Up From Slavery is a biography that discusses the progression of the life of Booker T. Washington. He was a slave on a plantation in Virginia until he was nine years old. His mother was the plantation cook so they lived in the kitchen. It had no windows, a door that teetered on uneven hinges, and large cracks in the walls that let in the chilling air in the winter and the humidity in the summer. His autobiography offers readers a glance into his life as a young child. Simple pleasures, such as sleeping in a bed, eating with a fork, and wearing comfortable clothing were was unavailable to Washington and his family.
His glimpse into a schoolhouse was all it took to make him long for a chance to study and learn. Up From Slavery portrays the life of Booker T. Washington, which was ridden with much hardship including financial instability, lack of a father figure, and assets that we often take for granted. One day while at work, Booker overheard two men talking about a school for colored people opening up in Virginia. He learned that not only was the school established, but opportunities were also provided to work out the cost of board and at the same time, the student would be taught a trade or some industry.
It seemed to him to be the greatest place on earth and he determined to go to the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Virginia. To continue to earn money, he left the salt mines and got a job in the home of General Lewis Ruffner, the owner of the mines. His wife was a very tough boss, and many young men had quit or been fired, because they didn’t meet her standards. He walked around all night and then began begging for rides in wagons and cars until he was 82 miles from Hampton. Again, he was forced to just walk around the city of Richmond, having no way to pay his way.
He finally found an elevated spot in the board sidewalk and he crawled under there to sleep. Finally, Booker saved enough money to reach Hampton. He figured he had a surplus of exactly 50 cents. When he reached Hampton, he was shocked by the beauty of the school building and believed that now his life would have new meaning. He presented himself before the head of the school to enroll, but he didn’t make a very favorable impression on her, because of his dirty clothes and rough appearance. The teachers at Hampton also helped Booker obtain more clothing according to the strict rules of the school to have clean clothes and polished shoes.
He was supplied with clothing sent in barrels from the North. Besides the clothing, Booker slept in his first bed that actually had sheets on them. He struggled through the hardships not unlike all the other slaves in the country. Booker T. Washington did not know his own father, which sounds very terrible, but was nothing unusual to young children of enslaved mothers. Up From Slavery documented his childhood as a slave and his efforts to get an education. He directly credits his education with his later success as a man of action in his community and the nation.
He was so unfamiliar with them that for the first several nights, he wasn’t sure how they worked. However, by watching the other boys, he soon learned how to make his bed. He was also one of the youngest boys in the school, but that didn’t dim his determination. By describing Christmas among the colored people. It worried him how they believed in taking off so much time from work and drinking and having parties while not understanding the true meaning of the holiday. Therefore, he decided they would make a special effort to teach his students the meaning of Christmas.
The work to find the money to repay the loan for the farm went on. At the end of three months, they had secured all the money they needed, and the deed for the plantation and its one hundred acres was theirs. Washington details his transition from student to teacher, and outlines his own development as an educator and founder of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. He tells the story of Tuskegee’s growth, from classes held in a gloomy sad town to a campus with many new buildings. In the final chapters of Up From Slavery, Washington describes his career as a public speaker and civil rights activist.
Washington includes the address he gave at the Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition in 1895, which made him a national figure. He concludes his autobiography with an account of several recognitions he has received for his work, including an honorary degree from Harvard, and two significant visits to Tuskegee, one by President McKinley and another by General Samuel C. Armstrong. During his lifetime, Booker T. Washington was a national leader for the good of African Americans in the post-Reconstruction South.
He advocated for economic and industrial improvement of Blacks while accommodating Whites on voting rights and social equality. This approach, however, died with Washington, and its success prior to 1915 was largely due to Washington’s method of speaking and writing to suit the race of his audience. The floor was the naked earth. Booker had no memory of ever playing games or sports. He regretted that situation, because he believed he would be an even more useful man if he had. However, his life was devoted to work, because he was slave. He cleaned yards, carried water, or took corn to the mill.
Carrying corn to the mill was the one of the hardest jobs he ever had. He was so unfamiliar with them that for the first several nights, he wasn’t sure how they worked. However, by watching the other boys, he soon learned how to make his bed. He was also one of the youngest boys in the school, but that didn’t dim his determination. By describing Christmas among the colored people. It worried him how they believed in taking off so much time from work and drinking and having parties while not understanding the true meaning of the holiday.
Therefore, he decided they would make a special effort to teach his students the meaning of Christmas. The work to find the money to repay the loan for the farm went on. At the end of three months, they had secured all the money they needed, and the deed for the plantation and its one hundred acres was theirs. Because the school was some distance walk from the furnace, Booker was often late. Work ended at 9:00AM and school began at the same time. He accepted the idea, as a result, to move the clock hands at work from 8:30 to 9:00AM, and he could leave work earlier.
Booker dreaded working in the salt mines more than anything he did. They were filthy and filled with the blackest darkness. He feared constantly of getting lost in the mine or his light going out. When the teacher asked him his name, he decided that he was Booker Washington. Later, his mother reminded him that when he was born, she had given him the name Booker Taliafero, but that the second name had been forgotten. Now, he added it and became Booker Taliafero Washington. If nothing else can be read from this chapter, it is Booker T.
Washington’s realistic attitude about securing funding for his school and the attitudes of the people who had the funds he needed. He developed two rules: to always do his duties regarding making his work known to individuals and organizations and to not worry about the results. He discovered that the sweeping criticisms of the rich were misplaced, because first, to become rich. In 1893, he married his third wife, Miss Margaret James Murray, a graduate of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. At the time, she filled the position of Lady Principal and willingly assumed the responsibility of many women’s groups.
His daughter Portia was a dressmaker, showed a talent for instrumental music, and became a teacher at Tuskegee. Booker T. , Jr. had nearly mastered the brick mason’s trade and wanted to be an architect. His youngest child, Ernest, insisted he was going to be a doctor and was already getting training in a doctor’s office. His greatest regret was that he couldn’t spend more time with his family. Now a days African Americans acknowledge Booker T. Washington as a role model, despite him having a father figure he only had a mother that barely raised money and what a successful person he has become since then.
Born a slave, Booker T. Washington rose to become a commonly recognized leader of the Negro race in America. Washington continually strove to be successful and to show other black men and women how they too could raise themselves. Washington’s method of uplifting was education of the head, the hand, and the heart. From his founding of the Tuskegee Institute in 1881 to his death in 1915 Booker T. Washington exerted a tremendous influence on the people that surrounded him. With his emphasis on industrial education Washington’s approach gave African-Americans hope of accomplishment and success.
Bibliography: Booker, T. “Washington, Up From Slavery. ” Three Negro Classics (1901): 1856-1901. Harlan, Louis R. , Raymond Smock, and Booker T. Washington. The Booker T. Washington Papers. University of Illinois Press, 1989. Andrews, William L. “The Representation of Slavery and the Rise of Afro-American Literary Realism, 1865-1920. ” Slavery and the Literary Imagination(1993): 62-80. Brundage, William Fitzhugh, ed. Booker T. Washington and Black Progress: Up from Slavery 100 Years Later. University Press of Florida, 2003. Silberman, Charles E. “Crisis in black and white. ” Random, 2011.