Booker T. Washington
Booker T. Washington was born in April of 1856 but, Booker never knew when he was truly born in his lifetime. He even goes as far as to say, “I WAS BORN a slave on a plantation in Franklin County, Virginia. I am not quite sure of the exact place or exact date of my birth, but at any rate I suspect I must have been born somewhere and at some time.”, according to his Up from Slavery bibliography. His mother was Jane Ferguson and he never had a chance to meet his father. His father was a white man, and he never cared much of his son. In many ways could allow a person to assume that maybe the reason that this great man with high achievements in life could have been born was by the hand of a man who forced his way on his mom because she was a woman and on top of that she was colored, which meant that no one really cared about what happened to her or would even defend her, if that were to be the case. Nether the less, it doesn’t matter but, Booker T. Washington grew up in Virginia with his mother and 3 siblings. All 5 of them would share a small cabin that would double for the kitchen of the whole plantation because, that was what his mother’s job was to do. The cabin was nothing more but a room with no insulation and had cracks everywhere. There were no wooden floors but, the cold hard ground which the children slept on with some dirty rags. Booker T. was never large enough to handle the toughest or even the roughest jobs but, when he came of age he had responsibilities as followed, cleaning the yards, carrying water to the men in the fields, or going to the mill. He dreaded going to the mill because he would go on horseback and if he dropped the corn he would have to wait for someone to pass by and put it back up for him. He would often cry during these unfortunate events because he knew when he got back he would be scolded and sometimes flogged by his master. Not long after, his masters would head out to fight in the confederate army against the North and they returned home injured with the death of one of them known as Billy. What many people did not suspect was how much the African Americans cared for their masters even if they were treated much like the animals. When news made its way back to the farm, the family mourned as well as the slaves because they helped raise Billy up from a child. A lot of colored people did not hate the white men but were sympathetic towards them. As you knew, the north will prevail and all the slaves in the south will be freed. This was great news but, Booker T. and his family had no idea what to do next. Soon, Jane Ferguson’s husband would send word out to come to Kanawha, West Virginia. Upon Arriving, Booker T. was in hopes of joining a school but, was put to work in the salt furnace. Now, like many colored kids, adored the idea of going to school and he thought of it as one of the greatest luxuries. According to Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington,” I determined, when quite a small child, that, if I accomplished nothing else in life, I would in some way get enough education to enable me to read common books and newspapers.” School opened for the colored people and everyone of different ages were trying to acquire this asset which made it all packed and by the time the school was officially established, his stepdad would not have allowed him to go because, he was of financial stability for the family and was extremely depressed by this. He would later be able to get into night classes and make a deal to work, got to school, and work again in a day time. This was a struggle for him when it came to work, and he finally resorted to night classes and had issues with finding a teacher who knew more than he did at the time. He then went into the coal mining area which he had great fear of being blown to pieces, getting lost in the huge tunnels, deformation of a growing child and of the worse, losing his ambition to achieve the dreams he so much desired by staying in complacency of the coal mines. While in the mines he heard 2 men talking about a college for the colored. No doubt, a place more adequate for his expertise and desires. He even said in the book, Up from Slavery, “As they went on describing the school, it seemed to me that it must be the greatest place on earth, and not even Heaven presented more attractions for me at that time than did the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Virginia…” He pledged no matter what, he will get there some way and somehow. After working as an assistance for a year or two at the mines, he decides to part ways and head for Hampton. Upon leaving, he sees the love his race has for him and how proud they are of him especially the eldered colored who gave him dimes, nickels, quarters, and handkerchiefs because they could live to see a colored man go to college with their own eyes. On his journey, e had to stop in Richmond for a while because his funds were exhausted, and he had to work a job unloading a ship for some time. He had nearly starved before getting a job because no one wanted to help his skin color. When he is admitted into the school, he is given the job as a janitor which paid for nearly all his costs. Eventually landing him free institution for his hard-earned work. While out of school for the summer, he took work up at a diner to make ends meet until he could get back into school. Booker T. was thankful for his brother John and the sacrifices that he made so much, that he even made a way to get him into Hampton to learn for three years where he became superintendent of Industries at Tuskegee while they then worked to achieve to send there adopted brother through the same program where he would become postmaster at Tuskegee University. Finally, after all of Booker T. Washington’s hard work according to BlackPast: Remembered and Reclaimed website, “As a result of a recommendation from Hampton officials, he became the first principal of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (now Tuskegee University).” Later, he would be invited to give his Atlantic Exposition speech, which you will understand later. This speech is one of the most influential in America. Washington also helped form the Nation Negro Business League in which had the goal to act as the Chamber of Commerce. Washington received plenty of titles and a few of which are mentioned on the website, The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed, “He was the first African American to be featured on a United States postal stamp in 1940, and on a coin–the Booker T. Washington Memorial Half Dollar–minted from 1946 to 1951. He received an honorary Master of Arts degree from Harvard University in 1896 and an honorary doctorate degree from Dartmouth College in 1901.” Sadly, Washington would die in New York City when he collapsed from heart failure probably due to stress and overwork. He, however, did not die in vain because after he passed, Tuskegee would exceed over 1.5 million dollars to its funding, fulfilling his long-life goal of education for colored people all across America.
