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Booker T. Washington

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Submitted By alyssacastorena
Words 2821
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Alyssa Castorena
History 17B
Dr. Manian
28 March 2016

Booker T. Washington Booker T. Washington was born onto a slave plantation in the year 1858 or 1859. He was born in Franklin County, Virginia in an extremely small cabin that housed his mother and siblings. Washington never knew of his father, just that he was one of the white men who may have lived at one of the nearby plantations. Even though his father was never in the picture and had no desire to raise him, Washington never felt any bitterness for his father because he felt that his father was “simply another unfortunate victim of the Nation.” (Washington, 4) The cabin had no glass windows, barely a door, and no beds. They all slept on a bundle of dirty rags on the hard, wood floor. There was also no stove at the cabin, or even anywhere at the plantation. Still with no stove, Washington’s mother was the plantation cook and had to do all the cooking for the whites in the “big house” and all the slaves. She did this by cooking over an open fireplace, which in a way, aided them in the winter since it brought warmth to their cabin, but exhausted them in the summer because of the blistering summer heat. Most of Washington’s childhood was spent cleaning the plantation and hard labor, such as giving water to the men working out in the fields, or going to the mill to have the corn ground. His childhood was definitely not one that one would call “normal.” He was a slave and he knew it. But, he also knew that freedom was close. The slaves often knew what was happening in the world before the white men did. They found out what was going on through one of their own who was sent to the post office every couple of days. While he was out grabbing the mail for their master, he would linger around long enough to catch the gist of what was happening regarding the Civil War and their freedom. He knew that if the Northern armies were victorious over the Southern white armies, then the result of the war would be the freedom of all slaves. While living on the plantation as a slave, Washington had no schooling at all. The only times he ever saw schoolhouses was when he was ordered to carry the books of and walk with one of the younger mistresses to school. What he saw at the schoolhouse left a lasting impression on him. He wanted to learn and made it a goal to get there one day. Once he was older and grown into a man, it was mandatory that he went and ate at the “big house” during meal times, as opposed to when he was a younger boy, and ate whatever his mother fed him, whether it be a piece of bread or a small piece of meat. Although the result of the war was to decide their freedom, they still mourned when one of their masters was killed during battle. The master who was killed was named Mars’ Billy. The slaves loved Mars’ Billy, as some had taken care of him, and some had played with him as children. Mars’ Billy had even asked for mercy when the older master was beating the slaves.
The Negro race was looked very down upon, yet they were very respectful and trustworthy to their masters. In one instance, Washington recalls an ex-slave who continued to pay for himself even after the Emancipation Proclamation was in effect. A few years before the Emancipation Proclamation, this man had made a commitment to his master that he was going to pay his master for his body, essentially for his freedom. After the Emancipation Proclamation was passed, the man told Booker that he knew he did not have to pay his master back because in order to respectfully and properly enjoy his freedom, he could not break his word. Booker T. Washington never looked down upon or had bitterness towards the white people. He realizes that being slaves took the “self-reliance and self-help out of the white people.” (Washington, 11) Since the white people had the slaves there to do everything for them, they never learned how to be independent or even do the simple things that the slaves were ordered to do for them. None of the whites ever acquired knowledge in a special skill that would aid them in their lives. Being a slave taught slaves how to be hard workers which would ultimately make the Negroes a better, well-rounded person after they were freed. Soon the day of freedom came, and Washington’s mother cried as she thought she would never live to see the day that she and her family were free. Many of the slaves did not know what to do or where to go now that they were free. Some were too old to leave so they made a deal with the masters to stay living on their property, while Washington and his family moved to Malden, West Virginia to live with his mother’s husband, who was his and John’s stepfather. Once they had gotten to Malden, Washington and his brother John, started working at a salt-furnace where his stepfather worked. After working at the salt-furnace for a time, Washington had started to think about getting an education and learning how to read so his mother got him a dictionary to start with. One day, a colored boy who knew how to read came into town. The coming of this boy made the villagers aspire to start the first school for colored children. Yet, this boy was too young to teach so the town set out to find a teacher for their school. Another colored man made his way into the town and he was chosen to teach at their school. Even though Washington had an strong desire to attend school, his stepfather knew that he was really valuable at the salt-furnace, so he would not allow him to