Booker T Washington, the Journey from Slave to Educator

Eng 1A 10/14/12 From a slave to a teacher In his autobiography titled “Up from Slavery” Booker T. Washington tells the story of his journey from being a slave to an educator. He writes that the best way for a person to lift him or herself up is by lifting someone else up. It was his dream and goal to see members of his race live such useful and successful lives that they would not just be put up with rather they would be a necessity and would be of great value to their communities. Washington believed that the African American people needed to realize the value of education, labor, and of civility.

He understood that these aspects were absolutely necessary in order for the people of his race to uplift themselves in society. Washington was born into slavery and lived as a slave for some of his childhood years. When freedom was finally granted to the Negro race, the thing Washington longed for the most was a good education. He went through many struggles to acquire this education but after many years of work he was successful in doing so. He spent many years as a teacher before moving to Alabama to start the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial institute.

This institute quickly became known as one of the largest and most successful of its kind. Washington could have chosen to use his knowledge and resources to benefit himself but he sacrificed all personal gain so that he would be able to provide benefit to others. The common view of the white people was that they were superior to the colored. Washington sought to eliminate this thinking by establishing within his people an understanding of self help. At the Tuskegee institute students had to chose an industry which they had interest in and they would be taught this industry.

This was so that when they left the institute they wouldn’t have to rely on anybody for work and could start their own businesses. Students were taught the worth and importance of labor. And where ever students from the institute went after graduating they shared their knowledge with the people around them and brought great value to their communities. With a firm belief that in order for people to uplift themselves they had to become civilized, Washington made cleanliness an important aspect of the Tuskegee Institute.

Students were taught the significance of toothbrushes, and daily showers. Their rooms and clothes had to be kept neat and clean. Many of the students who had never gotten the opportunity to eat from a plate got a chance to do so and learned proper table manners. These principles taught the students self worth and the value of hygiene. Washington understood that another key aspect needed for people to uplift themselves was to have a relationship with god and to have a good moral code with which to live by.

He writes that in accordance with this belief he never allowed himself to have hatred towards another man whether his skin be white or of color. He always spoke with honesty and never disrespected any single person, race, or group. Washington tried best he could to instill in his students at Tuskegee the same principles he lived by and he did so by living them to the greatest degree in his ability. Although Washington’s story started in the lowest point through toil and perseverance he was able to become one of the most influential people of his race.

He spent a great deal of his life in the betterment of the African American race and he did so in a very unselfish and humble manner. Washington was treated with utmost respect from people of all races and received many recognitions for his work including an honorary degree from Harvard and visits to the Tuskegee institute from President McKinley and also from the founder of the school which he studied in. He showed the immense effect one individual can have on an entire population and that to truly uplift oneself one must work in the cause of others.

Summary Booker T. Washington. Up From Slavery. New York: Penguin Classics, 1901 In his autobiography titled “Up from slavery” Booker T. Washington tells the story of his journey from being a slave to becoming one of the most recognized and respected people of his race. He talks about his aspiration to acquire a good education and the struggles he faced to acquire it. Washington details his transition from student to teacher and goes on to describe his extensive work as the founder of the Tuskegee Institute.

He talks a great deal about the growth of the Institute from being a tattered and broken room to a large campus with many new buildings. In the final chapters of the autobiography Washington discusses his career as a public speaker and a civil rights activist. He concludes his book by relating important recognitions that he received for his work including an honorary degree from Harvard, and a significant visit to the Tuskegee institute by President McKinley and his cabinet.