Washington, Booker T.. Up From Slavery.
Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1901. The autobiography of Booker T. Washington’s, Up From Slavery, is a thriving narrative of a man's life from slavery to one of the outstanding founders of the Tuskegee Institute. The book takes us through one of the most dynamic periods in this country's history, especially African Americans.
Up From Slavery provides a great deal of information on the period during the Civil War and transitioning slaves to free African Americans. The autobiography also provides a narrative of Washington’s life, as well as his views on assimilating African Americans in giving them a better educationBooker T. Washington was born into slavery in the year of 1858 or 1859. Around that time, no real birth records were available to slaves. Washington lived with his mother, sister, and brother on his stepfather’s plantation in a small cabin which had no wooden floor.
As a slave he lived in dishabille conditions, which are described in great detail in this book. For example he says, “we slept in and on a bundle of filthy rags laid upon the dirt floor” (pg 5). However, Washington moved with his family to Malden West Virginia were Booker’s stepfather found a salt mining job. Washington’s mother noticed that Booker had great interest in learning and reading. She gave him his first book which was an old Webster’s “Blue Black” Spelling book.
While he continued to work and learn at the same time, nearby his plantation a small all black school opened up. Washington was soon to take one of the most important journeys of his life. He had heard miners talking about a school for young blacks. His first thought of the school was, “it seemed to me it must be the greatest place on earth.
.not even Heaven presented more attractions” (pg 42). Washington convinced his parents to let him attend school.
However, there were conflicts with his work schedule and being late to class. He got out of the mining job and became a servant for an old woman named Mrs. Ruffiner.
For Washington’s, Mrs. Ruffiner is one of the most important people in his life because she taught him how to clean and behave properly. For example, Washington states, “even to this day I never see bits of paper scattered around a house or in the street that I do not want to pick them up at once” (p 44).
During his servant hood, he was accepted to the Hampton Institute, a school set up to teach blacks after the Civil War. It was rough for Washington to work very long and difficult hours, but he loved any challenge that came across in his life. At the institute, Washington worked as a janitor to pay off his tuition.
Hampton's principal, General Samuel Chapman Armstrong, would become the most supportive and influential figure in Washington's life. Washington described Armstrong in his autobiography as, “a great man-the noblest rarest human being it has ever been my privilege to meet” (p 63). From the institute, Washington learned about behavior, cleanliness, and self-reliance. In 1875, Booker T. Washington graduated from Hampton.