Body of Work
Whenever Booker T. Washington did learn how to use the alphabet and was capable of writing and reading, he published a decent number of books around the same year range. In 1899, He published his first book known as, The Future of the American Negro. In the book he stresses the desire for the fact that his race needs to become educated to further advance themselves which would decrease the difference between the Colored and white. Later, the next year, he would put out his autobiography, Up from Slavery, which tells about his life from the beginning towards the end. Character Building would be the next and it was a collection of talks that he had made as principal over Tuskegee which seemed to be like a life coach in its own way. Working with the Hands would then be published in 1904 and it would be the prequel to Up from Slavery in the fact it involves his life at Tuskegee Institute but, did not catch heat as much as his first book. The same would go for the book known as Tuskegee & Its People
which was published in 1905 but, Washington would only edit this. The Negro in the South (with W. E. B. Du Bois) would be the last of his work but, seems to be more interesting than it appears. This book was put together almost the way the bible was to the degree that the first half would be done by Booker T. Washington and then W.E.B Du Bois would come back act upon it with the second half much like the old and new testaments. Washington made two points on his potion which were that slavery made the colored man so thriving when it came to have a job because the worked for less and treated as less. His second point is trying to convince a slave that working is desirable and that it respective. Later, W.E.B Du Bois would also make two points. His first point was saying if the south would not integrate the colored people then they would fall behind in the industrialization of the world and even against the northern U.S. According to, The Summary of a Negro in the South, “His second lecture, “Religion in the South,” shows in large part how southern white religion has been broadly unjust to slaves and former slaves and how in so doing it has betrayed its own hypocrisy” His last point was against the southern church and how they do not allow colored to attend their services nor show how to develop a health church. In Washington’s points he is trying to make the slaves better themselves but W.E.B Du Bois seems to make the white man to better himself.
The Atlantic Exposition Speech
In 1895, Booker T. Washington would give one of the most influential speeches in America. A speech that many have heard, and many can recite the reoccurring usage of the phrase, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” This is a speech that had been a building block for a better America. The goal was for there to be a better relationship with the Southern blacks and white to the point of allowing the colored better opportunity, higher job ratings for all the blacks suffering, and to allow a better form of education. In Washington’s eyes, he hoped this would benefit the colored men in the fact that they could find the same pride and knowledge of importance in no matter how they make their job from a cotton picker to a poet. During the time of this speech, due to slavery, a third of the population belonged to the colored. No doubt there was a restricted growth in industries when it came to not allow many colored to work. Booker even went as far as to state in the book, Up from Slavery, “The wisest among my race understand
that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremest folly,” Which of course to us be hilarious but, this is how he and many others felt in comparison to a white man and even a woman. After the speech was all said and done, he would receive all kinds of attention all over the world. His speech was published in the New York Times as well as many other paper stations. He found to his surprise the number of supporters and fans of his speech to the extent that he could not even go anywhere without crowds and multitudes wanting to stop him in
his tracks just to thank and congratulate him. At one point, Washington received an offer of 50,000 dollars to spend a portion of his time with them but, he would refuse because his place belonged to Tuskegee. After the commotion had settled from the speech, many of his colored folks would think he came out to weak on stressing their rights in America.