Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Education, Students, United States, Slavery, Washington, School, Teenagers, America

Pages: 7

Words: 1925

Published: 2020/09/25

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Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery
Born a slave during the mid-nineteenth century, Booker t. Washington became one of the most influential African-American figures after the civil war. From being a slave, he has gone through hindrances in order to acquire a decent education at Hampton University. As a person who was fiercely engrossed at the thought of attending a school during his young slavery days, he recognized the value of education and learning a skill for the empowerment of the black Americans. It is for this reason that he facilitated the establishment of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama where he encouraged and pointed the necessity of acquiring useful skills. His autobiography, Up from Slavery, speaks of his life experiences as he braved the complications and difficulties that faced the lowly Black American during those days. Up from Slavery is more than just Washington’s autobiography, as he put emphasis on the importance of the integration of education and value of hard work in the achievement of one’s inner desires.

As a Slave Child

As a child born to slavery, Booker Washington grew up among fellow slaves and has to endure the tough life associated with being one. According to his recollections, there was no time for play for him and his siblings during their younger days. He is a child of a slave, his mother works as a plantation cook, and so even as small child he has to share some lowly work from cleaning, bringing water to the plantation workers, and other tedious services such as transporting the corns for milling several miles from the plantation. Booker Washington and his siblings has to endure the difficult life of a slave from living in an uncomfortable cabin, wearing clothes designated for slaves and other demeaning circumstances they have to bear.
Despite that, Washington has the strength of character not to hate his masters and the white race in general. He recognized the fact that slavery is not the fault of the white race, but a product that was deeply rooted in the system and nurtured by the General government hence the difficulty of its suppression. According to him, the cruel effect of slavery did not only affect the Negro, but the whites as well. The black Americans have stayed with their masters for a long time, and because of that they have formed some sort of attachment and loyalty to them. On the other and, the masters have become dependent on the labor the slaves provided. The system of slavery victimized the white people because they heavily relied and depended on the services the black slave can provide. Personally, Washington did not nurture any form of bitterness against the whites on account of the enslavement of his people, citing that the enslavement of their race in America made them all the more stronger and better in many aspects than other blacks in other parts of the world.
He has no formal schooling before the proclamation of the Emancipation of slavery, but he has always wanted to go to school, the image of young boys and girls in schoolrooms captivated his young mind. Booker Washington’s initial step to learning to read and write was by persuading his mother to get him an old book from which he learned his alphabet. Soon, despite life’s difficulties Washington became more attracted to learning and decided that he will learn something in any way possible. However, his attempt for attending day school did not last long as the need for him to work for the family comes first, but it did not deter him to pursue his education. He arrange for a night class, after his work at the salt-furnace. He knew that a boy like him, with his color and race, has to work harder and carry out his task better in order to secure acknowledgment.

Education at Hampton Institute

Booker Washington’s spirit was not dampened by the obstacles faced by people of his color after the Emancipation. Upon hearing news about the Hampton Institute in Virginia, his desire to attend the school grew steadily and soon he and his family was deep in thought on how to secure the money needed for him to be able to attend the school that was established for the black Americans. When he started out on his way to Hampton, he has barely enough for his food, but he had much determination that even hunger did not deter him to achieve his dream of setting foot and acquiring education at Hampton University. He was later accepted at Hampton, where he worked as a janitor for several hours in order to compensate for his board. His stay in the University made him met many men and women who unselfishly work in imparting education to the blacks. He had appreciated how the white teachers in Hampton Institute, tirelessly help in educating and uplifting the Negro after the civil war.
The one thing that made Booker Washington succeed in his undertaking was his absolute belief in dignity of labor. This was even more emphasized upon his entry in Hampton, where he learned to the value of labor, not only for monetary gain but for the value of being able to do something out of self- reliance and dependency. He did not only acquire a degree in Hampton, but it was here where he learned the value of working unselfishly for others. From his mentors, he learned that the happiest people are those that do something to uplift others. After his graduation, he went back to Malden where he was designated to teach the colored school of his place. He cherished the opportunity given him, and he worked day and night to elevate his people to a higher level. He put up reading places and oratory society, as well as taught Sunday schools. His total belief in education in uplifting the morale of the colored is seen in his drive in encouraging other young men to pursue further education at Hampton where he graduated.

