communities as his lectures made a visible change in society.

What does Booker T. Washington do in Tuskegee?

Booker T. Washington longed to open a school in Tuskegee, but there was no proper building. As a result, he started classes in a shanty. Washington soon bought a plantation land where, with the help of his students, he started a formal school. The curriculum at Tuskegee involved a lot more than traditional subjects. Washington’s school taught students life skills, honesty, diligence, and selflessness. Washington travelled across the country to raise funds for the school. Gradually he became the face of ‘education for all’ in America.

He made his ideologies on racial uplift and education clear with his speech at the Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition. His words continue to be a source of inspiration for educators and education-seekers across the globe. 

What are your thoughts on Booker T. Washington’s incredible life? Let us know in the comments below: 

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