Booker T. Washington "Early Life" Essay

Booker T. Washington "Early Life"


Great educator of his time, famous person and good man, Mr. Booker T Washington has achieved a lot in life. He found answers to some very important questions which are actual nowadays in modern American society. It is always useful to ask these questions and to get answers discovering life and work of this man. His life was a struggle, he became well educated man and respected person having nothing and spending his childhood as a slave. He made evident some problems in relationships of different races and suggested the way of solving them, which is very important for nowadays life not only in the USA but in the whole world.

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Booker T. Washington, his life and his heritage

Booker T Washington spent first years of his life in slavery. His mother was a cooker on plantation and she couldn’t pay enough attention to her kids during the day, only before her working day began, that was early in the morning and after her working day, late at night. Little boy got very little love from his mother. His impressions about first years of live was full of hard work of her mother and the conditions of his life. He, his brother and sister lived in small cabin and slept on dirty floor covered with dirty rags. He remembered very well how their mother cooked chicken late at night to feed her kids. Nobody knew where she took this chicken, maybe her owners gave it to her, maybe it was theft, but this poor woman wasn’t thief, she was a victim of the whole system of slavery. Another very vivid recollection of Booker T Washington about his childhood was hard work, where he had to take heavy bag of corn to the mill.

The road was very bad and when this bag fell down, poor boy couldn’t put in on the back of mule again and he had to wait till someone helped him and very often he came back home late at night. He was very afraid of go alone the dense forest, where soldiers who deserted from the Army could kill him. There was no chance for him to go to school, he remembered very well his impressions after he could see boys and girls sitting at school, where he didn’t have any right to go, it seemed to him that going to school was like being in paradise.

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Mr. Washington described the time of the Civil war in the USA, it was big surprise how slaves not knowing how to read and not having any access to newspapers, knew all events which took place in the country. They all were waiting for freedom, but at the same time they went on taking care of their white masters and their families, especially that nearly all write men from white families went to the war. They didn’t destroy any estate and when wounded owner of theirs came home from the war, they took care of him with love. They stayed slaves, but at the same time they didn’t think badly about their owners. When this war ended and all slaves of the South of the USA got freedom which they had been waiting for so long time, all were happy and Mr. Washington’ mother even cried of joy and happiness.

Now all black people could go wherever they liked and do what they wanted to do. But first they had to decide what to do and how to earn enough to feed their families and which names to have, what clothes to wear. These things seem very simple to people, but former slaves who didn’t have anything and who couldn’t do anything, but work at plantations, had to solve rather hard problems which appeared in their live together with getting freedom.

But their owners found themselves in the same position, their plantations and farms were destroyed by war and most of them couldn’t do anything, they got an education but they didn’t have any idea how to work on the farm and how to grow crops and cotton. Now they didn’t have slaves who could work for them and there were cases when former slaves stayed with their owners and helped them to survive.

The family of Mr. Washington moved to the city where he began working at a salt miner. The young boy wanted to go to school, but he had to work to earn money and most of people who lived near him didn’t understand why it was so important for him to study. His mother got a spelling book with alphabet for him and he began learning reading. Mr. Washington’s mother supported great wish of her son to become an educated man and helped him as she could. Young man got a chance to visit school, but not often. His work as a servant for Mrs. Viola Ruffner gave him more life experience; this woman demanded from all her servants perfect order and many young men were fired before Mr. Washington became her worker. He did his work well and his owner was satisfied with his job.

Young black man

Young black man had good job and he could save some money, but his dream and his huge desire was to get education. He found out that in it was possible to become a student of Hampton Institute and he decided to leave his family and taking all his money he had, he began his own way. Young Negro had to go through a lot of difficulties till he found himself in this institute and his first entrance test was cleaning the recitation room. He became a student; he made his dream true because he was hard working young man. His way to well educated and respected person was full of hard work and many disappointments; it was struggle, real fight for life. Having become a famous teacher, famous public figure, he devoted his life to people of his race as well as people of another races of the USA, such as Indians.

Booker T Washington discovered the problem of life of former slaves in American society of that time. Those people who got freedom, didn’t know what to do with it, as they stayed without maintenance and they didn’t know how to survive and how to feed their families. Black people didn’t have their past, as they were taken out of their own countries and moved to another one without their wishes. They lost all connection with their accentors and it is harder for them to create their national self-consciousness. They had to become Americans like all members of society. Most of them became very poor people and it happened not because they didn’t want to change their life, but because they didn’t know how to do it. They needed good education, understanding of their position in life. Mr. Washington became a teacher of Tuskegee school where he tried to give right education for black people.

He always told that it was very important to give knowledge for black students by Negro man, who knew very well what means slavery and how to help his race to become really free and happy members of American society. He trained his students not only in sciences, but he gave him those professions which would be claimed in the country they would live and work, his students grew crops, they became good carpenters and girls got necessary skills how to cook, sew and run the house economically, in spite of the fact that some parents of his students were against of such practice. He was sure that if life of people was happy, if they knew that they could earn enough money for their families, they felt themselves valuable members of society.

In Tuskegee school there was a very important idea that any job, any skill was important and there was no any shame if a person worked as a carpenter as well as if another person was a very good doctor. People should understand that to get education means to have good life in future and all depends on whish skills are needed in society at the moment. At the same time any job should be respected and if someone does his work well, with big desire, he should be respected by others. He could give good life for his future family and nice model for his future children. 

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A lot of attention Mr. Washington devoted to relationship of races in the USA. He told that all people should relate to each other like fingers of one hand. He told his famous speech in Atlanta at the opening of Cotton States and International Exposition, it was on 18th of September, 1895. This speech made him a famous man all over the USA. He told about the importance of life and work together, both of black man and white ones, about the solid friendship between two races, as economically and politically they had the same interests. He stressed that all black people proved their loyalty to white population, nursing their kids and taking care of their wounded men who came from the War where these black slaves got freedom and could leave their owners in any moment. Both white and black people should join their efforts in creating wealthy and happy South, they should unite in agriculture, mechanics, commerce and other professions. This speech was devoted to consolidation of all people of American society about very important role of black population, as there were much more black people then white ones in Southern States of America at that time.

The main ideas of education by Booker.T Washington are still relevant nowadays. Most of young people strive for getting BA degree, they are sure that it will be guarantee of good job and high income for them in future, but discovering labor market, it becomes evident that there are many other good jobs which doesn’t demand BAs from people. Any person should understand that all labors need good skills and good knowledge, it is very important to decide which job a person can do well and which job can give him satisfaction, real happiness and if this job doesn’t demand BA, maybe it will be nice to get AA degree and to find good position which is of great demand on labor market. It is necessary to stress that if a person has big desire and outstanding abilities to become a scientists, he should go towards his goal, he must get BA, go on in his field of knowledge, but if someone doesn’t have such ambitions, it is possible to find good job and choose professions which doesn’t need BA degree.

Colleges play very important role in this situation, they should give people true information and suggest their students to choose the job he can be happy about. It is not necessary to demonstrate people nice possibilities of their future with BA degree if certain person can realize his abilities better getting only AA degree. Our society should pay attention to this problem, education and future good job for young people is happy future for the country, for economical and political position of the country in the world.


Ideas and thoughts of famous educator Booker T.Washington are still relevant in modern American society, as most of his ideas such a friendship between all races of the country, dignity of any labor, his approach to education and his experience of life can give people answers to some important questions of our modern life.


  • Rosenbaum J.E., Stephan J.L. & Rosenbaum J.E. (2010) Beyond One-Size-Fits-All College Dreams. American Educator. 2-13.

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