attend the new school. Even though he could not attend school due to his stepfather’s orders, he did not give up. He still set out to learn what he could and as much of it as he could, all on his own, even if that meant going to the night school after a long day’s work. After some time of attending night school, his stepfather made a deal with him. The deal was that Booker would work until nine in the morning every day before school and would come back after school and work another two hours. This made Booker extremely happy because he was going to be able to attend school and finally learn! It was at school when Booker named himself Booker Washington. He knew that he needed to have a last name because every one else did. So when the teacher asked what his name was, he said Booker Washington. After learning that his mother had named him Booker Taliaferro when he was born, he made his full name to be Booker Taliaferro Washington or Booker T. Washington. Not long after he started attending school, he had to stop due to his work. He had stopped working at the salt-furnace to start working at the coal-mine, which was a very dangerous job. At times, Booker would be jealous of the regular white boy who did not have any difficulties placed in his life and did not have any obstacles preventing him from aspiring his dreams solely because of his race. But through time, Booker retracts the jealous feeling because he realized that even though he and the other members of the Negro race have to work harder and perform better to obtain the same recognition as a white fellow, that hard work makes them better people who are strong and confident in what they do. One day while at work, Washington overheard two miners conversing about an Institute for colored people that was going to be opening up soon, later known as the Hampton Institute. Booker did not know where this institute was or how much it was going to cost to get there, but he knew that he needed to get there. After hearing about the Hampton Institute, Booker knew he would need money to get there, so he started working for Mrs. Viola Ruffner. He had heard that she was a difficult person to work for because of how strict she was, but after working under her for a year and a half, he had learned many valuable lessons from her and she had become one of his best friends. Once he felt that he had enough money saved, he went on his way. A five hundred mile journey is the only thing that separated him from his goal of receiving an education. He got there by stage-coach, walking, and begging for rides. Once he got to Richmond, which was about eighty miles away from his destination, he stayed there and worked at a loading dock until he had enough money for food and to be on his way again. When he got to Hampton, he saw the most beautiful building he had ever laid eyes on. He walked in and asked the head teacher if he could be admitted to the school. The head teacher made Washington wait for some time before she told him to take the broom and sweep the recitation room. Booker knew that this is what Mrs. Ruffler had prepared him for. He did the absolute best he could when cleaning that room in hopes of being enrolled at the Hampton Institute. He cleaned that room until it was spotless and no there was no trace of dust in sight. It was after this that the head teacher agreed to let him into the school. In order to pay for tuition and board, Washington worked as a janitor at the institute. At the institute, Booker met General Samuel C. Armstrong, who proved to be an exceedingly big person in Booker’s life once he got to Hampton. After his first year at Hampton, summer break came by but he knew that he would not have enough money to get all the way back home, so he stayed in town and worked. At the end of his second year, he was able to go back home to see his family with the help of his mother, brother and some of the teachers at the institute. When he got back to his hometown, many people wanted to see him and hear from him. One night when Booker was out, John had come to find him to tell the news that their mother had died during the night. In June 1875, Washington finished his studies at Hampton. It was at the institute where he learned many valuable things he would apply to his life. He learned what it meant to live an unselfish life and he learned to love labor. Once he got back to Malden, he was chosen to teach at a school for colored people. He taught Sunday schools as well, and gave private in-home lessons to young men who cold not make it to the day-school. After two years of teaching in Malden, he had prepared many young men, including his two brothers, to enter the Hampton Institute. One day, Gen. Armstrong asked Booker to fill a position to teach in Tuskegee. In June of 1881, Booker had reached Tuskegee and soon started to teach, after finding a place to have the school. He also met Miss Olivia A. Davidson, who would work with him in building this school in Tuskegee, and later become his wife. When Booker started this school, he had it set in his mind that he wanted to teach the students how to do actual things instead of simply learning from books. (65) He was determined to have the students build their own buildings of the school to teach them self-help and self-reliance. (76) Washington helped the students in building up their new school, which encouraged them to work even harder. People everywhere started donating all they had in order to help raise money to build the school. Throughout the years, General Armstrong invited Booker T. Washington to go with him into the North to give speeches and help raise money for his school. While they were making bricks for one of their