The Establishment of Tuskegee Institute

Later, Booker Washington was called by General Samuel Armstrong, the founder of the Hampton University. The founder assigned Washington to take charge of the well-being of the Indians who were invited to pursue their education at Hampton. After a year with the Indian students, he was assigned to take care of night classes for several young men and women who intensely hoped to get an education. These endeavor, in addition to Washington’s further studies, prepared him to another phase, that of founding a normal school for the colored people in Tuskegee.
The educator was initially invigorated by the prospect of putting up a school in Tuskegee because of the number of eager learners in tat small town of Alabama. The difficulty, however, was with the inadequacy of funding for the school. It was disheartening for a lone teacher to be faced with the situation of Tuskegee, but taking from the example of General Armstrong, he set the opening of the school in July 4, 1881. With the help of his friends from Hampton Institute, he was able to secure an amount necessary to purchase and put up the building that will house the Tuskegee Institute. The school was put up with the idea of uplifting the morale of the Negro, and so Mr. Washington must try hard in order to achieve that goal, he knew he must not fail as the success of the institution means so much to the uplifting of the black American’s spirit.
Booker Washington did not only put of the Tuskegee Institute for the sake of learning from the books. For instance, he made a plan for the students to put up their school building, in that way, he was able to teach the value and beauty of labor. He pushed through with his plans, despite doubts about the outcome, believing that it would be better for the students to learn to put up their building that to have directly housed in an already erected structure.

The Atlanta Speech

The purpose of Booker Washington in is famous Atlanta speech was to foster a good relationship among the races. In this speech, he stated that one third of the population in the Southern part, comprise of his fellow black Americans, and he mentioned about his race’ loyalty and enduring service to the white people. He calls on his race to be involved in improving their situation by creating a friendly bond with any other race. In his speech, he also declared the value of working with one’s hand, and the value and dignity of common work.
He called on the white race in the South, that instead of hiring work from foreign countries, they should employ the black Americans, who have served them sincerely. He asked the whites to encourage and help his people, and in return, they will be encircled with the most enduring and truthful companion. This he reiterated was proven by the past services of the Black Americans during the time of slavery. He compared the white and black American’s relationship to that of the fingers and hand. While these two races are separate in some ways, like that of the fingers, they are one in their goal to common development.
The famous educator’s views for the black American to improve their lives after the civil war was to persevere in acquiring the needed education and skills in order to be able to be at par with the changing times. As what he has always instilled with his students, they should appreciate the value of work and should not view it as some sort of a disgrace to do menial tasks. Booker Washington have done an tremendous job at being an example of a person who rose from slavery and poverty crediting it almost all to perseverance and the value of hard work.

Booker Washington’s ideas on Education and College Dreams Today

Majority of high school graduating students today aspires to be admitted and earn a four-year-degree. This ideal became prevalent as many institutions and educators these days inspire their students to take up a four year course in college. The situation in most higher education institutions is an open admissions to all students, hence, practically all students who wanted to go to college can do so. However, according to Rosenbaum, a professor of education and social policy at Northwestern University, while the educators may mean well in opening their doors to all aspiring college students, they are actually misrepresenting the truth (Rosenbaum, et al). College education, with all the good things mentioned about it, is not for everybody. Low achieving students may not gain well in their effort to earn college degrees as they may not be able to come up with the standard set by the college, resulting to poor performance. In the end, the student has the tendency to drop out of school, resulting to fruitless effort and lost time that could have been better dedicated to programs that are offer occupation centered credentials.
The reason why many of the youth today aspire for four year college educations was due to distorted conventions such as assured greater pay, the pay- off amounts to a million in a lifetime earnings and that people with four year degrees are better off in getting high paying jobs. While the promise of the above scenario may be tempting, it is with reservation that poorly performing students may not achieve the necessary college results. Concerned educators should completely inform the students on the requirement of programs they offer in order not to mislead the youth into the wrong decision. High school graduates should be cognizant of the fact that job prospect is also high in areas, and a college degree is not an assurance of success in the future.
The ideas of Booker Washington about education are still so much relevance today. The youth, just like the famous educator, should endeavor to educate themselves in many ways possible. While the situation was every different then, education should be valued by each and every youth. The black Americans then have little options in terms of education, in contrast to the youth of today are fortunate to have almost all the options in their hands. The high school student must be cognizant of the fact that there are many options to the four year degree.
While Mr. Booker Washington stressed on the importance of learning how to read and write, he also talks about the significance of learning a skill or two. As a student, Washington must have developed his views on education from is experiences as a student. He was able to earn his education through hard work and dedication. He never thought that doing menial job is a disgrace and instead, he later emphasized the value of working hard and the dignity of labor. In Tuskegee Institute, he emphasized the educating the students in the ways of farming and homemaking, among other courses. In addition to that, he actually let his students build their school out of the raw materials and their ingenuity. These, according to Washington’s view, would equip the students with the necessary skills to uplift themselves from their current circumstance. Today, the schools are also encouraged to offer relevant vocational courses that can train a student in his certain interests. The country needed young people who are skilled in areas such as carpentry, laboratory technician and nurses among others. These courses should not be viewed as lower than that of other degree programs. While earning a college degree is good, it does not mean that vocational courses should be seen as something that is secondary only to four year degree courses. College is not always the better choice for the youth of today as there are available areas and options they can explore.


Washington, Booker T. Up from Slavery: An Autobiography. New York: Doubleday, Page, 1901; Bartleby.com, 2000. www.bartleby.com/1004/.

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