buildings, many white people went to them to buy bricks because they discovered that the bricks were really good. The making of the bricks made the white people realize that the Negro school was not a bad idea, since they were being helped by it. This encouraged race relations because they were now trading different things among the two different races. The businesses began to merge. When looking back at the struggles that Booker had, he was thankful for them. He was happy that his students had to dig out the space for their buildings. They built themselves up slowly but surely to build a strong foundation. Booker watched his students grow. Booker refuses to say that it was luck that got him to the most successful point in his life. Instead, he says that “nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.” (96) After some time of Booker’s public speaking in the North, donations for the school began to flood in. It was Washington’s hard work and determination and ambition that ultimately led him to achieve the great things that he did. On September 18, 1895, Washington delivered a speech at the opening of the Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia. In this speech, he tells of the future of the Negro race and that any individual who has learned to do something better than another person, regardless of race, learned a great thing. He told of how the Negroes learned to create what other people wanted, therefore, he would be respected, thus race relations. He suggested that the Atlanta Exposition may present an opportunity for both whites and blacks to show the advances they have both made since the freedom of the slaves. Without character, skill and intelligence, no one race could permanently succeed. (105-106) Congress went on to pass the Atlanta Exposition. We can definitely learn something from the way Booker T. Washington lived his life. He did not let anything get him down, he pursued his dreams no matter the circumstance, and he never got bitter with anybody for what they may have said to him. His ideas about education are still super relevant in today’s society. Imagine if everybody was to help build up the school that they attended. Nothing would ever be taken for granted like it is now. One must always keep working hard to achieve their goals. One example of something that is taken for granted is Financial Aid. Financial Aid is simply given to people whose families cannot afford college, yet a lot of students who certainly cannot afford it get turned away. These students have to work harder to get into college because they need to pay for it themselves without anybody else’s help. I feel that the students who must pay for their own way through college may get more out of college and be the ones that try their absolute hardest because they are the ones who had to work hard to get themselves there. Then, there are the students who receive financial aid and do not need to work at all to get their education. I have seen many of these types of students fail in school because they did not have to work as hard to get themselves to that point. This situation reminds me greatly of when Washington made his students work to build their buildings for the school, including class halls, boarding rooms, the kitchen and dining areas. The fact that they built it themselves made them appreciate it so much more. Even as so to tell other students to not disrespect the buildings because they are the ones who built it from the ground up. Booker T. Washington’s story surely impacted my life and pushes me to work as hard as I can to build character and never give up. It is okay to learn from the books and be book smart, but it is even more crucial and important to obtain skills that one might need to become a valuable worker in today’s society. We should always aspire to be like Washington. Be ambitious, never bitter or selfish. To be successful, one should grow to a point where he forgets himself and lives to make other’s happy. Once one does that, they have found the happiness to life.…...

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Booker T Washington

...of improving the quality of life for blacks in America. Many great leaders approached this great and historic debacle with differing leadership styles, strategies, and philosophies that have shaped the progression of the African American race in the United States. This paper will examine the similarities and differences and the effects of opposing leadership styles, strategies and philosophies of prominent African American activists such as Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Dubois. In accompaniment, an original argument on the best strategy for the advancement of African Americans will be explored. Educator, renowned speaker, former slave, mentor, mentee and African American spokesman are but a few adjectives to describe Booker T. Washington. Washington’s strategy for the advancement of Blacks was largely ingrained with subservience, patience, perseverance, and hard-work. It is widely argued that his unusually charmed and positively affected past with Whites shaped his outlook, strategy and message to his fellow people. Washington was favored by Whites at an early age beginning with an employee who would let him study with her own children to even earning the honor of being the first African American to meet and advise the current President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. It comes as no surprise that Washington’s strategy was based on the kindness and fairness of whites. For example, one of Washington’s target points was economic opportunity, gained through...

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